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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #35: 5 things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #35: 5 things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

The Harshe Podcast welcomes its first guest! Tara Brooke from Doula Trainings International joins January to speak about the difference in parenting culture in Spain vs the US, racial disparity regarding birth in the US, the importance of making a postpartum plan, dealing with family after the birth, not being afraid to ask for help from family or your doula, and what your doula really thinks of you!

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Click here to download Episode #35: 5 Things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

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Considering certification as a childbirth educator but haven’t quite found the right fit yet? Interested in creating inclusive classes where birthing people can become educated about their options and patient rights?

If you’re eagerly nodding your head along to one or all of these questions, we got ya! Become a childbirth educator with Doula Trainings International‘s Childbirth Edu Training program. 

https://www.doulatrainingsinternational.com/dtis-childbirth-edu-training-program/ 

The online platform will take you through certification requirements, tracking your participation progress for your own review of the curriculum and corresponding teaching guide, required scholarly reads and required videos.

https://www.doulatrainingsinternational.com/dtis-edu-childbirth-education-different/

This training is available for both conference attendees and those only seeking Childbirth Education Teacher Certification at DTI’s inaugural Born Into This Conference on July 12-13 in Austin, TX. What you would normally get in our 3 month online program, you will get in this 2 day in person training. You’ll walk away ready to go!

Check out WeAreDTI.com for more details!

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.

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. 

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

February 1, 2014: That tiny internet cheapie pregnancy test finally showed two faint lines. I mean barely see it, squint your eyes and pretend it’s there type of faint. Suddenly, disbelief became my emotion. How could I tell Tyler I was finally pregnant, after just shy of a year since we began trying to conceive, if I wasn’t even 100% the test was positive? I kept quiet and waited for Tyler to go to bed, knowing good well I should just wait and test again in the morning. Emotions took control over me and I whipped out the expensive store bought pregnancy test that had been hiding under my bathroom sink just waiting for this defining moment. So, I took the test and waited. Before the time had elapsed, I looked at that stick and thought no way is this happening. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we wanted this, we had been praying for this moment, but after peeing on what felt like hundreds of sticks, you start to think it will never happen. Of course, I shared the news with Tyler and we each went through extreme ranges of emotions, ending in cautious excitement.

Approximately 7 weeks pregnant: The day finally arrived to go to our OB appointment and confirm that we are actually pregnant! Seeing that tiny little bean on the ultrasound broke me in the most beautiful way possible. I was carrying a tiny human! A tiny human that I had to nourish and protect. A tiny human that I had no control over, because after all it’s in God’s hands.

16-20 weeks pregnant: My phone rings while I am at work, I look down and see it’s the OB calling. I hesitantly answer, wondering why they would be calling; not thinking it may be the results from our downs syndrome screening. It was the nurse on the other end, who informed me that we were high risk for downs syndrome and would be referred to a specialist. Two weeks later, I found myself sitting in the parking lot at this new and strange office. As I was waiting to go in, Bring the Rain by Mercy Me came on the radio. I lost it! All I could do was pray and remind myself that no matter what this doctor said, no matter the outcome of any tests, I had a miracle growing inside of me, and I would remain strong for this baby. Then the hard part came, getting out of the car and making it in to the waiting room to see a specialist. How did such a beautiful miracle end up with us sitting in this waiting room, leaving us feeling alone and afraid of the unknown. Now we knew regardless what the results were, that we would love this baby unconditionally. We were finally called back to ultrasound, to take more in depth measurements of our little pumpkin and then to meet with the doctor. We left this appointment feeling a little more positive, since the ultrasound showed no markers that were of concern. A couple of weeks after this appointment, we got a phone call saying that the blood test was negative and we could just about rule out downs syndrome. I hung up the phone praising God and realizing that everything happens for a reason. Never doubt God, even though we felt very much alone, He was always there.

20-34 weeks pregnant: Other than morning sickness since about 8 weeks, everything seemed to be going smoothly at this point. We found out we were having a little girl and anxiously awaited the arrival of little Lana.

34 weeks pregnant: I went in for my regular 2 week check at the OB. However, the appointment was a little different. My heart rate was way above my normal. My heart rate was in the 150’s, which I had consistently been in the 70’s this entire pregnancy. This scare ended in blood work and a referral to the cardiologist, where they did an echocardiogram, EKG and a 24 hour holter monitor. After the testing, I was put on a beta blocker to control my heart rate and vitamins to help with severe anemia. I was also taken out of work to rest and allow my blood volume to hopefully increase before delivery.

37 weeks pregnant: At this point, I went in to the “it could happen anytime now” mindset. After a few days of that thinking, I kindly reminded myself, that it could also happen at 42 weeks, so I decided to try and enjoy these last few days/weeks, instead of focusing on it as a countdown.

October 10, 2014: It’s officially our estimated delivery date! I went with my mom to get pedicures as kind of a celebration that we made it! I was secretly hoping the foot massage would put me in to labor. Nope. Our estimated date came and went.

October 11 – October 19, 2014: Patience is a virtue, right? I had my rough moments, but I was prepared for the long haul (42 weeks). I kept reminding myself that I would let my baby choose her birthdate. If there is no medical reason to be induced, then why do it? The more days that passed, the tougher it got to handle the comments about why I haven’t been induced or the recommendations on what I should do to go in to labor. I had several episodes of false labor, which can totally mess with your mind. With each back ache, stomach cramp or strange feeling, I thought could this be it? We continued to wait.

October 15, 2014: I went to my appointment with my OB. I was a beautiful, swollen, 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant woman. Everything checked out fine and we scheduled my next appointment for October 20th at 3:15pm to discuss our induction plan, which would be set up if I did not go in to labor by 42 weeks (10/24/14).

October 16, 2014: My mom and I went on several walks just to keep me moving and help ready my body for labor….if it would ever start! I began showing a few signs that labor would begin…at some point.

October 19, 2014: I literally had come to the point where I thought I would never have this baby. Could I be pregnant forever? Surely, no one has been pregnant forever. I talked to our doula and we decided to chat before I went to my appointment the next afternoon, just to put me at ease and prepare me for the induction conversation. This was an appointment that I was absolutely stressing over!

October 20, 2014 (41 weeks, 3 days pregnant): I hadn’t been able to sleep for weeks now. I would stay up until 4am or so wide awake! Sometime after midnight, I decided to update the chalk board in our kitchen to say “Welcome Lana” because she would eventually be joining us…I think.

3am- I decided to get a bath and see if that would help relax me enough to go to sleep. This had become a normal nightly, well early morning routine. I started feeling those achy back pains, which I had been feeling for a week or so now. All I could think was seriously, I am so tired of this, why can’t I just have this baby already. I was dreading the appointment that I would no doubt be going to later in the day. I was trying to prepare myself, knowing I would end up being induced and that my desire for a natural/med free birth was slowly slipping away. As I got out of the bath, the achy back had turned in to cramping. Hmmm…definitely not labor, because I am never having this baby…I will be pregnant forever.

5am- I finally get my very pregnant self into bed. I am lying on my side, because at this point, it’s the only option left. The back pain had picked up in intensity. The thought of it being early labor flickered in my mind. I thought I would try to sleep just in case labor was really starting. After laying there realizing this achy sensation was becoming more intense and cramps had really started to pick up, all I could do was rock back and forth while lying in bed. I wanted sleep to come, but it was nowhere in sight, so I rocked to keep myself comfortable.

7am- Tyler begins getting ready for work. I tell him how I am feeling, but encourage him to finish getting ready and go to work, because I doubt this is labor. I told him if it ended up being labor he could just come back home, but don’t waste a vacation day for nothing.

8am- I text my mom and tell her how I have been feeling. She offered to come over to the house and be with me. I debated whether she should really waste her time coming over and decided that whatever was happening to my body was not slowing down and definitely not stopping, so I wouldn’t mind the company. Mom showed up within probably 20 minutes. When she got to the house, I was bent over on the couch with crazy back pain. She asked if it was mild, moderate or intense. My response was it hurt like sh**. I was still in denial that this was labor. Shouldn’t I be feeling contractions? Heck, how would I know if it was a contraction or not? What does a contraction even feel like? All of these questions flooded my tired mind. I figured since whatever was happening was picking up, we would take a walk to see if it would continue. As we are walking around my street, I am doubling over with back pain. It was surreal. Knowing my neighbors may very well be watching me, all while having no care in the world. It was a beautiful moment, to be outside, the sun beaming down on me and preparing to birth my daughter.

10am- Lisa (our amazing doula) arrives at the house. Honestly, I don’t know what time I contacted her or what I even said. All I knew was Lisa was at the house and my mind kept thinking, “I hope she did not come all the way over here for nothing.” I remember at some point shortly after Lisa arrived, that she said this seemed to be the real deal! I remained cautious; thinking this probably really isn’t labor. But that back pain was constant and I felt everything getting tight. Lisa worked with me and did a few different positions during contractions to see if we could alleviate the back pain some. We walked up and down the street and all around the living room. I received countless back massages that really helped me to keep going. It eased the back pain and allowed me to stay in my own little world. I was almost enjoying the pain at this point. I knew my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to. I was in my own world, some type of trance, a birth high. Whether I was or not, I felt quiet and private, empowered and beautiful, strong and powerful. I really had no idea what to expect labor to be like, but this definitely was not it. My eyes remained closed through most of it and I did whatever my body told me to do. Again, I found this pain to be tolerable and amazingly beautiful. I was falling in love.

