My Birth Story

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Orion at 4 days old. Photo courtesy Emily Crawford:

At the time of publishing this story, Orion is 7 1/2 weeks old, though I completed 95% of writing within the first 2 weeks. I’m not exactly sure why it’s taken so long to publish. I can say I haven’t had the time, but truth is we always make time for the things that are most important. I think I really just wanted to “get it right”, so I reviewed and reviewed, but as I prepare to hit publish today, I realize I’ve delayed because no matter how eloquent or engaging these words are you’re about to read, no writing could really capture what this experience was to me.

In sharing the story with one of my spiritual advisors the day I returned from the hospital, we uncovered that the lessons I learned during my labor are truly the culmination of nearly a decade of intense spiritual work: Learning to fully trust and surrender to the mysterious unknown, to harness all of my power and persevere towards one single goal until it’s been complete, learning to ask for help and rely on the people around me while at the same time taking 100% responsibility for my desired outcome. 

These are big lessons, lessons that could take a lifetime to master. So in addition to taking home a perfect baby boy when I left the hospital, I took with me…well you’ll just have to keep reading to find out 😉

Early Imprinting

From the time I was a very young girl, maybe 5 or 6, I remember knowing I wanted to be a mom…and already being afraid of childbirth. Weird, huh?

Maybe it was the imprinting of my own birth: My moms doctor was very eager to “get the job done” and promptly popped my moms water and gave her a several inch episiotomy (cutting her vaginal opening to allow for faster, “easier” labor) immediately upon seeing her after she’d waited to be seen at the hospital for 6 hours. Then after I came out, he pulled the placenta out, leaving pieces inside that led to many months of painful bleeding and a major surgery to correct.

Maybe it was the imprinting of movies and TV shows. I mean, seriously, has labor ever been portrayed as anything but hell on earth by the media?

Or maybe it was the fact that I haven’t experienced much physical pain in this life. Couple burns, cuts and rolled ankles, but no broken bones, no fist fights, very few headaches (except the occasional hangover).

Whatever the reason, I had some major work to do if there was any hope of having the natural childbirth that I was committed to having.

Preparing for Birth

With all of our travelling in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, we never go to a birth class, but I do watch lots of documentaries and YouTube videos on “easy natural childbirth” to retrain my mind about labor. I see women lounging at home in tubs seeming to effortlessly birth their babies, some even with an orgasms to boot! On some level, watching these videos is helpful, but on another, it sets me up for some pretty unrealistic expectations about birth. I even have a psychic tell me I’d have a 5 hour birth, which I was totally preparing myself for!

At our 37 week doctors appointment, I’m doing my standard “worried Camille”, asking Dr. Cap all kinds of questions and relaying new fears. He stops me during a swirl of questions and says: “At 37 weeks, I’d expect you to be much more calm and mentally prepared for natural birth than you are. YOU are the one having this baby, not me, not Craig, not your doula poking needles in you. Do what you need to do to get into your power here or it ain’t gonna happen the way you’re envisioning.”

Ouch, that hurt.

I actually went into the appointment feeling far more prepared than I had just a week before, so this really let the wind out of my sails. We promptly go to the birth center next door where we are given a private 1 hour crash course birth class. I’m then referred to a woman to give me a pelvic floor massage to help “pave the way” for the baby to come down the birth canal.

Little do I know at the time, but we would meet our son within 10 days of our 37 week appointment. In that time, I get really serious and focused about removing anything I could that was in the way of my birth being wonderful for me, baby and Craig.

I spend most of my time alone, reading and working with an amazing spiritual counselor who helps me uncover things from the past that are causing all of the fear in me. And when I say past, I mean waaaaay past, like past lives, but those are stories for other days. I can’t say how exactly, but the work works, and I find myself more calm and emotionally ready as each day passes.

As I prepare myself mentally and emotionally, my body is giving me signs that labor is coming. Fourth of July comes and goes with me sitting on the couch, afraid to move too much in fear that if I walk wrong that I’ll drop a bowling ball out of me!

At this point, I’m still 12 days from my due date, but I had always felt like he would come early. Many people tell me to manage those expectations as first-time moms usually go full-term or even beyond. Even still, I talk to him at night and ask him to not get too big inside me and that he’s  free to come as soon as his body is ready. I just don’t think I’d be able to push out a 10 pound baby!

