My husband Rich wrote up Madison’s birth story within a week or two of her being born. Reading it 5 months later brought tears to my eyes. I’m so grateful that he took the time to write this up because all the details I thought were lost are captured in his story. It’s incredible how in tune he was with me, the birth process and what I was experiencing, it’s almost as if I could have written it myself. Since my version of Madison’s birth is nowhere near being written up and I love Rich’s experience so much I’m going to share it first… We prepared for our birth with Hypnobabies:
Vairdy Photography took the gorgeous photos in this blog post (except for the last 5 which were taken by our doula Chloe). Please do NOT copy or use without our permission!
Prior to birth beginning, I jokingly (well, half jokingly, anyway) predicted that our baby would be born on June 4th… the full moon. As exciting as it was, it wasn’t a complete surprise when I woke up on the morning of the 4th to see my wife standing by the bed with a big grin. “I think I feel early pressure waves” she told me. Up until this point, she had experienced regular “Braxton-Hicks” or pre-birth pressure waves, but now she was describing a sensation that was more ‘crampy’. As the day progressed, the pressure sensations began coming a bit more regularly. However, the excitement of knowing baby was on her way was slightly subdued when we finally reached out to our traditional birth attendant and birth doula. As it turned out, they were currently both attending other births. This would mean that we would need to rely on our backup attendant and doula. As amazing as our backups were, we really wanted our primary team at the birth. Not surprisingly, when we were given this information, the pressure waves slowed down almost to a stop.
We took some time to record a few video journals for baby. We just wanted to create a record of what was happening and how we were feeling.
The waves increased again slightly later in the evening. We thought it might be a good idea to take a stroll along the Seawall to help the pressure waves, and to connect with the beauty of nature right outside our West End apartment. We bumped into a couple of friends near the beach and then made our way home while the cramping gradually seemed to get stronger. I was amped with excitement that night as I laid down for bed, but managed to drift off. I guess baby Madison wasn’t planning to join us until after the full moon.
The morning of June 5th began similar to that of June 4th. My wife was already awake long before me (an unusual occurrence on any other day). The difference on this day was that my wife indicated the cramping was now very definite pressure waves. Although she had been feeling them since about 4:30am, we didn’t really start timing until I awoke around 7:30am. We were excited to note that the waves seemed to be consistently coming every 5-6 minutes and lasted about 0:45-1:00 min. We knew things were progressing at this point, but we were not quite ready to summon the birth team for assistance. The one thought I did have was that I wanted our birth pool set-up as soon as possible so my wife could get in it as often as she wanted.
Around mid day on the 5th, I reached out to our birth attendant to see if there was a way to get the birth pool delivered so I could set it up. Incredibly, she indicated that she would be available to come drop it off. She was pretty tired having just finished with a 2-3 day birth, but she took the time to come over and inflate the pool before heading back home to get some much needed rest.
We finally made the call to have our birth team come over. Our photographer, Vairdy Andrew, and our back-up doula, Yvette DuMouchel (yes, our primary Doula, Chloe Dierkes, was still at another birth), were first to arrive shortly followed by our birth attendant.
At this point of the birth Crystal mentioned that she would like to get a chiropractic adjustment to help things continue smoothly. Not wanting to leave the house, we called our amazing chiropractor, Dr. Avtar Jassal, who happily made a house call for us and adjusted Crystal.
In a funny twist of fate, my dad happened to be arriving in Vancouver today for a few days on business. Since I only see my dad once a year or less, we had planned to get together while he was here. I had to call him and tell a little white lie so he was not aware that the birth was near. He assumed I was busy with clients on Wednesday and Thursday, but I planned to meet him on Friday in Stanley Park for a barbeque. That should buy us enough time to give birth.
As the evening of the 5th continued along, I had not begun using any Hypnobabies tools since the pressure waves all seemed to be fairly manageable. My wife was likely using some of her own tools internally (I was! I LOVED the peace cue!), but I had not yet started reading any scripts or using any prompts. Around 5:00pm, Crystal decided it was time to try out the pool. The warm water seemed to be soothing and the pressure waves continued to be easy. Knowing that our birth attendant had been home to rest all day must have put Crystal’s mind at ease, and we noticed the pressure waves increase in frequency.
