Midwife Melody

Elliana’s Birth Video

Ceci Jane captures memories in a breathtaking way. I cannot say enough about her talent in putting together a masterpiece, and we will treasure the record of these life changing moments forever. <3

Elliana’s Birth from Ceci Jane on Vimeo.

Rejoicing in Hope: A midwife’s personal journey of infertility, pregnancy, and labor PART TWO

Elliana Lily’s Birth Story
“God has answered” (meaning of Elliana)

1I was excited that April was finally was upon us but was thankful that I was not yet anxious for Elliana’s arrival.  Christy made it back in town early, and I was feeling at peace. Much of my birth team was still up in the air as several of them had other babies due around the same time or were in and out of town. I wondered often how it would work out but believed that the people who needed to be there would be. Rose Mary had a client due with her fourth baby around the same time as me and she was 3 hours away. Emotionally I did feel like a part of me was waiting for everyone’s little ducks to fall into place and when someone would give me another reason to wait on them, I found myself a bit annoyed. I made a mental note because I know I’ve done that myself to my poor pregnant mamas.

Monday, April 2nd-  Elliana had been mostly laying on my right side (ROA) during my pregnancy. About a week prior, Dr Kristen had “shaken me up” and we’d done chiropractic work and positional exercises which Elliana had responded to by rotating into an LOA position. After that adjustment I noticed that she was moving back and forth from my right side to posterior to left and back quite a bit. She had seemed “stuck” before so I was delighted that I was finally getting more rotation from her and felt she was maneuvering and settling in preparation for labor. I noticed that she seemed to have settled back on my left side (LOA). I had been watching for mucus as my progesterone levels dropped in preparation for labor and finally noticed a little after being very dry for months.  Since around 20 weeks I’d had Braxton hicks contractions and they continued but were still very irregular. I felt my body was gearing up. After attending around twelve hundred births, there was something so familiar about each new stage, but yet it was still so new and exciting as I experienced it personally for the first time.

Wednesday, April 4th- I woke up feeling emotional and had a good cry (have no idea now what it was about) and spent some time journaling and praying. I had been waiting to feel the need to nest and discovered that drive kicked in at work instead of at home. My preparation at home had mostly been completed weeks before. I scurried around at the birth center finishing up lots of little details that afternoon. In the evening we attended the banquet for our local crisis pregnancy center and I became aware of more frequent contractions. I had to catch my breath through several of them but they weren’t painful. When I timed a few of them I was surprised by their length and frequency but I kept telling myself that if I could still talk through them, then there was no need to get excited. Eat. Rest. Sleep. Embrace those beautiful hormones. I reminded myself again of what I tell my mamas, “Focus on oxytocin-inducing activities – sensual ones (touch, kissing, massage, dancing, love making), things that bring about peace (prayer, singing, music, warm baths, candlelight) and laughter (funny stories/movies, playing games, joyful activities) and don’t be overcome by an adrenaline rush (“IT IS TIME!!!!”). Embrace the contractions as they come but don’t even pay attention to them until you can’t talk through them. In the meantime, make sure you eat and sleep!!”

Rose Mary’s client had birthed earlier that day and she was close by finally. Carla had also just returned from her out of state trip. Even though today was my “official” due date by my early sono, I was determined not to feel anxious about the idea of “being late”. I was perfectly happy and so thankful that I’d made it to 40 weeks. Michael still had a lot of work to finish up so he could take time off after Elliana arrived. He expressed hope that she would wait until after he finished work on Friday. Resting up after work would also be wonderful so even a day or two after that would be fine.

Thursday, April 5 – I was irritable and emotional again in the morning. I continued nesting by working on projects for the birth center. I some point I talked to my dear friend from MN, Lizzy, who was hoping to fly in to be my birth photographer. I told her I believed the baby would be here no later than Sunday sometime but we decided to just play her arrival by ear. Her hubby really wanted her to be home for Easter Sunday, so I decided to line up my back up photographer and book her flight for Monday morning.

I noticed my mucus increasing and around 8pm I began to have contractions again. They were about every 5-10 minutes but after a small amount of wine they finally spaced out around 1am. I had a great night of sleep.

Friday, April 6 – I decided to spend the day relaxing so I would be well rested for labor. I spend much of the morning in bed chilling out. I had contractions throughout the day but they were still painless and not in a pattern.

Around dinnertime, I realized the contractions were about 7-15 minutes apart and then they went to 5-7 minutes apart. We went to dinner at Uncle Julios with Caleb and Lindsey, and I was starving! I ate 3 enchiladas AND a taco. I thought it was kind of odd how hungry I was, and Lindsey commented that maybe I was in early labor and simply stocking up energy stores. After dinner we relaxed on the patio at Central Market and listened to music. The contractions seemed to space again. I had another snack before bed around midnight. I think I continued to have light contractions through the night but I slept through them other than waking up every 1-2 hours to go to the bathroom.

Saturday, April 7 — I woke up hungry again around 6am! I was a bit wired and didn’t feel like I could go back to sleep so I ate some cheese and took a bath and listened to my worship music for several hours. I finally went back to bed and slept off and on. I was crampy and finally had the much anticipated bloody mucus! I had several bowel movements as well. I was pretty sure at this point that I was in early labor. I took my last dose of 5 week preparation formula.

Ceci called me a few hours later and let me know that her client that was due around the same time as me had given birth that morning. I would be able to have the birth video by Ceci that I so desired. I felt a huge relief wash over me.  My check list was complete and my little ducks were now in a row.

The contractions continued about every 4-12 minutes throughout the morning and were low and crampy. It was very important to me to have the love hormones flowing so Michael and I spent intimate time together.

I texted Rose Mary around noon to let her know the contractions were definitely different. I could still talk through my contractions but although I wouldn’t describe them as painful, they almost took my breath away and were more uncomfortable than they’d ever been. They were a powerful, wrapping, tightening sensation and lower and more defined in their starting and ending. They felt just like surges…or waves, just as Ina May describes. I could visualize my uterine muscle pulling my cervix upward and open. It was so cool to finally experience.

I called my mom and chatted with her awhile, and she told me some of her birth stories again. I felt so blessed to be surrounded by women in my life who believed in my body’s ability to give birth and who fed me positive stories rather than negative ones. My mother’s stories gave me confidence as I was reminded of her 8 natural home births. I was also reminded of my two sisters who had also given birth naturally with strength and peace. The Lord had been with them, and He would be with me.

Around 1:30pm I noticed Elliana went posterior again and the contractions spaced out some. I started stressing out and Rose Mary encouraged me let go of any fears and to give them to the Lord. I spent some time with Him and was reminded to rest in His perfect plan.

After doing positional exercises, the contractions picked back up. Rose Mary came over to the house to give me a massage. Despite my efforts, I had sadly not been successful at checking myself so around 8 pm I requested that Rose Mary check to see what position Elliana’s head was in. The contractions were still irregular and seemed to be “hung up”. I had been 2-3 cm and 70% a few days earlier and now I was 3 and 80%. I didn’t expect any significant cervical change- what I most cared about was her position. Sure enough she was back on my right side and posterior (ROP). I did some positional exercises again and then decided to meet Dr Kristen at her office for a late night adjustment.

