A Call for Story Sharers!

As 2017 approaches, we are looking for new ways to reach the women we serve. One of those ways is through a consistent team of contributing story sharers on our blog. Yes, story sharers. You don't have to be a 'writer', have your own blog or have anything published to contribute. We want real-life mamas sharing real-life things. Good things like the joys of motherhood; ways you have learned and grown as a woman; ways you have been empowered through your story or struggle. Hard things like depression and anxiety; miscarriage and loss; unmet expectations. Stories of the day to day and what that looks like...and how it changes. We're looking for women who would be willing to contribute 5-10 posts/YEAR. That's it! Sometimes we may ask for a specific topic, other times we will just share what it is that you're passionate about sharing. We want YOUR STORIES...your beautifully messy, imperfect stories. If you are interested, please contact our blog editor, Alisha, at ameador@themotherhoodcollective.org. We can't wait to hear from you!

Author's Series: Writing Through the Grief of Miscarriage and a Mother’s Illness

We're so excited to introduce something new to our blog: The Author's Series. Each month, we'll be sharing a story from an author who has written about their experiences in motherhood. Their stories are vastly different, yet all share the common thread of motherhood. We hope that you enjoy seeing this journey through their eyes...and keep your eyes on our social media for some fun giveaways!

Cafe' Recap: Accepting Your Birth, It's Only the Beginning

Cafe' Recap: Accepting Your Birth, It's Only the Beginning

Birth is transformative. We meet women every day who could describe their births from many years ago in vivid detail. And we’re all familiar with the war stories... Part of our mission here at the TMC is to transform the culture of fear surrounding birth. We encourage women to educate themselves and create a supportive environment for birth. But the truth is, we all must enter birth with open hands. The stories we would write for ourselves are not always the stories that make us the strongest mothers for our children.

According to Plan (Or Not).

According to Plan (Or Not).

Looking back, these were the longest days of my life and I look back on them with such sadness for how I wanted it to be and how it really could have been. Having come off of such a high from an amazing birth experience to having the furthest from ideal hospital stay was like being hit by a truck heading into Ezra’s first few weeks of life.

Letters from Lauren: I See You

Letters from Lauren: I See You

We're taking a little detour from our usual 'Friday Introductions' and sharing our executive director's very personal letter this week. This letter serves as its own introduction of sorts, not only to Lauren, but to our organization. We hope you enjoy it.

Letters from Lauren: The Why

Letters from Lauren: The Why

Questions and information in hand, I found myself sitting naked in a paper gown in the office of a female care provider. I expected my questions to be met with a feministic cheer... maybe even a pat on the back! You can imagine my surprise when, instead of support, I received an eye roll and a trip to "blood work" without any explanation. No conversation, no questions, no referrals, nothing.

Naomi's Story

Naomi's Story

Our sweet daughter, Naomi Kathleen, was born at 9:11pm, on Sunday, November 8, 2009 weighing in at 2 pounds 7.9 ounces (the .9 ounces means a lot when you have a preemie) and measuring 14 inches long. Her due date was January 9. I was 31 weeks pregnant, meaning she was nine weeks early; however, the doctors said she had stopped growing around 28 weeks so she was especially tiny for her age.

Joziah's Story

Joziah's Story

"They wheeled us to the back of the delivery ward away from everyone else and 1 hour later, our quiet, beautiful baby boy came into the world. I don’t remember much due to the medicine, but I’ll never forget pushing. A beautiful nurse, Beth, took our baby and prayed over him and cleaned him. We eventually held him, but I don’t know how long after he was born that we did this. Time was not important anymore. Nothing was. In the following days, we held Joziah, cried over him, took pictures of him, questioned why over and over and made funeral arrangements. Leaving the hospital was the worst. It was a feeling of deep sorrow, failure, shame, guilt which all sat on my lap instead of a baby to go home."

Happy Birthday Addy!

This birth journey was quite that--a journey!  It is my own story of welcoming my second baby and my first daughter in a way that I never imagined or even wanted.  However, even the worst of situations can help mold and define us--if we let them.  I hope my work with women as a doula encourages them to do just that--use all their life experiences to become better mothers! 58F05-11-5(4-37)

Tomorrow is my daughter’s 7th birthday.  She is such a joy—easy to parent, fun to be around, full of desire and love for life.  She is the complete opposite of me.  She is quiet and she thinks things through. She loves cuddles—her eyes light up at just the thought of a hug.  She loves sports and she really dislikes anything pink or purple or overly girly in any way.  Being a girly-girl myself, people joke me about this all the time.  Honestly, I love that she knows who she is and that she is not afraid to be different.  I love to watch her play with intensity on the soccer/baseball/basketball/swim team.  She never takes a short-cut or chooses the easier road—I have learned a lot from her, my first daughter Addy.


Her pregnancy was easy—the joy I felt to be carrying a girl after my first son was immense.  At 36 weeks when my water broke unexpectedly, I was excited to meet this child that I had dreamed about for 9 months (or really, longer than that—as my greatest desire in life has always been to be a mommy.)  I went to the hospital, was hooked up, and was told her heart-rate was too high and I would need a c-section.  At the time, I knew nothing about birth—I went into my first birth totally uneducated and it turned out fine (or so I thought at the time—it was a vaginal delivery with an epidural—that’s how we have babies in America, right?)  Here I was, about to have my second baby, and I still had no knowledge about the process of birth.  If I am to be completely honest, when the doctor said c-section, I was not upset.  I am sad to admit it now, but I thought to myself: “Well I thought I had a long labor in front of me, but I will be holding my baby in less than an hour.”  That, mixed with the fact that the doctor used the fear that every mother carries about her baby being healthy, sent me happily into the OR.


The experience in the OR was intense.  I was aware of the anesthesiologist warning me not to freak out: “One false move from you, and I will put you all the way under.”   I remember being scared, as my arms were strapped down and the curtain was raised, but everyone seemed so calm—like this was something that happened all the time (which it is.)  I pushed my fears aside, prayed silently, and held my husband’s hand.  I fought the urge to scream and vomit when I felt them tugging on my uterus, when I felt them moving organs and placing my stomach contents on my belly—this is normal, I kept telling myself.  It was not long before she was born with a healthy cry—7 pounds, 1 ounce and perfect heart rate.  They held her up, Dad snapped some pictures, and they wheeled her away.  This is how I met my first daughter—the little girl I had dreamed about for so long.


The recover was painful.  I remember them lifting the sheet to move me from bed to bed.  I remember being cold and shaking uncontrollably, I remember thinking: “Where is my baby?”  The nurse told me I had to be able to wiggle my toes before I could see her—I tried so hard.  Eventually (after 3 or so hours) they brought her in.  I was overwhelmed with love for her, but also overwhelmed with wondering how I was going to take care of this tiny baby when I could barely even wiggle my toes.  I told the nurse I was in pain.  She said: “Of course you are in pain, you just had major surgery.”  I was shocked—no one had called it “major surgery,” instead it was just a c-section, as routine as a root-canal.


My painful recovery did not end in the hospital.  I went home, and after a day or two the pain became unbearable.  I began to spike really high fevers, followed by uncontrollable chills.  I would soak the sheets with sweat at night, telling my husband that I would just rather die.  The entire time, I was trying to nurse (around the clock) and take care of my baby, which seemed like a major chore.  People kept telling me: “Just be thankful you have a healthy baby.”  I was thankful, but I could not fight the feeling that something was taken from me.  I was not enjoying anything about her, which added more guilt to my already wounded heart.  I know you are wondering why I did not go to the hospital, as everyone knows that these are signs of infection.  We called my doctor every day—something multiple times a day.  Every time we called, she told us not to come into the office that she thought I had the flu and she did not want to get the other patience sick.  She told me that recovering from a c-section was hard, that it was in my head, and that I might be struggling with postpartum depression.  If someone who you trust, who is an educated, experienced doctor tells you this enough, you being to think that you are going crazy.  I was sure that it must all be in my head, that despite the temperature readings, I was making myself sick.  Besides, I thought, I just had major surgery—I guess the recover must be this hard.


You know by now where this story is going.  I finally went to the ER after a week (and after I passed out at home and my husband became even more concerned) and they admitted me with a ragging Staff infection.  I spent 6 days in the hospital, getting IV antibodies, having my wound opened and drained, getting my incision packed and cleaned, and finally getting a PICC line to go home with so that I could have IV antibodies for the next few months from home.  I also had Home Health Care, and a nurse (a bright ray of sunshine with red hair and a happy face) came to my house every day to change my packing in my incision.  I was not able to nurse or even see my baby (who was just a week old) because of the infection and the medication.  It was painful and awful and I was mad and upset—wondering why things had to go this way for me.  The worst part was my own conscious and guilt telling me that I was a bad mother because I did not even care about seeing my baby.  My mother-in-law brought her to see me at one point, in an effort to cheer me up, and I did not even want to lift my arms and hold her.  Looking back, I know that I was so sick and my body was so tired and just needed time to feel better.  However, in that moment, I was a shell.  My ability to have a baby had been taken from me, and my ability to mother was gone as well.   I was worse than upset—I became emotionless.


