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She is Love: Ellie’s Birth Story

She is Love: Ellie’s Birth Story

You and your sister are sleeping soundly and I thought I had better start writing your story before I forget everything. You, Ellie Anna, are a precious gift and your dad and I love you so much. The Lord was so gracious to us in how He brought you into the world.

We found out we were pregnant with you the day after Easter, 2014. A time to celebrate new life. I wanted to celebrate. But just a few months before, I had miscarried your sweet brother or sister at 13 weeks. We were so sad. And I was fearful that this pregnancy would end the same way and that I would never meet you. God was faithful, and eight months later, you made your beautiful entrance.

On your dad’s birthday, December 18, your sister Lakelyn got sick. She had a fever throughout the day but she was still happy and we tried to celebrate Daddy’s birthday. I was about 38 weeks pregnant with you and feeling very ready for the day you would decide to show up. At my last appointment, I was 3 cm dilated, very thin, and you were very low. I thought you would come any day.

At about six o’clock that night, Lakelyn started getting very sick. She had a febrile seizure and your dad and I thought for several minutes that we were going to lose your big sister. In the ER, we found out that Lakelyn had the flu. We got home late that night. Daddy slept on the floor by Lakelyn while I tried to sleep. We woke Lakelyn up every couple of hours to make sure her temperature wasn’t getting too high.

The next morning, I cancelled my appointment with the midwife and took Lakelyn to the pediatrician. She had an ear infection on top of the flu. I nearly forgot I was pregnant with you during all of this. I thought surely now you would stay put and wait until after Christmas to come. We stayed home the rest of the day. You seemed content in my tummy as we took care of your big sister.

That night, Lakelyn’s temperature went back up and it took a few hours to get her to sleep. Your daddy slept on the couch. I woke up at 11 to use the bathroom. I vaguely remember some cramping and a strange feeling when I used the bathroom but I ignored it because I was so tired from the past few days.

I woke up a bit later to gushes of fluid and mild cramping that I couldn’t ignore, although I once again tried to. It was 12:30 am on December 20. I decided I better get up to see what was going on. When I got to the bathroom, I was 99% sure that my waters were broken.

I woke your daddy up and he called your Grandma Susie to come stay with Lakelyn. It was hard knowing we would have to leave your sister but I was so excited to be meeting you soon. As we got our last minute things together for the hospital, I was having period like cramps but I wasn’t paying enough attention to time them.

We left for the hospital at about 1 am. Daddy prayed for you on the way. We knew that Jesus was taking care of you AND your sister.

At 1:30 am we got to the hospital. The cramps were getting a bit worse but we walked up to the maternity unit without having to stop. In the elevator I told your dad, “With everything going on, I think I’ll just get an epidural.” He smiled and said, “Ok, whatever you want.” He later told me that inside he was thinking, “SERIOUSLY??? After months of preparation, you are going to get an epidural???” I was just feeling so tired and emotionally drained from the past few days, I didn’t know if I could do it.

The nurse in triage was kind and explained everything to us. We were taken to a triage room where she checked a sample of fluid and also said I was 4-5 cm dilated. Your head was so low that two nurses had to check me.

My contractions were starting to pick up. The doula that I had met with a few weeks previously wasn’t available, so Shelby, a different doula met us. I wasn’t sure how I felt about having someone I didn’t know at all with us, but she was quickly supportive and helpful. They confirmed with the fluid sample that my water had broke and I was in active labor. One of the nurses tried to start an IV but wasn’t able to. My contractions during this time were really intensifying and I was having to breath and focus through them.

I was moved to a labor/delivery room and was able to settle in. Sherry, our midwife came in to check on us. Another nurse came and after two tries was able to get an IV. I declined IV fluids. Your dad turned on some worship music. I rocked in a rocking chair. I stood and leaned on the bed stacked with pillows. I knelt on the bed and leaned over the top of it.

Best of all, I bounced on the birth ball and leaned on the bed stacked with pillows through contractions. Your dad and Shelby were applying counter pressure to my back and hips during each contraction. I never understood how someone could fall asleep between contractions until I was in labor with you. I felt so sleepy.

I would think about the word “surrender”, trying to keep my hands open and my body relaxed. I knew I needed to let the Lord take over so that my body would open up for you. I don’t remember being fearful, but the process still seemed painful to me. I was breathing in and using “horse lips” or “motor boating” as I blew out. I read in Ina May Gaskin’s book that if your mouth is loose, the rest of your body has to loosen and open up too. If I could recommend any one coping technique to a laboring woman, it would be horse lips (with bouncing on a birth ball a close second!). All of this time labor felt very manageable, the waves would ebb and flow and I would have a period of rest in between each contraction.

I was laboring on the bed on my knees and started to feel pushy, like I needed to use the bathroom. I told Shelby and she told me to hold off. “We don’t want you pushing if you’re not all the way open. Your cervix will swell and it will be a harder and longer labor.” I changed positions back to the birth ball and that seemed to help. But a few minutes later, the feeling came back and I asked to be checked. I was between 7-8 cm. I knew the hardest part was ahead of me, but I was so excited knowing we were so very close to meeting you.

Back on the birth ball, your dad stood in front of me and held my hands while Shelby stayed behind me. I was getting to the end of my rope with these contractions. They were incredibly intense and when they peaked, I wasn’t sure I could keep going. I lost control of my breathing a couple of times and your dad and Shelby would remind me to breath for you, that you needed me to breathe. Your dad kept saying, “You can do this, you are doing it, and you’ve done it before!”

I moaned and breathed and horse-lipped my way through transition. It was helpful to remember to let go, to let the process happen. I don’t remember all of the songs that played but I remember hearing bits and pieces of lyrics now and then that would remind me of the Truth. I knew that the Lord was helping us and making a way for you to come into the world. Looking back, this was the most intense part of labor.

Then something changed. I HAD to push. This was a different feeling than before. I couldn’t help it. My whole body was pushing so forcefully which was something I never experienced during my first labor. Shelby again told me not to, to try short panting breaths, until the nurse could check me. It was impossible.

I got up to the bed and felt absolutely done. “I can’t do it!” Shelby looked at me and said, “The pain is as bad as it’s going to get, it won’t get any worse. You’ve made it through the hardest part, and now you get to start pushing and working with those contractions so you can meet your baby.”

