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An Open Letter to Birth Without Fear

An Open Letter to Birth Without Fear

At Birth Without Fear, we receive hundreds of emails on a daily basis. Many of them are birth stories, to which we say: squeee! Some of them are spam, to which we say: didn’t I create a filter for you? Some of them are hate mail, to which we say: Thank you for your feedback? And, also, I know I created a filter for you! And every once in a while, we get a beautiful prose piece from someone whose life has been changed by Birth Without Fear. Our response to this one is: silent awe. We are absolutely speechless with gratitude for the words that Brie H. from Cincinnati, Ohio, has shared with us.



I would like to personally thank you for the movement you have set in motion in our country, and around the world.  You have inspired and moved HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS!  How amazing is that to think about?  When we are young, so many of us don’t know what we want to do with our lives, but we know we somehow want to make a difference.  Well girl, you’ve done just that.  You will be able to look back over your life and know that you made the world a better place.  You changed something, and something HUGE.  You, January, have made a positive difference and moved mountains for people you have never even met.  You fight for us, and give us a voice that we never knew we had.  You, and the other wonderful people behind Birth Without Fear, have given us an education on our rights that we may never have had without you.  You have changed birthing outcomes and improved lives of women, families, and babies all around the world in doing so.  WHAT AN AMAZING IMPACT!

I want you to know that I appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made for me.  You have sacrificed time that you will never get back with your families, your husband, your children, your friends, and yourself, so that I know my rights.  So that I can be happy and have the best birth, pregnancy, and family life that I can humanly have.  January, I will never fully understand the frustration you must feel when you see that we aren’t supporting each other, or loving each other, or aren’t showing you and the entire BWF family the gratitude you deserve.  You have done everything for us, and have only shown us love, support and acceptance.

I would, above all else, like to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for the journey you took to bring us Birth Without Fear.  Thank you for the sacrifices you have made.  Thank you for the tears you have cried, the time you will never get back, and any hurt your hearts have felt in the process of making my life better.  I want you to know that you have made a difference, and none of it has been in vein.  I want you to know that I wish you every bit of happiness and joy this life has to offer, because you and your families have made my life so much easier and better because of the sacrifices you’ve made in the name of Birth Without Fear.

One day, I hope to be able to meet you, January.  I hope I have the ability to hug you, and tell you “thank you”, face-to-face, because you have made such a difference in my life.  I thank you with all of my heart, and I thank you from the rest of the BWF community who sometimes forget what you have given up to help all of us.

Sending so much love,

Brie Hammer
Cincinnati, Ohio


Aw, shucks.

right back at ya babe copy

The Blood, Sweat, and Tears Needed for Birth Without Fear: Mr. BWF’s Take

The Blood, Sweat, and Tears Needed for Birth Without Fear: Mr. BWF’s Take

nurooBirth Without Fear has become more than just a mere Facebook page, and much more than a simple blog. It has become a juggernaut of pregnancy/birthing/postpartum support for all women that has never before existed, an actual movement of women believing that giving birth, no matter the methods or the outcome, is indeed a blessing and not a scary condition to always be monitored in the antiseptic setting of a hospital.

But behind this movement of support for women from all walks of life comes work and more challenges than anyone reading the Facebook page or the blog could ever humanly imagine.

The Growth of Birth Without Fear

Birth Without Fear was originally just a Facebook page, a simple little side project that January thought would help some other women. That turned into a thousand women. Two thousand women. Multiple thousands of women. Updates and inspirational quotes and uplifting support for women giving birth via cesareans in a hospital setting, at home in a birthing tub, in a birthing center, or whatever other method of childbirth women choose to experience. Your choices don’t determine whether Birth Without Fear will support you or not. Your choices are your choices and Birth Without Fear will support them all equally. And therein was the source of the Facebook page’s phenomenal growth.

Then came the numerous hours of HTML coding joy to construct a website sufficient for the needs of women reading from all over the world, which is still, and always will be, an ongoing process. Should that word be bolded or not? What font to use for the navigation bar? What should the header image look like? What color do we want the hyperlinks to be? How wide should the content margins be? Most recently, with so much traffic crashing the site, do we upgrade to a dedicated server or a virtual private server? A lot of seemingly miniscule decisions that, as a whole, can make or break the aesthetics of a website that trumpets the vital and important message of a woman’s right to choose a fearless and supportive birth experience.

Articles were next. Having been through the gamut of birthing experiences, January had no shortage of material to work with and write about. From birthing providers, to birthing experiences, to the actual labor process itself, postpartum (the good and the bad), breastfeeding… The list could go on and on. And it continues to go on and on. Every day. Multiple times a day.

