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Birth Stories

Dahlia Sabine Leffert-Koltz

posted Sep 29, 2015, 11:55 AM by Lisa Baracker

I could easily write volumes and volumes on the details of her birth, but I’ll try my best to keep this a reasonable length.  I had gone to the gym on the morning of January 12. Her due date wasn’t until January 18, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt any to get in some good cardio and do a few weight machines and yoga positions to keep my body prepared. My mother is convinced it was that trip to the gym that got things going...

I had just gone to sleep a bit after midnight when I woken up just after 2:00am to what I call a Braxton-Hicks-Plus. I had had a few of these contractions in the past on random occasions – a Braxton-Hicks mixed with a little menstrual-crampiness. They were always isolated, so I didn’t think much of it and went back to sleep. But it happened again about 5 minutes later, and again. I started pacing up and down the hall, wondering if this was it. I called Cathy, who said “Yes, this might be the start. It might also not be. Call me back in a few hours if anything changes”. They were happening about every 10-15 minutes now, and had started to include much more pain in my lower-back, but I was still able to breathe through them. The back pain got worse with each one, and I knew I needed a hands-and-knees position. I woke my husband, and we set up a yoga mat on the floor with some folded blankets for softness around my knees. I had him push on my lower back with all of his body-weight during each contraction, and helped a LOT. So did a little cat-and-cow in between. The counter-pressure on my back and my breathing technique worked awesomely for the next few hours.

Around 6:00am I had a VERY intense contraction during which I felt faint and dizzy and nauseous, and toward the end of it, my water broke and flooded all over my pajama pants, and the yoga mat and blankets. Now the contractions were much MUCH more intense and painful, and I couldn’t just breathe through them. I needed to make noise. Luckily, Ina-May’s book came to the rescue and I made low, mooing noises which got me through much of what was to come. I also remembered everything my prenatal yoga instructor said about the importance of resting in between, without thinking about the last or next contraction.

I started feeling scared because of the intensity, so we called Cathy again. She came over around 7:30am, and Lisa was able to come, too. I totally lost track of time at that point, and started receding into my “labor zone”, where I was completely oblivious to most of what was going on around me. Lisa and Cathy really encouraged me to get in the shower, but I needed to be on hands and knees, so we moved a few yoga mats and towels to the bottom of the tub and somehow I got in there. The next few hours were increasingly intense. I remember someone trying to feed me a banana and get me to drink some water, but I felt nauseous with each contraction and was scared I would throw up. The intensity seemed to grow exponentially with each contraction, and I was feeling scared and overwhelmed. At some point, I screamed “I CAN’T FUCKING DO THIS ANYMORE!!!” and Lisa's sweet voice responded “but Robin, you ARE doing it.” They figured I would be laboring in the tub like this for a while longer, but apparently there was a significant gush of blood and when they looked between my legs, someone said “it’s time to go.” 

I have no idea how they got me out of the tub and dried off, but somehow I had my robe on and “between contractions” I made it to the car (I put that in quotes because by now, even when I wasn’t actively contracting, there was so much pain and pressure on my pelvic floor that I couldn’t relax at all). I remember the clock in the car saying 10:34 – it had been just over 6 hours. The 10-minute ride to the hospital felt like it took an eternity. I spent about 3 minutes in L&D triage, where it was determined that I was 8 centimeters and moving fast, so they rushed me to a delivery room. I remember someone asking me something about pain medications and my mouth responding “no” without even having to think about it. It simply didn't occur to me that I should take them.

At this point, I was feeling the urge to push but couldn’t because I still needed 2 centimeters. This is when I started to totally lose it. My breathing was getting shallower and my moaning was getting more and more high pitched. I kept screaming about needing to push, and about being scared, and about not wanting to do this anymore. Lisa got up in my face, practically nose-to-nose with me, and told me to look at her. She then somewhat sternly said “Robin, you need to slow down. Slow your breathing down, and blow through it.” This was the only time I remember looking at anyone’s face through the entire process. I couldn't handle any more stimulation than what was happening inside my body, and looking at people would've been way too much visual stimulation! But looking at Lisa's face and listening to her take control of the situation helped me to re-center and calm down when I felt like I was losing it.

