Cate’s Birth Story

My sweet baby Cate! How adventurous your pregnancy was! The heartburn I experienced with your older brother was back and in full force. Water, air–you name it, if I swallowed it, it hurt for days! We did a lot of traveling during this pregnancy, you and I! To North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Idaho, Washington, West Virginia, Texas, and Florida; we became great travel buddies! In my last traveling adventure at 36 weeks pregnant to Orlando (or rather, coming home from Orlando), I had a very good feeling that you would not arrive as “late” as your older siblings had. With lightheadedness and cravings for ice, I also realize that anemia had set in, and we quickly worked to get that resolved.

Christmas came and went, and I loved every minute with your brother and sister, but I was SO over being pregnant (sign #2 you weren’t going to wait as long as they did!). And then, on December 31, 2015, I turned the big 3-0. I was tired and simply wanted to celebrate doing family things, so we started with a matinee showing of Zootopia and followed it with lunch at Chipotle. I excitedly went to have a pedicure and within 30 minutes of getting home I was wiped. I was so so tired. We decided to try for dinner as a family at our favorite pizza place and plan for an early bedtime (yes! On New Year’s Eve. On my 30th birthday!), and in the car on the way there, my stomach turned. You weren’t due for another 5 days, yet I was terrified I was going to go into labor feeling like *this*.

We sat down at the table and ordered our food. I ran to the bathroom while thechiropractor asked them to box up our food. We made it home (by the grace of God). I got into bed. And then I spent the next 12 hours vomiting. That night took heartburn to a whole new level. And I prayed that I would NOT go into labor. Because if I did, I knew I was headed straight to the hospital and there would be a lot of drugs involved…a start I did not want for you, Miss Cate!

The next two days I spent praying a lot. Simply that I wouldn’t go into labor. That you would stay put! With your older siblings I had NEVER prayed that they would stay where they were that late in the game, but there’s a first for everything! By January 4, I was back to my full duties of work–trying to tie up loose ends so you could be born and I could totally relax! The night of January 5, I remember working and feeling like I was totally on a roll! Just before midnight I sent a message to your Aunt Claire letting her know I was going to bed but I would finish up a few things the next morning…little did I know how the rest of that night would go.

I stood up from my desk and immediately realized I had made a mistake sitting on hard wood without a pillow. My hips HURT. This entire pregnancy had been achier than any of my previous pregnancies. Thankfully thechiropractor surprised me with a new mattress for Christmas and the previous few weeks of sleep had been better than the previous few months, but I was so over the aches! I walked upstairs and told thechiropractor that I would be in to see him first thing tomorrow morning, and I went to bed.

At 2:00am I woke up to use the bathroom. As I sat up I felt a little bit of water between my legs and silently cursed that I had wet myself. Thinking that in these late days of pregnancy I really should have been to see a women’s health physical therapist and that I should have been doing more pelvic floor exercises. I walked to the bathroom, peed, and had what I thought was a mild contraction. Surely not, I thought. I went back to bed. My husband got up as I got back into bed because he had low blood sugar (have I ever mentioned that thechiropractor is Type I diabetic?!). As he was in the kitchen getting food, I heard our 2 year old get out of bed. Then I heard my husband running down the hallway. And I heard vomit. Oh yes; Josie had gotten out of bed moaning, and my husband nearly flew her down the hallway to the bathroom so as not to make a mess. They made it. But his blood sugar was still low and he called for me to come help.

Back up out of bed I went to lay with Josie. As I walked into her room he looked at me (snack in hand) and said, “Are you ok?” “I think I’m having contractions,” I said. “I have my phone with me. I will text you if I need you.” And I walked into her room to lay down with her. And that’s when I felt it. A contraction. Clear. As. Day. (Except that it was like 2:30am). Andrew had gone back to bed and I didn’t want to yell for him and wake the kids up. I laid and waited. More contractions every few minutes. And several of them HURT. In my back. I was having back labor. Back labor is nightmareish to me. So I text Andrew something along the lines of: “I’m in labor. It’s in my back. I need an adjustment.” To which he replied: “Ok. My portable table and {pregnancy} pillows are at the office. I will go get them.”

He had kept that table and those pillows in his car for WEEKS. Why he chose to take them out that day is beyond me, but hey, at least this next part makes for a good story.

So I laid there with Josie until she went back to sleep. Having allthebacklabor and wondering why on earth it was taking Andrew so long to go to and from our office which was 6 minutes away at 2:45am. And then I got the text:

Yes. You read that correctly. The car died. He wouldn’t call anyone. It was 16 degrees outside at 2:45 in the morning. His wife was in labor. So he walked home.

About that time I decided I couldn’t lay in the bed anymore between the pain in my back and wondering if Andrew had turned into a popsicle. So I plugged in the Christmas tree lights and started cleaning the toys off of the living room floor, having strong contractions all the while. Finally, Andrew got home! But caveat: without any of the stuff he went for because he couldn’t carry it across town! So he took our other car back to the office, got his table and pillows and finally was able to adjust me.

It was instantaneous change. Every bit of the tension moved around to my stomach as I continued pacing around the house. Somewhere around that time I decided I would text my birth team and my mom who was keeping my big kids, simply so that they would have messages from me when they woke up that morning to know how to prepare their days. This was circa 4:00am.

My midwife text me back, but I didn’t hear from anyone else. She lives about 45 minutes from me and basically decided to get herself up and start getting ready for the day. I still thought I had plenty of time. No rush.

About an hour and 15 minutes later I realized it might be a good idea to call my mom. My kids would be up around 6:15am, and Andrew and I really weren’t in the position to even really help them with breakfast. He was putting sheets on the bed, I was really regretting not eating dinner and staying up until midnight–I was SO tired and hungry but afraid to eat because of the heartburn. Of course my mom didn’t answer when I called her. We had done 20,000 “trial run” phone calls and she had thought every one was “the real thing.” But when it was really “the real thing” she slept through it!

So I called my dad who thankfully answered and woke my mom up. I think my mom was thoroughly confused. She asked me questions like, “Are you sure you need me NOW?” and “Can I drink coffee first?”

Because I was so tired and it was 5:45am and the new sheets were on the bed, I decided to go lay down. All I could think was, “I need to save energy. I’ll rest again later when I’m in transition, but until then I really need to save energy.” So I laid on my side and I slept. It was wonderful and sort of twilight-like. During that time I think Andrew tried calling our doula several times along with our birth photographer. They were coming, they said.

And then my mom came and I woke up. She wanted to talk to me and ask me a bunch of questions about how I was doing. I kept thinking, “I was sleeping until you started talking to me…” and then I would have a contraction and keep talking to her. Another contraction and talking. Another contraction (like it was just part of everyday life) and she goes, “Are you sure you are ok?? I’ve only been here like 5 minutes and you’ve had 3 contractions.” Surely it had been longer than that. My mom can’t tell time. She’s tired, right??

