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    Entries in birth center (5)


    zelda's birth story

    My absence is easily explained in pictures, and I thought several times about simply telling Zelda's birth story here in pictures, just to raise a flag saying we're still here, and all accounted for! But that would be a disservice to her and, kind of, to me as well. It's been nearly three weeks since our littlest made her appearance, and we're still getting the hang of things. Two kids is different. Intense. Our house has been the site of much snuggly hibernation and the accompanying bouts of cabin fever, especially from big brother. 

    Truly, as birth stories go, hers is short and uneventful which is maybe the way I prefer it. At 12:15am on January 31st I was still awake, willing myself to sleep as I'd done every night for the preceding, oh...four months. This may be the appropriate time to say that this pregnancy was not particularly enjoyable. As pregnancies go, mine aren't the worst by any means, but the side effects of swirling hormones and another person hanging out in my midsection are insomnia, some pretty bad pelvic pain and the kind of fatigue I could never have imagined had I been forewarned. Of course, my children are a joy well worth the pain and yada yada, you know the deal. Nonetheless, this time around took its toll and I can't say I was disappointed to feel that first contraction at 12:15 on the morning of the 31st. Since George's birth took me by surprise -- I was pushing before we left the house -- I had psyched myself up to set our plans in motion at the VERY FIRST signs of labor, or what could potentially be labor. My midwife concurred; we didn't want a repeat of the haste involved in my last birth, which was accidentally attended by a midwife we'd never met while ours was still en route to the birth center. 

    Using the goofy contraction timer app on my phone, I began timing, got out of bed and had Nathan start making calls. Midwife first, then my mom to come over and sit with George, then our doula. My contractions were already 3 minutes apart and a minute long, so I hopped into a warm bath to try and slow things down while my mom made her way to our house. It worked! My contractions got farther apart and I relaxed a little, confident that we'd get to the birth center in time to settle in and labor awhile. Using what little I remember from the Hypnobabies course I took in preparation for George's birth, with every contraction I focused on something -- the bathtub drain plug, if you must know -- and isolated the parts of my body that were working to move my baby down and open my cervix. I did my best to let my body do its thing and my contractions were feeling good. Productive. Understandable. They were uncomfortable, but not yet painful, which reassured me that we would have a more "normal" labor this time.  

    My mom got to our house and it was only a matter of minutes until my midwife called to say she was almost into town and we could head to the birth center; she would meet us there, as would our doula. I got out of the bath, got ready (I was grateful that I'd flat-ironed my hair earlier in the afternoon, on a hunch; call me vain) and we gave my mom instructions on what to do if George woke up and where to find breakfast makings if things went longer than we anticipated. I was able to dress myself this time(!), make sure we had everything we needed, say goodbye to my mom and get to/in the car relatively easily. Again, this convinced me that we still had some time. 

    After a quick car ride, we arrived at the birth center. One contraction held me up on the ramp to the front door, but once it passed we went in and were greeted by the sweet faces of our doula and my midwife. We chatted for a minute while Nathan put our bag down and Winni, my midwife, asked to check my progress. 

    After a quick check, then a double check with a somewhat puzzled look, she declared me "complete." 

    Okay, I said. But how dilated am I? 

    You're complete, she repeated. Like, you're there. 

    I was confused and surprised, but really, really stoked. I hadn't even had what I'd call a painful contraction yet. How did I get so lucky? I asked if I could get in the tub and Winni, who had already started the water, gave the go-ahead. Once in the tub, I had a slightly pushy-feeling contraction, and told Winni as much. She told me to do whatever I felt like (how many OB-GYNs would tell you that?!), and I just enjoyed hanging out in the water for a little while, talking to Nathan and doula David between contractions, which were still coming regularly but were also alleviated by the deep, warm water. I was instructed to put my hair in a bun 

    and had a few sips of gatorade before the urge to push came on. My water broke after the first good push, and Winni asked Nathan if he'd like to deliver the baby. He said he would, and she asked him to go wash his hands. As he did, another push came on and Winni called him back, as the baby was already crowning! Winni reached down to turn the baby slightly, and she came out into the water, into her papa's and Winni's hands. She was placed on my chest and covered in a blanket, and, while we stared at her for a few minutes, I forgot to check and see if she was, in actuality, a girl. 

    She was. Our baby girl was born at 2:27am, just two hours and thirteen minutes after my very first contraction. Our awesome doula was taking pictures in the dim light, and though they're all blurry, I feel like they really capture the warm, mid-night haziness of my labor.


