On July 8, 2019, The BIRTH Project Network hosted a free online meet-up on the topic of fertility. The meet-up featured subject matter expert Beth Dorsey, L.Ac, FABORM, who has worked in Chinese medicine and women’s health for more than 14 years, specializing in fertility, pregnancy, health, and hormones. Check out her full bio here.
The conversation covered the importance of preparing your body for pregnancy in the preconception period, the role of nutrients, and the mind/body connection in fertility, how to best support yourself throughout the process of trying to conceive, and so much more.
I’ve listed several highlights below for those who are interested in specific facets of fertility. Please enjoy the conversation and share with someone who might need this incredibly valuable information. Visit Beth’s business page here.
0:30- Learn more about subject matter expert, Beth Dorsey.
3:00- Learn what it is like working with Beth vs. receiving typical western care. Beth describes how she cooperates and works with western medicine, but also offers alternatives when the resource has tapped out.
4:00- Learn why the period of preconception is important in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and achieving a live birth.
6:30- Beth discusses the importance of the mind/body connection in fertility.
16:40- What does it mean to treat the individual vs. treating infertility as a blanket ailment?
21:45- Meet-up participant discusses she and her husband’s diagnosis, and expands on her own fertility journey. Topics include morphology and Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
23:00- How to prepare for the second phase of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with PCOS.
29:30- Reducing inflammation to make for a hospitable environment for a fetus, and the importance of nutrition and exercise.
33:30- Participants discuss that they are told they cannot receive fertility testing unless they have been trying to conceive for a year or more.
36:00- Irregular cycles.
39:50- Fertility and breastfeeding—does it have a negative effect?
46:45- Reducing dairy intake to combat inflammation. More on fertility and Chinese medicine.
48:20- Keto diet and fertility.
51:25- Specific nutrients to help with fertility and egg quality.
1:07:45- Clean beauty products to avoid hormone issues.
This story was written by Melissa Harness, who has suffered through five miscarriages. She has carried eight pregnancies, given birth to three healthy children, and lost five angels. She wants to tell her story to “give a voice to all those that have suffered in silence behind closed doors … who have hid their tears and tried to put a smile on their face when they just want to collapse.”
“We need to normalize loss and grief, ” Melissa says. “We shouldn’t be hidden away or forced to deal with this. We all grieve differently and we need to openly support each other in these times of loss.”
I said positive affirmations. I had more people praying for us than I can even count. This baby defied all the odds. You were so strong. We were told we would lose you so many times, but each time you proved that wrong. Each time my love grew stronger and I knew you’d make it through … until the day I knew you wouldn’t.
At our ultrasound appointment, we heard a tiny heart beating 119 times a minute. The moment the sound came on, I burst into tears. I couldn’t even hold the phone steady to record video for Eddie since he was unable to get off work. The nurse so kindly took my phone and helped me. I was overwhelmed with joy. The sweet sound of your beating heart made it all worth it. Loss after loss after loss. After three losses, we had Bryson, so we know it’s possible to conceive a healthy child. But why all the losses. We were told to come back in a few weeks for a repeat ultrasound. The yolk sac was still measuring large but maybe it would go away in a few weeks. We waited … the waiting is horrible. You dwell on the what ifs, you push yourself to remain positive and go about your normal life. Be a good mom to the other kids, be a good wife, go to work, put a smile on your face, but inside you’re a wreck. Loss changes you. Each loss has changed me differently. I proceeded to our repeat ultrasound on Monday, May 6, 2019. I had Bryson with me. Eddie had to work.
I purchased a baby giraffe with a heartbeat recorder the day before the appointment. Eddie hadn’t had the opportunity to hear our baby’s heart beating due to work conflicts. They pointed out the baby and were able to pick up a beat here and there, nothing consistent. I knew that moment that something wasn’t right. We made excuses, trying to hold on to the hope we had been given. This was an abdominal ultrasound … I’m early … my bladder wasn’t full … The sonographer was either picking my heart beat up (not sure if that’s possible), or picked up the last few beats of our baby’s heart as he/she faded away.
Onto the repeat ultrasound. As we waited an hour after our appointment time, we were finally brought into the dimly lit room where the fate of our baby would be revealed. Ugh, my stomach was in knots. I sat Bryson on the chair next to the bed. I undressed from the waist down and covered up with a sheet. Early ultrasounds are usually done vaginally. I looked forward to a clearer picture of our baby, and I grabbed the recorder so I was ready when we listened to the heart. My heart was beating so fast, my eyes fixated on the screen as I waited. Nothing. The blood flow was showing up, but not inside the uterus. There was no flicker. She tried and tried. She gave me a smile and told me the doctor would be in. I feel sorry for those girls. It must be so tough to see those things. I didn’t shed a tear. I knew it was coming. The doctor came in holding my chart close to her and told me, “I’m afraid I don’t have good news.” I told her we expected this at some point. We were instructed to head to the birthing center to discuss our next steps with the midwives. We were greeted with the familiar faces who had helped me through Bryson’s birth, and had been there for our last miscarriage a year ago in March. Hugs. They helped. I still was in shock? Maybe? I hadn’t cried yet. A script for Cytotec was called in, and I was instructed on what to expect. The next few days were not going to be easy. I walked out to my car and called work to tell them I’d need to take off and get through this at home. Severe cramping, backache, heavy bleeding and passing tissue was not going to happen at my job. Not to mention the emotional trauma of going through this. As I prepared to leave the hospital parking lot, I caught a glance of my pregnant belly … ugh.
You were there, then you weren’t anymore. I put my hand on my belly and cried. I didnt think I’d ever stop. I cried for the pain my heart was feeling. I cried because I heard your heart beating. I cried because I just didn’t understand God’s plan. Why??!!! Why give us hope just to take it away!? Bryson kept asking, “Mommy, what’s wrong? Why you cry?” I just kept telling him, “I’m OK.” But I wasn’t. I texted Eddie. No words can describe the feelings you go through. Finally, after we settled in at home, and decided to start the process. Mom picked up Carter and we got Bryson some toys to distract him. I went into the bathroom and stared at the three little white pills that would bring this journey to an end. I cried more. I can’t believe it’s over. Just like that your gone. Another loss … my new number is five. Five angels in heaven. I used to look back on my patients’ charts and feel so bad when I would see a mama pregnant six, seven, eight times and (with) maybe one child … how could they go on? How did they do it?? Here I stand … eight pregnancies … three children … five angels. I took a deep breath, said a little prayer asking God for peace and comfort and inserted the pills.
I walked out and sat on the couch awaiting my worst fears. Eddie and I watched TV, talked, tried to pass the time. After only a few short hours my back started to ache. Soon after, the cramping started. It became more intense. I couldn’t sit still, a heating pad wasn’t helping, so I went into the bathroom to sit in a tub of warm water. As I undressed, I felt something warm trickle down my leg … I heard drops hit the floor. My hell was beginning.
I sat in the bath for quite some time. It eased the cramping and pain. When I stood up to get out, another gush as I lowered myself to sit on the toilet. Large clots had fallen out. To look or not to look. I was scared to see my baby, formed … forever imprinted in my memory. Just clots and nothing more … that’s all I saw. I cleaned myself up best I could and got dressed. We went to bed soon after. I was up and down numerous times through the night. One big gush soaked through my clothing and onto the bed … a reminder this morning of what will never be.
I got up and showered again. More gushes, more clots … more feelings of sadness and confusion. With the others I had D and Cs (dilation and curettage) … I went to sleep, I woke up and besides a small amount of spotting, it was over. It was hard emotionally but nothing like this. I opted to go this route. This was my choice. I had an assignment (optional, luckily) due last night. I couldn’t do it … I couldn’t even think straight.
The process continued until my uterus was completely empty. The fullness in my belly that I so eagerly embraced was now fading away slowly. My breasts hurt. I know what’s next. No one prepared me with our first loss. My milk came in. A few days after our loss, I woke up to find my T-shirt soaked. My body knows I had the baby, but it doesn’t know they passed. My body is still trying to produce milk and nourish my baby. I relive the trauma of my loss as my body takes the steps to care for my little one. I’ll go through this again. People have asked me so many times, “When will you stop? When will you say enough is enough and quit putting yourself through this!?” To you, this is my answer: “We have Bryson. We know what God can do. We believe in miracles. We have one running around our house right now. We aren’t giving up. Our journey has taken a long time and been so very hard, but if we are meant to have another child it will happen.”
