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The Highest Form of Love That Exists

The Highest Form of Love That Exists

You hear it all the time. Mothers and fathers saying they fell in love with their baby from the minute, the very second he was born. I expected that. I planned for it and I was excited to experience the immediate high and the rush of joy and love that happens when you see your baby for the first time. But that wasn’t my experience.

As soon as my son was born, I heard my husband talking to him, saying “Hey buddy”. I heard him falling so deeply in love. But before I’d even laid eyes on my baby, all I felt was fear. When my husband passed him to me, through my legs, and I held him and touched his tiny hands and stroked his cheek and wiped the blood from his brow, I had feelings of curiosity and interest, but not love. I waited.

Overwhelmingly, above everything else, I remember feeling intense, ferocious protectiveness over him. I didn’t want anyone else to touch him. Before I did or said anything else I asked the midwife if he was okay. She reassured me. An hour later, before he had a name, my son began to struggle to breathe.

When I lay in my hospital bed, on a separate ward from my son, having just heard from the neonatologist that he had an abnormality of the heart, an enlarged diaphragm that was pushing up towards the lungs, and an extra set of ribs that may indicate a congenital disorder, I felt pain like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It was a hard rock in my chest, making it difficult to breathe. So I took stabby little breathes, and forced myself to choke down the tears, and told my husband a bunch of lies about how we’d make it through together, no matter what.

And then, when I could hear that my husband had exhausted himself into sleep, I prayed. I prayed to God for hours. I prayed for him to take it back, to give me a miracle. I told him to take me if he needed it to be someone. I told him I wouldn’t live in a world where he would not allow me to keep my baby, and that he would have to take us both – all or nothing. I told God that he owed me. I was selfish and desperate, and I tried it all. The excruciating ripping of my heart was almost more than I could endure. This pain, my initiation into motherhood is something I am now truly thankful for. My heart needed to be pushed beyond the brink of agony further than I ever knew it was capable of.

I realize now that when my son first opened his eyes and looked into mine, with his umbilical cord still pulsing, and I felt such an animalistic and fierce desire to protect him above all else, above myself, like it was my life’s one and true purpose – that was the highest form of love that exists.

Birth experience submitted by Ashlea G. 

Photographss by L. Hinchey.

CBAC: The Birth of Ingrid Alexandra

CBAC: The Birth of Ingrid Alexandra

In the “birthy world”, CBAC or “Cesarean Birth After Cesarean” refers to a belly birth that was initially planned to be a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). In cases like this, sometimes simply saying “repeat cesarean” negates the significance of the decision to birth again via cesarean. As someone who has personally travelled this road, I share the story of my second child’s birth, a family-centered, gentle cesarean, in the hopes that it can bring healing and comfort to others whose birth stories may not have gone *quite* as planned.

The dense heat of the Florida summer air hit my face as I opened the car door. I was parched, despite sneaking a few sips of water to keep that nasty, constant companion of heartburn at bay. At 41 weeks 1 day, I was tired. Weeks of nightly (and daily) prodromal labor had left me exhausted, depleted. My whole body ached to finally hold my little girl.

“It’s your birthday, Ingrid!”, I whispered to my swollen belly, feeling its tightness once more and pushing that obstinate little foot, always stuck in my ribs, to a more comfortable position. I grabbed my favorite pillow and reached for my husband’s steady hand before heading towards the fluorescent-lit entrance of the Family Birth Center.

She wiggled in response to my voice and moved her foot right back.

As I completed the hospital admission forms and surgical consents, my birth playlist cycled through the carefully chosen songs that I’d accumulated over the last three years. The room was filled with laughter and love, as it should be when a child is about to be born, and I was calm and content. As my dreams of having a VBAC faded into the distance, I eagerly anticipated meeting my daughter.

The nurse unhooked me from the monitors, and I maneuvered my way to the edge of the bed, dangling my legs off the side for a second before I stood. I nervously fiddled with the ties of the gown that I’d brought with me, the one that I’d purchased for her birth before she was even conceived.

It was time.

My doula and birth photographer faded into the background, as my husband and I shared one last moment together before her arrival. Always my rock, he whispered tenderly in my ear, “You’re so brave. We’re gonna meet her soon, babe.” He kissed my neck, my cheek, my lips, and I smiled at him with tears in my eyes.

I, myself, walked to the OR.

It was cold.

I awkwardly climbed onto the slim surgical table, trying to center my very pregnant self on its tiny surface while shimmying my gown up to expose my belly.

I remembered the uncontrollable shaking from last time and tried to fight it as I felt the anesthesia taking hold, moving up my lead legs and climbing towards my chest. I’d forgotten that feeling, but it came rushing back as I gasped, “I can’t breathe; I can’t breathe”, knowing full well that I could if I was saying those words.

The nurse anesthetist put her hands gently on my shoulders, and said, “Bethany, I want you to think about your baby. What’s her name? What do you think she’ll look like? Does she have any siblings?”

I inhaled deeply and intentionally, blinking furiously as tears trembled on my eyelashes. As I answered her questions, my mind began to calm once again.

Seconds later, my husband was there, stroking my shoulders, kissing my forehead, whispering words of encouragement in my ear as he sat beside me.

“Everyone’s in here,” he said, “Samantha, Cassie…just how you wanted…”

I smiled, still shaking, thankful for his presence and the stability that he brought to my soul in that moment.

I heard the door of the OR open and the chatter of familiar voices as the remnants of the surgical team assembled.

“All right, Bethany,” I heard from the other side of the drape, “You ready to meet this baby?”

I nodded: “Let’s do this.”

I grasped Doug’s hand and held tight.

I visualized the whole process in my mind as the familiar smells of surgery filled the suite. I felt the pressure of my abdomen being stretched and pulled to accommodate her entrance. It felt like an eternity. Then, finally:

“Here she comes!”

“Drop the drape! Drop the drape!”

Doug ceremoniously stood to greet her, still holding my hand.

