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The Birth of Jack Ford

One of our clients, Amy, shares her transformative birth story of her sweet baby Jack. “Childbirth really is instinctual. Your body knows exactly what to do – you just have to allow it to happen.”

If you are looking for inspiration as you prepare for your upcoming birth – look no further!

The Birth of Jack Ford
By Amy Kortman

I had decided that I was the first person that was going to be pregnant forever. After spending most of my pregnancy thinking I would go into labor early, I was shocked to find myself 40 weeks pregnant with our first child. I had read so many books and heard so many birth stories, I felt like it was my turn! I had no fear. I was ready.

I began seeing a chiropractor when I was 32 weeks pregnant to make sure my body was fully prepared for childbirth. She promised me that if I made it to 40 weeks, she would “work her magic.” On my due date, I went in for my appointment and had my regular adjustment in addition to acupressure and dry needling. Just 30 minutes after I got home from my appointment, I noticed some bloody show! Despite my excitement, I decided to take a nap and get some rest just in case. I woke up at 6:30pm and noticed significantly more bloody show and started to feel some mild cramping. It was still early on but I had a pretty good feeling that this was it.

I took a shower and my mom made me dinner. She and I sat down to watch Bachelor in Paradise and joked that I would pick the baby’s middle name based on one of the guys on the show. I texted my doula, Vicki, and let her know what was going on and she suggested that I start timing my contractions.

At 9:30pm, I had a few slight gushes of water but didn’t feel like my bag of waters had fully ruptured. My contractions were getting closer together and stronger but I could still talk through them. When Vicki arrived around midnight my contractions were 7 minutes apart and becoming more uncomfortable. I tried to find the most comfortable position – sitting, standing and swaying, bouncing on the birth ball, hands and knees. Vicki reminded me to relax my shoulders and when my discomfort increased, she suggested vocalizing my breathing.

My contractions were lasting a minute and a half and coming every 3 – 5 minutes. Around 2am I asked to go to the hospital. While my husband, Erik, was packing up the car, my mom grabbed my face and gave me a pep talk. I wish I could remember her exact words. She told me I would probably have 4 contractions while we were in the car and then something along the lines of “You are doing amazing, you can do this, you were made for this.”

We arrived at the hospital and at 3am, I was checked by the midwife. She confirmed that I had a slight tear in my bag of waters, I was 4cm dilated and 90% effaced. I was slightly disappointed that I was not further along. My husband and I walked the halls for about 30 minutes before I just wanted to lie down. Erik was able to get a little sleep and I got some rest.

At 5:30am, I felt a huge surge of water and knew my water had broken. Contractions immediately became more intense and we called for the nurse. The midwife came in to check me at 6am and I was dilated to 7 centimeters! The pressure was so intense, I felt like I couldn’t relax my bottom or everything would fall out. I think this is when I begged for Nitrous. I wanted to crawl out of my skin and get away from my body. I was trying so hard to do everything I had learned – breathe, relax, visualize. I felt like nothing was working, My mind was spinning, the contractions were coming so quickly. I really started doubting myself and a few times said “I can’t do this!” Vicki and Erik reassured me every time “you ARE doing it”. I tried several different positions and at some point I ended up on my side with a peanut ball between my legs. When the anesthesiologist came in with the Nitrous, I grabbed the mask out of his hand just as a contraction started. The Nitrous did not take the pain away but it definitely helped to distract me during the contractions. It also made me breathe more effectively – I felt like I was getting light headed with each contraction so the added oxygen definitely helped.

At 7am my body started bearing down – it was uncontrollable – Vicki told me to breathe, relax, and just let my body do the work. She assured me that I was bringing my baby down. She then told me “You are going to meet your baby really soon!” I think I asked her “How soon?” I wanted a number. I wanted her to tell me how much longer I had, how many more contractions, how many minutes!

At this point we asked for the midwife – I was convinced I was fully dilated. We were told by the nurse that she was in a meeting, “but” she said, “I can go get her if you want.” I think Erik and Vicki both yelled “go get her!” When the midwife arrived, I was fully dilated and she told me I could push. I remember asking “how?” and felt so silly asking that! She instructed me on what to do and when my next contraction started, I pushed as hard as I possibly could. I felt so much pressure and knew my baby was moving. On my 3rd contraction, I could feel his head and remember thinking to myself “so that is the ring of fire?” On my next push, I felt his body slide from mine and then instant relief! My baby boy was immediately on my chest, looking up at me with these huge eyes.

I pushed for 4 contractions, 20 minutes total. Jack Ford Kortman was born August 15, 2017 at 8:04am.

Erik took a video of the delivery and I am so glad that he did. I will admit I was a little embarrassed watching it. The noise I made while I was pushing and immediately after delivery is really indescribable. It’s kind of eerie in a way, but also so powerful. That video captures the greatest pain, shock, disbelief, joy, and love within a matter of seconds. We also noticed while watching it back that during one contraction he said to me, “Get it Girl.” Yes, those were his words!

There are so many unknowns about labor and delivery. Looking back, there were a lot of things that I just didn’t even think about in the moment. Such as: how much my baby weighed, did I poop on the bed (I was shocked to find out I didn’t), throwing up, going through transition. I think that because things progressed so quickly, I really didn’t have time to think about these things. And let’s face it, 110% of my focus was on my contractions!

Childbirth really is instinctual. Your body knows exactly what to do – you just have to allow it to happen.  I am so thankful for Vicki but honestly, I think Erik is more thankful. He didn’t really understand the need for a doula during labor and delivery. He expected the nurses and midwife to be more present during contractions but was surprised when they only came in the room every 30-40 minutes to check the heart rate. He is now a firm believer after seeing the support we received from Vicki.

