12 weeks ago today… The Birth Story

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Nico Boon, 12 weeks, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

12 weeks today. And I’m finally getting to writing that birth story. So much life packed into this time, so much awake time, so much sleep. My life seems to be divided into exactly those parts — awake and sleep. Eat, no eat. It’s very basic and simple. I’ve leaned back into that baby way, where even if I am standing by myself I am swaying back and forth, shifting my weight from side to side like water, unconsciously rocking an invisible baby to sleep.

I guess I should start from the beginning. The birth.

Nico Boon came two weeks later than I thought he would (I was sure he would be early like Ben) and exactly one week after his due date. I had scheduled an induction for Friday morning, deciding I couldn’t be pregnant for one second longer or to have the baby grow much bigger than he already was. As soon as I made that appointment I felt myself relax. There is an official end date to this suffering! My heart leapt at the thought. I was officially out of patience.

Then, the night before, at 4 am to be exact, the contractions started with a bang. Finally! I thought. Bring it on! I lay in bed through the first few thinking I would let Matt sleep to a more reasonable hour (we would be doing this for many hours, right?) when a mere 20 minutes later, I was sobbing and scared, unable to breathe or relax. I woke Matt up and called my friend in San Francisco who was scheduled to stay with Ben. By the time she arrived a little after 6, I was panicking. The contractions were only a few minutes apart and I was bleeding. We were going fast! So much for my years of yoga… I didn’t have it in me to breathe through the contractions. It was just too much. So I just let myself cry.

Poor Matt hightailed it to the hospital as fast as he could with me sobbing next to him.
Me: (choking through tears) I think (sob sob) I need (sputter) an (sputter) epidural this time.
Matt: Whatever you want honey! The world doesn’t need another hero!

As I walked through the long hallway toward the intake/admin desk, I remembered how long I endured the contractions without medication during Ben’s labor. I marveled at the memory of managing the pain with my breath, how strong my mind was and how relaxed I was able to get my body. This time was different. It was as if I was already exhausted, too tired to do what I knew I had to do to keep the pain under control. I kept thinking, I just don’t have it in me this time…

I’m glad I was so clear. They admitted me immediately and got me set up with an epidural as quickly as they could. I was AMAZED at how well it worked. Several minutes after they hooked me up the nurse asked, “How are the contractions now?” I told her I would let her know when I had one. She smiled and said, “You’ve been having them every minute for the last five minutes. In fact, you’re having one right now!”

Halle-freaking-lujah!

 

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Nico, 12 weeks, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

And here is the moment where I should back up and give you a little context. A few days before I went into labor I had a long talk with a friend who is a doula. Given that I was past my due date and feeling anxious she was wondering if there was some kind of mental block that wasn’t allowing my body to relax and go into labor. She asked me a ton of questions about how I wanted the birth to go, what my hopes were, etc. What I appreciated most was that she asked these questions without any agenda. I had an assumption that doulas and midwives had an agenda about delivering at home, are suspicious of hospitals and generally frown on any sort of pain medication. Turns out I was wrong, and I felt so relieved when it was clear that she really just wanted to know what kind of birth experience I wanted to have. The more I talked with her, the more I realized that not scheduling an induction, not having an epidural, etc. was me trying to be good. Trying to do it right… in the “natural” way that people do it here in Berkeley.

“What would a fun and easy birth look like to you?” she asked me. (She knows these are two of my core values) I laughed at the impossibility of it… Birth? fun and easy? Is that even possible? But for the sake of conversation I answered, “I would get the epidural as soon as possible and have a pain free 5 hour labor where I chatted and laughed with Matt and the nurses.” Then that’s what you should plan for! she encouraged.

My body immediately relaxed at the thought and tears came to my eyes. In that moment I realized what was underneath my desire for it to be easy. Although my labor with Ben was great, it was 15 hours of breathing through incredibly painful contractions (often with no break between them). I had to go so deep into myself to manage them that I was somewhere else entirely. My eyes were closed the entire time as I sat on the hospital bed, afraid to move a muscle. I didn’t want anyone to touch me or talk to me, and although at the time I wasn’t aware of it, in retrospect, I see how disconnected and alone I felt. It wasn’t horrible or traumatic necessarily, just something I felt like no one could help me with, something I had to do myself.

This is my tendency in life in general, to not ask for help, to just tough things out myself. I’ve been working consciously to invite more collaboration into my life, more help, more company, more togetherness. My birth with Ben mirrored the way I was operating in the rest of my life — being strong and trying not to need anything from anyone else.

