My homebirth experience with Christy and Janeyne in one word would be uplifting.
My second home birth was my first with Motherland Midwifery, and Christy's knowledge and warm humor helped to make it a healthy and - dare I say it? - FUN delivery of our baby boy. At each prenatal appointment, Christy & Janeyne checked in with me both physically and emotionally, helping me to keep tabs on the baby's development, my state of being, and all of the concerns and excitement that my husband, four-year-old son, and I had. By the time active labor began, the five of us were a solid team ready to rock this birth! And rock it we did.
I spent most of my active labor (about 4.5 hours - thank Christy's advice in regards to nutrition, exercise, resting & sitting positions, and my regular chiropractic appointments) on a physio ball in my bedroom while everyone else hung out downstairs. It was quite a party - husband, son, doula, photographer, midwives, pets - and I have to say that the midwives' graciousness to my carnival was incredible. And can I tell you how comfortable it is to hang out in one's own bedroom, knitting, snacking, and chatting with the occasional visitor from my crew? Christy and Janeyne are so good at giving exactly the level of support that is asked for or required. They gave me lots of space to labor how I wanted to, maintained the vibe I had going when checking our vitals, and offered very unobtrusive suggestions.
About 3.5 hours in, I was at 7cm and ready to use the birth pool. My son went to bed and the real work of labor began. I will always be grateful for the calm, quiet way the midwives went about *their* work while I got on with mine. As the photographer remarked, they are total professionals - competent and capable. As I began making some unbelievable noises, the atmosphere in the room was both sacred and joyful. The louder, deeper, and longer I groaned, the bigger my husband grinned. We all knew we were very close to meeting this baby! Big brother was brought into the doorway, half-asleep, to fulfill his request that he be there no matter what.
The moment of crowning was almost overwhelming, I remember locking eyes with Christy and she intuitively showed me just how to breathe through it. And then baby's head was born! Sweet relief. I heard but mostly ignored some excited whispering - it turns out that he was born with the bag of waters intact. On the next surge, he burst through, I caught him and brought him to my chest, and we all rejoiced! My son's first words to his baby brother were, "Don't worry, Baby Carrot, your mommy is right there."
I am so thankful for our healthy birth journey, and how it was truly our whole family's. Those first few hours, snuggled up in bed as a family of four, are etched in my heart forever, and so precious to me. Thank you, Christy. Thank you.
All photographs in this post are copyright of Jamie Siever Photography 2014.
People often ask why I chose to use a midwife and do a home birth. It is an extremely difficult question for me to answer in passing because it was not a decision I made lightly (if you know me, you know that I do not make any decision hastily). I wanted to labor and deliver without drugs; I wanted to be in an environment where I felt safe and supported; I wanted a provider that I knew, trusted, and felt comfortable with; I wanted a provider who would tell me if I needed intervention but would not push me to unnecessary interventions. Those are just a few of the considerations that led me to a midwifery model of care and I cannot express how thankful I am that I found Christy. Christy has guided me through two pregnancies and the births of both of my beautiful daughters. I cannot fully express how much these experiences changed me. I first found Christy when I was pregnant with my first child. I unfortunately miscarried in the first trimester- I was around 10 weeks pregnant and was seeing an OBGYN at a local hospital while also considering a nearby birth center or home birth. Shortly after my miscarriage, I found out that I was pregnant again! The first thing that I did was contact Christy, and luckily she still had openings in my estimated due date timeframe. I remember the first day that my husband and I went to Christy’s house for a visit. It was a strange but comforting feeling to be welcomed into her home instead of waiting in an office over an hour past my appointment time. I immediately knew that I connected with Christy and that she would be a good fit for us. With Christy, I never felt like a number or like I was being passed around to different Doctors who checked my vitals to make sure the baby and I were healthy but wouldn’t remember my name. I didn’t have to worry which Doctor was going to be at the hospital when I delivered my baby, or whether my wishes for delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, etc. would be considered. My appointments with Christy covered all of the necessary check-ins for vital signs plus check-ins about my emotional well-being, nutrition, exercise, and all of the “real life” stuff that helps you prepare for bringing a new life into the world. I am a very sensitive person and generally want to be left alone when sick or in pain. Because of this, I knew that aside from Christy and her assistant the only people I wanted present at my birth were my husband, my sister and one of our best friends who also happens to be a doula.
