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Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

February 1, 2014: That tiny internet cheapie pregnancy test finally showed two faint lines. I mean barely see it, squint your eyes and pretend it’s there type of faint. Suddenly, disbelief became my emotion. How could I tell Tyler I was finally pregnant, after just shy of a year since we began trying to conceive, if I wasn’t even 100% the test was positive? I kept quiet and waited for Tyler to go to bed, knowing good well I should just wait and test again in the morning. Emotions took control over me and I whipped out the expensive store bought pregnancy test that had been hiding under my bathroom sink just waiting for this defining moment. So, I took the test and waited. Before the time had elapsed, I looked at that stick and thought no way is this happening. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we wanted this, we had been praying for this moment, but after peeing on what felt like hundreds of sticks, you start to think it will never happen. Of course, I shared the news with Tyler and we each went through extreme ranges of emotions, ending in cautious excitement.

Approximately 7 weeks pregnant: The day finally arrived to go to our OB appointment and confirm that we are actually pregnant! Seeing that tiny little bean on the ultrasound broke me in the most beautiful way possible. I was carrying a tiny human! A tiny human that I had to nourish and protect. A tiny human that I had no control over, because after all it’s in God’s hands.

16-20 weeks pregnant: My phone rings while I am at work, I look down and see it’s the OB calling. I hesitantly answer, wondering why they would be calling; not thinking it may be the results from our downs syndrome screening. It was the nurse on the other end, who informed me that we were high risk for downs syndrome and would be referred to a specialist. Two weeks later, I found myself sitting in the parking lot at this new and strange office. As I was waiting to go in, Bring the Rain by Mercy Me came on the radio. I lost it! All I could do was pray and remind myself that no matter what this doctor said, no matter the outcome of any tests, I had a miracle growing inside of me, and I would remain strong for this baby. Then the hard part came, getting out of the car and making it in to the waiting room to see a specialist. How did such a beautiful miracle end up with us sitting in this waiting room, leaving us feeling alone and afraid of the unknown. Now we knew regardless what the results were, that we would love this baby unconditionally. We were finally called back to ultrasound, to take more in depth measurements of our little pumpkin and then to meet with the doctor. We left this appointment feeling a little more positive, since the ultrasound showed no markers that were of concern. A couple of weeks after this appointment, we got a phone call saying that the blood test was negative and we could just about rule out downs syndrome. I hung up the phone praising God and realizing that everything happens for a reason. Never doubt God, even though we felt very much alone, He was always there.

20-34 weeks pregnant: Other than morning sickness since about 8 weeks, everything seemed to be going smoothly at this point. We found out we were having a little girl and anxiously awaited the arrival of little Lana.

34 weeks pregnant: I went in for my regular 2 week check at the OB. However, the appointment was a little different. My heart rate was way above my normal. My heart rate was in the 150’s, which I had consistently been in the 70’s this entire pregnancy. This scare ended in blood work and a referral to the cardiologist, where they did an echocardiogram, EKG and a 24 hour holter monitor. After the testing, I was put on a beta blocker to control my heart rate and vitamins to help with severe anemia. I was also taken out of work to rest and allow my blood volume to hopefully increase before delivery.

37 weeks pregnant: At this point, I went in to the “it could happen anytime now” mindset. After a few days of that thinking, I kindly reminded myself, that it could also happen at 42 weeks, so I decided to try and enjoy these last few days/weeks, instead of focusing on it as a countdown.

October 10, 2014: It’s officially our estimated delivery date! I went with my mom to get pedicures as kind of a celebration that we made it! I was secretly hoping the foot massage would put me in to labor. Nope. Our estimated date came and went.

October 11 – October 19, 2014: Patience is a virtue, right? I had my rough moments, but I was prepared for the long haul (42 weeks). I kept reminding myself that I would let my baby choose her birthdate. If there is no medical reason to be induced, then why do it? The more days that passed, the tougher it got to handle the comments about why I haven’t been induced or the recommendations on what I should do to go in to labor. I had several episodes of false labor, which can totally mess with your mind. With each back ache, stomach cramp or strange feeling, I thought could this be it? We continued to wait.

October 15, 2014: I went to my appointment with my OB. I was a beautiful, swollen, 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant woman. Everything checked out fine and we scheduled my next appointment for October 20th at 3:15pm to discuss our induction plan, which would be set up if I did not go in to labor by 42 weeks (10/24/14).

October 16, 2014: My mom and I went on several walks just to keep me moving and help ready my body for labor….if it would ever start! I began showing a few signs that labor would begin…at some point.

October 19, 2014: I literally had come to the point where I thought I would never have this baby. Could I be pregnant forever? Surely, no one has been pregnant forever. I talked to our doula and we decided to chat before I went to my appointment the next afternoon, just to put me at ease and prepare me for the induction conversation. This was an appointment that I was absolutely stressing over!

October 20, 2014 (41 weeks, 3 days pregnant): I hadn’t been able to sleep for weeks now. I would stay up until 4am or so wide awake! Sometime after midnight, I decided to update the chalk board in our kitchen to say “Welcome Lana” because she would eventually be joining us…I think.

3am- I decided to get a bath and see if that would help relax me enough to go to sleep. This had become a normal nightly, well early morning routine. I started feeling those achy back pains, which I had been feeling for a week or so now. All I could think was seriously, I am so tired of this, why can’t I just have this baby already. I was dreading the appointment that I would no doubt be going to later in the day. I was trying to prepare myself, knowing I would end up being induced and that my desire for a natural/med free birth was slowly slipping away. As I got out of the bath, the achy back had turned in to cramping. Hmmm…definitely not labor, because I am never having this baby…I will be pregnant forever.

