hospital birth

A Look at Centra Medical Group: Women's Center

I was given the privilege of interviewing our local CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) group—Centra Medical Group: Women's Center (formally Forest Women’s Center).  Under Centra, the Women's Center provides full Gynecological care for women in the central Virginia area, as well as comprehensive Obstetrical care that includes prenatal check-ups, labor support, delivery at Virginia Baptist Hospital, and postpartum health.  They have five wonderful midwives— Billie Hamilton-Powell, Erin Baird, Christina Dubay, Nancy Prothero, and Tami Stevens—and one FNP—Ruth Robertson. The Motherhood Collective has been thrilled to add the CMG Women’s Center to their list of non-profit support, and many of us have enjoyed hosting Erin Baird on our Café panels.  I have personally used the midwives for my pregnancy and birth journey with my son and was more than pleased with the care I received!  I enjoyed meeting all the midwives during my prenatal visits, and when my time came, Christina did a wonderful job supporting me during labor and catching Gabriel when he was born.  The whole time she remained calm, encouraging, and quiet—only saying something when it needed saying.  When she was caring for me afterwards she realized the bulbs were out in the overhead lights, so she sent one of the nurses down to her car to grab the flashlight out of her glove compartment.  Great resourcefulness (and a great way to put a mom at ease :) )!

I hope you enjoy reading about the passion these women have for Mothers and Babies!  Thank you, CMG Women’s Center, for serving this community (and this organization) so beautifully. Holding Hands

1.       What is your primary goal in the care you provide for women?

 Our group is focused on offering women and their families holistic, individualized maternity and gynecologic care throughout the lifespan.  We want to be a trusted and caring member of their healthcare family.

2.       What unique passions and practices do you offer?

 Each of our Certified Nurse Midwives brings their own unique set of specialties and philosophies within the Midwifery Model of Care.  We support women in being an active participant in their care – from pre-pregnancy to menopause.  As Nurse Midwives we are specifically trained in natural non-interventionalistic care.  We are trained to see the woman as a summation of all her parts: family, life, religion, work, children and parents.  This allows us to see the many different influences that may affect her health.  At the same time our training allows us to identify and treat the medical issues as they arise.

  • 3.       What birth mindset do you hope to encourage in the women of Central Virginia?

 We hope that all women will become educated on their options, their wants and the evidence-based practices of pregnancy, delivery and post-partum.  Pregnancy and birth are extremely personal and individual experiences for each family and we want to support all women no matter what their plans or desires be it natural, medicated or cesarean.

4.       If you could tell one thing to a woman trying to conceive, what would it be?

 Pregnancy, birth and the raising of an infant is like a marathon.  Preparation should include becoming as healthy as possible.  Schedule a pre-conception appointment with your provider and make a plan for your pregnancy.

5.       If you could tell a pregnant mother one thing, what would it be?

Pregnancy is one of life’s best challenges.  Many well-meaning people are going to tell you what to do, what to eat, how you should look and what their labor/delivery was like.  Remember that your pregnancy and delivery will be unique to you and your life and rejoice in that.  Try not to compare yourself to others as we are all so very wonderfully different.

6.       If you could tell a mother with a newborn one thing, what would it be?

 No one can prepare you for all that is the immediate post-partum period.  It is both a wonderful and extremely trying time.  Initially you will have so many different emotions it can be overwhelming.  The exhaustion and physical demands of those early weeks can make even the most dedicated mother doubt her decision to do this!  USE YOUR RESOURCES!  We recommend that every new mother, breastfeeding or not, rest at every opportunity.  This means if your baby is sleeping, go lay down yourself, even if you are not tired.  If you have family or friends around, let them have some bonding time with your sweet baby so you can rest and recuperate.  If you are struggling, go see your provider and find out if it’s just exhaustion or something more serious like post-partum depression.

7.       What is your favorite aspect of prenatal and neonatal care?

Getting to know the families and being part of the miracle that is life.  You share something magical when you help a couple bring a child into this world, whether it’s their first or 12th!

Centra Medical Group: Women's Center Contact Information:

2007 Graves Mill Rd., Forest, VA 24551 434.385.8948

Two Very Different Births - Part 2: Jacob

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

75% effaced and a “possible 1cm.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our first picture as a family of four:

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

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

Two Very Different Births - Part 1: Mia

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then I stalled out.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Recognizing C-Section Awareness Month: My Birth Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maddie Grace

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

Abi Lee

To find more information and support about Cesarean birth, visit title="ICAN">

A Rush of Love: My VBAC Birth Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: "Ya think?!"

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

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

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

And that was ok.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The praying and swearing seemed to work pretty well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I got my moment. My rush of love.

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

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

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 (

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 (

Jaxon's Birth Story


The Motherhood Collective loves a good birth story! 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 stories like these will inspire you. ~TMC My husband, Don, and I prepared for many months in advance to have a natural, hypnobirth labor and delivery. We took the class, read the books, listened to the CDs, and practiced the hypnosis and affirmations. I agree with most of their model, so we thought it was a great way to prepare. Little did we know that things would be so abrupt, and most of our preparations would remain “all bagged up”.   I truly believe in natural birthing and natural pregnancies. The last thing I wanted was a cesarean section or an induction unless absolutely medically necessary. Many of you may not agree with me, but that is my preference. I believe birth is a rite of passage and that it is a beautiful experience that should be enjoyed and not fretted.  Our society, family experiences and personal experiences shape our beliefs about pregnancy and birth.  I am no different.  My past experiences as a labor and delivery nurse have greatly shaped my thinking when it comes to maternity care.

Let me begin by saying that I don’t really enjoy pregnancy so much.  I am one of those lucky people who get to have nausea and vomiting for their entire pregnancy.  I would get so sick that I would have petechial hemorrhaging around my eyes from throwing up so much.  Needless to say, I was very much looking forward to not being pregnant any longer.  As I approached 40 weeks, I was getting very excited about my impending “due date”.   The mental aspect was getting the best of me. My mind was definitely ready to go into labor, but my body and my baby had other plans. At 40 weeks, I still had not dropped, was having little to no contractions, and had not lost my mucous plug.  Apparently Jaxon was way too comfortable. I was taking Evening Primrose Oil, having sex on a more than regular basis, doing nipple stimulation, pumping with a breast pump, tried Castor Oil a few times (only induced vomiting), and walked until I had a stress fracture in my heel. Nothing was happening.

Then came 41 weeks. My Bishop score (cervical exam to check for ripening in order to strip your membranes) was a total of 3. Nothing great.  This meant that I was not ready to go into labor, and I couldn’t have my membranes stripped.  Jaxon was just enjoying himself as I continued to be sick and huge.  Oh the looks that I got as I walked around NYC and rode the subway.  We had to start at least talking about an induction. I also started getting bi-weekly NST's, BPP's and AFI's. I talked all of the details over with my midwives. All of the above testing for Jaxon was more than perfect. He was simply comfy and growing still. I continued to try all of the above remedies for cervical ripening. No contractions, though.

