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My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth After VBAC

My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth After VBAC

The birth of my second child was shared on your blog several years ago: Long Labor Ends with Beautiful HBAC. With my home birth I really wanted to inspire other women. I wanted to show them that they are capable of having the birth that they want. This time around, I think it’s important to share that sometimes the birth you want ISN’T the birth you get – and that’s okay too. Here’s my story that talks about when VBAC doesn’t happen…

The birth of my sweet Kelsie.

Every labor is different.

How many times have I heard that sentence? How many times have I said that sentence? I thought that I understood that as well as anybody. My first two children had completely opposite births. My son was born at 36 weeks via emergency C-section and my daughter was born at almost 42 weeks, at home, after 35 hours of drug-free labor. Because of these completely different experiences, I really thought that no matter how Kelsie’s labor and birth went I would be pretty prepared.

I wasn’t.

My water broke at 4:30am on June 15th, 2015. I was 41+1 weeks pregnant. I woke up to a small gush and quickly ran to the restroom. Broken water – Check. Bloody show – Check. YES!!! It’s baby time! My water has never broken at the start of labor before, but I had dozens of dreams that it would this time around, so I really wasn’t too surprised. I went and woke up Eric and let him know that my water broke and we would be having a baby either that day or the next. I knew that it could be several hours before contractions kicked in, so I kissed my hubby, told him to let his work know that he wouldn’t be in that day and advised him that we should both try and get a bit more rest since we would probably need our energy later that day.

About a half hour later I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to make some coffee. Eric joined me and we had a light breakfast, played some cribbage, and talked about what we thought our labor would be like and how excited we were to finally meet our newest daughter. A couple hours later my two kiddos and my parents (who flew out to stay with the big kids while we were in the hospital) got up and I told everyone that I was officially in early labor. We decided to try and get the contractions started by going to Ikea to eat some breakfast and to walk the entire store. We spent over an hour and a half walking around. We left Ikea and decided to take a drive by the hospital to show my parents how to get there later. We also wanted to show them how close the hospital was to the beach, an awesome park where they could play with the kids if they needed to burn some energy, and most importantly, the closest coffee shop.

We went back to the house after and I decided to rest. A little bit later I decided to try the breast pump to see if I could get contractions going. Afterwards, my hubby and I went to a park and walked close to a mile as quickly as I was able to (which isn’t saying much). My water had now been broken for almost 12 hours. I started to get really emotional and frustrated. I decided that I must have been imagining what had happened that morning. I called my doctor, Dr. C, to give him an update and after going over our options in lengthy detail Eric and I decided to go in to the hospital to get confirmation that my water had broken.

We took our time getting our bags together and made sure to give the big kids extra hugs and kisses. I cried off and on the entire way to the hospital. I told Eric that my two best case outcomes would be that either my water had in fact broken and I wasn’t losing my mind, and even though the contractions I was having weren’t super uncomfortable I would somehow still be dilated to 6cm OR that I had completely misread the situation and my water had NOT broken.

Then we could just go home and come back a few days later to have a baby. We got checked into the hospital and were taken to our room. I got changed into the hospital gown and went and sat on the bed; my husband said I looked so scared and anxious that he decided to build my confidence by dancing for me like Ray Lewis (you can see it here…). My goofy husband was able to make me smile but I was definitely not feeling any more relaxed.

Not long after we arrived it was confirmed that my water had broken. A bit later Dr. C came in and checked me. I was dilated to 2 to 3cm on the bottom, but my cervix was still very posterior and almost cone shaped, meaning it was still closed pretty tight at the top – not at all what I had hoped for. Because I am a VBAC, we were told that we would be staying put, but that we would not be on any clock – meaning that even if my water was broken for over 24 hours as long as the baby and I were doing well we would be able to continue labor as long as we needed to. This was not at all our original plan, as we had hoped to labor at home as long as possible and only go in to the hospital once, in my doctor’s words, there was a “baby coming out of my vagina.” However, I knew there was nothing I could do about that now. Dr. C told me I needed to have a good cry about it and then I needed to get out of bed and see what I could do to get this baby coming.

So I did. I sat there and cried, trying to understand why my body didn’t want to start the process that would bring my baby into my arms. I sent Eric out to the car to grab our bags and tried to focus on the few positive things that came with being at the hospital so early. We had plenty of time to set up our music and oil diffuser and for me to spend a few minutes playing birth photographer for my own labor. I changed into the labor gown that I made and called my parents to bring my kids over for a visit. I really just wanted to hug and kiss them and needed a bit of a distraction. My family showed up soon after and I snuggled my babies and my oldest read me a bed time story.

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After they left, we called in my doula. I paced the room back and forth as far as the monitors I was hooked on to would allow. I paced and paced and paced and began to feel increasingly like a caged animal. I was so frustrated having to be attached to those stupid monitors and not feeling like I was really being given a chance to get things going. My wonderful nurse Lisa came in around this time and reminded me that no one could make me do anything that I didn’t want to do. She had to have some record of monitoring, but that if I refused there was nothing they could do. So I did. I said I needed to use the restroom for a long time and removed the monitors so that I could have at least a half hour of freedom to move about the room. I walked some more and spent some time on the birth ball. A little after 10, I got back on the monitors to try and give my poor nurse some more readings. She had been so kind to me and I didn’t want to put her in a bad position.

A few minutes later my wonderful doula Crystal arrived. She was quick to offer help in any way that I needed. She rubbed my back and shoulders and feet and prayed for me. She whispered words of encouragement and when I wanted to try and sleep she sat beside me and held that stupid monitor in place since my little lady inside insisted on kicking it off.

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Now I know that during the next several hours I had another visit from Dr. C, I cried and felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster going from completely defeated, to motivated, to crushed, to relaxed. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. We were coming up on 22 hours since my water had broken and I had slept less than ten minutes. Around 2:30 in the morning, the nurses moved me and my crew into a different room with wireless monitors. YES! But they didn’t work. NO! So we continued pacing as far as they would allow me and bouncing on the birth ball. And many times I crawled into bed hoping that rest would bring something on. My doula kept offering things that we could try. Some of them I did, others I looked at her like she was crazy.

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This pattern continued for the rest of the night and well into the morning. My big fears at this point weren’t only what would happen if my body never went into labor, but also what would happen if it did? I had been awake for going on 30 hours and I could barely put together full sentences. How was I going to push through a labor?

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I was anxious for Dr. C to come in for a visit. I really wanted a check to see if anything we had tried throughout the night had helped. He arrived a bit after 9:00am. It had been 15 hours since my last check. I tried so hard to remain hopeful, but as soon as the check started I knew.

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Before he even had the chance to say anything I looked at Eric and Crystal, shook my head no and let the tears fall. There was no change.

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No. Change. At. All.

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My heart broke. Off and on throughout the night I had thought, talked, and prayed about what to do if there was still no change the next day. I didn’t feel like I had it in me to keep going. Dr. C sat down and we started to talk about options. As far as he was concerned I had several. First, everyone looked good so I was free to continue laboring as long as I wanted. Second, we could start to talk about other ways to get this baby out. Third, I could take off the monitors, go to sleep and not decide anything at all. I had already shared with Eric and Crystal what I was thinking. I feel so strongly that babies know how to be born and I know for a fact that my body is strong and capable of birthing a baby – so in my heart I felt that if Kelsie wasn’t coming there was a reason for it. I didn’t want to make this decision based solely on exhaustion or fear so Eric and I asked Dr. C a bunch of questions and then agreed that we would all just take a break before we made any decisions.

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Dr. C left, saying that he was hoping that rest was all I needed and he hoped I woke up in active labor. I no longer felt as hopeful. Crystal left shortly after to get some rest and to allow Eric and I some time together. While Eric and I were alone I was able to be completely vulnerable and vent out everything that I was thinking and feeling. I told him that I was leaning towards a gentle cesarean, but I needed to know that he wouldn’t be disappointed in me. He hugged me close, kissed me lots and told me that no matter what choice I made he knew I was making it for the right reasons. He reminded me that I was strong and that I was a wonderful Mom just trying to take care of our baby. He told me that he was proud of me.

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He laid down to get a much deserved nap, while I laid in bed, finally free from the dreaded monitors. I tried to sleep, but wasn’t able to. I don’t think I could possibly put into words how much I battled with myself during this time. I tried to rest, but when I wasn’t able to I decided to call my munchkins and make sure that they each knew how much I loved them. Hearing their sweet voices calmed me.

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A while later Crystal returned and Eric woke up. I didn’t tell either of them what I had decided. Our nurse walked in to check on me, “What do we think?”

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My eyes filled with tears and I looked at her and answered, “I think it’s time to meet my baby.”

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Even the nurses knew that Kelsie was in charge.

