Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cut, Stapled, and Mended: a giveaway where everyone wins!

I'm so excited to announce a fantastic giveaway in conjunction with the release of Roanna Rosewood's book Cut, Stapled, and Mended.

For just 24 hours today (April 30), everyone who purchases one copy of her book receives more than $1,000 in gifts. Yes, everyone!

Here are the 26 gifts you will receive:
  • Songs From the Birth House, an MP3 album ($19 value)
  • Dr. Christiane Northrup's MP3 audio program "The Power of Joy" 
  • Awakening Your Child’s Confidence: An MP3 Audio Program for Children by Heather Chauvin  (Value $197)
  • 12-hour summit by playwright Karen Brody delivered on MP3s ($97 Value)
  • The Ecstatic Journey of Birth & Sex – The Integral Trances of Pleasure & Procreation (online course) AND Wholistic Sexuality: Better Sex for a Better World (ebook) by Sheri Winston (combined $23 value)
  • Susun Weed's Nourishing Herbal Infusions Online Course – Drink Your Way to Health the Wise Woman Way ($150 Value)
  • Webinar with Barbara Harper (Value $50)
  • “I am a Goddess” Affirmation Poster and Meditation downloads from Elizabeth  Harper ($33 Value) 
  • Marlyn Radzat's Leaf Pod Baby PDF Class ($20 Value)
  • Access to Pam England's Cesarean Healing Story ($20 Value)
  • Orgasmic Birth Webinar Class with Debra Pascali-Bonaro (Value: $47)
  • The Most Common Mistakes Moms Make with Coming-Of-Age Girls, and How To Avoid Them! by DeAnna L'am ($47 value)
  • Love Letters from your life, a 33-day email coaching program by Anna Kunnecke ($75 Value)
  • Introduction to Face Reading, a 45 minute Mp3 by Rebecca Wood ($45 Value)
  • Birth Heaven Now! Online Homestudy Course, includes 1:1 coaching with Stephanie Dawn! ($147 Value)
  • Optimal Uterine Health Tele-Class with Dr. Eve Agee ($129 Value)
  • A chance to win your choice of beautiful handcrafted MamAmor dolls (3 winners, up to $200 value each)
  • How to Trust Birth and Your Body by Kristen Burgess ($50 Value)
  • Birth Embodiment!, an online class by Nekole Shapiro
  • Boys Alive! Teleconference with Janet Allison ($50 Value)

How to enter:
1) Purcahse a paperback copy of Cut, Stapled, and Mended on Amazon before midnight EST on April 30
2) Return back to cutstapledandmended.com and enter your order information

That's it! You will receive all 26 gifts.

What if you've already purchased a copy of Cut, Stapled, and Mended? I'd suggest buying another one--you don't want to pass this opportunity by. I'm going to buy another one today and donate it to my public library. 

Happy reading!
Read more ...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Postpartum Reading List

 ***Very Important Announcement***

Tomorrow (April 30) I will be posting an amazing giveaway related to one of these books where everyone who participates receives a prize. It will only last for 24 hours, so be sure to come back tomorrow for details!

During the week and a half that my mom was helping out, I read three books. I thought I'd read more, but I spent a lot of time working on Ivy's birth story and video.

When I was just 2 days postpartum, I read an advance review copy of Roanna Rosewood's Cut, Stapled, and Mended: When One Woman Reclaimed Her Body and Gave Birth on Her Own Terms After Cesarean. This book is hot off the press--I think it was released 2 days ago!

It was a powerful read. In short, it was the story of her three children's births, the first two by cesarean and the third by VBAC. But it was really a book about finding herself and coming into her power as a woman. And her journey to VBAC wasn't a simple one. Her first two cesareans both began as planned home births. She worked SO hard to birth her babies vaginally. There are no simple answers to why she needed surgery the first two times and why she didn't the last time. I love her story because it doesn't give easy answers or make simplistic pronouncements about needing to "trust birth." It's raw and real and doesn't have all the answers.

You'll remember Roanna from Panel 3 of the Human Rights in Childbirth Conference and from her eloquent address "Who has the right to speak for the baby?". Here she is speaking at the HRCC conference:

Cut, Stapled, and Mended: $12.36 on Amazon

Next was The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery by Sam Thomas. Definitely a fun read! You can learn more about the book and the author at this blog post or on his website.

