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    In honor of our firstborns 3rd birthday, I'm reprinting her birth story as published in The Compleat Mother.


    Before there can be a birth there must be a gestation and before that, a conception.

    My darling, you were conceived on the 25th of October, 2006.  We had just returned to our remote Alaskan home from a trip down to the Lower 48 to pick up a crazy load of stuff, including an oil stove, a bunch of pumpkins and a four-wheeler.  Your Daddy and I were gearing up to start a family and you snuck up on us.  I think you were waiting for the first possible moment to be a part of our family.

    Daddy was gone to the coast of Prince William Sound for bear season when I realized you were growing inside me.  I couldn’t bring myself to share the news over the satellite phone, and so I waited until Daddy came home.  I asked him to walk to the Gazebo that we built for our wedding, and when we got there- beneath the gaze of Castle Mountain, I asked him if we could have our baby there in that spot.  He said yes, and we celebrated.    

    I had chosen our midwife a year ahead of time, because she was the only local midwife who would attend a homebirth.  I doubt the birth center midwives would have taken me as a client due to my health history, as I had seizures from age 17 to 27- and most HCP’s consider me high-risk.  Kirsten seemed to trust me, my judgment and my body- and I believed that a homebirth with that kind of support would give you the best start and give me the birth experience I wanted.

    When I was pregnant with you, our community was embroiled in a fight against strip mining our neighborhood for coal.  Your Mama was President of the anti-coal Coalition, and Secretary for the Community Council.  I laughed alot, considering giving you the middle name of Kohl.

    By November 1st I was starving.   I remember being hungry all the time.  I gained weight quickly.  Then the hunger remained while motion sickness took over.  Even with sea bands, I was scarcely able to look at the computer screen or read a book or ride in the car/airplane.  And this is when the napping began.  Oh the glorious naps of pregnancy.

    As the pregnancy progressed I had a lot of reflux and diarrhea and felt oh so weak and tired.  This was not how I pictured a vibrant healthy pregnancy, but my midwife assured me that everything was normal and this is how I was supposed to feel.  I still don’t believe she was right.

    You see, it turns out that I developed an allergy to wheat while I was pregnant with you.  Perhaps if I had figured this out in a timely fashion, you wouldn’t have had to fight the multitude of sensitivities that shadowed your early childhood.  Perhaps your birth story would be different.  But I’m getting ahead of the story.

    When spring arrived, we got the announcement that the coal company was pulling out.  We won the battle, thanks to endless hard work.  It was just in time to spend our third trimester in peace, without the added stress of the fight.  It was also just in time for me to start birth classes with a lovely doula named Tammy.  I’ll never forget her saying “But you’ll never need a C-section…” and I was certain she was right.  But again, I’m getting ahead of us.

    Daddy took off for spring bear season on the Coast, while I gardened and hatched chicks and took care of the dog team and the goats.  Soon after Daddy’s return, Gramma arrived and they went to work right away converting our gazebo into your birthhouse.  It was finished shortly before you were scheduled to arrive.   Grampa flew up from Montana for your birth… and then you waited for two more weeks until the day before he went home to make your appearance.  We were all ready to meet you!      

    Daddy and I were sleeping in the birthhouse from the night it was finished.  Finally, on the 20th of July things started to happen.  I woke up as my water was breaking and started contractions right away.  It was 3:30 am… and by the time Kirsten arrived the contractions were strong and two minutes apart.  I was happy she brought along her assistant Amy, 7.5 months pregnant, and Tammy (my birth class teacher and one of her ex-assistants).

    The wood-fired hot tub was warm already, and I was getting in and out of the tub… soaking, and getting out to pee, and walking around.   It was a beautiful summer morning with very few bugs to get in our way.  The midwife seemed nervous like you were going to come any minute and didn’t want me to walk far from the birthhouse.  So we walked short distances.  Every contraction I would lean on Daddy and squat on the earth.  I was so excited to meet you.  I knew the time was coming.

