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Birth Matters – Baby Delaney’s Birth Story

I gently woke Keelan and told him that contractions had began but were not urgent, and to keep sleeping. I moved onto the couch in the living room and continued to time my contractions, which were now about a minute long, and 10 minutes apart. I slept between them, and had to get onto all fours when they came. I moved back and forth like that until the sky began to glow with blue dawn light. I texted my mom and asked her to come over. She sat with me, on the floor beside the couch, with her to-go mug of coffee in her hand. She quietly rubbed my back as I rested, and encouraging me gently as I contracted. She made sure I was drinking water to hydrate for the labor ahead. At around 7am I was beginning to need to make noise through the contractions, and my mom suggested she wake Greer and get her ready to go over to her house for the day. I agreed that it was time to get her up and out of the house, and asked that my mom wake Keelan on her way upstairs. I was sitting on the toilet when Greer came in to the bathroom. She was smiling and happy, and had no confusion or hesitation when she said goodbye to me, which brought me a huge reassurance that everything was going to fine.

As soon as I got back into the living room I reached out to my Doula and asked her to come. Soon after, Keelan called my midwife Sara and asked her to come as well. I remember hearing his voice from the other room saying to her, “Hi, yeah, can you come now?” And thinking, here we go. My doula Roxy’s presence, and her hands on my body, encouraged me and helped me to maintain a positive attitude. I knew that I could accomplish the challenging task ahead of me. After a few contractions with Roxy on the living room floor she suggested I move into the shower. After some time by myself in the shower, contracting and breathe-counting through each one, I asked for help moving into the bedroom, and onto the bed. It was on the bed that my contractions reached the next level of intensity. Peaking at a much higher level of sensation then they had before. A sensation that caused me to yell out involuntarily. They tempted me to let in fear and self-doubt, and they made resting between contractions much more challenging to accomplish. 

Sara and her assistant Nathalie arrived quietly and, while I was aware of their presence, Sara remained on the perimeter, observing without making me feel watched, the way a good midwife knows how to. Many contractions of this kind peaked and ebbed, while Keelan and Roxy supported me, with their hands and their words. I remember Roxy assuring me that I was “safe in my body”, and that I was working with the contractions just right, “just like that, that’s exactly right”.

I was encouraged to move into the tub that had been filled, right beside my bed. Many contractions rocked through my body in the warm water. I could see beams of the bright, warm, spring day that shone on the other side of the dark curtains that were drawn in my bedroom windows. I reached for the hands of Keelan and Roxy as each one began. Holding onto them grounded me as I rode the powerful sensations to their peak, and back down to a place of near-relief, again and again. More intense still were the contractions that came next, causing me to need to bite down on the edge of the tub as they began, and to roar out, like I never knew I could, at their peaks. I felt at once overwhelmed and exhausted by them. But I was relieved by their presence as well, because I knew that the pushing and the birth were very near now. 

I wanted to push. I wanted to be pushing, to be in the pushing stage of my labor. I wanted to push my baby out in the tub, right then, and be done. The sleepless night that had come before this day of incredible work left me absolutely exhausted. Each powerful contraction required such tremendous effort from me that, with each break, I wasn’t sure I had enough strength left for the one that was coming. But the next one always came, and I reached out for anchors, and I rode it, and I roared through it. Again and again. And then, at around 11:30 am, I began to surface from deeply meditative labor-state that I had been in, and I began speaking to my team about my need to “be done” soon. My need to rest. My need to push my baby out. They heard me. They heard my doubts and my fears and my earnestness. I was beginning to give in to the temptations of fear and self-doubt that are ever-present on the perimeters of bravery. I wanted someone to tell me it was almost over. To tell me what to do. To take over. I said “I’m pushing”, and I began to.

But, pushing a baby out is something I had never felt in full sensation. Truthfully, I could feel that my cervix had gone away. At one point, while I was in the tub, my midwife asked me where I was feeling my sensations when they peaked. I responded by telling her that I felt them in my cervix. A little later she asked me if I still felt my cervix. I told her that I did not. But that only partially informed my decision to start pushing. I decided it was time because I needed it to be. I had heard that the urge to push was undeniable and unstoppable. I was looking for a sensation that was unfamiliar to me. I was hoping that an instinctual urge would come over me, rendering me unable to do anything but to heroically push my baby out. But instead, It felt like I was making a call to go on to the next step.

I had given birth vaginally before this day came. My first labor was at home and un-medicated, all the way through transition (almost 24 hours), but it ended in a transfer to the hospital, where I received and epidural before I pushed my baby out. I didn’t really know what pushing or the “urge to push” would feel like. But I had other knowledge that was rooted in the fact that I trusted birth. I trusted my body and my baby’s body, and I trusted that together, our bodies knew how to do this. I knew that we operated on ancient, inherited wisdom. And that that wisdom would lead us to the culmination of our efforts. What I didn’t know was something I learned that day: the mind and the body work together as much as they work in opposition, The logical mind is the enemy of instinct, and uncoupling one’s self from that deep-lying wisdom, even for a moment, creates wiggle-room for the rival that seeks to dismantle it’s strength.

Many more contractions came and went and I began to feel frustrated and fearful that maybe I wasn’t as close to my daughter’s birth as I now urgently needed to be. I began to spin out about how much longer it might take, how I might not be able to weather a much longer journey. Sara asked me to get out of the tub and empty my bladder on the toilet. Thats where I was when I told her I had fears emerging about the uncertainty of my progress. She was there more than two years ago when those very fears were planted. She calmly offered me a vaginal exam. I knew that only an exam would provide the information I was feeling anxious about not having. I knew It would give us information that would help steer my decisions going forward. I told her I wanted her to do it, and was ultimately fearful that the exam would tell me what I was afraid of hearing, that there was more work ahead than I felt I could complete. The self-doubt was seeping in.

I got back on the bed. It took the full support of Keelan’s body to get me there. An uncomfortable exam presented a small cervical lip that I had been pushing against. Sara offered me options: I could allow her to assist the lip behind the baby’s head, or  I could continue laboring the way I was and try to get rest between contractions. I told her I couldn’t do it anymore. I tried to give up my power. I tried to quit. I feared the intensity and its relentless need to surge through my body, over and over again, for an unknown amount of time. What had begun to dismantle my strength and determination was just that, fear. It was disguised as fear of sensation when in fact, it was an old fear that was re-emerging: fear that all of my hard work to that point had been done in vain. I was afraid that my progress would stall, like it had in my labor with Greer, and that I would continue to contract for an unknown amount of time. I was afraid that I was no where close to holding my baby. It was self-doubt and even self-pity, and I hated the taste of it in my mouth as I spoke.

Sara said something like, “I need to talk to Lenny, alone”. Roxy, Keelan, and Nathalie left. Sara presented my options to me again, calmly, while I moved around on my bed, contracting on hands and knees and collapsing back down again for the very short breaks between. I wanted an out. I knew that the only out would be an epidural; a car ride, and the hospital, and ultimately, a total surrender of control to the outcome of my child’s birth. Sara continued to be direct and clear with me: I was very close to pushing my baby out. She told me “Listen, I don’t bargain with women, I never have, but I’m about to for the first time”.

Her monk-like ability to simply allowing things to unfold gave way to a forthrightness that spoke directly to the whimpering part of me that had recently arrived. She told me that she knew I could do it, and that I was so close. She told me that I must “re-frame the sensations” that I was experiencing, within my own mind. She said that she knew it was very hard to do, but that I absolutely had to do it. She told me that with one more uncomfortable exam she could push my cervical lip over my baby’s head easily, and that together, we could work through some guided pushing. She told me I could do it, that she could help me, and that I could have the birth I wanted, soon. 

