Welcome Aiden James!

Congratulations to Gaby and Alex on the birth of their son, Aiden James! This sweet couple were college sweethearts; now they're married and starting their family.  Gaby was committed to having a natural birth out of the hospital, and she chose to give birth at Austin Area Birthing Center.  It was a little before her due date when her water broke unexpectedly.  Contractions began soon after but things weren't progressing into active labor.  We tried some positioning and walking, and she was exhausted after a day of prodromal labor.  She checked into the birth center, and we all tried to get some sleep before beginning the midwives induction routine of pumping, herbs, and castor oil in the morning.  A few hours after that, things started to pick up and labor got intense and progressed quickly.

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At the beginning of her labor, she did such a beautiful job of relaxing.  I love her posture her with her hands open as she surrenders to each surge, letting it open her and bring her baby nearer.

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With her eye on the prize, she found her focus to help her through each wave.

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Her husband was such a great support to her, giving tender encouragement, and intuitively following her lead.

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This is transition, and she needed to clear gaze of her husband to help her through.  This look below shows so well the feeling of "I can't do this anymore, please help me."  But with constant support and encouragement, she pressed on toward the goal.

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Even as she neared the finish line, she was so composed and relaxed.  I loved the way she folded her hands so beautifully in front of her.

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Now for the pushing--such a powerhouse of strength and determination!

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And finally, after so much hard work, baby is in her arms!

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This such a beautiful, intimate moment as mom turns to her partner after the birth, with the expression of "we did it!".

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This newborn baby knows his dad, and gazed so intently at him.

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This beautiful golden hour as the new family settles in and gets to know each other!

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Such a proud, gentle papa as he gets to hold his son for the first time!

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Welcome to the world Aiden James!  This beautiful healthy baby weighed in at 6lbs 14oz and 20 in.  It was such a pleasure to serve this sweet couple and witness such strength, love, and beauty as they brought sweet Aiden into their arms.

The Triumphant Homebirth of Phoeniks Ezra

I had the privilege of attending a really beautiful homebirth for one of my former clients. I had worked with Andrea and Hector two years ago at the birth of their twins. While she had been hoping for a natural, vaginal birth for them, she developed pre-eclampsia and went into pre-term labor at 30 weeks, so it was decided that a cesarean was the safest way for them to be born. They were such tiny babies, and had to stay in the NICU for 53 days. Andrea's older daughter was also born prematurely when she had pre-eclampsia the first time.  These births were traumatic for her, and she desperately wanted to be able to avoid that if at all possible this time and have the homebirth she had dreamed of.  She took especially good care of her health and diet this time around and when she reached 35 weeks, still healthy, she was released from her high-risk status and got accepted with Central Texas Birth Center for a homebirth.  It was such a blessing as she reached full term, perfectly healthy.  Andrea's labor began on Friday evening with light contractions that continued through the night and much of the next morning.  By noon, they had picked up some, but they still seemed irregular and bearable, so her midwife decided to come check on her.  To everyone's surprise she was already 8 centimeters! I came shortly after, and Andrea was doing well, breathing through her contractions and making everything look easy.  It wasn't too long, and her water broke.  She got into her birth pool and had about three intense contractions and then the baby just slid out before anyone was quite ready.  Hector, who had been caring for one of their twins who had been sick, just made it into the pool and was able to catch the baby.  Andrea kept remarking after the birth that "that really wasn't too bad."  It was a beautiful, gentle birth, with a completely healthy baby who was born right into their arms in the comfort of their own home. It was such a joy to witness and document this birth for this sweet family and see them have the birth that they had waited so long to have.

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Andrea and Hector waited to find out the gender, and when he was born, they waited till everyone had gathered to look and to announce that "Its a boy!" He was immediately welcomed by the whole family, two big sisters, two big brothers, and grandmother.  His big sister had such a perfect response!

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Yes, Phoeniks Ezra, you were indeed worth the wait!  Congratulations to Andrea and Hector and the whole family!  It was an honor to serve you in both of your births, and to rejoice now with you in the beautiful birth of this beautiful baby!

Welcome Baby Isaac!

Congratulations Allegra and Shaune on the birth of Issac Henry, their second son! He weighed in at 7lb 14oz and 21 1/4 inches long. This was such a beautiful, triumphant VBAC as Allegra pressed through her doubts and fears with so much strength and courage and birthed her baby just as the doctor was saying that he needed to be born soon. It was so amazing to see this mama do everything she needed to for her baby! Not a dry eye in the room! It was such a pleasure to work with this sweet couple!

Welcome Luna Leigh!

Thalia and Ernesto were overjoyed to welcome their precious daughter, Luna Leigh on July 24 at 6:05am. She weighed in at 7 lbs 10oz and 19 3/4 inches.

Thalia had such a beautiful positive spirit as she adapted with grace to each new challenge ahead of her.  Although she hoped for a home birth, she came to accept that her daughter would have to be born in the hospital.  And then when her water broke but labor didn't begin, she accepted the induction that she didn't plan on.  But eventually, her body took over, and Thalia surrendered to the labor process and accepted the changes her birth plan took.  But it was all worth it when her beautiful baby was laid on her chest.  