I’m just focusing on breathing today. Trying to take in what has happened and move forward. Trying not to let this lost feeling consume me. Trying not to feel broken in this mess. A friend recently told me that the God of the Mountain is also the God of the Valley … so very true. I will lean on him in these times of frustration and sadness. We aren’t meant to understand … you just have to have faith. I sit here on the couch writing this … using this as my therapy to work through the loss of my baby. I’m searching for a tattoo in memory of all the babies we have lost along the way. When I find the right one and it’s the right time, I’ll know. For right now, I just have to breathe and trust in God. Thank you to everyone that has been a part of this journey with us. We can’t thank you enough for all your kind words, prayers, thoughts and so on. We will get through this, too. One day at a time. Fly high sweet angel, mommy and daddy will see you again one day.
If you had asked me two years ago if I thought I’d keep working after our second baby was born, my answer would have been a resounding, “Of course! I’m not the stay-at-home mom type.” I never thought there was anything “wrong” with being a stay-at-home mom, I just KNEW that wasn’t the path for me. I would have told you that I valued my autonomy, independence, and work life too much to give it up. I would have had the certainty of a politician, and I’d have been overly confident in my decision.
Fast forward to today and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for seven months and I finally (read: barely) feel like I’m settling into this new role, which is why I’m writing this post. Writing this all down is an attempt to hold on to the fleeting feeling that I have settled in comfortably to this life I’ve found myself in. If you’re a parent—and even if you’re not, even if you just care about something deeply in this world and put forth an immense amount of effort every day to do the best you can to care for it—you’ll understand why I want to hold onto this feeling. Not every day is punctuated by the perception that I’m doing a good job in this life. Some days are littered with frustration, irritability, and fear that I’m completely screwing up our kids.
As I reflect on the last seven months, there are a few key things that stand out as absolutely essential to thriving in this role. These are my non-negotiables, if you will, and must remain a part of my focus if I want to excel and be the best mom, wife, friend, daughter, PERSON, I can be. These are MY essentials, and they may not be yours. I encourage everyone to find what it is that will help them be their best in their own lives.
Realizing I’m not the only one making sacrifices.
This is a big one. And it’s the ONLY way for me to avoid the monster known as resentment.
My husband Chad said something to me recently that really resonated: “It’s healthy to change your mind.” Although he wasn’t referring to my decision to quit working, that’s what it made me think about because, truthfully, I knew I wanted to leave work long before I finally bit the bullet and quit. I felt the tug at my heart and the call of my family to be with them as much as possible, but work was such an enormous part of my life, and I was so scared at the thought of giving it up. So scared at changing my longstanding belief that I would always remain in the workforce, even through motherhood.
Unlike a lot of people, I loved my job at CrossFit. I loved the company, and I believed in and stood behind its mission. Of course, this didn’t make leaving any easier. I had been employed by CrossFit for more than six years, and my job offered flexibility, autonomy, community, even workout space. I had an unrivaled benefit package, worked from home, made my own hours (mostly), and adored (most of) my co-workers. Quitting seemed stupid, but that didn’t change the fact that the desire to do just that was growing everyday.
When I tell people I left the workforce to stay home with the kids, almost always their response is something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re so lucky you can do that. That’s so special.”
Living in coastal California, where housing—and everything else—isn’t exactly cheap, I started to realize how lucky I truly was. And I started to wonder, was this luck? Or rather a result of extreme sacrifice on the part of Chad? Turns out, it was the latter.
Depending on your desires in this life, you’ll either view my decision to quit working as “lucky” or as having made a huge sacrifice myself in giving up my career. I view it as both. Chad selflessly encouraged me to leave my job for months before I actually did. He saw the stress I was under, which was mostly produced internally, and he watched me crumble at the feeling that I was being pulled in two different directions.
It wasn’t until our nanny unexpectedly quit that I decided to take him up on his longstanding offer. In doing so, I shifted the burden of our family’s entire financial stability completely onto his shoulders.
Chad is a helicopter pilot. He works for CalStar and has an awesome schedule that allows him to have every other week off. Only now, his “off” weeks aren’t really off weeks. In the past two years, he has built an impressive real-estate portfolio that has allowed him to produce cash flow through purchasing properties in other parts of the US. Additionally, he is working in various roles with the company, Cash Flow Tactics, which helped him discover this new way of creating income. Even further, he cashed in on every privilege he was able to for the time he spent in the military—9-and-a-half years, and 4 tours overseas—which included financial benefits and other perks. He’s essentially created streams of income from nothing, coming in from all different directions.
Chad’s sacrifices to date include: the total freedom of his off week, the ease that comes with knowing we have a double income, and countless hours that he could be spending doing things he loves—surfing, hanging out with the kids and I, traveling. I’d also argue that he literally gave up some of his brain space because I know from being around him that financial freedom and security consume large parts of his mind nowadays.
While we still get a lot of family time because we are diligent about it, Chad has undoubtedly immersed himself in his new role: the sole financial provider for our family. And that is some heavy shit.
In recognizing and acknowledging the sacrifices he’s made, I’m able to practice empathy for him and his position as well as my own. In addition to all he does, he is still an extremely involved father, and helps me around the house everyday, which does not go unnoticed. Shout out to my husband, he’s amazing.
Learning to meditate.
I am a person of routine. I like order, predictability, and schedules. I like when things go as planned and I’m generally not super spontaneous. Well, my life is an illustration of none of that right now. Literally, not one single thing. Three and 1-year-olds are not orderly or predictable. They couldn’t give a shit about your “schedule,” and they are probably the most spontaneous beings there are out there: “We’re going here?” “Great!” “We’re going there?” “Let’s go!” Literally, they are game for anything.
I’ve learned over the past several months through mindfulness meditation that our consciousness shapes our reality. Just my saying that I’m a person who likes routine literally destroys any chance I may have at being someone who can roll with the punches. So I had to change my mind.
Using an app called “Waking Up,” I’ve found meditation helpful in bringing me back to the present and acknowledging who I am today, in this moment. If the day goes as planned, great. And if it doesn’t? There’s a phrase that is used often in mindfulness mediation: Begin again. Ellis didn’t take his nap on time? I aim to to regroup and roll with it. Isla is having a full-on toddler meltdown when I’m just trying to take her to do something fun for her? I try to compose myself before comforting her, and begin again. And sometimes I don’t begin again until I’ve already lost my temper. And then I just begin again once I recognize that. It’s been a truly magical saying when spending lots of time with our two littles. This shift in mindset is necessary for me to maintain sanity and truly enjoy the moments I get with my family.
I’m obviously not perfect. I am not always in the present moment, I don’t always have the patience to begin again, and I lose my cool often. But another lesson I have taken from meditation is that it is a “practice.” Some people say they can’t meditate because they think too much and they can’t ever stop thoughts from arising in their minds. The goal—the practice—of meditation is to recognize those thoughts and the fact that they’re occurring, and then come back to the present moment—that’s what you’re practicing. You’ll never stop having thoughts. So for me, raising the kids is a practice in which I’m always striving to be better and more present, mindful, empathic, and aware.
Maintaining my “job” brain and satisfying a passion.
When I decided to quit my job, it was really important to me to maintain some way in which I could still use my “job” brain. I wanted to be sure to keep my skills as a writer and an editor sharp, while also doing something I felt passionate about. While still working for CrossFit, I started a side copy-editing business as a way to make some extra money, and because I felt the urge to start something that was just my own. My entrepreneurial spirit was awakening.
I was really gung-ho about the business at first—Written Word Copy Editing at your service! But I soon realized that it wasn’t in fact editing that I was passionate about; it was CrossFit. I studied communications with a focus on media and journalism, and specifically writing and editing, at Cal State University Monterey Bay. Writing and editing are in my skill set, and I do enjoy making writing the best it can be, but I came to realize that the reason I enjoyed my job so much is because I love CrossFit. It was the content I was working with that filled my passion. So today, I do some writing and editing for businesses in the CrossFit space, but I found a new project that truly fills both voids: the need to use my learned skill set, and fulfill one of my passions at the same time. Enter The BIRTH Project.
The BIRTH Project is the blog you’re reading this on right now. Here, I publish birth stories written by parents. The idea stemmed from my seeing many friends come away from their birthing experiences feeling defeated because things didn’t go as “planned.” Maybe they had c-sections when a vaginal birth was desired, maybe they ended up with an epidural when they were hoping for an unmedicated experience. Whatever the case may be, it was heartbreaking to see them feeling as though they had failed in some way. So I wanted to create a safe space to tell and celebrate their stories.
