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“Researching” and Returning to the Natural Way; I think I loved my wife being pregnant perhaps more than she did. I loved the ” belly time”, feeling our baby move, envisioning him and thinking of all the things I’ll teach him. Not to say Ashley didn’t love the process or adore the thought and feeling of our future baby, but let’s just say after 7 months she lost some of the attachment to the ‘wonderment of motherhood’ and looked forward to the eventual relief of the increasing discomfort and inability to wear her normal clothes. As the due date neared, we made plans to have my parents in town for the week after our baby’s arrival.
Ashley may not have loved every minute of her pregnancy, but she is one of the most engaged mothers I’ve ever met. She sought out information and researched various birthing plans, vaccine studies, medical plans, obstetricians, midwives and more. From early in the pregnancy we discussed having a midwife in our birthing experience, but Ashley when brought up a home birth, that was a plan I hadn’t thought about and perhaps wasn’t quick to accept. Maybe it was my own ignorance- after all, being born a man in today’s society, I never had a clear vision of where I would be nor the people involved in the birth of my children, rather I focused on the thinking about the woman who would someday bear them or about teaching them how to play soccer. I guess I took for granted hospitals were requisite in the process. Thus began our mutual journey or return to a natural way to birth our child into this world.process or adore the thought and feeling of our future baby, but let’s just say after 7 months she lost some of the attachment to the ‘wonderment of motherhood’ and looked forward to the eventual relief of the increasing discomfort and inability to wear her normal clothes. As the due date neared, we made plans to have my parents in town for the week after our baby’s arrival.
Reconciling with Nature: Now on the other hand, there is a limit to my embrace of nature and all its “naturalness”. Oddly enough one of my concerns in general regarding the actual labor was the probability my wife would need to ‘relieve’ herself during the pushing. I mean, what were going to do with the poo?! Then I thought of our desire to utilize the birthing tub and became more concerned about ‘floaties’ invading our sterile environment. As ridiculous as this sounds, think about it, there was a fishnet listed as one of the ‘necessary’ items on the Birthing List. A fish net!!?? Come on, what was a first-time father to think?! Corina assured me I wouldn’t need to deal with the poo- bless that woman- and that it’s no big deal anyway. To be clear, right up to the very last minute, I was worried.
In preparing for and reconciling the many natural processes during the stages of labor, Corina was helpful in providing the medical and practical methods for dealing with each potential ‘happening’. We had a great time visiting and working with Corina, often laughing at, or with, my inane concerns or addressing our more serious questions. It was that healthy open communication and her calming, non-judgmental manner that really sealed the relationship for us and cemented our decision to choose Corina to aid in delivering our baby in the first place.
My wife and I both found it a little difficult reconciling our visions of delivery with the shots of reality delivered by conversations with Corina, delivery videos, and descriptions in our many baby books. Then there was that odd, yet ‘essential’ list of items including the fishnet, two straws, olive oil and a shower curtain. We both wondered aloud what we would need straws for. The fish net furthered my already growing poo paranoia, and the shower curtain had us wondering how much ‘naturalness’ we would face. Then there’s the olive oil. We eventually figured out its intended purpose, but that was a head scratcher for a few minutes. Being the consummate bargain shopper, I picked up most of the items at Target, deciding of course on a deeply discounted half gallon of olive oil. I wasn’t sure how much we’d need, but you never can have too much olive oil, and we needed some for cooking anyway. Besides, even if thirteen inch, 4.5 pound bottle made pouring a little cumbersome, I figured we had a shower curtain in case of over-pour. Thankfully Corina had some other natural oil handy.
Tuesday April 27th was my sister’s birthday and the day my parents arrived for their visit. My wife was sure the baby would arrive early, so their planned arrival was intended to hopefully straddle a few days before and after Ryder’s arrival. We planned the home birth at my Mother-in-law’s home, so Ashley headed over there and called to notify me. I scrambled to our home for a few items we forgot while Ashley went for a short walk as advised by Corina. Before I could make it home, she called my cell to notify me she was feeling contractions. I arrived to see her in the bathtub and moaning. My Mother-in-law’s large bedroom in the back of the home was the designated place for the birth and we began making the room as comfortable as possible. The contractions progressed quickly- by 5pm they were 2-3 minutes apart. A call to Corina began to solidify in my mind the fact that I would have a baby by the end of the night- on my sister’s birthday.
All the preparation and forethought, all the visualization of how this would go down, it wasn’t enough to prepare me for the sounds my wife began making, the feeling of being unable to ease her pain and discomfort. The progress of contractions continued rapidly- I just kept thinking, “we are going to have a baby soon!” My Mother-in-law was by my side aiding my wife and I remember being so grateful for her presence to calm and aid her daughter.
