Kristen, Desmond, Penelope, and Anish

Kristen, Desmond, Penelope, and Anish

Desmond Ira was born on February 19, 2016, at 8:28 am.  He was 7 pounds 9.7 ounces and 19.25 inches long.  

Desmond is our family’s second blessing.  Our first blessing, Penelope Rae, was born August 24, 2012, in Safford, Arizona.  Safford was the closest town with a hospital from where we lived in Morenci, Arizona, which was an hour away.  Needless to say, we did not have a lot of resources such as doulas, midwives, etc.  In fact, there was only one OB/GYN to “choose” from in Safford.  Penelope’s birth did not go as planned, and I really felt as though I did not have a voice or the support I needed for a low intervention birth that I was hoping to experience.  I was induced at 39 weeks, and after 22 hours of labor, an epidural, and 6 second and third degree tears, our beautiful girl was born.  When my husband and I learned we were expecting Desmond, I knew I wanted it to be different this time.  I wanted to explore every option out there, so I could have the birth experience I was longing for, and to help me heal from my first childbirth experience.  

At 20 weeks, we met with the doulas at MyBirth and immediately knew we were in the right place.  We were so excited to have the opportunity to work with Emily.  Throughout the remainder of my pregnancy, Emily was always there to help calm my fears – even when we made the decision to switch providers at 24 weeks.  We decided to work with the midwives at St. Francis, and could not have been happier about that decision! 

On the evening of Thursday, February 18, I came home from work and I was feeling very crampy.  I sat down on the couch, and apparently fell asleep sitting up while Anish made dinner and entertained Penelope.  All night long, the cramps continued, and made it difficult to fall back asleep after the many usual trips to the bathroom.  My alarm went off at 4am, and I immediately noticed I was having contractions every 7 to 9 minutes.  With Penelope, I started contracting a week before I was induced, so I always had in the back of my mind that this could be false labor.  I “did life” as Emily had suggested in our previous meetings.  I took a shower, shaved my legs, fixed my hair….in my mind, I was going to work!  Hah!  At 6am, my water broke and contractions were about 4 to 5 minutes apart.  So I finally felt like this was really happening today.  

I called the midwife at 7am, and she asked if I was ready to go in.  I still thought this was going to be an all-day affair, so I told her no.  She told me she would have Melanie, the midwife that was coming on-call in the next 5 minutes, to give me a call shortly.  In the meantime, I called Emily and told her that the contractions were getting closer, stronger and my water had broken.  I figured I would be at home for a while, and told her I would call her if things changed.  At this point, Anish was getting Penelope ready for school, and I was laboring in our bedroom with our dog, Sully, by my side. When Melanie called me, I had a contraction over the phone and we discussed how things were progressing.  She asked what the plan was, and I told her that my husband was going to take Penelope to preschool, and then come back home to be with me.  She quickly insisted that I go with him to the preschool, because she felt that it was a bad idea for me to be alone, even for 20 minutes.  I was not convinced, so she told me to discuss it with Anish, and call her back.  After talking it over with Anish, we decided that I would come with them to the preschool.  I slowly made it downstairs and into the garage.  As I went to get in the van, I felt the urge to push, and immediately knew that our plans had changed.  I told him to forget about preschool, we needed to go to the hospital now.  I texted Melanie and Emily, and we all rushed to St. Francis as quickly as we could!

The 10-minute drive to the hospital was the longest drive of my life! The contractions were right on top of each other, and every sudden movement in the car took my breath away.  When we arrived at the hospital, the three of us left the van at the valet.  The valet quickly began yelling at Anish that he could not just leave the car there.  So I told Anish to deal with that, but I had to go.  A lovely woman who worked at the hospital, asked me where I needed to go and got me a wheel chair.  I checked in to labor and delivery at 8am.  Once in the delivery room, the nurse instructed me to just relax and stay with my breath.  I insisted that I needed to push, but I don’t think she believed me.  She finally checked me, and I was fully complete.  

First came in the on-call OB/GYN for the hospital, then 5 minutes later Dr. Miller from the St. Francis Women’s Center came in.  They quickly got me on my back, in the bed, trying to push.  I hated this position.  This was the position I had Penelope in, and I was terrified I would end up going through the same tearing process I had experienced before.  Anish was busy comforting Penelope, and trying to keep her preoccupied.  So when Emily walked in, I finally felt at ease.  She knew I did not want to be on my back, so she quickly suggested we try to get on my side or on my hands and knees.  I told her I did not think I could move at this point, and she reassured me that I could do it.  Once on my side, Melanie walked in, and it felt so good to have my entire support group there!  I remember clutching on to the side of the bed through each contraction, and hearing Emily in my ear telling me to listen to Melanie.  They were both the support and comfort I needed to ease Desmond out.  Only 28 minutes had gone by since we checked in to labor and delivery, and our sweet baby boy was finally in our arms!  The entire experience was so surreal, and we feel so blessed to have had Emily and Melanie there by our sides for the journey!

Briget & Emmett

Briget & Emmett

My due date was April 1, which came and went without even an April Fools’ joke from the baby about pretending to start labor. 41 weeks passed too, and I started worrying if I’d have to be induced. Our plan was to have as natural a birth as possible so I was really hoping the baby would come on his own. Emily Bruno, our doula promised me that labor would start when the time was right, and as much as I tried to believe her, my doubt increased with each day. Plus, my dad had booked a flight a long time ago and was arriving soon. I really was not looking forward to laboring at home with him lurking and worrying nearby!

On Monday, April 11 (ten days after my due date), I went to see my doctor, who performed a membrane sweep in hopes of stimulating the hormones that initiate labor. The rest of the day, I felt pretty crampy, and when I woke the next morning (April 12) I realized that my abdomen felt hard when the cramps intensified—I was having contractions! I was so relieved my husband and I sang and danced around the house! We tried to nap as we knew we should, but we were too excited, so we watched TV and went for a short walk around the neighborhood.

After eating a light lunch, all I wanted to do was lie on the bed in polar bear pose. The contractions became more intense and closer together, and I went through a series of the Miles Circuit. Around 3 pm, my dad arrived at our house, but thankfully I thought he came to get our car and make himself scarce. Little did I know, he was hanging out in our den worrying and googling home births, thinking he would need to deliver the baby himself!