While I was pregnant, I read that by choosing to have a natural childbirth, there would be pain during labor but the postpartum pain and discomfort would be significantly reduced. For me, this was 100% true. I knew how hard to push, I knew the limits of my body. I ended up with a very minor tear that only required two stitches. Having a newborn baby is a lot of work so I was so thankful that I healed quickly!

Looking back on my entire birth story, the most memorable moment (apart from Jack being born of course) was during a really strong contraction – I was listening to worship music and just started crying out “Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus!” My midwife grabbed my hand and started praying over me. I had no idea that she was a believer but it was just what I needed in that moment.

The Birth of Norah Grey

“When Norah was lifted up into the air an instant after they pulled her out, and a plastic window was opened in the curtain at my waist, allowing us our first glimpse, we cried and clung. It was every bit as sweet a meeting as any you could hope for in a birthing pool.”

We are sharing Tilly’s two birth stories (check out their website here). This week is the beautiful story of her first baby, an unplanned c-section. Read as she bravely accepts the change in her birth plans and prepares to meet her daughter.

The Birth of Norah Grey
By Tilly Dillehay

I’ve been meaning for three months to write out the birth story of little Agnes, but somehow not gotten down to the job before now. I had three reasons for waiting this long. 1.) Most obvious reason: I have lately had an infant in my house. 2.) I realized that in order to write Agnes’ I’d have to also write out Norah’s, which I never did. 3.) There are three ways you can tell a birth story—funny, sentimental, or technical, and I didn’t know which way to go with it.

In the end, a few folks asked me whether I was planning to do these, and their inquiries made up my mind. So I’m doing them, but with some reluctance.

Because here’s what I think about birth stories: I’m not a fan of placing too much importance on them. Like a wedding day, it makes me uncomfortable to hear people say that the day their child was born was best day of their lives. The days that my girls were born were memorable, beautiful, hard, and unalterably life changing; the day I married my husband was all of those things as well. But none of these days were ‘the best day of my life’. I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on any particular day. That kind of pressure is usually aesthetically driven anyway; it belongs to the internet world of Pinterest and Instagram, not to the real world of experiences and decisions that change us over time.

I just feel the need to lead with these caveats, because I just don’t want to be misleading to some poor pregnant lady out there, who is googling “successful vbac story” to pass another nervous afternoon.

Not that I ever did that.

For the men out there, you may be asking yourself, “But why? Why write about this?” Well, you can just move along. This is something women in their childbearing years tend to want to talk about. I can’t tell you how many unsolicited birth stories from women—at work, school, church, the library, the street, and Walmart—I have been privileged to hear.

We’re just talking shop.

Norah

I was confident and relaxed about Norah’s birth. The pregnancy had gone so well, and I was young and relatively healthy. Plus, I’d been told for a lifetime that I had “childbearing hips.”

I was planning to have a natural birth at Vanderbilt Medical Center, but trying to hold the ‘natural’ part loosely. After all, I’d never experienced what was going to happen to me, and I didn’t want to be setting myself up for failure.

What I knew, absolutely knew, was that I emphatically didn’t want to have a c-section.

Labor with Norah started in the wee hours. I was eleven days overdue. Contractions got longer and closer together all day, without becoming very uncomfortable until my water broke in the early afternoon. I was at my sister’s house, around the corner from the hospital, when the water broke; I was watching The Office. It was the episode when Dwight is using excerpts of speeches from famous dictators to address a bunch of salesmen at a convention.

I was at the hospital by 2 p.m., and this is when labor began to get hard.

Here’s the thing about the word “hard.” It means so many different things—something different almost every time it is used. I could say, “Labor was hard when I realized that I was in the worst pain of my life, and it had been regularly hitting me at three-minute increments for five hours.” But I could also say, “It was hard when I was in labor for three more hours and I began to vomit, and I asked for my mother and she came in and concluded that I was in transition.” Or I could say, “It was hard when I had been through all of the above and then they checked me and I was only at five centimeters, and this made me believe that I was only halfway there, and I cried like a child.”

But another woman could use the word too; she could say something like, “It was hard, when I realized that there wasn’t enough water to last my family through the rest of the week and the well was dry, so I had to strap the baby onto my back and carry the water jug over to the next village, twenty miles one way.” And that, obviously, would be another kind of hard. But despite the many and various meanings of the word, I’m going to have to use it here.

It was hard. So at that point, at about ten p.m., I asked for an epidural. They gave me one and I was greatly relieved, though a little bit ashamed. Ashamed was not a reasonable way to feel, but that is how I felt. I’ve known a lot of women who gave birth naturally, and I wanted to know what it was like.

Then, the entire night passed as my dilation slowly progressed. My husband and I slept. In the late morning of the next day, they told me that it was time to push. Gamely, serenely, I began to do so. They had to tell me when to do it, to try to help me time my pushes with the contractions. I did this, without feeling any loss of energy or spirits, for four hours.

I couldn’t move any part of my body below the ribcage. I didn’t know what kind of effort or sensation I was shooting for, but felt totally comfortable as these four hours ticked by.

It was then that they brought in the surgeon to do a quick analysis of the situation, and it was truly not until then that I realized I might not be able to push her out at all.

The c-section thing was pretty much the only delivery preference that I was passionate about: I really really didn’t want one. Grateful as I am to live in a time and place where c-sections are an option, the first time I really clung to my husband in fear was when I was told that the c-section was the only option left. They wanted to try forceps, but they wanted to try forceps on the operating table.

