I found out I was pregnant a week before my 28th birthday. It was a planned pregnancy in as much as one can plan these things, but it was still a surprise. I honestly thought I wouldn’t ever get pregnant. I had pretty awful morning sickness, so I was just sort of struggling to survive and then my husband started acting weird and unstable. I won’t go into all the details but at 10 weeks pregnant, he filed for divorce.
He had mental health issues before, but his sudden need for attention was putting me through an emotional roller coaster. My hormones were going Kablowie, and my body was in mutiny. When it came to the morning sickness, I remember mostly feeling angry. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I hadn’t eaten anything bad, and yet, I was sick and there was nothing I could do about it. On top of that, my spouse’s behavior was all over the place. He filed for divorce one day, then wanted to stay together forever, then asked me if I was going to get an abortion.
He had some mental health issues in the past, but it seemed that the pregnancy turned him completely upside down. We went back and forth for a while trying to “work it out,” but when he finally moved his stuff out two weeks later, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and calm wash over me and fill my whole house.
And that’s when I knew it was the right thing. Of course, it took another two months or so before I stopped hurting on some other emotional levels (like accepting the idea of being a single mother), but for the most part, I felt really good almost immediately—also my nausea went away at right about that same time too.
I still couldn’t use the word divorce or divorced for a really long time, because I didn’t like the stereotype I had of the bitter divorcee. I knew I didn’t want to be like that. I realized then that I had a choice, to become bitter or become better. This was such a huge revelation to me.
I realized that I had been living with an abuser, and that was a life full of fear. I decided that I wanted to conquer some of my fears. I had all of this sudden confidence. I started reading a book on public speaking and the next month I got up and spoke in testimony meeting (after 10 years of avoiding it).
People started to notice that I seemed happier and more confident. They did not know yet that I was pregnant or had been abandoned. That was sort of shock to them.
Once people found out my situation, I was surprised by the outpouring of love and support that came from all sides. I didn’t have that many close friends in my ward because I kept sort of aloof from many people. My husband always told me that people didn’t like me (I realize now that he made up these stories) and so I became withdrawn and pretty unapproachable. Once I came out of that withdrawn state, I realized that people actually loved me and gravitated toward me.
So, much of my early pregnancy was spent growing into the fact that I was lovely and loved. I also stared to fall in love with the person inside me. I knew she was a girl before I even conceived and I knew her name because she told it to me, years before, in the temple.
When a woman at church, D, that I had only recently met, found out I was pregnant and that things were rocky, she instantly took me into her confidence. She had had her second baby during the midst of some serious marital turmoil and kept telling me how satisfying it was to have a natural birth. To do something to powerful. A victory.
I still remember sitting across from her at a coffee shop and listening to her whole story and thinking, I don’t want to think about this. I had been too afraid to think about how I would birth. Honestly, I was thinking of getting an elective c-section. I didn’t really know much about my choices.
But D and I became close, and I started frequenting their house around dinner time, they'd feed me, then we'd chat for a few hours and I'd go home and take some sort of homeopathic sleep aid, or, I’ll admit it, Tylenol PM, and drug myself to sleep.
She raved about water birth and she also told me about doulas. I thought the idea sounded insane—till I met Khefri, and I instantly knew she had to be my doula. More on that in a minute.
I had been seeing the same OBGYN for years. Her office was lovely. It was in an old Victorian mansion by the ocean in
. It had a bit of spa feeling—in fact the upstairs was a spa, and in the loft was a yoga space. Once I got pregnant, however, I wasn’t getting much time with the doctor and I had a lot of needs. I needed someone to talk to me about my fears, but she seemed uncomfortable talking on that level, and she just didn’t have the time. Santa Monica
I wished my mother were around (she died when I was 11). But after talking to my aunt and some other older motherly type women, I realized that they weren’t much help. They either didn’t remember giving birth, or didn’t have much information or advice on it.
I just felt unprepared and blind. I am a reader, so of course I bought books, but the 5+ I bought were not much help. Then, when I was 4 months pregnant, my doctor’s office called and said that they had a childbirth education class that would meet for one Wednesday night upstairs in their loft. Did I want to go? I said sure. So I got D and my 2 pillows and we went. I had no idea what to expect.
It turned out to be a an introductory childbirth education class that I can’t categorize under any one method—but the woman teaching it, Khefri, was a goddess. She looked a lot like my
OB. She was tall, gorgeous, part African American, part Native American, part European. She was stunning. Her energy, however, was different from my OB. She had a spiritual beauty that radiated from within.
