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Letting Go: Dying To Birthing - The Key To A Very Real First Time Mama's Homebirth Story

 

My birth story is currently gathering a lot of attention, specifically around my thoughts on home birth, and the rawness of what I learned about myself.

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Disclaimer 1: This was my first pregnancy and birth experience. I say this because I know my feelings around my journey are so much a reflection of it being my first time.

Disclaimer 2: All birth is birth, and all people who birth babies are badasses. I chose a home-birth experience because it most reflected the journey that *I* wanted to have, based on my personal value system. Please don’t let my passion for home-birth make you feel that any other path is not as powerful.

Disclaimer 3: Don’t let my story shape your narrative of birth. Every birth is different, and pleasurable births are possible. In fact, here’s an interview I did about Orgasmic Birth just days before I went into labor. I believe that some mothers manifest the birth experience they need for whatever lesson they are walking at that time. I believe God is reflecting back to her in those moments the things her heart most needs to look at. For those that could use healing in regard to their birth stories, I highly recommend a Birth-Processing session with my midwife, Tiffany Hoffman, through Alchemist Movement's healing sanctuary. 

Disclaimer 4: I was blessed with a healthy pregnancy, and privileged with access to healthcare and a steady income, and this is what made me successful in my home-birth dream. Even though home-births cost about $10,000 less than hospital births (and that's without a C-section), they are rarely covered by insurance. I hope my story helps spread the gospel of birthing at home.

Act I: The Mind Fuck (36-40 Weeks Pregnant)

36 Weeks: You feel like an expert in pregnancy but a complete novice in labor/birth (for first time moms, at least). At this point in my journey, because the impending labor just didn’t seem real, the whole thing felt like an exam I was studying for but that there was a chance I might get out of. Like, you’re nervous for the test, but also the Professor has shared he might just cancel the finals and base your final grade on your most recent paper, or something.

39 weeks: The reality of your birth, which absolutely no one knows how it will unfold, is definitely just around the corner. Because I was planning a natural birth and natural induction, the whole thing just felt like a surprise party that I accidentally found out about; I knew a party was happening, but I didn’t know when or where. So every corner I turned (every strange feeling), every time I walked in the door (every new pain), I’m like, “Is this it? Is it happening now?” And then it’s not, and the mind fuck just continues. You know you’re at the end, but also you’re still going...

40 weeks: “The Surprise Party” is now all the time. Basically everyday I was sending group texts like, “IT’S HAPPENING.”... ”No wait sorry no it’s not, my bad everyone.”...  “OK NOW FOR REAL!”... “oh shoot sorry no it went away sorry.”

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Act II: It’s Really Happening (Labor begins)

On Monday of my 40th week, I kept thinking my water broke because I was constantly leaking fluid due to incontinence (#LoveRealLife). There are these swabs that test for amniotic fluid, and my midwife gave me a handful of them to take home because it just kept happening. (Did you know that only 8-10% of women’s waters actually break in early labor? Most don’t break until right before the baby comes out. The idea that water breaks early is just an overused Hollywood trope!) The reason it was important for me to know whether or not my water was still in tact was because I had tested positive for GBS (1 in 4 women do), and, in the case of my water breaking, I had 18 hours (or something like that) to get the baby out in order to keep his risk of infection low.

I went through several false swabs throughout the week, then...Friday morning, February 9th, at 8:30am I went to pee and felt a little rush of fluid. At this point I had every expectation of another false result, when suddenly, the tip of the swab turned a vivid blue/black. My heart did flip-flops. I texted a picture of the swab to my midwife, and within seconds she wrote back, “Yep. That’s a positive swab. Your water has broken.”

A strange mixture of both calmness and adrenaline washed over me. It’s really happening, I thought.

I walked out and told my husband that my water broke. We both felt grateful that our baby decided to begin his journey on a Friday, giving us a 3-day weekend to capture the experience (it seriously could NOT have been better timed).

Typically, labor starts naturally within 12-24 hours after your water ruptures. My birth team and I decided that if my labor hadn’t started by 6pm that night, I was going to drink a “castor oil smoothie” (a natural way to induce labor at home). I texted all my friends and we decided to have a “castor oil smoothie party”. I was nervous because I really wanted to let my body progress naturally without the smoothie, but I was also ready to get the show on the fucking road.

I went about my day as normal. I even got a text from a producer I work with a lot, and she needed me to record a voiceover for the film we had been working on. I wrote back, “No problem. My water just broke, so send me the script within the next couple hours and I can knock it out.” She replied, “Can I please screenshot this text and send it to our client? You’re fucking insane.” To which I replied, “No, I’m dedicated.” But also, early labor can be mentally brutal, so having normal things to do was always a part of my plan, anyway.'

I did the voiceover. I went for a walk with my husband. We kept having these mini existential crises like, “Babe. This is our LAST walk as a family of two. Next walk we take there will be a BABY.”

At 6pm, all my friends had gathered for our castor oil smoothie party. We had pizza and donuts and were ready to rock out in my living room. Then...the midwives showed up. Another mama had gone into labor, and they asked me to NOT drink the smoothie, because it can speed up labor REALLY fast, and they can’t be in two places at once. So, they ran a few tests on me (checked heart rate of baby, took my blood pressure, and gave me an IV of antibiotics as a guard against any infection from the GBS).  

The new plan was that they were going to rush off to the mom currently in labor, and then text me at midnight; if my labor hadn’t progressed by then, I was to drink the smoothie at midnight, giving them enough time to take care of that mama, and then get back to me.

I felt bad, like I had ruined my friends’ plans (this is a theme that would come up majorly throughout the next 22 hours). BACKSTORY: My midwife had been emotionally preparing me for 6 months, “You labor as you live,” she would tell me. What does that mean? It means that whatever emotional battles you fight in your life, THEY WILL ARISE TO THE SURFACE DURING A NATURAL LABOR! This is why having a natural labor was so important to me -- because it presents one of the most powerful opportunities to heal yourself of old patterns and wounds. It sets the space for absolute, total self-awareness and alchemy to occur. For me, that meant people-pleasing and trying to control everything, and then feeling really bad when I couldn’t. More on that later, though.

My friends, being the amazing humans they are, obviously didn’t care. We hung out and ate junk food, and my doula taught us some belly dancing moves. So, there we were, a bunch of girls, gays, and a pregnant chick, belly dancing in early labor on a Friday night. Around 10ish, it was clear that a baby wasn’t coming any time soon (contractions hadn’t even started yet), and so my friends went home, and I watched the clock, waiting for midnight and preparing my smoothie.

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At midnight, my midwife texted me, “Almost done here. Go ahead and drink the smoothie, if it feels right.”

IF IT FEELS RIGHT -- those words seemed to stick out in bold on my text screen. Why did she text “if it feels right??” I wondered.

So I asked, “Why did you say, ‘If it feels right’?”

“Because you don’t have to drink it if it doesn’t. Does it?” She asked.

NO. It didn’t. It didn’t feel right. And I’ve never in my life, even as a professionally trained psychic (whatever that means, right?), *heard* something as clear as the “no” I got when I read her text. And this is why I am and will always be so in love with Tiffany Hoffman, my midwife, because she also listens to the Universe, and she knew to text me that.

I wrote back, “It doesn’t feel right.”

She said, “Great. Don’t drink it. Try to get some sleep. See you soon.”

The house was quiet. My friends were all gone. My husband was sleeping. I felt depressed because I JUST wanted to GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD. But I couldn’t deny that “no” I felt/heard. It was just so...loud and clear. I went and laid in bed. There was no way I was going to fall asleep. What’s going on in there, I wondered to my baby.

At 12:30am my bff, whom I lovingly call “Wifey”, texted, “What’s going on?”

“Nothing, really,” I answered. “All the sudden I just got these really bad period-like cramps. I’m just laying in bed in the fetal position.”

