The Blood, Sweat, and Tears Needed for Birth Without Fear: Mr. BWF’s Take

by Birth Without Fear on August 16, 2013

nurooBirth Without Fear has become more than just a mere Facebook page, and much more than a simple blog. It has become a juggernaut of pregnancy/birthing/postpartum support for all women that has never before existed, an actual movement of women believing that giving birth, no matter the methods or the outcome, is indeed a blessing and not a scary condition to always be monitored in the antiseptic setting of a hospital.

But behind this movement of support for women from all walks of life comes work and more challenges than anyone reading the Facebook page or the blog could ever humanly imagine.

The Growth of Birth Without Fear

Birth Without Fear was originally just a Facebook page, a simple little side project that January thought would help some other women. That turned into a thousand women. Two thousand women. Multiple thousands of women. Updates and inspirational quotes and uplifting support for women giving birth via cesareans in a hospital setting, at home in a birthing tub, in a birthing center, or whatever other method of childbirth women choose to experience. Your choices don’t determine whether Birth Without Fear will support you or not. Your choices are your choices and Birth Without Fear will support them all equally. And therein was the source of the Facebook page’s phenomenal growth.

Then came the numerous hours of HTML coding joy to construct a website sufficient for the needs of women reading from all over the world, which is still, and always will be, an ongoing process. Should that word be bolded or not? What font to use for the navigation bar? What should the header image look like? What color do we want the hyperlinks to be? How wide should the content margins be? Most recently, with so much traffic crashing the site, do we upgrade to a dedicated server or a virtual private server? A lot of seemingly miniscule decisions that, as a whole, can make or break the aesthetics of a website that trumpets the vital and important message of a woman’s right to choose a fearless and supportive birth experience.

Articles were next. Having been through the gamut of birthing experiences, January had no shortage of material to work with and write about. From birthing providers, to birthing experiences, to the actual labor process itself, postpartum (the good and the bad), breastfeeding… The list could go on and on. And it continues to go on and on. Every day. Multiple times a day.

Birth stories started coming in after that. And coming in. And pouring in. And flooding in. Hundreds and hundreds of birth stories that have been put up on the this site, with, no joke, three years’ worth of birth stories waiting to be sifted through in email. And with birth stories comes editing (because, no offense, not everyone is an English major, and January and I are spelling and grammar sticklers), and formatting, and adding photos. A time consuming process. I know. I’ve done all this personally.

Within the last year, website and Facebook admins have been brought on to assist Birth Without Fear in its unbelievable growth and presence, these admins giving up so much of their own time to help other women receive the support they long and crave and need. Sponsors have come on board to show their support for Birth Without Fear. January has been sought out to speak regularly at MommyCon events around the country. And we are putting on the first ever Birth Without Fear Conference on October 12-13 in Arlington, TX. That, in and of itself, is no small feat, let me assure you.

In short, the growth has been astronomical and nothing either of us imagined back in 2010 when a little ol’ Facebook page called Birth Without Fear launched.

Behind the Scenes of Birth Without Fear

In Birth Without Fear’s early days, back when it was just a Facebook page, I didn’t give it much thought. That wasn’t for very long because January’s message of support was getting out to a lot of women in a very short amount of time.

After about six months, January decided to start up the website to support the Facebook page. We had just recently moved back up to Dallas from Austin with very little money after my associateship went sour, so it was a very challenging time for our family. I was very stressed about having to suddenly hit the reset button on my chiropractic career, and spending my free time staring at HTML code was a distraction from all that. January began posting up articles, and they were more than well-received. It seemed like a lot of women were starved for some kind of support or validation from their past experiences. January was pregnant with #5, a.k.a. Mini, at the time, so she was in the pregnancy/birthing zone.

And then the hate came on. We were totally caught off guard. Women scarred from traumatic birth experiences wrought by irresponsible or careless providers saw Birth Without Fear as only about having a natural childbirth at home, and they attacked like a feeding frenzy of sharks. Three weeks out from giving birth to our fifth child, one individual made some particularly heartless comment on the blog that you just don’t say to a pregnant woman preparing to give birth to her own child. There were many others that attacked, on Facebook and the blog, and it was relentless. I was concerned watching January go through this as we were about to attempt a second unassisted homebirth. I was really angry about all of it. In fact, I hated Birth Without Fear and all the trouble it was bringing into my wife’s life and that it might ultimately affect our birthing experience in a very negative way. I was really scared for January and for Mini. Ultimately, our second boy was born unassisted at home like we planned and the BWF hate subsided over time. But the postpartum depression was just beginning.

