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Embracing the Unexpected: Akash’s Birth Story

Embracing the Unexpected: Akash’s Birth Story

Life has a funny way of taking what we plan and completely turning it on its head. Akash’s birth was no exception to this rule. Throughout 2016, William and I had taken several leaps of faith. However, even in the midst of moving hectically four times, navigating an unexpected job change for William, and rolling with life’s other twists and turns, we were fastidious in planning Akash’s transition from the womb to earth through a homebirth. Besides working closely with our midwife, we read, googled, watched documentaries, and meditated our way to facilitating a smooth transition for this little miracle of a being.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was incredibly fortunate to feel energized and healthy for the most part, save for a salmonella scare in May. I was in great awe of the work my body was doing without any intervention from me and that I could grow an entire human after having received just one extra cell. To encourage our baby’s development, I ate wholesome foods, exercised regularly, and even chose my environment, music, reading material, and movies carefully. I strongly felt anything that passed through me could make its way to Akash. By the time mid-November rolled around, I was feeling strong, prepared, and ready to settle into motherhood. I was convinced that I had done what was needed to have the birth we had planned. Even though William reminded me that we have to be open to anything, I was sure that with my health and the work we had put into creating an optimum space for this event, all would be fine.

Starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I began to experience strong Braxton Hicks almost every morning. Sometimes they would even increase in intensity and I would tell William that today might be the day, only to have everything dissipate by noon. Eventually I began to wonder if my body was missing some sort of starter mechanism – almost as if it was trying to get things moving but couldn’t quite make it happen. Regardless, I increased the length and frequency of my walks and we tried herbs and other exercise tricks our midwife recommended to invite Akash earth side with a bit more urgency.

Soon his December 1st due date had passed and more days ticked by with nothing but Braxton Hicks. He also still hadn’t dropped into my pelvis, which is unusual for a first baby by this point. We went in for an ultrasound on Monday, December 12th to make sure all was well. While all seemed fine, we had to do some follow up testing to ensure he was able to move around enough. Even though he had moved frequently during the follow up testing, we were still strongly encouraged to get an induction that day and I left feeling disheartened and nervous for what was to come, as that visit was the first time that someone had said outright that my body and baby may not be capable of doing this job on their own. I felt a tremendous wave of fear, frustration, and loss that evening as it was seriously considered for the first time that the home birth we had worked so hard to plan may not come to be. In retrospect, this swirl of emotions may have likely laid the groundwork for the experience that would come to be.

The next morning we went to meet with our midwife, Michelle, and found that his position was still not conducive to birth and he had a slight dip in his heart rate during our monitoring. We decided we would go back for a follow up ultrasound to make sure everything was still going well. That ultrasound indicated there was meconium in the waters, which can lead to complications after birth. Between his position, the earlier drop in heart rate, and this new development, we decided William and I would check into the hospital for additional monitoring and try a cervical induction method.

Once hooked up on the monitor at the hospital, it was clear his heart rate was strong and steady and I received medicine to thin my cervix and hopefully initiate contractions. Luckily the procedure was all done by 5:30 and we were able to go downstairs and see my mom’s holiday concert, as she sings in the hospital choir. The baby seemed to enjoy their rendition of Jingle Bells in particular, as I had quite the flurry of kicks and spins!

We went back to our room and I began to bounce on the birthing ball as if my life depended on it for a while. After my parents brought us dinner, William and I relaxed and he dozed off, but my night was just beginning. Contractions began around 9:30 and came anywhere from 2-6 minutes apart for much of the night. While the intensity wasn’t too serious, I began to feel hopeful that things were finally moving downwards. The contractions lasted through the night and the hospital gave us the ok to go home and try to continue the process in our own space.

While they dissipated a bit in the car, I spent much of Wednesday on the couch trying to sleep between the contractions, where were a steady 7 minutes apart. William spent the day preparing our home with the final touches and organizing the birth supplies that we had spent so long curating and excitedly preparing.

Michelle came over around 5pm, as the contractions were a steady 6 minutes apart. She checked and found that I was still just 1 centimeter dilated and we decided it would make sense for me to try to get some more rest, as sleep had been in short supply. Her plan for early labor was to rest for a bit and work for a bit, and I was grateful for purposeful time to let my body relax and was surprised how I was able to more or less doze through the contractions when I really let myself go.

When I came back down from the nap, it was time to get to work. I walked up and down stairs, tried squatting, bouncing on the ball, and doing lunges. Michelle encouraged me to sink deeper and deeper into each contraction and William was a phenomenal support, as I would often lean into him during the most intense moments of each one. We would chant “Aum” together to help me breathe through the peak of the rush and I found incredible comfort and fortitude in this shared experience.

We took another rest later on and when I came down at 11:30pm we found my waters had broken slightly and I had a steady trickle. Now we were really starting to gain hope, though the contractions were still 6 minutes apart or so. We did a quick check and it did seem he had moved down slightly as well. We went back to work for a bit, but this was interrupted by me getting sick and needing to vomit. Luckily, I felt revived after that and was able to keep walking and trying methods of sinking into each rush. When I could rally to say make more noise than just a moan, I would often chant Open along with Aum interchangeably during each rush as a way to remind my body what we were trying to accomplish and spiral my hips to encourage our baby to spin downwards.

Around 1:30am on Thursday morning, Patti, a nurse and home birth midwife who specializes in uterine massage, joined us. She worked on my uterus for almost two hours, trying to coax our baby down and help my muscles coordinate their actions to facilitate this process. It also became clear that getting sick was going to be part of this experience, as I again had to throw up in the middle of her work. Her gentle touch and presence was incredibly important during the darkest time of the night, as she has a very calming presence even in the midst of such intensity.

After her visit we did some more walking and trying to find ways to move to increase the intensity and frequency of the contractions, but to no avail and I felt like I desperately needed some more rest. Around 5:30 I was woken by the strongest rushes of intensity I had felt yet. I had to keep reminding myself that every sensation I was experiencing was coming from my own muscles and my own body so they could not overpower me, because the intensity was created by me. Michelle had called the rest of our home birth team by this point and Allie, her assistant, and Gillian, our secondary midwife, were there when I made it back out to the living room. Their quiet synergy allowed William and me to be enveloped in conscious and deliberate care, without our space being intruded on. I was so grateful for this balance as I was trying to navigate this seeming next stage of the labor process with the ever-increasing intensity.

birthing tubDespite our best efforts, the intensity again waned and we decided to do another check. It was incredibly disheartening to find that, after 36 hours of contractions, I was only 2 centimeters dilated. At this point, the five of us had to have a conversation because my water had been broken for long enough that the risk of infection could start increasing. We decided that we were going to spend the next couple hours doing everything and anything we could to get this baby out at home and then revisit all the options we had.

William and I took this opportunity to go for a walk to the bottom of the driveway and visit our favorite neighborhood dog. Getting a bit of sun and fresh air felt absolutely amazing and I felt like we were able to recenter and ground ourselves back down to this seemingly endless journey. Upon arrival back at the cabin, we changed the music from our quiet and steady yogic chants to more upbeat Thievery Corporation, which William eventually changed to a psytrance DJ to really get the mood up. We filled the tub and I tried a couple different positions there, as well as more squatting and stairs.

Regardless of our efforts however, no progress was being made and it was now around 1pm on Thursday. Still getting sick occasionally and running on little sleep, I was becoming increasingly exhausted and finding it harder and harder to really sink into the contractions and give my body full permission to use them to open. The process began to feel more like a fight and my mind began to swirl with doubt in my ability to find the light at the end of the tunnel, literally and figuratively.

After a long conversation, we decided to call the hospital, as it seemed this baby needed a stronger invitation to join us, as the risks for complications were getting higher. Of course, just as we were able to leave, I sank into my strongest waves of contractions yet. We thought we had another glimmer of hope for a home birth, but this was short lived and eventually we made our way back to the hospital.

hospital roomWilliam drove us to the hospital and we didn’t talk much, just sharing the space and accepting the experience we were being given. He wheeled me up to the Birth Place and they put us in a room so we could get settled. William quickly went to work, hanging Christmas tree lights and setting up a makeshift version of the birth altar we had created at home. The twinkling lights and vibrant energy created by the altar helped ease this transition and made the space feel much more like our own which was exactly what we needed at that moment.

After conversations with Michelle and the midwife from the hospital, we decided that I would get a saline bag to start and see how things were going once I could get more hydrated. Once I was all set up, my parents and sister were able to join us briefly and they came with such love and support for us in the midst of an experience they knew would be challenging for us. Around this time, William and I decided that I would receive an epidural. Even though the contractions were less intense than they had been at home, I felt myself fighting them more and more and was no longer able to embrace them and facilitate the opening that needed to happen. After the saline bag had finished, the anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural.

Once the epidural was in, I was laying in bed and looking at William when I noticed he was getting very hard to focus on and there were spots of darkness permeating my vision. I tried to focus closely on him but was unable to really narrow in on his face and I told the nurse I was feeling dizzy. Initially she did not seem too concerned but than I really stressed how it was getting worse and they found that my blood pressure was dipping because I had not been hydrated enough after being sick for so long. She immediately gave me oxygen and had me breathe into the mask. This made me sick, however, and she quickly gave me a bag. Unfortunately my blood pressure was not going up and they called another nurse in and had me turn onto my hands and knees. I lost track of what they were doing but I knew things were tense in the room. When I asked where William was and they said he had gone to the bathroom, I became more concerned because he hadn’t left my side once during this whole time, and I knew for him to excuse himself the numbers on the monitors must be concerning. They gave me Ephedrine to bring my blood pressure back up, but unfortunately the baby’s heart rate rose along with it to 186, while it should have been staying below 160. Luckily we had an incredible nurse who kept us all calm at this time and we all encouraged the baby to slow down a bit and waited for the Ephedrine to wear off for both of us.

After that episode, they wanted to wait before adding Pitocin to start contractions and instead let both Akash and I recover. By now it was 8:30 and William and I were grateful for the rest. He fell into a deep sleep almost immediately, while I just enjoyed the pain relief of the epidural. It felt truly incredible to feel my body relax completely for the first time since Tuesday and I enjoyed chatting with the nurse.

At 11:30 they checked my dilation again and we were all excited to find that I was now 9 1/2 centimeters. However, Akash still had not moved down at all and we decided to wait a few more hours to see if any further contractions could help move him along. Since nothing was going to happen quite yet, I decided William should keep sleeping and my mom was able to come in and be with me for a bit. It was truly full circle for us, as she had had a challenging labor with me in the same hospital almost exactly 29 years earlier.

By 3:30 on Friday morning he still had not made any progress and we decided to start Pitocin. The midwife from the hospital had me start pushing around 4 am. By this time Michelle was back and we had our favorite nurse from our first hospital stay with us as well. The four of them were an amazing team and fully involved William in the process.

Michelle was an incredible coach for the next two and a half hours. There were many times when it felt like I was pushing with everything I had but not making any process and the sensations were more intense than anything I’d every felt. I was giving everything I thought I had, but when the sensations got stronger, that’s when Michelle told me to embrace that even more. By this point I had forgotten any sense of modesty and was yelling with a volume that matched the intensity of the sensations I was feeling and had completely lost any sense of myself in this process.

There was one moment in particular when I started to get a bit frantic with feeling like this was never going to happen and Michelle looked me right in the eyes and told me to use my breath and center myself and that I knew how to do this. I quickly realized how far I’d gone from my practice and ability to dive into myself and rallied around her words. I fell back on an old rowing practice and focused on taking sets of ten “power breaths,” taking a break between each set. For each set of ten breaths I gave everything I knew how to give and then quickly fell back on the support of the birthing ball behind me when I was done.

Soon Michelle told me to reach down and that I’d be able to feel his head and when I did, I couldn’t believe it. While I could also feel we still had a way to go, I knew that we were also getting closer. This gave me much needed hope and I again leaned into my breath and gave everything I had.

Before I knew it, William said they could see the head about to crown and I gave a few more of the strongest pushes I knew how to give. All of the sudden I heard the exclamations of excitement from everyone and I realized the baby was out! William had been able to catch him and announced that “Shiva was here” to share that he was a boy, before placing him on my chest. I couldn’t believe he was here and just told him again how much I loved him as I tried to take him all in.

Soon he was making it clear it was time for a snack and we gently helped him find my breast, where he quickly latched on and made himself at home. During these first few moments of nursing I also realized the placenta was on it’s way down and after a couple easy pushes, that came out smoothly as well. While Akash was nursing he was still attached to the placenta and it was truly surreal to see him transition from the connection we had shared for so long, to this new one we were both trying to figure out. Soon William was invited to cut the cord and Akash was at once separated from me, yet attached in a whole new way.

breastfeeding, nursingThe day in the hospital was spent sharing our joy with family and then settling in a bit together. Later, we were surprised to hear from the midwife from the hospital that Akash had actually never dropped significantly and that this was the highest vaginal birth she’d seen. Throughout the day the nurses were all wonderful and helped us give Akash his first bath and showed us a few tricks to help make him more comfortable. After a celebratory dinner from the hospital, they let us go home that night and we went to settle into the cabin together.

This entire experience was by far the most humbling one I have had yet. Even though it seemed like for so long that things “should” go a certain way, our experience was so different and still so perfect and beautiful. We were able to share the process more with family, we received incredible care on all levels, and we both have a new appreciation for how western medicine can be used positively and compassionately. While I initially struggled with feeling like I had failed because of the interventions we chose to use, I now feel we were given the opportunity to have the interventions because I needed to learn to not be attached to the way I think things should be or value one experience over another. We truly have to give our best efforts for all that which we can control, and accept and embrace that which we cannot. I have no doubt Akash will continue to show us this, and so many other important lessons throughout our journey ahead and we could not be more thrilled he has decided to join us at long last.

Submitted by Lily V.

Selah’s Birth Story

Selah’s Birth Story

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

“Honey, we are pregnant!”

And just like that, baby number five was on the way. Actually, it had taken over a year of trying after number four, but once that test showed positive, I was ecstatic. I’m sort of a pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding junkie, and we always wanted a big family (but perhaps at some point I should get a new hobby or become a midwife – someday!).

All of my births were incredible journeys of learning, experiencing the power within myself, discovering strength I didn’t know I had, and wonder at meeting a new human. My first birth was a planned unmedicated hospital birth; but I was young, uneducated and I ended up falling prey to their cascade of interventions. So for number two I educated myself, hired a doula and had a textbook wonderful, unmedicated hospital birth.

For number three, I decided I wanted a home birth. At 32 weeks, I started having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions and went into labor at 36 weeks and two days. It was a beautiful, empowering and life-changing experience. At that moment, I decided I always wanted to birth my babies at home; but rarely does life go as planned. I went into preterm labor with number four at 32 weeks, and was admitted to the hospital. They were able to stop me from progressing with medication, but the contractions themselves wouldn’t stop. I was released from the hospital on medication and instructed to be on modified bed rest (Ha! I was a mother to three other children…but I did my best.) From 32 weeks until my water broke at 38 weeks I literally contracted every five minutes – even on medication. I think my body was exhausted.

My water broke spontaneously at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning with no contractions. My husband was only comfortable waiting for labor to begin for 24 hours. So when it didn’t, we headed to the hospital, got some Pitocin, and two hours later without any other medication, I was holding baby number four in my arms. I then proceeded to hemorrhage, and things got a little crazy. Number four’s birth was a little traumatic and went nothing like the plan, but it was still oh so worth it. So when I found out I was pregnant with number five (which is supposed to be our last), I was set on another home birth. I envisioned a perfect birth with a midwife and a photographer capturing all the intimate moments so I could treasure them for a lifetime. And this was my last shot at it!

First on my agenda was to locate a midwife, and then hire a birth photographer. Since we are a military family, all my babies have been born in different states; so I’ve never had the opportunity to have the same midwife with any of my babies. So I located a midwife and began seeing her. Through a misunderstanding on my part at thirty weeks, I realized that I needed a CNM for my insurance to help cover the home birth. So I contacted a different midwife, and she was willing to take me so late in my pregnancy. I loved her. I had never really “clicked” with my first midwife, but after the first time talking with our new midwife I loved her. She felt like the perfect match for our family. The only drawback in my mind was that she lived over an hour away; and we live in the Washington, DC area, so traffic can turn any drive into a much longer adventure.

At 32 weeks again, my Braxton Hicks contractions started in fierce. Given my history, we monitored them closely and I rested as much as possible. I tried all sorts of different strategies to try to keep the contractions down to a minimum. I absolutely did not want to go into preterm labor. I desperately wanted to make it to at least 36 weeks, if not longer; so I was willing to try anything that would help. My mom decided to come when I was 34 weeks to help with the other children and around the house. I homeschool my older kids, so “resting” during the day isn’t very easy. Once we made it to 36 weeks, my mother-in-law decided to go ahead and fly in so she could be at the birth as well.

Two days before my 37-week visit with the midwife, my contractions picked up in intensity and frequency. As the day progressed, they got closer and stronger. I tucked all my little ones in bed around 7 p.m. and then went to take a bath. By about 9 p.m. that night, my contractions were about three minutes apart and a little longer than a minute in duration, and I even a little bit of bloody show; so I called the midwife. In my mind I thought, “This is it!” (I should know what labor is, right? This is baby, number five after all).

My midwife checked back in about an hour later and the contractions were still going strong. She decided to go ahead and come over. Her assistant arrived first and started taking my vitals and helping me through the contractions. Shortly after the midwife arrived, the photographer arrived as well. The contractions were strong enough that it was difficult to talk through them. Then, about three hours after everyone arrived, they just stopped. We waited all night and nothing happened. So the next morning everyone left, thinking that my labor would probably start later that night again.

But nothing happened. My contractions just went back to their regular pattern. About a week later, this happened again. My 38-week appointment rolled around and everything looked great. Physically and emotionally, I was tired due to all the contractions, but baby was doing great. Then 39 weeks came and went as well. By this point, I was so ready to have this baby. I wasn’t sleeping well due to all the contractions, my hips were so sore, and I was tired of wondering, “Is this it?” My best friend had flown in for this week because we were sure baby would be here. But alas, my friend had to get back home to her family while there was still no baby.

At 40 weeks, my midwife arrived at my house for another weekly check. I had all my supplies ready, baby was doing well, and the grandmas were still at our house waiting for baby to arrive. At this point I was not feeling confident in my ability to be able to “know” when I was truly in labor. We had had several “this is it” calls, only to be disappointed… This was baby number five and I still couldn’t figure this out!

My midwife ad I had talked many times about what I envisioned the birth to be, what I wanted, and so forth. My biggest fear for the birth was that my midwife wouldn’t make it in time. I did not want to birth my baby without my midwife there. Especially since I had hemorrhaged after my fourth. We talked extensively about what to do if I had the baby before she got there. I felt so relieved; and for the first time, I felt at peace with the possibility of doing it without the midwife there. I still didn’t want it to happen that way, but I felt prepared in the event that it did. We parted ways with a hug, and a 41-week visit scheduled.

Before bed that night, my contractions had moved a little closer together, but I was not concerned since this had happened many times before. I honestly didn’t even give it a second thought. At 4:30 a.m. on March 23, 2016, I woke up to a contraction. I also needed to go pee, so I decided to get out of bed. While going to the bathroom, I noticed a little bit of bloody show. But again, this had all happened before in the few weeks prior. So I decided to lie back down. I lay down for about 20 minutes and had a couple more contractions, but I just couldn’t get comfortable due to my hips hurting. They had been bothering me so much over the course of the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Most mornings, I had been getting up at around 5 a.m. because it hurt too much to lie in bed any longer. So I slipped out of bed without waking my husband up, and decided to go downstairs and eat something. I made myself some eggs; and while doing that, I had a few more contractions. These contractions maybe felt a little stronger than my normal everyday Braxton Hicks contractions, but were nothing close to being painful. I went upstairs and decided to read. After about 30 minutes I decided to give the midwife a call; it was about 5:30 a.m., since the contractions were coming about every 5 minutes now. They still were not painful or unbearable, but I was still having a little bloody show. I figured we would have the baby sometime that day, perhaps around noonish.

I unlocked the front door and made my way upstairs to get in the bath to see if that would slow the contractions down. Before I got in, I thought I should wake my husband up, just to let him know what was going on. He immediately sat up and was ready to go. I reassured him he should just get more sleep as I didn’t need anything at this point, and told him I just wanted to let him know the front door was open and that the midwife would be there in about an hour. He insisted he wanted to get up, and I finally agreed.

Before I had gone downstairs to eat, I had set up the video camera just in case this was it. This was my last baby, and I did not want to miss getting it on camera. It was about 6 a.m. now and my tub was full of warm water. I put my sports bra on and got in to relax. A few minutes after I got in the tub, I had a contraction and I felt my water break. I immediately knew this was REAL labor and that this baby was coming fast. As soon as my water broke, I felt like I needed to push and I knew she was really close to being born. Mind you, less than five minutes before this I was reassuring my husband he could stay in bed because I didn’t even know if I was really in labor.

As soon as my water broke, I felt intense pressure. I screamed for my husband to get back in the bathroom, call the midwife, and press record on the camera. In my mind I knew the midwife wasn’t going to make it, but I was hoping she had somehow miraculously covered a large distance and was about ready to turn onto our street. But that wasn’t the case. She was still a little over thirty minutes away. We decided she would stay on the phone with us. As we were waiting for another contraction, she asked if I had called the photographer. SHOOT! Given the fact that I wasn’t sure this was it and then now the craziness, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I texted the photographer to tell her that I was in labor and that she should get there fast. She texted back saying she was on her way.

I had another contraction, and it was all I could do to keep from pushing. The contractions were so strong and powerful all of a sudden. My husband was a nervous wreck. He kept pacing; and all I wanted was for him to hold my hand. I did not want to have this baby by myself. The midwife wanted him to go get a few things ready, but I did not want him to leave me. At around this time, another powerful contraction began. The midwife was talking me through it, but about halfway through I could no longer hold off on pushing. My body just took over; and my daughter’s head was born. The midwife continued calmly talking with us, and I just patiently waited in the water for the next contraction. Even over the phone, our midwife was calm, collected, confident, and reassuring and a source of comfort for me. Her confidence and reassurance translated to a level of peace and confidence in my heart and mind.

The next contraction came at 6:15 a.m. and our fifth baby – our second daughter – joined us earth side just 15 minutes after my water had broken and I realized I really was in labor. She slid into my arms, and I immediately brought her to my chest. It was the most surreal moment. She snuggled in, and within a few moments let out her first cry. What a relief. I had done it. Selah Grace was here, and we were now a family of seven. Just my husband and I were at her birth. My mom, his mom, and our four older children had no idea the baby had been born.

Since the midwife was still about 30 minutes away, we decided to go get my husband’s mom to come assess my bleeding since she was a labor and delivery nurse. She told us she was in shock when he came back downstairs and told him the baby was here. She made her way up the stairs and monitored the situation until the midwife arrived. While we waited for the midwife I tried to get my new little one to nurse, but she was happy to just stare at me and listen to me talk to her.

The midwife arrived, the placenta was born, and everyone finally made it in our room to meet the new addition to the family. The photographer had also arrived so she was able to at least capture these moments. It was so beautiful to have all my children in bed with me marveling at our newest baby. She finally decided it was time to eat and she was a champ from the get go at breastfeeding. It was magical. Everyone enjoyed the next few hours of skin-to-skin, weighing baby, looking her over, and taking her in for the first time.

Her birth happened so quickly that it took me several weeks – maybe even a few months – to come to terms with it. In some ways, I felt like I couldn’t even process it because it had felt like such a whirlwind. It was peaceful and awe-inspiring, but it was just difficult to wrap my mind around. Now, eight months later, I feel empowered. It was a magical moment being the only ones there, and I realize there was no way for me to guess that it would have happened that quickly.

Photographs by Alhalia Photography.

The Freebirth of Poppy

The Freebirth of Poppy

Kerry shares with us the incredible story of her daughter’s freebirth at home. 

This was my first unassisted pregnancy and planned unassisted birth, after two beautiful midwife- assisted home births. At around 37 weeks I began experiencing intense exhaustion; I couldn’t rest enough. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I felt extremely fatigued. Fast-forward to 38 weeks, and my energy level took a 180. I couldn’t sit still, dragging my poor husband and children out for walks even though it was mid-December and raining in Washington. This continued for a few days. On Sunday, December 13 (38 weeks 5 days pregnant), I stayed home from church, not having slept well the night before. We were in the process of selling our house and packing for a cross-country move, so things were pretty hectic.

1

That Sunday evening, I experienced lots of mild toning contractions; but that was very typical for me.They didn’t increase in intensity, and even though it was typical for my body to do this, I sensed that my body would soon be in labor. I went to bed at around 10:30 p.m. and finally fell asleep at around 12:30 or 1 a.m. A toning contraction woke me at around 1:30; so I emptied my bladder and went back to bed. A strong contraction woke me at 3 a.m.; I went pee, and tried to go back to sleep. Another wave came a few minutes after I’d gotten back in bed, and it was uncomfortable enough that it required me to get on all fours in bed until it passed. I tried to sleep again. This repeated every five minutes or so for half an hour before I decided I wasn’t getting any sleep and it probably was labor – excitement! Yay!

2

I planned to labor quietly on my own until things picked up in intensity before waking Forrest, my husband. This resolve lasted for about 15 minutes before I knew I had to wake him to start filling the pool (my other labors were only four hours long). At 3:45 I sat down next to my sleeping husband and gently shook him, “I’d like the house straightened… Can you help me?” “Right now??” “Yes, right now!” Looking back, I now understand the crazy look he gave me. He tried to go back to sleep, and that’s when I told him that I thought I was in labor. He got up, and began the task of dealing with the pool and hose while I decided it was a good time to sweep the house and change the sheets, having to stop every few minutes to lean against the wall and sway through a contraction.

3

My youngest, 3-year-old Phoebe, had woken up at this point and was meandering about, helping me with the bed and asking why I couldn’t talk and why I had my eyes closed when I leaned against the wall. The waves were picking up in intensity; I got in the shower and let the water run down my back through a few contractions, but wanted to conserve hot water for the pool so I got out quickly. It was around 5 a.m. when the pool started getting filled, and I jumped in as soon as there was a few inches of water in it. Phoebe was still awake and wanting to help, so she got her big cup from the bathtub and brought it to the living room and would take turns with me pouring water over my back or belly when a wave would hit. Forrest continued to fill the tub, having to boil water on the stove since we ran out of hot water pretty quickly. I was able to comfortably labor sitting down while pouring water on my belly till around 6:15 a.m. or so.

4

I was leaning over the side of the tub as Forrest poured water over my back when a double wave hit, and lasted about two minutes or more. The tightening of the previous contractions changed as I felt my body begin to bear down. I was no longer comfortable in one position or sitting still, and became extremely active in the pool, attempting to get into any position to get some relief, vocalizing through each wave. This was the first unmedicated birth Forrest had seen, and also my most vocal; he asked if I was alright and if this was “normal;” “Yes, dear,” I replied, smiling; “It’s normal.” He may have ended up with a bruised calf with how tightly I was holding onto him through some of the waves!

5

I put my hand down expecting to feel a wedge of baby’s head, but there was nothing. Another strong wave passed over me. I felt a bulging bag of water right inside, but the head was still a few inches up behind my cervix. Fetal ejection reflex took over and I had a contraction with my body bearing down as hard as possible. I like to feel my baby continually throughout this stage, so I kept my fingers near baby’s head. Baby’s head didn’t budge, but the bag of water continued to grow/descend. I knew I needed to break the bag to bring baby down, so I pinched it and it emptied into the pool.

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Another wave hit, and I roared as I felt the baby fully descend into the birth canal and out into my hands in that one wave. It was 6:30 a.m. The tentative plan had been for Forrest to catch, but the baby descended so quickly that I wasn’t able to verbalize what was going on. I sat back and began to pull the baby out of the water; the cord was wrapped once around the neck, so I unwrapped it and brought the baby to my chest. This all happened in a matter of a minute; and Forrest kept saying, “I can’t believe there’s a baby! Just like that!” The baby felt so tiny in my arms! Levi, our oldest at 6 years old, had woken up about 15 minutes before, so two of the kids were standing in the doorway and got to see their baby sibling being born. (And they’ll tell you alllllll about it!) Sadly, we didn’t get any pictures or videos of the birth itself, but we got the gender reveal on video, which I’m grateful for. We were both certain this little one was a boy, but turns out… she was a girl – our third daughter!

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Baby and I cuddled in the pool for a while, just soaking in this amazing new person in my arms. I finally got out and onto a stool to try to expel the placenta; even though she was nursing, contractions had halted. The stool wasn’t very comfortable so we moved to the toilet and nursed and hung out there for a bit until the placenta delivered. At about 9 a.m. or so we cut the cord, weighed and measured her (she was my smallest baby by quite a bit… no wonder she felt so little!) and spent the rest of the day cuddling in bed. Two days later she finally had a name – Penelope (Poppy) Eileen – after her great grandmother. This pregnancy and birth were such an incredible journey. Trusting my body, learning to listen and be in tune with my baby, and experience the undisturbed wonder of this process that God created so perfectly and that brought our daughter into the world.

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Penelope Eileen//12-14-15//6:30am//7lbs5oz//19.5″

 

My Final Birth Story

My Final Birth Story

Jessica shares the story of her third son’s birth at home. 

I wanted to write about the birth of Mattis, our third baby boy, but I quickly realized in order to get to the point of my husband and me deciding to have a home birth, it would take a little back ground info; well, actually, a lot. This maybe more of a book than a typical “birth story”, but I wasn’t one of those women that initially desired a home birth or even a natural birth. I think those women that know exactly what they want with their first child are incredible and inspiring, but for me it wasn’t like that. Childbirth for me has been more of a “you live you learn” and confidence-building journey than anything else in my life. I didn’t really know what I wanted, nor did I have the confidence in myself; because let’s face it – labor and birth is rarely talked about in a positive light, and I had no idea how much it would mean to me to have a positive birth experience. Most think, “Hey, healthy baby, healthy mama… that’s all that matters.” But in my opinion, that isn’t true; the way you birth, the knowledge you have about it and having medical professionals that TRULY support you MATTER!

Abram Colt

In 2010, my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our first son. He was due on October 17 and I was fortunate to have had a very smooth and easy pregnancy in spite of it being a record-breakingly hot summer that year. Also, we were very fortunate in that my husband was able to be there for the whole thing – every appointment – with the exception of a few weeks away in Florida. Being a military spouse, this is nearly unheard of. We didn’t have to worry about him not being there for the delivery.

October 17th came and went, and like most first-time parents, we were so anxious for our new arrival. Also as a lot of first-time parents, I had very few expectations for the labor and delivery. I knew what I knew about it from friends, movies, doctors and a few terribly written books. So at five days past my estimated due date (which still in my mind was an expiration date), I decided well, I guess my body just CAN’T go into labor… I’ll just settle for the hospital evicting this little guy.

So I asked my doctor when I could go in to be induced; and she said they could schedule me for the next day. We went in and they just acted as if it was the most normal thing on earth – sign this, consent to this, do you want an epidural? Well, of course I did; why would anyone willingly go through the pain? So they hooked me up to monitors, IV, Pitocin, and an epidural all within what seemed like 15 minutes. I had already been dilated to 5 cm and 80% effaced since I was about 35 weeks, so things progressed rapidly. Although the person who did the epidural was a student, he clearly did a great job because I could hardly feel anything.

I thought this was what I wanted, but I felt completely out of control; and it didn’t help that I was shaking uncontrollably. A couple hours in, although I couldn’t feel much, I felt pressure and let the nurse know; she came in and said I could push. She sat on one side, and David sat on the other and held my legs because I couldn’t feel them at all. I pushed and pushed and pushed, all directed by the nurse… and finally, after about 30 minutes of that, she said, “Oh that was it; that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.” I was pretty disappointed and exhausted, but eventually, about 30 minutes later, he was born weighing 8 lbs 12oz, and was 21½” long! We had never guessed he would have been so big; and neither did the doctor; they had guessed around 7½ lbs the day prior. The whole labor was about 3½ hours long.

Depression

Birth is special no matter how it’s done, but for me, this birth seemed to lack something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I don’t know if it contributed, but about 2-3 months afterward I still didn’t feel anywhere close to myself, or how I anticipated to feel as a mother. I was ashamed to admit I didn’t want to take care of my baby. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, or that I literally didn’t care for him, but I was overwhelmed and didn’t feel motherly to him. I never told this to anyone except my husband; and of course he didn’t understand, so we decided I should start therapy ASAP.

I did, and was clinically diagnosed with postpartum depression; I started several prescriptions of antidepressants and therapy sessions. Over the course of the next several months, and adjusting meds, thankfully I was able to feel like a fog was lifted. I started asking to be taken off the meds although the doctor told me it’s most effective when kept on for a year to ensure stability. I reluctantly agreed, knowing the possible negative side effects of trying to wean myself from the meds. So I decided to trust her, until….two blue lines…again! Just over a year since Abram’s birth. The doctor assured me it was safe to continue my medication while pregnant, but I refused. I told her I just didn’t want to be on anything while pregnant that could possibly have a side effect on our unborn child. So she took me off, and all was well…

Deployment

…Until we realized that my husband was slated to leave on his third deployment right as I was going to be 13 weeks pregnant and raising our 1-year-old. Well, that’s the military life; if we were to have multiple children, it was inevitable. Next, we found out that he would be scheduled to come home about a month after my due date. Talk about stressful; we lived five hours from our nearest family. Over the next few months he spoke to his commanding officer about of course wanting to be present for the birth if it was an option, so they made a deal of sorts. At that time, David was an osprey airframes mechanic, and his Commanding Officer agreed on the condition that he worked the entire deployment to become a Collateral Duty Inspector and also run the Corrosion Control Shop. Both jobs were something that take a while to learn, and they needed more guys that knew the jobs inside and out. Upon learning these two things they would allow him to leave on an advanced party to return home prior to the birth so he could re-setup shop in the states and wait on the arrival of the rest of the unit. He worked diligently and accomplished both tasks of course, and returned stateside on a Friday. I was 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

The entire time he was gone, I had told him that this time I wanted things to be different – that I didn’t want to feel medicated, and that I wanted to be able to move since Abram’s birth felt so unnatural to me; it hadn’t felt like how I thought it should have – it was special, of course, but it was lackluster. He basically said, “Okay, whatever you want.” I had been going to my prenatal appointments and toward the end they mentioned induction, and I just told them no; that I’m not doing that this time, unless it is a true medical need.

Cannon Knox

40 weeks 2 days rolled around. Exactly two weeks after David arrived stateside, I woke up around 2:45 a.m. and felt cramps. I eventually got out of bed and started timing them. I wasn’t convinced in the least that this was labor. About 30 minutes later, I woke David up and said, “I think I maybe in labor?!” I had never experienced “true” labor, so I just couldn’t believe it.

I called the hospital and told them my symptoms, and they assured me that I could wait at home for at least another hour. So I got off the phone and called my friend Cara, since the plan was that whenever I went into labor she would watch our son while we went to the hospital, until my parents could make the five-hour drive down. She came right away, and by that point contractions were probably three minutes apart. We hopped in the truck at around 5 and made the 15-minute drive to Camp Lejeune. The drive was terrible; and looking back, I know why – I was in transition.

When we arrived at the hospital, we hurried in; stopping along the way for contractions. Finally once in labor and delivery they needed some documents signed, but I had other plans, kneeling in the hallway to push out a baby! Nurses came from everywhere at probably 5:25 a.m. shouting, “Don’t push! Don’t push!” But I was in another world, pushing out a baby. They got me on a bed and checked me, and agreed that yes he’s coming; so down the hall we flew into a labor and delivery suite. The doctor was already in there; he grabbed a pair of gloves, and within a couple minutes, at 5:30 a.m. he handed me my baby. THAT IS HOW IT’S DONE!

Two hours and 45 minutes from first cramp to holding my baby. He was 7lbs 4 oz. and 19″ long. What a sense of accomplishment and empowerment; my baby was here and I didn’t really need anyone telling me how, or hooking me up to machines; I was able to have my baby, just like women had done for thousands of years. In the little bit of time between pregnancies, the more research I had done the more it led me to believe a lot of times “help” leads to complications; and I didn’t want that. To me, this natural birth was a major accomplishment.

Trying to avoid depression

Another thing that I had researched throughout that pregnancy was how to avoid postpartum depression naturally. I found article after article on placenta encapsulation. Gross, right? People have been doing this for centuries; it’s not a new thing; it’s more ancient if anything; but not well known in our medicated culture. In this process someone takes your placenta, which is enriched with tons of your natural hormones, iron, and nutrients that are used to sustain your pregnancy, then dehydrates it, grinds it into powder, puts it in capsules, and then you take it like a super vitamin over the next few months to level out your hormones. It increases milk production, increases energy levels, and overall helps with recovery.

When you’re pregnant your hormones are obviously at an all-time high at the end, then after delivery you plummet back down to a baseline, which can cause “baby blues” or worse: postpartum depression. Some say it’s a placebo effect, but I was willing to give it a shot since the potential positive effects would be great, and there are little to no negative side effects. And it changed my life. My husband thought I was looney for even considering it, but after several months he couldn’t believe how well I recovered and felt, which was a good thing since he was working up to leave me with two kids under two years old for deployment number four a few months later. I rarely talked about this to anyone, because I feared everyone’s judgment. I only shared with a few close friends, or pregnant women I thought that may benefit from it as well. Now I can look at it and say that if it helps one person reading this, then it is worth the judgment of all the others.

Mattis Jett

Fast-forward to May 2015, when we found out we were surprisingly expecting our third child! I wasn’t sure how to feel about it; I was excited, but it was such a shock, and I had just started a new job. Also, my husband had started a new path in his career as a recruiter, which means he works absolutely all the time – 16-18-hour days. I felt as though this couldn’t be a “good time,” but of course you make plans and God laughs, right? We had no idea how bad we needed this third baby, but God did, and perfectly placed him in our lives.

We decided I wouldn’t be able to return to work after the baby, since the cost of childcare for three children is astronomical; it just wouldn’t make sense financially – not to mention I couldn’t send a newborn to daycare. But guess what? Just as we were getting used to have a double income, then found out I was pregnant and wouldn’t be returning to work, my husband worked super hard and eventually got a promotion; so once again, God took care of it. After we had our second child we decided that if we had any more children, which we planned to have at least one more at some point, we would have them at home. The last labor and delivery was so easy, David said that we could have done that at home! Then we wouldn’t be trapped in a hospital for three days while someone else cared for our other son.

So I was on the search for a midwife, and met with Nancy Harman on a Saturday in June. I already loved how different the experience started out because I was able to take my whole family to the consultation, at her home office, on a farm, on a Saturday. Yep, that’s not the norm; she worked around us, rather than the other way around. I knew immediately after meeting her she was our midwife. She encouraged David to take the boys outside to see the cows, and her “mud hut” out back while we discussed previous pregnancy experiences. She determined I was definitely low-risk enough for a successful home birth. In North Carolina home birth is legal, however it has to be attended by a certified nurse midwife; and you also do parallel care with a supportive OB – for us it was UNC family medicine, where you do labs, ultrasounds and any further testing.

So we did our prenatal appointments with her, and saw UNC once per trimester, we found out at 19 weeks 2 days, on September 1, that we were expecting our third boy! How perfect! My pregnancy really flew by, and was easy and uneventful. We got down to the last appointments and all had gone so well, the weekend of my due date, our area was expecting our first snow storm! Take that lightly; it’s NC – we are in the south, so “snow storm” is a strong term; however, Nancy lives about an hour and fifteen minutes away, and in snow and ice we started to anticipate the idea of her maybe not making it!

Thankfully, her assistant Edie, who is a fellow midwife, lives about 30 minutes away from us, so we knew she would be first to the house. That Saturday, the day before my due date, I had experienced contractions roughly five minutes apart for several hours. Of course since the storm was hitting it brought on babies and Nancy was attending a birth. She sent her assistant to the house to check and make sure it wasn’t the real deal and that she needed to come after she finished at the birth she was present for. The other midwife came and found that I was at 1 cm. It was sort of disappointing just because I’d been so dilated with my previous pregnancies by that point. We decided it was prodromal labor, or “practice labor”, and she went home. This happened at least two more times over the next week, but thankfully I knew better than to call every time. The next Sunday rolled around; I was 41 weeks, and had been in contact with Nancy discussing what we should do to encourage him, since we didn’t want me to go into the 42nd week just because the hospital really wants you to come in for an induction at that point.

I had set up ultrasounds for 41 weeks 2 days 5 days respectively to check on baby, and I wasn’t prepared to defend my choice not to induce in the hospital. She said we could do a membrane sweep after 41 weeks. In the non-traditional relationship of a midwife and client she told me she would meet up with me on Sunday after church to do that; how convenient! So we went to the appointment and she did the sweep, then informed me that I was now 2 cm. We discussed some other ways to encourage labor; she gave me a labor tincture that has black and blue cohosh, and some other herbs, and told me to take one dropper full in a shot of juice per hour for 3-4 hours, and also if I wanted to use a breast pump 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off three times, then call it a night. I did everything she said, had a few irregular contractions, then went to bed.

I woke up with a major cramp at 12:30 a.m. I lay there for a while, then another came along. I decide to get up and walk around. I came in the living room and pulled up my app to time them; the first two were 15 minutes apart, so I wondered if this is just another “practice”. Shortly after another, I checked the app, which said they was only five-minute intervals. Over the next 30 minutes they remained steady; five minutes or so apart, and about one minute long.

I stood behind the couch and leaned over it, swaying and squatting. I went to wake David up and told him, then called Nancy at about 1:40. She asked me about what was going on, and I let her know; then she said she would call Edie, the assisting midwife, and she’d be on her way. We decided to go ahead and put a few inches of cold water in the tub while we waited; I walked around, stopping wherever a contraction would hit. I drank some water, read my birth affirmation cards that I had written out a few weeks before. I had written some positive scripture and words affirming that I CAN do this, and I HAD done it before. In the midst, I had called our birth photographer also.

Eventually, at about 2:45, Edie arrived; like a ninja, she had come in through the garage with her bags and swiftly started setting up. I asked her if she wanted to check my dilation, just to see where I was; at that point contractions had been about three minutes apart. She texted Nancy and asked if she wanted her to, and Nancy told her she was still about 20 minutes out so if I wanted her to check she could. She checked, and I was at 7cm! What a relief! All this work hadn’t been for nothing!! I jumped up from that bed feeling reenergized and excited. I was so excited to report the news to David!

I bounced back into the kitchen holding up seven fingers, and told him to get the hot water in the tub and let’s have a baby! At about 3 a.m. our photographer snuck through the garage door, and got to work. I informed her that I was already at 7 cm. We all stood around and talked, and they brewed coffee; David loaded the dishwasher just to be doing something. They took turns filling pots of water and heating them on the stove since the hot water heater ran out rather quickly. Every few minutes I would either grab the kitchen sink, sway and squat, or grab David’s neck, and we would sort of dance around the kitchen. Nancy arrived at 3:30 a.m.; things were slowing down some, but intensifying.

At some point I did get sick and threw up a couple times; throwing up mid-contraction wasn’t pleasant, but it was over quickly. They told me I could get in the tub whenever I felt like it. Sure, that sounded like a great idea! Before the birth I decided in order to be as comfortable as possible I would wear either a maternity bathing suit top or a tank top and a skirt. I’d heard of other moms laboring in a skirt, sounded like a great idea, so I had bought a knee-length yoga-style knit skirt and had been wearing it and a tank top throughout the labor. I decided to just keep it all on to get in the tub; it may sound a little silly, but even something as small as being comfortable in what you’re wearing can make a huge difference in labor.

I stepped in the water, knelt down on my knees and leaned over the side to rest; I could just let my belly sort of hang down the warm water. It felt so good! Contractions were slower, but when they came, they were intense. Both midwives were standing by watching; I think Nancy was knelt down beside the tub; occasionally she would whisper some type of affirmation: “You can do this; slow, deep sounds; you’re very powerful.” David was directly in front of me sitting on a stool, holding my hands. The entire time I was pregnant we had planned at some point for him to get in the tub and catch our baby, but at that point I didn’t realize how much I wouldn’t want him or myself to move out of that squat position. So I told him not to move!

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I asked if one of the midwives would check dilation again. Nancy came over and had me flip over so that she could, then said I was 9 cm, thank goodness! I quickly flipped back over onto my knees, leaning over the tub, and grabbed David’s hands as we said a prayer out loud. I prayed for it to be over soon, so we would have our healthy baby boy.

The next few contractions, I felt the urge to push; so I did with everything I had. With each push I could feel baby moving. Then I felt a sort of pop and gush; and realized, oh my gosh – my water just broke! It was so neat to actually experience that on my own, because in my last two deliveries, even with my natural birth, the doctor broke my water. When my water broke it was in the height of a contraction so I couldn’t speak, but right after I told everyone. Nancy asked to feel what was going on. She did, but nearly right as she pulled her hand back up out of the water I pushed twice and his head came out! She felt again and told everyone the head is out and there was no cord around his neck (remember no one could really see what was going on because I was kneeling, with the skirt on, and it was very dim lighting).

I rested for maybe 20-30 seconds; then one more push brought out the rest of his body. I flipped over so quickly and reached down to pull him up to my chest! He was born at 4:14 a.m. Wow, what a relief. He and I both let out a cry! Nancy and David helped me get my shirt off so he could be skin-to-skin, and wrapped us both in a warm towel. Then all was calm. It was so surreal – I just delivered my own baby, myself!

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Nancy said, “Wow, that was fast!” Just a minute after that, Cannon walked in rubbing his eyes. They lit up when he saw what I was holding; what perfect timing. Since Cannon had awakened I told David he should probably go wake Abram up. He went upstairs and got him, although he was sound asleep. Both of the boys leaned against the pool to touch their new brother.

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Only a few minutes went by and with a little effort the placenta was passed. The older boys acted as if it was just whatever – it didn’t faze them a bit; in fact, at one point, Abram said, “Mama can you get out of that tub so we can go somewhere?” Yes, just minutes after birth, at like 4:30 a.m.! I sat in the tub for 20 minutes or so and latched baby on to nurse for the first time. Eventually we let the older boys cut the umbilical cord; they each got a snip, then I passed baby to his daddy. They all went to the couch to check him out while the midwives helped me out of the tub, and to the bed.

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Nancy did her assessments on me and decided a shot of Pitocin would be good to slow bleeding, which I was fine with, and I felt really good! Meanwhile, Edie drained the tub, cleaned up supplies and got the house probably cleaner than it had been before they arrived. David brought me the baby to nurse and went to cook breakfast, while the older boys went upstairs to watch a movie. He brought me breakfast in bed and we watched Nancy do her newborn assessment, APGAR scores and measurements. He was 7lbs 15oz and 20¾” long, with a head full of dark hair just like his brothers. Once they were done they finished packing up and went over some postpartum instructions, asked if we had any questions, and were out the door by 9 a.m., so we were able to enjoy our new family of five! Our older boys lay down around 1:30 p.m. to nap, and David and I said we were going to too, but we just couldn’t. We sat around and talked about the whole event for nearly three hours – how amazing and how natural and mostly how easy everything was being in the comfort of our own home.

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Afterthoughts

Although David claimed I made it look easy, labor was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done; but of course, it’s also the most rewarding thing also. Even though it’s probably not a good thing, I had so many expectations for this birth; I had talked about it, prayed about it and dreamt about it for months – well, really, a few years. And to my surprise, it really and truly couldn’t have gone any more perfectly. Nancy returned the next day and after she did assessments on us both, she asked me if I would change anything if I could; and I answered, “Absolutely nothing. It was purely magical.”

Raleigh Birth Photography | Home Birth | Mattis from Amanda Ditzel on Vimeo.

Photographs by Raleigh Birth Photography.

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.

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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.

Dorian’s Birth Story

Dorian’s Birth Story

Dominika shares the beautifully moving story of her son Dorian’s birth. 

Dorian’s due date was on September 17th, so I decided to start my maternity leave a little earlier to give myself some downtime. My last day of work was on Friday, September 5th. Little did I know that Dorian would be taking his sweet time! The days passed, and my due date came and went. I became increasingly bored at home, but couldn’t do much about it as my mobility was steadily decreasing due to my ever-growing belly. I was also suffering from nightly insomnia caused by heartburn, which made me very tired; so I spent my days on brief social outings and naps. The novelty slowly wore off as people kept asking me over Facebook when my baby is coming. Finally, I snapped at one person’s questioning me and said, “October, clearly.” If only I had known how right I would be!

As the days went by, Ivan and I tried more and more methods to induce labor. I got an induction massage, tried numerous walks, had awkward pregnant sex, and got several stretch-and-sweeps from my midwife, which were rather painful, and although they reverberated through my entire uterus, they did not begin contractions.

Every night before bed, I wondered if I would wake up with contractions, and every day I would wake up disappointed. Finally on the morning of October 5th, I got so frustrated I began crying. My midwife had told me that 98% of women go into labor on their own if left alone between 41 and 42 weeks, and here I was at 42 and 4 and nothing was happening. I was starting to get really worried that after fighting so hard against being induced, that my body would betray me and I would have to go to the hospital and be forced into induction – or worse, a C-section.

Ivan assured me that there was nothing wrong with me, and that no matter what happens, the end result will be having a beautiful baby boy. We decided to move on with our lives and go out for lunch to an Indian restaurant to try spicy food as one last-ditch effort. All it accomplished was giving me extremely uncomfortable indigestion. I called my midwife at 10:30 p.m., and she advised me to take some Tums and a Tylenol. I did so, and went to bed.

Two hours after falling asleep, on October 6th at 42 weeks 5 days pregnant, I finally had some water leaking at 12:30 a.m. I wasn’t entirely sure if that’s what it was, but it appeared in small puddles in different sections of my bed sheet. I figured it wasn’t enough fluid to signify anything and happily just went back to sleep, once again hoping to wake up with contractions.

The following morning I was once again disappointed. My midwife Jen was supposed to come over at 9 a.m. to check on me, but called me at 8:30 to say that she was attending another birth and had to reschedule. I was scheduled to go back to the hospital at 1 p.m. for more fetal monitoring, and Jen called me back at 11 and asked me if I’d prefer to have her come see me before or after going to the hospital. I told her that I would much prefer to see her beforehand, as the hospital would stress me out and elevate my blood pressure and bully me into induction again. I also told her about my water leaking, which I had completely forgotten to mention when she had called me earlier.

Jen did a great job of acting like that wasn’t a big deal. She came over at noon and asked me whether I would prefer to try inducing naturally at home and skipping the hospital, as they would definitely bully me into staying if I told them that my water had leaked. I was more than happy to go along with this plan because it meant I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I had no idea how effective it would be and that it would actually send me into labor!

Jen called up the receptionist at the midwifery clinic, and with a wink at me, asked her to cancel my appointment at the hospital because I was “in early labor.” Then we went upstairs to my bedroom and Jen did a sterile speculum exam and confirmed that I was having a hind leak of waters. She then did another stretch-and-sweep and confirmed that I was already 5-6 cm dilated and about 75% effaced – now we were just missing the contractions!

At 1 p.m. I started taking some homeopathic medication, alternating two different ones every 15 minutes for two hours. Jen also had me hook myself up to a breast pump to see if that would also stimulate labor. She also wanted to break my water at 3 o’clock, but I managed to stall her for an hour. She kept asking me if I was feeling anything, and I kept telling her that I think so, but really I think up to that point in time it was just in my head.

Finally at 4 o’clock she convinced me to do it, and it was the last painful check she had to do as my cervix was still tilted towards my back with the baby’s head in front of it. Every time she checked me, Jen could feel the baby’s head moving and knew he was right there, ready to go! Ivan squeezed my hand as she broke my waters on my bed, and we were all very happy to learn that there was no meconium present, despite Dorian being almost three weeks late.

The effects of having my water broken were immediate, and by 4:30 I was already in active labor. However I had no idea this was happening, because I felt the same way I felt after every other time I got a stretch-and-sweep done. I thought my uterus was just reacting to being disturbed and that the sensations would go away soon. I decided to have a shower to alleviate the discomfort, and stayed there for about half an hour. Eventually I decided that I had been in there too long and should probably get out and rejoin Ivan and Jen.

Initially, Jen told me that my contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart. She updated me at first, but then stopped letting me know as my body took over, however in her notes she said that they went from 6 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart between 4:15 and 5 p.m.

After getting out of the shower, the hormones must have kicked in because I suddenly felt incredibly, horribly cold. I was covered in a towel and climbed into bed, and having a towel, two blankets, two bathrobes and a space heater on still wasn’t enough to make me feel warm and stop shivering. Jen took my temperature and discovered that it was actually elevated, and warned me that if it stayed high I would have to consider taking intravenous antibiotics to prevent a possible infection.

Ever so slowly I began warming up and peeling back layer after layer. Eventually it became extremely hot in the bedroom and I ended up completely naked, laboring on the bed with Ivan. At first dealing with the contractions was fairly manageable, but what bothered me was a constant feeling of nausea. I kept a bucket by the bed but never threw up. Jen suggested that I have a popsicle, and although I didn’t really want one, she got one for me and Ivan fed it to me one bite at a time, which actually felt wonderful.

At 6 p.m. Jen let me know that we reached the point where my waters had been broken for 18 hours, and asked if I wanted to get antibiotics in case of infection. I declined, as statistically I knew that it was unlikely.

Ivan was rubbing my back and helping me switch positions and lean over my yoga ball on the bed, and somehow eventually I made it to 7 o’clock, when Jen told me she would have to check me again to see if the dilation was progressing. I was very disappointed to hear that I was only at 7 cm after laboring what felt like eternity, but Jen assured me that this was great progress and Ivan told her not to tell me any more numbers as I have a tendency to latch onto things like that. Jen also asked me later on if I noticed that being checked that time didn’t hurt anymore – but I hadn’t.

Jen said that I could get into my bathtub after the check, and I was ecstatic to get in and turn on the jets. I sat in the bathtub sideways and had one jet on my back and another on my crotch, and it felt wonderful! I don’t know how long I stayed in there, but eventually I felt that I was staying too long and got out and back onto my bed.

Somewhere along the way, my body gave me a wonderful contraction-free break, for what felt like about five minutes. Jen told me to lean into Ivan, and while having my back to his chest I leaned into his neck and relaxed and it felt wonderful. When the contractions started again, without having planned it beforehand, we both began to breathe deeply and make synchronized “Ommm” noises with each exhalation. Each one got longer and longer, and I couldn’t tell whether I was the one leading them or whether it was Ivan. I leaned my ear into his neck and I could feel his voice reverberating through me. We did all this to the sound of a yoga-inspired soundtrack that I mostly did not hear, but all in all it was peaceful and serene and I felt safe and secure.

Unfortunately I soon reached the point of feeling unable to keep up with the constant contractions, which felt like they were right on top of each other. I started crying and saying that I can’t do this, and I desperately felt the need to escape the pain but couldn’t. Jen suggested that I try lying down sideways to see if I could actually sleep between contractions, but when I tried it the pain actually felt more intense, so I got back up on all fours and leaned over the ball again. Ivan coached me to keep up my deep breathing and began the “om” pattern again.

Jen quietly left the room and told us that she was going to get her supplies from her car. Somewhere at the very back of my mind, a thought occurred that this meant that we were actually doing it, that we were actually going to stay home and have a baby, but the thought was swept away by the contractions before I could connect the dots.

Eventually I decided to use the bathroom, and ended up laboring on the toilet briefly. I “om-ed” by myself and wondered why Jen and Ivan weren’t coming to check on me, but then decided that I must be okay since they were doing so. I then decided to get back into the bathtub and try the water jets again.

Somewhere along the way it got dark and Ivan must have lit the candles we had in the bathroom, because the room was in total darkness except for the candlelight.

Jen and Ivan soon quietly joined me and both sat on the floor in the bathroom. Wordlessly they became a team, and Jen let Ivan lead the encouragement and only occasionally interjected with her support. The jets provided a lot of relief but unfortunately couldn’t keep up with the contractions. Ivan and I were still “omming,” but suddenly I had had enough and started begging to be transferred to the hospital to get an epidural. I was crying that I can’t do it and although in my head I could hear how pathetic I sounded, I felt like I was willing to do anything to make the pain stop. I felt like time was standing still and in my mind I figured that I could endure a terrible 20-minute ambulance ride to the hospital and then have the hospital give me an epidural or cut the baby out of me. I cried and repeatedly told Ivan and Jen that I can’t do it and that they need to call the ambulance for me.

Ivan very firmly disagreed. “Look at me. Look at me,” he ordered. I struggled to open one eye at a time and make eye contact. Ivan confidently told me that I can do it and that I’m really close. Jen told me to just think about that beautiful baby in my arms. I closed my eyes again and told them that I don’t even want the baby anymore. After I said that I literally could hear the awkward looks they exchanged.

Jen took a different tactic than Ivan and said we can transfer to the hospital if I really want to, but I would have to get out of the bathtub for her to check me to see how far along I am to make sure transferring was still a safe option. I told myself that it was really stupid to have wanted a home birth when epidurals were invented for a reason. I started willing myself to get out of the tub so that Jen could check me again. “Right after this one,” I would think. Then the next one would hit me right away and again I would think, “…After this one.” Finally, I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of the tub, partially because I didn’t want to feel the pain of having Jen check me again.

Jen told me to reach inside myself to see if I could feel the baby. I cautiously did so, and to my great surprise I could feel something that was different. I was incredibly shocked and really ecstatic to realize that the pain was actually working and that the baby was there where I could feel him.

Then I lost my composure and again started crying and saying that I can’t do it, when suddenly the feelings inside me changed. With the same breath I was using to say, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” suddenly I changed my whine to “I have an urge to push.”

The change was really, really sudden and intense. I think when they say “urge to push” it’s a nice euphemism for “there is no way in hell that I could avoid pushing if my life depended on it!” My insides felt as if I had terrible diarrhea, yet pushing was like straining from constipation. My vocalization changed from “omming,” deep exhaling and whining that I can’t do it to a deep, primal, guttural grunt. In my head I felt embarrassed about being unable to control the sound, so I felt like I had to keep on my tub’s jets to create enough noise to give me the privacy to continue making the sounds, which allowed me to push. Jen told me to try and focus my energy on pushing instead of the vocalization, but I felt like I had to keep making the noise to be able to do it.

At some point in time, Jen said that she was texting the other midwives to come help with the birth. In a deep, far region of my brain it occurred to me that that meant that I was actually going to have the baby in the bathtub, but again I couldn’t connect the dots. Diane and Sara appeared very quietly and stood in the recess of the bathroom.

With each push I kept telling myself that I would get huge, and that maybe this push was it to get his head out. I ended up on my knees in the bathtub, and used my hands to stretch myself apart.

Jen told me to try to push longer with each urge, or to push twice within the same contraction. I kept pushing, then taking breaks, then pushing and telling myself, “This one is it. This one is it.”

Sara kept attempting to use a Doppler on me to measure Dorian’s heartbeat, but she had to turn off the bathtub’s jets to listen for it, which bothered me and interrupted my pushing so I kept apologizing and turning them back on.

Eventually I became aware of the sensation of his head crowning. It felt like a gigantic, gelatinous bubble between my legs. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever felt.

Jen told me that when I begin to feel the sensation of the ring of fire, I need to stop pushing and let my body take over by itself to avoid tearing. I agreed, but with each contraction in my head I was all, “F*** that. I want this baby out of me!” Finally, I felt the ring of fire, but it wasn’t quite as intense of a sensation as I had imagined it would be – it was more like a slight stinging sensation.

I pushed against the sensation and felt the “pop” of his head being born. Jen told me to lean back against the bathtub as she shined a flashlight between my legs and quickly unwrapped his umbilical cord which was loosely around his neck. She gave me the signal to push again, and Dorian somehow slithered right out – I have no recollection of feeling his body coming out!

Jen told me to reach down and catch my baby, but I told her that I can’t. I was worried about slipping in the bathtub because I was propped up on my elbows. Jen caught him in the palms of her hands and passed him right over to Ivan, who jumped in the tub fully-clothed, then picked him up and plunked him on my chest.

Dorian felt really warm, rubbery and squishy, and looked perfectly clean and pink in the dim candlelight. The first thing I said was, “I can’t believe he’s real!” as I had completely given up on ever having him come out. The midwives dried him off with a towel and he went “Meh…meh” very quietly, then suddenly gave us a startling “Wehhhh!” as I held him tightly.

Dorian was born at 8lbs 6 oz, 21″ length at 12:31 a.m. on October 7th, after 7 hours of labor and 45 minutes of pushing.

He had no meconium and zero signs of being post-term, suggesting that my normal gestation period is simply longer than average, despite the hospital’s bullying. He also had great timing; if we had made it one more day we would no longer have been allowed to have a home birth.

The midwives allowed me to hold him there while we were in the bathtub, just long enough to feel him pee on me! Then they helped me get out of the bathtub and carry him over to my bed, with his umbilical cord still attached and hanging out of me.

Ivan got to cut his cord, and while I held him on my chest, he pooped on me! I then passed him over to Ivan as the midwives helped me pass the placenta. I found it very difficult to deliver the placenta on my back and wondered how women can possibly deliver babies that way.

Afterwards I unfortunately had some complications and the midwives had a difficult time controlling the bleeding. I had very minimal tearing, but the internal bleeding was so severe they were debating transferring me to the hospital for observation. I was really determined to stay out of there and luckily prevailed!

The midwives stayed with us until I was stable and left at 4 a.m. I was ecstatic to finally be able to go to sleep, but couldn’t fall asleep right away. We slept till 7 a.m. before Dorian woke us up with a banshee-like scream, and our journey of parenthood had officially begun.

HBA2C: Fox’s Birth Story

HBA2C: Fox’s Birth Story

This powerful mama shares the story of her son’s birth at home. 

After two c-sections, my husband and I had decided that we were done having children. My first child was born by emergency c-section at 33 weeks gestation, due to severe preeclampsia; and three years later, our second daughter was born via repeat c-section for “being breech,” which turned out to be wrong; she was head-down when they pulled her out. A little over a year later, we discovered I was pregnant once again – and this time, I was much more educated. I decided I wanted to try not only for a vaginal birth, but for a home birth. My husband stood behind whatever I wanted to do.

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We had met with the local midwife and she saw no problem with my wishes, so we went ahead with on our new adventure. I heard from every doctor I saw that VBACs – especially after multiple c-sections – weren’t allowed by them, which made my desire to birth at home even stronger. It solidified my choice that no one was going to tell me how to birth my baby.

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On March 8th, 2016 I had an appointment with an OB for a biophysical profile just to make sure baby was okay since my midwife had me down as 42 weeks and we still saw no signs of baby; I had a posterior cervix, and was barely effaced or dilated. I was called a “reckless, irresponsible parent” for denying a repeat c-section that very day. My health was in perfect condition as was the baby’s, so I left feeling very angry but comforted in knowing he just wasn’t ready to come yet.

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After a trip to the chiropractor and a support belt to keep everything aligned, I was hopeful that maybe something would happen soon. On March 16th, 2016, I woke up to a few contractions. They went on and off all day, although I was never able to time them. It wasn’t until they were strong enough that I couldn’t talk through them that we decided to head home from my in-laws’ house and call the midwife.

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It was 10 p.m. at that point, and my husband started filing up the birth pool as I worked through contractions in the shower. We put our kids to bed, and the midwife checked me – I was a loose 4cm and 75% effaced. I cried at such a small goal achieved. I lost my bloody show almost immediately afterward, and was at 6 cm not even two hours later. I labored in the pool for a few hours, breathing through each contraction and telling my body that we can do this, eventually getting out because the water wasn’t staying warm enough to comfort me any longer.
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As soon as I was out of the birth pool, transition hit and I was squatting in the shower trying to find any kind of relief. My husband helped me out so we could see where exactly I was at; and during that, my water broke. Within minutes, I was pushing and baby was crowning. It took five big pushes, and our sweet little Fox Odice was brought earthside. Weighing in at 9lbs 1oz and 22½ inches long, my sweet baby boy gave me the healing vaginal birth I so desperately wanted after two prior c-sections. His big sisters slept through the entire six-hour labor and were able to stumble into our room when they woke in the morning to meet their new brother. It was the most empowering and healing experience of my life.

Unplanned Home Birth

Unplanned Home Birth

Hi all! Our little guy’s due date was January 20th, 2016. Being first-time parents, my husband and I were SO anxious to meet our son. I had a great pregnancy throughout, and continued to do CrossFit up until I was about 9 months along. I knew that I wanted a natural birth, and was determined to make it happen. We hired a doula and met with her a few times before the birth. It was so worth it and I would recommend a doula to any pregnant woman. We discussed everything from nutrition, providers and pain relief options to circumcision, vaccines and hospital procedures. I’m so glad we took the time to research and decide what kind of birth we wanted. There are so many things that the hospital makes you think you need to do that you really don’t have to do.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, right around Christmas, I had a little blood pressure scare (nothing serious, just scary for a first-time mama-to-be) and my feet and face were swelling up just enough to concern our midwife. After an ultrasound and listening to our babe for an extended amount of time, they determined he was as healthy as they come. On Monday, January 11th, I woke up at around 4 a.m. with what I know now, looking back, were very short contractions. They weren’t painful at all and I honestly didn’t think anything of them. Throughout the day I had a couple more times where I remember having to stop what I was doing and just breathe. How was I supposed to know what a contraction felt like?! At around 6 p.m. that evening, I was bouncing on my exercise ball in front of the TV to take my mind off of what I thought to be gas pains. When the pain started to get a little more intense, I started thinking that this was probably the start of my labor. I texted our doula, Megan, at around 10 p.m. and let her know what was going on. She wanted me to try lying down to get some rest or try taking a bath to relax. I tried taking the bath first; but it was too painful to sit in the tub. Then I tried lying in bed – too painful. After a lot of intense contractions, around midnight I told my husband we needed to call Megan and get her out to our house.

We had planned on laboring quite a bit at home then going to the hospital for delivery. While on the phone with Megan, she listened to me have a couple contractions and made an educated guess that our baby’s head was tilted a little bit, causing me to have back-to-back contractions with no break and then a small break. (I’m talking a break of MAYBE 30 seconds; so contraction, contraction, small break.) She mentioned that I should try to do some stairs to get his head straightened out and in the best possible position for delivery. She also told us to call her when we couldn’t handle it ourselves and wanted her out to our house.

It took me over an hour to get down and back up our stairs two times with my husband’s help. Finally, just a little before 3 a.m. we called her back and told her we needed her for support and reassurance. She was to our house by 3:15, and listened and helped me through some more contractions. My exercise ball was the absolute best thing during my labor. I was having a contraction on the toilet at 3:45 a.m. when my water broke. As soon as it broke, my husband put our hospital bag into the car and turned it on to warm it up. (It was about 10 degrees that night, roads were icy, and it was snowing).

I got up off the toilet and tried to make it to the car, but got no further than my living room chair when a contraction had me almost on my knees. I remember asking Megan how in the world I was going to make it to the hospital—a 40-minute drive on a good day—with contractions this strong. She told me I would take them as they came, one at a time. The only problem was that my contractions were so strong and close together that I didn’t get any breaks.

I remember learning that first-time mamas will usually push for at least an hour or two before getting to meet their sweet baby. My exact words to Megan after my water broke were, “I’ve never had a baby before, but I don’t think it’s going to take an hour or two.” I just told her that my body was telling me to push and I couldn’t help it.

I sat back down on the toilet and she had me feel up inside myself and describe to her what I felt. What I described to her must have sounded like a baby’s head. She had me get on my bed to check and see if I was right. I was! Our baby wasn’t going to wait to make his appearance! Megan was on the phone the entire time with our midwife, who was originally supposed to deliver our baby at the hospital. I remember Megan telling my husband that he could turn the car off because we weren’t going to make it to the hospital.

Once I knew we were really doing it – that we were really going to have our baby at home, I got on my hands and knees in my bed and pushed three times in a 30-minute span, and at 4:32 a.m. my husband caught Dirk Steven Synhorst as he joined our family!

Megan and my husband (and our midwife on the phone) had successfully talked me through the birth of my son, at home, unplanned, in my own bed. It was the most beautiful thing in my entire life. Right when Dirk came out, he immediately started crying and I knew he was just fine.

The most common question we get is, “Weren’t you so scared something would go wrong?” But truthfully, we didn’t have time to be scared. It all happened so quickly that we just did what we had to do. My husband was incredible the entire time and stayed so calm; he’s the best! Megan was a Godsend and I’m so thankful she was there with us. Dirk latched on to my breast almost immediately after placing him on my chest.

I delivered my placenta about 25 minutes later and we put it in a kitchen bowl beside me in bed because Dirk’s cord was still attached. I did have a very minor tear and I wanted to get Dirk checked over by our midwife in person, so we headed off for the hospital at around 6 a.m. with my baby snuggled right up on my chest, blankets covering us both, and my placenta in a big Ziplock bag.

I remember calling our parents and telling them we were heading to the hospital, but we already had their grandson with us. Dirk checked out just fine, weighing in at 8 Ibs 8.7 oz and 22” long; healthy as could be! We had to stay at the hospital for most of the day, mainly just waiting on paperwork. We had to get a special birth certificate for Dirk since he was born at home. We got back home around 5 p.m. and it’s been pure bliss being a family of three.

The most important thing I want expecting mamas to know is that YOU HAVE OPTIONS. You don’t have to have the kind of birth where you lie on your back with Pitocin and an epidural, suffering through so much pain. Of course I was in pain when I was in labor, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t stand and I knew my pain had a purpose! My body knew exactly what it had to do and it did it. What a miracle childbirth is, and I’m so excited and hopeful that God blesses me with more children!

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