Birth Stories

Birth Story of Samuel Owen Schultz

On July 4, 2017, Josh and I welcomed our second son, Samuel Owen, into the world. This is the story of his birth.

In hindsight, it all started about 12:30 a.m. I woke up and had to use the bathroom in an urgent way that had me questioning, “Is this a sign of labor, or did I catch a stomach bug?” Lack of contractions made me think it wasn’t labor. A couple hours later I was up again with a similar issue, and I was nauseous.

By morning, I was feeling okay, but still felt off and could barely stomach food. But it was July 4, our house is really close to the parade route, we had a good spot reserved, and family had come over to watch it with us. Charlie could only handle so much parade (it’s a long parade), so I brought him back to our house where I could sit in the shade. When Josh came home, I took a nap. I totally skipped saying goodbye to family because I just really needed a nap.

The nap refreshed me enough to have some food. Both Josh and Charlie were napping, so I took advantage of the quiet house, and reviewed the resources I had gathered for labor on pushing, visualizations, and breathing techniques. The fear of tearing again had been brought forth by The-OB-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named during my non-stress-tests with her (my OB was out on vacation). You might wonder why I’d been having NSTs at 37-38 weeks pregnant. Well, Sam was due July 17, but I turned 35 on July 10, so I was being treated as advanced maternal age. *eye roll*

Side story: The-OB-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named tried to scare me into a c-section, basically. She’s a serious person and was “very concerned” with my decision to go forward with a second vaginal delivery, after the tear I experienced during Charlie’s birth. I did go to her after Charlie’s birth once, for some help with healing tissue. It was just so appalling to me to bring these things up to an 8.5-months pregnant woman who isn’t your patient. Even her nurse was in on it. She remembered me from that appointment after Charlie’s birth, and felt the need to tell me how she had torn like I did with Charlie and didn’t have more kids because she couldn’t risk “going through that again.” Thanks lady. *face palm* Even though I think those comments were totally insensitive, I am glad they forced me to confront my fears and review the information I had gathered.

It also made me decide to add “no coached pushing” to my birth preferences sheet, especially since The-OB-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named was on call on July 4. So I added it to the plan. This ended up being pointless for a few reasons, one of which was that our printer was out ink.

Alicia and Sam

After Charlie’s nap, we played trains on the living room floor. As I was leaning over putting together some tracks, I felt a pop in my lower right abdomen, then a small gush of fluid. I stopped dead in my tracks (heh) and headed to the restroom. I noticed that the fluid was yellow (mucus plug?). I wondered if my water had broke, but didn’t seem to be leaking more fluid. I looked at my watch. 5 p.m. So I headed upstairs for some fresh undergarments, which led to more fluid and this had the distinct pink color of amniotic fluid. Yep, water had definitely broke.

After getting cleaned up, I told Josh what happened and expressed my worry that I hadn’t had any contractions. Of course as I’m saying this, I had my first contraction.

After having a few contractions, I decided it was a good idea to time them. Josh called his mom to come over so she’d be here to take care of Charlie once we were ready to head to the hospital. I texted my doula, Candace, and the friends we had planned to meet for fireworks. “Sorry friends, not going to make it, just went into labor!”

Contractions were about 45-60 seconds long and about 7-9 minutes apart. They slowly got closer together and consistently 1 minute long. I made sure to drink my electrolyte/juice mix or water after each one, to stay hydrated and fueled for the coming work. I also tried to stay upright and walking around. Everyone else had dinner, but I wasn’t hungry. After dinner, I tried to spend some time with Charlie, knowing that I likely wouldn’t see him for a couple days. Contractions slowed during this time. It’s like my body knew to slow down to give me the time I needed to have that time with him and mentally say goodbye to Charlie being my only son. All throughout this, I was texting my doula, who was giving me support and advice. Once Charlie was off to bed (about 8 p.m.), things started to pick up. Contractions steadily increased from being 7 minutes apart, to being 5 minutes apart. I called and talked to The-OB-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, who was okay with my decision to head to the hospital once I felt contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart. Well, contractions very quickly surpassed 5 minutes apart and things got really intense really fast. Josh realized we needed to head to the hospital, partly to avoid any post-fireworks traffic. So away we went.