Suddenly I was saved by the midwife! I had new questions to answer! She started buzzing around setting things up, and that’s when a BIG contraction hit me. I hadn’t needed counter pressure from my hubby, but needed it then! And I went on trying to answer more questions, and all of a sudden a second huge contraction hit. After it happened I thought, “If I didn’t know any better, I would say I felt the baby move down! By inches!” But I didn’t say anything out loud. I kept those crazy inner thoughts in my crazy inner mind. I had hours to go. Didn’t want to psych myself out.

Luke woke up, so my mom went to help him with breakfast. Everyone kept buzzing around getting things ready. As my midwife walked in I told her I was going to the bathroom because, well, I had to go. She asked if I needed help. I told her no.

And the next part gets a little fuzzy. I sat down. And then all I remember is my body pushing and letting out a moan. The midwife and Andrew were all of a sudden in the door way of the bathroom and I got the question, “Did you just PUSH?????” Apparently I had because there was a baby’s head between my legs! So my midwife told me to get up and that we were going to the bed (the bathroom was too tiny to deliver a baby!). Typically when I get to this stage in labor I just need some instruction. I can follow it. I just need someone to tell me what I need to do out loud.

So my midwife told me to climb over the footboard onto the mattress…mind you, the baby’s head had been born. As I was doing it I was thinking, “Why didn’t I just walk around to the side of the bed? It is lower. Why am I climbing over this thing??” And yet I did it!

One thing I said I did NOT want was to have my older kids at the birth. I thought it would stress me out. And yet in this moment I knew I was just waiting on a contraction, so I looked at my husband and said “Go get Mom and Luke! See if they want to be here!”

_dsc0803And sure enough, they entered the room, one contraction came, and out slid a baby! It was 6:54am (4 hours and 24 minutes from my first contraction). The assistant midwife had walked in about 5 minutes before. The midwife had been there for about 20 minutes. The doula and birth photographer never made it. Josie walked in as the baby was born. My kids went to bed and woke up to a baby sister!!! Do I have beautiful photos of this labor and birth? No. But I have amazing photos of my kids learning to love their new little sister! All 8lbs 6oz, 21.5 inches of Catherine Anne. Four-year-old Luke was FULL of questions like “How did they get her head back on?”and he proudly told his Grandma later that day that Daddy “cut Cate’s umbrellical cord away from the thing that looked like a heart covered in blood…oh yeah…the placenta.” (Every four year old can accurately describe birth, right?!)

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It was fast. It was furious. I think God knew I was physically and mentally SO done, and He gave me the birth I needed! We are CRAZY thankful that my mom and Luke were able to be there for it, and it has instilled a completely inseparable bond between these two! We had some nursing issues, much like big brother Luke, but nothing that wasn’t resolvable (amazing how I handled it with a third child vs a first child though!). It was an amazing day of snuggling, Cate, and we are all so so thankful that you are ours!!!

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All photos copyright Sera Petras Photography

Josie’s Birth Story

It has been a while since I have added a post to my blog…sometimes life gets in the way, but at the end of the day, there are some stories that just need to be written down. They are life events that simply change you as a person, and this story I want to write down while it is still fresh in my mind!

Twelve days ago I gave birth to my second baby. After my first pregnancy and the birth of our son, I turned into what one might call a bit of a “birth junkie.” There is truly nothing like the oxytocin high of pure joy, relief, and love that exists after a baby enters this world from your body without any medication blocking the release of any of those emotions. A lot of people think I’m crazy for not wanting drugs to take the edge off of the pain, but I say, “bring it on” because the rewards are so sweet, and I learn so much about myself and God’s faithfulness in the process.

So this was my second natural birth, and after Luke’s birth I decided you couldn’t pay me to get in the car while I was in labor again (I actually may have made this decision while I was in labor with him!). So that was that. We were staying home. First variable: changed. Oh, and since my last birth, the chiropractor and I moved halfway across the country, so after falling in love with our first birth team, we had to find another team. Second variable: also changed. This birth was shaping up to be its own unique adventure already!

The chiropractor is quite blessed to work with some of the area’s best midwives and their clients on a daily basis, so finding the birth professionals in our area wasn’t a challenge…it was picking the one that was right for us that was difficult! Even though I tried to go in to this entire pregnancy and birth with no expectations, it is really hard to do that with a situation you’ve been in before. So even though we were searching for a new midwife, I had Luke’s midwife in my mind during interviews. The one thing that stood out to me time and time again were the texts that she sent me in the days after my due date letting me know she was praying for me. In the days when I was losing hope and having a hard time finding the power of prayer, God sent me someone who could intercede on my behalf. Somehow I knew I would need that again. Realizing that prayer needed to be part of my birth plan, our midwife Peggy became an easy choice.

With our primary provider chosen, there were two other people who I felt I needed at my birth (other than a chiropractor 😉 ): a doula and a photographer. After my first birth where I wasn’t sure if I needed a doula (she was the chiropractor’s suggestion), I swore I’d never birth without one! And a birth photographer was hired late in the game last time…again, I was unsure if that is what I wanted, but the gift that she gave me was completely priceless. After attending birth circle for several months prior, I had met Lisa Newhall, another mom who was also a doula who was becoming a fast friend! There was no question that I wanted Lisa at my birth with me! The last piece of the puzzle was finding a birth photographer! This was a BIG change from being in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where birth photographers were all over the place. In quiet Staunton, Virginia, let’s just say they are few and far between (or non-existant…whichever term you prefer!). While I was in Dallas I had stumbled upon the work of Cheyenne Kody Photography and had fallen in love. When I reached out to Cheyenne about the possibility of taking on birth photography (I was nearly a year from being pregnant again at the time!), she was totally game! I was stoked! And then when I moved to town, who happened to live right out my back door, but Sera Petras, a local photographer and out-of-hospital birther who was also good friends with Cheyenne! In the end, I chose Sera to shoot our photos, and Cheyenne was her backup–I was so blessed to have these women agree to go on this journey with me!

Our team was assembled, and it was time to just enjoy being pregnant! With a couple of bouts of nausea during first trimester, I plugged along, much like Luke’s pregnancy. We opted to use only a fetoscope this pregnancy, which meant that we likely wouldn’t be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat until 20 weeks. The day after my first midwife appointment (at 12 weeks) I experienced some bleeding…this was new. We contacted her and decided that since it was minimal, we would wait a few more days. More bleeding…we went back to the midwife to have her use a doppler monitor. My heart was so high up in my throat as she put that thing to my stomach–a heartbeat! I breathed a huge sigh (I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath) and cried tears of relief. She suggested we get my progesterone levels checked, and after receiving the results the next day, we opted to start a progesterone cream and an herbal adrenal cream to help my body produce more progesterone on its own. The bleeding continued over a period of several days; enough time for the chiropractor and I to decide that we needed a little more intervention. In our first pregnancy, we opted not to have any ultrasounds unless medically necessary, and we never had reason to have one. After the bleeding in this pregnancy, we set up an appointment.

