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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!

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My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth After VBAC

My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth After VBAC

The birth of my second child was shared on your blog several years ago: Long Labor Ends with Beautiful HBAC. With my home birth I really wanted to inspire other women. I wanted to show them that they are capable of having the birth that they want. This time around, I think it’s important to share that sometimes the birth you want ISN’T the birth you get – and that’s okay too. Here’s my story that talks about when VBAC doesn’t happen…

The birth of my sweet Kelsie.

Every labor is different.

How many times have I heard that sentence? How many times have I said that sentence? I thought that I understood that as well as anybody. My first two children had completely opposite births. My son was born at 36 weeks via emergency C-section and my daughter was born at almost 42 weeks, at home, after 35 hours of drug-free labor. Because of these completely different experiences, I really thought that no matter how Kelsie’s labor and birth went I would be pretty prepared.

I wasn’t.

My water broke at 4:30am on June 15th, 2015. I was 41+1 weeks pregnant. I woke up to a small gush and quickly ran to the restroom. Broken water – Check. Bloody show – Check. YES!!! It’s baby time! My water has never broken at the start of labor before, but I had dozens of dreams that it would this time around, so I really wasn’t too surprised. I went and woke up Eric and let him know that my water broke and we would be having a baby either that day or the next. I knew that it could be several hours before contractions kicked in, so I kissed my hubby, told him to let his work know that he wouldn’t be in that day and advised him that we should both try and get a bit more rest since we would probably need our energy later that day.

About a half hour later I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to make some coffee. Eric joined me and we had a light breakfast, played some cribbage, and talked about what we thought our labor would be like and how excited we were to finally meet our newest daughter. A couple hours later my two kiddos and my parents (who flew out to stay with the big kids while we were in the hospital) got up and I told everyone that I was officially in early labor. We decided to try and get the contractions started by going to Ikea to eat some breakfast and to walk the entire store. We spent over an hour and a half walking around. We left Ikea and decided to take a drive by the hospital to show my parents how to get there later. We also wanted to show them how close the hospital was to the beach, an awesome park where they could play with the kids if they needed to burn some energy, and most importantly, the closest coffee shop.

We went back to the house after and I decided to rest. A little bit later I decided to try the breast pump to see if I could get contractions going. Afterwards, my hubby and I went to a park and walked close to a mile as quickly as I was able to (which isn’t saying much). My water had now been broken for almost 12 hours. I started to get really emotional and frustrated. I decided that I must have been imagining what had happened that morning. I called my doctor, Dr. C, to give him an update and after going over our options in lengthy detail Eric and I decided to go in to the hospital to get confirmation that my water had broken.

We took our time getting our bags together and made sure to give the big kids extra hugs and kisses. I cried off and on the entire way to the hospital. I told Eric that my two best case outcomes would be that either my water had in fact broken and I wasn’t losing my mind, and even though the contractions I was having weren’t super uncomfortable I would somehow still be dilated to 6cm OR that I had completely misread the situation and my water had NOT broken.

Then we could just go home and come back a few days later to have a baby. We got checked into the hospital and were taken to our room. I got changed into the hospital gown and went and sat on the bed; my husband said I looked so scared and anxious that he decided to build my confidence by dancing for me like Ray Lewis (you can see it here…). My goofy husband was able to make me smile but I was definitely not feeling any more relaxed.

Not long after we arrived it was confirmed that my water had broken. A bit later Dr. C came in and checked me. I was dilated to 2 to 3cm on the bottom, but my cervix was still very posterior and almost cone shaped, meaning it was still closed pretty tight at the top – not at all what I had hoped for. Because I am a VBAC, we were told that we would be staying put, but that we would not be on any clock – meaning that even if my water was broken for over 24 hours as long as the baby and I were doing well we would be able to continue labor as long as we needed to. This was not at all our original plan, as we had hoped to labor at home as long as possible and only go in to the hospital once, in my doctor’s words, there was a “baby coming out of my vagina.” However, I knew there was nothing I could do about that now. Dr. C told me I needed to have a good cry about it and then I needed to get out of bed and see what I could do to get this baby coming.

So I did. I sat there and cried, trying to understand why my body didn’t want to start the process that would bring my baby into my arms. I sent Eric out to the car to grab our bags and tried to focus on the few positive things that came with being at the hospital so early. We had plenty of time to set up our music and oil diffuser and for me to spend a few minutes playing birth photographer for my own labor. I changed into the labor gown that I made and called my parents to bring my kids over for a visit. I really just wanted to hug and kiss them and needed a bit of a distraction. My family showed up soon after and I snuggled my babies and my oldest read me a bed time story.

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After they left, we called in my doula. I paced the room back and forth as far as the monitors I was hooked on to would allow. I paced and paced and paced and began to feel increasingly like a caged animal. I was so frustrated having to be attached to those stupid monitors and not feeling like I was really being given a chance to get things going. My wonderful nurse Lisa came in around this time and reminded me that no one could make me do anything that I didn’t want to do. She had to have some record of monitoring, but that if I refused there was nothing they could do. So I did. I said I needed to use the restroom for a long time and removed the monitors so that I could have at least a half hour of freedom to move about the room. I walked some more and spent some time on the birth ball. A little after 10, I got back on the monitors to try and give my poor nurse some more readings. She had been so kind to me and I didn’t want to put her in a bad position.