I had my next appointment at 41 weeks and 6 days. We decided to strip my membranes on this visit, despite my Bishop score. My cervix was very soft, though. At least all those remedies were doing something. That visit was on Tuesday. I did not have a single contraction all the way through Tuesday evening or Wednesday. I actually went to the mall after that appointment.  As I was walking through one of the stores, a lady asked me when I was due.  I told her “two weeks ago.”  She then proceeded to get a very concerned look on her face and follow me around as if I were going to drop my baby out at any moment.  I guess she thought she would catch.  Needless to say, I was getting a wee bit frustrated with my body at this time. I also had doubts that anything was going to go the way we planned - as if birth is ever planned!

Thursday rolled around and I had some mild cramping, but nothing that I had not already experienced and had went away. I went walking, took more primrose oil and decided to try Castor Oil one last time. I made a peanut butter, chocolate and vanilla milkshake with 2 oz of castor oil. That actually disguised the taste enough for me to get it down. Again, nothing happened though. I went for another walk, kept well hydrated, cleaned some things in the house and went about my day like normal. The cramping did not end this time though, but it also did not turn into contractions.

Around 8:30pm, I finally started feeling cramping that became more regular. I started making lasagna and put it in the oven at 8:30. I decided to call Don and tell him what was going on. I talked to him while he drove home and told him that I think I might actually go into labor.  We both were beginning to think I was having the gestation of an elephant. I called the midwife to update her, and she recommended a walk, some wine and some Benadryl to sleep. In my experience, this is typical for a first time labor. I called Don and told him that I would like to take a walk while the lasagna finished, and then try to get some sleep.

He walked in the door at 9:15pm, and my water broke at 9:20 with a huge gush of green fluid. It was the best worst feeling I have ever had.  I was in labor!!!  With my water breaking, Jaxon finally dropped and I could breathe.   I called the midwife back and updated her. My contractions had decided to start with my water breaking and were 2-3 minutes apart. She recommended that we come to the birth center because we were 45 minutes away, but we would probably have to go to the hospital for the meconium. Don and I turned off the oven, threw the lasagna in the microwave, grabbed my shoes, and rolled out of the apartment. I left wearing multiple pads, sweats, and sat on a huge towel. My fluid continued to gush, making quite the yucky mess. I had bought Depends for this very thing, but they were conveniently located in the trunk of the car behind our building.  My contractions all of a sudden were 2 min apart and were continuing to get stronger.

We drove down the West Side Highway in Manhattan, all the way to Brooklyn where the birth center was located.  This was truly an amazing moment because there were no traffic jams, no accidents, and open parking spots.  We actually made it in about 45 minutes.  Don drove while I sat in the passenger seat really regretting my clothing choice at the moment.  I was trying to get into a zen moment while we drove with the Hudson River on one side and the night skyline of NYC on the other, but my darn contractions kept screwing that up every two minutes.

We arrived to the birth center at 10:45pm. Andrea checked me, and I was 3-4 cm with a good fetal HR. My contractions remained 2 minutes apart, so we prolonged as long as possible before heading to the hospital around the block. Once we finally arrived at the hospital, I checked myself in while Don fought with NY parking. I paced in the hallway doing my hypnobirth breathing while the nurses stood looking at me. I felt a little weird in that moment. I'm pretty sure no one knew what theywere doing in triage, considering I was a direct admit.  I continued to walk up and down the hallway rehearsing birth affirmations in my head, while Don ate a dinner of rice pudding without a spoon.  Finally, a Hesidic Jewish man offered (at least I think – He spoke only Hebrew) to go to the cafeteria and get him a spoon.

I finally got a room, got hooked to the monitor and had a hep lock placed.  I had to argue with my nurse a bit as to where to place the IV, and where the best location for the fetal heart monitor was.  These are the reasons I wanted an out of hospital birth.  I knew I needed these things, but as soon as I entered the hospital, I entered “nurse mode”.  From here on out, I felt like I had to play two roles: mother and nurse.  My contractions were still 2 min apart. The midwife checked me and I was 5-6 cm and that was around midnight. Don started videotaping at this point.  My bouncing up and down on the birth ball made for some really exciting footage.  I was doing hypnobreathing, but at this point is where we really failed. My husband is a physical therapist, and had all sorts of “tools” to work with for decreasing the pressure of contractions.  We forgot about all of them.  They remained in the bag the entire time.  Big fat fail!!  The whole time, my contractions were all in my back and I had continuous pressure. Don was pushing on my hips, and Andrea was doing the hypnobirthing rhetoric. Everything seemed to be moving right along.

Then it hit, the contractions fell into this overzealous pattern of mayhem. They were less than a minute apart. The pressure intensified, and I lost all control of my body and mind. The hypnobirthing philosophy went out the window, and I just tried to maintain any respectable level of composure. I told the midwife that I felt a lot of pressure, so she checked me again. I was still 5-6 cm, but it had only been a bit since my last exam.  I thought I might go insane at this point. I was in tears because my contractions were about 45 sec apart lasting what seemed to be an eternity. My uterus was making up for the past 42 weeks! I had no time to even catch my breath in between contractions. I told Don I wanted an epidural. She and Don both asked me multiple times if that is what I really wanted. I had no idea what I wanted, but I wanted the insanity to end. Fortunately, the anesthesia team was in with another patient at the time. So I continued to breath, focus on the "opening rose", and listen to Don.  My room seemed to be filling up with curious onlookers posing as medical personnel (interns, residents, nurses, etc.) observing this crazy labor pattern that I was having.  Jaxon’s heartbeat was also starting to fluctuate too much.  I don’t know the exact rate, but I could hear it on the monitor.  That is a sound a labor and delivery nurse can always detect, a low fetal heartrate.

While all this was going on in my head, my labor continued in this crazy pattern. I told Andrea once again that I felt pressure. I was unable to hold back the urge to push. This was only 45 min from the last check she had done. She agreed to check me again because Jaxon's heartrate kept dropping. Something was going on, but no one knew what. She did check me, and I was complete and +1.  I was having a baby, like, NOW!  Just a few hours ago, I was making lasagna and pouring a glass of wine for my good night’s rest that I was going to have.