Our first daughter’s estimated due date was December 7th, 2012. Days came and went, with no signs that she intended to make an entrance anytime soon. I came down with the flu sometime around 41 weeks and, as you would imagine, was really fatigued and emotionally drained. Christy sent me for the non-stress tests every other day to ensure everything was going well with baby. That Wednesday, December 19th the Dr. at the ultrasound clinic said that it looked like the placenta was aging and it would be best to have the baby by Friday, the 21st. At that point, I had tried most of the recommended labor inducing strategies – long walks, intercourse, some nipple stimulation, etc. The only thing left prior to being induced was the one I dreaded, and feared the most…castor oil. Thursday afternoon I called my sister and asked her to come to our house. She arrived at 5 pm, just as I was downing my castor oil milkshake. 3 hours later, I was in labor and it was INTENSE right off the bat. I had grand plans of a water birth, but the oh-so-tiny water heater in the South Philly row home we were renting had a different idea. My sister got out our biggest pots to boil water and help warm up the tub, which was situated in Camille’s closet-sized nursery on the second floor (spoiler alert: I never made it to the tub). I had taken up shop on the third floor –totally naked, windows open, pacing between our bedroom and bathroom for hours, making noises that my husband said he has never heard before. Christy arrived around 11 or so and checked to see how I was progressing. I was only slightly dilated and my support team hunkered down for what it seemed would be a long night. A few hours went by and my contractions became longer and closer together. Eventually, I found my body bearing down on its own and was trying my best to hold back because Christy had checked me again and I was still only a few centimeters dilated. If I pushed prior to my cervix opening, it could cause swelling and pain and could potentially make the delivery more complicated. Christy and my husband Josh helped me breathe through contractions and eventually had me lay down on my side on the bed. I remember feeling like a caged animal but Christy supported me, encouraged me to relax and directed Josh in helping me work through the pain. I begged her to break my water but she encouraged me to wait it out and trust my body. I still remember the empathy in Josh’s face as he slowly helped me breathe through contractions “hee, hee, whoooo”. At some point, I ended up back in the bathroom, laboring on the toilet and some blood came out. Christy said that was a good sign and that things were changing and decided to check my cervix again. I will never forget the shock and joy on her face when she looked up at me and said something to the effect of “I don’t know how this happened so quickly, but if you’re ready to go…you can push with your next contraction”! I quickly decided that I did not want my baby to be born on the toilet, so I asked to go into the bedroom. I stopped before I crossed the threshold of the door and asked Josh to put the shower curtain down on the carpet so that I wouldn’t ruin it (I’m sure Angelo, our former landlord is out there somewhere thanking me for that moment of clarity). Josh quickly obliged, I got into a squatting position, and with a few pushes I delivered our precious baby girl!!! Camille Evette Kwedar was born at 4:04 am. She was 21.5 inches long, 8 lbs. 8 oz. of squishy faced perfection. Christy checked the baby and kept an eye on me while her assistants were like little elves, cleaning up all of the birth supplies, bringing me food to eat, and letting Josh and I have time with our sweet new babe while my sister captured photos of our first moments as a new family. It was the happiest day of my life.
Last summer, my husband and I found out we were expecting our second child! I immediately reached out to Christy to let her know we were expecting as I know her schedule fills up quickly. My husband and I were on the fence about another home birth because we moved from the city to the suburbs and did not live as close to a hospital in the event that I would need to transfer. Additionally, this pregnancy was a bit more rocky from the start because I needed an emergency appendectomy when I was about 6 weeks pregnant. I voiced my concerns to Christy we discussed them at length. We both thought it would be best if I saw an OBGYN after my appendectomy. I found a wonderful provider at a midwife-friendly practice and was told that I was at no higher risk because of my appendectomy and ultimately decided that I could not imagine having anyone but Christy attend my next birth. We were treated with the same kindness, thoughtfulness, and attentiveness throughout this pregnancy.