A few minutes later my wonderful doula Crystal arrived. She was quick to offer help in any way that I needed. She rubbed my back and shoulders and feet and prayed for me. She whispered words of encouragement and when I wanted to try and sleep she sat beside me and held that stupid monitor in place since my little lady inside insisted on kicking it off.

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Now I know that during the next several hours I had another visit from Dr. C, I cried and felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster going from completely defeated, to motivated, to crushed, to relaxed. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. We were coming up on 22 hours since my water had broken and I had slept less than ten minutes. Around 2:30 in the morning, the nurses moved me and my crew into a different room with wireless monitors. YES! But they didn’t work. NO! So we continued pacing as far as they would allow me and bouncing on the birth ball. And many times I crawled into bed hoping that rest would bring something on. My doula kept offering things that we could try. Some of them I did, others I looked at her like she was crazy.

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This pattern continued for the rest of the night and well into the morning. My big fears at this point weren’t only what would happen if my body never went into labor, but also what would happen if it did? I had been awake for going on 30 hours and I could barely put together full sentences. How was I going to push through a labor?

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I was anxious for Dr. C to come in for a visit. I really wanted a check to see if anything we had tried throughout the night had helped. He arrived a bit after 9:00am. It had been 15 hours since my last check. I tried so hard to remain hopeful, but as soon as the check started I knew.

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Before he even had the chance to say anything I looked at Eric and Crystal, shook my head no and let the tears fall. There was no change.

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No. Change. At. All.

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My heart broke. Off and on throughout the night I had thought, talked, and prayed about what to do if there was still no change the next day. I didn’t feel like I had it in me to keep going. Dr. C sat down and we started to talk about options. As far as he was concerned I had several. First, everyone looked good so I was free to continue laboring as long as I wanted. Second, we could start to talk about other ways to get this baby out. Third, I could take off the monitors, go to sleep and not decide anything at all. I had already shared with Eric and Crystal what I was thinking. I feel so strongly that babies know how to be born and I know for a fact that my body is strong and capable of birthing a baby – so in my heart I felt that if Kelsie wasn’t coming there was a reason for it. I didn’t want to make this decision based solely on exhaustion or fear so Eric and I asked Dr. C a bunch of questions and then agreed that we would all just take a break before we made any decisions.

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Dr. C left, saying that he was hoping that rest was all I needed and he hoped I woke up in active labor. I no longer felt as hopeful. Crystal left shortly after to get some rest and to allow Eric and I some time together. While Eric and I were alone I was able to be completely vulnerable and vent out everything that I was thinking and feeling. I told him that I was leaning towards a gentle cesarean, but I needed to know that he wouldn’t be disappointed in me. He hugged me close, kissed me lots and told me that no matter what choice I made he knew I was making it for the right reasons. He reminded me that I was strong and that I was a wonderful Mom just trying to take care of our baby. He told me that he was proud of me.

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He laid down to get a much deserved nap, while I laid in bed, finally free from the dreaded monitors. I tried to sleep, but wasn’t able to. I don’t think I could possibly put into words how much I battled with myself during this time. I tried to rest, but when I wasn’t able to I decided to call my munchkins and make sure that they each knew how much I loved them. Hearing their sweet voices calmed me.

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A while later Crystal returned and Eric woke up. I didn’t tell either of them what I had decided. Our nurse walked in to check on me, “What do we think?”

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My eyes filled with tears and I looked at her and answered, “I think it’s time to meet my baby.”

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Even the nurses knew that Kelsie was in charge.

At this time things started to move pretty fast. Despite the speedy pace though, I felt in control and respected, which is so different then my first cesarean. Everyone was kind and went out of their way to try and keep things as calm as possible. Eric was given his awesome new duds, Kelsie’s blanket and hat were brought into the operating room and I was introduced to the anesthesiologist that would be working with my doctor. I sat on the bed in our hospital room, trying to just remain calm and cling to the small moments of peace that I felt. As I was sitting on the bed, letting Eric put some cozy socks on my feet, I heard my phone vibrate next to me, indicating that a text message had arrived. I had mostly been ignoring all messages since we had kept the news that my water had broken very quiet. But for some reason I decided to read this message before I walked into the operating room. It was from my best friend Lisa:

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“I love you so much. You are an amazing mom and will see that sweetie soon! Enjoy as her story happens knowing that God wrote it just for her!”

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Wow. The exact words I needed to hear in the exact moment that I needed to hear them. Eric helped me out of the bed, we walked to the operating room and I kissed him and let him know I’d see him soon.

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This cesarean was so different than my first. The operating room, while busy, was not at all chaotic. Everyone let me know what was going on and what to expect next. I was treated with respect the entire time and even felt comfortable enough to make jokes. For instance, when the nurse asked someone to let Justin know that he’d be able to come in just a few minutes I calmly replied, “Actually if you don’t mind I’d rather Justin just wait outside, but if you see my husband, Eric, he’s welcome to join us.” Prep went quickly and easily and before I knew it the drape was up and Eric was sitting next to me holding my hand and waiting on our girl. Before we knew it the drape was being lowered and the anesthesiologist was lifting my back up a bit so that Eric and I could watch our daughter being born. I cried and cried. She was here. 32+ hours after my water broke – and born at the exact same minute that I was: 12:31 p.m. She was perfect and pink and loud and tiny and COVERED in meconium. I mean head to toe covered in poop. And I had only ever seen anything that beautiful two other times in my life. She was quickly looked over while Dr. C did his best to get her as much cord blood as possible, while still keeping me safe. And less than two minutes later she was in our arms. As requested she hadn’t been bathed or weighed or measured. None of that mattered.