It must have been about 11:30ish when someone finally checked my cervix again and said I was ready to push. Someone got a squat bar, and Lisa wrapped a sheet around the middle for me to pull on. The first few pushes felt like a relief, but they pretty quickly got painful. I noticed that I would consciously initiate each push, but then my body would take over about halfway and take it farther than I could have thought possible. My legs were braced up against the squat bar, and my husband told me later that he could see every single muscle in my body popping out and quivering with each push. No wonder the next few days had me feeling like I had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! The pushes weren't as effective as they needed to be, so Lisa and Cathy coached me on how to focus the energy downward and outward.

At 12:25pm, I had a push that felt like it was on auto-pilot with no plans for ever stopping. But it did, and Dahlia was there. I heard someone say “it’s a girl”, which I could hardly believe. I had had hundreds of people (family, friends, co-workers, and strangers alike) all tell me I was having a boy for sure, based on the size and shape of my belly. Don’t believe what they tell you!

She came straight to my chest, and stayed there for the next hour and a half. The placenta came just a few minutes later, but it took a while for the doctors to stitch me up (a 3rd degree tear – ouch!). Everyone stood around in disbelief at what a “large” baby she turned out to be. We were all expecting a 5-pounder!

To wrap up, those 10 hours were the most painful, intense, difficult, yet amazing hours of my entire life. I really was on another dimension in another world the entire time. I had no idea what to expect from labor, but what happened was definitely not what I expected! I remember feeling afraid, but not for the reasons I thought I would be. I definitely could not have done it without Lisa and Cathy -- AMAZING in every way! No matter how scared I was, I somehow knew deep inside that if they told me I was doing alright (which they did, repeatedly), then everything must really be fine, even if it didn’t feel fine.

Dahlia was born on January 13 at 12:25pm. She weighed 6 pounds, 10.5 ounces, and was 19.5 inches long.

A wonderful feeling to finally meet our daughter

posted Sep 29, 2015, 11:30 AM by Lisa Baracker   [ updated Sep 29, 2015, 11:31 AM ]

My husband and I wanted to give our daughter a natural childbirth. We weren't sure about hiring a doula, but at 39 weeks and six days, I was getting nervous about our doctor and the hospital staff honoring our wishes for a non-medicated delivery. I thought I'd feel better if we had someone to be our advocate in the labor and delivery room. We asked our birth class teacher for a doula recommendation, and she told us about Blythe, Lisa and Cathy. Lucky for us, they were available and took us on as clients.

At just over 41 weeks, we had met with our doulas. We really liked and trusted them. The problem we were facing was that I had not started labor. My doctor was getting nervous. He scheduled me for a hospital induction at 42 weeks and one day. He explained that the induction would consist only of administering pitocin, because my cervix was soft and I was 90% effaced. He dismissed my idea about using a foley bulb. From what I've heard, pitocin makes contractions very intense and frequent. I thought that if I was given pitocin, I might not be able to resist asking for an epidural. I didn't want a cascade of intervention to take over my labor. I talked to the doulas about seeking induction via acupuncture. They thought it was a good idea. Additionally, they told me to try stimulating my pressure points and Lisa recommended that I research some homeopathic medicines. I had four acupuncture sessions and started using a moxa stick. At 41 weeks and five days, I was experiencing contractions, but they varied from six minutes apart to 20 minutes apart, to hours without feeling anything. I had heard that caster oil might help step things up, so the next day I ate a castor oil and egg scramble. I had another day and night of contractions, but nothing steady enough to be counted as full on labor. The next day was full of contractions (still nothing consistent), and two more doses of castor oil. 

In the early morning of 42 weeks and one day, I was experiencing stronger and more frequent contractions. That was also the day I was scheduled to go to the hospital for induction. Lisa came to our house so my husband and I decided to just *not* go to the hospital. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. If I had gone to the hospital, I might have been induced with pitocin. For hours I walked around and sat on my birth ball to help with the contractions. I was feeling woozy from lack of sleep and from labor. One thing that was pretty painful for me was trying to pee. I kept drinking water, but was unable to go to the bathroom. Lisa thought I might be dehydrated, so she recommended that we go to the hospital. 