Let me just say, contractions in the car are the worst. Josh was a bit hyped up, as to be expected, and started heading to the highway a weird way. I was still able to direct him between contractions. We also got to view every surrounding city’s fireworks. Exploding fireworks work amazingly well as a visualization for contractions, especially intense contractions.

Sam

We got to the hospital about 9:15-ish. Being July 4, we had to go to the emergency room entrance. I directed Josh to “follow the red signs.” Once there, I was quickly put into a wheelchair. Josh got our stuff, and put the car somewhere, then we were transported to labor and delivery. The nurses there quickly realized my state and we we surpassed triage (do not pass go, do not collect $200) and went straight to a room. Of course, a nurse wanted to check my progress, and when she announced 3 cm I was like “what?!” and mentally was like, “There is no way this intensity is only 3 cm,” quickly followed by, “There’s no way I can do this without an epidural if this is going to be this intense for several more hours.” She noted my cervix was very soft, which was encouraging.

Soon after this, Candace walked in, which immediately put me at ease. Another nurse attempted to put an IV in my arm, but it never got put in, there was no time. The last two contractions I timed, before giving up on timing them, were around 9:30 p.m. lasting a minute-and-a-half, and were 3-and-a-half minutes apart. I ended up hanging on Josh through contractions while he and Candace reminded me to relax, breath, and visualize. I did the best I could, but the intensity made it almost impossible, and I said as much. Josh and Candace reminded me that I could, but I was highly doubting myself. In hindsight, this was probably transition. Soon after, a doctor entered the room.

To my confusion and excitement, it was not The-OB-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but another doctor from my OB’s practice, Dr. Schell. She said she just happened to be at the hospital and came in to help since the other doctor wasn’t there yet. I was like, “Hi, nice to meet you, okay, my doctor told me about you.” (Reason 2 why editing the birth plan earlier in the day was pointless.) She had me lay back down on the bed so that a more accurate fetal monitor could be put on Sam, a vaginal one, since he was showing some signs of distress. She also decided to check me since I was laying down anyway. Then she gloriously announced that I was completely dilated. So, since getting to the hospital, I had gone from 3 cm to fully dilated. NUTS!

Let me just say that again. In like, I don’t know, 20 minutes (?), I dilated from 3 cm to 10 cm. It was C-R-A-Z-Y.

Then Dr. told me that I needed to get him out quickly because his heart rate was dropping when I had a contraction. This freaked me out because this is what happened with Charlie. I somehow was propped up in the bed and nurses were holding my legs and everyone was talking and telling me I need to push him out, and I just turned and looked at Candace with what I hoped was a “help me, I’m freaked out” look, and she turned to the Dr and just said, “She’s afraid of tearing again, you need to explain this all to her.” This is when the Dr. got everyone to be quiet and directed me to look at her. She told me everything was going to be okay, I was not going to suffer another 4th-degree tear, she was going to coach me through this, and I needed to push him out because his heart tones were going dangerously low, in the 70s. For whatever reason, her doing that, made me trust her. I told Candace it was okay, he needs to come out, so let’s do it this way. The situation called for it. (Reason 3 editing the birth plan was pointless.)

Alicia and Sam

So even though he wasn’t fully engaged in my pelvis, I pushed him down and pushed him out with the coaching of Dr. Schell. I could feel her pushing down on my perineum, stretching it out and scratching Sam’s head between contractions. It took me five pushes to overcome my fear and finally push through the pain to birth his head. The cord was tightly wrapped around his neck. Dr Schell couldn’t get it loose to pull it over his head, so she had to cut it. I said okay to this, even though I had really wanted delayed clamping. The situation called for it. But the fact that Dr. Schell told me it needed to happen, and I said okay before it was cut, made a huge difference in my acceptance of it. With one more push, he was out. Due to the low heart tones, the NICU nurses checked him out before getting him to me, but he was screaming up a storm, so we knew he was fine. It didn’t take long for them to put him on my chest and cover us with a blanket. I just sat there in amazement at the amazing little person who had just come out of my body. I looked down at those blue eyes and said, “Hi, Sam.” It was intense and incredible. We had our magic hour during which Sam searched for and found my breast. He latched on right away.

I did suffer another tear, but only a 2nd-degree this time, so there was some stitching up that needed to happen after I birthed the placenta. Also, because there was no time for an IV, I was given a shot of pitocin in each leg. And at some point my legs were shaking uncontrollably.