When Emily arrived at our house around 4 pm, we agreed that it was about time to go to the hospital. The ride to St. Mary’s was rough. I clung to that handle above the door as if it were made for labor. I remember looking at people in the passing cars and thinking about how crazy it is that this is how we all come into the world—through such love and such pain.

When I got to labor and delivery, they checked me and I was 6 cm dilated and fully effaced. I labored on the bed for a while and then stood and leaned against pillows on the bed. It was then, around 7 pm or so, that my water broke. And it wasn’t just a little spill. It was like a dam had been opened and a waterfall was crashing into the room, hitting the floor with such force that the whole room was wet!

After that I labored in the tub, which felt amazing, until sometime after 10 pm when it became time to push. It took a while to effectively push. I hadn’t anticipated how I would have to learn how and where to visualize pushing. But an hour and a half or so of good pushing, the nurse checked me again and there was a little lip of the cervix in front of the baby’s head, which may or may not have been blocking movement. Thankfully changing labor positions cleared that bit of cervix and I continued pushing. And pushing. I called on my yoga and meditation practice to channel my breath and grunts and force my body to fully relax between contractions, which was so hard to do.

Eventually, between 3-4 hours of pushing, at 2:20 am (April 13) I gave one final strong, burning push and out slipped our beautiful baby boy: John Emmett Sweeney, whom we’re calling Emmett. It was the most amazing, crazy, surreal experience ever to grab his flailing, wailing body and press him to me. He was perfect!

I’m so grateful I had the kind of birth we had hoped for, but I couldn’t have done it without my husband Michael, who lovingly gave me sips of water between each contraction, and Emily our doula who was encouraging and confident the whole time. I’m also so thankful that my OB/GYN supported our birth plan and didn’t push unnecessary interventions. Giving birth was, without a doubt, one of the hardest and also most rewarding and most beautiful experience of my life.

The image on the right is Caiden holding the picture of the embryos we transferred during IVF - one of them is him!

Caiden Blair’s Birth Story - Laura and Charles - August 20th 3:25 AM

On Wednesday August 19th I woke up around 8AM feeling a little crampy.  I left to take the dogs for a 2-mile walk just like we did every morning.  When we got back home I was still having cramps (which was unusual because they would normally come and go away).  I started making my breakfast and called Charles to let him know about the cramps.  About 20 minutes later I went to the bathroom and had the bloody show.  I called Jenny to let her know and she said it was a good sign but keep living life as it could still be a few days before baby. Charles decided to come home even though I told him he didn’t need to as we might still be waiting a few days.  I ate breakfast, did some chores, and relaxed on the couch. 

By about 10AM I was having a lot more pain and texted Charles that I thought I was now having contractions instead of cramps.  He got home and we decided to run some errands since Jenny told us to “keep living life as normal.” I continued getting contractions in the car and they were getting progressively worse.  On the drive to Costco I started to think maybe errands were a bad idea and being in the car was getting more and more uncomfortable as I couldn’t get in a good position.  By the time we got to Costco I told Charles I couldn’t walk around the store so he ran in to get what we needed and I stayed in the car.  I had 3 contractions while I was waiting for him and they were getting pretty painful.  It felt like a long drive home but we finally made it back around 12:30 PM.  I called Jenny again to let her know my “bubble” was now confined to being home.  I had several contractions while on the phone with her.  She suggested we call the midwives to let them know.  I was supposed to have my 39-week appointment that day at 4PM but when we called they said to come in now to get checked.  I leaned over the front seat and the 8 minute car ride there felt really long, as contractions in the car were so uncomfortable. We found out Brenda was the one on call that day so she was the one checking me.  I got on my hands and knees during contractions while at their office.  When she checked me I was 4-5 cm. She was ready to admit me then but we hadn’t brought our hospital bags and told her we wanted to go back home to labor for a bit longer. We were supposed to call her by 5pm to check in. 

On our way out to the car I had a contraction in the parking lot and was leaning over Charles.  A lady walking by asked if we needed a wheelchair and told us we needed to get in the hospital because she thought I was in labor. She was rather shocked when we told her actually we were going back home. When we got home I tried to lean over the birth ball in our bedroom but was in more and more pain.  I started to feel like I was going to throw up with every contraction so I moved to the bathroom floor.  With every contraction I got on all fours and Charles gently stroked my back telling me to relax (and holding a trash can near by).  I started moaning through contractions and having a harder time.  Before long I told him I wanted Jenny to come over now to help us. He continued to work with me through each contraction before Jenny showed up.  When she got here she had me sit on the toilet to help open my pelvis.  This position was definitely more uncomfortable through contractions but I held onto Jenny’s knees and she reminded me that my body was working better in this position.  I started to lose all sense of time at this point.  Contractions were coming about every two minutes and they were very strong. Charles called Brenda to give her an update and at some point Jenny suggested that it was probably time to get to the hospital.  I got out to the car and Jenny tried to sit me in the front seat leaning over a pillow but I immediately had to get out and on all fours when a contraction started so that wasn’t going to work.  I ended up getting in the back seat and leaning over the car seat with two pillows.  I was just begging that I wouldn’t get many contractions on the way there and I ended up having 2 and moaning through them. 

From the car in the parking lot of the hospital walking into labor and delivery I had 3 contractions that brought me to the ground every time.  When we got back into our room they had to hook me up to the monitor for 20 minutes and Brenda checked me again.  I was now at 7 cm.  I heard them filling up the tub and I held onto someone during each contraction while sitting in bed.  After the monitoring was done I went into the tub and there was music playing, the lights were dark, and candles were lit.  The water felt good but I didn’t love the tub because I couldn’t hold onto anyone very well.  Charles sat right in front of the tub and I held his arm during each contraction.  Jenny kept refilling ice-cold washcloths and put them on my face, neck, and back because I was so hot.  She kept telling me how well I was doing and how I was making it look “easy.”   I don’t know how long it was but I got out of the tub and went on the toilet for a little while.  During one contraction we all heard my water break.  They had me get up so they could check the color of the fluid and I heard them say there was meconium which made me nervous.  I don’t remember exactly what she said but this was the first time I heard the midwife mention the word c-section.  She started to check the baby’s heart rate more frequently with a doppler but it seemed like he was okay.  I moved to the bathroom floor and every time I got a contraction I would go on my hands and knees and hold onto Charles.  Jenny continued to put cold washcloths on me because I was sweating (they later told me they were all shivering it was so cold in the room).  

