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Below are birth stories from local women that have been shared with us at Birth Journeys. Please let us know if you would like to share your story.
Owain (pronounced Owen) Griffith Smith was born at 10:38 am on Friday, February 1st, 2013, weighing 7 lbs 11 oz.
I started having mild cramps on Wednesday around noon, five days after my due date of January 25th. I was at a Burack Lecture at UVM with the girl I was training to cover for my position during maternity leave. We were sitting against the wall in a crowded room. I thought it would be funny if my water broke now, especially since the lecture was recorded so the whole thing would be on film.
The cramps continued all day. I left work around 3 pm and told my boss Gary that I probably wouldn’t be back the next day. We hugged and I started saying bye to people in the office.
By the time Aaron got home I was resting in bed. I told him what was happening and he started taking apart and repacking the hospital bag. Drea came over and I helped her write a bio to be a Wanderlust Wayfarer, so life was carrying on somewhat as usual. I was able to sleep pretty well that night.
Aaron took the next day off from work. We went to Penny Cluse to have a big breakfast, not knowing when our last meal for a while might be. We ran into Anastasia, the midwife from our Birth Journeys classes, and told her I might be in early labor. Just like a midwife, she wasn’t alarmed. She smiled and said “I’m so happy for you. Enjoy your breakfast.”
That afternoon we had an appointment with Jenny at Maitri. She said the cramping was a good sign and it was very unlikely I would go 42 weeks and need to be induced. She checked me out and immediately said “great exam, things are looking ready.” I was 2.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced with soft tissue. Apparently our nightly Evening Primrose Oil sessions had helped!
Before we left we did a non-stress test to see how Owain was doing. He was a perfectly mellow and happy little baby. He had been so calm throughout my pregnancy so I wasn’t surprised. We could see the contractions happening on the monitor and Owain’s reactions.
That night Aaron and I went out to dinner at the Farm House. The contractions continued and I told Aaron each time they were happening so we could revel in the fact that I might be in early labor in a crowded restaurant. It was lovely to have an evening together in total bliss, excitement and nervousness, knowing what was about to happen.
We went to bed around 10 pm that night and the contractions started to wake me up often. I kept feeling like I had to go to the bathroom so I was up a lot. Poor Drea was staying at our place that night and was confused about what was going on. By midnight I knew I had to wake up Aaron and start timing contractions. Of course Aaron found a great iPhone app to track them so we were able to see that they were all over the place but getting stronger. Around 1 am we called Maitri and got Kristen, the gentle-natured midwife. Aaron gave her the stats and to my surprise she said to head on in to the hospital. I had imagined that we would labor at home for a while but I guess it was time. I had a few contractions leaning over the bed while Aaron rushed around to get last minute things packed up. Eventually I vomited during one of the contractions and Aaron came rushing over with a towel. It must have been powerful because he then threw up in the towel he was using to clean up MY throw up! By now Drea was aware of what was happening and we told her we were heading to the hospital. It all felt unreal, like we had prepared so much for this moment and I couldn’t believe it was actually underway. I heard Aaron call my mom, which made it even more real. I brushed my teeth, got dressed and mostly focused on breathing through the contractions.
As we were heading out the door Drea asked us each to pull a tarot card. I was impressed that she thought of it in all the commotion. She fanned the cards out faced down and I pulled Lakshmi, goddess of Prosperity. Drea pulled Archangel Michael, the top of the card read “You can do it!” We all laughed and she said, “You should take this one with you.”
We got in the car and Aaron called his mom at 1:26 am, saying “Are you ready to be a grandmother? Then get yourself up here.” Then he called his dad at 1:50 am and Lacey at 1:51 am. We pulled into the Emergency Room entrance and walked into the quiet hospital. Aaron calmly told the man at the desk that I was in labor. He looked at me and looked confused, probably because with my puffy coat on it was hard to tell I was pregnant. A nurse came down with a wheelchair but I told her I wanted to walk. She escorted us up to the Labor & Delivery floor.
We checked in at the desk and I signed insurance paperwork, which made me laugh on the inside because I had no idea what I was signing. Aaron made a joke that we just signed a promise to name the baby after whatever delivery nurse we got assigned. I was so happy when our nurse Amelia walked us down to the big corner room we had seen during our hospital tour, room number 5. It was a corner room with windows on two sides that over looked UVM’s campus, Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. It also had a large tub in the bathroom and I decided I wanted to be in that tub for a good portion of my labor.
Aaron set up our LED candles and the iPad with our hypnobirth tracks. Amelia filled the tub and the bathroom looked like a mini spa.
I had envisioned doing support poses with Aaron and looking into his eyes and being very alert and connected, but I found myself becoming very internal and less aware of what was happening around me. I got into the tub, the warmth felt so good on my abdomen and lower back. It helped immensely. Every time a contraction came I felt like I needed to push up out of the tub and put my hands on the edge and lean forward. I thought about experimenting with other positions but instinctively went back to this one every time.
The contractions were getting stronger and I felt like I was on some crazy drug. I had to dig so deep every time and each contraction was different. One time focusing so intently on my breath and being as still as possible would help. The next time I would need to incorporate some movement, like rocking belly dance motions. Aaron stroked my back and when a contraction would come he would remind me to breath, to relax my jaw, to not let my low moans turn into high-pitched cries. He would repeat “ooooo-pennnnn” in a calming voice and I would try to say it with him. I couldn’t look at him or interact with him but his presence was incredibly comforting.
