January 20, 2007

6 weeks ago...

ben, Canon Digital Rebel XTi

I used to be afraid of the middle of the night.

I never pulled an all-nighter in college, I am always the one to leave the party first and only on the rarest occasion have I seen the sun come up. I get anxious late at night and want to be asleep, safe. I always feel relieved when it's morning.

Of course, all that changed six weeks ago. Now I am up every morning from 3am until dawn...the weest hours of the night.

But let's back up a moment and go back to the morning of December 7th. I started getting what felt like menstrual cramps. I hadn't had anything like this during pregnancy and noticed it but didn't think much of it. I thought maybe I had had too much coffee (I never gave up my morning affogato) and was now going to pay the price on the potty. Sure enough I pooped soon after.

An hour later, more cramps and another poop.

I had heard that your body clears out in pre-labor so after round five (eek!) I starting packing my bags for the hospital. I still had it in my mind that we were days away (I was a week early) but I decided to do laundry and hit Trader Joe's for hospital snacks and Recharge just in case.

By 8pm that night the contractions I had been having all day were officially painful. Matt started timing them and by 10:30 I had a whopper contraction that knocked me out. I shouted and cried and started to bleed. In the bathroom, I shook violently (a shot of hormones I found out later) and was cold and scared. (This was the only moment I was afraid during the labor.)

By 11pm the contractions were coming 3-5 minutes apart and were getting seriously painful. I was in polar bear pose and took deep yoga breaths trying to relax into the pain and not resist it. A friend told me that her mantra was simply "yes" saying yes to the pain and receiving it as much as possible.

By 1am counting contractions was getting tedious so we decided to go to the hospital. We were sure I was still at 1cm (we had heard over and over that new parents always go to the hospital too early) and they were going to send us home but we were excited we had something to do! A drive over the bridge into the city...

But when I was checked I was at 4cm and they admitted me. Hooray! We had timed our potentially harrowing ride across the bridge into San Francisco (usually riddled with traffic) perfectly. The still better news was that they admitted us into mythic ROOM NUMBER 2... those of you who know UCSF might have heard about it. It is an enormous birthing suite on the 15th floor with a panoramic view of San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way to downtown skyscrapers. It was magical... like giving birth in the clouds. A room at the Ritz could not have been more luxurious (or expensive we discovered when getting our bill!)


The next many hours are a blur of pain and breath and nurses coming in and out asking if I wanted any pain medication. I was flattered when they kept saying, "You're so calm! You're not acting like 4cm, 6cm, 8cm..." (Note to readers: Pre-natal yoga saved my ass)

I remember being afraid that I wouldn't be present during labor, but truly pain is the most grounding thing in the world. You can't be anywhere but in the moment when you are in physical pain. Whenever someone mentioned the baby, I was like, "What baby?!" I couldn't be anywhere but in the contraction I was in.

At some point however, the contractions were so close together that there was no break in between them anymore. I needed to take the edge off. Luckily, UCSF is the only hospital in the country that offers nitrous oxide. Laughing gas... hardly. I wasn't exactly laughing. I could feel the pain of each contraction, but I cared so much less about it! I was one layer away from the pain, watching it more than being taken over by it. It was like watching myself and saying, "Wow! You're in a lot of pain! You've never been in so much pain!" (Very zen right?)

Before I knew it, it was time to push... oh, and hang up the nitrous mask. NO!!!!! What I didn't realize was that there was a learning curve to the whole pushing business. It took me a while to teach my body where to push and how. It looked hopeless at the beginning. Matt kept saying encouraging things like, "You're doing great honey. The nurse said you're SO close." I kept saying back, "This is NEVER going to work!!! She's lying to you!" (insert C-section fantasy here)

I heard a nurse in the distance say, "If you're pooping, you're pushing the right way!" Let's just say I figured out how to push the right way.

Then the doula said, "Use every contraction as much as possible. Maximize each one by inhaling deeply at the top and using the energy of it to push the baby out." It took me a while to figure out what she meant but suddenly it hit me. If I use every contraction as much as possible, I will have less of them! I turned around, grabbed the squatting bar and with an enormous growl and two pushes he was out!


I can already see that I as I write this I am forgetting how painful it was. My mind is already mercifully erasing each contraction, each hour spent doubled over breathing deeply... this is how the species continues to exist I suppose.