The blue curtain was yanked down, and I strained to catch a glimpse of her as she was lifted from my belly. She cried immediately, justifiably appalled at being forced to leave the warmth and dark of my womb. Dr. Graham held her wriggling body over the limp blue curtain.

Ingrid glared at me in all her newborn glory.

“You can touch her if you want…just don’t touch me because I’m all cleaned up for surgery.”

It was surreal.

My hand trembled as I reached out to grasp her tiny, wet fingers as she enthusiastically announced her presence.

“We’re gonna take her to the warmer, dry her off so she doesn’t get too cold in here, listen to her heart real quick, and bring her right back.”

My husband followed her.

I could see her the whole time.

My doula stayed with me, stroking my hair, talking to me, telling me how beautiful Ingrid was.

Barely a minute later, I watched as Douglas carried our daughter back to me, cradling her gently in his strong, capable arms. His brilliant blue eyes, accentuated by the surgical cap and mask, sparkled with tears of joy. He helped me open my gown, snuggling her onto my chest, skin-to-skin, just minutes after her arrival.

She melted into my warmth, half-heartedly rooting, alternating between protesting her arrival and staring at me and her daddy with her dark, wise newborn eyes. I kissed her – kissed her dark hair, her perfect button nose, the sweet curve of her cupid’s bow. I felt her soft, warm skin against mine. I breathed in her smell and marveled at her tiny fingers.

I smiled.

I cried.

Douglas wiped away my tears, as we laughed together, rejoicing in our daughter’s birth.

It was perfect.

Ingrid Alexandra, our sweet girl, our strong baby, born on July 12, 2016 at 07:53.

Birth experience submitted by Bethany B. 

Photographs by Cassie Ringl of New Light Birth Photography. 

 

27 ways to Support Pregnant, Laboring, and/or Postpartum Mama

27 ways to Support Pregnant, Laboring, and/or Postpartum Mama

birth without fear, partner, pregnancy, labor, postpartumThere are so many different ways for a partner to support mama. Some are obvious, some are not. Read on for some ideas on what to ask for from your partner. If you are the partner, here are some examples for you take note of.

  1. “Because he is interested in knowing my birth plan, my wishes and needs, and willing to be my voice in the hospital when I may not be able to communicate well for myself.” -Kimberly D.
  2. “When I wanted a home birth after my first was traumatizing and in a hospital, he supported me 100%. And when I received my GD diagnosis and was heartbroken and afraid of losing my midwife, he helped me make meal plans and get a handle on my diet so that I was able to manage it on my own and did not require insulin. When I was in labour he helped apply counter pressure during contractions, poured water on my back, got coffee and tea for the birth team. Oh and he baked pies for everyone who helped deliver our little girl. Basically, he was my rock and my source of strength.” -Robin K.
  3. “Lots of things, but one that comes to mind was him picking good songs for us to listen to.” -Moriah B.
  4. “Every pain, tear, doubt, decision. He was there. He held me up (literally) when I was too weak to stand. He washed my sore body after 18 hours of labor and an emergency c-section the first time and then held me again after 26 hours of labor and another emergency c-section. When I was too weak to hold our babies after surgery, he held them for me while they nursed. When we got home he showered me until I was strong enough to do it with out pain. He got up every time the baby cried to bring her to me so I didn’t have to get in and out of bed because it hurt so bad. Even though he works 12 hour shifts. He fought the doctors with me when I refused to be induced after I passed my due date. He supported me when the doctors doubted me trying a VBAC. He’s my favorite person.” -Michelle G.
  5. “He supported me whole heartedly to have a water birth at home even though he was scared. He never once left my side during labour and gave me so much strength and courage when I needed it. He was simply amazing!” -Mai W.
  6. “When we were exhausted from a false labor and my hubby bolted from half sleep to tell the doctor I did NOT want pitocin. I was so tired, not dialated, contractions had stopped. My doctor was pushy and seemed upset with me and I’m a bit of a pushover especially when I’m stressed. If it wasn’t for him I would have had a very long, strenuous labor. Baby came safe and easy 2 days later (at a different hospital)” -Kate I.
  7. “Feeding me after the baby was born.” -Kristina M.
  8. “He reminded me that we were so close to meeting our rainbow baby.” -Susanna Y.
  9. “He stayed awake…. 50 hours of labour and that man managed to stay awake with me. Just that in itself was enough. I don’t know how a person does that when you’re not in labour yourself.” -Karen H.
  10. “He worked well with my doula and basically did whatever she said which helped us both a lot. He never left my side. I don’t think he even left me to go pee. He was amazing.” -Cora M.
  11. “Being with me through my entire labor applying counter pressure and wading through the whole gruesome scene, and knowing breastfeeding is very important to me and making sure I was able to do it successfully and without public shame. (Boobs out all the time anytime).” -Tosha M.
  12. “His response when we did non emergent transfer. I was a puddle of useless mess. Totally triggered out from birth trauma from the minute I walked into the hospital. It was awful. I couldn’t get it together. They kept asking me if I wanted pain medication because I was so hysterical and it had nothing to do with pain. He stepped in and knew the answer to every question. He demanded they respect my body. He demanded they respect my midwife. he was there to take me home when they said we were both fine and I didn’t need to stay. He was there when my baby was born, at home as planned, 24 hours later.” -Jessica M.
  13. “He turned his hat backwards when I started pushing–like he was about to work too! Like ‘here WE go’, together.” -Meg M.
  14. “My husband spoon fed me many times while I nursed postpartum which is an incredibly sweet memory for me.” -Melissa H.
  15. “Our girl is our second and I had a rough, rough pregnancy this time around. But on our induction day he had learned all my birth cues. He advocated for me, requested a new nurse when it took her 8 tries on different spots on both arms to hook up my IV, made sure I was given juice on top of my water, bought me 6 boxes of Popsicles, rubbed my back and made sure that, even though transition kicked my ass, I got my med free delivery! I don’t think I would have done so well without him. My daughter was born in 4 minutes, 2 total pushes, no blood and no tearing. He was my rock.” -Eliyana T.
  16. “He helped calm me and relax me during labor and helped me with the birth by reminding me how far we’ve come and how close I was. We both cried during the birth. I had so much love and respect for him in that moment.” -Cassielynn O.
  17. “Foot massages really helped me!” -Chelsea R.
  18. “He read on natural birth and breastfeeding without prompting. And then would rattle off random facts and information. Told me we didn’t need a doula because he was all I needed.” -Ashley M.
  19. “He got all of my craving food and followed directions well during labor and delivery.” -Sarah W.
  20. “Second day home and I was having trouble getting my baby to latch. I was exhausted and in tears. My husband sat by my side and used a bottle of formula to help entice my baby and squeezed my breast just like the nurses in the hospital while I tried to adjust the baby with my hands. Now I’m going on 7 months breastfeeding!” -Jessica M.
  21. “The fact that I was literally in (primal) beast mode, unshowered, broken blood vessels all over my face, straight up demon-screaming, clawing at his hands and arms, and he was looking at me like I was the single most beautiful and amazing thing on this planet.” -Katie S.
  22. “Caring for our toddler after baby was born so I could focus on nursing and resting.” -Imani C.
  23. “My sweet husband just said ‘Whatever mama wants’ during my whole pregnancy.” -Devin S.
  24. “He made a schedule for my recovery so some one was with me at all times.” -Jocilin O.
  25. “My method of coping with labor pains was to “bah” like a sheep. My husband got right in my face and ‘bahed’ with me. It made me feel safe and comfortable and allowed me to let my body open up and baby to come out.” Jodi R.
  26. “He is working many late nights leading up to the birth of our daughter so he can take time off to take care of us postpartum.” -Allegra L.
  27. “My husband sat with me while I labored on the toilet (stalled labor, very intense toilet contractions) and prayed over us while I squeezed the life out of his thigh. During this time my other birth attendants left us alone and I progressed from 6cm-8cm.” Amanda S.