As things got more intense I thought about the women in the Orgasmic Birth DVD, particularly one that looked like she was in pure bliss during labor. Her body was so loose and relaxed and she moved like she was making love. I held that visual and started to move fluidly and let my head and neck flow and my hips and back sway. While it was still intense I felt like I was working with the sensation rather then trying to prevent it by tightening up. I was getting so tired that I didn’t always have the strength or focus to let go but it was amazing to experience the difference just for a moment. I understand how labor would be a different experience with that kind of surrender.
Aaron sent occasional text updates to our family members in the waiting room – Phil, Linda, Donna, Lacey, Mike, Jeanine, Drea and Bethany.
3:08 am everything is looking great, 100% effaced, 4-5cm
6:14 am All is well, she’s working hard
At some point Kathy took over for Amelia. Dr. Jenny Lowell replaced Kristin, along with a resident doctor. The sun came up and we could see the Lake in the distance and the students heading to class across campus. I found myself looking at them thinking they had no idea what was happening up here. Something about the sun was discouraging, I realized we had been at this all night. I heard Jenny saying, “It would be great if labor had a pause button, just a 20-minute break to regroup.” So true.
I had started the evening in my carefully selected labor outfit, but by this time modesty was out the window. I was naked and oblivious. Later I put on my white bathrobe, which weirdly didn’t come off until after I delivered. I’m happy to report it is somehow stain-free.
Jenny checked me and confirmed I was 5-6 cm dilated. It didn’t seem like much of a change from last time and I started to wonder how much longer I could carry on. Discussions began about breaking my water. Being in the bath had slowed down contractions so that some were 10-15 minutes apart. My team suggested walking around but every time I stood up a powerful contraction came and I would lean over something or drop to my knees over the bed. Kathy would rush over and put towels under me and remind me to rest on my elbows instead of my wrists so that I wouldn’t be sore. She also kept a monitor on my belly to keep an eye on the baby. He was doing very well.
Jenny explained that breaking my water would make contractions more intense but it would move things along and it would all be over sooner. I couldn’t imagine making the choice to make things harder. Fortunately during that conversation my water broke on it’s own. I was standing up in the bathroom and I felt a little trickle, than a gush like I was peeing on the floor. Yay!
Aaron texted the family.
8:49 am Water broke, 7 cm things are moving now, she’s amazing
I moved to the bed. Kathy piled up a ton of pillows for me to lean over. The contractions came faster and stronger. During many of the contractions the thought crossed my mind “As soon as this one is over and I can speak I’m going to tell them that I can’t go on any longer.” I whimpered my declaration and Kathy and Aaron gently explained that I was so close and I was doing great. I didn’t have the strength to argue with them.
Suddenly during one of the contractions I got this urge to bare down, like I was trying to shove my insides out of my body. The sensation brought enormous relief. I became very vocal. Kathy knew what was happening and left to get Jenny. I pushed during the next contraction. It was just me and Aaron in the room so this made him nervous. He said “Hun, Jenny is on her way, can you wait until she gets here?” I couldn’t.
At about 9:45am Jenny and the resident came in and checked me. I don’t recall the stats but they started wheeling over tables and tools so I knew it must be time. Oh. My. God. Such relief. I knew they weren’t doing this to humor me, it was time. A few folks from Pediatrics entered the room because there had been meconium present when my water broke.
The team coached me on pushing. I held the back of my thighs and Aaron, Kathy and another young resident held my feet. It felt amazing to push, like I was taking the reigns. I would wait for the sensation, then push with all my might. I let out a dramatic grunt/scream every time, just like the movies.
Jenny and the resident used packets of olive oil, ironically the same as the City Market buffet, to massage and stretch my tissue and encourage it to stretch. I heard the term “crowning” and my heart lifted. He was coming down! Jenny told me to feel his head. I couldn’t tell what was head and what was tissue, it was all so soft and squishy. Afterwards Aaron called it “hair pudding”. Ew. I became more motivated and determined to push. Each time his head came out a little more. Now I could really see it. I would push so hard because I didn’t want him to slip back in. I started to feel like the next push could be it. Later Aaron told me my face turned purple when I pushed. I can only imagine what all this was like from his perspective.
The team cheered me on and I continued to push and vocalize until suddenly everyone started cheering all at once like a big finale and I knew he was almost out. I pushed until I couldn’t breathe and his little head slipped out, then his shoulder, then the rest of his magnificent little body. WOW!!!! He didn’t cry immediately, which was the sign for Pediatrics to step in. But Jenny held up her hand and motioned for them to wait. And we all just stared at him for what felt like forever, prayed for him to cry on his own so he wouldn’t have to be taken by the Pediatric doctors for suction (because of the meconium). He was resting on the bed between my thighs when I heard a little shriek and then a full on baby cry. Jenny looked satisfied and waved off Pediatrics. They wiped him down and placed him in my arms. He was blue and slimy and BEAUTIFUL. And he was ours. Aaron looked at me so proud and so exhausted. We did it. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t crying. I think I was too exhausted. They clamped down the umbilical cord and asked Aaron if he wanted to cut it. He did.
At 10:51 am Aaron texted a photo of me and Owain to the family.
Owain Griffith Smith was born at 10:38 am on Friday, February 1, 2013. He weighed 7 lbs 11 oz and measured 20 inches of perfection.
After note: While Owain was resting on my chest, the placenta came out and the doctors took the time to show Aaron all the details. Most likely, more than he wanted to know. It was silvery, blue and purple. Apparently he thought it was “very cool”. They then asked us if we wanted to keep it and we both looked at each other like it would be interesting if we said yes but we declined. Maybe next time.