I began to clamor for ideas when they said that. I asked the nurse if they could maybe just ease back on the epidural now so that I could feel what was happening and use my useless and floppy legs, and other important muscles. She said that my pushing had apparently been effective because baby had been progressing but then inching backwards again, over and over without progress. Also, she said, it would be cruel to hit a person with the full force of end-stage labor pain when they’d been feeling nothing; it would be inhumane. I didn’t know what to say to that.

This is one of the clearest memories I have of the entire labor: the conversation between my husband and I when the room cleared of all family and medical personnel so that we could discuss our options. I cried; I said that I didn’t want to be a statistic. He comforted me and said that this was a small price to pay to meet our baby. We wouldn’t have come here if we didn’t trust this medical team, he said.

I acquiesced, but truly, this was the first time I was really gripped by fear.

It was pure disappointment and trepidation and shame, tempering all of my maternal excitement, as they wheeled me into the operating room.

The team was fantastic and quick. I had no rational fears for either myself or the baby. Still, I shook visibly—my hands were vibrating like fish fighting for air next to my head as they strapped me down. (The drugs often cause shaking, but the shaking can sometimes retroactively generate more fear: usually, you shake when you’re afraid.)

The bright lights and ceiling tiles are branded into my memory, along with the sensation of having my body tugged with the full strength of two nurses to the right and the left, the sensation of instant emptiness as my stomach cavity was relieved of its then-largest organ, which was relieved of a screaming infant and then returned to its former resting place.

My husband was sitting near my head, reciting scripture to me in my weak and cowardly state. And by weak and cowardly, I mean that I groaned and cried during the operation without any feeling of control over myself. When Norah was lifted up into the air an instant after they pulled her out, and a plastic window was opened in the curtain at my waist, allowing us our first glimpse, we cried and clung. It was every bit as sweet a meeting as any you could hope for in a birthing pool.

Justin was holding her a few moments later, and I was touching her with my shaking hands. I couldn’t have been less aware that they were stitching me closed during these first moments of seeing and touching her.

Norah was placed onto my chest in another room just a few minutes after that, and she learned to nurse instantly. Love had a new name. She was everything in the world, and I was hers and she was mine; seven pounds and eleven ounces of human flesh, groping for her mother.

I never had trouble connecting with this child, as some women say they struggle to do after a c-section. If anything, it took me a few weeks to emotionally connect to my second child, and never to the same pitch of obsession. Like a first crush, something irretrievable lives in those first few months with Norah. But this is part of the beauty of having more than one; you must take each new little pair of eyes as they come, and acquaint yourself with them on their own ground. 

The Birth of Josiah Graham

This is a beautiful story of infertility, miscarriage, and redemption. This mama learned to trust God and her body in her journey. And was able to meet her precious son the way she always dreamed.

The Birth of Josiah Graham
By Cassandra Thon

This story starts years before our little guy was born.  After 4 years of being married we decided to start trying to have a baby.  To our surprise we struggled with the frustration of infertility and the difficulty of having two miscarriages.  Our first miscarriage was at 10 weeks into the pregnancy and came 2 years after we started trying.  We recovered from that loss and began to try to move forward.  We became pregnant again 7 months later.  We cautiously made it to 15 weeks, complications arose and we lost that precious baby, too.  We were devastated and unsure of what to do next.  After taking a step back and letting our emotional wounds heal we started to try again.  After a year of no success we decided to have ourselves checked for infertility.  We pursued fertility treatments for 6 months.  After no signs of improvement we decided to stop the fertility treatments and began looking into the possibility of adoption.  ONE MONTH later I became pregnant.  I remember literally laughing at the positive pregnancy test.  It was a miracle.

I have always wanted a natural childbirth.  My mom had to have C-sections with my brother and I and not many of my friends have had a baby natural without pain medicine.  This didn’t leave me with much background information on natural childbirth.  So, once I was well into my second trimester I began researching natural childbirth and ways I could accomplish it.  I talked with a good friend that delivered her firstborn all natural with the help of a doula.  I discussed options with my husband, Ethan, about my wishes for labor and delivery and the possibility of hiring a doula. I was unsure how he would react to this somewhat crazy idea. To my surprise, he was completely supportive and interested to hear more.  I contacted NDS and was connected with Sandee and Emily.  When we met for the first time, I was able to voice my concerns and they were able to tell me how they could help and encourage me.  They let me know I could do this!  Each time we talked about labor and birth Sandee and Emily both looked so excited and passionate about the amazing journey of natural childbirth. They kept telling me two things that I would soon understand and agree with: “your body is meant to do this” and “this is what women are made to do.”

On Monday, January 16th I went for my weekly OB appointment (I was 38 weeks and 4 days), Dr. Rebele checked me and said I was a “soft 1cm” dilated and 75% effaced!  She was really encouraged by the progression and that made me so happy.  Dr. Rebele wanted me to schedule an induction just in case I didn’t progress into labor on my own.  I have some potential high-risks during pregnancy and going past the 40 week deadline was not advisable.  The induction was scheduled for Friday, January 26th, but I was praying I would go into labor on my own.

On Friday, January 20th I made it through my last FULL week of work and I was getting so TIRED!  I was hoping and wishful that I might go into labor over the weekend.  Ethan and I had talked about going to see a movie after work, but after a full day of work I decided we should just watch something at home. My lower back had been feeling a little different that day and I was really tired from the busy week of work.  My mom brought us dinner, and around 6pm I began having my first contractions! I relaxed on the couch with the heating pad. The contractions felt minor like really bad period cramps, but nothing I couldn’t handle. At this point I had not experienced Braxton Hicks contractions, and I honestly thought that was what was happening. I texted Emily to keep her updated, she encouraged me to have a good nights sleep and check back with her once I woke up.

