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Baby, mother, father, birth, VBAC, pitocin, hospital birth

The Birth of Asa James Cantrell

As co-owner of Nashville Doula Services, Whitney, recently celebrated the first birthday of her third child, Asa James, she reflected on the day he was born. Whitney had already experienced two births of her own and supported so many mothers through labor as a doula, but she was thrown a curve ball during this labor! You won’t believe this amazing story full of strength, power, and beauty! This is a story that every VBAC mama or any expectant woman should read! Enjoy!

This is the story of my precious Asa James Cantrell, born February 6th 2016, and my second VBAC.

It was the evening of February 4th and I was 38 weeks, 6 days pregnant with Asa. I was even more exhausted than normal and decided to go upstairs and lay down while everyone else was eating dinner. I had just laid down and closed my eyes when I felt my water break. I jumped out of bed and as I stood to my feet, Niagra Falls was happening in my pants. I went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up as my adrenaline was pumping like crazy. We are going to meet Asa soon! Or so I thought…

My labors with my first two babies were fairly short, with my second labor only being around 4-5 hours. So naturally, I expected contractions to quickly follow and to be pushing out my baby in the next 3-4 hours. I called Michael to come upstairs and help pack for the hospital, and I continued to wait for contractions. We were excited but all of a sudden I was NERVOUS. I am a doula and have been to tons of births and helped many, many women through natural labor, and I had even done it before myself…but I really had not prepared for this labor, and I had a big, huge moment of self doubt! I sent a text to my midwife and friend, Lisa, to let her know what was happening, and also to my doula Sandee. They both expected my contractions to pick up soon. A couple hours passed and still no significant contractions, so we decided to try and get some rest while we could. I drank a half glass of wine to calm my nerves so I could rest, but as soon as I laid down, oddly enough, that’s when my contractions started coming regularly. I contracted all night, with contractions coming every 3-10 minutes. At about 2am they were so intense that I had to get on all fours and moan through each one. Then I would lay back down and pass out in between. About 3:30 they were around 2-3 min apart, so I told Michael it was time to go.

I got up to go to the restroom for probably the 15th time that night (and I had to change my enormous pad each time because I was losing so much water!) and wouldn’t you know it..my labor came to a screeching H – A – U – L – T. I was still feeling Asa move quite frequently and my water was still clear, so we decided to try and sleep some more. I got to sleep a couple more hours before the big kids were up and raring to go, asking for breakfast. 🙂 Still, zero contractions. Where did they GOOOOO?!?! I was totally baffled, wondering what this lil guy had planned.

We were so blessed to have Michael’s parents living with us so they agreed to take the kids for the day while Michael and I got serious about getting labor started. I checked in with my midwife that morning after we ate breakfast, and we agreed that I would give it a few hours and then go to the clinic for a non stress test and then make a decision on whether or not to go on in for an induction/augmentation. Hearing those words really stung. I couldn’t believe I was potentially facing an induction. Why was my body playing this mean trick on me?? I was in a pretty sour mood about this for the next few hours. We tried absolutely everything to get my labor going…chiropractic, acupuncture, lots of stairs at Cenntennial Park, Spinning Babies, lots of prayer, you name it! But nothing helped. Asa had his own plans despite my efforts to try and control the process.

After Asa and I got a clean bill of health at the midwife clinic, we decided that we would check into the hospital the next morning if labor hadn’t started by then. Michael really had to shake some sense into me, and remind me that we were going to meet our third child soon and that sometimes we just can’t control the process and have to trust that God has a good plan. I really needed to hear this. He was so encouraging and reassured me that getting things started with Pitocin didn’t mean I couldn’t have the epidural-free, active birth that I wanted. I had had a traumatic experience associated with an epidural with my first baby, so my desire to avoid that at all costs ran much deeper than a desire to check another natural birth off my goals. I made the decision from that point forward to be happy and to except with open arms the journey that God had for us. It was a freeing moment, and I literally felt the weight lift up off my shoulders. I started to feel JOY for the first time since my water had broken the night before.

We got a pretty good night of sleep that night, with just a handful of contractions, and I checked into the hospital at 7:30am, with Michael, Sandee (doula), and Kingsley (my sister) surrounding me and we joyfully proclaimed we were “Team Asa!”. It was VERY weird to check into the hospital not even being in labor! You have to have a supportive birth team in moments like these..Michael, Sandee and Kingsley brought the perfect mix of humor, compassion, love, and strength. I felt very safe, very cared for, and that everyone in that room believed in and loved me and my baby.

They checked me before starting pit, and I was about 3cm dilated and Asa was -2 station. No wonder labor was stalling… he was up in my rib cage!

 

I started out sitting on the birth ball when the pitocin drip started. We were joking around, telling stories, and laughing. Active labor kicked in at just 5mil of pit, and from that point on, it was game on. Michael applied counter pressure to my lower back and Sandee talked me through each contraction, reminding me to relax every muscle in my body. After about 1 hour of steady contractions, the midwife Stephanie checked me and I was 5-6 cm. We all agreed that we wouldn’t raise the pit anymore because just that little bit was doing it’s job! I was thankful. I was still handling the contractions super well, and I felt very much in control. I labored mostly standing/sitting on the side of the bed, but had gotten on my knees in the bed after I was starting to get tired, and switched back and fourth from knees to “throne” position. About an hour later I started to feel more pressure, so my midwife Stephanie checked me and I was at a 7. It’s weird laboring after you’ve become a doula… I was well aware of my body and the labor process, and even though things were getting really intense I could still think logically about what was happening and what was coming next. I knew that with my second birth, I moved from 7cm to birth in about 20 minutes so I knew we were getting close!

 

Just like that, transition set in, and boy did I know it. I looked at Sandee and said something like, “this is hard! Help!” She continued to encourage me and I felt her strength pour right into me for the home stretch.

Just a few minutes later, I finally felt the urge to push. I was so relieved! I pushed for about 10 minutes and my sweet baby boy was born and I pulled him up on my belly, although he was a little blue and the cord was around his neck. I very instinctively grabbed the cord and pulled it over his head.