Congratulations Thalia and Ernesto as they begin their parenting journey together!

It was a pleasure to work with you and to be part of your journey!

The Homebirth of Elianna Grace

Congratulations to Marissa and Samuel on the birth of their daughter, Elianna Grace! This beautiful homebirth was a triumphant end to a long story. After a loss, Marissa and Samuel planned a homebirth for their first, who was breech and had to be delivered by cesarean, so determined, they decided to try again for the birth they dreamed of. But after Marissa's water broke, and several days of prodromal labor, that dream seemed to be slipping away. With lots of prayer, careful monitoring, and trust in the birth process from her midwife, Elianna finally decided to make her appearance. And she was born at home, in the water, and caught by her dad. Here is a slideshow that captures the beauty, hard work, loving support, and joyful birth of Elianna Grace.

Welcome Matias James!

Congratulations to Katlyn and Gustavo just welcomed their third son, Matias James, into their family.

This sweet couple was such a joy to work with, and Katlyn was such a pro when it came to labor.  She had already had two natural births, and when faced with an unexpected induction and other inconveniences, like a faulty monitor that required constant adjustment and no hot water in the shower, she didn't let it stop her.  She just kept powering on until she finally had precious little boy was in her arms.

There's just nothing like the rush of emotions when you hold that baby for the first time!  This is one powerful mama!

And Gustavo was such a loving and supportive papa. He's already planning the next one!

Happy Father's Day!

Its somewhat to be expected that when it comes to birth, mother's get all the attention, and they surely deserve it.  But today, on Father's Day, I want to celebrate the amazing dads that have supported the mother's of their babies in such loving, selfless, and caring ways.  And seeing the moment a dad looks on his child for the first time is magic.  Here are a few of those moments to celebrate the awesomeness of dads. Click through this slideshow to see some of these beautiful moments, when a man becomes a dad.  See the loving support for his partner, the joy of seeing their little one for the first time, and the love that beams through in that first cuddle.

Welcome Baby Micah!

Congratulations to Iradis and Kyle on the birth of their son, Micah!  Micah is their third child, and second son.  He weighed in at 7lb 9 oz, a healthy beautiful little boy!

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This is the look of pure joy as mama reaches down to touch her baby for the first time.  This was Iradis's second VBAC, which she rocked without pain medication, as was her desire.  Kyle is a pretty proud papa too!

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Thanks Iradis and Kyle for the privilege to serve you and witness the birth of Micah!

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I just love those first blissful snuggles!

Jamie and Iradis-Austin Doula

Welcome Sophie James!

Congratulations to Stephanie and Willie on the birth of their beautiful daughter, Sophie James!  Sophie was an early Christmas present for her parents who were overjoyed at her arrival on Dec. 22 at Natural Beginning Birth Center.  She weighed in at exactly 7lbs.  Stephanie did an amazing job coping with her labor and was so relaxed through it all, and Willie was such a loving and supportive presence for her.  It was such an honor to work with this great family!

Happy New Year!

Despite being a rather tumultuous year on the national scale, 2016 has been a great year here at Empowered Birthing, in fact the busiest year yet.  I had the privilege of serving 19 families in 2016.  There were 5 birth center births, 12 hospital births, 9 unmedicated births,  2 VBACs, and I had the privilege of witnessing two cesarean births (thank you St. David’s Medical Center for supporting doulas in the operating room!).  But more important than numbers are all the beautiful families that I had the privilege to serve.  At each birth, I watched fierce, strong mamas who worked so hard to bring their babies earthside, and loving partners who believed in them and supported them each step of the way.  Every birth presents its own challenges, and each time I see these women look deep within themselves and find their strength to meet their own unique challenges.  It is such a joy to behold!

I have also continued to grow in my knowledge and in the services I am able to offer my clients.  In January I embarked on my journey to recertify as a doula.  Instead of recertifying with my original organization, I have decided to join with DTI (Doula Trainings International).  This amazing organization provides a wonderfully supportive community (we doulas need a lot of support from each other in order to keep ourselves replenished) and they provide of model of total inclusivity of all birthing families (whatever size, shape, or color they come in) that prepares us to meet the needs of all our clients and their unique situations.  Moreover, they encourage us to be agents of change in the contemporary birth scene.  All birthing parents deserve a respectful, compassionate, and evidence-based care!  So it has been a pleasure to be part of this organization and be so fully in line with their philosophy.  I attended a DTI training last January and became a DTI certified birth and postpartum doula in October.   With the addition of my postpartum credentials, I have been able to offer more post-partum care to my clients.  I have also begun my training as a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor in order to more fully support my clients in their breastfeeding journey.   And as a sneak peek into this new year, I am hoping to increase the diversity of my offerings to include breastfeeding support, childbirth education, and photography.  I am excited to share these new offerings with you in the coming months.  I have also been elected to serve as the Secretary of CTDA (Central Texas Doula Association) and so look forward to serving the larger doula community in that capacity.

