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Pre-Order The BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Book Today!!!

Pre-Order The BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Book Today!!!

In her first book, Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum (Hachette Books; March 5 2019), January Harshe, mom of six and founder of the Birth Without Fear website, delivers an inclusive, non-judgmental, and empowering guide to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum life.

Each chapter provides you with the all the necessary information, options, and tools to help you take charge of the experience of welcoming your child into the world.

Unlike other pregnancy, birth, and postpartum books, Birth Without Fear will also help partners understand what mothers are going through, as well as discuss the challenges that they, too, will face—and how they can navigate them.

Shattering long-held myths and beliefs surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum experience, Birth Without Fear is an accessible, reassuring, and ultimately inspiring guide to taking charge of your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

The Birth Without Fear movement began as a voice for change in the standard of care in today’s birthing world, and Birth Without Fear will empower YOU to be a voice for change in your own pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Options, support, and respect should be the norm for every pregnant and birthing woman, and it can be if YOU, the Birth Without Fear community, vote for that change by pre-ordering your copy of Birth Without Fear today!

Pre-Order Now!

January Harshe knows firsthand how widely birth experiences can range. She has run the gamut from an affirming and joyful planned cesarean to a traumatic emergency cesarean, as well as a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) in the hospital, and two home births. One of these home births was such a dramatic departure from the confusion, uncertainty, and fear of her other births that a beautiful idea was born — she would make it her life’s mission to promote a revolutionary birth and parenting message: you can have a birth without fear, no matter how you birth.

January is the founder of the Birth Without Fear community, as well as Take Back Postpartum, Don’t Forget Dads, and Mothering Without Fear under the Birth Without Fear tent—all of which today collectively represent a social media following of over 1 million and counting.

Within each chapter of Birth Without Fear is a Partner Point of View written by Brandon Harshe. Having been by January’s side for six pregnancies, births, and postpartum experiences, Brandon has learned a lot about what it takes to support the woman he loves through the biggest changes and experiences of her life. In Birth Without Fear, he’s shared some of that knowledge to help husbands and partners be the steadfast support person that all birthing people need and deserve!

Members of the Birth Without Fear community on social media are familiar with the conversation shifting regularly to postpartum, and Birth Without Fear is no different. The focus of so many pregnancy and birth books is on, well, pregnancy and birth. But what about after the birth? You have the entire rest of your life to live, only now with a new baby!

This is where Birth Without Fear comes in. With chapters on breastfeeding, self love, self care, mental health, and sex and intimacy, no stone is left unturned for those of you wondering “what next?” after the baby has arrived.

When January Harshe created the Birth Without Fear community in 2010, she wanted options, support, and respect to be the standard of care for every pregnancy, every birth, and every postpartum experience. Individually, we all have a voice. As a united community, we can affect real change in the conversation about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in our culture. Pre-ordering Birth Without Fear is a vote for real change. Order your copy today!

Pre-Order Now!

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. 

A Natural Hospital Birth, A Peaceful Miscarriage at Home, and A Future Homebirth Coming Soon

A Natural Hospital Birth, A Peaceful Miscarriage at Home, and A Future Homebirth Coming Soon

It has been three years since I had my son in a natural, med-free hospital birth. It was 27 hours of total labor. Contractions were every three minutes (lasting a minute long) from the get go, so I got no rest once they started at two o’clock in the morning! I went to the hospital after about 18 hours thinking surely I’d made some progress, but they said I was only at 1cm. They told me to go walk around for an hour and come back and they’d check me again. I was a little discouraged, but when I came back an hour later I was at 4cm and was then admitted to Labor and Delivery.

We settled in the room and my husband put a movie on. All the staff that came in the room had read my one page birth plan and was very respectful of my wishes. My nurse was awesome and very supportive of natural birth. She made sure I got the room with a portable monitor so I could walk around and wouldn’t be stuck in bed. I walked, bounced on a birth ball, changed positions, and did whatever I could to move things along. My husband had made me a playlist of serene, relaxing music, so we listened to that for a while. I was exhausted, because I had not slept for two nights now, so I decided to lie down and rest for a bit. My husband got settled in his cot and started to fall asleep, until the nurse came in and told me if I wanted to get this baby out I needed to do some more work. My husband got up and put his shoes back on (he said it made him feel more awake, haha) and I did some more bouncing on the ball and walking and moving around.

After 24 hours, they broke my water and my nurse told me things were about to get more intense. I didn’t believe her, but Yowza! The next couple hours were tough! That was really the hardest part of the whole labor. I would do okay for a few contractions, leaning, and swaying on my husband while focusing on deep breathing. Then I’d get freaked out and lose focus and get scared that I couldn’t do it and cry out to God to help me. Then I’d remember to breathe and focus and gather myself. I almost asked for an epidural at this point, but I knew that I was almost done, so I just kept going. Once it gets to that point, you are so close to the finish.

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Then I felt like pushing, and with pushing the pain went away and I had a new focus. I pushed for about an hour and a half and then the baby came out. I didn’t really feel it – it was so surreal. The doctor gave me an episiotomy while the baby was crowning, which made me tear a little more. I will not be getting an episiotomy for future babies – research shows no benefits; but in the moment I was like ‘whatever just get this baby out of me’. I didn’t feel the episiotomy or the sewing up – though he did inject some lidocaine before stitching me up. I don’t remember the placenta coming out either, because I was in awe of meeting my little guy. I held my baby skin-to-skin for a long time and he nursed wonderfully. I was up walking around and doing everything right away and never had any pain with ‘recovery’, even where I had my episiotomy/tear. I’m so thankful for no pain or complications! My husband was so wonderful through everything and I’m thankful he’s been such a good husband and father.

