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The Birth of Jack Ford

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

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

The Birth of Jack Ford
By Amy Kortman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Birth of Adelaide Grace

Introducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and Basil

She’s here! Our little Adelaide Grace Pauley arrived on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 11:19 pm, measuring 21″ long, and weighing 8 lbs 4 ounces. Our hearts are so full and beyond grateful that she is healthy and thriving, not to mention perfectly beautiful {even if we are a bit biased ☺️}. It’s been an amazing blessing to watch Brighton fully embrace her, loving her, and continuously wanting to hold her while offering endless hugs and kisses. We are all quite smitten with our little Addie Grace.💗

It’s only been a few weeks, but we are settling in and while two is certainly more challenging than one, I am loving every second of it! I feel so incredibly blessed and honored that the Lord has entrusted me to be Mama to these two precious little ones.

Introducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and Basil

It’s fascinating to me how each and every birth story is different from the next. With Brighton we went through a birthing class, drafted our birth plan, and did what we felt we could to best plan for the birth of our son, but there is little you can do to really prepare for giving birth. And with Adelaide, while we had done this once before, we had no idea if her birth would be similar to her brother’s or completely different.

With Brighton my labor started in the early morning hours of his due date. It ended up being a very long, fairly slow progressing labor and after 32 hours he was born the day after his due date at 10:24am. I never went to my 40 week checkup and never had my dilation or effacement checked prior to labor. All things that did happen this time as my due date came and went with no signs of our little girl. I had it in my head that baby number two would arrive early. But she didn’t, and while I didn’t feel any more pregnant at 40 weeks and a day or 2 days than I did at 40 weeks, it was a bit of a mental battle to stay positive as the days came and went.

Now that she’s here, it seems so silly that those extra 4 days felt like such an eternity, but I was just so ready to meet the little person inside of me, to see her with her daddy and big brother, to cuddle her on my chest, and to be able to hold our two-year old again without the challenge of a huge belly in the way. But looking back at the timing of her arrival, and the extra days we had together as a family of three, it’s abundantly clear that the Lord knew what we needed regardless of what I thought I wanted.

Introducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and Basil

On Friday before she was born I finally decided to blow up our exercise ball and sit on it whenever I could to see if I could get this labor going. Both Friday night and Saturday morning, after continuously doing pelvic figure 8’s on the ball, along with walking lunges, squats and pliés, I found myself feeling really crampy. However, it wasn’t until about 2pm on Saturday that I finally keyed in and realized that these cramps were getting more severe and were coming and going – aka contractions! I had been busy making lunch, getting Brighton ready for his nap, etc that I really didn’t realize labor had begun. I took a hot shower and focused a little more on what my body was doing and acknowledged that I was pretty sure this was IT.

With Brighton’s labor progressing so slowly, the rapidness of this one completely caught me off guard, and if I’m honest, I was in a bit of denial about how quickly it was happening. Thankfully Josh was already home with me, so we called our doula, got her thoughts, and then spent the next 30-45 minutes timing things and trying to decide if we needed to call my dad to have him come stay with Brighton. We had already called Josh’s mom, who is in Virginia, to let her know labor had begun and she could start her journey to Tennessee as soon as she was ready. The plan was for Josh’s mom to come stay with Brighton while we were in the hospital, but my dad would be the one to keep him if we needed to head to the hospital sooner, which we did.

Before I knew it I was folding the last of the laundry I’d been working on, putting food out for Brighton’s dinner, making a list of his bedtime and morning routine with food, milk, etc, all while pausing to cope with contractions that seemed to be rapidly progressing both in time and intensity. Josh threw our bags in the car and packed the last-minute things like phone chargers, laptop, etc. and by about 6pm we were headed to Vanderbilt Midwives with our doula, Whitney, in route to meet us there.

Introducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and BasilIntroducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and Basil

Sometime around 7-7:30pm, we were checked in with the midwives, and learned I was about 6cm dilated and 90% effaced. Having tested positive for Group Strep B, they got my IV in place in my right arm {after having blown a vein in my left hand which was extremely painful} to get the antibiotic going. Once they had monitored Adelaide’s heart rate for 20 minutes and the antibiotic was complete, an hour-long process, I spent the next hour or so coping with contractions and laboring in the tub. If I’m honest, at this point my legs were trembling and my body was started to feel extremely fatigued as the contractions just kept getting closer and stronger, with what felt like no time to rest in between.

With Brighton I was mentally and physically exhausted from so many hours of a slow-progressing labor that when the time came to finally push, I wasn’t sure where to find the energy. With Adelaide, I was surprised how physically exhausted I felt being that the labor was so much shorter, but with it being shorter it was also much more intense.

When it came time to push Brighton out, I was in tears and honestly didn’t know where to find the stamina mentally and physically. They asked if I wanted a little Nitrous Oxide {laughing gas} to get over the mental hurdle. It was the one thing I was pretty open to being that it’s self-administered and doesn’t cross the placenta, nor numb the pain or my legs. It was exactly what I needed to just let my mind have a small break so I wasn’t so overwhelmed at the task ahead.

With Adelaide, by about 10:45pm and with my body feeling the urge to push with each contraction, I once again felt overwhelmed knowing the hardest part was still ahead and feeling so physically depleted. Remembering the mental relief the Nitrous brought with Brighton, I asked if they could have it set up. Again, things were moving so fast, that by 11pm I was pushing with everything I had in me and by 11:19pm, and one final push, our little girl was instantly here, and in my arms, pressed against my chest. The immense joy, the overwhelming relief, and the feeling of her slimy little body against my own was simply glorious. That feeling, that high, it’s unlike anything else. I’ve only experienced it twice, first with Brighton and now with Adelaide. A love unlike anything else, truly a gift from above.

We spent the next hour bonding skin to skin, Josh was able to hold her a few minutes, but she came out hungry and instantly wanted to nurse. We laid there while the nurses took care of everything, smiling ear to ear with our sweet baby girl, laughing about how quickly it all happened, and already looking forward to the next morning when Brighton would meet his baby sister for the first time.

Introducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and BasilIntroducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and Basil

We didn’t get to our room that night until about 1:30am, and it was a small overflow room, but we didn’t care – she was here and she was perfectly healthy, there was nothing else we needed. Just like with Brighton’s birth, our doula, midwife and the entire team at Vanderbilt were truly amazing, I couldn’t wish for anything better. And Josh was exactly what I needed him to be – 100% present, full of compassion and love and my ever-present source of encouragement. My physical recovery has been absolutely amazing, even quicker than it was Brighton, and I am beyond grateful.