5am- I finally get my very pregnant self into bed. I am lying on my side, because at this point, it’s the only option left. The back pain had picked up in intensity. The thought of it being early labor flickered in my mind. I thought I would try to sleep just in case labor was really starting. After laying there realizing this achy sensation was becoming more intense and cramps had really started to pick up, all I could do was rock back and forth while lying in bed. I wanted sleep to come, but it was nowhere in sight, so I rocked to keep myself comfortable.

7am- Tyler begins getting ready for work. I tell him how I am feeling, but encourage him to finish getting ready and go to work, because I doubt this is labor. I told him if it ended up being labor he could just come back home, but don’t waste a vacation day for nothing.

8am- I text my mom and tell her how I have been feeling. She offered to come over to the house and be with me. I debated whether she should really waste her time coming over and decided that whatever was happening to my body was not slowing down and definitely not stopping, so I wouldn’t mind the company. Mom showed up within probably 20 minutes. When she got to the house, I was bent over on the couch with crazy back pain. She asked if it was mild, moderate or intense. My response was it hurt like sh**. I was still in denial that this was labor. Shouldn’t I be feeling contractions? Heck, how would I know if it was a contraction or not? What does a contraction even feel like? All of these questions flooded my tired mind. I figured since whatever was happening was picking up, we would take a walk to see if it would continue. As we are walking around my street, I am doubling over with back pain. It was surreal. Knowing my neighbors may very well be watching me, all while having no care in the world. It was a beautiful moment, to be outside, the sun beaming down on me and preparing to birth my daughter.

10am- Lisa (our amazing doula) arrives at the house. Honestly, I don’t know what time I contacted her or what I even said. All I knew was Lisa was at the house and my mind kept thinking, “I hope she did not come all the way over here for nothing.” I remember at some point shortly after Lisa arrived, that she said this seemed to be the real deal! I remained cautious; thinking this probably really isn’t labor. But that back pain was constant and I felt everything getting tight. Lisa worked with me and did a few different positions during contractions to see if we could alleviate the back pain some. We walked up and down the street and all around the living room. I received countless back massages that really helped me to keep going. It eased the back pain and allowed me to stay in my own little world. I was almost enjoying the pain at this point. I knew my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to. I was in my own world, some type of trance, a birth high. Whether I was or not, I felt quiet and private, empowered and beautiful, strong and powerful. I really had no idea what to expect labor to be like, but this definitely was not it. My eyes remained closed through most of it and I did whatever my body told me to do. Again, I found this pain to be tolerable and amazingly beautiful. I was falling in love.

11am- Tyler came home from work because this was really labor! I continued to follow my body’s cues on what to do. Lisa made suggestions which I believe aided in helping things continue to progress. I walked around the back yard, leaned on my husband, took a bath and did lunges on the stairs. While in the bath, the song Oceans by United played. I relaxed and just silently talked to God. All I could really manage to say was “it’s in your hands.” Through the intense moments, I actually found myself loving this. I wanted it to keep going. I wanted it to become more intense. I wanted my baby girl in my arms.

1:45pm- Our photographer (Heather Dimsdale) came to the house to take a few photos before Lisa said it was time we make our trip to the hospital. I was so thankful knowing that she came to our home, to give us permanent memories of such an intimate time.

2pm- We load up in the car. It took me a few minutes to get from the living room to the garage. These contractions were coming closer and closer together, increasing in intensity. Contractions in the car picked up even more! I never knew a car ride could be so intense. As we were turning towards the on ramp for the interstate, I had my first moment. I yelled at Tyler, not in a hateful way, but in an intense tone, I just told him he could slow down a bit. I just wanted to be in my zone again, alone and by myself, and out of this car. I did my best to focus, stay within myself, and allow my body to open.

2:40pm- Finally, we arrived to the hospital and made it through admissions. I leaned against the chair in the admissions office, signing paperwork between contractions. Thank goodness I preregistered, so it was a quick process. A nurse came to get me with a wheelchair, which I refused, because my mind kept thinking, as long as I keep moving, this baby is coming down. Truthfully, I didn’t think I could sit at this moment. I remember passing my OB who was sitting at the nurses station. He asked how I was doing and I managed thumbs up. I felt amazing, like I’ve made it. I labored at home! We continued the walk to my room, pausing for contractions in the hall way.

3pm- Made it to the room! My OB wanted to get a quick monitor before allowing me to be unhooked from the IV and baby heart rate/contraction monitors. He checked me at 7cm! I had done it; I had almost made it to transition! After being unhooked, I walked the room, leaning on whatever was available during contractions, bed, sink, railing, and people. I feel like a lot of the time laboring in the hospital was spent sitting on the toilet. It was the most comfortable place to sit. I was able to feel my body opening and could lean forward during contractions. Someone was constantly massaging my lower back with coconut oil and I felt amazing. I had almost done this! With each contraction becoming more intense, I became more vocal, making a moaning/humming noise with each exhale. I think I also chanted “almost there” or “I am doing it.” My mom and Lisa would reinforce my statements, saying “you are doing it.”

