birth story

Six Years of Preparing, Providing, and Pioneering for Women

Yesterday marked the sixth birthday of The Motherhood Collective, this organization that I hold so dear. Each year I recall the freezing cold temperatures of January 10, 2011 and the lack of experience our small team of five possessed as we launched our first program in a warehouse (temporarily without heat); we had 12 women in attendance that first day.
We couldn't have given you a mission statement, a catchy tagline, or a polished elevator pitch, but we each knew something had to change. We KNEW someone had to improve the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of women from preconception to postpartum. Our small team of five saw a need, and we embraced our responsibility. We might not have known it at the time, but we were pioneers.

Slowly but surely, women came to us with their needs and desires. As they felt safe, they expressed their insecurities, frustrations, and regrets. The more we listened, the more we learned. Soon we found that the women we serve are our greatest teachers and vision casters. Our mission became simple: Provide rich, evidence-based education and unwavering social support, allowing women to become equipped, educated, and empowered; at all times, assuring each woman that she is not alone and that she is, indeed, the best mother for her child.

So friends, the mission statements, taglines, and elevator pitches all came in due time. Volunteers, business partners, and board members arose, each taking responsibility, in their own unique ways, for the maternal health of THEIR community. Now, six years later, here we are, preparing women in our own unbiased, unpolarized, and judgement-free way, for a venture unlike any other: MOTHERHOOD.

So happy birthday, TMC. I love you and the women we serve so very much. This year, may our team purpose to prepare, provide, and pioneer in new and provocative ways. May the women that we serve continue to be our greatest teachers.

Thank you for all you have given me.

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.

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.

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.

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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,

Mommy

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:

miathen

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.
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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.
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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!

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)

Happy Birthday...A Healing Birth.

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 --- The following is a letter that I wrote to my son on his 5th birthday. I hold his birth dear to my heart--it was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and a healing birth in many ways. Not only that, it started me on my journey towards becoming a doula, a job that I adore and love. Through my work, I get to help educate mothers and their partners about all the choices that surround the birth of their baby, and help them become advocates for themselves. Not only that, I get to meet babies--loads of sweet, salty smelling babies--born to parents who adore them. How perfect! ---

Dear Sawyer,

On the eve of your birth, I want you to know that you are the reason I am so passionate about my work.  Not only birth work in general, but more specifically, working with moms and dads and helping them understand their choices when it comes to vaginal births after cesareans.  You were my first vbac, and when I lifted you onto my chest, your breathing filled my lungs, and all my hopes and dreams for you mixed together in one sweet, soft song.  Your baby smell—that salty, warm smell—filled the room and it might have been minutes (or maybe seconds, I can’t be sure) that I locked eyes with you and knew that I had been given a most precious gift.

Your birth brought about a range of emotions in me—complete joy followed by sadness for what I had missed before.  My previous birth, a c-section, had given me a beloved baby girl, but also a deep scar that was not only physical but also emotional.  As you were born, as I held your soft body, as you nuzzled into my neck, I could feel the scar coming apart. This scar that I had held so tightly began to unravel around me—my previous choices, peoples comments, the physical pain, the missed moments—they began to fade away.  Before I knew it, I had forgiven myself and believed in myself again. This confidence might have started with your birth, but it did not end there—it flooded over into other aspects of my life.  I mothered with more assurance, I lived with more determination, and I let go of the past and looked to the future.  I began to find a passion—a passion for birth and for mommies and babies.  Not because I believe that the way a woman births is the most important thing, but because I believe that the way women and babies are respected and treated at this most intimate moment is the most important thing.

I did not know it right away, this life work that I would be called too.  I have watched many mommies lift their babies to their chests since you were born.  I have watched daddies look on with awe as their sons and daughters are born--by strong, confident, precious women.  I have watched, and secretly remembered you each time—my Sawyer.  You are full of life and mischief, and wonder and love—all rolled up with a lot of danger and no hesitation.  You embody everything they say about little boys and red-heads too: you are hot headed or as easy going as can be, and you change minute by minute or hour by hour.  You have a love for life and people, and there is no challenge you cannot conquer, no mountain you cannot climb (literally.)  I can’t begin to imagine what you will be one day—a fisherman, an astronaut, a musician, a documentary maker.  I know you will give your Daddy and me plenty of trouble, but I don’t doubt that you will love the Lord with your whole heart.  You have always had a soft spirit and I pray every day that you continue to see the world with a twinkle in your clear, blue eyes.

Sometimes I sneak away in the middle of the night, and sometimes I am gone for days at a time.  I might miss a game or two, but I want you to remember that birth work is important work. It changes women, it unites marriages, and it grows strong families.  I want you to remember that I found myself again because of you.  I want you to remember that I will never forget the feeling of you, and the way you fit perfectly in my waiting arms.

Happy 5th Birthday to you…my Sawyer.

All my love,

Mommy

--- Do you have a birth story you'd like to share with our readers? Please submit it here or email us at submissions@themotherhoodcollective.org.

Elena's Birth Story

Edi

July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you. On January 6, 2012, I woke up at 2:30 am with what I was pretty sure were labor pains, but I had been fooled once and didn’t want it to happen again. I decided there was no need to wake anyone yet. I would record my contractions and wait until they were the 3 to 5 minutes apart for 2 hours (as instructed by the hospital). I was surprised I hadn’t disturbed my husband. Every time a contraction would come along I had to get out of bed. Luckily that early they were far enough apart I could fall back to sleep in between. It was about 4 am when they started getting close enough that I didn’t have time to fall back to sleep. I think it was about 5 am when all my moving around finally woke my husband. He asked if I was okay. I told him I was having contractions since 2:30 I remember saying, “I don’t think you’re going to work today.” As the contractions got closer, I tried to remember everything from our labor and delivery class. I was not doing a good job of relaxing through the pain. I’ll admit if I was able to relax during the contractions things may have gone differently.

At about 8 am I woke my mother and told her we were going to go to the hospital soon. I showered, let the dogs out and finished packing our bags. I tried to eat something since I knew it was going to be a long day but I was already nauseous and nothing was appetizing. Still I forced myself to choke down some Rice Chex and a couple pieces of banana. A little before 9 a.m. we were ready to go. Before we left, Jeff asked if we could stop at the bank he wanted to make a deposit. I know I said something along the lines of, “Uh, sure?” When on the inside I was thinking, “Seriously!?!?!?!”

