geneabirth Community Mother Blessing—Autumn 2017

 

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Join us in celebration and fellowship at our community Mother Blessing.  A Mother Blessing is an alternative to a baby shower, an event to mark the passage a woman makes to motherhood for the first time or each subsequent time she adds a new life to her family.

All women are welcome…pregnant, postpartum, doula or other birthworkers or any women or mothers who want to offer support, enjoy one another’s company and bask in the warm, loving birthy glow.

We will  honor the mothers who came before us, sing, pamper our mothers-to-be and other guests with henna, foot rubs and shoulder massages, weave a web of support and end it all sharing a delicious meal together.

Babies 6 months or younger are welcome.  Please make alternative arrangements for older babies, toddlers and children.

Please bring a potluck item to share. Sparkly non-alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, a celebratory cake  and gluten-free treat will be provided.

Text your RSVP to   Erin at e 612-508-0584 or email me at midwife.erin@outlook.com

Children’s Halloween Party/Mother’s Tea at Geneabirth

Join us for some Halloween fun at Geneabirth!

halloweenThursday, October 26th

9:30 am-Noon

851 Dayton Avenue, Saint Paul 55104

Upper Level 

 

We will have a special toddler/preschool friendly Halloween or harvest-themed craft and goodies. Costumes are, of course, welcome but not necessary.

We have tea and coffee, comfy places to sit, lots of and toys for the little ones. We’ll have some yummy snacks to share. Potluck snacks are encouraged, but don’t worry if you are not able to bring a snack, just bring yourself and your little ones).  If you baby is too small for crafts and party activities, join us anyway for a cup of tea and some conversation.

This event  is open to the whole community. You do not need to be a geneabirth client to come.

We hope to see you there!

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The Midwife’s Favorite Herbs

I went to my first herb walk with my baby in a sling. This was maybe twelve weeks or so after giving birth at home. There weren’t the diversity of babywearing options that there are today and it was a good old fashioned ring sling.  I remember scampering over a log that blocked the path near the Minnehaha creek.   We talked about Burdock that day. I was both excited and slightly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information about herbs that the instructor, Lise Wolff, presented.  Lise would become my  herbalist, teacher, mentor and eventually a colleague.   Pregnancy and natural birth at home with a traditional midwife had awakened my nascent interest in natural healing and physiological, non-interventive birth, interests that would lead me into the work I do today as a midwife and practitioner of traditional western herbalism.

I work with dozens and dozens of local medicinal plants in my practice. People frequently ask me about which herbs I recommend for pregnancy and childbirth.  In my practice, I don’t really find that there is a particular body of remedies that are “herbs for pregnancy and birth.”  Many of the herbs I use in my midwifery practice are the same herbs I use throughout the lifecycle for both men and women.  There are also only a few herbs that I never use in pregnancy due to safety concerns.

There are, however, a few herbs that show up again and again. They are just so useful for the complaints and discomforts of pregnancy and the postpartum or for the newborn.  I will share my favorites with you below.

Motherwort

There is probably no more valuable plant ally for women than Motherwort.  These evocative names, given to the plant by our ancestors can say a lot about what a plant meant to people in our culture a long time ago. Motherwort assuages anxiety throughout the pregnancy and parenting journey, in the early weeks for those fearful of a miscarriage, in late pregnancy for those nervous about the upcoming birth and during the postpartum period when postpartum anxiety and depression can rear their ugly heads. Motherwort can aid in sleep when worry and a restless mind prevent falling asleep. It is particularly useful for those who feel their stress and tension in the chest/sternum area of their body and in the heart.  The scientific species name of this plant is cardiaca, also indicative of it’s usage. Folks who benefit from Motherwort may experience tightness in the chest, pounding heart, heart palpitations and even full panic attacks.  Many people use herbs to treat the spirit and psyche as well as the body and it is believed that Motherwort can help  resolve issues within  a person related to mothering, how you were mothered, being inadequately mothered in your own life or ambivalence about being a mother yourself.  Motherwort is cooling and moistening. It is also an intensely bitter plant and as such is generally not tolerated as a tea. I recommend tincture.  Motherwort is very safe, but it is also powerful and is often effective at doses as low as 3-5 drops at a time, taken under the tongue.  Motherwort comes in handy later in the life cycle; it is an excellent remedy for hot flashes, heart palpitations and anxiety and irritability during the perimenopausal season.

motherwort

Yellow Dock

Some of my clients don’t appreciate the taste of the Yellow Dock tincture that I give them.  It is a little “earthy,” but it is certainly effective. Yellow Dock treats 3 issues that can complicate or cause discomfort to pregnant women:  anemia, acid reflux (heartburn) and constipation. Anemia is a common during pregnancy. Blood volume in the pregnant woman dramatically expands and there is natural hemodilution.  Many women do not consume adequate dietary iron and iron is among one of the more poorly absorbed of the essential nutrients.  Yellow Dock is an excellent remedy for anemia.  Many people find it quite energizing. The plant has some iron in it, but it is not as high in iron as some other herbs such as Nettle and Alfalfa.  Some herbalists, have speculated that as an alterative with an impact on the liver it affects iron absorption, storage  and release into the bloodstream. Whatever the reason, it seems to work quite well, especially in conjunction with herbal iron tonics.