I was still timing my irregular, but frequent contractions when I arrived at her office. Dr Kristen reminded me how this was not beneficial and encouraged me to quit timing them as she adjusted me. Of course I knew she was right (it wasn’t like I would miss the show!) but it was so hard for me to not to obsessively time them. I hoped that the contractions would either kick in well or they would space and I would be able to sleep. I sent out a text to several people to give them a heads up that I suspected I was in early labor with a posterior baby and asked them to pray.

We got back home and Michael and Rose Mary set up the birth pool. The contractions had spaced out again and we finally got to bed around midnight. Michael and I prayed together, turning the situation over to the Lord befo0re drifting off to sleep.

Sunday, April 8 – Today was Easter Sunday and was actually the original date I’d decided I was due by my suspected conception date!

At 2 am, I woke up to a contraction that I had to moan through. I felt a lot of pressure and went to the bathroom to have a BM. I had more bloody show! I knew sleep was of utmost importance at this point so went right back to bed. These contractions were definitely more intense! I went back to the toilet again and had another BM. I waited and timed a contraction- 9 minutes passed! No need to stay up if they were that far apart. I had a vague sense of awareness that the contractions were continuing as I slept.

At 3 am, I popped out of bed with a very strong contraction and leaned over the bed to moan through it. It woke Michael up and he timed a few. They were every 2-4 minutes and strong. I was feeling a lot of pressure. Rose Mary was sleeping at the birth center so I called her and asked her to come check Elliana’s position again. I was 4cm, 70%, 0 station but unfortunately Elliana was still posterior (ROP) and also slightly asynclitic. We decided to go ahead and have Dr Kristen come to adjust me again. Swaying and rotating my hips felt amazing and I had an incredible sense of energy despite the little sleep I’d had that night.

Rose Mary began to work with me on positional changes. We did the “roll”. The knee/chest position was a challenge because standing and moving through the contractions was my coping method. I had Michael turn on my worship playlist that I’d put together for the labor and Michael was right beside me supporting me in any way he could.

The contractions spaced a little while I did the positional changes (every 2-6 minutes) but they remained intense and over a minute long. I loved being on my hands and knees and my movement was natural and intuitive.

Dr Kristen arrived just after 5am and adjusted me. Elliana seemed to turn back to my left side (LOA) and my contractions picked right back up to every 2-3 minutes and were lasting 60-90 seconds. We still weren’t certain of the position of her head but as the intensity and frequency of the contractions increased, my mood changed from happiness to more serious. I felt free to be vocal as I had let everyone know that I didn’t plan to let their presence hold me back. I sang and danced with Michael as we worked through each contraction. I was full of joy. It was surreal. Could it be true that I would finally meet this little one that had been growing inside me for 9 months?!  Would my longing for a baby all these years finally be fulfilled?! I still couldn’t quite wrap my mind around such an amazing gift.

Around 5:30am I think I asked someone to text Joni and Christy to let them know what was going on.

At 6:00am I had more bloody show and started making really low moaning sounds. Rose Mary was working with me to keep my vocalization productive. I threw up and then decided I wanted to spend time in the shower. At this point it felt like things were moving along well. I requested that Joni and Christy go ahead and come. The rest of the birth team was also given an update and were told they could come when they desired. A text was sent out to our prayer team and I was amazed to find out that others had me on their mind and a couple of them had even woken up praying for me in the wee hours of the morning! What a precious reminder this was of God’s presence and care for me.

The lights were dimmed and the music was turned off as I tried to rest. Michael stayed right beside me. He stroked my hair, which I find very relaxing, as he whispered prayers and words of encouragement to me. I found myself frequently jumping up to empty my bladder. During a trip to the dark bathroom, I broke down as I verbalized fear of my body’s ability to give birth. My hormones had clearly been out of balance- it had taken so long to get pregnant and then I had to stay on progesterone during almost my entire pregnancy. Sweet Rose Mary immediately began petitioning the Lord to surround me with angels of protection and that Satan would be overcome – asking that all doubts and fears and lies from him would leave. She asked that I would be able to claim promises of God to never leave me as she reminded me that in spite of Elliana’s changing positions, labor was progressing beautifully. I felt encouraged as I wiped the tears away. The Lord had given this baby to us, and He would carry me through this journey.

I leaned on Michael as we swayed and danced together through the contractions. I moaned through most of the contractions but was able to sing through a few. I verbalized, “ooopppen!” as I moaned. Sometimes I leaned over the bed. In between I talked, sang, and sipped fluids. At one point I talked about my cervix melting away like a buttery turtleneck which got some laughs. The birth tub was being filled with warm water and by 8:00 Joni and Christy had arrived along with the backup photographer and videographer. I slipped into the warm water but after a short time realized that I really wasn’t wanting to be in the water as much as I thought and so returned to my bedroom. Rose Mary offered me yogurt and plenty of fluids to keep my energy level up.

2At 9:30 I requested that Elliana’s position be checked again during a cervical exam. She seemed to have moved to the right side (ROA), and I was told I was 5-6cms/80%/0 station! I leaned over the birth ball on the bed to encourage optimal positioning. My contractions were still every 2-3 minutes, and while I had to really focus through them, I was tickled that I was still laughing and joking at times between them.  I was thrilled to be progressing and that labor was very doable so far. It was almost fun! Michael and Joni make me laugh a lot and I was enjoying their sarcastic comments and adding to them.  I still couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the idea that I would soon be birthing a baby- my much longed for daughter. I kept moving- rocking, swaying, and squatting.

Michael was my rock. It was so comforting to see his sweet gaze when I opened my eyes. Even though I wasn’t always aware of what he was doing, he spent a lot of time holding my hand, stroking my hair, and putting his head against mine as he whispered in my ear. I just knew he was there with me and I felt so connected to him.

Around 10:00 I had another emotional moment when listening to a message a friend had left for me on my voice mail. I was starting to find it a real struggle to relax and focus. I was experiencing a lot of pain at my pubic bone so Dr Kristen adjusted me again. My contractions spaced a little after that but they were still intense when they came.  I began to feel nauseated. Eventually I found my way back into the tub and found it so helpful in relaxing. In the water I began laughing and chatting again between the loud moaning through contractions. At some point someone said something about birthing with dolphins and Michael suggested running to Wal-Mart for some goldfish so I could birth with them as a substitute for dolphins. For some reason the absurdity of it tickled my funny bone and I couldn’t stop laughing. I almost felt in a state of euphoria.

My birth playlist played softly in the background and the room was light was quiet conversation and laughter. Most of my birth team had arrived (including two of my dear friends), and I felt surrounded by love and joy. My mom, sisters, and my friend Lizzy were Skyped into the room at some point with strict instructions to keep me unaware of their “presence”.

