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Harry Potter, Zumba, & a Home Water Birth

Harry Potter, Zumba, & a Home Water Birth

In December, I got to shoot my very first birth session. Let me start by saying—nothing in the world can prepare you for something like that! The birth was set up to be an at-home, water birth. And, boy, I did my research. I read articles on what to expect when birthing at home, the process of having a water birth and looked up tons of different styles of birth session photography.

I was lucky enough for my first birth session to be for dear friends; Charity and I have been friends for over a decade! So when I got the call, she was very early in labor. I packed up my work and headed over to their house to keep her company. The room was set up with an empty birthing pool and the necessary emergency equipment. That was when it got real for me. I took photos of EVERYTHING.

Throughout the day, we ate pretzel Goldfish, watched Harry Potter movies and even did a little Zumba to get her moving! We timed contractions and practiced breathing exercises on a birthing ball. I learned that we want contractions to become “longer, stronger and closer together.” Charity’s mother-in-law, Kelli (aka the most wonderful woman on the planet), told us what to expect and how to pass the time.

Now this part is going to sound like I’m exaggerating—I’m not. This was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Charity and Jake clung to each other through the long hours, family was there to help and cheer them on and, of course, the midwives and midwife assistants were there to guide the parents-to-be through the process. It was such a wonderful show of community, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Through the hours of intense contractions, Charity persisted. She was an absolute trouper—I’ve never been more proud of this woman and the strength she showed! Through each round of pushing, it became clear that little Eisley could be born at any time. I took pictures on pictures on pictures! After a full day of labor, Charity successfully delivered a beautiful baby girl.

When I edited the photos, I tried to keep the dark and raw electricity of the moment (well, hours). There was also a point in the evening that the room was so dark I had to use an external flash.

This story is a such happy one. It ends with two very tired and happy parents, over 600 pictures to remember the experience and one beautiful, strong little girl!

Story and photographs submitted by Jude Anderson

A Photographer’s First Natural Water Birth

A Photographer’s First Natural Water Birth

It was a cold, December afternoon when the miracle of yet another beautiful soul coming to the world had happened.

The birth of Raphael was a debut both for Betânia and Fred as parents and for me as a photographer. I am completely honoured to have been a part of such an incredibly emotional, miraculous celebration of life.

It was around four in the morning, when Fred in his usual calm and positive manner, had called us to say that Raphael had decided to come into the world. With all our gear prepared we rushed to the clinic, and we must confess that we seemed more nervous than the couple who was very in control, and mentally and physically prepared to what was about to happen.

The new parents decided to have Raphael delivered in water, and they also made sure that the ambient was labour-friendly with calmly lit candles, soothing aromas and relaxing music in the background. Betânia had all the help and assistance she needed throughout the journey. It wasn´t an easy one, but the new mom was powerful, courageous and laboured beautifully, with such peace and grace that one could admire the strength and power nature gives to a woman that is about to meet her child for the first time.

Fred was always by Betânia’s side being very supportive and making sure his wife had all the comfort she needed. It was wonderful to watch the two in such a perfect union and harmony- once again love prevailed over pain and suffering.

It was 14:16 when Raphael decided to finally abandon the comfort zone and meet the world and his happy parents for the very first time, and it was without an inch of doubt one of the most remarkable moments I have ever lived and had the pleasure to photograph.

After the first exchange of glances between Raphael and his parents, the doula let the baby stay on Betânia’s chest for some skin to skin, mother and child beautiful bonding…These were utterly miraculous, unique and candid moments that I have been so fortunate to live and document. Our sincerest congratulations go out to amazing Betânia and Fred, who brought sweet Raphael into the world in such a gentle and loving way. It was my greatest honour to have been part of their incredible journey.

Birth Story and photos submitted by Maria Niezgoda Azanha.

4 Practical Tips for Capturing the Essence of Your Birth Story

4 Practical Tips for Capturing the Essence of Your Birth Story

birth photographer, birth photography

Giving birth in a few week’s time? You must be excited to see your little bundle of joy.

Why not make the most out of your birthing experience by documenting it? You can preserve the best memories of your birth story with a photo book or a photo collage printed on photo paper, metal, canvas, or acrylic. It will make for a lovely keepsake that you and your family can look back on and treasure as years go by.

