Austin Midwifery Services

Birth Stories: Jay

Monday September 1, 2008
Labor Day (literally)

"Tarjay" (a.k.a Target)

Woke at 9 a.m., swollen, heavy and mentally done being pregnant. Around 11:30 Chris and I drove to Target to return moisturizer that never worked for my itching skin (for the last week I'd been dealing with the worst all-over body itching). Our midwife, Laurie, had done a complete blood count (CBC) test last week that indicated the possibility of a mild case of Cholestasis; (a VERY uncommon, yet potentially serious liver issue and pregnancy complication). We were planning to wait until our appointment on Wednesday to retake the test. After implementing some dietary changes; I also increased the veggie juicing I'd been doing mid-pregnancy, increased my protein to at least 90 grams (previously consuming between 75-90 grams) and drinking liver cleansing herb teas. Laurie was concerned but not alarmed and wanted to monitor me closely in the next few weeks then see if the CBC came back with a change for the better. The good news was that the itching was subsiding, somewhat. However, if the results weren't better, that meant an increase in the chances for a possible hospital transfer and induction.

So Chris and I walked around Target, picked up some tomatoes and avocados. I wasn't in a good mood, very much in my head, especially because I hadn't felt Jay kick in the last few hours. A big box store is the last place I wanted to be. At the checkout, the women in front of us, turned to me and said, "WOW…any day now!?" I told her I actually had a few weeks left. She looked shocked.

On drive home I expressed my concern to Chris about Jay's lack of movement and said we should go to Laurie's to hear his heartbeat. Chris called and left message on her machine. I insisted we just head over, saying "she'll be there". Laurie called us back en route and after expressing my concerns she said to come by. It was a little past 12 noon at this point.

Midwife Laurie's Office

She first checked his heartbeat. All was fine (of course). It sounded nice and strong. I told her things seemed "a little watery" down below these last couple of days and I had a hunch it was my bag of waters leaking. She suggested using an amniotic fluid test strip to see if it was leaking. The results came out dark, suggesting it was amniotic fluid so she wanted to check me because she thought I might be in labor. Labor!? I thought there was no way! My due date was later in the month. I knew he could come early but I just wasn't prepared for this early.

Chris left the room. She checked and confirmed I was 1 cm and fully effaced! She asked if she could dilate me to 2 cm to get things going a bit. I said "Yes"! Chris came back in and was told the news; we were both in shock. Laurie thought that since we didn't really know how long my waters had been broken that we should induce with nipple stimulation and herbs. She said this baby would probably come tonight!

I didn't fully believe that, as I was under the impression first time labors were long. Nonetheless, I was happy. The Group B Strep test results hadn't yet returned from last week so Laurie recommended we do an IV with the antibiotic as a precautionary measure. I agreed, and as the meds were administered in the comfort of the pillow-laden couch in her office, we sat and talked about the interesting turn this day had taken. We left her office around 3 p.m. and headed to Target again (ugh!) for a breast pump and stereo for the adventure ahead.


We arrived home and I had time to take a shower and wash my hair since I didn't know how long it would be until I got to do either again. We started the induction process around 5:30 p.m., which consisted of two droppers full of an herb called "Asclepias asperula" (pretty nasty tasting stuff – I needed a chaser), followed by 20 minutes of breast pumping then 10 minutes rest. Repeat six times. I wasn't feeling anything. Halfway through the process we watched 'Annie' to pass the time. I remember laughing midway through the movie at Carol Burnett's "Little Girls" number, so I know I wasn't feeling much. I finished all but the last set a little before 8pm because things were starting to feel very different; this all took about three hours. Before the movie was over I started feeling "crampy" then it changed to a more intense feeling so I'd stand to move through the sensation. I wanted the movie off, as it then became an annoying distraction. I moved throughout quite a few contractions but realized I wasn't getting much of a break. I didn't expect such intensity so fast and knew from what Laurie had said about the herbs that they guide your body through – they aren't freight train strength like Pitocin supposedly is. So I didn't feel out of control and I knew it was my body and my oxytocin getting this going. This comforted me. Things intensified quickly and my contractions were totally sporadic but getting more and more intense. Around 8 p.m. I told Chris we should call Laurie to tell her what was happening. She said she's on her way.

