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Not Quite the Plan or 100% the Plan? A Hospital Birth

Not Quite the Plan or 100% the Plan? A Hospital Birth

My due date was January 22, 2017.  We had planned so much more with this baby than we did our son.  We prepared our son the best we could, I switched my doctor to midwives, we wrote a detailed birth plan, we hired a wonderful doula and toured a wing of the hospital called “The Birth Place” that is designated specifically for low risk pregnancies. They have a queen size bed, rocking chair, and private bathroom.  Mother’s labor, deliver, and recover in the same room. They do not administer Pitocin there or epidurals. I had such a horrible experience with my first with both of those that I was immediately drawn to that aspect. Sign us up…

My due date came and went on a Sunday.  I had an appointment the next day at 40 weeks and 1 day for an ultrasound to check my fluid level with a follow up appointment with my midwife.  I got into the follow up appointment to start a non stress test around 1:30 pm. My midwife came in and had a look that I recognized as a not fun one.  I had much too much fluid left for being that late in the game and she wanted me to head in to the hospital around 4 pm: not quite the plan. I immediately started crying as the words she spoke shot through my brain: break your water, cord before baby, placenta could tear from wall, possible Pitocin, minutes to get a c-section if cord comes first…

So in we went armed with prepped-for-a-week bag, specific pillow for comfort, new, fuzzy, purple socks a friend bought so I wouldn’t be stuck with hospital ones, and anxiety. So. Much. Anxiety.  

Unfortunately, because they had to do some slight induction actions, I was not able to go to the Birth Place as I wanted: not quite the plan. The midwife there at the hospital started a little pill to get my cervix to start thinning and dilate a little more.  She had planned on doing three rounds of it. After the first, I had some bloody show which I was waiting for so that gave me hope. Braxton hicks had picked up a little after the first dose. Then again with the second one. I had made enough progress after the second one that she did not do the third dose.  She said my body was starting to do things a little on its own so she didn’t want to do the third and stress the baby, which was good.

So come the next morning, January 24, the midwife that sent me in from the office was on her shift.  I met her in the hall walking laps as contractions were starting to pick up a little. I excitedly caught her up on what was happening: I was a solid 2 or 3 cm, contractions were coming on their own, I was walking laps to keep them going.  I went back to my room about 930/1000 am. The midwife came in and broke my water which was way less scary than I expected. Let me tell you… it’s a very gross feeling having your water broken. I sat up in bed to make sure the water kept draining.  She kept her fingers up near my cervix to make sure baby’s head was coming down first. She fell right into place as we were hoping. I sat in bed for about another hour. Contractions got just a little more intense so we decided to call in our doula. Our wonderful doula walked laps with us and brought me to some stairs so I could go up and down a few times.  The goal was just to keep contractions going. We did this for just about most of the day.

We went back to my room about 330 pm.  The midwife came in and said basically that we were running out of time: not quite the plan.  She said she wanted to postpone Pitocin as long as she could but we were running out of options and I was not progressing fast enough.  Because I had so much fluid, my uterus had been overstretched for so long that the contractions it was doing were not really doing anything.  My uterus was tired: I feel ya sister. So the midwife said as a last ditch effort to try nipple stimulation for an hour. They brought in a pump and I was to pump until I felt a contraction, wait five minutes and if a contraction did not start on it’s own, then to pump for another five minutes until a contraction started, and keep the pattern going for an hour.  We were looking for contractions to go on their own between 3-5 minutes and last a minute long. At first, they did not come unless I was pumping but then they started coming between 3 and 4 minutes, and only lasted about 45 seconds. The midwife came in after about 45 minutes and recommended going on Pitocin: not quite the plan. The saving grace was that they did not push Pitocin the way the hospital we had our first baby at did.  They start off at 2, and then go up by just one unit in cases like mine. Since my body was showing obvious signs of trying desperately to do something on it’s own, it just needed a little push.

Pitocin definitely got contractions going more.  At about 600, they bumped the Pitocin from 2 to 3 units.  My doula put counter pressure on my back during contractions while my husband played specially requested songs on youtube through his phone for me.  

At about 6:30 pm, the midwife came in to check me and I was 7 cm. Thank goodness. Only 3 cm to go.

I said “really? Seven centimeters already?”

She smiled and said, “ yeah, I told you your body just needed a little push from Pitocin.”

I was shocked because the contractions I was having did not feel like what I imagined 7 cm contractions would feel like. She recommended I get in the labor tub to sort of catch up with myself for a minute and relax before things got even more intense.  So at about 6:45 pm I was in the tub. It felt amazing. My doula spread the scent of lavender and her and the midwife helped me breath through contractions in the water. Before I left my room for the tub, my midwife told me to let her know if I felt any pressure or need to push when I was in there. That most likely meant baby was coming down and I would have to get out and get back to my room as quickly as possible. So I had one contraction and was fine. I had another and felt the pressure.  

I let her know and she said, “okay, let’s do another one and see if the feeling remains and if it does, we’ll get you out and back to the room.”

I felt it more with the third contraction in the water. I immediately stood up in the tub when it was done and said “yep, feeling is still there.”

So we headed back to my room. I had a contraction right as I got to my bed and said to my doula, “I can’t do this.”

She said, “you’re already doing it, it won’t be long now.” I knew as soon as she said it, from my research, that she was right. I got up on the bed and set the back straight up so I could lean over it during contractions which quickly became more serious. I asked for the music to be turned off and my doula rubbed a cold washcloth over my forehead which was one of the most amazing feelings at that moment.

The midwife checked me and said there was a little bit of cervix left to go but I was almost there. I knew from the experience of my son that it would not be long.  The same thing happened with him and 10 minutes after my doctor said that to me, I was ready to push. The midwife was having me sit back on my knees with each contraction and really let gravity do its work.  I became very quiet and internal during the contractions and had the sensation that I was having a bowel movement. In the next second I thought, that’s the baby coming down. I said to the midwife “my body is pushing on its own, she’s coming on her own.”

