Mother c-section

The Birth of Nora Marjorie

This is a story of courage and strength. Lauren went through days of early labor before discovering that her baby was breech. Read how she handled a change in her plans and how she bravely welcomed her daughter into this world.

<Written in the perspective of Lauren’s sister and doula> 

The Birth of Nora Marjorie
By Merrill Durham (Lauren’s sister and doula)I had just assisted a couple at a birth of their daughter when I switched gears to walk through labor with my twin sister, Lauren and her husband, Evan.At 37 weeks and 6 days (May 14th), Lauren had contractions off and on all day. We officially entered into “is this it?” mode. During the final weeks and days, a doula is there to keep the mom (and partner) sane. It is so easy to question everything. I responded to texts and phone calls and helped ease the concerns and questions. I am learning how to wait with the mom as well. Because during these days my life feels like it is on hold, too. But I’ve learned how to continue living my life while still being on the ready.On May 16th, Lauren recognized that she was focusing too much on the sensations and so she released the day and painted, something that she hasn’t had the energy to do in a long time.May 17th came and luckily she had a wedding to distract her.It was Sunday night, May 18th that things really became consistent. And as Lauren defines it, labor really began. So many times woman ask, “How will I know I am in labor?” and the best answer I can give is, “You will know.” Of course, that is not helpful at all for first time moms. But sure enough, they knew when things felt different than the practice contractions and Braxton Hicks they’ve been having before. That’s part of my job, to help moms know what they are feeling. Contractions started coming every 5-7 minutes and lasting 1 minute that evening. We went for a walk and then tried to get some rest. Nighttime brought a fizzle in contractions but they were still occurring every 10 minutes keeping Lauren from a goodnights rest.


May 19th, Lauren and Evan woke up and went for a walk. She tried using the breast pump to stimulate contractions as well. By 9 am contractions were 6-7 minutes apart and lasting 1.5 minutes long. She was exhausted. So we tried the tub knowing it would give her some reprieve. It actually stopped contractions for 20 minutes giving her a good nap. A walk, a nap, rebozo, back rubs, pelvic rocks, birthing ball, card games, a walk, food… it was a day of alternating between rest and activity, stopping every 6 minutes to help Lauren through a contraction. It was such a mind game dealing with consistent contractions that would start picking up and get really intense, and then fizzle out in strength. By 8 pm everyone went ‘to bed’.
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May 20th came with hope in the air. Contractions were steady all night but Lauren needed a change of scenery and Evan needed a good nap after being up the last 2 nights with Lauren. So Lauren came to my house and my mom and I massaged Lauren and walked her through contractions while Evan slept for 3 hours. Things were picking up once again and we left at 12:30 pm for Lauren’s scheduled midwife appointment. The news was not the most encouraging, baby was station -3, cervix was very posterior and only 25% effaced and 1 cm dilated. They were having a long, prodromal labor. Lauren and Evan took the news like champs and decided to go to get milkshakes and walk in the park. I went home and had a major breakdown.

As a doula, it is very important to process your own birth experience thoroughly before helping another mom. I thought I had adequately dealt with everything that happened in my labor but after walking Lauren through 3 days of early labor (identical to mine) and then hearing that she really hadn’t progressed much (also similar to mine), it truly brought me back to the deep, hopeless feelings I experienced in my own birth. It was very painful. I held it together until I ran to the car and bawled my eyes out. I was so exhausted from 3 days of being with Lauren, I couldn’t even imagine how she felt. And then to find out that she was really still near the starting point just overwhelmed me. After talking to my mom and my husband, I realized that there was still trauma from my birth that was surfacing by watching my twin sister go through it. I was triggered by some post-traumatic stress that I experienced during my long labor. My mom graciously walked me through those emotions and helped me work through them. I took a break from seeing Lauren and Evan knowing that it was early labor and could still be days before anything happened. So I napped.

I checked back in with them around 7 pm and contractions were still 5-7 minutes apart and Lauren had just showered. She said it was during the shower that she felt like she let go of all expectations and told her baby and her body that they were free to do what they needed to do. It was her ‘moment of truth’. Moms face this moment in early labor. It is the point that most people who aren’t planning a natural birth get an epidural. The next 3 hours they ate food, played Monopoly Deal, and hung out with Evan’s brother. I came back over at 10:30 pm when she got in the bath to see if her contractions would ease off at all so they could rest. They didn’t. Lauren got out and looked me in the eye and said, “It’s time to go to the hospital, NOW.” I never question a mom when she says this. They know. Her contractions were coming now at 2-3 minutes apart. So we raced to the hospital. I knew something was strange because her contractions were so strong and close together and yet Lauren was still very alert and aware of her surroundings. So I really didn’t know what to expect when we got to the hospital.

Unfortunately, it was after hours so we had to enter in the Emergency Room. But 20 minutes later we made our way to triage. At 11:30 pm, Lauren’s midwife checked her progress. Baby was station -1 and the cervix was 90% effaced and 3 cm dilated. Progress! I knew that with contractions this strong it wouldn’t be long before she would be admitted. But I could tell that the midwife had some concern on her face. She said that she felt something soft, it didn’t feel like the baby’s head so she called for an ultrasound. Five minutes, two midwives, and two doctors later, they confirmed that baby Nora was breech.

All their plans for a natural, vaginal birth changed in a second. It was crushing. They hadn’t planned for a C-section at all. They had spent months preparing for a natural birth. In minutes, people came flooding into the tiny triage room to prep Lauren for surgery. Thankfully, we were able to ask a lot of questions and it was very important to me that Evan and Lauren knew what to expect. The staff were very kind and delicate knowing that this was so far from what Lauren wanted. The anesthesiologist went through the whole procedure with Lauren to make sure she understood what was about to happen. I just rubbed Evan’s back, hugged him, and kept him calm because I know he was very disappointed in the change of plans. Lauren was incredible. Of course this was not what she wanted. But she also knew that it was time to meet her baby. She had that sense at home knowing it was time to go to the hospital. She was so brave as she continued to work through painful contractions knowing that it would all be over soon. I just held her hand and told her that she was going to meet her baby in 30 minutes! They took Lauren back at 1 am to get prepped. The nurse came back with the protective clothing for both me and Evan. Vanderbilt has a policy that only one person can be in the operating room at a time but they were so kind to let me switch places with Evan once the baby was born and taken to the nursery. I called our families and they rushed over. I then walked Evan through what he should expect and helped him understand what would happen once the baby was born. They then took Evan back to the OR and I showed our families where to wait.

Nora Marjorie was born on Wednesday, May 21st at 1:37 am.

