Monday, January 11, 2010

Little Lucy (our happy natural birth story)

Our sweet little baby, Lucy Elizabeth 5th baby, my first born naturally, a modified Lotus birth, with no epidural, no pitocin, no episiotomy, no interference...a wonderful labor (read that to mean hard, hard work with a great result)!

[My birth story follows, but be warned that it mentions bottoms and peeing. Not excessively graphic, just a nice birth story.]

Lucy was born at Providence Hospital, in Southfield Michigan in their Alternative Birthing Center (the ABC unit) with midwife Mary Davis and doula Bonnie Miller and her doula in training. Also in attendence, my husband John and a nurse from Labor-and-Delivery down the hall.

October 2009. I'd been worried for months. Would I need another epidural-assisted birth? Would I have another episiotomy? Couldn't I deliver in a tub? Could we hire a doula to help me? Where would we find the money for a doula? Would it be worth it? I'd had 4 babies, each delivery pitocin-amplified at Troy Beaumont Hospital, in their beautiful new wing, every room looking out of huge picture windows at the glistening man-made lake with it's fountain gushing, even in the winter, and surrounded by trees... I'd had a rather 'bad' experience with a mid-wife with my first delivery, I had worries, concerns, plus I really wanted a water birth, but how could I get one? There was only one tub at Beaumont and it was first come first serve, plus you were not 'allowed' to actually birth in the tub, only labor there. I'd had episiotomies with each previous birth, and the recovery from those had been slow and really painful. But here I was, facing my fifth delivery. Could I finally get the birth experience I'd wanted?

I decided to stack the deck in my favor and give myself all of the help I could. I read lots of birth stories, watched 'The Business of Being Born', read Ina Gaskin's book, looked into Hypno-Birthing, bought the book/CD, asked around for referrals from friends and neighbors, and found a wonderful doula and an alternative birthing center instead of the gorgeous-but-set-in-their-interfering-ways hospital.

Which meant I had to find a new doctor/OBGYN. The days were ticking by fast! I was already in my 8th month when I decided to really do whatever it took to have this birth be a natural one. My husband said we'd find a way to pay for the doula (bless him!) and I was on my way.

Yes, hiring a doula is 'worth it' (it meaning money out of pocket). Bonnie was/is fantastic. She visited me at home, was kind and understanding with my kids, brought lists of what I should be eating, herbal supplements and DVD's (Orgasmic Birth)(terrible title, in my opinion, too off-putting, but absolutely a must-see!), teas (Nettle and Raspberry Leaf) and homeopathic magic ;) and even taught me and my husband some last-minute birthing classes. When the time came to deliver, she checked me at home, had my husband load her car with my bags, helped him bundle the older kids off to our neighbor's house, called the ABC to arrange for my room to be made ready (a whole other story in itself), and had my husband drive her car while she sat in back with me to help me through each contraction during the 10 minute drive.

Driving to the birth center...
Bonnie has an amazing technique she calls the 'Hip Press', where she pushes/holds the pelvic bones together toward the spine, and somehow, it really helps ease the pain of each contraction. I rode kneeling on the seat, facing backwards and Bonnie rode backwards with me, pressing on hips through every contraction (surge, wave)...she was wonderful, even had a towel at the ready when my water broke in her car(!). (First time my water ever broke on it's own, wouldn't you know it'd have to be in a car! Bonnie said not to worry, that that's what her leather seats were for, sweet woman!)

The birth...
I'd been having contractions off and on, for days before, but this day began with mild contractions in the mid-morning, stronger by noon, when we got to the hospital it was about quarter to 5pm (and by 7pm I was floating with my baby, recovering in the tub.)

Midwife Mary Davis met our car at the door, ready with a wheelchair for me. I could barely get out of the van, but somehow, with everyone's help, I found myself climbing onto the wheelchair, kneeling, clutching the back of the chair and pressing my forehead onto the backs of my hands. Mary reassured me that she had done this before, that I wasn't the first laboring mom to be wheeled backwards into the hospital. She shoo'd people off the elevator and laughingly said "You're giving them an eyeful, good for you!"

My focus was on staying calm. Tranquil even. I had been intent on concentrating on 'relaxing' and staying peaceful and 'opening' and still felt much more calm compared to any of the other births, but by this point my body was starting to puuuuush! Bonnie had me 'blowing out candles' in the car and I was blowing in earnest all the way up to the room, and apologizing that my body was starting to push without my consent! Then I was on the bed, and I was bossy! "Light's OFF, (please)!" I yelled. "Music! (please)". and John got it going. The women helped me struggle out of my clothes and then I was pushing.