I had a graveyard shift valet parking job at the time to supplement my income while I got my practice off the ground. Six days after Mini was born, I was back at work parking cars for drug dealers, hookers, and drunks proud of their marital infidelity, basically the seedier side of society that crawls out of its hole between the hours of 12:30 and 5:30 in the morning. It made me sick some nights, knowing this was what I had to do to support my family while my wife was at home struggling with recovery from a particularly rough birthing experience.

Eventually I quit the valet job and got some color back in my face after a month’s return to a normal sleeping schedule. The practice was sputtering and going nowhere and we hit a financial rock bottom. Throughout that period, Birth Without Fear and all the women counting on it, and January, for support was all that kept her going. She still didn’t sleep well, still suffered from postpartum depression, and I was struggling to make a practice work as one of seven chiropractors on a single intersection in the North Dallas area. But Birth Without Fear was growing, women were getting support for the first time ever, and they wanted more of what January had to offer.

An opportunity to move to a small West Texas town and open up an instantly busy practice fell into our laps and we jumped on it. It was truly by the grace of God that this happened. It helped us get back on our feet and remove the stress that comes when you have no money and have to keep hitting ignore on the cell phone when the bill collectors call every 15 minutes.

While the practice was doing well, January still was not. Birth Without Fear was growing immensely and January was spending more and more time growing it, on Facebook and through the blog. Too much time by my estimation. I found myself really and truly resentful of Birth Without Fear and how much time she was putting into it without it uplifting her in any way. Yes, there were the positive emails, the ones that praised January for helping to change their lives and open their minds up to a new, positive way of viewing birth. But it seemed like a lot more time was spent dealing with haters, putting out fires, responding to comments on Facebook and the blog and I just didn’t understand why she needed to spend so much time doing all those things. I mean, c’mon, it’s just Facebook we’re talking about here. Right?

Having talked more about it since then and understanding the depths of her postpartum blues, I know now that Birth Without Fear was an outlet for her, that it distracted her from the difficulty of the depression she was suffering from. She was meeting so many great people through Birth Without Fear and even patching up differences with some former haters. It really was bringing goodness into her life, but it was hard for me to see this in a tangible way. All I seemed to focus on was how tired I was of hearing about the people who made nasty comments (and rightfully get banned from the Facebook page), the ridiculous copycats with nothing better to do in life than mimic and mock Birth Without Fear and pretend they’re original, and Facebook’s occasional banning of January for obviously hypocritical reasons. But I slowly started to realize that Birth Without Fear was doing some good things and that, after two years, some people began wanting to be in on it for business reasons. For me, this validated a lot of January’s selfless hard work for so long.

But not all of it. Being a little dense like I am, I just felt that Birth Without Fear was this little side hobby that was bringing in more negativity from haters than I cared to know about. I didn’t care for it, didn’t want to know about it, and couldn’t understand why January was on the computer SO MUCH dealing with it!

We finally sat down and had a talk about Birth Without Fear. I told January that she either needs to give it up or take it to the next level to justify all the time she spent working on it. I felt like it was just there, existing as a good resource for women, but not necessarily doing what it potentially could.

She chose to take it to the next level. She began speaking at MommyCon events. I had the opportunity to watch her speak to a packed house in Phoenix and Austin. We also decided to go ahead with our own Birth Without Fear Conference coming up in October.

For those of you who have never planned a conference, I can’t even begin to explain how much planning and work is involved in it. There have been more than a few sleepless nights spent on organizing, planning, and working on the conference website to make it all look the way we want. And still, we are learning as we go. Every single day. Writing up contracts, tweaking the website on an hourly basis, returning emails… And that was just yesterday afternoon in between seeing patients!