I went home after a week, and began to feel somewhat better being surrounded by my own things and the people who loved me—the family and friends who were committed to caring for me.  In my safe place, I began to hold Addy and even enjoy her.  I started to pump (I had to dump the milk because of the medication) and I was hopeful that one day I could nurse her again (and I did—for over a year.)  Like a wilted flower—I began to regain my strength—to stand up tall, to open and grow.  It was not on my own power—I prayed a lot and I know a lot of people prayed for me.  I read scripture with new eyes—as some who was so broken, as someone who needed something, anything to make it through the day.  My soul was parched, and I accepted the living water that only the Lord can provide.  I began to see glimpse of myself again.  My husband took me to get a Christmas tree, promising I could pick out the biggest one on the lot.  My sister-in-law picked me up and we went shopping for decorations.  My Mom came and pulled all the weeds in my flower bed outside.  My mother-in-law, fresh out of surgery herself, cooked and cleaned and made everything run like normal.  My Gran came and stayed for a week—she would sit in the chair by the couch and tell me stories, wonderful stories from when she was young. My new friend (at the time) brought cookies, and just sat and chatted with me.  I began to see this family and community that God had blessed me with—people brought food, helped take care of my older son, or just called to check on me.  I was surrounded by people pouring out love, watering my soul, bringing me slowly back to my former self.


Would I take it all back?  Never.  During this time in my life, I found a sister who loved me, a new best friend, and a husband who served me faithfully and with no concern for himself.  I found a church that was faithful to serve someone in need.  I looked at my daughter with new eyes—the eyes of someone who had faced hurt and pain and conquered it.


Most importantly, I found my passion in life.  From that moment on I began to get educated about birth.  I read—no, devoured, books.  I talked to other moms and really thought about how women give birth in America.  I watched documentaries, and was sure that there was a better way to have a baby.  When I had my 3rd and 4th babies, with midwives, I had beautiful, natural VBACS that made me believe in myself and other women as well—if someone would just tell them: there is a better way.


I’m thankful for Addy’s birth journey, and I think as women who have had c-sections and are looking for other options, we have to get to that point emotionally before we can have future vaginal births.  We can’t hold ourselves responsible for the things we did or did not know, for the decisions we made, and for the way we gave birth.  We have to move on and see it as part of who we are—tightly woven into every aspect of our being.


On your 7th birthday, sweet Addy, I want you to know that you are the child who helped Mommy find herself.  Through everything, you helped me find a rebirth in myself.  You helped me see that I am strong and capable.  You started me on a journey to serve women, to educate, and to give options. Your birth story might not be one that I cherish, one that was joyful and easy, but it is important—so much more important—because it opened my eyes.  If I ever do anything worth while in my life, being your Mommy will be first—helping others find their own strength while becoming mommies will be second.

All my love,


Two Very Different Births - Part 2: Jacob

With my first pregnancy, I was almost a week overdue, and ended up with an induction due to leaking fluid and high blood pressure.  While I don’t regret the outcome of that delivery, I knew I wanted to avoid an induction the second time around.  Fortunately, as the end of my second pregnancy neared, I felt sure that he would arrive before or on my due date, and that my delivery experience would be different. In the last couple weeks of my pregnancy, I had Braxton Hicks contractions on a nightly basis, with the discomfort mostly in my back.  I felt encouraged that I would be able to avoid an induction this time, and cheerfully went to my appointment 2 days before my due date, sure all these contractions would indicate some progress.

75% effaced and a “possible 1cm.”

In hindsight, it was silly, but I was emotional and tired, and I left the appointment, sat in my car, and cried.  I felt as if I was headed down a road I had been down before, with limited progression and a stubborn baby.  I still had two weeks before my doctor’s office would advocate for medical intervention, which I logically knew was plenty of time, but emotionally I felt that nothing was going to change in that time.  Blame it on hormones.

December 1st, my due date, came and went.  I went on a massive grocery shopping trip.  December 2nd came and went.  December 3rd dawned and, desperate to get out of the house, my husband and I took our 2 year old to a morning at a local farm that included a petting zoo, playground, and very bumpy wagon ride.  Nothing.  I went to bed that night with the same sense of frustration.

At 2am, I woke up and used the bathroom, feeling cranky because the back pain and general discomfort of the night before had subsided and so once again, there were no signs that this baby was coming anytime soon.  I had just gotten back into bed, and rolled to my side when the first contraction hit.  Not painful, but uncomfortable, and enough to make my eyes pop open again.  10 minutes later, another obvious contraction, and I thought maybe I should keep an eye on the clock, just in case.  I didn’t want to wake Kevin for a false alarm, so I went downstairs to play on the computer. Over the next half hour, the contractions continued, moving anywhere from 4-6 minutes apart, but I could still talk, and move through them, so they were lacking in the intensity needed for a trip to the hospital, and I wanted to labor as home as long as possible.

At 2:45, I woke Kevin up, and we called my mom, 2 hours away, to tell her that I thought things might be getting started, and that maybe she should drive down.  I was extremely apologetic to both, worried that this might not be the real thing and that I was waking everybody up in the middle of the night for nothing.  Still, we wanted to be prepared.  The plan was to stay at home and monitor things until my mom got here to stay with Mia, and if things continued moving forward, we would head towards the hospital at that time.  Kevin got up and began doing a few last minute things around the house while I decided to take a shower, thinking it would be the last time I had the chance to really get clean for awhile.

I stayed in the shower for only half an hour, but by the time I got out of the shower, contractions were spaced just a few minutes apart and increasing in intensity.  We called the triage nurse to let her know of my "symptoms" and she passed the message along to the doctor on call to give them a heads-up that we might be coming in.  I had another contraction while on the phone with her, and this time had to stop talking until it passed.

I came back upstairs and tried to distract myself with a movie (RV with Robin Williams), but it wasn’t helping.  Each contraction had me bent over the furniture, moaning my way through it.  I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to hold out another hour till my mom arrived, so Kevin called our backup to come over to the house and sit with our still sleeping 2 year old.  Except nobody answered the phone.  I didn’t know what to do, and didn’t want to “bother anyone else in the middle of the night”, but  Kevin ignored me and called our neighbor, 3 doors down, a woman we didn’t know really well, but who three girls of her own, and had given Kevin her number a few days earlier, “just in case.”  She answered immediately, and was at our house within minutes.

Meanwhile, I managed to pull on a top and stretch pants between contractions that were now only a minute or two apart.  I wanted to throw a few last-minute items in my hospital bag, but couldn’t focus enough to accomplish the task.   I gave up and worked my way downstairs, where I apologized to our neighbor for inconveniencing her, as Kevin pulled me out the door.

At 4:03am, we left the house for the 20 minute drive to the hospital.   I don't remember much about this trip, other than the fact that we passed a sobriety checkpoint at one point, and I thought how inconvenient it would be if they stopped us now.  I also remember feeling incredibly relieved when we pulled into the hospital parking lot because I knew that I would soon be in a bed and I could get something to help with the pain.

We checked into the ER at 4:25.  I had pre-registered, but there are always more papers to sign. We started the process, except there were no longer any breaks between contractions.  I was arching myself out of the wheelchair, and alternating between groaning and swearing under my breath.  I just wanted to get checked in and comfortable since I knew I still had a way to go.  The ER attendant decided that we could finish the paperwork later, and instructed Kevin to take me down the hall to L&D.  He spun the wheelchair around and took off at a run down the hallway, with the attendant running beside him to attach my ID bracelet.  I begged him to slow down, that I felt lightheaded and sweaty and his running was making me sick.  He didn’t listen.

We arrived at L&D, and were directed to a room, where a nurse asked if I needed anything, and I kept repeating that I felt like I was going to be sick.  She directed me to wait until the contraction ended, and then get out of the wheelchair and go into the bathroom to change.    Three other nurses arrived, and when I said that I couldn't get out of the chair to move to the bathroom, one of them took charge and lifted me.  She half-dragged me over to the bedside, and said she would help me change.  I was shaking so badly that my legs were not holding my weight, and I felt what I thought was my water breaking . In hindsight, I think what happened was that my baby began to crown on that contraction.  However, I had no idea I was so far along in my labor.  My last labor had been 28 hours and I fully expected this one to be long, too.

I was feeling totally out of control at this point, and starting to get a little hysterical.  My amazing nurse actually gave my shoulders a little shake and told me to “listen up, Mama” as she half-forced me down on to the bed and stripped my pants off so that she could perform a check.

She asked if my last birth was medicated, and I replied that it was.  She answered, “Okay, mama, this one is going to be a little bit different.”  Kevin tells me that she then turned and had one of the nurses run out into the hall to grab the nearest doctor.  The next contraction arrived and my nurse encouraged me to yell my way through it.  I did, and felt immediate relief.  The second contraction arrived a split second later, and, without any conscious effort from me, the head and shoulders were out. The doctor rushed in just in time to catch our baby on the third and final push.  Jacob Michael came roaring into the world at 4:35am on December 4th…2 hours and 35 minutes after the first contraction and 10 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. No time for medication, no time to get frustrated or tired, no time even to sign the required forms (I signed them AFTER delivery).  He was 3 days overdue, but when he was ready, he was ready.  7lbs 7ozs, 20 inches, and a cuddler from the very beginning.

You would think that because it was my second labor, I would have known what was going on, but I had no idea how quickly my labor was moving.  Jacob was born 10 minutes before my mom arrived at our house.  After the delivery was over and my stitches were put in place, the combination of adrenaline, shock, and physical exhaustion had me shaking so severely that I was afraid to hold my own baby.  So I passed him over, and Kevin got some cuddle time while I watched and tried to process what had just happened.  45 minutes passed before I felt more stabilized, and Kevin left  to move the car from where we had left it in front of the ER.  The only negative?  In our rush, we left the camera in the car, so we have no pictures of those first few moments.  Fortunately, we made up for it later.

