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 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.


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.


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.”


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


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…


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.








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…


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

The Birth of Rosamund Blythe

This is an amazing story of a beautiful and QUICK birth, but one where this mother had the challenge of overcoming a big fear  from her first birth. If you have trauma from a past birth or life experience…this story is for you!
{This story was first shared by Baby + Co}

The Birth of Rosamund Blythe
By Heather Price

Rosamund’s birth story begins with her brother’s birth story, 3.5 years ago. We birthed Jude with Lauren Drees, CNM, at Vanderbilt Hospital. My unmedicated labor and delivery was 7 hours. He was born with his arm up, and I had significant tearing that required surgical repair with an epidural in the operating room. A great story and experience overall, but a traumatic ending that resulted in a lot of heartache and a long, long recovery, including extensive pelvic floor physical therapy. We loved our hospital birth experience. Vanderbilt offered us excellent care and attention! You can read the full story here.

Fast forward to Rosamund’s pregnancy. Another excellent pregnancy, no complications, and I felt great! I started my prenatal care with Vanderbilt midwives at our small, local hospital in Springfield. About 1/3 of the way through my pregnancy, I was hired as an educator for Baby+Company, and started thinking about transferring my care to our center. I planned to have another unmedicated birth, and everything was going swimmingly – and I wanted to have a more serene experience. So, around 28 weeks gestation, I switched my care to Baby+Company. We have loved it!

I had an appointment with Taneesha Reynolds, CNM, at 40 weeks and 1 day. I was dilated a few centimeters, had a soft and thin cervix, and we decided to go ahead with a membrane sweep to see if it might get things going. That was around 10:00 am on Thursday. I expected cramping and discharge, but nothing happened! I went on about my day as usual. I fixed dinner, and Jude and I ate around 6:00 pm.  We finished dinner, cleaned up, and Jude and I were sitting on the sofa watching Netflix when I had a contraction at 6:38 pm. I looked at my husband, Briley, and told him I’d had a crampy contraction. He was headed out the door for choir practice in a few minutes, and asked if I was sure it was OK for him to leave. I thought it was, and said I’d just call him if things progressed. Two more contractions came, one at 6:45, and the next at 6:49, stronger, but still easily manageable, and Jude needed help on the potty. I went in the hall bathroom with him, and as he asked me to help him wipe, my water broke at 6:51 pm! I yelled to Briley, who was at the front door, that my water had broken and we needed to get moving. Briley contacted his parents – Terry, Briley’s dad, stayed at our house with Jude, and Sharon, his mom, followed us to the birth center to serve as an additional support person and witness her first birth.

rosamund's birthAs soon as we got out to the highway, I put my earbuds in and turned on my labor song, O Magnum Mysterium, which was also my labor song for Jude’s birth, particularly as a tool to help me focus on the uncomfortable car ride. I just had it on repeat as I breathed, gripped the door handle, and held Briley’s hand. Contractions were 4-6 minutes apart, and getting stronger. By the time we were within a few miles of the birth center, I was vocalizing with moans and tending to tense up against the contractions and bumps in the road – curses to bumps in the road when you’re in labor!

We pulled in to the birth center parking garage, and Lauren Drees, CNM, and Heather Barksdale, RN, were there at the door to greet us. I got out of the car smiling and talking, hugging my sweet friends who would care for me and our baby girl. I had one contraction in the garage before we headed in to birth suite #3. After the birth, Lauren said that when she saw me smiling as we pulled in, she thought to herself that it would be awhile before baby arrived ;o)

It was around 7:50 pm at this time. We got into the birth suite, Lauren hung our birth affirmations banner that my sweet Baby+Company family made at my shower a few weeks before, and I continued to cope with contractions by standing, swaying, and slightly squatting with support alternating from Briley, Lauren, and Sharon. Briley left the room for a few minutes to go eat his dinner down the hall, so Sharon and Lauren tended to me. Lauren got my music playing on the speakers and was checking vitals for me and baby with Heather B. I was calm and focused, and felt incredible pressure in my pelvis, increasing with each contraction. Within a few minutes of arriving, maybe 15 minutes, I sensed a shift and knew baby would be coming soon. I felt sick and hot; I took off my long dress and continued to labor in a sports bra and underwear. I remember telling Heather B. and Lauren that I felt sick and wondered where Briley was – and right then, he came back in the room. Around 8:15 I moved to the bed and got onto hands and knees for a few contractions, and just felt overwhelmed. I was having trouble coping – I couldn’t stay on top of the contractions that were washing over me every 2 minutes or so. I knew this was transition, cognitively, but I was overtaken emotionally! I recall saying over and over that I couldn’t do it, that I needed help, and that my bones hurt. I lowered my head to the pillow and moved to a side-lying position. I kept saying (yelling?!), “Help me, Lauren. Lauren, help me. I can’t do it!” Briley was close to my face and holding my hand, speaking softly to me; Lauren and Heather B. were at the foot of the bed, rubbing my legs and sharing words of encouragement, and Sharon was near the affirmation banner. She began reading some of the affirmations aloud, and that really clicked for me as a way to focus. I asked her to keep reading (or maybe I yelled it!), and she also began reading through a few cards I had made with favorite Bible verses I’ve clung to over the years. These are verses that I have memorized, so they were familiar, soothing, and rhythmic. Sharon moved to share the bed with me, and continued to read the verses and cards aloud as I started to recite them along with her, and Rosamund moved lower and lower into my pelvis.

