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Category: Birth Without Fear

Surrender to the Ocean’s Tide: a Water Birth Story

Surrender to the Ocean’s Tide: a Water Birth Story

I had begun having Braxton Hicks contractions at regular intervals starting at 36 weeks. Every day I would contract at 5 minutes apart and end the day at 3 minutes apart. So on May 4th, 2017, which happened to be my due date, I didn’t think too much of my contractions, which now felt stronger. After picking up my daughter from school at 1:30 I came home and got in the bath tub, at which point the contractions slowed to 10 minutes apart. At 3 pm l decided to call my midwives to talk about my symptoms.

Once I got out of the tub the contractions picked back up at 5 minute intervals. This time they seemed crampier, more intense. They accelerated very quickly and within minutes I was making what my husband calls “tribal” sounds that signified it was real this time. However, I was still in denial that this was really “it”, and didn’t call my husband until 3:45pm. My 4-year-old daughter was watching a movie in the living room and periodically came to check on me back in my bedroom. Despite the noises that I was making, somehow, I was still in denial that this was really it. Thank goodness, I DID decide to inform everyone on my birth team, including my photographer. Little did I know how soon the baby would come.

The midwives arrived around 4:15pm and announced that I was fully dilated. I was so relieved! Soon after my husband walked in from work. If he would have left his office just 10 minutes later I’m quite sure he would have hit traffic and not made it to the birth.

I then texted my photographer who lives close by. She arrived at my house at 4:45, just in time to photograph me working through a few contractions. The pool was quickly set up and I stepped into the warm water. It was so comforting. In between contractions I felt fine. I carried on conversation and even told the photographer to open the blinds so we could get better lighting. We smiled for a nice family picture, and then I resumed my work.

With the next contraction, I felt what I can only describe as a “pop” of a rubber band. It took me a moment to mentally register this feeling, and a few seconds later I announced that my water had broken. With the water breaking came an undeniable urge to push. I focused inwardly, pushed gently, and out came little Levi! I did not feel a “ring of fire” this time, instead I felt what can only be described as getting kicked in the crotch with cleats.

After that moment I felt his head, then his neck, then shoulders, then body, all squirm out of me. That part was not painful at all! It was such a neat feeling that I do not recall feeling with my first birth. It was such an “out of body” experience, pun intended! I birthed him on all fours, and he slid out behind me. My daughter whispered, “Look Mama, there’s the baby!” My midwife picked him up as I rolled over into a sitting position, resting my back against the side of the tub. He immediately let out a strong, loud cry. I rested him on my chest and took in all the wonder of what had just occurred. A few minutes later, I got out of the tub and crawled into bed with my family. I laid him on my chest and he found and latched onto my breast. Soon after I pushed the placenta out. I did not bleed very much, neither in the tub nor post-partum.

I was so much more “present” for this birth than my first water birth, which was also swift and peaceful, however, I must have mentally escaped to “labor land” with my first. For this birth, I felt so clear minded in between and even during contractions. This must be why I was in such denial that I was in labor until right at the end, because I partly expected that mental fog feeling of labor land to come over me if it was real labor. My first birth was nearly 4 hours long, and I hadn’t had even a twinge or a cramp until I went into obvious labor with her. With my second birth, I had so many contractions for many weeks leading up to the birth. I had become like the boy who cried wolf, thinking every single day that the baby was coming, and eventually doubting myself, feeling more confused than ever about what real labor even felt like.

This birth confirmed what I already knew to be true from my first: birth can be so very simple, if we just allow ourselves to surrender to the ocean’s tide, instead of swimming against it.

Story submitted by Mackenzie A. 

Photographs taken by Kat Reiser

The Role of Marijuana During Pregnancy

The Role of Marijuana During Pregnancy

Photo courtesy of tagesschau.de.

Marijuana. Cannabis. Weed. Pot. Whatever name you refer to it by (there are dozens more), legalized marijuana is a very prominent topic in our nation.

Currently there are four states where you can legally buy weed if you’re 21, with California joining the mix in 2018. You can legally possess and smoke weed in eight states and Washington, DC. 29 states have legalized medical marijuana.

Chances are in the next 5-10 years or less that medical marijuana will be legal in all 50 states, at the very least.

So what role does marijuana have, if any, during pregnancy?

Currently, over three percent of women admit to using marijuana during pregnancy according to a 2015 government survey. The number is more than likely higher than that.

According to a woman going by the name of “Jane” in a recent article on WECT.com the nausea during her pregnancy was too much to bear.

“I would just eat a few almonds here and there, That was the only thing that I could keep down, almonds and seltzer water. And as soon as I vaped the cannabis, instantly I was hungry and was able to hold down entire meals, and it was great.”

The story goes on to quote Emily Earlenbaugh, Ph.D., a medical marijuana card holder herself for chronic pain issues and a cannabis consultant.

“I think using cannabis during pregnancy is a growing trend right now. It’s important to look at the medical research and see is this a safe option relative to other medications that you might use in place of it or relative to using nothing at all.”

