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Author: Birth Without Fear

The Long, Beautiful Births of Solla Zakara and Winter Lumina {Natural Birth Story of Twins}

The Long, Beautiful Births of Solla Zakara and Winter Lumina {Natural Birth Story of Twins}

(Editor’s note: This birth story was originally posted on August 5, 2014.)

I can still feel my heart drop. I can still feel how cold my feet went, as if they weren’t even part of my body anymore. I was 20 weeks pregnant. The ultrasound tech was swiping back and forth, from my left to my right, and in almost perfect Pisces form it went head-spine, spine-head. That was the day our family dynamic changed in the most beautiful and chaotic way.

I had been tired when I was pregnant with Z, but this time it felt different. I would lay down with Zandros and read him a book at nap time and fall so deeply asleep that I couldn’t get up if I tried. It felt like I hadn’t slept in days. At 10 weeks I couldn’t button my jeans…”It’s your second pregnancy! That’s what happens! BODY MEMORY!” It didn’t feel like that to me. I felt like I was growing so quickly, the scale told me I was gaining so quickly that I started to second guess what I was eating!

Alex kept telling me “yeah you’re more nauseas because it’s TWINS!” “You’re so tired because it’s TWINS” That was the running joke of those first 20 weeks. When I began cracking eggs with 2 yolks I started freaking out. Over and over, two yolks- I googled it. It said “it means you’re having twins!” “NO TWINS!” I would say. “WHO WOULD WANT TWINS?!? THAT IS INSANE! TWO BABIES? THAT’S SCARY!”

 I started to get bad anxiety about getting the ultrasound. We had the most wonderful home birth with Zandros and I planned on welcome our second child into the world in the same way. I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t get an ultrasound at ALL this time. “Maybe we should just wait and see”, “maybe in a few weeks I’ll be ready”. The anxiety was building and I couldn’t pinpoint why.

When we got to the hospital and were walking into the ultrasound room, the head of maternal fetal medicine, who apparently has a gift for guessing birth weights by looking at the mom’s belly, looked at me and said “how far along are you?” “20 weeks” I said. “Feeling a lot of movement? A lot of arms and legs?” she asked. “YES! This baby is INSANE. It literally NEVER sleeps! How is that even possible?” I asked “Sure it’s just one?” She said coyly. I could feel my face go white.

Before we knew it we were being told that we had AT LEAST 2 babies growing inside of me. I started shaking and freaking out. I knew NOTHING about twin pregnancies, twin births. I felt so confident in my ability to grow one child and so comfortable with my home birth plan and in one second I felt like I was in thrust into a whole different galaxy. I looked at Alex and Z. Alex was whiter than a sheet and had leaned up against the wall for support. I’ve never seen him look so scared. Luckily Zandros was watching a movie on my phone and didn’t hear me screaming. I was scared out of my mind. After being reassured that they both looked amazing, my cervix length was ideal, and that it was a good sign that I had carried Z to term, I was told “let’s shoot for 35 weeks.”

I went home, didn’t sleep, just read and read and read until 5am. I feel empowered and relaxed when I have a plan of action and I needed to know how to carry two babies 40 weeks. How can I grow two full term babies? I want normal sized, healthy, full term babies. Ask and you shall receive.

The rest of the pregnancy was uneventful, aside from me tripping over a rocking horse in the dark, catching myself with my FACE, breaking my nose, biting through my lip and, oh right, landing on my belly. We spent that night in the hospital, with a poor nurse holding a monitor on Winter because she wouldn’t stay still for 4 hours. Other than that I grew and grew and grew and ate as much protein as possible. I started craving and eating meat again for the first time in 7 1/2 years because I couldn’t eat as many calories and grams of protein as I was suppose to be without it. My belly stretched beyond the limits of my poor skin, no amount of coconut oil, belly cream, or shea butter could help me. Luckily my doctors and midwives were on board with my birth plan, which was now to have a completely natural and as hands off as possible birth in the hospital, and as long as the babies and I looked healthy, we were good to go.

Weeks came and went and I fought to stay pregnant. I didn’t want to be induced. I really wanted my babies to decide when they were ready. At my 39 week appointment I was told to get prepared to fight even harder because while the babies still looked great and had plenty of fluid, they don’t like to see twins go much past 40 weeks. My appointment was on Monday, my exact 40 week due date, and I was starting to feel really stressed. At this point my belly was insane. I am not exaggerating at all when I say people gasped and shielded their children’s eyes in the grocery store!

Friday night we were having dinner at my mom’s and she made my favorite meal. I didn’t feel like eating. I was hug, crampy and over it. Alex and my mom kept looking at each other. “Is this it? Are we going to the hospital?” At this point we worried that, because of how short my labor was with Zandros, I might go really quickly and we had a 35 min ride to the hospital. “NO! I’M NEVER GOING INTO LABOR EVER!” I was feeling frustrated and huge and ready to be myself again and not insanely large, and ready to meet these little babies! We went home and crawled into bed. I began to find myself still asleep rocking on my hands and knees. I would slightly wake up, pee for the millionth time, drink another 3 glasses of water because I was so insanely thirsty and crawl back into my huge pile of pillows. Again, I’d wake up rocking back and forth. After a few times I thought woah, I’m contracting (nothing new for me at this point) so I hopped into the shower thinking the shower would calm the contractions and I could go back to sleep. It was about 4 am at this point.

The shower didn’t calm them. Nothing did. I put mascara & jewelry on, thinking if I get ready, earrings and all, there is NO way I’ll go into labor. I continued rocking on my hand and knees, and getting ready until 6am when I woke Alex up. “We gotta go” I told him. Z woke up and asked why we were up so early. I told him the babies were coming! He looked at me completely unimpressed and said “are you kidding me? That’s why you got me up?”. He always knows how to make me laugh. I called my midwife to let her know we were coming in. Called my mom to come stay with Z. Texted everyone I wanted there to let them know things were finally happening.

