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A Home Birth Story

A Home Birth Story

Robin shares the story of her daughter’s birth at home.

Baby H’s birth story really starts with the birth of her older brother two years earlier. I had a very fast labor with him; and by the time I realized I was actually in labor, I barely made it to the hospital before he arrived. Despite him being born about 10 minutes after our arrival, my experience there was very negative, being forced to lie on my back, being given an episiotomy and having a vacuum delivery without my consent, performed by an impatient doctor. It took me a while to realize why it all upset me so much before I realized it was like I had climbed a mountain – and a few steps from the top, someone came along and said no, I’ll finish it for you. When we decided to try for another baby, I knew that I would be doing things very differently. I was able to get in with a midwifery group right away with baby number two, and we started planning our home birth.

The evening before baby H’s arrival was nothing out of the ordinary; I took my toddler to his gym drop-in, then bought our fruits and veggies for the week. I was exhausted being two days past my estimated due date, so I sent my husband out to pick up dinner. I ended up eating too quickly and throwing up my entire meal, which was an ongoing theme throughout this pregnancy. As I was contemplating what to have for dinner attempt number two, I noticed I was having some very mild cramps every 20 minutes or so; they were barely noticeable.

The cramps continued throughout the evening but weren’t really getting any stronger; though I did let my husband know that things might be starting when I went to bed around 10 p.m. I laid in bed reading for a bit, then as soon as I turned off the light to get some sleep they started to get stronger. (Why do I always go into labor right as I’m about to go to sleep for the night?) They were still totally manageable, but I decided to time a few just to get an idea of what was going on; and they were anywhere from six to 15 minutes apart and about a minute long. I decided to try to get some sleep.

I woke up at around 12:30 to much stronger contractions. I couldn’t lie down anymore ­– I had to be pacing around to get through them. I got out my phone to try to time a few, but because I needed to keep moving, it was hard to do; they were definitely two to three minutes apart and at least 45 seconds long, but probably longer. Because my first labor was so fast, the plan was to call the midwife as soon as I was sure I was in labor; so I woke my husband up and told him I needed my pool set up, and I paged my midwife.

The midwife called back a few minutes later. She was skeptical because I was easily able to talk through my contractions; but because of my history, she said she would come, and that she would hold off on calling the second midwife until she arrived. I went ahead and made the bed with plastic and extra sheets, and my hubby got working on filling the pool. I really wanted to get in that water!

I headed out to the living room to lean on my exercise ball while I was waiting. My contractions got stronger while I was out there, and eventually I needed to be on all fours for each one then went back to leaning on my ball in between. During this time our two-year-old woke up, but luckily my hubby was able to get him back to sleep.

The midwife arrived and things were pretty intense at that point; I was needing to breathe through every contraction, she told me she had called the other midwife and that my pool was ready and I could get in! That was the best thing I’d heard all night.

The pool was set up in our bedroom and we just had a very dim lamp on in there, with the glow of the Christmas tree in the background. It was just perfect. I had put a yoga bra top in my supply box to wear in the pool, but by this point I just wanted to get in the water NOW; so I stripped off my pajamas and got in. The temperature was perfect and it felt so nice to finally be in the water. The midwife came and did what would be the only heart-rate check my entire labor, and everything sounded great.

I had a few of the same contractions after I got in. I was able to lie back in between and lean on the edge of the pool; then transition hit, and I had to be on my hands and knees the entire time. I had a few really intense contractions with very little break in between. I had that moment that so many women have where I decided I didn’t want to do this anymore, which meant baby was almost here!

At the end of the third or fourth really intense contraction, I felt her suddenly move all the way down the birth canal; such a strange feeling. I reached down and felt the bulge of her head, and told the midwives that baby was coming. Luckily the depth of the water was enough that I could stay on hands and knees and keep everything under the water. They reminded me to stay down low enough to keep her head under when it came out.

At the next contraction, my entire body decided to push; it just happened, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it. It really didn’t even feel like I was doing anything myself; it was so much different from the coached pushing I went through with my son. It wasn’t even painful, though it got very loud; it was just such an intense effort. One of the midwives put pressure on my perineum, which felt so good. I had three contractions like that, pushing the entire time on hands and knees with my face just barely above the water; and at the end of the third one, her head was out!

The midwives told me the hard work was done, and to just push her out the rest of the way on the next contraction. This was the most surreal moment of the entire experience and something I will never forget – still on hands and knees in the pool, holding her head with one hand while waiting for that last push. She was so soft and perfect. I’m sure that moment only lasted maybe a minute, but it was just the best thing ever being the first person to ever hold her while she was still in between worlds.

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The next contraction came, and I easily pushed her out. The midwife caught her then passed her back through my legs so I could lift her up to my chest. We laid back in the pool with her on my chest crying; it was the most amazing moment. I did it!

After a few minutes, the midwives (the second one arrived sometime during transition, I didn’t even notice!) needed some light to check on us; so we turned on a lamp. They did their initial checks, and everything was fine. They were referring to her as “him” until one of them asked if we had confirmed the gender; (we didn’t find out the sex beforehand) and the other one said that no, we hadn’t checked; so I got to lift her up and see that we had a girl! I was so surprised since I really wasn’t expecting a girl at all.

I had planned to deliver the placenta without an oxytocin injection, so they said to just gently push when I felt a cramp. Well, H’s cord was quite short – barely long enough for her to reach my chest – and the way it was touching me, I just couldn’t push so they suggested we cut the cord and I move to the bed. The cord had already stopped pulsing, so the midwives helped my partner cut it then we passed H to him while I moved to the bed; then she was back on my chest. I was easily able to push out the placenta now that the cord was out of the way. The midwife checked me for tears and I only had a tiny one that didn’t even need a stitch.

Then we were left to cuddle in bed skin-to-skin for a while; she even latched on like a pro. Eventually she had her newborn exam and everything was perfect; she was 5 lbs 10 oz and 19½” long, born at 2:31 a.m. after about two hours of active labor. It was such an amazing experience; there is not a single thing I can think of that I would change. Our son slept through the entire thing. He woke up at around 5 a.m. to meet his new sister, and was so excited that he couldn’t go back to sleep.

Our son was quite small, too, which resulted in a very frustrating hospital stay with formula forced on us because of concerns with his blood sugar and then weight loss. Being at home with midwives was a totally different experience. They told us that because of her weight we could either go to the hospital for blood sugar monitoring or supplement small amounts to keep her blood sugar up. I wanted to stay home, so we just supplemented with donor milk until my milk came in on day three. She only lost about 7% of her weight and had minimal jaundice thanks to being allowed to make an informed choice about her care rather than being forced into hospital protocol. She regained her birth weight by day six, and continues to grow at an amazing pace.

Hypnobirthing: A Drug-Free Birth Story

Hypnobirthing: A Drug-Free Birth Story

Eva tells us about the drug-free birth of her first child.

At the advice of some friends, I prepared for my first baby by I taking Hypnobirthing classes and listening to the Rainbow Relaxation track daily. I did yoga weekly, had an affirmations wall, drank raspberry leaf tea in the third trimester, and ate dates. I hired a great and attentive doula. I was doing freelance design work at the time so work was spotty, but it gave me a lot of free time, which I am grateful for; but I actually worked full-time the week before my son was born, and walked up 60 steps at the subway stop every day! Whew!

I knew I could and wanted to give birth to my baby naturally, as my mom had me (her first child) with no drugs, and I was frank breech! I planned on giving birth in Mt. Sinai Roosevelt’s Birthing Center (I was not comfortable with the idea of a home birth in our tiny apartment, but I didn’t want to be hooked up to machines or an IV.) And shockingly, I qualified for the Birthing Center’s strict policies, despite a bout of high amniotic fluid over the course of the last month.

On October 24th I had pretty much the perfect Saturday: yoga, followed by leisurely time with my husband, Chris, and a long walk in the park to admire the foliage until it got dark. We planned for a friend to come over on Sunday and carve pumpkins.

Sunday morning I had trouble sleeping, and kept getting up to use the bathroom. I had light menstrual-cramp-like feelings that came and went, but I didn’t wake Chris up because I didn’t want him to get over-excited (he really wanted the baby to come!). At 6 a.m. I gave up attempting to sleep, and I woke Chris up to tell him today was probably the day. I timed the sensations and they were very accurately five minutes apart. This was pretty shocking to me as I thought early labor involved widely or irregularly-spaces contractions.

I tidied up for a while to get everything around the house as orderly as possible, I finished packing the suitcase, and I put fresh sheets on the bed in anticipation for when I would come home and lay in bed with our new baby. I then took a shower; and what everyone says about water in labor was true – it felt wonderful all over, but it also made my contractions less regular (and this played into the doctor’s misjudgment about how far along I was). I called our doula, Victoria, who said she would start getting ready to come over, then I called my mom to tell her the baby would probably be here today. It was around 9 a.m. and she wished I had called her as soon as I had woken up! (She was ready to drive from Virginia to New York at a moment’s notice.) Then I called my OB, Dr. F, who asked me to come to his office in Manhattan for a check. I knew he would ask this; and since I wanted to have an enjoyable, relaxing labor and not spend the day on public transportation, I suggested that I go to his cousin’s office, Dr. G, in Forest Hills. He called Dr. G and they were okay with that plan; so I scheduled to meet him at 1 p.m.

Chris and I went grocery shopping for every snack I could imagine wanting in the Birthing Center. The surges at this point were enough that I had to stop for a second or two, but generally I could continue shopping normally. I trudged around in comfy pajamas, and Chris carted all of the food home. I had a light lunch of an English muffin with cream cheese and sliced cucumber.

We took a cab to Dr. G’s office, and this is when my suspicion that being in a car while in labor would be miserable was proven correct. I only had a handful of surges in the cab (it may have only been two or three; I can’t remember), but I had to hold onto the seat and brace myself. More than anything, I was aware that sitting that way was a big no-no! The angle of the seat didn’t help, either. The cab ride, which should have only been 10 minutes, felt like forever; and I was wondering if the driver was being slow on purpose!

At Dr. G’s very lovely office, we waited for a bit before he showed up, then in the exam room he asked me to sit on the table. I really preferred to stand (since sitting was so uncomfortable in the cab) and I hoped the exam would be short, but instead of getting down to business, he started on a long spiel about what Braxton Hicks feel like. He went on and on, and internally I was rolling my eyes, and also hoping that Chris wasn’t disappointed and thinking perhaps the baby wasn’t coming. I thought that Dr. G must’ve thought I was really dumb. He finally checked me, and was noticeably surprised when he said my cervix was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced! That was also a pleasant surprise for me, but half of my brain was also saying, “I told you so, moron.” He left the room for a minute to call my OB, and I could finally stand up to better work through the surges. When he came back in the room I was leaning on the counter and breathing through a particularly long one, and his eyes popped out of his head. I thought, “Aren’t you an OB? How is this news to you?” He said that because of the way I calmly spoke on the phone, he assumed I wasn’t really in labor.

Our doula, Victoria, showed up at Dr. G’s office, and we discussed how to proceed. Dr. G wanted us to go straight to the hospital, but I said that all of our stuff was at home; and plus, I really wanted to spend the majority of labor at home. He said that when you are very effaced things can sometimes go unexpectedly fast. Dr. F suggested going to the hospital around 3 p.m. (I think it was around 1:30 at the time.

Since the cab ride sucked so much, we decided to walk back so I could be more comfortable. The way home was two miles and took about an hour, considering I was stopping for each contraction. The walk turned out to be a really enjoyable part of the day – the sun was out, it was warm and breezy, and we chatted the whole time about what a beautiful day it was for our son to be born, about the neighborhood and different buildings we passed. Victoria kept making little jokes at Dr. G’s expense, such as, “When we get home we’ll have lunch, since these are only Braxton Hicks.” During contractions I leaned on trees (Victoria suggested this), or on Chris, or occasionally on a wall. Victoria was very protective of me crossing streets; maybe I was a little spaced out and she was afraid I would stop in the middle of the street during a contraction.

