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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #45: Healing Is Not Linear

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #45: Healing Is Not Linear

January and Brandon are discussing the ups and downs of healing mentally and emotionally from life’s (often) unforgiving shenanigans. They discuss shifting expectations instead of lowering them, setting and then enforcing boundaries, and speaking positively to one’s self. Healing takes time, and this episode reinforces that mantra through and through. So grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet place to relax (yes, you are allowed to take time each day to relax), and have a listen.

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The online platform will take you through certification requirements, tracking your participation progress for your own review of the curriculum and corresponding teaching guide, required scholarly reads and required videos.


Pre-order your copy of Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum today! If we want to see real change in our society where pregnancy and birth are concerned, let’s use our collective voice to change the narrative by getting a copy of this book into every birthing person’s hand! Pre-order a copy for yourself, or pre-order a few copies to hand out to friends and/or family!

Surviving a Tubal Pregnancy: A Story of Hope

Surviving a Tubal Pregnancy: A Story of Hope

Disclaimer: A tubal/ectopic pregnancy carries serious risks. This is one woman’s experience and is a rare outcome. Nothing shared here replaces medical advice or reflects any other woman’s experiences or needs or outcomes.

I wanted to be a mother from as far back as I can remember. But I suffered from an eating disorder and as such, I had irregular periods, sometimes going as long as nine months without one. I knew if I was not having periods I was not ovulating and could not get pregnant so my husband and I decided to start trying as soon as we got married in hopes of eventually conceiving. We had been trying to get pregnant for months and had basically given up and decided to wait.

Then one morning when I was laying in the bath, I looked down at my stomach and something inside me knew I was pregnant. I bought a test without telling my husband and while he was at work I took it. I sat there for what seemed like hours waiting for those faint pink lines to appear. As my heart was thumping I looked down and just about fell off the toilet as I saw two pink lines. I didn’t know if I should believe it, I was shocked surprised and excited all at the same time. In a daze with tears in my eyes I got in my car and rushed to my husband’s work.

On the way I called and told him I had something to show him and told him to meet me outside. I arrived and he jumped into my car thinking I was just there for a normal visit but to his shock I pulled out the test and showed it to him. He stared at it for about five minutes and finally stuttered out, “So does that mean we’re pregnant?” Teary eyed we hugged with the excitement of knowing our lives were about to change forever.

I went home and took four more tests all confirming our good news but I decided to see a doctor to confirm. We showed up at the doctor’s office expecting him to say yep, you’re pregnant, take care of yourself, but that was not at all what we heard. They of course took a pregnancy test and it came back positive but when it came time for the exam the doctor got very quiet. Knowing nothing could be wrong I asked him anyway and very quietly he answered, “Your uterus does not appear pregnant.”

I didn’t understand and thought it was some fluke so I didn’t really pay much attention but he sent me right down to have an ultrasound. I quietly lay on the table waiting to see an image of my baby – I was actually excited. The tech turned on the monitor and slowly began checking my uterus. She had the monitor on for at least 10 minutes and I patiently waited for her to say look there’s your baby, but nothing happened. She turned the monitor off and said, “I couldn’t find anything. It doesn’t appear you are pregnant.”

My heart sank; they sent me into the waiting room where I waited for half an hour until the radiographer came in. He told me that they could not find a fetus in my uterus but actually found a lump in my tube, and they thought my baby was growing in my tube. I went home still confused but sure they had made a mistake. The next day I went to a specialist. They did another ultrasound and still couldn’t see a fetus but the lump in my tube had grown.

Above, my empty uterus at almost five weeks pregnant. Below, the ultrasound report with names removed:

[…] Clinic, P.S. 400 East […]th Avenue Spokane, Washington 99220 PATIENT NAME: […] DIANA B DOB: 10/29/1984 EXAM DATE: 3/31/2008 15:57 REFERRING DOCTOR: MICHAEL […] M.D. PROCEDURE: PELVIC ULTRASOUND INDICATIONS: Pelvic pain. Positive pregnancy test. TECHNIQUE: Transabdominal scans were obtained followed by transvaginal scans for better visualization. FINDINGS: The uterus measures approximately 8.8 x 4.4 x 5.9 cm. The endometrium is moderately thickened and the endometrial cavity is empty and no gestational sac is identified. In the left adnexa, there is a complete cystic/solid mass measuring approximately 3.3 x 2.2 x 2.4 cm. It is minimally hypervascular around the margins. This is adjacent to a relatively normal appearing left ovary and this is suspicious for an ectopic pregnancy, although an unusual hemorrhagic cyst could have a similar appearance, although I think this is less likely. Correlation with HCG levels would be helpful. The right ovary is well visualized and appears normal. There is a small amount of free intraperitoneal fluid visualized in the cul-de-sac. CONCLUSION: Complex left adnexal mass adjacent to the left ovary. In a patient with a positive pregnancy test, this is suspicious for an ectopic pregnancy. The uterus is empty. Correlation with HCG levels would be helpful. There is only a small amount of free intraperitoneal fluid in the cul-de-sac. Dictated by: Thomas […] M.D. on 3/31/2008 at 16:41 Transcribed by: PRATT on 3/31/2008 at 15:50 Approved by: Thomas […], M.D. on 3/31/2008 at 16:54

The doctor then came in and very sharply said, “Diana, it appears that you have a tubal pregnancy with about three and a half centimeters of clot and bleeding in your tube and if we do not get it out immediately your tube could burst and it could kill you.” I looked at him with tears welling in my eyes and said, “Are you telling me I have to abort my baby?” As the words came out my whole body began shaking and tears were now streaming from my eyes.

He looked back at me and almost coldly said these words that still to this day ring in my ears, “Diana, you need to stop thinking of this as a baby, this is not a baby nor will it ever be one.” My heart broke and I began sobbing as the doctor continued to tell me he wanted to hook me up to an IV that would send a cancer drug into my body and as he put it allow the ‘egg’ to leave my body. He acted like it would be quick and painless, no big deal. I knew in my heart I couldn’t do it and told him I needed more time.

He thought I was crazy and became angry at me for putting my life in danger.  My husband drove me home and I curled up into a ball on the couch and sobbed for hours. This was my child, my amazing beautiful child I had waited for, and they were telling me I had to kill it. I was mad at myself, mad at God, mad at everyone. After a few hours I looked at my husband as he held me and said, “Honey, do you think the baby is in my tube?” and he sent chills down my spine as he responded, “Yes.”

Hysterically I kept running through my mind trying to figure out how to save my baby, thinking maybe if we leave him alone he could actually grow in my tube. I soon realized the only one who could save my baby was God. I asked my mom to drive us to the healing rooms and she quickly took us there. Once inside they took us to a room with three people waiting to pray over us. I was bawling as they all gathered around me and hands touching my stomach, began to pray. My body suddenly became warm and a sense of calmness spread through me. I could see my baby and I saw him in God’s hands.

At the same time my husband said he felt someone touching his shoulder and at that moment he knew everything was going to be okay. As I left they told me God had my baby and not to allow the doctors to do anything for a few days. I called the doctor and told them I needed until Friday to make a decision. They were not happy but complied. For the next three days I lived in a black hole. In my heart I think I knew God was going to save my baby but my body was terrified. I was afraid at any second my tube would burst, killing not only my baby but also myself. But most of all I was afraid that I would go to the doctor on Friday and THEY would kill my baby.

I lived in darkness for those three days (literally): sleeping, crying, and praying (begging) God to save my child. Some may not believe this but Thursday, as I lay there immersed in darkness praying to God to save my child, I saw a vision of my baby again in God’s hands but this time I saw them in my womb. God said, “I have your child” and gently lifted him up and placed him in my uterus. Crying and not sure if I was imagining, I called my mom and told her what I saw.