I continued to drink fluids- red raspberry tea, water, and coconut water. I couldn’t stop moving and felt myself instinctually changing positions. Dr Kristen adjusted my sacrum again and offered wonderful counter pressure. Christy pulled a nifty hand-held fan out of her birth bag and the cool air felt so amazing! I was so worried that my hair would look wild in my pictures and video so I put Lindsey in charge of keeping my hair in a band so I wouldn’t “look like a witch”! Just as I wondered aloud where Carla was, she appeared, and my team was complete. My friend Gina had her little baby there as well and it seemed every time I looked at him, he would flash me his great big grin! At this point I was still present enough to grab the doppler probe to find Elliana’s heart tones when it was time to do so.

3I spent time gazing into Michael’s eyes as he vocalized with me during the contractions, but as the intensity increased, I closed my eyes and found myself focusing inward. I became less aware of those surrounding me in the distance.

Around 11:40am I had bloody show while sitting on the birth stool. When I moved to the toilet I asked to be checked again and was told I seemed to be a stretchy 8cm/95%/0 station but Elliana was stubbornly posterior (ROP). I had faithfully taken vitamin c during the pregnancy to strengthen my bag of waters and was so thankful my water was still intact which would be helpful to her moving! Dr Kristen worked on adjusting me more.  Two more centimeters felt so doable! In spite of her position, it felt like things were still progressing quickly.

4I moved back into the tub and continued laboring. Lindsey’s husband dropped lunch by for the team around 1:00pm. Soon after, I began to have a very hard time coping. My birth team took turns gently offering me words of encouragement. Michael got in the tub to support me and began to make low sounds with me to help keep me focused. I was exhausted and began to cry.  Michael sweetly comforted me and reminded me that I could do this as tears ran down his cheeks too.  I expressed that I was feeling pushy. Movement in the water helped so much.

After a bit I got out of the tub and continued changing positions- moving to the birth stool, standing, rocking, and embracing the hip squeeze. I was very vocal as I labored. Someone offered me the herbal tincture “smooth transitions” to help me cope. I was given whiffs of aromatherapy. Rose Mary began quoting scriptures over me and I begged with tears, “come on baby!” The contractions were on top of each other and I rarely opened my eyes at this point. The midwives took turns offering physical support and monitoring my vitals.

By 2:00pm I was feeling lots of pressure and was encouraged to continue listening to my body. I felt like maybe I was feeling pushy and gave a few light pushes but stopped because I recognized the urge wasn’t really there. I went to the toilet and tried to check myself. I knew I hadn’t had any further bloody show (a sign of progress I’d been watching for) and could still feel my cervix at the top (I couldn’t reach to the back). At this point the contractions were so intense and every 1 ½-2 minutes. I felt like there should have been significant change by then so requested Christy check me on the bed to get a more thorough evaluation.

Christy honored my request and after she finished her assessment, offered encouragement to give proactive support. She didn’t want to tell me what she found, but her eyes spoke volumes. The midwives disappeared out the room to discuss a plan of action and when they returned I insisted that she tell me what she found. I asked, “I’m 6cms, right? Just tell me. I can handle it.” I knew Christy didn’t want to set me back mentally. With reluctance, Christy admitted what I’d feared. I was only six centimeters after all. Either the previous exam was inaccurate due to my position in the tub or my cervix had closed down some. Elliana was now completely posterior and part of my cervix was slightly swollen. As disappointing as this news was, I really felt confirmed. Something had felt “off”.  I still knew my progress was within normal with a posterior baby but was so thankful for my proactive birth team. I denied any emotional hang-ups but my midwives felt like the crowd might be too much. They suggested that people leave for a bit. Michael and I were left alone to talk about this, and I let him know while I was okay with them being away in the other part of the house, I really didn’t want anyone leaving. The rest of the team moved into other rooms and the skype video call with my family was shut down.

Rose Mary, Dr Kristen and my midwives offered support and encouragement as they put me through numerous positional exercises. Michael stayed right beside me. It was awesome and awful to experience of some of these positions in labor as I’d put so many other women through the same excruciating positions- I knelt, spent time on the toilet, leaned over the birth ball, did lunges, had belly lifts, did inversions, used the rebozo, went through the “roll”, did belly lifts, and continued to be adjusted by Dr Kristen.

By this point my back pain had increased, and I was no longer having fun. This was hard and so painful. I tried to surrender during the contractions but found myself just wanting it to all end. After they used the rebozo on me while hanging off the couch, I got back into the tub. Dr Kristen could feel something stuck but I refused any more positional exercise. I just wanted a break. Even with counter pressure in the tub, was not getting the relief I had hoped for.  Fatigue and discouragement was setting in. I was offered whiffs of Centered Mama essential oils as I loudly vocalized through my contractions.

I decided move to the shower. Christy and Joni joined me but before long it was just Joni and I. (I later found out that Christy felt the Lord telling her that Joni needed to say something to me so she left.)

While Michael was almost constantly beside me, he did take a moment to talk Christy during this time. She explained in more detail what was going on and assured him that even though it was difficult and exhausting, everything was still within normal. Our vitals were all normal and posterior labors just take time.

In the shower Joni encouraged me to talk. I started sobbing as I wailed, “WHY is this SO HARD!? Why isn’t this working? Why won’t Elliana get into a better position?!”

Joni gently questioned me, “What has been your fear this whole pregnancy?”

Yes, I had been afraid she would posterior. Yes, my fear had been realized.

We talked about the situation and Joni encouraged me to turn it over to the Lord. She asked me to just start talking to God and tell Him what I was feeling. The flood gates opened as I sobbed admitting I didn’t know how to turn this over to Him. I began to just pour my heart out. I let go of my inhibitions as I told God how afraid I was that my body wouldn’t work and how afraid I still was of loosing her. The shower poured over my shoulders as I begged Him to give me strength and to take care of me.

5-2I returned to the bedroom with Christy, Joni and Michael, and they continued to pray over me. Joni encouraged me to take my thoughts captive, to be a warrior, and began to declare God’s Word to me. As she talked to me about what it’s like to be a warrior, I started praying. The Lord’s presence was in the room, and Joni sensed that I needed to speak truth out loud to overcome my fears. She made bold statements as she declared that the Lord would allow me to finish this at home safely and asked me to repeat after her. I did, and my fears left. I felt full of peace and had a renewed sense of confidence. I had prayed that the Lord would be glorified in our birth and that was exactly what He was doing.

6It was about 4:50pm when Christy asked if we could do more positional exercises.  I reluctantly agreed as I found it them to still be very painful. I absolutely hated laying down, but we did the roll, pelvic floor release, Walcher’s position for a few contractions, knee chest with the rebozo, and hands and knees between contractions.