On Saturday, January 21st, I woke up to more contractions, it was light outside, I looked at my phone and it was 5:30am.  I tossed and turned, trying to fall back asleep but couldn’t get comfortable.  So, around 6:30am I finally got up and laid on the couch with the heating pad.  I began tracking my contractions from 7-8am to see if I had any labor progression.  I was shocked that the contractions were still consistent.  I texted Emily a screenshot of the contractions app, they were not really getting any stronger but just continued to happen and not go away.  I asked her if this was considered Braxton Hicks or early labor?!? I was in denial! Haha!  She said it sounded like early labor, but that it could go on for days.  She reminded me to rest as much as possible, drink plenty of water, and eat well during this time.  I was nervous and excited at the same time.  I had plans to go wedding dress shopping for one of my friends and dinner after; however, with the possibility of being in pre-labor I wasn’t sure if it would be wise to be out and about. I ended up going back to bed, cuddled my hubby, and slept from about 9am-11am.  After we woke up I decided to take a bath and see if that would help the pain from the contractions I was having.  It felt so good.  I sat in the bath thinking… wow, I could really be having my baby soon.  Once I got out of the bath I could feel the contractions were not any easier.  Ethan talked me into going out to lunch with him to try and get my mind off the contractions.  We had a good lunch, but the contractions were still really noticeable. After we made it back home, I planted myself on the couch with the heating pad again.  We watched a movie from 2-4pm and I tried to just relax and rest as much as possible.

Around 4:30pm I got into bed and attempted to take a nap.  I didn’t lay there very long, I couldn’t really fall asleep because of how much discomfort I was in.  Around 5pm I felt a little pop or burst.  I got up, called for Ethan and ran to the toilet.  At the time we thought it might have been my bag of waters breaking, but we would later find out that it was my mucus plug.  After that happened, I started getting more and more uncomfortable.  I realized my contractions were at an appropriate frequency and intensity.  It was time to race to the hospital. Ethan packed up the car and we drove to the hospital I tried to relax as much as possible.

We left our house around 6pm and arrived about 35 minutes later to the hospital.  The ride to the hospital wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. We were about 10 minutes away and I saw a bunch of traffic backed up.  I just tried to relax and close my eyes and focus on how close we were instead of focusing on the traffic.  We finally got to the hospital, checked in, and were lead to a triage room.  I was beginning to get more and more uncomfortable, feeling burning hot one minute and cold the next.  When we got into the room the nurse instructed me to leave a urine sample and change into a gown.  We followed her instruction and I sat on the side of the stretcher.  When the nurse returned she began asking me questions and going over my medical history.  All of the sudden I started feeling really sick, I said, “I’m gonna get sick!” Ethan grabbed a bucket for me just in time.  I will just say my lunch from earlier ALL came up….ugh.  Ethan and I were starting to think this was going to be a really LONG night!  After that I felt better, just had continued contractions and was ready to get into my room so I could get comfortable and work through them easier with Ethan.  The nurse checked my dilation and said I was 4cm.  They admitted me into the hospital labor and delivery department and off we went, wheeling to our delivery room!

Around 7:30pm we arrived to the labor and delivery room and I met my new nurse.  She began my IV and gave me some anti nausea medicine since I had thrown up earlier and didn’t want to deal with that issue during delivery.  We agreed since the baby and I were doing well I could just have a hep lock instead of an IV connected to a bag of fluids. Once I got settled, the nurse checked my dilation to see if it had changed since we had first arrived to the labor and delivery triage.  She said it felt like it had advanced to 5 cm!  Shortly after, my doula, Sandee walked in and I was so glad to see her.  I was ready to get this party started and get into our groove.  Since I was doing well and showing no sign of distress, the doctor agreed to let me be off the monitor a majority of the time.  I only had to be monitored during the first 20 minutes of every hour.  While I was getting monitored the first time, Ethan and I caught Sandee up on where I was and how I was feeling.

Around 8pm Sandee and Ethan started getting the room ready.  Ethan put on my labor playlist, which was a Bethel Music album.  They started my essential oil diffuser with some stress balancing blends and got the lights dimmed so that I didn’t have to deal with bright florescent lighting.  Once I completed the first 20 minutes of monitoring I was able to get on the ball.  I sat on the ball and leaned my upper body forward onto the bed or back onto Ethan.  Ethan was being a BOSS of a husband helping me relax, massaging my back, telling me to breathe properly and talking to me about how our lives were about to change with this little guy that I was about to birth.  During labor I kept getting hot then I would get cold.  During the cold moments I would need a blanket, but then I would quickly get hot and need the blanket removed.  I was worried about explaining myself during labor, but Sandee told me to not worry.  I didn’t need to waste energy in explaining something, I just needed to say what I needed and have it done so I could focus on the contractions and myself.  As each contraction came I just tried to lean on Ethan and listen to Sandee’s voice.  I remember talking about this process in our classes and I wasn’t sure how exactly I would handle the pain and what I would do or need.  As the contractions came I just tried to really focus.  I did this by keeping my eyes mostly closed, listening to the music, praying, leaning on Ethan and listening to what Sandee was telling me.  She kept reminding me that each contraction got us closer to our baby.  She also reminded me to just concentrate and get through that ONE contraction instead of thinking about the other contractions I would need to endure through labor. This helped me so much. She reminded me to rest during the rest time and try to relax my body and breath during the contraction.  After a few contractions we got into a groove and discovered how to endure the labor.  I felt so relaxed and at peace.  During this portion of labor, I feel like time went by really quickly. I would breathe through each contraction and eventually started moaning as each one came and went. I felt like this helped me really relax and let the contractions do their job.  The times when our baby needed to be monitored I was able to stay on the ball, which helped me to stay in my labor groove.  At one point Sandee encouraged me to try and stand while holding onto Ethan in order to help the baby move down more.  We did that for 2 contractions, the contractions were pretty painful and I felt like my legs were so weak.  After that, I sat back down on the ball. I think being able to sit on the ball helped me to relax and really let go of everything including my body. I remember just really relying on Ethan to hold me and support me during each contraction.  I am usually someone that doesn’t like physical touch when I’m in pain but this was so different. I needed Ethan there next to me holding me the whole time. It was late and I knew Ethan hadn’t eaten dinner, but I still didn’t want him to move.

