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Braeden’s birth story

[written relatively soon after his birth]

The birth scenario I had in my head: Labor would go at a normal (1 cm/hour or so) pace, giving me time to have my doula (who believed in me from the start) use comfort methods with me, have candles we bought for the birth lit (sandalwood and a harmony candle); play CDs; wear the white tank top I had bought for the birth; John taking pictures of my doula using her doula skills on me, etc. John and I would tell each other we love each other, etc – everything out of Reality: When labor got going, there was no time for any of this!!!!! But I wouldn’t change it for a minute!

 **I must thank God for my midwife. I am a Birth Works doula, and Birth Works believes in empowering women to birth instinctively. My midwife embodies this philosophy – she empowered me to have an instinctive pregnancy and birth. Because of her, I feel good about my pregnancy and birth, and my post partum period has been much better than before!***

Labor started on 8/6. I had consistent contractions that were getting closer together, for hours, every other day starting the 6th. In fact, I was very close to calling my midwife and doula on the early morning of the 12th – they were down to 5 minutes apart. However, each time I would fall asleep and so would the contractions.

My midwife had planned my post partum visit for the 15th (we thought I might have birthed by then). So, we had a prenatal visit, instead. She noted that I would be due for more contractions that night (had them Sunday night). She said that when the fundal measurement grows as much as mine did (4cm in a week), birth is soon (when? I said :-). She also said that labor would probably not occur when all of my prelabor was occurring (late night/early morning). We didn’t setup another appt as we expected to see each other soon for the birth.

Didn’t know that 4 hours later I would be calling her to alert her!

A University of Pennsylvania Grad Student working with Barbara Katz Rothman (Bari Meltzer) came to interview me for research they were doing regarding doulas.  I was having contractions occasionally while she was here (2:30pm).   At 3:56pm I started to note contractions for the heck of it. At 4:13pm I had the biggest contraction to date – I could literally picture my cervix opening up to 10 cm!!! (I started moaning – told Regan I was singing; I felt like I was seeing stars!!!) My husband had to go back to work for a 4:30pm meeting, leaving me with Regan, which is normally fine, except role playing The Wizard of Oz and trying to work with labor contractions is a bit much. I paged him at 4:40pm. He normally had his pager on vibrating mode but it was on audio for some reason. He didn’t realize it was his pager going off. His boss, the Admiral, said to him, “Is that your wife?” Then he left (sheepishly, I assume :-).

I guess he got home around 5pm after I told him what was up. I was kneeling next to our bed and called the midwife around 5:05pm. The contractions were 5-7 minutes apart but nothing like the prelabor contractions. I told her I was going to try the tub. She said she was sitting down for dinner, and I was to call her after getting out of the tub. John got the tub ready for me and I got in. I was trying to not curl my toes during contractions and was doing ok. Around 5:30pm my mucous plug came out and we called the midwife again. John told her that contractions were 6-8 minutes apart. He didn’t tell her that the big ones were 6-8 minutes apart but there were two smaller ones in between!

The contractions were getting closer together and I started to vocalize, as my doula put it (she was being kind – I was yelling). I had never envisioned me yelling during my birth – I’ve never attended a birth where the mom yelled – of course, I’ve only seen one of my clients go to full dilation in an hour (she was very quiet), and I did it in 1-1/2 hours – so I was well justified to vocalize! So, with me yelling, oh, My GOD!!!!!!!!!; Please God, Please! Mother Mary, Please help me (this was the Feast of the Assumption of Mary), I had John call the midwife again at 5:45pm. She said she would be on her way, then. I then had John call my doula. He told her the contractions were 6-8 minutes apart. She heard me yelling in the background and took off! Even forgot the CD player I was supposed to use during the birth (like I would have noticed at that point – yeah, right!)

Now, remember, this is all during DC rush hour traffic! I kept vocalizing – I was getting maybe a 30-60 second break between contractions. My three-year-old daughter was upstairs and downstairs during this. She tried to comfort me, but I couldn’t bear for anyone to touch me. She was not afraid, although I did see her with her hands over her ears!!!!!!! We had prepared her with the book, Welcome With Love, by Jenni Overend, so she knew I might be vocal.

