Soul Baby's Birth Story
Those who know me and those who have read about me know that I am a holistically-minded, natural, hippie-esque mama. I also happen to be a four time Hypnobirthing mama who enjoys a really good birth story. What I define as good birth story is not the type we see portrayed on T.V. or in the movies. You see, I grew up hearing my own birth story from my Mãe’s perspective and that of my sister and the truth is that they both scared the bejeezus out of me. We were both born in the Azores Islands in the post-dictatorship era where medicine was not what one would call mother & baby-friendly. So my fear of birth was real, but one evening in my teens, I happened to watch a 20 / 20 story about water birth. It was a positive take on birth and I decided that if one day I were to have a baby, then that was the way I would bring a child into the world.
Fast forwarding to the year my husband, a.k.a. Foodie-In-Crime, and I decided to start a family. I remember telling him, “I can be pregnant, but I can’t have a baby.” This belief was due to my lack of understanding that I did not have to repeat my mother’s births. Shortly into my first pregnancy I found myself at a Barnes & Noble in the pregnancy section where I came upon a book titled Hypnobirthing. After reading the back cover and table of contents, I purchased the book and presented it to Foodie-In-Crime telling him I wanted a hypnobirth. He responded, “It’s your body; we will do it how you want.” And so we found an amazing instructor, Dr. Nicole Valega, and I used my meditation skills I had learned with Br. Camillus Chavez as an undergraduate and had beautiful births.
Each of my births have been unique, but the first three share the following characteristics:
(a) prodromal labor lasting from 4 days to 3.5 weeks
(b) occurring on my due date or 10 days late
(c) average active labor was 10.5 hours
(d) bag of waters did not open until at least 1.5 hours
(e) AND I had PLENTY of time to get my hypnobirthing groove on
Most of this changed with baby #4…
Soul Baby’s Debut Begins
Soul Baby’s story has taken me nearly several months to write, edit, and revise because I continue to be in awe. I hope that my written words do it justice and convey the love felt on this journey.
Foodie-In-Crime and I had planned our Little One’s debut with a team of midwives at a Center Birth for several reasons. Some of which relate to being a corn-allergic Celiac: (1) U.S. hospitals do not understand how to feed a postpartum mama who is nursing and has dietary restrictions due to a corn-allergy, (2) U.S. hospitals use corny chemicals and push corny medications, and (3) in our new home state, insurance covers births with midwives at home or at a free-standing birth center! Woohoo! We were blessed to find a team of midwives who understand and worked with my dietary restrictions and pointed me in the right direction when my serious anemia threatened a hospital birth.
Reactions of Others
When Foodie-In-Crime or I tell our birth story, the most common reactions are: (1) “Did the midwives charge you less?” (2) “Wow, you must have been scared / stressed!” and (3) “I can’t imagine doing that.”
The answer and responses are: (1) Nope. (2) Nope, I had a great support team. We were blessed with calm and peace. And (3) That’s too bad because it was my most empowering experience EVER.
Our Soul Baby’s Birth Story
Soul Baby’s original due date was 8/23. August had come and gone and we were well into week 41 and approaching the time where we would need to have a stress test in order to remain under the care of my midwives. In our state, if a mother reaches week 42, a fetal stress test must be done in order to attempt a non-hospital birth. Because this Corn-Free Hippie wanted to stay away from a corny hospital, on Friday the 1st of Sept, we arranged for an acupuncture appointment to help induce labor naturally. My midwives gave me the go ahead after confirming that my body was ready for birth because my cervix had begun to dilate and I had been having intense prodromal labor for about 1.5 wks.
When we were 10 minutes away from the doctor's office, our van broke down. Our friend, Dawn, let us borrow her van so we could make the appointment albeit late while our van was towed to our mechanic’s shop. The appointment went well and we returned home for a late dinner since we were all famished and tired. I again experienced prodromal labor, but our Wee One was not yet ready for her debut and so I went to bed knowing that I would have a September baby who would have a birthday closer to my own than her sister's.
The next morning, after attending an event at the local church, we drove to the capital to rent a vehicle because all the local companies were either closed or had no cars on the lot due to the holiday…it was Labor Day weekend after all. We had the option of 3 vehicles and I chose a Kia Soul because the seats were not too low and I felt comfortable with my full-term belly. At the time, I had no idea how good that decision would be. It had been an eventful day, so we returned home to eat and rest. Again I had some prodromal labor, but shortly thereafter fell asleep.
When I woke in the morning, I told Foodie-In-Crime that I was ready to up the ante and that I was ready to try a low dose of castor oil since all other natural induction attempts had not put me into true labor. I had my first dose at 10:30 a.m. followed by another at 1:30 p.m. I did not feel like my body was behaving differently, so I decided that I would have a low-key afternoon with my Mini-Foodies since it would probably be the calm before what I expected would be a marathon birth. I spent the afternoon crocheting and watching a penguin documentary with my girls and Foodie-In-Crime was close by. By the 4 o'clock hour, I was ready for a nap and rested on the couch quietly. In the 5 o'clock hour I retreated to the bedroom to listen to my birth playlist. I used that as a subtle hint to let Foodie-In-Crime know I was feeling different. He had a hankering for ice cream and checked in with me to make sure I was comfortable with him going to the grocery store. While I also wanted ice cream, I had a deep urge for him to stay close, so instead he made a mango coconut milk smoothie. I enjoyed it as I sat on a little kid chair leaning on our bed with Mini-Foodie M, who wants to be a midwife, counting the length of my surges (contractions) as Foodie-In-Crime scrambled to get dinner ready for the girls.
