Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BIRTH STORY: Beyond Myself

(by Tiffany Chatzistamatis, about the birth of Kara Elizabeth, 08.11.07)

I not only have an amazing story of the beauty of birth, but a testimony of the Grace of God, and the strength and power of a woman’s ability to give birth…despite what seems impossible.

Before we were married, we knew we wanted to start a family. Among the discussions of birth control, money management, faith, child-rearing and discipline, plans for education, etc…it was decided that--as long as I had healthy, low-risk pregnancies--I would have our children naturally, with a midwife, in a birthing center. After nearly two years of marriage, "not trying, but not preventing," and ultimately trusting the Lord for his perfect timing in beginning our family, I finally found out I was expecting. We were elated! We contacted and toured our local birthing center at the beginning of December (2006), and then told our families on Christmas Eve. It was the best Christmas present ever!

I had a beautiful easy pregnancy--one that my midwife (Harmony) referred to as 'the epitome of the perfect pregnancy'. In March (around 19 weeks), we found out that our little bundle--or “Precious” as she had been nicknamed by my mom--was a girl! Around the same time, we decided to move from the very small home we had been renting into my mom’s empty (and spacious) home. Up to this point, there was no question whether we could have a homebirth or not…there was just no room! But now the opportunity, and space, was available…and in my childhood home, no less!

I was definitely looking forward to the arrival of our little girl. My mom and sisters had come down on August 2nd, and now we were just waiting patiently. Marmee (my mom) and my sister Heather were to be my doulas.Friday, August 10th: The day started not much different than any other. I woke up feeling huge, but ultimately great! In an attempt to lessen the misery of the Florida summer heat, we decided to go out to the beach and pool for the day. It was great having my family around, to keep me busy and distract me through the monotony of the wait! After a full day of swimming and fun in the sun, coupled with eating a very ripe pineapple and a good bouncing on my birth ball, we went home to get ready to go out to dinner for a friend’s birthday (Mexican…yes! Bring on that spicy food!). While I was getting ready, I began noticing some light cramping, but since they weren’t strong and steady enough to merit being the 'real thing' (and so as to not get my hopes up), I just wrote it off as having overdone it during our busy day, and attempted to ignore them. Throughout the night my 'cramping' slowly became more frequent and striking, occasionally even taking my breath away.

We got home around 10:15pm, and I decided to do a little more bouncing on my birth ball. By 10:40pm, Marmee saw the contractions had not died down any, and suggested we start timing them. Sure enough, they were coming pretty consistently, 10-15 minutes apart and lasting for about 20-30 seconds a piece. My husband Bill went to bed to get some sleep while Marmee, Heather and I snuggled in with my body pillow on the couch, to watch some TV (Dinner Impossible and Good Eats on the FOOD Network), and time and record each contraction. Finally at 2:00am, seeing as things were still slowly progressing, we woke Bill up to get the pool inflated (just in case!) and called Harmony, to let her know what was going on. By this time, contractions were coming about 5-10 minutes apart, and lasting about a minute. After touching base with Harmony, we settled in to watch 'Father of the Bride: Part 2,' all the while, still monitoring the length and timing of the contractions. After the movie was over, we called Harmony once more. The contractions were progressively getting stronger and closer together, but I could still talk through them, so she advised us to try to get some sleep. I tried to lie down for awhile, but found myself getting up periodically, to pace the floor.

Finally, at about 6:15am, I could not rest anymore. I went in and woke Marmee, who in turn, eventually woke Heather and Bill. Then about 7:30am, we called Harmony. By this time, I could no longer talk through any contractions and she said from the sounds she heard me make, I could be having this baby by mid-morning! Harmony arrived at almost 8:00am, and when she checked me, discovered I was about 8cm dilated, and almost fully effaced. Harmony immediately called in Tami, her birth assistant--which she does not do unless she thinks birth is near. Tami got there around 9:00am, and I got into the pool at 10:02am. At 10:30am, I hit transition, and after that, everything for about the next 13 hours is pretty much a blur. I labored in and out of the tub throughout the afternoon. It felt awesome, but seemed to relax me a little too much, and we didn’t need anything to stall labor any more than it already was. I laughed, cried, prayed, moaned, relaxed, prayed, sang hymns, walked, prayed, rested (or tried to, between contractions--I was SO exhausted!), breathed deeply, prayed…and vomited…a lot (back labor is NOT fun!)--but in the end, it was all SO worth it!!
At about 5:00pm Harmony gave me the choice, and we decided it would be best to go ahead and break my water, to see if we couldn’t get things moving along a little quicker. At that point, I was almost completely dilated, but apparently the baby was in a posterior position (hence all the back labor). This put uneven pressure on my cervix, causing a cervical lip - which was stuck at 7-8 cm. At 5:30pm, Harmony gave me an IV for hydration, which helped a little with my energy levels. And shortly thereafter, I had dilated enough that I could begin pushing!

