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Monday, October 3, 2011

the story of evergreen

NOTE: This is a birth story. That is, a story of a real birth. As such it has quite a few details that are, well, explicit. Be warned. And, to put it out there, I am generally not into oversharing on this blog. Believe it or not I am kind of a private person, as much as one can be when one blogs quite a bit, but I want to share this story 1)because people need to know the real shit that happens in birth, and that sure it can be scary BUT that doesnt mean it isn't worth doing, the best things in life require risk and daring from us, but that is what makes us stronger, more able, you know? Becoming a parent is all about this kind of risk...and 2) because I know many of you care deeply for me and my babies and my family and to honor that I want to share with you. Thanks for the love. ~ Sara

my biggest belly ever

All week my moods had shifted up and down. One day, hopeful it might be “the day” the next totally down. This baby is never coming out. Life sucks. Leave me alone. Friday was okay. My mom was really sick but my dad came up to hang out with us for the afternoon, as soon as he left my mood plummeted. I had been contracting every 10-15 minutes for two days, still nothing.

I will be pregnant forever.
Physically my body was ready to give out. With both kids coming a week early I had never been THIS pregnant before. I kept saying to my midwives how big the baby felt. Oh, no, they would say as they felt my belly, this baby is average, maybe 7-8 lbs. Don’t worry.

I wasn’t worried, I KNEW she was big.
And I wanted her OUT. NOW.

I had been taking walks in the evening to calm myself. Abandoning dada to the kids and dinner prep and nightly etc. and walking for 30+ minutes. I went out that night. A beautifully perfect fall evening. The light bouncing off of the trees, filtering the leaves as I pounded on, clump clump, like a hippopotamus, each step an effort. Down along the creek, up the hill, doing lunges, and finally headed home, in a slightly better mood.
We put the kids to bed and hung out, eating ice cream, drinking a little wine.

I woke up at 4am.
And Halleluiah, it felt different. These were REAL. Seven minutes apart, then five. I got out of bed and sat in the rocking chair in the dark of our bedroom, listening to the quiet rustles of dada and kids as they slept, almost enjoying each wave of pressure. This is happening. I can totally do this. YES!

I was trying to hold off waking up dada, knowing he had stayed up too late. But around 5:30 at 4 minutes apart I knew I should wake him.
“Steve. STEVE.”

“Huh? Wha?”
“Steve, I’m in labor.” I remember thinking that I sounded like a cliché from a movie, saying that.

“What?? really??”

Somewhere between throwing on some clothes and going upstairs he called our midwives. I was upstairs by the time they came, hunkered down in the family room, my head buried on a little coffee table. By this point my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart, lasting more than 1 minute.
My sister and brother-in-law happened to be in town for a wedding, we had planned to spend the morning walking around the farmers market and going to breakfast. I texted her around 6. Um, when you get this, text Steve. I am in labor. Could you come hang out with the kids for the morning?

The kids woke up around 6:30. They both came up sleepy eyed but excited. Dada had told them the baby is coming. Little man’s face was the best. A big open mouth smile. They hung out watching PBS kids on their own, eating squeezie yogurts, until my sister arrived at 8am.
The tub was getting filled in the basement and that water sounded SO GOOD. I headed downstairs.

This part is all blurry. I found myself tearing off my pajamas and standing and swaying while leaning on little man’s dresser. People were trying to get me to eat and drink and I just didn’t want any of it. Leave me be. Let me work.
Sliding into the tub, around 7:30, was like heaven. The water was hot and such a relief. My three midwives perched on bar stools above me. For the next hour and a half, I just worked. I let them come.  I savored them. Easing in and out of each with deep breaths. And then I could feel my water break.

zen happy labor
the kids were well-prepped for the home birth. mama is
working hard, right little man?!
And then, after more than an hour of this, I started losing my cool zen place. Transition. I had the midwives confirm, 7-8 even 9cm. Nearly there. Thank God.
At one point I yelled at Steve, “I can’t not scream. Get the kids [and my slightly squeamish sister] outside!”

And then progress stopped.
And the urge to push started, as well as horrible back pain. I tried pushing a bit but nothing.

Why wasn’t I dilating??
Another midwife checked me. Still an edge of cervix left, preventing the baby’s head from crowning. She told me later she knew something was up with the baby’s position at this point.

