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The Birth of Luca James

This is a powerful story filled with deep, raw surrender. Brooke endured days of hard labor but gained a new level of strength, faith, and trust in the process.

“With each inhale, breath in hope, and each exhale let go of any control. Cause your story has already been written. So there’s nothing you can do to change the way the journey will be or how the end will look, and there never really was. You are much braver than you believe and you’re much stronger than you think. Dig deep and let your soul find the courage it needs in the waiting process.”

The Birth of Luca James
By Brooke Ganter

“The Lord is gracious and righteous. Our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple hearted. When I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more oh my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you oh Lord have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living…” Psalm 116

Well, I’m ready. Ready to tell the story of how Jesus chose how my son would be brought into the world. It’s not just a birth story to me; maybe that’s why it’s taken this long to write. Because I’m not just going to tell you all the medical details of how my labor and delivery went. But I’m going to tell you a story of how heaven invaded my life on February 5th 2016. It’s a story of not just a birth of my son, but an encounter with the one who created him. It’s a story of suffering for joy, it’s a story of finding worth in sacrifice, and it’s a story of finding the beauty that lies when you surrender to your God, the king of all kings, the victorious one. Here’s my victory song…

Sunday January 31st my husband and I attended our very last birthing class. My due date was the following week but I was for certain I would be overdue. My educator at the end looked at me before I walked out and said “Brooke, get ready girl, he’s coming soon.” In that moment I didn’t just find that encouraging but when she said that every part of me knew that the one thing I had spent months and months preparing for, the one thing that consumed my mind for so many days, that it was going to be my reality any day now. She was right.

Tuesday Feb 2nd,

At around 5:00pm I went to go check the mail and sure enough a little package was in the mailbox and it was Luca’s take home hat that I had ordered on etsy. I remember worrying that it wasn’t going to be here in time, (the stuff a 40 week Prego woman worries about, haha) an hour later I had my first contraction. I had had Braxton hicks for a while and knew what those felt like, but this one was different. I just knew it was it. Just like I had learned in all my classes, I ignored them for a while. But they kept coming; they were consistent, and kept getting stronger. A couple hours after I lost my mucus plug, and that’s when I knew that this could be the real deal. I called my sisters and my mom who were 7 hours away, and I told them to come up cause I thought I would have the baby by the next morning or afternoon. Wow. I was wrong. Little did I know I had days of this ahead of me. I knew I needed to rests, but I laid in bed very nervous and very excited, and I just spent some time talking to Jesus and talking to my boy.

I kept telling Luca, “You’re safe my love, you and I know exactly what to do. I’m so excited to meet you. I’ll be brave for you, and you will need to be brave for me. We are a team my sweetheart; you were made for me, and I was made for you. You have nothing to fear.” I repeated that over and over in between contractions all night long. I remember saying in the post I wrote about my birth plan that pain was never my biggest fear about natural birth, cause I knew I could push passed pain; it’s such a temporary thing no matter how much it hurts. What I knew I couldn’t push past was being fearful the whole time. But I knew I had an amazing birth team who was going to champion me, and be near for every moment. Matt and I prayed about who we wanted to be a part of the birth, I was expecting him to want it to just be him and maybe my sisters who would stand in the back or something. But he said he had never done this before, and I’m the one carrying the baby and bringing him into the world. So it was up to me. And those of you who know me know that I love people, and I absolutely hate the feeling of being alone. I wanted a whole lot of support, all while still keeping the birth very sacred and intimate. So I had my twin photograph the journey, and of course she never left my side. I had my older sister there who had conquered a natural birth before, and is a complete birth champion. Oh I find so much strength in my sisters. I had my amazing doula Alexia Campbell who we hired to solely be by our side every minute of the process once I felt like I needed her, and boy she was my Godsend, my peacemaker throughout the entire journey. And I had my dear friend Stephanie Meek be my intercessor. I wanted someone to be praying and worshiping over the room and over my body the entire time, and she definitely did just that. I knew whichever midwife I would have they would be phenomenal and take such good care of me. So it was safe to say I was in goods hands and around some pretty powerful warrior spirits whom I truly couldn’t have done any of it without.

Wednesday February 3rd.

The morning came, and my family was now here! It was such a relief when they walked in the door, cause I knew I wasn’t going to make it through without them, but I also think when they did come through the door my focus shifted, and my labor stalled. Contractions were still coming every 7-8 minutes lasting about 45 seconds but nothing progressed. So I decided to go to the chiropractor and get adjusted. At this point I could feel all of the contractions in my back, which let me tell you, I would take regular labor over back labor any day! Before I left the office he looked at me and said “He’s coming Brooke, he will be here tonight I’m sure of it.” At this point it was hard to stand up straight, and I definitely couldn’t ignore them. They were very much ones I had to really work through, and use all the breathing techniques I had learned. Hours and hours pasts and it was nighttime now, but still no progression. I wasn’t concerned, I knew the baby and I were okay; things were just taking a while. Was it nerves? Was it exhaustion? Was it fear? I think it was all of the three. That night I prayed with Matt and I asked Jesus, “If he’s not coming tonight, can you stop my labor so I can sleep?” I knew if I had lost another night sleep I probably wouldn’t have had the endurance for a natural birth. My prayer was answered. They didn’t go away by any means, but the contractions were spaced further apart giving me time to rest in between. Around 3:00am they started to really pick up and my coping mechanism wasn’t just breathing anymore, but I needed to be vocal. My sweet twin Cameron could hear my deep moaning, and my cries through the walls, so she came in and helped me labor so that Matt could rest. It was such a sweet time with her that I will never forget. We worshiped together and listened to “Lucas song” over and over and over again.

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“Your love is crashing over me, It’s searching like a raging sea,Immerse me in the wonders of your love…”

Thursday February 4th,

Hours had past and the sun was starting to rise. Contractions were now 4-5 minutes apart lasting about a minute. I kept in touch with my doula and she just reminded me to breathe, stay focused, but also relaxed and labor at home for as long as I can. Well it was the mid afternoon now, and they were still 5 minutes apart. So I decided it would be good to go walk around target to get things moving, and then go get adjusted again. This time heading into the chiro I needed help walking in the office. I was moaning, hunched over, tired, discouraged, and I just wanted him out soon. I looked at Dr. Ronson and told him my back felt broken and it had been rubbed raw from my sweet sisters and husband massaging it all night. I think he could see the pain in my eyes. He told me after this adjustment things should really pick up. He was right. I could barely walk in my house after that. I went straight to my room and labored in there with Matty. My sisters and mom took turns coming in laboring with me and helping me cope with the pain. It was about 6pm, and the pain started getting to me. The tears started to come and my sweet cam was behind me swaying with me, lifting up my tummy during contractions to relive the pain in my back. She said, “Brookie, its okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel nervous, but I want you to know there is no fear in love, and you are immersed in his love right now.” I broke. I realized that Jesus didn’t just want me to just show him and everyone else the brave in me. But he wanted me to know that it’s okay to feel weak, it’s okay to feel tired, and to feel scared, because ultimately He is the one in control. He’s the one who’s made me brave, and because of that all of the weight, and all of the burdens He will carry.

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn for me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30

A few more hours past and it was now 9:00pm. Contractions were coming on every 3-4 minutes, but since I felt them all in my back I never really felt like they let up. Back labor is just like that. It’s terrible. So it was hard to time them out cause I just never felt relief anywhere on my body. So I got in the shower and sat on my birth ball and just let the hot water beat down on my back as I swayed my hips back and forth trying to breath through each contraction and take one wave at a time. I think everyone at my house including my husband and I  were all wondering when we should leave for the birth center. It had been days now and I didn’t want to get there and have them tell me I was only a 4. I remembered what I learned in the videos and in all my classes, and that was if I can talk in between them it’s too early. Well, I was definitely on the path to reaching that point.

11:00pm and I was laboring on my toilet, moaning, crying, shaking, and I was no longer coherent during them. My sisters described it as if I was trying to crawl out of my own skin. My older sister having experienced this before knew I was going to be entering transition soon. I could see my sisters getting my things together and for some reason that scared me. WHY?! I had been praying for things to pick up for days now, and now that they were, I wanted everything to stop. I realized in these moments of getting ready to head to the birth center that the pain was just going to get worse. There were still mountains ahead of me, heights that i’d never seen or thought to climb. But I was on my way up, and there was no looking back. I also knew that once I left my house I wouldn’t come back the same Brooke I’ve always been. I’d be different; I’d be a mama. And even though I was heading to welcome new life, I was having to say bye to the one I’ve always known.