Yellow Dock has a downward energetic effect on the g.i. tract and is a wonderful remedy for acid reflux or heartburn.  It is cooling and sedating to an overactive upper g.i. tract, effectively alleviating this painful discomfort of pregnancy.

Finally, Yellow Dock is also great for constipation, another common complaint of pregnancy. The bowel slowing effects of high levels of progesterone in pregnancy, the weight of the growing uterus and baby and the general squishing of all the organs of the abdomen and pelvis contribute to this uncomfortable situation.  Yellow Dock in larger doses of 1/2 to 1 full dropper full  effectively resolves constipation without cramping or griping associated with herbal laxatives like Senna.  I always emphasize to clients that dependence on Yellow Dock for bowel movements is not a long term solution. It should be used in an acute situation and after bowel movements are regularized the woman should work on maintaining adequate hydration, getting some exercise, more fiber rich foods and the addition of gentle enhancers of bowel function like flax seed or Aloe Vera juice.

Cramp Bark

Cramp Bark calms the uterus. This is not a plant like Nettle or Dandelion or Black Walnut. There are not dozens and dozens of disparate indications.  Cramp Bark essentially does one thing and it does it very, very well.  Cramp Bark is an anti-spasmodic with an affinity to the uterus. The uterus is a muscular organ subject to rhythmic spasm. Menstrual cramps, Braxton-hicks contractions, labor contractions and after pains are all cramps and spasms of the uterus.  We welcome labor contractions because they are necessary to complete the birth, but the other cramps…not so welcome.  Cramp Bark is excellent for stopping contractions of pre-term labor, non-progressing but painful prodromal labor and after-pains.  I have had many cases over the years that have convinced me of it’s power to cease  unproductive and unwelcome contractions. We use Cramp Bark on a regular basis for after-pains in our practice. Cramp Bark does not taste unpleasant at all in my opinion. It does tend to be used as a tincture. I usually recommend 1-2 dropperfuls for an average sized woman, doses can be repeated every 4 hours.  Relief usually sets in about 15 minutes after an adequate dose. Cramp Bark has an excellent safety profile. I have a comprehensive profile of this beautiful and useful local native shrub on my sister site, Minnesota Herbalist.

 

 

cramp bark

 

Valerian and Prickly Lettuce

Insomnia can plague pregnant women.  Sometimes sleep can be interrupted by aching hips or the seemingly constant need to pee, but sometimes it’s insomnia from anxiety and worry or a racing mind. Some women report no anxiety and simply have periods of unexplained wakefulness especially in late pregnancy.  Herbal remedies for sleeplessness are a much safer choice than OTC or prescriptions sleeping aids. They are non-habit forming and do not cause a hangover effect.  There are many herbal sleep aids. Two of my favorites are Valerian Root and Prickly Lettuce. Neither of these herbs make a very good tea. I recommend taking them as tinctures.  Valerian is a relaxing and sedating herb. It has the added benefit of relaxing he uterine muscles too and alleviating frequent Braxton-hicks contractions.  It is well documented that a small fraction of users (estimated to be about 5%) experience a reaction to Valerian that is opposite of the intended effect and these users find if more energizing an not at all sedating.  Prickly Lettuce is a relaxing, nervine, anti-spasmodic.   It is among the most reliable of the herbal sedatives for insomnia. It is particularly well indicated when there is muscular tension in the neck, shoulders and trapezius muscles. Those who tend to hold their tension in that area of their bodies and tend to hunch their shoulders benefit from this remedy.  It is also good for calming an overactive mind.  From my teacher, Matthew Wood, I learned that Prickly Lettuce is for those folks whose thoughts always tend build on each other in a sort of snowball effect resulting in a tiny worry becoming the worst possible scenario in the mind of the sufferer. For those cases where a warm bath and  little Chamomile is not enough, I turn to Valerian and Prickly Lettuce.

