Haven’s Birth Story

On March 7 th , 1998, a Saturday one day after my due date, I woke to mild but
regular contractions. Never having been in labor before, it was later in the morning
before I recognized the signs. Dave and I decided to clean our home thoroughly in
anticipation. By mid-afternoon I was tired so after a quick romp, I took a nap (Ina Mayencourages sex in labor). Contractions started taking my attention after the nap so Ireached out to the midwife on call at the Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center, who clearly recognized that I was early. This would go on for the rest of the day and into the evening hours in similar fashion.
The best choice I ever made in this pregnancy was transferring to Elizabeth Seton.

The midwives were wonderful, the community was warm and welcoming, and everyone was so supportive and as excited about my pregnancy as I was. However, it was a hard decision. All I knew about childbirth was that it involved an epidural in the hospital.

Labor continued to progress, but each phone call made to the midwife ended with
waiting longer at home. She doubted my progress. It was around 11pm when I convinced the midwife that my labor was progressing and she agreed to meet me at midnight. The car ride from Greenpoint to W 14th street was excruciating as our friend Charles sped us into the city with me holding on for dear life in the back seat.

The midwife on call was Pat Burkhardt. Protocol for admission included a vaginal exam: 1cm and completely effaced. Because of the effacement, Pat said I could stay in the family area but she could not admit me. Several years later, after obtaining my medical chart, I realized that Pat had let me stay because we were all quite anxious. I jokingly said that now would be the time to consider getting an epidural, Pat, in her most loving way, gave me a look of death and I abruptly changed that thought, mortified that I had even suggested it. I spent what felt like hours contracting on a couch in the family area while Dave and Charles watched South Park on TV.

In the amazing childbirth class that we had attended, Erica Lyon had recommended having a doula in labor; in my infinite wisdom, I didn’t think I would need anyone. Charles was one of our closest friends during those years. He taught us how to rock climb, which we did almost every weekend and vacation for three years. His girlfriend, Lauren, at the time was a medical resident (and soon to be my baby’s pediatrician) and was the one who recommended the birth center to me after I had been complaining about how cold, clinical, and uncaring my experience had been with my OB practice. The OB sternly suggested that I was to stop rock climbing. I didn’t, until the weather got cold and I couldn’t comfortably wear the harness.

At 2:05am, Pat checked me again: 2/100/-2. At 3:05, I was officially admitted. Dave and I climbed into the queen-sized bed in the birthing room and slept…well, he slept, as I continued to contract every 4 minutes. Charles dozed in the rocker in the room. We wondered if Lauren would make it from her shift at the hospital in time for the birth. By 4:15, I was 5cm and at 5:30am fully dilated and -1 station!

My memory of this time is vague—I believe I was sleeping between contractions on the bed. My chart indicates there were position changes and that I was coping well. I refused the birthing stool, someone was feeding me honey. Pushing took almost 3
hours; Lauren didn’t make it until shortly after the birth. Their shift change happened at 8am, Laura Zeidenstein took over and Pat asked if she could stay for the birth. I was honored. I felt loved and supported.

At 8:13am our baby boy was born, 8lb 1oz. I have never been so high in all my life as I was at that moment! It was a life changing experience that subsequently compelled an abrupt change in my career and life choices.

And today he turns 21; I am so proud to be Haven’s mother.

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