11am- Tyler came home from work because this was really labor! I continued to follow my body’s cues on what to do. Lisa made suggestions which I believe aided in helping things continue to progress. I walked around the back yard, leaned on my husband, took a bath and did lunges on the stairs. While in the bath, the song Oceans by United played. I relaxed and just silently talked to God. All I could really manage to say was “it’s in your hands.” Through the intense moments, I actually found myself loving this. I wanted it to keep going. I wanted it to become more intense. I wanted my baby girl in my arms.

1:45pm- Our photographer (Heather Dimsdale) came to the house to take a few photos before Lisa said it was time we make our trip to the hospital. I was so thankful knowing that she came to our home, to give us permanent memories of such an intimate time.

2pm- We load up in the car. It took me a few minutes to get from the living room to the garage. These contractions were coming closer and closer together, increasing in intensity. Contractions in the car picked up even more! I never knew a car ride could be so intense. As we were turning towards the on ramp for the interstate, I had my first moment. I yelled at Tyler, not in a hateful way, but in an intense tone, I just told him he could slow down a bit. I just wanted to be in my zone again, alone and by myself, and out of this car. I did my best to focus, stay within myself, and allow my body to open.

2:40pm- Finally, we arrived to the hospital and made it through admissions. I leaned against the chair in the admissions office, signing paperwork between contractions. Thank goodness I preregistered, so it was a quick process. A nurse came to get me with a wheelchair, which I refused, because my mind kept thinking, as long as I keep moving, this baby is coming down. Truthfully, I didn’t think I could sit at this moment. I remember passing my OB who was sitting at the nurses station. He asked how I was doing and I managed thumbs up. I felt amazing, like I’ve made it. I labored at home! We continued the walk to my room, pausing for contractions in the hall way.

3pm- Made it to the room! My OB wanted to get a quick monitor before allowing me to be unhooked from the IV and baby heart rate/contraction monitors. He checked me at 7cm! I had done it; I had almost made it to transition! After being unhooked, I walked the room, leaning on whatever was available during contractions, bed, sink, railing, and people. I feel like a lot of the time laboring in the hospital was spent sitting on the toilet. It was the most comfortable place to sit. I was able to feel my body opening and could lean forward during contractions. Someone was constantly massaging my lower back with coconut oil and I felt amazing. I had almost done this! With each contraction becoming more intense, I became more vocal, making a moaning/humming noise with each exhale. I think I also chanted “almost there” or “I am doing it.” My mom and Lisa would reinforce my statements, saying “you are doing it.”

4pm (or something close to it) – My OB came back in the room to check me again….9cm! It’s almost time to push! My OB said he had to leave at 5pm. Part of me wanted to panic, I wanted him to deliver this baby. He knew my plan, he knows me. He offered to break my water and said I could possibly deliver before 5pm, if not it would be the on call OB. I declined, knowing the pain would be more intense if my water was broken. I didn’t want any interventions, my water remained intact and my body was doing its job. He told me who the on call OB was and said he would bring her up so I could meet her before delivery. They began to bring tables in the room and ready everything for delivery. Lisa said this means you’re very close; see they are getting everything ready. I tried to remain in my world, away from all of this. While we waited, Lisa suggested squatting and leaning on the head of the bed. It felt awkward being so pregnant climbing up in bed to squat. We finally got situated and I thought I might be feeling an urge to push. Again, so unsure? What’s “the urge” supposed to feel like? I tried to relax and remind myself that my body was designed for this and I would know when it was time to push.

4:40pm (or something close to it) – Things became very intense. I yelled “oh, my butt!” That was the only statement I could make that described how I felt. So, this is what the “urge” feels like. Within seconds, my water broke and the pressure became so intense. Is she almost here? The room filled with people. Through the intensity, I heard Lisa asking me if I wanted her to coach me through pushing….ummm…yes! I have no idea how to do this! Her look was so comforting, so reassuring. I felt extremely vulnerable and was so thankful she was there. A brief thought crossed my mind that I could not handle this. As soon as that thought entered, I remembered that when you feel like giving up, that’s the moment you need to keep going. I prepared myself and tried pushing while still in that squatting position. The pressure was so intense; I was trying to stand instead of staying squatted. My OB in a kind, but firm voice said, “Britney, you cannot keep doing that, every time you do, you are closing your pelvis.” With those words, I flipped over on to my back and began pushing with all my strength. I reached down and felt a head full of beautiful hair. That feeling was all I needed; I knew our little miracle would be here very soon. I set it in my mind that when I felt like pushing, I would push with all my might. My body knew what it was doing.

4:55pm- After less than 10 minutes of pushing, Lana Faye was born. The cord was wrapped twice around her neck, but after it was unwrapped, she began crying and was immediately placed on my chest. I had done it, we had done it! Our little miracle had finally made it!

I still am in awe at all that my body went through. I desired a natural, med-free birth and by listening to my body, trusting God and having an amazing birth team with me, I was able to have a beautiful birth.

I want to thank my husband for his support from day 1! His love through the entire process was unconditional. He was quiet during labor and delivery, but so helpful. He was my rock.

My mom for being a sweet reminder that I was doing this! Until my mom arrived at my house that morning, I wasn’t sure I wanted her in the delivery room. Nothing against her, I just thought it would be awkward. Now, I couldn’t have imagined doing it without her. Mom, I love you!

My OB, for supporting me and allowing my body to do things naturally and not rush in to unnecessary interventions. He truly listened to me and encouraged me to achieve this birth.

To Lisa, who gave incredible support from the day she became our doula. She gave advice, without ever being pushy or judgmental. Lisa, I could not imagine going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery without your knowledge.

Our L&D nurses, thank you for being supportive of our decision for a med-free birth. The experience you all provided was exactly what I had dreamt of.

Our nursery nurses, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us as first time parents. The first night in the hospital we had a scare with her choking, as a new mommy, I was so thankful for your quick responses and for reassuring us that everything was ok.

Our postpartum nurses, thank you for allowing us to have time alone with our daughter to bond in the first days. Your courtesy in allowing me to recover and bond as a new family should not go unnoticed.

And to our lovely photographer, Heather. She followed our story, from our birth announcement photo shoot through the end of pregnancy, and those first moments with our daughter. We have documentation of the most intense and joyful moments of our lives. Tears, smiles, laughter, and some pretty intense faces were all captured for us to cherish for years to come.

I love you guys and could not have done it without each one of you.

To my daughter, you are more than worth the labor of love that I endured for you. I would do it over and over again, just to have you in my arms. I couldn’t have done it without you either baby girl. You were so strong. Our bodies worked together for you to arrive on your chosen birthdate. Mommy loves you!

Story submitted by Britney A.

Photographs by Heather Dimsdale of Two Little Loves Studio

Roaring for Aurora: A Hospital Birth Story

Roaring for Aurora: A Hospital Birth Story

My entire pregnancy had been spent preparing my body and mind to bring a wonderful little girl into the world. Including the fact that as a first time mom, she would probably arrive later than her expected due date of April 10th! So in order to prepare for her arrival sometime in April I left my job on the last day of March, giving me at least a full week till my due date to finish cleaning, shopping and sleeping before I had my daughter… Or so I thought.

In the early hours of April 4 I rolled over and, much to my surprise, felt a gush of liquid. My first thought was that I had peed myself; it hadn’t happened before but at 39 weeks pregnant anything can happen, right? I got up, changed my pajamas and crawled back into bed. I then proceeded to roll over again and there was more liquid. This time I was pretty sure my water had broken but nothing else was signaling the start of labor, so I changed again and curled up on the couch and started googling “how you know your water has broken” because I was convinced that she was going to be late.

My husband Kevin got up and started getting ready for work and I crawled back in bed to try and rest some. But rest was not happening and when Kevin came back in I said, “Hey you can turn on the light, I’m awake. Also, I think my water broke…” I was still unconvinced.

“Do I need to stay home from work then or what?” he asked.

“No, I’ll take you. And if anything changes I’ll let you know.” So, I got up and got dressed, texted our doula Amy and let her know what was happening and drove my husband to work.

On the way home I decided to stop at a lake and take a walk; it was a nice day and out and I took about a lap and a half before I decided that I was having a few contractions. I texted my husband and let him know I was going to come get him after I went home and showered. I put on my labor clothes, picked Kevin up from work and came back home to pack up the last few things I needed for labor.

I was already scheduled to have an appointment with my OB and my mom had been going with me due to some previous high stress appointments and she pulled in shortly after we arrived home. “Why is Kevin home?” she asked.

“Well… I think my water broke.”

“Okay… so what’s the plan?”

We decided to hang out at the house, make sure we had everything we needed and I bounced on the birth ball for awhile, before finally making the decision just to head to the labor and delivery triage around 10am. We got checked in to triage and they took my vitals, as well as testing for amniotic fluid. My water had broken, but I was only 1cm dilated and they of course immediately offered to start Pitocin, but I was determined to do this without it, so as soon as we got to an L&D room my husband and I started walking laps.

