Today is her first birth day. One full year. A full circle around the sun. To celebrate, I am sharing the day of her birth. I openly admit I wanted it to be just ours for a while. As I spoke at events this past year and had the opportunity to share beardbaby’s birth story, I was also able to process. I’ve been asked to write it out and share it and finally feel ready to do so. Thank you for being so patient with me, and as always I appreciate the love and support.
While going postdates is my norm, it’s never what I want. But once again I found myself 42 1/2 weeks pregnant. I had co-care with midwives and an OB during my pregnancy. I wanted to plan a homebirth but my instincts told me to also have care with an OB. Our instincts are always right.
So I was 42 1/2 weeks pregnant and had another appointment with my OB. We had an open discussion about options and what we were all comfortable with. We checked on the baby and she was doing great! Perfect amount of fluids, placenta looked great, and baby was healthy. I was having contractions so I said I wanted to give it the day and see where it led.
Sure enough I had contractions all day and they progressed in frequency and intensity into the evening, but at midnight everything stalled. Typical for me but no less frustrating! I woke up the next morning, a Thursday, and realized that most of my family, and now including myself, had the flu. 42 1/2 weeks pregnant with the flu. There are no words.
I text some friends and said “You know what? My plan now is to not have her and have a new baby in a house with the flu! We are all going to get better, and I will have this baby on Monday!” They were so sweet and encouraging but we all know that birth does not usually go as we plan.
I woke up Sunday morning 43 weeks pregnant, exhausted, and still not feeling well. I went into a complete panic. I could not get the baby to move. I wiggled my belly, I pushed, tossed, turned, got up, used the bathroom, drank juice, layed back down, and could not feel her. I woke my husband up in my panicked state. He was a little confused and tired himself and mumbled, “Whuuut?” I told him I couldn’t feel the baby move. He reached over and placed his hand on my belly and after a few seconds he said, “I am feeling her move.” I protested, “No you’re not! If I can’t feel her moving you can’t!” So he put his hand on my big belly again and said, “Yep, I feel her moving, can I go back to sleep now?”
Ugh! Sure enough once he said it, I felt her. She had been peacefully resting, getting ready for her huge event. That’s all it was, but to me, the way I felt, I knew it was time. I text my midwives and my OB and impatiently waited to hear back. My OB called me and I told him that she needed to be born that day, of which he of course completely agreed. We decided to meet at his office before going to the hospital.
We got the kids situated with the a sitter and my husband and I drove to meet our OB. I was texting my midwives on the way. I remember telling Brandon, “This is the kind of care that all women deserve. Everyone working together respectfully to ensure healthy mom and baby and a safe birth. It took me six children to get these kinds of options, support, and respect. This should be the norm!”
We arrived at the office, along with a friend and did an ultrasound. Baby looked great. So this is when we started discussing options. It’s an amazing thing to have an open, respectful discussion with an OB. No defensiveness from anyone. We all wanted the same thing. Bless this man, he wanted the decision to be mine, because he knew that was important to me. We discussed induction options, risks to breaking the amniotic sac and a cesarean. He asked if he could check me (I usually decline). I said.,”Yes, but I know that my cervix will be closed.” He checked me and sure enough I was right. He was in disbelief as I was 43 weeks pregnant with my 6th baby. Again, it is my norm.
He did not feel comfortable doing anything to induce me when I was not dilated at all and had previous cesareans. We didn’t want to hurt my body, cause cord prolapse, and put unneeded stress on the baby. I sat there thinking of laboring in a hospital, having yet another very long labor (my shortest was 20 hours and my others 50+ hours). I knew in my heart that this was going to end with a cesarean. I also know because of all my different birth experiences that laboring and having a cesarean was not what I wanted. It’s incredibly difficult emotionally and physically. I was not OK with that. So, after having 3 VBA2C’s, I made the decision to have a cesarean.