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Lauren’s midwife came out to get me and I JUST missed Evan walking out with Nora to the nursery. But I knew it was ok, because I really wanted to see Nora for the first time with my sister. I walked in and went straight to Lauren’s face. I sat down next to her, stroked her hair, and held her shaking hands. Over and over again I kept telling her how proud of her I was and that she is now a mommy! I was so touched by how Lauren was acting. She was so excited and happy. She kept saying, “Merrill, Nora is so beautiful, I love her so much! I can’t wait to see her again. I can’t believe she is mine. I love her so much!” I am so grateful for her midwife for staying in the OR with her and allowing them to have a minute of skin-to-skin right after delivery and giving Lauren and Evan a chance to bond with Nora before whisking her off. The doctor came to Lauren’s side and said they did an incision on her that will set her up for a VBAC during her next pregnancy (Vaginal birth after a cesarean). I sat with Lauren for 40 minutes as they sutured her back up. We were in so much awe that she just birthed a baby. Her daughter is here. It is a moment I will remember forever. Seriously, she was so strong and brave. I have so much admiration for her! Once they were done, we both went to the recovery room with a quick stop in the hallway to see the parents.


And then the moment came where Evan came in with Nora. Goodness, it was so precious. We got the baby skin-to-skin with Lauren and Nora immediately went to breastfeeding. I stepped out of the room for 15 minutes and the three of them spent their first moments together as a new family. Parents and siblings said a quick hello and goodbye. We then got Evan and Lauren comfortable in their postpartum room by 4:00 am and I finally left at 5:00 am.

This birth taught me so much.

It is so important to be informed and educated on the type of birth you want, but ultimately you have to work with the situations you find yourself in. C-sections are rarely someone’s first option for birth, but in the case where it needs to be done, it is important to still empower the mother in the experience. It was very important to me that Lauren knew that there was nothing she did or could have done differently. That she did nothing wrong. It is also essential that the mom knows that she DID birth a baby. After 3 days of consistent contractions, she did go through so much labor and she did birth Nora. She worked hard! But when births don’t go according to plan, moms need to be given the room to process their disappointment. Most people say, “Well at least mom and baby are healthy”, which is absolutely true! But we must also recognize that moms can still feel a loss when their birth was different than expected. This doesn’t only apply to c-sections. It can happen to moms who, on paper, had the ideal birth experience. Childbirth is a powerful experience and every woman responds differently. I am there to help a mom and her partner still have an intimate, empowered birth if a c-section becomes necessary.

Lauren’s birth was so beautiful. As a doula, I’ve learned that it’s not about my strength for the mother that will get them through, it’s up to them. It wasn’t my birth and it wasn’t my mountain to climb. It is their inner strength that will carry them through. I am just their to walk alongside them. Lauren climbed her own mountain that she had to overcome and she did it with so much courage!

Two year later Lauren had an amazing VBAC at home. Strong does not even begin to describe her strength. She went from 6cm to delivery in 3 contractions! She’s a rock star in my book. And witnessing both these experiences reiterated that birth is magical and birth is beautiful. Bringing life into this world is a big deal and walking alongside a mother in labor is always a privilege.


Birth center birth

The Birth of Marlowe Dean

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

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

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

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

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

We went to bed around 10:30 pm. I remember thinking “If this is what contractions are, I’ve got this. Piece of cake.” I was so wrong.

I woke up at 1 am with contractions so strong I could barely move. It was back labor. I could no longer feel anything happening in my belly, it was now all in my back. I moved off the bed to the birthing ball and had Bennett press on my back as hard as he could during each contraction. They were 10-15 minutes apart, and I tried to sleep in between them (that never happened).

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


The Birth of Ezra Patrick

This mother had a marathon early labor but when her baby decided it was time to come, Julie was just hanging on for the ride! Luckily the birth team arrived just in time for her beautiful home birth. Enjoy!
The Birth of Ezra Patrick
By Julie Eliserio

On March 16th at 3:30 AM a light contraction woke me. I was three days past my due date. I knew I was supposed to go back to sleep and ignore it, just like I had mentally prepared to do for past 8 months. I could not. I woke up and started to time my contractions. I even thought about waking my sleeping fiancé, but I decided it would be best to save his energy for when we would actually needed it. Contractions were 10-15 minutes apart and stayed that way for the next 8 hours until my appointment with my midwife, Jennifer Vines.

Jennifer reassured me that everything was going according to plan and we should have a baby in the next few days if this keeps up. I went home and finally slept. I woke up closer to the sun going down to find my contractions had picked up to roughly 5-7 minutes apart and were requiring much more of my focus to breathe through. This is also a good time to point out my body has always had a very strong connection to the lunar cycle. My sleep has always been greatly affected by the moon, and oddly enough my mother is the same way. It also seems the lunar cycle had a large role in my labor. My labor was always much more intense at night. I finally was able to find a position I could sleep in, and when I woke up around four in the morning I found my contractions had gone back to being 10-15 minutes apart. It was tired, sore, and felt like I had been putting in a lot of work for no progress.

This pattern of very active labor during the night, followed by significantly slower labor during the day would continue over a total of 119 hours.

Over the next five days my birth team, Jennifer Vines, Carissa Gay and Merrill Durham came to the house to check on me, or would stay in touch via text. I was so lucky that my team with Vines Midwifery all lived so close to our house in East Nashville. Jennifer left it completely up to me if I wanted them to stay at the house or give us our alone time. Labor was intense, but for me personally, I did better when I wasn’t being watched. I knew that nobody could do this work for me, so I had them do most of their check ups over the phone. Jennifer came over on Wednesday to check in, and while she was at the house I requested to be checked vaginally. I was four centimeters dilated. Slowly but surely, we were making progress.

On Thursday we thought my water might have broken. Jennifer came by on Friday to check on me. If my water had broken on Thursday, it would put me over the limit of 24 hours, and I would have to go to a hospital due to risk for infection. After reassuring me that my water bag was very much intact and bulging, she informed us that I was 7 centimeters dilated. She then had me do several positions that would give the baby more room to shift around and get into the correct position. This brought much needed relief from my hours and hours of back labor. Jennifer gave me a tincture for stalled labor and told me to call her if anything changed. Also, more importantly; get some sleep.

There was zero sleep that came that night. Contractions washed over me 4-5 minutes apart for hours. Ryan was getting used to my wailing at this point. He was out in the living room at 12:30 when I screamed from the bathroom. My water had without a doubt broken. Ryan and I sat pretty dumbfounded in the bathroom for a moment before I had him bring me my phone to text Jennifer. I told her that my water had broken and asked what next. Jennifer told me to let her know when my contractions picked up again. With all of the excitement of my water breaking, I had almost forgotten about my contractions. I climbed back in bed with Ryan by my side, when I immediately remembered my contractions. They came hard and fast. I cried for Ryan to text Jennifer back and tell her to send Merrill my Doula for support. Ryan was just about to lay down when my water broke, so I thought I would let him rest and have Merrill with me.

