Ártico’s Birth Story

The Day You Were Born…

We had been invited to spend sometime in one of the farthest Vestfir∂ir (Westfjords) of the north of Iceland, Ísafjör∂ur meaning ice fjord, is the largest and most beautiful of all the fjords in the area. With a population of about 2,600 it is located on a spit of sand and despite its small size and historical isolation from the rest of the country, the town has a relatively urban atmosphere while still retaining a small town cozy feeling.

It was a sunny beautiful Saturday and we had been waiting to go on a hike in the snow for some time. Your father had been busy all week and the girls had been promised a family hike in the snow covered mountains surrounding the fjord. Your Grandmother Baba was visiting for the birth, so her, your father, your 3 sisters and I all got ready for the hike, we all bundled up with warm clothes and packed a lunch. We walked out of town toward the end of the fjord and once we got there we walked up the base of the mountain on the crest of a hill which led up to the ski lodge. At times it was difficult to continue on with snow up to our knees and the wind hauling by, nearly knocking us off the hill but as we ascended the view of the town was grand. We reached the old abandoned ski lodge and had walked for about a mile and a half, the new ski lodge lay still another mile up the mountain so we decided to have our lunch in the lee of the abandoned building and after begin our descent. On the way back I began having contractions and at times they were strong enough for me to have to stop walking until it passed, they were still far in between and didn’t last very long. I had already had a couple of false labors that week so I wasn’t sure if this was the day you would come. There are so many myths on things to do to make a woman go into labor and after 4 births, all in different countries and widely varied cultures, it is still a mystery to me. What has worked in one pregnancy hasn’t in the next and vice versa.  By the time we got back to the house and had walked about 3 miles in total contractions continued and we began getting things ready for your arrival. Your father made a delicious dinner while I put together the birth shrine on a table in the living room, there I placed candles, incense, photos of the family, drawings Sol and Luna had made for you and small objects that had a special significance. The birth shrine is a space I can go to during labor, a place that gives me peace and strength. After our usually late dinner, around 10pm labor continued to escalate and I became more sure that you were coming so your father began to set up the pool in the center of the living room, Baba prepared the bed and the girls and I lit candles. Then the girls began watching a movie and by midnight they had all fallen asleep in the bedroom and labor was at full swing. Your father tried to gage how long labor would be but even I wasn’t sure. Since my last 2 births were 6 hours long we thought this was my best time therefore we calculated that you would come sometime between 4 and 6am, so your father was filling the pool up systematically, that way it would be at the perfect right temperature and level at the time I would need it, he filled it slowly and with very warm water. Labor escalated faster than we thought, the rushes (contractions) got very strong and efficient. Labor with you was very different than with your sisters, I did not experience the distinct 3 stages of labor that I did with your sisters. Rushes never got closer than about 5 minutes apart but each one was very strong and I never experienced a clear moment of the “urge to push”, rather the rushes began bearing you down without me really knowing it, basically my body was pushing on its own. When you started crowning I told your father, it was only 2am and the pool was half filled and too warm so your father quickly began pouring buckets of cold water to get the temperature right. When he had it perfect I got into the pool. I had never broken water and as your head began to come out we saw it was covered by the caul: the amniotic membrane enclosing a fetus which looks like a semi-translucent bag like tissue, thought to bring good luck. You were coming out fast and I began to panic a bit, afraid I would tear as my body continued to push on it’s own, but your father calmed me down with his wise and calm disposition. I then toke a deep breath, went “inside of myself” and gently pushed with the next rush. I held your head between my legs while I felt your body turn inside of me, telling me it was now time for the rest of you to come out. On the next rush I gently pushed and your body gently flowed into the water as the sack broke dispersing the cloudy amniotic fluid. Your father had gotten into the pool with me at some point which I can not recall and we both reached for you at the same time slowly bringing you to the surface while taking away the caul which drooped from your limbs. We placed you on my chest as I began talking to you and welcoming you to this world, it was 2:30am on Sunday May 8th, 2015.