4pm (or something close to it) – My OB came back in the room to check me again….9cm! It’s almost time to push! My OB said he had to leave at 5pm. Part of me wanted to panic, I wanted him to deliver this baby. He knew my plan, he knows me. He offered to break my water and said I could possibly deliver before 5pm, if not it would be the on call OB. I declined, knowing the pain would be more intense if my water was broken. I didn’t want any interventions, my water remained intact and my body was doing its job. He told me who the on call OB was and said he would bring her up so I could meet her before delivery. They began to bring tables in the room and ready everything for delivery. Lisa said this means you’re very close; see they are getting everything ready. I tried to remain in my world, away from all of this. While we waited, Lisa suggested squatting and leaning on the head of the bed. It felt awkward being so pregnant climbing up in bed to squat. We finally got situated and I thought I might be feeling an urge to push. Again, so unsure? What’s “the urge” supposed to feel like? I tried to relax and remind myself that my body was designed for this and I would know when it was time to push.

4:40pm (or something close to it) – Things became very intense. I yelled “oh, my butt!” That was the only statement I could make that described how I felt. So, this is what the “urge” feels like. Within seconds, my water broke and the pressure became so intense. Is she almost here? The room filled with people. Through the intensity, I heard Lisa asking me if I wanted her to coach me through pushing….ummm…yes! I have no idea how to do this! Her look was so comforting, so reassuring. I felt extremely vulnerable and was so thankful she was there. A brief thought crossed my mind that I could not handle this. As soon as that thought entered, I remembered that when you feel like giving up, that’s the moment you need to keep going. I prepared myself and tried pushing while still in that squatting position. The pressure was so intense; I was trying to stand instead of staying squatted. My OB in a kind, but firm voice said, “Britney, you cannot keep doing that, every time you do, you are closing your pelvis.” With those words, I flipped over on to my back and began pushing with all my strength. I reached down and felt a head full of beautiful hair. That feeling was all I needed; I knew our little miracle would be here very soon. I set it in my mind that when I felt like pushing, I would push with all my might. My body knew what it was doing.

4:55pm- After less than 10 minutes of pushing, Lana Faye was born. The cord was wrapped twice around her neck, but after it was unwrapped, she began crying and was immediately placed on my chest. I had done it, we had done it! Our little miracle had finally made it!

I still am in awe at all that my body went through. I desired a natural, med-free birth and by listening to my body, trusting God and having an amazing birth team with me, I was able to have a beautiful birth.

I want to thank my husband for his support from day 1! His love through the entire process was unconditional. He was quiet during labor and delivery, but so helpful. He was my rock.

My mom for being a sweet reminder that I was doing this! Until my mom arrived at my house that morning, I wasn’t sure I wanted her in the delivery room. Nothing against her, I just thought it would be awkward. Now, I couldn’t have imagined doing it without her. Mom, I love you!

My OB, for supporting me and allowing my body to do things naturally and not rush in to unnecessary interventions. He truly listened to me and encouraged me to achieve this birth.

To Lisa, who gave incredible support from the day she became our doula. She gave advice, without ever being pushy or judgmental. Lisa, I could not imagine going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery without your knowledge.

Our L&D nurses, thank you for being supportive of our decision for a med-free birth. The experience you all provided was exactly what I had dreamt of.

Our nursery nurses, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us as first time parents. The first night in the hospital we had a scare with her choking, as a new mommy, I was so thankful for your quick responses and for reassuring us that everything was ok.

Our postpartum nurses, thank you for allowing us to have time alone with our daughter to bond in the first days. Your courtesy in allowing me to recover and bond as a new family should not go unnoticed.

And to our lovely photographer, Heather. She followed our story, from our birth announcement photo shoot through the end of pregnancy, and those first moments with our daughter. We have documentation of the most intense and joyful moments of our lives. Tears, smiles, laughter, and some pretty intense faces were all captured for us to cherish for years to come.

I love you guys and could not have done it without each one of you.

To my daughter, you are more than worth the labor of love that I endured for you. I would do it over and over again, just to have you in my arms. I couldn’t have done it without you either baby girl. You were so strong. Our bodies worked together for you to arrive on your chosen birthdate. Mommy loves you!

Story submitted by Britney A.

Photographs by Heather Dimsdale of Two Little Loves Studio

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

To tell you about the birth of my second child, I have to tell you about the birth of my first child. With my first pregnancy I had Gestational Diabetes, and Gestational Hypertension and due to mounting concerns from my midwives from my rising blood pressure and heart rate, I was induced at 39 weeks. My cervix was dilated with a foley balloon, and then my water was broken. After 10 hours of intense labor, I was hooked up to pitocin which caused back to back, incredibly painful contractions with no break in between. I quickly became overwhelmed and frightened, and I gave up on my natural birth plan and got an epidural. Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy my husband Josh and I named Henry. Despite the fact that I had a beautiful and healthy baby, I had this irrational feeling that I had somehow failed at his birth.

Fast forward 4 years to my second pregnancy. This second time around I had several goals so that I would get the birth experience that I wanted. The first was to go into labor on my own. The second was to have a natural birth with no interventions (I wanted to stay as far away from pitocin as I could), and the third goal was to have a water birth.

So to prepare for the natural birth, I tried to cement into my head that I can do anything for one minute. Meaning, that when those contractions became difficult, painful and/or overwhelming, I could focus on the fact that it would be over in one minute, and then I’d get a break. I would meditate on that subject, and go to sleep at night thinking about it, building my foundation for this natural birth that I so wanted.

