Shared with permission from this JJB family. Thanks Karen, Steve, and Una!
Una Rain: Born Oct 29 2016 3:23pm, 7lb 2oz and just under 19in long
Our amazing team, who we are so grateful for:
Midwives: Martine Jean Baptiste, Karen Jefferson
Midwife Assistant: Shana Norberg
Doulas: Aida Alphanzo, Sarah Gold
Acupuncturist: Mia Hatgis
It was Thursday, Oct 27, my official estimated due date, if you had asked me all day how I was feeling,I would tell you I felt like I was going to be pregnant forever, that I didn’t know a life any other way, and even if baby was born, I would still be pregnant. For so long I felt like nothing was going to happen, we had reached our 40 weeks and it felt like baby was too comfortable in the womb to make their arrival. But that night something felt different, while sleeping I started to feel lower back pains that would come and go, something new to my pregnancy. I tried to tell Steve about it, but he was half asleep and had no idea what I was talking about. Similar to when I knew I was pregnant the day I was supposed to get my period. I could feel something had shifted in my body, nothing big, something small but very apparent.
The following morning I went to the bathroom and there went my mucus plug. I figured we still had so much more time. I made another trip to the bathroom before I had to get to my acupuncture appointment and had this weird burst of fluid. I figured it was nothing and started to get ready to go. With one boot on and about to put on the other, I got another small burst of fluid. Could this be my water breaking or have I finally reached the point of pregnancy where I was incontinent? Running late for my acupuncture appointment, I frantically changed my clothes, and made my way to see Mia. I told her about the mucus plug and the water and she said it could be a slow leak and to reach out to the midwives and let them know.
After I left Mia’s I called the JJB hotline and got Martine. I explained to her what happened that morning and she asked me to visit her at her house to confirm it isn’t just a mucus plug. Having a little time to kill, I stopped by Little Cake Shop to grab myself a piece of cake to go. Then I scooted up town to Martine where she did an exam and sure enough, my water had broke!! She explained to me that she would like to see me in labor in 24 hours but it could go on to 48 hours before anything happens. But by Saturday morning if nothing was starting I would see Mia for a more intense labor inducing session and if that still didn’t work we would resort to castor oil. Looking at her with disbelief, she told me that I was to go home and tell work I am not coming in anymore because I am HAVING A BABY! She also prescribed an early bedtime for Steve and I, a stiff drink and a Benadryl because the next day could be a long one.
I left Martine’s apt in the 80’s and decided to stop by Zabars to pick up some food. After getting some provisions, I headed to the subway. The nice thing about being pregnant is someone usually gives me a seat. A woman offered me hers and we got to chatting, she asked me when I was due. I told her any time in the next 24 hours. She looked at me in bewilderment and I blurted out that my water had already broken. The businessman sitting next to me must have over heard because he started to freak out as if I was going to get it on him. I assured him that it had happened earlier and he would be ok. Sitting on the subway, looking at the passengers, I couldn’t help but think about how weird and very New Yorker to be walking around doing everyday things amongst all these unsuspecting people, when something is happening that isn’t everyday.
