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What Fate Had In Store For Me – A Twin Hypnobirthing Birth

What Fate Had In Store For Me – A Twin Hypnobirthing Birth

I married the man of my dreams in 2011. I had been quite sick prior to the wedding and had lost a lot of weight due to my illness (silver lining, I fit in to my wedding dress!). The doctors told me that I probably couldn’t have children and that if I did ever by some miracle get pregnant I have a very high risk of miscarriage.

So my husband and I had a lovely time on honeymoon and we got back filled with love and lust for life. A week later when my period was late and my husband was away I decided I would do a pregnancy test – I was bored and didn’t think for one second that I would be pregnant so when it came out positive I nearly fell off the bed in shock. 

I told him as soon as he was home and after the initial shock (and swearing) he was thrilled (and terrified, cue more swearing). I had quite a few bleeds and decided to go for a scan at six weeks – I thought I was losing the baby and needed confirmation that I was still pregnant. The scan confirmed it and I was over the moon – a healthy little heartbeat!

Another 3 weeks later – another bleed – again I needed to know so I went with my best friend to see what fate had in store for me. I was not expecting the answer…TWINS! They had only seen one in the previous scan so this was a complete shock! I called my husband immediately and in the middle of his office he swore at the top of his voice. To this day I don’t know if it was “happy” swearing or “terrified, my life” is over kind of swearing. 

Fast forward five months and my twins were born very prematurely at 26 weeks. 

This shock is one we are still recovering from but one that has changed my path in life forever.

I thank my lucky stars every day that I had been teaching Hypnobirthing for years prior to the birth of my twins – I used my tools and techniques throughout the birth to birth them safely and naturally. Passing through the birth canal offers so much goodness to preemies that can set them up for life and I’m pretty sure it has led to their health they show today.

Premature labours are often more intense than full term labours as the body goes into over drive so there’s a lot more sensation to deal with. As my surges got closer and closer and more and more intense, I went fully in to my hypnobirthing state, eyes closed, deep breathing, my husband gently speaking in to my ear, blocking out the frenzy around me. I was in my own special place – I imagined being in my water pool, dim lighting and gentle sounds soothing my surges.

I remember the doctor shouting loudly to “check mum’s pulse!” I was so deep in to my own zone that it looked like I was sleeping or had passed out! I birthed my first little one, Xander completely naturally with three big, deep, birthing breaths. Joey on the other hand enjoyed all the space his brother had left behind and turned transverse. After a threat of c-section, internal turning and then me telling them all to back off, a team of three managed to shift him in to vertex position externally. He started to play ball and he was born assisted breach again, completely naturally.

I wasn’t able to hold my boys until three days after they were born as they were so little and struggling with their early entrance in to life but they are now thriving and amaze me every day with their strength and love.

My birth was the absolute opposite of what I had imagined, but thanks to using hypnobirthing and my husband’s support throughout the birth I am able to look back and be thankful that I did my best. It was an incredibly positive experience and one that I am really proud of. I am now even more inspired than ever to teach hypnobirthing and help mums enjoy their special day no matter what path our little monkeys decide to take to enter the world. Birth is never perfect but it can be positive. Mine definitely was.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Sophie Englefield

A Couple Working Together: A Birth Center Birth Story

A Couple Working Together: A Birth Center Birth Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Terrible,” I responded.

“Good. You’re making progress.”

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

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

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

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

Story and photos submitted by Anne B. 

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

I have been laboring for an entire day. Lying in the bathtub completely relaxed listening to peaceful music and meditating. I hear the door open quietly. I open one eye and take a peek. My oldest son Cash is sneaking in. I close my eye and get back to THE work of relaxation. Feeling a surge coming, I know it will bring the severe pain of back labor. I try to welcome it and remind myself that each of these surges is welcoming my baby into my arms. It doesn’t work. I clench onto the edge of the tub and breathe my agony down to my belly and as I breathe out I suddenly feel a small hand touch my arm and softly glides down to my belly. Then I hear Cash’s voice say softly in my ear “You are strong. You can do this. You are a goddess and the bestest mommy.” He’s repeating affirmations he read on my birth flags to me. I smile and take in this beautiful moment. This is definitely a core memory for us both.

Back labor… I can’t welcome you. Back labor turned this birth into something I was not prepared to face. Two weeks postpartum and I still cringe thinking about the torment. The peacefulness I wanted with this birth was stolen. I have to remind myself that Mayuq’s birth story is still beautiful.

Wednesday night, I begin to show definite signs of labor. I was 13 days late at this point and excited to see my body and baby were making progress. We made some arrangements for the next day thinking it will happen that night. I play my affirmation tapes all night while I sleep alone in my bedroom. The next morning comes and I feel surges every now and then while the kids were in school. I feel the surges pretty hard on my back and this is nothing I’ve experienced before. We knew the baby was head down but looking to the left of me. We tried a few techniques for flipping him into a better position, unfortunately nothing was working. So, I keep affirming to myself; “my baby moves to the perfect position for birth” and went back to work on my meditation.

After school was out we feed the boys and tell them baby will be here soon and take them to our cousin Robyn’s to sleep over. I just had a feeling it would be Friday morning. The surges were so strong but still so far apart and inconsistent. My husband and I were alone that night. Along with the surges comes intense back pain. I spend the whole night trying to sleep in between surges. The back pain was exhausting. The surges were still 15-20 minutes apart and I was able to rest despite the pain.

In the morning we have a stress test and asked if they could check my progress. I’m expecting to be at least four centimeters. The baby looks great and was still in the same position but I was only dilated two and a half centimeters. I think to myself, how strange. The back pain, and the strength of the surges had me convinced I had to be making more progress than this. The midwife sent us home and said she would probably see us tonight.

We grabbed the boys and took them home. My husband sent me to birth in the bathtub while they hung out until we were able to take the boys to another friend’s house. I had to keep changing surroundings to cope with the back pain. I moved from the bedroom listening to hypnobirthing music playing, to the shower with hot water on my back. I switched to laying in the warm tub with essential oils soaking me trying to distract myself from the pain somehow.

Surges are 10-15 minutes apart still. Enough time to cope with the pain and rest as much as I could. When it came time for my husband to drop the boys off with Yuki, he leaves me alone with a heating pad strapped to my back. It helped a bit.

I lay on my bed focusing on breathing my love to this baby. I remind myself of the powerful words that my girlfriends wrote at my blessingway. Thinking of how my good friend Shana brought me to my place with my husband a month ago through yoga and meditation. I knew that this birth wasn’t going the way I expected. It was a struggle to bring myself to a place of peace. I feel the next surge approaching. I squeeze my hands on the bed and breathed in deeply. In my mind my birthing flags are connecting and spinning above me. When I breathe out they fall, spinning around my body.

The shooting pain takes over and I breathe telling myself I have less than a minute of this and I will get to relax again. I breathe out and tell myself; I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. This was going to be the affirmation to help me get through this. This is going to be my second VBAC. I hear my door open. It was Joy, my best friend. She lies quietly next to me on my bed. “Hi Joy,” I whisper.

I am glad for this visit. It helps me re-fuel. To be able to express the challenge I am facing to a good friend. She hangs around a bit after my husband gets home. We all share a pineapple that I requested. I was craving it for some odd reason. We make plans for her to meet us at the hospital when we decide to go. I know I still have a lot of work to do before heading to the hospital; we tentatively plan for 9 pm as the next checkpoint. The plan is to get there right at the end. I don’t want to labor in a hospital.

9 pm comes. The surges are closer together; the back pain was even more intense. I cry to go to the hospital but based on the distance between surges my husband suggests the shower again. I tremble in the shower. I can barely stand. I scream for him to be close. I tell him I can’t do this, the back pain is too much. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I lay back down on the bed, by now dreading every surge because I know that each one will bring this back pain. My husband disappears to the computer to search how to help. Every time a surge comes he shows up trying different things to help me cope. Nothing helped. One time he presses a spot on my lower back that redirects the pain elsewhere. This I can cope with, finally some relief. He can’t find the spot after that. Every spot he touches makes it worse. It was unbearable; I beg to go to the hospital. I see he is already packing.

The drive is only ten minutes. Every surge I have had in the car makes it exponentially worse because of the way I’m sitting. He promises only one, maybe two surges to deal with in the car. It was a least four. They were so awful that I cry out his name grabbing at everything in sight. It feels like my back is going to break. When we arrive at the hospital, everyone thought I was about to have this baby at the front desk. My water breaks right there.

I get admitted straight into a labor room. It’s the room I wanted. It has a huge bath and shower and lots of space. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m leaking amniotic fluid.

“Sacha, are you pushing?” the nurse asks me. It feels like I’m pushing, but not of my own volition. I couldn’t help myself. She checks me and says I’m at five centimeters. I lose it. “Fuck! Are you fucking kidding me?!!!”

My husband is telling me it’s great. The midwife says I’ve already done most of the work. I am panicking. How am I going to survive this birth? I feel like this at five how will I cope at ten? I can’t even imagine what the pain might be like then, or how long this is going to last.

I feel like I’m about to pass out. I’m on my hands and knees and I can barely stay up. More amniotic fluid. “Do you have anything for the back pain? Just the back pain?” I ask. She tells me my options are nitrous or an epidural. I do not want an epidural, the last one I had I couldn’t feel my entire bottom half. This is the path to a C-section. I repeat my affirmation as the back pain hits. It feels like my back is breaking. I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. They give me the nitrous mask and I put it on and breathe deeply through it for about a minute. Nothing. I throw it back at them, “This shit is stupid! It’s not helping my back. Please, my back I can’t fight this!” My husband tries to give me my earplugs to listen to my hypnobirthing music. I get mad and throw them; my back hurts so much I don’t care about anything.

“I want the epidural. I’m going to have to do this,” I say as assertively as I can. I know this is my husband’s cue to talk me out of this. He knows his job. I’ve said this every time but I don’t mean it. I don’t want an epidural; I want the pain to stop. This back labor is so much more intense than anything I have ever experienced. I really do mean it this time. I am at the point where I can’t relax in between surges; I just pant in exhaustion and anxiously await the next painful episode. I make the decision and I am OK with it. I make peace with my decision.

“Warren… I will PUSH this baby out! I can still do hypnobirthing with an epidural.” I reassure my husband. The surge hits my back again and I am unable to continue my speech to him. I know he is supporting me the way he is supposed to. He is still trying to talk me out of it and I scream with agony and cry and he just stops and says “I’m sorry babe. I am so sorry you are feeling this back pain. But, you can do this. You are almost done.” He is right. I am almost done. I am now at 8 cm. I went from a 5-8 very quickly. In the moment, all I want is this pain to stop.