Labor Begins

Monday July 6, 2015, 1am: I awake to my first real contractions. I remember the birth educator telling me to sleep as long as possible once contractions started, so I tell Craig that I’m in labor, but to keep sleeping (he has no problem with that…I don’t think he believes they are real). For a couple hours they come pretty regularly, but then stop when I decide to take a bath.

I am equally thankful for the pain to subside and devastated that this may be another false alarm (I had several the week before). “How could I possibly carry this bowling ball around in me another day?”, I think.

6am: They start again, this time with a fair amount more intensity and regularity than just hours before. I message my doula and began tracking frequency and duration.

10am: Contractions are in full swing. I pace around the house, often wailing so loud during contractions that the neighbors and passers-by stopp to listen. Craig is on his Monday morning work calls, washing diving equipment from the weekend, and doing other things that in my opinion were of zero importance. In reality, I think he’s just scared and processing it in his way and trying to distract himself as long as possible.

My doula, Deb, and best friend, Katie, are also nowhere to be found. Don’t these people know that THIS is the only important thing happening right now? Thankfully, my brother is there with me and awkwardly tries to help me with my contractions. It seems like neither of us much knows what we’re doing.

10:30am: After a particularly loud contraction, I walk onto our front porch to find our neighbor, two gardeners, and a neighborhood mom with her two boys stopped in front of the house with concern about the sounds emerging inside. The mom says “I’ve been thinking about you and just knew those were contraction moans I was hearing down the street! ” Her 3 year old son  known fondly in our neighborhood as “the mayor” promptly opens the gate, walks up the stairs to pet our dog and asks if he can see the baby now.

11am: Katie and Deb arrive and I continue to labor at home for a couple hours, with contractions coming on progressively stronger and faster by the minute. Everyone recommends I stay at home as long as possible as going to the hospital too early can lead to unnecessary interventions if you aren’t progressing as quickly as they would like.

1pm: I know the time has come to go to the hospital, mostly because the idea of sitting in the car for the 30 minute car ride is already excruciating, and will become more so as contractions come on stronger in shorter intervals.

1:30: The car ride begins: I have meditation music in my ears and a dark eye mask on to keep the world out, but each contraction in the car is hell. Katie is driving behind us and says that I look like I’m having seizures with every contraction because my head is shaking so violently back and forth.

2pm: We pull up to the hospital entrance and I begin bawling like a baby as I walk inside, mostly because the reality of this baby coming is setting in with every step I make towards my room. Once inside, I asked that I be immediately checked, as if I’m not far enough along, I may be asked to leave and come back later (that would have been horrible).

2:15pm: The nurse reports that I’m 5.5cm dilated and 90% effaced, far enough along that I’m admitted. The nurses begin undressing me and put an IV dock in my hand just in case an intervention is needed (hospital policy). Katie and Deb walk me out to the courtyard, and thats when things go a bit south. Contractions are becoming more and more intense with less time to regroup between and my energy is tapped.

At this point, I’ve been in labor for about 14 hours, with 10 of them mostly on my feet, walking and/or doing semi-squats during most every contraction as the idea of sitting is simply unbearable. Deb tells me afterwards that it was the most active labor of the 60ish she’s participated in.

I’m hitting a wall of exhaustion and know the baby isn’t coming anytime soon. Panic set in. “I need to have an epidural. There’s no way I can make it through without one’’ is the thought running on repeat through my anxiety laden mind. We go back inside and I begin asking the nurses, who knew that my birth plan clearly stated that I want a natural birth, what my options are for drugs.

“Lets get you in the shower for a little while before we talk about that,” she says matter-of-factly.

I complied, but doubted it would matter much.

3pm: The standing shower is equipped with an exercise ball, so I’m able to sit on that between contractions and stand and move around during them. Craig sits in a chair right outside the shower and helps me through each one. I’m still not exactly sure why or how, but the water is my saving grace. I’m able to relax and gain back enough strength during these 2 hours in the shower that allows me to keep on going.

I get out of the shower and asked to be checked again.

5pm: 7.5 cm dilated. Making progress.

The next couple hours are a bit of a blur. I lay in bed to regain some strength, but laying also makes contractions incredibly painful. I throw up more than a liter of fluid, which helps relieve some internal pressure, but my water is still very much intact and very full. I beg the nurses to break it, but apparently only Dr. Cap can authorize that, and he’s nowhere to be found.