At this time things started to move pretty fast. Despite the speedy pace though, I felt in control and respected, which is so different then my first cesarean. Everyone was kind and went out of their way to try and keep things as calm as possible. Eric was given his awesome new duds, Kelsie’s blanket and hat were brought into the operating room and I was introduced to the anesthesiologist that would be working with my doctor. I sat on the bed in our hospital room, trying to just remain calm and cling to the small moments of peace that I felt. As I was sitting on the bed, letting Eric put some cozy socks on my feet, I heard my phone vibrate next to me, indicating that a text message had arrived. I had mostly been ignoring all messages since we had kept the news that my water had broken very quiet. But for some reason I decided to read this message before I walked into the operating room. It was from my best friend Lisa:

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“I love you so much. You are an amazing mom and will see that sweetie soon! Enjoy as her story happens knowing that God wrote it just for her!”

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Wow. The exact words I needed to hear in the exact moment that I needed to hear them. Eric helped me out of the bed, we walked to the operating room and I kissed him and let him know I’d see him soon.

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This cesarean was so different than my first. The operating room, while busy, was not at all chaotic. Everyone let me know what was going on and what to expect next. I was treated with respect the entire time and even felt comfortable enough to make jokes. For instance, when the nurse asked someone to let Justin know that he’d be able to come in just a few minutes I calmly replied, “Actually if you don’t mind I’d rather Justin just wait outside, but if you see my husband, Eric, he’s welcome to join us.” Prep went quickly and easily and before I knew it the drape was up and Eric was sitting next to me holding my hand and waiting on our girl. Before we knew it the drape was being lowered and the anesthesiologist was lifting my back up a bit so that Eric and I could watch our daughter being born. I cried and cried. She was here. 32+ hours after my water broke – and born at the exact same minute that I was: 12:31 p.m. She was perfect and pink and loud and tiny and COVERED in meconium. I mean head to toe covered in poop. And I had only ever seen anything that beautiful two other times in my life. She was quickly looked over while Dr. C did his best to get her as much cord blood as possible, while still keeping me safe. And less than two minutes later she was in our arms. As requested she hadn’t been bathed or weighed or measured. None of that mattered.

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One of the nurses came over and helped pull my pajamas down and slide Kelsie in so that we could lay skin to skin while the surgery was completed. Eric also held her during this time and we all laughed at how much she was rooting. The anesthesiologist mentioned that he had never seen a baby with such an immediate and enthusiastic root instinct. While she was laying on me and trying so hard to find what she was looking for I said, “I’m so sorry baby. You have to wait just a few more minutes.” Her response was the most perfect, most dramatic pouty lip that you can imagine. She had Eric and I and several others in the room laughing. Before I knew it everything was done. Eric held Kelsie while I was moved from the operating table to a bed. Kelsie was again tucked in with me skin to skin and we were rolled back to our room together.

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Eric, Kelsie and I were left mostly alone for more than an hour after she was born. Everything else that needed to be done was done with her in my arms. She wasn’t measured or weighed until we requested and when I did decide to have them rinse some of the poop out of her hair, they were quick to honor my request that they only use water.

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We stayed in the hospital for two days and were blessed to be taken care of by so many wonderful nurses and one exceptional CNA. I have had a few moments where I have felt sad about the way everything went down – like when I had to sign my consent to have cesarean, because of a “failed trial of labor” (I don’t think that’s the right reason – I never went into labor and I certainly didn’t fail). But the fact is I made the best choice that I could make with the information that I had at that time. I was supported and respected in all of my choices and I felt like I was in control. I never felt bullied or pushed into anything I wasn’t comfortable with. I wanted Kelsie’s birth to be joyful. I prayed for that for the entire 10+ months that I carried her. And when I look back at her birth, I will remember laughing at her silly faces right after birth and joking with my doctor about a dream I had where I had a C-section, but in the dream he had bleached blonde backstreet boy hair and him asking someone to bring him a wig. I will remember the jokes and fun that I had with my husband and doula in the middle of the night when we were all so exhausted that we were borderline giddy.

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I will own the choices that I made during this labor and I choose not to regret any of them.

This is Kelsie’s story and I will tell it to her proudly and remember it with joy.

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Welcome to the world, Kelsie.
You are loved.
You are wanted.
You are precious.

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*** I wrote Kelsie’s birth story the week that she was born. That was over 6 months ago. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for after her birth was how hard it would be to process everything. How much I would doubt my choices. How often I would ask myself, “What if…” Not having a VBAC when you prepare for one and want one so badly is HARD. With my first child’s birth his emergency C-section was out of my hands. It was easy to be frustrated with everyone else, because I had zero control in that situation. But this time around the decision to have a cesarean was mine alone. Processing Kelsie’s birth has been hard. For over four months I obsessed over everything that had happened. What could I have done differently? How much better would it have been if I had just planned a home birth? What if I had just given myself more time? Did I give up too easily?

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The self-doubt that comes in can suffocate you and it felt like nobody really understood WHY I was upset. My baby was healthy after all and my recovery had been as easy as it could have been. Yet still, I felt like I had let myself and my daughter down. For months (and sometimes even now) I couldn’t read birth stories without feeling sad, disappointed, and even jealous of these other women achieving their drug-free vaginal births and VBACs. My sweet doula sat me down and told me, “You’re only thinking of this one way. But what about these ‘what ifs?’ What if you HADN’T had a cesarean? What if you HADN’T followed your instinct? You birthed a beautiful baby. Be kind to yourself.”

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And you know what? She was right. The decisions made that day were mine alone. I chose the decision I could live with and now, over half a year later, I truly can accept that. Her birth story is unique to her. I did the best I could do and I am so grateful that the choices I made led to a beautiful, healthy, joyful baby girl. I think that I will probably always have moments when I wonder “what if,” but I no longer feel like I failed. Kelsie’s birth story is her own. I hope that other women reading this, possibly in the same situation, will know that they aren’t alone. It’s hard when VBAC doesn’t happen. Those feelings of disappointment, sadness, and anger are real. But in the words of my favorite doula, “You birthed a beautiful baby, be kind to yourself.” ***

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Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

My twin girls were born early at 30 weeks and five days. Yesterday I saw a friend posted on Instagram, the birth of his beautiful baby girl. The pictures were incredible. His wife delivered naturally, he got to help in the delivery of his baby, and immediately after, they put their first child on her chest. Both parents were able to cherish that moment, in what seemed like a magazine article on the picture perfect child birth.

I burst out crying.

Selfishly, I was NOT crying out of happiness for them, I was crying out of sadness for myself. I had an unplanned C-section, and upon delivery my babies were immediately taken to the NICU after I had just barely had a glimpse of them. As I looked at these pictures on Instagram of my friend’s perfect birth, I realized I would never have that experience. No vaginal birth, no holding my baby and I didn’t have that immediate feeling of “LOVE like you’ve never felt before,” you know the thing that all parents talk about when they first have their child.

Instead, I spent the first 24 hours after my babies were born feeling completely disconnected as if I was watching someone else’s life happen. I didn’t feel like a mom or have an overwhelming love and connection. Instead, I felt the complete opposite. I was scared, filled with anxiety and freaking out that this is not the way I am supposed to feel after the birth of my children.

My parenting comparison had already started. I questioned everything. Asking myself, “is this how I am supposed to feel? I’ve only ever heard about the overwhelming love and joy. What is wrong with me? Is this postpartum? Is it because I didn’t do it the right way, should I have pushed more and stayed the course of a vaginal birth?”

I continued with the self-shame: I will never get the experience of holding my newborn after delivery. Will this affect them and me for the rest of our lives? What does this scar mean and how will it affect my body? How long will they be in the NICU, did I do something to make them come early… Am I going crazy?

How come no one talks about this stuff? The doubt, the unstoppable crying, the night sweats. OMG, the night sweats. After 48 hours of pure anxiety, I woke up and realized something…..

Here are these two girls who were just brought into the world who know nothing but how to wiggle their toes, while they are trying to figure out how to breathe. I am already putting the pressure on them and myself on having the perfect birth. This is how parenting shaming starts, and this is how we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our children. Seriously think about it, our kids start out perfectly innocent, knowing nothing. With no standard on how they are supposed to look, dress or how they were meant to be born they are just working on staying alive at this point.

A lot of us are following a program to what our life is supposed to look like and to be honest; it’s a false program. We think if we just do it right, always give 100% and make it look like it’s supposed to look, then we are successful. The fact is, no one can give 100% a 100% of the time, it’s impossible. So why are we trying so damn hard to be perfect, to one-up each other? The expectations we have accepted from what society puts on us are FALSE expectations, and we have to stop.

Birth and children are not all balloons and roses. I don’t even have my girls home, and I’m already feeling the pressure of what’s right and wrong and what feelings I’m supposed to be feeling. What about being present in the moment my girls are alive and thriving. All they need right now is support and love. They don’t care if I cry or second guess myself they care I am here holding them, reading to them, kissing them and everything else is B.S.

I am committing to a platform of raw, open and real honesty. I have done this on all my other blogs about body image, food, and alcohol and I am committing to it as a parent. I will be honest about ALL the stuff. The good, the bad and the worse because I believe as parents and as a society, we need to talk more about the hard stuff, so we know we are not alone. We have to remind each other that the “perfect family” on Facebook is NOT real life.

If we want the best for our children it has to start with us, the parents. We would never want to pass our insecurities onto our children: our body issues, food issues, and low self-esteem issues. It all starts with us leading by example, and working on our comparisons of ourselves to others.

