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Liz’s Birth Story

 

Liz wrote her story addressed to her little son Sebastian, born back in December.  This was Liz’s second birth.  It’s detailed, so I highlighted some of the parts that remind me of our yoga practice.  I don’t have a picture of them, but I put in some pictures to correspond to the visualizations she used in her birth, which is such an important part of getting into the primal birth mind.

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It was a Tuesday. Your dad and I both went to pick Leo up from school together. This was a special treat that we had never done before – we went straight to get a Christmas tree afterwards! We came home and set up the tree and were about to put lights on it. Leo was being goofy and physical – it was around 6:30 and his dinner was almost ready on the stove. We were having a tickle fight on the living room couch when all of a sudden I felt a strong POP! inside me. It felt like you had punched me in the bladder! I got up and said “WHOAH” and immediately thought “is this what the next three weeks are going to be like?” (I had about 2 weeks and 3 days until your due date.) I got my answer as I felt a gush between my legs the next moment. I ran to the bathroom to check, but I knew that my water had broken. I texted our doula and she suggested that I go take a shower, assess how I was feeling, and call her back.

All of a sudden, things shifted into “Game time” mode. Your dad started feeding Leo dinner and I began to pack up what remained of the hospital bag. I started to have very low grade contractions while I was doing this. I called the hospital and my midwife called me back about 10 minutes later. I wanted to come in because I was afraid my contractions would escalate quickly as they say they do for a second baby. She told us to take our time coming in, but to make our way in in the next few hours.

I made sure to have something to eat before we left. Your dad had made a huge pot of chili for dinner (which we planning on freezing most of in prep for your arrival), but I didn’t want to eat that. I had a pb and j sandwich instead. We packed up Leo’s bedtime stuff and brought him over to Auntie Sarah’s.

We got to the hospital and passed my midwife in the lobby. She was just finishing her shift. She said “Well, you don’t look like you’re in active labor,” which told me that I was a long way off. But we went up to labor and delivery anyway. The doula arrived and sat with us while they monitored me. The nurse asked me lots of questions, but the funniest one was “What is your plan for managing labor pain?” I didn’t really know how to answer her – she started throwing out techniques like hypnobirthing, etc. I said “Well, I’m going to breathe through it.” She seemed skeptical. I also asked if the big birthing tub was available and she said I needed to have tests done for that. I told her I was good to go with those, and she informed me that the tub room was indeed free!

The midwife who was on call that night said I shouldn’t be admitted yet, because I had a while to go. She suggested either going home or going for a walk. I was nervous about losing the room with the birthing tub if we left. The doula suggested we go for a walk. We walked along the river on Memorial Drive. It was beautiful and quiet except for the cars driving by. We walked all the way to Harvard Square. When I had a contraction, I would stop, lean on your dad, and the doula would put her hand up the back of my coat and massage my lower back. We must have looked like quite a trio! We walked for about an hour and eventually turned back to the hospital.

We headed to the lobby to sit. I got out my knitting. The doula suggested your dad take a nap in the car for a bit.  Every time a contraction came, I put down my knitting, got on my knees and leaned on the nearby side table. The doula came over and wordlessly rubbed my back. When the contraction ended, our conversation resumed. This went on for about 2 hours!   The doula suggested we go for another walk (it was about 1 am at this point), and we left the hospital again. This time, I only got a little ways down the block when I had a more painful contraction. It made me want to be in the hospital room, so we turned around.

The room had a big room with a hospital bed in it and then a smaller anteroom with the birthing tub in the center. I had to lie in the bed for a while while they got a read on the baby (you!) again.  The doula suggested I use the birthing tub for pain relief. I got on all fours and they sank some towels for my knees. The contractions were getting more painful, and the doula reminded me to stay low in my moaning, not to get too high pitched. Both your dad and the doula moaned with me, which was really helpful. At some point, I asked the midwife to check me and see how far along I was.  I was 7 cm and 95% effaced! That was encouraging news to me.

I got back in the bed for a while and they wrapped me up in these big warm blankets, which made me feel held and taken care of.  The mood of the room was one of quiet calm.