Our first picture as a family of four:

Moral of the story:  Every birth is its own experience.

Also, next time I will camp out in the hospital parking lot for the third trimester.

Two Very Different Births - Part 1: Mia

I was due April 10th, but my baby was just way too comfortable and not interested in going anywhere.  Late in my pregnancy, my borderline high blood pressure crossed into an official diagnosis of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension, so I was being closely monitored.  After a short bout of bedrest, I was told to limit my activity, and keep still as much as possible. My due date came and went.  The following Monday found me back at the hospital for an NST and fluid check...nothing. No change, no signs of impending labor. I thought that my water may be "leaking", but when they performed a litmus check, it came back negative for amniotic fluid. We scheduled another NST for Thursday, an induction for that Friday, the 17th, and went back home.

The rest of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday passed uneventfully.  Besides being large and uncomfortable and cranky, there was nothing else going on. My husband, Kevin, and I even took a drive to Shenandoah National Park, an hour away, just to get out of the house.  I figured that if my water broke, I would have plenty of time to get back home before the baby arrived and I couldn’t “hurry up and wait” at home anymore.

Then, Wednesday night, I started having contractions out of the blue.  They weren’t serious, but since I had experienced nothing, not even Braxton Hicks before this point, they were encouraging.  Maybe, FINALLY, we were going to get to meet this baby.  The contractions continued throughout the night, and by Thursday morning, they were less than 5 minutes apart, but still tolerable.  We left a little early for my morning NST appointment, making sure we had our bag in the car with us.

Half an hour hooked up to the machines showed what I already knew.  Consistent, but not strong, contractions.  Fluid levels were fine.  We were on track for an induction the following day.  They were about to send me home, but I mentioned that I still felt like I had a slow leak, and they decided to do another litmus test to check for amniotic fluid. This time, it tested positive straight away, so the decision was made to keep me, and bump the induction up a day.  It was 10am.

The delivery ward at this military hospital was small, averaging about three babies a day. On the day I was there, they delivered six. Needless to say, it was a little busy. I was placed in a recovery room and an IV started while I waited for a labor and delivery room to be available. It was around noon when they moved me into labor and delivery, and another hour or so before they started Pitocin.  It was around this time that Kevin and I were joined by my mom, and we talked excitedly about when this baby would finally arrive.

In the next 3 hours, I went from 2-4cm and we were feeling pretty optimistic that things would move along without having to continuously increase the Pitocin.

And then I stalled out.

I held out on the epidural until about 4:30pm, but at that point, progress was still extremely slow, despite the fact that the contractions were more intense and closer together. At the time, I was exhausted and the epidural was a blessing.  However, as often happens, the pain medication caused my (high) blood pressure to plummet and left me feeling fuzzy and shaky.  It took an oxygen mask, some readjustments, and about an hour for things to level out.

The afternoon ticked by with hours of television, and steadily increasing levels of Pitocin and very, very, very slow progress, until about 9:30pm.  It was about this time that my body entered transition.  I was beyond tired, frustrated with myself, and running low on energy.  I began to have severe body shakes and continuous vomiting (mostly of water), and I remember feeling embarrassed that my mom and husband were having to hold me while I threw up the entire contents of my stomach…and then some more.  Finally, at 10:45, I reached 10cm. The nurse assigned to me at this point was wonderful and full of enthusiasm, even as she warned me that some first-time mothers took some time to work the babies down the birth canal.  I had had it at this point and started to cry. I wasn’t sure where I was going to get the reserves to finish the labor, had no idea what to expect, and wanted that baby OUT.

My baby must have heard me and taken pity.  Once the next phase started, things happened FAST.  Soon after, my husband announced that our daughter’s hair had arrived.  And so it had.  A full head of hair.  For some reason, that was the motivation I needed to finish the job.   I pushed for about 45 minutes total, and she was out… healthy, pink, and wailing… at 11:54 pm on Thursday, April 16. 7 lbs, 10 ozs, and 21 inches long.  I had asked to hold her immediately, before she was taken to the warmer to be weighed and measured.  Our new baby Mia took this opportunity to greet me by having a bowel movement on my chest.  Her first bowel movement was my first introduction to the glamour that is motherhood.

From first contraction to first breath, my labor was just shy of 28 hours.  I don’t share my story with many expecting moms because it’s not one that they often want to hear.  It was long.  It was hard. It contained elements I would change if I could.  But look what I got out of it:


In the end, it doesn’t really matter, does it? There’s a lot of pressure to have the “right” kind of delivery, and I know that there are some reading the choices I made and thinking, “That’s not what I would have done.”  To be honest, I had some of the same thoughts and when we found ourselves pregnant again 2 years later, I immediately knew there were some things I wanted to do differently.  But Mia arrived safely, and has grown into a bright, spirited, four-year-old, who still likes to do things her own way, in her own time.

It’s hard to have any regrets with an outcome like that.

Recognizing C-Section Awareness Month: My Birth Story

My birth story isn’t for the faint of heart. I hesitate to share it with new moms or those who are easily angered. Truth be told, my birth story is, for many, a worst nightmare come true. It has been nearly 6 years since my water broke at the doctor’s office two days past my due date. Actually it didn’t break, it BURST. No simple leak with me but an audible pop and a huge mess. A test at the office confirmed that not only had my water broken, but there was a presence of meconium. A nurse kindly directed us to go straight to the hospital and to skip the trip to Target we had planned for that afternoon.

I wasn’t ready for labor to start. My hospital bag wasn’t fully packed, much less sitting in the back of the car. My carefully crafted birth plan wasn’t printed. My doula was on an airplane. I was in shock.

We got to the hospital and after a bit of confusion, I was finally shown to a room and given a gown. After checking me, the nurses didn’t want to admit me since I wasn’t having any contractions. However, since there was a possibility of baby being in distress, the doctor insisted. Going through the early stages of labor in the hospital was NOT in the birth plan. But I was soon to learn that my birth plan was nothing more than a wish list, and that in birth, as in in life, wishes aren’t always granted.

10 am on Tuesday November 6th I was admitted into the hospital and labored naturally for roughly nine hours. I got in the tub, used the birthing ball, and tried different positions in the bed all to no avail. While I was progressing, I was in unbearable pain and eventually asked for IV drugs. For the next 4 hours or so I labored in a haze. My husband says I rested some, but I still was feeling every contraction. I was just unable to communicate that to him.

1 am on Wednesday November 7th my body was ready to call it quits. After 15 hours of labor my body had stopped progressing. At 16 hours of labor my body actually started regressing. My contractions were nearly nonexistent. At this point I had also been on antibiotics for 16 hours and there was concern about my and baby's health. I stopped the IV meds so we could talk through options and eventually agreed to Pitocin and an epidural. This was is no way my first choice. It was the opposite of what I had wanted for so many reasons. I had heard all the horror stories about both drugs and knew all the reason NOT to take that course of action. To add to the matter, we were entirely self-pay, and the cost of the drugs was not something I wanted to think about. That being said, the other options seemed even higher risk, so we moved forward with the drugs.

2 am, I finally slept. With the Pitocin doing its job, my body was once again progressing and with the epidural I was able to rest my, now very tired, body. I hadn’t slept in close to 24 hours and hadn’t eaten anything other than a bagel in close to 30.

5 am, the nurses came in and woke me up and encouraged Josh and I to get comfortable. Baby was coming soon and we were going to start pushing soon.

6 am, the doctor came in and we start pushing. We pushed. And we pushed. And we pushed. And we pushed.

8 am, the doctor’s shift changed and the new doctor came in to check on me. He was worried that my water had been broken for 24 hours and that because of the presence of meconium, I had also been on antibiotics that long. He was also concerned that after two hours of pushing, we hadn’t made more progress. He asked me to consider a c-section. I refused, convinced that if given the chance my body would do what it is designed to do.

10 am, I had been pushing for 4 hours. The doctor asked my husband to come see our daughter’s head. She was stuck. With each push, the top of her head smashed against my pelvic bone. A c-section was brought up again. I asked if they were able to use forceps or suction. Those options were discussed and exhausted. Each push put Abi under more stress. I’m still fighting a C-section when a very loving nurse comes in close. She kindly, but firmly, explains that for whatever reason Abi cannot come out. We were unclear if it was her position, or something not right about my bone structure, but if I wanted a safe delivery for baby and me, a C-section was the only way. She told me I could wait, but that the baby could only handle so much stress. If I waited, the doctors would be forced to do a C-section because of baby’s heart rate (or mine) showing problems. They gave me a little longer to talk with Josh. He called my dad and we explained the situation to him and to my mom. Josh put the phone on speaker and held it over my head while my dad prayed for my safety, the safety of the baby, and wisdom for our doctors. The choice for a C-section was made.

11:30 am Wednesday, November 7th, my dear baby girl Abi Lee was born via c-section and placed in her daddy’s arms. She had a black eye and the top of her head was bruised and swollen where she pushed against my pelvic bone for over 4 hours.

