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Category: Birth Without Fear

Oxytocin Vibes, Covered in Vernix, & Birthing Next to a Baby Deer

Oxytocin Vibes, Covered in Vernix, & Birthing Next to a Baby Deer

In case you missed the Birth Without Fear Instagram this past week…

✨weekend mood & oxytocin vibes✨ 📷:@lindseymeehleis #birthwithoutfear #oxytocinvibes #optionssupportrespect

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Just a sweet little baby and a whole lotta vernix. ♥️ @kendalblackerbirth #justborn #oxytocinvibes #birthwithoutfear

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Happy weekend friends! TAG a pregnant friend. 🤰🏾@januaryharshe #birthwithoutfear #optionssupportrespect

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How a Loss Healed Me

How a Loss Healed Me

This begins 12 years ago when I was 20. I was carrying a child I knew I couldn’t raise, so I opted for adoption. Her parents are fantastic people and we were lucky to have them in a position to come witness her birth. We thought H would be a boy, actually, but she surprised us, and from all accounts, continues to surprise her parents. Labor was induced because contractions came and went and I wasn’t able to sleep. Once, Mom applied some counter pressure to my back and hips. It helped. But then my step dad told her to stop. He didn’t think I needed coddling.

Labor just never seemed to progress. First baby, nerves, not a great mental place, etc. So the hospital induced me. And then refused to feed me. Or let me walk. Or move much. And once I was over 5 centimeters, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I hate ice chips under normal circumstances. It was bad. I caved to an epidural I was afraid of, and finally managed to relax enough to dilate to the full 10 centimeters. But my doctor was dismissive and apparently thought I wasn’t going to push the baby after so long (and I did push for more than 2 hours!), so he prepped the surgery team. And then I crowned. They had to recall him. The nurse put me flat on my back, and palmed the baby’s head, saying she wasn’t going to fill out the paperwork for delivering that baby. By the time the doctor made it in, the baby was kicking her way out. Planted both feet against the top of my uterus and shoved, hard. She went from crowned to her shoulders in an instant. Even the doctor jerked back in surprise. She tore me (guess how I found out I’m allergic to dissolving stitches?!). She scored a perfect 10 on her Apgar scales. Her new dad cut the cord, and baby was wiped off and wrapped up and handed around and they went off to the nursery for a mandatory observation. I barely got to hold her.

And then the doctor pulled on the umbilical cord and pulled out the placenta, hard. It hurt. It briefly pulled me upwards towards him when he did it. None of this was okay with me. I was bulled into many things I didn’t want. The only thing I truly consented to was the adoption itself. Mom spoke for me and around me, and I had no agency. While I was pushing, a nurse stood on a stool at my side and applied fundal pressure, using her entire body weight. Her feet came up off the stool. She bruised my gallbladder, we found out later. I asked her to stop and was hushed and told it was this or surgery, she was trying to help me. The head nurse was between my legs, manually stretching my vaginal opening, and there were a lot of people in the room, coming and going, and the door was open. The lights were bright. My first birth experience was not a good one. There are memories I can’t scrub or whitewash. Later, I heard my mom telling my step dad that she didn’t hold my hand, that I’d done it on my own. I detected a lot of sadness there, but an odd note of pride, too. I’ve never forgotten that conversation.

Later, when I found out I was pregnant with a son I could raise, I chose a midwife and a non hospital birth. The birth center was quiet, and no one touched me without asking. No one examined me without consent. But the damage was done, no one could touch me to comfort me either. Again, with my second son, my partner could not touch my stomach once I was in labor. His touch set off warnings in my head that I didn’t understand or take time to ponder before the next contraction hit.

A third child. A new city, new midwife. Her policies were different, and I ended up with a long gap between visits between 17 and 23 weeks. On October 30th, 2013, we lost the heartbeat. She couldn’t find it. I waited 24 hours before going to the hospital. No one wants that memory on a holiday. Ultrasound showed fetal death occurred in the 18th week. The placenta and cord were beginning to deteriorate, and I could not wait for my body to get the notice, or risk sepsis. They induced me. This time it was different. My wishes were respected. I was not examined until I was ready. They let me move and eat and drink. When I asked, they even shut off the IV, though they left the needle in, for later needs and blood draws. I was able to labor and deliver in the positions I chose. There weren’t a bunch of people in the room. The lights were natural. The door was shut and there was a curtain in front when it was opened briefly. I was allowed two of my friends and my partner. My friends held my hands and helped me get into a birth position. When little one began crowning, V called for a nurse, who came quickly. They cut off my underwear at the hips (the meshy absorbent hospital kind) rather than make me move. That tiny baby tumbled right out into my hands. The placenta followed moments later. The nurse helped me arrange him and the placenta into a small towel and hold him as long as I needed to say good bye. They never cut the cord, just like I asked.

I named him Jamie Lou.

As absolutely horrible as the experience was… it was also peaceful. It restored some trust and hope. The nurses were wonderful. I truly hope good things happen for them.

Three months later when I missed my period, I was terrified. I chose another midwife, one closer with better hours. She held my hand through my fears. When baby flipped breech, we discussed the possibility of a hospital birth plan. Her scope of practice did not include breech for legal reasons and insurance and I respect that. I also felt, after the peace of delivering Jamie, that my own limits and wishes would be respected if we had to face the hospital. I felt okay. I felt strong enough. I felt supported. And then he flipped and presented normally anyway! But I still couldn’t be touched during labor. My partner asked me why, many moons later, especially why I didn’t want to be touched on my stomach, where I love to be rubbed when I’m not in labor. When I said it felt oppressive, it clicked the memory of that nurse leaning on me with my first daughter. I understood. My step-dad used birth against me. He used my own power to try to punish me. And nearly won.