Dandelion

Dandelion Root is a gentle alterative, enhancing the function of  the body’s systems of metabolism and elimination including the liver, gallbladder and skin.  These systems can be taxed during pregnancy with the added maternal weight gain, increased blood volume, increased caloric intake and elimination of the baby’s waste products via the mother. Dandelion is a near specific for PUPPS rash, a painful, itchy rash that effects about 1 in 150 pregnancies and tends to come on near the end of pregnancy or even postpartum.  Dandelion can be taken as a tea or a tincture. Dandelion is especially useful when combined with flax seed oil(not the seed or seed meal, although these are healthy and a good source of fiber).  Why not try non-toxic Dandelion before turning to steroid creams? I’ve also used Dandelion Root tincture with success for clients who have had other itchy conditions or rashes, gallbladder attacks or gallstones, inflamed sinuses, seasonal allergies and oral thrush and burning mouth syndrome.  It is an excellent, safe, nutritive detoxifying remedy with broad applications.

dandelion

Yarrow

Yarrow is one of my favorite remedy for postpartum hemorrhage.  When bleeding is excessive but not so excessive that it automatically requires a pharmaceutical, I usually reach for Yarrow and Shepherd’s Purse and put a squirt of each directly in a woman’s mouth. Yarrow is one of Western herbalism’s great hemostatics and has long been used for bleeding from all types of wounds, menstrual flooding, bleeding from the bowel, nosebleeds, in addition to postpartum hemorrhage.  As a great blood mover it is also a good remedy for bruising and varicosities. I favor it topically for these applications.  Yarrow is a good addition to a sitz bath during the postpartum to help heal perineal skid marks of tears and ease bruised and swollen tissues. As an infused oil it can be applied topically to hemorrhoids to tone the distended vein and improve circulatory return.

yarrow close up

The Colic/Galactogogue  Carminitives: Fennel, Anise, Dill Seed, etc.

These aromatic, volatile-oil rich seeds pack a lot of power in a tiny package.  I also find it to be an elegant and efficient design or accident, depending on your perspective, that the same seed remedies that are helpful for infant colic also increase breast milk production. These tasty little seeds can be used by both mother and baby. For babies with uncomfortable gas, make a weak tea of the seed or seeds of your choice.  Start with a scant teaspoon of seeds. Crush them lightly with a mortar and pestle.  Cover them with boiling water and put a saucer on top of the tea cup or a lid on the glass jar to keep the volatile oils from escaping into the air, borne on steam.  Let the tea cool and give 1 teaspoon to a tablespoon of lukewarm tea at a time.  This is essentially homemade gripe water, without the preservatives and for a fraction of the cost. You can store the tea in the fridge for up to 3 days using as needed. Fennel, Anise, Dill and a few other seeds in this family also have a reputation for helping to increase the supply of breastmilk.  Anise and Fennel are ingredient’s in geneabirth’s Mother’s Milk Tea blend that our clients pick up from us.  You can drink these teas solo or in combination with other galactogogues for a nurturing self-care practice and as an aid to build your supply during the postpartum period. They have the added benefit of tasting great!

Fenugreek

Western herbal medicine has a rich tradition of galactogogues used to enhance nursing and milk supply.  Fenugreek is among the most powerful and effective of these remedies. Women find that it enhances the let down, making it quicker and stronger, in addition to increasing the supply. Fenugreek can be taken as a tincture, tea or in capsules.  Effective doses of this very safe herba are quite high and a common rule of thumb is to take it until your sweat smells like maple syrup. Fenugreek is also a good hypoglycemic agent and can be helpful for women with mild gestational diabetes in conjunction with appropriate dietary changes. In some parts of Asia and Northern Africa, Fenugreek is and has been used to promote a smooth birth.  It’s not clear to me from my research if it used somewhat in the way we use Raspberry Leaf or if it is more strongly oxytocic. For that reason I only recommend it during pregnancy in larger doses for blood sugar control from the 36th week onwards. Prior to that, I recommend Cinnamon.

Goldenseal

The broad-spectrum anti-microbial can’t be beat. I use Goldenseal sparingly due to concerns about overharvesting and the sustainability of the plant communities. This is one of the only herbs I use or recommend that I don’t grow myself or wildcraft.  I buy and encourage my clients to buy cultivated, organic Goldenseal rather than wildcrafted.  Goldenseal powder applied to the baby’s umbilicus stump dries it very, very quickly and prevents infection. Many families who have done nothing to the cord with previous babies, remark on how quickly the cord dries with the application of Goldenseal and how clean and non-goopy it is by comparison.  Goldenseal is also fantastic for thrush/yeast diaper rash. These awful rashes are characterized by inflamed looking lesions and plagues in the diaper area and often there are satellite lesions as the rash spreads. I recommend mixing Goldenseal powder into a high quality Calendula and zinc oxide diaper rash cream like Weleda or Burt’s Bees or some other brand and applying liberally to the baby’s bottom.  I also find Goldenseal useful for maternal vaginal infections including yeast, thrichomoniasis, BV and GBS.  Gelatin capsules filled with Goldenseal can be inserted vaginally.  It is important that the capsul is gelatin, which melts at body temperature, not vegetable cellulose which does not melt when inserted.  Sometimes I make suppositories for my clients which incorporate Goldenseal along with infused herbal oils, essential oils, coconut oil and cocoa butter to treat more intractable infections.

