The following is the story of my daughter, Liani’s, birth. The experience was completely amazing and beautiful. It is a story that must be shared and never forgotten.
Her father, Chris, and I decided late in our pregnancy to have a homebirth, with a doula, a midwife, in our bathtub. I will begin the story by explaining why we made that decision and will continue on to her actual birth. It’s one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.
The birth was amazing and perfect. Liani’s entrance into the world was loving and calm. She experienced no fear or trauma. She has been surrounded with love since her birth and I’m sure it has a lot to do with her personality. I hope that you find this story empowering and uplifting.
When Chris and I learned of our pregnancy, I promptly began visiting the offices of a large OB/GYN practice, OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches, to receive prenatal care. At the beginning, around my 8th week of pregnancy, we learned that I may have been having an ectopic pregnancy. This is when the embryo has attached somewhere other than the inside of the uterus, such as a Fallopian Tube. Chris and I went to the doctor’s office and Dr. June Chun examined me after I had severe pain in my abdomen. She was unable to verify a normal or ectopic pregnancy and sent us to St. Mary’s Medical Center for a transvaginal ultrasound. She tried preparing us for the worst, explaining the course we’d have to take if this was indeed an ectopic pregnancy. Chris and I were terrified. Although we were happily surprised with this pregnancy, we knew that we wanted it more than anything. The thought of losing this “baby” was horrifying to us both.
We went to St. Mary’s immediately and waited a VERY long time to be seen. I saw late term women in the waiting room, babies and newborns. I so wanted to attach myself to my little peanut but I was too afraid to. Chris held my hand tightly, trying not to show his fear. I could see it in his eyes though. We were both trying to be strong at a time when we both wanted to just break down and cry.
We were finally called in for the ultrasound. As soon as we entered the room, before I even undressed, I asked the ultrasound technician to please tell us if we had reason to worry. I knew that he wasn’t allowed to share too much information with us but I couldn’t bear for him to know whether or not we were going to lose this pregnancy and not tell us.
As he conducted the ultrasound, we saw our Little Bit’s heartbeat. Chris and I both burst into tears, mine heavier than his. We were in love – with each other and with our baby. The tech did show us that our Little Bit was indeed attached in my uterus and that the pregnancy was NOT ectopic! Chris and I left ecstatic. We were off to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate.
Now into my second trimester, Chris and I were much relieved. I continued to go the OB/GYN practice and everything appeared normal. My pregnancy was progressing well and there was no reason for concern. We began to prepare for our baby’s arrival. At 18 weeks and 6 days on March 28th, we had an ultrasound. We learned that we were expecting a baby girl! I was thrilled. I’ve always wanted a little girl and now I was carrying her!!!
Then, at the beginning of my third trimester, Dr. Fishman ordered another ultrasound. My precious little baby was lying in a breech position, across my abdomen. He informed me that I would very likely be having a c-section. There was one option, though. We would try an ECV, or External Cephalic Version, to try to turn her in my 36th week of pregnancy. This procedure would involve a doctor pressing on my belly and trying to manually turn her using his hands on my abdomen. This is, however, a risky procedure which is why it isn’t done until the 36th week of pregnancy. It can cause the water to break or for the baby to go into distress. If this happens before the baby turns, an immediate emergency c-section results.
Now, this just simply wasn’t an option for me. I did NOT want to have a c-section. I was adamantly opposed to this idea. I began scouring the internet and looking for options. I found a wonderful doula named Ruth Kraft. We immediately connected with each other and she began visiting us in our home giving us personal classes in the birthing method of HypnoBirthing as I wanted a completely natural birth free of medical intervention. During this time, we asked her what could be done about our little upside down baby. She suggested that we visit a chiropractor that specializes in a technique called the Webster Technique.
I found a great chiropractor named Dr. Figler that was covered by my insurance plan that also performed the Webster Technique. At my first visit with him, I learned that he was also Ruth’s family chiropractor!! She didn’t even know that he knew the Webster and hadn’t referred to me. It’s a small world after all!
Well, after 3 visits to Dr. Figler’s office, our little girl turned. The problem I had was a result of a torqued pelvis. Since my pelvis was twisted, it was pulling unevenly on the round ligaments that support the uterus. This lopsided pull was torquing the uterus, causing a portion of it (the left side) to be compressed and therefore, uninhabitable. When he released this tension, our baby was then able to move around as she’d wanted to the entire time!
Chris and I started thinking and questioning. If the Webster Technique were so easy, safe and successful, why hadn’t Dr. Fishman suggested it? Why was he telling us to expect a c-section, either planned or emergency? Why wasn’t he optimistic of a turn? Why was he so put off by my telling him that we were planning on using the HypnoBirthing method of childbirth? Chris and I, with the support of our lovely doula, Ruth, began researching pregnancy, birth, labor and alternative options to a hospital c-section.
