Our Ray of Sunshine, the Storm and the Rainbow {Trigger Warning}

Our Ray of Sunshine, the Storm and the Rainbow {Trigger Warning}

(Editor’s note: this birth experience deals with loss.)

I have had two natural births, the first to a beautiful and healthy baby girl – who is now three, and the second to a stillborn son born at 29 weeks.

Due in April with my third, another baby girl – how am I to birth without fear?

I feel so empowered to have birthed both of my beautiful babies.

After two years of trying and three miscarriages – Frankie came into the world.

Frankie’s birth was textbook – ten hours from first contraction to delivery, and spontaneously on her due date. I was so lucky. No damage, no intervention, no drugs. Happy baby, happy mumma.

Ruben’s labor was at the opposite end of the scale. A week after being told he was “incompatible with living” followed ten hours of failed induction, and then another two hours of the most painful and traumatic experience of my life. The room was silent, the doctors cut his cord and took him away to check for any signs of life – though the chances were slim that he was capable of surviving labor. I remember watching my husband from the bathroom as he cradled his son. I had to stay seated on the toilet to try encourage my placenta to birth. I couldn’t fathom what had just happened, it felt like an eternity before I met him. To then go home without him.

Only 8 weeks postpartum the clouds cleared and we were told the news of our rainbow baby. At the time the news was overwhelming, we weren’t ready.

Now 7 months pregnant I am excited and anxious for my daughter to be placed in my arms. Rosie cheeked, crying, flailing around as she adjusts to entering the world. To bring a baby home to Frankie as promised. A sibling for her to dote upon, a sibling she has been so patiently waiting for.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Jade M. 

Snow Moon Baby: A Fabulous Hospital Birth Story

Snow Moon Baby: A Fabulous Hospital Birth Story

I did it!

I had always wanted a non-medicated, natural, home birth. It is my belief that childbirth can be positive and not “scary”. However, in the state/region I lived in at the time, it was not legal to do so at home and my husband and I felt uncomfortable with the notion of doing something unlawfully. When we got pregnant with our firstborn daughter, we decided to go with a hospital in the area that has a midwifery practice and is known for respecting women’s birth decisions. In the beginning, my husband had the mindset that birth is a horrendously painful ordeal and there is no way around that unless you get medicated. Through childbirth education and learning about hypnobirthing and coping techniques, he came to believe that an all-natural birth can be positive and not traumatic. Though I had concerns about being in the hospital, they were put to rest and I had a fabulous labor and delivery experience, all natural, without tearing!

I was 41 weeks and three days on February 10th, the night of a full “snow” moon and lunar eclipse. I had lost my mucus plus several days before. At 4am I felt something wet, but I was not sure if it was more than just my bloody show. Then around 6:30 I felt a bigger whoosh and it was clearly my water breaking. I was very excited and woke up my husband. He was excited that the baby was finally coming! We texted our parents and doula (R.M.), as well as my friend (RC) who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at our hospital (We’d agreed that if she was not working, she would come to be a support in conjunction with my doula). My contractions almost immediately got stronger and by 7:45am they were painful, not just strong and uncomfortable like they have been over the past several weeks. They were about 3-4 minutes apart and 1-2 minutes in length. I ate a pretty big breakfast since I was not sure how quickly things would progress. We went out to feed the horses, but I was not able to do much because I had to be still and really concentrate on breathing through the contractions.

We called the midwife clinic to let them know that my water had broken and that we were going to labor at home for a while. At 10am, RC said she was on her way over and a few minutes after that text, I felt strongly that we should be heading to the hospital soon. The contractions were very strong and intense. I needed my husband to support me through each one and I could not talk through them. Between contractions I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fruit. RC arrived and called the charge nurse on the Labor and Delivery floor to let her know that we were coming. I dreaded the ride because I could not effectively move around to relieve the discomfort. Thankfully, the hospital is only 15 minutes away. They had a nurse bring me up to the labor and delivery floor, she offered me a wheelchair but I declined because I needed to be upright to manage the contractions.