It was about 8:20 pm now, and I said, “The baby is coming!” I was yelling, grunting, and hollering a lot. Lauren directed me to calm my breath, reminded me that I AM doing it, and said she would check me. I was 100% effaced, 10 cm dilated, and baby was +4. She was definitely ready to be born! After another contraction or two, I had strong urges to push, and pushed quickly and effectively. I remember pausing for a bit as I felt filled with anxiety about tearing again. I told my team, “I’m afraid.” I spent so much time during my pregnancy in meditation, writing, and talking through these fears, but I anticipated it would creep up at the pushing stage of Rosamund’s birth. Everyone on my team encouraged me in that moment – speaking words of affirmation over me, encouraging me to do little pushes as baby was crowning, and helping me to focus on my breath and let go of the fear. As she was crowning, Lauren encouraged me to reach to feel her head, which I don’t remember doing with Jude’s birth, and it was such a sweet and motivating action!

I remained in a side-lying position, with Heather B. supporting my upper leg as Briley and Sharon were on either side of my shoulders. After about 10 minutes of pushing, Rosamund was born. Lauren helped to birth baby’s head and shoulders, and Briley caught her as she came out the rest of the way, and placed her on my chest. What glorious relief! She was born at 8:34 pm, about 40 minutes after we arrived at the center, and less than 2 hours after my first contraction. I know many of us hope for quick labors, but let me tell you – a precipitous birth is INTENSE! I felt overwhelmed from late active labor until she was born – but I guess after she was here, I was glad that it was short.

Rosamund gurgled and let out some nice cries as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and the placenta to be born. She was big and squishy and had fat rolls on her arms already!

Lauren reported that Rosamund was born with a nuchal hand, the little stinker! I had a small 2nd degree tear, which Lauren quickly repaired while baby rested on my chest and we all fell in love with her. Rosamund had Apgars of 9 and 9, and was carefully tended to by our sweet Heather B. Baby had some slight bruising on her face from the fast delivery. She weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 20.5 inches long. A whopper!

We remained at the birth center for about 7 hours before heading home. We stayed in our birth suite, ate some snacks, initiated breastfeeding, showered, called family, and snoozed. Oh, the delight that is a hot shower after giving birth! What a gift! Briley called his dad to speak to him and Jude. He put them on speaker phone, and Briley said, “Baby Rosamund is here!” and Jude replied in a quiet, sweet voice, asking, “Do you like her?” We all laughed and said, “Yes! We love her!” Heather B. and Lauren came in and out, gently checking on all of us, getting vitals, bringing water and food, and just generally loving on us. We were encouraged to rest and take our time. Terry, Briley’s dad, brought Jude to the center to meet his baby sister and ride with us to bring her home. What a moment! I had so been looking forward to the time the two of them would meet, and it was the sweetest. She is my gift to him, and he loves her. Jude lit up as soon as he laid eyes on her, and he climbed up on the bed to get a close look and start snuggling her. Then, he was promptly distracted by his “big brother bag” of Paw Patrol goodies and trains! We did get a few photos of our first gathering as a family of four before he headed down to the lobby to play at the train table with his Pop. Those of y’all with toddlers will appreciate this – the baby was crying as we were changing her diaper and getting her clothes on, and Sharon asked Jude to, “say something to help sister feel better.” Jude leaned over to Rosamund and whispered, “Paw Patrol.”

Around 4 am, we loaded up in the car and headed home in a downpour of rain. Sharon and Terry helped us unload and get everyone settled in their beds, and off to sleep we went. What a joy it was to be able to come home and get in my comfy bed just hours after I gave birth! Before we switched to birth center care, I was really hesitant about leaving so soon after birth, but let me tell ya, it is so lovely. I was home in my jammies, in my bed, with my favorite pillows and the bassinet right near by, and it was perfect for us.

Rosamund and I stayed up in our bedroom pretty much 24/7 for the first 4 days, except for an occasional trek down to the kitchen for a family meal. Otherwise, Briley and his mom brought me food and water constantly, and I breastfed and bonded with Rosamund. There’s a lot to be said for this “lying in” practice so that mother can heal and rest, and she and baby can bond.

Saturday morning, about 40 hours after birth, Trish Talbot, RN, another of our amazing nurses, came by for a home visit. We had a sweet time sharing our birth experience, and she took excellent, gentle care of me and Rosamund. Trish also helped facilitate the process for getting Rosamund’s tongue and lip ties revised with Dr. Prather’s office.

Our Baby+Company experience has been absolutely perfect in every way. I adore the team of women that I work with, and who care for me in such kind, attentive ways as I birth and recover. This was a healing experience for me after the physical and emotional trauma of my first birth. I was amazed to be able to get up and walk to the bathroom right after giving birth! And could get myself to the shower and get dressed and sit in the car with nothing more than a little Ibuprofen and an ice pack on my bottom. My recovery was smooth and quick with none of the complications I had experienced the first time. I’m grateful for Lauren and Heather B.’s confidence in me – and in all women – to allow our bodies to birth our babies.

“I am not afraid; I was born to do this.” —Joan of Arc


The Birth of Cole and Bray

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Birth of Beckett Scott

This amazing mother recalls how differently her second birth went than her first, yet in some ways she says it was more peaceful…this time she didn’t have her baby in the car.

The Birth of Beckett Scott
By Jennifer Brennan

When first asked to share my story on this blog I was so honored and thrilled – I LOVE reading birth stories! But as it came time to edit the story for public consumption I became hesitant. Birth is such a personal, intimate experience and each woman’s story is so unique I was scared to put my details out there. I have been very blessed to have quick labors and sometimes quite honestly I feel judged that I didn’t have a “real” birth experience because I didn’t labor for hours and hours or days and days. But when I am honest with myself, I can only choose to be grateful for the way my body handles labor and delivery and be even more grateful that through that I’ve had two beautiful sons.

A few things to note in our story, this is our first child together, but my second birth. I was able to have a natural birth the first time, but it was precipitous (REALLY fast) and he was born in the back of the car, unassisted, as the car pulled into the hospital parking lot. I remember the labor being very chaotic and scary, as I basically labored alone unaware of how the pain was because I was progressing so fast until my doula arrived and began timing contractions. Thank goodness for her, or I would have had an unprepared home birth and thankfully, my first son was born safe and healthy.

