Did I ever tell you about
MY PREGNANCY AND BIRTH WITH KAJSA
Eleven years after my labor with Maya, I became pregnant
with Kajsa. I cried for about a week –
whether due to hormones, the timing of the pregnancy, just general
apprehension, or a combination of all three I’ll never be certain. What I was immediately sure of, though, was
that this labor was going to be completely different from the other.
I figured that my first step would be to find a like-minded
midwife, and wow, did I luck out with that one. I’d fairly recently moved to an area of Seattle’s
suburbs with which I was completely unfamiliar. So on a whim I flipped opened the phone
book. Toni was the only midwife
listed. And as I dialed I remember
thinking that if she doesn’t work out, at least she’ll know how to locate others
in my area.
Our first stop turned out to be our last. Toni was absolutely amazing. Not only was she the mother of (I think) nine
kids, but she’d worked as a Labor & Delivery nurse for 25 years before
going to Midwifery school a decade prior. This woman absolutely knew what she was doing! Oh, and she’s an absolute peach, as well.
Toni explained that she did not routinely perform pelvic
exams during pregnancy until the very end, and liked to do as few as absolutely
possible during labor. There were many
other aspects of her practice that I connected with, and we knew right away
that we could relax and enjoy the knowledge that we’d found our midwife.
When I told Toni about my previous labor, she seemed a bit
dismayed. She never said that anyone had
done anything wrong, but I could tell that she didn’t really agree with the
tinctures and membrane stripping that had been used to speed my labor. Rather than being unprofessionally blaming,
she suggested that Chris and I attend some childbirth classes – particularly
the Bradley Method of Husband Coached Childbirth.
We originally balked at the prospect of spending twelve
Thursdays driving to another town to learn what I believed I already knew. After all, since Maya’s birth, I’d become a
Doula and attended many births. But Toni
really encouraged this, and I knew, too, that Chris and Maya (who wanted to be
there) did not have the benefit of my experience. So we signed up, and off we went.
I can now say that we were very wrong about this being a
waste of time. These were great classes
that I would encourage any woman to take with a partner. (You don’t have to have a husband.) These curriculum was excellent. I did know most of the information; however,
it was very reassuring to have a gentle refresher course. My confidence was further bolstered with the
knowledge that Chris really left knowing what he was doing. In fact on the last day they had a
competition for the guys to show of their knowledge retention skills. We walked away with the grand prize,
consisting of a darling little Winnie the Pooh, fully accessorized,
outfit. The effect upon Maya was
encouraging as well. She watched enough
birth videos to neither be grossed out by blood and/or moaning, nor frightened
Now while I do encourage anyone to participate in Bradley
classes, I also have one caveat. This
method is set up and instructed to help families to have 100% intervention free
labors and births. I personally feel
that this is fantastic. But you need to
know going in, to take things with a wee grain of salt. I won’t say that fear tactics are used. But, allopathic medicine is, shall we say,
not shown in the brightest light. I
connected strongly with this view. Others might find themselves offended or possibly swept in.
In fact, our class of 5 couples had one non-natural
birth. It ended in a cesarean. When we met for our two month reunion
picnic, Kajsa had already been diagnosed, and we’d spent a bit of time in the
hospital. So it was especially important
to me to go over and spend some time with the mom, talking about how beautiful
her daughter was, and how lucky we all were to have our amazing children.
But back to the birth:
At our forty week visit, I told Toni that I was exhausted
and that everything hurt. I’d been
having very bad sciatic pain for weeks at that point, and continued to be blown
away by the difference between gestating at 22 and doing so at 33. Toni asked me how I felt about castor
oil. For those of you who may not know
this, ingesting a certain amount of castor oil will give you horrid diarrhea. If you have a baby who’s all done and ready
to come out, the process will begin your contractions. If that baby wants to hold on just a bit
more, you’ll simply have the trots.
Hmmm…I thought. I’ve been constipated for months now, and would really love to have my
baby. Can you guess my answer? So Toni gave us her recipe for a castor oil
milkshake and a little vial of the oil.
The drive home from her office was exhilarating to say the
least. We kept saying “We’re gonna have
a baby!” It is also on this very drive
that we officially decided that her name was to be Kajsa Gwyneth and not
Amelia. We drove to Target and bought
our blender, then hurried home to clean the house to a gleaming shine. Then we sat around and stared at everything
wondering what it would look like once the baby was here. How would the house feel different? It was a very gentle yet exciting afternoon.
I went to bed early that night with Chris’ assurance that
he’d awaken me at 5:00 am to see if I
really wanted to do this. Sweet dreams,
Mama. Sweet dreams, Daddy.