No harm came from stopping at the bank first. We made it to the hospital and we in the Birthing Center Triage by about 9:30 am. I was 4 cm at that point. Elena’s heart rate dropped while we were in there. I knew what that meant; they would want to constantly monitor her heart rate, which meant I was going to be stuck in the hospital bed. I suppose I could have argued because part of my birth plan was to have mobility. Squatting was what was getting me through my contractions. Except, to be honest, I didn’t really want to argue. I knew I was in the homestretch, but anything could still happen. I’ve known a few people where the decreased heart rate meant the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. To me that was a very scary thought. I wanted to make sure we knew if her heart rate got too low so we could do something about it. But by not arguing I had a much harder time saying no to an epidural.

A couple hours after we got to the hospital, the epidural was administered. I was around 6 cm by then. A few hours after that I was at about 8 cm and thought Elena would be here by dinnertime. Sadly, she came much later. Thinking back most of the day is a blur. I don’t know if it was lack of sleep or lack of food that made it that way. I remember my nurses coming in frequently asking me to change my position because Elena’s heart rate dropped again or they lost her heartbeat all together. I got sick a few times, and I still don’t know if it was the epidural or the fact I hadn’t really eaten all day. Gelatin a meal does not make. Haha! I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat Jello again for quite a while. I will say this, the epidural did make relaxing much easier. It was like night and day. I could move my legs a little bit, but didn’t feel a thing!

It was at about 8 cm when my labor stalled. Epidurals can do that to you. She hadn’t dropped any and my contractions were not as effective anymore. They broke my water to see if that would allow Elena’s head to drop and apply pressure for better contractions. Once they broke my water they inserted an internal fetal monitor for a couple of reasons. First, they wanted a more accurate reading of Elena’s heart rate and second, they kept losing her heart rate so this was a way to ensure it wasn’t lost again. Even without the padding from the amniotic sac, Elena did not drop any lower and the strength of my contractions did not change. They started administering Pitocin to try and get the contractions going again.

Elena’s heart rate was still a concern but since the doctor saw some progress, he said we could wait and see if I delivered vaginally. Dinnertime came and went. I finally hit 10 cm. I don’t remember what time it was. I only remember it was dark outside, which doesn’t really mean much in January. The nurse didn’t want me to start pushing until she knew the doctor was out of surgery. So we proceeded to wait. Again my sense of time was gone by then, I feel like it was an eternity we waited. I was starting to feel my contractions, but by no means were they as bad as when we had first arrived.

It was finally time to push. By this point I was so tired and wasn’t even sure I’d be able to push. Elena was still high and they wanted to see if I could get her to come down by pushing. I pushed some and threw up between each push. Elena wasn’t budging. I was starting to feel really out of it and couldn’t catch my breath. While I took a “pushing break” the doctor came in to reassess the situation. He took one look at me and at Elena’s heart rate and determined it might be time to do a caesarian section. The ultimate choice was mine, but that was his suggestion. Although I had wanted a vaginal birth, I conceded. I didn’t feel like I had any energy left to continue and I was worried about Elena.

The nurses moved fast to get me ready for surgery. We had a couple of hiccups due to my allergies, but we got everything straightened out pretty quick. I honestly don’t remember much about going into surgery. I was given some additional pain meds in my IV and was asked to verify why I was there. I also remember a pediatrician introducing herself to me, but I don’t remember her name. They put up the blue curtain and that was probably the scariest part for me. My mother had mentioned what it was like for her when she went for her C-section and as soon as they set me up I understood why she felt the way she did. Along with the anticipation of meeting our child, I was full of anxiety. I was lying on the operating table that was not very wide with my arms stretched out at my sides. It didn’t hurt or anything, it just felt unnatural. It also made me feel like maybe I’m just a tad claustrophobic.

Jeff was finally let in to the OR and that helped me feel better. At least I wasn’t going through this alone. I still couldn’t wait to meet our little girl. I remember I wanted to see what was happening so I’m glad Jeff was able to take pictures. Believe it or not one of my favorite pictures is one Jeff took of Elena being pulled out. I think I will always remember what the doctor said once he saw her. He said, “You aren’t very big, just stubborn.” I had been afraid we were having a tiny baby since throughout my pregnancy I was told I looked small. But I wasn’t thinking that at the time, I remember saying something about how she’s like her parents. It was 10:33 pm when we heard her cry yet surprisingly that’s not at the top of my list for most memorable. I think the most memorable thing to me was actually hearing the wonder in Jeff’s voice as he pointed out what we “made.” I don’t remember the exact words he used but the sentiment just about brought me to tears. I was so happy when I saw how happy and proud he was. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

I saw Elena quickly before they whisked her off. I don’t feel like I had enough time to get my emotions in order when I saw her that first time. I think it may have been relief. I spent my entire pregnancy worried something would go wrong. After it all, here she was and she was perfect.

Jeff left with the baby to the nursery. This part was probably the worst. Now that the baby was born, all I wanted to do was follow her out of the room, but I had to wait. They had to put me back together. And boy, that’s how it felt. The adrenaline was gone, and I was overtired. Not to mention I felt like I was fighting panic because that blue screen was not taunt and kept falling into my face. I just kept reminding myself once it was over I’d be able to join my family. My family - that was a great thought. Some people don’t like epidurals for C-sections they felt too much during the delivery and the rest. I can understand. I didn’t really feel pain but I was able to feel all the tugging, pushing and pulling to get me back to right. The doctor kept trying to hold a conversation with me. I’m not sure why, but I think it was supposed to help me feel better. I thought it was nice of him, but I really wanted him to just be done.

Soon after I was wheeled into recovery, I threw up again. Jeff came and sat with me for a while. I believe by this point it was close to midnight if not later. I wanted sleep, food and to really see my baby. I remember one of the first comments out of my mouth was about Elena’s cone head. I kept saying she shouldn’t have a cone head since she was a C-section baby. To me not having a cone head baby was the one advantage of having a C-section and I didn’t even get that. Even with her cone head, she was beautiful.Mother and Baby

Our parents were in the room when I arrived from recovery. We took some pictures and they all took turns holding her. They left rather quickly since it was well after midnight at this point and knew we needed some sleep. It was around 2:30 am when we were finally able to try nursing, but that is a story for another day.

So there it is, our birth story. Not exactly the way I envisioned it, but the ultimate goal was met. A baby was born healthy and as safely as possible for the both of us.

 

If you have a birth story you'd like to share with our readers, please submit it here.

 

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Levi's Birth Story, Part One

BW Levi

July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you. Today's post is written by Kerissa Scott, a regular attendee at the Motherhood Cafe.  Knowing her birth story, we asked her to share it and she graciously agreed.