Josh’s mom arrived the next day, along with my dad, my sister’s family and a few friends to celebrate and meet our little Addie – all of which meant so much to us! But Brighton was the very first to meet her, and he was every bit as sweet and loving with her as we had imagined he’d be. {You can see some pictures from that first day on my personal Instagram}. I can’t say there hasn’t been some adjustment on his part, having a little sister now, but overall he has gone with the flow so well and he absolutely adores her. We have so very much to be thankful for.

If you’re still reading…thank you from the bottom of my heart! This is way longer than I had intended, but it’s our story, and hopefully one day Adelaide can read it and feel all the love that surrounded her on that very special day.

Introducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and BasilIntroducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and BasilIntroducing Adelaide Grace + Birth Story | Lemons and Basil

The Birth of Agnes Rose

“Our VBAC was about to be successful. Our baby was about to make her entrance. Once the head was out, the nurses told me what Justin’s face had already communicated: it was over. Seconds later, they put her in my arms, and my crying husband and my crying self and my crying baby were embracing”

After Tilly’s first birth (Read the story here), she was determined to have a natural VBAC. Read about her preparations and experience as she welcomed her second daughter.

The Birth of Agnes
By Tilly Dillehay

Even in the haze of love-drunkenness that I experienced for Norah’s entire infancy, I was afraid to think or talk much about the labor process. I knew that there were too many voices in my mind, too many conflicting opinions about what had happened and what should have happened.

I only knew that I was terrified of getting pregnant again. I didn’t talk much about that, but I was rigorously careful with my husband during that first year.

My husband, when we did talk about it, spoke reason to me. I kept calling the c-section a worst possible outcome— “but that, Tilly,” he said, “that was very far from a worst outcome. You are fine; she is fine. Do you see that?” I saw that. I prayed for help with my mind and heart, not to be afraid. I was blessed to read some helpful Christian authors online, who talked specifically about c-sections and natural births with a measured hand.

Then I got pregnant again, rather unexpectedly. It was sooner than we’d thought—we’d tried for almost a year to get pregnant with our Norah, but our Agnes was ready for us before we had time to ask for her. One morning, about a month after Norah turned one, I carried a pregnancy test into the room where my husband was doing his devotions and asked, “Does this look positive to you?”

It did look positive to him.

So we were off to the races again.

This pregnancy felt harder to me; I think it was because of chasing down a little girl. I’d never felt desperate for rest during pregnancy #1, but this time around, I had a panicky feeling on several occasions that there was simply no way to survive this thing while also making regular trips to the local park.

I felt heavier, sooner. More stretched, more fatigued. More Braxton Hicks—way more. My diet was better this time around. A determination was building in me, and had been ever since I brought Norah home. This time, if we do this again, I must know that I have done everything in my power to successfully push out this baby.

There will be rest, good food, and good exercise. There will be training. There will be a doula (this was a later decision and one of the best I ever stumbled upon). There will be no misery or despair if the Lord sends things another way—but if I have given everything the old college try, I’ll be able to rest in that and manage my disappointment better.

I briefly, at the beginning of the pregnancy, tried to convince my husband to try a home birth. He understandably balked; I was a VBAC case, living an hour from a major hospital, who had been told by the surgeon that I possessed an unusually small pelvic inlet and that repeat c-section was fairly likely.

So when I knew that I’d be back in the same hospital as last time, I focused my efforts on preparation, and hiring a doula.

I hired Vicki Woods, and you guys, I would recommend her to anyone. I’m convinced that in human (rather than spiritual) terms, she was the main reason I ended up with such a good outcome. I knew, this time around, that the nurse midwives at Vanderbilt are great, but not able to be in-the-room support during most of labor.

Vicki ended up being exactly the person I needed. I don’t think she missed a single contraction.

We also made the decision, the second time around, not to tell every person on both sides of the family and expect them to wait in a hospital for over a day while I labored. This time, we made it clear to everyone that there was no need to come over until the business was over; in the end, this helped to give the labor an intimate and relaxed quality that just wouldn’t have been possible if I was trying to multitask, greeting people between breathing exercises.

Another random thing that I’ll mention, that you can take with plenty of grains of salt: I started eating 3-4 large medjoul dates a day in the last six weeks before due date, because of this article. And I started drinking several cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day in the last two months of pregnancy, because of these articles (here and here) and advice from the Vanderbilt team. The tea is supposed to tone the uterus and prepare it for effective contractions, and the dates were shown to reduce labor time by about half in one (admittedly very small) study.

I really hate giving random advice like that online because it’s just so hokey sounding, but hey, I did it, and hey, I had a great labor, so what can you say?

It was certainly a harder pregnancy the second time around. I had lots of aches and lots of Braxton Hicks. When more serious contractions started, a few days before real labor, it was very difficult to gauge how serious they were because I was so used to discomfort.

But one Saturday morning, I started having real, honest-to-goodness contractions. I went ahead to a Pampered Chef party that I’d been planning to go to; you have to pass the time somehow before you know if things are serious. The contractions never got closer together; all day I puttered around. That night my husband and I went out to dinner with friends; we sent Norah to spend the night at her grandparents’ just in case.

False alarm.

At church the next day, I had my contraction timer out during the sermon and clocked some as close as six minutes apart. But these went away completely in the middle part of the day.

At home that afternoon, watching a little show with my daughter, the contractions returned, and I started timing them again—they began to steady out at ten minutes apart. Nine minutes. Eight minutes. Soon I tracked a few that were seven minutes apart, and stronger. I decided to tell Justin. I took a bath to see if they’d subside.

They only got stronger. We packed Norah up, in her jammies and ready for bed, and sent her to grandmother’s house at about seven. Before she left, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t taken any pictures with her while pregnant—so we rushed into the living room and took a few. I hugged her and fought tears; she cheerfully put on her coat and little backpack.

We’d arranged to do some laboring at my sister’s house because she’s only a few minutes from the hospital. This is what we were trying to do last time when my water broke. This time, with bedtime coming on, she and her husband arranged to go to a friend’s house so that we could spend the night if things slowed again.

We arrived at about nine and put on The Office for old time’s sake. Contractions were getting longer and stronger but not terribly close together. I toasted a bagel and ate it between contractions. We called Vicki the doula and asked her to come on over. I took a bath.

When I got out, Vicki had arrived and my husband went to take a nap in preparation for a long night. (He didn’t sleep, and later confessed that what kept him awake was not the thought of me in labor, but thoughts about the sermon series he was preparing for.) Vicki started doing breathing exercises with me, and warmed up this wonderful heat pad thing that she had that ties around the belly.

I began to get a little fearful when the intensity picked up here. Some nausea was already hitting, and it seemed awfully early for that.

I guess it was midnight or so when I started to talk about going to the hospital. Vicki talked me through that decision—she knew I was determined to wait as long as possible. But despite the contractions not being quite four minutes apart, I was feeling the strength of them—I knew that things were getting serious. I was beginning to be worried about how to manage contractions in a vehicle, during transition from home to hospital.