She said, “Diana, everything is going to be okay. I saw your baby and it is a boy and he is okay.” I hung up and fell asleep waiting for the morning. I was awoken the next morning by a phone call; it was the doctor’s office. The nurse on the line told me the doctor was allowing me to have another ultrasound but immediately after wanted me in the emergency room to administer the drug. They were ready to kill my child without a second thought.

We all drove to the hospital in silence; I think all expecting the worst. Again my heart knew it would be okay but my brain knew there was no baby in my uterus; once again I lay on the table and the tech began scanning my uterus. My heart began sinking further and further as I watched the screen and squeezed my husband’s hand. In my mind I kept imagining them strapping me to a table and taking my child from my body. It was agonizing.

All of a sudden the tech said, “Look, there’s your baby.” I thought she was joking and I looked at her not even able to cry because I couldn’t believe her. She pointed to the screen and said, “Look, it’s a perfectly healthy egg with a yolk sac. The fetus is 5 weeks old.” I got up from the table and my husband and I walked into the waiting room in shock. As we entered the room I looked at my mom and quietly said, “They found him.”

She screamed in the middle of the hospital and with everyone staring picked me up crying and screaming. It was honestly the most amazing moment of my life and I cannot even describe how it felt. Immediately the doctor called and said, “It’s a miracle because three days ago I would have sworn that baby was in your tube and today it is in your uterus and the bleeding in your tube is gone.” That was about all he said and then he hung up.

To this day I know the doctor was right, I know my son was in my tube and I know the only reason he is here today is because of God. I put his life in God’s hands and believed that what needed to happen would and God gave me the most precious blessing. Every time I look at my son I see God and I am thankful for what He did for my family, what He did for my son, and what He did for every person that prayed for my son and was touched by this Miracle. I want to take my son to that doctor and say, “See what you almost killed.” My son is a Miracle and I will never forget it.

Don’t underestimate what God can do if you believe, and don’t always listen to your doctor. If I did, my son would not be here today.  You can follow Diana’s journey at

Healing Through Birth

Healing Through Birth

I’m writing this in hopes that it will help with my healing. It’s been two months since my son came into this world and I feel like my story needs to be shared.

A little back story: My husband and I got married at the ripe old age of 20 after only dating for a year! I found out I was pregnant at 21, and had our first child at 22. I had an amazing birth experience with him (Jackson). He was posterior which lead to MAJOR back labor, but after only 7.5 hours, he was mine!  Recovery was difficult because my husband went back to school the following week. I dealt with severe PPD and it took about two months to heal!

6 months later… I was pregnant again.  We found out that I was pregnant the same day we found out that a good friend of ours had passed away.  I had also stopped breastfeeding the month before and was dealing with the emotions of unexpectedly weaning Jackson.  I was not ready to be pregnant again, but I embraced what the Lord blessed me with.

We found the perfect midwife and started planning our home birth. We knew that we wanted an out of hospital experience since that is what we had with Jackson.  Everything went smoothly up until my last trimester.  My blood pressure started creeping up. I changed my diet, used my essential oils, took an herbal supplement… But it just did not do the trick.

July 18th I woke up with a massive headache. I knew that my midwife warned me that I needed to contact her if I started showing signs of pre-eclampsia. I was only 38 weeks pregnant and I always assumed that this baby would be born late since his brother was… So I used some essential oils and it didn’t help. I chugged water and it didn’t help. I took Tylenol… Nothing helped. I finally called the midwife to tell her what was going on and she recommended that we go to the hospital.

After sitting in triage for a couple of hours, it was decided that I had pre-eclampsia and that I needed to be induced that night. My dreams of a peaceful home birth were shattered. My husband and I were devastated, but determined to go ahead with my “birth plan” as much as I could.   Unfortunately, that did not happen.

After 8 hours on Pitocin, I thought I was in transition. They started prepping the room and I was trying to hold back my excitement!!! I was ready to meet our little boy!  I got up off of that birth ball and positioned myself in the bed (not as gracefully as this sounds since I had probably 3 killer contractions between the ball and the bed!).  The student doctor checked me and to my horror, I was only 4cm.  When that doctor couldn’t figure out his “station”, another student came in. I felt so violated. I felt so defeated. The student doctors didn’t take a second to look at me and see that their attempts to find his station were causing me so much pain.   After that, it was all over.

My emotions went crazy after that. I agreed to the laughing gas to try to help me calm down, but it just made me a crazy woman. The gas caused my blood pressure to get to the dangerous level. I finally had to consent to the epidural… Which of course was administered by another student. It’s a little unnerving when you hear the teacher say “no… I don’t think that is the right spot” when they are dealing with your spine.   Eventually they figured it out and the epidural worked on half of my body. They would come in to roll me onto my side so that the epidural would work better, but that just caused the other side to be numb and the first side to be in pain again.

About an hour after the epidural was administered, I felt the need to push!!! I woke my husband and got him to call the nurse back in. She checked me and it was time to go!!!  As the baby was crowning, the doctor realized that my water never broke. He kept saying that he was going to break it, but I refused it.  Our son Aiden was born at 1:24pm in the arms of his father IN the amniotic sack after 13 hours of labor.

BWF Rachel

Things may not have gone the way we planned it by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe that his entrance was like the rainbow after the flood!   I’m still dealing with PPD and I have been diagnosed with PTSD and this is why I felt the need to share my story.

BWF Rachel Baby


Margot’s Water Birth Story – {Part II}

Margot’s Water Birth Story – {Part II}

Well, this story takes off where Part I ended. In Part I, I recounted the story of my daughter Margot’s birth – an intervention-free natural water birth, which was far and wide the most profound and empowering experience of my life. I had an iron will and a driven outlook on a woman’s body’s capability to rise to the challenge of childbirth; and after 14 hours of active labor, my sweet squirmy girl was born.

Shortly after her birth, I was moved from the birthing pool to a hospital bed in the room we were in; the hospital’s protocol was that the placenta must be delivered on land, so to speak, in order to accurately gauge the amount of blood loss. Fair enough, I thought, and waddled over to a bed. My midwife, Edie, who I can’t tell you for certain is not an angel walking among us, kneaded on my belly to engage my placenta; out it came, and I think the population of the greater Midwest heard me howl. Once that was over, though, Edie praised me for my hard work in getting Margot here, said that I had achieved my goal of a drug-free birth, but that I needed to know that I had sustained a severe laceration when Margot flew out of me, and as a surgical team was on its way down to perform the repair, she was offering me drugs to withstand the pain of surgery.

Well, I may be a hardcore advocate of natural childbirth, but please don’t paint me with the wrong brush – medication-free surgery is just not my jam. So bring on the drugs, I said, with the understanding that they wouldn’t interfere with my tiny nursing newborn, who happened to be clamped on to my breast at that moment.

It was less than a minute before everything went loopy. I remember being told that whatever it was they were giving me wasn’t going to knock me out, but that it’d numb the pain in spite of the fact that I’d still be conscious, and still able to hear and speak. Now, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the operating table – at that point, actually, it had been zero time whatsoever – but I can only liken the effects of those drugs to what it feels like to have consumed a bottle of wine or two (or four) on one’s own. My eyeballs were swimmy, my speech was slurred, and it felt a bit like everyone in the room was talking in low, slow-mo voices. (I can only assume I’m factually wrong about this.)

