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The “…Without Fear” Webinar Series

The “…Without Fear” Webinar Series

Since 2010, Birth Without Fear® has been the platform for January Harshe to champion her message of options, support, and respect for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Over 1,000,000 followers on social media and over 9,000,000 visitors to the Birth Without Fear® Blog are proof of that.

Because of the popularity and demand for more information on a personal level, January held the inaugural Birth Without Fear® Conference in 2013. Since then, January has held close to 100 Birth Without Fear® themed events in North America.

January has run the gamut of birth experiences: planned Cesarean, emergency Cesarean, hospital VBA2C, two home birth VBA2Cs, and one last planned Cesarean. It was her many birth experiences that served as a foundation to the creation of Birth Without Fear® and advocacy for OPTIONS SUPPORT RESPECT. She has been very vocal about her battle with postpartum depression and the isolation it brings to new mothers. She has struggled with self care, self love, and body image as well. But January has also overcome those battles and struggles, discovering and developing techniques to help birthing mamas ease into postpartum and motherhood without feeling they are alone in the world.

Despite January’s willingness to travel all over and share about her experiences and techniques with other moms and dads live and in person, many more people simply can’t attend a Birth Without Fear® event due to scheduling conflicts or travel costs. Being a mother of six herself, January has decided to make Birth Without Fear® events accessible to anyone and everyone no matter their location.

The Birth Without Fear® Webinar will cover the options women have available to them during pregnancy and birth, the support available to them, and the rights they have as birthing people in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home. January will use examples from her own experiences to illustrate how a birth without fear can be achieved, all with her own unique sense of style and humor that have become commonplace at all Birth Without Fear® events. REGISTER HERE

The Postpartum Without Fear Webinar will pick up where the Birth Without Fear® Webinar leaves off. Too often, women go from being the center of attention during pregnancy to being left behind in the shuffle when the baby arrives. Motherhood can feel like a lonely place, and in many cases it is. But it doesn’t have to be. January will share her struggles as a new mom (six times) with anxiety, postpartum depression, as well as her methods for preparing for life beyond childbirth. The lack of postpartum information available in our society is minimal at best. This webinar will do its part to change the discussion we are having and the stigmas surrounding postpartum and parenthood. REGISTER HERE

The Self Love & Care Without Fear Webinar will teach women how to take themselves off the bottom of their lists and put themselves at the top. Without mom guilt. Too often, mothers are worried about everyone else and their needs fall by the wayside. As a result feeling touched out, burned out, and resentful become an all to common thing, and motherhood can feel like a daily struggle. January will show how taking care of one’s self as a woman is the most selfless thing she can do as a partner and mother. She won’t show women how to get their bodies back, but January will teach women how to love themselves in the moment and how that will carry over into every other aspect of life. REGISTER HERE

The cost for each “…Without Fear” webinar is only $49.* Space is limited to 100 attendees per webinar.

If you want to reserve your spot for the Entire “…Without Fear” Webinar Series, you can do so at the discounted price of $129. REGISTER HERE.

You deserve to feel supported. You deserve solidarity. You deserve happiness. It doesn’t matter if you attend one webinar or all three, January Harshe will show you exactly how to achieve all of the above.

*All ticket sales are final. No refunds. If you cannot attend the webinar you registered for, you may transfer your reservation to a future webinar.

**Webinar times are all Central Standard Time (CST). 

***Login info will be emailed no later than 1 week prior to each “…Without Fear” Webinar. 

Our Ray of Sunshine, the Storm and the Rainbow {Trigger Warning}

Our Ray of Sunshine, the Storm and the Rainbow {Trigger Warning}

(Editor’s note: this birth experience deals with loss.)

I have had two natural births, the first to a beautiful and healthy baby girl – who is now three, and the second to a stillborn son born at 29 weeks.

Due in April with my third, another baby girl – how am I to birth without fear?

I feel so empowered to have birthed both of my beautiful babies.

After two years of trying and three miscarriages – Frankie came into the world.

Frankie’s birth was textbook – ten hours from first contraction to delivery, and spontaneously on her due date. I was so lucky. No damage, no intervention, no drugs. Happy baby, happy mumma.

Ruben’s labor was at the opposite end of the scale. A week after being told he was “incompatible with living” followed ten hours of failed induction, and then another two hours of the most painful and traumatic experience of my life. The room was silent, the doctors cut his cord and took him away to check for any signs of life – though the chances were slim that he was capable of surviving labor. I remember watching my husband from the bathroom as he cradled his son. I had to stay seated on the toilet to try encourage my placenta to birth. I couldn’t fathom what had just happened, it felt like an eternity before I met him. To then go home without him.

Only 8 weeks postpartum the clouds cleared and we were told the news of our rainbow baby. At the time the news was overwhelming, we weren’t ready.

Now 7 months pregnant I am excited and anxious for my daughter to be placed in my arms. Rosie cheeked, crying, flailing around as she adjusts to entering the world. To bring a baby home to Frankie as promised. A sibling for her to dote upon, a sibling she has been so patiently waiting for.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Jade M. 

How to Do You, Boo with January Harshe

How to Do You, Boo with January Harshe

Being a mom in today’s world has never been so challenging. Your kids need you the very moment they are born. If you are married or in a relationship, your partner needs you when the kids don’t. And with salaries slow to catch up to ever-increasing costs of living, your family’s income might also need you.

But, you need you, too! And if you are like most other moms, your needs come last because there simply isn’t enough time. Right?

As a mother to six wonderful kids, January Harshe has been there. She has been a dedicated housewife and a devoted stay-at-home mom. She knows what it’s like to lose sleep to a teething baby or to a toddler who peed the bed. She knows what it’s like to put a husband through school and support him through the financial pains of starting a business. And she knows what it’s like to give everything of herself to her family and have nothing left for herself at the end of the day. She knows what it’s like to look in the mirror and not love the person staring back at her.

