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Birth Story: Leif

Trigger warning disclaimer- I have a compassionate understanding and sensitivity to the fact that birth does not always go as planned. I am grateful for the way my births have played out thus far and I hold a lot of love in my heart for all the women who have encountered disappointment, sadness, frustration, medical emergencies, loss and birth traumas. The medical/conventional model of birth can come with lots of unnecessary fear and medical intervention that is very disempowering for so many women. I know this and if that was the case for anyone reading this, I acknowledge you, and I am sending you healing vibes in hopes that you can release any hurt that you may still be holding. I truly believe that all birth, no matter what happens, is miraculous and beautiful.

I have just entered the third trimester of my third pregnancy, and as I can now see birth looming on the horizon of the not so distant future, I am fondly thinking back to the birth of my first child, Leif. Perhaps, I am hoping that in revisiting the momentous occasion of his arrival earth side, that those “birthy vibes” will help me get in the zone for envisioning the birth of my daughter or maybe I am just feeling particularly nostalgic today?

It has been nearly six and a half years since Leif entered this world, so much has changed since then. I have healed, grown and transformed right along Leif, with him as my teacher and great challenger of change. Leif has inspired me to reflect and share a lot of things, I am just realizing now that while I have told the story of his birth in some manner, I have never sat down and ever wrote about it.

So here it goes.

Leif was our surprise baby, not in the sense that he was unplanned (that would be his sister) but in that we didn’t know his gender and it came as a bit of a surprise that his arrival was a solid three weeks prior to his “guess date.” Although, I can say there were inner knowings that he was a boy, and there was some knowing on my part regarding his birthdate. For instance my husband already had his birthday day off from work, he was scheduled for an interview at another company, and three days prior I said “what if you miss your interview because I have the baby.” Well wasn’t that exactly what happened.

There were other signs that labor was impending, lots of emotions and fears that surfaced and were released in the days before the first waves hit me and lots of movements from within my womb that felt different.

The real party began somewhere around 1:30 am on August 5th 2015. I woke from a sound sleep with the urge to use the bathroom. After a lengthy bout of elimination and some cramping sensations, I returned back to bed, only to spring back to the toilet moments later. The whoosh of my water breaking was so loud it woke up my husband, who exclaimed “Omg your water totally just broke!” I was in strange disbelief that this had actually happened arguing that I just had to pee really bad, it was quite a hilarious moment between the two of us in the wee hours of the morning.

After who knows how long I returned to bed, dozing off and on while experiencing the occasional contraction of my uterus. I stayed in bed till somewhere around 6:30 am, as long as I could, but honestly the excitement of knowing labor had begun was harder to sleep through than the early labor sensations. I remember Hugo and I in the kitchen having breakfast, both fluttering with anticipation that our baby would soon be with us, and sort of in shock that it was all really happening.

After a hearty breakfast, Hugo carried on with business as usual, I contacted my Doula and then went upstairs to sit in meditation on my yoga ball. It was the last day of a 21 day guided meditation challenge called “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude” by Deepka Chopra. As I meditated I felt so grateful for my body and my health, and that I would soon meet my baby. Labor was progressing rather quickly but I was able to stay with my breath and bounce gently on the ball. After 25 minutes of meditation, I went to my bathtub and found peace in the warm waters for a short time.

After getting out of the tub, things were picking up to the point of needing to concentrate on my breath, I began utilizing some postures I had learned from the “Yoga for Birth Method” as Hugo timed contractions. This lasted a short while, till I decided I really wanted to be outside. It was 73 degrees with a light breeze, a mild day for August and relief from 90 degree weather we had been having. I could see the half moon in the clear blue sky in between bending over a table to breathe, sway and moan. Things were really picking up. During this time I received a phone call from my care provider, they were calling to cancel my check up for the next day, but when they heard the state I was in and that my water may have broken, they instructed me to head to the hospital.

I was in disbelief that it was time to go, my goal was to stay home as long as I could, but given the half hour ride to the hospital and the look on Hugos face begging me to go, we packed up and went. It was somewhere around 9:30 am.

The car ride was one of my favorite parts. I can’t say that Hugo felt the same, he was nervous and kept saying “do not have the baby in the car please.” I remember listening to Dave Matthews, singing along when I was able, and starring at Hugo. Music, especially DMB, was a huge part of our love story, all the sudden I had flashes of the first time I laid eyes on Hugo the night we went to a Jack Johnson concert and remembered that instant spark I felt when I saw him. With that memory I was flooded with overwhelming love and began sobbing tears of joy and professing my love to him, he smiled and kept focus on driving. I was texting my Doula updates, and shared my tearful experience with her, to which she responded “omg, I am on my way you are progressing fast” clearly in her experience, love tears were a sure sign of active labor, lol.

(The night I met that handsome man I call my husband, he's the hunk in the upper left corner)

The last few miles of the trip to the hospital were not as joyful, it was hard to sit in the car as my body contracted more intensely, I may have snappily told Hugo to stop hitting all the bumps in the road. Getting out of the car and walking the short distance inside the hospital was a bit of a challenge, and boy did the man who rode in the elevator with us experienced quite a show. I was at that point leaning against the wall, making very loud buzzing noises through each wave.

When I got to my room, I was checked right away, 5-6 cm fully effaced and my water had indeed broken, they said “good thing you came!” I then received the unfortunate news that I was Strep B positive and given their typical protocol, I was started on intravenous antibiotics. A decision I might not have made if I were to go back in time but I digress. The antibiotics meant I had to wait around a half an hour before I would be able to labor in the birthing tub.

