As I’m a prenatal yoga teacher who has worked with thousands of pregnant women over the last decade, naturally students greeted my first pregnancy with great joy and enthusiasm. Many people have asked for my birth story, so here it is!
For background, I should say that I think birth is important. The way a birth happens and the way a mom and baby are treated often affects the way new parents feel about starting their parenting journey. So, my husband Gadi and I wanted to carefully consider our choices, options and alternatives in order to have a safe, healthy and happy pregnancy and birth.
I could spend a whole post talking about why we chose a homebirth, but it will just have to suffice to say, that’s what we decided. We chose a woman to be with us who has been a midwife for over 20 years and is a mother and grandmother. We spent hours with her in the course of the pregnancy, getting to know her, and learning from her. When the day came, I felt comfortable trusting her to guide us through a safe birth. As an aside, we also developed a relationship with the midwives at a local hospital, who agreed to give us prenatal care on a reduced schedule along with the full care from the homebirth midwife. It felt good to us that they had a record of our pregnancy in case we or the midwife opted at any point to transfer to the hospital.
So here goes: I went into labor on my due date! We never told anyone our due date because we didn’t want people to get fixated on a day, when due time is a whole month! (See my blog post about due date vs. due time for more information).
On Sunday and Monday (June 26 and 27) I taught prenatal yoga classes. I was feeling very achy and couldn’t imagine another 2 weeks of pregnancy (the end of the due time window). I was really hoping that all the achiness I felt was a sign that labor was imminent, but I know how the mind can play tricks on you. As a result, on Monday I tried to rest the whole day. I read a book, I didn’t move much except to walk to my class and teach it, and I stayed hydrated. In retrospect, I think this was my version of nesting! I’m so glad I did this, because I needed a lot of strength for the coming day.
I woke up early Tuesday morning, wondering if my water was going to break. I felt wet, and sure enough as I took the 10 steps to the bathroom, my water broke. It was enough to be sure it was my water, but not a huge gush. I broke a glass at the same time, so as Gadi and I cleaned up the water, we also had the task of making sure there were no shards of glass on our floor! My water broke more in the process, and with the frequent gushes, out came every towel in the house to soak up the mess! The work of cleaning up put me into labor right away, and we called the midwife to let her know. The contractions were frequent enough and strong enough that she was at our house by 9am.
I found sitting on the birth ball helpful, and surprisingly, hands and knees position not as helpful. I love to teach hands and knees pose in prenatal yoga, but it made the contractions more intense, which so early in labor, I didn’t need to do. I progressed quickly and within a few hours I was in the birth pool to handle contractions better. I threw up while in the tub, which is often a sign of transition, and the second midwife arrived so that we were ready in case things kept moving fast.
In this time, it’s interesting to reflect back on how I handled the labor. I think it was all physical and mental yoga practice!! Gadi bailed water on my chest or back every time I had a contraction to keep me warm and focused. I used the rhythm of that like I use rhythmic movements and breath in yoga practice. I also used spontaneous mantras. When I would feel a contraction coming on, I’d say things like, “Yes! Yes! Feeling good. No problem. Breathing. Letting go. Calming down. “ Sometimes I would say all those things in one stream of consciousness, and sometimes just one thing. I remember as things would get really intense, I’d swear, but I’d always reframe. So, I’d say, “Oh, fuck! OW! I mean Yes! Keep it coming. I’m ok. I’m ok.” Talking my way through really helped. In between contractions, I rested completely. I don’t remember thinking about anything except how to relax and let go.
Though it seemed like labor was going fast, turns out there was a hitch. By the late afternoon, I was getting to a stretchy 8cm dilated, with a lip of cervix. The lip wouldn’t go away… for the next 12+ hours. We’d make progress – the cervix would continue to change, but not enough to be completely dilated and ready to push.
This is where having 2 experienced midwives turned out to be critical. Anywhere else, I’d be on the clock and being diagnosed with failure to progress. At a hospital, that could have meant pitocin, narcotics, epidural, Csection, or all of the above. At home, it meant lots of different positions, resting without pushing even though there was a strong urge, homeopathics, verbal support, constant reminders that the baby was ok. The baby’s heart beat was checked frequently throughout labor and with every contraction once we got to pushing. It was always strong and steady, which helped me stay positive – if the baby could do it, I could do it. I was a bit on the clock with these midwives too, because my water had broken, but they never scared me with that. Instead, they worked hard to keep me moving forward.
By 5am Wednesday morning, the lip was cleared and we were ready to push. I was tired, but had stayed pretty well hydrated and was trying to keep some calories in with honey, Gatorade and juice. The pushing was unpleasant, but I knew it would be a strong sensation of stretch. We took it slow, the midwives supported my perineum with compresses and finally, at 7:27am on Wednesday June 29, out came our baby! All 9lbs. 2oz. of him! I didn’t have any tearing, and as soon as the baby was placed on my chest, I picked him up to see that he was a boy!
His name is Yona Yitzchak Reinhorn. The meaning behind his name is again, a whole other story/blog post
What I learned from our labor:
– Prepare for birth. Prenatal yoga, good nutrition, regular appointments that lasted 1 hour and included discussion about everything, 8 weeks of childbirth education. It all contributed to a good birth outcome.
– Put yourself in hands you trust. I don’t think I could have had an intervention-free birth with a practitioner I didn’t know. One of the many benefits of homebirth.
– Use every available tool you have. I literally had a whole bag of tricks, and music for hours lined up. I didn’t use any of them, but I’m so glad I had them. Gadi would remind me of these options. In the end, with his help, I just went inside.
– Don’t let anyone “estimate” your baby’s size. If the midwives had guessed I was going to have an over 9lb. baby, I would have been scared. There was nothing to be scared of because I didn’t know, and nothing about him hurt me.
Last little bit: Gadi was amazing! You *need* amazing people surrounding you at birth. It doesn’t have to be your romantic partner, but I was *so* glad for all the preparation he did too! When I doubted I could go on, he said what I needed to hear. When I needed help focusing on how to relax, he’d try one of many relaxation scripts we’d developed in the months of pregnancy. When I knew exactly what I needed (hours of alternating cold washcloths on my face), he patiently sat next to me and did what needed to be done. We really did birth together! Love you, G!
That’s it for now. On to loving up this baby!!