“I want to do it differently this time,” I told my friend. “I want to feel connected. I want to be in the room.”
And I got to be. And I’m so grateful. It was pretty much exactly what I had hoped–Six hour labor, relatively pain-free, chatting with Matt and the nurses and just generally marveling at the lack of pain. I still can hardly believe that kind of ease was possible. Mostly though, I’m grateful I got to be more present to the love that surrounded me this time.

My most vivid memory however happened before we left the house that morning, while we waited for my friend to arrive. I was lying on the couch and a strong contraction came. I closed my eyes and cried, my body shook and tears rolled down my face. When I opened my eyes Ben’s little face was just a couple of inches away from mine, his hands cupped gently around my cheeks. He looked deeply into my eyes for one long moment and said, “Is that better mama?” And it was.

I will never forget this one gorgeous moment of pure attention and presence he offered me. There was so much love in that gesture it made my heart burst open. A friend of mine says, Love makes you brave and now I know what she means.

 

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Ben, me, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

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65 Comments

  1. bahiehk

    wow.

  2. bahiehk

    I am trying to find the words…
    It is beautiful.
    So raw, so perfect and so unique to you and baby Nico. he gets his own birth story and his own story in life.
    he’s lucky to have you as a mama. And so much people around him who love him!!
    Congrats on being a double-mama!! 🙂
    Love makes you brave, yes.

  3. Julia

    Congratulations Andrea to you and your family! What a wonderful birth story, and Nico is precious. Thank you so much for putting a name to what I have been feeling as a Seattle mama. ‘Trying to be good’ – is a feeling I have had to face time and time again. SO AWESOME that you were able to get to the core of what you wanted, and that you went for it. Love does make you brave, I agree. Loving yourself and loving others. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story.

  4. Julia

    Congratulations Andrea to you and your family! What a wonderful birth story, and Nico is precious. Thank you so much for putting a name to what I have been feeling as a Seattle mama. ‘Trying to be good’ – is a feeling I have had to face time and time again. SO AWESOME that you were able to get to the core of what you wanted, and that you went for it. Love does make you brave, I agree. Loving yourself and loving others. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story.

  5. Korie B.

    I love a good birth story. Yours made me cry (in a good way). Congratulations!

  6. Marie T

    What a honest story you’ve shared (and I know the pressure you speak of and it’s awesome you were honest about what YOU really wanted)
    — I want to give a hip-hip-hooray for sweet Ben.

  7. melissa

    thank you for this sacred story, andrea. nico’s beautiful birth. and your birth into a new life myth, surrendering isolation and ‘toughing it out’ and embracing ease, joy, and connection. my gratitude to you for this is deep and profound. gracias.

  8. Puanani

    I love birth stories. Thank you for sharing. Ah, Ben. I love him.
    Good for you, Andrea, you were a Good Girl, you did everything perfectly for you. Well done. And by the way…YOUR BABIES ARE SO CUTE!

  9. Jennifer

    Thank you so much Andrea for sharing your story here with us. I love how honest you are able to get with yourself and then ask the world for what you need. And little Ben ~ oh what a precious story. He is so adorable.
    Sending you and your family lots of love. xoxo

  10. Sara

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m gobbling up different perspectives on birthing right now. Sounds like a beautiful experience and what a precious moment with your son while you were in labor!

  11. Paige

    *tears* I am so happy and proud of you. I had a similar experience, I had 19 hours of labor with my daughter (including 2 hours of pushing and she didn’t move one millimeter). I was in horrific pain, the epidural didn’t work. I had contractions thru the c-section, horridly painful contractions where it felt like my tail bone was breaking. An unplanned c-section. Not at all what I planned. I grew to accept it and realize that she was safe and healthy and that’s all that mattered. With my son, we set a date, I was wheeled in for a c-section. It was the most peaceful day, a pain free beautiful experience. I finally got why people love the birth stories of their children, because my daughter’s was so traumatic. I wouldn’t change a thing, it wasn’t natural but it was right for me. Good for you! I will always remember his birth as the perfect day. Yay babies 🙂

  12. Sara

    Andrea, thank you! Thank you for sharing your story and life with us. What a beautiful reminder to be present in the moment. Life is to be appreciated and enjoyed. *hugs*

  13. Megan

    I held it together until I got to the part about Ben cupping your face in his hands, and then I just lost it. Thank god you’re raising another one of those kids. We need more Ben in this world.
    Also, I’m really proud of you for doing what you needed to do for Nico’s birth. Amazing insight about easing the pain so that you could bring others into the experience. That speaks to me on so many (non-birth-related) levels. You’re an inspiration, Andrea. Thank you!

