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“I Pushed My Baby Girl Out In 9 Minutes!” – A Mother’s 4th Home Birth

“I Pushed My Baby Girl Out In 9 Minutes!” – A Mother’s 4th Home Birth

I have five children! This is amazing, coming from a woman who never wanted to have children. In my early 20’s I didn’t want to marry or ever go through the pain of childbirth. When I married at the age of 25, and soon found myself pregnant, my life changed forever.

My first son was born in the hospital. I had a midwife, and wanted to have a natural childbirth, but was horribly unprepared for unmedicated childbirth. My birth was beautiful, but I had asked for an epidural once we arrived at the hospital. My intention was to labor as long as possible at home, which I did. Upon arrival with all the bright lights and paperwork, I could not concentrate on my labor. Our first son was born naturally, but with my lower body pretty numb. The moment was wonderful but when you take away the “bad feeling” you kind of take away the good too.

When I found myself pregnant again a little more than a year later, I knew I wanted to try a homebirth. Subsequently, my next three children were born in water, at home with the same midwife. Each birth was glorious. The moments my next three boys emerged from my body into the world were so powerful. I wish I had had that with my firstborn. I love him dearly, but there is something magical about a natural birth experience.

This story though is about my fifth child, a daughter. Yarow was born just this year, 7/7/2017. Above all my birth experiences, this one was the most incredible so far. I attribute it to much more preparation, meditation, visualization and prayer. Although I enjoyed the homebirthing experience of my boys, I had some fear which caused my labors to more like a roller-coaster, and somewhat painful. For Yarow, I knew I wanted to have a peaceful, pain-free birth.

I can honestly say that I accomplished that seemingly impossible task! There was a lot of intensity, strong rushes, and feelings, but no real fear and no real pain. It was a beautiful, sweet, loving, and anointed birth.

It was 9:00pm, and I was reading to my children, when my water partially broke. I felt a pop in my stomach and gush of water. I asked my oldest son to get me a towel. I wrapped myself in the towel and wobbled to my bathroom to see what was truly going on. I was having contractions and little gushes of water. I called my midwife and she suggested I try to take a nap and call her in a few hours.

After fifteen minutes of contractions, I called her back. I knew I would not be able to nap. I was surprised how fast things seemed to be progressing. She told me she’d leave right away to come to our home. Since she had a 45 minute drive, I was glad to hear she was leaving immediately. I then asked my husband to fill the birthing pool, because I was planning on having a water birth. We told our children that they would probably have a baby brother or sister by the morning, and hurried them to their beds. I went downstairs with my husband and labored on one of those big exercise balls, while he filled our birth pool.

I knew I wanted a very peaceful birth. We kept the lights really low, and one candle lit in my kitchen. I had relaxing music playing. I also had a few “tools” to use during contractions. Sometimes I breathed in essential oils. I also had what is called a worry stone, and I squeezed it in my hand as I contracted. When the midwives arrived, I was temporarily distracted and felt a few contractions get away from me. I forced myself to stay focused and began fixing my gaze on the lit candle as I contracted. While they were setting things up, my husband was free to be supportive. At this point it, was 10:30 pm and I did not know how close I was to the end. Everything was happening so quickly and I felt really good. I remember thinking, why are they (the midwives) hurrying so much to get set up. I still had a little doubt in my mind that I was in actual labor.

Contractions kept coming in waves. Some were very easy to manage, and every few there would be a very intense rush. I read about a technique in one of Ina May Gaskin’s books, where you blow raspberries with your lips to keep your mouth loose. I had been doing this, but as the waves of contractions became more intense, I really utilized this technique because I wanted every rush to count. It also helped distract my mind from thinking of pain.

Around 11:40 or so, I felt an urge to enter the pool. It was now nice and warm and ready. It felt great to sit on the soft cushiony bottom of the birth pool. I now knew I was truly in labor because I had no more concern about how much clothing I had on. I remember this from other labors. Initially I would feel a little modest laboring, but as I got close, my inhibitions would disappear.

My contractions were really getting strong in the water. I asked my midwife is she checks dilation, because she had not done this. She told me she would if I wanted her too. I hesitated and thought to myself, “what if she says I am only 4 cm?” So, I waited. After two more strong rushes, I knew I had to be very close. She checked me and I was 9 ½ to 10 cm. Almost fully dilated! I was relieved, the end was close and I would soon be holding my baby!

It was now just midnight, when I began feeling urges to push. My midwife really encouraged me to wait until I felt a strong urge to bear down. I always pushed a little soon in my other births, eager to have the baby be delivered. However, I followed her advice and waited until my baby was almost crowning. I had to squeeze my husband’s hands really tightly with the last few contractions. The feelings were so strong. I don’t want to call them painful, but just strong sensations. The strongest sensations I’ve ever felt, but not the pain injury.

I pushed my baby girl out in 9 minutes! Her head came first and I expected her little body to slip out quickly. She got a little stuck at her middle and I had to bear down on one last contraction to get her fully out.

The relief and euphoric feeling of your baby entering the world and into your arms is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It erases all the weeks and months of any discomfort, or negative feelings you may have had as a pregnant mother. I remember laying my head back against the pool, holding her and seeing that she was a girl for the first time. I kept repeating “thank God, thank God.”  My husband and I were laughing and crying at the same time. It was amazing!

My husband then woke up our other children come down to see their baby sister. I will never forget that peaceful evening as we all gathered in my kitchen to witness the miracle of birth as a family. I am so glad we had our daughter at home with a great midwife team, in familiar settings and the love of family. I believe that is the best way to enter into life, surrounded by peace and love and baby staying close to mother and father the whole time.

I told myself before my daughter was born that this was my last pregnancy. After such a transforming, I mean soul transforming experience, I cannot help but want to try this miracle again! My husband and I have 5 children. I will be 37 this year, and I don’t know if I am “finished” having children. Children are the biggest challenge of my life. Every aspect of being pregnant, giving birth and raising them is a challenge, but it is also the sweetest blessing.

Birth experience and photograph submitted by Jenel S.

The Sun Is Shining Through: A Peaceful Home Birth

The Sun Is Shining Through: A Peaceful Home Birth

I’ve been floating on that post-birth cloud that only the miracle of new life brings. Soon enough, or perhaps it is happening already, I will slowly float back to the ground as Holden and I navigate the fourth trimester together.