Matt called my doula Alexia and put the phone up to my ear. I barely had the strength in me behind my pain in the moment to tell her it was time to meet me at the birth center. I got in the car with my sisters and Matty, and we made our way on to baby and co. Everyone had always told me about their birth stories and how terrible the car ride was for them. But for me, it was peaceful…hard, but peaceful. We played worship the whole way and I remember just being focused on my breathing and praying over Luca. I was just excited to get to where he was going to be born. We pulled up to baby and co. and the clock turned midnight. We arrived exactly on his due date! How amazing is that?! In that moment I could feel Gods hand in every detail of the journey ahead.

Friday February 5th

The birth suite was a breath of fresh air for me. I had been laboring for 52 hours now and finally being in that atmosphere with my midwife and my doula really lifted my spirit. Margaret was my midwife and she was absolutely the one I was meant to have when we arrived. She was so calm and so collected. She made me feel as if we were just about to have lunch together or something, haha. That’s what I love about birth centers. You don’t enter those doors having to defend your “plan” cause my plan was to do things naturally, and because of where I was, there was no other route. So I never felt questioned or doubted. I didn’t have a million people staring at me like I was crazy for wanting an unmedicated birth, or nurses coming in asking me if I was sure I didn’t want the epidural. I was only encouraged and championed by Margaret the whole time. There was never this sense of “is she going to do this thing?” but there was this confidence of “she IS doing this, and she’s totally capable of it.” And I loved that. Margaret asked me if I wanted her to check me to see where I was dilated to. Gosh I was nervous. Had all these hours actually been doing anything? Whelp I was about to find out. She checked me and smiled and said, “you want to know?” And by the look on her face I knew it was going to encourage me. She said, “Mama, you’re a 7!” The whole room bursted into tears of Joy. My body had been working. The pain that I had been feeling every few minutes for days now was all working in my favor, and Luca was making his way down. It was a proud moment for sure. Margaret was almost certain he would be here within a couple hours. So she just told me to rest when my body felt like it needed rest, and move when it feels like I need to move. Gosh I love how they so trust a laboring woman.

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I remember laboring on all fours on the bed surrounded by my doula, my sisters, my prayer warrior and my midwife, and they all prayed over me. Stephanie started reading some scripture over me. I was definitely in labor world so I cant remember everything that was said, but I remember Stephanie reading John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In thus word you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” At that time Matt was running his fingers through my hair and he whispered softly in my ear, “honey, your hair is covered in gold dusts, Jesus is here. You’re about to have a supernatural childbirth.” Cam then started running her fingers through and she was amazed at the gold glitter that was in my hair. I heard her chuckle a little bit and it made me so joyful that everyone too, was encountering the Holy Spirit in such a tangible way along with me.

As amazing as that moment was, it confused me a little. Was this really going to be supernatural? Was Jesus about to take all the pain away? Was Luca about to come in a few more contractions and two minutes of pushing? Wow, I had it all wrong in my head. See before this day when I thought of “Supernatural childbirth” I thought to myself, “that means pain free.” But the Lord wanted to teach me something during these wondering moments. Supernatural doesn’t always mean pain free, but sometimes it means experiencing the strength of God in you when you’ve reached your max capacity of pain. Supernatural is when all odds are against you, but you choose to stand on the truth that He is for you and you keep going. Supernatural is when you hit new heights, and walk through the darkest valleys. You think each new height is the last one you will have to climb. But then Jesus takes you even higher, and higher, and higher. And then He tells you, “you’re strong enough for it, keep climbing.”

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It was about 3:00am and I noticed everyone was starting to fade a little, my sisters were napping on the floor, and while the room was almost pitch dark and quiet, I continued to labor all over that birth suite. I moved from the bed, to the tub, to the shower, to the toilet, and then back to the tub and back to the shower I can’t tell you how many times. At this point walking was almost impossible, sitting was beyond painful, standing took too much strength, and laying down was so uncomfortable. I was just all around hurting, really, really, really hurting. Up to this point I never asked for the other way out, I didn’t have a moment yet of “I’m done here, take me to the hospital, give me the drugs and get this baby out.” But I had a moment of “I’ll do this now, but never again.” I was sitting on the toilet laboring and my forehead rests up against my husband and I just cried, and cried and said “not again Matty, we are done, this is it, I’m not doing this again, you have to promise me you wont let me do this again!” As sweet as he was, he laughed a little. He said he remembers watching all those videos of women saying the same stuff when entering transition. And once you enter transition you are really arms reach from the finish line. So he was almost encouraged that I was having those feelings. He knew I wouldn’t mean them after Luca arrived.

I remember it was 6:00am, I was laboring in the shower, and squatting when a contraction would come. Matt was behind me with the shower head, making sure the hot water was beating on my back. We did this for about an hour. The clock turned 7:00 and my midwife Margaret came in and said, “Sweetheart, my shift is up, I really wanted to be the one to deliver Luca, but you are in such good hands. Taneesha is your midwife now and Abbey is your nurse. I’m so beyond proud of you Brooke. Luca sounds great and you’re doing a beautiful job. I believe in you, stay strong, you got this mama.” Tears started to fill my eyes. I had been there so long, that my first midwifes shift was over? How could this be? I came in at a 7?!!! I was nervous that having a new team in there might stall me even more, but oh this is when Jesus made himself the most clear to me, and made His plans seem perfect in the midst’s of my confusion. While Margaret was my calm safe place during the night, Taneesha came in at sunrise like a fresh wild fire. She sparked something new in the room, something I needed. She brought a fresh presence of power and strength and belief in me. And it didn’t take but a couple of sweet moments of relying on her fully to know that she was absolutely the one who was suppose to deliver Luca.

She let me labor in the shower some more, but then told me she wanted me to rest on the bed. I think she could tell I was reaching my capacity of exhaustion. My moans sounded tired, my voice was horse, my eyes had dark circles under them, my lips were very chapped, and my legs couldn’t stop shaking. I rested with my husband on the bed and by this point the room was completely bright with the morning light beaming through the windows. “The sun is rising my love, it’s a new day, a new hour, let this morning light refresh you. You got this.” Those are the words my sweet twin spoke to me while I was resting on the bed.

Taneesha wanted to check me to see how much I had progressed and when she did she told me I was stuck at an 8.5. The room got very quiet. Everyone started making eye contact with each other, but not with me. I had been there laboring all night long, having contractions right on top of one another and I was only an 8.5? Taneesha told me if I didn’t progress soon that we would need to discuss the possibility of starting Pitocin, which may lead to heading over to Vanderbilt. Tears streamed down my face again. That wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t make it this far to have to go to the hospital and be cut open. Cause lets be honest, had I gone there and told them I had been in labor for 60 hours they wouldn’t have let me labor any longer, and I would have been sent straight to the OR.

Taneesha then asked me if she could break my water. She explained that that would progress things and get things moving. So she did, and it was a massive gush of water. I felt some relief from it, but she was right, things started picking up even more than they already had. She encouraged me to walk around and start working in trying to move in down. The pressure I was feeling at this point was so intense I could barely walk. But I needed to keep standing so that gravity could work in my favor. So my doula Alexia got her scarf thing, wrapped it under my belly and lifted it up so I could feel some relief in my back and be able to stand even a little bit so that Luca could move down. At this point my back was rubbed raw, my legs would not stop shaking and it truly felt at any moment it was going to snap in half. It was so beyond painful. The tears just started streaming down my face as I swayed back and forth in my husbands arms. I made eye contact with my nurse Abbey and I kept saying in a low deep and shaky moan, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.” She was so focused in on me in that moment; I remember her beaming smile and her peaceful eyes that were filled with so much hope for me, and after every time I said, “I can do this.” She nodded her head and said back, “Yes you can, and you are.”

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The pressure after standing for a bit, got so intense it felt unbearable at this point. So I got in the tub. And in these moments in the tub is when i reached a new height. The heat of transition, when my body was dilating from a 9-10. I remember thinking the pain felt too much. It was such an outer body experience because i’ve never experienced that kind of pain before, but yet i was still so present and so in tune with what was happening. It was incredible. I was feeling the pressure of Lucas body moving down and I started to feel the need to bear down. So Taneesha checked me one more time and I was a 10!! It was time to push.