He was beautiful! He looked JUST like my first son, Cole to me. I couldn’t believe it. At that moment I felt I had known him my whole life.

I am so thankful for the BEST birth team ever. Sandee was that calming, peaceful presence and reassurance when I had many moments of self-doubt. Michael was such an amazing support to me. He has become quite the doula himself after going through three of his wife’s labors. 🙂 And my sister…I was so excited for her to be at Asa’s birth after I had helped her through labor just a few months before. Birth is such a majestic, life-changing moment that you’ll absolutely never forget once you experience 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 Elizabeth Foley

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

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

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


The Birth of Elizabeth Foley
By Lillie Whitehead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Birth of Cole and Bray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Birth of Jacob Cooper

We often share stories of women who have had traumatic births in the past, but today we want to honor one of many mothers that have had all wonderful birth experiences.
This mother would’ve never expected that she would’ve made the conscious decision to have an unmedicated birth with her third baby. With all three of her births, she made intentional decisions in her birth team that allowed her to truly #BirthOnPurpose. We hope this gives hope to many mothers in waiting!
The Birth of Jacob Cooper
By Bekki Lowrance
Before we really begin, I have a confession.  I’m seriously the LAST person you’d ever imagine writing a story of her account of an unmedicated birth.  I’m not remotely crunchy, I’ll surely need some sort of intervention to ever entirely drop my soda habit, and I eat wayyyy too much processed food.
Now that I’ve cleaned my conscience, let’s get down to business.
I had three routine vaginal deliveries in three years, each one unique and wonderful in its own right.  My first two were delivered with the help of Pitocin and an epidural while my most recent baby came through an planned unmedicated delivery.  None of them have been what I’d consider to be traumatic and all of my children were healthy at birth, even my middle son who came 6 weeks early.  I have very quick labors in general with my last two babies coming within an hour of labor onset. As far as epidurals, I was surprised by a few things. First, I was shocked that the actual administration of the needle was nearly painless, both times I got them.  I had some fear about this and honestly it hurts a lot more getting your blood drawn.  I experienced a lot of anxiety while using the epidural – I felt stuck and constantly had the sensation of my legs being asleep.  (I didn’t know until my Lamaze class with my third pregnancy that I could have asked them to turn it down a little so I wasn’t feeling so numb.)  The medication also took a long time to wear off.  The feeling didn’t fully return to my legs until nearly 24 hours after each delivery.
When I found out I was pregnant with my third baby, we knew this would be our last.  Between my second and third babies, I had several friends who had either attempted or succeeded with unmedicated deliveries and they were people who I considered to be fairly balanced in their views and not afraid of doctors/ hospitals/ medications in general.  I remember being shocked to hear that one of my friends (an RN with the same OB as me) had two unmedicated deliveries and told me that she thought I’d be a great candidate for it.  I sort of blew her off at first but it did start me on the path of considering it.  I talked to my OB who said she’d support whatever birth plan I wanted, barring any hospital policies or health necessitated interventions.  My husband and I signed up for a Lamaze class, I read a couple of books, and hired a doula friend from church.  Maybe it’s the fact that it was my third child or just the fact that I’m older and (hopefully) wiser, but I just felt at peace about letting my body do its thing and getting out of nature’s way. It seemed strange to me to finally be learning what was happening through the birth process, when I had sort of been on auto pilot before.  Most attendees in our Lamaze classes were on their first kid, and found it funny that we were taking our first classes on our third delivery.  I think more than anything, I just wanted the perspective of a different experience.  I was curious what an unmedicated birth would be like and also wanted to know if I was truly capable of going through with it.
I ended up carrying my last baby to 40 weeks, but had been significantly dilated for several weeks.  Everyone thought he’d come early but he hung on till the very end.  I went to the hospital with cramps – not your standard contractions but I knew I was 6 cm at my appointment the day before and didn’t want to risk spontaneous labor at home.  After being in my room for 8 hours without any real progression, my OB suggested breaking my water to get things going.  I was SOOOO conflicted in this decision.  It was Dec 18th, I was beyond done with being pregnant, and I didn’t want to be in the hospital over Christmas.  However, I knew that once my water broke, I was “on the clock.”  My OB told me she’d give me 12 hours to go into labor on my own before she’d really push Pitocin so I agreed to let her do it.  She broke my water at 9:00 AM, heavy contractions started at 2:00 PM, my doula got there at 2:30 and baby was out by 3:15.  I had spent months preparing for this peaceful, spiritual experience of bringing life into the world.  I had a playlist of film scores from movies like Braveheart, my favorite scents in the form of essential oils, comfy blankets and pillows from home, etc.  I had envisioned laboring in the hospital’s tub, using an exercise ball to relieve pressure on my joints… you get the picture.  All the quintessential things I expected a natural delivery to look like.  In reality, I went from 6 cm to 10 in about 30 mins and when labor came on, it was fast and furious.  There was no time for any of those things.  I was in transition and then I was pushing and then he was here.  I recall thinking during the worst of it that I couldn’t possibly bear this for hours on end and that I might literally die from the pain.  (All my babies have been born sunny side up so my OB concluded that it must just be the shape of my pelvis that causes my babies to pass through like this.)  Also interesting to note that I pushed longer with this baby than with the other two medicated births.  That was contrary to what I thought would happen.  I also had so looked forward to feeling that amazing rush that so many moms alluded to that happened right after birth when all the hormones hit you at once.  That didn’t happen for me.  I underestimated how much it would continue to hurt even after I got him out.  I had so much adrenaline rushing through me that I couldn’t stop shaking.  I was trembling so hard it was difficult for me to hold my baby and I just felt incredibly weak.  My doula was amazing in that moment and came and applied counter pressure to my legs so I physically could not shake against her weight and over a few minutes, it helped me calm down.  I will say that within a couple hours of giving birth, I felt great.  I didn’t feel the lingering effects of medications, and I was incredibly happy that I had accomplished what I’d set out to do.  This baby scored higher on his APGAR test than my other two had and was just so wonderfully healthy from the minute he was born and I couldn’t help but wonder if my unmedicated delivery contributed to that.  The biggest regret I have from this experience is not getting photos during the birth.  (Not talking money shots here, folks, just wanted some of Jon and I in our zone. Ha!)  Everything ended up happening so fast that they just didn’t happen when everyone was so busy.
In closing, I am grateful for three unique delivery experiences and three healthy babies.  When people ask me about medicated vs. unmedicated deliveries, I always stress that birth comes on its own terms.  I planned way more for my third delivery than I did for my first two, but in some ways my first two matched my expectations more than my third.  The more of a plan you make, the more possibility there is that something won’t go according to said plan.  I could have been just as disappointed about not laboring in the tub, listening to the music, using the other various tools and techniques I’d learned as some moms have been with their medicated deliveries.  I think the key is being flexible.  I was okay with the fact that it didn’t turn out just exactly as I had hoped.  If I were to have another pregnancy, I would most likely plan to do another unmedicated birth, mainly because my deliveries were over so quick and I think most people could bear about anything for an hour.  It’s not worth all the “coming off” feelings from the medications for such a short period of pain, to me.  If I knew that I was up against a 12 hour labor, I’d probably opt for an epidural again. I feel so blessed to have had relatively good experiences through both scenarios that can hopefully shed some light to other mamas who might be on the fence about their decisions regarding birth.
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The Birth of Atticus Eli

