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Hailey Aponi’s Birth Story by Cher

On the twelfth day after becoming newlyweds, my husband Johnnie and I lay together on the couch reliving memories of the honeymoon trip to Hawaii we had just recently returned home from, while awaiting that night’s lunar eclipse. An eclipse is a powerful event and we could feel our own excitement building as we waited to see the earth’s shadow slowly engulf the moon’s luminous face.

“Let’s try to get pregnant tonight.” I suggested out of the blue.
“You’re crazy!” my husband replied teasingly.
“That full moon eclipse has made you wacky or something.” he added
“No, no,” I said, “The time is right to make a baby, I just know it.”
“The sun, moon, and earth are all aligned, it’s May (an ancient fertility month), and the first day of my last menstrual cycle was on our wedding day, so I just might be ovulating tonight,” I thought.

“Let’s just give it a try,” I pleaded, “and if it’s meant to be…,” I paused momentarily and then affirmed, “…then it will be!”
“Okay?” I asked again.
“Okay.” He replied. “But I still think you’re wacky.” He said as he snickered.
During the time that the eclipse was total and the moon was hidden, we worked to conceive our child.

“Well, it must have been ‘meant-to-be.’” I announced two weeks later as I showed him the positive pregnancy test I held in my hand.
“Must have been.” He said as he hugged and then kissed me. From that moment on I did what I thought every other newly pregnant women does; she figures out who to tell first and how to announce it.

Hailey Aponi Durham
February 18, 2004
8 lbs. 2 oz., 20.5 “
3:07 p.m.

Birth announcements bring birth advice, and I received plenty of the latter. So I did what I was advised to do and I got myself an OB/GYN for pre-natal care. “What about a midwife?” I secretly thought. “What do they do exactly?” My thoughts wandered on and I found myself back at my bridal shower where I remember someone mentioning midwives: “I could see you using a midwife.” Someone had said. “You look like the type of person who would want to do it naturally.”

“I’m not even married yet!” I had bellowed and then blushed at the thought of ‘baby-making’.

My pre-natal appointments were average and predictable. It was the same thing every office visit- minimal time with the nurse, and even less time with the practitioner. I was always in and out without much ado, but what did I care? I was having a normal, healthy pregnancy, so what did I need to discuss with a doctor anyway, right?

At 20 weeks a routine sonogram confirmed what a previous dream had already revealed to me; we were going to have a healthy baby girl. My wish had been granted. One tiny tear of joy rolled down my left cheek as I turned to look at my husband when the technician gave us the news.

10 weeks later while I was hosting a children’s birthday party at Monkey Jungle, I met a unique couple that was interested in my due date. I conversed briefly with them and found out that the woman had given birth to their two young children at home.
“I didn’t even know you could do that.” I gasped. “How was it?” I asked curiously.  
“It was the most wonderful, gentle, and empowering thing that I have ever experienced. But you probably think I’m crazy anyway.” She answered.
“Not at all!” I interjected. “I think that it sounds like a beautiful idea.”
“And the best part is that you’re in control of your birth experience.” She added.
I agreed with her and spent the rest of the evening thinking about all of the things that she and her husband had told me. This was the second time that using a midwife had entered my mind.

At 35 weeks pregnant, my husband and I enrolled in a childbirth education class. The first night of the class, our birth instructor asked the participants (both male and female) to divulge the one thing about labor and delivery that we were most fearful of. “It’s the hospital bill!” my husband joked. And the men in the class chuckled in unison. “For me it’s the epidural.” I confessed. “I am much more afraid of having a large needle placed in my spine, than I am of having pain during childbirth.”