For some reason when she said that, what I prayed wouldn’t happen, happened. Fear overtook me in that moment. I realized I was so afraid of pushing. I think the pressure just felt way too intense for my little body and I literally didn’t know if he was going to fit through my tiny little self. I looked my doula in the eyes and told her I was scared. She grabbed my face and our eyes locked, and she said “everything your feeling is normal, he’s coming, your at the top of the mountain, it’s time to climb down. We are all here with you. Take each wave at a time, you got this Mama.” I looked at my midwife in front of me and told her I didn’t know how to push. She was so kind in that moment and said she will help guide me. So she stuck her fingers in me and told me to push her fingers out. That helped immensely. Cause instead of me picturing Luca’s head coming through, I was just focused on pushing her fingers out; and that seemed way more doable to me. About 3 or 4 pushes in she felt something she didn’t like. She got me out of the tub and checked me to see what it was. It was confirmed, I had a cervical lip. It was blocking Luca’s head, making it very hard for him to move down. Which explains why I stayed in transition for 9 hours.

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“He knows your suffering right now, He carried the cross for us Brookie, He is right here, you are not alone. What an amazing sacrifice you are giving right now. Just surrender and let jesus take over.” 

This is what my sweet older sister was saying to me in these moments.

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My midwife then asked me to get out of the tub and back on the bed. Y’all, words will never be able to describe my pain level at this point. She told me that I had two hours to push past this lip. At the two hour mark if it was softer and had moved out of the way just enough for his head to come through, than I could stay at the birth center. But if the two hours were up and the lip was still there, it was going to be a transfer and most likely a C-section. I was thankful she gave me a time frame, cause it for sure put a fire under my butt to labor HARD! But it also made me so nervous cause two hours was nothing compared to what I had been doing, two hours felt like 20 minutes. I gave it everything I had even though it felt like I had nothing left to give. My body truly felt like it was shutting down, but my spirit during this time refused to break. Everyone gathered around me and held hands in a circle and prayed.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2nd Corinthians 12:9

  This was the scripture my midwife was declaring over me during this time. It was such a powerful moment in that birth suite.  I pushed on the bed for a while, on my back, on my side, on all fours, but where I felt most comfortable was leaning up against my husband’s chest on the bed.During these hours are what I called my “surrender” moments. Where I had no choice but to surrender to the pain and push past it, I had no time to waste, and no time to search for the strength in me, but rather just believe with all that I had that it was there. Two hours pasts and things were looking up, my cervical lip was soft and Taneesha felt like he could get past it. I so loved and admired not only her belief in me but her belief in herself, and her belief in what a woman’s body is capable of doing in times like these. Taneesha said, “Next push, I can tell you what color hair he has.” As Luca started to move down, it was still in my heart and in my head to have a water birth. So I asked if I could move back to the tub so that I could have him in there. So my sweet twin and husband grabbed my arms and placed them over their shoulders. We somehow someway managed to walk across the room, lift up my legs, and place myself in the tub being 10cm dilated, all while feeling every part of my baby moving down my body. Pain had reached another height after that moment. I thought I was walking towards the finish line. What I didn’t know was I still had over 4 hours of pushing, and hours of pain left to endure.

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It was in these next two and a half hours that I hit the thin place. The place where you no longer feel capable, your not coherent, the pain feels too much, the pressure feels too strong, and you don’t see the end in sight. It’s the thin place where the world around you stops. The voices you once heard loudly cheering you on, now sound faded in the background, and you enter a place of desperation but also determination like you’ve never felt before. And you have a choice that you have to make when you reach this point. You can fight the pain and run from it, or as if i always say, “you can let the tide pull you in.”  Or you can fully surrender to it and conquer each wave, no matter how strong or how high they all seem.

My thin place happened for me when I had moved back into the tub after already pushing for 2.5 hours. It was 12:30pm, I was now falling asleep in between contractions, and after a push I would lay back on my husbands chest and fall asleep. Then when I would feel one coming, I would then turn on the cold water next to me, put it all over my face so that I would wake up, and then I would somehow find the inner strength to bear down and push. I remember thinking, “this isn’t how it should be.” I mean I have a babies head poking in and out as i’m pushing, I can feel every part of him inside of me and yet, i’m falling asleep? Yup, that’s exhaustion at it’s finest. I remember looking up at my birth team and every single person had their head down and tears falling from their faces. “Was I going to make it? Is he really not coming?” those are all the thoughts I had when I saw how defeated everyone looked. The people who had been my anchor and my strength for 66 hours, the people who never lost energy or hope, or fight for me, they were crashing too. So I decided to just lock eyes with my midwife, cause I knew she couldn’t bail. She’s the one delivering him and she has to stay strong. But when I looked up at her, her head was down also and I could hear her praying out loud. “Lord, give her strength Jesus, we need you Jesus, come Lord. Your power is made perfect here.” These were the words that my midwife was praying over me. I didn’t know if I should have felt encouraged or scared shitless that the woman delivering my child was crying out to God for strength. At that moment I laid back and I remember feeling like I was rolling backwards, I wasn’t climbing anymore, the mountain just seemed too steep. But I heard Jesus say “Not now my Brookie, not now are you going to give in to fear. I am with you. I know your weary, I know your tired, but I am here.” I told him “I can’t do this Jesus.” And then he replied to me with these words that sent me back up hill, “My grace is sufficient for you, now let me make my power perfect in your weakness.” And in that moment the Holy Spirit came over me and I started praying in tongues. A heavenly language was being spoken through me and out into the atmosphere. As I was praying, everyone’s head stated to lift. I could see smiles on my sister’s faces, and I could feel hopeful and joyful tears on the back of my neck that was falling from my husband’s eyes.

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I turned my cants into I cans. I turned my “I don’t want to do this” to “I am doing it” I turned my pain over to Jesus and let him take over. I pushed a few more times in the tub and I could tell I just needed gravity to help. My husband could tell my body was crashing physically and I wasn’t pushing effectively anymore. So he told me to get out of the tub and said I needed to squat. I remember being mad at him in that moment. I thought to myself, “Oh cause you know exactly what it’s like to push out a baby?” But he was right. I somehow managed to get out of the tub and walk over to the squat rack all while feeling my baby boy’s head and body moving down, he was practically crowning. It was the most painful few steps I think I’ll ever take in my whole life and getting in that squatting position was NOT fun, but it was working. I could feel more and more every single part of him. My midwife was affirming me and telling me that with each push she could see him… “Keep pushing” she said. I gave it one more push and then felt the ring of fire. That term had been used throughout my pregnancy and I have heard it many times, so when I felt that burning sensation I knew exactly what it was. And oh my wow, it really did feel like fire. I started crying saying,“it burns, someone help, it burns! My older sister looked at me as I was saying that and she said “honey, that burn is your son, your right there…keep pushing.”

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I pushed again and after that everything started to go blurry. I knew if I didn’t get more oxygen, I was going to faint. It had been over four hours of pushing now and I didn’t have much left in me. So they gave me an oxygen mask to breath into in between the next pushes. My nurse Abbey was checking his heart rate during and after each push, and right at the end, right when I was so close, his heart rate dropped. This part is the part that is such a blur to me. I just heard my midwife say “Get her on bed, we gotta move, now.” Matt and her basically threw me on the bed cause Lucas head was right there, and she looked me and said “I need you to look at me Brooke, you need to push and do NOT stop pushing okay?” The cord was wrapped around Lucas neck and his heart rate was dropping fast. It hit me in that moment that this isn’t about me trying to cope with the pain anymore, my son needs to come out… NOW! One more push and his head was out, but his shoulder then was stuck. My amazing midwife was able to respond so quickly and pushed down on his shoulder as hard has she could, and that’s when I knew I tore. I don’t know where, but somehow, someway I found the strength to push and push and push with all that I had and it then my victory moment came. The moment I heard “Brooke, look up and grab your son.”