This meant I could push. The relief was coming. I forgot about the epidural and began to push my heart out. The greatest feeling of relief I had had since 9:20pm. I pushed a total of 2 times before the lovely hospital attending came in "to save the day"! She decided she would not let me push because his heartrate was too low. He was already at +2 station after only 2 pushes. She made me sit with her hands inside of me doing fetal scalp stimulation through about 5 contractions. I finally lost it and told her she needed to move along.  Between contractions, I proceeded to tell her about the current guidelines for Neonatal Resuscitation.  Finally, the MD that covers the midwives and the birth center arrived. He was the greatest doctor on the earth that night. He had the other attending leave because all she wanted to do was cut me. He told me to push.  Now we were seeing eye to eye! We got up into the bed and used the squat bar. I pushed a few times, and then we had to lay back down to get the heartrate. He told me I had 2 more pushes, and then he would use the vacuum because Jaxon's heartrate was in the 70's for quite a while. I agreed that it was the best plan. We pushed, but he wasn’t coming. He set me up for the vacuum and prepared for shoulder dystocia. Don was on one side and Andrea was on the other. The contractions came and so did the most intense burning sensation that anyone could ever imagine. The pop came, and his head was out. Only one more hurdle to over come now...the shoulders.Jaxon

Well, I had a big child so these shoulders were some work, but they came on out. He laid him on my chest, and we sat there for a couple of seconds before he had to be suctioned for the meconium. One of the greatest moments of my life came in those few seconds. Yes, the pain had ended, but I had accomplished something. I had given birth to a beautiful baby boy (that might I add was very healthy)!

I had no idea that my labor would be less than 5 hours, and be almost a precipitous delivery with a hyperstimming uterus. I had no idea that we would completely forget about the massage tools, CDs, breathing baby down and all of the other hypnobirthing stuff. I had no idea that I would only have back labor. I had no idea that he would not tolerate being abruptly brought into this world. I had no idea that I would have 3rd degree vaginal tearing that would require vaginal packing and 12 different sutures in areas that pain medication could not reach.

I Jaxon with Daddo know that I was and still am so grateful to have a healthy baby boy.  We stayed at the hospital for about 24 hours, which is a whole new story within itself.  Stories of my Hebrew speaking roommate, renting the television, my one boiled egg for breakfast, preparing for Jewish Sabboth in a Orthodox Jewish hospital, calling to get my own medical orders, walking out the door and down a few blocks at discharge, not being allowed to turn my light off all night long – oh it was an experience!


We left the hospital on Friday afternoon, went to Brooklyn to eat, drove across the Brooklyn Bridge with the Statue of Liberty in site, and then drove through tourist-crowded Chinatown during rush hour to take our new baby home.  I had never been so excited to sleep in my own bed!


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Elena'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. 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.


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Levi's Birth Story, Part Two

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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.  Part One of her story was posted on Monday and ended with the birth of her son.  Part Two of her story deals with the time afterward in the NICU.

My Introduction to the NICU

I have always had a passion for preemie babies. It was my absolute favorite clinical in nursing school and I dreamed of becoming a NICU nurse before I found out I was pregnant. So I had been around very, very small babies with many serious issues.  However, no amount of time spent there could have prepared me for my own child being the patient.

My dad had been able to go with the baby to the NICU, and I believe my mom went to see him before I did as well. Thinking back, I may have “sent” them to watch over him. I had to wait until the epidural fully left my body and I could walk. I think this took about 30 minutes.

My son was on a ventilator, which was breathing for him, and there was tape all across his face to hold it in place. He had several wires coming out of his belly button - if they are able to, the hospital uses the umbilical arteries in preemies rather than having to stick them for an IV. There were “leads” on his chest, measuring his respirations, and a pulsometer on his wrist. There are so many machines, making all sorts of different noises, and each baby has several machines, so there was a ton of beeping, whooshing, and all sorts of other noises. He was in an incubator, but luckily for this first visit, it had an open top, so i was able to see him easily, touch him, and love on him. I wasn’t able to stay very long, because I was also still a patient and they wanted to monitor me.NICU 1

The next time I came in, they had put him under contact precautions due to my MRSA. I still had not been able to get my 3 nasal swabs cleared, which automatically put him at risk. It was all so much overkill, but standard procedure. This killed me, because it meant I could not touch him without gloves on. I argued and argued about how I had already touched him and how if he had it, it was from me, so it shouldn’t matter. Every valid argument I could come up with, I threw at them. But alas, I had to wait for the nasal swabs. I remember I would pull off the tip of the glove on one finger, just so I could get that skin to skin touch that newborns and mamas so desperately need.

Under the Bilirubin LightsThe next day he was taken off the ventilator and put on a CPAP machine, one step up! The nurses measured his blood gas levels several times a day, which determined any changes in his respiratory therapy. His bilirubin levels went up (translation: he had jaundice) and he was put under the glorious blue lights with the cutest little shades for his eyes. He was also receiving TPN via IV (total parenteral nutrition), basically food in liquid form, since they had not started feeding him yet.

I would go back and forth from my room to the NICU all day. Pumping every 3 hours, possibly getting in a phone call, and then straight to his side. I’m not sure which day it was but I know one day I stayed so long that I started bleeding down my leg - my pad had totally filled up and was leaking all over, creating a puddle beneath me. It was pretty embarrassing because in Virginia Baptist, there are no curtains or anything separating the babies, so everyone else who was in there visiting their newborns saw me. My nurse was called and had to come get me in a wheelchair.

Everyone always asked me how I picked my son’s name. I was discharged 2 days after he was born, but was able to stay in my room as “hospitality”, so I could be close and not have to drive back and forth (especially because I was pumping and technically couldn’t drive for 14 days). However, they told me they could not officially discharge me without giving him a name, so I was given I think like an hour deadline to have a name. The nurses and everyone asked all the time what his name was, but I really didn’t feel like I was ready to name him. I didn’t know him well enough and hadn’t spent enough time with him. But alas, I sat down with my list next to him and went through my top picks. None of them fit. So I went back to my long list, and for some reason Levi just stood out. I always wanted an Irish name (which Levi is not), but I just knew that he was a “Levi”. So I saved the Irish part for his middle name “Reece” which means “ardent, fiery”. He had already made a name for himself in the NICU as being quite the little firecracker, pulling out all his tubes and IVs several times. He was a fighter from the beginning. Levi Reece. As soon as I said the two together, that was his name.

Settling In to Life in the NICU

At this point all of the days kind of blend together. I have notes written down with his stats for the day but a lot of it doesn’t make sense to me now. The single best description I know of regarding life with a baby in the NICU is a rollercoaster. Things can be going awesome one day, and the next your baby’s life could be in danger. Thankfully, Levi never had any life threatening issues, but there were definitely some low “lows”.

He eventually graduated from the CPAP machine to a nasal cannula, and then would be taken off the nasal cannula, only to be put back on it a few hours later. He was off it for over 5 days at one point, and then they randomly decided he needed it again. I would be told I could hold him, only to find out his levels came back too low, and they didn’t want to risk it. I finally got to hold him June 25, when he was 4 days old. We were still on contact precautions, so I had to wear a gown and gloves, but I was able to hold my baby. He would gain 30-40 grams one day (yes, I said grams, and you better believe I did a huge happy dance if he gained even 10 measly grams), and then the next day lose 50. (For some perspective: he was 1960 grams when he was born - 4 lbs 5 oz; when he was 5 days old he was 1920 grams.) When they started feeding him, his first “meal” was 4 cc of breastmilk. You can barely even measure that. But he could only “eat” if his respirations were below 70. For some reason, Levi has always been a fast breather, so a lot of our “lows” were him breathing too fast and not being able to eat. I knew that in order to come home, he needed to gain weight, which meant he needed to eat, so if he couldn’t eat, he wasn’t coming home.

