“Why did you decide to do it that way?”
“No way I could/would ever do that.”
These are the responses you get in the year 2013 when you tell someone that you are going to give birth to your child outside of a hospital.
My mother was the worst…whenever I mentioned the midwife, she’d put one of her hands to her face, cover her eyes, shake her head and let out a breath of discerning disagreement.
Luckily for me, I wasn’t asking people their opinion as to whether or not I should have our second son, Harper Tribann, naturally. I had already made up my mind.
“I NEED to feel what it is like to give birth.”
“I want to know and experience the difference in a medically assisted birth, and the natural process of birth”
“I disagree with how the hospital herds women in and out of their birthing lairs for profit.”
“I do not want to be made to feel that I can’t possibly achieve something that has been done for generations to keep our species alive.”
These were the responses that I would often chime in with if I felt the urge to defend myself and my choices. With a few arm movements of the clock, I’d just let them think that I cared what the opposers thought.The majority of the same time, I’d let them ramble on and on with their programmed banter about the fears that they had for me…their list of “What ifs” and “How close is the nearest hospital?” styled questions and comments.
I’d study their faces and gestures and glare in hidden shock over how messed up it is that the seemingly universal understanding of the process of having a baby should involve an OBGYN and a major hospital.
But… I’ll also admit…I enjoy making people step outside of their comfort zone when it comes to societal “norms” and “should be this way because” thoughts. I almost wish that I’d had an optical camera set to record these moments of judgement from Mothers, friends and strangers. I’d take these little clips of robotic reactions and make a documentary out of them called “The dangers of backwards hippie Mothers.” I’d release it to the Sundance Festival in hopes that a few disillusioned sheeple could let down their shield when it comes to natural thoughts and processes…maybe see how ridiculous the status quo is when it comes to birth.
Now…Ricky Lake did a fine job in releasing some of these societal pressures about natural birth in her documentary, “The Business of Being Born.” I watched this while I was pregnant with Ayden, our first son. It, along with some like-minded Mamas who thought within my circle, actually encouraged me to try the first birth (hospital birth) without an epidural. Props should be given to the late talk show host for redeeming herself from the deep label of “Trash Mistress of daytime TV.” She has surely made a difference in the thinking processes and lives of many Mothers-to-be, etc, who are willing to take a look at the birthing process from a different light. I still want to unleash my own internal documentary, though…a documentary of the pressures of those around you who can’t help but be fearful or judgemental of you, all because you want to bring life into the world without being hooked up to a machine.
Well, I wasn’t able to record the moments and reactions of those who surrounded me during my pregnancy with our second son, Harper Tribann…and I would really not care too much for a robotic recording eye, honestly…so the best I can do is to tell my birth story…OUR birth story…the story of how Harper and I worked collectively to prove that birth can be beautiful, harmonious and drug free.
Before I begin our story, let it be known that I understand and acknowledge that there are medical needs for using a hospital for your birth. Sometimes babies don’t turn the way they should or they are in danger if they remain in the womb until labor begins, and there is a need for a C-Section. Some pregnancies are high risk. I am aware of this.
Hell…if it were not for Caesarians, my husband and my sister would not be alive today. BUT…let it also be said that these women who casually schedule their C-Section deliveries around their busy work schedules for convenience sake…or because they want a surgical scar instead of a stretched vagina MAKE ME SICK. Seriously…you make me want to smack some permanent parental sense into you. I wrinkle my nose at your foul thought processes. You are vain and are not keeping the best interests of your unborn child as a top priority. Shame on you.
The Natural Birth: A story of Harper Tribann, our second son.
Disclaimer: this blog will be much longer than the last. It is much fresher in my mind.
My due date (OUR due date) was picked out on a cardboard spinning wheel by our midwife, Linda and confirmed by our one and only ultrasound and the measurement of our little man. The date was set for May 15th, 2013.
One bit of advice that I will give to any new parent (which I seem to have forgotten the first go around to share with myself) is that you should only let your CLOSEST family members know the ACTUAL due date of your child. For all other acquaintances, add a week. I say this because one of the hardest and most stressful aspects of this pregnancy for me was constantly being asked, “Why isn’t that baby here yet? Where is he? I thought he was supposed to be here?” I understand that those who like and even love you can get excited over a perceived date of arrival…but when an expectant mother is bombarded by the same question of when this baby is going to arrive…a bit of performance anxiety can be had by said mother. Just so ya’ll know…
Anyhow, now that that grumpy complaint has been unleashed to all who care to read, I’ll begin the story of Harper’s birthday…which, if you are wondering, came four days after the estimated due date, May 19, 2013.