I want to change the message. Here are three things that hit me like a ton of bricks after childbirth:

Not everyone has the initial, “love like you’ve never felt before” immediately after childbirth, and that doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. However your babies came to you and however, you feel is exactly how it is supposed to be for YOU.

Comparisons, guilt, shame, anxiety, and uncertainty all are REAL. We all have negative thoughts. Don’t keep them inside. Find a tribe or one person to talk to, or even this blog to leave a comment on. You are not alone in how you’re feeling, let it out and let’s support one another.

No one and I mean NO ONE has a grip on parenting. The person you think has it all together could be a complete mess and just scared to share the struggle. It’s time we talk about the struggle.

My birth plan was NOTHING that I thought it was going to be and you know what? It’s OK. Every day is a rollercoaster but I’m on it, embracing it and I’m mentally committing to being present in it, ALL OF IT. Even the dark stuff.

To any parent out there struggling, to anyone, anywhere struggling, with or without kids, you are not alone! I am here for you. We NEED to be here for each other. Let’s talk about the REAL stuff, let’s stop judging one another and come together. It’s time we teach the younger generation and each other that self-worth comes from what we think of ourselves, not what society has put on us. It’s time to change the conversation and lead by example.

I love you thank you for letting me continue to be honest, real, raw and open with you. Thank you for allowing me to continue to tell my story. I love each and every one of you, we are in this together!

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Jenny Schatzle

Hospital VBAC After a Month of Prodromal Labor

Hospital VBAC After a Month of Prodromal Labor

I had been having prodromal labor for about month straight so when I noticed contractions starting on Sunday evening, I didn’t really think much of it. I went about my evening like normal, put my toddler to bed, watched a little TV, and around 9pm I decided to head to bed. I’m not one to ever have trouble falling asleep but I laid there for about an hour and just could not fall asleep. I noticed my contractions getting a little stronger, but nothing alarming. I mentioned to my husband, Steve, that my contractions were getting stronger and that I thought this might be it. He decided to get in bed and try to sleep in case this was the real deal. I texted my doula, Amber, to keep her updated on how I was feeling. 

I laid in bed with the TV on and tried to ignore the contractions for a while. They were about every 7-9 minutes apart by now and I had to deep breathe to get through them. I tossed and turned in bed until about 1:00am when I decided to hop in the shower in the hopes to relax. I woke up my husband before I got in to tell him I thought this was for real this time. The shower was anything but relaxing. My contractions just got stronger and stronger the longer I was in there. When I got out, I told Steve he needed to call my mother-in-law to come watch our daughter. She lives in Lincoln, so I knew it would be at least an hour before she would get to our house. 

The waves of contractions were getting much more intense now and I found myself leaning over whatever was in reach and moaning when a wave would come over me. Around 1:30am, I told Amber that I needed her to come over. At this point, my husband had gone into hyper-focus mode and decided deep cleaning our entire house was necessary, (he doesn’t cope with labor very well) so I really needed Amber’s support. Before she arrived, the nausea kicked in and I started to throw up. I didn’t have nausea with my first labor, and I can say it was one of the most unpleasant parts of the whole experience. When Amber arrived, my contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart and I was still getting sick. I continued to labor at home for a couple more hours. 

Around 5am, I decided I wanted to head to the hospital. We arrived around 5:30am and I was checked into my room. I had great communication with my midwives during my prenatal care so I knew what types of standard things would be coming my way when I got to the hospital, ie an IV lock and continuous fetal monitoring. They also wanted a urine sample, which was fine with me, but I had no idea how intense my contractions would get from sitting on the toilet! No wonder people always rave about how great it is to labor on the toilet! After that little experience, the nurses got my IV going and put baby on the monitor. The on-call OB came in and introduced herself. She asked to check me and I was pleasantly surprised to hear I was already 9.5cm. 

At this point, my labor stalled a bit. My contractions got a little further apart, probably due to my nerves. Around 7:30am, the nurses came in my room to do their change of shift. I remember asking for an epidural while they were talking. I hadn’t specifically planned for a natural labor but I knew being able to move would give me the best chances for a VBAC, so in the back of my mind, I was always reminding myself of that. The nurses told me to wait until the contraction was over and if I still wanted it, we would discuss it again. After the wave passed, I caught my breath and decided against the epidural. 

Soon after the nurses ended their report, the in-house midwife for the day, Kate, came in. She checked me and again I was very pleasantly surprised. I was 9.5cm! I was almost fully dilated without an epidural! That excitement was quickly diminished when Kate told me that baby was still at a -3 station. The problem with baby being so high while I was almost fully dilated is the risk of cord prolapse if my water breaks. Kate and I had a lengthy discussion about my options in this situation. It was a difficult decision to make but after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to get an epidural and let Kate break my water. This allowed the membrane rupture to be a little more controlled, and also allowed Kate to feel if the cord needed to be moved to prevent a prolapse. After three tries to place the epidural, it was finally finished. That was by far the worst part of my labor experience. 

When I was nice and numb, Kate broke my water and did end up needing to move the cord around baby’s head to prevent a prolapse. Baby dropped to a -2 station after the membrane rupture, which was not as much of a drop as we were hoping for. There was also meconium in my waters. Again, Kate discussed my options with me and I decided to continue laboring. Both baby and I were doing just fine, so I wanted to give my body more time. 

For the next several hours, I alternated laying on my left side, to my right side, to sitting up every 20 minutes. Kate continued to monitor baby and I but baby still was not dropping. I was getting more and more emotional as it seemed a cesarean was in my future but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. My nurse and Amber helped me sit up again but this time it was getting uncomfortable. I asked Amber to grab the birth ball and put it in front of me so I could lean over it. I remember hearing baby’s heart rate drop a little on the monitor. I asked the nurse about it and she said that it can happen during a contraction but as long as the heart rate goes back up after the contraction, it’s fine. We were having trouble-keeping baby on the monitor and I thought it was just due to how I was sitting. This happened a couple more times and then Kate came in. This is when things got a little crazy.

Kate had me lay back down and checked me. Baby was now at a +3! Things get a little fuzzy for me here because it all happened so fast. It seemed like I blinked and my whole room was filled with people. The one thing I distinctly remember is Kate looking up after checking me, and telling me that I was going to have to find my strength and get my baby out. That I was going to have to push with everything I had because my baby needed to get out now. Baby had dropped so fast that her head was transverse in my pelvis. With the very next contraction I was pushing. I continued pushing with every contraction and Kate was able to turn baby’s head into the correct position. I could hear everyone in the room cheering me on. That was one of the most meaningful parts of my whole experience. At 2:22pm after only 22 minutes of pushing, Kate successfully maneuvered her shoulder dystocia and I delivered my beautiful baby girl. She was placed on my belly briefly but was not responding as quickly as the doctors and nurses like to see. Daddy cut the cord and the NICU nurses whisked her away. I’m told she was only gone for about 15 minutes but it felt like hours to me. 

I did it! I am so thankful for Kate, Amber, Steve, and all the nurses and doctors who helped me achieve my VBAC. I am thankful that I had the courage to stay patient and thankful that I was given space and time to make my own decisions. This birth story is so different from my first, and I am so grateful to have been able to have such an incredible experience.

Birth experience and photograph submitted by Samantha Wall. 

“I’m Done Now, God.” A Home Birth Experience

“I’m Done Now, God.” A Home Birth Experience

I was completely in charge of my pregnancy. Such a wonderfully intimate experience between myself and my baby, God, and our family. Although yes, it was empowering, that is not at all why I do it. I do my pregnancies, and births, and babies this way because this is the choice my husband and I confidently make for our family. This was my third pregnancy, second unassisted birth, first unassisted pregnancy. We did not know the sex of the baby or an exact “due date”.

Hurricane Matthew was pressing in on Florida and I could not have been more relaxed…considering I was full term and possibly could have the baby in the middle of it. Hubby seemed stressed about the water situation and no heat or light. I was prepped to fill the tub and birth pool, got extra drinking water, and said my prayers. The night of Thursday, October 6th, Matthew began its landfall on us. I definitely felt something in me going on but wasn’t sure what. I did enough research to know that there was some truth about the barometric pressures ‘inducing’ labor in some women. I knew this could be it but didn’t want to get my hopes up so I just stayed calm about it all. That night I woke up in the midst of the storm, trees cracking and coming down outside as the storm beat on us, and I was having some major contractions. I stayed in bed and rocked my hips. The contractions stopped after a bit but there was a strange uncomfortableness. The baby was active and turning…yes, full on turning his body around. Ow. I just laid there. I didn’t feel the need to get up and wanted to listen to my body and baby; I felt no urgency. With the storm outside, it was calming in a way. I spent a lot of that time praying for everyone, for us, but a lot for those out there that needed it. Man this hurts. The baby started to settle down. I felt so tired but just kept praying; I fell asleep praying. Then I woke up the next day (still pregnant). So, did the baby turn head down last night, or breach…

Friday morning I awoke feeling inside my head. The baby was not showing signs of coming Earth side despite my feelings of exhaustion, and the immense heavy weight in my lower belly and vagina. I texted my husband in a state of desperation. I let him know that I had recalculated my “due date” and was obviously wrong the first time. The baby wasn’t going to be coming until October 16. At first he laughed. I told him that there was no way the baby was coming now if it didn’t come in the midst of a hurricane, so it was obvious I did my math wrong. There were no signs of labor at all. I didn’t feel as if anything was happening anytime soon, and although it was just an estimation anyway I just knew, down right knew, that we had more time… or more so knew nothing was my choice and finally surrender to God any ounce of control I pretended to have. He said he understood and supported me so if next week was it then we’d be ready for next week. As soon as he said that I relaxed; just completely relaxed with no timeline in my head. I felt sooo much better.

