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A Baby Who Cried: Birthing Without a Plan

A Baby Who Cried: Birthing Without a Plan

All three of my births were far from empowering experiences. I never felt like some sort of superhero. I never felt strong. In fact, after my daughter’s birth, I think I just barely showed up for the others. I checked myself out, terrified of the pain and what was going to happen in the hospital. I mentally stepped out of the experience.

At the young age of 19, I gave birth to my daughter. I had spent weeks working on my birth plan. I wanted so many things for this experience. I had wanted a private room, with just her father and I, my mother when she got there, and the doctor. I wanted dim lights and soft music. Everything I wanted disappeared, because when they realized what was needed to get her into this world, the room filled with people, bright lights, and loud noise.

I had entered the emergency room with a harsh set of contractions that were barely giving me seconds between to breath. I was hyperventilating and my blood pressure was rising. I didn’t know she was stuck, that her head was twisted in my pelvis…that she, my dear daughter, was going to fracture my butt on her way out. I didn’t know that twelve hours of labor, an epidural, a vacuum, and forceps were going to be needed to get her into this world.

And she didn’t cry. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. All of that, and she was silent. The last shred of my birthing plan was tossed out the window as my daughter wasn’t placed on my chest, but instead whisked away to a table surrounded by nurses and doctors and I couldn’t see her. It took 15 minutes for them to bring her to me. Her lungs had been acting up and the cord had been around her neck and her poor head had the marks of the forceps on them, but they gave her to me finally, my quiet baby, and she were perfect.

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So almost three years later, when I found myself back in the hospital to deliver my son, I hadn’t even bothered with a birthing plan. I figured they were a joke, and not worth my time. I just signed up for the epidural and lay and waited for my body to do what it would do. No one ever taught me how to labor. I didn’t have a clue what to do, except pushing. I remembered pushing and so when they told me it was time, I got to work. Mentally, I prepared myself for the vacuum and the forceps and the tearing that would come along with that. I prepared myself for them to take him away from me for a little while. I tried hard to focus on pushing and not let myself get upset about those things.

It was a surprise when instead, a mere six hours after entering the hospital, my son slid into this world and they laid him on my chest. And he was silent. There was nothing wrong with his lungs, and he had come out easily on his own, but he was quiet. My son looked around the room with his dark blue eyes, and didn’t make a sound. It was terrifying. I wanted him to scream his head off, but he didn’t. He was healthy and happy and we even left the hospital a day early with him to come home.

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Now, fast-forward seven years and there I was, talking to the nurses as they hooked up my IVs and the doctor ran through the procedure for the Pitocin. I was barely a week overdue with my youngest son, but the doctor felt he was getting too large and that I needed some help to move him along. In hind sight, I should have let my body do its own thing, but I had no experience with trusting my body. All of my birthing experiences had been dictated by my daughter’s birth when I was too young to trust myself and I let everything I wanted be tossed away.

Two days of induced labor later and we were making little progress. I got to 6cm and they broke my water. I moved up to 7cm and froze there. Suddenly my cervix started to swell and we got back to 6cm, then 5cm. The doctor came in and told me we were going to have to have a C-section. I broke apart, right there on the bed. I completely fell apart. I’d never had surgery and I was terrified of what this meant. I watched my husband back away; sit on the couch and cry.

I don’t remember much from those moments of prep.

I remember a young boy, one who seemed far too young to be working there, coming to take blood work from me. I was sobbing and he kept patting my arm. I apologized for crying and he told me not to say I was sorry.

I remember one of the nurses saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t let him cut through your tattoo.” She laughed and I didn’t.

I remember telling my aunt not to call my mother yet, that it would frighten her and my children.

I remember them taking me away and into a freezing cold room and I looked up and told them to stop everything. “I want my husband. Where is my husband?”

And for once, everyone listened to me. For once, I got exactly what I wanted. Everyone stopped and they moved aside so I could see my husband outside the window as he slid on the blue gown and cap and shoe covers. They didn’t touch me again until he came in the room and then sat him down right next to my face.