Whether you plan to hire a seasoned maternity photographer to capture the process or ask a family member to do it for you, here are a few things you can do to make sure that everything will go smoothly:

1. Choose the right photographer.

Not every mom can take her own birthing photos. So look for a birth photographer on the internet and ask your friends for recommendations. Once you’ve rounded up your list, talk to each one of them. Get to know a bit about them and how they work. Make sure you feel comfortable being around your chosen photographer. Remember, the photographer will cover a very private moment of your life (and see your private parts, too), so make sure you choose someone you can trust, not just someone with good reviews.

2. Make sure that correct camera settings will be used.

If someone who’s not a professional photographer, like a family member or friend, will take photos of your delivery, remind him to avoid using the flash. Lighting is not exactly flattering inside hospital rooms or any enclosed areas, but compensating with flash will make your photos look unnatural. A workaround for this is to set the ISO high enough for shooting in low light.

Also, make sure that the camera has a shutter speed faster than 1/250 for good exposure and sharp images. In terms of aperture, select within the ISO range from 800 to 1600 to avoid blurry images.

3. Plan out your shots in advance.

A few weeks before your expected due date, sit down with the person who will be taking your photos and let him know the kind of shots that you want.

Also try to take practice shots. For example, if you plan to have a homebirth or water birth, ask your husband or friend to take practice shots of you in the bed or birth pool where you plan to give birth in your home just to see how the light and shadow will play in your photos.

You can also look at pegs from other birth photography sites and magazines for inspiration.

4. Focus on the emotions.

More than good lighting and photography techniques, you should also ask the photographer to capture the whirl of emotions that will transpire that day. You’ll remember the memories of your childbirth more vividly when you see the mood and emotions that day captured in pictures.

Ask him to take multiple candid shots of you holding your baby or your husband seeing your baby for the first time. A shot of the baby crying as the midwife or doctor holds your baby up for everyone to see can also be heartwarming. If you’ll have a doula or birth supporter with you that day, you might want to ask your photographer to capture moments of her helping you.

There’s beauty in every woman’s birth story with or without photos to accompany it. But having photos of your birthing process weaves your story better, making it more relatable and inspiring to every expectant parent out there.

Author bio

Lacey Hauptman is a freelance writer and budding travel photographer. She has been doing freelance writing since 2009, and has written extensively on the subjects of digital marketing, travel photography, and home design. You can find her on Google+ and Twitter.

The Tree of Life aka the Naked Placenta

The Tree of Life aka the Naked Placenta

I was once banned from posting on the Birth Without Fear Facebook page and personally on Facebook for the placenta picture below. I was also warned that next time, pages and profiles might be deleted. There is nothing stating in any Facebook policies that organs are violating any rules. We all know there are many obscene pictures that do violate policies and are never removed.

A placenta though? And a rad one like this one? Come on! That is the Tree of Life. Photography. Art!

Photograph by Seana Berglund

Is that a “naked” placenta? Is it showing nipple? Oh no, a “graphic” organ picture! I think this might traumatize or offend someone who never got to see their placenta! (Note: sarcasm)

Okay, really though, what IS this placenta? What exactly does it do?

“The placenta has been described as a pancake-shaped organ that attaches to the inside of the uterus and is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord. The placenta produces pregnancy-related hormones, including chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estrogen, and progesterone.

The placenta is responsible for working as a trading post between the mother’s and the baby’s blood supply. Small blood vessels carrying the fetal blood run through the placenta, which is full of maternal blood. Nutrients and oxygen from the mother’s blood are transferred to the fetal blood, while waste products are transferred from the fetal blood to the maternal blood, without the two blood supplies mixing.

The placenta is expelled from the uterus in a process called the after-birth.”

Let’s take a look at some more pictures of this amazing organ. One that gave every single person reading this LIFE!

Here is Hillary with her son (and his little feet) still attached to the placenta (seen above) and his cord.

Nurturing…

Here is the placenta print for the above placenta…

A very large placenta for one baby…

A very large placenta for one baby!

