The category for an archive of births.
By Claire C. McKiernan
From the moment our kids knew I was having another baby, Christina, our six-year-old, was begging for a baby sister. I had failed her twice before, so here was my big opportunity to make her dreams come true. As we hadn’t known the gender of any of our previous babies, she would have to wait for the baby’s birthday. I assured her that even if it was another brother, she would love him just fine. We took the kids to see room #3, the Peach Room, at the WBWC, where they had all been born. Christina requested a bed birth, like her, not a tub birth, like Tom and Pete. I told her I planned on having a water birth, but we would see. Happily, all the kids were very excited about having a new baby in the family.
On February 4, 2010, I had my 40-week appointment with Leigh Ann, and while I was on the exam table, she told me I was having a contraction. She asked if I had noticed when my belly became very hard and then gradually softened again. I had noticed this, but I, the experienced preggie that I was, had not realized what was happening. I couldn’t even feel it happening; I only noticed it if I had my hand on my belly when it became hard. Of course, once it was pointed out to me, I became super-aware of these mild contractions. On the ride home, my hands never left my belly, and I happily pointed out contractions to my husband every 5-15 minutes.
That evening the contractions subsided for about two hours, but resumed when I went to bed. At 4:30 the next morning, I woke up with a noticeably stronger contraction. This continued every five minutes, and I realized this was going to be the baby’s birthday! Amazingly, this was also my estimated due date, and only 5% of babies arrive on their due date. What a cooperative kid!
At 6:30 a.m., I phoned the WBWC and spoke to Allison. She told me that since this was my fourth time around, it could be irregular and to judge my progress by the strength of the contractions and not the length or time between contractions. She would be getting off duty at 8 a.m., and Jewell would be taking the next shift.
By this time the kids were waking up, and Christina, who had turned seven-years-old a month earlier, was getting ready for school. I looked nervously out the window. It was snowing and sleeting. At least with this pregnancy we only had a half-hour’s drive to the WBWC. We had moved after the third baby and were now next door to my parents’– a huge help after having the first three children in the space of four years!
The weather outside didn’t look friendly, and school was cancelled. I told Mike that we might be better off leaving early rather than late. By the time we loaded everyone in the car to be dropped off with my dad, it was close to 8 a.m. My contractions were getting strong and fast. I sat in the car while Mike unloaded the kids, and then I felt a “pop!”
We had made it all of 400 feet or so along our trip before my water broke. Fortunately, I was sitting on a water-proof crib mattress protector for just that reason. Finally, with Mike behind the wheel and my mom in the backseat, we were on our way. Each contraction was preceded by a gush of warm water that I could feel flowing over my thighs. I concentrated deeply while Mike tried to keep from sliding off the icy roads, and my mom prayed silently in the back.
This ride was taking too long, and I wondered if I was going to make it. I mentally prepared by envisioning giving birth in the car or trying to figure out which of the homes we passed might have someone willing to let me in.
In Chapel Hill it was only raining. I relaxed, slightly, and told myself: we only have about 10 minutes to go; if I have the urge to push, I can somehow wait until we get there.
I got out of the car in the cold pouring rain, with considerable help from my husband. While we inched toward the door, my mom ran ahead to open the birthing room door. It was locked and no one answered, so she ran upstairs to alert the staff (who had thankfully started work for the day). Maureen met us downstairs, closely followed by Jewell. I was in the birth center at 8:53am.
As Maureen helped to peel off my wet jeans, she noticed meconium running down my leg and told me she didn’t want me having a water birth. At this point I didn’t care. I begged her to stay with me and somehow got on the bed, on my side, propped up with pillows. I had four hard, fast, contractions, followed by a small urge to push. Immediately following that, I had a tremendous urge to push. Three pushing contractions later, at 9:08 a.m., I gave birth to our fourth baby.
I heard Maureen say something about putting “him” on my chest, but when I looked, I announced, “It’s a girl!”
Maureen said, “Oh, is it? I didn’t even look!” For some reason, she had been under the impression I was having a boy. It had been seven years since I held a baby girl in my arms, and I was ecstatic to find that we had just “evened out” the family. Rosemary Claire weighed 10 lbs, matching her big brother Peter, three years earlier.