I am moved to the recovery room and kept company by a compassionate nurse. “We do this every day, and it’s safe, so to us it feels normal. But you just went through major surgery. It’s traumatic. It’s ok to be emotional.” Eventually Josh made his way back to me. The ordeal has been taxing and emotional for him as well. The last time he saw me was on a table covered in blood. He needed to see with his own eyes that I was ok. He held my hand, assuring himself that I was, indeed, okay.

Recovering from a C-section is an interesting experience. Not only are you adjusting to motherhood, learning to nurse and all the other normally post birth stuff, you are also recovering from major abdominal surgery and coping with the loss of an ideal. I was comfortable and okay with the choice I made for my first birth. I knew it was necessary for the health and safety of my child. I made the choice to put my own comfort and desires aside and do what was best for my little one. I acted like any mother would.

While I was comfortable with my choice with Abi, I was forced to face it in a new way 19 months later when I wanted to travel late in my second pregnancy. My doctor asked to check me before approving a 8 hour drive. In the process, it was discovered that Maddie had dropped. However, to the doctor’s disappointment, my body was not adjusting as it should.

The entire pregnancy we had assumed we would do a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). It was my first choice and the first choice of my OB, as well. Now, for the first time, we had to discuss a repeat C-section. She gently told me I needed to prepare myself emotionally for the possibility of a repeat C-section. She was willing to attempt a VBAC, but wanted me to know the complications my body was presenting.

Once again, my husband and I were faced with a complicated choice. We knew the complications on both side. Thankfully this time we were able to take our time. We took a few days to talk, pray and research. Eventually everything seemed to be pointing in the same direction -- we would go with a scheduled C-section.

I am now in my third pregnancy and each time I learn more about my own body. Together the doctors and I have made discoveries about how my body works and what my internal bone structure looks like.

I will never have a natural birth. And yes, there are moments where I feel a sadness about that.

I am not unaware of the risks involved in multiple c-sections. It’s something my husband and I have talked about at length and taken into consideration when discussing how many children we would like to have.

I am not unaware of the stigma around c-sections (both emergency and scheduled). I have experience firsthand the ridicule and opinions of complete strangers telling me what I did “wrong” in my birth experiences.

BUT I am abundantly thankful that c-sections and repeat c-sections are an option. There was a time when a situation like mine would have ended horribly. Instead, I got a happy ending. I had not one but two beautiful, healthy daughters and, God-willing, will deliver my third in late July.

Maddie Grace

It would be easy to feel bitter or angry about my situation, but rather I choose gratitude. I choose to thank God for doctors and nurses who speak love into painful situations and gave me the best chance at having what every mother desires, a healthy child.

Abi Lee

To find more information and support about Cesarean birth, visit title="ICAN">http://blog.ican-online.org/

A Rush of Love: My VBAC Birth Story

I love to read birth stories. I read online birth stories voraciously while I was pregnant, finding hope and strength in each woman's experience of bringing her child into the world. I read because I wanted to know what it was like to give birth vaginally.  My twins were born via c-section 5 years ago and I really wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) this time around.

I especially liked stories where the mom gave birth swiftly, serenely and without meds. Because that's the kind of birth I wanted.
This is not one of those birth stories.
But that's ok. I am proud to have it as my birth story.
Here it is: My 60 hour VBAC.
I woke up on Monday morning, October 22nd, at 2am with a "different" contraction. Since I had been having strong Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, I wondered if I would know the difference when real labor started. I did. The contraction hurt and the BH contractions were just "intense." I was so excited! I was 40 weeks 6 days pregnant and so ready for him to be here.
I got up and labored in the living room until sunrise. I walked around, swaying and breathing through the contractions. They came about every 5-7 minutes. I was sure that I would be holding my baby by that afternoon.
(Facebook updates in bold.) Oct 22nd. 8am: Silas decided that today will be his birthday! Will update when he is here!!
I called my doula and she came over around 10am. I was smiling and still so happy, laboring on the birth ball. My twins didn't have school that day (teacher service day), so we called a friend and had them go over and play for the day.
Aaron, Kate (my doula) and I spent the day laboring through the contractions. A hot bag of rice on my lower back became my best friend. We even took the rice bag on the two walks we took that day.  Kate would hold the rice bag on my back and Aaron would hold my hands. It was a beautiful fall day. (Aaron and Kate got a kick out of our neighbors and drivers rubberneck at me as I stopped and swayed through my contractions).

Oct 22nd. 2pm: 12 hours into labor. Still at home and working through contractions with my doula and Aaron. Doing well!

No baby by mid-afternoon, but I was sure that by dinnertime I would be holding my sweet Silas. My contractions were getting more intense as the day went on. I started using low "oh" noises as a labor technique. The contractions were getting anywhere from 3-5 min apart. My goal was to labor at home as long as possible and hopefully get to the hospital when I was 6cm or so, maybe even in transition.
Aaron was getting worried that I was going to squat and drop the baby at home so around 7pm we decided it was time to go to the hospital. Oy! Laboring in the car is a pain in the....butt? back? uterus? Not sure, but it sucked! Thankfully we are only about 10-15 min away but it was enough time for me to have 3 contractions on the way there.
We got to the room and the nurse wanted to check me. I absolutely hate internal exams and even wrote on my birth plan: "Wants minimum vaginal checks." I told her that she could check me as long as she was really gentle but I was sure that I was really far along. "After all," I told her, "I've been in labor since 2am this  morning."
"We'll see," she said. And checked. She was not gentle. And that wasn't even the worst part.
"It feels like you are about a 2, and 80% effaced."
I was in total and complete shock. Stunned. Horrified. How could this happen? How could I only be at a 2???? And I had had no further effacement since my doctor's appointment five days prior.
The nurse left (rather smugly, I thought) and I had my first emotional breakdown. How could I keep this up? It had been 18 hours already--could I even do this? I wanted the VBAC so badly!
We stayed at the hospital for another 4 hours, the contractions coming every 5 minutes. My doctor was on call that night and she checked me at 10:30.
"You're at a 3, 90% effaced. Do you want to go home? We could give you something to help you sleep."
After a few anguished glances at Aaron and Kate I decided that yes, I wanted to go home.
"Ok," my doctor said. "I'll write you a prescription for Ambian. Go home, take a hot bath and come back when your contractions are stronger and closer together."
So we left. Another car ride in labor.
Kate dropped me off at home and went to spend the night at a friend's house. Aaron went to get the prescription. My best friend, who was watching my boys for me, wished me luck and left too. Aaron called and said that the pharmacy was running really slowly and he wouldn't be home for about an hour and a half. I then realized that I didn't have any support at home.
I labored in a hot bath alone (had to fill it up twice). It was pretty awful. I prayed,  "Lord, give me strength, give me strength" through every contraction. I prayed Aaron would get home soon. Soon. Soon!
He finally got home around midnight and I took the Ambian (it was a tiny pill) and we laid down on the couch to sleep.
At 2:30am I woke up in crazy pain, convinced that Greek gods had come into my living room and were dictating the script for each contraction. For Athena's contraction, I had to labor like this! Dionysus  Do this! Note to self: do not take Ambian while in labor. It makes you a little cray-cray. The Greek gods left after about two hours but the rest of the night was kind of a blur to me.
Oct 23. 8am: Going on 30 hours of labor. Hospital sent me home because I was only at 3 at 10:30 last night. Please pray for strength and encouragement for me. Emtional stress is harder than pain right now.
Kate came back over around 8am and Aaron took the boys to school for the day. My contractions were sporadic through-out the morning, around 9-10 minutes apart. I was able to doze in between them on the couch for a few hours. We decided to go for another walk (more rubbernecking from car drivers) and then I got serious about re-hydrating  After that the contractions picked up to about 5-7 minutes apart. They were getting more intense but not getting closer together. I had a few crying jags throughout the day, but I finally got my head in gear. The 22nd may not have been his birthday but the 23rd was going to be!!!Kate had me do all kinds of positioning all afternoon on the 23rd. I did a hands and knees swaying pose (it was adorable. My huge ba-donk-a-donk swaying in the air as I rested on my elbows...) trying to get the baby to move into a better position. She try to manually move him over to the center of my belly because we thought he was posterior (sunny-side up). We tried manual manipulation. We tried ice on one side of my belly and a heat wrap on the other. He moved some, giving us hope but after 2-3 hours of positioning techniques and countless contractions, he seemed to settle right back into his previous position, on my right side, on his side/posterior.

It was 7pm again, 24 hours since we first went to the hospital. I was over this. I needed to know what was going on, even though the contractions were still 7 minutes apart. I texted my mom and said, "Going to the hospital again. Not coming home without the baby." Enter car ride 3 from hell.We had an awesome nurse this time with a great sense of humor. She checked me."You are 3cm, 90% effaced."Yep. Same as 24 hours ago.

My doctor was on call again that night. She came in and said, "You are in what we call "Dysfunctional Labor".

Me: "Ya think?!"

And that is when my birth plan went out the window. I had wanted a low intervention, med-free labor. I didn't want an epidural or have to be confined to the bed.

But in that moment, I didn't care. It wasn't just that I believed that "all that matters is a healthy baby!" That phrase annoyed me so much during my pregnancy. Yes, I did want a healthy baby (and his stats were awesome the whole labor!), but what I wanted mattered too! I DID want my ideal labor and birth experience.

But, I had given it a good try. I had labored over 40 hours without any type of intervention. And nothing was happening. So, we moved on to plan B, C, and D.

And that was ok.