After a while on the floor they told me I needed to stand up during contractions to have gravity help bring the baby down.  I got the feeling at this point that they wanted things to start moving quicker.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to stand up since contractions had been bringing me to the ground since they started.   I held onto Charles and needed him to stay in one very specific position during each contraction.  After I had been laboring for a while standing up I started to feel the urge to push. Over the next three hours I pushed in many different positions- standing up, on the squatting stool, leaning over a ball at the end of the bed.  Jenny coached me on how to push- closing my mouth and not making any noise (which was very difficult).  I kept asking the midwife if I was making any progress with the pushing.  They started to monitor the baby more closely and there were a few drops in his heart rate.  Around the three-hour mark of pushing they told me I was going to go into the traditional pushing position because I needed to make more progress.  The midwife mentioned a c-section again at this point and told me I needed to get him out.   She said she didn’t know why he wasn’t coming which made me nervous that something was wrong. I lay in the bed with Charles holding one leg and Jenny holding the other and pushed with all my might during each contraction.  I was so tired at this point but was focused on nothing other than getting my baby out. 

After four hours of pushing the midwife said we needed to have a talk about next steps.  She didn’t know why I wasn’t making any progress, the baby’s heart rate was starting to decrease during contractions, and the contractions were starting to space out in time.  I was exhausted and scared that something was wrong and had this feeling that he just wasn’t going to come.  They tried to have me not push during a contraction to see if that changed anything and that make the pain ten times worse.  The midwife was pushing for a c-section before it turned into an emergency c-section.  The anesthesiologist was in another c-section so we had some time to decide before he would even be able to get there.  Multiple nurses tried to get an IV in me since they thought I was dehydrated by no one could get a vein and they stuck me about 5 times trying.  Everyone left the room so Charles, Jenny, and me could talk about what to do.  The options were either c-section or get an epidural and see if relaxing my body would make him come down.  I would also probably need Pitocin once I got the epidural.  Charles wanted to try the epidural first but I just had this gut feeling that he wasn’t going to come vaginally and I ultimately decided on the c-section.  We still had to wait for the anesthesiologist to come in and when he finally did he was able to get an IV started. 

I continued to push (but not really push) while I got enough IV fluids and finally they came back to get me for the c-section.  I had to say goodbye to Charles and continued to have intense contractions on the way to the operating room.  I tried not to look around at everything too much when I was wheeled in.  I was already so nervous but more than ready to meet my baby boy.  The hardest part was sitting still and upright through contractions while getting the spinal.  I leaned over the midwife and moaned through each one.  Once the spinal tap was done it felt like forever as I lay on the table and waited for them to get everything set up.  I hated the feeling of not being able to feel my legs.  The midwife held my hand and I asked her to talk to me for distraction.  I remember asking over and over again if Charles would be able to come in soon.  Finally they had everything prepped and Charles came to sit behind my head.  I found the actual c-section to be really painful because of all the pulling and tugging and pressure.  I moaned through the discomfort.   The NICU doctor was there and we weren’t sure if baby boy was going to cry right away because of the meconium or if he would have to be taken straight to the NICU. 

At last I heard the most beautiful sound I have ever heard- a big loud scream from our precious baby boy.  I cried and cried when I heard him.  The surgeons asked if I was okay or if I was crying because I was happy.  We weren’t able to see him right away as the NICU doctor took him immediately to the warmer.  I heard a lot of suctioning sounds that I thought came from my surgery but found out later they were suctioning his lungs and had to pump his stomach because of the meconium.  The midwife went over and took a picture of him in the warmer and brought it over to show me.  He looked big in the picture and I thought he looked like my dad.  We were so surprised when they called out his weight- our little peanut was 6lb14oz and 18.5 inches long.  After a few minutes they brought him over to me and placed him on my chest.  When I first saw him I couldn’t believe how tiny and beautiful his little face was.  I was bawling when I saw him and kept saying over and over how beautiful and perfect he was.  He was crying but as soon as they put him on my chest he stopped crying and looked up at me.  It was like he recognized my voice.  His tiny little fingers immediately held tightly onto one of my fingers.  I was so deeply in love and couldn’t believe this little boy was actually mine.  I don’t remember anything else about the surgery (except asking if they were almost done) because we were just admiring our baby boy.  One of the surgeons came over to me and told me that he was total OP- OP plus had his chin straight up so he was trying to push the biggest part of his head out and that’s why he wouldn’t come.  This immediately made me feel better about the decision to have the c-section.  Eventually they moved me onto a different bed and we all went back to the room together.  Jenny was there waiting and she helped me get him latched on for his first feeding. The labor, the 4.5 hours of pushing, and all the pain I’ve experienced because of the c-section are all worth it for our miracle little boy and sometimes I still pinch myself that he’s finally here and all ours.

Update:  Shortly after birth we were told Caiden had Torticollis.  At about 3 months old we found out he actually has many birth defects in his spine/neck. The defects in his vertebra are actually the reason he can’t straighten his head/neck and this is probably the reason I couldn’t have a vaginal delivery.  It’s weird looking back because I had this instinctually feeling at the time of pushing that he wasn’t going to come and it turns out that was correct.

Mala and Mitch

Niam Mitchell Machado finally arrived at 41 weeks and 6 days on the evening of Feb 9, 2016. He was a whopping 8 lbs 13 oz and 20 inches long.

But let me start at the beginning. Our hopes going into this pregnancy were to have a healthy and positive experience and avoid any medical interventions. I felt like I was doing everything I could do to help make that happen – eating right, prenatal yoga, positions such as polar bear and squats at the recommendation of my doula, Jenny and my midwives, Jennifer, Melanie and Brenda. So, at 40 weeks when I was only 1cm dilated and70% effaced, I started to get a little anxious. At Jenny’s suggestion, I visited a chiropractor twice. While it felt nice, it had no effect on starting labor. I amped up the positioning and added a few more inversions...also with no effect. At 40 weeks and 5 days, I did experience some pretty serious cramps when leaving the movie theatre with my husband, Mitch. We called Jenny in excited anticipation but were disappointed when they went away and didn’t return.