Through a lot of trial and error over the years, January has learned how to transition from a mother of many children without a second to spare for herself into a successful businesswoman who can now give everyone in her family the love and time they need and deserve, herself first and foremost.

If you struggle with body image, self love, self care, too little time, or too little money, you are not alone. Join January for an afternoon of information, instruction, and inspiration that has taken her many years to learn, implement, and successfully apply to her own life.

And what would an afternoon with January be without coffee and cupcakes? Always, coffee and cupcakes.

Have you been putting off buying yourself bras that fit, underwear that aren’t period panties, or new shoes for the first time in years because everyone else needs new shoes more than you? Do you turn down girls’ nights out, exercising alone, or simply taking a hot bath because you don’t want to be a selfish wife and/or mother? If you answered yes to any of the above, you can’t afford to not join January and learn how selfish not caring for yourself really is.

Whether you are married or single, a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, you are a woman first and foremost and worthy of the same love and care you give your own family. If you don’t believe it now, by the time you leave How to Do You Boo with January Harshe, you won’t just believe it.

You will know it.

*The How to Do You, Boo event will be limited to only 20 people and will fill up fast, so register today!

**Pictures may be taken, but video recording will not be allowed.

***Schedule subject to change.

****All ticket sales are final. No refunds. Transfers allowed up to 30 days prior to the event.

Dallas, TX – 4/14/18

Detroit, MI – 6/30/18

Philadelphia, PA – 7/21/18

Minneapolis, MN – 8/11/18

One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

By Simone Burton

I actually forgot to share this when I got it back in 2013.

I had my first son when I was 18, and I was scared out of my brain to give birth, until an amazing friend of mine showed me her birth video and she completely changed my view on birth.

Not long after I found Birth Without Fear, and my mind was set. I was going to have a drug free natural birth, and after months and months of countless different doctors and midwives telling me I couldn’t because I was “too young.” (??)

I had my son on the 9th of Feb 2013, born en caul naturally in the water. I had the support of my hubby and my midwives to get me through it. I had the support of this page and the power of my mind, that there was nothing to be afraid of.

My second son was born in July last year, and I really saw the power of the mind then. I couldn’t lock my brain my birth zone and I struggled terribly. I managed to have another natural drug free birth, and I was defeated for a few days with how I acted, until my midwife kicked my butt and told me to kick that labour’s ass with the next one.

Birth Without Fear continues to inspire me and is a big drive in my life. I can still hear my husband whispering “what do you have tattooed on your ribs?” while I was in labour with my second.

Thank you so much January, you have seriously brought a very strong woman out of me, that I NEVER knew existed in me.

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

These will never get old. Because women feeling supported and empowered should be the damn norm, no matter how we birth. 🌟 “Never Underestimate the POWER of a Woman. Never underestimate the power of YOURSELF. Sometimes it means digging deep, but I can tell you…you come out the other side feeling on top of the whole entire world. 💙 It felt SO dang good to celebrate birthing Trey and I really cannot wait to tell you guys the full story! Let’s just say it’s a good one: the OB had to deliver him with her fleece on, barely had time to catch him, and it is official that the only way I give birth is standing up. 🙃💙 • I’m also over the moon to raise TWO little gentlemen, because if there is one thing this mama can teach them…it’s that women are every bit as strong and capable as ANY man. They will give women the respect that we DESERVE, that is my #goals.” 🙌🏽 @ameskiefer #birthwithoutfear #optionssupportrespect

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My Three-Year Postpartum

My Three-Year Postpartum

By Billie Criswell

I was overjoyed when I became pregnant at 28 years old, and gave birth just before my 29th birthday. My pregnancy was planned, and was fairly uneventful. Because I had struggled with anxiety throughout my 20s, I prepared for postpartum, which in hindsight, sounds funny because who can really prepare for postpartum? But I did what I thought was my due diligence…I attended regular therapy sessions. I prepared my one-line birth plan: no interventions. I lined up my placenta encapsulation. I hired my doula. I had a plan for accepting help from my “Grandma dream team,” compromised of my mom and my mother-in-law, who supplied us with food and help for two full weeks.

I had an unmedicated, vaginal birth in the hospital. It was pretty routine except for a couple of things. Unbeknownst to me, a doctor or midwife in the rotating practice wrote in my chart that my baby was breech (she was not) and there was confusion about me getting a c-section. The second thing happened while I was pushing. Out of nowhere, the midwife who was attending asked the nurses to bring a mirror. I asked them not to. She nodded and insisted, “bring in the mirror.” Seeing myself giving birth in a mirror felt very violating. It was distracting, and disturbing as though I was having an out of body experience and being forced to watch something that I found traumatizing.

But all of that behind me, I left the hospital and came home. I was exhausted after having been awake for 36 hours straight, but I was well cared for by everyone around me. In those first days, I felt disconnected from everything. Trying to catch up on sleep, learning to breastfeed, and adjust to caring for an infant is pretty haze-inducing. I took the placenta pills. When people asked me how I felt, I responded with “good.”

I got to know my baby, who loved me above all people and never wanted to be put down. EVER. We adapted. We co-slept. We had a sling, and an Ergo baby carrier. Little did I know that I would literally be carrying my child around for the next 10 months (she is the most attached child I have ever, ever met.)

