Within the last two weeks three of my girlfriends have given birth to three beautiful little girls. One was a planned cesarean, the other was an induction, and the third was a beautiful home birth. All three mamas have very unique stories to tell. Every birth story, whether natural, medicated, vaginal, cesarean, home birth, or at the hospital should be told in a space and at a time when it serves both the teller and people receiving it. There is much wisdom and insight to be gained from the sharing of stories.
As a culture though, it seems the majority of birth stories told are the horrific, scary, stories of excruciating painful labors. If you are pregnant or have been pregnant you have probably heard one or many of these stories. When this is the message women get from their moms, sisters, girlfriends, and physicians it’s no wonder women are choosing to disconnect from their birth experience.
“The best way I know to counter the effects of frightening (birth) stories is to hear or read empowering ones. I mean stories that change you because you read or hear them, because the teller of the story taught you something you didn’t know before or helped you look at things from a different angle than you ever had before.” –Ina May Gaskin
I am so grateful to have an opportunity to share our birth story in the book “Spontaneous Joyful Natural Birth” by Natasha Panzer (publication date tentatively November, 2011) and with an amazing community of women. It is my hope that by sharing our story it will inspire others to trust their own innate wisdom and approach pregnancy and birth from a place of inner strength and grace. It is my hope that by sharing our story we are able to empower other women to actively participate in their prenatal care and labor. It is my hope by sharing our story we will encourage other women to process their own birth stories and when the time is right to empower someone else with their story.
If you are in a place to receive here is our birth story!
Birthing with Grace
As I look back on our birth story, I am reminded it was the manifestation of a journey beginning with pregnancy and ending with the final contraction. Our birth story encompasses this journey.
I view pregnancy as a normal, natural, healthy process and wanted to celebrate the miracle of life growing within versus seeking out pathology. The midwifery model of care resonated with me and I was seeking to find a midwife whom I connected with. Initially, I was leaning towards a home birth and my husband Eric was leaning towards a hospital birth, but after meeting with Tracy for a perspective client orientation at Mountain Midwifery Center in Englewood, Colorado we were both convinced this was the place for us. Tracy being a strong, confident, and knowledgeable woman effectively communicated her beliefs about natural childbirth. Her enthusiasm was contagious and we left the orientation feeling excited about pregnancy and labor/delivery. It felt so right to surround ourselves with people who believed in the process of birth and believed in me. The midwives at Mountain Midwifery Center sought to educate and empower us rather than instill a sense of fear and anxiety.
Early in my first trimester I started attending prenatal yoga regularly. This class would soon become so much more than merely an asana practice. With the guidance of our fearless teacher Laura, this class became a weekly support group. I was able to share my fears, anxieties, excitement, and experiences in a safe, supportive environment. Every week I had an opportunity to connect with like minded women who also believed in the power of birth.
During my second trimester I started attending the Thornton/Northglenn La Leche League meetings. The first meeting I attended turned out to be transformational. I met Amy who would soon become a good friend as well as our doula and Karrin who has earned a very special place in our child’s heart. The women at La Leche League invited me into their lives and provided much needed support as I progressed through my pregnancy. Not to mention all the valuable information I received about breastfeeding and a space to be in the presence of women who were passionate about nursing their babies/toddlers/children.
Our baby, whom was nicknamed Peanut, was due on January 7, 2009 and as an eager first time mom I thought Peanut would arrive either before his/her due date or shortly after. I was mistaken. Peanut was 7 days late and every day that passed I became more and more worried. Although our midwives kept assuring us that most first time moms will go 7-10 days past their due date, I still continued to worry. I was worried I would risk out and not have a chance to labor at Mountain Midwifery Center. We met with our midwife Cassie several times towards the end of my pregnancy. During the 40 week visit Cassie said, “Sara, be prepared you may still be pregnant for another week or two. I know you want to have your baby now but unfortunately you do not have control over that. You do however have the choice to enjoy these last couple weeks of pregnancy or live in a state of anxiety. The choice is yours.” After that appointment I decided I would set my intention to savor the final couple weeks of pregnancy and be open to whatever the universe had in store for us. Much easier said than done!
At our 41 week appointment my cervix was ripe (2.5 centimeters dilated, 70% effaced, an anteriorly positioned) and Peanut was at a -1 station. Nancy, another one of our midwives, recommended stripping my membranes. She stated if this was going to work you will probably go into labor within 24-48 hours. Our appointment was at 2:00 pm and by 9:30 pm I was relatively sure labor was quickly approaching. I tried lying down to get some rest but the contractions kept intensifying. At 11:30 pm as I was lying on the over stuffed chair in our living room my water broke. The fluid was gushing out as I quickly made my way to the bathroom.