And really, the labor was nothing compared to those first few weeks. Those were the real challenge. I am still feeling traumatized by them! That will be the next installment...Let's just say that after six weeks I am getting less afraid of the night.

Posted on January 20, 2007 07:51 PM

i read your blog in bursts, andrea. every few weeks when i have time to read a lot at once. these posts are wonderful... like a "don't worry" manual for a someday-to-be dad. thanks.

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Posted by: pibjo zmwc at February 2, 2007 12:09 AM

How early did you start pre-natal yoga?
I can't seem to find a lot of information on it.

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Posted by: drug soma at January 28, 2007 10:19 PM

you seriously have one of the cutest newborns I have ever seen! (love love love the pics from 5 Jan!) and yes, so easy to soften and romanticize the memories of birth when blessed with such a miracle of life. best wishes to you and your family -- enjoy the joyride!

Posted by: melanie at January 26, 2007 06:19 PM

Congratulations on making it through some of the hardest hours and days!

I loved oggling your baby at yoga last night and I hope you continue on with the business of enjoying yourself and your baby!

Posted by: RookieMom Heather at January 25, 2007 09:50 AM

Oh heavy sigh...I love birth stories. I really do. I've been waiting for yours and it didn't disappoint.

But those first weeks. Yes. Those are dark days. And beautiful too. Surreal. Can't wait to hear more.


Posted by: tracey at January 24, 2007 07:26 PM

What a great birth story! (And what a great endorsement for prenatal yoga!) I'm so glad everything went so smoothly for you and that you're a mom. :-)

Posted by: Beth at January 24, 2007 12:26 PM

thank you thank you. xx. thank you :)

you are the most giving person, honestly.

Posted by: erika at January 23, 2007 05:41 PM

Wow. That is so, so amazing. And beautiful. And scary. Mothers are amazing! Congratulations. You're awesome.

Posted by: Lindsey Alyce at January 23, 2007 01:53 PM

Gosh, learn something new everyday - I didn't know that the body cleared itself out before delivery, but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense....

I just discovered Trader Joe's a couple of weeks ago - we don't have one in Florida, but I wish we did! I just went in to one in New York this weekend and wish that there were some stores nearby!!

Posted by: Jennifer at January 23, 2007 01:20 PM

Was it only 6 weeks ago??? I bet you can't remember what life was like without Ben in it?

Posted by: Leslie at January 23, 2007 11:06 AM

What a fantastic room, Andrea! I'm so happy for you. Even though a baby is not in my immediate future, it's been very inspiring to follow your process. I like how you documented every step of the day. Some day, I hope to do the same. Hugs ~

Posted by: Alex at January 23, 2007 09:41 AM

Hi Andrea,

First... OMG, what a brave woman you are. Not only for sharing your story, but for giving life to such an adorable, sweet, smiling little Ben...

So brave of you to share such an incredible story... Thank you for being you,

Second here is the new link to my blog,

Love Toni

Posted by: Toni at January 22, 2007 10:52 PM

My nervousness has begun to set in, but reading this helped. I'm halfway to that point andhope I'm as strong as you are. :) Many blessings to you and your family.

Posted by: Keely at January 22, 2007 06:52 PM

A beautiful story! I've heard some that sound scarier than scary... you make it sound like the magical experience that is is. :)

Posted by: penelope at January 22, 2007 05:44 PM

(((((Andrea and family))))))

So glad that you are through that physical pain...I am sure that your first few weeks with Ben were scary...just continue to try and listen to your instincts...that is what I neglected at first...motherhood for me was a lot like the labor pain itself...at first I felt so frightened and unsure...(I was the youngest child growing up and NEVER baby sat..) but as I let go into parenthood and listened to myself I began to try different things to soothe the baby and to soothe myself...when I really listened it soon came together...it's like a new job..and one that is very important...you don't get into the "swing" of things for months...you feel unsure at every step...but you are learning together...Ben is not quite sure how this works either...but I bet he will become a great teacher...and you are already a beautiful mom...