Before Ryan had hit send, I felt an overwhelming intense NEED to push. The next few moments seemed like a blur. All I could tell Ryan was that I needed Jennifer immediately. Hindsight allows me to see that Ryan was texting Jennifer how urgent the situation had become, and he was also preparing to deliver our baby. Thankfully, we had already gotten our bed ready for the birth. This was not how I envisioned things going. I now know that nothing about a birth can be planned. Ever. No birth pool in the dining room, no yoga music playlist and no anthropology candles.

A short ten minutes later, Jennifer walked into my bedroom (like I said…I was unbelievably lucky Jennifer lived so close to me, and grateful that she doesn’t mind speeding). I have never been happier to see any person in my entire life. Jennifer checked me immediately. We find out what I think we all already knew; I was about to have this baby. Jennifer said “If you feel like pushing, go for it. Take all the noise you are making and all your energy and bear down.” It was simple,  and it connected well with me. Also, it was damn effective.

2:15 AM Ezra Patrick Alger was born after twenty five minutes of pushing. I was lucky that I didn’t tear. I labored in our dark bedroom. During that twenty five minutes Merrill and Carissa arrived and joined us after setting up their equipment. Carissa took the amazing photos that are attached. This team of women will undoubtingly have a lasting place in my heart for being there for us at such a special time.

Jennifer helped Ezra with his first latch, and he took to breastfeeding like a champ(side note: We ran into some  issues in the first few weeks, and we contacted a lactation consultant. With a lot of patience and practice, we were able to overcome the early hardships of breastfeeding). A few hours had passed since the birth, the team made sure we were comfortable and packed up all of their things to leave. That night/morning, Ryan, Ezra and I slept in our bedroom as a family of three.

The Birth of Jude Briley

This is the story of the vaginal, unmedicated birth of Jude Briley Price, on June 20, 2012—the first day of summer! Read Heather’s story and find out what she considers the best advice she received!
Birth of Jude Briley
By Heather Price
Tuesday, June 19, we had our checkup with Lauren Drees, our midwife, and I was 2 days past my estimated due date.  She did a cervical check and said I was already dilated 5 centimeters, and baby Jude would be coming “any day now.”  She told us her schedule for the week so we’d know what to anticipate.  I had been visualizing my cervix opening, and had been praying that Lauren would be on call for our delivery day, and felt confident as we headed in to our “labor day.”That afternoon I cleaned the house top to bottom and really tidied up the place in preparation for “any day now” to be soon.  I can’t remember what else we did or ate the rest of that day,   But, when I went to sleep that night I knew Wednesday would be the day Jude would arrive.  I just sensed it.At 2:43 am that night I woke up with a very strong contraction.  I felt like I was having very bad menstrual cramps.  I stayed in bed for a few minutes but at the next contraction, I could not stay laying down any longer.  I stood up at the side of the bed and got my phone to time a few contractions.  The next several contractions were between 5 and 7 minutes apart.  I went in the bathroom, started gathering up last minute things to toss in our hospital bag, and waited a while until  I woke my husband, Briley, up. I think that was around 3:30 am.  He was a little disoriented when I woke him, and then excited and nervous.  He started buzzing around, grabbing up things for the car and helping me through contractions.I called the midwives at 3:45 or so and had to stop talking to wait through a contraction at the top of our stairwell.  The nurse said to get in the tub and relax to be sure it was real labor; if contractions continued to be regular for the next hour, or if my water broke, we were to go ahead to the hospital.  I knew already that it was really labor, but went ahead and took her advice.  I got in the tub and Briley was getting dressed and cleaned up in the bathroom and I had to call him over to the tub for every contraction as they were very strong and intense.  He’d sit on the side of the tub and I’d hold on to his arms while I was on my knees in the water and sometimes rocking back and forth.

I think it was around 5:30 am that my water broke while I was in the tub.  It was mid contraction that I felt the water gushing out into the tub.  We made it through the contraction and then I told Briley my water had just broken, and we needed to go ahead to the hospital.  I was GBS positive, so needed to head in to get IV antibiotics. At this point contractions were 4 to 5 minutes apart.  Briley got into hyper mode grabbing bags, pillows, a damp washcloth, and anything else I asked him for!  We got in the car and turned the AC up full blast.  I had my headphones on with my birth/relaxation playlist, and I put it on repeat with the volume up to help me focus for the drive. I kept my eyes closed most of the ride, and would slap/pat Briley’s hand or arm during the very, very intense contractions.  Employing some of that Rhythm, Relaxation, and Ritual that Penny Simkin writes about! I’d also grip the door handle and breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth to stay calm and focused.  I felt like I was coping very well through the waves of the strong contractions.

I was wearing Depends and sitting on a towel, and the water continued to gush out at intervals throughout our drive.  I think we got to the hospital around 6:30 am—it was right before shift change.  We pulled up to the valet parking at Vanderbilt, and Briley left me in the car to go in and get a wheelchair because I could not walk all the way in.  The valet also went in to get a wheelchair.  I got a little tense/nervous with Briley walking away from me.  When he got back seconds later I had to rally myself to get out of the car.! It took a lot of focus and determination for me to coordinate all my limbs, get out, and get in the wheelchair.  At this point I believe I was in transition.

We got in the elevator and up to Labor and Delivery to get checked in.  I continued with regular contractions and had to rely on Briley to talk for me or wait for a contraction to pass.  We got into a small triage room and the midwife on call, Claire, and a student midwife whose name I cannot remember both did a cervical check and said I was at a 9 or 10—so the hard part of labor was really already passed.  Very soon we moved down to a delivery room and they had to hook up an IV for antibiotics.  They had to try many times to get the IV in and it was very, very uncomfortable on top of the contractions—I remember this so clearly!! The poking over and over again was so frustrating. I recall getting really short with the nurse who was making the IV placement attempts—I think at one point I just yelled at her to LEAVE ME ALONE.   I yanked my hand away and stuck it under my leg. Ha!

Finally, they did get the IV inserted and we worked on getting Jude to turn—he was facing up at that time. Our midwives, Lauren Drees and Lindy (Mason)  Lynn (a midwifery student) helped us try different positions, including hands and knees, rocking, and squatting.  When we were squatting, the amniotic fluid that was draining out was green, which indicated meconium in the fluid.  That meant a NICU team had to come in the room to be ready to help baby Jude as soon as he was born—to suction his airway if needed, and make sure he didn’t inhale any meconium.