At this point I’d been in active labor for over 14 hours. I expressed that I felt like my blood sugar was low even though I had some protein drink and eaten fruit earlier. Joni warmed up chicken broth, and I started taking body balance and eating bites of toast. The room was dark and quiet. Dr Kristen and Rose Mary eventually came back in the room to offer their support. My birth team gathered in the kitchen and took turns praying for me for strength, peace, surrender and all I needed for the labor I was called to go through. Back in my room, Rose Mary and Michael prayed short prayers over me as they offered nourishment (now almonds) and someone did belly lifts as I leaned on Michael. Michael finally got a chance to take a few bites of food.

Around 6:30 I moved to labor again in the tub. It felt very natural to do lunges so I continued to instinctively listen to my body. I got into some weird positions but found it very helpful with the pain I was experiencing at my pubic bone. I remembered one of my clients moving into one of the same unusual positions and for some reason I found it reassuring and familiar.

About an hour passed before I moved out of the pool so my midwives could roll me around with the rebozo again. My moans had become high pitched and the pain was severe. I kept repeating, “It is just so hard! It’s sooo painful!” Dr Kristen stated she could feel what seemed to be the baby’s arm hung up but after all the exercises and Elliana stubbornly refusing to change positions, I said no to being shaken up again. I felt like if she hadn’t moved after all the things we’d done maybe there was a reason and she would just need to work her way out on her own.

I was still sitting on the floor and would move quickly to hands and knees during a contraction. Between contractions I began to drift into a deep sleep as I leaned on Rosemary.

At 8:10pm (17 hours into active labor), it was decided to check for progress. Carla discovered that I was 8-8 ½, completely effaced, and Elliana had moved from ROP to completely posterior. Her head was lower. In spite of her stubborn positioning, I was encouraged that there was progress!! About 10 minutes later I felt a warm trickle and it was confirmed that my water had broken and the fluid was clear. I began to tremble and feel cold. Nausea washed over me. Elliana’s heart rate stayed steady. I knew I was in transition.

Back in the tub, I checked myself. I could still feel a bulging bag of waters over her head so I asked the midwives if they thought it would be ok/good to take the bag off her head at this point. I was hoping this would help relieve the intense pressure I was feeling. After a few contractions, we all agreed it would be good. I moved to the bed and at 8:55pm Christy did as I asked. I went to 9 – 9 ½ immediately and so requested that Christy try to move the cervical lip. She had me blow through a few contractions, but I think I may have lightly pushed a few times as well. A few contractions later the lip was gone at 9:08pm. Hallelujah!!! I WAS COMPLETE! When asked if I was okay with delivering a posterior baby, I confidently declared that didn’t matter. I believed I could birth a posterior baby if she didn’t actually end up rotating on her way out.

I asked for my family to be video conferenced back in before I ran to the living room and leapt into the tub. I sank into the wonderful warm water. My expectation was that I was going to thoroughly enjoy pushing. Now that I was finally complete I thought I would get relief from the intense pulling pain I had been feeling in the front because I thought the pain was from my cervix. I also hoped the back pain would decrease. Imagine my surprise when instead I found it to still be incredibly painful through each contraction. The pulling sensation continued. I tried to get my footing in the tub but it just didn’t feel right. I tried leaning over the tub on my knees but didn’t like that either. Eventually I leaned back and swayed.  Someone suggested hands and knees but I said no way! I was hoping to participate in her birth, and it really didn’t appeal to me to have my butt up in the air.

As I was waiting for a strong pushing urge I moaned, “Why does it hurt so bad!?”
Someone replied, “Because you are having a baby. It hurts!”
I replied, “I know, but having a baby is supposed to be fun.”
Joni’s voice was full of amusement, “You haven’t been having fun today?”
I responded seriously, “Yeah, it’s been awesome!”
“That’s what I thought,” she replied.
I declared to everyone,  “It HAS been an awesome experience” as Michael voiced his agreement.
Chuckles rippled around the room.

I tried standing up and hanging off Michael as I moved my hips. Nope. We tried the stool next as someone offered me whiffs of aromatherapy (Pain Away and Centered Mama) again. I was working hard to maintain low productive noises. Michael was very helpful with this as he kept his head close to mine and guided me as he made low noises with me. I tried giving tiny pushes as I prayed for strength to finish. I continued to vocalize my feelings.

“Why does this hurt so bad!?”
“I can’t do this.”
“I don’t want to do this!”

I had really only envisioned myself laboring (not giving birth)  in the water so around 9:30pm I moved back to my room declaring that I was going to push while laying down on the bed. I was teased about pushing on my back but I was exhausted and liked that position the most. At this point I wanted quiet. When I began pushing I was very vocal so Rose Mary guided me in using my energy more effectively. (I was letting most of it go out of my mouth.) My cries of “no! no!” turned to “yes, yes!” Michael leaned his head over on mine and kissed on me.

While much of the time from 6cms to getting to complete is a bit of a fuzzy short blur (love those amazing endorphins- thankfully I have good notes from Rosetta’s charting/Rose Mary’s notes/conversations/video footage that allow me to tell this story!), pushing was a very internally present, vivid time for me. At first I was very vocal as the intensity of pushing washed over me. I felt like I was in a hyper state of awareness even though I was almost completely oblivious of being surrounded now by a large, encouraging birth team. I had wanted to actively participate in the birth but found that just to cope, my eyes stayed mostly closed.

7I began pushing with gentle, short pushes and the sharp sensation above my pubic bone continued. “It just feels so awful”, I exclaimed and then softly moaned, “ooohhh, aahhh, uhhh”.  I still don’t believe the pain I felt at this point was normal. Even though I’d never birthed before, it felt off and wrong. I believe it had to do with her malposition.  As I pushed I asked Carla if she would try to manually rotate Elliana. With just a little manipulation, Elliana moved into an ROT position and pushing became more effective. At some point during pushing, the pulling pain changed and it felt “right” but then the intense burning began. I wondered if I felt so sensitive because of the overload of pain from her position. I knew I was holding back because everything was just so incredibly intense. Rose Mary continued to offer me sips of fluids as she wiped my brow with a cool cloth.

I remember realizing that the only way it was going to end was if I just pushed in spite of the pain. I decided to make a deliberate effort to just go for it. I began making significant process moving her down as her head rocked back and forth.  By 9:45pm her head was visible when I pushed.

“I don’t like this!”
“Oh babe, this is hard!”

The burning continued. Someone offered to show me her head with the mirror, but I refused to look. I’d never been able to understand why women did that but suddenly I did. It was taking all my concentration to just stay focused. I couldn’t imagine opening my eyes and getting distracted. I didn’t need to see- I could FEEL it! I asked if she had hair (something I desperately hoped for). When I was told she did I asked, “is it enough to make a mohawk?” as a way to gauge the amount of hair she had. Everyone laughed.  At one point I reached down to touch her little head.

I cried out, “You are almost here baby girl! You are almost here.”
“Am I pooping? It feels like it!”

Michael sat beside me on the bed encouraging and kissing me as he watched intently, getting more emotional and excited as she became more visible.

As she slipped through my bones, her heart rate dipped down a little and without thinking I automatically took deep, slow breaths until they recovered. I knew this was normal but was just so grateful that we were in such capable hands, and that I didn’t need to be my own midwife.