After two and a half weeks, it was time for my husband to go back to work, time for my mother and mother-in-law to go back to cooking for their own families. And that morning, as I kissed my husband goodbye, I was feeling a bit excited to be alone with my baby for the first time. She was asleep, and I took a breath, sat down, ready to admire her until she woke up. And that was when it happened… I felt a hot wave rush over me, and I thought I was going to pass out. The room was spinning. I panicked. I grabbed the baby and got into bed, thinking I was surely about to die. I was experiencing what would be the first of several months of panic attacks.

I was terrified to be alone with my baby, afraid that I would drop her, or that I would faint while carrying her and kill her. I was afraid that the walls were closing in. I was afraid of everything, all of the time. I had these horrible visions of bad things that could happen to her. She would be sitting in her bouncer, and I would be cutting carrots and suddenly be horrified that I could cut off her finger, even though she was ten feet away. I felt crazy.

I knew that something was really wrong in my mind, and so when she was a few months old, I told my primary care doctor about how I was feeling. She flippantly looked at me and said “Well stop breastfeeding, you’ll feel better. And by the way, if you have any more kids, this will only get worse for you.” I went home and cried for five days straight. I didn’t want to give up breastfeeding…it was the one thing I was doing with success. So I dug in my heels, and decided that I would continue breastfeeding, consequences be damned.

I attended regular therapy sessions. My therapist knew that I was struggling, but I don’t think that even she knew the extent of the pain I was in mentally. I think the anxiety had become so bad that I didn’t know how to properly express how bad it was. I coped by always scheduling a visit with a friend or family member while my husband was at work or school (he was finishing his degree at the time.) And crying when I was alone, wondering if I was a bad mother, whether I would ever feel normal again, and hiding some of the darkest moments away.

When my daughter was six months old that everything really came to a head when I had this strange pain in my groin and a rash on my back. I had become so stressed and riddled with anxiety that I had gotten shingles. It was probably the best thing that happened to me postpartum. On doctor’s orders, I had to lay down, rest, and keep myself from being too stressed. This was when I finally began laying down with my daughter for naps. I began resting, and knowing that I had those two hours each day to lay down, helped tremendously. It also gave me an unspoken permission to actually ask for help from those around me.

The fog slowly began to lift. Then, around the 8 or 9 month mark when I was arbitrarily surfing Facebook, I came across an article about postpartum depression and anxiety. It talked about how people who had been sexually abused or assaulted were more likely to feel violated by childbirth and had higher instances of postpartum depression and anxiety. I had no idea.

Suddenly everything clicked. In all the preparations I made, in all those OB/GYN appointments I had, not one person ever asked me if I had been the victim of sexual abuse or assault—not even my therapist knew to ask. Even though I had the birth I “wanted,” I still felt so traumatized and I finally understood why. In those moments of realization, it was as though I could finally come out the other side. A huge burden lifted off me, as if all at once.

Since then, I’ve still had my ups and downs… breastfeeding was a huge culprit as well in the hormonal cocktail that spikes my anxiety. I breastfed my daughter until she was 3 1/2, and when I weaned her, the anxiety was once again palpable. Now, having weaned her, I feel like my postpartum period has FINALLY, at long last, come to a close. It’s been an often dark place for me, but understanding where the sense of trauma comes from really helps.

I have been lucky. I reached out, and I had a number of people who came to my aid. My family, and a few close friends really hung in there with me and, on numerous occasions, dropped everything to come and literally sit beside me as I struggled. My husband has been a major support for me in both my mental health and my extended breastfeeding. The journey has been hard, and full of love.

Coming through this period of my life has changed me. It’s made me more able to acknowledge when I need help, and it’s made me more thankful for my moments with my daughter where I feel like myself. Postpartum anxiety robbed me of a precious time with my newborn. Guilt is motherfucker and she doesn’t go easy. But just like the initial trauma of sexual abuse, the birth trauma wasn’t my fault, and the postpartum anxiety wasn’t my fault.

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

I’d planned a natural birth in a birth center from the second I found out I was pregnant with my third child. I’d had a dehumanizing induction with my oldest; my second baby’s birth was far better than my first but still not exactly what I wanted so I made huge changes during my third pregnancy in order to finally have the experience I desired. My pregnancy was wonderful and healthy and everything was perfect every step of the way, I received care from a wonderful practice of naturally-minded obstetricians and midwives and truly enjoyed every prenatal visit. Everything was going great and my husband and I were happily anticipating our impending daughter’s birth.

When I hit 37 weeks I started noticing that my skin was very itchy. I used a lot of lotion and didn’t think much of it at first but I quickly realized it was getting worse by the day. I was soon so miserable I was even willing to try anti-histamines despite being reluctant to take any medications while pregnant. Unfortunately neither anti-histamines or any lotion or cream helped at all. After six days it was so horrible I was becoming concerned, this just didn’t feel normal. I called my doctor’s office on a Sunday morning and asked for advice. The midwife I spoke to thought it would be a good idea to come into labor and delivery and have blood drawn to be tested for obstetric cholestasis. After examining me she was hopeful that it was just a miserable case of PUPPPS but felt that the tests were a good idea.

Unfortunately the tests took about a week to come back so we wouldn’t know for sure anytime soon.

The next day I noticed baby was moving a bit less than normal. By that evening movement was significantly less but I was still feeling her enough that I wasn’t panicking. I was up all night trying everything I could think of to get her to resume normal movement but had no luck. I got up in the morning, took our big kids to school and called my doctor’s office. They had me come in immediately for a non-stress test. After a few minutes on the monitors baby wasn’t moving so they brought me apple juice… and more apple juice… and cups of ice water. Attempts to buzz my stomach yielded no results. Baby’s heart rate was perfect but for some reason she was clearly not moving.