The weeks came and went much more quickly this time around and before I knew it, I was desperately waiting for baby to arrive. Once full-term, I had some test results come back after bouts with nausea that showed slightly elevated platelet counts, so Christy sent me to consult with the OBGYN again. The OBGYN gave me the clear to wait things out and see when baby decided to come. 41 weeks in, I woke up at 4 am to a bloody show. I woke my husband up to ask him if he thought I should call Christy. He said “yes’’ and went back to bed. I texted her a picture (something I’m assuming you wouldn’t do with an OBGYN) and she told me to keep her posted if my contractions started. 40 minutes later I was in labor. I went downstairs, did the dishes, straightened up in the kitchen and labored until around 7 am when Christy encouraged me to wake my husband and have him take our older daughter to daycare. Christy and Josh both arrived about 7:45 and by 9:46 am our second beautiful daughter was earth side! Penelope Rae Kwedar weighed in at 8 lbs. 7 oz., 21.5 inches long and delicious as can be. Labor and delivery were much different the second time around. I totally opted out of the birthing pool because I didn’t want the stress of fussing with it and thought that I would probably want to pace around like I did when laboring with Camille. This time I spent most of my time laboring over the toilet or squatting on the stool. Christy eventually coaxed me onto my side on the bed (I was not very happy about it at the time, but I am thankful now) and I ended up giving birth flat on my back, which I totally did not expect! Penny had her fist up by her face and the cord was wrapped around her neck and her body, but Christy and Asasiya were extremely diligent, making sure that she was healthy!
Christy absolutely practices compassionate, women-centered care. I have felt so supported by Christy through pregnancies, post-pregnancy care, intermittent check-ins about emotional well-being, etc. I truly love and respect Christy and am forever thankful for the impact that she has had in my life.
I was so thrilled when I realized I would be able to work with Christy for my second homebirth. Working with Christy felt like being with a kindred spirit. She has a calming presence, but her fierce protective instincts are visible just below the surface. And I really got to see her jump into action during my labor... I ended up having a VERY fast labor, with only Christy and my husband Ken in the bathroom with me, our 3-year-old son Naftali asleep down the hall. Shortly after Christy arrived that night, I went to use the toilet in the middle of very intense contractions. I stayed on the toilet for the next contraction. From the other room, where she was setting up, Christy could hear the sounds I was making and called to me "Are you pushing, mama?". It wasn't until she asked that I realized I was! I love that she knew what my body was doing better than I did, just from hearing the sound of my voice. She rushed into the bathroom, with Ken working to both support me and help her set things up.
I had told Christy that during my first labor, I felt like I didn't get to slow down and notice what was happening while I was pushing. This time I wanted to feel more like I was letting the baby slip out, rather than efforting so hard. So in between the three or four pushes it took to bring Nomi out, Christy reminded me to stop and breathe for a minute. What a powerful moment! Nomi's head was right there crowning and I got to really feel it. "Um, Ow!" I said, laughing. Then another push, and there she was. I feel so grateful to have had the strong and wise support of Christy in such a fast labor. We really got to do it exactly how we wanted it - in our home, with our family, and however my body needed it to go.
Chrissy & Anam decided to have a homebirth a little more than halfway through their pregnancy. We are so glad they made the switch! About 10 days after her due date Chrissy called me at 6 am very excited that labor had begun! I was excited too as I had three mamas past their due dates and a couple others approaching their due dates and was ready for someone to get the birth boom going! Her mom arrived soon after I got there and was absolutely thrilled to have been invited to the birth and was so proud of her strong daughter.
Chrissy labored beautifully-- slow dancing, big hip circles, moaning out her beautiful birth song. The baby's in-utero nickname was "Bonkers" and Chrissy kept saying "Bonkers, we are doing it!". Anam was a sweet and steady presence. By 8 am the surges were closer and stronger and Chrissy continued to talk to her baby girl and saying affirming things to herself like "Ah yes, I can do it!" and "I'm doing it, I'm doing it!". Her low and open sounds helped things progress. Anam was looking at Chrissy with so much respect, awe and curiosity of the this heretofore unknown power in his partner. There was so much love between this mama and daddy!
By 10 am Chrissy was starting to bear down at the peak of the contractions and sure enough was fully dilated and the urge to push was beginning. It was a couple more hours before the baby made her way out as Chrissy tried a lot of different positions including some time squatting in her tub which really helped the baby drop down into the birth canal.
8lb 11oz Coraline Soleil Owili-Eger was born on February 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm with her mother, father and grandmother present surrounding her with love. What a lovely post-Valentine's Day birth! And the beginning of a busy month...more soon about the other two babies born that week!
Congratulations to Chrissy, Anam and Coraline!
(It has been awhile since I've been able to post birth stories-- I'm about 13 births behind as I've been so busy catching babies and doing midwifery political advocacy work-- but hope to get a bunch up soon!-thanks for your patience!)
Kristen and Jude were expecting their first baby the end of January. Besides moving to a new (and lovely) home in Manyunk partway through the pregnancy, their little family was faced with the challenge that Jude injured his leg and was on crutches for the last several months of the pregnancy and into the birth and postpartum. But this sweet couple took it all in stride and prepared for life with a little one.