Oct 23. 8pm: 42 hours of labor at home. Went to the hospital again and had not progressed in dilation in 24 hours. Doctor said I was in dysfunctional labor. Currently have epidural to let me sleep and pitocin to help me dilate.

Cue emotional breakdown 5 (6? 7?) while I got the epidural. Everything I was "losing" hit me in that moment, coupled with my phobia of needles. Thankfully Aaron and the nurse helped keep me from hyperventilating. With the epidural in, I started to relax. My doctor really wanted me to sleep. I was so keyed up that I couldn't really fall asleep, but I was able to doze. Doctor came in at 2am. I was at 4cm and she broke my water (another thing on my birth plan that I didn't want to happen, but hey...whatever!)Oct 24. 10am: Going on 54 hours. At 8. Epidural is helping me cope.We were now in day 3. I was only dilating about 1cm every two hours. It was slow going. And the epidural was starting to wear off. I requested two "boosters" of pain relief. Sweet bliss...but they didn't last for long: one hour for the first and about 30 minutes for the second. Pretty soon all my pain relief was gone and my contractions were moving into the pushing stage.In all those birth stories I read, this is when those birthing women said "things got intense."

Um...yes. "Intense" would be "a" word to use. A nice word. A word that doesn't really describe what it means to be in that stage of labor.

One of my greatest fears about labor was that I would feel out of control, whether that meant I felt like people were "doing things to me" or that I would feel like I couldn't handle the labor itself. (Yes, I know, I am a control freak).

I felt like I was flirting with that out-of-control crazy feeling. Not quite Greek gods crazy but just a little bit...out of control.

I alternative prayed silently "God, help me! Give me strength, give me strength!" in the 1-2 minute respite I had in between contractions or repeated out loud "I can do this. I can do this. Damn-it-I-can-do-this!"

The praying and swearing seemed to work pretty well.

I started pushing at hour 59. During that final hour, my husband, doula and two nurses kept telling me I was doing great. All I could think was, "Am I doing anything??? Is it ever going to end?? Oh, God, it has to end!!"

I slipped over into the out-of-control. I had my final emotional breakdown. But it was almost over. Through my tears and two gut-wrenching screams, when I thought I had no strength left, I pushed my baby into the world (and the nurse who told me to stop screaming? I kinda wanted to punch her in the face).

Oct 24. 1:52pm: Silas is here!!! Brit and baby are well. Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement. Silas came in at 8-3.

I said and felt so many things in those first moments. My first thought when I saw my son when the doctor held him up?
"He has a little butt!"Ok, let me explain this weird, first thought. My twins were so tiny when they were born (3 lbs 13 oz and 4 lbs 12 oz) and they were so skinny that they had no fat, no butt cheeks. They were so frail and weak.But Silas had cheeks.I got to hold him on my chest right after he was born. And in that moment, I realized that this is what I wanted out of my birth. Not the low-intervention, labor-in-the-tub, no-epidural, push-the-way-I-want-to-push, whatever. I wanted to feel that instant rush of love and connection that I missed when my twins were born via c-section and rushed away to the NICU without even a kiss from their terrified new mother.

But this time, the rush was there. Through tears and exclamations of "Precious baby! Happy Birthday! I am so freakin' glad that is over!" I fell in love with my son.

Oct. 24. 3pm: Got to have Silas skin to skin for an hour after he was born and he nursed wonderfully. Filled with love. However, I feel like I got hit by a semi....three times.

My labor didn't go the way I wanted it to. I didn't get my birth plan.

But I got my moment. My rush of love.

After 60 hours of labor, I got to meet my precious, wonderful son, Silas Edward Meng.

Birth Story: Welcome, Baby Eva!

This birth story shows the incredible strength that a mama has when she puts her mind to something--it also shows the importance of patience and trust.  As a doula, I love seeing mamas dig down deep and find strength they never knew they had--it is amazing and an honor to watch.Holding Hands Dear Baby Eva,

When I first met your mama, I thought she was one of the most beautiful people I had ever seen—soft spoken and kind, she was poised and glowing from the inside out. We quickly began talking, and like old friends, I felt like I knew her. I understood her desires for a natural birth, especially after she had come so close during the birth of your sister.  She was determined, and had taken every measure possible to ensure her success—chosen a midwife, hired a doula, taken a childbirth education class, and taken good care of her body with healthy food and regular exercise.  She was ready to meet you, and I knew right away that she was an excellent mother.  I could tell that your Daddy worked hard to provide for all of you, and that he loved each of you very much.  He looked at your mama, with eyes full of love, hoping that she would have the birth experience that she desired.  I could tell that he was not just going through the motions, but that he really wanted to serve her.  I was so excited for your birth day to arrive. I knew that it would be spectacular.

We waited, and we waited, and we waited some more.  Your mama labored, and labored, and labored some more, but never quite enough to go into active labor.  Your due date came, and your due date went, and your mama’s sister even welcomed her baby weeks early!  I tried my best to encourage her, reminding her that you would come when you were ready…that you were worth the wait.  Of course, she agreed, and about the time she felt like she would never go into labor, her water broke. Around 9pm on the 29th of August, your mama and daddy were picking up some take-out and your mama texted me and said her water had broken. I don’t think I have ever been so excited!  Her fluid was clear, so I told her to go home and eat, shower, drink water and try to rest.  She had been contracting throughout the day, and luckily when her water broke, the contractions continued to intensify.

During the next 2 hours we continued to talk by text, and I sent her to the bathroom to shower once some company had gone home.  This helped her to focus and settle into her labor, and before long she called and said that the midwife wanted her to come into the Birthing Center.  I left my house, and actually got to the hospital first—I could not wait to see your mama and daddy meet you!

When your mama and daddy arrived, your mama was ready to get to work.  She was laboring well, transitioning into active labor, and taking her contractions one by one. She labored on her side in the bed for a bit while you were monitored, and then she went to the bathroom.  While she was in the bathroom, your daddy leaned down and asked me if there was anything else he could do to help her. “I feel like I am not helping enough, is there anything else I can do?"  Concern filled his eyes, as I assured him he was doing everything he could.

Your mama was having some issues with pressure in her bottom, so she asked if she could get in the tub—the water made her weightless and this helped ease her pain and helped her relax.  She leaned over the side of the tub while your daddy put a cold washcloth on her face and offered her water.  He rubbed her shoulders and back, held her hand and reassured her.  I offered her words of encouragement as the contractions continued to intensify, and she bravely faced each one. She labored beautifully.  The room was quiet and peaceful, as the sound of swirling water mixed with the sound of a woman laboring in expectation.  She labored in the tub for about an hour and then got out, trying a few more positions, but eventually went back to the tub—it was her safe place.  Before long, she began to labor harder, breath heavier, become less aware of the people and sounds in the room. She began to ask when it would end, and doubted she could do it, and I assured her that the end was drawing near.  As the contractions came one right after the other, the midwife asked if she could check her cervix.  She got out of the tub and came over to the bed, and was pleased to hear that she only had a rim of cervix left.  After pushing through a few contractions, she was complete and ready to deliver her baby.  This part was supposed to be the easier part—she had pushed your sister out quickly and easily and we were all expecting you to be born after just a few pushes.   She pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed—I have never seen a woman work so hard during labor. At this point, your mama was exhausted, but she kept going. You were not able to watch it with your own eyes, but I hope one day your daddy will tell you about it.  I am sure one day you will face an obstacle that seems ten times your size—you will want to give up.  You will want to take the easy road.  You will want to walk away.  I hope you will remember your mama and you will dig down deep, and you will finish with grace and beauty.  After more than an hour of pushing, the midwife confirmed that you were being born in the posterior position, or “sunny side up.”  Watching your mama was amazing and inspiring—through lots of hard work, your head finally emerged and your sweet face was looking right at us.  Hello sweet Eva, welcome to the world!

You were placed on your mama’s chest, while your daddy took in every inch of you, falling in love with his second daughter.  This is why I love labor-- at some point every woman has to decide if she is going to turn back, or plow on.  If she chooses to plow on, she has to reach down deep and find something she never knew she had inside of her.  Not only does this strength birth a baby (even a stubborn one like you!) but it means the woman will never doubt herself again.  Your mama is this woman—I hope you learn from her.

Sweet Eva, I pray you always keep your sunny side up…I am so thankful you get to be loved by your wonderful family.  What a blessed little girl you are!

Nourishment for Doula Souls

In honor of World Doula Week, I wanted to share what it was like to be a doula.  I originally thought I would share about continually being on call, the long hours and the missed family moments.  Instead, I was once again reminded about all of the blessings that come with my work.  If you have had a doula--and I hope you have--send them some love! Peters_0006-001

Every time someone asks me what I do, when I tell them I am a doula I get one of two responses.  The first is obviously, “What is a doula?” and the second is usually, “that is so amazing—you get to see babies being born for a living?”  It always makes me laugh silently inside because first of all, no one can be a doula for a living—not without supplementing with other things.  Like other "heart" jobs, we get paid little and we don’t have the option to work every day.  We don’t even have the option to work every other day.  Because due dates are just a guess and can swing 2 weeks (or more) in both directions, we have to leave enough wiggle room to not be called to two births at one time.  It is a science, with no real evidence to support it—just a lot of counting and hoping and praying.