One other note – This time I tested positive for GBS at 37 weeks. I got the results at 38 weeks and began homeopathic interventions (Vitamin C and probiotics) and talked the midwives into letting me be retested, but tested positive the second time, much to my dismay since I basically planned on arriving to the hospital just in time to push. After much deliberation and discussion we determined that we would make it a priority to go to the hospital earlier than desired and hopefully get at least one dose of antibiotics.

I delivered with the Franklin Road Women’s Health Midwives (St Thomas Midtown Midwives) and Whitney Cantrell was our fabulous doula.

My first son was born on his due date, so when my due date arrived and there was still no sign of baby, I became very antsy. “They” always say second babies come early so I had been able to muster a generally good attitude about waiting until now, when this second baby was officially arriving later.  Thankfully I had an appointment that day, and our midwife wasn’t exactly certain of baby boy’s position and just to ensure that he was in fact head down they sent us for an ultrasound. Thankfully, the ultrasound proved he was balled up, but head down. They also observed that I had excess fluid and so they talked me through how to do a self exam if my water were to break at home because sometimes that can cause complications with pinching the cord. Then they sent me home with an appointment for a week later and needless to say a discouraged attitude.

I fell asleep that night with no signs of labor at all, but rested peacefully as my Mom had arrived that day, and something about my Mother’s presence made everything okay.  In the morning, I awoke at the normal time to discover that I was bleeding. I texted our doula, let her know I was bleeding (not just spotting) but no contractions and I was heading back to bed (Mom had already taken over caring for our oldest). As I was laying in bed, I remembered our birthing classes 3 S’s if you think labor may be imminent. I had “Showered” right before bed, just “Slept” a decent amount, so I figured before actually falling back asleep I should “Snack” so I got up and poured a carbolicious bowl of Quaker Oat Squares. After breakfast it seemed the contractions were starting but they were only causing me to pause and I was able to assume normal tasks in between, I let Brian know (who based on my past was ready to speed race to the hospital) that there seemed to be time to eat, shower, etc.. but not to take TOO much time. 🙂 Around 7:15am we started timing my contractions using the Full Term app; they were 30 seconds 4 minutes apart. Brian contacted the doula and she was ready whenever we needed her. Over the next hour the contractions increased in length and I had to stop and breathe through them and Brian was applying pressure to my lower back. I began feeling like I wanted to “focus” on labor. Not focus on the time or duration of contractions, but just be in a place to focus only on relaxing and letting my body work. With a 5.5 year old running around asking questions, and passing by my suitcase and thinking of this or that to add to it I was too distracted from the task at hand. Brian called the doula and they decided it was okay for me to labor at home for a while. I headed directly for the shower, to labor under the water while laying across an exercise ball. HEAVENLY.

Whitney (doula) arrived while I was in the shower and greeted me with a “happy birthing day!” which immediately reminded me of the wonderful purpose at hand.  She stayed with me in the bathroom while Brian finalized things in the house and worked with my Mom to get the car ready. Sometime around 930am Brian and Whitney made the call based on my contractions to head to the hospital in order to make sure I had time to get at least one dose of antibiotics before delivery. The contractions were intense, but by staying in the position over the birth ball and using low moaning/vocalization while in the shower or leaning over something and having pressure applied to my hips/back they felt mostly manageable. I hadn’t yet completely lost my mind, like I did in my first birth so I assumed I still had quite awhile to go. I rode to the hospital in the back seat over the exercise ball and we arrived at St. Thomas Midtown around 10am. I let Brian be the “good patient” and sit in the seats at Registration and answer their questions while I held on to a post behind and tried to ‘quietly’ moan through a couple contractions. I remember as one contraction ended the registrar was so sweet to ask, “are you okay???” I think I just answered, “just having a baby!” As we walked back to triage, I was terrified that I would get examined and find that I had barely progressed. They checked me out in triage and let me know I was complete (10cm), hooray! They offered to wheel me down the hall in the bed, but I felt like I wanted to walk.

We got to an L&D room and the flurry of activity began of getting my heplock in, starting my antibiotics and arguing with our very persistent (temporary) nurse about interventions. The midwife arrived and helped us through some of the arguments- allowing me to use intermittent doppler reading vs being hooked up, denying pitocin after the birth, but one that was so interesting is when they saw that we were declining Erythromycin the nurse told me that Child Services would be doing a home visit to “investigate” my decision. Later one of the baby nurses told me since we had chosen to decline Child Services would come “investigate” up in postpartum. NEITHER visit has occurred since birth
***The laws regarding Erythromycin/Eye ointment changed as of July 1st, 2016. It is no longer a Class C Misdemeanor for care providers to decline administering the ointment. Read more here.

What was great though is that no one argued with me drinking Gatorade, or munching on snacks. One of the sweetest memories I have is Brian spoon-feeding me trail mix every so often just to keep my energy up.

Since I measured “complete” at triage, I assumed that I would get down to L&D, get my antibiotics and then push my baby out and be done. An hour or so later I was still laboring, waters intact. The contractions were intense but other than one fleeting moment, I did not feel the urge to push. We had tried a variety of positions, but nothing seemed to bring progress. The midwife told me during the exam at triage she had observed that the baby’s head was resting right on top of the bag of water and that it could either be broken or that I could labor on and it would eventually break. At that point I asked for more time, but about 45 minutes later I was beginning to feel very discouraged, I was frustrated because I was completely dilated and now just “enduring” the contractions for nothing other than my water to break. The midwife did a 2nd exam and verified that the head was resting directly on top of the bag which was directly blocking the way. It was her professional opinion that we could break it with very minimal risk of complication because of the baby’s position. At that point, I was ready so I asked her to break it. To her credit, she basically explained the entire thing to me again, and asked me a few more times if I was really okay with her breaking my water, she let Brian ask his questions and didn’t balk at us also looking to our Doula for her opinion (this gave me a great sense of control within the situation).