When I went into labor with Zandros, when labor starting picking up I had the birth tub there, I had my bed, my bathroom, my birth ball all in my house. This time we were in the car and I was contracting every 3 minutes. It was lame. I’ve never wanted to get out of a car so badly in my life. When we finally got there, we were walking in talking about the rooms. I mentioned that I had been promised a birthing tub to labor in and some receptionist chimed in with ” You cant have a water birth room with twins”. Word to the wise: Don’t tell a laboring twin mama she CAN’T have what she wants. I may have not so nicely snapped at her…but I got my water birth room! At this point it was 7am and I was 6cm.

twin natural birth story 1

They wanted to do a quick 10 minutes of fetal monitoring to make sure everything looked good. “Quick” 10 minutes is relative when you’re contracting. I told them I’d sign whatever waivers they needed me to sign but I did NOT want to be hooked up to that machine. We could do heart rate checks with the doppler, and the fetal monitoring every once in a while but not the whole time. They filled the tub for me and I climbed in. The contractions were very intense at the peak but there seemed to be a lot of time in between still. Silence. Peace. Tranquility. I was so scared that they would start to pile one on top of another. With Z it felt totally different. Like he was erupting through the birth canal. This felt more serene. I also made a LOT of noise with Z, humming and rocking and moaning, and this time I could barely bring myself to whisper. “I’m so tired.” I kept saying and at one point I looked at Alex and said “I don’t want to do this anymore”. He looked at me with sad eyes and said “I don’t know what to tell you”. He is such a rock for me in labor. He is my words when I can’t form them when I don’t have the strength.

At 11:00AM my OB came and checked me and I was still 6cm. (I stalled at 6 with Z too) Not wanting to stay at 6 all day, we decided to break my water, as we had with Zandros. Things moved quickly. I didn’t feel like getting back in the tub and all that seemed to help was standing and pulling things. I was ripping the mattress off the bed. Alex gave me his arms but I swear I almost ripped his hands off. I started getting really frustrated and wanted to be alone. I do best in a quiet space, by myself, where I can go completely inwards and direct my breath into the pain. If I could I’d like to give birth in a field, completely alone. The thing about transition is you never know when it’s happening, but everyone around you does! I slammed the bathroom door and grabbed onto the sink. I turned the cool water on, grabbed the faucet knobs and pulled through the next few contractions. I have never experienced such an incredible moment in my life. Here I was in this cold, hard, porcelain sink but it didn’t feel that way at all. In my mind it was this beautiful tree woman. (I know how this sounds…. but seriously, it was insane) She was embracing me and I could feel her soft belly and bosom. I could feel her pulling me into her, letting me find comfort in her chest. Then I felt Solla’s head drop. It wasn’t painful at all like with Z, it felt familiar. My body began pushing and I swung the bathroom door open. “I’m pushing!” We had to move to another room since I wasn’t going to deliver in the tub. Everyone was very concerned with me walking through the hallway with just a bathing suit top on. Let me tell you, I could not have cared less. I shuffled out with everyone shielding me and trying not to drop down and give birth in the reception area.

Another contraction in the bathroom with my tree mama sink helping me out and I was ready. Alex had told them to make a bed on the floor for me (I am someone who needs to feel grounded when pushing. The thought of being up on a bed freaked me out beyond belief. I need to be on the ground.) Just in time I dropped to my hands and knees and Solla’s head popped out. No sharp tearing like with Z. Her head felt so tiny! I was seriously concerned she was going to be 3 lbs. The contractions calmed a bit and my body took a break, with Solla’s head hanging out just looking around at everyone. Another contraction came and my body squeezed her out. She was born at 11:53am weighing 6lb 13oz. I swung around to grab her and tried to bring her to my breast to nurse but her cord was too short. So I just cradled her on my lap saying “OMG WHY IS SHE SO LITTLE! SHE’S LIKE 3 LBS!” Everyone assured me I was insane and she was at least 6 lbs. She had this gorgeous head of hair and squishy little face. Then I started to feel another contraction coming. Terrified I would crush her with the pain, I asked them to cut her cord as it had just stopped pulsing and take her. Alex took his shirt off and snuggled her naked body on his chest while I delivered Winter.

twin natural birth story 2

I flipped back to my hands and knees and felt Winter slip out in one contraction, still in the caul. “STOP, wait! She’s in the caul! take a picture Courtney!” they were saying…my body wasn’t listening and she slipped all the way out at 11:59 weighing 6lb 12oz. They say that babies born in the caul are different, special. She really is. She KNOWS. She has been here before. Always watching. She had the most insanely dark almond shaped eyes and round little face. I flipped back to sit down and inspect her. The placentas came out easily with one push, and just like that we had our little girls.

twin natural birth story 3 I started hemorrhaging a bit, typical with twin births as my uterus was so stretched out. I nursed the babies in bed, snuggled them, sat in shock as my arms were filled with two new little beings, one who wore my face and one who wore Alex’s. Zandros came and met his sisters, slightly timid at the sight of two little babies nursing on HIS mookahs (what he called my breasts). Visitors came and went and I was still bleeding quite a bit. When I would sit up or move at all I would feel gushes of blood hit my feet. They gave me a shot of Pitocin in my leg, and some other pills to help stop the bleeding but nothing was working. I had some dinner plate size clots that were slightly concerning. My midwife came in and said “Listen, you willed all of this to happen. You wanted this perfect labor and birth, you got it. You wanted full term twins who looked nothing alike, you got it. WILL YOURSELF TO STOP BLEEDING.” So I did. AND I DID.

A few days later, very tired and weak and ready for my big bed so I could have a place to comfortably nurse the babies together and sleep together, we went home.

I have never felt as empowered as I have after I have given birth. To meet that dark place, that place of such physical agony, where you know you can’t escape the pain, you can’t escape your body and to persevere…to make it through that, to me, really illuminated my strength as a woman, as a mother. I needed to know going into motherhood how strong I really am.

Our family grew by two and it has changed us in immeasurable ways.  This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. It was terrifying and empowering and hysterical and lovely and amazingly enough, everyone was right- I don’t remember a thing!

twin naturla birth story 4

Submitted by Samantha Kelly. You can find her blog here.

