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The Birth of Leah Katrine

Our very own doula, Lillie, asked her mother to share with us her birth stories. Read as she recalls the birth of her first child. From the feelings of being pregnant for the first time to a long induction and labor, Trina takes us through the emotions she felt 26 years ago.

The Birth of Leah Flynn
By Trina Flynn

Reflections on my first child’s birth, 26 years postpartum

I think that I remember everything like it was yesterday, but realistically there are probably details that I have forgotten.

Finding out I was pregnant was a shock. I meant to get pregnant, but I thought it would take months to conceive, so the immediate feeling that I had when the nurse told me that I was pregnant, was shock. That was the first of many unexpected feelings that I would have associated with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I can remember wondering why I wasn’t excited when the overwhelming majority of people upon hearing of my pregnancy would either say, “Oh, that’s so exciting!” or “Aren’t you so excited?” I couldn’t think of one person in my life, who, when discussing the blessing of a new life, ever expressed anything but the excitement that they felt. Surely it was taboo to not feel anything but grateful and excited. My resource for all things pregnancy was the gold standard book at the time…”What to Expect When you are Expecting.”  I’m not sure that there was much exploration of a normal range of emotion associated with pregnancy in this book. My mother, who had 5 children and to date is the wisest woman I have ever known, would remind me when I had pregnancy questions, that when she had babies they would give mothers “speed” (diet pills) and would basically knock the mothers out during the delivery.

My pregnancy was fairly uncomplicated. I was healthy, although I did develop a borderline case of gestational diabetes and went on a special diet. I had some nausea, aversions to certain foods, serious aversions to certain smells, I would religiously check my heart rate when exercising, I followed all of the rules, and I finally got excited about being pregnant. I remember anticipating feeling movement for the first time and then actually feeling it. I remember being aware of how people were drawn to my pregnant belly. It was odd that suddenly people felt permission to touch my belly, to put their entire hand on my belly. It was interesting to me that people I didn’t know would, unsolicited, tell me some of their pregnancy/birth experience and give me some advice. Women would speculate on the sex of the baby because of how I was carrying it. I loved all of that. I was never annoyed, bored or offended at any of that. Even though I didn’t know what I was “supposed” to know, what I was “supposed” to be feeling, it was obvious to me that this experience is powerfully unifying for women of all ages and all walks of life. Surely if all of those women could do it, I could.

I do not remember having any specific expectations of my experience of pregnancy; I did not have a picture of what I wanted it to be like. I was mainly focused on doing everything that I could do to ensure that I would have a healthy baby. I knew however, that I wanted to have the baby “naturally”. That is what people would say about having a baby without an epidural and I do not remember being encouraged nor, discouraged about my wish. I’m not sure why I wanted to have the baby “naturally” because there was really no cultural trend at that time, and I was not aware of any discussion about it being better for the baby or the mother. It is just something that I wanted to do. The only option that was available at that time for exploring natural child birth was Lamaze, so my husband and I signed up for a course. I don’t remember how many classes we went to or how long they were. My Lamaze take away: find a focal point and RELAX. We learned a certain breathing pattern that I was skeptical of and didn’t practice. It seemed like from what they said, if I could relax during labor and the delivery, then everything would be ok.

My doctor wanted to induce labor a week before my due date. He said that I was small and he was a little worried that the baby would be too big. I didn’t question him. My point of reference was that of the 5 children that my mother had, I was the smallest at 9lbs. 7 oz. My mother was my size, around 5’2”. She didn’t mince words when she would tell me things about forceps, things ripping…so, I figured that my babies might be huge like hers and that the doctor was right and I should be induced. I was scheduled to go in on a Monday morning. On Sunday, the day before, I thought that my water was leaking. I went to the hospital; it was leaking so they went on and checked me in and started the induction process. I still wanted to go “natural”. I don’t remember the exact time line of things, but I think that they wanted to first “ripen my cervix”. How did they do that? I pictured them wiping something pasty on it, but who knows? On Monday at some point, they started the pitocin drip. I was pretty tired since I had been there overnight, but things started picking up with that pitocin. The contractions seemed to start hard, and they seemed to be coming fast. They broke my water at some point. They had taught me in Lamaze to find a focal point, I did, but honestly, did I ever even know why that was important? I think that my focal point was a framed picture of a pineapple on the wall in front of me. Is that what they meant? Or was it supposed to be a mental focal point? I was also supposed to be relaxed…I remember thinking that my body felt as tense as a steel girder. I recalled that the idea of relaxation was real, I know that I used to know how that felt, if I picture the spelling of the word maybe I can remember what the concept is. I could not relax. Did someone offer an epidural or did I ask? I don’t remember, but I got one and it certainly helped. I was aware of my extreme tiredness and that I was literally falling asleep between contractions. That doesn’t seem possible, but I did.

At some point I began pushing. I pushed for what seemed like a really long time, long enough to start to despair. I had always considered myself a strong person. I was not able to push the baby out. I felt like I was giving it everything that I had, I remember my husband seemed to be gritting and pushing with me. I pictured myself as an elephant trying to push a tree over with its head (I probably conjured an image from an old Tarzan movie). I couldn’t do it and I didn’t say it out loud, but I wondered what was going to happen. I was shocked when the doctor asked if I wanted a “little help”. I had literally forgotten about any options. So, they used a vacuum, I pushed, and out came Leah. She was 8 lbs. 5 oz. Big, but not huge, she had quite a bit of vernix on her, coned head, and sounded like a little weak lamb. Pat cried and cried, I cried and cried, my mother, saw her first birth. I did not have that baby “naturally” and I had just had the greatest, most moving, and miraculous moments of my life and I can remember knowing that I would fight a lion for her if I had to.

The Birth of Elizabeth Foley

Today, our very own doula, Lillie shares her birth story. As a first time mother, Lillie takes you through the highs and lows, makes you laugh, and shares how, even though she had never done it before, she knew instinctively what her body needed to birth baby Ellie with confidence and with JOY.

Lillie shares what it means to her to birth on purpose:

To me birth on purpose means that you go into labor and birth for the WHOLE experience. Only once in your lifetime will you get the chance to birth this baby you grew for 9 months. Invest as much time and thought into your decisions during pregnancy and for your birth to make it the most special experience possible. Things may change in your birth “plan” but you can control your mindset and your attitude. You get to meet your baby!! There’s nothing like it! – Lillie


The Birth of Elizabeth Foley
By Lillie Whitehead

I feel like Ellie’s birth story begins the day I found out I was pregnant. I was 20, still living with my parents, and just finishing up my first semester at MTSU. My period was late, but I didn’t think anything of it. For a few days I had felt pretty sick, and when I mentioned it to my mom, she said, “You’re pregnant.” I was in disbelief, but I decided take an at home pregnancy test. I couldn’t really tell but there was barely a faint second line on the test. I felt  really emotional, but at the same time I thought there still was a chance that I wasn’t pregnant. I had Charles come pick me up. We had been dating for about 5 months at that point. We talked and cried and both knew that if I was pregnant, we would be doing this together! The next morning (December 5, 2013), we went to a walk in clinic to take another pregnancy test. Waiting for the results was excruciating. The doctor came in and enthusiastically said, “Congratulations!” I burst into tears. Charles looked like he had seen a ghost. The doctor said, “I hope those are tears of joy!” Looking back, we laugh about her saying that.