I don’t remember my youngest son’s birth much. I don’t remember how it felt, but I remember these moments with my husband so clearly. They completely changed our relationship, opened it up to a whole other level, and made me fall in love with him in a deeper way.

Because when they finally pulled, that large baby boy from me, he cried and cried and I laughed.

“I’ve never had a baby that cried.”

I watched tears fall silently from my husband’s eyes. He barely even looked over at our son as they brought him around and they showed him to us. He simply buried his forehead against mine and cried. Our son was beautiful and screaming his little head off.

But when they asked my husband if he wanted to go with the baby or stay with me, he quickly said, “I’m not leaving her.”

He never took his forehead from mine, my hand clasped tightly in his. Our son was taken to our room with my aunt and best friend, while my husband and I sat together and marveled in one another.
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I have three, beautiful children…and three different birthing stories. They don’t seem nearly as empowering as others I’ve read here. I didn’t go without pain management. I didn’t have much of a birth plan after my first. I just went with the flow of the doctors and nurses around me…

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But I have that moment with my husband where he chose to stay by my side, where he showed every bit of weakness and strength and fear and love that was in him, and I had babies that were quiet and a baby who cried.

I wish I had an empowering story to share about overcoming the pain to have the delivery I wanted, but I truly believe that things happen the way they are meant to and that there is value in everything. These experiences will help me when one day I have a daughter or son who might find they are preparing to help bring a baby into this world.

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I will tell my daughter to trust herself and her body and to learn from others how to handle labor.

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And I will tell my sons to do as their father did.

Homebirth of EllieMae

Homebirth of EllieMae

In the days leading up to the birth of EllieMae, I had been having contractions irregularly that would, right on time, wake me in the middle of the night, as well as my husband, Jeremiah. They would last for a few hours and then flitter away as if nothing had happened. I was sure I was going to be pregnant forever. I had never been this pregnant before! With my first baby, Oliver, he had made his appearance into the birthing pool in our home at 37 weeks and 5 days after a long, but peaceful three day labor. So as I headed into the third trimester of my second pregnancy, I fully expected to be holding my beautiful baby girl in my arms by at least 39 weeks. I was absolutely positive that I would go into labor early.

Contractions came and went…along with my due date. It was at 40 weeks and 5 days that I woke up from an afternoon nap, exhausted and feeling as if the room and my body were on fire. I could tell that my blood pressure was high and decided to check it out. Looking at the numbers on the machine, I was sure it was wrong. There was no way it was so high! I checked it 3 more times. Then, I called my midwife, Debi.

She asked me to run over to her office and we would see what was going on. By the time we got there, it had settled and was much lower. I was so uneasy, and was ready to have a cervical check to see what was happening. To my surprise, I was already at 4 centimeters! I asked her to go ahead and do a sweep and try to get things to progress. My husband and I hopped in the car and ran to grab some food before heading back home to tuck our little boy into bed for the night.

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Once home, I put on some music and began to pick up around our bedroom. It was now close to 10:00PM, and we were getting ready for bed. My son and husband lay in bed, watching cartoons and chatting, while I danced around the room to music and did some light cleaning. It was then that the rushes started to come over me. They were light at first, but within minutes they became heavy and hard and I was finding it difficult to speak through them. My beautiful 22 month old son came to my feet and asked to dance with me to the music. He swayed with me, holding my hands as I moved through the contraction.

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After my husband laid my son to bed in his room, he made me a bath so that I could relax and get through some contractions easier until it was time for the midwives. Once I was in the water, I knew I couldn’t stay there long. I twisted and turned and wiggled and cried out. Nothing made the rushes ease. They were coming quickly and they were intense. My husband sent texts to the photographer and the midwives, as my contractions were coming two to three minutes apart.

“Surely this will slow.”
“It can’t be happening this fast.”
“This isn’t how birth happens!”