We went next door to the hospital and started getting checked in. I’m pretty sure the labor and delivery nurses were a little confused as to why I was walking in on a Sunday morning with my OB, but nonetheless there we were! As all the paperwork was getting done and I got changed, the energy felt very rushed and unpleasant. One of my birth affirmations that stuck with me was *Don’t forget to have a good time*. I came out of the bathroom and got in the bed and said to the nurses in the room, “I know that I’m about to have a c-section, but this is still my baby’s birthday! Let’s smile more, this is something to celebrate!” And it worked. The energy and mood completely changed.
Once I was fully prepped for surgery, I was taken to the OR to get my spinal. As I was sitting there I hit a very vulnerable moment. In natural childbirth it happens in transition. I was in my own transition for my cesarean birth. I was emotional, unsure, and questioning my decision. That’s the moment my OB walked in. “Hey kiddo, how are you?” Which cracks me up because he’s only a few years older than me.
I told him, “I don’t know, I need you to tell me I didn’t fail.”
Bless this man (again), he knew just what to say. “January, you are 43 weeks pregnant. You went 43 weeks, your baby nudged you it was time, and you listened. You did not fail, you did everything just right! Deep breaths.”
“Thank you,” is all I could say through tears.
A nurse overheard us and tried to comfort me by saying, “It’s OK, it’s your decision, and not like anyone is waiting to know.”
My OB said, “Weeellll, actually, a couple hundred thousand people are.” We all chuckled.
Once I was completely numb and Brandon was with me, Beardbaby’s birth began. Our OB took extra time and care with the surgery to ensure a healthy birth. I remember asking him what he was doing during the process and he explained as he went. As they reached our baby girl, (there are a lot of layers!), he and the assisting doctor started to pull her down and out. My other cesareans were over a decade ago so I can’t recall this part clearly with them, but although I was numb, I could still feel movement and sensations. As they started to pull her down, I felt her kicking up high while her body descended through my womb. I felt my baby as she was born. I birthed my baby.
The pediatric team asked repeatedly about meconium. It was a concern of theirs because we were post dates. This baby was born squeaky clean and healthy! My OB set her on my legs for a minute or two. Once they cut her cord, she was taken to the warmer for the pediatric team to make sure she was well. The only thing I would change about this birth is that I did not see her between being born and taken to the warmer; the warmer was not within my eyesight. I lay there hearing her, but the disconnection of not seeing her was hard. I remember thinking that if I did not know so much about birth and postpartum and had not had so many birth experiences this could cause a lot of issues for a new mom. I kept saying, “I need to see my baby, I need to see my baby.” My husband stood behind them, repeatedly asking, “Are you done yet, are you done yet, you been yet?”
What was just a few minutes felt like an eternity. She was brought over to me bundled up like the typical baby burrito. One of the nurses, remembering our requests, came over and unwrapped her, then pulled my gown down and placed the baby skin to skin on my chest. I’m so grateful for this. Having had two very different types of cesarean birth experiences in the past, I know how important these moments and experiences are for bonding, healing, and postpartum health!
She wasn’t interested in nursing yet, so I held her, took her in, cried, and shared those precious first moments with my husband. I started shaking and was trying not to cough because I was still recovering from the flu, so I asked Brandon to take her. He held her close be so I could focus on her as our surgery was finished.
My OB mentioned that there was a lot of scar tissue (maybe the most he’s seen?). He said he could not believe that I have had three VBA2Cs with the amount of scar tissue I had/have. To him, it explained my long labors. My body and babies had to work through all of that. This is how my birth experiences came full circle for me. To have this knowledge is really cool for me. I thought my body just didn’t like to birth. Nope. My body is freaking amazing! My labors were super long and my babies would not drop until close to transition and once they did, pushing was always a very quick for me. It makes sense now. But you know what? I did do it. Three times! What a testament to a woman’s body!