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That was it, my triumph moment. The moment that made me, Mom. It was the moment that changed my life forever. I pulled my son on my chest and to be honest I didn’t even look at his face for about three minutes. I just held him tight, and with my eyes closed, I took deep breaths in and let the overwhelming amount of love I was feeling crash over me. It was over. “I did it, I did it, I can’t believe I did it.” Those are the words I kept repeating over and over again. My baby, who I had been carrying for nine months, who I’d been dreaming of and talking to and feeling him move, he was now in my arms after I conquered the hardest battle ill ever face. And in that moment time stood still, the pain was gone, the noises around me were faded, the room almost looked blurry, and it was just me and Jesus. He was in front of me and with his piercing eyes, and soft smile he looked right at me and said, “Oh I’m so happy he’s yours and I’m so happy y’all are mine, well done my faithful one”

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All of the sudden the words we had been signing for four days now, the words we had been crying through, and relying on, the words that had been my hope in my lowest places, and the strength in my weakest moments, we were now experiencing the glory on the other side of them. The song became the reality on which I was living in. The reality of which I met my son, and became his mama forever.

“The Lord is gracious and righteous. Our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple hearted. When I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more oh my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you oh Lord have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living…” Psalm 116

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My luca James. Born February 5th 2016 at 2:34pm.  9.lbs 1.oz, 21″ long 

So to whoever reading this, if you’re a mama to be, or you just gave birth, or maybe your not expecting a baby but you stumbled across this story and decided to read the birth of Luca, I have some words that are on my heart to share to you….

Rest in the promise that you’re never alone. Drop your weights and your burdens at his feet. With each inhale, breath in hope, and each exhale let go of any control. Cause your story has already been written. So there’s nothing you can do to change the way the journey will be or how the end will look, and there never really was. You are much braver than you believe and you’re much stronger than you think. Dig deep and let your soul find the courage it needs in the waiting process; Jesus is in it with you. And even when your whole body is tense and your fists want to clinch up, turn your palms up to Jesus and fully surrender. Surrender to the pain and surrender to the unknown. Sometimes the greatest things in life are the ones that were brought out of pain. How amazing it is that as painful as this process was, it was all designed to bring forth life. So count it as the greatest privilege to suffer through the pain, so that the life He solely created for you to have, and for you to raise can be birthed.

It truly was the greatest honor being able to experience my body doing exactly what it was made to do, even when I doubted that it could. In my weakest and most vulnerable moments my body was powerfully working to bring my son into the world. And knowing it was capable to do so was the most empowering truth for me to embrace. Lucas birth changed me forever. What I accomplished physically and mentally amazed me, but the spiritual encounters I had through his birth is truly what was the most life altering part. Life is a gift and the giver is good. Thank you Jesus for being good to me, for being good to us. Thank you for writing this story and for choosing me to live it. May my story and my song be all for your glory.

The Birth of Haven Elyse

This is the story of a beautiful water birth at Baby + Co Birth Center.  This mother truly got her reward at the end of her long “warming up” phase of labor. Welcome earth-side, Baby Haven Elyse!

The Birth of Haven Elyse
By Chaslynn Garrett

Haven’s birth was kind of abnormal. You could say it was extremely long or extremely short, depending on how you look at it. In one sense, it was very long because I started early labor about 10 days before she was born. In another sense, it was very short because she was born only 5 hours after my first true active labor contraction. Regardless, I am so thankful to say that I would not have changed one thing, which is such an amazing blessing.

On August 31st, I remember not feeling well that evening, having contractions that were about a minute long that came every 6-12 minutes, and throwing up in the middle of the night. We had been told that you could start feeling sick during early labor, so this was my first sign that we were probably moving in that direction. The next day (a Thursday), my contractions were lasting a minute each and coming every 3 minutes. These were a bit more intense than the previous Braxton Hicks I had been having throughout my pregnancy. I called Baby + Company to tell them what was happening, but they just said` to rest as much as possible because it sounded like “false labor,” but things may possibly pick up. I was still able to walk around and go about my day. I ran a ton of errands and filled our fridge because I was so sure that I was going to go into labor that weekend. Little did I know that it would be 10 more days of early labor! I tried to relax and got a manicure/pedicure with my mom that night despite not feeling well at all.

Looking back, I remember being frustrated that every time I called Baby + Company over those 10 days, they just kept saying that I wasn’t in active labor and that I s11hould rest as much as possible until I couldn’t ignore the contractions any longer. As a 39 week pregnant woman, trying to relax when you are so ready to meet your baby and not be pregnant any longer is easier said than done. Now that I know what true contractions feel like, I know not to call so much next time! My early labor contractions were nothing compared to those contractions I felt on Haven’s birthday. They were just preparing my body for what was to come.

I spent the next 10 days basically doing the same thing. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. On September 7th, we went in for our 39 week check up, and I was 3 cm dilated. This was super encouraging! I finally felt like I could see the fruit of my labor (pun intended). I started doing everything I could to speed up the labor process. I walked, did tons of squats, drank Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, diffused Clary Sage oil, etc. I knew that she wouldn’t come unless she was ready, so I wasn’t worried about trying some natural approaches. I was just so ready to meet our sweet baby!

Looking back, I was so frustrated and emotionally exhausted over those 10 days. That was honestly probably the hardest part of labor for me in a way. I just kept feeling like my contractions would pick up at any moment, but they didn’t. I never had any contractions during that time that stopped me from going on with my day. I now know that my body was just doing the majority of the work on the front end of things, slow and steady. I’m so thankful for that because it made my active labor so much shorter and easier to work through.

Haven Elyse was due on September 11th. I never thought she would come on her due date, and to be totally honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted her to be born on that day because of the events that are still so raw and real to those of us who watched them happen. Now, I can see that the Lord gave her to us on that day for a reason. She is a reminder of the redemption we have in Him. The Lord had been saying to us all along how she was going to be one who draws others in, makes people feel safe and welcome, and unifies them. She could not have been born on a more perfect day to show us that He will fulfill this promise.

In the early morning hours of September 11th, I was woken up by a contraction at 2:30 AM, which had never happened before. Through my whole pregnancy, she never woke me up. I think she has always had her days and nights straight. I had experienced contractions previously that I went to bed with, but they always stopped when I fell asleep. These were different. I got up and used the restroom, walked around a minute, and laid back down. I thought it was a fluke. I had been asleep for no more than 5 minutes before another contraction woke me up. I checked my phone, thinking that I should time them just in case. Sure enough, another came 5 minutes later. At that point, I knew these were different contractions than what I had felt before, but I wasn’t convinced I was in active labor yet. I woke Todd up and told him how I was feeling. I decided to take a bath in our jacuzzi, thinking that could slow them down. Over the next hour, I labored in the tub and started to feel like this was true labor. I couldn’t slow the contractions down. They were actually starting to get more intense and harder to work through. I had to make low pitched groans and wanted the jets to hit my lower back. I had to keep changing positions in the water because I could never really get comfortable. Todd came to check on me, and I told him to make sure he was ready because this was it. We were having a baby today. After getting out of the tub, I tried to lay back down and get some sleep, but things began to pick up even more. I started throwing up and having to really focus to get through my contractions. It was evident these were not Braxton Hicks.

We called Baby + Company around 5:00 AM, and the midwife listened to me work through a contraction and told us that she thought we were in early labor or moving towards active labor. I just kept thinking that if this was early labor, I wouldn’t make it. The contractions were very intense at that point. She advised us to stay and labor at home as long as possible. We agreed that was the best plan, but I just had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I needed to get there soon. I knew it was progressing quickly, but I didn’t know how quickly. I spent that time walking around and trying to get last minute things together. When a contraction would come, I would have to lean on whatever was in front of me, sway back and forth, and let out low pitched groans. It’s amazing what your body instinctually tells you to do. We had been given so many pain coping techniques to try during labor, but I never once thought about them. I just did what I felt was right. Our bodies are truly amazing. We are meant to give birth, and we know how to without ever having practiced before. God designed us so perfectly.

About 45 minutes later, I was laying on the bed, and I looked at Todd after a contraction and told him that I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I couldn’t make it through a natural birth if this was early labor. It was so intense. We had learned in our birth classes that when a woman says this, she is probably in transition and will be ready to push soon. We called Baby + Company again (it was 5:45 AM at this point), and he told the midwife that we needed to come in. She advised using the restroom and eating before coming in. I definitely didn’t get to eat because the contractions were less than a minute apart at that point. I used the restroom, and Todd tried so hard to get me in the car. I had 4 contractions from our bathroom to the car, which was just about every 30 seconds. Things were escalating quickly. Through the chaos, I remember telling Todd that he needed to calm down. He was stressing me out by running around, gathering our things and talking in a panicked voice. I needed him to be calm to help me stay calm. My sweet husband was just trying to get me to the birthing center so that we didn’t have a home birth, but I obviously was a bit preoccupied! He was so supportive the entire time, and I’m so thankful he was by my side. He took everything in stride and supported me exactly how I needed to be supported the entire time. He was a rockstar!