 

Embracing the Unexpected: Akash’s Birth Story

Embracing the Unexpected: Akash’s Birth Story

Life has a funny way of taking what we plan and completely turning it on its head. Akash’s birth was no exception to this rule. Throughout 2016, William and I had taken several leaps of faith. However, even in the midst of moving hectically four times, navigating an unexpected job change for William, and rolling with life’s other twists and turns, we were fastidious in planning Akash’s transition from the womb to earth through a homebirth. Besides working closely with our midwife, we read, googled, watched documentaries, and meditated our way to facilitating a smooth transition for this little miracle of a being.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was incredibly fortunate to feel energized and healthy for the most part, save for a salmonella scare in May. I was in great awe of the work my body was doing without any intervention from me and that I could grow an entire human after having received just one extra cell. To encourage our baby’s development, I ate wholesome foods, exercised regularly, and even chose my environment, music, reading material, and movies carefully. I strongly felt anything that passed through me could make its way to Akash. By the time mid-November rolled around, I was feeling strong, prepared, and ready to settle into motherhood. I was convinced that I had done what was needed to have the birth we had planned. Even though William reminded me that we have to be open to anything, I was sure that with my health and the work we had put into creating an optimum space for this event, all would be fine.

Starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I began to experience strong Braxton Hicks almost every morning. Sometimes they would even increase in intensity and I would tell William that today might be the day, only to have everything dissipate by noon. Eventually I began to wonder if my body was missing some sort of starter mechanism – almost as if it was trying to get things moving but couldn’t quite make it happen. Regardless, I increased the length and frequency of my walks and we tried herbs and other exercise tricks our midwife recommended to invite Akash earth side with a bit more urgency.

Soon his December 1st due date had passed and more days ticked by with nothing but Braxton Hicks. He also still hadn’t dropped into my pelvis, which is unusual for a first baby by this point. We went in for an ultrasound on Monday, December 12th to make sure all was well. While all seemed fine, we had to do some follow up testing to ensure he was able to move around enough. Even though he had moved frequently during the follow up testing, we were still strongly encouraged to get an induction that day and I left feeling disheartened and nervous for what was to come, as that visit was the first time that someone had said outright that my body and baby may not be capable of doing this job on their own. I felt a tremendous wave of fear, frustration, and loss that evening as it was seriously considered for the first time that the home birth we had worked so hard to plan may not come to be. In retrospect, this swirl of emotions may have likely laid the groundwork for the experience that would come to be.

The next morning we went to meet with our midwife, Michelle, and found that his position was still not conducive to birth and he had a slight dip in his heart rate during our monitoring. We decided we would go back for a follow up ultrasound to make sure everything was still going well. That ultrasound indicated there was meconium in the waters, which can lead to complications after birth. Between his position, the earlier drop in heart rate, and this new development, we decided William and I would check into the hospital for additional monitoring and try a cervical induction method.

Once hooked up on the monitor at the hospital, it was clear his heart rate was strong and steady and I received medicine to thin my cervix and hopefully initiate contractions. Luckily the procedure was all done by 5:30 and we were able to go downstairs and see my mom’s holiday concert, as she sings in the hospital choir. The baby seemed to enjoy their rendition of Jingle Bells in particular, as I had quite the flurry of kicks and spins!

We went back to our room and I began to bounce on the birthing ball as if my life depended on it for a while. After my parents brought us dinner, William and I relaxed and he dozed off, but my night was just beginning. Contractions began around 9:30 and came anywhere from 2-6 minutes apart for much of the night. While the intensity wasn’t too serious, I began to feel hopeful that things were finally moving downwards. The contractions lasted through the night and the hospital gave us the ok to go home and try to continue the process in our own space.

While they dissipated a bit in the car, I spent much of Wednesday on the couch trying to sleep between the contractions, where were a steady 7 minutes apart. William spent the day preparing our home with the final touches and organizing the birth supplies that we had spent so long curating and excitedly preparing.

Michelle came over around 5pm, as the contractions were a steady 6 minutes apart. She checked and found that I was still just 1 centimeter dilated and we decided it would make sense for me to try to get some more rest, as sleep had been in short supply. Her plan for early labor was to rest for a bit and work for a bit, and I was grateful for purposeful time to let my body relax and was surprised how I was able to more or less doze through the contractions when I really let myself go.