Then at my 41 week appointment, I’d somehow regressed. I was still just 1 cm dilated, but just 50% effaced. Melanie tried a membrane sweep…and again, no effect. Just lots of pain…and that’s when I really freaked out. If I couldn’t handle a membrane sweep, how in the world would I make it through labor pains?! I no longer wanted to go through with any of it. Like that was really an option. I collected my wits and followed this up with two tries of a castor oil cocktail on Friday and Sunday….and guess what? Still no effect!! It was un-real. I realize now that my super power must be a super protective uterus.  I must ponder on how else I can utilize that power.

Anyway, it was Super Bowl Sunday when I was 41 weeks and 5 days. While watching the Super Bowl and bemoaning the fact that we had yet to meet our little mister, I finally felt some contractions…cautious excitement! But then they stopped after about 2 hours, just as mysteriously as they had started. The next day, with heavy heart, Mitch and I went back to see Melanie and I was somehow still only about 1.5cm dilated and 90% effaced. She had one more tool in her arsenal. She placed a Foley Catheter bulb into my cervix to see if we could manually dilate and trick my body into labor. And guess what didn’t work? Yup, the Foley
Catheter bulb.

This baby had to come out one way or another. So finally, Tuesday Feb 9 th , in the wee hours of the morning, we left for the hospital for an induction. By 7am, I was hooked up to monitors and the IV Pitocin. This was turning into what I’d feared the most. Even though Melanie’s shift ended that morning, she knew how apprehensive we were, and stuck around for support until afternoon.

We started off low and slow at 2 milli-units per hour and titrated up. I felt very minor contractions but nothing major. I had breakfast…and waited…I ordered lunch…and waited. My goodness, this baby really had no intention of coming yet! To pass time, I went for a walk around the unit with my mom. Around 1pm, when the Pitocin peaked at a tremendous 16 milli-units an hour, I finally started to feel the stirrings of stronger contractions.

Lunch arrived as my body finally realized that it was go-time! I had a light meal as my contractions picked up in strength and pace. My husband, the labor DJ, turned up our labor music and I used my breath and mantra to get through each one. Rocking in place or on the birthing ball helped a lot too. Soon the contractions became pretty intense and we called Jenny to join us for support. She arrived and gave me other positions to try. She also recommended getting me into a warm shower for some pain relief. 

Our midwife, Brenda, arrived and since I was in no condition to converse or interact, she also advocated for a warm shower to ease the pain. Sweet relief! I labored in the shower leaning on the birthing ball for support for maybe an hour or two. Now, I don’t normally take very long showers so this was a new experience for me. All I could think about when I wasn’t actively contracting was the tremendous waste! I kept mumbling about the water wastage. Brenda was nonplussed. The contractions soon became too much to bear so between that and my concern for the water waste, I got it into my head that an epidural might be a win-win situation. I started repeating questions like, “How far along am I?” and “How much longer is this going to take?”. I figured if someone could please just tell me, I’d be able to make an informed decision! But I wasn’t about to get out of the water, so there was no way to check me and no one else seemed concerned about the waste. So, I forged on.

Meanwhile, and I’m glad no one told me at the time, but sometime during the shower, water had filled the bathroom floor and actually flooded the hospital room!! The hubby and doula went on clean up patrol, along with the helpful hospital staff.

Ok, so back in my little universe in the shower, I decided it was time to start testing the waters about the epidural. Brenda’s response was to suggest I try sitting in a warm bath. This absolutely helped. I was able to get through another hour or two with the warmth of the water, breathing, and pushing against the walls of the bath tub. The contractions built and built until finally, I reached the next breaking point. This time, I was more direct. I supplicated for an epidural and my midwife, Brenda kept saying “just one more contraction, Mala, and we’ll check you” or “another 5 minutes” or “we need to turn up your fluids for at least a half hour before we can give you an epidural”. In the beginning, this would be enough. I’d say “OK” and continue trucking until finally, I stopped believing her. That’s when I started saying things to her, my nurse and my doula like “I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to delay me until it’s too late”, “This is not fair, I don’t want to do this anymore” and “After this, we are no longer friends!!” Finally, after Brenda said “just one more contraction” for what felt like the 50th time, I remember muttering “You’re full of S**t”. I was convinced that they were all conspiring against me.

Soon after this, they pulled me out and checked me. Honestly, I can barely remember this part so I’ve had to wait for Mitch to help me fill in this part of the timeline. I was 7 cm dilated and according to Brenda, our little guy’s head could be felt very easily. I kept laboring and maybe 30 minutes later, I turned to Mitch and expressed again how serious I was about getting this epidural. At this point they finally put the order in. With anesthesia on the way, I still didn’t believe them, so less than 10 minutes later, I said “Fine! Fine! You don’t want to give me narcotics?! Fine! Give me nitrous. Nitrous is fine. Its half-life is so short the baby won’t get any.” Side bar: I’m a pharmacist who’s anti-medication. Go figure.

Mitch knew how much I wanted a no-pain- medication birth. He knew how much we’d prepared so with the option of nitrous on the table, guess what he did? He made the executive decision to cancel the epidural order. GASP!! As a physician, I guess he knew what he was doing. Thankfully, I had no idea that this happened at the time, otherwise he might not have left the hospital with a wife. The nitrous came within 10 minutes and then I started to push. I don’t think nitrous did much to help with the pain, but it did help. Mostly because it reminded me to breathe…You can’t push if you’re screaming. It also took me to a slightly different place so I was able to crack jokes and babble about narcotics between pushes.

So, I pushed and pushed and I got on all fours and I pushed some more. Finally, at 6:55pm I pushed out this wonderful little man. It was over! I heard everyone cheer. Then I heard a little cry and they passed Niam up to me. I cradled him to my chest and Mitch embraced us both…we made this precious little person…Mitch was elated and supportive and all the wonderful things a husband and new father should be, but I’ll admit that all I could say as I tried to recover in that stunned stupor was “that was horrible...that was horrible”. I only know this because Jenny caught it on video. Hilarious. Thankfully she captured many moments during his delivery. 