We had to walk on Queens Boulevard for a couple blocks, which unfortunately was more crowded, dirty and noisy. I heard someone calling my name, and it was a property agent we had worked with in the past – I had to stop and make small talk with her! She asked how many months along I was and I just said, “Nine.” Then she gave me a little hug – thankfully I was between contractions – but I was all sweaty and just wearing a baggy t-shirt and lounge pants! I never thought I would have to hug an almost-stranger while in labor.

We made it home and I checked the suitcase and all the stuff we’d packed, and slowly ate a couple of cucumber slices. The contractions were much more serious and I kneeled on my yoga mat on the floor by the bed while Victoria applied pressure to my back. I could not get comfortable; the sensations were truly hard to deal with, and there was a sense of things getting real. This is where I started to lose awareness of time because Chris says we were only home for about 20 minutes before they decided it was time to get going. We had so many bags, and we almost forgot the birth ball (I was so fixated on that ball and I didn’t actually use it in the hospital at all!) Chris could hardly carry everything. I remember spotting a larger SUV-type cab but I don’t remember the process of getting into it. Chris had been nervous about leaving at the right time but says he knew we got it right because of a rule of thumb I told him from Natural Hospital Birth: “It should take you 10 minutes to get to the car.” He said it took forever.

The cab ride was the part where I was nervous I would lose my cool. There was NO way I was sitting on my butt at this point so I kneeled awkwardly over the birth ball so Victoria could access my back, sometimes facing the window and sometimes the back seat when each way got uncomfortable. I plugged in to my rainbow relaxation track, closed my eyes, and totally focused on the track and breathing to deal with the disconcerting motion of the cab. I hardly believed it when Chris said that we were in Manhattan. He said later that the cab driver knew what was going on and was on-point and quick, even paying a toll in cash because the e-z pass lane was backed up. I am thankful for that cab driver.

When we got to the hospital, I was happy to get out of the cab and eager to get into the nice whirlpool tub in a Birthing Center room. In the lobby, Chris called Dr. F to see if we were supposed to go to the Birthing Center floor or the Labor & Delivery floor – he wasn’t there yet (even though Chris has called him when we got in the cab) and said we should go to triage on the L&D floor. Thankfully I knew where the elevators were that went directly to that floor, and we scurried.

In triage the nurse started asking me a bunch of questions about my medical history, allergies, etc., that were really stupid since I had pre-registered online! The redundancy was not a surprise though, but I really wished I did not have to think about the questions.

When I initially went to the triage area, which was a hospital bed with the external monitor condoned off by a curtain, I had to go alone, which was scary. I truly think that it should be a hard and fast rule that no one in labor should be left alone – that’s just common sense. A nurse was asking me MORE questions. They had to do the cervical exam and I even asked if I really had to lie down for this (I imagined it would be possible on all fours), but no such luck, I had to lie on my back, which was excruciating. They had me butterfly my knees out, and then the woman stuck a whole hand in me. This is the only part of labor I would really describe as unbearable, though thankfully it was short; and after this, I decided I’d like to do baby number two at home! What a terrible thing to subject someone to, I felt like a freaking turkey!

She said I was 8 cm, which was good to hear because it meant not much more to go. She then put a big, stretchy band on me to hold the external monitors to take a 20-minute intake reading. Only one person could join me in triage, so I chose my husband. He helped me labor on all fours on that stupid triage bed by doing some light-touch massage on my hips and butt, which helped me focus, and he whispered soft encouragements. At one point another girl was brought in (remember, we were only partitioned by curtains), who was SCREAMING and crying out in pain, and it was deeply disturbing to hear. I used my hands to simultaneously plug my ears and cover my eyes until Chris came back from the triage waiting area with my iPod and headphones. This was another most difficult point.

Unbeknownst to me, Chris was in communication with my OB, who was stuck in an Uber and was still an estimated 40 minutes away. Thankfully Chris didn’t tell me. A nurse came in and said the monitors were messed up or something, and that I had to continue being attached to them, and so in retrospect I essentially spent transition in triage. I worked on letting go of my dream of luxuriating in a fancy whirlpool tub and totally turned inward.

(Afterward, Chris told me that I was thirsty and he asked nurses multiple times for water, and they told him to go get it from a fridge – he had to demand that someone bring it to him so he didn’t have to leave my side. When they did bring some, it was a tiny little bottle. Ridiculous.)

Then my water broke while kneeling on the table! It was a very sudden and powerful explosion that made me yell because of the intensity. A nurse reassured me that it was just my water breaking, and I thought, “No shit.” I wasn’t confused, just shocked; it was such a powerful physical sensation! I instantly felt the pressure increase. The resident asked if I felt like pushing, and I said yes. She said to hold back and not push, which I thought was the most idiotic thing ever because it was my body doing it, not me. [Side note: the resident and the triage nurses all looked really young, and the whole time I had the sense that nobody working there had actually had a baby.

I was vaguely aware that my baby was moving down, and I said, “Baby’s coming – get me a room!” I just wanted to be put somewhere private and not give birth in triage. There was no time left to be concerned about having a nice Birthing Center room. They brought a wheelchair and I said, “Can I walk?” But for some reason I wasn’t allowed to. It seemed like I would be sitting on my baby’s head – it seemed impossible to sit down – but somehow I got into the wheelchair, half suspending myself with my arms so I wouldn’t rest on my pelvic floor.

In the delivery room, things moved quickly; the room was freezing, so someone put a blanket over me. There was a strange background noise, and Chris realized that the TV was on and he had to ask them to turn it off (what the HELL??) Victoria gave me sips of coconut water while I kneeled on the bed and leaned on the top half of the bed, which was angled up. I can only describe the pushing contractions as overwhelming and scary, as though I was hanging on to myself by a thread.

The common metaphor for labor is running a marathon, but I would describe it more like rock-climbing without a safety – I had to reach for the next hand-hold, and each one seemed physically impossible and took all of my strength, but there was no other option.

Victoria’s voice came in as if from a distance, prompting me through short inhales and lonnngg exhales to breathe the baby down (there was even a nurse contradicting her and saying long in-breath; but Victoria knew the Hypnobirthing style of breathing I had been practicing). She reminded me to visualize a thousand-petal lotus to encourage openness. Someone gave me an oxygen mask. Somehow I moved to a standing position, leaning on the side of the bed. Chris said I lamented the fact that the monitors were still on me (honestly I don’t remember feeling the elastic band at this point; it was more of the awareness that I was attached to the machine); Dr. F asked the resident to take them off, and she said, “Really?” (The nerve.)

I was getting tired (so they say), so Victoria asked if they had a birthing stool – they didn’t (who knows why Birthing Center rooms have useful things but L&D rooms don’t?); but Dr. F said a segment of the bed dropped down to make it essentially like one. These last few contractions were super intense, and I remember a sense of changing from focusing on keeping my body very still, relaxed and calm, to mentally letting myself get swept along in the contraction. I felt the burning, which was scary, but somehow I also knew that if I relaxed/lowered my pelvic floor things would move along quickly, so I went with them.

As soon as I moved into the sitting/squatting position of the chair-like delivery bed, baby came rocketing out of me all at once! Chris said he and Dr. F and Victoria’s hands all shot down so the baby wouldn’t land in a bucket, and he and the doctor scooped him up to put him on my chest. It’s hazy, but I remember saying, “Is it over?” Hahaha! I had my moment of shock and awe as I gazed at Luca’s round little face, his warm body covered with a blanket. He had lots of dark hair like I hoped and such a sweet, squishy face. Chris cut the cord so the baby could reach my nipple; Luca latched, and we were so happy.

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The golden hour passed quickly, but I didn’t even mind when they took him away to go under the warmer briefly (Chris was with him) – I was so relieved and sort of dazed. MY OB gave me two stitches, which was quite painful. He said I could have given birth in a field, and that I lost very little blood. The three of us then went to Postpartum and I had some rest. I don’t remember who diapered and dressed Luca, but he never left my side in the little bassinet.

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There were two moments I remember that reminded me why I chose to give birth drug-free. One was my stepfather remarking about the baby that evening, “He’s so alert!” The other was the first time a postpartum nurse came in; she asked what my pain level was on the chart, and I just stared at her thinking, “Huh?” I had two Motrin, and continued to take it on and off for about a week postpartum.

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Everyone comments on how cheerful and calm my son is, and I’m thankful to my birth team and thankful for my quick postpartum recovery.

A Long-Awaited Natural Birth: My VBA2C

A Long-Awaited Natural Birth: My VBA2C

Michaela shares with us the story of her son’s birth. 

My husband and I had our first child in 2006, when we were 18 and 17 years old respectively. I had a healthy pregnancy with no complications, but my doctor suspected fetal macrosomia and said that I wasn’t progressing at 37 weeks, and subsequently insisted I have a c-section because he felt that would be for the best. I had planned to have a natural birth without medication, but I was young, scared, uninformed and pressured into a scheduled c-section; my body wasn’t even given the chance to go into labor. My daughter was born at 38 weeks gestation, weighing 8 lbs 6 oz; she was a healthy and beautiful baby. My recovery was horrible, though, and years later I learned that I had suffered from a staph infection, which my doctor failed to discover in the hospital. My uterus had so much scar tissue that I was told if it hadn’t been cleaned out via laparoscopy, I may never have been able to get pregnant again.

During my second pregnancy in 2009, I was seeing a different doctor and had planned a VBAC. He was very supportive of my VBAC goals until the end, when fetal macrosomia was suspected again in my otherwise complication-free pregnancy. My doctor used the common scare tactics regarding all the risks, and insisted I schedule a c-section. I was quite upset about it, but I didn’t want something bad to happen to one of us, so it was scheduled.

The day of my scheduled c-section, I awoke to clean myself with the iodine and I felt weird. I thought it was merely nerves for the upcoming surgery, but when I told my husband how I felt, he knew I was in labor. We had a 45-minute drive to the hospital, and had to drop our daughter off at my mother’s place. The contractions kicked in full-force our entire way there, continuing about every 2-3 minutes. When we arrived at the hospital, my husband told the staff I was in labor and was scheduled for a c-section in a couple hours. The staff had me signing paperwork through the pain, and nobody was particularly taking me seriously; but eventually I was taken back.

Once we were in our room, no one bothered to check me; they just slowly went about prepping me for the c-section – that is, until my water broke. Finally, the hateful nurse checked me, and in a panic, went to get the doctor. The doctor came in and discovered that I was 9 cm dilated; then for no medical reason, the nurse give me a shot to slow my labor and continued to prep me for the c-section. At the time, I was in too much pain to say “no”, and my husband, in the midst of the situation, didn’t know what to do either. So instead of being given the chance to have the natural birth I wanted, I had yet another c-section. Our son was born weighing 10 lbs 11.6 oz; he was a healthy little boy.

My recovery went extremely well, aside from suffering from postpartum depression, but I felt like I recovered better because my body was ready to give birth. I was upset I didn’t get my VBAC, but I was extremely happy that I got to experience labor, and that we had a beautiful son.

I didn’t think I would have more than two children, but I had this constant yearning to have another child. I still felt disappointed that I had never experienced the natural process of pushing my child into this world on my own; I wanted that natural birth. Then in January of 2015, I became pregnant with our second son. This pregnancy and birth, I told myself, was going to be different. I studied like a mad person and gathered all the information I could on the pros and cons and statistics for a VBA2C birth. I knew that after two previous c-sections, it was unlikely that I would find a supportive provider, but it didn’t matter; I had my mind made up and the knowledge to fight for it.