Birth stories started coming in after that. And coming in. And pouring in. And flooding in. Hundreds and hundreds of birth stories that have been put up on the this site, with, no joke, three years’ worth of birth stories waiting to be sifted through in email. And with birth stories comes editing (because, no offense, not everyone is an English major, and January and I are spelling and grammar sticklers), and formatting, and adding photos. A time consuming process. I know. I’ve done all this personally.

Within the last year, website and Facebook admins have been brought on to assist Birth Without Fear in its unbelievable growth and presence, these admins giving up so much of their own time to help other women receive the support they long and crave and need. Sponsors have come on board to show their support for Birth Without Fear. January has been sought out to speak regularly at events around the country. And we put on the first ever Birth Without Fear Conference in October 2013 in Arlington, TX. That, in and of itself, is no small feat, let me assure you.

In short, the growth has been astronomical and nothing either of us imagined back in 2010 when a little ol’ Facebook page called Birth Without Fear launched.

Behind the Scenes of Birth Without Fear

In Birth Without Fear’s early days, back when it was just a Facebook page, I didn’t give it much thought. That wasn’t for very long because January’s message of support was getting out to a lot of women in a very short amount of time.

After about six months, January decided to start up the website to support the Facebook page. We had just recently moved back up to Dallas from Austin with very little money after my associateship went sour, so it was a very challenging time for our family. I was very stressed about having to suddenly hit the reset button on my chiropractic career, and spending my free time staring at HTML code was a distraction from all that. January began posting up articles, and they were more than well-received. It seemed like a lot of women were starved for some kind of support or validation from their past experiences. January was pregnant with #5, a.k.a. Mini, at the time, so she was in the pregnancy/birthing zone.

And then the hate came on. We were totally caught off guard. Women scarred from traumatic birth experiences wrought by irresponsible or careless providers saw Birth Without Fear as only about having a natural childbirth at home, and they attacked like a feeding frenzy of sharks. Three weeks out from giving birth to our fifth child, one individual made some particularly heartless comment on the blog that you just don’t say to a pregnant woman preparing to give birth to her own child. There were many others that attacked, on Facebook and the blog, and it was relentless. I was concerned watching January go through this as we were about to attempt a second unassisted homebirth. I was really angry about all of it. In fact, I hated Birth Without Fear and all the trouble it was bringing into my wife’s life and that it might ultimately affect our birthing experience in a very negative way. I was really scared for January and for Mini. Ultimately, our second boy was born unassisted at home like we planned and the BWF hate subsided over time. But the postpartum depression was just beginning.

I had a graveyard shift valet parking job at the time to supplement my income while I got my practice off the ground. Six days after Mini was born, I was back at work parking cars for drug dealers, hookers, and drunks proud of their marital infidelity, basically the seedier side of society that crawls out of its hole between the hours of 12:30 and 5:30 in the morning. It made me sick some nights, knowing this was what I had to do to support my family while my wife was at home struggling with recovery from a particularly rough birthing experience.

Eventually I quit the valet job and got some color back in my face after a month’s return to a normal sleeping schedule. The practice was sputtering and going nowhere and we hit a financial rock bottom. Throughout that period, Birth Without Fear and all the women counting on it, and January, for support was all that kept her going. She still didn’t sleep well, still suffered from postpartum depression, and I was struggling to make a practice work as one of seven chiropractors on a single intersection in the North Dallas area. But Birth Without Fear was growing, women were getting support for the first time ever, and they wanted more of what January had to offer.

An opportunity to move to a small West Texas town and open up an instantly busy practice fell into our laps and we jumped on it. It was truly by the grace of God that this happened. It helped us get back on our feet and remove the stress that comes when you have no money and have to keep hitting ignore on the cell phone when the bill collectors call every 15 minutes.

While the practice was doing well, January still was not. Birth Without Fear was growing immensely and January was spending more and more time growing it, on Facebook and through the blog. Too much time by my estimation. I found myself really and truly resentful of Birth Without Fear and how much time she was putting into it without it uplifting her in any way. Yes, there were the positive emails, the ones that praised January for helping to change their lives and open their minds up to a new, positive way of viewing birth. But it seemed like a lot more time was spent dealing with haters, putting out fires, responding to comments on Facebook and the blog and I just didn’t understand why she needed to spend so much time doing all those things. I mean, c’mon, it’s just Facebook we’re talking about here. Right?

