Several people have asked about my birth story. It’s been busy since our little Oz was born, however, I figured now would be a good time to write.
After Hadar’s birth, I knew that I wanted to have a different experience than what I had as she was born via C-section. After her birth, I did a ton of research on birth and the way our bodies work from reading birthing books, to talking with other women who had similar first births, and talking with doulas and midwives. I learned that it was more common than I thought for birthing women to end up with a C-section or all kinds of other interventions when doctors feel that the birth isn’t going according to “plan.” Thankfully, Oz’s birth was an incredible experience!
Here goes….Ari also wasn’t so happy with the way Hadar’s birth turned out. We decided that we could try a homebirth this time around. I interviewed several midwives until I found the right one. We met Jen, who has delivered hundreds of babies. We asked her about her transfer to hospital rate which was very low- two total. One of those cases, the mother decided she needed drugs to cope. She trained with a very experienced and well-known midwife in our area. Jen informed me that as long as my pregnancy was not high-risk and that my placenta was not covering my cervix we could proceed.
I had a very smooth, low-risk pregnancy. I walked throughout, did yoga, went to the chiropractor several times, and received a few prenatal massages. Towards the end of my pregnancy, we prepared for the birth. Homebirth requires you to have some items on hand: towels, blankets, ice packs, big pads to cover the bed, and a birth pool (which my Jen brought). I had been experiencing minor contractions a week or so before my “due date” and figured that my body was doing what it needed to do in preparation. I didn’t want to be checked this time around to see whether I had dilated at all. First off, the due dates we are given are really estimates, as we don’t know exactly when the baby will arrive. Second, I knew what to expect as I had labored with Hadar’s birth. My mom was present for the birth of Hadar and wanted to also be present for Oz’s birth. I wanted both Ari and my mom to be there because I felt that it was really important to have that support system around me. On Shabbat (February 9th), the day after my “due date” Hadar and I got sick. We both had fever and overall just didn’t feel good. Thank G-d my mom was here to help because it was tough.
A week later, again on Shabbat, I noticed some minor contractions. They were very irregular, coming on-and-off throughout the day. I continued to relax and went for a walk and tried to eat and rest as much as possible. By the time Shabbat was coming to an end, around, 6:15, the contractions were picking up and I called my doula, Audrea. She was absolutely amazing and knew the right words to say at the right time. She used pressure points and other comfort measures during the contractions to help me focus. She helped me time my contractions to see how close together they were. Unfortunately, my main midwife, Jen, had an emergency and couldn’t attend my birth, however, her colleague (whom I met prior to giving birth), Misty, was there. She lived about an hour away, so Audrea and I decided to call her when the contractions were about five minutes apart.
Misty arrived around 9:30 pm and I was getting much more uncomfortable. She checked me and I was six cm dilated. That news excited me because I only reached five and a half cm before I had a C-section with Hadar, so I knew that I could do this. I sat on the birthing ball, and changed positions as needed. Audrea reminded me to eat and drink periodically to keep my energy up. I remember I snuck food into the hospital during Hadar’s birth because the hospital had a policy of no food. Isn’t that crazy- they deny birthing women food when food is just what you need for energy to sustain you during labor? Eventually I couldn’t eat anymore, didn’t have the appetite, but I drank water throughout the rest of my labor and had some coconut water.
Getting into the birthing pool was amazing! Being immersed in the warm water was just what I needed to take the edge off of the pain and really helped me to relax. Things were progressing and I could no longer talk. Audrea reminded me to breathe in and out. Time just went by and I was so focused on what was going on that I didn’t even know what time it was. Periodically, Misty would check the baby’s heartrate using a doppler. She checked me again and felt that the way I was breathing, the way looked, etc that the baby should’ve moved down a bit more. She said that the bag of waters was preventing him from moving down further and suggested breaking it. She said that breaking my water would allow me to dilate fully. There was a bit of meconium (baby’s first poo) in the water, which made me a bit nervous because there was also meconium when the doctor broke my water during Hadar’s birth. Misty said there was nothing to worry about and my labor was progressing, and as long as the baby’s heartrate stayed within the normal range, we were all good. Thank G-d it did!
After my water was broken, the contractions became much more intense. Misty suggested sitting on the toilet or getting back onto the birthing ball and rocking. I sat on the toilet earlier in the labor and it was VERY intense. I decided it was more comfortable to get on the birthing ball. Breathing deeply, moaning, and making sounds really helped. Anytime I made a higher pitch sound, my doula reminded me to make lower ones as they help the cervix to open more. I also read that making “horse lips” keeps the mouth and jaw loose and prevents you from tensing up. This technique was mentioned by Ina May Gaskin in her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. During transition, I felt a bit cold and shaky and that I couldn’t do this anymore. I remembered reading about this in several birthing books. It’s usually the most intense part of labor because the contractions are usually very close together and your cervix dilates fully. The baby also continues to descend further down into the pelvis. I remember saying out loud “every contraction is bringing me closer to meeting my baby” and this helped me immensely because I knew that I was working towards the end result: meeting my baby.
Misty asked me whether I wanted to get back into the tub. She said as soon as I felt the urge to push, I could. Pushing was the hardest part for me. Pushing was a weird sensation because you have to bear down as if you’re having a bowel movement. I pushed for what seemed like hours even though my midwives told me that it wasn’t long at all. I tried to push sitting down, but found that I had more leverage when I was leaning over the side of the pool. Plus I had gravity working with me to help push the baby down and out! Misty, her assistant, Britt, (who arrived just before I started pushing) and Audrea helped me focus on pushing during each contraction and resting during the break. The nice part about this period of the birth was that you get more of a break between the contractions. Finally, Misty told me she could see his head and with a couple more good pushes, his head would come out. I didn’t believe her until I felt it, then I knew it was close! After a really good push his head was out. Typically the head is the biggest part of the baby’s body and once the head is out, the rest of the body will come out. In Oz’s case, his shoulders were a bit wider than his head. Misty told me to stay low in the water and push when I felt ready. While I pushed she had to help wriggle his body out and there he was- all 8 lbs 1 ounce of him. I didn’t tear at all! I put him onto my chest right away and felt tired, but elated that I did it!
Afterwards, I realized that it isn’t very common for the baby’s shoulders to be wider than the head. Usually the body will come out easily once the head is out. I read several cases where midwives were able to help women give birth to babies who had wide shoulders successfully. The key was to be in the hands and knees position.
After everything was cleaned up, we got into bed, he was weighed and measured. I was shocked to find out that he was 8 lbs. Hadar weighed less than 7 lbs and I couldn’t believe he was that big! Britt even weighed him again just to make sure. I made her second guess herself with my questioning. The Ob-Gyn who was present for Hadar’s birth said that I would probably not be able to deliver a baby bigger than Hadar, which gave me a sense of accomplishment that I gave birth to Oz!
B’Sha’ah Tovah by Rabbi Baruch Finkelstein and Michal Finkelstein
Special Delivery by Sarah Goldstein
A Jewish Woman’s Guide to Childbirth by Aviva Rappaport (Unfortunately, this book is out of print)