I distinctly remember a number of people shuffling in (how many, I can’t be sure – three? Four?), and only learned in retrospect that this was a small team of medical students being led by one proper surgeon. Why I was never asked permission before I was made into a hands-on guinea pig I’ll never know, but I will always be resentful of this.

The team assessed the situation, and I could hear them going back and forth over the final consensus of my laceration. “Fourth-degree, would you say?”

“No, third, I think.”

“Yes, third.” Said someone else. Okay; so they had agreed it was a third-degree tear; now to work on a plan of attack.

Everything that ensued is all wrapped up in my mind as vividly clear enveloped in a fuzzy outer shell. From the moment they started stitching – no; from the moment they injected me with some further layer of pain-numbing medication – I realized this wasn’t going to be pain-free at all. I felt every needle prick, every poke, every pull. I was, as I said in my earlier post, floating somewhere between the precipice of hell and snug within the heart of pure bliss. My focus was entirely on Margot nursing on my chest, and on my husband Daryl, standing bedside, holding my hand while I squeezed the very life out of his own. And yet I couldn’t shake this team of surgical workers who were stitching me up, and going over what I can say confidently was all too much back and forth about what needed to happen with regard to proper repair. They weren’t sure, and I was suffering immensely.

As it goes, though, it finally came to and end. I remember a doctor telling me that while I needn’t be alarmed, there was a piece of hymenal tissue that had torn during childbirth, that I was going to see if and when I looked at the …construction site, should I say. Since I was still looped up on drugs, I’m sure I managed nothing more than an, “Oh-kay…thahnkyou vurrymuch.” And it wasn’t until a few hours had passed that I understood the gravity of what he had said. A piece of live tissue – something that was meant to be snug and safe and sound up inside my body – was not in it at all.

Now, anybody who’s given birth can attest to what a horror scene a vagina is like immediately postpartum. I don’t need to write about it in order to convey just how terrified I was of my own body in the hours and days that followed childbirth. And to add insult to injury, I had a piece of tissue prolapsed and veritably snapping its jaws at me every time I looked down. I took what that doctor said to heart, though, and trusted that this tissue would retreat, and that my body would heal on its own time.

Suffice it to say, though, days and weeks and months passed and I was in chronic pain. The tissue eventually did retreat, but still remained visible, and it caused me pain in all areas; I couldn’t walk or sit comfortably, and don’t even mention sex. I’d burst into tears just thinking about it. Five months went by and I grew ever-weary that I’d ever have enjoyable sex again, let alone be able to conceive another baby when the time came. I slinked into a depression over this as well as a Molotov cocktail of other factors – namely sleep deprivation, an untimely end to my maternity leave, and a case of eczema that swallowed up one of my fingers on my left hand, leaving me without a fingerprint, even; it was a physical manifestation of the debilitating stress and anxiety I was feeling every day. So I decided I needed to address my situation, and I made an appointment to talk to my doctor about what I was going through. She confirmed what I’d been afraid of – that my body wasn’t likely to heal any further, so if I was experiencing pain, we were going to have to pursue some sort of reparative surgery.

Within minutes, I was scooped up under the wing of the surgeon who gave me my hope and my life back – Dr. Ruth Merid – she couldn’t have been much older than me, if at all, and exuded confidence and strength. And without a doubt, she was my saving grace. Within two weeks, I was lying on her operating table while she effectively undid the work of that surgical team five months prior, and put me back together again. It was a long road back from that surgery, though, since I was essentially recovering from childbirth for the second time in a five-month span; but recover I did, and even though it took a year from start to finish, the advent of Margot’s first birthday saw me finally dusting off my knees and seeing my future and my present with hope rather than fear.

The fact that Margot’s first birthday coincided with her forays into experimenting with temper tantrums and other such toddler behavior, though, was a different battle altogether. One, though, that at least followed afterward instead of crashing head-on into my broken body and spirit. Onward and upward I went, and in spite of newfound challenges being thrown at me from every direction, I was unspeakably blessed at my recovered ability to do something even as simple as put on a pair of shoes and walk to the end of my driveway.

M&S bwf part II

Originally published on

Deep Rooted Faith Leads to a Healing Second Birth

Deep Rooted Faith Leads to a Healing Second Birth

Surita Carstens from South Africa described her first baby’s birth as, “…one of the most traumatic experiences in our lives.” We published that story in 2012 and it moved many of us to tears with its senseless cruelty. At the end of it she wrote, “I hope that one day I can have a VBAC to empower me and feel like the woman I was born to be.”

Almost a year ago, Surita’s daughter Sandra Maria was born. This is the story of her birth.

“It all started with the birth of my son, Nicolaas Mertiens Carstens. His birth was a traumatic experience, filled with a lot of unnecessary interventions. It started with my water breaking, a rush to the hospital, a lonely night bound to a hospital bed with no contractions, a forced induction and after five hours of labour, being scared shitless, an emergency C-section at almost five centimeters due to “failure to progress”. That day I made a choice: never again would I get a C-section unless it was really necessary, and I would be informed enough to know when it was necessary.

Before my son’s birth I never knew about VBACs. But when I started talking to people I heard differently. Then on a Facebook forum I met a lady, now my friend, who had three natural births after a C-section. And then I learned about water births, home births, midwife births and so much more! Things that we thought were “old aged” but that were coming back.

My dreams were focussed on home birth after reading several home birth stories and because I was so scared of another medicalised birth in a hospital environment. So we started searching for a home birthing midwife. However, soon we found that in the small town we lived NO doctor would support us for a home birth, no midwife would help us unless we had a doctor’s support, and also, there were no midwives in our town.

I emailed many, talked to doctors (and I wasn’t even pregnant yet). Finally we found one midwife who would help us. We met with her and liked her, and then we got her price rates. Shocker! We could NOT afford her and as she didn’t use medical aid, there was no way for us to pay her at all. We started searching once more. After months of searches our General Doctor told us he would help us, so we settled on him. We trusted him and thought he would be a great choice, the birth happening at his offices one block from our home.

When our son was 21 months old, I told my husband Jp that I really wanted to get pregnant. It was a Saturday evening, I knew I had the perfect cycle and was ovulating the Monday, so we started trying. When I tested 10 days later we had a BFP. We were pregnant! On our way to having our next baby!

When we talked to our GP again he told us that, since he wasn’t getting any clients for births anymore, he had cancelled his birth insurance the previous year. He couldn’t help us anymore.

The search started all over again.

Finally at eight weeks pregnant we found a gynaecologist in another city who was reputed for doing natural births. His secretary told me he would allow a VBAC, so I made an appointment. He could only see me for the first time at 15 weeks, but I was OK with that, having learned from my research that I preferred not to have a lot of scans early in pregnancy.

The doctor asked how my son was born; I said it was an emergency C-section and his reaction was, “Oh, OK, so we will do a C-section again.” When I told him that I wanted a VBAC he got upset and started talking about how ‘dangerous’ it is. I told him I had the facts, and got out my research and handed it to him. His reaction was, “We’ll talk about it later.” Next up, he wanted to do an internal exam, which I also refused. Another fight, because according to him he needed to do internal scans with every visit to ensure baby was healthy. I said NO!

So we did a normal scan, but according to him he couldn’t a) say what sex it was without an internal, b) look for any birth defects without doing an internal and c) he only gave us the approximate weight at that stage, didn’t check lengths of the femur, head circumference or anything else. After the scan I brought up the VBAC again. His answer was, “I will do an internal check at 36 weeks and then I will decide IF I will MAYBE allow you to do a VBAC, else you will have a C-section between 37 and 38 weeks.” I told him I refused to have a C-section early, and wanted to go into labour naturally. Again he refused, and told me to come back in three weeks so he could do an internal scan to look for defects.