Kerrisa's Story

Before I start I want to give a huge disclaimer/warning: For those of you who worry about every possible thing that may go wrong, this may not be a post you want to read. Also, I will try to remain as neutral and factual in relaying everything that happened, but just know that we did not have the best experience, and so I may go on some rants. Given all of that, I still think Levi’s story is amazing and beautiful, and has the power to touch lots of mamas, especially those who have been through similar situations. I believe so strongly that we as mothers have the power to affect our own and our babies’ healthcare. We have a mother’s intuition and a right to know everything and be active in every decision, and as you will read, that is exactly what I learned through this entire process.

The Beginning of It All:Maternity Pic

I was sitting on the toilet the night of June 10th, going to the bathroom (perhaps trying a little too hard)... and out of nowhere, I heard a pop. The gush didn’t happen until I stood up, and then, of course, came the massive panic. I was only 30 weeks. My baby was not ready to come, and yet my water had broken. At the time I was in college, single, and living in an apartment with two other girls. Thankfully one of them was home, so I screamed for her help (like she could really do anything... I just made her freak out more than I was). I was a nursing student and had been through OB class/clinicals, and I have always had a passion for newborns and birth - so I was pretty educated in the area. After a few minutes of panicking, I was able to calm myself and go into nurse mode of what I needed to do. My roommate got me a glass of water which I just kept chugging (your body is constantly making more amniotic fluid, so I knew if I drank, it would make more, hopefully replacing as much lost as possible). I lay down on the floor with a towel between my legs and started making phone calls. My roommate didn’t have a car at the time, so she couldn’t take me to the hospital. I couldn’t get in touch with my parents. (I swear I called them both 10+ times.) Finally I got in touch with my sister. I called the hospital to let them know what was going on and that we were on our way. Of course, because it’s the hospital, they doubted my water broke.  I was obviously ignorant and had just peed... enough to soak three bath towels...totally possible right? Ha.

When we got to the hospital, a lady from our church was already there waiting for us (my entire family has always been close with her). By now I had gotten in touch with my parents and they arrived very shortly after we did. I am still amazed at the response I got when we arrived at the Birth Center. I called telling them what happened, they knew I was only 30 weeks, I was leaking water by the gallon, and yet I stood at the little desk for 10 minutes before they took me back. I remember I just kept saying (I don’t know if it was out loud or to myself), “Why aren’t they doing anything”. They still did not believe that my water has broken.

When I finally got into a room, they had to run the litmus test to check for amniotic fluid. By now I had started having mild contractions, so as soon as they had scientific proof that my water did indeed break, they hooked me up to the monitors and started going to town with IVs. They gave me a steroid shot which is supposed to help the baby’s lungs develop faster - the lungs are one of the last things to fully develop, and yet very essential to life outside of the womb. They gave me meds to stop my contractions, and told me that their goal was to keep him in for at least 48 hours, but the best case scenario would be for him to stay in for 3 to 4 weeks.

Now, as I said before, I had been through nursing school and read all sorts of books, but I had NEVER heard of a baby staying in a mama whose water had broken for 3 to 4 weeks. I had always heard (as I’m sure most of you have) that you have to have the baby within 48 hours of your water breaking (due to risk of infection)... and they were talking 3-4 weeks?

Once they hooked me up to all the IVs and taken all the precautions, things quieted down a bit. My contractions had stopped (thankfully) and it was time to rest. They kept trying to get me to take a sleeping pill, which I refused (daily), if I was going to go into labor I certainly did not want a sleeping pill in my bloodstream. I talked with the Neonatal doctor whose purpose was to “prepare” me for whenever the baby did come. I was also knowledgeable about preemies though. I had done an internship in the NICU in high school and had clinicals for nursing school in there as well. My main concerns were that I still be able to have him vaginally (as long as no further complications arose), and I wanted to know if I would be able to hold him after he was born. The doctor assured me that the goal was to have him vaginally, but he could not promise me I would be able to hold him. That was when I finally broke down. This whole time in the hospital I was in nurse mode:  wanting to know everything they were giving me, all the details, possible side effects, everything. But once I was told I may not be able to hold my baby, it all became so much more real.

The Waiting Game

At this point, we just had to wait. Wait for the medicine to help his lungs.  Wait and hope I don’t have any more contractions. Just be calm and wait.

They did an ultrasound to estimate how big he was and measure how much fluid was left. They estimated 4 pounds - which is pretty big for a 30 week old. I was happy to hear that, but knew that the estimations aren’t very accurate, and being big didn’t necessarily mean he would be healthy.

I was still on magnesium sulfate, the medicine they give you to stop contractions, which at that point I thought was the worst medication ever created. It made me feel like total crap (understatement). You are only supposed to be on it for 48 hours total, and they almost tried to give me it for 72 hours.  This was the first mistake I caught and was adamant they double (and triple) check, as it can cause complications and damage if you take it longer. I ended up being right (doesn’t that feel so good?) and they started weaning me off it. There is always a risk going off it that your body will go back into labor, so they were watching me carefully. If I went into labor at any point, they would not stop it again, as it had been 48 hours. But alas, Levi behaved, and agreed to stay inside a little longer."Thumbs Up" from Kerrisa

As I’m writing this I am looking back on my daily updates for friends and family, and after one day on bed rest, I was complaining about how much my butt hurt.

“I am able to get up and use the bathroom (Thank God! Hate bed pans and catheters!), but other than that, I'm pretty much stuck in bed. My butt is already starting to hurt! Hard to imagine the possibility of being in here for weeks, but easier when I think of baby rather than myself. Mom has been a very good patient advocate - trying to see if I can get a shower at the moment. They have to ask the doctor.”

I have to say, my mom was AMAZING through this whole thing. She stayed with me in the hospital camping out on the pathetic pull out beds. She helped me learn what questions to ask, what to be pushy about and what wasn’t a big deal. More than anything, she was there for me, at a very lonely and scary time.

And she apparently was a very convincing advocate - because after three days in the hospital, I was able to shower! Hallelujah! It was definitely one of the best showers of my life. Afterwards, my mom, sister, and I all worked for over an hour to get all the tangles out of my matted hair. We made the floor slippery from using so much leave-in conditioner. I learned that it was best to braid my hair after that endeavor. That way, if it was a few days before I could shower again, at least it wouldn’t be a huge nest.

After taking me off the IVs, ensuring I was not going to go into labor, and finally letting me shower, they moved me to the mother-baby unit to wait. It was so nice to not be hooked to monitors 24/7 and be able to go to the bathroom by myself.  I had to have assistance over in the Birthing Center...it’s hard to go when you have someone over your shoulder. I finally felt I could relax. Before I was just constantly being checked on and really didn’t have any privacy at all.