That was what I needed to hear! The nurse finally checked me and I was at a 10. I am pretty sure I continued to push although everyone was telling me not to. I knew you were so close and I couldn’t NOT push. Sherry, the midwife wasn’t in the room yet and I remember hearing “Get Sherry now!” There were a few nurses in the room now scrambling to get things ready.

Looking back at the doula’s notes, it had only been nine minutes since I was checked at 7-8 cm. Sherry finally came in and through two contractions of pushing, at 4:34 am, you came into the world.


I hardly felt the ring of fire which I was dreading so much. I reached down and pulled you to my chest. I didn’t think about it not being okay, I just did it without thinking. Sherry and the nurses said it was fine since you were healthy and wide eyed. I kept saying “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!”

The song that was playing when you were born was She is Love, one of your dad’s and my favorite songs and one that was played during our wedding ceremony. Your sister Lakelyn screamed at the top of her lungs when she was born, but you just looked around, taking it all in.

My placenta came just a few minutes later. Sherry showed it to us which we were in awe of, a perfect “tree of life”. Your dad cut the cord while we snuggled. I had a first degree tear where my episiotomy from Lakelyn’s birth had been. Sherry stitched me up while you stayed right on my chest.

You were 7 lbs 3 oz and 20.5 inches long. You nursed right away for almost an hour and have been a nursing champ and snuggle bug ever since. We can’t believe how happy and content you are.


You love to laugh at your big sister and stay close to mommy and daddy. You are so loved , sweet girl. We are so thankful for your story, Ellie Anna. And really, your story is just beginning.

{Submitted by Abby Van Deman}

The Healing Home Birth of Baby Lucas

The Healing Home Birth of Baby Lucas

The birth of my first son was in a hospital. I like to say nothing traumatic happened to me to make me question the way I gave birth and to seek out other options, better options, but I feel now that I was in denial. I cried for weeks after his birth feeling guilty for some of the decisions made during his birth and how they affected my son during and after birth.

For example, I was given an episiotomy without my knowledge let alone my permission; I felt rushed and bossed around; I felt like after 20 minutes of pushing, the vacuum assisted birth was my last resort before a c-section. I felt like such a horrible mother for not asking more questions and being more informed.

This led me to research birth and the options a woman has during such a special and beautiful time in her life. I got my hands on The Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America. I was sold immediately. I got my husband on board easily by having him watch the same things and he agreed that we would never birth in a hospital again if we didn’t need to! Praise God I have an understanding husband who kept an open mind!

That brings me to the birth story of my second son, Lucas Ray Woolf. I woke up in the morning at 5:30 when Robert’s alarm for work went off. We lay there in bed just talking and avoiding the reality that he needed to go to work and that I was STILL pregnant. I was only 39 weeks but had been dilated to a 3 since 37 weeks and had been working really hard to naturally get labor going.

I was just done being pregnant at this point. I had been uncomfortable for a solid week and was just ready. I had gotten up to pee and climbed back in bed. 6am rolled around and I had a strong contraction that lasted a good while. A few minutes later a second contraction took over my body. I told Robert that I just had two contractions and that they were stronger than my previous ones. I had experienced a couple series of contractions in the previous weeks but they were never strong enough and never stayed consistent enough. At this point Robert said he would wait around a little while and just go into work a little late.

I hopped in the shower to see if it would calm things down or if it would help kick things into gear. Well let me tell you…it kicked things into gear almost instantly! I called for Robert to come into the bathroom and continue timing the contractions. They were oh so strong and oh so close together. They were never more than 5 minutes apart and never shorter than a minute long

I was pretty sure this was it but I wanted to be 100% positive so I got out of the shower and started doing my hair and makeup…yes makeup . I was having to stop and breathe my way through each contraction making it very difficult trying to finish my task. This was it. I knew it. I told Robert to call the midwife…this was at 6:57am…then he called our friend to come get Ethan.

I started letting people know I was in labor…my mom, mother in law and some close friends. Robert went and woke Ethan up and packed up his bag. I was only able to say a quick good morning and goodbye to my sweet boy as my contractions were too strong for me to really contain myself in front of him. I knew the next time would see him he would be a big brother and he wouldn’t be the little baby I thought of him as.

Once Robert got Ethan sent on his way, he got straight to providing the birth atmosphere we had planned: bright lights off, twinkle lights on, jasmine oil in the diffuser, Peace & Calming and Valor Essential Oils on my neck and my birthing music playing.

I cannot express enough my gratitude for this man. He was so patient with me and understanding…even when I yelled at him…it was only twice and I apologized quickly each time. The contractions at this point were just so awful…and I mean AWFUL!!! I didn’t know what positions helped most if at all. I recalled birthing videos of women being so calm and quiet and envied their control.

Then I remembered the tub! I wanted to labor in the tub and have heard such wonderful stories about it! Robert got the water going for me as I got undressed and plopped myself in the tub. I did not receive that instant relief I hear about but did notice a slight increase in comfort.

I labored in the tub for roughly an hour yelling and screaming through the pain. We share a wall with our neighbors and could hear the dogs whining after I screamed. Looking back, I really hope and pray the neighbors weren’t home listening to me labor!

Anywho, I couldn’t find a position that worked for me so I got out of the tub and put my cute night gown back on. I kept telling Robert that I couldn’t do this, there was no way I could do this and I didn’t want to anymore. I cried to him asking where the midwives were and he said they were almost here.

I made my way back to our room where I needed Robert to lean on through the pain. I needed to pray. I was starting to get beat down…I needed to be done with the constant pain and hardly any time to recoup. Robert held onto me as he prayed for me out loud…oh how I love him.

We checked the time…8:33. I asked Robert to call the midwives again…I needed them…for what I was not totally sure. It’s not like they had drugs or any magic to make the pain go away but I felt like they did. When he got through to them they were getting off the exit and would be there in less than 5 minutes.

Ok…I could do this…they were almost there and could take control of this situation and tell me what to do to help the pain.

I was mid contraction when I felt the comforting touch of one of my favorite midwives, Becky. She just stood there listening to me get myself through the contraction. After it had passed she asked if I felt like pushing to which I said I have no idea…it just hurts…that’s all I know.

Darcy, my other favorite midwife came in with the supplies and quickly grabbed out a few basics so they could check me. 10 centimeters, 100% effaced and +2 station…aka go time!

