Jeannie + Bryan

I worked up to the day my water broke. (I don’t recommend this to anyone by the way.) As I was checking emails on that Monday morning in September I felt a pop then a huge gush. I was so excited that I texted Bryan and he immediately rushed home. And then…crickets. Labor didn’t kick in at all that day so we decided to have one last dinner out before two became three. Kara and I called each other throughout the evening to check in. Contractions had finally begun late that evening. They intensified through the night but quickly drifted away as the sun came up the next morning.

Tuesday had arrived and I felt great, with irregular yet noteworthy contractions throughout the day. With my amniotic sac open, I had 48 hours left before I had to transfer but I knew in my heart that our girl was on her way and that I did not have to worry. I trusted in my body and my baby, in their wisdom, and I felt a primal calm as I surrendered to their plan. As the sun went down we started encouraging labor to progress with herbs and pumping, per Kara and Ami’s instructions. Labor started to get really intense, but the contractions never organized into a pattern. They were four, then eight, then three minutes apart. They were a minute, two minutes, then a minute long again.

At 4 AM I was nodding off between contractions under a boiling hot shower where I had stationed myself for the past three hours. Kara called to let me know that she and Ami were on their way over to check on us. An hour later we all sat around in the living room chit-chatting and logging my contractions. They were still unorganized and I was. So. Exhausted. It was all a mystery at that point, especially since checking dilation was a no-no with an open bag. The midwives prescribed me a beer and a nap, which I attempted after they left at 7 AM. As soon as I laid my head on the pillow I howled with discomfort and made a beeline for the shower. I needed to move, sway, squat, and rock!

I was really in the zone now. Nobody existed in the world–not even me. I finally learned what it meant to “be present.” As I labored the next three hours I went to a deeply inward place that I didn’t know existed. At 10 AM, Kara checked in and gave us the green light for me to take castor oil. Joy. Bryan did his best to mask the castor oil in two delightful fruit smoothies that I slammed ice cold in the hot shower. And the timing couldn’t have been more comical as I sat on the toilet and felt the urge to push. Turns out I didn’t need the castor oil after all, but I chalked it up to a free colonic.

Pushing felt great, though it took a lot more pushes than I had imagined. Into the second hour Euna’s head was poking out and slipping back in for what seemed like eternity. I asked Kara, “How many more pushes do you think?” to which she said, “I don’t know honey…maybe 20?” 20??? Twenty?!?! You’ve got to be out of your $#(%)&ing mind!…And then I remembered that gentle and patient pushing has its rewards, like less tearing. Sold! So we went on for at least twenty more pushes.

After two hours of pushing, Euna’s head popped out, with a double-wrapped cord which Kara slipped right off, then her shoulders and body followed suit. She was here! As I held her in my arms for the first time, Kara and Ami admired her still-pulsing cord, which they said was the thinnest, most perfectly stretched one they’d ever seen. And we had in front of us the answer to the great labor mystery. My body and my baby tailored labor to stretch the cord without causing her distress so she could find her way to the outside when the time was right. Though I felt confident in my body’s ability to give birth before this moment, I now knew without doubt that the body is infinitely wiser than we could ever fathom.

I felt so lucky. My baby girl was healthy and I got through pushing without tearing at all. As if that wasn’t great enough, our midwives took their time to answer questions, clean up, do some charting, and to make sure we felt comfortable before they left about four hours later. The aftercare over the next six weeks was invaluable with their support in physical and emotional healing, lactation, newborn care, and best of all, their friendship. Kara’s concern and thoughtfulness made us feel so safe and special throughout pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period, and even to this day, more than a year later, I know we are still in her thoughts as she is in ours.

Melissa + Jay

I was at a burger joint dining with friends on a Friday night at about 7:30 p.m. when I felt a warm, wet feeling down below. “No way,” I thought to myself. “My water cannot be breaking- that only happens in movies!” My friends called my husband Jay, and an uber. The driver asked me if he should take me to the hospital.

“No, take me home please,” I said proudly. “I’m having a home birth!”

After a glass of wine with those same friends and Jay, the contractions kicked in. At first, they felt like period cramps and I was still able to chat for a bit. Then they started getting more intense, and my friends politely excused themselves and went on their way. By around 10:00 p.m., I began to figure out which positions helped me deal with the contractions. The only position that felt good was sitting on a yoga ball in front of a desk, allowing me to lean over and rest my head on the surface. I wanted to lay down, but the lower back pain I felt during the contractions (and all throughout my pregnancy) did not allow me this luxury. I remember telling Jay that if I could just lay down and sleep for a bit, this would be so much easier. This wasn’t in the cards though, so I mustered up the strength to deal with the exhaustion. Thankfully, my body went on autopilot and knew exactly what to do; it even felt like it sent my mind off to a place to rest.

I didn’t open my eyes the entire time I was handling the contractions. If I did, they barely stayed that way. At one point, I asked Jay to watch while I forced them open. They were all over the place, as if I had kaleidoscope eyes. Looking back, I wish we would have filmed it to see how truly out of it I was during this time.

I was surprised by my strong urge to get naked throughout the birth. I’m far from an exhibitionist, but I started stripping down during the first intense contraction. My body was extremely hot during contractions, so I threw everything off trying to get comfortable. Then I’d get freezing cold, like teeth-chattering cold. It helped having a blanket nearby, thanks to Jay. Whenever I’d throw the blanket off, he’d pick it up and wait until the next contraction was over to place it on me again. He also timed every contraction and massaged me or applied pressure wherever I needed it. Sometimes I desperately wanted pressure on my lower back; other times I did not want to be touched. The poor guy never knew when to step in! I knew exactly what I wanted though, and had no trouble asking for it when I needed it.

Jay was in contact with Kara and Rebekah, our doula, throughout the night. He updated them on how I was doing and how far apart my contractions were. At around 9:00 a.m., Rebekah, who’s also my neighbor, came over and instructed Jay to fill the birthing tub. Kara checked in at that time too and listened over the phone while I had a contraction. Based on the intensity, she headed over. She watched another contraction and based on what she saw and heard, she gave the okay to get in the water. Let me tell you, I could not have been happier being in that tub! The warm water eased my back pain and was extremely soothing. I’m a huge fan of baths, hot tubs, and hot springs, so this came as no surprise to me.

In the tub, Jay and Rebekah took turns massaging my back and applying pressure to my hips. They kept me hydrated and nourished, though I wasn’t very hungry during labor. I was extremely thirsty, though! I still think about how wonderful my water bottle filled with coconut water was at the time.

After being in the tub for about an hour, I began transitional labor. The urge to push is almost uncontrollable, kind of like having to go number two really badly, but worse. I wasn’t fully dilated yet, so it was important for me to resist the urge. I even told myself, “No, no, no, stop pushing, stop pushing!” Once you do get the okay to push, it’s glorious! I almost couldn’t wait for another contraction to come just so I could do it. Again, this sensation really does feel like you’re going number two. They told us in birthing class to expect “extreme rectal pressure,” but I didn’t expect it to feel like that.

This part of the labor was relatively short, lasting about two hours, but it felt like I was pushing him out much longer. The crowning did not seem long though, and thank goodness for that! They don’t call it “the ring of fire” for nothing. I didn’t expect to scream during my labor and I hadn’t before this point. Our apartment is small with thin walls and there are 6 other units in our building, so I had this in the back of my mind, but in that moment I did not care. Surprisingly, no one complained or even knew that I had a home birth in the building. It was also 12:28 p.m. on a Saturday, so I’m sure most of my neighbors were out to brunch like most San Franciscans are on the weekends.

As soon as Jack came out, I scooped him up as fast as I could and placed him right on my chest. Jay was behind me in the tub, hugging me while looking over my shoulder at his brand new baby boy. It was a spectacular moment and one I’ll never forget it.

We left the tub after 15 minutes or so and then went straight to our bed. Jack crawled to my breast while we laid there and he latched on beautifully. I was so proud of my boy for nailing it on the first go! While I nursed him, Jay and I examined every part of his body. We can happily say that we counted all 10 fingers and toes! Once he finished nursing, it was Jay’s turn to hold him. Watching him hold his son for the first time was amazing, and I couldn’t help but be proud of the family we created together.