We were nervous and also very out of our element–the ultrasound tech was super friendly, but I just wanted to know if my baby was ok. Everything she could see looked great–whew!–now we just had to wait for the doctor to come confirm. The doctor we had that day was filling in from out-of-state and was only semi-familiar with the machine she was using. Our anxiety was building as she fumbled around pushing buttons and saying, “Oh, that’s not what I wanted to do!” Finally she brought someone in and figured it all out and got back to our appointment. We were almost home free when she said, “Well, now I see where the blood is coming from.” My heart sank again. “See this dark patch right here? That’s the blood. It appears that a some point you had a subchorionic hemorrhage where the placenta pulled away from the uterine wall and caused bleeding.” My head was spinning…what did this mean? WAS MY BABY OK? After a series of questions that came out of my mouth that I don’t remember at all, I learned that it was a common occurrence and as the baby grew, my body would either expel the rest of the blood or absorb it. We were going to be ok! It was time to continue on with being pregnant!

My first pregnancy was 42 weeks and 1 day long. My second pregnancy felt like it was about 3 seconds long. Chasing a toddler and helping to run a business take up time, I suppose. And, oh yeah, when I was roughly 7 months pregnant we found out that our rental house had a substantial amount of black mold in it, so we moved in with my parents for a month and frantically looked for a new place to live. In an ironic turn of events, my planned home birth was going great–except for the part where I didn’t have a home to birth in! Through a contact, my dad found “one last place” for us to look at, and after taking a look, it totally ended up being perfect! Time to enjoy being pregnant again!

Because I had gone past my due date with my first pregnancy, I anticipated that would be the case again. I was right. This time, though, my baby was sitting really low in my pelvis for several weeks, and while I was enjoying being pregnant, I was getting very uncomfortable. I had taken an adrenal support supplement called Master Gland every 30 minutes the day I went into labor with Luke, and I was fairly certain that it had helped to encourage my labor, so at my 40 week appointment I talked to my midwife about starting it in the next few days if nothing happened (though much slower). At 40 weeks and 5 days, I started taking Master Gland two times/day (this was the recommended dose on the bottle).

The whole day of Tuesday, October 29, (40 weeks, 6 days) I had this uneasy feeling–I just didn’t feel good; I was tired. Late in the day I asked the chiropractor if he could maybe stay home the following morning and help me with Luke. He rearranged some patients and obliged–I was so thankful! Early the next morning (41 weeks) my grandmother stopped by unannounced–she hadn’t done that in months, and it threw me off a bit, but we continued with our morning. We decided to take Luke to the library, and then I remembered that I needed apple cider vinegar at the grocery store. I actually needed an entire fridge full of groceries, but the apple cider vinegar was immediately necessary and I hadn’t done my meal planning for the week yet, so we decided that we would run to the store really quickly to get the vinegar and I’d go back for a full shopping trip after Luke got up from his nap that afternoon while the chiropractor was seeing his patients at Brookhaven Birth Center.

We got home and the chiropractor got ready to go to Harrisonburg. Around 12:30 pm I had a really dull contraction (I should note that about a week prior I had contractions 3-5 minutes apart for an hour in the middle of the night. I debated calling my midwife or even waking up my husband. I decided that if I felt two more I’d let them know, and I fell asleep before they ever happened 😉 ). I didn’t say a thing about the contraction, but he saw it on my face, “What was that?,” he asked. “It may have been a contraction, but it was likely nothing,” and I told him to head on to work and I’d let him know if I needed him to come home. He left and I laid down with Luke to help him fall asleep. I slept, myself–Peggy had told me during my latest prenatal appointments that if I felt tired, I should definitely nap. Sometimes God would give her the feeling like she needed to nap in the middle of the day around the time a baby was due, even if she had a wonderful night of sleep. She felt like God was helping her rest to take care of her mothers in labor. This prompted the chiropractor to request that if she felt the urge to nap at any point in the coming days to call us so that we could go sleep and be rested for our labor too! 😉

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About 45 minutes into my nap with Luke, I woke up with a contraction around 1:30 pm. A few minutes later I had another. I didn’t think much of it because I had that episode the previous week. After a few more, I decided to text the chiropractor and my midwife. As a side note, my toddler is a terrible sleeper, so when he was sleeping peacefully on my arm for his nap, I was not about to wake him to go walk around and see if I was really in labor–so I just lay there, stuck in one position on my left side, hoping that they didn’t get more intense because my hand was falling asleep and my hips were getting achy.

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Luke finally woke up, and we decided to have a snack, and then go to the store to get those groceries because if I was in labor, I’d need something for my birth team to eat later! After walking around for a few minutes, I remembered why I had decided to have a home birth in the first place: because I didn’t want to get in the car while I was in labor again! So I texted my husband, and it was decided that he would stop at the store on his way back into town; I just needed to text him a grocery list. So I did that, and then I went outside to play “bat ball” (baseball) with Luke.

As I was outside with him, my contractions started to intensify. I also started to feel a little panicky. This was the one afternoon a week that my husband worked 30 minutes away from the house instead of 5, and statistically speaking, second-time labors are shorter than the first. My first labor was 8 hours and 9 minutes from start to finish–how long would this one be? My doula was stopping by to drop something off to me anyway, but boy was I was really glad to have another adult around! Her kids were in the car though, and she couldn’t stay long, nor did I need her to–I knew this was still very early labor, but in the back of my mind, I was still a little panicked. Would Luke be the one to catch the baby?! (This is a really silly thought as I look back on it, but it was a very real concern of mine at the time!)

I texted back and forth with the chiropractor to see where he was in his appointments. He kept asking if I needed him to leave. I kept telling him that I’d be ok. My first labor began with my water breaking, and then I had 8 hours of pretty active labor, so I really didn’t know what early labor felt like or how long it might last. I just tried to focus on taking care of Luke. I also called my mom to let her know that I’d need her to pick Luke up to spend the night with her tonight. She had been on high alert for my phone calls in the previous weeks–waiting for me to call to say I was in labor. Of course, this was the one day that she didn’t pick up her phone! So I called my dad–I needed someone else to know that I was in labor–another adult who could possibly be at my house sooner rather than later, should the need arise. A girl can always count on her daddy to answer the phone 😉 and sure enough while I was talking to him, my mom called me back. It was about 4:30 pm, and my mom said she would be over when she got off at 6:30 pm. The chiropractor was on his last visit of the day–a home visit for a mom and a baby who had been born just a few days before. He would likely be home just a little while before my parents came. Two hours–I could do this–and Mickey Mouse was going to help me through it! As my contractions got more intense, I decided to turn Mickey on TV to distract Luke so I could start prepping the bed with a shower curtain liner and pull out the chili I had made for my birth team from the freezer. I also texted my husband and told him to skip the trip to the store; I needed him home sooner than later.

Thirty minutes later, my doorbell rang. I was so confused–who was ringing my doorbell? Didn’t they know I was in labor?! I went to the door: it was my grandmother! She hadn’t come by unannounced in months, and now she had done it TWICE in one day! I didn’t want anyone to know I was in labor. I didn’t want to be a watched pot. I was going to answer the door like everything was a-ok! “I brought by this Halloween sign for Luke,” she told me. Uh-oh…I could feel a contraction coming on. Keep a straight face! She looked at me: “Are you having ‘pains?'” All I could do was nod. “Do you want me to take Luke?!” she asked. I told her I was fine and Andrew should be home in about 20 minutes. She asked if she could do anything. I told her no. I could see the panic on her face. She blessed herself and started praying as she hurried down my driveway. Well that went well…I thought to myself. Back to focusing on contractions.