I mustered what I needed to muster. I don’t know how else to describe it. I winced through the exam, and with one electrifying move, the lip was gone. Sara told me she wanted to have me sit on the toilet for a little while. She used her head lamp to observe what was happening to my bottom through the next few contractions. Keelan and Roxy were now in the bathroom with us. The dialogue I was having within myself shifted after out little talk, and at the onset of every contraction, I began to tell myself “I’m going to do this”. With each contraction I brought effort to my pushing, but wasn’t really feeling like it was accomplishing much. Sara told me to feel inside myself for my baby’s head. I felt it. “It’s right there”, she assured me. I asked why it was so soft. She smiled and shrugged. 

It was right there. Just inside. A little piece of a much larger head, just inside of an impossibly small opening. There is a small window to the left of the toilet, where I was sitting, and it was open. All of a sudden, I noticed that it was a really warm, sunny spring day. Just on the other side of that little window. I heard birds singing and my neighbor’s children playing. I came back to focus on my body, in that bathroom, and exactly what needed to occur, physiologically, in order for my baby to be born. It seemed completely impossible for a moment, and then I realized that my anatomy would make way for my baby, but not without my making it so. It wasn’t going to happen to me, I had to do it. 

I knew that I could, and I decided that I would. The nature of my pushing shifted as Sara put a finger in the posterior edge of my vaginal opening. “Push HERE”, she told me a few times. “Push DOWN, into your butt”. I felt the shift, and all of a sudden I knew what the ‘right kind’ of pushing felt like. At the beginning of every contraction I told myself, “I’m going to do this”, and each push took every ounce of strength within my body. My eyes had to close to access it.

I felt the muscles in my upper legs, and back begin to be exhausted with the effort. I felt my bottom opening. I heard myself roaring out! This was not the passive ‘oozing out’ kind of birth that Michelle Odant has written about. This was birth by absolute determination and force of strength. This was birth by iron will and it demanded effort from me that could not be brought at any degree below maximum. It was tempting to bring less, but I knew that I was the one who had to bring this baby out, all the way out, and that she would not be delivered without my full effort, every single time.

I could hear Sara’s calm encouragement that yes, that was it, I was doing it just right. It was empowering to know exactly what I had to do. That power gave me the strength to do it, to keep doing it, and to yell and curse the need to keep doing it. The large muscles of my legs began to give out and I needed to move off the toilet. Sara suggested assisted deep squats through some pushing, and I hung from Keelan’s neck as I bent down low from the knees and pushed. Then I moved onto the wooden birthing stool, where I contracted and pushed until the muscles of my body could no longer hold me up. 

Sara had my team lay me down so that every ounce of energy could go into the work that would bring my baby out. Work that I was now doing independently and determinately. I could not be stopped from doing it, and I no longer needed anyone to tell me how to do it, or that I could. The fearful, discouraged version of myself that bad been clawing at the edges for relief and support, had slunk off. Lying on the bathroom floor, I re-found my focus with every contraction. I closed my eyes and pushed with a power that I summoned from outside of myself. So many contractions passed that way, and still there was no baby in my arms. In a brief moment of pause, as I caught my breath, I said something like, “Sara! Get her out!” 

She calmly told me she was drawing up lidocaine, in case I wanted her to give me an episiotomy. In her own way, she had let me know there was an alternate option, and that was all I needed to hear. With the next few contractions I screamed out as I pushed with my eyes closed tight, and I focused on the sensations I felt as I brought my baby’s head all the way out. I pushed again, blind and dumb to the world outside my body, and I felt her entire body forced out of mine, wet and soft, and then gone. 

All at once she was on my chest. My big, healthy, beautiful, gentle girl. Quiet but definitely full of life. So peaceful. And there, on the bathroom floor, our family was complete. Keelan was sitting right behind my head. He had been my physical anchor as I roared her out with force. I had been fighting a battle, and he had been my willing support. Then, in an instant, he was my tender-hearted, loving partner, and we were all-at-once a unit. Together in the same victory. A family that we had dreamed-up and brought into being, right there on the bathroom floor.  

Delaney had spent almost the entire third trimester in a posterior position. Despite my best efforts for months, that is how she stayed. I assumed she would turn in labor, but it wasn’t until after she was out that Sara told me she had been born posterior. Before I moved from the bathroom floor, my doula, Roxy told me that only 5% of posterior babies ended up being born posterior; the other 95% turn into a better position during labor. It was validating to know that there was a clear, physiological reason that my pushing had required such intense effort. And I wondered, of those 5% posterior presenting babies, how many were born vaginally, and how many still at home, unmedicated.

Once I felt ready, I pushed out my placenta. Sara suggested we move me to my bed, and only then did I realize that there was no reason for me to be lying on the bathroom floor. It took every hand in the room to get me, my baby, and my placenta-in-a-bowl, to my bedroom. Once I was in my bed, with chucks pads under my bottom, and peanut butter toast in my hand, I was floating with an euphoric sense pride and gratitude. I had overcome self-doubt, and journeyed through the greatest accomplishment of my life. And there I was, on the other side of a birth I had dreamed into reality, with my chunky baby in my arms. 

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Birth Matters – Baby Eli’s Birth Story

As a mother, parent educator and behavior specialist, I’m constantly amazed by the lessons our children teach us, if we’re open to learning. The lessons start even before their entrance into this world. My second son, Eli, continuously teaches me: surrender and joy. God knew exactly what I needed when I didn’t even know to ask for it.

His birth story, starts ten days prior to his arrival. I had 10 days of prodromal labor, which emotionally wore me out. I’d have contractions for a few hours and then they would stop. I walked for hours (HOURS!) with steady contractions, only to have them stop as soon as I stopped moving. 

On August 31st, 5 days after my due date, two weeks after my baby’s “expected” arrival, I surrendered. I surrendered to the idea of his “late” arrival, all of my plans evaporated. Baby was in charge and I finally let go. August 31st, 2017 was also my husband’s 30th birthday. 
I was in NO mood to celebrate, but begrudgingly went out for a birthday dinner. By the time we left the restaurant, I was in tears. It was about 7:30 P.M. Service had been horribly slow, so now my toddler was up way past his bedtime, my contractions had slowed to a stop, AGAIN, and my baby would be born in September, when he SHOULD have been born in August, or so I thought. 

As we drove home, I texted my best friend, and she told me to pump when I got home to see if the contractions would come back. I was willing to try anything at this point! 

As I pumped, the contractions REALLY pick-up. So I texted Bonnie: “How long should I do this?” She told me to take a break. Then it got real. The contractions started coming hard and fast. It was about 9:30. 

FINALLY, at about 11:00 PM, we made it to the ER entrance. As the nurse checked me in, and told me I was 7 cm dilated, my husband made a joke and said “If you have the baby in 47 minutes, we’ll share a birthday.” We both laughed, “knowing” Baby would have a September 1st birthday. 
At this point, I was going through transition. I honestly don’t remember much. I remember requesting to get the monitor off my belly so I could get in the bathroom to throw-up and take a shower. Apparently, I yelled. I don’t remember yelling. 

After my “non-yelling” request, I got in the shower. Both nurses and my doc had left to do paperwork, check me in, and assign a nurse. My husband and sister were setting up the room, Bonnie sat with me in the bathroom as I showered. All of a sudden, I started frantically searching for my husband. As he came in and sat down with me, I felt a push. Baby was coming, now. I whispered “He’s coming”. I thank God for Bonnie in this moment, because she turned to my sister (NICU RN, Extraordinaire) to go get Dr. Brown, the baby is coming NOW! She sprinted down the hall. Both nurses and Dr. Brown sprinted into my room. Dr. Brown dove into the shower with one glove on to catch my baby’s head. 