It only took 20 minutes or so for the placenta to come out and when it did, it felt amazing! Sort of like an “Ahhh, what a relief!” feeling. Kara waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and the placenta born before cutting the cord. Once it was out she clamped it and Jay cut it.  I can even say that the placenta smoothie was tasty (strawberries and vanilla yogurt are essential to a great placenta smoothie)! Kara stitched up my few tiny tears, and afterwards, we ordered pupusas from the local Salvadoran restaurant. The whole crew sat around our bed and ate while we talked about how wonderful the birth was, and how lucky we were to have such a happy, healthy, lovely little boy. I couldn’t have asked for a better home birth experience. The amazing support I received from Kara, Rebekah, Michelle (the assistant midwife), and Jay allowed me to relax and let the process unfold naturally.


Colleen + Sam

There are so many reasons I am thankful for Kara. I am sure that the birth stories of my children would have been no where near as awesome without her in them. If it weren’t for the trust we built when she was our doula during our daughter Riley’s birth, we probably wouldn’t have had a homebirth with our son Max. Having a homebirth with Kara as our midwife was absolutely one of the best decisions we have ever made. As my husband Sam would say, “Kara is punk rock.”

Max was born at home on May 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm. When I went swimming that morning, I felt a little crampy and like something might be starting, but I did not want to tell anyone for fear of jinxing myself.

I went with my daughter Riley and Sam’s parents to Riley’s gymnastics class, but I didn’t feel that great. When Carolyn asked if I wanted to go out to lunch, I knew that I needed to go home instead. During lunch at home I was pretty sure that I either really needed to go to the bathroom or I was in labor. It turns out both were true. I went to the bathroom and after I put Riley in her room for quiet time at around 1:30, I had to stop outside her door and breathe through a contraction.

My friend Bonnie, who was a part of the birth team, had impeccable timing, and just happened to call right after my first major contraction. She was at work, which just happens to be across the street from where Sam works, which meant they would be carpooling to the birth. I filled her in, called Sam, and then went to tell Carolyn that I was in labor. Carolyn and John had been staying with us, but were moving to a hotel that afternoon. Carolyn asked if they could go check in and I figured we had time, so I said I’d be okay to stay with Riley.

To make a long story short, I got back on the phone with Sam and Bonnie and told them to get home as soon as possible. Riley loves TV, but rarely get to watch it. She sits incredibly still and tunes out everything else around her. If ever there was a time for TV, this was it, so her Sesame Street marathon began. By the time Sam and Bonnie got home at around 2:30, the contractions were so intense that I have a picture of me on my knees, with my head on the bed with Riley next to me, eyes glued to the screen.

Knees on the floor, head resting on the bed was a position Kara had taught me before I had Riley and it was one I was again able to rely on while having Max.  I have another picture to remind me of how quickly and intensely my labor progressed. At 3:04, Bonnie took simultaneous pictures. One of Riley sitting crisscross on the couch, eyes glued to the computer and another of Sam and I lying on the bed with my head on his chest, resting between contractions.

I remember that when Sam’s parents came back to pick up Riley, I had to be very deliberate about when I left my room to say goodbye to her. At that point I had to do some serious moaning and deep breathing during each contraction and they were coming so close together that I made it a very quick goodbye.

The next three hours were HARD. Being at home felt so right. Kara, Cynthia, Bonnie and Sam were all I needed and exactly who I needed.

Bonnie’s excitement turned quiet presence is one of my favorite memories during my labor. She went from running excitedly into the house, bouncing between rooms taking pictures, to sitting quietly in the small space between the door and the dresser, watching intently, and getting up to make snacks and bring me popsicles. It was around 3:45 that she was on the phone with Kara because both she and Sam couldn’t believe how intense my contractions were and they wanted to make sure she was going to make it over the bridge in time to catch this baby. Luckily, she was already safely over the bridge and very close to our house.

Sam was right next to me, providing incredible physical and emotional support as each contraction came and went. He let me squeeze and hold and lie on any part of his body I needed to. I remember thinking that my actions might be worrying or scaring him or making him uncomfortable in someway. But when I would check on him, he always had this awesome smile on his face. The look on his face told me he believed in my strength and I had nothing to worry about.

Cynthia was an amazingly quiet, supportive and knowledgeable presence. I had to have an IV because I tested positive for Group B Strep and she somehow managed to practically make me forget it was there by holding the bag up and moving with me wherever and however I moved. When I was fighting the contractions as they got stronger and I became discouraged, she reminded me that the most painful moment was right before the contraction was on its way down. This enabled me to think to myself that at the apex I should relax because it wasn’t going to get any worse.

Kara was THERE. We were at home because we knew she would be there and that was all we needed to feel safe having our baby at home. Kara brought many things to Max’s birth, laughter being one of the most important. She did many things to make me smile and laugh, which helps me when things are hard. One time when Kara was checking for Max’s heartbeat, she said she could hear a little acceleration in it. Kara said, “He’s excited.  He’s like ‘I’m getting born!’”  When I was at the end of my labor and my cervix only had to open a little more she told me to imagine the last bit melting away. I told her that there was no way anything was melting. We laughed and I can’t remember her alternative that she came up with, but she forgot it a few times and we laughed again as she caught herself talking about my cervix melting. My favorite of her affirmations as I breathed and moaned were,  “that’s the way” and “you are doing this”.

I remember hitting a point at which I stopped fighting against the pain of the contractions and became determined to move my baby out of my body. I kid you not, I really remember having a WWJAD (What Would Jane Austen Do) moment. So I squatted during a contraction and felt some serious relief. During the next contraction I really wanted to push. So I did. I remember thinking, if I push as hard as I can right now this will all be over. So I pushed with everything I had. First push, his head was out. Sam motioned to Bonnie to get the camera because he could see the baby’s head. Second push, Max shot out into the world.

It is amazing. It is amazing how in one moment it is all over and in almost that same moment you get to hold your baby. And when you have your baby at home, no one tries to take him away from you for a really long time. And even when it is time to take care of the placenta and the stitches and everything else, you still get to hold your baby in your bed.

When I was ready, I got to get out of my bed, go to the bathroom in my own bathroom, take a shower in my own shower and eat a meal cooked in my kitchen made by Bonnie. Eggs and greens and leeks never tasted so good.

It is hard not to cry thinking about the 24 hours after Max was born. The whole world stopped and we got to just be in our home with our new baby while people we knew took care of us. It turns out that new babies and mamas are just fine and don’t need to be checked on every hour and get woken up to have their temperature taken. Before the birth, Sam and I had worried about what it would be like when Kara and Cynthia went home and we would be on our own. The night Max was born I remember being impressed by how long Kara stayed and how fine we were when it was time to say goodbye. Max and Sam slept well in our bed that night. I couldn’t because I just kept waking up in disbelief at how okay and amazing we all were.

The next morning, Sam’s parents brought Riley home to meet her brother. It is hard to imagine that moment being anywhere near as perfect as it was if we were in the hospital. Our bed was big enough for all of us and Riley had all her books to choose from to read to Max. Best of all, we were never interrupted.


Liz + Paul

I really wanted to be the valedictorian of having babies. I always knew I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth – partly because the idea of an epidural seems more scary to me than labor, but also because it seemed like the ultimate challenge, an opportunity to prove (to myself) that I’m tough, as tough as my mother.  I was going to take on labor like a killer set of hill sprints; I was going to kick childbirth’s ass. It turns out that childbirth doesn’t like to be challenged, nor used as a platform for toughness-proving. It turned around, yawned and kicked my ass, twice, and I should send it a thank you note for doing so.

Round 1: I approached Jack’s birth it like an athletic event, and I expected myself to perform well. I trained (via bradley birth classes), got a coach (doula extrodinaire, Kara), and chose a location that would increase my chances of success (St. Lukes). With a week to my due date, I took a break from charging through my to-do list to take a nap and awoke to my water breaking. I set forth on my labor plan – bake for the nurses, take a walk, stay at home as long as possible, basically totally ace this labor thing. Part way through making pumpkin bread, I started to think that baking was a silly idea and took a break to time a couple contractions. Things were moving more quickly than anticipated. I called back Kara and asked her to come. Labor was like runaway train – quick, direct and overwhelming. I didn’t have a chance to catch my breath let alone kick its ass. In the midst of it, I listened to Kara, whom I trusted implicitly, and accepted the support of my awesome husband, but still in much the same way as at a track event – heeding my coach’s direction and registering my families’ cheers while charging ahead by myself. I wanted to be calm, relaxed, efficient and strong, and I was for the most part, but it didn’t really matter. When it was over, I didn’t get a medal for my performance. I got my baby, a sweet, cone-head baby with a natural baby faux-hawk, and a collection of hormones that forgot how to behave. It was nothing I had prepared for. I had prepared myself to take on childbirth, not for actually having a baby. The adjustment was difficult – with no help from hormones or my self-sufficient attitude.
Round 2: Everything was different Quinn. I knew I wanted to work with Kara again and she was now a student midwife, so I signed-up for a homebirth. When I signed-up for this homebirth, I thought I would get a birth at home and the convenience of not having to go to the hospital for appointments. What I got was so much more and for me, much for valuable.  Having trudged through postpartum depression once before, I was petrified of having to do it again.  Throughout my pregnancy Kara (and midwives Nancy and Ami of Rites of Passage) spent time checking in with me and helping me do everything possible to diminish the chances of going through it again –  finding a counselor, homeopathy, supplements, and perhaps most importantly, encouraging me to accept help, allow myself to be vulnerable and to be cared for in the midst of a situation I cannot control.