There are so many fine herbs that can be used for pregnancy discomforts. It’s hard to keep the list focused on just a few.   Here’s to a happy, healthy, natural pregnancy!

 

geneabirth Community Mother Blessing–Spring 2017

mother blessing 2017

 

Join us in celebration and fellowship at our community Mother Blessing.  A Mother Blessing is an alternative to a baby shower, an event to mark the passage a woman makes to motherhood for the first time or each subsequent time she adds a new life to her family.

All women are welcome…pregnant, postpartum, doula or other birthworkers or any women or mothers who want to offer support, enjoy one another’s company and bask in the warm, loving birthy glow.

We will  honor the mothers who came before us, sing, pamper our mothers-to-be and other guests with henna, foot rubs and shoulder massages, weave a web of support and end it all sharing a delicious meal together.

Babes in arms welcome.  Please make alternative arrangements for older babies, toddlers and children.

Please bring a potluck item to share. Sparkly non-alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, a celebratory cake  and gluten-free treat will be provided.

Text your RSVP to   Erin at e 612-508-0584 or email me at midwife.erin@outlook.com

Little Ones Valentine’s Party and Mother’s Tea

 

What are you and your littles doing on Valentine’s Day? Stop by geneabirth for a cup of tea and something special for your little ones. Bring a friend! Everyone is welcome.

valentine's day

Tuesday, Feburary 14th 2016

9:30 am-Noon

851 Dayton Avenue, Saint Paul 55104

Upper Level 

We will have a special toddler/preschool friendly Valentine’s Day  craft and goodies.

We have tea and coffee, comfy places to sit, lots of and toys for the little ones. We’ll have some yummy snacks to share. Potluck snacks are encouraged, but don’t worry if you are not able to bring a snack, just bring yourself and your kids).  If you baby is too small for crafts and party activities, join us anyway for a cup of tea and some conversation

This event  is open to the whole community. You do not need to be a geneabirth client to come.

We hope to see you there!

Finley Rae’s Birth Story

Julia has graciously shared her birth story and her beautiful photos and fun labor selfies with us.  Julia and Isaiah are passionate about fitness and this story starts with a workout that would challenge most of us when we’re not pregnant!  I will always remember this birth–Julia eased her baby out so gently and almost in perfect slow motion and little Finley’s eyes were open looking around her new world during the moments of her emergence.  It was gorgeous and glorious.  –Erin

Finley Rae Crevier’s Birth Story

We knew it was “possible” to get pregnant on our wedding night, but we didn’t actually think we would get that lucky on the first try! We found out we were pregnant the day after arriving home from our honeymoon in Italy just 13 days later. Throughout the entire pregnancy we both had a strong feeling we were having a little boy, but we received a BIG surprise when little miss Finley Rae arrived on May 21st; 6 days past her “due date”.

We were pretty pumped about her late arrival because the weekend she was due, Isaiah was stuck in part 4 chiropractic board exams (an ALL DAY event under security where no one is allowed to leave) &, to be honest, I had procrastinated finishing up my “pre-baby to do” list until just days before her actual arrival.

A huge goal of mine was to continue staying as active and fit as possible though out my pregnancy. I was, after all, training for the most important workout of my life.. BIRTH! It was Friday evening when Isaiah and I decided to go to the gym for a workout. Granted it was already 7:30 pm, this hungry mama hadn’t eaten dinner yet and wasn’t super thrilled by the idea, but I ate a little snack and we walked the half mile to his school gym hoping a good workout might kickstart labor. I remember doing rowing intervals, kettlebell swings and weighted box step ups thinking, “if this doesn’t help get this baby out, i don’t know what will!”

prelabor workout selfie

Kidding.. But really. It had to have helped right?

After our workout we walked a longer loop back home from the gym and got me adjusted before having two of our best friends over to hang out. By this time it was about 9 o’clock, I was still feeling normal, but I had an inkling that baby was coming real soon. Around 10:30 I noticed the smallest hint of a cramping feeling in my stomach. As someone who didn’t notice braxton hicks contractions during pregnancy, I was becoming more certain that this small pinching in my tummy meant the baby really was coming soon! I remember having a conversation with Isaiah about thinking I was going to go into labor during the night while our dear friend/cousin Bridgette was planning to spend the night at our place that evening. Always wanting to be a good host, I was more worried about disturbing her peaceful snooze on our couch with my frequent nightly potty breaks than about going into labor myself! Isaiah assured me it would be fine, so we eventually decided to just go with it.

last bumpie

We went to bed around 12:30 am, but I was soon up again at 2:30 with a pain in my low back. I made my routine nightly trip to the bathroom (hello, baby squashing my poor bladder over here!) while trying to remember Sarah and Erin’s stern advice to try not to get too excited that labor was beginning so I would be able to get adequate rest while I was still able to. I noticed a mucousy pink substance when I went to the bathroom so of course I had to google “mucous plug” to confirm my suspicions. Contractions came every 9-10 minutes and lasted for 1.5 minutes at a time until about 4:15 am when they sped to 8-9 minutes apart. I stayed in bed trying to rest between contractions, but don’t remember if I ever actually fell back asleep between them or not. The contractions were upsetting my tummy so I felt like I was getting up every other one to go to the bathroom or to move around to ease the pain. Isaiah would roll over occasionally to put his hand on my tummy and check on me. Around 4:30 I got up and had a banana and a long hot shower because I was starving and what better way to pass some time than to bask in the goodness of a toasty hot shower. Hot showers had been my (not so guilty) pleasure during pregnancy and was the perfect thing to easy my contractions and prep me for the labor to come.