A few minutes later the chiropractor came home. He got our dog and took him to a friend’s house and asked me if I wanted him to take Luke along for the drive. Luke was content with Mickey, so he stayed at the house and I packed his overnight bag. I wanted to make sure he had absolutely everything he could need because I didn’t want him to have anxiety about being away. It was going to be enough to come home to a baby in our house!

When the chiropractor came home, I talked to Peggy on the phone. I told her my contractions had slowed down some, but she asked if maybe she and her birth assistant could start heading my way because she had seen a few second-time moms who had pretty slow labors and then things sped up really quickly. She was 40 minutes away, so I asked if she could wait to come around 7:00 pm after my parents had taken Luke to their house. I felt like having THE MIDWIFE there when my parents came would make it seem like something was happening soon, and I was fairly sure it was not. No need to put everyone on high alert. No need to be a watched pot.

While we waited for my parents to show up, I sat down at my computer with Luke and watched old Donald Duck and Chip and Dale cartoons while sitting on a birth ball. My contractions had really spaced out, and I was hoping that the ball might help a bit. We ate tortilla chips. I remember thinking, “This is the last time I will just have one baby. I like watching these silly cartoons with my first baby. I like that this is labor: watching cartoons with my two-year old and eating chips.” And I had a few silent tears that came along with these thoughts. I thought for sure I’d have a hard time letting him walk out the door with my parents. They showed up just a few minutes later, and Luke was pumped to go to Jojo and Poppi’s house for the night! He barely wanted to hug me before running out the door, so there were no more tears–I was at peace with my silent good-bye to him a few moments prior.

After he left I felt like maybe I could really get down to business. Or like I really shouldn’t have the midwives on the way. I wasn’t sure. This just didn’t feel like labor! Moments later Peggy and her assistant Melaine were at the door. They said they tried to wait until my parents left to get out of the car, but sure enough, the friendly guy that my dad is just had to walk up to their car and introduce himself before they left! I was totally ok with that though–I just didn’t want the people in my little world on high alert! So Peggy and Melaine came in and I told them I thought it would be a while, that my contractions had slowed down. They were less predictable now: 3-7 minutes apart and about 30 seconds long. I had a few contractions while I was standing talking to them, and Melaine timed them. Peggy asked if she could check my blood pressure and if I wanted an internal check. I had elected to not have any internal checks during my pregnancy, and part of my plan for labor was to limit internal checks and to never be told how dilated I was–I didn’t want to play a “numbers game” in my head. This had been my plan with my first labor, as well, and it went off without a hitch. This time, however, I expected to be 2-3 cm dilated, so I asked the chiropractor if he cared if we heard the report out loud because I wanted to confirm that I was only 2-3 cm so that I would know that this labor would likely go on for quite a few more hours. He totally agreed with me.

Peggy checked my blood pressure and then did my internal check. Her eyes got wide: “Wow!” she said. What did that mean?? “I’d say that you are a 6…no, make that a 7 with a bulging bag of waters!” What?! She had to be wrong. This just wasn’t labor. It wasn’t. It wasn’t hard enough. It wasn’t what I experienced last time. “Well, we’ll start getting a few things ready, but it looks like you should go ahead and call your doula and your photographer! I’ll call the student midwife! We should have a baby in a few hours!” What?! No, seriously. This wasn’t labor. Or this was labor, but I was not that close to having a baby. I just wasn’t. But she said to call, so I did!

I had given both my doula and photographer a heads up earlier in the day. My doula knew my birth history, and as it turned out, she had already headed toward my house the last time I had talked to her, so she was just a few minutes away. The chiropractor started filling up the birth tub. They asked if I wanted something to eat. It was just past dinner time, and I figured that eating was a good idea because I’d need the energy. I had started eating a bowl of quinoa noodles with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano on them earlier, so we brought that back out for a few bites. It is a really simple meal that is comfort food to me–and it tasted so good! My photographer got there and I just kind of filled everyone in on where we were–still convinced I was not that close to having a baby. The chiropractor said, “maybe this is what your labor will be this time.” Surely it couldn’t be. Surely.

Soon the pool was full of water, so I went to go change into a sports bra. Peggy told me I could get in the tub and just enjoy being in labor. I got in, and the water was so warm–it felt so great! I sat and just chatted with everyone for a long time. I joked about who knows what. I sat in the birth pool and ate my noodles. No. This was not labor. People do not sit in birth pools and have birth parties and eat birth noodles.

Sera Petras Photography

Sera Petras Photography

I had fairly constant contractions. I finally said to my doula something along the lines of, “I don’t know what I should be doing. I guess I feel kind of tired.” She encouraged me to rest, so I closed my eyes. At some point someone turned off most of the lights. I guess I dozed off. Looking back at my birth record, my next contraction didn’t happen for about 15 minutes. Surely I wasn’t having a baby anytime soon.

With each contraction, the chiropractor applied counter-pressure to my sacrum–something that he remembered that helped me from my first labor (I’m glad he remembered, because I certainly had forgotten!) He said it was really cool to feel the baby moving down into my pelvis. He knew I was making progress! After each contraction, my doula offered me water, which I gladly drank, and then I would get still and quiet again. After drinking lots of water, I decided I needed to use the bathroom. I got out of the pool and felt very chilly and my body started shaking rather uncontrollably. My doula suggested that next time I stand up that maybe I do it a bit slower, as my hormones were releasing in different levels in my body right now. I had a much stronger contraction when I got out of the water and another when I was sitting on the toilet. I was cold and ready to get back in the pool.

Sera Petras Photography

Sera Petras Photography

So we went through the same motions again: contractions, sips of water, and quiet times in between. The chiropractor was with me for each and every contraction and was boiling more water on the stove when he wasn’t with me. Eventually the water I had been drinking caught up with me again, so back out of the birth pool I went. Another strong contraction as soon as I stood up and again on the toilet. Those were harder–I wanted to be back in the water where the pain was easier! So back in I went.

This continued for another cycle until I was ready to use the bathroom again. The chiropractor walked with me, and even though I didn’t say a thing to him, I felt my body push while I was sitting on the toilet, and he knew. “Did you just push?!” he asked. I nodded. He called for Peggy and told her that I felt the urge to push. She came back and everyone followed–I felt so excited and relieved because this was getting really hard and exhausting! Peggy asked if I wanted to get back in the tub to push, and I asked if she needed to check me first. She said it was up to me, and I asked her to just to make sure I was complete. I laid down on the bed and she checked me. “I think you need a bit longer, Nicole,” she said. I asked if she could tell if the baby was asynclitic, as my son had been and that had kept me from dilating fully. She said it was hard to tell because my bag of waters was bulging so much. She said something like, “I could break it if you want me to, in order to get a better idea…” and that was the only moment in birth where I completely second-guessed myself: we didn’t want any interventions…but if she broke my water, would this be over faster? I wrestled with this thought in my head for what seemed like 10 minutes. Later I learned that my husband was wrestling the same battle in his head: he was hoping I said no, but toyed with the idea of what might happen if I said yes. My doula said it took me like 2 seconds to tell her, “No, I don’t want you to break my water.” 😉 I also want to note here that I am thankful that Peggy stuck with my original plan not to disclose any numbers to me because I had actually decreased my dilation from the time she had arrived about 3.5 hours earlier, and that was not something that I needed to hear at the time.