By the time we got to the hospital, it was 3 p.m. and I was dilated 4 centimeters. Hooray! I was in active labor! I asked the nurse who was assigned to help us how she felt about natural birth. She said she was very comfortable with it, she used to be a doula. Lisa, my husband and our nurse were the perfect team to help me through labor. The most comfortable position for me was standing. Lisa thought I should sit down to conserve my energy. She found a comfortable seat for me and played music that I like. Time was a blur for me, I'm not sure how long I was sitting. I know that Lisa and my husband were there, getting me through what seemed like endless contractions. 
I was in a lot of pain, and at one point, asked my husband if I should get an epidural. He told me that I should try one more contraction, and see how I felt. That worked like a charm. I decided I should try and stick it out. (I think) our nurse had to monitor my and the baby's heartbeat, so I got up from my seat. I kept complaining that I felt like I had to pee, but I couldn't. Finally, I was given a straight catheter. What a relief! I had a liter and a half of urine evacuated from my bladder. My daughter had been right on top of my cervix from (at least) the time that we arrived at the hospital. I think she had probably been blocking my ability to pee, and it was painful to have her bouncing on my bladder. After the catheter, I sat in the shower and my contractions didn't feel nearly as painful as they had when my bladder was full. When I got out of the shower, my cervix was checked. I had opened way up! Soon, I was ready to start pushing.

I had heard from many of my friends that they just pushed three times, or for a few minutes before delivering their babies. I was counting on having an easy time of it too, but I was wrong. My doctor wanted me to push from a prone position. I tried that for a while, but it was difficult. My doctor left the room, and Lisa recommended that I try a hands and knees position. That wasn't working for me either, so Lisa recommended that I try squatting. The squatting pushes felt much better, but my baby's heartbeat slowed down in that position, causing my doctor to strongly request that I push while on my back. He also made a comment about the time, which made me focus on the clock. I ended up pushing for two hours. It was really intense work. At 1:24 in the morning, we finally met our baby! She was placed on my belly and tried to nurse. It was a wonderful feeling to finally meet her.

It was invaluable to have Lisa with us for the birth of our daughter. I can't give her enough love and praise for what she did for us! Thank you, Lisa!

Olive Rose's Birth Story

posted Feb 5, 2011, 11:45 AM by Lisa Baracker   [ updated Sep 29, 2015, 11:20 AM by What A Doula ]

By Rhea St. Julien

This is the story of the birth of Olive Rose, which was a harrowing experience of love, determination, and God’s great grace and mercy. The day before contractions started, Tuesday Sept 14th, I went to acupuncture at Sage Femme, and then to Dudley's Fusion Rhythms dance class at the Women’s Building. While dancing I felt immense power in my body, and very certain that this was my last class! I felt the baby was coming soon. The next morning, Wednesday Sept 15th, I woke at 7:30am with a painful contraction and felt a spurt of something -- I went to the bathroom and my underwear was totally wet with clear, odorless water, so I figured my waters broke. I also had some bloody show. Contractions continued throughout the day, and trickles here and there continued as well. Suzanne came over and held points for me, and we read Rilke & Rumi through the contractions. Around 6pm my midwife called and wanted Joel & I to come to the Birth Center to be sure that it was indeed amniotic fluid, because if it was we were on a time clock, but if not we could chill and see what happened. So we went in and Judi did tests to see if I’d really broken my waters, and found that I had not. We were discouraged b/c since having our “false alarm” 2 weeks ago, we were excited to know we were definitely in labor, and now we were back to the not knowing. We went home, had a glass of wine and watched a silly movie. I tried to sleep but the contractions were getting really painful and close together. They went on for several hours with Joel timing them before he said “I think this is still really early labor, since they are not necessarily progressing, and you just need to go to sleep.” Easier said than done, but somehow I managed it, and slept for 4 hours or so. When I woke up the contractions were still occurring, but less frequently. Our midwife told me to sleep, but it seemed impossible. On Thursday Joel went to work, as we were just not sure how long this would all last and he has very little paid time off for the baby. Suzanne came again (this woman should be sainted) and held points so that I could get some rest. At 4pm we went to the birthing center -- Julia checked me and I was 1 centimeter dilated! We were really encouraged that at least the contractions were producing some opening. Joel Tarman brought us Indian food for dinner and we watched Tommy Boy while I did some squats to move the baby’s head down. I got a bit more sleep that night -- was still woken up many times with painful contractions but woke more rested than the day before. However, I started to feel discouraged b/c the pain was still there but did not seem to be progressing at all, and I saw no end in sight to this extremely long early labor. On Friday I rested, then went to lunch with Suzanne, my helpful companion while Joel was at work again. That night the contractions picked up again and I started to despair about how long this prodromal labor -- which my midwife calls “Pregatory” would continue. I had a good cry which I think helped me let go into it. I woke up at 1am on Saturday with steady, increasingly intense contractions, and this was the beginning of real early labor, rather than the pre-labor I had been experiencing for 3 days prior. At 6:30am we met my doula Lisa, our friend Amanda, and two of the midwives, Julia & Sasha at Sage Femme. Julia checked me and I was 3-4 inches dilated. I was encouraged by this and headed home to continue early labor.