Five came really quickly, and yes I wanted to get this baby
out. So I sat in the dining area as
Chris whipped up a nice chocolate milkshake for me. I slurped it down, peed, and went back to bed.
It was 7:28 when
I opened my eyes to a brand new day and a distinct unmistakable
through my abdomen. It’s begun. I woke up Maya and Chris. “I’m in
labor.” It felt mystical and special. It felt active…as in active
labor. Yep, that’s what Toni had neglected to tell
me. When you drink the castor oil, you
go right into active labor. It’s all
about the business at hand and getting it done. Fine by me — I didn’t
need another long ‘is it or isn’t it’ kinda
We called Toni who said she’d be over in a bit with
Collette, her apprentice. Don’t they
always have apprentices? Collette was a
really cool lady. She’d begun her
training in Oregon, but moved up
to finish at Seattle Midwifery School. She actually was working under the tutelage
of several midwives around the Puget Sound. I had a lot of admiration for her, and was
glad to have her around.
I guess Chris told them that I was doing well, because they
didn’t come over for about four hours. By that time I’d moaned and breathed my way around the house while Chris
timed contractions and Maya supplied the deliciously icy glasses of
Gatorade. I found that the only
comfortable way for me to get through contractions was to be leaning forward on
something, whether it was on hands and knees, standing braced against a wall,
or sitting at the table with my head in my hands.
The midwives arrived as I was coming out of the restroom and
contracting at the same time. I remember
hearing Chris say, “I think she’s getting close.” Or something along those lines. So they all had a bit of fun blowing up the
kiddie pool while Toni checked my dilation. I was about 5cm at that point. Not too bad for 4 hours, but still discouraging. There was about an hour spent laboring in the
kitchen, in the pool, with people pouring water across my belly. According to Chris, the mail was delivered at
this time by John, our friendly neighborhood post man. How does he know this? Well, John walked past our kitchen window
every day to deliver it. I can only imagine
what he must have thought of our lovely scene. I never knew.
I was so out of it. I
felt again like a birthing animal. Only
this time it instilled no fear. Rather I
felt the confidence of knowing that I was part of the grand cycle of life. I had only the most hazy of connections with
the people surrounding me and, in fact, once fell asleep between
contractions. We even have a photo of
I think it was around 2:00
that Toni told me that I needed to get out of the pool to go to the
bathroom. Afterward, she said, she’d
check my dilation again. So I went in
and had a couple of “Oh my God, I’m gonna turn inside freakin’ out.” Contractions
on the toilet, before I could get up to go into the bedroom.
When she checked my cervix she found that I had an anterior
lip. This simply means that the front
side of my cervix was swollen. Probably
from all of that forward leaning. Kajsa’s little noggin had been sitting on it for several hours. If we could get the cervix around her head
then I could wander back out to the tub finish up this birth.
So I contracted against the pressure of Toni’s fingers as
she worked my cervix up around Kajsa’s head. Let me tell you, this is not a comfortable sensation. But we did this until voila, we had an
opening for the little girl to glide through. Toni had just removed her fingers, when I felt the insanely
uncontrollable urge to push. When I told
her this, she informed me that we should hurry if we were going to get back to
the kitchen for that water birth I’d fantasized about.
I informed her that there was no way that I was getting back
there. Everyone rushed in as I began
pushing. Great glory, what a wonderful
release. I felt like I’d been waiting
for this moment of “It’s Ok, just do what your body tells you” for two births
and twelve years. It was wonderful. I heard Toni tell Chris that if he was going
to catch the baby, he’d better get over there RIGHT NOW. And he did, and I did, and Kajsa did…she
slipped right out into Daddy’s big gentle hands. Maya captured it all on film. She took some amazing, yet graphic, shots
that I will always cherish.
Within moments I was trying to nurse this tiny baby, as we
all cuddled on the big bed. Twenty
minutes after she was born, I was told to hop into the shower and try to urinate. Is it too much information to say that it was
both the best shower and best pee of my entire life? I guess you just had to be there.
I stepped out to a towel and that had been warmed in the
dryer. All the bed linens were in the
wash. The house was miraculously cleaner
that when we’d begun. And there was
delicious fresh orange juice to be drunk.
We called our friends and parents to let them know. Later on we had Chris’ mother, Lynne, over as
well as his brothers, Erick and Steve and Erick’s wife, Katie. I served OJ all around and beamed as the
family oohed and ahhed over the newest member of the clan.
I can think of no other time in my life when I have felt
such peace, pride and joy.