I walked out super sad and feeling beaten. After two years of waiting, everything was falling apart. Another two weeks of phone calls started, calling every and any doctor that I could find, fighting with the medical aid in emails and on the phone and searching, searching, searching.

And then my miracle happened!

Jp and I drew a bank statement of our savings, which to our surprise, were over R7000! And when talking on a Facebook group, a midwife mentioned that if I could come to the city my parents lived in she could help me with a birth and a payment plan over six months. Wow! We started making sums, but I couldn’t finalise anything until end of November when I got my bonus. When it came it was much smaller than expected but we decided to go for it anyway. I also really wanted a doula as well and had met one in October, but finances would just not allow it. Then a Facebook friend heard of my problem. Being a doula herself she said she would help me for free. I was way past happy!

However, there were a few glitches. Number one, the midwife was over two hours’ drive away so I would only be able to see her maybe once a month; I would need someone closer to home for more visits. Two, if an emergency arose I had to have a doctor near our home who could help. Three, because of our financial situation, a home birth at my parents’ place was out of the question – we needed the medical aid to pay for the birth. So another round of fights started about the hospital I should birth in, some of the operators stating the medical aid would pay and others stating it would only pay a certain amount and even more stating that it wouldn’t pay at all. I got the promises to pay in writing via emails.

We planned, we budgeted, and we planned some more. What was clear was that I had to birth at a hospital or else they wouldn’t pay at all, and we found out that my medical history with Myasthenia Gravis and epilepsy meant I had to have a paediatrician on standby in case my baby had breathing or heart difficulties. We never even knew this with my son.

Finally at 22 weeks I went to visit another GP in our town who did do births (mostly C-sections and he refuses all VBACS) for another scan and at 23 weeks we saw our midwife for the very first time.

I loved Heather from the very first minute. She had this way of just making you feel confident in yourself and in her. But she also had a softness and kindness that made me feel at home. Most of all I loved the way they did the examinations. It was so much softer, kinder and more intimate than at the doctor’s. Instead of feeling like just another number I felt accepted and for the first time I wasn’t scared of going for a check-up! And thus it was settled, we would use Heather and any of the other midwives who work with her and we would pay financially as we could, when we could.

I couldn’t see her in January, but saw her again the first Friday of February, March and April. My due date according to ovulation was 15 April, but last menstrual period said the 18th, so we met her three times in April, the last on the 15th.

The baby was still not engaged. She was very low already, but I showed no other signs of imminent birth. I didn’t want any interventions, preferably not stretch and sweep and most definitely no breaking of water or induction, so we decided to wait two weeks before doing anything. My doula, Anina, suggested that I start looking into using pressure points for induction and gave me a site to visit for help. That evening hubby started using them. We also started with evening primrose oil and several other non-invasive natural induction methods, including sex, bouncing on a birth ball etc. The days passed without anything happening. Every morning I would get Braxton Hicks contractions and every evening I would have prodromal labour, contractions 10-12mins apart and lasting 30seconds from 6pm till around 9pm, but as soon as I hit the bed they would stop. We waited.

My other birth companion was to be my best friend, Erika. On 17 April she came to visit so we could chat one last time before the birth and she would know what I expected from her. Three times during the day she and Jp did some pressure points and that evening I ate some pineapple, joking with my mum that I hoped it would induce my labour. Then Jp dropped off Erika at her home and I put our son to bed. The prodromal labour was worse than before and my mum was getting worried, she kept saying I was going to go into labour. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. After days of prodromal labour I was just not hoping anymore and thinking my body was failing me. So I went to bed and Jp stayed up watching a movie. I was sad.

Our son woke me just after 3am to go to the loo. I wasn’t feeling well but didn’t want to wake hubby for “not feeling well”. At 4:15am I woke up again, my tummy was hurting and I thought it might need to go as it had woke me the two previous nights; so I went to the loo – nothing – got back into bed and it started hurting again. Went to the loo again, still nothing and back to bed. When it hurt for the third time I looked how late it was (4:35am) and started timing. Every seven minutes, lasting 30-40seconds and I was…resting? This was different.

At 5:30am I woke hubby telling him I thought I was in labour. I stayed in bed until 6:10, as the contractions moved to five minutes apart, lasting for 30-40 seconds. I went to tell my parents and called Heather. My mum got stressed, wanting me to go to the hospital, saying her contractions were like that with my brother and he was born shortly after. Heather, however, said to wait until they were regular at four to five minutes and lasting over one minute long. So I helped my mum to leave for work and then crawled back into bed trying to sleep. The contractions weren’t really sore, just uncomfy. We all dozed until just after 8am when I got up and started breakfast and washing some clothes. I wanted my son to be sorted with clothes while I was in hospital.

Hubby decided to take a shower while he still had the chance. While he was away I was hit by a contraction and while breathing through it my son decided he wanted to drink some of my mum’s cleaning agents. When I opened my eyes I saw what he had done and rushed to him, smelling the cleaning agent in his breath. The ultimate stress! A friend phoned just at that moment, said she would help and get back to me. During these moments my contractions came every two to three minutes! One hour later we had finally learned that it wasn’t terribly poisonous but to watch him for vomiting and nausea. I was relieved but the episode had stalled my labour and my contractions were back to being seven minutes apart. My mum, a crèche teacher, decided to pick our son up and take him with her to work. Hubby and I went for a walk, hoping it would help get things back on track. But my contractions went to every 10-12 minutes and almost non-existent in length. Just great.

Told hubby labour was gone and I wanted to take a nap. It was 10:30am and I was feeling unsure. So hubby went to watch a movie and I rested. I woke at 11:15am to a hard contraction! We were back on track, every five minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds once more. I got up and went to join him, bouncing on my birth ball, breathing slowly through the contractions, enjoying the new sensation of it. They still didn’t really hurt and I was in heaven knowing my body was working to birth my baby. My doula sent me a message asking how I was and suggested I take a bath. At just past 12pm I got into the tub. Immediately my contractions increased, and by the time I got out they were two to three minutes apart and lasting up to one minute. Hubby got a little worried so I decided to get out and eat something. I ate some wonderful leftover carrot soup, but the labour slowed down again. The contractions still didn’t really hurt, I used hubby to breathe through them and I was just enjoying it, so when Anina phoned I told her I’d let her know when I needed her.

By 2pm my contractions were four minutes apart and lasting just under a minute. I phoned Heather who suggested waiting another hour before we decided what to do. I wasn’t worried yet, was just enjoying the ride and was sure it would be some time still. Then suddenly I felt a change. I couldn’t sit still during a contraction anymore. I had this peculiar urge to kneel and sway my body during the contractions and they felt stronger, harder than before. I had three very close together like this and at 2:45pm told hubby I think it’s time to leave, something had changed. We phoned Heather and Anina and got into the car to leave. Heather told me that she was in another city and it would be some time until she could get to the hospital but she would get a colleague to meet us. The car drive hurt, a LOT. Sitting still in one place was sore, I couldn’t kneel and sway, couldn’t bounce or anything except breathe through the contractions and they were coming over and over on top of one another.

At 3:15pm we stopped at the hospital. While getting out of the car I had another contraction and the security guard rushed to my aid while Erika supported me. She immediately wanted to fetch a wheelchair but I said it wasn’t necessary. Inside I booked in with the hospital and another security guard got super upset that I didn’t want a wheelchair, telling me that if I fell I would get hurt. (Erm, you’re SUPPOSED to walk during labour.) Erika just brushed them off and we went to the midwives’ labour and delivery suite.