Today, The BIRTH Project has evolved into a space where I hold online meet-ups on topics around pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Chad calls me an “information broker” and I love that. The project will grow organically, and at its own pace, since I am taking care of two small kids, and some days, I have zero seconds to dedicate to it. And I’m totally fine with that.
So that’s it. Those things, for me, have been the essentials to settling into this new life—so far. Everyday I find that there are more and more habits that support me in this new endeavor. The real goal is to be the best version of me—for my kids, my family, my friends, and myself.
When I started this post the goal was to write about the transition from working mom to “stay-at-home mom” (side note: If anyone has a better term than “stay-at-home mom,” please send it my way!) But as my thoughts unfolded, I realized it’s about so much more than that. It’s about how this simple transition from working to not led me to so many other, more profound transitions. It’s about how the pursuit of motherhood has led me to strive to be the best I can be everyday, and to realize and acknowledge my potential. Motherhood has taught me so much about myself already, and it continues to change my mind everyday about who I thought I was before I experienced it.
Below are a few additional efforts I’ve recently taken as I navigate this life. These may appear to be honorable mentions, but I can’t express enough how they’ve helped me in this journey.
Reading: When I was working for CrossFit, I didn’t read for pleasure too much because I read articles, rulebooks, social-media posts, etc., all day long. I’ve fallen back in love with reading and it is a wonderful way to unwind and learn.
Choosing sobriety 90 percent of the time: My life is better without alcohol in it. Period. It’s that simple. It’s not to say I won’t have a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, or a glass of wine on occasion, but limiting alcohol consumption has proven very beneficial for me.
Cutting back on social media: I allow myself 30 min. per day on social media. I think it’s a great tool and I enjoy it. I also think it can be addicting and distracting, and take too much awareness away from our days. Our kids don’t remember a time when social media didn’t exist. We do, and I believe we have a responsibility to teach them how to live a full life without it.
Working out in our home gym: If you know me, you know I love the gym. With two small kiddos, it’s a real chore to get there everyday, so Chad and I have started utilizing our home gym and we are loving it. Feels like the day is three hours longer.
Podcasts and books that have helped me along the way as I pursue my best self.
I just want to preface this story and say that this is MY BIRTH STORY and this is what happened to me. Everyone has a different experience, everyone has different trials, pain management levels, long labors, short labors, home births, vbacs, cesareans, etc. I’m well aware some people have had incredible birth experiences, and some have had absolutely necessary emergency experiences, and some have not been able to bring their baby home from the hospital. I think it is important to honor women and what their bodies were able to do free of judgement on both sides whether you had an amazing birth experience (like I did) or whether it was very traumatic. My hope is that you leave your experience feeling zero shame or guilt, and that if my story can at all encourage or help you, great, but otherwise, this is my experience so here it goes.
It was Thursday morning, Sept. 6. I was 38 weeks and two days when I woke up to a bit of blood-tinged mucous and all I could think of was, “YES, it’s go time!” I had an appointment that day with a midwife from the birth center, and I was so excited to tell her what I saw! At this point, I had been surviving the countdown with trash reality TV—aka Bachelor in Paradise—countless squats, walks, yoga, and red raspberry leaf tea. Needless to say, I was ready.
I had zero contractions at that point, and felt completely normal. I had an unbelievably easy pregnancy without any morning sickness, and always had a ton of energy (PRAISES, because I know that isn’t always the case—yet, it can happen).
When we got to the appointment, the midwife assured me what I had seen was a good sign, but said not to get my hopes up because it could very well be an additional two weeks or so before we would meet our girl.
The next evening, I had just gone to bed and I had what felt like a period cramp—only it lasted for about 20 seconds. Then a few hours later, I felt another one, and then it occurred to me that these must be Braxton hicks contractions and my uterus is getting ready for the big show!
I had little baby contractions on and off for about 5 days and I’d time them here and there to get a feel for what was going on. It wasn’t until Wednesday, Sept. 12, in the afternoon, when some of these surges started to get my attention. They were still pretty far apart but would last about 45-50 seconds. I took these opportunities to be totally aware and in control of my body, and feel everything, and “breathe my baby down.” I practiced so many different techniques that would hopefully help me cope with the pain. My first approach was I would open my hands, breathe, and accept the surge of the contraction, knowing that it was preparing my body for birth … yeah, that only worked for a little bit and was NOT helping me get in the right head and mental space. When trying to have a completely unmedicated birth, I can now 100 percent say, it is completely mental.
Once I changed my approach and began to look at laboring and birth as an athletic event, everything shifted for the better, and I knew my body was 100 percent capable of birthing this baby without medication. I was completely open minded and flexible to allow whatever needed to happen, but I was very hopeful and determined that I wouldn’t need an epidural. I began to drop in a squat when I would feel a contraction come on. I would move around and be as active through it as I possibly could, and I would breathe that baby down like my life depended on it.This went on for the majority of the afternoon.
That evening, Tyler and I decided we would go to Sprouts grocery store and pick up a few more staple items for our hospital bag (we decided to bring our own food because we didn’t know what the hospital would be serving). About five minutes after we got to the store, I had the first surge that really got my attention in the chip aisle, and I immediately started pacing and breathing deeply, and I said to Tyler, “Yeah, this is definitely happening some time tonight.”
We got home and after a few more surges of about 60 seconds apiece, they started to get more irregular, so I thought, “Well, maybe that was just more practice?” It was about 10 o’clock and we decided to go to bed and see what would happen, so I climbed in bed and not even 5 minutes later I had a pretty intense surge that shot me out of bed. I was breathing deeply. I told Tyler to keep sleeping and I’d come get him when I needed him. I went to the living room for a little bit. At this point, I still wasn’t really sure if this was it so I started timing the contractions again.
I didn’t even realize it, but a few hours had gone by and I’d been walking around, breathing, squatting, moaning, and then finally once I started shaking, I was like, OK, time to wake up Tyler. He immediately called the midwife on call and they told us to come in since we had a 45-minute drive to our birth center.
Side note—I chose a birth center because it was the closest thing to a home birth that I could get, which was actually what I really wanted, but didn’t feel completely comfortable with because we were living in an apartment at the time, and I didn’t see myself super comfortable in that environment.
Lets talk about that 45-minute car drive that Tyler pulled off in maybe 20 minutes?! Yeah, he’s the bomb!
Looking back now, I’m pretty sure I was going through transition in the car—so that was fun! I distinctly remember Tyler accelerating after one instance when I literally had 3 contractions in a row with maybe a 20-second break in between.
The midwife I did not want to have was on call that night, but I was trying to stay positive and focus on my mind and controlling the surges. We got to the birth center about 2:45 a.m., and at first, the nurses and midwife did not believe me that I was in labor and seemed irritated that I was there until they FINALLY checked me and I was dilated to 8.5! Yeah, then they started taking me seriously! They filled up the birthing tub for me and at that time, it was around 4:45 a.m., so I got in and it felt so good.
I remember Tyler always right there with me, coaching me and holding my hand and at one point, he had just eaten a peanut butter Perfect Bar, and I remember asking him to please put some gum in his mouth in more or less words, haha!I tried to sleep a bit in between contractions, and being in the water seemed to halt progress a bit, so after awhile I was over it and wanted to get out. I wasn’t super excited about the midwife or the nurses that were on call, so thankfully at 7 a.m., the shift change happened and we were blessed with the most amazing midwife, nurse, and doula EVER! It was the A-TEAM for sure, and I knew it was only a matter of time now!
I was complete at 9 a.m. but I never felt the urge to push or bear down and my waters were still intact. My midwife wanted to break my water but I was nervous about that and wanted to wait a bit longer. My doula, husband, and nurse were taking turns giving me hip squeezes, which LITERALLY took the contractions from a 10 to a 5 (pain level) easily. I was so shocked how much that helped. After I got out of the water, we played the game of let’s try and find a comfortable position for a few hours, and I always ended up sitting on the stability ball. That seemed to be the most comfortable for me toward the end. I was obviously tired and getting to the point where I needed some fuel. I had some plantain chips and coconut water, but nothing else sounded good so I knew things needed to progress.
My midwife came back in at exactly 12 p.m. and said to me, “Listen, I know you’re worried that you will stall out if I break your water, but your baby girl’s head is so low and far down in your pelvis, if I break your water now you will have her in 30 minutes.”
That was just the confidence I needed. We all agreed that was the best course of action and moved forward with it. About 10 minutes had passed and they were all trying to explain to me how to push—I could not find a rhythm at all, I didn’t understand it.
After trying a few different positions—one of them straddling the toilet, which will totally cramp up your hips so I do not recommend this, haha!—I decided to get back in the water and finally felt comfortable again.