Safety has always been the reason of opposition for legalization of marijuana, with opponents often claiming weed is the gateway drug to harsher substances such as meth, cocaine, heroine, and more. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association admits there is little research on the subject of marijuana and pregnancy, but there is cause for concern. It links anemia and low birth weight to marijuana use and says there is a higher chance for infants to be placed in the NICU.

Dr. Earlenbaugh says there is more to the story.

“If you’re already using tobacco, alcohol during pregnancy, you’re more likely to also be using cannabis, and we really can’t say whether those patients who are reporting cannabis use are not taking other substances at the same time.”

What are your thoughts? Is cannabis something to be considered during pregnancy? Would you consider it? Have you considered it or used it during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments below!

Supported and Respected and Encouraged: Wiley’s Birth

Supported and Respected and Encouraged: Wiley’s Birth

My due date was Sunday January 22nd 2017 and on Thursday January 19th I woke up with a feeling that it may be my last day at work before maternity leave. My mucus plug fell out throughout the day and I was feeling different than I had during the rest of the pregnancy, but I didn’t want to get myself too excited because I knew the mucus plug could indicate birth within anywhere from hours to weeks. I got home from work and went to the gym to get a walk in and try to get the baby moving. Around 8:30 p.m. I had my first contraction. I was able to use breathing techniques to work through the pain. These contractions continued on and off until about 2:30 a.m.

On Friday January 20th I was exhausted from the contractions the night before and decided to take the day off work and spend time walking and relaxing in case the baby decided to make an early appearance. My husband Jason and I walked the mall all day and ran some errands to pass the time. I felt a few mild contractions throughout the day, but nothing compared to what I had felt the night before. I didn’t have much of an appetite, so we snacked a little for dinner, watched TV, and headed to bed. Around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday January 21st I woke up to contractions. These contractions were much more intense than those I felt on Thursday. I couldn’t just breathe through them, I had change positions frequently and needed Jason’s support. These contractions lasted all night and all day. Around 5 p.m. the contractions had become more regular, about 5 to 6 minutes apart and around a minute long. We called the birth center, and the midwife told us to wait until my contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasted at least a minute each. She said I would feel the difference when I was moving into active labor and that this could take a long time, possibly until the next morning. My motherly instinct told me that it would happen faster.

Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. my contractions changed. I could no longer work through them by simply using breathing techniques and changing positions. I had to make loud, intense sounds from my gut. Jason was amazing. He played calming music, sprayed essential oils, rubbed my back, physically held me up, and encouraged me. I felt an extreme calm, as if I was inside myself. At some point during this time Jason called the birth center again. This time they told him to come in so they could check to see how I was progressing. He packed the car and we headed to the birth center. On the way there I had 5 contractions, and it was only a 15-minute drive.

We arrived and were met by my midwife Deb and our nurses Kendall and Silvia. We settled into our room and Deb came to check on my progress. I was 7cm dilated! I was so incredibly happy. My goal had been to labor at home as long as possible so that when I arrived at the birth center I would be close to transition. With Jason’s support I had done it! Deb encouraged me to sit backwards on the toilet with my head on a pillow for 9 to 10 contractions to get things moving along. This position was extremely intense, but Jason sat with me rubbing my back and giving me juice to keep my energy up. The nurses set up the tub and after my time on the toilet I moved into the water. It felt amazing! Such relief. I spent some time in a squat through contractions with Jason giving me juice, water, and fruit snacks. At some point, I remember saying “This feels different!” and turning onto my back. The nurses came in when they heard this and asked some questions about the pressure I felt in-between contractions. They listened to the baby and left Jason and I alone for some more time. I spent time laboring in a spread eagle position and the sounds coming from me continued to get louder and more intense.

In response to my changes, Deb, Kendall, and Silva came into the room and asked if I felt ready to push. I did! With some advice from them on how to do this, I began pushing. It was like nothing I had ever felt before and in my mind was taking a long time. I had an expectation that the pushing phase would move very quickly, but everyone encouraged me and told me that I was doing great, progressing very well. I trusted them and kept telling myself that I could do this, as millions of women had before me. At some point, Deb told me that my water had not broken yet and if I would like she could break it, but that it wasn’t necessary. If she did so, things would move along a little faster and with more intensity. I remembered that a good friend said she had her water broken and the pain was terrible. I decided I did not want this intervention and continued to push. I was so glad I made this decision, as the water ended up breaking on it’s own. When it broke we all screamed, I thought the baby had come out! It was not that easy, but I knew that my water breaking was a good sign that I would meet my baby soon. I kept pushing and at one point I turned over to push in a squatting position for several contractions, before returning to pushing on my back. I was feeling exhausted at this point, and all of the sudden Jason was looking down and they said they could see the head! Deb told me that using a mirror to see their progress often helps women at this point in labor. I was worried about how I would react, but I decided to give it a try. It helped! Seeing the progress was the encouragement I needed to keep going. Instinctively, I reached down and touched the head at the end of one intense contraction. After seeing me do this, Deb told me that it would help if I guided the baby’s head out. This is not something I thought I would be comfortable with, but I went for it. It burned, but out came the baby’s head. I was so excited and I just wanted to keep pushing to meet my baby, but Deb told me not to push unless I was having a contraction. She needed to check the location of the umbilical cord. She checked and told me the location was good. Then, on the next contraction out popped the body and I caught him! Immediately I brought him to my chest and held him tight. I was crying and kept repeating, “My baby is here. I love you”. There really are no words to describe what I was feeling at this point.