From All Clear To All The Sperm: A Post-Vasectomy Hospital Birth Story

From All Clear To All The Sperm: A Post-Vasectomy Hospital Birth Story

Thomas’ birth story really begins with his conception. After one biological child and one adopted child, my husband and I were done having biological children. We knew this with all certainty and he had a vasectomy in December of 2015. After going back and getting checked 4 times he finally received the all-clear – zero sperm – in May of 2016. In October of that same year I was 2 weeks late. I actually assumed it was menopause but before embarrassing myself at my midwife office, I decided to take a test.

Positive. Another one. Positive. Pregnant.

I called Jarrod at work and broke the news. I was devastated. Heartbroken. Full of anxiety. Overwhelmed. He remained mostly calm. I wanted to puke. Within a few weeks we had our answer – his body had (miraculously) healed itself and he had “all the sperm”. We were having a baby in June. Baby #3. How in the world? It took me months to really get excited. We found out at Christmas that we were expecting a boy. I was overjoyed. We decided to name him Thomas Isaac. Thomas because all of us have 6 letters in our name and for Jarrod’s brother, Tom. Isaac because Sarah laughed when God told her she was pregnant in her old age. Her pregnancy was impossible and so was mine. I identified with Sarah and knew our little boy needed to carry the name Isaac.

My pregnancy was relatively uneventful. It was hard but I continued walking several miles a day until the day I delivered. Pregnancy at 35 was much harder than at 29…especially with two active children! But I did it. Even into the hot Texas summer!

On Wednesday, June 14th we were in the midst of hosting Annual Conference at First Mansfield. I had a midwife appointment at 9:15am that morning. I was 38.5 weeks pregnant and had been experiencing cramps and mild contractions for the past few weeks. I saw Lindsey and caught up with her. She checked me and I was 2.5cm and 70% effaced. Baby boy was “locked and loaded.” She predicted that we’d have a baby before the end of the weekend! We went into planning mode! Owen was prepped and ready to come in the middle of the night and the Houston Johnstons made plans to come up for the weekend.

Cramps continued and contractions would come and go. On Saturday, June 17th I walked so many miles. I’d have contractions every 3-4 minutes for an hour or so, come home from my walk and they’d all but stop. It was so frustrating! I tried to rest and remain calm but it was so overwhelming. Tom and Jessica took Wesley and Eloise with them to Houston on June 18th with plans to bring them back on Wednesday to meet their baby brother!

While the kids were gone, Jarrod and I tried to enjoy life. We saw Wonder Woman, watched Hidden Figures, and went for walks each night. It was glorious but I missed our kids like CRAZY.

I had another midwife appointment at centering on Tuesday, June 20th. Lindsey led out class that day was was shocked to see me. She stripped my membranes and told me to walk. I was 4-5cm and 70% effaced. I walked. Jarrod and I went to Target and Pei Wei. I was very uncomfortable. We went back a few hours later to have her strip my membranes again. We walked downtown. I did the stairs at the courthouse. Contractions continued. And then stopped.

The next morning I came back and Summer stripped my membranes for a 3rd time. She was calm, told me to relax, and rest. I did just that. I went home and worked from my comfy recliner. I walked if I wanted to walk, but not to trigger labor. I worried that this baby would never come and  the kids were coming home! But Tom and Jessica decided to keep Ellie and Wes until the end of the week. We made plans for them to come home on Friday. I was devastated but realized it probably made the most sense.

Thursday and Friday came and went. No baby. Tom brought the kids home on Friday night. Late. Because Wes puked in his car. OMG. It made my anxiety go wild. How would I ever have a baby and a sick kid?? What if everyone got sick?? But my babies finally made it home. Tom stayed overnight. Wes was sick and it was a long night. Saturday morning came and I was 40 weeks pregnant. Tom and Jarrod went to see a movie and I stayed home with the kids. We watched a movie and relaxed. Wes was still under the weather.

Sunday morning I got up and went to church. I was bummed not to have a baby, but knew that work would be good for me. Wes was still feeling decent and no one else got sick…except his cousin in Houston… Sunday night however, Wes took a turn for the worst and puked again. It didn’t seem like a tummy bug but he definitely wasn’t feeling fabulous!

Monday morning Vacation Bible Camp started at church! I called the pediatrician and spoke with the nurse. She made some recommendations for Wes and we kept him home from VBC. I got some work done in the office and came home to work from my comfy chair. I still couldn’t believe I was pregnant and baby hadn’t arrived yet! Jarrod’s mom stayed the night on Monday night just in case…

On Tuesday morning I brought the kids to Vacation Bible Camp and got more work done. Jarrod and I headed to my appointment at 10:45am. I saw Allison this time and she was just as relaxed as Summer. Baby would come when he was ready. I was still 4-5cm and 70% effaced, which was incredibly disappointing to me. Allison was encouraging and said that IF we had to do an induction, it would likely go quickly. She scheduled a sonogram for Monday to check on baby. I left the office and made an appointment for July 6th. I cried. I was so discouraged. Jarrod and I went back to the church to get the kids. I got more work done and on the walk from my office to get the kids a woman I’d never seen before said, “YOU SHOULDA HAD THAT BABY BY NOW!!” I didn’t know what to say. I cried. I picked up the kids at noon and we all went home for lunch.

By the time we got home and I sat down for lunch, I was really uncomfortable. I’d been cramping but nothing substantial – just the same I’d experienced the past several weeks. I ate my lunch in bed while Wesley watched a show. I wanted nothing more than to be comfortable in my bed with my kids. But I couldn’t get comfortable…

I told Jarrod I was going to take a bath because I felt off. I knew that if I took a bath and felt fine, I could rest. But if things didn’t slow down in the bath, we should probably start timing things or something. I got in the bath and downloaded a contraction-timing app. I timed 3 contractions in the bath – each about 45 seconds long and 3 minutes apart. I decided it was probably time to start moving towards getting out of the house. I got out of the bath and told Jarrod what was going on. Contractions were sending me to my knees and were still about 45 seconds long and 3-4 minutes apart. Things were definitely feeling different. I couldn’t answer Jarrod’s questions but thankfully he knew just what to do. He called our dear friend and she came right over. I said goodbye to Wesley, hugged our friend, and we were in the car just before 2pm.