By this point I really needed my doula (who is also my friend and confidante). John was doing a great job just being there (remember the original doula studies – they were just women sitting there knitting, reading, etc, doing nothing but being there in the labor room, and they still made a difference!). He would sit in the rocking chair behind me, or try to help me reposition myself. I ended up being where I had envisioned being – kneeling beside my bed. I pulled on the fitted bed sheet during contractions. By 6:30pm I was thinking to myself when the doula and midwife get here, if I’m not at 10cm I’m going to the hospital for an epidural (could you have seen their faces with a screaming woman coming in? They would have knocked me out!)! At 6:38pm, my sac came out and I felt the urge to push (yeahhhhhh, what a relief!) ****Read John’s role in this****

I felt so much better pushing. I was getting a little longer break between contractions than before. No one told me how to nor when to push –I just did what my body told me to do, not even worrying that my midwife wasn’t here yet.

I was now yelling for my doula – I needed her here. She got here around 7pm. She tried to offer physical and mental comfort but I would have nothing of it – I had to be left alone to do this work, yet I needed her to be right there. She feels she did nothing but again, she made a difference like those doulas in the original doulas studies who did nothing. Plus, my daughter loves her and I saw them cuddling – that meant a lot to me! She also had me lean back from the kneeling position into a squat when I was pushing, which allowed gravity to help me and the baby to better descend. Worked like a charm!

My midwife made it around 7:20pm. She came in and started touching my back and I asked her to leave me alone, too. She said, “Looks like she doesn’t need us here,” which is the great thing about my midwife. She empowers her clients. She doesn’t feel that the moms “need” her to birth – we choose to have her attend to our birthing needs, and she doesn’t feel bad that she isn’t needed – that’s her goal!

My midwife tried to take tones but we couldn’t hear them. She looked at the scalp (baby was crowning) and saw a beautifully pink scalp and said the baby was fine (of course, at the same time I was saying to myself, if you even think I’m going to birth a stillborn baby – you can think again!). She told me to touch the head so I could believe that the baby was almost here. It was neat to touch my baby’s crowning head. I said, “Thank God.”

Now all the while, I am waiting for the burning ring of fire. It never came. I felt myself opening up. I remember yelling during pushing, “I can feel everything!” I felt stretching. It felt good when my midwife used her fingers on my stretching perineum as the baby’s head was coming through. I said, “Come on, baby, you can do it.”

Finally, the head was out. However, I wasn’t feeling the urge to push nor did I have any desire to do anymore pushing (as if I could have stayed that way!). My midwife told me I needed to get the baby out because it was just sitting there waiting to come out. I gave it my all (while asking her to just pull the baby out – I lost my head!), and at 7:50pm (I looked at the clock that we had set to the U.S. Naval Observatory’s atomic clock), Braeden John was born.

My husband told me it was a boy (I had said just a few moments before that I wanted him to announce the sex). Regan was right there as Braeden was born.

My midwife said, “Congratulations! You VBAC’ed!” (She’s a home birth VBAC’er herself).

My doula reminded me that not once, during prenatals nor the birth, did I have a vaginal exam – it just wasn’t necessary!

I never worried during labor about my uterus rupturing.

We are all so proud that Braeden was born at home – we tell everyone – even strangers! I don’t think this could have gone any better than it did.



****John’s perspective***

My view

Tammi had had on again off again contractions for approximately two weeks. Usually lasting throughout the evening and gone by the time she awoke in the morning. Her due date had come and gone (Aug 12th) and what was hoped to be a ‘well baby’ visit with the midwife on Tuesday morning, Aug 15th was another pre-natal. I picked Tammi up from work at noon and we went home to wait for her midwife, I remember remarking to the midwife that I felt it was going to be a quick birth, ‘When the baby’s ready it’s going to come right out!’ To much amusement from Tammi and her midwife, (only a man could describe any form of labor as ‘quick’). I went back to work and left early to pick up Regan, our 3-year old, from daycare at 4pm drop her off at home and then make it back for a 4:30pm meeting with my boss (a Navy Admiral and several Senior Executives). Tammi was going to get Regan ready for me to take to the local pool. For the previous two weeks I had been wearing a beeper (I thought set on vibration mode) and at 4:45pm when a beeper began to sound during the meeting I patiently waited for one of the executives to answer. Well, after 3-4 minutes my Admiral finally said, ‘Is that your wife, John?’, whoops. I hurriedly called home and Tammi told me that she was having severe contractions and needed me to come home, I did.

