Water Birth

Presley's Birth Story

Presley's Birth Story

Hey friend, its been a while since I’ve written a blog post…I’ve been a little busy! Having a baby mostly and juggling a toddler and newborn (somebody notify me when they create the technology to grow extra arms and hands because I need two more of each!). It’s been a wild ride and our hearts are so full.

I wanted to share our newest little girl’s birth story with you. I don’t do this to brag or be gross or whatever someone might feel about a graphic labor and birth post. I am sharing this story…journey, really…with hopes to bring more awareness to natural childbirth and the home birth experience and just how beautiful and powerful our bodies are. Sure, it’s not for everyone. I get that. But I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to experience two healthy, non-eventful natural births in the comfort of our home.

We chose to have our babies at home because we’ve come to learn a lot about childbirth in the hospital setting and the countless unnecessary interventions that leave so many mothers and babies with really challenging labor and birth experiences. With that being said, I am so damn grateful for modern medicine because if anything did go south at home, we’d have a way to keep me and baby alive and well.

I realize many who’ve experienced a hospital birth may think we’re crazy for having a baby at home, there are so many “what if’s”! Sure, anything can happen, but the fact of the matter is that most of the time there is no need for medical intervention. My midwife, Karen Baker who has been practicing midwifery since the 1982, keeps tight tabs on all this. Her transfer rate is 10% and 90% of the women who are transferred to the hospital are exhausted laborers and are ready for rest with an epidural. Life threatening situations are actually pretty rare.

I also wanted to share this journey because when I was pregnant and learning about labor and birth and wondering how my own story would go, I clung to these types of birth stories. The ones that were fast and un-eventful. Or the ones where the woman never wavered in her ability to do it. To bring that baby earth side with all her own umph. I hope that in sharing my journey, I can encourage some soon-to-be mamas as well.

Let’s dig in…

It’s hard to even know how to begin. I’ve been sharing Presley’s birth journey for the past few weeks (more like 6 because that’s how long it’s taken me to finish writing this up!) and every time I go through the details I am just in awe of the miracle of labor and birth (not to mention that whole “creating a human from scratch” thing...it’s truly is a miracle). More than anything, I am really grateful that I was inspired to learn about natural childbirth, what is actually happening within a woman’s body (and with baby) during this time and just how powerful God created our female bodies. The respect I have for my body and other birthing women because of this knowledge, is huge. Our bodies are capable of incredible things.

This was my second full-term pregnancy and in the weeks leading up to my due date I found myself wondering how this delivery would be different from Elle’s (read her full birth story here). My labor with Elle was so quick, just about 4 hours from start to finish, so would this one be quicker? That was the thought, but what if it was longer? Would it be harder? Would I have a totally different experience?

As I read through the first few paragraphs in Elle’s birth story post, I am just now realizing that these two birth stories are actually pretty similar to one another in terms of the technical stuff, but the actual experience, my mental state, who I am today as a woman and mom...all so different.

In a beautiful kind of way.

So my body started with the “pre-work” about 3 weeks before I went into labor. I had light period cramps, more so in the evenings, off and on during this time. I also had A LOT of Braxton Hicks.  I would get so excited because I knew that any work that my body did ahead of time was less work it had to do on game day. Sign me up for the pre-labor...I’m all about it and welcomed every sensation I had.

My body felt pretty good overall besides the normal discomfort in just the sheer size of my belly and lack of space within (bedtime was my least favorite time of day...sleeping while pregnant just sucks). I was so ready to have this baby, any little crampy feeling made me think, “maybe today’s the day!” but I continued to wait it out.

Monday morning (a day past my due date), I went and got a chiropractic adjustment with Dr. Nate who specializes in all things pregnancy and baby, hung out with Elle and relaxed most of the day. I had a few loose stools which got me excited because I had this with Elle just before I went into labor. I decided to get in bed a little earlier than usual Monday evening–maybe my body knew it was getting close to show time and I needed the extra rest. Matt decided to add some water to the birth pool to get the ball rolling since we knew it could happen at any time. Come to find out, Matt didn’t get into bed until like 1pm...poor guy…

Around 2:30am on Tuesday morning, I woke up to pee and when I got back in bed and settled down, I noticed I felt some really light period-like cramps, but this time they were starting and stopping about every 5-10 minutes. Once I felt 2 or 3 coming and going consistently, I downloaded a contraction tracker app so I could see what was actually happening. They continued to come so I got out of bed to pee again and this time I turned the light on in the bathroom so I was able to see I had some “bloody show” when I wiped.

