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Looking back… My birth team

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As most of you know, baby Levi was born at home.  This was our first home birth, as Jedidiah had been born at a birth center.  What do you expect when doing a home birth?  Let me introduce you to my team of superstars!

First of all, my midwives- Nikki McIver Brown and Monica Barrientes from San Antonio Nurse Midwife.  Can I just say- these ladies were amazing!  We loved Nikki from the moment we met her.  She was a no nonsense, but lighthearted kind of gal!  She has a lengthy background in labor and delivery and she worked in a hospital setting for many years before shifting to the home birth world.  She is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), which is a credential above most midwives.  She also has really good relationships and connections at the hospital where she worked (which put my mind at ease in case a transfer would have been necessary).  Her office is in Garden Ridge, so it was closer to us than the New Braunfels birth center, where we had delivered Jedidiah.  She was so great with both Jedidiah and Yi-Han during our prenatal visits.  We joked about Jedi always wanting to go “out-si-side” and she would let Yi-Han help with taking all the vitals and heart tones.  These ladies make my heart smile!

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Next up, our doula, Mrs. Shelby Miller with Blooming Water Lilies. We’ve known Shelby since Jedidiah’s birth, actually. We attended her birthing classes at the New Braunfels Family Birth Center when we were pregnant with him and found them to be so thorough and informative that we took them a second time (and learned just as much, if not more)! She assisted in Jedidiah’s birth, but in a midwife-in-training capacity, not as our doula (I wish we could’ve afforded her with him). This time around, we asked her to be our doula and we found her to be invaluable!!! Let me just tell you that, although my labor with Levi wasn’t long, it was INTENSE, and I wouldn’t have handled it well without her there. She was so soothing and helpful. She did a million little things that really made a big difference. Even just knowing she was there put me in a different mindset. This time around, Trent was taking care of logistical things (aka calling my birth team, making sure Jedidiah was being watched, getting the birthing tub ready, etc.) and I truthfully don’t think he had a clue how fast things were moving. Well, neither did I, for that matter, so she was with me in the deepest throes of labor, when contractions were coming in waves and I couldn’t get a breath in edgewise. We were thankful to have her as a doula and as a friend!

Our birth photographer, Joy Crampton of San Antonio Birth Photography was also amazing! I was so bummed that we didn’t have a photographer for Jedidiah’s birth. When I went into labor, my dear friend Heather had agreed to take photos for us, but we knew ahead of time that she would be leaving for a family cruise around my due date. So when my water broke the day before they were slated to leave, she agreed to drive down from Austin and take photos for us. I think we all thought that Jedi would come sooner than he did and she stayed way longer than she should have, awaiting his (what we thought was) imminent birth. Well, who would have known that I would push for three and a half hours before he was finally born?!? She left about 45 minutes before he finally made his appearance. Soooo, that left me with a lot of photos of the labor… and really crappy phone photos after he was born (think red-eyes, low light and waaaay too much skin). That was pretty disappointing, so this time I knew we needed to invest in a birth photographer. I’m so thankful that we did!

So, funny story… Levi came so fast and furious that she missed his birth… by about 4 minutes. She walked in the door and I watched her face fall! She was absolutely mortified that she had missed it! But we had already told her about our birth “photos” from Jedidiah and had explained to her that what was most important to us was not the actual birth, but the moments afterwards… us snuggling and loving on our little love, him meeting his brother and big “sister,” etc. So, in my mind, she came just in time! We have wonderful photos and memories of that first day with him. Every time I look at them, I am thankful that I have them!!!

Oh, yeah, and did I mention that she was pregnant and also had a little boy named Levi only a short few months later?

The other vital members of my birth team were, of course, my mother-in-law (who had also been in the trenches with me during Jedidiah’s birth), my father-in-law (who was watching Jedidiah outside while all this was happening), our host daughter, Yi-Han, and of course, my husband!

They were such a blessing to me throughout the whole process. From getting things ready to taking photos, to whispering words of encouragement… I was super lucky!

So there you have it! My birth team! I would recommend any one of them and we were extremely happy with all of them!

 

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A birth story

 

After weeks of waiting, hoping and dwelling on when we would meet our little man, it finally happened.

I had been stressing out about the time frame.  If I wasn’t already thinking about when the correct due date was, I was worried about both my midwife and my birth photographer leaving on vacation for a week.  Both were leaving on the 15th, so I kept telling baby Jedi that he either needed to come before the 15th (which would have been at either 42 weeks or 39 1/2 weeks depending on which due date was correct) or wait until after the 22nd.  And believe me, when you’re at the end of your pregnancy, you do NOT want to wait any longer!  But I really wanted Amber to be able to deliver him and I wanted my girlfriend Heather to be able to be there.