The joy, pain, awe, intensity, shock, and gratitude of Holden’s birth are still so near to me. Andrew and I have been like cloud gazers pointing to the sky and marveling at the shapes and patterns displayed as we recall his birth.

The clouds are slowly drifting to make room for new stories and memories to be formed.

April 22 2017

6:30 AM
It was an ordinary Saturday that began as most do. We woke with more ease and less rush. I had already surpassed 37 weeks and 5 days which was when our first son was born so I adjusted my mindset for this pregnancy to not anxiously anticipate labor any moment until closer to 42 weeks so that I would patiently wait for this baby’s own timing.

9:23 AM
My MIL texts me: “Are you feeling anything? Contractions?”

I respond: “No contractions…he feels lower though. I could see going into labor tonight or being pregnant for weeks still haha…I have no idea anymore.”

I was 38 weeks and five days. Andrew and I took Eli, our two-year-old, to the aquarium in the morning and then out to lunch. We told Eli that we would get him ice cream on the way home, but he soon fell asleep in the car.

1:00 PM
Andrew and I stole spoonfuls of Eli’s ice cream until it was almost gone. We all laid down once we got home in the living room. Eli woke up, found his toy doctor kit, and put the stethoscope to my belly to “check baby.”

6:00 PM
I walked around our backyard as I had done many times this pregnancy. The last few weeks of this pregnancy were remarkably different than my first pregnancy with Eli. Even when I was extremely active with walking, squatting, and cleaning, I would not even get one Braxton Hicks contraction this time. I was expecting prodromal labor like I had with Eli for two weeks.

I began to feel pressure. A burst of excitement filled my heart and mind. After not feeling any signs of labor, I was overjoyed to feel my baby move lower in preparation for birth. Because of my previous experience with prodromal labor, I thought that labor would be far off.

6:30 PM
A contraction. I felt a real contraction. I told myself that I would not tell Andrew about any contractions until it became completely obvious I was having them without even exchanging words, but I was too excited. We stood in the kitchen as I leaned over the counter, and he looked at the clock to note the time-just in case we would want to remember this moment.

7:30 PM
We put Eli to bed. I rocked him in my arms as I dreamed of tonight being the night, but quickly stopped allowing myself to dream too much. I still had a lot of pressure and could feel that Holden was low, but there was no time-able pattern to the contractions that seemed to be fading away. I could still move freely and focus on everyday thoughts and tasks so I talked myself out of thinking labor could be near.

9:30 PM
Suddenly, intense contractions bringing me to my hands and knees hit me. I welcomed these 15-30 second contractions, but their short length and inconsistent nature made me think active labor was still far in the future.

I tried lying down in bed for the night to see if I could sleep. Instead of drifting off into sleep, being alone in the darkness of our room with these contractions scared me. I didn’t want to be alone anymore.

I knew in that moment that tonight actually could be the night. I got Andrew, and we decided to watch a show together. Soon enough, I told him to turn off the TV because I could not stand the noise anymore. Contractions seemed a bit more intense, but still under 30 seconds long.

9:52 PM
I texted my midwife Laura: “I’ve been having contractions for a few hours but they haven’t been consistent…and now I can’t remember when exactly I should call you?…I think they’re starting to pick up but I’m also not sure if it’s prodromal labor.”

10:17 PM
I called Laura. I debated after I texted her whether or not I should even call thinking it could just be prodromal labor. On a deep, intuitive level, I must have known that it was time. I told her what I had been experiencing including my doubts about it possibly just being prodromal labor. She told me that she could leave now to come over or I could wait to call her if I wanted more time alone with Andrew to see how things progressed. I was leaning toward waiting to call her back.

After she explained when I should call her back, Andrew said, “Yeah, I think we are already at that point.” She said that she was going to leave right away then.

10:20 PM
I sought the peaceful and familiar darkness of our bedroom. Andrew unlocked the front door to welcome Laura in once she arrived before coming to my side. It was as if unlocking the door unlocked anything holding me back from fulling going into active labor.

Contractions were suddenly much longer and more intense. I could barely talk. I felt as if everything was in fast-forward. Previously, I had imagined hours of laboring around the house, but I now knew I would not be leaving the room or maybe even the bed without our baby being born first.

11:00 PM
Laura quietly arrived and found us. I was relieved to know she was here, but could not focus on anything but the intense contractions. I did not want to make eye contact with anybody. I was in my own birthing zone. She came to my side acknowledging that labor must have gotten more intense since I had called her. She found Holden’s heart rate in between a contraction.

I felt my body gently pushing. “I think I’m pushing!” I said in slight disbelief. I knew that my body was pushing, but I couldn’t believe it.

11:30 PM
I moved to a smaller bed in our room that we had set up specifically for labor. I felt the welcomed release of my water breaking with the next contraction. I felt my baby move down. I felt like the pain was too intense. I felt like this couldn’t really be happening so quickly.

“I can’t do this. I’m not doing this anymore,” I said multiple times. Even in the moment, I almost laughed at myself for saying that because my body was involuntarily pushing even more strongly. I was doing this. Any words of fear were met with gentle and quiet encouragement.

11:45 PM
I did not want to leave the bed because I could not imagine walking over to the tub at the time, but with more encouragement, I got into the water. Peace and relief instantly filled my body and soul. I felt Holden moving downward with each contraction.

11:52 PM
I felt his head and with the next contractions, he was born into the water. I pulled him onto my chest in complete awe.

I looked at his face and thought, “It’s you. It’s always been you.”

There we were: in the water surrounded by Andrew and our midwives.

There we were: held in a space of love, safety, and respect.

There we were: in the same room where I had dreamed about this moment for so long.

There we were: in our first moments apart yet still connected.

We moved out of the tub and onto the bed where I soon birthed the placenta with Holden on my chest.

Holden weighed 8lbs 14oz and was 21 inches long. Just a few hours after active labor started, Andrew and I found ourselves lying in bed with our newborn baby drifting off to sleep in the bassinet next to me. There were details of the birth for which we had prayed specifically, and in God’s amazing goodness, came into being in ways we cannot fully express our gratitude.

6:10 AM
Eli woke up after sleeping through his baby brother’s birth. Andrew brought him to our room to meet Holden for the first time. Eli was amazed by every movement Holden made and even ran downstairs and back up to bring him a toy.