Having talked more about it since then and understanding the depths of her postpartum blues, I know now that Birth Without Fear was an outlet for her, that it distracted her from the difficulty of the depression she was suffering from. She was meeting so many great people through Birth Without Fear and even patching up differences with some former haters. It really was bringing goodness into her life, but it was hard for me to see this in a tangible way. All I seemed to focus on was how tired I was of hearing about the people who made nasty comments (and rightfully get banned from the Facebook page), the ridiculous copycats with nothing better to do in life than mimic and mock Birth Without Fear and pretend they’re original, and Facebook’s occasional banning of January for obviously hypocritical reasons. But I slowly started to realize that Birth Without Fear was doing some good things and that, after two years, some people began wanting to be in on it for business reasons. For me, this validated a lot of January’s selfless hard work for so long.

But not all of it. Being a little dense like I am, I just felt that Birth Without Fear was this little side hobby that was bringing in more negativity from haters than I cared to know about. I didn’t care for it, didn’t want to know about it, and couldn’t understand why January was on the computer SO MUCH dealing with it!

We finally sat down and had a talk about Birth Without Fear. I told January that she either needs to give it up or take it to the next level to justify all the time she spent working on it. I felt like it was just there, existing as a good resource for women, but not necessarily doing what it potentially could.

She chose to take it to the next level. She began speaking at events. I had the opportunity to watch her speak to a packed house in Phoenix and Austin. We also decided to go ahead with our own Birth Without Fear Conference.

For those of you who have never planned a conference, I can’t even begin to explain how much planning and work is involved in it. There have been more than a few sleepless nights spent on organizing, planning, and working on the conference website to make it all look the way we want. And still, we are learning as we go. Every single day. Writing up contracts, tweaking the website on an hourly basis, returning emails… And that was just yesterday afternoon in between seeing patients!

January just returned from Philadelphia, and I wasn’t able to make the trip out with her because we don’t live by family or anyone else that can watch our five kids for two to three days at a time. So I stayed home with the fearsome five and ordered a lot of pizza (because it was easy and I didn’t have to cook it), took them to McDonald’s once (which shocked January because I absolutely detest McDonald’s… but they had Smurfs toys!), and played a lot of Mario Kart Wii with the kiddos (man, I hate that blue shell when it knocks you out of first place!). All while January, once again, knocked it out of the ballpark at MommyCon.

And this is what we’ll be doing for the other MommyCon events over the next two months, all so Birth Without Fear’s presence can continue to inspire and validate what women want to hear. But I’m not going to lie, it sucks for me. I’ve been there for her through the thick and thin and I feel like I should be there to support her. But we also have kids that need us and they are a priority. January stayed home while I was away in chiropractic school and student clinic and studying for National Board exams and occasional weekend seminars. I guess it’s my turn now, right?

b and j

My reason in writing all this is to show all of you that Birth Without Fear is not some easy magical thing full of rainbows and unicorns (as January loves to say) that just happens when we click our heels together. There has been literal blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into building Birth Without Fear into the movement it is today. It has been a challenge much of the time, for January and for me. And as it continues to grow, the challenges will continue to evolve and we will continue to adapt and grow because of them.

Birth Without Fear now fills a void that no one realized ever existed, and when I stop and think about it, I can’t help but marvel at what January has done. It has become a movement of support for women, to inform them of their choices and empower them to speak up for what they believe in. It takes a lot of work and isn’t some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of thing. But nothing worth doing in this life is easy, especially supporting women in their birthing choices in a society, a nation, a world where birth is seen as a problematic condition and not the epitome of godliness that only women can achieve in this mortal existence of ours.

Where I’m At…Virtue

Where I’m At…Virtue

In backing off Facebook, I am giving more time to myself, my family and yes…my spirituality and faith. If you have followed me any length of time, you know that I am accepting of all and never push religion. However, in being honest about where I am at in life away from Facebook, here it is.

Today, among other things, I am preparing a talk for church tomorrow. My talk is based on VIRTUE. More specifically the last sentence of the 13th Article of Faith in my church. It goes:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men, indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul. We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to e able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

Definitely not what the world is teaching us. I feel humble to be able to study and give a talk on this topic. I’m sure I have just as much, if not more, to learn from this than anyone who will be hearing the words I prepare.

These lessons and morals are important not just to us, but to teach our beautiful daughters and sons. To hope, to love, to do good…and to seek these things out.

Emergency C-Sections, Incubators, & Hospital Protocol: Men Experience Birth Trauma, Too

Emergency C-Sections, Incubators, & Hospital Protocol: Men Experience Birth Trauma, Too

13658978_576874945818115_4576483975421006167_n_FotorBirth trauma is very real and probably much more frequent than women in our society realize. But birth trauma is not exclusive to the moms and babies. We dads experience birth trauma, too, but in a very different, very mentally draining way.