futurehomebirth2

Two years after the birth of my son, I had a late miscarriage and went through full blown labor contractions and dilation at home. It was about two hours long, with the last hour being the really tough part of transition. I did a lot better at focusing and breathing this time around and never lost focus. I breathed through the contractions and really relaxed as deeply as I could between them, soaking in the minute of rest. I took them one at a time, instead of getting overwhelmed and thinking they would last forever. The last ten minutes of that tough hour was the hardest, with no break or rest between contractions. I basically chanted/hummed in a deep voice to get through it, and that really helped a lot. I didn’t care what I sounded like – it was what I needed to do to get through it. And then it was done. It was very hard emotionally – I prayed a lot and listened to some relaxing spiritual music to get through. I was trying to not get upset or let negative thoughts in that this was ‘all for naught.’ I wasn’t expecting it to be as intense as birth with a full term baby was, but it gave me strength and courage that I could do it again when the time comes.

futurehomebirth3

I’m now 8 months pregnant and have planned a natural homebirth this time around, with the help of my husband, midwife, and doula. I’m very hopeful that this will be another good, natural birth experience. I think this will be our last baby, so I want to enjoy and soak it all in.

I Am Strong – I Continued to Live

I Am Strong – I Continued to Live

I am strong because at 36 weeks, I gave birth to a baby who I knew would not be with me very long.

I am strong because at my 20 week ultrasound, there were a few “little things” that looked off and a possibility for Trisomy 21. Even though I am 31 years old and had less than a 1% chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, I had to reimagine our lives together as a family of four. I pictured a life where our family might be different, and our daily lives would be challenging, but beautiful. I cried, yelled, and then began to embrace the beautiful boy who was coming to us.

I am strong because at 24 weeks we saw dilation in my son’s brain, and consented to a long needle into my stomach, to check the genetic material in my son’s amniotic fluid. I soon learned my son did not have an extra chromosome, but instead was missing very important genetic information on his first chromosome, and was carrying extra genetic material from his fourth. I learned that no one was documented to have both of those issues combined, but each on their own is quite severe. There was no guidebook for this.

I am strong because I began to transition to care with highly specialized doctors, and prepare for a birth at one of the top five hospital in the country for children like mine. I let go of my dreams of a water birth at home, even though I, a 31 year old, fully healthy prenatal yoga teacher was capable to birth without interventions. But my son needed much more, and I would lay down my life for him.

I am strong because I was poked, prodded, MRI-ed, and transferred many times from doctors and midwives who had not worked with cases like his. I was starting to feel untouchable. Like a liability no one wanted. How many doctors’ office ceilings did I stare at, tables did I lay on, machines did I get scanned by? I don’t know.

I am strong because after my 32 week ultrasound, the maternal fetal medicine doctor got up out of his chair, and suggested we “make plans in case he doesn’t make it.” And then he left the room, and transferred us on again.

I am strong because as the weeks went on, I watched my son’s life rapidly unravel around me.

I am strong because at 33 weeks I was taken into a conference room at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. I sat with my husband and my midwife, as my mouth became increasingly dry and eyes wet, and looked across the table into 16 eyes of specialists, who seemed surprised that things had taken such a turn for the worst. I saw images of my son’s brain, with no neurons growing, having never branched out as they should. They were shocked. So was I. I allowed it to wash over me. I listened without crying, saving my breakdown for the moment when I escaped from that awful room.

I am strong because I had to then, at 33 weeks, choose what to do next. Subject him to a short and miserable life kept alive by machines, and surgeries? Choose to interrupt the pregnancy so he would not have to suffer? Oh the irony of having moved to Denver, CO this year. 20 minutes from the best Children’s Hospital in the US, and 30 minutes from the only doctor in the country who will perform late term abortions for chromosomal abnormalities.

I am strong because at 34 weeks we decided to press on and let our sweet Jack decide when he would come on his own, and when he would pass… on his own. We were told, in that case, we would have about a week with him.

I am strong because at 36 weeks, I went into labor. I watched them bring the infant warmer into the room, and listened to it beep as my contractions, which were strong at home, began to stall in this sterile and scary environment. I was told that instead of days with Jack, I would have hours. Maybe.

I am strong because I went through an incredibly painful labor anyway, knowing I would not get the reward of a plump and healthy baby. I was hooked up to pitocin as the impatient OB on call rushed me along. He said I would be there for three days if I didn’t.

I would have been happy to have three more days with Jack. My body knew this, and held on tight to stall labor and to give us more time together.

I am strong because I labored on, without an epidural.

I am strong because I had to hold my son’s lifeless body, as he was born still on August 20, 4 weeks before his due date.

I am strong because as everyone cried and left the room, I did not cry. I needed to be a mother for my son. As my husband fell apart next to me, I spoke calmly to Jack as I held him, and told him how loved he was, how brave his was, and how proud we were of him. I thanked him for showing me how strong I could be in the midst of physical and emotional pain.

I am strong because I prayed for a miracle. And the miracle was not that Jack lived, it was that I continued to live, even when he passed away.

I am strong because I had to go home to hug my three year old, and explain that Jack did not come home with us.

I am strong because when he asks me if I am sad, I say yes.

I am strong because I will tell his story. Our story. He will be known for the beautiful boy that he is, not a baby forgotten or never spoken about.

You are strong for opening your heart and reading this. You are strong for listening to a story about a baby who doesn’t make it, which is an unthinkable tragedy.

If you have had a high risk pregnancy, or a child whose genetic blueprints are different… you are a warrior. If you have had to consider a life for your child so different from what you imagined, you amaze me. If you have had to face your child’s death, you are an incredible force of maternal nature, and I see you. I see you and the incredible effort it is just to wake up. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Get out the door. Smile. Cry. Walk. Eat. Breathe. Live anyway. Your strength inspires me.

