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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #31: Large Family Efficiency

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #31: Large Family Efficiency

January and Brandon are talking the tips and tricks they’ve learned as parents of six kids! January talks bucking the stereotype of the disheveled parents of a large family and Brandon explains why it’s so important to “Just say no.” A lot of kids is a lot of work but it is sometimes possible to stack the deck in your favor.

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Click here to download Episode #31: Large Family Efficiency!

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Doula Trainings International, or simply DTI, is an organization that certifies doulas while focusing on issues of justice.

DTI has reimagined what it looks like to become a modern doula, with a comprehensive 9-month program that includes ongoing peer to peer mentorship, business skills and in-depth video classes that complement a rigorous initial workshop, an extensive reading list, and practical experience requirements. 

DTI certifies both birth and postpartum doulas and that certification is for life!

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DTI will be hosting its first ever conference, the Born Into This Conference on July 12-13 in Austin, TX! Birth workers, holistic health professionals, thoughtful leaders, and creators will gather together in one space to ignite the birth justice movement. For more details, visit the Born Into This Website!

New Addition | Birth Without Fear

New Addition | Birth Without Fear

“Your inspiring stories empowered me to have a wonderful birth at home, I just want to share a photo or two with you. Westin was born 11.7.14 @345pm. He weighed 7.2 lbs. and was 20.75 in. Healthy baby boy.  Thank you Birth Without Fear.  May you know the impact you truly have on the empowerment of women.

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Power, Love And Grace of a Peaceful Homebirth

Power, Love And Grace of a Peaceful Homebirth

I would like to share my video of my homebirth of Dorothy, born in May of 2014, weighing in at 10lbs. 7 oz.

I have overcome a lot of adversity with both of my pregnancies and deliveries.  With my first birth at home everyone I talked to about homebirth would trash the idea telling me, “You’re crazy!” they all said.  “I would have died,” they said.  Every person in my family has only had C-sections. My mom, sister, cousins, aunts, you name it.  Not a one experienced physiological birth. So to my family, this was truly an insane thing to do.

The difference between my first birth and my second was that my own mother was present to witness birth.  It was the first time she had seen birth. Ever. She herself had undergone four C-sections because she believed that was her only option after a very traumatic first cesarean birth.  She was there while I labored, taking care of my toddler Opal.  She hugged me, crying, and said, “Good job. I love you.” It was a very powerful moment for us.  I believe that witnessing the birth of her granddaughter has changed her forever.

After a peaceful, amazing morning of labor, my beautiful big girl was born.  I was amazed at how huge she was!  My mother was sobbing and said to me later, “This is how birth is supposed to be. This is how women are supposed to be treated. I am so proud of you.”

This video is inspiring, even for myself.  I cannot believe that I did that.  I did something so strong in my weakest moment.  In Corinthians the Bible says; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

For me, this couldn’t be any truer.  I hope that you will please share this video so that maybe someone, somewhere, will be inspired.  I believe that my story is meant to encourage others to believe that they CAN, and they WILL, and that they are STRONG.

Photos by Brenda Frank. Slideshow by David Frank Photography

{Submitted by Christina Morehouse}

My Fearless Birth {Home birth turned hospital}

My Fearless Birth {Home birth turned hospital}

My wife, Jenny, and I tried for two years getting pregnant, so when we found out on our 2 year anniversary trip that I was pregnant we were more than excited! I had known since we started trying that I wanted a home birth. I educated myself as best I could. I started taking a Hypnobabies class, hired a midwife and a doula, and soaked in any and all information my fellow home birth moms had to offer.

Since the day we had come back home after finding out, spiritual things started happening in our home. We chalked it up to being my wife’s father, who passed away. Our midwife, Susan, and doula, April, were so very kind to hear us out and not make us sound crazy. Actually they helped us come to terms with it. After that things settled down until around November. We were all sitting there talking about the new things that were occurring in the house and new feelings surfacing when I started telling them that I had always had a feeling the baby was going to come early. Jenny kept saying the date December 5th kept sticking out in a big way. This so happened to be the same day her father died. We talked to the spirits (assuming it was her father) letting him know Dec. 5th was too early and we wouldn’t be able to have a home birth.

December 5th came around and sure enough I went into early labor. The only thing that kept me from going into full labor was that I put myself on bed rest for the next couple weeks. All was well.

Friday, January 4th at 3:00PM labor starts again (Due date was Janurary 3rd). Our 10 year old son, Quenton, came home from school and saw me practicing my Hypnobabies and getting super excited. It had been planed for him to be leaving that day for the weekend but he didn’t want to go. We told him it was OK, he had to go, but he was going to be a big brother when he got back. He went on his way. I tried keeping myself occupied by working on the baby book and a calendar project with friends and families guesses when they thought I’d have the baby. I was getting restless by the evening and we went and rented movies.

That night my sister came over to help out. I was stressing out with getting the room and bathroom ready since pressure waves (contractions) were getting closer and stronger. I was also obsessing about who was going to take pictures that I couldn’t focus on Hypnobabies. When she came things started progressing even more. We focused hard with Hypnobabies and used the yoga ball a lot. Later that night April and Susan came over after waves started getting closer. Jenny and I did very well through each wave. We were all very excited to meet our baby boy. We talked and laughed through each of my waves. I felt good. I felt on top of each one, progressing nicely. Since it seemed like it was going to be soon we all thought it’d be a good idea to get some rest. Even though I knew I needed the rest, once I laid down my waves slowed down. Around 8:00am (Jan. 5th) I asked Jenny to go make everyone some breakfast. I was upset and wanted to be alone for a little while. I was so sure this was going to happen and I felt bad for calling April and Susan over (since they lived 30 mins away and both had kids). They assured me it was OK but that they were both going to go home and to call them when things picked up again. I liked that idea because I was ready to do this on my own again and concentrate on what I was doing.

