My husband, my two year old daughter and I moved to South America in the spring of 2009 and one of the first things I did was find a midwife even though I wasn’t pregnant again yet. I had my first baby at home in Texas with Ann Crowel, Cindy Haggerton and Ann’s apprentice, Abby. It was an awesome experience and I hope I get to have all of my babies this way!
We don’t use any form of birth control so we were counting on our babies being somewhere around two years apart. As it turned out they actually had the exact same due date! Apparently ecological breast feeding works for me . We were all so excited about Baby Two even though the only midwife in town didn’t speak English and our Spanish was (is) coming along very slowly. My midwife, Jesica, was due one month before me with her first baby, which also was a little unsettling for us but we put it in God’s hands. Jesica works with two doulas, usually only one per birth but we asked if we could have both of them – and I’m so glad we did!
From eleven weeks on my midwife came over to my house for my prenatal checkups – and stayed for two hours! That’s South America for you… they like to take their time . Despite the language barrier Jesica was very concerned with getting to know me as best she could so that I would be comfortable with her during the birth. A few months before I was due the doulas, Romina and Laura, started coming over once a week (for two hours) just to hang out in order to get to know me better as well. I could go on and on about how wonderful doulas are right here and about how everyone should use them, and about how they are some of the most caring, comforting, and amazing women – but I need to get on to the birth!
Jesica ended up having her baby right around her due date so we were in the clear for Baby Two to arrive around my due date – August 4th. My stepmom arrived July 22nd and I was hoping I would go into labor a few days later after she had time to adjust to my daughter’s schedule and routines since she would be watching her during the birth. Well, we waited and waited but nothing happened.
My daughter Mariana’s second birthday, August 2nd, came and went and I was really hoping the baby would come that day. Then early in the morning on August 5th, the day after my due date, I started having contractions. I went and woke up my poor husband who had been working late and had only gone to bed twenty minutes before! He quickly got up, called my stepmom and started helping me get comfortable. My daughter woke up a few hours later and my stepmom took her out for the day – I don’t know what we would have done without Grandma! I had never spent more than a couple of hours apart from my daughter and it was so much easier for me to relax during labor knowing that she was in good hands the whole time.
Jesica, her new baby, and the doulas came over as soon as we called them to tell them my contractions were somewhat regular and about ten minutes apart. Jesica, was very concerned that her baby would be distracting to me during labor (even though I told her I didn’t mind her being there) so she took her home and said she would return soon. After a while my contractions slowed down which was very frustrating since I really wanted to have this baby. The doulas just kept reminding me that the baby would come when it was ready and that I needed to relax and take a walk. So my husband and I took a walk.
When we returned I told my husband to go take a nap because I knew that I would need him to be well rested when the labor started to progress. Then the doulas taught me how to play an Argentine version of Gin Rummy while the contractions started picking back up . They were increasingly painful.
Romina and Laura would massage my back with sage oil during each one, relieving much of the pain. By this time it was evening and Jesica had been back a couple of times to check on me. I had been sitting on the toilet backwards and on the birthing ball as well. When my husband woke up, after building me a fire (August is winter in Argentina) he insisted that I get off of the birthing ball and walk up and down the stairs to get the baby moving despite the pain because, as he said, “that’s what Dr. Cindy would tell you to do.” (After Dr. Cindy had me walk the stairs twice during my first birth, my daughter finally started to progress). I walked the stairs a few times and then requested the bathtub because the pain was becoming so intense. The bath was AMAZING and gave me a much needed break. After a while though, the comfort of the hot water started to wear off and I had to move on to another pain relieving technique, while staying in the water, which was singing (if you want to call it that It was more like the sound whales make. I made the same crazy sound during my daughter’s birth and it’s like my body remembered just what to do to help relieve some of the pain. Around 11pm the midwife returned to check me. I was 6 cm dilated and she told everyone that she was going home to check on her baby but that she would be back in half an hour. My husband told her that with my first birth I went from a 6 to a 10 very quickly. He told her that she might not want to leave. She said, “oh no, we have time.”
Well, she didn’t return half an hour later. She didn’t even return three and a half hours later. Like I said, they like to take their time down here. The doulas were getting very anxious for her to return, texting her every few minutes without any response. I had no idea at the time what was going on. I was very focused on my contractions and as long as SOMEONE was rubbing my back and holding my hand during them I didn’t really care who was there.
Here’s where it gets a little graphic so I apologize … Laura had been trying to get me to have a BM for a few hours. I had tried on the toilet earlier and nothing happened. Now I had been in the bath for several hours and she again reminded me that I probably needed to have a BM. I think I knew if I pushed out a BM I wouldn’t be able to hold the baby in and I didn’t think it was time to push but… I did as I was told and out came the BM and with the same push the baby crowned! I was on my hands and knees and my husband was holding me up from the side of the tub as I exhaled underwater before letting out the loudest scream ever during my next contraction and Whoala! Our son, Sebastian Gabriel, was born! With one push!
All the pain was gone and I was holding this amazing new life in my arms! Sebastian immediately latched on and started nursing (and hasn’t stopped yet!) Laura, who caught my baby, was thrilled but scared to say the least. In school she was trained never to catch the babies, that is the midwife’s job, but where was the midwife? She arrived just in time to deliver the placenta, a few minutes after Laura and Romina had gotten us out of the tub, bundled up and onto an impromptu pallet of towels on the floor. I couldn’t believe it when she told me I did not tear at all! I thought surely, after pushing Sebastian out so quickly I would have torn. I think sitting in the warm bath for several hours probably helped. I think Jesica was having some postpartum issues, getting adjusted to being a new mom and being away from her baby. Praise God for those doulas! And Praise God Sebastian came out without a hitch, perfectly healthy, without the slightest complication!
There’s nothing like climbing into clean sheets by a fire with a new baby just minutes old . What sweet sleep! Below is the birth announcement my witty husband sent out.
Hello friends and family,
Thank you for your well-wishes and congratulations. For those we have not yet contacted, our son, Sebastian Gabriel, was born at (around) 3:00am on Friday, August 6th. He was (around) 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and (around) 20 inches. The exact time/measurements will forever remain a mystery, as will the location of our midwife, who was not actually present for the birth (long story), although she had been present throughout the day.
Like Mariana, Sebastian was born in the warm surroundings of our home (in Argentina), with a fire burning in the hearth and in Kate’s lower back. We hired two doulas, Laura (25) and Romina (31). They had each given birth at home. The responsibility of the doula is to massage, assist, and to be a loving companion to Kate through the birthing experience. It is hard to imagine two women more ideally suited for this task. They remained with Kate for 24 straight hours, from the early morning contractions (which lasted for about 6 hours), through the lull in the day (when Kate played cards and rested), and into active labor (the final 7 hours). We had come to know them quite well prior to the birth, as they frequently visited our house with their young daughters.
By 11:30pm, Kate was 6 cm dilated and in a great deal of motherly pain. We drew a warm bath for her, where she would labor for the next three and half hours through contractions roughly one minute apart. By 2:30am, right around the time I returned from the pub (just kidding), Kate began showing the signs of an imminent milagro (miracle). At 2:58am, Kate screamed, the baby crowned, Kate screamed again, and Sebastian was born. It wasn’t exactly a water birth because Sebastian never touched the water (Kate was on her knees in a tub that was half-full, and I was holding her). Laura caught Sebastian mid-air, swung him to Kate’s chest, and I immediately assisted them both to warmth and dry land. It was not how we drew it up, to say the least. Then the midwife arrived in time to deliver the placenta (uh, muchas gracias!).
…and that is how we met Sebastian.