Khefri gave us a bit of a crash course. She told us all about what to expect in a hospital setting and which rules we didn’t actually have to follow. I loved that, because I am a bit of a rule questioner myself. She agreed to be my doula and I started attending her yoga class. I can’t tell you how transformative this yoga was for me. It was a lovely group of women in a beautiful, healing space. We began each class by introducing ourselves and telling a little about what was going on with us. One woman, who was nearing delivery when I first started coming, said that she was planning to birth at home. I was shocked. “What will you do if you have a problem?” I asked her.
“I’ll just transfer to the hospital,” she said.
I was sort of in awe of this. She came back to the class to visit after she had her baby and said it went well. I guess you could say, I pondered all of these things in my heart.
I kept going to yoga and for the first time in my life I learned to meditate in a way that was really effective for me and I began receiving lots of personal revelation. I also started to have a cool internal communication with my baby.
Eventually as my pregnancy progressed, I realized that my baby was telling me that she wanted to be born at home. I love the idea of water birth, so I thought, why not.
So at 32 weeks I told my doctor that I wanted a home water birth. I was surprised by her reaction. She threw a fit. She told me that I was compromising my baby and released me from her care immediately. I left her office crying. The midwife I had engaged was a wonderful, spiritual woman. She told me not to worry. She told me to meet her back up doctor so that I would know that not all doctors were that way.
Indeed, her back up was a nice doctor, and sort of cute. I could tell my baby had a crush on him, so I told her not to get any ideas.
He said, "I know that as a home birth patient, this meeting is really just a formality, just in case." He admitted that home births are safe and he had no stigma about it. I asked if he wanted a copy of my birth plan, just in case, and he said that I could give it to him, but that he already knew what I wanted--a natural vaginal birth, as gently as possible.
Through the whole pregnancy, I missed my mother intensely. I did find great peace in meditating on her and my other female ancestors, and often felt her presence. Then, out of the blue, several of the widows in the ward sent a friend of mine as their representative to let me know that they were aware of the fact that I didn’t have a mother and that they were all (seven of them) going to volunteer to be my daughter’s surrogate grandmas and my helpers. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. Some of them ended up being very key in my transition to motherhood and my daughter still calls one of them Grandma today.
I should mention how big a part the Atonement played throughout my whole pregnancy.
I had used the Atonement before in my life for forgiveness, but I had never understood how to use it to take away my pain and sorrow. I learned how. It’s not something I can explain, but I did read every scripture about Jesus I could find and I meditated on him. I also read D&C 121:7 over and over. “Thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.”
Then, this is what happened: at first, getting a divorce after 4 years of marriage seemed horrible—how would I ever I ever be able to be normal after so much abuse? How would I ever even be able to talk about it? But the Atonement is miraculous. I can only describe it like this. I can remember things that happened in my marriage, but they pain me no more. It is truly amazing.
* * * *
As her birth neared, the situation with my ex became very difficult. As an attorney, he was trying to us the law to bully me. He tried to opposed the home birth. He also egged my car, had people crank call me, and he even tried to force me to allow him at the birth.
Some people weighed in and thought I really should let him be there. I think they thought it would make him snap out of whatever it was and get us back together, but they didn’t understand that this man had physically and emotionally abused me. (I was still too ashamed of staying with him for so long and still wasn’t public about that yet.) And if I had learned anything, it was that emotional stuff is what causes most of the complications in labor, so my attorney told him where he could go. Needless to say, things were tense.
I tried to stay calm and focused, though. I didn’t want anything to interfere with my peaceful birth.
On the day before her guess date, I went to the acupuncturist for my regular appointment (for the swelling in my legs) and tentatively asked if she would induce me. She did. She asked me if I knew what labor felt like. I said no. She said it feels like cramps at first. Then it just gets worse and worse till you can’t stand it. I didn’t listen. I was sure it wouldn’t hurt at all because of all the hypnosis I had practiced.
I left her office and went home. About an hour later I had the warm burning menstrual cramp feeling. I thought nothing of it. Then I realized that the tightening in my belly could possibly be surges. So I called D. She came over and we timed my surges. They were one minute long, 4 minutes apart for an hour. In the childbirth education classes I had taken, everyone always said that when that happened (4-1-1), it was time to go to the hospital. So we called my midwife and I called my friend Bethanie and told her to come, too. I was so sure I was going to have my baby in an hour with no pain at all. I called my doula, but she didn’t seem to be worried. She said, “Oh you’ve got hours. Check in with me in the morning.”