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

What a special birth story to share as we celebrate “Labor Day!” This mother truly embraced her long prodromal labor period and was rewarded with her sweet baby that was born en caul – a true rarity in birth! We hope you’re inspired as much as we were reading the birth story of baby Jonathan Edmond.

The Birth of Jonathan Edmond
By Rebecca Moody

I started having contractions on and off as of my due date, November 30th. They were never very painful or intense, and would go back and forth between being super regular to nearly disappearing. This is the “prodromal” part of labor, and for some lucky moms like me, it can last weeks. While this was emotionally exhausting (Jonathan and I both thought true labor would kick in any minute), it was all-in-all a real blessing. I got lots of sleep, my mom and aunt and dad were all super amazing and kept me preoccupied so I didn’t go crazy while Jonathan finished up the semester, and as a bonus, I dilated to 3 cm with very little pain. Life during the last two weeks of pregnancy felt a bit like being in a holding pattern waiting to land.

At 41 weeks anxiety started to build about whether or not induction would be necessary. That week, we had to do a few tests with the midwives to make sure baby was still doing okay and that we weren’t hurting him letting him come out on his own. I also started trying everything proven and rumored to help induce labor. The last of these efforts, castor oil and a second membrane sweep, seem to have done the trick, as labor started Thursday afternoon! (Much to our relief!! We did not want to be induced!!)

Thursday afternoon my mom really sweetly canceled a phone meeting at work so that she could be with me while I took castor oil and Jonathan wrapped up his last exam. After drinking the nastiest concoction imaginable (Champagne, orange juice, almond butter, and castor oil), I took a nap while my mom finished up some work in the other room. By the time Jonathan got home and my mom headed out, I was having stronger contractions at very irregular intervals. Over the next hour or two, they gradually increased in intensity. I got in the tub while Jonathan made dinner- macaroni and cheese and homemade mashed potatoes. Then, Jonathan and I tried to watch a movie as I worked my way through more contractions, Jonathan massaging my back when they hit.

We texted our doula, Jeannie Casey, and she recommended getting in the shower with the yoga ball on all fours since the majority of the pain was in my back. Contractions really started to pick up, and when Jeannie texted at 9:30 I let her know that I thought this was it and she said she would come over.

By the time she arrived, I was in a lot of pain, and I think I was also experiencing a lot of fear. Jonathan was being amazing, massaging me or holding me through each contraction, but as each one began I felt myself fighting the pain. Our doula helped a lot to calm me down, which I think was really key in the end. She reminded me that I didn’t need to be afraid — the pain that I was experiencing was the power of my own body at work, doing what it needed to do. I think that reminder really freed me up, and I quickly found myself “in transition.” At around 11, we decided to head to the hospital, calling our moms so they would meet us there.

Jonathan says the car trip felt like a scene out of a movie. I was really letting go vocally through each contraction – I can’t sufficiently explain the volume – but Jonathan did an excellent job en route to keep me calm and productive. All the traffic lights were green, we managed to just miss a train, and we got to the hospital in ten minutes tops.

When we got to the hospital, there was another woman laboring in the ER as well. We ended up in the elevator with her on our way to delivery, and it was humorous the comparison between our behavior – she gave a very polite little moan when her contraction hit — I did my customary wail at the top of my lungs with my head thrown back seconds later.

When we got to labor and delivery, all of the labor rooms were full!! We managed to get one of the last triage rooms, thanks again to Jeannie, who was very assertive in stating that I was in transition and needed attention now. (I keep wondering what would have happened if we’d arrived a little later — would I have delivered in the hall?)

The midwife came to check me and asked if I wanted to know how far along I was. I said, “I don’t know, do I?” I didn’t want to be discouraged if I was only at 4 or 5 cms after all the pain. She smiled really sweetly and said, “I think you do. You’re at 9!” I was so relieved and excited! I knew I was mere hours away from getting to meet my baby.

The next hours are a blur to me obviously. I remember being incredibly loud. I was never angry or upset, and the contractions no longer scared me at all, I welcomed them and felt how productive they were and tried to sing and breathe the pain out of me. I remember eating ice chips out of my mother-in-law’s hand. I remember Jonathan saying to me, “Rebecca, I’ve loved you since you were 14.” I remember how proud my mother looked at me each time a contraction was over.