I was asked if I wanted my placenta. I give major props to placentas and have used them in the past, but I am done and done. Once our surgery was finished and all was well, we were taken to our recovery/postpartum room.
This part is a bit hazy, which is to be expected. I held her, Brandon held her, lots of skin to skin, people in and out, being checked on, bleeding, being sore, etc. If the baby was away from me for too long, I started shaking. I would take her back and my body would calm down and stabilize. This happened for a few days. Isn’t that incredible? Our bodies, birth, babies…all incredible.The first few days postpartum after a cesarean are very intense. There’s a lot of pain, a lot of stuff to get through, and it’s really hard taking care of a newborn after you just had major abdominal surgery. I got through it with the help of a good friend and my husband. We also were able to check out early so I could go home and be taken care of there. That way we did not need care for the children and Brandon didn’t have to go back-and-forth. The first night home was very, very hard. But I remember Brandon telling me go to sleep and he would watch over the baby. I woke up later to her asleep in the Rock N’ Play and him asleep on the floor with one arm lifted up resting by her. I fell more in love with him in that moment and made sure to etch the sight into my mind forever.
We were all still recovering from the flu. Brandon was so exhausted and was trying not to complain because he knew I was just as sick and exhausted and I just had surgery. I knew though that he could not take care of me if he was completely worn down. So I hired a postpartum doula for a few nights to come help me so he could sleep. The postpartum doula would hold and watch over the baby while I rested (she was in my room) and bring her to me and help me sit up to nurse. After a few nights of this, Brandon was much better and could be on top of helping me and taking care of our other five children. It was the best decision!
I remember discussing the birth with my friend while in recovery. Processing is so natural and healing. I had called our photographer and friend Leilani Rogers to tell her that I had the baby via c-section, so we would not be doing birth photography. She told me she was sorry. It was a natural reaction, but I remember thinking I do not want that to be the reaction every time I tell someone how this baby was born. My friend that was with me said, “This is HER birth story, J, and that’s okay.” She was right! It’s why I announced beardbaby’s birth the way that I did. Her birth was not and never has been a disappointment! It was the right birth for this baby.
We did get to have newborn photos in the hospital and more as a family 10 days postpartum. You can see more of those HERE. I’m so grateful that I have an opportunity to be a mother to another beautiful, amazing soul. She is definitely special! She’s been smiling since a few days old and has been an absolute joy in our lives.
It is very hard knowing she’s our last baby, but I am finding peace with it. As this chapter of pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum end for us, new chapters are beginning! Thank you for allowing me to share this amazing event in our lives. You can follow more of our journey and life as a family of eight on my Instagram (@january_harshe).
This is such a beautiful birth story and is almost identical to my third and last baby! I too had amazing support by my midwives and ob and chose to finally have a ceserean after my vbac. I have no regrets and in the end it was the best healthiest decision for my baby and I. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story! You are an amazing woman!
What a beautiful story!
Our babies stories are always perfectly theirs.
Amy Black Bear
Thank you for taking the time to write out beard baby and your’s amazing birth story! I love all the pictures and I love your stone cold confidence in this birth you all experianced a year ago. It is nice to read such a positive story of a c-section and large family. I also wanted to let you know that you were with me in a manner while I was birthing my current youngest, without your facebook page and your blog I may not have had the confidence I did in myself, my family and my birth team that I did with my homebirthed daughter. Keep being you and I hope someday I can meet you and give you a hug.
We have babies the same way!! My first was 12 days past EDD, my second was a homebirth 17 days past EDD (my son was born at home but came out non-responsive and we had to transfer immediately after birth), my third was born 15 days past EDD. I have a closed cervix until it is go time and always have prodromal labor. My third was a planned HB, but it started to feel too much like my second birth and I was like, “ya know what, this needs to happen at a hospital.” I went to the hospital convinced I wasn’t actually in labor and she was born 3 hours after I got there. That was the only fast labor I ever had! 🙂 And beardbaby is one cute little bean!! That pic of her with the mohawk, ERMYGAWD! xo!