    Daddy did a great job of keeping me well fed and hydrated through the entire endeavor.  When we got to the hospital I remember our midwife telling the doctor that she’d never seen a wombon do such a good job of staying nourished while in labor.  But again, I’m getting ahead of the story. 

    After getting back in the tub Amy told me I should push during contractions, if it seemed to feel better when I did.  So I pushed.  I hadn’t really planned on pushing.  I had wanted my body to do its thing and let you come in your own time.  But instead I pushed, and soaked, and pushed, and walked, and pushed, and puked, and squatted, and pushed.   Much to my dismay, we found out that I was only 4 cm dilated after many hours of pointless pushing.  So then we stopped pushing and tried to rest.

    Sometime the next day, the midwife examined me again and declared I was 8 cm.  Then 9+ with a lip.  Then full with a lip.  She forced the lip and you began your descent.  I started pushing again.  But we’d been in labor for 36 hours already and my contractions were spacing out.  So we began the cohoshes and nipple stimulation.  Walking, and squatting, and hanging, and over the birth ball, and in the bed… we pushed, and pushed, and pushed. 

    I wanted to get back in the water but the midwife gave me a sharp “No!”  Huh?  She must know best, I thought.  So I walked as best I could, though something was askew in my hip with intense muscle spasms and I couldn’t really lift my right leg.  Back in the bed, the midwife wanted me on my side but the spasms were unbearable.  I nearly chewed Daddy’s hand off.  I was having a lot of back pain.  Tammy did a great job trying to keep me loosened up… she was awesome, the cushiest cushion supporting me while I squatted- and the only real support that I felt outside of Daddy.

    Pushing in the bed, mostly on my back, the midwives would cheer and cheer.  I had very little sensation of you descending, so I just tried to do what seemed right. So when they cheered I figured that was the position that was most productive… too bad that was on my back.   I could feel your head with my fingers.  It is something I will never ever forget.  The midwives wanted to show me with the mirror, but I did not want to have my eyes open.

    By late afternoon of the 21st, we’d been thinking you would pop out any minute for quite awhile.  I remember walking back from the outhouse one trip and feeling like you were going to fall out any second.  But Kirsten said you weren’t ready and that she wasn’t seeing any progress.  I was starting to internally wish for a doctor to suction you out.  I didn’t feel like I had any power to change the scenario.  Then Kirsten started setting timelines… like if you didn’t come out in 15 minutes we’d have to do something different.  Well, nothing changed, and nothing changed, and nothing changed, and by 7pm Kirsten said she thought we should transport.

    By that time we’d been pushing for 8 hours straight and I was tired.  We called Grampa and Gramma and asked them to get things ready.  They were surprised and worried because they too thought you were being born.  They could hear me pushing you, and at one point even started walking up the mountain to meet you, only to be confronted by a growling bear who I’d called in with my birthing roars.

    Grampa brought the four- wheeler and trailer while Gramma gathered everything on my “transport list”.  It was a pretty rough ride down the mountain.  I wish now I had walked… but we don’t get do-overs.  Finally we made it to Kirsten’s car and we all loaded up for the drive into Anchorage.  Kirsten drove while Tammy called hospitals to see who was on call and Amy tried to rest.  Kirsten told me not to push any more.  So I tried to sleep between contractions, and sleep I did.  I did not pee the entire three hour trip.

    When we got to the city, the midwives drove to a birth center so they could change clothes and get their plans together.  They asked me to lie to the doctor about how long my water had been broken, which was fine with me… anything to avoid antibiotics and emergency decisions.  They asked if I wanted to come inside and get checked and such, but at that point I just wanted to rest.  I knew that I hadn’t progressed during the trip and didn’t see the point of another exam.

    So onward we went to the hospital.  When we arrived the doctor was standing near the exit watching me approach, seeing me limp, and squat, and roar, and limp some more.  I presented my “in case of transport birth plan” to the hospital staff (to the amazement of my midwife.  I didn’t really have a homebirth plan… as long as it was a homebirth, that was fine with me…)   I couldn’t pee when we got inside so a nurse cathed me.  Dr. Ritchie watched in amazement as almost 1500ml filled the bag.  The ultrasound showed you were posterior and floating.  All my hard work of pushing was undone.  Since my contractions were spaced out we started Pitocin and began pushing again. 