Logan Kinney, MA, RYT, RPYT

miraclemama.memiraclemama

My Breech Twin Vaginal Birth After Three Miscarriages

My Breech Twin Vaginal Birth After Three Miscarriages

My story starts with the journey of getting pregnant and what I endured to get these precious babies.

My husband and I got married June 2012 and had the most amazing honeymoon filled with love. We decided for me to stop taking birth control and to see what happens. I found out I was pregnant in October, 2012.

Before I could celebrate or be happy, I started bleeding. I was so confused. Was I really pregnant? I took 6 tests and all were positive. I thought I was just 2 weeks late on my period, because I was in denial that I was pregnant until I passed a small sac. I never really grieved it because I didn’t believe it was real.

A month later I had one of the most realistic and vivid dreams of my life. I saw Jesus in a white robe, holding a baby. He said, “It’s okay child, He will be okay, I will take care of him.” I woke up and cried and felt a wave of something majestic. Some days I feel guilty about not letting the miscarriage sink in, and not properly grieving it. I named this baby, Joey.

We got pregnant again in January, 2012! I was so excited! I immediately called my Mom to tell her the good news! My first week of knowing I was pregnant flew by and by week 5 I started getting tired and having pregnancy symptoms. Week 6 rolled by and my phone app said my baby had a heartbeat. I grew more in love everyday. Week 7 came and I thought wow, this is really happening, I’m going to be a mom. I secretly knew it was a girl, although that was something I kept to myself.

I was 8 weeks 1 day when everything changed… I started spotting. I went right to my doctor for an ultrasound. I was so nervous and anxious, praying everything was okay. I was laying there staring at the ultrasound screen anxiously waiting for those words, “Here is your baby, this is the heartbeat….” But instead I hear “This right here is your gestational sac and it looks like the baby didn’t develop properly.” I was numb, I didn’t even cry right away. She said that we would need to do a D&C. My doctor left the room and I took a picture of the screen. I sat there and stared at the empty sac, still in disbelief.

I got in my car and lost it. I started bawling. I could barely breathe. My Husband called hoping for good news. The words came out of my mouth for the first time, “The baby didn’t make it.” “What?”, was his reply. “Are you okay. Where are you? I’m coming.” I sat in the parking lot and my heart was literally hurting. My husband got there, got out and hugged me. I couldn’t talk. I thought to myself, did I let him down? Why me? What did I do wrong? The following weeks were some of the hardest of my life. I was very upset. I didn’t understand why I had to go through this. I dreamed about becoming pregnant for a while and imagined it to be so wonderful, but my dream just became a nightmare.

People didn’t really know what to say to me. Some people avoided it, some people said it wasn’t meant to be, some people said they were sorry and left it at that. I took a 2 weeks off of work… still awaiting my D&C. I was definitely in 7 stages of grieving and there was a clear sense of denial even after seeing 2 ultrasounds that clearly showed a non viable pregnancy. I thought maybe my tilted uterus is hiding the baby.

The morning of the D&C was emotional for me. I went through the procedure and woke up feeling empty and alone, even though I had a nurse there. I went home and slept all day. I woke up the next morning and wanted to start getting through this. I went through days of hopefulness, days of anger, bitterness and jealousy. I had a sadness that no one understood and a want for my baby that was so strong. I swear I saw a pregnant women everywhere I went- reminding me of what I wasn’t capable of. The world around me was pregnant and I was just living in it. My Mom kept reminding me that I would be a Mom someday, but there was a worry deep in the pit of my stomach that it wouldn’t happen. I didn’t want to go out because I knew that I would keep seeing things would remind me of my losses. At times I would just lay in my bed crying. My Mom and I came up with the name Stella for her. I wanted to start trying again after one cycle, and that is what we did. I didn’t think I would get pregnant again right away and to be honest I was still scared.

I woke up on a Saturday morning in May and I just felt like I was pregnant. I thought that was silly because I would have only been 3 weeks 3 days. I tested anyways. I got out a pregnancy test and nervously took it. I saw a faint but visible line! I started smiling, could it be? I got on my knees and thanked God. I felt so blessed, I felt like I was given another chance to have a sweet, beautiful baby. I rubbed my non existent belly/ baby bump and said” Thank you for picking me as your Mommy, I love you so much already”. I wanted to get creative on how to tell my husband because the first two times I just told him. I got a onesie and ironed on I love my dad in Bosnian (my husbands first language), along with the positive test. He was shocked and also informed me I spelled it wrong. I went right away for an HCG and Progesterone test. I had a good feeling, I tried to stay positive. My Dr’s nurse called me and said that the HCG was rising  now like it should and but my Progesterone was low. My heart sunk, and I asked if there was anything I could do. She said she called in Progesterone and to pick it up right away and take it. I took the rest of the day off, called my mom and rushed to the pharmacy. In my mind I thought that this couldn’t happen again. I was so scared.

I went to my Mom’s house and there was a lot of crying and hugging. I hadn’t even lost the baby yet nor did I know if I was going to lose it, but somehow I felt defeated. I even thought stupid things like well maybe I’m not meant to be a Mom. My Brother very quickly reminded me that I have so much love to give to a baby and that I was born to be a mommy to either my own biological baby or adopted baby. I had HCG tests every 2 days. The doctor was cautiously optimistic. My levels were still rising but not doubling every 2-3 days. At 6.5 weeks I got a miracle phone call. My levels doubled in 2 days. Finally the news I was desperate to hear! I cried tears of joy. We scheduled an ultrasound for the next week.

I went to my ultrasound appointment and we didn’t see anything but my doctor said it was probably too early. He saw a “hotspot” meaning that’s where the baby implanted and was growing, it was just too early to see the baby’s heartbeat. I felt calm and I knew the next ultrasound we would see the baby.

