A HeartSpace Mom Tells Her Birth Story

Ivy Kathryn-July 4, 2012

I started with Owen and Nathan’s birth stories not only because I wanted to record them, but because I wanted to portray the vast differences between their births and Ivy’s. Consider yourself warned, this is really long!

I had wanted to try home birth after Owen was born, but understandably so, Jesse and I couldn’t really come to an agreement on it. In June of 2011, we decided to move to New York where Jesse would begin working with his brother in his custom cabinetry business, Steinberger Woodworks. To help ease this transition, Jesse’s brother Justin, and his wife Zoe, and their 2 children, Myles and Elliot, selflessly allowed us to move in with them. Zoe was expecting her third, a girl, whom they named Olive, in September.

Jesse and I knew we wanted to have one more child, but I was insistent that I didn’t want that 3rd one to come until Nathan was at least potty trained. I was keeping track of my ovulation via natural family planning, and doing pretty well with it. In October, I mixed up my dates, and the day I ovulated and realized I had confused my ovulation days, I conceived. I was naturally kind of disappointed about it, but the disappointment didn’t last long. I was thrilled to have another one, even if it was way before I wanted it. Through a chain of events, Jesse informed me he would be okay with my having a home birth. I was elated. I contacted the midwives, HeartSpace Midwifery, and we began monthly visits.

I endured the next 20 weeks with the usual intense morning sickness, this time seemingly a little more difficult since I was also taking care of Owen and Nate, but I am so grateful that we were living with Justin and Zoe still, as Zoe was a big help during this time. I was due July 11. We found out she was a girl in February. The baby girl I had prayed and longed for. We also found out that I had what appeared to be placenta previa. Placenta previa is where the uterus imbeds over the cervical opening, and almost always indicates bed rest towards the end of pregnancy (in case of preterm labor) and c-section. I was only 18 weeks along, meaning the uterus and baby are still quite small, and it’s easy to mistake a placenta previa. But still, precautions had to be taken. I was told I needed to be careful about doing too much and straining too much, and no sex. Eight agonizingly long weeks later, we had another ultrasound, and this ultrasound indicated that the placenta previa was entirely gone. The ultrasound tech showed me the obviously clear cervical opening, and then he traveled halfway up my stomach and revealed the placenta way up at the side. I cannot express the relief I experienced at that point! In March, we moved out of Justin and Zoe’s house and into our own apartment, about a mile up the road. 

Besides the placenta previa and miserable morning sickness, the pregnancy continued without much event. Every month I went to see the midwives, Heidi and Maureen. The visits lasted an hour each time. They had a big comfy couch in their visiting room. As I sat there, we talked about every relevant topic (and some irrelevant :), got to know each other, developed a midwife/patient relationship, but also a friendship. They allowed me to talk freely about any uncertainties and worries, listened to me, and offered advice and encouragement. Any time I needed anything before or after Ivy’s birth, I could text them and they were always prompt with their responses, even several times going out of their way to rearrange their schedule to allow me to come to their office if necessary, or to stop by my home. They were kind and friendly, understanding, very knowledgeable about natural ways to approach pregnancy and anything else, and willing to help me with whatever I presented. 

For the next few weeks we settled into our new apartment and prepared for Ivy’s birth. Owen asked a lot of questions about Ivy and the whole process. Nathan was a little young to process it all, but even so, he’d point to my tummy and laugh and giggle. Both boys would rub my tummy, kiss my tummy, and thought it was hilarious to blow raspberries. Ivy would always start moving when they did that.

When I was about 37 weeks along, I was feeling the usual Braxton-Hicks contractions pretty often. Since my other births were like this, I knew that she would be coming soon. Around this time, the midwives came for a home visit to see what our apartment looked like and to talk about how the home birth would go down with Jesse and I. They also brought the birth tub, and encouraged us to set it up, fill it, and for me to get in it to see what it was like. They gave us a list of things that would be needed for the home birth, which I diligently set up on the dresser near to where the birth tub would be. Somewhere in this time, I woke up one morning feeling pretty intense contractions about 5 minutes apart. Justin came to pick up Owen and Nathan, and I called my mom to have her start heading over from CT. Unfortunately, by the time the midwives got to me, the labor had tapered off…false alarm. I was 3 cm dilated and not in active labor when they checked.