When I came back down from the nap, it was time to get to work. I walked up and down stairs, tried squatting, bouncing on the ball, and doing lunges. Michelle encouraged me to sink deeper and deeper into each contraction and William was a phenomenal support, as I would often lean into him during the most intense moments of each one. We would chant “Aum” together to help me breathe through the peak of the rush and I found incredible comfort and fortitude in this shared experience.

We took another rest later on and when I came down at 11:30pm we found my waters had broken slightly and I had a steady trickle. Now we were really starting to gain hope, though the contractions were still 6 minutes apart or so. We did a quick check and it did seem he had moved down slightly as well. We went back to work for a bit, but this was interrupted by me getting sick and needing to vomit. Luckily, I felt revived after that and was able to keep walking and trying methods of sinking into each rush. When I could rally to say make more noise than just a moan, I would often chant Open along with Aum interchangeably during each rush as a way to remind my body what we were trying to accomplish and spiral my hips to encourage our baby to spin downwards.

Around 1:30am on Thursday morning, Patti, a nurse and home birth midwife who specializes in uterine massage, joined us. She worked on my uterus for almost two hours, trying to coax our baby down and help my muscles coordinate their actions to facilitate this process. It also became clear that getting sick was going to be part of this experience, as I again had to throw up in the middle of her work. Her gentle touch and presence was incredibly important during the darkest time of the night, as she has a very calming presence even in the midst of such intensity.

After her visit we did some more walking and trying to find ways to move to increase the intensity and frequency of the contractions, but to no avail and I felt like I desperately needed some more rest. Around 5:30 I was woken by the strongest rushes of intensity I had felt yet. I had to keep reminding myself that every sensation I was experiencing was coming from my own muscles and my own body so they could not overpower me, because the intensity was created by me. Michelle had called the rest of our home birth team by this point and Allie, her assistant, and Gillian, our secondary midwife, were there when I made it back out to the living room. Their quiet synergy allowed William and me to be enveloped in conscious and deliberate care, without our space being intruded on. I was so grateful for this balance as I was trying to navigate this seeming next stage of the labor process with the ever-increasing intensity.

birthing tubDespite our best efforts, the intensity again waned and we decided to do another check. It was incredibly disheartening to find that, after 36 hours of contractions, I was only 2 centimeters dilated. At this point, the five of us had to have a conversation because my water had been broken for long enough that the risk of infection could start increasing. We decided that we were going to spend the next couple hours doing everything and anything we could to get this baby out at home and then revisit all the options we had.

William and I took this opportunity to go for a walk to the bottom of the driveway and visit our favorite neighborhood dog. Getting a bit of sun and fresh air felt absolutely amazing and I felt like we were able to recenter and ground ourselves back down to this seemingly endless journey. Upon arrival back at the cabin, we changed the music from our quiet and steady yogic chants to more upbeat Thievery Corporation, which William eventually changed to a psytrance DJ to really get the mood up. We filled the tub and I tried a couple different positions there, as well as more squatting and stairs.

Regardless of our efforts however, no progress was being made and it was now around 1pm on Thursday. Still getting sick occasionally and running on little sleep, I was becoming increasingly exhausted and finding it harder and harder to really sink into the contractions and give my body full permission to use them to open. The process began to feel more like a fight and my mind began to swirl with doubt in my ability to find the light at the end of the tunnel, literally and figuratively.

After a long conversation, we decided to call the hospital, as it seemed this baby needed a stronger invitation to join us, as the risks for complications were getting higher. Of course, just as we were able to leave, I sank into my strongest waves of contractions yet. We thought we had another glimmer of hope for a home birth, but this was short lived and eventually we made our way back to the hospital.

hospital roomWilliam drove us to the hospital and we didn’t talk much, just sharing the space and accepting the experience we were being given. He wheeled me up to the Birth Place and they put us in a room so we could get settled. William quickly went to work, hanging Christmas tree lights and setting up a makeshift version of the birth altar we had created at home. The twinkling lights and vibrant energy created by the altar helped ease this transition and made the space feel much more like our own which was exactly what we needed at that moment.

After conversations with Michelle and the midwife from the hospital, we decided that I would get a saline bag to start and see how things were going once I could get more hydrated. Once I was all set up, my parents and sister were able to join us briefly and they came with such love and support for us in the midst of an experience they knew would be challenging for us. Around this time, William and I decided that I would receive an epidural. Even though the contractions were less intense than they had been at home, I felt myself fighting them more and more and was no longer able to embrace them and facilitate the opening that needed to happen. After the saline bag had finished, the anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural.

Once the epidural was in, I was laying in bed and looking at William when I noticed he was getting very hard to focus on and there were spots of darkness permeating my vision. I tried to focus closely on him but was unable to really narrow in on his face and I told the nurse I was feeling dizzy. Initially she did not seem too concerned but than I really stressed how it was getting worse and they found that my blood pressure was dipping because I had not been hydrated enough after being sick for so long. She immediately gave me oxygen and had me breathe into the mask. This made me sick, however, and she quickly gave me a bag. Unfortunately my blood pressure was not going up and they called another nurse in and had me turn onto my hands and knees. I lost track of what they were doing but I knew things were tense in the room. When I asked where William was and they said he had gone to the bathroom, I became more concerned because he hadn’t left my side once during this whole time, and I knew for him to excuse himself the numbers on the monitors must be concerning. They gave me Ephedrine to bring my blood pressure back up, but unfortunately the baby’s heart rate rose along with it to 186, while it should have been staying below 160. Luckily we had an incredible nurse who kept us all calm at this time and we all encouraged the baby to slow down a bit and waited for the Ephedrine to wear off for both of us.

After that episode, they wanted to wait before adding Pitocin to start contractions and instead let both Akash and I recover. By now it was 8:30 and William and I were grateful for the rest. He fell into a deep sleep almost immediately, while I just enjoyed the pain relief of the epidural. It felt truly incredible to feel my body relax completely for the first time since Tuesday and I enjoyed chatting with the nurse.