“Be there in 10,” she shot back. She showed up a few minutes later with a heating pad. We went to my living room and I laid on the floor as the period cramps got worse. I was in the fetal position and she was cuddling me. Just typing this part of the story is making me super emotional. I’ll never forget that hour, just her and I on my floor. I texted my doula who showed up around 1:30am. My bff went to lay down in my bed to sleep, and my doula took over cuddling me on the floor, rubbing my head, talking to me about what was happening. The pain was gnarly, so my doula texted the midwives and said things seems to be progressing rapidly.

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The midwives arrived around 3:30am, I think. They had spent all night at that other birth. I texted my friends and told them to come back around 6:30am. My plan (which is laughable now) was to have all of my tribe present when the little King made his entrance. I had also made a private facebook group from which I was going to broadcast my labor live. Over the course of my final month of pregnancy, that group had grown to about 60+ people, all friends and family near and far. Again, my intuition screamed at me, “Don’t do it. Don’t broadcast this to that many people.”

I had been watching live births on a Facebook group called “BirthTube” for weeks, and felt really attached to the idea of letting all my favorite people be a part of this experience in such a modern way. But no, my insides were telling me not to. So, in the middle of a contraction, I created a new group with only a few people in it (parents, my husband’s family, and a couple of important friends that I really just wanted there). I also insisted on no one even knowing I was in labor, and flipped out when I found out my husband had posted in a small, private theatre group that my water had broken. For whatever reason, I could suddenly *feel* the energy of people thinking about us, and I then understood why mammals seek privacy when giving birth. I went from wanting all of my loved ones to know things had started, to not wanting anyone to know until it was over.

My mom, who was 3 hours ahead of us in Ohio, called me and said Azlan had come to her in a dream. That it was super real and that she had even seen his face. She said in the dream she was showing him off to our family, including my great-grandmother Orpha, who I’ve had an extreme psychic connection to since I was a baby (including talking to her in my dreams as a very little kid, and knowing things I couldn’t have otherwise known). My mom said in the dream I was walking around looking for donuts to eat, which was hilarious and validating because I was absolutely walking around eating the donuts my Wifey had brought over the night before.

5am: I got into the birth tub in my living room for the first time. You’re supposed to wait until the last minute to get into the tub, when you can’t handle any more pain,  because it provides so much relief. If you get in too early, it can make it less effective later. I was so convinced that I was so close to the end at this point and wanted to be in the tub. (More backstory: in 2009, when I met the man who would become my husband, I had a vision of a waterbirth in a living room, with him sitting behind me. This was before we were even together. This psychic vision was so intense that it actually made me go, “Hmmm...well, he IS kind of cute. I could see him being my babydaddy.” That vision then created the crush that then made me pursue him.) So, needless to say, I was convinced this is how my baby would be born, and I wanted in that tub.

While I was in the tub, my friends had the MOST INCREDIBLE jam session. They were playing worship music, and my favorite singer in the whole wide world was belting out my most favorite worship songs while my husband played piano. Then they had a drum circle, which was amazing to hear while in labor, and really helped me to tap into Earth energy. This whole part is so fuzzy to me, and I remember not being able to look at my friends because I felt so self-conscious. Turns out I only like the spotlight when I’m in absolute control of everything happening under it.

7am: I was antsy and annoyed that “nothing was happening”. I felt like I was disappointing people, that I was “taking too long”, that I wasn’t performing, that my friends were bored, that my birth team was annoyed. I was more worried about being a good host and was absolutely incapable of tapping into my own needs and focusing on myself. (Are you seeing now how all of my personal issues were arising in my birth, full frontal, completely raw. It was impossible to not be aware of them). My midwife 10000% warned me this would happen, and so I knew in my heart what was going on inside me. 

My birth team suggested that I get out of the tub and sit on the toilet for a while. By this point some back labor had started and I was miserable. It fucking hurt to sit on the toilet, but also I could see how SO many women give birth on toilets because of the muscle memory that comes as soon as you sit down. Like, I had so much trouble relaxing my pelvic floor and “letting go”, even in the tub, but the second I would be on the toilet, I felt comfortable relaxing “down there”. But also it fucking hurt to sit on a hard seat.

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I want to take a moment to talk about my doula, Allison, who was the most amazing thing to happen to my birth. I would never have another baby without a doula. I called her my shepherd, since that’s exactly what she was for me throughout my journey. While my midwives were busy charting and executing their medical role, and my friends were just trying to hold space, my doula never left my side (unless I asked her to). Every time I peed, every time I changed rooms, every time I cried..she was right there, affirming me, telling me stories of  other births, promising me over and over again that the pain would stop the very moment the baby came out.

At this point, I hadn’t been measured yet, and didn’t know how far along I was. Part of going the midwife/homebirth route is that they are very hands off. It’s all about trusting your body, trusting the mother, and trusting the baby. The medical reasons for not checking for dilation are because it GREATLY increases chances of infection (especially in cases where the water has already ruptured). It’s actually kind of crazy that this practice has become normal in hospitals because the research is all there of how much more risk it creates. The psychological reasons for not checking is because it can really put the mother in her head if she’s not “as far along” as she thinks she “should” be.

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But by this point I was going a little crazy and needed to be checked...for my own sanity. Again, the midwife journey is about honoring WHAT THE MOTHER WANTS, and guiding her to have autonomy in her choices. So, though many midwives discourage checking the cervix, when I was clear about wanting it, I got it. I decided that if I was anything less than 8cm dilated, I was going to send my friends home. So, my midwife checked me, and the result was 6cm. I started crying and finally admitted that I needed my friends to leave because I just couldn’t surrender. I am a people-pleaser, and a control freak, and there was zero chance I was going to be able to tap into my primal nature with anyone watching. I asked my doula to go tell all of my friends (except the one who feels like my big sister) to leave while I cried in that bathroom, grieving the loss of the birth I had so carefully “planned” in my head.

9:30am: They suggested I try getting into bed. Again, I had a ton of emotions around this not being a part of my “plan”. My beautiful, wonderful midwife took it upon herself to move all the “affirmations” I had taped up in my living room to my bedroom. I hated those affirmations at that moment. “Fuck the affirmations,” I kept thinking. The only thing good about this part are how beautiful and raw the pictures are from my husband and my doula in bed with me.

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10am: I made Tiffany check me again, I was 8-ish cm.

11am: I tried to overcompensate for the guilt I was feeling about how long this was taking by showcasing a suddenly fresh and invigorated attitude. It became clear that the baby’s position was not great. He was head down, but the awful back labor and slow-ish progress also indicated that he may be mal-positioned. Luckily for me, my doula happened to be familiar with something called Spinning Babies, which is ALL about creating better births by creating better positioned babies. My doula had told me I should be doing these exercises throughout my whole pregnancy, ESPECIALLY third trimester. Here I was, with probably the only doula in town with this knowledge, and I didn’t do it. I assumed that because he was head down that I was totally good to go. I regret that so much, and if I ever had another baby, I would spend my entire pregnancy focusing on this aspect. But it was too late now, so all I could do was try to do some moves in the moment, including deep lunges up my basement stairs, and a weird upside thing that hurt so bad I only achieved one.

12pm: The back labor was so bad at this point, I was so miserable. The ONLY thing that provided relief was sitting slouched on my couch. But here was the kicker: every time I sat like that, I undid all of the progress from the lunges. I literally had to CHOOSE to stop doing the one thing that was bringing me any relief. And here’s why midwives are the heroes of our planet: they never told me that I had to stop slouching. They only suggested it. I remember Tiffany actually saying, “You can keep doing it, we’re not going anywhere, but it is slowing your labor down. We support you no matter what.” Can you fucking believe that?? A doctor in a hospital would probably be like, “I’ve got a golf game at 4, so you need to hurry up.” But here was my birth team, letting me have my journey. I just don’t have words to capture how incredible, humbling, and boundary-pushing that was.