Even so, my mom came, and I was relieved to have her around. About a week and a half later, I was getting pretty tired of the Braxton-Hicks contractions that seemingly weren’t getting me anywhere. On July 3, my birthday, my mom gave me money to get a massage. I told the woman doing the massage to feel free to hit every labor pressure point. I also visited the chiropractor. I had visited the chiropractor every week for the second half of the pregnancy. That helped immensely, for every normal ailment related to pregnancy from heartburn to body aches to trouble sleeping, and for the labor itself to make sure everything was lined up properly and to shorten the labor.

Early on July 4, Nathan woke up crying, so I went into his room and noticed I was feeling that crampy, weird, not quite normal feeling that indicated the onset of labor with my other pregnancies. It was about 3:30 am, and I knew I’d be able to go back to sleep, so I went to bed. Around 6:30, my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but not very painful and I was still able to sleep through them. I still texted my midwives to let them know I thought this was the real deal. About half an hour later, I got up and ate a little, but found that I was really tired, so I went back to bed. My midwives arrived around 8, and I was sleeping somewhat fitfully, waking up about every 5 minutes to a contraction that was intense, but I was able to breath through it. Heidi came in and asked if she could check me and found that I was 7 cm dilated. After that I couldn’t sleep much, so I got up and started to wander around. Jesse ran Owen and Nathan over to Justin & Zoe’s and then came back and started filling up the birth tub for me.

Leading up to this, I had been nervous that it was going to be awkward having the 2 midwives, Jesse, and my mom all sitting around in my little apartment waiting for me to have a baby. I found that this was not the case. Heidi and Maureen came in quietly, set up their things, kept a watchful eye on me, and talked in low tones. The atmosphere was calm and friendly and homey. I wandered around, stopping occasionally for a contraction, and talked and joked with everyone. The midwives showed Jesse and my mom how to apply counter pressure to my lower back during a contraction, and I found that this was so helpful. I couldn’t get on top of the contraction unless somebody was doing that. I spent the next couple hours mostly on my knees, draped forward over a birth ball, with someone applying counter pressure to my lower back through every contraction. I’d take a deep breath as I felt the contraction come on, then kind of huff and puff my way through it, and breath a sigh of relief when it ended. It felt so perfect to be surrounded by people I was completely comfortable with, in my own home with my own bathroom and bedroom. 

Around 10 am, the birth tub was full. The second I stepped into it and sank into the water onto my knees, it was the greatest relief. At this point I think I was around 9-10 cm, my contractions around 2-4 minutes apart. My water still hadn’t broken. While it is a good thing for the water to stay in tact, since it helps the baby to settle into the correct position in the birth canal, it also felt like it made the labor a little more drawn out.

For the next hour and a half, I leaned forward over the side of the tub as Jesse applied pressure to my lower back during contractions. The water made the contraction infinitely easier to handle. The tub was designed to have air in the bottom too, so the cushiony feel of it took a lot of pressure off of my knees. Jesse stayed close by me, always keeping my hair off of my face, holding my cup up so I could sip water from the straw, ready to apply counter pressure during a contraction, and lend any support I needed. The midwives were always nearby, quietly observing, waiting patiently, allowing me to follow my body’s cues for labor. It felt as if they were simply there to observe the miracle of birth and lend a hand if needed.

Eventually, I started wondering how much longer this was going to be. In a typical labor and delivery, when a laboring mother gets to this point of feeling like they have no more in them, she is pretty close to the end. The midwives were telling me that it was taking a while because my water hadn’t broken. They said it may help to get out of the tub and walk around a bit. Because the water had made my laboring more manageable, I was able to do this. I assume at this point that I was about 10 cm, my contractions still about 2-3 minutes apart. So, out of the tub I came. Jesse helped me to the bathroom and helped me walk around. This got tiring quickly, so I got back into the tub. I asked Maureen if she could break my water, so at the next contraction, she did. It broke with a painful whoosh, and I immediately noticed that my contractions were much more intense, and soon I felt the slight urge to push.