Fascinating! Examining the placenta…

“The placenta from my son born 8-19-09  11lbs 13oz, 24.5 inches…19 days past my “due date” The placenta weighed just over 2 lbs!!  It even had a true knot in the cord.  The cord was so thick and healthy that my midwife did not have a tool large enough to clamp it off.   Here the midwife is showing my 10 y/o daughter the different parts of the placenta.  This was my third birth, second home water birth.” -Stacey

“This is from my son Draven’s placenta born January 14, 2012. We had prints as well as capsules & a tincture made from it.” -Amanda

 

Here is a sweet baby boy still attached to his placenta…

After a UBAC (Unassisted Birth After Cesarean)…

Lily’s rad placenta pictures have been removed from Facebook three times!

Taken by Jessica with One Tree Photography

placenta, after birth, postpartum

placenta, after birth, postpartum

Placenta Benefits

“There is also a growing trend of using the placenta to facilitate the woman’s postpartum recovery through ingestion of the placenta, known as placentophagy. The placenta is incredibly nutritious and contains many of the vitamins, minerals and hormones that a mother’s body needs to adequately recover from the pregnancy and birth. Women who take part in this practice feel that they have a faster recovery from the pregnancy and birth, have more energy and increased milk production, and often do not experience any postnatal mood instability such as the “baby blues,” or postpartum depression.”

*Thank you to all the Birth Without Fear Moms who sent in placenta pictures!

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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The Birth of Sicily Rose {Postpartum Hemorrhage, Vanishing Twin Syndrome}

The Birth of Sicily Rose {Postpartum Hemorrhage, Vanishing Twin Syndrome}

Had it not been for your blog and all the  amazing women behind the stories you share, I might not of had the courage to go through what I endured. But, looking back now, I made and I’m a stronger mother and women for it.

This past February, we welcomed our second daughter, Sicily Rose to the world. I didn’t know it at the time of writing her birth story, but we found out a short time later that she was a twin. In my blog post, I write about hemorrhaging during our home birth, but I didn’t find out until I was 4 weeks postpartum it was because her twin was left inside of me. I hemorrhaged again at 4 weeks postpartum and almost lost my life. After being rushed by ambulance, getting a D&C, and a blood transfusion, we learned that our princess wasn’t alone in my womb.

(Side note, we thought our daughter was a twin at the beginning due to finding out about the pregnancy very early on and suffering from HG. I bled at 6 weeks pregnant and went into the emergency room. We again suspected twins when my HCG levels were off the charts but that was not confirmed nor denied by the hospital. During my D&C, they removed a 6 cm piece of placenta that was firmly attached to my womb. It was an entirely separate placenta from my daughters because I encapsulated her placenta. In the lab write up, we learned it was a vanishing twin. Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs in 1 in 10 pregnancies on average. He or she may have “vanished from my womb”, but my baby has never vanished from my heart after learning about him or her.)

In my post, I write about dilating to a 10 twice. I dilated all the way to a 10 one week before our baby girl actually decided to arrive. And looking back now, I find it kind of symbolic. It was as if I was birthing the twin I would never hold or meet.

So in honor of our babies here is the birth story of Sicily Rose:

The Birth of Sicily Rose

Our Sicily Rose has finally arrived! She was indecisive about coming at first, but when she was ready, she was READY! On Sunday February 9th, we planned a birthday party for our Audrey Girl. She just turned 3 on the 7th so we all went to Dave and Buster’s to eat lunch and play some games. I had contractions start up that morning at about 10 am. By 11:30, we were at the party eating lunch and they were still coming on pretty strong. I couldn’t eat a whole lot, because they just kept growing in intensity. Christian and I decided to leave the party and head for home because it was snowing pretty hard and we didn’t know how fast I was progressing. Nana stayed behind so our Audrey Girl could finish up her games.

I called my midwife about 5 pm and just let her know I had been contracting all afternoon, they weren’t letting up, and that I felt like today was the day. She asked Christian to check my purple line for dilation, so she could get an estimate at how far along I was. (If you don’t know the purple line trick…Google it.)