As I said these words aloud, I realized almost instantaneously, that if I was more afraid of an epidural needle than I was of labor pains, then I should just skip the epidural idea and focus my attention on learning childbirth techniques that will enable me to give birth naturally. “Wow,” I thought, “I never really considered natural childbirth as a serious option.” Every time that I had mentioned natural childbirth to other women in the past, I would always receive a concerned reply. “Are you out of your mind?” people would say. “Why in the world would you want to go and do something like that?” “Don’t you know it’s dangerous?” others would taunt. As my internal dialogue continued, I became acutely aware that the dialogue outside of my head was mimicking my own thoughts. I listened closely as the other men and women professed their similar fears about epidurals, spinal blocks, and cesarean sections.

The whole ride home I thought about the “natural childbirth” dilemma. “Why were women so afraid?” I asked silently. “It’s been proven that natural childbirth offers fewer complications and lowers one’s risk of cesarean section surgery.” I had read this in childbirth literature before and was reminded of it in class earlier that night. I went to bed thinking about labor and delivery and imagined what it would be like if I chose to go the ‘all natural’ route. I figured that I had better take good notes on breathing and pain management techniques if I even considered doing it without drugs. “I would like to give birth without drugs and intervention…” was the last thought I had before drifting off to sleep.

The next week in childbirth class, I was poised and ready to learn as much as possible about the various pain management techniques, when our instructor decided to take our class lecture in different direction.

This is when I learned more about the type of treatment and ‘support’ you receive when you have a hospital birth. You get an IV placed whether you want it or not, and then you are hooked up to all kinds of machines that restrict your mobility and freedom. Some of the things in place to “help” laboring women can actually complicate and hinder the natural birth process.
“How scary is that?” I thought.
“Doctors and hospitals are in the business of making money,” I reminded myself. “So don’t be naïve.” The little voice inside my head bantered.
“That’s it!” I told myself. “I’m going to do this all natural, and my way!”
I had finally empowered myself enough to make a provacative decision, and I was proud of that.

The next day I told my husband about my decision to seek out a midwife, and that I was interested in learning more about home birth options. He was so supportive that he went and got the yellow pages, ‘flopped’ them down in front of me and said, “Start looking lady!” I was thrilled and relieved.

We interviewed Corina Fitch, our prospective midwife, a couple of days later. I was now approaching 36 weeks pregnant, and could reasonably go into labor at anytime. I fell in love with Corina’s gentle nature and earthy demeanor almost instantly. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do. I filled out the necessary paperwork and became her very pregnant, nearly due patient without a second thought. I went to bed that night feeling more relaxed about our baby’s birth than I had ever felt up to that point. I had finally listened to my inner voice, which allowed all of the other doubts and fears to melt away as my slumber took over.

Each prenatal visit with Corina was pleasant, reassuring, and never rushed. She seemed to have all of the time I needed to ask questions and voice concerns. She made me feel important and comfortable, and was always there when I needed her. I was growing more confident about my body’s natural ability to give birth. It was such an ancient attribute. Women were designed specifically for this endeavor. “How could I have doubted this process in the first place?” I asked myself. “Lack of information and lack of education.” I immediately answered.
At 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I was overdue and fed-up with the constant badgering I was receiving from friends and family about inducing labor. I was not interested in this advice because I had already made up my mind to have a home birth and inducing meant a hospital birth. “No.” I would say firmly, “I am not going to interfere with the natural birth process unless it is a medical emergency!”  

Due to the external pressure I was under, I decided to have a biofeedback stress test done to make sure that both the amniotic sac and the baby were doing fine. The score was an 8 out of the possible 8, so there was nothing to worry about. The baby wasn’t stressed (just her mother).
I was pleased. I would now be able to give baby Hailey all the time she needed to come out when she was good and ready; on her own terms. Not when we, in the outside world were ready to meet her. I was thankful for this.

Later that night I had strong, regular rushes from about 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., then irregular ones from 2:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m., but when the sun rose, the rushes became very irregular and then stalled again altogether. I was disappointed but told my husband, in an encouraging voice, to be prepared for a call at work in case labor started up again. He smiled and kissed me goodbye as he left for the day. I was tired already, as it had been a long night.

