Eve Aurelia ~ “Light of Life”
I always knew that I didn’t want a hospital birth. My mother had taught childbirth classes (Bradley) while my siblings and I were growing up, and I had enough experiences with hospitals to want to avoid them. During pregnancy I devoured books, and learned even more about the harmful obstetric practices in hospitals, which confirmed in my mind even more that I would not give birth there. It was not an option for me unless there was an absolute emergency. I started searching for other options, and found a birthing center only a 30-minute drive from our home. I had thought about the idea of a home birth, but it is illegal in our state for a midwife to attend a home birth. Getting prenatal care, and having a home birth with a midwife, was not an option. And if you want to try it anyway, you have to do it “underground” so to speak, and how do you go about “shopping” for a midwife, when their practice is considered illegal? You don’t find them in the phone book, that’s for sure!
Anyway, my husband and I decided for the Birth Center, and started going there for prenatal checkups at about my 7th month. I didn’t feel the need for “routine” checkups before then. The baby was growing fine, and I knew deep down that she was healthy, and that I was doing the best that I could to keep her (and my) health good. I eat a vegetarian (vegan) diet, and it was wonderful during pregnancy, just as it has always been during every other time. I consumed lots of fruits and vegetables, organic when possible, and juices, nuts, seeds, breads, pastas, potatoes, soups, tofu, etc. My general experience with medical professionals has usually been: the more contact and intervention, the more problems – health-wise and emotionally. I decided to trust with my gut instincts with this pregnancy and do the things that felt right with me. I paid attention to my body’s signals – ate when I was hungry, rested or took a nap when I was tired, and tried to keep myself healthy – exercising, drinking lots of water, and cutting out stressful activities and thoughts.
Not too long after I started attending check-ups I began to be pressured by the nurses (nurse-midwives) to have tests performed, which in my opinion were unnecessary. They wanted to do a glucose tolerance test to check for gestational diabetes, “just in case,” when there were no signs that I was in danger of that. My belly measured bigger than the “average” (no room for variables here, obviously) by a centimeter or two, so that made me a candidate for a sonogram, despite the fact that large babies run in my mother’s history (her last baby weighed 12.3 pounds at birth with no complications whatsoever) and she always carried extra amniotic fluid and measured larger than typical charts as well. When I asked the reason for an ultrasound, the midwife told me “just to make sure all of the baby’s organs are working, and that all its parts – legs, arms, etc. – are all there.”
Hey, if the baby has already been growing for 8 months, and is missing a foot or finger now, what can be done about it now? Or what could have been done about it in the previous months? I do not see the point of performing tests (especially when there are potential side effects!) to find out a problem that has no solution. And when a problem does exist, I am not inclined to follow Conventional Medicine’s “solutions” to the problem either. I go the “natural” way.
When I refused to do an ultrasound, the nurse threatened that I might be pronounced too “high-risk” to give birth at the center, unless they did one, and my only option would be a hospital birth. High risk? Based on what?
After a few days of obsessing, stressing, and discussing, Andrei and I decided to opt for a homebirth and abandon the idea of the Birth Center. During those days, I spent a lot of time online, researching home births, and reading oodles of birth stories. I found Laura Shanley’s website for unassisted births, and it was an answer to prayer. All of my fears about having a home birth and doing it “by ourselves” disappeared and I finally felt at peace about the whole situation. I felt so peaceful and relaxed during the rest of my pregnancy. There were other reasons as well that we gave up on the idea of the birth center – like policies/procedures they had during your actual course of labor that I really disagreed with. I didn’t want to be even more stressed out by trying to avoid their routine practices when the time actually came…. Who needs that?
I didn’t share the news of our decision with anyone, since it would almost always be viewed as irresponsibility and I didn’t want or need to hear so many negative comments and opinions. In my heart I knew that it was the right thing to do, and very few people understand or listen to gut feelings, conscience, or the voice of God. I knew a Great Physician would be attending our birth, who was infinitely better than any human doctor, physician, or health “professional.”