We arrived in the hospital room around 11am. Initially, I had to lay on the bed to get some monitoring, but once they got a good reading for how the baby was doing, they would unhook me from the monitors and just intermittently hand doppler me every 30 minutes before, during, and after one contraction. This would allow me to move around and walk wherever I wanted to go. The midwife checked my cervix. I was 5 cm dilated and that made me super happy to hear. The time in bed for monitoring was no fun, but I was coping alright even in the laying down position. While in the bed they placed a Hep-lock in my forearm in case we needed it. I was very happy that it was in my forearm, because I could flex my hands better that way. Finally, they let me off the bed! I tried laboring on a birthing ball, but I did not like that. Walking around and then stopping to lean on my husband’s shoulders while slow dancing and swaying my hips while bending my knees and sticking my rear out was my favorite way to go through contractions. My husband would tell me encouraging things and R.C. would stand behind me and remind me to breathe deeply and make low noises, she also would rub my neck, shoulders, and hips. This was very effective and I could stay on top of my contractions and feel relaxed through them. After doing this for a while (though in all honesty, time did not seem to have a place in anything so I have no idea how long it was) I decided I wanted to try going into the Jacuzzi to relieve some of the discomfort. That was amazing! My husband got in the tub with me. The water was very soothing and I could effectively relax. R.M., my doula, arrived while I was in the tub. It was neat, my husband, R.C., and R.M. each had very different roles in supporting me and they all were just what I needed. My husband was my hands-on guy, he physically held me and told me how great I was doing and how proud he was of me. R.C. helped me focus on my breathing, making sure it was deep and my moans were low noises. R.M. kept me grounded, saying birth affirmations and telling me that my body knows what it is doing. While I was in the tub, R.C. used the water sprayer to spray warm water on my back during contractions. I found it to be effective and most comfortable to be semi-squatting/on my knees and leaning forward on Nathan as he faced me, moving my hips sideways during contractions.

After about two hours, I decided I wanted to get out of the tub. Once I got out, the contractions felt much stronger and it took a lot more concentration to remain relaxed and breathing/moaning effectively. My midwife came back in and sat back and watched me labor for a little bit and then she used a rebozo scarf to wiggle my belly gently back and forth to help baby get in the best position for birth. The midwife suggested to labor for three contractions sitting on the toilet, as that can help bring the baby down. I did this, but it was not fun. I was in a lot of discomfort at this point and was getting tired. The midwife asked if I wanted my cervix checked and I was not sure. Because I knew I needed to lay down in the bed and be still to be checked, which would be hard for me to cope through. But I wanted to know how far I had progressed, so I decided to lay in the bed for an exam. While laying down, each contraction seemed 100% harder and I felt like I was losing control of my relaxation and breathing. I was at 7cm and everyone in the room except me was excited!

I actually cried because I was sure that, with the intensity I had been feeling, I would have been at 8 or 9cm. Everyone encouraged me, saying that this next stage would go by faster than the earlier stage and that my body was doing great. Then the transition phase set in. It was longer and more intense than I anticipated. I really did not like it and voiced that opinion rather loudly! My midwife suggested I lay on my side and put the peanut ball between my knees to help open my pelvis even more. I did this, but it was my least favorite part of the labor. Each contraction felt like I was losing control of my body. I was shaking and this was the one point when I said several negative things: “I can’t do this, I don’t feel safe, my body is tearing in half, give me drugs.” I didn’t mean it at the time; the pain was talking, and everyone else encouraged me that this out of control feeling was getting my body ready to deliver my baby. Both my support women encouraged me that I needed to believe that I could do this, and R.C. told me that I needed to tell myself that, “I can do this,” even if I didn’t believe it. So I did, and gave myself a pep talk. Then I really started feeling like my uterus was heaving and rolling during the contractions and a pressure down on my bottom with the slight thought of pushing each contraction. This made me feel even more out of control.