    She was round-headed and fuzzy; cried right away. I delivered the placenta easily and got out of the bath, into a fluffy white robe, then into the big, beautiful bed where Winni checked me and declared me free of tears and other unpleasantness.

    Like I did after George was born, I bled a lot. A lot. In fact, I made the unfortunate decision to get up and pee too soon and paid for my ambition with an embarrassing fainting episode. Luckily, doula David caught me on the way down and the rest of my recovery was without incident. After a little checking-out of the baby, who weighed in at 7 lbs, 15 oz and measured 19.5 inches long, our team left us alone to stare at the baby, nurse and take a short nap. By 5am we were ready to head home (but not before taking some photos of Winni and David).

    Once again, I consider my labor and birth experience(s) to be incredibly charmed. I've been so lucky to have the midwife I do -- one whom I genuinely love, with 30 years of experience, who hugs us and kisses us and talks about the time she saw Wilco in Barcelona -- and the doula I do -- one whom I whole-heartedly recommend to every pregnant woman I know -- not to mention my partner. Do I feel a little sheepish saying that my labor was easy, and knowing it's not an overstatement? Yeah. But also? You guys, it totally ruled. 


    Zelda Marigold, meeting her big brother. 1/31/12


    quick hit: the mahogany way!

    George's birth story was featured the other day on The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe! It's a longer version than I'd previously written, with some different pictures. I'm stoked to be included and encourage everyone to follow both The Birth Cafe and Darcel's other blog, The Mahogany Way, ASAP! 


    how i spent mothers'* day

    Let's just cut to the chase:

    Ina May Gaskin! On Mothers' Day! What better way to spend the holiday meant to celebrate motherhood than with the woman who spearheaded the movement to put the power of birth back into women's hands? She was slightly scattered, technologically stumped, wry, smart and relatable. Everything you could ever want in a midwife, or an activist. She spoke plainly about the state of obstetrical care in this country and its unfortunate formal beginnings, about our innate understanding of how to give birth, about what keeps women from having the experience they're entitled to and what we can do to change things. She gave her own history: what brought her to midwifery, what's kept her there, and supplemented with photos of hippie caravans and Monday Night Class. She showed a video of an elephant giving birth and the bald soon-to-be-dad two rows in front of me unabashedly mopped his face of tears as his pregnant partner sat by, empowered in a totally unlikely way. Would an OB-GYN show you such a clip, pointing out how the elephant relaxed her jaw? Probably not.

    During the question and answer period, someone brought up the truly abysmal US maternal mortality rates, especially as they relate to women of color. Amnesty International reports that

           Despite representing only 32 percent of women, women of color make up 51 percent of women without insurance.

    Women of color are also less likely to have access to adequate maternal health care services. Native American and Alaska Native women are 3.6 times, African-American women 2.6 times and Latina women 2.5 times as likely as white women to receive late or no prenatal care. Women of color are more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women. In high-risk pregnancies, African-American women are 5.6 times more likely to die than white women.

    This translates to 80 of 100,000 black women dying in childbirth, versus 13.3 per 100,000 white women. Despite having the highest cost of care ($86 billion per year in hospital charges), the United States ranks 49th in morbidity. 

    As Ina May talked, I considered my own experience with birth. It was charmed, to be sure: short labor, discomfort that I felt confident in working through, encouragement from a watchful, hands-off (if surprised) midwife and a perfect baby born gently into water and dim lights and low voices. This was a privilege so many mothers will never know. While I was being attended by sweet ladies who brought me tea -- one of whose own babies could be heard running around the birth center -- women all over the country were being ignored, bullied, guilted. Some were fearful for their lives. All because of reimbursement rates and turnover goals and sexism and tee times and a confluence of so many other nasty, stupid things. In most of the country, mothers in my socioeconomic standing would've been given one option for which they should be grateful: the doctor to whom you're assigned and the nearest hospital. And if you question the doctor's c-section rate? If you say you don't want an induction or pitocin once labor starts or dare to present a thought-out birth plan? You risk alienation, humiliation, a pat on the head. 

    So many women I talk to are called to birth activism because of their own negative experiences. They want to save others from the trauma of unnecessary surgery, of the degradation that comes with having your own body autonomy unceremoniously taken away while your motherly instincts are trampled. This is obviously not my deal. I have, however, seen the TV shows and the movies depicting shrieking, sweaty, bed-ridden lunatics. I've read the studies. I've heard the stories. By contrast, I want everyone to have MY experience, whether it's in a hospital, in a field or in her own bed. Every woman deserves respect and attention and these two basic things are the keys to maternal health. 