I told myself these things as the contractions kept coming, one after the next. No breaks. No breathing. This was a battle I had never felt before, not like this. My previous labor had been so long and gradual, that I had time to catch my breath and talk myself through each contraction. This was a different ball game.

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By a little after 12:30AM, the midwives had arrived and were setting out their things. Debi looked at me and asked, “Are you feeling like you need to push?” With the fiercest voice I had ever used, I shouted, “Yes!”

Moments later, a contraction began, and I bent over the bed to rest my arms and find some form of relief. My eyes came up and I saw the face of my wonderful photographer, Rebekah, peering through the crack in the door over her camera. She was videoing this moment in time that I was feeling so broken. I was glad to see she was there for this and after the split second I thought that, I felt a gush. I knew I had peed myself on camera! It wasn’t until after the birth, that I realized that it was my water breaking.

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As politely as a woman in labor can do, I excused myself to the bathroom. Once I sat down, the rush that came took me somewhere else. I was looking down on this violent scene that was so quickly pulling my baby down. I felt the most intense pressure and my body took over where my mind couldn’t function. It wasn’t until I reached my hand down and felt my baby’s head that I knew she was really coming. This was it! It was almost over, and the pain would leave me! I felt so much relief. I was about to meet my baby girl and this was all with it. I shouted, “She’s coming!”

ellie5Debi asked me if I wanted to deliver her on the toilet. The only thing I knew I wanted was for her to be out here with us. Debi and Jeremiah grabbed under my arms and helped me to the bed. The room was buzzing. People were moving and grabbing things and preparing for the birth that was moments away. As my husband put on his gloves, I asked where my mother was. One of the midwives ran to the living room to get her. My mother later told me that the midwife had shouted, “If you want to see this, you better get in here!”

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I continued to push, as the room was spinning around me. I reached down to feel my baby’s head slide out of me and I laughed out loud shouting, “That’s my baby!” In what felt like a mere second, my husband lifted my baby girl up and into my arms.

ellie7She was here, a short three hours after the contractions started. A tailspin of emotion filled me and I was taken back by her beauty and the unbelievable similarity between her and her big brother. She was perfect. I was filled with an unspeakable joy!

We spent the next couple of hours nursing, snuggling, taking an herb bath, and getting to know our newest family member.

She is the perfect addition to the family we are building. Everything we didn’t know to ask for and more. She is peaceful and patient and perfectly on time.ellie8

Photography by Rebekah Mustaleski at Growing Wings Photography.

Choosing to Have a Happy Birth

Choosing to Have a Happy Birth

choosing10“Come on baby, eviction notice has been posted!”

At 42 weeks pregnant, I feared induction or possibly a C-section. I only wanted to give birth naturally, knowing Pitocin’s negative effects on the body and the instantaneous increase in likelihood of a C-section. I didn’t want to be near a hospital. I did everything to get the little one out, thinking I knew a better time than my body did. I pumped, hiked, bounced, sexed it up, danced…I even downed some castor oil, followed by hot showers, and running. But Baby was comfy and he was staying in. I had some Braxton Hicks that got my hopes up a couple of times, but nothing happened.

Then something lovely happened. My body said, “I have a better plan.”

At 5am, I halfway woke up from the pangs of contractions. “Sleep body sleep,” I meditated, and I drifted back to sleep. I woke up at 8, preparing for my 42 week midwife appointment. I showered, put on some make up, and dressed up with contractions happening every 10 minutes or so. I waddled to my husband in the living room and kissed his face, and said, “I’ve been contracting since 5.” My sweet man turned to look at me and said, “I’m sorry for not jumping for joy, since we seem to have been having false alarms the past couple days.”

“Oh, but love, these are different.” I smiled and he turned back to his computer. I wrapped my arms around him and said, “We are having a baby today.”

Driving though Glenwood Canyon, my contractions were taking my attention. I felt my body tense up in an attempt to run away from the sensation. I took a deep breath and sank into the contraction as one would a stretch, and the sensation was instantly turned into a satisfying effort. It’s hard to explain, but when you work with your body in anything, you feel strong and empowered. The same goes with contractions. I turned to my man and said, “Remind me when it gets stronger to sink into it and breathe and let it happen.” He nodded his head.

