Saturday, December 29, 2007

My homebirth at the hospital

Here is my birth story.

My water broke at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, December 18. I woke Matthew. We called the midwife and then tried to go back to sleep. Later, I spent a little time working from home, but decided to call it a day around 2 p.m. when I started getting mild contractions. We planned to have a homebirth, so when the contractions got stronger, my midwife, Alice, and a student midwife, Juno, arrived at our house on Tuesday evening. Things were progressing normally and by about midnight I was into active labor. But then, my contractions sort of tapered off and became less frequent.

On Wednesday evening, Liz, my birth assistant and a doula, arrived. My birth team tried all sorts of things in their bag of tricks to stimulate contractions. I did a shot of castor oil. I took tincture of black cohosh. I drank raspberry leaf tea. I took showers. Matthew and I took several short walks outdoors. We slow danced. We made out. All of these things would work for a while and then peeter off again. Eventually, I was nearly 10 centimeters dilated, but my dilation was not complete because there was still a rim of a little less than half of my cervix that hadn’t totally opened up.

When Thursday morning rolled around and not much had changed, we decided that it was time to consider plan B: going to the hospital. I was very disappointed. Matthew was very worried about me. In the end, no one told us what to do. It was our decision. Finally, I accepted that it was the best plan. Since my water had broken, the risk for infection increased as time passed. Also, I had been up for two nights in a row and exhaustion was bound to set in. I could still try to have my baby at home, but if things didn’t change I might end up later having to transfer to the hospital as an emergency, in an ambulance. By going now, I could still be in control of my options. Alice thought a little bit of pitocin, an artificial version of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates contractions, would help me open up the rest of the way. So, by mid-day on Thursday, we were all on our way to the hospital, in a very calm way, in our own cars.

I had a few things working in my favor. My water remained clear, which meant no meconium and probably no infection. The baby's heart rate was great the entire time, and my vitals were perfect. No one was in distress.

The other thing I had on my side was my team. They all came with me to the hospital and stayed for the entire process. I honestly don't think I could have done it without them.

At home, even though I wasn’t fully dilated, I was already having the urge to push. But, when I arrived at the hospital, the nurses and doctor made me stop pushing. This was so hard because my body wanted to go there.

Getting through these pushing contractions was very difficult, especially since they were so much stronger because of the pitocin. The presence and encouragement of my birth team and Matthew was so important as I managed the powerful contractions stimulated by the pitocin, fended off offers of an epidural that I had already very clearly stated I did not want, as well as a veiled threat of a c-section, and finally dilated the last bit.

Alice kept me focused on not pushing by helping me breathe. I'll never forget holding her hands and staring at her face and chanting with her. Liz vigorously rubbed my hips (called the apple shake) -- a sensation I desperately needed. Juno, the student midwife, kept sweetly encouraging me with her kind words. And, Matthew did all of these things throughout the process and then some. Getting an epidural did cross my mind more than once toward the end, when I was doubting I could get through it. (I know now this was a sign that I was just about ready to push!) But, my team kept me focused on taking it one contraction at a time. When they finally checked me and told me I was fully dilated and that I could resume pushing, I nearly jumped off the table with sheer joy!

But, I also knew my hard work was not done. With all my remaining strength, I pushed for about three hours. In the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink, but Matthew and Liz conspired to secretly add honey to my cup of ice chips in an attempt to replenish my energy. At one point, my movements during pushing knocked out my pitocin IV. The nurse was going to leave it out since I had almost finished the bag, but Alice, knowing how low my energy was and how much I needed the help, spoke up and said, "We came here for the pit and we're going to get the pit." Then, the nurse scrambled to replace my IV. I certainly wasn't willing to push and use up my last bit of energy without a very strong contraction. I knew I only had so much left in me. Later, the nurse told Alice she was right.

I don’t know where I found the strength but I dug down and finally pushed my baby out without further medical interventions. I have never, ever worked so hard at anything in my life. When they put Jonah on my belly, and my sister and my dad came in the room, I think I was the only person in the room not crying. Maybe I didn’t have the energy, but I also think along with the joy of seeing our baby boy, I felt such a strong sense of accomplishment and pride. Having gone through what I've been calling my "homebirth at the hospital," I feel like I could do anything. It's a feeling I wish for every woman to experience. ~ Nicole

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's a boy!

