Birth Story: Chandon Williams

IMG-4097.jpg

Chandon Williams is an acupuncturist, massage therapist and DJ (!) here in Madison. She’s also the owner of Isthmus Wellness and mother to two boys, Aiden (11) and Alex (5). Here she shares her home and birth center birth stories and why she thinks women will be fine in labor…

Did you have experience with birth before you had your children?

Yeah, I used to go to do acupuncture at births and teach birth partners how to do acupressure support during labor. So I was kinda familiar with it obviously. I heard a mix of things from everybody. I feel like overall I felt like I heard 60% negative and then 40% encouraging. I mean, it’s a rough day.

What were you most nervous about? Were your fears unfounded?

Just how my vagina was going to get big enough for his head to come out!

What were you most nervous about going into labor with Alex?

With Alex I just had generalized anxiety about what to do with Aiden. I prepared Aiden to be at the birth, but he had his cousin’s birthday, so he left anyway, and that was for the best. I don’t think that would have been helpful for either one of us. And I think with Alex I had more anxiety because I just knew what labor felt like and I knew I didn’t want it to go on for a long time. I tend to have short labors, like Aiden was only 5 hours. I can do 5 hours. I could do 12 but I don’t know how long I can hang on. I feel like I had more anxiety about it going into the second time because it wasn’t quite so unfounded. In the moment giving birth I really felt, I don’t mean to be negative, I felt like I’m not sure I want to do this again because this hurts! 6 years later to finally get back on the page of having another baby again it was just there was more emotion around it I think.

It all worked out because I had Alex at lunch. I felt like maybe something was going on, so I called my mom to come over. It was like 10 am. I would say labor really kicked off after Aiden left at like 11 and then I delivered Alex by 1 something. I think actually having Aiden there was causing me to hold back. I was in “mom mode” and then Aiden left. I sent my partner to the grocery store and called my midwife. It went from every several minutes to being on the phone with her down to 3, down to 2, down to 1. I had him on this bed. They were filling the tub up and maybe 10 minutes before I had him, they said “the tub’s full.” And I was just like “I don’t want to move!” I couldn’t handle moving.

How did your labor start?

I went to yoga that night. I remember I ate eggplant. In Chinese medicine we always say eat eggplant because like treats like. So I had eggplant for lunch and maybe a little bit of leftover for dinner. And then I went to yoga and I was walking to the market. I would walk and pause. I didn’t know. I mean, things just feel weird. It just started to feel harder to find a comfortable position. His labor started as I was trying to go to bed. My partner at the time was at work, so I said I’m kind of getting crampy, you can probably come home. I just lit a candle and laid on the couch.

Describe your labor:

I think I had a point to prove. I feel like more was riding on me delivering natural. Kind of walk the walk a little bit, which I didn’t really appreciate, which isn’t actually true. It just was kind of a story I told myself.

I always go into labor by myself. When I went into labor with Aiden I was by myself and then when I went into labor with Alex I cleared the house. I sent everyone out. That’s just my thing.

With Aiden I just kept trying to go to sleep, kept trying to get comfortable. With Alex I think I put some music on. I don’t listen to that album anymore. It was Emily Wells. She’s this kind of pretty girl voice electronic producer. There was some other stuff on at the birth center when I had Aiden but I was not fucking caring. By the time I got to the birth center I had him within 20 minutes. It was like walk, have a contraction, walk.

I think we make a bigger deal about doing natural labors than we need to. But I also understand after being through 2 natural labors that someone might not be up for that. I get that. But I think at the end of the day, it helped with my confidence. It’s not important to everybody, but to me it was important to try to do it that way. I know things can happen. I’m not tough. If I get a little twinge of a cramp I’ll take magnesium or an herb. I’m not super tough. It wasn’t so much that I was good at it. I think I was just a mess. As soon as the contractions started I didn’t try to put on a face or be good at something or be the tough hippie girl. I just was like a mess. I just surrendered. I just let the process ride me. I wasn’t really trying to be good at it.

Was the labor what you expected?

No, you never know what to expect. I mean, I guess it’s twofold. I feel like for me, I was such a hippie about it that I was kind of hanging on to some of Ina May’s birth stories I read in Spiritual Midwifery, that it wasn’t that bad or that it was a rush. But it was work. I mean, there’s no word. It’s just tough. I didn’t read it as comfortable. The sensation gave me information about what position to be in. It gave me pretty immediate feedback about what I needed to do. It tells you what position you need to be in.

What did you do differently for your next birth(s)?

I had him at home because I didn’t want to be in the car contracting and pushing. I felt more comfortable that they were coming to me and I didn’t have to come to someone.

I did a lot of the things the same. I always put self-care pretty high up there, so I stuck with getting my massages, my acupuncture, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, all of those little things. I did less yoga because I just didn’t have time to do that.

It’s good to prepare for the first one just to get some general information, learn a little bit about the process, but I don’t think women need to learn how to give birth. If anything, they just need to just not be judged. Because you’ll move and make sounds in ways you didn’t expect. I remember with Aiden, my first, I learned how to lay this way. I thought, “I should lay!” I remember that from class. And I took one contraction like that and I was like “no, no! Absolutely not!” Just hands and knees. That’s all I could do.

I think I did less. Less reading or needing to know how big the baby was if it was a grapefruit or if it was a pineapple. I didn’t read about it. I was just less curious. I did a lot less appointments. I just kind of let it be. I lost track of what week I was on. And my midwife the second time, she didn’t really weigh me. She said “if you’re too big, I’ll see it.” I liked that. I didn’t like tracking. It was nice not to have a specific weigh gain number. As someone who used to do ballet, I think it’s not great to see those numbers.

What words of wisdom do you have for expectant parents?

I don’t think you should stop taking care of yourself, pulling all your resources for the baby. I would say, I do feel like women who really stick with it, not the Hail Mary treatments right at the end, but the women who do the consistent care whether it’s yoga or walks or massages or acupuncture or whatever they’re into things just go smooth. I think the routine is important. My view is skewed because most of the people I see are committed to self-care, but I know that people exist that put themselves last. I don’t think pregnancy is the time to do that. Especially because there’s this whole other thing that happens after baby, like the 4th trimester. That’s where things catch up with you a little bit. And probably just don’t get up for a month. That was big because I just always want to get up too early. It was hard for me to even sit and do this. I just always want to be up and moving. I got up too early with both of my kids. And then I had more, you know, things just kind of hanging where they’re not supposed to hang. That’s a pain in the butt to heal because then you have a kid or a baby and a body that needs healing. You’re just spread too thin. So I feel like that would have been helpful. I feel like the second time I was definitely better at it, but I still pushed it.

You’ll be fine. I don’t know why this discussion is so popular right now. Why everyone’s so concerned with with what we’re doing with our bodies. I think that there is a systemic consciousness of doubting women and doubting our bodies. Yeah, you can use pain meds. There’s always pluses and minuses to every decision and no one really cares. I feel like the support isn’t always there for that, for someone who decides to do it natural. It’s like you get challenged by people when you share. Knowing what I know now I probably wouldn’t share anything. “Oh yeah, I’m having a baby.” “What’s your plan?” “Just push it out of my vagina. That’s my plan.” I don’t think I would share as much. Just a lot of negative messages. You can do it. Your body will just override it and just do it.  

Thanks, Chandon!

Maggie Mehr