A week past my due date, my water broke in the middle of the night. I called Kara and we expected this labor to proceed much like Jack’s – fast and efficient. It did at the start, but then it seemed to lose traction at a pretty intense point in the process. I could tell that the contractions weren’t as productive as they should be even though the pain was the same. It was frustrating. I felt like a skipping music track, repeating the same contraction and unable to move forward. Kara checked to see where I was (9 cm) and found the source of the delay – a big bubble of water cushioning every contraction. With a quick pop, labor went into overdrive and in a few contractions I was pushing. With Jack, the pushing was the best part and not really painful, but with Quinn it hurt. It really hurt. This baby’s head did not mold. She arrived, round-headed and pink as pink can be. I heard my husband sweetly and unforgettably say ‘I have a daughter’, and we cozied up on the couch. I was tired and completely spent – emotionally and physically, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be anything else. This time I was ok with being a mess and with just having finished.

In hindsight, I needed childbirth to kick my ass, to make me feel out of control, and to fail at being my idea of the awesomest baby birther ever. Birth wasn’t just about my baby arriving or proving I was tough enough to do it without drugs; It was about learning to embrace an uncontrollable situation – labor, the possibility of PPD, and perhaps child-raising in general – while accepting the support of the people around me. Thank you, childbirth.

The name homebirth puts so much focus on the moment of arrival and fails to capture the entirety of the experience. The midwives supported me through her birth, but they also walked with me through the whole pregnancy and into her first few weeks as part of our family. This was invaluable. Thank you, Kara, Nancy, Ami.


Phoebe + Mike

My due date was November 10th, but an ultrasound at 20-something weeks mentioned possibly November 4th, so I thought all along that he might arrive a few days early. I finished up my last day at work on Tuesday, 11/4 (I was supposed to finish on 10/31, but I unexpectedly had to train our new front desk coordinator at my orthodontic practice before going on official maternity leave). Luckily, Mike and I got in a last minute reservation to Gary Danko’s on Tuesday night – we had never been and I’m so glad we fit in a romantic dinner together “before-baby”. After Tuesday, my schedule was clear. A friend of mine mentioned that she thought our baby would arrive on the Full Moon (which was Thursday 11/6), so that is what I started visualizing and telling people. On Monday, Kara even wrote in my chart that I wanted him to arrive on Thursday. I felt that little Phineus was ready (his head dropped lower, his movements were settling down, and he was resting for his job ahead)… and I felt ready (nothing else in my schedule, I didn’t want to be bored, and my blood pressure shot up in anticipation of becoming a mama).

On Wednesday, Mike and I finished up the last of our work obligations. I mostly hung around the house, only stepping out for a quick grocery shop and what ended up being my final pre-natal acupuncture appointment with Linda Gruber. She must have hit all the right trigger points that appointment! Wednesday night 2 of my close friends came over to eat dinner, and I decided I just might have a few sips of wine to help relax my body. My friends really noticed that I was exhausted and that things had changed just in the last couple weeks. 

On Thursday, Mike and I planned to stay around home. He was working around the house, and I took my final “nesting projects” of cleaning out and organizing the hall closet shelf of cosmetics/medicine and making a big pot of chicken soup. I had read online about a few “natural techniques” to help labor get started. Some of the ones I tried were: evening primrose oil pills 2x/day, eating spicy foods (had Indian for lunch on Thursday), took a couple of 1 mile walks at a decent pace, and had a few sips of wine a couple nights in a row.

Mike and I went for a walk around 7pm, during which I felt more pressure in my pelvis than before – causing me to actually pause walking for a few moments. In retrospect, these were likely some early labor contractions, but at the time they felt almost indistinguishable from the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been feeling for the past 2 months, so I wasn’t fully aware that I was in early labor.

We decided to watch a movie, and while lying down on the couch at about 9pm I felt intense menstrual-type cramps, so I got up to pee and low and behold I had bloody show and saw the mucus plug in the toilet (I snapped a photo of it with my phone of course). As my brain started processing what was going on, I asked Mike to get in touch with our midwife and doula. The 3 of them were texting/talking back and forth for what seemed like a while. They both asked Mike to keep them updated, suggested that we have a glass of wine, for me to relax in a warm bath, and to let them know as things progressed.

We did listen to their advice of having a glass of wine, and we sat back down on the couch to resume our movie watching, thinking that things might take a while to pick up. About halfway through my glass of wine my contractions started getting more intense, longer, and closer together – as Mike was timing them on his phone App. Between 7-9pm Mike noticed I had a general anxiety, that I couldn’t put my finger on, but it seemed to Mike a bit like a panic over something that needed to be done or was about to happen. Also, the infamous bout of “clearing of the bowels” occurred over several visits to the toilet. It hit both of us that this was the real deal, so Mike got out all of the homebirth supplies, made up the bed with the drop cloth and old fitted sheet, he got back in touch with Kara and Shannon, and I got back in the bath to try to sooth the cramping feelings and slow down the surges per Kara’s suggestion.

From 9:30-11:00pm the contractions were every 3-5 minutes, at the beginning lasting 5-10 seconds and growing to about a minute, each one coming and going in a wave. At around 10:30pm the contractions were becoming a lot for me to manage, so I went to the bath tub to get some rest. The bath felt ok for a while (about 30 minutes and ~6 contractions), but then it started feeling uncomfortable, as the contractions were becoming really quite painful – it felt almost like the water was stinging my skin and I had no place to turn to. Mike described me as looking spacey and restless, so he asked if I’d like to move to the bed.

I realized that my contractions were more intense than I could talk through so I asked Mike to see if Shannon could come over right away, and he got Kara on the phone so she could hear me experience one of the surges. As soon as she heard one, and my accompanying moan, she said she’d be right over.

Mike walked me carefully to bed between contractions, and that’s when the first BIG one hit. I was barely able to crawl onto the bottom edge of the bed. I spent the next hour in some variant of cat-cow or child’s-pose (a-la-Jane-Austen’s pre-natal yoga class) with my forehead and face pressed into a damp washcloth,  and resting on my elbows and knees. I was already having full-on active labor contractions when Shannon and Kara arrived because I barely remember seeing anyone’s faces. (I found out a couple days later that Shannon arrived at 11:10pm and Kara at 11:20pm – baby Phineus arrived at 11:51pm!) As soon as Shannon arrived, I asked her to put a TENS unit on my lower back – it was really helpful for a few of the surges. The support from Mike and Shannon was really helpful in guiding me to breathe through the peaks and valleys of the contractions. In retrospect if someone could hear me from outside of the house they might have thought I was turning into a werewolf for the full moon!  As things were getting intense and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, Mike told me, “they said that if you’ve made it this far without any medication, then you can most definitely make it through the rest with some support and guidance.” That was what I really needed to hear to feel safe and let go into the experience.

From the time I moved to the bed to the time he was delivered, my sense of time was elusive, as I really felt focused on being in my body to get through the contractions. Mike noticed that as the contractions got stronger, I became more in my body and less cognitive. I’m pretty sure I did feel a slight pause in the intense contractions (transition stage) as my body switched gears, and then I felt the urge to push. My body just said push, I asked Kara if it was ok to push, she said yes, so I pushed. As our baby was moving down the birth canal I felt the pressure in different places: pressing on my sacrum/tailbone, stretching the perineal tissues, and pressure of feeling like I had to go #2 (I’m pretty sure that happened a bit during pushing despite early labor’s attempts to clear the way). Hearing Kara, Kelly Murphy (who arrived just minutes before birth as the midwife assist), Shannon, and Mike describe what was going on is what helped me to focus and visualize on what my body was feeling. I wanted to know the correlation between my body’s sensations and the progress of labor/pushing.

