Birth Stories

Birth Story of Wren Heinold Arndorfer

Living in Wesley, Iowa, which is a rural area where everyone does everything the same (or at least that’s how it seems) already had me feeling upset. It felt like I was answering question after question about planning a home birth.

What happens if something goes wrong? Is it safe?

Everyone had concerns, and I did not feel like I had support from anyone other than my great birth team.

My guess date, Oct. 2, 2017, came and went, and I was feeling anxious. At 41 weeks, I was tired of people constantly voicing their input, and I started to doubt the birth process and the decision I had made to have a home birth. What if I ended up being induced at a hospital? In my mind, that would have ruined everything.

I was desperate to get labor going. It was 13 days after my guess date. I tried everything—I ate a lot of pineapple, which is said to help start labor, went on a long walk with my husband, and finally, tried nipple stimulation (which I had learned about in the childbirth class I took). During the nipple stimulation, I started having contractions!

My husband and I took our dog for a walk, and I was timing the contractions: every 10 minutes. As the evening progressed, the contractions grew stronger and closer together. What hurt even more than the contractions was the burning in my thighs. It was so uncomfortable to sit, so I paced around the house most of the night. I was certain I would be in labor for at least 24 hours, and I didn’t want my doula or midwives to show up too soon—especially since they lived three hours away—so I avoided calling right away.

We were planning on using a blow-up birthing tub I had purchased. I kept asking my husband to fill it with water, but we didn’t want to do it too soon and have the water get cold, so I took a bath in our bathtub. My doula showed up at about 6 a.m. the next morning. She had me go up and down the stairs and helped me focus through contractions. She must have called the midwives to come. At that time, I wanted to be alone in the bathroom. I remember using the toilet and seeing blood and freaking out, but my doula assured me that it was normal. Soon after that, my mucus plug came out.

Meridith and Wren

I took another bath, and my husband started filling the birth tub (at the time, we couldn’t know that I wouldn’t end up using it). I felt the urge and started pushing in our bathtub. My bag of waters hadn’t broken and they were emerging from me, so I looked with a mirror (I found that really neat). The doula then called my midwife’s apprentice to tell her we could see the head. She and her friend (also a midwife) were about 15 minutes away. They got here and, shortly after, my daughter’s head emerged.

I was in the side-lying position, but her head was smaller than her chest, so her head was out for four minutes before the apprentice called to her friend to come help. They positioned me on all fours and the rest of her body emerged. The time was 9:25 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2017.

I stood up, looked down and remember thinking it looked like a murder scene. I was not prepared to see that much blood. We went into our bedroom. I sat on a birthing stool to deliver the placenta. I got into bed with my husband, just admiring our perfect child. He chose her name: Wren.

My midwife arrived late, but I wasn’t upset since I had so much help. They wanted me to pee and thought it would be easiest for me to pee in a warm bath, which sounded nice, as I had blood all over my legs. They were helping me to the bathroom when I got weak in the knees and started to stumble. They had my lie down in the hallway with my legs elevated for what felt like an eternity.

I had been vomiting the entire time I was in labor, so they thought that might be why I got light headed. Eventually, my vitals were good, and I got up and went back to the bed. They were going to make me try to urinate in the bed on absorbent pads, but I couldn’t bare myself to do that. I couldn’t stand the thought of using a catheter either, so they let me get out of bed and try to pee in a pot on the floor, which worked. I was not prepared for the burning that came along with urinating. I had two small tears on the sides, which I suppose is why it burned so bad.

Mom, Dad and Wren

We then cut the umbilical cord, weighed Wren, took measurements, did ink footprints, and filled out some paperwork. The birthing team prepared breakfast for my husband and I, started laundry, and quietly left. I laid in bed skin to skin with Wren, breastfeeding her, cuddling her, loving her.

I consider my birth experience to have been near perfect. I was in labor for 16 1/2 hours, which did not seem like a long time at all. I didn’t expect the postpartum recovery to be as painful as it was. I think a lot of times, that sort of thing gets left out of conversations because the emphasis is mostly on baby.I had very strong postpartum contractions and it was very painful to sit up and get out of bed. Thankfully, my husband was able to take four days off work and did a great job caring for me and Wren. I am very thankful Wren is healthy and that I have such a caring husband.

Written by Meridith Arndorfer


Birth Stories

Birth Story of Allison Leigh Scahill

Our decision to have a fourth child was made after much careful thought and conversation. My husband’s first two children, Andrew and Melinda, were seven and 13 years older than our year-old son, Timothy. We didn’t want him to feel like an only child; we wanted the two youngest to grow up together without feeling like the lonely tagalong baby. The excitement was evident as we shared the news with the family. Our newest family member should be joining us in June of 1984.