From that point forward Charles and I were a team. I got over the initial shock and was so excited to be a mom. My pregnancy was a whirlwind. On February 1, 2014 we got married. In April we bought a house and got our dog Lola. I was still in school and working part time. Ellie was due at the end of July so I decided to take a summer class. When I walked in on the first day with my big pregnant belly the teacher asked me why I didn’t just take the course online. I think I wanted a reason to get up and waddle my pregnant self from the parking lot to class and keep myself busy. My teacher asked me several times if I wanted to take my finals early. I eventually agreed. On July 24 we went in for my 39 week doctors appointment. She checked me and I think I was barely 1 cm dilated. As she was checking me she swept my membranes but said she didn’t think I would go into labor and she would see me next week. After my doctors appointment, Charles and I went out to eat at J Alexanders. I felt really crampy and kept saying maybe I’ll just take my finals next week! Charles convinced me to head over to campus and take my finals. I cramped all though the test but finally finished. The next morning (July 25), I texted my supervisor at work and said I was NOT in labor but I didn’t feel well enough to go to work. I called my mom and she thought I was definitely in labor. I thought there was no way. This was 3 days before my due date and I was sure I would be overdue. My mom came over and we went on a mile hike at Bowie Park. I cramped on and off all day.

The next morning (July 26) Charles had to be up at 3:30am to get to work early. I woke up around the same time and started to feel true contractions. I was in and out of sleep, but every contraction that woke me up I would check the time and noticed they were about 10 minutes apart. I told Charles he better go to work and stay the whole shift! Eventually I got up and took a shower. The contractions weren’t really bothering me so I decided to make peanut butter cookies and scrub out our microwave (nesting!!). Charles kept calling me to see how I was doing. I told him I was still having contractions, but they weren’t a big deal. Honestly at this point I still didn’t think this was real labor. Charles came home early from work and around 11:00am we went on a mile hike at Bowie Park, like I had done the day before. We got home and I tried to take a nap but I couldn’t sleep. My contractions were beginning to get stronger and closer together. Around 3:00pm we started timing them. They were 5 minutes apart lasting a minute each. The only thing that helped me get through each contractions was walking! When one would start I would walk the length of our house and back. I did this until about 5:30pm when we decided to head to the hospital. I kept saying, “Ok, let’s go!” then I would say never mind and walk back into the house. Finally we left.

We got to the hospital, and they checked me in triage. I was 3 cm. I felt pretty good about that! They checked for amniotic fluid leaking and said that I was leaking a little so they would admit me. We headed up to our room and got settled in. I was still wanting to walk through contractions so I would walk the length of our labor room back and forth through every one! Several hours went by until they checked me again. I was at 5 cm! I felt good knowing I was progressing. My whole family and Charles’s whole family were waiting in the waiting room. I didn’t want any visitors at this point. After a while, I was able to stop walking through every contraction. Now I mostly wanted to bounce on the birth ball next to the bed and I would squeeze Charles’s fingers through every contraction. I remember looking at the clock at 3:30am and realizing that I had been having consistent contractions for 24 hours. When they checked me again I was at 7 cm. We decided to walk the hallways. We walked up and down and watched the sunrise out of the hospital windows. I would stop and sway and hum through every contraction with Charles by my side. At the 7:00am shift change things changed. The new nurse came into my room and my first impression of her was that she smelled like biscuits! I thought that was so rude to come in where women are in labor and smell like biscuits! At this point my contractions were one on top of another. I mentioned that to her and the first thing she said was, “You want an epidural, sweetie?” I said no. She told me they would wait for the doctor on call to get there and check me. My regular doctor would not be able to come. I cried on Charles and told him that she was so mean to come in there smelling like biscuits! After what seemed like forever the doctor came in to check me. She said I was 8 cm. To me that didn’t feel like progress. While she was checking me she broke my water. I asked her, “Did you break my water?” And she said, “No, there was just extra fluid in there.” She immediately told me I needed to be constantly monitored, and I needed an antibiotic. I tried to say I didn’t need an antibiotic, but she insisted. She left the room and I broke down. My contractions felt so much worse since my water was broken and now I was attached to a monitor and IV so I could barely move around. I wanted my mom. Charles told my mom to come in. I just kept saying “Those a-holes” and punching my pillow. We laugh about that now because even in full blown labor, I was censoring myself in front of my mom. I had Charles holding my whole body weight, and I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted to stand or be on the bed or be on the ball. I kept saying, “I can’t do this anymore. I just want to sleep.” Finally my mom asked me if I wanted an epidural. I told her to get the anesthesiologist. She ran down the hall and got him. Luckily they weren’t busy! They quickly got my epidural in and I felt immediate relief! All of my family and Charles’s family came in to visit me. I swear there were 15 people in the room at one point. It was a party!

In about 2 hours they checked me and I was complete and ready to push! I pushed for about 1 hour. Ellie came out screaming at the top of her lungs (July 27, 2014 2:14pm)! My first thought was that she was beautiful and my second thought was that she was BIG (8lbs 13oz)! They put her on my chest and she grabbed my nose and wouldn’t let go! I was crying so hard; I couldn’t believe she was here! We were able to do skin to skin for the first few hours and I got her to latch. Charles and I were immediately in love with her! The first few weeks of breastfeeding were hard and painful but I pushed through and I still nurse her now at 27 months old. 

Looking back on my birth from a doula’s perspective, it’s easy for me to say well I should have done this or that and maybe I wouldn’t have gotten an epidural. But in the end I’m glad I got it. I was able to experience natural labor up to 8 cm, and then I was able to rest and see my family before meeting Ellie!

My pregnancy with Ellie wasn’t planned, but I know it was in God’s plans. That first day I found out I was pregnant, I had no clue that in nine months I would be holding my best friend. I’m proud of Charles and I for being the team we are. Charles didn’t waiver for a second during my labor. And now when I get to see how much he and Ellie love each other I could almost tear in half with how much love I feel for both of them. 

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The Birth of Cole and Bray

We are sharing two birth stories in one today! Whitney, co-owner of Nashville Doula Services, shares about her first birth which was an emergency cesarean, followed by her VBAC birth with her second child. With each of her births came growth, transformation, and gratefulness.

With my first pregnancy, I knew I wanted a natural birth, but was not yet comfortable with the thought of home birth, so logically I decided I would choose to go with the local midwifery program that delivered at a big hospital in town. Their model of care completely reflected my personal goals and things I felt were important: A low-technology, high-touch philosophy of care, with much belief in the woman’s body and it’s ability to give birth without intervention. My husband Michael and I did a minimal amount of preparation, including attending the hospital birthing class offered at the hospital. We did not hire a doula, mainly to save money. My husband was confident he could help me through labor, and I agreed. If I was with a midwife group, and they are experienced in natural labor, why would I need a doula anyway?

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When “labor day” arrived, I progressed rather quickly for a first pregnancy, and a few hours into labor I definitely needed help getting through the contractions, so we headed to the hospital. The hospital was hopping that night with women in labor and I only saw my midwife for a few minutes because she was catching other babies. ☺ When I arrived I was 4 cm dilated, and pretty soon after being checked in I was begging for pain relief. My sweet husband tried to help me through the contractions but they were coming hard and fast and he didn’t really know how to help. We were basically hanging on for dear life, not really knowing how to handle these waves of intensity that were sending me over the edge! When the anesthesiologist arrived and administered the epidural, I felt so much better – but in a matter of 10 minutes everything would drastically change.

As soon as I started to feel relief from the epidural, my baby started to go into fetal distress. After multiple attempts to get his heart rate stabilized, I was quickly whisked away for an emergency C-section. I was devastated, terrified, and my poor husband was left in the labor room by himself while they got my baby out as fast as possible.  Michael was fearing the worst, understandably. My precious midwife Lauren was right by my side the whole time holding my hand, comforting me, and speaking life over me and my baby. I don’t know how I could have gotten through that 30 minutes without her!  It was traumatic for us to say the least. We were so incredibly thankful that our baby was fine and healthy when he was born.

Our adorable Cole Huckaby Cantrell came into the world on June 23rd, 2010 and changed our lives forever as he taught us to be parents!