Crystal spent the early part of the evening in and out of the pool. We put on a pre-defined playlist of spiritual music to play in the background to help hold the energetic space. I noted that Crystal was now experiencing birth waves roughly every 3-4 min, and I was now engaged in reading scripts and affirmations to Crystal. The ‘Relax’ and ‘Peace’ cues were the most effective. Once in a while I would remind Crystal to look up at the wall where we had taken our clock down and replaced the empty space with stickers which read “Love, Trust & Surrender”. It was obvious that by 7:00pm (14 hours into her birthing time) Crystal was becoming quite tired. She had an emotional moment in which she shed tears of discouragement. The fatigue was really starting to wear on her. Fortunately her strength persevered and the tears passed quickly. (Tears help to soften the cervix!) I took Crystal into our bedroom privately to talk with her and provide her with reassurance that she could do this.
Since it felt like the birth process was still taking a bit longer than anticipated, we called Dr. Jassal back for another home visit around 7:45pm. By 9:00 Crystal was back in the tub, smiling and laughing between pressure waves. I decided that it was probably now time for me to step into the pool so I could be more comforting and supportive for Crystal. We spent the bulk of the evening in the pool with the exception of Crystal having to get up to pee on occasion. Going to the bathroom was not a comfortable position for her. I’m not sure if the sitting position placed a lot of pressure on her back, but it was quite uncomfortable. I would come into the bathroom with Crystal each time and sit on an exercise ball in front of the toilet so crystal could lean forward on me. (While siting on the toilet is a GREAT position when birthing, I really disliked the intensity of it! This seems to be different for everyone, some women love it!)
I was convinced that Baby had not arrived on June 4th because she did not want me to win the Birthday Guessing Game that we played with some friends. I also figured that she did not arrive on June 5th because she did not want Grandma Wendy to win the bet, either. As June 6th arrived, I remember thinking that “This MUST be the day!” Interestingly, I realized that today was 06/06/12. Exactly when the clock read 12:12am on the morning of June 6th, I was sitting behind Crystal rubbing her back. I looked at her neck and saw 2 locks of hair curling up to form 2 perfect 6’s. Amazing! 6/6/12. If this wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what would be. (I even snapped a photo of the hair!)
Time was beginning to blur together as exhaustion was taking its toll on everyone. It was 2:00am on the 6th (22 hours into our birthing time) when Crystal had another emotional moment. (What can I say, I’m an emotional gal!) I continued providing cues, but had wandered from the scripts and was now improvising with more specific lines and words from Hypnobabies that I found to be the most effective for Crystal.
Crystal’s waves continued through the night and we listened to baby’s heart rate so we knew that baby and mom were doing just fine. Dr. Jassal made another appearance around 7:00am on his way into the office so he could give Crystal another adjustment.
I managed to find a moment to eat a quick sandwich (my first significant food in who knows how long), but poor Crystal was not able to keep anything down. Even the smallest snack like an apple would come right back up. Our saving grace was the raw coconut water that I had been stock-piling for weeks before. Crystal was able to stay well hydrated thanks to our birth team. (I LOVED the raw coconut water, it was so nourishing and energizing.)
I couldn’t help but step back from the situation and watch in amazement knowing that my wife had been awake and actively birthing for days. Prior to this, I don’t think I’d ever seen her stay awake longer than 18 hours. So to be still awake, alert and physically active, I was so proud. (Endurance isn’t one of my strengths so my birthing body and mind amazed me!)
We tried pacing around the apartment in circles to try and keep things moving, but there was still no sign that the ‘pushing’ stage was near. I apparently fell asleep on the couch around 8:00am, but I couldn’t have been out for very long because by 9:00am I was behind Crystal as she sat on a birth ball leaned up against our table.
By noon, we had called Dr. Jassal to return for yet another adjustment, which he happily obliged. It was also around this time that Crystal took some homeopathy to help move things along.
Back in the pool, we were trying to figure out why Baby just wasn’t coming. All the signs suggested she was on her way, but there was something holding her back. Crystal and I had some alone time as the birth team was out getting some food. I made a quick phone call to our Naturopathic Doctor, Keith Condliffe, to see if he could tune in to see what might be delaying the process. He mentioned that he sensed there was some sort of fear at work. It was his words that got me thinking in a different direction. I took this opportunity to energetically check in with Madison to ask her what was preventing her from joining us. Like a flash of lightening, it came to me. It was almost like my unborn baby spoke into my ear. “I’m afraid of the water, and you want to birth me in a pool”. I looked at Crystal with bewildered eyes and shared with her what I had just learned. The amazing thing about this was that Madison’s fear was not actually her fear at all. In fact, it was an emotional miasm which Crystal was holding onto. As I cleared this miasm with mom and baby, Crystal indicated that she instantly felt Madison begin moving down the birth canal. (All I can say is WOW, this was a very special moment that I remember so vividly! I was amazed at Rich’s ability to tune in and help us clear this energetic block – he was sleep deprived too!)
