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Finally, Relief! {A Painful Pregnancy, Spinal Injury}

Finally, Relief! {A Painful Pregnancy, Spinal Injury}

This is Tammy’s story.

May 13, 2011 (Friday the 13th), I picked up my two children from school, (ages 7 and 4) and was a block away from my home when I was in a terrible accident.

I was rushed to the ER where they found I had a collapsed spine, and I underwent surgery. A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant at the time of the accident. PREGNANT?? I thought I couldn’t be, as I had Mirena, but God had other plans. I was not far along- only about two weeks. So, they had done the emergency surgery without checking to see if I was pregnant.

I am strong because my entire pregnancy was a nightmare of pain. The surgery was unfortunately not a success, and I went through my entire pregnancy with a collapsing spine (as if our back doesn’t have enough pain with a normal pregnancy).

For seven of the nine months, I had to have trigger point injections into my spine  to try and help with the pain. These injections are usually done under x-ray and take only a few minutes. Since I was pregnant they used a sonogram machine, which made the procedure last over an hour. I had to lay on my stomach each procedure and the pain was unbearable.

Doctors told me I would need to have a c-section because of how badly damaged my spine was, but I was determined to have a vaginal delivery as my others were.

My doctors also prescribed me Vicodin my entire pregnancy, but I refused to take it.  Although the pain was unimaginable, my baby’s health was more important.

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Finally on 2-21-2012, my perfect angel FINALLY arrived. I went into labor at 2am and was determined to have my vaginal delivery.  After just one push my 6lb angel was in my arms. I felt EVERYTHING and when it was finally over, I had never had so much relief in my life. This picture shows that. Out of 3 pregnancies, this was the worst; not only was I in pain, but I vomited the whole 9 months. But he was still perfect.

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When he was 8 weeks old I had a fusion done to my spine, and it’s been a tough road but we survived, and I couldn’t be happier.

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The Story Of My Birth Without Fear

The Story Of My Birth Without Fear

To say I wasn’t the slightest bit afraid would be a lie. I had mentally prepared myself the past nine months to be brave and not doubt my strength or be afraid of what was to come.  But there was still this little itch deep in the back of my mind telling me I should be afraid, telling me I couldn’t do it and most of all telling me that something would go horribly wrong. No matter what I did I could not scratch it.

My pregnancy wasn’t planned. It was one of those things in life that comes suddenly and unexpectedly but not without want. I was so happy when we found out for sure that I was pregnant. Not going to lie, when I girst found out I was slightly worried. I wanted to keep it to myself not because I didn’t want a baby or wasn’t happy but because two years prior I had a miscarriage. My miscarriage had occurred during my 8th or 9th week, so honestly I was terrified that if I got my hopes up then the same thing would happen to me again.

Finally after a week of worry I fessed up to my husband about what had been bothering me. He comforted me and ensured me that I was worrying for nothing and that things would be different this time around. A week before thanksgiving I took a pregnancy test and it came back negative but I KNEW that it was a false negative so I waited until Friday November 29th, the day after thanksgiving to retake the test. This time it came back positive. I took two tests that time just to be sure. After going and getting the pregnancy confirmed I began the process of planning exactly how I wanted the birth process to go. We were given a due date of August 23rd, 2014. That gave me all winter, spring, and summer to get the details of exactly how I wanted the process to go ready. I had planned on having a completely natural birth, no medical interventions and no pain medicine, not even an epidural. I was determined to make that birth plan a reality.

At my 21 week sonogram they told me we were having a boy. This made us happy because we both felt that boys were slightly less of a handful then girls. We eventually want a baby girl as well but we were happy that we were having a boy first. That way if we had a girl second then she would have a big brother to guide and protect her. From 21week until 36 weeks my pregnancy progressed as it should have. No major problems at all just some slight hip shifting due to my joints preparing for birth. This was a little annoying but manageable.

At my 36 week doctor check we found out that I was already almost 3 centimeters dilated which was awesome news because it potentially meant I would have a slightly shorter early labor, or so we thought. We also found out I was Group B Strep Positive which honestly kind of upset me. I had planned on going at things 100 percent natural with no medical interventions at all. Finding out that I was GBS positive meant that I would have to get antibiotics pumped into my system every four hours after my water broke until the birth. I talked to my doctor and told her I wanted to try a Homeopathic treatment to try and clear my system of the GBS and then retest before the birth. She agreed to allow me to try my best to clear it and then she said she would retest me at my 39 week appointment. I began drinking Burdock root tea twice a day, eating an extremely large portion of fresh garlic with every meal, and eating a large serving of probiotic yogurt every day.

The morning of my 39 week appointment (August15th, 2014) I began having contractions that were about 14 minutes apart and 45 seconds each. I went to my appointment and spoke to my doctor. We both decided that it would probably be best to do a membrane sweep to see if we could move things along since I was already having signs of early labor. This also meant that it would be pointless to retest for GBS at this point because chances were that I would have the baby over the weekend. I was bummed about this but more excited at the fact that the time had finally come for me to meet my son. My doctor proceeded with the sweep and then not even an hour later my contractions picked up. They were about 8 minutes apart and 45 seconds to a minute long.

Later that night I got what is referred to as “a bloody show,” it was extremely unpleasant but was a good sign that things were progressing. I waited through the night and things didn’t pick up. I then continued to wait throughout the weekend. Sunday came and still no baby. At this point I decided to call triage and see if I could come in for a Non-stress test just to ensure that everything was still okay. I went into the hospital and they immediately hooked me up to fetal heartbeat and contraction monitors. After two hours of constant monitoring they confirmed that I was in early labor with contractions 8 minutes apart, was 4 centimeters dilated, and the baby’s heartbeat sounded perfect. At that point they offered to induce me or even try break my water. I declined the offer and said I would rather wait things out. After all I knew that if they induced me it could change everything as far as my birth plan went. So I went home to wait things out. I figured things were bound to pick up and the baby would come maybe Monday or the next day. He didn’t come and I stayed in early labor all week.

Friday of that week I went in for my 40 week appointment. My doctor did a check and sweep and nothing had changed. I was at the same point of early labor as I had been in since the previous Friday. My doctor did a sweep and then sent me back to triage because she was concerned that something might be wrong with the baby because during her reading of the heart it sounded like it was skipping. I went to triage where they said everything was fine and apparently I was already 5 centimeter. So again they offered to help move things along. I again declined and decided it was time to try my own methods. I started by trying all the old wise tails; sex, spicy foods, an entire pineapple and even castor oil. NOTHING. The castor oil didn’t even upset my stomach which I found strange because I had three LARGE shots of the stuff.

Early Sunday morning at like 4am I woke up and decided to try having sex one last time just to see if it would help. Then afterwards I went back to bed and woke up around 9am. At this point I was so frustrated with being in early labor so long that I had been ignoring the contraction pattern since the night before. I stopped timing them and decided I would just go about the day. The other thing that was annoying me about the contractions was that I had an extremely high pain tolerance so I really couldn’t tell the difference in intensity, this made mentally blocking them out fairly easy to do.