  14. Colleen

    What loveliness to read! I am also one who always wants to do everything myself. I am smart and capable, but like you said, it can be very lonely. Thank you so much for the reminder that it is okay to want to be part of a group, to have help, AND enjoy it. An inspiration to be remembered.

  15. Lucia

    Hooray and well done! So glad it worked out well for you. Epidurals can be the business, I agree 😉

  16. Alisha

    I kind of quit reading blogs awhile ago because I felt like I was spending too much time being voyeuristic about other people’s lives and not enough time being present in my own life. I’m glad I checked back in today. You always fill me with sunshine! Nico is so lovely! Congratulations to you and thank you for being an inspiration!

  17. rochelle

    Love your story. Especially, Ben’s gesture of concern, kindness and comfort!

  18. Allison

    What a beautiful story! I am a mommy of two sweet boys too and you brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing!
    I am just like you- always choosing what seems like the “right way” or the hardest path to things. This year I am working on be present so that I might instead choose what I really want. I’m already smiling more often. 🙂

  19. Jennifer

    Beautiful story. I’m in the process of making a career change to become a hospital Chaplain. I’m struck by how your friend and Ben were able to help you through something so important. How questions, listening, touch, can all help someone so deep in something. And it really speaks to how letting them in really made it something that’s shared. It’s more yours and more theirs.

  20. Candice

    Thank you, Andrea for posting this. It meant so much to me to read this, your honesty and words brought tears to my eyes. I had an unplanned c-section with my first and opted for a planned one with my second but whenever I hear someone talking about their ‘natural’ birth a little part in me feels like I did it the wrong way and I sometimes feel like I’m being judged whenever I admit to having a planned c-section. Your words reminded me of the importance of making our own choices and the reasons behind why we make those choices. No one else can tell you what is right for you and I need to keep reminding myself of that. Thank you again for being so real and human and sharing these parts of your life with us. I so appreciate it!
    P.S. Those are two beautiful little boys you’ve got!!

  21. Erica

    What a touching and beautiful story. I hope some day I have a husband that reminds me I don’t always have to be a hero.

  22. Alison

    Oh, Andrea, I love this story so much and I love that you share that not all women have to have that warrior natural experience for it still to be beautiful and meaningful.

  23. Elizabeth

    Thank you for sharing this very personal story. I am inspired by your honesty, your openness, and your ability to understand yourself. I am still working to believe that the “right way” is what feels right to you and despite others opinions and judgements, true happiness comes when you follow your own inner instincts.
    That moment you had with Ben….touched me beyond words.
    Be well.

  24. Trish

    Fantastic post!!! Love you!!

  25. Susanne

    Andrea,
    thanks for sharing your story with us. I think, Matt is a wonderful husband and your two boys are so cute! 🙂
    Susanne

  26. Denise A.

    Good for you!
    And HOW SWEET is Ben? Love that moment between you two.

  27. Debora

    Andrea. Bless you for sharing. Bless you. This story is an allegory for every important shift anyone could ever have. I burst into tears when I read the last paragraph. I thank you, and send you love.

  28. Nicole

    So beautiful and insightful Andrea. Thanks for sharing. xo

  29. Katrin

    Thanks for sharing this. I am days (hours?) away from giving birth to my third child and have felt anxious about the birth. Your story reminded me that there is no right way to do it, that I don’t have to know/plan everything beforehand, and that I will have help: a midwife and a husband. And my own intuition. Thank you!

  30. Miriam

    Thank you so much for sharing this gorgeous honest life affirming story! Makes me think back a couple years on my little guys birth. And I’m just loving “love makes you brave!”

  31. Kirsten

    Love this post. I had a very similar experience with my 2 births. Congrats on 2 beautiful boys!

  32. Caroline

    I’m so happy you had such a wonderful birth this go around sweets… i love that photo of Nico at the top (his eyes are pools) and not sure if you see it too, but that last one of you and Ben – it’s you as a kid!! Little girl of course 🙂 Love you guys so much.

  33. Nicole E

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely story. I’ll try to keep this in mind when I head to labor myself in a few months with no. 3!

  34. Robyn

    Thank you so much for sharing Nico’s birth story. I can’t believe he’s 12 weeks old already!

