My due date was January 22, 2014. As that date approached and especially after it passed, more and more people called, texted, emailed, and even cornered me at work and the grocery store to ask if my baby was ever going to come.  I was diligently preparing for my natural birth by concentrating on the knowledge that my body knew what to do and labor would start on its own when the time was right. I was tuning out all the “noise” from well-meaning friends and family, doing my daily affirmations, exercises, and journaling, trusting in my body and my baby. The weeks leading up to and following my due date were very busy as I tried all the natural things I read about to start labor –walking, stretching, eating fresh pineapple and dates, dancing. I absolutely, positively, did not want to be induced.  I was planning an intervention free, natural birth.  I wanted to labor in the water, without external fetal monitoring or an IV.  I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible before heading to the hospital.

I had a prenatal appointment with my midwife practice at 41 weeks 2 days.  We did a non-stress test and the baby was very active.  We went for a follow up ultrasound to do a biophysical and passed with flying colors.  We made an appointment for the next Monday to do another biophysical if I hadn’t gone into labor.  We spent the weekend feeling great and confident that our baby was healthy and would come when she was ready. Labor did not start so we were back for the biophysical on Monday.  The results were not as good this time – the baby wasn’t moving nearly as much during the ultrasound and non-stress test.  The doctor told us that based on those results he had to recommend that we go directly to the hospital to be induced.  We knew that the baby had been moving like normal over the weekend and throughout the day (just not during the tests) and decided to wait on the induction.  We made an appointment for another biophysical the next day and agreed that if the test results were the same, we would go for the induction. Tuesday morning we packed the car with all our labor bags and headed for the biophysical.  We got a score of 10 out 10.  The baby was moving beautifully, fluid levels and blood flow were great. We were so relieved and headed home ready to keep waiting.

Wednesday morning we were at 42 weeks and back to the midwife for another appointment.  A vaginal exam revealed that I hadn’t made any progress over the last couple of days, I was still 2 centimeters and my cervix was soft. We had previously discussed stripping my membranes, but decided against it.  I really wanted to avoid any kind of intervention. We were hoping to hear that we could keep waiting for labor to begin naturally because our test the day before was so good, however the midwife we saw still recommended induction.  She told us that the risk of stillbirth increases after 42 weeks and that it would be better to induce now while the baby is doing well and will be more likely to tolerate labor well rather than waiting and potentially needing to induce if/when baby is struggling. We decided to go ahead with the induction. Although we had great test results the day before, we had bad results the day before that.  We were worried this pattern would continue and didn’t want to risk it. We decided to go in that evening for a low dose of Pitocin overnight and kick it up the next morning.

To say I was devastated is an understatement.  My whole preparation for a natural, intervention free birth was focused around the idea that my body knows what to do and will do it – birth is completely natural and my body is made to birth my baby. I felt like my body had failed me.  I also was not 100% convinced this was necessary so I was second guessing myself. Add to that my fear of C-section (everyone I knew who had been induced delivered via C-section).  It was a very emotional day for me.

We arrived at the hospital around 8pm to check in. We were planning a low dose of Pitocin overnight to allow me to rest (I was exhausted from the emotions of the day) and then increase the dosage in the morning. Our doula, Teresa, happened to be at the hospital that evening and sat with us while we were checking in. I was still very emotional and practically in tears when they put in the IV and placed the external fetal monitors.  This is the exact opposite of what I wanted and planned for. The midwife on call was not the same midwife we saw earlier in the office and she was not on board with our plan of low dose Pitocin overnight.  She wanted to get started with full on dosage right away stating that my cervix was ready and the low dose was pointless.  With some encouragement from Teresa I was able to speak up and tell the midwife that I was not going to begin labor exhausted and that if we did not do the low dose overnight I was going to go home and sleep in my own bed and come back the next morning for the induction. I told her about my fear of C-section and my hope that we could turn off the Pitocin once labor was established so I could labor in the tub. She finally agreed to the low dose and we settled in to try and get some rest.