First of all…let my words and actions be proof that the bit of advice “make love and they will come” that some pregnant ladies are given as to how to make that baby come is TRUE! 🙂 *wink wink (I mean… why not share that tid bit of info? We all know how the baby got in there in the first place).
So…after I woke up from a dream of love makin’, I instigated the real thing in real time and was successful 🙂 Shortly after the finale’ (about 5 to 10 min later), I began having some contractions. Joyous, definite, go-time contractions. I let Aaron know that we should check the clock and start timing our progress, and we slowly took care in preparing ourselves for heading out (like a baby–LOL) to the birthing center.
We had packed our bags weeks ago. The car seat had been installed a month ago. That morning, around 5:30 AM, we casually changed our clothes, brushed our teeth and called the Midwife.
We told Linda how we were progressing with the contractions and she instructed us to come on down to the birthing center. We climbed into the car and left the house for the last time as two people.
Fifteen minutes later, we had arrived at the birthing center. Linda had arrived shortly ahead of us and had already gotten some coffee brewing for herself. She asked me about my progress and we decided to check and see how far I may have dilated. I was up to 3 cm at that point.
It was then that Linda sat next to us and let us know that there was still a possibility that the contractions could be pre-labor, and that they could eventually subside and return a few days later. She told us about how when she was pregnant, she had held strong at 3 cm for a few weeks. She recommended that we consider going home to relax for a few hours…maybe go out to a park for a walk…get something to eat…get some coffee. I told her that I felt like this was the real thing and that we’d just rest there at the birthing center for awhile and see how I felt.
Linda left the room to enjoy her coffee in the next room and showed us the call button attached to the doorbell of the birthing center. She assured us that she’d check on us from time to time, but that if we needed her before she re-appeared, to just press the button and she’d come back.
Once alone, Aaron and I pulled out the laptop and began playing the “Harper Tribann” station/playlist that I had created on Spotify. I had chosen songs from my past that contained good memories, feel good songs, relaxing songs, calming songs…music that I felt I might enjoy while in labor. Aaron sat in the wooden rocking chair beside the bed I laid in. I slowly began to relax and pay attention to my body. At this point in the labor, my contractions were at a degree in which I could just breathe heavily and ache verbally at a minimal level. I rolled from one side to the other in the bed, depending on the comfort I needed. I got out of bed and walked around, grabbing the end of the bedpost when the contractions hit. The contractions slowly got more painful, and I decided that I’d just stick to in between the bed posts for my pacing. Aaron and I barely spoke as I began the process of getting into the right frame of mind for labor. The zone.
After an hour or two of relaxation and pacing, Linda came back in to check on us. She asked how I was feeling and how far apart the contractions were. Aaron had been paying more attention to the mathematical portion of the labor, so he let her know the distance of contractions based on my groaning and bedpost hugging. She said that I was still in the early stages of labor, based on his description. It was then that I began discussing places to grab some food and coffee.
Soon we decided that we’d highball it and get coffee at Starbucks and breakfast at Panera. After all, it was a celebration, right? We asked Linda if she wanted anything (which she declined, respectfully and thankfully) and headed off for our tour of elite nourishment.
The car ride was relaxing. I was able to relax my mind a bit more by paying attention to the outside world. We snickered at how I was casually riding around town…in labor. We cruised on over to Starbucks. We planned an escape route for exiting the long ass Starbucks morning rush line should my water break. I ordered a Venti Cafe’ Mocha and a slice of banana nut bread. Aaron ordered a coffee, too. Not sure what kind he had though…I was too damn excited to be drinking a sugar coffee drink followed by a sugary bread treat….IN LABOR. (NOTE: The staff will NOT let you eat or drink ANYTHING while in labor at the hospital. The best you can hope for is ice chips. Seriously…this is what they let me have in the hospital when I mentioned I was hungry. Why? I’m guessing they think you might puke and they don’t want to have to clean it up? Any reasoning for this is welcome…)
Venti elite drink in hand, banana nut bread in stomach, we next ventured on to Panera for breakfast. Aaron parked the car just off kilter from the front of the business so that I could sit and writhe in pain in privacy from passer-by’s. He scurried in, grabbed a to-go menu, and we each chose our food delights.