Although pressure waves were back to back, and baby felt as though she was moving down the birth canal, there was still something preventing Madison from being born. Crystal decided to check her cervix. At this point, we thought Crystal was fully dilated and just waiting to begin pushing based on all her other signs. However, Crystal estimated she was only 3 cm dilated. Like a slap to the face, Crystal’s entire demeanor changed instantly. The exhausted expression painted on her face transformed to surprise and disbelief. Her body seemed to relax more than it had in the last 2 days. Her voice shifted from making toning noises through her pressure waves to silence. Her reaction was likely that of shock, mixed with a bit of terror. However, my mind was immediately put to ease. This just explained everything perfectly. Until now, we were focused on bringing baby down the birth canal, but we were trying to get a baby trough a cervix that wasn’t open. Although everyone was utterly exhausted, this offered me boundless hope. Now that we knew where we were, we could shift our energy to getting Crystal’s cervix to dilate.
At 6:30pm our attendant decided to send our photographer and doula home. They had been with us for far too long, and it appeared as though the birth was still a ways off.
Even though we had been up and birthing for over 36 hours, this evening was peaceful. The Hypnobabies tools were working like a charm and the pressure waves felt easy. Although they were still close together, Crystal even managed to curl up on the couch and rest for nearly 20 minutes, through pressure waves, while I wedged myself between the pool and the couch so I could be nearby. Around 10:30pm we were back in the pool.
It was nearly midnight when Crystal first started feeling ‘pushy’. Our attendant decided she would call our photographer and doula back to come for the birth. Unfortunately, the grunting didn’t seem to get us too far. By 6:30am on June 7, Crystal could feel the baby pressing on her pelvic bones and sacrum, but there was no rectal pressure yet. Dr. Jassal made another appearance just after 7:00am.
Around 9:00am we called Chloe to come relieve Yvette since exhaustion was taking over. For the first time since our birthing time started, we had our primary birth team assembled! Was this what baby was waiting for? Apparently not. Crystal continued birthing throughout another day.
Our attendant decided to head home to get some rest. We also decided it was time to send Vairdy and Yvette home once again. We took this time to focus on peaceful birthing with the help of Chloe. We spent a lot of time in and out of the pool, as well as some time walking circles around the kitchen. Crystal would get a bit dizzy walking in circles, so we would switch directions every so often. It was time to pull out all the tricks, so I started making some phone calls to other health professionals. Our good friend and energetic chiropractor, Dr. Sukhi Muker, was available to come over and see if he could find anything preventing the birth from progressing. He and Dr. Jassal both showed up around noon to offer their help.
I also called our acupuncturist, Dr. Sonia Tan, to see if she knew of any pressure points that could help. She offered to come over at the end of the day, but provided me with several points that I could try stimulating to help with the birth. At one point, Chloe was sitting under the kitchen table pressing on Crystal’s calves (kidney-6 point, I believe), Dr. Sukhi was working on Crystals sacrum, and I was reading scripts.
Evening wore on and the pressure waves seemed to intensify. Crystal was really starting to feel a lot of pressure and discomfort in her back. She’d been feeling it before, but it really seemed to be affecting her a great deal now. I knew at this point that my exhaustion could become a factor in decision making with respect to the birth plan we currently had in place. As much planning and preparation goes into this event, fear and fatigue can always influence your decision if a care provider were to make suggestions that you would normally not agree to. Knowing that I was nearing this point, I stepped away from Crystal for a moment and spoke to my birth team. “Under NO circumstance will we transfer to the hospital for this birth unless our birth attendant says it’s absolutely necessary.” The team was already aware of this, but I wanted to remind them that even if I hit my limit, our original wishes were to be honoured. Shortly after this conversation, Chloe contacted another doula, Marie Lewis, who had access to a ‘TENS machine’ which is an electric device designed to block or dull the signal from the back to the brain. We had Crystal’s mom drive to East Vancouver to pick up the machine for us.
