Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Business of Being Born

So tonight I was wanting to just sit on my couch, listen to the rain, and hope for the phone to ring from the client I have who is postdates.  Decided to rewatch  The Business of Being Born.....probably not a good idea because it made me anxious to be on a birth again!    Seeing so many moms pull their newborn to their chest, and realize that the sky's the limit as to what they could do  next - they had just birthed their babies!

This experience is minimized by so many today - people who feel they are supporting an expectant mom by reassuring her that there is no need for her to "feel" anything - yet at the end of the road of interventions, won't there be feelings?  Will they all be positive? Is it necessarily feeling pain in labor that is to be avoided at all costs?  Or feeling that no one is listening to you?

I've attended over 700 births and watched so many moms and dads meet the challenge of labor and come out the other side feeling empowered and excited and joyous - even the families who had to make tough decisions and wisely chose in some cases that interventions were the right choice..

It is not the use of medication or even surgery that is the problem, it is not being given choices in the first place.  So as I wait for the next birth to begin, I'm thinking happy labor thoughts for all those expectant families who are hoping to have choices in their births.....come on birth - I'm excited to see you again.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mom's Intuition

Who knows the best about the baby - than the mom-to-be.  She has an instinct about her baby that no one else shares.  So when a mom-to-be feels something is wrong, we take it seriously, check it out - hopefully with the result of a reassurance that all is well.  Some moms worry more than others, this is their own nature.  But we still should take it seriously.

So when a first time mom goes into labor -  she feels unequipped to know what is happened.  She feels, "I've never done this before, I don't know if this is labor, I don't know if I'm progressing....."  Those feelings are very normal, but stop for a minute.  You have just spent 9 months with a baby growing inside of you and each day you have learned your baby's habits, sleeping, waking, which side they like best.  You have had a 9 month learning experience to use in understanding your labor.
I learned this lesson years ago while on a birth with a first time mom. The midwife walked in, observed for a short time and then asked the mom - "how far dialated do you think you are?"  The mom clearly replied, "I think I'm about 3cm."  The midwife said, "I agree" and never did an exam.  Later the exam was done - mom was 3cm.  This mom truly knew herself.  It didn't really matter, honestly, if she was 2cm or 4cm, the fact was she realized she was still in early labor.  That was the point - she KNEW what was happening. She trusted her instincts.

So with each first time birth, I try to emphasize, "trust yourself", "find your path"....labor is a journey that has exciting twists and turns, tap into your own instincts and trust them.  Just because you have never been through labor before, does not discount that you do know your own body and your baby's habits.  Don't hesitate to speak up when you have concerns or think you need help.  And speaking on behalf of doulas, just know that we are ready and willing to listen and support your needs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weather - labor?

It's a lovely rainy day - which made me think about all the times labor seemed to come when the storms came.  I have always heard that a full moon can bring labor  on - gravitational pull being stronger and all of that reasoning.  But I've had so many postdate moms who looked on a calender for the next full moon feeling that would be the day we would head to the hospital....and didn't. 

But I've had many times where a huge storm came through town and it brought labor with it.  Such an interesting drive to the hospital at 3am during a driving rain storm trying to avoid the limbs on the street.  Of course I will take rain over fog anyday!  Still remember a 2am drive over the causeway to Davis with visibility almost zero....arrived in time to push a baby out-but the drive was not fun.

So can we rely on weather to help encourage the timing of labor - perhaps. But I would prefer to remember that it is the baby who signals the start of  labor so the more we can be patient to allow labor to happen on a baby's terms, the better the birth will be. 

Are you waiting for labor to start?  Sit back and relax and enjoy these rainy days - and hopefully the baby will cooperate in your hopes of labor beginning soon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Back Up Doulas

I was reminded this week of how vital it is to have good backup for our work as doulas.  I got a call in the morning from a doula who was on a birth at one facility, just heard from a 38 week client who was being admitted to the hospital in another facility, and this doula's backup was out of town. I had enough time to throw on my shoes and run out my door. I was very glad I could help this family have doula support but it actually caused me alot of anxiety about my own clients.

That weekend, I had 3 possible births who could need help.  And made many calls to my backups to make sure someone would be available.  We all have our own lives, and some were travelling, some were not feeling well, some had family obligations, some were on other births, etc.  Thankfully I am surrounded by many dedicated and hardworking doulas so I had assurance I could call if I needed someone.

