The Birth of Ophelia

 

July 18th, 2017, I became a mother. I began having mild contractions early in the morning but didn’t think much of it. Around 7:30/8am I decided that a bath sounded like a nice idea. Felix came in twenty minutes later and began to time my contractions. They lasted around 35/45 seconds and came every two to three minutes. I decided to message my midwives and let them know what was up. Melanie suggested I pretend as much as possible like I wasn’t in labor, so Felix and I decided to go run errands. We went to the grocery store, (and let me tell you, pretending like you aren’t having contractions in the middle of a public space is a tough one.) Then we stopped down at tech guys, and I made a visit to my chiro. We got home and I thought I would try to take a nap, but the contractions were getting more intense and sleep didn’t really look like an option. I decided that I should probably have my doula, Rebeca head over. She got to the house around 2:30 and at that point I was feeling the contractions getting stronger. I got into the birth tub shortly after her arrival. After a few waves of some serious contractions, I got out to use the restroom and she asked if I felt like I needed to push. I definitely was getting to that point, so she quickly messaged my midwives to let them know they should probably head over. They arrived around 3:30 and checked me at 4. I was dilated to 9 cm. I got back into the birth pool and let my contractions roll through me. I moaned and growled through them but didn’t feel like it was too terrible. All of the sudden the need to push became overwhelming and then the head was out. I had a firm grip on my doula and my midwives said I needed to let go so I could catch my baby. I reached down and my baby slid out and into my arms. I could not believe what had just happened. I felt so much pride and relief in the fact that I just had my first baby, unmedicated, in my bedroom on my own terms and didn’t even tear. I felt so powerful and happy and full of joy. My water never broke so my baby was still in the sac. Which is called en caul. It’s a rare occurrence, only one in every 80,000 births happen this way. Many cultures see it as a good omen and a sign that the baby is blessed with good luck. I cradled my baby in my arms and was so overjoyed. Felix ran to be next to me and was crying his eyes out. We both were so happy we forgot to see what the baby was. (Which I know everyone is dying to know.) My sweet baby girl, Ophelia Arcadia Colón was born at 5:28pm, weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 20 inches long. She’s perfect in every way and I have never been more in love in my life.

Interviewing Your Midwife

(This is a rewrite of a client hand out I wrote in the early 90’s. It was funny to change phone numbers into website links. And interesting to note that some of the questions had changed. For example, I had to include ‘how far past my due date may I go?’. -xoxo Midwife Melanie)

You’ve decided you want a natural birth. And you know a midwife is the best person to support that decision during your pregnancy, labor, and birth. But how do you go about finding a midwife? And once you do, how do you know she’s the midwife for you?

In Iowa, there are different types of midwives:
 Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) are the most widely recognized group of professional midwives. They are registered nurses who have gone on for additional training as midwives. After attending an educational program accredited by the American College of Nurse Midwives Certification Council they must pass their examination and then are licensed. CNMs generally work under the supervision of a doctor (but in Iowa they can be independent!) Most carry malpractice insurance and participate in hospital births only. However, there are some CNMs that do attend homebirths and often they accept insurance reimbursement.
 Direct Entry Midwives (also called traditional, lay, independent, or Certified Professional Midwives) are not required to become nurses before training to be midwives. They arrive at their practice through a variety of routes including personal study and experience, formal training programs, and/ or private apprenticeship. Direct entry midwifery is not recognized in Iowa or Illinois, so these midwives might be more difficult to find and do not accept insurance. (My readers in Minnesota and Wisconsin are far luckier!) However they are homebirth specialists!
  A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a type of direct entry midwife who has had her skills and experience evaluated by the North American Registry of Midwives and passed a written examination.
  The first step is finding midwives to interview. Ask friends who loved their birth experience. Go to the local La Leche League or Crunchy Mama facebook page and ask around. Also, check out midwifery websites like the ACNM, MANA, NARM, and Midwifery Today.
  It is important to interview two or three midwives before you make a decision. It will help if you have an idea of the kind of birth you would like. Do you want to deliver at home? Hospital? Birth Center?Do you want a midwife who will massage and encourage you during labor or do you want someone who will basically sit in the corner and knit, intervening only if there is a problem? Do you want FHTs to be monitored with a fetoscope intermittently or hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor? Do you want to deliver in water? Although midwives are alike in many ways, in many more ways they are very different.
Here is a list of questions you can ask when interviewing your midwife. Don’t be shy, midwives like to know their clients are a good match!
-Why did you become a midwife?
-What kind of training have you had?
-Do you practice at homebirths? Birth Centers? Hospitals?
-Are you certified or licensed?
-Do you belong to professional organizations, attend conferences and workshops, subscribe to        professional journals?
-What basic philosophies guide your practice?
-How many births have you attended?
-How many births do you attend a month?
-What tests do you require prenatally? 
-How far past my due date will you allow me to go?
-Do you deliver VBAC, breeches, or twins?
-What emergency equipment will be available at the birth? What isn’t available?
-What kind of emergency situations have you handled?
-Have you ever given birth?
-Did you breastfeed?
-Who will attend my birth with you?
-How will you monitor my progress?
-How will you monitor my baby’s health?
-May I eat and drink during labor?
-May my other children be present?
-Do you use herbal or homeopathic remedies?
-May I deliver in a birth pool?
-May I or my partner catch my baby? Assuming all is well?
-If we transport to the hospital will you stay with me?
-What is you transfer rate?
-What is your induction rate?
-What is your cesarean section rate?
-What is your episiotomy rate?
-What is your fee and what does it include?
-What kind of commitments are we responsible for; childbirth classes, back up doctor, lab work, hospital registration, birth certificates, new born testing, supplies…..?
-What do you consider your responsibilities as our midwife?
  These are initial questions to be asked at your first meeting. There are hundreds of other questions that you will ask through out your pregnancy. It should be very important to your prospective midwife that you know the complete answer to each question. Try to schedule a special interview visit, so you aren’t sitting on an exam table wearing a sheet.
  It is important to remember that midwives are providing a service to you. As a consumer, you should be fully informed of your options. This will not only help ensure that you feel empowered by your birth experience, but will also change birth, for all women and babies, for the better.

