The Birth of Bear York 8.2.2016

By Echo Zielinski

I had thought every day for the two weeks leading up to my August 2nd due date that this baby would come. It was SO low in my pelvis and I was having consistent braxton hicks so I just didn't think my body would hold out...but it did! 

On Monday the 1st I began having a slow leak of fluid off and on throughout the day. With my girls, labor began with my water fully breaking so this was a whole new experience for me. I felt all day that we may be having a baby in the night but I didn't want to tell Andy that because I knew he was very overwhelmed with the August 2nd launch of the Nike+ app he has been working on since starting his new job at Nike (we kept saying baby can come any days but the 2nd or 3rd-- haha- I am pretty sure when you declare something like that it makes the opposite a reality!) 

We went to bed around 10:30pm and I was awoken around 12:30am with what felt like stronger braxton hicks- I still had to feel my belly to make sure I was even having them but I knew these might turn into the real thing. I immediately got out of bed and began making sure the house was in order for what may be ahead. By 1:14am I knew that they were getting a tad stronger (though totally easy and manageable) and due to Poppy's fast labor, I texted my midwives to give them the heads up that I thought things were starting and they decided it was best to head on over. 

After knowing that my birth team was on it's way, I thought I better wake Andy up and let him know we would be having a baby! At his 1:30am groggy state, he jumped into gear and began helping me fill up the birth tub. At this point my contractions were still totally bearable and I would just pause at the kitchen counter in between warming pots of hot water on the stove, breathe through it, and then continue on my way. Right around 2am I got my first contraction that actually felt somewhat painful- I looked at the clock to take "note" of when I thought active labor might be beginning. Pretty soon my whole birth team was in my living room and asleep on my couch while they gave Andy and I the space to do our thing. He parked it on the other couch near the birth tub and I climbed on in. We chatted and joked in between contractions and I remember thinking "this could take awhile because this is just too calm in between still"- Not having had my water break this time made it so different as I had that "buffer" that kept baby from shooting down so quick. I finally checked myself and sure enough I could feel the head about 3/4th's of a finger in. I decided to feel during each contraction and it was amazing to feel the progress of the head coming lower and lower each time. I felt empowered and like I was able to know exactly what to expect and when to wake my birth team to come into the room. Right before 5am I could tell my body was beginning to push, but because I was touching the head during each contraction, I knew I had time before I needed anyone there. Around 5:06, Lynette (my apprentice midwife) heard that I was pushing and I let her know that I indeed was! She alerted Jennifer and Mary and pretty soon I had the calm presence of 3 skilled women there to witness me give birth to my baby. Once the head was close, I could get a better feel and realized that it was so smooth and bouncy and that it was actually my bag of water I was feeling and not the head! This was such a cool thing because I had never gotten to experience an intact bag with my other two. As my body pushed though, I realized that the "balloon" like bag was getting in my way and I wanted to get my baby out. I nicked it with my nail and it broke and immediately the head was about to be born. One more contraction or so and the head was out and I reached down and felt the sweetest little ear. The baby then rotated (coolest feeling ever) and at 5:19am our new baby was born. 

I waited a few seconds and then lifted it off my chest so that Andy and I could see what our baby was... a BOY! The look on Andy's face was amazing. The man ADORES his girls but I knew how much a boy would mean to him. Andy finally had his little dude, all while our baby girls slept in the other room :) 

Bear York Zielinski // August 2nd 2016 at 5:19am // 8 lbs 15 oz // 21 inches long










The Birth of Alder Thomas 8.15.2014

I was Meghan's doula and I had the honor of witnessing her let-go-of the lingering fears she carried from her previous birth, and completely surrender as she became a mother of two.

In order to begin this birth story, you really should read my birth story with Huck, which was almost three years ago. Since his birth, I have struggled to not only accept it - but also accept that his birth was a traumatic event. Right before my second birth, I read this article and it resonated deep within me. My first birth, though “non-traumatic” in the sense that I was able to safely and naturally deliver a baby without complications, was indeed very traumatic. That  birth experience trickled over into nearly the entire first year of my son’s life. I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety and though I loved Huck, I was unable to fully experience the first two months and I don’t have many memories from that time, except that I spent countless hours in fear of everything from his death, to other people holding him, and so on. 

His birth completely changed my feelings on birth. In short, I feared it. I didn’t trust things would be any different this time and I was terrified I would not be brave enough for another natural one. Alder’s birth is my redemption story. It was healing, empowering and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience (well, beside tearing). 

In the weeks leading up to Alder’s birth - things began to change. My body started doing some of the work ahead of time. I was taking Evening Primrose Oil, based on my doula’s recommendation and awesome Amazon reviews (they hold a lot of value to me!).  Even if they didn’t do much, I was fully believing in the placebo effect; that they would soften my cervix and help start some dilation - which did happen.

Now I wish I would have had the midwives check me at my last appointment at 40 weeks, because I am super curious how dilated I was. I had started having consistent Braxton Hicks and feelings of cramping in the last couple weeks of pregnancy. The cramps happened often in the middle of the night and early morning, which I heard is common for second time+ mamas. And the Braxton Hicks were different than I had experienced the prior months. These were super tight (I could practically see the baby’s position - his little bum on my right side), and I felt more pressure from them and they would happen several times throughout the day and night and slowly became more rhythmic.  In fact, at my 40 week appointment, as I laid back to listen to baby’s heartbeat, my midwife watched my belly tighten and said “You’re not having a Braxton Hick, that is an actual contraction, even though it doesn’t hurt.” This gave me so much hope that my body was doing a lot of the early labor stuff for me. I was so afraid of a long labor and I just kept believing that these Braxton Hicks were taking care of some birth business. 

I also had a terrible flu for a week and a half that only started to go away a couple days before labor. I was coughing a LOT. And as weird as it sounds, I think the coughing helped, because every time I coughed, I was basically pushing a tiny bit and then I’d get a Braxton Hicks contraction. Who knows, but I seriously think it helped! 

Now… onto labor. I woke up on Friday, August 15th, a day after my due date. I was not in labor, though my mom had bet me all along that this would be the day. It wasn’t. However, I felt a deep intuition and sense that this was my last day before labor. I felt it deep within me. We got up and went to Mass that morning because it was a Holy Day. The first reading was about Mary in labor, wailing with pain and all these super awesome images (insert my sarcasm). I felt like everyone’s eyes in church were on me. My belly felt SO heavy that morning. Heavier than it ever had. I had to brace myself against the pew to rest my body and felt lots of Braxton hicks. Andrew went to work after Mass, even though I told him there was a chance he might have to come home again. 

As the day wore on, so did my intuition. I took Huck to the park for special mama-Huck time. He was so brave and went down the slide, time and time again, even though he previously spent the past year too afraid. He asked to go down over and over again and I happily obliged. Then I texted Andrew asking if he could meet us for an early dinner out as a family. We went to Blossoming Lotus and got spicy tacos and then we went to a new frozen yogurt shop for vegan froyo. Huck loved the sample sized cups and I just knew these were our last memories as just us three. 

We went home and to bed, and I fully believed I would wake up in labor later… and I did. My Braxton Hicks, though not painful, were so tight and strong, that they woke me up from sleep. Then around 4:30am, they began to radiate a little in my back and feel slightly uncomfortable. They came every 4 minutes. I decided to get up and have a snack and walk a little. I got back in bed and decided I’d text my doula and parents if they continued - but they ended around 5:30am. That morning, for the first time in half a year, I slept in. I slept until after 9 and when I got up, I told Andrew about my night and texted my doula to let her know something might be starting. I got in the shower and the contractions began again. They were barely noticeable, but had just the slightest twinge of pain for a couple seconds during them. It was nearly 10:30am. I texted my doula that “today is only gonna get more interesting”. It was Saturday, August 16th. 

My contractions were mild, just tight, with a lot of pressure and the slightest twinge of pain. They happened every 10 minutes. I knew I was in early labor and I didn’t know how fast things would progress, so I asked my parents to head up. I knew it was the day. Huck had lunch, I packed his bags, although up until that day, the plan was for my parents to stay with him at our house. Then Huck went down for his nap and my parents came up with lunch take-out. Huck woke up and was super excited to see my parents and we decided to go to the park so I could get out and walk. 

We went to Sellwood Park, where Huck and I had gone the day before. It’s one of our favorite places and it is a nice size for a laboring woman. I felt like a penguin, waddling around, with my contractions going from 10 minutes to every 5-6 over the course of the park visit. Huck showed his Grandma and Papa how he had conquered the slide. His face as he went down the slide, over and over and over again, will forever be glued in my mind. The way his hair whipped back in the wind and his little head kicked back a bit with the force and his eyes squinted up with his huge, proud, happy grin. His little saltwater sandaled feet going up a little in the air and his hands outstretched, reaching for the side of the slide as he tried to keep balance (I later replayed this image in my mind with every intense contraction for strength).  

We walked around the park, letting Huck explore and take everything in. Contractions began coming closer together, and more intense, but still not painful enough to not be able to enjoy the park - just make me walk with the slowest, biggest, waddle, during them. It was hot and slightly humid, so we decided to leave because the heat was starting to bother me more than labor pain. We decided to stop and get frozen yogurt on the way home. During our froyo stop, the contractions started to intensify - they started to get “obvious” to those around me. Having my parents around was great, except that my mom kept asking about my contractions, which started annoying me and I could tell my Dad, though quiet, was totally aware of my progression. I quickly started to have a desire to be home, because I was started to physically show my contractions by pausing and focusing a little, and tense up and was no longer able to just get through them without some deeper concentration.  

We got home and fed Huck as quickly as we could before he would leave with my parents for their house. They left around 6/6:30pm and this was incredibly hard for me. I became really emotional, knowing that this was the last time it would be just Huck. I didn’t want him to leave me… I wanted to soak him up. I was feeling so many emotions and thinking so many thoughts like “what if something happens to me?” and “the next time he sees me, he will have to share me” and “what if I don’t love this baby as much? How is it possible?!”. My contractions were starting to pick up though and I didn’t reeeeally want Huck around. He had been a great distraction, but I needed to concentrate now. So they finally left and I spent the next couple hours fighting tears or just breaking down and sobbing to Andrew that “I want Huck”. Honestly, that was probably the hardest part of labor for me. 

After my parents and Huck left, we decided we would make some food and rent a movie. I ended up declaring “I just want to watch Gilmore Girls!”, which was honestly the best decision ever. I braced contractions by leaning on the counter or whatever was nearby and then I asked for the yoga ball and I spent the rest of my time at home, sitting on it; rocking and bouncing slightly, and pausing during the contractions. Andrew made me toast with peanut butter, apple slices and some “cheese” slices and I made a gigantic protein smoothie and snacked on almonds and pretzels (I ate about half of everything before the thought of food was too much). I called OHSU to tell them what was going on and they told me to come in when my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart.

We watched several episodes of Gilmore Girls, where I was incredibly aware of all the pregnancy comments. Lorelai: “And while some have called it the most meaningful experience of your life, to me it was something more akin to doing the splits on a crate of dynamite…”. YUP. My contractions were getting stronger, but I started thinking I couldn’t be that deep in to labor because I could still chuckle at my favorite show and I was quiet. I wasn’t moaning and huffing and puffing, like in Huck’s labor - so I was sure I was only in the very beginning of active labor and started feeling panicky and scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle labor once I got “closer” (having no idea how close I actually was). But they were… kind of intense, still not with the intensity of Huck’s birth, but I had to plant my feet firmly on the ground, and breeeeeath, breath, breath, my way through them. I even noticed I assumed the same position, I did during active labor with Huck (“but I am not in active labor”… I kept thinking). I was sitting on the birthing ball, my back to Andrew and the couch and would basically place my hands and arms behind my body, tuck my pelvis and arch slightly to brace myself through the contractions. I tried having Andrew massage my back during labor, but as soon as contractions hit, I quickly learned I didn’t want his touch. And the pain was starting to rattle me. I was starting to panic… I was starting to think I had a whole night of this in front of me… like hours and hours and hours. I was crying, I was saying “if we go, I might get an epidural… I am too scared." 

My contractions were 3 minutes apart and while I had been totally ignoring the hospital’s advice to come in up until this point (for fear of being hooked up to a machine and Gilmore-less), I was starting to wonder if I should, or if it would be like this all night long… these contractions, like with Huck’s labor. Andrew said he didn’t think we should, that we’d be stuck there and I didn’t really want to be in that environment until we got closer, did I? His assurance and confidence that it wasn’t time and we should continue laboring at home, made me worried even more that I wasn’t far into labor. Surely he’d want to get me to the hospital if I was…right? 

I had been texting my doula the whole time and she called me at about 8:30pm - but right as a contraction hit and I pushed "ignore”. Then I called her back. I sat on the edge of our bed, on Andrew’s side, staring at the wall, while we talked. I had several contractions during the phone call, some she didn’t even know, because I was so silent. It was as if my silence could silence the pain. We talked and I told her I was feeling really emotional and starting to wonder if I could do this naturally. I was thinking about getting an epidural. She suggested that I try and take it one contraction at a time, for a little bit longer, and to focus on getting through each one - instead of thinking about the whole picture. She said a game-changing thing to me after I answered that my contractions were about 60 seconds long. She said: “You can do anything for 60 seconds”. At first I was thinking “huh?” but then I got it. Sixty seconds is nothing in the grand scheme of time and if I took it one contraction at a time - this was doable. So what can I do for 60 seconds? I visualize Huck’s proud, victorious, joy-filled, face as he slides down a slide at the park. YES. I can do that for 60 seconds. Huck was my ultimate strength. 

So that’s what I did. With every single contraction, I pictured my sweet boy going down the slide at the park earlier that day. I had it memorized; the way his head kicked back with a huge, toothy, grin. The way his little legs flung up and he reached his arms and hands out, trying to grab the slide on the way down to catch his balance… his hair flipping in the wind from sliding down. Over and over again, I pictured this. Bouncing on my ball, watching Gilmore Girls and having Huck in my head for strength and courage. He was brave. I can be brave. I had completely and totally forgot about my desire to have an epidural and was just focused on each separate contraction bringing me one step closer to my baby. 

By this point my contractions really picked up… they were now 2-3 minutes apart (I was timing them myself. Hitting the start/stop button on my app, helped me to be distracted a little, instead of bracing that the pain was about to roll in). I kept saying to Andrew “I think we should go soon”. And he was like “I think we can wait a little bit” and I was like “I really think we should go soon”.  Obviously this birth was a 180 from Huck’s because Andrew was totally unaware of how close to birth we were and I joke that next time we will probably show up way too early to avoid what happens in the rest of this story (and Andrew suggests we should just do a home birth)…

OK. Now the contractions were intense. I was using the restroom often and  then I got the shakes. And all the red flags came up. The SHAKES. I never got them with Huck, but I knew that was a sign of transition… but… after transition comes pushing and surely I wasn’t THAT dilated, right? I mean, I was watching Gilmore Girls and just breathing through contractions. I was laughing at Lorelai. 

It was almost 9:45pm now, Andrew started making coffee and a contraction hit and I said “We have to go”. He said he’d finish his coffee and we could go. I told him to put it in a to go cup… it smelled awful. Although, I don’t drink coffee, this was the only time in my whole pregnancy that coffee made me feel so gross. Then another contraction came and again I was saying “I have the shakes! We really need to go now! I’m shaking!”. I said it several times, pleading, and finally that damn cup of coffee was done dripping and we were headed out. Labor was too intense and all encompassing for me to be angry at Andrew, but I was miffed. I headed outside and I’ll never forget the air that night. It was perfect. Warm and breezy and smelling like a late summer night. It felt so good. And then I had a contraction at the door of the car and I was shaking so much, and I knew we needed to get to the hospital and it needed to be quickly. 

We got in the car and the CD player started - Andrew flicked it off. I flicked it on. I had Nickel Creek in and I wanted to hear their familar voices. “This Side” started playing and singing “one day you’ll see her and you’ll know what I mean” and “it’s foreign on this side and i’ll not leave my home again and there’s no place to hide and I’m nothing but scared.” The words were for me in that moment.“You dream of colors that have never been made, you imagine songs that have never been played.”. I thought about this baby and the moment of meeting him. And then “Jealous of the Moon” came on as we drove along 99e, with the Willamette River beside us, and the lit-up skyline of downtown Portland, I was thinking about my first birth and the words were telling me how strong I was:

“Tryin’ on a brand new dress
But you haven’t worn the old one yet
You’ve come too far
To turn around now

You’ve given up the good fight
You’re as strong as anyone
You’re back where you started from
I see you’re back where you started from

Starin’ down the stars
Jealous of the moon
You wish you could fly
Just being where you are
There’s nothin’ you can do
If you’re too scared to try

Drag your pretty head around
Swearin’ you’re gonna drown
With a beautiful sigh
And a river of lies

Starin’ down the stars
Jealous of the moon
You wish you could fly
Just stayin’ where you are
There’s nothin’ you can do
If you’re too scared to try”

But I wasn’t too scared to try. No. The story was being written. The next song began, “When You Come Back Down” but by now I was concentrating on telling myself over and over to wait, baby, wait. I had so many contractions in the car and I visualized Huck’s brave little self at the park, while also telling my body to WAIT. Looking back, I think I knew deep down inside that I was incredibly close to pushing… because I kept telling my body in the car to just hold on until we got to the hospital, just hold on. Driving up the windy hill to OHSU, I remember thinking “Thank goodness we are here. A few more minutes… and then it’s all ok”. I had no idea, but my body sure did. 

We were just past the time where you can valet park at the ER entrance, about 10:10pm. So we had to park the car in the garage. That was seriously awful. I had two really big contractions - one right in the garage, where a family just parked nearby and I pictured them watching in horror, until my mind couldn’t even picture anything from intensity, and then right outside the ER entrance. An annoying (though she thought she was helpful) girl kept asking if I wanted a wheelchair, while I had what felt like the longest contraction ever. Then my doula Echo appeared and her “I know you’re deep in labor, but you’re about to meet your baby!” smile made me feel so much better. I felt like my comrade was there.

I did take a wheelchair because I honestly felt like I couldn’t walk another step (I had no idea that’s because my baby’s head was RIGHT there). I couldn’t even talk, I was just shaking so bad and contracting and every person had to ask me a million questions - from the guy pushing my wheelchair about what we were having, to the intake at the ER desk, and the intake nurse in L&D … do you REALLY need to know who my pediatrician is at this moment in time? Or my personal favorite, was the nurse in labor and delivery who asked what I was up to that day… I may have very snottily replied “Uh… In labor.

