Ava's birth, April 2014
Jack – Born on March 10th, 2014 - 11lbs. 2oz.
Nora Emily - Born October 9th, 2012 - Proud parents: Kirsty & David
Ella - Born May 19th, 2012 - 8lbs.7oz. Proud parents: Lacey & Tyler Loken
Conri Ryan Allen - Born November 18th, 2011 3:15am
Rio Isaac Malakas David - 10lbs. 4oz. 22in. Born July 21, 2009 1:14p.
Felix Buist - 8lbs. Proud parents: Marta & Sam Buist
Cassidy's Birth - 8lbs. 10oz. Proud parents: Annie & Adam Bongard
The Birth of Oscar Wallace, an Inupiaq Angel
Ahwrey Bryant's Birth Story
Cole Raven, 9#
Leah Moen, first baby. Cameron - 5# 12 oz.
Tanner's Birth - 7lbs. 15oz. By Angela Toci
The Birth Of Samuel Grigory - 9lbs. 8oz. By Johnathan Bower, father
My Birth Story: Estella - 9lbs. 2oz. By Caressa Brannon
Ava's birth, April 2014
I found out I was pregnant when our first child was just 15 months old. I contacted Chinmayo again since she had attended our first birth. I just knew there was no other way and no other person that would be better suited for how we wanted to bring this next baby into the world. I went into labor at 1:00 in the morning on April 28th. I woke my fiancé up at 2:00 to let him know it was time. While he began preparing the house and the pool, I called Chinmayo and she arrived at 2:30 just as my parents were picking our other daughter up. I walked as much as I could for an hour and a half just doing laps around the house, bracing on the wall or the couch to work through contractions. I switched to the shower until we ran out of hot water trying to fill up the pool. From there I labored in my daughters bedroom, in my own world not knowing anything that was going on around me except when Chinmayo would check on me and gently rest her hand on my back. The few times she did This calmed me down and even seemed to ease the contractions. Things progressed quickly and when she checked me I was already 8 cm. I got into the pool and the water felt amazing. My fiancé talked me through until it was time to start pushing. The midwives sat back and let just the two of us work through it together. As Tyler coached me, I started pushing around 4:15 in the morning and By 4:35, my sweet Ava was born in the water right into my own hands. It was incredible to be the first person that got to touch her when she was born. I pulled her right to my chest and within 30 minutes of being born, she was already trying to nurse. She latched on right away and it was smooth sailing!
People have asked me many times to compare the two births. I don't feel like I can do that! They were so different, not worse or better. Nothing will be like the first time you gave birth to that first child and how special that is. Nothing will be like the second (and probably the last) and how special that is. Yes, 10 hours of labor was harder them 3 1/2 hours of labor and I did everything in my second birth that I wanted to do in my first birth. Everything about the two is dramatically different but equally amazing and I gave both my girls the best start in life that I could give them. Thank you Chinmayo for all your love, support and incredible care!
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The Birth of Jack - March 10th 2014
~ by Nine Year Old Sister
Hi: My name is Makia and I am 9 years old.
My new baby brother’s name is Jack.
When my mom was giving birth, I got emotional. I felt so happy I cried.
I could not believe my eyes. I was so amazed with how fast it happened. Jack was born on a Monday in one hour and fifteen minutes.
I was scared by the blood, then I remembered that Chinmayo said it is normal to lose two cups of blood. This is my first time seeing my brother.
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The Birth of Nora Emily
~ by her mother Kirsty: October 2012
Proud parents: Kirsty and David
October 9th, 2012. Our 8th wedding anniversary. I was 5 days past my due date and anxiously awaiting the birth of my little one. My husband had gone to work early and I was having a friend over at noon for lunch. While getting ready for the day, I began to feel some light cramping. I didn't think much about this, because there had been several evenings when I'd felt very minor cramping exactly like this, but as the morning progressed, and the cramping didn't subside, I began to wonder if this was what Braxton-Hicks felt like. My friend arrived with lunch and we chatted about friends, and co-workers, (and babies!), all the while my cramps getting stronger and stronger, but still not any more bothersome than mild period cramping. I had even started to spot some light red blood. At around 1:30pm I asked my friend if we could end the visit so I could lay down for a while since the cramping wasn't going away. I remembered Chinmayo telling me that when I began to feel anything, to try and rest, gather my strength. Sleep would not come. Even laying down in bed was too uncomfortable, so I moved to the toilet, where I seemed slightly more at ease and that was when I tried to time what was happening. I was alone, and not having any luck timing the feelings.
I decided to call Chinmayo just to give her the "heads up" that I was experiencing SOMETHING. She encouraged me to try to measure the contractions, relax, and call her if I needed ANYTHING. I then called David to see how his day at work was going and also make him aware that I was a little uncomfortable. He was almost finished with one job and would soon be on his way home. I told him not to rush, because what I was feeling was manageable and I wasn't concerned about being alone. In about 1/2 an hour I called him again to see how close he was to home, because, at that point, I REALLY wanted him home. He was on his way. When he arrived, my body allowed itself to relax some, and I decided to take a shower. I was sitting on the floor of the shower stall when I had my first (what I consider to be) real contraction. I felt this sudden, uncontrollable urge, and my abdomen clamped down. Then I vomited! I hadn't taken any childbirth classes, but Chinmayo had lent me "Birthing From Within" and several books from Ina May Gaskin and Dr. Michel Odent. I knew from those books and talks with Chinmayo, that vomiting was a pretty sure sign of labor. I asked David to call her. He asked me if I wanted to speak with her, but I knew I'd be unable to. I was too focused on breathing and being in tune with my body to have a conversation. He hung up and informed me she was on the way.
When Chinmayo arrived I was on the toilet again, because, honestly, I felt like I had to poo and pee all at the same time! She checked me during a quiet moment to get an idea how far along I was. I watched her eyes get big and she says to me in her adorable accent : "You're nearly complete!" Obviously, this was not what she was expecting, nor I! I thought I'd have several more hours before it was time to start pushing and meeting my baby. David and I had intended to have a water birth, which, in our little cabin, meant heating water on the kitchen stove, as well as filling the pool with water we'd stored in a 55 gallon rain barrel. I was in the bedroom listening to David and Chinmayo discuss that there was no time to blow up and then fill the pool. She'd already put the call in to have Stella drive over, but she was 40 minutes away. I think there was some worry I might give birth before Stella arrived.
Overhearing that the water birth I had so looked forward to was now not going to happen, you'd think I would be upset, but I wasn't. I said to myself that my baby was going to come into the world the way it wanted to. I had already gone over so many birth scenarios in my head that I felt confident I could handle any of them. The water birth would have been really cool though! Before I realized it, Stella arrived and we were ready to push. From this point on I remember some things so clearly, and others, not so much, especially how much time was lapsing. I practice yoga, so I would use Ujayii breath (breathing with sound) along with my contractions to keep calm and focused. I don't remember hurting while pushing, more so, I remember the complete lack of control I had over the contractions. My body did what it was meant to do without my consciously asking it to do so. The best way I can describe it is how your stomach clamps down when you vomit. You HAVE to do it, no matter how much you hate to, or try to talk yourself out of it, if you need to expel something, well, you do! My water finally broke, and there was myconium. Chinmayo mentioned, that, when the baby's head came out, I needed to stop pushing so she could suction before its first breath. If it breathed in myconium, we'd have to go to the hospital. The hours were ticking by and I kept wondering if I should be exhausted, but I would always find the reserves to keep me going. I was drinking coconut water, cold water, and David would put a cool wash cloth on my forehead. It was like a marathon!
I don't know the exact moment, but there came a time when the midwives realized I probably should have had my baby by now. The heart rate was being monitored regularly and all was fine, and I was in high spirits, but still there was not much progress with the baby down the birth canal... We decided to do the McRobert's position so Chinmayo could manipulate inside of me and help move things along. Both she and Stella commented on how this particular position may seem counter-intuitive, but it might be exactly what we needed to get baby out. I was up for anything they suggested. I lay down on my back in bed, Stella and David each manned a leg, and when the contraction came they pushed back and up on my legs, while I squeezed my upper body, pressing my chin to my chest. Chinmayo would then move her fingers around the baby's head and stretch my perineum. We did this for several contractions, and this was when I started to hurt, but I knew it had to be done, so when Chinmayo said let's do it again at the next contraction, I said OK again and again. I kept repeating to my self over and over that I couldn't wait to see my new baby; that I wanted to meet my baby and hold it close. I would speak to my baby both internally and out loud about how excited we all were to get to know him or her and we needed to work together to make that possible.
This amazing bond is what kept me strong.
Sometime during the McRobert's position, I recall Chinmayo saying if we didn't get the baby out soon, we may have to go to the hospital. From the beginning, I was determined to have a home birth, but I was also aware, that sometimes, hospitals are necessary for certain circumstances, I resolved in my mind that if we needed to make the trip, then that was what had to be done. I didn't allow myself to give up, though, I KNEW I had the strength to do it on my own. I had love surrounding me and I wanted my tiny baby to be born into all that love. I began to give it all I had (not that I'd been holding back, I just didn't realize I had SO MUCH inside!) We moved me onto all fours, and eventually into a "runner's position" so that the midwives could help me even more. This was when the baby's heart rate must have dropped because Chinmayo told me to not stop pushing and that I NEEDED to get the baby out NOW!
I wasn't scared; I was intent. The next contraction came and I dug in, willing my body and mind to bring this new life into existence. The "ring of fire" everyone talks about is a very real part of labor, and I could feel it most assuredly right then. OUT popped my baby's head and immediately they tried to suction, BUT, it appeared the baby's chin/mouth area kept being pulled back inside. What little they managed to suction was myconium free; that was a good thing, but they knew, because the head had been sort of drawn back in, that something serious was going on. The baby had a shoulder distocia. One shoulder was caught up on my pelvis and refused to budge. Chinmayo had to stick her hands in me and dislodge the shoulder. Once she managed to do so, the baby slid right out. It was floppy and I was instructed to move to the end of the bed where a board with a heating pad was set up. Quickly Chinmayo and Stella examined the baby. Oxygen was administered, and they began chest compressions because the heart rate was so low. I was holding my baby's arm, gently caressing and urging, attempting to rub strength into the limp limb. I wasn't afraid. I was glad he/she was out and I knew, in my heart of hearts that all would be fine. I knew we were in capable hands. Chinmayo said: "Talk to your baby." I moved a purple leg and discovered I'd made a little girl.