When we retell the story, he recalls meeting my eyes for a split second and seeing terror. I distinctly remember being terrified my baby’s head would hit the ground. But my whole support staff piled into that teeny little bathroom, dove into a shower, and safely guided my son into the world. At 11:57 P.M. He and my husband are birthday buddies. He was born 47 minutes after getting to the hospital, 20 minutes after getting into my room. 

When I look through pictures of the birth, I see my hands covering my face in disbelief. My son shocked me into love. He filled me with so much joy, so fast, it took hours for me to believe that he finally arrived. 
He taught me how to surrender my plans. To trust in my faith. To lean-in when I don’t have answers.

My beautiful, perfect, rainbow baby boy came rushing into this world, disarming every adult in the room, and shocking everyone, and filling each soul with joy. That’s the power of birth. That’s the power of life. And I feel so blessed to have experienced it. 

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Birth Matters – Baby Coralai’s Birth Story

Four weeks ago today I brought my daughter Coralai into this uncertain, but beautiful world. This is her story.

Coralai is my second child. My first, Leland was born 42+3 in June 2018. He was 10lbs 11oz. Had a 15” head, a 20’’ chest and was 22 inches long. He was huge. But beautiful, and so was his birth. This isn’t his story, but their stories seem to intertwine and affect each other. 

My pregnancy with Cora was lovely. I didn’t have large complaints. Other than being huge, really uncomfortable and emotional. Mild nausea, and exhaustion, but nothing unbearable. Due to Leland being so late and large, and eventually needing to be induced with him, my OB and I planned on inducing early with her. 39 weeks. Both my husband and I felt comfortable with this as she was measuring well and we didn’t want for me to have a hard recovery with her. As well as having a toddler at home to chase. 

With Lee’s birth I tore past my two episiotomy incisions, and ended up with fecal and urinary incontinence in postpartum. I had diastasis recti and was left with almost no abdominal strength. He tore through my body, and my body broke him as well. He was born with a broken right arm, and although he healed wonderfully, we didn’t want to relive that if avoidable.

So, on Tuesday the 30th of March we went in to be induced. This time was different in some ways, we weren’t able to have our wonderful doula, who was an amazing support and help with Lee’s birth. It was just my husband and I sorting this journey out on our own, but it ended up being perfect. We were handed masks upon arrival to wear until we got into our room. You could see the extra care the staff was taking to make everything safe. It felt strange knowing no one would visit us in recovery. No one would come to the house after. My heart broke thinking about our families having to wait to meet her. 

Covid-19 changed a lot of things about our prenatal, delivery and postpartum care, but the things that didn’t change were the love, care and support of the medical staff, the ability and strength of my body during labor and the support I felt from my husband and everyone involved. Pregnancy and Delivery during the pandemic has asked me to breathe and surrender the things I can’t control. As staying calm was imperative to my health as well as hers.

After I settled into our room, they gave me a vaginal prostaglandin to help my cervix soften and hopefully efface and dilate. This kicked up some even but mild contractions all night. I worked on my breathing. I stimulated my nipples to kick up harder contractions. I visualized my cervix opening and tried to relax any muscles that tightened. And eventually I was able to fall asleep.

In the morning they checked me again. I was still 1cm, but softer. Today the plan was oral prostaglandin in hopes that I would continue to dilate and efface. 

I spent all day resting, bouncing on my ball, siping beverages, peeing and standing/swaying/rocking. My contractions were consistent but still mild/moderate all day. By evening time I was tired and weary and hungry. I had only been able to have apple juice, broth and water. I was feeling calm, but run down. I wondered how I was going to do another day full of contractions. The pain wasn’t unbearable, it was just endless. 

The nurse staff was wonderful and kept me distracted as best they could. They were all isolating. Some away from their loved ones they usually live with in hopes of keeping them safe. So, I was the only new interaction they had. One nurse and I talked for hours about her life story as I bounced on my ball. How she ended up in our little town from NYC. How she got into nursing/OB how she missed her kids and worried about them. Other nurses talked to me about their gardens or how lonely they were feeling. Or that they were so grateful for their jobs and had something of importance to do. For me these interactions and connections were a huge gift. For my last birth I didn’t have this sweet time of connection with the staff. Everyone was busy. Everyone cared, but everyone had too many things to do. There weren’t enough hours in the day then. Here in this weird time of our lives time seemed to slow. Or at least this was my experience.

When my OB came in that evening to check my cervix and make the next plan, I was only 2 cm dilated. I expressed my concerns of being weary, and my husband expressed concern of me needing food. So our next plan was to get me a good meal, rest, try and keep my spirits up, and in the morning he was certain that I would be dilated enough to rupture my membranes and have the baby. He really wanted to take it as slowly as my body needed too, and not rush the process more than we already were, so that it would be as easy on my body as possible. 

I asked him how he got into obstetrics. And he gave me his whole life story. He spent over an hour talking to me about where he grew up, med school, how he switched fields and fell in love with delivering babies. What this profession cost him as far as relationships. Again, I was so grateful to have this beautiful connection and time spent on a more human level. 

After I ate they started my medicine at 11 pm. And I tried to get some sleep. At 1am I started having trouble sleeping through the contractions and found myself practicing my breathing techniques and massaging my back. I did my best to rest until 3am when my nurse came in to check me again. 3.5 cm but my membranes were bulging. I was so thankful for progress. She gave me my next dose. And about 15-20 minutes later I felt my water start to leak. My contractions were getting harder and closer together. I called the nurse in and she helped me get back onto the ball to get gravity working with me and get some relief on my pelvis. By 3:30 I could feel my body bearing down to help my cervix dilate. My husband sat with me through every contraction and assured me I could do this, when I was going through transition and struggled to know how long I could keep up. We called the doctor at around 4 am. My Doctor checked me again and I was 6 cm! He offered to help me dilate the rest of the way and I was relieved to have some help. I know that not every woman would want this type of help and assistance, but for me it was so appreciated. On my next contraction he asked me to gently push, and he reached in and simultaneously massaged and stretched my cervix. Having something for my vaginal wall to squeeze against was so relieving. I was able to relax during the last few centimeters of transition. I quickly dilated the rest of the way, they broke down the table and I got ready to push. My two nurses stood on each side of me gently encouraging me as my husband stood at my side holding both my hands so I could channel all my strength. In the most quiet moments of the morning time stood still. When my body moved from transition to pushing I had this beautiful moment of clarity. I felt the deepest feeling of gratitude. For my daughter. For my body. For my husband and his support throughout our entire relationship, this pregnancy, and delivery. For my nurses and doctor, and the kindness and care they were showering me with. As quickly as that moment came, it moved on and I moved all my energy down. I reached deeply into myself and pushed until my daughter’s ears peeked out. My doctor encouraged me to touch her head and that helped me muster more energy. Knowing I was so close to the end helped me not resist so much. Once again leaning into surrender. As my perineum slowly stretched I gave another push and her head came through. Another few pushes and her body slipped into this world. 4:45am. Welcome my little one. Time sped up again as the buzz of caring for Coralai surrounded me and my body relaxed with its’ job well done. My doctor gently handed her to me and I cried as I met her on the outside for the first time. The heaviness of her body against mine is something I hope I never forget. Her dark hair and tiny fingers. There are so many little things in first those moments that make all that work and effort worth every second of pregnancy and labor. Relief and gratitude overwhelmed and surrounded me as we welcomed Coralai Iris into our family. Forever changed.