After it was all done, and I came out of my amazement fog, Sam was weighed and measured. He was just shy of 7 lb. (by 0.01 oz) and 20.5 inches.

Welcome to the world Samuel Owen Schultz!

Written by Alicia M. Schultz

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Landon Harkema

My first contraction came and went at 2 p.m., on Sunday, Dec. 16. I wrote it off as gas as we were at a family Christmas party and no way did I think labor would start while I was there. A half hour later I had another sensation like the first …”Could this be the start?” I wondered. I hesitantly texted our doula, Brooke, (as I didn’t want to be the girl that cried wolf) to fill her in just in case it was the start of the real thing. We left the party at about 5:30 p.m., and contractions were still coming every 30 minutes, getting stronger little by little.

On the way home from my sister’s house, we made a pit stop at Meijer (nearby supermarket) for a fishnet (I had realized earlier that day that I never got one, and we needed one for the birth pool), and a few other odds and ends—again just in case. I was willing myself to believe it wouldn’t actually be time. I had a mildly uncomfortable contraction on the way into the store and a stronger one yet that slowed my walking on the way out. (Side note: Imagine how I looked in public, in my leggings and maternity sweater, finished off with socks and Mitch’s (my husband’s) flip flops in December, in Michigan … because I didn’t feel like working to get actually shoes on just to go to my sister’s).

Still hesitant, I texted Sara (midwife) to let her know what was happening as well. Her advice: Have a small glass of wine, take a hot bath and get as much sleep as possible. I did just that after I had a large helping of pasta. I had also looped Janelle (my boss) in just in case for work … she had asked about contractions, etc., and told me, “You’ll be meeting your baby this week!” This week?! Was she crazy? I hope I meet my baby tomorrow, I thought.

As I went to bed at 7 p.m., I was coaxing myself to relax. Just about to fall asleep, I had another contraction to work through. I decided at that point to download a contraction-tracking app. Mitch came into the room and I told him I was still having contractions and I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep. In that moment, he decided to have a mild freak out and let me know our house wasn’t ready for a baby. I told him we didn’t have a choice at that point as he went and fussed with the baby gate to make sure it fit where he wanted it (as if our little man was going to come out walking—this part still makes me giggle).

As he did that, I continued working through contractions that were lasting anywhere from 45 seconds to the longest one at 5 minutes, 4 seconds from start to finish (?!). After my 5-minute contraction, I came out of the bathroom and Mitch started questioning whether or not our plan was still the plan we wanted. Irritated and now questioning myself, I informed him I needed him to be strong and confident and not say things like that. At some point during all of this, he surprised me with affirmation cards that read things like: “I hope the sex was worth it,” “I believe in you,” “Landon is ready to come out now.”

Courtney

Somewhere around 11:30 p.m., Mitch asked if I wanted Brooke to come … I was still so fearful that it would be too soon or even that this wasn’t true labor. Sensing it was what Mitch also needed, we told her to come and she said it would be about 40 minutes and then she’d be over. About an hour later, we received a text from her saying something came up (we later found out she was going to take a power nap and then come, but her alarm never went off), but she was leaving now and confirmed we still wanted her to come.

Brooke arrived at about 1 a.m. at which point she applied oils of some sort on my ankles and prayed over us. I don’t recall all of what was said during her prayer, but I do remember having this overwhelming sense that everything was going to be OK, that I was strong and I could do this. It felt so peaceful.

Brooke said that her feeling of the inconsistent contractions, and spacing of contractions could be due to baby being in a wonky position. She told me it would be beneficial to do the mile circuit to help baby get in a better position. The circuit consisted of 2 contractions on my right side, hands and knees, left side, and back. I made it through all of them and started the first contraction on my back and caved. It was so intense, and an almost involuntary bodily response left me lying on my left side to finish. At the end of that contraction, Brooke continued telling me it would be super beneficial to finish it out but she couldn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to. And man. I did. Not. Want. To!

Courtney and baby

Shortly after that, in between a contraction, Brooke asked me when the last time I had contact with Sara was. I told her it was way earlier in the night and she told me not to reach out until morning or once contractions were 5 minutes apart lasting a minute long. I’ll never forget the moment my eyes locked with Brooke’s and she told me, “We’re there.” About 10 minutes later Charis (midwife assistant/midwife in training) arrived, followed by Sara.

Charis took my blood pressure and checked baby’s heartbeat. It was comforting knowing everything was going as it should for both baby and I.