    If you forgot to give your mom a gift this year, or if you like to plan ahead, make a card and let her know you've donated to the MAMA campaign in her honor. Help make midwifery available to low-income women! 

    * I take such serious issue with the conventional punctuation of this holiday. Some people have more than one mother! Some people want to celebrate more than one mother! 


    shilling for the best cause ever

     George's godmothers are two of the most quality human beings you could ever hope to meet. They work for social justice, they teach tolerance, awareness and special education, they help women in crisis, they rollerskate and have dance parties and as a result, everyone who's lucky enough to know them LOVES them. They're exceptional, beautiful, wonderful, amazing women. When they started trying for a baby -- a sort of harrowing process for anyone facing obstacles -- my fingers and toes were crossed, my hair was braided; I couldn't wait to congratulate them on the impending birth of their first child. That day finally came and while I was beyond thrilled for them, I was also a little concerned. We'd already talked about the kind of birth they wanted, and they were deciding between a midwife-assisted home birth and a midwife-assisted birth center birth. But neither would be covered by Alena's insurance. My relationship with my midwife and my birth experience were so comfortable, so easy, so precisely what I wanted that I couldn't imagine disallowing another couple the choice to birth their baby how and where they want. Neither can I imagine expecting them to put every penny toward a midwife's fees at a time when they should be saving for maternity leave. They've cleared so many hurdles on the road to starting a family; why can't this one thing be easy?

    When our friends or family members are expecting a baby, we want to give them something useful. If it's cute, it helps, but anyone who's had a kid knows that you're gifted enough sleeper sets and crinkly toys to choke a horse. What if we could help give that baby a gentle birth? What if we could give those mothers the gifts of comfort and respect? What if we could do all this while taking a little of the power out of the hands of the insurance companies that try to dictate how we take care of ourselves?


    Tara and Alena have decided on a home birth with a midwife, but somewhat shockingly, it's expensive to give birth in your own home; they're looking at out-of-pocket costs totaling over $5000. If lots of people give $5, $10 or $20, we can make a significant dent in that giant amount. Just imagine how awesome it would be to cover it entirely, allowing them to simply enjoy this pregnancy instead of stressing about money. Don't have $5 to spare? Give $2! Or send others this way! Let's get the word out in Tara and Alena's community of family and friends, and in the natural parenting community. If all goes according to plan, we have until July. I'll keep you updated with a running tally, and you'll find their button in my blog's side bar. Spread the word to give this beautiful family the start they want!
    We love you, tias


