Aryn Michelle Calhoun is mother to Jovie Michelle Calhoun and wife to Clint Calhoun. Their daughter Jovie was born on August 11th, 2010 (Clint and Aryn’s 3 year anniversary) at Gentle Beginnings Birth Center in Hurst, TX assisted by her midwife Ann Crowell.
Aryn is a professional singer/songwriter, semi-pro demo producer, song consultant and music teacher. Find out more about Aryn’s music at arynmichelle.com.
Aryn’s Birth Story
the arrival of Jovie Michelle Calhoun
Tuesday night, August 10th, Clint and I have this conversation:
Clint: “I wouldn’t mind if the baby was born on Friday.”
Me: “Friday!?!” That’s ridiculous. I have WAY too many things I still want to do in the next week and we have way too many parties to go to this weekend. She can come on Tuesday, the earliest! (The baby is due Tues, August 24th)
Little did we know, less than two hours later my water would break! Ha! I woke up with a start having felt (and maybe even heard?) a distinctive small “gush” of water. In my sleepy stupor I ran to the bathroom to confirm, but it didn’t seem like much. Just a little bit of water..hmm…what to do? I ran back into the bedroom to try to find where the rest of the water must have gone, but nothing. No “spots” anywhere on the sheets. Clint thought I was losing my mind. I was running around patting down the entire bed furiously. Finally I said, “Clint, I think my water broke, but I’m not sure.” To which he promptly replied, “If your water broke don’t you think you’d know?” Well, yes, I thought it would be obvious, but apparently, its not always obvious. The reason I also doubted at first that my water had broken is that I was only 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant. Most first time moms tend to carry their babies all the way to 40 weeks and often times beyond. So to spontaneously go into labor at 38 weeks with a first pregnancy is statistically very unlikely. However, I wasn’t satisfied to do nothing, so I sent a text to Ann, my midwife.
Let me take a break here and mention quickly that after I got pregnant we decided that we were going to have the baby in a birthing center with a midwife. We watched some documentaries and did a lot of research and decided that a natural birth (meaning: no drugs) was going to be best for us for many reasons. If you’re curious about or considering natural birth, please feel free to write me and ask any questions. I’m hoping to launch a sort of blog/wiki/website kind of a thing sometime in the near future that will provide access to all the things I learned about natural birth during this experience.
Anyways, back to 3AM! My midwife called me almost immediately after I sent her a text that I was unsure if my water had broken. Right after I got off the phone with Ann, I suddenly had another water “breakage”, blood and starting noticeably cramping. I called back the midwife and ran back into the bedroom to tell Clint we were having a baby today! The next four and half hours were considered the first “stage” of my labor. Basically this is the part where your cervix is dilating from 0 to 10 centimeters. (After that you enter the pushing “stage”) During this part of my labor, I kept changing where I was about every 20 minutes. I’d try to lay in the bed for awhile, then get up and spend some time in the bathroom, then get in the shower, then back in the bed. We never timed my contractions during all of this because they seemed a little uneven. They would come faster and harder when I was standing or sitting, and they would slow down if I lay down. Also during this time I was listening to my Hypnobabies cd.
During my pregnancy I did a lot of things to help me physically and mentally prepare for the birth. One of these things was Hypnobabies, which is basically a self-hypnosis program that helps you learn how to breathe deeply, relax, and focus on positive images about childbirth. Other things I did included a regular light exercise regime (of rotating between prenatal yoga, walking and water aerobics), getting weekly chiropractic adjustments and talking herbal supplements like Red Raspberry Leaf and Evening Primrose Oil. Okay, sorry again with the tanget, I promise if you want to know more about this pregnancy stuff, please just ask! Back to the birth story…
So I was listening to my hypnobabies cd when I was lying in bed. When I was not in bed I was really focusing on relaxing and breathing deeply through the contractions. After about 3 hours I could tell that my contractions were really picking up, and I suspected I was heading into the “transition” phase of labor. Transition is a phase in labor where you are dilating from 7 centimeters to the complete 10 centimeters. Most women describe this as the most difficult part of labor, or the moment where you feel like you’ve “hit a wall” and can go no further. I learned in a childbirth class that transition is usually characterized by sudden nausea, shaking and alternating between hot and cold flashes. As soon as I got the first experience of these signs, I told Clint we had to call the midwife and needed to leave for the birthing center soon. I do want to take the opportunity to mention at this point that my contractions were never as painful as I had imagined they were going to be. Obviously, they were physically challenging, but I want to reassure some of you that have never gone through the process that, for me, it was never this terrifying, horrible pain that you see depicted in the movies. I was pleasantly surprised by how I was able to manage the contractions through breathing and position changes.
