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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #10: Q & A Volume One

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #10: Q & A Volume One

January and Brandon answer your questions! They talk about everything from their current favorite songs (hint: not the new Taylor Swift song) and chiropractic (since Brandon is a chiropractor, of course) to religion (hint: not Mormonism) and using toilet paper from the top or bottom (hint: this is an important answer)!

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Click here to download Episode #10: Q & A Volume One!


To get grape HFX Hydration Factor from MRM to put in your lemonade and relive your childhood with your very own Purplesaurus Rex Kool-Aid flavor, click here and use the code “HARSHE” when you check out!


We have added Birth Without Fear coffee mugs and sports bras to Self Love Generation! Both of these items are limited edition , so order one quick! Don’t forget to grab a Birth Without Fear logo T-shirt or a Team No Sleep raglan shirt while you’re at it! Stay tuned for free shipping on dad shirts and You Do You Boo shirts next week!

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

The birth of sweet little Elodie really begins with the birth of our son Huck. I had a normal and, dare I say, easy pregnancy with our first. Nothing was out of normal and I had no doubt I would be able to deliver this baby naturally until about 32 weeks when I was diagnosed with severe gestational thrombocytopenia. Basically my blood platelet levels were dropping rapidly, putting both me and the baby at risk for hemorrhaging during the delivery. At this time, we were living in Africa in a city where health care was limited and our doctor became so worried about my severe thrombocytopenia that she demanded a C-section at 36 weeks and 2 days. I ended up having a C-section under general anesthesia and didn’t even get to see my son until he was 3 hours old which left me feeling so removed from the whole birthing process. The whole experience was very traumatic for me and recovery from this C-section, which I never thought would happen, was harder than I ever thought possible. I almost didn’t want another baby until I started reading about VBACs.

When we found out we were pregnant with our second, I knew without a doubt that I wanted the opportunity to try for a VBAC. During this pregnancy we were living in another country overseas which was not the best place to try for a VBAC. After many conversations with my husband, we agreed we would temporarily move back to the States at the end of the pregnancy so I would have the best chance possible of delivering naturally. We emailed an OB/GYN who was a family friend and he was immediately on board and excited about helping me go for a VBAC.

Our pregnancy was pretty routine and easy like my first one but the whole time we questioned whether the thrombocytopenia would come back and what it would mean for my chances of a VBAC. Around my 30th week of pregnancy, we flew the long transatlantic flight back to America and settled into my in-laws’ house with our almost two year old to wait for baby girl’s arrival.

About the same time that we got to America, my platelets started dropping again which meant the thrombocytopenia of my first pregnancy had returned. Our OB/GYN was amazing and had many a long conversation with us about how my low platelets could lead to different outcomes including steroids, induction, and the inability to get an epidural in case of an emergency C-section. The whole time he never mentioned a repeat caesarian as an option for me and made us feel in control of our decisions which was such a different experience from our first pregnancy.

We were fortunate enough to be able to transfer our care to the midwives of his office while he still helped us navigate the thrombocytopenia. Still we were forced to wait to see what my platelets would do. Every week I had blood draws to check my platelet count and each week, from 30-35 weeks, they dropped more and more until they were around 90,000. At this number they are considered too low for epidural and were coming closer and closer to the number our doctor wanted to induce me at. I had many good cries about my platelets and about the idea of having to go on steroids and then have an induction as I had really wanted an intervention-free birth where I could labor at home as much as possible. There were moments I was convinced my dream of a VBAC was slipping away. I wanted so badly to avoid interventions or an induction. I had this overriding desire to see what my body could do because I felt like I was robbed of the chance of experiencing labor with my first. I knew my body could do it if only it was giving the chance but with the thrombocytopenia I was so scared I would not be given the opportunity to naturally labor. All this time, my husband was always there to encourage me to trust my body and believe that we could have the birth I wanted.

We asked all our friends to start praying for my platelets to miraculously go up, even though we were prepared for them to start drastically dropping as they did in my first pregnancy. We went in for my 36 week blood draw full of trepidation to see where my platelets had fallen to. My husband called for the results a few hours later and found out they had gone up to 105,000. That was the first time ever in either of my pregnancies that my platelets had gone up! Over the next two weeks they kept going up until they were at a really good level (121,000) when I entered my 38th week.

At this point I started knowing in my heart that this was the ideal time for baby girl to come as we didn’t know if and when my platelets would drop again. On Thursday we went to our chiropractor for an adjustment and then spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday walking a ton. Each night I told baby girl that then was a good time for her to come. Sunday night I went to bed asking God to bring baby girl in his timing but asking Him to allow me the natural VBAC we had worked so hard for.

Around 1:00am Monday morning (I was 38 weeks 4 days), I woke up for my nightly pee and noticed bloody show in the toilet. I got really excited and knew that this at least meant my body was getting ready. Almost immediately after that I started getting my first ever contractions (I never had one with my first pregnancy). My husband was sleeping in our two year old’s room because our son was sick with a cold and ear infection so I laid in bed timing my contractions. I ended up having contractions all night long every 5-7 minutes apart. In the morning they spread way out and my husband and I were both disappointed. I had contractions off and on all Monday then throughout the night again which left me exhausted by Tuesday. Tuesday we spent the day relaxing and napping as contractions came and went. I eventually told my husband I did not think I could do another night of these contractions and I really hoped active labor would start soon. My husband ran out Tuesday evening to get me some of my favorite soup for dinner while I bounced on my birthing ball and watched our two-year-old.

It was at this point that the contractions changed from being mildly annoying to being painful. I started having to concentrate on breathing more and really focus during them. My husband at this point didn’t realize that things were changing so he was going about doing dishes and laundry…at some point I snapped at him to stop leaving me alone because I needed him. He said it was at this moment he realized things were picking up. We sat together and watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy as contractions came every 7-10 minutes or so. It wasn’t until around 9pm that I think I really entered active labor. I moved into the shower and labored there as contractions started coming every 5 minutes or so. Eventually we ran out of hot water for the shower so I went into the bedroom. It was at this point the contractions became really intensely painful. My husband called our doula and she came by the house to check on us. It was about 11:15pm and she guessed I was probably 4.5-6 centimeters and said I should try to sleep between contractions as I was now on my third night without much sleep. She left around 11:45pm asking us to call her when we headed to the hospital, which she thought would be in about 2 or 3 hours. As soon as she left contractions picked up in both intensity and frequency. They started coming almost every 2 to 3 minutes and lasting almost a minute. I was a little shocked by how intense they got in such a short amount of time. I told my husband that we needed to head to the hospital then. He was hesitant to go to the hospital as the contractions had not been that consistent for a whole hour yet. After a few more minutes of me yelling about going to the hospital, he decided it was indeed time to go and we headed out. The drive to the hospital was only about 10 minutes but I was contracting every 2 to 3 minutes so it seemed much longer.

We got to the hospital around 12:20am and were checked around 12:30. The nurse said I was a stretchy 6.5 centimeters so I was immediately brought to a labor and delivery room. At this point I was exhausted and demanded some IV pain killers. I knew I didn’t want an epidural but I was beginning to panic between contractions and knew I needed something to calm down. The painkillers helped me relax and sleep a bit between contractions with me still waking up every 3 to 4 minutes to breathe, scream, and occasionally cuss through so wildly intense and painful contractions. All this time the nurses were struggling with monitors for fetal heart beat and contractions. I did not know what they were talking about but I kept hearing them say “the contractions aren’t being read on the monitor” which in my tired mind meant that they weren’t strong enough to be picked up yet. That totally freaked me out as I thought I must just be at the beginning of labor. I kept asking our doula and husband if all of this was just false labor, to which they kept assuring me that this was really labor and a baby was coming soon.