I started feeling the urge to push, I was rechecked and was told I was 10cm, and I began pushing, Jonathan coaching me through each contraction. (He was such an amazing help the whole time – it blows my mind.) I felt the notorious ring of fire, and knew after a few more contractions my baby would be born. I feel one of the strangest experiences of the whole evening was the time between his head coming out and the rest of his body. After delivering his head I didn’t feel the urge to push, and it felt like I waited an eternity for the urge to come.

My dad, who was sitting out in the hall this entire time, says that around now he heard my usual wail, but that this time he heard a chorus of voices urging me on. Then there was silence. Then he said he heard an even louder surge of voices, telling me to “push, push, push.” This moment was Edmond coming into the world.

Ultimately, Jonathan Edmond Moody was born at 1:59 A.M. on Friday, December 13. He weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces and was 20 inches long. Edmond was born en caul — which means that he was born with the amniotic sac of waters intact. This happens in fewer than 1 in 80,000 births and is rumored in Irish/Appalachian folklore to bring good luck and/or endow the “caulbearer” with special qualities including a sixth sense. Other folklores have their own version of what this phenomenon means about the baby (Edmond can even join a cult if he wants to– caulbearer.org– we hope he passes on that opportunity), but it is certain that he is a special baby.

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Jonathan gets delivery credits as he actually helped pull Edmond from the womb, with the midwife guiding his hands. Jonathan announced that the baby was a boy (which I had intuited from the beginning) and then my handsome, squirmy, skinny son was placed on my chest, where he spent his first hour of life, surrounded too by his dad, two grandmothers, and grandfather Don.

Giving birth naturally was absolutely one of the best experiences of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Currently, I am nursing an extremely adorable three-day-old. Despite the fact that he kept Jonathan and me up all night last night, we already feel he adds so much meaning and purpose to our lives, and feel so completely in love.

Happy Birthday Jonathan Edmond Moody! We love you, son!
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The Birth of Ellis Perry

Such an inspiring birth story we are sharing today. Sarah, her husband Zane, and their entire birth team worked so beautifully together to bring baby Ellis earth-side. Enjoy!

The Birth of Ellis Perry
By Sarah Perry

I can still remember the moment I found out I was pregnant. I hadn’t been on birth control for a month and had a gut feeling when I woke up that I should take an at home pregnancy test. I took the test, and put it to the back of my mind as I continued getting ready for work. As I turned off my blow-dryer and glanced at the test, I was in complete shock! The test was positive. Thousands of emotions whirled through my head all at once…feelings of excitement, worry, gratefulness, and fear to name a few. It just so happened that I had a follow up appointment with my doctor later that day. There had been some concerns prior to me becoming pregnant because I had not had a menstrual cycle for over 5 months. The appointment had been set so that my doctor could run a few tests to be sure nothing else was wrong. Obviously the worry had been for nothing in previous months, as she confirmed at the appointment that I was 4 weeks pregnant.

I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Hypermobility Type) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, so in order to take precautions, my doctor set me up with a high risk specialist. Oftentimes people with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome have cervical incompetence, and the cervix shortens – leading to early deliveries. Although it was a scary thought to think I could deliver early, it was fun getting to see and hear our baby’s heartbeat more often.

Morning sickness kicked in for me at about 5 weeks and lasted from 5 weeks until around my 25th week of pregnancy. It was rough… I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and had to go the hospital four different times because of dehydration. I lost between 11 and 14 pounds in the first two months. You name it, I tried everything possible to take away the nausea and vomiting. Finally with the combination of Zofran and Diclegis, the morning sickness became bearable and I was able to start enjoying food again around my 25th week of pregnancy.

I remember when I started craving Cinnamon Chex. I ate them at least 3 times a day. I can still remember the day I called my husband, Zane, in a panic. I went to the cabinet to get a bowl of Chex, and they were gone! I couldn’t find them anywhere. Zane answered the phone and when I asked where the Cinnamon Chex were he told me that he had eaten the last bowl before work. The water works started soon after…. I cried and cried because I was so sad he had eaten the last Chex and didn’t leave any for me! I can remember thinking it was crazy that I was crying over cereal, but I couldn’t help myself. Zane said he was so sorry and that he would make it all better and buy 3 new boxes on his way home. A couple of weeks later, my cravings for pinto beans and watermelon began! We had watermelon daily from my 28th week of pregnancy up until the day of delivery.

My husband and I discussed the idea of having a doula. I did some research, and loved the thought of having someone to advocate for you during such an important time. Throughout my pregnancy, I received chiropractic care from Dr. Peter Camiolo at Revolution Health Center. He had so much helpful advice during my pregnancy, and when I asked if he had a reference for a doula, he sent me Whitney Cantrell’s contact information. We met Whitney at Starbucks soon after, and my first impression of her was that she was sweet and very passionate about what she did. I knew right away she would be the perfect fit in guiding me through the rest of my pregnancy and my delivery.

We had a few scares along the way, but thankfully Ellis was okay. By 39 weeks, I was more than ready for his sweet face to grace our presence. Each day felt like it was dragging on for decades. I went to see Dr. Redden when I was 40 weeks and 4 days. We went over our birth plan again, and discussed that she would give me I.V. fluids as soon as I got to the hospital to help with my genetic condition. (I become dehydrated very easily, and need the extra fluids to help keep my blood pressure stable. I met with my Cardiologist at Vanderbilt before our meeting, and these were his suggestions to try and keep my condition stable during labor.) Dr. Redden offered to “strip my membranes” which can induce labor, but I had decided prior to my appointment that although I wanted Ellis to come, I would let me body do its thing and just wait it out. I appreciated her being very supportive of my decision, and for always being so understanding of any of the choices I was planning to make.

I was a little bummed to still only be dilated to a 2, but was thankful Ellis was still doing well. To cheer me up, my husband took me to Sopapilla’s to eat some “spicy Mexican food”, and later that afternoon I lost my mucus plug (whoop-whoop!). By around 5:30AM, I felt some weird pains that woke me up, but nothing too serious. I had a gut feeling that today was the day we would finally meet baby Ellis. I went back to sleep for a few hours, and woke up again at 7:30. The pains still weren’t super intense, so I waited to wake my husband and tried to rest a little more. I eventually got up and went to the shower to see if it caused the contractions to stop, and when they continued, and I woke him and had him start timing them so we could get an idea of if this was real labor.

