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Charlie came two weeks “late.” And five weeks after I had my first major set of contractions. The summer just dragged on and on, while our hopes of a late-June baby turned into hopes of a July 4th baby, and then into hopes of a baby before summer’s end. I felt like I might just be pregnant forever, and got to the point of dreading the next batch of contractions because I knew it most likely wouldn’t bring a baby. Although I tried a couple natural ways to bring the baby, and walked every day, David and I decided to just let this third baby come in her own time, rather than in our time. We just enjoyed our last moments as a family of four and waited.

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Finally, one morning I woke up around 3am with strong contractions. They were inconsistent, but strong enough to make me uncomfortable. By 5am I couldn’t sleep through them, so got up and read on the couch. Every ten to fifteen minutes I’d have another, but they didn’t get stronger or closer together. After several hours I called Marlene and she said that I should try to sleep and eat a little. She also suggested that I go see Jessica and have her do some labor-inducing acupressure (not acupuncture… needles and I don’t get along!) and massage.

I called my mom and she came to pick up Natalie and Felicity so I could get some rest. Then Jessica called and offered to come by and work on some labor pressure points for me. She came soon after and massaged my ankles, hands and lower back. It felt incredible, and I kept having those steady contractions, even with the distraction of talking and laughing with her. Every time one came I was surprised because I was certain they’d peter off and I’d never get to meet my baby!

Around 1pm, I suddenly got my appetite back and had a craving for pizza. So I ordered one and ate the entire thing. At that point my contractions started spacing out, though they stayed strong, so I called Marlene and informed her that I was going to take a nap, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be seeing her that night. I lay down and dozed for a little while. Around 3:20pm I suddenly wakened with a double batch of serious surges that I couldn’t relax through, even while breathing deeply. So I got up and went to the bathroom. I had a desperate desire to not be alone anymore so I texted David and asked him to come home sometime soon.

Should I leave work at 3:30 or 4? came his reply.

While he wrote that I had an off-the-chart surge and wrote back

Come home

 

Okay!

He was home in ten minutes.

I went out into the kitchen and called Marlene. She didn’t answer so I left a desperate-sounding, probably nearly-incoherent message. I started worrying that she wouldn’t get the message, and I needed her with me, darn it! As soon as David got home I demanded that he call her so he did and thankfully she was just next-door, so arrived with everything by 4pm.

As soon as David got home I stopped my anxious pacing and was able to relax better. I knelt down in front of the couch and rested my upper body against it. David walked around, putting blankets over windows and lighting candles. Marlene came in with her comforting presence and quietly set up, and Jessica arrived not much later. I didn’t feel the need for Marlene to check me, because I knew this baby was finally on the way. I did ask her if she thought I was in labor and after watching me breathe through a surge she chuckled that she had no doubt.

My first two births had a sense of a surreal dream to them. I lost track of time frequently, and patches of what happened are completely lost to my memory. This birth, however, was different. I felt clearheaded and with it the entire time. Between contractions David and I discussed names. We tossed out the ones originally on our list for both boys and girls, and came up with brand new ones. Marlene and Jessica just kind of watched and stayed a bit out of the way; I could hear them talking quietly once in a while. Each contraction was strong, and I moaned through them. Marlene reminded me to breathe deeply and asked if it would help to move around. No, I can’t relax my muscles if I’m moving. So I stayed in the one position. I heard Marlene murmur to Jessica that I was either at the very beginning of labor or at the very end.

Suddenly I started crying. I gasped to David, I can’t do this. I got scared and thought that this has to be the beginning of labor and I knew I couldn’t do it all night! My emotions were completely unmanageable. I tried to control myself, but kept crying and felt totally trapped and alone. Marlene reminded me feelings like those mean that the baby is coming soon. My logical part knew that she was right, but that side was completely taken over by the illogical, emotional hormone surge of transitional labor.

Right after that I started pushing a little bit with each surge; it felt right to do so, though it wasn’t an overwhelming urge yet.

You’re pushing, aren’t you? Marlene said, in more of a statement than a question.

Yes.

 

She and Jessica immediately finished setting up, and got the birth stool ready close behind me in case I wanted it.

I stayed there at the couch a little while longer, then asked for the birth stool because my legs got tired of half squatting, half kneeling. Everyone helped me up, and I got comfortable on the stool. I asked Jessica for pressure on my lower back, and it felt good to have the tension there with each contraction. Marlene had the warm compresses on my perineum, and I could feel the baby move down.