I leaned against the squishy side of the tub, kind of on my side, upright, one leg down against the bottom of the tub, the other knee up. Jesse was there with his arms around me, supporting me, my head on his upper arm and shoulder, giving me strength simply with his strong hold and presence. After a few contractions, when I could feel her head close, I took a deep breath and bore down on the next contraction. To everyone’s surprise and my great relief, her head came out! After Maureen checked to make sure the cord wasn’t around her neck, a few more little pushes, and out came her slimey little body into the warm water. Maureen lifted her out and handed her to me, then wrapped her with a warm towel. I wanted so badly to look at her sweet face and tell her how glad I was that she was here and how much I loved her. But my arms felt like jelly and all I could manage to do was put my head back, close my eyes, and savor the feeling of my little girl in my arms at last.

After a few minutes, I felt strong enough to get out and deliver the placenta. Ivy was handed to Jesse, who had removed his shirt so Ivy could have continuous warmth through full skin-on-skin contact, enabling Jesse to have a few moments with his baby girl. I got out and moved to my bed in my own bedroom. The midwives did everything I needed, helping me to the bed, setting everything up, giving me time to adjust. When I got to my bed, they handed Ivy to me and I nursed her and delivered the placenta.

For about an hour, Jesse and I were able to sit together by ourselves with Ivy. We talked about her birth and looked at her sweet little features. The midwives stayed close by in case they were needed. They weighed, measured, and checked her over. My mom brought me fresh home-cooked food, my dad came in with a balloon and flowers. Owen and Nate came in and were so excited to see her and kiss her. It was a nice calm day, celebrating Ivy around the people that loved her most.

When the midwives checked Ivy, they discovered that she was tongue-tied, and talked us through the implications. For the first 24 hours, she was able to nurse and got milk effectively, but it was very painful for me. The day after she was born, we went to Albany to a specialist of which there are few in the country, who removed the tongue-tie with lasers. After this was done, she nursed much better. For the next couple weeks, we had to stretch the tongue-tie back open several times a day so that it wouldn’t heal back together. This was really difficult for both Jesse and I, and I pretty much cried every time we had to do it. Now it is all healed correctly, and she nurses like a champ, without any pain to me!

The home birth was a beautiful experience, exactly as I had hoped for. Sure it was very painful, but I was able to manage with the freedom and relaxation of being in my own environment, with people I was familiar with, and a birth tub. The midwives stayed around for a while, until they were sure all was well, then left us with instructions, letting us know to call if needed. We were able to enjoy Ivy’s first days with no interruptions. My mom stayed around for a week or so, cooked and cleaned, helped me with Owen and Nathan, helping us all transition to life together.

I am beyond grateful that Ivy and I had the experience that I think was best for us. She is a beautiful girl, absolutely adored by her brothers, and a great sleeper and eater. The midwives checked in often over the next few weeks, and were always just a text or phone call away, which was very helpful when I got mastitis, then thrush. Their knowledge of very helpful and useful remedies for those ailments helped me get through both of those ailments quickly and successfully.

I am so grateful for my sweet kiddos and loving husband!



Caona’s Birth Video

We are pleased to unveil this special birth video. We feel so honored to share these moments with families.  This story highlights the power of intention.  This family had a vision of who would accompany them on their journey and  as you will see, each person shines in the role they took on.  Caona was truly welcomed with love.  Enjoy.

The Healing Power of Love


The HeartSpace midwives were honored to greet a very special little soul yesterday.  Baby girl Fallon joined her beautiful family after her mom worked with grace and amazing strength through labor.

Fallon has already given and received the gift of love many times over.  She is named after a person who has impacted her parents very deeply on their healing journey over the last year.  Her very existence is testament to the power of love to heal every body, every day.   Her mother’s commitment to herself and her baby through her choices surrounding Fallon’s birth have been yet another step on the road to healing mind, spirit and body.

Fallon reminds us once again why birth matters.  She is the embodiment of peace.  We have no doubt that she will continue to bring that peace and joy to her family as she grows into the ability to express the strength, compassion, and love of her namesake.  We are grateful to have met Fallon and her family as they joined the HeartSpace circle.  Thank you all!

A Birth Story From Dad’s Perspective

2am.  January 9th, 2012.  “Dale”  “Yes honey?”  “Can you fill up the birth tub?”  “Sure.”  It’s funny the things you think you will never be asked to do by your wife.  I knew that one day the little person she had carried around for months would arrive but until that day came, I had no concrete conceptualization of what the day would be like.  That is NOT my style.  I buy a board game: I read instructions.  I like projects: I know when they start and I can tell when I am done.  I run races: I know when they start, I know the route, I know when I am done.  So after filling up a birth tub at 2am on a cold January night and then having nothing happen, I didn’t know what to do next.