After a few minutes I remembered I didn’t know your sex but your cord was short so I couldn’t manage to turn you to see the secret you held between your legs. Your father helped me and even though it was dark in the room I was able to see, to my surprise, that you were a boy. I was delighted, I had finally gotten my boy but my celebration was interrupted by a contraction and my body wanting to expel the placenta. Your father helped me stand up, I held you in my arms as I stepped out of the pool and sat on a couple of stools with a bucket between my legs, a makeshift birthing stool to deliver the placenta. Baba wrapped us up in towels and blankets, you were comfortable in my arms and began to attempt figuring out how to latch on, this immediate instinctual behavior never ceases to amaze me. When the placenta detached from my uterus and dropped into the bucket it pulled you down since the cord was so short. I grabbed the cord near your belly and pulled it up while your father grabbed some nearby books and stacked them underneath the bucket to raise its level. Once this was all sorted and we felt no pulse on the cord, your father clamped and cut it after saying a few words: “I’m going to release you from the mamá and this placenta that has given you life for 41 weeks. Your big enough now that you can be on your own. You can breath and will learn how to suck and drink. We will all take care of you.” Baba then went to wake up your sisters so that they could meet you. After the cord clamping I walked over to the bed, all of the family surrounded us, we were all in awe looking at you and falling in love with you.

I was filled with joy to finally be holding you in my arms. Although your birth felt to both your father and I to have happened faster than we would had liked, it all went perfectly well and it went the way it was suppose to. It was an intimate and beautiful birth in a very special house, town and country. You were born in Albertshús (Albert’s House), a 200 year old house in the center of town where 25 babies had been born, the last in 1944. So in 2015 you were baby number 26 to be born in this house. Herdís Albertsdottir (Albert’s daughter) lived in the house nearly her entire life, she passed away four years ago at the age of 103 and her house has remained the way it was when she lived in it. All her belongings and her spirit are still there, I felt her wise and caring presence during the birth. The photos of her extended family still hang on the walls, we have met and befriended a lot of them who opened their doors and their hearts to us and made us feel welcomed and at home in Ísafjör∂ur.