They wheeled me into my room and tried to make me pee (way to make me feel unaccomplished nurses). I came out and the tv was on and I was super annoyed and said: “What is that noise?! Turn it off!”. They instructed me to get on the bed to put on two monitors around me and check my cervix. I asked if I had to and they said yes. I asked if I had to lay on the bed and they said yes. I told them I didn’t want to. I was contracting between all this and they were really intense at this point. Heavy breathing, leaning forward and bracing. The student nurse was a Godsend as she calmly affirmed my efforts with each contraction. She told me I was doing so well, breathing so great. I instantly loved her and knew she was on my side. 

Here’s where the exciting part begins. We’d only been there about 5 minutes when they finally coaxed me into attempting to climb on the bed (hard to do when you’re 10cm dilated… had we all known this…). I go to lay on my back as instructed, and immediately my body shoots me up and I am shrieking something along the lines of “I can’t! I can’t! There’s too much pressure!”. I practically leapt up and was then on the other side of the bed, where I am shot into a new contraction. I was bracing myself on the bed railing. They begin telling me my options for monitoring, but I am not listening (don’t they know this?!). Something is happening — a new, fierce, contraction comes rolling in and during this contraction I shout “I feel like I have to push! I have to push!”. During that last word “push” my body does and I am quickly instructed to get on the bed on all fours. And then, I let out a loud bellow, as my body begins its first real push. 

(Here I am “resting” between two of my first contractions:)

I hear everybody scrambling, I hear someone (my doula?) ask “Where is the midwife?!”. I hear “we paged… we will try again”. I begin heaving, but luckily did not get sick and have another contraction after. Then, I don’t know when the midwife enters, but she does soon and I immediately decide I like this midwife. She introduces herself, checks me and explains that his head is right there and this baby is going to be here soon. 

I ask “how soon?”. Oh… the return of a question I asked so many times in Huck’s labor. “Soon” in Huck’s labor was 7 hours. She says “soon”. I look frantically to my doula. She nods and smiles. I ask “No, but how soon?!”. She gives me this super big smile and confidently says something about how he’s really going to be here soon.

I had a couple contractions on my hands and knees, burrowing my head into the pillows and bed as I push, and roaring like a lioness and I don’t want to move, because I’m too busy doing important work. I look at Echo and exclaim “this is WEIRD!”. I said this about a dozen times to her in between contractions… “No, but this is SO weird!!” (meaning: this is so different. I never knew how different birth could be! This is exciting! I am getting my happy birth! Fast!).

I can hear nurses whispering about my previous birth “7 hours of pushing” they whisper. This annoys the crap out of me. “Natural birth” they say. The annoyance fades and I feel that they aren’t judging me, they are amazed by me. Andrew asks about water birth and I look at him, I see fear in his eyes. They say it’s too late and he honestly looked like he was about to cry. I assure him that it’s ok. I contract, and immediately return to telling him that I am ok, and it’s ok. I knew that “we don’t have time”, meant this was indeed happening soon. Amazingly in between contractions, I feel the deep desire to comfort Andrew and tell him(?) that I need him to be strong for me  (which is super funny now because I was so dang talkative and I think I remember nurses smiling over my talkative nature. Ahaha). He was just mad that I couldn’t get my water birth. 

My midwife and nurses wanted to get monitors on me and can see the physical strain my position had on me, so they get me on my side, I roared, I pushed. I grabbed Andrew’s hand, who was to my right, and wrap my arm around my doula’s, who was to my left. Their physical contact gives me strength and comfort. They switched me to my final position on my right side, and every time a contraction would fade out and my pushes would stop, I’d hit my arm on the button on my bedrail that turned the TV on. It made me as mad as a hornet. I kept hitting it. Then it sort of became funny?

I’d let go of or ease up on Andrew’s hand, and my doula’s arm and rest for the couple minutes(?) between contractions then just before I’d have another one, I’d feel it approaching, reach out and everyone would be my physical cheerleaders again. I had my left foot pushing someones hand, my right against someones body, my body intuitively curling around my baby as I pushed. My pushes weren’t forced. They were powerful and raw and real. I wanted them. I could feel my baby getting closer with every one. I could even feel him pull back a tiny bit at the end of some. It was amazing. With Huck, I was so tired, my body so numb from the hours of pushing, that I couldn’t feel it like this. I felt how close this baby was to being born. I welcomed these contractions and pushes, and during one, I thought about how “he is going to be in my arms so soon!”. At some point my water broke and my midwife was giving me the best instructions ever - telling me where to push my energy and it totally changed my pushes and helped so much. I wish I had that with Huck’s birth - it was SO helpful. Sure, my body knew how to push, but where to send all that energy, how to bear down, it made a big difference. 

They asked Andrew if he wanted to catch the baby and he said yes. I’ll never forget how that question finalized the answer to my question “but how soon?”. Soon…. I had a few more contractions, feeling his head crowning and eventually popping out (which did not hurt nearly as much as Huck’s, even though I tore again). But unlike Huck, he didn’t slide out in the next contraction, so I started to panic and said “I want him out of me!”. So on my last contraction, I pushed even more and the midwife helped the baby ease out and into Andrew’s hands. I heard “He’s definitely a boy!” And immediately the baby was wailing and on my chest. He was perfect. Warm and slippery and I don’t remember my first words… maybe “oh my gosh!”?… but I know one of them was  "you look like your brother!“. He had the cutest nose, all swollen and big, and he was crying, because he loved my womb and it was bright. I knew him instantly. I was asked if baby had a name and I smiled, saying, "Yes. Alder.”. I immediately felt obsessively, head over heels in love with him. Something I didn’t feel for weeks with Huck. 

I felt joy. I felt like super woman. I am told by the midwife that I receive a gold star for being the last laboring woman admitted for the day and the first birth. They all seem amazed by what they just witnessed and they tell me I was amazing. I felt high on adrenaline and super bad ass.

It was only about 45 minutes after I was admitted, after 20-30 minutes of pushing, that Alder Thomas Havens was born at 11:08pm. He was 21.5 inches long and came in at a surprising 8 pounds 15.5 ounces (half an ounce under 9 pounds!). SO perfect.

Alder gave me my redemption story. He gave me the birth I had actually envisioned… I had actually day dreamed about going into labor, showing up at the hospital and saying “I need to push!” upon arriving… skipping all the hospital hoopla. I still haven’t had my water birth… but I had the best birth I could of possibly asked for (ok minus the tearing). It was better than I could have ever imagined… It was empowering and most importantly, healing. 



  I am deeply, madly, irresistibly, in love with Alder. 


honoring a life. the birth of Oliver George 9.3.2014

trigger warning: this birth story involves loss. Though hard for some to read, this mama and baby deserve to have their story honored and his little life remembered. Angela and I went to high school together and now she is a Social worker and yoga instructor in the Portland area. This is the story of Oliver George.

By Angela Elliot

Like many pregnant woman out there, during my pregnancy I was consumed with reading birth stories. I couldn't get enough of how varied, yet similar they all were and how despite the difficulties, some more than others, faced they all ended in the pure bliss of a new beautiful baby. I couldn't help but imagine what mine would be like, how I would handle the contractions, whether I would be quiet or vocal, want support and encouragement or shut myself off from the world. It didn't cross my mind that I might have to go through all of that, all of the hard work of labor and months of carrying a child, but end up with no baby to take home. 

My husband, Colin, and I were planning an home birth. After much research on our options, we felt deep within our hearts that this was the right path for us. I believed, and still believe, that birth and pregnancy is a very natural process. Of course I realize in some situations, pregnancy and labor can stray from the expected path and for that I am grateful for hospitals and the advances that have been made in our medically obsessed world. But our pregnancy was going exactly as according to plan. Besides some mild discomforts, I felt great. I continued to run, hike and do yoga and was getting more and more excited each week to meet our beautiful baby. 

As we were getting closer to the due date, Colin and I made sure we had everything ready. The house was stocked full of food (both for the midwives and after the birth), birth tub was all ready to be blown up and all the other small details on our list of preparations had been checked off. Now we just needed to wait and enjoy these last few days until our little one arrived. 

It was Labor day weekend and our due date was on Labor day. Most everyone we knew had plans but we mainly just stayed home, just in case. Although I knew most first time moms go late, I couldn't help but hope our baby would make an entrance sooner rather than later. Labor day rolled around and Colin and I were sitting on our couch watching some pointless show on Netflix when I mentioned that I hadn't felt the baby in awhile and something, I couldn't pin point what, felt off. Just to note, throughout the whole pregnancy I never felt the baby move a ton. I had an anterior placenta and honestly rarely felt any sort of pattern or consistency with movement ever, especially towards the end of pregnancy. I was told this was normal and so never really fixated on it a ton. My indication that all was good was when I felt hiccups or a jab to my uterus. On busy or active days I knew I could overlook the subtle movements so just assumed that was what was happening. We also knew that towards the end of pregnancy the baby moved even less due to a lack of room. I went to bed hoping I was just feeling pre-labor jitters and told myself I would reevaluate in the morning. 

Morning rolled around and the feeling would't subside so I decided to call one of our midwives. I was expecting her to tell me to drink something cold or sugary and lay on my side to feel the baby and that everything would be fine, which she did. But she also said she was going to have me go to OHSU to do some fetal monitoring, just in case, and so we could all feel better knowing everything was okay. I broke down the minute she said OHSU, why do I need to go to OHSU, that seems dramatic? Why can't I just go to their office really fast and check the heartbeat? Wait, I was just calling to get confirmation everything was okay, not this. The rest of the story is one blurry, time standing still, nightmare. 

I will never forget how small the room was, how I was hooked up to an ultrasound with four people I had never seen in my life, the eery silence that filled the room and the hand that reached for mine right before the worst words I have ever heard came out of the doctors mouth, "we can't find the heartbeat, I am so sorry." The vision of her hand reaching for mine is etched in my mind, as I knew before even the words came out that my life was forever changed. Oh how I wish I could take away this haunting memory. The doctors left and Colin and I just cried. We held each other and cried. 

When the gravity of the situation started to settle, I couldn't comprehend that now I actually had to give birth. I had to give birth to a dead baby. I suddenly felt any sort of strength I had gained throughout my life vanished and I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. How could this be happening? My mind jumped to having a c-section. That would be fast and then I could go home and hide and shut myself off from the world. How fast my dreams of a natural medically free birth at home turned to lets get this baby out of me as fast as you can whichever way you can, pump me with drugs if you please, I simply don't care. But despite my desire to wash it all away, somehow I found some inkling of strength, and made the decision to do a vaginal birth. I wanted to honor our baby and give it the birth he or she deserved. 

The next two days in the hospital were a mix of horror and beauty that I don't think I would ever be able to put down into words. As they gave me medication to try and get my cervix to open, which took over 24 hours, our family and amazing midwives (who Colin and I refer to as our guardian angels) filled our room with love, support and tears. There were few words spoken, as words don't seem to exist in such heartbreaking situations, but their presence filled me with strength I couldn't have found on my own. When my cervix was ready then they started me on pitocin to begin labor. I did end up having some pain medication to help with the pitocin, I simiply did not have the strength to deal with all the emotional pain plus physical pain, but was confident that I wanted the pain medication to cease when it came time to pushing. No matter the pain, I wanted to feel my baby come out of me. 

After lots of waiting and lots of intense pain in my back, the time finally came to push. It was about 10:30 p.m. on September 3rd, 2014. I had Colin by my side, my two sisters, mom, 3 midwives who would have been at the home birth, nurse and a doctor who specialized in delivery breech babies standing over to the side (we found out that the baby turned after 39 weeks into a breech position, which was a complete shock to us as the baby was head down at the 39 week apt.). I was blessed to have one of the most amazing midwives, Linda Glenn, be able to deliver our baby, who we had complete faith in. Soon after pushing began, I heard Linda say, "I see one beautiful foot." I can't wait to see that foot I thought. Slowly, the body inched it's way out. The shoulders got caught, as the one arm was up by the head. The head was a whole added challenge, due to positioning of the chin, that eventually required the aid of forceps. While the pain was sharp and intense, in a way I almost didn't feel it. It just didn't even compare to the pain of not hearing my sweet baby cry. At 11:43 p.m. Oliver George Elliot was born, our perfect, 7 lbs 11 ounces and 21.5 inches baby. We didn't find out the sex before, so this was the first time finding out we had a son. We had a baby boy! How do you describe the feeling of life meeting death? The majesty of birth so quickly being enveloped by another world we don't understand? All I know, is that I had never seen anything more beautiful. For that moment, I didn't see a dead baby, but I saw my perfect son and felt the beauty of becoming a mother. 

We were told it was a cord accident. Oliver had his cord wrapped tightly 3 times around his neck, the cord was three times the length of a normal cord, plus he turned positions so late in the game (most likely when he passed away). Almost like the perfect storm. We were told that when cord accidents happen it happens so fast, usually within a couple minutes, and therefore nothing we could have done. But that doesn't ease the pain. Doesn't take away the shock that we had to drive home with an empty car seat or a baby room with no baby. 

It has almost been three weeks since Oliver's passing. I can't believe we would have a three week old right now to obsess and love on. Despite the hard days and painful moments, I try to still see the beauty that we are surrounded by in this world everyday. I know that beauty is Oliver, he is everywhere.

As I try to figure out answers that don't exist, words that can't describe feelings, life still seems to be happening. Seasons are changing and eventually the life I once knew will resume. Except I have completely changed. Oliver, although our time in this physical world was short, your impact on my life was immeasurable. You have opened my eyes to the precious gift of life, the art of being present and what true love really is. You have taught me the deep human need for contact and craving for comfort. A need that until taken away from us we forget. Your are trying to teach me the meaning of letting go, non-attachment and releasing expectations. You were truly wise beyond your years. 

Oliver, my first son, first child, know that your mom and dad are with you always and will love you eternally. 

the birth of Dylan Kay 7.25.2014

this story is awesome and reminds me so much of the quick home birth of my own Poppy Grey! Megan's first birth was a vaginal hospital birth of twins (one I am hoping to be able to share soon!) I hope you enjoy!

by Megan Kimmelshue

Baby #3 came into the world at 3:55 AM on July 25th. If you want the condensed version, here it is: I had a 2 hour home birth. That's it! If you're a birth junkie like me, longer version below. 

At my 37 1/2 week appointment, my midwife Alisha asked if I'd like her to check my dilation. I hadn't had any internal exams this entire pregnancy, but my braxton hicks had been consistent and felt "productive" over the previous weekend, and we were still gunning for me to reach at least 39 weeks. So when she laughed and said, "girlfriend, you're at 5 cm!" I was a little shocked! We were still in talks with my mom and my mother-in-law about when they should come, when we think the baby might come, things that are impossible to know but that you keep talking about over and over because it's just the thing on everyone's minds.

It just so happened that my mom had decided to drive my little sister and two of her friends up the 4 1/2 hour drive for a concert on Tuesday and planned to leave the next morning. "She should probably plan on staying if she wants to be here for it," Alisha recommended, "When it happens, it's going to happen fast."

After my appointment, I drove straight to Trader Joe's and bought more food. To any outsider who didn't know I was expecting, they would have assumed I was planning for the Big One or for a zombie apocalypse...I couldn't stop buying food!

After calling my mom and telling her the news (and her passing that on to my dad, who then passed the word on to his large family that I was in labor and the baby was coming, oh dad!), mom packed an extra bag just in case and they headed up for the concert while anticipating the birth happening at any moment. My friend Tiffany was also planning to be at the birth and she cancelled a weekend trip she had planned, too.

We all went to the concert, but besides the usual BH, nothing that night. Nothing on Wednesday. Thursday I was tired of sitting on the edge of my seat and figured that I would just be walking around at 5cm for the next two weeks. We booked mom a plane ticket home for Friday morning and decided to make Thursday a "forget about birth and have fun day." We ran the last of the before-baby errands, went to lunch, and just enjoyed the day.

Late Thursday night, at 38 weeks, the Braxton Hicks picked up again and I got into another cleaning and organizing mode. These frenzies had happened before so I was trying not to think too much of it, but at this point I was feeling like maybe these contractions were a little bit different...they weren't painful, it was just more pressure than usual and I would get a little bit out of breath. Mom and Andy were having an involved discussion in the dining room while I frantically moved boxes and cleaned counters and made padsicles and went to and fro around them. My little chatty Cathys didn't even notice until I finally stopped and said, "sorry to interrupt, but I think I'm definitely having real contractions. I don't know what this means, but I just wanted to let you know. Andy, can you take this box down to the basement?"

Hot showers do speed up some women's labors, but every time I've taken a shower in the past, any contractions would stop. I figured that would be a good barometer to gauge how real this was, so as I stood in the shower and contractions went away, I decided that it must be a false alarm once again. No biggie! Mom's leaving tomorrow, so I wanted baby to stay in until she could come back.

As we all turned in around midnight, I remember thinking, "If a contraction wakes me up, then I will know it's the real thing."

At 1:30 am, a big contraction woke me out of a dead sleep. Okayyy! Go time? I went to the bathroom, got a drink of water, and didn't feel anything else until 2:00. Then, they started like clockwork. I woke Andy up and told him to call Alisha, wake mom up, and text Tiffany. It was go time.


Andy and mom filled up the birth tub in the living room while I wandered around doing last minute things as it felt much better to be standing up moving around. I put on my gemstone birth bracelet that my friends had made me at my "blessing," mixed my version of this Coconut & Lime Labor Aid, and felt ready. When a contraction would come, I would just lean my head against a wall, step, or counter and do my deep breathing until it passed. They were 3-5 minutes apart, for 30 seconds to one minute. They were strong! Not especially painful, just intense.

As the pool filled, they noticed some silty stuff in the bottom. We decided it must be sand or sediment and I had a moment of sheer panic as I considered the possibility of not being able to be in the water. Mom and Andy tag-teamed and stopped the water, lifted the liner out of the pool, dumped it outside and turned it inside out in record time.

At this point it was 2:30 and I was in the kitchen with the lights off timing contractions while leaning against the counter as Alisha arrived and started setting up. We hadn't heard from Tiffany, so Andy called and texted her husband...also with no answer. I had a sinking feeling that maybe her phone was dead and that she would miss it all!