She said “okay, well try not to, because I don’t know what your cervix is doing yet.”

I thought to myself I don’t know how to stop it from happening, it just is.  The midwife asked for me to turn at least on my side so she could check again to make sure I was good to push. The only problem with that was during my pregnancy I had horrible pelvic pain from everything loosening and stretching like it was supposed to. Adding the extra pressure of baby coming down and moving in any other way other than upright was excruciating. I managed to slither, for lack of a better word, onto my side.  She checked me and I was ready to go.

I had a sudden rush of fear.  I went to push with the next contraction and I felt just the beginning of the ring of fire. That was the only time I let out a scream. I instantly thought, “oh no, I don’t want to do this anymore, no way.” But I knew, it would be over soon and the head was the hardest part. I had to 5-second pep talk myself and just go for it.  That’s what I did. Let me tell you one more time, that ring of fire is nothing to mess around with. But it was the most amazing feeling to be able to feel her head coming. I reached down and felt her as she was crowning. I will never forget how slimy and wonderful her head felt to me and how I’m 90% sure I said the actual word “ick” as I wiped the slime off on my thigh.  Her head was almost out, probably to her nose, when I stopped the push I was doing and I thought, “nope, I don’t want to sit here in this much pain with her head just sitting there, just a little more of her head to go.” I gave half of  another push and I felt her head come the rest of the way.

One of the best parts was looking down at her and watching her turn herself like they are supposed to. I saw her face and she was already screaming. I was thinking “okay, just her body now, one more push and you’re done,” when the midwife said “do you want to pull her the rest of the way? Grab under her arms.”  

I didn’t even respond. I instinctively reached down while I was pushing, scooped her under her arms and pulled her up onto my chest. She slid right out, I laughed and said, “I am woman, hear me roar!”

The things you say in a baby induced oxytocin high.

We did delayed cord clamping, the midwife let me feel her cord pulse. The placenta was delivered and she brought it over to me to explain all the parts of it which was amazing to me.  My mom was even looking at me in awe. My husband cut the cord and she was weighed and measured. Adeline Rebecca was 7 pounds 9.5 ounces and 21 inches long. I was able to nurse her immediately and she was a champion from the beginning. The nice thing is that even though I was not able to deliver in the Birth Place, I was able to recover there. They wheeled me and baby to the new room with a queen size bed, rocking chair, and private bathroom.  My husband and I curled up in the bed with Adeline so he could do some skin to skin contact with her. She was awake, alert, and making eye contact with us as if she was as amazed by us as we were by her: 100% the plan.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Kathryn Garceau. 

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

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

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Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

I’d planned a natural birth in a birth center from the second I found out I was pregnant with my third child. I’d had a dehumanizing induction with my oldest; my second baby’s birth was far better than my first but still not exactly what I wanted so I made huge changes during my third pregnancy in order to finally have the experience I desired. My pregnancy was wonderful and healthy and everything was perfect every step of the way, I received care from a wonderful practice of naturally-minded obstetricians and midwives and truly enjoyed every prenatal visit. Everything was going great and my husband and I were happily anticipating our impending daughter’s birth.

When I hit 37 weeks I started noticing that my skin was very itchy. I used a lot of lotion and didn’t think much of it at first but I quickly realized it was getting worse by the day. I was soon so miserable I was even willing to try anti-histamines despite being reluctant to take any medications while pregnant. Unfortunately neither anti-histamines or any lotion or cream helped at all. After six days it was so horrible I was becoming concerned, this just didn’t feel normal. I called my doctor’s office on a Sunday morning and asked for advice. The midwife I spoke to thought it would be a good idea to come into labor and delivery and have blood drawn to be tested for obstetric cholestasis. After examining me she was hopeful that it was just a miserable case of PUPPPS but felt that the tests were a good idea.

Unfortunately the tests took about a week to come back so we wouldn’t know for sure anytime soon.

The next day I noticed baby was moving a bit less than normal. By that evening movement was significantly less but I was still feeling her enough that I wasn’t panicking. I was up all night trying everything I could think of to get her to resume normal movement but had no luck. I got up in the morning, took our big kids to school and called my doctor’s office. They had me come in immediately for a non-stress test. After a few minutes on the monitors baby wasn’t moving so they brought me apple juice… and more apple juice… and cups of ice water. Attempts to buzz my stomach yielded no results. Baby’s heart rate was perfect but for some reason she was clearly not moving.

A few minutes later one of the doctors came to talk to me. My hands and feet were where the itching was the worst, he examined them carefully and found there was no rash or apparent cause to the itching and said that this was concerning. The timeline of my symptoms and the appearance of my skin were textbook signs of cholestasis, a condition where a build up of bile acids in the blood stream cause intense itching. Still birth is a potential risk of cholestasis and given my baby’s major decrease in movement he felt it would be best to induce labor. He could tell I was extremely upset and was willing to support me even if I disagreed with his recommendation. He told me to call my husband and discuss it with him but that if we decided it would be best to induce labor that he was going to schedule my induction immediately. It didn’t take my husband and I long to agree that this was the best option. Several months before I had attended a Birth Without Fear Meet Up where January described the birth of “Beard Baby”. Prior to her birth she had had decreased movement and January described this as feeling that her baby had “nudged” her. I had a brief moment of peace realizing that my baby was nudging me as well and that this was all a sign that it was time for her to be born.

My mother picked up our children, we packed our bags and in what seemed like seconds we were at the hospital starting the induction. I had a very hard time processing what was happening to me and barely spoke a word for hours. I couldn’t believe that in such a short time my plans for this birth were completely shattered. How could a pregnancy go from complication-free to this in a matter of minutes? I was three centimeters dilated and 50% effaced but I truly did not feel my body or baby were ready to be in labor and I was absolutely terrified to start down this road of interventions.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the midwife from my practice who was there that evening came in to talk. She had a student midwife with her and they were both extremely compassionate and willing to do whatever they could to try to give me as much of the birth center experience as they could. The induction plan was to use Pitocin very slowly and to bring in a portable birth pool for me to labor and birth in. After talking to them I felt a million times better, this wasn’t exactly the birth I wanted but it was going to be okay.

