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Welcome to Inspiring Birth! My name is Caryn Westdyk and I am a certified Birth Boot Camp instructor and Birth Boot Camp Doula, teaching childbirth education classes in Haslet, TX and servicing the Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton/Decatur area as a Doula. Please look around my blog and contact me with any questions.

Our mission: Birth Boot Camp is committed to training couples in natural birth and breastfeeding through accessible, contemporary education. Birth Boot Camp is for couples, moms AND dads. You’ll learn to work together to bring your baby into this world as a team.

Caryn Westdyk
817-781-5541
cwestdyk@birthbootcamp.com
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Five burning questions answered about my large family

I announced the pregnancy (and gender) of my sixth baby this week and received a wonderful response on Facebook and Instagram. 

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Not surprising, since I’m sure my family and friends are used to this by now! Just for fun I thought I would go ahead and get all of the burning questions out of the way, since I’m sure there were a few behind the scenes gasps that I was pregnant yet again. So here we go…

1.       Is your TV broken? Yes, our TV is working just fine. I don’t know why people like to ask this question. I mean, we have been married for 11 years and only have 6 children. If our TV truly wasn’t working and you-know-what was all we ever did, we would probably be rivaling the Duggars by now. Okay, well, maybe not quite that much. But we did space our children out by 2 years at least. Well at least most of them…

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2.       Have you figured out what causes this yet? Yes, we have figured out what causes this. Again, not sure why people still think this question is funny, but I guess it’s that awkward response that everyone feels they must ask when they ask you how many children you have, and you say any number more than 2 or 3. It’s like that awkward moment of MUST.SAY.SOMETHING.FUNNY.NOW. So yes, it’s funny. And yes, we know how it all works. It seems to be working just fine! J

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3.       Are they all yours? Yes, they are all mine. You know, this one just gets me. I mean, what does it mean really? Do you think I run a daycare? Or if I adopted some of them, wouldn’t they still be MINE? So yes, they are all mine. How that happened, really is none of anyone’s business (usually this question gets asked by complete strangers.) But if you do indeed want to know, yes, I gave birth to all five, and soon to be six.

4.       Are you done after this one? No, I don’t know if THIS is the last one. Okay I get it. You think I’m crazy. Maybe I am. But I love my crazy life with my crazy amount of kids and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I did turn 40 this year, so it’s possible this could be my last. But God hasn’t given me a reason to stop yet and so we just keep trucking along. Ask me this again about six months from now! 😉

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5.       I could never have that many kids, how DO you do it? I’m really not quite sure HOW I do it. But somehow I manage. I am blessed that my husband works from home and gets to experience the chaos daily with us! It does help that I can go to the store alone sometimes and have that extra set of hands when I really need help. I also don’t have to threaten with, “Just you wait until your Dad gets home…”

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So there you have it. Just in case you had that urge to ask me any of those questions now that the pregnancy has been announced, you have your answers.

I’m not Super Mom. I’m just a Mom.

In honor of Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I would talk about being a Mother. What a novel idea, right? I won’t spend too much time patting myself on the back for that one! I think a lot of people look at me and my five kids and think, “Wow, she must be Super Mom!” Well I am here to say that I am not.

I am just a Mom. Just like anyone else. Living this crazy life with these wild and crazy kids. Some Moms have one kid, others have ten. I happen to have five and I couldn’t imagine life without any of them.

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I’m a Mom. I gave birth to each of them in very different ways. I went through surgery three times (I have the scars to prove it) and twice had a natural vaginal birth. All very pivotal experiences in my life. Each birth experience shaped me into the human, woman and Mom I am today. As a Mom recovering from surgery, I had a scar that needed to heal. Weeks of pain as I learned how to nurse my newborn. Nursing was a struggle from the start, but I powered through and we made it! After five children, I think I finally got it!

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I’m just a Mom. I wear many hats. Teacher, cook, maid, nurse, friend. I’m all those things and more. Show me a career that wears more hats than I do! I can’t find one.