Mary was on the bed with me, helping me move onto my side, she adjusted pillows and even propped my leg over her shoulder at one point! This baby was coming fast! John said I could squeeze his hand - and later told me how shocked he was that I barely squeezed, just held his hand.
I was really calm, focused on the music, on breathing, and now pushing through each wave.

I remember moan/singing with the music, feeling like this was what needed to happen, that it was time for some moan singing here. Like I had to get the job done, and not an easy job, but a big, fierce, powerful and really important job. It was a tiny bit embarassing, to find myself singing in front of strangers (fat, naked singing for that matter), but I was laboring here, and it demanded noise. Happily, the music I'd found (with the help of my sisters) was perfect for helping me shape my noise into song. (2 beautiful sound songs, played on repeat: Ra Ma Da Sa by Snatam Kaur and Baba Hanuman by Krishna Das)

Bonnie has a really wonderful technique for active labor, armed with her trusty crockpot, and warmed, wet washcloths. She very actively assisted the midwife, using the warm washcloth to press 'in' my bulging bottom, and focus the pressure of birth properly. This felt wonderful and really helped in so many ways, not the least of which that I ended up delivering my 8lb 12oz baby girl without tearing, and without any hemroids(!!!). Thank you Bonnie!!! Thank you Mary!

After the birth...
We left the umbilical cord attached for an hour in an attempt to give our little girl all the cord blood that she was due (a modified Lotus birth). I had packed our nice large blue ceramic bowl for the placenta, and so, in it went, everyone commenting about the pretty bowl except John, who was trying to keep his freak-out to a minimum. He did very well, and held little Lucy skin to skin, her cord still attached and leading to the blue bowl with the placenta inside, which we covered with a towel, while I went and showered. John couldn't stop talking about how amazed he was that I was up and showering so soon! But I was!

Keeping the cord unclamped and uncut for that hour was a wonderful decision. I was surprised that my midwife, in all her many years of mid-wifery, had not done this before. Because the cord remained uncut, the nurses were unsure of where they could collect blood to sample for blood type testing. Normally this is harvested from the cut umbilical cord. 45 minutes into our 'Lotus Birth' hour, Mary was reminded of this need, and sadly told me they would probably have to poke the baby's heel, because "surely the blood in the cord has clotted by now, as it has not pulsed for a very long time, ...but we'll keep it uncut for the full hour if you really want us too." We decided to try and get blood from the umbilical cord with a syringe, on the remote possibility that it might still be fluid...and it was!!! I think I'll always remember Mary saying, her voice full of wonder: " There's life in it yet!"

I could not pee yet, tried again in the shower, to no avail...There was a giant tub in the room that I had hoped to labor in, but we were given the room too late. But Mary (the midwife) said I could soak in the tub after my shower, and they began filling it. I thought about peeing in the tub...Bonnie had said on one of her visits that sometimes she tells her moms to 'pee in the pool' to reduce swelling/edema...and to remember that pee is 'sterile'...

Well, when they began filling up the tub for Lucy and I, I started plotting. I knew there'd be some blood, and I was prepared to feel embarrassed anyway (stupid, I know, but that's how I'm wired)...but then after we got in, they showed me this enormous teabag filled with calendula flowers, and once it hit the water, it darkened the water of the tub to a deep tea color and I felt like it gave me some privacy... I added hot water now and then with my toes...
So I held my baby, the two of us happily floating, she sleeping, nursing, and floating in my arms, me chatting with my parents who had just arrived and saying goodbye to Mary, and eating the food that Bonnie was patiently feeding me forkful by forkful...I must have stayed in that tub for at least 3 hours! (and yes, I peed. Such relief! So relaxing and healing! I highly recommend it! Recover in the tub!).

I had bought (and remembered to bring!) a wonderful aromatherapy atomiser for some lavender essential oil but you know, we just didn't 'need' it. If my labor had been longer, maybe it would have helped, but all in all, my labor was pretty darn short. And now that baby was here, I just wanted to keep the air 'empty', for her and for me, the better to smell her head, over and over and over...

Through the big picture window next to the tub, we could see past the brick buildings and trees and cars of this Detroit landscape and we watched the sun set. The day that I had planned so anxiously for, had ended. I closed my eyes and tried to commit this quiet moment to memory. And then, with new baby and new concerns, new hopes and new plans, climbed out of the tub to begin anew.


  1. I just stumbled upon your story and think it's simply beautiful! I am 20 weeks along and looking for a natural birth without the pressure to medicate...and your story was so inspiring! Did you end up delivering at Troy? Did you find the doctors pushy? Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful moment!