I spent the next half hour in and out of the bathroom, bouncing on the ball, listening to the birth playlist I had made, with my eyes closed as I breathed and continued to buzz my way through the steady and strengthening contractions. During this time my Doula, Sandy, arrived. It felt so reassuring to both Hugo and I to have her right by our sides, occasionally snapping pictures for us, and offering a calm and confident presence.

Another hilarious moment of the laboring process was when I felt the urge to vomit. I looked at Sandy and said “I feel sick, I think I am gonna puke, but how can you puke and have a contraction at the same time?” She smiled and said “You can and you will and it will help open you up” then she and Hugo scrambled to find a bag or bucket for me to expel into, it is such a funny memory to me.

Finally, though in reality not long at all, I was able to make my way down the hall to labor in the tub. It was amazing, calmly lit, warm and soothing. However, things really picked up in the tub, there was now little to no time in between each wave, I was just slammed wave after wave with no relief. At this point both Sandy and one of the labor and delivery nurses were speaking rather quickly to each other and then I was told it was time to get out of the tub (water births are not permitted in hospital settings despite much evidence of their safety ) I pleaded to stay and made an attempt to use the toilet again, at which point the nurse sternly said “Rose, I don’t say no that often, but you don’t need to use the toilet, you need to push, so let's go!”

It was a HARD, short walk down the hallway, and sure enough the nurse was right, I was fully dilated and it was time to push. I started off on all fours on the bed, trying to figure out how to push. I utilized a squat bar on the bed, and then was encouraged to make my way onto a birthing stool. They figured given my desire to sit on the toilet this position might be exactly what I needed. With some more coaching and encouragement from both my midwife and Doula I was able to get into a zone with pushing, and once I did, it was a matter of a few pushes before Leifs head moved down and was visible. I was able to reach down and feel him there, and bare down as he moved through the “ring of fire”, one push head out, next push and whoosh his whole body. What a relief! It felt like a lot longer but later I was told I only pushed for 28 minutes, Leif was born at 12:58 pm on August 5th, 2015.

The midwife very quickly swept his little body up and onto mine. I was crying, Hugo was crying, every person (and there were many) in the room were crying. Hugo and I kissed and stared at our baby, we still didn’t even know it was a boy, after several minutes a nurse said “so you want to know what you have?” Then we all squealed as Hugo looked down and said “it’s a boy!” and then we shared that his name was Leif Thomas Schieck. There were more tears and more kisses, so much joy and not a single thought of the pain or anything I had just experienced moments before, just the most profound love I had ever felt. The birth high, the oxytocin rush, the best feeling on earth.

After a few minutes I was moved to the bed, to birth the placenta, a pretty easy one push deal and it was out. However, after that the nurse believed there was too much bleeding and urged me to take pitocin to help my uterus contract. I was reluctant and looked to my Doula for support, she assured me that if they thought I needed it then I probably did, so I accepted.

We were given ample time for the delayed cord clamping that I requested and then we preserved my placenta for encapsulation. I was guided through proper latching and our breastfeeding journey began, it was smooth and easy. Leif was able to nurse, and lie naked on my body for an hour or more before he was cleaned up a bit, measured and weighed (7 lb 7 oz, 19 inches), and then it was Hugo's turn to hold his son. Like it was yesterday, I have a crystal clear memory of the smile on Hugos face as he gazed at our little bundle of joy. I remember thinking “Omg he’s a father, I am a mother, our baby is here” again feeling that rush of overwhelming love.

Leif’s birth was truly everything I had envisioned it to be. I spent months planning and preparing for birth. Preparing my body, preparing my mind and my tending to my emotions. I had a clear vision, I even had drawn a picture of his birth that I used as a focal point during labor (I highly recommend the book Birthing From Within or a childbirth class.) I read many books about birth. I understood the physiology of birth, and having been able to witness my sister's births I had confidence and trust in my body and my desire for a completely natural birth. I never for a second believed birth was out of my control. I gave the hospital a very clear birth plan, and I was met with respect for all my wishes, some of which were very unconventional.

For me birth is about bodily autonomy and informed consent, neither of these things were challenged or disrespected in my experience, and I believe that had a lot to do with my preparation and my presence at birth. It really felt like all of the nurses and the midwife just held the space for birth to unfold, they trusted me, and guided me only when needed. It was such a special experience. One of the nurses told me “Rose, I have been doing this for over 25 years, and I very rarely cry anymore, your birth brought me to tears. It was beautiful. You and your husband clearly love and respect each other, and that was so beautiful to witness.”

I also regard birth as a highly sacred and spiritually transformative event, one of, if not the most pivotal events of a woman's life.

There is probably more to the story that I am forgetting, but that feels like more than enough to share.

If you're still with me, thanks for reading Leif’s story. It was more powerful for me to tell it then I realized it would be, I actually have tears in my eyes. I am sitting on my couch, watching the snow falling gently outside. Leif is beside me, unknowing of the story I have just told and how grateful I am to him for all the gifts he has given me in just being who he is. Someday I hope he will read this story, the story of his birth, and gain a new perspective on just how very loved he is.

He is after all, the LOVE OF MY LEIF, my muse for this entire blog, my first born, the one who changed our lives forever in the best ways possible.

I hope to share a recount of Axel’s birth soon, until then.

Mamaste Well,