By the time he came back, I had already had to turn my head away from a few strangers who had parked around our vehicle so that they wouldn’t see the contortion that I’m sure my face was showing. Aaron handed me the food and I told him that we wouldn’t next be taking a walk in the park next to the frolicking ducks on the lake…it was time to go back to the birthing center.
When we got back, I sat in the rocking chair and ate my broccoli cheddar soup and egg and cheese sandwich (well, most of it) while Aaron hopped onto The Doomstead Diner while finishing up his own meal. We put the remainder of my meal into the refrigerator of the center’s kitchen (the center was laid out in a very home-like fashion…kitchen, office, living room, etc) and called Linda into the room.
I asked if she would mind checking to see how far along I had dilated, if at all. Once checked, we were happy to hear that I had made it to 5 cm. YES!!!!
I then told Linda that I was considering getting into the jacuzzi jet, super sized bathtub (the dream tub of an almost 6 ft. tall woman). I asked her about the pros and cons of getting into the tub at that point. She informed me that statistically, women who were dilated up to 5 cm who entered the tub would progress rapidly once in the water…women who had not made it up to 5 cm, however, could reverse their progress. I was ecstatic to hear that I had reached the magic number for magical tub immersion and we began filling the tub with warm water.
I got into the tub in my nursing bra and relaxed. Aaron sat next to me on an inflatable birthing ball (lol…let’s call it a yoga ball) and used a large plastic cup that I had purchased to pour water over my back, shoulders and stomach. I had previously discussed with him that I’d love it if he could pour water over me like that while i was in labor. In the months leading up to the due date, I had ritually poured water over myself like this in our own bathtub. Little in-utero Harper and I would, almost nightly, take relaxing baths together. I would talk to him and ask him if he was keeping his head down and ready for Mommy. I would ask him if he could hear the water and if he felt more comfortable in there…floating in his water and Mommy’s water. These nights in the bathtub with Harper in my womb will forever remain in my fondest of memories.
As I laid in the bathtub at the birthing center with Aaron pouring water over me, reminiscing about being in our own bathtub, breathing and moaning through the contractions…Within an hour, I was up to 8 cm. It was at this point that the Doula, Amy, was called in to be a part of the process. I was ecstatic to know that Amy would be THE LAST person to enter the room during the birth. (Let’s not forget that there was an unknown exact number of people in the room at the hospital in the later stages of my labor…I’d guess around 10 or so, though).
While pregnant, I researched a birthing method used by a few friends of mine: Hypnobabies. This method uses real medical hypnosis techniques to get women through natural births. The products of this method include CD’s a workbook and a script… just not my cup of tea. I don’t conform well and didn’t want to feel like I was beholden to any particular method.
I will say, however…minus the CD’s and script and all that other money-making marketing…I pretty much created my own Hypnobabies routine that afternoon in the birthing center bathtub.
As the labor progressed, I began moaning louder and louder. Linda listened to me patiently through a few contractions, and then offered advice to help me through. She told me that when your voice is high, you tend to tense up and constrict…but when your voice is low, you loosen up and release. After this advice, I made sure that any sounds that came out of me were LOW and SLOW 😉
I had my moments where I slipped out of my zone…I shed a few tears at one point, letting my internal dialogue get the best of me when it began doubting that I could do this. One time Aaron poured water into my ear and that sort of got me in the wrong place, too 😉 (we laughed about this later). A few other times, I focused too much on the pain of the contraction, and didn’t allow the monastic low tones I was emitting cover up the cramps. I knew that to make this happen, I’d need to stay in the right frame of mind as much as I could. I had to constantly bring myself back into that place where my mission was to be strong for my unborn child, my partner and my mind. I had to focus on the triggers that my body was sending to me.
It was if my body was coaching my mind through the process.
When you are in labor, your mind has no control over what your body is doing. While in labor, your body takes over control. Your mind is no longer the boss of your vessel. A body in labor is a body that is in its most beautiful state because of this. Your internal chatter, your critical thinking, any portions of your brain that cause fear, panic, anger, worry or regret must all be shut down. The mind that is so used to being in control must hand over the reins. The natural body must be allowed to steer, for once.