Later on, in the tub again, I got back on all fours.  During the contractions, I pictured the beautiful beach at Tulum and I pictured the sound of your name kind of rolling over the wave, like you were slowly coming towards me.

waveThe midwife checked me again and said I was 10 cm, but that there was still a “forebag” of water in front of your head. That explained why you were so slow in coming! I had more contractions in the tub, and I almost fell asleep on the circus peanut in between them. Suddenly, I felt a POP! like the one when I was wrestling Leo and I knew that the forebag had popped. Immediately I felt you start to move down.

I had explained to the doula previously that I hated pushing with your brother Leo. My sense was that that was because they had me do directed pushing, where they counted and told me to bear down and hold my breath. This time I was allowed to “breathe him down,” as the midwife kept saying. I didn’t bear down at all. I continued to ride the wave of contraction, but it was much more intense as my body pushed you towards the birth canal. I started to get scared. It felt like the intensity was definitely going to be too much and I started to doubt my ability to do it without someone telling me what to do and how to make it happen. I had lots of contractions where I just rode it out and hardly bore down at all. The few times I did try pushing terrified me. It started to be a long time (in my opinion; I have no idea how long it really was), but the midwives kept saying that the baby was almost here. I expressed my concern about how slow you were, and the midwife just kept saying “he’s perfect,” and looking me directly in the eyes. It was so reassuring and gentle.

mt-everest-peakI was so concerned with everyone else in the room, the doula said to me “give me your mind,” meaning stop worrying about everyone else and just be in your body. It was hard to do that – to trust that my body could do it and knew what to do on its own. I expressed my doubts about being able to push you out, and the said that it was like climbing Mount Everest – that I was so close to the top but I had the hardest stretch (pardon the pun!) ahead of me. I immediately switched to visualizing a mountain during each contraction, with a ridge of ice separating me from the top. It was beautiful but cold and barren and challenging. There was nothing glamorous about the noises I was making now – they more closely resembled screams than moans.

I had a contraction that pushed you down into the birth canal. It was an overwhelming physical feeling to have you halfway in there, and I could feel myself resist it and kind of pull you back inside of me as the contraction waned. Then, the next time a contraction came, the same feeling happened again. It was like I was going to stretch so far I might break my pelvic bones. I pushed through the contraction and the midwife told me to reach down and touch your head! As the contraction waned, I made up my mind that I was going to keep pushing you out. I said “FUCK!” and pushed as hard as I could. Immediately I heard lots of words of encouragement from everyone. What stood out was midwife’s gentle voice saying “there he is,” and then “reach down and grab him.” And you were in this world, just like that. You were BORN and I did it by listening to my body and letting it take its time. It was 7:39 am and “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley was playing. You were covered in vernix so you looked kind of ghostly. But you cried right away and I held you in my arms. I looked up to my right shoulder where your dad was, and gave him a big kiss.

I was free to hold you and look at you in wonderment. You were just perfect – you had these long, thin fingers with long fingernails on them. You barely had any lashes at all – they were short and blond. You had very little hair on your head too – it was quite blond as well, with sideburns!    You weighed 8 pounds, 2.5 ounces – I am so glad you decided to come when you did!

So those are the facts about your birth. The thing is, all of the details don’t even begin to capture the feelings I was having while I was in labor. I felt a sense of intense calm when we were in the dark room, waiting for active labor to start. I felt held and cared for by everyone in the room. In a way, I felt like a baby myself, especially when they wrapped me up in the warm blankets and I lay down on the bed in the middle of labor. When I started to push, it was a primal feeling to have my body take over like that. My mind struggled to maintain control, but I had to let go and shriek and let my body do what it needed to do to push you out. Then there was this feeling in the final push where I knew I was going to do it, even after doubting prior to that. I am left with a feeling of intense confidence and pride in myself and in my body – in what it can do and what it can make. It made you – in all of your tiny perfection. It grew you big and strong in just 37 weeks. You came out crying and you knew how to suck and nurse right away. So I am also intensely proud of you. From the moment your dad cut the cord, you became your own separate little being, starting on the path of growing more independent and separating yourself from me. Right now I am just so glad to have you on the outside, and to enjoy all of the snuggles I’ve had so far and those that are yet to come. I love you more than you can imagine already. And I’ll love you more and more each day.