I didn’t want to be touched vaginally while I was pushing so my team just sat around me as they cheered me along. No one yelled for me to push harder or longer- they simply encouraged me to continue to do exactly what I was already doing. I could feel her move down with significant progress and at 10:22 her head was staying visible between contractions.  Hot compresses were applied to my perineum.

“Pressure! So much pressure!”

I had waited so long to finally experience this for myself. Somehow I found it helpful to verbalize what I was feeling as I went along.

“I’m so ready to see her! Come on baby!” I begged.

My team cheered me on, “You are so close! So close!”

“It burns. It burns. It burns!! Ahhhh! Ohhh!! Uhhh! Ohhh!” I took deep breaths as I had sips of the liquid Rose Mary offered me. My perineum continued to stretch. “Lord, please help me! Give me strength to finish.”

As she crowned, I reached down and touched her little head again and I softly spoke, “Hey baby.”

At 10:35 she was at a full crown. I suddenly I just took one great big, huge push without warning. In that moment I no longer cared if I tore. I just wanted her out so with one terrific yell her head was born. My eyes closed, and I lost my sense of awareness. I couldn’t seem to stop screaming except to say, “Oh crap!” Rose Mary tried to calm me with little success.

Dr Kristen was going to have her first catch but when I began to push again, Elliana wouldn’t budge. Carla was sitting next to Kristen and reached in to help. She still didn’t want to come. I pushed again. Nothing. My legs were pulled back as Christy did suprapubic pressure (no fun!) with Carla working hard to get her out. That finally did the trick and her little shoulders and body came sliding out as Carla and a teary eyed Michael lifted her to my chest at 10:38pm. (After processing the situation later, there was a debate as to what took place. Elliana had rotated ROA but we think her arm was behind her back. She was quite twisted and took some cork screwing to maneuver her out. Was it a shoulder dystocia? Sticky shoulders? Or simply due to her arm being behind her back? I’m still not quite sure what took place other than knowing she was stuck.)

It had been three minutes since her head was out until her birth but I had no sense of timing at that point. My little Elliana had a wide eyed, stunned look. She was here, and I was in shock too!! I continued yelling loudly as Rose Mary attempted to calm me down. After about a minute, I was finally able to focus on her sweet face. I just knew I had torn as I was feeling so much burning pain where the cord was rubbing. Elliana was crying like she was in pain, and I asked for her to be evaluated for nerve or bone injury. There was none. Kristen adjusted her as she lay on my chest. I knew I had been very loud and as she now screamed in my arms, I apologized, “I’m so sorry I scared you.  It’s okay baby! I love you.”  Michael crooned to her as he stroked her little head.

8“Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus!” I was so relieved it was over. Suddenly I remember I still had to birth the placenta. I was less than thrilled as I exclaimed, “We still have to do the placenta! That’s going to cramp.”

I put Elliana up to my breast but she wasn’t interested in nursing, so we just cuddled together.

The cord stopped pulsing very quickly, and I asked Michael to cut it soon after. With tears and joy in his eyes, he told her, “I love you” as he did the honors. We handed her over to Dr Kristen for a more thorough adjustment. (It was amazing to watch this on video later because she went from screaming, as if she were in pain, to quiet and calm in moments. I was so thankful for the wisdom and expertise of such an amazing chiropractor at our birth.)

Michael called his family to tell them the wonderful news of the arrival of our little Easter Lily.

After her adjustment, Michael held our very calm baby to his chest as she looked around at the new world she had just entered.  My heart was so full of love towards him as I watched him tenderly talk to her. He handed Elliana back to me and she nuzzled my breast as we continued to admire this amazing gift and wait for the placenta to come.

I suddenly remembered that my requirement to teach Birth Boot Camp had been met with my natural birth and exclaimed, “Now I can teach Birth Boot Camp! That was way too much pressure for Donna to put on me. That was not very nice!”

Rose Mary replied, “It was effective though!” lol

I began to cramp again so Michael took Elliana back and held her skin to skin. About 25 minutes after Elliana’s arrival, I birthed the placenta with normal bleeding. As I often tell my mamas, there were no bones, and it was a very wonderful, odd empty feeling. Especially because of the way I’d barreled her head out and the burning I felt, I was very surprised to discover that I only had two labial splits which didn’t require any stitches. I rejoiced that my mother had passed down such great genes.

Soon Elliana was rooting and I took her to nurse. She had an amazing latch and breastfed with vigor. I was surprised by how easy and incredibly natural it was. As I nursed her I discussed my desire for previously forbidden carb filled foods.

My amazing birth team buzzed around me in the background cleaning and taking care of all many little details I was never made aware of. They began to make preparations for our herbal bath.  We cuddled together as a new family in our bed and look at our little girl in awe.

She was so tiny.
She had hair!
She was ours.
She looked so much like a Morrow!
She was our precious gift from the Lord.

12Several needed to get back home to their own families so after we took a group photo and gave grateful goodbye hugs, the crowd began to disperse. My heart overflowed with thankfulness for each person who had been there to support me during our awesome journey. My words could not do justice to what I felt in my heart. Even in the details of the support given to me, the Lord had been good. He had given me my heart’s desire.

9We decided to move to the herbal bath with Elliana which seemed to love. I commented on her swollen bug eyes, and I couldn’t get over the fact that she had hair! When I finished her bath, I handed her off to Joni and Rosetta to complete her newborn exam while Michael watched on. She had ten fingers and ten toes. At just 6 pounds 12 ounces, she was our precious little bundle of love.

Rose Mary had offered to stay a few days with me as my postpartum doula, so I didn’t feel like I needed to worry about a thing as Joni went over postpartum instructions with Michael.  By this time it was close to 1:00am and we were all exhausted.

Michael and I were able to spend a little time cuddling, talking about the experience, and praying together. As I nursed Elliana again, Michael tried to keep me awake. We both were too tired to feel comfortable having her in the bed while we were sleeping. I finally was able to move her to her little co sleeper and we knocked out.

10The first few weeks postpartum I felt almost high. The birth had been such an emotional sensual experience with Michael and I was full of love towards him and our baby. My milk came in around 36 hours postpartum and was abundant. I was thrilled! By two weeks postpartum my bleeding was very minimal and I was 15-20 lbs below my pre pregnant weight. What a joyful, beautiful time!

“He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 113:9

Many have wondered and asked me how my perspective has changed since Elliana’s birth. I think I’m still processing the answer to that question, but the one thing that was solidified in my mind was how every birth and woman is unique and experiences this rite of passage in her own way. Some feel that once you have given birth you can understand every woman who has. I didn’t believe this and I still don’t.  I truly hoped that giving birth myself would not cause me to put my experience on other women but that I would be able to continue to allow women to have their own experience with even more compassion. It is my prayer that I can continue to stand beside and encourage women to embrace their own unique and beautiful journey. To all the women who shared their most vulnerable moments in birth with me, thank you.