"Nora," I said. "Listen to your Momma. Listen to Momma's voice..." The CPR only lasted about 30 seconds; with only 3 chest compressions her heart rate was back up. I'm amazed at how so much can happen in so short an amount of time; everything became so clear, and slow it seemed in those few precious moments. David had already dialed 911, but while he was on the line with the operator, Chinmayo informed him that the heart rate was normal. I was able to pick my daughter up and hold her to my naked skin, allowing my warmth to sooth her after that tremendous birth. Her dark eyes were wide open, alert, taking everything in. She was unafraid. She was strong. The EMTs arrived, could hear her cry, and told me I had a healthy little girl. When I had the afterbirth, David finally got to hold her in his arms (placenta still attached) and comfort her as well. She was perfect. Beautiful. And we were in love.
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Born May 19th, 2012 - 8lbs. 7oz.
Proud parents: Lacey & Tyler Loken
I always knew I wanted to be a mother from the time I was a little girl.
When it would happen, I wasn't sure but I heard you were never ready no
matter how much planning and preparing you do to have a child. My
pregnancy wasn't planned nor was I surprised when I peed on 8 sticks
because I needed the double lines, the words 'yes' and 'pregnant' to
tell me it was true.
I started out with an OB at the hospital. It seemed like the normal
thing to do, plus it was a midwife/OB team and I felt like that would
give me a chance to birth naturally in the hospital. I loved the midwife
though she wasn't delivering anymore, just doing pre-natal care. We had
most of our appointments with her since the OB was busy delivering
babies. When I finally did meet the OB, one of the first things she said
to me was, "I don't take care of babies, I take care of moms so they can
take care of their babies.". I was really shocked by that and it's stuck
with me ever since. I felt like that was a harsh thing to say,
especially since this was my first pregnancy and we were a package deal.
I wanted somebody who cared about my baby’s wellbeing as much as they
cared about mine. She was on me about my weight and told me that if I
gained more than 25 pounds, my baby would be too big to deliver
naturally. It's not like my baby gains 25 pounds!! They put me on a
diet and after that, I began to get this feeling that the hospital was
the wrong place for me. I was dreading the next appointment with her (
I was about 6 1/2 months along) when they told me I would be seeing the
midwife because the doctor was doing a cesarean. I knew that day that it
would be my last time there.
I began researching alternative places to birth Ella and started meeting
with moms who were friends of mine that had either had a home birth or
had gone to a birth center. I read and researched and talked to a
friend who was a midwife about it several times. I finally decided on a
home birth because I couldn’t imagine anything better than being home
and not having to go anywhere before, during or after I gave birth to
Ella. Plus, it was our home, our environment and I could use our bed,
shower, pool, ball, couch or whatever I felt I needed.
Once I knew Tyler was ok with all of it, we were set up to meet
Chinmayo. I was at peace the moment I met her and we looked forward to
every appointment. She was so warm and encouraging and I think we both
had a lot of peace about our decision to birth at home. We were so
happy with our choice to switch and before we knew it, we had ordered
our birth supplies and pool and were ready for our home birth.
I started having a lot of Braxton hicks weeks before Ella was due. There
were a few times I thought and was hoping it was time but my body was
just practicing a lot. On Friday night, contractions definitely felt a
little different but weren't consistent enough for me to think much of
them. By 5 in the morning on Saturday, they really picked up but were
still manageable and far apart. By two that afternoon, they were 3-5
minutes apart and I decided I needed to call Chinmayo to come over.
Things progressed from there and they became more intense. I used my
birth ball, the shower and the pool to labor in. I had a lot of back
labor so my breathing and getting into my contractions became extremely
important though at times it was hard to remember that. I thought I was
being a total psycho when I was going through transition but was assured
after the birth I wasn't. I also wanted to give up and go to the
hospital. I had the classic moment of "what was I thinking?!?!" and "I
can't do this anymore!!"
Of all the things the moms had told me, the one thing they had in common
was "You CAN do this" and I did. By the time I was ready to push I tried
squatting, then got in the tub which I ended up having to get out of
because I was falling asleep (yes, you can do that in labor!) and I
birthed Ella in our bed. Pushing felt good! It was finally felt like I
was on the same page with the contractions. Once I made it in the bed
and her head came out, the midwives and Ty got me on my hands and knees
and out came our precious girl. A bright pink, 8.7 pound, 19 1/2 inch
baby girl. When they put her on my chest, she pushed herself up off of
me, picked her head up and looked at Ty and I. Everyone was so surprised
how strong she was! I was amazed, exhausted, weak, proud and emotional.
I couldn't believe I did it and that she was here! I had been waiting so
long to look into that little sweet face! We did end up going to the
hospital for a tear but I was fine and Ella was perfect so it was no big
deal. When we got home, the midwives who assisted with the birth had
tidied up our house, the bedroom, put fresh sheets and blankets on the
bed so that when we got back all we had to do was crawl in and get some
sleep, which we all needed and were so ready for.
I'm so happy that I chose to have a home birth. Yes it was hard at times
and I wanted to give up and I doubted myself but between Ty, Chinmayo,
my mom and the other midwives, I was able to get through it. I had a
great pregnancy and having a natural birth in a peaceful environment
with an incredible midwife gave our daughter the best start in life that
she can get. She is so strong and alert and so calm. She amazes me every
day and Chinmayo is a true blessing to our family.
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Conri Ryan Allen
Born November 18th, 2011 3:15am
To my newest baby, Conri Ryan Allen,
On Thursday November 17th after intense anticipation of your birth and a week of daily false labor, we thought you were going to be born. By dinnertime the contractions were 60 seconds long and 3 minutes apart. To be sure this wasn’t false labor we waited two hours with the contractions lasting that duration and intervals before calling Chinmayo, the midwife. We sent Steven to his best friends, Jeremy’s, for a sleep over. Then I started laboring in the bathtub. Chinmayo and the supporting midwifes arrived soon after. Ryan and I moved to the birthing tub that we had setup in the dining room. This was the most enjoyable time in labor with you. Your dad was my support holding me tight through contractions while I watch the fish in the aquariums.
Around midnight I had the midwives check my dilation to see how I was progressing. One checked, then another, then they exchanged glances, then they broke the news. I was only one to two centimeters. The supporting midwifes went home thinking that you would not come that night. Luckily Chinmayo had a gut feeling that she should spend the night.
The contractions were no less intense, shorter, or further apart. That is why I thought that Chinmayo was crazy when she walked into the room and told me that I needed to fall asleep. I remember saying, “Chinmayo, I can’t.” And her response was, “Well, let’s try.” It seemed like a reasonable request. She gave me a homeopathic drink, and lay in bed facing your dad while Chinmayo rubbed my feet and back during contractions. Chinmayo’s magic hands took the edge off to the point where, as our dad puts it, I was snoring. The contractions still woke me up but I was soon asleep in between them. I lost track of time and space. After a while I realized that Chinmayo had gone and everyone in the house was asleep. I silently labored through contractions and continued to fall asleep in between contractions, but with each contraction I seemed to get less and less rest. Finally I was getting no rest at all the contractions weren’t ending. The pain was so great that I had to try something different so I attempted to get out of bed. I made it on my knees next to the bed. I felt something like a kick by my cervix and a gush of water flowed. I realized at this point you really were coming. This was the turning point in labor and everything sped up.
I yelled help and woke the whole house. Chinmayo came in and started rubbing my back, your father went to the bathroom, and your Grandmother tried to stay out of the way. At this point I was having a difficult time speaking but I realized that they didn’t know that my water was broken. I was babbling “Can I push?” , but I don’t think that anyone could understand me. I somehow conveyed to Chinmayo that my water had broken. She checked me for dilation and immediately left the room. I was told later that I was seven to eight centimeters when she left the room and at 10 centimeters when she returned about a minute later. I started pushing and Chinmayo recounts about 6 pushes before you were born. My water broke about 2:45am and you were born about 3:15am on November 18th, 2011. You shocked everyone with the speed of your delivery. Your Grandma Borcherding proudly assisted Chinmayo because there was no time for backup to arrive.
When you were born you were immediately placed on my belly where I held you, nursed you, and loved you.
Happy one month birthday Conri Ryan Allen! Your birth will never be forgotten.
I came up from Iowa to help for a month with Steven, a 19-month old, but I ended up assisting in the delivery of his baby brother! Sarah had been having contractions when she picked me up from the airport on Monday, but also was having some on Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday she knew something was different and today was the day. By 7 p.m. she had called Chinmayo and we were setting up the pool in the dining area. By 9 p.m. the midwives were there and we were quietly waiting in the living room while Ryan and Sarah were in the bathtub for awhile and then in the pool laboring with soft lighting from the aquariums and a tree with lights. I was praying a prayer Sarah had given to me. She was having strong contractions, (and I was having sympathetic pains and wishing I could do it for her), for a long time, so we thought birth was imminent. But, when about midnight Sarah went to her room and they checked her, she was only 1 cm.! We were shocked! All those contractions and that was all the further along she was! The midwives had a consultation to discuss the situation, and the two assistants decided to go home, but Chinmayo thought she’d stay, just in case. She rubbed Sarah’s back and put her to sleep, then went to the couch to lay down. I showered and went to bed.
At 2:45 a.m. I heard Sarah yell for help. Ryan had gone to the bathroom and she had gotten up and broken her water. I peeked out of my room, but didn’t want to get in the way in the bedroom, but asked Chinmayo,( who was scurrying around quickly to the living room to grab some things and make a quick phone call to another midwife), what was going on. She said Sarah was 7-8. I said, “What?”, thinking I heard wrong, but she again said she was 7-8 and would need my help. Back in the bedroom about a minute later Sarah was already 10! I raced around grabbing things from the living room that Chinmayo needed and helped Sarah curl up and hold her legs during contractions. Who cares if I don’t even have my contacts on…..no time for that! The baby’s head crowned and Chinmayo asked if I wanted to touch it. Of course, I did! It was amazing to touch his little head. I loved helping his birth, experiencing that with Ryan and Sarah, and taking such an active role in the birth, even though not in the plan. (I was going to be an observer.) I timed the birth off of my watch…I think of that often when I look at my watch! I cut the cord and looked over the placenta with the other midwife who had arrived later to help. Chinmayo showed me where Sarah had torn and would need stitches. I loved every bit of the experience. After about two hours of mom/baby time they left for the hospital to be stitched up, since she had a bad tear. I stayed back to clean up the bloody mess!:) And to empty the big pool!