After a little discussion, Vicki agreed that it was time to move, and we got Justin up. I brought the heating pad, and a container for if I got sick in the car. I remember one contraction in the yard, holding onto the roof of the car before getting inside. I remember telling Justin, as we drove through deserted city streets for exactly nine minutes to the ER entrance, that these had gotten as hard as when I was at a five in the last labor—right before begging for the epidural.

But this time, I was so far from begging for an epidural. I’d gotten it in my head—almost two years earlier—that if I could just get to the pushing stage without an epidural, I’d be home free. If I could just feel what I was doing while I pushed, surely the effort would be more effective. Surely I could walk away from that experience, even if it ended in another c-section, knowing that I’d done everything I could.

And I was just so much more prepared and determined. I had a slideshow of family photos set up in the room, and glanced over at it during the later stages. It was just a little surge of incentive, to see my sweet older daughter smiling and to remember that there was a sweet younger daughter coming. I’d also picked some bible verses and printed them, and Justin put them in front of me at crucial times between contractions.

I had a rhythm going—something I never knew about last time. I read about this in a very helpful book recommended by Vicki—The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin. It was a strange technique that developed as the labor went on: I was using the word “ooookay,” spoken very low and gutterally, to ride out each contraction. And it just worked for me. A few times, I spoke to myself about what was happening—“Mooove down, baby, move on down,” I said once or twice. (I know this is weird stuff but for some reason, it made sense at the time.)

I prayed. I’d never prayed much during the last labor, but this time I simply prayed at moments when I felt like I was losing control. I asked simple things: Lord, please make this next contraction just a little easier than the last one. After that, they can be harder again, but I need one easier one. And I would be given just that grace or rest that I asked for.

Vicki was so helpful too because there was something about her soothing, and cheerleading, that made me feel like every wave of pain was witnessed and somehow more effectual. She also had me change positions when I seemed discouraged—because there’s nothing like a change of scenery to brighten one’s mood.

Once, leaned up at the foot of the hospital bed, on a birthing ball, I looked up at my husband and said, “I feel terrible.” I was doing an impression of Han Solo when he’s been tortured by Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back. Justin had a look of shock on his face—She’s making jokes? Now?  (But apparently this is a thing with me—during Norah’s labor, at one point I looked at him and said, “You did this to me! You!” And then I laughed drunkenly and said, “I’ve always wanted to say that.” Just like in the movies.)

At every point that I was discouraged, I would bargain with myself about timing.

“I’ll ask them to check me,” I would think. “If I’m not at an eight, I’ll get an epidural.” Or I would say, “Just make it to four-thirty. If you make it to four-thirty, you’re almost there, because you’ll be able to push by five.” Every time I asked to be checked, and hoped for a certain number, I was dilated to that number. I don’t think this is a luxury I could expect again, but this time, it was the particular gift I was given. When I got to the hospital at 1 a.m., I was already at a six—farther than I’d made it without medication last time. Two hours later, at an eight. Thirty minutes later, a nine.

I’d felt the need to vomit on and off throughout. Several times, I asked for a bag, thinking that this was imminent. At 4 a.m., it finally happened. I vomited quite a bit, and this was actually the force that made my water break—really fantastic timing. (I’d also prayed several months in advance for my water to stay intact longer this time around… and it sure did.) After the vomit finally came, I looked up at my husband, the doula, and the nurse, and said, “Oh man, I feel great now.”

The ladies around me just couldn’t have been more supportive. “You’re a rock star,” the nurse-midwife kept saying. “It’s like she’s done this a million times before,” one of the nurses kept saying conspicuously to the others, within my hearing. These comments were super helpful; like toddlers, ladies in labor don’t need subtlety. They just need to be told they’re rock stars now and then.

Soon afterwards, with a little bit of wishful thinking, I told them all that I was “feeling pushy.” This is a strange line they’d given me when I asked them when we were supposed to know when I was going to push.

So I decided that I felt “pushy,” sure that this would be a process of relief, an oasis in the desert of work and pain. They told me to go and pee, and while I was in the bathroom I remember saying to the nurse, “What are we going to do? What are we going to do now?” Like it was some kind of group effort and we needed to map out our next move and get it on the calendar.

“We’ll help you,” she said. “You’ll know what to do.”

They checked me, said I was almost a ten, close enough that pushing would be permissible.

I leaned against the back of the bed, knees on the bed, and began to push with the next contraction. I think I got about two of those in before the thing I thought had already happened actually began to happen.

The urge to push hit.

I’ve been told by various sources that the Urge to Push is a force that will not be resisted. It is powerful, urgent, and designed to tell women for thousands of years what to do, even if they haven’t read What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Man oh man, my sources were NOT KIDDING.

Throughout the labor, I was pretty well under control. My husband told me later that it was hard to gauge what kind of pain I was in because I was so methodical in my vocalizations, so still and quiet. Just that same “Oooookay. OoooooooKAY.”

But when the Urge hit, I began to scream like a wild woman; I was completely outside of the realm of control. It was like a freight train. Apparently, the needle in my arm became jostled out of my arm at this point, and there was a moment when one nurse held this arm still in order to give the other nurse the opportunity to get it back in. I was unaware of any of this happening.

Between contractions, they got me moved around to a seated position on the bed, and here’s where I discovered that those beds are actually perfect for giving birth to a baby; the front part in front of where you sit actually sinks down and out of the way, so you end up setting on a sort of edge, even though you’re in the middle of the bed.

I was coached well at this point. I’ll make an aesthetic decision not to get more graphic here; all I can say is that they helped me to direct all that screaming energy in the right way, and the Ring of Fire, like the Urge to Push, is as real as a hammer. When I compare the two experiences of pushing, I can’t even put them in the same universe.

Pushing without sensation was like bringing a pointer finger to a cow tipping and trying to just sort of poke him onto his side. Pushing with the full aid of the Urge, with all my muscles on deck, was like tipping a cow with a bulldozer. It felt inevitable. She was out in twenty minutes.

I remember two things my husband did during this time. Once, he suddenly ran to a corner of the room, after seeing something that, I believe, shocked him. But soon after this, he was back next to the nurse, and it was the expressions on his face, as he watched his baby appear, that helped me comprehend what was happening. Our VBAC was about to be successful. Our baby was about to make her entrance. Once the head was out, the nurses told me what Justin’s face had already communicated: it was over. Seconds later, they put her in my arms, and my crying husband and my crying self and my crying baby were embracing. 

Another nice thing about not being in an operating room was Vicki being able to capture us as a family seconds after the birth.

