A thank you
I was overwhelmed to receive this thank you present.
These hands have witnessed the energy of the souls they touched.
These hands have felt the power of the strength it takes to grow and release new spirit.
These hands know the "art of doing nothing," a skill that has been passed from one generation to the next.
These hands have been taught from the pates of the work of women.
These hands are joined in a circle which is unbroken through time.
These are the hands of a midwife.
A thank you
Throughout the pregnancy, your dad and I spent a lot of time preparing mentally and physically for your arrival. We cleared our fears and mental roadblocks. We chose to trust in our partnership, in you, in my body, in our care team, and in the normal physiology of birth. We focused on visualizing the gentle birth we wanted to welcome you into the world with. We felt ready and giddy in anticipation. Finally, it was time to just wait until you were ready to enter the world.
On Monday, July 13th, a day before your guess date, I went to our regular prenatal yoga class. Our yoga teacher, Jane, had a sub that day, and even though the sub didn’t know me, she could tell you were ready to be born, and gave us the best seat in the house (the coolest spot in the room!). At yoga, I went to the restroom, and was excited to see the first signs of the mucus plug! After yoga, I texted your dad, who was at work, to let him know that some early signs had started and that you were getting closer. I came home, took a nap to Rachel Yellin’s birthing soundtrack, and welcomed the practice surges and increase in bloody show throughout the day.
That evening, we had a Ramadan feast with your uncle, Ahmed, who was visiting to be here for your birth and first weeks. I made some “spicy” eggplant to help things move along, which according to your dad was just regularly spiced eggplant. We all spent the evening relaxing and laughing at episodes of Garfunkel and Oats, which is a thing we think is funny.
We went to bed a little later than usual, and I woke up around 2:30am with what I knew were real surges. I was excited at this sign that you would be joining us so soon, and treated myself to some Effie’s oatcakes and a glass of milk. I crawled back in bed, resisting the urge to wake your dad and let him know things were starting. By 3:30, he woke up, and I let him know surges had started. He texted our Doula, Shannon, and our midwife, Sue, to let them know that you might be joining us soon! Afterward, dad fell back asleep quickly, and as the surges continued, I thought that it would be really nice if they slowed enough for me to get a good night’s rest, and thankfully, my body listened. The surges slowed enough for me to fall asleep until 7am, which I was thankful for.
AT 7am, your dad’s alarm went off, and with me still sleeping, he started his regular routine. When I got up, I let him know that surges were still there, and suggested a big breakfast so we could be ready for whatever comes our way. We had a good sense you were on your way, but didn’t know how long it would take and wanted to be rested and well-fed in case it was a long couple of nights.
After breakfast, Dad began to make some preparations as I lay on the bed. He pulled out supplies for Sue, prepared the birth tub, lit some candles and put on Rachel’s affirmation tracks to get me relaxed. I put on my eye mask and began getting used to the sensations. Eventually, Dad joined me and we cuddled and relaxed in bed for about an hour.
At this point, things get a bit hazy. I was no longer in my own head; my body just took over and time and sequencing were no longer easy to follow, and also no longer important. I remember snuggling in bed with your dad, and needing to squeeze his hand every time a surge would come—the more intense the surge, the stronger I would squeeze. I remember trying a few different positions in bed, but then needing to go to the restroom with each surge, which meant spending most of the rest of the time in the bathroom. I remember with each surge, listening for one or two things from the relaxation tapes to help me get through it. I remember asking my body to open, and thinking with each surge that it would bring me closer to you. Looking back, I am proud that fear never made its way into the birth. I am proud of my trust, acceptance in, and surrender to the process. My mind just had to get out of the way, and my body took over and did what it was meant to do.
At this point, your dad asked me if I needed anything to eat for lunch, and I could not believe it was already noon! The time passed so quickly. Your dad grabbed some water and a smoothie. This is when the surges started getting more intense, and your dad let Shannon know we needed her. The surges quickly continued intensifying and were rapidly getting closer together. Your dad let Sue know that things were moving quickly, and as he was doing that, I noticed that my body was pushing! I told your dad, “Let Sue know I’m pushing.” He did, and Sue and Shannon quickly made their way over.
At this point, I both instinctively knew that things were moving fast, but also couldn’t quite believe it because it’s not how most birth stories I’d heard went for first-timers! While I knew my surges were intense, I’d expected it to take a while longer for me to dilate, and I’d also expected have a pause between dilating and pushing. Instead, my body went straight from dilating to pushing without pause, and my mind had to catch up. Dad noticed my belly tightening like he’d never seen before. I kept asking him if he could see your head, and made him promise to tell me if he could!
Dad let Ahmed know that Shannon and Sue would be here soon and learned that he had left for a quick errand! Leaving me at this point was not an option, so Ahmed hurried home quickly to get back just in time to let Shannon and Sue in the door around 1:30pm.
Once Shannon arrived, she told us Sue was here and setting up, and let me know everything was completely normal and that you were “ just coming a little faster than expected”. Sue then walked in, smiled, and said “have you ever seen a more gorgeous woman in labor.” I was so happy to have her there, and seeing her so relaxed gave me a huge sense of relief. Little did I know, she was working at rapid speed to get set up for your birth in the other room! Sue then said she hated to ask me to do this, but needed to do an examination to see if the second midwife, Cynthia, would be able to get there in time. After the exam, we learned I was completely open and ready to have you. We didn’t know it until after the birth, but in fact, you were were already halfway down the birth canal! Later, when we asked Sue what that check was like, she said it was “the silliest check she’s ever done.”
