Sunday, July 12, 2009

James' Birth Story

(Warning: very long and detailed. I'm sure there's much I should edit to make this a better read, but I didn't want to forget anything, so you get the long-winded version.)

I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I had a non-stress test scheduled in two days and was worrying about the dreaded induction speech. I knew that my birthing center couldn't let me birth there if I went after 42 weeks, and I was REALLY hoping to go into labor naturally before then. That evening I was walking around the mall with my sister. Suddenly I felt very odd. Different. Looking back, it was probably James dropping down and settling into my pelvis, but at the time I had no idea what it was. I just knew I felt heavy. Heavier than 9 months pregnant had previously felt, anyhow.

Later that night around midnight I awoke to a very mild pressure wave. I stood up to make my first bathroom break for the evening and felt a little trickle of amniotic fluid. I thought "Hmm. Something might be happening here." I soon went back to bed and listened to a couple of hypnosis scripts, trying to relax through each wave and maybe sleep in between. I was feeling each wave in my lower back and like a band across the bottom of my abdomen. After a couple of hours I had to get out of bed, because lying still relaxing during each one wasn't working anymore.

I got up and spent a lot of time moving around the house, going to the bathroom, etc. Around 3:00 I started timing them with a cool website that does all the calculations for you, all you have to do is hit the S button on your keyboard each time a wave begins and ends. I was sitting on an exercise ball so that during each wave I could roll my hips in a circle, which really helped. I would also chant to myself "open, open, open" or "peace" (some of my hypnosis cues) which helped me relax and focus. After about 30 minutes I saw that they were 2-4 minutes apart lasting 45-60 seconds. I couldn't believe it! I figured it was time to wake up Brent and go to the birth center, but I could hardly believe it because I was so calm and comfortable. I wondered if it was my hypnosis working or if early labor was really that easy (having skipped that part last time).

I ordered Brent to get up and he started getting dressed. He paused, came over to me, and kissed me so tenderly. It was the kickoff of one of our greatest adventures as a couple. It took 30 minutes or so to actually get out the door. I gathered a few last minute things, every couple of minutes stopping to handle a pressure wave. I liked to stand up, put my hands on the back of a chair or the bed, lean slightly over, and sway my hips. It felt really good to do that. The last one I had before we left was in my living room. My sister Shelley had just arrived in the capacity of babysitter, and she watched me. Halfway through our cat came in with his annoyingly loud meow. I believe I told him to shut up mid-contraction. :)

The drive wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was 10-15 minutes long and I think I only had 2-3 waves during the ride. Things were slowing down a bit, but that is to be expected as I disturbed my body's rhythms in order to travel. We got to the birth center about 4:15. I walked right into the room I had chosen (because it had the biggest tub), and leaned over the bed to handle a wave. My midwife quietly checked my blood pressure. She asked if I wanted a cervical check, and I declined. I stripped off my clothes and got in the tub that she had already filled. Oh, that was heaven!

It was so nice to be at the birth center. I loved that I didn't have to go through some lengthy admission process. I just walked in and got comfortable. I didn't have to be subjected to useless cervical exams that would only succeed in psyching me out, setting up expectations that may or may not come to pass. It was WONDERFUL to not be hooked up to an IV, an electronic fetal monitor, and a blood pressure cuff. It was wonderful to be able to labor where I wanted in the way I wanted, not having my freedom of movement inhibited by the many machines. It was so great to not have to rate my pain for the nurse so she could check a box on a form.

In fact I hadn't felt any pain so far. I know some readers may not believe me, but it's true. I'm not saying it was easy. I'm not saying it was effortless. It was powerful. Intensely so. It was all-consuming. Each pressure wave was just that: intense pressure that took over my mind and body. It was though the power of a runaway train, the universe, and God combined were coursing through me, and I was along for the ride. This power, however, didn't register as pain. It was just the most natural, primal experience of my life. My body has born inside it the divine wisdom of generations of birthing women. It knew what to do. I just needed to surrender to it, rather than fight it.

Back at the house I had started needing to moan during each wave, and that felt so good. I did that again as I draped myself over the side of the tub and kneeled in the water. I used these really low groans. It was instinctive and I didn't really think about it. It just felt natural to make those noises, and had the added benefit of signaling to everyone that I was having another wave and so not to bother me. I focused on relaxing and listened to hypnosis scripts on my ipod.

After a while I asked Brent to get in the tub with me. He actually sat on the back edge of the corner tub, and I knelt in front of him. That way he could reach down and apply pressure to my low back with each wave. I took off my ipod because I couldn't talk to my midwife and husband with it on. It would be a great tool if I wanted to be left alone to do my own thing with each wave, but I wanted to communicate with them during that time and just received hypnosis cues from Brent.

