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A home birth story: The day

April 6, 2014
coltrane yousling

This is part two of the birth story, go here to read part 1, A home birth story: The deed

Everyone including my midwives thought I was going to give birth a week or two before my due date. I’d hear the words “you’re ready, any day now” and try not to get my hopes up. Little did I realize, not only would I not be giving birth early, I would go nearly two weeks past my due date. In that month prior to Coltrane’s birth I learned two things: due dates don’t mean shit and that patience really is a virtue. It’s funny how two weeks in a normal scenario feels so short, yet two weeks in a birthing one feels like an eternity. I remember at one of my final home visits before the birth, Taylor said this “Ashley, you want this baby to bake as long as he needs. The longer he’s in there, the cuter and better nurser he will be when he’s born.” For some reason that was all it took for me to relax. I have no idea why.

It was a Monday morning, 10 days past my due date and I was scheduled for an ultrasound to check the amount of amniotic fluid remaining. The ultrasound went great, everything was fine, until the radiologist came in. I’m not sure what his deal was, but I’m pretty sure he had a beef with midwifery, home births and the overall notion that the baby would come when he’s ready. After a very stressful and upsetting conversation where he made it very apparent he did not support us waiting any longer to have this baby because “he was too big for me to have”, “my placenta was aging” and “I looked swollen”. To top it off, the radiology assistant had incorrectly taken my blood pressure and this resulted in an onslaught of additional remarks about my “high” blood pressure. All of which were off base and though I knew this, to an overdue pregnant lady this was enough to send me off into a spiral the entire drive home. Until this point I had felt a steadfast peace and trust in what was going on and knew ultimately that God was in control. I called Taylor as soon as we got out of the appointment and she assured me the baby wasn’t “too big” and that an aging placenta was normal at the end of a pregnancy. She ended the conversation with “It’s time Ash. Let’s meet this baby today. I’ll see you at your house.” I didn’t understand what that meant. What tricks did she have up her sleeve?

We had arrived home and my sweet sweet husband was doing everything he could to make me feel assured and excited about what was about to happen. Less then 5 min before Taylor walked through the door, my water broke. Talk about timing. I remember feeling so assured when that happened. Like it was a small reminder again of God’s ultimate control.

For months I had been actively visualizing my birth. Meditating and preparing my mind for what was to come. Low light, candles, meditation music, wonderful food, tea, and love. Lots and lots of love. It might sound strange but I was so fixated on this. I wanted the atmosphere to feel cozy, welcome and serene. And it did.

Taylor set me up in bed and took my vitals. Everything was normal as I suspected. She took some blood and did a rushed lab to ensure everything else was normal. Everything was. This is when I learned one of her “tricks” to get things going. She had me take a series of homeopathics over the course of the next couple hours. When Michelle arrived she set me up with all the acupuncture points that stimulate labor. One of the coolest things ever. I was laying on my bed, in my cozy home, getting acupuncture and was going to meet my baby.

Each person had their duties and my mom’s primary job was to create a spread worthy of a celebration. What better celebration is there then that of her first grandchild and the transformation of her daughter becoming a mother. She made all my favorite foods. Fresh spring rolls, mashed potatoes, vegetable trays and lots of soup. This is one of the best things about a home birth. You can eat whenever and whatever you want. You’re doing the biggest workout of your life, you need nourishment! The night was full of memorable moments, but one that stands out is all of us surrounded around the table in our kitchen snacking, I was sitting on the birthing ball with moxibustion points on my toes and we were all smiling and laughing…through the contractions. Shortly after, Taylor let me in on another one of her tricks, the lemon verbena smoothie. A crazy concoction that I was told would really get the contractions going, and boy did it ever. Within 30min of drinking the smoothie I was in the thick of intense labor.