Around 7 am Isaiah & Bridgette got up and had coffee. I drank a huge glass of water & ate a perfect bar. We turned on my Bethel Music worship playlist, dimmed the lights & started diffusing calming oils though out the apartment. By this point the contractions were getting more uncomfortable where I would wince and not want to chat much during them anymore.. But between each one I felt great; still up and about like normal.

I soon realized I had forgotten to purchase a VERY IMPORTANT item off of my supply list.. Big comfy post partum undies. Any mama who’s had a baby knows how essential this item is.. Of course, Sarah and Erin had actually told me to buy depends because they’d be comfy/easy afterwards, but being the diva (not) that I am, I wanted to do post Partum pads + undies, but I had forgotten to buy 1 of the 2 essentials to bring my plan into fruition

Like I said, I was still feeling pretty bomb between contractions & I remembered reading numerous times in Ina May’s books that going for a walk in early labor was a good way to kick start things, etc. So I was dead set on walking the quarter mile or so over to target myself to get undies. Thankfully Isaiah was all the wiser and forbid it. He said we could go for a walk, but that Bridgette and Philip could pick some up or my mama could on her way up from Iowa. So alas, I reluctantly settled for letting them tend to my needs and we went down to the parking lot for a mini stroll around 8:30.

My contractions were quickly sneaking closer and closer together because we didn’t even make it down a row and back in our parking lot without me having 2-3 contractions. By now I had to stop walking and would close my eyes & sway during them, telling Isaiah, “just give me a second” until I was able to walk again. Thankfully no cars were pulling out/driving thru because during the cx’s I was moving for no one! 😂

back-labor

All of my labor was taking place in my low back, which to me wasn’t surprising because I have always experienced menstrual cramps worse in my low back, as well. So we expected that I might labor this way. We eventually made it back up to our apartment and decided it was time to get the tub put together only to realize we were missing an essential rod piece that held the outer shell together! Isaiah gave Erin a call and thankfully she quickly found the missing piece and said Sarah would drop it off/come check on me as well after she made a quick run to target.

Around 9:30 or 10 was when the mini panic of “when did you say Sarah and Erin were going to be showing up?!” began to kick in. The contractions were getting real intense, lasting 2.5 minutes a piece and just 5 or so minutes apart. I remember doubting if I was timing the contractions correctly because they were nearing together so quickly. In the 2nd trimester I had read that expecting mama’s who ate 6 dates a day for the last 6 weeks of pregnancy showed to have quicker 1st stages of labor, in addition to other awesome benefits.. So I had religiously eaten my 6 dates a day with high hopes, but even I didn’t expect for things to progress quite as quickly as they we

Sarah eventually made her way over, allowing us to get the tub filled up & boy was I ready. Anything to help ease those pesky contractions. Sarah felt baby’s position and checked the heartbeat. Everything was in perfect order so I dropped my drawers and hoped in the tub. The warm water was calming and helped to cut a little of the intensity of contractions.

sarah-palpates

The point from getting into the tub to beginning to push is a bit of a blur. I remember sitting on my knees in the tub and feeling great until a new contraction would come on. Bless Sarah’s heart, she was a God send early on showing Isaiah how to best help ease my back labor during cx’s. As one would come on, she would press firmly on my hips/low back as I would slowly try to sway away the pain. Isaiah soon took over that job, and since all of my labor was in my low back and tailbone I appreciated any help I could get!

smiling-in-birth-tub

I do remember Isaiah offering me a frozen peanut butter filled date soon after hopping in the tub. Never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but the peanut butter made me gag! That was the only moment that I thought I might throw up.

After awhile of chilling in the warm tub, they asked me if I might want to try to go potty as a full bladder and pushing out a baby don’t really work hand in hand.. So with a helping hand I swung one leg then the other over the top of the tub and strolled to the bathroom. FYI, it’s not easy to maneuver your legs at this point when you’ve essentially got a watermelon slowly sliding down in your abdomen and putting pressure on your pelvis! But we made it work.