His respirations caused the most controversy between the nurses and me. From nursing school, I knew that you were supposed to count for a full minute for any newborn (especially a preemie) because their breathing is so erratic. Yet many of the nurses would only could for 30, then double the number, and his respirations would be “too high” to eat or be held, etc. I began demanding they count for 60 seconds, AND let me count with them. I also knew that high respirations was not a good reason to not let me hold him. Science has proven that skin to skin contact is extremely beneficial for babies, and can calm a restless baby in seconds. So I pushed as much as I could, every time, with every nurse, to hold him; some would give in, some were cutthroat you-know-whats.Tiny Baby

So many things have to happen in order for a baby to be ready to come home from the NICU. Most have to be able to breathe on their own, be able to drink from a bottle, and be “weaned” off the incubator to room temperature air. One day they could be doing all of these things like a champ, and the next they could not be doing any. I know I talked about this earlier, but it REALLY is a rollercoaster. And some days I felt like he would never come home. It was so hard not to compare Levi to the other babies in there. I know all babies are different, but no matter how much textbook knowledge I had or sought out, I still measured him up to his fellow NICU babies. Since I only heard little tidbits of each baby's story, I couldn’t TRULY compare them. Everyone progresses at a different rate, but if I noticed the boy next to him was being taken out of the isolette, or sent home, I was immediately discouraged.

Problems Arise

When Levi was about 11 days old, I started paying attention to EVERYTHING much more closely. I started seeing discrepancies and things the nurses ignored. He was still on the cannula, but it was rarely in his nose because he pulled it out all the time. They would tape it on his face even more to try and keep it in, but that was making his eye swollen because it was too tight. Every nurse was different - there didn’t seem to be any consistency or “protocol” they followed. Some would offer to let me bottle feed him, some would tell me he was only allowed to be gavaged (fed through his Nasogastric tube). Some nurses let me hold him for hours.  Some claimed there was a 30 minute limit. I came in one day and noticed his IV had infiltrated - meaning the fluid that was supposed to be going into his vein/artery was now just going into his tissue, and his entire arm was swollen. I am the one that noticed this and pointed it out - not the nurses. Several times I found him with a poopy diaper that he had been sitting in for a while, because it was stuck to his butt. One nurse put the wrong setting on his nasal cannula air, which wasn’t remedied until the respiratory therapist came down to give him the correct cannula for the percent of oxygen (sorry if you don’t understand the medical references). I was getting incredibly discouraged and felt more and more that I needed to be next to him 24/7, which was impossible for me to do.

When he was 13 days old, I left the hospital to return home. This was the hardest thing for me to do - and looking back potentially one of the worst decisions. I still came to see him multiple times a day, but we lived 30 minutes from the hospital. I called all the time, but the nurses were only willing to share so much, or talk to me for so long. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being away from your newborn, but imagine only “visiting” your child twice a day, rather than them basically being attached to you. It was so unnatural, unnerving. Point blank: I hated it.

Levi breastfed for the first time July 9th, which I had been pushing for from the beginning; but even then they would only allow him to nurse for 10 min prior to a scheduled feeding, and then they would feed him as if he hadn’t nursed. This means if he had residual, they would base it on how much they fed him, not accounting for the extra milk he got while nursing. And if he didn’t finish his scheduled feeding, they counted it against him. They said they did this because most of the babies don’t really get anything while nursing, but when I “let down”, milk shot everywhere, so I can guarantee you he got quite a bit if his mouth was anywhere near my nipple. This almost made me want to NOT nurse him, because I felt like on the charts, it would look like he was doing worse (not finishing feedings, having residuals) if I did. Quite frustrating.

More problems started to arise. Even though he was gaining weight and doing great with feedings, they decided to mix my breastmilk with fortified formula to help him gain more, faster. As soon as they started doing this, he started having what they call “residuals”. Each time before they feed him, they pull back with a syringe on his NG tube to see if there is anything left undigested in his belly. If there is any, they measure it, and usually feed him that much less for the given feeding time. Instead of stopping the fortification, they decreased his feeding amount, which made no sense to me. He started losing weight and spitting up more. I didn’t know at the time that I could DEMAND they only feed him breastmilk. If I had known that, I definitely would have done so. It got so bad that he stopped taking feedings from a bottle altogether, and was back on an NG tube at 4 weeks old.

Here is a little excerpt from one of my updates, written in the moment. I feel like it shares my feelings at the time so much better than I could summarize now:

He had a rough few days there. Not sure if he is out of that yet or not. But he wasn't taking a bottle, or if he did, he would only take like 10 ccs (out of his 51 cc feeding). So he was basically being gavaged 24/7. His respirations are back up again. They did an xray to make sure he hadn't developed pneumonia or anything, but that looked clear.

I was super frustrated with the nurses. I felt like they are not aware of everything going on, they didn't really look through his chart to try and catch patterns, but just assessed based on the “here and now”. One Saturday morning I was there and they were severely under staffed. There were only 2 people in the NICU pretty much the whole time I was there. Babies were just left crying. They weren't getting fed, or were getting fed way late. Monitors were going off and there was no one free to check on the baby. I did NOT want to leave him there with it like that, but I had to go to my baby shower!

Also, for his feeding that visit, the nurse wanted to gavage him because his breathing was too high. I questioned it, thinking they should at least let him try, but she was pretty firm. So I kangarooed with him while he got his tube feeding, and had to fight him the whole time. He kept wanting to nurse, and trying to pull his tube out, crying, etc. It was awful.

So when I went back that night and they wanted to do the same thing, I got pushy. It was a new nurse (new to me not to the unit) and I knew she didn't know him at all. She said it’s a policy that they don't feed them if they are breathing over 70. His respirations were at 72.... so after some bickering, she recounted him, and he was 62. I pulled out all that stops that time, wanting to make this visit worth the while because he has been having so much trouble. I got her to let me take him into the parenting room. I got to breastfeed for 10 min and then she said he could "try" the bottle. He sucked the whole thing down like a champ, after having already breastfed.Mama and Baby

I felt like if he did THAT much better for me, they must really not be trying. I knew he will probably have done better with me no matter what, because I'm his mommy. To have that big of a difference was questionable.