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(Saturday, January 5th)
Jenny and I decided to go rent a couple more movies around 11:00am to help me relax again. I remember breaking down while in the aisle at the rental place because the waves were getting so strong. We took the day to work through the waves that were quickly intensifying again. I could tell they were getting stronger than the ones I had the day before but I did not want to call April and Susan until I felt like we were really ready (in my mind I wanted to call when I felt like I wanted to go to the hospital). I did not want to take the chance of calling them and labor slowing down again. My brother came over to borrow some stuff and I remember working through the waves with breathing techniques. He was surprised to see I was that calm while in labor (although I personally felt like I was going outta my mind). We used different techniques of Hypnobabies. I tried walking up and down the road which didn’t work too well for me because it was just hurting too much. I got in the bath a lot. I rolled around on the yoga ball, also. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was falling out of rhythm with Hypnobabies and I could feel EVERYTHING. I would cry and the hospital kept crossing my mind. We were so sleep deprived at this point. Even though we would rest, we would get woke up every 5-10 minutes by a strong wave.

Around 10:00pm we felt we were ready for April and Susan to come. It was like deja vu, yet waves were definitely longer and stronger than Friday nights. My mom was now there since we just “knew” this was it. I got in the tub with candles and my wife. She’d rub me down with oils and we had finally gotten back into a fabulous Hypnobabies rhythm. Jenny would chant the cue words in such calming and comforting ways that she ended up putting my mom to sleep. When my mom would wake up, the vibe around the room was so different. Like a warm blanket being put on you coming in from the cold. I’m still cold, but the comfort was there. She was so brave and strong for me. Always telling me how proud she was of me. That was a big moment in my life as we had not had a close relationship growing up.

Early morning came (Sunday) and when I laid down again waves slowed down. Again, April and Susan went home. I was so upset. I cried and cried and kept saying I just can’t keep doing this. I had been working so hard at this point to stay in the zone of Hypnobabies. I didn’t know how much more of this I could take.

(Sunday, January 6th)
First and foremost- I’m not above admitting that by this point I had gone through enough and was ready to go to the hospital. The thing that stopped me was the simple fact that I had went on and on about how much I wanted this home birth and I did not want to disappoint everyone who rooted me on.

Jenny and I were left alone again, and although the waves slowed down in length they, by no means, slowed down in intensity. To be perfectly blunt- I was pissed. I was annoyed. What the heck was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t this baby out? I was doing everything I learned, everything I was taught. I never read this in the books. I had never listened to anyone tell their story of being in labor for three days, dilating back and forth. What was going on? I was ashamed in thinking I was not giving birth the right way. I kept thinking to myself, “I’m so bad at this. April and Susan are so annoyed with me. Jenny probably thinks I’m not trying my best.” But no way would I voice these things out loud. I had to be strong. I had to put my game face on and not let anyone know how different this was becoming to me, how increasingly hard it was to keep it together.

It seemed like as soon as I started thinking all this April had arrived, and Susan soon followed after picking up our son. I put a brave smile on for my son, my sister Justice (who was the same age as my son), and my mom. Soon after, my father came downstairs to give me a huge hug. I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I didn’t want him to see how much pain I was in and I knew since the waves were really close together it’d have to be a quick hug and he would need to go. Once he got down there and I fell into his arms, I didn’t have a single wave. I felt so much peace. I wanted him to stay. He told me he loved me and off her went out of town for a job.

midwife birth story

My family stayed upstairs as I continued to moan, sway, and breathe through each wave. “I can’t give up now! I can’t give up now!” Susan and April insisted me sit on the toilet to help keep me dilating. I hated it. No- I LOATHED IT! They sure were right though. It wasn’t long after going to and from the toilet to the bed that my water broke. I remember I was on the bed with the yoga ball asking for the bed pads because with this next contraction I’m pretty sure I’m going to pee. There it went. “DeAnna- it’s not pee. Your water broke!” Another contraction. “I’m sorry guys I’m peeing again!” “DeAnna- I promise it would be OK if you were even peeing, but you’re not. It’s your water.” I was not convinced it was not my pee until it was prob the 10th time I had a contraction and was still feeling gushes come out. Once my water broke I could not stop the urges to push. Now it all seemed so surreal. It’s official. I’m about to have my baby! My mom, sister, and son came down and sat on our bed waiting for the cue to come in and watch little baby boy Sebastian come out. An hour of uncontrollable pushes came and went. Two hours. Three hours. They fell asleep on my bed. Four. Five. ‘OMG, WHY ISN’T THIS BABY COMING OUT! Stay strong, DeAnna. They’re all here for you. Ahhhhh! Please Lord help me!’

I couldn’t stand the water anymore. I sent my family away as I was to the point that I didn’t want them to hear me cuss, I didn’t want to scare my son any more than he had already been, I didn’t want to scare my sister into never wanting children. By this time though, laying in bed, I hated everyone. I felt like every birth story, birth movie, birth show I ever watched were all lies. Every time anyone would tell me I was close I didn’t believe them anymore. Everyone was a liar. I’m NOT close. I’m NOT doing a good job (otherwise the baby would be here by now). I’m NOT about to have my baby.

I kept being checked and told that I was close. I would cry and losing all faith in Hypnobabies. Although I felt like I wasn’t doing Hypnobabies anymore, I was told they would catch me not saying much and chanting through some tough waves without even giving it a second thought. I just wished I could get a break- just for an hour. I need sleep. But nope- those urges to push just wouldn’t let up.

(Monday, January 7th)
I pushed all night. Begging and pleading for someone to do something. Everyone was so encouraging. April tried so hard to keep me calm. I remember crying as she rubbed my head looking into her tear filled eyes. Jenny was so sick as this time- really feeling the effects of everything I was going through, still sticking by my side like the amazing wife she truly is. Susan was the perfect midwife, encouraging me that I was the toughest person she’d ever met.

April needed to get home to her little girl. Everyone thought a new person in the picture to help with the support would be a good idea. So they called up Megan- a close friend and our Hypnobabies instructor. She arrived around 9am. I cried in her arms allowing every fear and angry feeling come out. “I’m trying so hard Megan. I’m doing everything you told me to do. I’m doing everything everyone is telling me to do. I can’t do this anymore. They’re lying to me or something.” She smiled this beautiful, angelic smile and told me I was amazing. She helped me get back into the groove of Hypnobabies. She helped me back into the tub with Jenny. We began to breathe, chant, laugh, and chit chat. Susan insured us that this was great and would allow that last bit of cervix to move out of the way. I felt confident at this point.