My contractions were all over the place for most of the day. When my husband started timing them, they were 7 minutes apart for 45 minutes straight. My back was really starting to bother me, and the shower didn’t alleviate the pain. We stopped timing them, and I tried ignoring my back, but it continued to bother me. I talked to Whitney, and she sent me some exercises for Zane to help me with since back labor is usually an indicator that the baby is facing out instead of towards your spine. We did the abdominal lift for 10 contractions. During one of the contractions, we had gone out into our garden to see what new plants were ready to be picked. When the next contraction came, we stopped in the middle of our yard and Zane helped me do the abdominal lift. Looking back, I definitely wasn’t laughing but I can only imagine that our neighbors probably thought we were completely loony!!!! My contractions were now every 4 minutes for 55-60 seconds. Whitney suggested we stop and rest for a little bit since my back was still really bothering me, and I tried laying on my side with a heating pad.

A couple of hours passed, and my contractions had spread out a little more. Sometimes they would be 7 minutes apart, other times they would be 2 minutes apart. My back pain continued to get worse, and I felt like nothing Zane tried helped. It didn’t feel like the contractions were super painful at that point, it was really just the continual pain in my back (very similar to kidney stone pains that I have had in the past). I could feel myself losing the ability to breathe through them, and so Zane called Whitney, and she headed to our house for some reinforcements. When she arrived, we tried multiple positions to help ease the back labor. Some gave me a little relief, but as the contractions picked up and became stronger, my back pain became more and more intense. Using the restroom was a nightmare because of the pain in my back when I sat down. Whitney helped me get to a comfortable position straddling a chair and laying my head on our bed while Zane applied counter pressure to my back. I started to doze off in that position, and was finally able to get a little relief. Whitney headed out and told us to call her if anything changed, and that she would meet us to the hospital.

Shortly after I could feel myself getting dizzy and my blood pressure dropping (this happens a lot with my condition, and I become dehydrated very quickly). Zane and Whitney talked on the phone and decided it might be best to head to the hospital to get I.V. fluids started. We waited to call any family members until I was admitted to the hospital because I had a fear that everyone would show up, and I wouldn’t be in true labor, or I wouldn’t be far enough along. I didn’t want to set myself up to feel embarrassed about this (even thought I shouldn’t), so we stuck with the plan and waited until after we arrived and were admitted to call family members.

We had to drive from Murfreesboro to Franklin, and it felt like the LONGEST ride of my life. I was in the backseat, and felt most comfortable straddling my pregnancy pillow while pulling up on the grab handles during contractions. We arrived at the hospital around 6:30, and everything became pretty hazy after we arrived at the hospital. I was scared to death to have any other doctor other than Dr. Redden, but Dr. Eia was on call, and as soon as I met her I knew my baby would be in good hands. Once I was in the room and they checked me, I was dilated to a 4.5. I had hoped I would have been further along, but I couldn’t even focus on the number with the amount of back pain I was having. At some point, I fainted on the toilet with Whitney holding my head, and my husband said they had to put me in a wheel chair and used ammonium to wake me. I started begging for some type of relief, and just knew I was going to vomit from the nauseousness my back pain was causing me. At one point, I literally felt I couldn’t go any further, and Whitney reminded me of my plan and how great I was progressing. My husband was such an awesome cheerleader as well. After much debate, I decided to take a narcotic (one they said takes the edge off, and stays in your system for 30 minutes)… and to this day, I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made at that point. In the length of time I took it, I dilated from a 4.5 to a 9.5. I think my body really just needed a break. Once I woke up from taking the medicine, I felt like a whole new person, like I had finally had some fight in me.

After dilating to a 9.5 and being stuck there for an hour or so, they offered to break my water to help speed the process along. By this point, I was just ready to get Ellis out so I agreed to it. I still couldn’t get past being dilated to a 9.5, and I was beginning to feel like I needed to push. Dr. Eia had to push back the anterior lip of my cervix (which was very uncomfortable).

At around 1:00AM I felt the relentless urge to push. I felt too weak to change positions even though I had planned to try pushing on all fours. My husband climbed in the bed and sat behind me and helped hold my legs while I leaned back on him. After my first push they called the labor and delivery nurse, and I hoped that meant Ellis would come quickly. I remember the dreaded contractions, and looking at Dr. Eia’s face. She would gently say, “Okay, it’s time” as she looked up from my contractions on the screen. I let out some pretty harsh yells while I was pushing, but it felt like a relief and like it was helping me push with all of my might. (My mom told me that she and Zane’s Aunt were standing near our door at some point while I was pushing, and I yelled so loud that she began to cry because she knew the pain I was feeling and wanted so badly to make it all better).

I feel like I had the world’s greatest pep team, with Whitney, Zane, my nurse, and Dr. Eia cheering me on. At one point someone asked me if I wanted to feel the top of Ellis’s head, and for some reason in that moment I could think of nothing more than pushing him out. Zane said he could see the top of Ellis’s head and that it looked like a little peanut (he thought we were going to have a baby with a tiny head, but he was obviously just seeing a very small portion of it haha). After pushing for an hour and fifteen minutes, I was starting to worry he was never coming out. I felt like I had been pushing for hours, but Whitney and Zane kept encouraging me and reassuring me that Ellis was almost here. And sure enough, after a few more big pushes, Ellis was born. My husband claims Ellis “shot out like a rocket”, because he came out so quickly that the doctor was barely able to catch him. He was immediately laid on my chest while they delayed the cord clamping. It was the most amazing and miraculous thing I had ever witnessed in my entire life. This little being that was growing inside me for what seemed like eternity was finally here, resting on my chest. Within just a few minutes, Ellis initiated the breast crawl and began trying to nurse. I just couldn’t believe my eyes…what an extraordinary gift God had given us! We had over an hour of sweet snuggles with Ellis before our family came in to see us. The whole crew had waited from 7:00PM until after 3:30AM to meet him. Ellis weighed in at 8 lbs. 11 oz., and was 20.5 inches long.