In the beginning, I went back to the same doctor who had delivered our son, but I soon became fed up with his negativity, rudeness and lack of support. I continued to go to the same office, but there were 15 other doctors and midwives that I could see. I chose a midwife, and at my first appointment, I was in tears from her positive attitude and encouragement for my VBA2C. She was wonderful, but I feared that she might not be the one to deliver when I showed up at the hospital, as I did not have the power to choose. However, I continued to see her because I needed that positivity in my life. My husband stood in place of a doula; he was my rock, and was ready to fight for my right to have a natural birth.

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As my pregnancy progressed, I grew larger and larger, despite my commitment of working out four or five days every week. I walked up to six miles in the beginning, and continued doing PiYo, T25, and prenatal yoga. At my 37-week checkup, I hadn’t progressed, and my midwife was starting to get nervous about his size, as she was guessing he was weighing around 9 lbs at that point; but she agreed to give me another week and then weigh out our options. I instantly felt overwhelmed and discouraged. I told my husband I wasn’t going back to the doctors, and instead I would just show up at the hospital when I was in labor. Talk about some foreshadowing – because one week later, on October 4th at around 2:30 a.m., I woke up feeling weird.

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My husband once again knew I was in labor and was ready since my last labor happened so quickly. I wasn’t sure though, and I didn’t want to be one of those women who shows up in false labor, so I debated taking a shower while walking around eating a bowl of cheerios; but one big contraction later, I decided maybe he was right. The entire hour-long ride to the hospital, I endured contractions every two to three minutes. I read my birth affirmation cards, which I totally laughed about because I was not “enjoying the moment”, and tried to deal with the pain as best I could while our son and daughter traveled with us in the backseat.

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When we arrived at the hospital and were heading in, I felt a trickle and I knew my water was breaking. My husband explained to the receptionist that I was in labor, which was pretty obvious by my appearance. As they continued to ask us a few questions, my water completely broke, leaving a huge puddle on their waiting room floor. This wasn’t just a small amount of water, either – this was like a movie scene puddle of water. The nurses came quickly and were guessing I was maybe dilated to 7 cm. My husband and our children followed behind shortly, noting my amniotic fluid trail on the way. The nurses looked at my chart and saw that I had had two previous c-sections, but my midwife had also included my birth plan, so they followed along with it.

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Once I was undressed and checked, they discovered that I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing. Finally my husband was by my side, and our children were being taken care of by the sweet nursing staff in the opposite room. It was time to push, but I was so concerned that I wasn’t doing it right. I pushed as hard as I could – so much so that I broke blood vessels in my shoulders. I yelled out, “I can’t do this anymore!” and the staff yelled back, “Yes, you can!” I can still hear them saying that.

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The midwife told me to reach down and feel my baby’s hair; and a few pushes later, he was out. They placed him on my chest during the delayed cord clamping; my husband got to cut the cord for the very first time, and I was able to breastfeed him and snuggle him without being hooked up to any cords. He weighed 10 lbs 1 oz and was 22½” long.

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I did it. We did it. It was one of the most intense, painful and beautiful moments of my life, and it made me appreciate all three of my birth experiences. They were all unique and special, and it’s amazing that I got to experience giving birth both ways. My natural birth was everything I had dreamed of, and it was definitely worth the wait.

The Freebirth of Poppy

The Freebirth of Poppy

Kerry shares with us the incredible story of her daughter’s freebirth at home. 

This was my first unassisted pregnancy and planned unassisted birth, after two beautiful midwife- assisted home births. At around 37 weeks I began experiencing intense exhaustion; I couldn’t rest enough. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I felt extremely fatigued. Fast-forward to 38 weeks, and my energy level took a 180. I couldn’t sit still, dragging my poor husband and children out for walks even though it was mid-December and raining in Washington. This continued for a few days. On Sunday, December 13 (38 weeks 5 days pregnant), I stayed home from church, not having slept well the night before. We were in the process of selling our house and packing for a cross-country move, so things were pretty hectic.

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That Sunday evening, I experienced lots of mild toning contractions; but that was very typical for me.They didn’t increase in intensity, and even though it was typical for my body to do this, I sensed that my body would soon be in labor. I went to bed at around 10:30 p.m. and finally fell asleep at around 12:30 or 1 a.m. A toning contraction woke me at around 1:30; so I emptied my bladder and went back to bed. A strong contraction woke me at 3 a.m.; I went pee, and tried to go back to sleep. Another wave came a few minutes after I’d gotten back in bed, and it was uncomfortable enough that it required me to get on all fours in bed until it passed. I tried to sleep again. This repeated every five minutes or so for half an hour before I decided I wasn’t getting any sleep and it probably was labor – excitement! Yay!

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I planned to labor quietly on my own until things picked up in intensity before waking Forrest, my husband. This resolve lasted for about 15 minutes before I knew I had to wake him to start filling the pool (my other labors were only four hours long). At 3:45 I sat down next to my sleeping husband and gently shook him, “I’d like the house straightened… Can you help me?” “Right now??” “Yes, right now!” Looking back, I now understand the crazy look he gave me. He tried to go back to sleep, and that’s when I told him that I thought I was in labor. He got up, and began the task of dealing with the pool and hose while I decided it was a good time to sweep the house and change the sheets, having to stop every few minutes to lean against the wall and sway through a contraction.

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My youngest, 3-year-old Phoebe, had woken up at this point and was meandering about, helping me with the bed and asking why I couldn’t talk and why I had my eyes closed when I leaned against the wall. The waves were picking up in intensity; I got in the shower and let the water run down my back through a few contractions, but wanted to conserve hot water for the pool so I got out quickly. It was around 5 a.m. when the pool started getting filled, and I jumped in as soon as there was a few inches of water in it. Phoebe was still awake and wanting to help, so she got her big cup from the bathtub and brought it to the living room and would take turns with me pouring water over my back or belly when a wave would hit. Forrest continued to fill the tub, having to boil water on the stove since we ran out of hot water pretty quickly. I was able to comfortably labor sitting down while pouring water on my belly till around 6:15 a.m. or so.

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I was leaning over the side of the tub as Forrest poured water over my back when a double wave hit, and lasted about two minutes or more. The tightening of the previous contractions changed as I felt my body begin to bear down. I was no longer comfortable in one position or sitting still, and became extremely active in the pool, attempting to get into any position to get some relief, vocalizing through each wave. This was the first unmedicated birth Forrest had seen, and also my most vocal; he asked if I was alright and if this was “normal;” “Yes, dear,” I replied, smiling; “It’s normal.” He may have ended up with a bruised calf with how tightly I was holding onto him through some of the waves!

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I put my hand down expecting to feel a wedge of baby’s head, but there was nothing. Another strong wave passed over me. I felt a bulging bag of water right inside, but the head was still a few inches up behind my cervix. Fetal ejection reflex took over and I had a contraction with my body bearing down as hard as possible. I like to feel my baby continually throughout this stage, so I kept my fingers near baby’s head. Baby’s head didn’t budge, but the bag of water continued to grow/descend. I knew I needed to break the bag to bring baby down, so I pinched it and it emptied into the pool.

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Another wave hit, and I roared as I felt the baby fully descend into the birth canal and out into my hands in that one wave. It was 6:30 a.m. The tentative plan had been for Forrest to catch, but the baby descended so quickly that I wasn’t able to verbalize what was going on. I sat back and began to pull the baby out of the water; the cord was wrapped once around the neck, so I unwrapped it and brought the baby to my chest. This all happened in a matter of a minute; and Forrest kept saying, “I can’t believe there’s a baby! Just like that!” The baby felt so tiny in my arms! Levi, our oldest at 6 years old, had woken up about 15 minutes before, so two of the kids were standing in the doorway and got to see their baby sibling being born. (And they’ll tell you alllllll about it!) Sadly, we didn’t get any pictures or videos of the birth itself, but we got the gender reveal on video, which I’m grateful for. We were both certain this little one was a boy, but turns out… she was a girl – our third daughter!

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Baby and I cuddled in the pool for a while, just soaking in this amazing new person in my arms. I finally got out and onto a stool to try to expel the placenta; even though she was nursing, contractions had halted. The stool wasn’t very comfortable so we moved to the toilet and nursed and hung out there for a bit until the placenta delivered. At about 9 a.m. or so we cut the cord, weighed and measured her (she was my smallest baby by quite a bit… no wonder she felt so little!) and spent the rest of the day cuddling in bed. Two days later she finally had a name – Penelope (Poppy) Eileen – after her great grandmother. This pregnancy and birth were such an incredible journey. Trusting my body, learning to listen and be in tune with my baby, and experience the undisturbed wonder of this process that God created so perfectly and that brought our daughter into the world.

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Penelope Eileen//12-14-15//6:30am//7lbs5oz//19.5″

 

A Restorative Water Birth

A Restorative Water Birth

Blythe shares with us the story of the birth of her fifth child. 

I had my fifth baby 16 months ago – I had an induced birth at 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I wanted so badly to have a water birth. I fell in love with birthing in water back in 2008 when I was pregnant with my second child. Unfortunately, being a military spouse and delivering at military hospitals, this wasn’t an option for me. I knew my fifth baby was going to be my last, and I was determined to birth my way this time.

I hired the best doula, and chose the OB office with one of the most amazing midwives around. On August 16th, 2015, I entered the hospital to start my induction. I walked the halls with my friend and photographer, shared in squats with my doula, and swayed with my husband. Things started to get real and intense and as I labored in the bathroom, and I caught myself trying to give up.

I was quickly reminded of my goals and the pool filled with warm water awaiting me. I managed to climb back in the birth pool and finished the rest of my labor, and give birth to my son. My husband was in the pool with me and caught our baby. It was the most amazing feeling in the world. I was holding my brand new son sitting in the birth pool, and all I could say was, “I did it! I did it!”

I have birthed four other babies on land, but this one was special and so different from the rest. My dream birth finally happened; and I was now officially a water birth mama.

Photographs by Jessica Stollings.

My Final Birth Story

My Final Birth Story

Jessica shares the story of her third son’s birth at home. 

I wanted to write about the birth of Mattis, our third baby boy, but I quickly realized in order to get to the point of my husband and me deciding to have a home birth, it would take a little back ground info; well, actually, a lot. This maybe more of a book than a typical “birth story”, but I wasn’t one of those women that initially desired a home birth or even a natural birth. I think those women that know exactly what they want with their first child are incredible and inspiring, but for me it wasn’t like that. Childbirth for me has been more of a “you live you learn” and confidence-building journey than anything else in my life. I didn’t really know what I wanted, nor did I have the confidence in myself; because let’s face it – labor and birth is rarely talked about in a positive light, and I had no idea how much it would mean to me to have a positive birth experience. Most think, “Hey, healthy baby, healthy mama… that’s all that matters.” But in my opinion, that isn’t true; the way you birth, the knowledge you have about it and having medical professionals that TRULY support you MATTER!

Abram Colt

In 2010, my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our first son. He was due on October 17 and I was fortunate to have had a very smooth and easy pregnancy in spite of it being a record-breakingly hot summer that year. Also, we were very fortunate in that my husband was able to be there for the whole thing – every appointment – with the exception of a few weeks away in Florida. Being a military spouse, this is nearly unheard of. We didn’t have to worry about him not being there for the delivery.

October 17th came and went, and like most first-time parents, we were so anxious for our new arrival. Also as a lot of first-time parents, I had very few expectations for the labor and delivery. I knew what I knew about it from friends, movies, doctors and a few terribly written books. So at five days past my estimated due date (which still in my mind was an expiration date), I decided well, I guess my body just CAN’T go into labor… I’ll just settle for the hospital evicting this little guy.

So I asked my doctor when I could go in to be induced; and she said they could schedule me for the next day. We went in and they just acted as if it was the most normal thing on earth – sign this, consent to this, do you want an epidural? Well, of course I did; why would anyone willingly go through the pain? So they hooked me up to monitors, IV, Pitocin, and an epidural all within what seemed like 15 minutes. I had already been dilated to 5 cm and 80% effaced since I was about 35 weeks, so things progressed rapidly. Although the person who did the epidural was a student, he clearly did a great job because I could hardly feel anything.

