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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

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 Jaden Arman 2.17.2009

By Rama Pfeiffer 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were now a family of 3. 

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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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the birth of Emmanuelle Poem 2.5.2012

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

by Morgan Day Cecil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing happened still.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s where we are right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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                                                                                      photo by  Toni  Greaves

 

the birth of Scarlet Patrice 12.23.2013

by Stephanie Sticka


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

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

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

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

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the birth of Huckleberry Wilder 07.22.2010

by Echo Zielinski

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

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

the birth of Fern Winter 01.15.2012

by Lauren Hartmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wow!  I did that!  That’s bad ass!”

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

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

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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!

 

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