We had an ocean waves soundtrack going the whole time and I kept my eyes closed almost the whole labor and delivery except for a few moments to look at Lauren or Briley.  Briley was a wonderful birth partner-holding my hand, making sure I drank plenty of water, offering encouraging words.  At one point he was giving me water  and a little dripped on me and I snapped at him—a customary “crazy lady in labor” thing, right?!

At some point labor sort of “stalled”—contractions spaced out a lot.  I was laying on my side, keeping my eyes closed, grumbling/growling through contractions when they came, but everything was really quiet for a while.  I think we hung out like this for an hour or more—fully dilated, but no urge to push really.  The reason became clear later.

We  tried to stay focused.  Lauren suggested Pitocin to get things revved up again, saying that if we didn’t keep things moving we might have to augment more or consider additional interventions.  I really didn’t want anything to augment or intervene in my labor, so kind of hesitated when she suggested it. While they were trying to get the Pitocin going,  I started to feel the urge to push.  It started slow at first, but got stronger and stronger and harder.   The midwives and one nurse helped me hold my legs and cheer me on.  I was in a semi-seated pushing position for the first while, and then moved to my back with my legs flexed quite a bit to get more traction as pushing went on longer and longer.

One of the midwives was helping to guide Jude’s head out and put counter-pressure on my perineum.  They encouraged me to push when I felt the urge with a contraction and to rest in between.   During a break between contractions I remember being very clear-headed and talkative, and saying that I was so glad Jude was being born on an even-numbered day, and on the first day of summer.  I have this weird thing about numbers, and was so glad his whole birthdate was even numbers: 6-20-2012.  What a strange thing to be thinking and talking about during labor!

Jude’s head crowned and they asked me if I wanted to watch with the mirror, but I declined.  I did reach down to touch the top of his little head and that was sweet—and a good motivator to continue with the hard work!  It had taken me a while to learn how to push effectively—the first long while of pushing was not productive .  Finally I figured out how to push sort of “down and out” and we made a lot of progress that way.   After just the very top of his head crowned I had a major urge to push and could not stop it.  I let my body push on its own. 

I didn’t know it right then, but Jude’s arm was up by his head—and he came the rest of the way out with an arm by his face, so I tore very, very badly.  But after that big body-doing-it-by-itself urge to push hard, he was born!  Looking back, we knew why the urge to push didn’t happen as soon as usual, and why I pushed for about 2.5 hours—because of that arm being up!

I felt every bit of his birth, felt his little squishy body slide out.  Briley caught him after his head was born and pulled him up and placed him on my chest.  I’ll never forget Briley’s bright, smiling, tired, and teary face looking at me as he placed our son on my chest.  A happy, fulfilling moment of relief!  Jude was born at 10:27 am, after less than 8 hours of labor and pushing.  The NICU team had to check Jude out for just a minute and clear his airway, and then we got him back and I held him and tried nursing for about 20 minutes before I passed him to Briley while they started on my repair.

I had to have nitrous and then an epidural, and then transfer to an OR for my 3rd-degree tear repair with an obstetrician.  I was separated from Jude for quite some time—I think a couple or three hours.  Briley held him skin to skin for a while while we were still in the labor and delivery room, and then Briley came with me and the nurses took baby Jude to the nursery so we could get through the surgical repair process.  That was a very hard time, and led to a difficult, long physical recovery for me.

Our introduction to parenting was challenging and rewarding in so many ways. I had an excellent labor and delivery experience.  Then a hard recovery that contributed to a lengthy journey through postpartum depression and anxiety.  And, that was made more difficult by having a baby who was sensitive, colicky, and who did not sleep well.  Breastfeeding was very hard for the first several weeks, as Jude was tongue-tied.  We had the tongue revised and that improved nursing dramatically, and allowed us to continue nursing for 15 months.

So many factors are at play in birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Every new family, or growing family faces different joys and challenges, some hard days and some lovely days.  The first several months with Jude in our lives were exhausting and so hard for me. I like to say that he trained us well!  We learned so much about ourselves, and about real-world parenting for each individual child.  We learned a lot about Jude too, and to be patient and gentle with ourselves.

The two best pieces of advice I received were:

From our midwife and friend, Lauren Drees: “Take it one MOMENT at a time.”

From my husband, specifically related to nursing in those hard, early days: “Let’s do it (nurse) just for today. Just one more day, and then we can reasses tomorrow.”

(I followed that advice for 15 months!)

We are coming up on Jude’s 4th birthday in just a couple of weeks, and goodness! What a joy and light he is.  It is a delightful gift to watch our children learn and grow—and also bittersweet as they mature and become more independent.  In November 2015 we had our second baby, our now 7-month old girl, Rosamund.  The love is deep and wide, and our hearts are full.

You can read Rosamund Blythe’s birth story on the Baby+Co blog here.

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The Birth of Noah James

Jeni rocked this natural birth of her first child. She made it to the hospital just in time for her water to break at the triage desk! Noah was ready to make his appearance. Enjoy this story!
The Birth of Noah James
By Jeni Davis
July 18th was my estimated due date. It came and went and I was still pregnant but I wasn’t worried because the midwives had been telling me all along that I would probably go a week late. On Tuesday, July 22, I had an appointment with my midwife. They checked my progress and I was 2 cm dilated, 60% effaced and the baby was at a -2 station. I was having off & on mild contractions so I went home and spent the rest of the night periodically bouncing/rocking on the yoga ball.People always said that when I was in labor I would just “know”. I didn’t really understand that, I wanted someone to tell me exactly what to expect and when it would happen but that’s just not possible. In the end, all those people were right. I just knew.Wednesday morning I woke up with PMS-like cramps. I felt certain that things were progressing. I wanted to walk but it was so hot outside that I decided to go to the mall. By the time I made it ½ way around the mall my contractions were 10-15 minutes apart. I stopped to go to the bathroom and lost my mucus plug…and it was just as gross as I had imagined it being. I was still able to easily get through each contraction so I didn’t rush home right away. I sent Jeremy a text to let him know what was going on but told him to stay at work. There wasn’t anything he could do at this point except sit around and stare at me anyway. I completed my lap at the mall and headed home. By 3:00 my contractions had slowed to 20 minutes apart. Jeremy came home from work and we went for a walk around the neighborhood at 6:00 hoping it would cause my contractions to pick back up. By 9:00 they were again coming every 12-15 minutes. I decided to go ahead and get some sleep because I felt that things were going to happen soon and I knew that I would need all the rest I could get.Unfortunately sleep was sporadic. By midnight I was having contractions every 6-7 minutes but was still able to get a little sleep. By the time morning arrived they had slowed back down to as much as 15 minutes apart. All the speed up/slow down was frustrating. I just wanted things to get moving. I spent some time sitting on the yoga ball while Jeremy handled some work emails. We didn’t want anyone over at the house because we wanted to savor every minute we had together. It was the last time we would just be a family of two. The last time we would just be husband and wife before we become mommy and daddy. We did some laundry and watched a movie. By noon the contractions were 7-8 minutes apart and getting stronger. We went for a walk at 1:00 and the contractions picked up, they started coming every 5-6 minutes and I had to stop several times during our walk. I called the midwives office at 2:30 and they recommended that I take a bath and time the contractions for another hour.