About an hour later, after the water was cold and I was ready to try pushing him out, I got out and laid on the bed. Everything intensified again. I made it clear at this point that I was way too tired to do this anymore. I wasn’t going to push him out. I got hysterical all over again as these uncontrollable waves took over my body over and over. Susan said she was going to check me. Megan held my hand on one side as Jenny stroked my head and held my other hand. That’s when I let them know that if there is no change we have to go to the hospital. I saw the look on Susan’s face. No… no change. Still a 9. “NOOOOOOOOOOO,” I cried, “Ok. Let’s go. NOW! I want the epidural and I want it now! If you don’t take me right now I’m going to go out there half naked and make someone driving by take me.”

At that point my mother came down to try and calm me down because even though I had it set in my mind that I was going, I was even more hysterical because of how disappointed I was in myself. I couldn’t stop telling her that everyone who doubted me and was negative about my birth plan is going to say “I told you so.” Everyone was so comforting at that point telling me how great I had done and that they understand and think it’s a wise choice to go ahead and go in.

We pulled up to the ER entrance and I told my wife to please go in there and tell them to have me a room ready before I get in there because there was no way I was going to scream through my waves and pushes in the middle of a waiting room. I can laugh about it now, but it was so funny getting into the hospital. The look on their faces! Those people rushed around so fast. I felt like I was in one of those really dramatic movies. I mean, no joke, the guy pushing me in the wheelchair was swerving around corners so fast I thought I was going to tip over. The woman in front of him was running yelling for people to get out of the way. I couldn’t tell them to chill out because I was busy “hoooo-hooo-haaaa-haaa-ing” but inside I really felt like I was in a movie.

I was checked once I got situated in the room. I slipped back to a 6 from a 9 since we left home. (This is what was happened at home. I would go back and forth in dilation). Another mind boggling thing? My water broke… AGAIN! Right there in the bed. I had no idea this was possible… having your bag break multiple times? Yep- it’s a real thing.

It was a couple hours later that I finally got the epidural. Oh sweet loving Lord above. Thank you! At least now I can still have a vaginal birth. I’m not gonna lie- I see why women are so quick to get those things. My wife, son, mother, sister, and Hypnobabies instructor and friend, Megan, were all there. At 8:30p.m. it was time to push. I got scared because I could feel my legs. I THOUGHT I WASN’T SUPPOSE TO FEEL ANYTHING! It was too late. I was pushing. OMG I FEEL IT! WOW! I began feeling sick and started vomiting. This is was the BEST pushing tactic haha. As I was puking the force of it was really shooting him out.

home birth turned hospital birth

“Look down DeAnna! Look down!! Baby born at 8:57p.m.”

“OMG! Look at my baby. Is he not the most beautiful baby in the world,” I said with tears just rolling down my cheeks.  My wife went with the baby and my son instantly came from my feet (watching his baby brother come out) to my head. As he rubbed my head, grabbed my hand, bawling his eyes out he managed to give me a kiss on my forehead and said, “Oh mom I am so proud of you. I can’t believe you did it. You did such a good job. I can’t believe this baby isn’t dead and we finally get to take one home.” I had never known that the loss of one baby made him think that every failed attempt of trying to conceive meant it died too. I had never known he was crushed every time (for two years) we’d have to tell him, “Nope, bud. It didn’t work this time.” My big brave son finally let it out and he was proud. Proud of ME. What an emotion. An emotion I don’t think I will ever experience again. An emotion nothing else can replace. The bond that happened in that moment made me want to be the best mother in the world not only to him, but new baby Sebastian.

birth story

I look back at how hard this labor was. I had never had a kid before so I did not know that what I was going through was rare and not a typical birth. When everyone would tell me all that happened I started to realize how strong I was. I just went FOUR DAYS in labor! There was nothing in my life that made me feel so amazing. Nothing that made me feel so powerful. I wanted to yell, “I AM WOMAN! HEAR ME ROAR!” Even though this was a very hard birth, there is no doubt in my mind I would do it all over again. In fact, I can’t wait to get pregnant again because I will try the home birth without a second thought. It’s funny because I actually hear myself thinking, “You can do even better next time!”

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A Beautiful Family Home Birth/Baby Caught by Grandmother {Graphic Emergence Photos}

A Beautiful Family Home Birth/Baby Caught by Grandmother {Graphic Emergence Photos}

I am so blessed with my children. They really have an amazing bond and as I try to tell Clara’s birth I realize that their bond started with the very first home they each occupied, my womb. I realize that much of what made Clara’s birth so amazing was what I learned from giving birth to Jesse, so I think I’ll start with that story.

While pregnant with Jesse, my husband and I lived with my parents. My mom used to be a lay midwife many years ago, so I was very blessed to be raised with a very healthy view of birth. Birth is wonderful, miraculous, amazing, intense, painful, life changing, empowering, and normal. God designed everything to work together, in an amazing way. Without interference it is perfect, most of the time. It is never something I grew up fearing, but rather, very much looked forward to the experience.

One of the many blessings my parents gave me was raising me around other families and lots of love. The midwife, who delivered me, Virginia, is a dear friend of my mom and, in fact, my mom delivered her son months before I was born while I was in utero. Her son, Isaiah, was present at my birth at a few months old. Birth, within our community, was much cherished and celebrated as a family event, not a medical event. When I thought about my upcoming birth, I knew I wanted to be surrounded by those I love and who love me. I thought of my ideal birth and pursued it as best I could. We called Virginia to see if it was possible for her to attend me even though she lived in Massachusetts.

Virginia was near the end of her journey of becoming licensed (even though she had been delivering babies for over 30 years) and was able to bless us, by attending me. She flew out to California a week before my due date (I received regular prenatal care through Kaiser to assure those in my life who were not so familiar with home birth, that my pregnancy was a very healthy pregnancy and a perfect candidate for home birth). Virginia stayed with us and was able to visit with her family who were local while we patiently waited for Jesse to decide he was ready to join us earth-side.