I wish I could say that my world changed forever and that I fell in love the first time I laid eyes on Niam but I can’t. And that’s ok. I love him to death now. Obsessed, actually. And by the next day I was already talking about Niam’s future sibling.

Niam’s 4 weeks old now, weighs over 10 lbs, and is a super healthy, super strong little boy. Oh, and I’m still friends with my midwife and doula. <3

Mary & Frank: Lily's birth

Our baby’s due date was January 2nd, but we are very glad she arrived a few days late because my husband ended up having an emergency appendectomy that day! Instead, our sweet baby girl decided to make her appearance at 40 weeks and 6 days. Waiting was harder than I thought it would be, although I am grateful for the extra time because my husband had an opportunity to rest and recuperate before I went into labor.

On the morning of Thursday, January 7th I had a regularly scheduled prenatal appointment, which I was nervous about because I was worried that my cervix might still be shut like a steel trap. Instead, the doctor told me I was already 3 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. She then proceeded to sweep my membranes, assuring me that if my body was ready I could expect to go into labor in the near future.

I felt kind of crampy all day, but I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and a walk around Forest Hill Park with another pregnant friend of mine. But then as my husband and I were cooking dinner together around 7 pm, I knew something was up. I snacked on an apple, peanut butter and some cheese, figuring that I should probably store up some energy for the night ahead.

Before long, I began to settle in for labor.  I spent most of the time in our bedroom, which was quiet and dark except for the lights of our Christmas tree. What helped me most was breathing deeply and surrendering to the present moment (“Stay with your breath,” as Emily would say). As the contractions became more intense, I decided to sit on a yoga ball, resting my head on some pillows on our bed between contractions. My husband could also rub my back while I was in this position.

We called the midwife on-call, Stephanie Sherrell, and our doula, Emily Bruno, around 9 pm to let them know that I was definitely in labor. Emily arrived at our house around 11 pm, which really put me at ease. Before I knew it (time seemed to move so quickly at this point), it was 1 am and Emily gently suggested that we might think about making our way to the hospital.

The drive to VCU Medical Center wasn’t fun, but we made it to the hospital in just about fifteen minutes. Once we got settled into the labor and delivery room, I spent some time laboring on the bathroom toilet for awhile. When my groaning began to sound more like grunting,  Stephanie asked if she could checked my cervix. I was delighted to hear that I was at 9 centimeters!

Next, they filled the tub for me and I labored in the warm water for awhile. It was nice being able to relax and doze off a little between contractions. My husband kept his hands on my shoulders, and Emily also brought me some ice cold gatorade to drink, which might have been the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted.

At some point, my bag of waters broke, and I got out of the tub because there was some meconium in the water. Stephanie checked my cervix again, and I was completely dilated and ready to push.

I tried several different positions while pushing. I started on the bed, and then I moved to the birth stool. I felt a lot of pressure as the baby descended. It felt as though I might have a square-shaped concrete baby inside of me! Emily and Stephanie did a great job of coaching me through the pushing, and slowly I began to feel the baby come down. Eventually, Stephanie encouraged me to reach down and feel the baby’s head which was amazing!

As our baby’s birth became imminent, Stephanie suggested that for the final few pushes I move back onto the bed. I got on my hands and knees and eased our baby girl out and into the world.

Lily was born at 4:55 am on Friday, January 8th at 8 pounds, 3 ounces and 20 inches long. My husband and I could not be prouder parents. From start to finish, I had an amazing birth experience, and I’m incredibly grateful to the people who helped make Lily’s birthday so special.


Rebecca and James' Story:

My goal all along was to have as natural a birth as possible, but I was not opposed to an epidural if I needed it.   I had a one page birth plan that I put together following my birth education class with MyBirth and the help of my doula.   My doctor knew I was educated and was on board with my plan.   Above all, my health and the health of my baby were paramount.

Although I was hoping to avoid induction, at 40 weeks and 1 day, it was determined that I was pre-eclamptic.  This was not what I was hoping for, but I knew it was a possibility and focused on keeping my baby safe.  I was about 1/2 centimeter dilated and 60% effaced, so I knew there was a chance that induction would not be successful.   That said, I wanted to try it anyway in hopes of avoiding a c-section.  My doctor tried the balloon catheter, but I was not dilated enough to get it in.   Instead, we used Cervadil tape.   After about 12 hours with the tape, and about 4 hours with Pitocin, I was 2 centimeters dilated and my doctor was able to break my water, in hopes that this would put me into labor.   It was successful!   My labor started around 7:30 am and the contractions were intense (lasting 60-90 seconds and about 3 minutes apart) by noon.   My doula joined me in the hospital around noon.   I rode through those contractions on a birthing ball, getting mini massages and back scratches.   Around 2:30, I was exhausted and still only about 3 1/2 centimeters dilated.   I received an epidural and took a nap with my knees on a birthing peanut.   Around 5:30, I was 5 centimeters.    

Through this point, I was on monitors and knew that everything was normal.   My doctor and I had agreed that as long as my daughter and I were stable, there was no time table on my labor.  My doula's partner came by for reflexology and by 9 pm I was 10 centimeters and ready to push!

The last ultrasound had estimated my daughter at 8 1/2 pounds.   My husband does not have a small head, so I knew pushing may last awhile.   The epidural was shut off so that I could have as much control as possible.  With coaching from my husband and doula, I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed.   There were several times I was ready to give up and have a c-section, but my doula reminded me how much I was hoping to avoid surgery and that my baby and I were both handling things well.   My MyBirth classes really helped me understand what my body was doing and kept me calm!   Around midnight, the doctor (not mine as her shift was over) asked me about an episiodomy.   This was in my birth plan as something I wanted to avoid, so I didn't need to make a decision while in labor.   At 1:22, the most wonderful cries ever sounded, and my daughter was born.

While my birth was not what I would have scripted, I would not change any of the decisions I made.   I felt well educated, in control, and confident every step of the way.   I also never lost sight of what mattered most to me, my baby's health and mine.   My birth plan was followed and my doctor supported my goals fully.   My doula helped keep my husband and me focused.  I am incredibly happy with my experience and highly recommend birth classes, a doula, a birth plan and a supportive doctor.   Without these items, I could have very easily been guided towards a c-section, and probably would have been.   I know the planning, preparation and open dialog allowed me to have the best possible birth experience for me. 