My bag of waters broke sometime during the pushing stage, sounding like a water balloon bursting followed by a gush of fluid. It seemed like I had a total of only 7-10 pushes, and Kara encouraged me that each one was working as little Phineus was progressing down the canal. The most difficult few pushes were to pass his head – once those were over it was smooth sailing after that. When his head started showing, Mike said “Cool”, and about 3 contractions later he fell into Mike’s hands. Once Phineus started vigorously crying (which sounded incredible to hear for the first time), Mike and Kara passed little Phineus through my legs for me to see him. I was still on my hands and knees, and when I saw our baby I felt a huge emotional relief, repeated the phrase “oh my god”, started crying, and I was somewhat frozen and shaky as I had to collect myself before being able to pick him up and regain a sense of my surroundings. Mike wiped Phineus’ skin and we all rested for a while soaking it in. It was a nearly indescribable and surreal feeling that 10 months of pregnancy instantly turned into a real human baby squirming beneath me. 

Everyone in the room helped me regain my calm, sit back, pick up our baby, and find a comfortable position with little Phineus on my chest as we waited for the placenta to deliver. The placenta came out without complication, I continued holding little Phineus with Mike by my side, and Kara and Kelly got to work suturing some minor tearing. Once Kara and Kelly felt confident that they had finished their “knitting adventures of the most sensitive part of a woman’s body”, Kara helped me to take a shower. It felt really good to take a warm relaxing shower and hand over baby Phineus to Mike (placenta still in tow). Mike took Phineus on a tour of the house, they sat for a while taking pictures, and then returned to bed to lay chest to chest. After the shower I rejoined the boys in bed, and the midwives and doula occupied themselves in the kitchen drinking tea, making some nutritious food, charting notes, and preparing a sitz bath solution for me to use during healing. Mike placed Phineus on my chest as the 3 of us focused on little Phin’s first moments, and experienced uninterrupted bonding with our newest family member. Phineus started to root and he actually breast fed for a few minutes, which was really fun to watch for the first time!

What time was remaining of the first night and day with little Phin was spent sleeping on and off between nursing – alternating napping on mine and Mike’s bare chests. It took a few days to process all that had happened during what Kara has referred to as “my precipitous labor” of 2 hours and 51 minutes. Mike and I are so thankful for all of the help, support and guidance from Kara, Kelly and Shannon throughout this miraculous experience. I am thankful to Mike for his constant emotional and physical support, and beautiful perspective throughout my entire pregnancy and birth. And kudos to you Mr. Phineus for your swift arrival!


Michela + Brent

Choosing what kind of birth I wanted to experience had everything to do with choosing Kara as my midwife. Kara was there for my first son’s birth as a doula three years prior and I was thrilled that she had since decided to become a midwife. She is attentive and sensitive to my needs and my husband’s, she has the most gentle yet commanding presence in the moment, you simply feel that you are in the best hands with her by your side. I gathered so much strength from her, knowing that she believed in me, I was able to find the strength and courage to stay in the moment and meet my baby on the other side.

All of this was of course set up over the course of my prenatal care. Kara was super in tune with everything I was experiencing over the months, very quick to respond to any question or concern I had, resourceful with her suggestions to what I needed to heal common ailments during my pregnancy. She always seemed to have just what comforted me the most at any given time. It was bliss not having to go to a hospital or other facility for prenatal visits! Having Kara show up at my door was not only a great excuse to bake something and sit down and have tea, but take care of what we needed to do in the comfort of my own home and bed (an extra bonus with any older child in the house!). I could depend on her for anything. And I trust her implicitly. No one else but me was going to get my baby out and that took a lot of self preparation. But I feel like that all hinged upon what team I had set in place for pre and postnatal care and for the actual birth. In the final moments after two hours of labor and two hours of pushing, my baby’s head came out and was stuck. With a completely calm disposition, Kara helped to get me on my hands and knees and perform the Gaskin maneuver to deliver a beautiful 9 lb 11 oz baby boy. I remain forever filled with deep gratitude that Kara was there with me for one of my life’s greatest moments!


Meredith + Ed

Chronicles of a Breech Baby

Part I - Intro

At my 28 week appointment, my midwife palpated that my babe was breech. I was able to feel his little head and bum after she showed me and it was amazing. Being breech at 28 weeks is quite normal as there is still plenty of time to turn and most babies do. I began seeing a chiropractor at this point to ensure my pelvis was in proper alignment and to ensure baby had as much room as possible to turn. At my 32 week appointment my midwife confirmed that our baby was still breech. I started to get quite anxious knowing midwives cannot legally assist breech deliveries at home. The mere thought of having to get a c-section was terrifying to me.  

At that time, I continued seeing the chiropractor and receiving acupuncture. I was doing forward leaning inversions and breech tilts every day. I tried moxibustion, swimming and every possible recommendation to help turn a breech baby vertex. I was able to feel his head so I knew day by day that he remained in the breech position. At 36 weeks we knew we had to explore other alternatives to home-birth. I had an ECV done at 36+2.  It was unsuccessful.  Another ECV was attempted four days later at 36+6 with no success. 

It was a very stressful time and many tears were shed throughout the weeks. I believe my baby was breech for a reason and truly believe it is a variation of normal. In an effort to get him to turn head down, I felt I was fighting against nature. After the second failed ECV attempt I stopped trying to get the baby to turn.  I was very disappointed and somewhat angry in the lack of knowledge and support of vaginal breech deliveries in the medical community.  When I told family and friends that the baby was breech, most of them asked when my c-section was scheduled for. Some family members were concerned about my adamancy of having a trial of labor and whether or not it was considered “safe”. 

I was able to get an appointment with a physician at the Sutter Davis Birth Center at 37 weeks to be evaluated to determine if I was a candidate for vaginal breech delivery. After checking the babies size and getting an MRI of my pelvis to ensure it was “adequate”, I was given the go ahead for a trial of labor. At this point I had already mourned the loss of my home-birth and was grateful and relieved to have the opportunity to try a vaginal breech delivery rather than having a c-section. For the last few weeks I finally felt at ease and was able to relax and enjoy my breech babe.

Part II – Birth Story

I woke up at 3:58 am on October 26th when I felt a small gush of fluid. I was 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant (my due date was the 27th) and while I wasn’t immediately sure it was my water that had broken, I couldn’t help but become excited that I was going to have our baby soon! I went into the bathroom and my pajama pants were fairly wet and when I sat on the toilet more clear fluid released. My husband Ed woke up when I went back into the bedroom to change so I told him my water had broken. He was very excited as well. I waited about 20 minutes and then called Kara (I was not having contractions at that time). She said to try and get some more sleep and to check in with her in a couple hours. I couldn’t sleep, clearly, out of excitement and anticipation. I laid down for a bit and around 6:30 am I got in the shower. I was feeling very mild contractions at that time. Kara and I checked in with each other a little after 7am. She said that herself and Hana, her student midwife, would arrive in about an hour and decide on when we would travel to Davis, CA, about an hour and a half away from San Francisco. My mom was now awake and I informed her of the news. I think she was a bit anxious but excited as well. Kara and Hana arrived around 8:15. She listened to the baby’s heart rate which was steady and strong and had good variability. She asked if I wanted to labor at home for awhile or if I wanted to head to Davis. My contractions were still very mild at that time but I felt it was appropriate to head to Davis now rather than later. I didn’t want to be stuck in the car for an hour and a half if contractions were strong. 

My mom, Ed and I were in our car and Kara and Hanna drove in Kara’s car. We arrived at the birth center around 10:30 am. They put me in a room, checked me in and monitored myself and the baby for about an hour. The nurse told us Dr. Fineberg would be coming over on her lunch break to see me. Dr. Feinberg came in around 12:20 pm. She did not want to do an internal exam due to the fact my water had broken so she did a visual exam of my cervix with a speculum and said I was probably about 2 cm dilated. She recommended that I go to a nearby hotel to relax and continue laboring. There was no need for me to stay at the birth center at this point. 

We left the birth center around 1:15 pm and checked into the University Park Inn Room. My contractions had started to slightly pick up in intensity around this time but I wasn’t uncomfortable. Ed had gotten us lunch so we ate and watched some T.V. When we left the birth center, Kara and Hana headed back to San Francisco so Hana could get her car in case another client went into labor. Kara texted me around 2:30 pm and said she was leaving San Francisco and would meet us at the hotel. At this point contractions were becoming more consistent and getting stronger. Kara arrived at the hotel sometime around 5 pm. We were all anxious for her to get there because my contractions were getting more and more intense and we weren’t sure if we should head back to the birth center without her. She listened to the baby again and checked my vitals, all of which were good. She told Ed that he and my mom should eat so he went to Whole Foods to get them dinner. I labored mostly on the bed. I used deep, steady, slow breaths to get through each contraction. I would lie on my side and sort of writhe my legs up and down. I had imagined myself being more active during labor, and needing support from Ed but it felt the best to be lying in bed and I did not want to be touched. I was drinking a lot of fluid to stay hydrated so I felt like I was in the bathroom every 10 minutes. Sitting on the toilet through contractions was a nice change but the toilet was quite uncomfortable to sit on. I was laboring on the toilet and Kara was in the bathroom with me around 6:50 pm. She could tell by observing me for the past two hours that things were really progressing and that my contractions were very intense. She decided that we should probably head back to the birth center soon. I got dressed and had a few more contractions on the bed.

