#70 | Home Birth on Little Cranberry Island Breaks 93-Year Streak

December 23, 2020

On  a little island of the coast of Maine, resides only sixty-five year round residents.  The last woman to give birth on the island was Erin's grandmother ninety-three years ago. On September 26th, Azalea Belle Gray was born peacefully at home with her five siblings nearby, after a long and tiring prodromal labor followed by a swift and sudden active stage. Today's home birth story is as heart-warming as it is historical and represents the profound importance of community and family. 

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View Episode Transcript

My name is Erin Gray. I'm the mama to six kids, three boys and three girls. My husband and I began dating in high school and got married after college. And not long after our first child was born, he was born in a Regional Hospital in Maine, a pretty big hospital for the area. And he was an OB, baby with an epidural. My second daughter was born at a smaller hospital with midwives, and natural birth. And then, after her, I really gained a lot of confidence in my own ability to have babies and I went with a home birthing midwife who lived in our town and I knew her from our our store that my husband and I own. We had our third at home on our mainland house in northeast harbor. We also have a home out on little cranberry island where we spend summers, he was a an April baby, and we were still on our mainland house at that point. And so he was born on the mainland at home. And then the same for our fourth and fifth child. They were born with the same midwife at our home in northeast harbor. When we began homeschooling about four years ago, we started to rent our mainland house and spend more time out on our little island house, which is where I'm originally from this time around number six, we decided to go ahead and have her out on our offshore Island islesboro, a little cranberry Island is about a mile and a half off shore. It's a 30 minute 40 minute ferry ride. It's faster in a faster direct boat, you could be to the mainland in 10 or 15 minutes. If you go straight across on a on a fast boat. My midwife had actually delivered another baby on our neighboring island 18 years ago, she was game for Island birth. And even though I'm I was 40. When she was born, she knows me She knows my birthing characteristics, I guess so she was comfortable with doing an island birth, especially because it was September when the weather's better. I don't think either of us necessarily would have wanted to do an island, home birth in February when transport would be cold and windy and potentially much more dangerous. So we went ahead and planned this birth, it was a fairly easy pregnancy is in terms of how my girls have been I have three girls, three boys and my girls have all been a little bit easier on the pregnancy side. But third trimester I had a few little hiccups with some high blood sugar readings. So we had to monitor that really carefully. It was mostly just my fasting blood sugar was a little bit wonky. I wasn't in the risk category, it was just borderline, you know, we watched with particular care just to make sure all of our ducks were in a row for this offshore Island berth. And we had several fishermen lined up for helping with getting the midwives out to the island My dad is a lobster man and my brother also fishes so we had them on call for needing the midwives as well as some other fast boats if if needed for both midwife transport and if there was any potential issues that I needed to go to the mainland. So we had everything set and the hurricane that passed offshore was just before my due date. So we ended up going to the mainland for the night just in case I had gone into labor because the seas were going to be too rough if things happened quickly. So we did spend a night the week before my due date on the mainland but then we came back home we It was really funny from the island back to the mainland and then back over we were like this little portable baby having a golf cart ride and all of it on the boat and back. And but I ended up going into labor. Well my last several children I've had lots and lots of prodromal labor so hours and hours of regular contractions that don't go anywhere. So for me, I'm I you know, my midwife would check in on me and I'd say oh, you know I've been having contractions but they don't seem to be getting any stronger and they irregular but they're not progressing

but I won't About 6am and had some, you know, regular contractions, but that wasn't out of the ordinary. But when my my toddler who's still breastfeeding when he was nursing, they definitely picked up and I said, you know, this feels like it could be the real thing. And I had, I'd gotten a decent night's sleep. So I was really excited. Because it's always better to be rested when you've got to do this baby having thing and my midwife had me Take some some herbs to try to some black and blue cohosh, tinctures to try to get the show on the road, and I went on a slow walk, and you know, things were