Amy’s Birth Story

Amy has been a wonderful yoga student to practice with since well before her first baby.   Towards the beginning of her second pregnancy, she came to me after class and said, “Thanks to your resource guide, I’m on a whole new path!”   Her confidence then was so helpful, because as her due time approached, memories of her first pre-term birth surfaced.  She needed to trust in all the work she’d done leading up to then to navigate being further along in pregnancy than she’d ever been before.   Here’s her story, in her own words.   (Text in bold is my emphasis).  

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At the beginning of my second pregnancy I decided I would focus my yoga practice on breath work and listening to my body.  I knew from my first pregnancy that as my body grew and changed I would no longer be able to work my body in the same way as I normally do in my yoga practice. Therefore, I decided to concentrate on Pranayama, which is something I’ve always known is important but it’s never been my main focus. Throughout my pregnancy, I was amazed that any time I felt discomfort from sitting or my day-to-day activities it was never anything that 10-20 minutes of pre-natal yoga couldn’t fix. Even at 39+ weeks I felt great.

From the beginning of my pregnancy I felt pretty sure I didn’t want an epidural this time.  In my first pregnancy I considered natural childbirth but had not made a decision on the matter when I went into pre-term labor.   For this second pregnancy, knowing that Barrett had successfully had a natural childbirth experience, I asked her if she had any book recommendations on the subject.  She sent me her prenatal resource list and the book I read (and loved) was “Birthing from Within” by Pam England. The philosophy of this book fit very well with my own.  It states “labor is hard, it hurts, and you can do it.” Two of the key pain coping techniques in the book are breathwork and inward focus, both of which I was already practicing in my daily yoga training. 

I went into labor at 3 am on June 27th, 2013.  My contractions began as strong menstrual cramps about 8-10 minutes apart.  At this point I called our doula, Maria Dolorico.  She said to wait until they were 5 minutes apart then call her and head to the hospital.  Ryan and I decided to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast. By 4 am we called Maria and our OB and headed to Brigham and Women’s hospital.  I had my husband Ryan park at the parking deck because I wanted the short walk outside.  It was slow because I had to stop for each contraction, but we finally made it to OB admitting. Maria met us there and we all walked up together to Labor and Delivery.

In triage I told the nurse I wanted natural childbirth and she was very supportive of me and my decision and encouraged me to keep moving and rocking my hips. She checked my cervix, found I was 5 cm dilated, and took a 20 minute read on the baby’s heart rate and my contractions.  Those were the only medical things they did the whole time. Ryan and Maria met me in triage and about 5 minutes later I realized breakfast was a bad idea.  It all came right back up and Maria told me the grosser the labor the faster it goes.

From triage we walked to my delivery room. The handrails on all hospital walls were my friends during the walk.  With every contraction I stopped and held the rail swaying my hips until it passed.  Ryan and Maria would press on the sides of my hips during each one, which eased the pain.  Once we made it to the room Maria asked if I wanted to get in the shower and said I was probably at transition.  The warm water flowing down my back felt wonderful and helped ease the pain.  The handrail again was my friend and I held it throughout each contraction and rested on it in between.   They came in waves at about 2 minutes apart then 1-1.5 minutes apart.  Ryan was behind me the whole time pressing my hips together through each contraction.

Throughout my labor I had been most comfortable standing but by this point I was getting very tired. Maria noticed this and asked if I wanted a stool to sit on which was the perfect suggestion.  I sat, still holding the handrail, resting my head on it between contractions.  By the end what I really wanted was to sleep between the contractions but the time was too short.

The next thing that happened was an involuntary push during the contraction.  At this point Maria suggested I get out of the shower, she and Ryan dried me off and put on my gown.  Once dressed all I could think about was getting to the bed and laying down on my side.  It’s amazing how my body knew how I should deliver; there was no decision-making happening.  When the next contraction came I was in the bed on my side.  Again the involuntary pushing ensued and I felt my water break.  I also heard the nurse say “Don’t push Amy, don’t push.”  I turned to him and said, “I can’t not push.” I later found out the doctor wasn’t yet in the room.