Becky and Darcy finished setting up and I climbed on the bed trying to find a position that worked for me. I started out on my hands and knees. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be pushing or not. I didn’t really feel the urge to push but I had noticed a change in my contractions a while ago. It was a sharper more direct pain…

I was ready to push but I was preventing myself from doing so. With the next contraction Becky advised that I push into the pain. Relief…a weird painful relief if that makes any sense. I needed to push more. Next contraction…puuuuuuush!

I tried a couple more like this, each time the midwife applying oil to prevent any tearing. Becky decided that Lucas’ head was getting stuck behind my pubic bone and that maybe it was a good idea to roll over onto my back. Robert laid behind my back so I could be at an angle and keep gravity on my side.

I was asked then if I wanted them to break my water and my reply was, “Yes…whatever it takes to get this to end sooner!” With the next contraction they broke my water. I was ready to get this baby out so I could meet him!

I pushed some more and Lucas was now unstuck. I cannot remember how many times I pushed but I do remember the ring of fire! As soon as I felt that I stopped mid push. Becky explained that was the ring of fire and if I kept pushing my baby boy would soon be here!

I told her I couldn’t do this and she looked me dead in the eye and told me that I kind of had to.

“Ok,” I thought to myself, “the sooner you do this, the harder you push, the sooner this will be over.”

The next push I gave it everything I had with a grunt/scream. I looked down and saw his head!!! Oh my goodness…that’s my baby! Look at what I had done! I really was almost there! The shoulders were next and I felt like that was a small hurdle to overcome! I took a second to breathe and catch my breath…I wasn’t being rushed and told to push with only half a breath and it was so nice.

One last big breath turned into one last big push and one last big scream. At 9:11am, I felt my baby slide out of my body…out of the place I had carried and nurtured him for the previous 10 months.

Immediately he was placed onto my belly as I rested onto my sweet husband. I was done. I looked at my son whom I had just brought into this world in the best way I knew possible…in the comfort and warmth of our home drug free.

I wrapped my arms around my baby boy and told him how much I loved him. In my head I was thinking, “I did it! I did it! I can’t believe I really did this!”

Lucas started whining and making little crying noises. Perfect. Sweet perfect cries from a tiny little miracle. He made his way to my breast where he had no problem latching…an issue we had with my previous son likely from the interventions.

We left Lucas attached to his cord for 7 minutes until it stopped pulsing ensuring he received all his blood. Robert was able to cut the cord of course. I was in heaven with my husband right next to me and my new baby warming up on my chest.

I looked at my husband who had tears in eyes and I just lost it. I cried. I cried tears of joy, happiness, satisfaction. Tears that were in awe of the strength I had to do what I had just done and with a husband whom I loved so much and supported me in a way no one else could. He was my rock.

The placenta was taking a little longer than we liked to come out so Darcy gave me a shot of Pitocin…NOT a fun shot at all. Within minutes and a small push I delivered my placenta intact. For the next hour, the midwives checked on me and baby every 15 minutes. We were doing great. He was nursing like a champ. As tired and hungry as I was, I just soaked it all in.

lucas woolf and family

After the first hour the midwives went downstairs to give us some bonding time and to get their paperwork done. Robert was able to get in some skin to skin time when Lucas was done nursing and I rested. We informed our family and friends that it was all over and everyone was doing great.

When the midwives came back upstairs they gave baby Lucas his newborn exam. He weighed in at 7 pounds 6 ounces and measured 20 1⁄2 inches long. He was perfect…just as his birth had been.

robert woolf birth story



{Story and Photos submitted by the Woolf family.}

An All-Natural Hospital Birth {Part 2}

An All-Natural Hospital Birth {Part 2}

Yesterday, we shared Amy’s beautiful letter to her unborn baby, where she describes the kind of birth she hopes to have: “I want to bring you into this world as peacefully and as gently as I possibly can….I trust my body to do what it was designed for and what it is capable of.”

Here’s how it happened!

“A little after 10pm on Sunday night, I went to bed. I started having medium contractions and after an hour or so of not being able to sleep decided to time them – they were seven minutes apart. Around 1am I realized that fighting sleep was useless and went down to the family room. I put the TV on and kneeled on pillows on the floor while laying my upper body on my body pillow on the couch. This felt great! By about 1:50 contractions were suddenly 2-3 minutes apart but only lasting 30-40 seconds. I was on my phone on Facebook talking to friends in my mom’s group. At some point I realized this was really happening because I called Melissa my midwife just after 2:15 to ask her when she thought I should come in. She felt I probably had a few more hours and suggested I wait at home unless the pain became unbearable. I don’t remember feeling pain, just an intensity during the peak of each contraction that helped me know this was real!

Around 3am they started spacing out to 4-5 minutes apart and only 30 seconds, but super strong and intense. No pain! I was rotating my hips in circles and giving my knees a break when I could because they hurt. Time passed so quickly this night! I was letting Joe sleep so he’d be alert when I really needed him at the end. I also was still in disbelief that this was actually happening and didn’t want him just hanging around me unnecessarily, and it felt okay to be alone in this experience that belonged to me. It was so peaceful in my dark family room. I was listening to a few songs on my phone and reading my birth affirmations, while taking deep breaths in and out my mouth. It was sort of euphoric to just be alone with my baby and my thoughts, and I really think that prepared me to go through with my natural childbirth plans.

Around 3:45, 12 minutes passed between contractions and I worried that labor was going to stall. I tried to lay on my side and get a little rest just in case that was what was going on. Around 4:30, I woke Joe to be with me. My back hurt and I wanted my heated rice sock. It felt good but then seemed to REALLY bring on contractions, so I flung it across the room during one! My belly was starting to feel very sore during contractions but I was mostly able to breathe through them once I figured out how strong but short the peak of each one was. Joe was resting on the couch and when I told him to start putting the final things in my bag and to grab some drinks and snacks for us, he mentioned he wanted to shower and shave before we left (!!!!) – I suggested he do it NOW! I kept thinking if I could just make it to 6am, Brody’s daycare would be open and we could take him there instead of waking a neighbor or waiting and hour for his sister to get to our house.

After 5am I got in the shower which felt great on my back. Joe got Brody up around 6:00 and seemed to take FOREVER to get him ready. They were watching cartoons and eating toast when I came downstairs and I again had to “suggest” he get a move on! Contractions were getting super intense and I had two in front of Brody. I told him I needed to make a silly noise when the baby moved and I did horse lips to keep him from hearing me moan. That worked surprisingly well. Finally around 7:00 Joe took Brody to daycare. I was a little nervous to be alone, and even more nervous that we were going to get to the hospital to find I was only three centimeters dilated or something. While I was alone I yelled through my contractions. FINALLY Joe was back to get me.