We guessed I was about 5-6 cm dilated, so I told my midwife to just hold off on coming for right now. I kept contracting, tried to eat some good protein so I would be ready for what was to come, but I felt too nauseated and what I ate did not stay down. I called my midwife about 8 and gave her the green light to head this way. She got here and checked my dilation. She said I was at an 8. She listened to Sicily’s heartbeat and I went ahead and got in the birthing pool. My contractions weren’t horrible, but the water helped ease any discomfort that I had.

After an hour and a half, I got out of the water. My midwife wanted to see where I was with dilation. I was finally at a 10. I decided to rock on the birthing ball for a while to see if I could persuade Sicily to burrow down. She was right at the edge, to the point where I could feel her head, but she was getting hung up on my pubic bone on the right side. I did some stretching and then began feeling overwhelmed. 10pm turned into 3am and still nothing. My Midwife, Sarah, suggested I lay down and rest so when it was time to push, I would have the energy to do so.

I slept until 5am and woke up to find my contractions had died down. I got up and decided to just walk, walk, walk. I did circles in our living room around the birthing pool. Sarah told me I should eat something, so I had my mom cut up some deer sausage and I ate that. It was so good in that moment. I remember that being all I wanted to eat.

I was so flustered at this point, because I had been contracting and had progressed all the way to a 10 and then nothing. The contractions just stopped. The walking didn’t stir them back up again. I was so tired. At 7am, I found a pillow and laid down on the living room floor. Christian slept on couch beside me. At 8am on February 10th, I could hear Sarah tell Christian to get me into bed, so I could sleep more comfortably and that she was going to head home to do the same. She said she would come back over later to check on us.

I was so bummed. Here I thought “this is it”, made it all the way to 10cm, and then nothing. Everything just stopped. I slept a little while but when I woke up, all I could do was cry. My baby was supposed to be in my arms by now. Christian worked until noon that day and then came home to help comfort me. He called Sarah and had her come back over to talk with me. She came right over without hesitation and suggested I see our chiropractor. She thought that would help Sicily get in the right position and not get hung up on my pubic bone anymore. It was worth a shot to me, so off we went. I was glad I did because it really helped me settle down and relax.

After my adjustment, we went home and I fell back asleep. My mom took Audrey home with her so I could have a few day to myself to recuperate and see how things progressed. I woke up Tuesday morning to my phone ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted to know “is she here yet?” It was so hard for me. I think I cried most of that morning. Christian came home from work and told me to get dress because we were going out. He surprised me with dinner at BeerKitchen…my favorite place to eat chicken and waffles and then we rented Bad Grandpa from Redbox. It’s been a long time since I laughed that hard and it was a treat to get a last minute date night with him before we became a family of 4.

Audrey came back home Thursday night. I was more than ready to have my big girl in my arms. Nothing beats snuggles from your child when you’ve had a rough day…or week. Friday I went back to the chiropractor for another adjustment. She suggested acupuncture and I was all for it. I didn’t get anxious and told myself whatever happens…happens. Saturday was spent relaxing at home. I was tired and indulged in a nap or two. Sunday, Christian did some painting around the house, so I decided to get out and get a pedicure with my BFF, Mallory. I thoroughly enjoyed some much needed girl time. Little did I know, this would be our last day as a family of 3…

Monday morning I woke up about 4:45. I had the urge to pee but I didn’t want to get out of my nice and warm bed. I laid there for a few minutes, then I felt this wet, warm sensation. I didn’t know if I had just peed myself or if my water had finally broke. I got up, pants soaking wet, and went to the bathroom. Sarah told me that if I was ever unsure to just smell it. A broken water bag doesn’t have a smell, but urine does. Mine didn’t have a smell and I was able to then go pee so we were all good. 🙂

I changed my clothes and Christian rolled over to see why I was up making so much noise. “I’m pretty sure my water just broke,” I told him. I wasn’t having contractions at this point, so I got on my phone and googled to see how long I could possibly be waiting for my labor to really start….it said up to 3 days so after all I had just went through, I was expecting the worst. I texted Sarah around 5am and told her my water broke. Since my contractions hadn’t started up yet, we decided there was no need for her to come over. I texted our birth photographer, Rachel to give her a heads up too and then I laid back down.