Just as clouds do not suddenly disappear, it’s hard to find the right ending to Holden’s birth story.

We are out of those hazy, magical hours immediately after birth. My milk has come in, the adrenaline of birth has worn off, and the clouds are slowly drifting.

The sun is shining through, and I’ve never felt more tired and alive all at once.

“There is power that comes to women when they give birth.  They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.” -Sheryl Feldman

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Carolyn F. 

Faith and Healing: A ‘Post Dates’ Home Birth After a Cesarean

Faith and Healing: A ‘Post Dates’ Home Birth After a Cesarean

(Editor’s note: this birth experience was originally posted on August 23, 2011.)

To gain a little insight of why I had a C-section with my first born, I have it written down as a “vent” on my blog. It basically started out as one intervention cascading into a ball of interventions that led me to a transfer from a “Birth Center” birth to the hospital that ended in a non-emergency C-section for being stuck at 5cm for hours and hours. I did a lot of processing and mourned the birth and post par tum bond of my beautiful baby girl, Alana.

I did my research, got in touch with my local ICAN Chapter and soaked up as much info as I could. I also found a lovely CPM who takes VBAC’s as I knew the best chance of a successful VBAC would to be at home with the least intervention and the most support. I did all my own prenatal’s, skipped the ultrasound, listened and trusted my body to grow my baby and prepare for birth. I was on top of my nutrition and got monthly adjustments from my chiropractor and even got a wonderful massage at the end of my pregnancy.

My VBAC Baby Born at Home
Wow! Where do I begin? Ethan’s birth has so many emotions attached to it. So many hopes and dreams came true the night he was born, on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010. It’s hard for me to even write what I really want to write here. Whatever I write, it comes from a deep place in my soul.

First, I just have to give praise and honor to our Heavenly Father…for knowing the desires of my heart, for loving me through some hard challenges in my life and for allowing them to grow me. Our Creator is so good. While Ethan’s birth was hard work for me, I have no regrets. I guess I could say I “wish” things had gone differently, but really I’m grateful for how it was. This is his story.

I woke up Friday the 14th (9 days after my due date) still very pregnant and no end in sight. Then around 10am I went to the bathroom to find “bloody show”. It renewed my faith in my body that things were progressing and that I would be having this baby. I was really hoping that I would be holding my baby within 24 hours, but no. Bloody show came and went and Istill had my all day, every day braxton hicks that would always go away when I went to bed. There was no way I was willing to do anything to speed things along. I knew that in order to have the best possible chance at a VBAC, I would have to allow things to unfold completely unhindered. While it was hard and uncomfortable being so big, I was so at peace with where my body was at and what it needed to do. I continued to have bloody show all through the weekend.

Monday the 17th, I felt different. Lots more bloody show and my contractions were slightly stronger. So I did some massive “nesting” and Alana was my sidekick. It was truly a wonderful day spent with my daughter for the last time just the two of us. We made a pot roast in the crock pot, went to Trader Joe’s for some shopping, cleaned the house top to bottom and made cookies! It was such a beautiful, peaceful day. A day that I will remember forever. Matt was in and out of the house throughout the day working and it allowed Alana and I some time alone together.

Monday night, as we got ready for bed at 11:30pm, I noticed that my braxton hicks were still coming despite how late it was. Usually they had died down by now. So of course I wondered. Went to bed and as I lay there, I couldn’t sleep. Contractions were still coming. I got up to find my phone so that I could start timing them. They were coming every 3-6min. Very short though.

After an hour of this, I decided to get up to pee and I woke up Matt telling him I couldn’t sleep, that I may be in labor. I went pee and had a huge gob of bloody mucus, so I knew that this was the real deal. I told Matt I was going to shower and asked him to pump up the pool. Actually, I think I demanded him to.

I felt really calm, but part of me wanted things ready in case things went quick (wishful thinking). Took a shower and tried to check myself, but everything just felt like mush. I couldn’t tell or maybe I just couldn’t reach my cervix. Matt and I then made the bed up with a shower curtain and a sheet over it while the tub filled. I went downstairs and made some raspberry leaf and nettle tea and grabbed a water and set up my birth snacks on my dresser next to the tub. I told Matt I was happy to labor alone if he wanted to sleep downstairs on the couch. So he grabbed his pillow and a blanket and headed downstairs. To help pass time, I blow dried my hair and did my makeup in between contractions.

I did some hip swaying to give room and even did some squats during the contractions. I made sure to empty my bladder every hour. I was drinking and eating to sustain energy. At 6:30 am, I text my girlfriend, Jessica, to give her the heads up that I had been in labor since 12 am. She was my birth photographer and has an almost 2 year old and knew she was up getting ready for work, so I wanted to give her time to plan for the birth and would keep her posted.

At around 7am Matt’s alarm went off, so I went downstairs to tell him he probably shouldn’t go to work. Matt then asked if I had called the midwife to give her a heads up. That kind of annoyed me because I felt like it was too early yet. Then Alana woke up and pretty much my contractions died at that point. Matt took Alana downstairs and told me to sleep for awhile. I was really distraught because I felt like things were progressing and then the moment Matt and Alana woke, it distracted me and labor had stopped. Ugh!

So I took some Rescue Remedy to help me calm down and I layed down and slept for a couple hours. Then I woke up and took a shower to freshen up. Matt and I had an “upset” so we worked that out (I was still mad over the comment her made about calling the midwife). Nothing like getting irritated at each other when you want to be laboring. Then we ate and decided to go for a walk around 3:30 pm. While walking, I timed my contractions and there were coming every 5 min. I had to stop and lean over something for every contraction or hang on to Matt, whatever I could grab first. I’m sure I was a sight to the passing drivers.

Contractions continued to come after walking and eating dinner. I called Jessica, my mom and sisters and let them know to head on over around 8pm. Even though I had planned to labor alone for the majority of labor, I was so ready for some support. They all showed up and my sister Callie announced that she was making brownies. Grrr. I really wanted some and I never got any. I called my midwife sometime after 8 pm to give her the heads up. She listened to me while I went through a couple contractions and said they are about 3 minutes apart, but only lasting 30 sec. She was currently at another birth and I agreed to keep her posted.