After finally making it to the car, we booked it to the birthing center. Todd told me later that in the car, I was contracting more than I was resting. I just remember keeping my eyes closed the entire time and having to hold my weight up with my arms as I made low pitched groans to work through the contractions. On the way there, Todd called our family, doula, and photographer and told them we were on our way and things were moving fast. Thankfully, at 6:00 AM on a Sunday, there is no traffic going into Nashville. This little detail is just another testament to the Lord being a part of every step of my labor. I remember starting to feel the head really move down as we got onto I-440. I felt like she was about to just fall out of me if we didn’t get there soon.

When we arrived at the birth center, our doula, Jessica, and one of the midwives met us in the parking garage and helped me get inside. When she checked me, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I was shocked and completely overwhelmed. I was so thankful that it was time to push because I just kept thinking that if I was still only 3-4 cm dilated, I would never be able to have a natural birth. As they filled the tub up, I stood up and continued to work through contractions, leaning over the end table, swaying back and forth, and making low pitched groans. I kept saying that I felt like I had to poop (sorry – probably TMI), but they just kept saying that was normal and that my body knew it was time to push. They were right. I started having the urge to push, and I couldn’t stop it.

I got in the bathtub and started pushing. I kept my arms on top of the tub and held my weight up as each contraction came over me. I tried to push with each one to help her move down and tried to rest between them. Todd sat behind me, and I held his hand and squeezed it as hard as I could every time I felt a new contraction. I remember hearing Page, our friend and photographer, come in a few minutes after I got in the tub. I was so thankful she made it in time to photograph our birth. They told me that Haven was still in the sac, which was really neat! I could feel the sac as a bubble starting to come out. It was such a crazy feeling, and I got even more excited to finally meet our sweet baby. Because we did not know the gender, it gave me even more motivation to push and get her out. I was so ready to meet our little one! At one point, I remember saying that I just needed 5 minutes of rest. Just 5 minutes. I was so tired because it all happened so fast. Haven couldn’t wait five minutes though. She was ready to meet us!

Over the next hour, I continued to work with the contractions to get her out. I think this was a super important switch in my brain. At home, I was trying to work against the contractions. I was trying to stop them in a way. Looking back, I think it was because I subconsciously knew things were moving faster than what I expected, and I didn’t want to have the baby at home. I knew if I got to the birthing center, everything would be okay. I just had to get there. When we got to Baby + Company, I felt so much more at peace knowing that there were people around me that were there to help me. They knew what they were doing. Todd was such an amazing support for me, helping me work through contractions. I knew he was there for me and wasn’t leaving my side, even when we were at home, but let’s be real. Neither one of us wanted him delivering our baby at home! Once I was in the tub, I started embracing the contractions, knowing that each one was one step closer to meeting our baby. I used them to my advantage.

After an hour of pushing, our little girl was born at 7:35 AM at 7 pounds and 2 ounces and 19.25 inches long, still en caul! Our midwife handed her to me, and I got to announce that we had a little girl! I still get teary-eyed thinking about that moment. I pulled her to my chest and hugged her close. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for a healthy baby and also completely shocked that she wasn’t a boy. We did not care if we had a boy or a girl, but I had been so convinced my whole pregnancy that we were having a little boy. Now, I can’t imagine her not being a girl! She was perfect and beautiful in every way. The Lord was so good to us to give this amazing blessing, and I pray that I never take that for granted.

After she was born, I had to be stitched up as I had a second-degree tear, but my tear was on the inside rather than the outside. They call those tears “skid marks.” I don’t know for sure, but I think she probably had her hands by her face, which caused the tears. She has always loved having her hands up close to her face. Because these tears were on the inside, it made it really difficult to see what needed to be stitched. I had a few places that were bleeding pretty badly, and it took almost 30 minutes to stitch me up. During this time, Todd got to hold and snuggle Haven, and our amazing doula, Jessica, stayed by my side. I was so thankful she was there to help me get through that.

After I got stitched up, they tried to get me to the bathroom, and I ended up passing out on the toilet for about 10 minutes and had to have IV fluids. That was not fun. Todd came to help me, and Page got to hold Haven. I was so thankful that it was a change of shifts at 7 AM, so I had multiple midwives and nurses there to help. All in all, it took about an hour from the time I got out of the tub until I could have skin-to-skin time with my girl. I was so grateful when I got her back in my arms.

Over the next hour, Todd and I got to just hold, look at, and love on our sweet angel. We had already chosen her first name but chose her middle name during that hour. Surprisingly, we both had the same middle name in mind. Her name choice is another story for another day, but it is full of words from the Lord about our sweet girl. That hour with my husband and my little girl was one of the best hours of my life, and I will never forget that time. Page captured some of the sweetest pictures of us, and I’m so thankful for those powerful images. I was so overwhelmed and could not believe I was finally holding my baby. It was so surreal. After we had some time with Haven, our family trickled in to get a peek at her. Because I wasn’t able to hold her for the first hour, they wanted her kept skin-to-skin for a while to regulate her body temperature, so nobody got to hold her until later that afternoon. It was so sweet getting to share in the joy of that little miracle with our family. I’m so thankful to have had them there!

We spent the day in bed cuddling our little one, and we got to go home around 4:45 PM that afternoon, which was later than originally planned, but since I had lost so much blood and passed out, they wanted to make sure I could function on my own before I left. We packed up our stuff, put Haven in the car, and took her home. I couldn’t believe that we left that morning, just the two of us, and came home that afternoon with a newborn, a family of 3. God is good. So good. That continued to be the resounding feeling of the day. He is so good.

I am so thankful for our birth story. The Lord was so good to us and truly gave us the best gift in Haven and such an amazing day. I am so grateful and pray that I never take it for granted and can remember every detail. He gave us a day of strength, peace, joy, and love. A day I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life. We have the most beautiful, perfect daughter. She is truly a gift, and we love her to the moon and back!

The Birth of Rosamund Blythe

This is an amazing story of a beautiful and QUICK birth, but one where this mother had the challenge of overcoming a big fear  from her first birth. If you have trauma from a past birth or life experience…this story is for you!
{This story was first shared by Baby + Co}

The Birth of Rosamund Blythe
By Heather Price

Rosamund’s birth story begins with her brother’s birth story, 3.5 years ago. We birthed Jude with Lauren Drees, CNM, at Vanderbilt Hospital. My unmedicated labor and delivery was 7 hours. He was born with his arm up, and I had significant tearing that required surgical repair with an epidural in the operating room. A great story and experience overall, but a traumatic ending that resulted in a lot of heartache and a long, long recovery, including extensive pelvic floor physical therapy. We loved our hospital birth experience. Vanderbilt offered us excellent care and attention! You can read the full story here.

Fast forward to Rosamund’s pregnancy. Another excellent pregnancy, no complications, and I felt great! I started my prenatal care with Vanderbilt midwives at our small, local hospital in Springfield. About 1/3 of the way through my pregnancy, I was hired as an educator for Baby+Company, and started thinking about transferring my care to our center. I planned to have another unmedicated birth, and everything was going swimmingly – and I wanted to have a more serene experience. So, around 28 weeks gestation, I switched my care to Baby+Company. We have loved it!