Pushing was absolutely the hardest part of labor for me hands down. I know some people feel relief when they push, but I think at that point I was so tired and it made everything harder.
About 7 pushes later at 12:36 p.m. I pulled Lennox out of my body from the water and onto my chest and it was the best moment in my entire life.
We did it.
She was finally here.
She opened up her eyes immediately and looked right up at me and I cried.
I could not even believe what had just happened, and the fact that after 39 weeks and 2 days of growing her, I was holding her in my arms.
I looked at Tyler and could not have loved him more.
Look at this little girl who came into the world from us, wanted, and already loved so much. Our hearts were bursting.
Once the cord stopped pulsating, after 10 minutes or so, they cut it and gave her to Tyler to hold while they helped clean me up. They needed to pull me out of the tub pretty quickly because I lost quite a bit of blood, and once I got back on the bed, about one push later, out came my placenta. I had apparently had an abruption.
I was bleeding pretty excessively so they needed to give me pitocin and then a shot of methergene after that. Had I not have had these minor interventions, I would have needed a blood transfusion, so I am very grateful for our nurse who NEVER left our room or my side, and our midwife for acting so quickly and explaining everything to me in the process.
All the while, my sweet husband and baby girl were bonding, having skin-to-skin time, so I am so grateful he was with me every step of the way as well. Minus the physical pain, he was an EQUAL playing partner in the role of our daughter’s birth. He did anything and everything he could to help me and coach me through the process of having our baby girl in our arms.
I think sometimes we can forget that just like the very moment I pulled my daughter out of my body, I was reborn as a mother, my husband was right there with us and something chemically changed in HIM as well. Even more than ever before, he was a protector, provider, hero, and a DADDY. Such a beautiful thing to experience and go through together, and I’m so grateful for that.
Now here we are, and I’m looking over at this sweet angel of a baby babbling, and drooling all over her toys, and she’s flashing me the most perfect gummy smile, and I think to myself, “I can’t believe this is my life.” All of the pain, the tears, the hard work of growing her and birthing her has made me realize what a gift life is, and if I can live each day in gratitude and choose joy everyday, I know that no matter how anything else goes she will be loved, nurtured, and cared for in the most authentically real way possible.
On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, The BIRTH Project Network held its first-ever online meet-up. This inaugural meet-up covered the topic of home births, and featured an experienced home-birth midwife as the subject matter expert.
The conversation covered the home-birth process from pregnancy, to labor and delivery, and through the postpartum period. You can watch and listen to the whole conversation above, or see time stamps for highlights listed below.
Learn About the Subject Matter Expert
Kelly Olmstead, LM, CPM, is an Iowa native who has been in Santa Cruz, California, for 17 years. A mother of three, she has been active in the Santa Cruz birth community since shortly after the home birth of her third child, Henry, in 2002.
Her particular passion is ensuring that women understand they have options in birth—and the benefits and risks of various choices—so they can make the best choice for themselves and their babies.
After four years of midwifery school and apprenticeship, Kelly was licensed by the Medical Board of California in March 2010. By the close of 2017, she had attended more than 450 births. She’s also served on the board of directors for Birth Network of Santa Cruz County for several years.
Additionally, Kelly is the co-founder of a midwifery advocacy group called Birth Santa Cruz. Check out BirthSantaCruz.com on Facebook—it’s a great way to stay up to date about what’s going on with birth locally and nationally.
More recently, she joined forces with two other amazing midwives to create Pacific Community Midwives. They each have independent practices but collaborate and back one another up.
From 2011-2014, Kelly was Regional Co-Rep for the California Association of Midwives (CAM). She remains active on projects with their sister organization, the California Association of Licensed Midwives (CALM), including keeping midwives updated on continuing-education opportunities, meeting with state legislators on midwifery issues, and creating welcome packets for newly licensed midwives in the state.
Highlights and Time Stamps
19:07- Kelly discusses an effective written home-birth birth plan.
13:00- Amara shares her takeaways after experiencing a home birth turned hospital transfer.
24:00- Katy shares her home-birth takeaways.
28:15- Kelly suggests what to look for when trying to find the right midwife for you.
29:20- Katy shares the story of when she got in a car wreck at 8 months pregnant.
31:45- Katy shares her biggest insight after working with a midwife and experiencing a home birth.
34:00- Participant question about not wanting any ultrasounds, but suspecting she’s carrying twins.
38:00- Participant question about a safe distance from home to hospital when planning a home birth.
41:50- Participant question about responding to family who are hesitant about home births.
47:15- Kelly discusses the hospital vs. home-birth experience.
49:08- Kelly addresses how she remains confident as a midwife.
51:00- Kelly discusses how she handled an emergency with a patient who had Hellp syndrome
54:20- Participant question about assuring women that their births will work out the way they want them to.
I was a new mom but I was really good at researching what I needed for my pregnancy. I will never forget how amazed I was when I watched “The Business of Being Born” when I was in my first trimester. After watching and learning about how beautiful and strong women’s bodies are—and also how fully capable we are of having a natural birth—I knew I had to take the natural approach to birthing my first child.
My pregnancy was pretty easy. I went for massages every two weeks, had a diet filled with fresh fruits and veggies, and a birth partner who made sure I was drinking a ton of water daily.
The day it all started, I didn’t know I was in labor. I was home relaxing on the couch while the cable guy hooked up cable because I had family coming soon. I remember sitting on the couch having contractions. They didn’t bother me much, but they were noticeable. Later that night, my contractions were picking up and I contacted my midwife to give her the status, and she recommended I pop open that bottle of wine I had in the fridge to calm me down and let me get to rest so I had energy for the next day: Birth Day.
I tried to go to sleep around 11 p.m., but my contractions were coming faster and harder so I knew it was time to meet my midwife. On the ride to the birth center, I began listening to my Hypnobabies lessons to put me in a calm mindset while going through the contractions—and it worked!
I arrived to the birth center and my midwife checked to see if I was dilated. I could not believe that I labored at home all the way to 8 cm. She rushed to get my room together and made up the birthing pool.
My contractions were now intense. I was asked if I wanted to have my water broken, and I said yes. I continued to labor in the birthing pool for 2 hours until I began to fall asleep listening to Hypnobabies in the birthing pool. My midwife was instructing me to push, but I wouldn’t listen because I was so zoned and relaxed. She then made me move to the bed to wake me up.
I chose to try Hypnobabies because I was into the idea of meditative breathing and self-hypnosis. After a lot of Googling and watching other moms use it for their births, I knew it was the route I needed to take to ensure that I could have my baby without drugs or interventions.
I began to feel everything—and it was intense. All I wanted to do was push out one big bowel movement. But I soon realized that it was not poop, it was in fact the baby’s head. I continued to push and take breaks when I needed them. After one big, final push, baby Malcolm arrived.
At first, I began shaking and avoided touching him because I couldn’t believe that I really made a baby who grew inside of me for 9 months. My midwife handed me my baby and we laid skin-to-skin for an hour to bond and give Malcolm warmth. It was such a euphoric feeling. I felt no more pain, I had no more shaking—just peace and a beautiful baby boy.
I want to preface this by saying every single birth is magical, and every single woman who brings a human into this world is a damn powerhouse. This is just my story, so please, before reading any further, if you have given birth before, I ask you to please not compare your story to mine. It’s not about who had a “better” birth or the “perfect” birth. It’s about sharing the experience so others are aware of all the different scenarios of birthing a baby. This is just one of those scenarios. I kept this story extremely raw and real, mostly because I want Jade to be able to read this one day, in all its realness, so please be kind and enjoy!
It was about 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, when I was laying on our couch with my husband, Nick, when I felt my first real-deal contraction. I had been feeling a lot of Braxton hicks and crampiness for a little over a week, but when I felt that contraction that night, it was like nothing I had been feeling before. It popped into my mind that this could be the start of labor but I didn’t want to get too excited. I decided to start getting ready for bed to try and get some rest just in case. As I was getting ready for bed, I lost the rest of my mucus plug (I had lost a little bit of it a couple nights before). I got into bed and couldn’t help but time the contractions that were coming. They were about 10-15 minutes apart, so I called in Nick just to make him aware. Around 10 p.m., we decided to text our birth center to let them know what was going on. Our one midwife called us to talk through what I was feeling and told us that this could be early labor and in that case I should try to get some sleep because my future laboring self would thank me. That was a funny joke. By 12:30 a.m. I was on all fours on our bed breathing through contractions. I told Nick that I couldn’t lay in bed any longer and was going to go out to the living room but he was welcome to try and sleep. He said, “Well, I definitely won’t be able to sleep so I’ll come out there with you.” I’m so thankful he did because that’s when contractions really picked up.