Jillian came into the world at exactly 8 pounds and 21 inches long.  And she has a size able head- up to the 95th percentile now but a little over the 80th percentile at birth.  I say she is working on a big brain! As an aside, I am now the proudest mommy to the most beautiful 6 month old daughter EVER!




Amy and Mike: Henry’s Birth Story

*Amy had a cesarean with her twins and a VBAC with her son, Matthew. This was her second VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)

Contractions began around 1am or so, just a few each hour, nothing that took too much attention.  I slept between them, and wasn’t even sure they were the real deal.  The Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having over the previous week had been getting stronger and feeling crampy.  Matthew was born at 38 weeks, the twins at 36 – so at 39w2d I was feeling overdue and was afraid to be too excited.  I had been disappointed every morning that I woke up with no baby yet. By around 6am I needed to breathe pretty quickly through each contraction and noticed a little bloody show when I used the restroom.  Hmmm, maybe things were starting up after all.  Mike noticed my contractions around this time and got up with me.  There was no regular pattern, pretty far apart, but getting stronger and longer.  I called Mom to ask her to take Matthew to his swim lesson and prepare to keep him for the day.  I still was thinking that this might end up being a prodromal labor pattern and things could stall out at any time.  I figured that if I set up Matthew for overnight, and finished packing my hospital bag, then Murphey’s Law would take over for sure.  I also texted Lynn, our doula, to give her a head’s up that things could be cooking, and to ask her how I might kick it into gear.  She said to eat and drink, and to go about our day, maybe rest if I could.  

We headed downstairs after Matthew woke up and Mike fixed us all some eggs and toast for breakfast. Mom came and got Matthew around 8am to keep him for the day.  Contractions were still a good 20 or more minutes apart, though definitely requiring more work to get through them, lasting 1.5-2 min each.  I also called in to my midwife’s office to let them know that labor had likely started. I spoke with the nurse but not with Jennifer, which was fine, especially given how slowly things were going. We watched TV, Mike checked in with work, I worked on cutting out some breast pads I want to sew (eventually). I thought about resting but really felt too fidgety to settle down.  I needed to move in some way, even if it was just swaying my hips on the exercise ball. It was giving me great counter-pressure on my tailbone, but boy did it hurt to get up off of it.  

By about noon I needed to vocalize through the contractions so I texted Lynn to ask her to come on over to the house.  I was a little afraid of jumping the gun and wearing her out unnecessarily, or worse, having to ask her to come again another day if labor stalled.  Matthew’s labor was fast and furious, and contractions felt like a gastrointestinal event.  This seemed much more “typical,” though contractions still hadn’t settled into a really regular routine.  I’d be going along with contractions about 15 minutes apart, then not have any for a half hour.  But they were getting stronger, most close to 2 minutes long.  I texted Mom the go-ahead to notify the rest of the family and my blessingway guests the news that I was likely in labor, and asked that they all send speedy thoughts to help get things going in a regular pattern.

Lynn arrived about 1:15pm and had a few suggestions that could help establish a more regular pattern if we wanted (we did! I was getting a little tired from the long night.) Henry was still surprisingly active inside through labor, and we had some concerns about his positioning. So we tried polar bear position through 3 contractions, a couple with lunges on the stairs, and the next several with pelvic tucks and belly lifts.  Contractions were definitely getting closer together, more like 5-8 minutes apart.  

Jennifer called us around 3:00 and listened to a contraction while I was laboring on the toilet. She heard another when she called back 5 minutes later.  The news she had was not great – St. Francis was on diversion to St. Mary’s – they couldn’t take any more deliveries right then.  Jennifer suggested that I get in the tub for a while to see if things could slow back down just to buy us a couple of hours and hopefully get us in to St. Francis. So we trekked upstairs to my big garden tub. (Hydrotherapy! Not an option for me in the hospital due to my VBAC status.) My water still hadn’t broken, I was still completely lucid between contractions and able to relax between them. So I thought this was a great plan, believing I had quite a ways to go.  I wanted contractions to be closer to 3 minutes apart when we left so I wouldn’t be stuck by the bed on monitors for a long time. Contractions were getting stronger and it felt good to get into the tub.  They started coming faster, and I remember thinking that the warm water felt good and helped me relax between, but didn’t seem to be taking the edge off like they should.  The timer on my phone had them around 4 minutes apart.  Lynn was on her phone during some of the tub time trying to find me some options – at St. Mary’s I’d be with a hospitalist OB and staff not necessarily familiar with unmedicated birth.  MCV was an option if the midwives could take me sight unseen.  I could still have an OB, but at least the atmosphere would be favorable for the birth we wanted. I was really on the fence.  I didn’t like any of the alternatives.  The ER at St. Francis was a third option, though unless I was really ready to push the thought was that I’d be transferred to St. Mary’s anyway. I jokingly mentioned home birth as a fourth option.  

I was starting to get a little screechy through a couple of contractions and was thinking to myself how much I’d really like some nitrous oxide when I got to the hospital.  Oh yes, transition.  About the time that thought clicked in my brain Lynn suggested I get out of the tub since it wasn’t doing what we had intended. That was around 4:00pm. Lynn told me that we had the blessing of the VCU midwives to go there.  I still hadn’t vocalized any decision.  I didn’t want to have to make one at all!  Getting out of the tub and downstairs was an adventure – contractions standing in the tub, just out of the tub, top of the stairs, bottom of the stairs. I thought that I likely had a good hour or so left to labor, but knew we wouldn’t make it beyond St. Francis at this point. So the ER it was.  I grabbed my birth necklace from my blessingway on the way down to hold.  I had another big contraction standing by the garage door.  Lynn ran out to move her car, and Mike went to move stuff around in the van to make room for Lynn to ride with us (2 car seats).