I know when you look at our fees, they look substantial for the hours that we spend with you at a birth.  Some births we are with clients for only a few hours, and some births we are with clients for a few days.  The cost to ourselves and to our families is the same.  No matter how long your birth is, the prep work and planning put into every birth is the same.  We interview, we do prenatal meetings, we answer calls and emails and texts and we spend time marketing our business and learning more about how to improve our services.  Our 24 hour on-call support means that we are always ready to join you—doulas do not make very good party guests (and forget being a party host).

The swim meet next week?  We might be there.   Our daughter’s play on Friday?  We hope so. A school field trip? Can I be a maybe?  An overnight weekend with girls?  Can it be within an hour’s driving distance? 

If we sat down and added it all up (and no one has because no one really wants to know), we might decide it is not really worth it, but we did not choose this job because of anything other than the fact that is so worth it—every single minute is worth it.

It is worth it to see a Mama meet the baby she has been dreaming about for so long.  It is so worth it to watch a Daddy reach out and gently touch his new daughter, knowing that he holds her safety and happiness (at least for now) in the palm of his hand.  It is amazing to watch a couple discover if they have had a girl or a boy, and when Mama brings her baby to her chest for the first time, and tears fill her eyes and she has suddenly found her entire purpose in one tiny human—it is beyond perfect.   The tears that Mama and Daddy cry—big, giant, thankful tears—are water to our doula souls—they nourish us and make us grow. They wash away the longest nights and keep reminding us that every woman and every baby deserve to feel loved and protected in birth.

One time I spent days at a couple’s birth—I think I held counter pressure on her hips for 12 hours (her husband held pressure for the other 12 hours—it was exhausting.)  The nurses changed shifts and changed again, and at some point we got the nurse we started with back. (That is when doulas know they have been at a birth for entirely too long.)   I was hungry, and so tired, and I was (almost) out of positions or any other helpful suggestion, but I kept going.  I had no choice.  When it was time to push, this sweet Mama pushed for over 3 hours and just about the time I started to worry that it was never going to end, that I would indeed spend my last days in this hospital, the baby’s head began to crown.  The room went silent, and with a few more pushes, that salty baby boy was lifted into his Mama’s waiting arms and I was overcome, again, with all the emotions of watching a woman meet her baby—the baby that she had loved and cared for and worked so hard for.  I knew in that instant that I was right where I was supposed to be.  I was overwhelmed by knowing that as long as they remember this birth, their most treasured memory, I would be a part of it.  What other job do you get to know people so intimately and be invited into such a personal and spiritual place?  What other job do you get to sit in people’s homes—all different kinds of people—and hear about their wishes and desires for the most important event ever in their lives together?  This is why doulas are honored and privileged to attend births.  This is why we continue to work despite long hours and needed sleep.  In the end, we get to see love multiplied among a family, and that is all that really matters—loving others with your whole heart.

I started writing this because I wanted to tell you about a day in the life of a doula, but I got sidetracked along the way because I started thinking about mamas and babies and how much I really love this life I am called to.  I wanted to tell you about missing important hours (or days) with my family, missing nights of sleep and countless meals.  I wanted to tell you that sometimes being an advocate in a hospital with lots of rules is exhausting work.  I wanted to say that having births take a turn you were not expecting is painful—way down deep, and sometimes you cry yourself to sleep (when sleep finally comes) because you wish with all your heart it could have been different.   However, just like anything else, the truth bubbled up and my heart became overwhelmed.  I thought of each mama’s face and each tiny baby's cry.  I remembered the dads laughing with joy—deep belly laughs mixed with tears—and like always, everything else just faded away and I was reminded of love.  Surely, it will always be enough to keep us going—nourishment for our doula souls.

A Birth Story: Letting Go...

Baby Feet This is one of my favorite birth stories, written for a sweet baby girl that gave her Mama and Daddy quite a scare while she was growing.  It also shows the power of fear and the power of letting go--as well as the power of love and that important labor cocktail--oxytocin.

Dear Baby Bryn,

I met a lot of mamas in my job—they are all looking for something; a way to make their birth experience more enjoyable, more gentle, or more fulfilling.  When I met your Mama, she wanted to challenge herself and do what she knew was best for you at the same time.  I knew in an instant that she would have no problem having a natural birth—she was strong and used to setting goals and milestones (that she achieved) and she had a loving a supportive partner in your Daddy.  She also had an intense love for you, and a desire to keep you safe—it burned brightly in her eyes and was present from the moment I met her until you were safely placed in her arms.

Due to some early bleeding and fear about your placenta, you and your Mama were monitored more closely from the beginning.  The doctors predicted that you would be very small because of damage done to your Mama’s placenta during the bleeding.  They also decided that at some point before 40 weeks, you would grow better outside of your Mama than you would inside.  Stress tests, ultrasounds, bed rest—your mom took it all in stride.  Her desire to have an unmediated, uncomplicated birth began to fade away, and all she really hoped for was a healthy baby.  This is the beautiful thing about motherhood—we love our babies more than we love and value our own desires, and certainly more than we value our own life.  In a soft quiet voice, I heard your Mama echo what women all over the world silently sing: take everything from me, even my life, but just keep my baby safe.  All talks of a natural birth went by the wayside—she did not really care about continual monitoring, or IV fluids, or epidurals.  Our talks turned to how to keep your safe in an induction and even a possible c-section.  I know your mom felt just a small sting when she said, “Maybe next time.”

Throughout your Mom’s pregnancy, she was given many non-stress tests, which usually sent her to Labor and Delivery for the day to be monitored.  As stressful as this was for her, it was good because she got to know some of the nurses very well, and they (along with the doctors) got to know you!  It seemed like every time your heart-rate was low, it would rebound after some time.  I was so thankful that the staff got to see your pattern, and hoped it would make delivery date easier on your Mama.  Around 35 weeks you were given steroids to help speed the development of your lungs should you need to be delivered.  Many times, your mom would call and text me, and I would be ready to go to her side during her c-section.  You see, your Daddy was gone, faithfully serving our country, so your Mama was dealing with this alone.  She had the support of friends and family, and certainly the support of a team a doulas who were praying for her and ready to be with her, but she was missing half of her heart.  However, through prayer, good fortune and good care, she was always released and allowed to carry you a little bit longer.  Eventually, you made it to a safe induction date, and your entrance into this big world was scheduled for March 8th.  Your Mom was going to be allowed to labor, as long as you tolerated it well, and your Dad was going to be able to be home for your grand entrance—I could not have been more excited!

Your Mom and Dad arrived at the hospital early on the 8th, after stopping at Panera to get bagels for all the nurses.  I was ready and waiting, and your Mom was going to let me know when she needed me.  Around 1pm, your Mom texted me and asked about having her water broken, as a way to intensify the contractions and get labor moving.  We talked about the pros and cons, and she decided to go ahead and have her water broken.  I knew it would intensify things quite a bit, so I told her I would come up once the doctor was done.  She texted me around 2 pm and I went up to join her and your Dad while they waited on you.  When I walked in the room, the mood was light—I liked both of the nurses, one that your mom had specifically requested for this day.  Your mom and dad were talking and watching TV, and I had her get up and go to the bathroom.  When she came back we labored on the ball for awhile, or standing or leaning on the bed.  With each contraction that passed, things seemed to grow more intense.  At one point, your mom asked for the TV to be turned off, and her music to be turned on.  I have heard plenty of “birth” music and I was expecting the soft melody to fill the room.  Instead, I am pretty sure that the Rocky Soundtrack started (does anyone even use CDs anymore—okay, Pandora Radio.)  I looked at your dad, sure that he had made a mistake, and he just smiled.  Your mom told me that the music “pumps her up” and that it is the same music she used to listen to while getting ready for a big swim meet.  She also said she liked hearing the words, which gave her something to focus on during a contraction (instead of the contraction itself.)  She was loose, open, and contracting well, so we stuck to her plan and labored on.

She never got in the bed, but we used the area all around the bed.  Your heart rate looked beautiful the entire time—an answered prayer.  At this point your Mom was standing next to the bed, and she wanted to hold on to something during her contraction.  I told her to hold onto your Daddy, who reached out for her as she hung on his neck during a contraction.  Now your Daddy had been gone for a number of months, and I think they were just getting reacquainted in all of the excitement of your birth.  When they reached for one another, love flooded the room—it was a beautiful sight to behold and so very intimate.  It was as if months of being apart melted away, as he softly said: “my babies” and your Mom finally felt safe and protected in his arms.  She started to glow, despite the contraction, and you even liked the extra Oxytocin boost—your heart rate rose ever so slightly, as you happily basked in the love your parents have for one another.  I remember something from every birth I attend, and this image will stick with me for a long time.

The nurse came in the room and wanted to check your progress (they were increasing the Pitocin little by little) and your Mama told her she did not want to know her dilation.  She was checked, and the nurse told me that she was 6, which was encouraging news! I told your Mama that she was at least half-way through her race, and that there was no reason to jump out of the pool now—just keep swimming. Swim she did!  We labored sitting on the ball at the end of the bed for awhile, while your Dad help pressure on her back.  She told me that she might cry, and I asked what she was going to cry about.  Emotions are so important in labor, and they can really hinder the progress of a Mom.  I encouraged her to talk about it, to give it voice, and at first she hesitated.  Then she said, in a still, quiet voice:” I am so scared.  I have been so nervous.” I asked what she was afraid of, and as the well of tears she had been holding back for so long started to flow down her face, I could almost see her cervix melting away.  She was afraid you would be too small, or not healthy enough, or sick or any of the other millions of things she had thought about over the past few months.  Just by giving voice to them, she was able to let them go.  She replaced her fears with dreams of a sweet baby girl, a girl she had been afraid to name, but finally called “Bryn” for the first time.