The delivery was quick.  1-2 contractions and the baby’s head was out.  At that point the doctor said “Amy, keep pushing”.  It was very odd trying to push without a contraction behind it.  I felt I had to look very deep into my body to find the muscles and push the baby out, but I was successful. Later my husband said the cord was around his neck and that’s why the doctor wanted me to keep pushing. Alex Edward White was born at 6:51 am weighting 7 lbs. 10 oz and 20 inches long.

Once he was out they placed him on my chest and checked his vitals from there.  It was a very different experience from my first delivery where they whisked Anderson off to the NICU.  After they stitched me up, which felt worse than the delivery itself, they left us alone. Alex was alert and nursing within 20 minutes of the delivery and the first moments Ryan and I had with him were peaceful and precious. It was a wonderful experience.

Amy introduces her older son Anderson to new baby Alex

Amy, her older son Anderson, and new baby Alex

Angela’s Birth Story

 

I’m starting a new blog series of more in-depth birth stories from some of my yoga students.    I think there needs to be more positive stories out there in the world about birth, so that’s the aim here.   

We’re starting 2013 off with a birth story that happened this fall from a strong yogini Angela, and her partner Nathan.  Angela and Nathan are amazing – check out Angela on her website.  Here’s their birth story in their own words (emphasis is mine).

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As a longtime yogini, I wanted to approach birth by being open and inquisitive about my changing body.  Some fears and doubts crept up along the way, but I wanted to feel strong and empowered throughout the process.  Early in my pregnancy, I recall looking through, “Preparing for Birth with Yoga” by Janet Balaskas.  The illustrations of a woman giving birth seemed surreal to me and I mused that I couldn’t imagine ever getting to that point.

Over many months of pregnancy and taking prenatal yoga I became more and more ready and actually excited for the birth experience!  Throughout my entire pregnancy I can honestly say yoga was my stronghold.  In fact, my husband Nathan and I found out we were pregnant in the midst of our yoga teacher training!  I continued to practice yoga every single day and remained active throughout—right up through early labor.

Yoga and pranayama (breathwork) helped me to stay grounded when I would feel anxious and worried, and brought me back to my center when I felt out of control.  I remember three very key times during pregnancy when I had A-HA yoga moments.   One was during savasana when I was very early pregnant and not feeling well.  I remember feeling scared about being pregnant and worried that I might unintentionally hurt the baby by practicing yoga and being too active.  The teacher mentioned setting an intention and I remember setting the intention that I was safe in my body, which really helped me relax and acknowledge that my body would know what to do.   The other times were late in pregnancy.  During a centering the teacher said to trust our bodies and that all the knowledge we needed to birth our babies was inside of us.  That really resonated with me and helped me to feel so empowered!  The third time was while squatting on a brick and practicing shifting between complete engagement (lion’s breath) and total release (softening completely between each breath) just as I’d need to do during each contraction during labor.

An aside from Nathan: Throughout pregnancy, Angela certainly had moments of anxiety and strong emotions, which were fully expected and respected. Also being a yogi, I knew of the powerful aspects of yoga that could help in times of anxiety and stress, and regardless of situation.  A very useful technique which many yogis use is mantras or affirmations.  So, very early on in pregnancy, I encouraged Angela to develop a mantra that she spoke nearly every night before bed, when emotions tended to be highest.: “Nathan loves me, He’s going to take care of me, I’m going to do great!” She repeated the phrase several times until she was fully convinced of her affirmation even in the hardest times.  Though I can never really know what was going on inside Angela’s body and mind on the day she gave birth, I can guess that the mantra had a positive effect.

At 38 weeks along, I walked into my weekly prenatal yoga class feeling like I was really ready to be done with being pregnant.  Barrett encouraged me by saying feeling this way was good and would help my body prepare to birth my baby.  However, I was in that birth window where it could happen anytime over the next 4 weeks. It was so hard to be patient after waiting so long!