By around 1:45am the painkillers had worn off and I started asking (demanding) for an epidural during every contraction. Our doula knew in that moment that I would really regret that decision so she lovingly but strongly told me no. Our nurses were awesome in honoring our request that they not suggest or bring up epidural either. Our doula did suggest I get checked at 2:00am as a way to give me a goal. At 2:00am our midwife checked me and I was at 9cm and the baby was at a 0 station. It was then suggested by our doula, that our midwife should break my water to help speed things along. At 2:15am she broke my water and I immediately began to feel the baby moving down. After about 2 contractions where I felt baby moving down, I told everyone in the room that I was going to start pushing. Our midwife, thinking I was still at 9cm, told me to try not to push. I told her again I was pushing and pushed with the next contraction. She had me flip over onto my back (I had been on my knees up over the top of the bed the whole time) to check and saw that the baby was close. At that point she called the nurses in and told me that since pushing was working I should just keep going. At that point all I wanted in the world was to get that baby out. I started pushing at around 2:25am and baby was crowning after only 2 or 3 contractions. Even as the baby was crowning I was scared of messing up somehow and needing a repeat C-section. I think almost everyone in the room laughed as baby was crowning and I was asking if there was any way that I was still going to have a C-section and if I was really in labor. It all just happened so fast that I was in shock!

The moment I pushed my baby girl out was literally one of the best and most empowering moments of my life. Her head came out and the rest of her body followed immediately. Our midwife placed her right on my chest and that is where she stayed for over an hour. After having a general anesthesia C-section with our son, getting to spend the first hour of my daughter’s life just holding her was a gift that I could not possibly be more thankful for. It was only after my daughter’s arrival that our midwife told me that my platelets had indeed dropped again and were under the threshold for an epidural. My husband and I are both so thankful we did not know that going into the hospital as the fear of a general anesthesia C-section would have caused me to panic. We are just so thankful baby girl came right when she needed to and exactly how she needed to.

Overall, I felt like my husband and I really fought for this VBAC and it was so worth it. We felt educated, informed, and empowered during the whole pregnancy. Even when dealing with thrombocytopenia and the complications that came with that, we felt like all our providers were fighting alongside us for our VBAC. All I wanted was to give my body a chance to do what I knew it could do and what it was made for. Our amazing team never pushed any interventions on me and allowed me to labor how I wanted. Our midwife was absolutely amazing in completely following my lead and allowing me and my body to control the pace and feel of labor. One of my recovery nurses, while reading the notes on my labor and how fast it went, said, “It is just sad you ever had to have a C-section in the first place. It’s clear that your body was just made for this.” It was such a redemptive moment for me to once again believe in my body’s ability to birth.

Overall, God gifted us with a birth we only could have dreamed about with only 2 hours in the hospital from check-in to baby. We now are thrilled to have a beautiful, healthy baby girl that came into this world naturally, surrounded by a loving and supportive team.

Story and photographs submitted by Julia Van Scott. 

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant

January and Brandon tell the birth story of baby #5 aka The Bull! They recount the multiple moves, financial hardships, and sheer stress surrounding The Bull’s pregnancy. Somehow they survived the stress of that time period and moved on, but at the time it didn’t feel like it. Also, a trip down memory lane with… Moviefone!

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Click here to download Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant!


We are having a Labor Day sale at Self Love Generation! Our classic Birth Without Fear logo, “i don’t babysit. I PARENT.”, and “You Do You Boo” unicorn T-shirts are back, along with a re-imagining of our popular “Team NO Sleep” raglan shirt, as well as a “You Do You Boo” rainbow unicorn lanyard that Brandon loves are all 20% off through Labor Day!


Join January in 2017 at a Find Your Village event near you! January will be in Atlanta, GA on September 9th, and Nashville on September 23rd! Make sure to get your tickets because this is the last year January will be holding Find Your Village events!

The Birth Story of Violet Marie – Part 1

The Birth Story of Violet Marie – Part 1

Brace yourself… It’s a long read! I hope you enjoy it, I share every detail I can recall of my labour and delivery from my own perspective


I had a pretty unconventional pregnancy in the sense that I didn’t participate in any regular prenatal care. I didn’t have a doctor or obstetrician, I didn’t have ultrasounds, no diabetes test, minimal doppler checks, I planned a homebirth and I continued eating my high carb vegan diet throughout my pregnancy. I didn’t participate in regular prenatal care for personal reasons and beliefs.

*I in no way think my way it the “best way” for everyone, it was just the best way for me at the time! Please be aware that this is not my recommendation for others to follow what I did, I am just sharing my personal experience.

At 11 weeks pregnant I hired a local “midwife/doula” who supported me from that day forward. She isn’t a trained nurse but has 18 years of experience delivering babies and supporting women who want natural and holistic home births. My prenatal support was mainly working through emotional stuff that could potentially hold Neil and I back from being the best parents we could be. We did a lot of healing, talking and clearing while I was pregnant. Y, my midwife and I both strongly shared in the desire to allow me to have an undisturbed/gentle pregnancy and birth.

My “due date” came and went on March 24th, 2016. After this I checked in with my midwife almost daily. She’d pop over with her adopted 5 month old son to check to see how we were doing or we’d chat on the phone. By this point in my pregnancy I was getting quite antsy to go into labour, but also trusted that my body and baby were in perfect unison to trigger spontaneous labour when we were both ready.

pregnancy, birth,

At 41 weeks I had an appointment with a local chiropractor. He assessed my body to make sure everything was in alignment for labour. He said I was the happiest and fittest overdue woman he ever met! That was a great thing to hear.

birth, pregnancy, chiropractor
Chiropractor appointment at 41 weeks along

Another week past and nothing changed. I was still full of energy, was able to tie my shoes and put on socks, was walking and rebounding on my mini trampoline daily and was feeling like I might stay pregnant forever.

rebounding, trampoline, birth, pregnancy
Rebounding on April 5th, 2016

Neil and I had be anticipating meeting our baby for weeks now. Our days slowed and all we could think about and focus on was labour and delivery. We had the birthing pool ready to go, the house clean, food made, and our bedroom ready to welcome our child. Still nothing happened. At this point my midwife started to suggest some gentle tools to encourage baby to come. I took some homeopathic remedies and herbs, and she did acupressure and acupuncture on a few points on my body. She was convinced that I’d go into labour that night. I didn’t.

birth prep, pregnancy
Prepping the bedroom the night I went into labour

I then decided to take matters a little more seriously and hired the local acupuncturist to do three consecutive treatments on me in three consecutive days. On Thursday April 7th (Neil’s 29th birthday) I went to his office for my first treatment. He went gentle and just encouraged my body to open up and move energy downward. On Friday I went back and he intensified the treatment slightly and focused on emotional surrender and clearing. If I didn’t go into labour that night he planned to come to my home the next morning at 11am to do the final treatment. I went to bed Friday night with no signs of impending labour.

midwife, pregnancy, birth prep, labor, labour
April 9th, 2016 – My final acupuncture session before going into labour

Labour Begins

At about 1:00am I woke up with some mild contractions and couldn’t sleep so went and watched a movie on my laptop on the couch. The contractions were nothing to “write home about” so I just left Neil sleep! His sister was visiting and stayed overnight on Friday so on Saturday morning at 8:30am he left me home and took her to catch the bus so she could go home. While he was gone I only had a few contractions. 11am rolled around on Saturday and I had my 3rd acupuncture treatment. Going to the hospital for induction still didn’t cross my mind at this point even though I was 42+3 days pregnant. During my final acupuncture treatment I started having some more contractions. He left and Neil and I spent the day just hanging out listening to music and playing cribbage as labour slowly started. By 11pm that night things were getting pretty intense and we called our midwife/doula to come over. She took about an hour to arrive and Neil was starting to get nervous because the contractions were getting closer together and a lot more intense. I kept reassuring him that I was fine and everything was normal.