A few minutes later one of the doctors came to talk to me. My hands and feet were where the itching was the worst, he examined them carefully and found there was no rash or apparent cause to the itching and said that this was concerning. The timeline of my symptoms and the appearance of my skin were textbook signs of cholestasis, a condition where a build up of bile acids in the blood stream cause intense itching. Still birth is a potential risk of cholestasis and given my baby’s major decrease in movement he felt it would be best to induce labor. He could tell I was extremely upset and was willing to support me even if I disagreed with his recommendation. He told me to call my husband and discuss it with him but that if we decided it would be best to induce labor that he was going to schedule my induction immediately. It didn’t take my husband and I long to agree that this was the best option. Several months before I had attended a Birth Without Fear Meet Up where January described the birth of “Beard Baby”. Prior to her birth she had had decreased movement and January described this as feeling that her baby had “nudged” her. I had a brief moment of peace realizing that my baby was nudging me as well and that this was all a sign that it was time for her to be born.

My mother picked up our children, we packed our bags and in what seemed like seconds we were at the hospital starting the induction. I had a very hard time processing what was happening to me and barely spoke a word for hours. I couldn’t believe that in such a short time my plans for this birth were completely shattered. How could a pregnancy go from complication-free to this in a matter of minutes? I was three centimeters dilated and 50% effaced but I truly did not feel my body or baby were ready to be in labor and I was absolutely terrified to start down this road of interventions.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the midwife from my practice who was there that evening came in to talk. She had a student midwife with her and they were both extremely compassionate and willing to do whatever they could to try to give me as much of the birth center experience as they could. The induction plan was to use Pitocin very slowly and to bring in a portable birth pool for me to labor and birth in. After talking to them I felt a million times better, this wasn’t exactly the birth I wanted but it was going to be okay.

Pitocin was started and I quickly began having regular contractions. I tried to rest through the night but the itching was worse than ever and prevented me from resting at all. One thing I’d found that helped the tiniest bit was Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream and luckily the hospital used this brand. My midwife’s student brought me tons of packets of it and I passed the night applying nipple cream to my entire body. By morning I’d had little progress and was feeling discouraged. I felt sick to my stomach I was so worried that this was going to turn out badly. As the morning went by however, things finally started to pick up a bit and contractions became much more intense. I began having to actually breathe through them and was only comfortable standing up, rocking through them. My midwife Missy and her student Lila Rose thought it would be a good idea to check me and see if they could break my water. They thought that since this was my third baby that if they broke my water things would progress very quickly but I was absolutely convinced there was no way that would work. Regardless I agreed that it was worth a shot. They checked my cervix and found that I was five centimeters. They broke my water and left the room for a bit to be with another patient.

In a matter of minutes my contractions intensified. They went from very uncomfortable to actually painful and I continued standing up, rocking and swaying through them. I suddenly realized I’d been too upset to eat anything for almost twenty hours and became very worried that this would effect my ability to get through labor. My husband offered me several healthy snack options but the only thing that sounded good was a Kit Kat bar that he helped me eat in between contractions. I don’t remember Missy and Lila Rose coming back in the room but when they saw me they realized I was getting close. I didn’t realize this myself though and still truly felt that I was half a day away from giving birth.

I was in a lot of pain at this point and asked to get in the tub. Lila Rose got it ready for me and helped me get in. The warm water was an immediate relief in between contractions but during contractions I was in extreme pain. I remained sure that I was no where near giving birth and this began to alter my state of mind. I was so sure I was going to be in labor for hours upon hours and didn’t know if I could handle this pain for the rest of the day. Lila Rose helped me breathe and focus more during contractions, despite my being a total wreck her words of encouragement were extremely helpful. She was using a Doppler to check baby’s heartbeat frequently and realized her heart rate was going up and staying up and she asked me to get out of the tub. She and my husband helped me get out. As soon as I stepped out I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. Lila Rose told me that that was just the baby and I didn’t really need to use the bathroom. I remember thinking “I’m not an idiot! I know that feeling like you need to use the bathroom is actually the baby when you’re close to giving birth but I am NOT even close to giving birth so I must actually have to go.”

I labored on the toilet for a minute and Lila Rose draped a warm blanket over me. Baby’s heart rate was still high so Missy asked me to try to get on my hands and needs on the bed. I moved into this position pretty easily and the contractions suddenly became absolutely unbearable. Contractions were maybe 20 seconds apart so I wasn’t getting a break between them at all. I started saying there was no way I could do this and that I needed an epidural. Missy tried to calm me down and reminded me that I didn’t want an epidural and that I would most likely regret it. She and Lila Rose tried to get me to focus more on what my body was doing and how each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my baby. I was still sure that I wasn’t actually close to meeting my baby though and asked again for an epidural. They explained that this baby was going to be born before they would even have a chance to request an epidural and I was perplexed. I didn’t understand why they were so sure that I was very close to having a baby when I was beyond certain that I wasn’t close.

Suddenly I felt the urge to push. I slid down on my side and started pushing and instantly my entire mood and mindset changed. I could feel my baby descending and the urge to push made me realize that I really was very close to giving birth. The urge to push was such an immense relief compared to the contractions that I’d been feeling that they actually almost felt good. I could tell each push was extremely productive and she was coming fast. My midwives started telling me that they could see her hair. I could feel intense burning and felt like I was pushing too hard and too fast and I tried to slow down and breathe her out but my body was on auto pilot and I didn’t feel lik&e I had much control over pushing. Before I knew it I could feel her body sliding out and I reached down to touch her, suddenly she was on my chest, screaming, and I was in disbelief. I immediately asked my husband what time it was and found that it had only been about 40 minutes since my water broke.