Extra notes: I wanted to just get back on here and clarify a few things about these birth stories. 1) It’s important to me that these not be postured as a “terrible hospital story” followed by “success story.” My point in writing these is not anything like “Do this, and you too can have a successful birth… because what matters most is that you get what you want in your delivery!” The fact of the matter is, every birth is different, and these things are simply not under the control of us humans. Trusting God in labor is just as vital as trusting him in every other challenge that we encounter. 2) Remember, the fact of the matter is, first labors are always longer. And longer = harder. That’s just the way it is. I recognize that the biggest difference between one and two was that I didn’t have to do it as long.

That’s all.

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 Hayes Alan

Allison’s second birth was completely different from her first. She recounts the process it took her to gain the confidence to birth at home. In the end the journey was so worth it!

Hayes Birth Story: My Empowering Decision to Birth at Home
By: Allison Slaughter

“Wherever and however you intend to give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.” –Ina May

As I prepared to give birth to my second child, Hayes Alan, the quote above spoke to my soul. My first birth experience (which you can read here) left much to be desired. I was thankful to achieve a natural delivery; however, labor was wrought with restrictions in movement and pressure to comply with hospital policies. I was struck by memories of darkness surrounding my labor. For hours, I felt unsupported and stressed while lying in a hospital bed attached to monitors. While I persevered through the pain, I struggled to feel like I had any control in this major life event. After much reflection, I was determined to create a more peaceful and joyful birth experience. This story details the journey that led me to confidently decide to give birth at home. I felt so empowered in this decision. It also describes the quick, intense, and beautiful labor and delivery that followed. I will cherish this sacred, life-giving experience forever.

Surprise!!!

The morning of Tuesday, November 4th, 2015 was full of shock, awe, excitement, and thankfulness. These feelings were mixed with anxiousness, fear, and disbelief. Matt was traveling on a business trip to Mexico, and Lydia and I remained at home in Nashville. Monday night, I was exhausted, and I fell asleep soon after I put Lydia to bed. I clearly remember waking up suddenly around 3 am after I had a vivid dream that I was pregnant with twins. For some reason, this dream caught me off guard. I deliriously walked to the bathroom and took a pregnancy test. I set the test aside and thought to myself, “That was crazy…why would I be pregnant again six months postpartum?” It felt like an out of body experience. So, I went back to bed without even looking at the result. I suppose I was too tired to care. Or, maybe I felt content to remain in denial. I slept the rest of the night and awoke in the morning to the sound of Lydia talking. She was my alarm clock.

While I was getting us both ready to go to bible study, I walked back into the bathroom and the pregnancy test caught my eye. Chuckling, I picked up the test stick and realized the second line was dark! It immediately took my breath away. I sat down and stared at the test in utter disbelief. My thoughts and emotions were jumbled…Positive. Whoa. Really? Big eyes. Deep breath. Is it possible? Smile… It was a struggle to concentrate as my mind flooded with questions and excitement.

Once I regained my composure, I realized our babies would be about 15 months apart and my mind was overwhelmed with fears. How exactly would I keep my life together and my kids scheduled, while also keeping myself sane (and because I assumed it was another girl, how would I keep their bows on straight)?! Nevertheless, when I thought deep into my core, I proclaimed prayers of thankfulness. I thought to myself, “I absolutely love being a mom to the sweetest little girl, Lydia Riley. And, I get to experience motherhood AGAIN.” I did not have to endure cycle counting, ovulation tests, worry, or doubt. What a gift and a blessing! I felt a great sense of humility, joy, and responsibility that God was entrusting us with another precious life.

The Journey to Choose Home Birth:

The first half of my pregnancy proved to be a physically challenging experience. The exhaustion was brutal. I generally felt like a walking zombie. The numerous headaches and resulting nausea were tough to manage while caring for a 6-month-old infant and working part time. Lydia was breastfeeding large volumes of milk and my body was struggling to keep up. I felt like I was eating and drinking constantly, but it was never enough. However, I was determined to continue breastfeeding for as long as my body would produce enough milk. So, I pressed on.

In addition to the physical challenges, I was trying to process my first birth experience. I realized I was traumatized by the gestational diabetes diagnosis I received during my pregnancy, and I was constantly fixated on the matter. Here is the back-story: My one-hour glucose test came back at 206, which is high enough to automatically diagnose gestational diabetes. I was immediately sent to an endocrinology doctor and was instructed to test my blood sugar after each meal for the rest of my pregnancy. From the day I started charting, I did not have one result out of the normal range. This left me perplexed by the diagnosis. In fact, when I cut out carbohydrates and sugar, my readings would be borderline hypoglycemic, and I felt light headed and shaky.

My best friend, Lia, was pregnant as well with an estimated due date two days ahead of me. She passed her glucose test, so we decided an experiment was necessary. Lia brought Jimmy Johns sandwiches for dinner and we ate them at the same time. An hour later, we both checked our blood sugar. While both of our results remained in normal range, Lia’s blood sugar was higher than mine. Now, I was really curious to see if there were any foods that would trigger a spike. I tested skittles, milkshakes, and soda, but the results remained unchanged. In turn, I spoke with several midwives in the practice about these odd findings. I even asked to take the three-hour glucose test to see whether the diagnosis was accurate. In response, I was told that this test could be harmful to my baby because my one-hour result was so high. As you can imagine, I was frustrated. I so deeply wanted to confirm whether the first test result was a lab error. It cost me a great deal of stress, money, and time not knowing the truth.

Several providers reassured me that I would not be treated as if I was gestational diabetic during labor because I was diet controlled. However, as I explained in Lydia’s birth story, nurses were checking my blood sugar while I was laboring and it was a major distraction. Of course, my result was five points higher than the normal range. I was in a stressful environment laboring naturally. When my blood sugar had not normalized immediately after my unmedicated delivery, I was given insulin per hospital protocol.

In the end, I struggled most with the fact that none of the care providers I spoke with were willing to look further into the diagnosis when my blood sugars were completely normal. In processing, I realized I was ultimately looking for a care provider who would listen to my story, treat me as an individual client, and seek the truth. Generic answers would not suffice. This dilemma revealed important desires that led me on a mission to find the best provider.

Seeking expertise and advice, I took a list of questions to a trusted midwife. I hoped to gain perspective on my gestational diabetes saga. In our discussion, she asked whether I had considered delivering at the birth center or at home. While I was so thankful for her honest encouragement and genuine guidance, my immediate gut reaction was that a home birth was not for me. As a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse myself, I thought, “that’s too risky!” However, I was willing to consider the birth center.

Shortly thereafter, I went for a tour of Baby and Co., and I fell in love with the calming environment. The rooms were gorgeous, it did not feel like a hospital, and I loved the midwifery model of care. However, I quickly realized this option did not accommodate several of my desires. While there was a smaller group of providers, the midwife on call would deliver the baby. In addition, if my glucose test result was abnormal and I received a gestational diabetes diagnosis, I would be transferred out of the practice. It did not matter if my sugars were diet controlled. This protocol made me feel anxious. I was terrified that I would be forced to transfer my prenatal care during my third trimester. Most importantly, I gained the perspective that a birth center has the same emergency equipment, medications and resuscitation capabilities as a home birth team. To be accurate, Baby and Co. does have a contract with Angel Transport for any emergent baby transfers (a relief for my NICU heart). However, this luxury aside, the medical capabilities are equal. Finally, our medical insurance proved to be another hurdle. According to our plan, the birth center was out-of-network and it would cost more than a hospital or home birth.