The cool, still-dark air shocked my senses and paused my contractions for a couple of blissful minutes. Getting into the car was not fun. I kneeled on the front seat leaning my head into the backseat holding onto two carseats. I had two bad contractions which I again had to yell through. Luckily we are five minutes from the hospital, though I think Joe made it there in record time. I did not want to be dropped off, I wanted to park and walk. I started to get delirious at this point, grabbing onto a truck’s bumper and then a concrete post near the door during each surge. For some reason they did not have my registration paperwork, so we had to stand at the lobby desk and re-do all of that. I had three strong surges there, including one that made me drop to my hands and knees on the floor, at which moment a lady and little boy got off the elevator and I think I scarred him for life with my yelling.

At 7:30 we were FINALLY in triage. I hated that room. Nothing looked comfortable and I refused to put the gown on until the nurse came in. I just ripped my sweatpants off and climbed on the table telling her to hurry up and check me before the next contraction. I nearly cried when she said six centimeters! This was going to happen TODAY! I was doing it on my own! I refused a wheelchair and walked to my labor room – thankfully the stars aligned and their one room with a labor tub was available. They had to do bloodwork and I agreed to a hep lock. I was on all fours, ass in the air, modesty be damned. Poor Joe kept trying to help cover my butt with the gown.

They were monitoring the baby to get a “quick read” which seemed to take forever and ever. The monitors hurt like hell and I felt like slapping anyone who pushed them into my belly. Three nurses were coming and going and bustling around. I thought something was wrong with the baby, but later realized it was because my midwife was still on her way and they could tell my labor was progressing FAST. At one point I heard the charge nurse say she might be delivering me! They didn’t want me to get in the tub until Melissa got there because baby’s heartbeat kept dropping into the 90’s. I tried to tell them Brody’s did that too and he was fine.

At one point I started shaking badly and no one answered when I asked why I was shaking, so I whispered to Joe to ask them for me. When I asked if I was in transition they said yes. Several times I felt panicked like I didn’t know if I would live through that contraction. I was so vocal and my breathing was frantic. I tried so hard to calm down, but I felt like I had to pee and all I wanted was to get in that tub!

At 8:35, a sweet, sweet nurse agreed to let me get in the tub. The two other meanie nurses had stepped out of the room. She said she hoped Melissa wouldn’t be mad, but the heartbeat had stabilized a little and she thought I’d calm down in the tub since it was so important to me. She looked me in the eyes and said she needed me to be absolutely sure I didn’t want an epidural because I was eight centimeters dilated and getting in the tub, and things were going to happen soon.

Joe said “she doesn’t want it!” before I could reply! Love that man. The labor tub was a sweet relief for a little bit and mostly helped me clear my head and focus. Joe used a shower head to put water pressure on my back which felt great. Contractions picked up with such intensity, I felt like I was being ripped in half by my hips. Up to this point only my belly hurt, but now I could feel it in my vagina and knew my baby was coming soon. I got excited when I remembered we’d soon know the gender!

Melissa arrived and her presence was so soothing. I held her hand during contractions and she and Joe were so supportive when I said I didn’t think I could do this anymore. She said, “You ARE doing this.” And that was all I needed to hear. She dimmed the lights and brought me ice chips – she knew my needs better than I did! I trusted her so much. I was afraid when she told me to start taking a deep breath and to give a short push while saying “uh” in a low voice on the next contraction, but I did it and really felt the baby moving down! This hurt like crazy and I really had to focus and breathe to keep my body from tensing up and resisting it. I was totally in an out-of-body trance now.

I had to stand up for a quick Doppler check and apologized for some mucus-like stuff coming out of me. My water had broken in the tub unbeknownst to me! Melissa told me it was time to get to the bed and I begged to wait for one more contraction. Tub births are not allowed, though she later told me she’s had many accidental ones and that I almost delivered in the tub. Had I known that I would have stayed put! I waddled, bent in half, to the bed. How the heck was I going to get ON it?

She told me crawl up on my hands and knees and try pushing that way. It never occurred to me to push differently than on my back like last time. These contractions meant business. I remember thinking I couldn’t make it if this went on much longer. As I felt the baby move, I just sort of pushed along to help it, not planned, it just felt right. I was leaning forward holding Joe’s hand and the side of the bed. I gave three really, really intense pushes while screaming at the top of my lungs. I felt no ring of fire, but I was certain I had torn all the way up to where I pee – that’s the spot that hurt most.

All of a sudden, at 9:11am I felt a huge release, looked down and my baby was there! Melissa said, “Here’s your baby!” and passed him up to me. Joe was saying, “It’s a boy!!!!” almost in disbelief. I burst into tears saying “I did it??” I DID it!!!” and then, “Hi honey, it’s mommy! Oh my gosh, we have a BOY?”. I kissed his sweet sticky little head and held him to me while a nurse helped me turn around and sit up in the bed. I was kissing Joe, and someone helped me take my wet bra off so the baby wouldn’t get cold. It was a blur. I delivered the placenta and was so excited to hear I had no tears. I think I started crying again because I was so happy that I did it natural like I had hoped, and still in shock that he came within two hours of getting to the hospital!

We had to talk about his name and quickly decided he was definitely Rafe Bradley. All 6lbs 9oz of him. He had some trouble breathing, likely from such a short stint in the birth canal. His whole body was sucking in on each breath and there was a ton of mucus in his belly and lungs. He sounded like a puppy whimpering through the oxygen mask, but I didn’t realize how serious it was at first. I kept wondering when I could nurse him and asked for a snack and was generally acted like a drunk person who isn’t quite sure where she is. When they said he needed to go to the nursery, it sort of clicked.

He pinked up and was able to come back within 30 minutes, but really wouldn’t nurse much. I was on cloud nine, so elated and bragging to all the nurses and our family about what a rock star I felt like! I think I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the pain, but because of my quiet peaceful home laboring, was able to avoid being in the hospital long enough to second guess my plan. An anesthesiologist never would have made it there in time for an epidural to work.