Contractions woke me up around 4am.  I was having trouble coping so we called Teresa around 6am to tell her to come back to the hospital before rush hour began. We stopped the Pitocin around 8am so I could eat breakfast and take a shower.  Mild contractions continued during this time.  I asked the midwife if we could delay the Pitocin to see if labor would continue on its own but she said that could potentially interfere with our goal: a safe, vaginal delivery. This was the answer I would hear each time I asked about turning the Pitocin off to get in the tub.  How can you argue with that goal?  It seemed that my hopes for how that safe, vaginal delivery happened weren’t important.

After half an hour on Pitocin the nurse came back to turn up the dosage a notch.  I was already working hard through the contractions so I said I didn’t want it to be turned up.  Half an hour later the nurse returned with the midwife who insisted we turn up the Pitocin so we could achieve our goal: a safe, vaginal delivery.  I agreed, and the dosage was increased.

For the next few hours I labored mostly leaning over the bed, I was feeling the contractions mostly in my back. The midwife said that when I got to 6 centimeters we could discuss turning off the Pitocin and getting in the tub.  I knew I couldn’t get in the tub if I had an epidural so that really motivated me to keep going. All the birth stories I had read said that being in the tub was really helpful and I was determined to get there! After a few hours I was able to sit on my birth ball in the shower and that really helped with the pain. During one of my early contractions I said “oh no” out loud and Teresa encouraged me to say “open” instead. So I chanted “open” during the rest of my contractions. The IV and external monitors really inhibited my movement and position options which was really frustrating.

I did not want to get out of the shower, but agreed to so that the midwife could do a vaginal exam in hopes that I was 6 centimeters and would be able to get in the tub.  I had already had a few exams and wasn’t there yet.  This check at about 2:45pm showed I was at 7 centimeters and my body was already starting to push. At this point I was laying on the bed, exhausted. I was 10 centimeters and ready to start pushing by 3pm.  I pushed on my side with one leg up on the squat bar and holding on to sheet for leverage. Anna was born at 3:53pm. She was 7lbs 1.5oz and 20 inches long.

anna

I have to say right up front, these pictures are of my oldest daughter’s third birth. Both of my daughters have birthed naturally. My youngest, Jami, birthed first and gave birth at home. When she was first pregnant I asked her if she wanted my input as to who to use for her care. She looked at me and smiled and told me she had decided that when she was nine years old. She of course was using Debbie Pulley who she had known since she was even younger than nine. Indeed she had told Debbie that very thing decades earlier! And she had a long but powerful natural birth of her son. Julie decided home birth was not something that felt right for her and her husband. But she had three wonderful hospital births.

It helped them both that they grew up in a household where birth was talked about as a normal and natural process. I had given birth to them normally and naturally. Julie was my first born and was 8 pounds 11 ounces. She had turned complete transverse at 40 weeks and then did a flip around before heading down. She was my fastest and probably easiest birth. Each of my babies got smaller- 8″11oz, 8#3oz and 7#12oz. There were no television shows showing horrible birth stories. I was the first in my group, only 19 when I was pregnant with my first child- 20 when I gave birth. So, I did not have to try to erase horrible birth stories that were shared. I was a dancer for 12 years and in great physical shape, so being fit helped me in my journey.

This last birth of Julie’s we enlisted a friend who is an amazing photographer to capture the moment, Tracey Baggett.  Her daughter had said since she found out her mom was pregnant, had planned to be with her in labor. Savannah is six years old at this birth and had been really prepared for what to expect.I went not as her doula, but as her mom. It was also in the plan for me to be able to catch this baby. Here is her story- a birth without fear!

Feb 28, 2009 at 11:11 we welcomed Scarlett Elizabeth into our family. She was 8lb 13oz and 21 3/4 inches long. Our third child and we are so happy with our family.  Here is a video of the birth pictures if you desire to watch it.

(Roll over the pictures for the captions, telling the story or click on the picture to scroll through the story.)