With both of my pregnancies I had Gestational Diabetes, but the second time around I did not have the hypertension that I had in the first; my blood pressure stayed beautiful the whole time. The main difference between my pregnancies were the false labor (practice labor) contractions that I had. For the last several weeks of my pregnancy (and by “several weeks” I mean at least 5 weeks) I would have timeable contractions that would start, increase in intensity and then all of a sudden stop. Starting at 36 weeks we had several false alarms. Some that even sent us to the Midwife’s office to be assessed, but each time, it turned out to be braxton hicks contractions. The longer I stayed pregnant the more I felt like a ticking time bomb. I was more than ready for my baby to decide on its birthday. Having to relinquish the control and let the baby decide when it wanted to be born was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy, and I struggled with that aspect almost every day.

When I hit 40 weeks, I was a bit shocked. I assumed that since this was a second kiddo that I wouldn’t make it to my due date, but June 12th came and went. I started to feel like I’d be pregnant forever, and that I’d be enrolling my gigantic belly into kindergarten. The longer I stayed pregnant the more my brain started to assess every cramp, twinge and pain that I felt, which at 40+ weeks is about every 4.3 seconds. I felt like I was slowly losing my sanity while waiting for my baby to decide what day it wanted to be born. This kid wanted to stay put despite all the red raspberry leaf tea I was drinking, all the evening primrose oil I was taking, all the squats that I did, and the daily walks I took.

On Friday the 17th, at 5 days past my due date, I broke down and called my midwife’s office and asked if I could come in and talk about options. I was starting to get a bit nervous about going over my due date because of the Gestational Diabetes, as well as just wanting to be done being pregnant. I’m one of those people who don’t love being pregnant. I love the end result, but the actual process of growing a human is extremely hard on me. I had horrible morning sickness the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, and then had two trips to the hospital in my third trimester because of gallbladder issues, and let’s be honest, GD, although manageable, doesn’t make things easy either.

Anyway, on June 17th, I was really hoping that I could get my membranes stripped, and that it might propel me into labor. However, at the appointment one of my midwives informed me that she couldn’t reach my membranes to strip them, so unless I wanted to schedule an induction, I was just to wait. Josh and I had talked about having an induction, and we were considering it as an option. However, when the midwife brought it up and described how she would induce me, I firmly decided against it. Hearing the process she would take for the induction brought back all of the memories of my first birth. So, we went home a bit sad and discouraged, and resigned ourselves to wait.

I had a few contractions on Friday night after the appointment, some even timeable, but I didn’t think anything of them. As always, I was disappointed that I was able to go to sleep and that they seemed to have stopped. On Saturday, the day before I hit 41 weeks, I had some projects to do around the house (making Josh’s Father’s Day gift with Henry), and as the day wore on, I noticed that I had been having contractions for most of the morning. At some point I texted Josh to tell him that I was having them, but I didn’t know if it would lead to anything, so not to get excited. He got similar texts to that one for about the last 5 weeks, so he didn’t think much of that text either. My contractions were irregular in length, and really far apart – 40 minutes or so, and very mild, I could ignore them easily. To me they still felt like braxton hicks.

In the afternoon Josh and I took a 2+ mile walk in our neighborhood. It was great time to spend just the two of us. We talked about how we wanted labor to go, when we thought the baby would come, and how our first son Henry would do as an older sibling. We were so excited for this baby to join us! I was contracting all through the walk, but didn’t think anything of it, those contractions had become so routine.

We had a friend’s birthday party to attend that night, and I really wanted to go. So, Josh and I got ready and headed out of the house around 5:30. We dropped Henry off at the in-laws for him to spend the night (that turned out to be very serendipitous), and drove out to the party downtown.
All through the party I was having contractions, and after a while I was noticing that I needed to zone out while they were happening. They were still really far apart, and I could still talk through them if I needed to, but they were getting harder and harder to ignore. They still weren’t painful, but I was starting to have to focus on them and my breathing during them.

Josh and I had a really great time, and as we walked around downtown I had a lot of people comment on my belly. Around 9 pm, we stopped at a restaurant and got something to eat. While eating dinner, I noticed that my contractions were getting closer together, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I had a strong contraction while in there. It’s at that point that I started to think these contractions might actually lead to something. A short time later I noticed another contraction that was strong as well. After 4 strong contractions (at 10:15ish) I told Josh that we probably needed to head home. So, we paid for our meal, packed up to-go boxes, and said goodbye to our friends. As we were walking to our car, I heard a guy yell out of his car window “Are you going to have that baby on Elm St?!” I yelled back “I wish!”

As we were walking to the car I told Josh about the contractions and that we should start timing them as we drive home. He seemed surprised at that statement, but pulled the app up on the phone to time them. As Josh had had a few beers that night, I ended up driving home while having contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. I supposed I should have mentioned the contractions earlier…It’s a good thing that my excitement trumped any kind of pain I was feeling. The first contraction we timed was at 10:45. As soon as we got home, we finished packing the go bag and got everything ready in case this was really it.

Once the bag was packed, everything seemed to get more intense fairly quickly. By midnight my contractions were about 5 minutes apart. They were starting to get strong, and to get through them, I was leaning over the yoga ball and having Josh do counter pressure on my lower back. It’s around this time that my back labor started. My pelvis and lower back were really starting to hurt, but leaning over the ball and firm pressure on my lower back really helped and kept them manageable.

We called our doula to let her know what was happening. She asked how I was handling everything, and I told her I was ok. She told us to keep her posted, but because I hadn’t had any bloody show, or lost my mucus plug she wasn’t convinced that this was it, especially with all of the false alarms we’d had. She told us to call her the moment I saw bloody show, or if I needed help and wanted her to come to the house. I was handling everything well at this point, so I just kept laboring.