I birthed the placenta painlessly but my midwives said there were still a lot of large clots in my uterus and working them out was extremely painful. I was bleeding more than they liked though and they wanted to make sure everything was okay. Once they were sure, they checked me for tears and found two very small tears and asked if I would like them to stitch them. They thought they would probably be fine either way but that they would heal a little faster if they were stitched and I agreed. As soon as they were finished they covered my naked baby and I with warm blankets, dimmed the lights and left my husband and I to bond with our baby girl. We were left completely alone for hours and it was absolutely wonderful. No one bothered us or tried to bathe our baby or mess with her at all. A pediatrician stopped in just as I was actually feeling ready to try to get up and use the bathroom and clean myself up a bit anyway so the timing worked out perfectly.

I felt immense relief knowing that our baby girl was earth side, safe and healthy. I had salvaged a pretty awesome birth out of a situation that terrified me. I had been induced with my first baby and had absolutely no control. Every decision was made for me, without me. Not only was I never consulted but I was so disconnected from how birth should be that I didn’t even realize that I had a right to be consulted. I remember feeling as though I was in the way during my own birth. I remember thinking everyone would have an easier time delivering this baby if I wasn’t there. This induction was a completely different and wonderful experience. My health and the health of my baby were the priorities of my doctor but they were not used against me. My choices were respected every step of the way. I received guidance from my health care providers and was allowed to make my own choices. This wasn’t the birth I had planned but it was exactly the birth my baby needed.

Submitted by Kate S. 

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

When I got pregnant with my second child, my husband and I never questioned where she would be born – we both knew we wanted another home birth with our amazing midwife that guided us through our son’s birth in 2012. Aside from a small amount of erratic bleeding and a preterm labor scare that ended up being the stomach flu, my pregnancy was uneventful and flew by and before I knew it, I was out on maternity leave from work at 36 weeks and filling my calendar with social engagements to fill the days before my due date. My son was born at 39 weeks, 6 days and I expected our daughter would follow suit, give or take a few days. I had my home visit with my midwife at 36 weeks and everything was in order for the birth, which I figured was weeks away.

On the morning of April 13, at 37 weeks, 5 days, I woke up at 5:45 am after a surprisingly restful night’s sleep (I struggled with pregnancy induced insomnia the majority of my pregnancy). I rushed to the bathroom to empty my very full bladder and I noticed that there was something wet between my legs. I figured it was urine since I had been known to pee myself a few times during this pregnancy, but after I used the restroom, the liquid kept coming and I realized it wasn’t pee. I woke up my husband and told him I thought my water had broken. The instructions from my midwife stated to wait until normal business hours to call if my water broke but labor had not started, so I put on a pad and went about my morning routine, excited but also a little nervous that I had felt zero signs of labor and this was much earlier than I expected to be going into labor. My mother, who lives in another state, wasn’t scheduled to arrive for two weeks and she was going to be my labor doula and after birth support.

A few hours later, I called my mom and told her my water had broken. No sooner had the words left my mouth then she was looking up how to change her flight and arranging a ride to the airport. Her words of advice were to take it easy to avoid going into labor before she arrived that evening. I sent my husband to work and the older kids off to school, as I still had zero signs of labor. I called my midwife who said to keep in touch and practice good hygiene, etc. I realized we didn’t have any food in the house for the midwives, so I made some muffins, and took a nap, anticipating that labor would be starting at some point in the next 24 hours, as the internet assured me 95% of labor’s do, after PROM/SROM. The day went on without so much as a little baby contraction, my mother arrived and we all went to bed, expecting to be woken up overnight to some labor action. My husband stopped by my midwife’s office and picked up their labor induction protocol pack, which included castor oil, herbal tincture and a few other supplements. She recommended I start the protocol in the morning if nothing started overnight.

Overnight, I felt a few mild contractions, but I mostly slept through the night and woke up without incident. I got up early to start the labor induction protocol, which included nipple stimulation (pumping), tinctures and a castor oil compress. I opted to not do the castor oil internally and see if the nipple stimulation helped. I watched “Look Who’s Talking” on Netflix, which did not make me laugh, the tinctures were regularly making me gag and the nipple stimulation wasn’t inducing a single contraction. My husband stayed home from work and slept in, in anticipation of another long day/night. After 4 hours of pumping every 30 minutes and not a single contraction, I talked to my midwife who wanted me to come into her office to confirm PROM and do a sterile speculum exam and talk about options. My mom and I went for a quick walk around the neighborhood and I finally started feeling some back pain and little tiny contractions, which were slightly encouraging but still not what I would call labor.

As my husband and I headed to the midwife’s office, I was getting disheartened. We were approaching the 48 hour mark and I was dreading the thought of making the decision if we needed to go to the hospital or could continue to wait for labor to start on its own. The exam by my midwife didn’t help ease my mind. She estimated that I was less than 1 cm dilated and maybe 90% effaced. Considering how long it had been since my water had broken and all the labor inducers I had choked down, this was depressing news. We talked about what would happen if I went to the hospital and how long we were both comfortable waiting, the risk of infection, etc. We came up with a plan that if my labor hadn’t started by the following morning, she would accompany me to the hospital for an induction. Meanwhile, she gave me the protocol for internal castor oil and we decided I would try a dose of it when I got home, which ended up being at approximately 4 pm.

My husband and I left our midwife’s office and headed down to the beach to talk a walk and clear our (my) heads. I was feeling really down and sad that the birth I had been picturing for the last nearly 3 years (since my first son was born) was looking like it wasn’t going to happen. But as we walked and my husband made me laugh (This is why I love this man with my whole being), I had a sudden peace that no matter where my daughter made her entrance, it was going to be spectacular and that was the way it was intended, even if that was in a hospital bed with an IV antibiotic, a Pitocin drop and an epidural. We headed home where my mom had my castor oil chocolate milkshake waiting for me.