This is when things began to get a little blurry for me. I vividly remember moments during the next 12+ hours, while others are left to the memories of those there. The night went on for a very long time. At some point Christine arrived to birth assist, Taylor’s midwifery partner and one of the loveliest and softest hearts I’ve met. Taylor had me doing every single birth position possible, from marching around raising my knees high into the air to sitting backwards on the toilet and resting my head on the tank. This went on for hours and hours. David was with me the entire night, marching around with me, holding me, whispering encouraging words into my ear, “ash, you get to meet our baby soon”. Our first (fur) baby, Copper never left my side as well. He’d lay in the bathroom when I was in the bathroom. He’d sit next to the birthing tub when I was in it. He’d follow me when we walked from room to room trying different positions. We called him my doggy doula. There was a moment of great relief when I heard “You can get in the tub now”. It was one of the most amazing feelings in the world. To be in so much pain and then have some relief. I said out loud “Wow, everyone should do this. Wait, everyone should have a birthing tub, not a baby. Not everyone should have a baby.”

After a short time in the tub Taylor was concerned I wasn’t making enough progress so she had me in and out of the tub all night, not letting me get too relaxed and keeping things moving. Somewhere in the middle of the night it was time to push. So I pushed. For over 6 hours. With each contraction in the tub, my mom sat behind me, holding me so tight, telling me how proud she was of me while David and Michelle held my hands and pulled, giving me stability through the pressure and immense pain. Several times I thought to myself, “Every woman that has ever had a baby naturally goes through this amount of pain?! Why the hell are people still having babies?!” What I didn’t know at the time was that Coltrane was posterior or a “stargazer” which meant he was facing forward instead of backwards, a very difficult position to give birth vaginally and one that causes extremely long back labor. The pain was surreal, an out of body experience. With every contraction I would find some hidden strength and push with everything I had. Each listen to his heart beat was a reassuring wave of encouragement. I was still actively making progress with each contraction, despite how long it was taking. I somehow continued to have stamina. When Taylor realized he was in the posterior position, she consulted with David and they opted not to tell me because they knew that I could do it as long as I continued to make progress and it was what I would have wanted in the end. They were so right.

Around 9am Taylor had us move to our bedroom. I labored in various positions for nearly an hour. At one point I was squatting between David’s knees and during a contraction a large amount of blood began to come out. Something was very wrong. I had no idea about the blood, but I saw a look on everyone’s face and then I heard Coltrane’s heart beat slow down significantly. One of the most frightening sounds in the world. This caused me to snap to immediately. A fight or flight moment. A rush of adrenaline came out of nowhere. All of the sudden Taylor looked me straight in the eye and with a voice so firm yet so layered in love she grabbed my hands and said, “Ashley, you need to stand up and have this baby RIGHT NOW.” All I could think to myself was “You can’t lose him now! You can’t lose David’s baby. You can’t lose his baby!” So I stood up and without the help of a contraction I pushed with every fiber of my being. He came out in less than a minute. I looked down on the floor where Taylor was checking him for a brief second before putting him on my chest. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was seeing my son. I couldn’t stop crying. Partially out of pure fear and relief, and partially out of pure unequivocal joy. Through my sobbing I could hear myself say over and over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you”. This was our moment. Through all the odds, we got to this point. My little stargazer. Christ was no more real to me then in this moment.

My original hope was to hold him for the first hour, skin to skin. This time of bonding and imprinting was very, very important to me. I was only able to hold him for about 15min though because they were still working to figure out where the blood had been coming from and had to give me a couple shots of pitocin to aid the placenta delivery and prevent any hemorrhaging. The placenta finally delivered and that is when we learned where the blood had come from. A normal umbilical cord has 2 arteries and 1 vessel, coiled together. My placenta had 1 artery and 1 vessel coiled and the other artery split off and attached separately. The cord had been wrapped around his neck when he was born (not unusual and generally easy to slip back over a head) which created extra strain on that single artery, and it detached from the placenta in those last few moments of labor, causing blood to release. A very unusual set of circumstances. Over the remainder of the hour, Michelle hand fed me while Taylor sutured, and Christine cleaned me. I was an emotional wreck of hormones over that next hour (well month to be honest). My mom and Michelle held my hand and comforted me as I cried when Taylor sutured. I cried more about what had all just happened then I did about the pain, but the pain of the suturing brought those surge of feelings to the surface. It was the strangest mix of emotions. To feel the happiest, most scared and most tired you’ve ever felt in your whole life, all at one time.