In the car, we listened to my labor mix and I tried to surrender to the pain. Between contractions I could tell Jarrod what was going on. I wasn’t sure if this was really happening but knew going to the hospital was the right choice. He let the midwives know we were on our way. I told him not to let them tell us otherwise. We were coming in.

We arrived at the hospital around 2:30pm and found a parking spot on the 6th floor of the parking garage. The thought of getting in a hot parking garage elevator terrified me. I walked down the 6 flights of stairs. I stopped once to have a contraction. We made it across the street and I had another contraction. We got inside and went upstairs to labor and delivery. Evidently even though we did the hospital tour, we still weren’t sure where to go… Rather than go to observation and triage, we went straight to L&D. They buzzed us in and then looked so confused when we got there. A precious nurse (Ana) said she’d take us into a room, check me, and then take us back to triage. I found out later she knew I’d never make it back to observation.

Contractions had me kneeling on the floor at the foot of the bed. Between contractions, I got on the bed and was ready to be checked. Ana checked on the baby and checked me. I begged to be more than 4-5 cm because I was ready for all the drugs. During a contraction she checked me – almost 9 cm. We were having a baby! I was so relieved. I knew I’d never be able to make it long with that pain without any drugs, so I was thrilled to hear that most of the hard part was over.

They got us into a room fairly quickly and soon our midwife Summer arrived. In cowboy boots. Because she’s a badass. I was in extreme pain. Contractions were so intolerable. Everyone was incredibly encouraging, but I couldn’t get comfortable. I was constantly changing positions in attempt to get comfortable. I leaned over the back of the bed for a while, kneeled on the floor, stood for a while, and laid on my side. Nothing that I thought would work actually helped. I got cramps in my legs and thought I was going to puke. I insisted that Jarrod not touch me but rather fan me and give me ice water.

I thought I couldn’t do it. Summer insisted that I could and that God created me to do this. Jarrod prayed for us just before Summer broke my water. She offered but didn’t push or insist. After one contraction, I knew I needed her to do that. I needed things to be over. She broke my water and they got concerned that there was meconium in the water. Initially there was a color to the water, but the more that came out, the more clear it was. She let me know that she was going to call nursery to be there, but I don’t think they ever did. Soon I got up and sat in the bathroom for a little while. Summer was very concerned that I’d deliver the baby on toilet and asked that I get back on the bed.

Back on the bed I began pushing. I could feel our baby moving down. I was still in extreme pain but felt like I was actually doing something. Our two nurses and midwife kept telling me that he was almost here. One more push. One more push. Push again. Jarrod could see his head. He had hair. Of course he did!

But I knew they were lying! It wasn’t just one more push… I worked hard. Summer worked hard and our nurses encouraged me to push, breathe, and push. I wanted to quit several times but once I could feel him so low, I knew pushing would get everything over! I visualized our little boy coming out and straight to my chest. I talked to him and told him we were ready. Jarrod was so encouraging and believed in me when I didn’t think I could do it anymore.

Unfortunately, I had a very similar experience as last time… My tissue wasn’t stretching. Summer started talking to me about what was happening but I knew. She needed to cut. The tissue wouldn’t stretch. I told her to do it as soon as possible. She got me a shot, cut, and worked hard with me to not tear. I pushed gently and after a few pushes, our little man was out and on my chest! He was born at 3:46pm. Just about 2 hours after I decided we should begin heading to the hospital. He was screaming and wiggling and perfect. I knew he’d have hair, all our babies have hair, but I had no idea it would be strawberry blond!

Once our little man was here, the pain was almost completely gone and my mind was clear and in the moment. I thanked everyone so much for doing such hard work to bring our little man into the world. On my chest, they helped clean him up and Jarrod and I got to know him. Summer let me feel the cord pulsating, which was incredible. After about 10 minutes  I was ready for her to cut the cord and deliver the placenta. I was getting very crampy and uncomfortable. Jarrod cut the cord and Summer delivered the placenta. Of course during all of this she and the nurse were mashing on my uterus. I was having some bleeding and clots, so Summer gave me a shot of pitocin in my leg to get my uterus to contract and help stop the bleeding.

After delivering the placenta, they took Thomas to be weighed and measured. He was about 5 feet from me the whole time and this was when Jarrod finally got to hold him. About 15 minutes later I was ready for him again. While he was being weighed and measured, Summer sewed me up. I had a 3rd degree tear that required some attention. Jarrod got some great time with Thomas while Summer took care of me. When I got Thomas back, he immediately nursed.

Around 4:30pm Summer sent a note to Allison, the midwife I’d seen in the morning, to let her know she did the trick and helped get things going for Thomas to be born! It was such a neat experience and I’m so grateful for the amazing midwives and their friendship. Hannah taught our centering pregnancy class and told me my labor would be about 3 hours, Lindsey and Summer both swept my membranes to get things going, Katie told me my labor would be about 3 hours as well, Allison definitely got things moving, and Summer caught our baby. It takes a village! 🙂

By around 6pm we were moved into our recovery room. We got settled up there and I asked for some food and some medicine. I knew the cramping with my 2nd delivery would be more painful than my first. And it was. Motrin helped a lot. Jarrod went out to get himself some dinner and we met our nurses. I desperately wanted to take a shower but was told I’d need to wait until the morning. I ended up changing into my own clothes and getting ready for bed. I was exhausted. Unfortunately we still had a bunch of visitors that night…

Because I had Thomas so quickly, they weren’t able to take blood before he was born. So they sent someone in to take my blood. He was less than awesome and ended up leaving our door open for about 30 minutes while he got some answers and then he used some kind of bionic tape that left tape residue all over my arm. The lactation nurse came in as well and talked to me about latching and was incredibly encouraging. Around 11pm I fell asleep. I woke up after 2am and never went back to sleep. Our nurse was incredible and so kind. She only came in to do what was necessary and spaced out our visits as much as she could. I watched HGTV until morning, while feeding Thomas and talking with nurses.