I’m a Mom. I wipe noses, brush away tears, listen to corny jokes (and somehow manage to laugh!), wipe bottoms and potty train (oh the horror!) I change diapers, nurse my babies (sometimes for years), read, teach, clean up messes all day long. I listen to sad sob stories (sometimes way over dramatic, but try to have sympathy) and sometimes listen to (endure) tantrums and melt downs. I break up fights and discipline (not my favorite part of the job but necessary) and mediate “heated discussions.”

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I’m just a Mom. I teach them Scriptures and take them to church, show them the love of Jesus as best I know how. I teach them how to read on their own and (begrudgingly) teach them math. I read poetry and great literature, take them to the zoo and the symphony. We play at the park and try to enjoy this crazy life together. 

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I’m a Mom. I cook three meals a day (well at least one!) and clean up after their messes. And don’t forget the snacks in between (these kids are always eating!) I do a never ending amount of laundry and sometimes get that put away. It just keeps on coming! I help brush teeth and keep up with Doctor and Dental appointments. There is always something, right? I chauffer to activities. Life is very busy.

I’m just a Mom. I endure crazy bedtime rituals and sometimes have to raise my voice a little to get them to go to sleep (shh, don’t tell.)  I shop for their clothes and make sure they always have shoes to wear. I  get them ready in the mornings and when we do actually have somewhere to go, I somehow manage to get them all out the door with shoes on. That part is tricky. Oh the shoes, they are never where they belong! (So thankful we homeschool, I would never make it to school on time!)

I’m a Mom. I nurse babies to sleep and cuddle them when they are sad. I wear them sometimes just to get things done or maybe because they just need to be held close. I put bandages on scrapes and sometimes put bandages on just because they insist on having one. I kiss booboos and foreheads and comfort when they have had a rough day.

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I’m just a Mom. I get to hear stories that sometimes really are actually funny and make me laugh! I watch my kids have amazing imaginations as they make up stories and play together. I listen to them play and sing beautiful music and watch dance recitals. I listen to their creativity and just revel in how God made each of them amazingly unique.

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I’m a Mom. I have the joy of watching each of these children grow and blossom into amazing human beings. And they grow up way too fast. Sometimes I just wish life would slow down and we could pause this time in life. But other times I can’t wait to see the teenagers and adults they will become and the amazing things they will accomplish in life. Yes, I am a Mom who gets to experience the joy of all these things. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.

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So, Super Mom, I am not. I’m just a Mom. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s okay to mourn your birth story

I have had five different birth stories. I tell each one a little bit different. Are some more joyful than others? Yes! Does that make me love any of my children less? Absolutely not! I think there is this idea that birth is birth and it doesn’t matter how your baby gets here, as long as you have a healthy Mom and baby. Sure, that’s always the goal! But what is wrong with desiring a beautiful birth story? What is wrong with being a little bit sad if that beautiful birth story doesn’t happen the way you had hoped?

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I shared a three-part series on cesarean birth last year that was called Still a beautiful birth. I absolutely stand by all births being beautiful in their own way. Each child comes into this world a little bit differently. Unfortunately, these days, women are having their birth stories determined for them by their providers. I read a comment on Facebook recently where a woman said that her only birth plan was to let her provider tell her what to do because her OB had delivered more babies than she had! I was a little bit surprised by this, but why am I really surprised? Are we just letting care providers railroad us into determining our birth stories? Is this part of the reason why 1 in 3 babies are born by cesarean?

Here are three reasons it is okay to mourn your birth story:

  1. It doesn’t make you love your children any less if their birth story wasn’t up to what you thought it would be. 

         There seems to be this idea that you are a bad Mom or don’t love your children if you are unhappy with how they were born. This is ridiculous! Three of my children were born by cesarean, and I was not happy about it. But I love each of those children with every fiber of my being! I don’t look at my five children and say, “Well the first three are okay, but those VBA3C babies, wow they are the best!” No way. I love them all equally. And my birth stories are part of who I am. It shaped me into the childbirth educator and DOULA I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am today without those stories. But you better believe I was sad about it at the time. Would I change my birth stories no? Mourn it a little? Yes.