Three days later, my life changed again. I started bleeding. I stayed calm and told myself that I was okay because I wasn’t cramping. That night I passed a small clot and stayed in bed all day and the next days to come. A few days later I passed a large clot and I just knew that I would be miscarrying again. I started cramping and my world was shattered again. I went to the ER and passed a lot of blood. I had full on contractions. I tried to be at peace. I talked to my baby I named Anthony as I was miscarrying, and it helped me. I felt so broken, so useless. My body wasn’t capable of carrying a baby. I wondered how people would perceive it. Once again “why me” kept popping up in my head. I knew I had to do something to figure out why I kept losing my babies. I did a lot of research and finally went to a reproductive endocrinologist.

She was wonderful and helped us figure out the issue: low Progesterone, short luteal phase and MTHFR mutation. We started Clomid and got pregnant immediately. I was so happy but still rightfully scared. Our first ultrasound was set for 6 weeks. We waited for the tech and my heart was racing. She said how many babies do you think there are and I said I thought we were having twins. She turned the machine on and looked around and I could see it! Two sacs. Then she showed us something that would change my life. There were heartbeats! Two healthy, perfect little babies. My dreams had come true.

twins

I had a pretty uneventful wonderful pregnancy. I was very positive and didn’t see the aches and pains as a bad thing as I felt so blessed! We were beyond excited when we found out they were girls. We had a big gender reveal party and everyone was so happy. It seems every milestone we got to kept happening quicker and quicker. The biggest was making it to 30 weeks. That was one I was really happy about.

Maternity Shoot

At 32 weeks there was protein in my urine and I had elevated blood pressure, so my doctor wanted to monitor me twice a week. My labs and 24 hour urine test stayed pretty moderate and weren’t too concerning yet.

One morning at 34 weeks 2 days I woke up with severe upper abdominal pain that I tried to ease with a bath and laying down but I couldn’t move or breathe without it hurting. I decided to go to labor and delivery to be checked out. I arrived and my blood pressure was high. They consulted with my doctor and did labs. I was diagnosed with pre eclampsia. My doctor came to talk to me about my options because he was concerned if he sent me home I would end up back in labor and delivery that week and the few extra days of development wouldn’t really be a make or break in the health of the babies compared to the risk of the pre eclampsia. He checked my cervix and I was 2.5 cm and 50% effaced. He felt that it was in everyone’s best interest to induce me.

Gown

I called my husband and told him that I was being induced that day and he needed to go home to get some stuff and meet me at the hospital. I’m sure he was feeling a ton of emotions.  The nurse gave me an IV with fluids and gave me some apple sauce and cereal as my last meal before I was given Pitocin.

My husband arrived and it was go time! At 4:45pm the nurse gave me my first taste of Pitocin. My mom arrived and I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I didn’t really feel much pain or the contractions at that point. I was riding on adrenaline and it took a while to feel contractions. At 6:30pm my doctor came back to check me and I had progressed to 3.5 cm, but he unexpectedly broke my water. I’m actually glad I wasn’t warned of it because I probably would have tensed up in anticipation. That was when the fun started!

labor

I started getting stronger contractions. My mom and husband rotated giving me back rubs since I was having pretty bad back labor. I didn’t make much progress by 9pm. I felt discouraged as my contractions were bad enough that I though I would have progressed more. I was in pain and wanted an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It didn’t hurt and I felt relaxed immediately.

I was checked at 11:30 PM and I was 4cm. We decided to change my position and use a peanut ball between my legs. I will tell anyone wanting to have a vaginal birth to use the peanut ball! Only an hour later at 12:30 AM I got uncomfortable, partly because my epidural was wearing off- I called my nurse in. I wanted to switch positions as well as tell her I had the feeling I needed to go to the bathroom. She decided to check me and I was 9.5 cm. When she said that I was completely shocked! How did I go from 4cm to 9.5cm in an hour? My husband was sleeping on the couch and I called his name to wake him up, I said 9.5! He said what? I said 9.5 centimetres. He got up quickly and didn’t know what to do.

Meanwhile the nurse wouldn’t leave since the babies head was right there.  She called my doctor. My husband had the pleasure of holding my right leg up as the nurse took my left and on my next contraction I had my first experience with pushing. My nurse was surprised at how good I was at it because after two practice pushes she said stop. If I kept going she would be delivering Arijana. My husband got scrubbed up since I was delivering in the OR. It was very interesting to have contractions and not push. I had to breath through them and focus on keeping her in.

My doctor got there and they wheeled me into the OR where they deliver twins in case of the possibility of an emergency cesarean. I lifted myself up and moved to the bed and all the nurses were wondering how I could feel my legs to do that. I told them the epidural wore off and I was completely mobile. I remember music being on and while they were setting up and I thought it was funny the song We Will Rock You was on. I guess it was a good song to give me some energy to do this.

My doctor was ready and it was go time. On my next contraction I pushed twice and Arijana was out at 1:36 am. I was teary eyed and in awe of my sweet baby I just gave birth to.

Arijana

They did a quick ultrasound to see where Isabella was positioned, and she was still breech and very high up. He said he wouldn’t be able to turn her. I thought that meant he would have to do a c-section. As I thought this, I hear him say, “So that means were gonna deliver her breech.” He broke Isabella’s water. Having a baby breech was a totally different feeling. I felt her legs were out and with 2 pushes I pushed her head out and she was here at 1:41 am. The song Yesterday by the Beatles was on when I gave birth to Isabella.

I laid there shocked. I just gave birth vaginally to two babies with pre-eclampsia and one baby was breech. I felt like a total rockstar!

Isabella

Seeing Arijana for the first time was amazing. I got to look at her and talk to her for a few minutes before I gave birth to Isabella.

Snuggle

I was able to see them a few minutes before they took them to the NICU as a precaution to monitor them to see if they needed to stay longer. I got wheeled back into the labor room where my mom was and she was shocked at how fast it happened. She was proud of me and so happy I got to have the girls the way I wanted. I told my husband to go with the babies. My Mom and I cried at the pictures my husband was sending me. I so badly wanted to be with them and that was hard.