Little to my knowledge, contractions were still lasting pretty long and were still not as consistent as they could be. The first time I knew Sara was there was when I looked up to her voice after a contraction and she was telling me the same thing Brooke did … that the mile circuit needed to be done. She was a little more forceful with her tone, and I felt I had no better option than to do it. Besides, once it was done I was told I could get into the birth pool. Brooke reminded me that she and Mitch were right there with me working through each one—they were amazing. Listening to what I needed for each one, I loved knowing they were there and feeling the soothing touch from either one as just that: a reminder that I wasn’t alone. The last part was hands and knees this go round—feeling as if every time I wiggled my big toe the contractions came on again, I remember looking up and feeling how far the pool was from me. Two contractions after the circuit was complete Sara came into the room and told me to make my way to the pool.

A little self conscious, I wondered if I should have Mitch grab me a bra to wear as at the point I was still fully clothed. Right as I got to the pool a contraction started up and off my clothes came. I made it as quickly as I could into the warm pool of water and slung myself over the side. With Mitch sitting right in front of me, I grabbed his hands and really belted it out the first contraction in the pool. Holy moly—these were SO MUCH STRONGER being in a squatting position. Questions of wanting to get out of the water and my ability to finish getting this babe out flooded my mind as the contraction ended. Wow, that was tough. The next one came shortly after with this odd, overwhelming sensation to start pushing. I resisted but looked to Brooke after to let her know what I had just felt. “I know it’s way to early to be saying this, but I felt like I needed to push with that one …” Sara met my gaze at the door and said that her and Charis had been listening to my contractions, they were strong, and if I felt I needed to push to listen to my body.

As the next one came I started pushing … still moaning with each push I wondered how much longer it would be. I never asked in fear of the answer being longer than I felt I could handle. Besides, Charis and Sara were still in the kitchen preparing things for after birth … it couldn’t be close. A few contractions (still with some pushing) later, Sara and Charis entered the room and positioned themselves behind me on the outside of the pool. Still facing Mitch and squeezing his hand as hard as I could with each contraction, I started to whimper and almost cry as I started to feel fatigued and like I had no idea what I was doing anymore. The drowsiness was so strong I almost fell asleep a few times in between each contraction. With the next urge to push Sara told me to hold my breath as the pressure from my lungs would help push baby out. This made a world of a difference and also left me gasping for air a few times.

I vaguely remember Sara asking Mitch for a hand-held mirror, which he quickly went and brought back for her. She positioned it in the water to see what was going on at which point (I’m told via Mitch) she and Charis locked eyes, nodded as if to say it’s go time, and put on their gloves. Mitch locked eyes with me and quietly told me, “Shit’s about to get real, they just put their gloves on.”

“Do you know where you want to have this baby? Here in the pool or back in bed?” Sara asked. “I have no idea.” I quickly replied. “You have about two contractions before you need to make that decision,” she informed me. With that in mind, I told her I wasn’t moving.

I found myself yelling, “This hurts so bad!” with the next surge and Sara asked me to touch where it hurt. Not knowing if I wanted to feel any of that, I snapped back with a harsh “No!” To my surprise, she also quickly came back with a stern, “Yes, you need to.” Reaching down, I felt either a head or my bag of waters as they had not yet broke. The reality of how close this baby was sank in so fast and I got so excited. As the contraction ended, I felt everything slide back up inside of me. With new energy and a drive to end this as fast as I could, I pushed with all my strength. Going a little too fast, Sara told me to slow down in the middle of one. I rested a minute and the urge started coming back. Sara mentioned something about the fact that my water would probably break with this next one. Starting to push, I felt the explosion immediately followed by head, shoulders, and the rest of my sweet baby’s body sliding out.

Now needing to flip positions (as I didn’t want to move out of the squatting position for pushing) I slid over to sit and take my baby. Nothing about those moments felt like real life as I held my baby to my chest. I silently thanked God for this perfect miracle, this perfectly imperfect birth, and my ability to work through it all. It’s still amazing to me how peaceful it all was. There is nothing quite like bringing a baby earth side, listening to your body, and the sweet surrender of it all.