Then - my fears were starting to come true.  One mom starts labor Friday morning  but didn't deliver until Sunday around midnight.- another is to be induced Sunday morning  and ended up delivering Sunday afternoon- and the 3rd mom who thought she might be in labor on Sunday - has not delivered yet.

All doulas realize that when families work so hard to interview and select a doula, they want THEIR doula.  It can be very concerning to learn that someone you don't know might come through that door.  So we all work very hard to make sure we are available for our clients. But life - and birth - happens.  I am grateful to say I was able to attend both my births on Sunday (with a 2 hour window between them). And they were wonderful families who had amazing births.

I would just like to reassure all families who are concerned that they might end up with the "backup", that doulas are a special breed of women. They come into this work with a concern and passion for labor and support.  They are invested in supporting families to the best of their ability. We try to pick backup that we know and have confidence in their abilities.  So feel comfortable that if your doula has to send a backup, she will be an amazing support to you through your labor and although your doula will have to mourn the loss of attending your birth, you'll be happy a backup doula was there!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dads and Doulas

When I first meet a couple - many times I notice the dad has very little questions of me - his eyes start to glaze over about 30 minutes into the conversation - and I just know he has an overall view of my work - but not a clear picture of how I might be able to help HIM. 

I do understand that - it's very hard to describe what a doula does in the labor room - or even in those phone calls during the hours of early labor.  I make suggestions, provide reassurance of what is normal, try to give them a clearer idea of what things might look like to say "let's head into the hospital".  In the labor room, it can be a position change suggestion, changing the bed, offering a drink of water to the mom, a soothing voice, but I'm definitely concerned about the dad also!  Does he need a chair, does he need some reassurance, does he need a suggestion of how to better support her, does he need some coffee or food, does he need to leave for a minute and know that his wife is still supported?  Do the family in the waiting room need to be updated?  Does the car need to be moved?

Again- hard sometimes to describe what I do.  But recently when I was with a first time dad whom I had actually just met the week before - I was so pleased to hear him enthusiastically  tell me how much I had helped them on the birth - that he felt he owed me so much.  And I was reminded once again that after a birth, dads really are my biggest supporters, my best advertising.  So thanks for the hundreds of dads who have allowed me to share their magic moment of birth, and come out on the other side with a great birth memory and a better idea of the value of a doula - to the dad!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Baby #700

When I started to attend births 24 years ago, I never imagined I would see so many babies come into the world. What has been the toughest part of this passion? First of all - remembering everyone's name! Honestly, the older I get, the worse it is to remember names. But after all these years, I can still remember something from almost every birth I have ever attended.

Today was a real treat. I had worked with this couple on their first birth and felt privileged to be asked back for number 2. And this was a very typical second birth. Mom called me at 5:30am, 30 minutes after going into labor. And baby was born about 80 minutes later. All went well and I was so happy to share their journey again.

And today was a milestone for me - baby #700. Some have teased me that after l000 I'll quit - but who knows. I just know I'm thrilled to have had a part in so many birth stories over the years. If you are expecting - I hope you'll consider having a doula as a part of your birth. It will not only add to your cherished memory - but hers!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Natalie's Birth

With permission of the mom, I wanted to share a first time mom's birth story - in her own words.

"I was well past my due date, but there were no problems detected with the baby so my OB had let me schedule induction soon as she would be out of town. Up to that point I hadn’t felt any contractions or anything hinting that I was any closer to giving birth. I’d also been 50% effaced and 1+ cm dilated for over 2 weeks with no progress.

We were watching a movie Saturday night just before 11pm when my water broke. I had been planning to labor at home for as long as possible so this kind of threw a wrench in my plan. I couldn’t decide whether to rush to the hospital (as my OB recommended) or trust that since nothing looked bad (amniotic fluid was clear, etc.) and I had only mild contractions to try and labor at home for a while. Jon called our doula, Cyndi, and let her know what was going on and that I was unsure about whether to head to the hospital or not.

I got in the shower since many moms said they liked laboring in the shower, hoping to delay a bit, but standing through contractions was horrible. Jon encouraged me to call Cyndi and talk to her. We discussed everything and I decided to stay at home longer and see how things progressed. Having her reassurance and support was invaluable to me at that point! She asked that we call her by 7am if we were still at home but encouraged us to call her at any point during the night if we needed to.