It’s easy to become fearful and overwhelmed in these times. We are allowed to be concerned. But, also allowing myself the freedom and peace to walk through this. To lean into acceptance and surrender, and allowing the process to unfold instead of allowing fear to take over, changed my experience. I was able to have joy, peace and gratitude for the time, the process and all involved. It would’ve been easy to focus on the things that weren’t able to be, but shifting my perspective changed my whole experience. And as I sit here writing this, rocking my sweet daughter to sleep, I feel the shift in my mind, and I am forever grateful. Forever changed. 

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Birth Matters: Baby Jack’s Birth Story

My first baby, Oliver, was born at 37 weeks exactly. He surprised us all and decided to make his grand entrance 3 weeks before his anticipated “due date.” It was a beautiful (but long) completely natural labor, only 20 minutes of pushing, and truly went 100% to my birth plan. I give endless credit of this outcome to my rockstar birthing team of my husband, Hunter, my incredible midwife, Kathy, and the world’s best doula, Bonnie, who also happens to be my sister <3 But it is important to say that I too am a rockstar and worked really hard to push that boy out! He was stubborn, but I was too 🙂

When we found out that (SURPRISE… But also YAY!) I was pregnant again, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I needed this same birthing team by my side again to help me achieve another beautiful, natural birth. 

I started getting anxious once I reached week 37, since that was the furthest I made it in my first pregnancy. But it was the middle of July in South Florida, record breakingly hot, and I just had such a feeling that this second baby was going to make me wait it out and endure those 100 degree temperatures through 40+ weeks. 

It was also around 36 or 37 weeks that I started experiencing pretty intense Braxton Hicks contractions. They would leave me breathless in the middle of meetings at work. By the end of each day, my body was completely exhausted and I was taking epsom salt baths every night just to relieve my body of the tension. So I really didn’t think much of it when, at 38 weeks along, Bonnie was sitting next to me at church one morning, gently nudged my arm and whispered “Are you having a contraction right now?” as she could physically see my belly tightening up.

We went on with the rest of the day as usual, doing our normal Sunday afternoon chores to prepare for the work-week ahead. We were walking through Target to pick up a few last minute baby supplies when I told Hunter I had been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions pretty much all day, and joked about what if they were actual labor contractions this whole time and I had no idea. He laughed and said “You would be the person to have a baby at Target.”

Once dinnertime rolled around, the contractions were still coming and they were now happening regularly on a pattern. I called Bonnie, who answered the phone by saying “Are you in labor?!” instead of hello. I told her what had been happening and we agreed that I would continue to monitor and time them, but would go to bed to get as much rest as possible in case this was true labor. The contractions continued throughout the night, and I rested in 15-20 minute increments between  them. 

Around 9am on Monday morning, the intensity and duration of each one had picked up, signaling true labor, and Bonnie arrived at my house to get the party started 😉 My goal with this pregnancy was to spend as much of my labor at home as possible, so I could be free to eat, drink and move around as needed. I joked with Bonnie the whole pregnancy, saying my goal was to “walk into the hospital pushing.” Boy, did I have no idea how true that would be 😀

Once Bonnie got to my house, labor progressed pretty quickly. She worked her magic and guided me through each contraction with her calming, encouraging words and affirmations. I was able to breathe and sway my way through each one in a manner that I never would have been able to accomplish without her by my side. Around noon, the contractions had gotten much more powerful and became increasingly difficult to breathe through. One particular wave came on very strong. Right in the middle of it, as I let out a pretty audible groan, I felt (and heard!) a pop and just like that, my water broke in the way you see in movies and TV… a big burst all over my bedroom floor. As soon as the wave passed, Bonnie quickly and calmly called for my husband to come upstairs. Once he got to our bedroom, she looked at him with wide eyes and said “We gotta go!” 

We gathered all of our bags and started to make our way down the stairs. Halfway down, another contraction started, and the pressure in my pelvis was much stronger than any before. I stopped in my tracks, looked straight into Bonnie’s eyes and said “I’m pretty sure I feel a head.” We rushed out to the car and at 12:30pm, off we went.

During the birth of my first son, my body did this crazy and frustrating thing where my labor and contractions slowed down exponentially if I sat or laid down. Labor only progressed if I was standing, so stand I did for all 18 hours until he was born. We blamed it on Oliver, saying he was stubborn. Turns out, it wasn’t just Oliver. It happened this second time as well and that would turn out to be one of our greatest blessings. During the 25 minute drive to the hospital, I only experienced 3 or 4 much less intense contractions, due to the fact that I was sitting down. Had my body contracted normally during this time, our sweet little babe probably would have been born in the front seat of our SUV on the side of I-95.

We arrived at the hospital just shy of 1pm and there was nobody, I mean NOBODY, in the ER to admit us. Bonnie did everything short of jump over the counter herself before finally finding an extremely mellow, very slow-moving man who she gracefully (but with passion) urged to get us up to labor and delivery ASAP. Once we got up there, my midwife was already waiting with a delivery room ready. They pushed me into the delivery room at 1:01, she checked me and said “Get up on that bed, it’s time to push!” I delivered my first son squatting at the foot of the bed (due to the whole standing-only labor thing) and Kathy was quick to inform the nurses on this day that I would likely not be laying down to push this baby out either.

Hunter ran into the delivery room after parking the car, all of our bags hanging on his arms, as I climbed up on the bed onto my hands and knees. Kathy greeted him as he ran in, “Hi Hunter, glad you made it! We’re pushing!” He dropped the bags and ran right over to my side. 

Two very productive pushes later, at 1:10pm, we met our perfect boy Jack for the very first time. 

A wave of emotions instantly took over… From the moment my water broke, everything happened so quickly. But I did it! I was able to labor and deliver my boy just the way I had envisioned, and it could not have been more perfect. Bonnie and I walked into the hospital pushing, just as we had joked about the whole time! I’ve truly never felt more empowered as a woman than I did in that moment.

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Birth Matters – Baby Isla’s Birth Story

Dear Chonky little smiley baby, 

Hi! It’s me, Mommy. Your birth story is as glorious as the hair on your head. I started my morning off by losing some vision (fun!) Naturally I made your brother lunch and put him down for his nap before both (yes both, bless them) of your Grandmother’s drove me to my eye surgeons office. ‘Mommy has an eye surgeon’ you ask? Yes honey, Mommy is what you call “accident prone” and had major eye surgery in her early twenties. I digress. The good news is my vision was fine, it was probably just an optical migraine (not as cool as it sounds) but after mentioning that I was confusing a few words, my midwife Kathy (Hi Kathy!) sent me to the closest hospital.

We arrived.

My water broke.

I signed myself out.

The Grandmother Express then drove me to the hospital I wanted to have you in. I was cool, calm, collected, large and very much in charge. We waltzed into the hospital only to realize that my speech was delayed and I was saying the wrong words. Eek! Did I talk so much in my lifetime that I used all the words up? Most likely. At this point the Grandma’s are scared, the nurses are too, and quite frankly, so was I. At this point I started feeling my contractions for the first time, just in time for Kathy (cue angel music) to arrive. My head started pounding, the light sensitivity was a big deal and my lunch was gone. (Yes, I filled up a Publix bag of vomit in the car ride over after stopping at CVS for some crackers and coconut water). She very calmly explained that a lot of people would be coming into the room to game plan my birth. She asked me if I was ready and I said “bring it” or at least I thought it. A team of smart people stormed in and agreed that I should have a CT scan to rule out stroke and a bunch of other tests to rule out blood clots. Yikes baby lady, what a whirlwind. But that’s when Daddy and our wonderful doula Bonnie (Hi Bonnie!) came rushing in.