As I made my way back to the bathroom between surges, Sue set a few more things up and prepared the bed for birth at lightening speed. Shannon and Sue coaxed me out of the bathroom and gently suggested another position. It was hard to get up, but Shannon finally convinced my by saying “you don’t want to have your baby on the toilet do you?” I thought that this was a very convincing point.
Sue suggested the tub, the birth stool, or hands and knees, and I chose to get in position on hands and knees on the bed. As I pushed, Dad gently stroked my back when he noticed we could see your head! At that point, Sue brought your Dad behind me to catch you. He saw the top of your head, and I asked if you had hair. Your dad told me you had dark hair, and at that moment I knew I was so close to meeting you and beginning to get to know you. Soon after, your whole head peaked out and your dad could see your whole face and lips moving. He told me all of this, and also told me you were a good color, which I found relieving! One push later, at 2:05 pm, your whole body appeared. Your dad got one good look before passing you to me through my legs. I grabbed you with such relief and joy, greeting you with a joyful, “Hi!” and then “you’re so slippery!” I finally sat back, and you lay on my belly with arms wide around my torso in a big bear hug and with your dad perched over the both of us.
The rest fades in the background as our focus was on you. The placenta was birthed within 5 minutes after your arrival, Sue and Cynthia made sure you were okay and stitched up my tears as Shannon fed my soup and smoothies. We both wept with joy, and remained in that cocoon of wonder for days after.
We're proudto say we all experienced the gentle birth we so wanted for you, sweet one. We're forever grateful to our beautiful midwife for being such a sage birth guide. We're so thankful for our first experience together as a family. Most of all, we are thankful for YOU!
All our love,
Your mama and dad
Where do I even start? OK…the beginning. Started when I met Sue back on April 4th, 2011. Yes I know, I remember the date. Its because it was the day before my daughter Che was born!!! I met Sue to re-test my GBS to rule out if I still had it and if there was a need to have any IV antibiotics during labor. Sue was my back up midwife since Maria was out of town. I didn't expect to have my birth for another week. Turns out it was, "Hi Tai I’am Sue, call me if you have any questions." Next morning this was me……, "Hi Sue. Remember me…. the baby is coming."
The birth itself was pretty good, it was fast. Started at 6am. Back labored on the steps for a while until my water broke about 10 am. Went in the birth tub for a while and we had our surprise baby girl Che at 1:52 pm! What Sue did for us was be on the phone and talked to myself and husband through the first few hours very calmly and reassured us things were going well and that she would be over soon since we were newbies to this whole gig. Once my contractions, or surges may have you, became more intense and I didn’t feel like talking, my husband called Sue and asked when do we know its time for her to come over. She asked my husband James to be quiet for a moment for her to hear me moan. She said, "Ok sounds like active labor has started and I’ll start making my way over." She arrived just before my water broke about 10 am. During the labor I don’t know much else of what she was doing since I was in the zone, but I know she did her magic! She and midwife Kelly Murphy were setting up things, tracking my progress on a chart, and just being present. The presence of them and all the knowledge that they had was enough for me to be calm and birth my baby. Long story short…. If you have been told that a woman almost gave birth to her baby on the toilet, that was me. Yup I was all ready to go. But James plopped me back in the birth tub for the grand finale.
Then in June 2013 we found out number 2 is arriving!!!!!!!!! What to do? Who to call? We had so much good things to say about everyone we had. We talked it over and over and over and we were at a standstill for a long while, but really it was clear. Since Sue wasn’t our main midwife she didn’t do our post natal visits, we felt that she missed out on seeing the baby that she saw born. What better gift to then have her come back and see her now as a flourishing toddler! I contacted her as soon as possible since I was late to the homebirth game the first time at about 7 months in. She said YES! Only downfall was that I had to wait until 10 weeks to see her for our first visit! 😊
Our 1st visit was great! She brought along Lauren her assistant in training. Fabulous duo these two were. Just amazing. So patient with my very severe case of the baby brain, all my worries and what ifs, and wild and crazy toddler. I looked forward to seeing them come for my prenatal visits. They were very informative on what to expect, had fun little flower essences for my water, involved my daughter in the checking of momma's belly and blood pressure. We giggled about numerous things and they gave me back that great confidence of “I Can Do It” attitude. I feared that I was extremely lucky to have such a good first homebirth, would it be the same smooth sailing again? By the end I was empowered by these two ladies and then it boiled down to not wanting to have my baby early and it being on Valentines Day. Flip side I really wanted to be done being pregnant. We had a visit Feb 13th, and they said in kindness that it probably wouldn't happen on the 14th, and that I should think Monday. LOL. Well I woke up the next morning as if it was deja vu all over again.
"Hi Sue, Happy Valentines Day! I'm going to have the baby today!" (3:30 am TIME STAMP)
I was very blessed to have Sue, Lauren, and Kelly at my second birth: my son Zivon. Again a fast and intense labor. This was also completed in the birth tub. (8:44 am) During this labor it was all belly labor. Very different and very exhausting. Come to find out his big head came out but his body was stuck for about a minute and Sue took charge and did like a lifting movement as the last contraction happened and baby was born. Chunky guy. 8 lbs 6 or 8 oz. I forgot. but I know his chest was as big as his head! Takes after his Daddy I guess. What I’m trying to say is that even in this situation Sue knew everything to do and just did what she needed to do in a calm manner. I didn't even know this happened till months later when I was chatting with Lauren about the birth. Sue was so humble to never mention this. I know she values her job so close to her heart and made it a lifestyle.