I had been standing and laying across the bed with my upper body, but she had me get onto the bed and turn on my back (a very uncomfortable position for me) and told me she would break it during a contraction. Breaking my water was HUGELY, HUGELY relieving. She also prepped me prior to doing this that I would stay in this position through one more contraction as she was certain I would want to push immediately and then I could turn back on my knees and lay over that wonderfully comfortable birth ball. 🙂 Once that next contraction came (and it was QUICK) my body took over, little babe was ON HIS WAY. They helped me flip back over to the ball and the midwife helped guide me to not just stay on my knees but to rock back onto my heels as I pushed to help avoid tearing (something I did terribly with my first). It “felt” like I pushed forever and at one point I told her I couldn’t push anymore but I just needed to reposition myself more upright and use the momentum of pushing back to my heels again. Brian assures me though, that pushing was actually pretty quick.

Little Beckett Scott was born at 11:53am, 8lbs 1oz and was absolutely perfect. The midwife prepped me at some point that when he arrived she would pass him between my legs into my hands so we could immediately do skin to skin. She did and it was the very very very best.

I did tear just a tad but only required two external stitches which for me was a huge victory and made healing MUCH easier. We got started with breastfeeding and even though it was my second time I soaked in my time with the lactation consultants to get us off on the right foot.

All in all, it was a WONDERFUL birth experience, completely different from my first, longer but much more peaceful. 🙂 We were very thankful for Lisa, the midwife and our doula Whitney, and of course I could not have done it without the encouragement and physical support of my rock star husband, Brian. He has been doing great in his new role as Dad to a baby! 🙂

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The Birth of Adelaide Sparrow

This birth story is from our very own Merrill Durham. Her birth was a planned home birth that ended with a hospital transfer. Learn how Merrill coped with a big change of plans, what it taught her about birth options, and how she found profound joy dealing with the unknown!
The Birth of Adelaide Sparrow
By Merrill Durham
My first birth with Genevieve was incredible, challenging, life-changing, and in many ways, traumatic. I had spent months preparing for the physical aspect of birth. I read every book, watched all the documentaries, attended a thorough childbirth education class, breastfeeding class, baby-wearing workshop, and talked to every mom I could about their labor experiences. I had attended a few births as a pseudo-doula (not yet trained) and I felt very prepared for my homebirth. (Here’s my blog post about why we chose a homebirth)Four days of labor and learning to release control and relax my pelvis, I finally jumped into active labor. Only 6 hours later and 30 minutes of pushing (75 hours total!), Genevieve was born. I had my natural homebirth, surrounded by my amazing birth team, my husband, mom, sister, and mother-in-law. I was utterly exhausted and very much in shock. Michael and I were on a high from it all and we connected in such a deep way through the process. But it was way harder than I imagined and I had some trauma I needed to process before having another baby. Transformation never comes easy. And I knew there would be things I would want to do differently the second time around. (Here are the detailed story of Genevieve’s birth and her birth video)
When we found out we were pregnant with Adelaide, I immediately called my midwife (for whom I am working as a midwife assistant). Our prenatals were pretty simple because at this point I was working as a professional doula, childbirth educator, and midwife assistant. I knew how to be pregnant. I amped up my self-care this pregnancy, went to the chiropractor regularly, started acupuncture, went to Nashville Float, took prenatal yoga, and had monthly prenatal massages. I was taking better vitamins and being conscientious about what I was eating. I felt great. I honestly love being pregnant.The biggest change I made this pregnancy, though, was my emotional preparation. Having gone through the process before, I knew how hard to it can be to tap into the emotional and spiritual aspects of growing a life. Our culture talks about the physical changes of pregnancy but we don’t revere the power of carrying two souls in your body during this sacred season. I did a lot of meditation and created a playlist of music that really grounded me. I listened to it 24/7 in the week before I went into labor. I also decided I wanted a Blessingway Ceremony to mark the importance of this time in my life. It was powerful for me. (Here is the blog post about My Mother’s Blessing)
I was emotionally and mentally getting ready for delivery in the 3rd trimester when I was thrown a curve ball. At 31 weeks pregnant I started having lots more cramping and Braxton Hicks. After a cervical check, we found that my body had started to show signs that it was progressing a little bit. I wouldn’t necessarily call it preterm labor but my midwife told me that I definitely needed to take it easy. No picking up Genevieve, stopping activities that weren’t essential, and resting when I could. This was way easier said than done considering I had a very active 2-year-old and I was about to launch a new business. But I did my best, for the next 6 weeks I took my activity level down a few notches and held my breath every time I had any labor signs. I needed to make it full-term in order to have my homebirth. Thankfully, January 1st came and went and I was officially full-term. Now I had to shift my thinking and wrap my mind around the waiting. It could technically be another 5 weeks before Adelaide arrived. For the next two weeks I just went about my day trying not to become obsessive about every twinge. After passing 38 weeks it became harder. This was when I went into labor with Genevieve and with the ‘pre-term’ symptoms I figured I would go early again. Once I hit 39 weeks, I really took the time to resettle my nerves and anxiety and to be present in the waiting. My daily mantra became:

“Today I am reminded that nothing in nature is rushed. I’m learning how to ground myself and stay present by quieting my mind. When fear creeps in, I will choose to trust this process. I will allow the mystery to unfold perfectly, receiving the abundant peace available to me, despite the tension in waiting and my desire to control. I refuse to let my impatience rob me of the joy and deep connection I can experience with my baby, my body, and the Creator. I will surrender to every sensation and open myself to whatever the long days and achy nights hold, even if it means curling up in a ball and having a good cry. In this season, Adelaide and I are one in body and soul and I will not hurry that separation. I will hold my daughter soon and that anticipation will be my strength. I am ready.”
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After a week of chiropractor adjustments, massage, acupuncture, lunges, walking, and smooth move tea, I started feeling some contractions. Sunday, January 17th we walked in the park and I was having lots of PMS symptoms – irritable, hot flashes, nauseated, tired, and very mild contractions at 15 – 20 minutes apart. Early Monday morning at 12:00am, I felt a weird sensation and some wetness while I was sleeping. I wasn’t sure if my water broke so I grabbed a towel and made my way to the bathroom. As I was walking I felt something come out. When I got to the bathroom I saw that I passed a blood clot the size of a golf ball. My adrenaline went through the roof. I had never heard of bleeding and clots in early labor and my heart was racing. I texted my midwife with a picture and watched to see if I had any more bleeding. Luckily, I was able to monitor the baby’s heart rate with my Doppler and the bleeding had stopped so I decided to go to bed and see what the morning brought.

