Looking Back at Our Birth, 1 Year Later

It was the most empowering experience of my life.

One year ago, I achieved my goal of a natural birth with my son. At 31 weeks pregnant, God lay it on my heart to pursue natural childbirth. From that moment, my husband and I embarked on an incredible journey. We learned, we laughed, we cried, and we were in complete awe of God’s goodness.

While I had found the thought of natural childbirth overwhelming and even laughable, my mind completely changed as my husband and I began our research.

As my due date approached—and passed—my doctors became increasingly antsy. They wanted me to schedule a c-section, since I had one with my daughter. They had me schedule one, even though they knew I would cancel. Twice I canceled and rescheduled, just to appease my doctors. I couldn’t consent to a c-section when, aside from a few research statistics, I had no risk factors working against me. I couldn’t throw away my goal of a natural vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) out of fear of the “what if’s.”

I kept asking God, “Why? Why hasn’t he come yet?” When I was 40 weeks and 5 days, God revealed to me that He had a plan for the time while I was waiting.

At my 41 week appointment, the OB we saw offered another option besides a c-section—an option no one had mentioned before: a low-dose Pitocin induction.

That Thursday, June 30, 2016, We did it. We got our natural VBAC.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from that experience was the importance of a positive mindset. It’s amazing the power our minds have over how we experience events in our lives and how we respond to challenges and stressors.

A few weeks later, I began a series of blog posts sharing our journey. The pictures of us you see in these posts were taken by our incredible photographer, Amy Oliver, who showed us the true beauty of birth photography.

Click here to read “Our Journey Towards Getting the Birth We Wanted, Part 1: The Surprising Benefits of Natural Childbirth.”

Click here to read “Our Journey Towards Getting the Birth We Wanted, Part 2: The Hardest Discussions We’ve Ever Had.”

Click here to read “Our Journey Towards Getting the Birth We Wanted, Part 3: Jump-Starting My Labor.”

Click here to read “Our Journey Towards Getting the Birth We Wanted, Part 4: ‘Baby Out My Butt.'”

I am so grateful for the people who supported me in that journey.

Jeremy—Thank you for going with my crazy idea of natural birth and for trusting in God’s plan for us. Thank you for your support and for staying right beside me every step of the way.

Anna—Thank you for planting the seed (even though you didn’t know it) that would eventually grow into me listening to God’s nudge to pursue natural childbirth.

Ashley—Thank you for encouraging me and sharing your wisdom with me. Without you, I wouldn’t have changed the trajectory of my decisions regarding the labor and delivery of sweet Charles.

Brandy—Thank you for filling us with as much knowledge as you could in 4 weeks as we prepared for our birth. Thank you for encouraging me to advocate for myself and to stand firm in my beliefs and my trust in God’s perfect plan and perfect timing.

Jocelyn—Thank you for being the most incredible doula we could have asked for. You provided exactly what we needed and were such a calming and reassuring presence during our labor.

Amy—Thank you for capturing those precious moments. We will forever treasure the invaluable gift you gave us. You took more than pictures—you captured memories that we will forever be able to relive.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for, encouraged, and loved on us as we prepared for our birth and the days following. We are eternally grateful.

Thank you to everyone reading for being a treasured part of my journey of motherhood. I love you all.

The Beauty of Birth Photography

As my husband and I prepared to welcome our son in June of 2016, we decided to hire a photographer to capture those precious moments of our labor and delivery.

No matter how your labor/delivery ends up going, I believe one of the greatest investments you can make is having a birth photographer there to document each moment.

The image above shows the final bit of my labor and my delivery.

Everyone’s story is different.

But here are some of the things you can capture (as seen above):

  • Mama, exhausted and resting between pushes as Dad and doula coach her.
  • Mama, doing her best in those final pushes.
  • Mama, almost ready to deliver her baby.
  • The doula, smiling and cheering Mama on.
  • Mama, holding Dad’s hand as she gets ready for that final push.
  • The baby, all gooey and screaming, just after being delivered.
  • Mama, receiving baby on her chest as she cries tears of joy and relief.
  • Dad, smiling over Mama as they both take in the beauty of their baby.
  • Mama and Dad, kissing, thrilled.
  • Mama, giving her baby that first sweet kiss.
  • Dad, cutting the umbilical cord as Mama smiles playfully at the photographer.
  • Dad, holding up the first diaper.
  • That first latch.
  • Dad, counting off the people he’s texted to let them know that baby has arrived.
  • Mama and Dad, smiling as baby rests under a nice, warm blanket.

As I went through and made this collage, I teared up as I relived those moments. If I didn’t have those pictures, everything would be a blur.

Thank you, Amy, for capturing those moments for us.