Baby Wiley Gregoire Smith was born at 1:35 am. I immediately held him skin-to-skin as I delivered the placenta. Then, Jason held him skin-to-skin as Kendall and Silva helped me out of the tub and Deb checked to make sure I was recovering well. Wiley never left our arms and we got to spend hours bonding with him. What an incredible experience!

I am so grateful for the support I received from Jason, Deb, Kendall, and Silvia. Jason supported me throughout labor and never let on that he felt nervous. He rubbed my back, responded to my needs, and provided words of encouragement. Deb took a hands-off approach that made me feel safe. If she wasn’t worried, there was no reason for me to be worried. She provided advice and encouragement when I needed it and respected my birth plan. Kendall and Silva provided words of encouragement, were relaxed, and made sure my baby was safe throughout labor. I could not have done it without this incredible group of people.

Seconds after I caught Wiley before delivering the placenta.
Seconds after I caught Wiley before delivering the placenta.
Wiley right after Jason cut the umbilical cord.
Wiley right after Jason cut the umbilical cord.

Story and photographs submitted by Meghan M. 

Labor in the Shower, Babywearing, & Anxiety is a Liar

Labor in the Shower, Babywearing, & Anxiety is a Liar

In case you missed our Instagram this past week…

Sending you love and good vibes only. ❤ Quote by @januaryharshe. ✨

A post shared by birthwithoutfear (@birthwithoutfear) on

Harry Potter, Zumba, & a Home Water Birth

Harry Potter, Zumba, & a Home Water Birth

In December, I got to shoot my very first birth session. Let me start by saying—nothing in the world can prepare you for something like that! The birth was set up to be an at-home, water birth. And, boy, I did my research. I read articles on what to expect when birthing at home, the process of having a water birth and looked up tons of different styles of birth session photography.

I was lucky enough for my first birth session to be for dear friends; Charity and I have been friends for over a decade! So when I got the call, she was very early in labor. I packed up my work and headed over to their house to keep her company. The room was set up with an empty birthing pool and the necessary emergency equipment. That was when it got real for me. I took photos of EVERYTHING.

Throughout the day, we ate pretzel Goldfish, watched Harry Potter movies and even did a little Zumba to get her moving! We timed contractions and practiced breathing exercises on a birthing ball. I learned that we want contractions to become “longer, stronger and closer together.” Charity’s mother-in-law, Kelli (aka the most wonderful woman on the planet), told us what to expect and how to pass the time.

Now this part is going to sound like I’m exaggerating—I’m not. This was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Charity and Jake clung to each other through the long hours, family was there to help and cheer them on and, of course, the midwives and midwife assistants were there to guide the parents-to-be through the process. It was such a wonderful show of community, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Through the hours of intense contractions, Charity persisted. She was an absolute trouper—I’ve never been more proud of this woman and the strength she showed! Through each round of pushing, it became clear that little Eisley could be born at any time. I took pictures on pictures on pictures! After a full day of labor, Charity successfully delivered a beautiful baby girl.

When I edited the photos, I tried to keep the dark and raw electricity of the moment (well, hours). There was also a point in the evening that the room was so dark I had to use an external flash.

This story is a such happy one. It ends with two very tired and happy parents, over 600 pictures to remember the experience and one beautiful, strong little girl!

Story and photographs submitted by Jude Anderson

A Fight for a Twin VBA2C Birth in the Hospital!

A Fight for a Twin VBA2C Birth in the Hospital!

I had my first son at age 18 and he was delivered by an old school OB who told me I wasn’t trying hard enough to push him out. He didn’t exactly offer a forceps or vacuum extraction because he told me these interventions were not designed to do 100% of the work. After a total of twelve hours in labor and pushing with an extremely strong epidural for two hours I was told “It’s time” and he discussed how he had tickets to a golf opening later that day while he operated on me. I was told I had a narrow pelvis and the baby never would have come out. My second birth was another scheduled cesarean due to me “not being a good candidate for VBAC” without reviewing my surgical report, just based on what I was verbally told was the reason I had a cesarean. With my third baby I put my foot down, found birth without fear, my local ICAN chapter, and found a lovely midwifery practice that actually reviewed my report and discovered the first doctor had noted “failure to progress” as the reason for my cesarean. I had a lovely and successful hospital VBAC at 40 weeks and 5 days.