The surge is gone and I know they are getting the epidural ready somewhere at my insistence, and despite my husband’s objections. A different nurse pops out of nowhere and overhears me scream of back agony. She mentions they have sterile water injections and says we should try them. Warren chimes in and says something like “oh, you guys have that option? I was just reading about that.” I try to listen but the surge hits me and I can’t think straight. I want to hear them; I want to learn more about it so I can make a decision but I can’t I am trying so hard not to pass out. Apparently, Warren was suggesting we try it. The anesthesiologist tells him in her experience it doesn’t work that well and continues preparing the epidural.

I ended up getting the epidural the last hour of my birth. Warren holds me up while they stab me repeatedly looking for a gap in my spine. My history with back pain in general is extensive. The hardest part during this process was to stay still through the pain. It feels like my back is breaking into pieces. I stay still while Warren holds me. I remember crying, trembling and screaming through the back pain wishing it was just a normal contraction. I can hear the nurses telling me that I am doing great holding still. I thank my hypnobirthing to be able to do this. This takes much longer due to the anesthesiologist not able to find the right spot. She finally finds it and when the numb feeling hits my back I am relieved but feeling cloudy.

I was pleased that I actually could move my legs and body and still feel the pressure of surges. This makes me feel extremely confident with this decision. I know I can push my new baby into this world with no problem. I turned to look at Warren. He looks concerned and distressed. I know he is thinking this is going to end up like Cash’s birth. He is thinking that I’ll be too numb to push this baby out. So, I look at him and say his name to snap him back to my reality. “Warren! I WILL push this baby out! I can do this. I can still use my hypnobirthing!” Hypnobirthing is not only about achieving natural birth. It’s about believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with empowerment and accepting your birth, wherever it turns. And I did just that.

Twenty minutes later I felt the urge to push. They checked me and I was fully dilated and ready to meet my baby. It only took me 23 minutes of pushing to bring him into this world. My husband kissing me telling me I was doing amazing and the midwife and nurses coaching me so well and so supportive at this point. Honestly, it felt weird pushing without the feeling of surges. I wished to feel them but knew it wouldn’t feel like that with the back labor pain. So, I reminded myself that I am still strong and I smile and say out loud, “I can’t wait to hold him! I am so happy he is finally coming to me!” I reached down to feel his head crowning and I smiled and pushed again and then he was in my arms screaming his baby lungs out. When they tell me what time he is born I am in shock that it’s now Saturday. Two and half days have really gone by? What a warrior my body is.

Mayuq Raul
Born at 2:23am Saturday 11/12/2016
8.8 pounds 22 inches
15 days past the “due date” (just like Rowan)
Another fun one, Cash was born on a Thursday, Rowan on a Friday and Mayuq on a Saturday

It’s been a few months now since Mayuq was born. I find myself with very mixed emotions. Back labor was something fierce. I was planning on writing how awful it was and how the reader should understand why I needed to have the epidural the last hour of my birth. I was trying to justify why my birth didn’t go the way I wanted it to.

Instead I just want to say this. WOW… Women are strong. We birth our children in so many different ways. And we should be proud no matter the outcome. When I had Cash as a C-section, I didn’t feel strong. I felt defeated. Rowan’s birth healed me to help me look at Cash’s birth as a voice to be reconnected with. Fighting for my VBAC and able to have him naturally and gentle was an amazing experience. This last birth I have fought with my emotions on how to think about it.

Talking to some friends that have gone through back labor has made me feel better about my experience. One friend said to me “Doesn’t it make you feel even stronger?” Yes, it does. It also makes me cry or think about what I could have done differently. But, that’s not fair to me. So, I choose to think of the amazing parts of my birth and pregnancy such as these: My oldest supporting me in my bath, my best friend’s visit to share a pineapple, my husband telling me he was sorry for my back pain, using affirmations and meditation to help me birth for so long, my beautiful visions of mountains, my good friend’s candle lighting when I started to birth, my blessingway ceremony, touching my son’s head when he was crowning, having him instantly on my chest and having a second successful vaginal birth after cesarean. And with that I have mastered my peace.

My birthing experience has come to an end. What an amazing journey motherhood is. Although, my personal birthing is done I hope to enjoy others in the future. Possibly pursue my dreams of being in the birthing world such as get my certificate so I can hold hypnobirthing classes. I think my experiences can be helpful to others and I just cannot imagine my life without helping other women achieve their birthing wishes. Thank you for reading Mayuq’s story with an open heart.

Here are some links about back labor and what it is and how to spin your baby back into a better birthing position. My baby was posterior, which is why I think I had the worst results of back labor, a very long pre-labor and some tear:

Also, sterile water injections are for the moms that experience back labor. It might save your natural birth labor if that is your goal. It works very well with cases of pain level at a 8-10 and have an hour left of labor. I would have been the perfect candidate for that option.

When I asked the midwife “what do you have for back labor!?” she never mentioned it. The nurse that was in the room for 3 minutes did. And at that point, it was too late for me to make a clear decision. Getting consent for something like an epidural when you are in intense pain is an interesting topic, especially in light of a birth plan I wrote when I was clear headed. I also think that having a doula at this birth would have been very helpful this time around. Warren had a hard time juggling my needs and fighting for my birthing wishes during transition at the hospital. It also would have been very helpful to have a woman’s touch that knows what she is doing due to training and experience.

My favorite affirmations I used:

I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turn my birthing might take
I birth with Ease
Breathing in I am Strong, Breathing out I let go
I allow my body to fully relax
Every surge brings my baby closer to me
I look forward to the day of my birthing, the day I meet my baby
My baby moves to the perfect position for birth
I breathe my love down to my baby
I am a strong woman
I am so happy that my baby is finally coming to me
My mind is clear; I focus on the miracle that is happening within me
My baby and body work together in harmony
I look forward to holding my little baby in my arms
I am calm and at peace
My body knows what to do
I tune into my body and out
My baby is safe and comfortable
I am safe and comfortable
I am loved
What a beautiful day… The day I meet my baby.

Story and photographs submitted by Sacha Jones. 

Birthing Peacefully with Hypnobirthing

Birthing Peacefully with Hypnobirthing

After the excitement of being pregnant with my very first baby I couldn’t help but feel so nervous & anxious about giving birth. It was consuming me, which I realise now was a blessing for me as it put me on the most incredible journey of hypnobirthing.

I am sure there are a lot of you out there that can totally relate to this anxiety associated with giving birth and this is where I get really excited. Because my birth wasn’t luck. I wasn’t lucky, I did so much preparation and if I can do this, you can to. I am someone that has always prepared myself for all of my greatest achievements & fears in my life so preparing for giving birth only felt natural.

My preparation for Chase’s birth began right away, however intensely from 20 weeks. It involved educating myself on how amazing the women’s body really is. Listening to endless hypnobirthing YouTube videos online. Hanging out with my incredible cousin Donna who is a doula, yoga instructor & hypnomum twice a week online where we practiced visualization, breathing techniques, meditation, connecting with bub and comfortable yoga poses and listening to my positive affirmations every single day. All of this helped me so much push out any negative thoughts I had about giving birth.

My last week of pregnancy I spent my days doing all I could to initiate labor. Acupuncture, long walks (I walked every day being pregnant) and climbing up and down stairs.

I woke up Thursday the 21st of January, listened to my positive affirmations, popped my walking shoes on and went for another long coast walk while listening to my hypnobirthing. It was a beautiful sunny day and I just knew that it was going to be the day I went into labor.

It was 1pm I was at my Nanna Nitza’s having lunch when I experience my very first surge. At first I felt a bit nervous, this was the only time I ever felt that. I took one deep breath, held my belly, had the BIGGEST smile on my face and remember saying “this is it, I get to have you in my arms so soon” and from that moment celebrated EVERY surge. (I knew that it was definitely lab our, as I had never experienced any feeling like this) I couldn’t stop smiling at the thought that he would most likely be entering the world on his due date – what a clever boy.
I wanted to continue my day like I would any other day, as this was always a part of my visualization in order to remain calm and allow my body to do its thing. I went for another long walk. Called my mum and sisters. Scrubbed my showers for the 10th time that week and cooked dinner.

Once my husband got home from work I was so EXCITED to tell him it was the real deal and that we would soon have our baby. He was overwhelmed with so much excitement, love and nerves. He gave me the biggest hug and kiss and said Let’s DO THIS!

We continued to make dinner and watch TV. At 9pm I called my mum as my surges were every 10 -15 minutes and lasting about 30 seconds. She lives 3 hours from me so I knew she had to leave soon in order to be here on time. It was very important for me to have her a part of my birth. My husband is this crazy positive energy and my mum is this calm, nurturing & warm energy – I knew they would make a great team and that’s exactly how it was. I also called my midwife & her positivity was absolutely incredible and so reassuring that I am more than okay to be at home for longer.

At 10pm I told Ty to go get some sleep. As I knew it was going to be a long night. I was in between the hot shower and in my yoga poses with a heat pack. Mum was on loudspeaker to me the whole time – she would speak to me when I wanted to speak and she was silent when I was.

My mum got to me at 12pm gave me the biggest hug and kiss and we then went for a walk to the local petrol station so I could keep moving and get some sugar. I stopped and leant on my mum every 5 minutes for a full minute. Mum and Ty wanted to take me to the birthing center but I assured them that I was more than happy being in the shower and that they should get some rest. I wasn’t aware of the time when I was in labor. But mum & Ty told me the next day I was in the shower from 12.30 – 3am I could not believe this it honestly felt like 10 minutes. In this time, I was in my birthing bubble and really having to practice everything I had learnt as it had hit a new level of challenging.

At 3am it was time to head to the birthing center from 12 – 3 my contractions were every 3-5 minutes and lasting a full minute & had certainly intensified so I was happy to go. I was extremely proud that I had stayed at home for as long as possible. But of course first stop…Hungry Jacks, as Ty was hungry!!!!! He claims he did this because I told him to distract me from going to the birthing center for as long as possible, but I know it was because he was just thinking about his stomach. Oh and then a HUGE detour on the freeway!

