Two months ago today, I got called into a birth. A birth that I thought would be a normal, “easy” birth. I knew Jenny from some of the birth circles she attended. She decided to hire me as her doula, based on a mutual friend’s recommendation. Jenny and Chris were expecting their third child. They had decided not to find out the sex of the baby, but knew the baby’s name would be Shae, whether it was a boy or girl. They had two very normal, healthy births with their first two. Their first birth of their son, Owen, was a hospital birth. Their second with their daughter, Norah, was a birth center birth. There was no red flags, absolutely nothing to signify that this birth would be any different. Anything but perfect. Jenny had a low risk pregnancy. She was birthing a birth center. By all accounts, this should have been a beautiful, flawless birth. As a doula, I’ve always known in the back of my mind that things can happen. Birth is unpredictable. Things can go wrong, but that was the farthest thing from my mind when going into Jenny’s birth. Little did I know that the birth of Chris and Jenny’s third child would forever change me. That the precious baby inside of her would forever altar my life, and change the way I view life, my family, my work, the world. I went into Shae’s birth as one person, and came out forever changed.
I have been hesitant in some ways to post the story of Shae’s birth. I’m a birth advocate. I believe fear hinders birth in so many ways. I believe birth is normal and natural. I never want to scare anyone, but to not share Shae’s story seems wrong. Shae touched the world. She has impacted so many lives. Her life mattered. The loss of Shae was a tragedy that no one could have predicted or prevented. To not acknowledge the part she played in my life and my work and so many others, would not do her justice. So with Chris and Jenny’s permission, I’ve decided to post Shae’s story from my point of view. This is what I experienced the day of Shae’s birth. Jenny and Chris I know have a more tragic, yet beautiful story to share with those they feel led to share with. This is just my version of events.
Birth Center Birth, Chapel Hill, NC
Michelle is a friend of mine, and I’ve known her for a long time. It was an honor to be asked to be at her birth. This was Michelle’s fifth child, and she really wanted to have a natural, unmedicated birth this time. In order to help make that happen she chose to deliver at a birth center in Chapel Hill. She was very excited about having a different experience this time around than she did with her other births.
On Monday, June 8th, at 1:25am, I got a text from Michelle saying she was in labor. She said contractions were about 10 minutes apart, and had been going on since 11:45pm. She said they were getting more intense. She decided she’d jump in the bath to see if they might go away. She said she was feeling most of the pain in her lower back and her butt. Around 2:00am, she noticed the contractions were beginning to get closer together. She asked that I call her so we could discuss a plan. I called her and she explained what was going on. She paused through a contraction while I was on the phone with her. I suggested she call the midwives to see what they recommended. The birth center was almost an hour away, and I felt hesitant to have her wait too long. The midwife felt the same, and she recommended Michelle go ahead and come in. I got ready and headed out to meet Michelle, her husband, Michael, her mom, Angie, and her 7 year old son, Ray at the birth center.
At 2:57am, Michelle texted me to let me know she was on her way and contractions were now 2 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds each, but were not yet extremely painful. I arrived at the birth center around 3:45am. When I got there, Michelle had just been checked about 10 minutes before. She was 5cm dilated, 80% effaced, and the baby was at a -2 station. She was on the bed working through each contraction beautifully. Michael was sitting with Ray, and Michelle’s mom. Michelle was still having a lot of back pain so she got on hands and knees, and I applied heat and counter pressure to her back during each contraction.
Around 4:15am, Michelle decided she’d like to try laboring in the tub for a while. We filled up the tub and she got in. It helped with the intensity of the contractions for a while. She was doing an amazing job, breathing and working through each contraction. Michael sat next to her for a while, holding her hand, and counting for her. It helped Michelle focus when someone would count during a contraction. Then he went back to sit with Ray, and I stayed next to Michelle. I encouraged her and constantly told her that she could and was doing this, and was doing an amazing job at it. Eventually Michelle decided she wanted to get out of the tub.
At 5:46am, Michelle requested to be checked again. She had progressed to 7cm, 90% effaced, and baby was now at a -1 station. Michelle was very tired and just wanted to rest on the bed for a while. While she was resting on the bed her contractions began to space out a lot. The midwife felt it would be best if she got up in order to move things along a little bit faster. They tried to bind her belly the best they could, and she sat on the birth ball for a while. I did a double hip squeeze as Michelle swayed and moaned through each contraction. Around 6:20am, Michelle then asked the midwife if she could break her water. The midwife agreed to do so. Michelle knew this would help move things along a little faster. She got back on the ball for a little while longer, but really preferred laboring in the bed. So she insisted that she get back in the bed.
Michelle was lying on her side in the bed. Michelle’s mom and I were alternating rubbing Michelle’s back and putting pressure on her hips. Michael was lying next to her on the bed. Ray was just watching. Then Michelle was beginning to feel some pressure. At 6:55am the midwife checked her again, and she was 8cm dilated. Michelle immediately felt the urge to push. Angie stood by Michelle’s head and Ray stood next to her so he could see the baby coming out. Michael was still lying on the bed next to Michelle. Michelle pushed through one contraction, and baby Will was born at 7:03am. He was immediately placed on Michelle’s chest. Michelle was so strong and powerful, and rocked her labor. She got the natural birth that she wanted so badly, and she was so beautiful doing it.
*All stories shared with prior permission
The Birth of Theo, Birth Center Birth, Baby+ Co, Cary, NC
Christine was pregnant with her first. She was originally planning on delivering at a hospital, but part way through her pregnancy she decided to transfer care to a new birth center that had just opened up, Baby+ Co, in Cary, NC. Her baby ended up being the very first baby to be born at the new birth center!