My husband and I had three lovely boys but we decided to give it one more shot to get a baby girl, and if it ended up being another boy we would know what God was trying to tell us. Seventeen months after the birth of our third, and just one week after I stopped nursing him, we were pregnant. I knew the day I took the test it was twins. We told all our friends and family it was twins. At the 8 week ultrasound I asked my husband if he was nervous to see how many babies there were and he said no. The moment the wand hit my belly, there they were and all I said was, “I knew it”. Unfortunately the midwives that had helped me achieve VBA2C with our third were leaving the practice to start their own birth center, one that could not deliver twins. So I left the practice at sixteen weeks and moved to another midwives’ office that came highly recommended by my previous midwives. The new office was fantastic, very supportive and my pregnancy progressed beautifully. At each appointment I was given encouragement that I was perfectly capable of birthing these babies vaginally, and My OB Dr G. went over scenarios with me to explain all the risks associated with twin pregnancies but all of my options as well. I felt very well informed. I hired a doula, and set up a birth photographer and waited for the babies to be ready.

I had an appointment November 28th and had an ultrasound and confirmed baby A (a girl!) was head down while baby B (little brother!) was transverse. I was 35 weeks and 2 days pregnant. As previously discussed with Dr. G and all my midwives this was an acceptable situation to proceed with a vaginal delivery. Dr. G would even have been comfortable with Baby A being in a breech position but he warned me the other doctors on call in the practice would be uncomfortable. That night around 7 pm I started getting the all too familiar cramps and I started timing them. They were bearable and consistently 10 minutes apart. I texted my doula and she told me to try and sleep but to call her if they became unbearable or if my water broke. All of the sudden I started second guessing myself because it seemed like the contractions had skipped from 10 minutes apart to 4 minutes apart. I began to wonder if these were contractions at all or if I was just having stomach cramps. We called our doula and told her we were headed to the hospital to determine if I was even in labor or not and we would text her with an update. This was at 10:00 pm. My dad came to pick up the baby (the big boys were already at my parents’ house) and we were off.

The thirty minute car ride was unbearable and I just wanted to lay down in the seat because everything else hurt so badly! We got checked into the hospital and into triage and I let the admitting nurse check me for dilation expecting to be told I was 1-3cm and I could go home or walk around. Nope. 8cm dilated already. My husband was frantic and just texted the doula “8cm” she told me later she read the text and shot out of bed like a cartoon character.

In triage I was greeted by one of the OBs from my midwife’s office from a different office location (they all share the on call schedule) Dr. K and she told me she needed to have an ultrasound completed to confirm the position of the babies but that if baby B was still transverse it was going to depend on the way his spine was facing, up towards my face or down towards his exit, if it was whichever direction she didn’t favor, she would recommend a C-section. Dr. G had never mentioned spinal positioning of Baby B so I had a feeling already a fight was coming. The ultrasound confirmed baby A was head down and very low and baby B was transverse, and I never got a clear answer on which way his spine was facing only that she recommended a cesarean and she left to give my husband and I time to think about it. My doula arrived shortly after and we told her the situation and the doula asked if we wanted to pray about it. I said I didn’t need to because my husband and I both knew what we wanted to do.

We called Dr. K back in and explained we would like to try a vaginal delivery and that Dr. G and midwives had told us during our pregnancy this was an option as long as baby A was head down. I also had mentioned I did not want an epidural and should I need a cesarean for baby B I was willing to risk having to go under general anesthesia. Dr. K dropped open her mouth and asked if I understood her medical opinion was that I have a cesarean. I said yes but Dr. G had assured me this situation did not warrant an automatic cesarean. She told me Dr. G was not the one on call, and that he should have explained I have to listen to all the providers. I assured her I was listening, but asked if that means I do not get to make my own informed decision? She called me crazy, said she did not understand me and told me not a lot of doctors would even allow a woman who had two previous cesareans even attempt to deliver vaginally. I said I understood this and that is why I sought out this practice and my doctor specifically. She then told me I was risking baby B’s life and if I would need a cesarean it could take her as long as 10 minutes to get him out depending on the amount of scar tissue I had and that if his cord were to prolapse baby would be without oxygen and he would likely die, or be permanently brain damaged or have cerebral palsy. I knew cord prolapse and shoulder first presentation were only some of the possible outcomes and not guaranteed so I again said I understood and I still wanted to move forward with a vaginal birth. She asked me to repeat what it was that I understood because she wanted to hear me tell her I was ok with the risk of baby B dying. I looked her square in the eyes mid contraction and said, “I’m ok with the risk of baby B dying”, knowing full well it was a small risk and she was just trying to be a bully. She threw the consent form at me that I needed to sign showing she wasn’t liable if baby B died and I looked around and said loudly, “does anyone have a pen?” Dr. K also informed me that after baby A was born she was likely going to have to internally manipulate baby B and I was not allowed to retract from her or move up the table to get away from her. I said I understood and she again asked me to explain what I understood and I said “I’m not getting the epidural, you’re going to put your arm in me and it’s going to hurt like a bitch”.