After returning from the hospital, Sarah and Ryan gave me the wedding ring with two hearts in diamond chips that Sarah had worn during pregnancy to thank me for being there and helping (no thanks were necessary there!) and for me to always remember my special bond with baby Conri. I realize what a special blessing it was for me to be able to assist with the delivery---not every grandmother gets that awesome experience.
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Rio Isaac Malakas David
Born July 21, 2009 1:14pm
10lbs. 4oz. 22in.
I had a feeling that morning so I peed on a test stick. Oh my gosh, pregnant! Really?!? There's no "no" in front of the word "pregnant," so yes, pregnant! Ecstatic, nervous, overwhelming love, terror, awe. EJ and I were so giddy we stayed in bed all that day dreaming about our baby and being excited about becoming parents. I'm such a health nerd, I happily started researching away as soon as I could, setting up appointments and meetings.
How we got here…
I had been really interested in medicine before and worked and volunteered at the hospital (ANMC) every chance I got throughout college, many months spent on the labor and delivery ward assisting the moms and providers wherever I could. I soaked up the medical knowledge surrounding me and got to help with deliveries, caesareans, post-partum and newborn care, I loved it. I admired the tough women who made birth look so normal, even without pain meds. That's how my mom did it with all 5 of us, and how my grandmas and aunties did it, and how I would do it too. I romantically idealized the idea of a home birth but assumed that wasn't an option here anymore. Bummer, if only I was born 80 years ago.
I happened to attend a brown bag on my lunch break at the hospital one day and listened to a visiting former L&D nurse present on the benefits of natural childbirth, and how the type of pregnancy and birth we have can affect the baby so much. She was really good at showing the science and research behind it all for the doctors in the room. I was so intrigued I also attended her expanded talk that evening. That was where I learned about our great midwife community here in Anchorage, including those at our clinic trying to make changes towards this direction. We even had two birth centers in town, and plenty of midwives that attend home births. I never knew! Alright then, when it's my time this is the way I want to go.
Choosing our care…
Well, it became my time, yay! I chose a natural childbirth friendly midwife at our clinic (SCF) and set up my first prenatal appointment. In the meantime I explained to EJ what the difference is between a nurse midwife and a direct entry midwife, and we visited the birth centers and a bunch of midwives, both CNMs and CDMs. EJ was nervous about yet another one of my crazy ideas, at first, but he was open to learning about it and trusted and supported me. I tried to be understanding that all he knew of from his mom and sister were caesarean births so this was totally a new concept. He came along with me to all the appointments, tours, classes, he was there for everything. The more we learned the more he became comfortable with this plan and we decided that a homebirth suited us best. So we also chose a homebirth midwife and alternated my prenatal visits between the two (CNM and CDM) for about the first half of my pregnancy, then I switched to the complete care of my home birth midwife, Chinmayo. I brought a copy of my prenatal medical record to the hospital so that it would be in my chart there in case for some reason I had to be transferred at some point. My hospital midwife, Joan, teaches a hypnobirthing class which I was also able to participate in, so I still saw her there. She was aware and supportive of my birth plan all throughout.
I loved learning about all the amazing things happening in my body and how my baby was developing. I really appreciated that all of my appointments with Chinmayo were an hour long. She was interested in hearing all the details about how things were going for me, my thoughts and queries. She kept me loaded up with books to read and DVDs to watch, which I devoured. Every decision in my prenatal care was left up to us. She provided resources for us to research each test and procedure that came along, answered our questions, and let us choose what we thought was best for us. I loved and appreciated not only being involved in my care in this way, but being in control of it. After all, I am the one living in my body and we are the ones responsible for the health and well being of this little person we created every single day of our lives. She always made sure I was keeping up with the “three wells;” well hydrated, well nourished and well rested. Those were the most important things I could do to prevent any complications. By her recommendation, I also discovered how wonderful and beneficial chiropractic care is for mama and baby. And I took the hypnobirthing class to prepare even further for birth. I truly believe that whatever little time I was able to take to breathe deep, positively affirm my body and baby’s natural ability and strength, protect myself from stress, walk, swim, stretch, prepare nutritious food, sleep, laugh and surround myself with love and support had an effect on the health and well being of my baby.
(written July 23, 2009)
“Monday evening Chinmayo came over to check on me. She asked me if I was feeling anything different, I said no just the normal Braxton Hicks. My back was a little sore but we had just gotten back from a long walk and it was always like that after being up and around for a while. As soon as she left though around 7pm I realized the practice contractions weren't really going away like they usually did. They were pretty mild but I went to bed just in case it was the real thing I wanted to try to rest (couldn't sleep though). Oh and Chinmayo had called back not too long later to let us know that one of her other mom's was going in to labor! I didn't mention anything at that point because I wasn't sure. But later that night around 11pm they were pretty regular so I called her message phone (not the emergency cell phone yet) to let her know that it might be happening. I tried to relax in bed some more but around 1am the "waves" (contractions) were stronger and it wasn't comfortable to lie down anymore. We came back downstairs and I found it most comfortable in the rocking chair and on the yoga ball, so I'd go back and forth, and get up a walk around for a while in between. EJ started timing the waves and after he established that they were 3-5 min apart and lasting about a minute I told him not to ask me anymore because he was distracting me from my relaxation. I was listening to the hypnobirthing cd's and really was able to get into a pretty relaxed state that made the waves not too unbearably uncomfortable. I tried one more time to lay down on the super comfy couch and sleep. EJ went to sleep but I definitely couldn't. I tried to let him sleep but only about an hour later I woke him up saying that they're getting more intense. We tried to wait a little longer, but around 5:30am we called Chinmayo on her cell to let her know, and she was already at the other birth! So she sent over her backup midwife, Susie, who got to the house around 6:30. She checked me and I was 8cm dilated! Yay! EJ and Lena started filling up the pool and I continued what I was doing, relaxing in the rocking chair, bouncing on the yoga ball, walking around, and listening to super chill music or the hypnobirthing cds. We had lavender candles lit and Lena gave me a foot massage. It was kind of like a spa. When the pool was ready I got in and the warm water really helped me relax even more. When they asked me if anything was changing I couldn't tell if the intensity was any higher because I was more relaxed in the water. I mean I felt them and they for sure weren't pleasant but I felt in control of my pain and could handle them. I was excited that each one was brining baby closer to me.
Chinmayo arrived from the other birth. Poor, they were both exhausted too having been up all night attending the other birth. Chinmayo later said she felt like she was walking into a church when she came in because the vibe was so chill. Lena was such a great doula and EJ was the best birth companion I could ask for. They kept making me drink water and Recharge and encourage snacks throughout the night...watermelon, miso, cheese and apples. Later I started feeling a little nauseous and didn't want anything except for salmon strips so I munched on that when I first got in the pool. I kept hearing EJ tell them to keep things quiet so that I could get in the zone. I felt random hands massaging my scalp, rubbing my arms, wiping my face, pulling my hair back...so spoiled! They were all so awesome.
Ooh then there was this big hard wave and my waters were released. Things suddenly got 100x more intense in that second and I wanted nothing but to push that baby out. After that is when things got primal and I heard my normally quiet reserved self groaning through the waves, I didn't care who heard me, it was all out there. I was just a mammal like any other. I don't think there was anything that could have prepared me for that part of birthing. Getting that baby down and out was the hardest work I have ever done.
I think maybe because I got so exhausted after a while and started wondering how I was going to do it I got super determined and was able to get back in control and quietly focus each wave and breath on moving baby through. I heard Chinmayo and Susie encouraging me through each one, and EJ in my ear saying that baby’s getting closer. Baby started crowning and everyone got excited, but I'd get so frustrated when his head would slip back in. I just wanted to get him out already! But then I was scared to push too hard because I wanted things down there to stretch out slowly little by little. But the burning. I heard the midwives worrying about a tear that was forming. But I had to ignore it. I was getting more and more tired so I just had to give it everything I could and push through it anyway.
And his head finally popped out! Ahhh it was the best thing ever!! I rubbed his head sooooo happy, and then on the next wave the rest of his body slipped out and I caught him! I pulled him out of the water to my chest. He cried right away to clear out the gunk in his chest. EJ was crying in my neck and I heard Lena crying too. I didn't though. I just couldn't stop looking at him and touching him and kissing him. After a while I heard one of the midwives ask the gender so I looked down and lifted his leg to see and yep he's a boy!
Finally having him in my arms I didn't care about anything else that was going on. The midwives were rushing around me to stop the bleeding from the tear. They gave me drops of homeopathic stuff and a shot of pitocin in each thigh to get the placenta out and stop the bleeding asap. I was just focused on baby and let them do what they needed to do. The placenta came out, which was also huge. They showed me everything and it was all intact and healthy. Then they told me about the tears and said they wanted an OB to stitch me up because it looked beyond their scope of practice to repair (a 3rd or 4th degree tear). So we had to go to the hospital. I said that’s fine, I didn't care about anything else, just mesmerized by my baby.
After a while lying with baby and letting him latch on to me, I let Susie take him to do the newborn exam. Holy smokes 10 pounds 4 ounces, and that was after pooping three times! And his head was 15 ¼ inches around! No wonder mama got tore up so good.
So we went to OB triage where they were already waiting for me because Chinmayo had called ahead. I didn’t get admitted. They just sewed me up, and we were home again an hour or so later. It ended up being a third degree tear thank goodness (not a 4th degree!). Chinmayo came to the hospital and after she made sure everything was okay she went home to bed exhausted from attending two births in a row overnight. My dad helped EJ and Lena get me and baby home and in bed. All I wanted to do was get into bed and look at my baby. So that's what I've been doing since. I'm feeling fine, a little sore and still not very much energy, but happier than ever. I love taking care of this little jelly bean. He's more amazing than I ever could have imagined.”