Lisa & Amanda helped me while Joel got some rest. We listened to old Beatles records and they got me to eat and try to rest between contractions.  Things got more and more intense and around 2:30pm we headed back to the birth center -- I walked the 2 1/2 blocks there, stopping for contractions. Julia checked me, and I was 5 centimeters, so I could stay. My focus now was on encouraging my cervix to fully dilate so I could push. The pressure was tremendous, and all my ideas about what natural childbirth would be like were quickly abolished. I guess I thought the point would be to make me as comfortable as possible, to follow my body’s urges and bear the pain. I did not realize that what I really needed to do was go right toward the pain, almost all the time, to get the contractions to be more and more effective at opening me. The midwives were getting me in the least comfortable positions for me, to intensify the contractions more and more. This was, to say the least, very very challenging. I laid in the tub in these positions, yelling “OPEN” over and over again, in a deep low voice as if I were a wizard! Things were still progressing very slowly. They had me do laps around the birthing center, which was very painful as the pressure of the baby moving down increased. I started to get discouraged and the head midwife Judi told me “You need to get your head around the fact that this is just what it feels like to have a baby. All this pain and pressure is going to get a lot worse, and you have to accept that.” Anyone who has had a baby knows that this was unbearable. I began to doubt my choice to do this naturally, without pain meds. I went through every possible emotion, and with the support of my husband, found a way to access that determination within me to keep going. At this point the midwives realized I was probably dehydrated, and that I couldn’t pee. So they started an IV, and a catheter. These two things really helped. We all started to realize that the change in my attitude was related to being dehydrated and not passing fluids. I started to get really serious about getting into the positions I needed to move the baby down. They feed me grapes, bananas, almonds, and tons of coconut water to get my strength up. Around 11:45pm, I was finally complete at 10 centimeters and ready to push. I had been desperate to do this for ages, as the pressure was so great. Judi taught me how to push by putting her hands exactly on the abdominals I needed to use, and directing my breathing. I pushed in several different positions, with everyone in the room counting for me and cheering me on. Judi started to realize the baby’s head was in a funky position, and put her hands inside me to move the baby’s head during contractions (extra ouch). I had to be catheterized again, which during pushing was extra painful, but moved the baby’s head down dramatically. I had no concept of time but later learned that I pushed for 3 hours! I finally birthed Olive into this world at 2:45am on Sunday September 19th. I was on the birthing stool, with Joel supporting me behind me. When she came up we were so shocked! She was amazingly beautiful and real in our arms! However, her cord was very short and I could only hold her to my belly. Since it was such a short cord, it pulled on my placenta and I hemorrhaged. Judi saw right away that Olive wasn’t breathing well, so she cut the cord quickly and took her over to examine her while Julia had me birth the placenta so she could stop the hemorrhaging. It turns out that on her way out Olive had ingested meconium, baby’s first poop, which they are not supposed to pass until after birth. Judi pumped a LOT of this out of her, and still she could not get Olive’s breathing to stabilize. I was moved to the bed and Julia massaged my uterus to get it to contract. Judi decided we needed to call 911 for Olive. We figured out what hospital to take her to and the EMTS came. In the meantime I got to hold her for about 10 minutes while we waited for the ambulance. Then, before I knew it, my baby and husband were gone, and I was left there, trying to get well enough as soon as possible to get to them. I got to see the placenta, which was beautiful, and ate two bites of it to get all those good hormones back into my body -- the rest will be made into medicine for me to ingest over time. By 7:30am I was ready, and I got to General to see the baby. The nurse in the NICU was very sweet, and I got to hold the baby skin to