To back things up, I feel we should talk a minute about Matilda’s birth. It was in a hospital. In order to prepare, we watched a $10 DVD we bought off Amazon called Laugh and Learn About Childbirth. Our plan was to see how far Megan could make it, and hopefully give birth without an epidural. Megan made it to about 8 cm and requested anesthesia. Matilda’s cord was clamped within seconds of delivery and she went into respiratory distress. She spent a couple hours in the NICU and didn’t reach Megan’s arms until over two hours after delivery. The hospital was frustrating and the well-meaning nurses often failed to live up to our expectations, often contradicting one-another in their advice. The hospital bill came in at nearly $10,000.
In labor with Matilda
While a wonderful experience, it wasn’t quite what we had expected. I didn’t quite know how to articulate what went wrong, and nothing did go wrong, per se, but it could have gone better. So we set out in search of something better.
Now I’m not going to sit here and claim that what we found was the best, but for us, it was better. For those who have their babies differently, I’m not attacking or degrading your experience. I’ve seen more than one mother blog on the defensive about their right (or necessity) to have an anesthetized by-the-book hospital birth. If any such mother reads this and starts getting on the defensive, just cool your jets, chica bonita. I too have a right to share information about the way we did things. If at any time I come off as condescending, I may be just that. Feel free to point your Google Voyeur elsewhere.
With that caveat in mind, you are welcome to change the channel, or come along with me.
After some time, discussion, and analysis, we decided that the first problem was the traditional approach to pregnancy, and the cost/emotional involvement of a doctor. Megan had proven herself to be a pretty stable site for the gestation of our children. In other words, pregnancy was easy. Above that, and this applies to all women, pregnancy is natural and necessary to survival of the species. Whether you believe in creationism or evolution, we can all agree that somehow pregnancy became a key to life.
Recently, pregnancy has come to be seen as a disease. Pregnant women must be treated and monitored as if there were some abnormal process happening and charged as if they were Trump offspring. We disagree. We feel like unless there are identifiable concerns during pregnancy, there’s no need even for the involvement of a doctor. Millions (billions?) of women have successfully given birth throughout time without doctors. But somewhere along the line in America and Western civilization we decided that pregnant women are afflicted, and that the curse of Eve was manifest in these nine months of carrying babies, but especially in their delivery. That just is not right. I think much of it has become culture, and so women are deciding to react certain ways before the actions occur.
But I find myself venturing into waters I’m not fully prepared to swim in.
Megan and I chose to, with our second child, go with the ancient practice of midwifery with delivery at a birthing center. In part, this was because at the time, we did not have health insurance, and the cost of the prenatal visits, delivery, and postnatal care was to be 1/8 of the cost of an insurance-covered birth. However, even when we had insurance with Matilda, Megan strongly considered going with a midwife, and even when I get health insurance again, we will still use a midwife. It just helps the decision process when there’s only one option. We also wanted to treat this pregnancy more like the beautiful event that it was. We planned it, we caused it, and we wanted to enjoy it.
In preparation, we chose to take a Hypno-Birthing class, which I would highly recommend. It really helps put pregnancy and childbirth in a new light. It involves many of the philosophies I have mentioned (not viewing pregnancy as a disease to be treated), and also teaches you relaxation and life skills beneficial to all aspects of life.
In summation, Baby Two was going to be born in a birthing center, delivered by me, and Megan was to be minimally monitored throughout by midwives.