I wanted to minimize the number of contractions I had on the way to the birth center which was about 10 minutes away so as soon as the last contraction finished we went straight to the car. I had one contraction on the way there and one really intense one in the parking lot walking in. We arrived around 7:30 or so. We were given a room right away and I was connected to the monitors again. It was nearly impossible to stay still at the point. The rushes were extremely intense. A few times I had them back to back lasting 2 ½ to 3 minutes long. When things seemed unbearable I tried to remind myself that each contraction was bringing me closer to finally meeting my baby boy.  All the contractions I had gone through already were in the past never to be felt again; and that between the contractions I would be able to rest.

My nurse Antoinette had called Dr. Feinberg to let her know that I had returned to the birth center. She was not on call but she is only one of two doctors that will assist with vaginal breech deliveries in that practice and she will come in when a mother with a breech baby is in labor. Dr. Feinberg asked Antoinette to do an internal exam to check my progress. I had to wait until I was in between contractions to get comfortable enough to lie on my back while Antoinette checked me. She was a bit confused at first because she wasn’t quite sure what she was feeling. The baby’s testicles presenting first may have been the reason why ☺… but she estimated that I was approximately 9cm to fully dilated. Hallelujah!!! I must say I was very surprised that I was 9 cm, but I was oh so relieved as well. Antoinette left the room to call Dr. Feinberg and update her.  

To say my contractions were intense at this point is an understatement. Penetrating might be a good word. I turned over so I was on my knees and elbows. I’m not sure how long it was before Dr. Feinberg got there, but when she arrived, she wanted to check me. I had to manage to turn over on my back again which was not pleasant. She confirmed I was indeed fully dilated, but the baby was still fairly high up. She said I could get in the birth tub for a while if I wanted to but I honestly didn’t think I could move from the bed. I turned back over onto my elbows and knees. She said if I was feeling pressure I could push and that may feel better. I was feeling pressure so I started pushing, not hard like I was trying to push the baby out, but enough so that it relieved some of my discomfort. It really did make things feel better. At this point Dr. Feinberg told Antoinette that I needed a heplock. Oh joy, this should be fun. I put my right arm over the top of the bed and continued to labor and breathe through the rushes while she put the heplock in. Around 9:10-9:15 pm or so Dr. Feinberg wanted me to turn to my back again. She checked me again to see if the baby had descended any more and he had. She wanted me to start real pushing now. I did around 3 rounds of pushes with contractions and the baby’s testicles were starting to emerge. It was around 9:34 and they wanted to transfer me to the operating room. They want all vaginal breech deliveries to take place in the operating room so that if there was a need for an emergency C-section, everything would be ready and all necessary personnel are present. Hana had driven back and arrived just shortly before I was taken to the OR suite. Ed, my mom, Kara, and Hana had to put white jump suits on and OR hats. They had me put on a hospital gown at some point and I took off my shirt and sports bra. They put an OR hat on me and wheeled me back to the OR room. This part was kind of a blur to me. I was just trying to focus on myself and the baby. While they were wheeling me back, I continued to push with my contractions. Once we got into the room, I had another contraction on the bed and then I sort of rolled over onto my hands and knees onto the tiny operating room table. It was 9:39 pm at this time. They hooked up the monitors again to track baby’s heart beat and my contractions. I pushed with another contraction and then Dr. Feinberg wanted me to get on my back again and continue pushing that way for a little I believe because it facilitates the baby’s descent. My gown was now off, and I was completely naked but I certainly didn’t care. Two more contractions and rounds of pushing and his testicles were completely out. Kara had me reach down and feel him. There was meconium everywhereeeeeee. Kara was on my right and one of the midwives from Dr. Feinberg group was on my left. My mom and Ed were towards the foot of the bed. There were apparently a lot of people in the room. Vaginal breech deliveries are not too common. I believe it was the OR staff, the anesthesiologist, a pediatrician and pediatric nurse, a respiratory therapist, Antoinette (my L&D nurse), the midwife, Dr. Johnson (another doctor from the practice who is learning breech deliveries), Ed, my mom, and Kara. Hana was asked to watch from the observation room. Four more contractions and pushing and his little bum was starting to emerge. 9:51 pm and Dr. Feinberg wanted me to turn over onto my hands and knees again, at which point I politely cursed.  Back to the hands and knees position, 9:53 pm, testicles out, bum emerging… At this point I can look between my legs and see my progress. And basically I didn’t care if I tore, I want my baby out and in my arms. So I start pushing with every bit of strength I could find. I don’t really remember his legs popping out, but I remember a lot of relief.  And everyone was so excited and encouraging. The baby was now out to his above his belly button. He was just hanging there, I was so exhausted. At this time you want the rest of the baby to come out fairly quickly because the cord is being compressed. Dr. Feinberg helped slip his arms out he was now hanging outside of my body with just the top of his head inside. All I wanted was for her to get his head out, which she did assist in doing. There was so much pressure and then a huge release. Before I knew it, his head was out and he was in my arms (9:57 pm). It was the most amazing and miraculous feeling in the world. I remember Kara telling me weeks before to grab him and stimulate him so the pediatrician will not feel the need to intervene. Breech babies are more likely to need resuscitation. I was kind of in shock but Kara helped rub him. He did not need any help, he was doing great! He was so calm and quiet, he barely even cried. I managed to turn around onto my back and put him on my chest. He was wide awake and perfectly quiet. It was so amazing. Welcome earthside Sawyer Dylan! He stayed on my chest and we waited a bit before the cord was cut. The placenta was delivered shortly thereafter and they stitched me up in the two areas that I had torn. We were transported back to the L&D room. Kara and Hanna stayed to make sure Sawyer would latch properly and start breastfeeding, which he did like a champ. It wasn’t until almost two hours after I had delivered that Antoinette took Sawyer to weigh and measure. That took place right next to me in the room. 6 lbs 10oz, 19 3/4 inches. He was given back to me and we continued skin to skin all night long. I couldn’t really sleep. It was all so amazing and surreal. 

Looking back I would not change anything, not even Sawyer being breech. It was how he and our birth were meant to be. I’m so grateful to have had Kara by our side throughout my pregnancy and birth. She was incredibly dedicated, supportive and encouraging. 

Mandy + Marshall #1

We’re pregnant! Marshall and I looked at each other in shock and excitement when we saw the test say “pregnant”.  We didn’t quite believe it so we took another one.  Still in disbelief we thought, lets wait till tomorrow and do it again.  Morning came, and yep still pregnant!  Very exciting, yet what do we do now?  

My sister had done a home birth the year before and I learned so many wonderful things about midwives. I also met, a now good friend of mine here in SF, who did a home birth in Sausalito. I started quizzing her on her experience and the midwife she used. 

I discussed my ideal birth plan with Marshall and he wasn’t quite on board. I informed him of all the great benefits of having a homebirth and he still was skeptical. It wasn’t until I made him watch the Business of Being Born that he said, “Ok, I’m in!” 

From here we began interview midwives and fell in love with Rites of Passage, Nancy, Ami, and Kara. They were warm, friendly, and super educated.  Hired!

From 10 weeks till birth Nancy, Ami, and Kara took amazing care of my baby and me! I never went to another doctor or hospital, except for one appointment to do my prenatal blood draws and the 36 week check in with UCSF Midwifery unit to have them as a back up. I never did any ultrasound or additional tests. I trusted in my team and my body that my baby was healthy and happy.

We began our monthly home appointments with either Nancy or Ami, and always Kara.  I had a strong bond/chemistry right away with Kara. It was as if my best friend had come over for coffee. Kara was a doula and midwife in training at the time, so Nancy and Ami allowed her to do most of the appointment analysis. Being in your home laughing while getting an exam is amazing. They would take an hour or two out of their day to review my vitamins, food in take, measure belly, listen to the heartbeat and be there for all my odd, hard, or uncomfortable questions.  You do not get this kind of time or care from an OBGYN.