Anyways, Heather called me on Saturday afternoon and we were talking about how bummed out I was that Jedidiah probably wouldn’t be here before they left and how, as much as I didn’t want to, that I would try and keep him holding out until she got back.  I was laying on the bed and all of a sudden I felt a little trickle.  I didn’t think much of it but then it kept coming.  I sat up and realized that it was getting the bed wet, so I got up and ran to the bathroom where it became very clear that my water was breaking!  I was still on the phone with Heather and I told her that I thought my water had just broken and that I’d call her back in a little bit when I was sure.  Trent was out on the couch watching some college football.  I called to him and told him that I thought my water had broken.  I moved to the shower to see what color it was and if it had any sort of smell to it.  Water just kept coming.  That’s when I knew… we were going to get to meet our little man very soon!

Since I had tested positive for Group B Strep, my midwife wanted to make sure that labor got started within four hours of my water breaking.  I texted her shortly after it happened (3:32pm) and she messaged me back that we needed contractions to start by 7:30.  I laid low until then, I read my Bible, cooked dinner, and drank lots of pineapple juice (to try to start labor).  Trent painted my toenails.  7:30 came and went and contractions hadn’t started yet.  Amber messaged back and said that we’d need to start with castor oil.  I ate a teaspoonful of it with some ice cream and then Trent and I went out for a walk.

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We also took our last bump pictures, knowing that our little Jedi was on his way!

Almost exactly an hour later, contractions started, at 8:30pm.  They were lasting for about a minute but were still pretty far apart and inconsistent.  At 10 I started to feel pretty nauseous and 20 minutes later I threw up my entire dinner, ice cream and everything else I had eaten since lunch.  After that the contractions started to pick up in intensity and frequency.  For the next half hour or so, the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and lasting for a minute at a time.

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Then they got even closer and more intense.  From about 11:40-1:00am, they were anywhere from one and a half to three minutes apart and lasting for a little less than a minute apiece.  At this point they were super intense and I barely had any recovery time between them. I was certain we needed to go to the birth center.  We had been communicating back and forth for a while and they told me that the castor oil tends to make contractions very intense about 4 hours after it’s taken and that I probably still needed to wait.  But for me, not knowing any better, I decided it was time to go!

Zach and Heather had arrived sometime around midnight and hung out with me and in the living room while I labored.  Then we headed out to the New Braunfels Family Birth Center around 1am.  Trent’s parents had called several times and wanted to know when we’d be going to the birth center.  They were on their way over to our house when we decided we were ready to leave.  They happened to be close, so we drove in tandem to the birth center.  Heather rode with us and timed my contractions while Trent drove, Zach drove their car behind us, and then Debbie and Steve (Trent’s parents) drove behind him.  We arrived shortly before 1:30 am.  Shelby, the doula who had been our birthing class instructor and is a midwife in training, already had things ready for us.  The lights were dim, it smelled nice and there was soft music playing.  I was immediately grateful for how comfortable she had made it.  The main house was under construction, so we were in the newly renovated birth cottage out back.

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The contractions continued close together for a while.  Our midwife Amber arrived shortly thereafter.  She asked if I wanted to be checked when she got here and I said yes.  She kindly told me that we still had some work to do (which I knew was her kind way of telling me that I wasn’t very far dilated yet).  Shelby continued to encourage me to not fight the contractions, but to work with them to help baby move down.  That was probably the best advice she could have given me.

Not too long after, true to what they had told me, my contractions slowed down a bit more and I had more of a break between them.  While I labored, Shelby rubbed my back and Amber massaged me.  Only two hours later, I was nearly ready to push.  Since I wanted to have a water birth, they began to fill the tub.  I moved there around 3:30 am and I started pushing.

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After a while, they told me that his head was close and let me reach down to feel his fuzzy little head.  I continued pushing but had a hard time getting the traction that I needed (I was all greased up from the massage).  Baby boy’s head started to show but we decided to move to a different pushing position.

We tried the bed for a while and he started to crown but we didn’t seem to be making enough headway so we moved again, this time to the birthing stool.  I thought for sure the gravity would work him right out of me, but I had a hard time pushing here too.  I was still too slippery and couldn’t get enough of a grip on the stool to really get good leverage to bear down.  I was starting to get discouraged now, it had been an hour and a half and I felt like he should be coming.  Everyone kept telling me how close I was getting every time, but until Shelby went to get a mirror to show me, I didn’t believe it.  I saw his little head… he was so close!