I was safe.

You were safe.

I turned my brain off with the comfort of their presence and got to work on tuning deeper into you (Hi baby!) At this point my headache was front and center so Bonnie tied a scarf around my head with ice and (literally) kept my head from falling off during contractions. Your Daddy thought this was hilarious, mostly because it was and partly because I was also wearing sunglasses but he didn’t tell me this until weeks later. Daddy is smart and we like him. The contractions then gave my headache a run for it’s hilarious money. A talking robot guy arrived (I’m not making this up, they brought in a specialist from God knows where and we FaceTimed him while I was in active labor). I very nicely asked him to stop speaking multiple times (Bonnie was on it and helped me focus again. Also, I wasn’t that nice). I proudly declared that I was done now and wanted an epidural, something that you often hear from Mamas right before they deliver. That is of course when the team came to take me for my CT scan and baby girl would you believe that every single person in that room stopped the rushing and looked at me for the ok to move forward? It was such an empowering moment that is deeply embedded in why I had such a positive birth even though it was far from what I envisioned. That gave me the strength and courage to hop off the bed and jump right into the wheelchair.

We RAN, yes RAN down the hall at full speed stopping a thousand times for Bonnie and Daddy to hold me up and do hip compressions. We made it all the way down to the ER and terrified everyone there. Mommy was in full animal beast mode with the audio to boot. That’s when I started pushing. “Oh, don’t do that” I hear Kathy gently whisper. It was with full amazement that I shook my head no at her because I had no control over it. The gentleman operating the CT scan opened the door to me animal grunting in his doorway and promptly closed it again.

In an instant, a patient with a bunch of bandages on his head was wheeled out without his scan, (Hi sir, yes what you saw was real) and I was laid down on the machine. Daddy was still standing next to me and had to be dragged behind the wall to avoid unnecessary radiation. This is where I stayed completely still during a full blown, top of the line contraction. Bonnie later told me that I was moving my big toes around in a little circle. The scan looked great!

We made it back up to my room by some miracle and that’s when Kathy asked me to get out of the wheelchair and back onto the bed. “No thank you” I heard myself say, I decided I was having you right there. Kathy told me to get on the bed and when I was about to decline the offer, a contraction made me jump up.

I delivered you on all fours. I was so relieved that it was almost over and I made it without any pain meds (I threw up the two Tylenol I had taken for my headache in the car). It was exciting to push and Daddy got to catch you!

Welcome to the world, Isla.

As soon as you were born all of my symptoms disappeared! Poof! All of this happened in less than 6 hours.

You are incredible baby lady and so incredibly loved. Thank you for choosing me as your Mama and for “already giving Mommy a headache before you were even born” according to Daddy and his Dad jokes.

I love you forever, Mommy

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Birth Matters – Baby Eli’s Birth Story

I connected with Bonnie and Coastal Doulas after a very undesirable birth experience with my first son. We were led to believe an induction was our only option, which resulted in a long stressful labor, the baby aspirating his meconium, and an 11 day NICU stay. When we found out we were expecting for the second time, my husband and I knew we wanted to do as much as we physically could to ensure this labor and delivery would be completely different. We changed our health care provider, we hired Bonnie as our doula, and we continued to educate ourselves on what we were unhappy with and wanted to be different this time around.

It’s no secret; there’s only so much you can control when it comes to having a baby. Overall, I had a wonderful 9 months of pregnancy. Different kinds of challenges presented their self this time with having to care for our other son, but they were minimal and easily addressed. Based on my expected due date of April 3, we would end up having a newborn and a 20 month old! The infamous “2 under 2”. In trying to be proactive and acknowledging the difficulty we knew would come once bringing baby home, we made sure to plan to have hands on deck for at least the first month to two months once baby arrived. This was one thing we thought we could control but was to be robbed from us in the weeks to come.

One of the issues I encountered with my first pregnancy was lack of dilation. Of course, every pregnancy is different, but I wanted to do all things possible to help my body “progress quicker” in the last few weeks. Once it was approved by my midwife, I started a religious daily regime of red raspberry leaf tea, birthing ball stretching, primrose capsules, and eating lots and lots of organic dates. By my 36 week internal check I had more dilation then I did when I arrived for my induction at almost 41 weeks last time. I was so motivated and proud. Things were happening just as we hoped.

For the entire month of March, the seriousness of the Covid-19 virus grew and grew. The newness of the disease really left so much uncertainty for everyone, especially pregnant women. What if I am Asymptomatic? Can I pass this to my unborn baby? Will this affect my breastfeeding? Are hospitals safe to go to? There were no definite answers, but so many questions. I tried to shift away from the unknowns, stay positive and keep focusing on things in my control. The last few weeks of my pregnancy was literally when everything was at its worst and cases and DEATHS were peaking. We were notified of the changes that were going to be happening to limit people and potential exposure/contamination. Some included patients only at weekly appointments, hospital labor support being limited to one person (and some hospitals none), wearing a mask was highly recommended, society was required to quarantine and social distance, everyday life as we knew it was shutdown. I started feeling the joy and excitement of having a new baby being replaced with all undesirable emotions. To deal with this on your best day is petrifying, but to add these stresses to the life of someone about to give birth was simply nerve wracking.

When I thought about the big picture of what I really was about to be faced with, it was extremely overwhelming. One of the main things I really was hoping for this time around was to go into a natural labor. When and if this would happen gave me a ton of anxiety, but at least it was welcomed anxiety being something I was expecting. Day by day the visions I had for this labor and delivery started slipping away and were replaced with new rules and restrictions. Flights were now cancelled and the support I THOUGHT I would be coming home to was gone. My husband being my choice for day of labor support meant Bonnie was gone. There would be no meeting of the siblings in the hospital, (or any visitors for that matter) and no newborn photography. Things that may seem trivial, but things we were really looking forward, not having them our first time either because of his NICU stay were now again gone.

Never in a million years did I think when my water broke and I went to grab the last few things for my hospital bag that I’d be packing face masks and rubber gloves too. Despite what felt like the world crumbling around me, the actual 12.5 hours from when my water broke to when I was holding my sweet baby was absolutely perfect. My body showed me that it could do what I did not know it was capable of, and I couldn’t be more grateful and proud. We had a beautiful birth, it was calm and safe and everything I hoped for that was missed my first time.

Though Bonnie wasn’t physically present during the birth of Eli, she couldn’t have been there for me more during the entire process. We kept in communication the entire day via text (starting at 2 am when my water broke.) She continually offered words of encouragement for myself and my husband, she sent visual aids for when it was time to push, empowering birth affirmations to remind myself how strong I was, and options to FaceTime at any point. This was clearly not the experience we had dreamed of, but I still felt incredibly supported that day and throughout my entire pregnancy.

We are still faced with this pandemic after having Baby Eli home for over one month now. We are still quarantined and still managing all that comes with that, in addition to having a newborn AND a 20 month old. Eli has yet to meet 99% of our family and friends, and it’s so tough to realize we won’t get these days back to share with them. Overall being able to birth Eli the way we hoped, and to have him healthy and home with us right now is most important. We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but we are certain that we are blessed with a perfect little boy AND the “completely different” birth experience we hoped for we TRULY got!

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Birth Matters – Baby Zoe’s Birth Story

10 months ago if you would have tried to describe the crazy circumstances surrounding the birth of my daughter, I would have thought you were describing an outrageous movie plot. 

Covid-19 turned my world upside and threw all my control freak birth plans out. 

There are many things that you don’t think of or plan for that happens when you give birth during a pandemic:

•My plans to have my sister fly into town from Ohio to be at my birth goes out the window. 