    2. It’s your story, not ours.

Don’t let someone try to tell you how you should tell your story! Why do you think so many women are struggling with post-partum depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder after their births? Because they are often holding in their true emotions over the birth story and not processing it the way they should. I highly recommend getting involved in some sort of post-birth support group (like ICAN or a post-partum depression group) to sort through those feelings. If you are local to me, I would be happy to point you in the right direction! Sometimes just saying your story out loud and having someone else validate what you are feeling is all you really need. Don’t suffer through your story in silence! Talk about it. Write your story down. Get help if you need it.

     3. Your expectations were obviously let down.

      Maybe you took a class like Birth Boot Camp and prepared for months for this birth, or carefully selected your care provider and did all the right things to have this amazing birth you so longed for. You went to the chiropractor and ate healthy and exercised. You did everything right! But your expectations for this birth came and went. That has to be really hard! I know, I was there. You are not a failure. Your body is not a lemon. Birth can sometimes just be unexpected. It takes turns that we don’t desire. Our birth plans were dashed because of one thing or another. It’s okay to mourn that! You worked hard for this, but you didn’t fail. You still birthed your baby, one way or another. But it’s okay to be sad about the way it happened.

My hope through this post is to start a dialogue about our birth stories. We shouldn’t be ashamed to share our true feelings. As women and mothers, we need to be supporting one another! Let’s share what we truly feel and work through it together.

Busting myths about nursing a toddler

I think it’s safe to say that most mothers at least have the goal to breastfeed their babies from the start. A nationwide survey in 2013 showed that of the infants surveyed 76.5% were breastfed at birth. But the numbers begin to decrease as the babies grow. At 6 months, only 49% were breastfed and 27% at 12 months.

I blogged about my breastfeeding journey, which shows how varied I have been with my breastfeeding experiences. Now that I can look back on it all, I wish I had nursed all 5 of my children beyond 12 months. There seems to be a mindset that once the baby has reached 12 months, it is time to be done. I know I was once in the category of Moms that didn’t nurse beyond 12 months, but now that I have, I want to share with Moms what they are missing out on!

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I think for some, breastfeeding really is a chore. It’s hard work, especially for those pumping Moms who have to go back to work. I get it, I really do. So once 12 months rolls around, they are ready to move on. I’m here to say, it gets better after 12 months! That time I spend with my toddler is golden. Here are 5 reasons I love nursing my toddler:

  1. He’s a mama’s boy just a little bit longer. I’ll tell you, the moment I stop nursing him, guaranteed he will become a daddy’s boy. So I’m just going to hold on to those sweet moments with him a little bit longer, thank you very much.
  2. He still needs it. I know he still needs it because he asks for it. It calms him and it nourishes him, much more than cow’s milk ever will.
  3. It keeps both of us healthy. Keeps him healthy and reduces my risk of breast cancer. I’ll take it.
  4. I have picky eaters. When he is being picky, I know at the very least, he is still getting nutrients when I nurse him.
  5. It calms him. Nursing isn’t just for nutrition. When he is sad and just needs a little bit of cuddling, nursing him brings instant comfort. No I don’t nurse him every time he cries, but it sure does help out in tough situations.

So why are so many people uncomfortable with the idea of nursing a toddler? Here are 5 myths busted:

  1. There are no longer nutritional benefits. I had a Pediatrician once tell me that my milk turned to skim milk and is useless once my baby turned 6 months. I’m not sure where he did his research but this is completely false! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least one year and until they both feel they are ready to stop. Why would the AAP recommend at least a year if there was no longer a nutritional value to it?
  2. I should stop nursing once my baby has teeth. I know it’s painful when your baby bites you when you are nursing, but you get through it! They learn not to do that. Some babies are born with teeth or start to get them as early as a month old, so this idea is ridiculous!
  3. If my baby is old enough to ask for it, it’s time to stop. I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand this kind of thinking. Why should it matter if the child can ask for it? Honestly, it’s kind of nice when my baby asks for it. Remember those early days of nursing when you just couldn’t figure out what they wanted? My son says, “Na na” and I know he’s ready to nurse!