While in waiting, I would be monitored once a day for half an hour and have an ultrasound once a week. The monitoring was called a non-stress test. They just watched the baby’s heart rate and any contractions. The ultrasound was different than the others. It was called a biophysical profile. It was essentially a test for the baby. He had to do a list of things in 30 minutes, wiggle his fingers, practice breathing, etc. It is so much harder to tell what you are looking at when there is little amniotic fluid - in a regular ultrasound, the fluid creates the nice dark contrasting background. Another downside to low amniotic fluid - there was no cushion for his kicking. I felt every little movement, and there were times I thought he was going to break my ribs!

Because I was leaking amniotic fluid constantly, I had to wear pads, which the nurse had to check every time I changed them for signs of infection. This was awkward for me - leaving a used pad lying out so someone could “check it out”. Sometimes the nurse would call in another nurse to look at it with her, just to be sure - so weird. If the discharge became greenish that was a sign of infection and they would need to induce me.

After a few days I started getting horrible nose bleeds because the air in the hospital is SO dry. I rejoiced when they brought me a humidifier. I was in online classes at the time so most of my day was spent reading and doing school work. One day my sister came and helped me make invitations for my baby shower (which now would happen after I had him).

I was on contact precautions because I had MRSA about 2 years earlier. Apparently after you have a positive MRSA test, you have to go back to the doctor and get 3 nasal swabs that come back negative. No one ever told me this and they couldn’t do the nasal swabs until I was off antibiotics. So this caused extra headache. I got in trouble for leaving my room. A lot of the nurses wouldn’t take my water jug out to refill it.  They would just bring in little styrofoam cups. I was drinking crazy amounts of water at this point so the little cups were not enough!

Several times I started having consistent contractions and they would move me over to the Birth Center, only for the contractions to stop. They would keep me there overnight to carefully monitor me, but come morning I would always end up back in my room. Whenever I was in the Birth Center I got very little sleep. They monitor you more frequently, and the beds are not as comfortable. I hated all the chaos of moving back and forth.

So Sunday night, June 20th, 10 days into my hospital stay, I decided not to tell anyone I was having contractions. I knew that even if this was the real thing, it would be a while before active labor, and I wanted some sleep! After a few hours, I was pretty sure I was in labor for real this time. The contractions would wake me up every now and then, but I just tried to rest as much as I could before being taken to the Birth Center. Around 6 a.m. I finally told the nurse that I had been having contractions all night. She hooked me up to the monitors and agreed that I was in labor, but doubted that it had been all night. My discharge had also started having a greenish tint, so they took me straight to the Birth Center.

The Big Event

It just so happened that the day I was in labor, a neonatal birthing specialist (I can’t remember her real title) was visiting from North Carolina. Because they didn’t believe I had been having contractions all night and they didn’t want them to stop again, the specialist recommended they put me on Pitocin, as I was showing signs of infection. I wish I had known enough to refuse this, or at least request they monitor me for another hour before making that decision, but at the time I was convinced that was what was best for my baby. I was having moderate contractions, but at noon, when they hooked up the Pitocin, everything changed.

Being induced (usually by Pitocin) always causes stronger, longer contractions. Add that onto me already being in labor. I wanted a natural labor, without pain interventions. I knew I could do it, everyone in Africa does it. (That’s what I kept telling myself!) My birth classes were supposed to be the next week so I hadn’t officially been through them. I had sat in on several through nursing classes, but was not able to take them as planned with my mom, so we didn’t really know how to work together. I remember being in total disbelief at how long it took to get a nurse, and how little they were willing to help. They let me get in the shower for a little bit which was absolutely amazing, but other than that I had to pretty much stay in the bed because they were worried about umbilical cord prolapse. I got to the point where I needed to do breathing exercises to get through the contractions, but in the moment I couldn’t. I needed my mom to tell me when to breathe, and she ended up making me hyperventilate because she was so caught up in the moment. We couldn’t even get a nurse to come help me breathe.

I don’t really remember how dilated I was in the morning - I’m thinking a 3 or 4. By 2:30, I was having a really hard time dealing with the pain and getting control. They checked me and I was a 7. I knew if it wasn’t going to get a ton worse, and would be over soon, I could do it. But the nurses told me it was going to get a lot worse and be several more hours (liars). So I gave in and they put in the order for the epidural. The anesthesiologist did not show up until 3, and no one thought to check my dilation THEN, because they had just checked it 30 minutes ago. Well, little did I know, I was in transition. As the anesthesiologist was putting a needle in my back, and I was being ordered to stay still, I was screaming, “The baby is coming. He is coming NOW!”. Once again, they didn’t believe me. But low and behold, as soon as the epidural was secure and I flopped on my back, they could see his head. I was told not to push, the neonatal team had to be called and prepare everything for my premature baby. After what seemed like forever, it was time to push. I don’t remember much as I was in that “zone”, but (per my orders) my mom secretly videotaped the delivery. I do remember the doctor telling me to reach down and feel the top of his head and I freakMama and Babyed out thinking he was TINY and that I was feeling the full circumference of his head (not just the crowning, overlapping skull bones). At one point, he was having bad decels so they gave me an episiotomy (which I specifically told them not to beforehand). They did so without even telling me they were doing it, or why. I wouldn’t have known this without the video, but the cord was wrapped around his neck. Everything happened so fast. The epidural was officially in at 3:15 and Levi was born at 3:33.

I didn’t really get to see him. My sister had walked in as they cut the cord and I kept asking her what he looked like, how he was doing, was he alive, etc. Everyone had left me and was paying attention to the baby. Finally, my mom was my amazing advocate again, and convinced the doctors to let me hold him. It was only for about 10 seconds, and then he started turning blue, but I got to hold him and kiss him and tell him everything was going to be ok.

Precious BoyI don’t remember delivering the placenta, but I do remember being sown back up. Even with the epidural (which had been turned off basically as soon as it was put in), I could feel all the tugging and thought to myself, I’m glad I got the epidural if it was only for this. Before I knew it, they were wheeling my baby out to the NICU, away from me.

 

Kerrisa's story continues here as she tells us about Levi's time in the NICU.

 

 

If you have a birth story you'd like to share with our readers, please submit it here.

The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Landon's Birth Story

July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you.   I don’t normally put things off. I’m pretty crazy – and anything that can get done tomorrow is better done yesterday. But, when it came to Landon’s birth story, I am so glad I have given myself time to process what happened. I did jot notes down. Lots of them. They are in a notebook with so many memories from those early weeks. I am thankful that I have these notes to read, reflect and appreciate, and now see from a different perspective. I view my birth experience so differently now than I did those first few days.