After a while, we moved back to the bed and continued pushing.  We stayed here for what felt like an eternity.  I pushed for 3 and a half hours total, moving between locations with my baby’s head half-way out between my legs.  He was crowning for over 2 of those hours.  Towards the end I was so discouraged.  I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore; I wasn’t doing it right, we weren’t making enough progress.  Bless their hearts, everyone was so patient and encouraging, telling me with every push that he was coming closer and closer.  Even though they really were telling me the truth, it just didn’t seem close enough.  Heather had to leave soon and I kept thinking that we just needed to get him a little bit further and he’d come out.  Unfortunately, Heather had to leave before he was born, even though she pushed it as far as she possibly could.  I pushed, and pushed, and pushed, but I just couldn’t stretch enough to get him out.  After each set of contractions, I had to keep pressure there so he wouldn’t slide back in.  Amber kept trying to stretch me out using essential oils so that I could either tear or stretch enough to let him through.  They used massage and constant pressure to try to get me past this spot.  I was about to give up.  I prayed for strength but I was finished.  I remember crying and saying, “I can’t do this.  I’m trying as hard as I can.  I can’t push any harder.”  Trent was such a trooper through all of this.  He kept me going.

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Amber mentioned cutting me open, which is something she didn’t want to do and has only had to do three times in all the births she’s done.  She gave me the option- she could cut me on the next contraction, or I could try one more round of pushing.  I was so tempted to just do the cut, but somehow in my delirium, I decided to keep pushing.  Every time I would push as hard as I could, and every time everyone would say how close he was.  Shelby showed me again with the mirror- his head was so close!  I tried again through two more sets of contractions.  I was going to give up again but they just kept saying, “Ang, you gotta get him outta there!  Keep pushing!”  So I kept pushing, even when I wasn’t having a contraction.  Finally we all heard an audible “POP” and his head was out.  I have never been so relieved in all my life!  I still had to push out his little body out, but two minutes later, we had a baby!  His little head came out at 8:00am and the rest of him at 8:02, his official time of birth.  Trent helped lift him out and place him on my belly.  We talked to Jedidiah and told him how happy we were that he was here, and what a trooper he’d been hanging in there for so long.  I only wish that Heather would have been able to stay for that moment!  She wanted to be there for his birth SO BAD!  We waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and Trent cut it.

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At this point, Amber had to leave for her flight.  One of the other midwives, Galyn, came to finish up and take over.

They got me a bath ready while Trent took the baby and had some skin-to-skin time with him.  Mom and Dad got to see him and then headed out to get us some breakfast.

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After I got out of the tub, Galyn and Shelby did all the measurements and tests.  Jedidiah weighed 8 pounds, and was 22 and a half inches long.  His head circumference was 14 1/2 centimeters (the average is 13cm).  As she did his measurements, she said that the official diagnosis of time in the womb was 39 weeks- she based this on the vernix still on his skin, the amount of cartilage in his ears, his nipple protrusion (or lack thereof), the lines on his testicles and the creases on his feet.  So we weren’t overdue after all!  But little guy must have known that if his head got any bigger I wouldn’t have been able to deliver him any later that I did.

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Then we tried breastfeeding for the first time.  He did a good job!  He had a good latch and fed for nearly 40 minutes!  By then, everyone had left and Trent and I finally got to rest!

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His first outfit.

We chose not to have any other visitors that day and boy, are we glad that we didn’t.  We had been up for over 24 hours and we were absolutely exhausted!  We slept most of the day at the birth center and decided to head home at around 6pm.  Trent and I got Jedidiah in his car seat for the first time and drove our baby boy home!

After 11 1/2 hours of labor, we are so thankful that our little Jedi is here!  We are so thankful to God for our sweet, healthy baby boy and the strength he provided for us to deliver him!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Midwives vs. Hospitals: Our decision

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I know that China and America are worlds apart (literally) but their views on birth couldn’t be more different. In China, most births happen by C-section. The doctors there are most comfortable performing this procedure; it is faster and more predictable and so this is how births usually go in China. That’s not to say that you CAN’T have a natural birth there, but it sure isn’t encouraged!

The closer we get to Jedidiah’s arrival, the more time I’ve had to reflect on how I want him to be born. I guess I have always been sort of a “hippie” when it comes to natural things. I am really picky about foods that we eat (non GMO, organic all the way) and about the products that we use (minimal chemicals, etc), so it’s no surprise that when it comes to Jedidiah’s entry into the world, I would choose the more “natural” route (no drugs, minimal intervention, the use of aromatherapy, massage and hydrotherapy for pain relief).

The more I read and learn about midwives, the more I think that they are in an underappreciated profession. These women care deeply about the people they serve. They listen to their preferences and offer the best possible ways to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. They use simple but effective remedies to ease the pain of labor and offer the least intrusive entry into the world.