I cannot say enough good things about Sue and her expertise. She is AMAZING to say the least. She not only is professional, caring, very on point and ready, but she has a really super cool watch that transmits her text messages!!!!!!! Also she gives the BEST hugs. If you are not a big hugger like I was she will change that. 😉 THANKS SUE AGAIN AND AGAIN FOR ALL YOU ARE AND ALL THAT YOU DO FOR US MOMMIES, BABIES, AND FAMILIES.
The Day We Became Three
By August 3, 2014, I was really done with being pregnant. My due date had come and passed (even though I know “due dates” are not really due dates, it still bothered me) nine days before. I was starting to worry that the baby wasn’t going to join us in a timely manner and we would require medical intervention.
After consulting with Sue, my husband and I decided that we would try taking castor oil (which is a holistic way to induce labor). We made castor oil milkshakes on Sunday morning. I will admit, it wasn’t delicious, but it wasn’t as bad as I worried it would be. Then we waited to see if surges would start. Hours passed and nothing happened. We called Sue and she recommended that we take a walk on some hills (which is not a challenge in our neighborhood in San Francisco). So walk we did. Still, no surges, so we went back to watching a marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is an excellent way to pass time while waiting for a baby, by the way). By 5:00 pm when nothing had happened, we assumed the castor oil hadn’t worked. But at 11:00 pm, I started cramping and feeling like surges were starting to come on. Sean sent Sue a text to give her an update and she said to keep her updated as things changed.
In our birth class, the midwives had said that if you go into labor at night, the best thing you can do is to let your partner get a little sleep. So I told my husband to go to bed and I was going to take a shower since I knew this was just early labor. What I didn’t expect is the surges would pick-up so quickly. By the end of my shower they were about two and a half minutes apart. I woke up my husband and told him that I was sorry, but he wasn’t going to be able to sleep! We notified Sue yet again to tell her that the surges were coming on strong. She said to call our doula to have her come over and keep her posted as things developed. My husband and I made up the birth bed and he went to work setting up the tub. He also made us some scrambled eggs to help keep my body fueled during the labor process as we had no idea how long it would take.
It was wonderful when the doula, Elizabeth, arrived around 2:00 am. She immediately took over and helped with what had become pretty painful back labor. The surges were still just a couple of minutes apart and lasting for about a minute. Within moments of her arrival she had a heating pad on my back and was helping me try out different positions to relieve the pain. Then we moved to the birth tub where she again helped me manage the surges. I remember at one point the bliss of a cool washcloth on my neck and pressure being put on my back. I remember hearing my husband’s encouraging words in my ear. And I remember seeing my trusty orange cat sitting by, supporting from the window seat.
After a while, I moved from the tub to the bed for a break from being in the water. The doula and my husband were continuing to supply me with much needed water and bites of food. Sue arrived not long after that. I had no concept of time at this point. We transitioned back into the tub, which did make the back labor a bit more manageable.
At this point, labor was definitely getting more intense. I wasn’t getting the relief between contractions that I had been getting earlier in the process. Around this time, I looked over to Sue and said, “Could you tell me how much longer?” She laughed and said, “Sweetie, I don’t know what you want me to say.” It was an honest moment and such a moment of truth in the birth process. I remember thinking around that point that if someone had offered me pain killers, I might have taken them. But I was glad no one was there to offer them. My support system was helping me manage the pain and I knew I was strong enough to get through it. They were the best “pain killers” for me.
Sue told my husband that she thought I should eat something as my energy was beginning to dip. He went downstairs and warmed up some bone broth. I remember him bringing me a mug of warm broth to the tub and encouraging me to drink it through a straw. I must say, bone broth through a straw is pretty unappealing. However, it was magic bone broth and labor picked right up again. Not long after that I told Sue that I had the desire to start pushing. After a few contractions where I was trying to push she checked and I was fully dilated. I had said I didn’t want to have the baby in the tub, so we moved back to the bed and the second midwife, Michelle came shortly after.
I remember the need to push as being something very primal. I knew that my baby and I were working together to get him out to meet the world. Sure, it hurt (I am not going to lie) but it was also very active. I felt progress, which, to a type A person like myself, was very validating. The hormones were incredible throughout the birthing process. I could barely open my eyes. I could hear Sue, Michelle, Elizabeth and my husband all speaking encouraging words. I remember Sue saying that the head was almost out and she had me feel his head. I was able to call on a physical strength that I didn’t even know I had when pushing my baby into the world. It took one hour and one position to get him out.
Once he was out, he cried almost immediately. They placed his little blue-ish body on my stomach (the cord was very short, so he couldn’t go very far!). I remember how unreal his skin felt. It was almost hard to comprehend that he was the little one that had been inside me just moments before. As he began to take deep baby breaths, he turned more and more pink and started to move a bit more. I almost forgot that I also needed to birth the placenta. But with Sue’s coaching the placenta came quickly and easily. Not long after the birth of the placenta my husband got to cut the cord.
The birth team then moved quickly to make sure the baby and I were stable and healthy. Sue and Michelle easily transitioned from sharing our joy to making thoughtful medical decisions. I felt so taken care of. There was such a sense of calm. I knew we had made the transition to become a family. We had all done it together, myself, my husband, my baby and my birth team. In the hours that passed, I showered, my son breastfed, the house was cleaned up, we all ate, were tucked into bed and my baby was weighed and checked out. When everyone left, my family had gone from being two to being three. We were happy and secure. We were snuggled up in our family bed, just as we had been so many nights before. In the days and weeks that passed Sue came to check on Penn and myself and to ease us into this new phase of life. It was a level of care that went beyond anything I had expected or experienced. When it was time for our last official appointment there were hugs and tears. I knew I would miss Sue terribly.