August 28th, 2016, I came full circle. I birthed my daughter, the girl I was terrified of, touched and comforted by someone who loved me. The way I always should have been. I feel cheated that my sons’ births could be better, but I still view them as wonderful experiences. Overcoming the huge obstacles set in my way feels like I’ve stopped something from following me into another life. And that feels bad ass.

12 years. 6 pregnancies. 1 girl placed for adoption. 2 healthy boys. 1 angel boy. 1 healthy boy. 1 world changing, chain shattering daughter. When someone sought to use my own strength against me, to cripple and shackle me me, loss led me to trust and love healed and changed me. I could not have done it without my partner, his love, and understanding. This is what family is built on. Not fear. Love.

Story and photo submitted by Stefani L. 

My Story Isn’t the Typical One: Overcoming Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

My Story Isn’t the Typical One: Overcoming Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

I had a very quick birth. My second baby was almost born on the interstate in the middle of the night. I was on the phone with my OB screaming that her head was almost out. As soon as I got into a room and managed to make a phone call to my birth photographer, she was out and screaming. All 9 pounds and 2 ounces of her. I had a little one at home who was getting ready to celebrate her second birthday (the following day). It was my first night away from her. Everything went picture perfect and I was allowed to head home the following afternoon.

I wanted to celebrate my first born turning two so we went to a quick dinner and returned home ready to start our new lives as parents of two.

This is when my life turned into a living hell. I walked in the house and sat down on the couch admiring my two babies, when all the sudden a rush of something came through my feet and up to my head and back again. I immedietly knew something was wrong and told my husband to dial 911. I started to get dizzy and was breathing heavily. The rush of something was still running through me. I was on the verge of passing out. I thought I was dying. The ambulance took me to the hospital with my husband and newborn in tow. They weren’t allowed back into my room as they were forced to wait in the lobby. She hadn’t nursed in hours. I told him to call me as soon as she cried to eat and I would figure something out. The ER was so busy that day and I was getting weaker and weaker. Unable to move or speak. I got the call…she was screaming to nurse. I asked for a pump. After two hours of waiting, a pump was delivered and I pumped. Nothing.

Scared and feeling hopeless, I discharged myself before seeing a doctor so I could feed my newborn. I went home without answers. Just tired and weak.

Days go by and I get weaker and weaker. The rush that ran through me that night continued to come at random times of the day. I would stop breathing. Scared. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Then the insomnia started. Nightmares came if I closed my eyes. Horrible nightmares. I would wake up screaming for help. I continued to get weaker until I was bed ridden. Several weeks went by and eventually I stopped eating. My day and night consisted of me being spoon fed to survive and staring at the ceiling. Cringing at the sounds of my toddler or baby crying. Gasping for help but not knowing where to find it. My husband would hold my baby to my breast and nurse while I laid and cried, scared and awaiting the next wave of panic.

Finally, a neighbor decided to take me into my OB because she knew whatever was happening wasn’t normal. They mentioned possible post partum anxiety and depression but their words were just mumbled up hums in my head. I heard them but I wasn’t listening. I was too far gone. I was scared to leave my house, scared to eat, scared to ride in a car. I had extreme urges to run and hide or extreme urges that I was definitely dying.

Several months go by, my husband takes a medical leave of absense. I finally was talked in to seeing a psychiatrist. I remember laying on the floor of the waiting room with my head against the air conditioning unit just sobbing and taking one breath at a time while the air blew into my face. I was terrified of anything and everything. Any sound or light made me cringe. Traveling. Eating. Hearing my baby cry. Hearing my toddler talk. All noises made me cringe. I was immediately prescribed Zoloft and a continous dose of Ativan. I then became a walking mommy zombie who just rolled through the motions of life. I was so dizzy and sedated from the medicine that all I could do was sleep. I only ate enough to make milk. Everything else inside of me seemed to rot away. I was absolutely helpless.

Eventually it was discovered that my thyroid was completely not functioning and I was suffering from severe anxiety and the depression came along beside it all. I continued seeing my pyschiatrist and was given permission to taper off my medicine as my baby turned 14 months old. Life at that point was still not easy. I still experienced the rushes in my body which were later described to me as panic attacks (something I never knew about). I was also afraid to be alone and never left the house. I had panic attacks almost every where I went.

I am now four years post partum and I can proudly say that the only medicine I take is one little anxiety pill in the evening. I still have panic attacks but they only happen during periods of stress or travel. Our Disney World trip in 2016 was not fun. I experienced way too many attacks than I had hoped for during that trip. I can mostly control them and ward off any extreme thoughts.

Coming from a woman who never experienced anxiety or depression in her entire life to being bed ridden and unable to feed myself was extremely unsettling for my husband, family, and friends.

My story isn’t the typical one. It has a lot of odd circumstances. I never knew what was happening to me until after it was all over and I began to make the connections. It could have been from my thryoid not functioning, I am just not sure. I was not educated on the matter at all. I also didn’t have much support. Postpartum anxiety can manifest in several ways. So can depression. I still loved and adored my baby, but my body and my mind were fighting against me.

I should have known to seek help faster and my family should have known where to find the help. I believe those were my two main issues. No one knew exactly what was happening to me because we just didn’t know. We didn’t even know postpartum issues exist. I was totally fine with my first baby. If I had only known what was happening to me was called a “panic attack” maybe I could have gotten better before it got out of hand. Before the depression set in. Before I went months and months feeling desperate and alone. Maybe if the ER doctor that night could have gotten to me he would have noticed the signs and I would have gotten help.

I am saddened today because I don’t even remember my baby’s first year. I have barely any pictures of her during that time. It can be different for you. You are not alone. Be brave and seek help now. Below is a picture of me and my babies today. I am 90% better. I will never be the same.