The doctor came in and introduced himself and assured me that I could labor wherever I wanted including in the tub as long as I didn’t deliver there. He was fine with my decision to put off Pitocin but did remind me that we could only do that for about 24 hours, as long as everything was still looking good. Over the course of the day my parents, Kevin’s parents, and a whole slew of family and friends came and visited me. My doula arrived later on in the afternoon since I wasn’t quite in active labor and I was doing fine without her.

The nurse came and checked to see if I had progressed any around 4pm or so and I was still only at a cm and they again offered Pitocin. My doula knew I was trying to avoid it and we opted to try nipple stimulation instead. We got hooked up to the fetal monitor and started that for about an hour and it helped get some contractions going but not anything sustainable. We continued to walk and late in the night I took a shower, listened to some music and read some. Around 1am they checked again and still no progress. I tried to get some sleep because I knew I would need it. At some point Amy, our doula, went got me some oatmeal and gatorade; she was a great help in making sure I was hydrated and fed.

In the early hours of April 5 the doctor came in and talked Pitocin since it had been over the 24 hours. While I had been fighting it all along I was ready to see my baby earthside and gave them the go ahead to start the IV. Sometime between 6 and 7am they started the Pitocin and, because of the risks it poses, I was able to labor only as far as the fetal and contraction monitors let me go. I had hoped to labor in the tub but they couldn’t find a cord for the monitor so that was no longer an option. As soon as they started the Pitocin my contractions really started picking up. I managed to eat some breakfast (which was all liquids) but by 9am I couldn’t talk through my contractions anymore. My mom left around this time telling me not to have this baby until she got back. I lost track of time soon after that. Kevin and Amy were a huge help during all of this. I felt immense pressure in my hips and Amy provided counter pressure while I was sitting on the bed. I stood and swayed with my husband for most of labor, but at some point ended up back on the bed, on my hands and knees and I felt immediately nauseous; thankfully Amy came fully prepared and had lemon oil in her bag for just such an occasion, it helped so much. I also remember thinking as Amy said aloud, “Yay! That’s a good thing!” We all knew I was align through transition. I changed position again with my legs dangling over the sides. With every contraction I would curl my toes as Amy told me to relax them. She placed heating under my hips to help ease the pressure I was feeling there.

When my mom got back to the hospital around 11am she came in and started stroking my hair and using a cool rag on my neck. Kevin was holding my hand and keeping the fetal monitor in place, because with every contraction she would move and we would lose her heartbeat. He kept it in place so that the nurses could track her heartbeat. During this entire process the nurses came in and out only to bump up the Pitocin drip. They hadn’t checked me since 1am, for which I am thankful, but they didn’t realize how quickly I was progressing, because around 11:45am my body began to push. Amy suggested to my mom that she call for the nurse and joked that we may have a baby before the afternoon! The nurse came in quickly and asked me to lie back so she could check my progress. Much to her surprise she could see my baby and asked me to not push, which is the hardest thing to do when your body is telling you something else! I did my best while she frantically paged the doctor. She actually paged him twice because she was afraid he wasn’t going to make it. He ran in followed closely by the baby nurse who began getting the baby warmer ready. Tearing the bottom off the labor bed and breaking one of his gloves in the process he gave me the go ahead to push all I wanted! My husband on one side and my mom on the other both helped me to relax and Amy reminded me to use the low register groaning to my favor; she called it ‘roaring for Aurora’. I pushed two or three times and then there she was!

At 11:56am. All of 6lbs 10oz and a head full of hair. The first words out of my mouth as they handed her to me were, “Is this real life?” I was in awe of the tiny little girl curled up on my chest. She was perfect in every way.

Story and photographs submitted by Ashley B.

Hypnobirthing: A Drug-Free Birth Story

Hypnobirthing: A Drug-Free Birth Story

Eva tells us about the drug-free birth of her first child.

At the advice of some friends, I prepared for my first baby by I taking Hypnobirthing classes and listening to the Rainbow Relaxation track daily. I did yoga weekly, had an affirmations wall, drank raspberry leaf tea in the third trimester, and ate dates. I hired a great and attentive doula. I was doing freelance design work at the time so work was spotty, but it gave me a lot of free time, which I am grateful for; but I actually worked full-time the week before my son was born, and walked up 60 steps at the subway stop every day! Whew!

I knew I could and wanted to give birth to my baby naturally, as my mom had me (her first child) with no drugs, and I was frank breech! I planned on giving birth in Mt. Sinai Roosevelt’s Birthing Center (I was not comfortable with the idea of a home birth in our tiny apartment, but I didn’t want to be hooked up to machines or an IV.) And shockingly, I qualified for the Birthing Center’s strict policies, despite a bout of high amniotic fluid over the course of the last month.

On October 24th I had pretty much the perfect Saturday: yoga, followed by leisurely time with my husband, Chris, and a long walk in the park to admire the foliage until it got dark. We planned for a friend to come over on Sunday and carve pumpkins.

Sunday morning I had trouble sleeping, and kept getting up to use the bathroom. I had light menstrual-cramp-like feelings that came and went, but I didn’t wake Chris up because I didn’t want him to get over-excited (he really wanted the baby to come!). At 6 a.m. I gave up attempting to sleep, and I woke Chris up to tell him today was probably the day. I timed the sensations and they were very accurately five minutes apart. This was pretty shocking to me as I thought early labor involved widely or irregularly-spaces contractions.

I tidied up for a while to get everything around the house as orderly as possible, I finished packing the suitcase, and I put fresh sheets on the bed in anticipation for when I would come home and lay in bed with our new baby. I then took a shower; and what everyone says about water in labor was true – it felt wonderful all over, but it also made my contractions less regular (and this played into the doctor’s misjudgment about how far along I was). I called our doula, Victoria, who said she would start getting ready to come over, then I called my mom to tell her the baby would probably be here today. It was around 9 a.m. and she wished I had called her as soon as I had woken up! (She was ready to drive from Virginia to New York at a moment’s notice.) Then I called my OB, Dr. F, who asked me to come to his office in Manhattan for a check. I knew he would ask this; and since I wanted to have an enjoyable, relaxing labor and not spend the day on public transportation, I suggested that I go to his cousin’s office, Dr. G, in Forest Hills. He called Dr. G and they were okay with that plan; so I scheduled to meet him at 1 p.m.

Chris and I went grocery shopping for every snack I could imagine wanting in the Birthing Center. The surges at this point were enough that I had to stop for a second or two, but generally I could continue shopping normally. I trudged around in comfy pajamas, and Chris carted all of the food home. I had a light lunch of an English muffin with cream cheese and sliced cucumber.

We took a cab to Dr. G’s office, and this is when my suspicion that being in a car while in labor would be miserable was proven correct. I only had a handful of surges in the cab (it may have only been two or three; I can’t remember), but I had to hold onto the seat and brace myself. More than anything, I was aware that sitting that way was a big no-no! The angle of the seat didn’t help, either. The cab ride, which should have only been 10 minutes, felt like forever; and I was wondering if the driver was being slow on purpose!

At Dr. G’s very lovely office, we waited for a bit before he showed up, then in the exam room he asked me to sit on the table. I really preferred to stand (since sitting was so uncomfortable in the cab) and I hoped the exam would be short, but instead of getting down to business, he started on a long spiel about what Braxton Hicks feel like. He went on and on, and internally I was rolling my eyes, and also hoping that Chris wasn’t disappointed and thinking perhaps the baby wasn’t coming. I thought that Dr. G must’ve thought I was really dumb. He finally checked me, and was noticeably surprised when he said my cervix was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced! That was also a pleasant surprise for me, but half of my brain was also saying, “I told you so, moron.” He left the room for a minute to call my OB, and I could finally stand up to better work through the surges. When he came back in the room I was leaning on the counter and breathing through a particularly long one, and his eyes popped out of his head. I thought, “Aren’t you an OB? How is this news to you?” He said that because of the way I calmly spoke on the phone, he assumed I wasn’t really in labor.

Our doula, Victoria, showed up at Dr. G’s office, and we discussed how to proceed. Dr. G wanted us to go straight to the hospital, but I said that all of our stuff was at home; and plus, I really wanted to spend the majority of labor at home. He said that when you are very effaced things can sometimes go unexpectedly fast. Dr. F suggested going to the hospital around 3 p.m. (I think it was around 1:30 at the time.

Since the cab ride sucked so much, we decided to walk back so I could be more comfortable. The way home was two miles and took about an hour, considering I was stopping for each contraction. The walk turned out to be a really enjoyable part of the day – the sun was out, it was warm and breezy, and we chatted the whole time about what a beautiful day it was for our son to be born, about the neighborhood and different buildings we passed. Victoria kept making little jokes at Dr. G’s expense, such as, “When we get home we’ll have lunch, since these are only Braxton Hicks.” During contractions I leaned on trees (Victoria suggested this), or on Chris, or occasionally on a wall. Victoria was very protective of me crossing streets; maybe I was a little spaced out and she was afraid I would stop in the middle of the street during a contraction.

We had to walk on Queens Boulevard for a couple blocks, which unfortunately was more crowded, dirty and noisy. I heard someone calling my name, and it was a property agent we had worked with in the past – I had to stop and make small talk with her! She asked how many months along I was and I just said, “Nine.” Then she gave me a little hug – thankfully I was between contractions – but I was all sweaty and just wearing a baggy t-shirt and lounge pants! I never thought I would have to hug an almost-stranger while in labor.