On Monday December 15th, 2014 around 6:00pm Christine sent me a text that said, “So…The baby definitely felt lower today and now, it is uncomfortable. Any chance you have a moment to chat?” I gave her a call a few minutes later. We talked about what was going on and how she was feeling. What she described sounded like contractions, but she sounded so calm and relaxed that I didn’t think she was very far along. She hadn’t been timing them yet, so I told her to do that for about an hour and then to let me know how far apart they were. About 30 minutes later she notified me that she had some bloody show and that indicated to me that she was definitely in labor! At this point she said her contractions were about 4 minutes apart, but not overly painful. She still sounded very calm so I told her to rest while she could, to keep me updated, and to call me as soon as she felt like she needed me.
At 9:25pm I received a text saying that they were heading to the birth center. I got my stuff together and headed there, as well. I arrived at the birth center around 10:30pm. Christine was definitely working hard through contractions once I got there. Her husband, Matt, told me that she was already at 9 cm!!! Things were moving a long fast. Clearly baby Theo was very ready to meet his mom and dad! Christine worked through each contraction like a champ. Some she wanted to lean through, some sit through, some lay down. She did an amazing job listening to her body. At one point I mentioned to her that she was going to be meeting her baby soon. She got really excited about that, as she repeated to me, “Meet that baby soon”. He was her motivation. She couldn’t wait to see his adorable face. After a little while the midwife, Luanne, checked Christine’s cervix again. She was 10 cm, 100% effaced, but the baby was still very high, a -2 station. Christine wanted to know what she could do to help baby move down. Luanne said that Christine could continue to work through contractions, and that he would move down or that she could break her water, and that may help to speed things along. Christine decided to have her water broken.
Within just a few minutes of Luanne breaking Christine’s water, she really felt the urge to push. Christine instinctively got off the bed and onto all fours on the floor to start pushing. One of the other midwives there, Jualeah, grabbed a stool for Christine to lean on and put knee pads under her knees in order to be more comfortable. I sat next to Christine on one side, Matt was on the other, and Jualeah was in front of her. We were all encouraging her. She was doing so amazing. She was listening to her body and doing exactly what she needed to do. She pushed for about 30 minutes, and then Luanne caught the baby. He cried, and Christine said, “That’s a beautiful sound”. Luanne handed him straight to Christine. We helped her walk to the bed, and she just couldn’t stop talking about how adorable Theo was. She was so in love with her sweet boy! Christine was an absolute rock star, and had such a beautiful, peaceful birth. Her husband was an incredible source of support, and the team of midwives at the birth center did an amazing job respecting the birth environment and all of Christine’s wishes.
*All birth stories shared with prior permission from client
"When I asked my husband if he would recommend getting a doula to other expectant families, he said “without a doubt.” When I asked him “why?” he said that having Anna there made him more confident about the decisions that we were making during our daughter’s birth. It was good to have another, more experienced person there, on your side, helping you to evaluate what the nurses and midwives were telling you. Anna was incredibly positive and professional during our entire experience with her. She shared her opinions and knowledge without making us feel that if we made a different choice, that it would necessarily be the wrong choice. That’s a difficult balance to strike, and Anna does it well.
Anna supported me during contractions with rebozo and with coaching on breathing, as well as helping me to remember other strategies that were available. She encouraged me to use the bath, take walks, and stay with standing or sitting on the birthing ball when that felt right. She was observant and helpful without seeming to intrude. We are very grateful to Anna for partnering with us as we endured an extremely long induction process, and celebrating with us at the final birth of our beautiful daughter. We would recommend Anna to other couples looking for a doula."
~Kirsten and Chris
Kirsten and Chris hired me a few months before their guess date. They had two adopted children, and thought they could never have a biological child. To their surprise it happened! This was their miracle baby. They are such amazing people, and I loved their story. I was so excited to work with them.
Kirsten and Chris changed care providers near the end of pregnancy to a team of midwives who they felt would be more supportive of their birth choices. They wanted to have a natural birth, and avoid any unnecessary interventions. Due to Kirsten’s age and her history of high blood pressure the midwives suggested inducing labor on her due date, if she had not gone on her own before then. Kirsten had a few false alarms in the few weeks before her due date, but things always slowed back down. Kirsten and Chris did a lot of research and were very well informed on the benefits and risks of inducing at 40 weeks. They felt comfortable asking to delay induction for a few days, provided all tests came back showing baby was healthy at the 40 week appointment. At the 40 week appointment all the tests came back showing baby was happy and healthy. Unfortunately, Kirsten’s blood pressure was 150/100. They sent her to the hospital for monitoring and to discuss a possible induction. Kirsten was monitored for a few hours. Her blood pressure remained high. For the health of both Kirsten and the baby they decided to induce.
Around 7:00pm that night they gave Kirsten cytotec. At that time Kirsten’s cervix was 1cm dilated and 70% effaced. They continued giving her a dose of cytotec every three to four hours. Around 4:30am, Kirsten sent me a text to let me know that she was near the end of her third dose, and that her contractions were three minutes apart and one to two minutes long. She was hopeful that maybe her body was taking over on its own. About 6:30am, they administered the fourth dose of cytotec. They also checked Kirsten’s cervix at this time. She had progressed to 2-3 cm and was 80% effaced and baby was still very high. The midwife on call at that time wanted to start pitocin at 10:00am. Kirsten really wanted to avoid pitocin. She asked that I go ahead and come in so that I would be there to discuss different options.