After I took the milkshake, we did another few laps around the neighborhood. Back home, as we were fixing dinner, I started getting a few regular and ‘real’ contractions. This was very exciting! I even had to drop to my knees a few times but they were still very short and not super close together so I figured this was all still pre-labor stuff. I explained to my almost 3 year old that this was normal, that mommy’s tummy had to hurt for baby sister to come out and this was a good sign. As they were finishing up dinner and starting bedtime, I attempted to do some squats on the stairs. That kicked my contractions into a much higher intensity and I immediately had to go up into our bedroom and shut the door so I could focus on relaxing through the pain. My mom and husband came to check on me and I said that i was ok but things were starting to get organized and I needed both of them to support me. The notorious effects of castor oil started kicking in and I (out of necessity) started laboring on the toilet. Although the contractions were intense, they were still short and I was getting a decent break between, where I could talk and even laugh. I was confused at why the contractions were so intense so we called our midwife. After talking to us, she concluded I was probably in pre-labor and should get some rest and baby would most likely be joining us in the morning. We took her advice and I laid down and attempted to get some sleep. I believe I slept for about 30 minutes. By this time it was about 830 pm.

I jumped out of bed when a particularly strong contraction hit and told my mom and husband that I couldn’t sleep anymore, the pain was too intense. I tried to labor on the birth ball, but it wasn’t helping. My mind started freaking out (in hindsight, I was in transition but didn’t know it, even the second time around!) that there was no way I could do this all night, the pain was too intense and we needed to go to the hospital. But then I would get another 2 minute break and I thought I was just imaging the intensity. My mom suggested I try laboring in the shower which helped dull the pain and I believe relaxed me to the point to allow sweet baby girl to descend into prime birthing position. All at once, I couldn’t stand up in the shower anymore, I nearly fell out of the shower onto the birthing ball and screamed “I HAVE TO PUSH”. That certainly got everyone’s attention. My husband started panicking and filling the birth tub while furiously dialing the number for our midwife. My mom said, “please Lord let her keep this baby in until the midwife arrives, I have delivered a baby before but I would really rather not”. The midwife was on her way and giving instructions to my husband who was still trying to fill the pool. My mother got me to lay on my side and said she could see the baby’s head crowning. With 1 push, her head was out and then immediately another push, she was out and my mother gently laid her on my stomach where she started screaming the most beautiful ear piercing scream you ever heard. She was tiny and pink with a head of thick black hair, long beautiful fingers and absolutely perfect.

I kept asking if she was ok and of course she was. When the midwife arrived, my husband cut the cord and I immediately delivered the placenta as soon as I stood up. Sweet Ella Grace started rooting for the breast as soon as she was placed on my chest in bed and began nursing like a champion (and 2 years later, still is a total mommy’s girl and loves her milky time!). I feel so blessed that I was able to have the birth I envisioned and her arrival still gives me chills when I think about it!

Story and photo submitted by Sarah W. 

A Couple Working Together: A Birth Center Birth Story

A Couple Working Together: A Birth Center Birth Story

When I was 6 months pregnant, my husband took a job in South Bend, Indiana. This was fortuitous because it meant we could move out of Chicago and we would be only 1.5 hours from my family, instead of 3. The move from Chicago to South Bend also meant we could afford to buy an actual house with a backyard – something we couldn’t have dreamed of in Chicago. The transition from Chicago ended up being complicated and drawn out. Brett started his new job and I transitioned out of mine. We only had the chance to attend one Hypnobabies class in person before we had to move. We had to self-teach the remainder of the class by following along in the book and listening to scripts. Unfortunately, the total lack of stability during this time resulted in us being a bit behind the Hypnobabies schedule. I comforted myself with the thought that we would be able to catch up once we moved into our new house, long before the baby arrived.

We eventually closed on a house on August 12 but decided to immediately hire out some drywall/ceiling repair work prior to moving any belongings into the house. We knew once the drywall work was done we’d be able to paint (all of the rooms in the house were in desperate need of painting). We figured it was wise to knock out all of the big projects before the baby came and before we got too settled in the house. Our baby was “due” around September 25 so everything seemed perfectly timed. So as the contractor took up the bottom half of our house, we essentially camped out on a mattress on the floor and lived out of a suitcase. I spent most of every day painting the upper floor while Brett was at work and then we worked on other parts of the house when he got home. I kept telling myself that once the house was in order we would buy all the items we needed for the baby and make sure the space was ready for him by late September.

On August 23rd, I finished painting the trim in our bedroom and went to meet Brett at work where a mass and student/staff picnic was being held to celebrate the start of the school year. I remember being self conscious about my incredibly swollen feet and ankles. Following the picnic, we went to Lowe’s to pick up supplies and then went home. We worked on putting our bedroom back together until midnight and then went to bed.

I woke up at 3am with the sense that I needed to go to the bathroom. As I walked to the bathroom, I felt a leaking sensation but was too sleepy to think much beyond “What’s going on with my bladder?” I sat down, urinated, wiped and then wiped again and again. Why did it seem like I needed an endless supply of toilet paper? I stood up and a bigger gush of liquid flowed out of me and I panicked, shouting into the bedroom. “Brett, I think my water just broke!” Brett leapt out of bed and (probably hearing the panic in my voice) said, “Okay. It’s okay.” I frantically tried to recall what week of pregnancy I was in – determined I was 35 weeks and 3 days – and realized I didn’t know if it would be considered safe and normal to go into labor that early.

