Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Birth Story of Clara Joy

This is the story of how Clara, my second baby, entered the world, as told by her mama.  She was born at Mountain Midwifery Center, Colorado's only freestanding birth center, in the Tent Room.

The facts: 19 hours of intermittent early labor, 3.5 hours active labor, 6 or so pushes.  Born in the water and a little slow to take her first breath.  7lb 4.5oz, 19-1/4 inches of perfection. World champion breastfeeder.


Sunday, June 3 (37 weeks, 4 days) - Felt tired, crampy, weird.  Stayed in bed half the day.

Monday, June 4 (37 weeks, 5 days) - Had a prenatal massage.  Cramps in the evening, seeming to come in waves, but no real pattern.  Went away during sleep.

Friday, June 8 (38 weeks, 2 days) - Feeling weird and crampy again.  Not a lot of energy.  We went to Colorado Springs for the weekend, and I got in some pool time which made me feel a lot better!

Saturday, June 9 (38 weeks, 3 days) - The baby dropped!  This made me feel like I had to go to the bathroom all the time, and the waddle increased.  On the other hand, I had more room up top to breathe, and she seemed to be riding better in my pelvis which decreased the pain in my pelvic joints.

38weeks 5day bump, post-dropping - in my favorite shirt :)

Thursday, June 14 (39 weeks, 1 day) - I had fairly strong menstrual-like cramps at night and all morning. At my 39 week appointment, we saw Rachel (a student midwife) and Sarit, and Rachel performed my first internal exam.  I was 1cm dilated, 50% effaced, cervix completely posterior (boo), baby at -1 or -2 station (yay!).  We went to Travis's work group's picnic where I ate BBQ for dinner... turns out there may be a theme here...

Friday, June 15 (39 weeks, 2 days) - I woke up to pee at 5am, and found that I was losing my mucous plug.  I never saw the mucous plug with Andrew, and so like most things labor related, I wondered if I would know it if I saw it.  Answer: yes.  It's pretty obvious.  It was streaked with pink - I don't know if I'd call it bloody show, but some say that any pink at all is bloody show, so there you go.  I was super excited, regardless, because it seemed like things were starting to happen.

I crawled back into bed for my final hour of sleep, when I was hit by a mild-but-real labor contraction.  Anyone who has been in labor probably knows what I mean by "mild but real."  They are so different from Braxton Hicks, or the crampy stuff.  You are like, yep, baby's coming.  No doubt in my mind.  The difference compared to last time was that they were mild enough that I could just wait them out in bed - no need to move, no need to vocalize.  I had a couple of these and was too excited to sleep, so I woke Travis up, knowing that it would probably be our last chance to have a quality cuddle for the foreseeable future.  We cuddled and chatted and timed them - they were 12-15 minutes apart.

I got up and started moving around and soon after the pattern broke down, so that I had had them for about 1.5 hours.  I decided that I'd go into work for at least a little while to tie up my loose ends - I figured it was a good bet that I wouldn't be back on Monday, so I wanted to take the opportunity to wrap things up - one that I didn't really have the first time around.  By the time I got to work I was only having very intermittent mild contractions, but when I had them they were still definitely real ones.    I notified my doula and the birth center that some things were happening, but I didn't want to seem over eager, so I just said, "It might not be today, but probably this weekend."  I lost some more of my mucous plug at 11am.

I continued to have random, intermittent, mild contractions throughout the day, but by the time I went to bed, nothing was happening.

Saturday, June 16 (39 weeks, 3 days) - At 12:30am I woke up to a contraction, similar to the ones I had been feeling during the day.  I got up to pee, glanced out the window at the night weather, then headed back to bed.  No sooner had I laid down than another one hit me, so I busted out the contraction timer app on Travis's iPhone to time them while I attempted to go back to sleep.

Well, it turns out they were 5 minutes apart, and I was having trouble laying still through them, so I decided to go lay on the couch and let Travis get as much sleep as possible.  When the first one hit on the couch, I flew up off of it - no, laying down was not going to work for me.  So I got up and paced around the house breathing through them, trying not to get too excited, waiting for the hour to elapse before I was to call the midwife on call.  I contemplated baking cookies (this is what I do in the romanticized early labor in my head), but that seemed so dang *involved*.  I opted to make an egg sandwich instead, figuring that if this was the real thing (ha! denial!), I'd need some sustenance.