Pitocin was started and I quickly began having regular contractions. I tried to rest through the night but the itching was worse than ever and prevented me from resting at all. One thing I’d found that helped the tiniest bit was Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream and luckily the hospital used this brand. My midwife’s student brought me tons of packets of it and I passed the night applying nipple cream to my entire body. By morning I’d had little progress and was feeling discouraged. I felt sick to my stomach I was so worried that this was going to turn out badly. As the morning went by however, things finally started to pick up a bit and contractions became much more intense. I began having to actually breathe through them and was only comfortable standing up, rocking through them. My midwife Missy and her student Lila Rose thought it would be a good idea to check me and see if they could break my water. They thought that since this was my third baby that if they broke my water things would progress very quickly but I was absolutely convinced there was no way that would work. Regardless I agreed that it was worth a shot. They checked my cervix and found that I was five centimeters. They broke my water and left the room for a bit to be with another patient.

In a matter of minutes my contractions intensified. They went from very uncomfortable to actually painful and I continued standing up, rocking and swaying through them. I suddenly realized I’d been too upset to eat anything for almost twenty hours and became very worried that this would effect my ability to get through labor. My husband offered me several healthy snack options but the only thing that sounded good was a Kit Kat bar that he helped me eat in between contractions. I don’t remember Missy and Lila Rose coming back in the room but when they saw me they realized I was getting close. I didn’t realize this myself though and still truly felt that I was half a day away from giving birth.

I was in a lot of pain at this point and asked to get in the tub. Lila Rose got it ready for me and helped me get in. The warm water was an immediate relief in between contractions but during contractions I was in extreme pain. I remained sure that I was no where near giving birth and this began to alter my state of mind. I was so sure I was going to be in labor for hours upon hours and didn’t know if I could handle this pain for the rest of the day. Lila Rose helped me breathe and focus more during contractions, despite my being a total wreck her words of encouragement were extremely helpful. She was using a Doppler to check baby’s heartbeat frequently and realized her heart rate was going up and staying up and she asked me to get out of the tub. She and my husband helped me get out. As soon as I stepped out I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. Lila Rose told me that that was just the baby and I didn’t really need to use the bathroom. I remember thinking “I’m not an idiot! I know that feeling like you need to use the bathroom is actually the baby when you’re close to giving birth but I am NOT even close to giving birth so I must actually have to go.”

I labored on the toilet for a minute and Lila Rose draped a warm blanket over me. Baby’s heart rate was still high so Missy asked me to try to get on my hands and needs on the bed. I moved into this position pretty easily and the contractions suddenly became absolutely unbearable. Contractions were maybe 20 seconds apart so I wasn’t getting a break between them at all. I started saying there was no way I could do this and that I needed an epidural. Missy tried to calm me down and reminded me that I didn’t want an epidural and that I would most likely regret it. She and Lila Rose tried to get me to focus more on what my body was doing and how each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my baby. I was still sure that I wasn’t actually close to meeting my baby though and asked again for an epidural. They explained that this baby was going to be born before they would even have a chance to request an epidural and I was perplexed. I didn’t understand why they were so sure that I was very close to having a baby when I was beyond certain that I wasn’t close.

Suddenly I felt the urge to push. I slid down on my side and started pushing and instantly my entire mood and mindset changed. I could feel my baby descending and the urge to push made me realize that I really was very close to giving birth. The urge to push was such an immense relief compared to the contractions that I’d been feeling that they actually almost felt good. I could tell each push was extremely productive and she was coming fast. My midwives started telling me that they could see her hair. I could feel intense burning and felt like I was pushing too hard and too fast and I tried to slow down and breathe her out but my body was on auto pilot and I didn’t feel lik&e I had much control over pushing. Before I knew it I could feel her body sliding out and I reached down to touch her, suddenly she was on my chest, screaming, and I was in disbelief. I immediately asked my husband what time it was and found that it had only been about 40 minutes since my water broke.

I birthed the placenta painlessly but my midwives said there were still a lot of large clots in my uterus and working them out was extremely painful. I was bleeding more than they liked though and they wanted to make sure everything was okay. Once they were sure, they checked me for tears and found two very small tears and asked if I would like them to stitch them. They thought they would probably be fine either way but that they would heal a little faster if they were stitched and I agreed. As soon as they were finished they covered my naked baby and I with warm blankets, dimmed the lights and left my husband and I to bond with our baby girl. We were left completely alone for hours and it was absolutely wonderful. No one bothered us or tried to bathe our baby or mess with her at all. A pediatrician stopped in just as I was actually feeling ready to try to get up and use the bathroom and clean myself up a bit anyway so the timing worked out perfectly.

I felt immense relief knowing that our baby girl was earth side, safe and healthy. I had salvaged a pretty awesome birth out of a situation that terrified me. I had been induced with my first baby and had absolutely no control. Every decision was made for me, without me. Not only was I never consulted but I was so disconnected from how birth should be that I didn’t even realize that I had a right to be consulted. I remember feeling as though I was in the way during my own birth. I remember thinking everyone would have an easier time delivering this baby if I wasn’t there. This induction was a completely different and wonderful experience. My health and the health of my baby were the priorities of my doctor but they were not used against me. My choices were respected every step of the way. I received guidance from my health care providers and was allowed to make my own choices. This wasn’t the birth I had planned but it was exactly the birth my baby needed.

Submitted by Kate S. 

Dancing Doctor & Mama

Dancing Doctor & Mama

“Who you choose as a provider will play the biggest role in the options, support, and respect you receive through your pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum journey. Choose carefully, be picky as hell, and don’t hesitate changing if needed. Love yourself enough to get the care you deserve. As much as you would for someone else you love. Yes, love yourself that much, darling, because you’re worth it!” – January Harshe

We love seeing providers like @drfernandoguedescunha who is dancing with mama to get baby down and earthside!