When we started this journey I wasn’t completely sure what the midwife/patient relationship would be like. Now, on the other end of it, I can say that Sue is a caretaker unlike any other. The birth of our family wasn’t just about the 12 hours of labor, but the entire journey through the pregnancy and postpartum period. I feel lucky that I was able to have the birth that I wanted safely and at home. It gave Penn the start to his life that I had hoped for. And I couldn’t imagine having done it without Sue and our birth team.
Birth Story/Yelp Review
Our Birth Stories
We decided to go with a home birth around 28 weeks in our pregnancy. Up until that time, we had been receiving prenatal care and classes at UCSF with their midwives. While UCSF was great, we realized we wanted to try homebirth since our pregnancy was low risk. We got a few referrals and Sue was one of the midwives that was highly recommended to us. We were completely new to the home birth community and culture, but one of the easiest decisions we made in life was contracting Sue for our care.
Sue provided all the relevant information you would need. She had a thorough intake survey, which covers all the aspects of your birth plan. She has a survey for the partner to fill out which made my husband feel involved and important in this process. The payment process was clear and outlined in a written contract. We had the choice of doing a payment plan, which helped us immensely. Appointments were relaxing at home and for as long as we needed. She did all the necessary physical examinations and then checked in with us as a couple. I would say it's 75% midwifery and 25% therapy. At the time, I didn't think we needed all the emotional support. She helped us to be mindful of each other as future parents. Sue listens to you and will give you the space and time you need to identify the questions and concerns you have as prospective parents.... something the hospital/doctor's office environment never allowed for. Sue asked to have her apprentice join us and it was really a great thing to have a second support person around. Lauren Miller was her apprentice at the time and a great source of kindness and positive energy during our appointments. Sue would give us a lot of suggestions for preparing for the birth (special herbal teas to make, yoga positions to practice, practicing guided imagery, joining a prenatal support group etc...) but all of them where just that, suggestions. She never made a judgment call if I chose to follow them or not. She was 100% supportive of my choices. I learned a lot about becoming a new mom by simply listening to her tell pieces of her life story during our appointments. It helped us to TRUST her. This was so important for us and I think enabled us to have smoother birth because of this relationship we had formed. She is available and online! You can text, e-mail or call her for any concern or question. She sends links to more information on topics of interest and is prompt to respond to all our concerns. I've never had an advice nurse or doctor call me back as quickly as Sue has. Sue is funny.
Our baby came about 4 days before her due date and my birth progressed fairly quickly. Sue was calm and supportive. She took the lead when necessary and gave me the chance to make my own decisions about how to labor and what positions to take. She lets you feel in control of your birth process. The birth went smoothly, I felt safe and well informed at a time when I was most vulnerable. I think this was the #1 benefit from working with a midwife and doing homebirth. I would never have felt as comfortable and free to be myself if I was in a hospital environment.
I do not have a hospital experience to compare it to, but I felt incredibly well attended and supported. The first few days were such a blur of emotions that it helped to see her every day and to feel like we had someone who would help us any time of day with any of our concerns. When I got mastitis she was a coach and cheerleader, at a time that was very stressful and depressing. I wanted to give up on breastfeeding and she helped us to stick to our plan. She helped us to know our own limits as new parents and I felt like she was an advocate for our full emotional and physical recovery. Three years later and Sue still keeps in contact with us.
We also hired Sue and Lauren Miller to assist us in our second homebirth. It was the same great experience with the added support of advice on how to integrate our baby into our (then 2 yo) daughter's life. Sue even planned a special prenatal course for "second timers" from a fellow midwife. It was very nice to have the customized education. Our labor was fast (1.5 hours!) this time around but smooth with no complications postpartum. We'd do it again, but we're not that crazy to have three :)
Why hire Sue?
Sue is awesome. I can't guarantee every person will have the same relationship with her as we did. But I can guarantee that she is a kind, intelligent and experienced practitioner. I wish the world was filled with more people who love what they do and do it with compassion, humility and intellect. Sue embodies that ideal. We're eternally grateful to have met her and enlisted her in our journey to becoming a family.
I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter slightly over a year ago and went immediately back to see the midwife who we'd been working with when I was pregnant with my son. I’d ended up having a c-section with my son due to footling breech presentation. I was cautiously optimistic about finally having our homebirth this second time around! I will say that there was part of me that didn't fully believe it would happen until I felt the top of her head as she was coming out...but that's getting ahead of myself.
My second pregnancy went along smoothly with few hiccups. When I arrived for my 32 week appt at my midwife's office she said "there's something I need to talk to you about". It turned out that she had just had a difficult experience at another HBAC mama's birth and it had left her with some fear and uncertainty about doing HBAC's. I was actually very appreciative of her honesty because basically what she said me was that she was feeling traumatized and that she didn't want to bring that energy to my birth. While that was certainly an unexpected turn, I was grateful to know that beforehand. After my discussion with her I actually felt more clear than ever--I was going to at least try and have a homebirth one way or another! Luckily, the amazing Sue Baelen fit me into her very booked schedule just in time before taking her yearly break. And we could not have been a better match.
Sue (as well as her apprentice, Lauren) and I clicked immediately and after a couple of unsettling weeks of not knowing who would attend my birth I was feeling positive and strong again. We moved forward with the final preparations for a homebirth. I had a positive GBS test around 38 weeks but thanks to a special protocol created by Sue's herbalism teacher I happily got a negative test back just before going into labor.