Midwife Arrives

By the time Laurie arrived I was in a complete zone. I was walking from room to room totally one with my body and trying my best not to resist the waves that, by this time, were full force. I remember complaining to her that wasn't getting any let up, that this was too much. She encouraged me to stay with it, to step back in when I found the urge to escape. I followed that advice the best I could but when I was alone with Chris moving through another contraction I told him I really thought I would need an epidural. If this was the beginning and I'm already getting zero breaks then it wasn't going to be possible to go without one.

Ride The Waves

Around 9 p.m. Laurie checked me and announced I was only 3-4 cm dilated. I felt so discouraged and verbalized this repeatedly to both her and Chris. Laurie told me again to stay in the surge…"ride the waves", she encouraged. "I don't know how to surf", I said weakly. "Neither do I" she replied. We both laughed but I still thought there was no way I could get through this labor if I was already feeling this overwhelmed.

Time passed so quickly and my dance and zone turned into a sort-of haze. Not that I have personal experience with this, but Laurie told me a couple days later that the portion of the brain to which oxytocin links during labor is the same that LSD attaches itself. An interesting bit of information and now looking back, I see how that makes perfect sense – it explained that "other worldly" feeling I was experiencing so strongly. I think it also took most of the fear and pain away as well.

The Bath

By the time the bath was set up in the kitchen, Laurie checked me again and announced I was 7 cm!!! This was exactly what I needed to hear. I was so relieved. It was approximately 10:30 p.m. and I had gone from 3-4 cm to 7 cm in an hour and a half. This labor was moving right along and now I knew I could do it! In retrospect it seems like I was in transition earlier than normal. Laurie told me later that when I eased into the tub for the first time I said "…this feels sooo fucking good!" It was indeed the epidural I had been asking repeatedly for, it was relief with no potentially negative side effects. From this point on, I no longer mentioned the epidural. I sat in there for some time, in the dimly lit kitchen, with Chris pouring warm water down my back and talking me through contractions. After awhile I needed to get out and be in motion again - to move my hips. I just couldn't be sitting and I felt I still had work to do so I got out of the tub, which caused my bag of waters to seriously start leaking. The floors were getting quite a bath – good thing we stayed in the kitchen on the tile. Although at that point I couldn't have cared less about the condition of the flooring in the kitchen.

Second Midwife Christy arrives

It was 11:50 pm. I clearly remember smiling and greeting her in between a contraction, as I hadn't met her before. Laurie checked me again on the birthing stool and said I could start pushing whenever I felt ready. She just needed to push the lip back behind my cervix. Now this is pretty much the only part of the labor so far that was "painful" but it didn't last long. In seconds I was back in the water pushing away. I quickly got into a rhythm and felt a lot of pressure, especially in my lower back and bowels. Spiraling my hips through the contractions was helpful (a method I saw in one of the natural childbirth videos). I continued to move through them, a couple of times asking Laurie if I was doing it (the pushing) right. Throughout labor and even more frequently now Laurie kept checking the baby's heartbeat with the Doppler and reassuring me he was doing great. That was all the motivation I needed! Christy suggested squatting through a few pushes. I don't know why I hadn't thought of this even though I knew it's one of the best positions in which to birth. Everything you learn really does go out the window at this point and suggestions are so welcome. As I imagine would be the case in a hospital environment, with interventions and especially pain relief. You are so totally vulnerable and impressionable at this point in labor.

Pushing in the squatting position felt really good and relieved a ton of the pressure. I later found out I pushed for 65 minutes but it only seemed like ten! Time stood still for me. Finally Laurie said "the head is right there…feel his head". It was so soft and comforting and connected me even more to him and the remainder of our job. The feelings definitely got more intense, contractions pretty much felt the same but the pressure build up was there. Then I felt an enormous surge of pressure and pushed the biggest push of my life in that squatting position and his head was born!