Kristen's labor began in the middle of the night and steadily intensified over the course of the day. By late afternoon the contractions were very, very strong and Kristen's friend Alais came to do some Cranialsacral Therapy to help her move through it and support both Kristen and the baby. Kristen was progressing but slowly and some concerns arose over her Blood Pressure, the baby's heart rate and meconium in the fluid so we made the decision together to transfer to Pennsylvania Hospital. The rest of Kristen's labor and the birth were a great example of how the judicious use of an epidural and pitocin can be so effective and helpful in preserving having a vaginal birth. Kristen was so strong and steady throughout and Jude (God Bless Him hopping around the hospital room on one-foot!) and Kristen's sister and Cranialsacral Therapist Alais were also great support. Once Kristen got some rest and the pitocin was started things progressed quickly.
In fact at one point when the baby dropped quickly into the pelvis her heartrate dropped. At first there was concern but then we realized it was head compression as this baby girl was ready to be born! Kristen pushed amazingly effectively and Lilianna May Alvarez was born on January 26, 2012 after just 30 minutes of pushing! She weighed in at 6lb 10z and was (and is!) cute as a button.
Congratulations to this sweet family!
Sheila and Radha had a beautiful homebirth with Meredith for their first child Uma. You can read about it here.
Sheila had Uma early and didn't expect that would happen this time around so she was surprised when she started having contractions the morning of the Winter Solstice. I think that she was in a bit of denial about it really being labor and rather than call Meredith she just sent her a Facebook message as Meredith was showing up as being signed in. (Note--don't do this! Call or text us! ; )
Luckily Meredith saw the post and sure enough it was the real deal when she called this sweet family.
Meredith caught me just as I was leaving Sarah's birthin New Jersey so we all converged in Elkins Park. It was baby Nora's first birth with her mama midwife and soon-to-be big sister
Uma got some great practice entertaining a little one as she helped bounce Nora and keep her happy as Meredith and I attended to Sheila and Radha.
Sheila was in the tub rocking and moaning and singer her birth song. It was a sight to behold as she felt the baby moving down and her bright eyes shined with the intensity of the surges and the realization that indeed today was the day she would meet her new baby and be the mama of two lucky little ones!
Just about 30 minutes after we arrived Sheila powerfully and exuberantly pushed baby Madhava into her hands and there was a lot of joy in finding they now had a son! Uma and Nora were excited and happy too!
7 lb Madhava latched to the breast and soon big sister joined him.
What a happy family! And what a nice birth to welcome Meredith back from maternity leave too! Congratulations!
Morgan and Keith switched to planning a homebirth at the beginning of the third trimester for their second child. I remember after our interview Morgan wrote me saying she just felt so happy and at peace and excited to have found this model of care for the rest of her pregnancy and transition into the next chapter for her family after a very medicalized first birth in the hospital.
Morgan went into labor on a Saturday evening and I headed over around midnight. She is a very laid back mama and it was hard to tell how far along she was at first but the contractions were regular and felt strong. She is a crafty mama too and we enjoyed seeing some of the latest additions to the room including a mural of Ganesh on her closet door by the birthing tub. Ganesh--the overcomer of obstacles is a good god to be watching over you in labor!
Around 4 am on January 8, 2012 Morgan began pushing and soon after her bag of waters released. Often when the water breaks at that stage of labor and one has already had a vaginal birth the baby comes very soon after. When that didn't happen it seems to confirm our already strong suspicion the baby was posterior. Morgan was going to really have to work for this one! She got into McRoberts position (i.e. the position pretty flat on your back with your legs up by your ears that most folks think you never get into in a homebirth but sometimes is the best one for the baby to come out especially if posterior) and the baby started moving down more effectively. Soon after getting in that position the baby came around the curve of the birth canal and Morgan was able to feel "Frog's" head -- big brother Toby had named the baby Frog!
Zoe Indigo was born soon after weighing in at 7 lbs and indeed being born "sunny side up" or as my assistant Ana taught us it is called in Germany as a "stargazer". Thanks to Janeyne who was assisting me at this birth and complied with my excited request to get a picture of the baby and Morgan looking at each other when the head came out and Morgan was the amazing two-headed lady for a brief moment before she pushed out the rest of the body! And thanks for Morgan for being willing to share the pic!