By 6:00am, the contractions were coming. Christian got up and decided to make me some eggs so I could eat, set up the birthing pool, and see how things progressed. He brought my plate into our bedroom to me where I was standing over our bed rocking through the contractions. They were coming fast and strong. As much as I wanted to eat, I just couldn’t. The contractions were getting intense and I wanted to get in the water so bad. My birth pool wasn’t filled up all the way just yet so I went into the bathroom and kneeled by the bath tub. I had to tell myself to just keep breathing through it.

At this point, I knew this was the real deal and Sicily would probably be here sometime today. I told Christian to call Sarah and Rachel and tell them to get here now. I had called my mom when my water broke and I knew she would already be on her way. Sarah got here around 6:45am and just as soon as she listened to Sicily’s heart rate, I was in the birth pool. The warm water felt good and the contractions kept coming about 2-3 minutes apart. My mom got here soon after. She sat next to the pool on our chaise lounge and asked me what I needed her to do. At this point, there was nothing no one could do for me. It was just me and Sicily…working in sync with each other and trusting each other.

Sarah’s birth assistant walked in as I was laboring in the pool and I could vaguely hear Sarah tell her to get her gloves on and get ready because things were about to go fast. I smiled to myself when I heard this because that meant “this was it”…our girl would be in our arms today!

Rachel got here and then things went fast. I didn’t say a word to anyone as they arrived. I just kept breathing and focusing through the contractions. I remember thinking to myself, “When is it going to really hurt?” This pain was bareable to me. It was a good pain, because I knew in the end I would have my baby to hold. (Kidney stones hurt worse than child labor incase you wanted to know. I would birth 10 babies in a row before I would ever deal with another kidney stone.)

Audrey woke up and went to sit with Nana on the chaise lounge. She really impressed me that morning. She was so calm and spoke softly. She just laid in Nana’s lap and they watched me together. Christian came to the edge of the pool and held my arms as I sat in a squat in the water. I wanted him there. Right there holding me up. He was so cute. He kept giving me encouragement and telling me how strong I was. Sarah helped me remember to keep breathing. “The ring of fire” was felt just as Sicily was crowning and I knew we were getting close.

Sarah got behind me and put a mirror in the water to see where she was at. Feeling her head crown hurt. I was in the moment, I needed to bite something and Christian’s arm was there. He pulled back just as I realized what I was doing so I grabbed a towel and bit it instead. Just then, the ring of fire was over and out came her little head.

Sarah and Christian helped me lay back so I could push her the rest of the way out. I wasn’t in pain anymore. I was just breathing trying to muster up enough energy to get my girl here. Sarah’s assistant said, “it’s been two minutes. We need to move things along.” And just then I pushed and out into the water came our girl. I picked her up and brought her to my chest. She had inhaled a little bit of water and she wasn’t crying. Sarah told us to just keep talking to her as she patted her on her back. It worked because she let out the cutest little squeak. No crying. Just completely content laying on her mama’s chest in the water. All I could do is stare at her in awe and say, “I did it….I did it.”

Our story doesn’t end there, but how I wish it did. I wish I could tell you that I laid there in the birth pool holding my sweet girl and the rest of the day was just spent snuggling my little family of 4.

I felt the urge to push again and I knew it was my placenta coming. Sicily was still attached to her cord at this point and laying on my chest in the water. I told Sarah I needed to push and I did. Blood just shot out. The pool turned pitch black. Sarah, her assistant, and Christian helped lift me out of the pool and onto some towels on the floor. I remember Sarah sternly telling me, “Stop bleeding. You have got to stop bleeding.” And Christian told my mom to take Audrey into the other room.

Everything was happening so fast. I glanced down at Sicily still laying on my chest as I felt my placenta escape from me. The blood still flowing out much faster than it should have. I don’t really remember how but my birth team managed to get into our bed. Sarah examined me and said I had 2nd degree tearing in 3 different places. I was so glad I birthed in the water, because I can’t imagine how it would have felt if I didn’t.

My bleeding still hadn’t subsided. I was soaking the blue puppy pad looking sheets every few minutes. Sarah felt my uterus as we tried to get Sicily to latch on to eat. She examined my placenta that Sicily was still attached to, to make sure there wasn’t any leftover in my uterus. There wasn’t, thank God.

