The Birth of Cora Gavrielle Strauss

Dear Cora.

    The day you were born was a beautiful, warm spring day.  Everything turned out to be perfect.  I woke up in the morning and noticed what might have been my mucus plug or a little bloody show.  I got excited, since this was the first possible sign of labor I had seen.  It was a Thursday; I had my last prenatal appointment with Karen and Christy, our midwives, on Monday.  My due date was May 5, and I had felt all along that you would be a little early, so I was expecting things to happen this week.  We had no plans Thursday evening or Friday, so I thought, “This would be a good day to have my baby.”  I kept checking throughout the day to see if there was more show—this would mean that labor was imminent—but there wasn’t.  I put in a pad, emailed the midwives to give them an update, and got Aidan ready for the RC school.

    It was so nice to have that morning at the school.  I had slept about six broken hours, and I was feeling tired, so Pamela and Millie encouraged me to lie down and rest.  There were plenty of people to be with Aidan, and he had a lot of time for allies to listen to his feelings of missing me.  I closed my eyes and half-napped for over an hour, then lay down some more after a mini-session.

    After school, Aidan and I went to the co-op for a snack and then the garden to plant some seeds and check on our sprouts.  I felt like Humpty Dumpty—I was wearing gray yoga pants and a striped pink tee-shirt of Aunt Helen’s, and I had a BIG belly—everyone thought I looked like I was about to have a baby!  At the garden, we saw Pamela again, and also our friends Al and Holly.  Holly is a midwife, so I checked in with her about my labor sign—she said the thinning of the cervix could start and stop—there really was no telling when labor would really kick in.  Then we strolled home for lunch and a rest.  I think Aidan and I played a couple of games, and we might have watched a video, too.

    Bubbie called and said she would stop over after work.  She didn’t often do that, because she’s tired after work, but she said later that she just knew it would be the last time she would see me pregnant.  At 4:30 pm, Dad came home from work, and he and Aidan went on some errands: Diego’s house to pick up the jacket we had left at the garden, Radio Shack to get new batteries for the timer (I wanted to be ready to time contractions!), and Blockbuster to pick up four videos for Aidan (James knew something was coming up).  While they were gone, I lay down for another catnap on the couch in the office.  I had been feeling lots of Braxton-Hicks contractions, and they had been stronger over the last week, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I was able to rest well.

    I was awakened by the doorbell—Bubbie had arrived.  I ate some roasted chicken and rice  pilaf, leftover that Dad and I had made—I was really hungry!  Bubbie and I talked, but I soon became distracted because I had to keep using the bathroom.  I had lots of loose poops—another labor sign that shows prostaglandins are working to thin the cervix—and my hemorrhoids were really hurting!  By the time Bubbie left at 6:30, I had noticed a few contractions that were a little bit painful—a sharp, high tightening across my lower abdomen.  I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to over-react to labor, and because there wasn’t any more show, so maybe I wasn’t dilating yet.  But, as soon as Bubbie left, I motioned to James and said, “I’m having some contractions!”

    I timed a few contractions and noticed they were coming every two to four minutes, lasting between 45 and 60 seconds, but they weren’t very strong yet.  It felt like a sharp, high pain in my lower abdomen, and I was able to walk and talk through them.  I called Karen and told her what was happening; she encouraged me to lie down and sleep, if possible.  My labor with Aidan had been over two days, and I became exhausted and needed to go to the hospital.  I eventually accepted epidural anesthesia along with Pitocin to help me dilate fully.  Luckily, the pushing part was short and Aidan was very healthy, so we were all happy, but I was a little nervous going into this labor—I hoped it would be shorter and that I would be able to handle the experience without pain medication.   Even though I was hopeful that I was really entering labor, we all wanted to make sure I rested as much as I could before it got stronger.  I called Wendy, my doula partner, at 7:00 pm to get her doula opinion—she also said to lie down and sleep if possible and also suggested forward-leaning positions.  You had been lying on my right side since at least the third trimester, with your back to my front—a good position to avoid back labor—but Wendy just wanted to make sure you stayed that way.

    I went upstairs to help Aidan get ready for bed.  Dad read books to him while I lay down and tried to relax.  It didn’t feel as comfortable as standing up, so when Aidan fell asleep, I got up, walked around, and stretched my back.  Aunt Lizzie came over to bring me hemorrhoid pads (all that pooping made them hurt!), and she talked with me while Dad set up the hose attachment to our bathroom tub so he could start to fill the birth tub with hot water.  I had a little cry with both of them, feeling scared that I was about to enter hard labor, the realization hitting me.  The contractions became stronger, and I began breathing more heavily as I rocked my body and leaned over the desk.  By 8:30 pm, I could no longer talk through them, and I was rocking on my hands and knees.  I tried leaning over the birth ball but found it uncomfortable during contractions.  I preferred quiet and did not want any massage.  Dad had dimmed the lights and turned on the aromatherapy diffuser, so the scent of lavender was in the air.  I called Christy and asked her to come over to check my cervix.  I hadn’t seen any more show since the morning, and I was concerned that this might not be real labor yet.  I wanted to know if it was happening, or if I should make a stronger effort to go to sleep.  I had to put down the phone four times while talking with her to breathe through contractions.  Christy said it sounded like they weren’t long enough, but she said she’d be happy to check.