I learn that he is delivering another baby a couple doors down, which somehow also frustrates me. I want his undivided attention and I want my water broken, for crying out loud!

My contractions continue to grow stronger and closer together as my energy continues to fade. I’m now screaming through many contractions, and whoever is unfortunate enough to be holding my hand through each one probably left the hospital with bruises.

7pm: I ask again to be checked, this time certain that I’m close to fully dilated. Dr. Cap shows up (finally) to check me and reports that in the last 2 hours of sheer torture, I have not dilated AT ALL. I’m devastated. These 2 hours have been the hardest yet and I don’t know where I’ll find the strength to carry on.

I’m in the middle of a wailing contraction, totally devastated by this news and Dr. Cap grabs my feet to get my attention, looks me square in the eye and says: “Each contraction is happening to OPEN your body up to release this baby and you’re tightening around them, rendering them totally ineffective. You’re going to need to totally change directions and go to a Zen place if you want to have a natural birth, Camille. No more screaming, no more intense breathing, no more squeezing our hands for dear life.”

I know this warning is real, and I know its serious. Though I had read all of this in my birthing books and Craig and Deb had probably been saying it to me for hours, it all seems brand new coming from Dr. Cap.

Craig takes me back into the shower where I find myself in the most difficult mental and physical place of my life: I have to fully let go and surrender into the pain that feels like its killing me. I have to embrace it, to trust it, to allow it to take me to the other side, the side I’ve never been and can’t imagine going.

But I have no choice. If I don’t do it, what will happen? I’’m too far along for an epidural. Hours more painful contractions until my body gives out in pure exhaustion leading to a C-Section?

Within a couple minutes, Craig tells me that my countenance completely changes. As each contraction comes on, I train myself to let my hands go, let my breath go, let all of the tension in my body go. Craig’s voice still lingers in my mind: “OPEN, OPEN…” soft and steady.

I’ve never been much of a meditator or fully grasped the power of breath until these moments in the shower.  My breath, my focused intention to open and my choice to surrender to the contractions, to rest as I lay on the ball with the water hitting my body, these moments save my labor.

After 2 hours of this, I feel rested and renewed, knowing even then that learning to trust and surrender in the midst of fear and pain will have a ripple effect in my life far beyond my birthing process. That the more I truly embrace all of life’s “contractions” (be it in finances, relationships or whatever), the more I can thrive and not merely survive life’s inevitable hiccups and setbacks.

9pm: The nurse checks me again and I’m at least 8.5 maybe 9 cm dilated, with my water still intact. I ask her to break it, and again she says she’s not allowed as Dr. Cap does not like doing any interventions if not absolutely required. She tells me that my cervix is quite soft and that she thinks she can stretch it a bit further open. As she does this, my water pops like a fire hydrant and shoots across the room, sorta like you’d see in a movie. What a perfect comic relief!!

Dr. Cap gets the call that my water has broken, signaling that pushing will soon begin and arrives 20 or so minutes later.

Before I forget, let me paint a picture of Dr. Cap: He’s a roughly 43 year old Greek guy with a mini under-the-lip-goatee thing, broad shoulders and a stocky build. He may even have an earring in one ear. Definitely in a frat in college and probably played football, too. He has a necessary softness to be able to help women push babies out of their vagina’s day in and day out, but this is a man, through and through. A man who is among the top 2-3 most respected baby docs in San Diego and who delivers probably 10-15 babies a week. We are clearly living in 2 realities, Dr. Cap and I. For me, this is an event that will most likely kill me, for him, it’s just an average Monday night.

Standing on the other side of the room leaning against a counter, arms folded over his chest, he says to me as nonchalantly as ordering a cup of coffee: “So how you wanna push this baby out?”

“Uhhh I don’t know, you tell me.” I say with major annoyance that he is so freaking calm during my moments of agony.

We proceed to try a couple standing positions, but with the 15+ hours laboring mostly on my feet, my legs are shaky and about to give out. We then end up with me on my back, Craig holding one leg and the nurse holding the other with Dr. Cap in the “receiving” position and Katie and Deb floating around.

Turns out I have no idea how to push a baby out. The first couple pushes have me screaming bloody murder and putting lots of force into my legs. Dr. Cap has another one of his little “talks” with me, informing me that if I don’t put all of my energy and focus into pushing in the one spot the baby needs to come out of, versus expelling my energy through my screaming and legs, that we could be here all night. It takes me several times of pushing wrong, maybe even 10, before I finally get it right (and who knew getting it right could feel so wrong).