I was still sitting on the toilet after peeing and Erin told me that on my next contraction I would likely feel the urge to push and it was okay to give into that urge. Boy was she right! I remember that first pushing contraction very clearly. Not only the forceful power of the female body, but the physical movement of the baby sliding lower into the birth canal and the intense pressure down below. Ugh.. My poor, poor tailbone. If you have intense back labor like I, God bless you. I don’t think any labor is for the faint of heart, but man.. That back labor is on another level. Don’t let that scare you tho! It’s so 100% worth it and the baby DOES eventually come out. Pain is temporary and, let’s be real, it’s called LABOR for a reason. Those first pushing contractions can be a little scary in that they feel completely new and it’s easy to want to fight the “fire” feeling going on down below, but things move along so much smoother, I learned, if you give into that burning pushing sensation. Each surge is bringing you closer to meeting your little bundle of love!

Now, I had remembered reading stories of women who pushed on the toilet, had babies over the toilet or a similar type chair. Valiant and wonderful birth stories, sure.. But not quite what I envisioned for myself so after a contraction or 2 more we made our way back to the tub. Pushing contractions were much more taxing than the “pre-transition” contractions. So most of the time between I spent floating around with my eyes closed taking deep breaths and praying our little nugget would make his/her way into the world safe and SOON.

Time went by with little progress. My pushing contractions were only lasting a short 25 seconds, so I had to make the most of each contraction. Sarah and Erin were making position change suggestions to see if that might help move things along. Though baby felt like she was in a good position, we wondered if she might be stuck on one of my hips so I was recommended to try putting one foot forward flat on the bottom of the tub with my other knee down and back in a “runners lunge” pose. Ya’ll, I thought they were crazy! I had so much pressure in my poor bum & was feeling crampy in my legs, the last thing I wanted to try and do was scissor split my legs!

Alas, we decided to transition out of the tub to try something new. We eventually got me down in the runners lunge pose as I leaned my upper body on my big exercise ball for support. I pushed through a couple contractions on one side, then swapped legs and did the same on the other. I had made some definite progress by now, but I still couldn’t manage to push her out.

My water had yet to release by this point, but they could see the membranes bulging each time I pushed. Sorry (not sorry) if that’s TMI for ya’ll, this is a birth story after all! With my permission Erin gave the water bag a good pinch to help break the membranes.

Ahh, a mild relief of pressure. Come on baby!

I don’t remember who suggested it, as my mind was kind of a blur at this point, but they had me transition from the ball/runners pose down onto my back next to the tub. Now.. if you have had a home birth or know anything about home birth, the last thing you might picture is a mama laying down on her back giving birth. But that’s exactly what happened.

Once on my back I got to actually see the progress I was making with a mirror, as the top of a head was clearly visible. A few pushing contractions later and out came the head (hallelujah, sweet relief!) with curiously alert eyes wide open & lots of dark brown hair.. Along with the head was a tiny little left arm wrapped across the chest/neck and over a tiny little shoulder.

Psh.. no wonder she was so hard to push out!!

Another big push and out she came! We had no idea if we were having a girl or boy.. the whole pregnancy I said we were having a boy, until we got to about a week from her due date and I “just had a feeling” it was going to be a girl. Mama always knows. 😍 (or maybe I just really wanted to use the girl name we had picked out.. It’s hard to say.)

whole-family

Sweet Finley Rae was born at 2:20ish on May 21, 2016 in our apartment living room.. on the floor.. next to the birthing tub.. & it was perfect. She had the tiniest & shortest little umbilical cord so she had to lay on my low belly in those first moments while we waited for the placenta.

thumbs-up

Mamas.. Those first sweet moments with your baby are the best. So many emotions and so much adrenaline, it was hard to take it in. But wow, the power God put within women to grow another human and give birth naturally is truly amazing and what an honor it is to experience it personally. All thoughts of the pain and endurance it took to deliver your baby are instantly GONE when you hear those first couple cries as your baby fills their lungs with air.

I don’t know if it was the adrenaline, all of the working out I did during pregnancy or the fact I no longer felt like I had a bowling ball trying to bust out of my backside.. but when they asked if I wanted to go lay down with Fin in my bed I popped right up off the floor and started strolling that way like nothing had happened. Let me tell you though, one of the biggest blessings of having a home birth was getting to snuggle up with my new bundle of love in my very own bed & being in the comfort of my own surroundings. There really is no place like home and though we no longer live in that apartment, it will always hold the sweet memory in my heart of where our family of 2 became a family of 3.

baby-girl

cord-cutting family-2 tiny-placenta

 

Anticipation, Surprise, Swift, Emotional, Beautiful, Blessed: The Birth of Miles Hartley

One of our summer birthing mamas has written her birth story and has graciously shared it with us and the world.  Her beautiful story involves lots of preparation and support, grappling with the unknowable nature of childbirth, a gentle and ample pre-labor, a swift active labor and pushing stage, a sibling at birth and a bit of an unexpected urgency at the end.

