After attending regular prenatal yoga classes at both Blooma’s Minneapolis and St. Paul locations, this mama went into her birth knowing “how to relax, how to breath, and how to believe in myself and my body.” Congratulations, Sarah!
Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma
On the morning of our baby’s birth, I woke up to find a spot of clear fluid on our sheets. I investigated and found out that you could leak small amounts of amniotic fluid in the days and hours leading up to labor.
Having no other signs of labor, I left for Corrine’s yoga class. Class felt great, as usual, and I set off for home blissed out.
During the drive home my back felt uncomfortable, like menstrual cramps. By the time I arrived home at 11:30 a.m. the “cramps” were a regular occurrence, and I was starting to need to take deep breaths through them. Nick was set to have lunch and then play Frisbee golf with friends so we consulted and decided that we would both have our phones on, but continue with our lives as usual and ignore this early labor as advised by Sarah Longacre during our couples birthing class.
I told Nick that it was probably time to finish a project for school I had been working on as I was feeling a sense of urgency about completing it. I sat and worked at my computer for a half hour before I felt hungry.
I made lunch for myself and watched an episode of “Friday Night Lights.” During the next hour the contractions continued to come regularly, about every five minutes. I laid down and tried to relax.
Nick swung by between lunch and Frisbee golf to check in and give me a hug and tell me, “You’re awesome.” At this point, I needed to breath through the contractions and was starting to find I wanted to lean on door jams, go on all fours, or move my hips in puppy pose.
I could hear Sarah Longacre telling me to relax my jaw and Cynthia Levine asking, “Where else can you soften?” during each one. The contractions were still regular at five minutes but the pain in my back was getting more intense with each one.
Eventually, I badly wanted Nick back with me. He abandoned the game at hole 11, around 2 p.m., and was cheered on by his friends as he ran back to the truck to come home.
When Nick got back, he finished packing our bags for the hospital between contractions and I stayed on all fours on a mat on the floor, throwing up a couple of times.
After a little while of that, we continued our labor plan by starting to watch “Miracle,” the movie about the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team (I have a thing for inspiring sports movies). We only got through the first montage before I was not watching the movie at all because the contractions were getting too intense.
At that point I wanted to go to the hospital because I wanted to be able to handle the transition to the hospital while I could still talk between contractions. Nick walked me down to our truck where I had another contraction before climbing in on my knees facing the back and gripping the seat.
During the drive to Fairview Riverside hospital, I had three contractions. In the elevator on the way to The Birth Place I had another contraction just as the door opened to the main lobby. Someone standing there would have seen me moaning while holding the elevator handrail.
Knowing I was not going to get out of the elevator at that moment, Nick pressed the button to go down a floor, and we came back up again, the doors opening at the end of my contraction this time.
Once we were checked in at The Birth Place, at about 5:30 p.m., our awesome nurse, Karrie, hooked me up to the fetal monitor in our labor room. John, our midwife, came to check me after that and we discovered I was 5 centimeters dilated.
I then decided to labor in the bathtub, where I could relax. As the contractions got more intense Nick helped me breathe by taking deep breaths with me. He told me I was amazing and strong. He also encouraged me to move my vocalization into a lower register so that I moaned and yelled instead of screamed.
After each contraction, Nick made sure I drank water and told me I was doing a great job. Eventually I wanted to get out of the tub because it was getting cold and I wanted to get checked to see how I was progressing. Nick helped dry me off and get a dry shirt on to warm up.
Back on the bed on all fours, I felt something between my legs. I asked urgently, “What is coming out between my legs?!” (Afterwards, I found out that Nick answered to himself, “A baby,” but he chose not to say so at the time.)
When I felt between my legs, there was a slimy water-balloon like protrusion. John checked and confirmed that it was my amniotic sac. During the next contractions the water-birth tub was brought in and filled as I labored on my hands and knees on the bed. Just before I entered the tub John broke the water sac. He checked me and I was dilated 8 centimeters.
In the birthing tub, I was comfortable on my knees with my legs spread and leaning against the side of the tub where I could hold onto Nick’s arms during contractions. John inquired if I did yoga since this position looked like it required some flexibility (!).