Let’s take a break from the stress for a funny story: After I fed him one night, he had a really stinky diaper. I decided to just change him on my lap since he was already out of his isolette and it was a pain to put him back in. Well, clearly I should not have made that decision, or at least decided to point his butt a different way, because I got shot! I guess he was not done pooping, because he so nicely squirted the remainder onto me (an impressive distance I must say). It went all over and down my bra, yummy chunky bright yellow. I could barely stop laughing long enough to clean it up. One of the nurses there got quite the kick out of it - sharing that she had been pooped on multiple times, once even in the mouth (YUCK!).

Major drama

Okay now that you’ve had some comic relief, prepare yourself for the worst part of my story. On Monday night, July 19th, 2010, Levi was given someone else’s breast milk. How this happened doesn’t even need to be told, because it was so careless and unacceptable. This opened up all sorts of infection control issues: What is the mom whose milk he had received had HIV or some other transmittable disease? Or (more likely), what if she was smoker, or had drugs in her system? What was even more frustrating, is I brought in a bag a milk the previous day, and every single bag has to be labeled with time, date, and his personal sticker label that they give you. I accidentally forgot to label some of my bags; so, following protocol, to ENSURE no one got the wrong milk, they threw 5 bags of my milk away. Anyone who has had to pump round the clock will understand how upsetting that was. But then, to find that because they didn’t even look at the labels or double check them, Levi ended up getting someone else’s milk anyway. By the way, I found out about this via a phone call at 1 A.M. Sleep deprived, pumping round the clock, NICU mama, and they called at 1 A.M.

When I visited him the next day, the nurse told me his respirations were 72, so he couldn’t bottle feed. Except she only counted for 15 seconds. She didn’t even do 30, I mean 15 seconds? Are you kidding me? I proceeded to give her a lecture on standard procedure for measuring an infant’s respirations and demanded she count again, for the full minute. 66. Of course. He was totally ok to bottle feed, she was just being lazy. How many times did this happen while I wasn’t there? How many other nurses only counted for 15 seconds, leading to him not being bottle fed?

The previous day I was told he had a heart murmur. I questioned it, as it was the first I had heard anything about it. After looking at the records, they had been hearing it for almost a week, yet no one told me. My mom and I sat in on rounds the day after he was given someone else’s milk, and I found out IN ROUNDS that not only did he have a murmur, he had a hole in his heart. He was scheduled for an ultrasound of his heart that day, and had one several weeks ago, but I was always told that it looked good, everything came back normal. In reality, that was when they first saw the hole, but that entire time I had not been told. Not ok.

I had been thinking about transferring him to a different hospital almost from day one. I was thinking more and more about it once we started having issues. Eventually, I was thinking VERY seriously about it. I didn’t want to move him far away from me (Roanoke or Charlottesville), which is why I hadn’t done so before. But at that point I felt like I should have done it a week earlier and I should have seen the problems coming. I honestly thought that I was endangering my baby by leaving him in that NICU alone. I no longer trusted anyone there. I did not believe he was safe, or that they cared about him and his progress at all. The only thing holding me back was the cost. I would have to pay out of pocket to transfer him, and it would cost several thousand dollars.

Well, July 21st, two days after the wrong breast milk incident, I had just finished breastfeeding Levi and it was time for him to take his bottle feeding. What do you know, the bottle the nurse handed me had someone else’s name on it. (It is still so hard for me now to contain my anger as I write this. I don’t understand how a hospital could ever let this happen. Not only once, but twice. And KNOWING about the previous incident, you would think they would pay extra close attention.) My mom took a picture of the bottle and then we confronted the nurse. She insisted that it was my milk, she had just put the wrong label on it. She was totally expecting me to still give him the bottle, with someone else’s name. Maybe it WAS my milk, but if it wasn’t labeled correctly, how could she know that? And I’m pretty sure it would be against protocol to give a baby mislabeled milk, even if you KNEW it was the right milk. Even more upsetting, I have no doubt that if I had not been there, Levi would have been fed that milk.

Mama and Baby 2Mama Knows Best

That was the last straw. Mama was mad. I went straight the unit manager and demanded Levi be transported. The manager said because it was not “medically necessary” the insurance wouldn’t cover it. I kindly reminded her of all the medical malpractice that had been going on in that unit, and that, to me, this was indeed medically necessary, because her staff was clearly inept. She claimed that she would “look into” the hospital absorbing the cost for transport. That was Thursday, July 22. Friday she came back and told me once again, it was not medically necessary. I felt helpless. I felt like the one thing my baby needed, I couldn’t seem to make happen.

From then on I called hourly. I questioned every single decision. I called not only the nurses, but the doctors as well. I argued with the doctor who wanted to put Levi on diuretics. Apparently I pissed her off, because an hour later she called me back and asked if I still wanted Levi to be transported. She apparently had gone to the unit manager and told her about our conversation, most likely how she was fed up with being questioned by a 22 year old, and the unit manager agreed to personally cover the cost!

And OH the difference! Levi THRIVED once we got to Roanoke, and I did as well. I finally felt able to step down as medical inspector and just be mom. I cried, this time not from stress and helplessness, but with relief and from happiness. Each incubator had a big comfy chair and curtains surrounding it - privacy! It was like a castle and VA Baptist had felt like a dungeon. I got to hold him as much as I wanted. He bottle fed every feeding - respirations were never an issue to them. They wanted to start breastfeeding as soon as possible, and get him out of the incubator as soon as possible. They could not believe he was still in one - he barely fit at this point.

The BEST difference was the doctors and nurses. Once the doctor heard (through the grapevine) that I didn’t No Tubes!totally understand something, HE called ME immediately to make sure I understood everything. I have never experienced a doctor CALLING someone just to explain what may have been misunderstood. I really wasn’t even at the point of needing further explanation, but he wanted to make sure I was totally comfortable. Night and day. The difference was incredible.

Also, in Lynchburg, I had to buy my own bags to store breast milk. At Roanoke, they had an endless supply of bottles. I swear I had previously spent over $100 on the bags, so this was super exciting to me. They also label and SCAN their milk, just as if it’s a medication. And they don’t just scan it once, they scan it TWICE. When they are mixing breast milk with the fortifier, they scan the milk as they put it in the mix. Then the mixture gets a new label, and they have to scan THAT before giving it to the babies.

I got to stay at the Ronald McDonald house, in walking (or biking) distance to the hospital (yes, I did bike there... often). It was so not what I was expecting - I thought it would be kinda dirty, I mean it’s free. But it was like a 5 star hotel - GORGEOUS! They served free dinner every night and had a stocked kitchen I could help myself to all day. There’s a library, formal living room, dining room, kids play room, TV room, laundry room (they even supplied detergent!).

The night my water broke, the lady from my church that met us at the hospital told me about another woman, Robin, from our church who was going into an emergency c-section at only 29 weeks. Her baby, Rhiley, was born at only 1lb 8 oz and was in the NICU at Roanoke, as well. We had never met before, but we were able to connect in Roanoke. It was so nice to have someone who understood exactly what I was going through without saying anything.