Julia of Inspired by Births says, I always thought I would not want to nurse an older baby. I said things like, “I wouldn’t be comfortable nursing a child who could verbally ask for it.” But I loved nursing him from day 1 and was so happy to continue breastfeeding as long as he wanted. It was a comfort to both of us when he was sick or sad, uncomfortable or overwhelmed. He nursed for 33.5 months and when he was done we were both totally okay with it. I’m so thankful neither of us were pressured to give it up before we were ready!

     4.It is just too weird. Why? What is so weird about giving comfort and nutrition to your child? I love those sweet moments with my son. Yes, he’s old enough to communicate and has an almost full set of teeth, but at 21 months he is still my baby. There is no rule of thumb that says how old your baby has to be to be “too old to nurse.” As long as you and your child are still in agreement with it, keep going!

Laura of Once Upon a Birth says, I thought it would be weird to nurse a toddler, who could ask for nursing. Now I feel like it’s the most natural thing in the world for the two of us. I know that he still needs that comfort – for now. He’s slowly decreasing how often he asks to “neese”. I know one day he won’t nurse anymore, so I’m fine nursing until we’re both ready to be done. From another viewpoint, I’m so thankful that I can continue to give him all of my antibodies. I’m exposed to A LOT where I work (the emergency department). I want him to continue to have the immunity that I’ve built up over the last 4 years of working in the medical field.

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(Photo credit Carolyn Spranger Photography)

     5. If I keep nursing, my child will be too dependent on me. I have five children. My older 4 all nursed. 2 of them beyond a year. They are all quite independent. They are normal, thriving children and don’t need me for everything. They all sleep in their own rooms now. Life does go on.

Here are some other thoughts from Moms who have nursed toddlers:

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There is something so intrinsically wonderful that happens when the person you’re nursing can actually tell you, “thank you!” It is my favorite part about nursing a toddler. That, and her being able to tell me what she thinks it tastes like (applesauce).

I struggled with nursing my first, but was able to exclusively pump for him until he was 7 months. With my second, my goal was to breastfeed at least that long. The time flew by, and before I knew it, he was over two and our breastfeeding relationship was still going strong. He self weaned around 2.5 after I became pregnant with my third baby.

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(Photo credit Arms Like Towers Doula)

For me, nursing was a battle from day 1. My son didn’t latch for 2 weeks. Our nursing relationship was filled with struggles the entire time but I fought for it because I wanted my son to have the milk that was intended for him. I couldn’t wait to be done at 1 year. Then 1 year came and I could tell he wasn’t ready at all which was honestly really disappointing to me but I didn’t want to force him to wean if he wasn’t ready. Now he is 19 months old, we only nurse once a day but he still needs it. I can tell it’s his calm moment in the midst of a crazy world. So while he is barely getting any milk anymore, he is still getting comfort that he needs and I know that’s important too. I honestly look forward to the day we wean but until then I’ll provide my son that moment of comfort he needs each day.

Don’t let this time with your toddler slip away with any regrets. Treasure these moments. They won’t last forever.

 

Breaking the silence of pregnancy loss

 

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It just so happens that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Just a few short months ago, I experienced two back to back losses. The memory is fresh and real. So much has happened the past few months that I feel compelled to share my story in hopes that it would bring encouragement and hope to those experiencing the same things. I believe too many women are suffering their losses in silence. It is my hope to shed some light on this topic that is often swept under the carpet. There is no need to suffer alone.