The mind must be relinquished to have a successful labor and delivery.
Soon, it was visibly obvious that Harper was lowering toward my pelvis. My stomach had flattened about 1/2 way. He was dropping. Just what he was supposed to do.
Linda came over to check my progress. She let us know that my cervix had a “lip” on it…which is to say that one side of my cervix was not opening as far as the other side. She told me that I should try changing positions in the tub…two contractions on my right side, two on my left side. (I was thankful to be told WHY I was moving around in these positions). I went through the two and two and ended up on my back. Linda checked the lip again and let me know that it was still there and that if I didn’t mind, she would hold it back with her fingers for me through the next few contractions. She felt confident that I would progress enough on my own to not need her help anymore after the next set of contractions. She was right. She held back the lip for me through a few following contractions. It was enough for Harper to lower to where he needed to be, just past the cervix opening.
Soon, through a few more contractions, I felt more pressure than before on my lower region. I announced to Linda and Amy, “Lots of pressure” to let them know what was going on. Shortly after, I told them “I think I need to push!” “Go for it!” was Linda’s response.
And so I began pushing. On my own. In a jacuzzi jet bathtub. Without my legs in stirrups. Without being strapped to a cot. Without toddler bed rails. Without being told snodishly to breathe. Without my legs held forcefully up to my chin. Without an IV in my left arm. Without any drugs. Without an epidural needle. With my husband’s hand in mine.
I cannot express how it felt to feel that baby moving through my pelvis. It made his presence real. He was no longer just an oval belly with a few new stretch marks. He had become more real than a black and white soundwave captured on a printed piece of sonography paper. He was a living being who was about to enter the world…through ME!
Now…you are going to think I am a bit off my rocker…but having a baby sitting in my pelvis was not as painful as one might think. I could feel the pressure of him being there…but it was not as if my bones were separating and cracking. Pressure is the main description of this stage of birth. All I felt were the intense contractions and the pressure of a living being in my pelvis.
BUT…once he gets lower than that….yowza. That is where the real pain begins.
In a previous visit to the midwife, we had discussed how she would NOT break my water for me during the birthing process unless I asked her to. She told us how there there was no real medical reason to do so. It would not typically speed up the labor or make it any less painful to break the water. She then told us how there was a possibility (statistically occurring in fewer than 1 in 80,000 births) that the baby could be born “in the caul.”
Being born in the caul meant that the inner membrane of water never really broke. There was a possibility (a slight one) that the baby could be vaginally born entirely or partially encased inside the inner membrane. He could be born inside a sac, of sorts, floating inside the water that he had grown accustomed to.
Linda told us that in ancient times, being born in the caul was seen as a sign of good luck. People believed that the child was protected from diseases and other plagues of life by being encased inside the sac of water, or caul.
Here’s a web photo of a child born entirely inside the caul:
Here’s an internet baby born with a caul around it’s upper torso/head area. This baby is beginning to remove the caul herself!
And here is a little bit of happiness for a mother whose son was indeed, born in the caul (via the above Wikipedia link):
In medieval times the appearance of a caul on a newborn baby was seen as a sign of good luck. It was considered an omen that the child was destined for greatness. Gathering the caul onto paper was considered an important tradition of childbirth: the midwife would rub a sheet of paper across the baby’s head and face, pressing the material of the caul onto the paper. The caul would then be presented to the mother, to be kept as an heirloom. Some Early Modern European traditions linked caul birth to the ability to defend fertility and the harvest against the forces of evil, particularly witches and sorcerers.
A legend developed suggesting that possession of a baby’s caul would give its bearer good luck and protect that person from death by drowning. Cauls were therefore highly prized by sailors. Medieval women often sold these cauls to sailors for large sums of money; a caul was regarded as a valuable talisman.
In modern times those born with the caul claim to possess preternatural abilities. In the Polish language, the idiom “w czepku urodzony/a” means a person who is always very lucky.
Now tell me that GypsyMama and the DRUID (LD) don’t think this info is fucking AWESOME!?!?!
And back to the birth story….ahem*
So…the real pain had begun (the stretching, let’s not talk about what was stretching pain) and Linda, after telling me once again “You’re doing great!” told me that she thought Harper Tribann might be born inside the caul. She placed my hand over the caul that had slowly been exiting my body. It felt like a little balloon that was trying to escape.