I went on about my day as normal. Nothing stands out in my mind about the rest of the day. After dinner and the girls bedtime routine (our 4 and 2-year-old), hubby and I sat down to watch a movie. As the movie went on I started feeling my normal uncomfortableness in my belly. This was a nightly occurrence for at least the last month if not two. My pelvis was killing me at this point and I was sure the thing was just going to snap in half any day now! It was pretty routine at this point that I’d start to feel those pains almost constantly, but especially in the evening… Then I felt some gas and needed to use the restroom. I let a little bit of my bowels go. When I wiped I saw some mucus and blood on the toilet paper. I knew it was my mucus plug, but also knew that it could be lost and regenerated, or be lost over a long period of time. I had been losing bits of it the entire last trimester, so in no way was labor immanent…mind you this was the first time there was spotting with it. So I returned to the couch.

After another 10 minutes or so I had to use the restroom again and let some more bowels go. I returned to the couch feeling a slight tummy ache. Hmmm, did I eat something weird or something didn’t settle right. When I returned to the couch this time, I felt the tummy ache had a rhythm that I unconsciously was rocking to. I laid on the couch just rocking my hips with small thrusts when I felt the uncomfortableness come on. I had to use the bathroom again but was stalling because I didn’t want to keep pausing the movie. Hubby asked if I was okay….I guess he noticed the rocking. I just nodded. Then felt nauseous and said no while I got up and went to the bathroom. I let some more bowels go with more urgency and pain this time. Hubby came into the bathroom and asked if I was alright. I told him what had been happening. He asked “are we having a baby tonight!?” with so much enthusiasm in his voice.

I scoffed, “No, even if I was in labor, it could be a day before a baby comes and I don’t even think I’m in labor yet. And I still feel the baby moving around.” I thought I read that babies get quiet before labor….didn’t I…?

I wiped and went back to the living room. I started the movie again. “I just want to finish this movie.” I was thinking; it was almost over and it was intriguing. I couldn’t sit on the couch anymore though. It was obvious I was having surges at this point. I grabbed my birth ball and sat on that through some surges rocking my hips, swaying, doing the figure 8 with my hips. It helped relax me between them but when the surges came I didn’t like it. I stood and then was squatting through one. Hubby was looking at me crazy and I said “I don’t know what to do.”

Then I decided to just kneel on the floor and hang my chest over the ball and rock that way. I could feel my body needed to be opened. That image of the flower bud opening kept popping into my head. I was on my knees but with them spread apart as far as I could get them. I was feeling kind of euphoric…and yet uncomfortable. I was dizzy, but not like the dizzy when you fall over; I had goosebumps and tingles all over my body.

Dang it, I had to use the restroom again. Hubby followed me in. He then proceeded to tell me that if I thought I was having the baby then he needed to set things into motion at work and make some phone calls. I was kind of ignoring him at this point. I didn’t want to be rushed, or put on a timeline. I told him “I’m not ready to say I’m in labor yet.” He still had this kid in a candy store smile slapped across his face when I looked up at him and I burst into a giggle looking at him. Then another one came…ouch! I realized that when the surge came I was gripping the towel bar and corner of the wall. I tried to stand but was frozen on the toilet and knew I couldn’t stay there. I immediately looked at him when it passed and said, “It’s real now. I’m in labor. Go get the pool ready!” I think my subconscious knew it wasn’t going to be long.

Hubby headed off to our bedroom. I went back to the living room. I texted my sister, “I think I’m in labor. Ssshhhh.”

Then I called my friend who was coming to photograph the experience for me. She lives an hour and fifteen minutes from me and we were concerned that she might not make it in time to catch the birth. My last birth was five and a half hours and I thought I had more time during that one. So this time we agreed at the first sign I’d let her know. She answered “is it time?”

I told her yes, then a surge came, moaning and breathing, then told her “Please come now.”

She asked how long I’d been in labor. I said just a little bit and she said “I’m on my way, wait until I get there.”

All I could say was, “Okay but leave now and hurry.” Again, all these little signs that I knew it wasn’t going to be long. It was 10:20ish when I called.

I walked to our bedroom, turned some lights off, made a water and essential oil mix for a wash cloth on my head, instructed hubby on a couple of things I wanted, then went to the restroom again but nothing was there except gas. I immediately got into the pool. Finally, some peace down there.

It felt so wonderful submerging my bottom and belly. The water covered over me and just washed away so much of that intensity. I gazed up at my birth affirmations on the wall and saw dead center, one that said “God is with me.” I immediately started praying. Not a prayer of dear Lord please help me…but a conversation. From that moment on I was in full dialogue with God. Just praising Him, thanking Him, asking Him for strength. The water felt like his warm arms wrapped around me. I felt so loved, so supported. Thinking back on that time brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps knowing how close I was with Him. How loved I am by Him.

Hubby started my playlist. “Ugh, it’s too loud.” Song playing. “Ugh, I don’t like that song.”

The way I was laying in the pool I could only see my candles and birth affirmations. I have no idea where my dear hubby was or what he was doing, and yet he was always right there. I would just say what I needed and it would happen. The volume was adjusted, the song changed, a straw with water in my mouth, a soothing hand towel on my forehead, a hand to hold. As each surge came I would rock, sway, breathe, talk with God. I know I voiced out loud a few times my conversation with Him. The surges were sooooo intense. I only remember them this intense with my last during transition and yet here I was an hour and a half in and owww! At certain points the surges were pushing me to the point of pain, almost breaking me. I’d whimper and ask for help, and I’d feel God there, holding me up where I was faltering in my strength. My wonderful, amazingly supportive husband reminded me to breath, to let it pass, to let it go, to exhale. His strong low voice spoke at the exact times I needed it. How amazing God is to provide the support we need, to guide us and all those around us, when we just submit to Him and trust in Him and His process.

My girlfriend showed up right around two hours into labor. I remember faintly hearing her and hubby speaking, whispering. I opened my eyes (which are often closed while I labor) and smiled at her. We exchanged pleasantries and a couple quick questions…and then a surge started. I closed my eyes and started swaying in the water with my very low moan. Then I felt hands on my arm and shoulder. It was like my spirit was yanked back into my body, back into all that pain, I felt pulled away from that heavenly place. Then I heard hubby’s voice and the touching stopped. He took the time to explain to her that I like to pretty much be left alone and that I am vocal with anything I do need so only step in when I ask. My sweet friend, she was so understanding and respectful. My hubby knew she was trying to be helpful but also knew me and protected my space. I really was blessed with those two being present for me during this time.

I felt very uncomfortable with some surges, getting painful, painful enough that I started bargaining with God. “Uh oh, I’m done now, God. Please just get me through this birth. I don’t really want four or five children, I don’t want to do this again. I don’t want to feel this immense pain. I don’t want to be so out of control. Please, God.”

I asked hubby to put some essential oils on me. I was feeling the need to move and started trying different positions to ease some of the pain. I felt like my hips needed to be opened more. I flipped around on my knees and leaned over the pool. I had to be close and if not I needed to be because I. Was. Done. Then I tried the bed but it was awful. I knew as soon as I crawled onto it how wrong it was. I backed off and then was crouched on the floor at the foot of the bed and pool. This is getting painful. I need to go to the bathroom again.

{let’s pause for a commercial break} Since we’re sharing, let’s get personal for a moment. I have a fear. And that fear is very real for me. This fear causes me to run to the bathroom at the slightest bit of pressure down there. You know what I’m talking about. How “they” say “Lots, if not most women will pass a bowel movement on themselves while giving birth’. I know this. I’m not ashamed of this. I’ve known mommas who have done this, and I never even batted an eye at it. But apparently… I am terrified of pooping on myself. Yup. And my dear wonderful husband, bless his heart. He supported my every step in and out of that pool, in and out of the bathroom, every single time I crouch on that toilet. He stands there and holds my hand as I sit, then helps me up and walks me back. Mind you I haven’t actually passed any bowels since labor started and I was watching the movie. Since I’ve been in my bedroom and in the pool all I’ve done is gone into that cold ceramic room that echoes! to release massive amounts of gas. Such a good man that guy. So…

Off to the bathroom I go. Gas. Back to the room. I tell hubby I need him. Holding on to his arms I just start squatting. No idea why. I just decide now is a great time for a glute workout I guess. Oh the intensity. Now he’s pretty much holding me up and I’m turning into jello. I start whimpering and whining. Everything was so very intense. But it felt so intense right from the start and I just couldn’t imagine it getting harder. Back in the pool. But wait. Dang it, I have to go to the bathroom again.