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1pm: My contractions stopped. WHY. GOD. WHY. Emotionally, I knew God was challenging me again and bringing up my people-pleasingness. It was KILLING me knowing that my midwives had come from an overnight birth. I knew they hadn’t slept yet. I knew that I had called them too early. I felt like I failed them, that I should have known I wasn’t as far along as I thought, and that they could have gone home to sleep after the birth from late Friday night. I kept begging them to go take naps in our guest room. And I kept apologizing that I was “taking too long”. I seriously was so triggered by this aspect. It was almost as unbearable as the physical pain. And no amount of loving affirmation from them that everything was fine would help.

Anyway, midwives can’t administer pitocin to stimulate contractions (outside of the hospital), so they used herbal tinctures and nipple stimulation via a breast pump, which are known natural stimulants.

It wasn’t working.

4pm: No urge to push yet and really pissed off about it. I was crying and begging Tiffany to “tell me when it would be over.” I felt like I could handle the rest of the journey if someone could just FUCKING TELL ME how much longer it would be! Even if someone was like, “You’ve still got 8 more hours of this shit,” I would have been like, “Awesome. Someone start the clock.” But not knowing how much longer I had was existential torture like no other. Was it 2 more hours? 5 more hours? 2 more days?!?! The physical pain mixed with the emotional distress of not knowing made me want to die. It was sometime around here that I asked for a gun so I could shoot myself. (Dramatic, I know. But I was NOT planning on this back labor, and I was NOT planning on it taking this long.)

At this point my lovely brother stopped by to take our senior dog for a walk. I remember that he walked in, and so casually and genuinely said, "You're still in labor?"

I. almost. murdered him. He will never live that down.

5pm: More lunges, more stairs, more resisting the urge to recline on the couch, more crying, more begging, more praying and pleading and bargaining with God. One thing that I swear worked is that I kept bargaining with my baby and making deals with him that if he wanted to be born at home, things needed to progress.

6pm: My husband took his third nap. I remember telling myself that I would be very supportive of him napping because he would need his rest and should seize it when he could, but oh my god I was SO FUCKING ANNOYED by this time and resented him for even being able to sleep at all. I’m only noting this because it’s funny and true.

Also, at the time, we decided to discontinue my IV. This was another moment of intuition where I could simply FEEL that I didn’t need it, and that my baby and I would be okay without it. Also, there was something about that contraption being lodged in my hand that was seriously holding me back. I can’t quite describe it but I felt so free when they finally took it out.

Asynclitic

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6:30pm: Midwife noted that the baby felt asynclitic, which refers to the position of a baby in the uterus, such that the head of the baby is presenting first and is tilted to the shoulder, causing the fetal head to no longer be in line with the birth canal. This would explain the excruciating back labor and slow progression.

7pm: I asked to go to the hospital. All the passion I had for having my baby at home was gone, and I just wanted it out of me. Despite there being absolutely no medical concern for me to transfer (heart rate, blood pressure, etc), I had so much fear that I just wasn’t going to be able to do it. My contractions had stopped. In my head I felt like I wasn’t progressing. And though the pain was insane, it was more that no one could tell me when it would be over, and I just wanted to give up.

Of course my midwives supported whatever I wanted to do, but they also knew I was fine, so they encouraged me to understand what transferring would mean, and I realized that it wouldn’t really solve any of my problems (as it was probably too late for an epidural, plus I would have to deal with checking in, etc). The idea of leaving the energy of my home and dealing with the energy of a hospital seemed absolutely impossible. My midwife actually bargained with me, which was a BRILLIANT move on her part. She said, “Let’s check you again, and see if you’ve progressed in dilation. If you have, we should stay.”

I loved that idea and started bargaining again with my baby. I prayed to God and to my baby, “If you want to be born at home, mommy needs you to have progressed past 8cm.”

I laid down to let her check me. I was almost 9cm. We were staying home.

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8pm: I started pushing, laying down in my bed, even though I didn’t really feel the urge to. Pushing laying down is literally the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life and I cannot believe anyone has babies this way.

9pm: My contractions felt really inconsistent but I wanted to keep pushing. Pushing for that long and feeling like no progress is being made is absolute hell. At one point my midwife gave me a "focal point" of "where" to push by pressing down on my perineum. Not only did it actually feel really good, but also it helped IMMENSELY with the pushing. Highly recommend. I remember begging her, "DO THE FINGER THING AGAIN!!"

9:30pm: My husband and my friend are standing at the side of my bed, watching me push. I would push with all of my might, and nothing would happen, and it was so depressing. Then, one time I pushed, and while I personally didn’t notice anything different, my husband and my friend both GASPED at the exact same moment. They had just seen the head emerge at the very back of the canal. Watching them react was exactly what I needed. The only tragic thing was that I thought it meant I was so close to being done! Little did I know I still had an hour left of pushing.

Somewhere around this time, while pushing with all my might, my midwife reached inside and executed a “manual rotation” to try to get his head unstuck and in line with the birth canal. It was quick, and though the moment in general was chaotic, I 100% remember thinking it was the most badass thing I had ever witnessed. It was also what changed the game, and made the rest of my journey possible. I reflect on this moment a lot when thinking about how expert my birth team was, and how heartbreaking it is when “the establishment” does not take these women seriously. The brains, skills, and spirit it takes to be a midwife is very super-human, while at the same time is the essence of humanness. (If you haven’t seen my performance called “The Passion of the Midwife”, you can watch it here)

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10pm: I started squatting at the foot of my bed. This also hurt like a bitch, but it was so much easier to let go. I realized how much I hadn’t been letting go fully because I was afraid of peeing and pooping. Of course I was squatting over chuck pads, but there was still so much self-consciousness around this aspect. If you want to have a natural birth, I recommend practicing this somehow. 

Anyway, I somehow stopped caring, finally. Like, seriously stopped caring. I would grab the edge of my heavy oak-framed bed and PULL it toward me while simultaneously squatting and yelling, and fluids just starting flowing. There was blood and poop coming out, and my birth team would switch out those pads quick as lighting, and I never saw anything. But damn did it feel good! All the poop and blood meant we were close and it was the most motivating thing ever. It turns out the thing I was most scared of was actually the thing I most needed. Birth is so, so strange and beautiful.

Again, my contractions had stopped, and my team was constantly doing everything they could to get them going. My midwife said, “Your contractions stopping are a sign that you are tired,” (which made sense because I had been up for two days at that point without sleep). That scared the shit out of me. There was absolutely NO FUCKING WAY I WAS TAKING A BREAK. So, I lied, and said that they had started again. And every minute or so I said I could feel one coming out, and I’d bear down, squat, pull on the frame of my bed, and push, stand up, and repeat. It seemed like the baby wasn’t really making it any further down the canal.

10:28pm: I had just come up from squatting and bearing down. I remember my midwife said, “Ok, let’s take a little break,” or something like that. Whatever it was exactly, all I remember was yelling, “NO!!!!!!”, and with that I squatted down, and pulled on the frame of my insanely heavy bed. I remember thinking, I don’t care if I explode. I don’t care if I die, I’m not stopping pushing until this is fucking over. 

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Suddenly, I felt this burning. It’s called “The Ring of Fire”, and it’s the burning sensation felt as the mother's tissues stretch around the baby's head. (It’s very similar to sticking your fingers in your mouth to stretch your lips and pulling as wide as you can.) I yelled, “I FEEL THE BURNING THING!” To be honest, it felt really good in a really weird way, and for a SPLIT second I had a glimpse of what orgasmic birth must feel like. 

Tiffany said, “KEEP GOING!!” She was in her infamous squatting position, twisted, looking up inside of me from below. My husband was also laying on the floor on the other side, looking up, best seat in the house. (He was so cute, not afraid of absolutely anything the entire journey. The midwives even commented on how grounded and calm he was the whole time.)