    We called our friend and doula Josina at 9:30 pm and asked her to come over within an hour.  Aunt Lizzie went home for awhile to do a few things.  Dad talked quietly and sweetly to me.  I can’t remember exactly the words he used, but I felt supported and loved by him while I labored.  Even though I didn’t want anyone to touch me, I always needed to have someone in the room with me, so I could feel confident to continue.  Your dad was amazing during Aidan’s birth, and this time he was perfect, as well.  He kept encouraging me to try restful positions, so I sat back in the rocking chair for awhile. Christy came over and checked your heart tones, which sounded great.  Then she examined me at about 9:45 pm and said, “You’re doing great, Jess.  Do you want to know a number?”  I said, “Yes!” and she said I was 4 to 5 centimeters’ dilated, 80% effaced, and you were at -2 station in my pelvis.  “I’m in labor!” I shouted gratefully, and then cried and kissed Christy.  She called Karen and their apprentice, Susi, and told them to come over.  Christy said she would probably visit her friend down the street to give us some more privacy and time.  Before she left, she wanted to set up her things for the birth.  I continued to breathe, rock, sway, and lean over on my hands and knees.  I drank Recharge and water, but I was no longer hungry.

    At 10:30 pm, I walked into the bathroom to pee, and I felt a pop inside and a gush of fluid came out—the bag of waters had broken!  I immediately threw up and leaned over the radiator.  I knew this meant contractions would get very intense, and I asked James to hold my hand.  There was a little meconium in the waters, but no one told me because it wasn’t enough to cause concern.  Josina and Aunt Lizzie came over; Lizzie helped fill the tub and Josina started videotaping.  Everyone encouraged me, saying how great I was doing.  Sure enough, my uterus started working even harder, and I began breathing heavily, moaning some, and rubbing my face against the cool wall.  James brought me a wet washcloth, and I made a ritual of rubbing it around my face during the contractions.  A few times I kind of bit Dad on his forehead!  In between, I rested by sitting backwards over the toilet.  I was my own cheerleader, telling myself out loud, “Just listen to my body, let it do what it wants to do.  I’m doing a great job.  I’m opening up.”  James repeated, “Open up” with me, and I really could picture my cervix dilating.  Christy praised my loose knees and relaxed shoulders.  I felt I could make it as long as I got the pushing stage soon.

    Susi arrived and everyone was crowded in the bathroom.  Christy asked for my rebozo, and she and Susi used it to pull up my belly.  Since I was leaning over the wall, they thought it would help you settle into my pelvis and start descending.  Sure enough, a couple of contractions later, I started to feel a pushing sensation.  The midwives encouraged me to go with the sensations, breathing and doing whatever I wanted at the peak.  Sometimes I kept breathing and sometimes I pushed.  By 11:39 pm, however, the urge was overwhelming and I PUSHED!  I stood over the toilet and felt you moving down.  Karen finally arrived (she had the longest drive) and stood in the doorway, smiling.  My hemorrhoids really hurt, but I knew the only way to end the pain was to keep pushing you until you were out.  I started yelling, “I want it out!” and I bet you did, too!  Susi supported my perineum with pressure and olive oil and your head gently began to crown.  Soon, your whole face and head emerged, and at 11:50 pm on Thursday, May 3, 2007, the rest of your body slid out—you were born!  The midwives helped me sit down on the toilet, and I got to hold you in my arms.  Because it was such a fast descent, you were a little shocked and needed some help breathing.  The midwives used a DeLee suction down your throat to suck out some fluid, and you took your first breath and cried!  Your Apgar scores were six, eight, and ten—and we all cried with happiness.

    After the placenta was delivered, we moved into the office on the couch.  Your face was a little bruised from coming down so quickly, but it cleared up by the next day.  We were so glad to have you in the world with us.  Within a half hour, you nursed, with eyes closed.  Dad started calling all of our family, and everyone was so surprised to hear you were already born—they expected us to call them when labor started!  You were weighed and measured—8 pounds and 21 inches.  The midwives got us tucked into the bedroom (where your brother continued to sleep!) and said goodnight.  At six in the morning, Aidan woke up to hear the soft sounds of your cry.  He was so happy to have the chance to hold you and laughed when he saw you move and gurgle.


    Cora, from the moment you were born, we have been so happy to have you in our lives.  We love you.

Mom and Dad

Karen Webster

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