Anticipation, Surprise, Swift, Emotional, Beautiful, Blessed.  There are so many more words, but these are the most prominent that come to mind when I reflect on our birth time Miles Hartley.  You took us on an amazing ride and I will forever be grateful that we walked this journey together.

homebirth birth tub

As much as I wanted you to come into this world much before your due date, I tried to remind myself that it was not up to me, but that YOU would choose the perfect time to come meet everyone that was waiting for you.  My pregnancy with you was filled with so much anticipation and I found it harder to control as your guess date drew near.  I felt anticipation about whether you were going to be a boy or a girl; anticipation about how it would feel to meet you for the first time since I had not had nearly the amount of time to spiritually connect with you during this pregnancy; anticipation about the connection you and Averee have had and will have in your life together as siblings; most of all, there was anticipation about what our birth time would be like, knowing that it was undoubtedly going to be so much different from Averee’s birth but unsure of what that meant.  My anticipation was so strong that I decided on Tuesday morning I needed to go for a long walk with Cece and the girls around Lake Harriet to try to encourage gravity to get you moving to the outside world!  Contractions came along but nothing that made me think you were on your way anytime soon.  Little did I know…

I was slightly surprised to wake up in the wee hours of the morning on June 8th 2016 (around 1:00am) to a tiny hint of what seemed to be “pre-labor” contractions.  The tightening feeling of the Braxton Hicks contractions that I had felt during most of the pregnancy now had a little bit of a sting to them.  All I had to do was concentrate a little harder on breathing through them.  That part was a familiar feeling to what I experienced before but the only place on my belly that I felt the pressure of the contraction was in the lower part of my uterus, not my entire belly.  The duration and frequency of the contractions was very irregular (ranging anywhere from 3-12 min, and lasting 30-60 seconds) which is why I knew that true labor had not begun, but I was still a little surprised to think that maybe you could actually be a “due date baby”.  I told Papa what I was feeling but that I thought he should go to work and I would touch base with him later in the morning after I had the chance to speak with the midwives.  The minute he left the house at 5:30, Averee woke up but wasn’t ready to get out of bed.  I went to her room to lay down with her so that we could both get a little more rest.  It seemed as though you knew that I needed to focus my attention on your sister and you politely waited your turn, sweet boy.  At that time my contractions slowed drastically coming every 30-60 min instead of every couple and the intensity of them decreased as well.  Even though I wanted to kick things into gear, the gentle break to let my body and mind process everything that was about to change, was a welcomed gesture.  Thank you little man!

It is hard to explain what I felt as the rest of the day went on because it went by so quickly.  Chloe came over with Eden to play with Averee and take my mind off of everything I was feeling.  Contractions stayed mild and infrequent for the rest of the morning and afternoon, however right before Chloe showed up at 10:00 I had some bloody show when I went to the bathroom.  When they left, I decided to take a nap with Averee.  After Papa got home from work and Averee woke up from nap, I continued to rest on the couch.  Papa decided to take Averee to the park and give me some more time to relax.  Yaya and Farfar brought dinner over  so that I didn’t have to cook.  Starting around 4:30 things picked back up.  The intensity of the contractions got stronger again and from here on out they were 4-6 min apart.  At about 5:30 I let me midwives know that frequency of the contractions seemed to pick up again but no change in the intensity or anything else that I was feeling.  They told me they were all set to come over, and to keep them posted with the next change I felt.  I had more bloody show and mucous discharge right before 6:00.  My conversation with Sarah basically ended with any other change I feel to let them know right away and they would be over.  We made it through dinner with Yaya and Farfar and over the next couple of hours things stayed regular.  I could continue carry on conversation and move about between contractions, but I did not have much of an appetite.  As soon as Yaya and Farfar left around 8:00pm, Papa started getting Averee ready for bed.  We could tell that labor was definitely in motion so as Papa finished putting Averee to bed, I started getting the house ready for birth.  We needed to get our bed ready with plastic sheets, get all the birth supplies out, get the birth tub set up, etc.  Then I decided it was necessary to take a shower since I may not get another one for a little while.  I got in the shower about 9:00pm, and that was the key to getting things in motion.  From there on out, things moved so swiftly that I never had the time to process the physical sensations I felt, the emotions within me, or the fact that I was SO close to meeting you.  When I got out of the shower I was feeling a lot more pressure in my bottom.  I had a brief moment of “I got this, I don’t need to call the midwives yet.”  Then you must have spoken to me and with the next contraction my mindset changed.  I called Sarah at 9:24pm, and at the end of our 2:30 min conversation and listening through two contractions, she said, “I’m on my way!”