Within the hour she was feeling pressure and was ready to push, a testament to the power of letting go and releasing fears while in labor.  The nurse had her lay back, and the doctor came in, ready to catch you as you made your entrance.  Your Mama had been laboring beautifully, handling each contraction with ease.  The change in pace disturbed her some, and when the doctor told her to push, she looked at me with fear in her eyes.  I reminded her that everything was okay—that she was about to meet her baby.  She relaxed, and within a few pushes, you were lifted onto her chest.  Everyone was surprised by the size of you—especially the nurses and doctors—who quickly declared that you were strong and healthy.  The doctor was amazed that your Mama was handling labor so well without an epidural—she actually assumed that she had pain medicine throughout the delivery.  One of the nurses even commented that if they were ever to have another baby, they hoped it would look like this labor.  I could not have agreed with them more—it was beautiful!  I was so thankful to be a part of such a special time in your Mom and Dad’s life, and to be one of the first people to lay eyes on you—sweet baby Bryn.

Your Doula,

Sara Beth

Winter Sophia's Birth Story

Reading the birth experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you. ~TMC --- Story written by Dilek Rose Moon

I always envisioned what it would be like to have my birth story being like in the movies: ...peaceful... ...calming... ...walking the halls to start labor without intervention.

So when my water broke at 34 weeks and I immediately was thrown into hard contractions and intense pain, I knew something was wrong. My sweet husband kept cool towels on me as the doctor and nurses tried to figure out what was going on. My husband whispered into my ear gently and firmly telling me I had to breathe.

I was terrified.

They wheeled me into an emergency c-section, found my uterus ruptured and our sweet baby girl lodged in the left side of my abdomen.

She came out a beautiful, 5 pound preemie who only stayed 2 weeks in the NICU and came home the day before Christmas Eve.

I never got the "zen" labor and birth story I had heard about, but with my incredible husband at my side and the safe arrival of our sweet baby girl, it was truly our miracle birth story.

Miracle baby

--- This birth story was submitted to our site by a reader. Do you have a birth story you'd like to share? Submit it here or send it to us at submissions@themotherhoodcollective.org.

A Doula's Letter, A Birth Story

As a doula, I get to welcome all kinds of babies into the world, but the story below belongs to one of my closest friends and her first daughter.  Christi and I became friends over coffee and play dates 9 years ago, and we grew together as our children grew older.  Even though we are (still!) chasing babies (we each have 4 kids), we are also working together as doulas and it was such an honor to attend her birth.  Below is a letter I wrote to her daughter, Elyssa, after she was born. 

Dear Elyssa,

I feel like I have wanted to tell your story for years. In reality it has only been months, but I always knew you were coming.  When I first met your mommy, I knew that one day she would be blessed with a baby girl. How could this compassionate, kind, discerning and joyous woman not have a daughter to pass along her wonderful legacy?  Not only her legacy, but the legacy of the many women before her — including her grandmother and her own mother, who is a treasure.  Lots of mommies dream of babies. Your mommy dreamed of you.


Your mommy and I met and became friends while chasing around our oldest boys, but we will end our parenting journey enjoying girls.  My baby girl, Rosalie, is just 10 months older than you,  but I am pretty sure you two will be best friends — just like your mom and I are.  Your mom and I are also the only girl in a family of boys — just like you.  Sweet girl, you are just where you need to be!  Being the only girl comes with plenty of bonuses.  For one, you will never have to share a room with your brothers and when it comes to the bathroom, you pretty much have free reign.  No hand-me-downs is another plus—from clothing to book bags to jackets—yours will be bought just for you.  You and your mom will become a team — sometimes defending the home from the noise and smells and chaos of boys, and sometimes just spending time together.  When you shop for a prom dress and finally a wedding dress, it will just be you.  You never have to share your mother.  Not to mention, you will be the only daughter your daddy will ever love.  Now I know your daddy, and his arms have ached to hold you.  He has dreamed of a dark headed, blue eyed baby. How does it feel making dreams come true when you are only a few days old?


Your mommy and daddy might tell you one day that they did not plan to have you, that you were a “surprise.”  (Your brothers might say this too, but for different reasons.)  Don’t believe any of them. They never gave up the hope of having you.  Once your mommy found out you were growing inside her tummy, they were both so excited to welcome another child.  They began to wonder, could it be you?  They were so excited to find out, but decided to wait until you were born to see for sure.  This is where I come in. We decided that in order to prepare, I should find out if you were a boy or a girl and not tell anyone the news.  Sometimes I really wanted to tell her (like when Luke was giving her a run for her money, or when she felt like she was swimming in sweaty boy clothes), but I never did.  It was a privilege to hold that secret deep inside.  Elyssa, I was the very first one to picture you and be able to pray for you.  I pictured a little girl that looked like Caleb and played soccer, or a little girl like Bryce, with bright blue eyes, who liked to color.  I pictured a little girl like Luke, who was fiery at times, but sweeter than honey at others.  Sometimes it felt like forever until you would be born, but soon enough, it was time for everyone to meet you.


Your journey from your mommy’s tummy and into her arms started weeks before we actually met you.  Your Mommy pre-labored, and pre-labored, and then pre-labored some more.  Some nights she thought, this must be it — only to wake up to another day.  One day you will understand the longing of a mother to meet her child, but for now you will just have to take my word for it: the waiting is the hardest part.  Your mommy went through waves of emotion ranging from anticipation to frustration, but she did it with grace.  We wondered and worried about when you would come, not when I was on vacation or during Hurricane Irene. (Yes!  You missed a hurricane by 4 days!)  However, just like all babies who are given the chance, you came at just the right time.


On August 31st, a Wednesday, your mommy sent Aimee and me a message in the early morning. Her contractions were irregular, but strong, and she had lost more of her mucus plug. She was going to run some errands and really wanted to attend your brothers “Sneek a Peek” at noon so they could meet their teachers.  Your Nana was with her, so I told her to keep me up to date on what was happening.  I called Aimee on the phone, and we were both so excited that your arrival was near!  We also both agreed that your mommy would never make it to the school that day, and we began preparing by finding babysitters for our own children and getting everything in order.


I’m not so sure about the next part of the story. This part will always belong only to you and your mommy.  I know that she laid down to rest in her bedroom. I know she was having strong contractions, and I know that her water broke at 11:45.  I know that your daddy was on his way home, and your Nana was taking care of your brothers.  When your Daddy got home, they decided it was time to head to the hospital, so away we all went.  In the car, Aimee, Stephanie and I spent some time praying for you and your Mommy. 


When we walked into the birthing center, we were greeted by the midwife, who told us that your mommy was dilated to 6 centimeters.  She also told us that you had some meconium, which is usually cause for a transfer to Labor and Delivery.  You were being monitored for 20 minutes, and the midwife said she just hoped that your mommy would be complete next time she checked and a transfer would not be necessary.


We entered the room and your mommy was lying on her side, with the monitor on, and your daddy was next to her.  She was having an intense contraction, and she began to push a little bit.  She did not like being on her side, and she was ready for a change.  The midwife came in and told her she could flip over to her hands and knees. She also checked your mommy and she was complete. Her wish had come true. We were all so excited to meet you!  Your mommy began to push. Over and over again she said “OK”, like she was trying to take it all in — the pain, the emotion, the sensations, the instruction — until finally your head was out.  I kept looking at your face...waiting for you to speak up and say you were a girl. I was so filled with anticipation for your mommy to meet you.  I did not know quite where to look. I knew the big moment was right upon us.  Should I watch you meet the world, or your mommy meet you, or your daddy meet you, or your daddy watching your mommy meet you?! The room was alive with excitement!  And then, there you were...just like that — only no one was saying a word.  Aimee, Stephanie, the midwife and I were all staring at you, waiting.  Then, your daddy looked at you and saw you were a girl. I have never seen him smile quite like that before.  Your mommy took a deep breath and said, “I’m going to meet my baby.”  It seemed like slow motion, but I guess it was really only seconds.  Your mommy scooped you up and said, “A girl, thank you Jesus!”


It wasn’t long before you were placed on your mommy's chest, covered with a blanket, a hat on your head - full of dark hair.  It wasn’t long before you were nursing sweetly, nuzzled against your mommy.  It wasn’t long before you were in your daddy’s arms. He was smitten.  It wasn’t long before you met your Nana, and then your brothers, who were all excited to learn that you were a girl.


A few days after you were born, your mommy told me, “This might sound cheesy, but I feel like she really completes me.”  I told her it was not cheesy, it was true.  Elyssa, you were given to your mommy and daddy to be the final piece in their family.  Nothing was quite right until you were there. The picture, the beautiful picture that God was creating, was not finished until he placed you in her arms. You were a perfect fit.


Elyssa—God’s promise.


So happy to tell your story, Sara Beth

First Moments of Motherhood: Emma Claire's Birth Story

At the start of each year, we often take time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll continue to post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC I'm going to start this post off with a humdinger of a sentence:

I had an elective induction.

Before the Natural Birth Police storm my front door, I should share the back story to my daughter's birth story.

