Birth Matters Podcast, Ep 2 - Host Lisa's 1st-born's Birth Story

In this episode, my husband, Bryan, and I share our first baby’s birth story. It’s a story of giving birth in an in-hospital birthing center in Manhattan at Mt. Sinai West in 2005. You’ll hear about a textbook-length 20+ hr labor with the expert labor support of a doula, and you’ll hear about the gamechanger self-advocacy tips and strategies that we used (and you can use!) to avoid interventions that were strategically avoidable and rendered unnecessary. These strategies helped us achieve what I had very much hoped for, which was an unmedicated, vaginal birth.

One of the things I’m hoping to do on this podcast is help expectant parents get a sense of the birth environment and options here in New York. I’m recording this episode in 2019, in a year when hospitals are making choices to close the only in-hospital birthing centers that exist in all of NYC, sadly. It’s very disappointing and frustrating that expectant parent’s choices for birth setting are shrinking, when there is plenty of demand for such a birth setting. The birthing center you’ll hear about, unfortunately, closed in January of this year. The future of the only remaining in-hospital birthing center, which is just one room at Weill Cornell’s Lower Manhattan location, is questionable. There is one free-standing birthing center in our whole city, and that’s Brooklyn Birthing Center.

Below is the full written birth story, and then the episode transcript.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Birth Matters NYC group & private childbirth classes
Spinning Babies

Mother's Day, firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)

Grayson’s Birth Story (as told by Mama Lisa)

Please keep in mind this is from the perspective of a first-time expectant parent and far from a birth professional at that point in time, as I started pursuing birth work a few years after (although I have briefly added to or corrected a few things that were misconceptions at the time).

Sunday, May 8, 2005 (Mother’s Day) – My mom had flown up from Texas to help us for about a month. She had been here for a few days and I really wanted to try to help myself go into labor with some activity. So, on Mother's Day, my husband, mother and I took the subway from our home in Forest Hills, Queens, into church on the Upper East Side. After, Bryan to work while Mom and I walked up to the Metropolitan Museum and took a “Museum Highlights” tour, walked to Central Park and saw all the beautiful tulips and daffodils in bloom, had hot dogs for lunch, walked back to subway, took subway down to the Flatiron district, walked over to a flea market or two.

Mother's Day Forest Hills, firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)

After a fun, long day, we returned home, walking home from subway. We tracked a total of approximately 50 blocks! I’m virtually certain this brought on labor!!!

Labor Stage 1, Part 1: Early/Latent

Monday, May 9, 2005, ~10:30am – wake up and it seems like I’m having contractions. I begin to record them, and they are coming every 3 minutes, but only last 30-45 seconds. This is a tad confusing to me as I had heard only scenarios where the contractions come less far apart but last longer, but not the reverse. Our OB, Dr. Anna Rhee, had given us the guideline to call her when our contractions were 3-1-1 (3 minutes apart, lasting for a minute, and this pattern going on for at least an hour or possibly two). So I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. At this point, the contractions weren’t enough to make me totally stop what I was doing, but they were slowly, gradually getting stronger. Bryan didn’t get up until probably around noon as he worked late the night before. I shared with him what was going on; he was extremely calm and suggested that we take a walk, then return home and have me take a warm bubble bath and then take a nap – all were things suggested to relax and see if contractions subside or continue to progress (ie to figure out if we’re actually in labor). I called work around 1:45pm to let them know I wouldn’t be coming in to work that evening because we might be in labor, and that Bryan would call as soon as he knew if he could make it or not (we worked at the same investment firm at the time).

~2:00 pm – Bryan and I take a walk to Stop-n-Shop as I needed to get a couple things. Was a gorgeous, sunny day. By this point I think I was having to almost stop walking when the contractions would come (or at least slow down). On our walk back home, we ran into neighbor Marilyn and her daughter and 5-month old granddaughter and had a short chat with them, telling them we thought we were in labor. Marilyn used to be a nurse, and she said, “maybe in the next 48 hours”—she didn’t seem to think I was very far along since I could still talk. At about 3:30pm upon our return from the store, we called our doula, Ellen Sidles Farhi; she advised me to take a bath and drink more water (she advised 16 ozs; I drank 40) and call her back in an hour. I did as Bryan and Ellen instructed and took a bubble bath; I think Bryan turned on my 6-hour-long labor mix on iTunes. Then I attempted to take a nap, but couldn’t sleep due to the strength and frequency of the contractions – a clear sign we were in labor. We debated over calling Dr. Rhee, but decided against it. Just after 3pm, Bryan called work to let them know he wasn’t coming in to work. Boy, was I glad very soon thereafter!!!

Labor Stage 1, Part 2: Active

~4:00 pm – this is when we think the contractions became all-encompassing. Bryan called Ellen during this time; she had Bryan put me on the phone. I don’t remember what I said to her, but I do remember Bryan holding the phone up to me during a contraction so Ellen could hear my moans, at which time she had Bryan encourage me to keep the moans as low in pitch as possible, so Bryan kept gently guiding me to this lower pitch—has something to do with taking in more oxygen and vocal cords being more relaxed in lower pitches. She told us we were now in active labor. I think she might have asked me if I wanted her to come over yet, but I said we could wait a while longer. I had to sit on the birth ball, rhythmically moving right to left, back and forth, and at times banging my fist rhythmically on my leg, moaning; Bryan sat behind me to massage my back. In between contractions I would collapse on to some pillows on the arm of our loveseat. Seemed like we did this for quite a while.

Bryan did get in touch with Dr. R at some point between 4 and 7, but she didn’t really say much of anything, if I recall. He told her how the contractions had been progressing, and she asked him if we wanted to come in and be measured; he said we’d prefer to have our doula come to our house first. Dr. R said that was fine, and to call her once Ellen arrived. She presented the question: “If you arrive and you’re not dilated enough, will you want to go all the way home or stay nearby?”

Bryan called doula Ellen around 7:00 or a little after that, I think, to come join us. On the phone, she recommended I get into a warm bath. Bryan asked Mom to get pizza from Mazara’s down the street (I think he also sent her on another errand at some point during our early labor). Bryan fed me pepperoni pizza in between contractions while I was in the tub.

8:00pm

Ellen arrived around 8pm; we opened the window in the bath as it was quite warm (later we shut it some as I began to get a little chilly). I believe they called Dr. R when Ellen arrived to give her a heads up that we’d probably coming in tonight; Dr. R was already at the hospital delivering a couple other babies, so she said no need to call again, but just show up in triage when we were ready. Our tub is so tiny—I think it’s smaller than contemporary tubs as it’s older, in fact—it wasn’t ideal to labor in, but it definitely was helpful being in the warm water. When Ellen arrived, she asked Bryan to bring in and light a candle. It was my favorite Bartlett pear candle. They gave me liquids frequently to drink. I kept feeling like I had to pull myself up with my arms from having my bottom supporting my weight while sitting in the tub, as the back pain was quite bad.

11:15pm

We remained there in the tub until around 11:15pm or so; the contractions were coming pretty fast and furious, sometimes almost on top of each other. At this point, Ellen recommended that we start gathering our things to go to the hospital, saying we didn’t want for me to be in transit when entering the transitional phase of labor, so we should go now. It was pretty slow-going (as we learned in our class) getting ready to go as I had to stop for the contractions.

Leaving for the birthing center! I’m clearly not enjoying things too much at this point.

Leaving for the birthing center! I’m clearly not enjoying things too much at this point.

I think we drove away at about 11:45pm, with Mom driving, Bryan navigating, and Ellen and me in the back. I sat on a towel to absorb some of the shock on bumps—this was very helpful. Wished we had remembered to have water in the front of the car with us, as I think it was all in the back. The ride was much better than I had feared—no traffic, made quick time (what a perfect time of day to have to drive there!)…I did have to moan during contractions (I had hoped to avoid that to avoid distracting Mom’s driving), but I also remember singing a couple of worship songs in between, which was peaceful and relaxing. I sat in the middle of the back seat, in between Ellen and the infant seat. I do wish, though, that I hadn't been such a doggone law-abiding citizen and had ripped the seatbelt off so I could sit in any position that was NOT on my behind as every NYC pothole was pretty excruciating. I even did a little back-seat driving in the middle of it all—can’t stop this bossy lady! LOL (An aside—while I can’t remember exactly what things were funny, I do remember laughing a few times throughout labor here and there, which was nice and something I hoped for to help in the relaxation process.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005, 12:20am

Arrival at Manhattan's St. Luke's Roosevelt hospital (about a decade later renamed Mt. Sinai West). The front entrance on 10th Ave. was closed, so we had to go around the side. Ellen parked our car in a nearby garage while Mom, Bryan and I went in through the emergency after-hours entrance. They waved us through to the elevator bank and said to head to the 12th floor. We went into triage, and they paged Dr. R. Mom had to stay in the waiting room, but Bryan came with me. Ellen arrived pretty soon thereafter. They gave me this tube-top type thing to put around my belly, under which they tucked the fetal monitor to do 20 minutes of fetal monitoring. They gave me a hospital gown to wear. A nurse drew blood. We thought they were going to give me a Hep lock, but then Dr. R requested that they not do that. Before Dr. R said this, Ellen asked me if I was okay with that, and I said I was (but with the hope that they wouldn’t have to use it).