What a beautiful birth day story.
I had my baby boy January 21st last year and my 3rd attempt at a homebirth. We had an empowering unassisted home birth. Love to you all
Thank you for posted this. What a beautiful birth story! I remember reading so many birth stories after being introduced to Birth Without Fear. it helped me understand and process my baby’s birth and our experience in a way that was healthy and positive. It was not what I thought it would be but it was perfect because we were both healthy and treated with respect. Thank you for all that you do for woman, babies and birth. I can’t imagine my journey without you.
I am in tears – I have had one baby – ended up having a c-section which was not planned. Emergency after being induced and baby not wanting to enter the birthing canal. Reading your story – I wish I had known more about c-sections – I was so scared, I sat there and cried the entire time they were giving me the spinal, husband wasn’t’ allowed in the room yet and everyone had masks on, they were rushing and not really talking to me about what was happening and I was freaking scared, so I sat there and cried like a baby. It felt like I was in a nightmare – little did I know it was just starting. They left a pretty big piece of placenta in my uterus and I hemorrhaged so bad that night they didn’t know if I would see the morning, I don’t remember much of that as I was ‘out’ – then a day later sepsis set in and I almost died again. Needless to say baby and I had a rocky start. I remember waking up after hemorrhaging and demanding to have baby I was so scared something had happened to him. Anyway – that is the past! I have my baby – he’s now two and a half, I have loved every minute of being his Mother and we are a big fan of you and yours! Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.
I cried through the whole thing. Brought back so many memories.
The feeling of her coming out, but not feeling pain….was so amazing.
Happy birthday beard baby, and happy birthing day January!
I, as well as so many others, have been waiting to read this so thank you thank you for posting it!! I know a birth story is extremely personal so seriously thank you!! You all ready were but after reading this you are absolutely my hero. I have had 1 csection and 1 vbac. We are currently trying for our third and final baby and SO many thoughts are already in my head. What if it’s a c section, what if I “fail” and set myself back into ppd, can I be ok with only one more baby?? It’s so awesome to see you acknowledge a lot of those same feelings and know that no matter what happens I’m not alone and it’s ok. You rock and happy birthday to your beautiful, sweet girl 🙂
Wow incredible birth story! My second hbac was 28 hours. I can’t imagine having to do that just barely recovered from the flu. Thanks for sharing!
This story is so refreshing January! I’m wondering how one finds themselves at peace with a decision to be “done” having kids. I’m pretty sure the desire to be pregnant and labor and birth and have another soul in my family will never leave, even though I know right now I can’t handle more than the 3 I have (in 4 years!) one day I would love to have a big family like yours, I was 7 of 9 children and my life has been such a blast!
The only thing I would change about this birth is that I did not see her between being born and taken to the warmer; the warmer was not within my eyesight.
You hit this right on the nailhead. My daughter was born over 9 years ago via c-section, and I will always regret not seeing her right after she was born. I’m glad that she was okay, c-section was done kind of in a hurry, but I’ll always wish that I could have seen her right after she was born. By the time they let me see her, she was wrapped up tighter than a burrito.
I think your story is beautiful and inspirational all women should demand and deserve the same kind of care you did. This story brought me to tears because I have had two beautifully respectful births and one that I was just another number which is pretty normal for the area I live in. But you have a voice that is teaching women they have choices and they should know them and be involved in them. I am so grateful for all the positive and beautiful energy and love you are trying to spread for women! Thank you! Xoxoxo!!!
I just love you and hearing about this sweet babe’s birth! I’m so glad to hear you trusted yourself and your baby-we need so much more of that and you are an incredible voice for women!! Xoxxo
I am so glad to see you write her story. I was wickedly curious, I’ll confess, but I understood why you needed the time and the privacy about it. *hug* Thank you for sharing.