In the morning, we laid out a plan with our nurse to get home by that evening. We’d already begun talking about this when we left labor and delivery after Thomas arrived. Our nurse was very helpful and let us know what all needed to happen before we could go home. He needed a shot, his hearing test, circumcision, 24 hour tests, and bath. She also let me take a shower!! It was glorious and definitely helped me feel more human! We did the shot and hearing test during the day, but everything else had to wait until the 24 hour mark. We also made plans with Jarrod’s mom to bring Wesley and Eloise up to the hospital to meet Thomas! They arrived around 9:30am and it was the most beautiful thing ever. They instantly loved him and wanted to smother him completely. My heart exploded about 900 times.

After the kids left, we ate lunch and began to clean up to go home! While we were preparing we had a visitor – one of the midwives from the practice! Candis happened to be the midwife on call at the hospital during our stay. She needed to visit to get us out of the hospital and we were beyond thrilled to see her! She delivered Wesley 5 ½ years ago and was such an incredible encouragement. We shared stories and visited with her for a while. It was about 1pm and she’d already caught 3 babies on her shift.

They took Thomas around 3:15pm to do his circumcision and brought him back around 4:30pm having done his tests, bath, and circumcision. After his bath, they did his hair in a mohawk. It was the most amazing thing ever. His clean hair looked so much lighter and more red!

Once he was back with us, it was time to begin the journey out of the hospital! Jarrod needed to move the car, take down some bags, we needed a wheelchair, etc. That whole process took over an hour. It was frustrating, but I was so ready to go home! We were finally on our way by 6pm!

We arrived home – a family of 5! My heart is overwhelmed with love and my body is exhausted. I imagine this is what it will feel like for the next 15-20 years. The little baby I never expected is now my precious son that I cannot imagine life without. How in the actual world.

Recovery has been easier than last time. I’ve given myself permission to rest. I had my placenta encapsulated and I am convinced that is helping. I’m not nearly as weepy as I was with my first. Breastfeeding is more painful than I’d hoped it would be, but we’re doing it! I’m hoping that by spending a lot of time in and around bed, my healing will be faster than the 6 months it took with my first.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Leanne Johnston.

The 1st Birth Without Fear Conference in Australia!!!

The 1st Birth Without Fear Conference in Australia!!!

Saturday May 26, 2018 was the first Birth Without Fear Conference in AUSTRALIA!!!

It was a huge success and we can’t wait to come back!!!

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Got to catchup today with these awesome women at the @birthwithoutfear Sydney conference!!! Thank you @januaryharshe for your total awesomeness 😘 and it was so cool seeing my Doula sisters @doulawisdom and @withloveformama you gals are the best ❤❤❤ #birthwithoutfear #birthwithconfidence #hypnobirthing #hypnobirthinginternational #sydney #doula #2lifedoula #childbirtheducation #Repost @doulawisdom ・・・ It was sooo great to spend the day in Sydney at the @birthwithoutfear conference 🙌🏼 @januaryharshe is so friendly and inspiring. She glows inside and out 😍 Thanks for the fun times @2lifedoula and @withloveformama 💕#birthwithoutfear #doulawisdom #birthwithoutfearconference #loveismyfilter #selflove❤ #doulalife #oxytocinboosting

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Can’t even put into words… what a journey, so many moments shared throughout the years, of words shared at exactly the right time, of rewriting of old beliefs and stories! Mama J thanks for all you do in this world, it’s so important, inspiring and uplifting. Thankyou for opening up my mind, heart & soul to a life full of love I could have only dreamed of. For shedding light on dark times, the importance of self care and not giving a shit about what anyone thinks. Thank you for opening me up to possibility and allowing me to hear the whispers of my soul and know that it’s more than ok to have a big family and it’s ok to not be “done” I am forever grateful for the impact you’ve had in my life! #youdoyouboo #birthwithoutfear #birthwithoutfearconference @birthwithoutfear @januaryharshe

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Today was so surreal. I have followed @birthwithoutfear for years! I think I first discovered BWF as a student midwife and being obsessed with reading women’s birth stories. I came across the blog and then Instagram and just fell in love with the love and acceptance promoted. The no agenda, we love you no matter what your birthing choices are message was such a revelation for me and it really helped shape me as a midwife and I encourage all my clients and friends to follow these accounts in the hopes they feel the same positivity towards birth and their bodies. Also personally, I have always struggled with body image/acceptance. I have been fat, skinny and fat again and that shit really messes with your relationship with yourself and your body. @januaryharshe message of self love and self care really resonated with me today, and has over my years of following her. And I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you January for helping me understand mothers perspectives better, for making me a better midwife and mostly for helping me feel at peace with myself. . . . . #birthwithoutfear #birthwithoutfearconference #birthmatters #choicematters #selflove #selfcare #midwifelife #bodypositive #mgp #blissbirth

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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #36: Chit-Chat With Ms. New York & Ms. Cuddlebug!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #36: Chit-Chat With Ms. New York & Ms. Cuddlebug!

Brandon is chit-chatting with the middle two Harshē kids! They talk about Ms. Cuddlebug’s ability to hold long headstands, their love of stevia-sweetened coffee, and their favorite shows. Also, Ms. New York and Brandon talk about their new obsession with Australian metal band Parkway Drive!

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Click here to download Episode #36: Chit-Chat With Ms. New York & Ms. Cuddlebug!

What Fate Had In Store For Me – A Twin Hypnobirthing Birth

What Fate Had In Store For Me – A Twin Hypnobirthing Birth

I married the man of my dreams in 2011. I had been quite sick prior to the wedding and had lost a lot of weight due to my illness (silver lining, I fit in to my wedding dress!). The doctors told me that I probably couldn’t have children and that if I did ever by some miracle get pregnant I have a very high risk of miscarriage.

So my husband and I had a lovely time on honeymoon and we got back filled with love and lust for life. A week later when my period was late and my husband was away I decided I would do a pregnancy test – I was bored and didn’t think for one second that I would be pregnant so when it came out positive I nearly fell off the bed in shock. 