It was a little after 10pm and I felt like my back was literally breaking.  It felt like I had so much pressure on my lower back as if I had bent over for hours in the flowerbed pulling weeds.  I got in bed to lie down for a minute.  Once I got in bed Sandee suggested we use the peanut ball between my legs while I layed on my side.  I stayed like this for a few minutes and remember the contractions started to feel different and more intense. My body started shaking involuntarily so we took away the peanut ball and I remember my right leg was comfortable lying straight out on the bed while my left leg was more comfortable bent with my foot on the bed. My moaning got a little louder and my nurse came in and decided to check how far dilated I had progressed.

It was 10:30pm and the nurse said I was 7cm dilated.  I was happy to hear I had progressed but was still unsure on how long it would take for me to be completely dilated.  I kept my eyes closed a majority of the time so I could focus through the contractions.  But I opened them after hearing the nurses begin to get the lights and sterile equipment ready.  At this point I realized I must be getting close, I just tried to concentrate on each contraction and get through each one while trying to relax and let it all happen.  Ethan could tell that the nurses were preparing for delivery.  We had discussed having my mom in the room during the delivery, so he went to the waiting room to bring her back.  I still wasn’t fully dilated, but could tell I was in transition and on my way to 10cm.  I feel like this was the hardest part of labor.  I was thankful to have Sandee, my mom, and Ethan by my side.  The encouragement helped me to push through the pain and focus on having my son.

At 11pm I said, “I feel so much pressure”. I was thinking that this was SO HARD!  At that moment I felt the need to push, but the nurses and Sandee encouraged me to just breathe short quick breaths instead.  I needed to endure the feeling and try not to push at this point.  As the contractions came it felt like my body took over. I wasn’t trying to push but I could tell my uterus was moving all by itself.  After each contraction the nurses would lift my blankets and check my progress. They kept doing this, but never made any comment other than to not push.  Its funny now, but I was thinking can they see a head?!

At 11:15pm the nurse said I had completely dilated.  Dr. Cox, the doctor on call, walked into the room.  The delivery was a blur, but slow and vivid at the same time.  The nurses helped my legs up into the stirrups while Dr. Cox told me instructions on how to push through during the contractions.  She explained I needed to wait until I had a contraction, take a deep breath, try to hold the breath in and push as long as I could.  It took a couple of contractions to get the hang of what I needed to do.  Sandee and Ethan were on one side and my mom was on the other.  They helped support my neck and upper back as well as my legs. Sandee told me to try to push as hard as I could and visualize my body doing what it was built to do.  She told me to think about my uterus pushing my baby down. I put my chin to my chest, closed my mouth, and pushed as hard as I could through every contraction.  At this time I remembered reading that some women can possibly push for hours.  So, I tried to mentally prepare myself, but little did I know it wouldn’t be anywhere near that for me. The doctor and nurses kept saying they could see his head and that he had so much black hair.  The room was full of nurses and everyone was yelling different things.  I just tried to focus on the directions Sandee was speaking in my ear.  I also listened to the nurse counting during my contractions so I knew how long I was pushing for each contraction. My heart was racing, my mind was focused, I was burning hot, and I felt like my bottom was ripping open. It took exactly 15 minutes of pushing and our sweet boy was here.  He was quickly put on my chest, his tiny warm body, umbilical cord still attached, making the most precious little noises.  He opened his eyes and looked around, this moment was incredible. I looked at his sweet face, all that black hair, and was just overwhelmed that he was here in my arms! He was perfect, and I couldn’t believe he was finally here… our baby was finally in our arms!  Ethan kept telling me how proud he was and how beautiful our boy is. After we had a few minutes to see him and catch our breath, Ethan had the honor of cutting the cord. It was the sweetest moment.  What an incredible experience.  The pain was real, but unexplainably worth it.

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 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 Banner Thomas

This strong mama had an “on and off” slow start to labor, but she couldn’t believe what her doctor told her when she went in for her appointment. Her story is truly one of surrender and trust. “I honestly thought I had surrendered and worked through WAY more than I actually had. Birthing is the most vulnerable and exposing experience any woman can ever walk through, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.” Enjoy!