IMG_8190

IMG_8355

IMG_8189  IMG_8443

ECP_0211b IMG_8618

IMG_8439  IMG_8435

Advertisements

Esperanza’s Stillborn Story

This November 9th, 2014 will have been a year since Esperanza was stillborn. About 24 hrs after she was stillborn, our family had the chance to say a proper farewell, Coconut style. We were fortunate enough to find a loophole in the hospital rules, Esperanza was a week short of being considered a baby, at her 19 weeks she was still considered a specimen, and since she wasn’t born with a heart beat a proper funeral was not required. So the social worker at the Rhode Island Hospital, Woman and Infant division was able to get a lawyer out of bed on a Sunday morning to come in and sign the release or our precious baby. She was handed over inside of a beautiful box covered with handmade white paper tied with a green silk ribbon, inside she lay on a pink hand-knitted blanket with the smallest hand-knitted pink hat I have ever seen and wearing the smallest white gown, the box then was covered with a handmade small quilt and off we were. As soon as we arrived home sometime after noon the girls were eager to see her, they were full of smiles and excitement, perhaps only a single tear escaped their eyes. What a real life experience for them, they were in awe to see how small her hands, fingers, feet and toes were, she was perfect!
So late that night Papito Jay cut holes into a thick white plastic bag with a black zipper they gave us at the hospital, the girls had gone for a walk earlier that afternoon to collect some special rocks and seashells. Jay, Baba, Sol, Luna, Caribe and I all walked down the dock to where our home Messenger was berthed, it was a beautiful clear and silent night with glass-like water and a sliver of moon, all you could hear as we walked were little Caribe’s words “barco, agua…” We placed the rocks inside the bag, then the placenta and on top of her life bed we placed Esperanza in her white gown, she looked like an Angel! Baba said a prayer, we read a prayer on G-Ma’s behalf, Papi Jay said some beautiful words, we all said our goodbyes and cried our tears as we placed her in the water, she sunk down to the debts of the ocean, illuminated with a flash light the bag looked as if it was flying through the dark water, then Luna through her sea shells one by one…
Most of my nearly 5 month pregnancy was complicated. At week 8 I had what seamed to be a typical miscarriage, a gush of amniotic fluid and a little bleeding. I phoned Uva, our mid-wife a distancia in Costa Rica and she explained that a miscarriage is what it seamed to be, she suggested I allow my body to go through the purging naturally and in a few weeks go get an ultrasound to make sure all is out, this way the uterus can recover and be healthy again. My body didn’t purge much else other than some spotting and I continued to feel pregnant but Uva had already explained how it takes the body sometime to level out the hormones and go back to it’s previous state. So around week 14 I went in for an ultrasound and voilà there was a healthy big baby in there, we were all very surprised so we deduced that perhaps I was caring twins and in the “survival of the fittest” one didn’t make it. But after this ultrasound I began passing small blood clots and having strong scrams every few days. I though maybe finally my body was releasing the lost twin but wasn’t sure so I began seeing a group of mid-wives who also couldn’t figure it out so around week 19 they sent me to a placenta specialist to determine what the problem was. By then Jay and I had already done our own online search and with my symptoms deduced I had placenta abruption which means separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. The specialist after a long ultrasound (which by the way I am completely against during pregnancy) could only tell that the existing baby’s placenta was attached close to the cervix which could mean that perhaps there was placenta previa at the very beginning of the pregnancy. Placenta previa is when the placenta is blocking the neck of the uterus. This specialist also noticed that on the other side of my cervix was accumulated a lot of old blood clots which where causing my bleeding and spotting. So perhaps a combination of placenta previa and a twin were the cause for my complicated pregnancy but he assured me that the existing baby and it’s placenta were fine and that once all of those blood clots came out I should be able to have a normal birth.
So 3 days later on Saturday November 9, 2013 at 10am when I began having strong cramps and passing blood clots I was positive that I would get rid of these and be done with it. Cramps turned into contractions that got closer and closer together. I was already nearly 19 weeks and had been feeling the baby’s movements for a few weeks but some time that afternoon I stopped feeling the baby. My body was going into full labor so Jay and I decided to go to the hospital, our first hospital birth experience. My previous 3 births had been at a natural birthing center, a home birth and a boat birth. All of the staff at the hospital were very respectful in letting us do things our way and birth naturally without any intervention. I gave birth to Esperanza at 9pm, she came out along with her placenta and still inside her sack, which I nearly tore open with my teeth in a spontaneous and natural reaction if it weren’t for a prepared and attentive nurse that rushed over with a pair of scissors before I gave into my cave woman instincts. I took her out of her sack and looked her all over, she was perfect, she had everything and all her parts were proportional but she didn’t have a heart beat. The nurse wrapped her up in a pink hand-knitted blanket and put on that miniature hat. I could not believe I would have had yet another girl and wondered if I could make a boy at all. If it weren’t for Jay pouring all his energy into me I could have not been able to give birth that night. It was by far my hardest birth experience physically as well as emotionally. I had no big strong baby wanting to come out and helping me birth it, during my contractions I would try grabbing her with whatever muscles we women have in our bellies and uterus to grab babies and push them out but it was like hugging the air rather than a person, I felt nothing to grab to push out, she was only 9 oz. When I was close to giving up Jay whispered in my ear “you can do this”, I am so lucky to have such a strong, supportive and wise man in my life.
I am thankful for the family I have been given, for the health we all enjoy and I surrender to nature and acknowledge that it knows best. For placenta abruption doctors request bed rest or bed arrest, were woman lay in bed for their entire pregnancy to ensure the baby comes to term. Are those babies healthy? Were they really suppose to be born? Or is it modern medicine and desperate parents going against nature? Esperanza perhaps would have never been a healthy person, it was not her time to come to this world, she knew it, or perhaps she wanted to be with her twin sibling. Our entire family accepted her short time in our lives as she grew in my belly. The girls always include her when speaking about our family members, they believe she has become a mermaid and lives in Atlantis.
We knew we wanted another child, an accomplice for Caribe. Sol and Luna being only a year and 7 months apart have each other and are always together, they will be off in their teenage years and Caribe then would be alone so the plan has always been to have another. During our travel plans we always envisioned having a child in Iceland, the extreme opposite of the Caribbean were Caribe was born, just like Sol and Luna are opposites in their own way. So when we got pregnant in Rhode Island a whole new birth plan had started to unravel in our heads. But as it is destiny toke it’s course and here we are in Iceland expecting the child we are suppose to have. I am 22 weeks pregnant, due in mid-March. This pregnancy as opposed to the last one has been a very healthy one, actually the easiest of all my pregnancies so far. I am glad that I allowed my body to do what it knows to do naturally without any unnecessary medical intervention and I believe it is because I have the support and the knowledge to do so that I am so healthy and pregnant again. We do not know the sex of the baby and do not care if it’s another girl (which it probably will be) or a boy or a mongolit@, we will be happy no matter what. Needless to say I feel blessed!