Prior to this moment, everyone had just sort of let me labor as I chose. At this point, I think Peggy sensed that I was feeling disheartened, so she suggested a series of positions for the following contractions that would be used to likely straighten baby’s head out if it was a bit asynclitic. Ok! I felt good! Someone had a plan! So I stayed out of the water and labored on our bed. Yikes–these contractions were hard. Everyone sort of left the room and let the chiropractor and I do these on our own. Our doula came in on occasion to check on us and help me change positions. I lost count on how many more I needed to do, but luckily my husband and doula were counting. They said I was done and Peggy came back in. She gave me a few options: I could labor on the bed some more, do a few contractions standing and “slow dancing” with my husband, or get back in the pool. My body wanted to say, “get back in the pool,” because that was easier, but my head told me that I needed to stretch my legs and get a few more good contractions in, so I stood with my husband and let him support my weight.

Sera Petras Photography

Sera Petras Photography

My legs got tired from standing, and someone said, “Would you like to get back in the water?” so I said yes. I later learned that the chiropractor was screaming in his head no no no! You are making progress out of the water!

So back into the water I went. I remember asking what that smell was (I felt a little nauseous). I was told it was the chili heating on the stove. Note to self: beans cooking on the stove is an awful smell while in labor! A few more contractions and I was beginning realize how long I had been in labor. It was more than “a couple of hours” from when everyone had gotten there, and I was not holding my baby. I was so frustrated. WHY was I still in labor? I think I voiced my frustration momentarily, and Peggy asked me if it would be ok if she prayed for me. There it was: I knew I needed a midwife who could intercede on my behalf when I felt like there was no hope, and here she was. I wish I remembered what she prayed. But every word was exactly the word I needed to hear in that moment.

Sera Petras Photography

Sera Petras Photography

At the end of the prayer I had another contraction, and the chiropractor applied counter pressure. “I felt that one in my back,” I said. “I shouldn’t be feeling them in my back–I need you to adjust me.” So the chiropractor adjusted me while I leaned on the side of the birth pool, and sure enough with the next contraction, it was back in my stomach again.

Sera Petras Photography

Sera Petras Photography

“I just feel so discouraged,” I said. “Why isn’t my baby here? My baby should be here by now!” The chiropractor leaned over and told me that while he knew that I expected to have a shorter labor than my first, that wasn’t how this one was going. I needed to let go of my expectations and just let my body work. He also reminded me that the previous night I had prayed for patience, and I needed to be receptive to what I had asked for. And then I finally found my voice: “This isn’t working. I need to get out of the water. I need to go pee.” I think I had known for the past hour or so that the water felt great (like REALLY GREAT), but it wasn’t what I needed to get this baby out. Life outside of the water was hard (like REALLY HARD), but if I wanted to see my baby soon, I needed to get out, empty my bladder, and go through those contractions.

So out I came. Just like the previous 3 times, I had a really strong contraction as soon as I stood up. I walked down the hallway with my husband in front of me and Peggy behind me. Everyone else was giving me space. I think everyone was a little tired and also agreed that my baby should be here already 😉 In the middle of the hallway, I stopped and had another strong contraction. At the end of the hallway, I had another one. A few steps into my bedroom, and I had another one, and I felt what I was pretty sure was the baby’s head! “I need to throw up,” I said. I held back the urge because I didn’t want to cover my husband in vomit. Someone ran and got a bowl: I made it–and then, almost in the same instant, my water broke all over the floor! It wasn’t the baby’s head I had felt; it was that bulging bag of water Peggy kept talking about! She called for the doppler and towels. Her birth assistant Melaine rushed in (I later learned that she had just run in from the car in search of a book for suggestions on positions during labor). The chiropractor was super impressed with how quickly Melaine cleaned up the mess. “The baby is coming!” I said. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I wasn’t in the water; I wasn’t on the bed; I was standing in the middle of my bedroom floor. I knew my risk of tearing was greater because gravity was working against me, but there was very little I could do at this point: the baby was coming whether I was ready or not. “Just let go,” I remember my doula saying, and I took it quite literally; relaxing my full body weight so that the chiropractor was left holding me up and cheering me on. With the next contraction, I felt baby crowning. I was ready to push the head out all at once, but Peggy quickly told me to slow down and pant. In hindsight this was for two reasons: to decrease my chance of tearing, and to give Peggy time to get down to catch the baby! Another quick contraction came and the head was born. Another contraction and the shoulders were out and Peggy said, “Just one more push and the hips will be out!” I wasn’t waiting for a contraction. With one more push baby was here! Peggy asked for someone to check the time, and I heard the chiropractor say “12:18 am.” He didn’t want the baby to have a “holiday” birthday, but 18 minutes past midnight our baby was born on Halloween!

Sera Petras Photography

Sera Petras Photography

My emotions were completely uncontrollable: the release of oxytocin gave me pure euphoria coupled with relief and disbelief. The only thing I could think to say to my sweet husband standing in front of me was, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry you didn’t get to catch the baby!” He laughed, covered partially in amniotic fluid and partially in vomit: “That’s ok.”

Sera Petras Photography

Sera Petras Photography

The baby was passed between my legs and they helped me to the bed. I sat there holding this baby wrapped in a towel and couldn’t believe I was a mommy again. I sat there for several minutes before I realized that no one had said anything about the baby’s gender! “What is it??” I said. I unwrapped the towel and the umbilical cord was between the baby’s legs. My husband helped me move it: “A GIRL! IT’S A GIRL! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!” I said. (My last pregnancy I was convinced I was having a girl, and out came Luke. This time I was convinced it was a boy…I should have known 😉 ). I scooted back on the bed and worked to get her to latch. Luke was unable to latch due to a jaw misalignment (from being asynclitic) and a lip and tongue tie, so I was so worried that breastfeeding would be a struggle again. She latched right away!

A few minutes later our birth photographer asked what her name was. I didn’t realize I hadn’t already said it! “Josephine Marie…but we’re calling her Josie”–it was like music to my ears! I had a little girl! We had a little girl!!! My husband was so incredibly strong throughout this labor. He knew just what I needed without me saying a thing. I am so grateful for him.

So I went into labor thinking I had no expectations, but throughout the process I unwound them all and then worked through them. I learned yet again that I am not the one in control of my life, and that babies do, indeed, come in their own time. As a frame of reference for the previous few paragraphs above, the last time I got out of the birth tub, it was 12:15 am. Josie was born at 12:18 am. It was a fast and furious 3 minutes, and I am sure that her personality will quickly grow to reflect her entrance into this world!