I labored all through the night. Everyone found places to sleep and in the early hours, I want to say around 2am, things were  intense. I think I was pretty tired and my contractions were getting painful. I was in the birth tub for quite a while at this point, but I had been in and out and changing positions every hour. I called the midwife around 3:30 am and was ready for her to come. She and her assistant headed over. I remember about this time feeling intense energy and it was quite overwhelming. I was getting very vocal and loud.

When my midwife came in, she prayed over me and told me where to release the energy in an effective way by vocalizing in a low/deep tone. What a difference that made. I really wanted to scream the pain away, but with the direction from my midwife I was able to welcome the pain and release the intense energy in an effective way. That is what gets me through the rest of my labor.

I ended up moving to my bed to lay down and rest. Contractions spaced out to allow me to doze and get some sleep. I held on to my mom’s hand and squeezed for every contraction. After an hour or so, I was up and ready to get back to business. I labored all over my room and in the tub. Mom made me some breakfast-eggs and hash browns. I layed down again and was able to get a good sleep. I decided to not vocalize and just relax during my contractions. That was hard, but I needed the sleep.

Around 9am, I got up and decided I was ready for a check. I NEEDED to know at this point what progress had been made. My midwife said that I was about 7cm. Yay! To me, that was a good thing. I had only progressed to 6 cm with Alana, so I was happy to be past that hurdle. It was just what I needed to hear to keep me going. My midwife needed to head out for a little while and so did my mom, sisters and Jessica. It allowed me to focus on getting busy with labor.

My mom and sister Kimberly came back around 1 pm and started timing my contractions. I was in the tub, on my knees, hanging over the side and contractions started getting closer, longer and more intense. I held on to my mom for every contraction. My almost 4 year old daughter pretty much stayed in my room. She was amazing. I rubbed my knees raw from staying in this position for so long. There was lots of pressure in my bottom and at the peak of my contractions, I wanted to push. It was so intense, its all I could do. We called the midwife and she was on her way.

About this time, it started to storm outside. It was really cool. I walked the hall, did some laboring on the toilet and would hang from mom’s neck. Midwife got there and I asked her to check me and she said I still have a rim of cervix (9cm) and that I would need to relax through contractions to melt it. “Yeah right!” is what I thought. She said another option was she could hold the cervix while I push the baby past it. I told her I would try “relaxing” to melt the cervix.

Well, an hour later, I hit my wall. I started having thoughts of going to the hospital. I just couldn’t go on. I was exhausted and there needed to be progress. So I yelled down the stairs to my midwife that I would like her to hold it back. She came upstairs and got prepped. She warned me that it would hurt. I didn’t care. What could hurt worse than those contractions? I got propped up in my bed with Callie and Jessica holding each of my legs, while my midwife massaged cervix in between contractions and held it up while I pushed during contractions. It was so hard finding the right place to push. Thank goodness I even had the urge to push. I pushed 4 times per contraction and pushed hard and at one point the assistant told me to hold my breath while pushing. I tried it once and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath in time for the next push so decided that wouldn’t work and I needed to blow air out while pushing.

During this time, I was fed yogurt and drinking Recharge and Emegen-C to keep me fueled. I think I even apologized for any toots I couldn’t hold in. LOL. Finally, the cervix was gone and his head was low enough that I was able to get into a different position.

I head straight for the toilet.  It’s amazing how intense the urge to push is. Our bodies our amazing in that it just takes over and you don’t have a choice. While sitting on the toilet, I was hugging the assistant and my mom and reaching for my midwife’s hand. I think I was reaching for help, for someone to just take the intensity away. For whatever reason, it made sense at the time. I really used some muscles in my body as I was hugging on them hard. I remember saying out loud “I can’t” and the assistant saying back to me, “but you are”. That was powerful and gave me the push to keep going (not like I had a choice, but I was able to rationalize it in my head to keep going).

Some of this is really hazy and I don’t remember much detail, but at this point I was sooo hot and sweaty. I asked for cool rags so the ladies started putting cold rags on me. Then I got in the tub in a reclining position and was still cooking so they brought in a fan and aimed it right at me. I pushed and pushed, then got onto my knees to hang over the side of the tub. I had Callie put counter pressure on my lower back and that was AMAZING relief. I could feel the head come down low during pushing and then suck back up in between contractions.

Midwives suggested moving into different pushing positions since its like trying to cork screw the baby out. So I said I wanted out of the water, but when it came time to move, I didn’t want to. The ladies said “lets go” and so I finally just did it. I really didn’t want to move in fear another contraction came while moving. I squatted on the floor at the foot of my bed and wrapped my arms over my mom and sister’s necks for support. There was a mirror on the floor so that I could see the progress. That was cool and kept me going! Then I decided I wanted to push in a reclining position on my bed. I really wanted to see the progress and my legs were tired so it was time to move.

Propped in reclining position and hanging on to my mom for dear life, I pushed and pushed. There is no pain like the ring of fire. I seriously dislike those ladies who’s babies come flying out and don’t feel the ring of fire. It’s so intense. I watched in the mirror the whole time and reached down and touched his head. It was incredible! I’m so thankful it was slow so that I could process the whole experience. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I just wanted to soak the experience in…the experience that I had longed for and what I missed with my daughter’s c-section. So even though it was painful, God knew that it needed to happen slowly. It was needed for my healing. I will never forget, I was the first one to touch my baby. I was in the moment and feeling totally connected to my unborn baby.

VBAC HBAC

My midwife suggested I grunt, to not push him out too fast and I did that to get his head out. Part of me just wanted to push hard and to get it done and over with. But I chose to ignore that thought since I really didn’t want to tear. Once his head was out (sweet relief!!), I reached down and started touching his face. I got a good minute of touching him and it was surreal. Then my last contraction came and out he came with some maneuvering by the midwives since there was a loose cord around his neck and wrapped around his body and then I reached down and pulled him up to my chest.

HBAC VBAC

He was born on Wednesday, May 19th, at 8:01pm. My sister Callie then saw his parts and announced “its a boy!” and we all squealed in delight! His apgars were 8 and 9 and he squawked when he was born and then it took him another 45 seconds or so to get out a good cry.

The “love cocktail” is real and I got to experience it with my beautiful son. I was instantly in love with him and I smelled, touched and kissed him within minutes of him being born. My daughter got to experience and watch the whole thing. She was right at my side within a minute of baby’s birth, talking and touching him. He knew who is sister was. When she talked, he looked for her and it was soothing to him. She has been so loving with him and I know that her being there for the birth, instantly bonded them. My husband had to walk out of the room because of the intensity, but I know that his heart was full and that he was happy with the outcome. And that he was a BOY!