My mom was standing in the kitchen doorway watching me - she wanted to be there in case I needed anything. But what I wanted most was to be alone. So I said, "I'm good - you can go out," and I waved her away. What Imeant was for her to just step into the dining room so that she was still there and so I could see her through the cut out, but just not right there. But, dear mom that she is, went into the living room by the pool and sat in the chair by the corner. I later kept wondering where she was and looking for her. When Alisha set up her gear and came into the kitchen with me, she said, "is your mom coming?" and I said, "She's already here!" Alisha had set up all her stuff in the living room and hadn't noticed poor mom off in her corner! I will always laugh about that memory and feel bad that my mom thought I told her to go away away.

The contractions were coming quickly and regularly, gaining in intensity. What felt best was to be standing or leaning over the kitchen counter, then when a wave came on again, breathing deeply through it counting slowly to 8 on each inhale and exhale and consciously picking a spot in my body and relaxing it, anything, like loosening my jaw or by wiggling my fingers (something I gleaned from my yoga class) and humming (sounding)in a low tone. This helped immensely. I was able to get into my zone and stay there and remember thinking, "this isn't so bad!" I mean, in relative terms.

Alisha would apply counter pressure to my lower back and as the contractions got really strong, bending down into a deep squat was the only thing that took the pressure off, then later, getting onto all fours and rocking back and forth.

At 3:15, Alisha said it was time for me to get in the tub. It was either transition or almost time to push! I climbed in the tub and OH, it felt reeeaaallly good. The water was warm, the bottom of the pool was cushy, and I could hang over the side on my knees and relax into a squat. Ahhh. My acupuncturist had come too and began to apply acupressure to my back as the contractions came. I also asked again, "Where is Tiff?" Mom moved to a closer chair with the camera and Andy crouched next to me to hold my hand.

The last part of the girls' labor that I could feel was at 8cm, before I had the epidural. So now, I was in brand new territory. 

It still is hard to explain. It's Pressure. Lots of pressure...but not exactly excruciating...I don't know. I could FEEL the baby making her way down the birth canal which was really bizarre but incredible and spiritual and mind-boggling at the same time.

I had two more strong contractions in the pool before my body started pushing. I say "my body" because it was completely involuntary. All of sudden, I was pushing! It was like a dance between my brain, my baby, and my body. My body would start to push, so my brain would say, "help it!" and I would feel the baby moving down, but I had to remember to not let my brain take over, but to work in partnership with what my body was trying to do. It was kinda crazy but really...and this may sound weird, but...Zen. Alisha coached me through it gently, reminding me that if I wasn't having a contraction, I could stop pushing to keep the baby from coming too fast.

I remember being super conscious of this process and sometimes the sensations would take me off guard. While we were talking about it afterwards, Andy said at one point I got this questioning look on my face while in a contraction, and I was groaning but it was like a question - "uhhhh???" I think that was the point when I felt the head crowning, and right after I said out loud, "THAT'S a baby!"

"Baby's crowning," the midwives agreed, and everyone was shocked. This WAS fast! It was probably around 3:40 at this point. Alisha said, "OK, probably one more push" and she was right, after the push I felt her head come out, then a big push or two and her body slid out. The midwives sat me back in the pool and brought my little baby through to me - holy crap! That's a baby I just pushed out! Right there! At 3:55 AM! They dipped a blanket in the warm water and wrapped it around us as we sat back in the pool and reveled at this new little life who, two hours ago, was still chilling inside of me!

A few minutes later, there's a knock on the door - Tiffany! She missed it by mere minutes!

We hadn't found out the sex, so after a few minutes we tried to peel back the blanket to take a look, but baby was NOT having it and started crying loudly. Ok, ok! We can wait to look. We didn't find out the gender until about 20 or 30 minutes later, after I had delivered the placenta and got out of the tub and onto the couch.

A girl!

miss Dylan Kay.


And the great part is the girls slept through the whole thing, even sleeping in a little!

Some births are a marathon...but this one was a sprint

And it was awesome. I couldn't have asked or wished for better and feel very fortunate to have had this healing experience. Not all mothers need "redeeming" births, but my heart really wanted one. I'm so thankful. And home births, well, they rock. Welcome to our family, Dylan!

Thanks so much for sharing Megan!

The birth of Clive Clarke 6.8.2014

I love every birth story. I love watching women become mamas and I love the transformation that happens through it! 

This birth story is of one of my dearest friends, Lauren. We met 3 years ago when she was wanting to ask me questions about which route was going to be the best one for her to birth her daughter Fern. She went from a mama with many questions, to one who freely and openly shares how awesome, or in her words "bad ass" a natural birth can be! 

She uses her voice to encourage other mamas to trust their bodies and not be afraid! I know that through her words many other mamas and mamas-to-be will find peace and courage to chase the birth experience of their dreams!

by Lauren Hartmann

Here’s how it went…

I was four days past my “due date” when our little Clive decided to make his leisurely debut Earth side. My due date of June 4th came and went and every day beyond it felt excruciatingly long. I tried to keep myself (and my toddler) busy by making plenty of plans for us in those post due days. Play dates and donut outings and girly pampering nights with Fern. It was great, but I was still so impatient. Even though I knew in my head that a due date really just meant “guess date” it didn’t make the waiting any easier…especially since Fern was early.

That Saturday night, June 7th my friends Becca and Echo took me out for some girl time. We went to Bollywood Theater and had delicious Indian food followed by ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s (the line at Salt & Straw was way too ridiculous to even attempt…regardless of my pregnant cravings). I enjoyed some New York Super Fudge Chunk and we talked about babies and parenting fears until it was late and then I came home and headed to bed.

Sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 AM I thought I had started feeling contractions. Weirdly enough I had kind of forgotten what a contraction felt like since it had been nearly two-and-a-half years since I last had one, so I wasn’t totally convinced this was it. During my labor with Fern the contractions were immediately unmistakable and regular so I never really questioned it. These, while fairly regular, weren’t very intense.

After having a few I started tracking them in the Full Term app on my phone anyway and after about an hour I saw that they were about two minutes apart, lasting for about 40 seconds. That seemed pretty close so I texted my midwife. Because my labor with Fern progressed pretty quickly and was only 12 hours (despite her difficult brow presentation and the fact that I pushed for about three hours) we were all on alert that this birth would probably progress more quickly. Because my contractions weren’t super intense and I could talk through them, I was hesitant to have my midwife come over, but she decided to come check me out anyway.

At this point I woke Craig up and told him I had been having contractions for the past hour and a half and that he should probably start setting up the birth tub. He got up and set to work while I continued having contractions in bed. Fern was sleeping in the other room and I texted my parents to tell them they could probably come get her soon.

By the time my midwife Kristen arrived around 7:00 AM contractions had slowed to every 20-30 minutes. She checked Clive’s heart tones and hung out for awhile in case things picked back up. She had me get up and move a bit, so I went out to collect eggs from our chicken coop and did some laps in our backyard forest. Things picked up a bit, but not much so she left and told me to text her when things got going again.

At this point I texted my friend and photographer Caroline to let her know I was in labor. She had documented my pregnancy from the beginning, capturing our birth announcement photos and maternity shots and we had talked about her coming to document Clive’s birth story as well, but I didn’t really think it was going to work out. She lives near San Francisco and we live in Portland, so I figured there was a pretty slim chance she would actually make it in time, but after texting her that I was in labor she immediately texted back: “Can I book a flight?!” Since contractions had slowed down, I figured why not? So she booked a 12:30 flight and would be arriving around 3:00 PM.

My parents came to pick up Fern and then Craig and I just hung out. We started watching some dumb movie with Ryan Reynolds and my sweet neighbor popped by with lunch for us. Then Craig’s parents came by with Jamba Juice per my request and hung out for a bit. Around then my contractions started getting closer (about 5 minutes apart) and the intensity increased. I texted Kristen and she called the assisting midwife and her apprentice to head over.

By the time Kristen arrived my contractions had gotten stronger and closer together (about 3 minutes apart). I was still handling them really well. I mostly stood and leaned over at the kitchen counter during them so I could focus my breathing through them. In between I put on some lipstick and earrings (because priorities) and around 4:00 my mom dropped Caroline off, fresh from the airport and ready to snap birth photos. She arrived at a good time, because a couple of hours later things got much more intense, so I was glad she was able to capture some calm and smiling moments from the birth.

Shortly after Caroline’s arrival my contractions grew more challenging and I knew I wanted to get in the tub so Craig started filling it up. While I waited I tried some other positions to get comfortable, including a yoga ball dropped off by a neighbor, but it wasn’t helping much. I decided to get in the shower for a bit while the tub finished filling which was a little better, but I was definitely relieved to finally get in the tub.


Once I was in the tub I never wanted to leave. I really enjoyed the water during my labor with Fern in the big birthing center tubs, but the inflatable tub was way better. The bottom of the tub was and inflated cushion and so much more comfortable for my legs. It was small enough to offer me support to lean into as well. I can’t remember what time my water broke, but I think it was sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 PM. Up until that point I didn’t really need much support and handled the contractions on my own, but after my water broke things got intense.

The next 4-5 hours ish got real. After my water broke I felt the urge to push, so with almost every contraction there was a push. The only problem with this was that Clive wasn’t down far enough to actually make much pushing progress…he was sort of stuck. Well…maybe “stuck” is the wrong word since he eventually came out…just a big baby trying to make his way out of a not so big space. As I’m writing this I keep imagining that scene in the movieTommy Boy where Chris Farley puts on David Spade’s coat and starts singing “Fat guy in a little coat”. In our scenario Clive would be Chris Farley and my vagine would be David Spade’s coat. A weird analogy, but weirdly accurate.

Anyway, aside from all of my not-so-productive pushing, Clive was also so big that he pretty much filled up every square inch of me which meant that part of him was pressed up against my sacrum during the pfushing stage. Baby pushed up against a sacrum = back labor = me yelling/grunting/moaning/screaming through the vast majority of my contractions for the remaining hours of labor. I’m not gonna lie…it was pretty un-zen. I know that some people have super peaceful birthing experiences, but in my experiences birth is far more primal. On some level it makes me feel like I’m “doing it wrong”, but birth is so different for everyone, so I guess a little yelling doesn’t make it less of a success, right?

After the first couple of hours my midwives checked my progress to make sure I was dilated all the way and didn’t have any cervical lip still hanging out or something. I didn’t. But that was when they told me he was still a good ways up there and suggested that I try some different positions to encourage him to come down. I tried the bed. No way. Wailing and gnashing of teeth commenced. Not pretty. So, I ended up on the toilet like last time. It was way less comfortable, but I tried to hang out for as many contractions as I could before it was unbearable and I had to get back in the tub.

I did this back and forth from the toilet to the tub for the rest of my labor and during that time I had moments of strength and moments of defeat. I begged Clive to please just come out. We prayed. I told Craig I couldn’t do it anymore…that I was too tired. I fell asleep in between every push and during each contraction I squeezed Craig’s hand (and sometimes Caroline or my midwives’ hands if he needed a bathroom break) with white knuckles. I lost track of time for the most part since there were no clocks and all of the curtains were drawn, but then my nightly “take your iron” reminder alarm went off on my phone and I cried because then I knew it was 9:30 PM and I still had no baby to show for all of my discomfort.I was beginning to feel like I was going to be in labor for the rest of my life. I was exhausted and overwhelmed, but I just kept trying to find my center and bring myself back in even though every part of me was looking for a way to escape my body. Eventually I could feel that my baby really was “right there” and ready to be pushed out…and then came the worst part.

I’m not telling you this to make anyone fearful of birth, because it is not a fearful experience. It is natural and beautiful and our bodies know what to do. That said, it’s not a walk in the park. Birth is no joke and pushing is my least favorite part. I think it’s probably because I’ve had to challenging babies…a brow presentation and a massive linebacker posterior baby, but for some reason pushing is just really long and difficult for me. In many of my birthing books the women sharing birth stories always talk about how wonderful pushing was and how it felt so good to actually be able to do something productive, but I do not share this sentiment. In my experience, pushing blows.

I felt the “ring of fire” multiple times before Clive finally came out…like he was right there, but then my contraction would end and he’d get sucked back up. I kinda freaked out at that point and started saying “I don’t want him to come out! I’m not ready! I can’t do it!” That’s how I knew he was about to be born…because I had reached the “panic stage”. Orgasmic birthers: I am jealous of you, because this was nothing like that.

After awhile and with one strong contraction, Clive’s head came out. It freaked me out a little to just have a baby head hanging out there, since I never experienced that with Fern. When I had her she came out in one single push like a torpedo, so this was a very different experience. After his head came out I closed my eyes and rested. I was exhausted at this point and my body must’ve known because it decided to give me a break from all the contractions. That would’ve been all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that my baby was already halfway out and needed to hurry up and be born. The midwives were timing everything in between checking Clive’s heart tones (they sounded great the entire time) and I could hear them whispering to each other and could tell it was taking longer than they wanted. After close to five minutes they said we needed to get this baby out and that they wanted Craig to try some nipple stimulation to get a contraction going.

If you know me, you probably know that my first thought (despite my exhaustion) was “Hell no!” I’m a pretty modest person so the idea of my husband performing nipple stimulation on me in front of anyone else…ummm no. Obviously I would do anything for the safety of our baby, but I wasn’t stoked about it. Apparently my body knew and as they were hurrying Craig over to get things going I had another contraction.

The force of Clive exiting my body pretty much felt like crapping a bowling ball…not even kidding…and my knee-jerk reaction was to stand up out of the tub. Then everyone started shouting, “Don’t sit down!” because he had already taken a breath out of the water so technically I didn’t have him via water birth. I’m not actually sure who caught him because pretty much all hands were on deck at that point, but the point is someone caught him and handed him to me and he was chubby and perfect.

Clive Clarke Hartmann

Born, June 8th 2014 at 10:43 PM

Weight: 10 lbs. 8 oz., Length: 23″, Head: 15″

The first thing I said was, “Does he have all his fingers and toes?” I didn’t cry, but I was happy to have him in my arms and to be done with labor. All in all it was about 19 hours of labor…7 hours longer than my labor with Fern. I had 3 hours of pushing with her and around 4.5 hours of pushing with Clive. He weighed just over two pounds more than she did and he was two inches longer. Oh…and did I mention he was posterior? Ummm…yeah. Apparently my babies like to throw me curve balls with their tricky positioning (Fern was a brow presentation birth). Overall it was way more challenging, but I did it.

I still maintain that I am not a “tough girl” or a “hippie” or really anyone who you would even remotely consider to have a natural birth, much less a home birth. But challenges aside, I still believe that if I can do it then anyone can. I know it’s not easy and that sometimes natural birth just isn’t an option, but our bodies are far more capable than we give them credit for. If you would’ve asked me a few years ago if I thought I could deliver a 10 & 1/2 pound baby at home without drugs I would’ve laughed in your face, but I did it.

I also want to say that I loved the experience of being at home in my own environment way more than I ever thought I would and I adored my team of midwives (here is a link to my midwife Kristen Downer who I highly recommend if you’re looking for one!). They each had unique strengths that helped to make my experience wonderful and safe.

So basically birth is rad…no matter how it turns out. And sometimes the best things in life come when we learn to let go and just let them happen. I’m still learning this lesson!

Love you friend, and I am so proud of you!

The birth of Chapel Brian 3.5.2014

in the post before this one, I shared the birth slideshow I put together for sweet chapels birth. now chapels birth story is here in his mama brianna's very own words. enjoy! (you can also catch the story of her first birth here) - echo 

By Brianna Stewart

My Healing and Empowering HBAC Journey

In June of 2011, our daughter Piper was born via emergency c-section. I had tried for a natural birth at a birthing center but we had to transfer after close to sixty hours of labor. I was told “CPD” (Cephalopelvic Disproportion), or a small pelvis and a large baby, was to blame. Piper wasn’t that big, 8lbs 2 oz, and I’m not abnormally narrow so I never really bought into that logic. I had a really hard time recovering from the c-section and with that, I had a hard time adjusting to life with a newborn. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t shake the desire to someday give birth naturally. Having a VBAC became something I desperately wanted.

In June of 2013, my husband Cameron and I discovered Piper was going to be a big sister! We were so excited and equally terrified (haha!) about adding another “Little” to the family. I started doing my research and called many different midwives in town. We met with hospital midwives as well as out-of-hospital midwives. We decided to go with Alma Midwifery upon meeting with Melissa, the woman who became our awesome midwife. Melissa greeted Cameron, Piper and I with the warmest hugs and kindest smile. She actually listened to every concern, worry or question I had regarding VBAC and most importantly, she treated me like a normal client -- not a ticking time bomb. Along with Melissa, I had two other equally awesome midwives: Chelsea and Cassandra. They all believed in me, my body, and the possibility of me having a successful VBAC.

My pregnancy seemed to fly by (thanks to the 2 ½ year old who kept me on my toes!) and continued to progress rather uneventfully. I saw a chiropractor who specialized in Mayan Abdominal Massage, which can help break up scar tissue and adhesions, as well as an Acupuncturist. I was willing to try just about anything to help benefit my (hopeful) VBAC! Towards the end of my pregnancy, we decided to have a homebirth. We talked with our midwives about all the “what if’s” and what we would do in the event of a transfer. I definitely had my moments of doubt and fear of another transfer but I was confident that I was in good and experienced hands and fully believed in our decision.

My due date, February 28th, came and went and I started to worry that I was going to have another “late” baby (Piper was two weeks “late”). Having reached my limit as far as being hugely pregnant and wrangling a tiny tornado in child form all day long, I was so happy my due date fell on a Friday. With Cameron home for the weekend, I was able to get some much needed rest. (I suppose there was a tiny bit of wishfulness that perhaps the baby would be born that weekend.) By the time Monday came around and I found myself still pregnant, I started to get weepy and emotional. I called Cameron at work in a panic. I didn’t call for a conversation but rather to state to him that I simply could not survive another week of being pregnant. That night I started getting some strong contractions. Nothing consistent but strong enough for me text my friend/doula, Echo, to give her a heads up. She advised me to get some rest. I tried but didn’t get much rest for the remainder of the night. I was so excited that things were progressing and we were definitely on our way to meet our son! By Tuesday morning, I knew I was definitely in early labor. Cameron took the day off from work so he could help occupy Piper while I did whatever I needed to do. I spent the morning walking, pacing, cleaning, eating, taking warm baths and sending out texts to family and friends to let them know things were gearing up. I stayed in contact with the midwives and Echo through texts. At around 10 am we called up our friends who so kindly agreed to take care of Piper during the labor/birth. Once Piper was out of the house, I really felt like I could focus on what was ahead of me.