Two days before Eve was born I was having Braxton Hicks contractions, but they felt different – stronger – than usual. Thursday night I lost part of my mucus plug. Friday morning I lost the rest of it. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. After an hour I decided to get up and take a shower – thinking it would relax me enough so I could go back to sleep. Afterwards I laid back down, but still couldn’t sleep. I sat there, thinking about chocolate cake of all things! After 30 more minutes, I figured I might as well get up and do something productive, since I was wide awake. So I went to the kitchen and started making a cake! (Pregnancy is a strange thing!) Vanilla Buttercream cake with chocolate (well, carob) frosting.
I never went back to bed. The whole day I cleaned house and cooked a lot of food, since we were expecting company for lunch the next day. Made 6 loaves of bread, went grocery shopping, ran errands, etc. During the day I was having the same irregular contractions, but I could tell they felt different than they had for the past few months. The cashier at the store asked “You still haven’t had that baby? When are you due?” “Any day.” I told her.
I told Andrei that night that I felt different, and jokingly said “You never know…we might have a baby by tomorrow.”
I didn’t really believe that, because Eve wasn’t “due” for another week, and I expected that she would be born later, not sooner. We went to bed Friday night though, and I woke up at 3:00 a.m. with real labor contractions.
I could half-way sleep through them until around 4:00. At 4, I woke Andrei up for moral support since the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and strong. (“Strong” is relative, as I found out later). At 5:00 I realized “Okay, this is the real thing!” and decided to get out of bed and walk around the house to help move the baby down. We have a small condo, so basically I paced back and forth from the kitchen to the living room for the next hour. I thought about going outside for a walk around our circle, but didn’t think I could handle it. I was in quite a good mood, but the contractions felt more uncomfortable than I thought they would. Andrei went back to sleep for this hour, but it was good for me to labor alone at that time because I learned how to mentally deal with the contractions in a different way and it was very beneficial. I half-squatted, half-sat on the living room floor and tried to read a little from the book Steps to Christ as a way to focus. During a contraction I would read the same sentence over and over again until it passed. At 6:00 I gave up on both reading and walking and went back to our bedroom. Andrei woke up and helped me through contractions for the next few hours.
I had always pictured myself lying down during labor, in bed, or in the bathtub. The idea of a water birth was always appealing to me. Usually when I am not feeling good, I want to lay down in a dark place, under a warm blanket, or in a hot bath, and have someone massage my back. I don’t like being alone. Labor was sooo much different though. The majority of the time I was on my hands and knees, doing pelvic rocks, or kneeling on the bed or floor and stretching my back. I had to move around. Sitting still hurt. And what felt good for one contraction was not good for the next one. I was in a different position with every contraction.
At around 9:00 we both ate breakfast. I paced around the living room and kitchen while Andrei got breakfast together. I sat down on the floor and laid my head on the seat of one of the chairs in the dining area and tried to breathe slowly through contractions. Andrei’s brother, hearing us stirring in the kitchen, decided to poke his head out of his bedroom door. He looked at me on the floor and asked how I was feeling. I muttered something like “Ugh.” He glanced at me, then Andrei, then back at me, and decided to retreat back inside his room.
Because Eve was not “due” for another week we had invited some friends over to spend lunch with us that Sabbath. We thought about calling them to tell them not to come but I said “Let them come over and spend an hour or two, and then they can go home.” I was thinking of how much food we had in the fridge – enough for a week! – and didn’t want to eat stuffed shells for that long! Weird reasoning, I know, but it made perfect sense to me at the time. It never occurred to me that it might be a good idea to have extra food for the following days, but anyway….
They came over around 1:30 but I never left our bedroom, even to say hello. By that time I was too busy concentrating to deal with anybody. Andrei spent some time with them, going back and forth between, checking on me. At that time I was just working through contractions one at a time, doing whatever felt good at the moment, sometimes laboring on my bed, sometimes the floor, and other times in the bathroom, but almost always on my hands and knees. It just felt right; I can’t explain it. I couldn’t lie down during contractions – it felt impossible. If I did lie down between them, I was always back up during them. For a few contractions I was standing straight up – on my toes like a ballerina, stretching my arms towards the ceiling as much as I possibly could. Looking back, it seems like I was engaged in some sort of weird aerobic exercise class. Up for one, down for the next.
Sometime in there I ate some lunch – stuffed shells, salad, toast, etc. and tried to keep drinking lots of water and juice.