 

Birth is not static. This is what the medicalization tries to do to birth. Let’s plan it, schedule it, control it, make the outcome to be conducted in just such a way. But that is not what birth is like when it is allowed to shift and transform and unfold naturally.

It is not just the medicalization that tried to do this to birth. As a childbirth educator and doula I often hear women whose main concern in planning their birth is control. They are afraid of being out of control. The idea of an induction to know just when they will be in labor is enticing. Even planned cesareans are seductive for some moms.

But when women allow the mystery to unfold they are often amazed at how their bodies knew how to shift and transform. They were amazed at how strong they were in the moment. Yes it may also have been a bit scary but it often is exhilarating as well.

I recently had a student that when her labor signs were very early, she was fearful she did not know what she needed to know. I encouraged her that she just needed to sigh deeply and let go and not fight it. Her labor was still quite early when she called me to alert me that tonight may be the night. Her contractions were moderate and not in a real active pattern yet.

I received a call three hours after that initial text and she sounded quite calm. (Later she would tell me it was in her nature to hide how she was feeling when in pain!) (Do not do this when talking to your doula please!) And she sounded like she may be moving into what could be more active labor, but it was still a bit early. Her breathing was slow and not labored at all. I told her to call me if she needed me to come. She said okay and then asked me if there was a possibility that this would go away and not end in a birth in the next day. I thought this was a weird question but agreed that it could be prodromal labor but it would soon let us know. When I asked a few more questions, she felt her fundus was still not as firm as it would be in active labor.

I had gone to bed early and laid my clothes out awaiting a call from her in the middle of the night. I thought this was indeed going to become more active labor. She was just 38 weeks and she was in denial that she would have this baby two weeks prior to her due date. We were scheduled to do her prenatal in the next few days. It had been delayed and I think she felt like things were not yet ready.

I awoke at 4am and saw my clothes hanging on the bathroom hook. I guessed she was resting and her contractions had settled down. But I was wrong. The mystery of her labor was that around midnight, an hour and a half from our first phone call, the contractions came on with a fury. She would need all of her energy to get herself in the car for the ten minute drive to the hospital. She had a lot of bloody show just before getting dressed – we know now this was rapid dilation.

Her partner got her out the door and in the car and sped through a few lights to make the normal 15 minute drive in almost half the time. Never did it cross his mind to call me. She was deeply in labor land and was not thinking about anything but the strong contractions. While in the cargo bay of their SUV on a blanket her water broke just before they pulled into the ER bay. A wheel chair was rapidly declined and a gurney took her upstairs where her midwife met her and declared her complete and the baby coming!

The plan for our prenatal meeting to discuss what her desires for her birth, the water birth she had taken the class to participate in, the twinkle lights she knew were in my bag for creating ambiance in the room, her playlist of music, my capturing the birth with my camera… none of that was going to happen today.

Her birth had been a mystery. She had shifted and transformed as she needed to to birth her baby. She had gone from gently contracting to roaring her baby out quickly. She used words like scary, difficult, empowering, exhilarating and amazing! A mystery indeed! Was she disappointed that her plans had not happened? Nope, she was too immersed in holding her new son at her breasts and marveling at the warrior she had become!

I know that many providers would want to schedule an induction for her next baby so this would not repeat itself. She said her next baby will be born at home since the car ride was the only bad part! I think she is listening to her body quite well!

 

(This birth narrative flows from two voices: first my voice and then that of my doula, Teresa Howard, as I have indicated in italics.)