The day went on and I continued to have strong contractions but they weren’t coming very quickly or close together so there was no need for the midwives or Echo to be there, just yet. Cameron and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I would lean on the counter or hang from Cameron’s neck with each contraction. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh CRAP. These are strong but they’re only going to get even stronger!” I started to worry if I would be able to handle the intensity, especially if I ended up with another long labor. I texted Melissa my concerns and she so sweetly replied that I had everything I needed and that I could do it! She continued to text me encouraging words as the day went on. Cassandra came by later in the afternoon to check in on me and drop off the birth tub. Her presence was refreshing and also made the whole situation that much more real!

We were going to have our baby! AT HOME!

Cassandra left for a while and told me to be in touch as things progressed. Cameron and I went upstairs to blow up the birth tub and to try and get some rest. As I made my way up the stairs, I realized that was probably the last time I would be walking up those stairs pregnant. I was excited and anxious. Cameron and I went to bed. He was able to get some rest but I wasn’t so lucky. I couldn’t get into a comfortable position and the contractions were really strong. I squeezed Cameron’s hand with each one. Around 9 pm, I got up to use the bathroom and noticed I had bloody show. I texted Cassandra to let her know and also told her that things were getting intense. She arrived not too long after. By midnight I was feeling like I could use some extra support so Cameron texted Echo. She arrived right before 2 am. As soon as she arrived, Cameron used the opportunity to get some rest so he went off to Piper’s room and curled up in her tiny toddler bed (comfy!). Cassandra checked me and reported that baby was nice and low. Not too long after being checked, I started vomiting...a lot. I remember being really bummed out Cameron missed it (talk about weird!). At some point Echo announced to me that Melissa had arrived. I was so happy to see her.

Now things really started to feel real for me

I spent some time in the bathroom with Echo. I noticed myself getting very vocal with contractions and the noises were taking up a lot of energy so I asked Echo to help me with my breathing. She had me try “blowing out” each contraction until it was over. This technique helped me a lot. As I was standing in the doorway of the bathroom and bedroom, another contraction came. Cassandra was checking on baby with the Doppler and I stood there with my hands on the doorframe. I felt what felt like a bubble in my crotch and then a lot of warm fluid rush out. I said, “Either I just peed my pants or my water broke”. Cassandra suggested stepping into the bathroom to check things out and sure enough, my water had broke! I remember standing there feeling really excited and commenting on HOW MUCH water there actually was! I spent a lot of time resting backwards on the toilet with my head on a pillow. This position was super comfortable and I was able to get some “sleep”. I shared with Echo that I was afraid. She asked me what I was afraid of and I told her the “unknown”. Her confidence and calmness really helped pull me back down to reality and kept me from floating off too far into the dark of panic-land.

Around 5:30 am I got into the tub. The minute my body lowered into the warm water, I felt instant relief. The contractions felt much more manageable and my body felt less tense. Although the tub was relaxing, my back started hurting. I asked Cameron to join me in the tub so he did and rubbed my back for me. He kept telling me he was so proud of me. By this point my concept of time had gone out the window. I noticed the light in the room had changed so it was definitely morning. I must have been in the tub for hours. I started to feel like my body was pushing a little. I made a comment about it out loud and Melissa said she would let Chelsea know she she could head over.

I continued to feel a lot of pressure in my butt. Melissa checked me and said that she wasn’t surprised I was feeling so much pressure because baby was so low! I was really excited to hear that. I never felt the pressure-sensation with Piper because she didn’t descend so I knew things were progressing well this time! Echo suggested I reach inside to see what I could feel. I felt around and about a fingertip or a knuckle in, I could feel baby’s head! It was so smushy that I didn’t realize it was his head at first! Melissa encouraged me to experiment with some pushing. I was on my hands and knees with my chin resting on a towel draped over the side of the tub. I tried pushing a bit and at first it just felt really awkward. Then I tried pushing at the beginning of contractions and I finally began to feel what an effective push felt like. I would push to what felt like my limit and then push even deeper, past that limit. I could actually feel my baby inching his way lower. Feeling this and experiencing this was mind-blowing for me. I had dreamt of and prayed for this day for years and now it was actually happening! I remember becoming very focused on my pushing at this point and asked for the music that had been playing for hours to be turned off. I needed there to be no distractions.

My back was hurting pretty bad at this point and after experimenting with pushing for a while, I decided I needed to get out of the tub. I felt antsy and unsure of where I should go or what I should be doing. I tried sitting on the toilet and pushing, pushing while squatting with the support of Cameron or a midwife, and on the bed pushing but then I felt the need to get back into the tub.


There was a very significant moment when I noticed myself becoming fearful of the pain.

I remember thinking back to my first birth experience and how I spent the majority of my epic labor in fear because I was too stubborn to ask for help from my midwives. I was too prideful to admit I was scared. This time around, I knew things had to be different so once again, I asked Echo to breathe with me. I think I just blurted out, “Can you help me breathe?!” after having been sitting there in the tub with my eyes closed for a while. She did and it helped me so much. I also remember asking Melissa for help. I was on my hands and knees in the tub. Melissa was sitting on the floor, next to me, outside of the tub. She grabbed my hands and looked me right in the eyes. Our eyes were locked and she breathed along with me through the entire contraction. It was an incredibly intense moment. There was another moment when I was in the tub and I felt a contraction starting. Chelsea was standing and about to go get something when I swung my hand up and sort of flailed it around like a fish as if she would know what I was asking for. Before the contraction started I was able to quickly get out, ‘willyouholdmyhand?”. It was these moments that really changed everything for me. I was reminded that I wasn’t alone and that I was surrounded by a group of women (and my husband) that truly believed and me and were there to help me.

I felt so loved and supported.

After a while, Melissa gently proposed the idea of me getting out of the tub and trying some directed-pushing. I was helped out of the tub and decided to head for the bed. I ended up on my back (the last position I expected I’d want to be in) and Melissa began guiding me through some pushes. I was beyond exhausted at this point. I was starting to worry that I didn’t have enough energy to push my baby out. But then it was almost as if my exhaustion gave me power. I wanted this experience so badly and had done so much to get to this point that nothing was going to stop me from pushing my baby out! I requested the oxygen mask, hoping it would help me catch my breath. I remember thinking, “If only I had ten minutes to catch my breath!” but unfortunately, there’s no such thing as calling a “time-out” in birth.

I was propped up, on my back, on the bed by a stack of pillows with Cameron to the right of me and Echo to my left. Melissa knelt on the ground in front of me, between my legs. Melissa began to instruct me on how and when to push. She instructed me to drop my chin to my chest and with the beginning of each contraction, curl my body into my baby and push with all I had plus more! I kept my eyes closed. I was so sweaty that the oxygen mask kept sliding around on my face. I remember making mental notes about how hard this part was but also how incredibly awesome it was! I remember hearing my midwives, Echo and Cameron cheering me on with each push. The point of exhaustion I had reached was pretty extreme. I felt so weak but knew that it was up to me to get our son out and NOW was the time. By this point, I was asking...begging God for strength with the beginning of each contraction. With each push, I pushed even further. I was letting out some really loud growls with each push. So loud that I’m sure our neighbors are still talking about it…

I remember the excitement in Melissa’s voice as I pushed past the point that I think everyone expected me to rest at. I remember noticing Cameron was crying beside me. I figured baby’s head must be out if Cameron was crying (he later explained that he was crying because he was so happy that I had

surpassed the point that I didn’t get to the first time). Then came the moment when Melissa asked me if I wanted to touch my baby’s head. I remember feeling like I was too exhausted to reach down and touch his head and that I only had enough strength for pushing. Then I snapped myself into reality and realized that of course I wanted to touch my baby’s head! Are you kidding me?! So I reach down and cupped his tiny fuzzy head with my hand. I swirled around his hair with my fingertips and with each push, I felt him inch further and further out of my body. It was AMAZING. Then the tone in Melissa’s voice changed and I knew I needed to act fast on her words. She told me I needed to be on my hands and knees immediately (later found out baby’s shoulders were stuck). Somehow, with the help of others, obviously, I got onto my hands and knees. Melissa told me to push, push, push, with all my strength to get my baby out. And with felt like one giant, continuous push and one long, loud growl, Chapel was born.


I was helped onto my back and with me feeling pretty stunned, Chapel was placed onto my bare chest. I could feel the cord that still connect us between my legs. I held his tiny bum in my hands and just stared at him. I was in a blissed-out state of shock. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I looked around the room and everyone was smiling the biggest smiles. I think I said “WHAT.” It wasn’t even a question, I just said, “WHAT.” I couldn’t wrap my brain around the miracle that had just taken place.

Echo said, “You did it! You’re holding your baby!” She knew how badly I wanted that moment -- the one moment I didn’t get with my sweet daughter.

I couldn’t believe how perfect Chapel was. He looked so much like his sister. To my surprise, I didn’t cry like I expected I would. I couldn’t. I was too absorbed in the experience to express any emotion. I was so happy, so grateful, so overwhelmed. I felt incredibly loved and blessed to have been given the opportunity to birth our son at home, in our bedroom, completely safe and surrounded by peace and love.

Giving birth to Chapel was my greatest accomplishment. I reclaimed a trust in myself and my body that had been lost.

I now feel completely at peace with my first birth experience. I understand that Piper was born the way she needed to be born but I also know that I am not broken and that I never was. My body did not fail me and I will never second-guess my heart ever again. I followed my heart, my faith and what I trusted to be right from the very beginning of this journey. I found a killer support team that believed in and supported me throughout my pregnancy right up to the moment Chapel entered this world. I couldn’t have accomplished any of this without my midwives, Echo, or my husband. I will forever be grateful for and cherish each and every one of them for what they did for me in and throughout this journey.


The birth slideshow of Chapel Brian 3.5.2014

By Echo Zielinski


Yesterday I was honored to be included in my friend Brianna's birth. She shared the birth story of her daughter Piper a little while back and well, Chapel Brian is now here!

A beautiful and powerful vaginal home birth after cesarean.

Here is a slideshow I whipped up real quick. I will let Brianna tell her story in her own words when she is ready!


the birth of Tahlia James 6.27.2012

Here is tarrins very fast second birth of her daughter Tahlia james!

by Tarrin Fletcher 

Taevia and I headed downtown for voodoo donuts first thing in the morning. We were letting daddy sleep in and spending some time together. When we got back home, we all went and had lunch and did a costco run. Afterwards, we went and picked raspberries with grandma and then brought iced coffee to Pa since it was a nice sunny day. Grandma brought us back home and I made dinner and a freezer meal for later. We ate dinner, then decided that we should go get the chickens back inside their coop before it got dark. I had been having a few braxton hicks during dinner but nothing that felt different from the braxton hicks of the last few months. We got 4 out of 5 of the chickens back in their coop, and the last one found yet another spot that it could squeeze into to get under the shed! So we went inside for a while to see if it would come out before dark. I finally heard a chicken and we went out and finally caught the last one! When we came inside, Tim went to take a shower because his allergies had been bad all day, I went into the laundry room bathroom to pee. When I sat down, I felt a little 'pop' and jumped. No gush. Huh.. was that what I think it was or did the baby just jump? I decided to check and felt baby's head really well applied and a small amount of water came out. Ok, so that was definitely my water breaking. This was about 7:55pm, no contractions. Tim came downstairs from his shower and I told him what had happened and that I would either be drinking a lot of water and still be pregnant for a while or we would be having a baby tonight! Needless to say, he was a little shocked.

I texted my midwife and waited 5 min for a response, when I didn't get one, I called twice... no answer. A few minutes later she called me back and told me she was labor sitting south of Corvallis. I laughed, ok, I'll the person I had as backup! I called her 4 times... no answer. I called another midwife friend, no answer. Crap! Who do I know that lives close?! Tia! I called Tia, and she answered! At this point, it was 8:13 and I had only had 2 or 3 contractions that were uncomfortable. I asked Tia if she was busy for the night, she said not really. Oh good! Feel like coming to a birth, cause I'm in labor! She laughed and we talked about supplies and if she needed to bring anything. I had 2 or 3 contractions while we were on the phone, they were “slowly” (hah) getting more intense. After we hung up, my mother and father in law showed up to get Taevia. It was getting close to her bed time and it was quickly becoming apparent that I was not going to be able to get her to sleep tonight, so we called grandma and pa! I answered the door while Tim was rushing around trying to get the tub set up. They didn't think labor was very active as we chatted... until a contraction hit. Grandma quickly took over Taevia, and Pa went to help Tim by boiling water on the stove to try and fill the tub faster.

I was standing in the entry way to the house from the garage and decided to call Rachel and tell her what was happening. It was now 8:22, 9 minutes after the phone call with Tia began. I had a contraction right after I told Rachel I was in labor and was struggling not to cry, these were crazy contractions! Tim saw where I was and told me that “you should go upstairs before you can't”, he helped me upstairs and I went and knelt at the end of our bed and buried my face in our blanket as each contraction hit.

Tim was busy still trying to fill the tub. I was leaking amniotic fluid with each contraction and asked him to get some towels to put underneath me and finally took off my pajama pants, which were soaked by this time. I remember talking to Rachel a few times but honestly can't remember what we talked about! Maybe she remembers ;) I started to have Tim push on my back with each contraction (ah, the memories ;) My back felt like it was on FIRE! Tim told me later that he could literally see my muscles and bones popping out as the baby moved down. Tim asked me, shouldn't someone listen to the baby? My prenatal bag was right by me. In between contractions, I told him to hurry and hand me the doppler and gel. I listened, It was 8:40 pm. I had been upstairs for maybe 15 minutes. 120's-140's. Perfect. See? Everything is fine. I literally threw the doppler back to him as another contraction hit. Tim asked if he should continue to fill the tub. "screw the tub!" was my response. It was soon after this, I could feel my body begin to push, I remember thinking as it happened “are you serious?!” But a few contractions later and I was really pushing and there was no way to stop it!

At 8:57, Tim could see hair, he sounded scared. I told him to keep breathing, it will be ok. 

At 8:59 baby's head was out! I could feel baby turning and moving almost automatically. I quickly told Tim he had to catch the baby! I was still kneeling facing the bed and could not move. He was kneeling behind me, he was going to have to catch!

One minute later at 9pm exactly, our baby was born! I could hear Tim laughing and our baby start to cry (screech? What a set of lungs!). I couldn't even bring myself to turn around yet, wow that was crazy! Then Tim said, “It's a girl!” “WHAT?!” I slowly turned around, putting my leg over the umbilical cord and Tim handed me our baby... GIRL! I had been completely convinced she was a boy and was completely surprised! I laughed and joked we had no name for her. Tim took a picture and we marveled at our baby. At 9:05, Tia walked in. Missed it by 5 minutes! I honestly don't remember what everyone talked about in the next few minutes. I went from crying to laughing to staring at my baby several times. I had a few more intense contractions and had Tim help me up to my knees where I delivered the placenta at 9:15. Then, Tim cut the cord and helped me into bed. We talked about... something (ha! I really don't remember, probably talked to Tia about the birth) Tia checked my pulse and checked me for tears (none! yay!) and checked my fundus and pulse. She weighed our baby girl and did a quick newborn exam. 7lbs 9oz, 20 inches tall. I got up to pee, and since I did, everything was fine and Tia headed home. (Thanks Tia!) I got some clothes on and Taevia, Kim and Mike came upstairs to meet the new addition! Tahlia James!

I felt AMAZING! It literally didn't feel like I just had a baby!

We called family and friends and then agreed that Taevia should go spend the night at grandma and pa's so she could hopefully get more sleep. They headed out and Tim and I went downstairs. He made me some chicken to eat and we watched some tv. All of a sudden, I was exhausted! I napped on the couch for the rest of what we were watching and then went upstairs to bed to sleep and snuggle my new baby girl.



the birth of Taevia Joan 1.19.2010

tarrin is a midwife I used to work with at Andaluz. Enjoy the birth of her first daughter Taevia! 

by Tarrin Fletcher 

I woke up at about 6am that day and had breakfast, then by about 8am decided I was still tired and went back to bed. I started having really uncomfortable cramps as soon as I laid down about every 10 min. By 10am I decided I couldn't sleep so I got up and took a shower. I decided to check my own dilation to see if I could even tell what was going on. My guess was that I was 3cm dilated and fully effaced or... I had no idea what I was feeling! So I called Tracy (one of my midwives) and asked if she had time to check me in between her prenatal appointments she had that day at the birth center. She said she could, so Tim and I got in the car and drove to the Tualatin birth center. We got there at about 10:45am and Tracy was able to see me at about 11am after I had a few contractions in the waiting room (and was trying to be inconspicuous so no one would know, ha ha, right? as I squatted in front of the couch with each one) She checked me and said I was about 3 1/2 cm and fully effaced. Awesome! I knew what I was talking about! :) I was so happy to actually be in labor, I cried all the way home with Tim thinking I was really weird to be crying. I told Tracy I would call her when I was ready for everyone to come over since I could check myself.

I was planning on sending Tim to the grocery store after he dropped me off at home but when we got there at about 11:30 and walked in the door, the contractions started coming every 3 minutes and INTENSE. I told Tim to start setting up the birth tub instead. We got the tub set up, the liner put in, and the hose set up. We started filling the tub but we didn't notice when the water went cold so we ended up having to boil water on the stove to warm the tub back up before I could get in. While that was happening, I felt like Tim kept asking me if we should call the midwives to come, I kept saying no, it's not time yet. (apparently he was only asking me every half hour or so) At 12:30, I checked myself and was 5cm, then by 1:30pm I was 6cm. I told Tim he could call Tracy and Rachel to come whenever they wanted since it seemed like it was happening pretty fast. I just kept concentrating on staying calm and keeping my body loose. I decided to squat with every contraction, hoping it would help me dilate faster.

Tracy and Rachel arrived pretty quickly and they took my blood pressure and listened to the baby. Sometime after that we got the tub warm and I was glad to get in. It helped me relax some. During contractions, the only way I could get "comfortable" was to be on hands and knees, and in between contractions I would sit back and stretch out since my knees were getting tired.