We then found Alanna Rubin and Tammy Osborne of Treasure Coast Midwifery. These amazing women are Certified Professional Midwives, specializing in homebirths. Alanna, herself, had even used the HypnoBirthing method at home in her bathtub for the birth of her 2 year old son, Isaac. Chris and I were hesitant at first, but after thorough research we felt like we should have a consultation with Alanna.
Chris and I made the 45 minute drive to their office which is nestled in Alanna’s home. Chris and I inundated Alanna with questions, all of which were answered in such a way that we felt confident in her abilities to deliver a baby at home, safely. She explained to us that they were prepared to handle almost all emergencies or complications that may occur during the birthing process. She also reassured us that, in the event of an emergency that they couldn’t handle, they would be able to detect signs early enough to transfer us to a medical facility that could handle an emergency. Ironically, the hospital that I had registered us, Jupiter Medical Center, wouldn’t be able to handle most of these possible scenarios. I’d have to be transferred to St. Mary’s Medical Center, most likely, anyway, in the event of a true emergency.
At about 33 weeks into my pregnancy, Chris and I officially made the switch from the OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches to Treasure Coast Midwifery. At our first prenatal visit with them, I was almost in tears. However, the reason was because I was so happy. Before, I’d go to the doctor’s office and wait for at least an hour to be seen. I was quickly shuffled off to pee in a cup and be weighed once called in. Then, I’d have to sit for a long time in the exam room, only to be treated as another “number.” My questions had been brushed off and rarely answered. I was treated like I was just another inconvenience. Now, in this environment, all of my questions were answered in depth. Chris and I felt like we were cared about. My only regret was that we’d waited so long to make this much needed switch.
As the weeks progressed, we met both Alanna and Tammy. I loved them both. The visits with Ruth continued and I felt confident in my ability to birth. This was quite a different feeling than before, considering the very difficult birth that I had with Alexander and the pessimism that I was faced with at the OB/GYN office. I was ready to give birth.
Starting at about 37 weeks, I was having frequent contractions. Each Friday, I thought I was going into labor. I’d have contractions that were close together for hours, though they weren’t consistent. I also decided that I was going to need help after the birth. My father and I arranged for him to come down on his birthday on August 11th to be with us for the birth and postpartum time.
Two days before he was to arrive, my father informed me that due to a change in circumstance and other situations, he wouldn’t be able to come. I was devastated. I needed my father’s wonderful massages to help me prepare for my birth. I needed a physical release of the tension that I was carrying in my legs, feet and shoulders. How could I endure labor when I was already carrying so much physical tension? I was terrified.
After a week, my father and I were able to arrange it so that he could indeed come to spend the time with us. He would come on August 16th, on my 39th week of pregnancy and the first day of school for my son. That should have left just enough time for a couple of massages and then the birth. He set off that morning and called me at 10:00 am. He should be in by 7:00 that evening. I went to the grocery store and bought everything that I needed for his stay and a great dinner. At 5:00 pm, I received a phone call from his home telephone. I started to get nervous as I answered. I was heartbroken to hear his voice on the other end of the phone. He’d made it 70 miles away from his home just to have his car break down on the side of the road. His alternator was bad. I got nervous, but he assured me that he could have it fixed the next day and start his trip on Friday morning. Time was ticking but I wasn’t in labor yet.
Friday morning, he called me to tell me he was leaving. Finally, with a fixed alternator, my dad would be there that evening. My mother brought me some groceries for dinner for my dad. Well, that afternoon, my step-mother, Debbie called. My dad had made it about 70 miles again, when the car broke down, again. I was really nervous now!! Would my father ever make it? It was Friday again, the day famous for my contractions. I was sure that I’d have my baby before the weekend.
After my father spent hours on the phone with my auto mechanic uncle, Dennis, they determined that the only reasonable problem could be a faulty soldering joint from the original repair of the alternator. My father took the alternator back to the repair shop and received it again on Wednesday, August 23rd, my due date. He called me to tell me he’d leave on Friday, August 25th, two days past my due date. I was getting even more nervous. There was no way that he’d make it in time to visit, give me my much needed massage and be present for the birth.
Friday morning, I was still pregnant. Daddy called me, again, to tell me that he was on his way. I could only be sure of two things. Either his car would break down again or I’d go into labor. As the day progressed, I didn’t receive any phone calls and there were no contractions. At 6:00 that evening, my father appeared at my door! I hadn’t even started the meatloaf yet!! Just after that, Chris and Anna arrived. Still, I wasn’t having any contractions. We decided to forgo the meatloaf I had planned and had frozen pizza instead. Contractions started that night and I called the midwife. She told me to have a glass of wine and relax. I got a great massage that night while drinking a single glass of port (that Chris had made a close to midnight run for) and I was feeling much better. I finally went to sleep, telling Chris to be “on call” in case my contractions got more intense. We woke up late the next morning, and the contractions had ceased, once again.