You can’t push Sara. Not yet.
I started crying, a huge sob welling up from inside of me. “Noooooo. I can’t do it. No more. It needs to come out! “

“Focus Sara. Focus,” came the quiet urgings from somewhere above me. With each contraction – for 30 minutes - I was told to “blow it out,” with a raspberry/zerbert like breath. “Ptttttttthhhhhh. Pttttttttthhhh. Pant Pant Pant. Oh please God! PLEASE.” Steve held my hand. And then started pushing on my back to relieve the pain in between the surges. “Okay, now, now! No stop!” as the contractions came back.
Then they thought, lets hold the lip of cervix back during a contraction, as she pushes, maybe we can ease the cervix around the crown to release the baby’s head. We tried this for another 15-20 minutes, with no luck.

And yes, this was horribly painful.
And it didn’t work.

Everyone thought, lets get Sara out of the tub and let gravity pull that last bit of cervix away. Something was going on.
Getting out of the tub was agony. I DID NOT want to leave the comfort of that water. Heaving my huge body out, leaving the weightlessness, ugh. And then the step out of the tub, dripping onto the floor, leaning my head against the cool concrete walls of the basement. Surge. Oh God. Surge. Oh God.

Someone threw my robe over my shoulder.
I tried lunges, yelling in pain.

Sitting did nothing either.
They prepared our bed and I somehow mustered strength to walk the five steps into our room from the laundry/birth tub area of our downstairs.

Once in the bedroom I couldn’t figure out how to ease my body onto the bed. I was rigid. Somehow I flopped down, Steve by my side. Gripping my hand.
“Get her legs up. UP!”

The baby was crowning with each contraction, still that cervix held on. Why?
Then they reached in and felt for a face. She was posterior. Coming out looking up rather than down. Except she had started to turn, in the birth canal, her head corkscrewing, but her body had not done the same. She was stuck.

One midwife held one leg, Steve the other, and another midwife worked to push back the cervix.
“Just tell me what to do! What do I do??”

“Push Sara! PUSH. Whenever you can as hard as you can!!”
And finally, finally, her head comes out. I wait for the floppy slimy body to follow, easily with a second vaginal baby right?

Not easy.
I am shaking as I write this. Sitting in the semi-dark of our bedroom, in the same spot where she was born. Remembering.

“What is happening? Tell me what to do!”
“Hands and knees, turn her over. NOW.”

“I can’t!!”
“Sara, you have to. For your baby. Do it NOW.”

I summon up the energy that can only a woman has, energy that can only be tapped in childbirth, and flop over to my hands and knees, and then sink my face into the pillow, screaming in pain.

Hands inside of me, searching for a place to grab.

Steve yells in my ear, “GET IT SARA, GET IT.”
I push as hard as I have ever pushed.

“Put one leg up. NOW. DO IT.” I crouch in a starting runners position, forehead against the bedframe. I lunge. I push.

Other leg, up. Pain. Scream. PUSH.
“Flip her over, she has to flip over. God.”

I come back to a lying position. Legs up. Two hands inside of me. Searching.
“I can’t grab the shoulders.” My other midwife scrambles. Suddenly I see the fear in their faces.

“Oh God,” I yell. “What is wrong??”
I push several more times, 7 minutes have passed, with a head hanging out of me, hands inside of me searching for a place to grip, to pull out the shoulders that are stuck vertically inside of my pelvis.

Finally, I see my midwife look up at the ceiling, feeling her way to the baby’s armpits.

“GET IT Sara. GET IT!”
“Open your eyes, focus on something. FOR YOUR BABY SARA.”

I find myself staring at our ceiling.

And I push. With everything I have. For my baby.
And then, the pain eases, the feeling of tearing and crunching is over, the body slides out from me. I feel its slimy presence pass through me.

I don’t ask if it’s a boy or girl. I simply cry out, “Give me my girl.”
They push her limp body up onto my chest.

She is blue. She isn’t moving.
“Talk to your baby. Tell her it’s okay.”

I rub her belly, her chest. All I can think to say is “Sugar, sugar! mama is here. You are safe. Sugar, my sugar. Breathe for me baby.”
One midwife leans over, placing her mouth over her nose and mouth. Puff. Puff. She comes up. Still no breath.

“Baby girl, mama is here. Breathe for me. We love you.”
Puff. Puff. Still no breath.

Puff, and then finally, a whimper, then a cry.

Oh. God. Thank you. Thank you.
I choke back the sobs of relief and pull her to me, her face to my face, urging her steady breathing.