I posted this on my Instagram before it all went down…guess I was right!

I posted this on my Instagram before it all went down…guess I was right!

I immediately knew it was going down. I text my best friend Anna who immediately responded since she’d been sleeping with her phone on next to her for this very reason (her hubby is also a physician so he was on call for us juuuuuust in case the midwives couldn’t make it in time)! At 2:52am I wrote, “Timing some very early contractions now. About a minute in duration, mild, about 7-8 minutes apart. Diarrhea now.”

I called my mom just after 3am since the “cramps” were beginning to increase a bit in intensity. I remember that by the end of our 10 minute conversation I was having to stop and sway through the contraction, but could still talk and wasn’t too uncomfortable.

By 3:15am, the contractions were 2-4 minutes apart and lasting 45 or 50 seconds, but were still mild in intensity. Since my labor with Elle was less than 4 hours, we figured this one would probably go quick so at this point I texted our midwife, Karen, just to let her know what was going on.

Her response, “How do you feel about me coming over now?”

That’s when you know it’s business time!

At 3:30am I text Karen again to let her know that my previous 8 contractions were under 5 minutes apart and the last 5 contractions were 2 minutes apart and increasing in intensity, but still moderate.

My mom arrived around 4am to listen for Elle and to help me and the midwives. I didn’t have anyone but Matt and the midwife team at my L+B with Elle so honestly I was a little nervous.

L+B is such a deeply personal experience, incredibly intimate in my opinion and you need to feel 100% comfortable with your surroundings in order to decrease stress and optimize those labor hormones. I know this isn’t the case for everyone (hello crazy hospital birth experiences!), but with a home birth, you’re able to control your environment and who enters it 100%. My mom and I talked about it beforehand and I shared some things that would help me emotionally with her being there (everyone’s got baggage, this was a good time to let it out!) and I’m so grateful my mom was able to experience Presley’s L+B with us! I’m pretty sure it blew her mind.

Karen arrived around 4:30am, listened to baby’s heart rate and checked on how I was doing. At this point, I asked Matt to put pressure on my low back during a few contractions to help ease some of the discomfort I was feeling. This was totally different than with Elle because I never wanted to be touched during her labor–touch made the pain worse for me.

I continued to labor in our room, swaying my hips constantly during and in between contractions. This movement was so natural for me, I couldn’t stop. It’s like my little birth dance and I did the same thing during Elle’s L+B. For a while I labored on my hands and knees as my legs felt a little weak during more intense contractions.

Presley's Birth Story

When a contraction would start, I’d take a big deep breath and in my head say the quote from the wood sign in my Elle’s room, “I am the daughter of a king who is not moved by the world for my God is with me and goes before me. I do not fear because I am His.” This gave me so much comfort and confidence. What a powerful truth to embody during labor.

At this point, Matt and my mom we’re hustling around, working on getting warm water in the birth pool and Karen was unloading all her equipment. I could hear little conversations, some laughter and hustle happening in our main living area in between contractions. I finally...a little frustrated if I’m being honest...asked Matt to leave the pool prep to the midwives and my mom and come into the room with me. He had been popping in and out, but I needed his touch and comfort at this point.

The contractions intensified significantly around 4:45ish (like from moderate to strong consistently...I’d say active labor started around 4am-ish) and by 5am I knew I was already in transition. I had a few lengthy, intense contractions, my legs were shaky like I could barely hold myself up and I had these little burps coming up. I knew exactly what was going on by all the different things happening and I asked Karen if she thought I was in transition. Karen said that most likely I was.

This was so encouraging because I knew that transition is the final phase of the first stage of labor and when your cervix dilates from about 7 to 10cm. That meant baby would be here soon.

At 5:15am, the birth pool was ready in the living room and I slowly made my way out of our room and into the pool. As I approached the pool I was overwhelmed with emotion and just started balling. I remember saying something like, “I don’t know why I’m crying, I just feel so emotional.” I believe this was part of the transition symptoms and Karen agreed.

Presley's Birth Story

Once I was in the pool my contractions spaced out significantly and this messed with my head. My only other experience with labor was with Elle and that I can now say was “fast and furious”. It was intense and I had few breaks from when it started to when I pushed her out less than 4 hours later (my first child, might I remind you). I couldn’t help but compare. Maybe I wasn’t as far along as I thought? Maybe that wasn’t transition that I was experiencing?