As always, I thank you so much for all your love and support.  I had the privilege of serving three families who had been referred to me by lovely past clients.  Please keep telling your pregnant friends and acquaintances.  (And,  I’m hoping to add a new referral bonus, so stay tuned!)  I have also received some wonderful testimonials that I am pleased to share.  Here are a few of these inspiring words that help me to keep providing better, more individualized support:

“During the birth, more than one time she helped me understand what was going on, to ask questions, and make sure that what they were doing was to my benefit, not to their convenience."
“Despite not having my ideal birth, I left the hospital with my healthy baby feeling empowered in a way, because I was able to advocate for myself despite feeling moments of vulnerability. I was able to handle the initial grief of an unwanted c-section because Jamie was by my side with empathy, allowing me to go home ready for the excitement of being a new mommy.”
“I was much more comfortable with ways to make my wife be calm and more comfortable through labor.  Having a doula gave me more options than I knew existed to help my wife.”  
“I think the prenatal visits are possibly the most important and most valuable part of the services Jamie offers. The amount of hours she dedicated to me and my partner before the birth was unbelievable. We were so lucky to have her support leading up to the birth.”

I always appreciate getting your feedback, including suggestions for improvement, so that I can better serve my future clients.   And I love getting updates from you to see how you’re doing and how your little ones are growing.  Please friend me on Facebook if you like; it’s a great way to stay in touch, and be sure to follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/Empoweredbirthingaustin/.

It is such a honor to do the work that I do: to be invited into your birth space, to witness the miracle of new life, and to encourage and support you in your journey as new parents.  Thank you for your support of me so that I can continue to serve more families.

Have a blessed New Year!

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It is such a honor to do the work that I do: to be invited into your birth space, to witness the miracle of new life, and to encourage and support you in your journey as new parents.  Thank you for your support of me so that I can continue to serve more families.

Have a blessed New Year!

 

What the CDC Can Learn from Doulas

If there is one issue that stirs the hearts of doulas, birth workers, and birth activists of all stripes, it is informed consent.  That presumes the existence of both information that is available and understood, and autonomy.  That is, we believe women (and all birthing people) are capable and entitled to make their own decisions about their bodies and the baby they are carrying.  But autonomy has a really troubling history in our culture.  As far as the feminist movement has come in bringing women autonomy in their careers, in their sexuality, we still as a culture have a great distrust that women can make the “right” decisions regarding their unborn babies.   Of course, this plays out in the in abortion debates:  whose decision is it whether a woman maintains or terminates her pregnancy?  We see it in extreme cases of court-ordered cesareans and women charged as criminals for suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth (yes, these are real).  On the everyday level, birth activists get incensed around the language of permission that is so often used in birth and maternity care:  “The hospital doesn’t allow you to eat in labor”;  “my doctor won’t let me have a VBAC”;  “If your baby hasn’t been born by 41 weeks, we will  induce,”  etc. ad nauseum.   (See Birth Monopoly, "You're Not Allowed to Not Allow Me" ) All of this displays a deep distrust in women to make their own decisions.  It is paternalismat its core: “don’t worry your pretty little head about this; the doctors, the scientists, the politicians (all historically male professions, even if they now admit women into their ranks) will tell you what to do.

Now enter the CDC’s recent recommendation that all sexually active women not on birth control from their first period until menopause refrain from all alcohol intake ever.  The first I heard of this, it seemed laughable, like it must have come from an Onion article.  But when I understood its reality, the anger set in.  How dare they try to control the daily choices of women like this?  How condescending! How paternalistic!  And I am hardly alone in this feeling (See Birth Anarchy, The Atlantic, Salon, Forbes).   I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt; they are actually concerned about preventing cases of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in unplanned pregnancies, and they just didn’t realize how tone deaf their message was.  But this only represents the prevalence of the paternalism surrounding women’s reproductive choices.  Women are reduced to potential baby-makers,  33 million potential baby-makers, that is, 33 million potential babies are at risk of FASD.

So what’s wrong with this sweeping recommendation?  Let’s break it down.  First is that such a generalization leaves an awful lot of people and scenarios out.  What about women who choose to be abstinent and are therefore not on birth control: they could get raped right?  Maybe they shouldn’t ever drink either.  What about those who have same sex partners?  Do they need birth control too?  Apparently, they forgot about them, but I guess a lesbian might be raped as well.  What about women who rely on their partners to use a condom?  Are the men responsible? (Probably not)  What about the times when birth control fails?  What about women who would terminate if they had an unplanned pregnancy?  Maybe all women should just not drink ever, right?   Maybe they shouldn’t drive cars either; they might crash and endanger the baby after all.  At some point, it just gets ridiculous.

 And what about all the women who for medical, religious, or personal reasons choose not to use birth control.  What about women for whom birth control is inaccessible? Every form of birth control has its own risks, not only of failure, but of more serious side effects, such as blood clots (ie. the pill) or ectopic pregnancy (ie. an IUD).  Whether to use birth control requires an assessment of risk.  The CDC’s recommendation fails to take this into account.  The risk of fetal alcohol syndrome is real, but the research isn’t as cut and dry as the CDC’s recommendation suggests.  The language is actually that there is "no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy" (my emphasis).  This doesn’t mean even a single drop will cause harm,  it does mean that we don’t know whether one drink is safe but five is not, and therefore it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Some research has suggested low levels of alcohol is safe (see here) and other research points out the potential damage that even a little alcohol has on the developing fetus (see here).  And this potential risk has to balanced against the risk of birth control itself, or we’re back to saying all women should never drink, ever.   Risk is inherent.  We will never get a state where there is no risk.  So who gets to choose what risk an individual woman is comfortable taking with her body and her pregnancy? 