A particular day had popped into my head a few times during my last trimester as "the" day. It was a Saturday 5 days before my due date. I had mentioned it to Sue, my husband, and my Mom…I don’t think I’d said anything about that day to anyone else. When the morning arrived I decided to go to Jane's Saturday morning yoga class. Afterwards it was so lovely outside (it was during the heat wave that we had last April) I decided to walk home from the Mission, up over twin peaks, to the Inner Sunset. I remember that I felt a little ecstatic that day, as I walked home. It felt like it somehow took no energy despite my enormous belly ;). And serendipitously I ran into Sue on 24th St as I walked. We just smiled and hugged and went on our way and I remember feeling SO happy. After walking all the way home over twin peaks I sat down at my computer to write some emails and after about an hour, my water broke. Woohoo! And yikes! I go really nervous that my bag of water was now open but I had not started having contractions yet. And I was super tired from such a physically active day.
Quickly, we ordered groceries on Instacart and picked up the house. Then I remembered the hypnobirthing cd instructions-- "lay down and drink a big glass of water". By the time I got myself to lay down around 8pm...labor was beginning. Contractions were spaced quite a ways apart but regular. By 10pm I was moaning lightly through them. From 10pm to 2am we were all sleeping in between contractions and waking up every 10 minutes or so when a wave would come. My sweet husband alternated between holding my hand while we both tried to sleep and going into my 3 year olds room to try and get him back to sleep...again. He could hear me…
At 2am my husband called our awesome doula, Alli Cuentos, and my Mom. Mom smoothly swooped in to grab Bridger and take him to her airbnb for some better sleep. Once Bridger was safely out of earshot and Alli was by my side while Gary started to set up the birth tub I felt like “ok...now I can do this!”.
It was around 5am when my contractions were close enough together that Alli and Gary called Sue and Lauren. Once the whole gang was there I remember thinking, wow, I guess I'm going to have my baby pretty soon! But I was also totally exhausted from no sleep and when Alli suggested I try standing to help the contractions get stronger I think I laughed out loud and then said "um, NO". After some more coaxing, I finally stood up. And in the bathroom, I alternated between sitting on the toilet, hands and knees on the floor, and standing in the shower for a little while. That was around the time that I discovered the miracle of sacral pressure. Nothing helped to make my contractions more bearable then either Gary or Alli pushing as hard as possible on the outsides of my hips.
Around 8am Sue and Lauren wanted to do a quick Day 1 appt for a new Mama and baby who were close to my house. I said sure go ahead, no problem, because I felt safe with Gary and Alli and figured I was in the thick of the work and not about to have baby at any moment. Sue wondered whether it might be a good idea to check my dilation before the left, though. I said sure, knowing that I probably had a ways to go. Everyone else seemed a little disappointed by the result of that check, which was 4 cm. I had been having some pretty strong waves for a couple of hours at that point and I’d thrown up at one point. But I knew there was more work to be done so I wasn't surprised and just basically went back to it.
After a little while I really wanted to get in the tub but everyone else was concerned that my contractions would slow down again if I relaxed into that warm water so we struck a "deal". If I stayed upright for an hour and let some really strong waves come do their work, I could get into the tub. After an hour or so of the hardest work of my labor, I did get in the tub and immediately my contractions slowed way down. We put on some music and I finally figured out that if I danced a little with Gary in the tub and shook my hips in a particular way I could bring a contraction on. That was great and from then on I was in a rhythm that felt totally right and even “easy”. Or maybe “natural” is the better word for it. After that I think I could say that I felt like an animal. Doing them most natural thing in the world. I had finally “learned” how to be in labor. I think there was another hour and a half or so that it was like that.
The waves continued to build, getting closer and closer together. Then, I went quickly from the waves of contractions being right on top of each other to pushing with no pause. I remember Alli saying at one point "it would be great if you told us when you feel rectal pressure", which I did manage to say during that period. I remember thinking it was nothing short of a miracle that I could get the words out. I was so much in my own little world by then.
Shortly after that I remember looking at Sue, who was sitting calmly facing me as I was on my hands and knees in the tub. I remember being surprised and also happy that she looked so calm. Then I could suddenly tell from the difference in the noise that I was making that I was pushing. I had thought that transition would be more of an obvious thing, somehow, so I was kind of surprised to realize that I was pushing. I remember thinking "I hope they know I'm pushing" --which is pretty funny. Because I was not exactly a quiet pusher!
Pushing was totally satisfying and quick. After a few minutes of pushing I was aware that the midwives were setting up all their things around me. I was blissfully unaware that the 2nd midwife didn't arrive until the very last minute. At one point during the pushing I remember thinking that maybe my baby was coming out breech and no one knew. Or that maybe they knew and hadn't told me! That was some funny kind of "healing" from my first birth, I think. I also remember at one point thinking "they're going to have to cut this baby out of me, there's no way it can come out this way". More stuff from the first birth. But it was just like random thoughts that popped up. There really wasn't a lot of emotion around it. At one point during the pushing I said to Sue "this is too much". I was feeling some fear at that point as I felt the baby's head coming towards the bottom of my pelvis. Then she gave me some homeopathic and somehow that fear just disappeared.
Then I reached down and felt the top of my baby’s head. And finally I really believed and knew that we were going to do it! There were a couple more pushes then Naia's head came out and then I didn't really wait for another one. I kinda just kept pushing and her body followed right away. Naia came out through the loop of her cord, which had been around her neck. Lauren, Sue's midwife was holding it to the side so she could slip through and then Naia did a little flip under water and Lauren tapped her to me underwater. When I pulled her up...oh man. Well, that was definitely the best moment of my life. Just, yeah….words can’t express.