The midwife said that if I wanted to try and push, I could. I gently pushed a little during the contractions and that helped me feel less out of control. A nurse set up the squatting bar on the bed and suggested that I get up and squat, this was a welcome suggestion since I hated lying on my side, even though it clearly was helping. Instead of truly squatting, I knelt in a forward leaning position, with my husband in front of me. During this time, I was getting tired, in between contractions I could relax and rest easily, which surprised me. I also felt very nauseous during these contractions, but I never actually vomited. I continued to gently push when I felt like I wanted to push. The midwife, who had been giving me my space to let me work with my body, got in position behind me when she heard my moaning get very deep. Maybe two contractions after she did that, my water fully broke in a huge gush. I heard them say that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, but no one showed concern. The midwife calmly told me not to worry, that the only difference would be that if she didn’t cry right away that they would have to pass her to the NICU team to make sure she didn’t aspirate anything (Hubby said they called NICU into the room when they saw the meconium but I don’t remember them being in there at all). The midwife told me that I could start truly pushing in earnest if I wanted. She never checked my cervix to see if I was a 10, she trusted me listening to my body since I was totally un-medicated. I started pushing and then started feeling the burning as she began crowning. My husband said I didn’t like that feeling, but I remember just saying, “Oh it is burning” in more of an acknowledgement way because it almost felt good.

Right after the birth, so much joy!

I feel like I probably pushed strongly about five times before I felt her head come out and then the midwife guided her body out. That was the strangest feeling, her body bursting out of mine. At 5:49pm our daughter made her entrance into the world. I heard a little squeaky cry and then the midwife passed her between my legs and I held my baby on my naked chest. I was on a total high, I kept saying, “I did it, I did it!” as I held my baby. She was covered in vernix and so beautiful. My husband was crying, later he told me that he was just so proud of me and that was why he was crying. I nursed her and just reveled in how beautiful she is and how glad I was that she was here. She had chubby cheeks and a full head of dark hair. I delivered the placenta in one push, it was so easy compared to birthing a baby. The cord stopped pulsing after a couple of minutes and my husband cut the cord. He held her skin to skin for a few minutes and then they did her measurements. She was 7 pounds 12 ounces, 20.5 inches, bigger than I or anyone expected. While they did all this, the midwife examined me, I did not tear externally, which made me so happy! However, I was bleeding a lot, so they gave me Cyotec to stop the hemorrhaging.

One week old

I loved my birthing experience! It was exactly how I hoped it would be, low intervention with my body dictating how things progressed. The medical professionals stayed quietly in the background, there for support when I needed them, but not interfering. My midwife made gentle suggestions and only checked my cervix twice, and only because I wanted to be checked. My husband came away with a huge respect for natural childbirth and a belief that it does not need to be an excruciating and scary process. Today our daughter is 4 months old, happy, and healthy with a wonderfully positive birth story!

Birth experience and photos submitted by Abigail Richard.

How to Do You, Boo with January Harshe

How to Do You, Boo with January Harshe

Being a mom in today’s world has never been so challenging. Your kids need you the very moment they are born. If you are married or in a relationship, your partner needs you when the kids don’t. And with salaries slow to catch up to ever-increasing costs of living, your family’s income might also need you.

But, you need you, too! And if you are like most other moms, your needs come last because there simply isn’t enough time. Right?

As a mother to six wonderful kids, January Harshe has been there. She has been a dedicated housewife and a devoted stay-at-home mom. She knows what it’s like to lose sleep to a teething baby or to a toddler who peed the bed. She knows what it’s like to put a husband through school and support him through the financial pains of starting a business. And she knows what it’s like to give everything of herself to her family and have nothing left for herself at the end of the day. She knows what it’s like to look in the mirror and not love the person staring back at her.

Through a lot of trial and error over the years, January has learned how to transition from a mother of many children without a second to spare for herself into a successful businesswoman who can now give everyone in her family the love and time they need and deserve, herself first and foremost.