  2. Aww, thanks! Let me tell you, I recently (Nov. 2nd, 2011) had yet ANOTHER baby, (our 6th) and I finally, finally got the birth I really wanted - by doing it AT HOME. Doula Bonnie was there, and I found a different midwife, one who does home births; Wendy Pinter, and she provided a birthing tub, and wow. Wow. Not having to ride in a car while in labor was WONDERFUL to begin with, and I'll write the story soon and post it on this blog.
    But to answer your questions, no I did not end up at Troy, despite how pretty it is I hope never to deliver there again. Yes I found 'the doctors' pushy - trust the stories that say the doctor is only there for 5 minutes, at the end, to catch the baby. But the Drs have their protocol and the nurses follow it or risk the getting in trouble with the doctor. Really, it's the nursing staff that sets the tone, and they also have their hospital protocol that they have no choice but to follow. You have no idea how easy it is to get swept into the gears - despite being an outspoken, informed mom-to-be I still ended up flat on my back, feet in the air with major episiotomies for all 4 of my first babies. The hospital just has their way of doing things. Pitocin is nearly impossible to refuse - they'll tell you it's 'for the baby's sake, to speed things along'. How can you refuse something that's for the baby's sake? By delivering at home, with my doula and midwife, I had peace and tranquility... maybe especially because I did not have to fight for anything or stress out about what they were going to do to me. Everyone was so relaxed and I was at the center, everyone just talking quietly and smiling, the sun streaming in... So I labored in the birthing tub, floating about, humming along to my one piece of music, on repeat, with lavender oil in the aromatherapy nebulizer...I wore a bikini top and a short contractions started around 9am and I could smile, talk, eat, and swim the whole time, till about 12:30 when I started to feel more intense and then by 1 I was humming more strongly and then, with 2 big surges and 2 big operatic yell-sings, she was out! Underwater! I lifted her up and onto my belly and - well, it was the best birth of 6. It really was. Wish I could have done it this way from the first, if I'd only trusted my body, I know I could have.
    All the best to you!

  3. And I just stumbled upon it too. Love, love, love. Please write more posts!

  4. Oh my gosh! Was going to birth at the ABC but I HATED my car ride to Royal Oak Beaumont my first time around. I was hoping to "get out of" having to get in the car by having a home birth.
    I just recently got into contact with Wendy and I am so happy that you had a great experience with her! This is making me more and more confident that I can have the birth I would really like (I'm due 4/19/13).
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  5. Just found your beautiful birth story while looking for information about birthing at Troy Beaumont (due in January). I was pleasantly surprised to see Bonnie was your doula. She was my doula for my daughter who was a VBAC. Bonnie is amazing!! She is expensive but my husband thinks she was so worth it, we'll just have to figure it out to afford her again this time (I agree). What a wonderful and encouraging story - thank you for sharing.

  6. I read this story and for the first time I have hope that I will actually have the birth I have dreamed of. I can't wait to contact them. My first birth was horrible, cold, clinical, thousands of people flocking in and out. A total nightmare, I kept saying I would never have another child again. Our second we opted for a midwife with an OB but I never saw the Ob. Only Laura and that birth was WONDERFUL! Even tho they followed through on my "no students" "no excess" they kept they're word. But as soon as I delivered no more than 30 min later I was being pushed into a different room a small cramp hideous hospital room with young RN or CNAs who were arrogant. I loved my midwife she never left my side but once the "hospital" part took over I felt deserted. I wanted to go home. And my body was ready to. I hated being in there and my baby being taken away so many times for sooo long. I have to tell you how relieved I am because I know with the loss of my father about 6 months ago, my husband is quite concerned. I think this will help a lot and your story is very encouraging and has put a lot of ease within me. Thank you for sharing. God bless your heart you made my morning!


About Me

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Mamazakka is Mommy blogger Autumn Sousanis; also-known-as Autumn Dunbar; and also-known-as "Mama" to six little ones, ages 9, 7.5, 5, 3.5 2 and a 3 month old! :) Busy,yes. A graduate of C.C.S. (Center for Creative Studies, School of Art and Design in Detroit) with my bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, I have finally found my calling as 'Mamazakka', maker of everything and anything that might improve your home, life and outlook. :) It's my goal to create things that truly meet Wikipedia's definition for 'zakka'; (here's an excerpt)..."cute, corny, kitschy is not enough. To qualify, a product must be attractive, sensitive and laden with subtext." Oh yeah! You betcha! Well, that's my goal, anyhow! I'm also known as an over-user of exclamation marks(!) and parentheses (can't help it) though I do try to keep my smileys to a minimum :)