The love and gratitude and relief is just indescribable. It was similar when I had Bridger. Very similar, I would say. But there was kind of a weird "something missing" feeling along with the joy at Bridger’s birth. Some slight way that it was “too easy”.
Naia was totally calm and present and bright eyed and pink from the start. She had felt like that to me throughout the birth when I had tuned in to her. And she still is just like that. Gary and I just dove into her with our eyes…I don’t remember seeing anything else for a couple of hours. My placenta came out quickly and easily while Gary and I just kept gazing at our beautiful little girl. I could feel when the placenta detach and said something like "oh, it's going to come out now". Then we got out of the tub and everyone helped us onto the bed. We were able to just rest together and bask in the amazing-ness of it all for an hour before the midwives did the newborn exam.
We started to call and text a few special people that she was here, including my Mom, who brought our big boy back to meet his sister. He was amazingly sweet with her and the coming together as a family was so sweet and special. Though, he did get a little frightened and start to cry when they cut the cord. Later he told us "they cut her penis off!". It took us a couple of months to convince him that they really had not cut her penis off.
Sewing up was probably the worst pain of the labor for me. For some reason that I still don't really know, the lidicaine just did not work well to numb me. I guess I have some kind of rare allergy to it. So, I definitely needed my hypnobirthing techniques for that part! I'm not sure who was more upset, though, me or poor Sue who just hated how much it was hurting me to get stitched. But that part was relatively quick and then I got to finally experience the lovely recovery that comes after a vaginal birth compared to the c-section recovery. What a difference! Being in my own bed and home with my family and friends sweetly caring for me was worlds more fun than being in the hospital. The whole birth was such a blessing and so deeply healing for our whole family. And our little girl continues to be a joyful, sweet, and easygoing presence that we are grateful for everyday.
Hannah, the night you were born, the sky was lit up bright pink. This is a picture I took from our front porch when the Doula, Kathy, showed up, 1.5 hours before your were born:
I was in a huge hurry since your mom was in a lot of pain in labor so I quickly snapped this picture when I opened the door to let Kathy in.
We had your baby shower on 12/5 at Liz and Adam’s house. Liz had decorated with some balloons and she gave them to us when the shower was over. The balloons stayed inflated much longer than we expected. As your birthday neared, we noticed that some of the balloons were falling. We thought it would be magical if they were able to predict your birthday. We waited and watched the balloons…just two days before you were born, the last balloon was just a few inches above the ground:
It actually turns out that the green balloon did fall on 1/24. What a miracle that it lasted exactly from our baby shower until you were born!
You were originally due to be born on 1/14. After that date came and went, we were starting to get nervous that you would come too late for us to do a home birth. Secretly we were also happy because if you were born after 1/20 you would be an Aquarian and if you were born after 1/23 you would be a Dragon, both things we thought would be cool but of course we were going to love you no mater what sign you were!
To help speed things along, mom started taking some homeopathic medicines, called blue and black cohosh, and had an induction acupuncture treatment on 1/23. I guess it worked because by that night she was having regular, menstrual like contractions about 5-7 minutes apart. It was the beginning of labor and a very good sign that you were coming soon!
The morning of your birthday mom’s contractions were coming very frequently at just 3 minutes apart. We called the midwife, Sue Baelen, to come over and examine mom. Sue checked mom and approximated that she was 3 cm dilated but she still felt that the labor could move slowly so she didn’t want us to get impatient. When she left, mom and I went for a walk around the block to help keep labor moving along. Then we felt tired since we didn’t get much sleep the night before and we laid down to take a nap. At 4:15 I woke up to mom shouting that her water broke. It had gushed out of her during a powerful contraction. The bed was soaking as were her pants. She ran to the shower as I texted the midwife and doula that mom’s water had broke.
They both came rushing over shortly after I texted. Mom was in the shower, sitting on a birthing ball, moaning loudly during her painful contractions. I tried my best to help her but she was managing the pain very well and had a good attitude about it. I felt that the best thing I could do was just stay near by in case she needed anything. When Sue and Lauren arrived, they asked mom to feel for your head and she could feel it already in the birth canal. It was a very exciting moment since that meant that she was fully dilated and that the labor was progressing rapidly. You were already well on your way to coming out. Now mom could get into the birthing tub we had set up in the small room on the second floor.
Mom got into the birth tub around 5:40pm, just after Kathy arrived. Shortly after that, Nile, the third midwife arrived. Hannah, at this point your head was visible but not fully out. Mom did a great job laboring in the tub and each contraction pushed your little head a little bit further down and birth canal and closer to coming out.
At 7pm I decided to get in the tub with mom. I thought that I might be able to help support her in ways she couldn’t on her own. Maybe in a new position her body would make more progress and push you out! I got in the tub and held mom up while she had some very strong and painful contractions. At 7:30 I heard the midwives say that your head was almost out. Then mom gave a little push during a strong contraction and she was able to pass your head. That was a major milestone of the birth and we all knew that your little body would soon be entirely out. At 7:31 you came out and they pulled you out of the water and handed you to mom. We were both so happy and relieved that the birth had gone so well! It’s never easy to birth a child but your mom made it look easy by how well she handled all the pain and stress that accompanies birth. All the midwives were very proud of mom and thought she did a great job.
After we left the tub, we took you in our arms, up to our bed. You were still attached to the umbilical cord but the placenta was now outside of mom. When we got into the bed, Lauren and Sue did a quick check up on you to make sure you were healthy.