January just returned from Philadelphia, and I wasn’t able to make the trip out with her because we don’t live by family or anyone else that can watch our five kids for two to three days at a time. So I stayed home with the fearsome five and ordered a lot of pizza (because it was easy and I didn’t have to cook it), took them to McDonald’s once (which shocked January because I absolutely detest McDonald’s… but they had Smurfs toys!), and played a lot of Mario Kart Wii with the kiddos (man, I hate that blue shell when it knocks you out of first place!). All while January, once again, knocked it out of the ballpark at MommyCon.

And this is what we’ll be doing for the other MommyCon events over the next two months, all so Birth Without Fear’s presence can continue to inspire and validate what women want to hear. But I’m not going to lie, it sucks for me. I’ve been there for her through the thick and thin and I feel like I should be there to support her. But we also have kids that need us and they are a priority. January stayed home while I was away in chiropractic school and student clinic and studying for National Board exams and occasional weekend seminars. I guess it’s my turn now, right?

b and j

My reason in writing all this is to show all of you that Birth Without Fear is not some easy magical thing full of rainbows and unicorns (as January loves to say) that just happens when we click our heels together. There has been literal blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into building Birth Without Fear into the movement it is today. It has been a challenge much of the time, for January and for me. And as it continues to grow, the challenges will continue to evolve and we will continue to adapt and grow because of them.

Birth Without Fear now fills a void that no one realized ever existed, and when I stop and think about it, I can’t help but marvel at what January has done. It has become a movement of support for women, to inform them of their choices and empower them to speak up for what they believe in. It takes a lot of work and isn’t some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of thing. But nothing worth doing in this life is easy, especially supporting women in their birthing choices in a society, a nation, a world where birth is seen as a problematic condition and not the epitome of godliness that only women can achieve in this mortal existence of ours.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara August 16, 2013 at 1:54 am

Thank you Mr. BWF for your honest and candid explanation of just what this website and January’s mission have cost both you and your children.

You are correct. There are mothers and babies and partners and spouses whose lives together expanded and came into existence in such beautiful and peaceful ways thanks very much to this community. I know my household is most definitely one of them.

BWF has also inspired my SIL who is currently in naturopathic medical school to pursue midwifery as I’ve shared the stories and images here with her. I am beyond certain I am just one of thousands of examples of people whose lives have been touched deeply and blessed by this ministry. Because that’s really what it is. A ministry. And for every bit of sacrifice you’ve made to support it, you will be rewarded abundantly.

This community is a testament to your belief in the sacredness of life and how we enter life. It’s a very deep and heavy responsibility no doubt. But such an important one.

God bless you BWF family! Your hard work and dedication have made such a difference. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you again.

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Becky Castle Miller August 16, 2013 at 2:51 am

THANK YOU so much for this post. I admire what you’ve both done to build BWF, and more than that, I admire your excellent marriage partnership and how you support each other. I think your work together will not only give people hope for better birth experiences, but also for better marriages.

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Mrs. BWF August 16, 2013 at 2:58 am

Thank you Becky! A good marriage is not a perfect marriage, but we are perfect for each other. :) It is hard work and it’s important to remember to do the ‘work’ part. xoxo

J

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Krystal Trammell August 16, 2013 at 9:28 am

YES. Thank you, thank you – for understanding, for your support, and all the hard work you do. January’s passion and heart is what made BWF so awesome in the first place, but she needs to be nurtured and supported too – and you get that. Love and light to you both~!

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amy August 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

Oh man, you have no idea how much your blog has meant to me. I’m going to confess something really embarrassing. My daughter was born last September, and I had a difficult recovery. I was depressed, which was exacerbated by the fact that breast feeding went so terribly and I had to use formula. When things were really bad I’d go for a walk and imagine I was having a conversation with you. Because I knew you’d reassure me that everything was ok and that me and my baby would be just fine. I used to hope that somehow you’d come to DC where I live and I’d magically run into you and you’d give me a hug and let me cry. You truly helped me, even if it was just you in my imagination :)

This is truly the best pregnancy site out there. There is truly no judgement. You’re wonderful. Thank you so much

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Mrs. BWF August 17, 2013 at 1:04 am

Amy, all I can say is I can not believe I’ve had that kind of an impact. You are welcome to talk/cry on my shoulder anytime. Thank you sweet mama. You are amazing.