I put on some comfy lingerie thingy and was lying on the bed, watching the movie and chatting with D.
When Davi, my midwife, came at 11 p.m., she checked me and I wasn’t even effaced. She asked how I felt. I was using my Hypnobirthing relaxation techniques and the surges didn’t feel painful at all, so I said I was fine, but my back was a little achy. She said I should try to sleep through them and she would come back at 6 a.m.
D filled the birth tub. Bethanie got there soon after. By then, there was no sleeping through anything. The surges were coming strong and I was feeling them in my back—not where I planned to feel them. I tried to breath.
Beth put a hot wash cloth on my back and applied counter pressure. But the washcloth got cold so fast, I got annoyed and said I was getting in the shower to let the water run down my back. I got in the shower and leaned on the 5-gallon emergency water bottles I store in there (it’s a big shower). And let the water run down my back and tried to deeply relax through the surges. After what I thought was maybe 30 minutes in the shower (I was so lucky to have a never ending supply of hot water—miracle?) I decided I had to have made quite a lot of progress and told Beth I wanted to call Davi again.
“Well, she’ll be here in a just a little while,” she said. “It’s already 4:30.”
“What? You mean I have been in the shower for a couple of hours?”
I was amazed. I had heard that time warps in labor, but that was amazing.
When Davi came she checked me and said that I was fully effaced but not at all dilated.
I was annoyed. I had been working so hard, and not dilated? She said she’d be back in an hour or so with her assistant and that she wanted me to walk. So Bethanie took me outside and walked with me, arm in arm.
At 730 or 8 my old bishop came over to give me a blessing. I told Davi we were going to go in another room and she said, “Oh, good, Prayer is good.” She was very supportive of the whole thing. Davi is Sikh and very spiritual.
I don’t remember the blessing at all, but Beth told me later that he specifically blessed that the midwife would know what to do and that everything would go well. (He did not say according to my plan.)
I labored in the tub a bit, which felt nice on my back. I kept trying to visualize my vagina opening as wide as the
Grand Canyon. I kept thinking, "She has to be here soon." I have been doing this forever.
I puked again and Davi told me to stop fighting the surges. She was right, when I fought them, I puked. So I just let go and tried to breath. Her assistant kept checking the heart tones--it seemed like 5 minutes, but I guess was every 30. She kept checking my blood pressure too. I guess they were worried about it. Which is weird because I have always had low blood pressure. I didn’t think much of it, but Davi would occasionally tell me to open up and she’d throw some homeopathic pellets in my mouth to keep my blood pressure down.
At 10 a.m. my friend Lisa showed up from the airport. She had been planning on coming and we didn’t know if I would have a baby yet, but she told me a few days before that she was praying that she could be there at the most useful time, whatever that was.
They put her to work right away on hydration. They were giving me Pedia-lite because of all the puking.
Khefri, my doula, finally showed up around 1:00 p.m. and they made me walk again. This time Davi and Khefri were both supporting me. I remember a neighbor walked by us with her dog and saw me and asked. “Do you need a ride to the hospital or something?” She said.
Davi just smiled and said in her cheerful way, “Oh, everything is fine. She’s just in labor.”
“Uh. Exactly,” said the woman.
We just kept walking. I couldn’t talk through the surges. My back was killing me. Finally, I whispered, sort of ashamed of myself even as I said it, “isn’t there anything you can give me for the pain in my back?”
“Well, there are the sterile water papules,” said Davi.
“Oh, yes! Women swear by them in
,” said Khefri. London
“What are those?”
“It’s just sterile water injected into the muscles around your spine and it temporarily paralyzes the muscles so you don’t feel anything.”
“What? How come I never hear of them? Do doctors know about these? Why don’t they give these in hospitals?” I asked.
“Because they are free.”
Even in labor, I was so annoyed. That needs to change, I thought.
We went back to the house and Davi warned me that it would sting really bad for about 3 seconds and then be fine. I bit on a pillow and it did sting, but it was brief.
The injections did help with the back pain, but it didn’t go away completely. I kept saying, “Can you put one right here. It still hurts right here.”
“That’s your spine, sweety,” she said. “I can’t inject one there.”