    But Dr. Ritchie said we weren’t making progress.  He said we would need a C-section because of CPD.  I felt like I had pushed you with everything I had, and I was afraid that I would have to push another 8 hours and still need a Cesarean.  So we consented to the surgery.

    Within the hour, with Daddy and Kirsten in the operating room, you were pulled out of my belly.  It was a few minutes after midnight on July 22nd, 2007.  The sounds of your cries and the sight of your tiny spread out toes as I craned to see you over my shoulder are imprinted on my soul.  Daddy stayed with you every second, and denied every intervention except the warming lights.  You were brought to me after I woke up in the recovery room.

    It was strange to wake up with a baby in my arms after not giving birth.  You were stolen from my womb and I felt like a big important chunk of my life had been cut out and replaced with disappointment.  When Dr. Ritchie came to check on me the next day I thanked him profusely.  He told me that my uterus was riddled with tiny tears and that my organs were all distorted from an extended pushing phase.  When Kirsten stopped by the hospital room I just focused on you, and shared my sadness that a midwife attended homebirth could not be in my future since it is illegal in Alaska after Cesarean birth.  I had one non-family visitor… Linda, too, had a Cesarean birth once when she wasn’t expecting it.  She brought me roses.

    It was impossible to rest in the hospital.  People were always coming and going.  Bottle fed tray babies in adjoining rooms screamed and screamed without human comfort.  I was having a terrible time getting you to latch on because my nipples were so flat.  We were both sleepy from the morphine and we didn’t know it yet but you had a mild anterior tongue tie and your upper lip was tied.  We are still waiting to find out if you have a posterior tongue tie.

    I asked Warren and Sally if we could stay at their condo for a few days so I could discharge early but be close to the hospital.  They said yes, and we enjoyed the peace of their home while showering with you for the first time… you were two days old.  We ordered in a pizza and you slept in the bed between us. 

    Coming home was so hard for me.  I dearly wanted to have never left home in the first place, and the act of having to return home reminded me of how different everything had gone from what was planned.  But come home we did.  I rode in the four wheeler trailer up the mountain with you in the sling.  I made it up the steps and collapsed in the easy chair.  And there we stayed for a month.

    When we went to town for the post partum appointment with Kirsten, I asked her where Amy was.  She glanced down and winced while telling me that Amy’s baby died.  She had a cord accident at 36 weeks.  It was this news that kind of brought me back to reality.  I thought “oh my… I have baby that needs me.  I had a Cesarean birth, a failed homebirth, but my baby is alive. I am SO lucky!”.

    I hadn’t neglected you at all, but I was living in blackness.  Daddy was already busy with fall sheep season and Gramma kept trying to coax me into the sunshine but I felt like such a failure.  This was very much compounded by the appearance of our food saga… lots of throwing up, bloody diapers, horrible rashes, and screaming that would haunt us for many months to come.  I felt like I must have done everything wrong, but couldn’t imagine what I could have done differently at the time.  It was a very long climb out for me. 

    It’s been very hard to accept that this pregnancy and birth story can never be changed, and that it causes such long standing repercussions for our future.  But I’m eager to keep living and learning… and to find out what my next pregnancy and birth experience holds for our family.  You have always been a joy to all of us.  Nursing continually got easier.  You held up your head from day 1.  You were pulling up by 3 months, crawling at 5 months, standing at 7 months, walking at 11 months, out of diapers at 17 months.  Every day has been fun and special and full of wonder.  We’re so happy you chose us for your parents.  Even the journey through food intolerance has been a blessing… not easy but fruitful.  We love you and we’ll always love you.

    Welcome Taslyn Rae- you are our sunshine!  And it has ALL been worth having you here with us.