At that point I called Merrill and suggested that she start preparing to head to our house. I spent the next 30 minutes in the bath with Jeremy sitting on the floor holding my hand. When Merrill arrived, my contractions were coming consistently every 5 minutes. I was still able to talk in between each one and they weren’t too painful. She suggested that I try a different sitting position and guided Jeremy in doing counter pressure on my back. Out of her bag of goodies come the rice pack and aromatherapy. Once she has that prepared, Jeremy uses it on my back while she sits at my head holding my hand and helping me to breathe through each contraction. Within 45 minutes I decide that we need to leave for the hospital. My contractions had suddenly become more painful and were coming every 3 minutes. I could see the look on Jeremy and Merrill’s faces. They were anxious to go too. I was very freaked out about having my water break at home or in the car. All the stories I had read about women suddenly having their baby at home or in the car flashed through my head and I did NOT want to be one of those people. I wanted to be in the hospital with trained medical personnel.

It only took us 15-20 minutes to get to the hospital but it felt like forever. I couldn’t get comfortable in the car and at one point I was hitting the ceiling with my fist and begging the other cars to get out of our way. Thankfully, the hospital has valet parking so once we arrived all we had to do was hand over our keys and get on the elevator. We arrived at the triage desk at 4:30 and begin to sign all the consent forms. It only took 5 minutes and just as I signed the last form my water broke. I had been worried that I wouldn’t know when it happened but it was just like everyone had described it. I felt a little pop and then everything was wet.

We moved into the triage room where the nurse checked me and began to monitor the baby. I was 4 cm dilated, 80% effaced and baby was at 0 station. My memories of triage are spotty. I remember Jeremy helping me out of my wet clothes and into a gown but then nothing until I was getting ready to be moved to my L&D room. I stood by the bed as a contraction hit and suddenly I had to throw up. I HATE throwing up. I knew that some women got sick during labor but for some reason it took me by surprise. When I was ready to change rooms, they asked me if I wanted to walk or if I wanted a wheelchair. With the very uncomfortable memory of the car ride still in my mind, I said I wanted to walk. I absolutely didn’t want to sit still.

By 5:45 we were in the delivery room and I was able to get into the tub. We had forgotten to call ahead and were lucky that there was a tub room available. The water felt so good but the contractions were coming back to back with almost no break. It only took a few before I felt the need to push. I was checked at 6:00 and had progressed to 7/8 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I had to fight the urge to push. I’ve never wanted anything more than I wanted to push and fighting that was, I think, the hardest part of the whole delivery. I was scared. This feeling was so powerful and I felt so small and unable to do anything. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Merrill suggested that I do “horse lips” to keep from pushing. At the time, I thought that was the absolute dumbest thing I had ever heard. Here I was trying NOT to push out a baby and you want me to blow horse lips?! How could I possibly concentrate on doing that when these contractions are coming so fast and strong? But as usual, she was right. Shifting my focus to my lips and breathing took my mind off my need to push. It only lasted for 2 contractions before the midwife said I could get out of the tub and into the bed.

All of that took 9 minutes but felt like hours. Once I was in the bed, I was fully dilated and allowed to start pushing. I thought that turning around and leaning on the back of the bed would be a good position because I would be able to hang on and rest against it. After 16 minutes of pushing we realized that position wasn’t working. I turned around and had the squat bar attached to the end of the bed so that I could hold it while pushing. That angle definitely helped move the baby down but after 9 minutes I could hardly stay upright anymore so the midwife wrapped a sheet around the bar for me to pull against.

I was getting so tired. Jeremy was having to push me up from behind because I had barely enough strength to hold myself. I’ve never had good upper body strength and I had reached my limit. I got scared again. The contractions were coming one after the other, pain on top of pain and all I wanted to do was relax but there was no time. Everyone was telling me to take one breath and push again but I couldn’t. I could feel my lungs getting tight and I had to fight to keep the panic away. The last thing I needed was to have an asthma attack, but I needed air and couldn’t seem to get enough. All I could do was take short, shallow breaths and hope it was enough.

Finally I could feel it, what everyone called “the ring of fire”, and I knew that meant he was close. I knew I didn’t have much left in me but I gathered all my energy together like a ball and pushed as hard as I could. I have always been afraid of pain, and right then I was very afraid but I knew that if I focused on the pain I would never get him out and I couldn’t go through this again. With that one push his head came out and the rest was easy. Before I had time to think, his body just slid out and they were laying a screaming baby on my stomach.

He was so tiny and perfect. Jeremy and I held hands and just stared at him. We were doing delayed cord clamping so we just stayed there, our new family of 3, for 10 minutes until Jeremy cut the cord. I was having a lot of bleeding so Jeremy took Noah for some skin to skin bonding. I didn’t think anything of the bleeding until I looked down and saw the midwifes red gloves. I had a moment where I thought I was going to die, leaving Jeremy to raise our son alone, but then Merrill leaned over and whispered in my ear that she had the same problems. I knew if she was ok then I would be too. I was given a shot of Pitocin and had internal compression to help my uterus contract. After 15 minutes the bleeding had stopped and they were able to start the “repairs”. I had a 2nd degree tear and some shallow lacerations that needed stitches. I didn’t even feel the tear when it happened. The whole time they worked on me I talked to Merrill and my mom while Jeremy stayed with Noah. Then it was all done and they gave him back to me. He was beautiful with big wide open eyes just taking everything in. He took to nursing like a champ. In fact he was so into it we had to stop him after 20 minutes so we could move into our recovery room!

Our sweet boy was born at 7:17 pm on July 24th, just 2 hours and 47 minutes after we checked in to the hospital. He was 6 lbs 14 oz and 19.5 inches long.