As we go into the toilet closet hubby holds my hands and squats in front of me while I lower myself down. POP and GUSH!!! All over this wonderful, supportive, patient, kind man. Yup. but ohhh, excitement, my water just broke. Now I’m in a half squat just hovering over the toilet. Pain. Oh the pain. A surge and I feel it. I have to push. I need to push. My body is pushing. Oooowwww. The baby’s head is crowning. My husband comments on the presence of hair. My hand is on the head and oh my gosh. “It hurts, it hurts, he’s going to rip me.”

Hubby says “Then don’t let it, breath, pant, breath.” I’m panting. Holding on to the wall I push hard with the next surge. I’m supporting the crowning head, my perineum and clitoris all at the same time while finishing my push. Holy Jesus thank you!!!! The head is out. Whew. But ow. My legs are shaking. Hubby is grinning from ear to ear. I’m frozen. Now holding on to the walls again. A surge is coming. I start shaking and yell.

Hubby says “don’t let him drop in the toilet.”

“Well don’t let him!” and I heave-ho a push with all my might. And another one. Oh My Lord, thank you sweet Lord, my baby is out!!!!! Hubby caught the baby and lifts the little one into my arms while I sit on the toilet. Whoa! Hubby’s giggling. I’m giggling. “Thank you Jesus.”

“Wait, what is it” Hubby says.

“I don’t know, you caught him.”

I lift his leg and move my hand for hubby to see and he yells “It’s a BOY! It’s a boy!” Oh my gosh, my son! I have a son. “Sweet baby boy, thank you Jesus, my sweet baby boy. Oh, my baby boy.”

But my sweet little girls, they missed it. Hubby asked if he should go get them. “Yes, hurry!” Within minutes he brought them in to the bathroom. Rubbing their sleepy little eyes they stared with amazement and absolutely huge smiles. Hubby tells them with so much excitement that they have a little brother. We oooo-ed and awww-ed for a bit in the bathroom and then I felt the surge for the placenta. Ouch! I’ve got to get to the pool again. Everyone helps me to the pool while I hold the baby. I get in and relax. My little girls kept kissing me, rubbing my head and shoulders, giving me water. I can’t get over how unbelievably tender these two little girls were that night. We just had such a sweet time together gazing at the wonderful gift from God we just received. They looked at his adorable little toes and fingers; touched his hair and little ears; listened to his soft but oh so sweet little cries; gave me blankets and towels to cover the baby with. My heart was so full and just gushing with love in those moments.

But oh, those pains. The surges for my placenta were really strong! And after just giving birth I just felt so done. I gently explored the umbilical cord and gave it a slight pull to see if there was any give…nothing. I needed these surges to get that sucker out. I prayed for the placenta to let go and come. I gave the baby to my girlfriend while she hovered next to the pool and I did some squatting, went pee in the water, and a tiny bit of tugging while pushing (the tiniest bit, I know my body well) all while being as close to the edge of the pool as I could be because the cord was not that long. Finally it plopped out. It took an hour and forty minutes. Whew. Now I can relax.

After exploring the placenta and teaching my girls about it the baby and I got out of the pool and got all wrapped up on the bed. Nice and comfy. The girls took turns holding their brother. Hubby cleaned up a bit and joined us in bed after putting the girls back to sleep. Wow, I have a boy. I finally have a little boy. Blessed by God, such a wonderful and amazing God we have. I can’t get over how fast it all went; and how intense it was. And yet I made it through, and our little boy is now here. Zechariah Krzysztof Rogowski. Born October 8th, 2016 at 1:35 am. He was my biggest baby weighing 8 pounds and 6 ounces, and a whopping 21.5 inches long. Our family is complete.

The moment hubby caught and handed the baby to me
Our sweet baby boy, Zechariah
Our girls admiring their new brother

Birth experience submitted by Amanda Rogowski.

Pictures taken by Jennifer Last of Jennifer Last Photography.

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

It’s been 7 weeks since our lives and souls were rocked to the core by the arrival of our first son, Declan Finn. It has honestly taken me this long just to reflect on and process the transformative experience of bringing a brand new human onto this planet enough to put it down on paper. Plus, there’s been a good deal of sleep deprivation around here lately, and I’m now seizing a spare moment while the little man sleeps in his swing. 

(Sidebar: this has actually been written over the course of SEVERAL stolen nap moments over the last few weeks. Newborn life, am I right? It’s also unedited and unfiltered. I wanted to really capture my first impressions and feelings about the birth, so I didn’t reread or pick this one apart.)

My due date was May 31st, so as that day approached and eventually passed, everyone at work basically expected my water to break at my desk at any moment. Still I soldiered on, and on Tuesday, June 2nd, I tied up the very last of my I’ll-be-gone-all-summer loose ends at the office, and made a facetious note on our shared calendar that I had a doctor’s appointment the next day “IF I’M STILL HERE.”

I wouldn’t be.

That night, I had dinner with my mom (who had come up from Florida on the due date) and aunt, went to the chiropractor, and turned in early with the hubby because we were both particularly worn out that day. It’s a good thing we did!

Around 2:00am, I woke up to contractions. I had been having them on and off all week long, but these felt like a whole different animal. I stayed comfy and timed them in bed for about an hour, catching short naps in between. They were 5 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long from the very start, so at 3am I decided to wake Braden. “Hey babe, I think things are really happening!” He jumped right up and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him we should try to keep resting while we still could, so we stayed in bed while I timed contractions between brief snoozes. After a while, I couldn’t sleep anymore, and he wanted to get the bags packed and loaded into the car, so we got up, showered, and had a snack. I took a long bath (and shaved my legs, of course), sat on my birth ball, and stayed very zen. Even though the contractions were as close as 2-3 minutes apart, they were still very manageable. I thought, “I could do this all day!”

We called my mom at about 7:00am to let her know that this was it. She said “I will be there as fast as legally allowable!!” And my doula, who ended up being stuck in Edisto Beach because of a huge storm. I also texted all the ladies at work to let them know that they would not be seeing me today (!), and all my best girlfriends to get the prayers rolling.

We decided to take a walk by the river to keep things moving, and in the parking lot of the park, we ran into an ambulance. The driver put her head out the window and yelled “I hope you’re not too close to having that baby!” I told her that actually, I was in labor right now! The back of the ambulance swung open and one of the EMTs shouted with a huge grin “Do you need help?? We can give you a ride!” We about died laughing. It was a beautiful morning, overcast and not smoking hot yet. It was wonderful to be outside by the water in the peaceful “calm before the storm,” literally & figuratively, as a huge. flood-causing thunderstorm was actually brewing that day. We walked (waddled) for a while, and I paused to lean on benches or trees during contractions. Some were only a minute apart at this point, but still easy to breathe through. Once again, I thought to myself that this labor thing was a breeze. (Don’t worry, those thoughts would not last the rest of the day.)

After we got back home, I hopped back into the tub for a while. Mom arrived shortly thereafter, and she & Braden started loading the car with our hospital bags (and my pillows. And comforter. And yoga mat.  And birth ball. Etc. Packing light isn’t really my jam for huge life events.) Braden made me a green smoothie, and I sipped it on the birth ball while watching the Daily Show. I called the midwives around 10am, and after hearing that my contractions had been so close together for so long, they encouraged me to head on to the hospital ASAP. We hit the road around 11am, with towels under me to protect the new Prius’s clean seats (just in case.) I had to really start breathing through contractions on the road, but we listened to music and luckily the ride to the hospital was short and traffic was light. We broke the rules and went in through the main entrance rather than the ER (because, ew) and made our way to labor & delivery. To my surprise, they don’t admit you right away. You go to something of a pregnant lady “holding area” where you’re monitored and checked to make sure the ball is actually rolling before they put you in a room. The first two nurses I met I actually knew via Daybreak, so that was pretty cool. They hooked me up to a monitor and found I was only 2 cm dilated, so they wanted me to go walk for a while to see if I would progress further. To which I responded, “Ok great. I’ll just head home and be back in an hour.”

Well. Apparently that wasn’t an option. Not only did I have to stay in the hospital, but I couldn’t leave the 2nd floor! This threw me off a little bit, but we rolled with it. We proceeded to pace the halls of L&D for about an hour and a half, pausing to lean on the walls during contractions while Braden pushed on my lower back. (I didn’t know this yet, but Declan was posterior, so I was in for some major back labor.) Things were starting to get painful rather than just uncomfortable, and I got a little teary wanting to go ahead and get admitted so I could settle into my labor room and get this show on the road. Luckily, when they checked me again I was nearly 4 cm and moving along nicely. The nurse said “You get to stay and have a baby!”