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One of the nurses came over and helped pull my pajamas down and slide Kelsie in so that we could lay skin to skin while the surgery was completed. Eric also held her during this time and we all laughed at how much she was rooting. The anesthesiologist mentioned that he had never seen a baby with such an immediate and enthusiastic root instinct. While she was laying on me and trying so hard to find what she was looking for I said, “I’m so sorry baby. You have to wait just a few more minutes.” Her response was the most perfect, most dramatic pouty lip that you can imagine. She had Eric and I and several others in the room laughing. Before I knew it everything was done. Eric held Kelsie while I was moved from the operating table to a bed. Kelsie was again tucked in with me skin to skin and we were rolled back to our room together.

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Eric, Kelsie and I were left mostly alone for more than an hour after she was born. Everything else that needed to be done was done with her in my arms. She wasn’t measured or weighed until we requested and when I did decide to have them rinse some of the poop out of her hair, they were quick to honor my request that they only use water.

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We stayed in the hospital for two days and were blessed to be taken care of by so many wonderful nurses and one exceptional CNA. I have had a few moments where I have felt sad about the way everything went down – like when I had to sign my consent to have cesarean, because of a “failed trial of labor” (I don’t think that’s the right reason – I never went into labor and I certainly didn’t fail). But the fact is I made the best choice that I could make with the information that I had at that time. I was supported and respected in all of my choices and I felt like I was in control. I never felt bullied or pushed into anything I wasn’t comfortable with. I wanted Kelsie’s birth to be joyful. I prayed for that for the entire 10+ months that I carried her. And when I look back at her birth, I will remember laughing at her silly faces right after birth and joking with my doctor about a dream I had where I had a C-section, but in the dream he had bleached blonde backstreet boy hair and him asking someone to bring him a wig. I will remember the jokes and fun that I had with my husband and doula in the middle of the night when we were all so exhausted that we were borderline giddy.

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I will own the choices that I made during this labor and I choose not to regret any of them.

This is Kelsie’s story and I will tell it to her proudly and remember it with joy.

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Welcome to the world, Kelsie.
You are loved.
You are wanted.
You are precious.

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*** I wrote Kelsie’s birth story the week that she was born. That was over 6 months ago. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for after her birth was how hard it would be to process everything. How much I would doubt my choices. How often I would ask myself, “What if…” Not having a VBAC when you prepare for one and want one so badly is HARD. With my first child’s birth his emergency C-section was out of my hands. It was easy to be frustrated with everyone else, because I had zero control in that situation. But this time around the decision to have a cesarean was mine alone. Processing Kelsie’s birth has been hard. For over four months I obsessed over everything that had happened. What could I have done differently? How much better would it have been if I had just planned a home birth? What if I had just given myself more time? Did I give up too easily?

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The self-doubt that comes in can suffocate you and it felt like nobody really understood WHY I was upset. My baby was healthy after all and my recovery had been as easy as it could have been. Yet still, I felt like I had let myself and my daughter down. For months (and sometimes even now) I couldn’t read birth stories without feeling sad, disappointed, and even jealous of these other women achieving their drug-free vaginal births and VBACs. My sweet doula sat me down and told me, “You’re only thinking of this one way. But what about these ‘what ifs?’ What if you HADN’T had a cesarean? What if you HADN’T followed your instinct? You birthed a beautiful baby. Be kind to yourself.”

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And you know what? She was right. The decisions made that day were mine alone. I chose the decision I could live with and now, over half a year later, I truly can accept that. Her birth story is unique to her. I did the best I could do and I am so grateful that the choices I made led to a beautiful, healthy, joyful baby girl. I think that I will probably always have moments when I wonder “what if,” but I no longer feel like I failed. Kelsie’s birth story is her own. I hope that other women reading this, possibly in the same situation, will know that they aren’t alone. It’s hard when VBAC doesn’t happen. Those feelings of disappointment, sadness, and anger are real. But in the words of my favorite doula, “You birthed a beautiful baby, be kind to yourself.” ***

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CBAC: The Birth of Ingrid Alexandra

CBAC: The Birth of Ingrid Alexandra

In the “birthy world”, CBAC or “Cesarean Birth After Cesarean” refers to a belly birth that was initially planned to be a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). In cases like this, sometimes simply saying “repeat cesarean” negates the significance of the decision to birth again via cesarean. As someone who has personally travelled this road, I share the story of my second child’s birth, a family-centered, gentle cesarean, in the hopes that it can bring healing and comfort to others whose birth stories may not have gone *quite* as planned.

The dense heat of the Florida summer air hit my face as I opened the car door. I was parched, despite sneaking a few sips of water to keep that nasty, constant companion of heartburn at bay. At 41 weeks 1 day, I was tired. Weeks of nightly (and daily) prodromal labor had left me exhausted, depleted. My whole body ached to finally hold my little girl.

“It’s your birthday, Ingrid!”, I whispered to my swollen belly, feeling its tightness once more and pushing that obstinate little foot, always stuck in my ribs, to a more comfortable position. I grabbed my favorite pillow and reached for my husband’s steady hand before heading towards the fluorescent-lit entrance of the Family Birth Center.

She wiggled in response to my voice and moved her foot right back.

As I completed the hospital admission forms and surgical consents, my birth playlist cycled through the carefully chosen songs that I’d accumulated over the last three years. The room was filled with laughter and love, as it should be when a child is about to be born, and I was calm and content. As my dreams of having a VBAC faded into the distance, I eagerly anticipated meeting my daughter.