The Midwife's Tale: $12.98 (paperback) and $16.97 (hardcover)

Last was Jennifer Margulis' expose of the baby industry (from conception to birth to the first year of the baby's life): The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don't Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line.


Written to be an eye-opener (and a bit of a jeremiad), Margulis' book examines how financial interests often undermine the health and well-being of mothers and babies. Some of the chapters were familiar, but others were new to me. Margulis blends investigative journalism with fascinating anecdotes and stories. Sometimes I felt the book was a bit too heavily weighted towards anecdote, but she's also trying to tell a good story as much as she is presenting facts and research.

The Business of Baby: $16.46 on Amazon
Read more ...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dio is 4!

Happy birthday Dio! Birth story here, birth photos here, newborn photos here and here

We had a very low-key celebration with homemade cake and whipped cream. Our "party" consisted of going outside and playing in the yard. Eric and I cleaned up the garden and moved some bushes we'd pulled out with a truck. The kids drew pictures with sidewalk chalked, played with the hose, and "helped" as I planted red onions and lettuce. I didn't even buy Dio anything, since I knew he was getting two presents from my mom and that he'd be too busy playing with those to pay attention to anything more.

Dio has been obsessed with Angry Birds for several months now. It's strange, because we don't even own a smartphone. I have no idea why he's completely enthralled with Angry Birds. I make him Angry Birds items on a near-daily basis: slingshots out of tree branches and rubber bands, angry birds and pigs out of crumpled up paper or tinfoil balls or small pieces of tupperware, blocks out of old cereal boxes. I've even made some angry birds out of felted wool and stuffed with wheat. (Dio left it outside, and a squirrel gnawed it open and ate the insides.)

Dio is loving and silly and sensitive and intense. He can push our buttons quite easily, especially Eric's. My mom says I was similarly intense and overly sensitive when I was little, only much, much worse. Sorry mom. I don't remember any of it.

Now for some Ivy cuteness. She's wearing an outfit my friend Kristen gave to me when Zari was born. I love the little bonnet.

Ivy recently discovered her competition:

It's better to act preemptively.

I get to gaze at her sweet face all day long. Sigh...I will really miss this stage.

When I got back from the Home Birth Consensus Summit, Ivy lost her tiny newborn look. She is a plump, bright-eyed baby now. She's getting better at sleeping without having to be on or right next to my body at night. When she's done nursing, I can scoot her over about a foot away and not worry so much about a pillow or comforter being too close to her face. She's taken the occasional nap on the couch or bed, but mostly stays in the sling during the day.
Read more ...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Want to read "Labor and Deliverance" blog?

Hey y'all...anyone else out there desperately miss Labor and Deliverance: Observations of a Busy Southern OB-GYN?

He had to go private but is happy to invite anyone interested to read the blog. If you'd like to join, please send me an email. Be sure to include info about yourself and a link to something (blog, Facebook, website, etc) to prove you're a "real" person. I'll pass your emails along to him.

*** Update: He thanks everyone for their requests. Unfortunately he has reached his limit for subscribers to a private blog, so he cannot add anyone else. If you've sent in a request and haven't been added, that is the reason. ***

Read more ...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ivy's birth quilt

Here's the finished quilt! I did most of the quilting carrying Ivy in a sling. She doesn't like being set down--which is fine and normal--but she is cozy and content as long as she's on someone's body. I'll probably hang it in Inga's bedroom, which will eventually become Ivy's room when she's big enough to sleep on her own. It looks even better in real life with all the quilting and textures and different fabrics.

The top has a hanging loop of rainbow fabric scraps left over from Zari's Halloween costume:

I finally embroidered the Prince of Wales Hotel onto the square of Waterton National Park in Alberta (month 2):

The back of the quilt is fun, too:

Zari has been asking for her own quilt, since I only started making birth quilts with Dio. So during my last month of Ivy's pregnancy, I started cutting out squares of fabric. We're doing a simple design in a gradual rainbow of colors, all made from leftover fabric scraps. The front is all sewn together now.

Read more ...

Friday, April 19, 2013

2nd Home Birth Summit

The first Home Birth Consensus Summit in 2011 concluded with the creation of nine Common Ground Statements. We arrived at these through consensus, which was an arduous and sometimes frustrating process. Every single word had to meet everyone's approval.