When I was on the phone with my midwife, at first she was not totally convinced that I was as far along in my labor as I thought I was (which is totally understandable because first time moms tend to have 1st stages of labor that last normally from 6 to 12 hours approx.) However, after hearing me vocalize through a few contractions while on the phone with me, she decided it was best for us to go ahead and head towards the birthing center. Clint was taking his sweet time getting ready (he told me later he had planned to make breakfast), because he also thought my labor wasn’t going as fast as I thought it was (again, a logical conclusion) However, as he was putting on his contacts I announced to him while I was on hands on knees on the bathroom floor that we were leaving “NOW!” So, no breakfast for Clint.
We grabbed everything we needed to take to the birthing center (way too much stuff actually, I didn’t use most any of it) and hobbled our way down the stairs, and into the car. I immediately laid the seat as flat as I could possible get it so I could lay on my side through the car ride. The 30-minute car ride to the birthing center was probably the most difficult part of the experience for me. I had a few episodes of dry heaving (don’t worry, I had a tiny trash can with me!) and being in the car during my transition phase was definitely a challenge. Clint claimed that I was kicking the dashboard with a great deal of might, but I don’t remember that! And perhaps a few of those road bumps helped my dilation a little further, who knows!
As soon as we arrived at the birthing center Clint opened my door and threw my flip flops on the ground for me to put on. I considered the amount of time it would take to put on flip flops, and then decided it was better to just walk in barefoot! Once inside, I immediately fell to the ground on hands and knees with another contraction. My midwife ran in yelling “Don’t you push yet!!!” (Because if you start pushing before you are fully dilated you can cause your cervix to swell and elongate your labor time) She assumed, before examining me, that there was no way I was ready to be in the pushing stage yet, because at this point I had been in labor for less than 4 hours. Ann and Megan, my doula, helped me onto the bed to do an exam to see how far along I was dilated. Ann declared, “You are fully dilated already, its time to push your baby out!” These were probably the most beautiful words I had ever heard in my life. I had been correct about already being in my transition phase, which meant the nausea part of the labor was over (hooray!) and now there was an end in sight (double hooray!) and we had made it to the birthing center in the nick of time (thank the Lord!)
The second stage of labor, the “pushing” stage lasted a little less than 2 hours for me. During this time I had a wonderful support team of Clint, Megan (my doula), my mother and four midwives assisting me through the delivery. They were massaging my legs and feet when I got cramps, they were verbally encouraging me and affirming my progress and helping me let my body work through each pushing contraction, reminding me to breathe and work with my body, not against it. There was a short period of time in the beginning of pushing were they had to give me a little oxygen mask because the babies heart rate dipped slightly, but once I started breathing slowly this issue went away quickly. Being pushed out puts a lot of pressure on the baby, and they need plenty of oxygen from mom to keep up their heart rate. (so shallow, quick breathing does not help!) Between most every contraction one midwife would monitor the babies heart rate with a fetal doppler, to make sure everyone was still doing well. And after just a few minutes of the oxygen mask and me calming my breathing down, the babies heart rate came back up quickly and stayed steady through the rest of the labor.