Baby Zoe did the breast crawl and got a few good sucks in and some skin-to-skin time with mom and snuggles with daddy Keith (who was such a great support to Morgan throughout!) right after the birth which was so precious as that didn't happen in the hospital with her son. Big brother Toby slept the whole time but was very excited and a big overwhelmed to find out he had a sister when he woke!
Belinda wasn't due until Christmas eve so I was very surprised when I heard from her and Eric early in the morning of December 4th! But after an hour it was clear this wasn't warm-up later as her surges were coming every 3-4 minutes and getting stronger! When I arrived Belinda was working hard but doing a beautiful job relaxing with the contractions. Eric got the tub ready and she found some relief during transition in the warm water.
Belinda was strong and steady as she moved from the tub to the birth stool to her side in bed as she breathed her baby down and out. 7lb 5 oz Cal Arthur's head emerged after a slow gentle crowning while Belinda smiled from ear to ear with joy and relief!
His body slipped out with the next contraction and much to all of our delight this sweet little boy did the breast crawl and started nursing on his own minutes after the birth! Big brother Sam slept through the whole labor but joined his family soon after to welcome baby Cal. Congratulations to this great family!
Sarah and Ben were expecting baby number four just before Christmas. Sarah had a history of very fast labors so when she started having contractions on Thursday December 15th we all thought it was going to be the day and rushed over to her house. But her sweet little boy wasn't quite ready so we all just got to enjoy eating some of Sarah's amazing cooking for a few hours and then decided we needed to wait and let the little boy pick his birthday. Baby Blake was apparently set on being a Thursday's child--just not Thursday the 15th. Early in the morning of the solstice Thursday December 22nd I got a call that this was the real deal. I raced out the door on the unseasonably balmy first day of winter and got a text when I was minutes away that Sarah's water had broken. I knew that meant that the baby was coming quickly.
Sure enough 7lb 9oz Blake was being caught by his daddy Ben as I was pulling up in front of their house! It was perfect and just as it was meant to be. I came in a caught the placenta and checked on the baby and this strong, healthy mama. All was perfect! Sarah and Ben were calm and happy and big brother Tyler and sisters Cassidy and Ava were ecstatic and lovingly welcomed their little brother! What a lovely solstice gift and early Christmas present! Congratulations!
ps-As I left Sarah's Meredith called to inform me that another mama was in labor! What a solstice! More on that birth soon!
pps- Sarah made these amazing and yummy Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip muffins while up with early contractions at 2:30 am so we got to enjoy fresh muffins as we celebrated Blake's speedy and healthy arrival! Here's the recipe! Enjoy!
Chocolate Banana Muffins - Organic and Vegan Yields 12 muffins
1 3/4 cups spelt flour 1 1 /2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas 2/3 cups maple syrup (grade b) 2/3 cup softened coconut oil 2/3 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tray with coconut oil.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the mashed banana and syrup, and oil. Stir just until all the flour is sbsorbed. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Portion the batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Marisa and Chris came late to the homebirth decision. We had spoken earlier in her pregnancy but she had decided to just stick with working with midwives in the hospital setting. But as the birth grew closer she realized that in her heart she really wanted to have her baby at home. Her first appointment was her 36 week home visit and we all jumped into the journey together full force! At 39 weeks Marisa thought she was going into labor but things were very inconsistent still. We decided to keep in touch over the afternoon and I started heading back into the city from the Western Philly suburbs where I was with family. Right as I was pulling up to my house Marisa called reporting they were coming every 3 minutes all the sudden and strong! It was a Monday so Martin was in New York. My babysitter was on her way home from work to watch Itzela but given it was baby number two and rush hour I couldn't wait the 30 minutes til my babysitter arrived. I headed over with Itzela in tow and my friend and sister Motherland Mama Inga agreed to meet me in the rain at rush hour with her two kids at the house to pick up Itzy (thanks Inga!!). We arrived and dad Chris put on Dora the Explorer in the living room for Itzela who was nonplussed having Marisa in transition in the bathroom just 4 feet away. Itzy knows her mommy is a midwife and "a midwife helps mommies and babies" so we talked in the car on the way about the fact that mommy had to help this other mommy and I needed her to just wait for Inga while I worked. She said "ok mommy!". My little midwife helper.
