Welcome My Healthy Beginning Bradley birth baby Cece!
Cecelia’s story actually starts a year before she was born. In February 2012 I was elated to see that blue line on the pee stick that meant so much more to me than a simple “positive.” We had created life and I felt so giddy, only to be devastated about six weeks later when my OB told me to prepare myself for a miscarriage. I was heart broken. I only include this detail because, for me, it is a part of the story of how Cecelia was brought into this world. From day one of that first pregnancy I kept a journal, chronicling the emotional roller coast of life and loss. A few months later when I learned I was pregnant again, I tried not to get my hopes up, but I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming sense of joy and wonderment at how things must so perfectly align to create life (I still sit in awe at how babies are such miracles!). I share this creation story only because despite the fact that I lost the first so early on, I had loved that baby with fervor. That love only grew stronger when I found out I was pregnant for the second time. Cecelia was a strong one right from conception, and she continues to prove that to us at her current age of five months old. The pain of the miscarriage followed by the hope that came with new life growing inside me kept me grounded through the following nine months of my life.
The miscarriage experience is part of Cecelia’s story and some day I will share with the her the handprint that both her and the one that came before have left on my heart.
That being said, by the time I hit 38 weeks, I was crawling with anticipation, desperately wanting to meet my little girl; to discover what she looked like, learn her personality, and love her to pieces. I have to smile thinking about the fact that our birth doula and Bradley birth instructor, Nichi Hirsch Kuechle, had repeatedly told us to prepare to go to 44 weeks- so that I would not feel that anxiousness that I just described! Ha. I am the kind that plans, organizes and executes, so when it seemed like baby was going to stay in there all comfy and cozy forever, I tried everything I could think of (within reason) to strongly encourage her way out.
This taught me lesson #1 as a new parent: you are no longer in charge; that little tiny human, yeah, the one that relies on you for everything, s/he’s the boss!
After attempting to use acupressure points, vigorous daily walks, squatting, inversions, and the ball, and trying to talk baby out, my due date, Valentine’s Day, came and went. Two days later, as I was starting to resign to the fact that I could be facing two more weeks, Aaron, my husband, and I decided that a shot at sex couldn’t hurt and might actually help. Well, I still contend that this is how Cecelia’s BIRTHday got rolling – you know those doulas and midwives that tell you what got the baby in there also gets them out, they are right! Within about 30 minutes I noticed I had lost what I thought was a part of my mucus plug, my forewaters had broken, and I had started mild contractions. One of the things that I was dying to experience in the labor process were the contractions.
It probably sounds silly that I was excited to experience the pain of labor, but for me, experiencing those contractions and the pain to follow was a sort of rite of passage into motherhood that was incredibly significant for my personal growth and transition into a place in my life where I felt more confident and secure with who I was than I had ever felt before.
Of course now looking back, I know I felt pain, but I can’t for the life of me recall the specific sensations. I guess that’s why a few days after giving birth I was ready for another one!
From the onset my contractions seemed to be somewhat consistent, coming every 5-8 minutes or so, with the occasional longer period of about 10 minutes. My loving husband and supportive labor coach from the start faithfully timed each contraction with his handy-dandy app he had downloaded weeks prior in preparation for this event.
A fly on the wall would have witnessed me sitting on the toilet and yelling to Aaron downstairs “start!” and “stop!” as each contraction passed.
My contractions had started around 12:30pm on Saturday, February 16th. At some point in the afternoon, Aaron called our midwife, Amy, and also contacted our doula, Nichi. Amy suggested I go for a walk, have a bath, take a nap and eat something. So, we bundled up and went for a short walk around the pond near our house, stopping every couple of minutes to let a contraction pass, and then continuing on, chatting and enjoying each other’s company. After that second walk of the day for me, I took a bath and Aaron made me some scrambled eggs while we played a board game and watched one of our favorite shows, FRIENDS. I tried to do as I was told to help move things along, but a nap was just not going to happen. I couldn’t lay down comfortably; sitting on the toilet or the balance ball or standing and swaying was the only thing that felt comfortable. I didn’t know what to make of this because at the time I thought the timing and the fact that I had to stop what I was doing during a contraction meant something significant. Clearly they weren’t that bad when I could take a bath, walk around, and make food without too much of a bother.
At some point as the contractions got a bit stronger, I realized I needed counter-pressure on my hips. During every contraction from there on out, I had Aaron standing behind me pressing the sides of my hips towards the centerline of my body. It was the only thing I wanted throughout the entire labor process. Aaron was a trooper for never once complaining that his arms hurt or that he had to drop everything he was doing to be at my side the moment a contraction came on.
The way this daddy showed his love and support for, me, the mother of his child, was almost as amazing as the work my body did to bring Cecelia into this world.