Even after Sarah said she was coming over, I was still in denial that things were actually moving quickly.  Her urgency made me think that I should at least let the rest of my birth team know that things “seemed” to be picking up if they wanted to head over.  Thank goodness I put those calls in right away.  Everyone was at our place by 10:30.  I continued to labor walking around the house and leaning on various surfaces while someone helped me through the contraction.  EVERYONE was still helping getting things set up.  There wasn’t much laughing or conversation or music.  We were all just focused.  I guess everyone could sense the urgency.  At about 11:00 Chloe suggested we change up the position.  She grabbed Averee’s step stool  and suggested I get a leg up and lunge into each contraction to try to get my pelvis open.  This was another game changer!  I think after two contractions like this Sarah suggested we get a chux pad under me because she was sure my water was going to break.  No sooner did they get that settled that my next contraction broke my water (about 11:10pm).  Surprise!  Things keep moving in the direction of birth yet I was still reluctant to believe that it would happen so quickly.  The midwives suggested that I get into the tub, but I was apprehensive remembering how much it slowed me down during Averee’s birth time.  I did however want to get in the shower to rinse off the two drops of amniotic fluid from my water breaking.  I think everyone was laughing at me in their heads because they all knew how imminent birth was.  But they let me do as I wish.  Into the shower I went to wash my legs off and have another couple contractions.

The next thing I knew, I was standing at the bathroom sink.  I glanced at the clock in the living room taking note of the time (11:15pm) and trying to figure out what my next move was.  While I continued to labor in the bathroom, Sarah and Erin were getting set with birth supplies in the bathtub.  My next contraction came and I could feel a ton of pressure in my bottom and felt like I kind of pushed with it.  I turned around and saw all the supplies in the bathroom and said something along the lines of “I feel like I’m pushing.”  Their response was, “Yep, you’re having a baby.”  I replied, “I’m not doing that here. I need to get in the tub and someone needs to get Averee up.”

Getting to the tub was a difficult task feeling so much pressure in my bottom, so it was good I made the move then.  As soon as I got into the tub, I sunk down into the water, closed my eyes and began to focus on every contraction and opening further for you to come out.  I heard Papa bring Averee into the room a few minutes later.  I asked her to give me a hug and kiss, and I know you felt that love too.  She was so calm and continued to repeat encouraging words.  She stood with Papa and kept careful watch through the next couple contractions, then the midwives asked, “who is catching this baby?”  Papa wanted to catch if Averee would let him so she sat and cuddled with Grandma, and Papa moved behind the tub.  Sarah checked heart tones during the next contraction and said that they were a bit low and I needed to give every ounce of energy on my next contraction to get your head out. 

At that moment, I opened my eyes and felt the beauty of the moment.  I saw Lisa in front of me holding my hands.  She gave me a smile and said “you’re doing it mama, you’re going to meet your baby.”  I had a beautiful flashback to 6 months ago when we were opposite each other in the very same moment before she gathered all her strength to birth MacKenzie.  I continued to look about the room and saw Averee cuddling with Grandma (who seemed to have the slightest tear in her eye) and felt blessed that my mother and daughter were going to witness your birth.  Then my focus went to the wall that had our family pictures hanging and a bunch of the birth art I had made with positive imagery.  I had another flashback to my blessing way when many of my friends gathered in this exact space to provide their energy, support and prayers for our birth time.  I could feel their energy and the energy of everyone in the room at that time and I took that beautiful feeling, retreated inward, closed my eyes, and with the next contraction pushed with every ounce of energy I had. 

Your birth was so much more intense than I remember it being with Averee.  I think it was due to the fact that it was happening so quickly so there was so much more sensation and emotion to process at every moment.  As I felt that one last contraction, I pushed with all my might.  I could feel your head come out and I didn’t stop there.  I wanted to meet you.  I continued to send my energy to you and could feel your body slip out and into the water.  Papa caught you and fed you through my legs and I brought you out of the water.  I saw and announced immediately that you were a boy and lifted myself up off my bottom and showed you to Averee and Grandma.  Averee said, “Mama, there’s the baby! You push it out of your belly!”  She totally got it and it was such a beautiful feeling for her to witness your entrance into the world.  Our family is complete, and I feel blessed.

As much as I wanted that to be the end of our birth story, you had one more surprise up your sleeve.  Moments after you came out, Erin noticed that your umbilical cord was not intact but had severed on the way out.  You were losing blood and looked quite ashy gray.  Erin grabbed the end of the cord and tried to pinch it off while Sarah grabbed the clamp.  Despite this scare, all the other measures of health on the APGAR rating were high, and your vitals were great.  They got you out of the water and skin to skin with Papa while Sarah helped me out of the water to try to deliver my placenta before I started to hemorrhage.  Thankfully she was able to find the end of the cord and help me get the placenta out.  As soon as I delivered it they got me comfortably in bed so we could snuggle, keep you warm and monitor your color coming back.  You pinked up rather quickly considering what the outcome could have been.  Your oxygen levels were perfect too.  After that kind of scare, we were all thankful that you handled it so well, took right to the breast and have continued to be a perfect little addition to our family.  We are so in love with you Miles Hartley!  Welcome to the world, sweet boy.