I paced around the kitchen and living room into the wee hours of the night moaning through the intense sensations. Our 4 dogs all slept in their beds through the noise and energy changes, which surprised me. Neil was slightly in shock and didn’t realize I’d be in such pain. He tried to rest as much as he could because I didn’t want to be touched, talked to or even acknowledged during my contractions/rushes. I sipped ice water and joked and had a lot of energy between my rushes. I also peed and had a few bowel movements during the night of labour. I had so much adrenaline and excitement I didn’t sleep all night. During contractions it was all business and I was totally gone within. Looking back I wish I would of rested and ate between contractions instead of talking and walking and wish I would of got Neil and my midwife to coach me in breathing through the contractions instead of refusing their support. I wasted a lot of energy that night that I needed for the next day of labour and pushing.

At 1:00am I started to not feel well and became more tired out. I had already been up for 24 hours at this point and only had a few rests during early labour. At 2am I puked in the kitchen sink and it made me feel a lot better. After that I got into the birthing pool in our bedroom. I laboured in there for 3+ hours while Neil and the midwife hung out and rested in the bedroom. She’d check the babies heart beat periodically and gave me homeopathies. The time in the birthing pool was the most insane and intense spiritual journey/meditation I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt so connected to the baby and was basically having full conversations with the spirit inside me while I moved through the rushes. Between contractions I’d meditate and go off on wild crazy trips.

birth pool, birth tub, labor, labour
In the birthing pool at 3am on Sunday April 10th

I felt like I needed to start pushing at around 4:00am. I started to feel afraid and not ready for the next phase of labour. My midwife was tired (she was 10 weeks pregnant at the time) so decided to call her mentor to come support us for the birth. We had discussed this before I went into labour and all agreed that it would be okay but in the heat of the moment I was in such an altered state that I didn’t comprehend what she was doing and became fearful that something was wrong and she needed backup. My body completely closed up at this time and about an hour after her mentor came (who I hadn’t yet met – she was in the living room meditating and trying to hold space for me) my labour completely slowed.

I got out of the pool at 5:00am as the sun came up and was feeling completely defeated and disappointed that the baby hadn’t arrived yet. We were all exhausted at this point. Neil and I got into bed and had a nap from 5am-8am. I didn’t have contractions during this time and slept very deeply for three hours straight. At 8am I was awoken with the most intense contraction yet. It lasted what felt like forever and I cried and moaned the whole time releasing frustration over the fact that I was still pregnant. At this point I had completely lost track of time and didn’t even feel like I was apart of society. I was in a whole other world.

The midwife came into the room and gave us a pep talk. She instructed us to work as a team and told us that it was our job to get this baby here and that we needed to work together as a couple to make that happen. She said we needed to pull ourselves together and get this baby here or else we’d need to consider alternative measures like going to the hospital. This little talk snapped us back to the reality that things needed to happen and that we needed to get our shit together and take on our first challenge as parents. Neil decided to take the three female dogs to boarding which was just a five minute drive from our house and leave Laddie the male dog (who has separation anxiety) home with me.

I was utterly exhausted by this time. I barely slept the night before and wasted all my energy labouring and was basically back at square one. I was so mad at myself and I started doubting my choices. I started to have fears that something was wrong with the baby or that I couldn’t give birth naturally.

My contractions intensified from there. I hated laying down through the contractions and had the strongest desire to be walking but I didn’t have a choice at this point because I was so tired and physically couldn’t even move off the bed without assistance. Neil laid beside me and calmed me by repeating “stay calm, just breathe, breathe, breathe, it’s okay” over and over through my contractions. His voice and energy made everything so much more manageable that day.

At 10am I started violently puking between my contractions. Neil would try to feed me sips of water or juice and I was so weak I couldn’t even lift my head to drink. I was so frustrated because I’d work so hard to get just a few millilitres of liquid and was trying to stay hydrated and healthy but I’d puke it up right away and I just didn’t have the energy to be puking so much.

I was getting weaker and more delirious by the minute. I really needed an IV at this point but because my midwife isn’t a nurse she didn’t have the ability to administer one. They knew that I just needed electrolytes and kept trying to give me miso broth, coconut water and labouraid but I refused and was being so stubborn. I hated the thought of puking those beverages up. Just thinking about it made me puke.

They were all getting concerned for me and started to tell me that I NEEDED to keep something down or we’d have to go to the hospital for IV. I remember laying there dreaming that an ambulance was going to come pick me up and take me to the hospital. That was all I wanted at this point, was for everything to be over. I didn’t know how I could go on. I told them I couldn’t do it anymore and that I couldn’t have this baby, it was too hard…

My midwife was checking the babies heart beat with her doppler and having me pee on a stick to check for ketosis every hour. I had more and more ketones in my urine as the hours passed and was starting to get into dangerous territory.

At 2:00pm I asked if they could help get me into the tub. I laboured in our bathtub while the midwives and Neil sat outside on the deck making an action plan for if/when I needed to be transported to the hospital that was 40 minutes away. I laid in the dark bathroom with one small tea light flickering in the corner, breathing and moaning through my contractions and passing out between them. I didn’t even feel like I was in my house or my body. My dog sat stoically beside the tub protecting me and giving me all the energy he had. I felt like he was keeping me going and I could actually see energy coming from his body into mine… I’m guessing this was the ketosis talking and it wasn’t actually happening (maybe it was though- we’ll never know ;)!!).

Read Part Two of the birth of Violet Marie here!

Submitted by Whitney Paige

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.

The Blood, Sweat, and Tears Needed for Birth Without Fear: Mr. BWF’s Take

The Blood, Sweat, and Tears Needed for Birth Without Fear: Mr. BWF’s Take

nurooBirth Without Fear has become more than just a mere Facebook page, and much more than a simple blog. It has become a juggernaut of pregnancy/birthing/postpartum support for all women that has never before existed, an actual movement of women believing that giving birth, no matter the methods or the outcome, is indeed a blessing and not a scary condition to always be monitored in the antiseptic setting of a hospital.

But behind this movement of support for women from all walks of life comes work and more challenges than anyone reading the Facebook page or the blog could ever humanly imagine.