We've just returned from the hospital with our 28 hour old son Jonah. He is simply amazing. Healthy and beautiful. Much more to come on his birth. It was an experience like no other. We are so so happy. Time to settle in and get to know each other. - Matthew, Nicole & Jonah.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Snippets from our week

A White House Christmas
President Bush asked me about my baby the other night. No, I had a discussion with him and the first lady about our baby. OK, I'll admit it was a very brief discussion, lasting the few seconds it took to have our photo taken with them at the White House Christmas party.

"When's it comin'?" the president said, after we shook hands.

It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about, but then I said, "Three weeks!"

"A Christmas baby!" he said, and we all faced the camera.

Then, Mrs. Bush, who I assume is better at math, said, "Or, a New Year's baby."

Snap, flash -- "Merry Christmas!" they said -- and it was over. A fun little story to tell the baby someday.

Doula, or Aqua Doula, to the rescue!
Liz visited us the other night. In case you forgot, she's our birth assistant and a doula. She's going to help us have the baby.

"Happy Hanukkah!" she said, handing me a big, folded up sheet of plastic. Ah, the personal liner for our birthing tub, AKA "Aqua Doula." (Every time I hear that word I think of a superhero named AQUADOULA!)

The previous day had been Liz's birthday and she had henna on her hands and feet -- a birthday gift. We sat on the floor in the baby's room -- which is basically just a catch-all for all the baby gear -- and she made sure we had all of our supplies. She stuffed all the receiving blankets and two tiny baby hats into the cover over the heating pad so it would be ready to go. She wrapped one of our bowls in a plastic bag (for the placenta -- yup, that's right, folks). And, she witnessed a brief argument between Matthew and me about washcloths.

Then, she felt my belly, listened to the baby's heartbeat with her cool fetascope and "sifted" the baby using the red wrap from my wedding day as her rebozo, after leaving hers in her car. It makes us happy whenever she visits, spreading her positive vibes all over our house.

No more cankles
We're skipping a bunch of parties this weekend, holiday and other kinds. We got invited to four parties in two days. We are going to one. Mostly, because I need to rest. It's hard because I love the holidays and love parties! But, with less than three weeks until my due date, it's time to take it easy.

My blood pressure was a bit elevated at my last prenatal appointment earlier this week. But then, after I rested on my side for five minutes, the next reading was normal. A bit concerning, but not a big deal as many women experience this late in pregnancy. (Good news: I'm negative for Group B strep, which means no IV! Yay!)

Later, after a long day at the office, I stopped in at Macy's to buy some pantyhose (thigh highs so they didn't have to fit the belly) and decided to check out the shoe department. I pulled off my sock to try on a pair of killer pumps (which I have absolutely no business wearing, but a girl can dream) and noticed that my ankle looked, well, broken. All swollen and puffy and ugly. And, yes, the other one was bad, too. Ugh.

I immediately thought: high blood pressure plus swelling equals not good. Rather than worrying about it all night, I called a midwife. She ran through a list of other symptoms, none of which I had, which was good. She advised that I eat a high protein dinner, drink lots of fluids, and rest, rest, rest. I did as I was told and very much enjoyed lying on the couch that night watching the season finale of The Hills, which I had Tivoed.

I decided to work from home the next day. In the morning, my ankles were pretty much back to normal, just a little puffy.

Later that morning, another midwife called me. She had heard what was going on with me the night before and wanted to check in. She suggested I get my blood pressure checked that day, so Matthew and I went to a CVS pharmacy that has one of those machines that you can stick your arm in. My first reading was high. After resting and reading US magazine for five minutes, it had lowered. I wasn't sure what the numbers meant so I called a midwife. She said that since I respond so well to rest, her advice was to lie down and rest for at least one hour every morning and every afternoon. I can't exactly do that at my office, so I'm now totally working from home. I don't want high blood pressure, but I have to say I'm so happy to not have to trek into the office every day. I followed the orders yesterday as best I could -- I rested four times at 30 minutes a stretch because I'm antsy and an hour is hard to do -- and by the end of the day my ankles were completely back to normal. No puffiness at all! No more cankles.

It's supposed to snow today, so we're looking forward to a cozy weekend, mostly at home, getting some much-needed rest. ~ Nicole

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Vacillating on vaccinations

I've learned so much over these nine months. (Yes, I am truly now nine months pregnant. That's 36 weeks. You do the math.) I feel like I've taken a grad school course on pregnancy and birth and my final is coming up. The only difference is that I want to share what I've learned with everyone, not just pass the test. I've been meaning to share some interesting resources about vaccinations that might be useful to other new or expectant parens. This information was passed along to me by a friend who has a 5-month-old baby. I'm no expert and I can't tell anyone what's right for their family, but I feel lucky to have learned about these resources and wanted to share them in case others find them useful. ~ Nicole

Two books:
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations, by Stephanie Cave.
The Vaccine Guide: Risks and Benefits for Children and Adults, by Randall Neustaedter.
is a medical doctor, and Randall Neustaedter is a homeopathic practitioner.