I know this is the most long-winded birth story ever and you should be glad my labor wasn’t any longer. I just feel my labors and births are an important legacy to document for my children, and as the most powerful, empowering, memorable hours and moments of my entire life, I felt the need to record every detail so I could savor that day forever. Brody might have made me a mom, but Rafe strengthened me in a way I had only dreamed of experiencing, and I’m so full of love.”

I Have Socks On! {An Unplanned Unassisted Birth}

I Have Socks On! {An Unplanned Unassisted Birth}

Amos’s Birth Story

My due date with our second child was April 24.  I was hoping to get pretty close or past that date, and was especially hoping to still be pregnant by April 21, which was “Mom’s Night” at my daughter Lillian’s preschool, where all the moms come to see activities and special songs the kids have been preparing just for them for many weeks.

The Beginning

At 7:30 pm on April 20, I was sitting on the living room couch after supper, looking at a magazine while my 3.5 year old daughter Lillian climbed on me.  My husband, Noah, was vacuuming in the next room.  Suddenly, I felt a warm wet gush and realized that my water had just broken.  I was very surprised.  My water had not broken on its own when Lillian was born, so for some reason I just never expected it.  I called for Noah but he had moved out of our room and into the kitchen and couldn’t hear me.  I asked Lillian to go get him and tell him to come.  She did, but he told her he was busy, wait a minute.

So I crawled across the room and unplugged the vacuum.  That got his attention! Luckily I had put a washcloth in my underwear an hour or so before so the situation was pretty well-contained.  I asked Noah to run to drugstore to pick up some Depends for me to wear around the house now that I was randomly gushing fluids.  Lillian was wondering what was happening, so I told her that I needed to get upstairs in the bathroom and then I would explain.  Once I was kneeling in the bathtub with my pants off as we both looked down at the clear liquid spurting out of me, she looked at me and said “Explain, Mom!”  I told her that my water had broken, and this was probably the start of the baby getting ready to come.  It was possible that when she woke up in the morning we would have our baby, but it might not be that soon.

I felt jittery, full of adrenaline, knowing that the birth was coming, ready or not.  I realized that I was probably not going to make it to Mom’s Night the next evening.  I called our midwives and doula to give them a heads up.  My midwife said that probably contractions would start in the next 24 hours, and to just keep them posted.  Since the amniotic fluid was clear and the baby was kicking everything looked fine.  They might stop over at some point to give a listen to the baby’s heart beat.  If nothing had started before we went to bed I should just give her a call to touch base.

Early Excitement

After the initial shock wore off, and Noah got back with the goods, I read Lillian a bedtime story and helped her get ready for bed.  It was just like any other night, but it had a surreal feeling and I was filled with a jittery excitement.  Noah went downstairs and set up the hose for filling the birth tub that was already set up in our family room (we planned to birth at home).  He then took over with Lillian and finished putting her to bed while I got things ready for birthing.  I made some “labor-ade” (coconut water and orange juice), changed into my laboring clothes (a black sports bra and some loose pants), and filled water bottles.  I got the bin of birth supplies out, going over the list our midwives had given us to pull together a few last items.  No contractions yet.

I didn’t want to alert our families yet since labor hadn’t started and I didn’t want to feel like people were waiting on me, but we wanted to make arrangements for Lillian to be cared for tomorrow in case I was in the thick of it during the day, so Noah called his aunt to see if she was free the next day in case we needed her to take Lillian, and she was.  I emailed my mom with “just in case” directions for her to take Lillian to Mom’s  the next night, a contingency plan we had previously discussed, although I realized that it was pretty much a certainty that I wouldn’t be the one going.

I was a little disappointed, but the excitement of getting to meet our baby made me feel better.  I wanted to give my office a heads up that I wouldn’t be in the next day and to give a status update on my docket items, but again I didn’t want to send an email yet being that we were early in the process…Noah had the brilliant suggestion to type up the email now, and then just hit send in the morning, so that’s what I did.

Noah came down after getting Lillian to bed and we excitedly got things set up, set up the video camera near the birth tub, and snapped a few last belly pictures together by the tub.  I called my midwife again before going to bed to give her an update (no contractions yet, which was fine).  I went to bed at 10:45pm, but couldn’t fall asleep for awhile from excitement.  I was still awake when Noah came to bed at 11:30.  I know I fell asleep at some point, though, because I later woke up to go to the bathroom.  I think I slept about an hour.

While I was laying in bed the baby got very active, and it was not very comfortable without the cushion of my bag of waters.  I went back to sleep and kind of dozed.  At some point I started to have some contractions, but I was mostly asleep so I didn’t note what time they started.  They were not too intense and I could easily breathe and relax through them and doze off in between.  Noah slept on beside me.

Active labor

At 2:15 am I decided to move to the guest bedroom to labor, because I wanted to use the contraction timer app on the phone but didn’t want to wake Noah.  Looking back, I think I consider this to be when “active” labor started.  I went downstairs to get my headphones and some crackers, then got set up in the guest room.  I was kind of in the “excited” emotional signpost stage of labor.  I timed a few contractions and they were about 5-6 minutes apart and only 45 seconds long, so I figured it was still pretty early in the process.  Since I was a dark room, the bright light of the phone display was annoying so I didn’t bother timing more than 3-4 contractions.

By now, I no longer wanted to lie down and relax during the contractions.  Instead, it felt better to be up on my hands and knees during the contractions, and during each one I would rotate my hips around and look at the light of the moon through the window shade.  It actually felt pretty good to do this during the contractions.  I did that for awhile, and tried to find the hypnobabies relaxation audio tracks on the phone that I had listened to a bit during the pregnancy, but I couldn’t find them.  I went back and forth between the guest bedroom and the bathroom, as I felt like I had to use the toilet somewhat frequently.

At 3:35 am I called my midwife Jane, to check in with her and get some advice.  I wondered whether I should keep trying to lie down and relax during the contractions like I had been doing before, rather than getting up to kneel.  I worried that I was wearing myself out being up on all fours every few minutes, and wondered if I should be conserving energy.  I thought that I was probably moving into the “serious” emotional signpost stage of labor, because I was worried and needing “advice” about what seemed like a small detail.  Jane suggested that I try to relax if I could, as it might be awhile yet.  She also suggested that I eat something with some protein in it.  I told her that I had noticed some pinkness now to the amniotic fluid that was coming out, and she said that was good and meant that I was dilating.  We hung up around 3:45 am.