Wolf’s Birth Story

Aeddon Wolf Valdimar
VBAC, 6th Baby
“How wonderful life is, now you’re in the world” 
Sunday, August 27, 2006

(This post is my first in a few years. What better way than to blog about Wolf’s birth on his TENTH birthday?!)

I was dreaming of a family friend fighting a lion. I awoke in a puddle of water. I rushed to turn on the light and woke my husband. But I could smell it was just pee, so I tossed a towel over it and went back to sleep.
I awoke again a few hours later to the sound of my teenage daughter, Tabitha, rushing around getting ready for work. I jumped up and drove to Muscatine with the dawn. I hung out at the coffee shop for a few minutes while Tabitha made me an Americano. I told her my hips felt “wonky” and maybe today would be the day. She said not to wait too long to get her if I was.
At home my husband Chris and I read the newspaper and had fun sex.
Mmmmm…
Being Sunday it was “clean the house day”. As I worked I noticed cramping- of course I had been cramping everyday, but these seemed more regular.
I was sweeping at 10 am when Chris said, “everything okay?” I confessed to contracting every 15 minutes but tried not to get too excited.
Chris cooked me two fried eggs with salt and maple syrup. Yummy!
At 12:30 I thought I’d see if a walk “in the wild wind” would be helpful. I went alone. My contractions were 6 minutes apart. I would stop and focus on butterflies. Sometimes I would pee myself. Guess the baby’s head was moving down! On my walk I saw a flock of geese and a beautiful heron. I took it as a sign of good luck. I walked one mile.
Back home I sat on the porch swing with Chris. We talked about setting up a birth tub in the dining room in case of heavy rain- it was very overcast. I told Chris I really wanted Tabitha to come home, even if this was a false alarm. But I had no cramps while we swung and he said we could wait until she got done at 3:30.
Chris cleaned and set up the birth tub. I folded the laundry. I got a few bigger contractions. On my walk I imagined wings unfurling from my hips, but now it was more like knives twisting. Chris finished the tub and left to pick up Tab.
My 13 year old son Rowan played with the other children while I lay down for a nap. I missed Chris. I remember enjoying a nap with him at our last birth. Contractions came every 7 minutes, but I did sleep between them.
Chris and Tab return around 4. I tried doing a few chores. Chris told me later he saw me pause to squat while hanging sheets to dry. I then sat in the outdoor hot tub for a few minutes but it seemed to slow things down. I decided to watch “Moulin Rouge” with the kids while Chris started making sushi.
Pearl (midwife 1) called on a hunch to see what was going on at my house. I told her I was contracting, but not regular enough, so we’d call later.
Chris checked my cervix. 8? 9? No head though.
I called K. (midwife 2) to check in. We spoke for 9 minutes during which I had 3 short contractions. Maybe she’d stop out after supper… By now I was singing pretty loud with Ewan and Nicole.
One more trip to the toilet (bloody show!) and I was off to the hot tub again.
The contractions were really strong now. I felt nauseous and asked for a bucket. I checked myself. Lip of cervix, bag, head. I told Chris he should give up on the sushi and call the midwives.
I floated sideways in the tub. It helped me to remember I didn’t need to hold onto the contraction. I could ‘let it go’. Then a calm. The contractions slowed. The pain lessened. Chris’ face was there. “The midwives won’t make it in time”. I closed my eyes.
I remember my friend Jenni once saying “you don’t have to push”. I said this to myself for many urges.
Then it felt better to give a little push. My water broke. My whole beautiful family was watching. Rowan had the video camera. The kids were all taking pictures.
I would change positions often. Hand and knees. Squatting. Kneeling. This baby sure was taking a long time to come out!
I could feel the head inside my labia. Chris leaned in and felt. Tabitha leaned in and felt. The water wet her white t-shirt and her pink bra showed through (like in Duece Bigelow the teens said.) It made me smile.
The baby kept kicking and wiggling inside me. “Let me do it, baby”, I said. The head would crown and go all the way back in. “Come on, monkey”. I always call my children monkeys. Crown again. In again.
The head finally came. So intense! What a big head! Wait for the next contraction. I leaned back and put some traction on the head. No rotation. The baby squeezed its own arms out. Stuck at the armpits?! Chris is in the tub now. I unwrap the cord from the baby’s neck. Push again. Finally born!!! 8:08 pm. Beautiful! “What is it?” I ask Morgan Finn (5). “A boy!” my children move in close to touch their brother. This is one of the most perfect moments of my life.
After a while it is dark. Rhiannon (10) cuts the cord. I get out while Archer (8) wraps the baby. I move into bed.
The midwives arrive. Archer, Morgan Finn and K. deliver my placenta. Pearl and the children make placenta prints. Tabitha cooks the placenta for me – delicious! We eat enchiladas and drink wine. We sing happy birthday and eat birthday cake with a zero candle.
The first scale says 11 pounds, 11 ounces. We try two more scales and settle on 11 – 8.
The midwives go home. The children spread sleeping bags in my room and I am tucked in with Wolf. Bliss.