I arrived shortly after 9:00am. Kirsten was sitting on the birth ball when I walked in. She was still having consistent contractions, but they weren’t extremely intense yet. The midwives changed shifts at 7:00am, so there was a new midwife on call. Also the labor and delivery floor suddenly got extremely busy. A lot of women were in labor, and the midwife had her hands full. The nurse came in to let us know what was going on, and to say that it might be a while before the midwife would be able to come in. I suggested at this point that Kirsten and Chris get some snacks before labor really started to pick up. Kirsten was really craving coconut cream pie. Chris ran to the store to pick some things up. He returned with coconut crème pie, crackers, cheese, Gatorade, and some other snacks.
Kirsten and Chris enjoyed some snacks and then decided they’d walk around the hospital for a little while to try to get contractions to pick up. It seemed to do the trick. The more Kirsten walked the more intense things got. Around 11:00am, the midwife came in and checked Kirsten. She was at 3cm and 70%, and baby was at a -2 station. The midwife suggested that instead of starting pitocin that Kirsten remain active, and that maybe later in the day she could try breaking her water in order to move things along. Kirsten continued to stay upright. She’d walk and sway through contractions. She was doing an awesome job, and her contractions really started to intensify and go into a beautiful pattern. She kept at this for several hours, and then the contractions started to slow down again. Kirsten was understandably exhausted at this point. The midwife came in around 7:00pm and did another check. Kirsten was now 4cm dilated. The midwife again suggested breaking her water, but Kirsten and Chris didn’t feel like that was the best thing to do. Instead, Kirsten really wanted to try and get some sleep. Things had slowed down enough that we decided to give it a trial run. I left the room for 30 minutes to see if she could sleep through the contractions. If she could, then we agreed that I would go home so Kirsten could get a good night’s sleep, and return whenever they felt they needed me. Chris laid down next to Kirsten on the hospital bed, and she was able to get into a deep sleep right away. This was such a relief, because I knew she needed the energy to continue handling the labor.
The next morning , around 8:00am, I texted Kirsten to see how things were going and if they were able to get some sleep. She said that they were able to get some good sleep, and that she hadn’t had any big contractions yet that morning. She said that baby was very active, and that she was feeling more energized and positive. She told me who the midwife on call that day was, and said as soon as they had a plan that she would let me know. Around 9:00am, the midwife came in and thought that starting with the cytotec again was a good idea. They gave Kirsten three more doses of cytotec. After the third dose, around 3:00pm, Kirsten felt like her contractions were getting stronger. I was planning on coming by between 5:00 and 6:00 anyway to check in, and Kirsten still felt that would be a good time.
I arrived around 6:00pm that night, and Kirsten’s contractions had definitely picked up. They were much more intense and very consistent. Around 7:00pm, Cheryl came in to check Kirsten’s cervix. She was 5cm dilated, 70% effaced, and baby had come down to a -1 station. All of this was very good news! They had decided that they would start some pitocin around 9:00pm to speed things up a little. Shortly before 9:00, your mom’s contractions really started to pick up. The midwife was okay with holding off on starting the pitocin since things seemed to be progressing on their own. They were getting a little bit harder to handle, so I suggested that she try the bath for a little while to help with the intensity. That seemed to help a lot. We put the diffuser in the bathroom, played some music, and Chris sat next to Kirsten in the bathroom. She was really able to get into a great labor zone during this time. She was handling everything perfectly.
The nurse came in to listen to your baby’s heartbeat and make sure baby was handling labor well. After she did that Kirsten’s contractions began to space out more, and things started to slow down again. Kirsten decided to get out of the bathtub. When she got out and sat on the bed she made the decision that she wanted to go ahead and start the pitocin. The nurse brought the pitocin in. The minute she put the IV in your Kirsten’s arm, her water broke. The pitocin didn’t have a chance to get in her system to work yet. Kirsten’s labor was progressing on its own! They still kept the IV in, but after her water broke things really started to get intense. Kirsten wanted to try to get in the tub again. The nurse didn’t want Kirsten to get in the bathtub, while on the IV, so she promptly told the nurse to take the IV out, because she didn’t need it anymore. The nurse did. Things moved very fast after that. Kirsten was in the tub for a little while. She was handling each contraction beautifully. She did begin to get a little overwhelmed by the intensity at the end, as all women do, but she was able to work through it all perfectly.
Around 1:00am, I noticed she seemed to be grunting and pushing some with each contraction. I asked her if she was feeling the urge to push, and she felt like she might be. I had her get out of the tub and sit on the toilet for a little while. We called the midwife in, and she checked her cervix while Kirsten was sitting and pushing some on the toilet, and she was fully dilated!!! The midwife talked her through several pushes on the toilet. Then she had her move over to the bed. She had her lean on the bead while Kirsten semi squatted next to the bed. This was the perfect position for her. She only pushed for about four contractions in this position, and then Cecily’s head came out. The midwife caught baby and handed her off to Kirsten. She held baby close to her chest while we helped get her on the bed. Both Kirsten and Chris were just so in love with their baby girl, and so excited to finally see her!
Kirsten was an absolute rockstar during the entire labor. She had a lot of difficult decisions to make, but she made so many great choices. She worked hard to make sure to do everything that was best for baby. She’s such a strong woman, and she completely rocked her birth!
***All birth stories shared have received prior permission from client***
**Birth Stories are only shared after obtaining consent from clients
Chapel Hill Hospital Birth
Brookelyn was planning to have a home birth, with a midwife attending. However, as Brookelyn got closer to the end of her pregnancy her blood pressure began to go up. At 38 weeks it had gotten high enough that they felt something needed to be done to ensure mom and baby’s safety. They decided Brookelyn needed to be induced. On September 25th, Brookelyn checked in to the hospital. They gave her cytotec, a cervical ripener, to begin the induction. I checked in with Brookelyn the next day, and she was dilated to 1 cm, 20% effaced, and baby was still very high. Brookelyn was having mild, regular contractions and was working through those. She really wanted to avoid pitocin. That evening they placed a foley bulb in to help Brookelyn dilate even more. It fell out quickly. Brookelyn decided to take an ambien that night in order to get some rest.