Have you had a birth photographer? If you have, would you say it was a worthwhile investment? Why? What would you say to someone considering investing in a birth photographer?

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The One Thing I Learned from Labor That I Will Carry with Me the Rest of My Life

I would like to think that to most people, I come off as a positive, upbeat person. I do my best to have a good attitude, smile as I greet people, and treat those I encounter with kindness and respect.

Now if we were to take a look at what’s usually going on inside my head, that’s a whole different story. I have historically been a worrier. Anxiety has plagued me my entire life and in some instances has led to episodes of depression. I battle worry almost every day.

One thing I learned in our childbirth class is the importance of staying calm and focused during the pains of natural labor. When a woman in labor starts to panic, her cortisol levels rise as she enters “fight or flight” mode. Increasing levels of that stress hormone can interrupt the progress of labor and make it more difficult to manage labor pains.

Naturally, I was concerned that I would “freak out” at some point during labor, causing these issues. Amazingly enough, I never did. I never lost focus. I never got anxious. Negativity never crept into my thoughts. It was nothing shy of a miracle. I was convinced I’d be cursing like a sailor my entire labor. Nope. I’m not sure a single negative word came out of my mouth the entire time.

What I believe played a big part in this was the fact that I had my husband and my doula speaking positive truths into each ear the entire time. They were helping me keep the negative thoughts away by pouring positive ones in.

I came out of the experience absolutely astounded. It taught me about the power of positive thinking and speaking. It reminded me that I need to surround myself with and build into my day positive things that will lift me up.

Every day we make choices. One choice we have is whether we want to approach our day with a positive attitude or one of dread and negativity. We choose whether to surround ourselves with positive, affirming things in our day or negative, draining things. While we can’t control everything we encounter each day, we can be intentional about seeking good and avoiding negativity instead of passively allowing negativity to creep in.

Will you join me in these steps to nix negativity and promote positivity?

  1. In our thoughts and words
    • When you have a negative thought, acknowledge it, but don’t automatically believe it. Merely thinking something doesn’t make it true. Thoughts don’t equal facts.
    • Carefully consider the words you speak. When you speak negativity, you give it power in your life. When you speak negative words, you reinforce negative thoughts.
  2. In our relationships
    • Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, has a rule about how he spends his time: “I’ll spend 3 hours a year with negative friends but certainly not 3 days or 3 weeks on a vacation.”
    • Surround yourself with positive people who challenge you, encourage you, and inspire you.
  3. In our conversations
    • Avoid negative conversations. If you find yourself in a conversation that’s heading in a bad direction, try to redirect the conversation. If you’re with a group of people and don’t feel comfortable with the topic, make that known. If the conversation continues to spiral downward, politely excuse yourself.
  4. In what we consume
    • It’s amazing how much negativity we passively allow into our lives without even realizing it.
    • Take a look at what you’re consuming. What TV shows are you watching? What music are you listening to? What materials are you reading? Are they building you up or are the subtly corroding your spirit?

Life is meant to be so much more than the negativity that seems to permeate our society. Seek to build a life that brings you joy. Believe in the power of positivity to radically transform your life.

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Our Journey Towards Getting the Birth We Wanted, Part 4: “Baby Out My Butt”

After Dr. T. checked my dilation, she and my husband convened in the bathroom. Jeremy then shared the information with our doula Jocelyn.

birth story part 4

I didn’t want to know how dilated I was because for some women, finding out the dilation can play some sneaky mind games on them. I didn’t want to risk becoming discouraged if I didn’t like what I heard or if things didn’t progress as I expected upon hearing how dilated I was.

 (Note: If you’d like to read the previous 3 parts of our birth story before continuing, click the following links: part 1, part 2, and part 3).

Dr. T. had said to Jeremy, “She’s 9 centimeters and doing great.” Jocelyn was excited to hear this, but didn’t want to give too much away as she continued to coach me. She kept things relatively vague, saying, “You’re doing great, Tricia, Baby Charles is going to be here soon.” 

At that point I was still standing up and squatting for contractions, since I was starting to feel the urge to push (though I didn’t immediately recognize it as such). Dr. T. stated she didn’t want me delivering my baby on a hard surface and asked me to move to the bed. I was a little annoyed because I was managing really well the way I had been doing things, but I agreed to move. They recommended kneeling and leaning over the back of the bed. I then ended up coming down to sort of a squat during contractions.

pushing _1

I saw them bring a cart in. While I wasn’t entirely aware of my surroundings, I could put enough pieces together to know that it was almost baby time. I suddenly remembered our birth photographer. “Tell Amy!” I exclaimed. “We did,” Jeremy and Jocelyn responded in unison. They had told her I was 9 cm and pushing so she hurried over. Thank God she lives close.