The second day in Roanoke a speech pathologist came to see us and help feed Levi, She analyzed how he sucked on his pacifier, then how he ate, aHeading Homend tried several different nipples on the bottle. She determined he should use a slow nipple and needed to be paced. He sucked way too fast and held his breath. So after he sucked a few times, I learned to pull the bottle away and make him breathe before he could have more. She also showed me what position he should eat in - the “elevated side lying” position. I didn’t even know speech pathologists did that kind of stuff. I also got to meet with a lactation consultant and Levi caught on right away.

Levi progressed SO fast once we were in Roanoke. I say this a lot, and I don’t think this was really happening, but it was almost like he was being drugged at Lynchburg, and once we got to Roanoke he was alive again. He just kept surpassing every expectation and meeting every requirement needed to go home. And low and behold, July 31, less than a week after arriving in Roanoke, weighing in at 6 lbs 5 oz, I finally got to take my baby home!


Today Levi is a healthy 2 year old little boy, and no one would be able to guess what he went through as an infant. I sincerely hope that this story does not cause anyone anxiety, but rather encourages you to educate yourself and not be afraid to question the doctors. Doctors and nurses are overworked, have too many patients, and are subject to human error. You are the only person who is solely concerned with yourself or your baby, so don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself. If a doctor ever seems to have an issue with you asking questions, that’s when there’s a problem. Seek out a new doctor, find someone who will listen, and take the time to explain.



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’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, “ 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.  

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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!

Joanna'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. Getting Started It all started this morning as I awoke with a grumbly belly from not being able to eat since midnight. My surgery was at 1:45 and we had to arrive at 11:45. Thanks to an unexpected detour and U-turn, we arrived at 11:50. We registered, went upstairs, had my final weigh in (218lbs!) and were taken to our first room. After changing into a gown that didn't cover my butt at all (my bump far exceeded the average allotted circumference), I sat on a stretcher to answer questions confirming my medical history, etc. They recorded my blood pressure, took a urine sample and gave me a glorious IV that hurt like the dickens. (Because I was so dehydrated, they skipped the numbing drug and just stuck the big needle in first. Owies.)

Then we waited a half hour. 45 minutes. One hour. 90 minutes. Two hours.

We learned many things during these two hours. First of all, I was having contractions 2 minutes apart and barely felt them. Doc attributed the lack of pain to my thick cervix. It was stubbornly refusing to thin and Joanna never fully engaged. Good thing we were already planning a C-section! We also learned that there were several vaginal deliveries my doc had to make before us that backed up her surgical schedule. There was another patient preggo ahead of us that was getting sliced. They began prepping me at 4:00 immediately following Nate Berkus (thanks God!) and we started the fun!

Right before surgery I was admitted to the OR at 4:09. That freakin' epidural hurt. Holy Moses. At first it was refreshing to have my back cooled off by the ice cold rag she used to prep the area. The numbing shot wasn't bad. The epidural was put in slightly to the right, then slightly to the left, then again, and again, and again, and again, and another time for good measure, then one more time. They layed me on the surgical slab as my body went numb from my chest down. It was weird, exciting, and confusing! I was given an oxygen mask, my bed was tilted to the left because my breathing became more difficult given the 55 lb bowling ball still on my chest.

Jonathan entered the room looking like McDreamy and sat with me as they jostled me around. I asked when they would get started and she said that the baby was almost out. Oh! Okay!

"Great lungs!"

I heard crying. I heard the beautiful cries of my beautiful baby.

"Oh there's a big round head!"

Thanks, Nurse Obvious :)

They held her above the partition so I could catch a glimpse. Wow! She had hair! She's so round! She's gorgeous!

They took her to get cleaned up and I asked Jonathan to snap some photos...

"10 lb 4 oz"

(Holy crap. She really is 10 pounds!!!! YEAAA!)

She scored between an 8 and a 9 on her APGAR. Everything looked good! They were going to double check her for diabetes because of her size - no diabetes :) She had a condition where our blood types aren't compatible, so they wanted to keep an eye on her for potential jaundice issues.

Layer by layer, I was stitched back together as the nurses talked about what their kids would dress as for Halloween. Jonathan wheeled our little girl to the nursery to join her birthday buddies. Along the way she met up with the grandparents and they snapped tearfully-proud photos of their offspring's offspring.

I was then wheeled to a recovery room where I was fed ice chips and asked to wiggle my toes. I felt like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill - I couldn't do it at first but I just kept trying and trying. Those ice chips were so good. Oh my. Joanna joined us about an hour later and I was finally able to really get a good look at our contribution to society. She was so gorgeous!! While still paralyzed, I tried nursing and was mildly successful. She kept falling asleep but thankfully it didn't hurt me to breastfeed. I remember thinking that I'll be one of the few that has little issues with nursing.

Mama and Baby

Eventually I could move my leg but not my toes so they let me go to our mother-baby room. It's here where the nausea set in. Reminiscent of last winter, I couldn't keep anything down. It's a normal side effect of a C-section, especially for a pregnancy that already battled with nausea. I wasn't worried, nurses weren't worried, but I was really annoyed. At least I could taste popsicles and ice water. I was told that as soon as I passed gas, I could have a grilled cheese sandwich. I've never been so motivated to fart!

So as I wrote these thoughts, I was sitting in my electronic bed watching Craig Fergusen and listening to the beautiful snores of my brave husband. I love that guy. He gave me a beautiful gift of our daughter. And God gave us the greatest gifts of all - life and love.


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 Fine Art Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Olivia'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.

It was a typical Monday morning. I’d woken up, gone to the barn to take care of the animals, showered, dressed, and had breakfast. The house was in semi-order, thanks to my mother’s helpfulness over the previous weeks after moving into the new house. Whose idea was it to move at 38 weeks pregnant? At least it was just across the road. As I finished my morning routine and was about to leave the house, I looked in front of the television where our hospital bag lay. Aside from some discomfort on Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, I felt fine. Everyone had guessed Sunday would be the big day. Sunday had come and gone without a hint of excitement. I left the bag on the floor, telling myself that if I took them, I surely wouldn’t need them; if I left them there was a chance that I might.

Unlike a lot of women, I wasn’t at that extreme discomfort stage where most women are ready to relieve their bodies of the extra weight. I was curious about the life inside my abdomen and ready to meet that little person and begin a new, intimate relationship. Only in that manner was I ready for my body to undergo some drastic changes. I smiled and left for work, hospital bag still on the floor. Besides, I had the really important bag (with the items I wanted with me during labor) in my car. The rest could come later if needed.