I told him as soon as he was home and after the initial shock (and swearing) he was thrilled (and terrified, cue more swearing). I had quite a few bleeds and decided to go for a scan at six weeks – I thought I was losing the baby and needed confirmation that I was still pregnant. The scan confirmed it and I was over the moon – a healthy little heartbeat!

Another 3 weeks later – another bleed – again I needed to know so I went with my best friend to see what fate had in store for me. I was not expecting the answer…TWINS! They had only seen one in the previous scan so this was a complete shock! I called my husband immediately and in the middle of his office he swore at the top of his voice. To this day I don’t know if it was “happy” swearing or “terrified, my life” is over kind of swearing. 

Fast forward five months and my twins were born very prematurely at 26 weeks. 

This shock is one we are still recovering from but one that has changed my path in life forever.

I thank my lucky stars every day that I had been teaching Hypnobirthing for years prior to the birth of my twins – I used my tools and techniques throughout the birth to birth them safely and naturally. Passing through the birth canal offers so much goodness to preemies that can set them up for life and I’m pretty sure it has led to their health they show today.

Premature labours are often more intense than full term labours as the body goes into over drive so there’s a lot more sensation to deal with. As my surges got closer and closer and more and more intense, I went fully in to my hypnobirthing state, eyes closed, deep breathing, my husband gently speaking in to my ear, blocking out the frenzy around me. I was in my own special place – I imagined being in my water pool, dim lighting and gentle sounds soothing my surges.

I remember the doctor shouting loudly to “check mum’s pulse!” I was so deep in to my own zone that it looked like I was sleeping or had passed out! I birthed my first little one, Xander completely naturally with three big, deep, birthing breaths. Joey on the other hand enjoyed all the space his brother had left behind and turned transverse. After a threat of c-section, internal turning and then me telling them all to back off, a team of three managed to shift him in to vertex position externally. He started to play ball and he was born assisted breach again, completely naturally.

I wasn’t able to hold my boys until three days after they were born as they were so little and struggling with their early entrance in to life but they are now thriving and amaze me every day with their strength and love.

My birth was the absolute opposite of what I had imagined, but thanks to using hypnobirthing and my husband’s support throughout the birth I am able to look back and be thankful that I did my best. It was an incredibly positive experience and one that I am really proud of. I am now even more inspired than ever to teach hypnobirthing and help mums enjoy their special day no matter what path our little monkeys decide to take to enter the world. Birth is never perfect but it can be positive. Mine definitely was.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Sophie Englefield

Not Quite the Plan or 100% the Plan? A Hospital Birth

Not Quite the Plan or 100% the Plan? A Hospital Birth

My due date was January 22, 2017.  We had planned so much more with this baby than we did our son.  We prepared our son the best we could, I switched my doctor to midwives, we wrote a detailed birth plan, we hired a wonderful doula and toured a wing of the hospital called “The Birth Place” that is designated specifically for low risk pregnancies. They have a queen size bed, rocking chair, and private bathroom.  Mother’s labor, deliver, and recover in the same room. They do not administer Pitocin there or epidurals. I had such a horrible experience with my first with both of those that I was immediately drawn to that aspect. Sign us up…

My due date came and went on a Sunday.  I had an appointment the next day at 40 weeks and 1 day for an ultrasound to check my fluid level with a follow up appointment with my midwife.  I got into the follow up appointment to start a non stress test around 1:30 pm. My midwife came in and had a look that I recognized as a not fun one.  I had much too much fluid left for being that late in the game and she wanted me to head in to the hospital around 4 pm: not quite the plan. I immediately started crying as the words she spoke shot through my brain: break your water, cord before baby, placenta could tear from wall, possible Pitocin, minutes to get a c-section if cord comes first…

So in we went armed with prepped-for-a-week bag, specific pillow for comfort, new, fuzzy, purple socks a friend bought so I wouldn’t be stuck with hospital ones, and anxiety. So. Much. Anxiety.  

Unfortunately, because they had to do some slight induction actions, I was not able to go to the Birth Place as I wanted: not quite the plan. The midwife there at the hospital started a little pill to get my cervix to start thinning and dilate a little more.  She had planned on doing three rounds of it. After the first, I had some bloody show which I was waiting for so that gave me hope. Braxton hicks had picked up a little after the first dose. Then again with the second one. I had made enough progress after the second one that she did not do the third dose.  She said my body was starting to do things a little on its own so she didn’t want to do the third and stress the baby, which was good.

So come the next morning, January 24, the midwife that sent me in from the office was on her shift.  I met her in the hall walking laps as contractions were starting to pick up a little. I excitedly caught her up on what was happening: I was a solid 2 or 3 cm, contractions were coming on their own, I was walking laps to keep them going.  I went back to my room about 930/1000 am. The midwife came in and broke my water which was way less scary than I expected. Let me tell you… it’s a very gross feeling having your water broken. I sat up in bed to make sure the water kept draining.  She kept her fingers up near my cervix to make sure baby’s head was coming down first. She fell right into place as we were hoping. I sat in bed for about another hour. Contractions got just a little more intense so we decided to call in our doula. Our wonderful doula walked laps with us and brought me to some stairs so I could go up and down a few times.  The goal was just to keep contractions going. We did this for just about most of the day.

We went back to my room about 330 pm.  The midwife came in and said basically that we were running out of time: not quite the plan.  She said she wanted to postpone Pitocin as long as she could but we were running out of options and I was not progressing fast enough.  Because I had so much fluid, my uterus had been overstretched for so long that the contractions it was doing were not really doing anything.  My uterus was tired: I feel ya sister. So the midwife said as a last ditch effort to try nipple stimulation for an hour. They brought in a pump and I was to pump until I felt a contraction, wait five minutes and if a contraction did not start on it’s own, then to pump for another five minutes until a contraction started, and keep the pattern going for an hour.  We were looking for contractions to go on their own between 3-5 minutes and last a minute long. At first, they did not come unless I was pumping but then they started coming between 3 and 4 minutes, and only lasted about 45 seconds. The midwife came in after about 45 minutes and recommended going on Pitocin: not quite the plan. The saving grace was that they did not push Pitocin the way the hospital we had our first baby at did.  They start off at 2, and then go up by just one unit in cases like mine. Since my body was showing obvious signs of trying desperately to do something on it’s own, it just needed a little push.