Ultrasound technology had not progressed to a level for reliable determination of gender so we had no clue whether this would be a boy or girl. The family cast ballots and the vote was two for a boy, one abstention, one too young to vote, and one vote for a girl. I thought it would be nice if two little boys could grow up together as pals with big brother Andrew in the lead.  Andrew, however, was in the minority and was absolutely sure this would be a girl.

Speculation would have to wait. The Church had other plans for us. Moves in the ministry can come at the most inopportune times, as we were to find out. My minister husband was being moved to a new church in a town about a 40-minute drive northwest of our current location in Omaha. His first Sunday in his new pulpit and our due date were within the same week! I began to imagine having to excuse myself in the middle of Joe’s sermon and make a made dash to the hospital thirty miles away. Worse yet, Joe was going to have to commute to the new church for about two weeks until the home we bought in our new town would be available. In these days before cell phones, he had to make sure he let his secretary or me know where he could be found at all times. I have never been more acutely aware of his whereabouts before or since.

I am fortunate to have had two very easy pregnancies. I had only feelings of queasiness with no real morning sickness; I didn’t miss any days of work because of my pregnancy; and I loved the feeling of the baby growing and moving inside of me. I found myself connecting easily with my unborn child and feeling very protective.  While I was certainly ready to have my baby in my arms, I found being pregnant was exciting.

Both my mom and mother-in-law arrived to help with the majority of the packing for our move but as my due date came and went I grew more discouraged. We often started timing contractions only to have them fade away.  The doctor assured us that this was a good thing and these Braxton-Hicks contractions were getting the process started and would make delivery easier.

I was overdue by exactly one week with our first child so I anticipated that I’d go past due date with this one, as well. Due date came and went and still we waited. Since my mom was staying with us, my dad checked in by phone often. He told me that this baby was just waiting for the new moon to occur and would be born on June 13. I never knew he followed the lunar cycles but he was right.

Marilyn and Allison

At last the time came when the contractions did not just fade away. In fact, they were continuing at a regular pace and continuing to grow stronger. They started around suppertime. Melinda had taken on the job of timing and recording contraction durations. As soon as Joe arrived home that afternoon he started making the necessary phone calls to the doctor and hospital. Andrew was busy running between the bedroom and the kitchen to report the latest up-to-the-second news to Joe at the telephone. It was also his job to gather up the last minute items for the hospital and Lamaze bag. Two-year-old toddler Tim was in the middle of everything enjoying all the excitement and anticipation.

With a mad dash to the bathroom, I announced that my water had broken and we all knew that the time was at hand. With two grandmas in the house we were not concerned about having to take the kids to a sitter but my mother-in-law seemed most anxious making the remark that I was sick. I assured her that all was well and the baby was coming: I was certainly NOT sick. As we drove off to the hospital at 7:40 p.m., Andrew was informing the whole neighborhood that the baby was “on the way.”

The hospital was not far and we arrived at the emergency entrance within minutes. I was whisked away to prepare for labor and delivery while Joe went to move the car from emergency to regular parking.

My delivery nurse soon realized that things were moving faster than expected. Contractions were doing their job and the nurse started watching the hallway to hurry Joe along as soon as he came into sight. My own doctor had been contacted but, fortunately, a partner from his practice was already at the hospital attending another delivery. Joe came in, quickly suited up in protective hospital garb, and grabbed the camera; the substitute doctor arrived from the other delivery and I was in position.  In spite of the quick progress, I did experience lower back pain and vomiting during delivery. The vomiting had happened with my first baby but the back pain was new. The nurse had me turn on my side and massaged my lower back.

I needn’t have worried about making it to my Lamaze review classes because I didn’t have time to do any controlled breathing. At the first intense contraction, the head had been delivered, and within what seemed like seconds, we learned that we had our beautiful baby daughter. Delivery of the afterbirth presented more discomfort than the actual delivery had. The doctor had been with us just long enough to catch the baby, cut the umbilical cord and hand her to the nurse; I’ve often thought about the other woman who had to have realized that she was laboring a lot harder and longer than I did. Time of birth was 8:05 p.m., just 25 minutes from backing out of our driveway. Our doctor never did have to leave his dinner party. As a result of the fast delivery, I did have some tearing in need of repair with stitches but I was holding our perfect little girl, my daughter. I couldn’t have been happier and more in love.

Andrew proudly ran around the neighborhood announcing the arrival of his little sister, Allison Leigh Scahill. Amazed friends were in disbelief, assuring Andrew that it took longer than that to have a baby. The next day two grandmas and three siblings greeted our newest family member. Everyone got to hold and kiss her as we started the sibling bonding process. She was now in this world, surrounded by love and adored by her family.

We came home from the hospital within a few days but did miss Joe’s first Sunday sermon in our new church.