•My hopes to have my mom also fly in right after she was born to help me transition from one kid to two were quickly gone. Well, and to make me food. Let’s be honest, I want my mom’s cooking too. 

•My 5 yr old, Zander, didn’t get to come to the hospital, like he planned, to meet his new little sister that he prayed for for months. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to see him for days as he stayed home with a friend who made sure she was quarantined for 14 days before my due date. 

•There would be no plans for people to come ooo and ah over our perfect bundle of sweetness or bring meals to help out after we got home. 

• Things that I typically get when I’m having a baby like diapers, wipes, pads, and hand sanitizer are suddenly hard to find!

However, one of the toughest things for me was that my incredible (that’s putting it mildly, y’all!) doula, Bonnie, didn’t get to be in the delivery room with me as I accomplished my goal of a successful VBAC. 

Because I so desperately wanted Bonnie helping me through my labor, my equally amazing midwife, Kathy, completely supported me to labor as long as possible at home the morning my water broke. Kathy even invited me to come into her office and labor there so she could check me throughout the afternoon. Now, that’s what I call a support team!

If someone was recording my 36 hours of labor, it probably looks like a 90s music video, the amount of random places that I labored that day. We delayed going to the hospital as long as we could so Bonnie could walk me through the grueling hours of labor and in the process made a few people slightly uncomfortable watching a woman clearly laboring in the very public great outdoors! 

I labored at home, in my midwife’s office and building, walking up and down Flagler along the intracoastal, in the empty West Palm Beach outlet mall parking lot (because #BJsTakeout!), and in the middle of downtown West Palm Beach on Clematis! 

Once we finally decided it was time to head to the hospital, I had to say a really tough goodbye to my doula and make sure my mind was ready for this next phase without her support. She reminded me I could do this and that she was just a phone call or FaceTime away. 

We drove up to the entrance of the hospital and it looked like a sci-fi movie. There were tents set up outside, hospital workers with masks and thermometers, and security guards making sure we knew once we were in, there was no coming back out — for ANYTHING. 

As we answered copious amounts of questions about coughing, proximity to Covid positive people and any travels overseas or up North, no one seemed to be in a rush to get me inside as I squatted and tried to breathe through the contractions that were still coming strong. 

Once we were finally inside, we settled into the labor room and I was hooked up to monitors and given Pitocin to move labor along a little faster. By this time my body was exhausted and my mind couldn’t keep up. Without my doula and the worry of a possible c-section if I didn’t progress fast enough, I opted for an epidural so I could try to relax and see if I would move past the 4 cm I was stuck at since earlier that afternoon. Clearly my daughter was intent on waiting out this virus and staying in there. #stubborn

After the epidural things moved quickly and a little after 5am on Friday, March 27th, I was able to push my 7lb 2oz baby girl, Zoë Danika, into the world. I did it! I achieved my goal of a successful VBAC (in the middle of a global pandemic, no less!)! 

The 36hrs of “labor ‘round the world”, Pitocin, and epidural were not part of my birth plan but the end result was totally worth! 

Since I had Zoë Fri morning, I thought I was going to be able to head home and be reunited with my son by early Sunday morning for the latest. I was ready to hit the road! We noticed nurses seemed a more cautious about getting too up close and that the Lactation consultants weren’t “hands on” or close up as as I was used to with my first. Results of a covid-minded workforce, I’m sure. 

But on Saturday morning it all turned when a hospital pediatrician decided that Zoë needed to get antibiotics in the NICU since my water was broken for almost 24hrs and he was afraid of an infection due to one “off” lab result. He told us if we left and she had an infection she’d die before we could get her to a hospital. The validity of his prediction has since been disputed but his over abundance of caution threw us head first into the wringer of crazy that hospitals are right now. I was devastated to not be heading home. 

That afternoon, we made the hard decision that my husband would head home without us to be with our son. This meant I’d be alone since he couldn’t come back into the hospital until it was time for us to go home. I also called my midwife asking if she could delay discharging me as long as possible so I could stay and nurse Zoë during the night without restrictions. Due to Covid hospital rules, if I was discharged I could only visit Zoë in the NICU during the day and would have to leave her for more than 12 hrs at night. Thankfully, I was able to stay as a patient until Sunday and then they discharged me into “Hospitality”.  This means I would no longer be a patient but could stay in my hospital room so I could walk back and forth every two hours at night to feed my daughter in the NICU. Sounds like a great plan, right? WRONG. The movie plot quickly changed to a nightmare. 

The Covid rules don’t take into account that now that I wasn’t a patient, I couldn’t be administered meds, had no dedicated nurse, and no support person with me. It also meant that I couldn’t leave to buy myself meds, to get my breastfeeding body food or have either delivered or brought to me. I couldn’t leave the maternity floor or I wouldn’t be able to return to my daughter. I had no one there to help with Zoë, with my pain, or my postpartum anxiety and hormones. 

The icing on the Covid-19 cake came that night when my milk came in like a wrecking ball after my meds wore off.  I was a wreck! I was walking back and forth to the NICU and the maternity floor snack room was off limits due to covid restrictions. Anytime I needed ice or water it required me to walk to the nurses station to find a nurse willing to help me. Prayers were the only thing that got me through that night of horror. By Monday morning my emotional, mental, and physical state was fragile. Lack of sleep, food, and support had me reeling, sore, and hangry! 

Thankfully an amazing NICU nurse, Cindi, made the cafe bring me a breastfeeding tray so I could finally eat and a lactation consultant hero went down to the out-patient pharmacy and got me ibuprofen! 

I am forever grateful to these two amazing women for looking past the temporary rules and seeing me as a postpartum mom in desperate need of an advocate and help. I am also grateful for technology. FaceTime, phone calls, and texts kept me sane and connected in a time when I felt completely alone and isolated. 

Thank God on Monday afternoon, after almost 5 days on my crazy real life movie set, I was walked out of Covid-run land with my sweet, healthy baby girl and a greater appreciation for the normalcy and “ease” of giving birth outside of a global pandemic. 

If you find yourself pregnant during a pandemic remember:

You can do hard things.

You can harness the beauty of technology to keep you sane and connected. 

You can labor anywhere the wind takes you and it’s OK if people stare. 

You can hire a doula or have a strong supportive team, even if they can’t all be in the delivery room. 

You can still have a beautiful birth story because the beauty is what you get to take home with you at the end of it all. 

Stay healthy, mamas and please — be kind to one another. 

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Birth Matters – Baby Azlynn’s Birth Story

Where do I begin? I feel like a birth story could really begin anywhere. Conception, or as you become educated, finding your birth team, but for sure before labor starts. Each birth story is unique and powerful. Each story has a purpose and is full of strength and determination.

 I have two girls who have completely different birth stories! There is no common trait.

 Raelynn was born on 12/08/2017. We induced on the sixth and they took her by emergency c-section on the eighth. I went into labor completely uneducated, without a birth team, and felt we really allowed the doctor to suggest and make all the decisions. This ultimately lead me into the surgical room after 30 hours of labor. I felt defeated, hurt, robbed, and sad. I didn’t feel empowered at all, I felt weak. 