It was nearly 11:00pm when my body felt like it was shutting down. This night turned out to be one of the hardest of my adult life. My heart was aching as I broke down in tears. It was obvious that baby wasn’t coming just yet and I couldn’t help my wife birth our baby, so I had no choice but to succumb to the fatigue. With a lot of persuasion by my birth team, I finally laid down in bed for a rest and was out in an instant.
I awoke to our birth attendant’s voice, who had returned around 10:00pm. It was now 1:30am on June 8th and Crystal was in her pushing phase. Although our birth attendant had told me not to rush, I was out of bed and into the pool in a flash. I had missed the waters finally breaking, but at this point I could care less. We had been listening to a lot of different spiritual music and Hypnobabies tracks over the last few days, but now I wanted to try something a bit different. I asked Chloe to turn on my stereo with some Tibetan Singing bowls. Specifically, I have a track of singing bowls that resonate at the same frequency as the Root Chakra, or the colour Red. I wanted to offer this sensation to Crystal to help with her root chakra since this seemed to be the area with the most discomfort.
As the sun began to rise, another sense of discouragement came over us. “Where are you?” Crystal was asking our baby. By 6:00am Crystal was convinced she could feel the head moving down, but not quite out yet. We all figured the time was near because Crystal was really pushing but I couldn’t see anything. A quick self exam eased Crystal’s mind a bit because she believed she could feel the top of baby’s head just inside. At this point I conceded to the fact that I was going to miss the barbeque with my dad, but that was currently the least of my thoughts.
Yvette returned around 8:00am hoping to finally be present for the birth.
As much as we had planned for a water birth, the realization was now setting in that it may not happen. We needed to try something different. Our birth attendant suggested that Crystal get out of the tub and try pushing on a birth stool. Crystal disliked her earlier experiences with the birth stool and chose to push on the toilet instead. (This time it was the perfect position for me and more comfortable then before!)
At 9:30am, for the first time I had some visual feedback that baby Madison was on the way. Our birth attendant and doula were in the bathroom with us, but from my perspective Crystal and I were alone. The pushing continued for maybe 15 minutes and the top of a head was visibly present. We finally got a happy nod from our birth attendant who said we could hop back in the pool if we wanted to and finish pushing baby out.
It felt like we were in the pool for only seconds before Crystal gave one more big push and Madison’s head came out completely and into my waiting hands. I was kneeling behind Crystal cradling my child’s hairy little head in my fingers as Crystal give one final push to welcome our baby into the world. She slid forward and away from my hands into Crystals waiting arms where she was promptly scooped up. Just before we raised her out of the water, our birth attendant reached into the water to quickly unravel the cord from around her neck.
And with that, Crystal and I flopped backwards into the water with Madison quietly onto our chests. Her tiny dark eyes flickered with life as she tried to focus on our smiling (and crying) faces. Madison’s body began loosely wiggling as she was obviously looking for a breast to feed on. Her innocent beauty was nearly indescribable. Pure perfection. After a few moments of tears of joy, I finally lifted her up to find out if we did in fact have a little girl or boy. Our suspicions were confirmed and we spent several more minutes embracing for the first time as a family.
The rush of adrenaline I was experiencing made this moment in time feel a bit chaotic. But I can look back now and realize true serenity and peace was really present. Madison had arrived lovingly into an environment almost exactly as we had wanted. There were no bright lights and no screaming nurses or family members. Only stillness with the exception of our boundless joy. Amidst the complete awe I was in, I really don’t recall much about the birth of the placenta other than it coming around 11:00am easily. I know Crystal was excited to watch the cord as the pulse slowed and eventually stopped. It wasn’t until 1:30pm, after we had got out of the tub and into bed that the cord was actually cut. Nontraditional, I asked Crystal to cut the cord since it was very symbolic of the connection she shared with Madison for the last 39 weeks.
Minutes after the cord was cut, I held Madison to my bare chest and we both drifted off to sleep for a few hours.
It was after 4:00pm when we woke up and found our birth attendant still in the kitchen cleaning and cooking us a much needed meal. She came into the room and measured Madison’s weight and length. 7 pounds 15 ounces, and 20 inches long. All other vitals were perfect, as well.
Crystal and I knew from early conception that this child was a very energetic being who chose to be our daughter and would be providing us with many lessons through life. She was in no rush during the birthing process, and we respected her timeline allowing her to be born on her chosen BIRTHday. We know this was simply the first of many lessons to come.