Work started without excitement. At my midwife appointment the week before (at 39 weeks) I was found to be 4cm dilated and 80% effaced, at which time my co-workers were incredulous that I was up and moving. One of the veterinarians I worked with suggested I walk around with a net between my legs, just in case. Another vet asked that I not go into labor during surgery. Active labor is generally considered to begin at 4cm, but I felt nothing unusual, just the occasional tightness that had become customary though the pregnancy. I had noticed a little extra “wetness” and vaginal discharge over the past few days. By 10am Monday morning I had soaked through multiple pantliners when I decided to ask a co-worker what she knew about membrane rupture. In our childbirth class we had learned that the bag of waters doesn’t always gush when it breaks, and that it could trickle out slowly. One of my co-workers had that experience and said it felt as if she had peed in her pants. After talking with another technician, I decided to call the midwife’s office and speak with a nurse. Could it just be urine? The nurse told me to head to labor and delivery where Erin, the midwife on duty, would check me over.

I began to get a little excited and a little nervous as I called my husband, HB, to give him an update. It was 11am. I agreed to meet HB at the hospital and went to let my co-workers know what was going on. It was a surreal moment, full of well wishes and hugs from co-workers. I laughingly said there was a chance this was nothing and I’d be back in an hour or so.

I got in the car and made my way across Link Road, HB called along the way asking where I was. While I lingered at the veterinary hospital, informing coworkers about various cases, and telling the office manager what was going on, he had jumped in the car and rushed to the hospital. I told him not to worry, I was almost there. Checking in at the hospital was uneventful. We made our way up to labor & delivery, where we were shown into a triage room.

A nurse came in and I settled on the bed to review the scenario. Eventually I was given a gown and asked to change so that Erin, the midwife, could come in to check me. I changed and settled in to wait. The nurse put monitors on me to follow the baby’s heart rate and to monitor for contractions. HB watched the screens, trying to figure out what the numbers and waves meant. This is the same man, who, at our first ultrasound asked the ultrasound tech if she could view the CL. Oh yes, he is well-versed in the physiology of gestation, parturition, and lactation thanks to his background in dairy science.

Erin arrived in the room and after some small talk, she knelt down for an exam. We all had a laugh after she inserted the speculum and took a look, and then announced that the bag of waters was intact and in fact, she could see the baby’s hair floating in it! At that point she declared me to be around 5cm dilated. The lithmus paper test was negative for amniotic fluid, but Erin also took a sample on a microscope slide. Apparently, amniotic fluid has a “fern-like” appearance when it dries on the slide and is a better indicator. Erin left the room to check the slide under a microscope. Soon she returned; and as she approached the cracked door I could hear her and the nurse reviewing my allergies and GBS+ status – I knew at that point, we were staying.

Sure enough, as Erin entered the room she declared that we were staying. Normally she might have let a mother go at that point, but since I was GBS+, I needed antibiotics prior to delivery. Blood work was drawn, and I was moved across the hall to a real labor and delivery room. About that time Carolyn, our doula, arrived and we settled into the room. A nurse came in to place a catheter and start the antibiotics. HB went down to the cafeteria to get some lunch, and I had him sneak a sandwich back for me. Erin had told us in triage that I could eat; the nurse had said I couldn’t. I refused to go without eating! It was lunch time after all, and I wasn’t experiencing any sort of contractions!

After eating a sandwich and finishing the first dose of antibiotics, Carolyn and I began to walk while HB ran to the store to purchase a few necessities. Every so often I had to return to our room to be monitored. Everything was going smoothly, but I wasn’t having consistent contractions; Erin called it “uterine irritability.” I was told to keep moving.

Carolyn and I walked and walked. I began to feel silly, being at the hospital, without actually being in labor. This wasn’t my plan. I was supposed to labor at home for as long as I could and then come to the hospital. This little amniotic leak and GBS+ status was starting to derail my idea of MY delivery process. As we walked, Carolyn and I talked about my feelings, and I was trying to remain calm and go with the flow, hoping my body would do the right thing.

As we walked, we listened to other rooms as we passed. In one room, we heard intense moaning as we walked by. A few laps later we heard newborn baby wails coming from the same room. HB returned and walked with us. Erin checked in with us to check my progress, which was minimal. Because of my GBS+ status, vaginal checks were not performed, but we discussed how I was feeling and what I felt like was happening. We discussed rupturing the membranes after the second dose of antibiotics if there was no progression of labor. Part of that decision, Erin informed us, depending on the other labor she was attending in the next room – if that mother wasn’t complete at that time, she would rupture my membranes. If that mother was complete and ready to push, she would wait to rupture the membranes. We continued walking.

Near 5 pm, I returned to the room for my next monitoring session with the nurse. At that point they started the second round of antibiotics. Not knowing how long labor would take or how quickly it might progress, I opted to stay in the room and try to rest while the antibiotics dripped through the IV line. About that time, my father arrived and I was grateful to see him. My mother was on her way from Chapel Hill, having waited for her doctor’s appointment to finish before heading our way.

Just before 5:30, Erin entered the room and we decided to proceed with rupturing the membranes. I was nervous, fearing it wouldn’t cause labor to progress, necessitating more medical interventions down the line. Erin was confident that it would allow more pressure to be applied to my cervix, helping speed the dilation process. After a few awkward moments, my father left the room, and Erin proceeded with rupturing the membranes.

The breaking of the bag of waters is an unusual sensation. It is such a rush of warm fluid, it’s almost as if you’re urinating Niagra Falls, as silly as that sounds. Erin told a joke as she ruptured the membranes, and in response to my laughing, the fluid gushed and squirted, soaking Erin in the process. As she stuffed more towels to absorb the fluid, I couldn’t stop giggling which made the fluid continue to squirt. Everyone in the room was laughing. We asked for the birthing pool to be set up in the room for use later on.

The antibiotics were still dripping, so I stayed in the bed to await their finish. Within 10 minutes I started to get uncomfortable as contractions started. I was ready to begin walking, and the nurse sped up the final few milliliters of antibiotics so that we could start. With my trio of support (my father, HB, and Carolyn) we hit the floor walking, walking, walking. HB started timing contractions; I paid no attention to their spacing. I focused on getting through them. Initially, they weren’t bad and I could continue to talk and walk through them. I noticed them, but wasn’t bothered by them.

As time progressed, the contractions became more noticeable. They never stopped me in my tracks, but I definitely slowed my walking. I started dissociating from the support trio, focusing more inward as labor progressed. I credit this ability to years of riding sensitive horses, where I had to focus so much on myself and my balance as I did my horse and the surroundings. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at zoning things out and focusing on certain things.

Just before 7pm I returned to my room for the next monitoring session. I was starting to get uncomfortable, and asked to use a birthing ball. After bouncing for a few minutes, I asked if we could have the birthing pool filled. I progressed deeper into my own world as the contractions became more intense. At the same time so many things were happening. My mother arrived, as did HB’s parents (with the rest of my hospital bags!). The hospital maintenance man came in to begin filling the birthing pool. I’m sure he wasn’t actually making a lot of noise, but in my mind it was tremendous. He was clanking around with hoses and attachments, chatting with the nurse about his family. Meanwhile HB’s mother was catching up with my mother. It was TOO MUCH NOISE! I moaned for the talking to cease (probably not that politely!).