At 11:30 they checked my dilation again and we were all excited to find that I was now 9 1/2 centimeters. However, Akash still had not moved down at all and we decided to wait a few more hours to see if any further contractions could help move him along. Since nothing was going to happen quite yet, I decided William should keep sleeping and my mom was able to come in and be with me for a bit. It was truly full circle for us, as she had had a challenging labor with me in the same hospital almost exactly 29 years earlier.

By 3:30 on Friday morning he still had not made any progress and we decided to start Pitocin. The midwife from the hospital had me start pushing around 4 am. By this time Michelle was back and we had our favorite nurse from our first hospital stay with us as well. The four of them were an amazing team and fully involved William in the process.

Michelle was an incredible coach for the next two and a half hours. There were many times when it felt like I was pushing with everything I had but not making any process and the sensations were more intense than anything I’d every felt. I was giving everything I thought I had, but when the sensations got stronger, that’s when Michelle told me to embrace that even more. By this point I had forgotten any sense of modesty and was yelling with a volume that matched the intensity of the sensations I was feeling and had completely lost any sense of myself in this process.

There was one moment in particular when I started to get a bit frantic with feeling like this was never going to happen and Michelle looked me right in the eyes and told me to use my breath and center myself and that I knew how to do this. I quickly realized how far I’d gone from my practice and ability to dive into myself and rallied around her words. I fell back on an old rowing practice and focused on taking sets of ten “power breaths,” taking a break between each set. For each set of ten breaths I gave everything I knew how to give and then quickly fell back on the support of the birthing ball behind me when I was done.

Soon Michelle told me to reach down and that I’d be able to feel his head and when I did, I couldn’t believe it. While I could also feel we still had a way to go, I knew that we were also getting closer. This gave me much needed hope and I again leaned into my breath and gave everything I had.

Before I knew it, William said they could see the head about to crown and I gave a few more of the strongest pushes I knew how to give. All of the sudden I heard the exclamations of excitement from everyone and I realized the baby was out! William had been able to catch him and announced that “Shiva was here” to share that he was a boy, before placing him on my chest. I couldn’t believe he was here and just told him again how much I loved him as I tried to take him all in.

Soon he was making it clear it was time for a snack and we gently helped him find my breast, where he quickly latched on and made himself at home. During these first few moments of nursing I also realized the placenta was on it’s way down and after a couple easy pushes, that came out smoothly as well. While Akash was nursing he was still attached to the placenta and it was truly surreal to see him transition from the connection we had shared for so long, to this new one we were both trying to figure out. Soon William was invited to cut the cord and Akash was at once separated from me, yet attached in a whole new way.

breastfeeding, nursingThe day in the hospital was spent sharing our joy with family and then settling in a bit together. Later, we were surprised to hear from the midwife from the hospital that Akash had actually never dropped significantly and that this was the highest vaginal birth she’d seen. Throughout the day the nurses were all wonderful and helped us give Akash his first bath and showed us a few tricks to help make him more comfortable. After a celebratory dinner from the hospital, they let us go home that night and we went to settle into the cabin together.

This entire experience was by far the most humbling one I have had yet. Even though it seemed like for so long that things “should” go a certain way, our experience was so different and still so perfect and beautiful. We were able to share the process more with family, we received incredible care on all levels, and we both have a new appreciation for how western medicine can be used positively and compassionately. While I initially struggled with feeling like I had failed because of the interventions we chose to use, I now feel we were given the opportunity to have the interventions because I needed to learn to not be attached to the way I think things should be or value one experience over another. We truly have to give our best efforts for all that which we can control, and accept and embrace that which we cannot. I have no doubt Akash will continue to show us this, and so many other important lessons throughout our journey ahead and we could not be more thrilled he has decided to join us at long last.

Submitted by Lily V.

All’s Well That Ends Well: A Surprise Breech Birth

All’s Well That Ends Well: A Surprise Breech Birth

After a smooth and complication-free pregnancy, I expected my birth to be no different. I had chosen a free-standing birth center and a team of midwives for my care providers, took Bradley Method classes, and felt ready to have a pretty run of the mill, unmedicated, intervention-free birth. Little did we know what was in store for us…

I went into labor on a Friday night, the day after my due date, and had a lengthy labor at home, with contractions not really picking up until the middle of the night Saturday night. Our doula joined us at around 2:00am early Sunday morning, and we headed to the birth center a couple of hours later once my contractions were about 3 minutes apart.

Upon arrival at the birth center, I was told I was 7 cm dilated, and labored there for another hour or so before I started feeling the urge to push. My water broke shortly after, and our midwife noticed meconium in the fluid, so I was told I couldn’t get in the tub like I had hoped to, and that baby needed to come out quickly (to prevent baby aspirating the meconium, which can lead to infection). A couple minutes later, as baby boy started to crown, we heard one of our midwives exclaim “Wow, that is the baldest baby I’ve ever seen!” My husband and I both raised an eyebrow at that comment, as we had expected our little guy to have a full head of hair, like we both had as newborns. A few pushes later is when the world stopped spinning for a brief moment while it dawned on everyone why our baby was so bald: it wasn’t his head that was crowning, it was his butt! Baby boy was breech, and we had no idea until this moment.

How did we get to this moment without knowing he was breech, you may ask? That’s a great question, and one we’ll never have the answer to. Our guy was breech at both ultrasounds at 20 and 24 weeks, but we were assured that most babies are breech at that point, and we had plenty of time for him to turn on his own. During subsequent checks by our midwife (including an internal exam just to be sure!) we were told he had indeed moved into the head down position. So, was he breech that whole time and somehow fooled our midwife? Or did he turn sometime in the days or hours leading up to delivery? We’ll never know….