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Miscarriage is when the pregnancy ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. It is the most common type of pregnancy loss. Chances are, either you or someone close to you has experienced a miscarriage. Anywhere from 10-25% of known pregnancies will end in a loss. The risk of loss increases with the age of the mother. There are many reasons for miscarriage, but the most common reason for miscarriage is a chromosomal abnormality. Others reasons may include hormonal problems, lifestyle (i.e. smoking), implantation of the egg does not occur properly, maternal age or maternal trauma. (Information taken from www.americanpregnancy.org)

I have 5 living children, but have been pregnant 9 times so far. Back when I only had two living children, I had two back to back miscarriages. They were very early miscarriages, sometimes called chemical pregnancies, where a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation. This accounts for 50-70% of miscarriages and many women do not even know they are pregnant to begin with. Thinking back to those miscarriages, I remember feeling almost silly grieving over it. I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. I was sad, yes. But I hadn’t had time to even get excited about the pregnancy since it was over so quickly. I felt embarrassed to tell the few people that knew we were pregnant that we had lost the baby. I was embarrassed by people telling me how sorry they were. I don’t know why I felt that way, but I did. I went on to have three more children after that without any complication of getting pregnant.

Fast forward to a few months ago. We have 5 amazing children and have continued to leave the door open for more babies. We don’t have a set number in mind, other than allowing God to decide that number for us. I was feeling okay with 5 though and not really trying to get pregnant but not really preventing either. Then I found out that I was pregnant. After getting over my initial shock, I began to grow excited as I always do when I know that we are expecting. A week later I started bleeding, just as I was getting used to the idea of being pregnant again. I felt immediate sadness, but moved on again pretty quickly. Three weeks after that miscarriage, I had a feeling I may be pregnant again. I hadn’t had a cycle, so it wasn’t because of a missed period. I was right, I was pregnant. I grew excited again, but was extremely guarded and feared that the worst could happen again. I was right. This time was different. It was a whole new experience grieving over this lost baby. Not only was it hard emotionally, it was hard physically. My previous miscarriages had been easy physically, just like having a regular period, but this one was different. My body physically went into labor one day and I actually had to use some of natural labor techniques that I use in class! I was having contractions every 5 minutes, then 4, then 3, then it was like my body was in actual transition as it all happened. A few days later, I thought everything was fine, except that I was still bleeding. Suddenly, my body just completely shut down and I was bleeding very heavily. So heavy that I had to be taken to the ER! Everything turned out fine, but it was just taking an unusually long time for everything to pass. Once I finally stopped bleeding over two weeks later, I was so relieved to be done with the experience.

Experiencing this loss this way was eye opening to me. I had no idea that a miscarriage could be that difficult physically. I had never experienced the emotions that I felt this time. It made me realize that so many women are experiencing losses and don’t know how to express what they are feeling to others. It just so happened that a good friend of mine was experiencing a loss the same exact day as I was. She and I walked through this process together. We both had to go to the ER for a large amount of blood loss. Our stories were very similar and although I’m sad we both lost our babies, I was thankful I had someone that completely understood what I was going through.

Every woman experiences loss differently! There is not a right or wrong way to grieve. Some are extremely sad, others are okay with it. I think some women may even be afraid to admit that they really are okay! Here are some stories that I have gathered:

“Too often people treat it as an “oh well” if you have several other kids already.” – Megan M.

“I have never had a miscarriage, but as I get older and the likelihood increases I’m scared everyone will have this reaction since I have several children already. It’s the reason I don’t want to announce pregnancy until it’s obvious.” – Regina W.

“I have walked with many friends through miscarriage and then had my own in January and am still mourning. I think the most important thing is to grieve. Allow yourself to grieve and know that nothing will ever replace the void in your heart for that baby. I’m expecting in a few short weeks now and feel guilt, almost, because I will never physically love my “lost” baby. I won’t count her toes, kiss her lips, see her marry and have children. So I made a necklace and carry her with me. It’s a club you would never sign up for, but one so many women belong to and deserve to be cared for in.” – Kristina S.