This is where we come back to informed consent, especially the informed part.  The CDC has an important role in educating the public and creating awareness around the issue of alcohol and pregnancy.  So far, they’re doing a pretty good job.  Almost all pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant know to avoid alcohol.  We see the signs in the restrooms at every restaurant that serves alcohol.  And with the exception of those dealing with addiction, compliance is pretty good.  The CDC sees the need to further educate people who are not actively trying to become pregnant but might have unplanned pregnancies and who are still consuming alcohol.  Then by all means, please continue to educate the public about the risks of alcohol use and pregnancy.  And we certainly need work to make contraceptives safer, more affordable, and more available.  But, most of all, let’s trust women to evaluate the risks and make an informed decision for themselves.   This is where the CDC could learn from doulas.  As non-medical professionals, we do not offer medical advice or recommendations, but we are experts at presenting evidence-based information in a non-biased way.  We trust women and their partners to be able to evaluate that information and make the decisions that are right for them.  If, as we believe, a woman is capable of weighing the risks of a VBAC and a repeat cesarean and making the decision that is best for herself and her actual baby, then she can also decide whether or not to have a glass of wine with dinner.

Valentine's Newsletter

Do you believe in love at first sight?  I do.  I witness it every time a new family lays eyes on their baby for the first time.  I love what I do.  I love being part of this miracle, of being invited to participate in the first moments that you have together.  I love seeing your love, your joy, your strength, your determination. 

It has been another wonderful year of serving families through Empowered Birthing.  It has been my privilege to serve eleven families through their birthing journey in 2015, and another three families this year.  I have witnessed a great variety of births: VBACs, twins, hospital births and out-of-hospital births, cesarean births, natural births, marathon births, and fast intense births.  But in each one, I have seen mothers calling on their deepest strength to bring their babies into the world.

Through each birth, I learn more about the wonderful process of birth.  I have also had the opportunity to expand my learning in more formal ways in order to expand the services I provide.  In the summer, I completed my training as a Go Diaper Free Certified Coach.  Through this program, I solidified my interest and learning about Elimination Communication (aka infant potty training).  I have started a monthly support group for families practicing EC, and I am available for private consults as well.  If you are interested in knowing more about this, I would love to share more.  One of the most valuable workshops I have been able to attend was with Spinning Babies, which teaches us how to support optimal fetal position for easier and faster births.  It really has revolutionized my doula practice. I was also able to attend a training with Susan Steffes, a specialist in women’s pelvic physical therapy, where we learned many ways to support women’s pelvic health through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.  I was also able to learn more about Postpartum Mood Disorders through a workshop with Postpartum Health Alliance of Central Texas.  And just last month, I embarked on my recertification process with DTI (Doula Training International) as a birth and postpartum doula.  I am very excited about my new connection with DTI, which more closely aligns with my philosophy.  They are strong advocates for improving the maternity care system and for women’s (and doulas) autonomy, and committed to fostering a strong sense of community.  I am happy to be affiliated with this organization, and I look forward to growing with them.  I am also excited to begin expanding my postpartum services.

I love the work that I do, and it has been an honor to support each and every family that I serve.  I really pour my heart into helping you achieve the best birth possible.  I hope that you will share the love and consider writing a testimonial about your experience with me and by sharing with your friends about my services.  Please keep in touch.  It is always a pleasure to hear from you, see pictures of your babies, and help you with any parenting questions you may have.  You are welcome to follow me on Facebook, both personally and my business page at https://www.facebook.com/Empoweredbirthingaustin/.

Happy Valentines Day! May you and your family be blessed with an abundance of love!

This is what love at first sight looks like!

This is what love at first sight looks like!

My new DTI tribe!

My new DTI tribe!

Spotlight on Austin Area Birthing Center

Austin Area Birthing Center is the oldest and largest birth center in the Austin area.  It was founded in 1987 with its first location on Duval Rd, now the North location.  They expanded to include a South location in 2011, and just this month have opened a third location in Cedar Park.  Each is designed with bed-and-breakfast style,  themed birthing rooms, equipped with a large birthing tub, showers, and bed as well as a clinic, family waiting room and classroom space.  They have really gone above and beyond to create a space that is comfortable, peaceful, and luxurious but also combines all of the necessary tools for giving birth.