Everything felt right. I felt like I was in the exact position my body needed to be in and I was completely comfortable with the three people there. There was no insecure feeling about it still being daylight. Our little basement apartment felt secure and homey, and I was surrounded by people I trusted and who trusted in my ability to give birth in the best way for my body and my baby. David sat close and encouraged me, but barely touched me at all. It was almost like he didn’t want to disturb me while I was tuned in to my body. Or maybe he just didn’t know how to help.

Marlene gently reminded me that I had the option to catch the baby if I wanted to, and I nodded. Yes! I want to! I moved my hand down and felt the bag of waters bulging over the baby’s head. Marlene commented that my water hadn’t broken, and the bag was slowing me up. She said I could push against it with my finger each time I pushed the baby down to try to break it. I did, and it finally broke and the baby’s head pushed out. I felt hair and a tiny little face. Marlene told me to pause for a moment, and she quickly un-looped the cord from around the baby’s neck. Later she told me she wanted me to be able to bring my baby straight to my chest at the moment of birth instead of having to wait for her to untangle us.

Okay, she said, now you can push.

I did, and suddenly that little baby was cradled against my chest. I honestly have no idea of the mechanics of how I brought that squirmy, wet little baby from birth to chest; it’s as though instinct took over and I just did it without thinking at all. I started laughing and crying and saying you’re so beautiful! over and over.

David jumped up and started pacing, saying That was amazing. Oh my gosh that was crazy! What do we have? Is it a boy or a girl? Holy cow that was incredible!

I tried to look a couple times, then finally said we have a girl! And David got even more animated in his pacing, saying Another girl! Holy cow I can’t believe it! Oh she’s so beautiful; Babe you were awesome! I can’t believe it!

Our baby was crying, kind of a sputtering cry because she had a little fluid in her lungs from birth. She kept coughing and cleaned her lungs out herself. Marlene didn’t suction, just checked our new daughter while I held her, and none of the four of us could believe how small she looked. I had been convinced that I was going to have an eight-pounder at the very smallest, because of how late she was and how huge my belly got. We laughed that it was a good thing she didn’t come five weeks earlier! She knew what she was doing by staying in there so long!

I was helped to the plastic-covered couch, so sat there holding our baby and watching David, who could not sit still. I had started calling the baby Charlie right away, because it seemed to fit her and that was the name David had brought up during labor. After possibly-Charlie has suckled a little and the afterbirth was born, I went to sit in a warm bath for a few minutes alone in peace while Marlene and Jessica did all the weighing and testing and David got to hold his daughter for the first time.

While sitting there I heard them all start laughing and exclaiming, you have to tell Beth! Jessica came in and said that our tiny-looking baby was 7 lbs 12 oz, which is big for a high-elevation baby! Marlene and Jessica stayed for a little while longer, and we all had some fresh fruit David cut up for us. Then they left, and we snuggled with our new little baby daughter. After much debate, we decided that we shouldn’t just name her Charlie, but that it should be a nickname, and her official name on the birth certificate should be more traditional. Therefore,

 

 

Charlotte Jane was born Tuesday, July 12, straight into her momma’s hands. She had dark hair, chubby cheeks, and dark brown eyes.

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To check out Charlotte’s older sister’s birth stories:

Natalie’s Hospital Birth Story

Felicity”s Home Birth Story

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I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about Felicity’s birth. Maybe I’ve just gotten lazier about writing over the years. Maybe. But I think it has more to do with how the birth actually went. I think I simply couldn’t bear to face the facts of my second birth. Not that anything terrible happened, but the whole experience was somewhat miserable until Felicity was actually born. And I expected more of a homebirth. But after that birth I was thinking that I actually enjoyed laboring in a hospital with Natalie more than at home with Felicity, and that was hard to swallow. And almost impossible to admit, even to myself. As I think about it, I think it had much to do with the midwife’s attitude and not as much to do with the labor process itself. The most I’ve told anyone about my labor is that it was longer and harder than Natalie’s, and that I didn’t get to push how I wanted. As much as I don’t want to relive that labor, I don’t want to forget. So, 18 months later, here is the story of Felicity’s birth.