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

The birth of sweet little Elodie really begins with the birth of our son Huck. I had a normal and, dare I say, easy pregnancy with our first. Nothing was out of normal and I had no doubt I would be able to deliver this baby naturally until about 32 weeks when I was diagnosed with severe gestational thrombocytopenia. Basically my blood platelet levels were dropping rapidly, putting both me and the baby at risk for hemorrhaging during the delivery. At this time, we were living in Africa in a city where health care was limited and our doctor became so worried about my severe thrombocytopenia that she demanded a C-section at 36 weeks and 2 days. I ended up having a C-section under general anesthesia and didn’t even get to see my son until he was 3 hours old which left me feeling so removed from the whole birthing process. The whole experience was very traumatic for me and recovery from this C-section, which I never thought would happen, was harder than I ever thought possible. I almost didn’t want another baby until I started reading about VBACs.

When we found out we were pregnant with our second, I knew without a doubt that I wanted the opportunity to try for a VBAC. During this pregnancy we were living in another country overseas which was not the best place to try for a VBAC. After many conversations with my husband, we agreed we would temporarily move back to the States at the end of the pregnancy so I would have the best chance possible of delivering naturally. We emailed an OB/GYN who was a family friend and he was immediately on board and excited about helping me go for a VBAC.

Our pregnancy was pretty routine and easy like my first one but the whole time we questioned whether the thrombocytopenia would come back and what it would mean for my chances of a VBAC. Around my 30th week of pregnancy, we flew the long transatlantic flight back to America and settled into my in-laws’ house with our almost two year old to wait for baby girl’s arrival.

About the same time that we got to America, my platelets started dropping again which meant the thrombocytopenia of my first pregnancy had returned. Our OB/GYN was amazing and had many a long conversation with us about how my low platelets could lead to different outcomes including steroids, induction, and the inability to get an epidural in case of an emergency C-section. The whole time he never mentioned a repeat caesarian as an option for me and made us feel in control of our decisions which was such a different experience from our first pregnancy.

We were fortunate enough to be able to transfer our care to the midwives of his office while he still helped us navigate the thrombocytopenia. Still we were forced to wait to see what my platelets would do. Every week I had blood draws to check my platelet count and each week, from 30-35 weeks, they dropped more and more until they were around 90,000. At this number they are considered too low for epidural and were coming closer and closer to the number our doctor wanted to induce me at. I had many good cries about my platelets and about the idea of having to go on steroids and then have an induction as I had really wanted an intervention-free birth where I could labor at home as much as possible. There were moments I was convinced my dream of a VBAC was slipping away. I wanted so badly to avoid interventions or an induction. I had this overriding desire to see what my body could do because I felt like I was robbed of the chance of experiencing labor with my first. I knew my body could do it if only it was giving the chance but with the thrombocytopenia I was so scared I would not be given the opportunity to naturally labor. All this time, my husband was always there to encourage me to trust my body and believe that we could have the birth I wanted.

We asked all our friends to start praying for my platelets to miraculously go up, even though we were prepared for them to start drastically dropping as they did in my first pregnancy. We went in for my 36 week blood draw full of trepidation to see where my platelets had fallen to. My husband called for the results a few hours later and found out they had gone up to 105,000. That was the first time ever in either of my pregnancies that my platelets had gone up! Over the next two weeks they kept going up until they were at a really good level (121,000) when I entered my 38th week.

At this point I started knowing in my heart that this was the ideal time for baby girl to come as we didn’t know if and when my platelets would drop again. On Thursday we went to our chiropractor for an adjustment and then spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday walking a ton. Each night I told baby girl that then was a good time for her to come. Sunday night I went to bed asking God to bring baby girl in his timing but asking Him to allow me the natural VBAC we had worked so hard for.

Around 1:00am Monday morning (I was 38 weeks 4 days), I woke up for my nightly pee and noticed bloody show in the toilet. I got really excited and knew that this at least meant my body was getting ready. Almost immediately after that I started getting my first ever contractions (I never had one with my first pregnancy). My husband was sleeping in our two year old’s room because our son was sick with a cold and ear infection so I laid in bed timing my contractions. I ended up having contractions all night long every 5-7 minutes apart. In the morning they spread way out and my husband and I were both disappointed. I had contractions off and on all Monday then throughout the night again which left me exhausted by Tuesday. Tuesday we spent the day relaxing and napping as contractions came and went. I eventually told my husband I did not think I could do another night of these contractions and I really hoped active labor would start soon. My husband ran out Tuesday evening to get me some of my favorite soup for dinner while I bounced on my birthing ball and watched our two-year-old.

It was at this point that the contractions changed from being mildly annoying to being painful. I started having to concentrate on breathing more and really focus during them. My husband at this point didn’t realize that things were changing so he was going about doing dishes and laundry…at some point I snapped at him to stop leaving me alone because I needed him. He said it was at this moment he realized things were picking up. We sat together and watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy as contractions came every 7-10 minutes or so. It wasn’t until around 9pm that I think I really entered active labor. I moved into the shower and labored there as contractions started coming every 5 minutes or so. Eventually we ran out of hot water for the shower so I went into the bedroom. It was at this point the contractions became really intensely painful. My husband called our doula and she came by the house to check on us. It was about 11:15pm and she guessed I was probably 4.5-6 centimeters and said I should try to sleep between contractions as I was now on my third night without much sleep. She left around 11:45pm asking us to call her when we headed to the hospital, which she thought would be in about 2 or 3 hours. As soon as she left contractions picked up in both intensity and frequency. They started coming almost every 2 to 3 minutes and lasting almost a minute. I was a little shocked by how intense they got in such a short amount of time. I told my husband that we needed to head to the hospital then. He was hesitant to go to the hospital as the contractions had not been that consistent for a whole hour yet. After a few more minutes of me yelling about going to the hospital, he decided it was indeed time to go and we headed out. The drive to the hospital was only about 10 minutes but I was contracting every 2 to 3 minutes so it seemed much longer.

