Our Birth Story
Our birth experience with our first child, Isaac Bela, was practically perfect. My husband and I studied the Bradley Method(R) of natural childbirth. We chose a midwife practice at a free standing childbirth center. The midwives were extremely supportive of all of our prenatal care choices, including reducing the use of the Doppler, having the minimum possible number of tests, and having zero internal exams prior to 40 weeks. We developed an excellent rapport.
We had our 40 ½ week visit on August 3. I met Jerry at his office downtown. I rode the bus to Pioneer Square and walked up Cherry Street to 5th Avenue. Traffic doesn’t go up Cherry because it’s the steepest street in all Seattle. I had mild contractions all the way up the hill. Once I collected Jerry, we continued walking up Cherry to 10th Ave to get the car, contracting all the way.
We talked with the midwives about what would happen if we went into overtime. In Washington state, births after 42 weeks must take place either at the hospital or at home (by accident, as it were) but not in the birthing center. Our midwives do not have hospital privileges, although they would be able to assist in a hospital birth. I really wanted to avoid a hospital birth — plus, my favorite midwife was going on vacation in the week 41-42 period sometime, so I wanted the baby born before (or after) her vacation.
After discussing our options for a long time, I had my first internal exam – and discovered that I was already 3 cm dilated and with a soft, effaced cervix! This felt like real progress, as I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for a few weeks. The midwife gave me a “rigorous” exam until I asked her to stop, after a few seconds. After we left, we visited friends with a newborn, who cried miserably the entire time we were there. It made me rethink this whole having-a-baby thing. Then we ate a pizza and watched a movie. Jerry took the bus to work the next morning and I started cleaning the house.
Boy, did I start cleaning the house. I was sweeping under the beds and scrubbing the grout in the bathroom when I noticed that these motions caused me to become extremely uncomfortable in my lower abdomen. This was about 10:15. I called the midwife and she said “That sounds like labor, why don’t you stop cleaning?” I said, “I’m not done cleaning yet!” Then I drove up to the chiropractor and got adjusted. Immediately, I had a verifiable contraction. I drove home and had another contraction as soon as I got out of the car. I called Jerry and told him it was probably time to get a ride home. In the meantime, the contractions had progressed. My mom stopped by to bring me groceries. She was unpacking them and she noticed I had gotten quiet. She turned around and saw me leaning over, supporting my upper body on the kitchen counter, letting my belly hang loose and breathing deeply. She shrieked, “What are you doing?” I chirped, “I’m having a baby!” She yelped “Here? Now?” and ran out of the room and started — I swear this is true – sweeping the floor. Jerry walked in and we started getting ready – he got the house ready for us to leave and I had contractions. He’d come over and help me and then go back to watering the plants.
Eventually it got intense enough that we needed to just focus on contractions and labor. At around 3:00 pm, contractions were pretty close together and we decided to head for the birthing center, in part because there was a Mariner’s game that night and we wanted to avoid the traffic. The drive was the worst part. I had the window open and yelled out the window every time I had a contraction.
I was 5 cm dilated when we got there. I labored in the tub for long time. Both my midwives were there and also a midwife in training who was a doula. She was incredibly supportive – holding me up, drying me off, wiping gunk off my legs, I think she also held the basin when I vomited. Labor progressed in a Bradley® -textbook fashion. At some point I told everyone that I was tired, I wanted to take a break, I didn’t feel like doing this anymore, and they all laughed and told me I was in transition.
All the midwives left the room at the same time (ostensibly to look for more ice) and I told Jerry I felt like pushing. He told me to go ahead but I felt like I should wait. As soon as they came back we told them and they said go ahead and push. I guess the pushing stage lasted a while because I had the time to try a lot of different positions. Ultimately, we got on the bed. Jerry was sitting at the headboard. I put my forehead against his shoulder, wrapped my arms around his neck, and started pushing. I think I was making a lot of noise at that point! (The pushing part hurt a lot more than I had expected — turns out it was a compound presentation with his little hand out next to his head, causing a minor “rug burn”). Finally they said the baby was crowning and I reached down and felt the slimy little head. Then they told me to stop pushing. Soon I felt a huge sensation of relief, and let out a yell, as the head came sliding out. The slippery little body went whooshing out quickly thereafter.
I turned around and they were grinning and holding the baby and looking at it. Jerry yelled “Wow, it’s HUGE” and they said “No, it’s tiny!” I asked if it was a boy or a girl and they told us to look. I think Jerry peeked and said it was a boy and I said “I told you so.” It was 8:18 pm.
Now, I could be remembering this wrong, and I’d have to go up and look in my records, but in my recollection, they put him on my chest right away and he started nursing within fifteen minutes. I could be wrong because I know there was some cord-cutting and placenta-delivering in there too. But, he nursed right away. We left the birthing center at 2:00 a.m. and spent our first night together at home.
Rebecca Rozsa’s birth
Isaac has proved to be an intense, intelligent, challenging and delightful child. I wanted to wait quite a while before trying for the next kid. By the time I got pregnant, Isaac was almost four. This meant he was totally on board with the big brother concept. He was so thrilled when I told him he was going to be a brother and he chose the baby’s first names: Spike Captain Marvel Hoffmeister. Yikes.
My pregnancy was totally uneventful except for early nausea and constant indigestion.