I had an appointment with Taneesha Reynolds, CNM, at 40 weeks and 1 day. I was dilated a few centimeters, had a soft and thin cervix, and we decided to go ahead with a membrane sweep to see if it might get things going. That was around 10:00 am on Thursday. I expected cramping and discharge, but nothing happened! I went on about my day as usual. I fixed dinner, and Jude and I ate around 6:00 pm.  We finished dinner, cleaned up, and Jude and I were sitting on the sofa watching Netflix when I had a contraction at 6:38 pm. I looked at my husband, Briley, and told him I’d had a crampy contraction. He was headed out the door for choir practice in a few minutes, and asked if I was sure it was OK for him to leave. I thought it was, and said I’d just call him if things progressed. Two more contractions came, one at 6:45, and the next at 6:49, stronger, but still easily manageable, and Jude needed help on the potty. I went in the hall bathroom with him, and as he asked me to help him wipe, my water broke at 6:51 pm! I yelled to Briley, who was at the front door, that my water had broken and we needed to get moving. Briley contacted his parents – Terry, Briley’s dad, stayed at our house with Jude, and Sharon, his mom, followed us to the birth center to serve as an additional support person and witness her first birth.

rosamund's birthAs soon as we got out to the highway, I put my earbuds in and turned on my labor song, O Magnum Mysterium, which was also my labor song for Jude’s birth, particularly as a tool to help me focus on the uncomfortable car ride. I just had it on repeat as I breathed, gripped the door handle, and held Briley’s hand. Contractions were 4-6 minutes apart, and getting stronger. By the time we were within a few miles of the birth center, I was vocalizing with moans and tending to tense up against the contractions and bumps in the road – curses to bumps in the road when you’re in labor!

We pulled in to the birth center parking garage, and Lauren Drees, CNM, and Heather Barksdale, RN, were there at the door to greet us. I got out of the car smiling and talking, hugging my sweet friends who would care for me and our baby girl. I had one contraction in the garage before we headed in to birth suite #3. After the birth, Lauren said that when she saw me smiling as we pulled in, she thought to herself that it would be awhile before baby arrived ;o)

It was around 7:50 pm at this time. We got into the birth suite, Lauren hung our birth affirmations banner that my sweet Baby+Company family made at my shower a few weeks before, and I continued to cope with contractions by standing, swaying, and slightly squatting with support alternating from Briley, Lauren, and Sharon. Briley left the room for a few minutes to go eat his dinner down the hall, so Sharon and Lauren tended to me. Lauren got my music playing on the speakers and was checking vitals for me and baby with Heather B. I was calm and focused, and felt incredible pressure in my pelvis, increasing with each contraction. Within a few minutes of arriving, maybe 15 minutes, I sensed a shift and knew baby would be coming soon. I felt sick and hot; I took off my long dress and continued to labor in a sports bra and underwear. I remember telling Heather B. and Lauren that I felt sick and wondered where Briley was – and right then, he came back in the room. Around 8:15 I moved to the bed and got onto hands and knees for a few contractions, and just felt overwhelmed. I was having trouble coping – I couldn’t stay on top of the contractions that were washing over me every 2 minutes or so. I knew this was transition, cognitively, but I was overtaken emotionally! I recall saying over and over that I couldn’t do it, that I needed help, and that my bones hurt. I lowered my head to the pillow and moved to a side-lying position. I kept saying (yelling?!), “Help me, Lauren. Lauren, help me. I can’t do it!” Briley was close to my face and holding my hand, speaking softly to me; Lauren and Heather B. were at the foot of the bed, rubbing my legs and sharing words of encouragement, and Sharon was near the affirmation banner. She began reading some of the affirmations aloud, and that really clicked for me as a way to focus. I asked her to keep reading (or maybe I yelled it!), and she also began reading through a few cards I had made with favorite Bible verses I’ve clung to over the years. These are verses that I have memorized, so they were familiar, soothing, and rhythmic. Sharon moved to share the bed with me, and continued to read the verses and cards aloud as I started to recite them along with her, and Rosamund moved lower and lower into my pelvis.

It was about 8:20 pm now, and I said, “The baby is coming!” I was yelling, grunting, and hollering a lot. Lauren directed me to calm my breath, reminded me that I AM doing it, and said she would check me. I was 100% effaced, 10 cm dilated, and baby was +4. She was definitely ready to be born! After another contraction or two, I had strong urges to push, and pushed quickly and effectively. I remember pausing for a bit as I felt filled with anxiety about tearing again. I told my team, “I’m afraid.” I spent so much time during my pregnancy in meditation, writing, and talking through these fears, but I anticipated it would creep up at the pushing stage of Rosamund’s birth. Everyone on my team encouraged me in that moment – speaking words of affirmation over me, encouraging me to do little pushes as baby was crowning, and helping me to focus on my breath and let go of the fear. As she was crowning, Lauren encouraged me to reach to feel her head, which I don’t remember doing with Jude’s birth, and it was such a sweet and motivating action!

I remained in a side-lying position, with Heather B. supporting my upper leg as Briley and Sharon were on either side of my shoulders. After about 10 minutes of pushing, Rosamund was born. Lauren helped to birth baby’s head and shoulders, and Briley caught her as she came out the rest of the way, and placed her on my chest. What glorious relief! She was born at 8:34 pm, about 40 minutes after we arrived at the center, and less than 2 hours after my first contraction. I know many of us hope for quick labors, but let me tell you – a precipitous birth is INTENSE! I felt overwhelmed from late active labor until she was born – but I guess after she was here, I was glad that it was short.

Rosamund gurgled and let out some nice cries as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and the placenta to be born. She was big and squishy and had fat rolls on her arms already!

Lauren reported that Rosamund was born with a nuchal hand, the little stinker! I had a small 2nd degree tear, which Lauren quickly repaired while baby rested on my chest and we all fell in love with her. Rosamund had Apgars of 9 and 9, and was carefully tended to by our sweet Heather B. Baby had some slight bruising on her face from the fast delivery. She weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 20.5 inches long. A whopper!

We remained at the birth center for about 7 hours before heading home. We stayed in our birth suite, ate some snacks, initiated breastfeeding, showered, called family, and snoozed. Oh, the delight that is a hot shower after giving birth! What a gift! Briley called his dad to speak to him and Jude. He put them on speaker phone, and Briley said, “Baby Rosamund is here!” and Jude replied in a quiet, sweet voice, asking, “Do you like her?” We all laughed and said, “Yes! We love her!” Heather B. and Lauren came in and out, gently checking on all of us, getting vitals, bringing water and food, and just generally loving on us. We were encouraged to rest and take our time. Terry, Briley’s dad, brought Jude to the center to meet his baby sister and ride with us to bring her home. What a moment! I had so been looking forward to the time the two of them would meet, and it was the sweetest. She is my gift to him, and he loves her. Jude lit up as soon as he laid eyes on her, and he climbed up on the bed to get a close look and start snuggling her. Then, he was promptly distracted by his “big brother bag” of Paw Patrol goodies and trains! We did get a few photos of our first gathering as a family of four before he headed down to the lobby to play at the train table with his Pop. Those of y’all with toddlers will appreciate this – the baby was crying as we were changing her diaper and getting her clothes on, and Sharon asked Jude to, “say something to help sister feel better.” Jude leaned over to Rosamund and whispered, “Paw Patrol.”

Around 4 am, we loaded up in the car and headed home in a downpour of rain. Sharon and Terry helped us unload and get everyone settled in their beds, and off to sleep we went. What a joy it was to be able to come home and get in my comfy bed just hours after I gave birth! Before we switched to birth center care, I was really hesitant about leaving so soon after birth, but let me tell ya, it is so lovely. I was home in my jammies, in my bed, with my favorite pillows and the bassinet right near by, and it was perfect for us.

Rosamund and I stayed up in our bedroom pretty much 24/7 for the first 4 days, except for an occasional trek down to the kitchen for a family meal. Otherwise, Briley and his mom brought me food and water constantly, and I breastfed and bonded with Rosamund. There’s a lot to be said for this “lying in” practice so that mother can heal and rest, and she and baby can bond.

Saturday morning, about 40 hours after birth, Trish Talbot, RN, another of our amazing nurses, came by for a home visit. We had a sweet time sharing our birth experience, and she took excellent, gentle care of me and Rosamund. Trish also helped facilitate the process for getting Rosamund’s tongue and lip ties revised with Dr. Prather’s office.

Our Baby+Company experience has been absolutely perfect in every way. I adore the team of women that I work with, and who care for me in such kind, attentive ways as I birth and recover. This was a healing experience for me after the physical and emotional trauma of my first birth. I was amazed to be able to get up and walk to the bathroom right after giving birth! And could get myself to the shower and get dressed and sit in the car with nothing more than a little Ibuprofen and an ice pack on my bottom. My recovery was smooth and quick with none of the complications I had experienced the first time. I’m grateful for Lauren and Heather B.’s confidence in me – and in all women – to allow our bodies to birth our babies.