By 4pm I was about 7cm and contractions were feeling pretty intense still. I'm pretty sure by this time I started "vocalizing" (poor neighbors!) My back was also KILLING me! I was making Tim push on my back during every contraction, I even remember him going out to the kitchen at some point to try and get something to eat and a contraction started and I yelled "Tim, my back!!! (he didn't magically appear right away) so I yelled NOW!" Which of course he came running! :) (poor guy, he was very sore by the end of all of this!) The midwives of course were periodically coming in and listening to the baby. I noticed it was dark outside and asked Tim what time it was, he said it was about 6pm... ok... that's not that bad. I told Tracy to call Joy to come (the midwife I apprenticed under, it was her month off so I didn't want to call her right away in case it was a long birth).

By 6:30pm, I checked myself again because I felt like my body had begun to push (I swear I don't check clients this often! ;) and I felt like I was at least 9cm but there was this chunk of skin, I was thinking, "what is that?!?? please don't be a swollen lip!! Is this a swollen lip??!??" so I asked Tim to tell Tracy or Joy to come check me for a second opinion. Tracy came in and checked, yep, it was a lip. So I decided with the next contraction to try pushing while I felt to see if the lip would go away or not. When the next contraction started, I checked myself again, and YAY! the lip totally disappeared! I started pushing whenever my body felt like it. Shortly after that I moved to sitting on the toilet (I really didn't want to poop in the tub! haha) I stayed on the toilet for about 2 hours, even though it didn't feel that long to me. Tim kept saying, "what if someone needs to use the bathroom?" My response was, "Then tell me and I'll move." Eventually Tim said that HE had to pee so I stood up and said go ahead! Which moving automatically brought on another contraction so I just squatted on the floor which made Tim feel bad for making me move. But at least one person got to pee, right? (I found out later all the midwives were debating on where else they could go to use a bathroom!) While pushing it felt like all my bones were trying to come apart. Tim was by my side the entire time, pushing on my back and trying to convince me to eat and drink things since I had already thrown up about 5 times. During this time I also remember him commenting, "I can't believe you do this for a living!" Which made me smile.

At about 8:40pm Tracy came in and checked heart tones, they sounded slow. I asked her what they were, her response was 5's and 6's. OK, TIME TO MOVE. I immediately got up without being asked and moved back to the tub on hands and knees. All 3 midwives came in to the bedroom, Rachel charting with 2 month old nursing Luna. They started listening during and after every contraction. I asked them what the heart tones were (I was in labor land too much to make an educated guess) and the response was "they are fine". I trusted that. (I found out later they were 8's, 9's and 10's). I started pushing as hard as I could, "come on baby, time to come out." My water broke and OW! I'm sure my water breaking hurt because the same second that happened, I could feel the baby's head, A LOT. (inside, not out...yet) I kept pushing and I could slowly feel more and more baby head, OW OW OW!!! Where did the hormones go?!?!? THIS HURTS! I looked up at the midwives, "You are all fkn crazy to do this!" I got laughs and "yeps" Eventually I told Tim "aw, It has hair!" and kept pushing. At 9:27 the baby's head was out, FINALLY! Ok... one more push, right? After 2 1/2 minutes, another contraction started. I pushed, and the baby's shoulders came out, I PUSHED and the torso came out (come ON!) I PUSHED and finally the legs and feet came out! Because I was on my hands and knees, the baby was now behind me in the water. I turned around and picked up my baby! MY baby! The cord was really short, so I moved to the seat in the tub to get the baby higher up out of the water. I stared.... MY baby! I looked the baby over and was trying to wait to see if it was a boy or a girl, I wanted to let Tim check but because the cord was so short I couldn't move the baby very far, so I checked, "You're a girl!!!! How are you a girl??" We had a very adorable little girl! She was still trying to breathe clearly, so I did postural drainage, at least as much as I could with her short little cord.
It took 30min for the placenta to be born which I pushed out while doing very light cord traction. Then Tim cut the cord and got to hold his baby while I got out of the tub and into bed.



Check back soon for the very quick birth story of Tarrins 2nd baby girl!

the birth of Remy Alice 10.30.2013

Vanessa is one of the bravest mamas I know. Her birth experience was full of so many unexpected twists and turns, and yet she faced each one with absolute beauty and grace. (and never once did I hear her complain!) Vanessa knew all along that the end result, her beautiful Remy, was worth each and every unpredicted thing!

By Vanessa Porter


I went into pregnancy and labor with an open mind, I held onto any ideas or expectations I had with a very loose grip. I knew I wanted to aim for a natural birth, I even went out of my way to go to one of the only two hospitals that allows water births. With that said I was also very open to and okay with the possibility that all natural just might not work out. Most of the people around me have gone the drug free route, so I knew it was completely possible and not too crazy of an idea. Well spoiler alert... I pretty much ended up having every kind of medial intervention possible, even beyond what is normally a part of labor.

I was healthy throughout my entire pregnancy, other than really excessive swelling (I am talking not being able to wear real shoes for three months). At my very last prenatal appointment my usually low blood pressure was pretty high. My midwives ran some various tests and found out I had preeclampsia, so they called me into the hospital to be induced. That definitely was not an option that had ever crossed my mind so I was pretty nervous. On the way to the hospital late that night Patrick and I stopped to have a last meal of Burgerville and delicious pumpkin milkshakes, which we ate in the car in the hospital parking lot. That was pretty fun. We checked into the hospital and the midwife got started right away to get that baby out of me. Well that night started a five day long adventure of cervadil, pitocin, more cervadil, more pitocin, more medications I'd never heard of. Yes, it took me five days to be induced, my body just wasn't ready. I was adamant about not having a c-section and my midwives were more than on board to help me avoid that route. I am very stubborn and saw no breaking point anywhere in the future and I am so fortunate that I had a team of supportive midwives who were also stubborn and not ready to give up. Well after five whole days and being dilated one whole centimeter they decided to break my water. That did the trick, finally later that night labor started!

By the time labor started I was pretty exhausted and also had to be put on a medication that prevents seizures when you're preeclamptic, but that can make you feel pretty crappy and sickly. So when the first pitocin induced contractions started I demanded an epidural. Over the next 20 or so hours of labor that epidural quit working more times than I could count so it was not a restful 20 hours in any way. Finally it was time to push! The pushing part always sounded like the worst thing ever, but when I was finally allowed to push... holy cow was that relieving. The pressure and weirdness of not pushing is the most uncomfortable feeling. After one push my midwives face lit up, followed by "woah! you are GOOD at pushing!". Remember this is with an epidural that went in and out, so I was very aware of everything happening.

Well after almost three hours of my excellent pushing (enough for Patrick to shout "she has hair!") my midwife extremely reluctantly said she might have to bring in a doctor to look at the possibility of forceps or the vacuum. He came in and just shook his head and said that wasn't an option. My midwife looked so disappointed, we had tried everything possible. At one point, to try and help speed things along, I heard "Well, its time for a little midwife magic" as I saw two hands reaching towards me to do who knows what, in who knows where. I knew what was coming next. The doctor and midwife both explained to me that my pelvis was just too small and the baby wasn't going to fit, even with hours more of pushing. By then I was willing to do anything, so they prepped me, handed Patrick some scrubs, and wheeled me off for a c-section. It all happened so fast I didn't really have enough time to process the situation and be too scared. The surgery went smoothly and so fast! Once they start they hand you a baby in about three minutes. I should add that Patrick handed me a little girl with the longest eyelashes to possibly exist on a newborn. I should also add she was only 7 lbs 14 oz, so not a baby you'd think would be too big to birth! I know there is the idea that you just can't make a baby too big to fit, but bad and cruddy stuff happens everyday and I think this was just one of those bad, cruddy, and unfair things.

So... great story, right? I wish that was the end.

The morning after the crazy hubbub the night before, I felt really short of breath. After considering the possibility of an anxiety attack (which I've never had before), a chest x-ray showed fluid around my lungs.  They put me on a little oxygen and gave me a medication to draw out the extra fluid. We were transferred to our recovery room and everything was back to normal. That next morning around 3 AM (after giving in and taking an ambien because I just couldn't sleep) I REALLY couldn't breathe. I didn't even have enough lung power to talk at an audible level. I was rushed down for a ct scan, which showed a LOT of fluid around my lungs. I was then wheeled off, away from Patrick and my brand new baby, while being told I was "drowning in my lungs", to stay in the ICU. So not really what you're expecting to happen after labor. The entire time everyone around me was reassuring me that I wasn't that sick and would be fine, they could just take care of the problem a lot faster in the ICU. But delirious me, no sleep in days, hopped up on ambien, wasn't hearing any of that. So it was a pretty traumatic moment. Over the next day and a half Patrick and the baby came to see me as often as possible, but that was sporadic between the echocardiograms, chest x-rays, oh and SLEEPING finally. I was then cured and moved back into the recovery room, where Patrick and the baby had been squatting because the nurses were kind enough to "lose" paperwork so the baby didn't have to be discharged and have no room to stay in. A few days later they finally sent us home and all was well.


A few weeks later I brought myself into the emergency room over the weekend because of what I thought was a pulled muscle or pinched nerve in my side. That would've been way too simple. It turned out to be fluid around my right lung, so I was admitted to the hospital. My gigantic team of doctors eventually reasoned that I probably aspirated something into my lungs during labor or the c-section. The first night they stuck a giant needle in my back and drained off a liter of fluid. The lung can re-expand once fluid is removed and I was told it could be a little sore feeling. Well the instant the fluid came off it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Like I am talking yelling and not being able to move. That procedure didn't take care of the problem, so days later it was done again (with me very drugged up) and this time they left in a tube to help with the draining. That didn't work. So days later they decided I needed surgery. Yes, surgery on my lung! I was told the surgery would be minimally invasive, depending on what they found in my lung it was possible I could wake up with like a 5 inch long incision. So going into surgery was a little bit nerve-wracking. The surgery went great and the minimally invasive option worked! It also turned out that scar tissue had tethered my lung to my diaphragm, which explains all of the extreme pain. I spent the next couple days with an even bigger chest tube than the first one. But it did the trick! After 12 days in the hospital, they took the tube out and sent me home. I felt pretty beat up for a few days, but a week later and I am feeling great!

I would like to point out that the entire time I was in the hospital, Patrick took charge and became super dad. He and the baby would come visit me in the day, but other than that he was in charge. Everything went so well, barring one incident of trying to change a fussy baby while a fussy dog with stomach troubles was desperate to go outside... and didn't make it. All of that to say he is awesome and because of all of that knows a lot more than me about this baby stuff.

So let's just say labor was not at all what I expected. But who expects 22 days in a hospital over the course of 5 weeks, preeclampsia, pulmonary edema, plural effusions, and finally lung surgery. I came out of it with a healthy baby, a super dad husband, and a furry dog all waiting to snuggle me as much as possible.

That ends the really weird story of how a certain little girl came into the world.

Remy Alice Porter, you were sure worth all of that trouble and a whole lot more.


The birth of Isaac Wayne 4.5.2013

by Alice Hoverkamp

I woke up on Thursday morning, a whopping  40 weeks, 1 day pregnant, and definitely feeling the part. This pregnancy had been so different from my first. I learned so much about my body, and was surprised by it, right up until the very end, it kept me on my toes. For a while we thought Isaac was going to come early because of all the contractions I had daily from about 20 weeks on. Even though I of course wanted to carry him to term, but if I didn’t, I tried to be as ready as I could be. After many membrane sweeps and long walks I had reached my due date and still no baby. And no sign of him making his appearance.  I think because I had expected to have had him by now, it made it seem like I had been waiting forever to meet him. I was glad he still had several more weeks in my tummy to grow though. 

So on Thursday morning, it felt like any other day. I was tired and sore, and ready to meet him. I had gone from “please don’t come early” to “okay Isaac it’s safe, you can come out now” then on to “okay seriously, please come out now.” At my last appointment on Monday I was still only 1-2 cm. dilated, and had my 5th membrane sweep. Thursday felt like any other day, and I was convinced I was going to be pregnant forever. At 11 o clock that night I had my first “real” contraction. I didn’t know it for sure at the time, it felt like the other ones I had had daily, but I also felt it in my lower back. 3 minutes later I had another. Then another, then another. Each time 3 minutes apart. I had planned and hoped for a natural childbirth this time, unlike my first where I was induced at 41 weeks and had an epidural, so I knew I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. Whether this was real labor or not I decided at 12 midnight to go to bed. When I went to bed I had had one hour of contractions 3 minutes apart lasting about a minute each. I wasn’t in pain, just uncomfortable. I hoped it was the start of labor, but didn’t want to get my hopes up. Off to bed I went. 

At 2 am a contraction woke me up. I could no longer sleep through them. I woke up and on the very next contractions I had to lean over the bed and rock through them. They were 2-3 minutes apart, lasting a minute and causing a lot of pain in my stomach and lower back. I texted my cousin and she said “I think you should call your mom over, I have a feeling things could happen fast, you just want to be prepared.” My mom lived about 15 minutes away and was going to stay with our three-year old son Noah during our hospital stay. I walked into the kitchen to call my midwife at 230 am. Even though I was in a lot of pain with regular contractions, I was scared to call it the real deal, go to the hospital, only to be sent home. I told the midwife Jessie about the contractions, and told her I thought I was in labor. I even had a contraction while I was on the phone with her. I told her I would get ready to go, take my time, and call my doula when I got to the hospital. I was expecting and prepared for hours and hours of labor ahead of me, so I wasn’t in a rush to call my doula at 230 am. My husband walked out into the kitchen once he realized what I was doing up on the phone in the middle of the night. After I hung up with my midwife I had another contraction. That’s when things really got intense, fast. I remember hanging on to the handle on the refrigerator door, a little freaked out with how painful they had become all of a sudden. I texted my mom “I need to go to the hospital” but couldn’t text her anything more after that. Kyle finished texting her telling her it was time and to head over. From then on everything happened like a whirlwind. I walked around trying to pack the last minute things, but every time a contractions hit, I was on the floor, or holding onto something, leaning over, rocking, moaning, breathing, doing anything I could to just get through it. It got more and more intense and I started to get really scared. It was only 3 am at this point but I was in the worst pain I had ever felt. I was not scared to be in labor, but I was scared because since things had just started, I thought I was probably only 2-3 cm dilated and had HOURS ahead of me, and this pain was only the beginning of what’s to come. I knew that if things were just getting started, I didn’t stand a chance at a natural labor. I had read about methods to cope with the pain of labor, and one thing I learned was to not to try to tense up of “fight it”. I remember one contraction in particular I had when I was getting in the bathroom, I dropped to my knees and was hanging onto my bathroom counter, gripping it. I was frantic trying to escape it. I don’t know how else to explain it but for a second I was almost panicked, tensed up trying to escape the pain. After that contraction I realized “well that’s not possible,” so I just let myself go and face the pain. I realized it was inevitable and fighting it only made it worse. At one point I threw up, all the way from my kitchen running to the bathroom. During the midst of the chaos I somehow managed to lock myself out of the bathroom. Thank goodness Kyle knew how to pick a lock, and quick. And thankfully that was the end of my nausea. Labor had its moments of being the most un-glamorous thing I have ever experienced, hands down.  I waited for my mom to show up; to me it seemed like it took eternity for her to get there, but really she was pretty quick. Even though my birth plan was to labor at home, I had a new one at this point: get to the hospital as fast as I can to make this stop! Considering we were 30 minutes away (that’s with zero traffic) I was so ready to get to the hospital. At one point I looked at Kyle and said “we might have to call an ambulance”.  I was sweating like crazy andlaying on the cold floor waiting for my mom to show up. I felt a huge sense of urgency. Not panic anymore, but I realized we needed to get there fast. But even at that point I still had a worry that I was going to get there, things would stop and I would get sent home. Kyle was really calm and level headed through all of this. He too thought I was just getting started, and had the lowest pain tolerance known to mankind, although he never said it. (Which is a good thing!). 

Finally at 315 my mom showed up. Kyle had loaded up the car and we were ready to go. I finished up having another contraction and was relieved to have the calm in between, I didn’t want to move I just wanted to rest while I had a second before my next one started, but he urged me to go so I got in the car. I crawled in the backseat so I had room to lie down or move around a little.  At this point I was having contractions probably about 1-2 minutes apart lasting 1 minute. I couldn’t think straight let alone time them. It had only been one hour and fifteen minutes since I woke up at two, everything got so painful, so crazy, so fast. All I could think about was getting to the hospital and getting the sweet relief of an epidural. If I could have used the phone, I would have seriously called the hospital and asked them to have one ready for me when I got there. They contractions kept coming, and I remember praying “Please god give me rest, please god give me rest.” I just needed a break to regroup and rest. I was able to breathe through a few contractions and be silent, even though the pain was excruciating I really focused and concentrated, and I took in every sweet second when I wasn’t having one. At one point Kyle looked back and jokingly said “Alice? You alive?” When we were about halfway there I said “Kyle I feel like I need to push!” he calmly replied “no, no, you’re fine don’t push.” I fought the urge as long as I could. As we were exiting the freeway I couldn’t sit, I literally felt like I was sitting on a bowling ball, I leaned onto my side or grabbed onto the handle above the window and held myself up. 

