A Virgin Islands Couple has a Virginia Birth

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My name is Mcanalle and my fiancée is Tiba. We currently live in the Virgin Islands (St. John) but decided we would rather have our birth in the states. We had a few family weddings in Virginia (where I grew up) and also knew that the hospital in the VI, while inaccessible to us in the case of an emergency, was also known by many as not “mother friendly”. We had heard stories from our birth class teacher about the pressure to induce, unwanted services being performed without reasons given, etc. We were planning on a physician performed birth at a nice birth center in Charlottesville until we watched the documentary “The Business Of Being Born”, which opened our minds to other options! I hadn’t realized that having a midwife perform the birth would be a choice since we didn’t have a “home” and wouldn’t be asking my sister if we could give birth in her apartment! With a few Google searches, I found that there are now birth centers in which you can deliver with a midwife, or in our case multiple midwives! That began our relationship with Winding River Birth Center.

Baby IsaiahNow, we made this decision fairly late in our pregnancy, I think I was about six or seven months along, but Sarita made us feel comfortable with our choice right away. She told us to wait until we had gotten to Charlottesville (we were still in the islands and communicating by phone) to meet her and her staff and students to make sure we were comfortable with the choice, but we both felt confident after speaking with her that this was what we wanted. Everything she said about the center and how they wanted mothers to experience birth made sense to us, as well as the model of care that she provided and taught by (the center is also a school for midwifery). As first-time parents and Virgin Islanders, we had made some decisions that would seem unorthodox to some people, including having our baby somewhere other than where we called home, but looking back I would not have had it any other way…I can honestly say that Sarita, Liz, Sabr, and Dominique gave us the experience of a lifetime and our dream birth.

I went into labor on June 27, around 10 pm, after a hike and some Guadalajara Mexican food that evening. I was two weeks “after” (not “late”!) my due date so we felt VERY excited when we knew we were having real contractions! After talking to Sarita, who told us to wait an hour to make sure the contractions continued, we stayed where we were and counted seconds and minutes of and between contractions. After another hour had passed, we chose to go to the birth center and meet one of the midwives there. (We had met all of the midwives and students who would be part of our birth at each weekly prenatal visit, so we felt like each woman was family at this point) I was VERY confident going into birth that it was nothing I couldn’t handle; after all, I had done my squats and kegels, my prenatal yoga and walks- I was prepared! My mother’s births were all around 8 hours, so I felt certain we would have a baby by morning.

Liz knew that wouldn’t be the case, so she recommended that I try and get some rest. (I wish I had tried a little harder to sleep while contractions were somewhat mild!) My mom and her husband, my sister, and Tiba all rested after we familiarized ourselves with our room and the upstairs area (where my family took naps, ate, hung out). Lo and behold, morning came and I was still waiting on Isaiah to make his appearance! I’ll skip ahead to my active labor (at this point, I could have sworn that I WAS in active labor, but little did I know..) and just say that although I have never had a hospital birth to compare it to, I couldn’t imagine feeling more taken care of. Being able to lay in the bed next to Tiba was comforting, having women who I trusted in and out of the room, helping me along was amazing. I love men, but WOMEN were definitely who I wanted and needed around me at this point! I was having a hard time holding down fluids, so Dominique offered a Passion flower tincture which helped, while Liz made me beverages with magnesium to help calm me. I was able to walk outside for a little while, shower, rock in a rocker, bounce on the birth ball.

Around 2 pm (I think) I experienced bloody show, which encouraged me, as I hadn’t had any before going into labor! I had started to really have contractions at this point, was feeling a little less confident that this baby was actually coming! I remember thinking “when are they going to fill up that birth tub I keep having to stare at!” But I patiently waited. I totally trusted that the women knew what they were doing, and if it hadn’t been filled yet, it wasn’t time for me to use it! Around four I felt like I needed to be on the toilet, I had lost my mucus plug, and at this point discovered my water bag was present! Rather than break it and invite potential infection, the midwives let it, for lack of a better word, hang.. it felt pretty weird, like a water balloon!

Soon after, the birth tub was full of warm water, and I had started to get to that point that I had heard almost all mothers get to, of feeling like I couldn’t do it. (I had also lost my sense of modesty) I was helped into the tub by Dominique and Tiba, which did provide some relief from the intensity of the contractions.. shortly after, when Dominique had left the room for a few moments, my body did an INCREdIBLE thing and began pushing during contractions. It is like nothing I can describe. Tiba called to Dominique that I was pushing, and she came back. Around then we determined that Isaiah (my baby) had turned a little so we wanted to get him back into the right position (he was still head down), so Dominique suggested that I breathe through some contractions. Although I loved the tub, I think, for me, it would have been hard to birth Isaiah in there. I was very tired and a little discouraged.

image3I moved from the tub to a birthing stool the women set up (they are amazing and very quick!) and from there it was only minutes til Isaiah arrived! First his head, born into the water bag, I believe, which then broke. I couldn’t really see much, I felt very focused on getting ALL of him out before I took a look! Then his body, and he was placed on my chest, and I felt very surreal. I couldn’t believe that this little squirming, adorable, healthy human had spent the last nine months inside me!

I was also exhausted and so grateful that the midwives took care of me afterward… and that I TRUSTED them. I did bleed a little bit, which normally would cause alarm, but I was in such a state that I really couldn’t get too worked up, and having people I felt like I knew and loved made me feel very safe and sound. All I had to do was hold and love my new baby.

Although Isaiah was born past his due date (which can be frustrating even when you are aware that a due date is just an estimate) and I had started to wonder if I had made the right choice coming to the states to have my baby, after my experience at Winding River with the women there, I can say I am overwhelmed with how much love, care, and empowerment we felt from our birth and the midwives there! From the first appointment we had, to a few days before we left town, we were in touch with all four women who had been a part of our birth. They came to us for our post natal appointments so that we could stay huddled up in our heaven on earth and concentrate on Isaiah. Dominique had so much compassion for our little guy, and Sabr was the most comforting presence.. the knowledge and wisdom of Liz and Sarita made us feel secure in our choices, as well as inspired us to do more research on certain choices. Everyone who helped us was truly amazing and brought their own magic to the table and we couldn’t have been happier or felt more at home. We definitely would love to have another birth if we are so blessed with the women at Winding River