The Birth of Banner Thomas 
By Celeste Triola

In honor of Banner’s birthday, I decided to share his birth story for the first time EVER! I wrote this story a few weeks after he was born. I would add details of the emotional support of my whole family and much more, but I am just going to leave it as I originally wrote it.
(Disclaimer: I used “Hypnobabies” for my birthing class. “Pressure waves/birthing waves” = contractions. “Birthing time”= labor)
Where to begin? Saturday, November 8th.
I started having pressure waves at 2:18 pm. With the first 2, Brandon and I both thought “THIS IS IT!” I told him to get ready. He asked if he should call his family and I said, “let’s wait and make sure” just in case for some reason it wasn’t actually time. (They were driving in from Ohio whenever it was “go time”). So I sat on the birthing ball and had an overhwelm of thoughts and emotions. Life was about to change drastically. Brandon and I hugged (after the pressure wave passed) and prayed for the birthing time to be smooth. We thanked the Lord for the past 3 years of life with just the two of us and had butterflies of excitement at what was about to take place. I popped my “Birthing Day Affirmations” CD into my computer and breathed through 2 more pressure waves. And then….they stopped.

I was a little frustrated at first, but just kept surrendering to Jesus the timing of it all. Charity, my twin sister, was only in town for 2 more days and I wanted her to meet Banner! It was a desire of my heart. At first I thought I was pressuring myself because my family had all pitched in to fly her here and I didn’t want to let anyone down. But then I kept praying and releasing that, and God told me that it was OK to desire for her to be here for his birth. He just kept saying “TRUST ME in the timing.”
So I laid on the couch exhausted for a few hours. Again thinking, “my body is just preparing for birthing! Maybe it will be tonight.”

Brandon worked outside on a table for a friend and I just rested on the couch, listening to the birthing day affirmations. I fell asleep for an hour and decided to get up and walk around. Maybe walking would help speed things along? I put on my rain boots (it wasn’t raining, they were just the easiest shoes to slip on without bending over, and they had a little bit of weight on them which would maybe make Banner arrive sooner because it was a bit more of a workout? HA…the things we think when we want baby OUT!)
I marched around the yard for 30 minutes, played with Champion our puppy, sat in the sunshine, and relished my husband being a handyman. I just kept thinking how blessed my baby boy was to have such a phenomenal dad to greet him into the world.

The sun started setting, so we went inside. We went to Whole Foods for another “this could be the last time with just us before Banner gets here” meal. I was feeling VERY pregnant. I was looking VERY pregnant too. We went to bed trusting that Jesus knew when Banner would arrive. And then I started having pressure waves again. They were every 10-15 minutes for about 3 hours in the middle of the night. I could breathe through them, so I didn’t wake Brandon up. And then they stopped again.

We woke up the next morning and decided to go to church. I have never been so thankful and at rest in worship in my life, and also seeking the Lord for this sweet treasure in my womb to be at peace. A friend came up and prayed over me, telling Banner it was time to arrive. She prayed for my body to be at peace and released my baby to enter the world.

Then, we went to my parent’s house to eat lunch and hang out with Charity. My heart was slowly waning in believing that Banner would get here by 3 pm the next afternoon when Charity had to leave for the airport, and I was getting disheartened. But Charity was so encouraging. She said she just loved spending time with me before this huge transition happened and that she would meet him when she was supposed to. I hadn’t had any more serious pressure waves during the day, but could definitely tell my body was in the preparation stages for birthing. Brandon and I went to TJ Maxx and walked around, and I bought Banner a newborn set of PJ’s. We went home and hung out and then decided to have yet another “this could be the last time with just us before Banner gets here” meal from Chipotle.

We started watching “Christmas with the Kranks.” And then pressure waves started again at 9:45. They were about every 10-15 minutes again, so we stayed up and waited. Then I decided to try to get some sleep. The pressure waves kept coming. I still didn’t wake Brandon up, but was texting back and forth with my AMAZING doula, Alexia, just to keep my mind calm. I decided if they didn’t stop by 2 am, I was going to shower and then wake Brandon up. (Brandon woke up every now and then when I would breathe deeply and made sure I was ok and if I needed anything. He was in no way negligent of the process! I just wanted him to have rest 🙂

The waves continued until 2, so I got up and took a shower. I prayed and breathed and thanked God for the miracle of life and birthing. And then the pressure waves stopped. I was a little discouraged, but also very thankful for the sleep. I got 3 hours of sleep that night, because the pressure waves started again at 5 am every 7-15 minutes. I was excited and scared at the same time. I had a follow up appointment that day in the afternoon, so Brandon called to see if I could come in sooner. We went in around 9:30 and my wonderful OB, Dr. Rupe, checked me to see my progress. I told myself I was probably at a 2 and to not get my hopes up. She checked me and her jaw dropped as she exclaimed “you’re at a 5 and in labor right now!” AHHHHHHHH. We were so excited!!! She told us that we could go straight to the hospital and get admitted, or we could go home for a little while, but to be ready because it would happen fast. Brandon and I were ecstatic. I’ve never had such a rush of excitement and nervousness. And then there was the time limit of 3pm. I had it in my mind that I would definitely have Banner before then, because my sister’s birthing times were super fast once she had gotten to the point that I was. One thing I learned the hard way during this process was that EVERY. SINGLE. BIRTHING. TIME. IS DIFFERENT. No matter how similar you are with your family. I definitely had a certain expectation about it that I wish I would have recognized and surrendered before it started. I honestly thought I had surrendered and worked through WAY more than I actually had. Birthing is the most vulnerable and exposing experience any woman can ever walk through, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
I thought, “Hey! If I got through this much dilating without extreme pain, the rest should be bearable and fast!” Not so much.

Brandon and I prayed again when we got in the car. He called his family and told them that they would have a grandson that day, and we drove to my parents’ to have them pray over us. My whole family was there and an anticipation was in the air. My little nieces and nephew were there too. Alethia came over and laid her hand on my leg with the sweetest look on her face while my family prayed over Brandon and me. We took pictures in the sunshine on the porch, ate some lunch, talked, and all the while I was breathing and “ahhhhhhhhhh” ing through pressure waves on my birthing ball. The time went on. The closest together pressure waves were 6 minutes. We kept in contact with Alexia the whole time, and she coached us through the process via text for awhile. She was ready whenever we were. All the while, the clock was ticking. Charity decided to change her flight, but the only availability was for 2 hours later. She did it anyway. At least 2 hours gave us 2 more hours.

