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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.

The Birth of Josiah Graham

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

The Birth of Josiah Graham
By Cassandra Thon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!