Stevie Annise 9/21/2005 & Van Killian 7/07/2007
During my first pregnancy I often dreamt to myself that I would find a dark, warm cave where only my husband could find me and we would give birth to our child naturally and privately just like bears or cats in the wild. My mother and others told me I was preposterous and being selfish. I was entranced by the simple beauty and mystery of our chance to bring a new life into this world. We tried not to find out the sex of our child, but during the ultrasound, the technician blurted it out. I had written up a birthing plan requesting as natural a birth as I could get in a hospital setting – but despite my plans and wishes, when my labor didn’t progress quick enough, I was given pitocin to speed things up – and oh, boy did it!
Within 20 minutes my contractions were coming so quickly and painfully, I begged to get up and walk around to deal with it – I felt like I had to run (maybe to escape), but of course because I was hooked up to the pitocin drip and the baby monitor, I couldn’t go anywhere. They just told me to relax and not to push. I cried to my husband I had to get up or push now – I could feel it. After enough pleading and crying, the nurses checked me (I think just to pacify me and get me to quiet down) only to discover I was fully dilated and they could see the head! My doctor, who had just arrived at the hospital and had come up to check in on me, ended up getting there just in time to catch my son, almost literally. The whole experience was chaotic and frustrating. I was so wiped out, I don’t even remember the rest of the day.
I knew I didn’t want to repeat that experience again; so when I found out I was pregnant the second time, I started researching midwives online. That’s when we found Jan. She was a blessing! The first time we went to meet her, she asked me about my past birthing experience. She quietly listened and nodded and even apologized for my experience. Then she explained natural ways she uses to deal with stalled or slow labor. Over the weeks and months, the time she spent talking and listening to me, I really felt safe and empowered. I knew she trusted in a woman’s power to give birth, and like me, she rejoiced in the sacredness of the process as life giving – rather than treating me and my condition as a disease. My husband and son (then five years old), came to just about every appointment with me. Jan always asked my husband how he was and if he had questions too, so he had an active voice and role in the birth of his child too. My son also learned a lot about pregnancy and how children are born, which helped him adjust for his new role as big brother. Plus he loved the cupboard of toys!
When the big day came, we got to the birthing center around 3 a.m. Jan and Lucky had the tub nearly filled up. The room was lit by a few candles and small white indoor lights and white tulle draped the tops of the walls, giving the room a warm yet open feel. The contractions had slowed, so after checking me, we decided to all lie down and try to sleep to conserve our energy for the day ahead. Jan and Lucky left my husband and I alone on the futon mattress and we snuggled and giggled, trying not to be too excited that the day had really come. Or had it? My contractions were sporadic, but my water had broken around 1 a.m. I started to fear the same nightmare as my first labor. But Jan reassured me that labor can start and stall – it finds its own rhythm – and that’s why we were there. So we waited. My husband and I walked around the area and stopped at a bakery for a little breakfast. Later that morning, Jan walked with us to the farmer’s market down the road. Everyone asked if I was due soon, we chuckled and said “yes, I’m in labor now. It should be anytime now.”
All the walking was great and I felt amazing, but we didn’t want me to use up all my energy so Jan suggested I drink castor oil to naturally nudge things along. Fully trusting her, I followed her advice. She warned me it would taste pretty bad though she mixed it with orange juice to help get it down. After a very short time, I started feeling stronger and stronger contractions. Unfortunately for me, I had just finished going to the bathroom when they really kicked into high gear. I couldn’t get up or move, and I laughed at myself being stuck there on the john during labor. I closed my eyes, started breathing, and slowly got myself onto all fours on the floor in the bathroom. Jan called to me to see if I was alright. In between my contractions, I told her I was okay but the contractions had really begun and she helped me into the birthing tub from there. The water was so relaxing! My husband held my hand and Jan talked me through the contractions as they came. It was amazing how I could feel my baby moving down my body, making her way into the world. I closed my eyes and pictured myself inside with her, helping her find her way out. I knew I was taken care of and in good hands so I could put my focus on my baby. When her head crowned, Jan told me to feel and I touched her head. She had so much hair, I couldn’t believe it! That first physical contact with her made me so excited to hold her! The pushing was hard – and it did hurt – but the pain wasn’t horrible like in the hospital. With each push I could feel her move and I knew what had to be done – each push and the time between contractions gave me strength to get through the next one. At last, our second child, a gorgeous little girl with a mop of wet, black hair upon her head, was born.
Our third child, Van Killian, was born at home. Unlike my early stages of labor in the first two births, this one was quick and caught us off guard. I woke up before anyone around 6 a.m. with contractions coming every 10-15 minutes. This time I didn’t get excited or wake up my husband. I went to the kitchen and made myself a scrambled egg and a piece of toast. It was an amazingly sunny and beautiful summer morning, so I decided to take our pug for a walk around the block. The birds were singing and the sky was such a bright blue. The fresh air and movement felt wonderful. I was hopeful today would be the day. By the third block, I had to stop frequently and wait for the contractions to pass. My dog looked up at me and cocked her head to find out what the holdup was. I smiled and told her everything was fine. I was euphoric to be out in the fresh air and not trapped in the concrete and granite walls of a hospital again. When I got home, my contractions were coming strong every 10 minutes so I called Jan. She asked if she could take a shower first and I told her no hurry, my water had not even broken. I took a shower too as my husband and the kids got up and dressed. I had casually told him I was in labor so he called our friends who were taking the kids for the day for us. By the time they arrived, I was progressing pretty fast. We didn’t have the tub ready yet, and Jan was still on her way. Between breaths, I kissed my kids goodbye and my friend wished me luck. I squatted in front of my couch, using the seat for support as the contractions came. After awhile, I went onto all fours and rocked and hummed a low hum. My husband laid towels under me just in case – but still no water ruptured. When Jan arrived, she couldn’t believe how far I was already. She confirmed I was fully dilated. She ruptured my membranes for me to release pressure and allow the head to drop so I could begin pushing. It was maybe five big pushes later that Van was born and in my arms.
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful husband, three healthy and beautiful babies, and Jan is truly the fifth blessing that has completed this family. I feel so lucky to have birthed with such an amazing, generous, wise woman at my side, not just once, but twice. I will hold her always in my highest regards.