Monday, August 13, 2012

Maria Corazón's Birth Journey

With my two boys, I easily call their birth stories, well, stories.

When it comes to my first birth, I can't help but view it as a journey. I had a very long and detailed version posted on Facebook for some time. It was really disjointed. I wrote it less than a week after she was born. I took that version down because I've pieced together many things since her birth. But to add more would almost turn it into a book.

Taking the story down, however, has caused a consistent flow of questions from people wondering...what about your first birth? Sometimes I think I hear a little accusation: Hey! You've left your daughter out! Hahaha. :-)

So here is the abridged version. (And that's pretty long anyways! You've been warned lol!)

Pickles. I still remember the moment I knew. We decided to gamble our lives by eating at the university cafeteria. All I wanted was a plate filled with sliced pickles. We looked at each other and smiled, two people who knew a special secret.

My mom had already told me eleventy-million times to call her the moment I found out I was pregnant. She said to me, "Even if you find out in the middle of the night! CALL ME!" She couldn't wait for a grandchild. So to spill the beans, I had her open a box. Inside was a baby onesie that said, "Face it! It's time to call Grandma!" She stared at it blankly before it hit her.

Ah, then we had dinner with the in laws. We didn't intend to wait until the very end to say anything. Walking outside, almost like an afterthought, "Oh yeah, I'm pregnant." My dear mother in law jumped up and down and shouted (ok, screamed) with joy.

Unassisted pregnancy and birth was normal to me, my default. But towards the middle of the pregnancy (around 24 weeks) I decided on an ultrasound to rule out heart defects due to family history. A free-standing clinic had just opened in the area and they offered a free trial scan. I made friends with the tech and she provided about 5 minutes of scanning while I directed her to see what I needed.

Growing a baby surrounded such abundant love is dizzying. The days pass by gently and the symptoms of pregnancy seem worth it. I didn't experience morning sickness. But my body marched through the hormonal changes; you could almost chart by the feelings alone. I had severe migraines at one point and struggled to maintain a drug-free experience, chewing on raw ginger and writing as a distraction. Fortunately, they subsided in the 2nd trimester and life went on blissfully.

Zon's first harvest celebration lol.

On Halloween night, during the full moon, I felt a mantra. It repeated itself to me over and over again. My inner sense was so free to speak, that it spoke even when I didn't understand the language. My body was ready at 39 weeks. (By conception date). My baby? She wasn't so sure at that point. Almost against my own anti-exercising will, I walked a few miles that night, trick or treating with my siblings until the streets became empty and dark.

I told my mom I felt crampy. She smiled.

At 4AM, I woke up to what I realized was a contraction. My baby was arriving! Excited, I woke up DH and told him to fill the birth pool and to call my sister and parents. I figured in about 8 hours, I'd be holding my baby.

My contractions said so as well. They were intense, long and about 5 minutes apart, growing steadily closer together. I had some bloody show and saw my mucus plug. Everything was as expected.

But babies have a way of bringing real life with them. And Zon is the most stubborn of them all. She wasn't ready. I don't think she had even engaged at that point, actually. Although she had moved down early on in the pregnancy, it was a posterior, almost oblique position. (Her face was sunnyside up and she was angled over towards my left hip, so that her shoulder was pointing downwards). And now that my body was ready, she was attempting to retrace her steps to try again.

I found myself in the birth pool for a day. I only wanted that pool. It was my reprieve from the long waves crashing over me. I found myself on all fours, rocking forward, pulling my legs up and almost arching my back. DH asked me what I was doing. I didn't know. It felt right. I later learned that this is the Walcher technique used to help a baby engage. My body and my baby were dancing an old routine.

Labor continued through the night steadily, then died off suddenly as the sun winked through the blinds. Where was my baby? I could walk, talk and eat almost as if nothing had happened. I didn't know it at the time, but this is an established labor pattern. My baby had engaged into the pelvic brim, so now my uterus was resting. DH massaged my back and gently adjusted my hips. The SI joints were stinging, a reference to my gymnastic injuries and something I hadn't researched yet.

Towards the evening, labor started again. I ran for the birth pool, my haven. But rolling my large tummy in the pool came with consequences. A breath taking, sharp pain started during contractions, then stayed with me permanently. I was doubled over and concerned. I heard the words: Placental Abruption. Not wanting to ignore the potential symptoms, we drove over to the local hospital. The on call doctor observed for about 20 minutes. He even did an ultrasound on the baby, saying she was in a great position and maybe 8.5lbs. He asked to do a vaginal exam and I consented.