We got to the hospital around 12:20am and were checked around 12:30. The nurse said I was a stretchy 6.5 centimeters so I was immediately brought to a labor and delivery room. At this point I was exhausted and demanded some IV pain killers. I knew I didn’t want an epidural but I was beginning to panic between contractions and knew I needed something to calm down. The painkillers helped me relax and sleep a bit between contractions with me still waking up every 3 to 4 minutes to breathe, scream, and occasionally cuss through so wildly intense and painful contractions. All this time the nurses were struggling with monitors for fetal heart beat and contractions. I did not know what they were talking about but I kept hearing them say “the contractions aren’t being read on the monitor” which in my tired mind meant that they weren’t strong enough to be picked up yet. That totally freaked me out as I thought I must just be at the beginning of labor. I kept asking our doula and husband if all of this was just false labor, to which they kept assuring me that this was really labor and a baby was coming soon.

By around 1:45am the painkillers had worn off and I started asking (demanding) for an epidural during every contraction. Our doula knew in that moment that I would really regret that decision so she lovingly but strongly told me no. Our nurses were awesome in honoring our request that they not suggest or bring up epidural either. Our doula did suggest I get checked at 2:00am as a way to give me a goal. At 2:00am our midwife checked me and I was at 9cm and the baby was at a 0 station. It was then suggested by our doula, that our midwife should break my water to help speed things along. At 2:15am she broke my water and I immediately began to feel the baby moving down. After about 2 contractions where I felt baby moving down, I told everyone in the room that I was going to start pushing. Our midwife, thinking I was still at 9cm, told me to try not to push. I told her again I was pushing and pushed with the next contraction. She had me flip over onto my back (I had been on my knees up over the top of the bed the whole time) to check and saw that the baby was close. At that point she called the nurses in and told me that since pushing was working I should just keep going. At that point all I wanted in the world was to get that baby out. I started pushing at around 2:25am and baby was crowning after only 2 or 3 contractions. Even as the baby was crowning I was scared of messing up somehow and needing a repeat C-section. I think almost everyone in the room laughed as baby was crowning and I was asking if there was any way that I was still going to have a C-section and if I was really in labor. It all just happened so fast that I was in shock!

The moment I pushed my baby girl out was literally one of the best and most empowering moments of my life. Her head came out and the rest of her body followed immediately. Our midwife placed her right on my chest and that is where she stayed for over an hour. After having a general anesthesia C-section with our son, getting to spend the first hour of my daughter’s life just holding her was a gift that I could not possibly be more thankful for. It was only after my daughter’s arrival that our midwife told me that my platelets had indeed dropped again and were under the threshold for an epidural. My husband and I are both so thankful we did not know that going into the hospital as the fear of a general anesthesia C-section would have caused me to panic. We are just so thankful baby girl came right when she needed to and exactly how she needed to.

Overall, I felt like my husband and I really fought for this VBAC and it was so worth it. We felt educated, informed, and empowered during the whole pregnancy. Even when dealing with thrombocytopenia and the complications that came with that, we felt like all our providers were fighting alongside us for our VBAC. All I wanted was to give my body a chance to do what I knew it could do and what it was made for. Our amazing team never pushed any interventions on me and allowed me to labor how I wanted. Our midwife was absolutely amazing in completely following my lead and allowing me and my body to control the pace and feel of labor. One of my recovery nurses, while reading the notes on my labor and how fast it went, said, “It is just sad you ever had to have a C-section in the first place. It’s clear that your body was just made for this.” It was such a redemptive moment for me to once again believe in my body’s ability to birth.

Overall, God gifted us with a birth we only could have dreamed about with only 2 hours in the hospital from check-in to baby. We now are thrilled to have a beautiful, healthy baby girl that came into this world naturally, surrounded by a loving and supportive team.

Story and photographs submitted by Julia Van Scott. 

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #8: BeardBaby’s Birth & Closed For Business!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #8: BeardBaby’s Birth & Closed For Business!

January and Brandon tell the birth story of baby #6 aka BeardBaby! They reveal how Brandon’s newly grown beard in 2014 magically led to another pregnancy, how January received prenatal care from both midwives and an OB/GYN, and how a newborn baby can temporarily cure the flu!

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Click here to download Episode #8: BeardBaby’s Birth & Closed For Business!

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We are having a 30% sale on all “Team No Sleep” raglan shirts at Self Love Generation! We also have our classic Birth Without Fear logo T-shirts and “You Do You Boo” rainbow unicorn lanyard that Brandon loves! 

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

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

To tell you about the birth of my second child, I have to tell you about the birth of my first child. With my first pregnancy I had Gestational Diabetes, and Gestational Hypertension and due to mounting concerns from my midwives from my rising blood pressure and heart rate, I was induced at 39 weeks. My cervix was dilated with a foley balloon, and then my water was broken. After 10 hours of intense labor, I was hooked up to pitocin which caused back to back, incredibly painful contractions with no break in between. I quickly became overwhelmed and frightened, and I gave up on my natural birth plan and got an epidural. Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy my husband Josh and I named Henry. Despite the fact that I had a beautiful and healthy baby, I had this irrational feeling that I had somehow failed at his birth.

Fast forward 4 years to my second pregnancy. This second time around I had several goals so that I would get the birth experience that I wanted. The first was to go into labor on my own. The second was to have a natural birth with no interventions (I wanted to stay as far away from pitocin as I could), and the third goal was to have a water birth.

So to prepare for the natural birth, I tried to cement into my head that I can do anything for one minute. Meaning, that when those contractions became difficult, painful and/or overwhelming, I could focus on the fact that it would be over in one minute, and then I’d get a break. I would meditate on that subject, and go to sleep at night thinking about it, building my foundation for this natural birth that I so wanted.