Kara, Nancy, and Ami (along with Jane Austin’s homebirth class) made me embrace pregnancy, enjoy it, and not be scared of birth. They let me still enjoy the things I love to do in life; running, skiing, eat sushi, drinking wine, traveling… as long as I felt ok doing it they were on board. They educated me in prenatal yoga, massage, and herbs.  They made Marshall feel confident and safe in having a home birth, which was HUGE. 

Since we didn’t find out what we were having we called our baby in womb Minnow. I swam a lot during pregnancy, so this was a perfect name. 

Here is how Minnow entered the world. My Mom arrived on Tuesday, so I knew mentally now it’s time to do this; any day from here on out would be okay. Wednesday we got a 70 minute foot and reflexology massage in China town. That night we were out in the bay on my friends boat. Had some nice wine, cheese, and bounced around on some big waves. We drove home and I told my Mom “I’m going to have this baby tonight”.

I went to bed at 11:00pm and at 11:10 I heard a “pop” and I knew it was my water. I woke Marshall, as when his head hits the pillow he’s out, and said, “my water just broke”.  I was excited. I text Nancy, Ami, and Kara to inform them. I didn’t have contractions right away, so Nancy said to go back to bed and call her in the morning if nothing had changed. I laid back down and in 15 minutes, BAM! Strong contractions! Two and a half minutes apart 45 seconds to 1 minutes long. We went right into active labor. Marshall put the TENS unit on my back (like a muscle stem machine that women can use in labor) and I’d push the button to provide relief through each contraction. We stayed in the bedroom for 2 hours doing this. I found it most comfortable flopping my upper body over the bed and swaying my hips side to side (lots of juicy hips), and moaning. I told Marshall to, “call the midwives.” He said, “No we need to wait for 4-1-1.”  He was remembering contractions 4 minutes apart, for 1 minute long, for 1 hour. I said we’re pasted that we are at 2 1/2 MINUTES apart!  He said “oh yeah, your right!” He woke my mom to come help me as he went to go fill the Aqua Doula and call the midwives.  He came back to the room to tell me Nancy and Ami were both at births and Kara was on her way.  I was THRILLED to be getting Kara, and in a ton of pain, so knew they would figure out the two other certified midwives to attend.  And they did, Michelle Wellborn and Sue Balen.  I was in great hands. 

Kara and Michelle arrived at 1:30 am, not sure when Sue shown up. I was thrown over the back of the couch when they got there. Kara checked me and I was 5 1/2 cm dilated.  She told me I could move into the Aqua Doula if I wanted.  I was a little afraid to take the TENS unit off as I felt it was a way for me to battle back on the contractions, but I wanted to try the tub. I moved into the tub and was in there for several hours on hands and knees and thrown over the sidewall.

Marshall and Kara were amazing talking me through breathing techniques, rubbing my back, letting me squeeze/bite their hands. My Mom too was a huge help, running around getting anything needed, telling me I was strong and can do this, and boiling/adding additional hot water to the tub! I think I was in there 3-4 hours and then I wanted to push. Kara checked me and I was only 8 cm, so I couldn’t push. She told me to empty my bladder and that would help give me room and for my cervix to fully dilate.  I couldn’t focus on peeing, so she got me out of the tub and put in a catheter! That was tough to do, as I had to lie on my back, hold through a contraction as she did this. I guess I drank too much Gatorade. I was not going to the hospital for dehydration!!! It worked and it gave me room to fully dilated, so after resisting the urge to push for an hour, Kara gave me the green light and on I went.

The pushing I must say was WAY harder then I planned. I guess because stories I’ve heard where the active labor was tough and the pushing was easier.  I always hear women say, “I pushed 3 times and out came my baby.”  I pushed for 2 1/2 hours changing and trying positions constantly (squatting holding a railing, birthing stool, kitchen breakfast bar, over the couch, kneeling, and then child’s pose) asking, “can you see the head???” Kara always answered me in a calming voice “You are doing so well. You are so strong.” Thanks, but not what I wanted to hear!!!!  I want to see the head as this hurts. I got a little discouraged during this time and just had to remain strong and know this baby will come out. There were moments I wasn’t sure.

Kara suggested moving into child’s pose on a yoga mat in our living room, and through lots more bearing down and pushing, our baby Minnow was born!!! Kara told Marshall to come down here and get ready! Marshall put his hands on Minnow’s head I heard him say “WOOOWWW!” Another push or two and out came the shoulders and body. They passed Minnow through my legs onto my chest where Marshall and I held our baby for the first time!! It was the most amazing moment. We cried and just hugged Minnow sitting there in awe. We were so excited we didn’t even know the sex right away, or cared, it was such a precious moment that WE have a beautiful healthy baby! I eventually looked and said though lots of tears, “it’s a boy”.

We lay back to hug our baby and soak in this moment, the 3 of us.

Then for the delivery of the placenta. Mine didn’t want to detach. We waited 20 mins, nothing. I was bleeding a lot so the midwives gave me a shot of pitocin in my leg. Now 40 mins nothing. I could sense the midwives whispering and knew I had to deliver the placenta and soon. They did another shot of pitocin in the other leg, nothing. I asked if it would help if I stood up, and they moved me to the birthing stool. Here Kara had to make the decision to go in and sweep my uterus to assure the whole placenta came out. She did and yeah the placenta was delivered!!! Whew! We DID it!!!!! We had a beautiful home birth to our baby Shane. Born at 8:21am on 4/7/11 weighing 7.05 lbs and 20.1/4” long. 

The postnatal care was amazing as well! Ami and Kara preformed 10 second degree stitches on me, clean up my home, let me shower, helped with nursing, and tucked the 3 of us in our own warm bed. They continued to check on Shane and I for the next few weeks, which was so helpful and needed. 

We are blessed to say we are now pregnant with #2 and have hired Kara to be our midwife!!!! We couldn’t be in better hands. We are 28 weeks along and again I enjoy every coffee visit (appointment) with my friend/midwife Kara.


Mandy + Marshall #2

On August 26th 2012 Marshall and I were thrilled to discover the home pregnancy test read loud and clear “pregnant”.  We were very excited to add to our family and have another child close in age to our funny little boy Shane.

This pregnancy was totally different then Shane’s. I wasn’t sure if the pregnancy was different due to having a toddler to chase after all day so rest was limited, or that is was “a girl”!  I had multiple sicknesses along the way and I’m typically a very healthy person, very bad varicose veins in the left leg, more hormonal (Marshall can contest), and nesting all the time!  

Marshall and both knew we would like to hire Kara Engelbrecht to be our midwife as she delivered Shane. At the time she delivered Shane she was just a midwife in training.  When I called her at 8 weeks pregnant with Bubba (that is what Shane nicknamed this baby), she was on her way to take her midwifery exam.  Obviously she passed the test and we were her first official clients!! We couldn’t be in better hands. 

We cruised along week by week. Kara took great care of Bubba and myself. I always enjoyed our home appointments. Bubba had a strong heartbeat that ranged from 130’s to 120’s so then I switch my mind to “it’s a boy”.  We thought this baby was going to be smaller then Shane as due to all my sicknesses I wasn’t putting on a lot of weight.  After I visited my family in Florida I got healthy and started adding the weight, and it worked. I made sure I grew a bigger baby and the belly started to really POP out. Bubba’s movements were always very soft and rolling in my belly. No hard kicks like Shane, so I switched back to “it’s a girl”.  

It wasn’t until about week 36 it all sunk in that “Wow! were going to have a baby and soon!”  I now thought “nope it’s totally a boy”. I’m going with a boy! 

On Monday March 11th I woke twice in the night with two contractions! Wednesday 13th I was up several hours in the night doing my yoga moves as I was very uncomfortable. It felt like the baby flipped sides and dove down. And that’s exactly what happened! I called my Mom and said, “I think Bubba is coming early”, but after that no more contractions.  