Corina arrived and I felt a rush of calm and confidence come over me I trusted her and my wife to deliver my baby. Yet I was amazed at how little she had with her- a large backpack, an oxygen tank on wheels, and an inflatable birthing tub. Compared to all that you see in hospitals- the bed, the machines, the tubes, the many pieces of equipment, all the personnel- we were going to bring my son into the world in this room with less than a trunk worth of equipment. However, I wasn’t nervous. I was certain my wife would get through this process, that we had the right person to guide us and that we would have our baby in hours.
Corina- The Daddy Whisperer: It was strange the calm I felt. I just sort of went in to motion, responding as needed. The birthing tub was inflated and filled and Ashley got in. I tried to stay next to her and provide any sort of comfort or support I could. Pretty soon she asked me to get in the tub with her. My first thought was one of relief that I hadn’t worn one of my more colorful underwear that day because I hadn’t brought any swim trunks. But the water “was fine” and pretty soon I fell into the rhythm of Ashley’s contractions. I could sense them coming as her breathing quickened just before her moaning began to escalate. I felt her tummy during the contractions and marveled at the tension of the muscles while thinking of the impact upon our little baby inside. Corina continued to add a calming presence amidst the growing intensity of Ashley’s moans and exclamations. Very early on she mentioned Ashley was 7 centimeters dilated after one of her regular examinations of Ashley and Ryder. The sense we would have our baby soon was shared with everyone in the room.
Eventually Ashley wanted out of the pool. She spent the next half hour or so on her side or on all 4’s. We tried to offer her something to eat, as it was now past 8pm and she hadn’t eaten a good meal since breakfast. We experimented with apple or frozen juice pops, but water was all she really could stomach- everything else came back up. Ashley was tired and nauseous and growing a little more irritable.The midwife’s assistant, Anjali, had arrived around 8pm. A midwife herself, I was even more confident and comfortable with these two capable midwives assisting us in this process. I marveled at their instant assimilation to the sense in the room, mother’s state and what is needed at that moment. They were both so in-tuned with the process. I remember standing in the room, now fully dried and dressed, and feeling the beautiful energy in the room, which at first, with all the moaning and my own frustration with my inability to ease Ashley’s pain and discomfort, I had failed to sense. Now it was an energy one would be hard pressed not to feel.
Fast then Not-So Fast, But Still Very Furious!: Ashley realized she felt better in the birthing tub. So back in the tub I went. As the contractions intensified we got to a point where Ashley wanted to start pushing. Corina was supportive of the decision, always deferring to the Ashley’s signals. Soon the moans turned to strained gasps and exclamations. The hours began to fly by- what was a sense of impending baby arrival turned to thoughts we needed to help Ashley progress. We thought the baby may arrive by 10pm or 11pm, but as 10pm approached we had been stuck at 9.5 centimeters. Corina indicated there was “a lip” cervix between the head and the pubic bone, blocking easy passage for the head and increasing the pain of each push.
I sat behind Ashley, as she learned how to use her muscles and the contractions to help her, maximizing each breath instead of screaming through each push, curling her pelvis and shoulders with each push- it was a learning process for a first-time mother and a painful learning process at that. But with every passing painful, and yet unproductive contraction, the lip of the cervix not retreating, creating more pain. Meanwhile Ashley was growing weaker. Corina suggested Ashley try a different position outside of the tub to help labor progress. I went into the living room to notify my parents of Ashley’s progress. I could see the delight and pride in my Mother’s eyes and became re-energized. Although it was nice to share that moment with my parents, I felt a great need to be with Ashley to help her through this journey.
I re-entered the bedroom and felt the energy once again. It was truly palpable. It was a different energy than I’d ever felt before- the warm, beautiful, feminine energy of life. I was overcome with a world of swirling emotions- sincere gratitude for the moment, a little tingle of anxiety the progression had slowed, tremendous pride that I was soon to be a father and had created a life, joy and the deepest appreciation for everything my parents had done for me, and this connection with my father as I was now about to continue our family name and take the next generational step for our family.
I didn’t have time to really sink into the emotions, as my wife laid screaming and moaning with the pain of severe late-stage contractions. We moved to the bed and Ashley positioned herself on her right side. I realized another hour passed. Ashley had grown weak without a meal and only water to drink for over ten hours. It was after 11pm, and Ashley agreed to take an IV for electrolytes. Within 10-15 minutes Ashley was much stronger, more active and the labor grew more productive. It was a relief for us all I think, and Ashley was invigorated.