Brent was a wonderful birth partner. He had studied with me and knew what I wanted and what I believed. He was completely supportive and simply asked what I needed of him. With each wave he would apply pressure to my back with a sort of pulsing rhythm, with each pulse saying "peace" or "relax". That REALLY helped me focus on what I needed to do and helped me ride each wave peacefully, rather than letting myself slip into the panic that I could have chosen.

It was a very deliberate choice for me, that as each wave came one I would think of it as a positive thing that was bringing my baby closer to my arms. It completely changed the experience for me from what I felt during my first birthing experience. The first time around I had more of an attitude of "Oh no, here comes another one" and bracing myself against it. I found that if I welcomed, almost embraced each wave, they were much easier to handle. I knew my body knew what to do. My biggest obstacle was my own mind, and my hypnosis fortunately helped me overcome that.

After not too long I felt a small pop and a trickle of something warmer than the bathwater. I knew my amniotic sac had broken. I also started to feel James' head pressing down. I got excited, because I knew he was close. I started talking to him during each wave, saying things like "Come on baby", "I love you, Baby", "I want you here, Baby". It helped to talk to him during transition because it helped me focus on the goal, rather than fearing the pushing that would soon happen.

I started pushing in the water. My low moaning and groaning started to enter the realm of screaming. The screaming wasn't because of pain, but it was just an instinctual thing that felt like it was helping me focus on pushing. At this point my legs were so exhausted. I had been kneeling and squatting this whole time in the water, with only the occasional stretching my legs out straight. The muscles were fatigued and I just wanted my baby here! Now!

The nurse got a birthing stool for me and placed it in the water. That gave my legs a bit of a break and allowed me to use my arms to hold myself up. I would hold onto the stool's handles or raise my arms up over Brent's legs and have him support me as I pushed. After several minutes pushing I could tell nothing was happening.

Becky, my midwife, started talking about scar tissue and a possible episiotomy. I had a lot of scar tissue left over from my first birth, and it just was not stretching. She said the left side of my perineum was like rim or lip of scar tissue. She tried to massage it out of the way, but it just wasn't going to give. We talked a bit more about an episiotomy, and at that point I didn't really care because I just wanted my baby and didn't care about what happened to my body in order to get him here. My legs were exhausted and so was my mind. I didn't want to keep doing this.

We decided to get out of the tub because the prolonged squatting was starting to make my perineum swell. Jen, the nurse, and Brent supported me on each side and helped me walk around to the bed. It was awkward and challenging to walk with a bowling ball between my legs and then mount a bed and lie on my side. Once I was in place, I was barely on the bed and my midwife had to physically scoot my legs over, and push me a bit so I wouldn't fall off.

Jen handed me a handled end of a rope. She said she'd hold the other end and I needed to pull against her with my next push. This was not the gentle pushing "breathing my baby out" experience I had wanted, but I knew that the scar tissue wasn't going to stretch like a "soft gold ring" and my body needed some serious work to get this baby out. More primal screaming. Now out of the water, lying on my side with my husband lifting up my top leg, pulling on a rope, and pushing with all the energy I had, I would say I finally felt pain. Yeah. It hurt. A lot. I felt the ring of fire. I felt the burning increase in intensity as I knew I wasn't just stretching, but tearing. I didn't care. I wanted my baby.

Becky had been so wonderful this whole time to speak in a calm and low voice. She and the nurse were continuing to give me some gentle instruction, and I couldn't hear them and understand what they were asking. So I yelled at them "I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER MY SCREAMING!" They laughed, and it eased some of the tension in the room.

Becky told me to reach down and feel James' head. He was right there. He was so close. I wanted him in my arms. I could feel his head and his wisps of wet hair. Then I experienced the most beautiful moment as I was resting between pushes. I had been feeling James' head for a while now as just a huge ball between my legs. Then suddenly as I rested I felt his head turn in the birth canal. Once. Twice. Three twists. It was as though he was saying "I'm here Mama. Come on Mama. I want to meet you too!". Suddenly he went from a passive lump I needed to push out of my body to an active participant in the birth experience. This was as much his experience as it was mine. It was a sudden and forceful reminder of why I chose to birth naturally and the reward I would receive in just moments.

Finally I knew this was it. This was the moment of birth. I felt the need to push and I pushed with all my might. I felt his head emerge, coming through my perineum, I felt a fraction of a second of relief at his neck, then continuing in the same one gladiator push, felt his shoulders. Then slip and slither and I reached down, took him out of Becky's hands, and pulled him up to my chest.

