Analyn & Stephen: Aidan's Birth Story, 1.23.2013

Stephen and I had planned, prepared, and scheduled when we would start having children. The house needed to be ready, graduate school completed, and lifestyle and diet perfected. We both knew we didn’t want me to be working while pregnant so I could optimize my entire pregnancy and avoid harmful and stressful environments. At the end of April, two weeks after leaving my job, while digging and preparing spring garden beds, I started feeling a little queasy. We didn’t want to get our hopes up too much, and I thought maybe it was all in my head, but from then and during the next weeks, in which I cried frequently, I was fairly certain that I was pregnant. One day past my expected cycle I couldn’t wait to test any longer. Stephen was on a work call in the downstairs Playroom when, I came down crying and shaking, sinking down to the floor in front of him holding the positive pregnancy test. We knew we were meant to have this baby with God’s immediate timing.

We planned not to share our news with family for the first few months. Five and a half weeks in, we were sitting in a crowded hall for my sister-in-laws college graduation and I started to sweat, and thought for sure I was going to be sick right in the middle of the full row of people. I made it through the day, but my morning sickness progressed into an all day sickness from then until twelve and a half weeks. I wasn’t able to eat anything other than raw veggies and cheese and after a while, some potatoes. I spent all day everyday, laying down, sitting in front of a fan, struggling down what food I could, and vomiting. It was too hard to conceal it from the rest of the family, so at six weeks we shared the news.

After the first three months of warming back up to food, I started getting more active, going for walks, sunning my bare belly in the Fall sun of our backyard, learning to knit, and reading natural pregnancy and birthing books. Before being pregnant, Stephen and I had decided on birthing at The Birth Center. Stephen liked the idea of a home birth, but I thought I would feel more comfortable at TBC for the first pregnancy; both of our mother’s and many people we knew had had good birthing experiences there. At twelve weeks we started our prenatal care there. At the first visit, we were told we needed to have a dating ultrasound done. We knew we did not want any testing or interventions, we knew the conception date and were not going to except any unknown effects of the testing. TBC wasn’t sure we could continue with them without it. On our way home from that appointment, we discussed home birth again. I still was unsure about the idea and when TBC called and said we could skip the dating ultrasound, we were back in their

Carē.

In September, we got to hear a strong little heartbeat using a fetoscope. I sobbed while Stephen held my hand and we tried to take it in. The midwife told us the heartbeat was in the 130s. Knowing my siblings and I had all been consistently over 150 for girls and under for boys, it added a little more to my feelings that the baby was a boy. Later on, the midwife was even able to direct our hands so we could feel the top of the baby's bottom right at the opening of my ribcage. The midwife commented that the baby seemed to be quite long. Despite several good visits, after that initial visit, each subsequent made me more and more apprehensive about what test or intervention they might require next, causing more and more stress and my blood pressure to progressively rise.

The breaking point came at 31 weeks, when despite my reports of consistently low home numbers, I had a stress induced high blood pressure reading during the visit

and they were aggressively recommending a non-stress test and visiting the liaison doctor at the hospital. Stephen and I both knew at that point that we would feel safer giving birth to our baby in our car then at TBC where they would be sure to transfer us to the hospital in the middle of labor if not before. ATBC midwife kindly gave us names of a few midwives that might perform a home birth in our area. Armed with this we set off to contact them.

Of all the names we had been given, there was one that stood out. At TBC we had been told that the midwife Karen, was the one all TBC midwives went to when they had babies. As I started receiving negative responses from all the midwives, we had to remind ourselves to pray and put it in God’s hands. When I heard from Karen that she would meet with us we were thrilled! At our first meeting Karen told us she got many request everyday and did not respond to many of them, but my email stood out to her. She had such a calming presence and put us at ease immediately. By the end of our meeting Stephen and I both knew that this was our answer from God. It all worked out too smoothly to be anything else.

I was able to truly relax knowing we were in capable hands and that our baby would be born into the safety, warmth and comfort of our home. We started getting the house ready for the birth. We ordered a water tub, thinking it would at least be a nice option to have. I knew to be able to fully let go during labor, I would need the floors to be covered with plastic so I wouldn’t worry about getting our wood floors wet, so we lined the entire birth room and hallway to the bathroom in plastic. My middle of the night trips to the bathroom were less than silent for the next few weeks.