The poetic thing about birth is that you have to die. Like, you get to this moment where you are SO over the pain, that you legitimately no longer care if you die pushing the baby out. You just want the pain to stop, so you push until you die. You split open, you let go of everything (literally) and you pray for death. And then BAM. In a single MOMENT the excruciating pain just...stops. It’s not gradual; it’s sudden. The pain is just over...and there...is your baby. The death becomes life.

The moment that my death turned into birth was accompanied by a *splat* that I’ll never forget. Mr. Azlan Rey Taglieber did not come out gradually, as I had seen in so many birth videos, where the baby crowns slowly, and gently just fallllllls out. Nope. Not Azzy Rey. He came out in what can only be described as a quantum moment. And just as my doula had been promising, with that splat came instantaneous relief. I remember my midwife catching him like the true professional she is and handing him up to me, bent over at the side of my bed. The next thing I remember is her yelling, “SHORT CORD, DON’T STAND UP!” So there I hunched, holding this THING in my arms, and mumbling, “It’s over. It’s fucking over. I did it. I can’t believe I fucking did it. I did it. I did it. I did it myself.”

When the cord situation was handled, they laid me on my bed and covered Azlan and I in blankets. He never cried. Not once. I remember he was lying belly down on my chest and at one point he lifted his head up and scanned the entire room, looking everyone in the eye like the freakin’ Terminator or something. It was psychedelic and wild.

The moment he was handed to me.

The moment he was handed to me.

This is me looking up at my bff and whispering, "It's over. I did it." You can STRAIGHT UP SEE those #OxytocinVibes in my eyes.

This is me looking up at my bff and whispering, "It's over. I did it." You can STRAIGHT UP SEE those #OxytocinVibes in my eyes.

The most beautiful, candid picture of my husband the moment he became a father.

The most beautiful, candid picture of my husband the moment he became a father.

Everything from there was a blur. The oxytocin rushed in, and while the midwives did their thing (which was beyond fascinating to see) I remember staring at my bff Heather at the foot of my bed, and she was crying (and snapping these amazing photos), and I kept whispering to her, “Mama, I did it. I did it. He’s here. It’s finally over. I did it.”

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They had me “birth” my placenta, which I never remember learning ANYWHERE in all my education. It’s the most wild, sensational feeling. Like birthing jello. They properly cared for it so that it could be made into placenta capsules by this amazing local doula.

Everything was so calm, and we know we were blessed to not have required any further medical procedures. The home-birth experience, when as healthy and smooth as mine, is very hands-off. There was no rush. There was no unnecessary separation. They allowed his cord to stay connected until it turned white. My midwife stitched my one, small tear in the comfort of my bedroom. We were laughing, joking, crying.

My doula fed me an ice cold cherry coke she found in the fridge (sorry, Amanda), and it was THE MOST GLORIOUS THING I HAVE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE. I freakin’ chugged that thing. I’ll never forget that cherry coke.

The midwives told me that they couldn’t leave until I peed at least once, and that sometimes it can take a really long time and multiple tries. I remember thinking, I’m gonna rock this for you ladies. I’m going to pee quicker than anyone has ever peed as a small token for having had a 22.5 hour labor. 

AND I DID. I peed right away, and shouted, “I PEED!” And they cheered from the other room.

The next thing I know, it was probably 3 am, and Tiffany was tucking the 3 of us into bed. She kissed my head and turned out my light as she let herself out of my house. The last thing she said was, “This is your last chance to get a really long stretch of sleep.”

And that was it. I was a mother. 

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I listened to the stillness of my mostly-empty house for what felt like a really long time. Writing this now, almost a year later, I don’t actually remember if I ever slept. But I do know I didn’t leave my bed, my favorite place on Earth, and now the holy site where I gave birth, for almost 2 weeks. It was more glorious than anything I could have designed myself.

Looking back and examining the motifs that showed up in my journey, I realize that this birth for me was about letting go of what other people thought of me, and, recognizing that I can do things myself. Where many people struggle with asking for help, I think I struggle to believe I can do things on my own. I have a tendency toward codependency, often believing that I need other people to accomplish my goals (more so professionally than personally). The light side of this trait is that I have a talent for bringing teams together, and my matriarchal role is often the glue holding things together, as well as the air stoking the fire in the passions of other people’s heart. The shadow side of this trait is that I forget I’m enough on my own-- that I, too, am worthy of being produced, not just being the one who is producing. Like all codependents, I avoid looking at myself by focusing on others. Now I know that when I focus on myself, I’m capable of producing life.

Amen.”

Jessica @reverend.levity

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This is why excellent childbirth education is a must, why planning for your birth and the unexpected challenges that can arise, is so important today, and is a major reason why I created my Love Your Birth course. It is a comprehensive online course that teaches women what they need to know about planning and carrying out the birth that they want in all settings - the hospital, birthing center or at home. It’s a course on how to have a holistic, healthy pregnancy for the body, mind, and soul - and is how I have guided thousands of women and their families in my midwifery practice for over 21 years.

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It contains a rolodex of my favorite resources with over 200 of the best books, movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world!  

Be prepared to do some research on your own, but knowledge restores your power. I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy and birth that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering pregnancy and birth that you want - so you can ROCK your birth, however it unfolds!

It’s wonderful alone, a great refresher or adjunct to any other course!

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“Forget your childbirth class, and take steps to your most empowering experience. If you are thinking about conception, pregnant, or love someone who is, take it from me that her wisdom is life-changing.
Yours in the truth

— Kelly Brogan, MD

 

Hospital Waterbirth Story

 

I remember waking up and smelling the coffee brewing whilst on holiday in Miami....the smell instantly made me feel sick. After a super long flight and the time difference I thought the extreme fatigue and nausea was due to jet lag, but then the aversion to my favourite drink made it very clear. It suddenly all made sense when I got an instant positive result on a pregnancy test (then another one).

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The rest of the holiday was challenging, I couldn’t shake the nausea, so walking around Disney world during a heat wave and a long flight home were both extremely hard! It turns out I was actually almost 7 weeks pregnant. Thankfully the nausea only lasted 12 weeks. The rest of the pregnancy was smooth, no complaints at all. Each time I saw the midwife I felt hopeful I could have my baby on the midwife led unit, as everything was going well. By the third trimester in true Mrs Hinch style I scrubbed my house on a daily basis and loved every second of it. Pine disinfectant became my new pregnancy craving (weird I know, don’t worry I didn’t ingest it) as much as I felt the urge to! Approaching my due date, from 38 weeks I had lots of pressure and I was sure Baby Dewey number two would be early, as Ava was two days early..…well that’s what everyone says right? Wrong! 

There I was 7 days late and feeling ready to meet my baby, wondering when they would make an appearance. It was a sunny Sunday morning and I had a sweep at 9 am. The midwife said she could feel baby’s head and said that if it was going to be successful it would be in the next 48 hours. I left the hospital feeling hopeful. We went home and went about our day as normal, going for a long walk, food shopping, cleaning and then I cooked a roast dinner. I put Ava to bed then had a long soak in the bath and bounced on my ball for the rest of the evening. I lost my mucus plug over the duration of the evening and couldn’t shake the feeling baby would be coming in the early hours of the morning. So I made the phone calls to make sure childcare was in place for Ava - just in case, and got an early night.

I woke at 1.30 am on the Monday with a familiar feeling, which I thought was my first contraction. So I laid awake and waited then another came 12 minutes later, then 8 minutes. I knew this was the start of things to come so just relaxed in bed for 30 mins breathing through my contractions then woke Simon to let him know “it was happening”. The pain was in in my lower back which was the same as my labour with Ava,  so I knew how to deal with my pain in the best way which was to stand and gently rock side to side whilst breathing through each contraction and leaning on a surface.