Pitocin definitely got contractions going more.  At about 600, they bumped the Pitocin from 2 to 3 units.  My doula put counter pressure on my back during contractions while my husband played specially requested songs on youtube through his phone for me.  

At about 6:30 pm, the midwife came in to check me and I was 7 cm. Thank goodness. Only 3 cm to go.

I said “really? Seven centimeters already?”

She smiled and said, “ yeah, I told you your body just needed a little push from Pitocin.”

I was shocked because the contractions I was having did not feel like what I imagined 7 cm contractions would feel like. She recommended I get in the labor tub to sort of catch up with myself for a minute and relax before things got even more intense.  So at about 6:45 pm I was in the tub. It felt amazing. My doula spread the scent of lavender and her and the midwife helped me breath through contractions in the water. Before I left my room for the tub, my midwife told me to let her know if I felt any pressure or need to push when I was in there. That most likely meant baby was coming down and I would have to get out and get back to my room as quickly as possible. So I had one contraction and was fine. I had another and felt the pressure.  

I let her know and she said, “okay, let’s do another one and see if the feeling remains and if it does, we’ll get you out and back to the room.”

I felt it more with the third contraction in the water. I immediately stood up in the tub when it was done and said “yep, feeling is still there.”

So we headed back to my room. I had a contraction right as I got to my bed and said to my doula, “I can’t do this.”

She said, “you’re already doing it, it won’t be long now.” I knew as soon as she said it, from my research, that she was right. I got up on the bed and set the back straight up so I could lean over it during contractions which quickly became more serious. I asked for the music to be turned off and my doula rubbed a cold washcloth over my forehead which was one of the most amazing feelings at that moment.

The midwife checked me and said there was a little bit of cervix left to go but I was almost there. I knew from the experience of my son that it would not be long.  The same thing happened with him and 10 minutes after my doctor said that to me, I was ready to push. The midwife was having me sit back on my knees with each contraction and really let gravity do its work.  I became very quiet and internal during the contractions and had the sensation that I was having a bowel movement. In the next second I thought, that’s the baby coming down. I said to the midwife “my body is pushing on its own, she’s coming on her own.”

She said “okay, well try not to, because I don’t know what your cervix is doing yet.”

I thought to myself I don’t know how to stop it from happening, it just is.  The midwife asked for me to turn at least on my side so she could check again to make sure I was good to push. The only problem with that was during my pregnancy I had horrible pelvic pain from everything loosening and stretching like it was supposed to. Adding the extra pressure of baby coming down and moving in any other way other than upright was excruciating. I managed to slither, for lack of a better word, onto my side.  She checked me and I was ready to go.

I had a sudden rush of fear.  I went to push with the next contraction and I felt just the beginning of the ring of fire. That was the only time I let out a scream. I instantly thought, “oh no, I don’t want to do this anymore, no way.” But I knew, it would be over soon and the head was the hardest part. I had to 5-second pep talk myself and just go for it.  That’s what I did. Let me tell you one more time, that ring of fire is nothing to mess around with. But it was the most amazing feeling to be able to feel her head coming. I reached down and felt her as she was crowning. I will never forget how slimy and wonderful her head felt to me and how I’m 90% sure I said the actual word “ick” as I wiped the slime off on my thigh.  Her head was almost out, probably to her nose, when I stopped the push I was doing and I thought, “nope, I don’t want to sit here in this much pain with her head just sitting there, just a little more of her head to go.” I gave half of  another push and I felt her head come the rest of the way.

One of the best parts was looking down at her and watching her turn herself like they are supposed to. I saw her face and she was already screaming. I was thinking “okay, just her body now, one more push and you’re done,” when the midwife said “do you want to pull her the rest of the way? Grab under her arms.”  

I didn’t even respond. I instinctively reached down while I was pushing, scooped her under her arms and pulled her up onto my chest. She slid right out, I laughed and said, “I am woman, hear me roar!”

The things you say in a baby induced oxytocin high.

We did delayed cord clamping, the midwife let me feel her cord pulse. The placenta was delivered and she brought it over to me to explain all the parts of it which was amazing to me.  My mom was even looking at me in awe. My husband cut the cord and she was weighed and measured. Adeline Rebecca was 7 pounds 9.5 ounces and 21 inches long. I was able to nurse her immediately and she was a champion from the beginning. The nice thing is that even though I was not able to deliver in the Birth Place, I was able to recover there. They wheeled me and baby to the new room with a queen size bed, rocking chair, and private bathroom.  My husband and I curled up in the bed with Adeline so he could do some skin to skin contact with her. She was awake, alert, and making eye contact with us as if she was as amazed by us as we were by her: 100% the plan.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Kathryn Garceau. 

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #35: 5 things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #35: 5 things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

The Harshe Podcast welcomes its first guest! Tara Brooke from Doula Trainings International joins January to speak about the difference in parenting culture in Spain vs the US, racial disparity regarding birth in the US, the importance of making a postpartum plan, dealing with family after the birth, not being afraid to ask for help from family or your doula, and what your doula really thinks of you!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on iTunes!

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Click here to download Episode #35: 5 Things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

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Considering certification as a childbirth educator but haven’t quite found the right fit yet? Interested in creating inclusive classes where birthing people can become educated about their options and patient rights?

If you’re eagerly nodding your head along to one or all of these questions, we got ya! Become a childbirth educator with Doula Trainings International‘s Childbirth Edu Training program. 

https://www.doulatrainingsinternational.com/dtis-childbirth-edu-training-program/ 

The online platform will take you through certification requirements, tracking your participation progress for your own review of the curriculum and corresponding teaching guide, required scholarly reads and required videos.

https://www.doulatrainingsinternational.com/dtis-edu-childbirth-education-different/

This training is available for both conference attendees and those only seeking Childbirth Education Teacher Certification at DTI’s inaugural Born Into This Conference on July 12-13 in Austin, TX. What you would normally get in our 3 month online program, you will get in this 2 day in person training. You’ll walk away ready to go!