Throughout the night, contractions continued to get stronger and more frequent but never consistently reaching 3 minutes apart, my goal that would have sent us to the hospital. I sat on the birth ball for most of the evening but was too nauseous to attempt any poses that might have turned my stomach. Although I was sure that I still had a long labor ahead of me (my contractions were bad when they were happening but still of an inconsistent frequency and I was prepared for much worse!) as the sun rose I felt I’d done as much as I could at home. (Since I was unable to even keep the water I was drinking down my concern was that I was becoming too dehydrated and needed to go to the hospital for an IV.) At about 7:10am, dad got in the shower while I called Cyndi to let her know that we were packing up the car and she said she would head out and meet us in at the hospital in about a half hour.

When we arrived at the hospital there was hardly anyone there and we were taken immediately to triage. My contractions had been coming faster since we’d arrived and when there was finally enough of a pause in my contractions for the nurse to check me she said I was already at 5-6 cm dilated! Surprised and relieved, she said she’d take us to labor and delivery do the paperwork once we got to our room. We got into our room about 8:15am and Cyndi arrived within a few minutes. She was excited to hear of our progress and began to help me get settled into the room.

After the IV hook up and initial monitoring I was allowed to get up and Cyndi encouraged me to try standing for a while to help the baby’s head progress further down. I hated this, but she promised it would be short lived and then I could move to the yoga ball. I continued to have nausea and threw up a couple more times—ice chips were no better than water—but with the IV I started to feel a little bit better. I focused on breathing through the contractions and moving rhythmically in circles sitting on the ball until I was given the ok to get into the bed for a little while. Cyndi wet a few washcloths for my forehead (I spent the whole time with my eyes covered with wet washcloths!) and she and dad held my hands as I continued to breathe/moan through contractions. The nurse came back to check me again and said I was at 8 cm and the baby was very low—hooray again! Every contraction after that I would focus on Cyndi’s soothing voice reminding me that this wouldn’t be too much longer and that I was doing really well and squeezing dad and Cyndi’s hands.

Things are a bit fuzzy but I do remember some discussion of calling my OB (who hadn’t left on vacation yet) and letting her know how close I was and the nurse setting up the bed while dad and Cyndi remained at my side. The contractions consumed my entire focus and it was so helpful to know what Cyndi meant without thinking about it when she said to use my yoga breath! With the washcloth over my eyes I could tune out most of what was going on around me and just focus on trying to stay relaxed and getting through each contraction one at a time. As the contractions continued to get more frequent, I really began to feel the urge to push and I heard one of the nurses ask if there was another doctor available in case my OB didn’t make it in time. I could tell things were moving fast but had no sense of time at that point. At one point, I was being told not to push and having Cyndi say “breathe like this…” and show me so that I just had to repeat what she was doing gave me something else to focus on and got me through that contraction.

My OB did arrive in time and I was finally able to push. The fast pace of the contractions did not give me much of a break between pushing but it wasn’t until Cyndi said “push where you feel pressure” that I could tell I was making real progress. I’m told it was only about 30 minutes of pushing but it was one of the most intense things to experience and the ring of fire is no joke! She came out fine despite the umbilical cord being wrapped around her leg three times. I made it through with only a first degree tear and Natalie was born at 10:44am.

My husband noted that we were barely in the hospital 3 hours before she was born—had we waited much longer we may have had an accidental home birth! I can’t say enough how enhanced our birth experience was by having Cyndi there—having Cyndi there as a calming, knowledgeable and experienced doula was a great resource from the moment we hired her and relieved undue amounts of stress off both Jon and I and our labor expectations. I wasn’t even committed to an unmedicated birth, but I’m so amazed that I was able to do it. Best of luck to all the mommies on a quick and easy labor and, more importantly, a happy healthy baby!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Taking Care of Ourselves

Recently I had my sinuses affected by an airplane flight - a struggle I have dealt with before. The insistence of my nose to dominate my thinking reminded me that I had to take time to take care of myself. So long nights of sleep, relaxed days, plenty of fluids - all efforts to get well were started.

It reminded me that as moms or even moms-to-be, we can try to ignore the signals our body gives us to take care of ourselves. It is so easy to put our own needs on the bottom of a long list. Everything seems like a priority in our lives - the job - the house - the bills - the family - what gets neglected when we don't feel well? So often we just plow ahead and ignore our body's needs.

But if we are not at our best, we can't give our best to others. So the next time you get a wake up call to take an extra nap - have a long relaxing bath - or just get a massage - why not place taking care of yourself at the top of the list? I highly recommend it.....back to resting for me......