We pulled to the emergency room and Kyle ran out to grab a wheelchair, at that point I could fight the urge to push, I pushed and my water broke in the backseat of my new car. He met me with the wheelchair and I said “my water just broke!” “Are you sure?” he said. Oh yes, there was no mistaking that. From here on was like something from a movie. Kyle quickly rolling me in in the wheelchair saying “my wife is about to have a baby!” The people at the desk were very calm and asked me what my last name was about 4 times before we both yelled “PRIM! P-R-I-M!” I told them I was literally about to have this baby, and the other people waiting in the emergency room looked entirely freaked out. The nurse told Kyle he couldn’t leave the car there so he ran outside and moved it 20 feet to a parking spot while a nurse wheeled me upstairs. I kept telling her to hurry, but when we were in the elevator, I reached down and with another push, felt Isaacs head. That poor nurse started to panic going “oh my gosh, um, um!’’ the doors opened and she ran as fast as she could when she heard me give out a loud “ahhh-HURRY!” The double doors to labor and delivery opened and I looked down to see if I could see his head, I was met by about five nurses and told them “his head is almost out!” as I was holding my hand on his head right at the edge. I will never forget the feeling of shock and complete amazement as I was holding his head while he was entering into the world. It was so surreal.  Even though I knew I that along with having a natural birth, that means you have to feel everything. I was scared about tearing and no medicine to dull the pain. Surprisingly though pushing was NOT the hard part. It was more of a relief to be able to push since I had been fighting the urge for a while. It was what my body had been telling me I needed to do. While I did start to feel the “ring of fire” moms talk about, it was very slight and not painful and lasted only a few seconds since the actual delivery was so fast. The nurses ran me into a hospital room, ripped off my pants, and while still in the wheelchair I pushed his head the rest of the way out, then his shoulders seconds later, all in the same contraction. I grabbed Isaac and pulled him onto my stomach.  Right there in the wheelchair. Barely in even in the room. They unhooked his cord from around his right shoulder and I pulled him up more onto me, seeing his face for the first time. Those few moments were filled with complete awe for me. I will never forget seeing his face, and being overwhelmed with love. There is nothing else like seeing your child for the first time. You already are so in love with this little person in your tummy, every kick and twist and turn reminds you that they are in there. You imagine them, think about them, and wait to meet them. Then when you do, it’s the most amazing thing ever. I just kept thinking as I looked at him for the days that followed, “you’re here, you made it.” While I was still in the wheelchair, I heard Kyle walk in behind me, (only about 3 minutes after Isaac had arrived). I will NEVER forget the look on his face, when he saw me sitting in the wheelchair, holding our son. Complete shock and awe. He rushed over and cut the cord once it had stopped pulsating, and held his son for the first time as I walked over and climbed in the bed. My midwife showed up to deliver the placenta and check on me. I was so in love with my baby that nothing else around me mattered at that moment. I was able to push out the placenta while Isaac attempted to nurse for the first time. The oxytocin released from that helped me contract and finish delivering it. After a minute of nursing Isaac fell asleep and slept on my chest for almost 3 hours. I just stared, sleep was the last thing on my mind. 

I was able to have my natural birth like I had prayed. I kept saying that I think God knew I wanted to do it naturally, but he knew I couldn’t handle a long labor so he made it quick for me. I was able to do it with no meds, not even an IV was needed afterwards. I had no tearing either. I was up and showered not long after and felt so great. Recovering was such a breeze.  I had my first contraction at 11, went to bed at 12, woke up at 2 and Isaac was born at 345am on April 5, 2013. If we would have stopped for gas, hit one more red light, or waited for one more contraction, Isaac would have been born in the car. He was healthy, weighing 7 pounds, 15 oz. and 19 and ¾ inches long. . I look back and can honestly say it was an amazing experience. I think up until I was in the wheelchair, part of me was still in denial that I was in labor, let alone hard labor. The whole time I thought I was just getting started. For as crazy and intense things got so fast, it really was such an amazing experience. We are so blessed to have him and such an easy labor.

I have so much more respect, love and amazement at what my body can do. My body was MADE to do this. 


The birth of Jaden Arman 2.17.2009

By Rama Pfeiffer 

First, I firmly believe in the power of women to birth without intervention. No, I am not anti-hospital or anti-OB, but I am for women birthing how they want to birth and empowering them to do so. When I found out I was pregnant with my first I went into a tail spin of research that spit me out with certain conclusions I wouldn’t have imagined I’d end up with. I was in school at the time finishing up my Bachelors and I ended up doing an 18-page research paper on the medicalization of childbirth in America.  After doing extensive research for almost a year before my son was born, I now know that approximately only 2% of women actually need intervention(s). I know. Crazy. I watched and read everything I could get my hands  on:

And just like the food industry, my eyes were open. Wide open. Something in me became fierce, because once again, I couldn’t un-know what I knew. I had this knowledge of a broken maternity and healthcare system and had to face it head on. I decided at that point, there was no way I could birth in a hospital. On the defense, I know what you’re thinking. It could be along the lines of ‘are you crazy?’ or maybe more of ‘do you know what can happen?’ or maybe you think I come across as judgmental because you birthed in a hospital. Maybe I am crazy, yes I know what can happen and no, I don’t judge you for the birth experience you had. At the end of the day, we want healthy mama and baby. I would go further to say we want a healthy mama and baby and I also want each mama to get the birthing experience she wants. After my own quest, I now know that when we stay out of women’s way as they birth (i.e. interventions: induction, pitocin, epidurals, etc.), we have much better outcomes and statistics for mama and baby. So, there’s that. I tell you guys, I knew nothing of this before I dug in deep and read and learned and talked with people on both sides. It was natural, pain-free once I hit the water, and euphoric: dim lights, candles, my playlist going, Kyle, my husband in the tub with me as we swayed back and forth with each ‘wave’ (contraction) and it felt incredible!! Amazing, actually. It was not only painless, but it felt good to birth. I and every woman out there was born with the capability to birth just like any other mammal. It is God and nature’s design to know how to do this. And it is empowering, the most empowering thing I have ever done.

This is my natural, hypno, water birth story of my firstborn.

I remember Kyle asked if I wanted to walk the mall that evening. I said no, I wanted to stay in. In some way I think I knew. He came home and I tried to make dinner, but ended up sitting partway through. He took over and we sat at our little two person bar at the edge of our kitchen counter and ate dinner together. I remember I was looking up how to make homemade Laborade when all of a sudden I needed to go to the bathroom. I remember after I went I stood up  and this long line of liquid was coming down (TMI) and then everything went foggy. I tried to take a step forward and hit the ground. I couldn’t walk. And thus began my labor. 8:30 pm February 17th, 2009. The chain of events that would normally transpire were on rapid speed. My contractions were coming fast… and hard. I began to craw and Kyle yelled ‘You’re not doing it right! (regarding the very peaceful hypnobirthing breathing that was supposed to be taking place). I punched the air in his direction over and over again with my eyes closed and screamed, ‘It hurts, it hurts!!!’ and then proceeded to crawl on all fours up our flight of stairs.

Looking back you would wonder where in the hell I was going ’cause no sane person going through that much crazy would try to get up a flight of stairs. But alas, to the tub! Apparently. It was so out of body that it was as if all  my mammalian ability took over and I just wanted to get to water, which happened to be up a flight of stairs on our second floor. So I made my way up those stairs between contractions while Kyle was on the phone with our midwife. He had put a towel down in the shape of a square in the nursery so when I finally made my way up the stairs I took a break in the nursery before continuing to the tub. I sat there over the towel on all fours and just breathed. As he was talking to my midwife trying to figure out what to do a big gush of water came rushing out and down onto the towel. Yep. Water = broke. And the intensity just didn’t stop. I finally got to the tub. The pain was almost unbearable, Kyle was frantically packing the car and making phone calls in between helping me in the water, then out of the water, then to my bed as I crawled out of it, then in it again because nowhere was a place where comfort existed. All I wanted was the birth I had envisioned, but this wasn’t it. I just wanted to get to the birthing center, to be in the big birthing tub and the warm water. Just get me to the water. Get me to the birthing center. And get me there he did.

The next ten minutes felt like the longest minutes of my life. Kyle practically carried me to the car. I still couldn’t walk. I stayed on all fours once I made it in the car with my rear facing the windshield, my knees on the seat and my head facing the back window. Yep. That’s how it went down. My eyes were closed as I focused and prayed the entire time he drove and I increased my tone when I started having the urge to bear down (i.e. push) seven minutes down the road. Kyle discovered a new definition of speed as he raced through every green light (thank, God) from Beaverton to Naito Parkway (a suburb to downtown Portland) and made it in record timing. It was 10:00 pm. As I stumbled out of the car and almost fell to my knees, Joy (my midwife) came rushing out of Andaluz to meet us and she and Kyle both counted and on three made me stand and walk as fast as I could in between waves (contractions) to the birthing room as they lifted each of my arms. I don’t know how I got undressed and into the tub, but somehow it happened and quickly without assistance. I just wanted the water.

And then…peace. It was as if time stood still for a moment and everything was right in the world. The lights were dimly lit, the candles were all around, my labor playlist was going and I was in the water. Warm water, magical water. Water that made all that seemed wrong dissipate and cease. I felt no pain. In fact, I felt really, really good.

Was this happening? The birth I always longed for? Calm, painless and so very present that every second would be remembered with joy? It was happening. From then on I felt nothing but complete and utter exhilaration as Kyle joined me in the water and I swayed back in for with each wave. We laughed, cried even made jokes and held each other as we birthed our baby boy together.


After he was close to being out, Phill Collins began to sing. “Take, take me home…” I became even more determined as I openly breathed him down one wave after another. If it was any other moment I would have probably thought it was the cheesiest thing in the world, but it wasn’t any other moment, it was that moment. “Take, take me home,” it was as if it was Jaden’s anthem as I breathed him down slowly but with purpose. “Take, take me home, ” the song sang as I waited to see him, to lay eyes on my son for the first time. What would he look like? Feel like? “Take, take me home,” I remember as his head was crowning and Joy told me to reach down and feel to see if he was there and I did, and he was. I will never forget that. Absolutely indescribable. My heart was overflowing. He came at 11:01 pm his due date night, all 8 lbs. 13 oz., 21 inches and into his parents arms. He was home.’

And that was it. 2.5 hours after it began. Jaden came into the world. We stayed up that night ’til 3 am on a high of emotions. Family and close friends came in and out for those first few hours as we basked in the joy of our baby boy. The on-call midwife checked in on us periodically, but mostly just gave us our privacy.

We were now a family of 3. 


The birth of Piper Jean 6.11.2011

each pregnancy and birth are so very different. Sometimes, no matter how bad we want it to, prepare ourselves, and try, things just don't go our way. Each baby has it's own story and each birth is so very beautiful in its own way. This is Brianna's beautiful and raw telling of the birth of her piper jean. 

By Brianna Farina-Stewart

I woke up this morning with "Both Sides Now" ringing through my still-sleepy head as I nursed my three-week-old baby girl. As I slowly awoke, I put on the song. I listened to the sound coming through my laptop speakers, still cozy in bed with my (now) sleeping Piper. Being three weeks post-partum, and (still) entirely emotional, I began to sob. I remembered listening to this song when I was pregnant. I wondered if in her own sleepy head, Piper recognized the sound of Joni Mitchell's voice. 

I started thinking about what has been relentlessly occupying my mind for three weeks and one day: the birth of my daughter. 

Her birth was unlike anything I imagined it to be. Everything I planned for, everything I hoped and dreamed her birth to be like, it was not. 

On June 8th, 11 days past her "due date", around 11:50pm my water broke. I was laying in bed reading birth stories out of Ina May's Spiritual Midwifery while Cameron snored away next to me. I put the book down, turned off the lights and just lay there in the dark. Then I felt like I peed my pants. It had happened before and being over 40 weeks pregnant, I didn't doubt that it had happened again. I got up and went to the bathroom. My midwife had given me pH strips to test if and when my water broke. If it was amniotic fluid, the strip would turn midnight blue. It turned blue! I remember feeling that same heart-jumpy feeling I felt when I saw the + on the pregnancy test I took back in September. I made my way back into our bedroom. I thought about whether or not I should wake Cameron. Of course I should! This was it! I calmly said: "Hey Cameron, my water broke." He shot up in bed. He seemed excited and somewhat skeptical. I called my midwives and sent out a few texts to close friends.

Turns out, only my outer membranes ruptured and labor didn't end up really setting in until later the next day. Cameron and I spent the day walking the neighborhood. I bounced on my exercise ball. I paced around the house. I hadn't slept at all. Contractions were picking up but never got closer than 7-8 minutes apart. The plan was for us to head to the birth center once the contractions reached 5 minutes apart. All day Thursday and in to Thursday night, the contractions remained strong but still stayed irregular. After talking with my midwife, we decided it was best for us to head to the birth center Friday morning at 8am where he would try inducing with prostaglandin gel I think I slept for a total of five minutes that night.

Friday morning Cameron and I gathered our gear and car seat for baby and made our way to the birth center. It was such a strange drive. We had driven those roads a hundred times but this time it was different. We were on our way to meet our baby. Finally. 

Once we got to the birth center, we were greeted by Krissy and Ed. Everyone was excited and we sat around and talked and laughed for a while. I started to become really focused on the task that lay ahead of me and became quiet while everyone else carried on their conversations. Ed suggested we walk around the neighborhood for a while. Krissy, Cameron and I walked for about an hour until Krissy had to head back to the clinic for a meeting. Cameron and I continued to walk for about another hour or so. 

Every now and then, I had to stop with each contraction and just hold on to Cameron until it was over. The whole time we walked, we timed the contractions. They were about 5 minutes apart now. It was around 11am when I started getting tired from walking and my contractions were getting stronger so we began to make our way back to the birth center. A few hours went by and my contractions stayed somewhere between 5 and 6 minutes a part. Ed decided to inject some prostaglandin gel to attempt to speed things up a bit. This seemed to do the trick. What helped get me through the contractions was to look Cameron in the eyes. It was like his eyes were anchoring me to reality, without them, I'd float off to a really scary, vulnerable place. He kept reminding me to breathe. This helped too.

The hours seemed to melt together from here on out. It was getting harder and harder for me to focus on anything outside of myself and what was going on with my body and my baby. At some point, I remember Cameron and the midwives discussing what they would order for dinner. They were trying to decide between Thai or Indian food. I remember I was starving but the thought of actually consuming food made me sick. I drank protein shakes and snacked on almonds while everyone else decided on Thai. They were nice enough to eat their food in another room, just in case the smell made me sick. 

I noticed it was dark outside and caught a quick glimpse of Krissy's wristwatch....I think it said 7:30pm. By this point, my ability to communicate was becoming difficult. My poor family on the East coast was completely in the dark. I had asked Cameron to turn off his phone so he could be completely present so they had no idea what was going on or if the baby had been born yet.

The most comfortable position for me to be in was sitting on the birth ball with pillows stacked on the edge of the bed in front of me where I rested my head. I asked Cameron to get a cold washcloth for my head. I sat on that ball with my head resting on the stack of pillows with the washcloth on my forehead for a long time. Cameron sat behind me in a rocking chair. I would point to my back when I wanted him to literally punch me or when I wanted him to squeeze my hips together as hard as he could. I put some essential oils on a tissue that I folded up into a small square. With each contraction, I would practice the "Hypnobirthing" techniques we learned in the 3 week course we took and sniff the small square tissue. This helped for a while. Then I just couldn't sit still. Ihad to be moving. Cameron and I walked the halls of the birth center, we went and stared at the fish in the fish tank, we walked the halls some more...I'd stop with contractions and hang off of Cameron's shoulders and just moan like a crazy woman. 

Once we were done walking the halls, Ed checked me. I was 5 cm dilated which meant I could get into the tub. When they announced this to me, I was surprised I wasn't jumping with joy. I anticipated myself being really excited for this. In the moment, I guess I was just too exhausted and focused to really care. I climbed into the tub and lowered myself into the water. The warmth of the water felt amazing. I floated there surrounded by glowing candles and the sound of Chopin for what must have been hours. This is when everything turned into a BLUR. The contractions were kicking my ass. The controlled, low moaning that had been escaping my mouth earlier had now turned into strong intense growls. I had no idea what was going on around me, who was there, where I was...I was just going with each contraction and surrendering to my body. 


In between contractions, in one of my fleeting moments of clarity, I noticed that everyone around me was asleep. I was alone. At this point I panicked. I actually believed I was going to die. The pain had taken over and was just too much. I was going to die and no one was going to notice. I was never going to meet my baby. I was going to die and that was that. 

The night that had turned into early morning dragged on with incredible speed. I remember reaching the  point when all I could do was scream. I wondered how the hell people were sleeping with me screaming like this? Cameron was next to the tub in the rocking chair. He had dozed off but his eyes would widen when I screamed. 

Ed came in again to check me. He told me I had reached a good 8 to 9 cms. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around this. How had I made it this far? My baby was on her way! I was excited, I was exhausted, I was scared. The sun rose and I was still floating in the water. The skin on my feet and hands had turned to prunes.

Ed had determined that my cervix was stuck at 8 cms and was beginning to swell. For the next eight hours, we tried everything to change this. Nothing seemed to work. The pain had become out of this world bad. I found myself begging with my midwives, as if they had some secret escape plan that they had been keeping secret from me. 

Then the news was broken to me.

Our best option was to head to the hospital for a c-section. My heart sunk with this. Everything I had planned for, everything that I had dreamed my birth experience would be was suddenly destroyed. All the preparations Cameron and I had made, the classes, the research, the books...all out the window. I wanted to cry, I felt like I was supposed to cry, but I couldn't. I knew that this is what needed to happen next. It had been days of trying, and I simply could not try any more. It was out of my hands now. 

We packed up our things and I got dressed. Everyone was exhausted. In the parking lot, right before Cameron helped me into the car, I had an intense contraction. I gripped his neck and held on tight. I noticed a family with a little girl walking by. As I screamed, the little girl looked up at her parents with a look of terror in her face like, "What is happening to that lady?!" The car ride to the hospital was torture. We made it to the ER entrance and I was met with a wheelchair. I sat down in the wheelchair and they whisked me to a labor and delivery room. I clenched my eyes shut as tight as I could. 

They told me to put on a robe (which I put on backwards at first and then had to get up and re-do it). Then they hooked me up to a monitor. I hated knowing when a contraction was coming and I hated hearing that my baby's heart rate was dropping. I was really holding back screaming with each contraction by breathing really heavy. I would breathe in and out like I've never breathed before. It was weird. My eyes still clenched, I could hear nurses chipperly saying: "wow, she's doing so good!"...this irritated me for some reason...maybe it was because they were trying to put an IV in while I was having these contractions. I had to ask them to wait until the contractions stopped for them to put the IV in. Then I was given a shot to stop my labor. What a weird sensation. I kept anxiously anticipating contractions that never ended up coming. 

The rest is all an even bigger blur but I do remember the doctor coming in and telling me that he felt it was best to get the baby here by cesarean section. I signed a form and the wheeled me into the OR. Cameron had to wait outside while I was prepped for my spinal. The kindest, sweetest, loveliest nurse named "Bev" (who had the sparkliest, bluest eyes) asked if she could pray for me. I said yes. As I leaned my body forward, legs dangling off the edge of the table-like bed I sat on, Bev hugged me and prayed for me and Piper. I remained perfectly still as the needle stabbed into my back. I slowly but quickly felt my lower body disappear. They lifted my body from one table to another, put a warm blanket over my chest and tied my arms down as they draped a blue sheet in front of my head. Cameron was allowed in at this point. He remained close to my head the entire time. My body was numb but I could still feel it. Strangest feeling ever. I could feel the sensation as they shaved me and I could feel them tugging and pulling at my body. 

And then we heard her.