We made it home and I checked the suitcase and all the stuff we’d packed, and slowly ate a couple of cucumber slices. The contractions were much more serious and I kneeled on my yoga mat on the floor by the bed while Victoria applied pressure to my back. I could not get comfortable; the sensations were truly hard to deal with, and there was a sense of things getting real. This is where I started to lose awareness of time because Chris says we were only home for about 20 minutes before they decided it was time to get going. We had so many bags, and we almost forgot the birth ball (I was so fixated on that ball and I didn’t actually use it in the hospital at all!) Chris could hardly carry everything. I remember spotting a larger SUV-type cab but I don’t remember the process of getting into it. Chris had been nervous about leaving at the right time but says he knew we got it right because of a rule of thumb I told him from Natural Hospital Birth: “It should take you 10 minutes to get to the car.” He said it took forever.

The cab ride was the part where I was nervous I would lose my cool. There was NO way I was sitting on my butt at this point so I kneeled awkwardly over the birth ball so Victoria could access my back, sometimes facing the window and sometimes the back seat when each way got uncomfortable. I plugged in to my rainbow relaxation track, closed my eyes, and totally focused on the track and breathing to deal with the disconcerting motion of the cab. I hardly believed it when Chris said that we were in Manhattan. He said later that the cab driver knew what was going on and was on-point and quick, even paying a toll in cash because the e-z pass lane was backed up. I am thankful for that cab driver.

When we got to the hospital, I was happy to get out of the cab and eager to get into the nice whirlpool tub in a Birthing Center room. In the lobby, Chris called Dr. F to see if we were supposed to go to the Birthing Center floor or the Labor & Delivery floor – he wasn’t there yet (even though Chris has called him when we got in the cab) and said we should go to triage on the L&D floor. Thankfully I knew where the elevators were that went directly to that floor, and we scurried.

In triage the nurse started asking me a bunch of questions about my medical history, allergies, etc., that were really stupid since I had pre-registered online! The redundancy was not a surprise though, but I really wished I did not have to think about the questions.

When I initially went to the triage area, which was a hospital bed with the external monitor condoned off by a curtain, I had to go alone, which was scary. I truly think that it should be a hard and fast rule that no one in labor should be left alone – that’s just common sense. A nurse was asking me MORE questions. They had to do the cervical exam and I even asked if I really had to lie down for this (I imagined it would be possible on all fours), but no such luck, I had to lie on my back, which was excruciating. They had me butterfly my knees out, and then the woman stuck a whole hand in me. This is the only part of labor I would really describe as unbearable, though thankfully it was short; and after this, I decided I’d like to do baby number two at home! What a terrible thing to subject someone to, I felt like a freaking turkey!

She said I was 8 cm, which was good to hear because it meant not much more to go. She then put a big, stretchy band on me to hold the external monitors to take a 20-minute intake reading. Only one person could join me in triage, so I chose my husband. He helped me labor on all fours on that stupid triage bed by doing some light-touch massage on my hips and butt, which helped me focus, and he whispered soft encouragements. At one point another girl was brought in (remember, we were only partitioned by curtains), who was SCREAMING and crying out in pain, and it was deeply disturbing to hear. I used my hands to simultaneously plug my ears and cover my eyes until Chris came back from the triage waiting area with my iPod and headphones. This was another most difficult point.

Unbeknownst to me, Chris was in communication with my OB, who was stuck in an Uber and was still an estimated 40 minutes away. Thankfully Chris didn’t tell me. A nurse came in and said the monitors were messed up or something, and that I had to continue being attached to them, and so in retrospect I essentially spent transition in triage. I worked on letting go of my dream of luxuriating in a fancy whirlpool tub and totally turned inward.

(Afterward, Chris told me that I was thirsty and he asked nurses multiple times for water, and they told him to go get it from a fridge – he had to demand that someone bring it to him so he didn’t have to leave my side. When they did bring some, it was a tiny little bottle. Ridiculous.)

Then my water broke while kneeling on the table! It was a very sudden and powerful explosion that made me yell because of the intensity. A nurse reassured me that it was just my water breaking, and I thought, “No shit.” I wasn’t confused, just shocked; it was such a powerful physical sensation! I instantly felt the pressure increase. The resident asked if I felt like pushing, and I said yes. She said to hold back and not push, which I thought was the most idiotic thing ever because it was my body doing it, not me. [Side note: the resident and the triage nurses all looked really young, and the whole time I had the sense that nobody working there had actually had a baby.

I was vaguely aware that my baby was moving down, and I said, “Baby’s coming – get me a room!” I just wanted to be put somewhere private and not give birth in triage. There was no time left to be concerned about having a nice Birthing Center room. They brought a wheelchair and I said, “Can I walk?” But for some reason I wasn’t allowed to. It seemed like I would be sitting on my baby’s head – it seemed impossible to sit down – but somehow I got into the wheelchair, half suspending myself with my arms so I wouldn’t rest on my pelvic floor.

In the delivery room, things moved quickly; the room was freezing, so someone put a blanket over me. There was a strange background noise, and Chris realized that the TV was on and he had to ask them to turn it off (what the HELL??) Victoria gave me sips of coconut water while I kneeled on the bed and leaned on the top half of the bed, which was angled up. I can only describe the pushing contractions as overwhelming and scary, as though I was hanging on to myself by a thread.

The common metaphor for labor is running a marathon, but I would describe it more like rock-climbing without a safety – I had to reach for the next hand-hold, and each one seemed physically impossible and took all of my strength, but there was no other option.

Victoria’s voice came in as if from a distance, prompting me through short inhales and lonnngg exhales to breathe the baby down (there was even a nurse contradicting her and saying long in-breath; but Victoria knew the Hypnobirthing style of breathing I had been practicing). She reminded me to visualize a thousand-petal lotus to encourage openness. Someone gave me an oxygen mask. Somehow I moved to a standing position, leaning on the side of the bed. Chris said I lamented the fact that the monitors were still on me (honestly I don’t remember feeling the elastic band at this point; it was more of the awareness that I was attached to the machine); Dr. F asked the resident to take them off, and she said, “Really?” (The nerve.)

I was getting tired (so they say), so Victoria asked if they had a birthing stool – they didn’t (who knows why Birthing Center rooms have useful things but L&D rooms don’t?); but Dr. F said a segment of the bed dropped down to make it essentially like one. These last few contractions were super intense, and I remember a sense of changing from focusing on keeping my body very still, relaxed and calm, to mentally letting myself get swept along in the contraction. I felt the burning, which was scary, but somehow I also knew that if I relaxed/lowered my pelvic floor things would move along quickly, so I went with them.

As soon as I moved into the sitting/squatting position of the chair-like delivery bed, baby came rocketing out of me all at once! Chris said he and Dr. F and Victoria’s hands all shot down so the baby wouldn’t land in a bucket, and he and the doctor scooped him up to put him on my chest. It’s hazy, but I remember saying, “Is it over?” Hahaha! I had my moment of shock and awe as I gazed at Luca’s round little face, his warm body covered with a blanket. He had lots of dark hair like I hoped and such a sweet, squishy face. Chris cut the cord so the baby could reach my nipple; Luca latched, and we were so happy.

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The golden hour passed quickly, but I didn’t even mind when they took him away to go under the warmer briefly (Chris was with him) – I was so relieved and sort of dazed. MY OB gave me two stitches, which was quite painful. He said I could have given birth in a field, and that I lost very little blood. The three of us then went to Postpartum and I had some rest. I don’t remember who diapered and dressed Luca, but he never left my side in the little bassinet.

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There were two moments I remember that reminded me why I chose to give birth drug-free. One was my stepfather remarking about the baby that evening, “He’s so alert!” The other was the first time a postpartum nurse came in; she asked what my pain level was on the chart, and I just stared at her thinking, “Huh?” I had two Motrin, and continued to take it on and off for about a week postpartum.

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Everyone comments on how cheerful and calm my son is, and I’m thankful to my birth team and thankful for my quick postpartum recovery.

A Restorative Water Birth

A Restorative Water Birth

Blythe shares with us the story of the birth of her fifth child. 

I had my fifth baby 16 months ago – I had an induced birth at 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I wanted so badly to have a water birth. I fell in love with birthing in water back in 2008 when I was pregnant with my second child. Unfortunately, being a military spouse and delivering at military hospitals, this wasn’t an option for me. I knew my fifth baby was going to be my last, and I was determined to birth my way this time.

I hired the best doula, and chose the OB office with one of the most amazing midwives around. On August 16th, 2015, I entered the hospital to start my induction. I walked the halls with my friend and photographer, shared in squats with my doula, and swayed with my husband. Things started to get real and intense and as I labored in the bathroom, and I caught myself trying to give up.

I was quickly reminded of my goals and the pool filled with warm water awaiting me. I managed to climb back in the birth pool and finished the rest of my labor, and give birth to my son. My husband was in the pool with me and caught our baby. It was the most amazing feeling in the world. I was holding my brand new son sitting in the birth pool, and all I could say was, “I did it! I did it!”