Written by Courtney Harkema 

Birth Stories

Birth Stories of Oliver and Isaac

I gave birth to my first boy, Oliver, at the age of 20. I was unprepared and scared, and he pushed me to my absolute limit at 42 weeks. I had dreamed of a natural birth, but was secretly afraid of the pain. When we were forced to induce, I was slightly relieved, and mostly just ready to have a baby in my arms—I didn’t care how it happened!

After his birth, I began to feel a deep sadness for how his birth had transpired. It was magical in its own way, but I still felt a longing to do it on my own (intervention free), to complete the cycle of empowerment and manifest the birth of my dreams.

At just 16 months postpartum, we found out we were expecting baby number 2! I immediately started visualizing the birth, and how it would transpire: I was going to go into labor at 9 p.m. after we put our son in bed, deliver that night, and be home the next evening to put our babies to bed together. I knew I was strong and capable this time around, and I KNEW in my heart that this birth held a lot of healing power.

Oliver, Abby, and Isaac

At 39 week 6 days, my water broke on its own at 9 p.m. I had just come down the stairs from putting my oldest in bed, and went to the bathroom to pee when I got the tell-tale “gush”! We went straight to the birth center, where our second little boy, Isaac, was born just 12 hours later.

I labored with my husband by my side, walking the halls, soaking in the birth pool, and even took a nap early on. Isaac was born with the afternoon sun streaming through the blinds, around 3:30 p.m. I was complete. I felt healed. I felt strong.

We rested for a few hours afterward, and made it home for bedtime with our oldest. Our little family was complete.

Written by Abby Hanlon

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Warren James Justice

4:57 a.m.

I woke up for what I thought would be my typical 5 a.m. pee. I’m sure many pregnant women can relate. As I sat down on the toilet, I had a brief thought that this could be my water breaking, as I was one day away from my “guess date,” which is what I like to refer to my due date as. Seeing as I could control it, I knew it wasn’t my water breaking, as I’d have no control over that. Walking out of the bathroom, I walked over to my dresser to change pants (yes, I thought I had peed myself!), and when I stood in front of it, there was a HUGE gush of water down my leg. I know they say it won’t be like it is in the movies, but for me, it was! As if I could actually catch the fluid, I frantically threw my hands down to try to prevent it from going all over the floor. My husband, who is typically a very sound sleeper, shot up out of bed and asked, “Was that Roscoe (our dog) peeing on the floor?!” I replied, “Uh … I think my water just broke!” and hobbled back to the bathroom. Jared (my husband) brought me my phone so we could call our midwife.

A little backstory: We had planned to do a home birth, but at my 20-week ultrasound, it was determined that my placenta was lying very close to my cervix and I would need to be monitored. I had another ultrasound at 36 weeks so I could be cleared for a vaginal birth. My placenta had moved up enough for a vaginal birth, but our midwife was more comfortable with me delivering at the birth house, as it was closer to the hospital in the event I needed to transfer. While it was safe for me to deliver vaginally, there was a higher chance of bleeding because of the location of my placenta.

So, I called the midwife, Sara, to let her know that my water had broken, but I was not having any contractions yet. She told me to eat breakfast and try to get some rest. It took about 45 minutes for contractions to start, and they were very mild. They were coming every 8 minutes or so, and I was easily able to talk and move in the midst of them. Around 11 a.m., we decided to start our journey to the birth house, as we had an hour drive to get there. Contractions had increased to 4-5 minutes apart, and were lasting about a minute. I was beginning to turn inward and focus on breathing and releasing any tension or fear of the contractions.

The drive to the birth house seemed to slow the contractions and make them less intense. Maybe it was my lack of movement, or the heated seats in the truck. Once we got there, we were greeted by Charis, the student midwife. She took some vitals and suggested we go for a walk around the block to see if I could get things to pick back up. I laugh thinking back on this memory—what a site to see we were. There I was, with my giant belly sticking out of the middle of my winter coat, clinging to Jared’s arm so I didn’t slip and fall on the ice. Mind you, we woke up to a snow storm this day, so people were outside shoveling the 12 inches of snow on the ground, as I am waddling along. I remember thinking they probably thought we were being so unsafe—me being so pregnant and out walking in the snow and ice. Little did they know I was in labor, trying to walk him out! Walking through the contractions really picked things up and made them much more intense. After about 20 minutes, we made our way back to the birth house.