By 3 am my contractions were every 2-3 minutes so we decided we should call my Dad and Step Mum to come to our house to look after Ava. Whilst we waited for them to arrive I got myself dressed and Simon gathered up all of our hospital bags then we waited downstairs. I continued to sway whilst leaning on the breakfast bar and Simon contacted the Midwife Led Unit who then said to come straight up. By the time my Dad arrived my contractions were every 1-2 minutes. 

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We got to the hospital at 4 am and our midwife Julie did all of the routine checks in between my contractions then just calmly remained in the background for a while observing. My contractions were getting more intense but the swaying and breathing helped and Simon massaged my lower back which gave lots of relief. By 4.40 the midwife wanted to check how dilated I was.

With how long the contractions were lasting and the frequency of them, I was sure I had to be quite far along but I was only just 4 cm at a stretch. I felt slightly disheartened for a moment but the contractions were coming quick so I soon forgot about that and continued with my breathing whilst the birthing pool was being filled. The water gave me such relief and I felt really calm whilst in the water, on my knees leaning over the edge.

The lights in the room were dimmed and the radio was on playing Christmas music which was super relaxing. At 5.30 I felt a lot of pressure and then a pop then realised my waters had gone. I then felt the baby move lower into my pelvis and knew that it wouldn’t be long. By 5.45 the contractions were coming thick and fast, every minute lasting a minute infact and the pressure felt stronger. I became very aware of the noises I was making and i remember that feeling well, I knew it was getting very close. Julie asked if I wanted any pain relief so I opted for some gas and air. At that moment I felt the surges get stronger and an urge to start pushing. My body knew exactly what to do so I went with it. The gas and air made me feel a little delirious at times but it made the pain manageable, without making me feel out of control.  I felt my baby moving down with every push and this time I really remember the burning sensation and that ring of fire everyone talks about. During the crowning stage I remember thinking at times I couldn’t do it, but I redirected my thoughts, concentrated on my breathing and reminded myself I would soon be meeting my baby! After 30 minutes of pushing my baby girl was born at 6.14 am weighing 7Ib 5oz.

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I remember that overwhelming feeling of love as I placed her onto my chest. By this point we didn’t know the gender so I had a look and was so excited to see it was another girl. I knew how much Ava wanted a baby sister so I knew she would be so happy! Simon cut the cord then I got out of the pool and onto the bed. Amelia was a little shocked and blue as the cord was around her neck but they gave her a quick rub and she was fine. The midwife asked if I wanted to deliver the placenta without the injection so i thought I’d try, I gave one small push and it came out nice and easy! My baby girl was then placed onto my chest for some much needed skin to skin time. Simon and I were then left to bond with our new baby girl. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect birth, I wanted to feel in control, to feel the surges and I was desperate for a water birth and I got all of those things!
Kirsty Dewey  @mumma_dewey

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A healthy natural birth in today’s modern world takes preparation in advance, especially if you are planning to birth in the hospital. Check out my number one international best selling book Natural Birth Secrets and my online course - an online version of how I have helped thousands in my local practice.

Both resources are unique, but each provide an in depth, one-of-a-kind holistic approach created by me, a seasoned nurse midwife of over two decades, who has seen everything!

Choose inspiration and optimal holistic health during, birth and after pregnancy, by clicking here to take my online Love Your Birth course, so you can ROCK your journey wherever and however you plan to give birth. It is for giving birth at home, in the birthing center or hospital…whether you choose to hire a midwife or physician.

 

I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum.

Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote.  But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. 

I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. 

Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby.

For more info on the Bellefit girdle, check out my blog about it hereHave a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)!

I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.

 

Preterm Birth Story and the Little Thriving Soldier Baby

 

My DJ was born on Thursday, December 15, 2016. I remember like it was just yesterday. It's an experience I'll never forget. My water broke at about 6:00 on Wednesday morning. I was rushed to our local hospital, then transported to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC. I was only 26 weeks, so it was reason to be alarmed. I was bedridden and given procardia to prevent the pre-term labor, but none of it worked.

7:00 am Thursday morning, the labor pains commenced. I could hardly stand it as I frantically paged the nurse. The doctor was called. She checked my cervix. It was time! The delivery was quick yet traumatic. Due to my heart condition, an emergency c-section was scheduled but my baby boy couldn't wait. With oxygen on my face and a needle in my spine, I began to push while sitting upright on the edge of the delivery table. The doctor could see his tiny head crowning and immediately laid me back, asking me to give her one more big push. As I'm pushing, I go completely numb from the spinal anesthesia but I did it! DJ was born at 10:26 am. They held him up for me to see as I cried tears of joy and worry. He wasn't crying at all but his little eyes were wide open as he looked right at me. He was so small and frail but the most beautiful angel I've ever seen. My first child at the age of 40 had arrived and I felt so blessed. After cleaning him up, they allowed me one kiss before placing his tiny body into an incubator and moving him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). My parents caught a glimpse of him in the hallway and smiled with glee to meet their newest grandchild. Meanwhile, I was sent to recovery and wouldn't see my bundle of joy again for several hours.

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After signing in at the front desk of the NICU, washing our hands (of course), my then husband wheeled me to Pod B where our beloved was waiting. There he was all swaddled up with his sweet little face covered due to the ventilator needed to help him breath. He weighed only 790 grams (1 lb, 12 oz) and 13 inches long, but strong! As I watched our son fighting for his life, I cried and cried. Why did this happen?

I greatly assume it was my gestational diabetes or the stress I was under due to a trying later failed marriage. However, I read that there are risk factors for being born early, such as infection, placental problems or genetic problems, but in many cases the cause is unknown. An estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year, That is more than 1 in 10 babies. Wow! I couldn't imagine the arduous journey ahead for my peanut. All the tests, diagnoses, procedures, bradycardias and near fatal incidences that caused such an emotional rollercoaster. Without God, he wouldn't have made it through, and I wouldn't have made it through my postpartum period that was thankfully short-lived. DJ spent four months and one week at James and Connie Maynard Children's Hospital, and I never left his side. I was there every single day for him, enduring the worse and the better times. Thank God for the tremendous support of so many in our corner, including the awesome hospital staff and The Ronald McDonald House of Eastern NC. 

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After leaving the hospital, I became a stay-at-home mom taking care of DJ full-time because he was considered disabled and unable to enroll into daycare. I'm so blessed to be here for every waking moment, watching my son continuing to thrive despite his near fatal illnesses and hospitalizations.  I was also blessed with the time to be able to self-publish my first children's book entitled, "The Mighty 1", dedicated to my baby. DJ is now two years strong, weighing 24.5 lbs and 32 inches long. My little soldier is so amazing and I'm beyond blessed to be his mommy. 

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The Mighty 1 is a poetic tale about a brave soul who is tiny but mighty, just like the miracle baby in your life. Every year, millions of babies are born prematurely and many will spend several weeks or months in the neonatal intensive care unit. It's such an emotional journey for families whose lives have changed in an instant. This book was created to bring inspiration and smiles to all of you. It makes a great read for NICU cuddle time, and the perfect keepsake too! Preview and order your copy of "The Mighty 1" now.

By Ebony Moore @ebonydmoore

Was your birth upsetting or traumatic? Do you have more questions about processing your birth and need help healing? Arrange some time to chat with me. I’d love to answer your questions and help you heal and get yourself back - I have a program specifically for you, that can also include this revolutionary and profound natural healing modality called Clarity Breathwork. Helping people heal from birth trauma and other traumatic experiences, emotional pain and inner stress is one of my passions and areas of expertise. I also devoted several sections of my Natural Birth Secrets book on birth trauma in both moms and babies, and also wrote a book called the Trauma Release Formula…both are available on Amazon.

 

Birth Story of Redemption

 

“Redemption: Koen James

Stalking your Instagram and drooling over all things Birth!

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I wanted to share my story:

After experiencing a hospital birth and an at home intervention free birth I have such a deeper connection with my body and the things it is capable of. I find myself being in complete awe over what the woman’s body can accomplish by watching, scrolling, and reading stories into the wee hours into the early morning. An indescribable feeling.