4am we arrived to the warmest midwifes and environment. I got an internal and was 5cm dilated. I was so excited to know that I had already dilated that much. We discussed my birthing plan and what I wanted to achieve. The birthing pool was ready for me and was such a great pain relief I was in the pool until I was 7cms dilated. Then experienced the transitional stage – which was extremely challenging, I had to use every single bit of strength I had to try and regroup. I felt really out of control at this stage & I have never experienced a pain like this. This is when my mum suggested using the gas. This was incredible at getting me back into my zone and ready to push.

At 7am I was fully dilated. I got ready to jump back in the pool but standing up and holding onto the bath felt to good. I was then able to have mum and Ty on either side pulling against me as I pushed with each squat. What an incredible feeling this is. Your body just takes over and knows exactly what to do.

Once he crowned the midwife asked me to touch his head – this was a motivation like no other. I spoke to Chase every step of the way and we made such a great team.

She asked Ty to come down onto the floor and get ready to grab him. At this stage my waters still hadn’t broken. I birthed Chase’s headfirst – I didn’t even know this was possible. The very first person Chase laid his eyes on was his Daddy and Tyron says it was by far the best moment in his whole entire life. He was so excited. He came up to me and said Juss he is just perfect he has the biggest lips and so much hair – you can do it, just one more push!

My final surge 8:05am on the 22nd of January – he was here along with all that water. On his due date 7 pound 10 and 51cms! Ty and the midwife grabbed him & past him straight through my legs to me we laid there for hours just staring and incomplete awe of our baby boy.

6 hours later we were sitting in our lounge room at home as a family for the very first time.

I have never experienced anything as incredible & empowering as giving birth, I went into a whole new world where I felt so connected to my body and to my baby boy. I think about this moment so often and how proud I am that I was able to achieve the birth I have only ever dreamt of with my husband and mum by my side, practicing hypnobirthing.

Nothing could beat that feeling of holding Chase in my arms for the very first time. In that moment the whole world seriously stopped. I already could not imagine my life without him and I experienced a love that I could not believe was even possible. Being able to achieve the birth that I had only ever dreamt of made this day that extra bit special.

Submitted by Justine Zampogna.

Breech Babies Are Another Variation of Normal

Breech Babies Are Another Variation of Normal

breech baby, frank breech, footling breech, complete breech

Originally written 10/29/2010.

With my first child, I knew I wanted a natural birth. I chose the local birth center and hired the team of midwives. I attended my regular appointments and the birth classes they offered. Starting around 30 weeks I questioned the position of my baby. I asked three of the midwives at three different appointments if they could tell if my baby was head down. I was overweight at the time and did not think palpation was enough to determine her position. On midwife #3, I requested that we check it out and she agreed.

At my ultrasound appointment and 36 weeks pregnant, I was not shocked when the ultrasound technician said, “Yep, she is breech.” I was not surprised, but I was devastated. This was not something I was educated about or prepared for. Looking back, I was just along for the ride. Big mistake. My doula told me there was still time for her to turn, but not being educated about this, I wasn’t sure.

I started asking my midwives, chiropractors and friends about breech vaginal birth. All I received were mixed answers and usually, “Yes, it can be done, but if something goes wrong it will happen fast. Why take the risk?!” I did a few things, like hanging upside down frequently and handstands in the pool. My chiropractor did the Webster technique, as it has a high success rate in giving babies more room to turn head down. At 39 weeks I had an inversion done. Let me tell you that is painful and unnatural. Wouldn’t do it again.

Finally at 39 weeks I met with a good OB. My husband and I decided to have a c-section because we knew the OB was there to do it (he was in a practice with 16 docs). It was a very emotional ride and left me wondering why there wasn’t more information or support of breech birth.

If you are trying to educate yourself more or are finding yourself in this situation, you might be asking, “What can I do differently? I need more information!” I am here to provide just that for you. Educate yourself, pray about it (or meditate) and make the best choice for you and your baby. Be strong and get the right support.

So, you find out that your baby is breech. What now?

Don’t panic! It’s going to be OK. Your baby is breech for a reason. (S)he may or may not turn and can do so even right before birth. So, be patient.

breech baby, frank breech, footling breech, complete breechWhich breech presentation is your baby favoring? There are three common types.

  • Frank Breech, which tends to be the most favorable. This is when baby’s bottom presents first and feet are by the head.
  • Footling Breech is when baby has one or both feet presenting first.
  • Complete Breech is when your baby is comfy sitting cross legged.

There are things you can do to help baby turn if that is what baby wants. Remember, your baby knows best what position to be in for his/her birth. Look into the following options:

Even when you decide to have faith in your body and your baby, you still want to be prepared and know how to help him/her gently enter this world. Here are some things to consider and research.

  • Know and be firm in your knowledge that a breech baby does not automatically mean c-section.
  • Make sure your OB or midwife is 100% on board and does not fear breech birth.
  • Always listen to YOUR intuition. If you have a fear, process it. If someone else does, don’t waiver in your faith. Trust your gut!
  • When birthing, get in a favorable position like standing, squatting, or even hand and knees (unless your body is telling you different).
  • Read a lot of great breech birth stories! Here is one with awesome pictures.
  • Do NOT let anyone (your midwife, spouse, doula, OB, etc.) pull on baby!
  • Something to educate yourself on further is making sure baby’s head is birthed before they start breathing. The book Emergency Childbirth by Gregory J. White was helpful for me.
  • Have a back up plan. There is nothing wrong with having one.  Don’t focus on it, but know it’s there. Continue to have faith that your vaginal birth will be wonderful and successful.
  • If you get nothing else from this post, remember this: even if you have a c-section, WAIT. Wait for baby to start labor. I say this for two reasons. First, you will know for sure that your baby is ready to be earthside. Second, is that you have given your baby every chance to turn head down. In hindsight, my first baby was born at least 3 weeks early as all my other babies have been born between 42-44 weeks!

A baby that is breech is not an automatic dangerous situation or cesarean. Breech babies have different risk factors and those should be discussed with your care provider, so you can make an informed decision on what is best for your baby and birth, with their support.

Audrey Lands Earthside

Audrey Lands Earthside

At 3:15 the morning of December 23rd, I woke up to some contractions. They kept happening so I timed them and saw they were all over the place in terms of duration and time apart. I wasn’t sure if this was the real deal or just more practice. They were a bit uncomfortable so I tried to center by visualizing myself sitting comfortably at the bottom of the ocean, where the water is calm but flowy. There was some seaweed around me that swayed a little, as did my hair. For some of the surges I got on all fours.

Worried that all my moving around would wake up Travis, I went out to the couch around 6am and the contractions spaced out to 20 minutes apart. I assumed this was practice labor and was getting pretty grumpy about my interrupted sleep. When Travis woke up I told him what was going on. I was glad that we both had the day off. We planned to just stay home and chill out except for an appointment I had with my midwife in the afternoon.

The contractions kept coming all morning. I texted Kimberly (my doula) and let her know what was going on. We still weren’t sure if this was just practice or early labor. Travis and I went for a walk and they got closer together, about six minutes apart, but still lasted for only 30 seconds. I managed the contractions by swaying my hips and breathing. I was surprised by how much sensation I experienced around my sacrum with each contraction.

My appointment with the midwife was at 2:40pm. The car ride there was not very fun. I think I was still tense because I wasn’t really sure what was happening – practice or not? I was hoping I could be taken back to a room soon after arriving so I wouldn’t have to work with the contractions in a waiting room full of people.

Forty minutes later, we finally got taken back to a room. Manola was the midwife on call and when she checked me I was 3-4cm and 70% effaced. She seemed confident that this was it – just knowing that made me feel better and really excited. She gave us the choice of going over to the hospital or going home to see if things would really get going.

We chose to go home and agreed we would get back in touch when contractions were three minutes apart. Again, the car ride was not very fun but I was in better spirits about it and was excited to think that I could meet my baby that day. We stopped at the store to pick up some dinner on the way home because we were both starving.

We decided to eat some pizza and watch a Christmas movie. By the time the pizza was ready, though, I really wasn’t hungry anymore. The contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I was using a heating pad on my sacrum and all fours to cope with the discomfort. Travis was really great at applying counter pressure… it felt so good.

About 10 minutes into the movie (A Muppet Christmas Carol), I started to feel that both the movie and the pizza were annoying distractions. Travis helped me get set up in the bath tub so I could focus. I turned off the lights and listened to the Hypnobirthing Rainbow Relaxation CD. I really got in the zone and the water felt so good.

Travis came back to check on me part way through the movie and I was ready to get out because the water was cold. I was tired from not sleeping much the night before so I decided to sit upright in bed and relax. I found I was able to doze a little between each surge. Here I just continued to use my breath. I visualized myself at the bottom of an ocean cave whose wide mouth was above me, widening more and more.

After the movie was over Travis came back in and I let him know he should start getting our stuff packed and tying up any loose ends around the house. I really lost all track of time because I was so in the zone. I know that at 8:15 I saw my contractions were between 3-4 minutes apart. I told Travis that we would need to leave whenever he was done. I called Kimberly, pausing to breathe for the contractions now lasting about a minute to 90 seconds, and told her we would be going to the hospital as soon as everything was ready and asked her to meet us there. I also called Manola and let her know we would be coming in.

Then there was another car ride. It was much easier to manage because I was so relaxed.

We got to the hospital at 9:45pm. Thanks to my hands on knees squatting, we got to skip triage at the hospital and got taken straight to a room. One of the nurses asked about the pain scale and I told her to pick a number for me – it really wasn’t pain. I laughed to myself when she rolled her eyes at me. Shortly after the eye roll, I got checked and was 5-6cm and 90% effaced.

Then my water broke…it really just felt like peeing my pants, which, in that moment, was an oddly satisfying sensation.

Once they got me all hooked up and whatnot, they noticed the baby was having some extreme heart rate fluctuations with each contraction. They gave me IV fluids and had me labor on my left side for a while, which was more intense, but helped her stabilize.

I was expecting to labor in the tub but wasn’t really given the option because the way her heart rate changed with each position I was in. I did get in the shower for a while but my legs were shaking so much I felt really unstable. I also labored on the birth ball but found just sitting up in bed to be the most sustainable position for me and my energy level.

I kept falling asleep between contractions and even burped after many of them, which we all thought was hilarious. I told myself that an hour would last only ten minutes and I really lost all track of time. At various points I felt my water release again and again, still oddly satisfying. One time the nurses noticed a bit of meconium. Nobody freaked out but they were on watch.

Eventually, I started to feel a little pushy and I was at 9cm with just a little lip of my cervix holding me back. I got on all fours and Manola applied pressure to the lip while I pushed some. That was really intense and made the contractions stronger. Still, I didn’t have the “overwhelming urge to push” I’d read about, probably because of that lip. I pushed sitting on my heels, on my left side, and on my back with my knees at my chest. All totaled, I pushed for an hour and a half, roaring with each push. There was so much pressure!