I thought this was what I wanted, but I felt completely out of control; and it didn’t help that I was shaking uncontrollably. A couple hours in, although I couldn’t feel much, I felt pressure and let the nurse know; she came in and said I could push. She sat on one side, and David sat on the other and held my legs because I couldn’t feel them at all. I pushed and pushed and pushed, all directed by the nurse… and finally, after about 30 minutes of that, she said, “Oh that was it; that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.” I was pretty disappointed and exhausted, but eventually, about 30 minutes later, he was born weighing 8 lbs 12oz, and was 21½” long! We had never guessed he would have been so big; and neither did the doctor; they had guessed around 7½ lbs the day prior. The whole labor was about 3½ hours long.

Depression

Birth is special no matter how it’s done, but for me, this birth seemed to lack something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I don’t know if it contributed, but about 2-3 months afterward I still didn’t feel anywhere close to myself, or how I anticipated to feel as a mother. I was ashamed to admit I didn’t want to take care of my baby. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, or that I literally didn’t care for him, but I was overwhelmed and didn’t feel motherly to him. I never told this to anyone except my husband; and of course he didn’t understand, so we decided I should start therapy ASAP.

I did, and was clinically diagnosed with postpartum depression; I started several prescriptions of antidepressants and therapy sessions. Over the course of the next several months, and adjusting meds, thankfully I was able to feel like a fog was lifted. I started asking to be taken off the meds although the doctor told me it’s most effective when kept on for a year to ensure stability. I reluctantly agreed, knowing the possible negative side effects of trying to wean myself from the meds. So I decided to trust her, until….two blue lines…again! Just over a year since Abram’s birth. The doctor assured me it was safe to continue my medication while pregnant, but I refused. I told her I just didn’t want to be on anything while pregnant that could possibly have a side effect on our unborn child. So she took me off, and all was well…

Deployment

…Until we realized that my husband was slated to leave on his third deployment right as I was going to be 13 weeks pregnant and raising our 1-year-old. Well, that’s the military life; if we were to have multiple children, it was inevitable. Next, we found out that he would be scheduled to come home about a month after my due date. Talk about stressful; we lived five hours from our nearest family. Over the next few months he spoke to his commanding officer about of course wanting to be present for the birth if it was an option, so they made a deal of sorts. At that time, David was an osprey airframes mechanic, and his Commanding Officer agreed on the condition that he worked the entire deployment to become a Collateral Duty Inspector and also run the Corrosion Control Shop. Both jobs were something that take a while to learn, and they needed more guys that knew the jobs inside and out. Upon learning these two things they would allow him to leave on an advanced party to return home prior to the birth so he could re-setup shop in the states and wait on the arrival of the rest of the unit. He worked diligently and accomplished both tasks of course, and returned stateside on a Friday. I was 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

The entire time he was gone, I had told him that this time I wanted things to be different – that I didn’t want to feel medicated, and that I wanted to be able to move since Abram’s birth felt so unnatural to me; it hadn’t felt like how I thought it should have – it was special, of course, but it was lackluster. He basically said, “Okay, whatever you want.” I had been going to my prenatal appointments and toward the end they mentioned induction, and I just told them no; that I’m not doing that this time, unless it is a true medical need.

Cannon Knox

40 weeks 2 days rolled around. Exactly two weeks after David arrived stateside, I woke up around 2:45 a.m. and felt cramps. I eventually got out of bed and started timing them. I wasn’t convinced in the least that this was labor. About 30 minutes later, I woke David up and said, “I think I maybe in labor?!” I had never experienced “true” labor, so I just couldn’t believe it.

I called the hospital and told them my symptoms, and they assured me that I could wait at home for at least another hour. So I got off the phone and called my friend Cara, since the plan was that whenever I went into labor she would watch our son while we went to the hospital, until my parents could make the five-hour drive down. She came right away, and by that point contractions were probably three minutes apart. We hopped in the truck at around 5 and made the 15-minute drive to Camp Lejeune. The drive was terrible; and looking back, I know why – I was in transition.

When we arrived at the hospital, we hurried in; stopping along the way for contractions. Finally once in labor and delivery they needed some documents signed, but I had other plans, kneeling in the hallway to push out a baby! Nurses came from everywhere at probably 5:25 a.m. shouting, “Don’t push! Don’t push!” But I was in another world, pushing out a baby. They got me on a bed and checked me, and agreed that yes he’s coming; so down the hall we flew into a labor and delivery suite. The doctor was already in there; he grabbed a pair of gloves, and within a couple minutes, at 5:30 a.m. he handed me my baby. THAT IS HOW IT’S DONE!

Two hours and 45 minutes from first cramp to holding my baby. He was 7lbs 4 oz. and 19″ long. What a sense of accomplishment and empowerment; my baby was here and I didn’t really need anyone telling me how, or hooking me up to machines; I was able to have my baby, just like women had done for thousands of years. In the little bit of time between pregnancies, the more research I had done the more it led me to believe a lot of times “help” leads to complications; and I didn’t want that. To me, this natural birth was a major accomplishment.

Trying to avoid depression

Another thing that I had researched throughout that pregnancy was how to avoid postpartum depression naturally. I found article after article on placenta encapsulation. Gross, right? People have been doing this for centuries; it’s not a new thing; it’s more ancient if anything; but not well known in our medicated culture. In this process someone takes your placenta, which is enriched with tons of your natural hormones, iron, and nutrients that are used to sustain your pregnancy, then dehydrates it, grinds it into powder, puts it in capsules, and then you take it like a super vitamin over the next few months to level out your hormones. It increases milk production, increases energy levels, and overall helps with recovery.

When you’re pregnant your hormones are obviously at an all-time high at the end, then after delivery you plummet back down to a baseline, which can cause “baby blues” or worse: postpartum depression. Some say it’s a placebo effect, but I was willing to give it a shot since the potential positive effects would be great, and there are little to no negative side effects. And it changed my life. My husband thought I was looney for even considering it, but after several months he couldn’t believe how well I recovered and felt, which was a good thing since he was working up to leave me with two kids under two years old for deployment number four a few months later. I rarely talked about this to anyone, because I feared everyone’s judgment. I only shared with a few close friends, or pregnant women I thought that may benefit from it as well. Now I can look at it and say that if it helps one person reading this, then it is worth the judgment of all the others.

Mattis Jett

Fast-forward to May 2015, when we found out we were surprisingly expecting our third child! I wasn’t sure how to feel about it; I was excited, but it was such a shock, and I had just started a new job. Also, my husband had started a new path in his career as a recruiter, which means he works absolutely all the time – 16-18-hour days. I felt as though this couldn’t be a “good time,” but of course you make plans and God laughs, right? We had no idea how bad we needed this third baby, but God did, and perfectly placed him in our lives.

We decided I wouldn’t be able to return to work after the baby, since the cost of childcare for three children is astronomical; it just wouldn’t make sense financially – not to mention I couldn’t send a newborn to daycare. But guess what? Just as we were getting used to have a double income, then found out I was pregnant and wouldn’t be returning to work, my husband worked super hard and eventually got a promotion; so once again, God took care of it. After we had our second child we decided that if we had any more children, which we planned to have at least one more at some point, we would have them at home. The last labor and delivery was so easy, David said that we could have done that at home! Then we wouldn’t be trapped in a hospital for three days while someone else cared for our other son.

So I was on the search for a midwife, and met with Nancy Harman on a Saturday in June. I already loved how different the experience started out because I was able to take my whole family to the consultation, at her home office, on a farm, on a Saturday. Yep, that’s not the norm; she worked around us, rather than the other way around. I knew immediately after meeting her she was our midwife. She encouraged David to take the boys outside to see the cows, and her “mud hut” out back while we discussed previous pregnancy experiences. She determined I was definitely low-risk enough for a successful home birth. In North Carolina home birth is legal, however it has to be attended by a certified nurse midwife; and you also do parallel care with a supportive OB – for us it was UNC family medicine, where you do labs, ultrasounds and any further testing.

So we did our prenatal appointments with her, and saw UNC once per trimester, we found out at 19 weeks 2 days, on September 1, that we were expecting our third boy! How perfect! My pregnancy really flew by, and was easy and uneventful. We got down to the last appointments and all had gone so well, the weekend of my due date, our area was expecting our first snow storm! Take that lightly; it’s NC – we are in the south, so “snow storm” is a strong term; however, Nancy lives about an hour and fifteen minutes away, and in snow and ice we started to anticipate the idea of her maybe not making it!

Thankfully, her assistant Edie, who is a fellow midwife, lives about 30 minutes away from us, so we knew she would be first to the house. That Saturday, the day before my due date, I had experienced contractions roughly five minutes apart for several hours. Of course since the storm was hitting it brought on babies and Nancy was attending a birth. She sent her assistant to the house to check and make sure it wasn’t the real deal and that she needed to come after she finished at the birth she was present for. The other midwife came and found that I was at 1 cm. It was sort of disappointing just because I’d been so dilated with my previous pregnancies by that point. We decided it was prodromal labor, or “practice labor”, and she went home. This happened at least two more times over the next week, but thankfully I knew better than to call every time. The next Sunday rolled around; I was 41 weeks, and had been in contact with Nancy discussing what we should do to encourage him, since we didn’t want me to go into the 42nd week just because the hospital really wants you to come in for an induction at that point.

I had set up ultrasounds for 41 weeks 2 days 5 days respectively to check on baby, and I wasn’t prepared to defend my choice not to induce in the hospital. She said we could do a membrane sweep after 41 weeks. In the non-traditional relationship of a midwife and client she told me she would meet up with me on Sunday after church to do that; how convenient! So we went to the appointment and she did the sweep, then informed me that I was now 2 cm. We discussed some other ways to encourage labor; she gave me a labor tincture that has black and blue cohosh, and some other herbs, and told me to take one dropper full in a shot of juice per hour for 3-4 hours, and also if I wanted to use a breast pump 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off three times, then call it a night. I did everything she said, had a few irregular contractions, then went to bed.

I woke up with a major cramp at 12:30 a.m. I lay there for a while, then another came along. I decide to get up and walk around. I came in the living room and pulled up my app to time them; the first two were 15 minutes apart, so I wondered if this is just another “practice”. Shortly after another, I checked the app, which said they was only five-minute intervals. Over the next 30 minutes they remained steady; five minutes or so apart, and about one minute long.

I stood behind the couch and leaned over it, swaying and squatting. I went to wake David up and told him, then called Nancy at about 1:40. She asked me about what was going on, and I let her know; then she said she would call Edie, the assisting midwife, and she’d be on her way. We decided to go ahead and put a few inches of cold water in the tub while we waited; I walked around, stopping wherever a contraction would hit. I drank some water, read my birth affirmation cards that I had written out a few weeks before. I had written some positive scripture and words affirming that I CAN do this, and I HAD done it before. In the midst, I had called our birth photographer also.

Eventually, at about 2:45, Edie arrived; like a ninja, she had come in through the garage with her bags and swiftly started setting up. I asked her if she wanted to check my dilation, just to see where I was; at that point contractions had been about three minutes apart. She texted Nancy and asked if she wanted her to, and Nancy told her she was still about 20 minutes out so if I wanted her to check she could. She checked, and I was at 7cm! What a relief! All this work hadn’t been for nothing!! I jumped up from that bed feeling reenergized and excited. I was so excited to report the news to David!