Friday September 6th marked my 41st week of pregnancy, and it began like any other Friday before: as was routine for me, I woke up at 6am and got myself ready for work. Despite the surprised reactions from work associates in the days and weeks prior, I had no intentions of beginning my maternity leave early, as the limited days I would be able to spend with my newborn daughter were far too precious to me to consume before her arrival. That, and I was feeling perfectly fine – upbeat, chipper and very balanced. One word that was used most often throughout my pregnancy by others to describe my demeanor was “mellow,” and that’s exactly how I felt one week post-date. I was driving to the office when I decided to call my mother and let her know I was headed to work, which prompted a phone call en route because she was amazed that I was feeling well enough to go in. During our conversation, I went over what I had planned for the day: although I was going into the office, I had an 11am appointment to see the much-heralded Atlanta-based obstetrician Dr. Brad Bootstaylor at his Emory Hospital practice for a re-check on my amniotic fluid levels (I had seen Dr. Bootstaylor for the same exam the day before) since they were appearing low regardless of my own personal water intake. Now that I was post-dates, I was definitely being more closely monitored by my midwife group, especially too since my blood pressure had been elevated for the past few visits and I was deemed at risk for being preeclamptic.

Although her blood pressure seemed to have stabilized and her biophysical was 8/10 both on Thursday and Friday, her ultrasound had gone from having fluid of an AFI of 4.0cm down to 1.0cm within less than 24 hours. That was an indicator that her placenta was definitely not working as well as we had hoped. It showed some calcification on the ultrasound as well. (This was also evident after the birth in examining the placenta.) (more…)

It is amazing how much women will learn from their first birth. Often they will work hard to make that birth not be repeated. This mom did that very thing!

 

In preparation for the birth of our second baby I attended a weekend class titled, “Fear to Freedom” {now called BOLD}. Eight other pregnant women attended.  We bonded as we talked about labor, fears, strengths, and visions for our upcoming births.  We also meditated; role played, and wrote birth mantras.  My mantra for this baby’s birth was:

 

I will work hard.

I will listen to my body and feel what it is telling me.

I will embrace the moment and the journey of the birth of my baby.

I own my birth.

          In addition to the “Fear to Freedom” class, Stan and I took a class on breast-feeding and sought out a doula and midwife practice that would be conducive to a normal labor and birth. Teresa led the weekend workshop and the breastfeeding class that we took. She helped me feel supported and empowered to make the birth and breastfeeding experience I envisioned a reality.  We found Intown Midwifery in Atlanta, a practice that prides themselves on treating women and birth with respect and helping them through the process.  After interviewing several doulas, we decided to hire Colleen.  She would be a gentle, guiding force throughout the preparation, labor, and birth of our baby.

The birth I envisioned was intervention free and done on my terms. Our first baby was born after several interventions including Pitocin, a doctor breaking my water, an epidural, and several long uncomfortable hours unable to eat or drink in the hospital.  That was not going to happen to my baby and me again!  It was important to me to be alert and aware to breast-feed my baby from the moment s/he was born.  I did not want this baby taken away from me for any reason at all.

Saturday morning, 11/17/2012, we went for a family walk along the Chattahoochee River, my favorite place to walk or run. Later that afternoon the very early stages of labor started while Stan and I were at the movie theater seeing Lincoln.  Lucky was at his best friend Presley’s house.  I got up every 30-40 minutes during the movie to go to the restroom.  I felt restless. I felt like something may be happening.  I was in a good mood. After the movie and a nice dinner at Marlow’s Tavern, we went to pick Lucky up. As we were leaving Presley’s house with Lucky he said, “See you tomorrow!”  Cary, Dawn, Stan and I all laughed about how funny it would be if we had to bring Lucky back to their house the next day, if I was in labor.

That evening I started to have very light contractions.  They felt like light period cramps wrapping from my back around my hips. That night I went to bed and woke up around midnight to Frankie, our dog, whimpering to go out. I prodded Stan to get up and let her out but he was too out of it (Stan is a deep sleeper).  Frustrated, I got out of bed and let her out. I went to the restroom and saw a welcome sign, my mucus plug started to come out. This was exciting and I continued to have light contractions. I texted Colleen, the doula that was going to help us with the labor and birth of this baby. I also understood that even though my mucous plug came out, it could still be several days before the baby would be born. I took a shower around midnight and laid on the couch to try and get some sleep.