Story and photograph submitted by Amber W. 

Born En Caul, Twins in NICU, Hugs, & a Happy Baby

Born En Caul, Twins in NICU, Hugs, & a Happy Baby

In case you missed the Birth Without Fear Instagram this past week…

Overcoming Placenta Previa, NICU, & Hospital Policies to Birth a Beautiful, Healthy Baby Boy

Overcoming Placenta Previa, NICU, & Hospital Policies to Birth a Beautiful, Healthy Baby Boy

I was 16 weeks pregnant when I thought I was miscarrying. It would be my second miscarriage. I was on a business trip in Minneapolis, 750 miles from my home in NE Ohio. Seven hundred fifty miles from my husband and family. As soon as my plane landed, I realized I was bleeding more heavily than the light spotting I left home with earlier that morning. My cramps were worsening. I climbed into a taxi and awkwardly told the driver I needed to get it the nearest ER as I texted my husband the warning that I thought I was losing our baby.

I managed to hold back tears until I entered the ER and started to explain my situation to the registration desk. I was immediately offered a wheel chair and whisked back to a room. After a painful internal exam, I was finally taken to have an ultrasound. My baby looked great. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. I texted my husband the good news as soon as I made it back to my room in the ER. He had been an emotional mess, frantically searching for airfare to Minneapolis as we tried to determine whether he should come out to be with me.

The doctor came in a short while after my ultrasound and confirmed I had placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta forms low in the uterus and fully or partially covers the cervical opening. I was told that ninety percent of previa cases resolve on their own as the baby and uterus continue to grow throughout pregnancy. If unresolved by late pregnancy, however, I was destined for a scheduled c-section around 37 weeks. Women with placenta previa have a high risk of bleeding with labor and delivery. To avoid hemorrhage, previa cases are typically delivered via c-section before a woman has the chance to go into natural labor. I was diagnosed with a marginal previa, the least severe and most likely to resolve. My baby’s placenta was on the very edge of the cervix, but not quite covering the cervical opening. In partial and complete previas, the placenta partially or completely covers the cervical opening respectively, blocking baby’s way out. I was optimistic that the previa would resolve on its own so I didn’t dwell on it too much, though I was terrified of the thought of having a c-section. My first-born came into this world through a stress-free vaginal birth and I hoped my second would do the same.

At my twenty-week growth scan, I learned we were having another boy. My marginal previa persisted, though the ultrasound tech assured me I still had plenty of time for it to resolve. The rest of my second trimester went smoothly. I was insanely busy with work, helping plan for my organization’s annual conference. When the conference started, I spent the morning of the first day excitedly setting up and preparing for a full two days. By lunchtime, I was starving. I scarfed down a huge meal and had just sat down to prep for my upcoming breakout session when something felt off. I scurried to the bathroom where I realized I was bleeding. Heavily. I was 28 weeks pregnant.

I made my way back to the conference and tearfully explained my situation to my supervisor, who offered to drive me to the campus medical center (I work for one of the largest universities in the nation). I once again found myself away from home in a medical emergency. I spent the night in a hospital two hours from home as nurses and doctors monitored my bleeding. The bleeding quickly tapered and I was discharged the next evening. My baby boy was doing great, but the previa persisted.

A week and a half later, another bleed. This time, I was home. My husband left work and we rushed to our community hospital five minutes from home. I stayed overnight for monitoring. The bleeding tapered and the baby looked great, but the previa persisted. I remained optimistic that my previa would resolve and I could deliver a full-term baby vaginally. I was shocked to learn at my 32-week appointment, however, that if my previa didn’t resolve by 36 weeks my doctors would have me deliver in Cleveland or Columbus since our local hospital doesn’t have the resources for a blood transfusion. Because of the previa and because I had a posterior placenta, I had a high risk of heavy bleeding during surgery. My doctors explained that they were more comfortable having me deliver in a hospital that could better handle a blood transfusion.

As I tried to wrap my head around the idea of having a c-section two hours from home with a doctor I never met, I still tried to remain optimistic that the previa would resolve. My optimism came to a screeching halt, however, when I was 35 weeks pregnant. I had just arrived home from teaching my last big program before maternity leave. I was tired and contracting every 2-3 minutes. The contractions were normal for me. I was diagnosed with irritable uterus earlier in the pregnancy and suffered from periodic episodes of regular contractions. I crawled into bed hoping for a decent night’s rest. Within 20 minutes, I felt a gush of fluid. I thought my water had broken.

I made my way to the bathroom where I realized the gush of fluid was blood. My husband and I woke my two-year old son, Milo, and loaded him in the car before making our way to the hospital. Upon entering the labor and delivery unit, the nurses at the registration desk notified us that the hospital had a restriction on children under 14 due to RSV. Despite telling the nurses that my in-laws were currently on their way to get my son, we were told my son would have to leave. The hospital refused to allow my son to stay in my private room for the hour it would take for my in-laws to drive to the hospital. I refused to be admitted without my husband by my side so we angrily left and decided to drive an hour to a larger city hospital, where my family could be together. At this point, I was still operating under the assumption that, like my previous bleeds, I would spend the night in the hospital and be discharged the next day.

We arrived at Akron City Hospital and I was quickly taken to labor and delivery triage. I was hooked up to the monitors the doctor performed an excruciating internal exam. After looking at my records and consulting with my OBGYN over the phone, the doctor advised that I would need a c-section. We assumed we could wait until morning (it was about midnight at this point), but the doctor explained they were going to start prepping me for surgery and I would deliver within the hour. I tearfully called my parents to let them know we were having a baby as my in-laws made their way to the hospital to pick up Milo.

