Talon’s Birth Story
Photo Credit: Erin Ethridge
Leo Talon was born on April 2, 2016 in Okinawa, Japan in a calm, natural environment without fear. This is his birth story.
“It is not only that we want to bring about an easy labor, without risking injury to the mother or the child; we must go further. We must understand that childbirth is fundamentally a spiritual, as well as physical, achievement.” Grantly Dick-Read, 1953
Sequence of events during labor and delivery:
42 Weeks pregnant
I posted on my Facebook page: “I saw Baby Talon look at the camera and wave his little fingers hello during an ultrasound today. Everything looks good. Doctor Fumi said that there is no need for any induction yet. Plenty of amniotic fluid and the placenta looks good. Baby has good activity and heartbeat. He is big (between 8.5 and 9lbs give or take 10%). He grew a lot this week. 42 weeks is just a number.”
April 1st, 2016 April Fool’s Day
42 weeks and 2 days pregnant.
10PM: I took a shower to get ready for hopefully a full night of sleep. I had not felt well all day and could tell that labor was coming soon though I didn’t have any symptoms of labor yet. After a shower, my “mucus plug” started to show. In my previous two births, this happened 24 to 48 hours before labor started. I messaged my doula and interpreter to let them know that something may start happening int eh next couple of days. I had no idea how quickly things would actually move along this time.
10:30PM: Contractions started quickly at 5 minutes apart. That was really fast to start with in my experience so it seemed too good to be true.
11PM: I knew that if I laid down and the contractions stopped, it was just “false labor.” I laid down and the contractions slowed to 8 minutes apart but they were more intense. It was uncomfortable to lay still. As soon as I stood up, the contractions started to get closer together again. They also became intense enough for me to not want to walk or talk. This meant that I was in labor. It was time to get my birth support team together.
April 2nd, 2016
42 weeks and 3 days pregnant.
Midnight: I messaged my team that we were heading to the birth center off base, Yui. They said they would meet me there.
I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to get sleep before what could be a long labor, but there was no slowing down at this point. I had felt like he would come at night though because I had always had the most “Braxton Hicks” (practice contractions) in the evenings. Some things your body can just sense when you are pregnant.
12:15AM: Everything was quiet and dark when I arrived at Yui. My doula, Amanda, arrived at the same time as we did and started supporting me right away since I had to stop with each contraction and breath. When we entered the front door, a sweet Japanese midwife introduced herself and asked if I needed the elevator or stairs. I took the stairs. I had been visualizing my walk up the stairs in preparation for this time of labor. I didn’t want to be scared or frantic in this new place as I moved to where I would labor. We took it slowly and quietly, stopping midway for a contraction. The labor and delivery room was prepped for me and everyone moved quickly but quietly around me. The room was warm and the lighting was dim. Everything was calm.
12:30AM: I was offered a vaginal exam to se how dilated I was; I declined. I didn’t want to increase the risk of infection just to know, at the moment, how I was progressing. Midwives held a small device to my belly to monitor my baby for a little longer than 20 minutes. I was able to still move without noticing the monitor so I tried different positions to find out what my body needed me to do for the labor: on my hands and knees, sitting in the bathroom and holding a rope hanging from the ceiling, etc). I was surprised that all I wanted to do was lay on my left side. My doula and translator lightly touched my back and messaged my feet for comfort. I focused on drinking and breathing between each contraction. During each contraction, I would breath slowly and deeply, visualize my baby slowly moving down and talk to God (giving Him each difficult part and thanking Him for a healthy experience). I was only responsible for each moment as they arrived. My job at the moment was just to breath and relax so that my body could do the work it knew how to do naturally.
1AM: Labor progressed. Since my water hadn’t broken yet, the midwives filled the bathtub with water for me to labor in. It took a while to fill the large tub. Meanwhile, I was laying on my side on the floor mat managing contractions quietly. I was focused and utilizing the techniques I had learned through hypnobirthing, a method with which a mother uses visualization and breathing techniques to alleviate fear and allow her body to relax.
2:15AM: I finally felt the urge to push, said it out loud, and then followed my body’s lead. I knew then that my water broke because I felt a trickle down my leg.
2:30AM: Two pushes later, something unexpected happened. I pushed with my leg lifted up and was surprised when a fast burst of water came out of me and shot across the room. The midwives were able to confirm that it was amniotic fluid. That meant that I wasn’t going to be laboring in the tub (again, to reduce the risk of infection). Things were progressing nicely.
3:00AM: Somewhere around this time, the doctor asked that I squat and lean against my husband for support. She wanted to make sure that my baby was in the best position for me to reach down, grab him and bring him immediately to my chest. At that point I could feel that I was in the “dissent phase”- two steps forward, one step back, stretching tissues and opening space for the baby to move. The pushing urges felt like a like bowel movement- not rushed or guided by someone watching a monitor, just natural.