After Dr. K stormed off the nurse asked if I needed anything so I said “Yeah, can I have a new doctor?!” I was half joking but she said I absolutely could, and she went to get the doctor on call from my previous practice that delivered baby 3. Dr. S. very calmly explained the risks and where doctor K was coming from but she admitted it was also possible that baby would turn head down perfectly fine. She suggested however I get an epidural port placed in case I need an internal version or if I need a cesarean that way the baby wouldn’t have the anesthesia in his system. I agreed to have the port placed and Dr. S. let me know she was going to attend the birth alongside Dr. K which I found to be pleasing. Scrubs were administered, apparently we were going straight to the OR for delivery, no time for an L&D room!

I asked for some scrubs for my doula and birth photographer and was informed they were not permitted in the OR. My doula has attended three twin births at this hospital and was allowed in the OR for all of them so it’s not hospital policy so I asked them to confirm this with the charge nurse and it turns out it’s up to the anesthesiologist so they wheeled me in and the anesthesiologist said my doula could come in but she needed scrubs. Dr. K loudly interrupted and said my doula could absolutely not come in there were far too many people in the room. I argued that my OB and all the midwives had assured me my doula was perfectly welcome in the OR but I was again shut down with an impatient firm glare from Dr. K. It was clear she was trying her best to control my birth anyway she could. They shut the door on my lovely doula and photographer and started helping me onto the table.

The anesthesiologist placed the port and then asked about administering the medication and myself as well as Dr. S informed him I wanted no medication just the port placed. Dr. K loudly exclaimed of course I needed the medication administered why else would I be getting the port. I was pouting at this point and just furrowed my brows looked straight ahead and said fine. The anesthesiologist said quietly to me that no, he would not just administer the epidural if I didn’t want it, I was the one that got to make the decision. Bless this man. I told him Dr. K was being a very insistent bully so we agreed together that I received just a small dose of medication to make sure it was properly placed. I was checked for dilation and was told it was a good time to start pushing now, so when I had contractions I could start pushing. I pushed two or three times and I hear Dr. K ask for a hook for AROM and I shot my head up and said wait what are you doing?! She said “Oh, did you not want me to do that?” I said, “UH NO!” But a few more pushes later and Dr. S explained if I let them break my water she would likely come right out. So I conceded and pop went the water and out came the head. 3:13 am my beautiful baby Girl Brinley Harper was born. She didn’t cry right away but when she did it was loud and she was pink. 9/9 Apgar scores and she weighed a whopping 5lbs 7oz. Dad was not asked if he wanted to cut the cord (which he did).

As soon as baby A was delivered Dr. K was elbow deep in my business and grabbing baby B’s head while Dr. S pushed from the outside to get babies body to turn. I heard Dr. K call for the anesthesiologist because they needed to “section” me open but Dr. S asked for the ultrasound to determine position. After about fifteen minutes of scanning and waiting not at all patiently, baby B was finally in position head down and ready. No cesarean needed, but he was still very high up so I needed to push him down and I had to somehow do this without the assistance of gravity.

An hour and a half it took to push him down all the while Dr. K is trying to break my water. They call it “membranes of steel” I tell them all it was my high protein diet. A nurse to my left shifts on her feet and repositions herself and I remember turning to her and asking if she’s alright or if she needs a break so clearly I am full of jokes. I can see baby girl in the warmer to my right and she’s just quietly looking in my direction. I am tired of pushing and just want to hold my babies so I announce I am done pushing and want the cesarean. Everyone thinks I am not serious. Another contraction comes and I do not make a sound, no one realizes it is happening. I am so clever I think. Someone sees it and says “hey a contraction! Push!” “NO” I shout. At this point I am so parched I am dying for water. I asked them to wheel me out of the OR so I can have a drink then they can wheel me back so I don’t contaminate their precious sterile environment they are forcing me to deliver in. I’m brought a wash cloth and told I can wipe my mouth out, I am not pleased. Then someone tells me baby B is almost there, I call them liars. Dr. K finally is able to break his waters and I give a mighty push roaring with intensity and my sheer will to make my baby appear. Someone tells me not to make noises with my pushes, I shout “I WILL MAKE NOISES IF I WANT TO!” And out baby B comes. They place him on my belly and dad gets to cut the cord. Despite having an arm inside and two babies coming out, I am intact. Thank you tiny baby Jesus. Declan Oliver is born at 4:47 am weighing 5lbs 3oz. Dr. K walks over to my bedside takes a long look at me and says “good job” I take a long look at her and say “thanks for not cutting me open even though I asked you to.”

Both babies got to come home with us three days later. I hear now from my OB that I am an inspirational story for the practice, and that he is so proud of me for being able to stand my ground and make sure I was a part of the birthing process. And I’m proud of myself as well. I honestly hope maybe my success story will help give Dr. K more positive personal experiences to draw from when she’s delivering future babies and dishing out her personal statistics. And with that, my birthing career is complete and my family is whole!