Surge Baby Surge
The duration of surges were irregular - one was 17 seconds, another 84 seconds and the other few in the 40s. I had Mini-Foodie M report the numbers to Foodie-In-Crime and call him up to our bedroom a few times, but I was not yet convinced I was in a true labor pattern. At some point though I requested the birth ball to ease the pressure on my pelvis, something I never feel too comfortable sitting on. I think that was the sign that we would have a trip to the Birth Center soon. Foodie-In-Crime made the necessary calls and planned to check in 30 minutes later with both our friend Dawn (who would attend the birth so that Mini-Foodie M could be there) and our midwife. After two surges during the short call to our midwife, I felt the desire to take a shower, which is always a sign to Foodie-In-Crime that things are moving along. He made the follow up calls and Dawn was at our house in a matter of minutes to take Mini-Foodies A & Z to her house. When Dawn came to check in with me a second time in the bathroom, my bag of waters had released and I thought we had at least an hour and half since this was my pattern with my previous three births. Foodie-In-Crime asked what I wanted and I responded, "I want to go!" We left the house in a rush with my suitcase and our snack bag. Dawn had had enough time to line the rental car's seats with chux pads in case there would be a mess en route. At the time, Foodie-In-Crime and I thought the latter was overly cautious in light of my long labors, but hindsight makes us grateful for our friend’s preparedness.
The drive to the Birth Center is typically 45 minutes, so Foodie-In-Crime, who by now had a feeling we would not make it (although neither he nor I verbalized this) drove as safely and quickly as possible in the rainstorm and some fog. Driving down our BUMPY dirt road was uncomfortable and I could NOT wait to reach the SMOOTH highway.
A few things I remember from the drive: (1) No matter how much I tried, I could NOT get into my hypnobirthing groove. I had been at peace the entire afternoon and, despite being in a comfortable rental, I could not get relaxed. (2) Time felt warped. Even though we had been in the car about 20 minutes, it felt as though time was both slow - we couldn't get to the Birth Center fast enough - and fast - things were moving along quickly. (3) I opened my eyes two times as I tried to meditate. The first time was when we navigated the first stoplight on our route and it appeared so very foreign as though I had not been there in a very long time. The second was near the Daniel Webster Farm where a white cat with dark markings crossed the highway. (4) I NEEDED to get the HECK out of that seat and I let Foodie-In-Crime know probably in a “I’m-having-your-baby-right-now” manner.
Foodie-In-Crime found a pull out on the side of the highway that would accommodate both our rental and Dawn’s large van. They checked in with one another and Dawn (a mother of 10 who has helped many friends at their births) knew that we were having a baby on the side of the road. In fact, I think we all knew, but for some reason we felt that if we did not verbalize, maybe we could make it to the Birth Center.
A Puddle & A Precipitous Birth
Foodie-In-Crime opened the passenger side door for me so that I could get in the backseat, BUT he had parked at a puddle which required that I step in it in order to move to the backseat. The problem for me was that I was wearing canvas shoes and a very long maternity dress and, in my laboring mama mind, I had this idea that my Knight in Shining Armor would sweep me off my feet and gently place me in the backseat. Ha ha ha…! A girl is allowed to dream even while in active labor, right?
Once we all knew Soul Baby would be born on the side of the road and I accepted that I would get my feet wet, we calmly got to it. Foodie-In-Crime checked me to see if we could continue driving. Soul Baby had not yet crowned, but all of a sudden I needed to breathe through a strong contraction and Foodie-In-Crime let me know her head was out. She had her left hand at her neck/face, so Dawn made sure her cord was not in the way. The cord was clear and I relaxed a bit as my body paused 2 minutes. My mind did not perceive the two minutes in real time and I had some moments of concern, but then felt the strength and need to breathe her body out as Dawn made sure her arm was safely birthed. There was my tiny Soul Baby making her debut in two breaths on the side of a New England highway during a rain storm.
She was placed on my belly, Dawn massaged her so she would breathe and Mini-Foodie M helped rub her baby sister’s foot and back as Foodie-In-Crime and Dawn spoke to my midwife on the phone and the EMTs who had arrived on the scene. The latter verbally checked in with me after giving me a blanket and were on their way. After hearing Soul Baby’s first whimpers and breaths, I felt such relief and I had an urge to take our first Mother-Daughter Selfie. It was amazing: I was free of fatigue. My mind was clear and I had just had my baby girl on the side of the road with the help of my husband, friend, and daughter!
Baby’s First Car Ride
It was time to proceed to the Birth Center where we had a police escort (no sirens or lights). On the ride we all laughed, took pictures and basked in the beauty of this natural birth. When we arrived, I was feeling a calm high. My midwife later told me that my attitude was one of: “Okay, what do we do next?” We decided to tie the cord and cut it in the car so I could safely walk into the Birth Center. The rest was really calm and gentle postpartum care, baby snuggles, and beautiful family moments captured by Dawn.
While Soul Baby’s debut was not the birth I/we envisioned, it was BEAUTIFUL. I feel BLESSED, STRONG, EMPOWERED and a high I have never felt before. Having reflected on her birth, I would not change a thing.