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Elisabeth August 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

Mr. BWF, I think you and my husband, Mr. LaVidaBaby, need to start a Birthy-Dads Club! He has also been my biggest supporter, behind-the-scenes-rockstar, and taking over baby duty while I transition from stay-at-home-mom to attending various conferences and workshops!

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Michael Twigg August 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Mr. BWF,

Mr. LB here…I am starting a similar journey for my lovely wife Elisabeth…any advice would be greatly appreciated…

lavidababy.com

My wife is my hero!

Mike-

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Mr. BWF August 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

That’s a tough one. It’s hard to say what advice to give. You may be more patient with some things than I am and vice versa. The biggest thing is to realize she’s supporting women in doing what God created them to do without the fearmongering so prevalent in our society. That is such a BIG job, and it is a job that never ends!

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Cristen August 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Amazing.

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Hermine Hayes-Klein August 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Wow! What a brilliant and beautiful story of this incredible work you two have done. I’m agog. What an awesome couple!

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Talar DuBord August 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Thanks to the both of you for the hard work and dedication into BWF! I am currently at my due date with my second son, and this website has been my solace for support and healing from my first pregnancy and coping with this pregnancy, as it has not been without it’s share of complications. It has empowered me to go for a homebirth and I am even considering becoming a midwife (currently a RN). God bless you and your family!

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Tamera M Weis RN August 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm

What a pair! Changing the world! One family at a time.

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Dawn Thompson August 16, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Well, my husband could have written this word for word. In fact, in forwarded him the link. :) I understand entirely and we have had many moments where we had to work through the resentment over the past 2 plus years that I have been working to build ImprovingBirth.org. I can only assume that January feels about you the way I feel about my husband. We COULD NOT do this without you guys. Thanks for all you do January! One of these days we will finally be in the same place at the same time. :)

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Jessica McCloud August 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Yes! Yes! Yes!
Realism and truth behind what some make take for granted as being some “easy online thing.” Those words were thrown at me when I started an online business with a friend, that I eventually left when it ran its course. Rambling…

My point is to throw some Hazaahs! And virtual hugs at you guys, because none of this is easy.
I knew when I found BWF while preggo with my first in 2011, that what was happening was special. Like really special, unique, and needed. There have been times, like the mentioned haters and negative comments, where I’ve thought to myself “How does this team deal with this stuff. Because its got to effect everyone in some way.” And I’ve seen through grace, ease, and gratitude (at least online because I haven’t been able to meet ya’all), a movement really take shape. And it’s amazing.

And you all are amazing. And you’re doing good work. And it’s worth it.
So thank you.
And thank you for being open and honest about the behind the scenes.

Cheers!
Jess and Family

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Svea Boyda-Vikander August 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Drrreeeaaaamy!

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Mr. BWF August 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm

LOL!!!!

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alice beck August 17, 2013 at 3:04 am

Thank you so much for all of the work that you guys put into this site. I NEVER would have had my incredible, perfect birth if I hadn’t found this site. The information and support shared here, empowered and educated me and resulted in a birth experience I never would have considered before. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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Stefanie August 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm

This is amazing and this whole BWF movement has changed my outlook on a lot of things. Thank you so much for what you do and how well you do it! It has helped me through my own hardship and regrets with my now 7 months old’s birth and has shown me so much love and has offered so much support!
Thank you!

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JGP August 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I’m so sorry to hear that people said awful things to you weeks before your child’s birth. My own mother-in-law attempted to sabotage my planned home birth with my second child. She called on purpose to tell me some very scary things she had heard through gossip about my midwife. I don’t know if any of those things are true. And honestly, it doesn’t matter because I had/have complete confidence in my midwife. She has practiced in our small community for over 25 years. But who repeats gossip to a pregnant woman the week before her due date?! It was awful. Everything went splendidly. Baby was born 8 days late, but came in 5 hours! My home birth was everything I had dreamed of and more. I can’t wait to do it again! Thank you for all that you do. I wish I had found this website 2.5 years ago, but am so glad that I get to enjoy it now!