And so it began. You name a position, we tried it. In the water while sitting…water while on hands and knees…bed using rebozo (midwife wearing!)…bed on hands and knees (hated that one!)…Standing…standing using rebozo…we tried them all. After each contraction Tami checked the baby’s heartbeat, and it stayed ever strong…never wavering. She was doing awesome…but I was exhausted! To complicate matters further, due to a childhood injury to my tailbone, which had healed improperly, the baby’s head was getting caught on my tailbone.

Five hours later, Harmony said that the baby needed to be born very soon, or we may have to transfer to the hospital. Marmee and Heather had just attended a doula training seminar in Nashville, and learned some new positions to use for posterior presentation. Marmee suggested a position, and Harmony agreed to try it. We all moved to the kitchen where Marmee sat on the counter and I hung from her arms (facing out) with one leg up on the chair, to maximize gravity and use it in our favor. At this point the contractions were coming pretty constantly and I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. Harmony had seen how supportive prayer was for our family, and she suggested that Marmee pray. During the next contraction, as Marmee prayed and I pushed, Harmony exclaimed it was working--the baby was moving down a little! However, she was still getting stuck on my tailbone. Harmony decided she would have to reach up and use her hands to guide the baby past the tailbone. Still it was going slow. The baby continued to respond perfectly, but Marmee was concerned. I was exerting so much energy, she didn’t know how much more I could take. With the next contraction, her mommy instincts kicked in, she swung me around to face her…and at 11:36 pm, Kara Elizabeth (Our precious promise of God!) finally made her way into the world--nuchal hand and all--right into her Daddy’s waiting arms! Weighing 8 lbs 7 oz and measuring 20.5 inches long…she was born beautiful and healthy--just 24 minutes before her Daddy’s 24th birthday! After a few puffs of oxygen for me, and an attempt at breastfeeding Karabeth, we moved everyone to the bedroom, to rest until the placenta was ready to be delivered. About an hour later, once the cord had finally stopped pulsing, Daddy cut the cord and was finally able to hold his new baby girl. It was a great night!So, although Karabeth’s birth was the hardest and most painful thing I have ever done, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world! It was long, tiring, intense and trying. I was challenged to go beyond myself, to be more than I thought I could be. I was mentally and physically pushed beyond my limits. My faith was tested and tried, and by God’s grace, I totally came out on top. All that was needed was faith, prayer, patience and creativity!


  1. It must have been great and different experience for you. Underwater birth means delivery occurs while the mother is submerged in water. In this method, mother and new born child are benefited. But sometimes child has threat of inhalation also. Good your delivery happened smoothly.

  2. Thank you, Gentle Birth Choice; I am always looking for new data and would love to see your references for this.

    From what I've read, there are no valid reports of infant deaths due to water aspiration or inhalation. A BMJ study on the subject concludes that 'Perinatal mortality is not substantially higher among babies delivered in water than among those born to low risk women who delivered conventionally.' Further, a comprehensive study of over 2000 waterbirths concluded that 'Waterbirths...do not demonstrate higher birth risks for the mother or the child than bedbirths if the same medical criteria are used in the monitoring as well as in the management of birth.'

    There are several inhibitory factors that prevent a baby from inhaling water during birth. Prostaglandin levels, fetal breathing movements, acute hypoxia, temperature differential, and the dive reflex all conspire to protect a baby at the time of birth.

  3. What an amazing birth story, Tiph! :-)

  4. Just found your story thru Dooce.com from a reader. Congrats on such a great birth. Your baby is beautiful too.
    Blessings to you and yours!
    Hugs from the Northeast!