I have birthed four other babies on land, but this one was special and so different from the rest. My dream birth finally happened; and I was now officially a water birth mama.

Photographs by Jessica Stollings.

Veda’s Birth Story

Veda’s Birth Story

Liz shares the story of her third child’s birth at home. 

Birth. There is so much packed into those five letters. Something that, no matter how hard you try, is so hard to give the words its beckons to describe it, because not one is the same. It is a cross between two literal worlds, which are uniquely intertwined, relying on each other to hold up their end of the deal…sending the signals and surrendering to the process.

One of my favorite parts of birth is the normalcy that surrounds it. I like to look back and remember every detail of the day before, having no clue the next day my life would forever change. Obviously, we know there is a baby coming; but other than that, we sign on for voluntary participation in an unfolding live mystery.

The day before my due date (January 7, 2016), my family spent the day together intentionally. As we had the two weeks prior as well, knowing our two children’s lives were also awaiting change, we loved on them hard. This particular day was beautiful and sunny out for a cold January afternoon. We decided to go to an indoor play place up the road, which was free; and free is always good. It also happened to be my mother-in-love’s birthday, so she met us there with donuts and coffee in hand – slightly ironic, since it was her birthday. She was still holding out that her present would be wrapped in vernix. What she didn’t know was that I thought I was in labor two times that week already, so the possibility was there.

We were the last ones out of the play place when they closed. Before we left home earlier, Sully wrapped a ton of presents for his Grammy Dukes, which consisted of all of his toys wrapped in Priority Mail boxes. He grabbed them out of the van and took them over to her car, where she opened all five of them and then followed us to the back of the parking lot to watch him skateboard. Steven and Sully tore it up on their skateboards for over an hour in the cold.

Maggie and I watched in the comfort of our nice little minivan – our provider of all things warm and comfortable. I took videos and pictures, amazed at how big my little buddy was. Once the sun went down, we packed up and went on our way; and I’m pretty sure my mother-in-love let me know there was still time to have the baby on her birthday. I figured the baby would be born on the 18th – the most logical date in my mind, since it was past the guess date, and the same day of the month as my other two were born. Once we left, we stopped at Home Depot to grab some last-minute things for Nest Fest 2015/2016. The kids had fallen asleep, so I stayed in the van with them.

Our normal night continued on; we stopped for coffee on the way home, I requested some “Sexual Healing” later on while waiting in the drive-thru, we hung the curtains I got and found out I failed to realize you actually need to measure windows before buying said curtains. I remember us all sitting in the bedroom just hanging out and talking. Eventually I went to bed. Not too long after, Sully came wandering in. He was very restless, which made it impossible for me to sleep. I told him that if he wasn’t tired, he could go back out with Daddy, to which he replied, “No I can’t; Daddy said he would pay me if I came to bed.” I clearly wasn’t expecting that answer, and I also was silently thinking, “Seriously, Steven just bribed our kid to come to bed!” Then I realized that Steven was trying to expedite his release of oxytocin.

Sully finally fell asleep, and then Maggie followed along at around 2 a.m.; and yes, you read that right. We forgot this sleep stage we went through when Sully was her age. I dozed off; 3 a.m. rolled around and I thought, well, it’s now or never. I whistled for Steven, and the two dollars he bribed Sully with was well spent.

At 4 a.m. I took a shower, thinking that by the time I woke up the next day I may not have time. I even went as far as to dry my hair, specifically telling my husband that I could be in labor the next day. In the last month of pregnancy, I made sure my hair was washed, dried and semi-styled (and by that I mean I brushed it), knowing it wouldn’t be too long before a new baby was on the scene.

I got back in bed, and Steven sat in the chair at the end of the bed; we commented on each other’s Facebook Posts, as any weird couple would do. I couldn’t fall asleep until around 5 a.m. It went well until my hip started hurting, just as it had over the past few nights. So I crawled down to the footboard and stretched out and slept there until Maggie woke up. I went back up to the top of the bed and started to nurse Maggie, and I was still uncomfortable.

I texted Steven at 10:07 a.m. and told him I needed him. I had to get up, and I knew that was not going to go over well. At 10:12 a.m. I felt a contraction, and then another one six minutes later. “Oh snap, this might be it,” I thought. Right then, Steven walked in and I got up and went to the bathroom to try and walk it off, still thinking that it could just be from my hip hurting. I walked out to the kitchen and continued having contractions roughly every three minutes apart, and tracked them for about half an hour before telling Steven that I thought I was in labor.

Before we go any further, let me give you some back-story: the positive test took me by surprise. Our pregnancies always do, since we don’t prevent and don’t plan; but this was different from the beginning. I had felt like I had gotten my groove back – one that I hadn’t realized that I’d lost – kind of like when in Hook, Robin Williams forgot he was Peter Pan. Life came to a halt as sloth-like behavior and my anti-food campaign kicked into full gear.

Everything that once was a mere five weeks before was nevermore. It wasn’t until about late-July that I was able to not feel complete exhaustion, and that food was palatable again. I’m sure it was no different than my prior two pregnancies, but it was much harder with two small children and working full-time (to me), considering I was holding down my primary job as a mom and my hours were 24/7.

This whole pregnancy, I felt as though time was flying by and I couldn’t slow it down enough to fully embrace it, as I had with my others. Eventually, I accepted the fact that this was just a different pregnancy and I was slowly able to release all the guilt I had been feeling around that. I let go of trying to decide if this was our last baby, thus refueling the guilt storm of not being able to live every moment like I was running through a field of wildflowers with the perfect filter and glowing pregnant goddess vision in my head. My husband and I call this “mental mind pirates” and they were trying to jack my pregnant booty.

As December approached, I started getting into game mode, even though I was sure it was never going to happen. I couldn’t envision my birth, and just felt off-kilter. Lo and behold, the nesting began, and logistical planning showed up. However, the heart of this birth and how it would unfold eluded me. I had no specific music picked out and really what felt like no capacity to picture it. I started to journal, asking myself questions.

“What am I afraid of?”

“What is holding me back?”

“What do I want my birth to be like?”

I reached out to my doula many times, attempting to explain this mysterious fear that I couldn’t pinpoint. I watched birth videos and read birth stories, but felt nothing still. I eventually reached out to a magical Facebook friend – the kind that you’ve never met in human form, but only in heart form. It turns out that she had the same experience, and my instinct to message her and lay my heart out after she commented on my daughter’s birth video proved to be helpful.

It put me at ease, and I eagerly shared with my husband the good news that I wasn’t the only one. Those healing and freeing short messages back and forth were on January 5th, after two separate days of contractions that started and stopped after three hours both times. Once on New Year’s Eve, and four days later on January 4th that added to my anxiety and led me to reach out for help. With my prior two births, I never had contractions up until it was go-time; and they were consistent and predictable until I was holding my new baby.

I felt a sense of renewal and ready after talking to Erin. The simple act of validating what I was feeling gave me the ability to release my fears. Cue the “Eye of the Tiger”…

On January 7th, 2016, I woke up with hip pain, as I mentioned above. The pain with those first friendly contractions was awful, and made me feel like I needed to get up and stretch. After the third contraction, I made it out to the kitchen to drink some water; and they kept coming. I started writing them down, breathing through them, and found a pattern.

I went in and told Steven I was pretty sure I was in labor, and proceeded to go back to the kitchen to labor. I called and text my doula, midwife and videographer, but I still felt like the boy who cried wolf. I was determined this would be the day. I focused and prayed that this was it, because the mental mind pirates mind games were wearing on me with false labor. I asked my husband to get the birth pool set up so it was done. With two littles, I just wanted it done and out of the way, knowing I wasn’t going to get in anytime soon. With my last birth, it went much quicker than anticipated, so this put me at ease.

My midwife was the first to show up, at a little after 11 a.m. She got there just as my contractions began to space out…what the heck? Not again, I thought. This was after she decided she would come right away instead of doing checkups. I felt so bad to tell her after her driving an hour here. She didn’t seem concerned though, and we carried on. Freida mentioned that when she woke up, she saw a sliver moon and thought to herself that babies would start coming. She arrived just after the sheer excitement of the birth pool being set up, and the kids sprinting to get their bathing suits on.

In that same sweet moment, our youngest kept saying what sounded like “white chocolate” to us. Thankfully, Sully, our four-year-old, has mastered the art of toddler translation and let us know she was saying “life jacket”. Duh! Despite this simple request being unneeded for the birth pool, Steven took the dad of the year torch and went to the garage to grab it out of the rafters. Off he went, and we kept on keeping on in the kitchen, Pandora pumping. I saw my doula’s car pull up and expected her to walk in…except she didn’t.

I heard her in the foyer saying something, and then my midwife slowly and curiously walked into the foyer. None of them came in. I heard my doula repeating, “Are you okay?” At this point, I knew something was wrong and I consciously made the decision to not care. I was having this baby and didn’t want my contractions to halt. I deduced that obviously my husband was hurt, but could also tell by my doula’s tone in her voice it was not life-threatening.

Everyone eventually filtered back in, including my husband…similar to Lazarus coming back from the dead in the Bible. It turns out that as he was trying to grab the life vest, his ladder fell over. Apparently he tried to yell for us, and eventually he couldn’t hold on any longer and fell from the rafters. Yes, HE FELL FROM THE RAFTERS! So when my doula got here, she initially thought it was me she heard from outside. Once she walked in, she found out the noise was coming from the garage and that it was Steven, after thinking someone was being attacked. Much to Maggie’s dismay, Operation Life Jacket was a no-go, but by George, this labor was back in business.

