Friday, January 20, 2012

Thunderstorm Birth

During the last three weeks of my pregnancy with my first child my husband would drive me around the NW Wisconsin countryside from one non-public body of water to another.  I was wearing my overstretched black tank swim suit with an extra large t-shirt and jumper over all.  Upon arrival at a likely spot I would ditch the jumper and descend to the water.  There, in the water, I would submerge my hugeness and float weightlessly.  From one place to the next we would travel during the hot dry summer days waiting for our child to be born.

On July 4th there were stirrings in the womb to match the fireworks in the sky.  The nurse midwife told me not to go into labor because she already had three moms at the birthing center.  The baby and I complied with her wish.  I had so many baby dreams of how the birth would take place.  I thought it would be gentle, difficult, fulfilling; nothing like what I was about to experience.  Meanwhile we waited as the turk's cap lilies bloomed and the raspberries grew ripe.

You can tell when a mother is about to give birth because they go into a kind of frenzy about getting things absolutely done without compromise or wavering. Some call this the nesting process.  For me it was more like a tornado.  We had to get the upstairs room wallpapered.  For some reason I through this was going to be the baby's room, even through it was dangerous to get up and down the steep stairs and I had no crib up there.  I was later to find that I got much more sleep if the baby slept closely and safely next to me through the night.

The wallpaper was a Scandinavian looking print with small petals of red, yellow, and a beautiful blue grouped together randomly.  There was a nice boarder to go along the bends in the under the roof room.  It was blue with a larger petal pattern. I was absolutely and tearfully set on the idea that this had to get done before the baby could be born.  So we sweated profusely and huffed and puffed and got it done because I was too heavy and large with child to wait any longer.

Sure enough, within the next day or two light contractions began.  I now know they were pre-labor contractions.  Seven minutes apart and about a minute long.  They died off after I called my friend who was training to be a nurse midwife.  She told me to go back to sleep. She had to be kidding! Sleep?  How could anyone sleep? Right.  First time mom-itis.
I went through my day as normally as I could and the contractions dispersed.  When they picked up again in the evening I was sure this was it.  No, it wasn't.  Things picked up some more later in the evening and we were concerned to get to the hospital two hours away.  No having babies in the car!  We could have waited for another 24 hours before going in.

We arrived at the hospital around dusk.  Clouds were gathering for some big rain activity  which we needed.  My contractions stopped completely. I was only 3cm dilated with my cervix tipped back.  The midwife could have told us to go find a hotel and come back when I couldn't talk through contractions any more.  But she didn't.  We were admitted into the hospital at the beginning of a 36 hour ordeal with about 24 hours of it being pre-labor.  I didn't take anything for pain, but they did give me something for sleep. Before I slept I walked the halls and took a shower, then laid down for some light dozing on some sleep meds.  I was still 3cm dilated by morning. Failure to progress.

The thunderclouds were rumbling through the night and into the next day.  I got up and started walking the halls some more.  My water broke, which was something at least.  The nurse midwife and doctor decided I should go on pitocin to speed my labor up.  So I did.
At first it was too fast so they turned it down a bit.  The contractions got stronger and closer together to the point where I couldn't deal with anything but what was happening with the baby and me.  I was glad to be in productive labor at last.

Then all hell broke loose.  It was transition.  My legs were convulsing, I was freezing to death and they told me not to push so I grunted like an out of control freight train trying to turn it's wheels backwards. At last, I was dilated, but had a lip on my cervix.  The midwife pushed it out of the way then it was time to push.  Then I couldn't do anything else but push.  I was laying on my back with the bed raised gripping onto my legs and curling up with each contraction.  Not a very effective way to push, but this is what I had seen in the books I had read and no one suggested any alternatives.

Right when the baby's head was almost crowning the pushing sensation stopped.  My eyes bugged out and my jaw dropped.  Something was wrong.  The baby's heart rate was dropping.  The didn't get me into a squat, but did make me walk into the delivery room.  The doctor decided to use a vacuum  extractor to get my baby out.  I was in despair and scared out of my mind.  Once everything was all set up I had a few contractions, but they were weak.  Then the doctor was ready to do his thing on the next contraction.  He said "don't stop pushing until we tell you to".  I pushed until it felt like my guts were going to burst out my vagina.  At last our baby came out.  He was blue at first, and there was some meconium so he was under some stress, but within 5 minutes his Apgar score was a 10.
He was 9lb 14oz.  A big baby who looked like he was already 2 months old instead of a newborn.

It's no wonder that the pre-labor I had took so long with such a big guy trying to move into position to be born.  Those extra 2 weeks since July 4th had plumped him up.  A beautiful baby with blond hair and baby blue eyes.  He could almost hold his head up when he was on his stomach and could hold it steady when sitting up with some support.  He nursed right away after the nurses quit making him scream.  I was so upset by his screaming I thought they were doing a circumcision on him.

We kept him with us in our room through the night.  When I was sleeping his Dad would hold him on his chest and make partridge noises at him through the night.  I woke to the two of them sleeping together.  It made me very happy after all that I had been through. After two days of thunderstorms the sky was clearing. It sounds like a happy ending but there was more to it than that.

I had been having nightmarish flashbacks of the labor and birth all night long.  The images crept into waking hours, reduced, but still haunting what I through should be a beautiful time with my newborn son.  The labor had been so long.  Hours and hours of it and all one big never ending blur.  I felt as through my body had been beaten into exhaustion.  The actual birth was a horrific intrusion.  I truly did not know that I was giving birth to my son by the time I was pushing.  I was doing what my body demanded of me.  Had I been at other local hospitals I would have ended up with a C-Section, which I was glad to have avoided.  Was this unmatched nightmarish feeling any better? 