If you struggle with body image, self love, self care, too little time, or too little money, you are not alone. Join January for an afternoon of information, instruction, and inspiration that has taken her many years to learn, implement, and successfully apply to her own life.

And what would an afternoon with January be without coffee and cupcakes? Always, coffee and cupcakes.

Have you been putting off buying yourself bras that fit, underwear that aren’t period panties, or new shoes for the first time in years because everyone else needs new shoes more than you? Do you turn down girls’ nights out, exercising alone, or simply taking a hot bath because you don’t want to be a selfish wife and/or mother? If you answered yes to any of the above, you can’t afford to not join January and learn how selfish not caring for yourself really is.

Whether you are married or single, a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, you are a woman first and foremost and worthy of the same love and care you give your own family. If you don’t believe it now, by the time you leave How to Do You Boo with January Harshe, you won’t just believe it.

You will know it.

*The How to Do You, Boo event will be limited to only 20 people and will fill up fast, so register today!

**Pictures may be taken, but video recording will not be allowed.

***Schedule subject to change.

****All ticket sales are final. No refunds. Transfers allowed up to 30 days prior to the event.

Dallas, TX – 4/14/18

Detroit, MI – 6/30/18

Philadelphia, PA – 7/21/18

Minneapolis, MN – 8/11/18

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #20: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #20: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

January and Brandon talk about sex! January talks about the importance of communication and explains all the things a new mom struggles with that prevents sex from happening and Brandon gives the male point of view on how to cope with the agonizing sexual drought. Also, Brandon tries to figure out January’s favorite position but she’s too pissed about the lone baby sock no one is picking up in the corner of the hall!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on iTunes!

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Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on Stitcher!

Click here to download Episode #20: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!

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How to Do You, Boo with January Harshe” has opened up registration for Dallas, Detroit, and Minneapolis on BWFConference.com. If you struggle with body image, self love, self care, too little time, or too little money, you are not alone. Join January for an afternoon of information, instruction, and inspiration that has taken her many years to learn, implement, and successfully apply to her own life. 

To receive a $100 discount code on one of these special events, simply DM January on Instagram at @januaryharshe to get it. These events are only open to the first 20 people and they will fill up fast. Reserve your seat today!

One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

By Simone Burton

I actually forgot to share this when I got it back in 2013.

I had my first son when I was 18, and I was scared out of my brain to give birth, until an amazing friend of mine showed me her birth video and she completely changed my view on birth.

Not long after I found Birth Without Fear, and my mind was set. I was going to have a drug free natural birth, and after months and months of countless different doctors and midwives telling me I couldn’t because I was “too young.” (??)

I had my son on the 9th of Feb 2013, born en caul naturally in the water. I had the support of my hubby and my midwives to get me through it. I had the support of this page and the power of my mind, that there was nothing to be afraid of.

My second son was born in July last year, and I really saw the power of the mind then. I couldn’t lock my brain my birth zone and I struggled terribly. I managed to have another natural drug free birth, and I was defeated for a few days with how I acted, until my midwife kicked my butt and told me to kick that labour’s ass with the next one.

Birth Without Fear continues to inspire me and is a big drive in my life. I can still hear my husband whispering “what do you have tattooed on your ribs?” while I was in labour with my second.

Thank you so much January, you have seriously brought a very strong woman out of me, that I NEVER knew existed in me.

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #19: Self Care Before Social Media

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #19: Self Care Before Social Media

January and Brandon discuss how to apply self care to your life in this day and age of social media. January talks about the positive change it has been for her to turn off comments on social media and Brandon explains why he got off Facebook and will never go back. Also, January talks about her love of parentheses hugs and Brandon apologizes to Aunt Gertrude in Wyoming!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on iTunes!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on Google Play!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on Stitcher!

Click here to download Episode #19: Self Care Before Social Media!