A few hours later, around 10:00 pm, I received a text from Brookelyn’s husband, Daniel, saying that Brookelyn’s water had broken. The doctor had done a check, and there was a small gush. He also said that Brookelyn was now 4 cm dilated and 60% effaced. Rose, the birth assistant, had been with Brookelyn for several hours, and was also keeping me up to date on everything. I offered to go ahead and head to the hospital, but Rose told me to wait just a little while longer. She tried to see if she could get Brookelyn to sleep some, but labor was really picking up, and she was unable to. I arrived at the hospital around midnight. At that time Brookelyn had already dilated to 6 cm! She was in the bath working through contractions. Daniel and Rose were in there helping. She was doing great making low moans, and working through each contraction as it came. After a while she felt like the bath was no longer helping. We encouraged her to get out for a little while so that once she got back in, it would become effective again. Brookelyn worked through several contractions on the birth ball. Daniel held her while I applied counter pressure to her back. Daniel and I both made nice low moans with Brookelyn to keep her making the same noises and to help keep her body relaxed. She was doing an incredible job.
After a few contractions on the ball Brookelyn really wanted to get back in the tub. I had her work through two more contractions, and then she got back in the bathtub. The bath provided some relief for a little while. Daniel and I sat next to Brookelyn, held her, and encouraged her. She was working so hard and completely rocking her labor. However, after a little while things got very tiring for her. She had been at it for over 24 hours, and she hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. We had tried every natural pain relief option, and Brookelyn was very worried that she would be too exhausted to push the baby out. She wanted to be able to get some rest before she had to begin pushing. She made the decision to get an epidural. It takes a little while to get everything ready and set up for the epidural. Brookelyn got out of the water and worked through more contractions on the toilet and the ball. She leaned and held on to me or Daniel. She focused and got through each one.
The doctor came in and checked her cervix around 2:30am, before the anesthesiologist came in. She was between 8 and 9 cm. The anesthesiologist came in and administered the epidural. Shortly after, Amanda, the birth photographer, came in. And not long after that Brookelyn’s mother, sister, and brother came up. Nancy, the midwife, also arrived. Everybody was talking and joking around. Rose suggested that everyone, except Daniel, leave so that Brookelyn could get some much needed and deserved rest. We all went downstairs for about an hour, while Brookelyn took a nap. It was just what she needed to gain some energy for pushing. Around 4:30am Brookelyn was completely dilated and ready to push. Brookelyn worked so very hard to push the baby out. We tried several different positions, and finally at 8:07am after more than three and a half hours of pushing Atticus was born. He was occiput posterior (sunny side up). It definitely explained how long Brookelyn had to push to get him out. Brookelyn saw her baby boy, and she was absolutely glowing.
Brookelyn did an amazing job during labor and birth. She made very good decisions. Things did not go as she planned, but she did so many things to make sure her baby had a good start to life. She wanted to avoid inducing labor with pitocin and she did. She labored until almost 9 cm naturally, despite being completely exhausted. She pushed for over three and a half hours to make sure that he was born vaginally. She was a warrior. She was faced with making many tough decisions, and she made all the right ones!
Check out Brookelyn's birth video here.
Raleigh Home Birth
Any birth professional knows that the week of the full moon is often a busy one. September this year was no exception. I had attended Christine’s birth the night of September 8th, and less than a day and a half later I attended Christina’s birth.
Christina was having a planned home birth. She had an extremely fast labor with her first. Due to this (among other reasons) she felt a home birth was the best choice for this baby. Christina had been having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions and had expressed concern that she wouldn’t know the difference between a real contraction and a Braxton hicks contraction come time. Well she did :-)
On Wednesday, September 10th around 10:30am Christina sent me a text to let me know she was having contractions that were 6 to 8 minutes apart and lasting 20 to 30 seconds. She was pretty sure it was go time. I asked Christina if she had called the midwife, Nancy. She said she had contacted her and that Nancy was finishing up at another birth. I got ready and headed to her house.
I arrived at Christina’s house around noon. Her husband, Chris, let me in. Christina was in the living room working through contractions. She was swaying and moaning and doing great. Christina was complaining of having back labor so I applied counter pressure and heat to her back. Her daughter, Emma, was very excited. Chris was trying to keep Emma busy so Christina could focus on her labor. Around 12:30 one of the midwives, Jewel, arrived. At this point Christina was really having to work through her contractions. They were getting much more intense. We had moved to the kitchen. She was leaning on the counter and swaying and squatting through each contraction. Jewel went about setting things up in the kitchen for the birth. Chris put the dogs outside. We turned down some of the lights and closed the curtains to make the room a little more relaxing. Not long after Jewel arrived Christina began to feel the urge to push. She squatted through a few contractions. She then moved to the foam mattress that was set up on the kitchen floor. She had a few more contractions while side lying while Jewel took her vitals.
Around 1:00pm, Nancy arrived. Jewel was letting Nancy know what had been going on so far. Jewel was in the middle of saying that Christina’s water had not broken, when Christina pushed and it broke. Nancy put on her gloves and got on the floor near Christina. Emma was watching everything that was going on very intently. Chris was sitting at Christina’s head and holding her hand. Christina was doing an amazing job staying calm. She was doing an amazing job handling each contraction. During the next two contractions she pushed, and then the baby came out very fast. The baby was “sunny side up” or occiput posterior. It definitely explained all the back labor Christina was having. It was so incredible that she was able to push the baby out so fast, even though she was OP. The baby was immediately placed on Christina’s chest.