Dr. R did an internal exam, and found that we were 7cm dilated. Good news!!! I was very excited and relieved to hear this, as you have to be at least 5-6 to be admitted into the birthing center. Dr. R was looking for 2 movements from the baby within 15 minutes on the monitor – apparently the baby must be this or more active in order to be admitted to the birthing center. She seemed very concerned and said she might have to hook me up to an IV if she didn’t see more movement. I immediately began to chug the Gatorade, and soon thereafter the baby moved several times (whew!). Also, during this monitoring time, I threw up all over the hospital bed they had me on.

Dr Rhee at birthing center. Firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)

Once everything was finished in triage, we went back out and got Mom and our belongings and went down the stairs with Dr. R to our Birthing Room (Room 1 of 3). She turned on the water for the tub, and then said she would be back in two hours and to call her cell should we need her before that. Got a quick photo with Dr. R before she left the room (good, too, since that was the last time I was clothed!).

Bryan changed the light bulb, got out snacks, set up the sound system—battery operated speakers with my iPod to play our labor mix. Mom got some ice and some cups. Ellen got out her lavender oil because the room smelled like bleach. I think I got in the tub pretty quickly and stayed there for a long time.

Met a really kind nurse named Juno, who came in periodically to do a handheld fetal heartbeat monitoring. She had a bit of trouble locating where to find the heartbeat on my belly, but eventually found it. (I didn't learn until a week after giving birth that this is a symptom of posterior presentation, just as was the erratic contraction spacing.)

After two hours, I believe I was still in the tub.

~4:00am – 4:45am

Dr. R does second internal exam—with me on my side on the floor next to the tub. This position for an exam was quite painful! She indicates we have not progressed—still at 7cm (but 9 cm at the back—backwards from what you want) and my cervix is really thick and the potential was there for it to continue to thicken to where our son couldn’t get out (ie would end in a c-section). She recommended, “going upstairs for epidural and pitocin.” My strength and endurance was really waning at this point and I felt like I wasn’t sure I could go on naturally. I was extremely close to giving in to this, and I know I would have if a) Bryan and I hadn’t taken Emily Shapiro's Bradley birth class, b) I didn’t have the support of Bryan, Ellen, and Mom. They lovingly, gently supported me and encouraged me, and never pushed or pressured me. It was the perfect delicate balance. I said, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” I asked Bryan to ask questions we had learned in our class such as, “What will happen if we wait/don’t?” My mom asked Dr. R something about why she would recommend epidural with pitocin (since she did it without and felt like it was fine), and I overheard Dr. R respond, “Because it’s inhumane; she’s in so much pain.” Somehow that challenged me—I felt like, “Don’t feel sorry for me just because I’m in pain.” (after all, we learned in class that it’s pain with a positive purpose!)

We finally decided to ask for more time and asked her if she would consider artificially rupturing the membranes (asked her first to leave the room so we could discuss it with Ellen). She returned to the room, agreed and was about to do it right then and there, but Bryan asked everyone to leave the room so he and I could talk briefly.

While they were out of the room and we were talking and praying, I stood from kneeling at the tub, felt a pop, and then a rush of warm fluid down my legs—my water broke spontaneously! God knew just what I needed to get a second wind—I felt like this was a sign that I could do it. (My mom later told us she thought Ellen had done something to break the waters, as she hadn’t realized Ellen was out in the hall, too, when it happened!)

While Dr. R was out in the hall, Ellen told us it seemed like Dr. R began to work out in her mind the logic of why we were having difficulty—once they came back in the room, it dawned on her that our son was posterior (geez, I could have told them that! Had a hunch for the prior two weeks that he was, even mentioned to Dr. R, and had been trying to take measures to encourage rotation, but apparently it hadn’t worked and I didn't have the bandwidth in labor to realize it!). Just goes to show what a little waiting can do. I’m not sure if she would have been as quick to recommend pitocin/epidural had she realized this earlier, but I'll never know. Dr. R then said she’d come back in an hour, and told Ellen we should get in knee-chest position to encourage our son to turn as he was posterior (aka “sunny side up”).

Labor Stage 1, Part 3: Transition

~4:45am – 5:30am

Bryan spoke with Dr. R for a moment, and during this, I felt compelled to hang from something (as I’d seen in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth—a primitive labor position)—there wasn’t much of anything in the room to hang from, but I hung from a bar in the tub while standing outside the tub. Once she left, Ellen and the nurses got me on the bed in the knee-chest position, which couldn’t have been more awkward—had to have my face on a pillow, not supporting myself with arms at all—to work on turning him. I was having really strong pushing urges at this point and Ellen tried to help me to resist the urge (by having me do lip trills) since that wasn’t the goal at the moment…I think that I had some (constipated) bowel movements during this time (so much for embarrassment or modesty!!!) with the pushing urges that I couldn’t seem to resist. The nurses were great, cleaning it up immediately as if it didn't even happen.

I didn’t realize it, but toward the end of this time, Bryan tells me I said to him that I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go on. He went out into the hall to talk to a nurse and ask if we could get Dr. R back soon. He really wasn’t sure what to do; how to help me. At that moment Dr. R walked up!

Labor Stage 2: Pushing

~5:30 – 6:30am

Dr. R returned to the room to examine me, and this time she said we were fully dilated and ready to push!!! Our son had successfully turned anterior. So incredibly grateful! There was some talk about what positions we wanted to try; Bryan suggested a supported squat, but no one seemed to be too keen on that (I was, but wasn’t being very participatory at this point)…After Bryan questioned the openness of the pelvis pushing in the semi-reclined position, Dr. R said in her 20 years of experience, the semi-reclined position with holding my legs up wide and up to my chest would prove most effective in this situation. We started in this position; I wanted to and did sit on the toilet. Things progressed quickly there, to the point where Dr. R said, “I can’t deliver/catch this baby in a toilet!” (I was thinking, “why not, if it works?” But of course, it seems like she would have had more trouble minimizing tearing through perineal massage with my perineum face down!) So after just a few minutes on the toilet, she said, “Lisa, I need you to get on the bed again and this baby will come right out.” So I decided to trust her on that and heed her request, though in retrospect I still really think an upright position would have been more efficient. Got back on the bed; was having major issues lying down with acid reflux, so thankfully they elevated me a little bit—put a pillow or two behind my head. I wish they had elevated me more so we would have been working with gravity a little more, but then perhaps that would have sped things up and increase tearing? Who knows. Apparently, though I don’t remember it, the nurses tried to suggest getting the “wedge” which would have put me in semi-reclined position but for some reason Dr. R resisted it—I want to request it next time; I think she would have allowed it had I requested it instead of the nurses, but I didn’t know what a “wedge” was!!!

I had to pull my knees to my chest, but had people helping me by holding a foot, etc. Dr. R would tell me when to push and would—so slowly—count to ten each time. I always felt like I couldn’t make it all the way to 10, and often didn’t make it. They were encouraging me to not let any air escape as I pushed, but I didn’t always feel it possible. I remember vaguely that Bryan was whispering in my ear all the perfect things ("we’re going to see our baby soon"…"you’re doing great"…etc.).

I think in between pushing at some point, Dr. R said that I needed to push really low and not up in my chest, like in singing—she was really speaking my language since I'm a trained singer (though I'm quite sure she didn't know it) and I think that helped a lot. I felt an incredibly strong burning sensation as he began to crown, as all the books told us. Dr. R did perineal massage as he was crowning to help stretch the perineum and reduce tearing. They told me when he was crowning, and said he had a lot of hair; Dr. R told me to feel his head, which I definitely wanted to do to help make the goal more tangible. I couldn’t believe how much hair was there!!! Amazing. Pushing got really intense, of course, and eventually he came out—his body pretty much slipped right on out once his head came through. Bryan said he thought that part happened a lot faster than in videos we watched.

I remember seeing Bryan’s face in amazement as he almost broke down in joyful tears—that tied for the best part, along with the nurses immediately wrapping our son in a towel and placing him on my chest as he cried and cried (we learned in class that this is actually a good sign of a healthy baby!).

Labor Stage 3: Placenta Delivery

The placenta seemed to be delivered with one easy push quite soon after our son was born. Dr. R said I had a small tear and had to stitch me up.

Labor Stage 4: Immediate Postpartum

5.10.05 Grayson birth.JPG
5.10.05 Grayson on mom's chest.JPG
5.10.05 Grayson after birth.JPG

They clamped the umbilical cord, though I completely missed it, and then asked Bryan if he wanted to do the ceremonial cutting. To my surprise, though I didn’t know about it until much later, he did it, and with no hesitation about the blood. I think fairly soon thereafter, we got started on breastfeeding, with the help of Ellen as well as nurse Danielle. Ellen left soon thereafter as it was her own son's birthday.

cutting cord, Firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)

We offered to order breakfast for everyone, but about 30 min to an hour after his birth, the nurses’ shift was over and we got a couple of new nurses so they all declined (I think one, Mary Ellen, might have been a lactation consultant?). Our new nurse, whose name escapes me, was totally lovely – extremely caring, personable, clear in her instructions on various things about taking care of baby, etc.