I went back down to the kitchen to get a snack, and now for every contraction I had to drop to my knees and hang my head down, and I also had to moan gently through them a little.  At one point I really felt like I might throw up, so I kneeled over the kitchen garbage for awhile until it the feeling passed.

Ready for some company

4 am  Shortly after this, I looked at my watch in the kitchen.  It was 4 am, and I decided that I needed someone with me now to help me through the contractions.  I thought that I’d wake Noah up now, and then maybe our Doula Rebecca could come over around 5 am, so that she’d be there in case Lillian woke up and Noah had to go to her.  I was pleased that 5 am was only an hour away–the thought of having her come soon cheered me.

4:05 am.  I went upstairs and woke Noah, telling him that I needed some help dealing with the contractions.  This was the first he’d heard that I was in labor.  He asked if he could go to the bathroom first, and I said sure.  While he did that, I had another contraction in our bedroom.  I had to moan more loudly through this one, and at the end of it my body felt a little pushy, as though it was pushing of its own volition.  When he came back, I said, “I don’t know if it’s just because I have an audience now, but that one felt a lot more intense.”  I also got the shakes for a few moments, and my teeth chattered together uncontrollably.  I vaguely remembered that this was a sign of transition.

4:20 am. We quickly headed downstairs to labor in the family room, so as not to disturb our sleeping daughter.  As we walked down the stairs, Noah called our midwife and doula.  As he was telling them that I was feeling a little pushy and they should probably start heading over now, I was thinking that they did not need to come NOW now, maybe just in a little while.  Even as I thought this, I told Noah to relay to Jane that I had been having the shakes, hoping that she would understand that I might be in transition even though I couldn’t quite put it into words.

Things get intense

4:23 am. We got to the kitchen and another contraction hit.  This was definitely much more intense.  I got the pushy feeling, only stronger, and I also felt like I needed to poop, NOW.  When that contraction ended, I spluttered a single word  to Noah– “TOILET!” and dashed downstairs to the basement bathroom (in our house the only bathrooms are upstairs or in the basement).  I had already gone several times in the hour and a half before waking Noah, so by this point my body had already really cleaned itself out, but evidently there was more to do.  I got on the toilet and had a hugely intense contraction during which I hollered pretty much at the top of my lungs.  This was the beginning of the most intense part of the labor.  I yelled during all the remaining contractions, because it was what I needed to do to deal with the sensations.  It was an intense, out-of-control feeling with an immense feeling of downward pressure.  I could no longer relax my body whatsoever to deal with the contractions.  It felt like I was on a runaway train, and all I could do was hang on for the really uncomfortable ride, and yell.

Noah had come down to the basement then but I told him to stay out of the bathroom because I wanted to clean up and flush.  Before I could even catch my breath from that contraction and get up off the toilet, another one came, and again my body bore down uncontrollably while I let out a ferocious holler.  I was amazed that I hadn’t woken Lillian with my yelling, as the sound carries pretty well up to her bedroom through the heating ducts.

The contractions were very close together now, so I had precious little time in between them to do anything at all.  When that contraction ended, I knew I had to act quickly.  I got off the toilet, washed up and ran upstairs to the birth tub in the family room.  Earlier, I had thought that I would probably not get into the tub until the doula or midwife told me that it was a good point in labor to do so, because I didn’t want to slow things down by getting in to early.  Ha.  No one had to tell me now that it was okay, I was getting IN because things were obviously moving along.

I stripped off my pants and underwear as quickly as possible, an awkward process at best at 9 months pregnant, trying to get in before the next one hit.  I cried out in frustration as I discovered “I have SOCKS on!”, feeling the next contraction coming on.  I got the offending socks off, and as I climbed into the tub, I told Noah, feeling petulant, “I don’t want to do this anymore.  YOU do it.”  He replied sincerely, “I would if I could.” Quickly submerging myself up to my shoulders, I commented, “It’s hot.”  And, “I hope someone gets here soon.”  Noah replied, “I know.”

In between contractions I felt wonderful, with a delicious lack of discomfort, but during the contractions the sensation was a very intense downward pressure, and I remember thinking I really did not want to be doing this right now, and wishing I could just have a 20 minute break from the contractions.  That would be really nice.  No such luck.  They were very frequent and so intense and lasting longer.  We had set up the video camera the night before, but now I told Noah “let’s not turn the video camera on yet, this isn’t very fun.”  I didn’t feel like memorializing this out-of-control feeling.

During the next few contractions, I was kneeling in the tub facing outwards with my arms resting over the edge.  When a contraction came, I would squeeze Noah’s hands and look intently into his eyes.  I drew strength from him as we locked eyes, and I roared at the top of my lungs at the pressure.  He later told me that he wished he had earplugs.  He reminded me to relax my body, to relax my arms, but I could barely hear his words of guided relaxation over the sound of my vocalizations.  I appreciated the thought, though.  During Lillian’s labor, his words had been really helpful to focus on, and I had been able to relax my body during contractions which made the sensations more manageable.  This time, it was more his presence I drew strength and comfort from.  I remember reaching for his hands as another contraction began to wash over me, and he tensed his hands, immediately bracing himself for the intensity of the grip that  I’m sure I gave him at the peak of the last contraction.  I told him, “Loosen up.”  (Which kind of amused me).  I needed to feel a relaxed feeling.

A few minutes before, when I had been about to get in the tub, I had been trying to work out how I was going to manage to push the baby out, and how I was going to deal with the rest of the labor if it was going to go on like this for a few more hours (classic transition thoughts).  In my last labor with my daughter, the pushing stage had lasted over 3 hours, me being a first time mom with a posterior baby.  I was expecting that I still had a lot of work ahead of me.

But at some point now in the tub, I had a realization.  In between contractions I said to Noah with a quiet confidence, “You know what?  I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to do this, because my body is just going to do it for me.”  I realized my body WAS doing it.  With each contraction, my body pushed involuntarily.  I can’t even remember if the contractions hurt, I just remember the intensity and not particularly liking the intense sensations.  With each one I felt an immense pressure in my bottom that was NOT comfortable.  I heard my vocalizations getting higher during a contraction and wanted to tell Noah to remind me to keep my tones low, but I couldn’t manage to speak, so I just told myself in my head “keep your tones low.”  It kind of helped.