HBAC VBAC

VBAC HBAC

HBAC VBAC

I had two small tears, one on each labia. I took the stitches in hopes of a quicker recovery. Baby boy weighed in at 9 lbs 10 oz (major shock), 22in long and a 14.5in head! Big, happy and healthy boy milked his time in mama. He came at exactly 42 weeks with no pressure from anyone to have him before then. He chose his birthday! And it took us a little over a week to choose his name, Ethan Matthew Wright. He is simply amazing!

I am forever grateful for my “hands off” midwife who became “hands on” when I needed a little bit of help at the end to get that pesky lip of cervix to move and for her patience and trust in my ability to birth my baby!!!

I also have a picture video here.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Melissa. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait, what is it” Hubby says.

“I don’t know, you caught him.”

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

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

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

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

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

Birth experience submitted by Amanda Rogowski.

Pictures taken by Jennifer Last of Jennifer Last Photography.

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo submitted by Sarah W. 

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

There was a moment, just before Ellie reached a gloved hand inside of me, that I wondered if I was cheating. If my body was incapable of truly beginning labor on its own. 6 centimeters dilated, completely effaced, 42 weeks with him in my womb. I ached to feel the natural progression of things – the dance of intensifying rushes around my middle, the surprise of his waters leaving me in the middle of the night, or as I rose in the morning, or in the produce aisle of the supermarket.

“Are you ready?” Ellie asked, one hand on my thigh. I leaned against a stack of pillows and nodded. And just like that, with a swift poke and a tug and a pop, the fluid that held him for forty-one weeks and six days, was gone.

Rushes started slowly, climbing from my thighs, to the top of my belly and back again. Caitlin, my doula, diffused cinnamon and cedarwood, and KC reheated salmon and beans from the night before. The birthing room was warm and honey colored. The rain outside came and went in waves. I felt an overwhelming safety and a drumming readiness as I paced from one wall to the next. The tub rested in the middle of the room, empty and waiting.

Didn’t plan much for this birth. With Aspen still so young and needing, and labor being (generally) so unplannable, I hadn’t thought to make a music playlist or pack snacks for myself or pen affirmation cards. Instead, my bag was full of smoothie pouches for Aspen, and diapers, and footed pajamas. But the disorganization of it all was oddly comforting. I took the opportunity to trust, and to settle into the moment.

I thought that music might be nice, so I opened Pandora on my phone. The default station is Disney music for the toy shop, and a song from Mary Poppins began to rattle my bones loudly. I tried to remember what music I was hoping for, but my mind was getting foggy. I turned to watch the rain out the window and switched my phone to silent.

And then, a rush much more intense than the others suddenly overtook me. I leaned against the glass and waited for it to be over, but it never quite left. The next was nipping at its heels, and the next, and the next, stacking atop one another like aftershocks from an earthquake. I found myself on the cool of the concrete floor, rocking and vocalizing through the cascade. I remember calling for KC, who was in the kitchen heating the salmon. I could hear a low conversation between he and Caitlin, and they both sounded worlds away.

I was somewhere else entirely, body and mind.

When they made it back into the room, the steaming to-go box made my stomach turn. I pushed it away and suggested a popsicle, maybe, because my body was telling me that I was both very hungry, and very sick. I took a few bites and then passed it back to KC.

It was time to fill up the tub. Just an hour after Ellie broke my water, I was now loudly vocalizing through rushes that lasted a minute or longer. I eased my body into the bean shaped tub and immediately knew that I wouldn’t leave the water until my baby was born. The feeling of weightlessness was a primal birthing need that I didn’t know I had until I gently moaned through a half-dozen rushes in the water. I closed my eyes. Caitlin held a cool cloth to my brow and Ellie’s nurse, Spring, pressed two hands down either side of my spine. I let my arms hang heavy over KC’s shoulders and inhaled the salty smell of his neck.

“You’re doing it,” he said into my ear, “You’re almost there.”

I was trapped in the in between – so close to the veil, where life splits and hangs in warm water, one side light, the other dark. Life meeting life meeting death. I knew a part of me was about to die, again, as it had when I gave birth to Aspen. I welcomed the death, and let it tear into me. Fire filled my belly, burning from back to front and back again.

From somewhere on the other side, I heard Spring say, “You’ve been in this position for fifty minutes now. Do you feel ready to try something else?” I felt myself nod. I waited for a lull in the pain and then pushed my body back, resting my spine against the curve of the tub. KC held my feet and massaged gently.

And then, just like that, I woke up.

When before I was barely breathing, barely awake, eyes closed, I now felt safe and alert and alive. I opened my eyes. I was smiling, laughing, talking between rushes that had mellowed measurably. The space between the bouts of pain grew longer.

“Something’s wrong,” I told Ellie. “I feel too good. Why are my contractions spacing farther apart?”

“It’s normal,” she reassured me, touching a hand to my shoulder. “Your body is resting, building energy. You’re about to meet your son.”

When rushes came, they were fueled by fire. They peaked in the middle and as they unraveled, my body heaved energy downward. The urge to birth my son was primal and uncontrollable. Each rush summoned screams wild and ancient to tumble from my throat. I have never heard something so loud. I shook the windows. Outside, the rain poured.

And with my wailing, the veil was torn.

I remember looking up at KC and seeing tears in his eyes. “I can see him,” he said quietly. “Here,” he grabbed my hand and guided my palm downwards. Just within me, there he was, the smooth round of his head pushing towards my fingers. We waited for the next rush with wide eyes.

And then, with the silent hum of a hundred thousand mothers before me tearing through my middle, my body revealed through a ring of fire a neat round head, and then shoulders, a belly, two arms reaching, and last, legs. One, smooth, involuntary push.

Just like with Aspen’s birth, there were ghosts in the room. I exhaled and heard the sound swim from myself as if I were holding onto my own body gently.

We did it.

We pulled him from the water and I held him to my heart. Ellie cleared his nose and wiped his face and we all slowly worked to move our still connected bodies from the water, to the bed. My faithful team tended and nursed and warmed and whispered. I drank a cinnamon tincture and hot cohosh tea. We cut the cord, changed a diaper, and welcomed family into the room.

Our sweet Griffin arrived screaming into the world at 3:51 PM on Wednesday, January 18th. He was 9 pounds and an ounce, and 20.5 inches long. Though I was bleeding heavily and weak in the knees, I felt almost immediately that his birth had healed some ancient, shattered part of myself. Maybe something I had broken when I chose to numb myself for Aspen’s birth. Or maybe the part of me that had torn in two when I first became a mother. She came alive again that day, in the water, roaring through the thin of the veil.

From mother of one, to mother of many. My edges have been sealed with warm milk and honey light. The veil is closed again, and I am wholly here, on the other side.

Story submitted by Kristen Hedges.

Photographs by Caitlin Wilbur.

Educated & Empowered: A Home Water Birth

Educated & Empowered: A Home Water Birth

My birth story begins a few years before my son was even conceived! While my husband, Jeff, and I were dating we discussed children multiple times. We both knew that we wanted to have kids but I remember clearly telling him that I thought I wanted to adopt since my fear of childbirth was too big. My husband is adopted and we’ve both always felt that it doesn’t take blood to make a family so that was our plan, we would adopt to spare me going through childbirth. Every time I thought about labor or giving birth my body would tense right up and I was filled with such anxiety about all of it. I’ve always thought that I had a very low pain tolerance and the thought of going through such agonizing pain from contractions was just too much for me! Not to mention that then there was getting that kid out – I’d either have to shove it out of my hoo-ha or get it taken out of me from surgery! No thank you! I knew that there was always the option of getting an epidural but I have severe scoliosis and was never quite sure if an epidural would work for me. Though I was confident I didn’t want to experience child birth, as my longing for a child grew, so did my interest in viewing birth photography.

I spent weeks looking at pictures of parents meeting their babies for the first time. My interest in birth photography then grew into an interest in birth stories. I read so many! Some stories of beautiful hospital births, some of brave women having cesarean’s (some by choice, some because of emergency), some of ecstatic parents meeting their adopted children for the first time, and some of peaceful home-births. Each story seemed to lessen my fear of childbirth a little bit more. My thinking slowly began to shift from this terrifying event to an empowering and beautiful process to be able to take part of. I decided that I wanted to be one of the “links in the endless chain of birthing women.”

When I found out that I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a midwife! Where I live it’s possible to get a midwife through the health region but it can be very tough to get into the program since there are only six midwives to cover all of the city and surrounding area! A few people had told me to call as soon as I found out I was pregnant so I called the very next day. I was incredibly lucky to be accepted into the program a month later.

I adored Alison, our midwife, the moment I met her! Alison took wonderful care of me throughout my pregnancy and answered all of my questions. Our midwife always made sure that we knew all of our options and what the pros and cons were to each. Even on her busiest days she took the time to explain things to me in great depth, I really began to trust her. We had been planning a hospital birth throughout our whole pregnancy but when I talked about the birth that I envisioned I always gravitated to home-births. I wasn’t sure how safe they were and I was also scared of the judgment that we would get once people found out that we had a home-birth. Unfortunately, a lot of the time home-births seem to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths because they aren’t educated on them. Alison showed us a lot of research that had been done on home-births to prove to me that they were just as safe as hospital births in low-risk pregnancies. I came to her with a list of possible hiccups during the birth and she explained to us what the procedure would be in each one. I really felt like we were making an educated decision that was best for us, so we decided to plan for our home-birth!

As mentioned previously, I have severe scoliosis. I have an ‘S’ curve with a small curve to the right in the middle of my back, and a large curve to the left in my lower back. Since I had read so many birth stories, I knew there was a slight, but rare, possibility that it could affect whether or not I was able to get an epidural. Because we were planning the home-birth my goal was for a natural labor and delivery, but Alison and I agreed that it was important to cover all grounds so she arranged for me to have an appointment with the head of the anesthesiology department at the hospital. I didn’t get the best news there unfortunately! They weren’t going to have a problem getting the epidural into my spine (which was my original concern) but there was a decent chance that the epidural would not properly administer the pain medication because of the smaller top curve of my spine. It might work – but he couldn’t guarantee it. The head of the department and I talked about what that looked like for me. He explained that if I wanted it, there would be other forms of pain management that I could take. Ultimately though if I needed to have a caesarean I would most likely be put right under with general anesthetic. Nothing changed about our birth plan, but I will say that I had a lot of anxiety about that and worried about who would be there to greet babe if I was put under since Jeff wouldn’t be allowed in the room either. There was nothing else we could do but wait and see what happened.

About a week later, just two days before my due date, Jeff had just finished working around 9:00PM we walked over to the drug store across the street and got a frozen pizza. We came home and watched a terrible show on Netflix then decided it was time for bed. Usually we are in bed by 10:00 but since he had worked much later than usual we ended up staying awake until midnight. Every night in the last two weeks of my pregnancy I had gone to bed a little anxious, I really didn’t want to be awoken by labor – I’m not sure why, but I liked the idea of being awake when the process began. I had just finished brushing my teeth and was sitting down to pee one last time before bed. I was sitting there and suddenly felt this pain in my back. It lasted around thirty seconds but the pain wasn’t super intense. I had back pain throughout my pregnancy so I thought it was probably just that – plus it was still two days before my due date and I had convinced myself that I was going to be overdue! I was getting up from the toilet when my water broke. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was my water or not, but it kept leaking so I had a fairly good idea. Jeff remembered our birth classes and Alison telling us to check for COAT (color, odor, amount, and time) and it seemed everything was normal so far. Jeff asked me if he should fill up the birth pool but I just couldn’t believe what was happening so I said no. Was I really in labor?

My contractions started out five minutes apart but only lasted about thirty seconds. I called a girlfriend of mine who is a labor and delivery nurse and she assured me that I was in labor! She told me to hang up the phone and call my midwife, so that’s exactly what we did. We explained to Alison what was happening and she told us that although my water broke, I could very well be in labor for another 24 hours. She asked me to take a Tylenol, get into the bath tub, and try to get some rest. She explained to us that the bath would probably space out my contractions but have them become longer. She asked me how the pain was and I said it was tough but manageable. At this point I was still able to move around and talk on the phone. Jeff had set up the birth pool while I was on the phone and asked if he should fill it up but I told him to hold off for now. I got into our bath tub and the water felt so nice but I didn’t like that I wasn’t able to move around much. After about half an hour in the tub my contractions sped up to 2-3 minutes apart but lasting between 30-45 seconds. The pain was getting intense! I got out of the tub but my body was not happy. I felt like I was having a terrible flu, I started throwing up that darn pizza! My contractions were getting more and more intense. I was still having mostly back pain but I remember being able to feel my hips literally separating so we decided to call Alison again.

We explained to Alison that my contractions were 2 minutes apart now or less, but they still weren’t lasting quite a minute. Some of them were as short as 30 seconds, and some were 50 seconds, but they didn’t last longer than that. Because of the strange pattern in my contractions she was fairly sure that I was in early labor still, but she asked if I would like her to come check me and I did. I told her that the pain was getting very intense and if I was in early labor then I wanted to talk about what my options were for pain management. She told me that it was going to get a lot more intense and I would really need to focus if I wanted to have the home-birth that I had hoped for. At this point I had decided that if this was early labor I was definitely going to the hospital for some kind of drug, so I once again told Jeff not to fill up the tub.

I labored on our bed while we waited for Alison. I didn’t feel like I could move around much at this point so I tried to just stay as calm and comfortable as possible. The contractions were still quite random but on average were 1.5 to 2 minutes apart. While I was laboring I felt a little chilled and said “socks” to Jeff. He ran out of the room and came back with the small bin of baby socks that we had purchased! Jeff and I are “How I Met Your Mother” fans and if you’re familiar with the show you’ll remember an episode where Lily decides she wants to have a baby because she sees some cute little baby socks. Throughout my pregnancy that was a little joke that we had when we bought baby clothes! At this point though I wanted socks for my feet, not to look at. I still laugh whenever I think about that!

Alison arrived around 3:00 A.M. We talked for a little bit about how I was feeling and she coached me through a few contractions. The pattern to them still wasn’t consistent, she explained that one of two things was happening: either the baby was in a strange position causing the irregular contractions or the baby was coming very quickly. My family has a history of fast deliveries so although in my head I was preparing for the worst, I was really, really hoping that I was fairly far along. I’ll never forget what Alison said when she checked me! “Tessa! Oh, Tessa! You’re having this baby at home.” I replied, “Yeah?! Really?” And she said, “You’re a 7!”

And that was it. If I had gotten to 7cm dilated with thinking that I was in early labor, surely I could see this through! That was the confidence boost that I needed. Since our baby was coming quickly, we needed to prepare! Jeff now had to hurry to fill up the pool since I kept telling him to hold off. Alison had to bring all of the birthing and emergency equipment into the house and set it up, and she needed to contact another midwife to come for the birth. I moved from our bed to the couch so I could soak in the hustle and bustle of the night. It was so exciting. I had read so many books on labor and written cue cards for myself to meditate on. I didn’t use the cards in labor but I had read them so many times beforehand that I was still able to think about them during contractions.

That time between 3:30 and 4:30AM are some of my fondest memories from my birthing experience. Our sweet dog, Timothy, came and snuggled up beside my leg. Since the baby was coming quickly Jeff and Alison were both busy and couldn’t spend much time with me but I never felt alone. As cheesy as this sounds, Timothy was the sweetest birth coach! One of the best notes that I had read was to really take time to enjoy the moments between the contractions. I thought about celebrating their birthday a year from then and how excited I was to plan the party. I thought about seeing their little face and holding them for the first time. I thought about all of the women around the world birthing with me at the same time and how incredible it was to be a part of the circle of life. Although the pain was intense when I was contracting it was just such a beautiful thing to be able to experience. My body knew what to do!

I started to feel the urge to push but the second midwife wasn’t at the house yet. Alison had tried to call the other two midwives on her team but neither of them were able to make it there quickly so she called a midwife on the other team who agreed to come right away. Alison told me that if I felt the urge to push not to resist it and asked if I was able to move into the tub. The tub was full enough to get in so I slowly made my way into it. The water felt phenomenal! I know everyone says that, but it’s true!

When I got into the water I remember thinking that labor is just so weird. At that moment I felt completely, 100% normal and was not experiencing any pain at all. It’s hard to believe that there are moments like that in labor but there really are! I started pushing shortly after 4:30AM. Pushing felt great. Pushing took away almost all of the pain from the contractions. I remember the other midwife coming into the house when I was in the middle of pushing. I hadn’t met her before and I didn’t want to be rude so I grumbled out “helloooo” to her! Jeff had pots of water boiling on the stove and between staying with me he would run to get a pot and dump it in to keep the water warm. At one point while I was pushing he dumped the pot of water partially on his hand but decided it was best not to mention that while his wife was in labor – smart guy! I pushed slowly and only during contractions. I put my hand down and felt lots of soft hair, the baby was getting closer. I had read about the “Ring of Fire” and I totally get why they call it that. There really is no better explanation for that pain. Our sweet babe was crowning and I was making sounds that I didn’t even know I could make. I kept my eyes shut the entire time I was pushing so I had no idea where anyone was. Jeff and I had talked about the birth numerous times before and he always said he didn’t think he would watch the baby coming out but, to my surprise, he did! At 5:20 AM I felt instant relief from the pain.

I looked down and there was this tiny little babe in the water. The chord was wrapped around his neck and as Alison unwrapped it she told us that that was actually very common. It made me so happy that she wasn’t concerned in the slightest about it. And there was our baby! After all of that: all of the hoping, dreaming, and praying – our baby was here. They placed the baby on my chest for immediate skin-to-skin. We looked down and saw that it was a sweet little boy. We did delayed chord clamping. Alison let us feel for the pulse in the chord to slowly disappear; while we waited, it was so cool watching the colour come into his body from the chord. When the pulse was gone, Jeff cut the chord. He says that it was firmer to cut than he had been anticipating. It was all so magical! In our birth plan I had agreed to a shot of oxytocin to speed up the birth of the placenta. After a few minutes, I was feeling ready to push again so I gave the baby to Jeff for skin-to-skin. Pushing out the placenta was a breeze compared to the baby.

Shortly after I slowly stood up out of the tub. What a weird feeling! It was almost as if my insides were all falling back into place. I distinctly remember feeling my organs shifting. I walked over to our bed where Alison had set up a cozy and clean area for all of us. She assessed me and determined that I had a second-degree tear. I snuggled our new babe while she stitched me up. They asked us what his name would be – Everett! After I was stitched, Everett found his way to the breast to nurse. He latched on right away and was happy to be eating. Alison then took Everett’s measurements, heart rate, and got his weight. He was 20.8” and weighed 8lbs, 6 oz. Jeff and I both thought that he looked so small when in reality he was a fairly big baby! The midwives stayed with us a while longer to examine Everett and I then they left us alone as a new family of three (four if you count Timothy). The experience of having a home birth was phenomenal. I loved the comfort of being in our own home. Our family came over the next few days to make sure we were well fed, our house was cleaned, and our garden was even planted for us!

Having a baby is strange – beautiful, but strange! When I saw Everett for the first time I knew that I loved him without a doubt, but I remember thinking that I loved my dog more than him. Yup! I remember lying in bed thinking, wow, I love my dog more than my baby, I probably shouldn’t have a kid! The first night we were getting ready to go to sleep and Everett started to scream at around 10 PM and all I could think was “what have we done?” It took time for me to fall deeply in love with him and that’s something I wasn’t prepared for. I felt somewhat disconnected from the whole thing, Alison assured me that that was normal, but I wish that as mothers we talked about that experience more! I think that’s why skin-to-skin is so important for parents and babies. The next few weeks were challenging, my hormones were somewhat everywhere and I was a little nervous to be responsible for a tiny human. Jeff took two weeks off of work when Everett was born and I’m so glad we had that time together as a family. Jeff took the lead with diaper changes and would walk with Everett in the night while I was healing from the birth. Jeff was the more patient parent right out of the gate, it all seemed to come really natural to him but it felt like a bit of a struggle for me. I had never been around baby’s much and even though we took a lot of classes, I still felt like I had a lot to learn.

Breastfeeding was hard! There was a lot of pain but I was determined to keep going with it. Everett had a tongue and a lip tie which at the time we decided to leave but in hindsight I think that was part of the reason we had such a battle finding a good latch. Luckily our midwives were great for showing us some different nursing positions and the lactation consultants were wonderful resources!

Everett is eight months old now and I really do love him more and more every day. Watching him grow and learn new things is so exciting. Birthing him was challenging, but by far my greatest accomplishment in life. I am so proud of what my body has done. Having a home-birth, for me, was the ultimate way of conquering my fear of childbirth. I absolutely loved the experience of it all. Before I had him, a friend of mine said that she wished she could birth a baby every day – I thought she was crazy! But I understand what she meant now as I, too, wish I could birth a baby every day. It is the most wonderful and empowering thing I have ever been a part of. What a beautiful gift, and honour, it is to be able to grow and birth a human being!

Story and photographs submitted by Tessa N. 

Surrender to the Ocean’s Tide: a Water Birth Story

Surrender to the Ocean’s Tide: a Water Birth Story

I had begun having Braxton Hicks contractions at regular intervals starting at 36 weeks. Every day I would contract at 5 minutes apart and end the day at 3 minutes apart. So on May 4th, 2017, which happened to be my due date, I didn’t think too much of my contractions, which now felt stronger. After picking up my daughter from school at 1:30 I came home and got in the bath tub, at which point the contractions slowed to 10 minutes apart. At 3 pm l decided to call my midwives to talk about my symptoms.

Once I got out of the tub the contractions picked back up at 5 minute intervals. This time they seemed crampier, more intense. They accelerated very quickly and within minutes I was making what my husband calls “tribal” sounds that signified it was real this time. However, I was still in denial that this was really “it”, and didn’t call my husband until 3:45pm. My 4-year-old daughter was watching a movie in the living room and periodically came to check on me back in my bedroom. Despite the noises that I was making, somehow, I was still in denial that this was really it. Thank goodness, I DID decide to inform everyone on my birth team, including my photographer. Little did I know how soon the baby would come.

The midwives arrived around 4:15pm and announced that I was fully dilated. I was so relieved! Soon after my husband walked in from work. If he would have left his office just 10 minutes later I’m quite sure he would have hit traffic and not made it to the birth.

I then texted my photographer who lives close by. She arrived at my house at 4:45, just in time to photograph me working through a few contractions. The pool was quickly set up and I stepped into the warm water. It was so comforting. In between contractions I felt fine. I carried on conversation and even told the photographer to open the blinds so we could get better lighting. We smiled for a nice family picture, and then I resumed my work.

With the next contraction, I felt what I can only describe as a “pop” of a rubber band. It took me a moment to mentally register this feeling, and a few seconds later I announced that my water had broken. With the water breaking came an undeniable urge to push. I focused inwardly, pushed gently, and out came little Levi! I did not feel a “ring of fire” this time, instead I felt what can only be described as getting kicked in the crotch with cleats.

After that moment I felt his head, then his neck, then shoulders, then body, all squirm out of me. That part was not painful at all! It was such a neat feeling that I do not recall feeling with my first birth. It was such an “out of body” experience, pun intended! I birthed him on all fours, and he slid out behind me. My daughter whispered, “Look Mama, there’s the baby!” My midwife picked him up as I rolled over into a sitting position, resting my back against the side of the tub. He immediately let out a strong, loud cry. I rested him on my chest and took in all the wonder of what had just occurred. A few minutes later, I got out of the tub and crawled into bed with my family. I laid him on my chest and he found and latched onto my breast. Soon after I pushed the placenta out. I did not bleed very much, neither in the tub nor post-partum.

I was so much more “present” for this birth than my first water birth, which was also swift and peaceful, however, I must have mentally escaped to “labor land” with my first. For this birth, I felt so clear minded in between and even during contractions. This must be why I was in such denial that I was in labor until right at the end, because I partly expected that mental fog feeling of labor land to come over me if it was real labor. My first birth was nearly 4 hours long, and I hadn’t had even a twinge or a cramp until I went into obvious labor with her. With my second birth, I had so many contractions for many weeks leading up to the birth. I had become like the boy who cried wolf, thinking every single day that the baby was coming, and eventually doubting myself, feeling more confused than ever about what real labor even felt like.

This birth confirmed what I already knew to be true from my first: birth can be so very simple, if we just allow ourselves to surrender to the ocean’s tide, instead of swimming against it.

Story submitted by Mackenzie A. 

Photographs taken by Kat Reiser

Labor in the Shower, Babywearing, & Anxiety is a Liar

Labor in the Shower, Babywearing, & Anxiety is a Liar

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