I started to feel afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get her out. I was giving it all I had but it didn’t feel like enough.

Manola told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head – that was so surreal! Her heart rate was doing more crazy things so Manola said I needed to get her out with the next round of pushing. I was so tired and I roared and squeezed Travis’ hand like mad.

It wasn’t enough. Manola did an episiotomy, which I felt thankful for – I needed some help! – and Kimberly said it was the smallest one she’d ever seen.

With the next round of pushing my baby’s head was born and Manola said, “Whoa! Whoa! Don’t push!” I was out of it and didn’t really know what was going on. Travis told me later that she had both hands up at her face and the cord was wrapped around all that. He said Manola worked so fast to free things up and with the next push, Audrey was born at 5:42am on Christmas Eve.

Audrey Lands Earthside 1

She was immediately placed on my stomach where she pooped all over me! Everyone commented that if her hands would have been down she probably would have come out a lot faster. She was 7lbs 10oz and 20 1/2 inches long.

Because of all her crazy heart rate acrobatics, the NICU team was in the room just in case but she started screaming before her feet were out so they weren’t needed (her Apgar score was a 9).

She was so alert and her eyes were really wide. As I looked at her in shock and awe, I noticed some hair on her lip and said, “Is that one of my pubes on her mouth?!” Manola responded by saying, “Well I’ve never heard anyone say that before but yes, it probably is.” Then I apologized to Audrey for not trimming things up in anticipation of her arrival.

Audrey Lands Earthside 2

A little while later the placenta was born. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see it before they took it to the freezer.

Travis didn’t want to cut the cord so Kimberly did it. I remember thinking the cord was so thin and long. I was at risk for a hemorrhage due to my bleeding disorder and I felt a gush of blood as the placenta was born. Manola said it wasn’t a hemorrhage but we still went through the protocol we had talked about in the past to be on the safe side.

I felt so proud and strong (and tired!). Travis told me all the nurses were impressed with how calm I was throughout the whole thing. Kimberly told me later that I seemed annoyed that each contraction woke me up. I have my yoga and meditation practice as well as Hypnobirthing to thank for such an empowering birth experience. I pretty much felt like a badass!

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{Submitted by Jen Schappel}

A Natural Hospital Birth with an ObGyn and Doula

A Natural Hospital Birth with an ObGyn and Doula

My second son, Gabriel Lee, was born on February 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm. Before I get into the details of how he came into the world it is helpful for me to recap the birth of my first son, Anderson Matthew, and review a little of what my pregnancy was like with Gabriel. Anderson was born in December 2006 while we were living on North Carolina. I had planned a normal, natural birth and was under the care of midwives at a birth center. Midway through my pregnancy with Anderson I developed pregnancy induced hypertension which ultimately led to being put on bed rest and needing to be induced and birth at the hospital instead of the birth center. Although I still labored without an epidural the intensity of labor augmented with pitocin was so much more difficult than I had anticipated. When I started to have an uncontrollable urge to push at only 6 cm dilated I asked for and received a dose of stadol. My normal, natural birth was no more. My son was born – beautiful and perfect. He nursed right away and continued to do so for 20 months. He was happy and healthy. I am so grateful for all of that. But I was sad about some aspects of his birth, being induced and needing narcotics specifically, and I knew that I wanted my next pregnancy and birth to be different.

When I found out I was pregnant in June 2012 I immediately began looking for a home birth midwife. Our family had recently relocated to Northeast Iowa where I had been called as the pastor of a small, rural church and we had the joy of living in a 99 year old Iowa farmhouse that the church owns as its parsonage. It is the home of my dreams and I could envision welcoming our second child into the world in this peaceful space. I met with a midwife that I really liked and we scheduled my first prenatal appointment at 8 weeks. Imagine my dismay when we discovered that my blood pressure was elevated at this first visit. I had read about the Brewer’s diet before getting pregnant and was already following it so I was crushed with this new development. We monitored my BP for another week, but when we realize that it wasn’t coming down my midwife and I had a heart to heart about the fact that I likely wasn’t a good candidate for a home birth. There are three hospitals nearby and we discussed where I might like to be referred. The two larger hospitals have lower c-section rates than the smaller hospital closest to me and they also boast women’s clinics with multiple midwives on staff, but my homebirth midwife recommended an OB at the closer hospital – a personal friend of hers – who had given birth her own child at The Farm (with Ina May as a back-up midwife!) and whom, my midwife believed, would be my biggest advocate for having the natural birth I wanted in the hospital setting. The referral was made and my midwife was right, I loved the OB she recommended, Dr. L.

My pregnancy continued fairly uneventfully, my BP even came down to normal range as I continued to be faithful to the Brewer’s diet and walked two miles three or four days a week. The worst pregnancy symptom I had was a nearly constant cold – but otherwise I felt great and was confident that our newest child would come into the world just as he/she should. At our anatomical ultrasound we discovered we were having another boy (much to my surprise as all of my dreams and intuition had been screaming girl…). Perhaps the biggest crisis of my pregnancy came when, at 24 weeks I measured 6 weeks “big” during a routine prenatal appointment. This prenatal appointment was the first I’d had with the newest OB hired by the hospital and it was a disaster. Not only did this physician talk down to me, dismiss any conversation I tried to have regarding my goals of care and hopes for a natural birth and insult me (insisting I’m a “big girl” so maybe I’m just having a big baby) but the doctor also ordered unnecessary tests to check for super scary diseases that might be causing me to measure big and refused to discuss why these diseases were of concern and what it might mean if any of the tests came back positive. Needless to say the next two weeks waiting for those results were excruciating and I knew within my heart that I could not have that physician as part of my care team and have the peaceful birth I envisioned. I am so thankful that we had already hired and established a relationship with our doula, Larissa, by this point because her support was invaluable to me during this stressful time.

After all the tests came back negative, thanks be to God, I had a follow-up appointment with Dr. L (the OB to whom I was originally referred). I let her know how disappointed I was with the other physician and how I couldn’t, in good conscience, continue with this practice and deliver in that hospital if it was necessary for him to potentially be the physician who would be present at my birth. I was very careful to ensure that I wasn’t asking her to intervene or to play mediator between her colleague and I, but I let her know that I was trying to protect my birth plan and advocate for the patient centered care I had hoped to receive in order to birth naturally in the hospital.

She was very receptive to my concerns, offered me words of encouragement and let me know that it was not unusual for a patient to request the care of only one physician in the practice for personal reasons. She and her colleagues went out of their way to try to meet those needs when possible and as this was a small hospital that saw less than one birth a day they were often able to do so. Dr. L let me know that she would make every effort to be the physician who delivered our son and agreed to discuss a backup plan with the third OB in the practice (whom I liked also) to ensure that she would be present in the event that Dr. L could not be. Later that night Dr. L called me to tell me that everything was worked out and that I needn’t worry. She assured me that my birth plan would be honored and that she would do her very best to be the one on call when it was my birth time. I felt heard, respected and valued. It is amazing how much difference it makes when you know you can trust your health care provider.

After this my pregnancy continued without a hitch until 36 weeks when my BP started to sneak back up. It never got to a level of serious concern, but it was higher than all of us liked so I agreed to bi-weekly NSTs to keep an eye on the baby. Dr. L and I agreed that there was no need to induce with these moderately high BP readings and the NSTs would ensure that we had the necessary documentation to support letting things run their natural course. We did discuss how my birth plan might need to be modified if an induction became necessary if my BP suddenly spiked. We reviewed all of the “natural” induction methods to try first to avoid pitocin at all costs. I was grateful that we had this conversation when things weren’t urgent. It allowed me to prepare myself for whatever might happen. I felt like I had a say in deciding what an induction might look like if needed.

We both thought that I would go into labor before my due date. Dr. L wrote the schedule to ensure that she would be on-call in the weeks leading up to my edd of 2/13/13.  We repeatedly reviewed and amended my birth plan. Dr. L even called me after hours one night to discuss the possibility of sharing my birth plan at an upcoming conference and to let me know what she’d found when researching the most updated pros and cons of delayed cord clamping. (She was pro-delay by the way…) Again, I felt validated, respected and like an active participant in my care despite being in the hospital “system”.

 Weeks 37, 38 and 39 came and went. Baby was snug as a bug, my BP had leveled back out to totally normal levels, and the NSTs were all showing that he was doing just fine thus negating any medical “need” for induction – natural or otherwise. I asked for a vaginal exam at my 39 week appointment which showed my cervix was less than 1cm dilated and very high and firm. Dr. L was as surprised as I was since I had been having regular practice contractions. She had made plans to go out of town the weekend after my EDD (thinking that baby boy would come well before then…) and we both got a little panicky. I cried all the way home from that appointment; certain that baby would decide to come late when Dr. L would be out of town. I bought a bottle of castor oil just in case…

On Monday, February 11, 2013 at 39.5 weeks I went about my day as usual. I was “officially” on maternity leave at this point but had to handle a few sudden church related crises on my way to my final NST. I had plans to go to the bank and run some errands afterwards. My NST was fine, as usual, but this time I had the procedure done in a labor and delivery room as the outpatient room where they usually did the test was occupied. As I was leaving the room I picked up the tiny newborn diaper waiting in the basinet imagining that my son would soon be born and fit into that. I immediately chastised myself thinking, “Someone’s baby has to wear that diaper and I just contaminated it with my dirty hands…” Little did I know that “someone’s baby” would me mine!

I ran my errands and got a little cheeky with the check out lady at the grocery store who asked me to lift up the two boxes of cat litter I’d purchased by myself because she had a bad back. I guess she couldn’t tell I was nine months pregnant under my bulky winter coat. I responded, “Well, I am due to have a baby on Wednesday, maybe all this lifting will encourage the little guy to come out sooner…” She couldn’t apologize fast enough…ha! That night Anderson and I met my husband Matt, at McDonald’s for dinner and as we were getting up from the table I thought I had pulled a muscle in my side. I had to stop and catch my breath and recover for a few seconds before I could walk again. I’m thinking now that it was likely a contraction. Once Anderson and I got home from supper I started having regular practice contractions as was usual for me, but this time the pain was radiating down the insides of my thighs – almost like nerve pain.