Nick laid out a big padded mat on the floor with a blanket where I spent a lot of time roaring (yes, roaring) through contractions on all fours. I also spent some time side lying on our couch while working through contractions, which was nice because in between them I could totally relax my body. I was also up moving around a lot because I was in and out of the bathroom (my body clearly wanted everything out of me so I could push this baby out when the time came). Throughout my whole time in active labor, I just kept picturing my vagina as a blooming flower, that visualization really helped me to surrender to each contraction and not try and fight them. A word I kept repeating in my head was “surrender” to keep from tensing up. My contractions came on really strong and were pretty close together until I tried laboring through one on my yoga ball and immediately threw up (luckily Nick had gotten a trash can beforehand). This was kind of early on, and I was told throwing up is a big sign of transition and my first thought was, there’s no way I can be in transition and if I am I’m going to have this baby in the car! But Nick was doing an amazing job timing my contractions and just being so in tune with me that we both knew it wasn’t transition. Once I threw up that first time, my contractions backed off a little and weren’t so close together.I threw up two more times at home. (Side note: If you know me, you know I have a sweet dog named Mo. He laid on the couch nearby the whole time I was laboring, and every time I would throw up he would come over to check on me—so adorable!) Nick will tell you he didn’t do much but let me tell you, I could have never done it without him. He was so calm and supportive the whole time and just having his presence there put me at such ease. He knew I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible, so I knew we were getting close to leaving for the birth center when Nick started to get things together in between contractions. I asked him if he thought it was getting to be about time to leave and he said yes, my contractions were pretty steady at 3, sometimes 2 minutes apart, lasting a minute and that had been going on for about an hour. I’m so thankful that he knew I needed him to make that decision, it was one less thing taking up space in my head. At around 4:30 a.m., Nick helped me waddle to the car and we were off to the birth center.
The car ride was kind of a blur and I just kept roaring through each contraction and ended up throwing up in the car as well, but luckily we had brought the trash can. As we were turning onto the street of the birth center my water broke, gushed all over the backseat, but thankfully Nick had put down two big blue hospital pads so it didn’t get anywhere on the car. Nick parked the car, and as I waddled into the birth center, our two midwives greeted us and one says, “Well, we know Kelsey is in active labor, she’s not smiling.” (Which was such a cool experience that they knew me so well!) They took mine and the baby’s vitals and everything was looking good. They got us situated into our room where they drew a bath for me and checked on my progress. They announced that I was basically fully dilated and to keep doing what I was doing! That was literal music to my ears and gave me the extra strength I needed to finish out the work! I think my actual words were, “fuck yes, let’s get this baby out!” I got in the tub, which felt so nice and helped ease the pain and discomfort of the contractions, but I found I couldn’t rest/get comfortable in between contractions and that’s what I needed so desperately. So after about 45 minutes of being in the tub, I started to feel like I was needing to push. When people say you just know when you need to push, they aren’t kidding! It was like all of the sudden I had this immense amount of pressure that I needed to try and get out of my body. So the one midwife came in to check me, per my request, and says, “Oh yeah, I can feel your baby’s head, you can push whenever you feel ready!” Again, MUSIC TO MY EARS!
Pushing was hard for me to grasp at first. I got on the bed and went on all fours, and the next time a contraction came and I felt the urge to push, I did. Except that was not a comfortable position for me, I was too exhausted to try and hold myself up and I couldn’t get comfortable enough to relax in between pushes. I decided to lay down on my side and Nick held one leg and knee up for my next push. After it was over, my midwife asked if I was truly pushing and I told her I didn’t think so because I was kind of just expecting to keep doing what I was doing during contractions by just breathing my way through them. She informed me (very sweetly) that I was really going to need to push on this next one. She put two fingers into my vagina and told me to push against her fingers the next time. So the next time I had the urge to push, I used the contraction and roared with all my might into her fingers and she immediately said, “That was it! That was exactly what you need to be doing!” So now I knew I actually had to push (silly me). So every time I felt that urge to push, I used the contraction and gave it all I had. My midwife told me she would let me know when baby was crowning so I could give little, quicker pushes to help prevent tearing. During this time, I could literally feel her getting closer and closer, and I just kept going back to picturing my vagina as a blooming flower during every push, and that continued to help make my pushes count and helped me stay calm. There was a time during my pushing when baby’s heart rate dropped a bit, nothing that was too alarming, but my midwife did suggest trying to move more on my back to see if that would help adjust baby’s position and help bring the heart rate back up. Thankfully, that worked. My midwives and Nick were all really good at reminding me to breathe and relax as much as possible in between pushing to help get oxygen to baby. I did end up going back to my side when pushing because it hurt my back too much to lay completely flat. They monitored baby’s heart rate with a doppler to make sure all was good and it was. At one point in between contractions, I remember looking up at Nick and saying, “Are you crying yet?” and he said, “No, not yet” and our midwife goes, “No, but he’s giving you very loving looks right now,” and I said, “Yeah, who wouldn’t be?” Granted, I was butt naked, sweating my ass off from pushing and the room being kept warm for when baby came, and I hadn’t put deodorant on since the previous day, so I was definitely smelling like roses.
So remember when my midwife told me she would let me know when baby was crowning? Well, she didn’t need to tell me, I knew instantly. Some people call it “the ring of fire” and now I understand why. I think this was probably the most painful part for me. It burned in a way I can’t describe. But my midwife just said really calmly, “Kelsey, this is just your baby, this is just a sensation, it’s your new normal right now.” That helped me avoid getting caught up in the pain and allowed me to refocus mentally. As she was crowning, I gave a couple little, quicker pushes like my midwife suggested (which worked! No tearing, other than 2 small lacerations on the sides of my labias) and her head was out! The second her head was out I felt instant relief, and I felt like a damn warrior. Then I heard her chatting, no not crying, she was chatting with her bright eyes wide open! The cord was wrapped around her neck (which sounds scary but it’s actually pretty common) so she was probably just so happy to have that away from her neck. I just kept saying, “I hear you baby, I hear you!” I then gave another big push and her shoulders were out and Nick swooped in to catch her as the rest of her body came earthside. Nick was the very first person to hold her and I think that will bond them forever. He laid her on my chest and I just kept saying, “You’re here, you’re here, I’m so happy you’re here.” And then he said, “I think it’s a girl?” I had totally forgotten that we didn’t even know the gender! The midwives double checked and sure enough our babe was a little girl! The second I heard that it felt so right. After about 9ish hours of labor, at 7:30 a.m., our sweet Jade Harper Ortlieb (7 lb., 3 oz, 20 in. long) met us earthside and we were completely smitten!
I honestly could not have asked for a smoother birth and I am so thankful for Nick, my team of midwives, Jade, but most importantly, myself. I put so much work into mentally preparing for this day and to have it all go so smoothly makes me so, so grateful.
At 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant, it certainly is not following my plan. Tonight, per my doctor’s strong recommendation, I am getting induced. The primary reason is because I have a velamentous cord. This means that the umbilical cord is not fully on placenta and therefore, not 100 percent protected by Wharton’s jelly. I also have an accessory lobe placenta and being 35 (geriatric pregnancy), they are being cautious and I’m accepting it (sort of).
I get that my birth plan is not a guarantee—in fact, I’ve been calling it my “wish list,” instead of “plan.” What has been most frustrating is that they did not tell me about the recommendation to induce until 38 weeks. I asked when we found out about the velamentous cord if I could still plan on having an intervention-free birth. I was told yes, and continued doing what I do unless they said otherwise. They never said otherwise, and the word “induce” did not come up until just over a week ago. Then, after reluctantly scheduling the induction for Dec. 24, the doctor called me on Tuesday, Dec. 19, saying the nurses are giving her a hard time for scheduling the induction on the 24th. I was with her when she made the call to the hospital to confirm they would take us on Dec. 24. Also, due to the holiday, they are concerned about staffing. Oh, and after the last ultrasound, the recommendation was to induce by week 39.
If I had it my way, we would wait until Charlee is good and ready. However, that is not the case. Overall my pregnancy has been great. Other than working through learning about the velamentous cord and accessory lobe placenta, I have felt good and have kept my energy up throughout. I think a lot of this has to do with my regular chiropractic care, eating well, and staying active. I haven’t done as much working out for the past couple months, but I have continued to walk when I can and attended prenatal yoga 1 – 2 times per week throughout. That class has been a savior! I love the teachers and the community it creates. I’m not sure this pregnancy would have gone so well without that, not to mention the physical activity on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings!