Of course everything had to get done that day, Steve had been running around the city getting last minute errands done, because I realized we didn’t have enough towels, and obviously he would have to wash them before we used them. Night came quick, we didn’t even have enough time to set up the birth pool/room. After a gourmet dinner of pizza, rum on the rocks and my Benadryl, we got to bed a little after 10, which is pretty good for me. I fully expected to get a good night sleep and that I would be seeing Mia in the morning. I had been texting her in preparation. But after an hour of lying down, I started to get some contractions. They were far apart but with each one, it required me to go pee. After hopping in and out of bed, I decided to take up residence on the couch and let Steve sleep. I mean someone needs to be awake for this birth. I figured I would let some time pass and as things move along I would wake him up. With each contraction, I tried to find comfort in different things around the house. Rocking back and forth on the couch edge, leaning over the couch and swaying my hips violently, bouncing on the yoga ball (which I ended up loving). As the morning approached, I realized the contractions had gotten the best of me and were getting closer and closer. I really needed to wake Steve up to have him time them, as well as get the birth tub ready. I woke him up at around 7am and had him start the app we downloaded the night before. We are so prepared. While he was frantically getting the room ready, I would scream to him to start and stop the timer. In my mind I couldn’t possibly imagine having a contraction for a whole min! It already felt like forever. Well sure enough I was already contracting 1 min every 4 min! Panic started to arise, as I realized no one who was experienced was here yet to support me. Everything was moving too fast, why didn't I wake him up, why didn't I call our doula! Steve tried to comfort me during the contractions, like we learned in Ellen’s class, but every time he would touch me, I would reply “No.” In hindsight, I probably should have woken up Steve earlier, but every time I walked past the clock, I kept thinking I will wake him up when its a decent hour, because he need to get some rest.
Steve called our doula Sarah to have her get on her way over. I called Martine to tell her about the contractions and in the middle of talking to her I of course had another. Steve grabbed the phone and was advised to time me for the full hour and call her back (30 more min) All I could think about was MARTINE GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE NNOW!!! After the 30 min Steve called her and she was on her way. She told Steve to have me hop in the shower to try and slow things down and alleviate some of the back pain. I grabbed my new best friend, the yoga ball and bounced in the shower. It helped a lot and made me feel like I had time.
Sarah showed up while I was still in the shower, and she jumped right into action. Talking me through the contractions, giving me water, it made me feel better to know there was someone by my side, while Steve was still setting things up. Martine showed up a little after, and helped me out of the tub, dried me off and got me back into my underwear. Martine explained to me Shana, the midwife assistant, would be on her way as well. Sure enough as I sat on the couch, with Sarah, having a contraction Shana showed up. All while this was going on Steve had set up the tub and it was close to being filled up. I sat in the living room with Martine watching over me as I contracted. Sarah asked me if I felt any urge to push. I said not yet but I feel like its coming. The next contraction I could feel that need to poop. Martine, watching over me as I contracted on the couch, finally smiled at me and said, "Karen you have won a trip to the birthing pool, whenever you are ready to, you can make your way." Sarah helped me up and to the birth pool room and out of my underwear. I got into the pool and felt such a sense of relief. I thought, “Great, baby would be out in seconds!” (I am not sure about everyone else but time was a crazy concept during the whole experience, at some points it felt slow and endless, other times I would blink and it felt like hours passed). had what felt like hours of contractions in the pool and all I had to show for it was little floating poops. I felt like nothing was happening. I had envisioned getting into the birth pool and within hours baby would be born. Obviously not really how birth goes. After a while, Martine suggested I might want to try another position or getting out of the pool. I gave squatting a try but I couldn’t plant my feet right, she suggested side lying out of the water, but I was wry about it at first. She said to give it a try in the water and see how it felt, but I couldn’t get a good place for my feet. So Shana and Sarah made a makeshift bed with my yoga mats and shower curtains on the living room floor and we made our way out of the tub.
I was lying on my side death gripping my couch leg as I contracted, again feeling like nothing was happening; we rolled over to the other side and still nothing. How long does giving birth take?? I needed to pee and decided to try the bathroom. Martine came with me and said if I wanted to push there we could try that as well. I gave it a few goes, but all it was doing was giving me back pain, so back to the living room floor. This time she suggested maybe I try lying on my back that maybe baby was stuck under my ribs and it could help get them out from under. I had Sarah on the couch with my right leg, Shana on my left holding my left leg, Steve by my head supporting my head and neck, and Martine front and center for baby. I had my whole team not only emotionally supporting me but also physically, with their counter pressure to my contractions and their words of encouragement, this was exactly what my body/mind needed. Having Steve helping pick up my upper body with my contractions made me feel so connected with him we were in this together. After some contractions, she checked to see where baby was. She noticed that my cervix had a bit of a lip making it harder for baby to come down. With the next contraction she helped to move it around baby’s head telling me this should help get things going. In my mind this was going to be easy now, we were almost done. Boy was I wrong; we hadn’t even gotten to the ring of fire.