I didn’t feel around for long… (it kind of tripped me out of my zone). I was using my mind, at that point, to imagine that his head was already out, and that it would just take one more push for him to be fully in the world. It had been working for me to “envision ahead” up until then.
Linda later told us, after the birth, that as she watched the caul emerge from my body, she could see through the water of the tub, into the water inside the caul, where Harper’s hair was waiving around in the fluid like some seaweed 🙂 How amazing would that be to witness? Midwives are incredible.
Shortly after feeling the caul, the pressure increased. I knew when, where and how to push. I could feel the baby slip further and further down his exit route. It was incredible.
I could FEEL the progress. I didn’t need to ask if I was pushing in the right place. Oh buddy…I knew it! 😉
All of this pushing only took me 30 minutes until our son, Harper Tribann was born. I’m not positive (will have to ask Linda the specifics) but I believe that the caul was only around little Tribann’s head when he was born, and may have broken off after his exit on its own. Linda may have removed it…again, I’ll ask 😉
Tribann was covered in the white, oily goop known as “Vernix caseosa.” I later learned that this substance prevents heat loss in infants because it is a barrier between the infant and the in utero water. It also contains lipids and fatty acids. It also moisturizes an infant’s skin and helps facilitate passage through the birth canal. It is also known to protect the delicate newborn skin from environmental stress. Almost immediately after exiting the womb, HT was placed on my chest. The coconut-oil, cottage cheese goop stuck to my hands as I held and swaddled him against my body. I remember trying to wipe some of it off of my right hand onto my leg so that I could feel him skin to skin instead of skin to Vernix Caseosa.
When he was laid on my chest, our little man barely made a peep. There was no violent outburst of screaming. he was comfortable, relaxed and seemingly un-phased by the birthing process. He was so chill, in fact, that I became a bit worried about the fact that he wasn’t crying or writhing around. Linda must have sensed (or shared) my worry, because shortly after the thought of “is something wrong?” crossed my mind, she suctioned his nostrils. He gave a little protest and shook his head… and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
“We did it!” I said to him.
Shortly after his birth, the last song on the Harper Tribann Spotify playlist ended.
After my skin to skin snuggling…and after checking to make sure he was indeed a boy…I delivered the placenta into the water of the birthing tub. Now THAT was a relief!!! I swear that it felt like that placenta shot out of me all the way to the wall at the end of the tub. It was such a huge sense of accomplishment to know that once that placenta had exited my body that my labor was complete. PHEW!
After the placenta was collected from the bath water and placed into a floating pan, Linda clamped the cord and Daddy to two, Aaron, cut the cord. I stood (escorted and supported with a baby in my arms) out of the tub, over the rubber non-slip pathway and to the bed. (Not wheeled away in a wheelchair because I couldn’t feel my legs).
Harper and I snuggled and he began breast feeding with a minimal batch of assistance (he was a bit too eager). Linda and Amy let him stay with me from birth until feeding. They didn’t take him away from me and “clean him up.” They didn’t instantly put him on the scale and weigh him. In fact, they waited until I was ready to give him his eye drops and Vitamin supplement before he left my arms…all the while, never leaving the room, never leaving my sight. He was only as far away as my bedside. A small wooden changing table his observation deck.
With continued snuggling, I watched the Vernix Caseosa absorb into Harper’s skin. Linda told me that they never clean it off unless the Mother asks them to. She believes that it is beneficial to the infant and allows it to remain on their skin until absorbed.
Soon, Linda announced that it was time to weigh our new lil’ man. “Everyone take a guess! How much does he weigh?” she smiled. “8 lb. 7oz.” I guessed. “Oh…I think he’s larger than that…I think we’ve got a 9 pounder!”, Linda responded. Amy also took a 9 lb. something guess. Aaron took the Price is Right route and undercut the highest pound guess by .5 oz.
I was the imaginary prize winner. Harper Tribann weighed 8 lb. 11 oz. Pretty close Mama guess, huh?
After all of the details were handled, Aaron, Harper and I hung out on the bed of the birthing center for a few hours, just staring at each other. After a moment in time had passed, we decided that it was time to go home. I delivered Harper at 1:50 PM. We were home (with new baby and bagged placenta) by 6 PM. Much different than the three day hospital stay, huh?