We had really sweet staff during our stay. Because I had a couple of fainting episodes before delivering, my doctor did not want me to go to the bathroom or shower without assistance from someone. I was super dizzy anytime I got up, and found out I was extremely anemic after delivery. My milk came in not even a full day after delivery, and it was like the flood gates opened (haha). Ellis was super fussy after his circumcision and we had a very long, rough day trying to get him to nurse. He lost over 10 percent of his birth weight, but it was very evident he was getting food because he was peeing and pooing like a mad man. I do feel like they worried us more than necessary about his weight loss, and no one ever mentioned to us that my I.V. fluids could cause him to weigh more at birth than he really did. As soon as I mentioned his weight loss to Whitney when we were home, she referred me to a source that reassured me right away. I wish I talked with her about it sooner!!

I couldn’t have made it through my 18 plus hour labor without the support of Zane and Whitney. (I hope I didn’t make it sound horrific… I mean labor is tough, not something I want to go through every day haha, but I made it and you can too!!) It still amazes me how in tune Whitney was to what I needed… it was honestly like having my sister by my side while I labored. Whitney helped coach me through my breathing, and helped me stay in a meditative state throughout my labor at the hospital. She also helped remind me of my goals and birth plan, and was an advocate for me when I had no energy to speak up for myself. My husband was the greatest cheerleader ever… I know his back and shoulders had to be killing him from supporting my weight while I pushed, but I really couldn’t have done it without him. When our friends and family came to visit, he sung my praises and told the entire story like he couldn’t have been more proud of me (which was definitely nice to get a pat on the back after pushing out a little human haha).

This whole parenting thing is such a precious gift. Yes there were many MANY nights we were sleep deprived. Yes, there were days I cried not knowing what to do. Yes, there will be more of those days ahead I am sure, but one thing I know is that having Ellis is one of the greatest blessings I will ever know, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be called his Mommy.

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The Birth of Nelson Caleb

This is the story of how one couple so beautifully rose above challenging circumstances surrounding the health of mother baby when she was diagnosed with Cholestasis of pregnancy at 38 weeks pregnant. Grieving the home birth they had dreamed of for months, they truly switched gears and made the best of their new plan…

The Birth of Nelson Caleb
By Whitney Nall

I am a detail person by nature so I will start by sharing some of the background details to set the scene for the birth of our firstborn. My husband and I got married in September 2008 and lived in Nashville, TN. It was at that time that we were introduced to Dr. Josh Axe at Exodus Health Center and I started going there for chiropractic care. In addition to hearing about switching from peanut butter to almond butter and getting rid of our microwave, we also heard about stopping to take birth control pills and having home births. This was eye opening for us as a couple but no better time to start a new foundation than as newlyweds. We have been told over and over that we both have teachable spirits so it was to no surprise that we started incorporating these new choices into our life. I even switched from going to an OBGYN for my “well woman visits” to midwives. It was a conversation with the midwife, Lauren Drees, that I remember her looking at me and in the most sincere way saying, “When that time comes, you will have a peace about giving birth because God made your body and He made your baby’s body and you were made for this!” Those life-giving words stuck with me. Over those first few years of marriage, we learned more about the natural birth process and knew in our hearts when the time came for us to have children, this was our heart’s desire.

In May 2011, we moved to Birmingham, AL for Brandon’s job. We found out that December that I was pregnant. We knew from the get-go that we wanted to have a home birth. It did not take long for us to find out that midwives are banned in Alabama and it is not an option for us to have a home birth in Alabama because if there were to be a medical need to transfer to a hospital, there would be no hospital that allowed this. So after praying through our options, we were connected with an amazing midwife, Karen Brock, who I drove an hour (each way) for each prenatal visit. She was located near that Alabama/Tennessee border and she was worth the drive for me to go see each month…then the further along I got, every other week, then weekly. She was a true Godsend and walked us through each step of the journey. We also decided at that time that we would have the home birth in Chattanooga at my parent’s house, the childhood home I grew up in. So we connected with a midwife in Chattanooga and met with her throughout the pregnancy when in Chattanooga so that she could track with us and get to know us through the process as well. The game plan was going to be for me to “move” to Chattanooga at week 38 and nestle down at Mom and Dad’s and wait for the baby to come and Brandon would just commute back and forth from Birmingham to Chattanooga.

The pregnancy journey was a blessing. Uneventful prenatal visits. Heard the heartbeat. Measured right on. No issues (which now I know is more of a blessing than I could have ever imagined) … At week 20 we found out that we were having a boy … Nelson Caleb. I loved feeling the kicks and enjoyed the whole process. Around week 37, Nelson flipped and was no longer head down. I was working at a chiropractic office in Birmingham at the time and when the chiropractor was out of town, it was someone filling in for her whose expertise was the “Webster’s Technique” that helped turn Nelson from the breech position back to head down. Totally God’s timing for him to flip back to head down before I was to move to Chattanooga.