Some more time passed and when my contractions hit around 4 minutes apart Josh and I called our midwife to let her know what was up, and she said to head to the hospital at any time. I wanted to wait as long as possible at home, so we just kept going. Me leaning over the yoga ball, breathing through contractions, Josh doing counter pressure on my back and The Office streaming from Netflix to distract us between contractions.

By 1:00, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, and I was really having to concentrate to get through them, and had started to vocalize during them. My mom joined us around this time and was helping to get things ready for us to head out. I kept waiting for my contractions to become as painful as what I remembered from my first pregnancy, but that never happened. And because I never reached that pain threshold, I was really unsure about when to head to the hospital. As long as I was in a position that took the pressure off of my lower back, I was good.

Still unsure that it was time, Josh, my mom and I left for the hospital at around 1:30. As we were getting ready to get in the car I just stood at the car door and had 2 contractions standing there because I didn’t want to sit down. I was having strong back pain, and I knew sitting would put an unwelcome amount of pressure on my pelvis and would be excruciating…I wasn’t wrong.

That 30-minute trip to the hospital was awful. I tried to lay on my sides as much as possible to take pressure off of my lower back and pelvis, but I could never find a comfortable position. I withered in pain during each contraction (2 minutes apart at this point) and the pain in my back was unbelievable. Josh was my rock though. He kept calling out landmarks as we were driving so that I’d know how close we were getting. As soon as we got to the hospital I was out of that car as fast as I could be.

While checking in I had several more contractions. I would sit in the chair to rest while talking and answering questions to the woman behind the counter, and during each contraction I would have to stand up and lean over the counter and moan, this didn’t seem to faze the woman at all. Once I had a bracelet on my wrist, I was in the waiting room and had to lean on chairs. My mom applied counter pressure on my back while Josh parked the car.

At this point in time my contractions were fierce and almost frightening in their intensity. I was finding it harder and harder to keep my composure. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do this and that I wanted an epidural. I even voiced those thoughts to my mom who told me I could have whatever I wanted – sweet words that helped me calm down. Soon after those thoughts popped in my head, our doula arrived (Josh called her at some point to let her know we were going to the hospital) and was helping me with positions while we waited to be called back, and my thoughts of giving up on a natural birth went away.

I was the only one in the waiting room, and was taken to be assessed fairly quickly. They checked my blood pressure (which was up) and temp (which was normal). They then took me straight back to a room – although I hadn’t been admitted yet. It took some time to get to the room. I didn’t want to sit in a wheelchair, so I walked. And, during each contraction I would stop and lean on Josh in the hallway.

I had three nurses that seemed to be moving and buzzing all around me. Soon after getting into the room a nurse asked me to undress from the waist down so that she could check me. I dreaded getting on my back, but I managed it. I was so worried that they were going to tell me that I was only 3 cm and that I needed to go back home. However, I was relieved to find out that I was at 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced! No wonder I’d been having thoughts on giving up – I was in transition!! I remember looking at Josh and smiling, at that point we knew it wouldn’t be long before we got to meet our baby!

For the next little while, I was standing next to the bed, with my head on Josh’s chest, eyes closed, belly hanging down between us and moaning through contractions while a nurse hooked up the belts to my belly. I had another that was putting an IV in my arm for my GBS, and another that was entering information into the computer. All through this, my midwife still wasn’t at the hospital, and was on her way. In all of our haste, we forgot to call her. The nurses were texting her telling her to hurry.

I remember a nurse saying that my IV was placed at 2:45. We had planned all along for this to be a water birth, and I was excited for it! I was more than ready to get in that warm water. However, I was told that I couldn’t get in the birthing pool until my midwife got there because of paperwork. And, because my midwife wasn’t there, my doula couldn’t even fill up the tub! To cut the tension that information caused, Josh tried to distract everyone by taking a poll about the baby’s gender. Apparently, there had been a streak of girls born at the hospital and all the nurses thought the baby would be a girl.

All this time going by, I was still standing next to the bed with my head on Josh’s chest and eyes closed. Being in labor is the wildest feeling. I was conscious, and aware of everything that was going on, but I was also totally in my own head, my brain thinking and whirring the whole time but unable or unwilling to voice most of it. I was just concentrating on the contractions, trying to remain relaxed and loose, and to rest as much as possible between them.

The nurses must have pushed my IV fairly quickly, almost as soon as it was placed it was taken out. They left a heparin lock in, and taped a rubber glove over my arm so that I could get in the tub when the time came.

I’m fuzzy on the times, but I was told that my midwife got to the hospital around 3:10, and it’s at that point that I was finally admitted to the hospital. I found out later that she had her shirt on inside out because she was in such a hurry to get there. As soon as she came in she got the paperwork going for the birthing tub to be set up, and then she turned to me and wanted to check me. I was so over being checked, and I didn’t want to get on my back because of the back labor I was having. I didn’t want to move, I just wanted to stay exactly as I was, but I finally consented.

I waited until I had just finished a contraction, and got on the bed. She checked me fairly quickly and told me that I was now at 9 cm! But, she then kept me on my back to break my water. I was irritated at this, because she never asked if she could break it, and I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late to do anything about it. As my doula was setting up the tub, she didn’t know it was happening until after. And, then of course I had another contraction while on my back, which caused me to whither and cry out in pain, derailing me from my focus. Back labor is just awful….