I bounced back into the kitchen holding up seven fingers, and told him to get the hot water in the tub and let’s have a baby! At about 3 a.m. our photographer snuck through the garage door, and got to work. I informed her that I was already at 7 cm. We all stood around and talked, and they brewed coffee; David loaded the dishwasher just to be doing something. They took turns filling pots of water and heating them on the stove since the hot water heater ran out rather quickly. Every few minutes I would either grab the kitchen sink, sway and squat, or grab David’s neck, and we would sort of dance around the kitchen. Nancy arrived at 3:30 a.m.; things were slowing down some, but intensifying.

At some point I did get sick and threw up a couple times; throwing up mid-contraction wasn’t pleasant, but it was over quickly. They told me I could get in the tub whenever I felt like it. Sure, that sounded like a great idea! Before the birth I decided in order to be as comfortable as possible I would wear either a maternity bathing suit top or a tank top and a skirt. I’d heard of other moms laboring in a skirt, sounded like a great idea, so I had bought a knee-length yoga-style knit skirt and had been wearing it and a tank top throughout the labor. I decided to just keep it all on to get in the tub; it may sound a little silly, but even something as small as being comfortable in what you’re wearing can make a huge difference in labor.

I stepped in the water, knelt down on my knees and leaned over the side to rest; I could just let my belly sort of hang down the warm water. It felt so good! Contractions were slower, but when they came, they were intense. Both midwives were standing by watching; I think Nancy was knelt down beside the tub; occasionally she would whisper some type of affirmation: “You can do this; slow, deep sounds; you’re very powerful.” David was directly in front of me sitting on a stool, holding my hands. The entire time I was pregnant we had planned at some point for him to get in the tub and catch our baby, but at that point I didn’t realize how much I wouldn’t want him or myself to move out of that squat position. So I told him not to move!

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I asked if one of the midwives would check dilation again. Nancy came over and had me flip over so that she could, then said I was 9 cm, thank goodness! I quickly flipped back over onto my knees, leaning over the tub, and grabbed David’s hands as we said a prayer out loud. I prayed for it to be over soon, so we would have our healthy baby boy.

The next few contractions, I felt the urge to push; so I did with everything I had. With each push I could feel baby moving. Then I felt a sort of pop and gush; and realized, oh my gosh – my water just broke! It was so neat to actually experience that on my own, because in my last two deliveries, even with my natural birth, the doctor broke my water. When my water broke it was in the height of a contraction so I couldn’t speak, but right after I told everyone. Nancy asked to feel what was going on. She did, but nearly right as she pulled her hand back up out of the water I pushed twice and his head came out! She felt again and told everyone the head is out and there was no cord around his neck (remember no one could really see what was going on because I was kneeling, with the skirt on, and it was very dim lighting).

I rested for maybe 20-30 seconds; then one more push brought out the rest of his body. I flipped over so quickly and reached down to pull him up to my chest! He was born at 4:14 a.m. Wow, what a relief. He and I both let out a cry! Nancy and David helped me get my shirt off so he could be skin-to-skin, and wrapped us both in a warm towel. Then all was calm. It was so surreal – I just delivered my own baby, myself!

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Nancy said, “Wow, that was fast!” Just a minute after that, Cannon walked in rubbing his eyes. They lit up when he saw what I was holding; what perfect timing. Since Cannon had awakened I told David he should probably go wake Abram up. He went upstairs and got him, although he was sound asleep. Both of the boys leaned against the pool to touch their new brother.

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Only a few minutes went by and with a little effort the placenta was passed. The older boys acted as if it was just whatever – it didn’t faze them a bit; in fact, at one point, Abram said, “Mama can you get out of that tub so we can go somewhere?” Yes, just minutes after birth, at like 4:30 a.m.! I sat in the tub for 20 minutes or so and latched baby on to nurse for the first time. Eventually we let the older boys cut the umbilical cord; they each got a snip, then I passed baby to his daddy. They all went to the couch to check him out while the midwives helped me out of the tub, and to the bed.

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Nancy did her assessments on me and decided a shot of Pitocin would be good to slow bleeding, which I was fine with, and I felt really good! Meanwhile, Edie drained the tub, cleaned up supplies and got the house probably cleaner than it had been before they arrived. David brought me the baby to nurse and went to cook breakfast, while the older boys went upstairs to watch a movie. He brought me breakfast in bed and we watched Nancy do her newborn assessment, APGAR scores and measurements. He was 7lbs 15oz and 20¾” long, with a head full of dark hair just like his brothers. Once they were done they finished packing up and went over some postpartum instructions, asked if we had any questions, and were out the door by 9 a.m., so we were able to enjoy our new family of five! Our older boys lay down around 1:30 p.m. to nap, and David and I said we were going to too, but we just couldn’t. We sat around and talked about the whole event for nearly three hours – how amazing and how natural and mostly how easy everything was being in the comfort of our own home.

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Afterthoughts

Although David claimed I made it look easy, labor was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done; but of course, it’s also the most rewarding thing also. Even though it’s probably not a good thing, I had so many expectations for this birth; I had talked about it, prayed about it and dreamt about it for months – well, really, a few years. And to my surprise, it really and truly couldn’t have gone any more perfectly. Nancy returned the next day and after she did assessments on us both, she asked me if I would change anything if I could; and I answered, “Absolutely nothing. It was purely magical.”

Raleigh Birth Photography | Home Birth | Mattis from Amanda Ditzel on Vimeo.

Photographs by Raleigh Birth Photography.

Veda’s Birth Story

Veda’s Birth Story

Liz shares the story of her third child’s birth at home. 

Birth. There is so much packed into those five letters. Something that, no matter how hard you try, is so hard to give the words its beckons to describe it, because not one is the same. It is a cross between two literal worlds, which are uniquely intertwined, relying on each other to hold up their end of the deal…sending the signals and surrendering to the process.

One of my favorite parts of birth is the normalcy that surrounds it. I like to look back and remember every detail of the day before, having no clue the next day my life would forever change. Obviously, we know there is a baby coming; but other than that, we sign on for voluntary participation in an unfolding live mystery.

The day before my due date (January 7, 2016), my family spent the day together intentionally. As we had the two weeks prior as well, knowing our two children’s lives were also awaiting change, we loved on them hard. This particular day was beautiful and sunny out for a cold January afternoon. We decided to go to an indoor play place up the road, which was free; and free is always good. It also happened to be my mother-in-love’s birthday, so she met us there with donuts and coffee in hand – slightly ironic, since it was her birthday. She was still holding out that her present would be wrapped in vernix. What she didn’t know was that I thought I was in labor two times that week already, so the possibility was there.

We were the last ones out of the play place when they closed. Before we left home earlier, Sully wrapped a ton of presents for his Grammy Dukes, which consisted of all of his toys wrapped in Priority Mail boxes. He grabbed them out of the van and took them over to her car, where she opened all five of them and then followed us to the back of the parking lot to watch him skateboard. Steven and Sully tore it up on their skateboards for over an hour in the cold.

Maggie and I watched in the comfort of our nice little minivan – our provider of all things warm and comfortable. I took videos and pictures, amazed at how big my little buddy was. Once the sun went down, we packed up and went on our way; and I’m pretty sure my mother-in-love let me know there was still time to have the baby on her birthday. I figured the baby would be born on the 18th – the most logical date in my mind, since it was past the guess date, and the same day of the month as my other two were born. Once we left, we stopped at Home Depot to grab some last-minute things for Nest Fest 2015/2016. The kids had fallen asleep, so I stayed in the van with them.

Our normal night continued on; we stopped for coffee on the way home, I requested some “Sexual Healing” later on while waiting in the drive-thru, we hung the curtains I got and found out I failed to realize you actually need to measure windows before buying said curtains. I remember us all sitting in the bedroom just hanging out and talking. Eventually I went to bed. Not too long after, Sully came wandering in. He was very restless, which made it impossible for me to sleep. I told him that if he wasn’t tired, he could go back out with Daddy, to which he replied, “No I can’t; Daddy said he would pay me if I came to bed.” I clearly wasn’t expecting that answer, and I also was silently thinking, “Seriously, Steven just bribed our kid to come to bed!” Then I realized that Steven was trying to expedite his release of oxytocin.

Sully finally fell asleep, and then Maggie followed along at around 2 a.m.; and yes, you read that right. We forgot this sleep stage we went through when Sully was her age. I dozed off; 3 a.m. rolled around and I thought, well, it’s now or never. I whistled for Steven, and the two dollars he bribed Sully with was well spent.

At 4 a.m. I took a shower, thinking that by the time I woke up the next day I may not have time. I even went as far as to dry my hair, specifically telling my husband that I could be in labor the next day. In the last month of pregnancy, I made sure my hair was washed, dried and semi-styled (and by that I mean I brushed it), knowing it wouldn’t be too long before a new baby was on the scene.

I got back in bed, and Steven sat in the chair at the end of the bed; we commented on each other’s Facebook Posts, as any weird couple would do. I couldn’t fall asleep until around 5 a.m. It went well until my hip started hurting, just as it had over the past few nights. So I crawled down to the footboard and stretched out and slept there until Maggie woke up. I went back up to the top of the bed and started to nurse Maggie, and I was still uncomfortable.

I texted Steven at 10:07 a.m. and told him I needed him. I had to get up, and I knew that was not going to go over well. At 10:12 a.m. I felt a contraction, and then another one six minutes later. “Oh snap, this might be it,” I thought. Right then, Steven walked in and I got up and went to the bathroom to try and walk it off, still thinking that it could just be from my hip hurting. I walked out to the kitchen and continued having contractions roughly every three minutes apart, and tracked them for about half an hour before telling Steven that I thought I was in labor.

Before we go any further, let me give you some back-story: the positive test took me by surprise. Our pregnancies always do, since we don’t prevent and don’t plan; but this was different from the beginning. I had felt like I had gotten my groove back – one that I hadn’t realized that I’d lost – kind of like when in Hook, Robin Williams forgot he was Peter Pan. Life came to a halt as sloth-like behavior and my anti-food campaign kicked into full gear.

Everything that once was a mere five weeks before was nevermore. It wasn’t until about late-July that I was able to not feel complete exhaustion, and that food was palatable again. I’m sure it was no different than my prior two pregnancies, but it was much harder with two small children and working full-time (to me), considering I was holding down my primary job as a mom and my hours were 24/7.

This whole pregnancy, I felt as though time was flying by and I couldn’t slow it down enough to fully embrace it, as I had with my others. Eventually, I accepted the fact that this was just a different pregnancy and I was slowly able to release all the guilt I had been feeling around that. I let go of trying to decide if this was our last baby, thus refueling the guilt storm of not being able to live every moment like I was running through a field of wildflowers with the perfect filter and glowing pregnant goddess vision in my head. My husband and I call this “mental mind pirates” and they were trying to jack my pregnant booty.

As December approached, I started getting into game mode, even though I was sure it was never going to happen. I couldn’t envision my birth, and just felt off-kilter. Lo and behold, the nesting began, and logistical planning showed up. However, the heart of this birth and how it would unfold eluded me. I had no specific music picked out and really what felt like no capacity to picture it. I started to journal, asking myself questions.

“What am I afraid of?”

“What is holding me back?”

“What do I want my birth to be like?”

I reached out to my doula many times, attempting to explain this mysterious fear that I couldn’t pinpoint. I watched birth videos and read birth stories, but felt nothing still. I eventually reached out to a magical Facebook friend – the kind that you’ve never met in human form, but only in heart form. It turns out that she had the same experience, and my instinct to message her and lay my heart out after she commented on my daughter’s birth video proved to be helpful.

It put me at ease, and I eagerly shared with my husband the good news that I wasn’t the only one. Those healing and freeing short messages back and forth were on January 5th, after two separate days of contractions that started and stopped after three hours both times. Once on New Year’s Eve, and four days later on January 4th that added to my anxiety and led me to reach out for help. With my prior two births, I never had contractions up until it was go-time; and they were consistent and predictable until I was holding my new baby.