David spent that first hour, skin to skin with our most precious little being. What a special and once in a lifetime moment for them. I was witnessing my best friends transformation from a man to a father. What an incredible thing to watch. With some food in my stomach and that hour of rest without contractions, I had enough strength to feed my baby for the first time. Taylor was right, he was already a pro.

The remainder of that first day as a family is burned in my brain. We worked beautifully together to bring a new soul into this world. I knew this child would have a profound impact on our lives, but what I didn’t expect was the profound impact his birth would have on mine. A lot happened that morning that we didn’t expect, but I found a hidden strength that has no limits and love that takes over. I learned about power and fear and joy and gratitude.

Coltrane, someday I’ll share with you this story of your birth and how at home and surrounded by those we love most, we worked together to make today happen.


A home birth story: The deed

April 6, 2014
Congratulations flowers

This is part one of the birth story, go here to read part 2, A home birth story: The day

I’ve been thinking about writing this story for a long time now. 14 months to be exact. My friend and doula, Michelle, told me it would take awhile. For the first few months following Coltrane’s birth I couldn’t bring myself to write it because of the fear that surfaced each time I thought about that day. The “what ifs” and the overall shock to my body and to my soul.

I had a wonderful pregnancy. I’m not one of those people that love being pregnant, but I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing turn of events. David and I had been married for 5 years and each year that passed I became more and more unsure about when and even if I wanted children anymore. Each time I brought it up with David he assured me that I would come around someday, but I wasn’t convinced. I have always been driven and ambitious in my career and had come to a point in my life that children seemed far more of a hindrance than a blessing.

At the time I was traveling internationally quite a bit, had built a team at my previous company and felt like I could take on the world. In Feb 2012 David was traveling for a photo shoot and during that weeks time something unusual came over me. Blame it on the Parenthood binge on Hulu, an interview with Sheryl Sandberg that sent me into a spiral of googling “career + children?” or God’s timing. When David got home I casually dropped the “so I think I’m ready to have a baby. I’m pretty sure I can have a career and a baby. I know I can. What do you think”. Suddenly he was the one unprepared and without words. I’m sure he was a little shocked that I came around. We continued the conversation and decided we were ready to stop ‘not trying’ to have a baby. I was also convinced that my Lupus would somehow make things more challenging.

We decided it would be best for me to end my time at the company I was working for due to the travel and stress. What seemed like an amazing opportunity at a small agency arose and I took it. A week after I accepted my offer we found out I was pregnant. It was Memorial Day weekend and David was out of town again. I’d just spent the weekend with one of my good friends and got home late. I couldn’t sleep that night and by 4am I was so frustrated by this strange appearance of insomnia. That’s when it hit me. I ran to the bathroom, peed on a stick and stared at two pink lines. I peed on two more. Same result. A sudden panic masked my excited disbelief. What had we done? Were we ready to have kids? What the hell were we thinking. Blame it on the lack of sleep or the realization that your life is about to change in a pretty significant way. I called David as soon as it was normal hours (6am) and he was out of service. I called his friend. I’m still kind of bummed I had to share the news over the phone, but there was no way I was holding it in for another few days.