What we do know, however, is that we were fortunate enough to have an extremely skilled team of midwives present at our birth, with whom we owe everything to! Our lead midwife had delivered breech babies at home births before, so she knew exactly what to do, and sprang into action. Basically, the biggest risk with delivering a breech baby is the point at which the head is being delivered; there’s a chance that the baby’s chin can get caught on the pelvic bone and essentially get stuck. After I had successfully pushed the little guy’s body out, I was told to stop pushing. My midwife had one person pushing down on the top of his head from the outside, while she reached in and hooked a finger into his lower jaw – all in an effort to keep his chin tucked to his chest and prevent it from getting caught on my pelvic bone. One more big push later, and he was out!

While it was a huge relief to have our guy delivered (after just a half hour of intense pushing), we weren’t quite out of the woods yet. His breathing wasn’t quite where they wanted it to be, so they decided to transfer him, accompanied by my husband, to the hospital for closer monitoring. I had to stay behind because I had two two-degree tears that needed repairing, and a significant amount of hemorrhaging from my placenta detaching early. Luckily, however, my little man got a clean bill of health almost immediately upon arriving at the hospital and was able to return to me within just a couple of hours for his first feed and snuggles.

We feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the expert team at our birth that we did. It’s scary to think about all the ways that my surprise breech birth could have gone terribly wrong, but I choose instead to feel grateful for how well it did turn out. While I didn’t go into my birth thinking I was having an unmedicated, vaginal breech birth, I’m glad that my choice of care team supported that when it became a possibility. Had I been in a hospital, I would have had an emergency c-section no question, and would have possibly ended up with irreversible damage to my body due to the fact that baby boy was already on his way out when his positioning was discovered. All’s well that ends well, and we joyfully welcomed Ember Daniel into the world, backwards, on November 1st, 2015 at 6:56am.

breech, breech birth, midwife

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Submitted by Julia Hogan.

Photographs by Kyla Berry Photography

Proud of My Scar

Proud of My Scar

fibroid, cyst,

When I posted this picture last week, I had no idea that it would have had the impact it has. I never thought I would share the picture but something made me post it. Little did I know that one picture on my Instagram (with only 200 or so followers may I add) would have been liked and shared thousands of times through various channels. Thank you Birth Without Fear.

Original post…

The vast majority of the comments have been absolutely amazing, however in hindsight I do have one regret. I wish I had gone into a little more detail. My case wasn’t an ordinary one and there are reasons behind it. So for anyone who is pregnant and potentially facing a cesarean birth, please read!

First off, this was my second child. My first was also born via cesarean and I have the more familiar “bikini” line incision that people are referring to.

However due to the fibroid and my placenta, the doctors were unable to reopen the old scar as they simply would not have been able to get the baby out. So the decision was made to perform what’s known as a “classical cesarean” which involves a vertical incision. It’s not a common method anymore due to the risks involved with blood loss and prolonged recovery but it was the only option. So for anyone who has questioned why I “allowed” doctors to do this (or in some people words “butcher” me), this is why.

I had no choice. It was the best decision for me and the baby.

Secondly, The incision wasn’t because I had the fibroid removed. It is still there. The fibroid was only detected at the 12 week scan and it gradually got bigger and bigger but the hope was that it would just shrink after pregnancy. I have since had follow up appointments and due to the position of the fibroid, if I was to have it removed then this would involve a full hysterectomy. So for as long as I have no pain or discomfort then it will stay where it is.

And lastly, this picture was taken one day after surgery. It certainly does not look like that now. The staples and sutures were removed 10 days later and I now have a “normal” looking scar.

I’d also like to add that I personally have never been told that I didn’t give birth. My post was based on the continuous amounts of rubbish I see about cesarean births being the “easy option” or because “if you didn’t push, you didn’t give birth.”

I could go on but I won’t. A birth is a birth. End of story.

Submitted by Jodie S. 

Oh, That Smile – From Preeclampsia to Emergency C-Section to NICU

Oh, That Smile – From Preeclampsia to Emergency C-Section to NICU

nicu, c-section, hospital birthIt’s that feeling you get as a pregnant woman. The one that’s like, “Holy crap, this is finally happening. I’m finally going to have this baby.” However, for me, I experienced those feelings more than once with my first daughter.

I was starting to show signs of preeclampsia in the 28th week of my pregnancy. My feet and ankles started to swell and my mom mentioned it could be preeclampsia. I thought she was crazy because everything was going great up until that point. A couple nights later I started seeing flashing lights. I asked my husband to google “flashing lights during pregnancy” and the first thing that popped up was preeclampsia. I called my doctor the next day and told her my concerns. She suggested that I go in and get checked out.

When I got to the clinic the nurse took my blood pressure right away. After doing so she said, “Hmm, that can’t be right. Let me try again.” After the second attempt she told me she was going to grab another nurse and have her try. Once the new nurse came in they proceeded to take my blood pressure again. Once they took it they looked at each other and immediately told me I needed to lie down. I asked if everything was okay and they told me my blood pressure was a little high but there was nothing to worry about. After about 45 minutes they sent me to have blood and urine tests done. My urine came back showing signs of protein in it. At this point we hadn’t even talked about preeclampsia. I asked my doctor if that’s what I had and she was quick to tell me no. I “wasn’t showing enough signs” for it to be. Let’s see, swollen feet and ankles, seeing flashing lights, high blood pressure and now protein in my urine. All signs of preeclampsia. I went home frustrated but my thought was, “She’s a doctor. She obviously knows more than I do.”

My next appointment came and again, high blood pressure and now even more protien in my urine. The doctor ordered an ultrasound to make sure baby was doing fine, which she was. (We didn’t find out she was a girl until she was born.) Again she told me it wasn’t preeclampsia. Having another high blood pressure reading she wanted me to go and get my own blood pressure cuff. I was told to take it throughout the day to make sure it wasn’t getting too high. Around the 31st week of my pregnancy my husband and I went to the ER with my blood pressure reading 170/110. They hooked me up to the fetal monitor and once they were confident baby was fine they sent me home. We couldn’t have been there much longer than an hour. Both my husband and I were frustrated they weren’t admitting me to be monitored more closely. We felt like we were the only ones taking this seriously. No one was listening to our concerns. At my 32 week appointment it was the same type of thing. High blood pressure, more protein. Baby was still doing fine though, so she saw no concern. And still, no preeclampsia.