An hour later I was finally able to go to my postpartum room and the NICU to see the girls. I immediately breastfed Isabella and she latched on amazingly! I had a picture perfect delivery with active labor only lasting 4 hours. I am so lucky and fortunate it went so well and the girls are healthy. Arijana weighed 4lbs 10oz and Isabella weighed 4lbs 3oz. They needed to stay in the NICU for 18 days and it was very hard to leave them, but they’re now home with us and although I’m barely getting any sleep, my heart is so full with these two beautiful & amazing daughters of ours. I can’t wait to watch them grow.

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The Birth of Sicily Rose {Postpartum Hemorrhage, Vanishing Twin Syndrome}

The Birth of Sicily Rose {Postpartum Hemorrhage, Vanishing Twin Syndrome}

Had it not been for your blog and all the  amazing women behind the stories you share, I might not of had the courage to go through what I endured. But, looking back now, I made and I’m a stronger mother and women for it.

This past February, we welcomed our second daughter, Sicily Rose to the world. I didn’t know it at the time of writing her birth story, but we found out a short time later that she was a twin. In my blog post, I write about hemorrhaging during our home birth, but I didn’t find out until I was 4 weeks postpartum it was because her twin was left inside of me. I hemorrhaged again at 4 weeks postpartum and almost lost my life. After being rushed by ambulance, getting a D&C, and a blood transfusion, we learned that our princess wasn’t alone in my womb.

(Side note, we thought our daughter was a twin at the beginning due to finding out about the pregnancy very early on and suffering from HG. I bled at 6 weeks pregnant and went into the emergency room. We again suspected twins when my HCG levels were off the charts but that was not confirmed nor denied by the hospital. During my D&C, they removed a 6 cm piece of placenta that was firmly attached to my womb. It was an entirely separate placenta from my daughters because I encapsulated her placenta. In the lab write up, we learned it was a vanishing twin. Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs in 1 in 10 pregnancies on average. He or she may have “vanished from my womb”, but my baby has never vanished from my heart after learning about him or her.)

In my post, I write about dilating to a 10 twice. I dilated all the way to a 10 one week before our baby girl actually decided to arrive. And looking back now, I find it kind of symbolic. It was as if I was birthing the twin I would never hold or meet.

So in honor of our babies here is the birth story of Sicily Rose:

The Birth of Sicily Rose

Our Sicily Rose has finally arrived! She was indecisive about coming at first, but when she was ready, she was READY! On Sunday February 9th, we planned a birthday party for our Audrey Girl. She just turned 3 on the 7th so we all went to Dave and Buster’s to eat lunch and play some games. I had contractions start up that morning at about 10 am. By 11:30, we were at the party eating lunch and they were still coming on pretty strong. I couldn’t eat a whole lot, because they just kept growing in intensity. Christian and I decided to leave the party and head for home because it was snowing pretty hard and we didn’t know how fast I was progressing. Nana stayed behind so our Audrey Girl could finish up her games.

I called my midwife about 5 pm and just let her know I had been contracting all afternoon, they weren’t letting up, and that I felt like today was the day. She asked Christian to check my purple line for dilation, so she could get an estimate at how far along I was. (If you don’t know the purple line trick…Google it.)

We guessed I was about 5-6 cm dilated, so I told my midwife to just hold off on coming for right now. I kept contracting, tried to eat some good protein so I would be ready for what was to come, but I felt too nauseated and what I ate did not stay down. I called my midwife about 8 and gave her the green light to head this way. She got here and checked my dilation. She said I was at an 8. She listened to Sicily’s heartbeat and I went ahead and got in the birthing pool. My contractions weren’t horrible, but the water helped ease any discomfort that I had.

After an hour and a half, I got out of the water. My midwife wanted to see where I was with dilation. I was finally at a 10. I decided to rock on the birthing ball for a while to see if I could persuade Sicily to burrow down. She was right at the edge, to the point where I could feel her head, but she was getting hung up on my pubic bone on the right side. I did some stretching and then began feeling overwhelmed. 10pm turned into 3am and still nothing. My Midwife, Sarah, suggested I lay down and rest so when it was time to push, I would have the energy to do so.

I slept until 5am and woke up to find my contractions had died down. I got up and decided to just walk, walk, walk. I did circles in our living room around the birthing pool. Sarah told me I should eat something, so I had my mom cut up some deer sausage and I ate that. It was so good in that moment. I remember that being all I wanted to eat.

I was so flustered at this point, because I had been contracting and had progressed all the way to a 10 and then nothing. The contractions just stopped. The walking didn’t stir them back up again. I was so tired. At 7am, I found a pillow and laid down on the living room floor. Christian slept on couch beside me. At 8am on February 10th, I could hear Sarah tell Christian to get me into bed, so I could sleep more comfortably and that she was going to head home to do the same. She said she would come back over later to check on us.

I was so bummed. Here I thought “this is it”, made it all the way to 10cm, and then nothing. Everything just stopped. I slept a little while but when I woke up, all I could do was cry. My baby was supposed to be in my arms by now. Christian worked until noon that day and then came home to help comfort me. He called Sarah and had her come back over to talk with me. She came right over without hesitation and suggested I see our chiropractor. She thought that would help Sicily get in the right position and not get hung up on my pubic bone anymore. It was worth a shot to me, so off we went. I was glad I did because it really helped me settle down and relax.