18 months later, we reconvened for a Review Meeting. Instead of drafting new documents, we reviewed the work we'd been doing in our various action groups to advance the nine common ground statements. We discussed obstacles to achieving those goals and new ideas for each action group. It's amazing to see all the initiatives summit members have already started or accomplished. Once each action group writes its report, they will be posted and periodically updated on the Home Birth Summit website.

Two areas of great concern were health disparities--especially in communities of color--and the future of the CPM credential (including licensure in the remaining illegal/alegal states). Lots of fireworks and intense but productive discussions!

I enjoyed meeting so many people that I'd normally never be able to interact with: OBs, family doctors, pediatricians, nurses, midwives of all different credentials, malpractice & health care insurance adjusters, lawyers, political strategists, researchers, and more.
Read more ...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I'm on vacation!

Actually I'm at the Home Birth Consensus Summit Review Meeting in Warrenton, Virginia. But it FEELS like vacation.

I just have Ivy with me. I get to eat (way too much) amazing food three times a day. I don't have to watch my other kids. I don't have to cook or clean. I get to talk with all sorts of interesting people involved in maternity care all day long.

Yes, it definitely qualifies as a vacation!

We just finished our first full day of meetings. We're all exhausted and ready for some down time. I'm heading down for an informal gathering. We'll tell birth stories and just chat until we're ready for bed. Maybe I will show Ivy's birth video...I showed Inga's last time.

I can't write much right now at about the meetings, but it's been really rewarding to see how many positive changes have come about since the first Home Birth Summit 18 months ago. We've been talking in depth about all the work we want to still accomplish towards fulfilling the 9 consensus statements we came up with at the last meeting. 
Read more ...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ivy's birth photos

I received 464 photos from the photographer and narrowed them down to 84. I just couldn't go any lower!

Looking through the photos was a surprisingly emotional experience for me--but not in the way I expected. I was flooded with a sense of sadness, knowing that this probably will be our last baby. The photos were the last part of the birth I was still waiting on, so when they arrived they brought with them a bittersweet sense of closure.

Yesterday we had a gathering with friends & colleagues from the university where we work. I also finished Ivy's birth quilt. The months of preparation and weeks of celebration are done. Now it's time to move forward. 

With a few exceptions, the photos are in chronological order. I love how the photographer captured what was going on all around the house: kids playing in the attic, birth assistants napping in the living room (they'd been up the night before at another birth), Eric making crepes after Ivy was born.

Before you view the pictures, look at:

For a full-screen slideshow, click on the image below (or click here).

Smaller slideshow here:

Read more ...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Job openings for FNPs and CNMs

Are you a family nurse practitioner or certified nurse midwife looking for employment opportunities? Believe Midwifery Services, a solo homebirth practice owned by Penny Lane, CNM, MSN, IBCLC, is seeking to hire a FNP and one or two CNMs. Located in Thorntown, Indiana (a half-hour from from both Indianapolis and Lafayette), Believe Midwifery Services is a thriving practice operating since 2007.
For more information and to apply, visit the job descriptions.

Below are more details about the openings and how Penny envisions expanding her practice:

Believe Midwifery Services, LLC in Central Indiana is seeking a Family Nurse Practitioner and would consider adding another Certified Nurse Midwife with the right applicant.

The FNP would work one day per week initially as the clientele grows. Our practice has been established for six years and is BUSY so it may not take long to add additional days. Our clients are typically highly educated and of a higher socioeconomic status, so they pay for care that they can't receive anywhere else. They don't want pharmaceuticals as a routine, and they prefer natural remedies and a good sit-down discussion on how to better understand their bodies. They do want access to medical interventions when appropriate.

The nurse-midwife position would begin as a fellowship opportunity. After the first year the midwife could begin working more independently, potentially in a second office or birth center. Experience has taught me that this is the best model for adding a second midwife, but we can be quite creative with schedule commitment.
Our practice is currently booked each month with a waiting list. We are independent practitioners with a growing well-woman practice. Every birth is attended by the CNM and two assistants, most often nurses. All are NRP certified including intubation and emergency medication administration. In the office, we have two assistants as well, so the midwife can focus on the care of the client. Lactation is a huge priority, and we maintain care of our newborns through six weeks.

Our practice has a number of collaborating physicians that are incredibly supportive, so access to care is a non-issue. We receive rather frequent referrals at this point, hence the waiting list and our need to add one or two additional nurse-midwives.

