A South-of-the-Border Birth Story

Alexandria is now two weeks old, so I hope that I haven’t forgotten important details.  The good news is that moms recover brain mass after childbirth, so maybe that will help my memory?

First of all, when I became pregnant I was interested in water birth.  Even when I thought I would deliver in the States–it just made sense that it would be more relaxing.  I moved back to Mexico when I was 8 weeks pregnant, and immediately heard about the extremely high cesarean rates in Torreon.  In fact, it was months before I met anyone who had delivered naturally.  At 90% c-section, I knew we needed to do something.  I met woman after woman who would tell me, “I wanted to deliver naturally, but the baby’s heart rate dropped.”  Or maybe, “I wanted to deliver naturally, but the doctor said my pelvis was too small.”  There was always a reason for why they had to have a c-section.  (Interestingly enough, none of the women breastfeed either–they “didn’t have enough of a supply…”)  At our appointment for our 4-D ultrasound, the doctor said, “It’s really easier on us and the mom if we do a cesarean.”  I couldn’t believe that everyone just accepted c-sections as if they were a normal part of giving birth!

My husband found the doula and her birthing classes online, and we began to attend classes at five months.  Quite frankly, the classes weren’t very helpful.  The information in the classes wasn’t new to us, but I can understand why it is important for these women here–women who’ve been told for years that their bodies are incapable of delivering babies naturally.  We watched videos on YouTube to prepare for our birth, and that was part of my undoing.  Warning: The videos online aren’t of long labors.  They are of women who seem to push babies out as if it’s an everyday occurrence.  One woman actually said, “I don’t feel like I’ve given birth.  That was the easiest thing to do.”  That was my inspirational video I watched as I counted contractions.  Big mistake.

Friday morning, March 15th, I woke up with contractions.  I had awakened with several that morning, but returned to sleeping.  At around 8, I actually got up and went to the bathroom.  I was so excited to see a bloody show, and I knew that our precious baby would be joining us soon.

That day Victor’s new friend from school wanted to take him to a couple of places in Torreon.  I agreed to tag-a-long, and I am glad I did!  It was distracting to say the least!  We visited with his family and finally, Victor and I ended up at the mall to eat around mid-day.  My contractions had continued that morning, but they were 20 minutes apart.  My belly was still high, and I was told that when the baby dropped I would know it was time.  I knew it was time–but the baby never dropped…

I ate a good lunch because I was hungry.  And by the time we left the restaurant at around 2, my contractions were more steady.  They were still around 10 minutes apart.  But it was like clockwork.  I went home, and we began preparing for our baby’s arrival.

I could tell my husband was nervous.  He had been so attentive during my entire pregnancy, and now he busied around the house.  He cleaned and moved things, but mainly ignored me.  I spent the time making a labor playlist of music that I thought would be relaxing.  That was of course in between contractions, which I kept track of on a contractions calculator online.  I skyped with my Mom, and at one point she mentioned that maybe it was time to call the doula and doctor.  My contractions were about three in 10 minutes or every 3-4 minutes apart.

My contractions were getting stronger and they were pretty steady when my doula came around 7.  But shortly there after, they seemed to slow down a bit.  They were strong, and my back was really hurting.  During a contraction I practiced everything I had read online: deep breathing, swaying hips, visualization, moaning, bending over to take the pressure off, and my husband began applying pressure on my lower back.  The doula said that the contractions weren’t close enough together, but she and my husband set up our room for the baby’s birth.  I eyed that birthing pool with great anticipation…


My doctor arrived around 9, and I was incredibly disappointed when she said I was one centimeter dilated.  What!?  But my contractions were close!  My body was hurting!  I was so tired already!

She and the doula left and said they would return in a couple of hours.  They instructed me to keep track of my contractions and just let it happen.  I was happy to have one of my friends join us, and she kept track of contractions while my husband took care of me.  We heated a rice bag in the microwave, and the heat really helped the contractions too.  They returned around 12 or 1 in the morning.  The doctor checked my progress again: 3 centimeters.  At that point, I was ready to cry.


I labored everywhere in that room and outside as well.  The air outside was cool enough to make me feel fresh, but we labored on the commode, the labor stool, the bed, etc.  I knew that I  should keep standing and moving.  When the doctor checked me the next time, I was only 5-6 centimeters dilated.  The baby was still high in my pansita.  And while I was having contractions and strong labor pains–I could see that the doctor was beginning to worry a little.  She and the doula talked in hushed tones (and spanish) outside the room, and I just put them out of my mind.

My doula doesn’t really get the chance to do her job very often due to the suspicions that people seem to have about birthing here.  She was eager to try out everything on me.   She tried to change my breathing–I resisted.  She tried to tell me to squat–and I told her that I tried it.  It didn’t feel so good.  She rubbed incense oil under my husband’s nose, and was heading for mine.  I informed her that it smelled bad.  She finally backed off and let me do my thing.