“Hey guys, you have a baby sister!” I joyfully announced via speaker phone.
Above the din we could hear Christina shouting, “My prayers worked! They really worked!”
She had finally gotten her baby sister, born on the same bed as her, in the same room as all of our children. We couldn’t be happier.
by Claire C. McKiernan
Oddly enough, I owe my love for midwifery care to a doctor. It was 2002, and I was having my three-month prenatal exam at a well-reputed hospital in Raleigh. When I began discussing natural childbirth with my OB/GYN, her response was, “Well, you can TRY it,” in a tone that did more than suggest I would not succeed.
Then my husband, Mike, asked the doctor a simple yet fateful question:
“What would you do if this was your baby?”
“I’d have a C-section at six months to avoid the uncomfortable 3rd trimester,” was her shocking reply.
Shortly thereafter, I went on a tour of the Piedmont Women’s Health Center (now our beloved WBWC), a full hour’s drive from our home. I couldn’t believe our tour guide, Maureen Darcey, was saying everything I felt about childbirth, and with absolute confidence. I began to feel that my dreams were not just possible, but probable in this environment.
I soon devoted myself to the advice given in Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. I had read my mother’s old version of Robert Bradley’s Husband-Coached Childbirth, and if you discard the sexism of that time period, the idea of birthing like animals makes a lot of sense. Susan McCutcheon’s practical exercises and especially her stages of labor were indispensible. I reread those parts with each pregnancy. I also credit the relaxing stretches with warding off back pain, even with a 60-pound weight gain!
For simplicity, the midwives suggested that we work with the due date that had been given to me at the hospital. (According to my own charts, this was a week too early.) Christmas Day, the supposed due date, came and went. On the night of my husband’s birthday (New Year’s Eve), I felt my first contraction.
I thought I’d have a New Year’s Baby for sure and slept sporadically that night. We spent a total of 12 hours laboring at home and then, in spite of what my childbirth book suggested, we went to the birth center (I wouldn’t jump the gun in future pregnancies). I labored another 17 hours at the birth center, and I often wonder how many miles I clocked walking in circles through those rooms trying to dilate more quickly.
Fortunately, I had the expert help of two midwives, Helen and Angela, in addition to the loving support of my husband and mother. I kept going. And going. And going. My helpers saw to it that I stayed fed and hydrated, and I mostly remember just walking, walking, walking. Periodically, I’d lean against the kitchen table and breathe deeply through a contraction while Mike gave me an absolutely vital lower back rub.
While stage one of labor had taken far longer than I ever expected, stage two (pushing) was blessedly fast. I gave birth on the bed to 22-inch, 9 lb., 1 oz Christina May at 3:18am on January 2nd 2003.
For the next seven hours at the birth center, Mike, Christina, and I napped together, I made ecstatic phone calls, and we took photos plus a video of Christina with the hiccups (something I often felt her doing in the womb). She was delightfully strong, alert, and oh-so-healthy! My mother kept us fed and helped me to shower, which felt wonderful after all that sweaty work.
Before long, I was resting comfortably on my own couch, with a glass of water, a content baby at my breast, a phone, and my address book. People couldn’t believe I was calling from home and how alert I sounded. Later that day, my in-laws visited from out-of-state and were blown away by how easily I got around, even up and down stairs. We finished Mike’s birthday cake, which had now become Christina’s “original birthday cake”.
I was the first in the family (in recent generations, anyway) to have an out-of-hospital, midwife-assisted birth, and I encountered skeptics and worriers along the way. I’m always thrilled to speak about my midwife-assisted births and love watching a mind open up, even just a little, after hearing my stories.
Was my first baby’s birth difficult? Yes, just as the word “labor” implies. Was it perfect? Yes, just like my baby.
When I discovered I was pregnant, I knew a birth center and natural childbirth were what I wanted. I was happy to learn I lived five minutes from one of the only birth centers in NC (and one of the largest in the country). After an orientation, my once-hesitant partner was completely on board; we felt excited, and I felt no fear about the birth. I read books about natural child birth and breastfeeding and was looking forward to it. Being in a hospital was not an option, and I would never have a C-section or not breastfeed. I remained strong when dubious friends told me, “Hospitals are better” or “You can hurt your baby by not being in a hospital,” and I sought support from loved ones who were on the same page. I had a challenging pregnancy, but I was hopeful for a natural birth. I knew what I wanted and would will it into being.