We’ve been parents now for a few months and when I look back on that day a few things really stick out…I love that we decided not to have people at the house while we were waiting on my labor to progress. My most cherished memory of the whole experience is when I was at home, in the tub and Jeremy was sitting on the floor next to me holding my hand. It was the last time that we were the only two people in the house. When I got out, Merrill arrived and the dynamic was suddenly different. I was surprised at how powerful the contractions were at the hospital. When they were coming back to back to back with no break, I couldn’t believe how strong they were and how difficult it was to even think. The one thing that I was really impressed with was my medical team. Since I delivered during shift change I had 2 different midwives and 2 nurses. Each woman was wonderful and really worked to make me feel comfortable and safe. The recovery nurses and baby nurses I had were so attentive and never made me feel like I was bothering them when I needed things. In fact, they were always asking if they could do more for me. I knew early on that I was hoping to use Merrill as our doula but a small part of me was always wondering how much of a difference she would really make. I know now that having her there made all the difference. She was such a calming presence throughout the whole day. Without her skills and encouragement I’m not sure that we would have been able to make it through the med-free birth we had planned. She did an amazing job not just supporting me but also my husband. She made sure that he felt confident in his strength and ability to help me in any way. I will never think of my son’s birth without thinking of Merrill. She will forever be a part of our family because she gave so much of herself. 

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Induction Baby Hospital

The Birth of Arthur Avery

This mom was so calm and happy even at the end of a very long pregnancy. She trusted her body and was willing to wait as long as they could to let Art arrive on his own time. She remained calm even after an induction was needed. The entire process was not what they imagined but the peace in the room was so tangible. Not to mention Katie was so powerful and determined to have an epidural-free induction!
The Birth of Arthur Avery
By: Katie Randall
The birth story of my son Arthur starts with long days of waiting on his arrival. I never had strong feelings about how I wanted my birth experience to be until I found out I was pregnant. Early on I thought I might want to try a natural birth, and the more Jarrod and I learned about our options, the more we were convinced this was the right path for us.To prepare, I did prenatal yoga twice, sometimes three times a week, and we completed a Bradley method class, a partner coached childbirth method. We hired Merrill Durham as our doula. This was an easy choice. I’ve known Merrill for a few years, and I’ve always said she brings peace wherever she goes. She’s knowledgeable, passionate, and has done this before herself. She inspired me and she believed in me. I knew these were all qualities I needed in a doula. I had a textbook pregnancy and felt great most of the time. Even at the end of 42 weeks, I kept saying I felt too good to be about to go into labor. I expected to be miserable, and I just wasn’t. I attribute much of this to my yoga practice.
When I reached 40 weeks, I reminded myself that this is normal. First time pregnancies often go longer than 40 weeks. I wasn’t worried, but baby was still posterior and Merrill, the midwife, and I all agreed that could be why I wasn’t going into labor already. I did everything I knew to encourage him to rotate, but he didn’t, and when I hit 41 weeks, though I still wasn’t worried, I tried all of the usual natural methods for induction. I think the only thing I didn’t try was castor oil. I just knew he’d come on his own in his own time, and I wasn’t interested in forcing anything before my body and baby were totally ready. At 41.5 weeks, I had a routine biophysical profile done, and though the baby was doing well, the midwife thought my amniotic fluid levels were a little low and placenta was looking a little “tired.” At 42 weeks I talked to her about pushing induction back a few days, but she felt it was best to go ahead that night.
So on the evening of Thursday, February 5, we checked into the hospital. Checking in for your birth when you are not in labor is a bit odd, not that I’ve ever done it differently, but it was not how I imagined. We were nervous that day but excited too, and according to Merrill, who has done this part several times with moms in active labor, it was very peaceful to check in this way. Maybe that’s what set the tone for the rest of our stay. In spite of the hard work ahead, peaceful is how I would describe the whole experience.I was only dilated about 1.5 centimeters with a posterior cervix upon check in, so they started me on Cytotec, a drug to help ripen the cervix. They thought I may need a couple of doses, which would take 8 hours, so after making sure we were settled, Merrill went home to get a few hours of sleep. Jarrod and I tried to do the same, though it was difficult for me to sleep as I had monitors strapped across my belly and a blood pressure cuff that the nurse wanted on me at all times. Four hours later, the midwife checked me and decided I had progressed enough to skip the second dose of Cytotec and try a Foley bulb. The Foley bulb is essentially a balloon-like device that dilates your cervix to 4 centimeters. Needless to say, it was not comfortable. I was actually having mild contractions with it in, and I think that’s why I responded so well to it. The nurse said it can take three hours for it to work, but thankfully I made it to 4 centimeters within the hour. At this point, we started Pitocin, a drug I really hoped to avoid altogether because it can interfere with your body’s natural hormone production during labor and make contractions longer, more frequent, and/or more intense. I knew this could make my hope to avoid an epidural harder to achieve, but my body still wasn’t taking over and contracting like it needed to. It took a couple of hours for the Pitocin to kick in, but by 6:00 AM, I was in active labor.Laboring on Pitocin, I skipped early labor and jumped straight into active labor with little warm up. My body was in shock at first, causing chills, nausea, and vomiting. In fact, because of these symptoms, I thought I was farther along than I was. I was disappointed to find at my next check three and half hours later that I was only dilated 6-7 centimeters. I had hoped I was already in transition, but still, I was making progress. I can’t say enough good things about Merrill’s presence at our birth, but specifically I’m thankful she was there to work with the nurses into keeping the Pitocin as low as possible. Typically they would have upped the dosage every thirty minutes, but we asked them more than once if they could leave it where it was. I am confident had we not done this I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the pain to come.

Throughout my labor, my contractions were irregular. They would get closer together and more intense and then space out, then they would come one on top of another and last for several minutes. They did not rise and peak like natural contractions. This was hard to work through. I remember saying over and over again that I just needed a break. I thought I would get breaks between contractions. Jarrod and Merrill kept coaching me through, providing counter pressure and heating pad as needed and reminding me to breathe, Jarrod telling me how proud he was and how beautiful I am and Merrill telling me that I was doing it when I said I couldn’t. Without their unwavering support and encouragement, I don’t think I could have held it together.

With each contraction I took long, deep breaths and vocalized in a low tone. I felt like I had to do this. If my pitch rose even slightly, I felt more pain. I never thought I would vocalize so much in labor, but it helped so much!

At one point, I thought my water had broken, but it had not, at least not completely. I was already feeling the urge to bear down with contractions, but 2.5 hours since my last check, I hadn’t progressed much more than half a centimeter. I was stuck at 7.5 centimeters. This was discouraging. I was doubting myself and getting so tired. Merrill asked if I wanted to try nitrous oxide. I was so glad she asked! I had been thinking about it but couldn’t verbalize my request. I know nitrous doesn’t work well for everyone, but it helped me so much. Just like I’d heard, it didn’t take the pain away, but it helped me not care as much. I was already in another place mentally, and the nitrous helped me stay in “labor land.”