My friend and my husband took turns pressing on my lower back, and I was finally allowed to labor in the birthing pool.  It was amazing.  I felt my pain cut in half.  Someone began pouring water on my lower back as I stayed on my hands and knees to encourage the baby to rotate her head.  I moved back and forth in the water, and the doctor encouraged me to begin pushing through contractions to see if we could move her down.  I remember falling asleep in between contractions on the edge of the pool, then being awakened in an abrupt and unpleasant way as surges of pain shot through my back.  I don’t remember feeling the contractions anywhere else–just the back pain.


I got out of the pool, and labored more on the birthing stool.  The doctor laid down on the floor in front of me with a light (similar to what a mechanic would use to see inside an engine) to help her see.  At this point, I had a cervical lip.  At least from what I can tell that is what it was–the doctor said the baby had descended some, but that my part of my cervix was keeping her head from moving more.  She began trying to push the cervix out-of-the-way when I had contractions, instructing me to push (although I still didn’t have the “urge” to do so).  The pain was horrible.  I remember actually screaming at that point.  I also aimed the scream for the doctor’s ear so that she would know the pain she was inflicting upon me.


The last few hours were more of a blur–and I don’t remember many details.  I remember laboring more in the pool.  Throwing up.  
Getting out for the doctor to try to break my water (I was 10 centimeters dilated at this point, but my water still hadn’t broken.)  I labor more in the water–and I began squatting in the pool to push.  My husband joined me, and I was basically sitting on his bent legs as we squatted together.  Victor wrapped his arms around me, and when I pushed, he squeezed with all his might.  I remember the doctor remarking on how the baby was moving down finally–and how he was helping us accomplish this.  The doctor checked me again and my water had broken–she rotated the baby’s head at that point with much discomfort!  They continued to monitor the baby’s heart-rate, and I would wait in anticipation to hear that she was strong.   I would reach down and feel for her head as often as I could.  When I finally felt the baby’s head, I did cry.  How amazing!

The urge to push was something that I had read about in the months leading up to my labor, but I was unprepared for how it would really feel.  I wanted to take it easy, but my body was in auto drive.  I would push on contractions with my team saying, “Push! Push!  You got it!  Breath!”  Then I would say, “I can’t.”  This wasn’t me giving up–it was my way of saying the contraction was over and I needed rest.  My doctor was amazing, and I just focused on her face (which was almost always calm).  She encouraged me to relax, breath, and wait for another contraction.


When the pediatrician showed up, I was at the end of my labor.  I remember him telling me to sit back against Victor so that I didn’t tear. (We were using the birthing stool in the pool at this point.)  He also was the only one who kept telling me to push the baby out when I didn’t have contractions.  “Don’t let the head back inside,” he said.  Even in my sleepless state I knew that he was wrong.  Victor and I really worked together at the end.  I would nudge his arms and say, “Ready?”  And we would push (that was me) and squeeze (that was him) at the same time.  When the baby arrived, there was no break between pushing her head and the rest of the body.  That’s what I prepared for because that’s what I saw on videos.  Women would wait for more contractions with a baby head hanging out of their bodies.  Not my little girl–she shot out into the water like a bullet!


I felt so relieved.  They laid her on my chest and I felt this pulling down below.  It was strange–as if the cord was too short.  I remember the doctor saying maybe that is why the baby didn’t move down–her cord was keeping her up.  I don’t know if there’s any truth in that, but it made sense at that moment when her cord was tugging at me.  Victor was immediately concerned about her breathing, but she cried a quick and mightly bellow.  I was shocked to see how much vernix she had covering her body.  For some reason, I expected all that to be gone.  I forgot about it and kissed her head–then quickly remember and tried to wipe my mouth off.  Ick!

My team allowed us a little time before clamping the cord.  Not as much time as I wanted, but in those moments, it wasn’t really what I was concerned about.  They took Alex to clean and test–and I moved to the bed to deliver the placenta and be checked.  I didn’t want to keep (or eat) the placenta, but I did want to see what it looked like.  Unfortunately, I soon forgot about that too.  I did have some tearing, and I figured it was because I pushed when I didn’t have contractions at the end.  I also wonder if we rushed things a bit, but I’m not REALLY complaining about that.  Alexandria was born 24 hours after I had awakened with a bloody show and contractions.


Birthing at home was an amazing experience   I was never tempted by drugs or epidurals–because I knew they weren’t possible options.  Everyone left us alone after they cleaned and packed up.  That day was one of the most relaxing days I can remember.  I had a perfect baby, and no one interrupted our little family.  We slept in our own bed and chatted online with friends and family.  I had no doctors or nurses coming in my room to bother me.  No one took my daughter away for shots, tests, etc.  I had her with me the whole time.  The pediatrician did come back by that afternoon to see how Ale was doing, but he may have been there five minutes.  I can’t imagine giving birth in a hospital after something like that.  Furthermore, my recovery was amazingly quick!  I rested as much as I could at my mama’s urging–but I was able to move and walk around by the next day with little irritation.


