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 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 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 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 Alomae James. 1.25.2009

by Echo Zielinski

Around 36 weeks I started showing signs of having pre-ecclampsia. This was uncomfortable and not at all what I had planned for my first pregnancy. At the time I was working at a birth center so was easily able to be monitored during my normal work day. My levels were borderline so I was fortunate enough to not have to transfer out of my midwives care!

The morning before I went into labor, Andy and I went to a coffee shop and I remember looking at my swollen feet thinking "I cannot do this much longer!" Every inch of me was hard to move and I still was not even "due" for another two weeks! First babies never come that early I thought, so I sent Andy off to the Blazers game and I watched Friday Night Lights believing I would be swollen and pregnant forever.

At 2:45am that night though, my water broke! At first I thought I was going to the bathroom on accident but I soon learned it was much bigger then that. It took a few try's to wake Andy up (late night!) so I just kept saying his name and finally gave me a quick moan of a "huh?" I  told him my water broke and he jumped up so fast jumping into labor mode and asking what he was suppose to do. I told him to just get me a towel and sent him back to bed. I put the towel underneath me on the bed and tried to go back to sleep as well. I couldn't!!

Around 3:00 am I went and hung out in the bathroom, just waiting for the water to stop. I sent a text to my sister Autumn who lives 3 hours away letting her know my water had broke but that I was not having contractions yet (she went 24 hours after her water broke to start labor so I knew this could be something, or nothing at all) I then sent a text to my midwife Adele. I was still not having any signs of labor though minus the continual water leaking. I decided I would kill some time and try and put on some makeup to make myself presentable. Ha! that lasted about 2 seconds before my contractions began. Once they started, they came on with a vengeance. From the very first contraction they were every 3 minutes and quickly sped up to coming every 2. I started to put warm water in the bathtub and hopped in and began texting my birth team again. Autumn got into the car and headed south but I told Adele not to come yet. She knew better and drove on over because we were getting a bit of snow!. The next 4 hours are a complete blur. I progressed very fast and was completely dilated by 7:30 am. I remember Andy making me a smoothie, Adele showing up and looking up at her and her telling me it was snowing outside, and walking from my bathtub to the birth tub, but that is about it! I was very much an internal laborer and really did not need the help of anyone around.

At 8 am I could feel my babies head about a finger tip in and I realized then that she had a ton of hair. I thought she would be here any minute! My sister had not arrived yet and I was sure she was gonna miss the main event! Little did I know though, baby had her own plans and decided to sit there for another FOUR hours! My sister showed up and so did my other midwife Joey. Everyone was there ready for action but then I fell asleep... Yes, I fell into a deep deep (think dreaming and drooling) sleep. My contractions slowed down to one every 15 minutes and I would be sleeping in between. The room was SO quiet. (except for the occasional text- pretty sure everyone was bored)  Adele was knitting, and everyone else just sat there.  I switched positions now and then from sitting/leaning back to hands and knees, but mostly I just slept. and dreamed. and slept!  At 12:15 though, my life changed. I was so tired of waiting and finally felt the urge to push. I was ready to get this baby out! I leaned over the tub and PUSHED a couple times and there she was- by far the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!

I was so amazed at my body and what it had been through! I was even more amazed that it knew exactly how to slow down and allow my baby to change position (she was assynclitic with a nuchal hand) so she could comfortably come out! I was patient, and because of that, Alomae got to come out when she wanted and on her own!