I decided since I was awake I would make myself a burger, (burgers were my number one pregnancy craving). Around noon I perkily woke my husband up and told him I was bored. He asked how I was feeling and I told him I felt bleh. We went out in the living room and I went back to sitting on my medicine ball, that was my daily routine from 36 weeks on since apparently it was supposed to help push baby down and prepare him for birth. After about an hour or so I started to get grumpy and would very crankily answer my husband’s questions.

Finally after another hour my husband looked at me and again asked if I was okay. I was so annoyed with him asking me so I snapped a response to him. He had a look of surprise on his face and then looked at our friend Emily. They both turned to me and asked how far apart my contractions were because they could tell that something was clearly wrong. I thought hard for a second and responded by telling them I didn’t know how far apart they were. This was an honest answer, I really didn’t know. I had been so focused on ignoring the contractions that I forgot to pay the slightest bit of attention to them. I told them that the contractions were annoying and kind of felt constant. I am pretty sure I said it in a very disgruntled tone because not even ten seconds later my husband forced me to sit down and told me to let him know when my contraction began so I did.

About a minute in I guessed and said I thought the contraction was finishing, I guessed because like I had said before they kind of felt constant. He then stopped the clock and told me to tell him when the next one began. I agreed and waited until the start of the next one. He pushed the start button the second I told him a contraction was beginning and then looked up at me with a dumbfounded look and said “What the hell Michelle your contractions are a minute and a half apart! Come on get ready we need to go otherwise you are going to have this baby on our floor!”

I got all my bags ready and we headed out. I had decided several weeks before that no matter what I was going to be a trooper and take the subway to the hospital. That is exactly what I did too. I just sat there at the edge of my seat with a grouchy look on my face and every now and again would let out a sigh as my husband and friend Emily would crack jokes at me.

When we got to the hospital I was hesitant to tell the doctors that I was having contractions 1 and a half minutes apart because I knew they would give me crap since they had just warned me 2 days prior that I needed to come in with a contraction pattern of 4:1:1. I was slightly embarrassed that I had waited so long to come into the hospital so I chose to tell them that the contractions were about 3 minutes apart. They hooked me up to the machine for about ten minutes before deciding that I needed to be admitted right away.

At this point it was 4:30pm on Sunday. I immediately contacted my two doulas and let them know I was being admitted and that they needed to come in. Upon being admitted they did an ultrasound to confirm the baby was in the perfect position, which he was, and also did a dilation check. Nothing had changed from Friday except the contraction pattern. I was still just as dilated and the baby was still at -1 station. I informed the nurses and doctors that I wanted to have a completely natural birth and wanted to remain mobile throughout the active labor. They said this was okay but that sadly I would need monitoring occasionally because their MONICA portable monitor was broken. I hesitantly sighed and told them fine. The thought of staying hooked up for 20 minutes at a time bugged me. I even convinced them to let me have a heplock instead of a constant IV. They said they could accommodate that since I was choosing natural and would only need the heplock so they could give me the antibiotics every 4 hours.

They got me all hooked up and began me on my first dose of the antibiotics. They told me they would prefer I didn’t eat so I told them that was fine. I lied. I had every intention of eating. After all there numerous studies that prove that woman eating in labor helped to boost their energy levels and actually led to shorter labors. I had a lovely bag packed full of small energy boosting snacks that I would sneak every time my nurse left the room. I had no intentions on having medical interventions so I knew me eating would not impact anything.

While my husband and I were waiting for my doulas to arrive we began to walk up and down the halls of the labor and delivery floor. We had the most gorgeous view of the Hudson river from the end of the hall window. I looked at my husband and told him that if two hours from now I was still in labor I wanted to walk over to that window and view a beautiful NYC sunset over the Hudson right before birthing our son. He agreed that that sounded like a nice idea. I started to walk back down the hall towards our room. As we approached one of our lovely doulas Svea arrived. I went with her into the room and gave her an update on the situation.

From there we continued to wait. The contractions began to pick up a bit in intensity and at this point were fairly constant. We stopped timing them because we figured what the hell we are already IN THE HOSPITAL, what’s the point. My second Doula Danielle arrived a few minutes after Svea. At this point it was about 530-6 o’clock. The nurse came in and told me she needed to monitor me for a bit so I sat on the bed and let her monitor me. Eventually she said everything was okay and told me I could walk around again.

I began to walk up and down the halls again. When I got to the end of the hall I sat down in a little chair they had placed by a window. At that moment I had a really strong contraction. My husband told me to get up and said I should walk it out. I told him no and waited for the contraction to finish before getting up again. Upon beginning to walk back to the room I started to feel like something was wrong. I started to get slightly dizzy and I got this queasy feeling in the bottom of my stomach. My husband asked if I was okay and I muttered the words “back to the room” and then as quickly as I could waddled back to the room.

I didn’t make it to the bathroom. I walked through the door of my room and spewed on the floor and then quickly went over to the toilet and continued to throw up. The nurse walked in happily and said “YESS that’s what we like to see!! This means you are getting closer!!” Afterwards I sat down on the corner of the bed and took a break from walking. I didn’t want to throw up again, I’ve ALWAYS despised throwing up. A couple minutes after sitting, another nurse walked in. Not the nurse I had previously, apparently the nurse I liked, Melissa, went on break. This new nurse was very rude. She grouchily told me to lie down so she could monitor me. I bit my tongue and just looked at my doulas with a face of disgust for this nurse. I have never been one for confrontation so even in labor I decided to keep my mouth shut. She left the monitors on for a long time.

Eventually I really had to pee so I made my husband grab her and take the monitors off. She angrily told me she was still monitoring me and that I needed to wait. I told her I couldn’t wait and that I really had to pee. She scoffed at me and took the monitors off. She told me I needed to hurry. I went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Sitting on the toilet felt sooo much better on my tailbone then sitting on the bed did. I sat there for a couple minutes because peeing was extremely hard to do through constant contractions. Plus I’ve always had “shy bladder” issues so peeing while under pressure or during stressful situations was hard for me. Didn’t matter how bad I had to pee if someone is rushing me It isn’t going to happen.

After about 5 minutes of waiting the nurse annoyingly knocked on the door and told me to hurry up now and lets go. I told her she needed to wait so she angrily left the room. As soon as she left I was able to pee. I finished up and went back into the room. She came back in and grumpily put the monitors back on and told me she had to keep monitoring because the heartbeat of the baby kept dropping. In all realness though the heartbeat was NOT dropping. The heartbeat would be PERFECT and then every time a contraction would get really bad I would bend forward a bit and in doing so the monitor would slip down off my stomach. We showed this to her but she didn’t care. She was obsessed with the monitor. Because of her persistence with the monitor I sadly had to miss a the beautiful sunset I had wanted to see.