Regan was ready for the pool, I got my swimsuit on and Tammi asked me to draw a bath. I did, then she asked me to time contractions, I did. Her contractions were intense, with plenty of loud praying and ‘Oh my God!’s. I timed the ctxs, at 10min, lasting 90 secs, with two smaller 10sec ones between, this occurred from 5:00, to 5:30. Tammi asked me to call her midwife and her friend and Doula. I told the midwife the stats, she said to call back when they progressed further or if Tammi felt she needed her, The doula was on the phone during one of the major ctxs, heard Tammi’s shout and she later told us, literally dropped everything and hit the road. By now, 5:45, Tammi’s ctx’s have jumped to 2-3 minutes apart and they are all lasting 90 secs, she also dropped her plug, told me to call her midwife back and help her out of the tub. The midwife left immediately and I drained the tub. Tammi took up a kneeling position next to the bed and I attempted to assist but she needed to be ‘untouched’. I relegated myself to merely sitting in a rocking chair behind her and ‘being’ there (a little tough for me to keep my mouth shut without giving a comforting word or touch while your wife is screaming). In the back of my mind I’m thinking about the fact that DC is the second worse traffic city in the nation and our ‘team’ is on the far side of the city, it would be a miracle if they made it here before 7pm.

Periodically, during this time I would check on Regan who would be playing in her room or watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’. She would sometimes come into our room, both hands over her ears and ask ‘is the baby here?’ She remained calm and I was able to tell not yet and that mommy’s shouting is helping the baby. She took it all in stride and never lost her composure or interest.

Around 6:30, still no ‘team’ Tammi tells me that she feels the head coming, I scramble into catching position and at 6:38 I proudly caught the sack. Now I’m expecting a baby and am now holding a softball size glob of something, that I’m not letting go off because Tammi hadn’t told me to yet. Well, Regan walks in and asks what it is, and I quickly quip ‘the placenta’, well wrong move, Tammi yells ‘What!!???’ I describe this blob and she says its just the sack. I then timidly ask, ‘Can I let go of it?’ I’m a little anxious at this point, I’m not fearful, just on edge. What if I have to catch the real thing?

Well at 6:55, her doula arrives and I tell her all the details and about Tammi’s sensitivity to touch (we had discussed all sorts of relaxation techniques and aromatherapy) and her not wishing for music or candles. I washed up and eagerly got out of the way. Tammi’s intense ctx’s have continued and with her doula there the atmosphere got noticeably less chaotic. At 7:20 her midwife arrived, and with her calm demeanor and matter of fact style (women birth babies not hospitals or doctors) was able to assist Tammi and keep me busy enough that I wasn’t in the way. At 7:30 I grabbed the camera and got Regan, who remained in the room for the rest of the birth. I would periodically get fresh towels and hot water (I brought our crock pot into the bathroom). Regan and I were able to watch the birth and be amazed. I watched Braeden be born at 7:50 and was the one who told Tammi ‘It’s a beautiful baby boy!’. Regan peered over my shoulder and asked ‘What’s that?’, I told her the umbilical cord and she ran out of the room, only to march back a minute later singing ‘I got my scissors, I’m gonna cut the cord’. Well I thought her construction paper scissors were a little dull but she did hold onto my hand as I cut the cord later, ‘it was yucky’ according to Regan. The last image I have of the evening is at midnight with Tammi in bed, cradling Braeden (now 4 hours old) and Regan curled up next to them trying to hug them both.

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