With this knowledge, I continued my prenatal care with the midwife I trusted. I tried to convince myself that I was comfortable with another hospital birth if she could be there for delivery. She was so patient with me as I nearly begged her to agree. But, she gently reminded me that there was no guarantee due to practice requirements and personal obligations. I knew the uncertainty would leave me feeling stressed. At this point, it was clear, I needed to explore the possibility of a home birth.

I was nearly halfway through my pregnancy researching to educate myself on this birth option. I soon acknowledged that prior to my reading, I had fallen into the strong American stigma that home birth was not safe. I realized that with a low risk pregnancy the number of negative home birth outcomes was alarmingly comparable to that in a hospital setting. I sent my findings to Matt, and I asked him to objectively consider the information. I found him supportive of the idea and willing to explore this option. Soon, I consulted friends who had chosen a home birth to ask about their experiences. I contacted Merrill seeking advice and she encouraged me to meet with a midwife. As I read home birth stories, I realized the only thing holding me back was fear. Therefore, I set up a consultation with Vines Midwifery. Matt and I were excited to meet Jennifer and learn more about her practice. We felt a connection to her immediately and were comfortable asking our questions and discussing our fears. She exuded confidence, and she had a wealth of knowledge. She seemed calm-spirited yet cautious, and we felt confident in her midwifery skills and ability to intervene if necessary. Following our meeting, I felt a new passion welling up in my heart, and I knew this option encompassed all of my birth desires. Though it took a few weeks of processing to commit, I finally felt empowered to confidently choose a home birth.

Here are the reasons behind my decision…(Disclaimer: I am not projecting that home birth is the correct choice for every mother. In fact, it is only deemed safe for low-risk, healthy mothers with no prenatal complications. Every woman is in charge of her own experience and must research and decide where she feels comfortable giving birth. Obviously, I have strong feelings about natural childbirth and the experience that surrounds this sacred experience; however, that does not mean there are no other positive birth experiences outside of the home. I chose a home birth because it encompassed the experience and environment that best aligned with my birthing goals.)

  1. The stable, trusted relationship with our midwife was extremely important. As I mentioned above, I desperately wanted to know and trust the provider who would deliver this precious baby. We fully believed in Jennifer Vines and I loved developing a relationship with her at all of my prenatal appointments. She gave me grace as I ran in ten minutes late most days with my one year old in tow. She had time for me. She knew my pregnancy history. She knew my family. She knew and believed in ME.
  2. I desired a comfortable, peaceful environment. Hospitals are for sick people and high-risk pregnancies. I had no reason to believe I fit either of those categories. I felt comfortable in my own home, and I knew I could relax in my own, peaceful environment. I did not want any intervention the hospital had to offer unless it was absolutely necessary.
  3. We lived in close proximity to a reputable medical center and neonatal intensive care unit. – We lived less than a mile from Vanderbilt Medical Center if transfer was necessary.
  4. This was a low risk pregnancy. – I was healthy. Baby was healthy. And, I had already experienced a natural birth. I knew my body was fully capable.
  5. The research upholds that with a low risk pregnancy home birth is a safe option.
  6. If I did in fact have gestational diabetes this pregnancy, I could still have a home birth if my sugars were diet controlled. I felt confident that even if my blood sugars were elevated I could tweak my diet to ensure they were controlled. I no longer feared the glucose test. This was a huge relief.

At 25 weeks, my dream birth team was established, and I started receiving prenatal care from Jennifer Vines. While I was confident and passionate about my home birth decision, I was reserved about publicly displaying my plan. At Lydia’s one-year well visit, I told our pediatrician we would be having a home birth, and her fearful reaction felt overwhelming and burdensome. She was adamant that I bring the baby into the office within 24 hours of delivery, and she made it clear that she was uncomfortable with my decision. After this experience (and choosing a new pediatrician), I guarded my mental health by keeping this decision relatively quiet. I knew I would struggle with various reactions, and I was determined to keep a positive perspective. Fearful commentary would inevitably keep me up at night, and I certainly did not need an added sleep disruption.  

Between 30 and 40 weeks of pregnancy, it got HOT in Tennessee. I do not exaggerate when I say the heat was almost unbearable, but Lydia and I kept moving and sweating with the hope that baby brother would begin to descend and engage. We ventured to nearby parks, picnicked on Belmont University’s lawn, and spent every Tuesday at the Farmer’s Market with friends. The Braxton Hicks contractions were constant when I was in motion, and the ligament tension, back pain, and pubic bone discomfort were increasing weekly. Around 39 weeks, it took us an hour to complete 1.5 miles because the back pain was so overwhelming that I could not walk through contractions. These physical constraints often a made it a struggle to function until bedtime. When Matt got home from work, he would help with Lydia’s routine, and I would take a hot bath to relieve my aches and pains from the day. I did not think my belly could possibly expand further. Hayes was occupying so much space that I had no appetite. I began to survive on popsicles and smoothies. I had to have all things LIME. It was an addiction I chose not to control. When the lime popsicles were gone, we walked to the store to buy more.

During this timeframe, we were so busy moving to a rental house, starting a construction project, battling a roach infestation, and celebrating Lydia’s first birthday that I failed to focus on connecting with Hayes. Lia helped me plan a small blessingway with close friends to honor his unique pregnancy and journey to birth. During this sacred time, I acknowledged and released my fears concerning labor and delivery. We prayed over the birth space, labor process, and birth team. My friends read blessings they had written to encourage me, and I found the reflection time healing, strengthening, and empowering. We ended the night by creating a labor tank top with my friends’ handprints encircling an anchor. April Lussier perfectly illustrates, “Just as a tree grows best when anchored firmly in the Earth, so can a pregnant mother feel strong and capable when supported by a sisterhood of nurturing friends.”

Labor Day:

Yet again, my due date came and went quickly; however, I was not shocked. Every morning, I planned a new activity with friends, and we engaged in story time dates, play dates, park dates and pool dates. I wanted to enjoy every moment I had left with Lydia as my only baby. Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day was Tuesday July 12th, so Lia, Adair, Lydia and I made an appearance in full cow costumes. The crowds were crazy, but the pictures are priceless. The next morning, I had the brilliant idea to go hike the ridge at Radnor Lake. Deep down, I hoped hiking with a 26-pound toddler on my back might start labor, so I coaxed Lia into going with me. The journey did not last long and we never made it to the ridge because the girls were hot, hungry, and did not want to be restrained in carriers. It was a memorable experience to say the least.