Postpartum Depression for Men?

I am very involved in my family and find that my life revolves around them no matter what I do. I lie down with the younger two kids at night and, if I’m home, for naps during the day. I draw for my son and play superheroes and tag with him often (though not often enough by his standards, which would be 24/7/365), and I’m constantly teaching my oldest the differences between right and wrong as she begins getting older and discovering new language and behaviors (that we aren’t always thrilled about). I recently had to quit a steady job that demanded too much time away from family and I am now currently starting up my own business where I can make my hours revolve around my family.

With all that being said, it should not came as a surprise that I am very involved with the ins and outs of January’s pregnancies and births. When she goes through trying times, I go through trying times.

Birth trauma is a very real thing for women. In fact, I will go so far as to say that birth trauma can account for much of the postpartum depression that happens in our society. It just never gets addressed because the very ones women trusted to guide them through childbirth and violated that trust have placed themselves on a holier-than-thou pedestal. It wasn’t anything the OB or the nurse or the midwife did, it is all in the new mom’s head. Her experience, good or bad, happened all by random chance and nothing the “expert” care providers did, right? It is up to the new mom to deal with it all by herself after, many times, no one would leave her alone when she needed it most. Nice logic.

I say this because I have seen it first hand with January. I have watched her move on past the trauma and postpartum depression by herself. I was there, but I am not a trained counselor or therapist. There’s only so much emotional support I can offer because I have never experienced it first hand.

But what about me? What about the husbands reading this or the husbands of the women reading this? What happens to them when they see their wife’s plans go up in smoke, when the hospital staff mistreats or violates their wife, when these supposed childbirth care providers instill their ignorant fears and hospital protocol on humans in a one-size-fits-all manner? What happens when we are there to support our wives through the thick and thin, but can’t because only she can birth her baby?

I was there to support January, but I never realized I needed someone there to support me.

Deer in the Headlights

I was there, supporting January throughout her first pregnancy, when she literally vomited every single day. So much so, that we had to take her to the Outpatient Center to get IVs so she could stay hydrated. I was there when three different midwives palpated and said the baby’s head was down, only to find out at 36 weeks that the baby was Frank Breech. Not nearly as natural minded as we are now, we opted for the c-section, believing that a Frank Breech was impossible to birth naturally.

After planning a natural birth at a birthing center for months, it was a huge disappointment to go this route.

But I was there, by January’s side, looking at her insides during the c-section as they tugged our first baby free. I was there in the hospital room the next three days, sleep deprived from the nurses barging in repeatedly to check January’s vitals literally every single hour. I was there to watch her cry in frustration as the baby wouldn’t latch on, all because bonding couldn’t happen after the c-section.

Fears, Crackpot, Stress

I was there during January’s second pregnancy when she had constant low back pain, despite going to a chiropractor. I was there when she began labor for the first time. Labor continued for the next 54 hours unable to progress because of birth fears never addressed. I was there when the inconvenienced midwife thought January was lying about the pain, asking me what I thought we should do. I was there when we rushed January to the hospital and they said she had an infection (of which they never told us what)… and the midwife later admitted she thought January was making it up (being in active labor).

I was there when the strung-out crackpot OB, on edge and jittery from at least two whole pots of coffee in the last thirty minutes, performed a hack job on my wife as I watched. I was there when my son had a fever and they wouldn’t let me or my wife touch him. I was there, for an hour, talking to him, unable to touch him, while he cried in the incubator until all his vitals settled down. I was there pleading with the nurse to bring him to his mom, so she could hold him for the first time… two hours later. I was there three days later, when the nurse wouldn’t let me carry my own son to the car in his car seat due to hospital protocol. So I ripped the car seat out of her hand, finally fed up, rudely explaining that he was MY son and I would carry him to MY car and buckle him in MYSELF, of which she obliged (my death stare is second to none).

I was there when the crackpot OB took the staples out of the incision five days later and told January “You can never attempt a homebirth ever again.” I was there when the crackpot OB told January that the numbness in her left thigh since the surgery was due to sciatica and not the anesthesia, simply to shut us up because she had another patient waiting.

I was there a week later when I had to take five exams in seven days (I was in grad school and could not miss any time). I was there, every night, studying, helping January with the new baby and sleeping an average of an hour and a half each night for a week. I was there when, after too much stress and too little sleep, severe back spasms kept me from doing anything except lie on my back for a week. I was there feeling like scum that my wife, recovering from a traumatic emergency c-section, was taking care of me because I couldn’t move. I was there for the post-partum depression that lasted weeks and months because of the failed homebirth, emergency c-section, and lack of bonding between mother and baby.