11

Click to WATCH Elliana’s Birth Video

Rejoicing in Hope: A midwife’s personal journey of infertility, pregnancy, and labor PART ONE

picklesandicecream

The Joy of Pregnancy
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” –Jeremiah 1:5b

It was about 6 am on July 25, 2011. I was still perched on the toilet as my eyes glazed over in disbelief at two little pink lines. How was this possible? Yes, it was true that I’d been peeing with unusual frequency through the night and had been ravenously hungry the day before. However, I wasn’t even expecting my cycle to start for at least a few more days, and after years of infertility, I certainly did not anticipate the possibility of pregnancy!

Only a few weeks prior I had received a call from my younger sister who had also been waiting several years for a baby. She was pregnant! I rejoiced with her as silent tears slid down my cheeks. I couldn’t have been more thrilled for her, but my heart ached with longing for my own arms to be filled.

I’d turned 30 about two weeks earlier and had pretty much given up hope that I would have a baby “before my bones petrified at 31”, as I liked to joke. It had been about a month since Michael and I had gotten more serious about making a plan to work on our health. I had just been officially diagnosed by ultrasound with polycystic ovarian syndrome (self-diagnosed years before) and knew my hormones were out of balance. I also suspected that I had adrenal fatigue (after running myself down by attending nearly 1000 births in approximately 4 years).  My chiropractor had performed a uterine lift on me to help regulate my cycles (something which she felt had contributed to both her own pregnancies). That month I’d also seen a cranial-sacral therapist who had done a limited amount of work on my ovaries. Both Michael and I had appointments scheduled for further testing. Our church care group had prayed over us about a week prior, and we were hoping that after testing, treatments, and starting with serious diet and lifestyle changes in August we might get pregnant sometime the during the following 6-12 months.

I had been down this road before though, and emotions rapidly washed over me. After several very early miscarriages and now nearly 5 years of waiting, hoping, and praying, I was afraid. The positive test was bittersweet. I wanted this baby so badly, but I doubted my body’s ability to carry this baby to term. I fell into Michael’s arms and sobbed with him as we prayed the Lord might preserve the life now growing inside me. We told a few close friends and family right away, and amidst their shrieks of joy, they committed to pray with us. We asked that whatever might come, that God would be glorified. Now this miracle seemed to be a reality but my heart was struggling to believe it. I secretly told myself that as I experienced this wonder of pregnancy and birth, I would be thankful for even the challenges to come. Each day of this pregnancy was a precious gift.

As a young girl I greatly anticipated growing up, marrying, and having a whole household of children. People would ask me how many children I wanted and I would respond with an emphatic, “twelve”!  I loved growing up in a larger family (seven children) and passionately hoped that my home would one day be filled with my own little ones.  Years of serving as a midwife made that longing grow even more intense. The breathtaking beauty of birth left me in tears many times. The hard work of growing a little miracle, working through the fears, embracing the pain, and surrendering to the intense vulnerability of giving birth all seemed worth it. There was nothing like the incredible honor of being a midwife and observing the sweet miracle of a darling, slippery baby emerging into the world welcomed with tears and laughter by the beaming family. I longed to experience this myself.

In November 2006 Michael and I got married. I hoped to get pregnant right away but my cycles became very irregular right before the wedding.  About two months after getting married I suspected that I might be pregnant but never got a positive pregnancy test. I bled and cramped very heavily. Over the next few years my cycles remained mostly irregular and I began to have increasing symptoms of PCOS. There were two to three more times after that when I suspected I was pregnant. I would get a very light positive urine pregnancy test but would start to spot almost immediately. I never did get a positive blood test. The emotional pain from these experiences took me by surprise. I continued to rejoice with other women and was so thankful that I could still be a part of babies and birth through midwifery. I started researching and seeking to know how to prevent miscarriages and learn more about infertility. I learned so much during this time and absolutely am thankful for this season of my journey as it has become so instrumental in serving other families compassionately and preventatively.

During the years waiting, Michael and I struggled through various conflicts in our marriage. Some of these times were so painful that I began to be thankful that we hadn’t been given children. However, in 2009 the Lord started us on a journey of healing. As we grew spiritually, I had really been able to rest more in a place of trusting the Lord’s perfect plan for us. If that meant a house full of children or none at all, I wanted to really trust God. Waiting was so difficult at times but there was much peace in knowing that the Lord was doing a work in our lives, and I didn’t need to control it.

As we shared our wonderful news with our friends, I was amazed at how many people told us that they had been recently praying for the Lord to bless us with a child. My family danced with joy, and my sister was so excited that she would be able to walk through her own pregnancy with her pregnant sister who was her midwife! Michael’s family was so thrilled to finally have their first grandbaby on the way and offered any support we needed throughout the entire pregnancy.

Upon seeing these two beautiful pink lines, it was with much joy and trepidation that I immediately jumped into midwife mode. I knew that being preventative would give me my best chance for a healthy pregnancy. I was well aware that if I was not intentional with my nutrition, I would have a much higher chance of becoming high risk in the pregnancy. PCOS is associated with low progesterone levels, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preterm labor, depression and even low milk production, so I knew that getting pregnant was only a small part of the battle. I immediately had labs drawn to assess for blood clotting disorders and to check my hormone levels. I consulted with several of my sister midwives and was soon on a whole slew of prescribed supplements as well as oral bio identical progesterone. I felt incredibly blessed to have such an amazing supportive community of midwives who reached out to counsel and pray with us.

Michael and I went out and bought organic, healthy foods and we had about one week of well-planned meals before the nausea hit. At that point, I discovered that meat was a nausea trigger and so were a lot of other foods. Ha. Cooking was also a trigger much to Michael’s dismay. I suddenly understood the need to just eat what I could. Cheese, yogurt, peanut butter and clementines were my friends. Amazingly I was still able to keep my supplements down. As much as nausea and vomiting were not fun, I regularly reminded myself that it was more than worth it. I sought to treasure each day. I was so thrilled to finally experience pregnancy and the many annoyances that come with it. I found even the annoyances exciting as I finally was experiencing and learning in a new way.

I checked my progesterone level regularly and was encouraged by the way my levels responded to the progesterone supplementation. I knew this was a good sign, but I still found myself checking for blood each time I went to the bathroom. Around seven weeks I decided to have a sonogram done for my peace of mind. My cervix felt very short to me, and I just wanted to be sure it was normal and thought maybe I would feel better if I could see the heartbeat. The baby was measuring perfectly and everything was absolutely normal. As much as I felt relief, I still had a hard time believing I would truly have a baby at the end of the pregnancy.