The Growth of Birth Without Fear

Birth Without Fear was originally just a Facebook page, a simple little side project that January thought would help some other women. That turned into a thousand women. Two thousand women. Multiple thousands of women. Updates and inspirational quotes and uplifting support for women giving birth via cesareans in a hospital setting, at home in a birthing tub, in a birthing center, or whatever other method of childbirth women choose to experience. Your choices don’t determine whether Birth Without Fear will support you or not. Your choices are your choices and Birth Without Fear will support them all equally. And therein was the source of the Facebook page’s phenomenal growth.

Then came the numerous hours of HTML coding joy to construct a website sufficient for the needs of women reading from all over the world, which is still, and always will be, an ongoing process. Should that word be bolded or not? What font to use for the navigation bar? What should the header image look like? What color do we want the hyperlinks to be? How wide should the content margins be? Most recently, with so much traffic crashing the site, do we upgrade to a dedicated server or a virtual private server? A lot of seemingly miniscule decisions that, as a whole, can make or break the aesthetics of a website that trumpets the vital and important message of a woman’s right to choose a fearless and supportive birth experience.

Articles were next. Having been through the gamut of birthing experiences, January had no shortage of material to work with and write about. From birthing providers, to birthing experiences, to the actual labor process itself, postpartum (the good and the bad), breastfeeding… The list could go on and on. And it continues to go on and on. Every day. Multiple times a day.

Birth stories started coming in after that. And coming in. And pouring in. And flooding in. Hundreds and hundreds of birth stories that have been put up on the this site, with, no joke, three years’ worth of birth stories waiting to be sifted through in email. And with birth stories comes editing (because, no offense, not everyone is an English major, and January and I are spelling and grammar sticklers), and formatting, and adding photos. A time consuming process. I know. I’ve done all this personally.

Within the last year, website and Facebook admins have been brought on to assist Birth Without Fear in its unbelievable growth and presence, these admins giving up so much of their own time to help other women receive the support they long and crave and need. Sponsors have come on board to show their support for Birth Without Fear. January has been sought out to speak regularly at events around the country. And we put on the first ever Birth Without Fear Conference in October 2013 in Arlington, TX. That, in and of itself, is no small feat, let me assure you.

In short, the growth has been astronomical and nothing either of us imagined back in 2010 when a little ol’ Facebook page called Birth Without Fear launched.

Behind the Scenes of Birth Without Fear

In Birth Without Fear’s early days, back when it was just a Facebook page, I didn’t give it much thought. That wasn’t for very long because January’s message of support was getting out to a lot of women in a very short amount of time.

After about six months, January decided to start up the website to support the Facebook page. We had just recently moved back up to Dallas from Austin with very little money after my associateship went sour, so it was a very challenging time for our family. I was very stressed about having to suddenly hit the reset button on my chiropractic career, and spending my free time staring at HTML code was a distraction from all that. January began posting up articles, and they were more than well-received. It seemed like a lot of women were starved for some kind of support or validation from their past experiences. January was pregnant with #5, a.k.a. Mini, at the time, so she was in the pregnancy/birthing zone.

And then the hate came on. We were totally caught off guard. Women scarred from traumatic birth experiences wrought by irresponsible or careless providers saw Birth Without Fear as only about having a natural childbirth at home, and they attacked like a feeding frenzy of sharks. Three weeks out from giving birth to our fifth child, one individual made some particularly heartless comment on the blog that you just don’t say to a pregnant woman preparing to give birth to her own child. There were many others that attacked, on Facebook and the blog, and it was relentless. I was concerned watching January go through this as we were about to attempt a second unassisted homebirth. I was really angry about all of it. In fact, I hated Birth Without Fear and all the trouble it was bringing into my wife’s life and that it might ultimately affect our birthing experience in a very negative way. I was really scared for January and for Mini. Ultimately, our second boy was born unassisted at home like we planned and the BWF hate subsided over time. But the postpartum depression was just beginning.

I had a graveyard shift valet parking job at the time to supplement my income while I got my practice off the ground. Six days after Mini was born, I was back at work parking cars for drug dealers, hookers, and drunks proud of their marital infidelity, basically the seedier side of society that crawls out of its hole between the hours of 12:30 and 5:30 in the morning. It made me sick some nights, knowing this was what I had to do to support my family while my wife was at home struggling with recovery from a particularly rough birthing experience.

Eventually I quit the valet job and got some color back in my face after a month’s return to a normal sleeping schedule. The practice was sputtering and going nowhere and we hit a financial rock bottom. Throughout that period, Birth Without Fear and all the women counting on it, and January, for support was all that kept her going. She still didn’t sleep well, still suffered from postpartum depression, and I was struggling to make a practice work as one of seven chiropractors on a single intersection in the North Dallas area. But Birth Without Fear was growing, women were getting support for the first time ever, and they wanted more of what January had to offer.

An opportunity to move to a small West Texas town and open up an instantly busy practice fell into our laps and we jumped on it. It was truly by the grace of God that this happened. It helped us get back on our feet and remove the stress that comes when you have no money and have to keep hitting ignore on the cell phone when the bill collectors call every 15 minutes.

While the practice was doing well, January still was not. Birth Without Fear was growing immensely and January was spending more and more time growing it, on Facebook and through the blog. Too much time by my estimation. I found myself really and truly resentful of Birth Without Fear and how much time she was putting into it without it uplifting her in any way. Yes, there were the positive emails, the ones that praised January for helping to change their lives and open their minds up to a new, positive way of viewing birth. But it seemed like a lot more time was spent dealing with haters, putting out fires, responding to comments on Facebook and the blog and I just didn’t understand why she needed to spend so much time doing all those things. I mean, c’mon, it’s just Facebook we’re talking about here. Right?

Having talked more about it since then and understanding the depths of her postpartum blues, I know now that Birth Without Fear was an outlet for her, that it distracted her from the difficulty of the depression she was suffering from. She was meeting so many great people through Birth Without Fear and even patching up differences with some former haters. It really was bringing goodness into her life, but it was hard for me to see this in a tangible way. All I seemed to focus on was how tired I was of hearing about the people who made nasty comments (and rightfully get banned from the Facebook page), the ridiculous copycats with nothing better to do in life than mimic and mock Birth Without Fear and pretend they’re original, and Facebook’s occasional banning of January for obviously hypocritical reasons. But I slowly started to realize that Birth Without Fear was doing some good things and that, after two years, some people began wanting to be in on it for business reasons. For me, this validated a lot of January’s selfless hard work for so long.

But not all of it. Being a little dense like I am, I just felt that Birth Without Fear was this little side hobby that was bringing in more negativity from haters than I cared to know about. I didn’t care for it, didn’t want to know about it, and couldn’t understand why January was on the computer SO MUCH dealing with it!

We finally sat down and had a talk about Birth Without Fear. I told January that she either needs to give it up or take it to the next level to justify all the time she spent working on it. I felt like it was just there, existing as a good resource for women, but not necessarily doing what it potentially could.

She chose to take it to the next level. She began speaking at events. I had the opportunity to watch her speak to a packed house in Phoenix and Austin. We also decided to go ahead with our own Birth Without Fear Conference.

For those of you who have never planned a conference, I can’t even begin to explain how much planning and work is involved in it. There have been more than a few sleepless nights spent on organizing, planning, and working on the conference website to make it all look the way we want. And still, we are learning as we go. Every single day. Writing up contracts, tweaking the website on an hourly basis, returning emails… And that was just yesterday afternoon in between seeing patients!