Monday was uneventful, contractions were coming regularly at 10 minutes apart but I still viewed this as pre-labor. I didn’t want to get my hopes up after I had such a long early labor with Genevieve. And I was still able to walk and talk through these. They were very mild. Adelaide was moving around the same amount as before, I had no more active bleeding or clots, and her heart rate was great. Jennifer, my midwife, came by to see how I was doing. She did a cervical check just to see if it was possible that I was further along than we expected, but I was still 1cm and 50% effaced. Labor may not kick into gear for days, so we just continued about our day. I am so glad it was MLK Day because Michael had off work. So I ate pancakes, sat on the birth ball, listened to birth affirmations, and cuddled my family. Genevieve was not feeling so great so we slept most of the day.

The Birth:
Tuesday, January 19th (39 weeks and 4 days), I woke up with the same sensation I had the night before. It was 3am and I passed another blood clot. This time it was more like a softball size. Contractions were coming 6-8 minutes apart and after talking with Jennifer, we decided to go into Vanderbilt to confirm if this was cervical or placental bleeding. Although unlikely, if it was just cervical bleeding, then we could just go home and continue to let labor pick up. If the bleeding was from the placenta, the risk could be placental abruption, in which the placenta starts to detach from the uterine wall before delivery. This would cut off oxygen to the baby and I would bleed out. It’s a life threatening condition. The second I saw the bleeding, I knew I was no longer having a homebirth.

Michael scrambled some eggs for me because I knew food would be near impossible to get while at the hospital and I quickly threw together a hospital bag. I really only packed some clothes for postpartum, chap stick, phone charger, tooth brush, and receiving blankets and baby hats from our house to use at delivery. We called my mother-in-law to come to our house for when Genevieve woke up and we took a final belly picture.

At 6:00am Jennifer, Carissa (midwife assistant), and Becky (mother-in-law) arrived at our house. It was a freezing morning and I was not looking forward to getting in the car. I was still having contractions every 6-8 minutes and I was starting to have to actively work through them. The ride to the hospital wasn’t too bad but I remember thinking how awful this ride would be if I was in transition. Every bump in the road was miserable. I was glad I was only experiencing mild contractions at that point. We got to the hospital and the triage desk immediately sent us over to Labor and Delivery. My midwife gave them a heads up that we would be coming in for monitoring because of the bleeding so they had a room ready for us.

Let me tell you, it is so surreal to be a doula and have worked in that very room many times. I know the procedures, I know what is behind every cabinet door, and what doctor/staff to expect to walk in the room next. It felt a little out of body to be going through those motions. Had it been my first birth, I would have been so traumatized. I had a horrible hospital experience as a child and I wanted nothing to do with hospitals. But now that I’ve attended so many births in that setting, I was not bothered with the hospital at all. In fact, it was very comfortable for me. Because Vanderbilt is a teaching hospital and I didn’t have primary care established there, I was seen by the residents and medical students, which means I met 10+ people during my labor. As a doula with my clients, we normally request that no students come in and we try and limit the staff in the room. But for whatever reason, everyone’s presence did not annoy me at all.  I was also so grateful to have an awesome nurse with whom I’ve worked before. She was one of my saving graces during this process. She calls all her patients “my sweet” and has an infectious positive presence.

At 7:00am a group of residents came in and introduced themselves. They wanted to perform a speculum exam to determine if the bleeding was cervical and they also wanted to do an ultrasound to confirm that baby was head down and that the placenta was not covering my cervix. For those who have read my previous birth story, you may remember that I had experienced abuse as a child that made any type of pelvic exam near impossible. Since Genevieve’s birth, I have healed in so many ways. The checks that Jennifer had to perform were no big deal at all and I’ve had no issues with relaxing my pelvic floor since my first birth. So despite having multiple strangers performing checks during labor, I had no trauma whatsoever!

After the speculum exam, they did a quick abdominal ultrasound to confirm that baby was head down, and then a different resident performed a cervical check to see where my progress was at that point. I was 3cm, 70% effaced, and station -2. Still very much early labor as I expected. Honestly, I don’t even know if I would have called it labor at that point. A third resident walked in, one whom we all love because of his British accent 😉 He started a long monologue about the risks of placental abruption, risks of a c-section, and how they would go about monitoring me during labor. I suppose that was when I was officially admitted.

The next hour and half (7:30 – 9:00am) were full of admission steps. I had two IV’s placed. One was a heplock in case I needed a blood transfusion and the other was to give me fluid and Pitocin if that became necessary. I also had a blood pressure cuff put on and a pulse oximeter to measure my heart rate. The nurse placed the baby on the monitor and I got a monitor to measure my contractions. I just started laughing. I mean what else could I do? This was exactly why I chose a homebirth in the first place, to avoid all of this. I was hooked up to six wires! But I knew at this point I was considered high risk and if I didn’t make the best of it, I would be so miserable. So I laughed and I let the craziness of it all become comical. And I decided to roll with it. Next the financial adviser came in to talk because I have unconventional insurance and he needed to know how I was going to pay for it all, I talked with the charge nurse about my experience so far, I talked to anesthesia, giving them consent to use general anesthesia if that became necessary, and I answered 100 questions for my chart. All of this I expected from experience with clients and once again, I chose to not be annoyed by the constant visitors (although my husband was perturbed). I really was happy through the whole process. The peace and joy I felt was so unexpected. 