I know the power of the mind, but between contractions, my thoughts sounded a bit like this, “ugh, I am so freaking over this. I just cannot wait for this to be over.” Honestly, I don’t think it was because of the pain because at this point, I actually said to the midwives, “This is seriously not that bad.” I was just over it. I kept reminding myself that this was most likely the last time I’d ever experience this and that I’d be holding my little angel soon enough. This helped push me forward.

This was a new feeling for me...the mental struggle. I actually asked Karen a few times after contractions if she should check me and of course she kept saying, “Of course, if you want me to you just need to at least lean back a bit” and I kept saying, “OK, after this next contraction” and it just never happened. The thought of getting on my back during labor...I just can’t. I honestly cannot imagine having to be on my back for any of my labor...that is just not a natural position for me during labor.

With my first labor, Karen never checked me as all the signs were clear that I was in transition and then ready to push. There’s no need to check when your body is showing you the natural symptoms of the different phases of labor (and as speedy as I was going through them).

At one point she checked me while I was on my hands and knees and the head was pretty far down and getting close.

There was also some comedy. I remember seeing on the bottom of the birth pool a warning that said, “NO DIVING” and I said out loud to everyone something like, “you guys, there is absolutely no diving in this pool!” Everyone had a good laugh.

The contractions definitely intensified as I got closer to the end and I was quite literally roaring my way through them. I was beginning to feel a bit of a bear down sensation, like my body wanted to push a bit and this was so encouraging. This gave me a new sense of UMPH because I knew that I would be meeting my little angel soon enough!

At this point I remember thinking during some of the longer breaks (literally I think there were some 5 minute breaks between contractions!), “I just want to be with Elle. I just want to hold her and snuggle her.” Probably because the thought of being with her was comforting to me.

Right around this point I said to my midwives, “This is the first time I have ever had the thought, ‘F#&$ it, give me an epidural’! Excuse my language.” They both laughed and said, “I think that’s a good sign!” It’s like they’ve heard this same thing from hundreds of moms as they were pushed to the edge RIGHT before baby emerged.

The intense sensation to push came around 6:15am or so and I believe I had one contraction where I really began to push and at the next I pushed with everything in me. I pushed her head out and about 18 seconds later I pushed her body out. I was SO ready to get this little stinker out that I just kept pushing until she was in my arms!

This part was so incredibly intense and the pain is what pushed me to just get her out…I couldn’t handle it, even after I birthed her head. With Elle, I had a huge break between contractions after I pushed her head out and I just don’t remember it being like this.

Presley's Birth Story

The second midwife Katie (who was a student midwife at Elle’s birth...it was so special to have her gentle presence again) took a video of me as I pushed her head and body out and the sweet meeting between mommy and baby. I literally cry every time I watch it and as I type this now.

There is just nothing NOTHING like meeting your baby for the first time. The little human that I grew from scratch within my womb. The sweet presence that was kicking and poking and rolling in my tummy the last 40 weeks. It is truly the greatest gift to hold and kiss and snuggle this precious little life and a little taste of Jesus’ love for us.

I just held her and cried and spoke gently to her. Oh that moment. I will forever cherish this meeting.

Presley's Birth Story

Water babies are quiet when they come earthside. They don’t cry immediately as their bodies are adjusting to the air. I don’t believe Presley had her first cry until a minute or two after I pulled her from the water. Karen did gently rub her back at one point to stimulate her a bit, but she fussed and cried out just like she was supposed to.

She had SO MUCH vernix on her which is funny since she was full term. I rubbed some of it into my chest and arms. Vernix is like magical baby juice.

I sat in the pool for a little while and just enjoyed my baby girl. She latched on to nurse about 15 or 20 minutes after delivery and man was she a natural! It still amazes me how they know exactly what to do without any prompting or anything!

Presley's Birth Story

I delivered the placenta about 20 minutes after Presley and at this point we all got ready for the shuffle to our room so I could get in bed and relax. Elle woke up right about 7am and made her way into our room to meet her sissy. We video’d the meeting and it was so so sweet.

The midwives did their thing checking me, measuring and assessing baby, etc. I was able to shower and get back in bed all comfy and ready to rest. This is one of my favorite parts of the home birth experience–it’s quiet, calm, and we get to celebrate this new life in the comfort of our own home. This is so special.