“I am not afraid; I was born to do this.” —Joan of Arc

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The Birth of Bowie Fredrick

We are excited to share an incredible birth story today, where this mother so vividly describes the ups and downs of labor, and specifically the mental challenges. The word “surrender” is the theme of her story. This baby was also the first boy to be born at Nashville’s Baby and Co Birth Center! We hope it inspires you!

The Birth of Bowie Fredrick
By Megan Johnson

For the first few months of my pregnancy I went to see a very popular obstetrician, but I was less than thrilled with the experience. It seemed so impersonal – I felt like I was a cattle in the herd.

I hadn’t thought about going to a birth center before, partly because there weren’t any in Nashville and also because I wasn’t sure if I could handle a natural birth. But I’m a regular meditator, and after I was introduced to Hypnobabies I began to think that I might be able to do it. When I found out Baby+Company was opening a new birth center, I called Margaret and asked if they could fit me in. I did some of my prenatal appointments with the midwives at Vanderbilt, and then when the center was finished we moved over there.

My first contractions started Friday late afternoon when I was at Opry Mills mall with my parents. We went home and when I was still feeling contractions that evening, I figured it was going to happen soon. I called my doula, Merrill Durham of Nashville Doula Services, and told her what was going on. Then by 10:30 PM we called the midwife (Taneesha) and she said to come in to the birthing center. I was only 3 cm dilated, but she let me stay there for an hour or so to see if things would progress before sending me home to labor more at home. I was very thankful about that because the idea of getting in the car and driving back home and coming back again while having painful contractions was the last thing I wanted to do!  I had progressed enough over the next couple hours so we stayed. It was my ideal birthing experience getting to birth at the brand-new birthing center, Baby & Co! (Bowie was the first boy to be born in the new birth center).

I labored all night and took advantage of the shower and tub, although for the majority of labor I was most comfortable using my hypnobabies hypnosis techniques while in bed. Taneesha was very familiar with it and she knew that I’d be more comfortable staying in bed rather than moving around. It’s funny how time both seems to drag and fly at the same time well you’re in labor.

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It seemed like a while before I could go into the tub, but when I did it was very relaxing (as relaxing as it can be having increasing intense contractions) and I transitioned quickly. Hypnosis was great for the first half, but in the second phase I was ready to leave the birth center, head to the hospital, and get an epidural. My doula was so wonderful here. She kept me really steady and encouraged me to work through it. Having my doula there to get me through the pain was a life saver when I said many times that I couldn’t take it and I wanted the pain to stop in the transition period. Both my husband and I said we don’t know how we could have gotten through it without her help. I highly recommend a doula (especially Merrill if you’re in Nashville) to anyone.

When the hypnosis tool I was using wasn’t working anymore, I kinda freaked out thinking I didn’t think I could handle the pain. I said I wanted an epidural but that wasn’t an option. I knew I might get to a point where I would want it and if I were delivering in a hospital, I probably would have gotten it, but I knew that wasn’t how I wanted to give birth so that’s why I chose the birthing center. That decision to switch from an OB to this natural route was guided by spirit – both my spirit guides and Bowie’s spirit. I was told I would have an amazing, life changing spiritual transition if I gave birth naturally. Since my main spiritual lesson the past couple years has been trust and surrender, I saw this as an opportunity to put my trust to the ultimate test. I never would have thought I could do a natural birth. In fact, I had always said when I have a baby, I’m definitely getting an epidural, since I’m such a baby when it comes to pain. Even though I was scared, I trusted my divine/spiritual guidance and decided to go with the birthing center.

Well, when my labor got to the point where my hypnosis tools stopped working, I had no choice but to turn to spirit to surrender and trust that the universe and all my (and Bowie’s) guides and angels would get me through it. I actually didn’t think of turning to spirit in the middle of the increasing pain of the transition period and my mind freaking out. It was Dave who got the message to tell me to do this. When I did, sure enough, a major shift happened. I was told I went from ~6 cm dilated to 10 and fully effaced and feeling the urge to push in about an hour! I was also told that I said a mantra/prayer that I don’t remember saying and still now, I don’t know what it means. What I do remember is a shift in my mind. From that moment on, for the rest of the labor and delivery, my mind was elsewhere. I felt kind of like I left my body, but just with my mind. I was fully aware of what was going on and still felt like I was physically in my body but my mind didn’t freak out because something, like a peace took over and I felt like I didn’t need to think about what my body was doing, I really, truly surrendered.

I had never surrendered my mind and body before. I had successfully surrendered fear over the past year, but never my whole mind and body. It was indeed the ultimate lesson and experience of surrender and trust. I think, now, whenever I feel fear, I will have to remember whenever I surrender to spirit, it never fails to support and get me through anything, if it got me through what most people regard as the most difficult and painful life experience – childbirth.

I was told to get out of the tub after my water broke (this was before the birth center changed their policy, they now allow delivery in the tub). I went back into the bed to push and deliver. I was told that I only was pushing for one hour.  I don’t remember much of what was going on around me at that point because the pain was so intense!  The final minutes of pushing and delivery was one of the most excruciatingly painful things I have ever experienced. Thank God the excruciating part only lasted a minute. Dave was behind me during the whole pushing time being an amazing coach and getting me through it. When they put Bowie on my chest I was just in awe that he came out of me.  They had emergency staff there ready because he had pooped in his sack during labor and they weren’t sure if he aspirated any of it. There was, I was told, at least 10 people in the room at delivery. When he immediately started crying, I was told everyone breathed a sigh of relief and everyone but my birthing center team- midwives and a nurse – and my Doula left the room.  After the umbilical cord stopped pulsating Dave got to cut it. It was so nice laying in that big bed with Dave enjoying our new baby for about an hour.  I told Dave and kept thinking holy crap, we are parents now. This is our son!  He was just perfect!  IMG_5227IMG_5216IMG_5229

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Birth center birth

The Birth of Marlowe Dean

This powerful mother beautifully recounts the birth of her first daughter at a birth center. “By this point I was completely in my own world…with every push, animal sounds would escape from deep inside of me. I could literally feel her move through my body. It was the most spectacular feeling”.
The Birth of Marlowe Dean
By Jenny Foster

I had my first contraction on the afternoon of January 8th. Bennett was at the grocery store and I called him to let him know. He checked out quickly and came home. I knew better than to get excited because labor could still be days, even weeks away. I had a couple more before bed and then woke up disappointed the morning of the 9th when nothing had happened all night.

Around 9am I called my mom to let her know that I only had a couple contractions, but nothing that morning. I’m fairly certain that I told her I thought I’d be pregnant forever. After I got off the phone I went to the bathroom and screamed for Bennett. I had my bloody show, and this meant progress. Labor was near and I was so ready.

I called the birthing center and they recommended that I sleep and eat since it was only a matter of time and I’d need as much energy as I could muster. Of course I didn’t listen and attempted to go on a walk. I wanted this baby OUT. We only made it a couple blocks before I thought I was going to puke and we had to turn around. I came home, put a pot roast in the crock-pot, and took a nap.

Around 6 pm contractions started. We were eating dinner, the last meal I’d eat for almost 24 hours. It wasn’t anything too painful, just strong menstrual-like cramps. Bennett put Cheers on to get my mind off of them which helped at first. After 3 episodes though, I was on the birthing ball breathing through each contraction. I called my mom to let her know I was having contractions 20-30 minutes apart. She decided to go ahead and buy a plane ticket for the next morning even though I was convinced it would still be a few days before anything happened. I told her I’d call her in the morning if nothing progressed so she could cancel her flight.

We went to bed around 10:30 pm. I remember thinking “If this is what contractions are, I’ve got this. Piece of cake.” I was so wrong.
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I woke up at 1 am with contractions so strong I could barely move. It was back labor. I could no longer feel anything happening in my belly, it was now all in my back. I moved off the bed to the birthing ball and had Bennett press on my back as hard as he could during each contraction. They were 10-15 minutes apart, and I tried to sleep in between them (that never happened).

Around 7:00 my mom called. I had a contraction as soon as Bennett answered the phone and told my mom he’d call her right back. My mom later told me that she heard me in the background and as soon as Bennett hung up she grabbed her suitcase and told my dad to take her to the airport.

At 8:00, contractions were still about seven minutes apart, and we were supposed to wait until they were 4 minutes apart to go to the birthing center. I told Bennett I couldn’t wait and we needed to go now. As he called the number to see which midwife was on call, I watched his face nervously. When he smiled I knew our favorite midwife was on call and I felt a huge sense of relief. He called her and she said to come in an hour and she’d check me.