After 9 months and 13 days of waiting, our daughter joined us. I met eyes with Cameron and he said "that's her". We were both flooded with tears. The look in Cameron's eyes at that very second is something I'll never forget. He had also gone through so much to get her here. At that moment, my love for him grew a million times stronger. 

I couldn't believe the shrieking, shrilly, dolphin-like sounds I was hearing was the voice of my daughter. The white, sterile room was suddenly filled with so much life! They brought her over to a table to the left of where I lay to clean her up. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Not for one second. It was if my eyes were protecting her. I couldn't put my arms around her so I guess it had to be my eyes. She was beet-red and chubby. Her hair was dark and she had so much of it! I yelled to Cameron to go get his camera. Then I felt guilty about sending him away for 2 seconds when he could have been talking to her while they cleaned her up and weighed her. When he came back, she was handed to him, bundled and cute. He brought her to me and for the first time, our eyes met. She cried, but didn't seem upset. I wanted, more than anything, to hold my baby. I kept asking if we could do "skin-to-skin". They said as soon as we get back to the recovery room. 

They nudged her little bundled body into the hook of my arm as they wheeled me back to the recovery room. I don't remember exactly what I said to her in those first few moments. I'm pretty sure I just kept repeating: "I love you" and "you're beautiful".

Back in the recovery room, we were met by my midwives. They had stayed with me through it all. They are amazing. That lovely nurse "Bev" unwrapped my Piper and plopped her down on my bare chest. Bev helped me nurse Piper for the first time and she took to it like a pro. I was so so so grateful. 

The first few hours with Piper will forever be locked inside my heart. The way Cameron rocked her in his arms when she cried at night, the way he gazed into her eyes and told her "just how beautiful she is" is something I'll never forget. 



*Brianna is currently pregnant with baby #2 and is due at the end of Feb/2014 I cannot wait to see how this new baby's birth unfolds for Brianna and to share her story with you.

A theology of Childbirth. A dads perspective

the birth story before this one is the amazing birth of baby Beck. Josh is Beck's daddy and took the time to write out his experience of watching his lovely wife Abi give birth to their son Beck. We don't often get to hear dads perspectives like this so I was so excited when Abi told me I could share! Enjoy!

by Josh Porter 

I like theology. I like it a lot. As fun as theology is to read and to write, how one applies their theology is the “proof in the pudding,” as they say. That’s tough.

This is one reason why watching my wife have our son was a deeply impacting experience. Sure, you cry because you see your baby for the first time. Sure, it’s beautiful and spiritual and all that mumbo jumbo. And, of course, it is as Chandler Bing so eloquently put it: “One disgusting miracle.” But, my wife, who impresses me daily with her character and integrity, managed to wow me with her applied theology.


A theology of child birth.


She studied for months. She prayed over and meditated on what she learned. She recited beautiful liturgy. She thought critically through what she had been taught (good and bad) and what she had learned that called into question what she had been taught (good and bad). 

On the heels of the massively influential Grantly Dick-Read work, Child Birth Without Fear, my wife explained to me how she had laid down each of the old horror tropes hopelessly tethered to labor and childbirth for centuries. Excruciating pain and agony, terror, turmoil… My wife had come to believe that none of these things belonged in her paradigm for what it meant to deliver a child.

For Abi, labor was to be understood as hard work. Toil, even. But not as agony. Not as anything to be afraid of.

And on November 28th, 2013, I watched with my own eyes and heard with my own ears my wife apply her theology of childbirth. Her application was steadfast. Unflinching. No drugs, no intervention. It was nothing short of beautiful to behold. 

Abi did not scream or panic. There was no grimace of torment. There were no yelps of anxiety or fretful murmuring. I can only assume many women have resigned themselves to the supposed inevitability of suffering in labor, and in their resignation and their fear, created for themselves the very physical pain and mental anguish they feared. In the same way, my wife resigned herself to hard work without pain, and thusly made it so. (Abi's note: Not entirely. I definitely did experience pain in labor but the point here is how it is dealt with. Embracing it as a means to a beautiful end as opposed to a punishment or just pointless pain.)

Don’t get me wrong, often things go awry in birth. Sometimes all the right thinking in the world cannot spare one from a painful complication when delivering a child. But my wife did not believe pain was an inevitability, and I watched as she carried her belief into reality.

Calm, collected, serene. She smiled and laughed through contractions, nurse after nurse asking with genuine disbelief, “are you sure you’re feeling these?” One physician calling her “the poster girl for natural childbirth.” At one point, someone leaned over to me and asked, “did she take hypno-birthing classes or something?”

No, she didn’t. She’s applying her theology of childbirth.

A doctor joked to me (with, I think, an edge of sincerity), “maybe don’t tell too many women about your wife. They’ll all think it’s as easy as she makes it look.” 

What a disservice it would be not to tell Abi’s story! She never said it was easy, in fact, she said it was hard work. But if Abi was able to throw off the shackles of fear and agony, I have to believe others can follow in her example just as she walks in the example of those to do the same before her.

At the heart of this whole “childbirth theology” thing are beautiful concepts like the fact that children are blessings and that love involves risk. Cliché, I know, but there they are nonetheless. It was only in the last hour of Abi’s labor that I realized how deep these truths resonated with her, how profoundly they had formed her thinking and her practice.

Waiting between pushes for a coming contraction, I could hear her whispering to herself. Barely audible, but there. And when I leaned toward her, I discovered no whimper, no lament.

Over and over again, to herself she whispered: “He’s worth it. He’s worth it. He’s worth it.”

And when, moments later I held Beck Henson Porter in my own arms, I could see what Abi knew before me. He was worth it.



The birth of Beck Hensen 11.28.2013

By Abi Porter

Before I jump into this I just wanted to quickly note that I spent a great deal of time during my pregnancy preparing myself mentally and physically for a natural med-free birth. I knew my body was absolutely capable of this and I read some fabulous books on the subject and they we're so important to how this all went down and I have so much to say that I feel like it needs its own blog post. So there will be a post later this week about how I prepared myself to the best of my abilities to have a natural unmedicated birth, what that was like in a hospital, what worked and what didn't and all that jazz!

But anyway, this is story of Beck's birth.

On Wednesday (November 27th) around noon I started having contractions 5 minutes apart but this was very normal for me so I didn’t think anything of it and decided to clean the house like a maniac to take my mind off of it. Around 5pm during a contraction i would also have a little back pain so I called the advise nurse to see if this could be “it” and she said it probably wasn’t but if it got to the point where I couldn’t talk through a contraction then to come in to Labor and delivery. 

At 7pm, I was still having contractions and they were 2-3 minutes apart but not very painful at all. Maybe it was in my head but for some reason I just felt different so I hesitantly told josh I thought it’d be a good idea to go to the hospital just in case. I ate a baked potato and we left for the hospital. We told the kitties we’d be back in an hour and as we walked to the car I reminded josh that on the way home I needed to stop by trader joes to pick up food for thanksgiving dinner. 

We got to the hospital around 8pm and I honestly felt silly checking myself in because the contractions felt like they had slowed down and I wasn’t in pain at all. I went to a triage room where the nurse hooked me up to the contraction monitor and after a couple minutes she came in with a surprised look and said “are you feeling these??” and my honest answer was…”not really, maybe a little” and she explained the contractions were coming really often and lasting long enough to consider it “Real” labor so she checked my dilation and sure enough I was dilated to 5cm and she told us she would get a L&D room ready.

Josh and I looked at each other really wide eyed and I said to the nurse “So I’m not going home?” and she laughed and said “Um, no! You’re having that baby soon.” 

We nervously giggled and kept saying “what???” to each other and I got a little teary eyed because I couldn’t believe it was actually happening and we would be leaving the hospital with a baby! 

Once I got to my room I immediately got on an IV to get a round of antibiotics since i was GBS+. I was told that no midwives were on call since it was the night before a holiday (Thanksgiving) but I didn’t feel too nervous about that since the nurses and OB on call we’re both aware that I wanted a totally med-free birth and everyone was happy to support me in that.

I wasn’t in too much pain and I just hung out in the room with Josh, my sisters and mom talking and joking around to distract myself. Josh and I walked up and down the halls for awhile trying to progress labor… we talked about how excited we were and prayed for things to go as smoothly as possible. 

After a couple hours I wanted to be checked again so the OB came in and i was at 7cm now. YAY progress!! So we walked more. The nurses at all the stations told me I was the first person they’d ever seen calmly walking the halls at 7cm. After more walking and bouncing on a ball I was starting to feel the contractions even stronger and I would get back pain during them, so I just focused on breathing and staying as relaxed as possible. At this point it was the middle of the night and I tried laying down to get some rest since this was pretty much my last chance for that. The OB would be switching over at 9am and I would be rechecked then to see where we were at. I dozed on and off, talked and prayed with josh more, and did more bouncing and walking. 



At 9am, the new OB came in (who the nurses described as a "midwife in disguise" and he was AMAZING) and he checked me and I was still at 7cm. He thought I could possibly be dehydrated so before we talked about doing anything else he wanted me to drink as much as possible and also get fluid through an IV and we would talk about what to do next at noon.

At noon, he came in and I was still 7cm and had been for about 12 hours with no progress. My water still hadn’t broke so we weighed the pros and cons of him doing it for me and since my water was going to eventually break anyway it was a no brainer, I definitely wanted him to do it because at 24 hours there would be talk of pitocin and I was trying to avoid that at all costs. This was the most natural way to progress things.

And boy did it! At 2pm he poked my waters. Two things I remember distinctly about it: 1) that is A LOT of water 2) that was very warm!

Almost immediately my contractions we’re stronger and pretty uncomfortable. I sat on the ball and leaned over the bed to just relax. I figured I still had a ways to go and I wanted to stay calm. Josh tickled my arm and I remember a couple tears streaming down my face, not because of pain but because it was feeling VERY real and I knew he would be coming soon. Each contraction got more uncomfortable and I was trying different positions and stances but it was getting really hard to focus. During contractions I would just close my eyes and pray and think about how each one of these was one step closer to my baby being here. About 40 minutes after my water broke, the nurse came in and could tell I was definitely in more pain than before and asked if i wanted to get in the tub. The answer to that was a big fat yes. Josh and I walked down to the private tub and it was seriously instant relief. I had one regular contraction in there and I kept telling josh how much better it felt and I was pretty excited to labor the rest of the time in the tub. Well, the next contraction I got I started to involuntarily push.. and I was like Josh! Go get the nurse because i’m pushing. That contraction passed and she came in what seemed like a half second later and told me I couldn’t push and I needed to get out. (I couldn’t give birth in the tub)

I stepped out of the tub and started to put my clothes back on but another contraction came and I jumped back into the tub. It felt physically impossible for me to not push during these contractions and there was no way I was doing that while walking back to my room. As soon as that one finished they threw a hospital robe over me and I pretty much ran back to my room, most likely with my butt hanging out (no shame when you're in labor). 

When I got back, the nurse immediately checked me during the next contraction and sure enough I was 10cm and ready to roll! She called the amazing OB but told me not to push during contractions until he got there. This was the only part of my entire labor and birth that was actually extremely painful. I tried doing these few contractions on my hands and knees but I was shaking from being soaking wet and back in the air conditioned room, and I was pretty tired at this point and couldn't hold myself up very well with my wobbly arms. 

The OB got there and he explained his pushing method, I got in an upright sitting position on the bed, they positioned a mirror (because I knew seeing the progress would help me) and Josh talked me through the pushes using the OB instructions. It felt SO GOOD to push, like instant and amazing relief,  Which definitely isn't what I expected the pushing phase to be like. Don't get me wrong, pushing was hard work and physically exhausting, like running 10 marathons.. but not agonizing pain like is always depicted on TV shows and such. Another thing I was surprised by: in between contractions it was like I wasn't even in labor… I felt so at peace and closed my eyes, drank water and talked about how it was going. They were just what I needed to regain the energy to push again. 

At one point the doc said something about how one of the pushes was really great and I replied "Is he crowning???" and he said "You wish!" and we all laughed. His sense of humor was awesome, even if I was maybe a tad disappointed by his answer ;)

I was having really strong pushing contractions but they weren't super close together so when one ended I was like "Gah! I wish I would just have more contractions so I could keep pushing"… the nurse and OB laughed and said they had never heard anyone say that before. It was true though, Even though the rest in between contractions was amazing and blissful, I knew I needed contractions in order to push and I wanted to see my baby! 

After about 45 minutes of pushing, I was told this was it and to give it all I got and I did just that. At 3:45pm on Thanksgiving day, with one last push he was out! What an intensely beautiful moment. They immediately put him on my chest and I was so overcome with emotion. I couldn't believe I had actually done it and he was here. Nothing can prepare you for that moment, having your child who was just inside of you seconds ago, now looking up at you. The best high you could ever imagine. I looked up at Josh who had tears streaming down his face and deep look of a new love in his eyes. Holy cow, he was actually here!!!

 He stayed on me skin-to-skin for an hour and I couldn't stop kissing his sticky little head. My greatest accomplishment, laying on my chest so content. 

It was a life changing experience and a day I will never forget. I feel so grateful and blessed to have had the birth I was hoping and praying for and more importantly a healthy and beautiful baby boy.


the birth of Emmanuelle Poem 2.5.2012

Morgan is such a gifted writer. Grab a cup of tea and get lost in her words as she tells the story of her Emmanuelle.

by Morgan Day Cecil

What the deepest part of me knows is that God can be trusted, that He is with us even when it appears He is not, and that our hope, if it be in him, will not be put to shame.

The deepest part of me believes God will redeem everything. Everything. All things will one day see their Beauty restored, even things in my little life. Nothing is too small, too inconsequential to be recreated in Shalom.

Yes, I know now glory is intended. God intended life to be glorious, to shine with the truth of who He is.

This knowing started as a mindful agreement. It was knowledge I downloaded from others, from Scripture, from sermons, from songs on Christian radio. But now this knowing is deep. It flows through my veins, settles in the marrow of my bones, dwells in the caverns within my lungs. It is my knowing and that changes everything. I could try to deny the truth I learn from others, but what is embedded in my own story, my own life experience, I cannot. This is the gift of trial, of any kind of trial: if you only be willing to walk through it with the Lord, He will be faithful to tangle his Truth and Beauty in your life in such a way that it will never unravel.

So here is one little personal chapter of my life, a chapter that contains the birth of my daughter and an experience that gave me a deep knowing of the goodness and greatness of my heavenly Father.

Emmanuelle Poem Cecil was due Jan 21, 2012. She arrived, however Feb 5, 2012. 15 days doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you are that pregnant, I assure you it is. It wasn’t the waiting alone that tried me, it was the hope I held in a particular vision of her birth.

From the moment we found out we were pregnant, I dreamt of delivering our baby in water.

A special I saw on 20/20 when I was 10 on babies born in water captivated my heart, and now 22 years later, my still captivated heart lept with the vision that perhaps I could deliver my own baby that way. I always loved the water. I was a little mermaid as a child and even as full grown woman one of my favorite places on earth is the bath. I couldn’t imagine a more magical way to bring life into the world than in a big soft tub of warm, inviting water, but my first baby was born in the hospital.

He was induced and I was given an epidural, and in the end both of us were happy and healthy, but my heart’s desire was to do it another way. When one of my dearest friends gave birth to her 3rd child in a blow up tub in her living room, she gave me the confidence to pursue that birth experience too.

But homebirth would be a big deal for us. Our insurance wouldn’t cover it, so every penny would have to come out of pocket. And living on one income in a big city we were already squeezing everything out of our modest budget. God made a way though. We were given the opportunity to rent out our downtown apartment as a vacation rental, so from August to December, we did just that. Our family of three, my husband and I and our young son, lived out of our suitcases for months, hopping from place to place, house sitting for friends, traveling a bit, and taking advantage of my parent’s extreme hospitality, as strangers lived in our home. My belly grew bigger and bigger, and I scrubbed toilets and floors and laundered sheets and towels weekly, and I did it with joy, knowing each guest that stayed in our home was bringing us that much closer to the possibility of delivering our baby the way we wanted.

As we were saving enough money to make it happen we also sought counsel from our friends and a pastor at our church. If God wasn’t in it, no matter how lovely a waterbirth at home sounded, we didn’t want it. So we prayed for clarity around the decision and clarity we believed we were given. We got connected with a birth center recommended by my O.B. and we met a midwife team we felt confident could care for us and take us through the adventure of delivering a baby without any pain medications.

My pregnancy was wonderful. I was healthy and baby was growing healthy too. I danced, and did yoga, and since we had sold our car that summer, I did a lot of walking too. Everything felt good in my body, and my heart was so excited for the challenge and gift of birthing at home.The holidays passed, the new year came, and we got ready for baby, a baby girl, the sister our son had been asking for by name since he was three. He was now 5 and “Emma” was long awaited in his heart. She was the one always intended for us and all of us were anxious to meet her. I was already having contractions and so we expected her to come early. We did a belly cast for me January 12th, thinking I might go into labor that night, but the 12th passed, and the 13th passed, and then my due date on the 21st came and went too.

When it looked like the long month of January was going to end before our daughter was going to be here, I started getting concerned. Does my body actually know how to go into labor? Will my body go into labor on it’s own? Since my first baby was induced I did not know what going into labor naturally even felt like. With each passing day I lost a bit of confidence.

My whole family had sacrificed to make a way for the possibility of a home birth for little Emma, and we had prayed ceaselessly for it to happen, but now it looked like, despite everything, it wasn’t going to be. My O.B. had set an induction date for February 6th, at 6am and my midwives agreed that medical intervention was the best course of action to ensure the health of baby, if baby decided not to come on her own by that day.

We were trying everything on this list of how to induce labor at home. I got acupuncture, ate whole pineapples, ran up flights of stairs, danced the hula, drank bitter tasting tinctures, used the breast pump in rotations of 70 minutes at a time, and yes, my husband and I had lots of sex. Still baby showed no interest in leaving the womb. My contractions were regular but not increasing in intensity and though people assured me baby could not stay in belly forever, I began to doubt them.

All the while, though, I held tight to God, begging him to orchestrate my labor. We asked everyone we knew for prayer. I even emailed a convent on the east coast, at the suggestion of a friend, and asked the sisters of Our Lady of the Rosary to pray for Emmanuelle’s arrival too.

The weekend was tense. Friday afternoon I went in for some tests to check on baby in my O.B’s office and the nurse informed me my placenta was “old,” it had begun to calcify. Her words scared me though my midwives assured me that my baby was fine, that two days was plenty of time for my body to go into labor and deliver her safely at home.

