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December Birth #2 - Birth Brought Ailie

Mom had UC'd with her third birth - her first two were in the hospital, the second a total, fabulous precip - all under 4 hours. With this birth, she wanted something different - a different energy - something she wasn't able to completely describe to me, but conveyed to me by hiring a midwife (me) who would play by her rules as long as things were safe and all was wonderful and cool. And all was wonderful and cool, indeed.

During the pregnancy, she agreed to allowing me to draw a prenatal blood panel and listen to the baby's heart rate. Blood pressure and measuring the uterus are not the most crucial things for me, but she allowed us to do those, so we did. All was fine and dandy.

Our biggest obstacle was getting to mom's house before the birth (she lives far from my office and even further from my house) and extensive counseling was done regarding staying close to the ground and not being on the toilet if she was alone during the moment of birth. Mom really felt we would make it this birth and the assistant and my apprentice also felt we would, but I wasn't so sure. I just wanted all the bases covered, so made sure she knew: low to the ground and off the toilet!

She knew labor was going to come soon by contractions that were annoying, but they stopped periodically over the few days before they wouldn't actually stop. Once the didn't totally stop, she still could sleep through them for some of the night, but she walked and wandered and puttered around the new house to keep her mind off the contractions and on other things.

Her best friend, another client of mine - the client of mine that transferred to the hospital and then subsequently hemorrhaged at the birth - spent the day at her house entertaining the two younger kids, feeding and watering her (the laboring mom) and taking cool pictures of her fixing the heater (with tools and everything). The two dads also hung out that day playing poker for some sort of yogurt balls (I'm sure someone will understand what I am talking about) and then when it got closer to dark, the laboring mama thought it was cool to have us mosie over - not that anything had changed, mind you. She'd been in labor for about 17 hours by this time - a new record for her. Her total labor was 21 hours. We were there for about 90 minutes before the birth.

I gathered the troops (I drive them to births when we have time... it's a nice trip back and forth) and we headed up, wondering if we'd make it or not. When we got there, we saw our previous client holding a baby and wondered if it was hers or the new baby. It was her own. The new baby waited inside the mother for the midwife to come.

It was a hootin' party inside! Kids hollerin'. Dads laughing. The tv playing some sort of kid's cartoon. Something baking. How festive! Where was the labor going on?

Oh, there she is. In this side room over here.

We walked over to the room and there's mom hunched over a birth ball watching... what's this? Blinking, I had to laugh outloud.

I've experienced a whole lot of different styles of relaxing in labor. I've written often about how I own every Enya, but if I never had to hear her again in a labor, I would be thrilled. Between she and George Winston, they are my hands down faves for most over-played labor music, although hypnobirthing tapes are outweighing George nowadays.

I loved this mom after spending time getting to know her, long before I was ever her midwife, but what she chose to watch in labor sealed our fate as "kindred spirits."

Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea

Yes, it's true. She spent her labor watching the tales of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe and life on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Suddenly, I knew we could be lifelong friends if she could/was watching this movie in labor - in deep and heavy labor! A woman after my own heart.

We pulled in the supplies from the car, but most of them stayed in the living room or dining room and we brought in just the actual birth essentials (gloves, clamps, mirror, flashlight, etc.) and got the blankets warming on the CPR board (that we surround by two heating pads). We ended up taking one set of vitals and two sets of heart tones on the baby and that was it because all was fine - and things progressed quickly.

After the initial shuffling of bodies into the room, we got settled: I was on the bottom bunk with my apprentice, the assistant close to the tv, the mom on her ball or kneeling on her ball in the center of the room, the friend wandering in and out and the kids doing the same.

Eventually, the one dad left with the friend's kidlets and the youngest child of the house fell asleep so dad put her to bed.

Now, this dad wasn't going to have a part in this birth. We assumed it was cultural and it very well might have been, but it was also a pretty big assumption on our part. He'd left for the UC and mom had her friend (the same one that was here this time) there to catch and he came back when everything was cleaned up. That was the plan pretty much for this time, too, except this was nearing midnight and there wasn't anywhere to go with two sleepy kids. Near the end, he stayed in one of the back bedrooms (I think).