Jump with me now to December. Baby Two has been growing in Megan for seven months, but for some reason medical folk like to say she was eight months pregnant. It was another easy pregnancy for Megan, but she was ready for Baby Two to arrive. Although her due date was December 25, we wanted as much separation between Christmas and her birthday as possible, and for tax purposes I was hoping that the distance would come in the before Christmas direction. Things were complicated by the fact that December is such an incredibly busy time, and I was acting in Hale Center Theater Orem’s 21st annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. So I had decided that the baby needed to come on a Sunday so that I could stay with Megan for a couple days and go back to doing the show on Tuesday. I’m also a bit weird when it comes to numbers, though, and I wanted something cool. I was hoping for a 12/12/10, or perhaps a 12/11/10, but that put Baby Two’s arrival about two weeks early. Also, I wanted her to come on some kind of even number. I don’t really care for odd numbers, and so far Megan, Matilda, and myself all had even birth-years. Another thing to mention is that according to our one and only ultrasound, their predicted due date was January 6, 2011. Without going into unnecessary detail, we knew the exact date Baby Two was conceived, and 40 weeks was December 25, so we and the midwives were using that instead.
Needless to say, those dates came and went. The next option was the twentieth, 12/20/2010. That would also be convenient since the 20th was a Monday, which would at least provide the opportunity for me to do the show on Tuesday evening. Throughout the previous week, we had tried all the old tricks for induction: long walks, walking up and down hills, spicy food, driving over speedbumps, watching funny movies, and repetition of the act that started this whole thing. Sunday the 19th rolled around, and all was quiet on the western front. It was time to break out the big guns.
Bienvenito, Signor Castor Oil.
Now we had heard the horror stories. Most admitted that castor oil worked, but that they would never do it again. Because it made them poop like a fire hose. I guess it’s a severe laxative that also causes the release of prostaglandins which can trigger labor if mother and baby are ready. If they’re not, it just makes mommy poop like a fire hose. (Are you tired of that visual yet?)
As previously stated, we wanted our child to be born on a date with cool numbers, so we had to avoid 12/19/2010. Ain’t nothing cool about that. It was also important to me that Baby Two not be born in the winter, so 12/21/2010 or later was out. You see, I had read a study that showed scientifically that babies born in the winter were dumber than those born at other times of the year. For those of you winter babies, fear not. I later found a more recent study showing that the odd phenomenon has more to do with the fact that babies whose mothers are uneducated are dumber and that uneducated mothers just happen to have more winter babies.
So to make a long story longer, Megan decided it was worth the risk of explosive liquid defecation and took some castor oil with orange juice at 5 PM Sunday night. We went up to my parents’ house for Sunday dinner, but it was life as usual. We had a nice dinner, nice conversation, and some non-painful surges. Megan didn’t make a big deal out of them because she had thought she was going into labor before, only to have nothing come of it. She didn’t want to become the boy who cried wolf. She did have my sister, also named Megan—a licensed massage therapist, massage her hands and feet, focusing on labor-inducing trigger points. Just like Old Man River, the happy little surges kept on rolling along.
We went back home and Megan took some more castor oil. Now lest you think she was overdosing, each time she was taking about ¼ the recommended dosage. We weren’t using a blowtorch to start the fire, just flicking matches at a pile of wood to see what happened.
The contractions came and went, but none of them were really the painful kind, and they were sometimes regular and sometimes sporadic.
I’m not sure what time the contractions started because as is the case in every good birth story, I was asleep, but I think Megan said that they began around 2 AM. I think she took a bath and made the final preparations for a birth bag, graciously letting me sleep for another hour or so. At that point I called my mother and asked her to come down and also called the Birthing Center to make sure that someone would be there. They told us to wait another 30 minutes or so and then call back to let them know how she was progressing.
This may be a good point to remark that Megan was a bit more nervous this go-around. She was nervous about not getting an epidural and nervous that she wasn’t coping with the pain as well as she did with Matilda. While both labors started at 2 AM, we didn’t go to the hospital with Matilda until 5:30 AM, while with B2, Megan was wanting to head out the door at 4 AM. Were things really progressing that much faster? Or was she just weaker? Had we really made the right choice to not even have an epidural as an option?
Thirty minutes later, the surges had only become more painful and were coming more often. By that time my mom had arrived to stay with Matilda, freeing Megan’s mother to come to the Birthing Center with us. We took my mom's car so that she could have our car with Matilda's car seat inside. We were glad that there was no snow or ice or traffic on the roads, but it turns out that we just barely missed the snow.