Finally by 9:00am we were done with admissions and we got a little bit of quiet. I chatted with Jennifer, Carissa, and Sandee (midwife assistant/doula) for a little bit and tried to process the whirlwind that just happened. My mom and Lauren (twin sister) then came to see me for a few minutes and give me final hugs. By 10:00am I was ready to be left alone. Had this been a homebirth, I would not have my birth team with me yet. It was still so early and I didn’t want to feel like ‘a watched pot’. I did that in my previous labor and I didn’t want to do that again. I sent all the final texts, Facebook messages, emails, and even confirmed a couple of Airbnb bookings 😉 before I shut off my phone. I was ready to get into birth world and get things going. And I knew it was not going to happen if my left brain was turned on. You can’t really think through labor, you have to shut off your brain and just be present. So by 10:30am the room was emptied besides me and Michael.

I think that’s when reality hit me.
I was staying so calm and very intentional during the entire process. I was choosing joy despite everything being the opposite of what I had imagined. This was certainly not the birth experience I was expecting but I knew I wanted to make the best of it. With everyone gone and my birth playlist playing in the background, I finally let my emotions flow. I cried for a little over an hour. I cried because today was the day I was going to meet my daughter. I cried because I was not going to have the homebirth I had expected. I cried because I felt so much peace and I was so grateful for that. I was overwhelmed with how happy I was. I really don’t know how that was possible. I mean really, nothing was going according to plan and yet I found myself surrounded by peace. I know a lot of prayers were said on my behalf at that time.Now that this was the journey I was on and I had a good cry, I was ready to fully embrace it. I laughed as I tried to get to the bathroom. My goodness, IV pole, monitors, a mesh “diaper”, all while waddling to the bathroom, I could really relate to my clients now. I could have been upset but I just laughed. Every task was very challenging in this setting. I remember loving standing by the side of the bed swaying my hips and moving my body. Around 11:00am a med student walked in to introduce himself and he looked so confused. I will always remember his face while I was blasting music, swaying my hips, and smiling. He didn’t understand why I was out of the bed. He asked if my joints hurt and I laughed and said, ‘Um no… I am in labor. It feels good to move”. Maybe I taught him something that day about letting women do their thing in labor. 

At 12:00pm my primary resident (whom I really loved) came in to check my progress. I had made minimal progress – I was 3cm, 80%, and station -1. He said they would come back in about 2.5-3 hours to see if anything had changed. Thankfully, he did let me take the IV out and the pulse ox and blood pressure cuff off. I felt so free! At one point I even sent Michael out of the room to get coffee so I could just be myself and really allow myself to enter birth world. My nurse was amazing and got me all my favorite drinks and even a little coffee because of my ‘lack of caffeine’ headache. Around 1:15pm Michael and I were in a good routine with contractions. He was massaging acupressure points that help with getting contractions going and I would sit on the birth ball and open my hips. But I knew that my contractions were still not in a great pattern. They were 3 minutes, then 6 minutes, then 4 minutes, then 10 minutes apart. No real rhythm. So I wasn’t expecting much progress when they checked me again.

Lauren showed up again at 1:45pm with a diffuser and some moral support. She was so great at rubbing my back and telling me how amazing I was doing. But I really was handling it fine on my own at that point, I even told her to give Michael a massage instead because I was totally fine and didn’t really want the touch at this point. But her presence meant so much to me.

At 2:30pm, my doctor came back in to see where my cervix was at. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I had made no progress since my last check 2.5 hours ago. I was recalling my previous birth and I remembered that I stayed around 4cm for DAYS. It took nipple stimulation, black/blue cohosh, and learning how to relax to kick my body into active labor. So I told my medical team that I sort of expected needing some augmentation to get labor really going. I also reminded them that I will probably go fast once my body kicked into gear. We decided at this point it would be best to break my water. I asked so many questions (my doula brain was running through all the pros and cons). My doctor reassured me that baby was well engaged and he was not concerned with cord prolapse and he didn’t think I would be in labor long enough to worry about infection. I also had to keep reminding myself that I am a second-time mom and so my pattern will likely move a little quicker than a first time mom.
So at 2:42pm, my doctor broke my water. 

Even though I was only 3cm, my nurse started setting up the room for delivery. Thankfully, the water was clear so there was no need to have the NICU team at delivery. I remember the water being so warm. And then my next thought was a little bit of panic as I looked Michael in the eye and said, “This next contraction is going to be a lot harder”. I think I said something else along the lines of ‘shit’s about to get real’. And sure enough…. Holy moly….. My contractions went from mild to incredibly intense. It was insane! Lauren had texted Carissa to head this way as they were breaking my water because I knew it would be harder, so she arrived at 3:10pm. I was so happy to see her walk in. At that point I was off the bed and back on the birth ball and I turned to her and said, “Carissa… this is no joke…” She jumped into action with Lauren and Michael. Around this point I was starting to really vocalize. I mean it was like a loud, deep growl. I was able to keep my sounds super low but it was so intense. I am sure it would have frightened anyone in the hallway. I told the 3 of them that I need everyone to press on my back. It felt like my hips were coming apart. I didn’t remember this with my first baby. I remember contractions being more of an incredibly tight squeeze. This felt more like a ripping apart. It was as if their pressing was keeping my body in one piece. At one point someone eased up on the pressure and I started shouting, “Keep pushing on me”. My doctor and his team walked in at some point during all of this and Carissa said their faces were hilarious. I was not holding back, it was a pretty raw, intense scene and I am sure they were not used to that. Once again, teaching these new doctors what some laboring women look like 😉

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I did this from 3:00 to 4:30pm and I just could not imagine doing it any longer. My coping techniques were not keeping up with the intensity. I had a quick thought that maybe it was so hard because my placenta was abrupting and something was wrong with my body. Nothing was wrong – baby looked great and I wasn’t bleeding but I did have a short moment of fear. I believe it was Carissa that told me everything was OK and I could do it and that snapped me out of that worry. I then started throwing up the coffee I drank and I was shaking all over. My contractions were coming right on top of each other. I believe I had about 1 minute in between to ‘rest’, although I never really felt relief. I was certain this had to be transition. My thoughts were just to survive and breathe. Michael kept reminding me to breathe but honestly, I was finding it hard to catch my breath. There were about 15 seconds during each contraction that I felt like there’s no way I can do this and then it would start to ease up and I was able to breathe again.