While I was making my eggs, I really started to vocalize through the contractions, leaning on the kitchen counter and swaying my hips.  I was cautious of my volume - I didn't want to wake Mr. Andrew up in the middle of the night!  But soon, I couldn't help it - they were too intense to be quiet.  At the peak of one particularly strong one, my water broke with a pop and a gush all over the kitchen floor.  Relief, though momentary, was instantaneous.  I dreaded that the contractions would get instantly tougher, but they really didn't - they just marched on.  It was 1:30am.

I now figured I'd best call the midwife - not only had my water broken, but it had been about an hour of 5-minutes-apart anyway. Sarit was on call (a good thing I had met her for the first time at my appointment on Thursday!) and I gave her the status.  She asked, "What are your contractions like?"  I responded, "Well, here comes one.  I need to vocalize; you can listen." When I was finished with my mooing/groaning/humming, she said, "Yeah, you need to come in."  I said, "Are you sure?  I came in *way* too early last time." And she was like, "A second time mama who sounds like that?  You *need to come in.*"

So I called up my doula, Jessica B, with "I'm very sorry to wake you, but... I'm having a baby."  And I got Travis up out of bed.  Travis, in turn, got Grandpa Jerry up for final instructions about care for Andrew overnight and to help load the Jeep.  We left the house right about 2am.

Final bump shot - still smiling!
 The ride down to the birth center was much worse than last time.  My contractions were really tough to bear in the car.  I would cling to the handle above the door and gasp, "How can people give birth in the hospital confined to a bed like this???  This is torture!!"  I needed mobility - it was all I could do not to open the door and jump out going 60 mph on US 285.

We finally got there at 2:35a, and met Jessica in the parking lot.  I forced myself to take the stairs this time, knowing that the pelvic motion was exactly what I needed.  I had to stop and handle a contraction in the stairwell, but being on my feet and mobile was SO MUCH BETTER than being in the car!

We arrived in the midst of a veritable maelstrom of babies (it turned out there were like 6 or 7 babies born that weekend at the birth center!).  The log room and the blue room were in use, so we took the tent room.  The tent room had been our first choice room with Andrew, but we ended up in the log room then, and learned to appreciate the benefit of a large amount of space.  So this time around our order of preference was purely size based... and so the tent room was now our third choice.  Ah well, clearly we had liked it at some point.  I was just happy to be there.

We came in and I had several contractions leaning over the bed, which were really tough because the bed was pretty low, so I was pretty bent over.  Everyone was so chatty - hey how are you, how's it going, good to see you, and I'm like, dude, I'm in labor here!  I can't just stand here!  So I headed over by myself and dove into the sling hanging from the ceiling.   This had worked really well with Andrew's labor, and so I knew it was a sure thing.  It was at the right height and allowed me to really keep my hips in motion while having some support.  Jessica came over and massaged my low back.

They wanted to do my internal check "at arrival" - I didn't want them to.  Internal checks had caused me so much pain in my first labor.  The student midwife who was there, Corey, did it, and let me tell you, it was the best cervical check I've ever had.  Gentle and quick - can't argue with that!  I was 5cm, 100% effaced, baby at 0 station.  I was totally excited by this - that was great work already done!  Judging by Andrew's labor, I only had 6-7 hours to go.  The time was 2:50am.  Back to the sling I went for more.

Not long after I went back to the sling, I started to have no breaks.  The contractions would rise up and peak, but when they came down again, there was no release.  There was always this baseline tension in the bottom of my belly (near my cervix, presumably).  Because of this, it was incredibly difficult to relax between contractions, and labor got pretty hard.  I looked up at Jessica, suddenly afraid that I couldn't do this for another 6 hours.  She told me that it wouldn't be another 6 hours, but I didn't know how to believe her.  She suggested I get in the tub.  I initially resisted, again saying that I got in the tub way too early last time.  But once the idea had a chance to really percolate down through the intensity I was feeling, I figured it was probably a good idea to try it.

Before I got in the tub, I wanted to go to the bathroom - I had been feeling like I needed to have a BM.  But I couldn't go.  This was my first indication that baby was close -- maybe a lot closer than I had previously thought. 