We arrived and went straight to our personal birthing suite. We had four rooms and two bathrooms all to ourselves. There was also a kitchen with a fully stocked fridge that we could have, but didn’t, raid all we wanted. Since we wanted to pay as little as possible, we went with the apprentice program. This meant that there was a midwife supervising at all the appointments and during the delivery, but the student was doing all the hands on work. It was nice knowing that the same two people would be with us throughout the entire process. Marie, the student midwife, met us there, but Trinette, the licensed midwife, had to come from Saratoga Springs. By the time she arrived, the snow was really coming down and piling up fast. I was glad we got there when we did.
The midwife team got Megan into bed just to get her blood pressure and vitals. Between 30-45 minutes later, they checked her progress and found that Megan was fully effaced and about 7-8 cm dilated. They asked if she would like to get in the tub, and Megan said that she would. We were excited about the whole water-birth thing. Immediately following that exam, Megan had a major surge and felt like she had progressed a centimeter or more just in that one surge.
While the tub was filling, she worked through a couple more difficult surges, and then she hopped in—insofar as a pregnant woman in labor can hop, which would be kind of like watching a rabbit that just ate a bowling ball try to hop.
Megan lay there in the tub, trying to relax in between contractions. I should mention here that the hypno-birthing came in handy throughout all the contractions. It gave me something to do, a role to play. This was nice because we knew beforehand what I was and wasn’t going to do. I was going to encourage breathing, visualizations, muscle relaxation. I wasn’t going to ask her if the contractions hurt.
Megan slept on my lap in between surges as I sat on the edge of the tub. She would later remark how incredible the experience of laboring in a tub was. It helped with the pain, helped her relax, and encouraged lots of good and happy pleasantness.
In labor with Serafina. Compare to the first picture. Even without pain meds, this was much more relaxing for both of us.
And to toot my own horn (Ahhhh-wooooo-gaaaaaah—yes, that’s what my horn sounds like), the midwives would later remark that I was one of the best husbands they have ever seen come through their center. I am pretty much amazing. I think the only thing I did wrong was to attempt to use our portable iPod speakers for the purpose for which we brought them—to play the relaxing music playlist that Megan spent over three hours creating. I hit “play” on the iPod and about 6 seconds later Megan said firmly, “No, I do not want that.” So I turned it off. How silly of me.
Let’s now return our attention to the tub containing Megan and the little one trying desperately to achieve splashdown. After a few very uncomfortable surges, Megan expressed interest in bearing down (pushing the baby out). They checked her and said that since she was fully dilated and effaced, she could go for it.
One odd side note, when I asked at that point if Megan’s water had broken yet, they said that it had not. Thanks to YouTube, I knew that babies could be born in the amniotic sack and be fine, but I didn’t want my first impression of this child to be a ball of fluid. The other odd thing was that they remarked how much hair she had. I guess that’s something that you can feel through the amniotic sac.
The next set of surges was intense, so much so that Megan wouldn’t even let the student midwife put the baby monitor against her stomach. She bore down a few times and said, “Sean, I can feel her head! Give me your hand!”
I felt the top of her head, and then all of a sudden a baby was in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I had just delivered my second child. I brought Serafina to the surface and placed her against Megan’s chest. She was breathing just fine, but seemed to just want to sleep. As we rubbed her back and arms and legs, however, she woke up a bit and cried, getting some good oxygen flow to her extremities.
Serafina went straight from my arms to Megan's. The midwives did everything they needed to while Megan held her.
Previously, we had decided to allow the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before cutting it. There are many reasons for this, and virtually no plausible explanation as to why doctors and hospitals clamp and cut within 15 seconds. In fact, as I sought to educate myself on the subject, I found over twenty scholarly articles and many hundreds of internet opinions explaining why delaying cord clamping is better. As was the case with Matilda, early cord clamping can sometimes cause respiratory distress and expensive trips to the NICU. Other articles posit that early clamping can lead to oxygen deprivation and be a contributing factor of Autism. I’m not going to go into a deep discussion of it here, but all you parents who are currently expecting or plan to have more children, please do not clamp the cord before it has stopped pulsing. It can potentially cause lifelong detriments to the baby.