My mom was going to come down for Landon’s birth. Of course, I believe that everyone, including my sweet baby, should be on time. I wasn’t going to be medically induced, but I just knew that he’d be here on time. So, we booked her flights from Vermont to be the week exactly surrounding Landon’s due date. He was due Saturday, November 14th, and we booked the flights to arrive in Lynchburg Wednesday, the 10th, and leave the next Wednesday, the 17th. I had my “last” OB appointment on Wednesday morning. I was checked and was thinning, and about 1-2 centimeters dilated. Later that afternoon, I went and picked my mom up from the airport. That afternoon we spent running business errands. I had to meet people all over town – per the norm. One of our employees was relieved that he was off “baby-watch duty” now that my mom was in town. (My husband, Michael, was working on a new house over an hour away with terrible cell service so he had designated helpers to keep an eye on me.) We went for a walk on the Blackwater Creek Trail, like usual. I was at Subway (where I had been eating lunch constantly — my “craving” — and since it’s nearby, I’d walk there) when I lost my plug. (TMI, sorry!) I lost my appetite as well, and we left. Our afternoon walk around the neighborhood was slightly less comfortable for me. I started feeling cramping and really wanted to just relax. When Michael got home that night we had what would be my last “meal” before delivery (which, as you’ll find out, wasn’t for quite some time!)

Thursday morning Another favorite place of mine during pregnancy was Target. No wonder it’s Landon’s favorite store now. Mom and I decided to go to Target to walk, just in case, because I was getting uncomfortable. In the store, I had to push the cart just so I could stop every now and then to bend over during these early contractions. I had the cashier in shock when she asked when I was due and I responded, “...in two days". I was uncomfortable enough to have my mom drive us home. Michael got done early that afternoon and was home. I felt contractions about 5-6 minutes apart, although they were varying in intensity. We decided to call the doctor's office to see what they thought.

**Here’s where I need to place a little background. Please excuse the intimate details. A few months before finding out we were pregnant with Landon, I had a miscarriage. With this first pregnancy, I felt nausea, exhaustion, everything. It was very real to me. We were excited. Four weeks after the first tests came back positive we had our first OB appointment scheduled. It included an ultrasound. They wanted to wait until they thought I was around 8-10 weeks along which is why they waited this amount of time. At the ultrasound, there was no heartbeat. I can’t tell anyone who hasn’t experienced this how heartbreaking it is – and if you have, my heart breaks for you as well. I had to have a D&C — three days later. It was such an emotional time. I felt like a failure and that my body couldn’t do what it was meant to. The doctor couldn’t give us any explanation as to WHY the baby stopped growing — just that he/she measured around 5 weeks. After this experience, I was so scared. When I took my first pregnancy test with Landon it was very early. At first, the line was so faint I couldn’t see it! I took another pregnancy each day for a week to see if the line was getting darker because this would mean that my body was producing more of the pregnancy hormone. I found out on a Friday at 5:35 that I was pregnant again, with Landon. I HAD to get in to see the doctor; to be reassured that this baby wasn’t gone already. They again made me wait for three weeks. It was agonizing. That first ultrasound appointment, I couldn’t even do a urine sample; I was too nervous. I couldn’t look at the screen and Michael said I didn’t take a breath until I saw him smile when he saw the heartbeat on the screen. It was such relief. However, I was still so scared. We didn’t tell people about the pregnancy until I was 17 weeks along. Each doctor’s appointment, I was still so nervous. I wanted them to reassure me – I wasn’t trusting my body. I knew I hadn’t “done” anything “wrong” with the first pregnancy, but I still couldn’t let myself trust myself. I didn’t have sickness, I was tired but not exhausted, I didn’t *show* until around 18 weeks. I WANTED those symptoms to reassure me that everything was okay. I wasn’t scared of delivery, and I planned on doing it without medication because I was *sure* I could do it. But, as you’ll find out, this loss had scared me into not trusting myself and blindly listening to people who didn’t have the same outlook as I did for my birth.

Back to Landon’s birth When we called, I was told to go in to the hospital since it was my first birth and I didn’t know what to expect. They put me in triage and started to monitor. Not much. But I was so uncomfortable! It felt like somebody was stabbing my back. I didn’t feel much of anything in front or low. They had me wait for an hour before telling me that it wasn’t time and I should go home. (Thursday night) I felt like a fool. We went back to the house. Michael made a fire and I lay in our bed that we had moved to the living room to be by the fireplace. I took a bath practically every 20-30 minutes to find relief. I would wake up in pain and grab his arm. Friday morning/early day I don’t remember much. I was told not to eat anything ever since calling the hospital Thursday because “it could be soon.” I was exhausted. Thank goodness I had been walking so much so I had some stamina! I refused to go back to the hospital, though, because I didn’t want to be sent home again. Michael and my mom finally convinced me to go back. It’s now Friday evening — around 5-6pm. We got to the driveway and I made Michael drive past. I wasn’t ready to go. Again, I couldn’t trust myself and didn’t want to be turned away. After being home for an hour, I couldn’t wait anymore. I was so weak that I couldn’t do anything to help with the pain. They put me in triage, again, and had me walk the halls for an hour before admitting me. I was 5cm. When they offered the bathtub, I was thrilled. I had sent in my birth plan a few weeks earlier and they said everything looked okay.

My water didn’t break and I had been there through the night, sleeping some, I think because I just didn’t have any calories in me to stay awake. I was given something light for the back pain. At 7cm the doctor broke my water. Then it got really painful. It was all in my back. I was expecting cramps – like menstrual cramps. I didn’t know what to do to help myself and although I *knew* I should move around, no nurse was encouraging this and I was so tired! Then they brought in the epidural video and said, “I know you weren’t planning on it, but you’ve been here for around 15 hours now so we wanted you to watch this.” I didn’t concentrate on it because the contractions were so strong – but I just remember seeing happy families. My major concern was I wanted to nurse Landon right away and I wanted him to be alert right after birth. They told me that epidural doesn’t affect babies’ alertness. I got a fever shortly after this. I asked for ginger ale, but quickly threw it up. I was told by the nurse I shouldn’t have had anything to eat/drink. I got the epidural because I just couldn’t go on and didn’t want to give up having a vaginal birth. At first, I was ashamed to admit having an epidural. Now, I can see that it was what I needed, given my experience, to continue birthing Landon myself. The nurses came and said I could push. But I couldn’t feel anything. I didn’t know where I was or wasn’t pushing. It was embarrassing. I wanted to push him out. I wanted to feel it. I know that’s crazy, but I feel like I missed that experience. I was so exhausted. The doctor came to use suction – telling me if I didn’t get Landon out they’d c-section.