In retrospect, I wish I had declined that final check, but labor is a funky thing. With both of my births I have found that when someone tells me to do something, I’ve found that I generally just do it without thinking, despite all the plans I had made previously.

I remember looking at the bed after my water had been broken and saw my mucus plug and bloody show on the pad. Who would have thought that at 9 cm dilated that those two things would still be firmly in place? My water was clear, so thankfully I’d be allowed to get in the pool. I was told that if my water had meconium in it I wouldn’t be allowed to labor or deliver in the pool. I had one contraction after my water was broken, and man they don’t lie when they say that contractions are more intense after your water breaks.

After all of that, the pool was finally ready and I was chomping at the bit to get in it. The warm water felt amazing, and really helped to take the edge off the contractions. Almost as soon as I was in the water, my body started to push on its own. I was kneeling in the pool, hanging over the edge and pushing, and pushing and pushing…..and getting nowhere. After a while, my midwife checked me while I was in the pool and discovered that I had an anterior lip of cervix caught between my pubic bone and the baby’s head which was now swollen. So, my midwife had me flip over on my back to push for a few contractions while she tried to move the lip of my cervix out of the way. #1. it hurt like hell to be on my back again, #2. it hurt even more when she was messing with my cervix. I believe I was screaming in pain.

My midwife couldn’t get my cervix to move out of the way while I was in the pool, so she then wanted me to get out of the pool and onto the bed. The move out of the pool took an immense amount of strength for me. I did not want to move. I was in pain, out of focus and just wanted to be left alone. I remember that I was thinking that I just wanted this to be over, and I wanted a break. I even had thoughts of wanting a C-section so I could be done. I never voiced those thoughts, and eventually I did make it onto the bed. I believe Josh and the nurses had to almost physically haul me out of the tub.

And, once again I was put on my back while my midwife tried to move my cervix out of the way. It was more painful than it sounds. I remember yelling quite fiercely while she was moving it, and begging for her to stop. She kept telling me that I wouldn’t like her during this, but I would like her afterward, and she was right. Eventually she got the lip out of the way. She had me then get on my knees and push on the bed for two contractions, to get the baby’s head below the lip. That time it worked, and I could get back in the pool. However, I didn’t want to move. I remember telling everyone to leave me alone, that I just wanted to relax and have some downtime. My contractions had spaced out and weren’t as hard as the transition contractions, and I just breathed through them without bearing down, giving myself a little rest. I was tired, and my energy was draining, and I really just wanted a nap. My doula was strongly encouraging me to get back in the water before I had the baby on the bed, and eventually I summoned the strength to move again.

As soon as I started pushing in the pool, I could feel the baby moving down. And, fairly soon the head was right there, ready to come out. That feeling, freaked me the hell out. It burned oh so badly. I felt like I was stretched to the max and was about to tear from stem to stern. But, Josh, my mom, my midwife and doula helped me get refocused. Seriously, Josh was amazing the whole time. He really was my rock and kept me focused and determined. He was repeating the mantra I’d been saying to myself my whole pregnancy: I can do anything for one minute. That helped snap me out of my freakout. I also remember my midwife telling me that I was fine, and that I wasn’t going to tear apart, which was reassuring. They then helped me widen my knees and when I was pushing I would sit back, almost in a child’s pose, or as close to child’s pose as a pregnant, laboring woman can get. Seriously, my face was in the water as I was pushing. After a few more times pushing like that, and out the baby came. I believe the baby came out in one push. One of the nurses later told me that the baby ended up doing a flip in the water as he came out.

The next thing I heard was Josh announcing that the baby was a boy! It took some fancy maneuvering since he came out so fast behind me, but I was able to stand up, step over the cord, sit back down in the water and then he was handed to me. For the next while I was holding our son to my belly (the cord was too short to reach to my chest) skin to skin in the water and just marveling him. I just kept thinking how beautiful he was. He was squishy and plump and perfect in every way. He cried a few times, and then was just alert and calm, snuggling with me. Josh was leaning over the pool and I could hear in his voice that he was tearing up. It was a very beautiful moment.

Soon enough the cord stopped pulsating and Josh cut the cord. Not long after, I handed Josh the baby to do skin to skin with while I got out of the tub. I got up on the bed and I was covered with warm blankets, and then the baby was handed back to me. He nestled right on my chest, and was just beautiful. It’s at that point that we decided to name him Benjamin.

I definitely remember still having contractions after Ben was born, which I still had to breathe through, but I didn’t care about them. Instead, I was irritated at the umbilical cord, because it just kept seeming to get in the way and rub places that it did not feel good to rub against. Thankfully, not long after getting up on the bed I delivered the placenta, which didn’t hurt at all. I had a tear (no idea on the degree, I never asked), which required stitches (I have no idea how many). My midwife gave me a few shots to numb the area, which stung, and then I could feel her stitching me up, feel the thread pulling through skin, but oddly it didn’t hurt. All while that was happening the nurses were assessing Ben on my chest. Ben’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9.

We got over an hour of skin to skin time before Ben was taken to be weighed. It seemed no one in the room could agree on how much they thought he’d weigh. The nurses all suspected that he’d be around 7 lbs, but we were all surprised when he was 8 lbs, 6 oz. He was 20.5 inches long, with a head circumference of 14 inches.