I was back to irregular Braxton-Hicks contractions later that morning, so I decided to phone Corina and tell her about the regular and irregular, somewhat painful rushes I had experienced earlier that night, and about them stalling at dawn. She told me that early labor sometimes stalls like that during the day, but can pick up again at night, progressing into the late evening/early morning hours. She suggested that I get some rest, just in case. I was so excited that I might be having my baby soon that I spent the whole rest of the day running errands and taking care of last minute details. I wanted everything to be ready for little baby Hailey. Big mistake! I should have listened to the midwife and rested.

At sunset the regular rushes returned, and I took a dose of Blue Cohosh, a Native American herb used to enhance uterine contractions, to help keep labor going this time. Once the Cohosh kicked in, the rushes became stronger and more painful, and they demanded more of my attention each time they arrived. I walked around as much as possible, and I did some squatting on my big, green, birth ball. The rushes were anywhere from 7–12 minutes apart, and lasted about 2 minutes each.    

At around 10:00 p.m. the rushes started to become irregular again and I was worried that they were going to stall out again like the previous night. I called Corina, and told her what was happening. We determined that another dose of Blue Cohosh might help. She told me to keep her informed on my progress and to call her when the rushes became too painful to talk through.
“I can hardly wait.” I thought.

At midnight I lost my mucous plug and was certain that things were about to get more serious now. I was so happy that the plug had finally passed that I brought the gooey thing out on a tissue paper to show to my husband. “Eeeewwww!” He squealed. And then in a more directed tone he said, “Alright!”

The next 4 hours I rode out each rush in the rocking chair, or on my elbows and knees in a plow position. I allowed Johnnie time to rest; for I knew that I was going to need all of his strength and endurance as well as my own to bring about the birth of our baby. I too rested and ‘slept’ in the 6-8 minute intervals of time I had between each rush, which lasted about 90 seconds each time.

It’s 4:15 a.m. and the sound of running water into the bathtub wakes my husband. I tell him to call Corina because the pain is beginning to come on strong enough to make me feel like I might not be able to handle it without support. The rushes have almost become too painful to talk through. At this point they’re coming 4 to 5 minutes apart. I continued to remind myself to breathe, relax, visualize, and open up.
“I know you can do it!” I tell myself as Johnnie comes into the bathroom and says, “Corina’s on her way. How are you doing?”
“Pretty good, but it hurts.” I said as I melted into the lavender-laden water.
“Corina will be here soon and she will be able to tell me how much progress I’ve made through the night.” I thought. I could hardly wait.

When Corina arrived shortly thereafter she checked my cervix and informed me that I was only 2 cm.
“What?” I said disappointedly. “I have already been having regular, uncomfortable, and now painful rushes for about 12 hours, and I have only progressed 1 cm? Uugghhh!!”
Corina reminded me that I was doing great work, and that first time mothers often have longer labors than women who have birthed before. She went on to tell me that I was fully effaced and that things were going good.

I tried to ease the discomfort by changing positions, incorporating visualizations, using breathing techniques, rocking in the chair, and soaking in lavender baths. I immersed myself in the drum music, and became intoxicated by the incense and candles, while I imagined myself riding a wave, up, down, and forward in tune with the motion of the rushes. I was surfing through pain that cut deep into my abdomen and pelvis. Persistent, increasing pain that became stronger and stronger.

At 10:30 a.m. Corina suggested that Johnnie and I take a walk to help move the baby down and to encourage progressive dilation. We got dressed and headed out for the one mile jaunt around the lake behind our house. Before we walked one-quarter of a mile I had to stop and ‘hang’ on my husband when each rush came. It had become unbearable to stand up on my own through each one. There was such immense pressure on my bowels that I felt as though they might release themselves right there on the street without my consent. I urged him to get me home as quickly as possible, and we waddled back to our house as passersby carefully watched us with interest. I made a b-line to the bathroom as soon as we got in, and I sat on the toilet for a very long time.