Barcelona Room at North Location

Barcelona Room at North Location

Where AABC really shines though is in the care of its midwives.  AABC employs both CNMs(Certified Nurse Midwives) and CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives) and they all work well together as a team without any apparent in-fighting (which is unfortunately not always the case in the birth world).  Although each midwife brings a different personality and style, there is consistency in care across the board.  Since I birthed both of my two sons there, I can testify to the high level of care that I always received.  Midwives spend plenty of time at each appointment listening, answering questions, and providing personalized care.  Even in such a large practice, I was surprised that I was always recognized and remembered, even though there were some midwives I did not see as frequently.  There is a consistent effort to make sure each client receives is treated warmly, professionally, and individually.  I found care there that I had never experienced from any other medical professional.  Also for a large staff, I rarely ever had to wait more than a few minutes for appointments, and office staff responded to questions promptly.  In the birth, some midwives have a more hands-on approach than others, and some give more direction that others, but birthing mothers are always encouraged to lead the way in how they want to labor.  When all goes well, birth is calm and peaceful, and mom is never separated from her baby.  In emergencies, (and as a doula I have witnessed this) the midwives are expertly trained and handled the situation with poise and quick skill.  And for anyone who is concerned, each location is within a few minutes of a hospital, and all necessary equipment is on hand to handle an emergency (short of a cesarean).

One of the advantages of being with a large practice like AABC is all of the additional classes and community events that are provided for clients.  Everything from birth classes, prenatal and postnatal yoga, infant massage, breastfeeding support, and postpartum support groups.  There is also a lively on-line community of AABC families.   Clients have the option of doing Centering Pregnancy group rather than individual appointments.  This fosters a sense of community, and gives much more time for education about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum as well as providing individual time for monitoring mom and baby’s health and progress.  On the other hand, a large practice does mean that you will not be able to form the same kind of relationship with a particular midwife as you might at a small birth center or with a home birth midwife.  And because they share call, you cannot know in advance who will be at your birth.  However, for a large practice, they do an excellent job of creating a sense of community and involvement.

AABC has also recently expanded to include planned hospital births as well as home births, making it the most comprehensive birth center in the area.  They CNMs at the birth center have gained admitting privileges at Seton hospitals so that during a transfer, the midwife can still maintain care for the client in the hospital, unless an assisted delivery or cesarean is needed.   Since only the CNMs have this privilege, it will only be possible if there is a CNM who is currently available, but this is a huge advantage when it is available.  They have also gained a partnership with an OB group out of St. David’s which will allow them additional transfer options.  Planned hospital births are also possible for women who want midwife care but prefer to deliver in a hospital.  The CPMs have also opened up the option for a home birth as well so that you can access all of the great community assets of AABC but you can have the birth in the peace of your own home if desired.  Unfortunately, home birth is not covered by most insurance, whereas AABC accepts most insurance for the birth center births.

All in all, you will find lots of options, a great sense of community, and personal, individualized care at AABC in a really comfortable and beautiful space.

Check them out at www.austinabc.com.

The Birth Story of Claire Rosalia

It is my two-year doula-versary! Just two years ago I got to attend my very first birth as a doula, and I got to share in the welcome of a special little girl.  This is her story:

Claire’s due date had come and gone. Long ago it seemed. Every day after October 16th I would start each day and each night wondering, “could this be the one?” But they would continue to pass just as the one before. After just a couple turns of the clock like this, my hope became stained with anxiety. I knew that many first time moms went past their due dates, and I knew that those dates are educated guesses at best, but still I started to worry. I had stopped going into work that Friday before and felt that I needed the baby to justify to them why I was no longer sitting at my desk typing emails from nine to five. I started to think that how each day off work without that baby was a day that I wouldn’t have her all to myself at the end of my leave. I also worried about that fourteen day mark that was ever growing nearer. What if I had to give birth at a hospital? There were so many unknowns to that scenario that I wasn’t ready for, things I never wanted to have to prepare for or think about.

I had been having Braxton hicks contractions for a couple of weeks already, which feel like a simple tightening of the abdomen (as if it wasn’t tight enough already!), and these quick and rather sharp cervical pains that I learned were likely the start of effacement. As with so many other things during the course of pregnancy, these feelings became the new normal after the first week or so of experiencing them. It was wonderful and reassuring to know that my body was gearing up for the big day and I enjoyed feeling each practice uterine contraction, each cervical pang, and each leg stretch from the little baby inside me, despite the worries and anxieties that I just couldn’t seem to squash. One way or another, we were going to meet this little girl soon!

Monday October 21st was the best day since my due date had passed. I went to see my midwife for a checkup and she really set my mind straight again. She reminded me with perfect conviction that it was completely normal to be late and that there was nothing to worry about. She checked me inside and out and was impressed with my general health, the baby’s health, and my body’s progress thus far in getting ready for labor. She seemed sure that we would have this baby before the week’s end. I let her know my fears of having to go to the hospital and she reminded me that if we did make it to that point after trying all of their tricks to stimulate labor for all of those days, I would be ready for that option.  A midwife would go with me to the hospital to navigate the protocols and be my liaison to help me get the best birth possible. She gave me some ideas for getting things going and sent me on my way. I felt a million times better after that. I went home relaxed, happy, and willing to wait it out until Claire was ready to greet the world. Trying every trick in the book that I learned from the midwife, the grapevine, and Google anyway, just in case. I had to feel like I was doing something to encourage this show to get on the road. If it was baking spicy gingerbread cookies and watching a weepy movie that just happened to be the ticket, then I would leave no stone unturned!