At 32 weeks, a midwife suggested an ultrasound because I was measuring small. The ultrasound revealed low amniotic fluid, a low baby weight, and that the baby was breech. It felt stressful, but I had faith it would work out. The baby began to gain weight, and the fluid was low but stable. If we could get the baby to flip (which we would), we could deliver at the birth center.
For several weeks I tried everything to flip the baby—inversion positions, Chinese moxibustion, frozen peas on the baby’s head, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, swimming, yoga poses, and standing on my head in the pool. When those didn’t work, we did an external version at UNC, all the while having faith the baby would flip. Again, I would never have a C-section; the baby would turn, and I would deliver naturally.
The external version was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. At one point, I asked if the pain was like labor because, if so, I couldn’t do it. One OB replied that the version was much worse and was more like human torture. After several agonizing tries, it didn’t work. I wasn’t prepared for the physical pain. I felt beaten up and unsettled after the procedure; the soreness lasted for days, and I had scratches and bruises on my belly. I also wasn’t prepared emotionally for the disappointment when it didn’t work. I felt desperate and fearful. The head obstetrician, who was very kind and supportive, offered to try another version before the C-section, this time under anesthesia. Overwhelmed, I had to think about it.
I felt devastated at the thought of a C-section. I couldn’t understand how I came to this point, or how I could do it. My fear amplified and, most of all, I felt exhausted. I was tired of trying to flip the baby, tired of trying to figure out a way to deliver a breech baby naturally, and worn out from debating another version. I always thought I’d do anything possible to deliver naturally, including as many versions as possible. But now I was exhausted and began to worry about how our efforts might be affecting a baby that didn’t seem to want to turn.
After deciding against another version and hoping the baby would flip at the last minute (the baby would turn and we would all have a good laugh), I had a C-section birth at UNC on December 2, where our beautiful Harper came into the world. While I was upset, I was glad I had time to come to terms with it and process it. And, it ended up being a pretty positive experience. After researching how to make a C-section a better experience, I proposed some changes to the OBs and anesthesiologist, and they were agreeable and supportive. They readily agreed to turn down the main operating room lights to create a more relaxed environment, to put my IVs and pulse monitor on my non-dominant hand and nothing on my dominant hand so I could better handle the baby, to place my chest monitors higher to allow me to put the baby immediately on my chest, to slightly delay cutting the cord and pull the cord blood into the baby, to let us see and announce the baby’s gender, and to talk about the placenta. (I also tried to get them to let me see the baby being pulled out of me, but they wouldn’t agree to that; however, my partner was able to see it in the reflection in one of the lights, and I’m glad one of us got to see Harper being born.) I didn’t feel judged because I was a birth center patient, and the midwives present, Emily and Leigh Ann, knew the staff well and advocated for me. During the procedure, the staff communicated everything they were doing, which helped me feel like I was experiencing the birth. Harper went straight to my partner, then to me, then with us to our room. We were supported in our decision to decline the bath, the eye cream, and the Hepatitis B shot, and to delay the Vitamin K shot. The experience wasn’t perfect; I was frustrated when a nurse wouldn’t let our doula into the recovery room and with the plethora of random and unnecessary people who came into our room. But, overall, I felt supported by most people I met, including kind nurses and a great lactation consultant who spent three days with us.
Also, little did I know at the time that some of our biggest challenges were to come. After coming home, I hurt my back, had mastitis, and was bed-bound. Harper won’t latch on and my milk production is low, so I have to pump and supplement with formula; I’ve never been able to naturally breastfeed. I didn’t let myself rest like I should have, which delayed my recovery. Eight weeks after the birth, I am battling my second round of C. diff, an intestinal mega bug infection I likely contracted at the hospital and that ran rampant due to antibiotics from the surgery and mastitis. Baby Harper has to wear a full-body harness for three months to correct hip dysplasia and is undergoing regular physical therapy for torticollis (twisted neck). She also has plagiocephaly (an asymmetrical skull and a flat spot on her head), and it is likely she will have to wear a helmet to correct it.