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Erin August 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Thank you so much for your time and commitment amidst your own busy, stressful lives. I came across BWF at just the right time in my life and it made an important difference in the choices I made for myself and my baby during my pregnancy, and in planning for my labor. It was also the biggest source of truly positive and empowering support I had while pregnant (and that’s including the great team of midwives I had), and then while struggling with my own postpartum depression. Thank you for the difference you make every day.

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Stacey August 20, 2013 at 2:05 am

Mr. BWF,
Thank you so much for supporting your amazing wife!
My dream was a birth center birth. But my husband’s family has always told him the horrornstorynof his own birth, and he just couldn’t handle the idea of not being in a hospital.
So we had a hospital birth with a midwife and things went wrong every step of the way.
I felt like a failure, and guilty for feeling that way as everyone reminded me that a healthy baby is all that counts.
I was dreaming of running over an evil nurse who assaulted me during my labor, and waking up in a panic over my birth.
Then I found BWF.
I finally found the courage to declare that I would not be having any more hospital births. And not even a birth center birth.
My husband supports me in that decision now, and knows I was able to do my research through BWF and figure out my own desires and needs.
I feel empowered by BWF and January.
She has changed the lives of thousands through her hard work, and I’m so pleased she has you to support her!

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Lily Bhavani Aquarian August 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

In my life work as a HB midwife for 38 years, I can offer that the love, support, shoulder, and awe that my husband of 35 years has continually given me is a main reason I can continue to give in the way I do. Besides the 3 awesome kids we share (all home born…) and 2 grands… As a team you can nurture and create beautiful things! Kudos!

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Cait August 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Thank you so much for the work that you do. I love birth stories so I started to enjoy the blog when I was pregnant with my first baby, and even more voraciously when we moved from overseas back to the US and decided to pursue a homebirth. I am so thankful we were able to start out this way and hope to do it again in February!
I have learned far more from other women’s stories than any other method of childbirth education. Thank you for giving an outlet to that, for informing women, encouraging them to be educated, encouraging them to heal and have peace with however their birth ended, and not condemning anyone. It is refreshing to have a place where birth is withOUT fear, yet those who were uninformed the first time or had things go wrong, or didn’t have any milk, or whatever, don’t have to be afraid to come either. I don’t feel like you see both sides in the same place very much, with such a good balance. Thank you!

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Jessie August 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm

This site has given me the resources and comfort I needed in order to provide the comfort and reassurance my husband and his family needed after a very traumatic birth story in their past. One they will be healing from for the rest of their lives. As I near my EDD, I find myself reading your page more and more for my strength so that I can, in turn, be strength for them. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. <3

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Teresa September 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm

A few months ago I shared my birth story (at 5 weeks PP) on my small and insignificant blog and was blindsided by the nasty comments left by anonymous people who follow the belief that all natural birth is extremely unsafe and purely narcissistic on the part of the mother. I was hurt and am still shocked at how they could be so horrible to a new mom, let alone anyone. I’m impressed with January’s dedication to creating and safeguarding a place to celebrate all moms and their experiences. Thanks for keeping it going and supporting her efforts!

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Jennifer Sanford September 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Thanks to both of you for persevering and not giving up on BWF! I don’t make many comments, but I read almost everything that is posted on FB and the website. I do want you to know that I just had a successful homebirth with baby #5 (after 1 nightmare hospital birth and 3 lovely birthing center births). But I have no doubt that BWF gave me the confidence to move forward and pursue a homebirth, which I wanted for my family too, not just me. I am so passionate about birthing without interventions, building the faith it takes to do so and showing our children that it is normal and beautiful. But your site confirms that I am not alone in having these feelings, and so I say thank you again for it all! I live south of Austin btw, and I didn’t realize you had lived here as well =)

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kl September 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I found your facebook page just a month ago and have found a lot of what you post very encouraging. My family is very supportive but my husbands is not (my mil told me to formula feed and add pablem to the bottle when my son was 3 days old). As I read some of the posts to my husband he has started to realize his mother’s advise is not the best and that my mother’s advise encouragement is very similar to what you post. Thank you for all you do.

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