My options were running out, so Sarah did the last thing she could think of to stop my bleeding. She cut a piece of my placenta and told me to put it in my cheek and suck on it. I didn’t care. I would do anything at this point. I just wanted my bleeding to stop. I did not want to be rushed to the hospital. Christian turned white as a ghost. I’ve never seen him look so scared in all my life. The way he looked at me was terrifying. I asked him to leave the room and get himself something to eat.

Sarah’s little trick worked. My bleeding stopped and she was able to stitch me up. Her assistant fed me eggs and juice and mothers milk tea as Sicily laid on my chest still attached to the placenta. I kept trying to go to sleep but Sarah wouldn’t let me. She was afraid I would go unconscious and no one would know. Every time they moved me I started to faint. Christian came back in and helped feed me. Sicily latched on and Sarah gave us the green light to just snuggle skin to skin as we had been. Christian cut the cord and Sarah kept my placenta to encapsulate it. Another hour or two went by and Sarah continued to monitor me. She went over her concerns with Christian and came back in to tell me goodbye. She said she’d be back over later that evening to check on us again.

I spent the rest of the day laid up in bed snuggling with my babies. I was asked later if I regretted doing a homebirth because of the bleeding episode…I absolutely do not. I am glad I had a homebirth. If that had happened to me in the hospital, things would have gone a lot differently. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience….and “I did it!”.

Birth of Sicily Birth of Sicily 2

Our birth photographer, Rachel was amazing. I can’t tell you what these images mean to me. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to have her there to capture these moments. I highly recommend Tripp Over Love Photography.
www.photosbyrtripp.com

Generations of Support {Birth Without Fear}

Generations of Support {Birth Without Fear}

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Three generations of women gathered around to welcome the fourth.

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A mother’s strength.

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Welcome to the world little lady.

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Family.

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Midwife is Michelle with Lavender Moon Midwifery  based out of San Diego, CA. You can follow Lavender Moon Midwifery on Facebook. Photography by Catie Stephens of Vuefinder Photography in San Diego, CA. You can follow them on Facebook here.

Overcoming 9 Months with {Hyperemesis Gravidarum}

Overcoming 9 Months with {Hyperemesis Gravidarum}

I am strong because I survived nine months with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which causes severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. I found out I was pregnant back in December of 2013. We were in the middle of moving into our new home, and I had the sudden urge to throw up my lunch. I brushed it off telling my husband it was just something I ate. A few days later, while unpacking, I had the horrid taste of bile creeping up my throat I immediately got sick. Later that night I made a trip to Wal-Mart for a pregnancy test.

I slipped off upstairs to take the test, as my husband and children were downstairs with Christmas movies blaring from the television. As the bright pink positive popped up, the clear sound of Jingle Bells from the television suddenly became muffled, my head began to spin.

Not that it was a terrible thing that I was pregnant, I was just in shock. I am 24, I have a three year old son and my daughter was just a few weeks shy of turning one. I’d recently taken on a new full time night shift secretary position in Labor and Delivery and was ready to go back to school to finish up my prerequisites. Our main focus was on our two children and accomplishing our goals before having more children.

I walked downstairs to tell my husband and suddenly the Christmas carols playing on the television seemed like a full fledged concert. I yelled over the music for my husband to come upstairs. Little did I know the months to follow would be life changing in so many ways.

A week later I became very sick, I couldn’t even get out of bed. My first doctor’s appointment was a blur I was excited to see my tiny baby pop up on the screen, but I felt so sick I just wanted to go home and sleep. They prescribed me nausea medicine which didn’t help. A week later we planned and celebrated my daughter’s first birthday. I was so nauseous and weak I went through her party like a zombie. Even in the pictures I looked terrible, everyone just kept telling me it would be okay and to rest. I felt so bad that I was that sick on her first birthday.

Over the next few months I lost 30 pounds, and my doctor had prescribed over five different medications for me, which still left me terribly nauseous and throwing up. I felt a gleam of hope when they said they were going to put me on a Zofran pump. However, that was shot down by my insurance and there was no way my husband and I could afford it. I was in and out of the emergency room dehydrated, and hooked up to IV fluids. Not to mention the last time I was in triage I had a horrendous allergic reaction to the Reglan that they gave me through my IV.