Elle meeting her sissy for the first time!

Elle meeting her sissy for the first time!

Elle cutting Presley’s cord with daddy. We do delayed cord clamping to allow our babies to get the last bit of nourishment from the placenta, I believe this was close to an hour after birth.

Elle cutting Presley’s cord with daddy. We do delayed cord clamping to allow our babies to get the last bit of nourishment from the placenta, I believe this was close to an hour after birth.

Katie assessing and measuring Presley.

Katie assessing and measuring Presley.

Weighing her sweet little body.

Weighing her sweet little body.

Elle getting a placenta anatomy lesson from midwife Katie. Elle still talks about this!

Elle getting a placenta anatomy lesson from midwife Katie. Elle still talks about this!

My beautiful mama with her second granddaughter!

My beautiful mama with her second granddaughter!

I attribute my focus on nourishing my body and mind to how my body has responded to the demands of childbirth. How my skin stretched to house two beautiful little babies without a single stretch mark (yes, my mom had stretch marks with me so rule out heredity here). How my hormones settled back to normal after birth without any postpartum depression or baby blues. How my body has nourished my babies to help them grow and flourish. All my (and our…the hubs had a hand in this too!) hard work paid off and allowed us to bring two strong, healthy little lives into this world.

It’s not luck my friend. It took great focus and effort and every single bit of it was worth it as it will carry my girls into adulthood with good health.

Wow. Another successful birth at home. What an incredible gift. I can hardly express how grateful I am for this experience. For my husband and my mama. For my midwives Karen and Katie. It was challenging, raw, overwhelming and yet the most powerful and beautiful experience of my life. Times two.

A photo Karen snapped during her 24-hour post-birth visit. Just a mommy falling in love.

A photo Karen snapped during her 24-hour post-birth visit. Just a mommy falling in love.

4 Ways I'm Mentally Preparing for Home Birth #2

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We are now just days away from meeting our new little girl...it’s hard to even wrap my head around this fact! I recently posted on Instagram how I’ve been working on “getting my mind right” for this upcoming home birth and I got a lot of questions about what that means and how I’m doing it.

I learned in my first home birth and the months leading up to it that mindset and emotional health are huge when it comes to how your labor will go. This conversation about the emotional and mental side of labor kept coming up every time I talked to one of my doula friends, within books I was reading to prepare and with my midwife.

+Side note–of course there are things that aren’t within our control that can make labor go way differently than we expect, but I’m not talking about that kind of stuff. We can never predict those situations and everyone’s labor and birth are so different...and actually, mindset can definitely help in those more challenging situations as well.

During my pregnancy with my first daughter, I had months of time to focus on getting my mind right, in fact that was a big piece of my preparation before our first home birth. I understood early on in my pregnancy, once we made the decision to have baby at home, that I needed to protect and prepare my mindset because it had the potential to greatly impact the course of my labor.

I read multiple books, spent a lot of time talking to experienced birth workers who could offer positivity to my L+B mindset, practiced “healing codes” (from the book The Healing Code), did affirmations, made affirmations to post at my birth, prayed and more. I never allowed myself to begin to worry about what my experience would be like and I really had nothing to go off of, no previous experience, just what I allowed in from others.

I do recall one time when I was late in my third trimester, I looked at my belly in the bathroom mirror before bed and had that “oh $#!*” moment where I thought, “this big baby only has one way out and it’s a very narrow path!” (omg this makes me laugh just thinking about it!!), but I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. I just reminded myself that my body was made to birth and I’d think about it when the time came.

My labor was very fast with Elle, less than 4 hours total. It was amazingly intense with few breaks since my body had to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. The one thing that sticks out to me the most when I think about my mindset during my labor was that as I felt another surge (aka contraction, but most of us have a negative association with this word because or TV, movies, etc.) coming on, I took a deep breath and allowed that sensation to happen without fighting it or pushing back in any way. I did this with every surge.

I do remember there were moments where I felt a little overwhelmed knowing what was coming, but I still fought the urge to push against what needed to happen to get my baby into my arms.

That’s what I had to remember––that every surge and all the intensity of it, was bringing me one step closer to meeting our girl and I didn’t want to get in the way of that. I honestly believe that my ability to fearlessly let go and allow my body to do what it was made to and needed to do was a big piece of the length and ease of my labor and birth.