While they were gone (less than 2 min I’m sure) some instinctual part of my brain knew my water was going to break and I was able to kick a towel between my feet just as a huge pushy contraction hit and I felt my bag of water literally explode.  The next thing I remember is Lynn telling Mike to get my pants down and hearing her say, “Jennifer, she’s pushing.” Lynn had Jennifer on speaker phone and 911 on another phone.  Per Jennifer’s direction Mike felt for the head to make sure the cord hadn’t prolapsed.  I just went ahead and pushed since that seemed the thing to do.  After one or two good pushes the head started to crown. Lynn helped identify that the ridges Mike felt were just the head and not the cord.  Another push later Henry’s head was out.  One more and Mike caught him and quickly lowered him to the floor.  I was still standing by the back door, holding on to the edge of our wall units and my birth necklace. He was here! Lynn grabbed a towel from my “precipitous labor kit” to wipe him down as I picked him up and held him on my chest.  I think I heard Jennifer to say to really rub him down.  I knew he was fine, and surprisingly, felt incredibly calm during the entire crazy birth.  He was here, whole and healthy!  We estimated the time at 4:15pm.  He looked at me and started to nurse in those first few minutes.  Another magical, miracle moment, given the trouble we had with Matthew nursing.  I asked Mike to grab the camera and take a few pictures.  They weren’t the birth pictures we thought we’d have, but I wanted at least something.

Lynn and Mike helped me sit on the edge of a chair just before the paramedics arrived.  All male. Both an ambulance and a fire engine worth. And I was sitting on a chair with no pants and my nursing cami completely pulled down to provide as much bare skin as possible for Henry.  Ok then. Looking back at the log on my phone, Lynn was on with 911 for all of 10 minutes – the time it took from the initial call to when the paramedics arrived.  I do have to say that they were all very courteous and professional, and the lead really seemed to know the best care for moms and newborns. They clamped the umbilical cord (Henry had all of his blood back by this time) and Mike cut.  I was still contracting and thought I could deliver the placenta.  I stood back up and tried to push, but it just wasn’t coming.  Sphincter law was at work – pushing out my placenta in front of 4+ men I had never met before just wasn’t going to happen. Just before I got on the stretcher I asked for my birth necklace.  Lynn picked it up to hand to me and the clasp came off, spilling beads all over the floor.  Poor Lynn was so upset my necklace broke like that.  There was so much prayer and energy tied up in that necklace that it had to be released as suddenly as the birth occurred.  It was another magical moment in Henry’s birth.

The paramedics helped me onto the stretcher and carted us out the back door.  Oh hi neighbors.  No big deal here.  Just had a baby, that’s all.  Henry was nursing through it all, and they never once asked to take him from me – the lead was training another guy and explained how he could tell Henry was doing really well.  While the paramedics were checking us over Mike was back on the phone trying to get through to someone on the main St. Francis phone line to beg us a room in postpartum.  We still didn’t know if we were going there or would have to go to St. Mary’s.  Jennifer called back just as we were ready to head out to tell us they finally had space available to take us. Yay!

The ride to the hospital was not especially comfortable given that I was still having contractions and that they cranked up the heat to help keep Henry warm.  I asked the guys to help me switch Henry to the other breast.  They stopped the ambulance and helped us get resituated.  The lead kept saying how impressed he was with Henry’s condition, and gave him an APGAR of 10.  He told me we’d have to come visit them all at the fire house soon.  

We were taken in through ER, just long enough to get processed through the computer and for me to ask if a friend of mine was working (she was!).  She caught up with us for a brief moment – it was great seeing a familiar face, especially one so touched to see us right after Henry’s birth. It was a short ride up to Labor and Delivery where Jennifer met us.  I felt relieved to finally be with my chosen care provider, and was enjoying a bit of a celebrity status.  Mike actually beat us there, and was waiting with all of my bags.  They couldn’t tell him where I was when he got there so he was starting to worry.  Jennifer delivered my placenta with a nurse pressing on my belly (OW!) and stitched up a small tear.  At one point I looked up and saw the lead paramedic filling out his paperwork directly across from me, in full view of the work going on.  So much for modesty.  Lynn arrived at some point, I think even before I delivered the placenta, and stayed with us until the nurses were done and we were settled in and enjoying getting to know Henry by ourselves.  He continued to nurse for quite some time after they were done with his assessments.  

In the long run I had the birth I needed, especially given the diversion at St. Francis.  It certainly wasn’t peaceful, but I am at peace (and feel a bit of humor) with how the events unfolded. At some point in my pregnancy I thought that I’d have been ok with a home birth if everyone had been comfortable with that.  But I really love my midwives and would have been sad to switch out of their care.  I knew I was “just having a baby” and that everything was going to be ok.  It was a wild ride at the end, but I never once felt scared or unsafe.  I owe a huge part of that to the presence of my doula, Lynn. She and Mike were wonderful through it all, and I certainly could not have remained as calm without them.  Henry is amazing and I can’t wait to see what other adventures await us as a family of 4.

Lisa & John

Our baby was born on December 23rd at 11:35 am. Our due date was actually today, so we were very surprised when my waters broke at 3:15 am on the 23rd. I was in in denial that my waters had actually broken and had to Google how you know when your waters break :) 

Once we determined my waters had broken, John reminded me to call the midwives. Stephanie (midwife) called me back within a couple of minutes and we ran through how I was feeling - no contractions at the time. She told me to time the contractions once they started and to try to go back to sleep and check back at 9:00 am. Shortly after talking with her, the contractions started. At first they were similar to menstrual cramps and I was able to lay in bed and breath through them. Then John started timing them and they became much more intense - at most around 3 minutes apart. I found it better to walk around our bedroom instead of laying down. 

John texted our doula around 5:20 am to let her know the contractions were 35 seconds long and 2:30 mins apart. He then called her at 6:30 am and she told me to get in the tub for 20 minutes and then in polar bear for 20 minutes because she thought the contractions were so intense because the baby maybe needed to get into a better position. The tub brought a lot of relief. The contractions slowed down and John brought me water and a smoothie. Once I got into polar bear the contractions increased in intensity and I threw up the smoothie.

Then John called our doula back at 8:30 am and she listened to how I sounded working through the contractions. She determined John should call the midwife, which he did and Stephanie listened my contractions and told me to go into VCU. 

We got into the Labor & Delivery room around 9:15 am. Everything continued to move very quickly. I got into the tub after 20 minutes or so and stayed in for a short amount of time. I started pushing in the tub, so they had me get out and allowed me to labor in whatever position I wanted. I tended to use more of a squatting position and didn't want to sit on my bottom. 