Those who attended the birth of my first born would tell you it was unforgettable in the worst of ways. Two years ago, I was riding passenger on the way to the hospital to be induced. My husband and I discussed during our drive how delighted we were for our lives to change to a family of three to avoid the anxiety we felt. After a short ride we arrived to small talk and routine work: readying IV's, retrieving a catheter, sterilizing the area, the whole nine. Luckily I was contracting on my own the use of pitocin was unnecessary and went directly to breaking my water. Before leaving my room my doctor quickly questioned me about the need of an epidural. Although my pain was fear driven, I was young and naive, I insisted.

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Seconds after receiving the epidural I was reaping it's effects. I became so nauseated I couldn't bare to speak. I was begging for relief as they injected a dose of phenergan into my IV. Little did anyone know I was severely allergic to the medicine. I couldn't see. I couldn't talk. I began to black out. I woke up for a split second patting my chest in hopes to convey something was wrong. My nurse was frustrated unaware of the situation she got two inches from my face yelling "USE YOUR WORDS" repeatedly. All I could do was grab her arm with a frail grip before passing out again. My condition was worsening when I awoke for a second time. I remember looking up to my husband holding my hand, telling me it would be okay, as he began to tear. Everyone was being rushed out of the room as a team of doctors scrambled through the door. I didn't know it but my heart rate was dropping.

 Awake for a third and final time, it was over but now it was time to push. I was exhausted and still confused, I thought the oxygen they had me on was their attempt to put me to sleep. In between surges, with what little energy I had left, I was fighting to remove the mask. Two hours of nodding in and out, I remember asking if it was almost over. Anything that could have gone wrong, did. I was ready to be holding our baby boy. A tiny six pounds and twelve ounces, he was finally here. Relieved we're both okay, I still look back and break a little inside unable to recall the birth of my first child. 

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Once we became pregnant for the second time we knew, wherever we delivered, we would not opt for any interventions. It wasn't until the third trimester we started weighing out our options of where we would welcome our newest addition. I knew I didn't want to be in the same environment I was with my first, scarred from the experience we lived previously. It wasn't until then we discussed a home birth. No pokes and pricks, being in the comfort of home, I wouldn't have to find a sitter for our son, it appeared to be a dream. This is what I wanted. 

It was a day after my due date when my water broke as I was laying our son down for a nap. I immediately alerted my midwife, Rebekah, who was attending a birth of another mother. I then called out to my husband and informed him we would have a baby soon. We went about the rest of our day normally, trying to do the odds and ends in order to prep our house for birth. I continuously encouraged my husband to get as much rest as possible before going to bed myself.  

I was filled with mixed emotions as I attempted to close my eyes. Although this was my second birth it was very much my first. I didn't know what to expect as I had no previous experience other than reading what I could online. I woke up early Sunday morning with consistent contractions. I began timing them before I carefully crept out of bed trying not disrupt our son to go wake my husband on the couch. I could tell he had gotten little to no sleep. As I started to explain I needed his help timing my contractions he told me he didn't go to bed until five that morning.. it was three. Nodding in and out we averaged my contractions two minutes apart while lasting thirty five seconds. 

Keeping my midwife updated she decided it was time to head my way. They arrived just as the sun was making an appearance through the trees. She had brought along some back up, Paige a student midwife, as the rest of her team was still with laboring mother before me. As we got aquatinted my contractions stayed two minutes apart while lengthing in time. I was checked at five centimeters when Rebekah asked if I felt comfortable with her leaving to attend her previous engagement. I gave her the thumbs up as I tried to get comfortable for the labor ahead. 

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I was stretched across the couch when Paige encouraged me to get into a more baby friendly position to help descend him further into the birth canal. I put a pillow under each knee and squatted down while leaning over the seat cushions. I could feel my contractions intensifying as I was overcome by intolerable back pain. My husband would try massage me while Paige squeezed my hips, but it was doing more harm than good. I couldn't be touched. All I wanted to do was lay down. 

I crawled back up on the couch surrounding myself with pillows in every direction to give my body some ease. With each wave I would reach out to my husband and pull on his shirt until it passed. I had been laboring in the living room for a short couple of hours, since my midwives arrived, when I decided I wanted to try a new method of comfort and relax in a hot bath. Before stepping into the water, Paige checked me in between six and seven centimeters. She called Rebekah to inform her of my progression. Minutes away from reaching her destination she asked if she needed to turn around. Since my dilation appeared slow Rebekah continued on her drive.

My son was still asleep in the room next to me when I got into the bath. I immediately turned on the cold water. I was refreshed with the cooling sensation through the marathon my body was running. At this time my contractions were now a minute or more long. The pain I felt in my back had me paralyzed. I could do nothing but scream. I managed to wake our son from the howls I released through each surge. As much as I wanted him there I knew I couldn't comfort him like he wanted me to, so we quickly called for reinforcements. My husband attended to his side while Paige poured water over my forty week belly and reminded me that I could do this. I wasn't in the tub for ten minutes when I told her I needed to push. No one was expecting me progress the way I had. She asked me slightly confused "You need to push or feel like you want to push?" I shouted "HES HERE". 

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Before getting up to notify Rebekah, she wanted me to promise I wouldn't push. I knew it was no promise I could keep. Our son's ride arrived relieving my husband back to his former duty of being by my side. I had one more contraction in the tub when I demanded we make a run for it. I was caught in the hallway by another surge before reaching the couch. Rebekah was too far away. She would never make it back in time. It was just the three of us. With Rebekah absent, my husband and Paige rushed to get everything ready for the arrival of our newest baby boy.

I was already pushing as I watched them grab the rest of the necessities. I beared down against Paige who was positioned at my feet. Through all the pain I had felt that morning I was at such peace while pushing. With two more thrusts he was here. I lifted him up to my chest and rubbed my fingers across his face. He had the most perfectly round head and that beautiful burgundy after birth color. My husband cut the cord while I took everything in that I had missed the first time. I finally got the birth I had been longing for. I thanked my body for overcoming my mind and showing me what I was truly capable of.

I questioned myself on if I should write my story when I was reminded, I gave birth at home, after a traumatizing first experience, without any interventions, and that itself is a success. I could and I did and this time I remembered. 

@shelbylclowers’’ 

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Was your birth upsetting or traumatic? Do you have more questions about processing your birth and need help healing? Arrange some time to chat with me. I’d love to answer your questions and help you heal and get yourself back - I have a program specifically got you, that can also include this revolutionary and last natural healing modality called Clarity Breathwork.  Helping women heal from birth trauma is one of my passions and areas of expertise. So is preventing it in the first place.

This is why excellent childbirth education is a must, why planning for your birth is so important today, and is a major reason why I created my Love Your Birth course. It is a comprehensive online course that teaches women what they need to know about planning and carrying out the birth that they want in all settings - the hospital, birthing center or at home. It’s a course on how to have a holistic, healthy pregnancy for the body, mind, and soul - and is how I have guided thousands of women and their families in my midwifery practice for over 21 years. It contains a rolodex of my favorite resources with over 200 of the best books, movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world!  Be prepared to do some research on your own, but knowledge restores your power. I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy and birth that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering pregnancy and birth that you want - so you can ROCK your birth! It is a course that is recommended by doctors, midwives, and other professionals around the globe!

You can get a free nugget from my course - all about creating your ideal birth plan here. A huge part of preventing birth trauma is getting clear your birth preferences, knowing the pros and cons about all the tests and procedures, all the interventions your may be faced with, so you can make informed decisions - rather than simply give over your body, your choice and voice to your health care providers and institution you choose.

 

HBAC Birth Story - Homebirth After Cesarean

 

“Having a HBAC was really so special after a totally unnecessary c-section with my first. I’d love to spread the word that it’s possible. So many people think it’s not.