After the initial shock wore off we were so blissful, but at the same time anxious about the next few months. I’m sure thousands of other women are anxious those first few months, heck all nine months, with all the uncertainty. I was not just anxious about the pregnancy, I was anxious about my new job and my career. My second day on the job I felt I had made a huge mistake. On top of that I had horrible all day sickness and the smells from the one bathroom on the floor used by an entire company of developers was almost too much for me to handle. I decided to hold off telling the partners at the agency of my pregnancy until the standard three months. I was so nervous. Mainly because I could sense it wouldn’t go over well. It was a strange position to be in, I was the only woman. I had been respected and trusted to take the lead at my previous job and here at this new job I had neither. Looking back now, there were many red flags I should have seen. Regardless, I’m a huge believer in everything happens for a reason, and I see now it’s so very true. So I told the partners and most seemed happy for me, but one of them just up and left the table and didn’t really say anything. Their attitudes shifted after that even more and a month after I told them about my pregnancy, I was laid off with a months severance. The funny thing is I had already begun looking for another job, but my utmost concern was helping provide for the impending growth of our family. The whole situation took me off guard. It was a strange mix of emotions. Anger, fear, peace, anxiety, relief, shame. A new lack of confidence I hadn’t experienced before. The days surrounding this time, I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I was rocked to my core. Up until this point I had found my identity in my career, in my job, in the people that I worked with who respected and wanted me. Now I was 4 months pregnant and had no job. Who the heck was going to hire a pregnant lady? I thought back to when I worked at my previous company and how judging I was to a couple applicants who came through and were pregnant. I wasn’t going to hire them, so who was going to hire me?

Over the course of the next few months I applied to many jobs all over the country, had some really great interviews, all the while doing my best to hide my growing belly. I hated myself for it. I was supposed to be excited about this new soul growing inside me and here I was doing my very best to hide it. In the beginning I didn’t hide it, but it had become increasingly obvious that it was an ‘issue’ with prospective companies. I wish I were exaggerating.

After a couple months, I decided to embrace this unknown time in my life. Wholeheartedly. I’m not sure if it was the hormones, but a calm came over me like I’ve never experienced. I didn’t worry, stress, react, fear or have anger. It’s like nothing could get to me. I was determined to live peacefully and bring this child into a harmonious place and nothing was going to stop that. David was blessed with more and more work and I was able to find peace in my pregnancy and my life unlike ever before. I was changing, maturing. My heart was softening. Our marriage grew even stronger and we truly began to create a home and environment full of so much love for this little soul.

During this time without a job, knitting became a much more significant part of my life. It had previously been a way to cope with stress, but now it became an expression. I was consumed with creating warm and comforting things, manifested from my love. My creative energy was renewed and I was finding myself again.

Prior to getting pregnant David and I had watched “The Business of Being Born“. It touched me in a dramatic way. I had never really put much thought into how or where I wanted to give birth and I remember hearing of home births in the past and thinking they were crazy. Fast forward 15 years, perspective changes everything. I’ve always been a huge proponent of natural medicine and holistic approaches, and midwifery felt so right. I researched and found a midwifery practice near where we lived, Fremont Midwifery, and fell in love with the team there. Everything felt so right. I gravitated towards one midwife, Geraldine, and David towards the other, Tracy. This was a good thing because either one could end up at our birth. I looked forward to each appointment because I left feeling more empowered and peaceful then I did before arriving. I was tuning into my inner hippie and I loved it. Soon after, I began seeing the naturopath and acupuncturist that practiced there, Michelle Obertacz. I found a likeness in her that I rarely find in other women. She was an ambitious and strong woman, yet tender and loving. We bonded over the course of the next few months and I came to trust her more that I do most. At the time, David and I were on the hunt for a doula and Michelle offered. I was ecstatic. My birthing team was coming together and I could visualize it so clearly.

A couple months before my due date at one of our regular appointments, Geraldine let us know she had been accepted into a very special overseas midwifery program and she would be gone during our birth. Though surprised and a little apprehensive about who could end up at our birth, I trusted her and whoever she found to replace her temporarily. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would be one of the best things that has happened to me. Enter Taylor.

At our next appointment we met Taylor. A midwife who had her own practice in West Seattle, In Tandem Midwifery, and was temporarily filling in for Geraldine while she was gone. I realized within 5min of meeting her that she was who I wanted at my birth. Oh how I hoped and prayed she would be on call that night. In my mind I couldn’t see it happening any other way.

Part two of the birth story