The contractions I was feeling were starting to get more noticeable and more frequent by midweek. Days passed like this, but still there was no rhythm to them and they weren’t strong enough to take much of my attention. I would announce them to my husband and mom (at their request), but even that got old after a while. ‘Yup, guess what? I am having another contraction. Big Whoop.’ Some of them came with a new dull ache that felt like period cramps, and a couple of them I felt in my back. Then, on the evening of Thursday October 24th while sitting on the couch with my mom, I felt like the contractions had started to take on a rhythm and got a little “spicier”. I downloaded an app (which was a great idea!) and started timing them. They would ramp up relatively slow, keep a little plateau of feeling at the top, and then so very slowly ramp down until all I could feel was the tightness in my uterus but no sensation other than that. For a few hours they were about 30 seconds long for anywhere between 8 and 15 minutes apart. Now THIS really could be the night!

I decided to go to bed since it was now about 11pm or so and I had been taught to get sleep if I could just in case it was the last chance I had. A couple of contractions woke me up while I was sleeping, but it wasn’t until 3am that I realized I had been having contractions for the last hour that I could no longer sleep through. The sensation of them was getting stronger now! Excited, I hopped out of bed and told my mom that I was having regular contractions that seemed to be about 6 minutes apart. She hadn’t slept a wink yet, probably as excited as I was trying not to be about all of this activity. I timed a few more contractions while sitting on a birthing ball in the living room, my excitement growing as they came almost on cue and showed no signs of relenting. They were now only a few minutes apart, but became irregular between 2 and 5 minutes apart. I counted them as lasting between 30 seconds and a minute. There was no doubt about it now, this was definitely going to happen today. I decided to take a shower and gather some last minute things for the birthing center.

At 4:30am I called the midwife and our Doula, Jamie, to let them know what was happening. The midwife that called us back let me know that I was in the earliest stages of labor still and that if I could make calls and answer questions, then it was still too early to go anywhere. She must have been right, because I found myself talking to her through a contraction or two while I had her on the phone. The sensation was bordering on pain now, but it was still very manageable. She let me know that I was looking for the contraction to take all of my attention for a full minute, and be 4 minutes apart for an hour. I hung up the phone and woke my husband. It may not have been time to go anywhere just yet, but it would surely be soon and it was time for all hands on deck.

Jamie showed up about an hour later, at 5:30am. We weren’t sure until the week of my due date if we wanted a doula for our birth. When she came in the door, I was immediately happy that we had decided to get one in the end. I filled her in on the progress of the morning and she got to work; never leaving my side. Already, the contractions were getting stronger. We sat on the couch together, me switching between sitting up and laying down, and rode those waves that were coming now every 3-6 minutes and lasting 30 seconds to a minute. She helped me visualize the sensation as riding up a steep hill on a bicycle. Seeing the top coming closer and pushing through the discomfort of the effort, and then finally making it to the top and coasting down the other side, relieved and accomplished. This worked well at this stage, and I crested hill after hill knowing that the release was always soon to follow. At some point during this time, I started to vocalize each contraction. I had learned from birthing classes, prenatal yoga, and reading Ina May books that this can be a very useful tool. Using an “O” sound with your mouth can literally help to open you up down below. Using a deep voice rather than a high pitched one is said to help too, as well as keeping your face relaxed. I also concentrated on keeping my breath slow and deep, which the vocalizing helped with a great deal. I started using these tools almost automatically once the contractions became intense enough to need something additional to focus on. It was as if my voice was matching the power of the sensation in my back and lower uterus. Like an answer to a challenge; my power to its power. This method worked really well for me and I stuck to it for the remainder of the labor.

Most of the pain was in my lower back and hips, so I tried to do a lot of rocking on my knees or on all fours when I could manage it in case it was because Claire was faced the wrong way in my pelvis. But my body was tired already, so it was difficult to prop myself up on my arms for too long. I had taken to closing my eyes, going inside myself and taking each contraction at a time, resting as much as possible in between. Jamie was behind me for every one, pressing in on my back and hips – this was also something that I needed for each and every contraction until the end. It became necessary to have that counter pressure on my pelvis to get through them.

At 9am we called the birthing center again. The midwife had been right; at this point there was no way I was going to talk on the phone and I hoped no one expected me to be able to answer any questions. I needed to not be distracted by the outside world any longer. The contractions were now lasting a full minute and were coming every 4 minutes or less and had been doing that for right around an hour. I could feel the sensation of each contraction radiate through every part of my body now, though they were certainly concentrated around the middle of me. I think we were all anxious to move into the room where we would have this baby. They cleared us to come in and Paul and my mom went into a flurry of activity gathering food and drinks, the overnight bags, and stuffing everything in the car. We took two cars there, Paul took ours with the car seat in the back and my mom took her little rental with barely enough room for me to lay in Jamie’s lap in the back. By now I was in it! My eyes remained closed as I breathed through each contraction and in anticipation of the next. It was too hot, too bright, and I could not get into a good position. Even though I wasn’t looking, I knew the route so well that I could tell exactly where we were at each moment, each turn of the journey to South Austin. It felt like an eternity and I wanted so badly to get out of the car.