With all that being said, I still want to be sure we make the right choice to ensure our daughter arrives safely, so tonight, in about 45 minutes, I’ll call Mercy Hospital to make sure they can take us as planned at 7:30 p.m. Then we will head into town (through a snowstorm no less!), stop and pick up dinner, and go to the hospital. I have tried everything I can to get this baby to budge. Acupuncture, acupressure, additional chiropractic visits, bouncing on my exercise ball as often as possible, and moving as much as I can without exhausting myself (I did some walking hills in the snow this afternoon!). Clearly, she isn’t ready to come on my terms and I’m OK with that. It tells me that we are doing the right thing by starting the induction process. Step 1 will be cervadil when we get there. After that, we will sleep overnight and see how things are in the morning. If things aren’t progressing, I’ll try pumping. If that doesn’t work, we start pitocin. We shall see what happens! Our birth team is on call for when we need them. Our team consists of Brandon’s mom (a trained doula) and my mom.
I just called the hospital—they’ll take us at 7:30 p.m. as planned.
Charlee Elaine Sperrey arrived on Dec. 25, 2017—yes, we have a Christmas baby! Don’t worry, she’ll be fine and won’t miss out on having her birthday celebrated. I’m excited to share our birth story because it’s nice to get it down in writing and maybe my experience will provide insight to other moms giving birth down the road.
Getting to Dec. 25 was quite an adventure. We arrived at the hospital a little after 7 p.m. on December 22. We checked into room 3005 and the nurse told us to eat our dinner and she would be back in an hour or so to start the first round of induction drugs. Cervidil is the first drug I would be getting. It is a drug on a vaginal insert meant to help your cervix gradually open. I was told the reason they started with Cervidil is should I start contracting heavily from it, they can remove it and I would be intervention free from there.
We ate our dinner, a steak bomb on a gluten-free sub for me—man, was it good! I put on my pajamas and we settled in to enjoy some cable TV (we don’t have it at home). The nurse checked back in stating they had gotten busy with labors, so it might be a few hours before they could start anything. OK—understood (kind of—we were super anxious to get things rolling). She said she’d be back to check my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate. More hours went by with a couple check-ins from the nurse at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Neither of us slept well in anticipation of getting things going.
Around 7 a.m., the nurse came in to let us know she was switching shifts and said it was likely I’d get the Cervidil in a couple hours. The Cervidil was inserted around 8 a.m. and it would stay in me for 12 hours, unless I went into labor. It is essentially a string and small piece of what looks like cardboard—not as big as a tampon. It did hurt and cause some discomfort when inserted, but once in, I barely noticed it. I had to lay still for an hour or so. They also put monitors around my stomach to watch contractions and Charlee’s heart rate.
We gave Theresa and my mom an update. Theresa had stayed at our house in case things got going during the snowstorm, so she arrived around 8:30 a.m. My mom started driving down arriving around 10 a.m. Our expectations at this point were that we might have a baby by the evening.
Twelve hours of Cervidil did result in some contractions toward the end—no lion, but more than I had felt. I walked and walked, did some yoga stretches, squats, bounced on the ball and had acupressure done on the small pins my acupuncturist had left on me. I was able to walk the floor while the nurse watched Charlee’s heart rate and my contractions because the monitors were wireless (thank goodness!) However, every now and then, the nurse would come looking for me because they lost the signal. It was kind of humorous, but also annoying.
At one point, they told us a concern was Charlee did not have consistent fluctuations in her heart rate. We learned that fluctuations in the heart rate signify she was thriving and moving around inside me. From time to time she would do well, but then she would not. Because of this, at one point, they made me get back in bed and lay on my right side on wired monitors. I wasn’t overly concerned because I could feel her moving, but of course, it became an obsession to watch the monitors when in the room.
At 8 p.m. the Cervidil was removed. The doctor checked my cervix to see how far I was dilated—not fun! She had to reach way up in me to do this—whoa, painful and hopefully good practice for contractions (come to find out, it’s not nearly as intense as contractions!) I was 2 centimeters and 80 percent effaced. The small dilation was discouraging, but being 80 percent effaced was encouraging. Effacement is the measurement of how stretched and thinned the cervix is. When you are 100 percent effaced, labor is said to be right around the corner. The doctor said my progress was not enough to break my water.
The next step, because of my goal to have as little intervention as possible, was to pump. Pumping can induce labor, so I wanted to try this versus Pitocin first. Pumping didn’t really do anything. So, around midnight, they gave me my first dose of Pitocin. This meant continued constant monitoring. They started with a low dose, increasing it slowly every half hour. After having the Pitocin pumping through me overnight … NOTHING! Contractions actually slowed down from when I was on the Cervidil. Clearly, Charlee did not want to come out on demand! We were all very disappointed and more frustrated because regardless of my progress, I had to stay in the hospital because they wanted to be able to monitor me as soon as my water broke due to the velamentous cord.
After the Pitocin, the doctor checked my cervix again and a little glimmer of hope was that I was now 3 centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced. This was still not enough to break my water, but a sign that things were at least moving.
It was now Christmas Eve. My sister Nellie had flown in from Atlanta the night before. Her and my Dad were hanging at my house, likely a bit bored, waiting for Charlee’s debut, and wanted to come by for a visit. Originally, Brandon and I said no visitors while going through the laboring process. However, it had been a rough couple days, so I opted for the distraction of visitors.
As soon as Nellie and my dad walked through the door, I started crying (just writing about it brings me to tears!). The emotions running through me were incredible, I’m sure all the extra hormones helped, too! We had come into the hospital more than 36 hours prior with very little results. Not to mention the holiday—I really felt like we were screwing everyone’s Christmas up (even though deep down I knew they were fine). Their visit was a great distraction, helping to burn an hour of the day.
After they left, we continued to wait for the next step due to another influx of deliveries coming in the door. We spent the early afternoon doing laps around our floor, trying to get something to happen. Still nothing. We continued to wait around due to other deliveries coming in the door as a priority. At one point, Brandon and I were walking and we saw a woman, in a wheelchair, looking to be in immense discomfort, most likely in full fledged labor. I told Brandon that I was incredibly jealous and broke down into tears. We went back to the room and we were all very frustrated as we continued to wait around.
When we got back to the room, Theresa and my mom had been chatting about how ridiculous it was that we continued to wait. After nicely complaining to our nurse, we decided to call Theresa’s partner’s brother, Ray, who is a doctor, to get his perspective.
This was a great move due to the frustration (the poor nurse who was getting the brunt of it!) Ray helped us understand that the reason we had to wait around is because they needed to monitor us 100 percent of the time. What they were doing was for the wellbeing of both Charlee and me. He said based on the influx of unanticipated deliveries, it made sense that they were holding off. We all understood and it was incredibly helpful to get his perspective.
Around 4 p.m., the nurse came in and gave me about a quarter of a pill called Misoprotosol. To summarize, it is another induction method similar to Cervidil, and it helps to soften the cervix to induce labor. The difference is because it’s in a pill form, you can’t slow it down like you can Cervidil. If contractions come on heavy, you can’t take away what you swallowed versus you can take out the Cervidil. Four hours after taking the Misoprotosol, there was no change in contractions.
Around 8 p.m., they gave me another dose. At that point, we were all incredibly exhausted. Our moms decided they were going to give us some space and camp out in the solarium room down the hall. Brandon and I settled in for the night and actually got about 10 hours of sleep (other than a few vital checks).
The next morning (Christmas Day) there was still no major change. At 7 a.m., the doctors switched out. We met with the new doctor who explained how she saw the day going. She said that they had a c-section they had to perform and a delivery on the way in. After each of these, if no other unanticipated labors came in, they would start me on a higher dose of Pitocin. They would see how that went, and then most likely break my water.
Things get a little fuzzy here. They started me on the Pitocin and around 2 or 3 p.m., as promised, they broke my water. Just as uncomfortable as having your cervix checked followed by a gush of warm water! There was meconium in the water. Meconium is the baby’s first poop. When it’s found in the water, it’s a concern because of the potential for the baby swallowing it through the amniotic fluid. There is a high risk of it blocking the baby’s airway, so they are unable to take their first breath after delivery. What this meant was they would have more hands on deck when she arrived should there be any issues.
With my water broken and a higher dose of Pitocin, the contractions started to quickly increase in intensity and timing. I now understand what they meant in my birth class when they said you go from the lamb to the lion in labor. There is a clear difference and you will know when you are there! The lion came on strong!