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During my recovery and in the months to follow, I studied and researched all I could on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and natural birth. There was not a natural birth book I had not read. I read study after study on VBACs. I read all of the positive VBAC stories I could, and joined VBAC and natural birth support groups online. I came to the overwhelming conclusion that for a woman like me, a VBAC was not only do-able but it was a safe and healthy option.

When I became pregnant with our second child, we immediately hired a doula. I started going to a Webster certified chiropractor. I continued preparing my mind, body and spirit for a natural birth, prayed a LOT, and told myself every day that I could do it, and I was meant to do it! I spend many hours visualizing what I wanted the birth of my second child to be like.

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My second birth was also in a hospital, but I had a different plan this time. My doula and all of my reading and determination had prepared us well. At 39 + 4 weeks pregnant I woke up to my first real contraction, and after a day of sporadic contractions, my water broke late that afternoon walking through Babies R Us grabbing the last couple of things we needed because we knew our baby girl was on her way. We had just checked out and were headed to the door and I felt a gush. I couldn’t see below my belly so I asked Michael, “Does it look like I just peed my pants?!” We were so excited! After arriving at the hospital, my doula Lauren had me walking the staircase in the Vanderbilt waiting room to get my contractions going, and after two or three journey up and down, my contractions started coming steady and strong.

I remember thinking that the contractions felt the same as with my labor with Cole, but I handled them completely differently. I now had the tools, and knew how to form the delicate balance of staying in control yet relaxing my body. I never once got into the bed, even while being monitored the entire labor as per VBAC policy at most hospitals. My nurses and midwife Claire were so incredibly supportive. Everyone was cheering me on. It really felt like we were all a team to bring this baby girl earth-side safely and naturally!

From that point I had a fast labor of 4 hours and only pushed for 8 minutes before our beautiful Our Bray Madeline Cantrell was born on December 28th, 2012.

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It was one of the most amazing, empowering, beautiful experiences I had ever had. It seemed like the most natural and instinctive thing my body had ever done! Fear never once entered my mind. My baby even started breastfeeding right away, all on her own, and nursed until she was 2 and a half years old.

Soon after my amazing birth experience, I felt a strong desire in my heart to help educate and help other women achieve the kind of birth they were meant to have, and the kind of birth they wanted to have. I knew that there were many, many care providers out there that would never give women a reasonable chance to have VBACs despite ACOG’s (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) guidelines. I was VERY fortunate enough to have been with a midwifery group that did nothing but encourage me and tell me over and over that I could do it, and a TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean) was a safe and healthy option for me.

So after my two completely different births, doors began to open for me to attend births of my friends, and I began studying to become a doula. I started officially taking on doula clients and in my first year as a doula I attended 40 births, and my second year I attended almost 80! It was without a doubt the path I was supposed to take. It has truly been an exciting ride. Even though each client is special and the journey with each one has been absolutely amazing, I have especially loved educating and supporting my VBAC clients.

Sometimes I just want to pinch myself – I’m so incredibly blessed to get to support women and their families through their pregnancies and births – what an honor! I am forever grateful for BOTH of my birth experiences, without which I would not be a doula today.

One day soon I will tell the story of my third baby, Asa. But that is for another time. 😉

The Birth of Atticus Eli

How can an emergency c-section be a mother’s most healing birth? You’ll have to read today’s birth story to find out! We are so honored to share the beautiful birth story of Atticus Eli and his powerful mama. #birthonpurpose
The Birth of Atticus Eli
By Melissa Bonar
I have had 2 previous traumatic birth experiences that resulted in c sections with general anesthesia. One of the hardest things has accepting everything that happened and the fact that I was not able to witness my babies being born. I knew this time that I needed to be prepared for absolutely everything that I may encounter in this pregnancy and birth, so my first mission was to hire only the best doula that money buy. I knew immediately after meeting Sandee and Whitney that I had the right doula services.
So after several inspirational and educational classes and motivational meetings with them I felt more than ready for the birth of my 3rd baby.
My mom and step dad had been staying with me to help with the kids while my husband had to travel for work.  I had been having several days of prodromal labor before I actually went into real labor.  Monday night was about 6 hours worth.  On Thursday the 25th around 4am I woke up with waves of cramps that I knew were the real thing, and they were intense and moving quickly together. I asked my mom to notify Sandee that I  thought she needed to head over. My husband was about 5 hours away, so Sandee helped pack up my things into her car and of we drove. It was going to be a crazy drive in morning rush hour. Throughout the drive Sandee was multitasking by soothing me and fighting traffic.  We arrived at the hospital around 9am and upon arrival when the midwife checked me,  I was 6cm dilated. I was so excited that all of my hard work was paying off that I busy into tears of joy. Laboring was amazing and the energy was unexplainable. I was able to move around and change positions and all along had an the most supportive birth team with me. I wasn’t having back labor yet, but the contractions were very intense. Mother nature was allowing me to rest in between, but then asking me for everything I had during these contractions.
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After 2 hours I was asking for the epidural because I was still at 6cm. I started to have horrible back labor pains that were taking over my body and concentration was going out the window. I knew I wanted to see my baby take his first breath and I wouldn’t be able to with how exhausting and torturous these last few hours had been.  I endured 3 contractions while they were placing it and I knew that if it weren’t for Sandee’s help and strength, that I wouldn’t have been able to sit still.
I got to 10cm in the next few hours all while comfortable and pain free. My husband arrived and I felt such a relief.   The nurses used a peanut ball to help position me,  and my water broke, but as it turns out, baby was posterior and not moving down.  We tried pushing for about 2 hours and got to a stage 0 and then things slowly started to go wrong.
The doctor on call recommended that I get a c section because it was not looking well. He suggested less then an hour before I get the surgery.  Shortly after I got a low fever, baby’s heart rate was dropping, there were signs of meconium,  and I had the most intense pain in my shoulders.  It felt like a gorilla was squeezing my neck. I knew in my mind that this wasn’t good. All signs of ruptured uterus.  We were rushed to the operating room in the next few minutes.
One of the most beautiful I things was about to happen. Atticus was born at 8:44 pm. I was able to hear my baby cry for his first time and then see my baby almost immediately. My husband was there to hold my hand and watch as they were checking him out.  He was then allowed to do skin to skin with the baby while they finished repairing my uterus and closing me up.
The overwhelming feeling of love and joy that came over me when I was reunited with them was so powerful. Tears flowed like a river as I  was handed  that little bundle. I greeted him by introducing my self as his mommy and kissing him in the forehead.  We nursed right away, with only a little bit of help since my body was weak and sore, and he was a bit groggy from the medications. Sandee stayed with us this entire time and insisted on staying until we were ready to be brought up to the room.  She truly went above and beyond her call of duty and I am forever grateful.
The last hour was scary, but ended more beautifully  then I could have ever imagined.  I feel so proud and so emotionally healed that I was able to really be a part of it all.  I finally felt like I had given birth.
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The Birth of Crawford Jeremiah

This mother expresses the pure, raw emotion she felt when she had prepared and hoped for a peaceful, intervention-free birth at a birth center, and in an instant, had to surrender her heart’s desire when her baby and body had different plans…

The Birth of Crawford Jeremiah
By Sarah Quinones

View More: http://christiclarkphotography.pass.us/saraadrian

I had been babysitting/nannying since I was 13. Seriously, kids are my passion and I love the way they have so much joy for life. Since I was little all I wanted to do was have a million babies and stay home with them, watch them grow into the tiny humans they were supposed to be and teach them about how much God loved them. Adrian and I got married in May of 2014. We both wanted to have babies right away but then we found out that he would be deploying the coming September so our dream of starting our own family was put to a pause. Before he left for the deployment I told him that I would be writing down all my favorite baby names to share with him because I knew it would take months to come up with one we both agreed on. I am from the South and he is from the West Coast so our ideas of “good” baby names were completely different. By the time he came back in late March we had come up with one girl name and one boy name. We decided to try to start our family but knew that whatever happened it was going to be in God’s timing. We went on a vacation to Hawaii when he came back and on the very last day I said, “Let’s take a pregnancy test. It would be so cool to say that we found out in Hawaii.” So we walked to the CVS that was down the road from our hotel, came back, I went to the bathroom and left it sitting on the counter while we packed all of our things so everything was ready to fly out that night. Once everything was packed away we both walked into the bathroom and we were pregnant! Holy crap! Neither of us had expected it to happen that quickly! I think we were in shock for 2 days. We were having a baby!