The next thing I remember was seeing Michael’s face. He was by my side holding my leg. He looked like he had seen a ghost. The cord was around Landon’s neck – twice – and Michael thought he wasn’t going to survive. The doctor quickly undid the cord from his neck and Landon started crying. Color returned to Michael’s face. Then, just as quickly, it went white again. He wasn’t prepared for the amount of blood and thought I was dying. *I love him.* Landon was born absolutely posterior – face up and with a perfectly round head! (I had to convince people that I really did have a vaginal birth. “Are you sure?” they’d ask. “Yep, pretty positive!” ) Because I had a fever during labor – even though at birth it was gone – they took Landon took the NICU. He wasn’t feverish. He had great color, was crying, and even peed – twice – on the nurses while they were checking him. I didn’t get to nurse him right away. But I did get to hold him. It was the most amazing thing to see him on my chest. I remember not being able to grasp the idea that this was OUR BABY, yet at the same time, nothing in the world had ever felt more natural – more meant to be. They took him to the NICU – which I regret letting happen now, but didn’t know I could have said no. I’m just thankful he was healthy and that it was just precautionary.

Landon was born on his due date! Even after starting labor pains on Wednesday, my baby boy came right on time. He was born Saturday, November 14, 2010, 9:00 pm, 7lbs, 0oz. Very punctual - so much like his mama!

In my room, I finally got to eat – after three days. At this time, I didn’t care about all that had gone “not according to plan”. I was just so glad to have Landon here, safely. When they finally brought him in to me, around 1:30 am, I was so pleased that he took to nursing right away. I loved having him on me and we spent most of our time in the hospital nursing.

I’m glad I waited to formally write this because although I’m sure it sounds like there is some resentment toward the way things went, I truly feel like it was beautiful because it gave me a healthy, amazing boy. I can appreciate the lessons I learned and now trust myself, my body, so much more. I won’t regret anything about this birth because I couldn’t have asked for a better result. Landon is SUCH a JOY and I DID birth him! With future births, I do hope to use my knowledge and experience to have a different experience, but every birth is beautiful. Birthing your baby is the result of that amazing journey and each one is beautiful.

 

If you have a birth story you'd like to share with our readers, please submit it here.  

The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Gabriel's Birth Story

Gabriel Featured Image

July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you. Here is Melissa's story:

Of course, Gabriel’s story begins back in November, 2010, when we found out that we were pregnant with him! Our prayers were heard and we were blessed us with a wonderful, healthy pregnancy for both Melissa and the baby. During this time, we also began our journey in childbirth education. And oh, what a journey! Through the Anticipation and Beyond Café (resource for all things pregnancy, birth, and parenting), additional books, friendships, and much prayer, we decided to opt for a hospital birth with the desire to keep it as natural and intervention-free as possible. Melissa continued to surround herself with only positive stories on a natural birth, preparing herself for Gabriel’s birth to come. It only took our first private childbirth education class with Laurie Flower to decide we didn’t want to face this alone. We hired her to be our doula. Doula is Greek for servant-woman and English for childbirth-coach-who-has-seen-all-and-done-all-and-will-bend-over-backwards-to-keep-you-going-strong-woman. She was worth her weight in gold! We thoroughly enjoyed our 1-on-1 classes with her – they gave us new found knowledge and encouragement for a natural delivery that we hadn’t found anywhere else.

Fast forward to Saturday, August 13th (nine days prior to Gabriel’s due date). This day began like any other in the ninth month of pregnancy – dancing in our heads were visions of sweatpants, sleeping in, and enjoying the weekends together before the baby came. Instead, we began the day with major sewer problems, multiple moppings of the bathroom floor, and heading to the in-laws’ for showers. Not the end of the world, but Melissa was exhausted and still experiencing the off-and-on lower back pain she had been having the past week. Her wonderful husband stood in the water and did all of the “dirty” work, while they nervously joked – what if it was today?

Sewer mended, they prepared for an afternoon nap. Futile, because Melissa just wasn’t comfortable no matter what we tried.

And then the phone rang – our beloved doula! We had been in prayer for weeks because Laurie had come down with a terrible virus, one that had her making this phone call from the hospital. She told us that as long as Gabriel held off until Monday, she would be out of the hospital and at our birth. We smiled – we were sure he wouldn’t come tonight or tomorrow. We listened half-heartedly to her describe Barbie, a mother of eight and previous midwife assistant for years, whom Laurie said we could call if we went into labor before Monday. We shrugged. There was no way we were doing this thing without Laurie.

We were reminded to get plenty of rest, but Melissa was still feeling antsy, so we went to Kroger and bought our last (little did we know) pre-natal late-night snack and rented a movie. We met our neighbors, Nick and Molly, at the Redbox station. We laughed with them about how exhausted we were, and said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if he came tonight?” and, “Hopefully not!”

We tried settling down to sleep again at 12:30am. Melissa crawled out of bed at 1:00am with more consistent and intense back pains. Could it be that these were contractions? She grabbed her exercise ball and bounced around the bedroom, trying not to wake her dear husband. The whole time, she denied she was in labor. The irony of it would just be too much to bear—the one day in weeks that she hadn’t taken a long afternoon nap and the two days in Laurie’s life (it seemed) that she would not be able to attend a birth.

Regardless, Melissa finally woke Andy at 2:00am, more for the distraction than anything else. They put something on to watch, and Andy made his first (of many!) runs to the microwave with the heated “rice socks.” Melissa continued to bounce around on the ball while Andy applied hot pressure to her lower back. Of course, we were still sure that Melissa wasn’t in labor (ha!), but pulled out the stop watch to time the duration of the “contractions” for practice – just like Laurie had taught us. It was strange. We began to notice that they were consistently a minute long, and they weren’t getting any easier.

We finally decided that we needed to talk about a substitute Doula. Melissa had known Barbie from the Anticipation and Beyond Café, but still…perhaps we shouldn’t call her yet since this still could be a fluke. People get false labor all the time…

Eventually, we decided that this was the real thing. Melissa did what she had prayed she could do before going to the hospital—took a shower. She didn’t want to feel all dirty and gross before all the mess of labor and delivery. The shower felt so good that she stood in there for an hour. But nausea drove her out. Right as Andy was calling Barbie at 6:00 am, Melissa had her first of many bouts of throwing up.