Shortly after, Robin, my midwife, suggested letting her break my water. I was hesitant at first, afraid it would increase my pain, but eventually I let her and was so glad I did! I went from 7.5 to 9.75 centimeters in no time! When she told me I was 9.75 and could bear down with the contractions if I wanted, hoping a little pressure would help get me to 10, I cried tears of relief. I remember looking at Merrill, and she teared up with me. It was such happy news. We were nearing the end!

Within half an hour, I was at 10 and pushing with each contraction. At this point my body had taken over and the nurse was able to turn the Pitocin off. I know this was a totally different part of labor, but my contractions without Pitocin felt so different. They were spaced more evenly and peaked naturally. This was a huge relief! And pushing made them easier to work through as well. I would say the pushing part was the least painful yet hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Mamas have to work so hard to push their babies into this world!

Unfortunately, as soon as I started pushing, Arthur’s heart rate started to drop. They gave me oxygen and fluids, which seemed to help, and kept me on my left side, which seemed best for baby. Robin checked me again to confirm he was in a good position for birth, and he was! At some point during labor he had turned into a direct OA position. This was an answer to prayer! He was still behind the pubic bone however, which seemed to slow things down some. At this point, my contractions spaced again, and after an hour and a half of pushing, the room was suddenly very crowded. I felt a little out of it and wasn’t totally sure what all happening. All I remember is meeting the OBs on call, talking about options like forceps and C-section, saying they were concerned about the baby’s heart rate. They had been monitoring my progress over the last two hours and felt it was taking too long. They wanted to check on the baby’s positioning themselves. I assumed this would be similar to the cervical checks I had had thus far. I was very wrong. This was by far the most painful part of my entire experience and the most difficult for Jarrod and I both to process since. If I’m being totally honest and vulnerable here, I felt violated. I know the OBs were only doing their job and what they felt was best for my baby. I in no way believe they are bad doctors or people, but this check was very deep and extremely painful, they did not wait to check me between contractions as my midwife had, and they did not stop when I asked them to. It took me awhile to reconcile this part of my birth experience and not allow it to overshadow how wonderful the rest of it was.

After this excruciating check, they confirmed baby’s positioning was good after all, he was not too big for me to deliver naturally and safely, and I could continue pushing. Thank goodness! I think maybe it was the fear of another check like that or a forceps delivery that motivated me to push even harder than I had before, because just a few pushes later with Jarrod right by my side and the entire room cheering us on, Arthur Avery was born at 3:46 pm. He weighed 8 lbs 1 oz and was 21 inches long. That moment when they placed him on my belly was pure joy. He was so squishy and warm and so perfect. I kept saying, “You worked so hard, baby. I’m so proud of you.” One of the nurses heard me and said, “YOU worked so hard, mama! Good job!” I know these doctors, nurses, and midwives do this everyday, but they sure did a great job making me feel special that day.

Newborn baby

I delivered the placenta shortly thereafter, Jarrod got to cut the cord and had skin to skin time with Art while the OBs worked on me. I had a 3rd degree tear, so it took a little while. I opted not to go to the OR for the repair because I didn’t want to be separated from my new little family and thought if I’d avoided an epidural so far, why get one now. Merrill and Robin stayed with me throughout the surgery, holding my hands and keeping me distracted.

I didn’t pay attention to what song on my playlist was playing when Art was actually born, but at one point during my surgery, I looked over to Jarrod holding our son, and John Mark McMillan’s How He Loves was on. I started to laugh and cry all at once, and Merrill asked what was so funny. I just said, “This song. He really does love us!” One of the OBs commented that he loves this song too, and the mood in the room was so light, so full of joy and light and love. I know there was a lot of oxytocin floating around in the room that day, but I truly believe the Holy Spirit was with us, anointing us with peace during the labor and joy at Art’s birth. I’ve never felt the veil between Heaven and Earth so thin before. I’ve never felt more brave, more strong, more alive, more confident and beautiful than I did that day. It was an amazing experience that has forever changed me. Every laboring woman deserves this type of birth experience.

I’m so thankful my body responded so well to the induction methods used. Although we wanted to avoid as many interventions and medications as possible, I’m thankful for modern medicine and made my peace with the decision to induce when we did. When I look back on it all, I only really remember the good stuff. I remember certain songs on my playlist, the aromatherapy Merrill had going in her diffuser, the encouraging words spoken over me, and the love. I am so incredibly thankful for my birth team and all of our friends and family praying over us that day. We felt their prayers with us, and I know I would not have had the same experience without them.

Woman baby and husband
Mom dad baby

The  Birth of Isaiah Triumph 

This is the story of the beautiful birth of Isaiah Triumph written by her powerful mom , Allyson. She was a first-time mom committed to a natural birth, who had to learn what it means to surrender in labor. Once she did, her baby was ready to meet her!
The Birth of Isaiah Triumph
By: Allyson Phillips

Sitting here with my sweet son, Isaiah,  just weeks after his entrance into the world is the biggest miracle of my life. I have seen God in many ways – through the eyes of an orphan, in the miraculous healing of cancer, in simple love songs, but I have to admit that birthing my son was the most tangible expression of God that I have experienced in my 25 years of life.

Here is our story, the story of sweet surrender.

When my husband Lyle and I found out we were pregnant with Isaiah we immediately began deciding on the kind of birth experience we would want to have. I had several friends who had braved the all natural, drug free labor and for some odd reason had told me it was “beautiful” and “empowering”. If I‘m being honest, before I got pregnant the idea sounded cool but I kind of thought that most women were really just doing it for some imaginary pat on the back or something. It wasn’t until I had to decide for myself that I realized how incredible the mothering body is and how much safer it is to engage fully with birth and bring your child into the world naturally.

Once we had decided to go the natural route I had the privilege of bringing a doula on board with us! Merrill was (as you will see) the single most comforting person for both my husband and I while we were in labor.

So, my due date was March 30th but both my mom and my sister tended to have babies early, so I was prepared to go into labor early as well. On Friday evening March 27th, the big dance began! I started having mild crampy contractions at around 9:30PM. I remember being so pumped while simultaneously wishing that I had more signs that this was actually labor. I did everything I could to stop my labor – took a bath, tried to rest, ate some food, but sure enough those contractions kept coming. They were approximately 10 minutes apart and 1 minute long!

Midnight of the 28th rolled around and I had been in early labor for just a few hours and then all of a sudden my contractions went to 5 minutes apart 1 minute long and my discomfort level shot up to a 5 out of 10!

At this point I assumed that my labor might go very quickly and that I would get to meet my son sometime on the 28th, but boy was I wrong! Little did I know that I was going to have to endure 36+ hours of labor before getting to hold my beautiful boy.

From 12:00PM until 4:00PM I worked through contractions that never seemed to truly progress past about a level 6 in discomfort or get any closer than 4 min apart. I had all the classic early labor reactions, vomiting, sleeplessness, anticipation, but there was one thing amidst my labor that I didn’t plan on experiencing. Peace.