About an hour after my appointment I got a call from the hospital saying my doctor had consulted with another doctor and he wanted me admitted right away for close monitoring. Finally, someone was taking this seriously!

Once admitted I felt like I could take a huge breath of relief. The new doctor came in and said he wanted to do a 24 hour urine test. I asked him what he thought was going on since my doctor said I didn’t have preeclampsia, and he responded by saying he was taken aback by the fact she said it wasn’t preeclampsia. He informed me I did in fact have preeclampsia and it was severe. As much as I didn’t want to hear that, it was nice knowing I was no longer the only person thinking that.

I stayed in the hospital for three days and two nights before being sent home on bed rest with appointments every other day. Our goal was to make it to 34 weeks.

Once our 34 week appointment came I was feeling really good. I made it to the target date and that was huge for me! I fully expected to go to my appointment and be sent home just like every other appointment. I was hooked up to the fetal monitor and everything seemed fine; baby was active as normal. The nurse came and checked on us a few times. One of the times she came in and tore off all the paper with the baby’s readings on it. She didn’t say much and I really didn’t think much of it. A bit later my doctor came in. She told me the baby’s heart rate wasn’t quite where she wanted it to be and she was no longer comfortable with the pregnancy. She told me to go home, take a nap, pack my bags and be to the hospital by 3:00pm. I was being admitted. Wow. Not at all how I planned my day!

I was admitted at 34 weeks exactly. Once at the hospital we went over the plan she had put together. They hooked me up to the monitor, and I was only allowed to leave the bed for using the bathroom. She was going to insert a foley catheter on both sides of my cervix and fill each side with saline solution to help soften my cervix before inducing me. She inserted it around 9:00pm on our first night in the hospital. It was not a fun experience and I was thankful when it was over. She told me if it fell out on its own it meant I was dilated to a four or a five, and that’s when they would induce. I woke up at 5:0 am to use the restroom and to my surprise it fell out. Yay! I was very relieved that I had dilated so quickly.

At 5:30am a nurse came in and started the pitocin. It was happening. We were (hopefully) going to meet our baby that day. Soon after they started the pitocin I started having contractions. I tried to fall back asleep so I could be rested and ready for delivery.

At 9:00am my doctor came in and told me she was going to check to see how far I had progressed. I was very hopeful I’d be dilated to at least a five if not more. As she was checking me, she informed me I was only dilated to a one. Umm, what? She said she must have inserted the foley catheter wrong and that’s why it fell out. Talk about a disappointment! I was so frustrated with both the nurse for not checking me right away, and myself for not insisting on being checked.

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So there we were. Back to square one. They stopped the pitocin and said they were going to insert another foley catheter. This was definitely NOT something I wanted to go through again. At this point, we found ourselves playing the waiting game. Again. Almost right away I started to have really bad cramping. By 5:00pm I was in active labor. Contractions were coming roughly every 30 seconds and lasting around a minute to a minute and a half.

Now to truly appreciate (haha!) this whole situation, one needs to keep in mind that I was not allowed to get out of bed and move around. I found that to be one of the worst things. I wanted SO badly to get up and walk!

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My doctor came in and talked to me about getting an epidural. I told her I really wanted to try a natural birth, and that I’d rather not receive it. She then informed me that my blood pressure was too high and the epidural would be the best option to help bring it down. Reluctantly, I agreed that would be best. After about a bag and a half of fluids were pumped into me in preparation for the epidural, my doctor came back saying the anesthesiologist wanted to save the epidural for the next day when I would most likely be delivering. So at that point, the epidural became a no-go. Plus, I was still in active labor.

At that point it was around 9:00pm and 12 hours after the catheter was put in. The doctor pulled on it a bit and said I wasn’t dilated yet and she wanted to leave it in. This was a bit concerning to me, because she had previously told us it could only be in for 12 hours before needing to be removed. She said it would be fine as long as they removed it after another 12 hours. Around 10:00pm they gave me a pain medication to help with my blood pressure, and to hopefully get me some much needed rest. Surprisingly, I slept really well!

At 9:00am the next morning my doctor came in to remove the catheter. She pulled on it and it came right out. She checked me and said I was dilated to a four and she could feel the baby’s head so she was going to break my water. Okay, this is it. Things are really starting to progress! After she broke my water they were having a hard time monitoring baby’s heartrate. She decided to stick a little probe in the baby’s skull that hooked up to the machine to help read baby’s heartrate better.

My contractions were really starting to pick up, so around 10:00am she put an order in for the epidural. The anesthesiologist came up around 10:45am or so to administer it. He explained what all he was doing and said if he hit a nerve it would send a shock through that side of my body. As if I wasn’t scared enough already! He said it probably wouldn’t happen and not to worry. Well, as luck may have it he hit a nerve on my right side. Talk about a surprise! After the epidural took effect the doctor wanted to check and see how far dilated I was. I was so surprised when she told me I was at a nine! We were so close!

She then went on to say, “I don’t think I’m feeling the baby’s head anymore.” Huh? She had been head down for weeks up until this point. When did she flip? We thought that maybe because the catheter was left in for so long and I was in such active labor she had nowhere to go and ended up flipping. Our doctor said she was head down when she broke my water though. At that point, she had to put an order in for an ultrasound. It was now around 11:30am and baby’s heartrate is starting to drop. They gave me oxygen and turned me on my side. I don’t remember what my blood pressure was at but it was dangerously high. They informed me that once the ultrasound tech got there and if baby was turned they would have to do an emergency cesarean right away. It was Thanksgiving Day so they didn’t have the staff they normally would and were having to call people in. Once the ultrasound tech got there (which felt like forever) he confirmed baby had flipped. Baby was sideways so when our doctor broke my water thinking she felt the ridges on baby’s head she was actually feeling her ribcage.