This wasn’t good. One of the things Andy and Melissa had been passionate about was keeping food in Melissa to give her energy throughout labor (FYI, women in labor burn 1400 calories an hour!). In fact, the previous weekend they had spent an hour perusing the grocery aisles, collecting every kind of snack that Melissa thought would be desirable during her many hours of contractions. Alas, due to the nausea and throwing up, the food was completely forgotten.

Barbie arrived at 6:30 am, was introduced to Andy, and the new birth team settled down to develop a game plan. Barbie assessed where Melissa was, talked about ways she hoped to help and began joining Andy in the runs to the microwave with rice socks. All of this was reassuring. She was going to be the perfect substitute for Laurie!

After a while, Barbie suggested a walk. Melissa had heard this really helped, so she agreed. The walk was pleasant and refreshing in the early morning. The three of them made a strange caravan to outsiders, stopping every couple minutes to perform the same ritual: Melissa would lean against Andy’s back, while Barbie pressed her hands into the small of Melissa’s back. Melissa would sway and moan, and then take a breath to cleanse herself of the contraction. Then they would continue.

Eventually, we remembered that there were other people who should know we were in labor, so we called family around 8:30 am, telling them this was the day! Barbie then suggested that we start packing for the hospital. Andy frantically began grabbing all of our plastic bags (somewhere between 8 and 12 in all) and stuffing them with labor paraphernalia. Since we kept denying this was the real deal, we hadn’t quite finished packing the bag. We filled up the trunk, got Melissa situated between contractions, and headed for the hospital. At this point, the contractions had been 1 minute long for about 4 or 5 hours.

The arrival at the hospital at 10:30 was exciting to say the least. We had forgotten to call ahead or even talk with the midwife during all this, so they didn’t know to expect us. Andy handled the registration and made a quick run to the bathroom (poor guy had been waiting a while for the chance), while Melissa leaned against the counter, doing her thing.

They were taken to their room and met their nurse, Ashley. Ashley apologized, but could Melissa lay on the bed for half an hour to get monitored? Yuck. Contractions were not meant for horizontal positions. Melissa apologized, but asked if Ashley would set up the Aquadoula (a giant inflatable tub) in the room. This was not the nurses’ favorite task, and Melissa knew it. But she also knew it was one of the major pluses to laboring in the hospital. She also knew it took a good hour to set up. Ashley reminded her of this, but Melissa and Andy insisted anyway.

Thankfully, Ashley ended up being very lenient with our hospital privileges. She measured Melissa at 6 cm then took orders from Barbie. She ran down the halls grabbing every unused washcloth, buckets of ice, an inflatable labor ball, and extra nurses to set up the giant tub. Meanwhile, Andy called family to let them know we were at the hospital.Laboring

Finally, the tub was ready! It was like a dream come true gliding into the warm water up to her neck. Melissa had heard about how amazing water births were, and how they had even begun adopting the practice in some hospitals. But water births weren’t allowed at this hospital, so while she was in the water, Melissa began to plot a way in which she could keep the nurse and midwife from knowing when she was ready to push the baby out. Maybe she could have him in the water, and pretend it had been an accident. To put it bluntly, she didn’t ever want to come out of that tub.

Barbie gets props for the best comfort measure (second only to the Aquadoula). She brought our crock pot along, filled it was water and washcloths, and turned it on high. These warm washcloths replaced the rice socks (which lost heat quickly and took some time to reheat) on Melissa’s abdomen and back. She also suggested an ice cold washcloth on Melissa’s face and neck. The two extremes of hot and cold pressure, while alternating positions in the tub, kept Melissa sane, and she even felt she was enjoying herself a bit. Everything was so new, and her senses were so alive and focused on what was happening. Sometimes she liked rocking on all fours, other times she threw herself over a pillow on the edge of the tub (come to find out, the pillows weren’t really supposed to get wet). The sun was streaming in through the window, and Melissa, Andy and Barbie alternated between praying during the contractions, reading Scripture, and best of all, singing. Melissa found that deep, soulful hymns helped her sway and connect with the inner primitive self—something she had been told was essential to handling the pains. She alternated between “Amazing Grace”, “Down to the River to Pray,” and “I Love You Lord.” In an odd way, the combination of these things made everything peaceful for her. When one contraction was harder than another, her groans would get deeper and louder. Andy would notice and look into her eyes, and tell her that Gabriel said “thank you.” It felt good to be reminded she was getting a baby at the end of all this!

The midwife on duty that day was Christina. Melissa’s last prenatal appointment just three days earlier had been with her, and she had very bluntly said: “Most first time Moms go late, so don’t expect him any time soon.” Melissa secretly laughed when she saw her walk in to the hospital room—eight days before the due date. Each time Christina walked into the room, she merely seated herself in the chair and watched the three of them do their thing. She didn’t ask questions or bother us with how things were going. And when the nurse, Ashley, had to go get something approved, she came with the news that Christina wasn’t worried about their progress. She even allowed Melissa to stay in the pool for five hours, when they usually only allowed one.

So things continued on their merry way until about 2:30 pm. Then, Melissa reached transition. She was told she couldn’t be in the pool anymore, and Barbie agreed that she needed to keep moving around. Melissa “groaned” around the room—first walking, then bouncing on the ball, then leaning against Andy, then sitting on the toilet (this had previously felt great). Still, nothing felt good. It was at this point that Melissa said something Andy will never forget: “This isn’t fun anymore.” (As if the rest of labor had just been a pool party!)

After a while, Melissa was starting to feel “pushy,” so Christina wanted to check her one more time. Melissa was a nine! That was encouraging. Melissa was glad it was almost over, but terrified that she was so close to the dreaded part. Melissa had no idea what it would be like to push out a baby. Christina and Barbie both recommended that they break her water, since it was still holding on for dear life, and the pressure of her water kept building. They told her the pressure would be lessened, and so Melissa consented.

It was around 4:30 pm that Melissa climbed onto the bed. The head of the bed was elevated, and Melissa got down on her hands and knees, and rested her head at the top of the bed. She slowly began pushing during the peak of her contractions, whenever she felt the onset of the urge to push. The strangest part about this time was that her contractions were still just as long and strong, but had extended to six minutes apart! Her body must have known she needed the rest after no sleep in the last 34 hours, and no food in the last 18 hours. So she slept between contractions. It felt surreal that her body could do this, but she was literally woken each time with the urge to push, and would fade back out at the end of it.

Extra nurses arrived to begin setting up tables of equipment, and Christina stood at the foot of the bed watching Melissa’s progress. At one point, Barbie asked Melissa if she wanted to feel Gabriel’s head near the opening. Melissa was surprised to know that he was that close! She reached down and received all the encouragement she needed. She could do this, and she wanted to do this! She wanted to hold her baby! He was almost here!