Congrats to you! and thank you for sharing your story...it brought back memories to me...I still like to tell my 10, 12 and 16 year olds the story of the "night" they came into the world..usually at every birthday...and you know, they Never get tired of hearing how they changed my life...how they poured more love, light, frustration, fear, truth and wonder into my world...

xxo Kathleen

Posted by: Kathleen at January 22, 2007 04:28 PM

i am so proud of you. thank you, i have been looking forward to this post. i had no doubt you would be so strong and brave. laughing gas sounds so nice. and what a great room. don't worry about forgetting about the pain. if you ever have another it all comes rushing back with your first contraction and you wonder what the hell were thinking to do it again. never get too distraught at this baby time/phase- they don’t keep you up all night forever. i tell my husband it is night feeding by braille because sometimes i can’t even get my eyes to open i am so shot.

Posted by: cyme at January 22, 2007 03:14 PM

yippppeeeee!!! what an exhilariting story! your courage is inspiring to so many. i love how light your room was as it kind of felt like i gave birth in a cave. i'm tingling from the birth energy! and now look at you and that beautiful specimen and your family unit. gorgeous!

love you, p.

p.s. poop on parade is such a lovely facet of birthing. all modesty must go out the window.

Posted by: pixie at January 22, 2007 01:27 PM

I love birth stories. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Pip at January 22, 2007 10:50 AM

Thanks so much for your birthing story. I've been waiting for it... Our first is due in 5 weeks. I don't know about "spiritual" (what other posters said)... but your account seems very real, do-able, and so, yes, encouraging. And no denying the difficulty and pain. I'm also planning on having a drug-free birth at the local hospital, with a midwife. That sounds hard for nurses to keep offering you drugs and to hold out for as long as you did! I'm going to ask them not to offer me drugs until (if) I ask for something. I'm looking forward to hearing about your first weeks of motherhood! I hope you feel the fabric of your community - both the loosely and the tightly woven strings - supporting you in myriad ways - both seen and unseen. Blessings to you, Matt and Ben.

Posted by: Mariah at January 22, 2007 10:38 AM

you are awesome! couldn't stop smiling as i read this...

Posted by: maureen at January 22, 2007 04:21 AM

you beautiful being...words can't express how much i appreciate you!

Posted by: wendy at January 22, 2007 04:19 AM

WooHoo for you strong mama!! I've given birth twice naturally and wouldn't change a thing. It is WONDERFUL! We are 23 weeks pregnant now and I love this process. I wish all women could experience natural childbirth and not be afraid of it. It's so impowering.

Posted by: Rachel at January 21, 2007 09:45 PM

I get anxious if I'm awake in the middle of the night too. I've
never heard anyone else say this-you have no idea what a relief
it is to me to hear that.

Posted by: omglrly at January 21, 2007 03:49 PM

You rocked it grrl!!

Posted by: scout at January 21, 2007 02:46 PM

i just love hearing your birth story! congratulations yet again!

Posted by: marci lambert at January 21, 2007 02:34 PM

He's gorgeous. Thanks for letting us all in on these details of your experience.

Posted by: Dr. S at January 21, 2007 02:00 PM

I'm still amazed at how beautiful he is. In all the photos, he seems to be saying something. I am so happy for you, finally a mother, and to such a lovely son. Cheers to all three of you!

Posted by: Anja at January 21, 2007 01:49 PM

just beautiful - ben and the story too....

Posted by: yasmin lawrence at January 21, 2007 12:35 PM

What an awesome story!! You did it girl...and you're right, those first few weeks for me too were way harder than my homebirth.

Nature is kind to us sometimes.

Posted by: lesley at January 21, 2007 12:23 PM

Oh, you truly are a SuperHero! What a magic and beautiful birth story!
And that first photo- he looked like a wise old soul from the very first moment.

Posted by: annamaren at January 21, 2007 11:42 AM

thanks for sharing your story!! i've been waiting for this one. that birthing room is amazing.. ben was gorgeous from the first moment.


Posted by: sandy at January 21, 2007 07:50 AM

You are so right about the mind erasing pain...but one thing I do remember, very vividly, are the wee hours of the morings spent with my babies, and how it felt to be present, most mornings, for the sun coming up. I learned to love those wee hours, and I miss them now...(but I really love my sleep, too!)

It gave me comfort, when I felt a bit scared of the night, to think of all the other mothers, fathers, all over the world, doing exactly what I was doing--loving and nurturing and watching the sun rise.

Posted by: jennifergg at January 21, 2007 07:07 AM

what an inspiring birth story, beautifully told.....congratulations again on your gorgeous baby....