The night passed. Nothing happened. The next morning and the next afternoon came and went. 

Nothing happened still.

Saturday evening I took a bath, lit a candle, read my bible, and prayed. I thanked God for every seemingly inconsequential contraction. I thanked Him that He created me, that He designed my body perfectly to birth this baby naturally. I thanked Him that my contractions would grow in intensity. I thanked him that at any moment He could act and the miracle and mystery of birth could begin.

I went to bed that night hopeful, believing in the greatness and wisdom of God.  I was also comforted by the thought that a thousand intercessory prayers from friends and family and nuns were being spoken on our behalf. But at 3 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, February 5th, I awoke still not in labor. In the darkness of that morning, the Lord seemed as silent in reply to my prayers as my womb was still. And it was the stillness, along with the exhaustion of waiting and the worry that there was something wrong with me or my baby, that made me cry out in pain.

I wailed. I wailed. I wailed. My sister who had come for a visit from Madison, Wisconsin, thinking she would be meeting her two week old niece, was with me, and she held me along with my husband. They let me cry and I cried as loud or louder than a woman in labor. I knew that in less than 24 hours I would be packing my bags for the hospital. I felt utterly defeated. Like something was wrong with me, my body, my womb, and my faith.

Why would God lead us here only to leave us now? Did I misunderstand those holy whispers I thought I had been given? Would my hope be put to shame? My doctor had been ready with a shot of pitocin for over a week and my own family had wondered if my decision to wait more days was wise. But I didn’t want to give up hope yet, I wanted to give every chance for God to move. I believed He could. I even wrote in my journal that I trusted He did his finest work in the 11th hour.

“God only writes great stories,” I wrote to encourage myself, “and great stories don’t see their resolve until the final hour. That’s what makes them Great and not just Good. To be ‘against all odds’ is to be completely dependent on God. And there, only there, is where the miracle can happen.

That’s where we are right now.

Is it too dramatic to say, ‘Here I am Lord, standing with the Israelites facing the Red Sea?’ As small as this trial may be in the history of your children, it is still the trial I am in. Please use it to increase my faith. It is not meaningless if you use it deepen my trust in You. I feel the breath of my enemies’ horses coming up fast behind me, but I stand towards what is possible in You before me. What is it to part my womb when you have parted the seas? I am little, but you are Great and I am believing You, God, that You are writing a great story for my daughter. Her name will be Emmanuelle, and she will always remind us that You, God, are with us, even when You feel silent and far away.”

I wrote all that, heels digging into faith even as the flesh in me was tempted to slip and turn away. The 11th hour had arrived and there was no evidence that anything was going to change.

I hung on as long as I could to Romans 5:3-5, “We rejoice in afflictions. For we know that afflictions bring the capacity to stay with things, or patience, to the fullest form. And patience proves that the hope was right. And the hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”

Buckled over in tears, in the quiet of that early February morning, something in me broke, I felt it break, and when it did so my soul in all its emptiness was able to plead with purity. Every sob released something of my own power and when I had finally come to the end of myself, I heaved heavy in the arms of my sister and my husband who held me tight, and then I rested deeply. In their love, silent of words though it was for they were grieving too, I felt the powerful presence of God, a dear friend who had every marvelous plan for redemption up His sleeve.

In the knowing that He was going to be there with me, no matter how this baby was going to be born, I fell back asleep and a blanket of holy covered me. What I could do no more for herself, I let Someone else do for me. Exodus 14:14 whispered I could rest, “The Lord your God will fight for you, you have only to be still.”

I awoke again at 5 am. My body was still not in labor, but the panic of what that meant was gone. In the absence of worry, I was given the gift of a vision where I saw myself, in that very room, with a newborn baby in my arms only 10 minutes old. HOW it would happen I did not know, but THAT it would happen I believed deep.

And 12 hours later, the tension of faith and doubt was resolved. God moved just as he brilliantly does, in the 11th hour, where all glory is unmistakably His. She was here!

Emmanuelle Poem Cecil born 9lbs and 21.5 inches long, at 9:49pm Sunday February 5th, in our little apartment, downtown. I had labored and delivered at home, and she was born in water, straight into my husband and my arms just as I had envisioned she would be.

Never had I felt so much joy and relief holding her. Never had I felt so sure God was with us, that He had always been with us, and always would be with us still. God indeed writes only great stories, and when we lean into Him completely we get the excitement of living His stories as our very own lives.

Emmanuelle had come into the world in a way that would give lasting meaning to her name.

The gift of waiting 15 extra days for my baby to be born was the gift of a deeper intimacy with my Lord. This is what trials of any kind can give each one of us. This is what James 1:3-5 promises. I knew before what God was capable of doing for others, but now I knew what God was capable of doing for me. Now I knew with a deep knowing that He is faithful to redeem every area of our lives that we turn over to him for redemption; He is waiting to give us all the strength we need just on the other side of all our efforts to supply our own; and, He will not put our hope to shame when our hope is in Him.


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                                                                                      photo by  Toni  Greaves


the birth of Scarlet Patrice 12.23.2013

by Stephanie Sticka

I've been blessed to be surrounded by many friends & family who have endured natural labor. By natural, I mean no pitocin or pain meds! Over the years & months I heard their stories & have been inspired that women, with healthy pregnancies, have still chosen this route. My own mom, God bless her soul, labored all five of us children naturally. In recent years many of my close friends have gone the route of water births. After lots of research we decided a water birth route was the best fit for our family. I recieved amazing, intelligent & well informed medical care through out my whole pregnancy. I passed all tests, by God's grace, so we were able to carry out our plan. 

On Saturday December 21st, one day before Scarlet's due date, I woke up & went out to breakfast with my family. My husband was on his first day of winter break. Keeping a close eye on me, he encouraged me to again choose a high protein breakfast. Sugar, especially simple carbs, had been making me nauseated & left me with little nutrition. So I choose a sausage sandwich. Afterwards, we walked around Home Depot for an hour because I had the nesting bug. When we got home I decided to go for one last run. I am a runner & was missing my runs!! I had to give it up to get pregnant & could only sparsely run during my pregnancy. I wanted to do one more run before my 6weeks of no exercise in post partum. A week before I ran 3.5miles & I thought I pulled my groin muscle doing so. But nether the less, after watching a YouTube video of a girl dancing to hip hop music to induce labor, I was motivated!! I plugged in headphones & cracked up the hip hop for what would be the most painful 3.5miles of life. It was 1:30pm. At the time, I thought it was only painful because I was 40weeks pregnant. It didn't register that it could be LABOR!  looking back, I was having bad contractions . But I didn't know it so I went home, took a nice long bath & starting baking a paleo casserole. Ryan was busying talking with his sister. While I was baking something didn't feel right. I had to keep sitting down. I was also watching Pirates of the Caribbean. But I was out of it. So I kept baking & watching my movie. Finally, Ryan comes out & says his grandpa is ill & they think he might pass away. It was sad news! I told ryan "I'm so sorry & this is horrible timing but I think something is going on with me". Mind you, I DID NOT want to be one of those girls who thinks she's in labor when she's not. It takes a lot of pain to get my attention. But Ryan thought we should call Dana, our midwife. It was about 4pm when we called. She told us to time the contractions for an hour & that they needed to be 5mins apart. We started loading the car during this time just in case. That was the slowest & most painful packing experience. I had to pause often & bend over in pain. It was like a bad menstrual cramp. Very sharp. At 5pm we called Dana & told her they were indeed 5mins apart. She said to come to the birth center at 6pm. We finished packing & headed to Portland. My contractions were building during the car ride. When we got there I couldn't move during the contraction. They waited for me to get out of the car until it stopped. I was greated by Dana's sweet calm smile. The room was all ready for me when I arrived! The lights were dimmed, candles lit & tub full of warm water!! Talk about a great "admission" process!! I put on my swimsuit & went straight for the tub. And it was AMAZING!! By now my contractions were 2mins apart but the water calmed me & took the edge off. The first thing they asked us was "when did u eat last?". Thankfully, I ate that high protein paleo casserole 2hrs before. They were happy. Food gives you strength for the long road ahead.

At 8pm I was offered to get "checked" for the first time in my whole pregnancy. I'm so glad I didn't before because the numbers really do mess with you mentally. I was 3cm dilated. I felt discouraged. I thought I was further & I worried they would send me home. But Dana said I was 100% effaced. "Are you going to send me home?" I asked. "Oh no honey, you are in active labor", said Dana. Okay phew!! From 8pm - 10pm I kept walking, changing positions & chillin in the tub. I could not sit still. How do women labor on their backs in bed without pain meds??!! At 10pm I told Dana I was tired cause I never got to rest after my run. I asked her if I could go to sleep & she agreed I needed a nap & said there is no rush to have this baby tonight. Sweet! I laid down for 5mins & the pain got worse. The contractions starting building in intensity. We laughed..... this baby doesn't want to nap . From 10pm - 12am was painful!! Around 12am I kept moaning "ouch". Dana asked me why I was saying that. Good question because really it was only making me focus on the pain not distract from it. I told her it just getting very sharp. She told me I was in transition. I love how she kept me informed but encouraged. At 2am I asked to be "checked" again. This time she didn't tell me any numbers & I'm so glad. I learned through this that I get really focused on "numbers". But she said was almost completely dilated & my water was going to burst in 2mins. Literally it did while I was in the tub. It was just a tiny "pop". And no blood or fluid that we could see but we think it broke then. Not like the movies! I was getting so sick of the cramping but Dana encouraged me. She said the cramping is going to stop when my water breaks & it would be a more productive pain. Ha! She was right!! It became more of a pressure & my stomach was a rock. I labored in the water until about 3am. The pressure was strong but I didn't feel the urge to push & I was getting discouraged. I asked Michelle; the most calm, wise & sweetest apprentice; when I was going to push because the pressure was bad. Her & Dana talked & told me it was time to get out of the tub! It was time to have this baby & they wanted me to sit on the toilet to get the help of gravity & relieve the pressure. It was so hard to leave the glorious tub!! But I trusted them & they were right! I pushed for 42mins & birthed my baby standing up. She came out super fast! That was the least painful part. They laid me on cushions & put my daughter to my chest. We let the umbilical cord finish pulsing & then my husband cut the cord. She was here!!! My husband & I were filled with peace. I walked to bed & Ryan held her for a few mins. Then we got to breastfeed & got a huge breakfast made by the midwives.

Scarlet arrived at 3:57am on December 22, 2013. 7lbs 15oz. 21inches long. They checked our vitals during the whole process & everything was great! Ryan held my hand during almost the whole labor. I would lean over the side of the tub & squeeze that poor man's hand. He put ice cold washcloths on my forehead at the start of every contraction - that was a great distraction. Dana suggested many things to help distract myself. What worked for me was having Ryan count during the contraction. I knew I only had 60seconds til I would get a break. Ryan prayed for me several times out loud & when I said I couldn't do it he told me I was made for this! I did not labor quietly. I moaned deeply through the whole thing. I never screamed though. My midwives said I had an efficient labor - it just went like clock the grace of God! They said I labored gracefully but I don't know  they are sweet. Three times I wished for an epidural. But convinced myself it was too late & not worth it at all. Even if you are like me have a hard time believing you can do it, don't will survive! God really does give you the strength you need & I had to learn that the hard way. I had to stop trying to be strong by my own effort & let His grace take over. I'm so thankful for the gift of a healthy pregnancy which allowed me to go this route. I'm so thankful for the care I recieved at Andaluz Waterbirth Center - it was above & beyond. I'm thankful for a faithful husband who was so involved. He loved me "just as I am" during the whole thing. I'm so thankful to Jesus for the opportunity to be a mother & for being a constant presence in my hardest hours. It's all from Jesus & for Jesus. 


the birth of Huckleberry Wilder 07.22.2010

by Echo Zielinski

Huck is my sweet nephew and my sister Autumn's second son. She had her first baby Sawyer at a freestanding birth center in the Seattle area. While her first birth was a wonderful experience, she just knew right away that she wanted her second birth to be at home. Jessica of One Tree Photography was able to capture the birth so beautifully that there is no need for words. Enjoy!

(click the photo then scroll to the bottom of the page and watch the birth slideshow- you will not regret it!)

the birth of Fern Winter 01.15.2012

by Lauren Hartmann

It all started in the early hours of Sunday, January 15th…

The day before, my husband Craig and I had gone to our birthing class (just in the nick of time!) and afterward I wanted to go on a date.  Craig was tired and wanted to go home and I got super emotional, saying that it might be “the last date we get to go on before Fern is born”, so we compromised and he took me out for a milkshake later that evening.  When we got home we watched some TV and went to bed.

Around 2:00 a.m. my contractions started.  I’d been feeling a little bit “crampy” the day before, but didn’t really think anything of it, since it wasn’t painful.  I had wondered before how I’d know if I was actually having contractions, but when they actually started I just knew.  I laid in bed for about an hour timing my contractions on the iPhone app I’d downloaded for the occasion.  The contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, lasting for one minute, which is when my midwife had told me was the time to head down to the birthing center.  Could this be the real thing?  I had fully prepared myself to be laboring for a long while – days even, since everyone says that first babies tend to take awhile (20 hours on average), but this seemed so fast!  I sent a text to my midwife to let her know what was going on and she texted me back saying that I should go back to sleep and call her in the morning to see how things were progressing.  Was she serious??  I tried to sleep for another half an hour, but by that time the contractions has intensified, so Craig got up with me and we started watching a basketball game he’d DVR’d.  After about a half hour of that, I decided that this must be the real thing and called my midwife.  She heard me have a contraction while we were on the phone and decided that I probably was in active labor and to wait an hour so they could get my room set up and then head down to the birthing center.

During this time we ran around the house collecting all of the things we’d need to take with us.  The ironic thing is that I actually ended up forgetting the diaper bag with all of Fern’s clothes/diapers/blankets, but did remember to put in pearl earrings.  Craig laughed at me for this, since I did it right in the middle of a contraction, but hey – a girl wants to feel pretty while she’s giving birth!

I was starting to get a little bit frantic during my contractions and had a hard time staying calm, but once we got to the birthing center I felt much more relaxed.  It was like a breath of fresh air, a realization that I was ok now because this is where you have a baby….not on your couch while watching a Blazer game.  We arrived at the birthing center around 6:00 a.m. and I labored in various positions for the next six hours – in the birthing tub, on the birthing stool, standing up while leaning on Craig and even on the toilet (I know it sounds weird, but it was actually kind of perfect).  I tried getting in the bed once, but that was short lived.  It was pretty much the most uncomfortable thing ever and I said that there was no way I was ever getting back in that bed again…and I didn’t.  Whatever position I was in though, I quickly learned that I liked to labor in complete silence (so much for that birth mix I agonized over)…eyes closed with focused breathing.  I didn’t want anyone talking, but I did want Craig to be right there by my side, which he was very diligent about.

Around noon, I started feeling a little defeated.  My contractions didn’t seem to be getting any closer together – they were still 3-5 minutes apart.  (*Side note – and this is something I didn’t realize before:  the time in between contractions is amazing.  I had read before that I would get “rests” in between contractions, but I figured that it would be kind of like when you stub your toe…after a bit, the immediate pain goes away, but there’s still the slight throbbing of where the pain occurred, but no.  The resting time in between contractions is AMAZING.  In between contractions I felt totally fine…like…as in…the “I can’t possibly be in labor, I’m falling asleep right now” kind of fine).  At the birthing center they don’t do cervical checks unless you specifically ask for them, because the way they see it – it doesn’t really matter how far dilated you are – you’ll have a baby at some point regardless.  But at this point I felt like I needed to have at least a ballpark guess of how much progress I was making, so I asked my midwife to check me, but told her not to tell me a number, just let me know whether I was making progress.  A quick check confirmed that I was almost completely dilated!

Yay!  Now, comes the easy part right?  Everyone always talks about how great the pushing part of labor is, so this should be awesome!  Ummmm…not so much.  The pushing was by far the hardest part for me.  I pushed for about three long, hard hours.  After the first hour, since I wasn’t making much progress, my midwife suggested a bit of directed pushing, which while uncomfortable was incredibly helpful.  Sometime around hour #2 of pushing I started to feel a bit defeated and started questioning my ability to have this baby naturally.  This came out in my laboring.  Before this there was some low (but definitely loud) moaning happening, but by this point there were most assuredly some tears and yelling…screaming even.  I kept saying “I don’t think I can do this!”, to which my midwife replied,“Yes.  You can.  You’re doing it right now.”  Touche.  At one point the tears were flowing and she looked at me and sternly said, “You need to look at me.  Stop crying and focus all of this energy on pushing your baby out.  Crying isn’t going to help you have a baby.”  True story.

 So I kept pushing.  Pretty soon, I was close and my midwife said she could see the baby’s head.  She asked if I wanted to see it in the mirror.  ”NO!!!” I shouted emphatically.  At this point (around 3:00 pm) my water broke.  I was so thankful it didn’t happen earlier since it can help to make labor more comfortable.  Thank you wonderful cushion of amniotic sac!  I was laboring on the birthing stool at this point and they told me that that baby was coming soon and I couldn’t give birth on the stool, so I needed to get into the tub.  At this point I was sort of freaking out and I kept saying I couldn’t make it to the tub (ummm…hello…I have a baby coming out of my vagina and you want me to lift my leg over the side of a giant tub?). They said it was either the tub or hands and knees on the floor.  Craig had to give me a pep talk and then he and my midwives helped me into the tub.  One of my midwives was telling Craig he had time to go change and get into the tub with me, but he declined and it was a good thing too, because literally moments later (at 3:32 p.m.), during my next contraction, Fern was born.  Craig said she “shot out like a torpedo”, which is probably pretty accurate.

As soon as Fern shot out I got that awesome flood of endorphins that I’d read about.  Craig said he’s never seen anyone’s face change so suddenly or dramatically.  He said I looked like I was being tortured one minute and the next minute I looked like I was going to Disneyland – all smiles and bright eyes.  I picked Fern up out of the tub and looked her over and the first thing I said was:

“Wow!  I did that!  That’s bad ass!”

Not the most sentimental first statement after having a baby, but oh-so-true.  I have never in my life felt more empowered than I did at that moment.  I had just birthed a human and I did it without so much as an asprin.  If that’s not bad ass, I don’t know what is.

Fern Winter Hartmann
Born January 15, 2012 @ 3:32 PM
in Portland, OR

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