Once Anderson fell asleep I took a shower to see if things might ease off which they did. I finally laid down but my coughing (from the incessant pregnancy induced cold) kept me awake. As I was lying in bed I felt and heard a distinct pop during one of my coughing fits. I wondered if my water broke, but as I went to the bathroom there was no sign of leaking fluid. I did, however, have a bit of blood when I wiped (the first all pregnancy) so I started to really get my hopes up. I texted Larissa to let her know of these interesting changes. I sat down in the glider in our bedroom and tried not to get excited. The next thing I knew I felt fluid leaking out that was not related to a coughing fit. The leaking continued for a while and I finally sent a text to Matt at baseball practice (he’s a college baseball assistant coach) that I thought my water broke and to come straight home after practice. I still wasn’t 100% sure it was my water, but the more fluid I leaked (in between coughing) the more convinced I became.

Matt got home around midnight and we debated what to do. Since I had tested GBS+ I knew that we couldn’t labor at home for too long. I needed to go get antibiotics started when my water broke (I had a niece who was hospitalized for multiple weeks after birth due to GBS so I wasn’t willing to take chances here) but I had also hoped that labor would be in full force by the time it was necessary. In this case my water was broken but even my practice contractions had slowed to a complete stop. We waited another hour or so – gathering our things, calling our parents (mine had to make a 10 hour trip from KY and Matt’s mom was coming from 2 hours away to be with Anderson) and calling Larissa (who I told to sleep until I got settled in at the hospital…).

At this point I called the Birthing Center at the hospital to let them know I was on my way. This is my favorite part of Gabriel’s whole birth story. The conversation went something like this:

Nurse: Hello, Birth Center, this is the nurse…

Me: Hi. My name is Jessica. I am a patient of Dr. L’s and my water just broke. I am GBS + so we are going to head that way soon. Can you tell me which doctor is on call?
Nurse: It is so funny you called! Dr. L called about 45 minutes ago and said, “I have a feeling one of my patients, Jessica, might be calling tonight. I am off today and tomorrow, but I have promised to be the doctor who is there for the birth of her baby so if she calls tonight, call me right away.” So I know who you are and I’ll let Dr. L know you are on your way.

Me: WOW! That is amazing! We must be on the same wavelength. Ok. Great. See you soon!

I took that as a good sign that my son had picked the perfect time to be born and felt even more confident that I had made the right choice sticking with Dr. L.

We arrived at the hospital at about 2am. After an initial exam to confirm that my water was indeed broken the nurse reported that my cervix was still only about 1cm dilated and not very soft or thin. I was too excited to be discouraged at this point. I got changed, the nurse started my first round of IV antibiotics and hooked me up to the monitor. My mother in law arrived to take Anderson back home for some much needed sleep. Larissa informed me that she would arrive at about 5am unless I needed her sooner. Dr. L called me at the hospital to touch base. We decided that I would try to get labor going on its own using my breast pump and clary sage oil. Knowing that I didn’t want to be hooked up to the monitors much or have many cervical checks Dr. L suggested that I be monitored for 20 minutes when I received my antibiotics every four hours and we’d do cervical checks then too only if I wanted. I felt comfortable with this plan.

Once my antibiotics were finished I began to stimulate contractions with pumping, regularly smelling clary sage oil during contractions to intensify them and started walking. A little while later Dr. L called back to discuss some options with me for augmenting things (cytotec if my cervix didn’t dilate, pitocin if contractions never became regular, etc)  in the event that my labor didn’t pick up on its own. She was very clear that she didn’t think we would need these measures nor did she want me to feel pressured to use them, but she wanted me to know my options so that I could make the best possible decision if necessary. I was grateful that she discussed these with me when it wasn’t “urgent” so that I could feel confident in the moment if we needed to do something differently. Thankfully none of these options were ever needed.

At 6:30 am it was time for my second round of antibiotics, monitoring and I consented to another cervical check. I was 2cm at this point and 70% effaced. While I was concerned that this wouldn’t be enough change to continue to allow things to continue naturally, Dr. L was very pleased with this progress and encouraged me to keep on doing what I was doing. I was reassured that there was no need for any augmentation as clearly my body was laboring effectively. Matt, Larissa and I had prepared for this labor and birth by taking Hypnobirthing courses and it was at this point that I started to rely on some of the techniques that I learned to manage the contractions. I plugged in my headphones to listen to my birth affirmations while I was on the monitors and receiving antibiotics. Matt and Larissa took much needed naps.

At about 9:30 a massage therapist arrived in the birth center and offered me a massage and Reiki. She used clary sage massage oil and did some energy work on my back and feet. She intensely massaged the uterine pressure points on my feet to help stimulate labor. My contractions slowed down during the massage, but I fell into an almost a trance-like state. I was so relaxed. It was such a helpful “break” from labor. After the massage therapist left Dr. L came by (wearing jeans and uggs!) and asked if I wanted her to check me again before my next round of antibiotics. I agreed and we discovered I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced – more progress, slowly but surely! Dr. L felt confident that labor would continue just as it should and she encouraged me to trust my body.

I did more walking, pumping, clary sage sniffing and things continued to pick up. My family arrived from KY after driving all night and at my next antibiotics/cervical check I was still just 3cm dilated, but more effaced and baby had moved down to a -1 station. Labor was definitely kicking into a higher gear at this point. Larissa left to get something to eat and to nurse her own baby during this time, my family left to get food and Matt and I labored together using our hypnobirthing skills. I was really happy with how everything was progressing. I felt calm and in control. My contractions were regular enough at this point that I decided to get into the whirlpool tub to relax. It was helpful but I struggled to find a truly comfortable position.

While I was in the tub my contractions became significantly stronger. Larissa returned from getting some lunch and was able to snap some pictures of me in the tub. At this point, because I was in active labor, the nurses were checking baby’s heart rate with a Doppler every 15 minutes. I had officially entered that “timeless” phase of labor because those 15 minutes between heart rate checks seemed to fly by. At one point a nurse came in to check baby’s heart rate and it was very low. They tried repositioning me several times and even had several different nurses try to find it. There was some confusion as to whether they were getting my heart rate or the baby’s. Another nurse finally found the baby’s heart rate easily – but there had been so much confusion (which created concern) that they had me get out of the tub for more continual monitoring. At this point Dr. L came back in to check me (I was at a 5) and told me that while she was sure everything was fine she wanted me to be on the monitor’s continuously just to be safe, but I was still free to walk, to move around the room and to labor in whatever positions made me comfortable.

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After the nurses were sure that baby’s heart rate was good they left us alone again. Matt, Larissa and I labored intensely for nearly an hour and a half. My contractions were no joke. I needed counter pressure on my back (which Matt provided perfectly with a couple of tennis balls) and Larissa spoke to me encouragingly using hypnobirthing phrases. It wasn’t long before I began to have the uncontrollable urge to push – so much for my hypnobirthing goal of gently and peacefully breathing my baby down. I became worried knowing that I had only been at a 5 an hour before. I remembered how early I had the pushing urge with my first son’s birth and how long it took until he was born (3+ hours). I started to doubt if I could complete this labor naturally. I remember asking Matt and Larissa, “Why does my body do this?” While all this was going on inside my head several nurses came in because baby’s heart rate was significantly decelerating after contractions. They had me get in the bed to get a more accurate reading. This added to my stress and panic. Matt and Larissa were doing their best to keep me calm and to reassure me – but I totally lost all the focus I had had for so much of my labor.

I asked to be checked again because the urge to push was overtaking all my thoughts and zapping all energy. The nurse checked me and I was at a 6 – much to my dismay – even though baby was now at a +2 station. It was like my first son’s birth all over again. I knew that if I had to fight against my body’s urge to push for several more hours I would never make it. At this point I had been in labor for nearly 18 hours and awake for 40 – I was exhausted. I caved and asked for a low dose of a narcotic. Matt and Larissa did everything in their power to convince me I didn’t need it. They tried to get me to wait through several more contractions; they encouraged me to be strong for 5 more minutes. Larissa gave me a comb to squeeze in my hand to distract me, she encouraged me to hold on to the bed rails and pull up every time I had the urge to bear down. The nurses were doing all they could to convince me not to push all while still trying to figure out why baby’s heart rate kept dropping. It isn’t helpful having folks frantically concerned for your baby’s well-being and telling you not to push for fear of ripping your cervix all while being completely unable to fight the urge to push. It was pure chaos and I felt like a crazy woman.

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Matt went out of his way to reassure me that I could do this without drugs. In hindsight he told me how hard those moments were for him to see me struggling so much. He wrestled between encouraging my natural birth plan while still honoring my needs in the moment. I finally said, through tears, “I really appreciate what you both are trying to do. I know you are trying to help me get the natural birth that I wanted, but I am ok with this. I said in my birth plan that I might ask for a low dose narcotic. It is ok. I really want the medicine.” Matt stepped away from the bedside and re-read my birth plan, (God bless him). He came back and said, “You used the words “in the rare event that I ask for pain medicine…” are you sure this is that rare event? I really think you can do this without the medication.” I replied, “Yes, this is the rare event. I want it.” He then asked the nurse to ask Dr. L to order the medication. I felt some measure of relief knowing the medication was coming but the urge to push was still all-consuming and overbearing and I was so discouraged that I couldn’t make it without the medication. The baby’s heart rate was also still fluctuating significantly and I was worried.

A few minutes later a nurse walked in with the medication but Larissa encouraged Matt to ask me, “Are you sure you don’t want to be checked one more time before you get the medication – just to see…” I think she could tell I was in transition and knew that the end was near. I consented to one more check (so much for limiting vaginal exams, huh?).

The nurse put her hand inside me while I was in the middle of a push and her eyes nearly popped out of her head! “YOU’RE COMPLETE!” she exclaimed, surprised that things had changed so much in only 20 minutes. As the contraction eased off and I stopped pushing she paused, looked confused and said, “No wait, you’re only an 8 but very stretchy. Someone go get Dr. L NOW!”

Dr. L came in and talked to me first. She told me that she was going to check me but that if I wasn’t complete she would stay with me, help me breathe through contractions and fight the urge to push. She was so reassuring. The nurses had put oxygen on me at some point and she told them to take it off. Once she got a glove on she examined me. A huge smile spread across her face and she replied, “Jessica, you’re there! You did it! Let’s have a baby!” I have never felt so much relief. What a difference 25 minutes makes! The nurse with the narcotic was still standing there holding the syringe of medication looking like a deer caught in headlights. I remember her asking me if I still wanted it. I think I laughed at her in my delirious state. No I didn’t want that stupid medication! I was complete! I was having this baby all naturally just like I had hoped and prayed and dreamed!