I read about how empowered women feel after giving birth.  It’s totally true.  I skyped with a friend who said, “You did it!”  Just those three words made me feel so accomplished.  I did do it!  I labored and gave birth to an amazing little girl.  AND I did it with no drugs clouding up our systems.  It makes me feel more amazing as time goes on–and really helps me with breastfeeding as well.  Yes, this hurts–but I can do this.  It’s the way God made my body, and my little girl will benefit greatly from my milk!

My Mamaw would say, “Every ol’ crow thinks her’s is the blackest…” But Alexandria Irene really is perfect.  At birth she was 3.600 kilos (7lbs 9oz) and 51 centimeters (20 inches) long.  She has a head full of black hair and eyes full of wonder.  I am filled with awe every time I look at her.



Anticipating a Full Moon

At my appointment 6 weeks ago, my doctor matter-of-factly informed me that I needed to be ready to birth this week.  Not only am I 38 weeks, but the full moon is tomorrow.

The full moon is credited with all kinds of craziness.  Ask any teacher, and they can tell you that there has to be SOME truth to the theories.  Classrooms of generally well-behaved children go a little wild–and all over the halls you hear, “Oh, it’s because of the full moon…”

I read a book one time by Barbara Kingsolver that claimed that a woman’s cycle used to be with the moon.  As women became more exposed to artificial lighting, it  threw off the natural order of things.  So the tales of wild behavior on a full moon were attributed to the charge of pheromones flying around out there.  I don’t know if that’s true or not–but I know that a lot of people claim that the moon does funny things to us.

In fact, it’s interesting that it isn’t even one culture.  Pretty much all over the world different beliefs about the power of the moon are passed down in “old wives tales.” Some claim that the moon’s power over water and the tide would naturally affect us due to the abundance of water in our bodies.

I don’t know how much I believe the mooners, but I’ve felt a need to be prepared today.  Just in case.

At least I can rest happy knowing that should he decide to grace us with his presence sometime in the next week, he’d be right on time.  They say that two weeks before isn’t out of the ordinary.  I also read online that she’s probably shed that cheesy baby stuff–which makes me pretty happy.  Cheesy babies look a little gross to me.

I check in vain for signs of my body preparing to go.  I did feel stirring today down low–so that was encouraging.  My hips and inner thighs burn when I stand up and try to move.  The baby’s stretching out the skin in the middle of my belly as he moves the majority of his body down.  That’s it though.

The countdown is on.


Are You My Mother?


We have a pet bird.

No, no.  She doesn’t live in a cage or sing.  She doesn’t say, “Pretty bird!” or “Step up!” like my brother’s old birds.  In fact, this is what her day looks like:

  1. Walk to the left.
  2. Walk to the right.
  3.  Hop up on some bricks.
  4.  Run away from the humans.
  5.  Repeat 1-4

Poor birdie.

We don’t really know what happened.  Two days ago Victor told me there was a bird stuck in the back patio area and she was trying to figure out how to leave.  Upon examining her (from a distance), we could see that something appeared to be wrong with her wing.  One sits high on her back, and the other hangs a little.

We brainstormed ideas to help our bird friend.  But, this isn’t the States.  I can’t call up the University and ask what to do.  There aren’t organizations of strange bird lovers sitting around waiting to heal a wounded bird.  We couldn’t put her outside the gate–she’d die for sure!  And we might hurt her worse if we tried to capture her!  I had a moment of remembering my dog, Banjo.

Poor Banjo was crazy.  Literally.  After endangering my nephew and another young boy–we made the decision to put him down.  So, I thought of that:  if the bird is hurting, maybe we should just kill it.  (I grew up in the country.)

I’ve opted to keep it instead.  So, Victor and I feed our bird old bread and we make sure that water is available.  My hope is that she will miraculously heal and take off one day.  Until then, we celebrate the small things (that ACTUAL bird lovers would never celebrate…):  Our bird doesn’t hide from us anymore!  She scurry behind her block or sink down in the hole that Victor dug for some plant.

It may be love.

Mayan Predictions Coming True


This weekend when we visited Southern Chiapas, we were warned multiple times to be careful on Tuesday (today). My friend explained that the indigenous people were expecting an earthquake today. Again and again we were reminded to stay in safe places, and to tell the rest of the family here. I was assured that they were superstitious…

Last week we were told that today was a nation wide earthquake drill. Mexico has been worried because we’ve had an abundance of tremors. This drill was planned for around noon today, and so in the true spirit of the school, we practiced. The drill begins with a normal alarm (though not as loud and piercing as the alarms at home), and we line up in the classroom. When the cow bell sounds (true story), we make our way down to the small soccer field in the middle of the school grounds.

I was telling one of my co-teachers all about the weekend, and how according to the Mayans, we were doomed. All of a sudden, I felt like I was dizzy. The children, who were sitting on the ground, began murmuring and some jumped to their feet.

It happened. The Mayans do know what they’re talking about…