regular, but not getting stronger. And I was a little bit frustrated, I was like, can't we just do this, I always feel like prodromal labor's like this horrible procrastination that you can't avoid. But you know, it's part of the I know, it's part of the process. But it's still frustrating. My midwife was ready to be with me at that point. So she came out about mid afternoon, I had my toddler nurse some more bedtime things picked up, things slow down. It wasn't progressing. I was about four centimeters. And my husband had been working crazy hours all through the summer and fall and had been at the store since two in the morning. So he was around, but then he ended up going to bed for a while. And about nine o'clock, we I was still only four centimeters. And I was so frustrated, because I'd been in labor for 15 hours and really just wanted to have this baby. But my body just would not click into active labor, it was still just, you know, quasi prodromal? Is this real? Is this not? And so we got to the point where you're like the midwives, do you want to go home? Should we wait, do you they talked about potentially breaking my water. But we managed to just say let's just wait and see what happens. And so I tried to sleep for a little while. But the contractions are still strong enough that I could doze between them, but there was no sleeping through it. And I I was i'd feel like things were progressing. And then I'd get sort of like, anxious chills. And it was like it could feel my hormones just like not quite, they just weren't quite there yet. And I just hadn't sort of fully flipped into labor mode. And I was in tears and thinking oh, I'm going to have to go off and go to the hospital and have pitocin. And this baby just is not going to come out. And I was really anxious in the back of my mind about transition and the very end of labor. Because with my fifth I'd had a really rough transition. And he had been the same thing we had been I was tired. It had been a long prodromal not active labor. And he took his he took his time he was my longest labor. And he was a really tough baby and I had postpartum anxiety and I think with azalia I was subconsciously really held up with all of the unresolved stuff from my my fifth child's birth. Finally, I got up out of bed I was trying to rest couldn't rest. Everyone else in the house was asleep. I got in the shower, let the tub fill up and just cried and cried and cried. And I'm not a crier, like not at all. I'm a people always joke that I'm kind of a robot. So I'm, you know, crying by myself in the shower like okay, well I'm going to go to the mainland, I'm going to go get pitocin this baby's coming out. I'm never going to go into active labor. And I just had completely surrendered to the island birth wasn't going to happen. I'm going to the mainland. This is what we're going to do. And then bam, there was this contraction that I was like, Oh, that was different. So I got out of the shower, I went downstairs and got a snack. My midwives were asleep downstairs, in our homeschool room on the couch and day bed. And I went outside and I sat on the steps. It was a beautiful night. And my my garden, my vegetable garden surrounds our porch and I sat there eating my grapes, and another contraction hits and it was much much stronger. So I I go back inside I wake up my midwife and I say I think this is it and then I threw up nearly all over her and was such force that I felt the baby shift down I had bloody show the next contraction I was on my hands and knees on the floor and it was really pretty intense from then on out. This was at four in the morning. My husband got up they started filling up the tub. It was definitely much much more intense and much different than the like. I don't know 21 hours of previous regular contractions my two year old He woke up and came downstairs and get you know, snuggled with me for a few big contractions. And then my husband took him next door to my parents house. I was seven centimeters at that point. And by just before seven, my water broke on its own. It's actually the first time I've ever had my water break on its own. But this time it broke on its own, which was a new, you know, six babies, but that was still a new experience for me. They checked me the contraction before and I was nine centimeters. So I knew I was close. But once that water broke the next contraction I just hollered, she's coming and she was out. It was all at once the end was

so fast, because I went from nine centimeters to water breaking to she was out in like, less than two minutes, I think it was, and it is my first baby born in the water really fast, really fast. My midwife joke that even though I actually had a 25 hour labor since active labor was so short, I had a precipitous 2525 labor because I wasn't I didn't flip into active labor until, you know, four o'clock a little after four. So it was really only, you know, two to three hours of, of the hard part. And she was born healthy and happy to eight pounds, nine ounces. I woke up my girls with the hollering at the end. And so they came down right after she was born and got to meet her and my boys slept through the whole thing. And our house is not big. So that was rather remarkable because I was not quiet. And they slept in a little bit. And then my parents were there. And it was a day of just everybody meeting this new person in our family. And it was everything that I had hoped it would be in the end, but I didn't think I was going to get there. It took I think it took crying in the shower for me to to sort of surrender to the process and let it happen. So that's the birth of Azalea.

How long has it been since the baby was born on little cranberry Island.

It had been 93 years My grandfather was the last baby born my dad's dad and my my mother's father was actually born there as well, but he was a bit older. So it was like, I don't know 10 or 15 years. Prior to that was

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You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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