When I arrived I was met by Christelle, the other midwife, and within moments Anina also arrived. While hubby fetched the bags Anina supported me during contractions and Erika took photos. First I sat on the birthing ball bouncing while we all chatted and Christelle put up the monitor to see what the contractions were doing and how they affected bubs. My labour had stalled after the car drive. After a while of bouncing we went for a walk through the parking lot, stopping every once in a while for the contractions where I would hold onto hubby and breath through them. Anina encouraged me to sway my hips and would put pressure on different parts of my back to help with pain. I can’t say that it was hurting at all – though I did have to concentrate and breathe through them. I was envisioning circles in a water pond, opening up growing bigger and bigger.

After a nice long walk and some chats and laughs we went back inside. Anina suggested listening to some music and that hubby and I dance to get some oxytocin flowing. Hubby put up Celine Dion’s CD which immediately got me into tears and we were swaying together, holding onto each other. We have been through so much lately and it just was too much for me. Again it was Anina who made the suggestion that I relax a little in a warm bath. Heather arrived and asked to do a doppler check first. The baby’s heartbeat was doing great so I undressed and got into the bath where I just relaxed and chatted while holding onto hubby during my contractions. Still it didn’t really feel like I was in labour.

After the bath Heather suggested some stretches to help with bringing baby down into the birth canal and we went for a walk. Every time the contractions hit I would sway and bend my legs pushing down, breathing through them, concentrating on baby coming down and in between contractions I would do the stretches. I was surprised to find it was dark outside; I had lost all sense of time.

When I re-entered the birthing rooms I was tired, so tired, I just wanted to sleep. Anina helped me down onto the birthing ball. I wasn’t resting very long when Heather asked if she could do an internal exam. It was almost 7pm and she felt it was necessary to know how far I was as I was so relaxed. This was the one part I had been dreading – after my son’s birth I was scared of internals and I was scared of what it would tell us! I was scared I wasn’t dilating enough and would have to go in for a C-section. Heather knew this and she was so kind and helped me to relax and breathe. Hubby helped me down onto the bed and to lie back, another contraction hit and Heather waited it out with me. When it was over she did my internal.

I was at 8cm, almost 9cms!
WOAAA!!! This was really happening! I burst into tears. After the hard long road, I was birthing my baby. What a feeling!

When I got off the bed I felt something shift and change again: the contractions were suddenly so much longer, more painful, more intense and I was feeling different. It was as if I was there, but also not there at the same time. Heather went to get a hot water bottle and poured my bath and Anina helped by applying pressure on my hips. Heather returned and stood behind me, hubby sitting on the bed in front of me. I was bending, swaying and doing things without thought, and I was moaning. Heather applied pressure with her hands on my rectum pushing upwards and at the same time pressing on my back down, both definitely helping, and next thing I knew I felt this bursting sensation. My waters had finally burst. I remember thinking, “Oh no, I just messed myself as well!” But I hadn’t.

Everyone was excited, but I felt this rush of tiredness. It was as if all my energy had drained away and I could barely breathe.

Anina asked if I wanted to get into the bath, but I was so exhausted, tired, I couldn’t even answer. After she asked for the third time hubby made the decision to get me into the bath. Between him, Anina and Heather they almost carried me to the tub a few meters away. The relief of the pain was immediate.

At first I sat hunkered forward on my knees. But this caused a problem. My baby’s head was pressing down so hard that I immediately felt the urge to push and push HARD, but I wasn’t fully dilated yet and was hurting myself. Hubby and Heather both kept asking me to try and stop pushing, which I just couldn’t do! My contractions weren’t even one minute apart and they hurt a LOT.

After a while Heather suggested that I turn around and sit leaning against the bathtub. I didn’t have the energy between the contractions to do it myself, so they had to lift me up and do it for me. But it brought immediate relief. The urge to push was gone and the contractions didn’t hurt as much. I was so grateful to have a little breather.

After a few minutes, Heather announced that baby’s head was moving down the birth canal and that I should start pushing when I felt the urge. I followed her instructions and I was LOUD, making lots of noise, sometimes almost screaming with the pushing. Everyone was encouraging me to push harder, push more and in between Heather asked me to not scream as loudly as it interfered with my pushing. Suddenly Heather realised I couldn’t concentrate through all the noise and asked everyone to just keep quiet and told hubby that he was to tell me when to push and how to push. He sat, holding my hands, lifting me up when the contractions hit and talked to me into my ear, encouraging me. In between contractions everything was quiet. Sometime, someone had put up Josh Groban’s music and I heard him singing. It gave me the courage to go on.

Baby started crowning, and damn that hurt. It felt like my clitoris was on fire and I instinctively wanted to close my legs and shut out the pain, but then I couldn’t push. Hubby leaned over me and held my legs open while I pushed. Heather encouraged me to feel her head crowning and took my hand and guided it to feel her. It felt soft and I could feel a little bit of hair. But every time, just when she crowned her head would pull back in. It felt like ages passed and I just had to keep pushing. Heather suggested that I continue to push just a little between contractions to keep her head crowning. Again she guided my hand down. I could feel our baby’s entire head now and could feel my perineum stretched over it. I pushed, but it didn’t want to come out. I really didn’t want to tear or be cut, so I started praying, asking God to help me, and in between I talked to our baby, encouraging her to come out.

Then the next moment I felt her head pop out! Wow, she was there! Then with the next contraction her body just slipped out and after a few moments Heather lifted her onto my chest, covering her with a towel. I was in ecstasy, I had done it, I had gotten my VBAC! When every doctor, every person I talked to, had told me I couldn’t, not with my history. I had proven them wrong. My baby was there and I had birthed her myself. At 8:30pm, after about 30 minutes of pushing, she was born weighing a nice 3.3kgs!

Me, hubby, midwife and doula just_ after the birth

Mummy and daddy

No words can describe how I felt. Minutes later the placenta was born and I could join hubby and baby on the bed. I got to breastfeed her immediately and my parents and sister could see her moments later. My son, however, had fallen asleep while waiting for us.

I only had three very tiny tears on the inside of my vaginal wall, no tears on my perineum. It was the most amazing and empowering feeling ever!

Breastfeeding for the first_ time!

I am so grateful to Heather, Anina, hubby and Erika. Every wish I had expressed in my birth plan was followed by Heather. I achieved every dream I had and I can never forget how amazing that felt. Thank you to everyone and mostly thank you to my Lord Jesus for helping me! I am a woman, I have given birth and I am a mum!”

 Me and both my kiddies

Hospital Trauma and Healing at Home: A Story of Two Births (Part II)

Hospital Trauma and Healing at Home: A Story of Two Births (Part II)

Pregnancy and/or Parenting Through Adoption/Infertility/Loss blogger Sarah Robertson-Barnes shared the story of her first birth yesterday – a hospital birth which left her feeling guilty, dehumanized, and depressed and which she chronicled on her blog, Little Chicken Nuggets. Today, she shares the victorious, redemptive experience of her second birth, midwife-attended and completed at home.

You can read the first part of her story here.

“I hardly know where to begin.

So, we will begin at the end – with a beginning.

I was “due” on February 9 – a date that I have always questioned as there was no possible way to approximate the date of conception (years of anovulation, PCOS, infertility diagnosis, breastfeeding) and the EDD was made from one dating ultrasound. Other measurements along the way (NT scan, anatomy scan, fundal height, etc.) seemed to jive with this date so I went with it. For some reason, however, I had an inkling that I voiced to several people that I would not be making it out of Week 38. MJB was born at 38w2d.