Before I had time to process what was happening, my beautiful baby boy was born. Doctors held him above the drape just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of his face before he was whisked away. He was taken to the NICU for what we hoped would be a short transition. I remained in surgery with my husband by my side as doctors began to close my incision. I was losing a lot of blood and I remember feeling lightheaded and nauseous throughout the almost hour it took to put me back together. Once in recovery, I continued to lose blood. Each time the nurse massaged my uterus, more blood would pour out. I begged to see my baby, but was told I would have to wait until the bleeding subsided and the feeling in my legs returned before I could go to the NICU. At one point, the doctor came into recovery to break the news that I would need to go back into surgery and have a D&C under full anesthesia to stop the bleeding. I tearfully asked if I could see my baby boy before surgery. The nurses graciously wheeled my bed into the NICU where I was able to see and touch my boy for the first time. At this point, it was about 6 hours after delivery. Little Leo was in an isolette with tubes and wires covering his little body. He was 5lbs 8oz.

After holding his hand for a short while, my doctor advised me that they would try an injection of Methergine, a drug meant to help the uterus contract, before taking me back to surgery. Fortunately, after several injections of Methergine and lots of massaging later, I stopped bleeding enough to be taken to a room. At some point amidst the chaos of the early morning, we were told that Leo had been admitted to the NICU rather than just being there to transition to the well baby nursery. When asked how long he could be in NICU, doctors told us it could be one week or three, depending on how well he does.

Leo would spend two full weeks in the NICU as a “feeder/grower.” He didn’t have the stamina to take a full feed by mouth so much of his food was given via a feeding tube. My milk supply was very slow to come in, most likely due to a combination of blood loss and stress. Our hospital did not offer a guest room program for parents of NICU babies, so once discharged, I would not have had a room to stay in while Leo was in the hospital. I would not have a private bathroom, a shower, or a bed and I didn’t have time between feedings to go home since we lived an hour away and I was attempting to nurse every three hours for each feeding. In addition to having no guest room program, the NICU lacked a bathroom (parents had to go to the hospital lobby to use the bathroom) and although I was told I was welcome to stay at Leo’s bedside, I barely had room to recline my chair. The facilities weren’t exactly parent-friendly, especially for any mother dedicated to breastfeeding her baby around the clock.

After conversations with numerous nurses and doctors, I was allowed to stay in my hospital room for three nights beyond discharge at no cost. While I was appreciative of the accommodations, I was reminded multiple times each day of how lucky I was for the hospital to have made “unprecedented” accommodations for me. The floor was half-empty for the length of my stay, so I couldn’t fully understand why it was such a big deal. For three days, I worried non-stop that I would lose my room. During that time, Leo’s NICU doctor attempted to facilitate a transfer to our local community hospital in Wooster so we could be close to home. Our local hospital has a “special care nursery,” which is a step-down from a NICU. Wooster, however, only has five beds and they were full. It would take three days for a bed to open and for us to be transferred. Ironically, once transferred, we were the only family in the nursery for the remainder of Leo’s stay. The space we had in Wooster was massive compared to what we had in the NICU at Akron. The lights were dimmable and noise was kept to a minimum, which allowed for my family to get much needed rest. I was also provided a free room and two free meals per day since I was breastfeeding (Akron also offered two free meals per day for breastfeeding mamas).

After one week in the NICU at Akron and one week in the special care nursery at Wooster, Leo was discharged. He was finally taking all his feeds orally. In a matter of 48 hours, we went from thinking we’d be stuck in the hospital forever to preparing to come home. We were elated that Milo would finally be able to meet his baby brother and we could return to some sense of normalcy.

Although hospital policies made our first week in NICU a nightmare, the nurses and doctors that cared for me and Leo were nothing short of amazing. It’s a shame that hospital policies prevent staff from subjectively assessing each patient’s unique situation. From not allowing our son, Milo, in our local hospital for an hour while my in-laws made their way to pick him up to making me fight for a guest room so I could be near my son in the NICU at Akron while I continued to recover from my c-section, stagnant policies added unneeded stress to our already stressful situation.

In the end, Leo is a beautiful, healthy baby boy. He’s eating well and gaining weight accordingly. Our nurses and doctors listened to our concerns, provided emotional support, and fought to have our needs met and for that we are forever grateful.

Story and photographs submitted by Danae W. 

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Thursday September 22nd 2011

I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby, had finished my last day at work on the previous Sunday as a midwife and was looking forward to relaxing for the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy. Most things were ready for the baby’s arrival, but I still needed the car seat put into the car and to finish packing my half packed hospital bag. But with no signs of this baby coming and knowing from experience at work that you usually go over your due date with your first child I wasn’t too concerned, and would finish up the last few things on the weekend.

It was my husband Ben’s day off, so we were enjoying our last few childfree weeks together and with friends. I had seen a friend for coffee that morning and Ben headed off to his mates place for an arvo catch up and few beers before life changed for us.

I hadn’t slept well the night before so once Ben left I decided to try to have a nap. While lying in bed I felt and heard a pop, my heart froze, was that my water breaking? I jumped out of bed and ran to the toilet, and as I sat down a large gush of clear fluid poured out of me. Ok, so that was my waters. My midwife mind kicked into gear, clear fluid is fine, and I wasn’t having contractions yet so I was just going to stay quiet about what had happened for a while and see if anything changed. I noted the time, 4pm, and knew that the baby was moving around in there so I wasn’t too concerned. Sometimes it can take hours to start getting contractions and first labours are usually long so I was just going to wait and see.

I messaged my friend who is also a midwife, letting her know that my waters had broken. She was going to come around to check on me before we made our way to the midwife lead birth centre in Perth, Western Australia (I didn’t want to rock up thinking I was in labour when I was only 1cm dilated!). She told me to keep her posted when things started happening, so I went out to sit on my fit ball and see if I could get some contractions started. I was probably rocking round for an hour when I did start to get some cramping. I thought I should let Ben know and tell him to head home, as I was planning on picking him up at 6pm and going to dinner at his parents place, and those plans were changed now!