I very much enjoy being pregnant and was in no hurry to rush him out, however when those around you know you are “past your due date” they start getting impatient. 3 days “overdue” I had a little conversation with Jesse, where I told him how much I was enjoying being pregnant and that I knew he was cozy in there, but everyone really wanted to meet him and I was okay with sharing him now.

Every night while sleeping my cats surrounded me, my CC lay on my belly and Amber lay in the crook of my knees, while Lily (my formerly anti-social cat) joined us on the bed but as far away as she could be in a queen size bed with two adults and three cats. Four days postdates, the morning of February 17th at 5 AM, CC woke me up to ask me to let him out. As I walked to the front door I felt a trickle down my leg. I woke my mom to tell her that I thought my water had broke but I wasn’t sure. Now the excitement began, we were having a baby! So I thought… It was a Saturday and we called everyone up to tell them. Both sets of my in-laws were called. Mike, Tammy, and Alexis came out from Oakley to be there for the birth right away since we didn’t realize how long it would take and they were afraid traffic could be bad. Susan and Joe decided to wait to come since they were fairly close and I was still not having contractions.

All day we hung out “in labor” I couldn’t feel my contractions but when palpating my belly I felt it harden and release regularly. We decided to try a castor oil massage topically on my belly but it didn’t do much. We walked around the block quite a few times, but still, not much going on. Around lunchtime Mike and Tammy got us a sandwich tray and I had one, because I knew I should keep eating to keep up my strength. Finally, after all day of nothing, around 9 PM we decided to try a cocktail of castor oil in orange juice with a little baking soda to make it fizzy. It really wasn’t bad. By 10 PM I was on the toilet and not to get too graphic, but I stayed there for about an hour, rather than keep leaving and coming back. By 11 PM I had finally started active labor for real. I labored all night. I had been up all day and now I was tired, but since it was getting intense I didn’t get a chance to sleep. I did lay down for a little bit, but it didn’t help. In fact lying down was much worse. My favorite position for laboring was sitting on my birthing ball and rocking side to side. During each contraction I’d moan as my mamma had coached me and it helped so much. I had some wonderful, intimate time with my mom and my midwife. I’m not sure what time but at some point they sent everyone away for a while. My great-aunt, Evie, had lived next door but had passed away during my pregnancy, so her house was vacant. My in-laws went there to sleep so they weren’t far and my husband went to bed for a while.

Since my water had broken before contractions, we checked dilation as little as possible, but by 3 AM I had been going for 22 hours and wanted a number to quantify where I was. I was only at 3 cm. This was disappointing for me as I thought I would be further after all day, but looking back, I really had only been having strong contractions for about 4 hours.

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I remember being in the living room for a while with just my mom and Virginia. The lights were off and the fireplace was going. They were such a wonderful support, these women who had been there for me since my very first breath, now helping me breath and bring my first baby into the world. Over the next few hours my contractions were getting stronger and I was getting more and more tired. By 6 AM I wanted to be checked again to make sure I was making progress. I had progressed and was now at 6 CM. This was good because it definitely felt like I was working hard. From 6-8 AM I labored more in various positions, walking, standing, squatting, my favorite was sitting on the birthing ball. I remember at one point leaning against the fireplace mantle and thinking that I now fully understood why women get epidurals. I hate to admit it but I had previously been one to tell the women through the TV (while watching A Baby Story) that they didn’t need those epidurals. How arrogant of me! I now knew exactly why they got those epidurals and vividly remember thinking that I was glad I wasn’t in a hospital with a choice for one because I probably have taken it right then. I even asked “how long is this going to go on?” as Virginia recalls in her birth note she told me it could be only a number of contractions if I really let it take me over.

Somewhere between 8 and 9 AM I asked to be checked again. I was at 6 cm. Yes, that’s right exactly where I was last time I was checked. I was so tired! I think I started crying at some point and told my mom, I know that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength and I know He won’t give me more than I could handle, but I was so tired! Finally I reached that point. The one where I realized, that instead of handling each contraction as it came I could look forward to each one. Not because it was easy now, but because there was a finite number of contractions I’d experience. I didn’t know that very number but God did and each contraction I had was one less than before. Each contraction I’d say a prayer of thanks that I was one contraction closer. Finally 28 hours in I was surrendering. I was too exhausted to fight them, or even bear them, and instead I welcomed each contraction. Each contraction I got to, was one closer to Jesse being here. One closer… one closer… one closer. As I was in this zone my mom offered me something to eat. I didn’t feel hungry but knew it had been a while since I had eaten so I agreed, thinking she knew best. Little did I know this was one of her ways of gauging if I was near the end. Apparently women in transition usually turn down food. She thought my behavior looked close to being done, but since I accepted the food, she figured I still had a while left.

By the time she served me malt-o-meal it was about 9:40 and after a nibble or so I felt the need to push. I went to change position and had a gush of amniotic fluid. I knew a little about birth, and when I saw the fluid had meconium I worried. The first thought in my head was that I knew it could be a sign of a problem and thought that I’d HAVE to transfer. I even asked out loud if I had to transfer. Virginia just calmly told me she would check me first and we’d see from there. I had been at 6cm for at least 3 hours but suddenly with a change of outlook, I went from 6 to complete in less than an hour. After being checked and told I was fully dilated and we would monitor baby but that we didn’t have to transfer at this point just because of meconium alone. We called everyone to come back from where they had all been resting for the night. Most important in my mind was my sister. We called Shannon, and she and Steph had just ordered breakfast at one of our favorite diners. Shannon and I had met there for pancakes for lunch almost every week while I was pregnant. She stood up and announced to them that they HAD to go because I was about to have the baby! Meanwhile, I was fully dilated and being told I could push anytime. I calmly (at least in my recollection of it) explained that if my body needed to push I would let it, otherwise I’d wait for Shannon to get there. Finally she arrived about 10:15 and I started pushing. We had an air mattress inflated in the living room and I was laying on that to begin with. My sister was behind me, my mom at my perineum, my dad on a chair to my side praying over us and one mother-in-law at my feet while the other one was taking photos, per my request. I pushed some this way laying down but as I was pushing and while he started to crown Virginia checked Jesse’s heart tones and found that they were dropping with my pushing so I was given some oxygen which helped. I then got in a standing supported squat with Shannon holding me under my right arm and Ryan holding me under my left arm. This was much better for both me and Jesse. I pushed and out came his head into my mom’s waiting hands. She checked for his cord and found it around his neck so, calmly, without even saying anything, she looped it back over his head and I pushed him out the rest of the way.