We moved to our big, comfy labor & delivery room at 1pm. I got changed into the nightgown I brought from home and started to settle in. We met our amazing nurse Pam, who was with us through the whole process, and found out that one of my favorite midwives, Debbie, was the one on call that day. We put on my birth playlist. I took a hot shower. I spent alot of time on the birth ball, and on all-fours on the bed to relieve some of the back pain. Braden and I used a bunch of the moves from our birth partner yoga class and they were hugely helpful with my back labor. I didn’t get an IV, so it was great to freely drink as much water as I wanted to. I had also been nibbling on healthy snacks right up until I was officially admitted, so it was nice to not be starving.

I’m a very cerebral person, always in my head. Labor and birth have a fascinating way of pulling you completely OUT of your head and planting you firmly and irrevocably in your body. I had no concept of time, how much was passing, and I wasn’t able to consider anything but the present moment. Up until then, my labor had been totally manageable and easy to handle. But soon the contractions were right on top of each other, my hands started shaking, and I started to wonder if I could really do this. For the very first time, I felt a little bit of fear. Many of the books I read to prepare for birth preached that labor doesn’t have to be painful at all. Some insisted that birth can even be an orgasmic experience. Bless them.

In the words of John Green, “pain demands to be felt.” My mom, who knows her stuff, had an inkling that I was approaching transition. Sure enough, she was right. In a detached way, the fact that I could produce such sensations was utterly fascinating. In a more attached way, it was like experiencing lightning surging through my body, bringing my baby closer to us with every spectacularly powerful movement. It was like being a human thunderstorm: furious, untamable, and nothing to be done but ride it out.

At 5:45pm, my water broke, which is when stuff got really real. I was completely within myself, unaware of much of anything beyond the raging storm in my body. Nurse Pam got very close to my face and told me very gently that everything was okay, but that there was fresh meconium in the water, and I would need to be monitored continuously from here on out to make sure the baby wasn’t in distress. This meant my movements would be limited to the bed from now on. Up until now, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of pain medicine. My birth plan specifically said, “no pain meds.” I hadn’t even researched any of it in advance, because it was not even an option in my mind. But now I started to entertain the idea. I didn’t want an epidural; I wanted to stay fully engaged with what was happening in my body. To stay an active participant in the process.

Actually, let me clarify with a confession that my hippie earth-momma self is pretty embarrassed to share: I WANTED an epidural. Like, alot. The idea of escaping the pain completely was very seductive at that moment. But I really didn’t want to be immobile, catheterized, and unable to really feel and participate in the pushing process when the time came. Plus needles in my spine give me with willies. Between contractions, I said to my nurse, “I don’t want to sound like a chicken, but tell me about what pain meds are options for me right now.” After talking to her, to Braden, and to my doula over the phone, I decided to try one dose of the most mild, side-effect free medication they could offer me. It honestly didn’t take away any of the pain of the contractions, but it did allow me to take a breath and rest just a bit between them, which with exhaustion closing in, I really think my body needed at that moment.

Soon, very soon, I felt the overwhelming urge to push. It wasn’t even an urge; my body just started pushing completely on its own accord. It was a fascinating phenomenon. I had the nurse check me quickly, as I knew there was no way I could hold back if for some reason I wasn’t fully dilated yet. But hallelujah, I was 10 cm and ready to roll! Because he was posterior, I had to push in what they usually tell you is the worst position to be in: mostly on my back. Because of the meconium in the water, the special care nursery people flooded into the room, and we got this party started.

Pushing was amazing, because I really felt like I was doing something to bring our little man into the world. There was a tremendous feeling of relief between each push/contraction, and the pain completely faded from my mind. It was like being an amazon warrior, calling forth every last bit of strength and endurance that was left in me, and finding reserves I never knew I had. I made alot of noise, but my husband tells me it wasn’t like cries of pain, but the shouts of someone forging through a battle. We reached a moment when they told me to look in the mirror because his head was in view. That moment was transformative. I saw him, yelled “YES!” and apparently my whole face just lit up. Braden tells me it was incredible to see the transformation of my face.

With fresh adrenaline, I gave the final pushes every last bit of my energy. Pushing out the head took all of my strength, and then the rest of him shot right out like a rush of water. It was 7:01pm, just 20 minutes after I started pushing. Then everything happened so fast. Braden caught the baby and put this big, chubby, beautiful boy on my chest. I don’t know what I said, or if I said anything at all, but I held my little man tight for a few moments before they took him to be suctioned by the special care nurses. I felt profound relief, joy, and also just a sense of being utterly present. I didn’t cry, which even for a constant weeper like myself is normal for my huge life events (I didn’t cry at my wedding either.) I need to process to cry, and when I’m completely in the moment, my tear ducts need time to catch up.

No one tells you this, but those minutes immediately after birth are totally overwhelming emotionally and physically. Suddenly people are pushing on your stomach, you’re delivering the placenta, being stitched up and poked and prodded (I had a relatively minor tear), all while your baby is crying and being poked at himself and it seems like 10 people are in the room (apparently the cord was wrapped twice around his neck as well.)

They told me from across the room that he was 10lbs 5oz (WOW!) and 21 inches long. When they brought him back and put him in my arms, Braden and I just stared at him in awe. Braden had tears running down his face as he told me how amazing I did. We both just couldn’t believe that he was really here; after all this time, Declan Finn, our little buddy who had been flipping and kicking us for months, who we had been dreaming of, was finally earth-side. Our lives would never be the same.

Birth experience submitted by Kimberly P.

Photographs taken by Bella Baby Photography.

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.

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

When I got pregnant with my second child, my husband and I never questioned where she would be born – we both knew we wanted another home birth with our amazing midwife that guided us through our son’s birth in 2012. Aside from a small amount of erratic bleeding and a preterm labor scare that ended up being the stomach flu, my pregnancy was uneventful and flew by and before I knew it, I was out on maternity leave from work at 36 weeks and filling my calendar with social engagements to fill the days before my due date. My son was born at 39 weeks, 6 days and I expected our daughter would follow suit, give or take a few days. I had my home visit with my midwife at 36 weeks and everything was in order for the birth, which I figured was weeks away.

On the morning of April 13, at 37 weeks, 5 days, I woke up at 5:45 am after a surprisingly restful night’s sleep (I struggled with pregnancy induced insomnia the majority of my pregnancy). I rushed to the bathroom to empty my very full bladder and I noticed that there was something wet between my legs. I figured it was urine since I had been known to pee myself a few times during this pregnancy, but after I used the restroom, the liquid kept coming and I realized it wasn’t pee. I woke up my husband and told him I thought my water had broken. The instructions from my midwife stated to wait until normal business hours to call if my water broke but labor had not started, so I put on a pad and went about my morning routine, excited but also a little nervous that I had felt zero signs of labor and this was much earlier than I expected to be going into labor. My mother, who lives in another state, wasn’t scheduled to arrive for two weeks and she was going to be my labor doula and after birth support.

A few hours later, I called my mom and told her my water had broken. No sooner had the words left my mouth then she was looking up how to change her flight and arranging a ride to the airport. Her words of advice were to take it easy to avoid going into labor before she arrived that evening. I sent my husband to work and the older kids off to school, as I still had zero signs of labor. I called my midwife who said to keep in touch and practice good hygiene, etc. I realized we didn’t have any food in the house for the midwives, so I made some muffins, and took a nap, anticipating that labor would be starting at some point in the next 24 hours, as the internet assured me 95% of labor’s do, after PROM/SROM. The day went on without so much as a little baby contraction, my mother arrived and we all went to bed, expecting to be woken up overnight to some labor action. My husband stopped by my midwife’s office and picked up their labor induction protocol pack, which included castor oil, herbal tincture and a few other supplements. She recommended I start the protocol in the morning if nothing started overnight.

Overnight, I felt a few mild contractions, but I mostly slept through the night and woke up without incident. I got up early to start the labor induction protocol, which included nipple stimulation (pumping), tinctures and a castor oil compress. I opted to not do the castor oil internally and see if the nipple stimulation helped. I watched “Look Who’s Talking” on Netflix, which did not make me laugh, the tinctures were regularly making me gag and the nipple stimulation wasn’t inducing a single contraction. My husband stayed home from work and slept in, in anticipation of another long day/night. After 4 hours of pumping every 30 minutes and not a single contraction, I talked to my midwife who wanted me to come into her office to confirm PROM and do a sterile speculum exam and talk about options. My mom and I went for a quick walk around the neighborhood and I finally started feeling some back pain and little tiny contractions, which were slightly encouraging but still not what I would call labor.

As my husband and I headed to the midwife’s office, I was getting disheartened. We were approaching the 48 hour mark and I was dreading the thought of making the decision if we needed to go to the hospital or could continue to wait for labor to start on its own. The exam by my midwife didn’t help ease my mind. She estimated that I was less than 1 cm dilated and maybe 90% effaced. Considering how long it had been since my water had broken and all the labor inducers I had choked down, this was depressing news. We talked about what would happen if I went to the hospital and how long we were both comfortable waiting, the risk of infection, etc. We came up with a plan that if my labor hadn’t started by the following morning, she would accompany me to the hospital for an induction. Meanwhile, she gave me the protocol for internal castor oil and we decided I would try a dose of it when I got home, which ended up being at approximately 4 pm.