He answered the phone with a joke “Hey love, are you in labour?” to which I replied, “Well not really yet but my water has broken…” He didn’t think I was serious at first, and then he realised I wasn’t joking, so he rang a taxi to get himself back home.

In the meantime my cramping was starting to ramp up in intensity, so I decided to get my TENs machine on while rocking on my fitball. I was kind of timing the contractions, they were coming every 5 minutes or so but not that regular yet. That maybe lasted half an hour before I started getting really strong contractions every 3 minutes or so. I decided to jump into the shower, and sat on the floor enjoying the hot water running over my back.

Ben arrived home to quite a shock- me in labour! I remember him saying to me I thought nothing was happening, and me replying that it all happened so quickly. I hadn’t called the birth centre to let the midwife know anything yet, so between contractions I was telling Ben what he needed to do, let the midwife know my waters had broken and I was contracting but happy to stay home for the time being.

Then he had to call my mum and let her know too, put the car seat in the car and finish packing my hospital bag. The poor guy, he went from a nice chilled out afternoon drinking beers in the sun to running around like a headless chook!

By 630pm I was contracting regularly and strongly, and Ben and my mum were pacing up and down the hallway while I sat in the bath. I asked Ben to call my midwife friend to come check on me, and I think that was the happiest he had felt all evening, he was going to have some backup and support as he felt out of his depth. I was in my own world and didn’t really notice how tense my husband and mum were, but my mum has told me afterwards that they were stressing out in that time!

My friend arrived soon after that, and she checked to see what was going on, I was 4cm but bubs was really low and in a great position. I remember being upset that I was only 4cm when I felt like I should have been further along because the contractions were so intense. She told me to go and hop back in the bath and that I was doing great, it was words I needed to hear.

The next hour was spent going back and forth between the bath and the toilet, (got to love labour) and my poor husband likens it to the exorcist, with me crawling around moaning and groaning.

At one stage sitting on the toilet I had a contraction and felt a heap of pressure and my body sort of started pushing at the peak of the contraction. As soon as my friend heard the change in my moans and the little push noise during that contraction she was telling me it was time to head to the birth centre.

My friend had to drive us in her car to the birth centre, because Ben had probably had too much to drink to legally drive. So my mum followed in my car and called my sister who was at work (she’s a hairdresser and it was late night trading) telling her to meet us at the birth centre. Everything seemed to be happening so fast!

The 20 minute drive felt like it lasted forever, with my contractions coming every couple of minutes. I was having a shorter contraction followed my a longer one, and my poor friend was trying to talk me through them, encouraging me to not push, warning me if I had a long or short contraction coming and to keep my head. I was in the back seat and remember looking at the speedo which would creep a little over the limit as I got a contraction and back to the limit as it finished. It must have been a stressful drive for her too!

We finally got to the birth centre around 845pm, with me squatting out the front involuntary pushing, and my poor husband banging on the door to let the midwife know we were there. We were quickly shown to a room and Belinda, the midwife that was on call, checked me and said I was 9cm dilated, and to try not to push, as I wasn’t quite ready. As a midwife I have told women to try not to push, but I didn’t realise how hard that actually is in reality!

My husband had called when we were on our way saying I wanted to get in the birth pool, so luckily it was full and ready for me to get into. I think I practically dove into the tub, water is amazing as a pain reliever. I also got given the gas to use to try to breath through the urge to push, and by then my mum and sister had both arrived.

I remember asking for the radio to be put on, and telling everyone in the room that the gas wasn’t working and they all laughed at me. The second time I told them that the gas wasn’t working, Belinda checked the bottle, I was right it was empty. Everyone had a little giggle about that; I knew I wasn’t going crazy!

It was around 9pm and there was no way I couldn’t push, my body was doing it without me even trying! Belinda asked me to feel inside myself to see if baby was right there, which I did. I could feel a squishy little head sitting there, so she told me to just go with my body, which is what I started to do. After half an hour of pushing there was a small amount of head on view but I felt like nothing else was happening, I remember telling them that the baby wasn’t coming. My mum told me to stop being so impatient; I had only been pushing for half an hour. But every time I felt the baby’s head it was the same amount that I could feel.

Another 15 minutes of pushing and with one almighty heave my baby’s head was out, and looking down I could see her fishy lips and eyes looking up at me under the water. The next contraction the body was out and along with the midwife I guided my baby out of the water! Oh the relief, except my coccyx bone in my bottom was really sore! My husband checked what we had, a girl, and told me I could call her whatever I liked! (After months of arguing about names!)

Once we had all calmed down, Belinda reminded me that I had pushed out a posterior baby, which is one of the hardest positions for a baby to be in when pushing. She must have turned right at the end of my labour, because I had no signs of a posterior labour, no back pain and no slow progress, which are two signs of a malpositioned baby.

My beautiful 2730g (6lb) baby girl Lydia Lee was just perfect! I had a physiological 3rd stage, my husband and I slept at the birth centre overnight and headed home the following morning to start life as a family of 3.

Story and photograph submitted by Sam M. 

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

There was a moment, just before Ellie reached a gloved hand inside of me, that I wondered if I was cheating. If my body was incapable of truly beginning labor on its own. 6 centimeters dilated, completely effaced, 42 weeks with him in my womb. I ached to feel the natural progression of things – the dance of intensifying rushes around my middle, the surprise of his waters leaving me in the middle of the night, or as I rose in the morning, or in the produce aisle of the supermarket.

“Are you ready?” Ellie asked, one hand on my thigh. I leaned against a stack of pillows and nodded. And just like that, with a swift poke and a tug and a pop, the fluid that held him for forty-one weeks and six days, was gone.