Yet, throughout it all, I feel extremely grateful. I am thankful for a partner who is a real co-parent—not a “mommy’s helper,” but a true co-pilot who is completely involved in our child’s care and in taking care of our household. I am grateful for a healthy child whose issues are correctable and do not cause pain. I am indebted to everyone at WBWC who weathered our storm with us; my prenatal care and the presence of our midwives during the version and C-section were essential. I appreciate our phenomenal doula, Wanda Sundermann, who helped (and continues to help) me process our experience, and to Cher Durham, who gave me resources to understand my rights to ask for the placenta for encapsulation. I feel lucky to be five minutes from UNC where skilled practitioners continue to help us. I am grateful for the financial resources to get what we need and a generous paid maternity leave.
I am also thankful to have received a large dose of humility. I realized I once judged other women for their decisions, but now realize I never know what goes on behind the scenes. And, while the universe has given us challenges, it has also given us a happy, thriving, smiling, beautiful child who is the joy of our life, and who sleeps 11 hours at night and wakes up only once! I’ve come to realize that, while our experience took a different path, there is much to appreciate.
*Last name withheld for privacy at author’s request
By Claire C. McKiernan
Three kids in four years? It was about to happen to me. I was more than ready to meet this baby, partly given the fact that one of my organs (or maybe the baby’s foot) had been rammed up against my rib for the entire last month of pregnancy causing incredible discomfort.
My third labor began after a homemade meal at my mom’s house on February 21, 2007. Around 5pm I began having cramping sensations that came, got stronger, and then faded. I didn’t immediately recognize it as a contraction since my first two labors had not begun that way, and my first two babies had been a few days past their due dates (this was a few days before my due date). However, as cramps were coming every 15 minutes, I realized: THIS IS IT. Between 6-7pm the contractions were 7-8 minutes apart and lasting up to a minute.
As I sat on my parents’ couch timing contractions, I remember my husband having an unhurried conversation with my Dad. Mike had taken to heart what one of the midwives had told us: the first baby often takes the longest, the second is the fastest, and the third baby somewhere between the two. Babies, of course, don’t know this rule.
By 7pm my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and I had convinced Mike to run back home to grab our last minute items, and take care of important things like moving the homemade cheesecake from the freezer to the fridge so we could celebrate the birth when we eventually returned home.
Meanwhile, my mother raced to get things ready for my 4-year-old and 16-month-old so they could settle down with my Dad for the evening. My mom had been with me for the first two labors, and I wanted her for the third. Mike returned with our bags and stock supply of food and drinks, and helped me into the car. We got to the WBWC by about 8:15pm, and I was in the tub soon after. In the space of an hour I went from 6 cm to 9 cm dilated.
I had requested and received the same room where my first two children were born. I found it comforting to be in the same tub where I had given birth some 16 months earlier. My midwife was Heather, and I was lucky enough to have two nurses, Amy and Jill. My husband rubbed my back through my hard contractions as best he could while I was sitting or sideways in the tub. Then, as I discovered in the past, once the pushing stage was upon me, there was no holding back. I had a very fast, though quite uncomfortable, pushing stage.
At 10:45pm, I was so relieved to have that baby placed on my chest, that I deliberately waited a minute or two before we looked to see whether we had another girl or another boy. I remember just soaking in that moment, holding my newborn, not knowing the gender, and just being so in love and so grateful to finally have this child in my arms. My husband cut the cord, and then we looked together to delightfully discover that we had another son!
I was told that I labored beautifully, and Jill told me it was the first water birth she had seen, and she would always remember it. I was grateful for the kind words, as, from my point of view, it was definitely a harder (if speedier) labor than my second one, and that had come as quite a surprise! In addition, the placenta took a full half hour to come out which caused a slight stir (by this time Maureen had stopped by to check on me, in addition to the other three women being there) and some painful pushing on my abdomen. This was by far the worst part of the labor. It seemed like an unbearable nuisance that I had done all my work and just wanted to relax with my husband and son, and instead I was being poked and prodded to encourage the placenta to come out. Thankfully, the placenta finally came out with a little tugging and a lot of my pushing – just when I thought my pushing stage was over!