Even before I knew I was pregnant I absolutely knew that I wanted to have a drug free birth. It was a passion of mine after reading so many books, articles and stories of birth. We found a birth center that was about 40 minutes from where we lived. Being at a birth center was really important to me. I wanted to be surrounded by midwives that have been doing this for years and that could support me in every way possible. Yes, my husband would be there to support me but this was new to him and quit frankly he has never given birth before. As soon as I walked into the birth center for a tour I knew that this is where I wanted to have our baby. It was so peaceful and quiet. I immediately saw myself in one of those rooms. The pregnancy flew by. Every month I had an appointment with the midwives. They check the baby, chatted with me and made sure that we were all on the same page with how I wanted things to go. They were seriously amazing.

On week 39, I went in for what I thought was just a regular appointment. For the weeks leading up to this point I had a history of high blood pressure. I think it might have started around week 33 but I honestly can’t remember. When I arrived at the birth center they immediately took my blood pressure, as they always do when I get there. It was high, really high. They thought maybe I was stressed so they said they would take it again before I left. We chatted for a few and then I lay down on the table for her to check me and listen to the baby. Come to find out that I was 3cm dilated already. I was in shock. I hadn’t felt much contractions or Braxton Hicks at all. She told me that I would likely have a baby by the weekend. Crazy. I was so excited but at the same time I was so nervous. It was really happening. Before I left, they checked my blood pressure again. It was still really high. They suggested that I go to the hospital that was nearby to be monitored in case something was wrong. At this point I was holding back tears. I knew what that ultimately meant. I called my husband who was over an hour away and told him what was going on. I told him not to come yet because I was still hoping that I was going to be sent home. I checked into the hospital around 11am on December 16th. They immediately hooked me up to monitor baby, gave me an IV and took my blood pressure every 15 minutes. The monitor showed that I was starting to have contractions. They called my back up doctor to let her know what was going on. The nurse walked into the room and told me that I was going to be admitted.

I busted out in tears. I was so angry. This is NOT how I wanted to have this baby. I called my husband and he flew home, grabbed the hospital bag and sped over from work. When he got there we were both really upset; he knew that this is not what I wanted and it showed all over my face. For those of you that know, the hospital has a very strict “no eating” rule. Well, there was no way I was going to push a baby out with no food so my lovely husband brought me food and I munch on it for the remaining of the night. For about 6 or more hours, it barely felt a thing. We walked the halls endlessly to try and speed this up but it seemed like we were getting nowhere. The Doctor came in that nigh, checked me and told me that she would see me tomorrow. There was no rush, she knew that were wanted to have very little interference with this birth. So thankful for that! She just let me do my thing and said she would be there when we needed her. Around 11/12pm that’s when things really started to get going. I was bouncing on the ball, walking around, bracing myself on my husband but those things are hard to do when you are strapped to a bunch of equipment. I was about 5cm when I decided to jump in the shower. I was really starting to feel them at this point; I thought maybe the warm water would help relieve some of the pain. This is where the tub at the birth center would have been AMAZING! I was in the shower for probably an hour. I got out, dried off and my water broke.

That is when things took off so quick. I labored for about 4 hours after that. I was in a lot of pain. I was at the point of pure exhaustion. I knew I was in transition. The contractions were coming one after the other and some without even a few seconds to breathe before the next one came. I asked my husband to go get the nurse. I wanted to be check because I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to do this. The nurse checked me and I was 8 ½ cm. I was more than excited to hear that. I told myself that I could do this and my husband was so encouraging! An hour went by and I looked at him and told him I couldn’t do this anymore. They were so intense. I knew in my mind that had I been at the birth center I would have been able to do this. But I was completely thrown off and it absolutely affected me. My husband tried to talk me out of it because he knew that this is exactly what I didn’t want and he knew I would beat myself up for it later. I got the epidural around 3:30am.

It was hard to not feel like a failure. I felt like I was weak. I felt like I hadn’t given it my all and that I should have just kept going. But I decided to rest my eyes for a little while and maybe gain some energy so that I would be able to push. About 2 hours later I felt a lot of pressure so I asked the nurse to check me. I was 10cm and the baby was right there. She called the doctor and we started pushing. I pushed for 30 minutes and then that beautiful baby boy was put right on my chest. He was beautiful. I forgot almost immediately about how bad I was feeling about myself. He was perfect. I tore almost 3rd degree and the Doctor had a hard time stitching me back up but after about 40 minutes she was done and our sweet boy latched so easily.

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The whole day and the day after that I couldn’t help but go back to the moment where I gave up. I was so disappointed in myself. Was he healthy? Yes. Was I healthy? Yes. But there was still this part of me that was grieving the birth that I really wanted, the birth that I had been thinking about for 9 months. It didn’t go anything like how we planned or envisioned.  It took me a while to be okay with what happened. To this day, I am still a bit uneasy about it but I looked at my amazing son and know that everything happens for a reason. His name is Crawford Jeremiah and he is perfection. Being a Mom is my jam and I can’t wait to expand our family further one day.
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The Birth of Masen Wade

Beautifully and honestly told by this strong mother, Lauren, she shares how important it is to have a supportive birth team when plans change: ” I thought I would have a wonderful, natural birth where I would labor at home with our doula and avoid all hospital interventions. Well, those plans began to change quickly…”

***This story also includes an update at the end from Lauren about a diagnosis of GERD their baby received and how they used their doula for overnight help as they adjusted to his needs.

The Birth of Masen Wade

By Lauren Winans

As I lay here and write this blog post, I’m watching my one day old beautiful baby boy sleep. We spent his entire official “birth” day night watching each other, learning about each other and waking daddy up for everything that may have been just a simple little hiccup. I’m exhausted. But it’s all worth it. And as I start to drift off to sleep, I remember that I made it through this birth because I had an amazing doula. Don’t get me wrong, my husband Martin was the perfect birth support partner in many ways and I had family support, and a wonderful doctor, but my entire birth process was the exact opposite of what I had planned in my mind. I thought I would have a wonderful, natural birth where I would labor at home with our doula and avoid all hospital interventions. I thought I would just show up and pop this guy out like it was no big deal!! That did not happen. Here is how it happened and why I am so thankful for our doula, Emily.

I have a huge fear of needles and I have somehow managed to avoid them for years until I found out I was pregnant. That first blood draw was the scariest moment of my life. I couldn’t just enjoy being pregnant. I was already thinking of how bad I would freak out when I had to get an IV. Don’t even get me started on an epidural! I honestly had no clue about the birthing process. I knew the obvious common sense things but as far as details went, clueless about my own body. So, we went to a natural childbirth class: A 6 hour course on how to labor without the intervention of pain medication.  My husband was so into learning the doula process that he decided we needed our own. I didn’t know if he wanted the doula for my comfort or to keep him sane! Kidding. He knew it would help me relax and make this scary process better. We instantly connected with Emily who happened to also be a massage therapist. I felt good knowing I would go into labor with someone who could rub the pain out of me. Emily was so much fun to be around and I couldn’t wait to have her by my side.