Mom arrived on Monday March 25th. That Wednesday we went and got a foot massage as we did this with Shane and with Shane that massage, set me into labor. We then picked Jessy up from the airport (she was going to be there for the birth by had to leave by 1st), so I was now officially READY to birth this baby! But nothing happened that night. I didn’t think I’d be antsy and I’d just let it happen, but I was. I was excited to meet my baby! I had Kara come over and sweep my membranes. She said if I was on the verge this could help and it’s not harmful in anyway. Thursday night no baby. Friday day no baby. I had Kara come sweep my membranes at 4:45 pm Friday night and by 5:40 pm I had strong 40 second contractions! I knew it was time. YEAH

Mom started dinner and Marshall and I walked the block for ½ hour. During that time I had 4 strong contractions. I sat through contractions through dinner, Shane’s bath and putting him to bed. I cried when I put him to bed, as I knew it would the last time I had “just him”.  I then could focus on my labor. Contractions grew stronger for a full minute but remained 5-7minutes apart. Marshall called Kara and her and Michelle Wellborn stopped over around 10pm. They could tell I still had some work to do so they said they were going to go back home and keep them posted. I felt like I had been working FOREVER, yet it was frustrating the contractions weren’t getting closer. I asked Kara what I could do to make them closer and she said just try to get some rest in between and relax. Don’t waste energy moving around. That was HARD to do. Marshall and I lay on the floor on the yoga mat. I had the TENS unit on my back fighting each contraction with it.  

Finally around 1:30am my contractions were around 3 mins apart Kara and Michelle came over.  They told me I could get in the aquadoula. I did and felt the urge to push. I asked Kara if I could and she said, “Go ahead”. She checked me and I was fully dilated.  I pushed and pushed and pushed, but nothing was happening. It was hard work, but I didn’t feel like the pushing was quite as excruciating as Shane. I also had some breaks in between still, which I didn’t have with Shane. After an hour of pushing, Kara rechecked me and informed me “your cervix has come back”. WHAT!!!!!!! She said there must have been a bag of water in front of the baby’s head that allowed me to fully dilate and when that bag broke I went back to 8 cm. HOW DEFEATING. She said I couldn’t push anymore and need to now get up move around and go back into active labor to get me back to 10 cm again!!! I felt like I just got to the end of my Ironman and the referee said, “sorry you’re DQ’ed so go back to the beginning, start over, pace yourself and you’ll get there.”  

Marshall, Mom and Jessy were all so encouraging telling me to stay positive and you can do it. I must say I had doubts. I did. It took everything for me to refocus. Marshall was my solid rock! He never doubted me, and moved me into different positions, held my hand, and supported me with kind words along the way. Kara and Michelle told me how to breathe and what to try next.  

As I was squatting by the banister Kara noticed I was bleeding and knew my cervix was swelling.  She said, “ok we can’t do that position, you need to lie down and labor through these.” We put back on the TENS unit, Kara held my leg and we worked through more UNBEARABLE contractions. I can’t even explain. I finally said “I can’t do this, what can do we do to make me fully dilate”. Kara said she could break my bag of waters and that would most likely allow me to fully dilate. I know the baby needs it’s bag of water if it’s not really ready to come, so I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do this, but then again I couldn’t keep up this pain/pace. I confirmed with Jess that her midwife broke her water with Charlotte and it was ok right, she said yep. I asked Marshall what he wanted to do and he said, “Lets break it”. Kara did and the contractions somehow became even more unbearable then they were. I got back in the tub and had the urge to push again. She checked me and noticed I now had an anterior lip of the cervix. She said she would hold it back while I pushed. She did and it slipped over the babies head, I felt the ring of fire did a few more pushes and my babies head was out. Kara said reach down and feel your baby. I did, it was so surreal, but I just wanted Bubba out  A few more pushes and Bubba was born underwater!!!!!!!! Kara pushed her through my legs and onto my chest. Marshall and I held our baby. I was in shock and so relieved, we are FINALLY holding our baby. We both looked down and checked what Bubba was and said “OMG it’s a GIRL!!!!!” We were bawling. We have a daughter. A funny handsome son and now a beautifully little girl, wow we are blessed. She was cubby and adorable.   

We moved us out of the Aqua Doula and now needed to birth the placenta. Kara knew from Shane’s birth the placenta had a problem detaching and same thing happened with Bubba. I was losing a lot of blood, Michelle gave me a shot of pitocin in the leg and Kara said, “Mandy, I’m going to have to go in for it”.  As if I couldn’t have gone through more pain I did! But I had full faith in Kara, and knew we needed to do this. After some minutes of Kara physically working to detach my placenta she DID IT!!!!!!!!!! THANK GOD!  

We stabilized me and Bubba and Marshall, I and our new daughter Jordan Lynn Boyd lay there in tears. WE DID IT WE DID IT. Our bodies are meant to do this and thank god for the wonderful midwives like Kara and Michelle who are SO skilled in their profession they are able to handle anything. Thanks you guys! 

Our little chubby bunny Jordan was officially born on 3/30/13 at 4:32 a.m.  She weighed in at a whooping 8.4 lbs and is 20 ¾” long. She has brown hair, long fingers and toes, small waist, broad chest, a cute chubby face and the Thompson nose.  We are in love with our little girl. 

What a nice Easter gift. 

Mandy + Marshall #3

I good friend of mine said, “You will never regret having a third baby, yet you may always regret not”.  I totally agree, as I lay with my newborn nestled on my chest, knowing there is nothing out there that fills this love and emotion but life itself.

Ok, so let’s back up to how Jose (now Colton) came to life :) Marshall and I were out with our NightTrain swim friends (same group that gave me above advice).  We had completed a lovely swim in bay, a 5 mile run around Angel Island, and were sharing few drinks at San Francisco yacht club.  All the sudden a dare started and the next thing I knew I was taking a shot of Tequila (Jose Cuervo).  Now I had just stopped nursing Jordan 1 month ago so my alcohol limit was low, I never do shots, and I HATE tequila! That said the song holds true “tequila makes your clothes come off”.  I knew the next afternoon we were pregnant! By 3:00 pm I had implantation cramping (I’ve felt this before when I got pregnant with both Shane and Jordan). I was suppose to be tracking my period, but having had only 1 since I stopped nursing was bit hard to track. Plus the tequila :)

I didn’t mention anything to Marshall and thought I’d just wait a few weeks till I truly missed my next period.  This was so hard to do, but I didn’t want to scare him quite yet if it was a false alarm :)

That day came and no period.  Jordan and I rushed out to Walgreen’s to get a pregnancy test.  I took the test and within 15 seconds it clearly read “PREGNANT”.  I scooped Jordan up giving her big hugs with tears of joy in my eyes saying, “you’re going to have a baby brother or sister!”  I was thrilled!!! I knew I wanted more kids but Marshall saw two as very manageable.  I viewed Jose as my lucky charm, he just happened, and it was all meant to be.

That night Marshall got home from work and I was dying to tell him but thought it was best once kids were in bed. He literally came home telling me he just had lunch with a friend who had their 3rd baby and “wow it’s methane there! They are bringing in a live in au pair from Brazil”. I was biting my tongue; I knew there was no au pair in the cards for us. We sat at the breakfast bar and ate dinner. After dinner I handed him a little white bag. Marshall opens the sack, pulls out the pregnancy test, turns it over, and over again, looks at it still dumbfounded for two whole minutes. Then he starts laughing and says “NO WAY, HA”! I’m now shaking and crying. He hugs me; still laughing I think in disbelief and nervousness, and says just as my positive, calm, devoted husband would “let’s do this”!!! We cry, hug, kiss and start to vision Boyd family of 5!

We had our amazing midwife Kara (who also delivered Shane and Jordan in our same home) caring for Jose and I through out our pregnancy.  We were in the best hands anyone could be in.  All our appointments were positive, fun, with no issues.  Jose heartbeat remained in low 130’s to high 120’s.  I just knew he was a boy! My varicose veins were the worst thing about my pregnancy.  They were bad and hurt a lot but I could handle it. I loved feeling Jose move in my belly, his hiccups at night, even big kicks under my right ribs. Its just soooo fascinating the body makes a baby!!! As usual we chose to forgo all ultra sounds and do no testing. Kara listened at first with the Doppler to hear baby’s heartbeat then just the stethoscope and it was always strong. I knew my baby was perfect, I just felt it.

We cruised along during pregnancy and a few weeks before Colton was born really started wrapping our heads around the birth and having a newborn. Marshall and I attended Kara’s refresher home birth class. I took a month long prenatal yoga class, and I mediated often. Jordan and Shane started sharing a bedroom (you should see what a 2 and 4 year old can create before the sun rises) and we got the house ready for baby.  Well, really me nesting; installing new shelving in all closet and garage, deep cleaning house, doing big Costco runs.