    (Taslyn was born after 45 hours of labor and weighed in at 7 lbs. 13 oz.  She has victoriously stepped up to the challenge of healing multiple non-IgE mediated food and chemical allergies.  All told she has battled 30 intolerances including gluten, corn, dairy, soy, eggs, beans, seeds, fruits, vegetables, lotions, soaps and fragrances.  To date she has, with a ton of healing work for both mother and child, healed about 75% of them.  She is still, by her choice, nearly exclusively breastfed and is 19 months old.)

    The end of the beginning…

    P.S.  This journey has made me who I am today.  I never in a million years would ever have consciously chosen it, but I am grateful for where it has brought me.  There are many things I’d like to add to the story and a few things I’d like to take away… but I’ll narrow things down to the top lessons I’ve learned. 

    First and foremost: trust yourself in life and in birth, above all other opinions.  Anyone else’s input is just that, an opinion, which you can take or leave.  The responsibility to make the right decision lies on your shoulders- and it’s a cop-out to give away any choice to someone else… no matter what their credentials.  You’re the one that must live with the outcome, so choose wisely.

    Second: when interviewing team members, be cognizant of what past experiences they bring to the game.  Understand what their version of the birth plan is and how they envision seeing things unfold.  Ensure that the people you choose to play roles in the scene will go by your script.  Fire team members on the spot as necessary and be ready to march on- solo if that’s what it takes.  This experience is yours.  Its all about you.  Don’t let anyone else decide what happens when.  You’re in charge.

    Third: really put your heart and soul into dreaming what you want to happen.  Envision not only the outcome but the journey.  Use visualization and affirmations.  Manifest reality.  Do not get side-tracked or pay undue attention to obstacles.  Refer to above lessons if things aren’t going in the right direction.  Think positive.  Believe.  Be creative.  Let intuition guide you.  Only you know the way through the maze.

    Fourth: trust the pendulum to divine your path.  Ask for help when necessary.  Take it only if it feels right.  Be thankful.  Eat lots of leafy vegetables.  Go organic.  Drink nutrient tea.  When in doubt, take probiotics.  Use acupuncture and homeopathy.  Know your body and listen to what it is telling you.  If your HCP isn’t helping, find a different one.  Search for answers.  Heal yourself.  

    We live off-road and off-grid , EC and unschool, garden and harvest wild food, and are planning a HBAC.


    (Post-script:  At the ripe age of 2 years and 9 months, Taslyn weaned on a month long trip with her Daddy to Montana.  Now, she sleeps and eats like a big girl... a major improvement for my health and hers.  We avoid grains and cow dairy by choice, as well as petrochemicals.  This journey has been breathtakingly epic, with alot of long hills and blind curves.  But it's all good.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Perhaps someday soon, we'll be gifted with an addition to our family, and then we'll see what happens when we've rolled the dice again.  I can't wait!)



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    Reader Comments (5)

    Lisa thank you for sharing such a special time in your life's journey. You are a very strong and special woman and your daughter choose just the right Mommy to share her life with. HUGS to you all! <3

    July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy Heilman

    I loved reading this right now Lisa. It is a beautiful and powerful story in its depth and fullness of feeling. It feels like a 'right' thing to read as I move towards the birth of my third child. Your journey has inspired and informed my own, for that I am so grateful.

    Love to you and the big three year old Taslyn♄

    July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlissa

    Lisa, what an amazingly strong woman you are to go through all that and still be able to hold your head up.
    I agree with all your points but especially point two, the one about the team members. As a midwife in Australia I think it is very important that women who I work with know what I can/will do and where I am coming from in the many aspects of the pregnancy, birth and post natal.
    I believe that had you not have used up your energy pushing at 4cm and if you could have spent time pushing in squat, sit, kneel positions you may have progressed much better. Never guaranteed though.
    God Bless for next time.

    October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

    Thanks Judy, you're likely right. There was alot of energy expended unecessarily. For the record, I squatted and sat and hung and kneeled while pushing for hours at full dilation- until I was just too depleted. You're also right that there are no guarantees, but I'm all for giving it every opportunity...

    October 15, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Lisa Rae]

    This is the third or fourth time I've come back to your birth story. It's powerful in so many ways. Thank you.

    May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

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