I started off contracting in bed because they wanted to have a consistent read on Charlee’s heart rate. Laying in bed was not an optimal position for me—my hope was to be able to move around to help with the discomfort. As the contractions intensified, I asked if I could at least move to the rocking chair. They granted my wish!
I then started to need more support from my birth team. Brandon was with me throughout. He sat in front of me holding my hand as I breathed through each contraction. Theresa was there, too, coaching and encouraging me. My mom gave us space, but I gladly felt her presence the entire time.
The experience of having Brandon be able to read me through these contractions was amazing. He seemed to know what I needed without me saying a word. At one point, he saw in my face that I just wanted him and he let his mom know. Then not many contractions later as they intensified more, I switched from focusing on him to focusing on Theresa 100 percent. Brandon knowingly stepped away and let his mom step in.
Up until this point, I stayed in the rocking chair. First squeezing Brandon’s hand then the arms on the chair. When I switched off Brandon to focus on Theresa, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom. Theresa went with me. When I sat on the toilet, I felt like I had to go so bad, but could not go. This all happened as contractions continued. Being unable to go for a few minutes, they brought in a portable toilet for me to sit on so they could continue to monitor. Not long after getting on the toilet, I told them I felt like I had to push, really bad.
It was about 5 p.m., so about 2 hours of intense labor. The nurse’s response to my need to push was I likely had only dilated 6 centimeters at that point, so do not push. She said the doctor would come in at 8 p.m. to check my cervix again. I looked at the clock and in my head I thought, “There is no way I can make it through 3 more hours of this.” I think this is also when they turned off the Pitocin drip. I told Theresa that I felt like I was going to pass out. She said focus on your breathing. The nurse told me I was doing awesome and to keep it up.
All I could think was: “Is this when I should ask for an epidural?” After one contraction, I was in so much pain, I felt like I was passing out. As another contraction came, I shook myself awake, thinking, “Did I just pass out?” After the contraction passed, I asked Theresa, “When do I ask about an epidural?” She looked me and said I was doing great and could do without. The nurse reinforced this message (awesome nurse!) They also said that Dr. Wadland was on her way to check my cervix. I looked at the clock and it was about 6 p.m.
When Dr. Wadland arrived, seeing her face relieved so much anxiety for me! They got me into bed—not easy with the contractions happening pretty rapidly at this point. I laid back and held Brandon’s hand as she check my cervix … 9.5 centimeters and 100 percent effaced!
Dr. Wadland said she wanted me to have a few more contractions before pushing. She had me get on my hands and knees in bed (thank goodness for all the cat/cows I did throughout pregnancy!) This is the moment when I felt most natural and was the experience I was expecting for my labor. I was going through the contractions, my bum and lady parts fully exposed, feeling like and saying I might poop. Thinking, “Wow, this is surreal!” I did in fact poop—most women do. When Brandon and I sat down and talked about the experience, I asked him about this. He said he wasn’t looking, but he did notice Dr. Wadland would very discreetly and quickly clean up any poop. For some reason, this made me feel better about this, so I wanted to share.
After a few contractions, they said it was time to push. She had me get back on my back. My mom came to my right hand and Brandon to my left. They both helped me bring my knees toward my head in a crunch position. When my next contraction came on, Dr. Wadland told me not to breathe now, to push through the contraction instead, pulling my upper body toward my lower body, almost a crunch motion.
Everyone was cheering me on. After the contraction passed, Theresa told me to stop pushing and coached me to breathe in between. At this point, all I wanted to do was push. They told me to wait for a contraction. I did my best, but I was outside of my body at this point, not really knowing if a contraction was happening. So whenever I felt like a minute went by and what might be a contraction, I pushed again and again.
At one point, the night nurse came in. She said hello to me and was very excited to get to see I was in full fledged pushing mode. She remembered my birth wish list and asked me if I wanted her to bring in a mirror so I could watch. I said, yes! She brought a mirror in and I could see everything. They asked me if I wanted to touch the head—YES! I touched it—surreal and motivating for me!
Shortly after this, Dr. Wadland said the baby’s heart rate is going down when I push, so we need to get her out in the next couple pushes or she’d have to use the vacuum. Hearing this motivated me even more to get her out. I could also sense there were a lot more people in the room at that point beyond the nurse and doctor.
They had me get on my right side again to help with Charlee’s heart rate—it is so hard to push in this position, but entirely possible! As a contraction came on (or so I thought)—everyone was cheering for me to push. My mom was there cheering me on as only she can.
A few more pushes and out came Charlee, pooping and crying! This was great news and Dr. Wadland immediately plopped her on my chest! I remember her with wide eyes looking right up at me and wailing—such an amazing moment. After the umbilical cord finished pulsating, Dr. Wadland asked Brandon if he wanted to cut the cord. He said yes—awesomeness. My mom snapped photos with my phone capturing all of this. They briefly took Charlee to the small station in the room to do her initial tests. She weighed 6 lb., 14 oz., 19.5 inches, arriving at 7:19 p.m. on Dec. 25, 2017.
After Charlee joined us, my placenta came out nicely, accessory lobe and all. Dr. Wadland said I did tear, so she needed to stitch me up. At this point, she could do anything down there, I was so focused on Charlee. She did numb me up with something and I could feel her working down there, but again, nothing mattered now that I had a thriving Charlee in my arms.
All in all, after trying to induce labor for almost 72 hours, Charlee joined us after 4 hours of intense contractions and 45 minutes of pushing. It may not have been how I pictured it all coming together, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The experience of going through this with our mothers, the amazing nurses that we got to know and appreciate, and having Dr. Wadland deliver Charlee will never be forgotten. I am eternally grateful that I trusted the journey.
A few tips that I offer to moms about to welcome their little one (or ones!) to the world:
-Cover or remove any clocks! Especially once the lion hits—you do not need to know the time, trust me!
-Get to know your nurses. We will never forget Vanessa, Brenda, Cathy, Emily, Allison and Kayla. Each of them made our experience the best it could be. I could tell they all read my birth wish list and they respected it the best they could. The timing of each of their involvement was also perfect. We didn’t meet Cathy until delivery day and she was the perfect nurse to have present at that time. When Brenda arrived when I was pushing, I couldn’t have been happier to see her face and I think we made her day as well!
-After delivery, cover up your nipples for a family photo. We have so many amazing pictures after Charlee arrived, but my nipples are out loud and proud in all of them!
-Document your experience so you can remember all the little details. It took me a month to complete and some of it was hard to remember just 30 days later. What I did find helpful is a bulleted timeline to reference as I typed this up. I’m so happy I now have it written down so I can share it with Charlee when she grows up.
-TRUST THE JOURNEY! We are not able to control how our labor goes, but what we can control is our trust in the process. If you have a bad feeling about your provider and their support for your birth intentions, find a new provider. I know a woman who changed in her third trimester. If you have trust in your provider, you will be able to trust the journey. Remember, at the end, you will have your baby in your arms and that’s all that matters! Having these affirmations written and on the wall as a reminder is one of the best things I did for our birth room.
I am so excited to announce the launch of The BIRTH Project Network! The overarching goal of The BIRTH Project is to add value to the birth community through storytelling. By publishing birth stories written by parents, I hope to spread awareness, knowledge, and connection in regards to the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum processes.
The BIRTH Project Network is a way to further connect, relate to, and learn from others in the birth community. The Network is comprised of online topic-based meet-ups with topics ranging from pregnancy, to birth, postpartum, and beyond. Each meeting is one hour in length and features a subject matter expert (SME). The SME is always someone who has more knowledge, experience, and qualifications on the given topic than I do. The SME is present to partake in the discussion, share their stories, share information, and answer questions.
Topics that are currently in the works include home births—this will be the inaugural meet-up!—postpartum fitness, nutrition during pregnancy, postpartum partner relationships, unmedicated births, c-section support, and so much more.
Please visit The BIRTH Project Network page HERE to find out how you can participate in this FREE online meet-up. I’m looking forward to chatting with you!
It all started on Friday, May 25, which coincidentally, was my due date …
I had woken up early to make it to my favorite 5:30 a.m. strength workout. I sure hoped my water would break during the workout and things would get started.
Right before the workout began, I hit up the bathroom, where I found a little blood that resembled the end of your period. I was totally freaked out, but still did the workout. Turns out I had some bloody show, a good sign labor will be happening soon (ish).
Later that afternoon, I had a midwife appointment. I got checked for the first time and was 90 percent effaced, 1-2 cm. dilated. I had my midwife strip my membranes a bit in hopes of getting things going. Jacob and I really wanted Hunter to show up that weekend.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I did tons (TONS – at least 1.5 hours each day) of walking and also had a few more contractions.