Oh that moment was so worth it all. He was so beautiful, even covered in cheesy goop. He was bright pink and crying lustily. He was warm and wet and the softest thing I'd ever felt. I just cuddled him and kissed him, riding the highest endorphin rush of my life. Brent lay beside me, looking down at me and James, and was in just as much awe as I was. We were a family. Here was our son. We had waited and worked for this moment for a long time, and it was so, so worth it. It was 6:35 a.m.

Just a couple minutes later the cord stopped pulsing, and Brent got to cut it. He really had to saw through that thing as it was pretty thick. Then just a moment later I felt the placenta and gently pushed it out. It was beautiful and completely intact. Then Becky settled down to the business of sewing me back together.

It took a little over and hour to stitch up my 3rd degree tear, just like last time, and I couldn't get comfortable and nurse James. That was the only thing making it less than perfect. Finally I was sutured up and eased into a somewhat more comfortable position, and we tried to nurse. Mostly James just licked me with his perfect, cute little tongue.

It had been a couple of hours when I finally let Brent hold James and I waddled off to the bathroom. I was totally amazed that I was able to walk! And go to the bathroom unassisted! And pull up those beautiful mesh panties that hold the gigantic diaper all by myself! Considering what my body had just done, it was unbelievable to me that it could do anything else. Thank heavens for endorphins. Then I consented to let Becky weigh and measure and look James over. He was practically perfect in every way, weighing in at 8 pounds 10 ounces. His head was 14.75 inches in circumference, perfectly round with no molding (no wonder I tore!), and he was 21 inches in length.

Jen brought us pancakes and juice and then left to let us have a nap and some alone time as a family. We just laid on the bed, the three of us together, for a few hours. I showered, had my dismissal check with Becky and was home by about 12:30 p.m.

It was nearly perfect. Nothing ever goes completely to plan, but this came so close. I felt no pain throughout the 6.5 hour birth until the last 15 or so minutes when I had to push vigorously to get James past/through the scar tissue.

Looking back, the thing that helped me the most was the reprogramming of my subconscious that I received from my hypnosis training. The daily script and affirmations truly made my inner self believe that birth could be easy and comfortable. With my last birth I had only succeeded in convincing my conscious self of that fact. Having me believe it even more thoroughly and on every level is what made this birth the experience I wanted. I didn't need all the tools and cues that I had learned and practiced. But I needed that positive mindset and belief system, and it made all the difference.

So thanks to Hypnobabies and instructor Liz Phalp for helping me create the birth I wanted. Thanks to friends and family who supported me in my birthing choices and refrained from rolling their eyes at me. Thanks to Brent, my amazing husband and birth partner, without whom I could not have done this. Thanks to Heavenly Father for blessing me with such a beautiful experience and a perfect son.

Here we are just mere seconds after birth.

My son

Let's take a nap!

My boys

A happy family


Laura said...

Beautiful- I'm so glad you shared :)

Kristin said...

What a beautiful birth story. :-) I'm getting ready for my own hypnobirth soon...

Jennifer said...

Wow, Maren! You described everything so well, I felt I was there with you...loved the mesh panties comment by the way. I read your experience out loud to Nathan and I just started crying! I'm so happy and proud of you for knowing what kind of experience you wanted then making sure you got it. And I'm so proud of Brent, too! You guys amaze me! Can't wait to see you and James!

We are HamakerLove! said...

I am so happy for you and sooooo proud of you! I want to read your story over and over. You say things so well! I wish you could have written my birth story for me. You make me want to have another baby already(don't worry, we ARE taking a huge break this time;). You are awesome and fierce! I am so happy for you!
I am so glad you got to experience this miracle on your own terms.:)

Wendy said...

That was touching. I cried then laughed the entire story. I knew you could do it!

becca said...

You are and have always been so very strong.

Dana said...

That's a great birth story. I had my second at a birthing center and it was such a fabulous experience. I loved every minute. I'm now expecting another but there are no birthing centers where we live.:( I'm very sad about it. You have a beautiful family!

Matt and Ashley Keller said...

Congratulations!! I am so happy for you that you had such wonderful and beautiful experience. Natural birthing is amazing and wonderful. Thank you for sharing and reminding me how wonderful and possible natural birthing is, as we are expecting another baby boy within a couple of weeks if not sooner. We hope all is well and you are adjusting to another little one. We love you and hope you well.

Mother Earth said...


Thanks for sharing. Our birth book is done and we had planned on using the story you sent us. I just need you to sign a release or email us your permission. Can you get in touch with me asap at

Much love,