After everything was all said and done, and we had been moved from Labor and Delivery to the Mother/Baby suite, things settled down and I was finally able to really connect with my son. I’ve read account after account of women getting that natural oxytocin rush immediately after delivery, but that overwhelming feeling of love, comfort and peace didn’t come to me until about 3+ hours after Ben was born. I believe because those first two hours are so busy, with so many people working on you and assessing the baby, even while you’re holding him, that it’s hard to just sit and relax and bond. But, once it was just me and my husband alone with Benjamin, that overwhelming feeling of love started to flow. Even now, over 6 months later, I still get that feeling whenever I look at my boys.

Benjamin was born at 4:23 in the morning on June 19, 2016 – Father’s Day. I think that he was the best Father’s Day gift that we could have asked for!

Story and photographs submitted by Amanda C. 

Selah’s Birth Story

Selah’s Birth Story

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

“Honey, we are pregnant!”

And just like that, baby number five was on the way. Actually, it had taken over a year of trying after number four, but once that test showed positive, I was ecstatic. I’m sort of a pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding junkie, and we always wanted a big family (but perhaps at some point I should get a new hobby or become a midwife – someday!).

All of my births were incredible journeys of learning, experiencing the power within myself, discovering strength I didn’t know I had, and wonder at meeting a new human. My first birth was a planned unmedicated hospital birth; but I was young, uneducated and I ended up falling prey to their cascade of interventions. So for number two I educated myself, hired a doula and had a textbook wonderful, unmedicated hospital birth.

For number three, I decided I wanted a home birth. At 32 weeks, I started having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions and went into labor at 36 weeks and two days. It was a beautiful, empowering and life-changing experience. At that moment, I decided I always wanted to birth my babies at home; but rarely does life go as planned. I went into preterm labor with number four at 32 weeks, and was admitted to the hospital. They were able to stop me from progressing with medication, but the contractions themselves wouldn’t stop. I was released from the hospital on medication and instructed to be on modified bed rest (Ha! I was a mother to three other children…but I did my best.) From 32 weeks until my water broke at 38 weeks I literally contracted every five minutes – even on medication. I think my body was exhausted.

My water broke spontaneously at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning with no contractions. My husband was only comfortable waiting for labor to begin for 24 hours. So when it didn’t, we headed to the hospital, got some Pitocin, and two hours later without any other medication, I was holding baby number four in my arms. I then proceeded to hemorrhage, and things got a little crazy. Number four’s birth was a little traumatic and went nothing like the plan, but it was still oh so worth it. So when I found out I was pregnant with number five (which is supposed to be our last), I was set on another home birth. I envisioned a perfect birth with a midwife and a photographer capturing all the intimate moments so I could treasure them for a lifetime. And this was my last shot at it!

First on my agenda was to locate a midwife, and then hire a birth photographer. Since we are a military family, all my babies have been born in different states; so I’ve never had the opportunity to have the same midwife with any of my babies. So I located a midwife and began seeing her. Through a misunderstanding on my part at thirty weeks, I realized that I needed a CNM for my insurance to help cover the home birth. So I contacted a different midwife, and she was willing to take me so late in my pregnancy. I loved her. I had never really “clicked” with my first midwife, but after the first time talking with our new midwife I loved her. She felt like the perfect match for our family. The only drawback in my mind was that she lived over an hour away; and we live in the Washington, DC area, so traffic can turn any drive into a much longer adventure.

At 32 weeks again, my Braxton Hicks contractions started in fierce. Given my history, we monitored them closely and I rested as much as possible. I tried all sorts of different strategies to try to keep the contractions down to a minimum. I absolutely did not want to go into preterm labor. I desperately wanted to make it to at least 36 weeks, if not longer; so I was willing to try anything that would help. My mom decided to come when I was 34 weeks to help with the other children and around the house. I homeschool my older kids, so “resting” during the day isn’t very easy. Once we made it to 36 weeks, my mother-in-law decided to go ahead and fly in so she could be at the birth as well.

Two days before my 37-week visit with the midwife, my contractions picked up in intensity and frequency. As the day progressed, they got closer and stronger. I tucked all my little ones in bed around 7 p.m. and then went to take a bath. By about 9 p.m. that night, my contractions were about three minutes apart and a little longer than a minute in duration, and I even a little bit of bloody show; so I called the midwife. In my mind I thought, “This is it!” (I should know what labor is, right? This is baby, number five after all).

My midwife checked back in about an hour later and the contractions were still going strong. She decided to go ahead and come over. Her assistant arrived first and started taking my vitals and helping me through the contractions. Shortly after the midwife arrived, the photographer arrived as well. The contractions were strong enough that it was difficult to talk through them. Then, about three hours after everyone arrived, they just stopped. We waited all night and nothing happened. So the next morning everyone left, thinking that my labor would probably start later that night again.

But nothing happened. My contractions just went back to their regular pattern. About a week later, this happened again. My 38-week appointment rolled around and everything looked great. Physically and emotionally, I was tired due to all the contractions, but baby was doing great. Then 39 weeks came and went as well. By this point, I was so ready to have this baby. I wasn’t sleeping well due to all the contractions, my hips were so sore, and I was tired of wondering, “Is this it?” My best friend had flown in for this week because we were sure baby would be here. But alas, my friend had to get back home to her family while there was still no baby.

At 40 weeks, my midwife arrived at my house for another weekly check. I had all my supplies ready, baby was doing well, and the grandmas were still at our house waiting for baby to arrive. At this point I was not feeling confident in my ability to be able to “know” when I was truly in labor. We had had several “this is it” calls, only to be disappointed… This was baby number five and I still couldn’t figure this out!