For a few days leading up to it I had been having pretty strong Braxton Hicks contractions in the evening and throughout the night. I mentioned it to one of my midwives at my appointment on the Thursday before and she said that sometimes with second babies, “…your uterus can get very irritable.” INDEED, I thought. Friday and Saturday night I woke up every hour or so feeling very uncomfortable. On Sunday night/early Monday morning I would wake up and think “I REALLY need to pee,” but the pressure was not relieved. I would have to wait out the sensation and it would disappear. Hmmmmmmm.

After 3 of these in two hours, I wake BJB up at 5:30 am and say, “Babe, I think something is maybe happening.” I don’t recall his response but it was probably some sort of sleepy acknowledgement/denial. We decide to get up before HGB, only to look outside and see a blizzard. PERFECT.

By the time BJB gets out of the shower I am starting to feel pretty excited that “something is happening” and ask if it is possible to please work from home? I then text my friend who is going to look after HGB for us to put her on alert. Throughout the morning I am having pretty mild sensations, but they are also coming pretty regularly every 20 minutes or so. Then every 15, then every 30, and I start to feel disappointed that maybe it is nothing. I am feeling guilty that BJB has taken the day off and my friend is preparing to leave work early for no reason. Both of whom are basically like, “Dude. It’s FINE! No worries. Also, you are obviously going to have a baby today.”

BJB decides to run out with HGB before lunch and pick up a few things that seem monumentally important to me at the time and now I forget what they were. Apple juice? Loonies for laundry? Doesn’t matter. He texts me to ask if I want poutine from the chip truck like he has never met me before in my life. Obviously I say yes. If you are going to puke your guts out during transition, I recommend that your last meal be something beige and fatty versus say, spicy pad thai. Learn from my experience!

The next few hours are spent knitting on the couch, watching Downton Abbey, and jumping up every ten minutes or so to walk around for 30-60 seconds. The waves were becoming a little more intense, but nothing that a little pacing and toning (sounding “oooooooh” and “aaaaaaaah” deeply) can’t handle. Around 2:00 pm I move to sitting on the ball. BJB gets a phone call from a friend we seem to have kept missing for the last year who suddenly wonders why BJB is at home. “Oh, SRB is in labour” BJB casually tells him. So, I talk to our friend for approximately eight minutes before needing to pass him back to BJB. At this point I am thinking, “SRB, you are not talking so well through these anymore. This is happening.” And this incredible feeling of excitement and happiness washes over me. I make a super casual call to my main midwife and leave a message that I am in early labour and will call her back later.

Our next call is to our friend SK to please come and pick up HGB. She comes right away. Leading up to the birth, I was extremely reluctant to ship our firstborn son off for the night, only to come home and find Usurper Baby in mum’s arms. But when it came down to it, I knew I needed him to be safely away so that I could concentrate on his brother, and his dad could concentrate on me. And I knew he would have fun with Auntie SK.

At this point, I decide that I want to get into the bathtub. This was the only thing that brought me any relief during my runaway train-style labour with HGB. Up until now, I have been doing pretty well with walking and toning through the waves, and focusing on my “Peace” cue from my Hypnobabies preparation. While in the tub, I try my best to do the “finger drop” and the “eyes open” stuff, but can’t seem to focus on it. Instead, I find myself just closing my eyes and visualizing that each wave is in fact, just that – a wave. I am confident that I can climb to the top, and then gently roll back down.

My “special place” is a beach I used to visit frequently when I lived in Nova Scotia, so this really works for me. I know how this sounds, believe me. But I feel capable and strong, safe and supported. I really do the “…when each of my powerful pressure waves ends I feel happy, and smile” thing. For real. BJB says, “You are doing an amazing job of keeping your face relaxed” and this makes me feel so good.

The bathtub is suddenly not where I want to be, so I get out and lean on the bathroom counter for a while. My bag of waters STILL has not broken, so I am expecting this to happen at any second. (They broke it “for me” with HGB, so I have no frame of reference about what this would be like.) BJB brings me the gown I wore when HGB was born, and we stay in the bathroom for a little while. I am not sure how long because we do not own a clock (seriously), and one of my birth preferences is to be blissfully ignorant of the time.

I am generally feeling the sensations in my back, hips, and the fronts of my thighs, so BJB is instructed as to where to apply counter-pressure with each wave. My back needs a break though, so I go back to the living room to kneel and lean on my exercise ball for support. We are no longer tracking the frequency or length of the waves any longer as there simply isn’t time. I announce, with absolute certainty, that it is time to page the midwife.

We call our main midwife, Natalie, around 6:00ish. She stays on the phone with me for about a half hour, talking to both of us and listening to me have contractions. At the end of the third one she says, “Okay, we’re getting in the car and coming over! We’re having a BABY!!!!!” I stay exactly where I am until they arrive about an hour later. At some point BJB puts on the playlist we made (all Ravi Shankar/new age/yoga type stuff… I don’t know why) and I tolerate that for about six minutes. BJB also just casually makes and eats enchiladas during this portion of the evening, and is nearly crucified for his breath in my face. ANYWAY. The three midwives show up (I’ll explain why there are three in another post) but I barely notice.

Natalie comes over and gives me a big hug and after some words of excitement and encouragement, asks to take my vitals and listen to the baby. She says everything looks great, but would it be okay to check me? I agree and insist on going to my bed for this for some reason. I think I am afraid my water will break all over HGB’s play mat or something. I forget.
She warns me that the check will be “uncomfortable” and I’m like, “Dude. I doubt I will notice.” She says I am about 9-10 cm!

I look at BJB and he looks so surprised, but also so proud of me. I’ll never forget that. He gets very excited and startes running around to help the midwives set up all their gear. This literally includes boiling water and getting towels ready. We had managed to make up the bed earlier in the afternoon, but hadn’t cleared off the dresser yet. He gets to work doing this and sets the plastic pail down for a second on top of the dresser. Meanwhile, I have gotten up to pace again and decide that I need to vomit. RIGHT NOW. Into the pail! And then eleven or so more times! Much better. Natalie exclaimes surprise that my water didn’t break as that was very impressive heaving indeed. I start laughing, and then promptly crying, shivering and chattering my teeth. Why, HELLO TRANSITION!

Somehow I end up standing on BJB’s side of the bed, leaning on the ball. No idea how the ball got in the room. My contractions are now VERY intense, and with each one Natalie is doing this awesome hip squeeze maneuver while BJB crouches down and rubs my legs or back. My legs are starting to feel like lead, but I also feel “stuck” and can’t seem to move. I am getting the urge to start sinking my knees with each pressure wave, but also feel SO TIRED. I start BAWLING and enter the “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!” phase. Natalie gives me a big hug and reassures me that it is time to push my baby out now and I will be holding him soon. I am sobbing that I need to lie down but, “…you aren’tsupposed to  lie down to push your baby out!” Natalie reminds me that I can do whatever my body is telling me to do and helps me lie down on my side. She asks to check me again, and says that she can see the baby but my bag of waters is bulging.

I am dumbfounded that it still hasn’t broken yet. Natalie says that she knows I don’t want an AROM, but at this stage, it is very likely that it will help the baby “…slide right out” and may help relieve the pressure I am feeling. I agree, and again she warns me that it will be uncomfortable. It feels like a bucket of water has been thrown on me, and then… I fall asleep.

I think I slept for maybe five minutes? I remember telling Natalie that I just need to rest for a few minutes, and she was stroking my hair and saying “Whenever you’re ready.” And then, I was READY. I do not remember very much of this part, but I think it only lasted 15 minutes or so.