I found Coastal Doulas, Bonnie specifically, four weeks after giving birth. She invited me to attend a new moms’ group. There she helped walk me through processing my labor and delivery. She walked me through my feelings, helped me discover strength in what I felt was weakness, and changed the verbiage I used to describe how Raelynn came into this world. I began to feel empowered. 
Fast forward two years, I found out I was pregnant again. I knew immediately I wasn’t having a baby without Bonnie, and I wanted a VBAC. My husband on the other hand, took a little convincing. I began to research the good, the bad, and the ugly of VBACs. I asked Bonnie all the questions in the books. At the time we were extremely unhappy with our previous provider and Bonnie directed me to one that was VBAC friendly. Sam still was not convinced about the VBAC, and for sure had no idea what a doula was and why we needed one. Bonnie took time to come over to our house to explain the ins and outs of what she provided and why she thought I would be a good candidate for a VBAC.

 We took time to process and digest, ultimately moving forward with Costal Doulas, Bonnie, and our new provider. This was the best decision we could have ever made. Bonnie didn’t just start working in labor, but during my entire pregnancy she was by my side. I had her to answer questions, cry with me, laugh with me, and push me to keep going. She talked me through moments of fear and frustration, and encouraged me as I planned out my labor experience. She educated Sam and I so we knew what to expect, to prepare for all the decisions I might have to make throughout the process. 

I walked into labor knowing that no matter what happened we were remaining in control and my goal was to delivery a healthy baby no matter what.

 Azlynn cooked four days past her due date, I was doing all the things to spark labor. Walking, curb walking, bouncing, pumping, sex, tea, and finally the midwives’ brew. I went through false labor, or what I thought was labor, and Bonnie rushed to my house and slept on my couch just to put me back to bed and tell me I was fine. (She’s a saint)

 On my birthday, 2/25, Azlynn was finally ready. I decided I would try the midwives’ brew one more time. I went on a 3.5 mile walk in the morning, rested, then decided to drink the stuff. Nothing happened. I decided to go to Target with a friend and BAM. things began to happen. I had a big bathroom break and contractions, little ones, started flowing.

I kept shopping because Bonnie had prepared me for this – Distract, Ignore, Move on. Keep going with normal life till you can’t anymore.

 Naturally I bought a few things because first, it was my birthday, and second, I knew I was about to have a baby so the likelihood of Sam giving me a hard time about spending money at Target, was very slim! 
When I got home, I ate a little something, and sat on the ball. I began to bounce, rocked my hips forward, and boom, my water breaks. This was the turning point for me! I immediately called Bonnie and felt completely out of control. I was using words like “this hurts worse than ever, they are very bad!” Bonnie quickly redirected me “Your contractions are strong, intense, powerful. You can doing this. Stay focused, rest, and have Sam update me.”

About five minutes after getting off the phone with Bonnie I knew I was no longer in distraction mode. Things had shifted and I was in labor, this was it, here we go. 

I quickly got into the hot bathtub and had a friend begin to distract me with whatever conversation she could think of. We talked about family, clothes, friends, etc. My two year old came in during this time frame and they tried on shoes together in the bathroom, told me all about her day, and gave me a huge hug and kiss.

About that time, a hour in, I knew Raelynn had to go and I needed to concentrate. Contractions were hard, powerful, strong, and intense. I needed to focus and breathe through them. I stayed in the tub for most of my labor.  When I got out I would sit on the ball and roll my hips. I don’t know how many times but I asked my husband (almost every contraction) when Bonnie was coming. I even tried my best to fake the timing of my contractions because I wanted her there faster, that in the end backfired on me.. Haha, I had misunderstood this one part about when Bonnie needed to come.

About three hours in my contractions had become closer in timing and were way more intense. Bonnie arrived and jumped right in to support us. She suggested different positions to make me more comfortable. Directed Sam in ways he could help me, and gave me the strength to keep going. She changed my mindset, reminded me of my goals, and held me through the pain. She told me to listen to my body, and be one with the baby. That’s what I did. My body told me not to get out of the tub. My body told me that the position I was in was doing work. Bonnie supported that, she made suggestions, but continued to tell me to listen to my body. I was doing so well that I didn’t know how close I was until my body began instinctually wanting to push. 

Sam and I knew we wanted to wait labor at home as long as we possibly could before going to the hospital and this was something we had already discussed with our provider. We understood that when having a VBAC, the hospital can have stricter rules in place. I knew water was my comfort in any pain and the hospital had put that off limits in a VBAC. For that reason and many others, I knew I couldn’t labor there. We knew we would cut it close, we didn’t know it would be this close.  Haha!. 

At that point Bonnie looked at Sam and said “we are going”. Sam ran down stairs and began grabbing the last minute things we needed to put in the car. This is when I was hesitant. I didn’t want to get out of the tub, I didn’t think I had the strength to endure my contractions out of the water or in the car. Bonnie pulled me right out of the tub and didn’t give me a choice. She threw clothes on me, walked me down the stairs, and told me “Do not push, keep breathing.” So naturally….. I pushed. ??

They shoved me in the car and we were off. Sam and Bonnie remained calm, they held me through the car ride, and encouraged me that we would get there and everyone would be safe. We pulled in, they jumped out, and had me get out of the car. Of course, because I’m Jessica, I fought them. “I can’t get out, I think the baby is right there.” Bonnie peeked in the top of my pants and sure enough she could see a tiny bit of hair. The two of them put me in a wheelchair and we were off.

Running into labor and delivery while Bonnie was telling everyone the name of my provider, that I was a VBAC, and that the baby was coming now. We rushed into a room where I was told to lie down on the bed. I refused. I was told multiple times to get on my back and I said, “NO”. Something before this birth I never knew I could say. 

A random doctor rushed in to catch the baby who was in the hallway and had heard I was a VBAC. When he saw my provider’s backup doctor walk in, the random doc stepped back while the other doctor prepared to deliver. Before the backup doctor could get fully ready, the random doc rushed back over to me.

I had climbed onto the table on all fours, took one more push, and pushed that baby out. The doctor literally had to lean in quick to catch her. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot 9:21pm it had been just seven minutes.  Azlynn was born 9:28pm. Surprisingly, none of it felt out of control. Everything had been planned and all of it now felt empowering. In that moment Bonnie gently reminded Sam and I of our options. She guided us through what was important to us so that we were able to advocate for ourselves and for our baby. We had done it.

We celebrated, cried, and soaked in every moment. We had accomplished our goal – a VBAC and a healthy baby girl delivered our way!

** Pictures taken by Alyssa Hurd

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Birth Matters – Baby Merrick’s Birth Story

I became pregnant with my first baby in 2016. I was unbelievably excited to become a mother but also nervous for all the unknowns that came along with that title. I remember vividly saying to my husband at some point in my second trimester that I was so happy to have our baby, but I was scared that now I had to get him out. I continued on with that pregnancy trying to empower myself with knowledge on breastfeeding, newborn care, and so many other things, just trying to pass the time and ease my anxiety over what I couldn’t predict or control. As I approached week 36 I started having daily intermittent contractions that felt a lot more intense than my typical Braxton Hicks and this continued on for a couple of weeks. The day I turned 38 weeks I remember it was mid-afternoon and I was having some pretty painful contractions about every 5-7 minutes or so that would last around 45-50 seconds, so I figured this must be it, the start of my labor, and while I was right, little did I know that my labor would go on for another two days full of emotional ups and downs and frustration that things weren’t progressing ideally. I found out that I was experiencing something called “prodromal labor”, a frustrating, but normal phenomenon where labor starts and stops over and over before full blown active labor begins. By the end of day 2, I now had not slept the night before, mostly because It was a mental game that these contractions were playing on me, but also because I was having all back labor which was very painful. That night I went to an appointment and my midwife swept my membranes which really intensified the pain and things became much more intense over the next 7 hours. At 1:30am we were finally heading to the hospital, both assuming I absolutely must be in full blown labor and far along, but unfortunately my cervix said otherwise, and we spent the next few hours in triage because they would not admit me until I was 4cm. I remember crying so much in triage as Bonnie tried to get me into a better headspace, I just couldn’t believe level of pain I was in with so little cervical progression and was so scared I would be sent home. Luckily, they admitted me at around 4am. By about 8:00am on the 3rd day (38+2), I had not slept in over 50 hours, I was emotionally and physically drained, and after talking with my midwife I made the decision to get an epidural and try to move things along so that I could have to strength to push my baby out. About 2 hours after receiving my epidural I was ready to push. I spent an hour pushing and ended up with some tears and a painful hemorrhoid. Overall, I felt this birth experience was a painful back labor, prodromal labor nightmare, and I was so beyond happy it was over, and my baby was here!