Clint described the process of pushing to me like a “two steps forward, one step back” journey. He could see the babies head descending as I pushed with every contraction, and then when the contraction subsided it would inch back in just a little. During this time I felt a good deal of physical exhaustion, but no type of pain that ever made me feel afraid or hopeless. I never felt an overwhelming desire to have drugs or to have the pain taken away, because I needed to be able to feel what my body was telling me to do. I needed to experience the rate and intensity of the contractions so I would know how to react and let my body work most efficiently. I won’t lie to you, there were a few moments that I decided that one child was enough, and I probably wouldn’t want to do this ever again, but truly, those were “heat of the moment’ thoughts. In retrospect, the pushing was difficult and taxing, but something that I was able to conquer and I know I will be able to conquer again. (Especially since subsequent pregnancies tend to have shorter, easier labors)
Something I found very interesting about the pushing stage is that you’re only supposed to push when your having a contraction, and then at that point push as long and as hard as you can (until the very end of the pushing phase, right before the baby is born) At first, this was good because I felt like I really needed a break between the pushing. Ann had to encourage me not to “waste” a contraction by not pushing through it. (Because during one contraction I decided I just didn’t feel like pushing anymore!) However, towards the end of the pushing stage when the baby is about to be born, I just wanted to push all the time to get that baby out! However, its not very efficient to push when your uterus is not contracting, so then at that point having to wait on the contractions to come started to get annoying! Right before Jovie was born, as her head was crowning, the midwives had me stop pushing too intensely. At this point they had me take small, light breaths with tiny, smaller pushes in order to gently ease the baby out. This technique helps alot of mothers (and me!) to prevent from tearing when the baby comes out. Research I did showed that mother’s that deliver babies in a hospital are more likely to tear because the doctors and nurses typically tend to coach you to push the baby out as hard and fast as possible, even at the very end of the birth, which can do damage to your lady parts (sorry if you’re reading this guys)
Then we came to the moment that Jovie emerged into the world. Clint caught her as she came out crying with a great set of lungs and they placed her on my chest. Because of all the adrenaline I had at the moment, I had a little bit of the shakes for a few minutes, but that’s totally normal. Jovie was crying, I was crying (out of a combination of joy and exhaustion!) and everyone was healthy. Clint eventually cut the cord, but as with most natural births, the midwives didn’t allow him to cut the cord until it stopped pulsing. (19 minutes after her birth) This is because the cord continues to deliver oxygen to the baby even after the baby is born. Cutting the cord the instant the baby emerges robs the baby of some much-needed extra oxygen in the minutes right after they are born. After the cord was cut and everyone had a little bit of time to rest we made our first attempt at breastfeeding.
Next I was given an herbal bath, which was AMAZING, and Jovie got to rest on my knees and enjoy the bath too. Clint helped wash her and it was such a beautiful moment. After she was clean Clint took Jovie to introduce her to the family. At this point Ann came in to tell me a little more about the birth in detail. Some of you may notice from the pictures of Jovie, specifically the one with her in the herbal bath, that she had a few “birth bumps.” (Specifically some bumps on her head and a little bit of a squashed nose). Ann informed me that Jovie had decided to make a special entrance into the world. Jovie was born sunny side up, (most babies are born face down) sideways, and with her brow coming out first (instead of the crown of her head). The technical term for this is Left Occipital Posterior (LOP) with a brow presentation. Ann said in all her 20 plus years as a midwife, she only delivered two or three other babies in this position. She said often women who have babies in this position have to push, at minimum, for four hours. Because I only had to push for about an hour and 45 minutes, Ann congratulated me on having a “miraculous” uterus and an “amazing” pelvis. Well, thank you, I had no idea! This was really exciting news for me because it meant that I had a wonderful birth with no interventions even despite the fact that most people would have considered my birth a particularly “difficult” one. Ann said because of the position Jovie was in, she “cleared a path” through the birth canal that a baby a whole pound heavier would have made, and so my future babies will probably be delivered much easier. What’s also amazing is that because she was sunny side up, I should have experienced some back labor (intense back pain) during the labor and I never did. All in all, I know God was with me and blessed us in light of Jovie’s unique positioning.
So if you’ve been “watching the clock” with me up to this point, you’ll have figured out that my whole labor and delivery lasted less than 7 hours. (very quick for a first time mom) My water broke at 3:15 am and Jovie was born at 10:04 am on August 11th, mine and Clint’s three year anniversary.