The men left, leaving both mothers (both nurses), Carolyn, HB, and myself in the room. As the contractions continued I found myself unable to get comfortable. My mother-in-law applied counter pressure to my lower back as I bounced on the ball. My mother kept me supplied in cool wash clothes for my face.

The birthing pool was filling, far too slowly for my liking. When I got to the point where I just couldn’t relax on the birthing ball, I asked if the tub was full enough. By that point, I was bouncing, hard, on the ball, unable to stop and relax. The tub was just over half full – full enough, we decided without referring the question to a nurse. HB changed into his swim trunks and I changed into a t-shirt and we entered the pool. The pool was one thing: marvelous. It allowed me some comfort and I was actually able to relax between the contractions, which were growing stronger. As a contraction ended, I would lean back against HB and close my eyes and get a little bit of marvelous rest. The nurse entered, surprised to see me already in the pool. She had wanted one more monitoring session before I got in. Oh well, I was comfortable, I didn’t care! She tried to do some monitoring in the pool. Repeatedly, she asked me to turn on my side for a better reading. I would get so nauseous on my side that I would turn back to being belly-up or belly-down. Eventually she brought me some anti-nausea medication. There were a few times I regretted having that sandwich earlier in the afternoon; and I kept wondering if the sandwich would reappear in the pool water! And then, what the nurse would say when she knew I had eaten!

The contractions became more intense, and I got more uncomfortable. I remember thinking, “I can see why some women want drugs!”, but I knew I was too far along in labor to consider using medication, and felt like the end was near and it would all be over soon. And I knew I didn’t want to use them anyway. Carolyn was there to help me refocus when I would start to slip and lose concentration. She redirected my efforts and was so helpful as I labored in the water. A few contractions had me nearly in tears and I remember moaning about the pain, and then apologizing for whining! Quiet, calming, reassuring words from Carolyn helped me so much, as did the physical support from HB.

Then, I let loose a deep, guttural moan.

I was told that at that moment the nurse snapped to attention. She asked me if I felt like I needed to push. I replied that I wasn’t sure, but felt as if I needed to use the bathroom. I was helped out of the pool and into dry robes and ushered to the toilet. I sat there and then noted, almost in tears, that I didn’t need to pee. At that moment I was struck with such a strong contraction and urge to push it was unbelievable. The nurse told me not to push, but it was such a strong urge that I couldn’t resist! I tried to obey, but it was impossible! The nurse said “You’re not having this baby on the toilet” and I clearly remember thinking “Why not? Plenty of women have!” followed by “If Erin was in here, she would let me!” Either way, the nurse had me move to the bed.

She checked me and found me nearly fully dilated and effaced. The contractions and urge to push were incredibly strong, and it was the hardest thing I’ve done – trying to breathe through those urges while we waited for Erin to come in. At that moment, the woman next door was pushing, Erin was tied up. The nurses tried to get the OB on call to come, but he was busy too. With no one around, I was forced to lay in the bed and breathe through contractions. Everyone was coaching me along, the nurses rushing around to set up for the delivery. My nurse called in an assistant and I vaguely remember them rushing around.

After what seemed like forever, the nurse checked me again and let me begin pushing. The nurses still weren’t sure if Erin or the OB would deliver me. I remember thinking, amidst all the blur in my head that I better not have to pay for an OB to deliver me! Pushing was hard work! Soon, Erin entered – fresh from delivering the baby next door. I think she was shocked how far along I was! Her first comment was “Wow, I think we’re going to have a baby now!” Erin gowned up and started coaching me to push.

I don’t remember much from pushing. Everyone was supporting me – my mother would hold my hand and replenish the cool washcloth on my forehead, my mother-in-law (yes, she stayed too) would help support me, as did HB and Carolyn. My mother-in-law was next to my head and would whisper encouraging words into my ear as I pushed. I kept my eyes shut nearly the entire time. I would open them occasionally, but there were too many people and too much going on. I had taken off my glasses and the world was blurry. I would shut them again. The nurse and midwife asked if I wanted a mirror and I shook my head; I just wanted to keep my eyes shut and focus on the job at hand.

I would push, and the baby would progress. Then I would relax and the baby would retreat. This went on for a while. Eventually Erin didn’t let me rest and had me keep pushing. It was hard!! As your head appeared I reached down and touched the crown of your head. There was so much hair! The pushing continued, Erin had the nurse rub another contraction, forcing me to keep pushing. It was so intense, even a year later I can’t find the words to properly express the feeling. Finally the head was out and after a few more pushes, out came the body! As her little body presented to the world, my little baby immediately started doing her own thing. After her head emerged, her entire body did a full rotation before the rest of the body emerged. Even now, 14 months later, I can still hear Erin and the nurses exclaim over that maneuver. The feeling of her entire body exiting was such an unreal sensation. Indescribable, but suddenly, there she was. It was 9:35pm and Olivia Grace had arrived!

Immediately, the baby was placed on my abdomen. The umbilical cord was shorter than average, so she lay on my belly while I curled up to meet this little person I knew so intimately, so instinctively. I distinctly remember my first words, said just after she excited my body: “Hi Baby! Hi Olivia!” Erin asked if I still wanted to wait for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating, with the cord so short I couldn’t hold Olivia to my chest until the last remnant of our physical connection was severed. I said no, and continued to curl up so I could hold this marvelous being. Once the cord was cut, Erin set about suturing up my second-degree tear, but I was pretty much oblivious. I was enchanted. In my childbirth class we had watched videos of the “breast crawl” and the scientist in me wanted to see my baby perform it. The nurses, the grandmothers, and the midwife wanted Olivia on my chest pronto. Olivia was moved up to my chest, covered in a blanket and snuggled. The nurse helped with our first breastfeeding session, and she took to my breast like a champ (and hasn’t looked back!).


I first wrote the majority of this birth story in the first few months following the experience of a lifetime. I then lost my birth story (and almost cried over that fact), and rejoiced when it was discovered. Without having a chance to read it in the past 12 months, I loved “rediscovering” my birth story and those little forgotten details. Ultimately, I had the birth experience I craved, and I am so grateful for that blessing. In the months following Olivia’s birth, I learned who the woman in the in delivery room beside me was, and we’ve kept in touch. Our daughters, both with the middle name “Grace” amongst other similarities, were born 15 minutes apart by the same midwife – we kept her hopping that night! Over the past 14 months I’ve had time to reflect on bits and pieces of my birth. Certainly, there are things I would change or do differently -- but that’s what baby number 2 is for, right?

  -- 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 Fine Art Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!