After my adjustment, we went home and I fell back asleep. My mom took Audrey home with her so I could have a few day to myself to recuperate and see how things progressed. I woke up Tuesday morning to my phone ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted to know “is she here yet?” It was so hard for me. I think I cried most of that morning. Christian came home from work and told me to get dress because we were going out. He surprised me with dinner at BeerKitchen…my favorite place to eat chicken and waffles and then we rented Bad Grandpa from Redbox. It’s been a long time since I laughed that hard and it was a treat to get a last minute date night with him before we became a family of 4.

Audrey came back home Thursday night. I was more than ready to have my big girl in my arms. Nothing beats snuggles from your child when you’ve had a rough day…or week. Friday I went back to the chiropractor for another adjustment. She suggested acupuncture and I was all for it. I didn’t get anxious and told myself whatever happens…happens. Saturday was spent relaxing at home. I was tired and indulged in a nap or two. Sunday, Christian did some painting around the house, so I decided to get out and get a pedicure with my BFF, Mallory. I thoroughly enjoyed some much needed girl time. Little did I know, this would be our last day as a family of 3…

Monday morning I woke up about 4:45. I had the urge to pee but I didn’t want to get out of my nice and warm bed. I laid there for a few minutes, then I felt this wet, warm sensation. I didn’t know if I had just peed myself or if my water had finally broke. I got up, pants soaking wet, and went to the bathroom. Sarah told me that if I was ever unsure to just smell it. A broken water bag doesn’t have a smell, but urine does. Mine didn’t have a smell and I was able to then go pee so we were all good. 🙂

I changed my clothes and Christian rolled over to see why I was up making so much noise. “I’m pretty sure my water just broke,” I told him. I wasn’t having contractions at this point, so I got on my phone and googled to see how long I could possibly be waiting for my labor to really start….it said up to 3 days so after all I had just went through, I was expecting the worst. I texted Sarah around 5am and told her my water broke. Since my contractions hadn’t started up yet, we decided there was no need for her to come over. I texted our birth photographer, Rachel to give her a heads up too and then I laid back down.

By 6:00am, the contractions were coming. Christian got up and decided to make me some eggs so I could eat, set up the birthing pool, and see how things progressed. He brought my plate into our bedroom to me where I was standing over our bed rocking through the contractions. They were coming fast and strong. As much as I wanted to eat, I just couldn’t. The contractions were getting intense and I wanted to get in the water so bad. My birth pool wasn’t filled up all the way just yet so I went into the bathroom and kneeled by the bath tub. I had to tell myself to just keep breathing through it.

At this point, I knew this was the real deal and Sicily would probably be here sometime today. I told Christian to call Sarah and Rachel and tell them to get here now. I had called my mom when my water broke and I knew she would already be on her way. Sarah got here around 6:45am and just as soon as she listened to Sicily’s heart rate, I was in the birth pool. The warm water felt good and the contractions kept coming about 2-3 minutes apart. My mom got here soon after. She sat next to the pool on our chaise lounge and asked me what I needed her to do. At this point, there was nothing no one could do for me. It was just me and Sicily…working in sync with each other and trusting each other.

Sarah’s birth assistant walked in as I was laboring in the pool and I could vaguely hear Sarah tell her to get her gloves on and get ready because things were about to go fast. I smiled to myself when I heard this because that meant “this was it”…our girl would be in our arms today!

Rachel got here and then things went fast. I didn’t say a word to anyone as they arrived. I just kept breathing and focusing through the contractions. I remember thinking to myself, “When is it going to really hurt?” This pain was bareable to me. It was a good pain, because I knew in the end I would have my baby to hold. (Kidney stones hurt worse than child labor incase you wanted to know. I would birth 10 babies in a row before I would ever deal with another kidney stone.)

Audrey woke up and went to sit with Nana on the chaise lounge. She really impressed me that morning. She was so calm and spoke softly. She just laid in Nana’s lap and they watched me together. Christian came to the edge of the pool and held my arms as I sat in a squat in the water. I wanted him there. Right there holding me up. He was so cute. He kept giving me encouragement and telling me how strong I was. Sarah helped me remember to keep breathing. “The ring of fire” was felt just as Sicily was crowning and I knew we were getting close.

Sarah got behind me and put a mirror in the water to see where she was at. Feeling her head crown hurt. I was in the moment, I needed to bite something and Christian’s arm was there. He pulled back just as I realized what I was doing so I grabbed a towel and bit it instead. Just then, the ring of fire was over and out came her little head.

Sarah and Christian helped me lay back so I could push her the rest of the way out. I wasn’t in pain anymore. I was just breathing trying to muster up enough energy to get my girl here. Sarah’s assistant said, “it’s been two minutes. We need to move things along.” And just then I pushed and out into the water came our girl. I picked her up and brought her to my chest. She had inhaled a little bit of water and she wasn’t crying. Sarah told us to just keep talking to her as she patted her on her back. It worked because she let out the cutest little squeak. No crying. Just completely content laying on her mama’s chest in the water. All I could do is stare at her in awe and say, “I did it….I did it.”

Our story doesn’t end there, but how I wish it did. I wish I could tell you that I laid there in the birth pool holding my sweet girl and the rest of the day was just spent snuggling my little family of 4.

I felt the urge to push again and I knew it was my placenta coming. Sicily was still attached to her cord at this point and laying on my chest in the water. I told Sarah I needed to push and I did. Blood just shot out. The pool turned pitch black. Sarah, her assistant, and Christian helped lift me out of the pool and onto some towels on the floor. I remember Sarah sternly telling me, “Stop bleeding. You have got to stop bleeding.” And Christian told my mom to take Audrey into the other room.

Everything was happening so fast. I glanced down at Sicily still laying on my chest as I felt my placenta escape from me. The blood still flowing out much faster than it should have. I don’t really remember how but my birth team managed to get into our bed. Sarah examined me and said I had 2nd degree tearing in 3 different places. I was so glad I birthed in the water, because I can’t imagine how it would have felt if I didn’t.