After the herbal bath I was back into bed for a breakfast from IHOP. It took me three different attempts to finish half of the food they brought me (it was mountainous!) and in between eating we were just relaxing, spending time with family, taking pictures and just enjoying our new baby girl. A postpartum doula named Jaime was present to help me when I needed to take trips to the restroom, to keep my food warm and give us advice and tips about what to do when we took the baby home. Jaime even came to our house the next day to give us more help with breastfeeding. We were in the car and headed home from the birth center by 5PM. Because I had no drugs in my system, I was able to go home and get into my own bed as soon as I wanted, which was really nice. The car ride back home felt like an eternity (we hit rush hour coming back as well!)
The next days with Jovie have been so wonderful and peaceful. We have had tons of help from family and friends. Jovie is still having a little trouble nursing, but we’ve had visits from my midwife as well as a lactation consultant who have given us some very helpful advice. I am so happy to share with you that my natural birth experience was better than I ever could have dreamed and I am confident that I will continue to use my midwife and have natural births for any more children that we may have.
(WARNING: the next paragraph is for the females! anatomical topics involved!) I know many of you gals might be wondering how natural birth affected my “recovery” and so I wanted to be open with you about that. Because the midwives coached me through the final pushing stages and were actively massaging my perineum through the entire labor with olive oil, I came out of the delivery with only two small superficial 1st degree tears (basically just a little bit of a skin tear) that required no stitches at all. 1st degree tears are just minor ones that occur on the skin. 2nd, 3rd and 4th degree tears are ones that involve deeper muscle tissues, and I had none of these. I am convinced that having the baby with the midwife helped me to avoid excessive tearing, which was one of my main fears going into childbirth. After coming home the midwives put all their clients on 3 days of mandatory bed rest. (Basically I could only get out of bed to go to the bathroom) and then two weeks of “house arrest.” I know this might seem a little extreme, but let me tell you, after only seven days my bleeding has become almost non-existent. (Most women bleed at minimum for two weeks and maximum for six weeks) So I encourage you all, that when the moment comes for you, please take adequate time to really rest and you will recover much quicker. Also, I have yet to experience any “baby blues.” There’s a lot of research to show that women who have natural births are way less likely to suffer from baby blues and postpartum depression. I have felt a little more emotional than usual because of the postpartum hormone changes, but I think avoiding drugs and interventions and being allowed to feel that I was totally in control of my body and my labor has gone a long way in helping me avoid postpartum emotional distress and also helped me bond with my baby. My milk “coming in” hasn’t been as painful or dramatic as I thought it would be, which is nice, but we are having a little trouble breastfeeding. Jovie is having some trouble latching on, most likely because of her size and her early arrival, and so we’ve had to elicit some help from a doula and a lactation consultant. While its been a little difficult to see Jovie get upset when we try to feed because she can’t quite figure it out yet, I know in the long run our efforts are worth it. My goal is to breastfeed for six months, and everyday it’s getting a little easier.
So, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations on reading my entire birth story (novel?) I hope that it gives you a new perspective on childbirth and educates you on an alternative to our culture’s traditional hospital birth with a doctor and drugs. I do want to be clear that I am not trying to say that my birth was better than anyone else’s or that my choices are the best for everyone. I know plenty of mother’s who have had wonderful hospital birth experiences, and I believe that every person needs to decide what’s best for them and they should be proud of that decision, whatever it may be. Obviously hospital environments are very good for people who have pregnancy complications as well, so please don’t think I’m slamming medical intervention at all costs. However, I believe that many women today are not given accurate information about the safety and wealth of benefits of natural birth, so this is my first step in sharing my experience and all the things that I’ve learned over the last nine months. I loved my natural birth experience and want everyone to know how positive and attainable natural birth can be. I would encourage all of you who are considering having a baby to do me the following favor: Before you make a final decision about where you will have your birth, please at least watch the documentary “The Business of Being Born” and interview a midwife at a birthing center. If nothing else, you will have educated yourself on your options before you make a decision. My experience is the more you educate yourself about pregnancy and childbirth, the more likely you are to have a positive experience.