With both of my pregnancies I had Gestational Diabetes, but the second time around I did not have the hypertension that I had in the first; my blood pressure stayed beautiful the whole time. The main difference between my pregnancies were the false labor (practice labor) contractions that I had. For the last several weeks of my pregnancy (and by “several weeks” I mean at least 5 weeks) I would have timeable contractions that would start, increase in intensity and then all of a sudden stop. Starting at 36 weeks we had several false alarms. Some that even sent us to the Midwife’s office to be assessed, but each time, it turned out to be braxton hicks contractions. The longer I stayed pregnant the more I felt like a ticking time bomb. I was more than ready for my baby to decide on its birthday. Having to relinquish the control and let the baby decide when it wanted to be born was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy, and I struggled with that aspect almost every day.

When I hit 40 weeks, I was a bit shocked. I assumed that since this was a second kiddo that I wouldn’t make it to my due date, but June 12th came and went. I started to feel like I’d be pregnant forever, and that I’d be enrolling my gigantic belly into kindergarten. The longer I stayed pregnant the more my brain started to assess every cramp, twinge and pain that I felt, which at 40+ weeks is about every 4.3 seconds. I felt like I was slowly losing my sanity while waiting for my baby to decide what day it wanted to be born. This kid wanted to stay put despite all the red raspberry leaf tea I was drinking, all the evening primrose oil I was taking, all the squats that I did, and the daily walks I took.

On Friday the 17th, at 5 days past my due date, I broke down and called my midwife’s office and asked if I could come in and talk about options. I was starting to get a bit nervous about going over my due date because of the Gestational Diabetes, as well as just wanting to be done being pregnant. I’m one of those people who don’t love being pregnant. I love the end result, but the actual process of growing a human is extremely hard on me. I had horrible morning sickness the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, and then had two trips to the hospital in my third trimester because of gallbladder issues, and let’s be honest, GD, although manageable, doesn’t make things easy either.

Anyway, on June 17th, I was really hoping that I could get my membranes stripped, and that it might propel me into labor. However, at the appointment one of my midwives informed me that she couldn’t reach my membranes to strip them, so unless I wanted to schedule an induction, I was just to wait. Josh and I had talked about having an induction, and we were considering it as an option. However, when the midwife brought it up and described how she would induce me, I firmly decided against it. Hearing the process she would take for the induction brought back all of the memories of my first birth. So, we went home a bit sad and discouraged, and resigned ourselves to wait.

I had a few contractions on Friday night after the appointment, some even timeable, but I didn’t think anything of them. As always, I was disappointed that I was able to go to sleep and that they seemed to have stopped. On Saturday, the day before I hit 41 weeks, I had some projects to do around the house (making Josh’s Father’s Day gift with Henry), and as the day wore on, I noticed that I had been having contractions for most of the morning. At some point I texted Josh to tell him that I was having them, but I didn’t know if it would lead to anything, so not to get excited. He got similar texts to that one for about the last 5 weeks, so he didn’t think much of that text either. My contractions were irregular in length, and really far apart – 40 minutes or so, and very mild, I could ignore them easily. To me they still felt like braxton hicks.

In the afternoon Josh and I took a 2+ mile walk in our neighborhood. It was great time to spend just the two of us. We talked about how we wanted labor to go, when we thought the baby would come, and how our first son Henry would do as an older sibling. We were so excited for this baby to join us! I was contracting all through the walk, but didn’t think anything of it, those contractions had become so routine.

We had a friend’s birthday party to attend that night, and I really wanted to go. So, Josh and I got ready and headed out of the house around 5:30. We dropped Henry off at the in-laws for him to spend the night (that turned out to be very serendipitous), and drove out to the party downtown.
All through the party I was having contractions, and after a while I was noticing that I needed to zone out while they were happening. They were still really far apart, and I could still talk through them if I needed to, but they were getting harder and harder to ignore. They still weren’t painful, but I was starting to have to focus on them and my breathing during them.

Josh and I had a really great time, and as we walked around downtown I had a lot of people comment on my belly. Around 9 pm, we stopped at a restaurant and got something to eat. While eating dinner, I noticed that my contractions were getting closer together, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I had a strong contraction while in there. It’s at that point that I started to think these contractions might actually lead to something. A short time later I noticed another contraction that was strong as well. After 4 strong contractions (at 10:15ish) I told Josh that we probably needed to head home. So, we paid for our meal, packed up to-go boxes, and said goodbye to our friends. As we were walking to our car, I heard a guy yell out of his car window “Are you going to have that baby on Elm St?!” I yelled back “I wish!”

As we were walking to the car I told Josh about the contractions and that we should start timing them as we drive home. He seemed surprised at that statement, but pulled the app up on the phone to time them. As Josh had had a few beers that night, I ended up driving home while having contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. I supposed I should have mentioned the contractions earlier…It’s a good thing that my excitement trumped any kind of pain I was feeling. The first contraction we timed was at 10:45. As soon as we got home, we finished packing the go bag and got everything ready in case this was really it.

Once the bag was packed, everything seemed to get more intense fairly quickly. By midnight my contractions were about 5 minutes apart. They were starting to get strong, and to get through them, I was leaning over the yoga ball and having Josh do counter pressure on my lower back. It’s around this time that my back labor started. My pelvis and lower back were really starting to hurt, but leaning over the ball and firm pressure on my lower back really helped and kept them manageable.

We called our doula to let her know what was happening. She asked how I was handling everything, and I told her I was ok. She told us to keep her posted, but because I hadn’t had any bloody show, or lost my mucus plug she wasn’t convinced that this was it, especially with all of the false alarms we’d had. She told us to call her the moment I saw bloody show, or if I needed help and wanted her to come to the house. I was handling everything well at this point, so I just kept laboring.

Some more time passed and when my contractions hit around 4 minutes apart Josh and I called our midwife to let her know what was up, and she said to head to the hospital at any time. I wanted to wait as long as possible at home, so we just kept going. Me leaning over the yoga ball, breathing through contractions, Josh doing counter pressure on my back and The Office streaming from Netflix to distract us between contractions.