Anyway, back to Marisa!!! She was on the toilet laboring hard with the support of husband Chris and her friend Rikki who is an acupuncturist and doula in training. It seemed like the baby was going to come very soon. But after her water broke while on the birth stool things didn't progress as quickly as I expected. Looking at her belly it seemed the baby had rotated posterior as he was finding his way through the birth canal. We did some positional things to help the baby get in a better position but at this point Marisa was full-on pushing and baby was descending. Ana arrived just before baby 7lb 10oz Benjamin emerged "sunny-side up" and Marisa brought him to her belly.
Marisa was amazing and Chris was calm and excited about his first baby! I'm so glad this sweet family made the switch to homebirth! Congratulations!
Maria had been at my house at 5 pm on November 14th so I could check on the baby's heartbeat. She was around 41 weeks and we just were making sure the baby was moving ok and still happy being on the inside. Maria had been at acupuncture earlier in the afternoon. As she was leaving my house at 5:30 pm she started to have a few contractions. We joked about the baby coming in the next few hours as my mom who was my childcare had just left (since Maria was my only client in her birthing window, was a first-time mom and wasn't in labor) and Martin wasn't going to be home for a few hours. Maria got home and sure enough contractions picked up. By the time her husband Matt was home from work at 6:30 pm she was having contractions every 6-8 minutes. Within an hour they were coming every 5 minutes and super strong and I got ready to head over. As I was packing up my car Matt called saying he thought Maria was pushing! Ahh! I was delayed a couple blocks from my house when I apparently -with the surge of adrenaline - didn't exactly stop for a stop sign and had to explain to the police I was racing to catch a baby. Thankfully they waved me on and I arrived, parked illegally and ran up the three flights of steps to find Maria in the midst of a furiously strong contraction and sure enough sounding like she was pushing! Matt asked me if he should fill the tub and I told him it was way too late for that! Maria remembers after I said that there was a pause during which Matt realized the birth was happening NOW! Exciting! I did a quick check and she was 10 cm with a bulging bag of waters. Maria was amazing! Matt exclaimed- "What a Motherland Mama you are!" in his excitement and was so sweet and supportive. Maria moved to the birth stool and began pushing began in earnest. Janeyne was on her way and arrived just before the baby was born.What an exciting and unexpectedly rapid labor!
8lb 4oz Anders Paolo was born at 9:57 pm- less than 5 hours after Maria left my house having no more than sporadic short contractions--wow! Talk about fast and furious! Daddy Matt was very impressed shouting "This is the most awesome birth ever!" Congratulations to this sweet family!
Liz and Jared were due on 11/11/11- what a cool due date! As some blood pressure concerns arose the end of pregnancy Liz was super diligent about nutritional and alternative ways to help keep her BP under control. She went into labor the night of 11/9. It was a hard labor pattern and her body had a difficult time keeping anything down as the surges came. When her water broke and there was pretty thick meconium in the fluid and we were still in the first part of labor, we all decided the hospital was the safest place to be and knew Liz could benefit from IV fluids since she was nauseous and throwing up too. Baby Julian Felix was born Wednesday November 10th weighing in at 8lb 11oz.
He was such a cutie with a lot of hair and just plain adorable! Julian spent a week in the NICU due to respiratory concerns that the doctors thing were due to an infection that developed during her labor. Liz recovered beautifully and was soon able to nurse her son and was very calm and present with him through it all. He went home at a week old healthy and strong and an amazing breastfeeding baby!
Snow in October in Philadelphia is not a common occurrence. But after this year's weather, we all know anything is possible. So when I heard from Ammie and Schuyler early on the morning of the 29th that early labor had begun, as we prepared to set out for some snowy Halloween parties, I wasn't at all surprised. Both because I had a feeling Ammie wasn't going to wait for November to have her baby, and because big changes in weather often bring on labors!
Contraction waves stayed about the same for the day and the family (big "brother" Toby the dog included) went on a snowy walk in Mount Airy. Close to midnight Ammie's water bag released and things intensified so Janeyne and I headed over. It was such a treat to see several inches of snow on all the fall trees in Mount Airy, a veritable pre-winter wonderland, in contrast to just the sleet and slush in South Philly. Those couple degrees of heat in the heart of the city make a big difference I suppose!
This yoga mama was relaxing well through the contractions and mostly upright in her bed. That yogic breathing is so helpful for labor--Ammie's powerful breath directed the energy of her surges and things were moving along. But baby Bhima (sanskrit for "The Mighty One") was still working through things on his journey. Mama cajoled her son encouraging him to cross the threshold into life on the outside and making sure he knew they were ready and he was most welcome! At one point she said, "Let freedom ring Bhima-it's time to be born!".