Rushes started slowly, climbing from my thighs, to the top of my belly and back again. Caitlin, my doula, diffused cinnamon and cedarwood, and KC reheated salmon and beans from the night before. The birthing room was warm and honey colored. The rain outside came and went in waves. I felt an overwhelming safety and a drumming readiness as I paced from one wall to the next. The tub rested in the middle of the room, empty and waiting.

Didn’t plan much for this birth. With Aspen still so young and needing, and labor being (generally) so unplannable, I hadn’t thought to make a music playlist or pack snacks for myself or pen affirmation cards. Instead, my bag was full of smoothie pouches for Aspen, and diapers, and footed pajamas. But the disorganization of it all was oddly comforting. I took the opportunity to trust, and to settle into the moment.

I thought that music might be nice, so I opened Pandora on my phone. The default station is Disney music for the toy shop, and a song from Mary Poppins began to rattle my bones loudly. I tried to remember what music I was hoping for, but my mind was getting foggy. I turned to watch the rain out the window and switched my phone to silent.

And then, a rush much more intense than the others suddenly overtook me. I leaned against the glass and waited for it to be over, but it never quite left. The next was nipping at its heels, and the next, and the next, stacking atop one another like aftershocks from an earthquake. I found myself on the cool of the concrete floor, rocking and vocalizing through the cascade. I remember calling for KC, who was in the kitchen heating the salmon. I could hear a low conversation between he and Caitlin, and they both sounded worlds away.

I was somewhere else entirely, body and mind.

When they made it back into the room, the steaming to-go box made my stomach turn. I pushed it away and suggested a popsicle, maybe, because my body was telling me that I was both very hungry, and very sick. I took a few bites and then passed it back to KC.

It was time to fill up the tub. Just an hour after Ellie broke my water, I was now loudly vocalizing through rushes that lasted a minute or longer. I eased my body into the bean shaped tub and immediately knew that I wouldn’t leave the water until my baby was born. The feeling of weightlessness was a primal birthing need that I didn’t know I had until I gently moaned through a half-dozen rushes in the water. I closed my eyes. Caitlin held a cool cloth to my brow and Ellie’s nurse, Spring, pressed two hands down either side of my spine. I let my arms hang heavy over KC’s shoulders and inhaled the salty smell of his neck.

“You’re doing it,” he said into my ear, “You’re almost there.”

I was trapped in the in between – so close to the veil, where life splits and hangs in warm water, one side light, the other dark. Life meeting life meeting death. I knew a part of me was about to die, again, as it had when I gave birth to Aspen. I welcomed the death, and let it tear into me. Fire filled my belly, burning from back to front and back again.

From somewhere on the other side, I heard Spring say, “You’ve been in this position for fifty minutes now. Do you feel ready to try something else?” I felt myself nod. I waited for a lull in the pain and then pushed my body back, resting my spine against the curve of the tub. KC held my feet and massaged gently.

And then, just like that, I woke up.

When before I was barely breathing, barely awake, eyes closed, I now felt safe and alert and alive. I opened my eyes. I was smiling, laughing, talking between rushes that had mellowed measurably. The space between the bouts of pain grew longer.

“Something’s wrong,” I told Ellie. “I feel too good. Why are my contractions spacing farther apart?”

“It’s normal,” she reassured me, touching a hand to my shoulder. “Your body is resting, building energy. You’re about to meet your son.”

When rushes came, they were fueled by fire. They peaked in the middle and as they unraveled, my body heaved energy downward. The urge to birth my son was primal and uncontrollable. Each rush summoned screams wild and ancient to tumble from my throat. I have never heard something so loud. I shook the windows. Outside, the rain poured.

And with my wailing, the veil was torn.

I remember looking up at KC and seeing tears in his eyes. “I can see him,” he said quietly. “Here,” he grabbed my hand and guided my palm downwards. Just within me, there he was, the smooth round of his head pushing towards my fingers. We waited for the next rush with wide eyes.

And then, with the silent hum of a hundred thousand mothers before me tearing through my middle, my body revealed through a ring of fire a neat round head, and then shoulders, a belly, two arms reaching, and last, legs. One, smooth, involuntary push.

Just like with Aspen’s birth, there were ghosts in the room. I exhaled and heard the sound swim from myself as if I were holding onto my own body gently.

We did it.

We pulled him from the water and I held him to my heart. Ellie cleared his nose and wiped his face and we all slowly worked to move our still connected bodies from the water, to the bed. My faithful team tended and nursed and warmed and whispered. I drank a cinnamon tincture and hot cohosh tea. We cut the cord, changed a diaper, and welcomed family into the room.

Our sweet Griffin arrived screaming into the world at 3:51 PM on Wednesday, January 18th. He was 9 pounds and an ounce, and 20.5 inches long. Though I was bleeding heavily and weak in the knees, I felt almost immediately that his birth had healed some ancient, shattered part of myself. Maybe something I had broken when I chose to numb myself for Aspen’s birth. Or maybe the part of me that had torn in two when I first became a mother. She came alive again that day, in the water, roaring through the thin of the veil.

From mother of one, to mother of many. My edges have been sealed with warm milk and honey light. The veil is closed again, and I am wholly here, on the other side.

Story submitted by Kristen Hedges.

Photographs by Caitlin Wilbur.