Juno nursing help, Leaving for the birthing center! I’m clearly not enjoying things too much at this point. Firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)

At some point, they took our son to the side of the bed to administer the state-mandated Vitamin K shot and erythromycin eyedrops. I love that they never took him out of the room! All three of us slept together in the nice big birthing room double bed throughout the day in between feedings. Once the breakfast arrived, Bryan and Mom fed me bites of fruit, eggs, French toast, freshly squeezed OJ while I fed our son…was all SO yummy! Mom went and napped and watched tv in the family room for a while throughout the day. In the afternoon, the pediatrician came by to check him, and a guy came by to do a hearing test, which he passed. After filling out birth certificate and other paperwork, they wheeled me out in a wheelchair (required by hospital), holding our son–we left the hospital around 9:45pm, and got home around 10:30. Welcome home, sweet baby boy!!!

newborn, firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)

Just before discharge to head home, the new and happy family unit!

Since that day, lots of amazing things have happened...and we are over the moon grateful for every single moment.

Tonys family pic, firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)
YasQueen gif, newborn, firstborn birth story (BirthMattersNYC blog)

Episode Transcript

Lisa:

0:00

You're listening to the Birth Matters podcast, episode two.

Bryan:

0:04

It's like NASA has dropped you off on Mars with the most expensive piece of equipment ever developed, and no instruction book, and as they're lifting off and -- you know -- flying away, leaving you there, somebody just waves and says, "You'll be fine!"

Lisa:

0:23

Hey there, and welcome to the Birth Matters Show. I'm your host, Lisa Greaves Taylor, founder of Birth Matters NYC Childbirth Education and Labor Support. This show is here to lessen your overwhelm on the journey into parenthood by equipping and encouraging you with current best evidence info and soulful interviews with parents and birth pros. Please keep in mind the information on this show is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose or treat any medical conditions. On today's episode, my husband Bryan and I are going to share our first baby's birth story. It's a story of giving birth at an in-hospital birthing center in Manhattan at Mount Sinai West. You'll hear about a textbook-length, 20-plus-hour labor with the expert labor support of a doula, and you'll hear about the game changer self-advocacy tips and strategies that we used -- and you can use -- to avoid interventions that were strategically avoidable and rendered unnecessary.

Lisa:

1:18

These strategies helped us achieve what I very much had hoped for, which is an unmedicated vaginal birth. One of the things I'm hoping to do on this podcast is help expectant parents get a sense of the birth environment and the options here in New York. I'm recording this episode in 2019, in a year when hospitals are making choices to close the only in-hospital birthing centers that exist in all of New York City, sadly. It's very disappointing and frustrating that expectant parents' choices for birth settings are shrinking when there is plenty of demand for such a birth setting. The birthing center you'll hear about unfortunately closed in January of this year. The future of the only remaining in-hospital birthing center, which is just one room at Weill Cornell's lower Manhattan location, is questionable. There's one free-standing birthing center I can recommend in our whole city and that's Brooklyn Birthing Center.

Lisa:

2:13

The last thing I wanted to mention today is that I love to laugh. Please bear with me in some of the first few episodes as I'm new to this and need to learn how to stay quiet and may eventually just need to mute myself while the other person is talking. Also, I record these in my home, which is near LaGuardia Airport, so you might sometimes hear the soft sounds of airplanes, so you can just imagine yourself at an airport going on a baby-moon getaway to somewhere fun. As you listen, before we jump into the story, I want to let you know that this episode is brought to you by Birth Matters NYC's childbirth education classes. If you live in the New York City area, the best way to build your confidence and prep for an amazing birth and entry into parenthood and to connect with other expectant parents to build your very important support system is to attend group childbirth education classes. You'll spend quality time with your labor support partner in our comfy Astoria living room classroom as you prepare for not only birth but also for your best possible postpartum recovery and wellness as well as early parenting with classes on breastfeeding and newborn care techniques. Classes often book up about one to two months in advance. So be sure to grab your spot on the early side. For more information and to sign up, visit birthmattersnyc.com. Okay, without further ado, let's jump in!

:

3:28

Hey Bryan Taylor, how are you doing today?

Bryan:

3:32

Oh, hello. I thought I was going to be introduced. I'm fine. How are you?

Lisa:

3:42

We're new to this. So we're going to get started by sharing our first birth story in this first episode and it's been a long time, right? Way back in...

Bryan:

3:54

Since we experienced birth? Yes. And since our first one. Yes.

Lisa:

4:00

Yeah, way back in 2005. So we both have been studying our birth story notes and trying to access our memories and it will not be as detailed as the written version, which you can find wherever this is posted in the show notes. But we are just going to visit the past and recollect a little bit of our journey into parenthood the first time around. And then the next episode we will go into our second one. So why don't we just start a little bit by talking about the pregnancy itself and our journey through that. So in pregnancy, I at first didn't know about the possibility and the benefits of seeking out midwifery care. It did come onto my radar and I don't actually remember exactly how that came onto my radar, but I -- just as many people do in the U.S., I just by default thought, oh, I need to seek out an OB. So I asked friends and a number of my friends recommended this one practice, Dr. Rhee, as well as her colleagues, and just said she's fantastic. And I knew that she delivered in the birthing center, which sadly closed in early 2019 but back in 2005 was thriving and open. And I knew that I wanted a setting that was home-like and that was conducive to what I was hoping for, which was an unmedicated birth. And so that was how we chose our care provider.

Bryan:

5:25

Was that the only birthing center in New York City at the time?

Lisa:

5:30

To my knowledge, it was the only in-hospital birthing center. And for me in my first pregnancy I liked the idea of the security of knowing that medical interventions and help in the case -- hopefully unlikely event -- of an emergency was really close, was really nearby.

Bryan:

5:47

We were both on that page.

Lisa:

5:49

Yeah. Yeah. For me, I just, I needed that security not having gone through birth before and not knowing how my my body would handle labor. I did have a good level of confidence because my mother had given birth without pain medications twice: first time, completely unmedicated; second time an induction without pain medications. And I found a lot of confidence in that, but I still kind of wanted to see how my body did with that security of being in that hospital environment, yet having the home-like birthing center, which in this facility, the way it used to be was that the birthing center was on I think floor 11, and then upstairs one floor up was labor and delivery. And so it was kind of separate but close proximity.

Bryan:

6:32

And you hadn't, at this point in your life -- have we said the year? We're talking about 2005, and at that point in your life you hadn't really been around a lot of birth other than horse births.

Lisa:

6:45

Yeah, right, right. I grew up on a horse ranch. Yeah. And saw lots of horse births and there are some likenesses, but, but really going to birth class was the first time that I saw a human birth. How about you?

Bryan:

6:55

Same for me. I hadn't been, I mean the closest I'd been to a birth was, you know, after the big event. You know, walking in and seeing my niece. But no, I'd never, I'd never witnessed one. I had seen one video in middle school of a birth and...

Lisa:

7:16

At least you got that. I got none of that in school.

Bryan:

7:18

Yeah. That was burned into my brain, you know? But it was, yeah. And it was not what would be considered a, a particularly natural birth. I mean, it was, you know, in a hospital setting with all the hospital equipment and all the hospital personnel all around. And so that was the image that I had in my mind of, "This is what a birth is." So I think that contributed to my desire to, like you're saying, to be close enough to a hospital environment or within a hospital environment. So that, that just felt more comforting to me. And that actually felt more normal to me. I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but when, when we took the birthing class and we heard that our teacher Emily gave birth at home and caught her own baby in her home, my jaw was on the floor and I thought, "That's amazing and that's admirable. I cannot ever see that happening."

Lisa:

8:18

Little did, you know, sneak peak into the next birth story. Ah, so did you, I don't think I've ever asked you this. What did you think of the fact that I really wanted to have an epidural-free or drug-free birth? Did you have any opinions on that or did you just keep them to yourself?

Bryan:

8:34

I think having gone through graduate school for acting, and doing a lot of body work and just becoming a lot more aware of the body's potential and, and also just being exposed through theater to a lot of different people who have, you know, a broad range of approaches to taking care of one's body and medicine and living a healthy lifestyle and what that entails, and I think that broadened the range of what I was willing to explore. And I wanted to support you in what you felt comfortable with, knowing that, you know, you were going to be doing the work and I wanted it to be something that you felt good about.

Lisa:

9:27

You're awesome. So then what do we want to talk about next? Maybe birth class and, and actually I want to mention a friend that we worked with. We worked at a corporate investment firm in New York City at the time together in the evenings. And we worked with a lot of creative types and one of our friends, one of our coworkers had given birth not long before we were going to, and she gave me two golden pieces of advice. She said, here, read this book, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. And at the time, once I kind of like read a little bit about it, I was a little hesitant because at the time I was far less crunchy granola woowoo than I am now. And I was kind of like, oh, this seems awfully crunchy. I don't know. But then once I read it I was like, oh my gosh, everyone should read this.