At 8pm I was STILL hooked to the monitors and I was angry about it. The whole plan was to be able to labor while moving around and this wench of a woman was standing in my way. The doctor then came in to check me again. Apparently after several hours of active labor I was STILL only 5cm dilated and my water had not broken. She said she wanted to wait until after my second dose of antibiotics at 9pm and then she wanted to break my water to move things along. I agreed.

9pm came and I receive my second dose. The doctor came in about 2 hours later and set me up to break my water. She informed me that It wouldn’t hurt but the contractions would immediately intensify. I nodded to her and squeezed onto my husband’s hand. The doctor had a bit of trouble breaking my water. Apparently it was pretty hard to penetrate because It took her a few tries before she was actually able to break it. As soon as she was able to break it I felt a huge flush of water that went everywhere and then immediately the contractions quadrupled in intensity. They were so strong that my whole body tightened up with each contraction rendering me immobile. The doctor wished me luck and left the room.

My two amazing doulas at this point ran to my side and began to comfort me. Since the grouchy nurse still had me hooked to the monitor I couldn’t really move so the girls took turns placing a heating pad on my back and massaging right near my tailbone which felt amazing. The pressure from their massages helped ease the pain a bit with every contraction. Finally the nurse came in and took off the monitor.

Not even thirty minutes later she returned and told me she was putting me back on. She said it in such a bitter tone that I very very angrily shot a face to my husband who was also making a face back at the nurse. I was so sick of her attitude but I let her put the stupid monitor on. Right before she went to put it on I got a really strong contraction, the strongest thus far, and it left me hanging off the side of the bed for about two minutes. The contraction was so long and hard that she began to yell at me to sit back now so she could monitor me. I, of course couldn’t move. I was paralyzed from the shock of the contraction, something she obviously didn’t care about. She snapped at me and started yelling at me saying to sit back now. I muttered that I couldn’t and my husband told her she needed to wait. I tried to force my body up into a sitting position and painstakingly allowed her to place the monitors on. As she was putting the monitor on I had another crippling contraction and my body immediately began to bend forward. She freaked out at me and held me back and finished placing the monitor and then angrily walked out of the room and said I am documenting that In my chart! I angrily responded back “DOCUMENT IT THEN” and went back to having my contractions.

From that point forward my contractions continued to increase in intensity. The nurse kept coming in the room and every time she saw me crippled forward would try to push the epidural on me. I kept telling her no. It was actually annoying me that she kept asking. I really was persistent about NOT getting an epidural. I had so many people tell me that I was probably going to want one but I was determined to do everything all natural so I stuck to my word.

Eventually my nurse Melissa came back and I told her about the other nurse and said I no longer wanted her around. She said okay and agreed to stay with me. She also took the monitor off me finally which was nice. Around 12:30am the doctor came in to check me. She said I was already at 7 to 8 centimeters. She said she would come back in an hour to check on me. At around 1am I felt like I really had to pee again so I went to the bathroom. At this point my contractions were beyond crippling. I sat down on the toilet and was nearly screaming in pain. After a few minutes of sitting there freaking out inside my head I called my husband into the bathroom. He came and kneeled down in front of me. I looked him in the eyes and started to have a panic attack. He knew right away that that was what it was because I’ve often suffered from anxiety attacks. I freaked out and started to panic telling him I couldn’t do it and it was too much for me to handle. I freaked out so much that I even wound up telling him to get the doctor and make her do a c-section right then.

He chuckled and told me I was fine and I was just freaking out in my head. It was that point he knew that I had to be at 9 centimeters and entering transition into pushing. Apparently the sudden urge to give up was the sign everyone needed to know for sure that this baby was almost out. He coaxed me into leaving the bathroom and went to get the doctor. She came in and checked me. She confirmed that I was 9 centimeters.

It was around 1:30am. She said she would come back in half an hour and see where I was at. She added that if I felt the urge to push I needed to call for her. I sat on the edge of the bed and let the extreme contractions continue. I continued to mutter to my husband the words “I can’t do it anymore.” As a kid whenever I got hurt or saw blood I would hold my breath and pass out. I thought that part of my life was over but apparently at that point of the night I was so overly exhausted that in between contractions I would physically faint and fall onto my husband’s shoulders and then at the start of the next contractions would come to screaming. I of course did not find that out until the next day when my husband told me. I couldn’t even speak at that point.I wouldn’t have been able to get by without my doulas and my husband. They were there shoving ice and water into my mouth every few seconds. Every time I’d even gesture towards anything they would come rushing over to help. I loved having them there for support.

Not even ten minutes after the doctor left the room the “urge to push” became very real. I could feel the baby moving down and I could not help but push. I screamed in pain. and everyone called for the doctor to come. She leaned me back on the bed and checked. She could see the baby’s head. She removed the bottom half of the bed and propped me up to prepare me for delivery. She told me it was time to start pushing. She said it would probably take anywhere from about a half an hour to an hour from that point to push the baby out. Apparently that was “standard” for first time deliveries.

I very quickly did my first big push, it moved the baby’s head almost out. The nurse ran over and put an oxygen mask on me and told me to get a few deep breaths in to give the baby oxygen. I took the deep breaths in and then began to push for the second time. The doctor then told me to push hard on the start of the next contraction so I waited for it to begin. While waiting she told me I needed to wait a second once the head was out so she could unwrap the cord from the baby’s neck. I said okay. That didn’t happen. I did one more push and couldn’t stop. The baby very very quickly came out and the doctor very quickly was able to react and remove the cord from around his neck.

They immediately placed him on my chest. It took me ten minutes of pushing in total to get the baby out. I looked at him and kissed him on the top of his head. My mood very quickly changed from cranky to extremely happy. My baby was finally here. I looked at him with such love and happiness. I couldn’t believe I had done it. I immediately forgot about the past 8 days of early labor, nine hours of active labor and ten minutes of pushing and just focused on my pure happiness. I couldn’t believe it. I had done it. I had managed to go about my pregnancy and delivery without any pain medicine at all. Not even a Tylenol.

I had never before felt the amount of happiness I felt while holding my son. A couple seconds after they did the delayed cord clamping they removed the baby from my chest and brought him to the Infant warmer to check him. He was having trouble breathing. They very quickly got to work on me. They had me push out the placenta with one big push and then they began stitching me up. Them doing the stitches weirdly hurt more then pushing the baby out so I gripped on to both Danielle and Svea’s hands. I held their hands so tight that I felt like I was going to break them so I immediately apologized to them. They chuckled and said it was fine and that they could take it.

The whole time they spent stitching me up I just stared over at my son lying on the table having trouble breathing. Fear rushed over me because I didn’t want anything to happen to him and I didn’t want them to take him out of my sight. The pediatrician came over to me and told me that he needed to stay in the warmer for a bit but there was a chance he would have to go to NICU. I almost started crying. I asked if my husband would be able to accompany him if he did have to go and she said he would have to watch through a window until they had everything set up. I almost had another panic attack inside my head. I was so worried for my little boy. I just wanted to hold him. I wanted so badly to experience the skin to skin. I wanted that bonding that everyone talked about.

After thirty minutes in the warmer the pediatrician passed him back off into my nurses care and said he was okay for now and wouldn’t have to go to the NICU. I was so happy to hear this. I still couldn’t hold him though because the doctor was still busy stitching me up. I told my husband to take his shirt off and do skin to skin with the baby so he did. It made me so happy seeing him hold our baby. He looked so happy to be holding our son. My husband had never been one to show much emotion but when I saw him hold our son I could see the happiness and love in his eyes. Seeing that made my tear up. I started crying because I was so happy.

Shortly after, the doctor finished stitching me up and said I could hold my son. My husband brought him over and placed him in my arms. I was so happy that I was crying more and kept saying “Arttie it’s our son, he is so beautiful.” Saying I was happy to have my son would be an extreme understatement. There are no words to describe the feelings I had upon seeing my son and holding him for the first time. It was an experience that I will never forget. It changed my life completely. I will never be as happy as I was the day I laid eyes on my Little Artorias Loki Mouthapong. ♥

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I Am Strong – Cesarean Birth After Neonatal Loss

I Am Strong – Cesarean Birth After Neonatal Loss

*trigger warning*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am strong because I was given weekly progesterone shots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Katariina Shoemaker

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A short and sweet story of a teenage mother, or just a mother, this is Jada’s story:

I am strong because I found out I was pregnant at 17, two months into a relationship, and decided then to keep the baby.

I am strong because I decided to end the relationship, because I wasn’t happy anymore.

I am strong because during my pregnancy, I went through the worst depression in my life a month before my son was born.

I am strong because I had my mother and my aunt in the birthing center room to support me while I went through with my natural birth, which showed me just how strong I was.

I am strong because I pushed for an hour (which felt like only five minutes) and gave birth to a 8 lb. 8 oz. healthy boy and picked the name of my son when I met him for the first time.

I am strong because despite the criticism on bed-sharing, I am proud to say I have slept beside my son every night since he was born, and have no plan to stop.

I am strong because I overcame my fear of breastfeeding in public despite my overwhelming social anxiety, and plan on weaning when he is ready.

I am strong because I suffer from postpartum depression and am raising my son, alone, the way I feel is right for the both of us.

I am strong because I am going through with getting my high school diploma so my son and I can have a good future.

I am strong because now, at 19 years of age, I am where I want to be and have great plans that I see myself accomplishing in the future.

Brandon

10 Tips to Plan a Mother’s Blessing

10 Tips to Plan a Mother’s Blessing

A Blessingway is a sacred pre-birth ceremony that has traditionally been performed by Navajo people, and celebrates a woman’s rite of passage into motherhood.

Today, a gathering known as a ‘Mother Blessing’ is gaining popularity in North America. Unlike a traditional baby shower where the focus is on gifts, a Mother Blessing puts the focus back on nurturing the woman. A woman’s closest girlfriends and family gather in love to build up her mind, body, and soul in preparation for her journey to motherhood. It is intended that the mother-to-be leaves bursting full of love, strength, confidence, and belief in the ability of her body to birth her baby.

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HOW TO PLAN A MOTHER BLESSING:
Keep the preferences of the mother-to-be in mind; after all this event is about her. Make her feel as comfortable as possible. Not all mothers will be into all the ideas below, so choose a few that best suit her.

(1) Pampering
Make a foot soak, and offer her a hand massage, foot massage, or back massage. This can be a beautiful time for her to sit and relax and have her friends take turns laying hands on her and transferring as much loving energy to her as possible.

(2) Flower Crown
Make the mother-to-be a flower crown to celebrate her beauty. Ask each woman coming to bring a flower from their garden to contribute to the crown when they arrive or just have a selection of stems for each attendee to choose from when they arrive. If you want to celebrate all of your attendees, you might want to have everyone make themselves a flower crown when they arrive.

(2) Paint Her Belly
Painting her belly, henna, or a belly cast is a beautiful way to celebrate the life inside her. Let the art radiate the life she carries.

(3) Circle Time
Gather all the woman to share a blessing with the mother-to-be. It can be a time to share their best mothering wisdom, an inspirational verse, or a song. You can meditate together, belly dance together, or sit and laugh and tell your favourite birth stories.

(4) Leave Your Guests Thinking About the Mother-To-Be.
During circle time, a beautiful activity can be binding everyone’s hands together in ribbon. After praying over or blessing the mother, each attendant cuts herself a small piece of ribbon to wear on her hand until the mother-to-be goes into labour. Every time they glance at the ribbon on their hand, they can send up a prayer for their friend’s upcoming birth. Once the birth begins, someone texts out a message to the rest of the group and they all cut off their bracelets together in solidarity. Another send home gift could be a candle that all the friends light when they hear the birth has started.

(5) Bead Ceremony
Ask attendees to bring a special bead to create a necklace for the mother to wear in the last few weeks of pregnancy and during birth.  After each attendee offers their blessing, they can string their bead onto the mother’s necklace. She will be reminded of the love and support she has in her community of friends every time she looks at each individual bead.

(6) Birth Flags
Have some plain cloth banners for attendees to paint with encouraging words and phrases. The mother can string these in her home and have them be a reminder of her strength leading up to birth. This is a great option for women planning a home birth since she can decorate her birthing space with them. Some women who are planning a hospital birth and may also want to bring their birthing flags to hang in their hospital room.

(7) Stone Painting
Ask each attendee to bring a stone that you will paint with encouraging words for the mother. The mother can place the stones in various spots in her house (one by the bathroom sink, one by the kitchen sink, one by her alarm clock) or place them together in an encouragement altar. Seeing these stones will remind her of her strength leading into birth.

(8) Bring Gifts for a Birth Altar
A birth altar serves as a focal point for the labouring woman. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused on the positive affirmations you read and meditated on during pregnancy, so the woman can focus her attentions to her birth alter to give her visuals of her end goal- her baby. Items for a birth altar can include a birthing goddess, ultrasound pictures, positive words, aromatherapy, candles, and any imagery that you find beautiful and inspiring.

(9) Eat!
Of course, sharing a meal with friends is the best way to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Ask your guests to each bring a dish to contribute to a potluck meal.

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(10) Let The Emotions Flow
Be open and transparent with each other. Share your joys and your struggles. Don’t be scared to let the tears roll.

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After all of this love and attention, the guest of honour is sure to leave bursting at the seams with good birth mojo.

Written and Photographs by: Cradled Creations Birth Photography.

Also at www.CradledCreations.com

My Healing Hospital VBAC

My Healing Hospital VBAC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NO!! I don’t want to wear that!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t do it.”

“You can. I know you can.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Midwifery Student’s Birth Without Fear {With Pictures}

A Midwifery Student’s Birth Without Fear {With Pictures}

I got pregnant with my first son when I was just about 18. I really wanted to give birth at the out of hospital birth center that a lot of my friends were giving birth at, but my mom and other friends convinced me it was best to have my first at the hospital, in case anything went wrong.

I got high blood pressure during my pregnancy and was constantly being tested for PIH. My labs kept coming back normal, but my blood pressure kept getting higher and higher. At 34 weeks I woke up with extremely swollen ankles and a terrible migraine. I went to the hospital and after being monitored for a while the nurse came into my hospital room and said “well… you’re gonna have a baby tonight.”

My doctor decided I needed to be induced. My blood pressure was up to 201/99. The nurse gave me a shot in my butt, and I apologized for wearing my ugly undies and asked if she has to use bigger needles for bigger butts. She said yes! HA! I loved my nurse. Her name was Wendy. She was so sweet!

I was given an IV, and while they were trying to insert it, I asked if that’s where I got the epidural. They said “nope, you’re not even in labor yet sweetie, you can get it when you feel like you really need it.”

They put me on Labetalol and magnesium, and some other stuff to keep my blood pressure down. The magnesium made me so loopy. I was cracking jokes left and right, and I think I may have even been hallucinating a tad, because Wendy was glowing at one point.

They induced me with the little pill that gets shoved up me (can’t think of the name!), and I sort of labored for about 8 hours. They came in and said my labor pattern wasn’t what they wanted to see, so they gave me the pitocin. The second they got the pitocin going, the contractions really started getting hard. Then the on call doctor broke my water and that made it even worse.

I labored for several hours, until about 8cm, and then the nurse asked me if I wanted the epidural because I had to get it now or never. I didn’t really feel like I needed it, but I got it anyways. I was able to sleep after getting it. Then, I felt like I had to pee. My nurse checked me and sure enough it was the baby’s head.

They rushed me to the operating room because I was only 34 weeks along and baby and I were both high risk, and the operating room was right next to the NICU. There wasn’t a doctor in the building at this point, so the nurses made me lie on my side and cross my legs and not push.

I had to push so bad, my body started convulsing and my teeth were chattering. My doctor finally got there after 20 minutes and said “sorry I missed it!” And the nurses said “You didn’t miss it! She needs to push!” So he got in his sterile outfit and told me to “bear down.”

I asked “WHAT IS BEAR DOWN!?” And everyone in the room screamed “PUSH!” My boyfriend at the time was holding one leg and my mom was holding the other. I gave one push and there was his head. My boyfriend said “he has hair!” and I started balling.

I pushed 1 or 2 more times and he was out. They put him on my chest, had dad cut the cord, and then rushed him off the NICU. I didn’t see him till 6 hours later, because of my epidural. They didn’t tell me that when I got it, I was so angry.

After he was home I started researching whether or not to vaccinate him, and during my research I learned a lot about out of hospital births and using midwives. Right then it clicked in my head “I’m supposed to be a midwife!” So I started an apprenticeship through the out of hospital birth center I originally wanted to have my baby at. Working there only 2 months, I got baby fever BAD! I soon got pregnant again.

This time around I used the midwife I had been apprenticing under and she helped me keep my blood pressure under control with diet and herbs. I had a fairly easy pregnancy till about 30 weeks when I started to have preterm labor. My midwife was able to stop it, but I was put on bedrest. It wasn’t easy with an almost 2 year old running around!

After about 4 weeks of bed rest I was able to slowly add more and more activity to my day. It was great being able to cook and clean again! At 36 weeks my husband (and baby daddy of first) and I got all the stuff we’d need for our homebirth. We rented a birth tub and got everything ready.

When I was 37 weeks I thought I was in labor, so my midwife came over and checked me and I was 4cm dilated. But my contractions would stop when I stopped moving. So she had me just rest and wait until they got real. I went 2 more weeks having these what I called “fake contractions.” However, they weren’t fake at all.

At my 39 week visit, I had my midwife check me, and I was 9cm dilated and 70% effaced. I asked her to strip my membranes and she did. As I was leaving my appointment around 5pm, I said to her and the other midwives that would be at my birth “I bet we’ll have a baby by 8 tonight.”

We left and went to Trader Joe’s to get some pizza dough to make calzones that night. We got home and I was cooking up some sausage and all of a sudden I got such a bad contraction, I hunched over and said a slew of swear words. Then my husband took over cooking.

I went to the bathroom and had bloody show. I texted my midwife and she said “your birth team is on the way!” And about 10 minutes later the photographer showed up! I knew the photographer never gets there until the last few hours, so I figured my midwife must have thought I was close.

Once the birth team got there I kept telling them that it was fake labor and it would stop, and that they should go home. But I kept having this weird pain in my butt. They got the tub filled and told me I could get in, so I did. But once I got in I had to go poop SO BAD.

My midwife told me to just poop in the tub, but I know how bad that can smell, so I told her I wanted to get on the toilet. But I was stuck. I literally was in such hard labor I couldn’t get out of the tub. I was pissed. And I was in denial that I was in labor. Then I just kept having this urge to poop. Then it clicked in my midwifery-student mind “I don’t have to poop, I have to push!!!” So I said “I’M PUSHING!” I pushed for about 10 minutes and then my water broke and I screamed “ring of fire! RING OF FIRE!”

My midwife had me stop pushing because she knew how badly I didn’t want to tear. She supported my perineum and had me breath and hum through the contractions. My body literally just so slowly pushed him out. My mom, midwife and fellow midwifery student helped to catch him. I was so awesome! I asked if it was a boy or girl and they couldn’t see, so I reached my hand down and felt a handful of balls and told everyone it was another boy! It was amazing!

My little sister, and my older son were also there. There were 3 midwives, a student midwife, and the photographer! It was so amazing. I still can’t believe I did it! Next time around I don’t think I’ll use the birth tub though! I hated that thing!

He was born at 8:32, 32 minutes after I guessed he’d be out. My labor lasted 2 hours! After baby was out, I delivered my placenta, and it was literally gigantic. We weighed it, it was 1.5lbs! Baby weighed 8.5lbs and was 22 ½ inches long. Much bigger than my preemie 6 lb baby!

I’m so grateful for the birth stories that BWF posts, it helped me to be more confident in myself. I am now 2 ½ months postpartum, exclusively breastfeeding and feel so strong for birthing without fear! I went into labor excited, not scared! Thank you, Birth Without Fear, for all you do!

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The Fear and Anxiety of the Dad-to-Be

The Fear and Anxiety of the Dad-to-Be

No one reading this needs an explanation of how men and women are different. It’s generally accepted that men, for the most part, are logical fixers and women are, overall, emotional nurturers. Men like to see things from an empirical point of view, cut to the chase, and get to the root of the problem and fix it. Women like to talk it out and be heard and validated and make sure everyone else is happy first. Effective communication and understanding these differences make for successful relationships. No surprise there, right?

During a pregnancy, women experience the spectrum of changes, from up and down emotions to up and down physical wellbeing. It’s not easy growing a baby. Obviously I don’t know from personal experience, but I have witnessed it first hand. The growing baby and uterus shove organs up and back, energy decreases, nausea and the feeling to pee increase, hormones run wild, and tears flow intermittently while watching The Voice.

The spectrum of changes during pregnancy for the man is essentially nonexistent. Some men get excited about a new addition on its way, some are fearful about being an adequate father and provider. Others don’t really feel like anything different is taking place, and won’t feel like anything different is happening until that baby has entered the world. I have experienced all of the above, but I can identify with the last one the most. Simply put, a man doesn’t experience a change in hormones like his woman does, no increase in belly and breast size like his woman, and no tears during The Voice… In fact, what’s The Voice? Change the channel to ESPN, will ya!

However, there is one thing that men do experience that many of us tend to not discuss: Fear and anxiety.

Fear??? But this is Birth Without Fear! And anxiety??? Like the kind you need help for?

Let me clarify.

A pregnant mom-to-be is very focused on how her pregnancy will go, and especially how the labor and birth will go. The woman wants to know her baby will arrive safely. The baby and the health of the baby are the number one priority. And that’s exactly how it should be. You spend 10 months growing a fertilized egg into a full term baby that cries and eats and poops and sleeps, and you have no choice but to be invested in how that baby is doing. That’s what moms do.

But for the man? The number one priority is his woman. That’s the person he is attracted to, fell in love with, considers a best friend, enjoys seeing naked and having sex with, and the person he wants to have all to himself. When something is wrong with his woman, he’s jumping to her aid, doing whatever he can to make her feel more comfortable, essentially taking control of the situation and fixing it like he instinctually knows how to do.

But when it comes to labor and birth, the man is rendered helpless to aid the woman in giving birth to that baby. Sure he can give support and offer encouragement, even provide a hand that his woman will threaten to shatter during those transition contractions. But the man can’t take the pain away, can’t speed up the labor, or give birth to the baby himself. What if there’s a complication? What if things don’t go as planned? What if something happens to his woman? It is a helpless feeling to go from always being in control, ready and able to fix the problem to being a powerless bystander who can physically do nothing to affect the outcome of his woman birthing that baby. And that can be a hand-wringing, scary feeling.

unnamed-7But it’s okay. It doesn’t make us men any less capable or competent in supporting our ladies in birthing a new baby into the world. It just makes us human.

The trick, as I have learned, is supporting your woman during the ups and downs of pregnancy, during the uncertainty of labor, during the life-altering moments of the birth, and knowing that while you may not have the ability to affect the outcome of labor and birth, you can certainly control how much of a rock you can be for her during the most vulnerable, yet empowering moments of her life.

No, it’s not analyzing the problem and coming up with ideas on how to streamline a better solution. It’s not busting open the toolbox and looking for the appropriate tool to fix whatever is broken. In fact, it’s not even fixing something. It’s simply being there, being supportive, being her positive emotional strength when she feels she has none left. Yes, it is different than what we’re used to. Yes, it might be a foreign concept. And yes, that’s exactly what your role, as a man, is during that baby’s journey into the big, bright, cold world.

And that’s a logical fact that you can control.

Photo Credit: Leilani Rogers, Photographer

Birth Rights, Hyperemesis Gravidarum and More. {Guest Post by Jess Kroger}

Birth Rights, Hyperemesis Gravidarum and More. {Guest Post by Jess Kroger}

When you think of birth (in most cases, especially first time moms) the first thing that comes to mind isn’t that you have options – it’s that you’ll do what the doctor says to do and when they say to do it because they know best. For most women, this is fine, but then you get the group of mamas who step back and say, “wait, what the hell?” I truly wish we could all be like that, because our world would totally rock if we all came back to our natural roots and could take back what was ours. To all the mamas who do this – continue to be awesome and have control of your vaginas. For the rest of you (I was there once) listen well, because what I’m about to tell you is what birth is all about. This is what our bodies were made for, believe it or not.

Let me start out by telling you a little about myself. My name is Jess. I have been through the ringer of obstacles when it comes to life. But each one of them has made me the person I am today, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. Some may trigger mamas, so I would just like to disclose that this will involve sexual abuse, loss, and depression. But you will also find triumph, hope, and love.

When I was in 2nd grade, a family member sexually abused me – this went on until I was in 8th grade. Rape, sexual actions, and emotional abuse were all involved. I didn’t come out to anyone about this until I was 21 years old. It’s taken me a really long time to get through this in my life, and continue to do so. When I was 14, I was driving and was run off the road by a semi-truck, I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt and my head hit the windshield. I now suffer from epilepsy because of it.

At the ripe age of 19, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I soon started radiation therapy, and had several small surgeries to remove the cancer spots. It would come back five times before my first living babe was born, and once more after, which all resulted in scar tissue on my cervix. In between all of the cervix issues, we found out that my left ovary had a spot of cancer on it. Small, but there. We radiated it and killed it, but did not remove the ovary. After my first was born, we soon found out that I had thyroid cancer. When she was only 8 months young I had my thyroid removed and did a round of radiation to kill any cells that may have traveled. I have been cancer free since March 29, 2011. In between all of the radiation we lost several babies.

I am a mother of 13 babies – 2 living and one on the way. Yes, you sure did read that right. I feel it’s important to acknowledge my angel babies when telling you about my children. Mamas who have lost, don’t be ashamed to claim your angel children, after all, they were real, and they were loved, for however short the amount of time you had with them.

My two little rainbow babies (babies born after losses) are now 3 1/2 & 21 months. They were atrocious pregnancies; from hyperemesis, seizures, hip and pubic bone issues, heartburn, and exhaustion. But, they are the most awesome little offspring anyone could ask for. From the tantrums to the kisses, I couldn’t imagine my life without them. I am currently 28 weeks with our third. I’m sure he/she will also be a poop head like the other two, but what’s not to love about a little personality, right?

Let me start with my first living pregnancy and birth. This is where my journey all began. Little did I know this birth would impact the rest of my life, and change who I was as a person.  In 2009, my husband and I found out we were expecting (again). We waited for that heartbeat to show up and then we shared with the world that we’d have a little nugget to hold in our arms. We were naive, new, and uneducated when it came to birth. I thought it was just like the movies, go into labor, get an epidural, and scream bloody murder while pushing out a baby. Little did I know.

Shortly after announcing our pregnancy, I started violently throwing up. It got to the point where I couldn’t even drink water without getting sick. I was soon diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is where you are basically sick all day every day. I would spend most of my pregnancy in the hospital and on bed rest. At 28 weeks, I went into preterm labor. After a ton of medicine, the doctors were able to stop the labor.

After this, I was put on a short leash. My doctor made me come in every week for ultrasounds and other tests to make sure everything was ok. At this point, I also started having seizures. They put me on a medication that I now know actually made my seizures worse. At 35 weeks, the doctor finally told me that they needed to do an amniocentesis to see if the baby’s lungs were mature. This is where they stick a ginormous needle in your stomach and collect amniotic fluid, not in the least bit pleasant.

Earlier in my pregnancy I was told that I was unable to have a vaginal birth because I would die from an aneurism during the pushing stage, so I knew I would have having a cesarean section. I was ok with that, because I thought I would get to skip all the pain of labor and birth (haha, right). They also told me my baby was sideways, which meant I couldn’t have a vaginal birth either (keep in mind, they told me this before I was even full term). We went in on July 27 to have the amnio done, because – you know, what doctor says is what goes. After having to poke around several times, that of which even poked my poor babes bum and caused her to bleed (she still has a scar on her butt from it), they finally got a good amount of fluid to test.

A few hours later we would find out that her lungs were mature and they would be doing the cesarean. I was 35 weeks and not prepared for this major life event about to happen. We got to the hospital and they started prepping me, and then took me back to the operating room. My husband was left behind to wait. They administered the epidural and had me all ready to go on the table. The doctor started cutting and I screamed that I needed my husband in the room. They forgot to get him. I still to this day can’t imagine the pain that must have caused him. After he got there, they continued. It was all a blur for me, because I was so drugged up. But then I heard a cry. A cute, raspy baby’s cry. I remember wanting to hold her so bad, but at the same time I wanted to vomit because all I could smell was my burning flesh from the open wound on my stomach.

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I didn’t get to hold my sweet baby girl until I was in the recovery room. I suffered from horrible postpartum depression, I didn’t want to hold her, I hated the fact that I didn’t want to do anything with her. I only breastfed her for six weeks before giving up, we will say lack of support was a huge thing here. We gave her formula the day she was born, and honestly, she barely got any breast milk. The recovery from the cesarean was beyond anything I was ever prepared for. I couldn’t pick up my own child, stairs were impossible to go down, the pain was so unreal that I sometimes look back and wonder how I even got through it. It took a good year for my body to come back to life and not feel broken. I could go on about this birth story, but I feel I have more important things to cover.

Moving on, a year after Hazel was born, we found out that we were expecting again after a few losses in between. Excitement filled us, but at the same time, I feared having to go through what I did again, and with a toddler to take care of. Of course, another round of hyperemesis hit me. Harder than the first time. I was on IV fluids basically the whole 20 weeks of the pregnancy. I only gained 11 pounds my whole pregnancy. I knew that this time I wanted something different, what it was, I wasn’t sure.

That’s when a friend introduced me to ICAN. For those of you who don’t know what this is – it is International Cesarean Awareness Network. I highly recommend joining your local chapter for support. I soon discovered that I was able to vaginally birth after a cesarean. You know when they say once you have a cesarean, always a cesarean? What a load of crap. This is when I set out to find a doctor who would allow me to do so.

I live in Nebraska, so homebirth wasn’t really an option with me (unless I wanted to do an unassisted birth), and there weren’t a lot of hospitals that allowed VBACs. I ended up finding a doctor who was located an hour away from where we lived. My husband and I took a local hypnobabies class, and felt prepared for what was about to come. All was well; I was planning a hospital VBAC. The day before I went into labor, my doctor went out of town. The day I started having contractions was exciting for us. I was 36 weeks. After 24 hours of laboring, we went into the hospital where I found out I was still only 1cm. Let down, what a huge let down.

We headed back home to keep on keeping on. Things started to slow down, then they would pick up, and it became a pattern for 6 days. Finally I had enough and we went into the hospital again. My doctor was still out of town. I was at 7cm, and the backup doctor (who was new to the practice) told me that she did not want to do the VBAC for me because I was not her patient.

After fighting and fighting with her, we finally said screw it and went to a local hospital. I ended up with a repeat cesarean. The emotions that I went through after this birth were insane. I was angry; I felt like a bad mom, I felt like a piece of me was ripped away, I felt empty. This is when I decided I needed to better educate myself on pregnancy and birth. I was able to successfully breastfeed Harper for 10 months. In that time, my world turned upside down, or right side up, I suppose you would say. I became a childbirth educator, and a doula. I knew what I could do in birth, and I knew I wanted to help mothers around me avoid going through what I had gone through with my first two births. Again, I could go on about this, but my next pregnancy and birth is where I’d really like to focus.

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I hope everyone is still with me here; this is where I get to my initial point – taking control, and knowing your rights.

Here we are again, looking at that beautiful positive line on the pregnancy test. Being an educated person on birth, I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, but I was ready to fight. At this point, I had been following the Birth Without Fear blog for a while. I found a lot of strength and hope from all of the birth stories there. I knew what I wanted – I wanted a natural, vaginal birth, without the doctors telling me what I could and could not do. Easy enough, right? So one would think.

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At 6 weeks, I once again began my hyperemesis journey. This time around I decided to be a little bit more proactive and take control of my medical care for it. I ended up finding a very supportive doctor that would do anything that she could to help me battle this horrible disease. I had a picc line placed at 8 weeks of pregnancy. I then spent most days going into the hospital with my kiddos and getting treatments so that I could live without throwing up every hour. It helped, but didn’t do the trick all the way.

At 14 weeks pregnant, I decided to take a leap and attend the first Birth Without Fear conference. I was scared out of my mind. What would everyone think of me with this thing stuck in my arm, puking all day, not being able to enjoy my time there? Little did I know that this weekend was going to change my life forever. Reading that, it probably sounds like a corny thing, but let me explain.

150 moms. 150 beautiful mamas who have been there, done that. 150 mamas to support me with my decisions, and to guide me through a difficult time. 3 amazing roommates who encouraged me (and even gave me shots in my butt to help my nausea, I will forever be grateful for that!) the whole weekend, and who never left my side. A roommate who herself, had suffered through hyperemesis, and could connect with my pain. A roommate who had suffered loss, and could connect with my pain. A roommate who had achieved a successful VBAC and could connect with my pain. SO many women who have been through what I have, in one way or another. So many mothers who constantly asked me if I needed anything, who made me feel like I was worth something.

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The speakers gave me hope; hope that I could do this, and that I wasn’t broken. A beautiful founder who herself had experienced loss, had experienced cesarean birth, and who had experienced vaginal births. A beautiful support team who had been through what I had. The support I received here was unbelievable. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I had a voice. I didn’t get sick once the whole weekend, and for all my fellow HG mamas out there, you know how amazing that was. Truly amazing.

During the conference, we had this life changing session that was meant to release fears. This is really where a lot of things came out that I had no idea I was feeling. This little thing was so huge. This little session changed me. I was scared, and I didn’t know it. I was scared of feeling like a failure, I was scared of having flashbacks of rape when I started to transition or push during birth, I had fears that I would be letting myself down as a parent; I was scared of being judged by everyone around me.

It was when I wrote out the word ‘failure’ in the sand that I realized I had control. I had control of my birth, of my life. I could not let anyone get in the way of my dreams. I wiped the word away, and with that, I became a stronger woman. It was in this moment that I decided what I truly wanted. I wanted a homebirth. I wanted to have control of my birth. And that, I would do. I flew back to the good ol’ state of Nebraska a changed woman. I was ready to fight for what I believed in, and I would do anything in my power to make sure it happened.

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The obstacles that I have had to go through to make sure this birth is what I want have been unbelievable. I was expecting a few challenges, but nothing close to what I was about to face – from the lack of support, to the state laws, to being turned into CPS, to all the attacks and judgment. In the beginning, there were few people that supported my decisions to have a VBA2C, I hadn’t told many that I was planning a homebirth, as I wanted to look into all of my options first. It took a lot of convincing to get the people I loved on board. I’m sure some are still having reservations as it is.

In Nebraska, it is illegal to have a midwife attend your birth at home. This put a bit of a damper on some plans. We moved four hours away from a VBAC friendly hospital, so our options were limited if we did want a hospital birth. I began researching our different birth options. Hours and hours of research, talking in support groups, asking friends who had done homebirths anything I could think of, contacting the hospitals in regards to who would allow me to VBAC and who wouldn’t.

After carefully weighing all of our pros and cons, we decided on an unassisted birth. It was not easy deciding this. We changed our minds like we changed our underwear. But in the end, it is where my husband and I both felt safest, where we knew we would have the power to control our birth. We put together a kick butt birth team – consisting of a massage therapist, a chiropractor, two doulas, and a photographer, and of course my mom. Every laboring woman’s dream. Yes, you may be jealous.

I thought all was well, I thought I had everything in place, and this is when the attacks came, when the obstacles came. My doctor was suddenly unsupportive, telling me I was going to kill my baby. The ‘dead baby card’ is the worst thing that doctors can say to you. I was mad, I was hurt, and I wanted to fight back. I ranted back with scientific studies that showed VBACs were in fact safer than repeat cesarean sections. I even pulled out ACOGs guidelines for VBACs. (If you haven’t read the blog post on birth without fear regarding all of those guidelines, I highly suggest you read it).

After fighting with my provider and getting nowhere with them, I decided to fire them. Yes, you can fire your doctor! I decided that I needed to find someone who could just give me basic prenatal care, and help me survive living with hyperemesis. I wasn’t going to worry about telling them about my birth plans, because they were not going to be involved. This was my first action in taking control of my birth. Let me tell you, that felt good. After researching doctors in Nebraska, I decided to go back to the doctor that was supposed to deliver my second baby. I had a huge chip on my shoulder, but decided I should give it a shot. Maybe it would be good to have a backup plan with a VBAC friendly doctor just in case something happened that I was unable to do an unassisted birth.

I finally met with the doctor, got my care all in place, and was feeling really good about everything. We decided that I should have some ultrasounds done just to make sure baby was doing ok, because I had been malnourished most of my first trimester due to the HG. For the first ultrasound, we decided to have it done at a local hospital so that we did not have to travel four hours away. The doctor at the hospital told me that I had low amniotic fluid and my placenta was covering my cervix (placenta previa). For most doctors, ‘low amniotic fluid’ is measured at 5 or below. Mine was measuring at 12 – this was the second time the doctor had used some kind of scare tactic on me.

My placenta was also only partially covering my cervix, so little that it ended up moving up three weeks later. And this was the third scare tactic that the doctor had used on me. It was obvious that the doctor didn’t get my hint the first time when I came back with evidence-based research for them to go over. Yet again, I had to take control of my care, and tell the doctor that even though I respected their input on my birth, I would continue to plan for a VBA2C. We finally got to the point with our new doctor where he would let me do what I wanted, when I wanted. All was well in that department.

Next came the judgment and attacks. No one prepares you for how harsh words can be. You don’t expect them to hit so hard, but they do. The whole saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ – complete crap. Words are a powerful thing. There were people telling me that they hoped I failed at my birth; that they hoped my child died in my arms. The constant judgment from people saying ‘oh let me know how that works out for you.’ It got old, really fast. It was impacting my birth plans. It was making me feel like I was doing something wrong.

And then I realized that these people that were constantly attacking me were just validating their own feelings. They had to make me miserable for doing something amazing in my life because they wouldn’t be able to. Yes, that sounds wrong saying, but why else do we attack and judge each other? It’s a constant war out there, and if we stepped back to realize why we were doing it, we would all see that it was because we were missing that piece in our lives, that we so longed for what the other person has. It’s an honest thing that we all do as parents. But, how we choose to react to these words is all on us.

It was shortly after the verbal attacks that I found out someone had turned me into CPS (child protective services) for planning an unassisted birth. The feelings that I had about this could never be put into words, but I knew that this would just drive me to follow through with my plans even more. Obviously, CPS could not do anything about my birthing plans; after all, what I was planning was not illegal. After an interview with them, and handing them a printed version of my legal rights and the rights that I was not violating, they decided to drop the case.

It was after all of this that I decided to kill with kindness. I removed every single person from my life that had a negative impact on it. I created a bubble, where only people who were supportive of my decisions were allowed in. Sure, that bubble started out small, but it eventually turned into something much bigger than that. I started to take a stand in my life, to stick up for what I believed. To not let people push me around for the decisions I was making. I was going to birth this baby out of my vagina and into the arms of my husband like it was intended to happen. Anyone that got in my way would be pushed aside, and I would keep on keeping on. No one could tell me I was broken, or that I was being irresponsible.

We have a few weeks to go until we meet our newest sweet baby, and you can bet your bottom that we will be doing it how we want to do it. My body was meant for this, and I am going to carry out its purpose in life. My bubble is up, I know my rights as a woman, and I am educated on birth.

I refuse to become a victim. I refuse to dwell on what someone did not do for me. I refuse to dwell on what someone did to me. Instead, I dwell on what I can do. I can forgive, I can serve, I can love. I can demonstrate self-respect and say no to toxic people. I can live with joy inside. I can assume the best instead of the worst. I can kill with kindness. I can make this birth what I want it to be, no matter what someone else does or think.

Your birth will stay with you for the rest of your life. Make it matter. Remember every second of every moment, because you cannot get them back. Research your hospitals policies on childbirth. Know your options; know that you can sign AMAs (against medical advice) for anything you want. Remember that you are hiring your doctor to work for you, not the other way around. This goes for midwives and homebirths too.

In the end, you should have the final say in how your birth goes; no one should ever be able to take that away from you. Find a local childbirth educator and educate yourself on everything you need to know about birth. Learn about the values of a support team during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Doulas, postpartum doulas, breastfeeding counselors, even placenta encapsulators – research them. Invest your money in a good support team, they are worth every penny, and you will not regret it.

In the first year of my doula career, I attended 30 births. Each birth was different, unique, and beautiful in their own way – regardless of how the women birthed. But something that I realized along the way was that the moms who had educated themselves and taken control of their births had the best outcomes. They had a deep connection with themselves and their babies the instant they were born. The world would seem to stop in its place, and you could feel the triumph, the joy, the utter feeling of power fill the room.

It is in these moments that I realize how important it is to know your options, and to know that you are the owner of your body, and you can birth how you want. Regardless if these moms had epidurals, inducing medications, natural births, cesareans…the moms who owned their births were brought to life, and a new kind of respect surrounded them. And this, this is what birth is all about.

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