The Gift – A Birth Story

By Whitney Canales 

I believe you never know what you’ll want or need in labor until you are there. Some mamas imagine they will want to be alone, when they find they actually need supportive hands and a stream of gentle whispers from other women lifting them up. Some may picture moving their hips to the rhythm of energetic, positive music, but when the time comes, they long for pure silence beyond the sounds of their moans and cries to push their babies earthside. It amazes me how well midwives read the laboring woman and her needs. They bring the very unique and particular support that individual women crave in their most vulnerable and empowering moments. I think that’s what makes midwifery so personable and tender. Somehow they just know. Christy and Jenny offer safe, professional, evidence-based birth support, but I will pretend that this is the unexplainable folklorish magic of midwifery, silent and knowing.

I knew Jenny and Christy through my midwife in Texas, and right around the time we moved to Washington, so did they.  It couldn’t have been more perfect — two women whom I already knew and trusted would be there beside me on the journey of having my third child!

My last labor had been so fast and furious, my midwife arrived just seven minutes before my daughter’s birth. Even though it was a swift two and a half hours from my first contraction to the moment she slipped into waiting hands, it was the most painful thing I had ever gone through, and watching the birth video two days later left me in tears. I had been emotionally unprepared for the pain, and was fearful about going from one child to two. Something told me that had a lot to do with how the birth had affected me. I was determined that this time, I wouldn’t let fear dictate how my baby came into this world. And I had been praying for nine months for a six-hour labor.

On the morning of my due date, I woke up to slight cramps at 7am. I was optimistic; my story would be different this time. I woke up my kids and packed their bags for spending the day with Grandpa. I called my mom and my sisters, letting them know that today was the day. A few hours later, we all gathered in the small room at the birth center, warm and welcoming light splashing golden upon the walls. Native American flute music was the soundtrack as I sat on the couch, comfortable and quiet and at peace.

When I needed to walk to further my labor, Christy and Jenny suggested I walk. When I was lying on my side and my baby’s heart rate slowed, they let me know and gently asked me to stand. When in that cloudy, quiet place of laboring and unable to make my own decisions, they encouraged me to take advantage of the warm waters of the bathtub. When my body began to grunt and tighten and clearly wanted to push on its own, and I asked them if they could check me first to make sure I was ready, Jenny looked me straight in the eye and said, “You have done this before. Trust your body. I can check you if you really want me to, but your body knows.”

Writing this now brings tears to my eyes. It was such a powerful moment: the gift of being able to bring my own baby into this world, with my own instinct; to trust that this is what is supposed to take place. This should be a given, but in a society where women are so often not offered the opportunity to simply trust their bodies, it was just that — a gift. It’s one that I’ll never forget. I agreed that she didn’t need to check me for dilation, and I began to push.

After a few pushes, my water broke and a small cloud of meconium billowed in the tub. This was the first time I felt fear during my labor. I knew meconium aspiration was a risk, and my entire body tensed. Jenny spoke to me in a calm voice, reminding me that I was so close to holding my baby and that they would make sure she was healthy as soon as she came out.

Sun breaking through clouds – that is what it is like, every time a baby comes wailing and wriggling out of their mother, and the entire room is filled with joy. Bright, yellow sunshine. I am never aware of how long I hold my baby in my arms while we are still attached to the cord that brought them blood and life, as they breathe in cold air, using tiny, strong lungs for the first time. There we held one another, there I traced the wet curls that cradled her ears — I am never one to count toes until hours later; my fingers are more interested in feeling every tiny bone and soft limb. There we stayed until it felt just right, while my sweet midwives’ skilled ears listened for clear airways, until finally I decided it was time to transition to a dry, soft place.

After we moved to the bed and I had settled down with my brand new nursling, my older babies came in to meet her. From the moment my three-year-old walked into the room, she went from the baby to big sister. When the next youngest sibling meets the newest addition, the transformation is always sudden and shocking. One of life’s bittersweet nothings it whispers in your ear: do your best to hold onto these years; they are like water through your fingertips.

The telling of a birth story is so familiar a feeling to me, and yet, brand new every time. I will always cherish this peaceful, almost six-hour labor (my wish came true!), and will forever be grateful to Christy and Jenny for their quiet presence and skilled hands, and their faith in the wisdom of the body of a laboring mama.

The Doula Perspective-A guest post by our favorite German doula

By Diksha Berebitsky

I have been a doula for over 10 years and let me tell you, I have seen big differences with the different models of care and providers. Being a doula is more than a job, it’s a passion and it’s a lifestyle.  Doulas are often the first support person at their client’s birth and often have worked several hours with them before the provider arrives at the client’s home or the client transitions to the final birthing location. We never know if we will be there for just a few hours, or if it will be a couple of days. As​ doulas we don’t make decisions for our clients; we offer information and physical and emotional support; before, during, and after labor. Even though being a doula is amazing and very fulfilling, it’s not always easy to be on call 24/7, getting up in the middle of the night and working the often-long hours.