I loved those first days, baby and I in our nest staring at each other, sleeping and eating. EJ and Lena brought me (iron rich) food in bed and kept making sure I was drinking lots of water and Emergen-C. Chinmayo came to check on us every day for the first week. At first I wanted to be up and about, there was so much to do! She was finally able to convince me to really rest by telling me about a Chinese medicine theory that there are three times in a woman’s life that can really impact their health; first menstruation, childbirth, and menopause. The way we take care of ourselves around those times can affect our health for the rest of our lives. I didn’t want to continue being tired all the time so I did my best to rest. I am so grateful now that we took that time staying in bed. I cherish those first moments getting to know each other. And baby was thriving, a vigorous eater, he was back up to 10 pounds 6 ounces by day 5 already.
I was worried about my tear healing back to normal, so about a week after birth we went back and had the OB check on it and they convinced me that it’s really healing fine and won’t affect me long term. I felt really well taken care of both by Chinmayo and by the Women’s Health staff at SCF (Joan, Dr. Murphey, the MAs, and Lisa our home visiting nurse from the Nutaqsivik program) throughout my healing. It did take me about 6 months to feel back to normal. EJ also took really good care of me – made sure I ate, drank and slept well. He kept me from trying to use too much energy that I didn’t have back yet. Even though I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and a wonderful birth, growing and birthing a 10+ pound baby, the tear and blood loss did take a lot out of me. It was frustrating not to be able to do things like normal afterwards. It was an invaluable lesson on listening to my body and respecting my own boundaries. I wouldn’t have changed anything. Again, I am so appreciative of the wonderful care I received from everyone.
“Laka” (his nickname taken from his middle name) is a strong, healthy, smart, happy and secure baby. I feel like giving him the healthiest start in life that I could, and all the love he’s received from our whole family since then, had something to do with that. I am still ecstatic about having him in our lives now and witnessing his every new development. I still get nervous about how we are doing as parents. I still feel overwhelming love for him every single day. I still get waves of terror about anything ever happening to him. And I am still in awe that we created this amazing little boy…from one microscopic cell each…life is such a miracle!
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Felix Buist, 8#. Proud parents: Marta & Sam Buist
Since I can remember, I have been fascinated with pregnancy and childbirth. And as a yoga instructor I have learned to have faith in the Self and to trust my body and my intuition. So when it came to the birth of our first born I knew I wanted a natural home birth. From the moment I made it known, though, I faced everything from sharp criticism to worried words from my family and friends. But for me it seemed like a no-brainer. So, I made a conscious decision to stick to my guns and take on a positive attitude no matter what. Who wouldn't want the birth of their child to be in the warm, dimly lit, intimate, comfortable and nurturing setting of their own home? I wanted the birth to be a magical journey for my husband and I into parenthood and for our child into the world at large. In the end, that is exactly what it was.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning and Sam, my husband, was up with a start whereas I felt like I could sleep forever. Regardless, I got out of bed and proceeded to make french toast. I went to the bathroom and there it was-the mucous plug I'd heard about. From then my contractions which felt like light menstrual cramps began at 7 minutes apart and very regular. We didn't really think much of it though as we weren't sure if this was “it”. Just in case though we decided to stay active so if it was labor it would progress nicely. We went to a few shops and the market. We even went to our neighbor's house for a BBQ, but after a while of sitting I needed a walk. Sam and I went for a walk, then came home and sat outside on our deck. Sam asked if it would be OK if he went for a bike ride. Me still not sure if I was in labor or of how long it would last told Sam to go. Upon leaving he told me to call Chinmayo just to let her know what was going on. I called her while he was out and immediately after hanging up the phone my contractions switched to 3 minutes apart and a little more intense. Sam returned and we took a shower together. When we got out the contractions intensified a little more. Without really thinking about it something inside of me said, “OK, it's time to call Chinmayo”. Sam called her around 8pm and she was on her way. The first thing she did was a vaginal exam. 8cm! I remember feeling excited but reminded myself to remain grounded as I didn't want to stall the progress I had made. Sam finished filling up the pool (until then I had been laboring in the dim bathroom leaning against the vanity) and I got in but it wasn't as divine of a release as I thought it was going to be and I actually felt better out of it so I made my way to the couch and labored a little on my knees leaning against it. Then my water broke. It was probably one of the coolest feelings-like a water balloon dropping on the floor. Chinmayo finally said that if I wanted to have the baby in the water, I should get back in the pool. But I was feeling too warm already. The weather that day was almost 80 degrees and sunny! But I knew the benefits of water birth so off I waddled to the pool. I knew I was close. The contractions began to feel like they were taking over my entire body like an intense wave of energy. I didn't have to ask when to push, my body just did it on its own. I was anxious to feel the “ring of fire” because I knew that would signal the end and we would see our baby. Towards the end of those contractions I would just begin to feel the “ring of fire”. I kept asking “can you see the head yet?” and Chinmayo said, “go ahead and check for yourself”. I proceeded to place my fingers between my legs and oh my goodness, there it was! I could feel the head beginning to crown. Whoa! When the head was out, Chinmayo prompted me to lean back so Sam and I could catch the baby. I remember thinking, “now, how in the heck am I going to maneuverer that”. But everyone helped me and there it was, I could see for myself that the head was out. I waited for those last couple contractions, which by that point were so mild. (The hardest part is just getting to the “ring of fire”.) Then, out came an excited arm, the shoulders and POP(!), the rest of the body. I put my hands under its arms and brought the baby up to my heart. I couldn't believe it. I had just birthed a baby. I was so elated and told Sam to come over next to me. We just patted the baby and talked to it and realized that we didn't even check the sex yet. We had had a beautiful baby boy. Wink, wink, I secretly wanted it to be a boy the entire pregnancy.
After a few more moments of bonding, I was beginning to feel cold and shaky. I got out of the pool and went to the couch where the midwives were there with blankets right out of the dryer. It felt so nice. Sam cut the cord, the placenta came out and it was on to the latching-on process. I'm so glad that Kirsten, Chinmayo's backup, was there to help. I never realized how difficult the logistics would be, what with his hands and my hands and maneuvering the breast. But Kirsten was a pro and so encouraging both to me and baby. Afterwards, was the baby exam and then finally off to bed-as if I could sleep, though. I remember just being in a state of shock. It was as if I was still trying to process what had just transpired. I couldn't believe that I just birthed a baby.
The whole journey was amazing and it didn't hurt! I swear! I dove into this meditative zone and all my energy was put into birthing the baby. I tried to keep my breath even the entire time. I focused on exhaling through my mouth and keeping my face, mouth and shoulders loose. I had complete faith in my body and knew that it was meant to do this, on its own, without any outside help.
I couldn't have asked for anything more and I wouldn't change a thing. It was exactly what I wanted for the entrance of our child into this world. I feel so blessed. I'm so glad that I have an amazing husband and that I found a supportive midwife. Chinmayo was great from the very beginning. Her care was so genuine. You know from the moment you meet her that she is living her vocation. The best part was she always empowered me, providing informative reading material and DVDs on various aspects of childbirth and parenting and let us make our own decisions. In the end, you are solely responsible for the birth of your child, but its great to have a few loving, supporting hearts and hands to help, if not physically than energetically and spiritually.
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Cassidy's Birth - 8lbs. 10oz. Proud parents: Annie & Adam Bongard
When I first found out I was pregnant with my youngest, I started thinking about going through having my baby in a hospital again, and I really didn’t like the idea. My first pregnancy was quite complicated, and even though my second pregnancy went pretty smoothly, it felt like I was just running through the motions. It didn’t feel like it was special at all, and it felt like it was all really clinical.
So for my third pregnancy and delivery, I wanted to do something different, something that involved me being able to see my baby right away, instead of waiting hours to hold my child. Once I moved up to Alaska, I asked a few people from my parents’ church and was referred to Chinmayo and Childbirth with love.
The whole experience was new and different to me, because I felt that I was more involved in the whole process, not just a bystander that happened to have a baby inside me. I made all the decisions regarding what I wanted, where I wanted to have my baby, and how I wanted to do it. The freedom of having the ability to choose made me feel like someone cared about what I thought for the first time in all of my pregnancies.
When it was time for me to have the baby, I called Chinmayo and she came over right away and stayed with me for about an hour and a half. Together we got everything ready for the birth: this was a very comforting, mothering experience, I really enjoyed being able to do that. Since I was still in early labor, Chinmayo asked what I wanted to have happen, and we decided that she would go home, and when I got further along, I would call her.
About an hour later, I called her back, and when she arrived we went upstairs to my bedroom and just waited, while my contractions were growing. My husband Adam and my mother were there with me as well. The whole thing was quite relaxing, or at least as much as it can be with contractions. When it was time to push, I simply told Chinmayo I felt like pushing, and she told me to do whatever felt natural to me. Two pushes later, my daughter Cassy was born.
Immediately Chinmayo gave her to me and I was able to hold her from the beginning. Everything was just a perfect experience: I was finally able to hold my baby, something that was very important to me.
Chinmayo came back the next few days to check up on us and see how everything was going. There was a lot of time for Cassy and I to get to know each other, and it was just a very special, wonderful experience, for both my husband and I.
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THE BIRTH OF OSCAR WALLACE, AN INUPIAQ ANGEL
I am Randi C. Madison, daughter of Carole and Randy Madison. My maternal grandmother is Madeline Carl. Tooyak is her family name, from the native Village of Pt. Hope Alaska, approximately 700 miles North West of Anchorage. The village lies on a 30 mile spit that juts out into the Chuckchi Sea, giving it its native name, Tikigak, or “index finger”. My maternal grandmother is very important to me; so is my first and only child’s birth story. Sooyook is my grandma’s Inupiaq name, and her mother Mumagin, (Beatrice Tooyak) was a midwife in the village. I have never had the chance to meet Mumagin, although I have dreamed of her holding me as a small child while singing to me, kneeling on the soft summer tundra.
My great grandmother Mumagin delivered my mother on the floor of a small cabin in Point Hope. My grandma tells her birth story to me, recanting how she lay upon a caribou skin and held tight to two rope loops tied to strong nails in the floor. When she needed to push, nobody had to tell her. She bore down silently and braced with the heels of her feet upon a 2x4 secured to the floor. She used no drugs and needed no interventions.