My husband and I left our midwife’s office and headed down to the beach to talk a walk and clear our (my) heads. I was feeling really down and sad that the birth I had been picturing for the last nearly 3 years (since my first son was born) was looking like it wasn’t going to happen. But as we walked and my husband made me laugh (This is why I love this man with my whole being), I had a sudden peace that no matter where my daughter made her entrance, it was going to be spectacular and that was the way it was intended, even if that was in a hospital bed with an IV antibiotic, a Pitocin drop and an epidural. We headed home where my mom had my castor oil chocolate milkshake waiting for me.

After I took the milkshake, we did another few laps around the neighborhood. Back home, as we were fixing dinner, I started getting a few regular and ‘real’ contractions. This was very exciting! I even had to drop to my knees a few times but they were still very short and not super close together so I figured this was all still pre-labor stuff. I explained to my almost 3 year old that this was normal, that mommy’s tummy had to hurt for baby sister to come out and this was a good sign. As they were finishing up dinner and starting bedtime, I attempted to do some squats on the stairs. That kicked my contractions into a much higher intensity and I immediately had to go up into our bedroom and shut the door so I could focus on relaxing through the pain. My mom and husband came to check on me and I said that i was ok but things were starting to get organized and I needed both of them to support me. The notorious effects of castor oil started kicking in and I (out of necessity) started laboring on the toilet. Although the contractions were intense, they were still short and I was getting a decent break between, where I could talk and even laugh. I was confused at why the contractions were so intense so we called our midwife. After talking to us, she concluded I was probably in pre-labor and should get some rest and baby would most likely be joining us in the morning. We took her advice and I laid down and attempted to get some sleep. I believe I slept for about 30 minutes. By this time it was about 830 pm.

I jumped out of bed when a particularly strong contraction hit and told my mom and husband that I couldn’t sleep anymore, the pain was too intense. I tried to labor on the birth ball, but it wasn’t helping. My mind started freaking out (in hindsight, I was in transition but didn’t know it, even the second time around!) that there was no way I could do this all night, the pain was too intense and we needed to go to the hospital. But then I would get another 2 minute break and I thought I was just imaging the intensity. My mom suggested I try laboring in the shower which helped dull the pain and I believe relaxed me to the point to allow sweet baby girl to descend into prime birthing position. All at once, I couldn’t stand up in the shower anymore, I nearly fell out of the shower onto the birthing ball and screamed “I HAVE TO PUSH”. That certainly got everyone’s attention. My husband started panicking and filling the birth tub while furiously dialing the number for our midwife. My mom said, “please Lord let her keep this baby in until the midwife arrives, I have delivered a baby before but I would really rather not”. The midwife was on her way and giving instructions to my husband who was still trying to fill the pool. My mother got me to lay on my side and said she could see the baby’s head crowning. With 1 push, her head was out and then immediately another push, she was out and my mother gently laid her on my stomach where she started screaming the most beautiful ear piercing scream you ever heard. She was tiny and pink with a head of thick black hair, long beautiful fingers and absolutely perfect.

I kept asking if she was ok and of course she was. When the midwife arrived, my husband cut the cord and I immediately delivered the placenta as soon as I stood up. Sweet Ella Grace started rooting for the breast as soon as she was placed on my chest in bed and began nursing like a champion (and 2 years later, still is a total mommy’s girl and loves her milky time!). I feel so blessed that I was able to have the birth I envisioned and her arrival still gives me chills when I think about it!

Story and photo submitted by Sarah W. 

A Couple Working Together: A Birth Center Birth Story

A Couple Working Together: A Birth Center Birth Story

When I was 6 months pregnant, my husband took a job in South Bend, Indiana. This was fortuitous because it meant we could move out of Chicago and we would be only 1.5 hours from my family, instead of 3. The move from Chicago to South Bend also meant we could afford to buy an actual house with a backyard – something we couldn’t have dreamed of in Chicago. The transition from Chicago ended up being complicated and drawn out. Brett started his new job and I transitioned out of mine. We only had the chance to attend one Hypnobabies class in person before we had to move. We had to self-teach the remainder of the class by following along in the book and listening to scripts. Unfortunately, the total lack of stability during this time resulted in us being a bit behind the Hypnobabies schedule. I comforted myself with the thought that we would be able to catch up once we moved into our new house, long before the baby arrived.

We eventually closed on a house on August 12 but decided to immediately hire out some drywall/ceiling repair work prior to moving any belongings into the house. We knew once the drywall work was done we’d be able to paint (all of the rooms in the house were in desperate need of painting). We figured it was wise to knock out all of the big projects before the baby came and before we got too settled in the house. Our baby was “due” around September 25 so everything seemed perfectly timed. So as the contractor took up the bottom half of our house, we essentially camped out on a mattress on the floor and lived out of a suitcase. I spent most of every day painting the upper floor while Brett was at work and then we worked on other parts of the house when he got home. I kept telling myself that once the house was in order we would buy all the items we needed for the baby and make sure the space was ready for him by late September.

On August 23rd, I finished painting the trim in our bedroom and went to meet Brett at work where a mass and student/staff picnic was being held to celebrate the start of the school year. I remember being self conscious about my incredibly swollen feet and ankles. Following the picnic, we went to Lowe’s to pick up supplies and then went home. We worked on putting our bedroom back together until midnight and then went to bed.

I woke up at 3am with the sense that I needed to go to the bathroom. As I walked to the bathroom, I felt a leaking sensation but was too sleepy to think much beyond “What’s going on with my bladder?” I sat down, urinated, wiped and then wiped again and again. Why did it seem like I needed an endless supply of toilet paper? I stood up and a bigger gush of liquid flowed out of me and I panicked, shouting into the bedroom. “Brett, I think my water just broke!” Brett leapt out of bed and (probably hearing the panic in my voice) said, “Okay. It’s okay.” I frantically tried to recall what week of pregnancy I was in – determined I was 35 weeks and 3 days – and realized I didn’t know if it would be considered safe and normal to go into labor that early.

Brett is not typically clear-headed immediately upon waking, but he was laser focused in this moment. He called the hospital and put them speakerphone. When the front desk person picked up, he explained that my water had broken and I interjected that I was “only 35 weeks along”. The woman asked what color the liquid was and I answered that it looked clear. She then asked if I had felt the baby moving. I had only been awake for a few minutes and hadn’t felt anything in that time but the baby had been really active right before I fell asleep at midnight. She asked if I was experiencing contractions and I realized that I had been experiencing mild tightening sensations. She said to come directly to the hospital to be checked out.

Brett hung up and I choked back a sob and said, “This is too soon! We’re not ready.” Brett stopped me, hugged me, and assured me again that everything would be fine. He took the dog outside to go to the bathroom and I bumbled from one (completely disheveled, partially renovated) room to another trying to think what we would need at the hospital and locate it. Of course we didn’t have a hospital bag packed! I remembered a phone charger, my phone, earphones and Hypnobabies materials. The few baby clothes we had were still packed away somewhere in the garage. Brett reminded me that the hospital would have the necessities.

I put on a maxi dress and grabbed a towel to hold between my legs. I called my mom’s cell phone but she didn’t pick up so I tried my dad’s. He groggily picked up and I said “Dad, my water just broke so we’re going to the hospital and we don’t know if everything is okay.” my voice broke halfway through. He said something calm and comforting, although I don’t recall what exactly it was. He sounded so confident that I recall feeling he didn’t understand how early I was.

Brett and I headed downstairs, through the virtual construction zone of our 1st floor, and into the car. Brett opened the car windows and turned on the air conditioning as he drove (something we managed to remember from Hypnobabies) the 5 minutes to the hospital. I texted my sister that I had gone into labor and she replied that everything was going to be okay and that she loved me. I felt my belly contracting during the ride but I wasn’t mentally collected enough to time the waves. My mind was racing not really able to slow down enough to think clearly. I just felt fear. Mostly because I feared something was wrong with the baby and that’s why my labor started early. My secondary (but very real) fear was that we hadn’t finished our Hypnobabies material and that I wouldn’t be able to manage labor without medication. It felt like everything had spun out of control. For some reason it had never occurred to me that I might go into labor early. We had only been to two midwife appointments and had just toured the hospital’s birth center four days prior.

We arrived at the birthing center and walked to the front desk. There was a couple in their pajamas ahead of us, talking to the receptionist. They turned around and smiled at us, saying “It’s a good night to have a baby”. I felt a spark of annoyance and hardly responded – I wondered how to explain that we weren’t sure our baby was okay or would be okay. The couple was led back to triage and I sat down on a couch through a wave.

Moments later, we were taken back and brought into a triage room. I immediately felt a little more in control. At least we were in the right place and we were able to get there promptly. The nurse came in and attached the monitor to my belly. A few seconds later she located the baby’s heartbeat and assured us that it sounded fine. She gave me an internal exam and announced that I was about 3 cm dilated. This surprised me, considering I had just woken up 30 minutes earlier. The nurse also said, in an off-hand way, that our baby didn’t have any hair on its head. The nurse had placed an absorbent pad underneath me, which she whisked away for testing to make sure the liquid was indeed from my bag of waters. The nurse kept coming in and out of the room, asking us if we had ever been to the hospital before since they couldn’t find any of my records. This went on for a while until they determined they would call the midwives once the office opened.

