Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Teagan's Birth Story - A beautiful home birth in our back yard

Teagan Brenna Cronin - born August 28, 2013 at 11:03 p.m. 
Me (Darcy) in early labor in our backyard.
Before sharing Teagan's birth story, I feel like I need to give a disclaimer. I have been blessed with a body/mind/spirit that was made for birthing babies. My midwives said that I'm an "urban legend," and that they wouldn't have a job if everyone gave birth like me (I was still ever grateful for their services!). I feel very fortunate to be a "rare breed" of birthing mamas, because I know childbirth can be an excruciating and scary experience. Thankfully, mine was just the opposite. I was lucid, joyful and surrounded by my family.

Kieran's birth was surreal, and I was very meditative, holding Kevin's hand like a gentle anchor until it came time to push, focusing all my energy on not squeezing through the pain and smiling between pushes at the end. Makenna's birth was unbelievably fast and upbeat, like a personal water aerobics in a sacred place: my home. But Teagan's birth was simply incredible. It was a true family affair, and quite literally one of the best nights of my life.

Below is the timeline approaching Teagan's birth, which in my mind is always part of the story. Skip to 2:30 p.m. if you want the shorter version of the actual birth story :-)

Thursday, August 15th - Last day in the office, halleluiah!  Approaching your due date is a weird waiting game. In the case of Teagan's arrival, I left work almost two weeks before so I could have a short family trip to the coast, prepare for a home birth, take care of the kids, and enjoy the rest of the summer. Between getting ready for the school year, Makenna's new pre-K social events, and soccer season beginning, we had some activity nearly every day. Looking at our family calendar you wouldn't have known that we were expecting a baby to arrive any day, but that's the life a growing family.

Saturday, August 24th - Auntie Miel Visits :-)
We had a busy day of getting the house ready for house guests and a home birth. My twin sis, Miel, arrived from Washington D.C. while we enjoyed a movie at Irving Park (Jackie Robinson's 42). 

Sunday, August 25th - Yard work and Sunday Parkways
We spent Sunday morning doing yard work, trying to get it "standing tall" for my mother-in-laws' pending visit. It happened to be Sunday Parkways SE, so we ventured out after a passing shower had ended... check out the crazy photos of my twin sis and I on my tandem! We joked that if riding a tandem didn't start my labor that nothing would. Even though I was tired after the bike ride, Kevin and I got showered up for our "last" date night while Auntie Miel played board games with the kids for the evening. We went to a lovely Italian restaurant in the Pearl, and then caught a movie at the Laurelhurst. I laughed so hard throughout the Kings of Summer, and also started to feel my first small contractions. I was excited to feel the first signs of labor, but really hoped that the baby wouldn't come for a few more days, as I still wasn't quite ready.  

Monday, August 25th
We had a busy day of shopping in the burbs. I started having more small contractions in Costco, and prayed that my water wouldn't break just yet. Then we visited my best friend, Sequoia, and her newborn, Savannah, who was just four days old. The kids were thrilled to meet her, and I hoped that would be a sign of their new sibling skills. 

Tuesday, August 26th
On Tuesday morning we got up early for my weekly Portland Pearl Rotary Club meeting. The kids simply love going to meetings, and had plenty to "brag" about with such a fun summer. Then while Miel got a haircut, the kids and I headed to the park (upon returning Makenna had a toddler-like meltdown, which began a series of regressions that are so typical with becoming a big sibling...alas, I think she's now settled into the role, but I did learn just how much she needs routine, which is difficult to provide when expecting a baby). After a lunch break at home to make a caprese salad for the two potlucks we had scheduled, we went on errands to the library, Whole Foods, and my friend's kids resale shop, Beanstalk. Next on the agenda was getting a pedicure, a much-needed luxury. By then it was time to go to our first potluck for Makenna's new pre-k program (sadly, I ended up totally blowing up at Kevin en route when he got upset about Makenna dumping granola all over the minivan (during her aforementioned meltdown), suggesting that I needed to vacuum it after the baby was born...note to partners out there: don't even hint to a woman who is 39 weeks pregnant that she should do anything with a vacuum in the near future!...but still, I felt awful for exploding and needed to apologize to both Kevin and the, I got the van professionally vacuumed the next morning). The pre-k potluck was nice enough, but we had arrived after most families had eaten and kids had scattered to the playground.

Wednesday, August 28th
I had gotten an "induction massage" before Makenna was born, so getting a massage was part of my birth plan. And it worked. My massage with Grace at Zenana Spa was lovely, and was just the trick to get my body and spirit balanced, both relaxed and energized. When I arrived back home, my house was unusually peaceful, as Auntie Miel was still at the park with the kids. I savored the "final" moments of quiet before becoming a mother of three, while making us all grilled cheese sandwiches.  