Under the Table and Social Services

I was there for January’s third pregnancy, which, actually, went very smooth. I was there when we hired a midwife, but had to keep it to ourselves because the state we lived in outlawed midwives attending homebirths for VBACs. I was there when the midwife dropped January from care at 42 weeks because January wouldn’t try to naturally induce, leaving us to figure out what to do. I was there when we had to find another midwife (because we felt we needed one), and when we did find one (a vile CNM), we couldn’t tell her anything, making us look like the most ignorant fools walking the planet.

I was there when January went into labor again (at 43 weeks, six days) and tried to do it unassisted. I was there when she realized she hadn’t prepared for an unassisted birth and that we had to go to the hospital. I was there when, in the hospital, they wouldn’t let January walk around or squat, again because of hospital protocol. I was there when the rude OB came in and, without introducing himself or saying much at all, gloved up and inserted his fingers in my wife’s vagina without asking, prompting her to scream “GET OUT OF ME!” I was there when he suggested a c-section and she shot him down immediately. I was there to watch her push (finally) and to tell her the baby was crowning. I was also there to watch the vile CNM reach in, pull the baby out, and tear January so badly that I was stunned to see shredded bloody flesh where it should normally be smooth and pink. I was there to see January realize they had given her pitocin to “help her uterus contract,” after she had explicitly told them not to.

I was there, not wanting a repeat of the helpless feeling we had with baby #2,  belligerent and uncooperative with the nurses as they tried to run every test under the sun on our new baby (running a glucose test to check for diabetes on a six pound baby… seriously?). I was there when the vile CNM called social services on us because we (I) refused all the tests. They soon realized the vile CNM was a fool because we eventually had them done anyway (January was exhausted, drugged, and didn’t want the confrontation so she gave in). I was there when the vile CNM admitted to January that we made her tired because the nurses, not knowing the specifics of each test, had to go and repeatedly find out from her what exactly they were testing (shouldn’t they know that?).

The Hell With Them All & The Best Day of My Life

I was there to hear a leader in my profession speak about how her first four babies were born at home, just her and her husband and no one else. I was there to come home and bring it up to January during the the first trimester of her fourth pregnancy (after she brought it up to me during her third pregnancy and I said “NO WAY!”). I was there to watch her gain confidence by reading books, blogging about it, and visualizing it. I was there at church where, because of the blog, people avoided her and pointed at her like she was a freak. I was there to hear our church leader say that other women in the church wanted him to do something because they were worried something bad would happen.

I was there when January went into labor in our apartment. I was there when she went into transition in the bathtub, slipping off into a peaceful trance. I was there when she got up and stood over the toilet and pushed. I was there to see the baby crown.

I was there, finally, after so much heartache, and stress, and frustration, to catch my own baby.

I was also there to watch January bond with our baby for the first time without anyone sticking their nose in our business. I was there to watch mom nurse the baby without any trouble. I was there to watch our kids wake up and realize that they had a new sister laying on mom as she sat on the family room couch. I was there to watch our oldest cut the cord.

I was there to finally experience my own healing. After the disappointments, the frustration, the anger, the heartache, the pain, the stress, and fear of another pregnancy/childbirth, I couldn’t help but feel elated, relieved, and healed by January’s accomplishment.

And to this day, it was the best day of my life.

What Do You Mean Your Own Healing? You’re a Guy!

Watching your wife literally go through hell three different times doesn’t exactly render a sense of peace and comfort about birth from the male perspective. Having three bad experiences in the hospital and four bad experiences with a midwife doesn’t give me a sense of confidence in any birth provider whatsoever. Trusting birth, after my trust in it was profoundly shaken, is not an easy thing to do. Even now.

Despite our amazing experience with our fourth baby, I still have fear. But not of birth. It is a fear of what will happen to January. It is the sense that if something happens to her, I can’t do anything about it. It is a very helpless feeling, and I don’t like to feel helpless.

Sure, our fourth experience was an unassisted pregnancy and homebirth, but the only thing that alleviated the fears I had was witnessing the absolute faith and confidence January had in her body to birth that baby after two c-sections and an intervention-riddled VBA2C. The result was truly amazing to behold.

I definitely had my fears and struggles with baby #5, which you can listen to here on our podcast. Baby #6 came with her own set of challenges for me as well. But ending up with two more healthy babies as the end result helped me take a big sigh of relief.

Watching January become a beacon of hope to other women with similar experiences, and solidifying her own faith and confidence in her body to, once more, birth two more babies reminded me how good an experience birth can actually be.

That is what pushes me past my fears.

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