In the tub, with doula Jessica

Laboring with Travis, and midwife Corey looking on

All I wanted to do was hold Travis's hands.  Also, I was hot and needed cold washcloths on the back of my neck.
Very, very shortly after I got in the tub, I started having lots of sacral and rectal pressure - a familiar sensation from Andrew's birth... that meant pushing was just around the corner.  I was almost done!  This realization helped me understand that I really wouldn't be doing this that much longer - the finish line was already in sight!  I kept saying "so much pressure."  Corey wanted to know if I felt like I had to push.  "Not yet, but soon."  

My legs were cramping up underneath me as I was on my knees in the tub, and I tried to shake them out behind me.  Jessica leaned into the tub and massaged them for me, which helped.

About two or three contractions later, I felt the baby move down and I really did have the urge to bear down and push.  This was a nearly completely different sensation from Andrew's birth where the pushes rolled through my body like a freight train, with me hanging on for dear life and dangling off the back over the tracks.  Here I felt in control, like I was a conscious player, along with my body, working together to get the baby out.  I leaned forward over the side of the tub, then sat back on my knees, then leaned forward again.

Corey asked me to tell her when I felt burning, by which I knew she meant crowning, but I figured we were still a ways away from that point.  Imagine my surprise when a push or two later, baby's head was right there.  "Burning!  I've got burning!  She's crowning!" Corey reached down to confirm, and I got down to work moving baby's head out.  I could feel the stretching as she moved down and out.  I felt something pop up front, which I thought was me tearing, but I only ended up with a skid mark up there, so I'm not quite sure what it was that I felt.  

But then... I lost the urge to push.  There was no contraction.  I asked how far out she was - "Her head is halfway out," they said.  And I sat back on my heels, pausing, letting myself stretch to get around her.  I reached down behind me and could feel the curves of her face.  It hurt, it burned, but it was so cool to have a moment of respite in the midst of such intensity.  Finally the next contraction came, and I felt the pop of her chin as her head came out and there was a bit of relief.  I waited for the contraction after that to push again, and I swear I felt her push off inside me, like a swimmer pushing off the wall, right before her body came shooting out into the water.

I was ecstatic - what an experience!  I lifted my leg around and reached under me to scoop her up and bring her out of the water and to my chest.  Sarit was moving a loop of cord from around her neck at the same time, and the force of both of us pulling at once broke the umbilical cord! It broke off about 4 inches from Clara's body.  I felt so bad!  I wanted to let it stop pulsing, to let her have all the blood she could gather, like Andrew had had.  But I guess it's just something that happens on occasion, more often during waterbirths, It seems.

But then I realized that she wasn't yet moving.  She was slow to breathe after coming up out of the water.  It was really only a few seconds before she twitched, whimpered, and then cried out in earnest, but it was long enough to ask, "Is she okay?" and then to exclaim, "I love you, I love you, I love you," as if my love alone could make her be all right.  She came to, but they gave her a few puffs from the ventilator bag, just to be safe.  Her first APGAR was a 6, but her second was up to 9.  She was just fine.

Just born.
 She was born at 3:56am, approximately 2 hours after we left home, 1.5 hours after arriving at the birth center, an hour after I was 5cm at my first and only internal exam, and 20 minutes after getting in the tub.  We could have counted the number of contractions I had before getting in the tub, in the tub before pushing, and pushing before birth.  It was just incredibly fast.

We got out of the pool and moved to the bed where I birthed the placenta (easier than I remember from last time).  I was completely high on cloud 9.  Everything was awesome, nothing could bring me down.  I felt SO AMAZING.  Clara rooted around and I helped her latch on... which she did right away like a pro, and I could hear her gulping.  No pain for me, this time!

Hi, mama.

Skin to skin with daddy

"There's milk around here somewhere, right?"
 I was whisked off to my herbal bath where I just relaxed in my post-birth awesomeness.  Clara and Travis went off for the newborn exam.  In answer to one of our really big questions, it looks like Clara also has Milroy's Disease (Primary Congenital Lymphedema) - her left foot was/is quite swollen, and her right one just a little bit.

Squirmy worm on the scale

Daddy trims the cord

For some reason, I love this picture.