There was a minor glitch in my recovery as there was some undelivered afterbirth that caused some bleeding and abdominal discomfort. I was in the shower when I passed what appeared to be a mass of blood. After a quick trip to the doctor and some medication, all was well and we prepared for our big move.

Allison meeting her brothers.

Having the attention of her big brothers was a real delight for her. Her need to speak was delayed only because her slightly older brother anticipated her every need and made the appropriate requests for anything she might want. When she did start to speak, she made up for lost time.

Allison was an especially cuddly baby. She loved to be held and my great delight was sitting with her and having her fall asleep on my chest with her nose tucked into the crook of my neck. When I think of her baby-days, I can still remember that cozy loving feeling. My life is fuller having had the opportunity to love, care for and raise our baby girl and watch her grow into a caring, dynamic and intelligent woman.

Written by Marilyn Potter Scahill

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Lakota Lawrence Sakamoto

Lakota Lawrence Sakamoto was born at 5:02 p.m. on Sunday, June 5, 2016, after 55 hours of labor and a whole lot of emotion. The birth of our son was quite an adventure, and we experienced a little bit of everything from induction to transition.

My husband, Tatsuya, “Tots,” and I checked in to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, on Friday, June 3, around 9 a.m. to start the induction. Our decision to induce was a tough one. I have a heart condition called a patent foramen ovale, which is a small hole between the chambers of my heart; we’re all born with this hole but mine never closes. The biggest risk of the condition is the chance that a blood clot could pass through and travel to my lungs or brain, or cause blockage in my heart.

Additionally, I have prothrombin gene mutation blood condition, which means my blood clots a little more than normal. Neither condition affects me as long as I take care not to exacerbate it. I avoid things that can contribute to blood clots such as smoking, hormone birth control, etc. However, in pregnancy, your body creates so much extra blood that being pregnant puts me at risk for blood clots, which can be dangerous to mama and baby. A blood clot clogging the umbilical cord can be scary.

While pregnant, I gave myself a Lovenox  (light blood thinner) injection daily. Additionally, my doctor sent me to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for three ultrasounds to ensure Lakota’s heart looked normal and healthy, and my uterus was free of clots.

I was induced at 39 weeks in order to minimize the chances of a surprise labor since that could potentially mean I had taken my blood  thinner too close to delivery, putting me at risk of excess bleeding.

Upon admittance, I received two 12-hour doses of cervidil, a vaginal insert that is intended to ripen and open the cervix. Neither dose worked. At the doctor’s advice, we moved on to a catheter balloon, which is used to mechanically dilate the cervix, and pitocin, the synthetic version of oxytocin, a natural hormone that helps the uterus contract during labor.

It took about 48 hours of cervidil, the balloon, and pitocin to get my cervix open to just 4 cm.

At this point, I was having contractions that were tolerable with breathing, mindfulness, positioning, warm baths, and back rubs. I did a lot of walking up and down the hospital hallways, rolling along my pitocin IV. I’d bend over and hold onto the wall to endure contractions. I bounced on the birth ball and did some squats. Laying on my side with my husband pushing on or rubbing my lower back helped ease the pain. 

Jarah, Lakota and Tots

Tots and I took a mindfulness-based childbirth class, so I incorporated a lot of what I learned in there as well as what I already knew of mindfulness practice. I tried breathing techniques, taking deep breaths and focusing on my contractions with every breath. At times, I tried silent meditation mindfulness, and at other times my husband played music. I brought my essential oil diffuser and diffused lavender oil the entire time.

By Sunday morning, at 4 cm dilated, Lakota was very low, and my water sac was bulging, so we agreed to rupture it to get things moving rather than wait for it to rupture on its own. This threw me into active labor within minutes. It was a fast, intense transition. I felt like my hips were being broken from the inside out and shattering into pieces. 

Around noon on Sunday, 50 hours into labor, between moaning, crying, a little screaming, a little puking, a very concerned husband, and nitrous oxide that was making me dizzy, my husband and I decided I would get an epidural. Once I received it, I was able to take a small nap and within four hours, my cervix went from 4 cm to 10 cm and it was time to meet our baby.


Jarah, Lakota and Tots

It was not in my birth plan to get an epidural, but it turns out that was the very thing that finally relaxed both me and my cervix enough for the labor to progress. I learned that one has to be open to where their labor may take them and must listen to both their body and that of their baby.

My birth story can’t be complete without expanding on Tots’ role. He did amazing. Despite his fears of being grossed out by blood, vomit and other things, when the time came, he was immersed in it all and didn’t blink an eye. He even broke his own rule and watched me push rather than staying by my head, coached me on how close I was, and cut the umbilical cord. I felt closer to my husband than I ever have. The experience created intimacy and love in a new way that I never imagined.