My wife’s a little better at improvising.  She came up with a list of things to do during the day.  We spent a few hours doing errands.  I was never so happy to be running errands.  It took my mind off the unknown.  When we returned home, it wasn’t long before my wife asked me to make dinner.  It was 3:30pm.  I knew she knew something was up.  Never mind she was having regular contractions, she wanted to have a good meal before it was too late.

There is an app for everything.  Apparently, there is an app for timing your contractions.  My wife was timing her contractions with the help of her cell phone.  She had made several calls to our midwives.  They were on their way to our house and for the second time in 24 hours, I was filling up the birth tub.  This time I knew it was for real.  There were still a lot of unknowns but I knew this was the real thing.

I left the details of my wife’s birth plan up to her.  There is no place for a man to be telling a woman what she can or can’t have when it comes to her birth.  She spent upwards of 12 hours over several days getting her birth room ready.  I helped her with hanging things on the walls and doing other “man-stuff”.  I knew that she knew what she needed to make her comfortable and make her experience special.  As the members of the birth crew arrived, consisting of midwives, doulas, friends, our other 2 children and a videographer, the setting my wife had created made an impression on them all.

I was doing my best to be out of the way and involved at the same time.  My wife had been having fairly strong, regular contractions for a few hours.  The members of her birth crew were all chosen after careful consideration.  My wife’s latent knowledge of economics helped her select these special people.  They each filled a role better than any other person could; comparative advantage in action.  Most surprisingly was the role our daughter played.  There are days when I wonder if my step-daughter will ever “get it”.  Seeing how our 9 year old played a role so vital, second only to the midwives, answered that question.

My wife was worried about how I would feel about seeing her in pain.  I knew the pain was part of the process.  I also knew that the birth process is not linear.  At one point, my wife was really struggling both physically and mentally.  Up to that point, I was not nervous or scared.  My wife made a decision to ask everyone to go into another room so she could concentrate on herself and her birth process.  Now, 15 feet away and only able to hear what was going on, my brain went to a scary place.  I was okay seeing my wife in pain.  Hearing my wife in pain was most uncomfortable.  Worst case scenarios flashed through my mind every time I heard my wife express pain.  What-if scenarios I never imagined could flash through my brain began to seem completely plausible.  So much remained unknown.

I will never forget the instant Maureen called me (and only me) aside and said that my wife had progressed to a point that she was ready to push.  So many unknowns became knowns.  I knew my wife was going to be okay.  I knew the baby was head down.  I knew the baby was ready to meet his family.  I knew Lily was going to need me to give her encouragement and strength for what lay ahead.  I knew my life was soon to be forever changed.

12:20 AM, January 10, 2012. My wife had been pushing for about 30 minutes.  I don’t think Lily noticed the midwives prepping for what they would need the instant our baby had been fully birthed.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw them getting blankets, scissors, stethoscopes, clamps and other items ready.  I was in the birth tub with my wife and with every push I knew she was getting closer to the end.  I was so impressed by her physical abilities.  I could feel her body tense up as she pushed.   She just about crushed my rib cage on more than one occasion.  I remember my wife reaching down and feeling our baby’s head.  Just a few pushes I thought and we would be face to face with our little one.

I didn’t get a glimpse of our baby until he was swooped out of the water and placed on my wife’s chest.  I was informed, rather comically, by my wife that it was a boy.  Another unknown, known.  As I peeked around my wife’s neck to get a look at him, he was already looking up at mama with a look that is now quite familiar.  I remember touching his tiny hands.  I remember kissing my wife on the cheek.  I recall her saying to him “We did it.”  They had indeed done it.  They had made me happier than I have ever been.

My wife, baby, and I eventually managed our way out of the birth tub.  I won’t forget the first time I held my little boy.  He was so calm.  He was so small.  He had black hair!!!!  He looked like mom.  He has a look that I saw the first time I held him that I still see every so often.  I bet I will see it as he grows into a man.  I know that no matter how old he gets, when I see that look, I will think back to his first hours on earth and recall with great happiness the journey he and his mother took and those first moments in my arms.