And Then There Were Four

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The last time I typed up a birth story it wasn't one I was super excited to share with the world. I'm eager to get this one down before I forget it since labor amnesia sets in quick and because this one could not be more different than the last. A friend of mine who also had a particularly difficult first labor said that when she had a second child she wanted a do-over. At the time I was telling myself that all that matters is getting a healthy baby and while I still believe that, I am very happy that things went the way I wanted them to this time. 

[ I am not sure I need to but I would like to stop here and warn any readers that since this is a blog entry about giving birth, there is some TMI. ]

Last Friday I was 39 weeks. It started like any other day since I became full-term, with me thinking "Will this baby come today?" followed immediately by "Nah, I have tons of time left" followed by a much quieter "...maybe."  

Because Thora's birth was such a mess and because I believe it was the four days in a row of acupuncture that my midwife sent me for before my due date that started my prodromal labor and not Thora herself, ready to be born, I was treating this time like it was my first time. Lots of people said that since Thora was born four days before my due date, this one would be early too, but I was telling myself just in case that I really didn't know when Thora would have come, had circumstances been different. This one could very well wait until long after my due date. I knew four or five other people who were all due around the same time as me and I kept saying they'd all be first, just so I wouldn't be disappointed if I went on to 41 or 42 weeks. 

So on Friday morning I didn't think anything of going to work like usual.  I had a lot to do, including dealing with three chickens I was fostering in my tiny shared work space. (Don't ask!)

Johnny, on the other hand, seemed to know something was up. The night before I'd had what I thought could be a little leaking of amniotic fluid. (Any expecting parent has to be familiar with the awful "here, smell this, is this pee?" ridiculousness) Even though he didn't say so, he was on high alert. That morning he drove me to work so Thora could see the chickens, and en route he announced that he was cancelling the plans he had with his friend for that night just in case the baby came. I told him not to be silly and encouraged him to go ahead because my due date was still a week away and who knew when he'd get to go out again. Likely that leak was nothing. But he insisted. 

At the office, I managed to knock out a few things before everyone else arrived. I did an interview and wrote up a document I really needed to get out. I exchanged emails and calls with a few people. All the while I was having contractions and they were pretty regular but mild so I didn't say anything to anyone, just kept working and waited for them to pass. Around 1 pm when we were discussing lunch options, I felt a sudden gush and ran to the bathroom. Knowing that only 8% of labors start with the water breaking, I wasn't exactly sure what I'd find but I did not expect to see a lot of bright red blood. A lot. I had also passed a clot the size of my pinky. It didn't look like a mucus plug, it looked like a blood clot. And sitting there, I passed another. So I completely panicked. I called my midwife who seemed calm but mildly concerned. A few minutes later she called back: she'd been able to get me an emergency appointment at the women's ultrasound office I'd been going to, which was up on Madison Ave about a fifteen minute walk away. She encouraged me to put on a pad so I could see how much I was bleeding and said I should call her from the doctor's office to let her know what was going on. I called Johnny, who wasted no time getting into the car and on his way.

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I threw my stuff into a bag and fled. As I waited impatiently for the elevator, a coworker and mom of three passed me in the hall. She took one look at my face, nodded and said "Oh yeah," in a knowing voice. "Good luck!" In my mind I was thinking "But I'm not in labor!" though I wasn't about to stop to explain.

Of course it was pouring rain so finding a cab was virtually impossible. Frustrated, I called Johnny again and reminded him that my first labor was during a blizzard and complained that it wasn't fair that this happens to us during horrible weather. Someone from my office accompanied me to the corner of First Ave with a big umbrella, trying to help me flag down occupied cab after occupied cab. There were a handful of other people doing the same and I ran in front of them, totally focusing all of my fear into anger at them for not seeing me standing there and giving me the first cab that pulled up.

Meanwhile Johnny and Thora were stuck in traffic on the FDR drive on their way to meet me at the ultrasound place. In the cab, my contractions slowed and my bleeding too. I could still feel the baby moving so I knew she was alive, but bright red blood is never a good sign in pregnancy so I was still very worried. I raced into the office and told them who I was. The woman at reception reminded me that I didn't have an appointment, that they were fully booked but would see me when they could. I reminded her as sweetly as I could that I was 39 weeks pregnant and bleeding a lot. Then I sat down to wait. My name was called not two minutes later and Johnny and Thora arrived about two minutes after that. The ultrasound showed that the baby and her heartbeat were fine, there was a lot of amniotic fluid, the placenta was intact, and everything was overall peachy. Both the doctor there and my midwife on the phone said they could not easily explain the blood, that they guessed it was either my mucus plug or a small placental abruption. My midwife ordered me to go right home. "Do NOT go back to work," she said sternly. How did she know what I was thinking?! She insisted I rest and check in with her in another hour or so. Feeling calmer, I apologized to the receptionist on our way out. She looked relieved. I thanked everyone for seeing me so quickly and we headed back out into the rain.

We did go right home. My contractions continued, mildly. Johnny and Thora took a walk to Uptown Juice Bar, our neighborhood veggie restaurant, to pick up some dinner, while I tried to nap. By 5 pm or so we were timing the contractions but they seemed pretty stable at 5 minutes apart and lasting only 30 - 45 seconds. After Thora's birth, which was a full five days of contractions like that and two hospital visits during which I was checked and promptly sent home, I was determined not to be the boy who cried wolf a second time, so I kept telling the midwife it was no big deal, that I wasn't concerned yet.

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We got Thora to bed around 7 and settled in front of the TV for some Netflix streaming. I texted my sister to tell her I thought I was in labor. Then I sat on the birth ball and moaned and yelled my way through three episodes of Breaking Bad before Johnny told me that the contractions were obviously getting longer and more intense. I was still in denial because they weren't any closer together. I called our midwife again around 10 - a full 45 minutes later than she'd asked me to, she reminded me. I had a contraction as we talked and I tried my best to talk through it. I did not want her to have to come all the way here only to tell me I was having prodromal labor and then go back home. She said she was ready to go whenever we said the word, but I told her we were still fine. 

Oh the stupid things that go through a laboring woman's head. At this point I was thinking "What would a woman birthing with Ina May Gaskin do now?" I tried to channel the birth stories I'd read over and over in Spiritual Midwifery. These women would have made food, cleaned their RVs, worked in their garden, gone for a hike, hugged a tree, or gone to sleep. Remembering that with Thora I gave up pushing for a c-section because I was too tired to keep going after five days of being too excited about having a baby to rest at all, I picked sleep. I took a quarter of a Bendaryl and lay down. I knew that if this was really it, the contractions would not slow. But they did, to about 8 minutes apart.

I did manage to doze a little between contractions but they kept waking us both up and after an hour or two, they got more and more intense. By 2 am they were 2 - 3 minutes apart, lasting 90 seconds to 2 minutes. I was nauseous and restless and knew sleep was now out of the question. Benadryl or no, I was wide awake and in agony. Soon I was in pain even between contractions and I was suddenly throwing up and having to poop and everything else all at once. This was it. 

Johnny called Joan while I ran the bathtub. She'd been asleep but was instantly alert. The no-nonsense woman she is, she declared me to be in active labor and said she was on her way. Still not wanting to be humiliated for thinking I was in active labor when I wasn't, I was nervous that the bath might slow things down by the time she arrived. But it didn't. 

Between contractions in the water, I was fine. I sat there in the candlelit darkness and tried to relax. I could talk, even joke around a little. The contractions were painful as hell but in between them there was a minute of reprieve. Also they felt very different from the ones I had with Thora. Thora was posterior (meaning she was face up) and the resulting back labor was agonizing in a whole different way. At the same time, this was pain like nothing I ever knew. 

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Joan and her assistant S. arrived around 2:45. Joan checked me right away. 7 centimeters. She said "The rest could either be slow or fast but I'm thinking fast" and went back to making her preparations. There was no time, she said, to set up the birth pool. I was going to have the baby in the bathtub.