I became really hopeless and ready to scream at anyone who said, “Just eat crackers and drink Ginger ale.” I had to give up my full time job in labor and delivery due to the constant throwing up and dehydration. Before I left though I saw somethings that would later be very vital to my outlook on what I went through, but I’ll share that at the end.

My husband picked up a second job to handle all the bills. During the day my mother in law or mom would come help with the kids, because I was too sick. I’d hear them laughing and playing downstairs, they were so close yet I felt so far away. I cried constantly and I’d lay in bed for what seemed like hours. I’d stare at the ceiling in tears or at the sun shining through my window. I’d hear my son ask, “Where’s mommy?” It would break my heart.

In between the trips to the bathroom to throw up my body felt so worn and weak. I honestly wanted to give up on life. There were times I’d hope I wouldn’t wake up. I went through my son’s third birthday dragging and sick to my stomach. I did muster up some strength to go on a family trip to the aquarium the day before his party. I just wish that I was able to fully enjoy his big day, but just like my daughter’s party I was completely worn out and too sick. I felt so guilty.

I began wondering just how much a person could throw up in one day. Some days the nauseous feeling would be so overwhelming almost as if it were teasing me, I’d cry wishing I could just throw up already. I became so agitated even at my poor husband because I was so sick, and he was fine. I felt like no one understood what I was going through. Some people even felt like I was just complaining so the robotic words “I’m fine.” became my norm when people asked how I felt. I was convinced that no one wanted to hear how I truly felt.

We found out it was a girl through a surprise party, and luckily we still had everything from my daughter’s first year. I began to feel more human around 6 months. The nausea and vomiting  was still there but I had more energy to get up and do things. I was determined to enjoy the summer with my children and make up for time I felt like I lost over the winter and spring. Soon after I found out she was already positioned really low, which was causing pain on my nerves. It was painful to walk at times but I walked anyways I was just so grateful to be up and have energy.

I was due August 4th and most of July seemed to fly by, but towards the end of of that month time began to go really slow. At the end of July my doctor asked if I wanted to be induced that week I firmly said, “No!”  A lot of my friends that were due after me were already getting induced. Most said it was approved by their doctor, though there were no medical reason. They said they were miserable and just over being pregnant.

I had gestational diabetes but it was diet controlled, and there were no complications with my baby or me besides the Hyperemesis, so I felt there was no reason. In my head the thought of having her that week and ending the nausea and vomiting  did excite me, but I had made it this far through so much. I was determined to have her spontaneously. I had my son spontaneously and was induced with my daughter, which I said I’d never do again unless of course there was medical reasoning and the doctor felt I truly needed to be.

They told me if I went past 40 weeks that they would need to induce me and that I was 4cm dilated now. I remember walking and nesting like crazy that weekend in hopes that my appointment Monday August 4th would bring good news of being ready to deliver, since that of course was my due date. Monday came and I held back tears as I was told I hadn’t made any changes. The doctor told me that they could induce me that next day. I wearily asked if I could wait another week. He told me to come back Thursday to be checked, and if no progress they would need to schedule an induction.

I was so discouraged, but instead of doing more walking, I just curled up with my babies relaxed and watched television all day. Tuesday, I braved it out and took my two kids to Wal-Mart. As soon as we walked in I remember gripping the shopping cart as a sharp pain shot through my thighs and back. I shook it off as just a normal ache of a 40 week pregnant woman. The pain kept coming and going, so I hurried through shopping so we could get home.

By the time my husband came home from work the pain was getting stronger and stronger. Even though it was three years ago I remember that exact sharp pain shooting through my back with my son they called it back labor. When my husband came home from work I calmly told him we would be having a baby soon. He excitingly loaded the car with our hospital bag, and the kid’s bag for their stay at my moms.

When my contractions started to get closer together we headed to the hospital to be checked, which was around midnight. I was speechless when the nurse told me I was 4cm still. However, my contractions were coming five minutes apart! The nurse said they would monitor me for the next two hours and possibly send me home. In my heart I knew it was time. By the time two hours had passed, I was clenching the bed rail screaming in tears. My husband called the nurse in and sure enough I was now a six.