Right at the end, Christina told Melissa to lay on her side to prevent further tearing. Melissa slid down, and a few pushes later, he was out! Melissa couldn’t believe it. On the last “push,” they’d even told her to just breathe through it, and out he came. It was such a beautiful sensation—not painful or something that made her want to scream out. And before she could process anything, he was there, in her arms, eyes roving about. As soon as Melissa started speaking, his eyes locked with hers. The bond that Melissa felt, the surge of love that expanded her heart to make room for another person, was overwhelming—something she will never forget. According to Barbie, Melissa kept saying, “My baby…this is my baby. My baby! My baby…my baby.” Not exactly waxing eloquent, but full of wonder. Then Andy was there, speaking to Gabriel. And he turned and looked his father in the eyes, knowing Andy’s voice as well as his mother’s.

The next hour was a blur. Nurses were suctioning Gabriel, giving him oxygen, and doing his APGAR scores. As desired, he was able to stay on Mommy almost the whole time! During this hour, Barbie also helped Gabriel nurse for the first time. This was such a sweet moment of intimacy to see the comfort he received from his mother and the tenderness she was able to express so naturally.On the scale

As far as Melissa’s postpartum goes…she experienced the worst part of labor and delivery—the midwife putting all her strength into compressing Melissa’s uterus. This was the part in the whole process that she wanted to scream, curse, and chop off someone’s head with an axe. No one had told her they would do this to her. She received the wonderful news that a nurse would be stopping by every 15 minutes to perform the same action. The midwife also began stitching Melissa (who had unfortunately suffered two second-degree tears). Come to find out, the bright overhead lights that are used for this were out…so the midwife had to take her time, and kept calling out for the nurses to go fetch other lights, finally settling with a flashlight that she kept in her glove box. This was, needless to say, a very apprehensive time for Melissa. You don’t usually want to hear your medical professional complaining of vision problems while performing such a delicate task on a very sensitive area.

One of the highlights of this time for Melissa was the food that Andy fed her while all this was going on. The Little Debbie’s Banana Nut muffin that she ate was, by far, the best tasting and most rewarding thing she had ever eaten in her life. Gabriel was happily enjoying his mother’s milk for the first time, and Melissa felt like she was tasting food for the first time, too!

Eventually, Melissa was able to get out of bed and use the restroom. Thankfully, she had kept enough fluids in her to be able to go to the bathroom. She put on a robe and got situated in the wheelchair. Gabriel was placed in the cart, and they were wheeled to the postpartum room!

Reflecting on the 16 ½ hours of labor, Melissa would have to say that everything she experienced was fully worth those moments of looking into her son’s eyes, knowing that she had done everything in her power to give him a beautiful and safe entry into this world. Perhaps she was lucky—she did not consider her labor to be “painful” or something that threatened to send her into screaming hysterics, as some describe their labors. Unpleasant? Yes. Throbbing, uncomfortable pressure that she couldn’t talk through? Most definitely. But in the grander scheme of things, a lovely, pure process created for women entering motherhood. In talking with Melissa about the birth, Laurie Flowers made the comment that she’s always interested in what keeps women going through with a natural delivery. There’s quite a bit of conviction that must occur to keep refusing an epidural that’s so easily within arm’s reach! On the practical side of things, Melissa would most definitely agree that she wanted to keep the delivery natural for optimal health of the baby. Emotionally and spiritually, Melissa wanted to experience this rite Mama and Babyof passage, to know at the purest level what it means to bring a child into this world, to make this first motherly sacrifice of love.

In summary, we are so thankful what we desired most of all: a natural, safe delivery of a healthy baby weighing in at 6 lbs., 11 oz., and 21 inches long! Although a few things that we had taken for granted didn’t go “according to plan,” we were blessed to see the Lord’s grace in every way.

From the moment Gabriel Joshua Kan was placed in our arms, we have been so full of gratitude to have this boy. We truly behold His glory in the son that we behold on a daily basis.

 

If you have a birth story you'd like to share with our readers, please submit it here.

 

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Joanna's Birth Story, Part Two

Mama and Baby BW

On Monday, we shared Laura Mills' birth story. For some C-section Moms, the delivery process is relatively painless. However, for many, the post-partum period can be very difficult. Here are Laura's early thoughts on in her c-section recovery process. Thoughts from C-Section Recovery First of all, we have the best daughter in the history of babies. I realize there is a very long history of babies, but rest assured that she is the best. Ever.

The surgery was a huge success and my recovery is going better than anticipated. Each time a nurse checks my incision, they make a comment on how well it’s healing and how great I'm doing. (I know I'm the only one they ever say those things to because I just had the best daughter in history so they're simply recognizing my mad skills.) It took me a day or so to get back on my feet (literally) and move around "wirelessly" without an IV, catheter, and other fun medical equipment. I'm able to get in and out of bed on my own now. I can shower. I can use the bathroom. I can change diapers standing up. I feel like super woman! Thanks, Percocet!

Usually recovery is longer and harder than my experience. If I hadn't just given birth to the best daughter in history with the greatest husband in the galaxy, it would be harder for me, too. Jonathan, my husband, has been superhuman in taking care of me. Our parents have jumped at every opportunity to serve us and love us. Our incredible family and friends made sure to encourage us and love Joanna (although it's not very hard to love someone like her).

In terms of pain, it's a very real and expected part of recovery. Having a C-section is not a way to skip pain - it's just a different way to give birth. Rather than having one's pain take place in one (or two) concentrated days, the pain is spread out over weeks. The incision hurts in a sharp way without my beautiful drugs. Cramping and getting my piping back in order causes aches and lots of pressure. Walking, sitting up, adjusting, or just using stomach muscles at all can present a variety of pains.

The most rewarding pain of all has been trying to nurse. Our beautiful roly-poly needs to maintain her gorgeous curves and I happily oblige. The biggest hurdle we've encountered is her comfort level - she gets way too comfy while nursing and often falls asleep soon after latching. We have to keep her awake by keeping her cold and angry. It's a beautiful and beneficial torture technique. Not only do I have pain at the site of her nursing (obviously), but my uterus contracts while she goes at it. Nursing helps my uterus go back to its original shape and location, therefore helping me get back to my original shape.

BIG thanks to the nurses at Virginia Baptist Hospital. I'm nothing short of impressed with their professionalism, compassion, insight, and preparedness during this time. They answer our stupid questions without giving us a stupid tone, they bring extra slices of cheese cake, and they take the time to explain things to us until we understand what's going on.

If I knew then what I know now, I would still do it all again.

  The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Fine Art Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!