I stood at the island drinking my red raspberry leaf tea, laughing and talking, while my doula rubbed my back and midwife supported my belly. At about 12:45 p.m., I started getting concerned that my contractions weren’t hurting; not that I’m a glutton for pain, but I wanted them to prove themselves – to prove that I was in labor, and that I wasn’t wasting everyone’s time. I mentioned to my doula that the birth ball made them not hurt at all; so we decided to stay off of it, unless I needed a break later.

1

At the suggestion of Shelley, my doula, we went on a walk. It was so warm ­– 45 degrees and sunny on a January day in Ohio. Sully came with us and gathered nature/garbage treasures as I racked up some contractions, which seemed to get a bit more intense and closer together on that walk. Once we got back, I resumed my ritual of laboring in the kitchen, conversing and peeing in between contractions. During one particular contraction, Sully got very serious and said, “Dad, mom is having a heart attack,” meaning contraction. Although, it never failed – I had a contraction each time I walked into the bathroom, all by my lonesome. A few times, my husband would wander in to make sure I was okay.

The best part was the backdrop to my birth, with the kids in their bathing suits, balloons in full effect, and water splashing everywhere. They were tearing it up in the birth pool. We made dreams come true that day. I would just look over and smile and answer the same question to my son Sully, as he would say, “Mom, why don’t you just get in the birth pool to have the baby?” The fact that those words are in his vocabulary and cognitive understanding melted my heart each time.

I watched as Steven and the kids played a game Sully made, and then Maggie as she set up a picnic, thinking how serene it was. After a while, my doula suggested another walk. I started to feel a bit tired and my midwife thought a nap may help labor along. I complied and not long after, Maggie came in and asked to nurse. She was almost asleep and I had to moan through a contraction. There it was – my old friend, the moan, letting me know we were ramping up. I had to get up, and felt bad that I had hijacked her boob and her nap when my baby girl was so tired.

During my nap from 2:30 – 3 p.m., my doula ran down the road to the local health food store to grab some lunch. I felt like she was gone forever as I moaned through contractions and lost track of time. She came back and I was simultaneously starving and so tired. I remember walking over to the carpet and just sitting on the ground until a contraction came and I got on all fours. Lisa, the videographer, brought the birth ball over and I laid over it and welcomed contractions for about an hour. They almost didn’t hurt in this position. I would intermittently take breaks to scarf down a sandwich Steven made.

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Contractions started to get stronger at around 4:45 p.m., and I noticed I was moaning more and more; however, I felt like my contractions were far apart ­– around 15-20 minutes. I felt like this labor was going to be longer, which was one of my original fears during this pregnancy. My first labor was 28 1/2 hours, and my second was 7 1/2 hours. I didn’t want to get my hopes up for a speedy labor, and once the contractions started taking legitimate lunch breaks I felt like I’d be in for the long haul.

I started walking by the pool and contemplating for the first time getting in. I held off though, letting my daughter know a little bit longer as she asked me to get in. At 6:00 p.m. I made the decision to get in. As I did so, my husband called and ordered pizza from right up the road for pickup. He was going to take the kids and give them a break. The warm, mucky water was welcoming. We have city water and for some reason, this was the one day out of the year we had brown water.

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I set up on all fours, hanging over the side, and right about then I began to sound like I was exorcising the demons. This was around the time I started yelling out for Jesus. Eventually, I started saying, “Thank you Jesus.” My husband tells me I was no louder than any other birth, but I remember thinking in my head that my videographer was sure to have nightmares, since she had never heard me labor.

I started to push at 6:10 p.m., and my water broke 12 minutes later; it scared me, and I screamed, “My water broke!” I was in the thick of it at this point. I kept trying to look at my birth affirmations hanging on the wall, and zeroing in on the “I am not afraid” one, which was front and center. It was quite possibly the most important one up there, and I let my doula know that I was afraid that it would hurt. And it did  — so much more than I remember with my last birth.

As my contractions came hard and heavy, my husband started reading my affirmations out loud to me, with the last one being, “This baby will come out of my vagina.” I laughed in my head. At this time, my doula started whispering in my ear, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I told her to keep talking. I just felt like I couldn’t get past the pain and needed to hear her voice.

After that, my husband took the kids into the bedroom as I started getting louder. I started pushing; and mid-push I yelled, “Steven, you need to call and have them deliver the pizza!” My doula let me know they already told him, and that he was on the phone. I’m sure the pizza shop wondered if he was mid-murder as I moaned through pushing. He let them know not to ring the doorbell. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. It had no effect on getting this baby out.

I remember no breaks and constant pushing; being aware of the pain and thinking that this does not sound fun to do again. After what felt like I had been pushing so long, everyone said, “Grab your baby!” At 6:31 p.m. they brought my baby up through my legs, and I tried my hardest to muster up the tears. I felt after such an emotionally taxing pregnancy and feeling the urge to cry with each push – something I’ve never felt before – that I would definitely cry… but nothing.

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I held my sweet baby against my hot chest and was in awe of how tiny this little one seemed. Moments later, we found out we had a sweet baby girl, and named her Veda Willow. We waited for her cord to stop pulsing and my daughter declared the water to be yucky, and I delivered the placenta at 6:47 p.m. My son Sully was in awe of it and called it the baby’s nest. He helped cut the cord, which he called the antenna, and soon referred to it as the tentacle. I got out at 6:58 p.m. and set up shop on the couch to nurse while everyone indulged in pizza. Sully brought every baby blanket out and covered us up; he was so happy. Maggie nursed and was out cold, and Steven brought some pizza over for the two of us as he checked out his new baby girl.

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Once Veda was finished nursing, I decided to get in the sitz bath, where she joined me soon after. When we were done, I hopped into my adult diaper and we went out to take her measurements and footprints. She was 8lbs, 3oz and 20½ inches long – my smallest baby thus far. I was sure she would be 10 lbs; I was also sure she was a boy. Clearly I’m good at growing and harboring our children, but my guessing accuracy needs some tuning.

Our day began to wind down as we got her first diaper on; Lisa took a few pictures, and we settled in to our new normal in what is now my favorite chair in the house. Everyone started cycling out. My people had been with me for 10 hours and Freida, my midwife, left me with a sweet kiss.

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Soon it was just the five of us about to set sail on our new journey, transitioning and finding a new balance in life; and slowly, it is coming. We are trying to be intentional each day to focus on postpartum recovery, loving on each little one and giving each other grace. For the first time, I made a postpartum plan along with my birth plan. It is hard to follow, especially going from Nest Fest 2015 to Low and Slow 2016. We are letting go of the reigns, embracing the mess and finding beauty in each moment.

Veda Willow from Lisa Lachmaier on Vimeo.

A VBAC Story

A VBAC Story

Rita shares the story of her daughter’s birth – a healing VBAC.

My first baby was born via cesarean section. Like many women, I never imagined that I would need a C-section; I never thought that would happen to me. Imagine my surprise when after 24 hours of labor, my midwife announced to me that since my baby was in distress and I had not progressed past 8 cm in three hours, the next step would be a cesarean. I pulled my bed sheet over my head and cried out loud like a baby. I wasn’t physically, emotionally or spiritually prepared for this.

The C-section was due to failure to progress and non-reassuring fetal heart rate. I personally think (my non-medical opinion) that the cesarean was the result of all of the drugs that were administered to me during labor (with my consent) and the artificial rupturing of my membrane when the baby was still high up in the uterus in the occiput posterior position. Those drugs included Fentanyl, Epidural and Pitocin. I felt like my baby was drugged (again, my non-medical opinion). I also think that it was due to my ignorance. I didn’t educate myself about childbirth. I did not educate myself about the different pain medications that were available to me and their pros and cons. Heck, I didn’t even take a childbirth class. I was one of those patients who just let the nurses and doctors do whatever they felt necessary. I did not have a plan or even know what I wanted. The cesarean was definitely a wake-up call for me.

When my baby was about 6 months old, I learned I was pregnant with my second baby. The pregnancy was more than a surprise; it knocked the wind out of me. Eight weeks after my first baby was born, I had an IUD inserted to prevent another pregnancy until I was prepared for it, which would have been about 18 months after my first baby was born. I was told that this type of IUD usually lasts for 10yrs and that there is a .08% chance of getting pregnant while on it. I guess I was a part of the .08. I was very upset with the provider who inserted the IUD. I had so many questions that she couldn’t answer. Yes, I even thought about suing her… but that’s a whole other story.

After a few weeks of crying my eyes out and being frustrated, I decided to get with the program. This baby wasn’t going anywhere. I needed to take care of myself physically and emotionally in order to be able to care for my unborn child. Once I came to terms with the pregnancy, I made a promise to myself: the birth of this baby was going to be completely different from the birth of the first child—I was going to have a vaginal birth—and I was going to do everything I could to increase my chances of having one.

The first order of business was to find a VBAC-friendly hospital. All of my research led to one of the big hospitals in my hometown of Tacoma, WA; so I contacted the hospital’s midwifery department.