Thank you God.
The cord was still pulsing, so she never lost any oxygen, and her heart never stopped, and she was breathing steadily on her own. She was safe. Her body had been posterior, her head had turned anterior to come down the birth canal but then rotated back to posterior, leaving her shoulders stuck vertically in my pelvis, unable to rotate, and her 9lb 14oz body stuck posterior inside of me.

My midwife later said she had witnessed a birth like this two years ago. The midwife who had stepped in to deliver that birth told her sometimes the only way to handle that situation is to reach in and “Pull like hell.”
Thank you God Thank you God Thank you God.

The paramedics had been called 3 minutes before she came out, just in case she needed more help being revived. They arrived 2 minutes after she had started breathing on her own. And while it was scary that they were in my bedroom, that their presence was deemed needed, I was so grateful for my cautious midwives to have called, just in case we needed transferred.

this is about as fuzzy as i remember that moment...
Thing is – and I say all this because I know people might wonder – this would’ve gone down exactly the same in a hospital. Doctors might have cut an episiotomy – although it was the bone of my pelvis she was stuck on, not any soft tissue - and she would have been revived on a crash cart, feet away from her mama’s skin, as four of my nephews and one of my siblings were for being stuck in similar ways. The only possible option not available to us might have been to push her back in, risking injury to her and me, and cut an emergency cesarean.
Oh, I am so grateful. My midwives have seen many of these cases, though this was the worst shoulder dystocia, as it is technically called, they have ever seen, and they knew what to do, though it was hard and scary. Unbeknownst to me they had been doing all sorts of maneuverings with technical names, squeezing hands across her chest and trying to flip her over, reaching for an arm to swing around and lead the shoulders out, and then (painfully) pushing above pubic bone as I pushed and another midwife pulled and rotated, which eventually is what worked to open my pelvis enough to deliver her shoulders VERTICALLY.  And then, as they revived her, they knew just what to do, and had done so many times before, and had her heart stopped they would’ve resuscitated her, and they even had an oxygen tank, just in case. But it was just a few puffs that my strong girl needed.

And now, a week later, I look at her little face, greedily swallowing milk, eyes squinted up at me, and I am oh so grateful, for them, for dada, for grace and mercy, for that angel that protects children in birth, and I am thankful for you, my sweet, strong, resilient Evergreen, full of life.


  1. Oh Sara it makes me do happy! Love you and your sweet family so much!

  2. Thank you, God. Sara, you are my hero of all heroes . It is an honor to call you granddaughter. Love, love, love to all.

  3. Sara, I rejoice with you and praise God for the life of Evergreen. What a testimony of His grace. Thanks for sharing. So happy for you, and hope to meet your littlest sweetie soon!

  4. Wow, wow... that, um, got me to crying by the end, happy/scary tears. Her breath, her first cry.

  5. beautiful, sara, thank you for sharing. you gave your daughter such a informed, empowered, supported birth. this birth in a hospital would have gone so differently. how lucky for evergreen to have taken her first gentle breaths in her mama's arms.

    congratulations on your sweet baby girl.

  6. so...i totally cried. dammit sara you are amazing. and i cannot wait to meet your little green!

  7. relive that birth, that time, that moment. You are the Goddess Sara!

  8. oh hunny... i love you... love to all yours!

  9. WOW. I was BAWLING reading this story- so thankful you guys came through ok! What an awesome story. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I cried through this whole thing! Amazing story! I definitely shouldn't have read it right before I had to go to work....congratulations on your new healthy baby girl! (I love your blog by the way!) - Hannah (Bekah's sister in law)

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this testimony of bringing Evergreen into the world. Many blessings to you! What an amazing story!

  12. So glad Evergreen is here safe and sound. She is beautiful. Your a strong mama! Have a blessed time settling into being mama of 3!!!

  13. thank you lovely friends for your words of congrats and blessings. i seriously appreciate you all :)

  14. Sara,

    You are seriously strong.


  15. You did a great job! Scary, but birth is sometimes. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm glad Evergreen was able to come into the world the best way possible for her and you. Hooray for mama strength and skillful midwives. All the best to all of you.

  16. I was only JUST able to read this Sara......and still I cry. God's blessings to you and you!

  17. Sara, this was beautiful and powerful. Thanks for writing. I wish I had heard this sooner. God was so merciful. What beautiful women you had there with you too.


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