My grandma is strong, although she would not say so, “that’s just the way you do it” and that’s that. She was my inspiration to have a home birth. As an adult, I have been learning to reclaim my pride in being Native. I want to experience as much as I can of the old ways, and traditions that I have missed out on for 90 percent of my life, having been born and raised outside of Alaska. And, with the assimilation that my grandma experienced through boarding schools and from missionaries, she did not pass on the Indigenous knowledge to my mother or to us grandkids. This was one way that I could begin the reclamation. I must admit I am very proud of my heritage, and so much more now after having a natural birth, like my grandma, in the privacy of my own home.
There are some differences between how my grandmother labored and the way I did. My husband and I have erected a yurt behind our house in Anchorage. The minute I knew I was pregnant, I thought “I will deliver this baby in the yurt.” A yurt is a round structure fashioned after a model that the nomadic Mongols used in China. Today’s yurt is built with lattice and vinyl walls and has a conical roof with a bubble shaped skylight at the center. I felt that the shape and comfort of the yurt was very womb-like and, coupled with a water birth, would be the least traumatic way I could bring our child into this world.
It was 4 am when I felt my first contraction, but what woke me up was the feeling that I had wet the bed. “Honey, wake up, I think my water just broke. Either that or I peed.” It took a while for him to recognize what was going on. After about half an hour, Jeff was totally there for me. My labor lasted 8 hours total. He perfectly navigated the scene. He supported every contraction and was physically close to me the whole time, as I moved into a myriad of positions, responding to my every moan and facial expression. I especially remember how he would place his hand steadily on my lower back or stroke my hair away from my face. At one time we were both kneeling on the floor hugging side by side, with my head resting on his shoulder and his on the crown of my head. It was that moment when I fell in love with him all over again.
One of my best friends was sleeping on the couch in the yurt. She was up from Seward for a yoga workshop and we had loosely planned 2 weeks prior at my baby shower how perfect it would be if I were to deliver the baby while she was here. Sure enough, it was happening. “Are you having a baby?” a sleepy, yet excited voice gently spoke from the couch. “Yes, I think I am!” I responded. Gail was amazing. During the worst of the contractions, she gently reminded me to find my bliss. Her reminders made me transcend the pain and I realized that our pain is what we make it, that childbirth is a gift, and that I can tap into the divine energy of the universe to make this a beautiful experience. I tried to concentrate on bringing my moans into my lower abdomen to help ground me. I’d take a deep breath whenever I could and use the exhale to express my pain in the lowest tone I could muster. When I let it go into higher pitches, I felt like I was getting out of control and the pain was worse.
We called Chinmayo at 4:30 am. If I were having just contractions, I would have waited until after 6am, but my water broke and I was at a higher risk of infection and was instructed to call immediately if this happened. She came right over. At 9:30 am I was at 4 centimeters, contractions every 7-10 minutes, averaging a minute long. At 11:00 am I had progressed to an 8, contracting every 3-5 minutes. It was then that I was allowed to enter the birth pool. Was I ever happy to do so!
I feel now that Chinmayo was like the ghost of my great-grandmother Mumagin, and my deceased mother at the same time. She was like a spirit there, barely saying a word but I was always aware of her presence. She read me like a book and massaged my lower back exactly where it hurt, gave me homeopathic remedies and tinctures, and conducted the whole day like she was leading the orchestra. I needed to fear nothing with her there, she gave me such confidence in myself and I had the utmost faith in her experience and skill as a midwife. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth team.
When Oscar came out, I was on my hands and knees in the pool. Chinmayo and Jeff caught him. Jeff placed him immediately on my chest after I turned around to sit. I had to lift my leg over the umbilical cord! In our excitement, flushed by the endorphin rush, we stared, enamored at this beautifully alert being who held the secrets of the universe in his eyes. We forgot all together to check the sex of our baby! In a moment of reality, my eyes widened and I exclaimed: “What is it Jeff?” as I held up its bottom for him to look at. “It’s a boy!” In a high pitch, I shrieked like a sorority girl, “Oh my god! It’s a boy!”
Jeff’s story: My first reaction was that I didn’t think it was happening. It took me a few minutes to realize that it was the real thing. After that I went on auto pilot. My main goal was to let Randi do her thing, and not annoy her by interrupting a contraction or asking too many questions. I watched and took cues from Chinmayo and our friend Gail about how I should act, because I am not normally calm. They were both very calm and gentle.
I never once had any fear of anything going wrong. I think it was because of Randi’s way of being, even in pain she was so calm. One of my fears was to see her in so much pain, but she was such a trooper about everything. I was also feeding off her strength and I couldn’t wait to see our son! (I always knew it was a boy).
The most amazing moment was when I got into the pool and saw the head emerge. I saw his face! I was so anxious to see the rest of his body! For the next contraction, Randi turned onto her hands and knees and the final push, only a few seconds long, shot him out into the water like a torpedo! I wasn’t even thinking, so focused I was on making sure he stayed face down to keep him from inhaling water with his first breath. I had one shot at this and the stakes were high. It all went well. I set my son on his momma’s breast and we just sat there, in the water, staring at him. His eyes were open and he was looking around and we were both talking to him as he tracked our voices. He knew us. Most definitely.
This was the most intense, amazing, wonderful experience and feeling I have ever had. A hospital birth would not have allowed me to be such an important part of the birth of my child. A home birth is something I would definitely recommend to anyone who ever contemplated it. And in the future, if we have more children, Randi and I will always choose this option, as long as her and our child’s health, are not at risk. Thank you Chinmayo for everything you have done, you are wonderful!
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AHWREY BRYANT’ BIRTH STORY – As told by his mom Starre – (First baby)
A week ago you were born. And here is the story of your birth…
I'm at home having the laziest of lazy days. I've spent most of my day lying on the couch reading and talking on the phone. At around 5:30 pm I was in the bathroom clipping my fingernails when, POP! And then a warm trickle down my legs. Oh my, did I just pee my pants? I waddled to the toilet and sat down, examining the liquid in my underwear. My midwife, Chinmayo, had been telling me that most first time mothers usually deliver late, and that's what I had in mind, this had to be pee. I got up, first calling my boyfriend, Bry to tell him that something had just happened, and then calling Chinmayo. At this point I had not been feeling any contractions, just the same mild Braxton hicks I had been feeling for the past 4 months. Chinmayo arrived shortly after, and confirmed that my water had broken; she noticed my blood pressure was high and gave me a large dose of magnesium. She told me to start taking my Emergen-C and electrolytes and get fed. She and Jakie, the midwife in training, would come back at 10:00pm to check my progress.
Bry and I went along with our night like it was any other. Bry made up some buffalo burgers for dinner and I stayed nice and calm like I had been all day, lying on the couch, feeling the mild contractions come and go. I called my Mother and told her my water had broken, but no biggy, don't get all excited. I was so relaxed, I don't think the reality of being in labor had hit me, and I stayed like that until my baby came into the world screaming. My Mom did get excited, and hopped on the next flight coming from Juneau. She made the birth by 3 hours.
By the time Chinmayo and Jakie arrived, I had left my nest on the couch and moved to my bed. The room was candle lit and smelled of the lavender oil burning. The midwives gave us our space while still keeping an eye on me. At this point I was concentrating on staying as relaxed as possible, letting my body do the work. I felt like I was in my own little world, not hearing or seeing what was going on around me. I knew my body and my baby were working together just as they were meant to. I felt pressure in my lower back, and with each contraction I would mouth one word to Bry: Rub! I laid limp and silent on my bed other than my signal for Bry to start and stop his rubbing. I let each contraction flow through my body like a wave, waiting for the euphoric pause between them. When I look back on this, I wonder if I hadn't had back labor, if I would have felt a thing at all.
I was able to stay so silent and relaxed that at around 12:30am, when I asked Bry to get me a bowl to puck in, nobody realized that I was transitioning. After that, I let a few more contractions flow over. They had gotten strong enough that I was wiggling my legs with each. I decided to get up and move to the toilet to see if I could pee. The instant I sat down I let out my first grunt of the night. With that grunt the midwives came running in, Jackie asked me if I had just pushed. I had no idea if I had pushed, maybe? I thought the contractions were finally taking over enough for me to make a noise. After checking me she looked over at Chinmayo and told her something like she could only get up to her seconded knuckle in. Then turned to me and told me I better get off the toilet or I would give birth there. I moved to the birthing chair that was quickly set up for me. We had planned to have a water birth, but there was no time to fill the birthing pool. The next 15 or so minutes when by so fast. Chinmayo often spoke of the "primal brain" that you tap into while laboring. I believe that's where I was. Before I knew it I felt his head push out, then shortly after his whole body fell into his daddy's hands. Bry brought Ahwrey up to me. His perfect little face red from screaming was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. We moved back to our cozy bedroom where we snuggled for a while before Bry cut the cord.
Ahwrey Bryant Smith was born less than 7 hours after my water had broken. He weighed 7 lbs 2oz and was 19 inches long. It was a smooth and wonderful birth for the whole family.
Bry and I are both so grateful that we had found such a gifted and knowledgeable midwife. Chinmayo let us be in charge of our pregnancy and birth, while making sure we were well read and educated on every choice we made along the way. We never once felt like she pushed us to go one direction or the other. Both Bry and I feel we owe much of our son's gentle entry into this world to her.
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Cole Raven, 9#
Wander wild and homeless
All roads lead to you.
Riding wind and laughing moon.
Don't know who or what I am
In your arms the while.
Face of babe before it knows to smile.
My heart wrapped in your blanket sky
We're here but there's no trace.
Everywhere I turn you kiss my face
My Mother Song
"Moan Margie. Moan because it makes you feel better."
That's what my Aunt Rosie told my mother after her mastectomy. Moan Margie. Two years later, when her cancer spread to her brain, growing a tumor the size of a golf ball and slowly paralyzing her body on the right side, that is just what she did. She moaned and groaned, wailed and cried. And it was absolutely beautiful.