Upon finally emerging from my extended stay in the bathroom, Corina reassured me that this was good progress, and that the baby was moving further down the birth canal. When this happens, there is strong pressure on the bowels, and that’s exactly what I had been feeling.

“Good,” I thought, “I no longer need to worry about an enema, or about ‘pooping’ during the birth. I’m sure there’s nothing left in there after that!”

Corina agrees to check my cervix again, and now I’m at 4 cm. The walk had helped me move into the ‘active labor’ stage. I was finally beginning active labor, but it had taken me nearly 16 hours to get there.
“I can’t go another 16 hours!” I thought
“How much longer do you think I’ll be in labor?” I asked Corina, already aware that it’s nearly impossible to know exactly.
“It’s hard to say.” She replies. “But you’re doing great and you are in active labor now, so you’re going to see your baby soon.” She reminded me.

At this point we decided that I should probably try to eat something. The women prepared ginger tea and blueberry muffins. Part of the way through the first muffin and tea, my body let me know that it did not want to eat; it had more important tasks on its agenda. I hurried to the bathroom just as a cold sweat was covering me and I threw up, what little bit of food I had eaten, with a fury. The combination of retching and rushes was powerful. This process ‘opened me up’ and my labor began to progress much more rapidly from this point on.

The next thing I remember, I was lying on my big, comfy bed and I’m with the midwife and her assistant, Diane. My husband was taking a break and having a sandwich, as it was approaching noontime. Corina was guiding me visually, with her soft voice, through each and every rush, and Diane was breathing right along with me. I visualized my cervix as an un-opened flower that was just beginning to bloom. With each oncoming rush, I imagined each individual flower petal edging its way open, preparing to show it’s full-face to the world. It was a symbolic thought; just as my daughter’s face would soon be emerging, to show her face to the world, as well.

All of a sudden, my beautiful visualization crumbled into doubt and fear, as I felt an overwhelming sense that I wouldn’t be able to handle much more pain than I was at these following moments. I felt disoriented, and almost as if I was temporarily losing my mind. I was having trouble focusing and couldn’t hold the visualizations for more than a few seconds now. I began to panic silently inside, as I realized that the pain was increasing past the point of any visualization or breathing technique I might try. It had become too severe to consciously work through, but I did not vocalize this aloud. I was afraid that saying it would give the pain dominion over me, and I refused to let it.

“Don’t give up!” I told myself, “You can do this! Do not let the pain win out, work through it. You can do it!” I kept repeating this in my head over and over and over again. I tried to stare at a fixed spot on the wall, but even my gaze deceived me.
“Can I get into the tub again?” I asked Corina.
“Of course you can,” she said, “whatever feels right to you.”
This was the only thing that I could think of that would possibly alleviate the gripping pain I was experiencing. My water still had not broken yet, so I knew that I could soak in that hot bathwater for as long as I needed to, and I intended on doing just that.

As I peered out at Corina from inside the tub, I thought about what a wonderful person she was to be guiding me through such a painful experience, and to be doing it with such grace and sincerity. My thoughts were again interrupted as I became instantly aware that the rushes were coming faster and faster, and harder and harder, and that I could hardly catch my breath between each one. Just then I felt the most uncontrollable urge to push as my uterus bore down and began to push against my will.
Corina saw this and advised me, “Don’t push yet sweetie.”
But I told her that I couldn’t help it.
“It’s pushing on its own!” I told her apologetically.
She then told me to trust my own body and to let it push if it wanted to; as our bodies know best, especially during labor. She hurried to retrieve a sterile glove and told me that she was going to check my cervix again.
“You’re there.” she announced, “You’re 10 centimeters!”