Lucy was born at 1:09pm. Christina was an absolute rock star. She was such a beautiful laboring woman. She looked so amazing and powerful during the whole process. Christina, Chris, and Emma were so in love with Lucy from the moment she arrived. Emma just wanted to hold and love on Lucy. She kept calling her, “my baby”. You could tell she was so fascinated by her little sister. Christina just radiated joy and love when she looked at Lucy. Chris couldn’t stop looking at her beautiful face. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to be at Lucy’s birth. Christina rocked it. Her strength and beauty during labor and birth was amazing and empowering, and I have no doubt that one day Lucy will grow up to be just as amazing of a woman!
Hospital Birth | Natural VBAC | Durham, NC
I had the privilege of getting to know Christine and of being at her birth. Christine was attempting a VBAC. She had a very long, difficult birth with her firstborn, and she really wanted a better experience this time around. She made sure to do everything possible to insure that happened, including switching providers to a truly VBAC friendly provider, Women's Health Alliance Midwifery, and taking a really awesome childbirth class. She also hired me to help her through labor and birth.
On the morning of September 8th, Christine sent me a text message to let me know she had been having contractions that were five minutes apart for a few hours, but that weren’t very intense yet. It was raining, so she went with her mom to the mall to walk around in hopes of moving labor along a little faster. After walking around for a while, she went home to rest some. Around 7:00pm, Christine texted me again to let me know that the contractions had intensified and were now 3 to 4 minutes apart. She felt that it was a good time for me to come over.
I arrived at Christine’s house around 8:00. Her husband, Steven, was busy making sure everything was packed and ready to go to the hospital for when the time came. Christine was having to stop and breathe through contractions. She was doing an amazing job getting through them. Steven was being very encouraging. At this point the contractions were about 4 to 5 minutes apart, but definitely getting more intense. I decided to do some counter pressure on Christine’s back to help with the pain. She found this very helpful. In between contractions we just chatted. After about an hour the contractions really started to pick up. They were getting closer to 3 minutes apart, lasting longer, and it was obvious they were becoming much more intense. At this point I suggested to Christine that it might be a good time to call the midwives just to let them know what was going on. I told her we didn’t have to rush there, but to just start kind of thinking about going in the near future. I could tell immediately that she felt anxious about this. So she started explaining to me that she did have a lot of anxiety about going to the hospital too soon. She wanted to be sure that this birth ended in a successful VBAC, not a repeat cesarean. I definitely wanted her to be as comfortable as possible. I didn’t want fear to impede her labor progress. I knew we still had some time so I suggested she try getting in the shower. I thought that maybe this would give her some time to think, process, and prepare for calling the midwives and heading to the hospital. We went upstairs and Steven showed me their daughter’s room and the baby’s room. They had really worked hard on them, and they looked amazing! Steven and I sat and talked while Christine was in the shower.
After Christine got out of the shower she seemed to be feeling a little more confident about going in. We took our time heading downstairs. Steven called the hospital. Leigh Ann, the midwife on call, returned the call. She spoke with Christine and Steven (when Christine was having a contraction). She said to go ahead and come in. We slowly got our things together and headed to the van. Steven drove, and I sat in the back of the van with Christine. Riding in a car while in labor is very uncomfortable. In an attempt to help relieve some of the pain, I put a rice heating pad on Christine’s back. I held her hand and rubbed her shoulder during each contraction. She did incredible in the car. She was definitely in her labor zone, but she did amazing working through each contraction and staying calm.
We arrived at the hospital around 11:00pm. We had to go through the emergency entrance since it was the middle of the night. That made things a little more difficult and time consuming while checking in. Eventually we were walked up to labor and delivery. Christine was breathing, swaying, and leaning or squatting through each contraction. Steven would hold her hand or put his arm around her, while I applied pressure on her back. Leigh Ann came in and checked her cervix. She was 6 cm dilated and baby was at +1 station. The nurse came in and put the wireless heart rate and contraction monitors on Christine to see if baby was handling labor well. He was. The nurse tried to put a hep lock in Christine’s hand. She was having a lot of trouble finding a good vein to put it in. She finally called for another nurse. Christine really wanted to get in to the tub to help with the pain. It was taking a little while for the other nurse to come so Christine went ahead and got in the tub. The other nurse arrived and was able to put the hep lock in while Christine was in the tub. The water helped a lot with the pain. However, it was quite clear that Christine was in transition at this point. She was doing a beautiful job working through each contraction. She looked so strong and powerful while laboring. Steven sat by the tub holding her hand and encouraging her. I applied a cool rag to her head and neck, reminded her to drink, and encouraged her.
After Christine had been laboring in the tub for a little while, she said she felt the need to push. She was hesitant to have the midwife check her cervix again. It hadn’t been very long since she was first checked. She was afraid that if she hadn’t progressed much she would become discouraged. Still she insisted that she really felt like she needed to push. Leigh Ann came in about this time and went ahead and checked her. She was completely dilated! Leigh Ann suggested she push in the tub for a little while. Christine pushed whenever her body felt the urge. After a few pushes her water broke. After a few more pushes Leigh Ann suggested that Christine reach down so she could feel the baby’s head. She did, which helped to motivate her even more. She pushed a little while longer, and then Leigh Ann instructed her to get out of the tub. The midwives at that hospital aren’t allowed to deliver in the tub. Christine got out. We wrapped her in a warm blanket. We made sure the lights were turned down low. Christine squatted on her own through a few contractions. Then Steven sat on the couch and held her body up while she squatted and continued pushing. Leigh Ann, the nurse, and I sat by and cheered her on. Leigh Ann and the nurse were having trouble getting a good read on the baby’s heartbeat while Christine was squatting. So Leigh Ann suggested she move to the bed and push side lying.