Story submitted by Stephanie Shuman. 

Photographs by Hillarie Laver.

Victoria Azarenka Returns to Tennis at 7 Months Postpartum

Victoria Azarenka Returns to Tennis at 7 Months Postpartum

Belarusian tennis star and former world number one Victoria Azarenka has announced she will return to the tennis court at this year’s Wimbledon on July 3rd, only seven months after giving birth to her baby boy Leo.

Her last tournament was the French Open in May 2016, where she was in her first trimester of pregnancy, an impressive feat to say the least.

Last ranked as number six in the world, Azarenka can retain her ranking if she returns within 12 months of giving birth. Granted, it is a warm-up event prior to Wimbledon and not actually Wimbledon itself. However, she has announced she would play in the Bank of the West Classic at the end of July.

That stands to reason that she has extra time to return to the tennis court, possibly waiting until the US Open in August, or possibly even a smaller tournament closer to December.

Seven months postpartum may seem too soon for some, it may not to others. There are many factors to be considered, including previous training, the type of birth you had, and your variation of normal. When did you feel comfortable starting your favorite activities and exercises postpartum?

Let us know in the comments below!

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

I have been laboring for an entire day. Lying in the bathtub completely relaxed listening to peaceful music and meditating. I hear the door open quietly. I open one eye and take a peek. My oldest son Cash is sneaking in. I close my eye and get back to THE work of relaxation. Feeling a surge coming, I know it will bring the severe pain of back labor. I try to welcome it and remind myself that each of these surges is welcoming my baby into my arms. It doesn’t work. I clench onto the edge of the tub and breathe my agony down to my belly and as I breathe out I suddenly feel a small hand touch my arm and softly glides down to my belly. Then I hear Cash’s voice say softly in my ear “You are strong. You can do this. You are a goddess and the bestest mommy.” He’s repeating affirmations he read on my birth flags to me. I smile and take in this beautiful moment. This is definitely a core memory for us both.

Back labor… I can’t welcome you. Back labor turned this birth into something I was not prepared to face. Two weeks postpartum and I still cringe thinking about the torment. The peacefulness I wanted with this birth was stolen. I have to remind myself that Mayuq’s birth story is still beautiful.

Wednesday night, I begin to show definite signs of labor. I was 13 days late at this point and excited to see my body and baby were making progress. We made some arrangements for the next day thinking it will happen that night. I play my affirmation tapes all night while I sleep alone in my bedroom. The next morning comes and I feel surges every now and then while the kids were in school. I feel the surges pretty hard on my back and this is nothing I’ve experienced before. We knew the baby was head down but looking to the left of me. We tried a few techniques for flipping him into a better position, unfortunately nothing was working. So, I keep affirming to myself; “my baby moves to the perfect position for birth” and went back to work on my meditation.

After school was out we feed the boys and tell them baby will be here soon and take them to our cousin Robyn’s to sleep over. I just had a feeling it would be Friday morning. The surges were so strong but still so far apart and inconsistent. My husband and I were alone that night. Along with the surges comes intense back pain. I spend the whole night trying to sleep in between surges. The back pain was exhausting. The surges were still 15-20 minutes apart and I was able to rest despite the pain.

In the morning we have a stress test and asked if they could check my progress. I’m expecting to be at least four centimeters. The baby looks great and was still in the same position but I was only dilated two and a half centimeters. I think to myself, how strange. The back pain, and the strength of the surges had me convinced I had to be making more progress than this. The midwife sent us home and said she would probably see us tonight.

We grabbed the boys and took them home. My husband sent me to birth in the bathtub while they hung out until we were able to take the boys to another friend’s house. I had to keep changing surroundings to cope with the back pain. I moved from the bedroom listening to hypnobirthing music playing, to the shower with hot water on my back. I switched to laying in the warm tub with essential oils soaking me trying to distract myself from the pain somehow.

Surges are 10-15 minutes apart still. Enough time to cope with the pain and rest as much as I could. When it came time for my husband to drop the boys off with Yuki, he leaves me alone with a heating pad strapped to my back. It helped a bit.

I lay on my bed focusing on breathing my love to this baby. I remind myself of the powerful words that my girlfriends wrote at my blessingway. Thinking of how my good friend Shana brought me to my place with my husband a month ago through yoga and meditation. I knew that this birth wasn’t going the way I expected. It was a struggle to bring myself to a place of peace. I feel the next surge approaching. I squeeze my hands on the bed and breathed in deeply. In my mind my birthing flags are connecting and spinning above me. When I breathe out they fall, spinning around my body.

The shooting pain takes over and I breathe telling myself I have less than a minute of this and I will get to relax again. I breathe out and tell myself; I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. This was going to be the affirmation to help me get through this. This is going to be my second VBAC. I hear my door open. It was Joy, my best friend. She lies quietly next to me on my bed. “Hi Joy,” I whisper.