Mommy's done with her bath and ready to rejoin the cuddle party.

The first of many daddy-daughter naps

Dressed and ready to go home

Big seat, little girl
We lounged and relaxed (and tried not to fall asleep) for the requisite 4 hours before we could be discharged.  We got home just after 8:30am... about 6.5 hours after we had left.  Andrew (13.5 months old) was just eating his breakfast.  He was a little bewildered, but kind of fascinated by the little thing we brought home.

Meeting big brother Andrew, who was eating his breakfast

Grandma and Grandpa

"Gentle touches"

Andrew got a new shirt too.

Andrew wants to be part of the cuddle party

Andrew got a baby of his own to take care of.
And just like that... we had two kids.


Most of my reflections on Clara's birth are framed in my experience of Andrew's birth.  Coming into this birth, I was incredibly fearful that it would be different from last time.  I had a great experience with Andrew's birth, and even though there were things I hoped to tweak about birth the second time around, the devil you know is better than the one you don't.  Little did I know how amazing it would be, and how different.

The most obvious difference was the length of labor.  Contraction to contraction, Andrew's 15 hour labor was easier to handle -- I was even falling asleep between contractions, that's how relaxed I was able to get.  However, though I had a moment where I wondered if I could handle it this time, there's something to be said for getting in, done, and out in a few hours.  It was super intense, yes, but the super intense part only lasted for about 20 minutes (so... four or five contractions?).  In hindsight, it was totally easy.  In the middle of it, I would have never imagined I'd be able to use the word easy.  It's too bad you have no idea how far you have to go - that uncertainty about duration is the one thing that makes birth incredibly difficult.  It's not the pain, it's the question of how long is this pain going to last?

I was very reluctant to try new things to make myself feel better this time.  I knew I wanted/needed to be mobile, and I did a really good job with that.  But Jessica offered to rub my back and I was really hesitant - what if it made it worse?  She suggested I get in the tub - but what if it made it worse or was too early?  I don't know why I had such resistance to trying things.  I feel like I did a lot more experimentation last time.  But then, I had a lot more time for experimentation last time.

Mobility was SO SO key for this labor.  I know I've said it several times, but it bears repeating.  With Andrew I wanted to lay down, sit, be still.  I wanted to change that this time, and I did a lot of walking, hip motion, swaying.  The worst part was being in the car where I was forced to remain in one (reclining) position.  I truly believe that mobility is foundational to natural birth, and any mamas who want to go that route, that's my biggest piece of advice to you - stay on your feet, stay in motion.  Even in the tub, stay in an active position.

I mentioned it in the story, but the pushing part was so amazing this time around.  I felt... not "in control," because you aren't really in control in labor, especially the second stage... but I suppose I felt controlled.  I at least felt participatory.  I felt active.  I felt like I was consciously helping the process.  I did feel a relief, and not a terror, when pushing came.  I did feel that I was able to pause and let myself stretch.  And I could feel everything that was happening, so much so that I could narrate it for the birth attendants while I was laboring in the water: "Okay, her head is out.  I'm going to wait a second.  Okay, here's a contraction.  She's out!"

I did use Hypnobabies as birth preparation again.  Again, I didn't listen to the tracks at all during my labor.  I did use the techniques somewhat, but the technique that was most useful in trying to relax was once again the "horse lips" from Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.  If your lips are relaxed, your other orifices can relax too.  Once again, I can highly recommend Hypnobabies for keeping calm, relaxed, and positive in the weeks leading up to birth, but to be honest, it wasn't that helpful for me during actual labor.

The other fundamental difference was the lack of post-partum hemorrhage.  With Andrew, I bled a lot - my uterus was "lazy" and didn't contract fast enough.  They threw the book of drugs (Pitocin, Cytotec, Methergine) and herbs (Angelica) at me to get it to stop, and it did.  I thought I felt great after that birth, but it was a full four or five weeks until I looked in the mirror and said, "Wow - there I am.  I look like myself."  This time around, the midwives wanted to give me a shot of pitocin prophylactically right after she was born, which I agreed to.  In hindsight, I don't believe that I needed it.  Clara latched on so well, and the afterpains were so strong.  I also had energy in spades after such a short labor.  I practically *skipped* out of the birth center to the jeep, and it was only a couple of days until I was able to look in the mirror and say to my reflection, "Dang, girl!  You look good!"  To this day, (just shy of two weeks later), I have felt fantastic, for nearly my entire post-partum period, both physically and emotionally.  I thought I felt good last time, but this is incredible!  If I wasn't already sold on natural birth, this would totally do it.