If you missed it, here is Elle’s entire birth story.

This time around, there are so many distractions within motherhood that is wasn’t until 35 weeks or so when work lightened up and life almost forcefully slowed in my final weeks of pregnancy that I have been able to put some focus on this area. I’ve realized that this time around, probably because I know what’s about to go down, I have had more fears and anxieties creep in surrounding labor.

Questions like, “will it be faster or longer than my first experience?” or “will complications come up that make labor harder?” or “will my mental struggle with having two kids come into play and prolong my labor?” (#onlychildproblems) have been floating around lately.

These are just a few things that have kept me up at night, but the fears that can creep in your mind around birth are endless. But pointless. I think the best way to overcome all of these questions is to be open to this little girl’s birth story and be willing to accept it completely...before it even begins.

Some of you reading may be coming from a very challenging, even traumatic first birth experience so I can only imagine the internal struggles you may be facing. This is even more reason to work on your mental game before labor begins.

In order to help create a healthy mindset and an openness to my upcoming birth experience, I have been working on a few things and I wanted to share in hopes of encouraging you as you near labor and birth (or send this along to a woman who is). There is a lot of negativity surrounding birth, albeit because of how we’re going about it in our medical world these days, and I’d really love to be a part of the positive change.

Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

Period. This book was the book that changed it all for me. Even as a holistic practitioner, I never truly understood the physiology behind childbirth and how our bodies were so perfectly made for it as well as how we complicate it with modern technology. This book was very empowering and it all just clicked for me here. It’s not an anti-hospital book or anything like that however, it does compares the midwifery model to the techno-medical model of birth and it is incredibly eye opening.

Just a little side note–I want you to understand that I am not anti-hospital birth nor do I judge any woman for their choices. It is a deeply personal decision where one decides to labor and birth. I am incredibly grateful for modern medicine and its ability to save lives when needed, but I do believe it creates a lot of unnecessary fear in pregnant and laboring women, among other things.

Affirmations

Anything that we repeat to ourselves out loud or in our head is an affirmation, so we can be affirming negative beliefs or ideas or positive ones. It’s really important that we are aware of our thoughts surrounding labor–are they positive or fear-based? If you have major fears or anxieties about labor or life with baby, I’d encourage you to work with a midwife, doula or a therapist to work out these heavy emotions.

Take some time to search for positive affirmations relating to pregnancy, labor and birth and choose a few that really speak to you. Write them down in a journal, on sticky notes, post them at your desk or wherever you’ll be reminded of them. Say them out loud or in your head often throughout the day. You can also use these during labor which is a great way to encourage your body to open up and relax into its God-given baby makin’ talents! With my first home birth, I hung birth affirmations that I had laminated next to our birth pool so that I’d see them while I was in labor (I printed them from Etsy, here are a bunch of great options).

Prayer

The most powerful weapon against the enemy...the one I believe plants many of the negative thoughts, disbelief and fear in our hearts and minds. Prayer is the communication path that connects us to our Savior–the one who writes your story, who already knows exactly how your labor is going to go and prepares your heart for the journey. I have learned over the years to captivate the negative thoughts, emotions and feelings and commit them to prayer. I’m surely not great at it, but recognizing the need for HIS intervention is key.

There is also just something about challenging situations and prayer...it’s the one thing that brings me the most comfort when I’m unsure, scared, overwhelmed, etc. I guess you can compare it to getting a big hug from your mommy when you’re not feeling well or are scared as a child. Such a powerful thing.

Avoiding conversations with others who may create negative emotions

This is a big one. People love to tell you about their experiences with childbirth and I find this can be incredibly harmful and toxic for creating an open and positive mindset. It’s rare that you hear a positive birth story...at least that’s been my experience. Unfortunately, so many women have traumatic and challenging birth stories and are not always aware of what those stories can do to a pregnant woman’s mind, especially if it’s your first baby!

Guard your heart and mind and look for more positive birth stories, like those in the beginning of  Ina May’s book I mentioned above. This isn’t to pretend like labor and birth is never challenging, because oh heavens it is, but hearing the journey of a mother who overcame hardship, who had a speedy and uncomplicated labor or the like, is really encouraging and empowering when you’re preparing for your own journey.

I’ll most definitely keep you updated on baby #2 and our journey together! Stay tuned! Aaaah!

I’d love to know–how have you worked to prepare your mind for labor and birth? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear!


Xo

Justine