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He was handed straight to me and I unwrapped the cord from where it was loosely around his neck (a second loop) and around his arm too. They put a chair under me now so I could sit and I was able to see his tiny face. He was so beautiful! One of the stories my mom tells of me as a small child is that I used to nurse my babydolls. I guess it came back to me pretty quickly because Jesse latched on to nurse within 10 minutes of being born. The placenta came out a minute later on its own.

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We had my two father in laws, and two sister-in-laws outside and once I was presentable they were invited in to meet Jesse.

It was determined previously that I had some tearing due to Jesse’s swift arrival, as we didn’t hold back to allow for stretching due to his heart tones and nucal cord. Virginia had brought with her many supplies for emergency situations but one thing she wasn’t able to bring with on the plane was lidocaine for sutures and since they had given us so much time for bonding, my natural pain relieving hormones were no longer sufficient for sutures. Luckily, in addition to Virginia and my mom attending me, they had decided to call an old friend to be with us who was a local practicing midwife, Susanna Napierala who also brought a colleague, Claudette Coughenour. When she got there we learned that she was a Christian and had been praying in church during the worship that morning, “where you send me, Lord, I’ll go.” I ended up with 4 of the best midwives out there! When they were ready to suture me, I was asked to get up and use the bathroom first. As I stood up, my mom tells me, “If you feel like…too late” The end of that sentence was going to be “passing out, let me know.” But instead I fainted before she could tell me. This was a bit of a scare, as they all worried about blood loss, but my blood pressure was fine. It turned out I had low blood sugar from being in labor so very long and forgetting to eat. I hadn’t eaten anything since the sandwich for lunch the day before. I had a wonderful beautiful natural home birth but man was it a lot of work! Jesse weighed 7 lbs 3oz and was born at 10:42 AM Sunday, Feb 18, 2007.


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Note from Ruthie: You may remember this mama’s face from her role as a doula (along with her previously mentioned second child, Clara) at this birth. 🙂

Breastfeeding Week Campaign {Ashley Wright}

Breastfeeding Week Campaign {Ashley Wright}

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Ashley Wright wants young moms to know that breastfeeding a wonderful things. This is what she says about the campaign she started and why these pictures:

As much as I had envisioned the photos going viral for breastfeeding, I never thought detractors would arise in which I would need to explain my intent and photo’s purpose. As a breastfeeding advocate, I simply wanted to stop everyone in their tracks and say, “lets talk about breastfeeding!”   What better way to do that than to throw a bunch of beautiful naked women together breastfeeding their babies?!  So I thought. I remember telling the mothers, photographer, and stylists, I want to sell breastfeeding like it’s cigarettes.  I want every woman and young lady to say, “OooO I want to breastfeed my baby too!” And I want the men to encourage mothers to breastfeed.  Not only because it’s the healthiest thing to do for your child but also because its ‘THE THING’ to do for your child.

In my conquest to increase the numbers of mothers breastfeeding, I find that young mothers tend to say that breastfeeding is unattractive, only old ladies do that, my boobs are going to sag, there’s formula for that, along with it just isn’t sexy.  Yes we said it ladies and gentlemen SEXy (emphasis on the S-E-X).  In this new age, where we have taken a cultural shift to sex sells everything, women are defining their self worth with how sexy they look and feel. Is it right or wrong? Not for me to discuss at this time. Nonetheless, with seeing how large companies advertise, to get the masses to buy and set the trends, they make it sexy.  So I took note.

Now let me inform you of MY definition of sexy.  Sexy to me has never been nudity. Sexy for me is internal confidence, self-acceptance and self-awareness. Having at one point feeling unsexy and being a single mother, I found an unparalleled amount of power and confidence in nurturing my child from my bosom.  I tapped into one of the greatest superpowers of being a mom.  Then, I decided to display that behind the camera lens.

My wonderful friend Katie H. said it best, “…they are not exploiting the female form or the act of breast feeding by posing nude. Every single thing we stand for is sex, reproduction and passing on our genes. It’s what makes living things continue to exist as everything we do leads to sex. Breastfeeding is not intentionally sexual, it just is. It just IS in its essence! I realize that’s scary for some people to face but it is TRUE. That’s why you want to look away but you just can’t. For these gorgeous women to pose and have their bodies represent the organic act of providing for their children is truthful, female expression and health and beauty…”

So as you view this last picture of me feeding my daughter, take notice that there is no photo shop, no touch-ups, no editing, as I want to show you just how comfortable I am in my skin; acne scars, stretch marks and all.  Plus how far I’ll go to stand for this amazing cause. When you look at this picture and the others of mothers breastfeeding (nude or not), I want you to see confident, sexy women who bared it all for breastfeeding; who feel sexy at this very stage of life and motherhood.  Proud women, who accept where they are now and maintain confidence in the growth process to come. Courageous women in their feat to bring awareness and attention to educate and inspire others to breastfeed!

~ Ashley

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Photos by Michael Oliveri Photography

 

 

 

 

Welcome Caio {Costa Rica Water Birth}

Welcome Caio {Costa Rica Water Birth}

Hello January, thank you so much for your blog and Facebook page – you are doing such important work. My son Caio was born at home in Sept 2011 in Costa Rica, this is our story. I would be honored if you would like to share it on your blog. I will include some photos that you are welcome to use as well.

Best wishes, Jennifer M.