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It’s buy 1, get 1 half off this week at Self Love Generation! Buy a dad shirt and a unicorn shirt, or 2 dad shirts, or 2 unicorn shirts, and one of them will be 50% off. Just use the code “UNICORNBOGO” at checkout!

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Tickets are still available for the San Diego and Nashville Find Your Village events, but not many! Go to BWFConference.com to get your ticket and join January for a day of inspiration and support!

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

These will never get old. Because women feeling supported and empowered should be the damn norm, no matter how we birth. 🌟 “Never Underestimate the POWER of a Woman. Never underestimate the power of YOURSELF. Sometimes it means digging deep, but I can tell you…you come out the other side feeling on top of the whole entire world. 💙 It felt SO dang good to celebrate birthing Trey and I really cannot wait to tell you guys the full story! Let’s just say it’s a good one: the OB had to deliver him with her fleece on, barely had time to catch him, and it is official that the only way I give birth is standing up. 🙃💙 • I’m also over the moon to raise TWO little gentlemen, because if there is one thing this mama can teach them…it’s that women are every bit as strong and capable as ANY man. They will give women the respect that we DESERVE, that is my #goals.” 🙌🏽 @ameskiefer #birthwithoutfear #optionssupportrespect

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My Three-Year Postpartum

My Three-Year Postpartum

By Billie Criswell

I was overjoyed when I became pregnant at 28 years old, and gave birth just before my 29th birthday. My pregnancy was planned, and was fairly uneventful. Because I had struggled with anxiety throughout my 20s, I prepared for postpartum, which in hindsight, sounds funny because who can really prepare for postpartum? But I did what I thought was my due diligence…I attended regular therapy sessions. I prepared my one-line birth plan: no interventions. I lined up my placenta encapsulation. I hired my doula. I had a plan for accepting help from my “Grandma dream team,” compromised of my mom and my mother-in-law, who supplied us with food and help for two full weeks.

I had an unmedicated, vaginal birth in the hospital. It was pretty routine except for a couple of things. Unbeknownst to me, a doctor or midwife in the rotating practice wrote in my chart that my baby was breech (she was not) and there was confusion about me getting a c-section. The second thing happened while I was pushing. Out of nowhere, the midwife who was attending asked the nurses to bring a mirror. I asked them not to. She nodded and insisted, “bring in the mirror.” Seeing myself giving birth in a mirror felt very violating. It was distracting, and disturbing as though I was having an out of body experience and being forced to watch something that I found traumatizing.

But all of that behind me, I left the hospital and came home. I was exhausted after having been awake for 36 hours straight, but I was well cared for by everyone around me. In those first days, I felt disconnected from everything. Trying to catch up on sleep, learning to breastfeed, and adjust to caring for an infant is pretty haze-inducing. I took the placenta pills. When people asked me how I felt, I responded with “good.”

I got to know my baby, who loved me above all people and never wanted to be put down. EVER. We adapted. We co-slept. We had a sling, and an Ergo baby carrier. Little did I know that I would literally be carrying my child around for the next 10 months (she is the most attached child I have ever, ever met.)

After two and a half weeks, it was time for my husband to go back to work, time for my mother and mother-in-law to go back to cooking for their own families. And that morning, as I kissed my husband goodbye, I was feeling a bit excited to be alone with my baby for the first time. She was asleep, and I took a breath, sat down, ready to admire her until she woke up. And that was when it happened… I felt a hot wave rush over me, and I thought I was going to pass out. The room was spinning. I panicked. I grabbed the baby and got into bed, thinking I was surely about to die. I was experiencing what would be the first of several months of panic attacks.

I was terrified to be alone with my baby, afraid that I would drop her, or that I would faint while carrying her and kill her. I was afraid that the walls were closing in. I was afraid of everything, all of the time. I had these horrible visions of bad things that could happen to her. She would be sitting in her bouncer, and I would be cutting carrots and suddenly be horrified that I could cut off her finger, even though she was ten feet away. I felt crazy.