So, weeks passed and passed and still, no baby. Finally on Monday the 6th, we checked into Williamson Medical Center. On the way to the hospital, i drenched myself in Emla numbing cream and covered the veins with Saran Wrap to hold in the numbing for the initial IV. Yes, I was that crazy person wearing plastic wrap on my arms.  They threw me and the baby on the monitor quickly and asked if I knew I was contacting pretty heavily. I thought, “wow! I’m a bad ass. I don’t even know I’m contracting!” Next step was removing my plastic wrap and sticking that scary needle in. I did not even feel it. I was on cloud nine that I got over my needle fear and was also laboring without pain.

Well, all of that began to change quickly. I was not progressing so the scary drip of pitocin started. Within an hour I was having contractions that were insanely painful every 45-60 seconds with no breaks in between! Emily was massaging me, changing my positions, helping me bounce on ball- everything we could do to find comfort. I was not finding it! The contractions only continued getting stronger, longer and back to back with no time to breathe in between. Emily and my husband were doing pelvic compresses and everything to comfort me but I was getting tired and scared. The nurses had to turn off the pitocin because both baby and I did not have a good reaction to it. I was worried I would be laboring forever at this rate even though it has only been a few hours. After 5 cm dilated, I needed an epidural. My heart sunk as I had the thought of another needle. My heart was broken that I couldn’t do this naturally and that I couldn’t even handle pitocin. I was so close to seeing my baby but the stories of how epidurals slow births down went through my head making me feel even more sad. Emily said not to worry because we would use the peanut ball! Women who get epidurals still need to keep that pelvis open so the peanut ball was the way to go. Emily switched my peanut ball leg positioning every 20 minutes. My nurse came back in to check on me about an hour and a half after epidural and I had suddenly dilated to 8! The peanut ball in for the win! We were having a baby soon!!

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Excitement came back over me as they prepped the room for my little man to arrive. Emily and Martin kept changing peanut ball positions and before I knew it, I was ready to push. Pushing with an epidural is interesting. Luckily I still had a lot of feeling but still pushing was hard because you don’t have total control. Once again, another reason Emily was amazing! She told me how to breathe and push along with our totally awesome OBGYN, Michelle Montville.

After 45 minutes of pushing, at 5:01 pm on June 7th, Masen Wade Bertelli came into the world. He was 7 lbs and 13 ounces of perfection.

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I had one small tear internally and no other issues, so I instantly felt like getting up as soon as my epidural had worn off. The nurse wasn’t too happy with me when I got up to walk, but I felt awesome! I have Emily to thank for that. She massaged my legs and feet the entire time I was forced to lay down from the epidural.

You may not think you need a doula if you aren’t going the “all natural” route, but I will tell you, she is the reason I got through that day the way I did! I had gotten pretty sick as I “transitioned” and I puked all over myself so my husband ripped his shirt off and did skin to skin with the baby! It was such an adorable moment as Emily cleaned me up and daddy held the baby against his skin. Doulas are amazing no matter what kind of birth you are going to have. And always remember, it rarely goes the way you plan for it to!

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***Update on July 25th, 2016***
Masen developed pretty bad infant acid reflux, also known as GERD. Neither Martin or I were getting sleep from his constant screaming cry of pain. Emily came and spent the night with us, 6 weeks post partum, so we could get a full nights sleep! It takes a very special person to keep your baby all night for you. Sure, I woke up wet and milk stained but I felt amazing after a full nights rest. Emily has been so much more than just our doula. Even after birth, your doula can be an amazing lifetime friend. Thank you Emily!!
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The Birth of Adelaide Sparrow

This birth story is from our very own Merrill Durham. Her birth was a planned home birth that ended with a hospital transfer. Learn how Merrill coped with a big change of plans, what it taught her about birth options, and how she found profound joy dealing with the unknown!
The Birth of Adelaide Sparrow
By Merrill Durham
Background:
My first birth with Genevieve was incredible, challenging, life-changing, and in many ways, traumatic. I had spent months preparing for the physical aspect of birth. I read every book, watched all the documentaries, attended a thorough childbirth education class, breastfeeding class, baby-wearing workshop, and talked to every mom I could about their labor experiences. I had attended a few births as a pseudo-doula (not yet trained) and I felt very prepared for my homebirth. (Here’s my blog post about why we chose a homebirth)Four days of labor and learning to release control and relax my pelvis, I finally jumped into active labor. Only 6 hours later and 30 minutes of pushing (75 hours total!), Genevieve was born. I had my natural homebirth, surrounded by my amazing birth team, my husband, mom, sister, and mother-in-law. I was utterly exhausted and very much in shock. Michael and I were on a high from it all and we connected in such a deep way through the process. But it was way harder than I imagined and I had some trauma I needed to process before having another baby. Transformation never comes easy. And I knew there would be things I would want to do differently the second time around. (Here are the detailed story of Genevieve’s birth and her birth video)
When we found out we were pregnant with Adelaide, I immediately called my midwife (for whom I am working as a midwife assistant). Our prenatals were pretty simple because at this point I was working as a professional doula, childbirth educator, and midwife assistant. I knew how to be pregnant. I amped up my self-care this pregnancy, went to the chiropractor regularly, started acupuncture, went to Nashville Float, took prenatal yoga, and had monthly prenatal massages. I was taking better vitamins and being conscientious about what I was eating. I felt great. I honestly love being pregnant.The biggest change I made this pregnancy, though, was my emotional preparation. Having gone through the process before, I knew how hard to it can be to tap into the emotional and spiritual aspects of growing a life. Our culture talks about the physical changes of pregnancy but we don’t revere the power of carrying two souls in your body during this sacred season. I did a lot of meditation and created a playlist of music that really grounded me. I listened to it 24/7 in the week before I went into labor. I also decided I wanted a Blessingway Ceremony to mark the importance of this time in my life. It was powerful for me. (Here is the blog post about My Mother’s Blessing)
I was emotionally and mentally getting ready for delivery in the 3rd trimester when I was thrown a curve ball. At 31 weeks pregnant I started having lots more cramping and Braxton Hicks. After a cervical check, we found that my body had started to show signs that it was progressing a little bit. I wouldn’t necessarily call it preterm labor but my midwife told me that I definitely needed to take it easy. No picking up Genevieve, stopping activities that weren’t essential, and resting when I could. This was way easier said than done considering I had a very active 2-year-old and I was about to launch a new business. But I did my best, for the next 6 weeks I took my activity level down a few notches and held my breath every time I had any labor signs. I needed to make it full-term in order to have my homebirth. Thankfully, January 1st came and went and I was officially full-term. Now I had to shift my thinking and wrap my mind around the waiting. It could technically be another 5 weeks before Adelaide arrived. For the next two weeks I just went about my day trying not to become obsessive about every twinge. After passing 38 weeks it became harder. This was when I went into labor with Genevieve and with the ‘pre-term’ symptoms I figured I would go early again. Once I hit 39 weeks, I really took the time to resettle my nerves and anxiety and to be present in the waiting. My daily mantra became:

“Today I am reminded that nothing in nature is rushed. I’m learning how to ground myself and stay present by quieting my mind. When fear creeps in, I will choose to trust this process. I will allow the mystery to unfold perfectly, receiving the abundant peace available to me, despite the tension in waiting and my desire to control. I refuse to let my impatience rob me of the joy and deep connection I can experience with my baby, my body, and the Creator. I will surrender to every sensation and open myself to whatever the long days and achy nights hold, even if it means curling up in a ball and having a good cry. In this season, Adelaide and I are one in body and soul and I will not hurry that separation. I will hold my daughter soon and that anticipation will be my strength. I am ready.”
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After a week of chiropractor adjustments, massage, acupuncture, lunges, walking, and smooth move tea, I started feeling some contractions. Sunday, January 17th we walked in the park and I was having lots of PMS symptoms – irritable, hot flashes, nauseated, tired, and very mild contractions at 15 – 20 minutes apart. Early Monday morning at 12:00am, I felt a weird sensation and some wetness while I was sleeping. I wasn’t sure if my water broke so I grabbed a towel and made my way to the bathroom. As I was walking I felt something come out. When I got to the bathroom I saw that I passed a blood clot the size of a golf ball. My adrenaline went through the roof. I had never heard of bleeding and clots in early labor and my heart was racing. I texted my midwife with a picture and watched to see if I had any more bleeding. Luckily, I was able to monitor the baby’s heart rate with my Doppler and the bleeding had stopped so I decided to go to bed and see what the morning brought.