I am glad for this visit. It helps me re-fuel. To be able to express the challenge I am facing to a good friend. She hangs around a bit after my husband gets home. We all share a pineapple that I requested. I was craving it for some odd reason. We make plans for her to meet us at the hospital when we decide to go. I know I still have a lot of work to do before heading to the hospital; we tentatively plan for 9 pm as the next checkpoint. The plan is to get there right at the end. I don’t want to labor in a hospital.

9 pm comes. The surges are closer together; the back pain was even more intense. I cry to go to the hospital but based on the distance between surges my husband suggests the shower again. I tremble in the shower. I can barely stand. I scream for him to be close. I tell him I can’t do this, the back pain is too much. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I lay back down on the bed, by now dreading every surge because I know that each one will bring this back pain. My husband disappears to the computer to search how to help. Every time a surge comes he shows up trying different things to help me cope. Nothing helped. One time he presses a spot on my lower back that redirects the pain elsewhere. This I can cope with, finally some relief. He can’t find the spot after that. Every spot he touches makes it worse. It was unbearable; I beg to go to the hospital. I see he is already packing.

The drive is only ten minutes. Every surge I have had in the car makes it exponentially worse because of the way I’m sitting. He promises only one, maybe two surges to deal with in the car. It was a least four. They were so awful that I cry out his name grabbing at everything in sight. It feels like my back is going to break. When we arrive at the hospital, everyone thought I was about to have this baby at the front desk. My water breaks right there.

I get admitted straight into a labor room. It’s the room I wanted. It has a huge bath and shower and lots of space. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m leaking amniotic fluid.

“Sacha, are you pushing?” the nurse asks me. It feels like I’m pushing, but not of my own volition. I couldn’t help myself. She checks me and says I’m at five centimeters. I lose it. “Fuck! Are you fucking kidding me?!!!”

My husband is telling me it’s great. The midwife says I’ve already done most of the work. I am panicking. How am I going to survive this birth? I feel like this at five how will I cope at ten? I can’t even imagine what the pain might be like then, or how long this is going to last.

I feel like I’m about to pass out. I’m on my hands and knees and I can barely stay up. More amniotic fluid. “Do you have anything for the back pain? Just the back pain?” I ask. She tells me my options are nitrous or an epidural. I do not want an epidural, the last one I had I couldn’t feel my entire bottom half. This is the path to a C-section. I repeat my affirmation as the back pain hits. It feels like my back is breaking. I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. They give me the nitrous mask and I put it on and breathe deeply through it for about a minute. Nothing. I throw it back at them, “This shit is stupid! It’s not helping my back. Please, my back I can’t fight this!” My husband tries to give me my earplugs to listen to my hypnobirthing music. I get mad and throw them; my back hurts so much I don’t care about anything.

“I want the epidural. I’m going to have to do this,” I say as assertively as I can. I know this is my husband’s cue to talk me out of this. He knows his job. I’ve said this every time but I don’t mean it. I don’t want an epidural; I want the pain to stop. This back labor is so much more intense than anything I have ever experienced. I really do mean it this time. I am at the point where I can’t relax in between surges; I just pant in exhaustion and anxiously await the next painful episode. I make the decision and I am OK with it. I make peace with my decision.

“Warren… I will PUSH this baby out! I can still do hypnobirthing with an epidural.” I reassure my husband. The surge hits my back again and I am unable to continue my speech to him. I know he is supporting me the way he is supposed to. He is still trying to talk me out of it and I scream with agony and cry and he just stops and says “I’m sorry babe. I am so sorry you are feeling this back pain. But, you can do this. You are almost done.” He is right. I am almost done. I am now at 8 cm. I went from a 5-8 very quickly. In the moment, all I want is this pain to stop.

The surge is gone and I know they are getting the epidural ready somewhere at my insistence, and despite my husband’s objections. A different nurse pops out of nowhere and overhears me scream of back agony. She mentions they have sterile water injections and says we should try them. Warren chimes in and says something like “oh, you guys have that option? I was just reading about that.” I try to listen but the surge hits me and I can’t think straight. I want to hear them; I want to learn more about it so I can make a decision but I can’t I am trying so hard not to pass out. Apparently, Warren was suggesting we try it. The anesthesiologist tells him in her experience it doesn’t work that well and continues preparing the epidural.

I ended up getting the epidural the last hour of my birth. Warren holds me up while they stab me repeatedly looking for a gap in my spine. My history with back pain in general is extensive. The hardest part during this process was to stay still through the pain. It feels like my back is breaking into pieces. I stay still while Warren holds me. I remember crying, trembling and screaming through the back pain wishing it was just a normal contraction. I can hear the nurses telling me that I am doing great holding still. I thank my hypnobirthing to be able to do this. This takes much longer due to the anesthesiologist not able to find the right spot. She finally finds it and when the numb feeling hits my back I am relieved but feeling cloudy.