"Ahhhh…." It would start soft and deep, and stay constant and raw. A creaky door becoming a subterranean rumble. Tremors often broke out into emotional eruptions that released higher pitched cries and then grief stricken wailing. Her voice cracked, eyebrows furled, lower lip stiffened: a face contorted in pain. Her expressions swirled in the air like waves breaking and settling. We bore witness to her shifting rhythms for hours—my sister and I. Consoling, embracing and mostly just allowing. She taught me the transformational power of voice and sound, that the breath of life vibrates primordial tones and that this exists long before and well after the body.
My mother's painful expressions were not physical; they were psychic manifestations of a woman preparing to cross over. My once emotionally controlled mother was expressing herself with abandon, jettisoning years of baggage before she returned. Except for a few instances, she never felt more than physical discomfort in her body—a body that was refusing to make the passage with her. Her voice became her vehicle, expressing primal language, creating a different reality, softening the experience of losing her body. It healed her and carried her through.
She bellowed at me if I tried to discuss death with her. She cried if we left her alone for too long, or if she had too many visitors and felt overwhelmed. In the face of my resistance she yelled at me to go home, said other people could care for her. She moaned delightfully when I massaged her feet and hands, washed her back and fed her chocolate cake. She wailed just because. She didn't know why. She moaned to fill the space, to pass the time, and to carry on. And always we laughed, making it easier to love her through it, to forget about what I was giving up by being there, to forget that I was losing her.
I was twenty-three years old and my mother at fifty-six seemed to me a child. I didn't want the responsibility of caring for another, much less my dying mother. I had just started my life on the other side of the country, paying bills for the first time and living alone. Returning to care for my mother felt like going backwards, back to the nest.
The work was arduous. I hauled her diminishing body up on to the toilet and cleaned up when we didn't make it in time. I gave enemas and waited. I fed her and gave her steroids to stop the swelling in her brain. I brushed her teeth and gums. She made funny faces at me when her front bridge was out. We laughed when we found food from the night before still in her mouth, hiding in the back. She was losing her ability to chew on one side. I bathed a body growing weaker and weaker—skin like rice paper, sagging over bones. I massaged her daily because I loved her and to keep the bed sores away. Where did my soft round mother go? Where was her hair three inches high, stiff with hairspray? Where were the eye shadow, lipstick and blush? Where were those dangling gold necklaces that she always played with, those wrists sparkling with gold, those diamond bracelets? Where were her fingers constricted by rings and stained yellow from holding cigarette and those colored nails of varying lengths?
I pushed her wheelchair around a park because I was desperate to get us both out of the house. We laughed as I read to her The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood acting out each character. With half her face slumping down, she would shine out a half smile as cute and as innocent as any newborn baby. She fell asleep to my voice. My mother never read anything but the newspaper, nor did she listen to music. But I bought relaxing music anyway, and lavender and frankincense to calm and heal us all. "Get that shit away from me," she yelled when I got a little overzealous with the essential oils or she was tired of the strange music.
In the midst of loss, we loved her unique gestures and sayings even more—character that was always her and still was. If she was disappointed she liked to draw out her words. She could make "shit" sound like it had seven syllables. She would wave her hand in such a way so as to dismiss you. Queen Sheba we called her. She'd drop her face and look at you sideways when she mildly disagreed. She performed these gestures with even more style because she knew they made us laugh and she wanted to give us something to lighten our load, something to restore her pride. And those deep brown eyes of hers were even more powerful in those days. Their dark intensity punctuated a pale face and a head with no hair.
I took her to the doctor's office and he showed me the size of the swelling in her brain. We were alone and he was frank with me about what it meant, "the tumor is not responding to any treatment." My mother told him every time we went to see him, "we're going to kick this thing right doctor?" Nobody wanted to see the end, and I became the selfish one for acknowledging it. I took her to chemotherapy trying to find happiness in tragedy. We struggled with motivation to do her physical therapy exercises at home. My mother considered shopping good enough exercise most of her life and I just felt hopeless that the exercises could stave off the inevitable.
In her last days, I watched helplessly as her gaze fell light years away: her breath grew frantic, foam formed at her mouth. "Mom Mom!" She was having a seizure. I called 911, followed the ambulance and later called relatives with updates. I wore her 1960's wig to a tea party in her hospital bed. I shored her up when doubt and fear overwhelmed her. "God is with you, you're not alone, and you'll be cared for." I told her that it was O.K. to go. Sang to her as she was slipping away: "Let the long-time sun shine upon you…." I cared for her---deeply. And somehow in those last two months, walking on sacred ground, we managed to heal years of unresolved issues without ever once talking about them.
Seven years later it was "Moan Margie moan" that I thought of at 2 centimeters dilated, pregnant with my first child, Cole Raven. I was side-lying on my couch squeezing a racquetball during contractions when I thought of my mother's courage. I discovered my voice there, hoping it too would carry me through. I began to resonate a deep primal center. It echoed woman, birth, and the pain of transformation. I carried on for hours undulating with the rhythm of my contractions, sounding my experience, transcending my body.
"Ahhhh…." It was communal, expressing the histories of my sisters and our ancestors. We were howling wolves—our voices rolling over snow-filled valleys under full moons. The space between contractions held a sacred silence, a pause after communal prayer.
Wander wild and homeless
All roads lead to you.
Riding wind and laughing moon…
It was 7 o'clock in the evening and I called my girlfriends to let them know I was in labor. "Maybe light a candle for me and keep me in your thoughts tonight." And they came to me every time I conjured them up, levitating me with love and safety.
Don't know who or what I am
By one o'clock the next morning I was pushing. "Deeper Sharon. Make it deeper. Breathe. Your baby needs oxygen." My midwives' voices seeped in whenever my moaning sounded more like crying. The higher my voice got the more of my power I lost, the more I sounded like a victim. We were in my living room. I was on my knees, leaning over the inflatable pool wall onto my husband Chris' lap, held up by his strength. I bit my fist and pushed so hard that I could barely breathe. The intense physical pain rendered me wholly in my body. My voice gave me life: vibrating spirit and creation. During the contractions there was only darkness, pain, my voice and baby. After nine centimeters everything else was obliterated. Chris' support and my birthing mothers' guidance floated in and out like sensations penetrating a dream.
Then doubt and fear snuck in. I thought how long can I do this? It's too much; I can't do it. I remembered what my midwife told me over and over again in the months leading up to the birth, "As soon as you think you can't do it anymore, you are already there."
Already there Sharon. I realized the only way out of the pain was through it. I called on the Divine Mother for support. I connected with my baby. Felt my husband's strong arms. I heard my midwives encouraging me. I am not alone.
"UHHHHHH!" The ring of fire. Breathe.
"UHHHHHH!" Half his head. Breathe.
"UHHHHHH!" The rest of his head and fist. Breathe.
"UHHHHHH!" His body.
And then immediate relief. "Ahhhh."
"Catch your baby Sharon," my midwife announced as she pushed baby Cole between my legs in front of me. Out of the darkness I saw a baby floating in the water. A baby. A body there between my legs! I lifted him to my chest, sat down and leaned back into Chris's arms embraced by both of them. Utter bliss.
In your arms the while.
The face of babe before it knows to smile…
We are skin to skin and there is no beginning and no end.
"We need to stimulate him," my midwife said after listening to his heart and lungs. We massaged baby Cole vigorously and within seconds he took his first breath and then cried. The breath of life. The sound of spirit embracing body. It is the sound of meaning in my life, the sound of Creation, the sound of Mother.
My heart wrapped in your blanket sky
We're here but there's no trace.
Everywhere I turn you kiss my face
Within minutes I birthed the placenta and because I was losing so much blood the cord was pinched and cut. We will walk side by side from here. "Your children are not your children….They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you" wrote Kahil Gibran.
"Did you have a mystical experience?" Asked my midwife days later. Yes, in the earthiest sense my labor was mystical. I was fully in the present moment, completely in my body in pain and yet able to transcend it all. It was the power of my voice and sound that carried me through—through to Mother and Motherhood.
And now in the middle of the night, one-month old baby Cole cries. It appears he is in pain. His head falls back, eyebrows furrow and lower lip stiffens. He yells out his experience with mouth fully agape. So I wrap him in my arms; my body encompasses his. They call this colic and it can last for hours at a time. He rolls in and out of intensity, bawling to the point of losing his breath to mild whimpers of frustration. His body twists and turns, writhing as he works out gas or the next bowel movement or maybe just the emotional pain of being confined to a helpless growing body.
I hold him and become a mat for him to wrestle on. I swaddle, shush and swing him. We bounce constantly. We dance around the house. I distract him with loud music. The rug is beaten in from our midnight laps. We spend hours walking heart to heart bundled up against the freezing weather. I offer him my breast, burp him to eternity. I massage him twice a day, give him baths and change his diapers. I talk to him, sing, chant and babble.
I learn how to allow him his expressions because I am exhausted and sometimes I do the same thing. I cry because I can't make it better, because I can't bounce him any more. Sometimes I cry because it is hard and I wish it all wasn't so. Then I cry because I feel guilty for even thinking like that. I cry because it feels good to lose control, to express all my swirling emotions and hormones and because for some reason my crying sometimes stops his.
It was my mother who taught me how to be a mother. She not only mothered me but she allowed me to nurture and care for her. It was those first rocky steps in unconditional love and selfless service that taught me this kind of perseverance. In these moments, when the light is dim and baby Cole is crying, he reminds me of my mother before she passed on. They are vulnerable and dependent on others, both expressing different sides of the same rite of passage. His eyes turn into my mother's. These deep, dark eyes are boldly contrasted by pale skin and baldness. They are embraced with what looks like fear—souls in the midst of our greatest transformation in and out of bodies. They are eyes that look for support from something greater than me but yet I am still a part of.
In these moments when Cole's voice carries him to his mother and I can't soothe him I ask for support, to settle in Love, to know that I am not alone. "Om Namah Shivah" is our favorite chant, sung deep and lively. It will miraculously calm his cries and it always inspires me. The power of sound, our primordial embrace. Om is the Divine Creative Consciousness. Namah means I bow. Shiva is the god of transformation, the destroyer of illusion and ignorance, eliminating the obstacles of union with our Divine Self. Shiva reminds us that spirit is unconditional, the body and ego temporary. Oh Shiva, I bow to you. Transform this pain and suffering into peace.