Monday was uneventful, contractions were coming regularly at 10 minutes apart but I still viewed this as pre-labor. I didn’t want to get my hopes up after I had such a long early labor with Genevieve. And I was still able to walk and talk through these. They were very mild. Adelaide was moving around the same amount as before, I had no more active bleeding or clots, and her heart rate was great. Jennifer, my midwife, came by to see how I was doing. She did a cervical check just to see if it was possible that I was further along than we expected, but I was still 1cm and 50% effaced. Labor may not kick into gear for days, so we just continued about our day. I am so glad it was MLK Day because Michael had off work. So I ate pancakes, sat on the birth ball, listened to birth affirmations, and cuddled my family. Genevieve was not feeling so great so we slept most of the day.

The Birth:
Tuesday, January 19th (39 weeks and 4 days), I woke up with the same sensation I had the night before. It was 3am and I passed another blood clot. This time it was more like a softball size. Contractions were coming 6-8 minutes apart and after talking with Jennifer, we decided to go into Vanderbilt to confirm if this was cervical or placental bleeding. Although unlikely, if it was just cervical bleeding, then we could just go home and continue to let labor pick up. If the bleeding was from the placenta, the risk could be placental abruption, in which the placenta starts to detach from the uterine wall before delivery. This would cut off oxygen to the baby and I would bleed out. It’s a life threatening condition. The second I saw the bleeding, I knew I was no longer having a homebirth.

Michael scrambled some eggs for me because I knew food would be near impossible to get while at the hospital and I quickly threw together a hospital bag. I really only packed some clothes for postpartum, chap stick, phone charger, tooth brush, and receiving blankets and baby hats from our house to use at delivery. We called my mother-in-law to come to our house for when Genevieve woke up and we took a final belly picture.
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At 6:00am Jennifer, Carissa (midwife assistant), and Becky (mother-in-law) arrived at our house. It was a freezing morning and I was not looking forward to getting in the car. I was still having contractions every 6-8 minutes and I was starting to have to actively work through them. The ride to the hospital wasn’t too bad but I remember thinking how awful this ride would be if I was in transition. Every bump in the road was miserable. I was glad I was only experiencing mild contractions at that point. We got to the hospital and the triage desk immediately sent us over to Labor and Delivery. My midwife gave them a heads up that we would be coming in for monitoring because of the bleeding so they had a room ready for us.

Let me tell you, it is so surreal to be a doula and have worked in that very room many times. I know the procedures, I know what is behind every cabinet door, and what doctor/staff to expect to walk in the room next. It felt a little out of body to be going through those motions. Had it been my first birth, I would have been so traumatized. I had a horrible hospital experience as a child and I wanted nothing to do with hospitals. But now that I’ve attended so many births in that setting, I was not bothered with the hospital at all. In fact, it was very comfortable for me. Because Vanderbilt is a teaching hospital and I didn’t have primary care established there, I was seen by the residents and medical students, which means I met 10+ people during my labor. As a doula with my clients, we normally request that no students come in and we try and limit the staff in the room. But for whatever reason, everyone’s presence did not annoy me at all.  I was also so grateful to have an awesome nurse with whom I’ve worked before. She was one of my saving graces during this process. She calls all her patients “my sweet” and has an infectious positive presence.

At 7:00am a group of residents came in and introduced themselves. They wanted to perform a speculum exam to determine if the bleeding was cervical and they also wanted to do an ultrasound to confirm that baby was head down and that the placenta was not covering my cervix. For those who have read my previous birth story, you may remember that I had experienced abuse as a child that made any type of pelvic exam near impossible. Since Genevieve’s birth, I have healed in so many ways. The checks that Jennifer had to perform were no big deal at all and I’ve had no issues with relaxing my pelvic floor since my first birth. So despite having multiple strangers performing checks during labor, I had no trauma whatsoever!

After the speculum exam, they did a quick abdominal ultrasound to confirm that baby was head down, and then a different resident performed a cervical check to see where my progress was at that point. I was 3cm, 70% effaced, and station -2. Still very much early labor as I expected. Honestly, I don’t even know if I would have called it labor at that point. A third resident walked in, one whom we all love because of his British accent 😉 He started a long monologue about the risks of placental abruption, risks of a c-section, and how they would go about monitoring me during labor. I suppose that was when I was officially admitted.

The next hour and half (7:30 – 9:00am) were full of admission steps. I had two IV’s placed. One was a heplock in case I needed a blood transfusion and the other was to give me fluid and Pitocin if that became necessary. I also had a blood pressure cuff put on and a pulse oximeter to measure my heart rate. The nurse placed the baby on the monitor and I got a monitor to measure my contractions. I just started laughing. I mean what else could I do? This was exactly why I chose a homebirth in the first place, to avoid all of this. I was hooked up to six wires! But I knew at this point I was considered high risk and if I didn’t make the best of it, I would be so miserable. So I laughed and I let the craziness of it all become comical. And I decided to roll with it. Next the financial adviser came in to talk because I have unconventional insurance and he needed to know how I was going to pay for it all, I talked with the charge nurse about my experience so far, I talked to anesthesia, giving them consent to use general anesthesia if that became necessary, and I answered 100 questions for my chart. All of this I expected from experience with clients and once again, I chose to not be annoyed by the constant visitors (although my husband was perturbed). I really was happy through the whole process. The peace and joy I felt was so unexpected. 

Finally by 9:00am we were done with admissions and we got a little bit of quiet. I chatted with Jennifer, Carissa, and Sandee (midwife assistant/doula) for a little bit and tried to process the whirlwind that just happened. My mom and Lauren (twin sister) then came to see me for a few minutes and give me final hugs. By 10:00am I was ready to be left alone. Had this been a homebirth, I would not have my birth team with me yet. It was still so early and I didn’t want to feel like ‘a watched pot’. I did that in my previous labor and I didn’t want to do that again. I sent all the final texts, Facebook messages, emails, and even confirmed a couple of Airbnb bookings 😉 before I shut off my phone. I was ready to get into birth world and get things going. And I knew it was not going to happen if my left brain was turned on. You can’t really think through labor, you have to shut off your brain and just be present. So by 10:30am the room was emptied besides me and Michael.

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I think that’s when reality hit me.
I was staying so calm and very intentional during the entire process. I was choosing joy despite everything being the opposite of what I had imagined. This was certainly not the birth experience I was expecting but I knew I wanted to make the best of it. With everyone gone and my birth playlist playing in the background, I finally let my emotions flow. I cried for a little over an hour. I cried because today was the day I was going to meet my daughter. I cried because I was not going to have the homebirth I had expected. I cried because I felt so much peace and I was so grateful for that. I was overwhelmed with how happy I was. I really don’t know how that was possible. I mean really, nothing was going according to plan and yet I found myself surrounded by peace. I know a lot of prayers were said on my behalf at that time.Now that this was the journey I was on and I had a good cry, I was ready to fully embrace it. I laughed as I tried to get to the bathroom. My goodness, IV pole, monitors, a mesh “diaper”, all while waddling to the bathroom, I could really relate to my clients now. I could have been upset but I just laughed. Every task was very challenging in this setting. I remember loving standing by the side of the bed swaying my hips and moving my body. Around 11:00am a med student walked in to introduce himself and he looked so confused. I will always remember his face while I was blasting music, swaying my hips, and smiling. He didn’t understand why I was out of the bed. He asked if my joints hurt and I laughed and said, ‘Um no… I am in labor. It feels good to move”. Maybe I taught him something that day about letting women do their thing in labor. 