As dawn approached we were all a bit surprised to not have met this little one yet. I encouraged Ammie to try some squats with Schuyler supporting her as she really did not like the birth stool but we wanted some gravity and to help her really sink into the sensation of the baby moving down. That was the trick-- what a sight to see this loving, strong, couple both squatting for most of a half an hour with no other support than each other. Ammie really began to moan and move the baby downward and Schuyler was quietly focused on supporting her and reminding her he was there for her to lean on and to offer strength and love for their family. At one point during this time, Ammie finished a contraction and with wide, beautiful eyes shared, "It's not about opening your cervix, it's about opening your whole heart!". And then just after saying that, exclaimed, "Something's happening!". We shifted back into the bedroom and after a bit more work including some hip rocking to help baby navigate the pelvis, Bhima's head emerged. Ammie was semi-reclined on the bed with Schuyler behind her helping her pull back her knees towards her ears during her pushes. With Ammie being as incredibly flexible as she is this was quite a sight as her knees were literally up behind her ears really accentuating the passage of the baby through the birth canal towards crowning. The parents had a great view from that vantage point of seeing the head slowly emerge and baby Bhima moving his head around even as it passed through the ring of fire- those babies are such active participants in their births working with their strong mamas!
6 lb 13 oz Bhima latched right onto mama's breast and had continued to be an amazing nursling gaining weight like crazy! Ammie & Schuyler & Bhima snuggled up together for a snowy Sunday in October- what a (trick-or-) treat! And little Bhima is another early EC baby-he's even learning to signal for pees at 10 days old! Wow!
Cheryl and Tim are a lovely, kind, compassionate couple that live in the Camden Community House in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden and are very involved in efforts to bring social and environmental justice and resources for positive change to their community and city. Martin, Itzela and I are occasional attendees of the church they do work with and through--Sacred Heart--and so we've gotten to know them through church and another Motherland family, Cassie, Chris and Simon Haw. Itzela and Lydia have become buddies, especially through prenatal visits (where Lydia perfected her fetoscope skills per the photo here!) and playing in the back of the church. It has been fun to see the girls get to know each other more throughout Cheryl's pregnancy--to the point that now when Itzela and I have come to the house she says, "No church, just Lydia's house". Timothy is such a fun, engaged dad (and, as we saw during the labor-an engaged, loving partner) that Itzela often talks about him and asks for "Michael Jackson dance parties with Lydia's daddy".
I attended a Mother Blessing for Cheryl and the common theme of the women sharing their thoughts was Cheryl's quiet strength. It is a constant yet subtle presence in her day-to-day life and that carried through into her labor as well. As did her subtle and wry humor--always fun when mamas can keep their sense of humor through labor (though understandable when mamas can't too!) With Cheryl's first birth she had taken castor oil after her membranes had been open for awhile, so she was looking forward to spontaneous onset of labor this time around. After a few bouts of warm up labor weeks before her due date, early labor set in the morning of her 41st week of pregnancy. Timothy has written a lovely, detailed account of the labor and birth that I'm hoping they'll share on the website, but I'll share a few of my favorite thoughts/moments.
Cheryl and Timothy really made an impression on Ana with how connected they were through each surge and how Timothy was completely and deeply present to Cheryl for each moment of the labor even as he jotted down notes about the journey to record the story for the baby.
When I decided it made sense to do the rebozo sifting of the belly to help get the baby's head aligned better, we offered to pile up pillows for Cheryl (who was on her hands and knees while I did the rebozo) to rest on in between contractions. But Timothy wanted to be helpful so he made himself into a human table for Cheryl to rest on (a phenomenon that I've witnessed before in labors but never ceases to move me!).
Lydia came into the room after missing mommy and after a few cuddles and kisses with mom, decided to give some direction by saying, "Baby come out. Now!!".
Even with her focus on birthing her baby, Cheryl really wanted to make sure that the post-baby lasagna Timothy had prepared was defrosting and then getting heated up for her-- she knew she'd be hungry!
When Cheryl was on the birth stool getting into the groove of pushing, I asked her at the end of the contraction how it felt to push and she commented "It feels crowded". We all got a good laugh at that! Little did Cheryl know she'd be holding her baby only minutes later!