Posted by: erica at January 21, 2007 06:33 AM

what an inspiring birth story, beautifully told.....congratulations again on your gorgeous baby....

Posted by: erica at January 21, 2007 06:33 AM


andrea thank you so much for sharing this goddess...

the world needs more birth stories.

(i need more birth stories)

thank you. i appreciate you.


Posted by: Leonie at January 21, 2007 03:03 AM

YES!! I love it. Thanks for sharing. Very similar to my birth story, except instead of laughing gas I got the epidural. :) I am so proud of you for being so present and courageous.

Posted by: Teri at January 21, 2007 12:36 AM

I have been somewhat mortified at the idea of ever giving birth but you managed to make the whole experience sound a bit more doable, okay, survivable. This is one lucky baby to have such a soulful, present, and loving mother. I'm really looking forward to reading your posts as you both continue to learn and grow and evolve in your new lives. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Hope you get some real zzz's before too much longer!

Posted by: Alexandra at January 20, 2007 11:16 PM

Andrea, you're a freaking champion. As someone who's never given birth, but knows intuitively that I'll be doin' it naturally, this story was incredibly comforting. I admire the way you surrendered, trusted yourself, and let your natural superhero-ness take over.

You're so cute, I wanna punch your lights out :) (Remember...that's true lovin' from me!) One day, I need to come play with you...I only live an hour away :)

Posted by: amy at January 20, 2007 10:26 PM

Thank you for sharing the birth story. You were truly very brave and a warrior mama! Just last night I finally realized that I really wanted to try a natural birth (I am 14 weeks). It's not because I'm terribly brave or anything, but my mother had me in 3 hours and my little brother in 1 - not much time for an epidural to work, anyway.

Now I really have to go get some prenatal yoga DVDs. Stat!

And Ben is so beautiful, even in his first moments!

Posted by: Sam at January 20, 2007 08:30 PM

Oh Andrea...as soon as I read your post I immeditly went back and read it again, savoring each and every word and every detail. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, what a beautiful story and what a beautiful view. Good luck with your little superhero...he is beautiful. I cannot wait to hear more.

Posted by: Jennifer at January 20, 2007 08:16 PM

Oh, I've been waiting for this post! You did so great! And, wow! What a view!
Congrats again and blessings to you and your sweet little family!

Posted by: Regina Clare Jane at January 20, 2007 07:20 PM

Oh lordy... what a beautiful birthing story Andrea...well told anyways.

We all forget the pain, its amazing really.

At the time that my daughters head crowned, I was growling like a demented wild animal... stood up and tried to walk out of the room... away from the pain. Two seconds later Mikaela was born, now she is almost 6 years old.


I cant wait to hear how you and Ben are going... I AM SURE much much better than you think sweets.
No doubt!


Posted by: Bek~Aussie Chick~ at January 20, 2007 06:08 PM

That is SO cool. I am so intrigued by the birthing process. Thank you for being so giving and sharing yours with us!

What a beautiful babe and a lovely narrative of your journey.

Sending you sleep/energy and some cozy safety feelings for the night!


Posted by: Holly at January 20, 2007 05:57 PM

i'm just amazed you can recall all those specific details...good for you for putting this story together..you will cherish it later!


Posted by: stef at January 20, 2007 05:28 PM

I was so looking forward to hearing your story. Thank you.

Posted by: kim in Camas at January 20, 2007 05:18 PM

What an amazing view! And I'm so doing prenatal yoga next time...

Also, I agree with you that the labor was nothing (even though it was! 24 hours!) compared to thos first few disorienting weeks. After 6 weeks it really gets better though.

Posted by: christina at January 20, 2007 04:52 PM

Thanks for sharing your story of giving birth. I teach prenatal yoga classes and your super-heroism is positively inspiring. I really like the idea of using the contraction to its fullest potential. Pain is so much easier to bear when it's useful (especially immediately.) I'll share your story with the beautiful glowing women in the class, if you don't mind.
And useful indeed, was the pain.
Your boy is beautiful. And I know that people always tell women that about their babies, but seriously... He's amazing.
much love and a hundred thousand blessing to your beautiful family!