My first appointment was great. The midwife told me that since my last cesarean wasn’t due to any major medical reason, I should be able to at least try for a VBAC. After my first C-section, the doctor told me that because of the way she had sewed and positioned my uterus, I would have a greater chance of having a vaginal birth the next time around. She sewed my uterus twice. Also, since I was able to go into labor on my own and progressed to 8cm, this would work in my favor.

After finding the VBAC-friendly hospital, the second order of business was to find a doula. While on doulaMatch.net, I found two doulas in my area. One of them, surprisingly, had been my high school music teacher. If I had known that she was a doula, I would have used her for my first baby. I interviewed both of them, and ended up choosing my high school music teacher. There were so many reasons why I chose her. She had a C-section with her first baby and went on to have four vaginal births. She had 15+ years of doula experience. She had a very gentle and calm spirit, which I felt was important. She’s also a birth instructor for one of the big hospitals in our area. My husband and I took a birthing class with her, and she was great! She really knew a lot about birthing babies. During the class, we had to do an exercise that required partnership. One of the girls there did not have a partner. The instructor volunteered to be her partner. After the exercise, the girl said to her, “Wow that was great! You have a gentle, motherly touch.” That statement confirmed even more that she was the right doula for me. I needed that gentle, motherly touch during my labor and delivery.

As my pregnancy progressed, I decided to educate myself more on childbirth. I read two books and watched endless YouTube videos on natural childbirth and successful VBACs. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, and Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz. I watched all episodes of the British TV show One Born Every Minute. I watched a movie called All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story. I must have watched this movie about a thousand times. It is also on YouTube. Of course, I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born.

I became a member of our local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) on Facebook. I also became a member of a Facebook group designated for all cesarean moms who are looking to have VBAC (a very supportive group). I followed Birth Without Fear, improving birth.org Ob/Gyn & midwife associates, and many other childbirths groups on Facebook. My Facebook feed was 90% natural childbirth/VBAC related. Every day of my pregnancy, I read or watched something positive about natural childbirth or successful VBAC. I read almost all of the birthing stories posted on Birth Without Fear’s Facebook page. If others could do it, I could definitely do it, too. I was really encouraged by other women. I made up my mind that I wasn’t just going to try for a VBAC, I was going to have a VBAC. I asked Jesus every day to give me my heart’s desire.

During my second trimester, I started reading a lot about red raspberry leaf tea, which has many benefits. One major benefit is that it helps strengthen the uterus, which helps in preventing uterine rupture. Uterine rupture is a major concern when having a VBAC. I posted a question on our mamas’ group Facebook page; I asked if anyone had experience with drinking red raspberry leaf tea during their pregnancy, and I had a lot of good responses. Some women said that it helped them go into labor. I was a little nervous about that, as I was still early in my pregnancy. I spoke with my midwife regarding this. She said it was ok to drink two cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day, and three cups starting at about 34 or 36 weeks. I was 28 weeks pregnant at that time, so I started drinking two cups a day. I drank red raspberry leaf tea religiously until the day I was in labor. I also started seeing a chiropractor for weekly adjustments from 28 weeks until the week before my baby was born.

My pregnancy was going very well until I went in for my 35-week checkup. While examining my stomach, the midwife seemed a little concerned. She couldn’t tell if my baby’s head was down or not (I had a very large fibroid.) At the beginning of the exam, she thought the baby’s head was down, but by the end she thought that the baby had moved into a breech position. She recommended that I have an ultrasound done to be 100% sure that the baby’s head was down. I started to get very nervous.

I had an ultrasound done that week, and thank goodness, baby’s head was down. I was very happy and relieved. My first baby was breech throughout my whole pregnancy. My OB turned her around through external cephalic version. My 36- through 38-week checkups were fine. My midwife was sure that my baby’s head was down. At my 37-week checkup, I told my midwife that I was getting nervous about having a VBAC. I was afraid something terrible might happen—something worse than a repeat cesarean. She said if anything happened, they would do the best they could to help my baby and me. “However,” she said, “You have to trust yourself, your decision and your body. You had a cesarean. Your body is not broken. Your body is more than capable of birthing your baby.” That stuck with me. I repeated it about a hundred times a day. My body is not broken; my body is not broken. My body is more than capable of birthing my baby.

Things took a turn at 39 weeks! I went in for my 39-week checkup. While examining my stomach, my midwife seemed very concerned again. I remembered that look on her face from previous weeks. I asked, “What’s wrong?” She said, “I am 90% sure this baby is breech. “No way!” I exclaimed. “Please make an appointment to do an ultrasound as soon as possible, probably before the end of this week,” she said. This was on Monday, January 18th. My baby was due on Sunday, January 24th. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The rest of the appointment went downhill from there. I went to the receptionist’s desk and asked her to schedule me for the earliest ultrasound. She scheduled me for 8:00 a.m. the next morning (Monday, January 19th). I was very sad. Worry kept me awake that night. To be totally honest, from the movement of the baby, I knew something wasn’t right.

I went in for my ultrasound the next morning; and lo and behold, my baby was in a frank breech position. Head up, bottom down. I started crying. The ultrasound tech asked if I was okay. I said “No. I can’t believe my baby is breech this late in the pregnancy. Now they are not going to allow me to try for a VBAC.” I was very frustrated. She recommended that I meet with the midwife that same day. She asked me to go wait for her by the receptionist. As I sat by the front office, I really could not contain my sadness any longer. I started crying. The office worker and other pregnant women who were coming in for their appointments probably thought something was wrong with me or my baby. Lucky for me, the midwife was available that morning.

I don’t remember much of my meeting with the midwife that morning. I was just too sad and upset. She asked me to come in later that day at 3 p.m. The OB was available to perform an external cephalic version if I was interested in it; and of course I was. I made the appointment to go in later that day. When I left the midwife’s office, I got into my car and cried/prayed for about 10 minutes. I called my husband and told him the news. He assured me that everything would be ok. He later told me that he felt very sad because I sounded so sad over the phone. I called my doula and left her a message. She sent me a text saying, “Got your message and will be praying. Let me know if you want me to come with you.”

Before I continue with the rest of the story, I want to take a moment to acknowledge a woman in my life; I will refer to her as a birthing goddess. This woman has given birth to seven children. Five of them were probably homebirths. One was via cesarean, and the other was a VBAC. We were pregnant at the same time twice. She was pregnant with her last two kids and I was pregnant with my first two kids. She is very inspiring in lots of ways, but especially when it comes to birthing and raising kids. She has a gift! Now back to the story.

On my way home from my ultrasound/midwife visit, I felt like I needed to talk to someone; someone who would understand what I was going through. I decided to head over to this birthing goddess’s house. She had just had a successful, unmedicated and fast VBAC – just what I was hoping and praying for. As I pulled up into her driveway, I saw her through the window reading what looked like a Bible or a devotional book. My mind was somewhere else. I couldn’t tell. She swiftly came to the door and let me in with a hug. She knew something was wrong just by looking at my face. I told her what was going on. After I was done, she asked me, “Can I pray for you?” “Yes please,” I responded. She sat very close to me on the couch, put her arms around me, and prayed for me. After that prayer, I felt like a burden was lifted off of me. I had hope, trust and peace again.

We went to the hospital for my 3 o’clock visit. I was very nervous. The nurse was very nice. The OB and midwife came in to perform the EVC. You have to sign an agreement agreeing that if your baby becomes distressed after this procedure, an emergency cesarean would be performed. After all the talking/paperwork signing, the OB said to the midwife, “You grab the baby’s bottom, I will grab the head, and we will slowly turn her around!” It was very painful and uncomfortable, but I was very happy that it was successful after the first try. After this, I asked the midwife to sweep my membranes. That was also very uncomfortable, but I was going to do everything I could possibly do to prevent another cesarean. Per the midwife, I was 1 cm dilated.

I went in for my 39-week checkup on Thursday, January 21st at 4:30 p.m. The appointment went very well. My baby was still head-down. I asked my midwife to sweep my membrane again. She did, and I was still 1 cm dilated. I know everyone has different opinions about membrane sweeping, but this was my choice. On my way out of the midwife’s office, a gentleman walked up to me and said, “Ma’am you are very beautiful.” I said, “Aw thank you” with a smile. I thought he was just being nice. Then he said, “Do you have a husband or boyfriend?” “I have a husband,” I responded. “Oh, okay. Have a nice day,” he said, and walked away. I couldn’t believe he was asking me this. How did he think I got to be 39 weeks pregnant and wobbling to my car? That made my day, though.

The text messages between my doula and me explain what happened the next day….

January 22

8:34 a.m. me: good morning. I had my membrane swept yesterday. I have been up all night with something that feels like cramping and it is very uncomfortable. I am unable to tell if it is actual contractions. Sometimes it feels like it and sometimes it doesn’t. And very painful too

9:09 a.m. doula: comes and goes? Can you feel if your belly gets tight?

9:10 a.m. me: yes, comes and goes. Belly does get tight a little bit.

9:11 a.m. doula: keep drinking water. It could just be irritable but it could turn into something as well. Time how often you feel it. Sorry you were up.

9:13 a.m. me: I have been trying to time it but very irregular

9:14 a.m. doula: ok that’s alright. Just gives you an idea of what was and then you can compare if things change.