At 12:00pm my primary resident (whom I really loved) came in to check my progress. I had made minimal progress – I was 3cm, 80%, and station -1. He said they would come back in about 2.5-3 hours to see if anything had changed. Thankfully, he did let me take the IV out and the pulse ox and blood pressure cuff off. I felt so free! At one point I even sent Michael out of the room to get coffee so I could just be myself and really allow myself to enter birth world. My nurse was amazing and got me all my favorite drinks and even a little coffee because of my ‘lack of caffeine’ headache. Around 1:15pm Michael and I were in a good routine with contractions. He was massaging acupressure points that help with getting contractions going and I would sit on the birth ball and open my hips. But I knew that my contractions were still not in a great pattern. They were 3 minutes, then 6 minutes, then 4 minutes, then 10 minutes apart. No real rhythm. So I wasn’t expecting much progress when they checked me again.

Lauren showed up again at 1:45pm with a diffuser and some moral support. She was so great at rubbing my back and telling me how amazing I was doing. But I really was handling it fine on my own at that point, I even told her to give Michael a massage instead because I was totally fine and didn’t really want the touch at this point. But her presence meant so much to me.

At 2:30pm, my doctor came back in to see where my cervix was at. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I had made no progress since my last check 2.5 hours ago. I was recalling my previous birth and I remembered that I stayed around 4cm for DAYS. It took nipple stimulation, black/blue cohosh, and learning how to relax to kick my body into active labor. So I told my medical team that I sort of expected needing some augmentation to get labor really going. I also reminded them that I will probably go fast once my body kicked into gear. We decided at this point it would be best to break my water. I asked so many questions (my doula brain was running through all the pros and cons). My doctor reassured me that baby was well engaged and he was not concerned with cord prolapse and he didn’t think I would be in labor long enough to worry about infection. I also had to keep reminding myself that I am a second-time mom and so my pattern will likely move a little quicker than a first time mom.
So at 2:42pm, my doctor broke my water. 

Even though I was only 3cm, my nurse started setting up the room for delivery. Thankfully, the water was clear so there was no need to have the NICU team at delivery. I remember the water being so warm. And then my next thought was a little bit of panic as I looked Michael in the eye and said, “This next contraction is going to be a lot harder”. I think I said something else along the lines of ‘shit’s about to get real’. And sure enough…. Holy moly….. My contractions went from mild to incredibly intense. It was insane! Lauren had texted Carissa to head this way as they were breaking my water because I knew it would be harder, so she arrived at 3:10pm. I was so happy to see her walk in. At that point I was off the bed and back on the birth ball and I turned to her and said, “Carissa… this is no joke…” She jumped into action with Lauren and Michael. Around this point I was starting to really vocalize. I mean it was like a loud, deep growl. I was able to keep my sounds super low but it was so intense. I am sure it would have frightened anyone in the hallway. I told the 3 of them that I need everyone to press on my back. It felt like my hips were coming apart. I didn’t remember this with my first baby. I remember contractions being more of an incredibly tight squeeze. This felt more like a ripping apart. It was as if their pressing was keeping my body in one piece. At one point someone eased up on the pressure and I started shouting, “Keep pushing on me”. My doctor and his team walked in at some point during all of this and Carissa said their faces were hilarious. I was not holding back, it was a pretty raw, intense scene and I am sure they were not used to that. Once again, teaching these new doctors what some laboring women look like 😉

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I did this from 3:00 to 4:30pm and I just could not imagine doing it any longer. My coping techniques were not keeping up with the intensity. I had a quick thought that maybe it was so hard because my placenta was abrupting and something was wrong with my body. Nothing was wrong – baby looked great and I wasn’t bleeding but I did have a short moment of fear. I believe it was Carissa that told me everything was OK and I could do it and that snapped me out of that worry. I then started throwing up the coffee I drank and I was shaking all over. My contractions were coming right on top of each other. I believe I had about 1 minute in between to ‘rest’, although I never really felt relief. I was certain this had to be transition. My thoughts were just to survive and breathe. Michael kept reminding me to breathe but honestly, I was finding it hard to catch my breath. There were about 15 seconds during each contraction that I felt like there’s no way I can do this and then it would start to ease up and I was able to breathe again.

Here’s the thing, had I been at home or had I not been high risk, I would be getting in the shower or birth tub. I would not be hooked to 6 wires, confined to the perimeter of the bed, with nurses and doctors coming in and out. I was starting to feel like I was drowning during the contraction. I needed an anchor. I needed direction. I needed something about this whole situation to change. My body was going through such intensity that I could not do this for an indefinite amount of time. I was past the point of simply surrendering to the contractions. I needed something concrete to focus on. So I told my team that I wanted to be checked. If I was not 8 or 9cm then I wanted an epidural. Because the idea of doing this for hours and hours was not going to happen: a common feeling during transition.

At 4:30pm my doctor checked me and I was 5cm, 100% effaced and station 0. I had made great progress. However, as a laboring woman, all I heard was that I am JUST ENTERING active labor. I was certain I was in transition, but only 5cm!?! I could be doing this for 6+ more hours for all I knew. Of course, had I really listened to my body and thought about what was going on, I should have known that this baby was coming fast. But I needed something to help me cope and my only option was pain relief. In retrospect, nitrous oxide would have been totally sufficient but again I heard 5cm and from being a doula, I knew that nitrous was really most effective right before pushing. Oh had I just known that I would be pushing in a matter of minutes and had I been at home, that birth tub would have been perfect! I think natural birth is the way to go. There are so many benefits. And birthing at home makes having a natural birth way easier because you don’t have the option otherwise. But I knew that suffering for a natural birth was not what I wanted.

I had so many thoughts running through my head at that moment:
1. I remember thinking that this was way harder than I remember with Genevieve. The great thing about having a four-day labor is that you progress slowly and your body has time to adjust to the intensity. It wasn’t like I am not a strong person, but I really thought my body was about to come apart because the contractions got so strong so fast. The epidural wasn’t because I was exhausted, it was because my body was spreading, literally, faster than my coping skills could keep up with. I skipped active labor altogether. Although I wanted the relief, more than anything I needed to know that there was an end in sight.  2. I also remember thinking that I had nothing to prove. I had had a homebirth. I know natural labor. This environment was not what I planned, this environment was not conducive to my peaceful natural, home-like setting. I needed something to change and I could only use the resources available to me now that I was considered high risk and on constant monitoring.  3. It might seem weird, but I was sort of excited about getting an epidural. Or maybe the right word is intrigued. I wanted to know what the process was like since I already had so many other interventions happening to me. At that point my ideal birth was out the window and I was a lot more fine embracing my alternatives.  4. Choosing an epidural did not feel like defeat to me. I honestly felt empowered to ask for one because nothing about my labor was anything I could control, I wanted to choose something for myself. And it was the first thing that day that I GOT TO CHOOSE. I felt powerful to make that choice. And I felt good about it.
So when he said, “5cm”, I immediately said, “Nope. I want an epidural”. And they QUICKLY made that happen for me.