I pushed for 1 hr 20 mins and Louis was born with his hand next to his face. I did receive a 2nd degree tear and stitches. Like we said in class, the stitches are nothing compared to labor! I was able to hold Louis immediately and do skin-skin - the most rewarding experience! We breast feed about an hour later and the lactation consultant was very helpful! He was 7 pounds 7 ounces and 20 inches long. 

FYI - the 2 week recovery period is for real! I've just started to get my energy back - still resting though hope everyone is doing great!!

Trevi & Dustin

Our sweet Mason was born November 10 (on his due date) at 6:23am. 8lbs 6oz, 20.5".

Mason's birth was quick and intense which I think I'm thankful for in the end.

Monday afternoon I lost my mucus plug. I didn't think much of it because I've heard it could still take weeks. Almost immediately I started having cramps very similar to period cramps. Uncomfortable but not horrible. I didn't think I was in labor, just thought I wasn't feeling so well. Came home from work and mopped the floors and cleaned one of the bathrooms and ate a huge manicotti dinner (read: carb loading but it didn't matter because it all came back up just hours later, haha). Dustin was at a soccer game and I decided to go to bed early. He got home around 930pm. At 10 I got up to go pee and I think the transition from bed to the toilet changed my cramps into contractions. From that point forward I didn't want to leave the toilet.

After a bit on the toilet I think realized I was in labor and called to Dustin. He started timing them and they were a minute apart. We both thought we were doing something wrong. We from the iPhone tick mark strategy to a stopwatch...still a minute apart and about a minute long. I felt like I couldn't get a break and didn't want to leave the toilet because I felt like I had to poop constantly. We called our doula first at 1245am to update her - she said call her back when we need her. I then tried to move around doing different positions that I'd learned but all I really wanted to do was sit on the toilet or bend over the bed. We called the midwives and Brenda was on. She called us back immediately and from listening to me and the one minute apart contractions, she told us to come in. That was at 1:35am.

We made it to the hospital around 2:30am after the most horrible car ride ever! Our doula, Hilary, met us there. When we first arrived I had to be in the bed on the monitor to get a baseline and also get a run of antibiotics since I was GBS+. Being strapped to that bed was misery! Brenda checked me and I was 6cm dilated! After my baseline I moved from standing and leaning over the bed, to the toilet (surprise, surprise) and finally to the tub. The tub was wonderful! I don't think it eased the intensity of my contractions, but it definitely helped me relax between them.

At about 4:30am I started grunting in the tub and really wanting to push. Brenda had me get out and move to the bed and told me I was ready. I pushed for awhile on my knees leaning over the back of the bed and then finally turned over on my back (which was the last position I wanted to be in according to my "plan", but it was working). I pushed, pushed and was completely exhausted. After every push I didn't think I could do anymore. Brenda kept placing her fingers somewhere down there and told me to focus my push there. That helped tremendously! Finally, I reached the "ring of fire" and sweet baby Jesus that was pain like nothing I've ever felt. I instantly started crying and was so scared to continue. Brenda told me the only way for the pain to go away was to push through I did...and Mason Graham was born at 6:23am. Dustin was able to pull him completely out and place him on my chest. We waited awhile and he then cut the cord. It was amazing and the best day of my life!

But the story didn't end there... Unfortunately my placenta was not cooperating and after 30 minutes of trying to birth it, Brenda had to call in Dr. Miller. He then tried to coerce out (ouch!!!!!!!) with no luck. I ended up having to go to the Main OR for general anesthesia to have a D&C of my retained placenta. At the time it was extremely scary, although not an emergency. I just never read anything about placenta problems - it was supposed to be the easy part. I was still able to spend a couple of hours with Mason and Dustin before I went down to the OR, and Dustin was able to do skin to skin the entire time I was gone. I wasn't gone more than an hour and the procedure went perfectly.

Overall I am so thankful for the birth that I had. It was everything that I wanted (other than the retained placenta). Honestly now though, it was only a tiny blip in the day and doesn't even phase me. I'm just so happy to have this precious boy!


Jennifer and Matt:

I'd like to happily announce the birth of my first son, Caleb James, who came into this world at 4:04 AM on October 12. I had been hoping for a VBAC this entire pregnancy as my first pregnancy ended in a C-section due to my daughter being breech.

After finding out during a late growth scan that my son was expected to be an extremely large baby, my doctor and I decided to proceed with an induction on Sunday morning. I had a Foley bulb placed, and was then sent home to let it do its job until Sunday evening. My pain and pressure had increased all day that we ended up going to the hospital just a little bit early. By the time I got there, I was dilated to 4cm and shortly after that my doctor when ahead and broke my water. Talk about a strange feeling! We waited for a little while to see if my contractions would increase, but they actually started to fizzle out. So at that point we started the Pitocin drip, which was turned up every half hour. My active labor kicked in very quickly at this point.

However, my son was not descending into my pelvis, and I had still only gotten to about 5 cm after four hours. I was in a terrible amount of pain, and finally gave in and asked for an epidural. That was a miraculous thing, as within minutes I was able to relax and actually fell asleep for a while. My doctor informed me that I was still having strong contractions every 2-3 minutes, but that there was no progress. It was at that point that I started discussing a C-section with her. I fully trusted my doctor, and knew that she was willing to do anything to avoid the section as long as possible, but at that point I think we both knew I could have labored the rest of the night and ended in the section or just made the decision and met my son within the hour.

So, surprising myself, I told her that I was ready for the section. I was of course disappointed, but I was not upset as I would've thought I'd been. I never got to experience labor with my daughter and I felt like this time around I at least got to try. I was at peace with my decision, especially knowing that my doctor was going to allow instant skin to skin in the OR. She also made a very rare exception, and allowed my Doula into the OR to take birth pictures for us. I was not expecting this and it made for such a special experience.

So, I did not get the VBAC I was hoping for, but honestly I'm comfortable with the birth I had. If we go for a third baby, I will probably be trying for a VBAC again. But for now I am just very happy to have a healthy, hefty little baby boy that ended up weighing in at 9 lbs. 7 oz.

Not surprisingly, he came out hungry - and latched on instantly when we got back to the recovery room.