Our due date was “officially” February 10 but I had the feeling I would go early. In the morning of February 4, Isaac and I baked cookies. In the afternoon I went for a long walk up a very steep hill and had regular contractions the whole time which subsided when I got home and lay down. That evening my parents drove Isaac and me to synogogue. During services contractions began in earnest, about 5 minutes apart and 50 seconds long, but easy to deal with. It was lovely to be surrounded by my community with the harmonious songs all around me as I worked. My mom could tell something was up but didn’t realize the full import, thank goodness, or she really would have freaked out! After the congregational potluck I insisted we go home earlier than usual and I went to bed by 9:30. I woke up with regular contractions around 1:30 which kept me awake for about an hour. I finally got up to eat and drink something to see if the contractions would go away at 2:30 just as Jerry was going to bed. I knew it was really labor because if I walked in a clockwise direction around the living room-dining room-kitchen, the contractions were bearable — I could just make the circuit around and back to my banana and water before the next one would hit. If I walked counterclockwise it felt terrible. That’s when I knew it was time to call the midwife.
Janice suggested I go back to bed but I had three progressively stronger contractions while I was on the phone with her. Then I told her I was getting dressed to go for a walk to the beach and she said “you might not want to do that. I’ll be right there.” I woke up Jerry to fill the birth tub. Then I called Skye, my phenomenal girlfriend/masseuse/doula and she must have gotten here within fifteen minutes. She helped me get warm clothes on and go outside — I really wanted to go for a walk down to the beach but by this time all I could do was pace back and forth on our front walkway listening to the trains and smelling the Daphne flowers between contractions. When Janice arrived I was on my hands and knees rolling on a birth ball — the contractions were really strong in my back. Soon Lisa the backup midwife and Sarah the student midwife arrived (traffic is light in Seattle at 4:00 in the morning) Janice checked me and I was 5 cm dilated, soft and effaced – in active labor in other words. I got into the birth tub and didn’t get out again.
Labor hurt, no mistaking it this time, but in a very quiet, unobtrusive way. Parts of it were beautiful – my blessingway bracelet, the birthing woman figurine lent to me by girlfriend Wendy, the candles from girlfriend Amy burning on the mantelpiece , the orchids blooming over the warm water in the birth tub, the peace and quiet over the house, the sun slowly coming up and lighting up the crystal rainbow maker from friends Mandy, Paul and Hazel casting rainbows around the room. I used many of the mantras I had used with other women in labor – “Down, down, out, out, open, open.” I visualized an enormous pipe organ, to help me make deep low noises. For a while I prayed internally “Thank God, Thank God,” which helped a lot. Jerry was in the tub with me supporting me, relaxing me, and helping me cope with each contraction, while Skye massaged one of my feet and poured water on my back. I announced that the baby would be born around 8:13 because that’s when she woke me up every morning in our third trimester. I guess around 7:30 I started feeling like pushing a bit. Nanny-o had arrived by this time to hang out with Isaac and we asked her to gently wake him up.
Turns out his presence kind of slowed me down – I felt the need to be really loud and I didn’t want to scare him. Also he was begging to get into the tub and flicking pieces of wax on me! I had an internal dialogue with myself and him for a while and then pulled myself out of my reverie, realizing that speaking to him inside my head was doing no good, and very clearly told him that I needed to make a lot of noise and I was worried about scaring him and would he please go go into his room and play with nanny and we would let him know when it was time – and he went. It was one of those remarkable moments of clarity…
At some point my water broke which I felt as a strong pop and gush and then the show really got rolling. I could feel that my pushing contractions weren’t being super effective and I couldn’t find a good position. I kept reaching up into my vagina and feeling around for the head and then being really bummed there was nothing there. Jerry kept telling me to sit up, sit up and I kept saying NO, NO. Finally I sat up on him and very clearly heard a voice in my head say “with this next contraction I want you to breathe your baby down” and by golly – I felt her dive under my pubic bone and get into position. (I guess everyone in the room had been lolling around gossiping, totally unnoticed by me, but I made one of those unmistakable THIS IS IT breathing change noises and everyone raced into action.) I had absolutely no sensation of stretching or pain or ring of fire, just a grinding sensation of her head grinding through my pelvis. I yelled for Isaac and he came running and it all happened very fast after that – her head was suddenly just there, the midwife asked me to pant through contractions so she could feel for cord, and told me to put my hands down and take the baby. Rebecca swam up in my hands with her eyes wide open, out onto my chest holding her head up and looking right at Jerry and me (poor Jerry – he kept trying to move his head around so he could see and I kept yelling for him to keep his head still!)
Isaac was thrilled beyond belief. After the cord stopped pulsing we asked Isaac if it were a brother or a sister. We lifted the cord and he said “It’s a brother.” I said “does that look like your penis?” and he said “No” and we agreed it was a girl. Eventually Isaac cut the cord which he said was “gooshy.” She was born at 8:47 – 30 minutes off from my prediction!! So the hard part was about 4 ½ – 5 hours long depending on how you count it. And she started nursing 13 minutes after she was born.
We called my parents to let them know. They were on their way to synagogue and stopped by to say hello, not realizing that I was still in the birth tub, in fact, just in the process of rising from the pool which by now was a deep red color with all that postpartum blood and assorted yucky bits (I didn’t mention the pooping part, did I? or the puking. Oh well, minor details. The student midwife was right there with the pooper scooper net and the puke basin … but still). My mom walked through the door, was slammed with a wave of muggy, steamy air, looked at me, her jaw dropping, and then her glasses fogged up and she turned around and pushed my father out of the door with the immortal words, “She’s naked!”
And so she was.