Once at the birthing center (about 9:30am), my family quickly unpacked and Paul’s parents showed up. The midwife checked my cervix and announced that I was only 1 ½ cm dilated. No it couldn’t be!!!! I was heartbroken at this news and wondered just how long this day was going to last. The midwife could also tell that I was exhausted from only sleeping a couple of hours the night before. It was tough decision time. She let me know that in order to avoid me wearing out before enough progress was made and us having to transport to the hospital, she could give me a mild pain med that would hopefully relax me enough to take a nap. And either way, we were going to have to return home to labor until I was 4-5 centimeters dilated. The last thing I wanted to do was leave there! Returning home felt like backwards progress and I didn’t know if I wanted to try and handle TWO more car rides. One was hard enough to take. The fact that I even was expected to make such an important decision in my state was surreal in itself. Maybe if I just laid there with my eyes closed and retreated back inside myself, she would go away and we could continue with the rhythm of the contractions. But I knew she was right, even though I asked her two or three times just to let us please stay. It was true that I was exhausted from laboring thus far, and I could hardly keep my eyes open to listen to her options for us. That, and since we had landed at the birthing center, the contractions had faded a bit (though I was only told this, I didn’t notice a change myself). I decided to take the mild pain med to see if I could sleep. I wasn’t happy about having to make that decision, but it was what would save us from having to go to the hospital, and somehow that was my greatest fear of the day.

 Paul’s mom, Janie, had the marvelously amazing idea of us going back to their house to labor, since it was on the same side of town and so much closer. Somehow I was stood up, put my shoes back on, and tried to hide as much of myself in my hoodie as I could as we ambled back out into the bright, hot world and into the cramped little car for another impossible car ride. At their apartment, it was now about 11am. I laid down on the guest bed and tried to feel sleep coming on or those pain meds that I had just been shot with. The problem was that though I did feel drowsy for a short time and I did get a few longer breaks between contractions which probably only amounted to a few extra seconds each, I never got this “nap” everyone was hoping for. Not even close. In fact, we only stayed at the house for a couple of hours. I would lay on my side and relax as much as possible, breathing deeply, until a contraction would send me shooting up on all fours to rock it out (still thinking maybe Claire was turned the wrong way and I wasn’t taking any chances either way.) Things really picked up at about 12:30pm and I no longer felt much of a break between contractions. My voice became louder and louder in response to the ever increasing waves of sensation that shook my body. It was apparent that this labor was moving ahead whether we were ready or not, especially when a few of the last contractions gave me the urge to push! Jamie and my mom could hear it in my voice. I didn’t even have the luxury of being tired any more, and it soon became clear that we needed to call the birthing center and get the ok to make our way back.

We arrived back in the room at 1:30pm. Upon being checked, the midwife announced that I was 7-8 cm dilated now. Oh my GOD that was good news to hear. We had made so much progress! Granted, I had absolutely no concept of time throughout the whole day and I did not know how long we labored at Paul’s parents or what time it was at that point. Godzilla could have trampled all of downtown Austin that morning and I wouldn’t have known nor cared, as long as it didn’t get in the way of my immediate world of careful laboring. All I knew was that somehow I had opened up and we were getting so very close to meeting this baby of ours. It didn’t really occur to me at the time that the centimeter reading meant that I was in the middle of transition and had been for the car ride over. All I knew was that I could handle this. I was handling this. I was so close. What was 2 more centimeters? The bath was run and I quickly stripped the rest of my clothes off and gingerly got in to kneel down on a towel. The water felt warm but didn’t provide the relief I always hoped it would. At this point, there was only a few breaths between each long contraction, which I met with a now furious roar that came out with each long exhale and had me almost gasping for breath in between. I couldn’t believe the strength of the noises coming from my mouth. It made me feel powerful. It gave me a sense of awe for the power of my body; a respect for what it could do all on its own. I knew with each contraction that it would rise but then it would fall. I would get a few precious seconds of relief to recover and ready myself for the next one. It was the most intense physical pain I had ever sustained willingly and consciously, but I was never fearful of it. Especially since I knew we were so close. Jamie was in the tub with me, standing and pressing on my back. I would direct her hands to the right spot if she was off a little. Paul got in front of me on the counter and I found both his hands and clutched them desperately through the contractions. I wanted him to feel the intensity of what I was going through. My eyes remained shut and it was harder to keep my face relaxed, though the open mouth roaring really helped me relax as much as I could manage. Some of the contractions made my head rise up and my back arch in response. I felt the strength of my arms and my legs holding on for dear life. The last ones gave me that urge to push again and I could hear waves of agreement around the room when they heard it in my still rising voice. They told me to try and shorten my breaths, which I tried but had no idea if I was doing what they meant and if it was making a difference.