Throughout the pregnancy, not only did I have trouble grasping that it all was real, but it also felt like I was going to be pregnant forever. It just felt like the baby needed to stay where he or she was, much past my due date. Once I was past the morning sickness, I loved being pregnant! I was never really uncomfortable, other than heartburn, and the feeling of a little baby moving around in there was awesome. During the day, I was always talking to the baby, reading books like Tom Sawyer and Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales, and trying to catch every little motion with my hand. Before bed, Stephen would read Howard Pyle's King Arthur, watch my belly for the baby’s movements, and poke my belly and have the baby poke back. Late nights when I couldn’t get to sleep or waking in the night and not being able to go back to sleep, I would put my hands on my belly, and the baby would keep me company with kicks, jabs and summersaults.

Things were going great with the midwife. At 37 weeks I received the news that I had tested positive for GBS. Knowing this meant my gut bacteria was not ideal, I was very disappointed. I had been faithful in eating my fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles and kefir and swallowing raw garlic. Karen referred me to a husband wife homeopathic team, and three days after starting a remedy with them I tested GBS negative!

Around 38 weeks I suddenly felt like the baby could come at any moment. Each day I was having more practice contractions. They were painless, but through each of them I would practice relaxing my whole body and controlled breathing. I stopped leaving the house and kept outside contact and distractions to a bare minimum; I was gearing up for the main event.

Stephen and I had gotten the movie Batman: Dark Knight Rises to watch in the early stages of labor. On January 20" we reasoned that the baby would probably come in the next few days, I probably wouldn't be able to enjoy a movie once labor started, and we'd probably better just watch it now. Our excuses to stop waiting to see the movie proved to be valid. After a day of 15 or so practice contractions, on Monday night, January 21” (the day before my “due date”), about 9pm, I started into contractions every 5 minutes. We texted Karen and she advised I get into the shower. After a long warm shower the contractions slowed and spaced. Karen said she thought the sudden intensity was adrenaline and to keep her updated as things progressed. Stephen helped me to relax with massage and reading, and we went to sleep.

I had had some contractions through the night, but they were not very uncomfortable or frequent. The next day was Tuesday, Stephen took off from work, starting his Paternity Leave. Through the day I was having a contraction every 10 minutes. I sat on my birth ball watching shows on my computer while Stephen stood behind me and messaged my back. I learned quickly that I did not like to be touched during contractions, I was working hard to keep my body relaxed and focusing on making each contraction productive, touch just distracted me. I tried to eat as much as possible in that time too. We sent messages to our parents that the baby was on the way!

My contractions continued to be fairly mild and painless at the 10 minute spacing until that Tuesday evening when we got back into bed. I really had to concentrate on each contraction, sometimes even using my hand in a motion to visualize water rushing into a cave, and back out through a wide opening, as I had read in a natural birthing book. Stephen continued to read King Arthur to me between contractions, stopping whenever he read the cues of a contraction beginning. I lay in our bed, on my side with my knees up for some time. Stephen started filling the birth tub in the Guest Room, which we had set up as our “Birth Room”.

When things were really intensifying, Stephen called Karen and she sent over her assisting midwife, Wendy. I then moved from our bed and tried sitting on the birth ball. When that didn’t seem to be the right position, I climbed into the birth tub. Up until this point I had been drinking coconut water and eating a banana and goji cocoa energy bites basically between every single contraction. I wanted to make sure I didn’t run out of hydration or energy before the end of labor. Unfortunately, my incessant drinking made for frequent bathroom trips. I couldn’t fully relax in the birth tub with the constant full bladder feeling, and climbing in and out of the tub with high sides, and dripping wet while my contractions became closer together, was not ideal. I ended up laboring while in the bathroom for a period. I started to feel nauseous and needed the security of having a container nearby if I were to vomit. The contractions were really picking up and a few times I started to loose my calm, controlled grip, and as I contracted and made noise, my yells became higher and I started crying. At that point Wendy, peeked her head around into the bathroom and quietly directed me to try and lower my sounds as low as I could. I knew I needed to make the sounds as guttural and relaxed as possible and I continued on trying. I moved back into the Birth Room and onto the bed we had set up in there. We had all the lights off and a single beeswax candle burning and one in the bathroom as well. I positioned myself on my right side with my knees up again, entering into the intense transition stage. Karen arrived around then and as I felt her hand on my leg, I was fully

reassured. I had been starting to feel like there was no end in sight, and her presence put me perfectly at ease and I knew everything was going to be ok. While on my side, my body started pushing and my yells got louder. Every time I felt overwhelmed, I would just think “My little baby needs my help to get out.” and my efforts would be refreshed.