Then the time kept passing. The sun set. I was praying that The Lord would make a way for Charity to be able to be there. We all were. But at the same time, trying not to pressure this precious one in my womb. I wanted a completely natural experience where my body would tell my body when “go time” legitimately was. (Holy cow, I DID NOT think it would take so long though!!)

Alexia came over around 4:30 and showed me some techniques to naturally speed along the process. I sat on the birthing ball, took a hot shower, rested, took a walk with Brandon, and breathed and “ahhhhhhhh” ed intensely as the pressure waves intensified. It was so special to have that time at my parents’ house with my whole family as my support.

Brandon knew how important is was for Charity to be there for the birthing, and asked if there was a way we could purchase another ticket for her to fly home the next day, BUT GOD HAD ALREADY TAKEN CARE OF IT. Out of the blue, she got a text from the airline that said “Your flight has been cancelled. It has been rescheduled for tomorrow morning at 6 am.” WHAT THE HECK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That doesn’t “just happen”!!!!!!!!!! Jesus is so faithful! My heart was so at rest after that point!

Brandon and I decided to go home around 8pm and continue the birthing process there, since that is where we are used to being at rest. I had my older sister Bethany pray over me before we left because I was getting discouraged at how long the process was taking. She was such a source of comfort, peace, and strength for me in that moment, and I knew I could keep going knowing she was fighting for me from my parents’ house.

Charity and Alexia came with us to our house. I lit a wonderfully peaceful lavender candle, laid on my bed, breathed deeply, and made very strange “ahhhh” and “ooooooh” noises as the birthing waves intensified. Alexia continued to show me positions to ease the pain and also speed the process along as best as possible. Charity laid on the bed with me and we just talked and processed through funny memories. I almost started listening to a lecture for my online health coaching school to pass the time, but decided that it probably was not the best time for that. HA! I listened to the hypnobabies “Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations” CD and some instrumental music instead. As the birthing waves intensified, Brandon kept checking on me. (He had been taking care of our sweet puppy who had no clue what my deal was!). Every time Brandon entered the room, my heart settled and was at peace more than any other constituent during the whole process. He was my rock. He was so steady and present. After all, our hearts for each other is what made this process possible (and the miracle of the Lord’s plan for babies!).
The rest of the evening was a bit of a pressure wave blur. And my support system was on top of it! They brought me so much peace. I loved knowing my family was all cheering me on and praying for me, and that I had Alexia to help coach me through the process.

I realized that I still was holding on to some expectations and worries about the actual delivery time. So Alexia asked what they were and what would happen if they came true. I told her that I really wanted Dr. Rupe to be the OB on call because I trusted her the most. So Brandon called the hospital– and SHE WAS. I felt release! I then said I wanted Charity to be at the birthing. Which is something we had no control over, but if God had worked the miracle of changing her flight, why wouldn’t he follow through with the rest? So I felt more release.

About 30 minutes later, my water broke! IT WAS THE MOST BIZARRE FEELING IN THE WORLD. I literally thought I had exploded haha! My mind started freaking out at that point. My body was saying “THIS IS IT! IT’S GO TIME!” I started asking Alexia questions like “Is he going to fall out of me??” and bracing myself for the pain to start. And then I said, “We need to go to the hospital now!!!”

As we drove to the hospital (which took all of 6 minutes!), I had 2 pressure waves. One of them was on the ginormous speed bump in front of the hospital (where I had thought numerous times during my prenatal check-ups, “how funny would it be if I had a pressure wave while we were driving over this bump during my birthing time?”…) and Brandon was a champ for driving extremely slow over it!
We pulled to the front entrance where we had taken the tour, got out with our hospital bag in hand, I had a very intense pressure wave, and then we solicited the help of a concerned passerby who told us the front entrance was closed and we needed to go to the ER entrance. So I hobbled back in the car, somewhat chuckling to myself that I hadn’t planned for that and somewhat thinking OH MY LORD THIS IS SO PAINFUL. We arrived at the correct entrance and handed them the “pre-registration.” BUT the thing with pre-registration is that you have to turn it in BEFORE you arrive to have your baby. So Brandon calmly started filling out paperwork and Charity helped him find my license while I moaned and “ahhhhhh-ed” through some more intense pressure waves. Two young men in the waiting room yelled out (maybe they didn’t yell, I just heard it as that) “Are we going to have to deliver your baby for you?” I laughed and said, “Quite possibly, yes!”

Alexia coached me through several more pressure waves, and I went to the bathroom and hunched over the sink. Then the belching started. (Anyone who knows me, knows that I can belch with the best of them, and the feeling of release as I vigorously burped gave me some relief. Therefore I added belching to my list of birthing relief noises.

Brandon, Charity, and Alexia finished signing me in. And then the receptionist realized she had double-booked the room she had just assigned me. She genuinely felt bad, probably because I was moaning like a dying horse at this point…but still with decent composure and good spirits (I think?).

By the time my nurse Carly came to get me, I could no longer sit without being in pain, so I tried the wheelchair and quickly decided it was NOT for me. I was on a birthing mission at this point. We got to the elevator and a nice gentlemen was about to escort an elderly person inside. The nurse said “go ahead, we will wait for the next one.” To which the gentlemen took one glance at me and said “no, no, no, birthing women first! I know better!” (Or something like that). We hopped inside (well, I waddled) and as soon as the door opened on the second floor, I said, “Ok which room? Get me to that room!”

