The birth story of my third baby really begins with the birth of his older sister and brother. Pregnancy and birth is an amazing and beautiful time, a natural part of the cycle of life. Women were designed to carry babies in the womb, nourish them, and birth them. It is natural, it is normal, and it is not a medical phenomenon to be “treated”. Before I was even pregnant with my first born, I knew I wanted to bring my baby into I knew I wanted to bring my baby into this world with as little intervention as possible…but what exactly did that mean? I would soon find out just how challenging a “natural and normal” birth experience could be without the supportive like-minded environment that every woman and baby deserves.
My first born, beautiful little girl was born in Southern California with an OBGYN, a hospital, a nurse pit crew, Pitocin, and a whole lot of unnecessary angst. I didn’t fully realize the power of just saying “no”, I didn’t fully realize that I had the final say in my “treatment”, and I didn’t fully realize the magnitude of consequences that came with entrusting a medical staff to tell me how, when, where, and why I was to labor and give birth. Fortunately, and by God’s grace alone, I was able to stave off the epidural and section that were so dauntingly dangled in my face (regardless of my clearly communicated wish for a natural birth and absolutely no pending medical emergencies). Unfortunately, I was still pressured into artificial rupturing of my membranes, lying down flat, taking an IV for fluids, and constant internal monitoring. After 11 hours of labor I was judged by the “powers-that-be” - my verdict: failure to progress! Thankfully, I refused to go poo in a bedpan and against the orders of the nurse and the doctor I got up out of bed, removed the internal monitor, and walked my tired behind to the potty. That’s all it took to get things going! When my daughter arrived (just 20 minutes after my “insubordinate” display of poo’ing in the potty) she was perfect - beautiful in every way - despite the pressures, annoyances, and hospital imposed policies.
Fast forward 19 months later and my second-born son greeted us in much the same way as his sister. This time, I refused the internal monitor and was able to walk around and labor however I felt most comfortable. The empowerment of bending, moaning, and concentrating on every contraction as it pulsed through my body was amazing! My body was doing its thing - I was in the zone - and everything was moving right along! Unfortunately, my OB must have had plans for that evening and insisted that I receive Pitocin – “just a little” she said (even though she knew quite well that they would up the dose every 30 minutes). Pitocin assisted contractions are not the same as the natural, normal, and solid oxytocin contractions. I was upset that they pressured me with Pitocin, and upset that I let myself give in. After I asked my husband to fire our assigned nurse (she had the gall to blatantly exclaim that I wasn’t having contractions because otherwise I’d be screaming “like they do in the movies”) it only took a few more contractions and I was ready to have this baby! My son was born a healthy, handsome, perfect little specimen of a man. I was elated to add to our family this new bundle of love and was so excited to get – out – of – that – hospital.
Fourteen months later, when we found out we were pregnant for the third time, I did two things: jumped for joy and started researching alternative birthing options. No more hospitals! But what did that mean? Where do I go? Who can I contact? After some careful research and a couple interviews, I found and fell in love with The Birth Center of Sacramento.
Ruth, the Certified Nurse Midwife, was straight forward, understanding, and fostered a “your body was made for this” kind of attitude. She was everything I needed to lead my birth support team. This pregnancy was a dream (aside from a sudden and severe bout of appendicitis that came on in the middle of the night when I was just 18 weeks pregnant)! I was active, glowing, my belly was ginormous, and I never felt more than a teensy bit nauseous. Not much made me queasy, and I craved wonderful chocolaty gooey desserts (that’s okay, right?).