In between contractions Bennett packed the car up with our bags and coolers of food. After he’d take something to the car, he’d come running back in to rub my back through a contraction before taking out another load.

I always imagined the car ride to the center. I imagined it would be dark outside and I’d be nervous at every red light that someone would see my very pregnant self breathing through contractions in the front seat. Bennett would be running red lights and I’d be screaming. It was nothing like that. The sun was bright and I couldn’t have cared less who was watching me through the window.

When we arrived Bennett ran on in to get Andrea, our midwife, and I made it to a bench before having another contraction. She came out to get me and helped me through the contraction before getting me inside. She helped me into my birthing suite and onto the bed. I was so afraid she’d check me and I’d only be one centimeter. Bennett held my hand and we waited for the verdict. Andrea smiled and happily announced that I was five centimeters and 95% effaced and said, “You’re going to have your baby today!” I burst into tears. Those were the most wonderful words I had ever heard. Up until that point I was in denial about actually being in labor. Everyone told me since it was my first baby I’d go past my due date, and my due date was still a few days away.

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This is really where things become blurry. Andrea recommended I take a hot shower to help with the back labor, which felt amazing until I thought I was going to puke. I got out and moved to the birthing ball while Bennett unloaded the car. Andrea massaged my back and I kept apologizing for making her sit there. She would just smile and say it was her job to help me. After an hour the contractions (back labor) got worse and I moved back to the bed to lay on my side. Andrea heated up a tube sock filled with rice to press against my back. This was my only form of pain relief during all of labor. A tube sock.

My mom arrived and popped in to give me a kiss. I was so happy to see her. I can’t imagine what it was like for her, to see her baby in so much pain and there was no way for her to help. She left and went to a different room to sit with Bennett’s mom.

Shortly after, Karlie arrived. I’ve known Karlie since the second grade, and we’ve been best friends since the seventh grade. She wants to be a midwife and is currently an RN in Labor and Delivery, so we’ve always joked that she’d deliver my babies. When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted her to be my doula, even though she lives in Tennessee. Several weeks before my due date we decided that January 10th would be a good day for her to come. She booked her flight and we crossed our fingers that the baby wouldn’t come early. As fate would have it, she made it just in time.

Karlie came in and went straight to work rubbing my back, getting me water, and taking all of these amazing photos you see here. She will never know how much these photos, and her being by my side, meant to me.

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All of a sudden, I had the urge to push. This scared me, and I told Bennett to go find Andrea. She came in and calmly asked me what I was feeling, and when I told her I felt like pushing she told me to let my body do what it needed to do. During the next contraction two things happened. First, I threw up, which made me SO happy since I knew that meant I was in transition. I knew I was so close to meeting my baby. Also, I felt a trickle while I was throwing up. Andrea said my water might have broken.

A few minutes later, we found out that the trickle I had felt was not my water breaking. Andrea had left the room and I was bearing down during a contraction and out of nowhere my water broke. Scratch that. My water BURST. I looked at Bennett and Karlie and their eyes were so big. I yelled for Bennett to go get Andrea. This was by far the most terrifying part of my labor. My water broke with such force it absolutely scared me to death. And it hurt. Oh it hurt. Andrea came in and I was relieved to hear that there wasn’t any meconium in the fluid. She warned me that my contractions would get really intense from here on out and I’d feel a lot more pressure. And she was right. Without even trying, I began to make low, animal-like noises with each push. I remember everyone smiling and encouraging me to keep making the noises as I would bear down.

The birthing tub was filled up and ready at this point. Andrea and her assistant started to help me off the bed but I had the biggest, most painful contraction and I freaked out. I told them I couldn’t get off the bed and I wasn’t going to move. Looking back, I know the birthing tub would have really helped my back labor but I was so afraid. I had never felt pain like that and I was afraid that if I moved, my body would somehow break.

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So on that bed I stayed. For an hour and forty minutes I laid there and pushed. After every contraction Angie, the assistant, would check the baby’s heart rate and I would be reassured that everything was ok. Baby girl was such a champ. Her heart rate only dropped once, for a brief second, when I was holding my breath. Andrea asked me to take a deep breath, and when I did, her heart rate jumped right back up.

Bennett held my leg while Karlie put cold rags on my face and took photos. After about forty minutes of pushing, Andrea told me to reach down and feel. I could feel a tiny spot of my baby’s head. It was so soft and warm, I’ll never forget it. This was all the motivation I needed to keep going.

By this point I was completely in my own world. I never spoke unless Andrea asked me a question, and I hardly opened my eyes. With every push, animal sounds would escape from deep inside of me. I kept pushing, and after a while I opened my eyes to see the biggest smile across Bennett’s face as he told me that she had my hair. Her head was visible. Every push made it emerge more and more. Andrea got a mirror so I could see and sure enough, there was the top of her head covered in dark hair. I smiled and I knew I could do it. I was SO close.

I was starting to lose energy so Angie gave me a straw filled with honey for an energy boost. I don’t even like honey, but I swear I’ve never tasted anything so delicious. I practically inhaled the straw while Karlie and Bennett chuckled at the slurping sounds I was making.

I could literally feel her moving through my body. It was the most spectacular feeling. I could feel her move and twist and before I knew it, there was the ring of fire. I looked down and saw her head and even though I was supposed to wait, I pushed with everything I had and let out a yell so loud and felt the sweet relief of her warm body slip out. It was 3:53 in the afternoon.

Her cord was around her neck, but Andrea was able to hook the cord and she slid right through it. Andrea helped Bennett catch her and he lifted her up and on to my chest, just as she was pooping all over me.

The pain was gone. I felt nothing but relief and overwhelming love for the tiny, warm, screaming baby on my chest. My first thought was how much she looked like Bennett. She was so alert with her eyes wide open and I kept saying “Hi my baby! I’m your mama!” Bennett was crying and laughing and I just couldn’t believe that she was here. This baby that was growing inside of me for 9 months was now here! In my arms! And she was perfectly healthy and beautiful!

My mom and mother-in-law were two rooms away waiting. Towards the end they could hear me getting louder and louder so they stood in their doorway and listened. My mom said as they were standing there, they heard me cry out and then all of a sudden they heard tiny crying. She said they started hugging and jumping up and down.

After ten minutes or so, Andrea asked me if I wanted to see my mom and let them back to the birthing suite. My mom came in and burst into tears. I’ll never forget how she looked at me. She ran to my side and asked me if I was okay. She didn’t even look at the baby on my chest because I was her baby. She had to make sure that I was alright before anything else. I just kept saying “I did it! I cant believe I did it! This is Marlowe! Marlowe Dean!”

The only time Marlowe left my chest for the first couple of hours was about thirty minutes after she was born. My placenta was slow coming out and Andrea thought I might need a shot of pitocin to get it moving. Luckily a couple rounds of homeopathics and getting me in a squatting position did the trick, and then she was right back in my arms.

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After a couple of hours, Bennett took her out into another room to show her off to our families while Andrea stitched me up. Because I just couldn’t wait to push her body out after her head was born I gave myself a nice second degree tear. I was more nervous about the stitches than I was at any time during my labor. Karlie sat with me and held my hand while she talked to me about anything and everything to keep my mind off of it.

The woman we hired for placenta encapsulation came and made me a smoothie with a small part of the placenta to help stop my bleeding. She took the rest with her and stopped by our house 2 days later with a jar of placenta capsules. I never had the slightest bit of postpartum depression, and I honestly believe that it was because of these capsules. Read more about the process here.

After the stitches, Karlie helped me shower and into a robe. Marlowe had her newborn exam while we all sat around and watched. 7 lbs, 6 oz and 21 inches long.

By 10:00 that night, we were on our way home and spent our first night together as a family in our very own bed.

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Never once did I tell Bennett I needed to go to the hospital. There was maybe one time where I told him I couldn’t do it and he said “But you are doing it!” No one ever looked worried or raised their voice. They constantly encouraged me and told me what a wonderful job I was doing. Every time I looked at Bennett he looked at me like a child on Christmas morning. He was so supportive and I could not have asked for a better partner to embark on this journey.

The birth of Marlowe Dean was the most incredible and rewarding experience of my life. I see everything differently now. Growing and birthing a child is truly a miracle. This sweet girl made me a mother, and I will always love her to the moon and back.

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