The nurse unhooked me from the monitors, and I maneuvered my way to the edge of the bed, dangling my legs off the side for a second before I stood. I nervously fiddled with the ties of the gown that I’d brought with me, the one that I’d purchased for her birth before she was even conceived.

It was time.

My doula and birth photographer faded into the background, as my husband and I shared one last moment together before her arrival. Always my rock, he whispered tenderly in my ear, “You’re so brave. We’re gonna meet her soon, babe.” He kissed my neck, my cheek, my lips, and I smiled at him with tears in my eyes.

I, myself, walked to the OR.

It was cold.

I awkwardly climbed onto the slim surgical table, trying to center my very pregnant self on its tiny surface while shimmying my gown up to expose my belly.

I remembered the uncontrollable shaking from last time and tried to fight it as I felt the anesthesia taking hold, moving up my lead legs and climbing towards my chest. I’d forgotten that feeling, but it came rushing back as I gasped, “I can’t breathe; I can’t breathe”, knowing full well that I could if I was saying those words.

The nurse anesthetist put her hands gently on my shoulders, and said, “Bethany, I want you to think about your baby. What’s her name? What do you think she’ll look like? Does she have any siblings?”

I inhaled deeply and intentionally, blinking furiously as tears trembled on my eyelashes. As I answered her questions, my mind began to calm once again.

Seconds later, my husband was there, stroking my shoulders, kissing my forehead, whispering words of encouragement in my ear as he sat beside me.

“Everyone’s in here,” he said, “Samantha, Cassie…just how you wanted…”

I smiled, still shaking, thankful for his presence and the stability that he brought to my soul in that moment.

I heard the door of the OR open and the chatter of familiar voices as the remnants of the surgical team assembled.

“All right, Bethany,” I heard from the other side of the drape, “You ready to meet this baby?”

I nodded: “Let’s do this.”

I grasped Doug’s hand and held tight.

I visualized the whole process in my mind as the familiar smells of surgery filled the suite. I felt the pressure of my abdomen being stretched and pulled to accommodate her entrance. It felt like an eternity. Then, finally:

“Here she comes!”

“Drop the drape! Drop the drape!”

Doug ceremoniously stood to greet her, still holding my hand.

The blue curtain was yanked down, and I strained to catch a glimpse of her as she was lifted from my belly. She cried immediately, justifiably appalled at being forced to leave the warmth and dark of my womb. Dr. Graham held her wriggling body over the limp blue curtain.

Ingrid glared at me in all her newborn glory.

“You can touch her if you want…just don’t touch me because I’m all cleaned up for surgery.”

It was surreal.

My hand trembled as I reached out to grasp her tiny, wet fingers as she enthusiastically announced her presence.

“We’re gonna take her to the warmer, dry her off so she doesn’t get too cold in here, listen to her heart real quick, and bring her right back.”

My husband followed her.

I could see her the whole time.

My doula stayed with me, stroking my hair, talking to me, telling me how beautiful Ingrid was.

Barely a minute later, I watched as Douglas carried our daughter back to me, cradling her gently in his strong, capable arms. His brilliant blue eyes, accentuated by the surgical cap and mask, sparkled with tears of joy. He helped me open my gown, snuggling her onto my chest, skin-to-skin, just minutes after her arrival.

She melted into my warmth, half-heartedly rooting, alternating between protesting her arrival and staring at me and her daddy with her dark, wise newborn eyes. I kissed her – kissed her dark hair, her perfect button nose, the sweet curve of her cupid’s bow. I felt her soft, warm skin against mine. I breathed in her smell and marveled at her tiny fingers.

I smiled.

I cried.

Douglas wiped away my tears, as we laughed together, rejoicing in our daughter’s birth.

It was perfect.

Ingrid Alexandra, our sweet girl, our strong baby, born on July 12, 2016 at 07:53.

Birth experience submitted by Bethany B. 

Photographs by Cassie Ringl of New Light Birth Photography. 

 

My Healing Hospital VBAC

My Healing Hospital VBAC

(Editor’s note: this was originally published on October 9, 2014)

To tell Mel’s birth story, I have to say a few words about Katherine’s and Laeney’s birth stories.

Laeney’s birth was a hospital induction. At my final ultrasound, my doctor told me my placenta was failing and she was losing weight in the womb. They told me she would only be 4 lbs and might have to be transferred to a NICU 40 miles away. She was born, healthy, weighing 6 lbs 3 oz and although I didn’t suffer any adverse effects, I felt cheated. I didn’t even get to go into labor on my own and desperately wanted something different for my next baby.

Nearly 4 years later, during my pregnancy with Katherine, I knew I wanted a homebirth. I dreamed of bringing our baby earthside, surrounded by my friends and family, in the peace and love of our own home. Unfortunately, I ended up with a nightmare instead. My water broke at 25 weeks and we had a traumatic emergency c-section at 30 weeks due to an amniotic infection, followed by a 46 day NICU stay. My c-section was brutal. The spinal block was only effective on one side of my body and my daughter’s heart rate was dropping, so they cut me anyway, even though I could feel it. Once she was delivered into the hands of the NICU team, I completely lost my composure and started screaming uncontrollably and flailing on the operating table trying to escape from the pain. The anesthesiologist put me under and I woke up in recovery terrified for my baby. When I was finally able to see her, I could only hold her for a few minutes. I’ve never cried so much.