January just returned from Philadelphia, and I wasn’t able to make the trip out with her because we don’t live by family or anyone else that can watch our five kids for two to three days at a time. So I stayed home with the fearsome five and ordered a lot of pizza (because it was easy and I didn’t have to cook it), took them to McDonald’s once (which shocked January because I absolutely detest McDonald’s… but they had Smurfs toys!), and played a lot of Mario Kart Wii with the kiddos (man, I hate that blue shell when it knocks you out of first place!). All while January, once again, knocked it out of the ballpark at MommyCon.

And this is what we’ll be doing for the other MommyCon events over the next two months, all so Birth Without Fear’s presence can continue to inspire and validate what women want to hear. But I’m not going to lie, it sucks for me. I’ve been there for her through the thick and thin and I feel like I should be there to support her. But we also have kids that need us and they are a priority. January stayed home while I was away in chiropractic school and student clinic and studying for National Board exams and occasional weekend seminars. I guess it’s my turn now, right?

b and j

My reason in writing all this is to show all of you that Birth Without Fear is not some easy magical thing full of rainbows and unicorns (as January loves to say) that just happens when we click our heels together. There has been literal blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into building Birth Without Fear into the movement it is today. It has been a challenge much of the time, for January and for me. And as it continues to grow, the challenges will continue to evolve and we will continue to adapt and grow because of them.

Birth Without Fear now fills a void that no one realized ever existed, and when I stop and think about it, I can’t help but marvel at what January has done. It has become a movement of support for women, to inform them of their choices and empower them to speak up for what they believe in. It takes a lot of work and isn’t some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of thing. But nothing worth doing in this life is easy, especially supporting women in their birthing choices in a society, a nation, a world where birth is seen as a problematic condition and not the epitome of godliness that only women can achieve in this mortal existence of ours.

The Conscious Birth of Madison Rose – Intervention-Free Home Water Birth

The Conscious Birth of Madison Rose – Intervention-Free Home Water Birth

My husband Rich wrote up Madison’s birth story within a week or two of her being born. Reading it 5 months later brought tears to my eyes. I’m so grateful that he took the time to write this up because all the details I thought were lost are captured in his story. It’s incredible how in tune he was with me, the birth process and what I was experiencing, it’s almost as if I could have written it myself. Since my version of Madison’s birth is nowhere near being written up and I love Rich’s experience so much I’m going to share it first… We prepared for our birth with Hypnobabies:

Vairdy Photography took the gorgeous photos in this blog post (except for the last 5 which were taken by our doula Chloe). Please do NOT copy or use without our permission!

Prior to birth beginning, I jokingly (well, half jokingly, anyway) predicted that our baby would be born on June 4th… the full moon. As exciting as it was, it wasn’t a complete surprise when I woke up on the morning of the 4th to see my wife standing by the bed with a big grin. “I think I feel early pressure waves” she told me. Up until this point, she had experienced regular “Braxton-Hicks” or pre-birth pressure waves, but now she was describing a sensation that was more ‘crampy’. As the day progressed, the pressure sensations began coming a bit more regularly. However, the excitement of knowing baby was on her way was slightly subdued when we finally reached out to our traditional birth attendant and birth doula. As it turned out, they were currently both attending other births. This would mean that we would need to rely on our backup attendant and doula. As amazing as our backups were, we really wanted our primary team at the birth. Not surprisingly, when we were given this information, the pressure waves slowed down almost to a stop.

Love this photo of us 9hrs into my birthing time!

We took some time to record a few video journals for baby. We just wanted to create a record of what was happening and how we were feeling.

The waves increased again slightly later in the evening. We thought it might be a good idea to take a stroll along the Seawall to help the pressure waves, and to connect with the beauty of nature right outside our West End apartment. We bumped into a couple of friends near the beach and then made our way home while the cramping gradually seemed to get stronger. I was amped with excitement that night as I laid down for bed, but managed to drift off. I guess baby Madison wasn’t planning to join us until after the full moon.

The morning of June 5th began similar to that of June 4th. My wife was already awake long before me (an unusual occurrence on any other day). The difference on this day was that my wife indicated the cramping was now very definite pressure waves. Although she had been feeling them since about 4:30am, we didn’t really start timing until I awoke around 7:30am. We were excited to note that the waves seemed to be consistently coming every 5-6 minutes and lasted about 0:45-1:00 min. We knew things were progressing at this point, but we were not quite ready to summon the birth team for assistance. The one thought I did have was that I wanted our birth pool set-up as soon as possible so my wife could get in it as often as she wanted.

Chiropractic adjustment by Dr. Jassal

Around mid day on the 5th, I reached out to our birth attendant to see if there was a way to get the birth pool delivered so I could set it up. Incredibly, she indicated that she would be available to come drop it off. She was pretty tired having just finished with a 2-3 day birth, but she took the time to come over and inflate the pool before heading back home to get some much needed rest.

We finally made the call to have our birth team come over. Our photographer, Vairdy Andrew, and our back-up doula, Yvette DuMouchel (yes, our primary Doula, Chloe Dierkes, was still at another birth), were first to arrive shortly followed by our birth attendant.

At this point of the birth Crystal mentioned that she would like to get a chiropractic adjustment to help things continue smoothly. Not wanting to leave the house, we called our amazing chiropractor,Dr. Avtar Jassal, who happily made a house call for us and adjusted Crystal.

Keeping my mouth open and jaw relaxed through a pressure wave

In a funny twist of fate, my dad happened to be arriving in Vancouver today for a few days on business. Since I only see my dad once a year or less, we had planned to get together while he was here. I had to call him and tell a little white lie so he was not aware that the birth was near. He assumed I was busy with clients on Wednesday and Thursday, but I planned to meet him on Friday in Stanley Park for a barbeque. That should buy us enough time to give birth.

As the evening of the 5th continued along, I had not begun using any Hypnobabies tools since the pressure waves all seemed to be fairly manageable. My wife was likely using some of her own tools internally (I was! I LOVED the peace cue!), but I had not yet started reading any scripts or using any prompts. Around 5:00pm, Crystal decided it was time to try out the pool. The warm water seemed to be soothing and the pressure waves continued to be easy. Knowing that our birth attendant had been home to rest all day must have put Crystal’s mind at ease, and we noticed the pressure waves increase in frequency.

Rich reading me a Hypnobabies hypnosis script!

Crystal spent the early part of the evening in and out of the pool. We put on a pre-defined playlist of spiritual music to play in the background to help hold the energetic space. I noted that Crystal was now experiencing birth waves roughly every 3-4 min, and I was now engaged in reading scripts and affirmations to Crystal. The ‘Relax’ and ‘Peace’ cues were the most effective. Once in a while I would remind Crystal to look up at the wall where we had taken our clock down and replaced the empty space with stickers which read “Love, Trust & Surrender”. It was obvious that by 7:00pm (14 hours into her birthing time) Crystal was becoming quite tired. She had an emotional moment in which she shed tears of discouragement. The fatigue was really starting to wear on her. Fortunately her strength persevered and the tears passed quickly. (Tears help to soften the cervix!) I took Crystal into our bedroom privately to talk with her and provide her with reassurance that she could do this.

Love, Trust, Surrender (My lessons for this birth experience!)

