May 21, 2011

Our Birth Story Part I: Pregnancy

Jenn: Our birth story really started with our pregnancy story. Like most of my girlfriends as I was growing up, I was terrified of giving birth. The thought of having a baby was almost subconsciously taboo from all the abstinence education from school, then soon I was married and it seemed like everyone around us was suddenly having babies. It seemed unreal that it was now "OK" to be pregnant, and even somewhat enviable. I found out I was pregnant 3 days before I was leaving for a business trip to China in July of 2010.

Paul: We had just gotten our brand new Simmons World Class king size mattress from on June 16, and I am pretty sure it was the sperms from those first few nights that did the trick.  By July 17 (week 4), Jenn started to have regular night time wakings to pee.  Another week passed and Jenn started to have an extremely heightened sense of smell.  I used to smell things before she does, but now she can detect smells that even I didn't notice. It was around that time that we were suspicious enough to use the pregnancy test kit, and sure enough, the test was positive!

Jenn: I went for an initial check up at a neighborhood Ob-Gyn. To determine my due date, they did a vaginal ultrasound and we saw a tiny sac with a beating dot (heart cells). The amniotic sac was about 3 millimeters wide and they said the embryo was 5 weeks and 6 days old. How amazing! We saved the pregnancy test for the baby book.

Jenn: After I came back from my trip, we started to read books like "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and the pregnancy book published by the Mayo Clinic. These books gave excellent information on fetal development and had cool pictures of what the baby might look like, however, they did little to settle my fears about the birth process with their medical overtone. The more I read, the more nervous I got because the emphasis seemed to be on all the things that could go wrong. Our pastor from the Vineyard church gave us a modest looking hardcover book written by Dr. Robert Bradley published in the 1950's called "Husband Coached Childbirth". This book had no pictures, but as soon as I started reading it I was captured by the easy going and sometimes humorous approach to birth, which was described as a natural animal process. I came to realize that birth could be painful but also orgasmic, intense but also romantic and sexual. And that there were proven ways to manage pain without drugs or interventions. From there, I also read books including "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" which included many birth stories.

Jenn: We then looked online for local Bradley Method classes and found Emily Marynczak. When I first called Emily, I immediately knew that she would be a wonderful educator and supporter for me. Her warmth and excitement radiated through the phone even as she was caring for her child. We then enrolled in the 12 week class meeting in Colonie and sometimes in the Robert C. Parker school in East Greenbush. In those classes, we learned about the importance of nutrition, relaxation, and positive thinking. We also built relationships with couples whom we would remain friends with after our child was born. The Bradley Method emphasizes the importance of the father's role in the birth process. Paul and I went to each class together, and I am so glad he was so intimately engaged during the entire journey

Paul: The Bradley classes comes with a workbook that we were supposed to go over each week.  I thought the workbook was not as useful as the classes, but Jenn kept reminding me to keep on it.  In several of the birth classes, we watched short videos of some births, and some of them are home births.  It was very interesting to see the different ways people go through the birth process.  At home, we also saw a couple movies through Netflix; The Business of Being Born, and Babies. These were pretty interesting films.  During the pregnancy, Jenn would ask me to practice applying the relaxation techniques to help her relax.  At first it was difficult and awkward for me, but later it became easier and often Jenn would fall asleep within minutes of us starting the exercise.

Jenn: Before long, we toured hospitals to get an idea for the place where we'd like to give birth. We opted for St. Mary's hospital in Troy because they had 1. friendly staff, 2. single room for labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery, 3. the best reputation for evidence based maternity care with minimal interventions and low Cesarean rate. The hospital also strongly supports breastfeeding as evident by posters in the hallways and an in-house lactation consultant. The down-side was that the location was relatively farther from our home, about 25 minutes, as opposed to Bellevue which is less than 10 minutes.

Jenn: You can say that we were highly "prepared" for our birth, maybe even a bit over prepared. In addition to the Bradley classes, we also attended 6 weeks of childbirth classes plus a breastfeeding class at St. Mary's hospital. We read numerous books, magazines, and articles given to us by various people. We also hired a doula, a child birth assistant who is not affiliated with the hospital to help us deal with early labor, decide when to go to the hospital, and offer postpartum support for up to 6 weeks. I also took pregnancy exercise classes with physical therapist Debra Goodman and got a couple physical therapy sessions to help with sciatica and pelvic pain. We wrote and edited our birth plan and reviewed it with our midwife, Linda Balles. But no matter how many classes we attended or books we read, I don't think anything could have really prepared me for what labor was going to be like. I had no idea how much determination and endurance it would take, and also didn't know how strong I really was.

Paul: The baby was really good to us; Jenn didn't feel sick at all throughout the pregnancy.  She only puked once in all those months, and that was because she didn't eat breakfast and was too hungry right before lunch.  As the baby gets bigger, Jenn kept up with daily exercises and stretches, and the baby hangs low as to not interfere with her lung functions.  She does have to go to the bathroom often, but not too unreasonable.  Because of her heightened sense of smell, Jenn was unable to cook for a while and I would handle all the food preparation.  Toward the later months, we have a 3 hour routine to get ready for bed.  I would prepare fruit and warm milk for her before sleep, and she would do her exercise after showering, then we would do relaxation exercise and drift to sleep.

Jenn: My water broke early morning on March 3rd, 2011, three weeks before our due date. It was time to put the theory into practice, I was both excited and nervous. I called into work to tell them I'm not coming in, and probably won't be for a long while. How would the labor and birth play out? Stay tuned for "Our Birth Story: Part II" to find out how we worked together to bring Micah into the world.


  1. Thanks r_runa07! More excitement coming soon in part II (birth process) and part III (post-partum, first month). Hope you will enjoy those as well.


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