Our websites can be found at www.BelieveMidwiferyServices.com and www.RedRaspberryBoutique.com. We pride ourselves in increasing the standards of homebirth and have high expectations for clinical care. We attend a good number of VBACs and vaginal breeches. We also have very supportive MFMs, which allows us to maintain care of GDM, PIH and such if properly managed. Resumes can be emailed to Penny@BelieveMidwiferyServices.com or faxed to 765-436-7114. Our application can be found on our website as well.     

Penny Lane MSN, CNM, IBCLC

Read more ...

Friday, April 12, 2013


Right before she left, our birth photographer snapped some photos of the chalkboard wall in the attic.

Notice the baby wrapped in a blanket & nursing (on a disembodied breast!)

I'm putting the birth photos together into a slideshow. It's fun but challenging, since I am trying to narrow the 400+ images down to about 50. I'm just under 100 right now. Here are a few that got cut:

. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
Read more ...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Supergirl, by Eric Freeze

Eric recently had his second book accepted by University of Nebraska Press! It's a collection of non-fiction essays titled Hemingway On a Bike. Here's one of the essays from the collection, a piece called "Supergirl." It was originally published with Barrelhouse.

When I was five and six, I begged my mother for two things: spinach and vitamins.  Both were because of cartoons.  The first was Popeye, the high gravelly-voiced sailor who would get anvils in his biceps when he’d down a can of the green stuff.  The spinach would always come near the end of an episode when Olive Oil or one of Popeye’s other friends were bound up by Bluto or trapped in a sinking boat.  A rush of adrenaline always accompanied my watching these scenes: Popeye with the speed of a fighter jet.  Popeye with legs of iron.  Popeye with a spinning roundhouse that could send you to the moon.  I was in awe of his invincibility and I hoped that spinach would unlock the same physical traits in me.  I would beg my mother to make it and she’d occasionally oblige me even though nobody else in the family would eat it.  She always boiled the leaves in water until they had the consistency of ectoplasm or slime.  I doused the watered-down vegetable with butter and salt and slid the slimy stuff down my esophagus until I could feel a little warmth in my forearms.  Then I’d go into our basement and punch our bean bag chair until my knuckles were dry and cracked.

And an excerpt from the middle of the essay:

To show how society constructs notions of gendered identity, I once bought a Superhero Starter Kit for a class I was teaching.  I wanted students to look at the book as an artifact, to analyze assumptions that it made about gender.  There is a blond boy on the front with wrist bands, a shiny red cape, and lightning bolt stickers affixed to his t-shirt.  The caption reads, “Saving the World Made Simple.”  All of the pictures in the book are of boys.  Boys leaping, hanging, falling (it happens), landing, hiding, running, swinging, spinning.  Boys spread-eagled on chairs, boys scrunching their faces, putting up their toddler dukes.  In one picture, a boy flexes his biceps into a mirror and mimics a look of strain and anger as he flexes.  Other photos have boys with hands on hips, boys reaching for the sky, boys pointing up, fingers raised in number ones.  These boys are masked, tough, superheroes with missions and powers and secret identities.  There is a solitary picture of a girl.  Like the boys, she is mostly smiles but her action is less dramatic.  She wears a pink polka-dot shirt and flips her hair.

When I take the book home, my four-year-old daughter asks, “What’s that?”  Before I can explain, the book is out of its wrapper and she’s trying to remove the red super cape.  Soon it’s velcroed around her neck and she’s running through the house yelling “Wooooo!”  She jumps off our couch, takes stairs two at a time.  In the hall mirror, she poses, shows me her muscles, “almost as big as yours!” and screws up her face in a look of fearsome exertion.  I’m not surprised that the cape has this effect, that she so readily transforms herself into a brawny pre-schooler.  As new parents who are conscious of the impact of gendered advertising, we’ve done our best to steer her from passive female characters, submissive princesses and fairies who long to be led or saved.  But the way she takes to the cape makes me wonder if we’ve over-compensated.  Have we demonized these female representations so much that she misses out on some of the positive attributes of empathy, understanding, and caring?  Of our three children, she’s the most assertive, the most willing to take risks.  And besides an occasional narcissistic comparison to their hair, she hasn’t shown any interest in princesses.  I want to videotape her reaction and send it to the publishing company, evidence that they’re reaching the wrong demographic.  Girls can be super too.