By 8pm, Aaron was getting antsy to leave for the Health Foundations Birth Center, probably nervous that he would get stuck delivering our baby on the kitchen floor, like one birth story we had heard. Around 9pm we decided to make the 30 minute drive to the birth center. We made plans to meet our doula, Nichi, her apprentice, Eve, and our birth photographer, Annie Wiegers, there. The car ride was interesting, to say the least. We made it there without issue, but I just remember spending the entire ride sort of bracing myself and grabbing hold of the handle above the door during every contraction, as Aaron was not able to give me the counter-pressure I so desperately wanted in that moment.
When we arrived at the birth center, Amy checked me, but per my birth plan, I did not want to be made aware of how far I was dilated/effaced; I had not been checked during my prenatal appointments up until that point. Later, after the birth, I found out that I was only at 3cm when I got there around 10pm! I’m glad now that I hadn’t known then. Keeping this in mind, Amy asked me to start walking the stairs, two at a time to help me open up. I started making my rounds, up the stairs, around the yoga studio on the second level, back down the stairs, and repeat. When a contraction wave hit, Aaron faithfully squeezed my hips as hard as he could while our doula, Nichi and her apprentice, Eve, would drop to all fours to provide a table-top support for me to lean over. At some point, I said I only wanted Aaron to be squeezing my hips, because he offered the strongest vice; I’m not sure if I actually said this out loud, but in my memory, I screamed it, while I’m sure in reality if I did say it, it was probably pretty quiet.
I moved into the shower, and just as I did, another wave came rumbling through me, immediately Aaron dropped to all fours to support me, fully clothed on the wet floor of the shower. That night I think Aaron would have gone to the ends of the earth for me if I asked him to; he was such a strong and silent rock for me during this journey (and still continues to be). There is a definite point in the labor experience that I recall allowing myself to let go and give in to the pain.
When I started to release control, I hadn’t even realized that I had been holding on so tight for all the hours that had come before.
It was in the shower where I think baby and I did most of the work. During every contraction I would move into a deep squat and allow the physical sensations to take over. I know I kept asking to get in the birthing tub for some relief, and I could tell Amy and Nichi were trying to hold me off. I also remember turning to Aaron multiple times and telling him that I just wanted to be done, that I couldn’t do it anymore. I also kept thinking to myself, “If I were just in a hospital I could get an epidural!”
For the record, I am SO glad I was not in a hospital and that pain medications were not available to me!
I spent the whole time in the shower with my eyes closed, focused within, unaware of most of what was happening around me. I spent pretty much the rest of the labor experience with my eyes mostly closed, almost in a trance-like state, focusing only on the present, moment to moment. I had no idea what time it was or how many hours had passed. Once I moved from the shower to the tub, I got some relief and was even able to fall asleep in between contractions. Most of this time is pretty foggy for me. I have bits and pieces of memories of loud vocalization, feeling as though my arms were shaking (I don’t actually know if they really were), and being reminded by Nichi to relax my face and bring my voice down low. All the while, Aaron and Nichi switched off sitting behind me on the edge of the tub supporting me and switching out the cold washcloths that Eve dutifully continued to rewet with ice cold water all night long.
If you’re ever wondering what a doula can do for you (um, besides the invaluable job of providing undying support and encouragement), remember that they are great at feeding you and keeping you hydrated!
Eve held the water bottle up to my lips, fed me bits of dried fruit and other concoctions Nichi and Eve had packed in their bags, and she even put my hair in a pony and moistened my lips with vaseline on demand!
I think Amy assumed it would be a while before this baby was coming out, so some time when I was in the shower, she and my other midwife, Monica, decided to take a snooze. I think my animalistic noises surprised them, because they hadn’t expected me to be in transition so soon. By the time Amy checked me in the tub, I was starting to feel the urge to push. Amy gently told me there was a small lip left on my cervix (aka: I was at 9cm) so I couldn’t push yet. So here I was, following Amy’s instructions to “puh-puh-puh” (that’s the best way I can describe the sound I was told to make with my mouth to avoid bearing down during every contraction). To help things along, Amy held her hand against the cervical lip during each contraction to assist in full dilation.
Then it was time to push. I pushed in the tub, I pushed on the bed on all fours (that’s when I started throwing up), and I pushed on the birthing stool. It was then that Amy recommended she put in an IV to give me a sugar boost because I had been throwing up and was loosing steam. I remember even from when I started pushing in the tub that I could feel the hair on my baby’s soft head when I reached down after pushing. I recall checking over and over after every surge of pushing, to see if she had moved any further down, and started to get frustrated that nothing much was changing. While on the birthing stool I was given a mirror so I could really see Cecelia’s head making its way out. I could tell that Amy kept moving me from one position to another because things were sort of stalling. I wouldn’t say that I ever lost confidence in myself that I could bring this baby into the world on my own, but I started to struggle with catching my breath in between contractions and pushing. Luckily, I had a team of people surrounding me on the birth stool encouraging me, telling me how strong I was, that Cece was right there, and reminding me to slow my breathing.