It was in the early morning hours by then and I was sleepy. I managed to fall asleep in between a contraction for a few minutes. Stephen was worried that labor would be slowed down too much and had me get up and get back on the birth ball. After a few contractions there I got back into bed where I was more comfortable. Stephen went downstairs where the midwives were waiting and sleeping, to tell them I was pushing. I had been pushing for a few contractions and was getting frustrated as I could feel it was unproductive. They came up to check on the baby and I. Karen checked me and told me I was fully dilated and my water was still intact. The baby's heart rate was a little affected by my position on my side so they had me try switching to my other side and leaning my forearms on the birth ball while in bed. I didn’t seem to be progressing too quickly in those positions so Karen brought up her birth stool for me to try. The stool was a little too big for me but Karen placed rolled up towels under my feet and applied counter pressure to my hips when I told her they were hurting. Karen sat behind me to one side, Wendy right in front of me, and Stephen stood in front of me then switched to sitting in front of me to the side.

My position on the stool was really helpful and I was determined to break my water so the baby could finally come. Wendy told me that she could see my bag of waters as I pushed. I gave a really big push and my water exploded! We were all surprised and the pain of the pop was surprising to me. I could feel my progress after that. Each contraction I would push and would feel the baby move down farther and then go back up. I made lots of noise, one time even giving Karen a start as she had dozed off. I had no concept of time, but at one point I opened my eyes and noticed it was light outside. After several times I asked Karen if it would be many more contractions this way and she said it would be.

I was getting impatient. I could feel the baby’s head in my birth canal wiggling around. I wasn’t in pain but it was a strange feeling and I was ready for the process to be over. I waited for the next strong contraction and pushed with everything I had, yelling so loudly. They told me the baby's head was out! I told Karen I had felt some tearing, it was a sickening feeling. The baby continued to wiggle and in the next push the baby’s shoulders were free and our baby was born! Stephen caught the baby and Wendy quickly wrapped a blanket around the baby. The baby was brought up into my arm and Stephen and I held the little bundle together. It was 8:27am, Wednesday, January 23, 2013.

I’m not sure how long we sat there staring at our new little life, Karen started poking at the baby to get a cry. I realized we didn’t know the gender of the baby and I asked Stephen if he had checked. He said no and we were thrilled but none too surprised to discover we had a little boy. Stephen cut the cord and I brought the baby to my breast to nurse him and he latched on right away. The midwives were finishing the cleanup and asked me to give a few coughs to help expel the rest of my bag of waters.

I think I would’ve sat on that stool indefinitely with Stephen and our baby, but the midwives helped me back to the bed. The three of us sat together on the bed while the midwives checked me out and stitched me up. I told Stephen I felt like I could do it all

again right then. Aside from my impatience at the end, all had gone perfectly. It is a night I will never forget. Being able to labor at home with Stephen by my side, always encouraging and supporting me, confident in my abilities, and ending in such a perfect way, the greatest blessing, our little baby boy Adiron Strider, 81bs 4oz, 21.75”, no words can capture it.

Adiron's birth continued into a two week blissful period when Stephen was home taking care of us, bringing me five eggs, sausage and fruit for breakfast, and more food all day and night to try and satisfy my raging appetite, changing and washing all of the diapers, and fielding family bombardment. I nursed, held, slept with and stared at Adiron non-stop. We took six days in deciding his name and the family was so excited to learn it and see Adiron via Skype.

I cried when Stephen cleaned up the birth tub, sad that it was over. I cried at night when I couldn’t sleep and Adiron was no longer in my belly, but sleeping on his Daddy’s chest. And I cried when the honeymoon ended and Stephen had to go back to work. By the time I’m finishing this, my little Adiron is ten months old. He says “Mama” “Hi, Dada” and “More” and took his first step last week. He's the happiest, most adventurous, explorative, and loving little boy. He gives me kisses by mashing his face on mine and always checks to make sure I’m nearby. I’ve shed countless tear recalling all this, not ever wanting to forget a single detail. I still have melted beeswax on the back of the toilet in the bathroom where I labored and a drop of breast milk on the floor in the Birth Room from when my milk came in, and I refuse to clean off either.

Analyn

Karen Webster

WomanWise Midwifery: homebirth & women's health, 257 East Main Street, Elkton, MD, 21921

daughter, sister, friend, mother, midwife, nana, teacher.