We finished the physical exams (Josie weighed in a 8lbs 7oz, nearly a full pound less than her brother, and despite my less-than-advantageous birthing position, I didn’t tear!), I ate more noodles (they tasted even better post-birth!), everyone left, we called our parents, and then Josie and I got some really solid sleep. My dear, sweet husband finished cleaning up the house and then just couldn’t sleep–he has decided that home birth is decidedly more demanding of dad! The following morning, my mom brought Luke to meet her, and it was so beautiful to see him climb into our bed and love on his baby sister. What a proud big brother he was! And now our home feels more complete. I can’t imagine our lives without Josie. Luke made me a mother, and Josie has made me a better mother: I am learning to give up more control and slow down the pace of my life. I’m trying my best to enjoy these children entrusted to me, and to enjoy the blessing that my husband is (I am still so in awe of him–he didn’t cancel a single appointment with any of his patients! He went back to work that same afternoon!)

Sera Petras Photography

L to R: Melaine Copeland (our birth assistant & student midwife), Maria Flippen (our student midwife), the chiropractor/world’s most fantastic midhusband, thechiropracticwife (holding baby Josie), Peggy Byler (CPM–our midwife!); not pictured: Lisa Newhall (our doula)

Once again, I am so thankful for my birth team! I feel so blessed to have birthed Josie so peacefully at home surrounded by support and comfort. I am so thankful to have found a wonderful provider who knew when I was at the bottom and who took it upon herself to be my spiritual support when I needed it most. Peggy, Lisa, Melaine, Maria, and Sera, we love you all! Miss Josie, you are one lucky lady who is loved by so many, and I am so thankful to be your “mama.”

Raw Poppyseed Vinaigrette

Apple SlicesSo this isn’t “thechiropracticfamily’s favorite” tonight because the chiropractor didn’t want dressing on his salad…so maybe it will be thechiropracticfamily’s favorite tomorrow 🙂

While on our raw diet, we’ve been doing various salads for dinner, but salad gets, well, boring unless you change it up a little! I put this dressing over spinach, apples, and pecans, and it was certainly a nice change of pace! Whisk together the following and enjoy!

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar (we use Bragg’s)
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 tsp poppyseeds
1/4 tsp raw honey
Salt & Pepper to taste

(Serves 1-2)

thechiropracticfamily’s Favorite Guacamole Recipe

So the chiropractor and I have decided that January is a month of raw foods for us! It is a great time to detox our bodies and start the new year off right! We did this same diet about 2 years ago (the chiropractor for an awesome 3 months…I, on the other hand, was not quite as successful and added some lean pastured meats and steamed veggies back in after a week or so). In our previous raw conquest, we picked up this great raw recipe book. Last go-round we had access to a dehydrator. This go-round, it is whole foods in the natural form…so I am going to have to be creative!

AvocadosThis is our favorite guacamole recipe (that I take to parties even when we aren’t eating a strictly raw diet!) adapted from that book:

2 ripe avocados, diced
3 teaspoons minced onion
juice from 1/2 a lime
1-2 cloves minced garlic
Sea Salt to taste
Dash cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl (I like to use two forks to help mash the avocados) and serve. Stores in refrigerator for a day or so.

 

thechiropracticfamily’s Favorite Chicken Salad Recipe

After the Valley Family Wellness & Chiropractic open house this weekend, I got a lot of requests for my chicken salad recipe! While chicken salad isn’t the most notoriously healthy food, there are definitely a few things you can do to improve its nutrition content like buying pastured chicken from a local farm, using fresh, organic celery and parsley, and using a high-quality, non-soy mayonnaise (or better yet, make your own!).

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Ingredients:

4 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 stalk organic celery, diced
1/4-1/2 cup thinly diced organic yellow onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped organic parsley
1 cup mayonnaise (for a “make your own” recipe, see above; if purchasing, I like Hain Pure Foods Safflower Mayonnaise because it contains very few ingredients and NONE of them are soy!)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (we like Annie’s in our house!)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Combine all above ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and let sit in refrigerator over night for full flavor.

Notes:
We use organic/pastured local meat and produce whenever possible. While they may be more expensive, I feel confident that they do not come from genetically modified seeds, and are sprayed with fewer, less harmful chemicals. We try to place our family’s health above all else, even if that means giving up some of the other things in life (like cable TV!). If you aren’t quite ready to jump into fully-organic fruits and veggies, a good place to start would be the “Dirty Dozen.”

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from FoodNetwork.com

Luke’s Birth Story (& Video)

For Luke’s first birthday, I decided to blog his birth story. (I apologize, in advance, to my family members who are going to think that I am crazy for sharing all of this!) I felt there was no greater way to celebrate this day than to share Luke’s story with others, so that mothers may understand the beauty and gift that birth is–that we may all work to re-claim it. I have a friend whose mother used to tell her children their birth story each year on their birthday. As soon as Luke is old enough, this is a tradition that we will establish, along with watching his birth video, so that he, too, may appreciate the miracle that is his life.

Luke’s birth story began when the chiropractor went to chiropractic school. We were still engaged at the time, but I can remember him telling me, “When we have kids, we shouldn’t have them in a hospital,” and I thought he had lost his mind! Where else would a baby be born?! When the chiropractor’s brother and his wife got pregnant and used a midwife and a birth center, I was impressed with the process, so I told my husband I would at least look into it when the time came, but that I wanted to interview a midwife in a hospital too. Fast-forward a year later, and we found ourselves pregnant. I stuck to my resolution to check out birth centers, but I was sure this hospital midwife I had found would be “it.” When she tried to talk me into a c-section during our consultation, I knew I was in the wrong place.

After searching for other midwives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and a visit to Lifetime Family Wellness Center, we found All About Babies and Christy Martin, CPM. I can distinctly remember our interview with her: I had never met this woman, yet I cried because I felt like God led us to the right place.

Our whole pregnancy was fantastic. I had been very healthy—with chiropractic adjustments daily (yes, I was spoiled!) and a very healthy diet, we were estimating that the baby would probably be about six and a half pounds. I also swore up and down that I never believed our “due date” was right and it was “just a date.” As soon as that date came, though, I was anxious to meet our baby. The next 15 days that followed were the hardest days of pregnancy, by far. Our baby was clearly not ready to make its debut, and I was very tired of being pregnant. Those days consisted of a lot of crying and prayer. The night before Luke was born, I had some friends pray over me, and when they were finished one of them said, “Nicole, the word ‘surrender’ kept coming to mind while we were praying.” That made me so frustrated—that was exactly what I spent the past 14 days doing! I told her, “I HAVE surrendered. I surrendered to the fact that God isn’t going to make this baby too big for me to birth, and I have surrendered to my pregnancy. What else could I possibly need to surrender to??” The girls around me easily reached the consensus that maybe I needed to surrender to the possibility that while I had done everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby, maybe that my perfect birth center birth wasn’t the way that our baby was supposed to come into this world. The ultimate goal was to have a healthy baby, and if God chose for that baby to arrive in a hospital, then it was out of my hands because God’s plans for us are so much greater than our plans for ourselves. I hadn’t thought of that before!!! (it was my “light bulb” moment)

I went home and told the chiropractor about this “missing piece.” I told him that this baby wasn’t going to come until we both surrendered. He told me that he agreed, but that he didn’t necessarily want to surrender to the idea of a hospital birth. I asked if I could pray for him, since my friends had prayed for me. So we lay in our bed, and I prayed that God would soften Andrew’s heart to His plan. When I finished praying, Andrew said he felt better about the idea, and he would be open to however this baby was supposed to arrive. I rolled over in the bed, and my water broke (it was 10:40 pm)! GOD IS SO GREAT!