On Sunday afternoon, I decided to take some castor oil. Castor oil only works to bring on labor if your body is ready to go into it. If it’s not, you just give yourself the runs and feel horrible for 12 hours or so. I was willing to take that risk. We both had this feeling it was time, especially with my bloody show and the contractions I’d been having.
A cup of OJ, fresh strawberries and a shot of castor oil all blended together went into my belly around 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Jacob and I went to Fred Meyers that afternoon, and did something we never do — bought 3 movies. Then we did something else we never do — watched two in a row. We just knew something was going to happen.
At 8 p.m., about halfway through the second movie, I began to feel a warm liquid start to flow out of me. I dashed to the toilet, excited and hoping this was it. I couldn’t tell if it was my water breaking, me peeing myself, or just lots of discharge. I called my midwife, she said it probably was my water breaking, and to see how the night goes and come into the hospital in the morning unless labor progresses faster.
So we went for a walk, and one hour later, the contractions started. Jacob got the biggest grin on his face during those early contractions. It was time!
I always wondered what contractions would really feel like, and to me it felt like really, really bad menstrual cramps. Before being pregnant, mine were pretty bad, so being worse means they were really uncomfortable.
Fast forward a couple hours, and the contractions were about 1-2 minutes apart and about 30 – 45 seconds long. I was feeling kind of freaked out—how could it be happening so fast? I spent a good amount of time in the shower, letting the warm water run down my low back (which was a big part of where I felt my contractions) for a little relief. Nothing really made them change. Jacob was on the phone with our midwife a few times. We both didn’t know why they were so close so soon. Was my labor really happening this fast?
Around 11 p.m. we tried to get some sleep, knowing we had a long night ahead. I couldn’t nap, they were so close together. I made it to 12:30 a.m. Monday morning and told myself at 1 a.m. we would leave the house and head to the hospital. I could make it just 30 more minutes, right?
At 12:45 a.m. we got the bags, and were in the Jeep on our way to the hospital.
At 1 a.m., we arrived at the family birth center. I got hooked up to two monitors—one for my contractions, one for Hunter’s heart rate.
A nurse checked and indeed my water had broken — we were there to stay. When my midwife arrived, she checked to see how much I’d progressed — 3 cm., almost 100 percent effaced and he was at zero station, meaning very low, locked and ready to go!
After 30 minutes on the monitors, I was free to move as I pleased. I walked around the room a lot, spent some time in the tub, and did some hands and knees rocking. I was feeling pretty drained from the lack of sleep and began to drift off to sleep between contractions.
Typically things start to progress along in labor — longer and stronger contractions that get closer and closer together. Well the opposite began happening for me. They kept getting further apart, leaving me with 5-6 minutes of rest in between each (before they had been 1-2 minutes apart). I was even able to get an hour-long nap in, and apparently I had a 24-minute break from contractions at that time.
Although the relief was nice, I knew it wasn’t a good sign.
By noon on Monday, my midwife decided to check me again, only because my labor didn’t seem to be going the right way. At that time I was 5-6 cm. dilated. I had made progress, just slowly. We decided to give it a couple more hours to see if things picked up before talking about other options.
The nurse did some acupressure on my feet/ankles and we tried hot wash cloth nipple stimulation—both things that can help pick up contractions. I moved around the room, did lunges, got on my hands and knees. I wanted my body to do this on its own without help.
Four p.m. rolled around and I was checked again — only 6 cm. dilated. Barely a change. Since my water had broken at 8 p.m. the night before, the 24-hour time clock was counting down. Note: If a woman’s water breaks, after 24 hours, doctors often recommend interventions.
I knew what my options were going to be, and I knew I didn’t really have a choice with them, but when my midwife suggested a little pitocin, I broke down and cried. It’s not what we wanted or planned for. The lack of sleep was making me pretty emotional, and at the time I felt like a failure. Why couldn’t my body do this? Did I do something wrong? This is not what we had planned.
We said OK to the pitocin. Our midwife knew what we wanted, but sometimes things change with unexpected situations. I started off with the smallest dose of pitocin, which we hoped would kick start my body back to where it needed to be. For the next hour I got two tiny increments.
Things were starting to pick up. By 6 p.m. the contractions were much, much stronger. I could no longer walk them off. I’d instantly have to get on my knees, arms on tub, with Jacob putting hot compression on my back. It was the only way I could deal with them. There wasn’t talking, just walking then onto my knees during the pain.
I wanted to be checked again, hoping I’d be at the point of pushing. Pushing meant the contractions would soon end and Hunter would be here.
Only at 9 cm. Keep moving as much as I can. Keep things moving and get to that 10 cm.
Just about every 20-30 minutes, I asked to be checked again and I was stuck at 9-9.5 cm. It seemed like I was stuck there forever.
Contractions were back to back and I could barely deal with them. I kept saying that I wanted to push, but they knew I wasn’t ready. I wishfully wanted to push. That would mean it was over.
Stuck at that 9.5, I began to feel defeated. I kept telling them I couldn’t doing it any more. Jacob and my midwife would encourage me and get me through that contraction, one at a time. My breathing would start to get out of hand, then Jacob would start doing the slow deep breathing and I’d begin to mimic him.
In my head, each time I said I couldn’t do it anymore, to me that meant I needed drugs. That’s the thing about transition, you begin to say things you don’t really mean.
Since I kept having my midwife check me, she was skeptical about when I’d really need to push. She said there were behaviors she would see and she’d know it was time.
It felt like I was in transition f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Every check left me disappointed since each time I had not reached 10 cm. There was this tiny little lip that just wouldn’t budge.
When I switched from ‘I feel like I need to push,’ or ‘I want to push,’ to ‘I need to take a poop!’ that was the sign!
My midwife checked me once again and although I wasn’t at a 10 still, she told me to push with the next contraction and she’d see what my cervix did. During that next contraction, I pushed, she pressed that tiny part of my cervix over (holy ouch!) so he could begin to pass and it begun.
I was so glad to start pushing. Finally the end is near! My midwife saw I still had part of my bag of water in tact, so she broke it. Surprisingly there was meconium (baby’s first poop) in the bag. That meant the neonatal staff had to be there just in case he swallowed any of it, which would be bad.
The team was intact. Me on the slightly inclined bed, my midwife there to catch Hunter, the nurse holding my left leg and Jacob on my right. It took me a few pushes to really get the feeling of what pushing was like. Honestly, it’s the same feeling as pushing out a poop. Just gotta give in to the feeling.
I’d get two good pushes out of each contraction, try to catch my breath and push for a third. Everyone was cheering me on and telling me what they could see with each push. The feeling of his head making its way past my cervix was crazy. I thought he was already out but that was just step one. Once he passed the cervix, I was in a rhythm. A contraction would come, I’d take a breath in, let it out, take another deep breath in, hold it, pull my legs back and push like crazy. Pushing was amazing. I was doing something! I couldn’t believe the lack of pain I felt during the pushes. Contractions didn’t hurt anymore.
When his head started to crown I could feel the burn begin, but my midwife used oil and helped stretch me and he began to emerge, quickly. Once his head was out, I just wanted to keep pushing, especially since it felt sooooo weird just having his head hanging out! A couple more pushes and boom he was out, face up, fist under chin and screaming like crazy.
Just 28 minutes. That’s all it took to push out our 7-lb., 12-oz. baby boy Hunter.
They put him on my chest right away since he looked and sounded good (the neonatal nurses left). All I remember saying was ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh’ and that he was so big! Jacob thought he was big, too, but apparently he wasn’t to the nurses. To us he was!
Our baby was in my arms. He was perfect. After the cord was cut and placenta delivered, my midwife was going to stitch me up a bit. I had tiny little tear, and since it was so little I was given the option to not have stitches, which I decided against.
About 30 minutes after he was born he’d already started nursing — for 30 minutes! He was a champ from the beginning.
We let them weigh him, give him his vitamin K shot, then he was back in our arms.
I could not believe how quickly he came out, especially being a posterior baby. All that working out I did during my pregnancy definitely had me ready for the big pushing event, which much like working out, I loved.
Jacob was amazing the entire time. He was my rock and kept me from freaking out when my contractions would get intense. I felt so much support for our choice for a drug-free childbirth, not only from our midwives (we started with one, ended with another), but the two nurses we had at the hospital as well. There were definitely some moments I didn’t think I’d make it, but once it was over I couldn’t imagine having done it any other way.