I felt a sense of renewal and ready after talking to Erin. The simple act of validating what I was feeling gave me the ability to release my fears. Cue the “Eye of the Tiger”…

On January 7th, 2016, I woke up with hip pain, as I mentioned above. The pain with those first friendly contractions was awful, and made me feel like I needed to get up and stretch. After the third contraction, I made it out to the kitchen to drink some water; and they kept coming. I started writing them down, breathing through them, and found a pattern.

I went in and told Steven I was pretty sure I was in labor, and proceeded to go back to the kitchen to labor. I called and text my doula, midwife and videographer, but I still felt like the boy who cried wolf. I was determined this would be the day. I focused and prayed that this was it, because the mental mind pirates mind games were wearing on me with false labor. I asked my husband to get the birth pool set up so it was done. With two littles, I just wanted it done and out of the way, knowing I wasn’t going to get in anytime soon. With my last birth, it went much quicker than anticipated, so this put me at ease.

My midwife was the first to show up, at a little after 11 a.m. She got there just as my contractions began to space out…what the heck? Not again, I thought. This was after she decided she would come right away instead of doing checkups. I felt so bad to tell her after her driving an hour here. She didn’t seem concerned though, and we carried on. Freida mentioned that when she woke up, she saw a sliver moon and thought to herself that babies would start coming. She arrived just after the sheer excitement of the birth pool being set up, and the kids sprinting to get their bathing suits on.

In that same sweet moment, our youngest kept saying what sounded like “white chocolate” to us. Thankfully, Sully, our four-year-old, has mastered the art of toddler translation and let us know she was saying “life jacket”. Duh! Despite this simple request being unneeded for the birth pool, Steven took the dad of the year torch and went to the garage to grab it out of the rafters. Off he went, and we kept on keeping on in the kitchen, Pandora pumping. I saw my doula’s car pull up and expected her to walk in…except she didn’t.

I heard her in the foyer saying something, and then my midwife slowly and curiously walked into the foyer. None of them came in. I heard my doula repeating, “Are you okay?” At this point, I knew something was wrong and I consciously made the decision to not care. I was having this baby and didn’t want my contractions to halt. I deduced that obviously my husband was hurt, but could also tell by my doula’s tone in her voice it was not life-threatening.

Everyone eventually filtered back in, including my husband…similar to Lazarus coming back from the dead in the Bible. It turns out that as he was trying to grab the life vest, his ladder fell over. Apparently he tried to yell for us, and eventually he couldn’t hold on any longer and fell from the rafters. Yes, HE FELL FROM THE RAFTERS! So when my doula got here, she initially thought it was me she heard from outside. Once she walked in, she found out the noise was coming from the garage and that it was Steven, after thinking someone was being attacked. Much to Maggie’s dismay, Operation Life Jacket was a no-go, but by George, this labor was back in business.

I stood at the island drinking my red raspberry leaf tea, laughing and talking, while my doula rubbed my back and midwife supported my belly. At about 12:45 p.m., I started getting concerned that my contractions weren’t hurting; not that I’m a glutton for pain, but I wanted them to prove themselves – to prove that I was in labor, and that I wasn’t wasting everyone’s time. I mentioned to my doula that the birth ball made them not hurt at all; so we decided to stay off of it, unless I needed a break later.

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At the suggestion of Shelley, my doula, we went on a walk. It was so warm ­– 45 degrees and sunny on a January day in Ohio. Sully came with us and gathered nature/garbage treasures as I racked up some contractions, which seemed to get a bit more intense and closer together on that walk. Once we got back, I resumed my ritual of laboring in the kitchen, conversing and peeing in between contractions. During one particular contraction, Sully got very serious and said, “Dad, mom is having a heart attack,” meaning contraction. Although, it never failed – I had a contraction each time I walked into the bathroom, all by my lonesome. A few times, my husband would wander in to make sure I was okay.

The best part was the backdrop to my birth, with the kids in their bathing suits, balloons in full effect, and water splashing everywhere. They were tearing it up in the birth pool. We made dreams come true that day. I would just look over and smile and answer the same question to my son Sully, as he would say, “Mom, why don’t you just get in the birth pool to have the baby?” The fact that those words are in his vocabulary and cognitive understanding melted my heart each time.

I watched as Steven and the kids played a game Sully made, and then Maggie as she set up a picnic, thinking how serene it was. After a while, my doula suggested another walk. I started to feel a bit tired and my midwife thought a nap may help labor along. I complied and not long after, Maggie came in and asked to nurse. She was almost asleep and I had to moan through a contraction. There it was – my old friend, the moan, letting me know we were ramping up. I had to get up, and felt bad that I had hijacked her boob and her nap when my baby girl was so tired.

During my nap from 2:30 – 3 p.m., my doula ran down the road to the local health food store to grab some lunch. I felt like she was gone forever as I moaned through contractions and lost track of time. She came back and I was simultaneously starving and so tired. I remember walking over to the carpet and just sitting on the ground until a contraction came and I got on all fours. Lisa, the videographer, brought the birth ball over and I laid over it and welcomed contractions for about an hour. They almost didn’t hurt in this position. I would intermittently take breaks to scarf down a sandwich Steven made.

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Contractions started to get stronger at around 4:45 p.m., and I noticed I was moaning more and more; however, I felt like my contractions were far apart ­– around 15-20 minutes. I felt like this labor was going to be longer, which was one of my original fears during this pregnancy. My first labor was 28 1/2 hours, and my second was 7 1/2 hours. I didn’t want to get my hopes up for a speedy labor, and once the contractions started taking legitimate lunch breaks I felt like I’d be in for the long haul.

I started walking by the pool and contemplating for the first time getting in. I held off though, letting my daughter know a little bit longer as she asked me to get in. At 6:00 p.m. I made the decision to get in. As I did so, my husband called and ordered pizza from right up the road for pickup. He was going to take the kids and give them a break. The warm, mucky water was welcoming. We have city water and for some reason, this was the one day out of the year we had brown water.

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I set up on all fours, hanging over the side, and right about then I began to sound like I was exorcising the demons. This was around the time I started yelling out for Jesus. Eventually, I started saying, “Thank you Jesus.” My husband tells me I was no louder than any other birth, but I remember thinking in my head that my videographer was sure to have nightmares, since she had never heard me labor.

I started to push at 6:10 p.m., and my water broke 12 minutes later; it scared me, and I screamed, “My water broke!” I was in the thick of it at this point. I kept trying to look at my birth affirmations hanging on the wall, and zeroing in on the “I am not afraid” one, which was front and center. It was quite possibly the most important one up there, and I let my doula know that I was afraid that it would hurt. And it did  — so much more than I remember with my last birth.

As my contractions came hard and heavy, my husband started reading my affirmations out loud to me, with the last one being, “This baby will come out of my vagina.” I laughed in my head. At this time, my doula started whispering in my ear, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I told her to keep talking. I just felt like I couldn’t get past the pain and needed to hear her voice.

After that, my husband took the kids into the bedroom as I started getting louder. I started pushing; and mid-push I yelled, “Steven, you need to call and have them deliver the pizza!” My doula let me know they already told him, and that he was on the phone. I’m sure the pizza shop wondered if he was mid-murder as I moaned through pushing. He let them know not to ring the doorbell. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. It had no effect on getting this baby out.

I remember no breaks and constant pushing; being aware of the pain and thinking that this does not sound fun to do again. After what felt like I had been pushing so long, everyone said, “Grab your baby!” At 6:31 p.m. they brought my baby up through my legs, and I tried my hardest to muster up the tears. I felt after such an emotionally taxing pregnancy and feeling the urge to cry with each push – something I’ve never felt before – that I would definitely cry… but nothing.

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I held my sweet baby against my hot chest and was in awe of how tiny this little one seemed. Moments later, we found out we had a sweet baby girl, and named her Veda Willow. We waited for her cord to stop pulsing and my daughter declared the water to be yucky, and I delivered the placenta at 6:47 p.m. My son Sully was in awe of it and called it the baby’s nest. He helped cut the cord, which he called the antenna, and soon referred to it as the tentacle. I got out at 6:58 p.m. and set up shop on the couch to nurse while everyone indulged in pizza. Sully brought every baby blanket out and covered us up; he was so happy. Maggie nursed and was out cold, and Steven brought some pizza over for the two of us as he checked out his new baby girl.

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Once Veda was finished nursing, I decided to get in the sitz bath, where she joined me soon after. When we were done, I hopped into my adult diaper and we went out to take her measurements and footprints. She was 8lbs, 3oz and 20½ inches long – my smallest baby thus far. I was sure she would be 10 lbs; I was also sure she was a boy. Clearly I’m good at growing and harboring our children, but my guessing accuracy needs some tuning.

Our day began to wind down as we got her first diaper on; Lisa took a few pictures, and we settled in to our new normal in what is now my favorite chair in the house. Everyone started cycling out. My people had been with me for 10 hours and Freida, my midwife, left me with a sweet kiss.

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Soon it was just the five of us about to set sail on our new journey, transitioning and finding a new balance in life; and slowly, it is coming. We are trying to be intentional each day to focus on postpartum recovery, loving on each little one and giving each other grace. For the first time, I made a postpartum plan along with my birth plan. It is hard to follow, especially going from Nest Fest 2015 to Low and Slow 2016. We are letting go of the reigns, embracing the mess and finding beauty in each moment.

Veda Willow from Lisa Lachmaier on Vimeo.

Sojourn’s Birth Story

Sojourn’s Birth Story

We thank Rachel for returning to the BWF blog and sharing her third birth story with us. Her first birth story is here, and her second is here.

One month ago, I was laying in bed with a tight round drum of a belly, snuggling a sweet Sparrow and her far-flung limbs. I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant, and every morning I would wake up with a strange delight that I made it through another night still pregnant. I didn’t mind going “over”; and despite my many despairs earlier in the pregnancy, I felt peaceful about relinquishing a year to change and finding a new rhythm. I loved the extra week I had to enjoy both of my already-born babies and to glory in the anticipation of meeting Baby Tarzan. I even got an extra week of work in!

I was lying on my side cradling these two babies, one outside and one within my body, when I felt my water gently break. It was around 7:45 a.m. The first thought I had was a pinch of disappointment that I was starting out with waters broken, but it also felt good to be waking up with fresh energy after a whole night of sleep. I sprang from my bed and dashed to the bathroom, crowing to Jonathan that something was finally happening. Getting up and moving caused more water to fall, soaking my basketball shorts; and almost immediately I had a very sharp, jagged contraction that made all the weeks and days of gripping my tightening belly during a practice surge and declaring, “Oh my! That was a hard one!” seem like a total joke. When it’s real, it’s unmistakably real.

I remember leaning over the bathroom counter and groaning, thinking I had to get my contacts in and find pants and text everyone! It was like one of those “choose two” diagrams. So I opted for contacts and texting, first apprising everyone that it would be “Sometime today probably,” and telling Katie to “get ready casually,” and then shortly after, revising the message to, “If you want to be here GET HERE NOW!”

There is some total silliness here that I wish were not part of my story, but I kept having to delete old texts out of my mailbox so I could read new ones, which was taking me forever because of course there are those texts I don’t want to part with, so I was scrolling back through months of old texts so I could delete them and read my new messages; and meanwhile the surges were already rolling in and slamming me and I felt impatient – couldn’t my body appreciate that I had to take care of some ward business before we moved on to the main speakers?

I was using all my brief in-between-surges time to text, and I still hadn’t found any pants; and this became more and more distressing to me as I realized people were almost going to be there, and I didn’t want to spend the next potential many hours pantsless. My phone kept chiming with messages and distracting me. It was absurd. I finally texted everyone one more time, a message I thought was clear and instructive, explaining that I couldn’t find any pants, and to text Jon. I had meant to text Jon if they had any more questions, but hilariously, a lot of people took it to mean that Jon wasn’t home and I needed his help. To find pants. Ha! So some of them began helpfully trying to locate him and inform him of my problems. “She needs pants, Jon! She can’t find any! Where are you?” I ended up just putting my wet basketball shorts back on, because I am hardcore, just like the pioneers.