Patting my foot, he smiled and said I was barely at 4cm and with the history of stalling, my labor was probably going to be a longer one. "It's normal for first time moms." I still remember the warmth and confidence in his voice. Who gets a doctor like that these days, anyways? I signed AMA and rushed back home, eager to recommit to laboring. A mama online told me to try hot rice in socks for the pain, which turned out to be round ligament pain. It worked like a miracle. We were back in business.

I labored. And then I labored some more. How much longer, and when is long too long? DH called the midwife to ask what she thought. "Let me stop by."

She did stop by, late at night. She asked if she could check to see what was going on and I consented. Ah. Baby had tipped into the canal asynclitic (tilted head) which is fairly normal but hadn't straightened out. All those contractions were directed against my pubic symphosis. My body was wearing itself out like waves crashing on a rock. She tried to manually turn the baby and I immediately felt more effective contractions, and yet they alternated, light then strong, light then strong. I would later learn that my body was working to move the baby into position then working to dilate, doing double duty in one labor. Amazing!

I still had a long way to go, and some herbs helped me out a bit, along with the midwife guiding DH on how to help the baby's head past my pubic bone. Finally, it was time to push, but I had no desire. Her positioning wasn't triggering the reflex. I had to do directed pushing for a long time. I think over 5 hours. I pushed in the pool. I pushed sitting. I pushed on all fours. I got out and pushed on my knees until one leg gave out.

Then I leaned on the birth ball and kept pushing. It was hard to map out my birth canal and learn about all this birthing stuff when my pelvic area had basically gone numb (that gymnastics injury I had yet to research). I suppose that's what it feels like for a first time mom using an epidural, except she doesn't have the freedom to move all over her living room and bathroom.

Finally, Zon's head was on my perineum. I found that sitting down and slightly leaning back, with DH behind me, holding me up by my underarms, was the most effective way for me to push. By then I was pretty tired. I studied her head moving down, down, down, then slowly going up again as I stopped pushing. I started to get much more focused now that I could see her and feel her in the softer tissues. But her head looked so strange to me. Hmm.

She crowned...with a brow presentation! The wrinkles I saw were her eyebrows. I remember my mom's shocked gasp and giddy giggle. Imagine that, a brow presentation! My baby had managed to enter the brim and crown while asynclitic with an extended chin. A very difficult presentation...and we both had worked hard for it.

The midwife worried about shoulder dystocia. "Get on all fours." I was already rolling over. She plopped right out of me, though. The little squiggly slippery plop was an amazing sensation, one I will remember forever. And then she immediately pooped all over my foot. :) My baby was here. She was as tired as I was from our journey together, but as she was lying there and I was admiring her, DH kneeled down next to her and spoke to her. She immediately opened her eyes, turned her head and looked at him. That moment out of the entire birth is sealed in my memory forever. I still get teary eyed thinking about it.

I had walked a long journey with my baby. And thanks to the many people around me who deeply trusted me and my baby, it was a gentle journey. (Read more about the midwife who helped us here.)

I only have one photo from her birth. My dad walked into the room after he heard her cry out, a few minutes after she was born. He rushed in and took that above photo. I'm forever grateful.

Zon was born on 11-03-08 sometime in the early AM. She weighed 11lbs, 4oz, although I was tempted to say 11lbs, 3oz so it would match her birth date. She was earthside, finally. :)

One week old!

Thank you for reading about our journey.

If you liked this post...

Ian's story

Ciaran's story

Finnian's story




  1. When you say you had an unassisted pregnancy, do you really mean just that? No prenatal check ups, labs, etc?
    This is my second pregnancy and I plan on approaching it much differently than my first...I'm a lot more conscious now and want very little intervention.
    If you have a blog post that already addresses this, please share, as I'd like a better understanding of what an unassisted pregnancy really consists of (or doesn't consist of).
    Thanks for your time and sharing your experiences.

    1. It's called unassisted pregnancy/UP or self-prenatals, self-pregnancy etc. What women opt to do or opt out of varies and is highly individual. For me, I monitor glucose at the beginning of each trimester and then have a full profile and heart scan midway. For others, it could range from absolutely nothing to even pulling their own labs, tracking urine on sticks, taking BP etc.

      MDC has many threads on it. Here is one: