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The Homebirth of Benno

The Homebirth of Benno

Although he was born on Friday, Benno’s birth story starts on Monday of that week. Ok, wait. That’s not true. His birth story, or at least my journey to it, actually started years before he was even conceived and this birth story feels incomplete without at least a little background on my journey to natural birth, and ultimately, the birth of our first son.

For as long as I can remember, I have always known I wanted to be a mother. I was what many would consider “baby crazy,” long before I was ever ready to have children. One day my mom told me about a friend of hers, Cori, and about how she was going to be photographing the upcoming birth of Cori’s first child. She also told me that Cori was a blogger and had been blogging her way through the entire pregnancy and her journey towards a natural birth. My baby crazy self was intrigued, so I started following her blog. Now at this point in my life, when I imagined giving birth to my future children, I imagined hospital births in which I would request they hook me up to the epidural at the registration desk. Heck, if they could do it in the parking lot that would be even better! So as I followed Cori’s blog, I was intrigued, but I honestly thought she was a little nuts. It’s kind of like why I watch that Sister Wives show. I was intrigued, but no way in hell could I do it. But more power to her! I couldn’t stop “watching” her journey. This continued through her subsequent pregnancies.

Around the time Cori got pregnant with her third child, I was just becoming serious in a relationship with the man who would become my husband. We were having discussions about the future and having children down the road. It was around this time that my mindset on Cori’s natural birthing changed and it didn’t seem so crazy to me. I think it was the combination of having years of great information given to me on Cori’s blog, combined with being with a man who not only believed in me, but also believed in natural birth.

From that point on, I dove into getting as much information on natural birth as I could get. I read birth story after birth story, watched documentaries, read articles, and had conversations with Cori. The next thing I knew, not only was I set on having a natural birth for our first child, but I was set on having a home birth. I wasn’t even pregnant yet! I was so excited when Cori became a natural birth educator and I knew I would be able to take birth classes from her when the time came.

Now, let’s get back to the actual birth story. Although he was born on Friday, Benno’s birth story starts on Monday of that week. B (my husband) and I went out Monday night for an impromptu dinner and movie date night. This momma wanted pesto pasta from a local Italian restaurant and B wanted to see the movie “Home.” During dinner I started having consistent contractions, and timed them at around seven minutes apart. They lasted all the way through dinner, but stopped somewhere during the middle of the movie. I brushed them off as my Braxton Hicks contractions getting more organized. Tuesday I had my weekly appointment with my midwife, and she noted how spry I was coming up the stairs and commented on how I wasn’t having a baby this week. She didn’t even check me at this appointment and we talked about what the procedure is for home births in regards to going postdates.

Each night that week I would have consistent contractions for a couple of hours and then nothing. They weren’t painful, just mostly pinch-y; I wasn’t even timing them. I was apparently the only one not taking them seriously – B warned his boss early in the week about my contractions and my mom was prepping at work, in case she had to leave abruptly. B’s boss even joked that he would prefer if I could wait until Friday, because that would work best for him with B missing as little work as possible.

Thursday was my week change day – 39 weeks. After my kidney stone/preterm labor scare, I had decided that each new week I made it to I would get some sort of a treat. The treat was different every week. I decided that this week’s change day treat was a pedicure. That morning I went to my chiropractor appointment, got my pedicure, went to my acupuncture appointment, treated myself to lunch, and then got my eyebrows waxed. The acupuncturist appointment was different that day than previous treatments. Up to that point her goal was keeping baby in. But that day she did a ripening treatment to encourage him out, as well as a nice back massage. That night, the contractions happened again and there were a couple that I had to focus through that definitely felt real; but once again, they tapered out and I brushed them off. I truly thought nothing of them. I had prepared myself to go to 42 weeks. Surely I wasn’t having this baby at 39! We took my weekly belly photo next to the chalkboard where I had written: We are so close to meeting him!  I had no idea at that time just how true that was! I hadn’t slept well the previous night and I felt a need to make sure I slept well that night, so I took a Benadryl and headed to bed.

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Friday morning (39w 1d) I woke up around 6am, went to the bathroom, and went back to bed. It was just a normal day. At 7am, I rolled over in bed and felt a pop. I thought it was just a gas bubble, but it felt a little different. I didn’t think it was my water, but I headed into the bathroom just to check, because how exciting would that be? Plus, I had to pee again.  I got to the bathroom, and as I pulled down my pants, I had a big, distinguishable gush – luckily most of it ended up in the toilet. I was pretty shocked, and a bit in doubt, so I grabbed a PH strip and tested the fluid – definitely not pee. Alright then, it looks like this is happening. I immediately called my midwife – she knew I was pregnant before B did, so why shouldn’t she know I was in labor before him too, right? Joking! I was still in doubt, so I wanted to talk it through with her before I alerted him. Since I wasn’t having contractions, she told me to go on with my day as normal, but to fit in a walk and to make an acupuncture appointment. I had 24 hours to get contractions started. Next, I called B, who had already been at work for about an hour and a half. I asked him if he was ready, because my water had broken. I also joked that he should point out to his boss that I had waited until a Friday. I texted my mom and told her what was up, made an acupuncture appointment, sent B a list of things to get from the store on his way home, and hopped in the shower. My legs needed to be shaved, obviously. While I was in the shower, I felt the need to clean the house, and actually scrubbed the shower while I was in it. I couldn’t have a dirty house for a home birth…There would be people here. Plus, who knew when I would be able to shave my legs or clean the house again? Priorities, right?  B was home by 8:30 and started helping me finish the last few things around the house.

Contractions started around 9:30am. They were three to four minutes apart, lasting around a minute and pretty intense right out of the gate. I timed them while still attempting to perfect the house. After an hour of timing the contractions, I texted my midwife with the stats, telling her I was pretty sure the acupuncture wasn’t going to be needed. She told me to stop timing contractions and go for a walk. I really wanted to make the BIRTHday cake from scratch that I had planned to make in early labor, but it was already too intense – just trying to finish cleaning the house was too much. B knew how badly I wanted the cake to happen, so he even offered to make it if I coached him through it, but I needed to focus on the contractions. By 11, I threw the cake idea out the window, stopped attempting to clean the house, and told B to contact the midwife again and tell her the walk wasn’t happening – things are too intense and I didn’t even want to get off my hands and knees/birth ball on the floor. She told B to set up the birth pool and prep the bed, but not to fill the pool, and that she was on her way over. I took this photo of him setting up the birth pool at 11:18am – time gets blurry from here. It took him forever to set it up, because I needed him to come back for each contraction.

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My midwife arrived (around noon?) and checked me. I remember saying, “If I am only like a 4, I am going to kill someone.” I had requested not to know my dilation, but I was told later that I was a 4. This was exactly why I requested not to know. Had I known I was only a 4 at that point, with how intense it was, I know the rest of this story would have been completely different.

At this point, my midwife had us take a walk around my front yard. The student midwife/doula had arrived a bit earlier and started taking photos, amongst doing her prep and labor assistance. This is also the point in the day that I lost my mucus plug. It took us forever to circle our yard just a few times, because I had to stop and work through the contractions. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day though!

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After the walk, I went back inside and got back in my comfy place on my knees, draped over the birth ball. I really liked this position and I didn’t want to move. Everything was really intense. B and my midwife kept telling me how great I was doing and I remember telling them that they were lying, because if I was doing so great, I would be allowed in the birth tub. All I wanted was to get in the water, but they kept telling me it was too early.

The midwife was worried I was going to hurt my knees kneeling on them for however many hours this was going to take, so they had me move to the bedroom to get on the bed. I stopped in the bathroom on the way to pee and got stuck on the toilet during a contraction. Oh how I HATED the toilet contraction – that was a moment that I felt completely out of control and I just hated it. On all my previous contractions, I was able to collapse to the floor to sway my way through it and I was able to do what my body needed to do and stay out of my head. I couldn’t do that on the toilet. I had no coping mechanism on there and I got inside my head, which was not where I wanted to be.  I made it through the contraction and there was no way I was doing another one there, so I speed peed and flew to the bedroom. Once in the bedroom, I was helped onto the bed and things were a whole other level of intense. I was lying on my side and really didn’t like the position, but didn’t have the energy to move.

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I was already at the point where once a contraction would subside, I would almost be sleeping until the next one hit. It wasn’t long after getting on the bed that I told B, that if I couldn’t get in the birth pool soon I wanted to go to the hospital and get an epidural, because I couldn’t do it anymore. The next contraction hit and I involuntarily grunted and pushed through it. I told B that the baby was coming. The midwife came in and told me that she usually only checks every 4 hours when waters are broken, and that it had only been two hours, but she wanted to check again since I was sounding pushy. She checked me and told B to go ahead and start filling the tub. Oh thank goodness! I found out later that I was 8-9 at that point. They had the tub filling and they were boiling water on the stove and the BBQ grill because things were moving much more quickly than anticipated. They checked me one more time and I was in the birth pool by 2:30ish. It was glorious!

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The midwife told me that she didn’t want me to fight my body if it pushed, but that she didn’t want me to add to it, because I still had a bit of a lip. The backup midwife and my mom arrived right around this time.

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Around 2:45 they checked me one last time, told me I was complete and could do whatever I felt compelled to do. Nobody told me when to push; nobody was counting through my contractions –nothing. It was just me and my body, doing what felt right, at my own pace.

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I birthed his head in the pool, and we discovered that his hand was pressed up against his face, making his shoulders get a bit stuck. The midwives had me stand up in the pool, but I kept wanting to squat too low – his head had already come out of the water, so it couldn’t go back in, and the midwives needed more room to maneuver him – the pool was not giving them enough room to do what they needed to do. They had me get out of the pool, so one of them could support my perineum while the other one turned the baby to get his shoulders loose.

At 4:02pm, Benno was born, in our living room, 9 hours after my water broke – 6.5 hours after the first contraction hit – after an hour and 13 minutes of pushing. I had done it! He was here!

The midwives unwrapped the cord from his neck and he was immediately placed on my chest where the midwives attended to and evaluated him, and we attempted to get him latched, but he wasn’t interested. I birthed the placenta, B made the first cut on the cord and my mom made the second. We weighed him at 7 pounds, 11 ounces.

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I was then helped to the bedroom to asses any tears. I had one minor tear that the midwife debated even needing to stitch. She ended up stitching it to be safe, but said it was so minor that it probably didn’t need to be done. At that point, we were able to get him to latch and he was measured at 19 inches. The student midwife started processing my placenta to be encapsulated, I was able to pee, and within a couple hours of birth, the birth team left us to bond as a new family.

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It was intense – it was an absolute whirlwind – he came on like a freight train, but it was absolutely perfect. Over a month later, I still haven’t quite wrapped my brain around the fact that I pushed him out of me, let alone the fact that I did it un-medicated in my living room. Crazy. Amazingly crazy. The support that I had was crucial and amazing. I could not have asked for a better birth team. Oh, and for those wondering how un-medicated labor compares to kidney stones: labor wins, hands down. Kidney stones hurt way worse. Plus, you don’t get this perfect gift at the end of kidney stones:Collage2

The Birth of Ellis: A Planned Homebirth, Uplanned Unassisted

The Birth of Ellis: A Planned Homebirth, Uplanned Unassisted

My son, Ellis, was born at home on the 6th of November, 2015 in our bathroom unassisted and perfectly peaceful in every way. 

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I had a very healthy pregnancy and worked hard to prepare my body for birth and labor. I envisioned our birth daily, seeing a dark, quiet house, with just my family around me and birthing in our bathroom. Little did I know that my dreams of a quiet birth would be a reality.

Both Tuesday night and Wednesday night before the birth, I contracted mildly for about an hour each evening. We would get ready for bed and sleep very restfully. I felt a decreased amount of activity from the baby on Wednesday night through Thursday morning; I wanted my red raspberry tea first thing that morning to help increase the chance of fetal movement. I felt the baby move very gently and was grateful for the reassuring bumps. Thursday afternoon I had very mild contractions on and off, but in no way felt that I was in labor. I wanted a light dinner and was craving salad, so we all packed up for a family dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s that evening. My sister, Sunshine, and my nephew had been visiting me, my husband, and our two and a half year old daughter for about a week. We returned home and put the kiddos to bed. I had very mild contractions on the birth ball while we watched TV and chatted until about 11 PM when we all went to bed. 

I woke up a few times to go to the bathroom that night, and felt fine. I was able to go right back to sleep each time. When I woke up at 2:36 AM to a contraction that was making me shake my leg to distract myself through it, I woke Satch and told him that I was going to time a few contractions to see if we were laboring.  Contractions were about three minutes apart. I went to the bathroom and saw a slight tinge of show.

I texted the midwife at 2:50 AM:

Harmony: I’ve been having some contractions and bloody show. Not sure how serious they are, slept in between them for a while, now they are keeping me awake.

Midwife:  How far apart are they?

Harmony:  Right now 2-3 min, but I’m having a hard time knowing how intense they are. Still talking through them.

Midwife: How long have they been that close?

Harmony:  Probably for the last 30 min. I don’t think you need to come yet, just trying to give you a heads up. I was not tracking them for a while, just trying to sleep and not being able to.

She told me to keep her updated.

At 3:00 AM, I went into the guest room and told Sunni that I was contracting regularly, had some bloody show, and had been in contact with the midwife. She said she would stay in bed for a few minutes to get her bearings.

I continued to labor in the living room, walking around during contractions and in between. I noticed they slowed and lost intensity when I sat, so I chose to keep walking around – making laps around the living room, stopping to look at my birth vision cards, walking into the master bedroom and touching the baby things. Satch was sitting on the couch and applying my labor oils to my lower back, tracking my contractions with my phone’s app. 

Sunni came out of the guest room at 3:27 AM and sat in the living room with Satch and me. She checked with me if I wanted her out with us. She said, “I don’t want you to feel like a watched pot.” I told her I wanted her out there with us to distract me.  We chatted in between contractions, which were still two to three minutes apart. At one point, I questioned if we should all go back to bed and try to get some more rest.  Satch was resting in between contractions, sometimes struggling to get the contraction tracked in the app, because he had dosed off. He apologized about sleeping in between and I told him that I didn’t care; I wanted him to get rest for when I needed him later. We were all so at peace and the atmosphere was unrushed, dim, and calm.  

Around 4 AM, we started talking about the plan for the kids in a few hours –trying to figure out when to call in child care help and where Sunni and the kids would go, or if they could stay home. We knew it was going to have to be organic decision-making in a few hours based on where I was in labor.

About 4:15 AM, contractions became more intense. I tried sitting on the birth ball and it felt wrong, so I got down on my hands and knees and was rocking to a rhythm. I commented that I was feeling the contractions in my vagina and had never felt that with Maelyn’s labor. In between some of these stronger contractions, I was still picking back up our conversation from the last break. I asked Sunni to fill my diffusers with frankincense and she went into the kitchen. At the end of the next contraction, I felt fluid and said to Satch, “Oops, I peed.” Then, I immediately told him, “No, my water just broke.” They went to get towels and shove them under my knees while I was still on all fours on the living room floor. It was 4:30 AM.

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I told Satch to call the midwife. Sunni was on the floor behind me and I asked her what color the amniotic fluid was. She said it was stained, but because of the dim lighting we would need to confirm in different lighting. I asked for my labor oil blend to be sprayed on my lower back, because I was feeling nauseated. I told Satch I wanted to move to the bathroom. I had already started to feel pressure like I wanted to push and was feeling like I should do that on the toilet. There was so much pressure and my contractions were really strong. Satch supported my weight to the bathroom and started moving the rugs out, and Sunni took out the bathroom trash. We all knew instinctually that it would be soon. 

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I sat on the toilet and the next contraction was so intense. It rushed through me and I prayed out loud that God would give me a break, so that I could get my perspective back. I also said something about just needing to give up control and let go. I did get a break from that contraction and knew that I was going to push the next time one rushed through my body. I asked Sunni to start filling up the bathtub and told her not to get it hot. There was a longer break before the next contraction. Sunni told me, “Your baby is going to be born on November 6th.” 

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I told them I was so hot; Satch opened the bathroom window and Sunni looked around out in the other room and found a stiff manila envelope on my printer. She brought it into the bathroom to fan me with, but never used it as my next contraction started and I began to push. It felt right and I felt between my legs and could feel the baby’s head. I used the whole contraction to bear down and steadily push. Satch and Sunni tell me that they didn’t know I was pushing. The baby’s head came out and I eased back and waited. I stood up from sitting over the toilet. I was holding the head gently and it was so smooth and round. My hand kept stroking it gently and I remember saying to the baby, “Just wait a minute for me.” The head was so smooth and I was expecting to feel hair, so when I didn’t, I asked, “Is this the head?” For a fleeting moment, I wondered if it was a butt and I was delivering breech. Sunni and Satch both told me it was the baby’s head, and I started right into the next contraction. 

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Working to push slowly, the baby’s body slid right into my hands and I brought it to my chest. It was 4:50 AM. Sunni also held the baby’s back as it came out, asked if I needed any help, and I said, “No,” and she stepped back. I walked across the floor and stepped into the tub. The baby had the cord looped around its arm and neck, so I loosened the cord from its arm and Sunni pulled it from the nape of its neck over the top of the head. Sunni said, “It’s a boy.” We were all so joyful, especially Satch. I asked Sunni to hold Ellis so I could sit down in the tub. Satch went to get the nose frida, and Sunni cleaned out his nose and mouth. Satch gave me a washcloth to wipe his face and chest. Ellis was moving well and was so peaceful. He had cried softly, as he was coming out and after we had removed the nuchal cord, but he was calm as he lay in my lap in the water. Satch handed me a towel to help keep Ellis warm in the water.

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The midwives arrived at 5:05 AM. Satch met them at the door and told them I was in the bathroom. They asked if they had made it in time and Satch told them Ellis was born. They commented that they were not surprised. They checked the baby and were pleased. I sat up in the tub to birth the placenta and we placed it in a two gallon bag and it went with Ellis to our bedroom. I got out of the tub and the midwife dried me off. Satch took a towel, wiped some blood off my feet, and helped me to our bedroom. I got in our bed with the baby and Satch, and I spent the next 30 minutes snuggling with Ellis while the midwives prepared the herbal bath. Maelyn, our daughter woke up at 5:55 AM and Satch carried her in to meet her brother. Satch cut the umbilical cord at 6:10 AM and Maelyn checked to be sure it did not hurt the baby. Ellis and I enjoyed an herbal bath with Satch pouring water over the baby the whole time. The midwives took Ellis back to our bedroom for his newborn check and the whole family watched Ellis get checked and weighed. He was 8 lbs. 11 oz. and 21 inches long. The midwives asked if I wanted to be checked for vaginal tears and were pleased to report that there had been no tearing with only two pushes for delivery. It was then time for me to eat breakfast in bed. The midwives left, and Satch and Sunni resumed the morning routine with the kids with an extra amount of excitement in our home.Collage

Our Home Birth, Turned Hospital

Our Home Birth, Turned Hospital

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We were having an amazing homebirth with our midwife team. I had reached 9 1/2 cm, and my body was ready to push. What we didn’t know was that Emma-Leigh had turned “sunny side up” and her head was creating a lip on my cervix that was swelling with each contraction. I swelled all the way down to 6cm, but my body continued to bear down and push with each intense contraction.

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After realizing that my body was unable to correct the problem on its own, and with my strength quickly fading, my husband and midwife team decided I needed to be immediately transferred to the hospital for an epidural. It was a “last resort” to get my body to stop pushing long enough for me to, basically, start labor over again and reach 10cm.

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We arrived at the hospital around midnight and I was able to finally get some rest. The hospital ended up giving me a small dose of Pitocin, after a few hours, to get things going again. That made Emma’s heart rate drop dramatically (WORST moment of my life), but we got everything under control and at 12:20PM on October 3rd, 2015, I vaginally delivered our perfect angel baby.

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Our lives became filled with more love than I ever thought possible. I don’t feel like I had a “failed homebirth” – instead, I am proud of the fact that I labored twice for one birth. It was two days of pre-labor, then a total of 34 hours of active labor.homehospital7

The Read Family’s Birth Story

The Read Family’s Birth Story

Our second son, Jaxon Joseph, was born at home on December 3rd at 2:35 PM. He weighed 8lbs 12 oz. His due date had been December 7th.

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December 2nd was the start of my 22 hour, prodromal labour. I had a check and sweep on Tuesday, December 1st and was 2cm dilated. After my sweep, I went shopping and got a migraine. I haven’t had a migraine in over a year, so that was strange. The next day, I woke up feeling off, but dropped my son off at the day home and went home to relax. I started feeling sick to my stomach, like I was getting the flu. I ended up barfing my guts out most of the day. When I texted the midwife, she figured that since I had a migraine the day before the sickness must be a bug and not early labour signs.

By 3 o’clock, I had texted my hubby to come home early from work, as I was so sick. It was a good thing he did, because by 4 PM I was having regular contractions ranging three to seven minutes apart. I was in early labour, but didn’t know it. The contractions did not go away, but spaced out to every 10 to 20 minutes. To get some rest, the midwife said to take two, extra strength, Tylenol and two Gravel. I was able to sleep for three hours and then, was woken up by painful contractions at 1:30 AM.

I kept on contracting every ten minutes until 6:30 AM. Then, they slowed back down to 10 to 20 minutes apart. My midwife came to do a check and sweep at 10 AM. I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Work was being done! I guess this is just how my body labours! I had all sorts of plans for the day, and I figured it would be another day or two until the baby came at this pace.
That all changed within 20 minutes of the sweep. Even before the midwives left, my contractions changed and moved to my entire thighs – which were exactly the same type of contractions as my last son. I was really starting to feel the pain. I was going into active labour after only 20 minutes of having that sweep. I started to not be able to manage the pain well, as my entire legs were shaking uncontrollably every three minutes. They were such intense contractions.

We got the midwives to come back, even though they had only been gone an hour. They checked me and my bags were bulging and I was 5 to 6 cm. I was asking for them to break my water. I knew that would speed up the delivery and I couldn’t handle much more pain, but we decided to wait a bit longer. They told me to labour on the toilet, because that would help the baby to descend. After 20 minutes of that, my waters broke. I was ready to push! I was going to deliver on the toilet, but decided the bed was better. I ran off to the bed, and changed my mind again and jumped off.
I yelled, “I’m delivering here!” I squatted and the ladies got ready, and I pushed my baby out and caught him! He came out after five to six pushes with only a very small tear. They were great to tell me when to slow down and when to push. My hubby was a little freaked out when I jumped off the bed to squat on the floor, but he understood when my 8lb 12oz boy was born. I couldn’t have pushed all that baby out lying down.readsbirth3

The picture below is the only one I have from right when I delivered, as my midwife had my doula run downstairs to grab hot towels from the dryer. I cherish this fuzzy picture as it shows my most fearless moment: catching my baby.readsbirth

A Birth Story, with photos

A Birth Story, with photos

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This was my second baby and I knew exactly how I wanted to experience his birth. He was born at 36 weeks, when my water broke unexpectedly. He came out quickly and with little effort on my part. He was completely perfect and healthy. His big brother was there for the whole thing and I am so glad I was able to experience this with my husband and son at my side.birthstory2birthstory3birthstory4

Unassisted Home Birth

Unassisted Home Birth

I had a very eventful, and luckily smooth, second birth and thought I could share a little picture of it. I’ve never felt as empowered as I did in this moment. My second little love decided to come a week early and fast! We had decided to do a home birth, since our previous hospital experience with our first son was not so hot.

This was my ocean baby – always doing yoga in my belly, never pushy. The three hour precipitous labor a week early came as quite a surprise, given his personality. My midwife missed the show and my husband almost did, too! My toddler was my doula, holding my head at the end of my contractions, telling me I’m ok until I moved to the bathroom on instinct and started pushing.

Daddy caught my sweets, unwrapped a bit of cord around his neck, and handed him over to me as I moved from all fours to grasp him. I felt like a 6lb 8oz freight train had just run through my body! The midwife couldn’t believe her ears when my husband told her the baby was born and healthy. I pushed out the placenta, and Daddy cut and clamped the cord with our kitchen scissors and home birth kit materials. Amazing!

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Peregrine’s Birth Story: From Home to Hospital

Peregrine’s Birth Story: From Home to Hospital

An eternal 12 days after my due date, which contained both moments of patience and absolute cry-my-face-off, hormonal battiness, a complete lunar eclipse, two stretch-and-sweeps, two ultrasounds, and the looming likeliness of medical induction, it was finally starting to look like I was in labour. I had been having short, manageable contractions about 15 to 20 minutes apart for the last couple days, which would fizzle out during the night. This Tuesday evening, they started picking up enough that I would hum or moan through them and have to concentrate. A number of times I got Ben to squeeze my hips throughout a contraction, which felt much better. We had been infested with house-flies recently, and at one point he started squeezing my hips, but saw a fly, and let go of me to go after it with the swatter. I made an indignant noise and waved my hand frantically – how the heck did a fly take priority right now!?

Somewhere around 7 PM, I called my midwife, Kilmeny, to tell her contractions were a minute long and roughly five minutes apart. While we were talking on the phone she heard me have to stop and moan through a contraction, so she could tell that it wasn’t just wishful thinking. She said she would have some supper and then be on her way over, which was about an hour’s drive. Ben already had the inflatable birthing pool partially full and covered to retain warmth, but he began to add more hot water. I had a set of watercolour birthing affirmations that I had painted hanging on the wall near the pool, and Ben lit candles.

It may have been around 8:45 when Kilmeny arrived and checked me. My cervix was only 2 to 3 cm dilated. I was pretty discouraged and felt bad for calling her, but was still having the regular contractions, though not quite as close together. She was quite tired from being at another birth and, saying it could be quite a while yet, suggested sleep. We gave her our bed and we set up on the futon in the living room. I didn’t want to lie down during contractions, but she said maybe that would be good for me, as the discomfort could be an indicator of something happening, whereas always shifting into a more comfortable position might be slowing things down. I called Mom, who brought over some more gravol, and I took some with Tylenol and we went to bed. I lasted maybe an hour and a half trying to doze in-between contractions, with Ben asleep beside me. Then I couldn’t take it anymore and wandered about or sat in the rocker with my heat-pack and tens machine. Soft instrumental lullabies played at a low volume. I was making some noise, but trying to keep it minimal. It felt very lonely in the dark, coping with each wave and being the only one awake, tiptoeing around and feeling guilty for not lying down, as was suggested. I could have woken Ben, but there wasn’t anything he could do, so I thought he might as well sleep while he could.

4 AM – I finally woke Ben and Kilmeny, as my contractions seemed stronger and I was getting very shaky. I held tight to Ben and whispered that I didn’t want to be alone anymore. They topped off the pool with hot water and I got in, which felt really lovely. Kilmeny wanted me to sink all the way into it and try to relax my body as much as possible.  They sat nearby with laptops and drank coffee.

6 AM – Dawn was approaching; the midwife offered to break my waters in half an hour if there wasn’t much more progress. I said we might as well do it right away. I asked Ben to say a little prayer, so he held my hands and prayed that it would go well, and then they helped me onto the couch. The waters felt very warm as they trickled out, and Kilmeny said they were clear with no meconium, which I was so glad of.

Contractions picked up quite quickly, and before I could even get back into the pool I said, “I’m going to throw up.” Ben grabbed a bowl for me. I lost the mint I’d been sucking.

Sometime between 8 and 10 AM, the midwives did a changing of the guard. Kilmeny left me with words of encouragement, replaced by Suki and Julie. By this point I was at 8cm and kind of out of it, in my own survival zone. Ben showed our contraction-timing app to Julie who tried it out. I vaguely recall being brought cool cloths for my neck when I found the pool too hot, but the contrast was quite chilly when I got out to pee. At one point I reached to see if I could check my own cervix and felt the top of the baby’s head against my fingers. That was very neat, realizing that it was actually right there and I had touched my child.

Labour continued in the pool until noon; there was immense pressure with each contraction. I would just grab hold of the handles and writhe in the water. The only thing that sort of helped was pressing my lower back against the little blow up seat under the water while bracing my feet against the opposite wall. It was more painful than I had expected, especially because there wasn’t much relief between waves. I didn’t realize it was back labour.

I didn’t have a lot of excitement about the baby throughout that time. It seemed so impossible that it was ever going to arrive. I just focused on making it through each new moment and using what remained of my energy to make the singing, moaning noises that were essential to keeping myself calm. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to try to keep my voice in a low register and my jaw loose, otherwise I would end up screaming and tensing up. So, that was my song – my low, vowel-y litany of labour. “Aaaaa-eeeee-iiiii-ohhh-oooo.”

Ben was funny, as well as supportive. He couldn’t help laughing a little when I would vocalize, “Hoo hooo.” “And the owl goes?” he joked under his breath.

I wanted to be pushing so badly, wanting to be done this long stage. I tried it a bit, but my body wasn’t feeling the urge. I remember Suki asking, “Are you feeling pushy?” I complained, “I want to be feeling pushy!” She laughed. She checked and said I was at 9.5 cm, but there was a thick edge of cervical lip in the way. She offered to try to hold it back for me during a contraction. We tried and it hurt a lot but she said she had cleared it about halfway back. I tried laboring a little longer and asked if she would do it again. She said it was very unusual for someone to ask for that again! I just so badly wanted to get through, I didn’t care much about the pain. I think I started throwing up again.

Finally, I felt able to push a little with the contractions. It wasn’t getting the baby out though, so they moved me to the bed and tried various positions. Suki continued to push back the lip with every opportunity. Whenever I was pushing it was bearable, but if she was still working on it after I had finished pushing I would practically scream at her not to. At last she said it was all cleared away. I was relieved, thinking we must be almost done and the baby could be born at any point now. However, I continued pushing, back and forth between the toilet and bed, not seeming to be able to finish the job. I would try and try, and they kept saying that it was a great push and just go a little harder to make the baby come far enough to stop going back, but then I would lose my breath and have to stop.

Suki told me that, because I was so exhausted and didn’t seem to have the final burst of energy needed for strong enough pushes, that I could try for ten more minutes, but then she would like to transfer me to the hospital and use Pitocin to strengthen the contractions. I said I didn’t want to. I wanted to avoid Pitocin if at all possible. I kept trying my best, and she held off on that ultimatum, telling me that I was just so close, I was almost doing it.

At last though, I was so pooped, that I agreed to go to the hospital for a vacuum suction removal. It felt a little bit like a gracious defeat, handing over my own fortitude for being able to do it at home, but I was also thankful to know that I would have help. It wasn’t all on my shoulders anymore. I was headed towards the end; it was just a matter of waiting it out now.

“It’s so hard, my love,” I whispered. In true Ben form, my hubby responded with an innuendo, which not even the pain could keep me from finding funny. “It’s good to see you smile”, he said.

The ambulance arrived with a couple of friendly paramedics. I remember thinking how awesome it was that they wheel a carrier right into the house and that I didn’t have to try to walk out to the vehicle. At first they buckled me in, but I couldn’t bear to be on my back, so I asked to be unbuckled very quickly. As the door was shut and we left, a couple of flies got stuck inside with us and started landing on me. If I could have laughed at that point I would have. It was the last straw – those flies that we had been swatting for weeks.

The hour-long, bumpy ambulance ride was the worst part of, well, anything in my life thus far. Fully dilated and stuck, I sang constantly. It took a lot of energy to force it out, but I couldn’t not do it. I apologized to the lovely paramedic for making so much noise, and she cheerfully replied that it was a nice change for them. They didn’t usually get serenaded on the job. Once I almost asked how much further it was to the hospital, but decided I’d rather not know. I didn’t try pushing at all on the journey, I just endured, trembling and sweaty, while Ben encouraged me through what felt like a haze. I was glad to have him there. At first, they had suggested that he bring our car behind, but I definitely wanted him with me. Julie went home, but Suki followed the ambulance in her car.

When we arrived, things moved speedily. I was whisked upstairs to the maternity wing, into a bed, and people bustled around quickly prepping for the baby and drawing blood samples, as I had weakly asked about an epidural. When they told me it would take at least ten minutes to get the needle in, I said to forget that, let’s just get this finished! Besides, I really did want a natural birth. So, the obstetrician on call, a super lady OB, who we had seen for a consult the week before, came right in and checked the baby. She turned to the midwife and said the little one was, “Sunny side up,” as they say, which was partly why the labour was stalled. She said she would use forceps, but I was against this. She explained that the only way we could still go with the vacuum suction is if I pushed while she turned the baby. That way the top of its head would be accessible. Bracing my feet against the supports, I gave it my best effort, while thinking about saving my baby’s precious skull from the trauma of forceps. It worked, and I could feel the whole body swivel in the birth canal.

They checked again for the heartbeat and said it was beginning to drop. The OB said she didn’t usually do episiotomies, but needed to for this situation. I said, “Oh no, please don’t! I’d much rather tear.” She said ok, we just needed to get the baby out right away. As it turned out, the heartbeat sped up again as she affixed the vacuum cup to the baby’s head. She exclaimed that it must have made the baby excited. Then the doctor pulled while I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. I knew this was my last chance to do this naturally and I had to do it now. I think I just gave up on breathing entirely. My face went purple. Then it happened – the head was out! I gasped and gasped.

Ben disappeared into the bathroom for a moment and I heard someone ask if he was ok. He told me, after, that he knew he was about to faint, being overwhelmed and so out of control of the situation. Someone told him he should sit with his head between his knees, but he already knew about that and was doing it. He came back just a few seconds later though, as the rest of the baby’s body slithered out of me and I felt the incredible sensation of all the pressure being gone.

Then everything immediately melted into an amazing glow of relief and elation and joy and tenderness. The baby was on my empty belly, his back to my face, as the cord was attached. I could tell from the look of the sturdy build that it was going to be Peregrine, even before my husband said, “It’s a boy!” Ben sat silent and teary beside me, as I sobbed happily, “My baby! My baby!” I gathered the warm pink skin into my caressing hands. He was fuzzy and dry, with no vernix, and bawled lustily. Everyone in the room was smiling and laughing with the joy of it…and also because he had pooped all over the doctor’s feet. They were trying to wipe poo off the baby so it wouldn’t get onto me, but I didn’t care.

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Even though our newborn had passed meconium during the ambulance ride, and they had an expert in the room to clear his airways if needed, he seemed to be fine, so they were able to delay cord clamping for five minutes. I had agreed to a shot of Pitocin directly after he was born, as they didn’t want to risk hemorrhaging, so the placenta came out very quickly. I didn’t care what was going on around me anymore, or about what they were doing to fix me up, I was just so ecstatic.

I put my son to my breast almost right away and he latched on like a natural, so easily and quietly that the attendants were surprised when they looked over and saw him nursing.

Then they took him to a table right beside me to briefly suction a little mucous from his throat and weigh him: 9 lbs, ½ oz! What a huge baby, big and healthy. His head circumference was the same as most six week old infants! We named him as we had planned: Peregrine Benedict – “Perrin” for short.

I had a second-degree tear, which needed sewing, but compared to what I had just been through I barely noticed the stitches.

Although Perrin cried at first, he soon became peaceful and alert for our first few hours together. We admired all the features of his precious little face and remarked on how his ears were a perfect combination of ours. His cheeks looked like mine had, as a baby. His feet were big, with long toes like Ben’s. His Daddy held him close for skin-to-skin time and later they gazed wondrously at one another. He also sucked his thumb.

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My mom arrived, immensely reassured to know that I was still alive, after not hearing from us for 15 hours and panicking. Ben had called her as we left for the hospital, asking her to meet us there, so she could bring the car seat and drive us home. She shared delightful moments with her brand new grandchild, as he looked about on the bright world, before she headed into town to pick up food for us all, midwife included, from Tim Hortons.

I was crazy hungry. I devoured two suppers – the hot meal provided by the hospital, and a big take-out sandwich wrap. I was also completely re-energized, chatting and laughing excitedly and walking around the room, relating all the circumstances of the birth. It was as if all the exhaustion and tribulation of my body had just vanished.

Ben texted family members and sent photos of the new arrival. I hadn’t wanted to tell anyone when I went into labour, so the news was a surprise. Mom answered questions for the survey project of a grateful student-nurse, as Ben and I were way too distracted. I also had a hot shower before my wonderful sister-in-law Addie arrived to pick up my placenta for encapsulation.

Perrin’s birth was at 3:09 PM on September 30th. Only three hours later, dressed in a little outfit with a bunting pattern, that I had bought to be his first, we packed up the tiny person into the car-seat where he fell fast asleep. Wearing a blanket as a skirt, since I had forgotten to bring pants, I thanked everyone, especially the midwife Suki, very warmly, and we left to bring our little son back to our home and our new lives as a family of three.

That’s the end of the birth story of Peregrine Benedict and the beginning of the rest of his life.

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P.S. I know many people have had negative birth experiences in hospitals, but I was very blessed to suffer no trauma or disappointment from my transfer. Even though I would have preferred to have a home birth, without interventions, I was consulted about and consented to everything that happened. My desires were respected by everyone who assisted me, and I didn’t feel invaded or pressured. Overall it was a positive experience. I was very grateful for receiving the help that I did.

Rueger’s Birth: Learning to Give Into the Power of a Woman’s Body

Rueger’s Birth: Learning to Give Into the Power of a Woman’s Body

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First of all, I’m writing this on his second birthday. His birth is rather fresh in my memory even though so much time has passed. At about six AM on New Year’s Day, 2014, I started having mild contractions five to ten minutes apart. He was due on December 31, so it was exciting to think this might be the day!

 

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I got up without waking my husband and son, and started milling around doing last minute things and getting ready for the day. I had been having a lot of prodromal labor with this baby for weeks, just like I had with my first. My body likes to practice a lot before it does the real thing. I timed my contractions for an hour or so and they were steady and ‘laborish’ – tightening of my whole abdominal region instead of just a portion, spreading to my lower back, uncomfortable, and consistently stayed at about five to six minutes apart.

I called my midwife and told her everything, as well as my mother, husband, and son, who were now up and about. My labor with my first had only been five hours long, start to finish, but for some reason my spirit had been gearing up to spend more time than that in labor this second go around.

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Turns out I was right. I had already had my midwife Katrina strip my membranes two different times in the last week, because we had time constraints concerning when my husband had to return to work in North Dakota. I desperately wanted him to be there for the birth of his second child, especially since he wasn’t able to be there for the first and missed out on having some immediate kangaroo care. I have no doubt in my mind that the membrane stripping sped up the start of my labor, but only by about 6 hours, and yet made my actual labor longer. My midwife warned us of this possibility and that’s exactly what happened to me.

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The setting was pretty and calm with the Christmas tree still up, lights dim, and birthing pool being filled. I spent the first five to six hours progressing from one centimeter to only about 4 centimeters. I could talk between contractions and joke around a bit. It was so nice to labor at home. But, when Katrina checked me and told me I had only progressed to a four or five, my heart dropped. With Hudson, my first, I had progressed to eight centimeters within four hours, and had him out and in my arms after about three pushes at hour five. So, Katrina did another membrane sweep. This time it hurt and was very uncomfortable. Immediately afterwards, my labor became harder and quite intense. My contractions were now about two to three minutes apart, and I had to breathe and concentrate through them.

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My mom was upstairs with Hudson the whole time, which was nice. My doula, Tessa, Katrina, and my husband, Beau, were all downstairs by my side. Hanging onto Beau’s neck and swinging my hips felt good. I was in and out of the birthing pool, trying to get things progressing, and going to the bathroom as well. Pool, bathroom break, kneeling beside the couch, then back to pool…

As I recall, it went on like this for three to four hours. At hour 11, I felt short of breath and panicky. My doula had been using essential oils on me the entire time, and it was helpful. She used some DoTerra ‘Breathe’ on me when I said, “I feel like I can’t catch my breath!” It helped immediately, though my confidence in myself was waning.

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Wave after wave of overwhelming, squeezing sensations and deep pain came over me. It seemed like I had no break in-between, and I felt so tired. I was always thinking about how much the next contraction was going to hurt and overwhelm me. This was a mistake. I should have just been in the moment, taking the small breaks as they came, and riding along with the waves of intensity, instead of trying to escape them. I wanted to control my situation, and, as any woman who has been in natural labor knows, you cannot control labor. You must give into it and roll along with it. If you don’t, fear can take over and can cause it to feel more painful.

I got a bit nauseous at this point as well. Hot, cold, continual contractions, nausea…all good signs of transition, and yet, I still felt like I wasn’t going to be able to ‘do this’ – which actually is another sign of labor being almost over.

I felt like I wanted to sleep. I got back in the pool and laid my head down on the side, dreading each contraction. They had slowed down, just slightly, but we’re still very intense. I found myself falling asleep for the 30 to 60 seconds in-between them. Somehow, I felt like this wasn’t good, like it was a sign my labor was slowing and stalling. My body, though, obviously needed rest and I couldn’t help it. Beau had gone upstairs, because at this point I didn’t want him touching me, and my mom had come to relieve him. Her presence was sweet and reassuring, and much needed. Beau had a done a wonderful, superb job, but I was in another world and needed female presence and support.

After about 11 and half hours I called out in desperation to God. I cried aloud and unashamed, “Lord I need your help. I don’t feel like I can do this anymore and so, You are going to have to take over. You have to carry me now. I just don’t have it in me!” I had it set in my mind after calling out that I was going to need to endure at least three to four more hours of labor.

Katrina asked me if I wanted to walk up and down the stairs, or go to the bathroom. In my mind I said, Are you freaking kidding me!?! Heck no! I wasn’t about to walk any stairs. I could barely stay awake and standing up made my contractions unbearable. She then, intuitively, asked me to try to stay on my left knee, but lift up my right leg into a squatting position. I had forgotten that this was the same position in which I had pushed Hudson out.

Maybe she remembered. Maybe she just listened to the Lord, but immediately after I brought my leg up I had a very strong, yet relieving contraction. It made me want to push, and that feeling gave me hope! Pushing is the best part, in my opinion: a light at the end of the tunnel. I love my midwife; she’s an angel from God in so many ways.

The next contraction came quickly and I felt a pop and gush. My water broke and this baby was coming! I could feel him slipping quickly down with each moment and told Tessa to get Beau, and quickly. She headed upstairs and told Beau to come. I yelled after her, “Baby’s coming out now! Tell him to come down right now!”

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Beau flew down the stairs and knelt down beside the pool. Seconds later, the head was out. I instinctively cradled it and felt a glorious crown of thick, long, soft baby hair. Katrina made sure the cord wasn’t wrapped around his neck and asked me if I was having another contraction. On the next one, the rest of his body slipped out into my arms and I laid back in the pool with him on my chest. Only three to four pushes, and he was here. I couldn’t believe it, as I had just been preparing myself for hours more of labor.

My first thought? He’s so tiny!

My first baby was 7lbs14oz, and this little guy was 6lbs14oz. He came to me at 6:14pm, as well. That made it easy to remember! His eyes were deep and dark and open, and he cried loud and true moments after I put him on my chest.

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back on the birthing video I found that I kept saying, over and over, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”. Then, I told my wee one, again and again, “You did so good, baby. You did so good…” All of this was in a high-pitched, euphoric voice. This is just one of the plethora of reasons I love giving birth without drugs. You are totally aware of every emotion and every feeling, and your body produces such a high after the birth – a feeling of I could climb Mount Everest with my baby in hand!

We were going to name him either Noah, or Rueger. Noah just wasn’t right. It seemed to calm and laid-back. He was fiercely strong and his little spirit was a force, a firecracker of a baby. He rolled within the first hour of his life when the midwife was checking him over! Rueger it was! The name as a number of meanings, but one of them was peaceful warrior and we liked that.

After 10 to 15 minutes, I had another contraction and my placenta came easily. By the way, I had pooped a tiny bit in the water, which I didn’t with my first, but it wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t even know it until later. I know it a common fear, especially when giving birth in the water, but 99% of the time it’s no big deal, and it didn’t phase my midwife one iota.

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Rueger went into daddy’s bare arms and chest, and settled right away. My desire and hope was complete: seeing this wee babe in his daddy’s arms with that look on his face of complete awe and instant love. Skin to skin is so wonderful.

I got up out of the water and made my way, with mom and Katrina on each side, to the bathroom to take a shower. By then the adrenaline shakes had come, and the warm water was nice rolling over my body. I crawled into my own bed, warm and snug, and held my new little monkey. He looked like a little gnome, like a little old Inuit man with a thick, black head of inch-long hair. He was beautiful. He latched on right away and started to explore what would become his favorite comfort and pastime for the next 2 years…nursing!

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It had been a harder labor than my first – longer, more intense, more soul searching, more relying on God for strength, wisdom, perseverance, and peace. It had made me an even stronger woman, a force to be reckoned with. And yet, it had humbled me. It had knocked me back into my Father’s arms to completely realize, in mind, body, and spirit, what my human limits were, and just how vast and never-ending His strength and love truly are.

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I Am Strong – I Continued to Live

I Am Strong – I Continued to Live

I am strong because at 36 weeks, I gave birth to a baby who I knew would not be with me very long.

I am strong because at my 20 week ultrasound, there were a few “little things” that looked off and a possibility for Trisomy 21. Even though I am 31 years old and had less than a 1% chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, I had to reimagine our lives together as a family of four. I pictured a life where our family might be different, and our daily lives would be challenging, but beautiful. I cried, yelled, and then began to embrace the beautiful boy who was coming to us.

I am strong because at 24 weeks we saw dilation in my son’s brain, and consented to a long needle into my stomach, to check the genetic material in my son’s amniotic fluid. I soon learned my son did not have an extra chromosome, but instead was missing very important genetic information on his first chromosome, and was carrying extra genetic material from his fourth. I learned that no one was documented to have both of those issues combined, but each on their own is quite severe. There was no guidebook for this.

I am strong because I began to transition to care with highly specialized doctors, and prepare for a birth at one of the top five hospital in the country for children like mine. I let go of my dreams of a water birth at home, even though I, a 31 year old, fully healthy prenatal yoga teacher was capable to birth without interventions. But my son needed much more, and I would lay down my life for him.

I am strong because I was poked, prodded, MRI-ed, and transferred many times from doctors and midwives who had not worked with cases like his. I was starting to feel untouchable. Like a liability no one wanted. How many doctors’ office ceilings did I stare at, tables did I lay on, machines did I get scanned by? I don’t know.

I am strong because after my 32 week ultrasound, the maternal fetal medicine doctor got up out of his chair, and suggested we “make plans in case he doesn’t make it.” And then he left the room, and transferred us on again.

I am strong because as the weeks went on, I watched my son’s life rapidly unravel around me.

I am strong because at 33 weeks I was taken into a conference room at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. I sat with my husband and my midwife, as my mouth became increasingly dry and eyes wet, and looked across the table into 16 eyes of specialists, who seemed surprised that things had taken such a turn for the worst. I saw images of my son’s brain, with no neurons growing, having never branched out as they should. They were shocked. So was I. I allowed it to wash over me. I listened without crying, saving my breakdown for the moment when I escaped from that awful room.

I am strong because I had to then, at 33 weeks, choose what to do next. Subject him to a short and miserable life kept alive by machines, and surgeries? Choose to interrupt the pregnancy so he would not have to suffer? Oh the irony of having moved to Denver, CO this year. 20 minutes from the best Children’s Hospital in the US, and 30 minutes from the only doctor in the country who will perform late term abortions for chromosomal abnormalities.

I am strong because at 34 weeks we decided to press on and let our sweet Jack decide when he would come on his own, and when he would pass… on his own. We were told, in that case, we would have about a week with him.

I am strong because at 36 weeks, I went into labor. I watched them bring the infant warmer into the room, and listened to it beep as my contractions, which were strong at home, began to stall in this sterile and scary environment. I was told that instead of days with Jack, I would have hours. Maybe.

I am strong because I went through an incredibly painful labor anyway, knowing I would not get the reward of a plump and healthy baby. I was hooked up to pitocin as the impatient OB on call rushed me along. He said I would be there for three days if I didn’t.

I would have been happy to have three more days with Jack. My body knew this, and held on tight to stall labor and to give us more time together.

I am strong because I labored on, without an epidural.

I am strong because I had to hold my son’s lifeless body, as he was born still on August 20, 4 weeks before his due date.

I am strong because as everyone cried and left the room, I did not cry. I needed to be a mother for my son. As my husband fell apart next to me, I spoke calmly to Jack as I held him, and told him how loved he was, how brave his was, and how proud we were of him. I thanked him for showing me how strong I could be in the midst of physical and emotional pain.

I am strong because I prayed for a miracle. And the miracle was not that Jack lived, it was that I continued to live, even when he passed away.

I am strong because I had to go home to hug my three year old, and explain that Jack did not come home with us.

I am strong because when he asks me if I am sad, I say yes.

I am strong because I will tell his story. Our story. He will be known for the beautiful boy that he is, not a baby forgotten or never spoken about.

You are strong for opening your heart and reading this. You are strong for listening to a story about a baby who doesn’t make it, which is an unthinkable tragedy.

If you have had a high risk pregnancy, or a child whose genetic blueprints are different… you are a warrior. If you have had to consider a life for your child so different from what you imagined, you amaze me. If you have had to face your child’s death, you are an incredible force of maternal nature, and I see you. I see you and the incredible effort it is just to wake up. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Get out the door. Smile. Cry. Walk. Eat. Breathe. Live anyway. Your strength inspires me.

Logan Kinney, MA, RYT, RPYT

miraclemama.memiraclemama

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