Posted by: ama at January 20, 2007 04:17 PM

THANK YOU for sharing your story. You INSPIRE me and I have never even met you * * *

Posted by: Amy K. at January 20, 2007 04:13 PM

Wow, Andrea!! Thank you so much for sharing this super-sheroic story. It brings tears to my eyes. You are amazing. As a trained Doula, I love to hear positive, inspiring birth stories!! I am writing an article about breathing into pain--whether it's during birth or in regular everyday life. Maybe we could chat about this if you wouldn't mind being quoted?? Thanks again--you totally rock!!

Posted by: Nicole at January 20, 2007 03:44 PM

goooose-a-bumps all over!

Posted by: fern at January 20, 2007 03:29 PM

i've just passed 36 weeks and thank you for sharing experience! many congratulations to you and your family! he is stunning!

Posted by: claire at January 20, 2007 02:41 PM

thank you for sharing this with us, andrea!

Posted by: lindsey at January 20, 2007 02:05 PM

Wonderful, fabulous, true, real. Thank you, Andrea. You are amazing.

Posted by: Anna at January 20, 2007 01:54 PM

See?!!! I knew you could do it! Well done!
Aloha & Hugs from Maui,

Posted by: Leanne at January 20, 2007 01:36 PM

You ARE the SuperHero!
Thank you for the brave, honest story.
Thank you for sharing with us all.
Love to You from the MidWest.

Posted by: georgy at January 20, 2007 01:01 PM

You're baaaaack...thanks.

Posted by: Jessica at January 20, 2007 12:55 PM

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I want to give birth in that room! Your son is absolutely beautiful.

Posted by: Allegra at January 20, 2007 12:50 PM

Thanks for sharing this story. And what a great room to give life to your child.

xo Sophie

Posted by: Sophie at January 20, 2007 12:36 PM

I've been waiting for this post -
so now I feel like I've come full circle...he's beautiful and I loved reading how he came.

Posted by: blackbird at January 20, 2007 12:31 PM

Great room! I'm right there with ya. My boy was born just a week after yours, and has reflux (sleep? what's that?). Thanks for sharing. :)

Posted by: Nancy at January 20, 2007 12:18 PM

You are such a strong and gorgeous woman!!!!!
I too have been so looking forward to reading your birth story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

It is so similar to my own, as I had a strange feeling it would be. Reading your words made me feel so proud of you, and also took me back to Zoe's birth. I love it!!!!
And can I just say how fan-freakin-tastic the idea of nitrous for birthing is!

You are awesome.

Posted by: Jen D at January 20, 2007 11:48 AM

Now THAT is a birthing room! And Ben had such an interesting journey on his way to meet you...that he deserved nothing less than to be born 'in the clouds.' ;)

Posted by: Marilyn at January 20, 2007 11:45 AM

I am due any day now, and am inspired by you.
Thanks for being such a great superhero!

Posted by: Tiff at January 20, 2007 11:40 AM

Yay!! I've been waiting for this story! I agree, you tell this story in a way that makes it sound like something I could do, not something horrible and scary... which is GOOD, since I hope to do it a few times in my life. And oh my gosh do I want your birthing suite!
My mom always says "they told me I was going to forget the birth pain, but 2 years later I would say, nope, I can still remember THAT!" Of course she had C-sections, plus 24 hours labor on each, so maybe that was why ;)

xoxoxoxooxxo It's so glad to hear your stories again, as much as I love your ben photos!!

Posted by: Meg at January 20, 2007 11:33 AM

What a beautiful birth story. You are an amazing writer and one tough mama.

Posted by: Eve at January 20, 2007 11:30 AM

Andrea, Thank you for sharing your birth experience.
It is so honest and brave of you to do so.
Continued blessings to you, Matt, and your little "angel" Ben.
And...I'm glad the dark of night is becoming lighter for you :)

Posted by: Julia at January 20, 2007 11:18 AM

andrea, this is so beautiful and i'm positive it will be a HUGE help to women out there worrying about what labor might be like. you really are amazing and powerful. sending sleepy baby wishes ben's way...

Posted by: jen lemen at January 20, 2007 11:18 AM

You are such a strong, brave woman-- my best friend told me the story of giving birth to her little boy and i though "holy s**t, i am NEVER having children..." but you made it sound like such a spiritual experience, truly inspiring... maybe i WILL have kids someday... hehe. give ben lots of kisses for me!

Posted by: Emily Lyles at January 20, 2007 11:16 AM