Since it felt like the birth process was still taking a bit longer than anticipated, we called Dr. Jassal back for another home visit around 7:45pm. By 9:00 Crystal was back in the tub, smiling and laughing between pressure waves. I decided that it was probably now time for me to step into the pool so I could be more comforting and supportive for Crystal. We spent the bulk of the evening in the pool with the exception of Crystal having to get up to pee on occasion. Going to the bathroom was not a comfortable position for her. I’m not sure if the sitting position placed a lot of pressure on her back, but it was quite uncomfortable. I would come into the bathroom with Crystal each time and sit on an exercise ball in front of the toilet so crystal could lean forward on me.(While siting on the toilet is a GREAT position when birthing, I really disliked the intensity of it! This seems to be different for everyone, some women love it!)

Rich saw 6/6 (June 6) on the back of my neck!

I was convinced that Baby had not arrived on June 4th because she did not want me to win the Birthday Guessing Game that we played with some friends. I also figured that she did not arrive on June 5th because she did not want Grandma Wendy to win the bet, either. As June 6th arrived, I remember thinking that “This MUST be the day!” Interestingly, I realized that today was 06/06/12. Exactly when the clock read 12:12am on the morning of June 6th, I was sitting behind Crystal rubbing her back. I looked at her neck and saw 2 locks of hair curling up to form 2 perfect 6’s. Amazing! 6/6/12. If this wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what would be. (I even snapped a photo of the hair!)

Time was beginning to blur together as exhaustion was taking its toll on everyone. It was 2:00am on the 6th (22 hours into our birthing time) when Crystal had another emotional moment. (What can I say, I’m an emotional gal!) I continued providing cues, but had wandered from the scripts and was now improvising with more specific lines and words from Hypnobabies that I found to be the most effective for Crystal.

Crystal’s waves continued through the night and we listened to baby’s heart rate so we knew that baby and mom were doing just fine. Dr. Jassal made another appearance around 7:00am on his way into the office so he could give Crystal another adjustment.

I managed to find a moment to eat a quick sandwich (my first significant food in who knows how long), but poor Crystal was not able to keep anything down. Even the smallest snack like an apple would come right back up. Our saving grace was the raw coconut water that I had been stock-piling for weeks before. Crystal was able to stay well hydrated thanks to our birth team. (I LOVED the raw coconut water, it was so nourishing and energizing.)

I love how deeply connected Rich was with us the whole time

I couldn’t help but step back from the situation and watch in amazement knowing that my wife had been awake and actively birthing for days. Prior to this, I don’t think I’d ever seen her stay awake longer than 18 hours. So to be still awake, alert and physically active, I was so proud. (Endurance isn’t one of my strengths so my birthing body and mind amazed me!)

We tried pacing around the apartment in circles to try and keep things moving, but there was still no sign that the ‘pushing’ stage was near. I apparently fell asleep on the couch around 8:00am, but I couldn’t have been out for very long because by 9:00am I was behind Crystal as she sat on a birth ball leaned up against our table.

By noon, we had called Dr. Jassal to return for yet another adjustment, which he happily obliged. It was also around this time that Crystal took some homeopathy to help move things along.

Back in the pool, we were trying to figure out why Baby just wasn’t coming. All the signs suggested she was on her way, but there was something holding her back. Crystal and I had some alone time as the birth team was out getting some food. I made a quick phone call to our Naturopathic Doctor, Keith Condliffe, to see if he could tune in to see what might be delaying the process. He mentioned that he sensed there was some sort of fear at work. It was his words that got me thinking in a different direction. I took this opportunity to energetically check in with Madison to ask her what was preventing her from joining us. Like a flash of lightening, it came to me. It was almost like my unborn baby spoke into my ear. “I’m afraid of the water, and you want to birth me in a pool”. I looked at Crystal with bewildered eyes and shared with her what I had just learned. The amazing thing about this was that Madison’s fear was not actually her fear at all. In fact, it was an emotional miasm which Crystal was holding onto. As I cleared this miasm with mom and baby, Crystal indicated that she instantly felt Madison begin moving down the birth canal. (All I can say is WOW, this was a very special moment that I remember so vividly! I was amazed at Rich’s ability to tune in and help us clear this energetic block – he was sleep deprived too!)

We shared so many special moments together

Although pressure waves were back to back, and baby felt as though she was moving down the birth canal, there was still something preventing Madison from being born. Crystal decided to check her cervix. At this point, we thought Crystal was fully dilated and just waiting to begin pushing based on all her other signs. However, Crystal estimated she was only 3 cm dilated. Like a slap to the face, Crystal’s entire demeanor changed instantly. The exhausted expression painted on her face transformed to surprise and disbelief. Her body seemed to relax more than it had in the last 2 days. Her voice shifted from making toning noises through her pressure waves to silence. Her reaction was likely that of shock, mixed with a bit of terror. However, my mind was immediately put to ease. This just explained everything perfectly. Until now, we were focused on bringing baby down the birth canal, but we were trying to get a baby trough a cervix that wasn’t open. Although everyone was utterly exhausted, this offered me boundless hope. Now that we knew where we were, we could shift our energy to getting Crystal’s cervix to dilate.

At 6:30pm our attendant decided to send our photographer and doula home. They had been with us for far too long, and it appeared as though the birth was still a ways off.

Even though we had been up and birthing for over 36 hours, this evening was peaceful. The Hypnobabies tools were working like a charm and the pressure waves felt easy. Although they were still close together, Crystal even managed to curl up on the couch and rest for nearly 20 minutes, through pressure waves, while I wedged myself between the pool and the couch so I could be nearby. Around 10:30pm we were back in the pool.

Chiropractic adjustment to ensure my nervous system was functioning optimally!

It was nearly midnight when Crystal first started feeling ‘pushy’. Our attendant decided she would call our photographer and doula back to come for the birth. Unfortunately, the grunting didn’t seem to get us too far. By 6:30am on June 7, Crystal could feel the baby pressing on her pelvic bones and sacrum, but there was no rectal pressure yet. Dr. Jassal made another appearance just after 7:00am.

Around 9:00am we called Chloe to come relieve Yvette since exhaustion was taking over. For the first time since our birthing time started, we had our primary birth team assembled! Was this what baby was waiting for? Apparently not. Crystal continued birthing throughout another day.

Our attendant decided to head home to get some rest. We also decided it was time to send Vairdy and Yvette home once again. We took this time to focus on peaceful birthing with the help of Chloe. We spent a lot of time in and out of the pool, as well as some time walking circles around the kitchen. Crystal would get a bit dizzy walking in circles, so we would switch directions every so often. It was time to pull out all the tricks, so I started making some phone calls to other health professionals. Our good friend and energetic chiropractor, Dr. Sukhi Muker, was available to come over and see if he could find anything preventing the birth from progressing. He and Dr. Jassal both showed up around noon to offer their help.

I also called our acupuncturist, Dr. Sonia Tan, to see if she knew of any pressure points that could help. She offered to come over at the end of the day, but provided me with several points that I could try stimulating to help with the birth. At one point, Chloe was sitting under the kitchen table pressing on Crystal’s calves (kidney-6 point, I believe), Dr. Sukhi was working on Crystals sacrum, and I was reading scripts.

What we thought was another sign… look at the shape of this cloud!

As a final effort, Crystal also texted a couple energetic friends (Annette and Baljit) and asked them to offer some distance energy support, which they happily did.

