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 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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