I grieved for my pregnancy. I grieved over my birth. I grieved for my child’s start in this life. I grieved over leaving her in the NICU and having to go home, 40 miles away. I hated my body for doing this to my child. For doing this to me. I agonized over what I could have done differently that would have kept her inside me even one day longer. I would break down sobbing when I saw other pregnant women in public. I felt jealous and cheated and angry.I suffered through PPD and PTSD and remember very little of my daughter’s first year on this earth.

Fast forward three years and we found out we were pregnant with our third child. In my heart, I was terrified of going back to the hospital and desperately wanted a healing homebirth. But my husband was so traumatized by Katherine’s birth, he didn’t want to take the risk of staying home. So I found a midwife group that supported my decisions about my care and forged ahead, planning a hospital VBAC.

It was a terrifying, nerve wracking, healthy pregnancy. I had nightmares from the day I got that positive test result. PTSD is rough, and the triggers never really go away. We had lost two babies between Katherine and Mel, so I breathed a little easier at 12 weeks. We were out of the worst danger zone and baby was still hanging in there. When we passed 24 weeks (the age of viability), my fears eased even more. 25 weeks, 2 days, the day my water broke with Katherine,it seemed like I held my breath all day. Then 30 weeks came and went without a hiccup. (Well, with lots of in-utero, tickly baby hiccups, but you know what I mean.)

My husband and I both slept a little better once we passed that milestone. At that point, we were finally able to really embrace our pregnancy. We were having another little girl and it looked like she was going to go all the way and be big and healthy!!

I was beside myself when we made it to 36 weeks. I couldn’t believe my body was doing it! I was growing a big healthy baby and nothing was going to stop me from bringing this baby earthside, peacefully and naturally, with my husband and midwife. Yeah!

Until my 36 week appointment. I found out my insurance had dropped my coverage. So, at less than a month til my EDD and 3 days after Christmas, I was on the phone every day trying to get things straightened around. And every person that I talked to had a different reason to NOT put me back on my insurance. Without coverage, my midwife group dropped my care. I was terrified. What would happen when I showed up to the hospital in labor, with no midwife and no insurance? Would they force me into another c-section? Would they call child protective services on me for not having prenatal care for the last month? I decided to just show up at the hospital, basically ready to push this baby out. I would rather have her in the car on the way there, than be faced with another c-section.

Feeling pretty empowered, my pregnancy progressed past 39 weeks (woo hoo, FULL TERM!!!) I had gained 40 lbs and was so big, people (including my mother) insisted every single day that there must be twins, and one was just hiding on the ultrasound. The Saturday and Sunday after I hit 39 weeks just felt different. I was even more tired than usual. Having a lot of gross discharge. Only sleeping a couple hours at a time because my hips hurt so badly. Just being generally miserable. It was January and we had a winter weather warning, it was supposed to be -40 degrees F with the wind chill. My husband worked outside and requested that I have the baby on Monday so he wouldn’t have to go to work. He even talked to my belly and asked the baby to please come on Sunday night. HA! Ask and you shall receive, husband!

Saturday and Sunday I was having weak, lame-o contractions 10 minutes apart all day and all night. They were annoying, but not painful, but they were making my back really hurt. I bounced on the birth ball and walked around as much as I could in the house, but nothing really happened yet. So around 7 o’clock Sunday night, I broke out my breast pump and I power pumped for 40 minutes. I got 4 oz of colostrum (seriously, 4 oz before the baby is even born?! Who does that?), but no stronger contractions. They did pick up a little, going from 10 minutes apart to seven minutes apart. After the pumping, contractions spaced back out to 10 minutes again and I got discouraged, told my husband it wasn’t happening that night, and we went to sleep around 11.

3:34 am,WHOA! Umm, ouch! Calm down in there, baby. I thought you weren’t coming tonight? Since I felt like my bladder was about to burst, I got up, peed, and climbed back in bed. I had a mild contraction while I was up. As soon as I laid back down, another crazy one ripped through my body. Holy crap! This might be it! I started timing them. Two minutes later, another one hit and lasted a whole minute! 2 minutes later, another one! And another one after that! WOO! I woke my husband to tell him that I was in labor and he freaked out.

“What?! Is it time?! Are we going to the hospital now?!” I told him to calm down, that I wanted to labor at home until I felt it was time to go, and to go back to sleep. Honestly, I just wanted to be alone with my baby to center myself and power through those awesome contractions. I was beyond excited. I had never gone into labor on my own and I was really curious what it would be like.

I walked back and forth in the living room and swayed over a side table and hummed through each contraction. I got on Facebook and updated my private mom groups and I texted my best friend. I felt amazing and powerful and beautiful. I imagined my baby inside me, poised, ready to meet the world. In my mind’s eye, I saw my cervix glowing bright and hot as each contraction pulled it open a little more.

An hour passed like that. I called my sister down to make me a snack but couldn’t eat more than a couple bites. I ran a warm bath to try to take the edge off the intense back pain that was coming with each contraction. But I couldn’t stay in the tub longer than about 10 minutes. My body wanted me up and moving! Around 5:30 I woke my husband up and told him it was time. He ran around like a crazy person, grabbing all of our things I wanted to take with us. He went out to start the car since it was so cold and my mother called and wanted to talk to me. A contraction hit and I just yelled at the phone and threw it back at my sister. “She doesn’t really want to talk right now.” I heard her say. Then we got in the car.