The next few hours were filled with swaying through contractions, bouncing on the birthing ball and spending some time soaking in the tub. There was no real concept of time during labor—it felt like everything blurred together and I just kept my focus inward. I was much quieter than I had anticipated. I focused on my breathing, kept my sounds low and kept reminding myself that all of this had a purpose. My body was feeling what was happening and responding the way it needed to. But holy sh** were things intense. Looking back, I have no real way to describe what labor feels like. It’s like nothing I can put into words.

When it started to get dark outside again—I had no concept of time besides knowing the sun went down—I began to get discouraged. Things were extremely intense and I felt like I was on a never-ending roller coaster. Contractions felt like they were on top of each other, and I began to feel like I was starting to suffer mentally and physically. I felt like I couldn’t get any relief, no matter the position I was in or what I tried to do. I remember turning to Jared and my sister and saying, “If this isn’t f***ing transition, I am going to kill someone.” My sister chuckled and told me without a doubt that it was. I also remember thinking to myself, “Jared and I want multiple kids, but I am NEVER doing this again.” I was legitimately worried about that—in the midst of labor!

From all of my birth preparation, I thought once I got through transition, I would find relief with pushing. I knew transition would be where I wanted to give up, but I kept telling myself to KEEP GOING, you can get through this, you can do it, you ARE doing it. I had heard people say they enjoyed pushing, it felt good and was a relief. So, I looked forward to pushing. My sister reminded me that when I felt “pushy,” I needed to let them know, and Sara (midwife) and Charis (student midwife) would come in. Until then, they had both been outside the room, only coming in periodically to check my vitals as well as Warren’s. I felt a slight urge to push, so I asked if my sister could go get Sara and Charis. I thought to myself, “Lindsay—you did it, you made it through transition—now, let’s meet that little boy! Sara asked if she could check me to see if I was fully dilated, as she suspected I might have a cervical lip preventing me from fully dilating. Until then, I did not have any cervical checks, so I was praying that I was fully dilated. Upon checking me, she said that I did have a lip, and on my next contraction she would need to push it back so I could fully dilate. She said that she apologized in advance and I knew that I wasn’t going to like her after this. I thought, “It can’t be any worse than what I have already felt, so I don’t know why she is saying this.” Boy, was I wrong. That was hands down the most intense moment of all of labor, probably more intense than all of labor combined. This was the first time I remember letting out a full-blown scream. It still gives me goosebumps. Praise the Lord she only had to do that once. It took me a few minutes to recompose myself, but then I was ready to push.

Lindsay and Warren

And push I did. On the bed, birthing stool, toilet. For nearly three hours. For all of those who enjoyed pushing—I envy you. I HATED pushing. For some reason, I had thought it would feel “good” to push, but for me, it sucked. I dreaded each contraction knowing that I needed to push. I never had that overwhelming or uncontrollable urge. I could have never done it without Jared. This is when I really realized how much I needed him. His encouragement, excitement, and physical presence gave me the strength I needed to keep going. After a while of pushing on the toilet, Sara asked if I wanted to make my way to the bed so I could get a little bit of rest between pushes. Walking back to the bed was the weirdest feeling. It’s like I could feel how open my body was, and how far down Warren was. Laying down in the bed, I knew we had to be close to him making his official entrance. I used this, along with the anger I felt at how long this was taking, to give some really intense pushes, which got me through that dreaded ring of fire. Sara told me to get his head out, and she would help me with the rest. I pushed SO freaking hard and out came his head! Everyone told me to look down and there was my sweet boy’s face. Holy crap. On the next contraction he was out, and I helped pull him up to my chest. I’ll never forget the physical sensation and relief that came along with him coming out. I announced to everyone, “I am so happy that part is over.” It was 11:35 p.m. and my boy was finally here.

Unbeknownst to me, I was bleeding quite heavily once he came out. I was too busy staring at his perfect little face to notice anything else. Sara told me that they needed to get my placenta out so my uterus could start contracting and get the bleeding to stop. After having to remove my placenta, I was still bleeding quite heavily and it became apparent that we would need to transfer to the hospital if it did not stop within the next 30 seconds. I was given a shot of pitocin in my thigh to try to get my uterus to contract. During this time, Charis had examined my placenta and amniotic sac and determined that my placenta had two lobes, one of which seemed to be inside my uterus still, which was causing the bleeding. After going back in to retrieve this lobe, the bleeding stopped. I am incredibly thankful we did not have to transfer.