Shortly thereafter, Mike and I were resting blissfully with Peter on the same bed where we had rested those first hours with our first two children. Peter Gregory weighed an even 10 lbs, just one ounce larger than his big brother had been. He was 22.5 inches long, had lovely round cheeks, and was as red as a lobster (the redness went away within a week or so). I alternately nursed, cuddled, rested, and made phone calls.
In the morning, my mother helped me to shower. This is something she had to coax me to do with the first two births, but I looked forward to it for the third. There is nothing like that first shower after giving birth. Sure, you are sore and tired and you just want to go home, but for me, that shower (with help from someone standing outside the curtain) has the power to cleanse, refresh, soothe, and revitalize. It not only helped prepare me physically for the hour-long ride home, but also gave me a bit of a mental boost.
At 10am, with a deep breath that contained a mixture of satisfaction, excitement, and nervousness, we headed home to face life as parents outnumbered by children!
by Amber Kirkley
I always knew I wanted a natural birth. My mother, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law had a total of 8 children naturally. My brother had been delivered 27 years ago by Maureen Darcey and her partners at the birth center in Siler City, Chatham County. Although I only remember pieces of it, I was present at his delivery. Hence, I had met Maureen when I was just 5 years old. The day I found out I was pregnant, I called the birth center to schedule a tour. I was excited about the prospect of continuing the tradition of natural birth in my family.
In the months leading up to my daughter’s birth, I talked to many people about my plans for a natural birth. I was always interested to see people’s reactions. It seems that natural birth causes a polarity of responses. People often are either really into it or simply think you are crazy. People asked if I was scared about the pain of natural birth. Since this was my first child, I could not say that I was scared. In fact, I had no idea what to expect. I had read every book I could get my hands on, spent countless hours on the internet, and taken a wonderful natural childbirth class taught by a close friend’s mother, but I still had no idea what labor was going to be like. What I did have was the confidence that many women had gone before me in giving birth naturally, and I felt strongly that I, too, would be able to have a natural labor and birth. I also felt increasingly confident in the midwives I would be working with during this experience.
I was nervous throughout my pregnancy that it would not work out for me to have the baby at the birth center. I had borderline high blood pressure, and I was always concerned I would develop pre-eclampsia. As my due date approached, I was so thrilled to not be pre-eclamptic, I gained mental energy and strength. I am a nurse, so I worked 12 hours on December 30th, my last scheduled shift. I was hoping that my baby would be born very soon. My due date was New Year’s Day and honestly, I did not want to be sitting around without a baby in my arms for 2 weeks at the start of my maternity leave.
As if my daughter heard my request, the following morning at 5:30 A.M., I woke up with some cramping and thought I might be having contractions. I tried timing a few and it seemed like they were coming every 15 or 20 minutes. I went back to sleep until around 9:30. When I got up, I still felt like I was having contractions. I timed them again, and they were about 10 minutes apart. Even though I felt like this might be “true” labor, I still had this feeling like, “Am I making this up? Is this really happening?” Around 12:30, my husband, Luke, convinced me to call the birth center and give them the heads up. I got on the phone and talked with Emily, the midwife. The plan was to call her back in a couple of hours and give her the update as to how I was progressing.
Throughout the day I had contractions that slowly got closer together and slowly got more powerful. I rocked on the birthing ball, my husband applied counter pressure on my back, we went for walks, and we relaxed at the house on the beautiful last day of 2011. Since our farm is 45 minutes from the birth center, around 5:30 P.M., we made the decision to go to my parents’ home, which is 15 minutes from the birth center. I called Emily and let her know that the contractions were still about 7 minutes apart. Again, we made the plan for me to call Emily back in a couple of hours with progress. Over the next 5 hours, things continued to slowly progress.
With the next check up around 10:30 P.M., Emily suggested that I take a hot bath and some Benadryl to slow my contractions and try to get a couple of hours of sleep. I got into a hot bath and relaxed. My contractions spaced out to more than 15 minutes apart and were barely painful. I took some Benadryl. My best friend, my brother, his girlfriend, my father, and my husband were all there, and at 12:00 midnight everyone toasted an exciting new year ahead. I laid down to try to get some sleep. I was thrilled to think that when I woke up, likely we would head to the birth center and my daughter would join us in this world.