Evening wore on and the pressure waves seemed to intensify. Crystal was really starting to feel a lot of pressure and discomfort in her back. She’d been feeling it before, but it really seemed to be affecting her a great deal now. I knew at this point that my exhaustion could become a factor in decision making with respect to the birth plan we currently had in place. As much planning and preparation goes into this event, fear and fatigue can always influence your decision if a care provider were to make suggestions that you would normally not agree to. Knowing that I was nearing this point, I stepped away from Crystal for a moment and spoke to my birth team. “Under NO circumstance will we transfer to the hospital for this birth unless our birth attendant says it’s absolutely necessary.” The team was already aware of this, but I wanted to remind them that even if I hit my limit, our original wishes were to be honoured. Shortly after this conversation, Chloe contacted another doula, Marie Lewis, who had access to a ‘TENS machine’ which is an electric device designed to block or dull the signal from the back to the brain. We had Crystal’s mom drive to East Vancouver to pick up the machine for us.

It was nearly 11:00pm when my body felt like it was shutting down. This night turned out to be one of the hardest of my adult life. My heart was aching as I broke down in tears. It was obvious that baby wasn’t coming just yet and I couldn’t help my wife birth our baby, so I had no choice but to succumb to the fatigue. With a lot of persuasion by my birth team, I finally laid down in bed for a rest and was out in an instant.

I awoke to our birth attendant’s voice, who had returned around 10:00pm. It was now 1:30am on June 8th and Crystal was in her pushing phase. Although our birth attendant had told me not to rush, I was out of bed and into the pool in a flash. I had missed the waters finally breaking, but at this point I could care less. We had been listening to a lot of different spiritual music and Hypnobabies tracks over the last few days, but now I wanted to try something a bit different. I asked Chloe to turn on my stereo with some Tibetan Singing bowls. Specifically, I have a track of singing bowls that resonate at the same frequency as the Root Chakra, or the colour Red. I wanted to offer this sensation to Crystal to help with her root chakra since this seemed to be the area with the most discomfort.

As the sun began to rise, another sense of discouragement came over us. “Where are you?” Crystal was asking our baby. By 6:00am Crystal was convinced she could feel the head moving down, but not quite out yet. We all figured the time was near because Crystal was really pushing but I couldn’t see anything. A quick self exam eased Crystal’s mind a bit because she believed she could feel the top of baby’s head just inside. At this point I conceded to the fact that I was going to miss the barbeque with my dad, but that was currently the least of my thoughts.

Yvette returned around 8:00am hoping to finally be present for the birth.

As much as we had planned for a water birth, the realization was now setting in that it may not happen. We needed to try something different. Our birth attendant suggested that Crystal get out of the tub and try pushing on a birth stool. Crystal disliked her earlier experiences with the birth stool and chose to push on the toilet instead. (This time it was the perfect position for me and more comfortable then before!)

At 9:30am, for the first time I had some visual feedback that baby Madison was on the way. Our birth attendant and doula were in the bathroom with us, but from my perspective Crystal and I were alone. The pushing continued for maybe 15 minutes and the top of a head was visibly present. We finally got a happy nod from our birth attendant who said we could hop back in the pool if we wanted to and finish pushing baby out.

Pushing Madison out, Rich getting ready to catch!

It felt like we were in the pool for only seconds before Crystal gave one more big push and Madison’s head came out completely and into my waiting hands. I was kneeling behind Crystal cradling my child’s hairy little head in my fingers as Crystal give one final push to welcome our baby into the world. She slid forward and away from my hands into Crystals waiting arms where she was promptly scooped up. Just before we raised her out of the water, our birth attendant reached into the water to quickly unravel the cord from around her neck.

Pure Bliss!

And with that, Crystal and I flopped backwards into the water with Madison quietly onto our chests. Her tiny dark eyes flickered with life as she tried to focus on our smiling (and crying) faces. Madison’s body began loosely wiggling as she was obviously looking for a breast to feed on. Her innocent beauty was nearly indescribable. Pure perfection. After a few moments of tears of joy, I finally lifted her up to find out if we did in fact have a little girl or boy. Our suspicions were confirmed and we spent several more minutes embracing for the first time as a family.

It’s a GIRL! (we knew it!)

The rush of adrenaline I was experiencing made this moment in time feel a bit chaotic. But I can look back now and realize true serenity and peace was really present. Madison had arrived lovingly into an environment almost exactly as we had wanted. There were no bright lights and no screaming nurses or family members. Only stillness with the exception of our boundless joy. Amidst the complete awe I was in, I really don’t recall much about the birth of the placenta other than it coming around 11:00am easily. I know Crystal was excited to watch the cord as the pulse slowed and eventually stopped. It wasn’t until 1:30pm, after we had got out of the tub and into bed that the cord was actually cut. Nontraditional, I asked Crystal to cut the cord since it was very symbolic of the connection she shared with Madison for the last 39 weeks.

Madison, snuggling skin-to-skin with Daddy!

Minutes after the cord was cut, I held Madison to my bare chest and we both drifted off to sleep for a few hours.

It was after 4:00pm when we woke up and found our birth attendant still in the kitchen cleaning and cooking us a much needed meal. She came into the room and measured Madison’s weight and length. 7 pounds 15 ounces, and 20 inches long. All other vitals were perfect, as well.

Crystal and I knew from early conception that this child was a very energetic being who chose to be our daughter and would be providing us with many lessons through life. She was in no rush during the birthing process, and we respected her timeline allowing her to be born on her chosen BIRTHday. We know this was simply the first of many lessons to come.


Welcome to the world Madison Rose Ralph! (10:12am June 8, 2012)

Original post can be fount at

How the Webster Technique Can Help You Birth Without Fear

How the Webster Technique Can Help You Birth Without Fear

For many women, pregnancy can be a very uncomfortable experience. First, there are the initial hormonal changes and morning sickness; the feeling of being on an emotional roller-coaster for no good reason whatsoever and the unusual food cravings at all hours of the day (such as early, early morning Jack-in-the-Box taco runs for those husbands keeping track).

Next come the physical changes. As the baby develops and grows inside the womb, so does the momma’s belly. This expansion of the belly is an unavoidable change, part of the territory that comes with growing a baby. But oftentimes, this territory is accompanied by an alteration in spinal and pelvic alignment. This structural alteration, or misalignment, is often very uncomfortable and even painful as the pregnancy progresses.

One of the hormones that runs wild through a pregnant momma’s body is relaxin. Relaxin helps ligaments loosen up, especially those in the pelvic area, to accomodate the expansion of the growing baby and uterus. However, relaxin can be a double-edged sword. While it helps those bones shift in order to make way for the baby, the ligament laxity can make those pelvic bones very unstable in their position, allowing them to misalign in a very painful way. Couple this with the fact that a pregnant woman’s lumbar spinal curvature can increase as the size and weight of the belly increase (a temporary, forced hyperlordosis so as to speak), and you have the recipe for a very painful, very unhappy pregnancy. Letting go of fears surrounding labor are hard to do when you are pregnant, in pain, and unhappy about it.

This is where Chiropractic comes into play.

In Chiropractic, the two most important parts of the spine to pay attention to, more than any other areas, are the very top and very bottom of the spine. At the top is the atlas, or C1 vertebra. Proper position of this vertebra is important because of its close proximity to the brain stem, as well as its ability to create a domino effect of spinal misalignment from the top all the way down to the bottom where the pelvis and sacrum are. Proper alignment of the atlas is paramount for a healthy, properly aligned spine.