2:30 p.m.Around 2:30, as I was looking for my swim suit, my water broke. We were getting ready to go to a pool party for the new rotary exchange students, but I quickly realized that we were going to have a change of plans. Yet, in both previous labors, my water broke a day before labor really started, so I was still hesitant to tell the kids that our baby would be born any time soon. Nonetheless, we were all excited. :-)

3ish p.m. After calling the midwife and leaving a message with Kevin, Miel and I agreed to continue on with our next plans...we were planning to stop by New Seasons and go to an open house for Makenna's pre-K program at Irvington (which started the next day). So, off to New Seasons we went, which happened to be the day the N Williams store was opening. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I was never more than a few minutes from home (or the hospital for that matter!) and I figured that it would help labor get going. The most note-worthy thing that happened was Makenna discovering a small crystal pebble that she had shoved up her nose...that and me starting to tell Miel how often I was feeling contractions...about twenty minutes apart. I also remember spending a good five minutes debating which hair conditioner to buy (turns out that quality over quantity is best in hindsight...).

4ish p.m.Once we were supplied with the essentials, we looped around the neighborhood to Irvington School to check out pre-K room and drop off school supplies. I felt awkward introducing myself to other new parents, because of course the obvious question was "when are you due?" and it felt odd to say to strangers, "well, my contractions are now about 15 minutes apart..." I'm sure it was quite the first impression.

5ish p.m.
By the time we got home, Kevin soon arrived home from work. While I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to deliver immediately, I encouraged the midwife to come over to set things up. My contractions were soon less than five minutes apart, so I opted for an early dinner. We had made a beautiful caprese pasta salad for the potluck party we were planning to attend, so it was great to have dinner already made. We opened a bottle of pinot noir we had just picked up. Other than me being in early labor, it was like any typical summer dinner on our patio. 

6ish p.m.
After we had eaten, we started to set up the birth pool in a cozy corner of our patio, surrounded by towering bamboo and glowing string lights. We lit a few candles for ambiance. The midwife arrived to check my vitals, and the baby's. Everything was just fine, and it felt like just a matter of waiting for when the baby was ready to arrive. Then my mom arrived from southern Oregon, which was a relief, since I had really hoped she would make it in time (she had been there for the birth of both other babies). It felt like the stage was almost set...but as the midwife said, it would be nicer to have the birth happen in the dark and I agreed, feeling like somehow I could control the timing. 

With some time to wait for the baby, we decided to start a game of Scrabble, which Kieran had just been introduced to by his Auntie Miel. I rocked slowly on a yoga ball for a while, but left the game early after getting some pretty horrible letters. 

Even though my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, they weren't painful and if I weren't announcing them, you wouldn't have guessed that I was in labor. I continued to carry on conversations and tell stories until the very end. The midwife wasn't sure how to gauge my progress, since I wasn't really phased by my contractions. Often times after assessing a woman in early labor, the midwife will leave to hang out someplace nearby so that she's not "hovering" over the expectant mother (since this can go on for hours and hours). So, after checking in, she was ready to leave since it didn't seem like I was that close to delivering. She started to tell my mom and Kevin what typical laboring signs they should look for before giving her a call to return...thankfully my mom informed her that for Makenna's labor I never showed any of the normal intense labor signals, and that she shouldn't leave the block in case I suddenly decided it was time. (My mom said, "With Makenna I thought she was joking when she calmly announced that she was ready to push"...Later the midwife thanked my mom profusely for the tip to stay close.)

Oddly, with this labor I felt very intentional about how/when things were progressing. It was like I could take the time to savor the evening and take it all in, knowing this was the last time I would ever experience the miracle of giving birth.

7ish p.m. As it was, once the birth pool was finally filled, it was far too hot to get into (as instructed, Kevin had upped the water heater, and it was 110 degrees!). So, instead of requesting to have it bailed, I decided to head inside the house to listen to some of my favorite music. Music had been a spiritually grounding/uplifting element of both my previous birth experiences. I listened to a special mix that we made for our wedding and then my favorite artist, Ben Harper. I danced in the candlelight for a few songs until the kids found me and joined me for a few songs. We opted for setting up Pandora on the laptop once I was back out on the patio (note to self: we still need an outdoor stereo system).

The kids were a new and fun aspect of this birth experience. Kieran had been at home when Makenna was born, but at age 3 he was watching a video downstairs and came up just after she was born to announce that she was a girl, and then promptly asked if he could return to his cartoon. In this case, both kids were highly inquisitive about the whole pregnancy/birth process. Makenna had been carrying her babies upside down under her shirt for a month, and Kieran had asked every possible question. To help prepare them, I had showed them baby development videos from Baby Center, and found a few family friendly water birth videos (here's my favorite). Kieran was at the ready to cut her umbilical cord too. During our discussions Kieran kept mixing up the words "birth canal" and "umbilical cord," saying that he would cut the birth canal. Naturally, I felt the need to correct him, but in the process Makenna interrupted saying, "No, Mama, the baby comes out of the 'gina!" Somehow I think I'll have a leg up when it comes to the whole sex ed "talk." Although, truthfully, both kids would love for me get pregnant again - Kieran: "Mom, it would be a shame if you died with any eggs left in you!" - sorry kiddos. Even Kevin has tried to convince me to be a surrogate...sorry, not unless a friend in need asks.