Sunday, July 18, 2010


When a due date is given - and usually there is more than one given - a sense of anticipation follows - until, that is. it gets near that date. Then anticipation turns to anxiety as moms fear their baby will not come on that date and induction may have to follow. Will she have to have pitocen? Will the baby be too big?

It's a difficult journey to take when a mom goes postdate. Today I attended a mom's birth - she was 4l weeks. She had been lcm dialated for weeks with no change. Her doctor was going on vacation tomorrow and her doula in 5 days. The anxiety was building. But last night her baby decided to end the suspense and start labor. After weeks of no change - her body dialated quickly her baby arrived less than 4 hours after she reached the hospital. A lovely unmedicated birth. Next month, as she looks back on her birth - the days of anxiety over being postdate will have faded with the cherished memory of her birth. But hindsight is always easy - it is being in that period of postdate that is difficult. Of course - the "real" due date is already decided by your baby.

So if you are coming up to your due date, try to remember that your baby is very smart and your body knows what to do. Trust them both. Try to stay relaxed, hydrated, and rested. Best wishes on your lovely birth - when baby is able to choose his "due date".

Friday, June 25, 2010


How many times have we heard a mom ask "If my mom had short labors, can I hope to have short labors like my mom?". I asked a doctor once if genetics could predict the process of labor in a family. I was told that the only affect would be the shape of a pelvis inherited from a mom. Also I was told that if we looked at a person's sister, we could better have an idea of what this mother's labor would be.

My mom had extremely long labors and so did I for the most part. Was it genetics or just circumstances? I used to think this was genetics - but I don't know that I agree with that anymore.

After attending almost 700 births, I have not seen genetics to play as high a role in the outcome of a birth as I had thought it would.

I have worked with moms who told me their mothers had very short, easy labors - but we have worked through more than a day of labor for this mom. I had a birth recently where her mom had had 3 c/sections and her sister 2. So this mom was concerned that her outcome would run in the same direction as her family - but she tried to prepare well, added a doula to her team, and had a great doctor. Her birth actually went very quickly - pushed only 20 minutes - no problem.

A few years ago I had a family who e-mailed me on her due date that she had agreed to an induction in 2 days. Out of a need to have information - not a criticism of her choice, I wrote back to ask "is there a medical reason for the induction?" This sparked a discussion between the couple - and they opted to decline the induction. Labor came on it's own, we had an unmedicated waterbirth. Only after this did I find out that this mom's family history was a series of inductions - for her mom and sister. So she just assumed that was her lot in childbirth.

So gaining birth stories from families can be interesting to a mom facing labor - but try not to base what your path will be on the history of your family - unless they had wonderful short births - then go with that vision!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Birth = Empowerment

When you first discover you are expecting, the birth stories start flooding in on you. But do the majority of them contain the word "empowerment"?

When a mom makes a goal of an unmedicated birth, and achieves it, I can say that the sense of empowerment is huge! There is so much anxiety before the event, but once they were in it, it was just putting one foot in front of the other until the baby arrived. They now feel have the strength to do anything.

I have also seen this sense of empowerment by moms who have chosen to use medication. They have made goals to reach before getting medication - and have reached their goal - or gone even further than they thought possible - and have come out of their birth feeling so strong.

Why do I think this is important? Labor is a day or two of our lives. But motherhood is a lifelong rewarding challenge. Starting motherhood with a strong sense of our own power really makes a difference.

So the next time you talk to a mom who used a doula on her birth, see if she felt empowered by the experience. Birth is an amazing journey - let it show you the strength you have inside.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


After almost 24 years of labor support duties, I can honestly say my joy is supporting families through several births. I realize being invited to a birth is a privilege - and when families see the value of inviting me again - I'm thrilled and humbled!

Recently I had the chance to continue to share the journey of birth with a family for the 3rd time. Nine years ago I was with this couple when they were having their first baby. It was a long labor supported by her family, his family and me. And in the end, mom and dad were amazing in birthing their baby.

Within 8 months, I had the joy of supporting her mom through her fourth birth - again surrounded by the same family members and concluding in a waterbirth. Within another l8 months, in the same room, I again shared the birth experience with the original couple in their 2nd birth. I remember thinking what a joyous journey I had experienced with this family.

Last week, I was again invited back - this time the couple choosing a homebirth in the water for their 3rd birth. I arrived in the early morning hours where we sat in the living room and chatted. As the sun came up, mom and I walked to visit family a few blocks away, then back home. Mom took a nap and within an hour was in "labor land". Everyone arrived including the midwives. Tub was filled and just after noon, mom delivered her child into her arms with the family sharing the moment.