Now, I should say before I get too far in, that I know many people who have had successful hospital births and who love their Ob GYN, but I also know a fair share of people who have had horrific hospital births, being pushed and even bullied into making decisions that they didn’t really want to make, feeling like they had no other choice and leaving feeling defeated. This post is in no way to belittle the choices of others when it comes to the birth of their child, it is simply to explain our choice for the upcoming birth of our son.

Trent and I toured several birthing centers in and around San Antonio. There is one IN San Antonio, another in Stone Oak and another outside the city limits in New Braunfels. We enjoyed our visits to all three. Each of them had very nice facilities and all of the midwives we spoke with were very kind and helpful. Trent and I would like to have a water birth and all of the facilities offered this as an option and were well-versed in performing them. The more we read about water births, the more convinced we are that we want to have our baby this way. The water has been shown to relax the mother as well as reduce the pain of contractions and labor, and babies who are born in the water still get the benefits of the flora and bacteria in the mother’s birth canal. Water births increase the skin’s elasticity, thereby reducing the chances for tearing. It also increases the release of endorphins while decreasing blood pressure and reducing the release of stress-related hormones (which means that complications are less likely to arise during delivery).

There are other reasons we wanted to choose a birthing center over a hospital birth. Birthing centers are more open to letting mothers eat and drink while they are in labor, they allow women to walk around and allow gravity to assist in the labor process. They intermittently monitor the baby’s heart and don’t attach you to IV’s and machines. Because of this, women are able to give birth in many different positions. They also really encourage the spouse or partner to be a part of the birthing experience. Daddy will be able to be in the tub with me and he can catch our baby as he is born, which is another cool and exciting part that we are looking forward to. Another thing that we like about midwives is that they walk through the pregnancy with you; they get to know you and your preferences. It is much more personal.

Another thing we really wanted was delayed cord clamping. We decided not to do cord blood banking, but instead to let our baby get all of those important stem cells from the umbilical cord before it is cut. Again, this is just our own personal decision.

Another thing we really appreciate about birthing centers over hospitals is that they give us time with our baby after the birth instead of whisking him away for all their necessary testing. They allow an uninterrupted time for bonding as a family before stepping in. They do all the testing right next to us, so we can see everything they are doing (and they explain it as they go), and baby boy will never have to leave our side. There are no required overnight stays, although we are not limited to a specific time frame before leaving (we could stay the night if we so chose).

They also come to our house to check on us within 24-48 hours of leaving the center. This visit is to offer breastfeeding advice and tips as well as to make sure that the transition into home life is going smoothly. They are there to answer any questions as well. I like how personal it all is.

Anyways, after all was said and done, we chose the New Braunfels Family Birth Center as our delivery choice. Like I had mentioned before (in another post), one of my close girlfriends had her last two babies there, the last of which was a water birth. It is also the closest in proximity to our house and the easiest to get to. We felt very comfortable with the midwives there and these midwives also provide the services usually offered by a doula… double whammy! They were also willing to give me a discounted price since I was coming in so late in my pregnancy. Another thing I really appreciate is their later office hours, so that working husbands (like my own) can be there for the prenatal visits and check-ups. This way Trent doesn’t have to take extra time off of work to be there. 🙂

The day that we went for our initial visit and tour, it had already been nearly 7 weeks since we had seen a doctor (because of a lapse in insurance during our move from China to the States). The ladies there knew that I was anxious to know if everything was progressing normally and so they offered to examine me right then and there, no strings attached. “Examine” might be too harsh a word, actually. Their “exam” room, for lack of a better term, is a bedroom, decorated comfortably as if you were at home. I didn’t have to get naked and don a stupid robe lying on a cold, metal tray; rather I lied down on a comfy bed for them to check my blood pressure, uterus and the baby’s heartbeat. Everything measured well and it was a very comfortable, un-intrusive check-up. Leaving that afternoon, I felt so relieved! It was that extra step that made me even more confident in their services and we look forward to continuing to work with them! Another plus for us, is that they are Christians too, so we are coming from similar worldviews and it helps us feel more connected to them.

Now, some of you may be wondering about the cost of midwifery over hospital deliveries. In the end, when all is said and done, they cost about the same. Most insurance companies won’t cover births outside of their “in-network” hospitals, but the research is beginning to show a trend towards birthing centers and the job that midwives do is starting to get more credit and backing from medical and scientific communities. Even without the help of insurance, birthing centers offer an affordable way to give birth to your baby. They put you on a payment plan so that by the time your baby is born, you have already paid for all the necessary services. Many birthing centers also offer discounts for people whose insurance won’t cover births there (which is most of them). They are certainly an option I would encourage looking into!

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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