    george's birthday

    I've told George's birth story more times than I care to count. At times I've been shy to share it because I truly feel that it was the ideal experience, and this is not in line with what most people consider to be "normal" for women, for childbirth. I can't commiserate with those who had 70-hour labors or eventual c-sections, who say that childbirth is totally miserable but worth it. I came out of the experience wanting to do it again. Not eventually, right away. I say this not to be a braggart, but because I am coming to realize that it bears saying, and repeating. Women do not need to fear childbirth the way we're taught to. Of course, some people will say I make these statements from a pretty sweet position, and I do. I was lucky, but I also let my body do its job, and was rewarded.
    Three days before I gave birth, I looked like this:
    We spent the day before I went into labor (and, coincidentally, the day George was born) in Anacortes for Jess Lynch's craft fair at the Adrift. It was a long, tiring but fun endeavor and as the fair wound down, it began to snow. Hard. Beautiful, big white flakes. The first (and, it turned out, last) snow of the Winter. I was momentarily excited, then remembered we had to drive home. We quickly said our goodbyes, Jess ushered us out the door and we made it home as the snow started to slow. We walked in, lit the Hanukkah candles and crashed.
    At 2:45 I woke up with what I thought was mild cramping, no big whoop. I woke Nathan to say I was getting in the shower for some relief. All the ladies I had asked about labor told me I would know when real contractions hit. Without a doubt. YOU WILL KNOOOWWWW, they said. Ominously. I did not KNOOOOWWWW, so I figured this was not "it." Like a fool, I parked the iPod outside the shower and, using the labor app I'd downloaded, tried to time what I had decided were not-really-contractions. I am still shocked that the iPod survived my waterlogged hands reaching out every two (that's right, TWO) minutes to restart the timer. I shampooed my hair between waves and was less than thrilled to recall, after ten months, what it felt like to have cramps.
    When I got out of the shower it was about 3:30am. I told Nathan to call Winni, our midwife, who asked me some questions, reassured me, then sleepily told me to try to get some rest and call her in the morning. We both assumed I was mis-timing the not-really-contractions, and I still felt that it probably didn't much matter, as I wasn't in labor.
    I was experiencing what I'd consider fair-to-middlin' menstrual cramps, so I took to walking laps around the livingroom, into the bedroom, and back. My cats trailed me from room to room, better aware than I was that something important was happening. Though I had taken the HypnoBabies home course, using what I'd learned didn't occur to me; I was content to pace and breathe, my parade of pets behind me. Unfortunately, neither did it occur to me to get dressed, and in about 45 minutes, when those "fair-to-middlins" turned into "okay, ouches" followed immediately by I am having a baby right here in the living room, I was wearing nothing but underwear and a t-shirt. One pressure wave forced me to the floor, and while I rocked on hands and knees, Nathan called a questioning, shocked Winni back and she told us in no uncertain terms to GO NOW; she would meet us at the birth center.
    In addition to being half naked, somehow, in all my preparation, I had not completely packed a bag. My duffel inexplicably contained graham crackers, a note to "remember the popsicles," a pair of hilariously impractical underwear, a nursing tank top and two outfits for the baby. Nathan cobbled together an outfit for me, helped me into some pants and my coat and I went outside while Nathan loaded up the car. Until I felt the night air, I hadn't noticed how sweaty and inwardly focused I'd gotten; it was so refreshing to stand, silent, while the town slept around me and Nathan ran back and forth from the house to the car. I realized that I was having a snow baby, just as I had predicted. Poor Nathan's mantra during the thankfully brief ride to the birth center was "Don't push; please don't push." I must've looked like the stereotypically ridiculous lady in labor, huffing and puffing futilely to make the urge to push lessen. 

    We walked into the birth center and Eloisa, the midwife who miraculously temporarily lived in the basement, appeared to welcome us into our candle-lit, warm and cozy room. There wasn't much time for pleasantries. We said hi, she told me to strip and she checked me -- 100% effaced, 100% dilated, bulging bag, ready to go. She started the tub water and I got the go-ahead to push. NOTHING in my life has ever felt better. I eased myself into the water and any pain I had been feeling was gone. The pressure of the baby was there, but the relief of the freedom to push and the soothing, warm water made everything better. Eloisa was invisible to me as I pushed; she was just an encouraging voice from somewhere behind us, telling me I was doing well. A few pushes later, I felt her put pressure on my perineum and she told me the baby was crowning. One more push and he was out, after 20 minutes of pushing, total. As Eloisa capped him, sucked out his nose and mouth and put him on my chest, he cried for a second, but opened his eyes and looked around, quickly calmed, I'd like to think, by the gentle way he was introduced to the non-womb world. Winni burst in, having been slowed down by the snowy roads, missing the birth by only a few minutes. It was 6:08am, less than 4 hours after the first signs of labor.

    I never felt the urge to expel the placenta, so Winni and Eloisa helped me out of the tub and encouraged me to bear down. What followed the delivery of the placenta was the only hitch of the entire birth, and included a significant amount of blood, some deceptively-named massage that was more uncomfortable than anything preceding it and a shot or two in the leg that, combined with expert handling by my midwives, stopped the bleeding in short order. I needed two stitches -- understandable, as a baby had practically flown from my nether regions -- the discomfort of which were so minimal and lessened even more by a conversation with Winni about local music, food and friends-in-common that I couldn't imagine having in a hospital, with a busy OB-GYN. While she worked on me, it was revealed that a certain someone had scored perfect apgars (genius), weighed eight pounds, one ounce and was 21 inches tall. 

    We hung out for awhile in the big, fluffy bed. We got pooped on repeatedly before wising up and busting out the diapers. We nursed somewhat awkwardly. We called around and sent photos from our phones. Winni brought me some delicious tea and we chatted about What the Heck Fest while Eloisa's daughters woke up for the day and padded around the birth center in their jammies, giggling and peeking in the door to see our new baby. We got the then-unnamed but future-George dressed, and headed out about noon, into the gorgeous, clean, snowy day. My mom met us at home with veggie burgers, milkshakes and waffle fries and as we cuddled up in our own bed on our son's first day in the world, I was so grateful for the way we were able to welcome him home.