When I was 14 years old, I met a boy at church camp. We fell hopelessly in love with one another at 21 and married at 22. Vowing to love and honor him in sickness and in health, I discovered that I was no longer staring at the 15 year old boy I met so long ago. As the words left my mouth, as I gave myself to him only and him completely, he stood before me in an iconic dress blues uniform. Deep blue coat with red piping, gold buttons adorned with the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor - he was beautiful in every way. With his chest out, shoulders back, and pride few can fathom, he vowed the same to me. Four years prior, he was pledging to defend the United States and her Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He promised to sacrifice his day to day for the freedom of this country; knowing full well that it may demand the ultimate cost of his life.

On August 14, 2010 I became the wife of a United States Marine.

I didn't know then how much it would define my life. I didn't comprehend how marrying a marine would determine a good percentage of my existence. I wouldn't say that I was misinformed or ignorant - I just simply wasn't aware. One of my good friends, a Navy chaplain, performed our wedding ceremony. As he addressed us, in front of our friends and family, he told me of the responsibility that I would have as a marine spouse. I remember walking down the aisle after our "first kiss as husband and wife" and having a pit in the bottom of my stomach. I was terrified, happy, anxious, scared, and excited ... all at the same time! I knew in my gut that life had changed for me - for us.


 photo by: Sabrena Deal/S. Carter Studios (http://www.scarterstudios.com/index2.php)

A year and a half after our wedding I was helping my husband pack his belongings for yet another deployment. We had thought long and hard about when we wanted to start trying for a baby and we determined that after he returned from his 7 month deployment, we would begin trying. While he was gone, I made every effort I could to get my body "baby ready." After gaining a significant amount of weight on birth control, I promised myself I would lose at least 30 pounds while he was gone. It seems like a lofty goal, but I did it. I took myself off of the birth control immediately after he left so that I had an ample amount of time to recover. I bought fertility tests and a fertility monitor, pregnancy tests, and did a ton of research on the most effective ways to get pregnant.

I became what I like to call a "Knock Me Up Nutjob." My focus was all on a baby.

April 2012 arrived, my husband returned home. I was ready. He was ready.

April 2012 passed, and I still wasn't pregnant.

Punch me in the face.

May 2012 arrived. I decided to stop obsessing.

May 21, 2012 arrived and so did the two pink lines. I was pregnant. I peed on 8 pregnancy tests just to be sure. Panic ensued. I feared miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, anything and everything. To top all of this off, we found out that my husband would be heading to recruiting school and we had a move coming up.

Though I would not define my pregnancy as difficult, everyone else tells me it was. I had serious morning sickness resulting in having to use two anti-nausea medications just to get me to eat even just a little bit of food. In my first two trimesters I lost a total of 30 pounds. In addition, I faced uncertainty of the health of my child. (You can read that story here.)

Despite any illness or difficulty in pregnancy, my husband had to leave for recruiting school in San Diego at the beginning of my third trimester. His parting words were, "Don't have that baby until I get back." So ... I crossed my legs and held on for a long 8 weeks without him. About 3 weeks into his schooling, he called to tell me where we were expected to move so he could recruit for the Marine Corps the next three years. Basically the conversation went like this:

Him: "So ... we're moving to Wyoming." Me: "Haha, okay... I'll get to work on finding us a house up there."

We were expected to be in Wyoming on February 2, 2013. I should mention, however, that my due date was January 21, 2013.

From the beginning, I shared with my midwife that I would be moving and we weren't sure when exactly, but it would be before I delivered or immediately after. She is used to working with military families and promised to help in any way she could. As soon as we found out when we were expected to move you can imagine the panic that came into my life. Not only did I have to find us a house in a place we've never been, find renters for the home we own in North Carolina, plan our movers, transfer all of our information and utilities, and 5,508 other things  ... I ALSO had to deliver a child. The stress took its toll on my body and I began having contractions at 37 weeks. Many mornings I would be standing in my bathroom hunched over the counter just praying and asking God that "this was it" and that "my Emma was on her way." Needless to say ... it wasn't time. At my 38 week appointment my midwife determined that (sorry if men are reading this) my "cervix was viable for induction." Now, before anyone loses their cool and starts yelling about "unnecessary interventions by medical professionals" here's what you should know ...

I asked to be induced. 

My midwife, as much as she didn't want to admit it, did NOT want to induce me, but understood why it had to be done. Her only stipulation was that it be done at 39 weeks, and if my cervix wasn't ready, at 40 weeks. My health, along with my baby's health, were of her utmost importance. I was scheduled to be induced the following Monday on January 14, 2013. I breathed a sigh of relief.

On that Monday evening I walked into the hospital, I was placed in a room, and the process started. Cytotec was placed, and contractions increased. More Cytotec was given. I dilated a little bit. At 3:30AM my water broke on its own and Pitocin was administered.

Now, for all of you women clutching the computer screen and screaming "NOOOOOO!!! NO PITOCIN!!!!!!!!!!!" - just hold on and bear with me. It gets worse before it gets better. The Pitocin did its work and I was contracting, but unfortunately it made me very sick. With my vomiting and crying and increased contractions came a great amount of panic. I barely remember this point, but my husband told me it was hard to watch. I clutched his hand, I leaned against my mom's chest, and I remember uttering the words I didn't want to say, but knew I had to ...

"I need the epidural now."

I knew going into my induction that epidural would be on the table. Despite my desire to have an epidural-free labor, I understood that my labor would be lengthy and that it would be unrealistic of me (after a certain point) to go without. I had promised myself to try, but as soon as I lost control or I was not progressing, I vowed that I would get an epidural - without shame. (That's the key point! No shame!) In the 13 hours that I was in the hospital I had only dilated 3cm. I requested Zofran for my nausea and Stadol for my pain and I waited on the anesthesiologist.

He arrived. And I wanted to kiss him on his mouth. But I'm a married woman.

As he administered my epidural I talked to him about how I shouldn't have gone to college, but instead invested all of that money into a boob job and lyposuction so that I could be Miss America. He tried to muffle his laughter and hide his face, but really, the ridiculousness that poured out of my mouth (thank you, Sir Stadol) was too good not to laugh at. He made a quick exit, my husband went home to shower, and my mom and stepdad took some naps.

Exactly an hour and a half after my epidural was administered, I was checked.

And I was 10cm.

And my husband was at home. Showering.

He sprinted into my room to find me smiling and happy and in Stadol-world. Then I started to come back to reality. To come off the high, if you will. It was time to push. They dialed back my epidural. I began to feel everything. Every contraction, in all it's strength, it was surreal. To go from feeling nothing to feeling everything. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed some more. I laughed and chatted in between pushes. My mom to my right, husband to my left. My mom, who has seven children of her own, assured me I was doing well. But my baby wasn't coming. The nurse had this look on her face, puzzled, like something wasn't right here. She said she would be back and was hoping that my midwife could help things along.

In came my midwife, and she had to turn my baby who had spent the past hour of pushing being slammed against my pelvic bone. The poor girl. She was turned, and I started to push some more. They kept telling me to let the contractions build. I held onto my husband's bicep (which is part of the reason I was knocked up in the first place ... ironic.) and I pushed with all my might. The contractions continued to build. I remember talking in between them, trying to keep my spirits up. And then there was "that push." You know the push I'm talking about. The push where everyone shrieks, "WE CAN SEE HER HEAD!" Only, my mom added, "AND SHE'S SO BALD!" 

As soon as they saw head I was pushing like a crazy person. Every contraction I pushed harder and harder and harder. Then the burning. Oh the burning.

I breathed.

I pushed.

It burned more.

I breathed.

I pushed.

Her head was out.

Her shoulders.

And then I got the green light. My midwife says, "Okay, if you can reach go ahead and pull her out."

So I did. I reached and I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her right out. I sat her on my stomach. My eyes filled with giant tears, she started to cry a loud, healthy cry. I did it. I had a baby.

At 3:41PM on January 15, 2013 after almost 24 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing, I had delivered a 7lbs, 3.3oz baby girl that will forever wear the name, Emma Claire. She was dreamy and that moment immediately defined my existence. My husband held her in his arms as he paced around the hospital room. He stared at her like she had hung the moon. He was captivated and more in love with her than he ever thought possible. My mom stood in the background and texted my siblings who anxiously waited on me as I pushed for 305 years. We welcomed our daughter into this world. This crazy, hard to fathom, impossible to comprehend Marine Corps world.

With her new pink skin, wide blue eyes, and perfectly bald head, my daughter entered the world. Ten days later she would be moving to Wyoming. But that's another story for another day.

I have found that not all birth stories are the same. Would any woman love to have an all-natural birth with no medication and no interventions? Absolutely! We would also love it to be pain free, to glow the whole time, and to not poop on the table as we push. The reality is - the labor and delivery is just as unique as the child! During my moments of stress I would often say, "If only I had gotten pregnant two months later!" or "I wish we would have waited until we moved to begin trying to have a baby!" But now? I wouldn't dream of anything different. I prayed over and over that God would protect her from any affects of the induction and epidural. He did just that. Not once did her heart rate drop or increase. She was discharged 24 hours after her birth. Her lungs were strong. She was as healthy as a horse.


On August 14, 2010 my life changed dramatically as I became the wife of a marine.

On January 15, 2013 my life changed forever as I became a mother.


photo by: Megan Jones/Megan Jones Photography (meganmcjonesphotography.yolasite.com)