At the bottom of the spine is the pelvis and sacrum. The pelvis consists of six bones, three on each side: the ilium on the front, back, and side, the pubis in the lower front, and the ischium on the bottom.

ilium, ischium, pubis

Along with the sacrum and the elaborate network of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves attached and intertwined within this area, one can start to imagine the complications that can arise for a pregnant woman with an improperly aligned pelvis, one of those being a baby in a breech position late in the pregnancy.

(As a side note, having a baby in a breech position does not necessarily mean you are doomed to have an inevitable c-section, but a baby with its head down will make life a lot easier for the momma and the baby during labor.)

Because of the elaborate setup of the pelvis and sacrum, they move as one most of the time. When one ilium has rocked back into a posterior misalignment, the opposite side is, by default, rocked forward. This can cause the sacrum to tilt posterior one way or the other, often causing pain and/or tightness in the opposite leg. Because of all this tilting and torquing of the pelvic bones, the birth canal will narrow, possibly complicating the baby’s ability to birth naturally.

Any combination of misalignments of these bones will contribute to troublesome, or even severe, lower back pain for a pregnant woman, and set the stage for a painful, long labor full of interventions that may result in an eventual c-section, a major surgery few women look forward to unless absolutely necessary.

Proper chiropractic care, in and of itself, is very beneficial for the pregnant mother. A properly aligned pelvis and sacrum will do wonders in avoiding any of the unfavorable scenarios previously mentioned. Properly aligned pelvic bones help the pelvic muscles stay loose, allowing the network of nerves within the pelvic area to transmit important messages from the nervous system to their intended destinations without interference.

round ligament painThe Webster In-Utero Constraint Technique, or simply the Webster Technique, takes it one step further. Dr. Larry Webster developed a chiropractic technique that balances the pelvis properly, while also reducing the stress to the ligaments that support the uterus, more specifically the round ligaments. Dr. Webster developed this technique after watching his own daughter suffer through a long, painful labor with a baby in the breech position.

The round ligaments act to hold the uterus in suspension within the abdomen. However, as the pregnancy goes on, these round ligaments can become thin and tight like a rubber band pulled to tension, causing sharp, spastic pains and restricting the space in which the baby has to maneuver within the womb. Restriction of this movement often causes a baby to stay in a breech position beyond 37 weeks. This can be a very disconcerting feeling to many women, as we know from firsthand experience. Once the pelvis and sacrum are properly aligned, the Webster Technique focuses on relieving the tightness in the round ligaments. This allows the baby to shift comfortably and freely within the womb so that he or she may get into proper position for his or her big journey to the outside world.

For more information on the Webster Technique, click here. If you are pregnant, the time to get under chiropractic care is yesterday. Chiropractic, including the Webster Technique, will stack the cards in favor of you and your growing baby.

And with all the fears the mainstream media, hospitals, AMA, and insurance companies have instilled in our society about childbirth, you need a stacked deck to stare down those fears with full faith and confidence in yourself, your body, and your baby.

Normalizing Birth One Baby At a Time: An Unassisted Birth Story

Normalizing Birth One Baby At a Time: An Unassisted Birth Story

Jackson Timothy Lee
Born October 11th at 11:30pm.
7lbs, 20 inches

Our second unassisted birth was nothing like our first, but was wonderful just the same. The first was my husband and I, candle-light, music, thunderstorm and then Jasmine; all beautiful and perfect.

Now, five years later (literally the same due date) I wanted to have big sister included, to show her that birth is magical and beautiful and natural. I wanted to get to her before Hollywood could so that what we do could be her “normal”. I invited my mom to be a part of the birth and Jasmine’s “keeper” so that my DH and I could just focus on us and labor.

I enjoyed pregnancy, had very few symptoms, soaked up books like Laura Shanley’s “Unassisted Childbirth”, Gaskin’s “Spiritual Midwifery” and “Guide to Natural Childbirth”. I also enjoyed every minute of Grantly Dick-Read’s “Childbirth Without Fear” although it took the good second ½ of my pregnancy to get through it.

Contractions began at 11pm on Monday the 10th of October, the day after my husband’s birthday and a week before my daughter’s 5th birthday. I was in bed and stayed there until 12:30am when I decided that I was no longer going to be able to lie down. It was sprinkling outside so we bundled up and headed out for a walk. I was so excited I wasn’t sure if I was shaking from the adrenaline or the chill. We labored through the night. My first labor was 11 hours long and I suspected this to be even quicker.

I was surprised how fast 6am came and my daughter woke up. She was very excited and my mom switched into Granny-mode and we continued to labor. By early afternoon I was started to get frustrated that it wasn’t going how I thought it would and my husband and I both had to address how our expectations not being met was not the same thing as labor not going well, although it was hard. I had been very confident that I would be able to be relaxed and fear-free enough to have a painless or near painless childbirth and found myself feeling more disappointment when I couldn’t.

Contractions got more painful as I became more and more exhausted. A contraction would begin and would have complete control over me and really hurt until I could get my ‘pitch’ right or my breath right and take that control back – and then it was powerful, but not painful. We were never concerned with how dilated I was, we never timed any contractions. We danced to music, I swayed while hanging onto my husband’s chin-up bar and we walked. Sometimes I would lay down and rest and it would feel great, until it didn’t and then we’d change it up. I was able to joke, even 20+ hours into labor about the constant search for the illustrious position or thing that will feel comfortable and provide rest and relief; knowing it doesn’t exist never stops one from searching.

My daughter was amazing. She would “pet” me and tell me how strong I was, she would mimic my noises and breathing then go back to working on her puzzle or game. If she ever looked concerned I would wink at her and she would melt and run off. She brought me water and later told me that I was the best laborer she ever knew. Around 9pm on the 11th, a full moon and still rain, I sent my husband to bed and said I’d wake him when I needed him. All my dreams about birth had involved me asking everyone to leave me alone so I could be by myself; so I sang to myself, swayed and met each contraction. I was quiet and kept my eves closed.

By 11pm I knew it was time. With the next contraction I roared so loud which felt great and was an effective way of letting everyone know they could wake up now and join me.

It worked.

I got into the birth tub just after 11pm. The water felt wonderful and within 10 minutes of pushing the head was crowning – as you know, it felt wonderful when the head came out. I leaned forward and my mom and husband said they could see the baby blinking and looking around and that there was no cord so I should push, but I yelled out “wake up Jasmine”! It was hard to wait, but she was up and with us in no time. She could see the baby and watched as he was born.

I was able to stand up and get out of the tub by myself. No tearing or much bleeding. We sat down and Jasmine cut the cord about 30 minutes later when the it stopped pulsating. We bundled the little man up, adjusted him and he fed right away. After about an hour we all climbed into bed. I didn’t deliver the placenta until 10 hours later, but it took 15 hours with my daughter. Another example of normal for one vs. common for most.

The next morning we took Jackson to Earth Fare and put him in the produce scale to weigh him. We had taken Jasmine to the automatic scale at the post office so this seemed appropriate. With diaper, onsie, blanket and hat he weighed 7lbs and was 20 inches long. The whole family is doing great and I’m so happy to share this story. ~Jess

weighing baby



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