At week 38, I got settled in at my “birthing spot” in Chattanooga and I remember that first night enjoying a celebratory dinner with family friends and being so thankful to finally be there. The first night I was there (Brandon was in Alabama) I woke up in the night itching. The itching was mainly on the palms of my hands and soles of my feet and it was uncomfortable enough that it woke me up and I started googling my symptoms. I remember reading something that said to call the midwife (or doctor) immediately and that the longer this goes on especially past 37 weeks in the pregnancy, the higher the risk of stillbirth. As a mama, that is nothing to mess around with. So much I could say here but will try to keep it to the cliffnote version of the story. Went in that next morning and had my Blood Liver Enzymes tested. Your AST and ALT are normally in the teens and mine were over 200. They encouraged me to test these a few days later in order to keep an eye on them and sure enough they had risen to over 400. They were keeping an eye on me my having me come in every couple of days (the itching was intensifying as the days went on … no rash or anything … just insane itching that wreaked havoc in the evening around 11pm and was out the roof awful until around 7am). My due date was Monday, August 6th. For these two weeks during the itching, they were allowing me to go ahead and do different homeopathic remedies for naturally inducing labor and I was walking all over Lookout Mountain saying out loud “open cervix” and visualizing my cervix opening. I will never forget the family and I were dressed in our bathing suits and getting ready to walk out of the door and go to stay cool in a neighbor’s pool on Sunday, August 5th around 1pmwhen the phone rang and it was midwife. She said they had just gotten the latest lab results in and she spoke with the collaborating doctor and they would like me to come in immediately – they will plan on meeting us at the hospital at 3pm that Sunday afternoon. Whew, that was the curve ball of the century. For the past 9 months we had prayed, prepared, and planned to have a home birth and now in less than a 2 hour time period, we were switching gears from giving birth in my childhood room to going to the hospital. I remember calling our doula friend, Frieda, who was praying with us over the phone and walking us through some things to expect and then our dear friend who was serving as our doula in this birth was already in Chattanooga for the weekend (visiting from Nashville) and was with us in the car driving to the hospital. I was being prepared for being “on guard” and knowing “my rights” and when anyone in the hospital tells us what to do, we have the right to say, “we would like to talk this over first” and things like that. We began praying for the Lord to give us nurses that were understanding and patient.

When we got there, our midwife met us there and we met with the collaborating doctor (whom we had already met at a previous visit earlier in the pregnancy) and they were both explaining that we are not going to be required to have caesarean and that I still get to have a vaginal birth. That day when I was checked I was 0% effaced, 0 centimeters and my cervix was “thick, hard and closed” (as any mama knows, it needs to be “thinned, soft, and open”)…I even remember them saying, “Let me go get Kelly, the nurse with the long fingers, to try and help us find your cervix”…that’s not what I wanted to hear. So, the only reason I can remember this next part is because I have the notes still in the notes section of my phone:

Started cytotec at 8:55pm on August 5th (leave it in for 7 hours), 25 macro grams

Started cervadil at 5:30am on August 6th (leave it in for 12 hours), 10 milligrams

Started cervadil at 3:00am on August 7th – 10 milligrams – Cervix is up to my left – not hard to find (I was SO encouraged to hear this!)

Got checked at 3pm and found I was 2 cm, soft, thinned, and centered (Hallelujah!)

Started pitocin at 3:50pm on August 7th (we went from a dose of 4, 8, 10 and normal dose is 40) … so very small doses

At 7pm, met Kristy (amazing nurse whose background was in homebirth deliveries)

At 8:50pm, the mucus plug came out, bloody show, then water broke 

At 9:30pm, Kristy came in and checked me…I was 7 cm…crawled up on bed on all fours and got in a rhythm of breathing and moving…major focus (“HeHeHoo”, breathing the ocean in…breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth)

At 10:54pm, Nelson was born! 

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As you can imagine, this was an intense 48 hours. We started the first round of anything that Sunday night at 8:55pm and the waves (contractions) came on very strong and were back to back. I had my birth ball (exercise ball), rice sock (having that warm heat on my abdomen and lower back was a game changer for me), tennis ball that could be applied for pressure, plus Brandon (husband) and Mary (doula) there with me every step of the way. After the 5:30am round of cervadil on Monday morning, my contractions were coming so close together that by hospital rules, they were not allowed to give me anything else until my contractions started spacing out. That was a wild day. Being in the hospital (hearing other ladies literally screaming down the hall as they were having babies) and just waiting for my contractions to space back out so that we could even do the next right thing. There was a lot of praying, a lot of singing, reading Scriptures, and our pastor even came to visit us that day and I remember we all had a good cry as he put it, we were “grieving the loss of a dream”…I remember him even saying that each time I experienced the off the chart itching in the palm of my hands, remember what Jesus endured at the cross in His hands. I was so encouraged by my Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young and kept preaching the truth to myself, not listening to myself. I couldn’t let myself think about “if I were at home” or “how different this would be if we were having a home birth” because at this point, we were not. Our entire pregnancy we had said that we are going to move forward in this direction and if there is any reason not to, we asked the Lord to show us a red flag and this was our red flag. The health of this mama and this precious baby was our big fat red flag that were unable to miss. So now we were full on focused at having the absolute best natural birth experience in the hospital. Obviously we had to get my cervix ripened by certain measures that we would not have chosen – but we also declined a lot that was offered to us during that time – interventions that included being checked more than needed, internal monitoring of the contractions, breaking my water before I was majorly dilated. One of the things that I had to do was be hooked up to monitors. Though this was not ideal, I didn’t make a big deal of it and I asked if there was a portable monitor. I got to have the only one the hospital had. I got to walk up and down the halls and move around. From the first nurse we had to the last, we shared our story and then asked if they would give the next nurse the heads up before they came in so that we didn’t have to exhaust ourselves and go into full detail all over again. I was also not on my phone. Even when I got to Chattanooga, I sent out an email and texts to some of my inner circle about what the status was so they could be standing with us in prayer, but I kept my phone off in order to not be distracted by anyone checking in on all the “how are you”, “any news?” and so forth so that I could keep my mind hyper focused.

I was honored when my dear doula friend asked me to share this story with you because this has become one of my favorite stories about grace. God’s grace. The intimate journey the Lord took me on in these life-changing days of physically becoming a mommy for the first time, have been lessons that have stuck with me every day since. Seeing the way He answered our prayers and took a potentially very hard to understand situation and turned it for His glory is only something He can do. We have had countless opportunities to share with couples our story and they go on and have beautiful births of their own and are now sharing their story with others and the ripple effect is bigger than we will ever know.