I was both shocked and relieved at the same time. No wonder I had been feeling crazy and overwhelmed by the pain in the minutes prior. I had been going through the transition stage! I had learned about those types of feelings, and that they were normal in my childbirth class, but I was unable to recall that lesson readily as I felt my body succumb to the excruciating pain and agony. But now, I no longer cared about the pain because I now felt a surge of adrenaline and excitement as the reality of the birth of my baby was upon me. I was ready to bring Hailey into the light of day.

Diane rushed into the kitchen to tell Johnnie that I was 10 cm and was ready to push the baby out, while Corina and her crew scurried about the bedroom getting everything set up on the bed where I had planned to birth my baby.
I watched the hustle and bustle from my spot in the bathtub and emerged as soon as the timing was right. I placed myself as comfortably as I could upon the palate of pillows that had been prepared for me.

With every push I grunted and groaned and then relaxed while I waited for the next rush. My husband was by my side, and my midwife was tending to my perineum. She massaged olive oil in to that area and continued to monitor both me and my baby between pushes. I had pushed for almost an hour, and the baby’s head was about to crown. My bag of waters still had not broken and Corina asked me if I wanted her to break it or not? I asked her what she thought, and she told me that in some cultures they believe that if a baby is born with the bag of waters still intact, that it is a blessed, spiritual child. I told her to leave it then and let it break on its own. She smiled at me, and I smiled back. Shortly thereafter, the bag broke naturally and the top of the baby’s head became visible. Johnnie and I were locked in each others gaze as I squeezed his hand with tremendous pressure. I’m not sure to this day if he was smiling or grimacing with pain, but I do remember seeing into his soul, and there I saw a reflection of my own.

“Push, push!” urged Corina.
“You’re doing great,” Whispered my husband. “Keep pushing.”
“You’re going to feel a burning sensation,” Corina reminded me, “because your skin will be stretching as the baby’s head comes out.”
“Ok.” I said as I waited for that all important rush to come. And with a bellowing grunt and a push of sheer excessive force, I felt the baby’s head finally emerge, and I could feel the rest of the baby’s body wriggling around inside of my pelvis. It was almost alien-like.

“What a relief.” I thought. “Now the hard part is over. All I have to do is push the shoulders out, and the rest of her body will slide right out; just like I saw over and over in all of the birth videos I had previously watched.”

“With this next contraction, I really need you to push.” said Corina in a more serious tone.

…an ancient river of blood
will flow on through me,
When it comes time
to see my child free;
just like a river that
opens to the sea,
I am gonna let my child flow
right out of me…
Author unknown…

I didn’t know it at the time, but the baby had her right hand up by her face as she came down through the birth canal. This is called “nuchal hand”, and her shoulders were not ‘sliding out’ like I had expected them to. Rather, Corina had to maneuver the head and shoulders of the baby up and down to help get her out. This was extremely painful. But with one last push from me, one last tug from Corina, and a concerted effort by all, little baby Hailey popped out of my body and into her new world. She was placed on my bosom and I began to cry from the overwhelming sense of emotions I felt. I was feeling so many things simultaneously; relief, love, excitement, awe, astonishment, pride, and achievement. It was truly a momentous occasion; very surreal and very beautiful. When I looked deeply into my newborn daughter’s eyes for the very first time, I kissed her softly and whispered: “Hi, Baby Hailey. Welcome to the world, we’ve been waiting for you.”

She sucked on her little fist while gazing at me, and I turned my head to say out loud and to everyone, “I’m so proud of myself!”
Johnnie leaned over me to get a closer look at our ‘little monkey’, then kissed me on the forehead and said, “Excellent! You did great!”

Hours later when all of the visitors had come and gone, I spent the rest of the evening with my husband and my baby together in our bed all snuggled up as one. I kept reminiscing about the day’s events. I could hardly believe that the last 24 hours of my life were real. They had been so strange, so powerful, and so very profound. I eventually drifted off to sleep in the exact same spot where our blessed Baby Hailey was born just a few hours before. It truly was an awesome experience!