Very early in my pregnancy I felt certain of the kind of birth that I wanted for our baby. I knew that I wanted to birth at home, in water, with my partner Julio, mother, and aunt present. This desire posed some logistical challenges: we lived in a rural area of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast, with no hospital nearby, and no midwives willing to attend such a remote birth location. My mother and aunt lived in Canada How to find a safe place to labor with assistance, and work out travel dates for two busy ladies so that they could be present for the birth? We trusted in the universe, and a way was opened. We found a wonderful midwife in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. We traveled once a month for check-ups, and a friend of hers was able to offer us her beautiful home in the mountains just outside of the city for the month before and after our due date while she was out of the country.

My pregnancy was the most powerful and intuitive time of my life. It was textbook. Everything progressed healthily and I felt strong.  I could feel my baby growing inside, and my womanhood growing with them; the presence of this new person inside me renewed my spirit and gave me insights of a depth that I had never experienced before. My dreams were colorful, vivid, and memorable. I had tea with my deceased grandmother, and she told me to expect a boy. I dreamed the day my child would be born; I saw myself, standing in front of a calendar, circling the 28th of September. When I told my mother and aunty to plan with this date in mind, and not my due date of October 7th, they agreed.

Just before my Aunt and Mum arrived, I remember lying in bed with Julio sleeping beside me, looking down at my huge belly and being overcome with fear. I had just fully realized that this baby was really going to be COMING OUT and very soon!!!  I finally fell asleep anxious and fearful of the birth to come. That night I dreamed of my baby, of colors and light, and I felt more than heard a voice telling me that he was my son, that he would come no faster than I could handle, and that we would work together to open his way into the world. I woke up in the morning reassured and calmed, trusting once again in the strength of my body, so excited to meet this amazing person, my son.

My women arrived and we spent a week cleaning, organizing and going on adventures; we went for picnics in the park, out to the movies, and long walks through the hills . The atmosphere was festive – we were getting ready to welcome LIFE!! On the day that signified enough time had passed and that my babe could safely come out into the world at home, our doula and midwife joined us in a ceremony to welcome our child, to let him know that it was safe to come, that he was deeply loved and we were ready to hold him in our arms. My mother brought items which belonged to my female ancestors, strong women, and my brother sent his gold medal in Jiu Jitsu, so that I could also fight with a warrior´s spirit.  We made a shrine of these objects, and I felt the love and support of my partner, my family, my grandmothers reaching through time; held, and cherished, safe and supported.

Over the next few nights, I woke up feeling twinges, like tiny cramps in my lower belly. I would get up and walk around, they would dissipate, and I would go back to sleep. On the night of the 27th of September they lasted longer and were a bit stronger, but by dawn had disappeared again, and I went back to bed for a couple of hours. I woke on the 28th  feeling…different,  soft and floaty. I knew that there would be no outing adventures for me that day, my energy was very internal and homebound.  The intermittent cramping low in my belly shifted to my back, and stayed there. It ebbed and flowed, sometimes stopping for hours at a time. We had a home visit with the midwife that day and she assured us that this could go on for many days, and that it was unlikely that I was in labor.  Even so, I felt something shift within me – the day was spent in deep relaxation. My mother and aunty massaged my body with creams and oils, braided my hair and painted my toes, gifting me with their love and attention as they prepared me for motherhood.

A huge storm came up, and the rain became torrential, filling the river below the house until it broke its banks and came up into the lowest part of the backyard. We sat out on the patio, watching the rain come down and the sky darken into late afternoon, as my lower back pains became deeper and more intense, and closer together, with a few waves each hour. Our midwife asked us to phone her when they came five minutes apart or closer, and we put the soup on the stove, preparing for a night of birthing. I wanted to bake and made oatmeal squares, stopping when I needed to concentrate on the waves coming over my body. Everyone was excited, knowing that our baby was finally on his way out.

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As the storm raged outside and lightning streaked the sky, we watched a movie together, which I don’t think anyone remembers.  I do remember my partners hand on my back as I rocked gently, and my aunt and mum sneaking glances but not wanting to pressure me by asking how I was feeling! I decided to retreat to our room to rest with Julio, and we curled together on the bed, feeling our last moments together as only two. As we lay, the pain in my back became more intense  and came closer together until lying down became impossible. I wanted to be on all fours, and spent a lot of time in that position. The storm outside calmed, and for some reason, fireworks were set off in the city of San Jose. My mother and aunt called us to see, and between waves we watched the show- it felt like the whole world was welcoming this child!

My waves deepened and intensified- it was time for the midwives to come. They arrived around midnight, checked me and the baby, all was well, and more time was needed. The night began to stretch long – I lost all sense of time as I worked to open the way for our baby. I vocalized through each wave; the pain was completely concentrated in my lower back –  a surprise for me as I had imagined it would be more like very strong menstrual cramps. As they checked me, the midwives would not tell me how many centimeters my cervix had dilated, only my birth team knew. I am so thankful for their wisdom in this – although I never stopped progressing, it was slooooow hard work. I know that if I had heard the numbers…2, 2.5, 3, 3.25 I would have been discouraged and heartbroken. The only words I heard were of encouragement – you are doing well, you are opening, you are a strong mother, good work.  It was excruciating and unbearable for me to lie down on my back or my side; I labored the whole night with my partner, standing and rocking or on all fours. He never wavered or told me how tired he was – his strength and focus kept me moving through the dark. Our babies´ heart beat was very strong at each check, he was just taking his time, as he had promised.

As dawn broke, I could feel myself waning. The night had passed, and still no baby. I started to feel upset and extremely uncomfortable, nothing felt good anymore that previously was helping – not massage, or the hot water bottle or soothing music. The midwives encouraged me to try to lie down to rest for a few minutes, seeing the signs of my transition on the way. I closed my eyes, and exhausted, did manage to sleep with Julio for a few minutes. When I woke up with the next wave, it came stronger and deeper than ever before and I began to pace (well, waddle… let’s be real) back and forth. My mother, in her wise way, suggested a change of scenery now that day was here. My women assured Julio that I was in good hands, and that he should lay down to rest again. He was out in about 30 seconds, and we headed to t the patio to continue opening, this most eternal of women´s work.