Nancy, our midwife on call, asked that I try to labor at home for a couple more hours. My contractions were approximately 3-4 minutes apart butNancythought I would be more comfortable laboring at home than coming to the birth center immediately. Peanut had moved into the left occiput posterior position and I was experiencing intense back labor. I found some relief in the shower, however the hot water only lasted for about 30 minutes and I had to find another technique to cope with the contractions. I decided to walk around the house during contractions and utilize vocalization in an attempt to dissipate the pain. Eric, who had been diligently timing contractions would stop and provide much needed counter pressure on my lower back.
At 2:00 am Eric and I made our way to Mountain Midwifery Center. I was dreading the 30 minute car ride as I knew I would be in a confined space and unable to move around. It was during this ride though that I found and embraced my breath. The vocalization was not working anymore and seemed to make the contractions more intense. I would inhale through my nose and exhale audibly through my mouth as I focused on relaxing my jaw. I also closed my eyes and found one point of focus through the contraction.
At 2:30 am we met our doula Amy, midwife Nancy, and midwife in training Collette at Mountain Midwifery Center. Nancyasked what room I wanted to labor in and at that point I didn’t care. I just wanted to get into the tub hoping it would alleviate my back labor. I was worriedNancywould tell me I needed to go home because I was not dilated enough, but during our first vaginal exam I went from 3 cm to 5 cm in a matter of seconds. I then got into the tub, but to my disappointment the back labor continued.
For the next 4 hours I would alternate from the tub, to sitting backwards on the toilet, to walking around the birth center, to utilizing distraction techniques. I even tried horse lips, spiraling my body to connect with the energy of the contractions, and of course continued to focus on my breath. No matter what technique I utilized the back labor did not pass, not even between contractions, but eventually I surrendered to the sensations. Through the support of my compassionate husband, our midwives, and doula I was able to be present in the moment but also be an observer to the process.
Throughout my labor I would find myself shaking, sometimes uncontrollably. Initially I was confused as to why I kept shaking, but now believe it was my body’s way of coping with the intensity of labor.
Around 6:00-6:30 am Nancy and Collette left and Tracy arrived. Tracystarted to work her magic immediately. She presented options in a way that gave me a choice but yet motivated me to move and try new positions. I tried squatting at the squatting stool for a few contractions and also spiraled my body as I let a sling hung from the ceiling support me.
Eventually, I found my way back into the tub and was pushing. Tracy kept saying, “We deliver babies from our butt not from our vagina.” This was her comical way of encouraging me to push in a way that was familiar to me. I found myself pushing with such strength and determination that I screamed and wailed during most pushes to release pent up energy and to open up. Around 7:50 amTracysaid, “I bet you will have your baby by 8:00 am.” I immediately doubted her and thought she was trying to give me false hope. At approximately 7:56 am Tracy said, “You can stay in the tub if you like but it’s getting a little dirty in here. If you get out of the tub you will have your baby quicker.” That was all I needed to hear. I immediately started to get out of the tub while Gina, our nurse, started to place chux pads around the squatting stool and Tracy was starting to put her gloves on. Suddenly Gina yelled, “Tracy you need to catch this baby NOW!” The act of getting out of the tub was all that was needed for our baby to literally slide right out.
I started crying uncontrollably as Tracy placed our baby in my arms. I didn’t even think to look to see if we were blessed with a daughter or a son. I just couldn’t believe our baby had arrived and my back labor was gone. Eric finally said, “It’s a girl!” Grace was born at 7:58 am, two minutes before 8:00 am just like Tracy had predicted.
Laura, my prenatal yoga teacher once said, “We labor like we live our lives.” This couldn’t have been truer for me. I doubted myself and was unsure if I could do it, but throughout the entire process I labored on. I was determined and committed to doing it naturally and never questioned that decision. I would be lying if I said labor wasn’t painful. It was extremely painful as Grace moved from left occiput posterior to right occiput posterior and eventually moved into a right anterior position. Labor was the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging thing I have every done, but also the most transformational and life enhancing. I am blessed for having had this experience and now have a precious daughter who is a manifestation of this journey.
I am grateful to my husband, our midwives, our doula, my prenatal yoga teacher, all the pregnant women whom I met throughout the journey, and to our family and friends for their encouragement, support, and friendship. Most of all though, I am grateful to Grace for embarking on this journey with me and for being my greatest teacher. Together, Grace and I created a birth story that demonstrates the health and beauty of pregnancy and labor/delivery but also the reality of the challenges and inner journey of childbirth. Together, we were able to birth with Grace!