Lisa:

10:20

That was one golden piece of advice. The other one was that she said, "Girl, just free yourself to be as loud as you need to be to cope well in labor." And -- oh, and I should say three golden pieces of advice. Because the thing that brought her to mind was that she was the person who recommended Emily Shapiro's Bradley Birth Class. It's kind of a quasi-Bradley birth class. It wasn't fully gung-ho Bradley, but it was, it was largely that, right? It wasn't as long as a normal Bradley series, but it was still longer than most birth classes are. So all those pieces of advice, I'm always so grateful to her for. I need to thank her again. Every few years I reach out to her and say, "Thank you so much." So birth class, what were your thoughts on birth class? What was that like for you?

Bryan:

11:07

I [inaudible] Hm.

Lisa:

11:10

While you're thinking about that, I'm going to say it was held in a Soho play gym and -- a really big space, but with no chairs. And so she had these backjack chairs, also known as meditation chairs. They're like these metal frames and you're sitting on the ground with a very thin pillow and I think everybody balked at it at first. But then by the end we were, we all got used to it and it was really quite comfortable. I actually kind of dug it and wanted to own some. Now I do, because I have classes and have those as a seating option for my students.

Bryan:

11:42

I remember being enthusiastic about the class, because we had heard such good things about it, because it came so highly recommended and you were looking forward to it. I was looking forward to doing it together because I wanted to contribute in any way I could. And I wanted you to have confidence in my participation in this whole process. And you know, from the get-go, I remember being impressed by Emily -- by her knowledge, but also by the way in which she presented it. She was very approachable. She was very down-to-earth. She was not so crunchy-granola woo-woo that red flags went off, you know, and it was all so based in data, based in research, based in science, you know. But she had a, an excellent way of presenting the material in a way that was, it was easily understandable. I also enjoyed being with the other couples in the room, you know, all in this strange new, wonderful phase of life and getting this information at the same time and processing it at the same time and dealing with all the same kind of emotions and hopes and fears. And that was my impression. You?

Lisa:

13:00

Yeah. I loved it. I have a vivid memory of thinking. I think I love doing this work that she's doing and yet I hadn't even given birth yet. It was a really strange thing for me because I had never been passionate about birth at all. But I do remember that moment and just enjoying every minute of that fairly long series. Wasn't it like three hours each and eight classes, I think, eight weekly classes.

Bryan:

13:27

That sounds about right.

Lisa:

13:28

So I think it was, it's like a total of 24 hours or so that we spent in that class and we felt really well-equipped. And I always say in my classes, I truly believe that if we had not learned some of the strategies, one specific strategy, but more than that really coping tools, all kinds of things in that birth class that I truly think that that our son would have been born via c-section, which I really had hoped to avoid.

Lisa:

13:53

And we know that, you know, we're glad we have c-section if we need it, but that way too many c-sections are done in our country and so many of them are actually avoidable. And I think Emily's classes -- really in her strategies that she shared with us -- helped us immensely in having the kind of birth that we had hoped for. And that's a huge reason that I got into this birth work is because I want to see more people have that kind of experience and be -- feel equipped and feel confident. Yeah. So, well I guess you want to talk about anything else about our pregnancy before we jump into the birth story?

Bryan:

14:30

I would say just one more thing about the class and the value of it. We learned a a great deal in the class, and by spending time every day or every night going over what we had learned in class and going through particularly the relaxation exercises and visualization -- through all that, we were developing a shorthand with each other, figuring out with each other what works, you know, what, what helps you the most, what kind of communication, what kind of a physical interaction is most conducive to your being relaxed. And we were also getting ourselves in a frame of mind. I mean the class and going over the material and talking through it together outside of class helped put us in a, a positive, calm frame of mind. You know, we had this base knowledge of a basic understanding of what is normal in this process. And so we were prepared to not be panicked.

Lisa:

15:35

Absolutely. And I hope everyone just heard what Bryan said because I did not coach him to say any of that. But that is so valuable and I always encourage students to go home and do, you know, massage techniques, comfort measures, techniques, relaxation exercises together and to have conversations that are going to lay that groundwork, get your mind in a great place to have -- so much of giving birth is a mindset thing -- and to get together, get into a really confident, calm mindset is invaluable. Not to mention, doing those relaxation exercises in the regular massage is just physically relaxing the pregnant person's body so that she can go into labor that much more easily. As you were saying those things, Bryan, it also reminded me of labor support and how we learned about professional labor support called a doula when we were pregnant. And um, the process of hiring one, do you want to talk at all about the benefit for you of hiring a doula?

Bryan:

16:34

Oh, absolutely. And that's something that I don't know that I would have done or necessarily would have even thought of. I guess through our friends we would've heard about using a doula and it was probably something that was more on your radar than mine. But I guess after taking the class we were both really impressed by the value of having good support, extra hands and knowledgeable, knowledgeable hands -- is that a thing? -- on hand. Lots of hand references. And proved to be hugely valuable. We ended up having a doula and your mom there for the birth. So this was two people helping us through this experience who were familiar with the whole process and who were able to provide support to you and to both of us from, you know, everything from helping with food to, you know, your mom ran a couple of errands here and there.

Bryan:

17:39

Our doula helped, you know, leading up to the point where we needed to go to the hospital. She helped us understand when was the right timing for that and when was good timing for that. She was helping keep you calm and relaxed. She was helping me help you, you know, stay calm and relaxed. She, she had her eyes on details that I would have missed. Things like, you know, does she have a favorite candle or something that, can we bring that in here when she's, you know, in the bathtub. Music, do we have music and you know, just little details that she was able to keep track of. And she also, she was able to keep track of how you were doing and how I was doing. She actually at one point had me, before we went to the hospital, she had me go take a nap. I --did you know this?

Lisa:

18:26

I forgot that or didn't know. I'm not sure. Yeah.

Bryan:

18:29

Well while you were in the bathtub laboring and I was puttering around trying to figure out what to do at one point, you know, when you were in a good, relatively good place, and had what you needed in order to be able to, to be laboring in the bathtub. She pulled me aside and said, "This is a good time for you to get some rest. I will get you up when I need to get you up, but get rest now because, you know, you'll need your energy later." And so I, I don't remember how long it was, not, not very long, but I was able to just close my eyes for a little bit and she came and got me when it was time to move on to the next thing and make sure that we were ready to get to the hospital. So all of that was hugely helpful and I would absolutely recommend, you know, having knowledgeable, calm support on hand. If it's a family member, that's great, but not all family members are prepared to be helpful in that situation. Your mom was wonderful in that she just wanted to be helpful and she was fine with kind of hanging back when she needed to hang back, hang back.

Lisa:

19:37

And she trusts birth, she trusted the process. She has great confidence in the woman's ability to do it, which was huge.

Bryan:

19:44

Right? So she wasn't bringing or her anxiety about birth into the situation.

Lisa:

19:51

Which I admire so much because, as a mom, having a daughter, I just hope that I'll be that calm. But I can see how that could be really tough as a parent to see your child going through, you know, some intensity, some really strong intensity. All right, so moving on into the birth story. We talked for quite awhile before actually getting to the birth story.

Bryan:

20:14

We haven't talked about this in a while.

Lisa:

20:16

Yeah, we have a lot to talk about. Got to catch up. So, let's see. My mom had arrived a few days before we went into labor and she had a return ticket. She was going to stay for about a month, but she had a garden to get back to. So she wasn't gonna extend her stay. And so after a few days I started to get a little antsy because I felt like, aaah, I really want to maximize the help with Grandma there.

Lisa:

20:43

So the day before we went into labor was Mother's Day. How fitting. And my mom and I went into Manhattan and we went to church at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on the upper east side at Hunter College. And I think you must have been -- were you working? I think you might've been working. I went to work that afternoon. Okay. Yeah, because I do remember you weren't with us. And so then we went and walked through Central Park and saw all the beautiful spring flowers, because this was May, and saw daffodils and tulips and it was really beautiful. And then we took the train down to the Chelsea/Flatiron district and went to some flea markets and we just really painted the town red, so to speak. That day I walked a lot and that was very intentional because I was like, "Let's get this party started." And we, by the time we got back to our home in Forest Hills where we lived at the time, by that afternoon or evening I kinda tried to tally up how many blocks we must have walked in.

Lisa:

21:42

It was like at least 50-ish blocks. Here I am, like full-term pregnant and -- at this point I am about 39 weeks I believe. And the next morning I wake up -- and we were not early risers because we were working late nights. When we worked at the investment bank, we used to work until about 2:00 AM. And so I woke up at 10:30 and you still didn't wake up till about noon that day? I didn't want to wake you up, but I did wake up with some contractions and I thought maybe this is it, maybe I'm in labor. Do you remember anything about when you woke up?

Bryan:

22:18

I don't. Was It really noon?

Lisa:

22:21

I wouldn't have remembered that, but I was reading the birth story and I -- details -- and I think that it said you got up around noon. I'm looking back at it right now. I know I didn't get up till 10:30 and you still weren't up.

Bryan:

22:33

Well, let's, let's say that I had worked extra late because I was trying to put funds away for the baby, and not that I was just lazy and or ignoring all the cues from my very pregnant wife who might need my assistance.

Lisa:

22:51

As I was reading the birth story, I was like, people are gonna think we're such lumps sleeping in till 10:30 and later. So I thought I needed to give a little explanation there as to why we tended, that was just our regular routine, not getting to bed until three, sometimes four or five in the morning.