The saga of Anne continued as tension between her and Gibert rocked back and forth - much the same as my client on the ball, although she barely moved or breathed differently than you or I are doing even now. If you didn't know she was in labor, you might not have even been able to tell. She got up and waddled to the bathroom every few minutes - the most obvious strenuous part of labor looking at it from the outside.

Many women's contractions are regular and rhythmic, but this woman's were, down to the second, 5 minutes apart from when we arrived. When Diana Barry got married, her contractions moved down to 3 minutes apart and her breathing quickened slightly - eyes closed more time than opened - and we could see things were coming closer.

You know in poems and stories how Death is spoken about like a person or an actual being? How Death walks in the room or you can smell Death? (I hate having to talk about that like this in the middle of a birth story, but there is no other way to talk about this but this way.) Well, at this birth, Birth walked in the door.

Never, in all these years of working, have I ever, ever, ever experienced such a tangible moment of clarity that Birth was imminent without any outward signs to tell me so. There was no bloody show. There was no pushing. No contraction. No grunting. No sighing. No crying. No words from mom at all. There was one thing only.

Birth walked in the door with her arms filled with the scent of herself.

As if we'd been sitting in pitch black (no scent) and someone (Birth) turned on the lightswitch, the scent of birth was not there and then, just as suddenly, was so pervasive my head swam in the headiness of the scent of this woman's oceanic wetness that hadn't even spilt a drop anywhere outside of her vagina yet. I looked at the women around the room.

My apprentice, my assistant, the friend/my client - did I say outloud, "I smell birth"? or did I just say, "It's time to wash our hands"? Somewhere before or after washing my hands I sat on the floor and turned the tv off while the friend turned the video camera on and we hunkered down on the floor and watched as mom's amniotic sac burst against the back wall and she laughed thinking that was big fun. 4 minutes later the baby was born.

On hands and knees, mom let the baby come down and we watched as she came down somewhat acynclitically (thank goodness she was small!) and I encouraged mom to reach down for her baby and she got one hand down, but couldn't quite help her up so the assistant helped the baby out and up through her legs so she could bring her baby up to her own chest.

We brought warm blankets over to let mom dry the baby - no hat! (I have this thing about babies and hats, you know, and this mom didn't want a hat on her kid. At the home visit, I said that I really wanted a hat on the baby since it was going to be cold and she said, "that's nice" to me. I just laughed, knowing where I was going to go with any further hat discussion.)

Dad heard the baby's cry and walked by the room and said something like, "already?" and then something along the lines of "yuck" before walking away. We closed the door so we could get things cleaned before he had to see the baby again. Closing the door also made the room warmer.

I'd made a concession (my own) about the hat by bringing an extra space heater (I carry one in the winter anyway) into the room and we had it going along with their space heater. About 5 minutes after the birth, a fuse blew and there was suddenly NO heat in the room at all except by all of our body heat. I had to laugh at all my planning ahead. Someone tossed a big blanket on top of mom and baby and I hoped for the best. I was glad we weren't in Minnesota.

We cleaned things up as mom was fed and juiced and then she trekked to the toilet where she said she knew she tore. I asked if I could look and she said, "nope," and I said, "you won't let me suture if you tore where I could suture and make you more comfortable?" as she sat wincing her face all scrunchy on the toilet. "Nope," she said. Eek! Okay. breathe

We cleaned up the room, got the bed ready for her to climb into as the dad got the fuse thingie fixed. I checked over the baby really quickly (with mom's permission) while she was on the potty and took her temperature (she was a girl!) and it was a chilly 96.9. I expressed my concern about her temp and wrapped her up warmly and suggested a skin to skin and under the blankets once they were together again. I kept her close to me until mom got back.

We loaded our gear back into the car and headed out a lickity-split 90 minutes after the birth. Only one other time had I left that fast after a birth - after my now-apprentice's hands-off birth, It still felt bizarre. So much was left undone! I charted "mother refused" on the newborn exam, the vitals, the measurements, the postpartum instructions, the place where it asks if mom had a tear or not and whether she was sutured or not. So many things normally/typically done that just weren't done. I marvelled at my groove and how I squirmed stepping out of it. I'm sure it was a great lesson for me to experience. Couldn't have been with a better group of women, that's for sure.