I took this time for myself to have a pedicure, get a prenatal massage and just nap as much as I could.  I knew I’d be nurturing my baby soon enough, so I am grateful I took that time for self-care.  In the two weeks before giving birth, I was noticing more and more contractions and my cervix was dilating, which was exciting, but still there was no way to know when it would happen!  On Aug 31, there was a surprise baby shower for my friend that I was really looking forward to attending.  There’s an old wives tale that spicy foods bring on labor, so the hostess insisted I try her chocolate chipotle cake.  I figured it was worth a try and the cake was delicious!  Nathan and I called it an early night and it was a good thing because sure enough at 5:45 am the following morning things started to really change significantly with my contractions!

I cancelled all of my plans that day and stayed home.  I knew it could be a long road ahead so I ate nourishing foods and switched between passive and active activities as the day went on.  Actual napping was difficult because the cramping would wake me up with every contraction, but I managed about an hour of sleep during the day.   I walked around the house, did gentle yoga, breathing and stretching and made sure all of our hospital bags were packed and ready.  I started to really tune in internally and tune out everything else.  Surprisingly, social me had no desire to call family or friends– I simply wanted to focus on myself and the process of childbirth.

I found the yoga ball really helpful and spent a lot of time sitting on it and rocking my pelvis.  I never stayed in any one position longer than 10 min.  As the evening went on I called the midwives a few times for reassurances and to ask questions that arose, which was really helpful and helped me feel confident that I was on the right track.  I knew when I was supposed to go to the hospital (contractions that were 5 min apart, 1 min long and lasting an 1 hour) but my contractions weren’t ever quite that consistent.  They were definitely intense but fluctuated between 2 min and 7 min apart.  Nearly 12 hours later, I got in the bath and poured warm water over my belly and back during contractions. The water felt great and actually slowed labor a bit, but as soon as I got out of the tub things really kicked up.  Nathan was amazing at giving me lots of hip squeezes, low back massages and taking care of everything around the house so I could just focus on giving birth.  I spent a lot of time on hands and knees and doing positions that allowed my lower back to relax and found sounding techniques to be really helpful in terms of diffusing the strong sensations.

Finally, a little before 11 pm we were on our way to the hospital!  We forgot the main entrance was locked after hours and had to drive around to the ER entrance.  By this time I was having contractions 2-3 minutes apart while Nathan had to run in to make sure where we parked would be OK for the time being.  It felt like forever as I waited in the car repeating my mantra, “I’m OK, I am safe, I’m OK, I am safe.”

Once we made it up to labor and delivery we happily learned I was already 6 cm dilated!  Things were progressing at a rapid pace.  We went right to the room to have the fetal monitor connected to check the baby’s heart rate.  My contractions were very fast and intense and I had to keep moving and walking and shifting my pelvis for any relief.  The baby’s heart was really strong and the nurse said I could get in the tub.  No sooner did I get in the tub, I felt a very strong urge to push and bear down.  The midwife wasn’t sure I could be ready so quickly, but said it could be possible.  Sure enough she said with amazement I was at 10 cm already and it was time to push!

It took awhile to get the hang of this sensation.  I tried the birthing stool for a while and found it really tiring.   Nathan supported me by breathing with me and staying right by my side.  My midwife and nurse were a wonderful blend of calming presence and coach.  My body felt like an inferno and cold washcloths on my face and neck really helped.  I then switched to kneeling on the bed with my arms supported, but found this terribly exhausting too.  Sidelying on the bed was suggested so I tried that position and really liked it, which surprised me because I thought I’d like squatting or hands and knees better.  Also what surprised me was that I had to actually hold my breath (rather than exhale) to push through the sensation of pushing out my baby.  All along they kept saying they could see the amniotic sac starting to come out with each push.  Suddenly, the sac burst like a water balloon with a loud pop!  I remember wondering briefly how long I’d have to push but I quickly pushed that thought aside and turned my attention back to my body and the moment and staying focused on the sensations happening right now because that was all that mattered.  I noticed the midwife and nurse gowning up and figured it must be close!