Bryan:

23:10

We would regularly work until 2:00 AM.

Lisa:

23:13

Minimum. Yeah. So anyway, so what did we do once you woke up? We eventually took a walk to Stop and Shop, which was just a few blocks from our house. And I have these just moments in my memory of like stopping on our streets. So there were just -- given, it was so close -- there was just our street and then we turned right and it was just a couple blocks down that way. But I remember stopping during contractions and like hanging on you and just kind of like in slow dance kind of position. And I remember specifically being on Union Turnpike with all these cars going really fast by us and just thinking, I wonder what people are thinking as I'm just hanging on my husband standing here on a sidewalk. And then also thinking, "Who cares?"

Bryan:

24:05

Yeah. So yeah, some people, if they even paused to notice us, probably thought, "That jerk is making his wife walk to the store. She is very pregnant. Give her a break!"

Lisa:

24:19

We should have a sign that said "Early Labor Strategy," as if anybody would even get what that meant. What we were trying to do was ignore things as long as possible, facilitate progress by staying active. Right. We were planning for me to go home after that and maybe take a bath -- bubble bath -- you had actually suggested that because I think we learned that in class, so then we eventually got back home and I took a bath.

Bryan:

24:48

Now, on the way home...

Lisa:

24:49

I don't remember a whole lot, honestly, about this time...

Bryan:

24:51

Was it on the walk home -- was that when we bumped into Marilyn, our neighbor who was a retired nurse?

Lisa:

25:02

Or maybe on the way there. One of those. Yeah,

Bryan:

25:05

She was out walking with her granddaughter and she kind of looked you over and saw how you were doing and she said something about "Within the next...

Lisa:

25:14

Next 48 hours, which I thought, I love that in retrospect, even though I don't remember how I felt about her saying that at the time, because that sounds like an awfully long time, but I appreciate that she said that in retrospect because these things can take a long time when it's the first time, 18 hours on average and, yeah, for, for some people it does take a couple of days. So thankfully it didn't take that long. It did take over, you know, twentyish hours but not 48 thankfully.

Bryan:

25:48

So we made it back home. And you got in the bath and at what point did we call the doula?

Lisa:

25:55

It was I think early afternoon maybe. I cunno, you can read our birth story to check the time. It's okay. We don't have to say the time, but we did check in with her at some point and she I think recommended that I take a bath and drink some fluids. She said drink like 16 ounces. I went overboard and did like 40. She said those are two good tests to see if you're actually in labor and or to slow things down to get more rest, too. Although I had gotten a really good night's sleep, thankfully as, as good as you can get at that point in, in your pregnancy. It gets harder to sleep at the end of the pregnancy because the baby's so big, you know, getting big and it's just getting more awkward. But, but I did get a good night's sleep so I was really grateful for that.

Lisa:

26:37

Although I think I did try to go back to sleep and just take a nap after the bath just to really try to square ourselves away for a healthy labor. Because, you know, we had learned in class that once things get to a certain point of intensity, there ain't no sleepin' anymore. So yeah. So then one of the first -- besides the walk to Stop and Shop, one of the only things that really sticks in my mind is then in the afternoon things getting stronger and my getting on the exercise ball. I assume that was something that Emily had recommended.

Bryan:

27:12

That sounds like something she would recommend.

Lisa:

27:13

Right. I think she even sat in on one in class as she taught. Maybe. Maybe. I can't remember.

Bryan:

27:19

Why else would we have had one around the house?

Lisa:

27:21

No, we wouldn't have. I remember shopping for one cause I remember looking at my height and like buying one according to my height, and specifically when we were pregnant.

Lisa:

27:30

So yeah. So I remember rocking back and forth on the ball and remember that feeling really good, and banging on on something that -- my birth story says on my leg. Even though I've been teaching that I bang on the armrest and I, I'm thinking maybe I did both, who knows? But that rhythm really felt great, which is instinctive for a lot of women in labor, I've learned since then. And then just keeping going back to that every contraction was really helpful, as -- along with some kind of vocalizations and, oh, I always call that my caveman voice. Cave woman voice.

Bryan:

28:05

Cave person.

Lisa:

28:08

Yeah. And do you remember anything surrounding that? Like were you massaging me during those or -- I don't know.

Bryan:

28:16

Yeah, I think I was trying to give you a little back rub here and there as you seemed receptive to it. But mainly just kind of hovering nearby to see what was working for you or to be ready if, if you needed me to get something to eat or something to drink or turn on some music or turn down the lights or just kind of being nearby but not in your way. And, and I was trying, I recall, I think -- trying to time things and -- something about the way my brain works, I find the timing of contractions very confusing.

Lisa:

29:01

Well as do 99% of people in labor because almost no one's are totally textbook.

Bryan:

29:08

Right. And yours were irregular even at that point, right?

Lisa:

29:11

Yes. It was a really close spacing. Three minutes from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next, yet the length of them was 30 to 45 seconds. So that's really confusing because three minute frequency seems like active labor, but 30 to 45 seconds seems like early labor. So that's why -- I mean early labor can be really erratic that way. And in retrospect, I wish I'd realized that an erratic frequency can often be indicative of a posterior baby, which is head-down, but with the back against the mom's back. And we just didn't know that for many, many hours later. Even though I had determined that I thought that baby was in that position and I had even told our doctor, but she just was kind of like, "Oh, don't worry about it. He'll, he'll rotate, babies rotate. Even in labor, they can rotate out of that position."

Lisa:

30:04

But he didn't. And I had learned from birth class about this great website called Spinning Babies -- which I now promote in my classes -- it's all about optimal fetal positioning. And there are some really wonderful resources. I highly recommend that you check it out if you're an expectant parent listening to this. But I had hopped onto that website and had tried some proactive things to get him to rotate, I guess none of which had worked so well, but we didn't discover until close to the end of the labor after many, many hours of back labor, feeling a lot of pressure in my back, which is also a symptom of a posterior baby. But yeah, that frequency would have been an early sign that baby might be in a position that's not quite optimal and quite going to lead to an efficient, easier labor, shorter labor. Yeah. So we, at some point we got on the phone with, this was maybe later in the evening you got on the phone with Ellen, our doula and -- a shout-out to Ellen -- and she heard me vocalizing kind of high. Right. Do you remember that?

Bryan:

31:11

I held the phone up to you while you were going through a contraction. Maybe. I don't know -- I don't know if it was just one, but so that she could hear how you were working through it. And she encouraged me to remind you to try to keep it lower vocally and try to keep it a little more grounded and not go into that higher, tenser place. So I tried to, I think maybe a couple of the ways that we had learned in class to help with that were modeling where I, I actually make a lower sound, so that you can hear that, but also something like touching your feet or your, does that sound [inaudible]?

Lisa:

31:56

Yeah, yeah. I did not remember this at all. I teach about that in class, that holding a woman's feet or touching them can really just be very grounding, but, huh. Interesting. I didn't remember that. That was a thing that was done for me in my labor. So are you saying you did that or are you saying that's just one of the options that you learned in class?

Bryan:

32:17

Let's say that I did that because I had learned it in class.

Lisa:

32:21

There you go. Good student. So, yeah and I -- in labor we often just don't have the bandwidth to have that awareness that, like, making a high tone is draining you of energy and is really tense. And there's a real direct correlation between the, the level of tension or relaxation in your throat and that of the pelvic floor and the pelvic floor muscles, the muscles inside the pelvis, need to relax and let the baby down and out.

Lisa:

32:50

So we need to -- and that, that may sound really like an odd concept if you've never heard of it before, but it's a very true one that we know biologically to be true. And so making that high pitched sound was counterproductive in more than one way. So I was really grateful that -- just to have our doula on the phone with that awareness and that expertise to, to help you, to coach me into a more relaxed, productive way of vocalizing. So then things were intensifying over time. Right. And eventually, do you remember anything before Ellen joined us?

Bryan:

33:26

Well, something that you mentioned in the birth story, in writing it out, was that I appeared to be calm from the moment you told me that you thought things were progressing and this was it. And, there was probably some acting going on there, but to come back to, you know, the value of the class, whatever sense of calm and readiness I had was largely a result of all the preparation we had done. Not only sitting in the class, but going through that material together and talking through what, what we thought was gonna work and what, you know, what might not and what was going to be best for you. And just thinking through the day together and, and having an understanding between each other about what the normal birthing process was going to look like. That had us in a -- us both in a calm, positive, prepared mindset. So that even when you hear those words, even when you said those words and when I heard those words, "I think this is it," you know, we, we together were able to keep each other calm, take it one step at a time, not get ahead of ourselves. All that to say we were both in a place mentally where we could help each other, stay in the moment, not get ahead of ourselves, not panic, be excited, but be as relaxed as possible. And looking forward to what was coming next.

Lisa:

34:59

Oh, something just popped into my head about early labor. In class, we had, I think we had an assignment to come up with our early labor activities, much like I do with my students. And one of the things that, I don't know, it really stuck in my mind that we didn't use, but that we had at the ready was a bunch of episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond. I just remember that and I kind of wish I had been in the mood to watch some comedy and to laugh, because that was one of my goals in labor was to laugh, which I did some. But you prepare and then you only use the things that are useful when the big day comes.