(more…)

Before my due date of Saturday, October 27, 2007, I tried several techniques to induce labor. I seriously questioned this decision after I actually went into labor. It was crazy to try to hurry things up. I tried eating a lot of pineapple, walking, sex, mixing two tablespoons of brown sugar with warm water to drink, and even going to an Italian restaurant whose menu boasts an eggplant Parmesan that has sent thousands of women into labor within 48 hours. I ate the entire dish and ended up feeling even bigger than I was, but still pregnant.

On the night of Wednesday, October 24th I woke up in the middle of the night feeling what I thought might be a small contraction. I was so excited and nervous that I couldn’t sleep anymore. I laid on the couch all night so I would not disturb Stan, assessing every little movement inside my body.

The following morning I noticed that my underwear were consistently damp. I wondered if my water would break soon. We had a doctor’s appointment at 3:30. Since I did not get any sleep the night before, I was exhausted and emotional. Stan got off work early and picked me up for the appointment.

(more…)

12/23/2012

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I started having contractions around 9:00 in the morning on December 10, 2012.  The contractions were stronger than the usual Braxton-hicks I’d been having, and they were more frequent.  They were as consistent as my contractions usually get, and over the course of the morning they were getting closer together at times.  However, with my two previous birth experiences my contractions didn’t get consistent and/or regular until the very end of the labors; so with this being my third, I didn’t know what to expect or how quickly it would go.

I decided to call Teresa, our doula, after we ate lunch at about 12:30 pm.  At this point I was exactly 37 weeks pregnant, so it was early which made me question whether or not this was the real thing.  I talked to Teresa about all this, and she suggested I call Intown Midwifery and see about going in for a labor check.  We called Intown on our drive down, and I went in to get checked while my husband continued to drive around with our two sleeping kids in the car.  I got checked about 2:30 pm, and I was 4 cm dilated, about 40% effaced, and -1 station.  Emile suggested hanging around the area to see if my contractions would get closer together, because at this point it would be hard to say if I was actually in labor or not.  She told me that it is possible to sustain a pregnancy on 4 cms dilation, so it was still too early to make that determination.  I went back downstairs and outside to call my husband to come back and pick me up, and then I made a couple more phone calls to make arrangements for my kids.  I called Teresa to discuss what was going on, and I let her know that while I had been standing outside for the past 30 minutes walking and talking on the phone, the contractions seemed to be coming more quickly, at about every 2 minutes.  I asked her to come on down and that we were going to go over to the hospital. (more…)

(Teresa’s comments are following the bullets and Lauren’s story inserts are italics. Lauren and Matt took the Wisdom for Birth Classes we offer.)

  •  Lauren stated contracting around 8 pm the night before. The contractions were mild and irregular.

I had decided to take this week off of work to start my maternity leave. This was one week before Aiden’s due date. Three days went by of being off work and I wasn’t feeling any different from weeks prior. I was able to relax and get some things done around the house in preparation of the birth. On Wednesday night Sep 12’th around 8pm I started feeling very gentle contractions about 30 minutes apart. I wasn’t sure if they were real contractions due to them being so mild. At first I was under the impression they were Braxton hicks contractions which I had been experiencing in weeks prior. When I noticed the contractions were consistently 30 minutes apart I began to come to the conclusion that my labor had in fact began.

  • She slept from 9 pm to midnight.

I went to bed around 9-9:30 and slept for a few hours and woke up from the contractions becoming slightly more aggressive. This made me feel very excited to know that the day had come. I called my fiancé Matt and asked him to come home from a friend’s house. Upon Matt’s arrival (about 1am) I asked him to take a walk with me. We walked around the block once and the contractions began to be consistently 15-20 minutes-ish apart.

  • 9/13 She called me at 3 am with some concerns but I told her what she was seeing was normal.

Since the walk the contractions stayed the same intensity and distance apart, I chose to call Teresa to inquire about the brown discharge I had noticed when I went to the restroom. I knew a bloody show would be normal… However, I wasn’t sure if the brown was normal. Teresa assured me that the brown color was nothing to be alarmed about. Teresa also explained to me that I could be in labor for another 30+ hours and to try to get some more sleep. Teresa suggested  to take a warm bath and drink a glass of wine to relax my body and maybe slow the contractions to allow my body to sleep some more in order to gain strength for the remainder of the birth. I did as she instructed, and was able to relax enough to get about 3 more hours of sleep.