Thursday, I was 40 weeks and 5 days, and my doula, Merrill, checked in to see how I was feeling. After informing her that there was no significant change, I invited her to the Williamson Public Library story time Friday morning so that we could catch up. We planned to meet Lia and Adair at 10:30 AM for story-time and a picnic lunch.

I woke up Friday morning feeling rejuvenated, and we made it to Franklin as planned. I remember feeling tightening during the program, but I was distracted and had no sense of frequency or intensity. Inwardly, I was feeling irritable because Lydia kept diving into my lap when I wanted space. Following the show, we decided to picnic outside by the playground, and I started to notice I was having some aching and cramping low in my pelvis. I tried to ignore the feeling; however, I soon realized the cramping had a defined start and stop. I felt un-phased by these contractions, and I made no mention of the change.

When they kept happening about 6 to 10 minutes apart, and I was starting to wince if I was speaking at the onset of a contraction, Merrill and Lia immediately called my bluff. I preferred to stay in denial, but Merrill started timing my contractions. We decided to wrap up our picnic and I planned to take Lydia to Lia’s house for a nap so that I could lay down to rest. I was starting to concentrate more during contractions; therefore, I felt comfortable driving ten minutes to Cottonwood, but the 35-minute drive back to Nashville seemed daunting.

At 12:10 PM, I alerted Matt that I was contracting. We decided that Lia could drive me back to Nashville once both girls went down for a nap, and he would meet me at home. Luckily, Sean was working from home and he was willing to watch them for the afternoon. I laid on the couch while Lia got both girls in bed, and the contractions continued. We started our journey toward Nashville, but we stopped for strawberry-mango smoothies along the way. I texted Libby at 1:07 PM to let her know I was having contractions, and I wanted her to meet us at the house whenever she was available. We arrived at 1:17 PM and Matt was already there with music playing and a hot bath ready. I clearly remember when I walked into our house, Matt greeted me with a huge hug and a smile. I immediately felt at peace.

At this point, I was not comfortable calling this active labor so I decided to relax in the bathtub to see if the contractions would continue. When I used the bathroom before my bath, I discovered I was losing my mucous plug. This finding left me excited as it signified that some cervical change was happening. We lit candles and played the “I am They” album as I relaxed in the tub. Matt, Libby, and Lia took turns hanging out with me and timing my contractions. I sang.. I breathed through contractions.. I prayed.. I happily ate skittles and sour patch.. I laughed.. I loved every minute of the rest and relaxation with contractions about 45 seconds long and 5 minutes apart. I was easily breathing through them while spending time with my friends.

Lia was keeping Merrill and Jennifer updated, and I assured them that the contractions were not bad and this was just early labor. Jennifer said she was going to come check on me before rush hour started and I laughed. I was happy for her to come hang out, but I figured she would be heading back home after she confirmed that my body was just warming up.

At 2:45 PM, Lia and Libby prepped our bed and I got out of the tub to relax on my birth ball. I found my happy place on top of my bed draped over my ball. Matt was massaging my back and giving counter pressure during contractions. I continued to feel calm and confident as I could sink into the ball to relax through contractions. The house started to smell amazing as Lia and Libby baked Hayes’ birthday cake. I was relishing this moment of glory where time seemed to stand still and I could feel the overflowing love filling my home.

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By 3:00 PM the contractions had lengthened to a minute long and were 3-5 minutes apart. I was starting to work harder and breathe more deeply, but the rest in between felt rejuvenating. I remember feeling like I was handling this labor pattern with ease. It was a breath of fresh air to the constant back pain I endured throughout my labor with Lydia. Matt. Lia, and Libby were taking turns providing counter pressure during contractions. I was enjoying silly videos of Adair and Lydia and appreciating the conversation with some of my favorite people. At 3:49 PM I received a text from my Dad that said “what you waiting for.” As I only receive about 3 texts from my Dad a year, it made me laugh. I was just starting to believe that maybe these contractions would bring a baby. But we had not alerted our families because we assumed this was just the beginning of a long night.

Jennifer and Carissa arrived minutes later and I was excited to see their smiling faces. They decided to go ahead and set up their equipment in the dining room and then assess my progress. At 4:21, Jennifer listened for heart tones, checked my blood pressure and attempted a cervical check. Because my cervix was so posterior and high, she gently informed me that she could not make an accurate assessment, and she was not going to be forceful because it would produce unnecessary pain. She truthfully told me I was less than 5 cm. I had no real expectations at this point because the contractions were so bearable. Matt and I decided to let our family know I was in early labor, and we expected it to be awhile. He called our parents and texted our support team to keep everyone updated.

I was really comfortable on the bed, but around 4:45 PM, Lia suggested we go for a walk to get things moving along. Moving from the bed to a standing position caused a major shift in intensity. My bearable contractions were suddenly excruciating and coming quickly. I got dressed for our walk, but I could only take a few steps before another intense contraction would start. It took me 25 minutes to make it from my bed to the front door (a short distance) because I kept stopping to work through multiple, long contractions. This was getting intense and it shocked me. I could no longer relax through the contractions and I was not getting a break in between to refocus. My hips felt like they were ripping apart, but I was struggling to communicate the support I needed. All I could say was, “It won’t go away.”

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When I made it to the front door, sweet Dee Dee was there to pick up our crazy vizsla and some things for Lydia to stay overnight. I could hardly manage to greet her in between contractions, but she encouraged me and told me not to worry about Lydia. She assured me she would love on her all night, and it made my heart smile in the midst of my struggle. I could feel the heat coming through the front door, and I was highly reconsidering this walk. But, at this point I felt committed. I was silently having a mental battle because if I was truly less than 5 cm, I was using far too much energy to work through contractions. Internally, I knew I needed to pull myself together and relax to make progress.

I struggled to regain my composure, but finally at 5:15 PM Matt, Lia and I managed to walk across the street before I completely broke down crying. “I don’t want to do this anymore! They won’t stop, and it hurts so bad!” I was overwhelmed and my raw emotions were spilling out of my mouth before I could contain them. Logically, I knew that self-doubt was a common sign of transition, but I did not believe it was possible I had progressed that quickly. I don’t think Matt or Lia knew how to respond considering that 45 minutes ago we assumed I was in early labor. This was unexpected behavior. When Matt looked at his phone and laughed quietly, I proceeded to lash out at him because I expected his full attention. This behavior was also out of character. It felt like an out of body experience because I could see myself acting in ways I would not imagine, yet I could not control it. I was trying to communicate to Matt that I needed to hang on him during contractions because I was struggling to stand through them, and felt like my pubic bone was breaking. I think the anger was an ineffective communication tool, but thankfully he gave me grace. Moments later, I was vomiting and then apologizing for my unsolicited irritability. With their encouragement, I proceeded to re-center myself. We made it to the first stop sign and I surrendered. That’s as far as I could push myself, and I knew we had to try something else. As we headed home, I remember seeing Libby, Jennifer, and Carissa on the front porch and it gave me great comfort. I was never scared. I just could not logically understand this bizarre labor.  