Here’s the thing, had I been at home or had I not been high risk, I would be getting in the shower or birth tub. I would not be hooked to 6 wires, confined to the perimeter of the bed, with nurses and doctors coming in and out. I was starting to feel like I was drowning during the contraction. I needed an anchor. I needed direction. I needed something about this whole situation to change. My body was going through such intensity that I could not do this for an indefinite amount of time. I was past the point of simply surrendering to the contractions. I needed something concrete to focus on. So I told my team that I wanted to be checked. If I was not 8 or 9cm then I wanted an epidural. Because the idea of doing this for hours and hours was not going to happen: a common feeling during transition.

At 4:30pm my doctor checked me and I was 5cm, 100% effaced and station 0. I had made great progress. However, as a laboring woman, all I heard was that I am JUST ENTERING active labor. I was certain I was in transition, but only 5cm!?! I could be doing this for 6+ more hours for all I knew. Of course, had I really listened to my body and thought about what was going on, I should have known that this baby was coming fast. But I needed something to help me cope and my only option was pain relief. In retrospect, nitrous oxide would have been totally sufficient but again I heard 5cm and from being a doula, I knew that nitrous was really most effective right before pushing. Oh had I just known that I would be pushing in a matter of minutes and had I been at home, that birth tub would have been perfect! I think natural birth is the way to go. There are so many benefits. And birthing at home makes having a natural birth way easier because you don’t have the option otherwise. But I knew that suffering for a natural birth was not what I wanted.

I had so many thoughts running through my head at that moment:
1. I remember thinking that this was way harder than I remember with Genevieve. The great thing about having a four-day labor is that you progress slowly and your body has time to adjust to the intensity. It wasn’t like I am not a strong person, but I really thought my body was about to come apart because the contractions got so strong so fast. The epidural wasn’t because I was exhausted, it was because my body was spreading, literally, faster than my coping skills could keep up with. I skipped active labor altogether. Although I wanted the relief, more than anything I needed to know that there was an end in sight.  2. I also remember thinking that I had nothing to prove. I had had a homebirth. I know natural labor. This environment was not what I planned, this environment was not conducive to my peaceful natural, home-like setting. I needed something to change and I could only use the resources available to me now that I was considered high risk and on constant monitoring.  3. It might seem weird, but I was sort of excited about getting an epidural. Or maybe the right word is intrigued. I wanted to know what the process was like since I already had so many other interventions happening to me. At that point my ideal birth was out the window and I was a lot more fine embracing my alternatives.  4. Choosing an epidural did not feel like defeat to me. I honestly felt empowered to ask for one because nothing about my labor was anything I could control, I wanted to choose something for myself. And it was the first thing that day that I GOT TO CHOOSE. I felt powerful to make that choice. And I felt good about it.
So when he said, “5cm”, I immediately said, “Nope. I want an epidural”. And they QUICKLY made that happen for me.

Lauren and Carissa went out in the hall and at 4:40pm they started the epidural process. Because my contractions were so incredibly strong at this point, I didn’t feel anything with the epidural. I don’t remember any of what they were doing except that I wanted them to go a little faster and it was borderline excruciating to sit on the side of the bed curled over trying to hold still during those contractions. But really, being forced to do something was exactly what I needed. I needed direction, I needed a task, I needed something to do. I had to sit still and follow directions and that process was perfect for where my mind was at that moment. Well by 5:00pm they had the epidural in but I was getting NO relief. They kept using ice to see if my body was numbing at all and it was not. They couldn’t figure out why the epidural wasn’t working at all. A few minutes later Adelaide’s heart rate was dropping a little during contractions and my immediate thought was, “Of course, head compression, I am about to push…” And then the nurse said the exact same thing. My doctor and the resident entourage entered the room. They checked me at 5:10pm and I just had a teeny cervical lip left! I went from 5cm to just about fully dilated in 40 minutes…..And not only that but Adelaide was super, super low, so she was moving through my pelvis at a rapid rate. They wanted me to labor just a little bit longer before pushing and during those 15 minutes I clung to Michael as my life support. I buried my face in his shirt and with all my strength, worked through one contraction at a time.

At 5:25pm my doctor said let’s go ahead and start pushing. The anesthesia team was still in the room because my epidural was doing absolutely nothing and they were trying to get me some relief. Ha. I was going to get a natural birth either way…Oh well…I didn’t even care about or need the epidural at that point. I knew I was pushing any minute and just the fact that the epidural placement process gave me distraction to get through transition was all I needed. So I gave it ONE PUSH and my doctor said, “Ok, let’s break down the bed for delivery.” I was over the moon. I love pushing. I loved pushing with Genevieve and I loved pushing with Adelaide. I felt like a complete badass when with just one push I was ready for delivery. It was incredible. Everyone in the room was impressed by my pushing. I remember feeling so so happy and strong.