It’s helpful to understand the rate of diseases in the country and the state. You can find both on the CDC’s website at: Download the current issue – this gives you disease rates for the year, up to the week of the issue.

The Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System, managed by the CDC, is also a useful site – you can look up reported vaccine side effects, by vaccine: When you’re looking at it, keep in mind that the CDC acknowledges that less than 10% of reactions are reported.

You’ll find state laws on mandatory vaccines and available exemptions here:

Some vaccine ingredients (such as fetal tissue, chick embryo’s, monkey kidney cells) can be found here: You’ll read more about ingredients and how vaccines are made in Stephanie Cave’s book.

Other resources:
National Vaccine Information Center website ( discussion board on vaccines:
Mothering also has some good articles on vaccines. This is a good one to start with:

Monday, December 3, 2007

The final countdown

Today is exactly one month until my totally unreliable and only estimated due date! I can't believe it.

I have my 36-week prenatal appointment this week and it's a pretty significant one, when they test for Group B strep and check the baby's position and all that. If I'm Group B strep positive, I have to decide whether to have an IV of antibiotics during the birth. Well, even my hippie midwives recommend it, but I also know people who have decided against it. I think I'd probably just do it, but it's something to think about. Having an IV during labor and birth, not to mention all that medicine getting to the baby, doesn't sound fun, but there's lots of other things to consider before deciding, I suppose. Just another of the many, many decisions along the way and in the near and distant future that are part of being a parent.

The other thing that makes this next appointment significant is that it is the start of my weekly prenatal appointments. Until now, I saw my midwives less frequently. First, every six weeks, then every four for a while, then every two. Now, I will see them every week until the baby comes! And, I've already booked them all, all the way through a week past my due date.

The other thing we have going on this week is our "birthday planning meeting" at the birth center. This is when all the parents of babies due to be born in January meet at the birth center and get all the information we will need for the birth. (Interestingly, we are #2008-001, as in the first people registered with the birth center in 2008, which only means that I was the first person to call who was due in 2008. It's the planner in me.)

This week, we are also supposed to have chosen, or be very close to choosing, our pediatrician. We think we are pretty sure but we have one more to visit this week. Then, next week, Liz, our birth assistant, comes back to visit us at home to check to see that we have all of our supplies in one place (oh, you should hear the supply list -- very interesting and curious), check the belly and answer any questions we have.

We sure have a lot going on but it's fun! And, I'm sure many of our friends think we're the most boring people in the world because we are so focused on having the baby now. At least, our friends who aren't expecting babies of their own! There are more and more lately who are, which is fabulous!

Matthew wishes the baby would come today, he's so excited. I don't mind waiting a few more weeks, even though it's getting harder and harder to carry around my giant belly. I swear it grows overnight. I wake up every morning and it seems just a little bit bigger. Maybe that's why I can't sleep -- all that growing is keeping me awake. Despite the discomfort of late, I will miss being pregnant. I'm grateful I have had a very smooth and relatively easy pregnancy, and it's been really fun, despite the minor complaints. But, I'm also eager to see this little baby and very curious about giving birth. Let the countdown begin! ~ Nicole

Sunday, December 2, 2007

New and improved baby blog!

In case you haven't noticed, Matthew set up these nifty new features on our blog. First, there's the "ticker" to the due date. I love his description of it (estimated and unreliable) because there is basically a 5-week window when I could have the baby. By December 13 or so, I will be considered full term and it will be totally OK if I go into labor anytime between then and about mid-January. Crazy but true! Anytime between 37 and 42 weeks is totally cool. My due date is week 40. So there you have it.

The other feature I wanted to point out is that you can now cast a vote to say whether you think we will have boy or girl. We don't know and won't know until the baby is born. Our midwives don't know. The technician and radiologist who did the sonogram several months ago may have known but as far as I can tell it isn't written down anywhere so maybe no one knows any longer! We will be so happy either way and aren't rooting for one over the other, but not knowing has been a fun aspect of the whole experience. It's also the most common question I hear. Now, maybe at least I can tell people, "Well, we don't know but 7 out of 10 people believe it is a girl" or whatever.

Enjoy! ~ Nicole