My happy place (the birth story)
Amber Shehan • June 29, 2018
It happened, y’all! We did it! The wee pixie has been born, she is wonderful, awake and alert, and growing stronger day by day! Alia Mielle emerged on June 6, 2018, after a very long labor. For 36 hours she and I rode the intense waves of contractions together, worked on moving her down and…
It happened, y’all! We did it! The wee pixie has been born, she is wonderful, awake and alert, and growing stronger day by day!
Alia Mielle emerged on June 6, 2018, after a very long labor. For 36 hours she and I rode the intense waves of contractions together, worked on moving her down and out, and it took us both through the most amazing liminal space that I’ve ever waded through.
Experiencing labor and birth was going to a place out of time. I found a deep, dark cave into which I knew I must walk, one that took me deeper into myself than I’d ever gone. The cave was filled with other mothers, women from throughout history. I saw images of the Mother Mary, of Donii, of Sheela Na Gig, and other archetypes of the sacred mother. Each of them gazed at me, shared with me the strength and confidence it took to push through and come out on the other side! It was one of the most intense, wonderful, and awe-ful things I’ve ever been through, and I am not the same person I was when I walked into that cave. I emerged with the most amazing gift that I’ve ever beheld:
Alia (and her pointy little ears) was difficult to deliver because I was not at full strength. I become dehydrated during my first day of labor, even though I had a lot of gentle nourishing tea and water. It also turned out that Alia has an above-average sized noggin – it was 14 inches around at birth! We delivered her, healthy and happy, at the WNC Birth Center, a wonderful place with excellent care and support. Lisa, the midwife that helped us, was amazing. She was the perfect combination of supportive and serious, confident and competent. If she hadn’t been as strong as she was, I’m not sure I could have finished the delivery at the birth center. I nearly gave in to despair and exhaustion near the end of the labor, but I was adamant that I did not want to birth in a hospital! With the support of Eric, my Mama, Lisa (the midwife) and Asha (the nurse), I was able to dig deep and find the strength for those final pushes that brought my big-headed, beautiful child out into the world!
We drove home later that night and enjoyed a deep sleep in our own bed with an equally exhausted baby. The next day, Alia was much fussier and rather ravenous and I fed her as much as I could, but my milk hadn’t fully come in. As far as we knew, everything was proceeding normally. With a newborn, it is hard to tell how much sleep is too much sleep, or how fussy is too fussy.
We’d only had her home for two days when the world went upside down – Alia turned a shade of peachy-orange and became very lethargic as she developed a severe case of jaundice. The midwife called and advised us to go to the hospital for a UV treatment based on the tests they took. We were devastated but willing to do whatever it took to make sure our wee one was healthy! We’re not fond of western medicine in general, but the pediatrician unit at our local hospital was excellent and we appreciated their help. They understood our concerns, explained every procedure and treatment to us with grace and patience, and even got us some donor breast milk instead of formula to supplement Alia’s diet since my milk was slow coming in. So under the rave lights went our brand new baby…
…or should I say, Space Baby!
The ultraviolet lights helped break down the excess bilirubin in her body. Bilirubin is the pigment that makes jaundiced people yellow and orange, and it is flushed out of the excretory system, lending it’s color to both urine and feces. Alia had to take in 60ml of milk every three hours to flush out the bilirubin. Because she and I were both dehydrated and her lethargy made it hard to feed her without her falling asleep, Alia had to get a feeding tube through her nose to make sure she was getting enough milk. I could only breastfeed her as comfort every few hours so that she got the colostrum that she needed. It was hard for me to leave her there under the lights when all I wanted to do was touch her, snuggle her, feel her little body pressed against mine!
Alia wasn’t the only one feeling bad, either. My body had been through not only a long, unmedicated birth but also dehydration and the subsequent stress of having a sick child. My body was inflamed and it was not healing at all – my uterus was not shedding what it needed to, and my bladder was swollen because I could only release tiny bits of urine at a time. On top of my core muscles and pelvic muscles being pretty useless after labor, I was in a poorly way. And oh, the hormones and emotional processing – I was able to stay balanced enough to talk to the doctors and nurses, but I lost it and wept quite a few times in the room when we were alone.
It wasn’t until a day later when we finally got the good news that Alia’s bilirubin count was decreasing that my body relaxed and everything started trying to do what it should. I could use the bathroom, I could stand up straight, I could move around easier and felt much less weak. The knowledge that we were soon to head home was just what I needed!
Once home, I realized that although I was improving, my condition was heading quickly towards a uterine or bladder infection (or both) if things didn’t get moving and that I needed assistance with my milk production. I turned to my apothecary for a simple and effective solution for each.
Motherwort Tincture was the ally for my uterus. Motherwort helps to heal unresolved emotional blocks, but it also causes uterine contractions. That’s why some people suggest only using her support during the third trimester. Both of those uses were helpful in my healing. The more that I relaxed, cried, and processed my intense feelings about the birth and hospital, the more my uterus contracted and my body cleansed itself as it should. I also used Red Raspberry Leaf tea to support that work.
Dandelion Leaf & Root Tincture was my choice to assist with the bladder issues. Dandelion is a diuretic and I had all of the extra saline from the IVs needing to leave my body! It is also a general tonic for the excretory system, including the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract. I also drank cups of Celestial Organics “Detox with Dandelion and Nettles” tea – although both of those herbs live in my apothecary cabinet, it was far easier to just pour hot water over a prepared tea bag when at the depths of exhaustion!
Lactation Support: I drank one cup of either Traditional Medicinals “Mother’s Milk” or EarthMamaAngelBaby “Milkmaid Tea” daily. The lactation-helping blends did their job to help my milk flow to increase. I also made sure that I was staying hydrated for both my bladder and milk production. You need far more water than usual for healing your own body, much less for making milk!
I also found that whether I was pumping or feeding the baby, going to a quiet place and practicing deep breathing and visualizing rivers, streams, and other imagery of flowing, flowering life made my milk flow much more. Relaxation is important!
Now we have settled in at home. Alia is three weeks and a few days old, and we are both feeling much better! We no longer have to supplement my breastfeeding with formula. I can feed her on my own and she’s putting on weight and growing!
The non-stormy days are spent wandering around the yard with Alia in the baby wrap, harvesting herbs while I tell her all about them. I crush catnip and mint leaves to put under her nose and tell her the names and stories of each plant as we explore the yard. Want to see her favorite plant?
As far as Alia is concerned, Bee Balm is the best. Just look at that grin!
I’m hopelessly in love, you all. Over the moon! Eric, Alia, and I are in our happy place: our home. We are healing, snuggling, and giggling…and suffering from not a little bit of sleep deprivation. Whee!
We thank you all for your patience as my posts are few, but I hope that you continue to enjoy the guest posts lined up. I’m also getting back to working on the book now that I can lift gallon jugs again!
If you want to, you can check out our baby registry!