I was pleased that I actually could move my legs and body and still feel the pressure of surges. This makes me feel extremely confident with this decision. I know I can push my new baby into this world with no problem. I turned to look at Warren. He looks concerned and distressed. I know he is thinking this is going to end up like Cash’s birth. He is thinking that I’ll be too numb to push this baby out. So, I look at him and say his name to snap him back to my reality. “Warren! I WILL push this baby out! I can do this. I can still use my hypnobirthing!” Hypnobirthing is not only about achieving natural birth. It’s about believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with empowerment and accepting your birth, wherever it turns. And I did just that.

Twenty minutes later I felt the urge to push. They checked me and I was fully dilated and ready to meet my baby. It only took me 23 minutes of pushing to bring him into this world. My husband kissing me telling me I was doing amazing and the midwife and nurses coaching me so well and so supportive at this point. Honestly, it felt weird pushing without the feeling of surges. I wished to feel them but knew it wouldn’t feel like that with the back labor pain. So, I reminded myself that I am still strong and I smile and say out loud, “I can’t wait to hold him! I am so happy he is finally coming to me!” I reached down to feel his head crowning and I smiled and pushed again and then he was in my arms screaming his baby lungs out. When they tell me what time he is born I am in shock that it’s now Saturday. Two and half days have really gone by? What a warrior my body is.

Mayuq Raul
Born at 2:23am Saturday 11/12/2016
8.8 pounds 22 inches
15 days past the “due date” (just like Rowan)
Another fun one, Cash was born on a Thursday, Rowan on a Friday and Mayuq on a Saturday

It’s been a few months now since Mayuq was born. I find myself with very mixed emotions. Back labor was something fierce. I was planning on writing how awful it was and how the reader should understand why I needed to have the epidural the last hour of my birth. I was trying to justify why my birth didn’t go the way I wanted it to.

Instead I just want to say this. WOW… Women are strong. We birth our children in so many different ways. And we should be proud no matter the outcome. When I had Cash as a C-section, I didn’t feel strong. I felt defeated. Rowan’s birth healed me to help me look at Cash’s birth as a voice to be reconnected with. Fighting for my VBAC and able to have him naturally and gentle was an amazing experience. This last birth I have fought with my emotions on how to think about it.

Talking to some friends that have gone through back labor has made me feel better about my experience. One friend said to me “Doesn’t it make you feel even stronger?” Yes, it does. It also makes me cry or think about what I could have done differently. But, that’s not fair to me. So, I choose to think of the amazing parts of my birth and pregnancy such as these: My oldest supporting me in my bath, my best friend’s visit to share a pineapple, my husband telling me he was sorry for my back pain, using affirmations and meditation to help me birth for so long, my beautiful visions of mountains, my good friend’s candle lighting when I started to birth, my blessingway ceremony, touching my son’s head when he was crowning, having him instantly on my chest and having a second successful vaginal birth after cesarean. And with that I have mastered my peace.

My birthing experience has come to an end. What an amazing journey motherhood is. Although, my personal birthing is done I hope to enjoy others in the future. Possibly pursue my dreams of being in the birthing world such as get my certificate so I can hold hypnobirthing classes. I think my experiences can be helpful to others and I just cannot imagine my life without helping other women achieve their birthing wishes. Thank you for reading Mayuq’s story with an open heart.

Here are some links about back labor and what it is and how to spin your baby back into a better birthing position. My baby was posterior, which is why I think I had the worst results of back labor, a very long pre-labor and some tear:

Also, sterile water injections are for the moms that experience back labor. It might save your natural birth labor if that is your goal. It works very well with cases of pain level at a 8-10 and have an hour left of labor. I would have been the perfect candidate for that option.

When I asked the midwife “what do you have for back labor!?” she never mentioned it. The nurse that was in the room for 3 minutes did. And at that point, it was too late for me to make a clear decision. Getting consent for something like an epidural when you are in intense pain is an interesting topic, especially in light of a birth plan I wrote when I was clear headed. I also think that having a doula at this birth would have been very helpful this time around. Warren had a hard time juggling my needs and fighting for my birthing wishes during transition at the hospital. It also would have been very helpful to have a woman’s touch that knows what she is doing due to training and experience.

My favorite affirmations I used:

I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turn my birthing might take
I birth with Ease
Breathing in I am Strong, Breathing out I let go
I allow my body to fully relax
Every surge brings my baby closer to me
I look forward to the day of my birthing, the day I meet my baby
My baby moves to the perfect position for birth
I breathe my love down to my baby
I am a strong woman
I am so happy that my baby is finally coming to me
My mind is clear; I focus on the miracle that is happening within me
My baby and body work together in harmony
I look forward to holding my little baby in my arms
I am calm and at peace
My body knows what to do
I tune into my body and out
My baby is safe and comfortable
I am safe and comfortable
I am loved
What a beautiful day… The day I meet my baby.

Story and photographs submitted by Sacha Jones. 

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