Baby Matteo Justus Shenk emerged at 1:22 pm weighing 8lb 9oz with his big sister Lydia there to greet him with her parents and auntie's Cassie and Kristin. Timothy sang his son a welcoming song and Cheryl was able to gather up baby from between her knees and enjoy that Golden Hour postpartum with her son and family despite a bit of bleeding (which our team of Ana, Kate Aseron of Rising Moon -who had been at Lydia's birth, and I handled smoothly together--go midwives!). And little Matteo was doing poops and pees into the potty bucket just a couple days after his birth! I even got to EC (Elimination Communication) him at one of the home visits : )
Itzela joined me on a home postpartum visit the day after the birth to have a little playdate with Lydia and her grandparents. Later that afternoon Itzela told me she wanted to be a sister--so Lydia must have really been doing a great job and enjoying her new role in the family!
Welcome Matteo! And congratulations to this sweet family!
Yolonda and Isaiah and their family moved to South Jersey when they were about 33 weeks pregnant and found me just in time to make plans for a homebirth! They had 5 girls and 1 boy and their last baby had been born at home in Ohio with a midwife I know from doing midwifery/birth political work nationally. This sweet family was excited for a homebirth to christen their new home. Yolonda had typically had long labors even with having birthed a number of babies. This time around however, she had a lot of warm up labor from Saturday night through the week until Thursday but the bouts of contractions kept stopping after a period of time. It was my hope that after all that warming up, the main event would be much faster for this quiet powerful mama. And that was certainly the case!
Isaiah called just after midnight on the 7th to report it seemed like this was the real deal. Ana and I arrived within 45 minutes and it certainly appeared like Yolonda was in active labor. She had warned us she was a very calm laborer (so calm her midwife had missed her last birth because it seemed so early on) so we had that info. Ana had also seen her earlier in the day when she was having regular (but in restrospect much calmer) contractions and could attest to the fact that the surges we were witnessing that night were much stronger. Yolonda's two oldest daughters were helping out timing contractions and awaiting the new arrival. Very soon after we arrived things shifted into a stronger pattern and before we new it Yolonda had the urge to push. After a beautiful slow gentle crowning baby Taja (all 7 kids have "T" name) was born in the water into Ana's excited, caring hands- marking her first baby catch on American soil! Soon after the other big sisters and brother appeared to great the newest addition to this big happy family. The family preferred to let the cord dry on its own for a Lotus birth so we tucked the mama, baby and placenta (wrapped in a bag and then in a container) into bed before we were on our way a few hours later.
Ana joyfully proclaimed, "These are the births I've always read about! I'm going to dream about this one!" as she reflected on how happy she was to have the opportunity to assist at low intervention natural childbirths in the home setting. It's been lovely to work with Ana and share experiences with one another and it was wonderful to see her so happy to serve this family!
Congratulations to Yolonda and Isaiah and family, and to Ana too!
Michelle and Lee Clemmer patiently waited to meet their child as their due date came and went around Labor Day and they saw other families in the practice due after them welcome their little ones. When Michelle 18 days past her due date and the baby's fluid levels had suddenly dropped we decided to try castor oil after three days of acupuncture hadn't gotten labor started. Michelle's full moon belly was impressive and she was strong and determined as she moved around her home and went on long walks trying to help her body move into labor. Her water broke after taking the castor oil (nice clear fluid even at that gestation for the healthy mom and baby!) but we still were unable to get into active labor after 18 hours at home and the decision was made to continue the induction efforts in the hospital. The test of endurance and patience continued there as the hospital staff used the tools they had to get Michelle's cervix favorable for the use of pitocin.
After 18+ hours in the hospital Michelle was handling the contractions she had beautifully but the medications we tried had not worked to the point pitocin could be used. At that time the difficult but reasonable (given the gestation, open bag of waters with GBS and challenge getting any regular labor going) decision to have a C-section was made as it seemed that the baby was maybe communicating that he or she didn't want mom to go into labor. With Lee's love and support and Michelle's eye towards a long life with a healthy baby, this sweet couple shifted gears to excitedly celebrating the birth of 11lb 8oz (!) Jack Albert Clemmer on Sunday Septebmer 25th! We were expecting a 10 lb+ baby but were all impressed with his size. Jack was the third baby in three days for Motherland that weekend!
Jack is almost unbearably cute and an excellent nurser-mama Michelle was over the moon when Jack latched in recovery soon after birth. Michelle is absolutely delighted to be a mom and falling more and more in love with Jack each day and Lee has become a championship baby wearing daddy!
It was such an honor to see the family move through this challenging journey with grace, humility, love and perspective on the long-term vision of their family life together.