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I can only describe the next part of my labor as an out of body experience. The early morning air on the patio was fresh and cool; trees surrounded me, lending me their strength. I could see the river flowing below me, and sunlight filtered through the leaves onto my face. They day had come, the day my son was to be born. As my waves washed over me, I became giddy – smiling, laughing and singing. I vocalized with orgasmic sighs coming from deep within me and I was filled with one word: Yes. Yes this baby is coming, yes I am ferocious, yes I am a woman, yes I am a mother. I moved through gentle yoga poses, allowing my body to move and circle as it wished, feeling my baby descending lower and lower. I was aware of my women around me at the edges of my consciousness, not interfering but ready to support me. I started to feel a deep pressure low down in my back, and held onto my powerful aunty, as I turned each NO of fear for the next wave into a welcoming YES.

Julio rejoined us, and I was almost completely open. The midwives broke my waters for me, and I moved into my final phase of labor. Spending time sitting on the toilet listening to music, I finished the last part of opening. My baby was at the door; although I felt no urge to push, only a constant pressure deep in my lower back, I began to ask to move to birthing pool. Unbeknownst to me, because of the storm the night before the birthing pool was no longer an option- the aqueduct had been flooded and dark brown water was coming out of the tap. We had gone to plan B for our water birth, the outdoor Jacuzzi. Easing into the warm water brought almost instant relief, followed by almost instant panic because of the intensity of pain in my lower back.. I became very verbal about this pain, changing positions and trying to find something that brought relief. I remember saying ¨Okay, there´s been a mistake, there is no room for this baby to come out, its not possible!!¨and many loving  faces around me, reassuring me ¨There is room,  you are almost done, you are so strong, you are safe, your baby will be here soon!¨ I still had no urge to push when the midwives asked me to turn onto my back, and bring my baby out.  I pushed, with gusto, and several roaring expletives. My midwife said ¨Okay great! Now take that verbal energy and turn it inwards on the next one. Close your mouth and send your baby out from your center¨. I did exactly that, and on my second push, my babies head emerged between my legs. I could see my partners face in front me, eyes open wide in wonder, tears running down his face, and my midwife said ‘ Yes! Now reach down and touch your babies´ head!¨ I remember being skeptical as I reached down, not completely trusting that the end was in sight. As I felt his head, his soft hair between my fingers, the truth sunk in. ¨ Okay,¨ said my midwife, ¨Bring him all the way out on the next one.¨ So I did. He floated out into the pool, accompanied by blood and fluid, and Julio´s hands caught him. Joyful cries filled the air from all of us, astonishment, wonder at the power of new life. With the help of the midwives, Julio brought him up out of the water and onto my chest, and a kind of awed silence descended. The midwives hands were flying, bringing blankets, rubbing the baby. ¨Call him! They said! Call his name! He needs to hear you.¨

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¨Caio! Caio! Baby, baby, welcome baby! Welcome Caio!¨ we cried, all of us. He answered, murmuring and squawking as he took his first breaths, his skin slowly turning from grayish purple to bright pink.

Caio means contentment and joy;  he was, and he is. He arrived on September 29th, 2011 at 10:31 am.

Julio and my women helped us out of the tub, covered us in blankets, and laid us down on a sofa on the patio. As I gazed down on this beautiful boy breathing on my chest, he calmly opened his eyes and looked right into mine. We gazed at each other, his eyes so old and wise in such a tiny face. In that moment I realized with complete certainty that this child had chosen us to be his parents, and that I would love him with my whole being, forever.

As Julio and I stroked his skin, counted his fingers and his toes and spoke his name, Caio began to nuzzle my breasts, looking for his first meal. He found it, and happily breastfed while the midwives helped me to birth Caio´s placenta. I barely noticed what was happening, so wrapped up was I in this new child, mine. Everyone helped us to get inside, where once the cord had stopped pulsing it was cut and we said goodbye and thank you to Caio´s little mama. Caio was weighed, 7 lbs 12 oz, and measured, 21 inches. We all had lunch together, and once they had made sure that we were safe and healthy, the midwives hugged us all and left us to rest.

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In whatever form it takes, I feel that every woman has the right to the kind of birth that I experienced: well informed, emotionally and physically safe, empowering, affirming, and healing.

I am so very blessed to have had this experience for my first birth. I give thanks that Caio was able to be born into loving hands and warm water, with gentleness and patience. I am honored to have been surrounded with strong, beautiful and supportive women throughout my pregnancy and labor, and am humbled by the grace, strength and continued love of my partner. I am forever grateful to our amazing doula and midwife, who listened to my words and to my soul and guided me with wisdom and respect into motherhood, and to my mother and aunty who traveled so far to be by my side when I needed them.

Most of all, my heart cries thanks for Caio, who continues to grow into the person he is each day, gifting me with new experiences and a depth of love I never thought possible.

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Simple Home Water Birth VBAC

Simple Home Water Birth VBAC

Miranda’s birth story has to start with some background information and a bit of her big brother’s story. We had planned an all-natural, drug-free hospital birth and had taken Bradley Classes when I was pregnant with Dustin. Unfortunately, the hospital staff didn’t like how slow my labor progressed and coerced us into interventions we never wanted. Because of all this, I ended up with a C-section after 28 hours of labor. The recovery was rough, I had a hard time breastfeeding, and I ended up in a really bad spot for a while. I was eventually diagnosed with postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. We had always talked about having 2 kids, but after all this, we weren’t so sure. When we did get back to thinking about a second child, we knew we would do things very differently!

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Before I even got pregnant this time, I started researching my options and sending preliminary e-mails to local midwives and birth centers. Being a VBAC patient, I knew my choices might be limited. I got plenty of responses saying that they could not take me as a client or that they had extra regulations because of being a VBAC. I was lucky to find a couple midwives (one being a VBAC mom herself) close to my house and we set up an initial consultation soon after we found out I was pregnant. We liked them a lot after the first meeting and decided to definitely go with them after an amazing review from a friend who saw them for her VBAC.