We spent Saturday catching up with my dad. It was a great day. We were son engrossed in conversation that dinner didn’t get on the table until 10:00!! We enjoyed our 2 lb meatloaf though, not yet knowing what a blessing it would be to have eaten dinner so late and settled down to a movie with full bellies. Netflix had delivered Aeon Flux. My father started to massage my feet. It was movie time!
At 1:05 am, I had a contraction. I told Chris and my dad that this one was different. Two minutes later, at 1:07, I had another one. This contraction lasted for 3 minutes. The next one was at 1:12. I was feeling these in my cervix. When I was told all along that “I’d know” when it was real, I didn’t know what it would be that I’d “know.” It was now more apparent. It was the discomfort in my cervix that was so different. Also, my belly would completely change shape during these contractions. Chris and Daddy could SEE the contractions. This was definitely different. Chris suggested that I call Tammy (she was the midwife on call). I told him that I didn’t have anything to tell her!! We had to track the contractions and time them to see if they were consistent. We shuffled the kids off to bed (no, they were awake still). We had to tell them that the baby would be born soon and they at least needed to nap before she arrived. We weren’t sure if this was true or not but these kids needed to go to bed! The next contractions came like this: 1:16, 1:25, 1:31, 1:35, 1:38, 1:41, 1:48 (we must have missed writing one down here), 1:50, 1:53, 1:55 (this one resulted in a slew of profanities), 1:59, 2:01, and 2:05 (more profanities). Chris was right, I needed to call Tammy. They were 3 minutes apart, CONSISTANTLY!!!
She said she’d come to check me but I told her that I didn’t want to disturb her. She said that this was probably it; she’d eat, shower and be on her way. But it was time for ICE CREAM and OREOS! Chris dished out ice cream for himself, my father and me. It was all I could do to finish that bowl of ice cream. I kept getting interrupted with contractions. For the next half hour, the contractions were at 2:10, 2:12, 2:16, 2:19, 2:22, 2:25, and 2:34. There was no more watching the movie and the end of my foot massage was now forgotten about. I decided to wait for her in the bath tub at 3:00 and I called Ruth to give her the head’s up. She told me to call her after Tammy came. Tammy arrived at about 3:15. She did a cervical check at 3:25 and I was 3 centimeters dilated.
Tammy suggested that Chris and I take a walk to get things moving a little better. We walked around the block and I almost couldn’t make it. One block from home, I spotted chairs on someone’s front porch. I started to make a dash for them but Chris said I couldn’t just plop myself on someone’s front porch at 3:45 am! Two more strong contractions and we were home. I called my mother at 4:02 am and told her what was going on. She said she had to make breakfast for my brother and have him at his football at 8:00 am. She’d come after that. Then I sat on the couch for a while and continued to talk with Chris, Daddy and Tammy but it was intense. I decided to sit on the birth ball and my father massaged my shoulders with massage oil. It was quite a mess and all in my hair. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was time to get back into the tub. That provided a huge relieve. I called Ruth at 4:37.
Chris lit my lavender scented candles, brought me ice to chew, and did a lot of other preparations. I’m not sure what all he did but I know that I kept saying “just one more thing.” I started my HypnoBirthing CD and started to fall into my rhythm and zone. Tammy reminded me to keep my jaw loose and Ruth reminded me to keep my shoulders loose. This helped.
At about 5:00, my father decided that he’d take a nap to prepare for “second shift.” Ruth and the Assistant Midwife, Mary arrived just after my father dozed off. At about that time, I was tired of the HypnoBirthing CD and I asked Chris for my Ipod. I hadn’t anticipated this so I didn’t know where it was. Chris found it and brought it to me and set up the speakers. I listed to Sarah McLachlan and Enya. I asked Chris to change it now but he wasn’t sure how to use the Ipod. I snapped at him in between contractions and felt guilty immediately. I apologized. The contractions were getting more intense. Tammy had suggested that I get out of the tub earlier but I wasn’t ready. She thought I should move around more to ensure that the contractions came but that happened on its own. I now had a bloody show. This was progress.