My contractions started about 30 minutes later; a minute long, 5 minutes apart. Thirty minutes after that, they were still a minute long and only 2.5 minutes apart. (This should have been a forewarning of Luke’s intense attitude about life!) We called our doula, and she came to our house to help us labor. My version of the story says that we were at our house for about 45 minutes after our doula came. I later learned we were there for about 4 hours—I was definitely in my own time zone! I kept telling my husband and doula that I didn’t think I could get in the car and drive 35 minutes to the birth center. Our doula Tonya reassured me that I could do it. As it turns out, the car ride was one of my favorite parts of labor because my contractions slowed and I was able to rest a little (although next time, we are definitely doing a home birth—no questions asked!).

When we got to the birth center, our birth team was waiting for us. Christy did an internal check (this was only the second internal check I had during our pregnancy), but I didn’t want to know how far along I was (because if she said I was only 2cm, I was going to be so disappointed!). I found days later that I was 6cm when we arrived, but the baby’s head was slightly cocked to one side (asynclitic). I wanted to scream at this baby, “C’mon, baby! You are a chiro-baby! Get yourself in the right position!!” Luckily Christy instructed my husband on how to do what he calls “the hardest wall-sits I’ve ever done” to help me re-position the baby’s head (this was the only part of labor that I recall being extremely painful, and it only lasted for 10 contractions). After that I labored in the tub for what I thought was 30 minutes (again, I later learned it was about 2 hours). I remember my doula telling me that our birth photographer arrived (as a side note, I really struggled with whether or not I wanted a photographer at our birth…initially the idea felt strange. Later I realized that no one could have captured such an amazing moment in such a beautiful light! I am SO thankful that we have these images now!) I thought, “I must be doing well and getting close because they wouldn’t call her if I wasn’t!!!” (This was the only signal that I had for how dilated I was because I had asked to limit internal checks and that no one report my progress to me after these checks.) Soon after I got out of the tub, Christy checked me again and told me it was time to push. I remember feeling so in-tune with my body; I knew exactly what to do! At one point, my baby’s heart rate started to drop, but I listened to my birth team, and I didn’t panic because they didn’t either. After a change in positions and some oxygen, we were good to go again, and my husband got into position to catch. (Yes, the chiropractor caught our baby!) I remember an intense stretching feeling followed by relief, and then at 7:49 am, just over 8 hours after our labor adventure began, someone said, “It’s a boy!” I should point out that I never had a sonogram (for lots of reasons), but the chiropractor and I felt throughout the whole pregnancy that we were having a girl!  I remember saying, “We were wrong!!!” and then never feeling so in love and relaxed in my entire life!

Afterwards, we took an herbal bath with new baby Luke, and I told my husband, “I am so glad we did it this way! What a beautiful gift you gave me by bringing me to a birth center! What an amazing day this was!” Later when they were weighing Luke, I was so anxious to see if I had gotten the six and a half pound baby like we thought…9 pounds, 6 ounces—we were all STUNNED! (There are images in the video that capture this weigh check in a way that I could never describe in words!) That moment solidified why we came to All About Babies in the first place: we had a beautiful, healthy pregnancy; we had amazing emotional support from our birth family (a friend told me that she thinks of Luke’s midwives as his fairy godmothers); and I was able to birth a big healthy baby without the use of any drugs or surgical intervention, and I didn’t tear one bit! Christy, Kelly, Joni, Tonya, and Evie—thank you!!! Happy first birthday to my dear, sweet Luke! We love your enthusiasm for life, and we are thankful each day that God entrusted us with your care! Thank you for letting me be your “mama” 😉

Our awesome birth team (L to R): Joni Yankus (CPM–our assistant midwife, in blue), Christy Martin (CPM–our midwife, in purple), the chiropractor and the world’s most awesome husband ;-), thechiropracticwife (holding baby Luke), Tonya Buffington (our doula, in black), Kelli Banks (then-student-midwife, now CPM!, in navy blue)

If you missed it above, here is Luke’s birth video as captured by the beautifully talented Evie Marie.

Reflections on My Interactions with Ina May Gaskin

So we are moving from the major metropolis of Dallas/Fort Worth to the beautiful farmland of the Shenandoah Valley in about 6 weeks. I can’t wait to get back to Virginia–I really can’t; but there are times when I have access to some AMAZING things in DFW, and I wonder if i will have any similar opportunities when we move. Meeting Ina May Gaskin was one of those amazing things.

Some of you may be wondering–who is this Ina May Gaskin woman she’s talking about? She’s a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) that has transformed the way that many people think about midwifery in the United States. Her biography says that she has helped around 1200 babies come into the world in the last 40 years. Sounds like a lot of babies, right? Don’t worry, I did the math for you: that’s 30 births a year, or 2.5 births a month. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a well-respected OB that has assisted in only 2-3 births a month over the last four decades. Yes, she travels a lot; yes, she’s written several books; yes, she’s done a bazillion speeches–she’s busy! But after listening to her talk this last weekend, 2-3 births a month is about all she would ever take on.

During my pregnancy I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and admittedly, there were parts that I loved and parts that were just a little too “hippie” for me. But hey, each woman’s birth story is her own, so I just kinda went with it! There were a ton of helpful insights in the book, and I highly recommend it to any woman who is preparing to give birth. So there’s my Ina May shpeal–what is about to follow is a collection of thoughts. They may or may not all work together. I’m just jotting things as I remember them so I can look back and reminisce about what went on this weekend!

Friday Night–Dinner at the Reata

Just a few days before the event, I was invited by a “birthy” friend 😉 to go to dinner with Ina May at the Reata in downtown Fort Worth. The room sat about 40 people. We thought we would be late, but we actually got there a few minutes early, and I had a moment to introduce myself (like Ina My wanted to know who I was–ha!). I actually had a couple of opportunities, but I chickened out on the first two because I hadn’t come up with what to say yet (**lame**). When I saw a dear midwife friend introducing herself, I realized I could sort of piggy-back off of her conversation, so as soon as she stepped away, I got the courage to “step up to the plate.”

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Meeting Ina May Gaskin

I think I said something along the lines of, “Hi, I’m Nicole! I had a baby in September at a birth center, and I work there now! And my husband is a chiropractor, and he specializes prenatal and postnatal care for mom and baby!” At which point she interrupted me: “Oh that is fantastic! We appreciate the work that our chiropractors do!” And then I jumped back in (did I just cut Ina May Gaskin off??), “And I really just appreciate everything you’ve done to spread the word about care for expectant mothers, and especially midwifery care! And it is just really a pleasure to meet you! And thank you for being here! And I hope you enjoy your stay in Texas!” And then I very awkwardly walked away, realizing I couldn’t figure out how to end that conversation. Getting back to my table I realized that I had been a little bit of a blubbering idiot and the only part of the conversation that she commented on was directed toward The Chiropractor (really?? I should have given you more stats about my birth! I promise you would have been impressed! Ok, maybe not impressed…satisfied. Maybe that is what you would have been…).