I close my eyes, grab the bed frame with one hand and BJB with the other. I can only describe it as riding the biggest rollercoaster in the park with your eyes closed – knowing that the ride is terrifying and exhilarating, and also that you are very safe and will pull back into the loading area very soon. The few things I do remember are thinking my sounds are getting very high, and I need to go lower. That I need to move into the sensation, not try to crawl away from it. That everything is very quiet. Then I remember saying, “IT BURNS!” and feeling a warm cloth. After about 30 seconds I can hear BJB saying, “SRB! Reach down! Pull him out!” and I grasp our baby’s shoulders and lift him out onto my chest. He cries right away and starts rooting for a breast, latching like a pro. I’ve never seen BJB’s face look quite like it did in that moment.

Our sweet boy is born.

newborn mama

For the next hour I hold him on my chest while all the after birth things are happening. We have opted to collect cord blood for both of our children, so the cord needs to be clamped immediately rather than allowing pulsation to stop. Robynn (the senior midwife) helps Natalie learn how to do the collection, and then BJB jumps in to cut the cord. He did not get to do this with HGB, a source of disappointment for both us. It is very important to me that BJB do this as a symbol of our son becoming his own person, separate from me. In the time those procedures take, I have managed to birth my placenta with no active management at all. I become hyper-focused on the realization that I have not yet labelled a freezer bag for it, but Natalie assures us that it is no big deal. She shows me the organ as she checks it, using an amazing “Tree of Life” analogy as she goes. Our plan is to plant MJB’s placenta under a seedling evergreen that my father potted for us when HGB was born in the backyard of our new home. But for now, it sits in a Zipl.oc bag next to my ice cube trays.

mama cuddles

MJB is weighed in a cloth bag hung from a fish scale. Rashmi (the baby’s midwife) looks him over, does the usual newborn tests and whatnot, and then gives him to BJB to hold. During this time I am checked (no tears!) and helped into bathroom to get cleaned up and into ye olde mesh panties. When I return to our bedroom all the blue pads, equipment, and plastic sheeting has been cleared away, and our bed is all ready for us to crawl into. We chat with the midwives for a few minutes, and they hug us both before essentially tucking us in and bidding us adieu. They leave shortly before midnight, and we lie down with our new son between us.

papa cuddles

I wish I had the words to capture the power of this experience. It has touched every fibre of my being, every corner of my heart. I remarked to a dear friend a few days later that I felt like I had been hit by a truck, but also like I could pick that truck up and throw it. In this one night, so much of the weight of my first birth, my infertility, my pregnancy loss, my anger and sadness… it just became so light and drifted away. For me, this experience has been a tremendous healing force beyond my hopes or imagination. Our son was born on the very spot he was made, surrounded by love. Through this birth, I have be re-born as a more whole version of myself. I trust my body. I trust my partner. I trust myself. I am happy. We are so grateful for this perfect day.”

Together as a Family, Part V

Together as a Family, Part V

This is the final installment of a five-part series about loss and healing. Written by Shannon from Brisbane, AU, this powerful story outlines her experience of three miscarriages followed by the healthy pregnancy and birth of her son, Jasper. Yesterday, we shared her account of early labour; today, you get to read the happy birth story in its entirety!

“We arrived at the hospital just before 10am, where we shuffled our way to admissions and were met by Jo. She performed an internal examination and confirmed that I was five centimetres dilated. She moved us straight to our birth suite. In researching births, I had read that dilation often occurs at around one centimetre per hour. I did some calculations in my head and then tried not to think about dealing with this for another five. Luckily, the focus I needed to deal with the pain meant that I had little time for pessimistic thinking, and was solely focussed on getting through each minute.

In the birth suite, I started out kneeling over the back of the bed. This worked for a while but by this time, the contractions were somewhere around two to three minutes apart and becoming quite intense. Jo suggested we head into the shower. She put a spongey mat down to kneel on, and found a fit ball for me to lie over. Jeremy concentrated on holding the hot water onto my lower back while I continued to moan and kept my eyes closed.

I was feeling the pain across my lower stomach, down my thighs, and quite strongly across my back. Jo asked about the level of pain in my back and since it was so intense, suggested trying sterile water injections. This involves two nurses injecting very small amounts of sterile water just under the skin in four specific places in the lower back area. They administered the injections during a contraction – this is because the sting can be very painful. It felt like a very intense burning sting, but lasted only 30 seconds or so. And, by the next contraction, my back pain had all but disappeared. It was a great relief, and Jeremy then directed the hot water onto my lower abdomen. Around this time, Jo had to leave for some meetings, so my other midwife Karen came in to take over from her.

During this time in the shower, my moans began changing to ‘aaaahs’ midway through a contraction. I asked to try the gas and air, but soon realised that having to suck on the tube meant I couldn’t vocalise, and I NEEDED to make noise to release the pain. During one attempt, I sucked it down and very quickly got dizzy and disoriented. I felt quite strange and disconnected, and there was a huge feeling of pressure coming from somewhere. Suddenly, my waters broke – or more accurately, exploded – just like someone had thrown a water bomb against the wall of the shower behind me.

Karen came to check that they were clear, and asked if I thought I had started pushing. I said that I thought my body had begun – the first time it did, I actually looked down at my belly to try to figure out what was going on. I thought it was far too early to think about pushing. But, only an hour and a half after arriving at the hospital, I really did feel ready to push. The time my noises started changing to ‘aaaahs’ must have been transition.

I moved out of the shower cubicle and onto another larger mat that was placed on the floor, and knelt over the fit ball. I started pushing and squeezing Jeremy’s hands with all my strength. The lights were turned down low, and Karen let me push when I felt the need, and just observed quietly, giving me encouragement.

After about 45 minutes of pushing in this position without much apparent success, Karen suggested we try moving onto the birth stool. Jeremy sat behind me in a chair, and I leant back onto his legs and chest, gripping his hands tightly across my chest with each push.

After some time, Karen said she could see our baby’s head. She suggested we feel it to see just how close we were – it was softer and squishier than I imagined. I continued pushing, with Karen unobtrusively checking the baby’s heartbeat with a doppler after each contraction. His heart rate dropped with each contraction, but quickly resumed its normal pace which Karen assured me was perfectly normal. By this time, she had called Jo back to witness the birth, so there was soothing and gentle encouragement from them both, as well as from Jeremy.

A short time later, Karen said to feel for the baby’s head again, and we could feel a much larger section which was good motivation for me to realise that all this pushing was achieving something, and we were so close to meeting our baby. Karen suggested I close down my throat and try to stop making noise so as to channel all my energy into pushing. This seemed to help because I pushed some more, and with an amazing amount of pressure building, I slowly breathed out our baby’s head.

With the next contraction I pushed again as Karen helped to move the shoulders and the rest of the body out, and she handed him straight to Jeremy who lifted him up onto my chest where we could both see our newborn baby. The time was 1:04pm, after an hour and a half of pushing. This little being was purple, screaming its heart out, and had a very impressive cone-shaped head. After a minute, I announced, “It’s a boy!…Hello Jasper!”

Shannon L. 2 copy
We stared at him for a while longer, admiring his long fingers and huge feet, touching him and looking at each other in amazement that this really did happen. After about five minutes Karen showed us that the cord had stopped pulsing (and he had received all the blood he could get), so Jeremy cut the cord.

Shannon L. 1 copy
I then moved to a more comfortable position on the bed and about 15 minutes later I delivered the placenta without the need for any medical help. We spent the next little while eating, and feeding Jasper, simply gazing in awe at this new little person we had created. After all that heartache and uncertainty, he was really here. And we were really parents.