Dr. L stepped back to get suited up and the nurses began prep for Gabriel’s birth. I asked Larissa to run down to the waiting room to get my mom who was sound asleep thinking we still had hours to go. While everyone else was distracted with preparations I was still pushing. I felt the baby’s head sliding far down into the birth canal and I yelled out, “His HEAD, His HEAD!” Dr. L looked up and saw the baby crowing. Larissa and my mom walked in right at that moment – perfect timing. Dr. L quickly slipped on clean gloves, jumped up on the bed and helped ease his head halfway out. She said to me, “Jessica, take a breath. With your next contraction your baby will be born.” And she was right. With the next push Gabriel Lee squished out of my body and into the world like a bolt of lightning! His lusty cry filled the room.

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We were all in shock. I went from 6cm to complete in 25 minutes. I went from complete to holding Gabriel in my arms in less than one minute. The nurses were amazed. Dr. L was beaming and exclaimed, “It isn’t often I have to jump up into the bed to catch a baby!” I was so thankful it was over. So grateful to finally be holding my beloved child!

Gabriel and I spent some time skin to skin while Dr. L waited for the cord to stop pulsing. She informed me when it had stopped, we waited another minute or two and then Matt cut the cord. I was so thankful for her intentionality with this part of my birth plan. I lifted Gabriel to my breast and he latched on right away. I delivered his placenta 15 minutes later with one little push and Dr. L showed us all the different parts of it and explained how it all worked to help Gabe grow. Gabriel weighed 7lbs 1.6 oz, was 20.25 inches long. He scored 9s on both Apgar tests. He never left my side during our entire 24 hour hospital stay. All of his newborn assessments, with the exception of the hearing test, were completed in the room; he spent three out of his first five hours earthside nursing like it was his job (which it was!) and I gave him his first bath. After Gabe’s birth I walked around with ease, laughing and joking with the nurses who kept saying, “You don’t even look like you just had a baby.” Even the housekeeping staff (who had seen me in labor) marveled at how great I was feeling. I never needed more than a Tylenol for soreness.

a reverend hypnobirthing

 

The next morning Dr. L came to check on me and commented about how fun and exciting Gabriel’s birth was for her. We talked about how my labor was slow, slow, slow then FAST. How it was calm, calm, calm then CRAZY. We noted that my body takes a long time with early labor but then blasts through active labor and transition like a freight train. I wondered aloud if Anderson’s birth would have happened that fast if I had not had a dose of narcotics at 6cm. Dr. L told me that Gabriel’s cord was wrapped around his neck once, thus contributing to the heart decelerations that caused so much drama near the end. I couldn’t thank her enough for her patience, her faith in me and her trust in the birth process.

In hindsight I am so thankful that I managed (barely) to have the natural birth that I desperately wanted. I owe it all to Matt, Larissa and Dr. L who encouraged me, supported me and held me off when I was asking (make that begging) for relief. If I had not had their support, this story would have taken a completely different turn. There’s no denying it – the end of my labor was incredibly intense. The hardest part was trying not to push and there’s no doubt that I asked for the medication more to help me relax and resist the urge to push than to relieve any “pain”. I am so grateful that I never got that first dose. If anyone is wondering if a doula is necessary – hear me when I scream YES at the top of my lungs. Gabriel’s birth story is proof of their effectiveness. I am so thankful for ours!  Achieving the natural birth that I hoped for – from start to finish – makes me feel like I’ve conquered the world and when I look at my two precious sons I know for a fact that I am the most blessed woman in the world. Thanks Be to God.

 

“We did it baby! It was hard, but we did it!” {Natural Birth Center Birth}

“We did it baby! It was hard, but we did it!” {Natural Birth Center Birth}

3:00 am on the morning of September 30th,  I awoke to some uncomfortable cramping. I was at the breaking point in my pregnancy. I felt that I couldn’t possibly get any bigger, or any more emotional. I had disconnected with the world because I could not handle one more, “You haven’t had the baby yet?”

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3:30 am: I’ll go to the bathroom and go back to bed. I can’t possibly be in labor because it’s never going to happen. So back to bed I went. But this time it was different. I couldn’t sleep. The heavy cramping feeling wasn’t going away.

4:00 am: I realized I better get up and time the contractions. They were every 8-10 minutes. Everything felt like water. If you close your eyes here and picture yourself in the ocean floating on your back in gentle waves. That is the feeling. It was deep within my gut. It wasn’t painful. It was primal.

4:30 am: I had my bloody show. Some of you are going ewww, but I felt like the heavens opened and angels were singing. HA! I was waiting for this sign! I knew this was it! I was so excited! I sent a text message to my midwife, Heather, and my doula, Gena. Once I had that bloody show, it felt like something clicked in my mind. I tried to lay back down for a while, but my body said get up and move.  After laboring quietly for a while on the toilet, I decided to wake Justin around 6 and tell him it was GO time. I got in the shower and let him get everything in the car and get himself ready. The contractions were coming stronger and harder. Now picture yourself still in the ocean but the waves start to envelop you.

6:30 am: Contractions were 2 minutes apart. Baby and I were working really well together. I had called my midwife and told her I needed to come in to the center. I also called my doula and let her know. Off we went to the birth center. Having  contractions in the car is not fun, I am very glad we don’t live far. By this point I was having to make some vocalizations to cope with the contractions. I remember saying to Justin, “Hey if they continue like this, I can totally do this. I don’t think they can get much worse.”  Ha! Early labor nonsense. I have to admit, there wasn’t a single point in my labor I felt helpless, or unable to continue. I felt as if the baby and I were working together towards the birth.

7:30 am: We arrived at the birth center and it took me a while to get back into the moment. I felt a little distracted by the new faces and environment. However, I’m sure none of them could tell because I  b-lined for the bathroom, sat down on the toilet, put on my hypnobirthing crap and continued laboring. Heather suggested that we call Gena again and tell her to hurry. So Gena was texted, called again.

I believe she arrived around 8 maybe 8:30 am: Any time frame from the minute I walked into the center until the time Jo was born is completely warped. I didn’t care what time it was or how long I was in labor for.

When Gena arrived I felt relieved. Justin was doing an amazing job so far supporting me. Anything I needed he was giving, but I needed for him to be guided. I needed my doula. She was the steady voice in the background, telling him good job when I couldn’t. Showing him where to place his hands. She was the most valuable asset in that moment. It made the moment more tender for us because he was able to be so supportive and there for me, because someone was there for him. I could cry thinking about how wonderful he was. We labored together as a family. Weaving in and out of this elaborate time continuum. I knew HE was tired, he knew I was tired. And there was such a respect and love between the two of us. I felt so powerful and so vunerable at the same time. This sense of being is what matters. It is like an alternate state in which you exist in as husband and wife. Those last moments in time, before your family changes forever, are sacred.

I can’t separate the details of my labor in my memory, so I am going to place them all down in a mess of a paragraph. Isn’t that what birth feels like after? A mess of details?

So I labored on through the morning, I ate an ungodly amount of honey during labor and threw up at some point. I moved from the bathroom, to the bedroom tub, to the side of the bed. I got naked at some point. I remember getting in the tub and loving every second of pain relief, but being too hot for clothes or caring. Gena massaged my back with this amazing oxygen infused oil. Jocelyn provided cold washcloths for my forehead with amazing timing once one was too warm. My midwives moved in and out monitoring Jo’s heart rate. Everyone treated my space with such respect and reverence.

I made deep sounds from my gut with every contraction. I had imagined myself being a groaner, and I sure was. My bag of waters was bulging and I was able to reach down and feel it several times which gave me a sense of progression. As my labor progressed I went to the side of the bed. I was definitely pushing at this point but still only getting a bulging bag. I had an urge to get back in the tub.

12:02 pm: As soon as I stood up- splash! My bag of waters finally broke! I thought from here till the end took 2 hrs but it was 18mins!!! I got back in the tub. This last part remains my favorite, most vivid memory of birth. I had Justin in front of me supporting me with the rebozo, my doula behind me doing hip squeezes and my midwive’s hands waiting to catch and supporting my perineum. I bore down on the rebozo and gave a great push. I could feel her descending. I yelled, “This hurts so bad! She’s almost here!”. The women in the room and Justin joined in my pain and excitement at that point. Justin was able to let go the rebozo and go around behind me to see JoElla being born. Heather reassured me during this time and helped me  not to push between contractions.

12:20 pm: Then with one more contraction, one more good push and she was out. In those first few moments my whole body possessed this great feeling of shaking power. Heather handed me my baby and for the first time we looked at each other. I didn’t need to count her fingers or toes to know she was perfect.

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I kept telling her, “We did it baby! It was hard, but we did it, and now you’re here! You did such a good job!” She kept looking over when Justin would talk or laugh. She knew her daddy’s voice. About ten minutes later we finally looked and saw she was indeed a girl. We were so in awe of this beautiful new family member we didn’t even think to look, until reminded.

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The placenta was delivered while I was on the bed nursing for the first time about 30 minutes after she was born. It was a beautiful heart shaped placenta that nourished us for an additional 6 weeks after birth in capsule form.

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I am very grateful for an amazing, supportive birth team that helped me have the birth I could only dream of.

Four hours after the birth, going home.

For more pictures, visit Katie’s blog: A Conception to Birth Story

I Came Along, I Wrote A Song For You. {The Birth Story Of Sparrow}

I Came Along, I Wrote A Song For You. {The Birth Story Of Sparrow}

We thank Rachel for returning to the BWF blog and sharing her second birth story with us. Her first birth story is here: Hypnobirth Water Birth Story with Gorgeous Pictures

So, during my whole pregnancy I refused to tell anyone an official due date, because they mean nothing and everyone pesters you about going late. I said things like “Oh, it’ll be sometime at the end of January, beginning of February. Sometime.” and “Oh, anytime in the next three weeks or so.” Everyone pestered me anyway. I don’t mind telling you the date now, as it so happened to be The Day. My baby’s due date was Jonathan’s birthday, January 29th. On the night of the 28th I noticed that I’d lost some of the uterine seal, but I didn’t have any other signs of labor, and I knew it could mean I was close or still weeks away. I told Jonathan about it and that my body might even form another seal. He was profoundly impressed and said “Girls’ bodies are amazing!”. That night we fell asleep around 2 AM. My mind was on fire with the plans I had for his birthday party later that day and I set my alarm for 6:30 so I could get up before he left for work to make him breakfast. Jonathan is very casual about birthdays and holidays and I am always very passionately determined to make them special. I want to blow his mind every time. This year, my plans didn’t work out, but I’m pretty sure I blew his mind anyway… he won’t forget this one.