I consider my labor to have 2 parts: the calm and peaceful first half, and the crazy second half. As I laid down on the bed, thus ended the first half of my labor. Not 15 minutes after getting into bed, I was rocked by a strong contraction. I got up to go to the bathroom and my water broke. Almost instantly, I transitioned from contractions 15 minutes apart to contractions that were coming every minute and a half, and hurt with a 10 out of 10 pain. Luke called the birth center, and even before they called us back, we were all on the way.
No matter how much I had read or learned about, I still was not prepared for the intensity of the contractions. Each one felt like it hurt everywhere. I felt like I was having both regular front labor and back labor. I was extremely thankful to be taking a 15-minute ride instead of a 45-minute ride to the birth center. I was happy when I finally got there and saw Emily’s and Missy’s faces. I was praying that I was in transition and this was not simply what active labor felt like. I was always nervous I might come in too early and be disappointed at how far I had dilated. When Emily told me I was 7 cm and fully effaced, I was thrilled and proud of myself. In my head I could see the words in What to Expect, “Transition should last 15 minutes to 2 hours.” By my calculation, I was already about 30-45 minutes in, so I was in the home stretch. I got some antibiotics, due to being Group B strep positive, and got into the bathtub.
Through this part of my labor, I am most thankful that I was completely unaware of the clock in the room because it seemed like transition was lasting a lot longer than my expectation of 2 hours. One of the most important coping mechanisms I had at this point was simply to stay in the present moment, not thinking about the past or the future, but simply getting through one contraction at a time. I spent time in the bathtub. I spent time walking around. I made a lot of low guttural animalistic noises. I chanted mantras to help me mentally move the child down and out of my body. I marched rhythmically while leaning on a counter. My husband and best friend applied a remarkable amount of counter-pressure to my back. Although I am not sure I was prepared for the pain, I felt like my body was taking over and telling me what I needed to do to birth this child. It was an extremely awesome and powerful feeling.
Finally, around 4:00 am, Emily checked me and said I was 10 cm dilated, and I could try to start pushing. I had this expectation that as the pushing phase started I would experience some relief from the pain on transition. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me. The pain changed. It did not feel as much like it was all over, but I had an intense, stabbing pain in my lower abdomen every time I pushed. I was also extremely tired, since I had been in labor for almost 24 hours, it was early in the morning, and I had taken Benadryl 4 hours earlier.
It took me a while to get the hang of pushing. After 45 minutes of pushing, I finally asked Emily how far I had progressed. She said that I was progressing, but the progress was slow. I was a little disappointed, but this also gave me the motivation to push even harder to try to speed the process up. Emily suggested I try emptying my bladder, so I went to the bathroom. There in the bathroom, I finally was able to push more effectively. It was not the way I imagined it, and it was not the prettiest sight, but it worked, and that was the most important thing to me.
After pushing in the bathroom for a while, Emily suggested that we check and see how I was progressing. I was thankful when she said we had made significant progress. Another half an hour of pushing and the time came close for my daughter to make her entrance into this world. I was so tired by this point, but completely focused on pushing. After my daughter’s head crowned, it took some quick extra maneuvering into several different pushing positions to help open up my pelvis enough to fit the rest of her body through the birth canal. With the help of Emily and Missy’s skilled hands, Baby Rowan was born at 6:15 am on New Year’s Day. I later learned from Emily that Rowan had a shoulder dystocia, a condition where the shoulder is not easily able to fit through the birth canal.
After Rowan was born, she needed a little extra help to get her breathing well. Emily and Missy had everything they needed in the room to be able to give her the extra support. Luke was rubbing her body, using his touch to encourage her to breathe better. I heard Emily say her heart rate was good. Because of this, I had a lot of faith that everything was going to be fine. A strong sense of calm came over me and I felt extremely connected with my sweet baby girl. Although her first Apgar score was low, after a minute or two, I heard her first precious cry, and started seeing her color change to a rosy pink. By 5 minutes, her Apgar score was an 8. Rowan was breathing on her own and crying heartily. After some time, things calmed down and we weighed and measured baby Rowan. She was a whopping 9 pounds, 12 ounces, and 22 inches long. This was a surprise, but it certainly helped explain the reason for the shoulder dystocia.