Jose’s due date was March 16th. I started having contractions on and off a few weeks out. Saturday 7th I had many that day and that night thought “Marshall this could be it, get hose ready (for birth tub)”.  No baby.  Sunday and Monday more contractions but less often. Tuesday 10th I picked my Mom up from airport and now didn’t feel any contractions. It was so great to see Mom and have her with us. That Wednesday we had a meeting with Kara and everything was perfect with Jose. That week we did our usually routine with kids and had fun. Mom did a ton of cooking, baking, organizing, and laundry in preparation for baby. Every day wondering “was this the birth day?”, and everyday (besides cold/cough I got) I said, “Nope I feel just fine! Nothing happening”. Monday 16th came and no sign of Jose. Kara came Tuesday 17th and all was still normal.  I had her do sweep the membranes with Jordan, as I was getting antsy when she was a day late, and I think it lead to more difficult labor/birth. This time I wanted him to come when he was ready. I was fine with waiting. It was hard and I did try all natural things (spicy food, sex, acupuncture, foot reflexology, and walking a lot/stairs) but God had a plan and he was going to come when we wanted too.

Jessy arrived on Thursday 19th!!! She had a ticket booked with plans to be meeting the baby yet maybe now she’d get to be there for the birth! She got to be present for Jordan’s and it was so great so maybe this one too!

Friday morning I did acupuncture again and did lion street stairs 3 times that night. That night 10:30pm while cleaning up the kitchen before going down to my room I had a strong contraction. I got down to my bedroom and felt dad’s presence. I felt as if he was sitting in my brown chair where he sat and held Shane and Jordan.  He was there and I knew it was all going to be fine.  I had 3 more strong contractions.  I read my “Jesus calling” page and knew this was it! My contractions lasted ALL night long every 10-15mins.  Some were more intense then others.  I remained lying in bed as to not waste energy.  Breathing through the contractions as the midwives suggest, trying to sleep. Let me tell you that sleeping during labor is not possible. Marshall would hear me moan and roll over pat my side and say “ohhh” and go back to sleep. At 5am Marshall texted Kara to let her know I’d been having contractions all night but they were still far apart. We had an appointment with Kara that day at 9:30am so she’d come see me then.  At 6:30am I told Marshall to go wake my sister and have her feed and dress Shane and Jordan and drive them to my friend’s house. Mom woke too to help and was very excited. Everyone got out of the house around 9 am and my mind was at rest knowing the kids were gone and in fun good place. 

We continued to labor in the bedroom. Kara arrived and said we were doing great. I was keeping it very mellow (Marshall was shocked at how I handled this labor). I was rolling on a ball, holding his hand and needing to be in child’s pose through every contraction but would then go back to reading Us Weekly, talking/telling stories, and listening spa music. Mom made me a protein shake, eggs, and English muffin.  You can always count on my mom when it comes to excellent food, along with love and support.

Kara asked if I wanted her to check me I said “yes”.  She did and I was 5cm dilated and cervix thinning!!! She said “honey you’ve made such great progress”. I said “thank you”. I told her to continue on with her Saturday as she had an appointment and she said, “No I’m going to wait around for an hour”. As she did the labor grew more intense. I couldn’t talk as much and the contractions became closer together and much stronger. I requested Marshall to put the tense unit on my back (muscle stimulator to help combat contractions). I leaned on Marshall SO much during my labor. He is my best friend, my rock, the calm one. He knows how to comfort and encourage me in any situation. He honestly held my hand though every contraction! I began pacing around room, sitting on chair, rolling on the ball, hugging pose, and even went out in backyard. Kara said, “I’m not going anywhere” and went to call Michelle Wellborn our secondary midwife. Marshall called his Mom too as we wanted her there for the birth. 

We were still in bedroom and I had urge to bear down but it wasn’t quite as intense as I remember with Shane and Jordan.  Kara washed her hands and her and Michelle put on gloves.  Mom, Jess and Debi were all in room too.  We were thinking this is it, but then it all slowed down a bit. I started get 15 mins breaks. I asked everyone but Marshall and midwives to leave room. They did. I tried to really absorb my breaks and rest. I was getting tired though. I had been drinking my Gatorade and doing GU (thank you Debi for running to sports basement to buy more) but could start to feel the long night weighing in.  I had Kara check me again and she said I was only at a 7cm and still had a bit of cervix left.  This was discouraging to hear but I wasn’t giving up.  Giving up wasn’t in cards for me.  My process was normal, natural, what a women’s body is suppose to do.

Kara and I discuss possibly breaking my bags of water (we did this with Jordan too) and I said “yes”.  She said, “let’s wait an hour, ok honey, and see where you’re at”.  “Ok,” I grunted.  Twenty tough more minutes go by and I’m feeling this can’t get any harder but deep down know IT WILL. We decide to try the birth tub. Marshall basically carried me up the stairs and I got into the warm tub. The contractions were so painful that I’m moaning and whimpering all at once, wondering when can this will end, and I’ll have my baby! I remember having a glimpse of doubt and I looked up at Marshall who was draped over the side of the birth tub holding both my arms, and in his calm voice he reassured me that it was going to be fine, that I am strong, and I am doing great.

I hear Kara say “how about 20 more mins hon, and we can open your bag of waters”.  I grunt “ok”.  I was struggling not to bear down, but this baby was there and wanting me to push!  Kara says “ok hon, let’s get you out tub and open your water”.  I’m relieved, as I know baby will be here soon.  I lay on my back on my yoga mat (same one Shane was delivered on) and she broke my bag. Whew and SHIT as pressure, contractions are SO intense now. I quickly reverted to hands and knees squeezing Marshall’s hand and pushing.  Kara was amazing and noticed I had an anterior lip of cervix (same thing that happened with Jordan), she held her two fingers inside and slipped the cervix over Jose’s head.  The midwives yell to my Mom, sister, and Debi to come! They come flying in the living room. I push once and push his whole head out!!! I let Marshall’s hands go so he can catch our baby! I push twice and push his whole body out. I hear him cry and Kara and Marshall pass him under my legs and I see he IS a BOY. We lay down with our son our third beautiful healthy baby!!! Oh my gosh we did it! We cry, kiss, and hug our baby.  It’s an amazing miracle. Circle of life.  He’s a big boy and Marshall and I lay there with him and kiss. I feel a contraction come and out I push my placenta!! This might seem normal for most of you, but the past two kids Kara had to manually remove my placenta (which is not pleasant and pretty scary on both our ends) so we were THRILLED it came out on it’s own. We all cheered and did high fives.

My mom cooked up an amazing dinner for all and poured glasses of Rombauer wine to celebrate. We toasted to Colton Vincent (my dad’s name) Boyd’s birthday and sat around chatting how beautiful and big he was :) We are blessed.

Marshall cut the umbilical cord; Jessy adjusted Colton (she adjusted his head sutures and his neck. We love that she can adjust him so soon into life) and Kara took baby vitals.  We all were guessing how much Colton weighed.  I said 9 lbs.  He was 8.11lbs and 22” long with head circumference of 14”!!! Big big boy! He was nursing great.  The only issue we had was his temperature was low.

We got us moved into our bedroom and midwives stay to clean up.  His temperate was still low.  Around 8pm everyone said good night except Kara stayed to make sure his temperate was ok.  My mommy’s instinct kicked in and I told Marshall to grab me the space heater.  He looked at me like I was crazy even said “Mandy this isn’t going to work”.  And I insisted.  “Lay it horizontal on bed and I’m going to unswaddle Colton and really dry him out.  All his little creases and folds are clammy and wet”.  We had him laying on me and both of us were just sweaty and clammy.  The heating pad I felt was creating wet heat. We blasted the dry space heater heat and I laid over him talking to him telling him “come on Colton, we can do this!”  Jessy got me some essential oils that had cinnamon in them which can help create heat. I rubbed them on his back and feet. I dried out his neck, arm pits, and rub our noses together talking to him whole time. Heat blasted away. Kara took his temp 96, but then in a  few minutes it was 97! It was working! I knew it.  Follow your gut :).  By 10:30 pm Kara said she felt ok leaving. His temp was better, but to keep checking it every hour and text her.  We needed it to be 97.7-99.

I made Marshall sleep with Colton on his chest while dry heat blasted them.  Imagine sleeping in dry sauna :) I took it again 97. By 12:30am it was 97.7!!!! I text Kara. Finally we could all rest a bit.  I set my alarm for every hour to be sure to nurse him and check his temp. By 7am he was perfect 98.3! Yeah we did it.  All in clear.

Marshall and Jessy went the next morning on bikes to go pick up Shane and Jordan from our friend’s and brought them home to meet their new baby brother! They came rushing in our bedroom and they loved Colton. I was surprised how much Jordan really liked him.  They were very sweet to him. Touching, kissing and looking at him. They both wanted to hold him too.

We are now a lucky blessed family of 5! Marshall and I love each other more and more everyday and strive to show our children the passion we have for one another and life itself.  Thank you God.

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