Brett is not typically clear-headed immediately upon waking, but he was laser focused in this moment. He called the hospital and put them speakerphone. When the front desk person picked up, he explained that my water had broken and I interjected that I was “only 35 weeks along”. The woman asked what color the liquid was and I answered that it looked clear. She then asked if I had felt the baby moving. I had only been awake for a few minutes and hadn’t felt anything in that time but the baby had been really active right before I fell asleep at midnight. She asked if I was experiencing contractions and I realized that I had been experiencing mild tightening sensations. She said to come directly to the hospital to be checked out.

Brett hung up and I choked back a sob and said, “This is too soon! We’re not ready.” Brett stopped me, hugged me, and assured me again that everything would be fine. He took the dog outside to go to the bathroom and I bumbled from one (completely disheveled, partially renovated) room to another trying to think what we would need at the hospital and locate it. Of course we didn’t have a hospital bag packed! I remembered a phone charger, my phone, earphones and Hypnobabies materials. The few baby clothes we had were still packed away somewhere in the garage. Brett reminded me that the hospital would have the necessities.

I put on a maxi dress and grabbed a towel to hold between my legs. I called my mom’s cell phone but she didn’t pick up so I tried my dad’s. He groggily picked up and I said “Dad, my water just broke so we’re going to the hospital and we don’t know if everything is okay.” my voice broke halfway through. He said something calm and comforting, although I don’t recall what exactly it was. He sounded so confident that I recall feeling he didn’t understand how early I was.

Brett and I headed downstairs, through the virtual construction zone of our 1st floor, and into the car. Brett opened the car windows and turned on the air conditioning as he drove (something we managed to remember from Hypnobabies) the 5 minutes to the hospital. I texted my sister that I had gone into labor and she replied that everything was going to be okay and that she loved me. I felt my belly contracting during the ride but I wasn’t mentally collected enough to time the waves. My mind was racing not really able to slow down enough to think clearly. I just felt fear. Mostly because I feared something was wrong with the baby and that’s why my labor started early. My secondary (but very real) fear was that we hadn’t finished our Hypnobabies material and that I wouldn’t be able to manage labor without medication. It felt like everything had spun out of control. For some reason it had never occurred to me that I might go into labor early. We had only been to two midwife appointments and had just toured the hospital’s birth center four days prior.

We arrived at the birthing center and walked to the front desk. There was a couple in their pajamas ahead of us, talking to the receptionist. They turned around and smiled at us, saying “It’s a good night to have a baby”. I felt a spark of annoyance and hardly responded – I wondered how to explain that we weren’t sure our baby was okay or would be okay. The couple was led back to triage and I sat down on a couch through a wave.

Moments later, we were taken back and brought into a triage room. I immediately felt a little more in control. At least we were in the right place and we were able to get there promptly. The nurse came in and attached the monitor to my belly. A few seconds later she located the baby’s heartbeat and assured us that it sounded fine. She gave me an internal exam and announced that I was about 3 cm dilated. This surprised me, considering I had just woken up 30 minutes earlier. The nurse also said, in an off-hand way, that our baby didn’t have any hair on its head. The nurse had placed an absorbent pad underneath me, which she whisked away for testing to make sure the liquid was indeed from my bag of waters. The nurse kept coming in and out of the room, asking us if we had ever been to the hospital before since they couldn’t find any of my records. This went on for a while until they determined they would call the midwives once the office opened.

My birthing waves were beginning to demand more of my attention so I began to practice my finger drop technique at the outset of each wave. Between the waves, Brett and I would incredulously remark to each other how crazy this was. We were actually going to be having our baby. It was also during this time that Brett realized he must have stepped in dog poop prior to leaving for the hospital. I was too distracted to notice, but our triage room had been filling with a bad smell. Brett went into the adjoining bathroom and did his best to remove the offending poop. This situation provided us with some much needed levity.

A few minutes later we were brought back to our birthing room. I was relieved to see it had a birthing tub. I asked Brett if he wanted to grab some coffee and something to eat. He took this as me being selfless but in reality I knew I needed him with me and didn’t want him to have to leave me to hunt down sustenance when I was further along in labor. An OBGYN entered (the midwife had been called but hadn’t arrived yet) and asked how I was doing. He asked if I had any questions and if I had intended to utilize any pain medication. I told him I didn’t want any. He watched me during a wave and commented that it looked like I was handling them well and then he left the room. I appreciated how low key and considerate he was.

After the midwife entered and introduced herself as Susana, I asked her if I would be able to birth in the tub. She advised that since the baby was pre-term, he was too susceptible to losing body heat being birthed in water. She said I could labor in the tub but would have to move out for the birthing. I was content knowing I could be in the water for at least part of my labor.

Susana also advised that they would have to treat me as though I was Strep B positive which meant I would have to have two IV treatments during labor. The nurse inserted and secured the needle and then started the first course of antibiotics. I initially got settled on a birthing ball but I started experiencing really intense sensations in my lower back during each wave and it dawned on me with mild horror that this was a symptom of back labor. I asked Susanna if there were positions I should be in if I was having back labor. She set out a yoga mat and suggested that I move to all fours during each wave. I found that I had a hard time dropping into hypnosis in this position because I was having to hold myself up and wasn’t able to relax as effectively. I dropped onto the mat and laid on my side with the Hypnobabies recording playing in one ear. I spoke as little as possible from this point on. Susana was holding a heat pad to my back and belly and Brett had his hands on my head and shoulders. I was in this position for a while, but I’m not sure how long. I started to shiver uncontrollably and the midwife brought over warm blankets to cover me. At some point, during a particularly strong wave, my eyes were still closed but I felt a wave of strong emotion (a combination of sadness? self-pity? fear?) and tears started to stream down my face. Brett and Susana comforted me.