After an hour, I gave him up to Jeremy for some skin-on-skin contact, and then he was weighed and measured. He was a very healthy 8lbs, 8oz; 55.5cms long; and a head circumference of 38 centimeters!

8lbs8oz copy

Four and a half hours after the birth, we left the hospital to go home and start our new life together as a family. We didn’t even get to put Jasper’s name tag on, since we didn’t leave the birth suite!

My wonderful midwives copy

Jasper’s birth went just as well as we had hoped it would. There is really nothing I would change. I felt powerful and strong and proud, and finally felt like my body did exactly what it was born to do. It took me some time to trust my body in pregnancy and I am so glad I put all the heartache behind me so that I could trust my body in birth.

Having a cuddle after a bath copy

I love listening to Jeremy telling the story to our friends and family, describing how focussed and calm I was, and how amazing it was to see his child being born into the world in such a beautiful, natural way. I would go through all that sadness and loss again in a heartbeat to experience that birth, and for my beautiful, healthy son.”

14 days old copy

Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at

Together as a Family, Part II

Together as a Family, Part II

This is the second in a five-part series about loss and healing, a story shared by Shannon from Brisbane, AU. Yesterday, she shared about her first two miscarriages. Today she writes about coping through them, and her next. Check back tomorrow to hear how she worked through the fears that arose when she conceived – and found spotting – again.

“One thing that many people said to us was “At least you know you can conceive”. I understand that people generally like to find the positives in any difficult situation, but at the time I found this to be of little comfort. I felt that for us, conception was the easy part, and if we did have problems conceiving, they could probably be worked out with medical intervention. But problems carrying a baby to term seemed so much more insurmountable, and there was really very little that could be done for us if testing didn’t provide information as to why it was happening.

We soon found a lovely doctor who was an expert in multiple miscarriages. After numerous tests which didn’t give us any more information, he was still able to reassure us that our situation was considered reasonably common and that there was a very good chance that we would be more successful next time.

Next time happened about five or six months later. We were pleased, but I had to focus much more on keeping calm and trying to be positive. I was a bundle of nerves and every little twinge or sign I analysed and agonised over. I had an early scan solely to help ease my anxiety, and we were so thrilled to see a tiny flickering heartbeat. This was the first time we’d had a positive scan and we hoped that it meant this time would be different.

Five days later, at about nine weeks, I had some spotting. I went straight in for another scan. There was no heartbeat. We were devastated. I remember sitting in the room after the technician had left and sobbing into Jeremy’s chest asking “Why? Why is this happening to us again?”

The doctors were able to discover from testing that this baby had a genetic condition called Edward’s Syndrome. I felt somehow comforted knowing the reason for this third loss, and that the cause wasn’t a fundamental fault in my body. When I called the hospital to get the results of the testing, the nurse was reading through my file, and casually mentioned that this baby was a girl. This information, mentioned so offhandedly, was the hardest thing for me to deal with. Knowing the sex gave this baby an identity, and allowed me to imagine more clearly what might have been, and what we had lost. I had to grieve for a little girl who will never be, not just the vague idea of a baby who might have been.

Our hearts were aching, and the roller-coaster of emotions over the last 18 months had permeated our whole lives. I cried at the drop of a hat, and as happy as I was for friends who were having babies, I cried when I was alone for the desperation I felt to experience what they were experiencing. And I cried for the realisation that we may never have our own baby. I started to attempt to deal with the fact that just maybe I would never be able to birth my own child. I really didn’t know how many times I could go through this pain. Jeremy was a rock for me in these dark times – he was feeling the same things as me, but was also supporting and comforting me, and continually reassuring me that he still held out hope that this would work for us one day.”

39 weeks with Jeremy copy

Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at

Together as a Family, Part I

Together as a Family, Part I

This is the first post in a five-part series about loss, healing and motherhood. Our story comes from Shannon, a photographer and mother in Brisbane, AU. Shannon’s story sent shivers down my spine when I first read it. It also put tears in my eyes. With three miscarriages and one healthy, full-term pregnancy, it is a story that can break your heart and fill it at the same time. We hope you enjoy Shannon’s words as we share them over the course of this week.

Here, she details the experience of her first two miscarriages and how family and friends supported herself and her husband Jeremy through them; check back tomorrow to hear how she lived through the roller-coaster ride of her third pregnancy.

“I want to start this birth story well before the contractions began.

In May, 2010, I married the love of my life, Jeremy. In early June, we conceived a baby. In late June I had the first of three miscarriages. Even now I find it hard to comprehend that this is my reality – that this actually happened to us.

We found out very early on that I was pregnant and I then lost that baby at five and a half weeks. Early days, but that week and a half was more than enough time to imagine our lives changing, to imagine this tiny speck growing into a child. Our child. So, when I realised what was happening, I felt profound sadness at the loss of this life I’d already daydreamed of, but also the knowledge that I would never again experience the pure excitement and joy of seeing those two lines on a stick. I knew my joy would now also be tinged with anxiety and fear.

In the eight years we had been together, Jeremy and I had a number of heart-to-heart discussions about whether we wanted children. I’ve always known I did, and knew Jeremy was going to be an amazing father. Jeremy had given it much thought and consideration and decided that he did want a child, but still had fears as to whether it was the right decision for the life he had imagined. One small positive to come from this miscarriage was that the grief he felt over the loss confirmed his decision and he felt sure that becoming a father was really what he wanted.

I researched on the internet and found out just how often miscarriage is thought to happen, how ‘common’ it is. I spoke to friends and many of them have had to deal with a loss as well. I was consoled by the fact that everyone I knew who had had a miscarriage went on to have a healthy baby the next time. 
I found numerous support forums, but it was challenging to find positive stories of loss. So many times people told their stories in forums, but never reported back with positive news of successful pregnancies. Or worse, there were sad stories of miscarriages happening again and again. Eventually, I made myself stop looking for information via google. It wasn’t doing my state of mind any favours.

With all of our subsequent pregnancies, we have shared the news very early on with close family and friends. We understand that most people wait until after 12 weeks, but for us, the fact that our loved ones knew what we were going through helped greatly. It was much easier to let people know what was happening, as it happened, rather than having to say “I was pregnant, but now I’m not”. Friends dropped around with flowers and meals, and just knowing that people were thinking of us and sending positive thoughts our way really did make a difference.

Our next pregnancy came after two months of trying. We were cautiously excited. We knew that the chances of another loss were slightly increased. I tried so hard to remain calm but every trip to the toilet was tinged with fear of what I might find. I practised deep breathing and positive affirmations. Then, one day at around seven weeks, I found a tiny amount of spotting.

I got in to see my doctor that day, who said that normally she wouldn’t recommend any testing at this stage as spotting can be completely normal, but since this had happened before, she would send me for a scan to set my mind at ease. The scan showed that the yolk sack had developed, but there was no baby inside.

They called it a blighted ovum. We were told that having two miscarriages was just bad luck.

I remember being surprised that my body wasn’t able to hold onto these babies. I had always thought of my body as being made to do this (and had reasoned that the hips I was given were made for child-bearing!). I felt like my body was letting me down.

I also felt guilt. I had to resist the urge to apologise to Jeremy for not being able to do this. For not being able to keep his babies alive. I knew he didn’t blame me but it was so easy for me to internalise and place blame on what I had done – I was not relaxed enough, I over-exerted myself, I must have done something wrong – even though I knew on some level, and had been told repeatedly, that there was nothing I could have done differently.”

38weeks  copy

Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at

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