I must have started my labor in my sleep. I was dreaming that I was Wendy Rush, and someone was trying to bring a birth tub already filled with water over to my house. In the dream, I was furious with them for filling up the tub first, as it didn’t make any sense. My rage was heightened by an uncomfortable tightening sensation that I was dimly aware of. Most of it just felt like normal practice surges, but the last few seconds kicked into a deeper, unexpected place, and I remember being aware of those sensations as they dragged me slowly back into consciousness. I remember shifting my body and doing all the little things I do to try to feel more comfortable; I swung my leg over Jonathan, pulled the body pillow between my legs, and then another surge came and pulled me all the way from my syrupy peaceful sleep into wakefulness in the cold room. Oh! I was having surges! I waited a few minutes to see if they’d go away and then decided to get up to use the bathroom. Moving made them stronger and I was a little shocked at how forceful they were already. I had to sway my hips and moan through them to ground myself. Laura’s voice loomed in my head: “The best way to deal with early labor is to just ignore it.” She’d suggested that instead of obsessively timing contractions and alerting the birth team, to go about your business, rest and stay hydrated, and wait until the surges were demanding more attention. I remember feeling alarmed and thinking, I don’t know if I can ignore these already! Is this early labor? It was about 4:45 AM. I staggered around the house alone for awhile, dropping to my knees and saying “Ohhhmmm” during surges. Last summer when I did yoga at the Hare Krishna temple, I’d learned that “Ohm” was the sound of the universe. It felt so good to hum the “mmm” when the surges were fading away.  I didn’t like being alone but wasn’t sure where to go from here. In case this wasn’t the real thing, I didn’t want to wake anyone up, but the intensity was making me a little nervous and I wanted some company.

I started to have a lot of hysterically potent feelings. I felt sliced open by the severity of how much things were going to change. I grieved because Chai had a rough night the night before and it might have been his last night alone with us, and he spent it cranky and unhappy. I was so disappointed about the prospect of not making Jonny’s birthday happen like I’d been planning, and I even went to the freezer to try to pull out the bacon, thinking that maybe I could still pull breakfast together between surges, but no, I hit my hands and knees again and decided that wasn’t happening. Thinking of this being the starting place for other 15 or so hours of harder work seemed really daunting. The surges weren’t lasting super long, but they were fierce! So sharp that when I moved in between them my body felt slow and vulnerable, I didn’t want to jostle myself into another one too soon. I floated back to the bathroom and noticed a little more of the uterine seal had come loose.

When I opened the door, my sister Mary was standing there beaming at me (She lives with us, so it’s not as creepy as I just made it seem). My “ohming” woke her up and the sight of her and her quiet excitement cheered my heart. I told her what had been going on (it was almost 6 am at that point) and asked her if she could help me make breakfast for Jonny while I called my midwife, Richelle, and explained where I was. I asked her  to come over and check if I was progressing so I could respond accordingly. Mary helped me continue to get through the surges while we waited. During the breaks, I tried unsuccessfully to wake up Jonathan to let him know that this shiz was underway, as it were. I crawled in next to him and tried three times to shake him awake and explain, but each time he mumbled and rolled over and kept sleeping (#circadian rhythm sleep disorder) and we joked later that he “denied me thrice.”

Richelle arrived, came in and gave me a big hug and said “You’re having a baby today!” A quality I so appreciate about her is that she tries to make things magical. She checked me and I tried to mentally prepare for being at a one, although I was really hoping to have progressed farther. I had another moment of magic when she announced that I was at a 6! I felt so proud of myself! My whole body was “charged with the grandeur of God” and I felt this ecstatic energy. Six felt right, I was on this, it was mine. Richelle felt the baby and said she was posterior (boo!) and I gamely twisted into the almost-upside-down position she suggested to help the baby turn. She must have either not really been posterior or turned really easily, because I never experienced any back labor and she was perfectly positioned when she was born.

I remember asking if Richelle thought I should get everyone here or wait awhile, and she said to call them right away. She said “I don’t even know if we’re going to have time to fill up the tub… once your water breaks, that baby’s gonna come right out!”. I remember appreciating her optimism but thinking… yeah right… I thought I had a long time to go.

Mary helped me alert my all-star birthing team and Richelle called her assistants and started bringing things in from the car. Katie Loveless was one of the first to arrive and I talked to her during my breaks. She said that her facebook feed was full of people talking about my birth and posting pictures of the candles they had lit for me. That touched me so much. She told me something so sweet, like “you’re going to be incredible, because that’s what you do.”

Mary and I put together a playlist with my “Yellows” (the last two weeks or so I became obsessed with various covers of Coldplay’s “Yellow”—perhaps because with the different singers I could understand the words for the first time—and I had a whole playlist of just that song, Jonathan teased me about it), some Iron and Wine and other gentle, lovely songs. Love songs for my baby. I was so excited. The sun was nearly up and I could see thick snow falling outside with a bright white sky. Even though winter is my nemesis it felt like such a beautiful, fresh day. This was the day I was going to finally meet the baby who had defined the last year for me by her inevitability and her promise. I met those surges with determination and was so happy to have my sister there experiencing this with me. I had fun laughing between surges with her and Katie.

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I remember when Laurel walked through the door; I felt this huge sense of relief, that now everything would be okay. She ran right over to me and was helping support me during a surge before the door even swung shut. I was so grateful to have Laurel as my doula! She has such a warm, calming presence and every word and touch helped me relax so much.

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Sarah and Julia were there too and started to set up the breakfast feast I’d arranged with Sarah to prepare for my doulas (always feed your doulas!).

I kept surging and I started to get really lonely for Jonathan. I made it to our bedroom door and called for him, only to drop to my hands and knees just as he sleepily opened the door. I think he was surprised to see our whole house full of people. As soon as I was with him and felt his kind hands on me, I started to cry. I told him I was so sorry about his birthday. He thought I was funny for worrying about it so much. To my surprise found myself expressing some old, old worries from the beginning of the pregnancy. He told me I could let go of all that. It reassured me so much. I said over and over again that I was worried about Chai and he said “She will be beautiful. He will love her. Have faith in our boy.” It felt good to cry against his shoulder while I was leaning over the birth ball. I always have to tell him all my dark, anxious thoughts and he never leaves me alone. He’s never afraid. His presence creates the safest place for anything I could possibly experience.

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Sometime during that time, Richelle’s assistants Katie and Charla arrived and also my sister-in-law Emily, and my brother Doug who was going to help us with Chai while I was birthing. Everyone was bustling around setting up lamps, starting to fill up the tub. During my surges everything else became dim except for the energy in my core and the focus it took to breathe and roar through them. I was always surrounded by strong arms, affirming words. I felt cradled. Okay, doula-ing is glorious, it’s like this dance and rhythm we all fall into, orchestrated by the acute need of one body. Humming and singing. Pull back, fall together. Clench and release.

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I told Laurel I was worried that being on my hands and knees was causing me to hold onto some tension because I had to support my weight and she suggested doing some surges sitting up on the birth ball. I tried that and it immediately made the surges so much easier that I was worried I was doing the wrong thing…I could relax completely and my doulas held me up, pushing back on my knees, down on my shoulders, stroking my face and reminding me to keep my forehead smooth. I kept asking if it was okay that the surges weren’t as intense, if I should do something else…I liked the relief but I really wanted to be productive. I pointed out how low my belly was and how it was just resting on top of the ball. Jonathan asked me what kind of melon my belly was and I said it was a watermelon, “because it’s the widest.

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”Periodically I kept going to use the bathroom. It got more difficult to do as the baby descended (I told everyone I had “prostate issues.”) and at one point I peed in a cup (hawt). I usually had just enough time to walk there and back before we all got in position for another surge, but once one caught me on my way out of the bathroom, and as I dropped to my knees I flung open the door and yelled “Save me!” They all came running to help me during the surge and then Jonathan helped me out of the bathroom.

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I have a clear memory of sitting on the ball and hearing the lyrics of “Yellow.” You know I love you so… for you I bleed myself dry… It made me cry, thinking of my little girl, my little boy, my sweet Jonathan. “I’m not in transition!” I insisted. “I just really love this song!”Richelle said the tub was ready and that I could get in if I wanted. I was loath to get in because I didn’t want to get into the water until I was going to have a baby. The idea of having to get out while still in labor and being COLD was detestable to me. Eventually, though, it seemed right and I made my shaky way over to the tub and up over the side. It seemed so far. They had prepared the tub by placing pillows and blankets inside it and covering them with a plastic sheet, and then filling the tub with warm water. It was like a reverse water bed and it felt soooo amazing when I slipped in the tub. The hot water was so relaxing.

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I was still getting little short breaks in between surges and we were having a lot of fun. Someone started writing down the funny things I was saying, like thanking Jonathan for not having a mustache, telling Mary to press on my knees in “instead of creepily putting [her] hands on my thighs,” and announcing that I was having “surge-ery.” Not really that funny, but impressive for labor, I guess. Soon Aya came in and we greeted each other joyously. She cried and told me she loved me. I was so glad she was there.

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My Chai finally woke up after sleeping very late through the noise and was brought out to see me. He absolutely melted my heart! I kept telling him how much I loved him, He stood sweetly by as I went through a couple of surges. He didn’t seem afraid or confused or anything, just watched me peacefully and put his hands in the water. My sweet baby. Part of my soul was aching that the next time I saw him, it wouldn’t just be us anymore. That part of me hurt every day for the whole nine months and I’d always think, “Be here now…you have time left!” and now that time was really gone. I felt so full of love and pain for him. I was happy to know he would be with my brother, who is very good and kind to him and who Chai loves to visit. They got him ready to leave and I kissed him goodbye.

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I’d been sitting cross-legged with my hands out in front of me, supporting myself “like a little frog” and during surges my hands started feeling lonely, like I needed something to hang onto. I got on my hands and knees and decided to try leaning forward into Jonathan’s arms. The new position was a struggle because my arms kept going to sleep and during a surge I required so much counter pressure to feel okay. I know that women experience labor very differently, but I can’t imagine how anyone does it without someone creating equal pressure on the outside of their bodies. I needed everyone around me to hold me in there or I don’t know where I would have gone! I told them I wanted them to push me all the way into the ground. I think Laura was here by now. I was so happy she was able to come. I remember her voice when the playlist began again and they all started singing “Yellow” and it was gorgeous. I hope my baby got to hear it a little bit, although I’m sure she was experiencing a lot and maybe couldn’t pay attention. It was like angels singing to me while I was birthing, something holy and haunting and feminine and strong pulling me forward, giving me strength. I felt so connected to my doulas.