This next part gets really hazy; Chris, Laurie and Christy had to fill me in on the details but I do remember Laurie telling me to push on the next contraction and his body would be out. The wave surged and I pushed (this time I didn't seem to have to exert as much effort) and out he slipped. Jay Cormac was born!!! As I leaned back, with Chris kneeling outside the tub crying and looking over my shoulder, Laurie handed our baby to me. It was 1:29 a.m. and I felt elated and powerful and more alive than ever before. With a big smile on my face I turned and said "that really wasn't that bad". Everyone laughed. And it was true, the instant he came out, everything I had perceived as uncomfortable (or challenging) was gone, as if it never happened.

After 10-15 minutes of bonding with Jay, Chris by our side, I got out of the tub to birth the placenta on the birthing stool. We then went upstairs to the bedroom to check Jay and me. I was overjoyed to hear that I hadn't torn (I pretty much knew this within seconds of his birth). I attribute this to lots of walking in the last trimester (advice from an L.A. midwife - at least 40 minutes, six times per week), lots of red raspberry leaf tea, squatting, pelvic tilts, good healthy fats, my hypno-birthing CD, and the comfort and cushion of the birthing pool. Jay weighed in at 7 lbs 8 oz and 20 inches long. He was checked out and all looked great, 8-9 on the APGAR. It appeared to the midwives like his gestational age was 38 weeks. I guess we'll never know since I received such conflicting due date estimations from the ultrasound techs. I was born three weeks before my EDD and in just four hours, so this might just be a case of genetics.

Chris cut the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing (about 45 min later), Laurie gave him the Vit K shot and erythromycin before he started to get sleepy. Chris was now bonding with Jay, while Laurie and Christy were tending to some of my bleeding. They were a little concerned that I couldn't urinate so a catheter was inserted to relieve the pressure…this hurt! But it was just what I needed and was done in the comfort of my bed while looking at my new son in my husband's arms. The Midwives kept a close watch on my bleeding and after some time suggested I take something to help slow it down, which it did after a short while. We put a diaper on Jay and bundled him up, went through some last minute Q&A, the midwives cleaned up and we all exchanged hugs and kisses. They even did the laundry before heading out around 4:30 a.m. Needless to say Chris and I didn't get any sleep as that night turned to day. We put the co-sleeper in the middle of our bed and marveled at our little Jay well in to the morning and the rest of the day. As all new parents are, we are totally in love!

I am so grateful that I somehow knew instinctively that home birth was right for my family. Especially for Jay and I. Although I know Chris is a changed man from this amazing experience as well and, like me, an advocate of natural birthing. I am just glad that I followed my instincts rather than succumbing to fear the hospital establishment and the uninformed public tends to put forth. I WAS fearful throughout my pregnancy. I really wanted Laurie at times to 'take control' because that was what I was used to in a health care provider. I got frustrated at times because I was ultimately the one in charge of this pregnancy and labor, and that scared me at times. I think a lot of women fall into that trap and hand over their power. I felt safe…just a little uneasy about how strong and capable I was. I ended up being both strong and very much capable of home birthing. Laurie was there for me with her knowledge and expertise and was my guide. That took some time getting adjusted to but she was the perfect guide for me.

My child has barely left my sight in the last five days and only out of my arms to sleep or be in the arms of his Dad. No hospital personnel handling my baby for this or that. I believe his entry through water and un-medicated, peaceful delivery contributes immensely to his relaxed and mellow demeanor. He's been surrounded by sounds of the ocean surf since the midwives left, three hours after his birth. He is easily calmed and soothed when he rarely cries.

I couldn't have asked for a better birth. I received everything I wanted and so much more…and all on my turf. I can't imagine lying flat on a hospital bed with IV's stuck in me, limiting or restricting my movement, numbing that magnificent energy of life coming through. I feel totally and completely blessed, changed, elated, open, safe, loved, loving, strong, emotional, raw, connected, and most importantly empowered!

Austin, TX

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Laurie Fremgen, CPM
(512) 450-0908