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

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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.

Until...

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

 

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*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.

 

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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. 

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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.

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