We arrived in room 229 right around midnight, and I’m assuming Charity had contacted my mom and sister Bethany because they arrived shortly after. I had thrown off my “pre-birthing outfit” of a nike shirt and Brandon’s shorts (no, I didn’t pick this out beforehand. I had a much cuter outfit laid out….HA. The plans of first time birthers!) and draped myself with a black long nightie from Target. As I threw myself onto the bed, Brandon handed everyone our “Birthing Preferences.” (He may have done this beforehand. At this point, my eyes were mostly closed for the rest of the time). The nurses did a saline lock and tied an external fetal monitor on me per my request. I said in my Birthing Preferences that I only wanted to be connected for 20 minutes every hour, but by this time I was pretty unable to walk around because of the intensity of the pressure waves, so I just stayed connected the whole time. Carly then checked how much I had dilated and said “you’re at a 9!” I was so relieved to know I had gotten that far outside of the hospital. I remember when my mom and Bethany entered the room, I had an overwhelm of peace and joy (as much as I could while being in excruciating pain). Seeing their smiles made me so thankful that they were part of the experience, even if I couldn’t really show it at the time.

They called in Dr. Rupe after several more pressure waves. I felt immediate calm when she showed up. She checked my dilation progress again and said I was actually at an 8 and to call her in when I felt ready to push. I was upset that I was only at an 8, but definitely knew it wouldn’t be much longer before I progressed.

Alexia and Carly started suggesting things I could do to alleviate some pain and speed along the process. They put the back of the bed up and suggested I squat while facing the back of the bed and hold onto it. I suddenly had the urge to push after just a few more pressure waves. It’s really amazing the innate response a woman’s body has to start pushing the baby out. So I said, “I really feel like I need to push!” I started making the lowest cow noises I have ever heard and thought to myself “Is this noise coming out of me??”

They called in Dr. Rupe and told her, “She says she’s ready to push.” To which Dr. Rupe replied, “She is already pushing! Let her body keep going.” All the while I was still belching extremely loudly in between birthing moans, and one of the nurses piped up “are you going to throw up?” And then asked to the people in the room, “How long has she been doing this?” Charity quickly responded, “Since she was about 11!” I then chimed in as I was draped over the back of the bed, “Yep! Just call me the ‘Belching Birther.’” Everyone laughed hysterically and I felt a little more relief. I’m so thankful that God gave me a sense of humor during the process!

Then the pushing sensation got extremely intense and I asked if there was any other position I could try to help GET THIS BABY OUT. Carly told me to lay on my back and hold my legs up, a position I now remember is one of the hardest because gravity does not work with you. At the moment, I couldn’t think about gravity, I just wanted to try anything to help alleviate the pain and get my baby boy out into the world. OK, mostly to alleviate the pain!

By this time, I was getting very direct in what I wanted. I told Brandon to turn down the music to a certain level and got mad when he turned it off. “I said turn it down, not off!” I got mad that my mom’s ringer went off and said “MOM! TURN YOUR RINGER OFF!” Sweet Alexia was trying to coach me and I told her, “I need you to get out of my face right now!” Someone dropped my leg (at this point, everyone was taking turns holding my legs up while I pushed) and I yelled, “Grab my leg! Grab my leg! GRAB. MY. LEG!” I was burning up, so Brandon fanned me. For the entire 3 hours I was pushing. If he stopped for a minute I said, “IT’S SO HOT. SOMEONE FAN ME NOW!” Although I was very impressed with myself that I didn’t swear once, I felt really bad for being so forceful. It was definitely something I had to process through and apologize for, to which everyone was very forgiving because they saw the intense amount of pain I was in. The one phrase I did say over and over was “HOLY COW!” I also remember exclaiming, “I feel like my butt’s coming out of my butt!” And “It is just really hurting for some reason!”

The pushing phase was a complete blur. I only remember pushing for a very long time with my eyes clinched shut. Even though they said to push 3 times for 10 seconds each time, being the over achiever that I am, I thought “if 10 seconds is good, 15 must be better!” Which in turn made me feel like I literally was going to pass out. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t push one more time. And then I felt Holy Spirit ask me to ask Him for help. So I did. I prayed, “Holy Spirit, I can’t do this anymore. You have to help me or I am going to pass out. They will have to do the rest to get Banner out however they can. Please help me!” Immediately I felt peace. I had 2 more pressure waves back to back and didn’t make one single noise during them for the first time in the entire birthing process. I braced myself and pushed harder than ever before. Banner arrived moments later! I had a rush of relief and joy as they put him on my chest. Brandon grabbed my face and wept as we looked at our precious, cone-headed, little son for the first time on Earth. We all cried together as a family in a beautiful song of miraculous birth.

They wiped him down, and Charity got to hold him for a few minutes before she left for the airport 20 minutes after he was born. HOW COOL IS GOD. His timing is perfect. I have always loved the date November 11th. Brandon and I were going to get married on 11-11-11, but decided to get married in September instead. When I first calculated my “due date,” I thought it was going to be November 11. God knew all along. He is such a giver of gifts! Even the simple ones like special dates.

I am still processing a lot from the birthing time, but I am so grateful to have been able to have an uncomplicated, natural birth with the people I value the most in the world by my side.

Banner Thomas Triola. 7 lbs, 14 oz, 21 inches long. 3:17 am on November 11, 2014. Perfectly healthy.

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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 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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