That was the most painful drive ever. I couldn’t move through the contractions. I was vocalizing loudly and started to feel out of control. I felt pinned to the seat by the pain. And they were coming hard and fast, only a minute apart and a minute long. I wanted to climb out of the car and run away. We had just had an ice storm and the roads were AWFUL. The 15 minute drive to the hospital took 40 minutes and we arrived somewhere around 6:30. We parked in the garage and headed up to labor and delivery. My husband grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled me through the hospital between contractions. It was too painful to stay seated the entire time, so I got down on my hands and knees when each one hit. We checked into labor and delivery and they started monitoring me.

When the nurse checked me, I was 4 cm. My brain came out of my labor haze. “Only four?!”

“Four is great!” she said. “You’re doing amazing!”

A young doctor came in and told me that he would have to perform an ultrasound to make sure baby was head down. She was and he estimated her at 8 and a half pounds. He checked my chart. By some miracle, my surgical records had finally come through and I was cleared for my VBAC!!

The nurse came back, “We have to move to a delivery room, now. Here if you want to put this gown–“

“NO!! I don’t want to wear that!”

“Ok, well can we just wrap it around you?”

I guess the rest of the hospital didn’t appreciate a full term pregnant woman walking the halls naked. I made it to the delivery room with only a couple stops in the hall. A nurse came in and asked if I wanted the epidural. No, I can do this. My husband was my rock. He kept telling me how wonderful I was doing and how powerful I was. They checked me again. 6 cm. Okay, making progress.

My brain totally disengaged at this point. My nurse kept trying to talk to me, asking me questions, but I was just sitting on the edge of the bed, utterly focused on the contractions and my baby. It was like she was speaking another language.

I was hooked up the the monitor, trapped on the bed, and the pain was inescapable. I couldn’t even get down on all fours to get through the contractions. At this point, I was no longer vocalizing, I was screaming as each contraction peaked and felt totally out of control.

Another nurse came in right when a contraction hit and asked if I wanted the epidural again. “YES! Give me the epidural!!”

My husband rubbed my back. “No, honey, you don’t want it, remember? You can do this. You’re strong. You’re doing amazing. You can do this.”

“I can’t do it.”

“You can. I know you can.”

I started crying, “I can’t. Please. It hurts too much. I can’t do it. Please.”

He buckled under the tears. “Get her the epidural!”

A million years later, the anesthesiologist came in to do the epidural. He was great and it was very light. It only took the edge off the contractions and brought them down to a level that was bearable. I could still feel them all and even stand up. It was perfect. I relaxed and we waited.

As soon as the epidural took effect, the nurse checked me again and my husband walked down the hall to grab a snack (and try to sneak me something to eat as well). I was at 8 cm with a bulging bag. I couldn’t believe I made it to 8 cm on my own! I kind of felt like a wimp for caving in when I was so close. The doctor wanted to break my water but I asked her not to and she didn’t press the point. My baby was so close. I called my husband and he ran back upstairs without the food (sadly).

A little while later I felt something warm and wet on my thighs and reached down. My hand came back up covered in blood. I called my nurse and she brought in the doctor. I was 9 1/2 cm with an anterior lip. She asked again about breaking my water saying that the baby’s head against my cervix would help it finish opening and get rid of that lip. I agreed and she ruptured it. There was a little meconium in the water, but baby still looked good on the monitor. They left us alone so I could finish dilating.

A few more contractions and I started to feel pushy. I could feel her head descending through the birth canal and knew it was time. I called the nurse to “check me” and told her I was feeling pushy. She tried to check and only felt baby’s head. “OH! Baby!!” she said.

We were at a learning hospital so within seconds there were four OBs between my legs, four pediatricians by the warmer, about eight nurses scattered around, and three anesthesiologists in the back of the room. PUSH!

I pushed. And I pushed. And I pushed again. She crowned. One of the OBs said “Look at all that hair!”Really? Try to focus, Doctor. PUSH! Man, her head was so big!PUSH!Too big! PUSH! I can’t! She won’t fit! PUSH! NO, ouch!! PUSH! Just take her out! I can’t do it! PUSH!

“Her head is out! One more big push!” Her shoulders were born and then the rest of her.

And there she was. After nine months. Perfect, beautiful, healthy. And fat!! Whoah, fat, rolly baby! She was 8 lbs 10 oz (which is almost as much as my other two daughters’ birth weights combined). They put her on my chest and she just laid there. She never cried, she just snuggled on me and looked at my face. We hadn’t decided on a name yet and my husband looked at her and looked at me. “She’s definitely a Melanie.” After seeing her, he picked the name I had wanted. We just laid there skin to skin for what seemed like hours. She didn’t show any signs of wanting to nurse for quite awhile, so we just snuggled.

It was a perfect birth. Even though I had planned a natural birth, I don’t feel guilty about the epidural. It allowed me to relax and truly enjoy the perfect birth of my daughter. I was glowing with happiness. I did it. I grew a full term, healthy baby. I went into labor on my own and I pushed that baby out! But taking her home after only 24 hours in the hospital, only having left my side for 10 minutes to have her hearing test, was the truly healing part.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

twin natural birth story 1

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

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

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

twin natural birth story 2

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

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

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

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

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

twin naturla birth story 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Sophie Englefield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said “really? Seven centimeters already?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The things you say in a baby induced oxytocin high.

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

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Kathryn Garceau. 

Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

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

I burst out crying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Jenny Schatzle

Home Water Birth in Ireland

Home Water Birth in Ireland

Birth really has been one of my biggest adventures and something I’ve become so passionate about. So, I personally have done it three times now, and ranging from horrific to brilliant, I reckon if I had a fourth go it could be pretty damn perfect! But, I’m not saying there’ll be a fourth!!! A positive birth is hands down one of the best gifts as a woman you can get. Positive comes in many, many forms and I believe it really comes down to what a great birth means to you!

The Background

So here’s the deal…..My first birth was traumatic, my second birth was better, but number three was, well, pretty amazing! My first birth took place in Holles Street as a semi-private patient, I didn’t have a clue! I thought birth was going to be horrendous. And guess what, that self prophecy came true. It was. Awful. But I got my baby girl at the end so I should be happy, right? Well yeah, but not actually. Of course I was happy with my beautiful child but the horrors of my labour really haunted me for quite sometime. Not long after I decided if I ever had another child it would be so different, and it was. I became really educated on birth and did a huge amount of reading and research.

On my second pregnancy, I booked in with the dominoes midwife-led care, in Holles Street. And this time I opted for a homebirth. I was low risk, so qualified for midwife led care and all going well I’d birth at home, in my own space. This REALLY excited me! Thankfully David was also fully on board. Like, we knew it would freak some people out and it does. But most people are interested, in my experience. We did the research, we knew the stats and they are really, really good and guess what, homebirth is safe! I know who knew?! Next part of the jigsaw was sorting out the fears that were still very much alive from birth number one.

That’s where Gentlebirth came in.

A friend mentioned it casually one day, well before I was pregnant. She kind of half muttered it, and later came clean that she was worried I’d think she was a hippie. Wrong. I thought she was a superhero! Birth number two, took place at home with the domino midwives. It was good, it was intense, more than it needed to be because I was afraid I wasn’t progressing quick enough and they had me squating. Yeah, not something I’d advocate! It got very intense, very quickly but overall was a good birth. What really was lacking for me was the continuity of care. That’s where I nailed it third time around.

As soon as we found out I was pregnant, I booked Liz from UK Birth Centres, also known as Private Midwives Ireland. The care I received was incredible from start to finish, and it was so hard to say goodbye to my midwife Liz, two weeks after Nathan’s birth. Liz did all my antenatal visits from 20 weeks at home, generally on a Sunday morning. When I say visit, it was more like a leisurely morning chat with a friend, who happened to really know her shit when it came to all things birth. She’d stay for two hours-ish at every visit and we discussed everything from my wishes for the birth, to my fears about the birth, to how all eventualities could be handled. I was involved with everything! We knew we were in the best hands, and that my friends is the best feeling, whoever your caregiver is. During the visits, Amelia got to play with the stethoscope and the whole family eagerly listened to the doppler echoing Nathan’s heartbeat. That sound is one I’d never tire of. Liz was able to recommend endless helpful things to me. One, amazing woman she introduced me to was Ros Drake from Drake Chiropractic. She works wonders with everything from SPD I had to optimal fetal positioning and has a very impressive rate of turning breach babies through her work. Definitely worth a visit pre labour to ensure you are all lined up for your best birth.

During Nathan’s pregnancy I listened to my Gentlebirth tracks, later did perennial massage whilst listening to my tracks (this really helped me relax and trust my body).

So, baby number three gave me a couple of false starts, I know you’d think you’d know it’s the real thing by your third but he was very convincing I swear! In the two weeks before Nathan’s birth I noticed a LOT of fears surfacing from big baby to fast birth to can I actually do this??! I went through the motions and listened to my tracks most evenings in bed, but worried was this enough! I did focus on some relaxation techniques and found counting down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 to bring me into a state of relaxation most effective! I did also this time use and practice a breathing technique called J breathing which worked for me amazingly in the second stage.

Finally, The Birth Story

On the afternoon of 18th October I started getting mild surges but put them down to strong braxton hicks and refused to think it could actually be happening this time. I was 40+2 and by 8pm I noticed they were coming every 3 minutes but still refused to even share the news with David! I was craving affection and love though and thankfully the toddler went down easy and we had some time chilling out together. At around 10pm he asked me if I’d been getting surges all evening. Turns out he can read me pretty well even when I’m trying to hide it! Anyway we went to bed but I wasn’t expecting to sleep as I was defintely uncomfortable by this stage but I put my Gentlebirth tracks on and I must have drifted off because I woke up in the middle of a dream timing my surges in my head lol! The surge that woke me gave me a fright as it just went on and on and another followed. I was a bit shaky and thought what the f@*# am I doing! I was freaking out as David fumbled with the TENS machine, and he timed surges. They were in fact coming every 3 minutes lasting 45 seconds just as I had been dreaming.. Weird eh! We decided we’d better call Liz but que in all the freaking out, I couldn’t remember where I’d left my phone. By this point my body was a bit shaky and in hindsight reckon active labour was kicking in although I feared transition for a moment. David found my phone which I had put into the wash basket. In my defence, It was 12am!

I spoke with Liz and she decided to make her way over, my mom was also en route in case the kids woke as my toddler regularly does and my youngest sister Sinead who was going to take pics for me.

We came downstairs & David started filling the pool. I put the TENS machine on too. So I noticed that I was going up the TENS notches quick and was at 5 (this is half way). This worried me, thankfully it was around this point I got my shit together and started breathing, and relaxing into it and generally calming down. This my friends made the biggest difference of all! I put the labour companion track from Gentlebirth on in the background, used my 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 relaxation technique and breathed. Now I was in control, now I was doing this, now I was enough!!