So, after the birth, in the room, there was me, the mom and her new daughter, the friend/my client, my apprentice/client, my assistant, and the new mom's daughter and we were giggling and having a sweet time when the husband tried to get the older daughter to go to bed. There was way too much energy to get that to happen, though. I laughed thinking of all that chick energy zipping around in there and what an honor it was to be lathering ourselves in it... how very blessed we were to be invited into this woman's space where she opened her door and showed us the room where she let Birth walk in and set down, right on her lap, a beautiful baby with the middle name of "Anne."

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Reader Comments (12)

I love the story!

One question- in the "low to the floor and off the toilet" why off the toilet?

December 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I have gotten rid if "newborn hat" from my list of things needed for the immediate postpartum. Gail Hart wrote some good information about hats that I had always felt inuitively, but because it was standard of care to put a hat right on the baby and that is how I was taught, I kept doing in. Basically, Gail says that cotton hats don't really help keep heat in all that well - if we use a hat to keep the baby warm it is really only wool that works. She also talked about how important pheramones are to that first bonding experience and that their are sebaceous glands in the fontanel that are covered with the hat. Because it seemed to do little good, and may interfer with a natural process my assistant and I decided to give no-hats a try. We have done it for the past 8 births (which I realize is a small n=) and so far I think we will stick with it. We take the babies temp more frequently and make sure they are skin to skin at all times and we haven't seen any temperature issues. We have, however, noticed a change in how women interact with their babies. I always though that it was so strange in the hospital when women are handed a clean, swaddled, hatted, baby bundle and are expected to bond with their child - it looks more like a baby doll. Well without the hat, we have seen even more of the touching and smelling and grooming that we are used to at home births. So much so that I am begining to feel strongly that hats are an intervention best saved for when they are needed. If you can't get the baby to stay warm with blankets, a warm room and skin-to-skin that go for a hat, but not as a routine for all babies. It's hard to let go of - I totally understand that - but maybe this is your chance to give it a try. You can always decided to put a hat on the baby, but once it is there you have already affected the process. It is a small intervention in the grand scheme, but I believe it is important to question all things we do so that we know we are always acting consciously no matter what choice we make in the end.

December 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGillian (midwife)

Thank you for this gorgeous birth story; I just shared it with my 3 best girlfriends who will be attending me at my birth.

December 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

So she wouldn't have to fetch a baby out of the ice cold water.

I encouraged her to pop off the toilet and onto the floor if she was on the toilet laboring and felt the baby coming quickly.

Does that make sense?

December 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I like this story because I love the Anne movies, and books! I even vacationed in Prince Edward Island one year, which was awesome.

I agree with no hats, and I do live in Minnesota! I think babies come with everything they need for survival, including a Mama to keep them warm.

December 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

yea I found the info on actually cold caps being used for babies that need resuscitation.
there is some use for keeping some babies warm- but there is probably some other bigger great textural, sensual reason to have an open head-- think of that smell of birth-- that just curls in that hair..
hard to break parent of that habit though and some midwives and that bulb syringe is the other pesky thing I only want on occasion but parents just want to be doing all that snarfing at times...

we had a baby take a plunge in the toilet just recently..;)

December 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

oh oh I forgot to mention that my oldest son absolutely loves the Anne stories those PBS videos -- he is 26 and we got him the series for his birthday a while back. What a great birth story thanks for sharing.

December 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

oh gosh, and I totally forgot to mention how much I L-O-V-E the Anne movies. Anyone else memorise "The Lady of Shalott"???

December 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

gave me chills (the part about her middle name being Anne!).

December 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdoulicia

Could it have been all the people and activity at her house that made the labor take longer? I have seen many moms suddenly pop into active labor the moment the door closed behind their child. Once I saw a mom pop into active labor as the elevator door closed behind her mom and dad.

December 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLeona


You will LOVE reading about December Birth #3 when I get to it!

December 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I just gave birth to my 4th baby and the "no hat" part of this story made me realize I never want hats on my babies either. We live in Wyoming where it is very cold this winter and having a December baby, I reluctantly have used a hat with this new guy more than I usually do but I found myself those few days right after his birth taking the hat off alot and just breathing in his new baby smell. Reading this story made me realize how much "smelling" and bonding is done those first few days and the hat definately gets in the way. LOL!

January 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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