Check out WeAreDTI.com for more details!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #33: Why Vegan?

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #33: Why Vegan?

January and Brandon talk about why they went vegan! January explains the health challenges during her last pregnancy and postpartum that went away by switching to a vegan diet. Brandon explains how veganism helped him pack on muscle and helped achieve personal bests in squats, bench press, and deadlifts. Also, January and Brandon may or may not talk about the correlation between veganism and sex. 

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on iTunes!

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Click here to download Episode #33: Why Vegan?

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This week’s sponsor is MRM! January and Brandon have been using MRM supplements for over 3 years and they love them! From the Veggie Elite vegan protein (comes in Vanilla Bean, Mocha, and Cinnamon Bun) and vegan BCAAs to the Hydration Factor and Vegan Bone Maximizer, MRM products are all of the highest quality as evidenced by their GMP certification. To get a 40% discount at checkout, simply use the code “HARSHE” at checkout!

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50 tickets have been opened for the Winnipeg, MB Birth Without Fear Conference on October 13! This event sold out in 1 day the firs time around, so go to BWFConference.com to get your ticket today!

Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

My twin girls were born early at 30 weeks and five days. Yesterday I saw a friend posted on Instagram, the birth of his beautiful baby girl. The pictures were incredible. His wife delivered naturally, he got to help in the delivery of his baby, and immediately after, they put their first child on her chest. Both parents were able to cherish that moment, in what seemed like a magazine article on the picture perfect child birth.

I burst out crying.

Selfishly, I was NOT crying out of happiness for them, I was crying out of sadness for myself. I had an unplanned C-section, and upon delivery my babies were immediately taken to the NICU after I had just barely had a glimpse of them. As I looked at these pictures on Instagram of my friend’s perfect birth, I realized I would never have that experience. No vaginal birth, no holding my baby and I didn’t have that immediate feeling of “LOVE like you’ve never felt before,” you know the thing that all parents talk about when they first have their child.

Instead, I spent the first 24 hours after my babies were born feeling completely disconnected as if I was watching someone else’s life happen. I didn’t feel like a mom or have an overwhelming love and connection. Instead, I felt the complete opposite. I was scared, filled with anxiety and freaking out that this is not the way I am supposed to feel after the birth of my children.

My parenting comparison had already started. I questioned everything. Asking myself, “is this how I am supposed to feel? I’ve only ever heard about the overwhelming love and joy. What is wrong with me? Is this postpartum? Is it because I didn’t do it the right way, should I have pushed more and stayed the course of a vaginal birth?”

I continued with the self-shame: I will never get the experience of holding my newborn after delivery. Will this affect them and me for the rest of our lives? What does this scar mean and how will it affect my body? How long will they be in the NICU, did I do something to make them come early… Am I going crazy?

How come no one talks about this stuff? The doubt, the unstoppable crying, the night sweats. OMG, the night sweats. After 48 hours of pure anxiety, I woke up and realized something…..

Here are these two girls who were just brought into the world who know nothing but how to wiggle their toes, while they are trying to figure out how to breathe. I am already putting the pressure on them and myself on having the perfect birth. This is how parenting shaming starts, and this is how we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our children. Seriously think about it, our kids start out perfectly innocent, knowing nothing. With no standard on how they are supposed to look, dress or how they were meant to be born they are just working on staying alive at this point.

A lot of us are following a program to what our life is supposed to look like and to be honest; it’s a false program. We think if we just do it right, always give 100% and make it look like it’s supposed to look, then we are successful. The fact is, no one can give 100% a 100% of the time, it’s impossible. So why are we trying so damn hard to be perfect, to one-up each other? The expectations we have accepted from what society puts on us are FALSE expectations, and we have to stop.

Birth and children are not all balloons and roses. I don’t even have my girls home, and I’m already feeling the pressure of what’s right and wrong and what feelings I’m supposed to be feeling. What about being present in the moment my girls are alive and thriving. All they need right now is support and love. They don’t care if I cry or second guess myself they care I am here holding them, reading to them, kissing them and everything else is B.S.

I am committing to a platform of raw, open and real honesty. I have done this on all my other blogs about body image, food, and alcohol and I am committing to it as a parent. I will be honest about ALL the stuff. The good, the bad and the worse because I believe as parents and as a society, we need to talk more about the hard stuff, so we know we are not alone. We have to remind each other that the “perfect family” on Facebook is NOT real life.

If we want the best for our children it has to start with us, the parents. We would never want to pass our insecurities onto our children: our body issues, food issues, and low self-esteem issues. It all starts with us leading by example, and working on our comparisons of ourselves to others.

I want to change the message. Here are three things that hit me like a ton of bricks after childbirth:

Not everyone has the initial, “love like you’ve never felt before” immediately after childbirth, and that doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. However your babies came to you and however, you feel is exactly how it is supposed to be for YOU.

Comparisons, guilt, shame, anxiety, and uncertainty all are REAL. We all have negative thoughts. Don’t keep them inside. Find a tribe or one person to talk to, or even this blog to leave a comment on. You are not alone in how you’re feeling, let it out and let’s support one another.

No one and I mean NO ONE has a grip on parenting. The person you think has it all together could be a complete mess and just scared to share the struggle. It’s time we talk about the struggle.

My birth plan was NOTHING that I thought it was going to be and you know what? It’s OK. Every day is a rollercoaster but I’m on it, embracing it and I’m mentally committing to being present in it, ALL OF IT. Even the dark stuff.

To any parent out there struggling, to anyone, anywhere struggling, with or without kids, you are not alone! I am here for you. We NEED to be here for each other. Let’s talk about the REAL stuff, let’s stop judging one another and come together. It’s time we teach the younger generation and each other that self-worth comes from what we think of ourselves, not what society has put on us. It’s time to change the conversation and lead by example.

I love you thank you for letting me continue to be honest, real, raw and open with you. Thank you for allowing me to continue to tell my story. I love each and every one of you, we are in this together!

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Jenny Schatzle

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