  35. Gwendolen

    Thank you, Andrea, for sharing this! xo.

  36. mary catherine

    beautiful story andrea! it’s always so awesome to hear a positive and empowered birth experience, no matter how things unfold. so glad your birth rocked! xo

  37. sperlygirl

    ‘love will make you brave’…brought tears to my eyes, andrea. thank you for sharing your story. and a beautiful one of bravery and love it is. xx

  38. Whitney Phippen

    Dear Andrea,
    I have to tell you that I am a huge fan of your blog and I read it all the time. I generally never comment but I feel I need to tell you thank you.
    I too just gave birth to my second baby in October. My first born was overdue, and I was induced at the hospital with a very long labor and an eventual epidural. The second however, was born at home on my bathroom floor. In preparing for this second baby’s birth I drew on all of the powerful stories of labor and birth I had read – one of them being your birth story with Ben. So although it had been such a difficult challenge for you at the time – it helped me realize my goal of having my baby naturally, at home.
    Thank you again for sharing your new story and congratulations!
    xo

  39. Lisa G. - Happy Mama

    I was on the edge of tears through the whole thing, but the moment shared with Ben really brought the tears out. Beautiful.
    Congrats on being a mama to TWO beautiful boys!

  40. Leslie

    I cried…I love Ben…he’s an amazing little guy

  41. sb Lyngo

    So glad I checked in. What a wonderful and empowering birth story. The part about Ben made me cry. I remember being so concerned and sad about and for my son who was 2 1/2 when my daughter was born. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to give him all that he needed. I was fortunate, my sister came for six weeks, with her baby (my son’s) age. And in the end he hardly noticed that I was curled up in my room for so long with our precious new baby girl. Love does make you brave. And, love can do anything. May Blessings and light shine on you and your family always. One Love.

  42. lisa s

    hey andrea… wow… that is an incredible story
    i’m so with you on tendency to do things along and am so happy to read you were so present for nico’s birth. seems like a milestone for everyone 🙂
    i just wanted to pop in and say hello. it was so great to see you again sat night and i wish we had more time to chat – but perhaps we can still make it happen [maybe w/ katrina too?]. i had forgotten that you were pregnant at totland…. and am glad to see that nico has joined your family w/ such grace !
    be well!

  43. Yulia

    Love, love, love, Andrea 🙂

  44. Caroline

    What a beautiful story. Congratulations to you and your lovely family.
    I planned a home birth for our daughter and it didn’t work out… we transferred to the hospital after 30 hours of labor so I could have an epidural. I was exhausted, but I wasn’t disappointed in the overall experience because I knew I’d reached my limit. I remember being more worried that I’d let down my midwife and doula team somehow… but then I realized, it’s my labor, my birth, my experience. I owned it, and the epidural didn’t make it any less powerful or meaningful to me.
    It sounds like you did the same–so kudos to you. 🙂

  45. andrea

    congrats! thanks for sharing the birth story; and for the lesson on the benefits of choosing with all your heart. And choosing “easy” specifically. hugs,

  46. Jennifer Dizon

    You inspire me so much and bring such light and warmth to my heart. Beautiful story 🙂 Made me smile, laugh, and cry. *Hugs*!

  47. Laura Zarrin

    I love your birth story! I have 2 boys, both 4-5 hour labors. The first was without an epidural. I was so deep within myself that when they laid him on my stomach, I didn’t even know he was a baby. I said, “what is it?”, they answered, “a boy”. I was that out of it. With the second, I got the epidural and was fully present and relaxed. It was so much better! There’s no right way, everyone just needs to do what works for them. Congrats for your little cutie!

  48. cjm

    So being only a week post-delivery, I’m a bit hormonal. But this was an awesome post. This was my first baby and we were really going to try to go natural but I just couldn’t do it. Got the epidural. I’d do the same thing again in the same situation but I guess there’s a small part of me that wishes I could have pushed through it. Your post helps me feel completely validated in my decision, though. A big thank you for that.