I knew that something was really wrong in my mind, and so when she was a few months old, I told my primary care doctor about how I was feeling. She flippantly looked at me and said “Well stop breastfeeding, you’ll feel better. And by the way, if you have any more kids, this will only get worse for you.” I went home and cried for five days straight. I didn’t want to give up breastfeeding…it was the one thing I was doing with success. So I dug in my heels, and decided that I would continue breastfeeding, consequences be damned.

I attended regular therapy sessions. My therapist knew that I was struggling, but I don’t think that even she knew the extent of the pain I was in mentally. I think the anxiety had become so bad that I didn’t know how to properly express how bad it was. I coped by always scheduling a visit with a friend or family member while my husband was at work or school (he was finishing his degree at the time.) And crying when I was alone, wondering if I was a bad mother, whether I would ever feel normal again, and hiding some of the darkest moments away.

When my daughter was six months old that everything really came to a head when I had this strange pain in my groin and a rash on my back. I had become so stressed and riddled with anxiety that I had gotten shingles. It was probably the best thing that happened to me postpartum. On doctor’s orders, I had to lay down, rest, and keep myself from being too stressed. This was when I finally began laying down with my daughter for naps. I began resting, and knowing that I had those two hours each day to lay down, helped tremendously. It also gave me an unspoken permission to actually ask for help from those around me.

The fog slowly began to lift. Then, around the 8 or 9 month mark when I was arbitrarily surfing Facebook, I came across an article about postpartum depression and anxiety. It talked about how people who had been sexually abused or assaulted were more likely to feel violated by childbirth and had higher instances of postpartum depression and anxiety. I had no idea.

Suddenly everything clicked. In all the preparations I made, in all those OB/GYN appointments I had, not one person ever asked me if I had been the victim of sexual abuse or assault—not even my therapist knew to ask. Even though I had the birth I “wanted,” I still felt so traumatized and I finally understood why. In those moments of realization, it was as though I could finally come out the other side. A huge burden lifted off me, as if all at once.

Since then, I’ve still had my ups and downs… breastfeeding was a huge culprit as well in the hormonal cocktail that spikes my anxiety. I breastfed my daughter until she was 3 1/2, and when I weaned her, the anxiety was once again palpable. Now, having weaned her, I feel like my postpartum period has FINALLY, at long last, come to a close. It’s been an often dark place for me, but understanding where the sense of trauma comes from really helps.

I have been lucky. I reached out, and I had a number of people who came to my aid. My family, and a few close friends really hung in there with me and, on numerous occasions, dropped everything to come and literally sit beside me as I struggled. My husband has been a major support for me in both my mental health and my extended breastfeeding. The journey has been hard, and full of love.

Coming through this period of my life has changed me. It’s made me more able to acknowledge when I need help, and it’s made me more thankful for my moments with my daughter where I feel like myself. Postpartum anxiety robbed me of a precious time with my newborn. Guilt is motherfucker and she doesn’t go easy. But just like the initial trauma of sexual abuse, the birth trauma wasn’t my fault, and the postpartum anxiety wasn’t my fault.

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #18: New Year, New You Do You Boo

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #18: New Year, New You Do You Boo

January and Brandon are back with their first podcast of 2018! Brandon talks about pulling the best traits from various role models and January talks about being a conscious social media user. Also, Brandon talks about how he became a new him at 12:01am January 1st!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on iTunes!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on Google Play!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on Stitcher!

Click here to download Episode #18: New Year, New You Do You Boo!

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We are having a New Year’s Sale at Self Love Generation! Everything is 25% off! Get a shirt, coffee mug, and lanyard today! And remember, shipping is always 4-6 weeks!

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Only a handful of Find Your Village events are left! Tickets still on sale for Kansas City, Stillwater, and Portland, ME at BWF Conference.com! Buy one today to see January speak live about self love, self care, and body positivity!

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