My bleeding still hadn’t subsided. I was soaking the blue puppy pad looking sheets every few minutes. Sarah felt my uterus as we tried to get Sicily to latch on to eat. She examined my placenta that Sicily was still attached to, to make sure there wasn’t any leftover in my uterus. There wasn’t, thank God.

My options were running out, so Sarah did the last thing she could think of to stop my bleeding. She cut a piece of my placenta and told me to put it in my cheek and suck on it. I didn’t care. I would do anything at this point. I just wanted my bleeding to stop. I did not want to be rushed to the hospital. Christian turned white as a ghost. I’ve never seen him look so scared in all my life. The way he looked at me was terrifying. I asked him to leave the room and get himself something to eat.

Sarah’s little trick worked. My bleeding stopped and she was able to stitch me up. Her assistant fed me eggs and juice and mothers milk tea as Sicily laid on my chest still attached to the placenta. I kept trying to go to sleep but Sarah wouldn’t let me. She was afraid I would go unconscious and no one would know. Every time they moved me I started to faint. Christian came back in and helped feed me. Sicily latched on and Sarah gave us the green light to just snuggle skin to skin as we had been. Christian cut the cord and Sarah kept my placenta to encapsulate it. Another hour or two went by and Sarah continued to monitor me. She went over her concerns with Christian and came back in to tell me goodbye. She said she’d be back over later that evening to check on us again.

I spent the rest of the day laid up in bed snuggling with my babies. I was asked later if I regretted doing a homebirth because of the bleeding episode…I absolutely do not. I am glad I had a homebirth. If that had happened to me in the hospital, things would have gone a lot differently. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience….and “I did it!”.

Birth of Sicily Birth of Sicily 2

Our birth photographer, Rachel was amazing. I can’t tell you what these images mean to me. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to have her there to capture these moments. I highly recommend Tripp Over Love Photography.
www.photosbyrtripp.com

I Am Strong – Cesarean Birth After Neonatal Loss

I Am Strong – Cesarean Birth After Neonatal Loss

*trigger warning*

I am strong because in April of 2012, I gave birth to a precious baby girl named Evelyn, prematurely at 24 weeks due to incompetent cervix, premature labor, and infection.

I am strong because I endured a frightening classical c-section 4 hours after entering the hospital with a smile on my face, knowing it was the best chance my baby had to survive.

I am strong because I was told I will never have a future vaginal birth due to my vertical incision, and I would never be allowed to go into labor for fear of rupturing my uterus.

I am strong because I spent every single night in the NICU watching my tiny 1 pound 5 ounce, 11.75 inch long daughter through a plastic window, unable to hold her.

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I am strong because I pumped breast milk for her every 3 hours.

I am strong because at 5 weeks and 3 days old my little girl developed an infection called NEC, and within hours of its discovery, it took her life.

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I am strong because I held her for the first and only time as she was passing away.

I am strong because throughout the most horrifying time of my life I was able to plan a beautiful funeral for my baby, something no mother should ever have to do.

I am strong because 4 weeks after she died, I donated all of my pumped breast milk, roughly 600 ounces, to a milk bank  to help babies like her.

I am strong because 1 year and 9 months later I discovered that I was again pregnant, I was elated.

I am strong because I was considered high risk and went to many, many extra appointments.

I am strong because at 13 weeks and 5 days I went into the hospital to have a preventative cerclage placed in the hopes of getting me to full term.

I am strong because I was placed on modified bed rest for over a month, but I took it upon myself to continue bed rest as much as I could throughout the entire pregnancy.

I am strong because I was given weekly progesterone shots.

I am strong because despite the constant fear of losing another baby I decorated a beautiful nursery for our second daughter.

I am strong because at 6 months I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

I am strong because I gave up all of my favorite foods, took medication, and drew blood up to 5 times a day to control it.

I am strong because I held my breath during more than 21 ultrasounds, expecting to hear the worst each time.

I am strong because at 37 weeks to the day, 3 days after my cerclage was removed,  I began having contractions that eventually were 2-4 minutes apart.

I am strong because I finally realized they were not Braxton Hicks and had my husband drive me to the hospital.

I am strong because I was given 4 pills of Procardia to help relax my uterus, but the contractions continued to get more intense.

I am strong because after 3 or so hours of contracting in the hospital I was told I would be having my cesarean that night.

I am strong because at 8:08pm, just one minute later than my first daughter’s birth, my second beautiful girl, Emily, came screaming into the world at 6 pounds 5 ounces and 19 inches long.

I am strong because during her birth my doctor discovered that my previous incision scar was thinning, and had I not gotten to the hospital when I did it would have eventually ruptured, and endangered both of our lives.

I am strong because I heard over the curtain the doctors exclaim that Emily had a true knot in her umbilical cord and her cord was wrapped around her neck, but thankfully neither affected her health.

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I am strong because my baby had to spend 5 days in the NICU, due to being slightly premature and having jaundice, a place I thought I would never have to visit again.

I am strong because I was finally able to bring our baby home from the hospital.

I am strong because I have two beautiful girls, one on Earth and one in my heart, to motivate me to be the absolute best mother that I can be.

From Katariina Shoemaker

Completing Our Family Part II {A Story of Loss and Hope}

Completing Our Family Part II {A Story of Loss and Hope}

Today, we continue a story shared with us by Vanessa from Michigan. Despite many challenges and deep loss, she knew she wanted to carry more children. This is the story of her journey to complete her family.

Read Part I
Read Part III

“We found out just shy of 16 weeks that we were expecting a rainbow baby girl and from many ultrasounds she appeared strong and healthy. That was amazing news. At 22 weeks I was placed on blood pressure medicine as my blood pressure was getting quite elevated. My appointments became more frequent and I had many ultrasounds to track our daughter’s health. At 32 weeks we learned that our daughter had IUGR (intra-uterine growth restriction) and was measuring weeks behind. She also had low fluid and poor blood flow through the cord. My blood pressure was rising more as well. That is when we started my twice weekly NSTs and once weekly biophysical profile ultrasounds to watch her.