Given the history of my pregnancy timelines - my daughter was born 3 weeks earlier than her estimated due date, and my son two weeks early - it was only reasonable to expect that this little man would arrive a little early as well. Right? So wrong. I was as big as could be! Seriously, my belly stuck straight out and I felt like there were three in there! My estimated due date came and went. I was also dealing with prodromal labor for the last three weeks or so of my pregnancy. What is prodromal labor, you ask? Ah, prodromal labor is early labor that takes an unusually long time and often occurs when the baby is posterior (he was). The contractions would come; they would get stronger, longer, and time-able. On more than one occasion I actually thought, “this might be it!” and then...all progression would cease. The contraction went from strong to completely gone. My prodromal labor went on for so long that I just started ignoring the contractions – they were messing with my mind! The final days ticked by ever so slowly as I constantly reminded myself that my baby boy would come on his own terms – and that’s what I wanted.
Ten very long days after my estimated due date and weeks after I began telling people “any day now” my baby was ready to come meet us! The morning of the big day I woke up to hugs and kisses and “Happy Birthday Mommy” – that’s right; my baby boy would decide to make his grand entrance on my birthday! Somewhere in the back of my mind I must have known that he’d be here soon, because for the first time I actually loaded my birth bag into the car and installed the infant car seat. After I shuttled the kids to preschool I went with my mom to Target, not so much to buy anything but to just get out of the house and walk around. I waddled around a bit and around noon I went to the bathroom in Target and heard a distinguishing ‘pop’ and felt a gush of fluid. I was ecstatic! Woohoo! My waters just broke (on their own) and my baby boy would be here soon!
(Funny side story: I sat on the potty and made a few phone calls. First, my husband to let him know the good news and second, my midwife, to let her know I’d be coming in soon. A sweet lady in the bathroom overheard me tell my husband that my waters had broke and stayed in there just in case I needed anything. I think she was quietly relieved when my mom arrived on the scene.)
On our way to The Birth Center (about a 30 minute drive) I stopped at the house to grab my husband’s swim trunks (a water birth was in the plans) and a snack. What can I say? I was hungry. My husband beat me to The Birth Center and was waiting for me. We went in, settled into our beautiful birth room, and let my body do its thing.
The contractions were strong, purposeful, and empowering. I walked around, swayed back and forth, sat on the birth ball, and sat in the rocking chair – whatever felt right at the time. My birth support team consisted of my wonderfully supportive husband, my mom who had been at the birth of all my babies, my midwife Ruth, her staff Janet and Jen, and our photographer. Everyone was fantastic. Ruth, Janet, and Jen somehow managed to always be there when I needed something while still allowing me this time to birth my way, with as much privacy and respect as I wanted and deserved.
Just a couple hours after my waters broke in Target I was fully dilated. My cervix was a bit stiff on the right and my baby boy was still posterior. We used Pulsatilla, a homeopathic medicine derived from the Windflower, to help my baby turn and Ruth had me lay down on the bed on my right side to soften up that cervix. I stared at the clock – my focal point – as the next couple contractions came and went. I heard my husband tell Ruth that it was almost “time” – he knows me well. The next contraction came and was definitely the strongest yet! I actually thought to myself: “I’ll let everyone know I want to move to the birthing tub as soon as this contraction is over”. But the contraction never ended! It dimmed ever so slightly and got stronger again. I managed to mutter an “uh oh” and we all knew it was go time!
My husband and Janet helped me move from the bed to the birthing tub – at that moment I knew for sure that I wanted to birth this baby in the water! It was all happening very quickly and very forcefully – I was actually almost frozen as my body’s natural instincts took over. Ruth calmly but authoritatively guided me into a comfortable position. My husband got in the water with me, and supported my back while I bore down. This baby was coming!
My 9lb 14 oz, 22 inch long son, Ryker Andrew Feuerstein, was born into a warm pool of water at 2:54pm on my birthday, January 26th. Immediately, I brought him to my chest and the world around me faded away as I admired my perfect, healthy, beautiful baby boy.
This was how birth was supposed to happen. This is what I wanted. This is what God intended. This was perfection.
We waited to cut the cord until it had completely stopped pulsing and we saved my baby's placenta for encapsulation. I drank water, had a snack, and posed for pictures. I felt wonderful and was elated. We brought our baby home just three hours later, introduced him to his siblings, and ate the first of many, “mommy and son” birthday cakes.