Just like when I was pregnant with Dustin, I had a smooth pregnancy with no complications. The care and prenatal appointments were so much better with midwives, though. They actually got to know us and answered questions and truly listened. We were given options and choices about testing and procedures instead of just being told what things will be done when. The reactions I got from people when the topic of a homebirth and/or VBAC came up ranged from “you guys are crazy!” and “is that really safe?” to “I wish I would have done that!” and “that sounds amazing!”

My due date (August 19) came and went with no signs of anything happening. I was really hoping since this was my second baby she would come earlier, but she had other plans. There was never talk of inductions or anything being “wrong.” We all just waited. The day I hit 41 weeks, we went out for a big breakfast and a small hike. I wanted out of the house and I was really hoping I could get something happening. Still nothing! Early the next morning (August 27, around 2:00), I got up to pee, got back in bed, and felt a gush. This was something new for me; my water didn’t break on its own last time. I wasn’t having any contractions so I grabbed a towel and went back to sleep.

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Around 3:30am, I got up to get a clean towel and Johnny woke up. He asked how I was doing (he meant sleep-wise since I hadn’t been sleeping well most nights) and I told him about my water breaking. The sound of shock in his voice was great! I still wasn’t having contractions so we both tried getting some more rest. At 4:00 am my contractions started. They were coming every 10 minutes and just after 4:30am, I decided to get up and start getting some things ready. I asked Johnny to start getting the birth tub set up and then all the sudden the contractions were right on top of each other and I wasn’t getting any breaks. I got in the shower for a bit, but it wasn’t helping. I came out to call our midwives, but couldn’t even talk. I handed the phone over to Johnny and went back to the bathroom. It was now 5:15 am. I was moaning through contractions and wondering why they were so strong already. Our midwives showed up one by one between 5:30 and 5:45 am. At this point my body was pushing and I was thinking something was wrong; there’s no way I was actually ready to push, I must be doing something wrong, and this wasn’t going to end well. After a quick check on baby’s heart rate and such, they got me up and helped me to the tub (5:55 am). I got my first cervical check of my pregnancy to find out I was completely dilated with her head right there! I couldn’t believe it! I continued to push on my knees with my upper body resting on the edge of the tub. I kept reaching down to feel the progress of her coming out and it was such an odd but amazing feeling. She was born at 6:32 am and I couldn’t help but to break down crying! I had done it! I got my VBAC and it was the best feeling in the world to be the first to hold my brand new baby!

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We stayed in the tub for a while cuddling and nursing (she latched on within the first 10 min or so). Dustin had slept through all this and had just then woken up. Johnny went and got him and told him what was going on. The look on his face when he saw me in the tub with Miranda was priceless! I delivered the placenta at 7:05 am and Johnny got to cut the cord. At this point Dustin was wandering around with his breakfast, way too distracted to eat. I was helped out of the tub and got into my bed for more snuggle time. We got to spend our first bit of time together as a family of 4 totally relaxed in our own home. Eventually our midwives did Miranda’s first check-up; she was 8 lb, 4 oz and 19 ½ inches (shorter but heavier than Dustin was). I got checked out around the same time and it was confirmed that I had a pretty good tear (I had felt it happen, which in a way was pretty cool since I was so aware of my body and everything that was happening). Our midwives cleaned up, started some laundry, packed up their stuff and after a few final checks, left us to get some rest and start the new piece of our lives.

The difference in recovery has been amazing! Sure, I was pretty sore (mostly from the tear that I later had stitched) and worn out the first few weeks but it was nothing compared to my previous delivery. After my C-section I felt totally broken and defeated; after my VBAC I felt triumphant and, for a lack of better words, bad-ass. I still get excited thinking about how everything happened. On one hand, it’s sad because I know now exactly what I missed out on when Dustin was born, but at the same time this was such a healing experience! I want to tell anyone who will listen my story and convince every pregnant woman to do her research and question everything

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 Blooming Lotus Henna (http://bloominglotushenna.com/), Midwives (http://www.motherseedmidwifery.com/)

A Mother’s Letter to Her Unborn Baby {Part 1; Birth Story to Follow}

A Mother’s Letter to Her Unborn Baby {Part 1; Birth Story to Follow}

Amy Hayden shares, “I wrote a letter to my son before I birthed him, and just wrote this one to my next little one. I’d love to see other moms do the same.” Check back tomorrow for the story of this lucky baby’s birth!

“To my dear baby,

As our time of being connected as one draws to a close, I cannot help but think of how wonderful the past nine months have been. You’ve been active and playful, always amusing me with your very high kicks – often to my lungs and ribs! You’ve had hiccups at least five or six times lately which feels so funny and always amuses us! I have felt very intuitive about many things this pregnancy – that I was in fact pregnant, that my placenta was in the front, and I even have some thoughts about your size and gender, which I will keep to myself for now in case I am wrong 🙂

Let’s talk about labor and your birth! I want to bring you into this world as peacefully and as gently as I possibly can. I’ve read more and know more than I did last time. I trust my body to do what it was designed for and what it is capable of. I am not afraid! I want you to work with me, to move down gently and easily when it’s time! I will do everything in my power to calmly and gently deliver you! Daddy and I will be ready with open arms and open hearts to welcome you into our loving family.

We are so excited to see you for the first time! It will be amazing to learn who you are and what our family will be like with a fourth person to hold and to love. Your big brother cannot wait to see you and to teach you all the “big boy” things he knows. He has big plans for you 🙂

My hope is for the two of you to have a wonderful relationship and many shared stories and memories throughout your childhood. I want you to be a happy, healthy individual with your own ideas and dreams… and the courage to pursue them! You will have all the love and support in the world from me and Daddy, so dream big, reach for the stars, and be whoever God created you to be! I’m looking so forward to getting to know the amazing person whom I’ve been given the awesome and wondrous responsibility of nurturing and growing these past nine months. As Daddy cuts the cord to separate you from me, you will begin your journey on this earth as your very own person. And though you will no longer be a part of me, you will always be in my heart, for once I have carried you in my body a part of you will live in me forever.

I love you so very much – and have from the moment I first knew of your existence! Pregnancy is one of the most special times of my whole life and I have loved every minute we’ve shared. See you soon!

Always and forever, Mommy”

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