 In 20 minutes I was checked again. I was fully dilated with just a little lip left to go! I was almost there! The midwife announced that I would have to move to the bed to push since I had progressed so quickly. They needed to be able to get a better view of what was happening and to make sure that I wouldn’t tear. I wasn’t happy about this; I think I had imagined having this baby in the tub, with my husband in it with me. But they knew best. I did the next couple of contractions with the midwife’s hand inside me to lift the last lip around the baby’s head. Then, it was time!! Moving out of the tub proved difficult, and I had to stop twice to let a contraction pass - once with one leg in the tub and one leg out, and once standing in front of the bed before I was able to get on. I felt like any major movement at this point brought on another contraction. It made me hesitate to move much unless I had to. I could also feel the baby low in my pelvis, and the widening pressure of her head bones squashed between my hip bones also made it difficult to move too much. The last thing I wanted to do with my legs was close them to perform actions such as walking or crawling on the bed. It wasn’t a painful feeling, just awkward and I didn’t want to run the risk of squeezing her little head any more than I was already or pushing her back up into the uterus.

I was back on the bed and ready to push at 2pm. I tried hands and knees, on my knees with Paul in front of me so I could hang on his neck (and scream in his ears which were surely ringing by now), and on my back but cocked to one side with one leg up. On my knees with my arms wrapped around my husband was the best feeling in the world at that moment. Knowing that he was right there, taking my weight and my screams and experiencing everything through me was an amazing bonding experience for both of us. Feeling the strength of his body gave me strength. I could actually hear people around us agree that it was a beautiful sight to see, as I buried my head in his neck during my recoveries. For over an hour I pushed; only getting 3-4 exhales of pushing before needing to recover for what seemed like 10 breaths. It was such exhausting work! Much tougher than any of the contractions before. Each time my long recovery started, I breathed deep and slow, knowing that I would have to give it even more the next time…and I was so tired. During this time more people came into the room. A new midwife instructed me to stop letting out so much of my energy through my mouth now. I would have to bear down instead, and send all of the energy to the bottom. I tried this and it worked beautifully. I gritted my teeth and grunted, visualizing my energy moving downward rather than upward, which is where it had been going for the last however many hours it had been.

The extra people in the room were there for a reason. I knew that something was up and that the midwives and assistants were not alarmed, but they were on high alert. They didn’t let me know what it was, and I started having inklings of worry toward having to go to the hospital again. I felt like I had been pushing for so long – hours – what if I didn’t have the energy to get her out? An oxygen mask was put on over my face and I heard something about the baby’s heart rate. Turns out it had dropped a few times and they were just monitoring it extra carefully in case it turned into a situation worth acting on. Still I pushed. I pushed and I pushed, recovering deep and long and slow in between. I could feel the stretch and tightness of her moving down inside me, and I was hoping for someone to call out, “the head!” but I heard no such thing yet. Push Push Push! Loooong Recovery. Push Push Push! Loooong Recovery. I had been moved from my back to my knees and again to my back. Paul was behind me and I was gripping his hands; Jamie had my left leg in her arms to hold it up. I was instructed to curl my body inward rather than arch my back while pushing. I dutifully did so. I had a room full of cheerleaders all around me encouraging me on. “That was a great push, let’s give it one more!” “Yes, like that, keep on pushing!”.

Finally, someone saw the head. It was full of dark hair! I could see it in my mind. I gave it a couple more rounds of pushing and felt the stretching sting of her head make it through. So many hands were on me, protecting me and the baby. She had come down in the right position. I paused to let them check things and then pushed on command. For the last time I pushed. Immediately out gushed the rest of her body, so fast that it surprised everyone. It felt so small and slippery compared to that head. They lifted her up and set her on my chest, all warm and slippery and bloodied. I could feel the warm tug of the cord that still connected us between my legs. She cried and I was in complete shock, my eyes now wide open. A million emotions flitted through me as I held onto my daughter for the very first time. I looked up at Paul, who was crying and looking on at her. The midwives covered us with a blanket, put a little hat on her, and got busy cleaning me up (there was a lot of blood, but I had been prepared for that so I didn’t mind.) The energy in the room was so incredible. Cameras came out, and everyone was buzzing with wonder, relief, and happiness. I kept looking from her to Paul and back to her. Our new family.

All in all it seems that I was in labor a total of 13 hours, (starting from the contractions that kept me awake at 2am), with active labor only lasting a short 3 hours. I did tear a little bit when her body came out so fast, but it was an internal tear and it just took a few stiches. I didn’t even feel it when it happened, and they numbed me to stitch it up.

Claire Rosalia Garcia weighed in at 6 lbs and 10 ounces, was 19 inches long, and extremely healthy and happy. She didn’t cry much, and almost immediately took to the most important task of eating. She took to my breast right away (with some help from the experienced ladies in the room) and fed for over an hour, which is always a good sign. I couldn’t have been happier with how everything went. Already I started to recount the events of the day, in awe of my very own birth experience. It was an incredible, intense, epic journey that I couldn’t believe I had just accomplished. All of those hours of reading, yoga’ing, studying, and prepping really paid off and helped to empower and comfort me. Knowing that each contraction, each sensation, and each hour every step of the way was all part of the process. All natural, normal, necessary, and most importantly, perfectly surmountable pieces to getting my beautiful baby girl out and into the world.