I clearly recall feeling that “ring of fire” we had heard Nichi talk about during the Bradley classes and then sweet release as the rest of her body came sliding out of me.
In the end, I had moved to the bed, lying on my back (who would have thought this was what would do it?!) and I pushed my beautiful girl right out into Aaron’s awaiting hands. Cecelia Marie was born after 16 hours of labor on Sunday, February 17th, 2013 at 4:30am at 7lbs. 6oz. and 21 inches. I took her in my arms and I couldn’t see anything else around me but my beautiful baby and my wonderful husband. The discomfort of Amy massaging my uterus and the shot of pitocin in my leg to stop the bleeding was far overshadowed by the intense attachment and feeling as if I already knew this little person so well.
Despite the fact that Cece was so alert, gazing at me with her big wondering eyes, she never screamed out. She was given a few puffs of oxygen and we held an oxygen mask on her face for a while, but never heard even a whimper. Perhaps she was more intrigued by this whole new world of hers, than shocked, so a scream wasn’t necessary. She didn’t immediate latch on either. She really just seemed to be taking it all in and was savoring the process without need for urgency to cry or feed. That’s really who she is to this day – my silent observer, just taking it all in (my friend calls her an “old soul”).
Because of this so-called “respiratory distress,” which wasn’t really distress at all since she was breathing on her own and her heart beat was good, the non-emergency team from Children’s Hospital was called and they asked to take her back to the hospital just to make sure everything was alright.
I was in baby-love land, so I handed her over after cuddling with her for an hour. Aaron and Nichi went with Cecelia to the NICU while I stayed at the birth center for a couple hours to get cleaned up and eat something. No stitches were needed, so I showered and ate a yummy ham and cheese croissant that Eve ran out and picked up for me as soon as Bread & Chocolate opened at 7 a.m., and I felt the much needed refreshment that I later realized I had needed in order to face what was coming next.
When I arrived in the NICU, I walked in to the nurse putting in a feeding tube to administer formula to Cece. I lost it. This was not in the birth plan! I wanted to breastfeed and bond with my baby, and when I told the nurse this, she snapped at me that my baby needed this and it couldn’t wait (but props to Aaron for advocating on our behalf and refusing to let the nurse give a bottle). This nurse made it sound like a matter of life and death, which obviously it wasn’t since babies are born with a full tummy. When Cecelia had arrived at the hospital, they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. The only thing that came up was low blood sugar, and guess why? Because she hadn’t had time to nurse after birth yet! But in my fragility as a new mama, I didn’t have the energy to fight anymore than that. So that was it. My baby was just given formula for her first feeding.
I had a good cry, then picked myself up and told the nurse that Cecelia would not be receiving any more formula; I was determined to make breastfeeding a success.
From there on out Cece successfully breastfed, and guess what, her sugars were higher with the breast milk than with the formula, wouldn’t you know it! We stayed in the NICU for the next 24 hours for “observation” and they still couldn’t give us any good reason why Cece needed to stay other than to watch her sugars. This baby was not sick, clearly! We stayed about 20 hours longer than we really should have. If there was one thing I wish I had done differently in this whole experience, it would have been to follow my gut and walk myself and my baby right out of that hospital, because being poked and prodded for the next 24 hours for no good reason in my book, was not an enjoyable first day of life for any of us.
This was lesson #2 as a new parent: trust your gut; you are the parent and you know your child best – you can give your child what they need more than any doctor or nurse can.
Little did we know as we left Children’s hospital the next day, it would not be Cecelia’s last visit… Two weeks later we were back in the hospital, as Cece was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s Disease and needed surgery. She had a follow up surgery at four months old. But, like I already mentioned, my little bug is a strong and resilient one, and I can just about guarantee that she will be a stubborn and driven adult, doing things in her own way on her own time. I will always be one proud mama.
If you have made it this far through my story, congratulations, you are either a mama-to-be that has time to bide before you meet your little joy, or you are a mama who has a baby nice enough to allow you a few minutes of time to yourself for renewal and decompression. Either way I appreciate you sticking it out with me. One of the ways I renew my spirit as a mama is by reading amazing and inspiring birth stories.
For me, it gives me a sense of community with all you other mamas who care to inform and educate yourself about the world, your fellow women, and about yourself – your preferences, your beliefs and your value as a bearer of life.
Pregnancy, birth and parenting is a journey, and albeit hard, it’s rewarding as heck.
Now, five months later, I am still loving mommyhood. Having Cecelia has given me a purpose and a drive I never knew I was missing before she came into our lives.
I have never felt more confident or secure in who I am until I became a mama. Something inside me just clicked and told me. “you have it all, be content and satisfied.” And I was. Still am.
Cecelia at one day old and at 3 months old
Photo credit: Annie Wiegers Photography
When are YOU going to start planning your natural birth?