When we made it back home, Jennifer said she would check me again to see if I had made enough progress to get in the tub. At 5:47 PM my cervix was 5-6 cm dilated and 90% effaced. I was excited by the progression, but the intensity remained overwhelming. I slowly made my way back to the dining room so I could get in the tub for relief. Lia had alerted Merrill on my progression sometime during our walk and she arrived at 6:00 PM. I was happy to see her as I swayed by the tub waiting for it to be the right temperature to get in. At 6:13 PM, my water broke as I was standing by the tub. I felt a POP and then baby’s head DROPPED. “Ouch!” was all I could manage to say, but I felt very in tune to what was happening inside my body.

When Jennifer told me I could, I jumped in the tub as fast as possible. With my water broken and the head engagement I felt, I knew contractions would intensify greatly. I had two contractions in the water and the urge to push suddenly overwhelmed me. At 6:16 PM Jennifer checked to see if I was complete, but I was only 8 cm. Within the next few contractions, I completely lost control. The urge to push was impossible to ignore. In fact, my body was instinctively pushing. Jennifer instructed me to blow through the contractions because it was very dangerous to push before I was completely dilated. I started freaking out, “I can’t do this…I don’t know what to do..I can’t relax…I can’t breathe..HELP me, PLEASE!” The comments go on. I needed all hands on deck because I had completely lost my coping abilities. Merrill kept reminding me I just needed to get through this one contraction, but I just kept yelling “help me” in her face. To say I was thankful for her presence is an understatement. All my body wanted to do was push. After two more contractions, I was screaming for Jennifer to check me again to see if I was complete. I was 9 cm and spontaneously trying to push. Jennifer quickly grabbed my attention. “Look at me..You are pushing…You can’t push yet.” I started crying. The pressure I was feeling was ungodly. I was squeezing Merrill’s hands as hard as I could, and in between contractions I begged Jennifer to see if I was complete. At this point, I feared every contraction. I had no ability to work through them. All I wanted to do was push this baby out. After what felt like an eternity, I was complete at 6:34 PM.

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I regained control but all I could think was, “Get this baby out of me NOW!” So, I instinctively got into an upright squatting position that felt comfortable and pushed as hard as I possibly could with the next contraction. Everyone was cheering for me and I was determined to make this quick. I could easily feel the progress I was making with each push. When I was trying to push him under the pubic bone, the pain was excruciating but I knew it was almost over. After this contraction, I could feel him slide back inside, and I knew I had to push HARD. After about 3 contractions, I was sure he was close, and I asked Jennifer to help me get his head out. His broad shoulders and long body followed, and he was delivered completely OP at 6:43 PM. Matt got to catch him and pull him out of the water. At first he appeared stunned, but he soon let out one large screech to let us know he was ok. I sat down carefully and Matt placed Hayes on my chest. The relief was instant as I pulled him close, and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion as I looked up at my husband and my dream birth team surrounding the tub. I had tears streaming. They all had tears in their eyes. It was such a powerful moment.

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A couple minutes later, I felt another contraction and Carissa said there was cord lengthening. So, they quickly helped me out of the tub intending to assess my bleeding and deliver the placenta on my bed. Jennifer was holding Hayes (still connected to his cord) and I followed close behind. Suddenly, there was a stream of blood and Jennifer caught my huge placenta in her bowl (amazing). I wish we had a picture or video of this scene. It surely made for a good laugh.

Matt took Hayes for some skin to skin bonding while Jennifer assessed my bleeding. I was truly amazed when she told me I had no tears. I showered almost immediately and got comfortable in my own bed. Hayes latched to breast-feed and has been eating like a champion ever since. We all enjoyed pizza and guessed Hayes’ birth stats.

9 lbs 8.5 oz and 21.5 inches of pure love. Matt and I were shocked!

The intensity of such a fast labor with a large baby is hard to put into words. However, the experience was stretching and powerful. This was a new level of surrender I had never experienced. It was life-giving. And, the second time around…it was still hard. I will forever remember the joy I saw in Matt’s face as he was genuinely excited that this experience was so positive. It birthed in me a new passion for empowering mothers..a passion so strong that I would soon make a huge career change.

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In reflection…

I love birth. To me, it is a truly fascinating and miraculous process, complicated yet natural and instinctual; unique to every person in a sacred and spiritual way.  It is raw and emotional. It challenges my innermost being. It causes me to surrender control and trust in my heavenly father. It makes me feel brave and strong. It is truly a sacrificial process. It inspires a passion within me.

Hayes, your pregnancy was a journey! It stretched me as a person and a mother. I became more confident in making decisions for myself. I gained a new passion for birth and empowering mothers. I relied on my faith and trusted my body and the birthing process. Fear was not an option. You were my hope and my inspiration! I love you, my son!

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. Hebrews 6:19

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The Birth of Vera Bea

Today we share the third birth story of a three part series. Each of Lillian’s babies have a unique story, but in this story of her third baby, she shares the raw emotions and physical challenges that even a veteran home-birther must face to bring another sweet baby earth-side.

The Birth of Vera Bea
By Lillian Keil

It was early Wednesday morning, and I couldn’t sleep. Being 9 months pregnant, I was no stranger to middle-of-the-night restlessness, but this time it was different. My back was hurting in a precise kind of way I recognized as contractions. I never have noticeable contractions until I’m in labor, so even though the backaches were not intense, I figured it was probably our baby’s birthday.

I got out of bed around 4:30 and felt a burst of energy. I put away all the dishes and laundry, tidied the fridge, took out the compost, and started cleaning the inside of the recycle bin and trash can- something I literally had not done since moving into this house a year ago. At one point I was even cleaning the railing of the sliding pantry door with a q-tip. I tried to move the washing machine so I could clean behind it, and all the banging around woke up my mother-in-law. She claims she discovered me with a huge grin on my face “like Christmas morning.” The contractions were consistent and slowly getting stronger, but I was trying to wait until a reasonable hour to contact my doula and my midwife.

I finally sent them both texts around 6am, finished responding to a bunch of craigslist ads for our rental houses, and tried to spend some quality time with my older kids. We had breakfast and played for a while before Simon had to leave for school. I started to feel really tired when he left, so I left Porter with his grandmother and tried to sleep between contractions. After an hour or so Jason came in to check on me, and I started crying. The excitement was wearing off, and I was remembering what hard work it is birthing a baby. I’d looked forward to my other labors, but having had two natural (read: excruciating) births before, this time I felt I had nothing prove. My attitude about labor was a kind of grim resolve. I tried to focus on anticipating the first few hours postpartum, when I would get to hold our daughter and eat donuts.