I've seen generations of this family arrive. And I have learned that birth is always a challenging, exciting event. It is never the same, even with the same families. Worries change with each birth - and circumstances. But in the end, if you feel safe and supported, your birth memory can be a joyous one.

So thank you to all the families who have invited me on their journey. Thank you for sharing your memory with me. My hope is that as the generations of your family arrive, I can be a part of your happy event.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who Should You Invite Into Your Labor Room?

I'm asked this question alot - and it is always a discussion at prenatal visits. Who should you include in your room - especially since so many family and friends these days are hoping to support you through the birth.

The easiest answer is - whomever you feel you want in the room.

If your goal is to go unmedicated on the birth, it is usually best to minimize the number of support people in the room in the active part of the labor. This is true for a couple of reasons - moms in labor "feel" everyone's eyes on them. Too many people focused on the mom can cause her to feel like a "watched pot". She starts believing it is up to her to move things along - and if it is moving slowly, she starts feeling the pressure - she can have "performance anxiety". I have seen first time moms stall out because the room is full of caring family. One first time mom was 9cm for several hours. When dad asked the family to step out for l5 minutes this was the key to helping mom finish up her labor and enter the period of excitement - pushing! Family were brought back in and everyone was thrilled to share the birth.

There is also the issue of a mom feeling the freedom to deal with contractions in any way that she feels she needs to do it. For instance, if moaning through a contraction makes her feel better - would it make other family members feel nervous or helpless assuming it is a cry for help - when actually it is a coping technique. Would their nervousness cause her to not deal with labor well?

What if she feels a need to move during contractions and yet feels too self-conscious of certain positions - will she be exposed during the movement, etc, and would this be uncomfortable with others in the room. If so - would she hold back from dealing with the labor the best way for her?

For a mom on an epidural - generally she is encouraged to get some rest before the big moment of pushing. Here again - this can be very difficult with alot of visitors in the room. Sometimes it even begins to feel like birth has been forgotten - it is just a time to eat, laugh, and visit. Of course, if the mom is wide awake - she may really enjoy the diversion. So--again, mom has the final say.

Now - having said all of that - do I feel it is bad to have family or friends in the room? Of course not - some moms have been supported by alot of people and felt their care and concern and support and they blossomed under this umbrella of love. I have fond memories of a first time mom - on her knees leaning over the back of the bed in a hands and knees position - and her husband, dad, mom and sister all had one hand on her back gently rubbing her. She told me later that was her favorite memory from the birth.

I have fond memories of sitting on a stool in the corner, while the mom's mom and husband played the support role beautifully. Having a doula does not mean your family and friends are not welcome - or needed!

So - birth is a journey and there are times the journey needs to be minimized in the room and times it can be expanded. Early labor is a great time to visit, laugh, feel everyone's support. Pushing is usually a time of loud encouragement and energy - great to have family and friends for support (if the mom and dad are comfortable with that). I feel it is a gift you give to your loved ones - a wonderful gift of sharing the birth. It is just that middle part that seems to necessitate a smaller room of support in many cases.

So having an honest conversation with family and friends in advance is the best policy - letting them know there may be times you will need them to leave. (And that of course includes the doula!) It may be you need to tell them in advance that their greatest support role will be after the baby arrives, not during the labor.

A doula's role in this is not to make rules of whom you should have in the room or to be the person sending people out of the room - she is just there to fill in the needs of the laboring family - and sometimes those needs are to give them privacy.

So who should you have in the room - give it some thought - have honest conversations and then relax - it's wonderful to have so many who want to support you in this wonderful journey! (And I'm included in that group!)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Recently I attended a birth with another first time family. The mom later posted her birth story to her childbirth group. With her permission, I'm posting it on my blog - one more story to say birth can be an amazing journey! Enjoy the story:

"I went into early labor around 2 am Monday the 8th, but it just felt like period cramps to me, so I went on with my day, continuing to cook, going to the grocery store (where the clerk told me that during my contractions, someone came up to him and was worried that I was going to "pass out." He replied, oh, no, she's just pregnant (I'm there every day so they know me), and all the other silly things I scrambled around doing in the weeks leading up to the delivery. By about 10 pm, things got serious and by midnight, I called my mom and doula to come over. Thanks to my husband, mom, and doula, Cyndi Whitwell, I labored at home as long as possible, so when I arrived at Sutter Davis at 3:30 am, I was 7 cm dilated. They immediately filled up a birthing tub for me - oh - that warm water felt so good! My husband got in with me and just about exactly 3 hours after I arrived at the hospital, I gave birth to our son in the birthing tub, with his bag of waters still intact, at 6:29 am. I scooped him up out of the water and held him, with his eyes locking in with my husband's behind me and his little finger grabbing on tight to my husband's finger, for about 20 minutes until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing.
We had a magical experience at Sutter Davis, and I must thank Vickie for opening my eyes to natural childbirth, the power of having a doula, Sutter Davis, and the Sutter West midwives. All the preparation I did paid off -- without it and my support structure, I would not have been able to reach my goal of natural childbirth - and would not have been able to do it without the birthing tub! For your next birth, do whatever you have to do to hire Cyndi Whitwell as your doula and deliver at Sutter Davis. I couldn't do it again any other way."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Due Dates

I read an article once on how 40 week gestation cycles were first figured out.  It seemed very "unscientific" to me when I finished reading the article.  But it confirmed what I already knew - it's like throwing a dart on a target.  If it lands anywhere within the many circles, you have hit the target.  Same is true with birth - there is a built in leeway of 2 weeks on either side of the "due date".  And we all know gestation cycles vary per woman, just as ovulation cycles and menstrual cycles are unique to the mom.

When I was having my own sons three decades ago, we weren't sent through emotional turmoil with several due dates, like moms face today.  Really, what is the first question people ask, "When are you due?"  How do you respond?  Years ago it used to be, "in the spring", now it's April l2th.  But was April l2th calculated by the first day of your last period?  Or was it the 20 week ultrasound?  Or was it the followup 30 week ultrasound? 

Why does this matter?  Because moms facing labor today have enough stresses to worry about - without having to be hung up on a certain day.  Moms who delivered at 38 weeks with their first, use their due date for #2 to say - I could go into labor anywhere from 37 weeks on. And if they reach the 40 week mark, they feel so overdue they can't stand it anymore.  Moms who are worried about induction, use that target date to start stressing over labor not starting as the date approaches.  And of course, if they are stressed, they are suppressing the ability to go into labor also.

So what is the answer?   I have always felt the baby was the only one who really knew the due date - it was their choice - they are designed to know when they are "ready" to come.  In almost 24 years and almost 700 births providing labor support, when moms have been allowed to go to 42 weeks, I have only seen about 3 or 4 inductions.  So I trust that babies just know when they should come.

When someone asks, "When are you due?", what's wrong with saying "mid-April", "early June", etc?  Or even "soon". 

Having said all of this, since I base the amount of births I take by the calender month of the due date, if I ask when are you due, I really do need a "due date" - so pick one you like and let me know, and then we'll leave it up to the baby to pick the right one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Time Birth - In Mom's Own Words

I've been asked a few times to include some birth stories. This mom was quick to write up her story to share with everyone and with her permission I am posting it to my blog. I would like to point out - length of labor is NOT the requirement for having a good birth memory. :) So please enjoy her experience! (And note the photo of the hands was a photo I took - I'm so glad it came out)
Jolyssa's Birth

From the very beginning I wanted a natural child birth. I spent weeks researching my options when I first discovered that I was with child. We moved to Sacramento and were fortunate enough to find a birthing center and a group of doctor's and midwifes that specialized in natural child birth. I had a routine pregnancy, with no complications and was fortunate enough to see a midwife. She was amazing at each appointment, and was always so nice and positive. She never doubted me, and always offered advice that made sense and encouraged me when I doubted myself.

A few months before my delivery, I decided to add a doula to my birth team. A doula is... (Labor/birth support doulas are labor support persons who attend to the emotional and physical comfort needs of laboring women to smooth the labor process. They do not perform clinical tasks such as heart rate checks or vaginal exams, nor do they provide advice. Rather, they use massage, positioning suggestions, etc., to help labor to progress as well as possible. A labor/birth support doula joins a laboring woman either at her home, birth center, or hospital and remains with her until a few hours after the birth. Some doulas also offer several prenatal visits, phone support, and one postpartum meeting to ensure the mother is well informed and supported. The terms of a labor/birth doula's responsibilities are decided between the doula and the family. In addition to emotional, physical and informational support, doulas work as advocates of their client’s wishes and may assist in communicating with medical staff to obtain information for the client to make informed decisions regarding medical procedures.) After interviewing a couple of people, I decided to hire Cyndi. Cyndi, not only made me feel comfortable but she had years of experience that would prove vital for me.