Lauren and Carissa went out in the hall and at 4:40pm they started the epidural process. Because my contractions were so incredibly strong at this point, I didn’t feel anything with the epidural. I don’t remember any of what they were doing except that I wanted them to go a little faster and it was borderline excruciating to sit on the side of the bed curled over trying to hold still during those contractions. But really, being forced to do something was exactly what I needed. I needed direction, I needed a task, I needed something to do. I had to sit still and follow directions and that process was perfect for where my mind was at that moment. Well by 5:00pm they had the epidural in but I was getting NO relief. They kept using ice to see if my body was numbing at all and it was not. They couldn’t figure out why the epidural wasn’t working at all. A few minutes later Adelaide’s heart rate was dropping a little during contractions and my immediate thought was, “Of course, head compression, I am about to push…” And then the nurse said the exact same thing. My doctor and the resident entourage entered the room. They checked me at 5:10pm and I just had a teeny cervical lip left! I went from 5cm to just about fully dilated in 40 minutes…..And not only that but Adelaide was super, super low, so she was moving through my pelvis at a rapid rate. They wanted me to labor just a little bit longer before pushing and during those 15 minutes I clung to Michael as my life support. I buried my face in his shirt and with all my strength, worked through one contraction at a time.

At 5:25pm my doctor said let’s go ahead and start pushing. The anesthesia team was still in the room because my epidural was doing absolutely nothing and they were trying to get me some relief. Ha. I was going to get a natural birth either way…Oh well…I didn’t even care about or need the epidural at that point. I knew I was pushing any minute and just the fact that the epidural placement process gave me distraction to get through transition was all I needed. So I gave it ONE PUSH and my doctor said, “Ok, let’s break down the bed for delivery.” I was over the moon. I love pushing. I loved pushing with Genevieve and I loved pushing with Adelaide. I felt like a complete badass when with just one push I was ready for delivery. It was incredible. Everyone in the room was impressed by my pushing. I remember feeling so so happy and strong.

The baby was starting to have some major decelerations but because I was such an effective pusher they weren’t concerned. They did put me on oxygen and my doctor just said turn the monitor off! He didn’t want to hear the heartbeat that low. I believe her heart rate was down to 60 at one point but I was never worried, I knew it was going to happen soon. And because the epidural could not keep up with how fast I was progressing I could still feel everything and I loved feeling her move down through my body. With Genevieve, I was so exhausted that I wasn’t fully present during pushing but this time around I was totally there and loved it! They asked if I wanted to touch her head and I said, “Absolutely!” It was amazing. And then I had a moment where I asked, “Wait, she’s already under the bone?” And they laughed and said, “Yes, you are about to crown”. I was shocked! I am so used to first time moms who take hours to push and I couldn’t believe the hardest part of getting the baby under the pelvic bone was over.

At 5:41pm she started crowning. She had a nuchal cord, that’s where the umbilical cord was wrapped tight around her neck, and that’s what was causing the major decels in her heart rate. They tried to move the cord over her head but it was too tight. So they told me that I was going to deliver through the cord. So I gave it 2 more pushes and at 5:42pm my daughter was born!

What a holy experience. I was totally lost in that moment, just engrossed in my daughter on my belly. I was rubbing her back and telling her how much I loved her and then she let out a beautiful cry. I don’t care how you have a baby or where you have a baby, that moment is just exhilarating. I was completely in love with her. I could hear Michael sobbing next me, even before she was born, just like with Genevieve. And we were so present in that moment. Just the three of us. Nothing, nothing will ever compare to that moment. It was very surreal and the relief I had was unlike anything. I kept saying over and over, “I am so happy, I am so happy, I am so happy!” I am telling you, this birth will always be marked with joy. 

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The team was great at letting the cord stop pulsing before Michael cut the cord and about 14 minutes after delivery my placenta came out. I do remember that within 2 minutes of birth, I told my nurse to shut off the epidural. The epidural was starting to work at that point, of course, right after delivery 😉 but I didn’t want the medication any longer. And I am glad I had them shut it off. I was walking 3 hours after delivery. I did have one tear because they had to aggressively help with delivery due to the nuchal cord but it was just a quick repair. Before I knew it, the room was cleared out. I held my baby for 2.5 hours before anyone touched her. I was excited to use my own blankets on her and our own hat as well. It was important to me that the first thing to touch her skin came from our house with our family’s bacteria on it instead of the sterile hospital blankets. The hospital atmosphere did not phase me whatsoever once my daughter was in my arms. I think the hospital setting actually made me feel possessive of Adelaide. I didn’t let anyone to touch her or take her away from me. And she latched beautifully just 30 minutes after delivery. My attachment with her was a lot more instantaneous than my attachment with Genevieve. That was one of my big prayers and hopes for this birth. I was so in love.
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My final thoughts about the experience:

  • Although my hospital birth experience was not a bad one, I would always choose a homebirth. Nothing can compare to the intimacy and sacredness of birthing in your own home, surrounded by friends instead of strangers, and with no interruptions or distractions. I will always advocate for homebirths and if we were to get pregnant again, I would choose to birth at home. There is just no way to compare the two experiences and as long as I am low risk, home is where I will be.
  • This birth brought healing from my first birth in ways that I never would have expected. I was free from the fears about this birth that I released at my Blessingway. All the cervical checks I had during Adelaide’s birth (by strangers nonetheless) left me with NO trauma. I couldn’t believe it. I was totally fine. I also bonded immediately with Adelaide and was able to connect with her in ways I wasn’t able to with Genevieve. Both my trauma and ability to attach to my new baby were fears that I had beforehand and I experienced none of them. This birth was truly healing for me.
  • Oh epidurals. I am still processing a whole range of emotions with that decision. Ultimately, I am fine with choosing to get one. It was my birth, my choice. But it’s amazing how I’ve already had people make comments like, “I am so surprised you chose an epidural” and “Aren’t you all about natural birth, I am curious as to why you wanted an epidural?” I do love natural birth and it is something that is important to me. But birthing in a hospital is far from serene and hands-off like a homebirth. I feel weird that I have to justify or defend my actions. I get moments where I feel shame for that decision and I can only imagine how so many moms feel when they don’t have the ‘ideal’ birth experience. Or maybe for some moms an epidural is an ideal birth, and that is OK! For me personally, I would have rather not had one, but let’s be honest, it didn’t actually work anyway. However, in just one hour I went from 5cm to delivery, baby moving down from station 0 to crowning, and an OP baby rotating to OA. I still can’t believe it! I’ve been to so many births and I have never witnessed one quite this fast. Not to mention she was about 9 pounds. It was unbelievably intense. And I used the only resource I knew to use at that point. I never judge a woman for choosing an epidural. Suffering through birth is never OK. If the coping skills you are using are not working, it’s OK to use what is available. So a mom in labor gets to call the shots for what her body needs in that moment. You will certainly never hear judgement from me!
  • My emotional preparation made me so at ease and peaceful about everything. I chose to be intentional about enjoying this experience. I think this is one of the most important things I would tell people. We do not get to choose the details of our child’s arrival. Birth is full of unknowns and the journey is one of letting go of control and being present through the process. We certainly did not anticipate having a high risk hospital birth. What we do get to choose is how we receive the birth. When things shift from our ideal or our plans, you get to decide how to respond. Of course it’s OK to be disappointed, it’s OK to have a good cry, it’s OK to need lots of time to process after the birth. You may even feel shame or sadness or frustration, and that is OK. I’ve had many moments where I think I am going to get a redo with this birth in a few weeks, where I would get the chance to change certain aspects of the birth, but that’s not the case. I have felt every range of emotions since delivery and I’ve needed to process the experience with multiple people. I will still be processing this birth for a long time. But I do want to end by saying that I have never experienced so much peace and joy during such a challenging experience. I was proactive prenatally to emotionally prepare myself for birth. Daily I released my expectations and prepared myself to embrace whatever this birth would bring. I knew it would come with challenges but I also knew that it was through those challenges that we grow and experience life on a deep, raw level. Choose to birth life in joy. And choose to embrace your child’s unique story.
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