“Just the other day I reread the post I made shortly after our loss and all of those emotions came crashing back. The loss, the pain, the heartache and the anxiety. That baby would have been almost 3.5. I will always remember that baby. I wanted and craved that baby so badly. I don’t think I would have gotten through it without my faith. I know that. One thing I often struggle with feeling like I don’t have the right to mourn or have grief since we lost the baby early. I struggle that I never really got to see that baby since it was so early. But have to remind myself that I did still lose a baby and that I do have the right to grieve.” – Andrea B.

“I was very grateful we had good support from the few people who knew we were pregnant with our second baby. Thankfully (and sadly), I had two good friends who really helped me by sharing their experiences. One friend is very vocal about her miscarriages and it is truly her ministry to other women. It helped my husband and I to name the baby. We also made a memory box of items we had collected: the beginning of my pregnancy journal, cards we received, etc. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten through it without my faith and knowing that I will meet that baby someday. The hardest thing for me now is acknowledging that little life when people ask about our kids or pregnancies. I want to be able to say we have been pregnant three times, not two and not have the awkwardness that follows. I certainly think it needs to be talked about more!” – Rebecca G.

“I’ve had miscarriages. I think I process them differently than most people. I was sure disappointed to lose those babies, but I was not really surprised as we had done so much IF treatment to get pregnant. In fact I never really connected with my first babies during pregnancy. I don’t know if I can speak for all women who went through IF but I didn’t feel mourning, I don’t even remember when those babies would have been due….it was just another huge disappointment on the journey to parenthood along with all the other failed medicated cycles and negative tests. My last miscarriage was before I conceived my 4th baby. I was so shocked to be pregnant then a month later, I wasn’t. I was out of town at a family wedding. I went through the whole family event without telling anyone what was going on. I smiled (and popped meds) through the weekend and tried not to bleed through my fancy dress. When I got pregnant a year later I was again shocked but I promised myself that I would celebrate every second of that pregnancy and not ever go through a m/c alone again. It was the first pregnancy that I celebrated and I had a blast! I did photos and crafts and loved every day…and he arrived alive! When anyone asks why I dote on my son I can’t stop smiling. He is the baby I thought I wouldn’t have but that I chose to enjoy for every second we had with him. I am still smiling!” – Maria M.

“My family was very cold when I went through mine. They expected me to “get over it” within a few days. They completely ignored the fact that I lost someone who I was already in love with, someone who we were picking names for and making plans for. Someone that was already real to me.” – Mary H.

“When I had mine, it was very similar. It was my first miscarriage and I felt very alone. My own mom said sorry once, but wasn’t there like I thought she would be. It was the hardest thing physically and emotionally that I had ever been through.” – Jennifer B.

“Maybe it does take going through to understand. I’m not sure. I definitely got mixed messages from close family, at the time they and their actions made feel even more guilty, like I had done something to cause it. My in laws took us out to lunch, 3 days after, never said a word about anything much less ask how I was – I felt like they were celebrating while I was mourning. My mom had spread that I was pregnant to anyone who was breathing, but left me to tell I miscarried. My grandma said it was God’s way of helping special babies that couldn’t survive outside the womb (I found great comfort with that).” – Amanda J.

I think people just simply don’t get it, if they haven’t been through it. But, that is no reason to not give love and support to any woman going through it! I know there’s so much controversy over when ‘life’ begins….but even with a miscarriage at 5-6 weeks, it is a death. It was something that was alive……There is a grieving process, just like with any death.” – Amy W.

“I have lost two babes, and with the first one, it was very much an unsupported time. My mom has lost four babies, and even she was of the mindset that okay, the bleeding has stopped it’s time to just pony up and get over it. My mother in law looked at my tears with this confused look on her face and said, “sorry, I’ve never had a miscarriage so I don’t know what you’re going through,” and she left it at that. It was a callous time, and we were going through transitions in our life so I never felt like I had properly mourned. With angel baby 2, I not only had my husband (he had a crazy work/school schedule with the first), but I had friends who gave such incredible emotional and spiritual support. My parents, after hearing others stories and knowing what their support had done for me, were able to mourn the loss of their babies, and lay them all to rest in their minds and hearts.” – Ana L.