I was taken by surprise by the emotional turmoil I experienced during my first trimester. After dreaming of being pregnant for so long, I expected to be on top of the world. However, instead I often felt distraught and detached. I stressed and wrestled with fear. Was this baby going to make it? How was I going to bond when I was so fearful? How was I going to handle my life being turned upside down? Who would run the birth center now? How was I going to give up midwifery and be stuck at home all the time? How were we going to make it financially if I quit working? Who would attend me at the birth? I obsessed endlessly. I was afraid to get excited and afraid to not get excited. Around the end of my first trimester, I realized that I just needed to trust the Lord. I was reminded of many times He had shown himself faithful, and we had a very important talk. I turned my fears and desire to control over to the Lord, and it seemed like overnight my depression and much stress disappeared. I realized that this was going to be an exciting journey and while I suspected I’d face more things to work through as the pregnancy progressed, I experienced such peace knowing I could trust the Lord with all the little and big details in this process.

I continued to work and deliver babies and was amazed at how the Lord worked my schedule so that I was still able to get very good rest (lots of day time births)! My birth team stepped up to the plate and was so wonderful in caring for me too. I was extremely supported as they encouraged me to eat healthy. I received weekly chiropractic adjustments from Dr Kristen and was amazed by the difference I felt after a treatment. I would leave my appointments wondering how in the world women survive pregnancy without a chiropractor!

Around 14 weeks I attempted to wean off my progesterone supplementation but was very concerned when it took a nose dive from an acceptable level of 56 to an abnormal one of 18!  I went right back on it and they rose again somewhat. I kept monitoring my levels. My nausea and food aversions continued. I experienced a lot of congestion and in the mornings would frequently throw up the empty contents of my stomach due to my sensitive gagging reflex.

Around 16 weeks I began to feel the tiny and oh so amazing “bubbles/popcorn” feelings as our little one moved and grew. We planned to wait until around or after 20 weeks to find out the gender, but I cooked up a plan about two weeks later to find out. This would be our 5 year anniversary gift to ourselves. I wasn’t interested in waiting for a “surprise” as I wanted to buy gender specific clothes and plan the nursery. I also wanted to be able to call our baby by his/her name.

We wanted to announce the gender in a fun way. Joni suggested we make a black and white film of our “story”, and we decided it was the perfect idea. Michael and I spent some time planning and filming and put together a video to announce a boy and another to announce a girl. We both were excited no matter what, but even though I didn’t have a gut feeling one way or the other, I’d had a really hard time connecting with the idea that the baby inside me was a boy. We drove up to Arlington with eager hearts. When the sonogram revealed she was a GIRL, our hearts melted. Michael and I left the appointment beaming and sat in the car together as we called our families and revealed the girl version of our video to them over the phone/internet. We cried together, amazed by what we’d seen, filled with so much joy that the Lord had given us a DAUGHTER! We went shopping and bought a pink sleeper and our first little book for her, Guess How Much I Love You.

(See our pregnancy announcement here)

We then began the difficult process of picking her name. After sharing our ideas with others, I realized why some choose to not include anyone else in this process. I was so surprised by how opinionated people were. Being a people pleaser, this actually made choosing her name even more difficult. Thankfully Michael was strong in standing up for the fact that she was our baby, and it needed to be our decision and no one else’s. After a few weeks of going back and forth, we were pretty sure that we were going to go with Anna Margaret, but I wanted to only call her Annie. We put it to trial, but the family kept referring to her as Anna (even Michael was doing it), and I admitted to Michael that I wasn’t sure that was her name after all. We went back to the baby book one evening and uncovered her name: Elliana (meaning “the Lord has answered our prayer”) Lily (Michael loves this name- meaning pure). I had really wanted her name to have a special meaning, and I was thrilled because I felt her name absolutely proclaimed the Lord’s goodness to us and because I loved her feminine nickname: Ellie. One of my friends sent me a link to “Elliana’s song” by Watermark, and I was tickled. She would even have her own little song, and so I began playing it to her on occasion.

At around 20 weeks I began to show a little more. I experienced some Braxton Hicks contractions which was very cool. Michael loved talking to our baby and telling her how much we loved her. I also began to feel more defined jumping/kicking which left us in awe.

I tried to feed Elliana a variety of foods after the nauseated phase lessened around 20 weeks. I managed to feed her Italian, Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, French, Seafood, American, Mexican (authentic and Tex-Mex), a variety of nuts, more plain yogurt than you might imagine, LOTS of fruit (mostly clementines) and of course some good veggies.

We started our childbirth classes which I, being the nerd that I am, found delightful. My sister and two other clients (all due before me) were participants as well. Several people expressed surprise that I was taking classes, and I explained to them that while I had come alongside and cheered many women on as they ran their labor marathon, I’d never emotionally or physically prepared to run the marathon myself.  I had seen a lower transfer rate from my clients who’d taken Donna Ryan’s 12 week class, and I firmly believed that it would benefit us. Michael was excited to learn about how he could best support me, and I wanted the weekly accountability and dedicated time to focus on preparing. I have wonderful memories of practicing our relaxation together.  I was amazed at how much attending weekly classes helped to keep me on track with making wiser nutrition choices and keeping my blood sugar levels controlled. (As anticipated due to insulin resistance associated with PCOS, I had to go on a fairly strict diet towards the end of my second trimester due to elevated glucose levels.)

Elliana did lots of flip flops until around 27-28 weeks when she had what seemed like a growth spurt and turned head down where she stayed. I tried to be in tune to her position as she got bigger and would constantly make assessments. It was harder doing it on myself than I’d anticipated. I frequently did inversions and would try to remember to not recline. I often chose to sit Indian style on the floor and would also do squats from time to time. As she grew she seemed to prefer the right side which concerned me because these babies will sometimes go into a posterior position in labor. Despite the knowledge that our fears often become realities, I worried a bit. I really had to work on directing my thoughts to trusting that the Lord would give me exactly what I needed. If that meant I would have a posterior labor/birth, I tried to focus on the fact that He would give me the strength I needed for that when the time came.

I had many strange dreams during the pregnancy, but I only recall two about the birth. The first dream happened when I was around 29 weeks. I dreamed she turned breech when I went into labor so I went to the hospital by myself to have an “emergency” c-section. During the c-section I was assisting/watching and the doctor opened me up. I discovered then that she had turned head down. He dipped her in and out of the water in my belly which I found disturbing. I noticed she looked like a boy after all and exclaimed. However it turned out we couldn’t actually tell for sure and they had to run special tests to find out the sex of the baby.

The other dream I had was possibly a few weeks before the birth. I dreamed that I went into labor and it was moving quickly. My friend Lindsey, Michael, and maybe one other person were with me. Lindsey and Michael had been given strict instructions the night before on who to call and what to do when I went into labor, but in my dream neither of them called the people I’d indicated they should call. I had the baby and looked around. There was no photographer and my videographer, Ceci, wasn’t there either. I was so mad at Michael and Lindsey for letting me down that I couldn’t even enjoy the fact that my baby was already here!