As the contractions continued, I could feel we were getting closer, mostly because Martine was coaxing me along and telling me we were moving along. As I was starting to really get into the headspace, I began to hear sirens outside. My first thought was someone in our building called the police and now they are outside our building. I imagined them knocking on our door as we were minutes away from baby being born, that they would throw me off my focus and I would have to start all over again. The police never came, but it definitely got me to move things along faster. At a point Martine asked me if I wanted to touch the head, but I knew that we were getting to the hard part and I was going to have to really focus. With every contraction I would try to get at least 2 big pushes out. At first I thought it was all about the first push and really put my energy there. But I soon realized the second push felt so different, I could really feel myself opening up and baby’s head moving down. I
reassessed my game plan, and put little effort into my first push and was able to give myself 2 really strong pushes after.
Everything Mia had said started to come back to me, here we were at the ring of fire, and let me tell you there is no coming back from there. With each push you could feel the burn. You want it to be over, you want to get through this fast and you keep thinking the next contraction it will be all done. But its not and you have to let those thoughts go and really just live in the pain. Between contractions, Sarah was amazing at talking me through the pain. Reminding me that this slow process was helping me stretch. She would remind me to be present in the pain and to sit with it, hearing those words allowed me to really be in my body and mind and connect to my baby, for what was the most empowering, strengthening, challenging moment of my life.
Martine was so supportive, I mean literally supporting my perineum. I was covered in coconut oil to help baby come out smoother and to soften my skin. As I would push Martine would give me amazing words of confidence, mostly that I was doing good, that baby was moving through and how close I was to passing the hardest part. My brain wanted to rationalize how many more contractions it was going to take to get past the widest part. I would tell myself 2 more contractions, but it was always another 2 more.
I realized I was holding myself back. I mean really this is some painful stuff that’s going on here, and with pain your first reaction is to step back not walk into it. But this was a journey I had to take and there was no going back. If I was going to meet my baby I had to walk through that ring and feel that pain. I knew every second would be worth it knowing that after that I would have baby lying on my chest. I used that to will me to push and did I push. With the contractions getting closer I was getting 3- 4 pushes back to back. Steve trying to balance supporting me and the cats potentially vomiting in the bedroom, kept trying to leave before the next contractions, it was slightly hilarious as he was half way down the hallway, I would yell for him and he would be running back. Shana explained to him this was it and he needed to stay put to meet the baby. My last couple contractions Martine and Shana were telling me I was so close and baby was almost there. All I kept thinking was, “Martine, grab that fucking head and pull my baby out already!!” On my last contraction, I knew this was going to be it, I could feel how close we were, and frankly I was over sitting with the pain. Even having Martine physically supporting my perineum, if it ripped now I was ok with it, I was ready for my baby. I pushed as many times as my body could in that last contraction. I could feel my hips, my vagina, everything opening up, the head emerging, and that last hardest step. Baby had passed and with one more push shoulders were out.
Martine scooped up my baby and quickly placed them on my belly, due to a short cord they weren’t able to scoot up to my breast, but that didn’t stop them. Shana rubbed baby warm, and Steve and I talked to them and rubbed them as we tried to coax them to cry. It seemed they needed a little help, so Martine gave baby a few puffs of air, to help clear out the lungs. And sure enough the little one start to let out some small cries. I thought I would cry the first time I saw baby, I think I was still in shock. All I could think was we made this, this is my little baby.