In between contractions the room was supremely quiet and peaceful. I rested with my head on the side of the tub next to Nick, he rehydrated me, and John and Karrie sat quietly on the other side. It seemed as if everyone was meditating around a pool.
Every once in awhile Nick would make me open my eyes and look at him as he told me how great I was doing, and with excitement in his eyes he said, “You’re birthing our baby!”
Knowing I was in transition I joked, “I’m dying.” After more contractions that caused me to yell from pain, I said more genuinely, “This SUCKS.” Despite this pronouncement, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t do it— I just felt how hard it was, how much pain I was in during contractions, and how I didn’t want the next one to come, but still I knew I could do it.
I think Nick’s encouragement, classes at Blooma, and the birth stories shared at Blooma were responsible for this attitude. After a while I felt the urge to start bearing down and begin pushing. John encouraged me to do so for a bit before he checked me to find I was fully dilated and almost completely effaced.
When the real pushing began, I didn’t really understand how to hold my breath to push down, or not push my legs when they were held up. We tried a few positions including squatting, on my knees, and with John and Karrie holding up my legs while Nick held my arms, letting the water support me.
This last position was the most effective and eventually I learned how to use holding the breath and use my abdominal muscles to effectively push.
Nick, John, another midwife, and Karrie cheered through each contraction, “Go! Push! Down!” When the baby crowned it burned horribly. It took a few contractions to go from crowning to getting the baby out, but in between John told me to feel it’s head—I reached down and felt my baby’s hair. During the second-to-last contraction a lot of blood came out during pushing.
Finally our baby came out (!) and was laid on my chest. There were a few sweet moments of just looking and feeling our baby. Then someone remembered to check the sex—Nick lifted it up and declared that we had a baby girl!
Madeline was born at 11:05 p.m. after an hour and a half of pushing and 12 hours after contractions began.
After I was helped with our baby from the tub to the bed, we had that amazing time of just looking, touching, and admiring her.
She was quiet from the water birth, a fact that concerned the nurse since she wanted a vigorous cry. Nonetheless, Madeline warmed up while on my chest and after a visit to the warming table. Nick and I held Madeline and rejoiced in our healthy baby girl.
During my exam it was discovered that I had torn significantly during birth— fourth degree lacerations that included my sphincter, vaginal wall, and rectum. John called in the obstetrician on call, Dr. Olson, to do my stitching. Dr. Olson was excellent in communicating what the tears might mean for recovery, and my options for repair in terms of pain relief, stitching in the room vs. the operating room etc.
We finally decided that I would get a spinal (intrathecal injection) in addition to local anesthetic and would go to the operating room.
So, ironically, after a natural labor and birth I got Pitocin to help with bleeding, a spinal with morphine in it, and went to the operating room.
Nick and Madeline went to the nursery for her first bath and exam. John held me up in sitting position while I got my spinal, and I think I bruised his arms I was gripping so hard. Luckily the medication worked incredibly quickly, and seconds after I felt relief from the pain.
On the operating table, I once again used Sarah’s advice and meditated by counting breaths in and out. This enabled me to relax enough to fall asleep through the stitching despite having my arms and legs spread wide on the operating table. Nick and Madeline rejoined me in the post-op room a little after 2 a.m. where we nursed, dozed, and admired our baby girl some more.
Since Madeline’s birth, life has been a whirlwind of hosting excited visitors and figuring out how to take care of all of Madeline’s needs while still eating and sleeping ourselves. I am so very thankful for my amazing baby girl. She is perfect and we are both completely smitten.
Thanks to all of the mamas who were beside me on their mats. I appreciated the community of pregnant women throughout my pregnancy. Knowing that I wasn’t alone in having calf cramps in the middle of the night made a big difference.
I am so, so grateful to all of the instructors at Blooma—Sarah, Corrine, Cynthia, and Laura, in particular, for teaching me how to relax, how to breath, and how to believe in myself and my body.
I knew I could not control everything that happened at our daughter’s birth, but I also knew I could control my breath and my thinking (or lack thereof).
As a new mama, I had gone from being anxious and nervous about labor a few months ago, to feeling confident that I could handle whatever this birth would throw at us. Both Nick and I had the tools to stay positive and relaxed while bringing our baby into the world. Thank you.