Soon the moment arrives when finally Cole calms down. He is in my arms and we drift off to sleep—holding and being held. My heart smiles as I forget about me and him. Now there is only Love. Mother.
Das, Krishna. "Mother Song." Pilgrim Heart. Mustamullah Music (BMI), 1998.
Gibran, Kahil. The Prophet. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973
Sharon Flowers is a freelance writer and full-time mother living in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband Chris and new baby Cole Raven.
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Leah and Mike Moen, first baby. Cameron - 5# 12 oz.
I think every birth story should necessarily start with a pregnancy story, so here's mine from the beginning. My husband Mike and I finally felt ready this year to start a family at age 31 (me) and 34. They say there is no perfect time to have a baby so as soon as I finished school we really had no good excuse not to and became pregnant almost immediately. My family is rather atypical of most American families, so a hospital birth was not the norm. Of course Mike's experiences were the exact opposite; however he understood how important this issue was to me and supported my home-birth decision from the beginning.
I selected Chinmayo as my midwife as I was so very comfortable with her and her assistant Jackie right from the start, and had a lot of trust in their expertise. I was careful to consider my diet and water intake, and focused on trying to slow my lifestyle down. I was religious with my pregnancy skin care routine, and made sure to get good supplements and use natural remedies for what few pregnancy complaints I did have. Luckily, I have always had good eating and exercise habits and tended to crave fruit, vegetables, and dairy products alternately throughout my pregnancy. As a result, I gained only about 25 pounds, never experienced a bit of swelling or high blood pressure, never had a nauseous moment during my entire pregnancy, and according to my husband, (who tells it like it is) did not exhibit mood swings.
Chinmayo provided me with tons of reading material, videos, suggested useful websites, and generally provided me with so much more valuable information than what my friends' reported from their MDs. She suggested Mike and I attend hypno-birthing classes to prepare myself for birthing, and generally made me feel confident in my own body's ability to handle whatever came my way. She also suggested that I see a chiropractor that specializes in the Webster technique as I have a minor spina bifida condition, and I was experiencing some back pain from about the fifth month. I also took up yoga for the first time until it became uncomfortable around the fifth month.
As luck would have it, Mike and I decided to sell our home and buy a bigger home, and the stress of working with buyers and sellers without any real estate agents took its toll, and at our families' urging, we scheduled a checkup with my regular OBGYN as I was experiencing many Braxton Hicks contractions, and I could tell myself that I was somewhat dilate already at about the six-month mark. My doctor's advice was to limit my physical activities and try and remove myself from high-anxiety situations (yeah, right, like that's possible in the middle of a household move).
The home buying and selling concluded shortly thereafter, and the contractions continued (right up until the birth), so apparently the stress was not the only cause of my excessive Braxton Hicks contractions, (up to 30 per day on some days). The good news for me was that Chinmayo predicted a quick birth as I was getting lots of "practice" with the Braxton Hicks.
Mike and I had planned to have our parents present when our baby arrived, so his parents were scheduled to arrive on the 21st of September (baby was due on the 27th), and my mom arrive from New Zealand on the 23rd. We felt this was a good plan as we were told that first babies more often arrive late than early. Well, even the best laid plans are doomed to fail! I began experiencing more painful contractions than usual, followed with a little pain in my lower back around 2:30am on September 10th, and just waited it out for a while before I raised the alarm (I had read that false alarms were common, and I was much too early anyway). I started timing my contractions around 4:00 am and found them to be about four minutes apart, and felt they were getting more intense.
I decided then to wake Mike up, but told him that there was nothing I needed him to do just yet and called Chinmayo at about 5:00 am. She asked if I wanted her to come over but I didn't feel it necessary, but wanted her to know it was happening. She asked that I try to get some sleep as we could be in for a lengthy labor and I needed my energy for birthing. I took the heating pad downstairs and tried to sleep in the rocker-recliner, and found the contractions spaced out to about nine minutes apart which allowed me to get a little sleep between contractions. By about 8:30 am I could no longer maintain a seated position during contractions so went back upstairs, paced, and tried different things to manage the back labor I was now sure I was experiencing.
I woke Mike again at 9:00 am and told him he would have to drive me to my scheduled chiropractic appointment set for 11:00 am, hoping that might take the edge off my back labor. I also needed some last-minute supplies for baby that I had not had time to get, and knew I was probably unwise for me to drive. Mike saw I was in a lot of pain during contractions and reminded me that I needed to focus on the lessons we learned at hypno-birthing class as this was likely the tip of the iceberg. I called Chinmayo again at about 9:30, and when she asked if I wanted her to come over I was hesitant, but Mike indicated he would like her to come over anyway. I also called my good friend Ann, and she came right over too.
Chinmayo arrived around 10:00'ish (it was harder to keep track at this point), and told me I did not look like I was in active labor, but I asked her to check me anyway as the back labor was so painful, (and I did not think I could do this for eight or twelve more hours). She was more than a little surprised to find I was five centimeters dilated and quickly called her assistants and began setting up her equipment and supplies. Mike called a couple of his friends to help him move furniture and went downstairs to ready the birthing pool as we had planned a water birth on the first floor.
I asked to try getting in the bath tub to see if it would help with the back labor. That felt a little better, but not 20 minutes later the intensity jumped up again and I was shocked to realize that my body was already starting to push and I couldn't help but just go with it. When Chinmayo heard me start to push she checked me again and found I was already fully dilated and clearly ready to go. I could hear Mike's friends talking loudly downstairs, which seemed to really irritate me at the time as I felt I needed more privacy, so I sent Anne down to tell Mike to send them home and have Mike come up to me.
Chinmayo told Mike not to bother with the birthing pool at that point, as this baby was coming now! Christine, Chinmayo's backup midwife arrived and I had maybe three or four strong pushing contractions in the tub with Chinmayo checking baby's heart tones after each contraction. After the last contractions and heart rate check, she told me I needed to get out of the bath into the bedroom quickly (even I could hear baby's heart rate had dropped dramatically). There they put me on oxygen and had Mike support me under my arms so I could squat/stand off the bed, but that was too low, so we moved Mike to a chair and I sat on his knees to rest and squatted down during contractions.
Within a couple of contractions I could reach down and feel baby's head already, but it just didn't feel like a head, just folds of skin. There was definitely some burning during the last few contractions as I stretched to accommodate baby's head, and I imagine I still had the back labor along with it, but who could tell with all those powerful, intense, out-of-my-control, pushing sensations going on! After just another few contractions I was able to push baby's tiny head out, and I remember being really surprised that it had happened so quickly, but relieved anyway that I was all but done!
Chinmayo was just wonderful during the birth, giving me positive, encouraging feedback, but not telling me what to do; just letting my body do its thing and helping to get me comfortable. After I pushed baby's head out the rest of him easily followed with one little push and there he lay all red and long and skinny like a little monkey! (That pet name stuck with him though he has started to plump out now).
Cameron Scott Moen was born at 11:45 am on Saturday the 10th of September after less than two hours of active labor, and weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces, and measured 19.5 inches. The next day, he had lost 4 oz, but six days later gained it all back plus an ounce. He is a great eater, and now that we have the hang of this breastfeeding thing, he is making up for the two and a half weeks of fat gain he missed out on.
It's funny, looking back at all the preparation I did - the reading and the class, when it happened, neither my pregnancy nor my birthing was really anything like what I had been told to expect. From many sources I learned that I would likely be in labor for hours and hours as a first time mom. I was expecting to be off in this other world during birthing, not necessarily fully aware of all that was going on around me. However, I don't recall feeling that way - I really felt I was in the present with everyone there and was fully conversational between contractions. I remember commenting between contractions, "when the heck are these so-called endorphins going to kick in?!" I wasn't in control of the situation, didn't try to control it, and it all just happened so naturally and perfectly - it was at the same time the worst and the best experience I've ever had.
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- 7lbs. 15oz.
By Angela Toci, mother.
The birth of my first child Tanner was a wonderful waterbirth and a beautiful experience. I declined to take any childbirth classes. Instead I read several books and talked to several women about their experiences. The one overall advice I received was: birthing a child naturally is not only bearable, it is also empowering. That is exactly how I feel about the birth of our little boy. The entire experience was wonderful. Having Chinmayo as a midwife was wonderful and I feel blessed to have found her. From the very first consultation I had with her I felt comfortable, and I am glad I went with my first instinct that told me she would be a midwife I could trust.
I had two days of pre-labor, which was tiring as I could not sleep and hardly eat. The third day when Chinmayo came to check me I was still effacing and losing my mucous plug. The contractions increased in strength and began to radiate into my lower back. They felt very much like really bad menstrual cramps. Throughout the morning and afternoon, I tried as much as I could to walk around and squat. I took several baths and showers, as they relaxed me and eased the pain. My husband's aunt came by to bring a meal and she ended up being incredibly helpful. She would sit with me through contractions and would rub my back, since back labor was quite painful.
Chinmayo came and assessed my progress several times, and each time she came, I felt a deep comfort with her presence. By 2pm I was finally dilated to 2 cms and I was very happy about that. The contractions were never regular and sometimes, they would come right on top of each other without breaks. My husband inflated the pool in our living room. He wasn't sure what to do to help me. I am a modest person and when I don't feel well, I like to be alone. With the contractions however, I still wanted privacy but I felt comfort just having the presence of someone with me, holding my hand. That is all I needed. Once I told him what I needed, he was a wonderful help. He brought me tea and water with electrolytes when he thought I needed it. He reminded me that I needed me strength, so I did need to eat if I could. I had several cups of Miso soup. The warmth of the soup was soothing. I am so glad Chinmayo had told us about it.
Sometimes in the afternoon I felt like I wanted Chinmayo to come again. I was so thankful at her ability to come so quickly and be of aid. Her quiet presence was calming. Later on that afternoon I dilated to 4cms. I had not really planned how I would labor, I just knew that I would do what felt right when the time came. Somehow I felt the need to be on my hands and knees beside my bed. Rocking back and forth through the contractions, to the rhythm of inhaling and exhaling, helped me through each contractions. Often I would just kneel against the side of my bed and rock back and forth. It was amazing to me that your body is made for the natural process of giving birth, and your instincts are pure in their ability to aid you in the process. I had read so many birth stories, all of them so different but the common fact was that each woman found the strength and the ability to labor in their own way.