At around 4 pm I started getting antsy, wondering how much longer this could possibly take. I was really uncomfortable and tired. I tried laying down, but couldn’t rest for very long between all the “baby hugs.” I didn’t know how far apart contractions were because after 4:00 I never looked at the clock again. I didn’t care. I was concentrating very hard on relaxing as much as I could and conserving energy.
At around 6:00, or 6:30 I felt exhausted, as if I couldn’t labor anymore. I was completely exhausted!! I sat in a weird squat-sitting position on the bed for a long time. In between contractions I would actually fall asleep (yes, that IS possible!). During those contractions it felt better to push. I wasn’t pushing her out, but I was probably in a pushing “stage.” I felt a dull burning sensation up really high. I would semi- push very easily during each contraction because the slight pressure relieved some of the pain. At this point, I was getting very anxious. I started to wonder if the baby’s head was stuck because it felt like her head was pushing against my pelvic bone with every contraction. I thought of the many times I heard stories about the baby’s head being too big to fit through the pelvis, and couldn’t be born and started worrying that I was now one of those people. I am a small person (my pre-pregnancy weight/height was 95 pounds and 5’3″), and big babies run in my family (9 pounders and above).
We called Resa up to give her an update on what was going on. She was our childbirth class instructor, and a doula, and had agreed to attend our birth. She had attended several other births and would be able to recognize any emergencies if they were to occur and we would need to go to the hospital.
“I can’t do this stuff anymore! I’ve tried relaxing and it just doesn’t work! I had a lot of misconceptions about this whole birth thing!” I bawled at her. She decided she ought to come over then. Before she got off the phone she said “Do you remember what happens when you feel like you can’t take it anymore?” I knew the answer was “A baby comes” and that’s what I thought in my head, but I think all I said was “Ughhh.”
Andrei told her that my contractions were not consistent in timing- they were coming anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes apart. I was kind of aggravated when he said that because I thought he must not know what in the world he was talking about – it felt like they were coming right on top of each other!
Poor Andrei. He would try to rub my back or massage my neck, and do what he could to help me relax, but all I could say was “NO TOUCH!” Normally I love it, but labor was completely different. I didn’t want anything, or anyone, to touch any part of my body – it just felt annoying and made me want to bite! I felt like a rabid dog or something.
When Resa got here I was on the bed in my squat-sitting position. I had lost track of time by then (who needs to watch a clock during labor anyway?), but eventually I got to the point of pushing the baby out. I never got that “have to go to the bathroom” feeling – just very strong contractions that almost made me want to hold them back. I didn’t push her out at all – my body did all of it. I was afraid I was going to split in half or something if the contractions continued to be that strong, but I couldn’t have held them back if I wanted to. My body completely took over – I was like a back-seat passenger!
I was on the floor next to our bed with Chux pads underneath me. At this point I was VERY loud (vocal), but didn’t care. I had to be. I had never imagine myself as someone making a bunch of noise during labor, or yelling like I’ve seen people do, but I really couldn’t help it. That’s just the way it was – I couldn’t control it. It was coming from the center of my body, up and out. I must have sounded like a moose. Later on, I wondered what my brother-in-law must have thought of the whole situation….he was hiding out in his room through the whole ordeal, but I think the whole neighborhood could have heard me, so I know he could.
While I was pushing, Resa got a washcloth and soaked it with hot water to put on my bottom. It felt so good. After such a long labor time, it was the best relief! During a contraction I shooed it away, but between them I would fuss “Warm!” which meant I wanted it back on my bottom. Both Andrei and Resa were down on the floor with me, saying encouraging things and helping me through each contraction. What they were saying, I don’t know, but it sure helped at the time.
The bag of waters didn’t break until her head was at least halfway out. When Resa saw her head coming out, she said she thought it was either the bag of waters or umbilical cord because it was white and squishy.
I remember someone saying “Just push really easy” when her head was starting to crown. I don’t know exactly what I said to that. Resa told me later that I said “She is pushing herself out! I’m not doing this anymore! After her head is out, that’s it! She’s doing it.” What I was thinking in my mind, was “I am not pushing her out! She’s doing it by herself, I don’t have control over it!” I could no more have “pushed easy” than I could have held the waves of the ocean back. My body pushed her out the whole way – I didn’t put any pressure on her, or bear down at all.