They started setting things up while Johnny sat with me and made sure I had water, Emergen-C, whatever I would drink. S, Joan's assistant, held my hand ("but only if it's not annoying," she reminded me) and helped me keep my sounds low and my shoulders low and relaxed. The pain got more and more intense and I got louder and louder. I surprised myself by how much I was screaming and howling and growling but it was what I had to do. Joan shrugged. "Some people just need to roar their babies out," was all she said. This kept on. I beat my hands on the lip of the tub with every contraction and screamed this guttural, totally insane scream. I was sitting cross legged, sort of like in lotus position, in the center of the tub, leaning over the middle of it. My head was resting on a towel they put on the lip of the tub and my hands were hanging over the side so I could remember to keep them unclenched. Rayna, my cat, was sitting right beneath my hands keeping a close watch on things. Johnny sat on the closed toilet seat and S sat on the floor next to Rayna. Joan left me to it for the most part, but came back in periodically to tell me I was doing great. I panted and screamed and shrieked and didn't believe her. "I don't think I can do this!" I heard myself whine. "You ARE doing it," everyone chanted, in unison, in response.

Then all of a sudden everything changes. My growl gets deeper and I hear myself scream like I never, ever have before. It gives me chills to think about it now. "That sounds like pushing!" calls Joan from outside the bathroom. She is suddenly there, checking me, asking if I feel like I need to bear down. "I don't know what I feel," I say. I am hoarse and my mouth is dry and I'm starting to whine again. "I feel her in my butt now and it really, really huuurrrtttss."  Yep, she says, that's pushing. And then I am at my absolute least attractive, retching and vomiting and panting and feeling like I'm crapping my brains out and watching the water around me get redder and redder. I'm babbling like a fool, asking how soon I can get an IUD, asking if I am going to make it through this, begging for it to stop. My head is filled with wild images: I'm thinking of my birth mother who should be there with me but isn't, of long-haired hippies who don't feel any pain as they push, of how I am certainly waking our daughter, asleep in the next room, of how I am definitely terrifying our neighbors and scaring my husband from ever wanting to look at me naked again, of being split open, of living through this to meet my baby.

Joan is suddenly all business. She kneels down and makes me change position. "If you are going to have this baby here, you need to stretch out and lie down on your right side and hold up your leg like this." She holds up my left leg like this. She gives Johnny the job of holding it up even further and pushing it back against the wall of the tub. She lets out some of the disgusting water and runs more warm water in the tub and over me, saying now it's too cold for having a baby. 

And then I am gone. What takes over is this primal thing, barely human, screaming and roaring. From a million miles away, I hear "I can see her!" and "She went back in, but that's okay, she's stretching you so you don't tear" and I'm panting and and my voice is saying "I can't" and then I'm wailing again and there are hands on me that I push away and suddenly I feel a pop and I hear "That's the head!" One more howl and a huge push that takes everything out of me and the next thing I know she's crying in my arms and there's a warm blanket and a towel being draped over her and I am spent but I have my baby and I did it, just like the women in the hippie books and exactly how I always wanted, with my husband next to me and my daughter asleep in her room just ten feet away and we are all in our element in our home and I can't believe it. It is 5:33 am on Saturday, September 24. I have been in labor for over seventeen hours and I have pushed for only 23 minutes.

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Freyja Rae is teeny. She is coughing and sputtering. I count fingers and toes, look at her tiny face, pick some vernix out of her ears. I push out the placenta and then a few minutes later, I manage to cut the cord myself because Johnny doesn't want to, snipping Joan's finger in the process. I smile and apologize. She shrugs and says she's been cut worse. I ask her if this ever gets old for her and she says with a smile, "Nope. Never." Everything is quiet. Then at some point, I ask how in the world women go through this pain. Her answer is simple. "We can do it because it ends. No matter how long it lasts, it always ends." 

Freyja and I lie there together for a few minutes in the gross bathwater while I think that over. We are happy and exhausted and I'm thinking about Rocky calling to Adrian that he did it. Johnny snaps a few pictures and S snaps a few more.

Then Joan wraps her in another warm and dry receiving blanket and hands her to her father, saying she's not ready to nurse yet but that she needs skin on skin contact with Daddy, and then I am fading away and I'm gone. 

I smell ammonia and hear someone say "smelling salts." My blood pressure is so low they can't even get a reading, but the smelling salts are so awful they wake me up enough so I can turn my head away. This feeling is nothing new for me. I have low blood pressure all the time so when I am sick or weakened I always react by getting dizzy and feeling faint. I am not concerned, but Joan and S are. A peanut butter sandwich appears before me and a glass of some flavor of Emergen-C that I didn't pick out is shoved in my face and a straw stuck in my mouth. I want to be in bed, with the AC on, wrapped in a blanket snuggling with my new baby but I know I can't make it there so I take slow bites and sips and wait.

Gradually I regain strength. We drain the tub and I am able to stand long enough to rinse off in the shower while they make a bed out of a plastic tablecloth and wee wee pads, right there on the tiles. I lie down and as I do, I hear Thora, awake. Freyja is passed back to me and I latch her on for the first time while Johnny brings Thora right to us in the bathroom. She's not fully awake and is very unsure of what's going on. "Mama?" she asks dubiously.

I sit up and nurse cross legged on the bathroom floor while they set up a spot for me in the living room. Moments later, Freyja and I make our way over to the couch. S hovers and makes me eat and sip sweet tea while I nurse Freyja. Johnny is next to me cuddling Thora, who asks for a pinky. A blissful moment: I am with my family.

But I am tired. Joan examines Freyja and prepares to weigh her like a bunch of bananas. "Any guesses?" We venture a few, but we are all off. She is much smaller than her sister was, only 6 pounds and 12 ounces. 19 inches long. Head and chest circumference are both 33 inches. "She's symmetrical!" Joan laughs. Freyja is perfect. And since we are at home, nothing invasive happens. She hasn't been suctioned. There is no ointment in her eyes. Joan doesn't even clean her off. Instead she rubs what's left of the vernix into her skin and wipes her down with some olive oil. She grabs a onesie from the pile, a white one with a pink and black skull and crossbones, a gift to Thora from our friend Missy Church. I smile and say she's dressing her like a punk rocker. "For you, nothing less!" she smiles back.

Johnny gets up to dress Thora. I help her on with her shoes and give her a big hug and kiss. Johnny brings her downstairs to our neighbor to hang out with her two girls for the morning and I throw on a shirt and get into bed with my new daughter. Joan hugs me and tucks me in. I hear Johnny come back in and he joins me a moment later, closing the bedroom door behind him. We hear cleanup noises in the rest of the apartment, and a few minutes later, the front door opening and quietly closing, as we three drift off to sleep.

I did it!”

Mama @thewriteaimee

Photo credit to @db4johnny (my spouse)


Was your birth upsetting or traumatic? Do you have more questions about processing your birth and need help healing? Arrange some time to chat with me. I’d love to answer your questions and help you heal and get yourself back - I have a program specifically for you, that can also include this revolutionary and powerfully effective, natural healing modality called Clarity Breathwork.  Helping women heal from birth trauma is one of my passions and areas of expertise. So is preventing it in the first place.

This is why excellent childbirth education is a must, why planning for your birth is so important today, and is a major reason why I created my Love Your Birth course. It is a comprehensive online course that teaches women what they need to know about planning and carrying out the birth that they want in all settings - the hospital, birthing center or at home. It’s a course on how to have a holistic, healthy pregnancy for the body, mind, and soul - and is how I have guided thousands of women and their families in my midwifery practice for over 21 years. It contains a rolodex of my favorite resources with over 200 of the best books, movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world!  Be prepared to do some research on your own, but knowledge restores your power. I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy and birth that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering pregnancy and birth that you want - so you can ROCK your birth!

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I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote.  But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby.

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