Still attached, we waited for the placenta to birth. Martine was hoping baby could help kick start it by latching but with the short leash that wasn’t possible. So Martine gave it some time. They told me that baby had been born at 3:23, was that day, night, 3 days later? Time, how much time had even passed, what day was it. With dim lighting throughout the house I had no idea how many days had passed. I had to ask them what day it was, everyone laughed and said it was still Saturday and it was the afternoon. For me it felt like we were here for days.
Martine was ready for the placenta to come out and she touched the cord. She had me cough a few times and sure enough placenta came out and was plopped into a bowl. Freeing up baby they were able to scooch to the breast, but they were still not into latching. Martine wanting to give me an exam and make sure there were no tears. I was convinced there had to be. BUT Martine is an expert and she protected me like it was her job. There was a small scratch but no tear. All that I was left with was the largest hemorrhoid EVER. She promised me in time it would go away…a long time. They really wanting me to pee after the delivery, it was time to hand baby over to daddy. Steve quickly took of his shirt and held his baby for the first time. Can you believe we still haven’t looked to see what we had! At a better advantage I was able to get a glimpse and our guesses had been right. We had the most precious baby girl, who yes looks Asian…for now.
After peeing and getting myself all cleaned up and into my mesh panties and ultra large pads and a padsicle (thank you Aubrey) I was ready to spend quality time with my new family. All while this was happening Shana and Sarah were running around the house, cleaning up any reminisce of any homebirth. Soon it would look like nothing ever took place…but we will know something amazing had happened that afternoon.
We moved to the bedroom to take baby vitals. Shana gave us hugs and kisses and said she would be back for the next baby visit later in the week. Our team was slowly leaving. Martine got baby measurements, head, length (just under 19 inches), Steve got to hold the fish scale and weigh our baby for the first time. 7lbs 2oz. After that we had the Vit K shot. I thought I would be fine with it and allowed Martine to administer. Hearing my baby cry in pain for the first time, I had no idea how upset I was going to feel. I made a promise I would do my best to never let that happen again.
The bed not being as comfortable as I had hoped and also being wide-awake and hungry, we moved back to the living room. I was ravenous. Miso soup from earlier…finished, potato salad, scarfing. Steve made PB&J for us…hit the spot. Martine was finally ready to go. The team was dismembering and there was some sadness. This whole experience was coming to a wrap. Would I remember everything, how much would fade. I already was forgetting all the pain from the early labor and how the pool felt. With Martine gone it was just Sarah, Steve, Baby and I. Sarah stuck around a bit to make sure we were all feeling good, that the house was cleaned, we were fed. Before leaving she told me how impressed she was by my strength and how quickly I delivered. At the time I didn’t feel strong and it definitely didn’t feel fast. But I was strong and it was exactly how it should have been. Sarah gave us our hugs and told us her and Aida would visit later in the week.
I am so grateful for this amazing experience. I had an amazing team to support me every second, every contraction, every moment of that day. I have a husband who may not have birthed our daughter but was the best partner to have every step of the way. His support and smiles, and encouragement throughout meant everything. Even putting up our baby sonogram to help remind me of who I was doing this for, while I was in the pool. They said in life you can make a plan, but its best to then throw it out. Well we made a plan, and I tried to stay very open to what would unfold. But I am thankful to say that everything I had wanted, dreamed and hoped for happened that day. And now I have my amazing little daughter to remind me of it and know we shared something so incredibly natural, that every second we were together doing this, feeling each other.
Thank you Steve for being the other half that created our daughter. Thank you to our midwives Martine Jean Baptiste and Karen Jefferson who supported us through our pregnancy and Martine who ultimately caught our baby. Thank you to Shana our midwife assistant, she was my stoic rock anchoring me. Thank you Sarah for stepping in while Aida was away, being so warm and attentive to my needs. To supporting our whole team and encouraging me throughout. Thank you Aida for your support leading up to the day and after, you may not have been able to be there the day of but you were there in our hearts supporting us. Thank you Mia, for keeping my body, mind aligned and ready, for helping to kick start this labor and for real talking the ring of fire to me.