Merrill, our doula, arrived at 4:00PM and helped me to labor. I remember the three of us (Merrill, Lyle and I) being at so much peace as things began to pick up pace slowly. I told Merrill how happy I was to be in labor which is a reaction I never imagined having in those moments. I felt the presence of God like I never have. It was as if He reached His hands down, placed me securely in His arms and was whispering to me,
“Sweetheart, you can do this. I made you to be able to do this!” It was powerful!

As the evening of the 28th progressed, I began to have sporadic and unevenly spaced contractions. Some were 2 minutes apart and others were 7 minutes apart. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get through this.

It had been 24 hours and I had seen little progression, no other labor signs like my water breaking or losing my mucus plug and I was VERY tired. I had been awake for nearly 30 hours and I was ready for this thing to kick into active labor! This had to have been the 1st road block that I hit in my whole process.

I remember over thinking and just trying to rush through it. I felt like a failure for having such a long labor and I certainly felt silly for thinking that I was going to have a fast labor. But just when I felt like giving up and saying, “someone drive me to the hospital and get me the drugs!” at around 10:00PM I lost my mucus plug. That nasty thing might as well have been 14kt gold to me. It was a definite sign that I was progressing and considering the contractions were getting more and more uncomfortable, I was relieved.
I decide that I am ready to go to the hospital. My contractions were still irregular but I was experiencing level 7 pain and I had been laboring for 25 hours so I figured that I was surely progressed enough to finish laboring at the hospital.

I hauled my big ole self into the car and made the miserable journey to the hospital. You see, you never really can prepare yourself for the car ride to the hospital. That thing is brutal. Trying to work through contractions while seated, no thanks. Anyway, we arrived at the hospital and I was eventually wheeled back to triage at 11:23PM.

I was checked in triage and to my not-so-happy surprise I was only 3, yes 3cm dialated…3! I experienced the 2nd road black in my labor journey. How in the world was I only 3cm? Hadn’t I done a good job? Hadn’t my labor been effective? I thought I was living in peaceful labor land, not the land where I am in labor FOREVER! Not only was I only 3cm dilated but because my tummy wasn’t so big, none of the monitors would stay on unless I laid down ON MY BACK! Now ladies, have any of you tried to work through level 7 contractions while forced to remain still and on your back? Nope. Not a single natural mama wants to do that. I began violently convulsing and my sweet husband just held me and encouraged me as I went through hell for those 30 minutes. After they monitored me we had a decision to make. My husband was exhausted, I was exhausted and I was so embarrassed that I was only 3cm dilated; all I wanted was for someone to tell me that it was all going to be over soon. But that wasn’t the case. Merrill came to the triage room and said to me, “Allyson, what do you want your birth experience to be like? They will absolutely let you stay here and labor here, but I have a feeling that if you stay they may offer you an epidural. And that’s ok, if that’s what you want. But my honest suggestion is that you go back home and get into “labor world” and you get this baby out!” At that moment something clicked. I realized that the only way that I was going to get through this in the way that I wanted to (which was drug free) was to surrender to it. Just surrender to labor. Let it do what it will and even if it takes another 30 hours, to remember that I will get through it, but not if I fight it. I had to give in.
I walked (barely) out of the hospital at 2:00AM on March 29th with tears in my eyes and determination in my heart. When I returned home I believe that this is when my active labor really began!

From 3:00AM-5:00AM my mom came and labored with me. I remember her praying over me through each contraction. We had this rhythm going on. I was standing and vocalizing during each contraction and sitting and sleeping in the minutes in between. Also. through every contraction I was vocalizing in deep tones and I would squat at the top of each contraction allowing Isaiah to drop into the pelvis.

And THEN there was transition. I cannot describe the kind of warrior woman strength that hits you as you enter transition. One contraction I would be focused and intense and the next I would be telling Lyle and Merrill that I couldn’t do it. By 6:45AM my contractions FINALLY were 2 minutes apart. At this point I was 34 hours into my labor and I was finally surrendered fully to the labor I was experiencing. Lyle would hold me up through every contraction and encourage me while Merrill was simultaneously telling me that every contraction was bringing me closer to meeting my son! It was beautiful. The perfect picture of team work and love as I was in the most intense part of labor!

7:45AM hit and Lyle and Merrill decide that it was probably time to take me back to the hospital. They had to make the decision for me because I was so focused on labor I couldn’t remember my own name much less decide if I was ready to go to the hospital! LOL! And thank GOD they took me when they did because the next hour was a blur!

8:00AM they get me in the car and we head to the hospital. I am now working through level 10 contractions while Lyle was driving and I was kicking myself for not just doing a home birth! HA!

8:07AM while getting off of the interstate my water breaks! And I’m talking about movie moment water breakage! It was as if I had popped a water balloon underneath me! At that point I felt intense relief and for the first time in 35 hours.
As we pulled into the parking lot I started to get emotional. I realized that I was very close to getting to meet my baby boy and I knew they would let me stay at the hospital this time because my water had broken! Luckily since we had been in the night before they had all my info on file. Boy, if they hadn’t I would have had Isaiah in the lobby! I remember as they were getting me my wristband I looked at Merrill and said, “Uh, I think I feel like pushing”! The next 20 minutes were the most fun and intense minutes of my life.

8:15AM after notifying Merrill and Lyle that I needed to push they rushed me to triage. We could barely get me on the bed to check me before wheeling me straight to the delivery room! I was 10cm dilated and he was fully dropped and ready to make his debut! Thats right, I went from 3cm-10cm dilated in under 6 hours when I had labored for 30 hours just to get to 3cm! SURRENDER!

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I remember it all feeling like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy – Nurses in scrubs, monitors, a doctor fully scrubbed and ready to go. After holding back my pushes for 15 minutes I finally began to push at 8:30AM and in 10 minutes I was holding my beautiful baby!
Isaiah Triumph Phillips (6lbs 3oz) was born healthy and happy on March 29th (Palm Sunday) at 8:40AM! We named him after his triumphal entrance and the one we celebrate on Palm Sunday!

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When they laid him on my chest there are no words to describe the love I felt for my husband, the love I felt for my son and the love I felt for myself. I will NEVER forget the presence of God that I felt again at the moment. It was as if all of creation was watching that moment as I received heavens gift in the form of my son.

Having a child is the most selfless thing I will do and I will always cherish the way I was able to birth my own. I felt like a warrior. I was a surrendered and laid down version of myself and I felt beautiful! But remember, every mom is a hero no matter how she brings her little on earth side! I celebrate my story and every story because every single one is beautiful!
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