Ruth was sitting in a chair next to the tub and Chris got Jewel on the Ipod and that was good. I liked that, especially since I could sing along to several songs. At some point, I pooted in the water and giggled about it. Chris thought it was hilarious that I could be in labor and still giggle at my flatulence, especially in front of Ruth. During contractions, I’d breathe through them and whisper “Relax” to myself. The first time I did this, Chris, who was sitting on the toilet behind me, laughed and said, “I am relaxed.” I snapped again. Ruth assured him that labor was well on its way when the sense of humor dissipated. Yes, I was feeling it.
Time was passing but I had no concept of it. I saw the sky brightening up through the window and I told him that the sun was starting to rise. Chris was feeding me ice water with a straw between contractions but then he told me that he was hungry and wanted to eat some chimichangas. I asked Chris for some Raisin Spiced oatmeal and Ruth brought me apple juice. After a few contractions, I let Chris go and eat and I tried to eat the oatmeal. I just didn’t feel like it but I drank the juice. At this point, Mary had joined Ruth in Chris’s absence. I held each of my arms above my head and they each petted an arm for me to distract me during contractions. I announced that I just needed a break, a nap, as I was so sleepy. I wasn’t so much physically exhausted, just sleepy since it was so early in the morning and I hadn’t slept. The water was starting to cool so I added some warm water into the tub.
I drifted off into a nap. I didn’t realize it, though. After the birth, I was told that my mother called at 6:50 am. Tammy told her that my water had not yet broken and they were just waiting for me on my own schedule. Mom decided to cook that breakfast for my brother as she must still have some time. The scent of the chimichangas woke my father, even though he thought he was smelling maple syrup. He joined Chris for an early morning snack.
Then, suddenly, I woke from my nap in a heave. I was contracting intensely. With that contraction, my water broke in a funny, bloody bubble. I announced that my body was pushing; I wasn’t doing it consciously. The baby was crowning! I started yelling, “Get Chris, Get Chris!” He never finished his chimichangas. He was running off to put on his bathing suit. Our bedroom was full of people; Alexander was sleeping in his room, Anna sleeping in hers. Chris decided to change in the den, where my father had set up a temporary bedroom. My father went to the den to brush his hair only to have the door held shut by a naked daddy-to-be! He quickly followed Chris to the bathroom where I was about to birth my baby.
Tammy was there with me and Chris wasn’t! She kicked off her shoes and got ready to get in the tub just as Chris arrived. He quickly settled down in the tub in front of me as Tammy informed me that there was a bit of cord coming out before the baby’s head. She said, “Chrissi, the baby’s cord is over head. I need you to push now!” But I was already pushing, uncontrollably. The next thing I heard was Tammy saying, “Chrissi, get your baby! Chrissi, get your baby!” I didn’t really hear it the first time but it registered the second time. I reached down and I pulled my baby up and to my chest. She was born at 7:14 am.
As I held my beautiful little Liani to my chest, I was overcome with emotion. Through tears, I repeated “I love you, I love you, I love you” interrupting myself only with “you’re so beautiful.” There were tears in everyone’s eyes. Chris, Tammy, Mary, Ruth, and Daddy were all there. I was only aware of my baby and Chris. The others were there, but in a different dimension. I had birthed my baby and my husband was there with me. As I nursed her, he began to pour warm water on her from the tub. I was concerned but he assured me that the water was warmer than the air. He was such a natural. He moved so calmly and with so much confidence. He was such a wonderful daddy!
My father went and brought Alexander in as he was going to be the one to cut the cord once it stopped pulsating. After coming and examining his new sister, Alexander announced that “This is freaking me out.” He went back to bed. Chris sent my father to get Anna but she didn’t want to wake up. Ruth went in and got Anna to wake up to meet her new sister. She came in and got a good look at her new sister as well. She couldn’t wait to hold the baby.
After twenty minutes of bonding and Liani’s first nursing session, the cord finally stopped pulsating. As Alexander had relinquished his cord-cutting privilege, my father proudly volunteered to cut the cord. Tammy clamped it and handed my father the scissors. He cut the cord, severing the last physical connection I had to my baby. Now, our connection was through love.
Chris took Liani while the ladies helped me out of the bathtub. They took me to the bed where Chris met me with the baby. We laid together, bonding our new family. Liani nursed. Anna came in and joined us, followed by Alexander. I don’t know how much time passed but it was purely magical. Just after 8:00, my mother arrived, not knowing that Liani had already been born. She instantly fell in love with her new granddaughter.
After some time, Tammy then conducted the newborn exam on our bed. Everyone was there to watch Liani’s first “performance.” Chris weighed the baby with a spring scale. We were astounded to find out that our Little Liani wasn’t so little at a whopping 8 lbs, 10 oz! She measured in at a length of 21.5 inches. Everything was perfect. We were a happy family. After 6 hours and 9 minutes of calm, peaceful labor Styliani Athena Suttman was here!