My elfling is 6 days younger than beardbaby, and there is no way I could have made it through her pregnancy without having found you. Seriously, I looked for your posts every day, and it was always what I needed. Still do, in fact. And I am grateful to find such a beautiful soul, with a family almost as big as mine, whose heart echoes with my own ups and downs.
The elfling is my seventh, and decidedly last, child. In this, too, you touched something my heart was already humming with. I cannot do it again. So here’s to you, January, for saving my sanity and being the best birth and postpartum support a girl without support could have had, and an all around astonishingly fantastic person. And happy birthday to our less-than-a-week-apart munchkins!
Likewise, I have PCOS and struggled with fertility for many years. We had a successful IVF procedure back in 2007 and I had my son in Nov. 07…after eight years of trying to conceive…five days before my husband deployed for a 15 month tour! *sigh* So, he left a 5 day old newborn and came home to a walking, talking toddler. After six years of trying to “let things happen on their own”, we chose to seek fertility treatment once more. This time we just used injectables and a trigger shot. Our daughter was born Dec. 2013…while my husband was on his 4th deployment…he met her for the first time when she was four months old. =)
January, thank you for sharing!! BTW…what is “beard baby’s” name?! Not sure if I missed it in another post..
Thank you so much for sharing! I have been looking forward to hearing about your experience, since I had not been able to catch you at a BWF meetup. 🙂
Thank you so much for posting this! You have no idea how much I have needed to read this. 32 weeks pregnant with our second baby now. And the gut feel thing is so so true. I had my son naturally with midwife care and for some reason this pregnancy I felt nervous and pulled towards a hospital birth and OB. Let’s just say my gut instinct was right, and it looks as though a c-section is going to be the safest option for this baby and me… I’m still trying to get my head around it, but I have time. And your story has completely had me in tears <3 Beautiful! Birth is birth and it's beautiful.
What is a beard baby?
SO much love reading this story – you are such an incredible voice and force of change. I can only imagine where this experience will take you in the quest to change the quality of maternity care in this country. Many blessings to you as you continue to work for good, and many thanks to your family who is willing to share you so that you can do this great work <3
I too had my sixth & final baby this last year. He was born @ 25 weeks which was so unexpected as my others were home births. I recognize those feelings of finality & adjustment when there isn’t a do over. I still can find the power and joy I this last birth; it was just beyond what I expected!
Thank you for sharing your story! I’m having a planned cesarean in May and it really helps to read positive cesarean stories. 🙂
I needed to read this today! My 7th baby was a failed VBA2Cs. We needed the c-section, as my water had been broken almost 36 hours and we were showing signs of chorio… but I have yet to fully embrace it as the right thing to do. My baby girl is 5 months old. I am going to try to embrace her birth instead of cry every time I talk and think about it. Thank you!
Beautiful birth story, January! Your description of the inner control and grace you manifested during your pregnancy and birth is what I hope every woman experiences! It is NOT about labeling birth; it is about honoring your inner voice and common sense. Good for you! You kept your approach balanced and reasonable, doing what was best for YOUR baby and YOU! Love the photos <3
I really enjoyed this story. I love how you worked with your medical team to chose the best for you and your baby. I had my first c-section this year after two previous vaginal births and it was a really rough recovery. I don’t really handle medical things well, so it was a really big deal to me. (I’m a CPA, not medical professional, for a reason). We hear so much about natural birth and I found it very validating to hear you saying that a ceserian is just as happy because it’s a birthday!!! 😉
Thanks so much for writing this. After two easy vaginal births, I decided to have my third by c-section after a major hematoma in the first two trimesters, followed by IUGR and a stubborn breech baby in the third trimester. It was definitely a hard decision, and I agonized over the lost birth experience that I wanted and didn’t get. I’ve had a hard time saying “I birthed him,” but after reading your story, I know I did! I’m so glad I listened to my intuition and didn’t take any chances with my sweet baby boy.