Tree of Life, Vernix, and a Bubble of Support

Tree of Life, Vernix, and a Bubble of Support

In case you missed Birth Without Fear on Instagram this past week…

So much #vernix! 😍 Did your baby have a lot or none at all? 📷:@appleblossomfamilies #birthwithoutfear #birthdayfrosting

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One hour old and the cutest little baby we’ve ever seen. ❤️📷:@fodselsfotografen #birthwithoutfear

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Barely at the Birth Center! A Fast & Easy Birth

Barely at the Birth Center! A Fast & Easy Birth

The birth of my first child Adelyn Perry was one of the greatest life changing, and empowering experiences that I have been a part of. It has put me in a place of awe and trust in the way God has beautifully designed a woman’s body. Probably like most new moms I was fairly naive about what labor and birth really meant before I actually experienced it, but I read a lot of books on natural childbirth and purposely searched unassisted births and breech births online (which is how I came across the Birth Without Fear blog).

Reading stories of the unassisted births particularly encouraged me that if women can give birth without assistance I could give birth with the caring help of a midwife! I’m am so thankful that my husband, Elijah, was on board with doing a birth center birth. Honestly it was kind of by default that we ended up at the birth center. At the time many of our friends were hiring the midwife, Tiffany, and using her birth center facilities with great results, so she was the first (and only) care provider we looked into. We immediately felt comfortable with her, and LOVED the fact we would not have to deliver in a hospital (Elijah greatly dislikes hospitals).

During the pregnancy we chose very little testing, and even declined an ultrasound, therefore we did not know the gender of our baby. Most of the pregnancy I thought we were having a boy, but as it got closer to meeting baby we simply could not decide on a boy name, yet we both had fallen in love with the name Adelyn. It was from that point on (about two months before the due date) that I felt we were probably having a girl, all because of the name. The entire pregnancy was very easy, with little to no morning sickness and very few complaints. I kept exercising the whole way through and felt great.

My due date was December 23rd, 2012. Leading up to the date and after I did not feel in the least that I was about to go into labor. I was nine days overdue (January 1st) and my family, who had been in town for the last two weeks were going to be leaving in a few days.

That day my midwife, Tiffany, called to see how I was doing and suggested if I wanted I could get a membrane sweep the following morning, to see if it would move things along. Both Elijah and I really wanted me to go into labor with NO interventions. After getting off the phone with Tiffany I remember sitting there and praying to God. I told Him that I was ready to have this baby, I didn’t want to hold back anymore (up till that point I had been fine with being overdue) and I really wanted to have the baby before my family had to leave town.

Around 3pm that afternoon two of my very best childhood friends who had driven all the way from Oregon to California came to visit me. One of them had said it would be neat to both see me pregnant and then meet the baby during the few days they would be in town. They got what they wanted! We all went on a hike up a mountain by my house, and of course my non pregnant athletic friends set a fast pace. I didn’t complain however, I wanted the exercise. It was funny though how unaware they were with my very pregnant state and that I usually would not walk that fast! During the hike I started getting painless contractions, but thought maybe they were Braxton Hicks, something I had rarely experienced before but heard many other pregnant women complain of. After the hike I said good bye to my friends and was pleasantly surprised to find that the tightening sensations did not go away. I was getting several painless contractions every hour.

Elijah came home from work, and I showed him how my body was contracting. By 7pm the contractions got slightly uncomfortable, it felt like I was stretching way down low in my abdomen. Slowly they got more intense, longer, and more frequent, but they were never unbearable. I was preparing myself for a potentially long labor and really did not want to drive a whole 45 minutes to the birth center only to be sent home if I wasn’t far enough along. I was going to stick it out as long as possible at home. Birth stories I read encouraged doing what you would normally do if you weren’t in labor, so as to conserve energy. For example if you usually eat or sleep at a certain time of day, do the same if you’re in labor (if you obviously are capable of doing it). I thought of a story I read of a woman who had a really long labor, and looking back had wished she had slept. I did not want that to happen to me and was determined to learn from even the harder more unfortunate stories I read.

It was 9pm by then and I was getting bloody show and starting to lose my mucus plug. I thought I should pack my birth bag, notify my midwife of my labor suspicions, and then try to get some sleep. When I called her to let her know about the loss of mucus plug and the tightening sensations, she told me I could be in the start of labor or it could be a while that things actually got going. I was having contractions about every 7 minutes by then but did not have to focus on them to get through it.

After the phone call I went upstairs to our loft bedroom (while Elijah cleaned the house… he likes to keep moving and doing things). I rested/slept between contractions, took several trips downstairs to the bathroom, and ate a piece of toast for energy. Eventually Elijah came to bed and the sensations got stronger and closer together. I felt the most comfortable during a contraction to get up on my knees in bed and sway in the darkness breathing deeply. Elijah’s presence next to me in bed and occasional comforting hand on me was strengthening. We were unsure of when to go to the birth center and even though the contractions took a lot of my focus, they still never felt out of control. It wasn’t the easiest thing to time the distance and length of contractions.

It was around 1am when I thought they were coming about every 4 minutes and lasting about 30 seconds long. We decided to call Tiffany to check in and see what she thought. When I had Elijah call Tiffany to let her know I was in labor he was relaying some of the timing of the contractions wrong, so I corrected him, and Tiffany could hear me talking in the background. I think because of my ability to communicate well, and lack of obvious pain, she did not think I was very far along. She said to call her back when the contractions were lasting longer like around 1 minute long and have been that way every 4 minutes for over an hour. After that I stopped timing contractions, I didn’t feel like spending all my focus and energy on the clock and timer on my phone, plus I believed what Tiffany said: that I might have a long way to go…

It was somewhere around 3am when I distinctly remember the contractions starting to come at a much faster and actually overwhelming pace. Elijah was finally asleep and I was having a harder time managing. I decided to go down stairs and take a really hot shower. I turned the water on and while letting it get hot, sat on the toilet. For the first time I was really not enjoying this. I cried out to Jesus saying I can’t do this anymore please help. Looking back I realize now that I was going through transition, and it was just me and God. I jumped in the shower, finding temporary relief with the hot water. Every contraction brought me to my knees and they were coming quickly. I wanted Elijah, but I was so consumed with the contractions I couldn’t call out to him. All I could do was loudly moan hoping he would wake up. He did wake up, thankfully, coming into the bathroom. At that point I definitely wanted to be at the birth center having my midwife help me. I asked Elijah for us to go to the birth center and he wanted to time the contractions first and call Tiffany to see what she said. I didn’t have the energy right then to talk about it. He timed between two contractions and they were a minute apart; He immediately called Tiffany. While Elijah was talking to Tiffany I was loudly moaning in the background (surely she would think I was in real labor, because of all the noise!).