I remember Andrei saying “I can see the head! I can see the head!” He put his hand underneath me to touch her head but I told him “Don’t touch! DON’T touch!” The thought of any extra pressure in that area was enough to drive me crazy. “I’m not going to touch,” he says, “I’m only going to after her head is all the way out” – he didn’t just want her to drop on the floor.
After her head crowned around the widest part, she came out fast. There was her head, and then her whole body just slid out. Andrei caught her and was saying “My baby! My baby!” He was almost crying – I could hear it in his voice. Resa asked him if it was a boy or girl and he responded with “I don’t care! It’s my baby!” That was the most memorable part of the whole birth.
She started breathing right away, and there were no problems whatsoever. No cord around her neck, no breathing problems, no need to suction her, no meconium staining the water, no stress on her. The placenta came out immediately – within a minute after she was born! I felt it coming, and said “That’s the placenta!” and out it came. We were all surprised that it came out so fast. We checked it over and it was perfect – all in one piece. It went into a utility bucket (of all things!) that was near the bed – Andrei had brought it to me earlier during a contraction when I felt like I might throw up.
We wrapped her up and laid on the bed for awhile to rest. Andrei was holding her and wouldn’t let her go for anything. I tried feeding her, but she just seemed to want to sleep after all the hullabaloo. Andrei’s brother eventually came out of his room to come and meet our new little family member. After awhile I went to take a bath, while Andrei and Resa cut the umbilical cord. We left it alone for an hour or two but decided we wanted to wash her off a little in the tub with me, and I didn’t want to bathe with a placenta.
We called my parents, sister, and grandparents, and Andrei’s mother for just a few short minutes to tell them the news, and then decided to sleep. It was almost 2:00 in the morning by then; she was born at 11:07. Andrei told me “Well, you can try to feed the baby real quick, and then I can hold her for the next few hours so you can get some rest.” He is crazy about her! She ended up sleeping through the whole night….laying on top of his stomach, totally content!
In the morning Andrei got up early – he was too excited to sleep for very long – said he felt fine and wasn’t tired at all. He ran to the grocery store to get orange juice for us. Me and the baby and Resa just kept sleeping. He returned with 4 cartons of orange juice, a bouquet of pink flowers, and a balloon saying “It’s a girl!”. We had some left over cake from the day before, so we had a real birthday party! I thought about how ironic that was, since I had not made a cake at all the whole year. What timing!
My labor ended up being 20 hours long.
It was not as easy a labor as I thought it would be. I experienced more pain than I had anticipated. But I am so so happy that we had a drug-free home-birth. That is the only option I see for my own self. I believe that if I would have been at the Birth Center, it would have been a lot harder for me, since I would not have been able to mentally relax – I would have been on my guard the whole time, trying to avoid fetal monitoring and pretending that I felt better than I actually did – to avoid having them transfer me to a hospital. I really believe that if I had labored there, I would have definitely been transferred to the hospital for a C-section for “failure to progress.” But Eve just needed a little more time.
I think I could have sped up labor by getting into a squatting position sooner. I sat for quite a few hours in a sitting position with my legs folded back against my sides because it just felt better than any other position, and because I couldn’t sleep in a squatting position between contractions (I was sooo tired). It ended up putting a lot of pressure on the upper part of my bottom and bruised the muscle and bone in that area as a result. I don’t think I’ll be trying that again next time.
I am also really happy that Resa attended our birth. At first I was a little hesitant at having anyone except Andrei attend because I am a private person and wasn’t impressed with the idea of someone seeing my butt (and everything else!). But she was an incredible help, and I was really happy to have her there. During labor she gave me updates of the baby’s status which was very encouraging during pushing.
“I can see the head.”
“It’s almost here.”
She was a physical and emotional encouragement, and it made me peaceful to know she was there.
Eve is a healthy, active little girl at 3 weeks now. We went to the health department 3 days after her birth to fill out the papers for her birth certificate. While we were there, we had her weighed and measured. She weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and was 20 inches long. We figure she was about 7 ½ to 8 pounds at birth, since babies tend to lose some weight within the first week. Right from the start she was really strong – holding her head up by the second day, and rolling over during the second week.
She is a vegan, breastfed, home birthed, cloth-diapered baby and me and Andrei joke that she’s our “all natural baby”!