Read the rest here
Read more ...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

How do I get stuff done?

I get asked that question a lot.

Most of the time, I wouldn't say that I *do* all that much in a given day. Except, of course, when I'm very pregnant and want to finish all sorts of home projects.

But my super-secret weapon is the attic on the 3rd story of our house. It's a mostly finished space measuring 20x40', plus a 5th bedroom and walk-in closet.

The previous owners left the pool table. I don't blame them--I'd hate to try to move it down two flights of stairs. You can see Eric's foosball table, made by the French company Bonzini. He found it used on Craigslist a few years ago and we negotiated a deal: he could buy it if he gave up bottled beverages for two years: juice, flavored waters, pop, sports drinks, etc.

Turning counter-clockwise, you can see the "jumping couch" and the "jumping bed." Kids love to jump and climb on furniture, so we have a designated space just for doing that. The rope ladder, rings, and swing are from Ikea.

A view from the far corner.

The previous occupants painted the chalkboard wall. (They had 5 kids.) The little door on the wall leads into the knee wall area of the attic. All the kids' toys are on these two sets of shelves. I cut, planed, sanded, and varnished the shelves before Dio was born and finally assembled them last year. One is made from cherry, the other from walnut.

On the other side of the staircase is my sewing area. We have a few walls that still need to be finished. My dad ran wire for a light to go above the sewing desk.

You can see the 5th bedroom that is behind the sewing area. Right now Eric has his weight bench in that room. Eventually we'll move that out and put a bed in the room.

Having this space lets me get so much stuff done--reading, sewing, grading, blogging, or even napping. The kids mostly occupy themselves while I do my own projects. We just had the attic insulated, so now it remains cozy even in the winter. There are no heat radiators on the 3rd floor, but we do have central air conditioning to keep the upper two floors liveable during the hottest summer weeks.

As much as I love the idea of the not-so-big-house, I LOVE our huge old house. Love it. I love having space for everything. I love not having the kids' toys in the living room or in their bedrooms.

To compensate for the size of the house, we invested in a super high-efficiency boiler when we bought the house, which cut the gas bill in half. We also had storm windows made for the whole house and insulated the basement and attic.

Oh, and don't worry--the attic doesn't usually look this tidy! My mom did lots of cleaning while she was here, so I took pictures before the kids messed it up again :)
Read more ...

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Quilt square: Breastfeeding

I wanted the last quilt square to reflect the final part of the birth cycle: nursing a baby. In that sense, it's not the end, but the beginning. Good thing, otherwise I might cry at the thought of endings!

The design is based on the International Breastfeeding Symbol. For the background, I used linen pieces left over from dyeing the ombré sling fabric. The appliqué is a thick ivory stretch cotton.

Squares 1-9 are already sewn together. After I attach the last three, the next step is putting all the layers together and then we're on to quilting! I'll probably do everything by machine; it's so much faster than by hand.
Read more ...

Friday, April 05, 2013

Ivy Claire's birth video

If you haven't read Ivy Claire's birth story, do that before watching the video.

To set this video in context, I'd had strong but irregular contractions most of the night. I slept in between them until around 3 am. As soon as I got up in the morning, they became regular and close together. I labored for around 3.5 hours on land, leaning over a dresser or sink during contractions and moving my hips around. I got in the pool for the last hour: about 25 minutes of late labor (a.k.a. "transition") and 35 minutes of pushing. I was a stretchy 5 cms dilated before I got in the pool, so I went from 5 cms to pushing in about half an hour.

This video shows one laboring contraction in the pool, then skips about 20 minutes later to the pushing stage. I show parts of every pushing contraction, so you can hear how they increase in volume and intensity. I edited out a lot of the waiting between contractions, especially if no one was doing or saying anything interesting.

My 6-year-old daughter Zari came in to watch the birth when I was pushing. We had invited her to be present as long as she could sit quietly. She did pretty well, although she got rather squirmy at times, especially when my vocalizations got really loud. You'll see me giving her encouraging nods and reminding her to sit still.

You'll see the CNM take heart tones once in the video. She checked heart tones a few more times (they were always in the 130s-140s), but those got edited out.

The video is 20 minutes long, and Ivy is born around minute 15. 

One of my favorite screen shots...right after I looked and found out we had a girl.