As if they weren’t already, that’s when things got absolutely crazy. At that point baby was in so much distress and my blood pressure was only going up. They gave me a couple pieces of papers to sign agreeing to the c-section, while they gave my husband his clothes to quickly change into. Someone hopped on my bed and started putting my catheter in as two other nurses started wheeling us toward the door. Somehow, I was able to stay surprisingly calm through all of this. My husband stayed behind as they quickly wheeled me away.

While in the OR, I had roughly 10 people all doing something different to me. Once I was cleaned and ready to go (it only took them a couple minutes) the surgeon did the pinch test to see how much I could feel. Unfortunately, I still had much more feeling than I should have had at that point. Since a nerve was hit on my right side while administering the epidural, the insert got moved more to the left and I had more feeling on my right side. The surgeon quickly told the anesthesiologist to put me under, because they didn’t have any time to push more epidural and wait for it to kick in. He put the mask on me and I knew I needed to go under as fast as I could so I took three great big breaths. He quickly removed the mask while saying my blood pressure was 187/118 and he couldn’t put me under with it being so high. I began by trying to go under, only to find myself fighting to stay awake! She did the pinch test again and asked what I could feel. I didn’t know how much I was suppose to feel with this being my first birth. I told her it felt like someone was pinching me really hard using their finger nails. I asked the anesthesiologist if I could hold his hand because my husband wasn’t there yet and at this point I needed someone. I remember him looking at the surgeon and saying, “You can’t cut yet! Give her at least another minute!” and then she said to me, “I’m sorry, sweetie, we don’t have a minute. I need to cut now!” And that’s what she did. Thank goodness my adrenalin was pumping because I think it would have hurt much worse if it wasn’t. About a minute into the surgery they finally let my husband come in. I had never been so happy to see him! About 30 seconds later we heard “cord around the neck, cord around the neck” immediately followed by the cry of our first child.

A beautiful little girl.

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They got her out in just under two minutes. She was 4lbs 4oz at birth and 18 inches long. She was perfect, ours, and worth every single thing we went through to bring her into this world. Once I knew she was born and safe is when I really started to feel more pain. I was pretty out of it due to the anesthesia, and was trying my best to stay awake. I was not going to miss seeing our daughter for the first time! Over at the table the pediatrician noticed a huge bruise on the one side of our baby. The probe our doctor thought she put in our baby’s skull to monitor her heart rate had been stuck in her ribcage which had caused it to bruise, and weep. Once she was bandaged up, my husband was able to bring her over to show me. At this point my vision was so blurry I could hardly see anything. I remember trying to close my one eye and focus the other on her as best as I could. She was able to stay in the OR for a little bit and then was taken to the ICU for closer monitoring. Once she left the room I was finally able to close my eyes and pass out.

I was brought back to my room after about an hour. I wanted so badly to see and hold our little girl! I kept asking but my nurse kept saying no. I realized I needed my rest, but I felt as though I could just as easily rest in the same room as my baby. At the very next shift change I got a new nurse who agreed to wheel my bed into the ICU and I was finally able to see our daughter! Five hours old. It was the most incredible moment.

The next day our surgeon came in and told us just how lucky we were to have our daughter. She said her cord was abnormally short, and would have been too short to deliver vaginally. She said if I would have tried pushing it would have most likely been stretched too far, and with it being wrapped around her neck would have cut off oxygen. She continued to say that if she hadn’t flipped forcing us to do a c-section, we would have most likely lost her.

There were so many things I thought were going “wrong” in the moment they were happening. Looking back, it all went perfectly.

nicu, c-section, hospital birth

nicu, c-section, hospital birth

nicu, c-section, hospital birth

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Submitted by Lauren V. 

Post-Birth Probiotics Crucial for Activating Child’s Immune Response

Post-Birth Probiotics Crucial for Activating Child’s Immune Response

c-section, natural news, birth without fear, probiotics(Editor’s note: This is a portion of an article found on NaturalNews.com.)

According to a recent study by New York University, babies born by C-section should be swabbed with their mother’s germs; doctors think this procedure can replace “missing” bacteria that babies are normally exposed to during vaginal birth.

Sharing bacteria during surgery is normally something doctors would actively try to avoid, however the experiment involved giving babies born by C-section a dose of protective germs from mom’s birth canal.

It is thought that C-section babies have a greater risk of developing asthma, allergies and other health conditions, and this lack of exposure to microbes could explain why.

Scientists suspect that babies who haven’t been exposed to particular bugs during a natural vaginal birth will suffer consequences later in life. This study shows that it might be possible to at least partially expose C-section babies to the missing microbes by simply swabbing them with vaginal fluid from their mother within two minutes of birth.

This particular study was very small, comparing only seven babies born vaginally with 11 born by C-section, four of whom were given a dose of their mother’s bacteria. Over the following month, researchers took samples from all over their bodies to examine how the microbiomes were developing. They found that the four babies who were exposed to their mother’s microbes were more similar to those babies born via vaginal birth than to the other babies born by C-section.

Two particular bacteria species are thought to play a huge role in training the immune systems of babies – Lactobacillus and Bacteroides. These were almost completely absent in the untreated C-section babies, however were found in those that had been exposed to the mothers’ vaginal fluids.

To read the full article on Natural News, click here

Shedding a Stupid Stigma: VBAC Warrior in Shock!

Shedding a Stupid Stigma: VBAC Warrior in Shock!

vbac, hospital birth, birthThese pictures are fuzzy and blurry but this is my VBAC.

This is, “I can’t believe I just did that!”

My sister sobbing on my knee and my husband reeling in this moment of “heroism” as he would call it.

My childhood dream was being a mommy. That included dreaming of a natural birth. My mom and sister did it. Why couldn’t I?

I carried around this stupid stigma of a failed induction and cesarean for two and a half years. It wasn’t until my friend and doula pounded it in my head that I COULD have the birth of my dreams the second time.

And I did!!

No fear here!

Women are amazing! We are warriors!

I found so much inspiration from your page. Every post inspired me and pumped me up for this moment. My daughter is 12 weeks old now and I’m STILL on that oxytocin high!!!

Thank you guys for what you do!

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Submitted by Kati Brumage. 

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