You were very strong and healthy and we thought you were just perfect. Your skin had a nice reddish pink color and you were very alert. After the quick check up, I cut the umbilical cord. Now you were 100% on your own for the first time in your life!
You had great instincts and quickly showed interest in breast feeding. We were glad that you took to that so naturally since some babies have a hard time getting it going.
Once everyone was convinced you were healthy and were bonding well with mom, the whole birthing team cleaned up the house and then left us to be alone with you. Even though we were exhausted from the labor we were very excited to be with you and also a little nervous about our new roles as parents.
Our Beautiful Love
Our Beautiful Love
by Ruby Turalba
Imagine yourself opening like a flower about to bloom. Opening your mind to growth and transformation. Opening of your womb, as your body prepares for birth. Opening your heart to a love so deep and vast, there are no words that can describe it. And opening your third-eye to the complete unknown. These were the many sensations that I felt in the few weeks prior to our child’s birth.
We were hoping for a New Years Eve baby, and so in late December there was plenty of sex and long walks (a lot of both!!!), with the hope that these would bring on an earlier labor. During our strolls I began to feel my cervix ripening, something of a strong pressure, an opening if you will, at the bottom of my uterus. The sensations would be so intense that I would have to stop my pace for a moment and let out a deep, long, “Oooooo.” Friends would joke that I was about to have my baby right there in the middle of the street, but I knew that these were just feelings of preparation.
One morning I woke before dawn, risen by a strange yet familiar feeling of cramps within the core of my body. I lay there in perfect stillness wondering if our child was finally coming to us. Appreciating the silent hours of the city, the feelings continued rhythmically until the day’s first light. What began as a sensation deep within my core, slowly radiated outward moving through my entire womb. I was not keeping track of the hours or minutes as my mind was intently focused on the sensations. As the birds greeted the day, I had the strong urge to empty my bowels. Knowing that I was receiving some telltale signs, I decided to wake my partner, Khalil. He was groggy, yet excited at the same time. We lay there together and I informed him each time a contraction was coming on. At a reasonable hour, we called our midwife Sue Baelen, who happily replied, “Yay!”
We spent the late morning enjoying our breakfast on the back deck, basking in the beautiful January sun. With every contraction, I practiced different yoga positions and took slow steady breaths. We enjoyed the sunshine for a few hours holding each other, calling our friends and family to share the pending news, and occasionally checking in with Sue. At one point, I went to the bathroom and witnessed my “bloody show,” making it very real to me that our baby was on its way.
Eventually we decided to get dressed and go for a walk. However, as we were getting ready I began to feel like the contractions were requiring my full attention. We labored together in our bedroom until Sue arrived later that afternoon.
By that point, I was in another world riding out each surge. In retrospect, it brings me back to a dream I had earlier in my pregnancy: My niece and I were at the beach when she asks me, “Auntie Ruby, are you scared of the ocean waves?” I told her that the waves would take me up, up, up, high, but that I was not afraid, for eventually they would bring me back safely to shore. And this is how I experienced my labor. Rather than consciously fighting each contraction, I allowed them to carry my spirit to an unknown place, yet with the grounding knowledge that I would return and rest in the comfort of my partner’s arms again.
Sunset came and went in the blink of an eye. Both Sue and Khalil took turns pouring water over my body in the bathtub. At times I wanted his masculine love and presence, and at others I only wanted the gentle touch of a woman. A knock at the bathroom door signaled the arrival of my father and sister who had just driven up from San Diego. Both peeked in to say, “Hello.”
After a few hours in the bath I returned to the bedroom and was offered some food and drink for nourishment. My body immediately and forcefully rejected these. In a sense of urgency, my partner offered his cupped hands as the receptacle. Unfortunately, my projectile missed his hands altogether and my sister was kind enough to clean up the mess.
There was one contraction where I was slightly bent over, leaning on the back of a chair, with my partner holding me from behind. I caught a glimpse of our reflection in the mirror. I was groaning and writhing, though my sounds and movements appeared as if I were experiencing sexual pleasure rather than labor pains. After the surge subsided, we joked about the sensuality of it all. With all that loud ruckus, do the neighbors think we’re getting it on? We made love to conceive the baby, and it sure looked like we were making love to birth the baby!
During another surge, the midwives suggested that I get into a supported squat. My sister, who had already been alternating with my partner for the last few hours at massaging my sacrum (the back pain was quite intense), took the lead. She held me firmly, although it felt like both of us were about to be pounded by a powerful wave. After all, I was 40 pounds heavier than her petite frame!! The midwives offered other positions.
Late into the evening, or the early hours of the morning, the contractions slowed down and everyone tried to get some rest. I had some miso soup which was comforting and energizing, bringing the contractions back to full force.
Since my membranes were still intact, my sister recommended that I labor on the toilet to try and break my bag of waters. I sat facing the opposite side of the toilet and with each contraction I pushed hard. My sister rooted me on for moral support: “Break that bag, Ruby!” I can’t remember how many attempts it took, but there was a huge release when it happened. The contractions were no longer waves. They became tsunamis.
We returned to the bedroom where I lay on my side attempting to push the baby out. I was so exhausted I couldn’t even lift my leg, so I turned onto my back with my knees to chest. Three women hovered over me: Sue; the assistant midwife, Griselda; and my sister, Maria. “Breathe your baby down. Curl your baby down,” they chanted.