I needed to be in my body and just with my body and stop trying to manage anything else. As soon as I tuned in I was surprised at how spicy the surges felt already, and I regretted my water breaking and removing the cushion that softened the edges. What I remembered from my surges during Sparrow’s birth was this delicate crescendo, like a musical scale of building pressure, a sharp, shrill peak and an ebbing away with kind relief. Instead of a musical scale, these surges felt like gut punches of peak-peak-peak-like someone leaning on a truck horn, blaring.

In a physical sense, it felt very loud in my body. I remember trying to quiet my mind down; to keep my body still and accept these sensations, but they seemed so strong already that it was difficult for me to connect with them. Part of me wanted to wiggle away and avoid them for a while longer. Another wise part of me remembered that there was no way out but through; and I told myself, “You can do this.” (“It’s a unix system…I know this.”)

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Katie arrived and I wandered out to the living room to greet her; I tried to talk with her, but I had mostly already gone under and I’m sure it was a pretty spotty conversation. Chai woke up during this time and came out full of cheer and wonder when we told him that Baby Tarzan was coming today. He cupped my face in his tiny hands and told me he loved me, and he rubbed my back. My sweet boy! I always have a soft heart for my children, but when I’m in labor they just melt my soul and I want to cry warm buttery tears of pure love for their innocence and kindness. I know that sounds gooey, but it’s really how I feel towards them. They tenderize me with their tenderness.

Richelle and Shanlee were there with their serene excitement, and began the comforting bustle of setting things up. Richelle checked on the baby’s heart rate and explained she didn’t feel the need to check me because I seemed to be laboring well. A few more gut-punch surges and I moaned that I thought I would get more of a break in between, and asked to be checked. I was at 7.5 cm. Katie cheered for me. I started to feel perplexed about where my support people were; I’d made it this far completely untouched. I felt disoriented and confused. I wanted Jonathan to come be close to me, and I wanted the fearsome swelling pressure in my pelvis to go away. I was annoyed that the vacuum cleaner was in the middle of the floor and I disliked seeing it there whenever I opened my eyes.

They told me that the birth tub wasn’t ready and they weren’t sure it would be in time for me to have the baby; I said in that case I wanted to go labor in my room, and started to make my way there slowly. The surges were so fierce. I remember hanging onto the back of the couch and swaying my hips, and the midwife’s assistant Shanlee came and pressed on my back; it felt so merciful! I managed to walk into my room, arms wrapped around Shanlee and Jon, and when I got there I dropped to my hands and knees during a surge, and remained there for the rest of my labor – just collapsed on the floor between the wall and the bed.

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Sparrow had been sleeping, tilted forward with her mane of wispy hair face-down on the pillow, but my moaning and humming woke her up. She was a little distressed and called out for me. I remember seeing her face pinched with worry to have all these strange people in her room, but she slipped off the bed and into my arms and I sat up against the wall and held her and submerged myself in that insistent tightness.

Mary and Diana were suddenly there, and their presence made me feel like a bright light had turned on. I was comforted just seeing them. My dear friends and sisters were floating in one by one. Kayte was near my face – such a warm and graceful presence. Laurel hugged me when she arrived; and even as deep as I was, I was so happy to see her! She was tearful and told me she had been sobbing in the car on her way to my house because she was afraid I would have the baby before she got there. I’m so glad that didn’t happen…I still have an ache in my heart from missing the birth of Laurel’s daughter, the only chance I could have had to support her as she has done for me so many times.

Magical doulas, knowing hands, they pressed against my knees; and even at that awkward angle, it relieved so much pressure! I felt like a broken doll whose limbs had come off and they were pressing them back into the joints. It was lovely, and I held my sweet girl against my belly; she was the perfect size to give me some counter-pressure against my abdomen. I was so grateful for her gentle resting there. She was utterly calm and seemed to understand some kind of solemnity about what was happening; she just clung tightly to me and whispered, “Mama. Mama. Baby?” and patted my belly and snuggled me.

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Those moments are so precious to me. Whatever happens in the rest of my life and my relationship with Sparrow, if I never have another little daughter, if she grows up and despises me for awhile, whether or not I ever hold her while she has her own babies, we will always have that unbelievable pocket of time when she loved me and I absorbed her kindness with my raw, wide-open heart and it was so terribly sweet. My life – what an incredible piece of life to experience. I remember my sister Diana exclaiming, “I am never going to forget this! She is so beautiful!” Sparrow was somber, and tender, and just rocked with me.

I was locked into labordrive by then. I held onto my girl and smoothed her hair and her face over and over again; and when the surges came, I just tried to sink into them and let them be what they needed to be. No resistance; just acceptance and surrender. In my mind, I told myself, let them be; let them come. Sometimes I felt like vocalizing through them, and sometimes it felt okay to be still. I let every surge show me what was needed to work through it.

At some point, someone gently moved Sparrow away to get her ready to go to her grandparents’ and they helped me change into my skirt, which seems simple but in active labor that many movements can be overwhelming. Standing and moving my legs and then sinking back down took a lot of energy. Richelle let us know that the water wasn’t getting warm enough for baby and that we wouldn’t be able to use the tub. I was going to have a “dry land” birth. I remember feeling a little crushed that I wasn’t going to get to birth my baby next to the orange wall of my prophetic dreams, but it was alright; the creation of that space was still full of magic and healed me when I needed it.

I crawled forward and collapsed on my hands and knees again and my doulas circled around me. One of the things that touched me so much, looking at the photographs later, is that at every point of my labor there is a circle around me –whether it’s one or two people curled around my body, or six or seven performing those merciful acrobatics, I was completely cradled by these women. They are so powerful! Every single one of them believed in me, and every single one of them brought an energy of confidence and joy. I felt encircled by their laughter and open hearts; I could feel them melting at my children’s’ sweetness, feel them aching with me, especially those women who understand the poignancy of birth, I could feel empathy from their hands and strength from their muscles.

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I realize that my experiences giving birth are probably the times I have been most able to release my concerns about reciprocity and social balance and just accept touch and holding and rescue; maybe that is why those moments are so dear to me – it’s not a natural space always in my life. Such kindness! Everyone deserves such kindness. I needed every single touch, every single hand. They talked to me, vocalized with me, which always makes me feel absurdly and childishly special; and laughed at my “labor jokes.” I wish I could remember some of them.

I remember being there on my hands and knees and seeing Sparrow’s dear little feet in front of me, as she hugged me and rubbed my neck and patted my head. She was my Littlest Doula. The pressure in my belly and pelvis was tremendous; this heavy pressure that sagged and stayed between surges. I tried lying on my left side, which I’ve never done in labor before, to see if that felt better, but it made me feel confined and a little panicky. My body wanted to be upright and grounded. I twisted a piece of my back in trying to get up, and clever Moh and Laurel or Laura rubbed it out. I asked if there was any way someone could support my belly, and some lovely gracious person found a rebozo. Oh, that sweet rebozo! They took turns standing and pulling up while the others squeezed my hips, pressed down on my shoulders and back. They had hot pads on my back and cold cloths on my neck. I was still present enough to describe and ask for what I needed. Such is the skill of my doulas that there were whole increments of time where they were working with such precision and energy that they took the entire brunt of a surge away. There were whole delicious spaces of 20 or 30 seconds I felt completely normal – even while experiencing surges.

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Even with all the support, it was a fierce labor. I could feel every surge so hard in my belly and my hipbones. At one point I vomited in an act of desperation. I murmured, “I can’t” and Laurel told me, “You are.” I kept breathing, kept hanging on. I was missing Jonathan. I wanted him close to me and I could hear Chai squawking and I felt impatient. The surges were so ragged and so rough that at some point I asked for another check and Richelle declared that I was complete.

What?” I said. “How can that be? Don’t I still have to go through transition?” “You already did!” Everyone rejoiced but I was despairing because I didn’t feel like pushing at all and I was still tensing my body against that enormous swelling pressure. I pushed slightly hesitantly just to see what it felt like, if I could help my body along, and pushing felt so wrong and awful. So there wasn’t anything to do but wait. Finally, Jonathan came in the room and he said, “Hi Racher” and I bleated “Hey, Jon,” and I remember people laughing at this casual greeting in this dramatic scene. But I didn’t feel casual and I didn’t feel histrionic; I just needed him. I put out my hands and he dropped to the ground near my face. I grabbed his hands and squeezed, and he let me do it as hard as I needed to; it was simple, but it helped me so much.

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I felt suspended. It was so hard to stay there, knowing I was close but having to endure being on pause until it was time to move on. At some point I tried pushing again and felt that familiar but still shocking sliding and widening feeling of the baby sliding down; warm, insistent, relieving. It was so vulnerable to be pushing out a baby with everyone clustered around my body, no water to shield me. But I also felt comfortable enough (and ready to be done) to do it! I felt like an animal. A purposeful, quiet animal. I felt steely and determined, quiet and blank. I told myself I would push through a count of 10 in my own mind no matter what it felt like, and then I would pause. I got the head out by the count of seven and took a rest to breathe; I heard gasps and cries of “Slow down, slow, slow, slow!”

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Then I pushed again for less than 10 seconds and felt the baby’s slimy, floppy body move through me and drop; and then I was free, and I came back to life! It was such a sudden shift to be sprung from that deliberate, shuddering place into soft, rosy euphoria. I heard a creaky little cry, I sat straight up and was instantly flooded with giddiness and joy. I don’t remember reaching for the baby, but I must have; I remember hugging them close and crying, “Oh, my baby; I have another beautiful baby! Oh!”

8

I feel like I must have been shaking; I saw Laurel and Laura holding each other tightly and both crying. I was holding the baby already wrapped in a towel and I asked if everyone had already seen the baby’s sex and they assured me they had not. I leaned over to take in this new little person. I touched their tiny fingers. In that moment just beholding that little face, I couldn’t tell whether this baby was a son or daughter. My heart was pounding. I was nervous; I was meeting such an important new person. A new soul was there in the room with us!

Someone was exclaiming they had no idea I was pushing and someone else was saying, “That’s how she always does it.” I said that I like to be a stealth pusher and not tell anyone what I’m up to so I don’t have to manage their expectations; I don’t have time for that. Jon crawled over closer to me and we embraced, he kissed my face. I asked for Chai and Sparrow to be brought back in, and they were so beautiful to me, my little sacred children of my body. I kissed them and showed them the baby. I felt dizzy with not knowing.

9

We had decided to wait a few minutes before checking the gender of the baby. I had a conversation with my supervisor at work about the expectations and assumptions we all make base on perceived gender, and she had told me about a couple who chose to wait awhile even after birth before checking the baby’s sex. They spent some time interacting and getting to know the baby just as a new human and not as a son or daughter with gender informing their perception. They even wrote a song called “the first five minutes of life” and sang it to the baby. I loved this idea so much and had talked to my midwife about wrapping the baby in a towel immediately after they were born (providing there were no complications), so we could welcome this new person mindfully and when we felt ready. We decided it would be fun to sing to welcome our baby, and I spent months teaching Chai the song from Babe at bed-time so he would be all ready to sing to “Baby Tarzan.”

“If I had words to make a day for you, I’d sing you a morning golden and true. I would make this day last for all time, then bring you a night deep in moonshine.” I rocked with the baby and my doulas sang with me, then I pulled back the towel and in a heart-thumping second, understood that it was a baby boy who had been my Very Quiet Cricket all those months. I felt a quick pinch of loss for the dream girl-baby possibility (as I would have for the dream boy-baby if it had been a girl) and I said, “It’s a boy! Chai…Chai, you have a baby brother!” I cried. It’s too astonishing of a feeling to suddenly not be pregnant anymore, to hold a child you created in your arms, to be in the presence of such powerful newness. It’s brutally beautiful.