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It’s indescribable, that vulnerability, that complete surrender, like all you are is your body. You can’t hold onto any bit of falseness, your defenses peel away and all you are is what lies beneath your marketable self. I needed them so deeply. I honor the brave women who confront those feelings lying still, strapped to monitors with needles in their arms, the women who have birthed in freezing weather, out in the rain, completely alone, the women who give birth in terror. I know how rare it is to have the kind of support that I did. I kept thanking them and trying to be appreciative, to the point that they started teasing me about my effusive gratitude.

I closed my eyes and went really deep during the surges, but I never really felt like I “left.” I would talk through the surges sometimes and in between I was this melty puddle of heart soup and I had so much left to say, I wanted them to know how good they were and how dear to me.

I’m proud of myself because I didn’t complain about how hard it was (nothing against people who do complain! Everyone has to release tension in a way that works for them) and I think I stayed pretty positive. That was important to me.

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Soon I started to feel some building pressure in my pelvis that made me feel a little desperate. I described it to Jonathan later as someone blowing up a balloon in your throat. He was horrified, haha! I shook my hips and Laurel and I think Mary shook my thighs and that helped a little. I had a couple of surges that built, peaked, ebbed off slightly and then peaked again and again without a rest in between. They were heavy, but I dove into them and tried to let myself go completely limp under all the blessed hands tying me to the earth. Any extra tension on my part would make it unendurable. I had someone pushing on either side of my hips, on my back, on my shoulders, supporting both my arms. I was completely at the mercy of my body and those hands. They felt so merciful.

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I thought of myself as a little creature inside my body, folding up and letting the storm shake me. I can do this, I can do this. I sent my energy down with my voice during each surge like lightning down a tree. Strong for three breaths, quavering a little on the last one with those final seconds of immense pressure. Then the relief crept in during the easing wave and it felt so good!

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I heard Sarah say, “Someone’s going through transition!” and I mumbled, “No, I’m not, I don’t feel like I can’t do it yet!” I was conscious that although this was taking a lot of work (both from me and the doulas) I also knew that I hadn’t reached any point where it was as hard as it got last time. I was expecting that raw, desperate time to still be ahead of me. I started pushing very slightly during those long surges just to counter some of that enormous energy inside me, but I didn’t want to make my cervix swell, so I asked Richelle to please check me one more time. She told me I had about a half centimeter left to go and that the bag of waters was bulging. She said again, “Once your water breaks, that baby’s going to come right out.” She told me if I felt like it, I could push against the water bag with the next contraction, because it was probably creating a lot of pressure for me. This news made me feel empowered and with the next surge I pushed very hard. I heard a popping noise and it felt just like a tiny fist had punched down from inside me and punctured the water bag. Everyone close to me could hear it, too. I felt sooo much relief once that bag popped, I said “Thank you, Jesus! That felt amazing!” and everyone laughed. I am so glad I got to experience that, because my water had broken hours before I went into labor with Lolly, which caused him to be stuck posterior (although we managed to turn him) and made my surges a lot more difficult to get through. SROM (spontaneous rupture of membranes) FTW!

I remember feeling absurdly proud of myself that my water hadn’t broken until this point. I was soaring with increased confidence. Another surge came and I said “Here we go!” and then I was startled because immediately I could feel the baby’s head coming down. She was right there! I couldn’t believe it! How was I at this point already? I felt gleeful, like I’d gotten away with cheating somehow. I didn’t understand when transition had happened; there was no vomiting, no sick, heavy despair, no declarations of “I’m going to die!” but somehow she was already coming. I said, “Oh, I love her!” My eyes were closed; I was concentrating so hard on this most gigantic sensation. I already felt better, baby being down that low made the surges less immense and now all I had to do was ease this baby out and she’d be here, and we would be done! I remember breathing more calmly and trying to push so gently and slowly. I didn’t tell anyone how close she was, it was my secret and I couldn’t afford the words to explain right then. I did ask everyone to “talk to me about the French girl!” (this movie, which was my crowning inspiration while preparing for the birth). I know several people responded, but I remember Emily saying “She was so calm, and she was so happy to see her baby!” I felt a little burning but I wasn’t afraid of it, I just knew I had to go slowly and everything would be okay. She was almost here, almost here.

When I was birthing Chai, I think that feeling overwhelmed me and I just powered through it, used my body like a jackhammer, trying to get it over with, and this time I was willing to let it linger more (although I was still eager to finish, believe me). Pushing was also a lot easier this time—I felt like I was turning the earth over for every tiny millimeter Chai moved down, but this time it was graceful, very natural, I felt the baby working with my body without urgency or over-exertion. There was something so tremendously amazing about that feeling that trying to recall it brings tears to my eyes. It is the most vulnerable, and the most glorious feeling to experience birthing a baby. I remember that a little fragment of the song playing in that moment floated into my awareness, it was “Closer to you” by the Wallflowers, and I remember wanting to giggle with how perfect it was for that song to be playing while I was pushing. “And I remember that every day I get a little bit closer to you…” It was like magic. Jonathan said later that he could tell I was pushing by how my muscles looked, but I don’t think anyone else knew. I kept pushing—but really I was so careful it was more like “breathing baby down”—it was almost too much, but just barely not too much–and then I felt her head slip out. Richelle announced, “The head is out! We’ve got a head!” and I remember everyone around me exclaiming with surprise. I felt so much love for all of them and for their happiness and excitement. At some point Laurel whispered in my ear, “It’s okay, it’s going to burn, but just push into it—“ and I was encouraged because I knew the hardest part was already over, I just had her little body left. I took a slow deep breath and gently pushed again and then I just felt her slither out and then I was overwhelmingly, blessedly reprieved from the surges and pressure and free to greet my little one. Oh, most glorious feeling!

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Richelle softly caught the baby and passed her to me underneath my body as I sat back and then I got to raise her up from the water. That is so powerful to me. My hands were cradling her as she felt the air for the first time and we looked right at each other.

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I was so glad to see my sweet baby! She was squinting in the light and blinking slowly and deliberately, her little limbs jerking slightly. She was incredible! Oh, my darling!

I glanced briefly up at Jonathan kneeling next to me and saw that his eyes were full of tears. He had the softest expression on his face. He looked like a little boy. We both said sweet things to her as she took her first breath. I remember I told her it would be the hardest one and that every breath for the rest of her life would be easier (I hope that’s true!). She took a shaky breath and then started crying a little squawking cry. I loved her so much.

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I wish I remembered more details, but it’s a bright blur in my mind because I was so focused on my baby. I really wanted to connect with her, in those first precious moments. Last time I was so exhausted and manic, meeting my Chai was a little chaotic. This time I felt absolutely present and I just stared at her. I remember checking to see if she was “really a girl” (my Latina clients insisted that my belly was all wrong for a girl). Everyone crowded around to adore her and pointed out her lips, her long fingers and nails and her long dark hair. She was greeted on her first morning with such love! “Look how they shine for you…”

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They asked me what her name was and I said “Sparrowhawk.” Later we decided that although Sparrowhawk is a good name for such a BAMF as we expect our daughter to be, we wanted her officially to be Sparrow Asherah Strange. Her name has so much meaning for me, maybe I will write a post about that sometime. She is a bird and a tree.I heard

“Upward over the Mountain” playing, the last song we chose, and I told everyone that when the playlist started over again I had the thought that we’d probably go through it several more times before I had the baby, but we didn’t even make it through one time. My labor started in the early morning, right when it had ended with Chai, and Sparrow was born at 11:01 AM. 

They started to ask me to consider pushing out the placenta and I felt uneasy about it. I tried to tell them, “I just feel kind of vulnerable…my butt really hurts…” and Laura thought that was hilarious. “Well, yeah!” Then later when I saw the pictures, I realized Laura was rubbing my scalp and it felt so amazing that I didn’t want to do anything else. I mean please, who would? I finally managed to make the magic happen and despite my relentless sugar intake the placenta was perfect and lovely with no calcification.  For some reason we all thought her cord was gorgeous and marveled at it.

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I managed to stagger out of the tub and Laurel helped me rinse off before Richelle surveyed the scene. I could already tell I hadn’t torn as badly as last time, and I did end up having one small tear that did require stitches, but it hasn’t even really been noticeable, so I consider that a triumph over the flesh. Laurel continued to be my faithful doula and let me squeeze her hand off during the stitching while Sarah distracted me with illustrious tales of the empire she is building.

I remember feeling so unbelievably happy during this time. I couldn’t believe how well everything had gone! My baby was born on her due date, on her daddy’s birthday. I had about 6 hours of labor and my team only needed to be there from about 8 AM to 12 PM, so they arrived after a full night of sleep and had tons of energy for me. No one had to drive late or stay up all night. My water didn’t break until the very end which made for a much more comfortable birthing experience. Compared to this birth, my first one was like being fried out on the rocks of some desolate planet of my soul (I still loved it, though). I only had two cervical checks, both at my request, and both were intuitive and timely. During every moment of my labor I was treated with love and respect and there was no one within the birthing space that I was not at peace with, no one there who didn’t believe in me. My baby was happy and healthy through the whole labor and arrived safely with no complications. She went from the water to the water to my arms and I got to hold her while she took her first breath. My body was wise and I was able to listen better this time. Is it okay to say that I was so, so proud of myself? And I am euphoric when I realize how present the relationships in my life were during Sparrow’s birth—present in the arms and hands that actually held me, held her, held my little boy, and present in the many people who held me in their hearts and minds that day and before, who lit candles for me and wrote me sweet, encouraging messages. I mean it, that created a sacred, safe place for me just as much as anyone who was physically there. On my mission I used to carry around a fortune from a fortune cookie that said “Mighty forces will come to your aid.” I was surrounded by mighty forces during this birth.

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My little Sparrow weighed 8’11 and was 20 inches long. I love her so much and am excited to get to know her. This past week I have felt such joy in my two beautiful babies. In my soul, it might as well be spring already. How thankful I feel for such a dear, funny, clever little boy and a sweet coconut-oil smelling girl who curls up so beautifully on my shoulder. I’m so glad I get to live this life with my most beloved friend.

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Photos by Katerine Loveless Photography

More images available on Ashley’s blog, ‘Estranged

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