Even as I’m pushing, I’m already seeing that this moment is a microcosm for my whole life. I have a goal, a desire, an intention, usually revolving around my business. But instead of putting all of my focus, energy and power into seeing one thing to completion, I diffuse my power into lots of projects and fail to get  any one of them over the tipping point, to experience the joy and reward of my creation.

I’m literally processing this as I push. Its wild. But this time will be different, it actually has to be different because unlike the email autoresponder that can sit and collect dust or the ad campaigns that have been started and stopped before they turn a profit, there is a human being in this birth canal that needs to come out as a matter of life or death. I can no longer hide, no longer get distracted, no longer turn my attention to less confronting issues. I have no choice but to keep moving forward no matter how much I want to check out.

There is such immense fear of putting my everything into pushing. If I push as hard and as focused as Dr. Cap is coaching me, I think I am going to explode. That my entire pelvic floor will shatter into a million pieces. Seeing this labor through will requires the power of a woman. And that once I see and know this power once, I will never be able to stand behind smallness again.

This quote from Marianne Williamson has been echoing in me for years and I think sums it up perfectly:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So after 90 minutes of pushing, being told that I’m getting closer and having extreme thoughts of resignation that no matter how hard I push, he still won’t come (very similar to my thoughts of “my best isn’t good enough” or “no matter how hard I try I still fall short”), he finally does.

I don’t know exactly how many pushes it takes, but after the very hardest ones that push his head past my pelvic bone and then crown and pause for what feels like an eternity to prevent tearing, I feel his long, skinny body slither out of me and quickly placed on my belly. The look on my face is so epic:

I’d like to say that my first thoughts are “Oh my, I finally get to meet my son” or my heart exploding with love for him…those certainly do follow but…

The first thought, the one I have when making this face is: “OH MY GOD, I DID IT! CHILDBIRTH DIDN’T KILL ME!”

Never have I been so thankful that something was over than this moment, and never have I been so proud of myself for a job seen through to completion, a job well done.

The moments that follow are so sweet. Craig’s face is covered in tears. Baby just looks at us without crying or tears, but a peaceful wonder. Even though there’s much activity happening around us (birthing the placenta, cutting the umbilical cord, stitching me up, and getting bleeding under control), everything feels so peaceful.

As I stare at him, it feels more like we’re remeeting than meeting for the first time. Like he’s completing this part of me thats always been missing but I didn’t know it until it wasn’t missing anymore.

We stay in the hospital that night and the following, with an immediate deadline to give him a name before leaving the hospital.

I had been CONVINCED that his name was supposed to be Zachary Austin Allen, but Craig was never that into it. Pretty much as soon as I met him, I knew Craig was right: this wasn’t a Zachary.

I spend hours in the hospital looking at his astrology and numerology and we bounce names back and forth that feel like they may be a better fit. Craig had come up with the name Orion several months before, and that made its way back to the top. With our mutual love of the ocean and Hawaii and all of the water elements in his birth chart, I wanted a name that included that as well.

The name Orion means “a supernaturally strong hunter” in Greek mythology. He was son of Poseidon, God of the sea (which is cute because Craig is in love with the ocean). The Babylonian star catalogue named Orion “The Heavenly Shepherd” or “True Shepherd of Anu” (Anu was the chief god of the heavenly realms).

Kai is the Hawaiian word for “The Sea”.

I randomly found another meaning that cracked me up and seems perfect:

kai meaning

It may have been written by a Kai stalker or mother, but I don’t care.

On that note, we give to you ORION KAI ALLEN, born July 6, 2015 at 10:57pm weighing 7 pounds 8 ounces and 21 inches long.

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VERY special thanks to my AMAZING birth team:

Craig & Katie

Deb Davies, Doula & Acupuncture

Dr. Capetanakis, OBGYN

Nurses at Scripps Hospital in Encinitas

Kimberly Johnson, pelvic floor massage

Natalie Vail, Spiritual Counselor

Kimberly Stephenson, Placenta Encapsulation

Peggy Olson, Lactation Consultant & baby Cranial Sacral Therapy

Joe & Stacy Merlo @ Good Vibrations Chiropractic, pre and post natal & baby chiropractic care.