Despite everything, our daughter, whom we had named Eva {means giver of life}, was strong and doing well. At 35 weeks her rate of growth had slowed down to under the 10th percentile and I had protein in my urine. I was sent home on bed rest for the weekend. The next week I was admitted due to dangerously low fluid, preeclampsia and IUGR. After yet another scary induction where her heart rate kept dropping and required an amnioinfusion, Eva was born after only one push and weighed in at 4 lbs 8 oz and 17.5 inches of pure perfection. She was born at 36 weeks and three days’ gestation. She required no help with anything, was amazing at breastfeeding and was discharged with me at two days old. She was our miracle peanut baby girl. We felt so blessed.

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After the birth of our daughter in September 2011 (shown at age three in the photo below) my family urged me to be done. They worried about my health both physically and mentally if I were to get pregnant again. We sold everything because after a miscarriage and two complicated pregnancies and deliveries and now a preemie, other people thought we should be done. After a lot of soul searching, I knew that I was not done. I knew in my heart that God had plans for another baby to bless our family. So with our families’ support my husband and I embarked on the journey to finish our family. When our daughter was 17 months old we learned we were pregnant again.

This baby, like our second, was called home to God but at 6 weeks instead of 14 weeks. Again, I was devastated but also knew that after a loss would come a rainbow. We waited 6 months to try again this time because I wanted to give my body a little bit of a break.

Eva turned 3

In late August of 2013 we were elated to find out that we were indeed pregnant again. Once again, I was monitored closely by my doctor at maternal fetal medicine. He was such an amazing doctor. My blood pressure, as in every other pregnancy, was an issue again. I was put on meds just shy of eight weeks this time to control it. I also had a subchorionic hematoma that did resolve itself and spotting throughout my pregnancy.

At my 15 week appointment we had difficulty finding the heartbeat so I was sent for an ultrasound. We learned that this rainbow baby would be a boy and were so excited! We named him Lincoln. At 22 weeks I had protein in my urine and was evaluated for preeclampsia and luckily I did not have it. Shortly thereafter at 26 weeks we learned that, like his big sister, this baby was beginning to measure small. At almost 32 weeks he definitely had IUGR.

He was estimated at only 2 lbs 9 oz at that point. Then started my twice weekly NSTs and once weekly biophysical profiles again to watch over our sweet boy. His fluid was also lower but we did not seem to have the blood flow issue this time around. I had always dreamed of a water birth where I would go into labor naturally but that didn’t appear to be in the cards for me. On Monday March 31st I had a scheduled growth ultrasound and biophysical profile ultrasound with our doctor. We had known that Lincoln was measuring small since 26 weeks and that he was diagnosed with IUGR. We knew at that point there was a chance we would be induced early, possibly at my next growth scan.”

Professional photo by Tera Ward Photography of Michigan.

Completing Our Family, Part I {A Story of Loss and Hope}

Completing Our Family, Part I {A Story of Loss and Hope}

Vanessa from Michigan wrote us the incredible story of her journey to complete her family. Her story is a story of loss and grief, but also hope and persistence. It’s about illness and premature birth, but also survival – and most importantly, about the strength of a loving family.

Image1b whole family

We will share this story in three parts – the first today and the next two in the coming days.

Read Part II
Read Part III

“Our first child, a boy we named Jackson, was born in January of 2010. The pregnancy was complicated as I began having blood pressure issues at 24 weeks. I was put on bed rest at 28 weeks and was in and out of the hospital from 35 weeks on. My pregnancy-induced hypertension turned to full blown preeclampsia and after two failed inductions our son was finally born after being induced a third time. He was born not breathing due to the cord being wrapped around his neck twice and tightly.* It had to be cut before he was even out. I was very sick and was on the mag drip to try and control my blood pressure and an infection was starting. The birth trauma caused breastfeeding issues and a longer hospital stay but he was a fighter and we made it through that. He was an amazingly sweet baby so we decided later that same year to give him a sibling. Being an only child, I knew I wanted a bigger family.

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We found out we were pregnant in September of 2010. This time I saw practitioners in maternal fetal medicine because of my pregnancy history. When they did an early ultrasound they saw that the baby was measuring three weeks behind but with a heartbeat. They assured me I must have had my dates off but I knew I didn’t. I prayed a lot and the pregnancy continued – or so it seemed. When I would have been 14 weeks we did another ultrasound because we could not find a heartbeat by doppler and we learned our sweet baby had passed away. I was crushed.

This was in December before Christmas. Since it was a missed miscarriage my doctor suggested a D&C. I had that done which was emotionally difficult and I returned home to be with my husband and son. The next day I fell sick. I went back into the doctor to find out that an infection had started because there was retained placenta. I was admitted and given drugs to help me pass the remainder. They failed so a second D&C was needed. This time it was complete and after a three-day hospital stay I was discharged. I felt defeated and like I did something wrong.

Testing was done since they were not sure if my body was to blame for the loss or not. The results showed that we had lost a baby boy with a very rare chromosomal abnormality called Triploidy. They assured us it shouldn’t happen again and advised we wait a few cycles before we tried again.

After lots of praying and feeling a strong urge to just let nature take its course we actually found out in January of 2011 on our son’s first birthday that we were expecting again. Again, I was monitored closely by maternal fetal medicine. At eight weeks along my mother and best friend was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent lifesaving surgery to remove the tumor from her lung. Thank God that the beginning of my pregnancy was uncomplicated since I was so scared for my mother. Every day I hoped and prayed that she would survive and that my unborn baby would too.”

*Click for an informative article about nuchal cords (the cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck).

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