Bryan:

35:35

Yeah, I do think it's important. I think part of the value of preparation, you know, the more you know about what to expect, the more you know about what the normal process looks like, the more prepared you are to roll with the punches a little bit and not be too thrown when your plan isn't going the way you thought it would. You can't, you know, you're not getting to everything on your list. Well that's okay. Let's just deal with where we are. And I think that helped us.

Lisa:

36:05

Yup. That's very good advice. Thank you dear. All right, so moving on to doula Ellen arriving. I was, was I in the bathtub when she arrived? [inaudible]

Bryan:

36:19

Yes, I believe so. Yeah. You really liked the bathtub.

Lisa:

36:23

I did. Even though it was this old, old tiny bathtub, it still was, we call it the nature's epidural of being in a bathtub of water. Because it is so powerfully helpful. Yeah. And that's when the candle came up. Right when she came over she, she said, let's get a candle out. And I love my Bartlett Pear, best smelling ever candle. I fell in love with pears at the Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, way up town in Manhattan.

Bryan:

36:52

Had you never seen pears before? Only in a can?

Lisa:

37:00

It wasn't the seeing of them, though, my dear. It was the smelling of them. They were perfectly ripe, I guess, in this garden at the Cloisters. And so that somehow just really stuck with me and I loved when I found a candle that smelled like that memory. So that was very therapeutic in labor for me. I think [inaudible]

Bryan:

37:19

Had you had that on hand just for that purpose or had you had the candle anyway?

Lisa:

37:24

No, I had found them on sale and I had stocked up on a bunch of them just because, because I loved it, but it was, it was really nice for labor. Yeah. And then at some point Mom went and got pepperoni pizza. We sent her on an errand to go get pepperoni pizza. That's not on the recommended foods list for labor, but it was perfect.

Bryan:

37:45

It was good. And it was close. It was just on the block. Yeah. Mazarro's?

Lisa:

37:49

Yeah. So, eatin' pizza in a bathtub. There's a new one. But it helped. One thing I do remember feeling in the bathtub was a lot of that back labor and I wish that I had been more vocal in expressing that. I might have benefited from more massage from, you know, Ellen or from you, but that's my fault. I didn't speak up and there's no way that you guys could have known that had I, if I didn't say anything

Bryan:

38:18

And whatever you were trying to say was a little muffled by the pizza.

Lisa:

38:22

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yummy pizza. So, during that time you took a nap.

Bryan:

38:32

Yes. At some point in there, I guess because it was clear to Ellen that we had a window within which I could get some rest before it was going to be really time to head to the hospital. She was able to determine that when she arrived.

Lisa:

38:51

That's awesome. That's so golden. Yeah. Partners need a nap. We don't know how long we're going to be doing this, so I'm so glad that she had you do that. Oh, we didn't mention that I had created a six-hour or so labor mix, I also had a pushing playlist, which we didn't use, but we did use the labor mix. So that was playing in the background.

Bryan:

39:11

Your pushing playlist, that was more uptempo, like rock?

Lisa:

39:16

I don't know. Eye of the Tiger, or like, I don't -- yeah, pump you up. Really upbeat kind of stuff. Gym kind of music, right. Yeah.

Bryan:

39:28

Victorious gym music.

Lisa:

39:28

I thought you said Victoria's like Victoria's secret.

Lisa:

39:33

No. Victorian. Victorian music.

Lisa:

39:33

And what's so interesting about that is I really thought that music would be very important and maybe it was in my subconscious, maybe it was, but I have no recollection of actually hearing that music. That always surprises me so much because I thought it would be really important.

Bryan:

39:52

I think it probably was at a subconscious level.

Lisa:

39:56

I'm sure you're right.

Bryan:

39:57

It was important to your body even if you weren't expressing it verbally.

Lisa:

40:06

Do you remember how we decided to head to the hospital? I mean I think it was partially that Ellen kind of said, "I think it's probably a good time" at some point, plus like interfacing with Dr Rhee our OB over the phone some,

Bryan:

40:22

Yeah, I know that we had, we had touched base with Dr. Rhee on the phone. She wanted to be sure that we understood that if we came in and you weren't at a certain point in your dilation that we would need to be prepared either to go home or to stay nearby in the neighborhood of the hospital, but we were really relying on Ellen I think to a large part to give us a sense of when to head in.

Lisa:

40:52

And that was a big reason that we wanted to hire a doula. One of many reasons was that I felt like we wouldn't labor at home as long as we needed to because at this particular birthing center, I had to be five or six centimeters dilated before they would even let me in because they only had like three birthing rooms in the birthing center, so very limited capacity. And so you had to be pretty well advanced, you had to be in active labor to be admitted, and I just was so concerned that I was like, how are we going to know? We've never done this before! And having a doula, a doula is much more likely to have some sense of when it's actually time to go, when it's, when we've labored at home long enough. So I thought that was a really invaluable team member to have for that among other reasons. So the hospital transfer, I remember wearing my seatbelt, which I always tell students, if you're comfortable not wearing a seatbelt, don't be a law-abiding citizen because that's the most uncomfortable way to to sit. And I was holding my bum up off of the seat the whole time because it was so uncomfortable. All those little or big potholes and speed bumps felt excruciating when the baby's head is sitting on the cervix and you're having all these contractions. So I was sitting in the back and mom was driving. Right.

Bryan:

42:14

She was driving. Now is that something that you recommend having -- if the plan is to get to the hospital by car, do you have a recommendation as to, you know, having a friend or a loved one be the driver if possible as opposed to a cab or an Uber?

Lisa:

42:34

I think it's a really personal decision and not everybody's going to have a family or a friend to do that driving. It's probably something I probably should bring up to really think about that. Are you going to be in a state of mind, partners, to be driving? Because I remember that you said I really would rather someone else drive. Right? Didn't you? You weren't comfortable. You really didn't want to have to be driving.

Bryan:

42:57

Right. And, and I, you know, I can't remember exactly my, my thought process at the time, but I'm pretty sure that I was fine with having your mom drive because, not only because I was confident that she could get us there, but also that I was confident that she as the driver wasn't going to be freaking out about having a birthing woman in her car. Right. So I wanted to be able to focus on you and not have to focus on the driving, but also didn't want to have to worry about the driver. So I think that helped make that decision for us.

Lisa:

43:35

I do always say if somebody is getting a cab as, as is really common among my students here in New York City too, for the partner to go out and prep the driver before the laboring woman ever gets out there, just go out there, tell them the situation, tell them there's no rush. Especially if it's the first time around, there's no rush. Please take your time. Don't be heavy on the brake. Don't be too nervous. It's all good. We are calm. Just because the fewer logistics the laboring woman can be around the better for her home hormonally and for her labor progress and for her stress levels. So that's often a preferred alternative for a lot of New Yorkers anyway.

Bryan:

44:13

Meaning that having that conversation outside of the woman's hearing is going to protect her from some stress.

Lisa:

44:23

Yes, exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So that is something that I recommend. So mom drove and you navigated, right, with me doing a little backseat driving.

Bryan:

44:35

Yeah. I guess what would that have been that you ...

Lisa:

44:38

We were approaching an exit at one point I think, and I was like "Stay right, stay right!" Whichever way it was, I was afraid she was about to not go the right way and I really wanted to get there. I do remember that. I also remember vocalizing some and singing. We're people of faith and I found myself singing some worship songs in the car and that was really, really, really helpful. And just kind of gazing out the window, probably, in between. I was probably singing in between the contractions. I'm guessing not during, but I honestly don't remember which it was. And did Ellen drive behind us or was she in the car?

Lisa:

45:16

I cannot remember.

Bryan:

45:17

She was in the car. I'm pretty sure she was in the backseat with you. And then once we got to the hospital, you and your mom and I went on in and then Ellen parked the car.

Lisa:

45:29

Ah Yay. That's so great to have somebody to do those logistics for you. That is something I always bring up in classes. Make sure you know, is there valet parking? If you're taking your own car, you need to know that those logistical pieces just so that she's not left alone with the luggage to get up to triage. Yeah. So we got to the hospital and when we got to triage, I remember that there was a little concern. Dr. Rhee wasn't seeing a lot of movement on the part of the baby. He was probably just sleeping, because most babies are sleeping most of the time.

Lisa:

46:04

So another great doula trick, a use of having a doula's expertise there, was she had me drink some Gatorade, to, to wake -- something sweet will help wake the baby up and help you get through triage faster. Also, during that time I remember that I threw up, which made me kind of hope I was in transition, which is that last part of progress that you have to go through before you start pushing the baby out. I thought, I was hoping we were a little further in the process than we were, although I was really encouraged when we were told that "You're seven centimeters dilated," which meant Yay, we can get into the birthing center. We don't have to go home or go walk in the dark in the middle of the night because this was after midnight when we got there. Right.

Bryan:

46:49

And we didn't have to get a hotel room. That was a good bit of news.