My mood lifted when my mom and sisters showed up. My sister Marion suggested we go for a walk, so she and I set off with Jason and my sister Rosie. When we left I was feeling totally confident, but by the time we got a ¼ mile from our house the contractions were coming faster and stronger- sometimes less than 2 minutes between them. We took a break and made a massage train in the middle of the park near our house, joking about how funny we probably looked and whether we could get a stranger to jump in at the end of our massage train.

We started walking again, and suddenly nothing seemed funny anymore. I realized going so far was entirely overambitious- the contractions were so painful at this point that I was literally on my knees whimpering on the sidewalk near Simon’s school. This would have awkward under normal circumstances, but it became totally mortifying when I realized that Simon’s preschool was getting out a half hour early, and all the moms I know from school started walking by with their kids. I tried to look ‘normal’ but it was pretty obvious what was happening.

Jason ran off to get the car and drove us one block home. I made it inside and collapsed on our bed. I was stayed there on my side silently until my dear friend and doula/photographer Ciara showed up. We called the midwife and agreed that maybe the walk had temporarily worsened my labor and decided to check in again in half an hour to see if things would slow down at all.

Things did not slow down. The contractions were really hurting, and I was screaming through them until Ciara coached me to breath or make low moans. The big kids would pop in the door periodically, and I was so happy to see them. I could clearly feel the baby descending which I’d never felt before. I felt the urge to push and starting yelling, “Where the fuck is the midwife?!” Jason called her, and she rushed over to our house – thankfully her office is only a few blocks from our house. I asked if she wanted to check my dilation before I got in the birthing tub and she said sternly, “I don’t have time to check you because you are about to have a baby and I need get set up here.”

She was right- our girl was born in the water only an hour later. But it was a looooong hour for me. I was feeling super impatient and saying the things I always say during labor like, “why isn’t she here yet” and “what’s taking so long?” The birth assistant showed up (an emergency room nurse at her first ever home birth!) and checked the baby’s heartbeat, which was reassuring. My mom, mother-in-law, sisters, and Jason were all in the room and they were so affirming and helpful. Everyone kept saying how powerful I was, how well I was doing, and how great I looked – ha! Meanwhile I was thinking, “I hate giving birth” and saying “no no no no” every time I had a contraction – to which the rest of the room kept replying, “yes yes yes!”

My bag of waters was still intact. My midwife offered to break it, but I decided to wait and see if she would be born in the sac. The burning, the tearing, the unsatisfying work of pushing, the popping of my water… and then out came her head! I didn’t bother to look or feel for her head; I was so focused on finishing the damn thing. I pushed her body out and they put her in my arms at 2:26 pm. Relief!

Ciara took many beautiful photos, but this first one best depicts how I remember it…

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…until…

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I wasn’t totally convinced she was a girl until I saw it for myself. She looked exactly like her brothers, only a little smaller, and I loved her instantly. I got a shot of pitocin, delivered the afterbirth, and was still in the tub with her when the boys came in to meet her. They even got to see their dad cut the “food cord” and examine the placenta, which they’d learned about while I was pregnant. The midwives helped me move to the bed, then everyone filed out to eat some Cuban sandwiches. Jason and I laid on the bed together, looking at our daughter and talking about how perfect she was and whether the name we’d chosen for her fit.

Vera means faith, and Jason had discerned the name for her at sunset on top of Mt Pilchuck this summer. (To mark the occasion, he built the cairn in the photo below.) There were a few contenders for middle names, but looking at her we settled on Bea, which means “bringer of joy.”

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Today our Vera Bea is one week old, and already she’s living up to her names, restoring our faith and filling our home with happiness. We are so, so blessed.

Without further ado…

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A huge thank you to our families, friends, and midwives who have been so kind and supportive this week. You have made our first days as a family of five so sweet!

Welcome to the world, Vera Bea. We love you already!

The Birth of Porter Levi

Just as the New Year seems to creep up quickly and unexpectedly, so did this baby as his parents were celebrating New Year’s Eve. Little did they know they were about to be celebrating so much more…

Find the stories of Lillian’s second and third babies here.

The Birth of Porter Levi
By Lillian Keil

How to throw a raging New Year’s Eve party: Invite your friends over to ring in the holiday with gourmet sliders and wooden airplanes, then spend the entire meal having contractions on the couch, trying to convince yourself and everyone else present that you are not really in labor. At 9pm admit that this might be the real deal and call the birthing tub rental company to let them know your “two-weeks late” baby is actually going to be a week early. Text the midwife and hastily gather half the items from the home birth supply list. In an effort to fill the birthing tub: empty the house hot water tank, drain the hot water dispenser, boil 4 pots of water, and run a second hose from your neighbor’s place to finish the job. Climb in and have a baby…

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Things I remember: making lots of one-word demands for “ice” and “help.” Feeling sad that I had put Simon to bed without any warning of the changes to come. Asking to put my contacts in so I could see my son when he came. My arms falling asleep from dangling out of the tub. The camera click, click, clicking in the background. The gold NYE dress the birth tub rental gal was wearing and that she decided to stay, crying quietly in the kitchen while he was born.

By the time I got in the water, the contractions had become very intense but the time between them seemed long and almost serene. Between bouts of excruciating pain, I would become strangely clearheaded and sometimes talkative. I remember once looking around the room and seeing all my favorite people there, feeling so happy and normal that I asked the midwife if maybe the baby had gone the other way and I wasn’t in labor anymore… only to be bowled over by a contraction so intense it convinced me I was dying.

I did not die; instead I pushed. Simon slept miraculously through my loud screaming, and eventually Jason got in the tub with me. My water broke and it was clear; I felt the burning and bursting and at 1:55am he was born: waxy and wet and so, so perfect.

We stayed there in the tub gawking and trying to keep warm, the cord pulsing and the baby crying and me saying over and over that I could not believe he was here early and with such short labor. We tried out the name we’d chosen and it fit… hello, Porter.

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Porter must like champagne and fireworks, because New Year’s Day is a pretty special birthday. His name means “gatekeeper,” which is rather apt since he arrived right as the gates to 2014 swung open. His middle name “Levi” is a tribute to Jason’s family, a tribe of worshippers like the Biblical Levites.

Although one of us is a bit sore and one of us is a bit jealous, our family of four is doing great, and we could not be prouder to introduce to you our smallest and newest…

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Porter Levi Keil, 1/1/14. Happy new year, indeed!

The Birth of Luca James

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

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

The Birth of Luca James
By Brooke Ganter

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

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

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

Tuesday Feb 2nd,

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

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

Wednesday February 3rd.

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

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

Thursday February 4th,

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

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

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

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

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

Friday February 5th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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