I knew that he was almost there when I felt the “ring of fire.” That was the only part that I would consider “painful” as opposed to just “pressure.” It lasted through one long contraction and then he came out.
3:19: Talon is born. 8 pounds 10 ounces.
“There is a secret in our culture, And it’s not that childbirth is painful, it’s that women are strong.” Laurie Stavoe Harm
You never know exactly what your birth story is going to be until you look back and think about how it changed you. What did you learn? What do you feel when you think about the birth and talk about your unique experience? I used to think that labor was a curse that a mother just had to endure- thanks to Eve in the Garden of Eden. I was wrong. It is true that birth is a lot of hard work, as is tending to a field towards harvest. But labor was not meant to be feared- just prepared for.
Every mother should have a vision for what she wants to work towards during her upcoming birth. I was terrified before, during and after my first birth so my goal then was to ignore it and then get it over with as soon as possible. However, my goal for my second birth was to not have any fear. Through Hypnobirthing and birth education, I truly accomplished a birth without fear. You can read the details on that birth here. http://ethridgeadventures.blog.com/2013/10/01/jett’s-birth-story/ For Talon’s birth (my third), I took it a step forward and worked towards actually enjoying my birth experience. In order to achieve this, I felt that I needed to focus on three things: the environment, the birth team and the recovery.
I had a unique opportunity to experience natural birth at a local Japanese Birthing Center called Yui Clinic. Yui (which means “to connect”) provides a home-like environment for women to be supported physically and mentally from pregnancy to menapause using Chinese (herbal) medicine, homeopathy and dietary cures. I wanted an environment during labor and delivery that allowed me to progress with dim lighting, quiet ambiance and no expectations. I wanted to not even notice what was going on around me because of the natural feel- not medical beeps with fluorescent lights and noise of a typical hospital.
The team (and it really is a team effort) is one of the most important aspects of a birth, in my opinion. Everyone from the doctors to the family need to understand the importance of respecting a natural birth in order to achieve one in a comfortable environment. The environment becomes toxic if the medical team is encouraging the mom to accept unnecessary medical intervention or if the family is fearful of something terrible happening during the birth. When everyone has expectations of a successful delivery in a calm environment, things are much more peaceful.
I learned about the benefits of hiring a doula during my second birth so I was thankful that my doula, Amanda, was still in Okinawa and was available for Talon’s birth.
I also needed a translator for some of my time at the Japanese clinic. My translator, Kyoko, also was a certified doula and was experienced translating for births and prenatal appointments.
It was essential that my husband and I were on the same page about what we expected from this birth experience too. We talked about what his part would be supporting me during labor and delivery and how the clinic would handle any emergency medical situations (no need to worry).
The final piece to my birth support team was my mother. She took the long flight from Florida to Okinawa to take care of my other two children during the end of my long pregnancy, labor and recovery.
Every person was very important to the success of an enjoyable birth experience.
Yui is especially known for its unique post-delivery recovery support. The clinic has only 5 beds with about10 rotating midwives supporting mothers as they recover, breastfeed and bond with their babies for up to 5 days after delivery. This was the environment I was looking for during recovery with my third birth. I wanted to take time to celebrate and bond with my baby before I returned to the rest of my family. More than anything, I needed time to heal and get my strength back so that I could be more available to my other two children at home. You can read more about that experience here. <<link to post about Yui Clinic recovery experience>>
Because I had lost four times as much blood as I should have during delivery, the midwives kept me on an IV for 12 hours with pitocin for most of that time. I felt normal while I was laying down or sitting, so that is what they recommended as much as possible. It took several days to get back to feeling well enough to walk around so I was thankful to have their 24 hour a day support while I took care of my newborn at the birth center.
I caught a sinus cold on my second day of recovery from my visiting 2 year old. I could barely open my eyes from the sinus pressure. The midwives brought Chinese herbal tea (Smelled like cider but tasted like a bitter root, it was officially called Chinese Herb #19) and homeopathic drinks (Looked like Moonshine, tasted like water. I drank 3 of these during the day). I felt better in a day, miraculously.
The food was traditional Okinawan food full of nutrition that encouraged successful breastfeeding and digestion. You can see more pictures of the unique meals I experienced here <<blog post about traditional Japanese food.
When it was time for Talon and me to go home five days after birth, my doctor stopped by my room to sing us a Japanese song traditionally sung to new mamas and babies. It meant "Life is good. Life is satisfactory." That was exactly how I felt about life and my birth experience in the beautiful Okinawan culture. The farewell song was an appropriate grand finale.