So we waited for Serafina’s lifeline to stop its infusion of stem cells, blood, and ooey-gooey goodness into our fresh arrival. They then clamped, and I cut. Serafina was officially on her own. After another minute of rest and recovery, Megan decided to leave the tub (now filled with all sorts of fun colors and liquids), and made her way back onto the comfy queen bed (with a plastic sheet, of course). Judy (Megan’s mother) and I took turns getting to know this wingless angel, but not in that order. I held her first, but had to list Judy first in order to use proper grammar. Stupid English language.
Having our first daddy-daughter time
The little Titan weighed in at 5 lbs 14 oz and 20 inches long.
After that, everything went like clockwork. Serafina was, and still is, a sleepy baby. We tried desperately to do as the midwives told us in waking her up for long enough to eat, but she kept going back to sleep. It reminded me of Megan and her stupid snooze button. The only hiccup came when during one of our attempts to keep Megan awake and baby awake and get them to a point where Megan could feed her, Megan turned ghostly pale and nearly passed out. We got her laying down, then got her some food and Gatorade. After a bit of a nap, she was feeling better.
Matilda and my mother came to visit about 8 AM, and Megan still looked a little rough. You could tell that scared Matilda a bit, but she was extremely excited to see her new baby sister. She knew right away that Baby Sister was no longer in mommy’s tummy, but she was right there in her arms. At two years and four months, Matilda was incredibly smart, perceptive, and intuitive. Two months later, she still is.
Sisters meeting for the first time
I went to go take a shower, and took a nice long one. The hot water supply was seemingly endless, and I was exhausted, so I felt free to take my time. After that, I went back to bed with Megan and the new baby and we took a nap together for about an hour. Our mothers were off running errands with Matilda.
At about 10:30, we started to get things out to the car. There was minimal paperwork, and the $1,400 bill covering prenatal and postnatal visits as well as labor, delivery, and recovery was paid in full in advance, so there was no bill forthcoming. We took some pictures with our midwives and were on our way.
Another funny point is the timing of the births of our two daughters. The active labor for Matilda and Serafina began at around 2 AM. Serafina came at 6:03 AM and Matilda came at 11:18 AM. At 11:18 AM on December 20, 2010, we were at the pick-up window at the In-N-Out drive thru with a new baby, a happy, healthy, and mobile mommy, and no hospital bill. Can you tell that I’m excited about not having a hospital bill?
On our doorstep just 5 hours after being born
Megan was a hero throughout the whole process. She said that there were moments where she questioned our sanity in doing this without anesthesia, but loved being able to feel where the baby was at each step of the way and being able to control its arrival. Megan said that the pain was bearable, but annoying. She also spoke about how empowering the whole thing was. She basically delivered her own child. There was minimal tearing (two stiches).
I was there to support, and the midwives were there “just in case”, but in the end, it was all Megan. I don’t foresee us ever going back to the expense and unnecessary procedures of a hospital birth, pending, of course, a pregnancy where Megan becomes a higher risk. Especially from the point of view of Megan’s post-partum presence of mind and recovery, but in so many other ways, this experience was incredible. I look at pictures of the hospital birth, and I loved getting Matilda, but hated nearly every other aspect of it. With Serafina, it was awesome to get my wife back so quickly and be able to sleep in my own bed that night.
So that’s basically it. She’s still growing like a weed, giving us big smiles, grabbing fingers, and reaching for faces. She is adorable and adored by all, especially her big sister. We’re all still adjusting to being a family of four, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
If anyone has any questions about hypno-birthing, midwives, water birth, delayed cord clamping, or the effects of In-N-Out on post-partum recovery, Megan and I are happy to share our experience and knowledge.