Flash forward 2 years later, I became pregnant with my second son. I was so happy that God blessed our little family once again, but I couldn’t help but have some nerves and fears about my upcoming labor and delivery. So, I prayed and talked through these fears with my doula Bonnie Kelly. We decided about ½ way through the pregnancy that I should start writing out birth affirmations, posting them on my bathroom mirror, and reading them to myself daily. Some of these affirmations included: “You can do ANYTHING for one minute”, “This birth WILL be different”, and “This experience will be beautiful”. Looking back, as I read these affirmations to myself the next 20 weeks or so, although at times my mind wanted to go to a place of fear, it was truly preparing my mind to trust my body and what it was capable of. At 38 weeks I was still very much pregnant and feeling frustrated and almost annoyed that this baby was staying in longer than last time, but I just tried to keep myself busy with my toddler, trust God, trust my body, and trust that my baby knew when it was the best time for him to come into this world.

39+3 was a typical work day for me, I was having tons of uncomfortable contractions sporadically throughout the day, but this was nothing new at this time, so I didn’t think much about it. 9:45 rolled around, I was brushing my teeth for bed and I had a contraction that sent me leaning over my sink and I just KNEW this was it. I told my husband and my doula that I was pretty positive I was in labor but was worried that it might just be prodromal labor like last time so wasn’t sure how to feel.

Bonnie encouraged me to get as much rest as possible, even if my contractions started to get closer together, because every little bit of rest would help me, so that’s exactly what I did. For the next few hours I slept soundly and was awoken about every 15-20 minutes with a back contraction lasting 60-90 seconds. I remembered Bonnie telling me that productive contractions are different than those in prodromal labor because they usually last at least 60 seconds, so I was feeling encouraged by the already subtle differences in my labors which helped my mind to stay in a good place. I took a warm bath, listened to relaxing music, and tried to get some more sleep. My contractions over the next few hours became more and more intense and closer and closer together, but I told my husband to keep sleeping and just tried to manage them with my breathing and rested in between.

At about 4:30am I woke my husband because at this point I felt so shaky and nauseas which I knew was very common in late active labor, and I needed him to time my contractions so that I could tell Bonnie. It was at this point that things progressed very quickly, and my contractions went from 5 minutes apart, to 4, to 3, and BOOM my water broke and my mucous plug followed that! My contractions at this point became unbearable, about 90 seconds apart, and I knew we should head to the hospital to meet Bonnie and my doctor because I was pretty certain I was in transition.

Once I was brought into the labor and delivery room I was checked, found out I was 8+ cm, and I instantly felt this feeling of accomplishment. After my very next contraction I told Bonnie that something was “different,” I was feeling like I had this uncontrollable urge to push while I was contracting and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I remember she whispered something to me like “Amber, just trust your body, allow it to do what it needs to do, breathe, you are doing beautifully”, kind of hard to remember her exact words but they were exactly what I needed to hear.

The doctor came in pretty quickly, checked me, and I was already 10+ and ready to push. Funny how your body totally just knows when it’s time and sends this overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to push before being told. This was the only time in my labor that I was scared, because let’s be honest its painful and I hadn’t pushed a baby out unmedicated in my last birth, but I knew that my body was meant to do this, I was a Rockstar at this point, and I was going to meet my baby soon. I just kept listening to my doula, my doctor, my husband, and more importantly my body and 26 minutes later my beautiful baby boy was on my chest and instantly it was like nothing happened. All the pain melted away and I was on a birth high like I could never imagine.

See, the difference in this birth is that I trusted my body during my entire labor, I could have let the fear of back labor and a horrible long drawn out first labor completely control my mind and create a similar experience, but I made the decision to trust and believe in my body and told myself that all birth is not the same. Honestly, when it was all over I just couldn’t even believe what I had done, I did it, I achieved the birth I always wanted.

I share these two stories to encourage pregnant mamas who may have had a traumatic or difficult first birth, that every single birth is so unbelievably different and if you trust your body and allow your mind to get into that positive headspace, your birth can be so beautiful and so different than the first time.

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Birth Matters – Baby Emily’s Birth Story

This is the story of my second little miracle. I have been blessed with 2 very different birth stories, my first being a very difficult conception, followed by an easy pregnancy and c-section birth. It was wonderful because I got my first baby girl and became a mom. My second baby was completely different, she was shockingly easy conception that we weren’t expecting. We thought we would have to return to the doctors for help conceiving again. Having had a c-section the first time, I wanted to seek out the possibility of having a v-bac. My doctor told me that surgically I would be cleared to have one, but that I wasn’t personally going to be able to handle it. Needless to say, we decided to find another provider to help us have the birth we were hoping for. We went with a homebirth and a midwife. My pregnancy was beautiful, but of course I was fearful about labor and having a homebirth. We elected to work with a doula, which was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Emily’s journey into the world was a long one. It was not a bad one or traumatic, but long. It began late at night on a Friday after my oldest went to bed. I was so excited because she was so overdue…at least that is how it felt.

(11 days after due date) I called my midwife who instructed to me to time the contractions and call her back when they were about 3 minutes a part for an hour. I was too excited to sleep, so I stayed up most of the night timing my contractions, which didn’t quite make the mark to call my midwife back. I did call my doula at like 3 in the morning though and she came over and talked me through some contractions, relaxed the mood in the room with oil diffusers and salt lamps and nice music. She tucked me in and then slept close by on my couch.

The morning came and I did my best to get through the day working through the contractions and living normal life. My husband played with our daughter, while I labored with my doula. By the evening, we hadn’t hit the big work yet so we called the midwives who instructed me to to really try and get some sleep. Once again my doula tucked me in and told me to call her when it was time to work.

I slept, I was excited to sleep! I was able to rest for maybe an hour when the contractions began to get alot stronger. I rested through them as long as I could and then called my doula to come back. She came back and helped me work through the harder contractions in the bath tub, in the shower, on the ball, in so many different positions. She reminded me to breathe and to stay focused through each one. With her words and my husband’s arms I got through them.

Around 3:00 in the morning my midwife came. She checked me and I was 8 centimeters. I was starting to struggle here because I was so so tired. I knew I was getting close because I started feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore. After a couple hours, she checked me again and this time I was 10 centimeters and my water broke. I was told I could listen to my body and start pushing if I wanted to. I wanted to!

We all headed into my bathroom and I pushed in a squat with my husband holding me up. It was the coolest feeling in my life. Feeling my little baby pass out of me, it was surreal! Before I knew it, she was in my midwife’s arms.

She was here, after 59 hours of labor. It was incredible!

I was so happy to have chosen to have a vbac and to have all of the wonderful people around me to bring my second little girl into the world. They handed her to me and I loved being able to snuggle her while her cord stopped pulsing and it meant alot to my husband to be able to cut the cord as it wasn’t something he had been able to do before. I don’t really remember pushing out the afterbirth. It was all just such a wonderful relief. We were now a happy family of 4.