My birthing waves were beginning to demand more of my attention so I began to practice my finger drop technique at the outset of each wave. Between the waves, Brett and I would incredulously remark to each other how crazy this was. We were actually going to be having our baby. It was also during this time that Brett realized he must have stepped in dog poop prior to leaving for the hospital. I was too distracted to notice, but our triage room had been filling with a bad smell. Brett went into the adjoining bathroom and did his best to remove the offending poop. This situation provided us with some much needed levity.

A few minutes later we were brought back to our birthing room. I was relieved to see it had a birthing tub. I asked Brett if he wanted to grab some coffee and something to eat. He took this as me being selfless but in reality I knew I needed him with me and didn’t want him to have to leave me to hunt down sustenance when I was further along in labor. An OBGYN entered (the midwife had been called but hadn’t arrived yet) and asked how I was doing. He asked if I had any questions and if I had intended to utilize any pain medication. I told him I didn’t want any. He watched me during a wave and commented that it looked like I was handling them well and then he left the room. I appreciated how low key and considerate he was.

After the midwife entered and introduced herself as Susana, I asked her if I would be able to birth in the tub. She advised that since the baby was pre-term, he was too susceptible to losing body heat being birthed in water. She said I could labor in the tub but would have to move out for the birthing. I was content knowing I could be in the water for at least part of my labor.

Susana also advised that they would have to treat me as though I was Strep B positive which meant I would have to have two IV treatments during labor. The nurse inserted and secured the needle and then started the first course of antibiotics. I initially got settled on a birthing ball but I started experiencing really intense sensations in my lower back during each wave and it dawned on me with mild horror that this was a symptom of back labor. I asked Susanna if there were positions I should be in if I was having back labor. She set out a yoga mat and suggested that I move to all fours during each wave. I found that I had a hard time dropping into hypnosis in this position because I was having to hold myself up and wasn’t able to relax as effectively. I dropped onto the mat and laid on my side with the Hypnobabies recording playing in one ear. I spoke as little as possible from this point on. Susana was holding a heat pad to my back and belly and Brett had his hands on my head and shoulders. I was in this position for a while, but I’m not sure how long. I started to shiver uncontrollably and the midwife brought over warm blankets to cover me. At some point, during a particularly strong wave, my eyes were still closed but I felt a wave of strong emotion (a combination of sadness? self-pity? fear?) and tears started to stream down my face. Brett and Susana comforted me.

After a while, the noise I was making during birthing waves changed from hums to low moans. I asked when I could get into the tub – although I worried I was using up my one comfort measure too early. Susana got the tub ready and told me I could get in. Partway to the tub I felt a contraction coming on and could only get out an “uh oh” before starting to sink to the floor. Brett caught me and slowed my descent. When I got into the tub the water felt incredible. Brett sat at my head and kept the earphone in my ear and made sure the iPhone didn’t get wet.

Susana’s end of shift came at 7am and she was relieved by Mercedes. Mercedes came over to the tub and introduced herself. She said, “You’re having your baby early, and I’m sorry about that.” Mercedes had an almost unnervingly direct way about her and I think she was making an effort to put words to my emotions, even though I hadn’t said anything. The nurse hooked me up for my second dose of antibiotics. Mercedes watched me through a few waves and then went into the adjoining room to wait with the nurse. My entire time in the tub is hazy in my memory although I know that with each wave I would lean back with an arm on each side of the tub and moan through the wave- trying to keep my mouth wide open and relaxed – getting louder at the peak and tapering off to silence at the end. I would immediately rest my head on the side of the tub, close my eyes and drift off until the next wave came. The nurse would monitor the baby’s heart rate during waves and that really irritated me but I didn’t say anything.

As I got louder Mercedes came back into the bathroom and observed me. I told her I was starting to feel a full sensation and “thought” I kind of wanted to push. I remember thinking that maybe it was all in my head because I just wanted to move to the next step since I felt overwhelmed. She told me if I felt like pushing I could do so really gently and see how it felt. I did this through several waves but wasn’t certain if I was pushing enough or if it was doing anything. Pushing definitely didn’t bring relief as I hoped but I believe that was mostly because of the back labor.

I don’t recall if I asked to move to the bed to continue pushing or if Mercedes directed me to. I got on the bed and laid on my side but Mercedes asked me to lay on my back. She checked my dilation and discovered a lip that she was able to push back during the next wave. Then she and the nurse each held a leg and encouraged me to push through each wave. This continued for a while but Mercedes wasn’t happy with my effectiveness. She asked me why I seemed to be holding back. I told her didn’t know but honestly I didn’t feel I had the energy (or breath) to explain that I was avoiding the pain pushing caused in my lower back and I hated that it felt like I was going to poop with each push. She must have sensed the poop concern because she outright asked me if I was afraid of pooping and then she said, “If you poop, you poop!”

I realized I was only making birthing last longer by not pushing with all of my might. So, from then on I pushed with everything I had (and pooped with what felt like every push, unfortunately). Mercedes started to have me try different pushing techniques. She tied a knot in a towel, handed it to Brett and had me pull against him with every wave. She asked Brett to take the leg the nurse had been holding and had me grab under each knee when the wave began and pull my upper body up as I pushed. This went on for a while.

Mercedes would check the baby’s progress and reported that the baby was moving forward and then slipping back. I was really discouraged to hear that. The frustration was compounded as I also was struggling to catch my breath sufficiently before the next wave hit. Mercedes asked me what I needed to hear. I told her I didn’t know but I didn’t feel like I was making progress and I felt like I was “pushing uphill.” She lifted up the back of the bed and attached a bar for me to grab onto, pull myself up and squat while pushing. When the wave subsided I would fall back onto the bed and try to breathe as deeply as possible as I waited for the wave.

It was around this time that the baby’s head started to emerge. Mercedes, Brett and the nurse were cheering me on through each push. Mercedes asked me what I was feeling and I described the discomfort in my lower back. She removed the bar, rolled up a towel and placed in under my hips. “This is called the ‘California Roll’,” she said.

She and Brett got back into position bracing my legs and I pushed through another wave. “How did that feel?” she asked.

“Terrible,” I responded.

“Good. You’re making progress.”

I continued to push in this position. At one point Mercedes consulted the monitor and told me the baby was getting tired and I would need to get him/her out soon (I later put together that this was at 4 hours of pushing). This struck fear into my heart and I pushed with absolute abandon. A nurse came into the room shortly after to relay a message to Mercedes and commented that “that baby’s holding on by its toes”. My spirit was somewhat buoyed by that observation. Mercedes started applying oil to my perineum and told me I’d be feeling the ring of fire soon and to keep going. I did feel burning a few pushes later and howled through that push – the baby’s head came out the rest of the way, followed by his shoulders.

Mercedes instructed Brett to slide his fingers under the baby’s armpits and helped guide the rest of the body out and onto my belly. Mercedes had to remind Brett, “what is it, dad?” and Brett announced that we had a boy as the baby howled. I looked down and saw our baby boy with his daddy’s nose and – hilariously – horseshoe pattern baldness (which Brett also had at birth). So the triage nurse was partially right about the baldness. Brett and I looked at each other tearfully – absolutely bursting with love, pride and relief.

I pulled baby Simon up to my chest and he stayed there as I birthed the placenta and was examined by Mercedes. She informed me that I had no tears. She also showed me a true knot in his cord – which i still regret not taking a photo of. Brett took him for skin-to-skin as Mercedes massaged my legs and scalp with oil which was incredibly relaxing after all of that strain. She hugged me and told me I did an amazing job and I should be proud. She commended Brett and I for the way we worked together. The nurse said she was glad to have been able to witness such an “interesting” birth. The birth lasted 9 hours and when Simon was weighed he came in at 5 lbs 7 ounces. Besides jaundice, he had no complications from his early arrival.

We felt so supported and cared for throughout Simon’s birth. I spent years reading Birth Without Fear birth stories so I know how differently our experience could have gone. I feel that I have BWF to thank for educating me on how to empower myself and increase my chances of having a pleasant birth. I’m so grateful for all of those stories!

Story and photos submitted by Anne B. 

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant

January and Brandon tell the birth story of baby #5 aka The Bull! They recount the multiple moves, financial hardships, and sheer stress surrounding The Bull’s pregnancy. Somehow they survived the stress of that time period and moved on, but at the time it didn’t feel like it. Also, a trip down memory lane with… Moviefone!

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Click here to download Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant!

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We are having a Labor Day sale at Self Love Generation! Our classic Birth Without Fear logo, “i don’t babysit. I PARENT.”, and “You Do You Boo” unicorn T-shirts are back, along with a re-imagining of our popular “Team NO Sleep” raglan shirt, as well as a “You Do You Boo” rainbow unicorn lanyard that Brandon loves are all 20% off through Labor Day!

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Join January in 2017 at a Find Your Village event near you! January will be in Atlanta, GA on September 9th, and Nashville on September 23rd! Make sure to get your tickets because this is the last year January will be holding Find Your Village events!

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