Read more ...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Quilt square: Birthday

I wanted a quilt square to represent the day Ivy was born. We'd just started seeing crocuses emerge, and then a huge blizzard hit. I used a piece of white fabric for the background that reminded me of branches covered with snow, then appliqued purple and yellow crocuses on top. I call it "Birthday."

Birth video coming tomorrow...I'm so excited to share it. I managed to edit it to 20 minutes total (down from almost 50 minutes of footage).

Read more ...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Ivy Claire's birth story

Part I: Musings

I’m sitting in a still house on a Sunday morning, my newborn curled up in a sling. As Ivy sleeps and dreams, her face flickers with smiles and frowns. She’s practicing a repertoire of expressions that she will later learn to put on purposefully. She breathes irregularly, her body not yet fully attuned to the steady rhythm of earth life.

This will be a different kind of birth story. I’ve always written detailed play-by-play versions: this happened, and then this, and then this. It was my strategy for capturing as much as possible before the smallest things sifted away through the cracks in my memory.

But the problem with writing a story down is that what gets left out no longer can exist. It disappears from the page and eventually from memory. If I write that labor was calm and empowering, or difficult and fierce, or any other combination of words, then it becomes hemmed in by what it was not. By what I did not say or remember.

I could choose a list of words to describe the day I gave birth. All are true, yet they contradict each other and still do not approach the essence of that day. If I swim in a river for a few hours, I cannot return the next day and recapture the water I swam in. It is gone forever. Even if I document the moment in a photograph or video, those images cannot reproduce the pressure of the water or the pull of the currents or the way the thousands of tiny hairs on my body swirled in response.

And yet, I must try: I remember calm and peace. Quiet accentuated by the muffled thumps of my children playing in the attic. The clatter of pans and dishes in the kitchen, cupboard doors closing. Ferocity and fear and uncertainty. The peculiar stillness that follows a snowstorm. Wildness and chaos contained by the pattern of my body’s labor. Hope for a living, healthy child and the audacity of that desire. Disbelief that it would actually happen. Uncertainty about the process gripping my body, alongside an uncanny awareness--sometimes demonstrated only in hindsight--of what was happening.

During this pregnancy I swam in (against?) an undercurrent of fear. It didn’t dominate my pregnancy, but it was always there pressing against my body, reminding me that I could not blissfully talk about the baby inside me as if it were already safely born. It was a hint of bitterness in everything I touched, if only the smallest aftertaste. With each pregnancy, I become more acutely aware of how much I stand to lose. Amidst all the other reasons for being done having children, the biggest is this feeling of tempting--and cheating--fate. I have four beautiful, healthy children and for that I feel incredibly blessed. Lucky, even. Isn’t it best to stop while I am ahead? I often think.

I could not let myself fully believe or imagine this new child until it was safely here earthside. No matter that suspended belief would not alter the outcome in any way. Until I saw and heard the baby, nothing was fixed or certain. That is why I exclaimed, as soon as Ivy emerged, “I can’t believe I have a baby!”

Part II: A series of vignettes

The night before the birth. We eat dinner at a friend’s house, and I hide the strong but intermittent contractions. This is not labor yet: no pattern, no rush of hormones. But I know it was the beginning. It is my secret. Later that evening I feel shaky, anxious. I am brought back to my university days--those hours before you take a big exam, when you’ve prepared as much as you can and all you can do is worry and wait until the work begins. Multiply that anticipation and tension a hundredfold, and that is what I am feeling. I know that labor will begin at night with strong but irregular contractions. That I will sleep in between them for at least part of the night. That I will stay in bed until morning, listening to my hypnosis tracks if I am unable to sleep. That I will finally get up, knowing active labor will begin but ready to work with contractions after a night of lying through them.

Morning, 6:30 am. In bed, contractions are increasingly strong but still widely spaced. I do not watch the clock until right before I get out of bed. They are 10-12 minutes apart.

I get up and feel palpable anxiety within my body. I know what is coming. I know what I have to go through to get the baby out...and it weighs on me. I feel shaky, uneasy, and unsure.

I ask Eric for a blessing. Some things are too personal to share, but I feel the power of the message moving through Eric. At this moment he is just a voice for something more vast and wise than himself. He assures me that I will birth smoothly and without complications, that this birth will bring the same joy that my other children’s births did. I finally feel able to move forward toward the task at hand.