New year's eve started like any other day. We didn't really go anywhere, and decided to stay home that night since I was so far along in my pregnancy. Around 11 pm is when I would say that my early labor started. I noticed some changes in my body but decided to ignore them because if it was labor, I knew that it would take days for it to kick in.

On New year's day, we lounged around the apartment. Went to dinner and watched a movie. I kept feeling contractions but nothing that would have killed me, or that I couldnt ignore. They went on all day and were starting to get consistent. But the movie, took my mind off of them and I really didnt see the point in paying attention. That night I slept well and didnt mind it.

January 2nd- Adrian went to work, and I woke up with pain. It was a nagging pain but nothing unbearable. I emailed Cyndi and described what I was feeling, she confirmed that she believed was early labor. I decided just to relax that day and not tell Adrian because he would freak out. The contractions at this time were about 8-9 minutes apart but again were not unbearable or painful. Before bed, I emailed Cyndi again, and told her that I would update her if anything changed thru the night. The pain did get harder to ignore but I slept well until 4-5 am. When I woke up with stronger pains and could just not sleep anymore

January 3rd- I awoke at 4-5 am with contractions that I could no longer sleep thru. At this time they were 6-7 minutes apart. I emailed Cyndi and she suggested warm baths, walks and keeping busy. We did all of them but soon the contractions started coming 5 minutes apart.... still not completely unbearable or painful. At this point, I told Adrian that I wanted a turkey wrap from Costco, so we drove there and this is when things got interesting. Contractions started to come every 4-5 minutes apart. I got my turkey wrap and we came home... I called the birthing center and described what was happening and my midwife instructed me to stay home until my contractions were 3 minutes apart lasting a minute for an hour. I agree, thinking again, that I was in very early labor.

Around 4pm, I started to get more uncomfortable and contractions started to come stronger. Now they were about 3 minutes apart, we decided to wait the hour and thats when I finally agree with Adrian that it was time to go. On the way to the birthing center, my contractions seemed to slow down. I got worried because I thought that they were gonna send me home with news that I was only 1-2 cm dialated.

We arrived at the birthing center at 5:20 on January 3, 2010. The admitting nurse put me on a fetal heart monitor and we were supposed to have Jolyssa monitored for 30 minutes to check her heart rate and was also connected to a monitor that was measuring my contractions. Jolyssa decided not to cooperate and what was supposed to be a 30 minute monitoring procedure turned into 2 hours. Finally after 2 hours, I got checked and little did I know.

At 7 almost 8pm I was told by the first Labor and Delivery nurse "This cant be, there is no way this is true."
Me: "What?"
Nurse: "I must be wrong, because from what I see, you are 9cm dialated. I need to have someone verify what I see, because there is no way that you can be laughing and cracking jokes and be this far along in your labor."

At this point my midwife came and verified that I was in fact 9cm dilated and that I would be staying. At that point we called our doula, who arrived shortly and were placed in a delivery room with a birthing tub. I was shocked and happy. Everyone was amazed at my high treshold for pain.

The birthing tub was the most amazing thing during my labor. It soothed me, and helped me manage the last stretch of my birth. Unfortunately, when my membranes ruptured, we discovered that Jolyssa had passed meconium in her amniotic fluid, and was told I would have to get out of the tub to deliver her. I was sadden but understood the importance of having to get out.

As I was getting ready for the pushing stage of my labor, I got out of tub. I can honestly say that up to this point, labor was a piece of cake. The pushing, was the most challenging. At this point, it was almost 3am on January 4, 2010. I had been in labor since December 31, 2009 or so and I was exhausted! Adrian had been exhausted too, he even fell asleep during different points in my labor. I swear I wanted to kill him when I saw him sitting there asleep while I was in pain! lol, but having Cyndi there helped me get thru those times. She was a vital part of this success story, I don't know where I would have been without her help. She was there the whole time, making me and Adrian laugh. Walking me thru some of the difficult contractions and helping Adrian to help me.

The Labor and Delivery nurse, Loise, was amazing but like everything else she was not in the room with me the whole time. She would come in and out to check up on me but she would have to leave. This is where Cyndi definitely helped. She was there the whole time and even allowed for breaks for Adrian.

After 2 hours of pushing, I began to panic. I thought that if I didn't make progress soon, someone would show up with interventions such as a C-section. But that was not the case, the midwife, the labor and delivery nurse and my doula all helped me thru the last part of my labor... and an hour later... I gave birth to Jolyssa at 5:08 am on January 4, 2010.