I am truly humbled and amazed by the experience of labor and birth. I am so impressed with the ability of the baby and the part they play, as well as their endurance and resiliency. I am amazed at how far my body was pushed and yet I survived, and with the greatest gift ever. Despite the longest 55 hours of my life—which can be described as both the worst and best time of my life—I would do it all again in a second and wouldn’t change a thing.

Written by Jarah Sakamoto

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Isla Eve Peyton

Welcome to The BIRTH Project! This inaugural birth story is the reason The BIRTH Project exists. The best way for me to explain how I became passionate about birth stories is to tell mine. The experiencing of birthing my first born opened up a whole new part of my mind and my heart. It empowered me in ways I had never imagined.

Isla Eve Peyton was born on Jan. 23, 2016, at 12:27 p.m. She weighed 7 lb., 12 oz. and was 21 inches long. She had a full head of black hair and big blue eyes. She was—and continues to be—more than worth the work it took to get her earth side.

I had a grand plan to go into labor about midday, when I’d be nice and showered, dressed, and hopefully with a nourishing meal in my belly. But as birth goes, Isla had a different plan.

I woke up around 2 a.m. knowing either my water had broken, or I had peed the bed (which was entirely possible at three days post-date). I told my husband, Chad, I thought it was my water because it kept coming. I decided to lie back down and try to sleep. I knew I was about to embark on a very taxing journey, and the docs had recommended that I try to get some rest if this were to happen, as some women are able to sleep through early labor. Not me.

I tried to fall back asleep but the contractions started coming and quickly became far too uncomfortable for me to sleep through. We called Sutter Maternity Center, in Santa Cruz, California, grabbed my bag and off we went. As we drove down the empty roads somewhere around 2:30 in the morning, Chad passed the entrance to the hospital. He must’ve been as nervous as I was! A quick U-turn and we were checking in.

We thought they’d examine me and send us home to experience several hours of early labor in the comfort of our own surroundings like we had hoped for—another plan that didn’t pan out the way we thought it would. They admitted me right away as my contractions were only a few minutes apart and getting stronger.

I got settled into a comfortable room with a big tub that someone had filled with warm water. For the next couple hours, I still felt like me. I was present and communicative, aware and alert. But once I transitioned, I was in what can only be described as a trance. I needed to focus, moan through the contractions, and try to relax. The contractions were without a doubt the most excruciating pain I had ever felt and my plan to have a natural birth was starting to seem ridiculous and impossible. In birthing class I learned that “contractions will be about a minute apart” means the contraction will start at the top of the minute, last for 30 seconds or so and start again at the top of the next minute. So 1-2 minutes apart is deceptive. I’d get 20-30 seconds of “rest”—maybe. I asked for drugs once and Chad gently reminded me why I wanted to do this naturally. I remember thinking even an ibuprofen might help. Silly me.

It’s a bit of a blur for me after that. I recall moving back and forth from the bed to the tub, I remember switching positions from a squat to my side to my back. I remember the nurse, Valli, teaching Chad how to apply pressure to my low back to help ease the pain of the contractions—a true lifesaver. I remember my mom, Leslie, and my mother-in-law, Janet, around me, supporting me, patting my forehead with washcloths and giving me sips of water.

Amidst the blur, I vividly remember the nurse saying it was time to push. Hallelujah! I thought this would be the quick part. I was almost done! Pushing felt amazing. It relieved the pain of the contractions. But exhaustion soon set in. I had just endured 8 1/2 hours of labor and pushing with everything I had was easier said than done.

I never felt the “urge to push” that so many women say they experience, so in hindsight, I think my body might not have been 100 percent ready to start. Regardless, I listened to my care team and kept pushing.

After more than an hour, Dr.Moore—our awesome OBGYN who had been working with us since the start of the pregnancy—told me I needed to push harder. The truth is, I know I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could. Isla’s head was partway out and I was terrified to tear. I wanted someone to do it for me at that point. Just reach in and grab her!

I heard Dr. Moore ask the nurse to get a local. She was going to give me an episiotomy if I didn’t get Isla out in the next few pushes. I mustered up the strength—mentally and physically—to get her out of there. No tearing, no episiotomy, no drugs—just like I wanted. A few things went as planned! They put her on my chest and life was never the same.


The birth of our daughter was impactful in the most profound way, and while I was proud to have experienced the process mostly like I wanted to, I was disheartened at the thought of any woman coming out of childbirth feeling defeated. The idea that a woman would be ashamed that her experience didn’t go as planned made my heart literally ache. And so The BIRTH Project was born. It wasn’t until the birth of my second child (a birth story for another day) that I actually realized the aspirations I had to help women feel empowered through their childbirth experiences, but the seed was planted when Isla was born.

Written by Nicole Peyton