As soon as I am up, contractions come quickly. They also seem a bit shorter, but it might be because I’m moving rather than lying still. The few times I glance at the clock, they are around 4 minutes apart.

We had a massive blizzard the night before, and the roads are terrible. I tell the midwife and the photographer to come right away based on the following calculation:
Time from getting up to move with the contractions until birth:
Zari: 10 hours
Dio: 7 ½ hours
Inga: 2 ½ hours
This baby: ??? but I know it will not be long

Around 8:30 am. The household is awake. Children are eating breakfast. Eric is fulfilling a list of tasks (fill the pool, dress the children, call the babysitter, gather some final supplies). I’m leaning over the radiator next to the bedroom window, feeling the heat shimmer up my arms and chest. Outside is deep in untracked snow. Our babysitter pulls into the driveway and her car gets stuck. The midwife’s car has just turned onto the street. A man arrives with a snowblower, clears out the pile of plowed snow blocking our driveway and our entire front sidewalk. A small serendipity. I speak on the phone to the photographer, who arrives soon after and tries to enter the wrong house at first, 3 doors down. The snow has altered the landscape. It makes the day seem separate from reality, a small window away from the mundane.

Around 9:30 am. The birth pool is filled, yet I resist entering. For so many laboring women, the water promises instant relief. But for me, water can feel like a prison as much as an escape. I have to be upright moving my hips during contractions. I labored in and out of the tub when I had Zari, but never wanted to stay in for more than 30 minutes at a time. For my next two, I didn’t get in until pushing was imminent. So here I am, eying the tub, wanting the warmth and buoyancy of the water but dreading the restriction it might bring.

I’m also feeling tired and extremely dizzy. I never experience the pleasant, heady rush of endorphins I’d had during my three other labors. Instead, it manifests only as dizziness.

Around 10 am. I want to know what’s going on with my cervix. I’d reached in multiple times over the past several hours, but labor has turned all the familiar landmarks into mush. All I know for sure is that the head is fairly low. I catch myself thinking, “Does asking for an exam mean I don’t trust the process? Will it mess me up mentally by having a number associated with my sensations?” And then I realize: Who cares. I want to know, and that’s reason enough.

So I tell the midwife laughingly: “I’m asking you for the first vaginal exam ever in four pregnancies and labors!” She looks surprised and wants to know if I am sure. “Yes, and I know it has absolutely no significance on how long it will take from here on. But I really want to compare it against what I am feeling going on in my body.”

I am a very stretchy 5 cms and the head is quite low, past the ischial spines. This confirms all that I had been feeling and seeing so far. I am not delusional. The bloody show is telling the truth, that persistent rectal pressure wasn’t a figment of my imagination, and labor is well on its way.

I get in the tub and find that I can still move my hips the right way if I kneel and lean over the edge. Only my legs and lower belly are immersed, so I add lots of hot water. It feels delicious. I keep trying to sleep but I can’t rest my head properly.

A few minutes later. In between my efforts to sleep, I pop my head up and say to the midwife, “I really need to work on the CEU & CME applications for the breech workshop in June.”

Around 10:20 am. I know I’m going to start pushing. Not right away, but in 4-5 more contractions. It’s the subtlest catch in my throat, so quiet no one else can hear. It’s the slightest downward heaving during a contraction. I keep this knowledge a secret for a few more contractions. One nice thing about being a seasoned multip is that you can read your body’s cues with extreme accuracy.

Part III: Pushing

I really dislike pushing. I fear it, I dread it, and when it actually begins I endure it only because I have to. I try to convince myself that I should be excited because pushing means the baby will be born soon. But no, it still is just as unpleasant each time. I don’t doubt those women who look forward to pushing and find that it takes the pain of transition away--it’s just never happened that way to me.

There was something “off” about this pushing stage. It took too long at first and then went too quickly at the end. Once you’ve pushed several babies out of your vagina, you know when something is abnormal. When I first checked, the baby’s head was just two knuckles deep. But after several really strong contractions--violently strong--I reached inside and the baby’s head was significantly higher up. I felt a stretchy band of something, probably a lip of anterior cervix, about 1 cm at the widest point and as thick as my eyelid. It stayed through several more contractions. We guessed it was a cervical lip acting, in my midwife’s words, like a “slingshot” and pulling the baby back in. Between contractions I’d stretch it and try to slip it under the pubic bone, but there wasn’t quite enough space for my fingers to push it back.