Caribe’s Birth Story

Being here in Saint Pierre, a French island in North America, has reminded us of our time in Martinique, another French island but this one in the Caribbean. Walking the aisles of the grocery store and recognizing all the products we became used to, waking up early (not something natural for us) in order to snag a fresh baguette at the local boulangerie, speaking Spanish with a French accent which seams to work just fine and people seam to understand me perfectly, are all things that have made me think of our lovely 4 months in Martinique. Which we picked as a birthing place because Sol and Luna wanted to learn French and because we wanted to have a boat birth. Most of the children that the girls had met while cruising were French and for the most part the children weren’t yet bilingual so the girls were eager to learn the language to be able to communicate with them and knowing the laissez-faire nature of the French we knew we would be able to have the birth we wanted without quarrels. So it was either Guadeloupe or Martinique and the later was the sailing mecca which meant work for Jay.

So without further ado here is Caribe’s birth story as I have written it to her:

The Day You Were Born

It was summer in the island of Martinique, French Antilles in the Caribbean. We had been waiting for you for about a week after your due date. Baba had been there for over a week and she was only staying for a week or two more, which stressed me out because I needed more help after the birth than prior, and you were in no hurry. Your Papi Jay and sisters Sol and Luna were eager for you to come out as well. I had been having a few false starts during which your father and I would walk the long docks of the marina of Le Marin to try and get things going but you weren’t ready. Your fathers birthday was coming up and sure enough you came the day before.

On the night of February 23rd around dinner time I felt labor start. We all had a lovely dinner together around 8 o’clock. Your father started preparing the pool which we placed in the middle of the saloon floor, bellow the water line, and getting everything else ready. We also set up a placenta birthing chair in the V-birth, naturally. Labor quickly escalated and by the time the contractions were strong Baba, Sol and Luna had all fallen asleep, perfect, now I could go into laborland. We had closed up the hatches and windows, placed small candles all around (a touch of las Chicas), had some incense burning and soft music playing. Your father was at the galley with 2 big pots heating up water for the pool in his speedo, he looked very sexy. I stood at the mast, which is keel stepped and a strong structure inside the boat on which I could lean on while I rocked back and forth during contractions. The idea of laboring at the base of this tree like phallic symbol just made perfect sense. Around 2 o’clock in the morning I had the urge to push so I got into the pool hoping to enjoy it for a while but no, you were coming out fast. I was, as always, afraid of tearing so I tried holding you in but my body was pushing hard on it’s own. My moans and screams woke everyone up. Las Chicas were sleeping on the settee on which I was leaning my back on and their heads popped out on both sides of mine and Baba who had been sleeping in the cockpit pocked her head down the companionway. I told Jay you were coming so he got into the pool with me just in time to ketch you. By the time I opened my eyes after pushing you out Jay had already placed you on my chest, you came out so fast.

You slowly started breathing, I was surprised at how wide you opened your eyes and started looking around, it was pretty dark just with candle light which I guess made it possible for you to do so. It was close to 90˙F/32˙C inside the boat which made it very comfortable for both of us. A little time passed, you were now breathing well and had started making little sounds, we were all in a baby mesmerizing state when finally Baba asked “Well, what is it?” The surprise of your sex had been forgotten and didn’t seam to be so important during our state of awe of just your existence. So I lifted you up but I could hardly see it was so dark, we all thought you were a boy but I couldn’t make out a penis, you started screaming as if telling us “I’m a girl! Now put me down!” We were all so surprised, you were perfect and very long. I then got up holding you in my arms and walked to the V-birth where I sat on a V shaped chair with a bucket between my legs to birth the placenta. You started sucking on the breast trying to figure it out. About 20 minutes later I birthed the placenta which came out in one big beautiful chunk. Jay felt the umbilical cord until there was no more heart beat felt through it, then it was safe and time to cut it. Las Chicas were Jay’s little helpers getting him all the tools to cut and clamp the cord. Your father gave a little speech right before cutting your cord, he told you you no longer needed the placenta which had been your life source up until then and that now we would take care of you and that you could breath on your own. He clamped and cut the cord, he gave you that perfect belly button you now have.

I laid down with you while everyone was busy doing things, breaking down the pool, picking up the placenta room, making me food, but once everything was done it was time to rest. You and your father fell deep asleep in the same fetal position side by side on the settee, you looked just alike. Las Chicas toke turns holding you while whispering, they were so gentle and happy. Your birth was a family event, it was personal and perfect in every way.

You were born on February 24th at 2:30am weighing 7.5 Lbs/3.4 kilos

ry=480-7

ry=480-3

 ry=480-5 ry=480-6

ry=400