Around my third trimester I finally consulted with a doctor who is certified in NaproTechnology because even with oral progesterone supplementation, my levels were not reaching an optimal level. He put me on biweekly injections in addition to my oral bio identical progesterone, due to the concern of inadequate progesterone levels putting me at risk for preterm labor or even placenta abruption. This finally made the difference and my levels climbed to an acceptable range. The actual injection was only slightly uncomfortable.  However, even with massage and heat packs, I experienced extreme inflammation at the injection site for several days. Cold laser therapy helped some but it was painful to sit and even lay on the injected side. About the time I would start feeling less pain, it was time for another injection on the opposite side! I tried to focus on the fact that each day of being pregnant was a gift! My last progesterone shot was around 35-36 weeks and I finally weaned off my oral progesterone around 37-38 weeks.

I was so surprised how emotionally stable I felt during my pregnancy. After I got through my first trimester and gave my plans over to the Lord, I felt amazing. Friends commented on how mellow I was. I rarely cried and felt little ups and downs hormonally. I felt great! I know this was influenced by my progesterone support.

I had asked Christy Martin to be my midwife, but since she was going to possibly be out of the country around my due date, I decided to just consult with her prenatally when needed. She agreed to be at the birth if she was available. I was surrounded by many very dear and wonderful midwives and found it very difficult to choose just one midwife. It took me almost my entire pregnancy to figure out who my primary caregivers would be for the birth. I appreciated so many strengths (which were shared with me during my pregnancy) from many wonderful midwives in our community, but I desired to have the primary responsibility of taking care of myself prenatally. When it came to the birth, I knew how important it was that I protect my space, but I also wanted to include those I loved and trusted to walk beside me. This decision became incredibly difficult because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I knew having more than my already large crowd would be counter productive. I developed a new understanding for the pressures that people have to deal with when choosing their birth attendants. I found myself having to take my own counsel in regards to protecting my birth space without concern of anyone else’s desires. This was probably one of my most stressful issues during the entire pregnancy. While working through the decision of who all would be on my birth team, I received prenatal care from several of the midwives and students who had been or were formerly a part of the birth team at Edenway.

It was very important to me that I took responsibility for the choices I made. I wanted to be given support by my caregivers but I also wanted to be treated as an educated individual that was absolutely capable of making the right decision for my body and baby. I was very impacted by how strongly I felt about this and was amazed to realize how much it meant to be given information or encouragement without feeling pressured if I chose differently than what they suggested. This might have been one of biggest pregnancy lessons that impacted my personal midwifery practice.

As the date drew near, I asked Joni, Christy, and Carla (who also happens to be Michael’s cousin) to be my primary midwives for the birth. Both Carla and Christy were going to be out of town during dates around my due date so I lined up back up midwives to assist Joni if the need were to arise. I asked Rose Mary to be my doula, Dr Kristen to be my chiropractor, and Rosetta and Jenee to help out where needed. Sarah was my house doula and in charge of taking care of the birth team. I also lined up a birth photographer and videographer- both were very important to me especially because of how helpful I know these things might be as tools to processes my birth experience. At 36 weeks, I invited my midwife team over to our house for dinner to discuss roles and my birth plan. I felt very comfortable with my chosen team and knew they would fight for me if needed. Because of my relationships with each one, I trusted I could be vulnerable even with the volume of people that would be present.

I avoided sharing with most people my actual due date. Based on when I thought I conceived, I figured I was due sometime between April 4-8th.  As my due date/month approached, I wondered how it would feel to not birth until several weeks past the estimated dates. I tried to embrace everything for what it was and what I was learning. I didn’t want to go too early because I firmly believe labors are often more effective and babies healthier and breastfeed better when a woman can carry her baby to term.

I stayed very busy during my pregnancy taking care of clients and wrapping up administrative work at the birth center. I would be around 36 weeks when my last clients (including my sister!) were due. Michael helped me with a lot of my nesting projects, including organizing closets and moving the office and guest room to make space for a nursery. As March approached I recognized my focus was shifting. I felt more of a desire to focus on staying well rested and less desire to be away at births at night. I was very thankful to have the time to do just that.

I had two beautiful baby showers the same day- one from my church and the other hosted by the birth center and our families. We came back loaded down with so many gifts! It looked as if pink had thrown up all over our house, and I loved it! We went with a tiger lily theme for Elliana’s bedroom. I wanted something very girlie but with bright colors. Although I planned to use a co-sleeper in our room for quite awhile, I so enjoyed preparing her a spot of her own. I felt it was an important part of my celebration of her arrival.

As April approached, I tried to shift my focus to preparing mentally for the birth. I read many positive birth stories and spent time praying as I sought to surrender my own agenda for this birth to the Lord. I believed God would have lessons for me, and I wanted to be thankful for whatever was to come. I asked that whatever the outcome, that HE would be glorified in it all. I saw growing this life as such an honor and a miracle and greatly anticipated finally having the blessed opportunity to embrace the power and joy of giving birth to my child. Even as I wondered what it would really be like to be on the other side of experiencing birth, I rejoiced that my experiences as a midwife lent me confidence in my body’s ability to bring forth life in God’s perfect design. In this way, I felt all of the women who had gifted me with the privilege of standing beside them during some of their most intimate, vulnerable and strong moments, became a part of my own story. Together they prepared me. They taught me that birthing babies is a gift. They reminded me the pain is worth it in the end. They showed me that women’s bodies are strong.

I saw birth as such a raw, sacred time. Watching other women give birth left me wanting to experience such power in my own body. While it looked challenging, it also looked so very possible. My very existence spoke to me of the possibility, and I was reminded of a long lineage behind me of women who did birth vaginally without drugs. I’d also watched hundreds of women conquer their fear and the pain and come out on the other side glowing with love for their babies and their families.

Yet I had still had fears. I struggled to not believe my own set of lies that I had repeated to myself which had bore themselves into the depths of my being. I felt old to be having my first baby. My body felt broken. I knew of oh too many stories of midwives who had a whole slew of complications and who were unable to experience an all natural birth experience due to complications. I also knew this was as much a spiritual journey for me as a physical one. I would be faced with the need to continue to surrender to the Lord and to trust Him completely. “Not my will but Yours be done.”

Around 35 weeks I began taking a 5 week herbal preparation formula as well as GLA. I had been drinking pregnancy tea since around 30 weeks. For most of the pregnancy I’d also been taking prenatal vitamins, Vit D, Vit C, Diaplex, Cataplex GTF, fish oils, and a Cal/Mag supplement. I had also been getting chiropractic care almost weekly (and sometimes 2x week).

March 31st, Michael and I decided we would have a little fun with a few friends on our birth team so we dreamed up an April fool’s plan. The next morning several on our team got a text with a picture of me holding another friend/client’s newborn baby. The text said, “She’s here!!!!!!!!!! Sorry everything happened too fast and we didn’t have time to text or call…. 7lb 1 oz will call after we get some zzzzz. Love ya’ll!!!! <3” Of course I let them all know it was only a joke pretty quickly. Clearly she was here, but just not outside of me yet. I posted on facebook quoting the message they had received by text that morning. Lots of people fell for the joke- even someone who thought that surely I would do something like that and had braced herself not to fall for such a prank. I think I laughed all day long as the comments rolled in.

Read PART TWO- Elliana’s Birth Story