I did choose to have the placenta encapsulated this time.  I didn't last time, and since then, my research on the topic says that consuming the placenta may have some awesome benefits (restored energy, hormonal balance, etc.) and has very little downside.  At worst, it seems like it will do nothing.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you how much of a difference it has made, because the lack of hemorrhage and fast, easy birth has made my post-partum experience so much better even without the effects of the placenta.  But it is in the mix.

Another big positive from this birth is that Clara is an amazing breastfeeder.  She had a perfect latch right from the start, and even with the colostrum during her first feeding, I could hear her gulping.  She only lost 4.7% of her weight at the 2 day appointment, and by 9 days post-partum, she had not only re-achieved her birth weight, but shot past it up to 7lb 12oz!  This was so different from Andrew, who had a tongue tie and consequently a bad latch which may have contributed to the hemorrhage, big weight loss, engorgement, and lots of tears on mama's part.  I do think that being a second time nursing mom is so much easier - a little confidence and a little bit of a clue as to how things are supposed to go makes a world of difference.

I'm so thrilled about the way this birth went.  I was afraid it would be different from what I already knew, and it was different... it was even better.  I didn't think it was possible, but it was.  If this was the last time I get to do this, I will have been honored to have such incredible births.  But if I am blessed enough to do this again someday, I will certainly look forward to it!

Andrew's birth story
Nate's birth story
Birth Reading and Resources
Mountain Midwifery Center
Jessica Bejot, Doula
Misty Rauscher, Placenta Encapsulation


  1. beautiful*beautiful*beautiful*

    so happy for you and DH!

  2. What a wonderful experience! Kisses to you and the family!

  3. I am so happy for you! Thank you for sharing this. Makes me excited for my turn in a few months:) You look so amazing that it is hard to believe the "dressed and ready to go home" picture is a mere few hours after birth! Congratulations on your beautiful girl.

  4. What a wonderful story. As a mom who never even got to experience a contraction, I found it incredibly interesting. I went into my first delivery experience (to be induced because they were late) but since that was so long ago I don't even remember what I read or heard about the experience of a 'natural' birth which is what I had hoped for (or at the very least a vaginal delivery).
    And I am amazed that there was no pain in the first feed! With all my babes I felt it was a good week before I didn't wince a bit with those first sucks. They were good feeders too and Al even began gaining weight at the hospital before I left (a day or two later... I don't even remember now).
    Also so jealous about that skipping part! I felt like poop for a long time! I have met people (first time moms) who WANT a c-section and I tell them it is HORRIBLE and you are in pain for a long time afterward. Of course I had no choice in the matter under my circumstances but I hope somehow other mommies see your post and realize how amazing the birth experience can be! And how sweet that you have written it down like this for Clara Joy to perhaps one day reference when she becomes a mommy!
    Congratulations again friend!

    1. well, I should be clear. I definitely had let down pain, and the pain of engorgement right after the milk came in. But it was way different (and much easier!) than the cracked, bleeding nipples and unresolved engorgement pain I had last time.

  5. Amazing and beautiful story, Amy. I loved reading every little detail of it and your analysis. Thanks for sharing it with us. It is an amazing feeling to know that you have survived this before and to feel the power of feeling more controlled. One of my favorite photos is the one above the caption "Laboring with Travis, and midwife Corey looking on." I have no idea what moment it was really capturing, but to me the look on his face seems like for him too there was a sense of power and calm in knowing that you have done this before.

    We look forward to meeting Clara! Congratulations to your whole family!

  6. What a beautiful girl she is and a lovely birth story too. Congratulations! Big brother looks very proud!

  7. What a wonderful birth story! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Oh I loved reading this. So amazing! It made me teary-eyed remembering how amazing the experience is, no matter how it goes down. Congrats again!

  9. I really love to reading this. Such a lovely story of birth. Congratulations childcare hills area

  10. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on Childcare Lalor Park
    but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks for sharing this with others