Once on the bed side lying they were able to find the baby’s heartbeat again. Steven sat next to Christine’s head and held her. I held up her leg. The baby began to crown. Leigh Ann again told Christine to reach down and feel the baby’s head. She did and it brought a huge smile to her face. She kept pushing, but she was having some trouble getting the head out. Leigh Ann asked the nurse to roll the mirror over. Christine looked in the mirror and saw that the baby’s head was coming out. I think at that point she truly realized she was doing this. She was going to have a VBAC! It was just the motivation she needed. Shortly after, she pushed the baby the rest of the way out.
Ethan was born at 1:30am on September 9th. He was placed on Christine’s chest, and she was beyond excited. Both Christine and Steven were beaming with joy and happiness. I have never seen a more beautiful reaction than the one Christine had. It brought me to tears. At that moment she looked so empowered. She learned her body was capable of something truly amazing, and she was head over heels in love with her precious baby boy. Christine worked so hard to give her son the best start she could, and his birth taught her that she truly could do it! Ethan’s birth is one that will stick with me forever. Christine was one of the most beautiful and powerful birthing mothers I have ever seen.
**Birth stories are only shared after obtaining consent from clients
ThIt's been two years since I was in labor with Lydia. In just a few short hours, she will officially be a two year old. As I go back through thinking about what I was doing two years ago at this time, I'm drawn once again to watch her birth video and read her birth story. As I read through this, I feel there is so many things I would now add as I look back. I thought I'd take this time to add those comments and thoughts in. It's amazing that the story changes some, and you remember more and more as time passes and your view points and knowledge changes. I hope to be able to do this with both my girls birth stories every few years. In blue are the comments and thoughts I have on Lydia's birth two years later.
All of my pregnancy with Lydia flew by. I was pretty miserable the majority of it, but still it felt like I was only pregnant a month or two.
I don't know if this is true. I do remember feeling like it flew by, but at the same time, I also remember vomiting excessively for 20 weeks, so I think the first half of the pregnancy felt endless too.
That is until I hit about 37 weeks. Then time seemed to slow down, and I felt like I was going to be pregnant FOREVER. And EVER and EVER.I had said in the beginning of pregnancy that I thought she’d be here on May 13th or 14th, but at some point in the process I changed my mind. I felt so big that I thought surely this baby would come earlier than that. I had been having braxton hicks contractions from 20 weeks on, but once I hit 38 weeks they really started to intensify. There were several times that I was sure I was in early labor, including twice that the contractions woke me up in the middle of the night. One of those nights was the night before my birthday. I remember waking up and being so uncomfortable, and I thought maybe I'd get a baby for my birthday........no such luck. Each time I got in the bath to see if they would slow down or go away, and they did every time. And I was so disappointed every time. We were planning a home birth, and I really didn’t want to call Nancy (our midwife) if it wasn’t the real thing. Nancy had said she would be completely okay coming out even if it just ended up being a false alarm, but I would have felt bad about it. Thankfully things were able to slow down each time, and I never called until the real thing. I had gone in to labor at 38+5 with Alice, and as we passed that point in Lydia’s pregnancy, I really started getting anxious and impatient. I felt like I was going to be pregnant forever. Lol obviously I wasn’t even at my due date yet, but to me at the time it seemed to be taking forever.Yes, because a day feels like a month at the end of pregnancy. It is known.
On the morning of Tuesday, May 13th Alice and I went on a play date with Amanda (our birth photographer) and her son, Michael. Amanda was headed out of town that Thursday and wouldn’t be back until Monday (my due date). She also had an induction scheduled for Wednesday. She was telling me about her back up photographer and all that. I then asked her, “What if I go into labor today?” I remember saying this, and it just feeling so right. Like I knew inside me that that day was the day, but I didn't dare say it out loud. She told me if I went into labor that day or early the next morning she’d be able to make it to the birth, but if not, her back up would have to be there, unless I could hold off until Monday. I really didn’t want to wait until Monday to have the baby (as if I had a choice in the matter), but I also really didn’t want anyone else taking pictures at my birth besides Amanda. Evidently Lydia felt the same way, because we got home from the play date, I put Alice down for a nap, and then went to the bathroom. And lo and behold I lost my mucous plug and had bloody show. It’s amazing how excited one can get over blood and mucous! Amanda has since become one of my best friends. She's an amazing woman, and Lydia loves her to pieces. Lydia's fairly attached to me, and doesn't go to just anyone. Yet she never hesitates to go to Amanda and immediately cuddle with her. Sometimes I think that maybe she just loved her from the beginning and really didn't want anybody else taking her pictures ;-) Also, I'm not kidding when I say that I was excited about the mucous and blood. I didn't believe it at first, and then I googled pictures of mucous plugs, just to be sure of what I was seeing, despite the fact that I knew what a mucous plug with brown blood looked like. That's how Alice's labor had started. Then I did a happy dance.