My body was pushing ferociously, made so much worse by the unexplained resistance keeping the baby’s head from descending. You won’t see any gentle “breathing the baby down” in the birth video. I had absolutely no control over what was happening during contractions.

During one of the pauses, I reached inside and felt a small bubble of water bag. It burst with a small pinch. “I just broke the water bag,” I announced. Maybe this would help bring the baby down?

Nothing happened after the next two contractions, but the earth shifted during the following one. In what I call The Mother Of All Contractions, my body gave a tremendous, 5-minute-long push that brought the baby all the way down, to crowning, and out with only the tiniest pauses.

This was just as un-fun as pushing with no progress. I was sure I’d tear. (I didn't. My body rocks.) Nothing had time to stretch or mold. I barely had time to apply counter-pressure and to cup the baby’s head in my hand before it slid out. The shoulders came just a second or two later. I didn’t even have time to look down before she was all the way out.

The first thing I remember seeing was Ivy’s hand reaching up. I lifted her out of the water, unwound a nuchal cord, and put her to my chest in one fluid motion. When I watch the birth video, I am amazed at the complex series of movements that I performed without conscious effort. I don’t remember thinking about having to shift her to the other hand and unwrap the cord; I just did it.

Part IV: Feel the Fear

Two days after I gave birth, I read these words from a British midwife currently practicing in Australia:
In a backlash against the medicalisation of birth women are beginning to reclaim birth (yay!). Partly thanks to the availability of information via the internet, a counter culture has emerged. Movies, images and stories of empowered birthing mothers circulate through social media – women birthing in beautiful calm environments (usually in water, surrounded by candles), looking like Goddesses whilst gently and quietly ‘breathing’ their baby out. Women are able to see how birth can be, and many are inspired and driven to create a birth experience like those they watch.

Whilst these images can assist in building self-trust for mothers as they approach birth, they do not tell the whole story....

Regardless of attempts to ensure safety, deep down, like our ancestors we know we step into the unknown during birth. Fear is a normal part of birth....

Women who manage to remain calm and serene whilst birthing are admired for maintaining control. In contrast, those who are loud, and appear to ‘lose it’ are considered to be out of control....We have created a culture (and birth culture) that seeks to avoid and minimise extreme emotion and pain, and encourages being in control.... I think it is a shame that this powerful aspect of the birth experience remains hidden and suppressed.
I am telling my story first, before sharing the video or the pictures, so you know my internal experience before viewing it from an observer’s perspective. This birth was really hard. When I edited the video, I purposefully kept the most intense parts. Most of what I removed were the long periods of silence and rest--not because they don’t have value, but because if the video is too long, people won’t end up watching it!

I’m going to share the pictures last because I know they will be transcendent and amazing. If I have any complaint about birth photography, it’s that it can capture beauty in the most desperate, difficult moments. I don’t want my birth story to only show a calm, beautiful “birthing Goddess” or a triumphant superheroine or a rockstar or a woman silently relaxing through her “pressure waves.” I want it to also show the agony and the difficulty that make those previous images possible. Birth isn’t about avoiding one set of realities in favor of another. It’s about embracing all facets of birth--contradictory, messy, or unpleasant as some might be--as vital to the whole.

Ivy's birth video here.

Ivy's birth photos here

Read more ...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


We finally have a name!

Ivy Claire Freeze

Eric finally agreed this morning, somewhat reluctantly. Good thing he did, since my mom sent out official birth announcements--with the name--to her entire extended family last night.

Some names that almost made the final cut:
Brigitte (probably our overall 2nd choice, since my German grandma is named Brigitta, so it would have both German and French connections)
Gisèle (Eric's top choice, but I didn't care for this as much)

We put Ivy's footprints on this quilt square, then I embroidered around the prints and washed the ink off. I have two more squares to make: one for her birth and one for the newborn stage.

If you're wondering how I did the letters, I printed the words, put the paper under the fabric, and drew the letters with a fabric marker. Then I sewed over the lines with a zig-zag stitch. I stretched the fabric in an embroidery hoop to keep it more stable while I sewed. The end result isn't as perfect as with an embroidery machine, but I'm okay with that.

Some pictures Zari took today:

And a few I took:

Read more ...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...