All by ourselves

At about 4:35 or 4:40, Noah called Jane our midwife again to see if she would be arriving soon.  I heard her ask him, “Are you guys having a baby?”  Even then, I thought, “No, silly, not before you get here!”  I just didn’t think it could happen that soon.  She was just several minutes from our house by then, but just in case she gave Noah some tips for what to do if the baby came before she got there, and they hung up.

On one of the next contractions, I began to feel a LOT of pressure down below, and I reached my hand down and felt a half-dollar sized bit of squishy baby head RIGHT THERE.  I hadn’t cared to reach down to feel the head when I gave birth to Lillian, but now I did it, and it felt just like I’d heard it described by others.  I told Noah what I felt.  He didn’t seem as concerned as I thought he might be.  Maybe he was remembering how with Lillian we had baby head for a long time before we actually had baby.  I asked him to turn on the video camera.

After the next contraction, which was shorter and less intense, I felt an extremely full feeling down below, like I was massively stretching.  I suppose that was the baby crowning.  It didn’t hurt and I didn’t feel the “ring of fire” sensation.  I was just immense.  I couldn’t say a word.  I could not speak to articulate to Noah what I felt, in this moment between contractions.  I could only hang there suspended in the water, filled with awe and baby head, with all my senses focused on feeling this very big expansive sensation in my body.  I could tell “something” was “happening,” but as it was all so fast, my mind was a few steps behind in catching on to the full knowledge that I was having this baby right now.

The next contraction finally came, and I started to moan again as I had during the other contractions, when suddenly the contraction cut short and I felt the head expelled from my body, POW!  Taken off guard, I swore, “Sh**!”   Not because it hurt (it didn’t), more because I was startled and was not expecting THAT to happen before any of our birth team had arrived.  Noah, not yet realizing what had just happened, thought I’d just had a rough contraction and began to murmur soothing things.  I promptly filled him in, saying, “The head is out!”  He got up quickly and came around to the other side of the tub to get a better look.  Remembering the many birth videos I’d seen, I said not to touch anything, that the baby’s body would probably slip out on the next contraction.

He said “Ok, but I think it would probably be good if you could push the baby out as soon as possible.”  He asked, “Do you want to catch it, or do you want me to?”

I had planned to wait for the next contraction to push again, but now while he was saying these things I decided to bear down a little, and with that the rest of the baby slipped out before I could answer him.  That was the only time in the entire labor that I intentionally pushed; the rest was all my body’s doing.  I reached down, and Noah reached into the water too and kind of guided the baby to my hands.  I scooped the baby up onto my chest, navigating around the cord, and turned and sort of sat on my heels and leaned against the wall of the tub.  So we kind of jointly caught the baby, or he helped me catch, or something.  This happened at 4:45am.

After a few seconds, the baby let out some lusty cries, and we all just sat there and caught our breath.  I was completely stunned at what had just happened.  I couldn’t believe the baby was out already, that my labor was over.  In a way, it was almost anticlimactic (that’s IT?), because I somehow had it in my head that things would take longer, using my daughter’s 14 hour posterior labor as a gauge.  Not that I was sorry it was over.  My mind was just having a hard time catching up, trying to wrap itself around the fact that I had a baby in my arms.  I realized, “I did it!”  Noah chimed in, “We did it!…all by ourselves!”

After a minute or two I asked him to get a towel to put over the baby for warmth.  After another minute, Noah said, “Let’s check if it’s a boy or a girl!  I’m so excited to find out!”  Oh yeah.  I hadn’t gotten that far yet.  I turned the baby’s body a bit so we could peek.  “It’s a little boy!” Noah said, with such sweetness in his voice.  “It is?” I asked.  I couldn’t see very well from my angle, but took his word for it.  I said, “Maybe we should call someone.”  So Noah called Jane, who had just pulled up in our driveway.  She walked in and saw the three of us just chillin’ there, and told us “You guys are awesome!”

She walked over and observed the baby and me, and said we were both doing great.  She had arrived at 4:50, five minutes after the baby.  Our doula rolled in 5 minutes after that, and the baby latched on and started nursing like he knew just what to do.  Next came the apprentice midwife, and then awhile later our birth photographer (she lived the farthest away).  Everyone (except Jane) was surprised to walk in and find an already-born baby awaiting them!

About a half hour after he was born, I decided I was ready to get out of the tub, so Noah cut the cord, and I was struck by the strangeness of my baby moving out of my orbit and across the room away from me for the very first time.  I remember thinking “I’m not ready for this!”, but it was already done.  In the same moment I felt a contraction, and out the placenta came.  I soon settled in on the pull-out bed and got back to nursing and admiring my baby.I’m so happy we have the video of the moment of birth and afterward (although pretty much the first thing you get to see is the very last contraction and then me swearing…nice).  Needless to say, we didn’t have any photos from the labor or birth, but our birth photographer got tons of beautiful pictures of our first moments as a family of four, when our daughter woke up around 6:30 am to her new baby brother.  She had slept through the entire thing.  The timing could not have been better.

She got to help with the newborn exam, with the dude weighing in at 6 lbs, 14 oz, and measuring 21.5 inches.  Our doula and the midwives made us scrambled eggs and toast and cleaned up.  After a few hours the midwives helped me upstairs to my bedroom where I was tucked in with my sweet little boy and enjoyed muffins and tea.  We named him Amos.

Amos was born at 4:45 am, which was 9 hours after my water had broken, 3-3.5 hours after I woke up to contractions, an hour after getting off the phone with my midwife the first time during labor, and 40 minutes after I woke up my husband.


The labor and birth were not at all what I expected, from the breaking of my water, to the intensity and speed, culminating in the very private, unassisted birth of our son.  I had read many such stories but NEVER imagined that it would happen like this for me.

Looking back, my husband loves how it happened.  Now that the reverberations of the intensity of the experience have faded somewhat from my consciousness, I can appreciate the experience, and those precious five minutes on our own as my husband and I quietly took in our new baby, as something very special.

Although it sounds rather dramatic when people hear that we had our baby at home before the midwife even got there, it felt like it really was just kind of something that happened as a matter of course, with no heroics on our parts.  We had our baby, everything went great, incidentally the midwife got there afterwards and not before.  Just a woman’s body doing its thing, birthing her baby whether a professional is there yet to witness it or not.