9:14 a.m. me: ok, will do.

9:15 a.m. doula: keep breathing slowly and keep me posted. Are you working today?

9:16 a.m. me: no, I called out today.

9:16 a.m. doula: smart. You should alternate rest with walking.

9:22 a.m. me: ok.

When my husband and I took our then-15-month-old daughter to her 15-month checkup, I was still having “contractions.”

5:10 p.m. doula: how did you do today? Did it settle down?

5:13 p.m. me: I was just about to text you. It has gotten worse. Starting to get a little more regular. Every 5 to 10 minutes between 30 and 45 seconds long.

5:20 p.m. doula: oh ok that’s good. Yes? Have you gotten some rest? And are you handling it ok?

5:23 p.m. me: it is good. Haven’t been able to nap yet. I am handling it ok so far.

5:27 p.m. doula: good, try to get some rest! You may be up again if you are going into labor! (Boy, was she right!)

8:35 p.m. doula: so any idea yet if tonight is the night???!

8:36 p.m. me: I think tonight is the night!! Just got out of the bathtub. Contractions are still coming.

8:38 p.m. doula: alright! What is your progress? Any changes from earlier? And that’s a good sign with the bath, because that will usually slow pre labor stuff.

8:42 p.m. me: (sent her a picture of what seems like a mucus plug) sorry if this is gross but I am also starting to poop a lot.

8:43 p.m. doula: oh yeah change is happening. Good hormones on board causing all that. How long are you wanting to wait at home with contractions? Your paperwork is in the car: as long as possible or more like 3-4 min apart?

8:47 p.m. me: probably 3 to 4 minutes. I am starting to need some help focusing.

8:55 p.m. doula: let me know whenever you want me to come – home first or when you go to the hospital.

8:56 p.m. me: ok.

9:31 p.m. me: contractions are pretty close together. Can you come to my house?

9:32 p.m. doula: sure. (Verified address, we had move into a new house). I am under half hour from it.

9:33 p.m. me: yes correct address

9:33 p.m. ok!

My doula got to my house about 15-20 minutes later. When she came in, I was leaning over the kitchen counter. At this time contractions were closer together, but still less than a minute long. When I had the next contraction, she asked me where I felt the pain. I pointed to my lower back, and she proceeded to give me a back massage. I said, “No, don’t touch, don’t touch!” She stopped massaging me. This was very weird because I love getting massages.

When my next contraction came, she very gently rubbed my back in a circular motion. That felt really good and calming. At this point my 15-month-old daughter knew something was wrong—mama was behaving very strangely. She followed me around the living room and even gave me a massage when I was on my hands and knees. My husband took a picture of her giving me a massage. She was very sweet.

An hour or so after my doula arrived at my house, I started having very intense contractions. They were very close together but still less than one minute long. My doula suggested that we head to the hospital before I got too uncomfortable to get in the car. We got in the car and headed for the hospital. I kept telling my husband not to hit any potholes. “I will try not to,” he responded.

We got to the hospital, which was 10 minutes from our house, at about 11 o’clock. We were in the emergency room for Lord knows how long. The receptionist was asking my husband all sorts of questions, while I was sitting in the wheelchair trying not to embarrass myself in front of everyone in the emergency room. I kept having very intense contractions, and my doula was there talking to me and rubbing my back.

On our way up to the triage, the nurse was pushing the wheelchair really quickly. I ask her to stop for a little bit because I had a very intense contraction. “I can’t,” she said,” because you could actually be having the baby right now.” Both my husband and doula said, “She’s not, just slow down please! She did not slow down. I was in too much pain to do or say anything.

The triage was very nice. It was a large room with a birthing tub. I asked if I could get into the birthing tub. The nurse said no because they don’t do VBAC water births. Plus, they needed to monitor my baby’s heart rate until she was out of the womb. At my previous midwife appointment, I asked her if I could get the mobile fetal monitor. “Yes,” she said, and added that to my file. I asked her to add to my file that no one should mention or suggest any pain medication while I was in labor. She said, “Yes, I will put that in big bold letters.”

For the first half-hour that I was in triage, I was attached to the bed monitor while the nurse went to find the mobile monitor. This tells me that not too many people request or uses the mobile monitor. I think we were admitted around 12:00 a.m. The nurse checked me and said, “You are about 1 to 2 cm dilated.” She said she was going to be back in an hour to check my cervix again. I was so disappointed I couldn’t believe that after all the pain I was in, I was still only 1 to 2 cm dilated. Labor was worse when I was lying in the bed. I kept asking for the mobile monitor so I could move around.

I finally got the mobile monitor, and started walking around the room. I sat on the toilet for a little bit, but was too uncomfortable to sit for too long. While I was in the bathroom, my doula found a little stool – probably what women used to climb into the tub for water births. She asked me to put one leg up on the stool and do squats when I got my next contraction. She said it would help open up the cervix, and would help make labor go faster. At this point I would have done anything to make labor go faster! I did some squats.

While doing squats, the nurse came in and said, “Your midwife wants me to wait for another hour before I check your cervix, so I will be back at 2:00 a.m.” I was in too much pain to comprehend anything. I heard my doula say, “That’s good; they’re giving us more time to labor alone.” I felt like labor got about a thousand times harder after doing those squats. I told my doula that I thought I would need an epidural. I was too tired; I hadn’t really slept in over 24 hours. “Okay,” she said; “Let’s see how far you have progressed. If you are at 4 or 5 cm dilated then we can talk about getting an epidural.” She would have talked me out of getting an epidural if I had been 5 cm dilated. She would have said, “You are halfway there. Let’s wait a few more hours to see how far you’ve progressed.

At 2:00 a.m. the nurse came in to check my cervix. I was in so much pain I did not want to be touched at all. I kept saying to my doula, “Just kill me now please. Just kill me now.” Labor was very, very intense at this point. I wanted it to be done. I wanted the pain to stop. Contractions felt like they were a minute apart and a minute long. Between contractions, the nurse checked my cervix. “Wow,” she said, “the cervix is completely gone and I can touch the bulging bag of water.” I was so out of it, I said, “What? Where did the cervix go? Don’t we need the cervix?” She said, “Let me go get the midwife.” At this point my husband had left the room to go get coffee. I wasn’t happy with him about that.

A few minutes later, the midwife came, checked my cervix, and said, “You are 10 cm dilated and I can feel your bag of water.” “Well, can I get an epidural now?” I asked her. “No,” she said, “You are already 10 cm dilated and about to push this baby out.” “Wait, what? I am about to push the baby out?” “Yes,” she said. As she was talking, I felt the bed start to move. I heard, “Let’s take her to room whatever.” As we got into the room, before they could get the bed attached to the wall and get everything situated, I got on my hands and knees. I felt a VERY intense contraction with an involuntary push and my water broke! As soon as that happened, I felt the baby’s head slide into the birth canal. I thought to myself, Oh crap. There is no going back now. I am about to actually birth a baby through my vajayjay!

There was meconium in the water, so my midwife called the NICU and two NICU nurses came in the room. I felt like the room was a little crowed with the two NICU nurses, my nurse, midwife, husband and doula, but I didn’t care. I wanted the baby out! I started pushing. The baby’s head would come out a little bit and then slide back in. I said, “Oh, the baby is going back in.” The midwife said, it’s ok, it will happen for a while.” Apparently, this was normal. I didn’t know. I only pushed with contractions. I was so tired; I had no energy or willpower to push without the intense force of the contraction. Every 1 to 2 minutes, I would say, “Here comes another one,” and would start screaming—I sounded like an animal! I was VERY vocal!

Anytime I would scream, my doula would come close to my ear and say, “Rita, put all the energy down in your bottom.” She would say this as she gently rubbed my back in a circular motion. Her touch was very comforting. At one point I heard the midwife saying, “Soon you are going to feel the ring of fire; just push through it.” Boy, did I feel the ring of fire, and It HURT like none other!!

I pushed on my hands and knees for a long time, then the nurse suggested I lie on my back. I lay on my back, and with maybe 3 VERY hard pushes, my baby girl was OUT!! My midwife said “YOU GOT YOUR PERFECT VBAC!” I kept saying, “I did it. I did it.” I couldn’t believe I had done it. My labor was not in vain. I really believed that I could, and I did it. The placenta followed shortly after. The baby wasn’t crying right away, so the NICU nurses took her to suction her up. This was surprising to me, because the baby was literally kicking on her way out. I could feel her legs still kicking as I was pushing her out. I pushed for 45 mintues. She was born at 2:45 a.m.

While they were suctioning up my baby, the midwife was giving me a few stiches. After they were done they put her on my chest. Oh, that feeling of having your baby placed on your chest is the best feeling in the whole world! She was and is the most beautiful baby ever (she and her sister!). After an hour of being on my chest, they took her off to weigh her. She weighed 7lbs 11.2 ounces and was 21inches long, with an APGAR score of 8/9. My first baby was 7lbs 9.2 ounces, and 21 inches long – almost the same birth weight. We were out of the hospital within 24 hours.

Why did I decide to right this birth story? I was inspired by the other women who wrote their successful VBAC stories. My goal is to encourage other women who are planning to have a VBAC; it is possible. I hope my story is an encouragement to you.

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