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I wasn’t very healthy while pregnant. We lived on the third floor in the city, and had to drive somewhere else in order to get in a decent walk. So, living up three flights of stairs with a toddler, combined with the effort required in order to actually be outside, made exercise difficult. I’m sure eating a Culver’s snack pack meal a couple times a week didn’t help in the health department, either. David was working crazy long hours, so to pass the time I’d eat. I think that had a lot to do with making the labor so difficult.

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Anyway, Tuesday night I was having strong contractions, after having mild ones steadily all day. For some reason the main thing I remember about that day was that Natalie and I went to Costco to stock up, and I was thinking I may be in labor. What a mundane thing to do the day labor begins. I called Sally*, the midwife, that night and told her, but said it probably wasn’t the real deal and I was going to bed to try to get some sleep. That was 9pm. Around 11pm I woke up wanting Sally there, and woke up David. He convinced me to wait a little while and to walk around so he could time the contractions. We walked around the apartment, and the contractions were close, but kind of inconsistent. I was feeling nervous and unsure about whether I was in labor or not. Finally, David called Sally around 2am, and she showed up an hour later.

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Because I was so unsure I wanted her to check me to make sure all the contractions were actually doing something. She did, and I was four centimeters. So, she said my body is working, but that I shouldn’t wear myself out by walking around since my body will do the work no matter what. I knew that walking around would speed up labor and help the baby get in a better position, but I was tired and felt a little insecure about speaking up since I was new to homebirth. So David and I cuddled up on the bed and waited. He fell asleep, I dozed on and off between contractions. Sally and Michelle, her assistant who came to watch Natalie, slept in the livingroom. Later I got really uncomfortable and so got in the tub (the wonderful, huge, garden tub!), but didn’t stay too long.

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It was starting to get light when I started feeling like I wanted to push. Everything before then was kind of a blur. I knelt on the bed, held onto David, and pushed, but it was taking a little while. I felt self-conscious in the daylight. Then Sally asked if I was sure I actually needed to push. She checked me and said that there was a tiny lip of skin still blocking the baby’s head, so that I couldn’t need to push yet. She made a comment about how moms who’ve ever given birth in a hospital don’t know how to push. I got upset with her, although I didn’t say a word, because that was totally untrue. When I felt the urge to push last time, I pushed and out came a baby. No one was telling me when to push. I listened to my body. This time, I felt insecure and uncertain about the entire thing, and I felt like Sally was treating me like I didn’t know my own body just because I’d given birth in a hospital before. And then she made assumptions based on that, without the facts of how that labor actually went.

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Around this time, Natalie woke up and came in to see us. She was sweet, and wanted to see how I was doing…frequently. However, I was having a rough time with her coming in and touching me during contractions. I was distracted, upset with Sally, uncomfortable about being in labor in the daylight, without the night to embrace and protect me. I felt exposed and alone.

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Finally I escaped to the bathroom with David, and Sally and Michelle stayed in the livingroom and Michelle played with Natalie. That’s when I started to feel safe again. I sat on the toilet and felt like I didn’t want to do this ever again. I felt sick and over it. I almost looked at David and told him no more kids. I vaguely remember Sally coming to check and David telling her we’d be ready for the birth stool soon. She left to get it out of the car. Then I felt a sudden urge to push. I actually gave in a couple times and pushed before realizing what I was doing and reaching down to feel what was happening.

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And there was a baby’s head! I could feel her hair. I kind of gasped and exclaimed, I’m pushing!

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David called for Sally, and she immediately came in and said lets move her to the bed.

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 I told her I wanted to stay there, but Sally didn’t listen and moved me anyway. Apparently I wasn’t adamant enough. David later told me that when she moved me our baby’s head went back up inside. I kneeled next to the bed and held on to the blankets while I pushed. It was terrible. I felt like I was in a bad position, but knew I wouldn’t be able to hold a squat long enough and Sally hadn’t brought the birth stool in. I was frustrated and upset, and as a vent screamed each time I pushed. Poor Natalie got really worried and came running in. She saw me screaming and started crying. David held her and explained what was happening, but at the end she got scared and ran out of the room. I pushed for what seemed like a really long time.

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Finally I felt the baby’s head come down, and I gave a huge push and her head came out. Then I pushed out her body and suddenly she was in my hands as Sally handed her to me. Here’s your baby.