Birth families benefit most when their team works well together and can freely communicate. That’s where Christy and Jenny stand out. As a doula I always felt welcomed and supported in my role, which greatly benefited our clients. This made it so easy and fun as we worked as a team. Christy and Jenny are such warm, welcoming and loving people and amazing to work with. They are both highly skilled and knowledgeable midwives which never failed to impress me. I knew I could trust their opinions and decisions. They always invited me to share my thoughts and process together after the birth which was so wonderful and helpful. Christy and Jenny are probably the most caring, loving and nonjudgmental people I have ever met, I never did hear them say anything bad or judgmental about anyone and their love and light they carry really shines, especially in the birthing room.

One thing I really loved was that they really trust women and their ability to birth. One example is they don’t automatically tell people how far dilated they are unless the client wants to know. I remember once arriving at the Birth House where Christy and Jenny worked with one of my clients who was expecting her first baby. After a long night of laboring with strong contractions Christy encouraged my client to wait just a little longer to get in the tub without telling her that she was in early labor and not ready yet (she could have sent them home). I helped my client to get comfortable and relax and approximately 1 hour later she suddenly voiced that she feels like she needed to push, sure enough she was right, and we helped her to get into the tub where she birthed her sweet baby. My client told me later that she is so happy that Christy didn’t tell her how dilated she was because that allowed her to trust her ability to birth. I have seen women start to struggle and losing confidence when they were not as far dilated as they thought, and it often slowed their labor progress.

I always admired Christy and Jenny for being so good with words, I often was impressed with how they found the perfect words in every situation to guide women though labor. My clients always felt so loved and cared for. They are hugely missed by our birthing community in Olympia, WA!

The Postpartum Period

By Caty Blakley

The Postpartum Period. As a mother of three precious kiddos that range in ages from 8 years to 1 year, I felt like this was the number one topic that isn’t talked about ENOUGH! I hope that with each new conversation between seasoned mothers and new mothers, that will change. I hope that by sharing my postpartum experiences, it will help at least one expectant mama out there <3

As parents anxiously awaiting the arrival of each baby, we did just about everything a person can do to prepare themselves and their home for the arrival of a child. I did things such as getting the nursery set up and organized, made sure the car seat was installed, made sure the labor day bags were packed, had some freezer meals ready to go, the works. But it wasn’t until our THIRD baby, that I planned WAY more for the postpartum period than I did for the arrival of our other two kiddos.

When our first baby girl arrived, it was magical. We lived hours away from both of our families, so my mother graciously stayed behind to help us out for a week when we arrived home. It was amazing. However, when she left, that’s when we realized how unprepared we were for the postpartum period and how much stress could have been eliminated had we had known more about this phase. No one told us how long it would take for me to heal, no one mentioned how challenging breastfeeding could be for some, no one mentioned how exhausted both of us would REALLY be, no one told me about the guilt I would experience when I was “just sitting and doing nothing”, or how guilty and exhausted my husband would feel for just wanting to do nothing but sleep after helping me, or how it was an unrealistic expectation to expect a new mom to be up doing housework days after giving birth, or how it’s OKAY to say NO to visitors and not feel guilty about it. We didn’t have too many visitors with our first, but we felt so awful telling people they couldn’t come see baby even though my husband I could cry from how tired we were, and we just wanted space, we still let them come anyways. I remember feeling so much guilt and falling apart because I felt this pressure to “do it all” and please everyone even though my body just went through a huge experience that it needed weeks or months to heal from.

Fast forward to us expecting baby number three – lessons learned! We prepared way more food or had gift certificates for takeout ready, we hired a doula that checked in on us often after baby was born and an in-home lactation consultant on standby. We also set up little carts or “stations” around our house that had little things for baby (such as diapers, wipes, spare outfit, little toy, pacifiers, blankets, etc.) and mama (snacks, books, tissues, breastfeeding/pumping supplies, etc.), and even though it was the most difficult (yep, even more difficult than the actual birth of our child), it was the most important part – we unapologetically set BOUNDARIES. It is SUCH an incredible feeling to have so many family and friends excited for the arrival of your precious one and that was something that was never lost on us, but baby will be there for others to visit when YOU are ready, so take care of yourselves and your new little family first. We understood that feelings would get hurt or some would be disappointed, but we set boundaries to keep our health and sanity a priority. We did so and didn’t feel a shred of guilt because we knew the three most important things were taking care of our precious baby, taking care of our other two daughters, and taking care of ourselves.

Did you know that in some countries, such as Malaysia, a new mother has an army of women that stay with her taking care of every little thing possible?! Whether it’s her home, her other children, her errands, making her meals, and so on. The mother’s ONLY job is to rest in bed, feed her baby and eat! How amazing is that?! That is the standard of care all new mothers should receive, if possible! I have seen just how important that all is looking back. It was frustrating that it took us until our 3rd child to figure it out, but from tough past experiences, we knew just how vital it was to be as prepared as we could for my postpartum phase.

Truthfully, if I’m being extremely honest, I felt that for us, preparing for postpartum was THE most important thing we could have done for baby and for ourselves. I cannot express enough how it is OKAY to make decisions for yourselves that may not make others happen. Of course, make sure to do it with politeness and grace, but you are the ones that have to live your life, do what you need to do that is going to make this wonderful transition into parenthood enjoyable for your and your partners <3

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