During one contraction I felt my legs getting tingly, but that position was working so I ignored it. However, Dr. T. then said, “Tricia, your legs are starting to get a little purple. How about you turn over for a little bit?” Yeah…probably a good idea. I turned over to sort of a sitting squat and pushed that way for a bit.

pushing_2After a few minutes I flipped back over to kneeling over the back of the bed. After the next contraction, Dr. T. told me I was pushing through my legs and she didn’t want me to waste my pushes. She had me cough to feel where I needed to focus my pushes. I said, “It feels like he’s coming out of my butt.” I then started saying, “baaaaabyyyyyy” as I pushed, which morphed into “baby out my buuuuuuuuuutt.” Nice. (Jocelyn told me later that those phrases really seemed to enhance my focus during pushing).

I noticed they were holding the monitor lower and lower and I thought, “I guess that means he’s moving down.” Finally I could actually feel him moving farther down. After squatting down for a contraction, I’d ask if I could come back up. They kept assuring me I could and I didn’t need to ask, but I still asked every time. I think I was afraid Charles would go back up inside me if I didn’t stay in the squat.

Jocelyn asked me a couple times, “Tricia, do you want to feel him?” For some reason I didn’t acknowledge her. I guess I was too focused on the task at hand. Jocelyn and Jeremy continued to coach me. Jocelyn said, “Tricia, you’re getting your VBAC!”

I remember noticing the excitement in Jocelyn and Jeremy’s voices when I was getting close. They went from coaching to cheering. I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is really happening.” Dr. T. started getting scrubbed up. The stinging and burning I felt when I pushed was exhilarating. Charles was almost here.

When it was almost time, Dr. T. asked me to turn back over. After the next contraction, Jocelyn asked me again if I wanted to touch Charles. I reached down and felt his squishy little head. I exclaimed, “That’s a baby!” “Yes, it is, Tricia! That’s baby Charles!” I smiled and leaned my head back in praise, “God is good! God is so good!”

God is good

My whole body was flooded with joy and determination. With the next contraction, I pushed Charles out in one swift whoosh.

delivery

I had done it. I had gotten my natural VBAC. Jocelyn and Jeremy congratulated me as Charles was placed on my chest.

skin to skin

I looked around and thanked Dr. T. and the medical team. I looked up and said, “Hi Amy!” to our photographer. Jeremy, Jocelyn, and I smiled for a picture.

smile

We did it. 

 

~Hey there, friend! Thank you so much for checking out our birth story. It truly was an amazing journey. If you have any questions about any of the topics covered in Parts 1-4, please feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to share information with you and connect you with any resources that may benefit you.

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Our Journey Towards Getting the Birth We Wanted, Part 3: Jump-Starting My Labor

I prayed so hard Wednesday night that my labor would start spontaneously. Well, it didn’t, so Jeremy and I packed up Thursday morning and got ready to head to the hospital. My mom came over to stay with our daughter. We loaded up the car and were on our way.

birth story part 3My stomach was in knots as we drove. I had no idea how things were going to go, and we were already starting off so differently than we had planned. We met our doula Jocelyn in the hospital parking lot. Her smile and warm greeting immediately put me at ease as we all walked in together.

(Note: If you’d like to read the previous 2 parts of our birth story before continuing, click here for part 1 and here for part 2). 

7:30 a.m. 

After we signed in, our nurse, P, came out to greet us and take us to our room. We set our things down and P gave me a gown to wear. I thanked her and told her I’d like to stay in my own clothes. I could tell that threw her a little bit. She said that wasn’t something people said too often but that it made no difference to her.

P then carefully walked us through the loads of paperwork, answering our questions and educating us on how things were going to go. We gave her our birth plan. She made a copy, reviewed it, and took a few notes for the other staff. She told us she loves natural labor and recognized that we were well-educated and prepared. I felt completely safe with P and was so glad to have a nurse that we meshed well with.

Since it took over an hour and a half to get my IV in with my first labor, I requested IV therapy immediately. IV therapy couldn’t get it after two sticks, so I allowed P to give it a shot. She got the IV in with almost no issue. I was liking her more and more!

P then applied the monitor for contractions and the one for Charles’s heart rate. I was super annoyed by the IV and the monitor cords, but I accepted them as one of the small compromises we chose to make by having the induction as opposed to electing another c-section. I refused to allow myself to get worked up about it.

 Dr. T. walked in around 10:00 a.m. She said she was going to break my water to see if that would get things going.

 WHOA! Wait a hot second there, sister! This was NOT the plan!!