Lisa:

46:55

And so we eventually got admitted into the room when she saw enough movement on the part of the baby and got into the birthing center, got a picture with Dr. Rhee in my frumpy hospital gown, which did not stay on much longer. So it was good we got the picture when we did, to have a decent photo. And then what? I got in the tub. The tub was my favorite laboring place in my first labor. There was a bigger whirlpool tub in the birthing center, which was so nice. And you guys kept feeding me and helping me stay hydrated and fueled, I think.

Bryan:

47:30

Do you remember -- I want to say we had some dried fruit, like dried pineapple?

Lisa:

47:35

Oh, yeah. I ate a lot of dried pineapple and then the pepperoni pizza, those are the two things I remember eating a lot of in labor.

Bryan:

47:42

We didn't take the pizza into the hospital. In the birthing center, all we had was the dried fruit and...

Lisa:

47:50

They let you eat in the birthing center. So we could have eaten whatever we wanted to. But I honestly don't remember anything but the dried pineapple. Yeah, yeah.

Bryan:

47:59

That and, and we kept giving you water regularly

Lisa:

48:05

And when we got admitted into the room, you and Ellen did a really great job of setting the scenery, like setting everything up in a way that was conducive to laboring well. Right. I remember a really obnoxious smell of bleach when we got into the room and that she pulled out her lavender oil, I have no idea what she did with it because I was so inward at that point. But whatever she did got rid of that or masked that bleach smell and I was so grateful. And then, I don't know what all you were doing environmentally then. I know you had your different tasks.

Bryan:

48:34

Right. So I got the music going. I either switched out a light bulb or plugged in a light that we had brought of some kind to change the lighting as well. And I was like, I don't remember, I don't remember exactly what that was either, but we did something to try to minimize the fluorescent light that you hate.

Lisa:

48:57

Okay. So then things got more and more intense over the next few hours. And Dr. Rhee came in and did an exam and said she seemed to think that things were stalling and that was not what we wanted to hear. And I was feeling like I was at the end of my energy and just really getting to the end of myself. And in those moments she said, "I recommend transferring out of the birthing center upstairs for pitocin to help things along, and for epidural," because she perceived that I was kind of suffering in my pain and she thought I shouldn't have to deal with the pain anymore.

Bryan:

49:39

So about what time was this? Where, where were you in terms of having arrived at the hospital after midnight? Shortly after midnight.

Lisa:

49:48

Yeah, so this was around 4:00 AM and so I'd been having really hard labor for a number of hours. Even like before we got to the hospital, it was quite hard labor for a number of hours. So this was from, you know, 10:30 AM I had woken up in labor to 4:00 AM -- less than 24 hours. But I was really getting to the end of myself.

Lisa:

50:11

So what did we do when she gave that recommendation? My mom said, my mom was like, "Why are you recommending the epidural? She can do it." I forget how she said it, but that was kind of the sentiment and, and Dr. Rhee was like, "Well because she's in pain." And she just thought it was the humane thing to do. And at that point, to be quite honest, I was really thinking maybe I'm gonna need that. So we remembered -- either we remembered strategies we learned in class to ask about our options - "What are the alternatives?" Or Ellen suggested asking about alternatives. Do you remember? I don't remember which it was, but either way we asked or you asked, "Is another alternative to artificially rupture the membranes?" Because my water -- bag of waters -- hadn't released yet, hadn't broken. And so she said yes. I guess it wasn't her first go-to or else she would have recommended that. But she actually started to almost do it. But then you said, "Wait, wait, wait, can we have a minute of privacy?" And that is the strategy that we learned in birth class. That was a game changer. To ask everybody to leave the room. To not think that just because if and when your care provider is recommending some kind of intervention or action that it's an emergency, even though we often hear it in a very urgent tone. It's not an emergency because if it was they would just do it.

Lisa:

51:37

You can ask if it, you know, if you're concerned, if it sounds like it's urgent, ask, "Is this an emergency?" But we knew in this situation it wasn't urgent and Bryan smartly asked for some privacy. So everybody left the room -- our OB, my mom, our doula, and we just had a little space and privacy and time to process this and try to make a decision that we would feel hopefully good about on the other side of birth. I remember kneeling outside the whirlpool tub, I was done with the whole water thing at this point. Wasn't helping anymore. And, and you were kneeling next to me, I think. Right? And we were just kneeling there. And I think we even, we prayed and we talked and I was really struggling with this choice and you were everything I needed you to be. You were really supportive. I'm sure that was -- I would think that was hard to know how to best support me in that time to be like, "Oh honey, I think an epidural is okay." You know, like, I don't know you were you, but you were, the words you said were exactly what I needed to hear. They were just very supportive of whatever I thought I needed to do.

Bryan:

52:45

I was really glad that the suggestion had been made to us in our class that in a moment where you have to make a tough decision and it's clearly not an emergency, ask everybody to leave so that you can talk through this together, think this through together, have a moment together because having even just one other person in the room, even if it's a person who's very supportive and loves you, it adds a different dynamic to that moment of making this decision, and I think it was helpful for both of us, but particularly for you to have the freedom to express what you needed to express, and I was the only other person who was going to hear what you were expressing. You didn't have to prove anything to anybody. It was really just about the two of us trying to come to what we felt was going to be the best decision in the moment for our child and for you without outside pressure

Lisa:

53:48

So then we had that processing time and at some point I started to stand up. I don't even remember if we had made a choice at that point. I don't know that we had, I was still struggling I guess, and I just, maybe I was uncomfortable and just started to stand up. I honestly don't remember the specifics of that moment except for this huge thing that happened then, and that was that my bag of waters released, broke. I like saying released because nothing's broken but, but broken is the known term. So yeah, I had a gush of fluid, a little pop and a gush of fluid and -- Oh my goodness. It's amazing that that is the moment in which I got how so much of this giving birth process is mindset and mind-body related. Because the second that that visible sign of progress happened, suddenly I didn't need anything. I didn't need the epidural. I had a total --the biggest second wind that I've ever -- of energy -- that I've ever gotten in my life. I was like, oh, I don't need your epidural. I don't need the pitosin. Progress! Yes! Right, Honey? You remember that moment? It was amazing and -- yes, you want to say anything on that?

Bryan:

55:08

Yeah. When everybody came back into the room, I think there was some suspicion that we had done something to rupture the bag. Right?

Lisa:

55:22

My mom thought that our doula was in there with us and that she had done something. I had totally forgotten that until I read the birth story notes. But then like Dr. Rhee thought that we had like done something. We're like, no, we promise it was just this like miracle that happened. Because it's just the irony of like the fact that the very thing that you brought up, like, "Can we do this?" We didn't mean can WE do this. We meant, if needed, can our doctor do this? No way would we try that. But it just happened. So that was not the only benefit that privacy, that space that time but also simultaneously out in the hall, our doctor had some processing time and she started to put some puzzle pieces together, and she had kind of a light bulb moment and started to realize, "I think I know why her labor is stalling. I think I know why it's not progressing in the way that we normally see. I think it's because her baby's in posterior position." So she came back in the room with a whole strategy to get me on the bed in this most awkward of positions, but very effective of positions that I now use in my doula work. It's called the knee-chest position. And you can find out about it and see all about it on the SpinningBabies.com website that I will link you to in the show notes. And so it's with your face and your shoulders on the -- in this case it was on a pillow in the bed and having your butt sticking up in the air -- as the highest part of your body -- kneeling, and it was so awkward and you usually have to be in that position for about 40 minutes for it to be effective at rotating the baby into a better position.

Lisa:

57:04

But it worked. It totally worked. And I, while I was in that position, I was starting to get the urge to push, but Dr. Rhee had said, "You're not quite fully dilated, you're not quite fully effaced. We need some more progress to happen in that regard before it's safe for you to push. Before too long, like from, you know, I said 4:00 AM was when I hit that wall and that then progress happened. And then, I mean, he was born by 6:30, so within two and a half hours he was born after that, and without any interventions whatsoever. Oh, one thing I did want to mention is that when I was in that knee, chest position, the thing that a lot of us are fearful about happening pooping in front of everybody totally happened and it was really no big deal. In hindsight it was no big deal. But in that knee chest position, that's the most awkward of places to poop in front of everyone because your butt is like, "Hello, here I am!"

Bryan:

58:05

Were you conscious of it?

Lisa:

58:07

I think so, but it was like little rabbit pellets because most of us are so constipated at that point in pregnancy that it's like that's all it is, and the baby's head is right on the rectum. So there's hardly any room for anything to come out. So yeah.

Bryan:

58:20

And the nurses are right there and they just, they take care of everything. It's not a big deal. They deal with this all the time. Yeah. There's no, no shame. Nothing to be embarrassed about. It's just part of it.

Lisa:

58:32

And your partner is not usually down there. I usually talk about where you want your partner to be -- I mean when you're pushing -- but usually it's up by your head where you want them to be and, and so that, that makes it all better, too.

Bryan:

58:45

I recommend for the partner, particularly if you're somebody who has an aversion to blood like I do, and if you have any concern about getting lightheaded when stuff starts to get real in the birth, then it's a good idea to be up by the woman's head and face so that you can be saying encouraging things and reminding her of your presence and reminding her that, you know, we're almost there and the baby's almost here and you're doing great. Meanwhile, you are focusing on something other than the bodily fluids might cause you to pass out.