The baby was starting to have some major decelerations but because I was such an effective pusher they weren’t concerned. They did put me on oxygen and my doctor just said turn the monitor off! He didn’t want to hear the heartbeat that low. I believe her heart rate was down to 60 at one point but I was never worried, I knew it was going to happen soon. And because the epidural could not keep up with how fast I was progressing I could still feel everything and I loved feeling her move down through my body. With Genevieve, I was so exhausted that I wasn’t fully present during pushing but this time around I was totally there and loved it! They asked if I wanted to touch her head and I said, “Absolutely!” It was amazing. And then I had a moment where I asked, “Wait, she’s already under the bone?” And they laughed and said, “Yes, you are about to crown”. I was shocked! I am so used to first time moms who take hours to push and I couldn’t believe the hardest part of getting the baby under the pelvic bone was over.

At 5:41pm she started crowning. She had a nuchal cord, that’s where the umbilical cord was wrapped tight around her neck, and that’s what was causing the major decels in her heart rate. They tried to move the cord over her head but it was too tight. So they told me that I was going to deliver through the cord. So I gave it 2 more pushes and at 5:42pm my daughter was born!

What a holy experience. I was totally lost in that moment, just engrossed in my daughter on my belly. I was rubbing her back and telling her how much I loved her and then she let out a beautiful cry. I don’t care how you have a baby or where you have a baby, that moment is just exhilarating. I was completely in love with her. I could hear Michael sobbing next me, even before she was born, just like with Genevieve. And we were so present in that moment. Just the three of us. Nothing, nothing will ever compare to that moment. It was very surreal and the relief I had was unlike anything. I kept saying over and over, “I am so happy, I am so happy, I am so happy!” I am telling you, this birth will always be marked with joy. 

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The team was great at letting the cord stop pulsing before Michael cut the cord and about 14 minutes after delivery my placenta came out. I do remember that within 2 minutes of birth, I told my nurse to shut off the epidural. The epidural was starting to work at that point, of course, right after delivery 😉 but I didn’t want the medication any longer. And I am glad I had them shut it off. I was walking 3 hours after delivery. I did have one tear because they had to aggressively help with delivery due to the nuchal cord but it was just a quick repair. Before I knew it, the room was cleared out. I held my baby for 2.5 hours before anyone touched her. I was excited to use my own blankets on her and our own hat as well. It was important to me that the first thing to touch her skin came from our house with our family’s bacteria on it instead of the sterile hospital blankets. The hospital atmosphere did not phase me whatsoever once my daughter was in my arms. I think the hospital setting actually made me feel possessive of Adelaide. I didn’t let anyone to touch her or take her away from me. And she latched beautifully just 30 minutes after delivery. My attachment with her was a lot more instantaneous than my attachment with Genevieve. That was one of my big prayers and hopes for this birth. I was so in love.
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My final thoughts about the experience:

  • Although my hospital birth experience was not a bad one, I would always choose a homebirth. Nothing can compare to the intimacy and sacredness of birthing in your own home, surrounded by friends instead of strangers, and with no interruptions or distractions. I will always advocate for homebirths and if we were to get pregnant again, I would choose to birth at home. There is just no way to compare the two experiences and as long as I am low risk, home is where I will be.
  • This birth brought healing from my first birth in ways that I never would have expected. I was free from the fears about this birth that I released at my Blessingway. All the cervical checks I had during Adelaide’s birth (by strangers nonetheless) left me with NO trauma. I couldn’t believe it. I was totally fine. I also bonded immediately with Adelaide and was able to connect with her in ways I wasn’t able to with Genevieve. Both my trauma and ability to attach to my new baby were fears that I had beforehand and I experienced none of them. This birth was truly healing for me.
  • Oh epidurals. I am still processing a whole range of emotions with that decision. Ultimately, I am fine with choosing to get one. It was my birth, my choice. But it’s amazing how I’ve already had people make comments like, “I am so surprised you chose an epidural” and “Aren’t you all about natural birth, I am curious as to why you wanted an epidural?” I do love natural birth and it is something that is important to me. But birthing in a hospital is far from serene and hands-off like a homebirth. I feel weird that I have to justify or defend my actions. I get moments where I feel shame for that decision and I can only imagine how so many moms feel when they don’t have the ‘ideal’ birth experience. Or maybe for some moms an epidural is an ideal birth, and that is OK! For me personally, I would have rather not had one, but let’s be honest, it didn’t actually work anyway. However, in just one hour I went from 5cm to delivery, baby moving down from station 0 to crowning, and an OP baby rotating to OA. I still can’t believe it! I’ve been to so many births and I have never witnessed one quite this fast. Not to mention she was about 9 pounds. It was unbelievably intense. And I used the only resource I knew to use at that point. I never judge a woman for choosing an epidural. Suffering through birth is never OK. If the coping skills you are using are not working, it’s OK to use what is available. So a mom in labor gets to call the shots for what her body needs in that moment. You will certainly never hear judgement from me!
  • My emotional preparation made me so at ease and peaceful about everything. I chose to be intentional about enjoying this experience. I think this is one of the most important things I would tell people. We do not get to choose the details of our child’s arrival. Birth is full of unknowns and the journey is one of letting go of control and being present through the process. We certainly did not anticipate having a high risk hospital birth. What we do get to choose is how we receive the birth. When things shift from our ideal or our plans, you get to decide how to respond. Of course it’s OK to be disappointed, it’s OK to have a good cry, it’s OK to need lots of time to process after the birth. You may even feel shame or sadness or frustration, and that is OK. I’ve had many moments where I think I am going to get a redo with this birth in a few weeks, where I would get the chance to change certain aspects of the birth, but that’s not the case. I have felt every range of emotions since delivery and I’ve needed to process the experience with multiple people. I will still be processing this birth for a long time. But I do want to end by saying that I have never experienced so much peace and joy during such a challenging experience. I was proactive prenatally to emotionally prepare myself for birth. Daily I released my expectations and prepared myself to embrace whatever this birth would bring. I knew it would come with challenges but I also knew that it was through those challenges that we grow and experience life on a deep, raw level. Choose to birth life in joy. And choose to embrace your child’s unique story.