 (Thankfully that knee-jerk reaction stayed inside my head). I calmly stated, “I thought we were going to start with a low dose of pitocin.” She said she was fine with starting there and actually preferred that. Dr. T. instructed P to start the pitocin at 2 milliunits/min, then gradually increase it to 4 miliunits/min and finally 6 milliunits/min. (A typical induction would end up at 20 milliunits/min).

I lay down for the first several hours. Even once contractions were coming regularly, they were pretty mild. I had to pee about every 30-45 minutes, so we’d unplug the IV pole and Jocelyn or Jeremy would help with the cords as I got myself into the bathroom.

I was wondering when things were going to pick up. Dr. T. stopped in at one point and said that while my contractions were coming regularly, she wouldn’t consider me “in labor” (meaning my body hadn’t kicked in and it was just the pitocin doing the work still at that point).

A little while later things finally started picking up and contractions began to get stronger. Lying down wasn’t an option anymore, as I felt too confined and wanted to be able to move to manage my pain. Now was the fun part of figuring out what would work and what wouldn’t to help me cope during labor.

P had a rocking chair brought in for me.

Nope. Didn’t care for that.

I tried sitting on the labor ball and rotating my hips during contractions.

Nope.

I then tried being on my knees in bed and resting over the labor ball. 

Nope.

I then tried standing next to the bed and leaning over the ball.

YES. Finally something that seemed to work. Jocelyn put a pillow on top of the ball for comfort. I rested my head on it during contractions and let my arms hang. Jocelyn reminded me to relax my shoulders when I got too tense. I’d start resting at the top of the ball and slowly roll down until the end of the contraction.

All this time I was utilizing the breathing techniques we practiced in our Bradley Method class. My breathing had gradually had transitioned to a low, guttural groan. I’d take a slow, deep breath in and groan on the exhale. It worked amazingly, and it came so naturally. I was kind of surprised. My body knew exactly what to do. 

At that point the potty trips got pretty interesting:
Contraction over the labor ball.
Unplug IV pole, get Tricia into the bathroom.
Contraction over the handicap bar.
Pee. Maybe poop (pooping is a good sign during labor!).
Contraction over the bar.
Back out, plug in IV pole.

Jeremy and Jocelyn would peek in and continue to speak affirmations to me while I had contractions in the bathroom. I laughed the first time they did it and said I felt like we could be in an SNL skit.

Jocelyn replaced the birth ball with a stack of pillows, and I started leaning over that during contractions.

Jeremy and Jocelyn then tried a few massage techniques between contractions. Nope. Hated those too. As it turned out, I didn’t want anyone touching me while I was in labor. So much for all that practicing, but at least I got some good massages while I was pregnant, eh?

As things really started to progress, I wondered when in the world the OB was going to come in and check on me. I wanted the pitocin off so I could lose the IV pole and the monitors for at least a little bit. 

Then something strange happened. I started rhythmically stroking the stack of pillows with my hands, alternating left and right. (Jocelyn later shared with me that she wondered if that was me going into transition. Women in labor tend to do weird stuff when they go into transition because whatever they were doing before isn’t cutting it anymore, so they turn to something new).

I then felt like I had to poop. I went into the bathroom, had a contraction over the bar, then sat down on the toilet to do my business between contractions. But there was one problem. There wasn’t enough time between contractions for me to relax and do my business! The contractions just kept coming, dangit! (At that point, standing outside the bathroom, Jocelyn smiled and said to Jeremy, “I’m pretty sure she’s in transition”).

I finally gave up on pooping (hmm, maybe because I didn’t really have to poop??) and came out of the bathroom. As it turned out, I was in there for a good half hour, transitioning on the toilet. Dr. T. had entered the room in the meantime.

Dr. T. told me she’d like to check my dilation. I had discussed with Jocelyn and Jeremy that if I allowed the doctor to do a pelvic exam, I didn’t want to know how dilated I was. (For some women, finding out the dilation can play some sneaky mind games on them, and I didn’t want to risk that). After one more contraction, I lay down so Dr. T. could check me. I stated firmly, “Please don’t break my water.” (I wanted my water intact as long as possible, as it can reduce stress on baby during labor). She assured me she wouldn’t.

Dr. T. had wanted to attach an internal monitor, but Jeremy requested that they hold the external monitor on me instead to get Charles’s heart rate (they weren’t getting satisfying tracings with just the belt holding the monitor on). We didn’t want to risk breaking my water and didn’t want anything else in the way. Dr. T. said okay.

After Dr. T. checked my dilation, she and Jeremy convened in the bathroom. Jeremy then shared the information with Jocelyn.

Was it almost time to meet Baby Charles? Come back next week to find out!

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