Then I got the urge to push. It was scary but so instinctive; I did not want to be pushing though, I wanted to have my midwife with me! I told Elijah I felt like I was pushing. I decided to reach up inside to see if I could feel the baby’s head, but I really did not want to feel the baby’s head. I nervously reached up there a little tiny bit and was amazed at how open I was! Thankfully I did not feel a head. Tiffany told Elijah we needed to immediately drive down to the birth center; I didn’t think we could make it with such a strong urge to push. He briefly hashed out on the phone the option of having her drive to our house, but Tiffany had no idea where we lived, and we were very far out in the dark country down a winding dirt road. Without my knowledge Tiffany told Elijah we had a much better chance of getting to her faster than her getting to us, and also that it usually takes an average of 1 ½ hours to push out a first time baby, which was within our driving time.

The craziness continued. Looking back I am so thankful for an amazing husband who managed to get everything together to get me to the birth center. He grabbed all the things on my list to bring to the center, plus a bunch of towels in case we had the baby in the car. The worst part about transferring was having to get out of the shower soaking wet and then put cloths back on. I briefly wondered if I could go naked, then decided that if we got pulled over for speeding I would prefer to have cloths on. I managed to dry off and get my pajamas back on. I crawled into the car and buried my head in a pillow, informing Elijah not to tell me how close or far we had to drive, I didn’t want to know. I had three contractions on the first mile of bumpy dirt road and it was awful. I started praying out loud that the contractions would stop until we could get to the center. After praying I only had contractions every 10 minutes for the rest of the 45 min drive.

When we arrived at the birth center, the dark parking lot and surrounding office buildings were lit up with only a street light. Tiffany and my mom (who Elijah thankfully called while I was getting my cloths back on at the house) walked out of the birth center, to help me in. I made it to the room when I had another contraction bringing me to my knees. After the contraction Tiffany asked if she could check me. When she did she said the baby’s head was right there. I was fully dilated and baby was already in the birth canal. My body kicked back into gear with pushing the baby out. I tried several pushing positions preferring being upright and on my knees on the soft bed. Pushing contractions felt much different than the dilating contractions. They did not take lots of focus and energy, but rather felt very natural; my body seemed to know what to do. Eventually Tiffany suggested I lay down because the baby’s heart rate responded the best in that position and it was beginning to drop low. Having been awake off and on all night I was very sleepy at this point, and was surprised I was actually able to dose off between pushing. While pushing Tiffany broke the waters and there was some meconium in it. Even with these potential concerns Tiffany had a very calm reassuring presence that encouraged me so much. I asked her if the pushing was doing anything, and if she could see the baby coming. She said yes, reach down and feel. I reached down and was amazed to feel a bulge of head right there. It gave me so much strength to know I was very close to being done, and with that I worked harder. Baby’s head began to crown and I felt the burning ring a fire. Tiffany supported, oiled, and put warm compresses on my perineum. I felt like I was tearing everywhere, the first true sense of pain during the labor. Wanting to cross the finish line I gave a loud roar. Her head came out with an immediate sense of relief, and then her body slid out without any more pushes. Tiffany held her up and I saw a purple screaming baby, and she put her on my chest. Elijah and I were both so dazed we did not think to check the gender. Tiffany finally asked Elijah what the baby was. He looked and announced that it was a girl.

Our Adelyn Perry was born at 5:42am, January 2nd 2013, about an hour and a half after we arrived at the birth center. She weighed 7 pounds 3 ounces and was 19 ½ inches long. When I pushed her out, her head and her hand came out at the same time. Surprisingly and thankfully I did not tear at all!! Elijah cut the cord, and the placenta was delivered easily. Adelyn pooped all over my stomach right after she was born, but I could care less. Eventually we put a diaper on her because she pooped all over the blanket again after cleaning up the first mess. The meconium that was found in the water did not cause any problems for Adelyn’s breathing. Elijah and my mom got to hold and look at her, and my mother in law drove down to meet Adelyn, while Tiffany helped clean me up and get me comfortable. I rehydrated and ate some food, feeling amazed that I just gave birth and that it was all over and our baby girl was with us. Only about two hours after having Adelyn, while the world was waking up on that fresh sunny winter morning, we loaded up in the car and headed home. At home I was greeted by my warm bed where my baby and I snuggled up for a much needed nap, and various family members came over to meet Adelyn and bring us dinner. It was then I decided that next time we had a baby we would be doing it at home; we were barely at the birth center!

I loved almost every aspect of the birth of Adelyn and fondly thought about it over and over again in the many months to come. The hardest parts about recovery was a very sore tailbone from pushing her out while lying on my back and the challenges of breastfeeding and getting use to a newborn. I eventually healed from my bruised tailbone, so thankful that it wasn’t a fracture. As for learning to breastfeed, I was surrounded by other moms who were successfully nursing their babies and encouraged me to push through the first hard three months. Things got easier and smoother knowing how to feed my baby, and we ultimately found a rhythm to our new life. For me having an enjoyable birth experience was an empowering stepping stone into entering the unknown world of motherhood, and I wouldn’t trade the experience!

Story and photograph submitted by Janelle. 

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