Warren

Upon further examination of my placenta and amniotic sac, it was discovered that when my water broke, the amniotic sac was a hair’s length beneath a vein running from my placenta to one of the lobes. Sara said she did not want to scare me, but had this nicked the vein, Warren would not have made it more than 5 minutes, and I would have been none the wiser. I praise God that he looked over us that day, and my sweet boy is here with us. He’s my lucky charm. It is uncommon for a placenta to have a lobe, let alone two like I had. So the fact that he was here, completely healthy, and I was too, is something I will never stop being thankful for. I am also eternally grateful for the collected and calming presence of Sara and Charis that day. Not once did I ever feel like they were not in complete control. I have never felt so respected, cherished, and celebrated by a team of medical professionals. During this whole experience, Warren was still lying on my chest, and this gave me so much peace. Once the bleeding was under control, we got more comfortable in bed and enjoyed the most blissful uninterrupted bonding time. Snuggling, latching for the first time and repeating over and over how perfect and beautiful he was. After about two hours, I was helped to the bathroom and they did his measurements. He weighed 6 lb., 8 oz and was 19 inches long. Jared took a turn doing skin to skin, and I was able to eat a snack and take some pictures.

There are no words to describe what it’s like to see your child for the first time, and to spend those first couple of hours together. To put a face to all those kicks and flips you’ve felt inside of you. To see who they look like and take in every little feature. It is truly magical. You forget all about the pain and intensity of labor. It’s like everything else stands still. It’s just you and your new little family.

I think about his birth often and there are times I still can’t believe I actually birthed a child. I freaking did it. I felt like I truly honored my body and what it was created to do. I have never felt more primal, raw, and like a total freaking badass. I am forever changed by Warren’s birth. I’ll never look at myself in the same light. The empowerment I gained cannot be fully expressed.

Written by Lindsay Justice

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Billie Joyce Roberts

My daughter was born via scheduled c-section on Oct. 26, 2018. Nothing about having her went the way I expected. Not even her conception. My husband and I struggled with infertility for years before finally conceiving Billie on our third round of IUI.

I had placenta previa from my first scan, but was always assured it would resolve itself. It never did. There were a couple scary moments when they thought she also had a velamentous cord insertion (they thought her cord was exposed and going over my cervix, which is very dangerous). Fortunately, that wasn’t the case upon visiting the perinatologist.

But I still had placenta previa, which meant I was grounded from flying at 25 weeks, and had to cancel my big family Hawaiian vacation (scheduled for 30 weeks). I was fortunate to never have any complications with the previa, but all my visions of having a beautiful, unmedicated delivery vanished as quickly as they came.

Kristen during her birth

The surgery itself was uneventful, aside from the horrible gas pains afterward and the world’s worst first postpartum BM (sorry, TMI). But the struggle really began once we were home.

We left the hospital exclusively SNS feeding my daughter, because she wouldn’t latch. She’d just open her mouth over my nipple and furiously shake her head back and forth.

She had tongue/lip ties, which we revised when she was 6 days old. She still didn’t latch. During this time, I was exclusively pumping. She had really bad jaundice, because she was born at 37 weeks, so we had to feed her every 2 hours around the clock, which meant that’s how frequently I was pumping. But it took me 30 minutes to empty, so I never slept.

The side effects of sleep deprivation were extreme for me, and manifested as depression and anxiety. The depression hit me hard and fast, and I remember moments when I would daydream about getting in my car and driving as far away as I could and not coming back. This led to feelings of extreme guilt and more anxiety.

Not to mention, nobody tells you that delivering a baby requires you to completely relearn how to live in your own skin. Nothing about your body feels like yours. Things feel discombobulated, and after major surgery, those feelings are compounded.

2-week old Billie and Kristen

Then, my baby developed reflux and colic. She would scream day and night. She never slept, and refused to be laid down on her back without vomiting or crying. She would frequently choke, and I was already a frazzled mess. My husband had to go back to work at 2 weeks postpartum, because he’d just started a new job. I was so scared to leave the house, because we were still SNS feeding her, and setting up the syringes, tubing, etc., all felt too much for me.

We finally medicated her (ranitidine, which has since been recalled—imagine the guilt I carry now.), despite me trying literally EVERY natural remedy under the sun. All of the natural blogs I was reading basically said the same thing: Babies don’t NEED reflux meds, and if you give them to your baby, you clearly didn’t do something right. So, I was even more anxious and depressed for “poisoning” my baby with reflux meds.