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As soon as I looked at my daughter it was all worth it. She was beautiful. She had tiny hands clenched into fists, a tuft of jet black hair, and her tiny little body was covered in a soft layer of chub (compliments of Culver’s burgers, I’m sure).  I sat on the floor next to the bed and held her for a while; Natalie came in and met her sister for the first time before David and Sally helped me into bed. Once the cord stopped pulsing, Sally showed David how to cut it, then everyone left us for a short time while David and I cuddled on the bed with our second-born daughter. She nursed a little. As soon as the herbal bath was ready I got in with the baby. I held both my hands under her head and upper shoulders, and let the rest of her float free. She completely relaxed all her muscles and just floated in the warm water. It was peaceful and quiet. David sat with us, and we talked about names. We wanted to name her Noelle, but couldn’t think of a good middle name to go with it. So, instead, we used it as the middle name and named her Felicity, which means “happiness.”

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Felicity with her big sister, Natalie

 

 

Felicity Noelle was born February 2010, at 9:37am. She was 6 lbs 12 oz, and had a black baby mohawk that stayed with her for the first year of her life.

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*I changed the names of the midwife and her assistant for their privacy.

We used this particular midwife because our insurance covered most of her fees. Moral of the the story is: find a midwife you “click” with, even if she may cost a little more than one who’s just “okay.” It is so worth it to have a great midwife you feel comfortable with!

 

Check out Felicity’s sister’s birth stories:

Natalie’s Hospital Birth Story

Charlotte’s Home Birth Story

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In light of writing a few weeks ago about how hearing normal, uncomplicated birth stories can help soothe a pregnant mother’s fears, I decided that it may be appropriate to include the birth story of my first daughter. I wrote it shortly after her birth. At the time, my husband and I had just been introduced to the world of natural childbirth, so we found a practice with nurse-midwives who delivered in a local hospital, took a Bradley Childbirth class, and prepared as best we could. Keep in mind that nurse-midwives are different than midwives in that they are also trained as nurses in hospital protocol and procedure.

I will admit that, when I think about it, I am still frustrated with the nurse-midwife for reasons you will discover. And upset about the “hospital protocol” that took my new baby away from me after only a few moments of skin-to-skin cuddling. However, I did experience a natural birth in a hospital setting, which may be what you are hoping to achieve.

As a plug for homebirth, the care of a homebirth midwife is so much better than at a hospital! It is centered around what is best for the mother and baby, rather than around what is convenient for the hospital staff or what their protocol is. Anyway, enough of that little soapbox. Here is my normal birth story:

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Natalie’s Birth

I kept thinking I was in labor a week before my daughter was born.  Every day around noon I’d start having contractions that got stronger and closer throughout the day and night, but petered off early in the morning.  Then they started all over again the next day.  On Sunday night we went to the hospital in possible labor, but decided to go home early in the morning when nothing happened.

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Finally, on Tuesday night, labor really started.  After trying to induce through natural methods such as walking, etc, hard contractions started around 11 p.m.  My husband and I went to bed, knowing that I wouldn’t sleep through having a baby, and that we’d need all the sleep we could get.  For the next two hours I got up with a few of the stronger contractions.  At 1 a.m. I felt my water break, and barely made it to the bathroom.

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My husband asked me if I was okay.

Well, I think my water just broke.

He said, you should call the midwife now.

Yeah, maybe I should.

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So I called the midwife on duty that night (who was the only one of the four in the practice we didn’t want), and she said to come on in.

Can I stay at home a little longer?

You can, she said, but since your water broke and your contractions are three minutes apart, we recommend that you come in soon. 

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So my husband got everything ready, and I sat on the bed, breathing through contractions.  We took our time, and arrived at the hospital at 2 a.m.  A nurse got me a wheel chair to sit in and my man checked us in.  I sat, relaxed, and couldn’t believe it was actually happening.  I mean, I knew it was time, but I didn’t feel ready to be a mother, or believe that all the long months of terrible pregnancy were finally at an end.

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We had the same nurse as when I had the false labor, and she said I looked much more serious about the whole thing than the last time we were there.  We gave her our birthing guide, and she said she’d ask before doing anything.  I let her put in a buff cap, even though I hate needles.  She checked my vitals, and the baby’s, and monitored my contractions.

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Wow, she said, when I look at you I can’t tell when you’re having a contraction. But when I look at the screen your contractions are peaking at the highest level.  On a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, what’s your pain level during each contraction? 

 

Maybe a four or five, I replied.  I started to feel excited because, if these were considered strong contractions, then I could definitely do this!