The hours after my baby’s birth are so warm in my memory – my friends and sisters climbing on the bed with me, talking and laughing, processing the experience. He was born at 10:28 a.m., making the total labor from first surge to the placenta being delivered a little under three hours. He weighed 8 lbs 2 oz (my tiniest baby, and my latest baby!) and his aunt Diana cut the cord. I felt delighted and relieved. I wanted to talk about how rough and all-encompassing my experience was, I wanted to talk about all the women who have ever lived who have given birth, how I worried and ached for them, and I wanted to explain how my heart was exploding with love. Laurel, Laura, Mary, Diana, Katie, Kayte, Sarah, you are and always have been so dear to me. Thank you for being connected forever with this sweet day. Thank you for holding and creating sacred space, for singing, for your comforting words. I heard or felt every one.

It is overwhelming to give birth three times in less than four years. I know I’m far from the first to experience so many pregnancies in quick succession, but it has taken a lot from me. I also know how lucky I am. I feel so grateful to have three healthy babies. I don’t want to take it for granted. I don’t want to pretend that I’m immune to devastating experiences. I don’t know why we have been so lucky and why each of these times I got to wrap my arms around a healthy, squalling infant, but I honor all those women who felt every sensation that racked my body, some for so much longer, and without kind hands on their backs, and never got to hear a cry, never got to feel the relief because even after all that enormous work their bodies were flooded with panic.

I thought of the women who are abused while giving birth, who birth with injured bodies, who are insulted or shamed or alone. I felt humbled to the core of my soul that my body had worked mercifully, for the kind humans who flocked to me and threaded their fingers through my hair, pressed with all their strength on my heaving body. There was a rock of horror I didn’t fall off of; I was held, I was cradled, I was honored. I believe every woman who goes through this process deserves that, even if they would feel overwhelmed by the phalanx I had in that tiny space, too many hands, I believe everyone deserves gentleness at that time. And my heart was pierced for those who didn’t experience gentleness, but the opposite.

I talked with Katie about the photos she took…I told her they have a National Geographic feel, probably because we actually are creatures being photographed in our natural environment. They are different from my other homebirth photos, more chaotic, all this sheer emotion and intensity smeared against our wall in this tiny space; my kids wearing motley clothes, the hair I slept in. Everything about it was sudden. There is something glorious about capturing the unpreparedness of that day. There was nothing posed or staged – just this collapse into the labor that completely captured me and the good souls who swooped in to help carry me through, and then at the end we met this baby who lived in me an extra week and hopefully will be with me and Jon in all of our days of this sojourn together.

10

We were unprepared from the beginning to accept this new life. I never thought I could possibly feel good about it. But just like his birth, I worked very hard; I went through something transformative, and I was healed and uplifted by friends swooping in to hear me and support me It changed my heart from famine to feast. I also realized (again) during this pregnancy that Jonathan is my truest friend. He knows me and he accepts me. I love my newborn son. He is Good. I love my life even in this time of transition. I feel very young, and very old, very strong and very human. “How strange it is to be anything at all.”

Photographs by Katherine Loveless

Lane’s Birth Story

Lane’s Birth Story

Abbie tells us about the birth of her son, Lane.

I figured I needed to write this all down before I forget the good detailed bits about Lane’s birth. There was so much beauty in it. I have fallen in love with being a mother and even more so with the process of becoming one. People always talk about the love you have for you children. A love no one can understand until they feel it – until they hold that precious little one in their arms and kiss those sweet cheeks. Now I get it. My heart swells with happiness and pride looking at Lane. I DID THAT. I brought my sweet boy into this world after a whole lot of work. Here’s how it happened.

I had an awesome and easy pregnancy up until 29 weeks. When I say easy, I mean it was so easy I didn’t even know I was pregnant until 14 weeks. Funny enough, I was deployed when I found out. I was six weeks into my first deployment and I found out I’m 14 weeks pregnant with my first baby. Needless to say, I was sent home. I had monthly appointments with my OB after that. My monthly OB appointment came up; I was 29 weeks at this point. Everything had been perfect thus far, but this appointment went a little differently than the ones prior. We found out that I was in preterm labor and dilated to a 1 – not normal for a first-time mom to be dilated at all.

I was placed on bed rest at home for a week with a follow-up appointment. At that next appointment we found not only was I still having contractions (painless contractions, mind you) and that I was dilated, but now my cervix was shortening. I was admitted that day. I had a constant IV and I received steroid shots for baby’s lungs. It was a scary eight days being there. I had never felt so helpless. Keeping a calm spirit was all I could focus on since I felt so helpless. At 31 weeks I was sent home, still on bed rest orders, but I was stable. I had weekly appointments at this point. But at 33 weeks, I was admitted again! My cervix started shortening even more. I was now over 60% effaced and dilated to a 1. After four days of being in the hospital, the doctor told me there was nothing more they could give me medically. I was sent home to be on continued bed rest.

GUESS WHAT. This kid stayed put. He listened. He and I had a few talks about why he wasn’t allowed to meet us yet. I guess it got through! At 35w 5d I had an OB appointment, where I found out that I was completely effaced and 2 cm dilated. The doctor told us there was no way I’d make it through next week; he even said I wouldn’t make it through the weekend (it was a Friday). We made a follow-up appointment for 10 days later, just in case. Well, 10 days came and went. Our normal OB was out, but the doctor this time said the exact same thing. I was 100% effaced, 2 cm dilated, but this time she told us that baby’s head was very low, and that he was in the right position. Again, I was told they would be seeing me before my next appointment; and again, 10 days came and went.

1

However, the morning of my next appointment, things were different…

I woke up that morning around 2 a.m. feeling a contraction. Keep in mind I had been having contractions since 29 weeks; and though mostly painless, they always made me have to pee. This was different; but I didn’t want to get my hopes up since I had been so excited for over two weeks now. They kept coming, but I could sleep though them.

Once we got to the doctor’s office he checked me and found I was 4-5cm! YAY! I was so excited… Until the PH test indicated that I was leaking amniotic fluid. This put me on a 24-hour countdown. I was open to infection since the amniotic sack had been ruptured. I asked the doctor to sweep my membranes in hopes that this would speed things up without any intervention. Jamie and I went home to pack our stuff since I was being admitted. Contractions started happening then. They were painful, but they were tolerable. I called my doula and told her to meet us at the hospital.

2

Later that evening I was having some fetal monitoring done. Contractions were 7-8 minutes apart, and I couldn’t really talk through them (little did I know what was coming next). The lovely midwife checked me and found I was still at a 5. The doctor then came in and started talking about Pitocin, and I put my foot down. I was saying HELL NO to Pitocin. Every time he said the word, I said no. I could tell I was irritating him. I started asking about all other inducing options before I was given Pitocin. We decided on the natural cocktail: castor oil, papaya juice and champagne! Hell yes! I even got a little buzz off of it.

3

I continued to contract and labor with my doula and Jamie. We walked the halls and paused for the contractions, with Jamie putting counter pressure on my back (it felt amazing!). We would relax in our room while I rolled on the exercise ball. Our good friends brought us dinner and we all hung out for a bit. We had our last fetal monitoring at 11 p.m. There was no change in my cervix or with the contractions; I was still 5cm and 6-7 min apart. The midwife told us to go to our room and get some rest (HA!), and come back if anything changed or wait until morning. I sent my doula home, and Jamie and myself went to the room. I didn’t sleep one bit. The contractions had picked up enough that I was trying to rest my eyes between them, but they were every five minutes apart and painful. At one point I really just wanted hot water on me. Around 3 a.m., while Jamie slept, I took a hot shower; and it felt amazing. Eventually I got out and walked around our room. At around 6 a.m. I told Jamie I wanted to take a bath.

4

We walked to L&D and the nice midwife set me up with a lavender bath. It was so relaxing. Jamie lay on the floor and slept some more. Later on, my doula came and sat with me while Jamie went to get us some breakfast from the bakery. I sat in that bath until it was cold; it felt so nice.

Once I was out of the bath, I enjoyed a nice chocolate croissant. The midwife did a check, and saw that I was 7-8 cm! Except it was around 8 a.m. at this point. She told me the doctor wasn’t going to be happy that there wasn’t a baby here yet, and would likely push the Pitocin since it had been 24 hours. He was coming to check on me between 8:30 and 9 o’clock. She asked if she could break my water the rest of the way, since that would help move things along. I agreed. It was the weirdest sensation ever! After that, Jamie went to take a shower and my doula stayed with me.

HOLY SHIT. That first contraction after breaking my water was like none other. I remember yelling out and my doula saying “Oh! Okay!” Our plan was to walk the halls, but I couldn’t even make it out of the L&D room. This is where shit got real.

5

I have no sense of time after this. I only remember flashes; I was in incredible pain. At one point I vomited; I was extremely hot, but we couldn’t open the window because it would make the room too cold for a new baby. I remember hearing the midwife say this, and getting excited, thinking, “Oh yeah, this pain is for the sweet baby that’s coming!” Poor Jamie – he kept trying to give me words of love, and I was pushing him away. I was so. Damn. Hot. I had a cold towel on my back and Jamie fanning me. My doula kept feeding me water between contractions. Why the hell didn’t I get the drugs!? Eventually the midwife wanted to have me start pushing. I was a full 10 at this point.

6

I remember pushing and pushing, hearing everyone say, “He’s right there! We can see the top of his head!” and then the contraction would end and I was being told that his head went back in. Umm…what? Am I doing this wrong? Pushing felt so damn good; it was a relief. After all the helpless pain, I was actually doing something! And now you’re telling me I’m doing it wrong??

7

I was put in all kinds of different positions. That poor midwife had to deal with a stubborn laboring mom and a stubborn baby. I really didn’t want to be moved at all, but I obliged reluctantly. Again and again, each new position was fruitless. Then the doctor came in, and guess what we discovered? Baby was sunny side up ­– that’s why he wasn’t coming. He was stuck! He also started having a low heart rate since I wasn’t breathing.

8

I was given two options at this point: vacuum or C-section. Now anyone who spoke to me before knows I was against getting a C-section. I really did not want that. Well, guess what? I was screaming for one! Get this thing out of me! I had been pushing for 2+ hours and was DONE. I remember looking at Jamie and telling him that when they bring baby out I won’t be there for a while, so he needs to do skin-to-skin. However, my doctor thankfully had another idea: the vacuum plus Pitocin. The doctor wanted my contractions to last a little longer, so I lost the battle of no Pitocin.

The next thing I knew, I was up in stirrups and there were a lot of people. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. They had been closed since I started pushing. But the pain at this point could be described as searing. I swear everyone and their mom had their hand up inside me. I remember having Jamie’s hand and my doulas, and was pushing with everything I had. Thank god for my doula. She’s the only reason I kept breathing; I nearly passed out a couple times. There was a midwife behind me pushing on my stomach (not enjoyable), lots of pain, and then…

9

Lane! He was squishy and cute and lying on my chest. My sweet baby boy was here. We had hoped for delayed cord clamping, but baby wasn’t breathing right. He was taken from me, and I quickly told my doula to go with him. I don’t know why I didn’t tell Jamie; I just knew I wanted someone with him.

10

Little Lane was brought back to me a couple minutes later, all pink and wide awake. Jamie, Lane and I cuddled, and eventually they weighed him and measured him. We had an hour of family time, and then we were wheeled to our room down the hall.

11

It wasn’t how I imagined it. It didn’t go exactly with my birth plan. I had planned on a natural water birth; but it was perfect in its own way. Lane is here, and Jamie and I are parents. My heart has grown more than I ever knew it could. There’s no way I could have done this without Jamie or Xina. The love and support was exactly what I needed. Plus Xina got some amazing pictures that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

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