When the baby began to crown, Sue smiled and said, “Ruby, reach down and feel your baby’s head.” I was so tired and all I wanted was to rest. I barely had the desire to touch the baby, but I reached down anyhow thinking that I should. A few more pushes and the head was out. The midwives asked me to hold my breath so that the baby would come out ever so slowly avoiding any tears. Well, at that point it was like a reflex. Trying to hold its head in place was like asking me to hold in a sneeze or an orgasm! So out the baby flew with its fist raised high. Rebellious little critter.
The instant the infant was placed on my belly, I felt a rush of love and joy that was like nothing I had experienced before. My partner’s tearing eyes glowed when he pushed aside the umbilical cord and announced, “It’s a girl!”
While the events of my labor are fuzzy memories with no sense of time or sequence and many parts missing—remember, I was in Laborland—I will forever recall with vivid sweetness that magical moment of when it was just me, my partner, and our little girl nuzzling in the comfort of our bed. Our beautiful love had finally arrived.
Two weeks later, under the full moon, we chose her name. Reflecting her Egyptian and Filipino ancestries, she is our Jamila Mahal—meaning beautiful love.
When Baby Zula was Born
It was Thursday April 24th. I was really in the mood to go out. I had a Yoshi’s gift card so I was thinking about going to a show there. I invited Lindsay but she already had plans. She was going to a twerking/vogueing contest in the Castro. Greg and I decided to go to that with her and Jessica and Becca. It was a lot of fun.
I felt gas pains on and off the whole time we were there. When we got home I realized the gas pains were actually contractions. They continued to happen every 5 minutes or so for a while so I called Lauren. They continued to happen and get more intense so I called Lauren again and then Sue. I also called my mom. When Sue answered the phone, she said “Good Morning!”
My mom came over around 2:30 am. I felt the contractions a lot in my lower back. I would have my mom or Greg put pressure on my lower back and rub it through each contraction. It would feel so good when each surge was over. I was also trying real hard to deep breathe during each one. I was thankful for all of the yoga I did during my pregnancy. It definitely helped with my breathing. I also did some yoga poses like cat/cow, flowy cat and hip circles.
I called the midwives again around 4:30 and they came over around 5:30. Once they got there, my contractions started to get less intense and farther apart. Lauren massaged me and then I slept for a while waking up with each contraction. Sue and Lauren left around 8:45. I steadily had contractions all day but they varied with intensity and time in between. I puked 5 times. At one point I was hanging out with my mom on the floor listening to reggae. Then Greg joined me on the floor and my mom took a break. We got a package from Beth that was two children's books. Greg and I opened the package and I read the two books to our baby. Just as I finished the second book, I got a contraction.
At about 5pm, my contractions got really intense. We called the midwives and they came over around 6pm. I was very happy to see them. I told them I wanted to switch positions. They had me get in the shower and sit on an exercise ball. It felt really good. Lauren had me make deep noises through each contraction. After the shower, I changed positions several more times. At one point, I got frustrated during a contraction. Sue said “Don’t lose your shit now.” At another point I was on the bed. Lauren was on one side massaging me and Sue was on the other reading the birth affirmations to me. At another point, Lauren and I were walking to the bathroom. Blood flowed out of me. It was my bloody show. When we went to the bathroom, my mucus plug passed through. Shortly after that, they checked my cervix. I was 8 cm dilated. They said I could get in the tub. The tub felt really good. I totally got in my zone and I started alternating between regular contractions and pushing ones. The pushing ones felt like an uncontrollable urge to take a shit.
I said I didn’t want to have the baby in the tub so I got out, toweled off and went to the bed. I sat down against Greg and pushed in that position for a while. A little while later, Sue gave me choices of different positions to switch into into. I said, “Just tell me what to do.” When Nile arrived, I pushed and my water burst open. I switched to hands and knees after a while. Then I switched to the birth stool on the floor. I was able to feel the baby’s head in my vagina. It was really cool and made me smile really big. After a while of pushing on the stool, I went back to the bed. I was pushing so hard and it felt like it was never going to end. I said, “I’m doing everything I can do. I don’t know what else to do. I’m doing the best I can.” Since it had been a while and I wasn’t making a lot of progress, Sue and Lauren put their hands in and helped guide my pushing. I finally started to make progress. We were going to switch positions again but I ended up pushing the head out. They had me feel the head. It was so cool and got me very excited. Nile was announcing the time that had lapsed. WIth my next surge, I pushed and the whole body out.
Lauren caught the baby and handed her to me. She was so cute. She looked like a girl to me but I didn’t know for sure yet. I was so happy and relieved. It was the best feeling ever. I said stuff like “I am so happy”, “I love my baby”, “I’ve always wanted to do this and I did it.” The placenta came out shortly after with a very easy little push. After a little while, Nile was like, “Do you want to know if its a girl or boy?” Greg and I were like, “Yes!” She checked and told us it was a girl. I walked to the bathroom with Lauren and we sang Happy Birthday the whole way there.
Zula was with Greg getting skin to skin time and trying to breastfeed on him. When I came back, she latched on to me right away. I took a shower a little while later. It felt really good. Greg and Lauren cut the cord. Sue and Lauren did a test on Zula. Everything was perfect except for her misshapen head. They left around 5:30am. My mom slept on the couch and Greg, Zula, and I slept for a few hours.
The labor was about 26 hours which included almost 4 hours of pushing. I wasn’t expecting such a long labor and so long of pushing. Even though it was long and hard, it was also beautiful and wonderful. I felt safe and in good hands the whole time. I was so happy to be able to be at home the whole time. I loved having the support of my mom and Greg and my awesome midwives. When it was all over, it was the most amazing feeling.
I was so happy to finally meet my beautiful baby girl.