When Liz arrived I was settled and enjoying the surges, dropping my head and zoning out only for the “peaks.” I was enjoying the surges, feeling the power of birth wave through me. In previous labours I fought against this and that’s when I experienced pain. If you go with it, it’s completely different I swear! It’s really an incredible sensation and experience! We decided to do a cervical check and on first check she said I was 5cm, I then got a contraction and visualised my cervix opening (yup, full on hippy shit) and Liz said oh you’ve just gone to 6cm and it’s very stretchy could easily stretch to a 7.

This is the power of the mind I’ve no doubt!! Visualisation is an awesome tool to use.

For the next short while, I swayed my hips, leaned on David during surges, hugged and kissed and generally enjoyed the labour experience. I could sense things were changing and took a homeopathic remedy called aconite which was fantastic for keeping fear at bay. Liz told me if I’d been in Holles Street they wouldn’t have believed I was in active labour! Talk about empowering a woman, I believed I was going to rock this birth at this stage!! In between surges and sometimes during I was smiling and happy. One of my affirmations was to smile an David kept reminding me of this annoyingly, at times but it did refocus me.

The only sign of transition was a slight tear up in my eyes as I felt emotion rise up in me after a surge. Liz spotted it with her trained eye. There was a few surges at this point where I felt the energy change as it was directed downwards. This followed by that guttural birth sound at the second half of the surge, you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve given birth before naturally. It’s a mad sound, the first time on Amelia, I almost looked around to see who’d made the noise lol! This time I instantly recognised it and felt excited knowing we were getting close.

It was 3.30am and I knew it was time to get into the pool. I was nervous taking the TENS off but I shouldn’t have been because oh. Wow. That water felt amazing around my body! The warmth and support was incredible. My second midwife, Ursula arrived and was a lovely addition to the birth space. Everything was so calm and I felt excited as the second stage began.

I find it hard to explain the second stage as the energy was very powerful, but very empowering at the same time. I felt I was working with the energy and it felt good! I know, slap me. I’d have wanted to slap me if someone told me this after my first birth experience. But I swear, it’s true. This was very different for me from my previous births and I believe it was the absence of fear and the support I had that made the difference. My waters bulged and I could feel them and the head with my hand, I found this very encouraging and then there was a pop; my waters released! Again, on my previous two births I’d have been terrified to feel the head, but this time I was so cool about it.

As the surges came I dropped my head and leant into David, breathing and telling myself to open to birth. I cherish those memories as it really felt like we moved through labour and brought our baby into the world together. It felt very intimate at times and I forgot there was anyone else around. This I will say was short lived and as much as I was disappointed, I’m also glad of what came next. Amelia woke, yep my just turned two year old decided that just as mommy was starting to show signs of crowning that she wanted to watch her baby bro being born! I felt calm and that it was best to let her in. I had shown her some waterbirth videos in case this happened and thank God I did! When she came into the room she kinda knew what was going on, she wanted to be close to me and said “you ok mommy?” and rubbed my arm! Bless her! I asked my mom to wake our 10 year old daughter for the occasion seeing as the birth was taking this turn. I’m glad I did as she found it amazing and calm and is full sure she’ll birth her babies at home. I’m actually so glad she got to experience this, as she has no fear now. What a gift that is!

I had turned onto my back and baby was almost crowning with each surge, but it was only when I mentally decided that I was doing it NOW that he was born. I turned into my husband and zoned out from all the people. With the next surge I felt the power of birth rushing through me and using my ‘j breathing’ brought baby Nathan to crowning. Liz told me after my perineum didn’t stretch as such, she said it opened which I’d read about in Ina May’s book but couldn’t believe it happened to me. Liz said she’d only seen it once before. It did however still sting like a LOT for like 20 seconds and then I felt his head born.

Soon after the next surge came and before I knew it baby Nathan was swimming up to me in the pool! What an incredible sight and feeling! He was covered in vernix and appeared to be sleeping as he was so calm Liz reckoned it was so calm a birth that he hadn’t even realised he’d been born! To our shock we discovered we’d a little boy! Amelia was thrilled saying “baby baby baby!” His big, big sister Alannah couldn’t believe her eyes.

It was a bit manic I’ll say that and myself and David had really wanted that first undisturbed hour together with our new baby but it just wasn’t to be. Amelia was stripping off and joining me in the pool and that was that!

Within a few minutes I got more surges and at 15 minutes felt the urge to push and out came the placenta all by itself! Was seriously loving this birth!

I stayed in the pool for almost an hour getting to know my little prince and he did the breast crawl and fed, but he was so sleepy still no crying at all! We got some pics of us as a family of five and then my mom tried to bring Amelia back to bed. That wasn’t happening, so unfortunately David had to leave me at this point which does make me a bit sad.

Nathan had his chord ready and waiting for his Daddy to cut on his return and to my shock he weighed 9lb 2 almost 2lb heavier than my last! And this pregnancy I was a vegetarian…stunned doesn’t come close! It was also my easiest birth, no perineal trauma, no fear and I mean you just can’t buy that!!

A while later I had a gorgeous hot shower in my own bathroom and was tucked up with my two men soon after in our bed. My midwives were unreal and I honestly can’t thank them enough!

I’m trying to cherish the moments as you never know it could be my last but I’ve a sneaky suspicion with a birth that good it might not be…

Baby Nathan David Hamill born 19th October 2016 at 4:06 am in a room full of love

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Aisling Hamill

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