Introducing Caona, Our First HeartSpace Baby

The Birth Story

Taína was working hard to get labor going for about a week, doing everything from chiropractic to massage to prenatal yoga and acupuncture. On April 11th Taína had a midwifery appointment and after a good conversation with her midwife, decided it was time to let go and let  the baby decide when she wanted to come into the world. Taina felt a sense of relief. But she still had a chiropractic appointment, prenatal yoga class and pregnancy massage lined up for the day. As the late afternoon came, she felt a little different, but stayed in the mindset of letting go.However, a conversation with her sister that evening changed things a bit. The day before, Taína’s sister Ayana had given birth to her son Amani Angel in Binghamton, NY. The sisters were excited because Taína was also showing signs of going into labor soon. On the evening of April 11th Taína was listening to her sister tell her birth story and at one point they began to laugh very hard!  Taína thought to herself, “This laughter is going to make me go into labor”. Afterwards she fell asleep, and woke up feeling strong contractions. When she stood up, her water broke, and she knew it was time.Taína and Gaetano went up to their nest in their bedroom. Candle light from the altars lit the room as a bright half moon lit the sky. The space was serene and already full of Love.They called their birthing team: midwives Maureen and Heidi of Heartspace Midwifery, Leah, Laura and Vicky. The team arrived from various places and unique situations perfectly on time as Taína’s labor progressed into the night. The team prepared the room by filling the pool, cleansing the room with incense, and creating an attentive presence.  Each person was asked to play a special role, Leah holding the spiritual space with prayer and direct encouragement, Laura taking care of logistical needs and timing the contractions, Vicky documenting with video and photos, and of course, Heidi and Maureen spinning midwifery magic around Taina. Gaetano stayed by Taina’s side for the entire 8 hours of labor.  The only time he stepped away was when Taína asked him to play her flamenco on the guitar, helping to center her as she progressed in the labor.Taína was in the pool beginning to push when Gaetano noticed a glistening on the water and recognized it as the light of the moon reflecting into the pool. It was clear the moment was sacred. When Taina doubted herself or expressed fear the birth team encouraged her with words and touch to keep going. At one point she looked up and realized that she was completely circled in love, with Leah holding her left hand, Laura hold her right hand, Gaetano holding her shoulders, Heidi and Maureen behind her and Vicky standing close by. She felt supported enough to keep pushing in her most difficult moment.

Held by this circle, on her knees in the water, Taina gave one final push. In one fluid motion Heidi and Maureen caught the baby and passed her through Taina’s legs. Taina brought her out of the water and and onto her body. Gaetano and Taina embraced each other and Caona with deep Love and relief. Caona Assunta was born at 6:20 am as the sun rose in the sky, visible in the windows behind her. It was as if God had turned on the light, and she was here.

Gaetano cut the chord and took the baby as Taina was brought to the bed. He placed Caona on her chest and she immediately suckled on the breast. Later that morning Yabisi arrived, took his clothes off and hopped into bed with the rest of his family. Caona was home.

The Meaning of Her Name

Caona is short for Anacaona which means “Golden Flower” in Taino, the native language of Puerto Rico. It is also the name of a well known Caciqua or Taino chieftess who was known for her Areítos or poetry prayer ceremonies and died as a warrior for peace. Assunta is the name of Gaetano’s grandmother and means the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven.

We are so thankful to all of the people that helped us to have a healthy pregnancy, labor and birth. Most importantly, we thank our midwives Maureen and Heidi for caring for us from beginning to end with so much Wisdom and Love. We are grateful to: our parents Carolyn and Mario for being our 24/7 support throughout this process; Laura, Leah and Vicky for their birth support; Betsy, Erin and Kristen of the Family Life Center for their education and physical support; and of course all of our family and friends for your Love and Prayers.
Love Taina, Gaetano, Yabisi and Caona

Sylvie’s Birth – Homebirth Documentary by Bhawin Suchak

There is nothing more empowering for a family than to welcome their child into their hearts at home. We are so honored to share with you the homebirth birth of Colleen & Sean’s beautiful daughter Sylvie.

Special thanks goes out to Bhawin Suchak for getting up at 2 am to come to Sylvie’s birth with us. We are in awe of his talent and for so delicately capturing this tender and incredible event.