*Non watermarked Photo’s credited to Cari Dugan,
A Fast Natural Hospital Birth

A Fast Natural Hospital Birth

Alyssa writes this story about her two midwife-assisted hospital births, and just how difficult it was to tear herself away from mopping the floors in the throes of labor:

I’ve been blessed to have two wonderful birth experiences, each of them very different. My son’s birth was far from a bad experience. At the time I thought it was just about perfect. My water spontaneously broke and labor did not progress. Taking the advice of my midwife I was given Pitocin and 12 hours later opted for an epidural. After 17 hours of labor (only 15-20 minutes of pushing) my son arrived. Following this experience I told others emphatically, “Take the epidural!”.

Two years later we conceived our second child. Within those two years I had decided that I wanted this child’s birth to be different. I did not want to labor in the hospital. I really did not want to be given Pitocin again, I didn’t want an IV, I wanted my baby put on my bare chest. I wanted to find the strength to go through this laboring experience naturally, to fully connect to my body and the process. I wanted to be in the comfort of my own home; my husband, however, was not to be convinced.

We decided on another midwife-coached birth in hospital and I had a wonderful pregnancy. I exercised four times a week, ate well, and did all I could to keep my body healthy and happy. We found out we were going to have a daughter, and her guess date was June 21st 2012, a mere two days after our son’s third birthday. The 21st came and went. The morning of the 22nd I begged my midwife to strip my membranes hoping it would help start my labor. At the office I was already 5cm dilated, 75% effaced, and the baby was at zero station. I should have known right then that this wasn’t going to be a long labor.

I had mild contractions following the procedure but nothing of consequence. At 5pm that night I started to feel like the contractions were becoming more regular. I really didn’t believe I was in labor so I continued about my normal business and just gave my husband a heads up that labor might have started. I had been having a ton of Braxton Hicks contractions over the past three weeks: they would be steady at eight minutes apart for an hour before disappearing. But on the night of the 22nd, my contractions went from eight minutes apart to five over the course of an hour. They were becoming stronger, and while definitely not painful, just more present.

By 6:30pm we called the midwife. She suggested that I probably wasn’t in labor and that it was a result of having my membranes stripped. I laid down for half an hour and drank some water. Instead of slowing down, my contractions moved to 3-4 minutes apart. We called my in-laws to pick up our son and I began to do my routine of cleaning the house before I leave (something that drives my husband nuts!). I was washing up dishes and getting ready to mop my floors when my husband forced me to leave the house. By now the contractions were becoming stronger and more uncomfortable. All I could do was breathe through them.

I may have forgotten to mention – I live an hour away from the hospital. Yes, an hour! We got in the car for the long trip. Not even halfway through, my contractions had sped up to two minutes apart and were continuing to get more uncomfortable. It wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, and we arrived at the hospital at 8:45pm.

The midwife came in to check on me and see if I was actually in labor. I was 6cm dilated and completely effaced. She broke my water. After this things went from 0-60. I immediately progressed to 7cm. I looked at my sisters and husband and asked why on earth I wanted to do this naturally. They had no reply and I have to admit I asked for, gasp an epidural. It wasn’t that the pain was too much to bare – it was that I had truly forgotten why I wanted to do this without medication. Thankfully, my body and heart remembered why and had other plans.

During this part of my labor I was sitting vertically in bed rocking and moaning with each contraction. In hindsight I realize that 10 minutes after my water was broken I had to push. I was just unable to believe that what I was feeling was the need to push; I had just arrived at the hospital! The nurse was unable to place an IV. It was then I realized I was going to be doing this naturally. I can vividly remember my internal dialogue, I can’t do this! Alyssa….you are an idiot. You can do this and you do not have a choice.

I looked up at my husband, who was sitting at the foot of the bed (when I am in pain I want to be left alone, not spoken to and definitely not touched) and said, “ I HAVE to push.” This feeling was beyond just pressure and far beyond a slight need to bare down. There was an incredible urgency behind it. I could hear in the nurse’s voice that she didn’t believe me. She nonchalantly suggested we wait for the midwife to come back in to check on me. At that moment the midwife walked through the door. I can still remember the shocked look on her face as she lifted up my hospital gown. As my husband told me later, all you could see was the baby’s head.

Total chaos ensued. Nothing was done. Paper work hadn’t been done, the warmer wasn’t in the room, NOTHING! The midwife rushed to get her gloves on. My husband moved to the side to help me hold my legs up (no stirrups, thank God!). I do not even remember being told to push – all I know is I did and oh my there was the ring of fire… Something more intense then I could ever imagine. I definitely was screaming through the two pushes I gave. It wasn’t an out-of-control scream of pain but rather the kind of scream a weight-lifter might give when pushing himself/herself to the limit (I had to check with my sisters. They say this just about describes it).

Two pushes and oh what a relief! Her head was out! Quickly the rest of her came and she was screaming at the top of her lungs which, I should note, are quite loud. They placed her right on my bare chest and she immediately began to suck furiously at her hands. I was in such shock. My beautiful daughter Brynn Elise had arrived. I could not process what had just happened. I looked at her in amazement. She was here. I did it. It was 9:48pm. After only five hours of labor, one hour and three minutes after we had arrived at the hospital, and only 20-30 minutes after my water was broken, my daughter was born. Incredible.

I did end up having a tear on my inner labia and the midwife warned me that they probably weren’t going to be able to numb me effectively there. I felt every gosh darn stitch (this was definitely the worst part of my experience). I just kept squeezing my husband’s hand and staring at my daughter. I was able to keep her on me during the repair, which was so unlike my first birth, when my son was whisked away shortly after he was born. Brynn Elise stayed on my chest until the repair was done and then I nursed her. She didn’t have her measurements taken until about an hour after she was born. It was so amazing to just be able to hold my baby for as long as I wanted without pressure to hurry up and have her measured and such. She weighed in at a small 6lbs 13oz and 20.5 inches long.

It took me a good week to wrap my head around Brynn’s delivery. It all happened so incredibly fast that I was truly unable to grasp all that had occurred. As I reflect on this birth experience I find such strength and power within myself. I proved, to myself, that I could indeed have a natural birth. I am strong enough. For me this was an incredible triumph and moment of empowerment that I will carry with me for all of my life. I love hearing the pride in my husband’s voice as he tells people, “She did it naturally, without even a Tylenol!” Although the births of my two children were so different, I wouldn’t wish either of them to be any different than what they were. I know that both of my children’s births were births without fear.

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