At some point Chinmayo let me know that I might want to use the breast pump to increase the contractions. She also warned me the contractions would get stronger and closer together. Do you think you can handle that?, she asked. Well, I guess I'll have to, I said. I knew that with the lack of sleep for the last two nights, my strength wouldn't keep up for much longer. So we used the breast pump and things really began to speed up then. There came a time when I lost all sense of time and place. I kept my eyes closed and focused my energy on my body and the contractions. Brian would come and have me drink water with electrolytes, or a miso soup. At one point I was in the shower and it felt wonderful. I couldn't wait to get into the pool.
I didn't take any breathing classes either, but I felt comfortable in just breathing in and out deeply and slowly. I have always enjoyed yoga for the way that breathing makes you so aware of your body and relaxes you.
Chinmayo told me that Kirsten, the other midwife, and her apprentice Jackie, were on their way. It was about 6pm and I knew things were happening now. The midwives were quiet and calm, rubbed my back and held my hand. They also helped me exhale in a way that worked really well to get through the contractions. When Chinmayo checked me at 8pm, I was ready to get into the birthing tub. I was so happy! The water was so soothing and it eased the pain immediately.
I didn't feel pushed or rushed and felt in control of my labor. When Tanner finally came out, the midwives were right there to guide him to the surface of the water and help him onto my chest. They let us stay in the water until the placenta came, then helped us into bed. They gave Brian and I privacy with Tanner, then brought me something to eat. They helped get Tanner to latch on, and later measured and weighed him, right there on my bed so we could see him. For the next 5 days, Chinmayo came and checked on us.
I feel very lucky to have such a pleasant and wonderful birth. I can't imagine having a baby any other way. The waterbirth was beautiful and such a gentle way to bring our Tanner into the world. Chinmayo was so supportive, I felt comfortable getting into my own world and let labor happen, knowing she would make sure that everything went well. And it did.
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Birth Of Samuel Grigory
- 9lbs. 8oz.
By Johnathan Bower, father.
Initially, I felt very apprehensive about my wife Anya wanting to have a homebirth. However, in my mind, the alternative - the potential chaos of a hospital birth - proved an even less desirable choice. With a little time, I came to like the idea of delivering our baby in the familiar comfort of home, though I didn't feel completely confident in my abilities to assist with the birth.
In an effort to prepare for the event in the best way possible, Chinmayo loaned Anya and I a stack of videos about natural home birthing. Additionally, we both communicated our fears and anxieties to her when they arose. The opportunity to confront our apprehensions with Chinmayo helped establish a relational bond with her, and helped assuage me of my own personal worries.
Thankfully, there wasn't time to focus on the anxieties during the actual labor. Throughout the delivery, all of my attention was focused on assisting Anya and Chinmayo with their immediate needs and specific requests. Everything we did was done to insure the baby's safe delivery into the world.
You become very present during the homebirth, without all the frenzy of doctors and nurses racing around, within the nest of your own living space, surrounded by loved ones. The fears and anxieties that consumed me before Anya'slabor slipped away without any effort, allowing me to feel more present and awestruck than I have ever felt before, and since our homebirth experience.
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My Birth Story
: Estella - 9lbs. 2oz.
By Caressa Brannon
I was three weeks overdue. Naturally, being it was my first pregnancy, I had some concerns, but I knew in my heart Estella wasn't ready to come. We tried to induce naturally: homeopathies, herbs, castor oil, breast pumping, and even acupuncture. Estella was just as stubborn as her Mama. I was only apprehensive because in Alaska after 42 weeks, you must refer to a hospital, with the possibility of induction with drugs. This was exactly what I had been trying to avoid. I wanted nothing to do with the hospital.
When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted a homebirth, but I wanted to see an obstetrician as well. I wanted to take a balanced approach, that being both a medical and natural perspective. However, upon informing my medical providers I wanted a homebirth, they said they wouldn't continue to see me if I chose this option, because they didn't support homebirth, Too risky, they said. They explained their reasoning and basically scared me into thinking homebirth was a dangerous decision, for me and my baby.
The next five months I had come to the conclusion I wasn't happy with the care I was receiving and realized I wanted a different approach. Over the course of five months I only saw my doctor twice, I dealt mostly with the nurses on duty. This concerned me because I wanted to know my doctor, feel that I would be 100% comfortable during labor. I needed to trust her. I felt that, in order for my birth to go smoothly, I must create a bond within the circle of people attending the birth. I was treated as if I were just a patient, not a person. I was given letters to inform me I was anemic, waited two days for a call back for an explanation that might reassure me I was OK and not to worry. This was not making me feel very secure about how I would be treated when I was in labor.
I began to search for a way out. Then I stumbled upon an ad in the Alaska Wellness Magazine. It read Chidbirth with love, I thought, "this is exactly what I need: love." I called the number and just the sound of Chinmayo's voice made me feel so relaxed and assured. She was genuinely concerned with the kind of care I had been given. We discussed issues such as nutrition, a subject my doctor rarely focused on, and one that was most important, in my opinion. I knew I was in good hands, in loving hands, hands that would one day embrace my baby in the comfort of my own home, not in a sterile, stark hospital room surrounded by strangers.
Christian and I lived up Crow Creek Road in Girdwood, Alaska, while I was pregnant. Crow Creek is completely off the grid, i.e., you are completely self-sustained. Although we had a water line and a homemade water system, we had no plumbing or phone lines, and our house was powered by a gasoline-fueled generator. We were approximately 4.5 miles up and into the mountains, a bumpy 20-minute car ride, then another 40 minutes to Anchorage, where the nearest hospital is. We intended to have the baby in our home, regardless of the risks. However I was three weeks late and the idea of not having a phone in case of an emergency, combined with distance between us and the closest hospital, became a concern for Chinmayo. Upon listening to her suggestion, we decided to have the baby in Anchorage, not at a hospital of course, but in Chinmayo's home. I figured it was a wise compromise, and indeed it proved to be as accommodating and comfortable, if not more than my own house.
I began having contractions about 24 hours before the birth. As advised by Chinmayo, I waited until they became uncomfortable and closer together. We arrived in Anchorage around 3pm. Chinmayo had come to my home earlier that morning to check if I had dilated, at that point I had not, but my contractions were about half an hour apart. When I arrived at her house, I had already dilated to three centimeters. The contractions became more intense, and Chinmayo suggested a light walk to speed things up. Being this was my first pregnancy, we expected a longer labor.
Contractions came about three to four minutes apart when Christian and I got to the park. I could barely walk three yards without stopping during contractions, and held on to Christian's arm for support. When we returned to Chinmayo's, I began to shake in between contractions. They had become very intense, and I was then dilated to six centimeters. At this point Chinmayo suggested a warm bath with aromatherapy, to help ease the pain. I lied on my side and moaned with each contraction. I felt as if I were in a meditative trance. I began to focus on my breathing and tried to stay relaxed. The warm water was very soothing. Chinmayo stayed with me in the bathroom, pouring water over my pelvic area, while Christian hurried to blow up the pool for our water birth; he had no pump and was blowing it up by mouth.
As the contractions intensified I began to dilate faster, faster than Christian could blow up the pool. At nine centimeters I heard Chinmayo yelling: Hurry up Christian, we're having a baby! That's when I felt my first pushing sensation. Instinctually, I got on all fours, ready to push. At this point Christian was filling up the pool with a trashcan, and at ten centimeters I was ready to make the shift from bathroom to kitchen, where we placed the birthing pool. It was 8:00 pm. I couldn't resist the urge to push and with every contraction I screamed at the top of my lungs, pushing in agonizing pain. I held onto Christian's arms as if my life depended on it. With every contraction I tried to focus on his eyes, the intensity of the contractions, combined with pushing, was almost overbearing, but Christian's strength forced me to persevere. Chinmayo instructed me to deepen my voice to help lower the baby through the birth canal. At this point the primal instincts took charge and I begun to get aggressive and growl instead of scream. Christian growled along with me for support. This sped up the process quite a bit.
The rest is mostly a blur but within minutes the head began to crown. Chinmayo asked Christian if he wanted to see our baby's head, but I wouldn't let go of him, he was my only anchor to reality. I felt that if I let go all my fears would come to the surface and I wouldn't have the strength to go on. With one more push the head came. Estella was already trying to breath so I couldn't lower my bottom into the water. With two more pushes, she came out and instantly I collapsed into the water. Chinmayo caught Estella. It was 08:20pm, the most intense 20 minutes of my life. All I wanted to do was sleep, I was exhausted and completely in shock. Chinmayo handed me Estella and as I held her, her eyes opened up at me. She was so calm, as if intrigued. I couldn't believe it; she was beautiful and had a full head of hair.
Chinmayo had set up a room for us and gave us her bed to sleep on. I needed some time to take it all in and relax. I was still in shock and my body was shaking. Estella was wrapped in a towel while I got out of the tub. Both of us, still connected, went to bed to rest, before the umbilical cord and placenta were attended to.
Chinmayo's apprentice Jackie and Kirsten, another midwife who helps Chinmayo by attending births, arrived. Chinmayo had called them twice earlier to let them know about my progress, but my birth went so fast that they didn't make it. After about 20 minutes Estella began feeding. I couldn't believe it, here in my arms, my beautiful baby already breastfeeding. When she was finished we cleaned her up and clothed her, but thought it was best to wait to bathe her until I had a good nights rest. I was finally ready to push out the placenta and cut the cord. Christian and I planned on saving the placenta and bury it underneath our home. The midwives examined me to make sure there were no tears, and everything seemed fine.
Chinmayo fed me lentil soup and made sure I had plenty of fluids along with electrolytes to recharge my energy. We stayed with her the next two days to recuperate before heading back to Girdwood. She was an amazing help. I will forever be grateful for her enduring support and care. She fed me, changed me, and provided me with enough space to give me privacy to bond with my baby and Christian. My own mother missed the birth by about two weeks, so I didn't have anyone there to be a mother figure, but Chinmayo was all that and more. I think the experience will leave a lasting impression on her as well... after all, it was in her kitchen that Estella was born!
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