In retrospect I know that the nightmarish feeling became PSTD.  My love for my newborn held me through enough to care for him and make some connection, but I was not all the way there.  The PTSD subsided and later became Postpartum Depression.  It lasted for about a year after the birth.  Thank goodness for breastfeeding and the oxytocin lift it gave me through out each day.  It carried me through, that, and long walks and hikes and trips to the lake out in nature with my son in my sling.  He knew how to keep me going.

My son was a very serious baby.  He did not smile for a long time and later had great anxiety about leaving me and being with other people.  Finally we got through it though.  We took things slow.  My reward finally came when one day he was jumping in the johnny-jump-up and I pulled off a sock, sniffed it and threw it behind my shoulder while saying "PHHHHEEEWWWWwwww!!!!!!"  He laughed and laughed.  We both did and we still are.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Time Together

In my work as a Birth Doula I  see a mom and her family three times before the birth, during the birth and three times after the birth.  Sometimes a mom needs additional care after the baby is born.  Then I work as a Postpartum Doula, helping with chores around the house, spending time with siblings or the baby so the Mom can rest or sitting and listening to the stories and concerns of the Mom.  At the end of one on one contact I believe that all new moms (we are always new with each child that is born) need a continuing circle of support with other moms facing similar experiences.  

The group will be meeting twice each month.  Times have been tentatively set for the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 1:00-3:00pm (or as long as your baby can hold out).  Eventually I'd like to vary the times so both at home and working moms will have a chance to attend.  All times are subject to change and will reflect the needs of the group.  I have found a cozy meeting space at The Lotus Center, which is right above Global Village on 25 W Superior Street.  Parking is available anywhere on the street, but also in a parking garage across the street under the MNPower/Allete building.  The parking is accessed via Michigan Street. You are Invited!

The Childbearing Years group will be open to all mothers with babes in arms. Young children are also welcome.   It would be ideal if we could find an older sibling(s) who would enjoy spending time with the younger mobile children during our time together.  Maybe the group as a whole could chip in to provide a monetary incentive to our future caregivers.  Above all, I want you to come as you are, get out of the house and make new friends.

This will be a peer support group where each mom in the group will support and be supported by the other moms.  Each meeting will consist of a presentation topic chosen by the moms, and a sharing circle where mom's can share their experiences and listen to others. Each member will grow in their ability to communicate effectively by listening attentively and reflecting upon each other's experiences.  This is not a problem solving group, although your problems may be solved in talking about them.  As a group we will not try to fix each other’s difficulties, but simply be there to listen and offer encouragement to each other.

 If you are interested in attending contact me, annie@birthingways.org at 218-310-2038.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mothers Know

Mothers Know exactly what they need to safely give birth to their children without anyone telling them what to do.  The first thing I ask each mother and her birth partner if s/he is there, is "What is your idea of your ideal birth?"  I've never known any mother to pause at this point.  Each mother has a crystal clear idea of what they want for the birth of their child and their care after the birth.  There is a wide range of possibilities to choose from and each one is right for the specific woman who chooses them.


A woman who has survived sexual abuse in childhood may not feel comfortable with having a natural birth.  When there has been trauma in life I, as a Doula, want to prevent that trauma from being triggered during birth.  A survivor may have been able to distance herself from past abuse and created a safe place in her life from which she is able to function.  If this same woman had a vaginal delivery, no matter how supported by Doulas she was, the vaginal birth could trigger earlier sexual trauma as if it were happening in current time.  At all times I want to avoid heightened anxiety, distancing, depression and other coping behaviors associated with trauma during the birth of a baby.


An infant needs a mother who can breastfeed skin to skin, gaze fondly in her baby's eyes, room in with her infant as she recovers and care for her newborn when she is home.  When a woman's ideal birth is an elective Cesarean Section with General Anesthesia it may be a wise decision to support her in her choice.  She  knows what she needs to birth safely.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Welcome Home

To a comfortable chair in a warm room surrounded by mothers, babies and young children who want to hear all about how you and your baby are learning and growing. We gather to laugh and cry and hear stories that are like our own. We have so much in common: the sleepless nights, the unending gas that doesn't come out, the crying time, and all the changes. The ups and downs that the huge shifts in hormones bring and the changing relationships with family and friends that are an everyday occurrence for each of us in our lives. Trying to raise a newborn in a sleep deprived state is very difficult work. Getting out of the house is a major miracle. An afternoon or early evening time with other moms can be a God send. What have you found that works to get some extra sleep in the day or night? Your experiences are valuable! We all need all the help we can get! This is a place for you online, and in reality. Online I will provide information to answer questions and tease your brains. I will offer support and challenge thinking that you may have already grown out of, but didn't know it yet. In our real lives we will gather together in a group twice each month for a topic presentation and sharing time. See the post Time Together for information about times, dates and places we will meet. I am honored to have the opportunity to be with you during this time when you are becoming a mother. No matter how many children you have had, you are a new mother for each of them. Deep inside you know exactly what you need to become the best mom you can be. I will provide the resources and organization for moms to get together. You will determine the topics we discuss and the time needed for sharing. This is your group, it will grow into what you need. This place is also a safety net to catch you if the responsibilities of motherhood begin to weigh too heavily upon you. We will find solutions and help in the larger community together if your reserves are exhausted. We must care for the mother so she can care for her child/ren. The pitcher has to be full before you can pour it.