They whisked her away to the warming table where the nurses worked to clear the meconium from her air passage ways and as soon as she was clear they placed her on my belly. I have never seen a more beautiful sight in my life. I could just not believe how beautiful she was and how amazing this whole process was!!!! I was fortunate enough to give my daughter the gift of a medication free birth. I felt a sense of empowerment as a woman and confident as a new mother. The joy I feel in my heart cannot be described in words!

I owe it all to my wonderful birth team!

Adrian- who despite falling asleep (uummm 3 times) was there for me thru the whole process and who I love to death, without you, I dont know where I would be Love. :)

Jessica- Our wonderful midwife! She was so sweet and understanding, never ever pushy. She respected my wishes down to the letter, and gave me sense of empowerment by letting things progress at their own rate.

Cyndi- Amazing, Amazing doula. I dont know where I would be without her. She walked me thru a cloud of pain and made it seem like I did it alone. Thank you so much for being there for me!!!

Loise- Amazing Labor and Delivery nurse, I am amazed at how professional and understanding she was. All L&D nurses are angels!!!

Next baby, I am having at home!! LOL

Labor of love... I got to use the birthing tub for most of my labor, if you ever decide to have a baby... I highly recommend a water birth! It is amazing!!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I had a client who had this quality - quiet confidence.  She knew herself and her baby and had confidence in the directions she wanted to go in labor.  So even though her doctor wanted to do an exam or break her water, the mom held firm to what seemed right to her.  These were not medical issue discussions, but more pushing the time allowed to labor normally.  This couple were so well suited to supporting each other and moved through their labor at their own pace.  It was interesting to watch the discussion between staff and this mom - she just held her ground for what felt right to her - of course, with no medical concerns being involved.  It didn't become a heated argument or challenging the doctor's medical ability, just a firm stand on issues that were important to this mom, in a quietly confident voice.

Is that ability possible for any mom - I think yes.  But it has to start in pregnancy, really getting to know yourself and your baby.  Trusting your instincts even if you have never labored before - you are still the best person to know your child. Testing out your voice at your doctor's visits - the sky won't fall in on you if you choose not to have a routine exam--if there is no medical reason for it.

When facing labor, many moms ask "will they let me" whether it comes to positions, clothing, music, lighting, etc.  Remember, you are a part of the decision making process.  Your voice is still valuable.  It still matters how you feel - what you think.  So a better way to ask these questions is:  "would this enhance my birth, is there a benefit to the lighting being low, playing music I like, using my own clothing, standing instead of laying down".  If there is a medical reason this is not to your benefit, the staff will be happy to explain it to you and you can re-evaluate your choices.

Be quietly confident and your birth will feel more like your own journey, one that you contributed your voice to accomplishing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


This post addresses that age old question (well decades old question), when does a family decide it is time to head to the hospital in labor?  Of course, this assumes you are not having a home birth. (With my own two homebirths, it was my midwives that had to juggle this question - I had no worries about when to go - I was there!)

If it is your first birth, the bigger issue will be, how do you stay home as long as possible?  A first labor can many times be a marathon, not a sprint. So trying to just ignore labor for the early part is essential.  Do you have a drawer that needs to be cleaned?  A list of thank you notes from baby showers?  Some project on your computer?  Or just an old movie you have been wanting to see.

If it's daytime, take a lovely walk - if it is inclement weather, make it a walk through the mall.  Or go to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a nice dinner.  How about making muffins or cookies for the hospital staff later? Think outside the box and be creative about the use of your time.

Once the contractions take over your focus, then you will need to concern yourself with position changes and relaxation - but that is usually many hours into the process.  Take as many naps as possible during this "down" time.

So what are you looking for to head to the hospital?  There is no one answer. And you have to factor in any medical reasons to go in earlier.  If this is a normal progressive labor with no medical issues, you might want to wait until 3-l-l which means 3 minute apart contractions, lasting at least a minute each for an hour.  That needs to be combined with feelings of nausea, shakiness, lots of bathroom needs, and a hot/cold temperature change.

Another reason to head in is that the mom doesn't feel safe.  Something in her instincts says that she needs to get herself or her baby assessed.  Then head in with a view that once you are reassured, you will happily head home to continue your labor.

If you are bleeding excessively, you need to get medical attention.

There are a few other reasons to go - but if you can change your thinking to your home being your "labor room" and the hospital being your "delivery room", your stay in the hospital will be lessened.  If you are still needing to talk to someone about this - add a doula to your birth team~