  49. Woz

    Oh goodness that last part about Ben asking if that was better…I’m all teary eyed! I do thank you for sharing your story. I’m 5 weeks from my due date and have gone back and forth with what I “should” do and what I might “want” to do. I’m still not completely sure and I probably won’t be until I’m actually in it but it was so nice to read your story. I feel like it’s almost given me “permission” to do what I feel *I* need and that I don’t need to be the super strong person all the time. Thank you. <3

  50. dori

    wow…
    i TRIED to birth at home, naturally (and unassisted)… i wound up deciding to go to the hospital, and she was a biggin – bigger than i or anyone expected. she tore me to pieces and i’ve caught a little flack from some home birthers but we are both safe and healthy thanks to a decision to head to the hospital, much as i HATED being there and was forced to scream out my birth plan requests in between attempts to push (i lost so much blood i got really weak and almost couldn’t get her giant head out of me) – my birth was very similar (minus the drugs) – labor and strong contractions came on so quick i wouldn’t have had time for drugs anyway…
    she is 11 days old and thriving. i am, well, sitting down slightly easier, but it will still be a while before i stop feeling the reminders…

  51. Hunny

    Congrats on the healthy baby! Hey, if youre in Berkeley, Im nearby and would love to meet more offbeat mamas for playdates. Email me!
    Hunny

  52. Kristin

    Incredible. Thank you for helping those of us who wanted “natural” but didn’t get there to stop feeling like failures at birth. Please don’t ever stop blogging.

  53. Ashley

    I cried when I read the ending. What a sweet little boy!

  54. Amy Komar

    Tears are rolling!!
    “…. this one gorgeous moment of pure attention and presence he offered me. There was so much love in that gesture it made my heart burst open.” Beautifully said, Thank you for sharing your birth story Andrea!

  55. Kate D

    I so appreciate you sharing your story. I’m not a mom yet but hope to be one day…and have been battling with what is “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad” with respect to birthing… Your words made me realize that it’s all good and right.

  56. Jessica Greene

    Such a beautiful story. I cried. I always try to do everything on my own too and you’ve given me a lot to remember when the time comes for having kids. 🙂 Thanks for putting it out there.

  57. kimberly/tippytoes

    I was cruising through this birth story not expecting to cry, but Ben got me in the end. How beautiful! Enjoy your two boys!

  58. Kim Woods

    That is a beautiful story! I can relate but my experiences went in reverse. My first was so peaceful, I managed the pain in the beginning, I had an epidural, I was at peace, I was calm. With my daughter I could only make it through a few contractions before I “gave in” to the edpidural. And with #3, my surprise baby boy I waited too long trying to be a hero, trying to make it longer than my daughter and missed it all together! I totally get the isolation. Thankfully he came fast because the cord was strangling him and he wasn’t breathing when he was born. He snapped out of it but was totally beat up. That rough arrival make us extra thankful for the bonus baby. He’s the glue to our family and makes us laugh every single day. He is the ruler of the house but we love that about him. Enjoy those sweet boys! Aren’t they great?! I believe boys truly love their mama. Just like Ben in that moment my sons totally take care of me when I need it most.

  59. Victoria Winters

    Ack! 6 /12 month pregnant woman crying at her desk at work!!!
    It’s PRECIOUS when our little people cup our cheeks in their tiny hands and give us love, isn’t it? I need to hug my 3-year-old so badly right now!!!!!
    I had an epidural with Claire and I loved how I got to smile, laugh and joke with my husband through my labor. I thought I might go natural this time (and try out the new labor pools), and I still may if I can, but this post reaffirms that any decision I make will be the right one for me. Thanks, Andrea. 🙂

  60. Carole

    Thank you for sharing your story, Andrea! And Ben – beautiful, sweet-hearted Ben. Awesome.
    When I’m sick, Adam will come lay down next to me and snuggle in. A moment later he says, “There, now don’t you feel better now that I am here?”
    Oh, yes indeed.

  61. Amy

    I just want to say, as a doula, that it makes me sad to know that women have this idea that we are judgemental toward what their wishes for their bodies, babies and birth experience may be. Maybe some doula tow a firmer line than I, but I am there to support YOU, the laboring woman, not have my agenda met through you. I became a doula b/c woman have way too much pressure, expectations and “doing it right” to live up to in our world and giving birth should be the LAST place those judgements and expectations should come into play.
    Who am I to say what is right for you? So glad you had a happy, pleasant birth with Nico. He is a doll and it looks like you are enjoying being mama to two!

  62. dunski

    I love your birthstory.
    So much.

  63. marilee pittman

    Such a beautifully human story..Thank you for sharing your sacred parts…

  64. Tina

    Beautiful sweetness!

  65. stephlys

    I was afraid to read your story because I was afraid it would make me feel like my own birth was weak because you are always so strong. Instead, I feel joyous that you had what you wanted and needed and it didn’t mean having to “walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert.” I have to tell myself that just because sometimes things are: everything good doesn’t have to be difficult.

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