I put on my necklace from my blessingway,I also put on mascara and braided my hair. I knew I'd be laboring in the tub and curls plus water are unpredictable. The safe bet was the braid. and I called Tyler and told him to go ahead and come home from work. I figured things would start picking up in a few hours, and I wanted help getting some things done before then. I still didn’t call Nancy or even Amanda, because I was afraid I might still have a few days. In retrospect, this was kind of a jerk move for me, especially since Nancy lived an hour and a half away, and I don't exactly have long labors. I know I always ask my clients to contact me if anything happens just as a heads up. I probably should have done the same for her. After getting my hopes up so many times in the few weeks before, I really didn’t want to do it this time. Once Tyler got home we went to the grocery store and got some dinner. At this point my contractions were very, very mild and about 7 to 8 minutes apart. It was getting close to Alice’s bedtime so we made the decision that we should probably just go ahead and have Alice go to Tyler’s mom’s.I actually very much regret that decision. I wish I had Alice there for the birth or at least given her the option.. Tyler called her. She offered to pick Alice up, but my contractions were so mild at the time that I told Tyler not to worry about it and that he could go drop her off. I also texted Amanda to let her know what was going on. I decided to wait to call Nancy until Tyler came back home. While Tyler was gone I started cleaning the house and preparing our room and bathroom for baby. Tyler was gone for about 45 minutes and things really started to intensify during that time. When he left my contractions were 7 minutes apart, and I could easily walk and talk through them. By the time he got back home around 7:45, they were four minutes apart, and I was definitely having to stop and breath through them. So things were moving fairly fast. At this point I called Nancy. After talking to me (and Tyler when I was having a contraction) and asking a few questions, she said she’d call Rose (Nancy’s assistant) and head on out. Nancy lives about an hour and a half away, so I knew it’d be a little while before she got there. During this time Tyler continued to clean. I was a little OCD about the house being as clean as possible. I was helping in between contractions. Tyler got the bed ready with all it’s 18 million layers and lit all the candles in our bathroom from my blessing way. Poor Tyler was getting so many cleaning instructions from me. I even yelled at him, because I felt he wasn't being supportive enough of my desire to birth in a spotless house. The nesting instinct was REAL. I was trying to hold off on getting into the bath as long as possible. I wanted to stay upright and keep things progressing. Finally the pain and the contractions were strong enough that I really felt like I needed the water for pain relief so I went ahead and got in the bathtub. I actually remember this moment really well. I was standing in the bathroom in front of the sink. I would lean and sway or squat during a contraction. I really was trying to hold off on getting in, but the intensity felt like too much. I remember saying, "I have to get in the tub right now, or I'm not going to be able to handle this."
S Around 9:30, shortly after I got in the tub, Rose showed up. At that point I had Tyler go ahead and let Amanda know that she should head on over. Nancy showed up not long after Rose got there. Someone (I think Rose) had the brilliant idea to turn off the lights and just have the candles in the bathroom. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it, but it really did help me relax. At some point in there, Amanda showed up. At this point I was definitely in my ‘labor zone’. I remember everyone came in and out so quietly. The atmosphere was so peaceful and relaxed. They put a lamp on the floor in our bedroom, so there wouldn't be the harsh overhead light. They not only respected the birth environment. They helped to make it perfect.. Once I was in the water the contractions never felt overly painful. I still had to work through them, but it all felt so manageable. Almost easy. Tyler helped put counter pressure on my back when I needed it and put a cool washcloth and ice pack on my head and neck. The water was very hot, which was great for the pain, but it also made the rest of me hot. They made sure I always had a full glass of cold water and Gatorade next to me. Ha Tyler used a tennis ball (out of my doula bag) to do counter pressure which was great. It's just I only wanted counter pressure during the peak of the contraction, and then after it felt awful. He learned pretty quickly the hand motion I would make when it was time to stop the counter pressure, despite the contraction not being over.
Finally around 11pm, I began feeling the need to push. Amanda went and got Nancy. Nancy checked me, and I was 8 cm. Nancy suggested I get out of the water and change positions and maybe try squatting. Well that sounded like a horrible idea to me. Lol even though I knew it was actually a good idea and something I would suggest to a client. So I compromised and decided to squat in the tub. I really just didn’t want to get out of the water. Seriously, I never wanted to leave the water. I remember asking, "well can I squat in the tub?" Oddly enough after Nancy checked me, and I realized I was already at 8 cm I got a burst of energy. I was even able to talk and smile and laugh in between contractions. I really was so afraid Nancy would check me, and I'd only be 4 cm, and that I'd have forever to go. I looked at Amanda, and said, "Watch me be only four or five centimeters." She confidently looked at me and said, "You're not." I do remember Amanda asking, “Do you think you’ll have this baby on the 13th or the 14th?” I then asked, “what time is it?” She said, “11:15″ and I said, “Alright well let’s make it the 13th then.” Eh I cut it close. Missed the 13th by 14 minutes. My water hadn’t broken yet, and I knew if I could just get that to happen then the baby would come quick. I felt like that was the only thing in the way. I squatted in the tub for a while. I’m not sure exactly how long. Everyone was in there with me during this time, and I just felt so loved and supported. I really did feel so much love, encouragement, support, and respect. My heart still overflows thinking about how amazing my birth team made me feel!