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Once the nurse was satisfied baby and I were both doing okay, she unhooked me to give me some freedom.  I had wanted to walk around to speed up labor since my mom’s labors were all really long.  But, instead, I didn’t feel like doing anything except soak in the jetted tub.

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Half an hour later I was in it, soaking, and started to feel a little desperate.  I was feeling nauseous, like I was going to throw up.  The pressure on my pelvis got a lot stronger, and, suddenly, I felt like I didn’t want to do this anymore.  Labor was too hard, I either wanted the baby to stay in there so I could go home, or have them cut her out of me.  Either way, I was done with this whole labor deal.  Then I checked myself: I was having all the signs of transition!  But it was way too soon!  There was no way I could be in transition already!  It hadn’t been long enough!  I decided to not mention any of my emotions to my husband, because I didn’t want him to think I was in transition, since there was no possible way I could be.  But it turns out he knew anyway because I was having all the physical signs as well, and he didn’t want to say anything to me either.

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It took me what felt like forever to get out of the tub and put my gown back on.  The contractions were so hard and so close together that it was really difficult to do anything.  I still had it in my mind that I wanted to walk around and speed up labor (ha-ha), but, again, didn’t feel like it. So I laid down on the bed in a side relaxation position, listened to calming music, and my husband told me a story.  He had just finished and the midwife had just walked into the room for the first time, when I had one last really hard contraction, then felt like I had to push.

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Um, I think I should push now.

That’s what we want to hear! said the nurse.  

I sat up a little bit, my husband supported me on one side and the nurse on the other, and I pushed with the contractions.

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The midwife wanted me to hold the baby down with each contraction, I didn’t want to, but I compromised and did a little of both.  After a while I had an overwhelming desire to sit up and squat, but the midwife said I was almost there and I should just keep pushing.  I got pretty annoyed, but was too busy giving birth to argue, and definitely couldn’t sit up without help.  When baby started crowning, I took it easy because I wanted to stretch without tearing.  The midwife told me I had to push harder and longer, because she didn’t want to have to do an episiotomy.

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What?! I thought. That’s ridiculous! 

But, it really didn’t matter anyway because my beautiful daughter came out with her fist up next to her eye, and tore me pretty badly.

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The moment of birth will forever remain a surreal, golden, grainy photograph in my mind.  I felt her come out and saw the top of her head as the midwife lifted her up.  I looked at my husband, he kissed my forehead, then my baby girl was suddenly sprawled across my chest, with a perfectly-shaped head and smooth skin.  I don’t remember if she was crying or not.  I think she wasn’t, but all that’s vivid is the way she looked.  She didn’t look at all like the pictures of newborns one usually sees.  She wasn’t purple, or pruny, or have a cone-head.  But she was tiny.  And a lot more squirmy than I thought a newborn baby had any right to be.  The nurse took her away much too soon, because she said my baby needed to be warmed up.  I knew it would have been best to just throw a blanket over us both, but my voice was still lost somewhere else in this silent movie so I could only watch.  I have no idea what the nurse did, my eyes were only for my family, over at the warmer.  My husband and my daughter.  I felt like I was someone else, watching the three of us from somewhere outside the room.  My man, with his broad shoulders and camera in hand, and stormy-sea eyes gazing at his child.  Our daughter, with her miniature fists still held close to her elvish face like a boxer and her tiny eyes squinted closed against the warmer light.  And me, hair escaping from a ponytail, face turned toward them, being stitched up and wanting them back next to me.

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The nurse finally gave my baby back, but all swaddled and hatted.  I hated that.  I wanted to take her out and cuddle her and feed her and look at her.  Not have her bundled up and hidden from me.

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After a while, when the nurse and midwife had finally left us for a few moments, my husband asked me what we should call her.  Oh! She does need a name, doesn’t she.

What name do you like best?

 Jayna or Natalie, I replied, hoping that he liked Natalie, a name he didn’t like before because the meaning didn’t make sense.

 I like Natalie too.

 Natalie Grace. It sounds good.

Natalie Grace, our ‘born on Christmas’ baby, met the world at 5:47 in the morning, to the piano rendition of Hushabye Mountain.  She weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces, and was 20.5 inches long.  Her eyes were grey, her hair exactly my shade of brown, and her toes looked like monkey feet.  A spring blizzard stormed outside that day, but we didn’t notice.

 

To check out Natalie’s sister’s birth stories:

Felicity’s Home Birth Story

Charlotte’s Home Birth Story

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