People have asked me if there was ever a point when I wished I was in the hospital instead of the birth center. I can honestly say that there was never a point I did not feel completely comfortable in the hands of Emily and Missy at the birth center. I think if I had been at the hospital they would have wanted me to have a C-section because she was so big, and they might have admitted Rowan to the NICU because of the shoulder dystocia. Neither of these interventions were ultimately needed.
Even though there were some tense moments in the end, I was still able to have the natural birth I always wanted. Labor was hard work, there was pain involved, and there were some scary moments. However, labor was also exciting, awe-inspiring, and even peaceful at times. I believe sharing this range of emotion with my family, friends, the midwives, nurses, and my daughter is why it was so valuable to me to carry on the tradition of natural birth at the birth center.
I am thankful for the help, skill, and confidence of Emily and Missy in birthing my daughter. I am also extremely thankful for the tireless work of the midwives and nurses at the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center. They have all helped make these experiences possible for generations of women and their families in North Carolina. With our family, friends, and birthing center community, we are thrilled to celebrate the arrival of our New Year’s gift, Rowan Juedi Kirkley.
By Claire C. McKiernan
“Light the candles,
Get the ice out,
Roll the rug up,
These are the beginning lyrics to the song “It’s Today” from the musical Mame (lyrics by Jerry Herman). I hadn’t watched Mame recently, and I had no reason for it to be in my head. Still, these lyrics were blaring in my brain as I woke up with a start early on October 1, 2005. Apparently my sub-conscience was telling me something. As I lay in bed wondering why this song was stuck in my head, repeating over and over, I suddenly felt this huge surge, like an oceanic wave followed by a “pop!” in my belly. It was close to 6:30 a.m., and I nudged my husband, Mike, to tell him my water had just broken.
I had no contractions, so I showered and went about my business of eating breakfast, and reading to our 2-year-9-month-old, Christina. She and I watched “Thomas and Friends,” and by 8 a.m. I noticed light, crampy contractions. I called the midwives and then my parents so my mom would be ready for the trip to the birth center. My dad arrived to pick up Christina for the day.
I finished decorating the house for Halloween and removed the lemon pound cake I had made a month earlier from the freezer. This was to be our second child’s “original birthday cake”. Mike finished making the fresh strawberry sauce I was reducing on the stove for the topping, so I could rest. I kept in touch with Maureen, the midwife on duty that day, but was not eager to arrive too early as I had done nearly three years earlier. She trusted me to go with my gut feeling on when to head over to the birth center.
By noon my contractions were stronger. We left for the birth center about 1pm, picking up my mother along the way, and arriving at 2pm. I asked for, and received, the same birthing room where Christina had been born. I was half-way dilated and spent some time on the birthing ball and then on the bed. I had practiced the relaxation and calm, deep breathing of the Bradley Method so often that the nurse told Mike she couldn’t always tell when I was having a contraction! I needed absolute quiet, Mike to rub my lower back, and the complete cooperation of those around me to get through my contractions. I doubt I would have achieved such inner calm had I been surrounded by machines and the bustle of hospital staff!
Maureen recommended getting in the tub. I was nervous because I had done this briefly in my first labor and had found the contractions to be more painful. She told me to just try it; I could always get out. Maybe it was because I was more relaxed this time around, but I liked the tub, and I dilated quickly in the space of an hour. Maureen suggested getting out of the tub and back on the bed. Though I had not planned a water birth, I informed her that I didn’t think I could move, and I really needed to push!
A very short time later (about 15 minutes?), at 4:17pm, I gloriously gave birth to our 22.5 inch, 9 lb. 15 oz. son, Thomas Michael. The water birth was not only much easier, but I have always been grateful I gave birth that way since Tommy was born with the cord wrapped around his neck three times. Under water, he was not yet using his lungs to breathe in air, but was receiving oxygen through the cord, as he had in the womb. Maureen had time to slip the cord off his neck before bringing him up for his first real breath. She slipped my lovely baby onto my tummy and we were delighted to discover that we had a son to even out the family.
Maureen gave me one stitch for a small surface tear, which she said was more of a badge of honor than anything else. After that, Mike, Tom, and I rested comfortably on the bed. I was soon calling Christina and my dad, along with other family members, resting, nursing, and eating great food that my mom had brought along. My mom helped me to shower and we blissfully and eagerly headed for home around 9:45pm.