Kristen, Billie, and Obachan, which is Japanese for grandma

But, she hit 8 weeks old (about 1.5 weeks after we started medicating her), and she became a different baby. She latched! I stopped pumping, she started sleeping (I finally got my first 3-hour stretch of sleep at 8 weeks old), she allowed us to lay her down. I do credit the meds to making her feel better. Despite there being a recall, I was so grateful she was eating and gaining weight.

Eventually, my anxiety and depression started to fade, too. Mostly as I started sleeping more. But also thanks to therapy. I just want all the moms out there to know that having a baby is SO hard. Feeding a baby with only your body is SO hard. Learning to live in your skin again when another being is 100 percent dependent on you is SO hard. But, even under the hardest circumstances (I definitely had it rough), it DOES get easier. It just takes time, which is so hard to hear when you’re literally living hour to hour with a newborn.

She’s now 14 months old, and we’re still nursing. I have come to terms with the fact that it is OK that I did not enjoy the first few months of my daughter’s life and was just trying to survive. Seeing her personality now, it’s no wonder. They really do come out of us as little people with their own likes/wants/desires. She still, to this day, cannot be told what to do. She has to come to it on her own.

Written by Kristen Roberts

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Brooklyn May

Brooklyn May

On Feb. 9, 2016, at 8 a.m., I went in for an induction at 41 weeks pregnant. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 30 weeks, and was experiencing very high blood sugar, which concerned my doctors. After I was given Cervadil to start labor, my husband and I went for late breakfast at Denny’s—so far, nothing was happening. We went back to the hotel where my labor finally got underway. I was able to use the shower to help with pain. I didn’t realize when my water broke—I felt a pop, but no amniotic fluid came out.

I couldn’t sleep that night, but contractions weren’t regular yet. My blood sugar was still high and I wasn’t feeling very well. I went in to the hospital in the morning with more frequent contractions and found out I was 5 cm dilated, but I didn’t feel “ready” to have my baby. The staff gave me insulin for my blood sugar, Pitocin to help keep labor going, and I  had an epidural at 8 cm.

Mariclaire and Brooklyn May

Finally at 5 p.m., I was pushing, but  progress halted and the baby’s heart rate was not coming back up after contractions as it should. My blood sugar was still high and I was really, really exhausted. I had been in active labor for a while and that baby just wouldn’t come out!

We (medical staff, husband and I) were worried: baby needed to be born soon because of her heart rate decelerations—a few times it was really low. My daughter, Brooklyn May, was born via c-section at 8:02 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2016.

My husband’s first words when he saw our daughter were, “She’s beautiful!”—with a lot of enthusiasm. She weighed 7 lb., 11 oz. They brought her to me during the rest of the surgery. I remember a tear rolling down my cheek when I greeted Brooklyn. She didn’t cry when she was born, and she was a beautiful sweet baby.

I remember feeling confused, fearful, and irritable at some points during labor because of the level of interventions needed throughout the process. I think I just didn’t feel good, physically, and it made me grouchy. But I remember feeling so overwhelmed when I saw Brooklyn. I was so relieved and in love. When I finally saw my daughter, it was a euphoric moment.

Written by Mariclaire Ruttan

BIRTH Project Network Meet-up

The BIRTH Project Network Meet-up: Fertility

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.

Click here to learn how you can participate in upcoming meet-ups. 


Highlights

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.

Birth Stories

A Fertility Journey: Melissa Harness, Angel No. 5

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.

Melissa and her three children.

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.

Melissa and family.

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.”

Rainbow baby, Bryson.

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.

Written by Melissa Harness

Blog

Finding Myself in Motherhood: The Transition Away From Work

My whole heart

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.

Berry Picking

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.

Ellis, Chad, and Isla

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.

Chad and the kids—BEACH DAY

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.

Ellis and I

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.

My motivation

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.

Always learning.

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.

More berries!

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.

Books: The Trauma Spectrum: Hidden Wounds and Human Resiliency, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober: Discovering a happy, healthy, wealthy alcohol-free life, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show, Finding Mastery, HOME Podcast, The Modern Mamas Podcast, The Tribe Life Podcast.

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Lennox Haven

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.

Courtnie and Tyler

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.

Lennox Haven

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.

Tyler and Lennox

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.

Written by Courtnie Wysong