As you can read in the details I shared above, on that Tuesday, August 7th before I started the pitocin. I sat on the birthing ball and had a good cry with Brandon. That is the point I remember being physically exhausted (hadn’t slept for the previous two weeks in the night due to the itching), then being in the hospital and having the intense contractions and not dilating much at all, was feeling discouraged and I kept remembering how everyone had told me, “rest up before birth because you’re going to need every ounce of energy when it comes time for labor and delivery”…well that just wasn’t possible with my situation. I was doing the best I could to rest in between all the action but it wasn’t “rest” like I had once envisioned. Which reminds me, Brandon and Mary did a great job of manning the door and even greeting the nurse there before they came in to check me or take my blood pressure, etc and if I was resting, they would even ask if they could come back in a few and that was such a blessing. I remember some moments even walking around the room rubbing my belly and telling Nelson “It’s going to be OK, buddy. You are in good hands. You are going to be here so soon. It’s all going to be ok” and then singing “Jesus Loves Me” to him. You can even see from the picture that Brandon was recording some of the victories on the board and writing down some of our go-to Scriptures like Exodus 14:14 so that we could keep the truth over our minds.

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So that afternoon, when the nurse (Carly) was saying good bye before her shift change, I remember her looking me in the eyes and saying, “I can’t wait to meet your baby boy when I’m back here in the morning!” WOW. I still have chills all over me when I think of that moment. That life-giving angel of a nurse had been praying with me and cheering me on from the first time I met her. That really kicked my mind into another gear. Then she proceeded to tell me that I am about to get the best nurse (Kristy) and she is going to be a team player and love that we love the “home birth atmosphere” and so on. So when Kristy came in the room, she smelled of essential oils (and this was 4 years ago before they were all the hype that they are now) and looked like someone you would find working at Whole Foods or something. You could tell she was the “natural type” and when she came in and just saw me in my bra on the birth ball she said, “OH, I love this! When a mama has her clothes off – you know she is getting serious!” HAHA! She told us some of her story and background and was the most life giving person saying she is going to be able to help me birth this baby without pain and get into a mental state where I am so focused I am not even going to be able to feel anything and on and on. Yes please, sign me up. It felt like I had just been given a new fresh start or something. This was around 7pm on Tuesday, August 7th…then she needed to go check in down the hall on another mama and then she said she’ll be back. It was while she was gone around 8:50pm after my mucus plug came out that my water broke on its own!! That was a real victory. I was on the birth ball when it happened and my body kicked it into gear. I had not been on anything since the pitocin that afternoon which was only for a short time on super low doses but it was obvious my body was doing its thing. When Kristy game in at 9:30pm and said she needed to check me and I was at 7 cm, I wanted to shout for joy. She and I were in such a zone with the focused breathing that I literally didn’t say a word for three hours (and for anyone that knows me, you know this is uncharacteristic of me and worth being noted)…

When I was nearing 10cm, I remember Kristy calling the doctor in and he literally showed up in his polo shirt and pulled up a rocking chair and took a seat…like he was watching the “Whitney and Kristy Show” or something. He could tell we had a good rhythm going and didn’t want to intervene or get in the way. I will NEVER forget when they helped me roll over to my back and the A team was in there (Kristy, Amy, Dr. Seeber) and everything was happening really quick and they rolled over the little table that they put the baby on when he comes out and I thought, “Oh wow, this is really happening” and Brandon and Mary were there and we were doing this! Someone rolled the mirror over so that I would be able to see the baby as he came out and they they offered me my glasses (I usually wear contacts but I guess I didn’t have those in or something and they said, “You are going to want your glasses….you’re not going to want to miss this”). Then when it was go time, they said, “On this next push, you are going to crouch down like you are going poop in the woods and push this baby out” then one of them said, “Wow, look at all of Nelson’s hair” because he was right there and starting to crown. Then I said, “When am I going to know when to push?” and they all said in unison, “Oh, YOU’ll KNOW!” and sure enough on that next contraction I said, “It’s time!” and they were all supporting me as I crouched down (the extension part of the table was dropped down) and I crouched down like they said and OUT CAME NELSON! Insert all the tears here. I can’t even write this without crying all over again. Praise GOD!!! Nelson Caleb Nall in all his glory….happy birthday!!! So on Tuesday, August 7th at 10:54pm, weighing in at 7lbs, 7oz Nelson Caleb Nall entered this world and made me a mommy and Brandon a daddy and our lives have not and will never be the same again. To God be all the glory!!

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The curve ball journey did not stop there. We found out that next morning when the pediatrician came in to give us his report that, “All looks well. You all will be able to go home today like you so desire. The only thing, as you know, is Nelson has club feet…” Hmm, no, I had no clue. That was a moment when my mama’s heart sunk. I didn’t know really what all that meant but he reassured me that this is fixable and all will be well. Whew. That could be another blog post in and of itself but long story short is that was just the next journey God took us on.

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We got to leave the hospital at 24 hours and go home to rest and recover at “home” (Mom & Dad’s house) and then a few days later went back to Birmingham to get nestled in to our “home” there. When Nelson was 5 days old, we took him to the doctor to be informed about the club feet. At 3 weeks, we started the casting process and then did that each week for 3 months. Then at 3 months old, they gave him a pair of shoes with a bar (that we call a “snowboard”) and he wore that 23 out of 24 hours everyday until he was 6 months old. That did not stop him from rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or anything. Then at age 6 months, he was only to wear the snowboard at night until age 4 years old. Yesterday, August 7, 2016, we celebrated Nelson’s 4 year old birthday and the completion of the snowboard wearing.

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His feet are in fantastic condition and he has been a champion on this “one step at a time” process the Lord has us walking on each day with Him. If you have made it this far in the reading, I pray with all of my heart that this story encourages you where you are today. I have learned that no two stories, babies, parents are the same but at certain points in our journey there are bits and pieces we can learn from each other and we can certainly support each other along the way. I am an open book and would love to talk further with you or meet you for a juice or something if you ever wanted to talk in person. Life is too short to not be real and cheer each other on. May God bless you and your family each step of the way. Thank you for reading!

***If you’d like to contact Whitney, please send an email to us at info@nashvilledoulaservices.com and we’d be happy to connect you!***