Eventually Nancy asked me how long it had been since I last went to the bathroom.Dammit I know what's coming. Once again something I would ask a client. I reluctantly admitted it had been a while. I knew I had had a lot to drink and really should empty my bladder, and that could possibly help move things along. But that required me to get out of the tub, which I was not looking forward to.I should of just told her I'd pee in the water. Nancy also suggested working through a few contractions on the toilet while I was there. So I got out, peed, and sat on the toilet for a few contractions. This is where things begin to get a little fuzzy. Okay, maybe a lot fuzzy. I’m not real sure on a lot of details during this time. For the first time during the whole labor I really started to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the contractions. I kept wanting my water to break, and I expected it to when I pushed (as it did with Alice), but it just wasn’t happening. We ended up moving to the bed where I was pushing side lying. Tyler got behind me. Funny thing here, I remember when I first laid down side-lying on the bed that someone got behind me. I actually did not realize it was Tyler. I just felt hands on my arms, and they felt so soft. I thought it was Rose or Amanda. I remember thinking, "huh, that's a little strange that they're comfortable basically spooning me, but it's also really sweet that they are that supportive." Truthfully, I'm a cuddler so it was whatever. Once I felt the arm hair though, then I realized it was Tyler. I'm honestly still not sure if his hands really were that soft or if my senses were just off due to labor. . I remember Amanda, Rose, and Nancy all encouraging me. Once again I really felt overwhelmed at this point. For the first time I felt like I couldn’t do this. Also Nancy was trying to rub out/ hold back a small cervical lip I had. Yea, that was not comfortable. It made me want to climb the walls. I just wanted a break, but as is usual at that point in labor my contractions were one on top of another. With Alice when I pushed I felt relieved. Probably because my water broke the first push with her. I preferred pushing to the contractions. It was the opposite with Lydia, and not what I expected. In retrospect, I probably wasn’t on the bed all that long, but it felt like a long time then. I asked Nancy if she could just break my water. She said she could, but she still waited a few contractions before she did. Those few contractions felt like an eternity.
I desperately wanted to get back in the tub. Actually, it was more like, "I'm getting back in the bathtub. I need to be back in the tub." Tyler said, "Well then let's go" and Nancy responds with, "Did you still want me to break your water?" .Nancy broke my water, and then Tyler had to pull me up to get me back into the bathroom.Because moving when fully dilated is near impossible. I felt like I needed to pee so I decided to sit on the toilet before I got in the water. I don’t think I sat on the toilet for 15 seconds before I suddenly felt the baby coming out. I stood up and said, “This baby’s coming now.” I remember saying this, and Nancy saying, "Good" and then turning around rushing in to catch Lydia. I remember standing there unable to form words, but wanting to say, "No, you don't understand. This baby is coming right this second. She's falling out of me, and I'm hanging on for dear life on my husband." Lol they safely caught her. There was no time to get gloves on, and Amanda somehow managed to find and hand Rose towels and still get pictures of her falling out. Seriously, BEST. BIRTH. TEAM. EVER.!Nancy and Rose rushed in, and Lydia all but fell out. I think technically I did push once, but she definitely didn’t waste anytime coming after my water had been broken. They wrapped her in a towel and handed her to me. She was so beautiful. Tyler and I both cried.I honestly didn’t even think to check whether she was a boy or a girl until Nancy asked me, “does this baby have a name?”. I checked then and was so excited to have another little girl. I really was. She was absolutely perfect.And she still makes some of the same serious faces.
Lydia Jeanne was born at 12:14am on Wednesday May 14th. She weighed 8lbs 6oz and was 21 inches long and looks exactly like her Daddy!Still does. After she was born we moved to the bed to cut the cord and deliver the placenta. Tyler is super squeamish about blood and such. He wouldn’t cut the cord (he didn’t with Alice either) so Rose cut it.Rose and I have also become really great friends since Lydia's birth. She's this strong, powerful, incredible woman who is changing the world. She's going to school to be a midwife, and I've already made her agree to catch my next baby. No this is not a pregnancy announcement. I'm just saying if (not when) I was to ever have another baby, I would want her there! Lydia found the breast on her own and latched right on. I was beyond excited about this since Alice and I were never able to have a nursing relationship.Seriously, so amazing to watch and experience. Babies are so smart. They know what they need. Lydia’s been a breastfeeding champ ever since!Still true. Two years and still loves her "bee beets" very much.
I truly could not have asked for a better, more beautiful birth. I have been asked if there’s anything I would have changed, and in retrospect I probably wouldn’t have asked Nancy to break my water. And I would have had Alice there. I would have tried longer and changed positions to try to get it to break on it’s own, but at the time I knew that’s what it would take to get the baby to come. There’s nothing else I would have changed. I was planning on having a water birth, but Lydia had other plans. I’m glad she came out the way she did. It made for some really awesome pictures!Like really, really awesome pictures. Some that I didn't post on the blog, because they're intense, but still beautiful and amazing! Which ironically, are the exact same words I'd use to describe Lydia.
I learned so much through Lydia’s birth. I went into it thinking all the birth I’ve been exposed to and my training as a doula would really help me through the process. And it did. I certainly viewed birth as a natural event and nothing to be feared, and that helped tremendously. But still a lot of my knowledge went right out the window when I was in the labor process. I forgot some of the most simple things I ask clients about. I also forgot to never expect things to go a certain way. No two births are the same. The only time I felt like labor was more than I can handle was when things were not going as I expected. Not going as they did during Alice’s birth (you can read her birth story here). I also was reminded how beautiful it is to see women supporting other women during birth. I’m usually on the giving side of the support (which I absolutely love), but this time I was on the receiving side. And it was truly beautiful! I had the most amazing birth team. I can never thank Nancy, Rose, and Amanda for all that they did. I have never in my life felt more loved and supported than I did during Lydia’s birth. All three of those amazing ladies will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. It truly is not about who is at your birth, but how they make you feel. I feel no such love towards the OB that caught Alice, because he never made me feel safe and supported like Nancy and Rose did. I’m so thankful for my husband and the fact that he is the man that he is. He is so supportive, and I truly could not do it without his help. I’m so glad I was able to have a home birth. It was incredible, and I could never imagine giving birth in a hospital ever again. I felt proud of myself. Proud of my body and all that it was able to do. I felt strong, beautiful, and capable, and that is how every birthing woman should be made to feel! <3
All photos and video by Amanda Ditzel at Raleigh Birth Photography
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