Eventually the cervix was fully retracted and Corina indicated she could see the head and our baby had dark hair! I was elated- it was a truly awesome moment when I realized more concretely than any visualization or day dream- I created a life and it would look like me! This also meant there was no sack around the baby’s head, and I began to worry perhaps he would be without protection, but again Corina assured us we had plenty of time before concern sure be raised. Instead she kept focusing on Ashley’s progression.
I laid next to Ashley, both of us with our heads near the head board, propped up by a few pillows. Soon it became clear Ashley felt more comfortable tilted slightly to her left side, with her right leg in the air. From the side of the bed, my Mother-in-Law held Ashley’s foot and Corina and Anjali aided Ashley. Over time, with each contraction, Ashley and I sort of shifted our bodies to remain closely connected while working through each contraction. I soon had Ashley’s head resting just below my sternum and held her hand, coaxing and helping her relax between contractions, and talked her through each push. I was so hopeful that each push would be the final one, but the labor dragged for what seemed like forever. Each push resulting in our baby’s head moving forward a little and then backward a little, progressing only a little each time. For some reason I kept thinking of this line form a Paula Abdul song “two steps forward, two steps back”- you know, the one with the video of her and the animated cool cat character…? I tried to focus on Ashley but found myself singing the stupid song in my head! Eventually I heard someone say, “Wow Ashley we can really see the head, come on, push!”
Now to this point I hadn’t looked, and was comfortable not seeing what was going on down there. Now some men I know are there to catch the baby- but I felt a little better at the other end. I was sure I had a pretty good idea of what was going on down there anyway, but didn’t need the visual. I’m not a big bodily fluids guy, and again, I was not going risk facing the poo! Instead I preferred to look at my wife’s eyes and marveled at the intense red hue her skin turned with each long push. Ashley was pushing so hard that the blood pushed back into the IV some 18 inches at one point. I thought she may pop a blood vessel and couldn’t bear to comment for her sake- but boy did I want to. We were in a rhythm of pushing with long deep breaths, held for long painful seconds as she pushed. I kept repeating, “push down, low, down, down. Use the contraction” Ashley did much better when she pushed with low slow, but powerful exhalations, with little more than a deep growl, than she had hours earlier with loud exasperated yelling during every push.
Holding Ashley, I knew there was no place I’d rather be, and felt a new sense of purpose in our lives- the beginning of many struggles and challenges we’d face together as parents- all starting with this red-faced, blood vessel bursting moment. I sincerely marveled at her beauty and strength. Here she was battling the ring of fire, growling and turning fire engine red one minute, then falling into a trance-like state of recovery with long deep breaths- it was equally beautiful, taxing, awesome and inspiring.
“Hold your baby!”: It was past 1 AM now. The intensity of the pushing coupled with the escalating urging and increasing frequency of the phrase “you’re almost there” signaled we were drawing to the magical moment. I wasn’t sure when, I just hoped for everyone’s sake that this baby would be born already. I had curled under Ashley, with my head and right shoulder over Ashley’s right shoulder. Her upper back now rested on my stomach and she used her left arm to push off of my knees on her left side. From this angle I could watch her, look into her eyes, caress her forehead and apply cold compresses. It also helped ensure I wouldn’t see anything of the #2 variety.
Then suddenly after a push that seemed like any other push, suddenly I heard Corina say, “OK, Hold your Baby!” and I turned to see her lay Ryder’s tiny, very purple form, face down on Ashley’s chest. Although I thought I was prepared, admittedly I was at first a little shocked by his color and lethargy- he looked like a drunken smurf. His little left eye opened and locked onto me at the first sound of my voice. He just laid there, staring right at me. I was simply overcome by every emotion, in such a powerful way that I’m sure I couldn’t speak at first. I broke down instantly and remember repeating over and over in tear-choked gasps, “Hey buddy, you made it. It’s your Daddy. I love you.” He blinked and continued his stare. It was a truly awesome and humbling moment- the most powerful experience of my life. I heard Ashley ask if everything was OK, because from her vantage point she only saw the top of his head and we couldn’t tell if he was breathing. Corina’s reassurance everything was fine put me at ease once again, and I just remember wrapping my arms around my little family and telling Ashley how great she was. We just lay there, the three of us, overcome by the experience. We lay there in a new energy, more powerful than what I had felt just hours before. A baby bubble of energy – one of mother and baby began to take over the room. Ryder was here, in our arms, already nursing, and amazing us all.
The midwives delivered our baby, on our terms, in the comfort and calm of our home. I hope everyone can experience the joy, intimacy, comfort, and natural process that can be had in this experience that I think is unique to a home birth. Ashley labored without pain medication, without an episiotomy, and without any undue stress due to the wonderful care provided by the midwives. Corina delivered that experience as well as delivered our baby, and for that we are forever grateful.