Since that day, whenever I watch Mame I think of Tommy’s birthday. One of the last stanzas to “It’s Today” was so meaningful and prophetic that day that it still brings tears to my eyes:
“Someone gave me a wonderful present,
Something I needed and yet never knew,
So start the whistling and clapping,
‘Cause under the wrapping was you.”
by Amy Shyshnyak
My birth story starts out as many do. I had a dream of having a little girl, and that dream was coming true. We took a Bradley class, prepared as best as we could, saved money so I could stay home with her, and visited the WBWC for all of our prenatal visits. My pregnancy went great. I was healthy, and aside from aching feet and incredible heartburn, I really felt like it was an easy pregnancy.
Christmas rolled around, and all of my family was in town, hoping I would go into labor while they were still here. Two days after everyone left the time finally came. December 30, 2010 was the night. I began to have contractions about 10 pm, and I crawled into bed next to my husband Max. We talked about how this could be the last night it would be just the two of us in that bed. It made me kind of sad, but it also made me excited because we had been waiting for so long!
Things began heating up rather quickly. The contractions were coming fast and furious, and I was so confused. I was thinking to myself, “This can’t be the real thing! It is happening way too fast!” At 1 am, we called Leigh Ann. She told me to take a hot bath, take a Benadryl, crawl into bed, and try to get some sleep. I crawled into the tub and couldn’t stand it. The contractions were coming so hard and fast I just wanted to be in my bed. At 2:30 my husband, who had paid close attention in our birthing class, recognized I was reaching time to push. He called the WBWC and told Leigh Ann we were on our way! She couldn’t believe it!
Off we went. I had 2 more contractions before I could reach the car. We live 35 minutes from the birth center, and I began to wonder if we were going to make it. We were so glad it was the middle of the night, because I-40 was completely empty. Max went 100 mph all the way down I-40 with his flashers on. I just kept yelling that I wanted to push, and I think it made him drive faster. We made it to the birth center in less than 20 minutes!
Forty-five minutes after we arrived at the Birth Center, Ellie joined our family. It was such a relief to have her in my arms. My first thought was, “We did it! We did it!”
During the physical assessment, Allison noticed that Ellie had a connected frenulum all the way to the tip of her tongue, also known as tongue tie. I had no idea what that meant. Max then told me that he was tongue-tied, as were as his brother and father. Little did I know what the next 3 months had in store for us.
Ellie was unable to latch properly. When she was able to latch the best way she knew how, she could not transfer milk well. Many kids who are tongue-tied are never able to nurse. She was sucking for 45 minutes to an hour and getting almost nothing. She was so hungry those first few days, and all she did was cry every time I took her off the breast. We had no idea what was going on. She lost over 10% of her body weight those first few days. When Kim came on day 3 for our home visit, she gave us donor milk. She showed us how to feed her through a syringe using our pinky finger. Ellie was so happy to finally get some milk! I began pumping and taking supplements to try and make enough to keep her satisfied. I was pumping after each feeding and then supplementing her with what I pumped. This went on for almost 2 months. I was totally exhausted, but I wanted to nurse so much.
After multiple trips to see Dr. Hedgepeth, our chiropractor, and a Speech Therapist, Ellie finally began transferring more milk. Dr. Hedgepeth was able to do adjustments on certain spots around Ellie’s jaw, neck, and head muscles to help enable her to suck more efficiently. She worked with her soft palate and sometimes her back. Our Speech Therapist taught us exercises to do at home, which also helped Ellie’s suckle. She explained the different bottle types. She showed us we needed the simplest type and kept us on low flow nipples so Ellie would work harder to get the milk out of the bottles. This in turn strengthened her suckle. It took a lot of patience and time, but in the end it all helped. I am so glad I didn’t give up, because now she is 10 months old and eats like a champ. I am off all supplements and plan to nurse until she is ready to wean. It has been such a comfort for her, and I have enjoyed it so much. I am thankful for all of the help from Ellie, our LC, Nancy, and the continued encouragement from Leigh Ann and Kate. Although Ellie never has latched like other kids, she gets what she needs and is so happy and healthy. Now when I grab my pink Boppy pillow and say, “Do you want mommy’s milk?,” she smiles and laughs and starts crawling all over me. I love it!
It was a long road but worthwhile indeed.