By 1:00, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, and I was really having to concentrate to get through them, and had started to vocalize during them. My mom joined us around this time and was helping to get things ready for us to head out. I kept waiting for my contractions to become as painful as what I remembered from my first pregnancy, but that never happened. And because I never reached that pain threshold, I was really unsure about when to head to the hospital. As long as I was in a position that took the pressure off of my lower back, I was good.

Still unsure that it was time, Josh, my mom and I left for the hospital at around 1:30. As we were getting ready to get in the car I just stood at the car door and had 2 contractions standing there because I didn’t want to sit down. I was having strong back pain, and I knew sitting would put an unwelcome amount of pressure on my pelvis and would be excruciating…I wasn’t wrong.

That 30-minute trip to the hospital was awful. I tried to lay on my sides as much as possible to take pressure off of my lower back and pelvis, but I could never find a comfortable position. I withered in pain during each contraction (2 minutes apart at this point) and the pain in my back was unbelievable. Josh was my rock though. He kept calling out landmarks as we were driving so that I’d know how close we were getting. As soon as we got to the hospital I was out of that car as fast as I could be.

While checking in I had several more contractions. I would sit in the chair to rest while talking and answering questions to the woman behind the counter, and during each contraction I would have to stand up and lean over the counter and moan, this didn’t seem to faze the woman at all. Once I had a bracelet on my wrist, I was in the waiting room and had to lean on chairs. My mom applied counter pressure on my back while Josh parked the car.

At this point in time my contractions were fierce and almost frightening in their intensity. I was finding it harder and harder to keep my composure. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do this and that I wanted an epidural. I even voiced those thoughts to my mom who told me I could have whatever I wanted – sweet words that helped me calm down. Soon after those thoughts popped in my head, our doula arrived (Josh called her at some point to let her know we were going to the hospital) and was helping me with positions while we waited to be called back, and my thoughts of giving up on a natural birth went away.

I was the only one in the waiting room, and was taken to be assessed fairly quickly. They checked my blood pressure (which was up) and temp (which was normal). They then took me straight back to a room – although I hadn’t been admitted yet. It took some time to get to the room. I didn’t want to sit in a wheelchair, so I walked. And, during each contraction I would stop and lean on Josh in the hallway.

I had three nurses that seemed to be moving and buzzing all around me. Soon after getting into the room a nurse asked me to undress from the waist down so that she could check me. I dreaded getting on my back, but I managed it. I was so worried that they were going to tell me that I was only 3 cm and that I needed to go back home. However, I was relieved to find out that I was at 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced! No wonder I’d been having thoughts on giving up – I was in transition!! I remember looking at Josh and smiling, at that point we knew it wouldn’t be long before we got to meet our baby!

For the next little while, I was standing next to the bed, with my head on Josh’s chest, eyes closed, belly hanging down between us and moaning through contractions while a nurse hooked up the belts to my belly. I had another that was putting an IV in my arm for my GBS, and another that was entering information into the computer. All through this, my midwife still wasn’t at the hospital, and was on her way. In all of our haste, we forgot to call her. The nurses were texting her telling her to hurry.

I remember a nurse saying that my IV was placed at 2:45. We had planned all along for this to be a water birth, and I was excited for it! I was more than ready to get in that warm water. However, I was told that I couldn’t get in the birthing pool until my midwife got there because of paperwork. And, because my midwife wasn’t there, my doula couldn’t even fill up the tub! To cut the tension that information caused, Josh tried to distract everyone by taking a poll about the baby’s gender. Apparently, there had been a streak of girls born at the hospital and all the nurses thought the baby would be a girl.

All this time going by, I was still standing next to the bed with my head on Josh’s chest and eyes closed. Being in labor is the wildest feeling. I was conscious, and aware of everything that was going on, but I was also totally in my own head, my brain thinking and whirring the whole time but unable or unwilling to voice most of it. I was just concentrating on the contractions, trying to remain relaxed and loose, and to rest as much as possible between them.

The nurses must have pushed my IV fairly quickly, almost as soon as it was placed it was taken out. They left a heparin lock in, and taped a rubber glove over my arm so that I could get in the tub when the time came.

I’m fuzzy on the times, but I was told that my midwife got to the hospital around 3:10, and it’s at that point that I was finally admitted to the hospital. I found out later that she had her shirt on inside out because she was in such a hurry to get there. As soon as she came in she got the paperwork going for the birthing tub to be set up, and then she turned to me and wanted to check me. I was so over being checked, and I didn’t want to get on my back because of the back labor I was having. I didn’t want to move, I just wanted to stay exactly as I was, but I finally consented.

I waited until I had just finished a contraction, and got on the bed. She checked me fairly quickly and told me that I was now at 9 cm! But, she then kept me on my back to break my water. I was irritated at this, because she never asked if she could break it, and I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late to do anything about it. As my doula was setting up the tub, she didn’t know it was happening until after. And, then of course I had another contraction while on my back, which caused me to whither and cry out in pain, derailing me from my focus. Back labor is just awful….

In retrospect, I wish I had declined that final check, but labor is a funky thing. With both of my births I have found that when someone tells me to do something, I’ve found that I generally just do it without thinking, despite all the plans I had made previously.

I remember looking at the bed after my water had been broken and saw my mucus plug and bloody show on the pad. Who would have thought that at 9 cm dilated that those two things would still be firmly in place? My water was clear, so thankfully I’d be allowed to get in the pool. I was told that if my water had meconium in it I wouldn’t be allowed to labor or deliver in the pool. I had one contraction after my water was broken, and man they don’t lie when they say that contractions are more intense after your water breaks.