We arrived at my midwife’s office, laughing and talking. Finally, I lay down to check and see if there has been any progress.

“Oh honey, you’re 8cm dilated! We need to get back to your house.”

I shrieked with joy; I was right! This was good. I could feel my heart pounding with excitement. We all scampered to our cars, as my midwife called my doula and Nathan called my mom to say we are on our way back home.

My mother exclaimed, “How perfect! I just finished cleaning the house. I’ll make lunch.”

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Nathan, my husband, shot through the canyon in eight minutes, where it should’ve taken 30 to get through. When we got into the house, my one year old was waiting for us, happy and smiley. I immediately hopped on the exercise ball and bounced, while giggling about the impeccable timing this little one had. My contractions started getting heavier. I could feel my back and down by my crotch working together. I moaned through it, allowing the deep noise to fill my rib cage and belly. It felt fulfilling and strengthening, like I was getting amped up to climb Mount Everest.
I moved to the bathroom to use the tub, but found I was getting nauseous. I told my midwife I felt like throwing up, but I wasn’t going to. They laughed at me, and with me, and said I was allowed to. Then, as I transitioned, I felt like my hips were trying to abandon my body. I had my doula press them together, giving me strength and a foundation to contract from.

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And I saw it. It presented itself like a dinner special: the desire to run away, the desire to quit, the desire to disconnect, and hold back. And I said no. I said I will be present, I will experience every contraction, and I will enjoy it. I will work for my baby.

choosing4I started speaking out loud:

“Stay here, Meghann.”
“You are strong, you are powerful.”
“Lord, give me strength.”
“Praise you God, praise you.”
“Thank you for the work God.”

The conversations with God started flowing out easily – prayers and thoughts and desires and encouragement, all from my own mouth. My team sat back in awe, as I motivated myself, often times parroting back what I had said. My doula kept the pressure on my hips and my mom massaged my lower back. I smiled during contractions and laughed after each one. I sang through the strongest contractions.

We moved to the bedroom, where I sat on the birthing stool. How releasing it felt to be spread open, ready to bring this baby into the world.

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I started to lose steam. The intensity was exhausting and the work was hard, but good. As I pushed and pushed, my sweet husband stood by making eye contact with me with a strong, steady, reassuring look. He fed me honey water and petted my hair and kissed my neck. Then my water broke and I was instantly filled with encouragement and excitement all over again.

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I was pumped and ready to continue and push this little one out. I leaned into every push, only working as hard as my body demanded. And then, as he started to come out, my midwife asked me to hold him there! Oh, that was hard! I took high-pitched breaths to tighten back up, as she rubbed oils and warm water on me.

“We need to take care of your tissue, babe,” she explained, and I was thankful. “Now release.”

And I did, and baby’s sweet, little head came out. The next push he came out in total. My midwife flipped him around three times, unwinding the cord around his neck, which I was thankful she didn’t mention earlier as I might have panicked and tore myself in attempt to get him out faster. I noticed he was a boy as she laid him in my arms, and rubbed him and did all the procedure to get him breathing. He took his first breath, cried for a moment, and then made eye contact with me. It was serenity. He merely whimpered with occasional cries.

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We sat together, both high on the cocktail of oxytocin and endorphins.

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“I worked so hard for you, my love,” I told my sweet Michael. While waiting for the placenta, Michael latched and we were breastfeeding instantly. The placenta came out and they put it in a plastic bag while it was still attached to Michael. I was propped on the bed with my little one as he breastfeed for an hour. He worked as hard as I did. The high and love that I felt isn’t justified in words or even photos, only the experience can speak for it. It was dinner time by the time the infant exam was done and we all ate together and said goodbye to the midwife and doula.

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The timing was perfect. We were rested and fed, and the photos were pretty great considering I had a face of makeup on.choosing1

Some of the photography was done by photographer Ken Moehn.

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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