This is the birth story of my third child.  My first son Wyatt was born after my water broke at 38 wks and not knowing what I know now, I went on in to the hospital and allowed them to start me on pitocin after only 4 hours of not contracting.  I ended up with a posterior baby, pain medication, an epidural plus three hours of pushing.  Needless to say, when the time came for my second son Sawyer, I was determined to do things differently.  I switched providers and hospitals, planned a waterbirth, and hired a doula.  Mission accomplished.  I had an unmedicated waterbirth that was fast and furious.  I was a “park and push”…showed up to the hospital at 9 cm and had a baby within 30 minutes. It was empowering and overwhelming, yet scary because everything happened so fast.  It scared my husband Shane too.  He felt like we “barely made it there.”

When I found out I was pregnant with our third baby, I knew I was going all natural waterbirth again. As I entered the third trimester, I started to become anxious over the position of the baby.  I think I just knew that this one was going to give me some trouble for some reason. Every time I had my midwife palpate my tummy, the baby was anything but head down. But I stayed calm and listened to them about how it’s not an issue and babies almost always turn head down.  BUT, even if the baby was breech, it was okay too because I could have a vaginal breech birth.  And I would do it because that’s just how I roll. 😉

But as the weeks passed, Baby Lloyd v3.0 decided that transverse (sideways) was the most comfy position to lie. And I knew something for certain…babies couldn’t come out sideways!  I did it all to try to turn the baby…chiropractor for Webster technique, moxibustion (basically burning some stinky incense that sticks off of your pinky toe), forward leaning inversions off the couch, and lots of reading on the Spinning Babies website about how to encourage optimal fetal positioning.  I talked to the baby, I begged the baby, and I cried some. Then at 36 weeks, I had an ultrasound to confirm, and yes, baby was still transverse.  I discussed and external cephalic version (ECV) with my backup OB/Perinatologist and while he didn’t think it was 100% necessary (he remained steadfast that labor will often turn a baby into a birthable position), he agreed to do it when I was almost 37 weeks. We had the room at the hospital booked and everything.  (more…)

Quick back story: 3 weeks before I gave birth, my father passed away unexpectedly. Our relationship was very complicated. About 5 years ago he came to live with my husband and I because he could no longer take care of himself, so for most of my adult life our roles have been reversed in terms of a traditional parent/child relationship, but he was still my dad and it was earth shattering when he passed away. He was looking forward to becoming a grandfather for the first time, so the timing of everything made it especially heartbreaking. I had spent so much of my pregnancy mentally preparing for birth, and losing my father suddenly set everything into chaos for me mentally and emotionally.

My official due date was February 27th, but I was certain I was going to be late. First babies are always late, right? So when good friends set their wedding date for the 25th, we didn’t hesitate rsvping yes. At this point I was huge and only one dress fit, but I knew this would probably be the last event we’d attend before baby came and we were looking forward to celebrating after how heavy the last few weeks had been for both us after losing my father. When we got to the country club for the reception I began to experience what I would describe as pressure in my lower back. I didn’t think anything of it because even women who experienced back labor felt contractions in their stomach and I was feeling absolutely nothing in my stomach, so I thought this could possibly be the back pain some women complain about later in pregnancy or I had to go the bathroom. So for the next 3 hours the pressure remained and I probably visited the ladies room 30 times thinking my body was telling me I needed to use the restroom. I didn’t mention it to my husband because I didn’t think anything of it and he didn’t notice my frequent bathroom trips b/c I’ve been peeing every 30 minutes for the last 9 months. As we got closer to the sparkler departure, I began to question whether this could possibly be labor because this “pressure” began to turn into waves of pressure and even though I was only experiencing everything in my back – I knew the wave sensation could be an indication of contractions.

(more…)