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Dinner with my midwife Christy and my “birthy” friend Jeanine!

The dinner was delicious. I was able to sit with my midwife (which is always fun!), my lovely “birthy” friend, and I made a couple of new friends along the way! After dinner, I knew I had been away from my “I don’t like bottles or solid foods” baby for long enough and he was probably starving, but I really wanted a photo with Ina May, so I awkwardly walked over to her table, and she graciously agreed!

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After dinner with Ina May

And here’s the part where I was so worried about “I don’t like bottles or solid foods” baby that I rushed out without paying for my drinks (sorry, Jeanine!). No worries, I paid her back 😉

Saturday, Book Signing

So one of the perks to paying to go to the dinner with Ina May was that we got to “cut the line” for the book signing the next day. This was awesome because we didn’t have to rush to get into the line, but I felt like the world’s biggest jerk walking by all of the ladies who were so patiently waiting to get their books signed (if any of you are reading this, I apologize! My wristband said I could do it!). The Chiropractor and “I don’t like bottles or solid foods” baby came along with me to this event because really my journey through birth was OUR journey through birth, and I felt like it just wouldn’t be right to not have them there.

We walked up to her table, and I turned into a blabbering idiot again: “Hi, I don’t know if you remember me, but I was at the dinner last night! My husband, oh this is my husband (pulling him closer), is the chiropractor that works with expectant moms…” She interjected, “Oh of course! Yes, I remember you! So glad you could bring the whole family!” At which point she signed my copy of Ina May’s Guide to Child Birth and we gathered around her for a picture. I remember someone saying, “Hold the book up so you remember which one she signed,” and since we were in front of the camera, I just did what people told me to do. As soon as the shutter went off, my own mind reappeared and I thought, “So I can remember which one she signed? How am I going to forget when I put this thing in a frame!” 😉 And then I remembered my thoughts from the night before–tell her something awesome about your birth!! “And this is my baby…well, my BIG baby…he was 9lbs 6oz when he was born and I had an 8 hour labor and no tearing!” “That’s great!” she said. Had she heard me? “No tearing! Some people think that it can’t be done, but it can!” (Did I really just say that to Ina May Gaskin?! Of course SHE knew it could be done! She trusts the birth process more than anyone on the planet! I didn’t have to tell HER that it could be done…and this is the part where I awkwardly walked away again!)

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Ina May Gaskin signs thechiropracticfamily’s copy of Ina May’s Guide to Child Birth!

Saturday, Ina May Talks on Maternal Mortality

I was really excited to listen to this talk. Truthfully, she could have talked about how to flip hamburgers, and I would have been excited (which she would never do…she’s vegan!). Another one of my perks for going to dinner was that I got to sit in the front row–yes, the FRONT ROW–I was ecstatic!

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That’s me! Second face in–on the front row!

What I loved most about this talk is that it wasn’t all that structured. She told the story of her first birth, of how she was getting ready to push and everything was going beautifully, and because of that hospital’s procedures, she was given medicine. The next thing she remembers, she woke up, not pregnant anymore. When they brought her baby to her room, she felt a total disconnect–wasn’t sure if the baby was hers because she felt no connection. She realized this wasn’t right. And thus began her journey.

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Tellings us her birth story.

She had a few hippie thoughts, but for me, I was surprised at how hysterical she was!

A few highlights:

  • When talking about sphincters, she talked about the importance of a woman’s body being relaxed and open. Women should be allowed to do what they feel is natural. She said, “It is hard for men to understand. They have a sphincter too, you know. It would be like going to the bathroom with them and yelling at them and telling them HOW they should poop–I bet it would be a lot harder for them and it would take a lot longer, too!”
  • Ina May was asked how to protect the perineum. And whether perineal massage works. Her answer: “Massage does nothing. I mean, unless it does something for you–I don’t want to get in the way of anyone’s fun! But a healthy diet, and movement–women need to move, to walk. And lots of water. And squatting. People in Asian cultures squat all the time: to clean the floors, to cook, to garden, to use the bathroom. Women should practice squatting. Here, I’ll show you:”
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Yes, this happened!

She also had some very amazing statistics:

  • When she became a midwife 40 years ago, forceps were used in 75% of all births (do what?!)
  • The c-section rate was less than 5% (the national rate is over 30% today; I know of a few DFW hospitals that have rates at almost 70%!)

She told stories of birth from around the world where doctors literally stand above the mother and PUSH the baby out of mom’s belly (ouch!) and in other places (like the Scottish Isles) where midwives travel all over to make sure a mother is given the best care possible (and OBs are not legally allowed to refuse to help midwives when asked).

She talked about the complications that mothers experience from unnecessary c-sections and inductions. She brought along her quilt that has one square for each mother who has died unnecessarily from MEDICAL childbirth complications (we are not living in Little House on the Prairie here, folks; it was amazing to hear how these women died simply because doctors are taught to rely on technology, rather than skilled training, and how they are taught to fear things like breech vaginal birth). By the way, she does not fault the doctors for this–they are learning what they are taught. She faults the system in which they are taught.

What amazed me most about the entire talk was her openness and lack of rebellion. I pictured her to be this renegade hippie who was going to say that hospital births were unnecessary, but she didn’t–not at all, in fact. She feels that maternal CARE is what is most important. Be it at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital. Every woman DESERVES that personalized attention (one-on-one, from someone who has become a friend and a support…not a professional running between 10 rooms to check on everyone), DESERVES to know that they are SO capable of birthing their baby (your body is not broken, your baby is not too big, breech birth is safe with someone who is trained to know what to do and who is not fearful of it), and DESERVES to be supported in her decisions. It is up to women to take responsibility for their birth, and to find the person to provide care that brings the sacredness back to birth and to the family.

She also gave some great resources for us to Google (which I have done for you):

  • She spoke on instinct, and how we are all mammals, but because of all of the interventions that have taken place over the last 40+ years, we are losing our instincts. We were instructed to check out the dramatic struggle for life on YouTube (**video contains live birth**)
  • As women, we’ve been taught to be afraid of some strange, natural things during birth–like pooping. She suggested reading the very funny article “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Pooping During Childbirth” by Tracy Moore
  • There is also much talk nowadays about women’s hips being too narrow or baby’s head being too large to “facilitate” birth, when in actuality, we were all designed this way. She suggested Googling “Human Bipedalism and Birth” for an explanation. Many of the scholarly articles are unavailable via the web, but here is a nice condensed article written for college students that I found.
  • She often referenced mammal birth, and said several times that birth is misunderstood because people don’t know what is normal. She asked us to check out “Chimp Birth Attica Zoo” to see a chimp mom finding her comfortable labor positions. (**video contains live birth**)
  • When Ina May spoke on maternal and infant mortality, she referenced the CDC Wonder Site.