I was sort of whiney and weepy, but for the most part just trying to breathe deeply. I sat on the birth ball and leaned over the bed and Khefri massaged my back. Different people were handling the camcorder and whoever it was did a pretty good job. I liked how they occasional swung over to the clock to show what time it was. That was about 1:30.
Then she said she wanted to break the water because I was pretty far along and it hadn’t broken yet and she didn’t want to worry about opening it if I delivered her in the sac. When she broke it she warned me that if there was more than 1+ meconeum we had to go to the hospital. It was trace. Whew.
However, later, when I stood up, we saw more meconieum on the chux pad and she said it was between trace and 1+ and we had to watch it very carefully because the baby was stressed.
She had me try pushing once, but I didn’t feel pushy. I didn’t know exactly what to do. She checked me and said that I had a little lip of cervix that hadn’t effaced and it was blocking the head from coming down. She tried to reduce it with some tool. That hurt. I screamed out in pain, but it seemed to reduce it. I tried pushing again in different positions, but my baby didn’t seem to like any of them. Her heart rate was down to 90 or something. I pushed a few more times and her heart rate recovered, but not quickly.
Finally, Davi said, Felice that is three strikes, the muconium, the cervical lip and her heart rate in distress. She said, "Your baby is not going to be born at home." It’s time to go to the hospital. This is not an emergency; we just need to go now.
I was disappointed but I was so deep in laborland that I just went with the flow. I trusted Davi, and I was just trying to breathe through the surges.
We all piled into several cars. I didn’t even bother with the seatbelt. I was wearing a robe, naked underneath except for a bra. Davi’s assistant was in the back seat with me taking the heartbeat every 2 seconds (it seemed). Her heart rate was fine.
Davi cut in front of a line of cars on La Cienega and rolled down her window to tell the guy next to her, can we go ahead, it’s an emergency. So much for “this is not an emergency.”
They kept telling me, “don’t push,” and I kept thinking, "What are you talking about? I’m not doing anything.”
“How do I not push?” I asked.
So I filled up my cheeks and blew. I guess I was pretty spaced out, looking out the window and not really responding to them. Davi snapped her fingers and said if I didn’t perk up they were going to try to give me a section. I instantly snapped out of it and acted very perky. “Hi, how are you? I’m good.” I said. They all laughed.
When we got there, we parked and took the secret back entrance I thought I might get a wheelchair or something, but she said, "We don’t have time for that. Run.” So they pulled me, half running behind them with my robe flying open. When we go to the floor, Davi asked the first person she saw where our room was. “I called ahead. Dr. C is meeting us here.”
“Oh,” said, one of the nurses, barely looking up. “It’s the failed home birth.”
Davi didn’t hear her. She saw the room number up on a board and just started pulling me in that direction.
I don’t even remember what the nurse looked like, but her words totally crushed me and did for a long time afterward. If I had been less vulnerable I might have been able to say, I am not a failure. I am here because my midwife brought me here and that is what a good homebirth midwife is supposed to know when to do.
Dr. C showed up and Davi explained what was going on and her reasons for transferring. I was on my back and Dr. Chin asked me if I wanted to try switching positions to all fours or something else. I thought this was very nice of him to ask that, but I couldn’t move. I was crying about feeling like a failure and once on my back, it felt very painful to move. So I didn’t. I pushed a few times, with people holding my legs back.
Pushing didn’t make sense to me. Maybe it would have if I had been in a different position, but even at home, I hadn’t really gotten it.
Looking back on it, I see how the mind-body connection was at work. Though I was anxious to meet my baby and get her out, I also didn’t want her out. I knew that once she was out in the world I could no longer protect her. I knew that once she was born, I would have to deal with my ex again, who had already started to use her as a pawn. So I wasn’t really giving pushing any real effort. I was whining, crying and sort of hoping someone else would make a decision for me. I gave a few okay pushes and then Dr. C told me that my baby was having more trouble recovering after each one and that he’d give me the chance to do it myself, but if I didn’t do it soon, he’d have to use the vacuum. I didn’t do it on my own, so he used the vacuum on the next push and she was out.
It was amazing. The only way I can describe the release of pressure on my belly is like a zit popping. I never really felt the ring of fire, or much physical pain at all during pushing. (I’m not sure if this was effective hypnosis or a miracle or endorphins or all three.)
They put my baby girl on my belly and I grabbed her arms and pulled her up to my chest. The connection was instant. This was what all this work was for. They took her a way for a few minutes to check her over, but all of my birth companions were watching them like mama hawks and making sure she was okay and talking to her. Then they brought her back and Bethanie and Davi helped me latch her on so she could nurse. She was a little tired, but she nursed right away.