After a while, the noise I was making during birthing waves changed from hums to low moans. I asked when I could get into the tub – although I worried I was using up my one comfort measure too early. Susana got the tub ready and told me I could get in. Partway to the tub I felt a contraction coming on and could only get out an “uh oh” before starting to sink to the floor. Brett caught me and slowed my descent. When I got into the tub the water felt incredible. Brett sat at my head and kept the earphone in my ear and made sure the iPhone didn’t get wet.

Susana’s end of shift came at 7am and she was relieved by Mercedes. Mercedes came over to the tub and introduced herself. She said, “You’re having your baby early, and I’m sorry about that.” Mercedes had an almost unnervingly direct way about her and I think she was making an effort to put words to my emotions, even though I hadn’t said anything. The nurse hooked me up for my second dose of antibiotics. Mercedes watched me through a few waves and then went into the adjoining room to wait with the nurse. My entire time in the tub is hazy in my memory although I know that with each wave I would lean back with an arm on each side of the tub and moan through the wave- trying to keep my mouth wide open and relaxed – getting louder at the peak and tapering off to silence at the end. I would immediately rest my head on the side of the tub, close my eyes and drift off until the next wave came. The nurse would monitor the baby’s heart rate during waves and that really irritated me but I didn’t say anything.

As I got louder Mercedes came back into the bathroom and observed me. I told her I was starting to feel a full sensation and “thought” I kind of wanted to push. I remember thinking that maybe it was all in my head because I just wanted to move to the next step since I felt overwhelmed. She told me if I felt like pushing I could do so really gently and see how it felt. I did this through several waves but wasn’t certain if I was pushing enough or if it was doing anything. Pushing definitely didn’t bring relief as I hoped but I believe that was mostly because of the back labor.

I don’t recall if I asked to move to the bed to continue pushing or if Mercedes directed me to. I got on the bed and laid on my side but Mercedes asked me to lay on my back. She checked my dilation and discovered a lip that she was able to push back during the next wave. Then she and the nurse each held a leg and encouraged me to push through each wave. This continued for a while but Mercedes wasn’t happy with my effectiveness. She asked me why I seemed to be holding back. I told her didn’t know but honestly I didn’t feel I had the energy (or breath) to explain that I was avoiding the pain pushing caused in my lower back and I hated that it felt like I was going to poop with each push. She must have sensed the poop concern because she outright asked me if I was afraid of pooping and then she said, “If you poop, you poop!”

I realized I was only making birthing last longer by not pushing with all of my might. So, from then on I pushed with everything I had (and pooped with what felt like every push, unfortunately). Mercedes started to have me try different pushing techniques. She tied a knot in a towel, handed it to Brett and had me pull against him with every wave. She asked Brett to take the leg the nurse had been holding and had me grab under each knee when the wave began and pull my upper body up as I pushed. This went on for a while.

Mercedes would check the baby’s progress and reported that the baby was moving forward and then slipping back. I was really discouraged to hear that. The frustration was compounded as I also was struggling to catch my breath sufficiently before the next wave hit. Mercedes asked me what I needed to hear. I told her I didn’t know but I didn’t feel like I was making progress and I felt like I was “pushing uphill.” She lifted up the back of the bed and attached a bar for me to grab onto, pull myself up and squat while pushing. When the wave subsided I would fall back onto the bed and try to breathe as deeply as possible as I waited for the wave.

It was around this time that the baby’s head started to emerge. Mercedes, Brett and the nurse were cheering me on through each push. Mercedes asked me what I was feeling and I described the discomfort in my lower back. She removed the bar, rolled up a towel and placed in under my hips. “This is called the ‘California Roll’,” she said.

She and Brett got back into position bracing my legs and I pushed through another wave. “How did that feel?” she asked.

“Terrible,” I responded.

“Good. You’re making progress.”

I continued to push in this position. At one point Mercedes consulted the monitor and told me the baby was getting tired and I would need to get him/her out soon (I later put together that this was at 4 hours of pushing). This struck fear into my heart and I pushed with absolute abandon. A nurse came into the room shortly after to relay a message to Mercedes and commented that “that baby’s holding on by its toes”. My spirit was somewhat buoyed by that observation. Mercedes started applying oil to my perineum and told me I’d be feeling the ring of fire soon and to keep going. I did feel burning a few pushes later and howled through that push – the baby’s head came out the rest of the way, followed by his shoulders.

Mercedes instructed Brett to slide his fingers under the baby’s armpits and helped guide the rest of the body out and onto my belly. Mercedes had to remind Brett, “what is it, dad?” and Brett announced that we had a boy as the baby howled. I looked down and saw our baby boy with his daddy’s nose and – hilariously – horseshoe pattern baldness (which Brett also had at birth). So the triage nurse was partially right about the baldness. Brett and I looked at each other tearfully – absolutely bursting with love, pride and relief.

I pulled baby Simon up to my chest and he stayed there as I birthed the placenta and was examined by Mercedes. She informed me that I had no tears. She also showed me a true knot in his cord – which i still regret not taking a photo of. Brett took him for skin-to-skin as Mercedes massaged my legs and scalp with oil which was incredibly relaxing after all of that strain. She hugged me and told me I did an amazing job and I should be proud. She commended Brett and I for the way we worked together. The nurse said she was glad to have been able to witness such an “interesting” birth. The birth lasted 9 hours and when Simon was weighed he came in at 5 lbs 7 ounces. Besides jaundice, he had no complications from his early arrival.

We felt so supported and cared for throughout Simon’s birth. I spent years reading Birth Without Fear birth stories so I know how differently our experience could have gone. I feel that I have BWF to thank for educating me on how to empower myself and increase my chances of having a pleasant birth. I’m so grateful for all of those stories!

Story and photos submitted by Anne B. 

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