They wheeled me back to a delivery room and any trace of nausea I had left was replaced with intense contractions shooting through my back. I was filled with so much joy to finally be meeting my baby girl. After half a bag of IV fluids I received my epidural. They said the doctor wanted my water broken. I’ve never experienced my water breaking on its own so I was used to that. A few minutes later though before they came in to break it I felt a huge gush of water followed by trickles. The nurse checked me and in all its glory my water had broken on its own and I was now 8cm. The nurse said the words I waited so long to hear, “It’s almost time to deliver!”

When the doctor arrived and it was time to push it literally only took three pushes and she was out. She was my biggest baby yet, and since she came out so fast she had a little fluid in her lungs. She had to be on oxygen for a few hours, and also had a low blood sugar. After all she’d been through in just a few short hours of being born, she latched on and nursed like a champ. I had to have an episiotomy and later I felt all the pain and stitches, but what I didn’t feel is the nausea.

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Everything I endured for nine months became a faint memory the moment I laid eyes on her. I realized just how strong I really was when the doctor that saw me on my due date came in to check on me a day later. He immediately remembered me and smiled saying, “I see you went on your own!” As he walked out he turned back around and said,”Chart says she was eight pounds by the way, you did an excellent job!” Words cannot describe how that made me feel. I made it through all those months with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

In the midst of being weak and weary, I am strong, because I stuck to what was placed in my heart to do and that was to have a spontaneous delivery regardless of how sick I felt. Lastly, while working in labor and delivery for just a few short months I saw so many things.

I admitted mothers to come in to have scheduled inductions to deliver still born babies, and the looks on their faces when I pressed the button to let them into the unit will forever haunt me. I admitted mothers that received countless treatments over and over to be able to have a baby. I admitted mothers who went through too many miscarriages to count, to lead to the newborn that I was typing up info on and printing up labels for. I honestly never realized just how much some mothers endure to have children. I felt so terrible for feeling how I felt over throwing up when some would give anything to go through that just as long as they could carry a healthy baby.

Everything happens for a reason and I think I was meant to work there for that amount of time to realize just that. I also realized that those months I felt guilty, like I lost out time with my two kids from being so sick, were not wasted moments at all. My children are completely over the moon for their baby sister and it melts my heart. So I remind myself that all those times I was unable to get up and play with them, meant their sweet sister was healthy and growing inside me.

Although I was weak and sick on their birthdays they will look back on pictures and see a strong mom, that would do anything for them just to see them smile regardless of how sick she felt. Those days I’d hear my son downstairs asking where I was meant that right in the middle of him playing or watching a movie with my mother or mother in law he stopped to think of me. Even though I slept so much I still had two children that would run into my room each morning anxious for me to wake up. Even though I was too sick most of the time to go out on a date with my husband he cherished cuddling with me on the couch and doing anything possible to at least make me feel half human.

I wish I could have realized all of this then and embraced my pregnancy more. I can honestly say, I would endure all of it again for her. My sweet Amara Grace has changed my life in so many ways, I can’t help but to sing Amazing Grace everyday now. So for anyone else that had or is going through a pregnancy with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, just know you are not alone. Also know that I understand you can’t just, “eat a small snack, suck on popsicles…” and all the other home remedies. I understand how you are over throwing up or being teased by constant nausea, that leaves you clinging to the toilet trying to throw up. Just understand that the pain now is only small and temporary compared to the big blessings coming.

My daughter is a huge blessing and I feel so much stronger. I know right now you don’t want to hear that others would love to be in your shoes, because I sure didn’t want to hear it, you just want relief from being so sick. If nothing else just know you are strong and you can do this, just as I did. I made it through a season in my life that I never thought I would, and there is complete beauty from it. There is hope and though it doesn’t seem like you can go another day just know you can. It will all be so worth it when you are in the delivery room giving birth. Then you’ll be able to share your story on how triumphant you were and that you overcame Hyperemesis Gravidarum. {by Jasmine Martin}

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Professional Photographs by Love Through A Lens Photography in Nashville Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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