Right after the birth I was giddy with endorphins. Dr. Chin took about an hour to sew me up, so I was just laying there with my baby and enjoying being with my birth companions.
I remember feeling like my teeth were gross and said I wished I could brush them. Bethanie whipped out my toothbrush from my emergency bag and brushed my teeth for me while I held my baby and then gave me a cup to spit and water to drink.
I have never had anyone brush my teeth—at least not that I remember—but I will always remember it as one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I couldn’t get up or do it myself and having clean teeth felt so nice. I still cry when I think about it. It was such a gesture of pure love.
My birth companions shielded me from a lot of the hospital nonsense that was going on around me. I didn’t find out till later that the nurse was having a hissy fit in the corner because I had refused the eye drops and the vitamin K shot.
We forgot to look at the clock for the exact time of her birth but it was about 3:19 p.m. (only about 30 minutes after we got there) on her guess date (June 16, 2006). Incidentally, I was also born on my guess date. I guess we are punctual people.
Dr. Chin told me I could go home 6 hours after I was admitted or 24 hours or 48 hours. By the time he told me this that would have meant we would leave in 3 hours. I didn’t think I would be ready to walk in 3 hours, so I opted to stay overnight.
Lisa, who had flown in from
and was planning to stay at my house, stayed at the hospital with me. All the others went home after lots of pictures. New York
I got lucky and had some wonderful recovery nurses. Despite not being able to walk yet, I was full of giddy energy and talking about the birth with Lisa.
Finally, Lisa, who had also been up all night on a redeye from
, said, “You should get some sleep while that baby is sleeping,” so I decided to settle in and try. A nurse came to check my vitals and I agreed to let her if she promised to tell the other nurses and the next shift not to bother me. I didn’t need my vitals checked every 4 hours. I was fine. New York
She said she’d take care of it.
I finally fell asleep and about an hour later another nurse--the next shift--came in to check my vitals. I told her that I was going to check her vitals if she didn’t get out of there.
She looked pretty shocked. I don’t think anyone had ever done that to her before. I felt bad, but not really. I was so tired after finally falling asleep and being woken up.
Phoebe slept the whole time. By 9 am I was ready to get the heck out of the hospital but they made us hang around a few more hours. I thought about just leaving, but they actually have an ankle bracelet they put on babies—so none get stolen—so if we tried to leave with her, we would have set off an alarm. Hmm. No worries about stolen babies at a homebirth.
When we left we took everything that wasn’t nailed down. I figured if I had to give birth in the hospital, I was going to get my money’s worth. Blankets, diapers, gloves, Advil, nail scrubber, underwear, pads, and pacifiers. I also asked them for my free gift, which I knew they usually gave out, but they did not offer me. Humph. It was a diaper bag filled with formula, which I threw out or gave away, but the bag came in handy.
Buckling her in to the car seat was not something I had wanted to do for 40 days, but we both survived it and we drove home.
The house was cleaned and everything was put away and laundry was done. The ladies had been busy.
I fell into my wonderful soft bed and just enjoyed being home. Davi came and checked on me and we talked. I told her about what the nurse had said and she said if she heard it she would have decked her. “You didn’t fail. You were a successful home birth transfer.
And you had a lovely birth. There was a lady down the hall who had an epidural; she was screaming her head off.” Davi told me that every one of the staff was in awe of me, and that I was very graceful.
I didn’t remember being graceful. I thought I had lost it. Later, when watching my birth video I realized that I was indeed graceful. (Another good reason to film your birth—you don’t remember it accurately).
I had also wondered, afterward, if we really needed to go to the hospital—If I could have done it at home, but in the birth video, I saw that when she came out, Dr. C unwound the cord from her neck, and she was a little blue when she first came out. So, while I could have done it at home, I know that my indecision about getting her out or keeping her in would have likely dragged things out and hurt her.
Looking back on the whole saga, I realize that what I was feeling must be how Heavenly Father feels. He knows we need a body, but once we come here, we are exposed to all the temptations and weaknesses of the flesh. He can’t protect us anymore--well, he can, but only as much as we let him.
Becoming a parent has brought me so much closer to understanding Heavenly Father and how much he loves us. I’m so grateful my little girl chose to come to me and I am so grateful that my body did everything it needed to do. It is truly divine. I am truly divine.