My midwife ad I had talked many times about what I envisioned the birth to be, what I wanted, and so forth. My biggest fear for the birth was that my midwife wouldn’t make it in time. I did not want to birth my baby without my midwife there. Especially since I had hemorrhaged after my fourth. We talked extensively about what to do if I had the baby before she got there. I felt so relieved; and for the first time, I felt at peace with the possibility of doing it without the midwife there. I still didn’t want it to happen that way, but I felt prepared in the event that it did. We parted ways with a hug, and a 41-week visit scheduled.

Before bed that night, my contractions had moved a little closer together, but I was not concerned since this had happened many times before. I honestly didn’t even give it a second thought. At 4:30 a.m. on March 23, 2016, I woke up to a contraction. I also needed to go pee, so I decided to get out of bed. While going to the bathroom, I noticed a little bit of bloody show. But again, this had all happened before in the few weeks prior. So I decided to lie back down. I lay down for about 20 minutes and had a couple more contractions, but I just couldn’t get comfortable due to my hips hurting. They had been bothering me so much over the course of the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Most mornings, I had been getting up at around 5 a.m. because it hurt too much to lie in bed any longer. So I slipped out of bed without waking my husband up, and decided to go downstairs and eat something. I made myself some eggs; and while doing that, I had a few more contractions. These contractions maybe felt a little stronger than my normal everyday Braxton Hicks contractions, but were nothing close to being painful. I went upstairs and decided to read. After about 30 minutes I decided to give the midwife a call; it was about 5:30 a.m., since the contractions were coming about every 5 minutes now. They still were not painful or unbearable, but I was still having a little bloody show. I figured we would have the baby sometime that day, perhaps around noonish.

I unlocked the front door and made my way upstairs to get in the bath to see if that would slow the contractions down. Before I got in, I thought I should wake my husband up, just to let him know what was going on. He immediately sat up and was ready to go. I reassured him he should just get more sleep as I didn’t need anything at this point, and told him I just wanted to let him know the front door was open and that the midwife would be there in about an hour. He insisted he wanted to get up, and I finally agreed.

Before I had gone downstairs to eat, I had set up the video camera just in case this was it. This was my last baby, and I did not want to miss getting it on camera. It was about 6 a.m. now and my tub was full of warm water. I put my sports bra on and got in to relax. A few minutes after I got in the tub, I had a contraction and I felt my water break. I immediately knew this was REAL labor and that this baby was coming fast. As soon as my water broke, I felt like I needed to push and I knew she was really close to being born. Mind you, less than five minutes before this I was reassuring my husband he could stay in bed because I didn’t even know if I was really in labor.

As soon as my water broke, I felt intense pressure. I screamed for my husband to get back in the bathroom, call the midwife, and press record on the camera. In my mind I knew the midwife wasn’t going to make it, but I was hoping she had somehow miraculously covered a large distance and was about ready to turn onto our street. But that wasn’t the case. She was still a little over thirty minutes away. We decided she would stay on the phone with us. As we were waiting for another contraction, she asked if I had called the photographer. SHOOT! Given the fact that I wasn’t sure this was it and then now the craziness, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I texted the photographer to tell her that I was in labor and that she should get there fast. She texted back saying she was on her way.

I had another contraction, and it was all I could do to keep from pushing. The contractions were so strong and powerful all of a sudden. My husband was a nervous wreck. He kept pacing; and all I wanted was for him to hold my hand. I did not want to have this baby by myself. The midwife wanted him to go get a few things ready, but I did not want him to leave me. At around this time, another powerful contraction began. The midwife was talking me through it, but about halfway through I could no longer hold off on pushing. My body just took over; and my daughter’s head was born. The midwife continued calmly talking with us, and I just patiently waited in the water for the next contraction. Even over the phone, our midwife was calm, collected, confident, and reassuring and a source of comfort for me. Her confidence and reassurance translated to a level of peace and confidence in my heart and mind.

The next contraction came at 6:15 a.m. and our fifth baby – our second daughter – joined us earth side just 15 minutes after my water had broken and I realized I really was in labor. She slid into my arms, and I immediately brought her to my chest. It was the most surreal moment. She snuggled in, and within a few moments let out her first cry. What a relief. I had done it. Selah Grace was here, and we were now a family of seven. Just my husband and I were at her birth. My mom, his mom, and our four older children had no idea the baby had been born.

Since the midwife was still about 30 minutes away, we decided to go get my husband’s mom to come assess my bleeding since she was a labor and delivery nurse. She told us she was in shock when he came back downstairs and told him the baby was here. She made her way up the stairs and monitored the situation until the midwife arrived. While we waited for the midwife I tried to get my new little one to nurse, but she was happy to just stare at me and listen to me talk to her.

The midwife arrived, the placenta was born, and everyone finally made it in our room to meet the new addition to the family. The photographer had also arrived so she was able to at least capture these moments. It was so beautiful to have all my children in bed with me marveling at our newest baby. She finally decided it was time to eat and she was a champ from the get go at breastfeeding. It was magical. Everyone enjoyed the next few hours of skin-to-skin, weighing baby, looking her over, and taking her in for the first time.

Her birth happened so quickly that it took me several weeks – maybe even a few months – to come to terms with it. In some ways, I felt like I couldn’t even process it because it had felt like such a whirlwind. It was peaceful and awe-inspiring, but it was just difficult to wrap my mind around. Now, eight months later, I feel empowered. It was a magical moment being the only ones there, and I realize there was no way for me to guess that it would have happened that quickly.

Photographs by Alhalia Photography.

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!

1

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!

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

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