With a very intense burning sensation and one final strong push, our son’s head of dark hair emerged.  With the next push his body came out and I exclaimed, “My baby!” as they put him on my chest and he let out a huge wail!  Surya Alexander Gabor was born at 1:47 am on Sunday, September 2.  He weighed 7 lb 9.7 oz and was 20 ½ inches long.  Nathan noticed that he and Surya shared the same exact foot shape, and if you know Nathan from yoga, you’ll notice he has very distinct feet.  We jokingly call it the monkey-claw because of the unusually large space between his big toe and first toe.

Surya’s Yoga Toes!

I truly felt like a super hero after giving birth!  A very, very tired and euphoric super hero that just ran a marathon. I believe yoga helped me to stay in tune with my body and ride every wave of sensation recognizing it as energy and aliveness rather than something to fear.   Being strong, prepared and confident in my innate ability to give birth created a very positive and empowering experience.

November Yoga Babies!

 

Here’s the next cute installment of new yoga babies in the world!

 

Liz G., from Healthworks, had baby girl Alice on 11/1.  She weighed 8lbs, 4oz.

 

Alison R., from Healthworks, had baby boy Nathan on 11/3.   He weighed 8lbs, 13oz and arrived after Alison was just past 42 weeks!  After a long induction and labor, Nathan was born and Alison writes: “I am sure that I never could have done it without my dedication to fitness and yoga/mindfulness throughout my pregnancy.

 

Lora B., from Black Lotus and Karma, had baby boy Gabriel, on 11/5.   She writes:  “We certainly used every pose from the partners prenatal yoga we could remember, and it helped not just our baby but also our connection to each other.”

 

Alison D., from O2, had baby girl Violet on 11/7.    I cried a little when I read what she wrote:  “I will miss the prenatal yoga classes, as much for the focus and energy as for the wonder of being joined by so many pregnant women and all of their beautiful bellies.  I would often look around during class and marvel at what a sight we all were.”

 

Ruth R., from O2 and Karma, had baby boy Robin on 11/14.   Ruth wrote: “I went into labor at 2:30 am the day after Monday night’s yoga practice. Yoga classes certainly helped me labor at home – doing squatting, hip openers, and breathing techniques.”

 

Radka S., from O2, had baby girl Maire on 11/19.   She weighed 8lbs, 7oz.

September Yoga Babies!

 

It’s that time again – more yoga babies are in the world, and they’re cuter than ever :)

Angela A., from Black Lotus and The Breathing Room,  had baby boy Surya Alexander on September 2.   He was 7lbs 9oz. and I’d love to share what she wrote a few days after her birth (emphasis mine):

“I just wanted to pass on a little note to say thanks for all the wonderful prenatal yoga classes.  My birth was such an empowering and positive experience no doubt because of a strong yoga practice and the excellent support of Nathan!  I felt really strong, confident and powerful and really found the sounding techniques to be helpful.  

Angela and Surya

 

Yusyani S., from Black Lotus and the Breathing Room, had baby girl Marjorie Indra on September 5.   She was 8lbs. 3 oz.

Yusy and Marjorie

Katie D., from O2 yoga, had baby boy Gennadiy, on September 6.  He weighed 8lbs.13oz.   Katie wrote:

“Looking back on the pregnancy, I’m extremely thankful I practiced yoga up until the very end. The most useful thing for me was drishti.  It’s when we focus on a spot in the distance and use that for balance, concentration and centering. That was absolutely essential to getting through the pushing, which at the time felt like it went on forever.”

Gena!

Maggie E. from O2 Yoga, welcomed baby boy Rahm on September 17.   Rahm was in the breech position, so Maggie had a Csection.  She writes:

“Prenatal yoga was essential to my ability to stay calm throughout the surgery and immediate recovery. And now that I’m up and starting to move again, I am so grateful for the extra strength and focus I gained in your classes.”

Maggie and Rahm

Annie M. from Black Lotus and the Breathing Room had baby boy Charlie on September 20.  He was 8lbs. 4 oz.

Charlie and his parents!

Laura S, from Black Lotus and Karma,  had baby girl Liv on September 29.   Laura writes,

“Labor and delivery went very well and Liv is doing great! My recovery has been fast and amazing as well. All that exercise and yoga makes such a difference!”

Liv!

 

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