8ish p.m.
But back to the evening...the mood was indeed festive, as our neighbors two houses away were having a going away party, and every so often we would hear a roar of laughter (the party didn't actually end until around 3 a.m.!). At some point after dark it started to lightly sprinkle. Thankfully, the birth tub was well sheltered by the eves of the bamboo, and I never felt a drop. It was beautiful though, glistening in the light. 

9ish p.m. Once I was in the tub, Kevin spontaneously decided to light a little bon fire. We hadn't planned on it, but it was a perfect night for one with no wind and being slightly chilly. It made me smile, and was a fun distraction for everyone. Yet, after a while of watching the embers, Makenna fell asleep in Grandma's arms and was laid to sleep on the back porch futon. Kevin also decided that he was tired and ready for bed...I decided not to debate him, since I wasn't on the verge of pushing just yet, but I was still certain that it wouldn't be more than an hour or so. Kieran, on the other hand, was still his usual excited self, enjoying the music and conversation.

10ish p.m. It turned out that not long after Kevin had hit the sheets that the midwife asked if it was OK to check my progress vaginally, mostly because she really wasn't sure how far along I was as I chatted away hanging out in the birth tub (typically they only do so if it could change the birth plan and decide a transfer to hospital is best). Once she checked, she gauged that I was "half way" to being fully dilated and she stripped my membranes to help get things moving faster. Wincing hard, this was the most painful part of the whole labor/delivery, aside from the last few pushes, and it certainly got labor moving fast. It felt like I was suddenly kicked into gear. But even with the increased intensity, I still felt very aware and in control of my body. 

I almost immediately asked for her to call the second midwife. I started thinking about the need to wake up Kevin, not wanting him to miss out...the first time I sent Kieran to tell him he replied groggily about wanting to sleep, but after another contractions or two I sent Kieran back up to tell him that if he didn't get up he would miss the birth. Then Auntie Miel set about trying to wake up Makenna...she was like a sleepy rag doll, but was excited to wake up to discover that the baby was about to be born. Once my family was surrounding me, I felt like I was ready to push. Unfortunately, the second midwife was still parking and arrived moments after the baby was born (she still helped out with all the post-baby care for me).

Once I was ready to push it only took a few pushes, but this time around I wasn't focused on counting pushes or time, and if anything, I was really trying to pace myself. Still, I was amazed by how minor the pain felt. I felt stinging during the typical burning ring phase, which I told the midwife just to let her know that the baby was very close, but even that felt like less than a bad bee sting. I had read about pain-free labor, and feel like mine was about as close to that definition as it gets.

11:03 p.m. - August 28th, 2013
As the baby crowned, the midwife could see an arm reaching out, apparently known as being "compound" felt like a sign that she/he was ready to meet the world, with just one more push. Once our baby "popped out" (the kids favorite description), we all excitedly looked to find out the gender...I think Kevin was the first to announce that she was a girl. We were all elated, as everyone in the family was pretty convinced that we were going to have a girl. Her eyes were immediately wide open, but she was still quite (which is typical of water births). After a moment she peacefully closed her eyes again, so we had to prod her a bit to get her to cry, checking the all-important apgar score. We wrapped her in a towel and took off my top for skin to skin contact to try to keep her comfortable in the water before it was time to cut her cord. She was breathing well, virtually silent. It was first once she was handed to her Auntie Miel that she let out her first wail.

It was indeed a peaceful experience. I am still in awe of creating such a beautiful little life. The saying goes that giving birth is the easy part compared with raising kids, and in my case, I would have to agree. At almost five weeks old now, Teagan is still in the sleepy stage and sleeps for all but a few hours each day. I know that someday soon this time will be a distant memory, so that's why I want to take the time to write down her birth story while it's still fresh. I'm posting our story for the whole world to see because I want future mothers to know that birth doesn't have to be scary or painful. In any case, the precious gift of giving life is worth any sacrifice. I can only hope that I'll continue to raise my children with the same grace that I was blessed with during their amazing births. 

Teagan was welcomed by her big brother, Kieran (7 1/2), and sister, Makenna (4 1/2).
Thanks to Vivante Midwifery for your exceptional services, especially Heather Wilson and Sarah Lax!

PS Here's a post I wrote reflecting on choosing home birth for Makenna's birth. I also wrote up Kieran's birth story and Makenna's birth story...I know I loved reading birth stories when I was pregnant, and still love to hear about such a life giving/changing experience.


  1. Darcy, What a beautiful, perfect birth. I loved reading your story. Congratulations on your sweet baby girl. I hope you are all doing well. I also wish more mamas experienced the magic of home births and the wonderful outcome you had!!

  2. Such a beautiful birth story ... I saw this link on Vivante's site & I'm so happy I did. I'm working with them (our baby is due this January), and it's so wonderful to hear such a positive story about life & birth. Many congrats to you and your family.