Lisa:

59:22

Yes, very good word. So as pushing started, once we got the sign off, once she said, yes, you're 10 centimeters, you're fully effaced, you can start pushing whenever you're ready. There was some talk about what positions I could be in. Eventually I instinctively found myself on the toilet and that is a magical place to be, my friends, for a laboring woman, because you're in a supported squat, and when you have a baby's head pushing on your pelvic floor, especially at their, their lowest station, which is in pushing, it just feels really kind of awesome to have no pressure pushing upward. And the kind of muscular coordination that's required for pushing is exactly what you're having to do to effectively push this baby out. So your body really associates -- muscle memory connects muscle memory with geography, location. And I found that that's just where I effectively pushed in both my first and my second labors.

Lisa:

60:19

You will hear more about that second one later, but at some point in pushing on the toilet, my OB came to me and she's like, "Lisa, you're not -- I'm not going to catch this baby on the toilet. Get on the bed. I've been doing this 20 years. Get on the bed on your back," and you know that is the most preferred among OBs in a hospital setting, the most preferred position. And yet most women do not like being on their back in the bed, even if it's not flat. You know, usually it's a semi-reclined position, a little bit inclined. But the second I got on the bed because I just didn't have the fight in me to say no to it, the second I got on the bed, I just lost that muscle memory. My body was just like disoriented and like, how do I do this?

Lisa:

61:02

I don't poop in the bed, at least not in my adult life. So, uh, it was, it was a really bizarre thing, but I just wanted to meet the baby and she was being pretty opinionated about that and you know, saying, "I know what I'm doing, trust me." So I did and, and you know, he was born not too much later. I think I pushed maybe 45 minutes or so before the baby was born and that went pretty easily. There was a lot of coaching happening because I felt disoriented. It kind of -- I felt like it removed some of that instinctive nature out of it. I think I was feeling that urge to push. How do I not remember that? I know I felt the urge to push the second time around. Yeah, I was having the urge to push. I'm just not remembering if I felt the urge to push as much when I was on my back in the bed, but she was doing that long count of 10, hold your breath, bear down, all of that, that's so traditional in our hospitals. Part of me wishes that I had had the strength in me to advocate for me to be in some other position because I do feel like it could have felt a little more instinctive and easier had I advocated for that. But I just, you know, you have to pick your battles and those moments of what really, really matters to you. And I just wanted to meet the baby at that point. So when the baby was born, baby came to my chest. Right? And you cut the cord a few minutes later. We started, got breastfeeding off to a good start, started the skin-to-skin and our doula was really helpful in helping support getting breastfeeding going. What else do you remember about right after the birth? I remember feeling really emotional.

Bryan:

62:42

Oh yeah. It's overwhelming and it's, of course, it's a beautiful moment. You feel such -- you're in awe of this new life. You're in awe. I was in awe of my wife and what you had done and I just, your strength and your perseverance and, and the promise of this new life, the, the adventure that awaits you together. So many enormous thoughts packed into, into your mind in this, in these very few moments. You know, the first moments that you, you see this person, this person that you've been talking to and been feeling,

Lisa:

63:32

We called him Little Fella didn't we?

Bryan:

63:37

Little Fella. It was, it was amazing. And you know, time seems to slow down for a moment and then it picks right back up because there still a lot of activity going on. People milling around the room and, and, and taking care of whatever they're taking care of. And then after cutting the cord, I remember it was all good. I was all fine. I, I, you know, you were being looked after and you had Grayson on you. And so I took a moment to kind of step away from the bed and step away from the activity around the bed. And then I made the mistake of looking at the placenta.

Lisa:

64:17

Oh.

Bryan:

64:19

When the placenta was delivered and they were carting it off. I shouldn't have looked at that. That was the only moment where I had to take a seat and gather myself. Yeah. It was a little too much blood, for me to be comfortable. And then we were ready to eat. Everybody.

Lisa:

64:42

Yeah. I wanted a big breakfast. Somebody had told us like get the takeout menus or something, be prepared to order a big breakfast, hearty breakfast. Because you're gonna want that after you give birth. And I, oh, that was awesome. That was such good advice that we got.

Bryan:

64:57

We got a pretty good spread. I don't remember where we got it from or how it got there. Did we have it delivered?

Lisa:

65:06

I think so, yeah.

Bryan:

65:08

But a nice big breakfast with eggs and French toast and fruit. Orange juice.

Lisa:

65:15

Which sounded really good for some reason. Yeah, that was nice. And then we were, because we were in a birthing center, they have early discharge. You're not there as long. So we actually left about 13 hours later after his birth. We left like in the seven o'clock hour that evening I believe. And in this birthing center it's so nice because there's a big double bed -- or maybe it was a queen size, I don't know. But it's not a hospital bed. It's not a twin size bed. So we were able to just conk out a couple of hours after birth when the baby fell asleep. Then we all three just were in bed together, you know, sleeping and recuperating. And that was so special. I'm so grateful that we had a birth environment that was conducive to that. We had looked forward to it and we were really thankful we were able to use the birthing center.

Lisa:

65:59

That being one of several reasons. We just were feeding baby and getting to know the baby that day. And pediatrician came around and did a little hearing test and a few other things before they sent us home. And then I remember as we were leaving the hospital, it just struck me as so strange that they make you be wheeled out in a wheelchair. But that's a hospital policy thing that most hospitals are gonna make you go out in a wheelchair even if you don't want to, even if you just want to walk, if you feel fine and want to walk, they just do that. And do you remember, I remember being wheeled out to the curb to our car and looking back and just being like -- that daunting, overwhelming -- like, oh my gosh, we're responsible for this little human being.

Bryan:

66:46

Yeah, you're letting us go out into the world with this new person?

Lisa:

66:49

Are you sure you want to do that? Because I don't know if we're capable of this.

Bryan:

66:54

It's like, it's like NASA has dropped you off on Mars with the most expensive piece of equipment ever developed, and no instruction book. And as they're lifting off and -- you know -- flying away, leaving you there, somebody just waves and says, "You'll be fine!"

Lisa:

67:13

Yeah. So just know that in those moments, you are not alone. Every parent who's ever given birth before you has had that bizarre feeling, really daunting feeling. I was like, "What?" But you can do it. You are your baby's best detective. You're your baby's best advocate. You have instincts that are gonna kick in and you won't always know what you're doing, but none of us does. And you figure it out. Right?

Bryan:

67:43

That's right.

Lisa:

67:44

So do you have any other thoughts you want to share before we sign off?

Bryan:

67:48

I remember something that my dad said to me when you and I were talking and thinking and praying about when to start a family and when to start trying to have a kid. And my dad said, "If you wait until you're ready to have a kid, you'll never have a kid." And so in a way you're never ready. And when your child arrives, you're as ready as you need to be in that moment. As you were leaving the hospital, were you thinking back over the birth or were you not looking back at all and just thinking about what was ahead? Do you remember?

Lisa:

68:32

Wow, I have no idea. But what I can say is that women remember their experience of giving birth more than almost anything else in their lives. So that we're, we'll always be processing that, even though I don't remember that specific moment, what I was thinking about, we will always be processing those experiences of giving birth. In fact, I heard a story one time about a woman who had Alzheimer's and the only thing that she seemed to remember was her birth stories -- or story, I don't know if it was one or more. And I just thought, wow, that's remarkable that it's such a huge life event that I think it's just so important that we protect that, and think intentionally as we are expectant parents about how to protect that, how to create -- as much as we can -- a life experience that is going to be exciting to remember and encouraging to remember.

Lisa:

69:40

And I'm really grateful that I was able to have two birth experiences that I really am so fond of remembering. And that really set us off on a, a really encouraging road and an empowering road where we felt like if we could do that and that went so well, we just, we can do anything. We can do this parenting thing. That really gives you that confidence, like not much else will. Yeah. But at the same time to know that if things don't go, you know, according to plan, that it still can be a positive experience. It doesn't have to be a negative or, you know, worse yet a traumatic one. So that's my 2 cents on on that. Do you remember what you were thinking on the way home?

Bryan:

70:22

Not at all. Just hoping that we got the car seat in correctly.

Lisa:

70:28

Probably. You kind of have to just be in the moment. Once you become a parent, it's like every moment's different. Everything's changing all the time. So just being in that moment -- present there -- is going to be a really important strategy. Right?

Bryan:

70:44

And there's a sense that this is so much bigger than I am, and that is a beautiful teachable moment.

Lisa:

70:53

All right, well I think we'll end it there. Thank you. Mr. Bryan Taylor.

Bryan:

70:57

Thank you, my beautiful wife.

Lisa:

70:59

So there you have it folks. Our first baby's birth story. On the next episode you'll hear our second baby's birth story and, boy, is it different. Here's a little sneak peek.

Lisa:

71:09

You were already in bed. I was about to get in bed and I felt another different contraction and I turned to you, I said, "Are you ready?"

Bryan:

71:20

And I replied something like, "I don't think we can ever be fully ready for this, but I'm so glad to be having another baby with you."

Lisa:

71:31

Until next time, we'd be so grateful if you'd subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss a thing. Thanks for listening to the Birth Matters podcast, and be well.