After all of that, the pool was finally ready and I was chomping at the bit to get in it. The warm water felt amazing, and really helped to take the edge off the contractions. Almost as soon as I was in the water, my body started to push on its own. I was kneeling in the pool, hanging over the edge and pushing, and pushing and pushing…..and getting nowhere. After a while, my midwife checked me while I was in the pool and discovered that I had an anterior lip of cervix caught between my pubic bone and the baby’s head which was now swollen. So, my midwife had me flip over on my back to push for a few contractions while she tried to move the lip of my cervix out of the way. #1. it hurt like hell to be on my back again, #2. it hurt even more when she was messing with my cervix. I believe I was screaming in pain.

My midwife couldn’t get my cervix to move out of the way while I was in the pool, so she then wanted me to get out of the pool and onto the bed. The move out of the pool took an immense amount of strength for me. I did not want to move. I was in pain, out of focus and just wanted to be left alone. I remember that I was thinking that I just wanted this to be over, and I wanted a break. I even had thoughts of wanting a C-section so I could be done. I never voiced those thoughts, and eventually I did make it onto the bed. I believe Josh and the nurses had to almost physically haul me out of the tub.

And, once again I was put on my back while my midwife tried to move my cervix out of the way. It was more painful than it sounds. I remember yelling quite fiercely while she was moving it, and begging for her to stop. She kept telling me that I wouldn’t like her during this, but I would like her afterward, and she was right. Eventually she got the lip out of the way. She had me then get on my knees and push on the bed for two contractions, to get the baby’s head below the lip. That time it worked, and I could get back in the pool. However, I didn’t want to move. I remember telling everyone to leave me alone, that I just wanted to relax and have some downtime. My contractions had spaced out and weren’t as hard as the transition contractions, and I just breathed through them without bearing down, giving myself a little rest. I was tired, and my energy was draining, and I really just wanted a nap. My doula was strongly encouraging me to get back in the water before I had the baby on the bed, and eventually I summoned the strength to move again.

As soon as I started pushing in the pool, I could feel the baby moving down. And, fairly soon the head was right there, ready to come out. That feeling, freaked me the hell out. It burned oh so badly. I felt like I was stretched to the max and was about to tear from stem to stern. But, Josh, my mom, my midwife and doula helped me get refocused. Seriously, Josh was amazing the whole time. He really was my rock and kept me focused and determined. He was repeating the mantra I’d been saying to myself my whole pregnancy: I can do anything for one minute. That helped snap me out of my freakout. I also remember my midwife telling me that I was fine, and that I wasn’t going to tear apart, which was reassuring. They then helped me widen my knees and when I was pushing I would sit back, almost in a child’s pose, or as close to child’s pose as a pregnant, laboring woman can get. Seriously, my face was in the water as I was pushing. After a few more times pushing like that, and out the baby came. I believe the baby came out in one push. One of the nurses later told me that the baby ended up doing a flip in the water as he came out.

The next thing I heard was Josh announcing that the baby was a boy! It took some fancy maneuvering since he came out so fast behind me, but I was able to stand up, step over the cord, sit back down in the water and then he was handed to me. For the next while I was holding our son to my belly (the cord was too short to reach to my chest) skin to skin in the water and just marveling him. I just kept thinking how beautiful he was. He was squishy and plump and perfect in every way. He cried a few times, and then was just alert and calm, snuggling with me. Josh was leaning over the pool and I could hear in his voice that he was tearing up. It was a very beautiful moment.

Soon enough the cord stopped pulsating and Josh cut the cord. Not long after, I handed Josh the baby to do skin to skin with while I got out of the tub. I got up on the bed and I was covered with warm blankets, and then the baby was handed back to me. He nestled right on my chest, and was just beautiful. It’s at that point that we decided to name him Benjamin.

I definitely remember still having contractions after Ben was born, which I still had to breathe through, but I didn’t care about them. Instead, I was irritated at the umbilical cord, because it just kept seeming to get in the way and rub places that it did not feel good to rub against. Thankfully, not long after getting up on the bed I delivered the placenta, which didn’t hurt at all. I had a tear (no idea on the degree, I never asked), which required stitches (I have no idea how many). My midwife gave me a few shots to numb the area, which stung, and then I could feel her stitching me up, feel the thread pulling through skin, but oddly it didn’t hurt. All while that was happening the nurses were assessing Ben on my chest. Ben’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9.

We got over an hour of skin to skin time before Ben was taken to be weighed. It seemed no one in the room could agree on how much they thought he’d weigh. The nurses all suspected that he’d be around 7 lbs, but we were all surprised when he was 8 lbs, 6 oz. He was 20.5 inches long, with a head circumference of 14 inches.

After everything was all said and done, and we had been moved from Labor and Delivery to the Mother/Baby suite, things settled down and I was finally able to really connect with my son. I’ve read account after account of women getting that natural oxytocin rush immediately after delivery, but that overwhelming feeling of love, comfort and peace didn’t come to me until about 3+ hours after Ben was born. I believe because those first two hours are so busy, with so many people working on you and assessing the baby, even while you’re holding him, that it’s hard to just sit and relax and bond. But, once it was just me and my husband alone with Benjamin, that overwhelming feeling of love started to flow. Even now, over 6 months later, I still get that feeling whenever I look at my boys.

Benjamin was born at 4:23 in the morning on June 19, 2016 – Father’s Day. I think that he was the best Father’s Day gift that we could have asked for!

Story and photographs submitted by Amanda C. 

Oxytocin Vibes, Covered in Vernix, & Birthing Next to a Baby Deer

Oxytocin Vibes, Covered in Vernix, & Birthing Next to a Baby Deer

In case you missed the Birth Without Fear Instagram this past week…

✨weekend mood & oxytocin vibes✨ 📷:@lindseymeehleis #birthwithoutfear #oxytocinvibes #optionssupportrespect

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Just a sweet little baby and a whole lotta vernix. ♥️ @kendalblackerbirth #justborn #oxytocinvibes #birthwithoutfear

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Happy weekend friends! TAG a pregnant friend. 🤰🏾@januaryharshe #birthwithoutfear #optionssupportrespect

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