skin. We went home to rest briefly, and in the meantime one of our priests from Holy Innocents, Genie, sat with Olive. Then we got a call from Kaiser that they wanted to transfer Olive there because of our insurance. Joel went to General right away and I followed. We were very encouraged to be met there by another priest from our church, Bertie, who prayed over Olive. We figured out the details of the transfer and headed over to Kaiser to meet Olive there. All of this was very confusing and emotional. I was also in very bad shape physically -- by some miracle I didn’t tear but the 3 hours of pushing had taken their toll anyway -- my face was so swollen I was seeing double, and I could only walk a little bit without having to catch my breath. I also had to be very careful about fluids because of all the blood I lost. By the grace of God I found the strength I needed to be in these stressful hospital environments with my baby. At Kaiser, the nurses were also very nice and helpful. Olive’s breathing was better and they let me try to breastfeed her -- up until then they were worried she would aspirate. Once it was clear she was stable at Kaiser, Joel and I went home & slept. I woke up several times to pump to establish milk supply. In the morning we frantically raced over there to be with her again. She continued to do better throughout the day, and they took her off IV fluids. This meant I needed to spend the night in the waiting room so she could breastfeed. Joel went to get the things we needed to sleep in the little couch there. This whole time, our friends & family had been supporting us so much, and continued to. Joel Tarman, Sydney, our church community -- everyone had been so amazing. The following morning we got the news that Olive was okay to go home! Her culture had come back negative -- no more infection. She was taken off the antibiotics and prepped to leave. Getting her home was the best experience imaginable. It was the pay-off for the 4 1/2 days of hard natural labor, the chaos and uncertainty after the birth, the difficulty of being in the NICU, all of it was worth it to have our little girl peacefully in our home. We have just been enjoying her presence ever since. In the end, I have no regrets. I am forever grateful to the team of midwives, nurses, and doulas from Sage Femme who helped me birth this baby the way I wanted to, despite all the agony! I am also very grateful to all the doctors and nurses at both hospitals, who helped our little baby get well. I am in awe of my friends, especially Amanda, Joel Tarman, Suzanne, & Sydney, who helped us through this time. And I am of course more in love than ever with my amazing husband, who has been my rock through all of this. He is so beautiful with Olive, and we are so happy to be three. This whole experience has truly taught me that I can do anything, and that when I think I have met my limits, there is always a bit more, as long as I accept help from others, tap into the spiritual realm, and use my breath. I hope that these are lessons I can pass on to my sweet daughter, as she is the one who led me to them in the first place. 

Addendum: I had to use those lessons sooner than I could ever have dreamed. Shortly after I wrote this, we were called back to the hospital b/c the blood culture General drew started growing something after 80 hours. They did a bunch of scary tests and we waited... and waited... and waited to see what strain of bacteria was on the culture. In the meantime we were in that extremely stressful environment and baby girl was being pumped full of antibiotics, just in case. After 2 1/2 days of waiting we decided to leave without knowing. Olive seemed so healthy, and staying longer was getting more and more traumatic for all three of us. So, with the doctors' blessing but without their legal say-so, we left the hospital for our blessed home. The next day we went to the pediatrician and baby was still doing great -- already past her birth weight and happy as a clam. We still haven't heard about that blood culture, but we are happy to be waiting for the result -- which is less and less likely to be problematic -- at home instead of in the NICU. It was all very distressing and we are only now coming down from it, enjoying time at home resting up. We had to make some hard decisions, and are truly meaning what it is like to be parents. Joyous, scary, beautiful, difficult, and so, so worth it.

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