Breech birth with Dr. Cummings

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to my beloved OB, Dr. Fred Cummings, speak to the Denton County Birth Network about vaginal breech birth. It was about so much more than just vaginal breech birth that he spoke on, but rather the normal process of birth in general. I know I often gush about my OB and maybe you are sick of hearing about him. The truth is, he is a rare gem. There is no other Doctor in this country like him. No one. Period.

My heart was full as I sat in a room with friends and fellow colleagues in the birth field. Two of my former students, who are now birth professionals themselves. My sweet doula Katie. Fellow VBA3C friends. Fellow Birth Boot Camp instructors that I don’t get to see too often. Beloved midwives in the community. Some I know personally, some I just know of their wonderful reputation in the birth community. Fellow doulas whom I love and respect. All in the same room. All listening to this amazing man talk. It was beautiful.

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Dr. Cummings started his talk by talking a little bit about breech birth. He said people get weirded out by breech, but he has never been afraid of breech birth. In the old literature he says, when talking about breech presentation, it always says to attempt delivery. It doesn’t say to automatically go to a c-section. The problem today is that most doctors are not trained to do it. They are now told to do an automatic c-section. Why? Complications equal problems and it’s “safer” for them to do the c-section. Safer for the Mom and baby, or safer for the doctors? According to Dr. Cummings, no surgery is safer than a vaginal birth. Of course he recognizes the situations when surgery is needed. But vaginal birth should always be safer first.

When speaking to birth professionals, mainly midwives and doctors, he gave three points:

  1. Have patience. There is no reason to rush a baby unless it is critical. Why would you rush a natural process if nothing is out of the ordinary?
  2. Know your patient and also know their spouse. Men get weird about birth and you need to know them and how they are going to handle things in birth. If you know your patient, when something becomes peculiar in the birth process, it will be a conversation and not an argument. If your patient trusts you, they won’t have to argue with you over the situation that has come up.
  3. Make sure you give your patient confidence. There is no reason not to be confident in the birth process. Never lose your brains while you are in the room with your patient. If you doubt them, they will start doubting themselves.

Having had two babies under the care of Dr. Cummings, I can attest that he adhered to all three of these things. This man practices what he preaches. He had patience with me. He took the time to know both my husband and myself. He gave me confidence from the get go. On day one, he told me I was going to do it. And I did.

He went on to talk about the current c-section rate and how it shouldn’t be happening 40-60% of the time. In one of our local hospitals it happens 1 out of every 2 births. (This happens to be the hospital that I had all three of my c-sections!) This should not be. Why is this happening? Because the doctors are impatient and are ready to go home for the day. He said, “You all go online after your births and share your stories with each other. Everyone has the same story! Your baby’s heartrate was dropping and suddenly the doctor swoops in to save the day. It happens too much.”

At 32-34 weeks, he says, a lot of babies are breech. It’s not time to worry quite yet. At 36 weeks, it is time to start talking about options. The first option is to try a version to flip the baby. Know the situation first though. What kind of pelvis does she have? There is still a good chance that they will turn again, because they were comfortable in that position. He will often turn a baby 3-4 times before birth. He says that some of the techniques found on spinning babies, like the inversion, are just as effective in turning the baby. But sometimes the baby will just not turn. But then, he will deliver the baby breech. 95% of the time if you go to a hospital with a baby breech, it is an automatic c-section. Women should ask, do I have a choice? Women never asks this, he says. They just go with what the doctor says. The problem is, most doctors simply are not trained in breech delivery and are not going to do it.

Side note, if you have a breech baby and live anywhere close to the DFW area, it is worth it to drive yourself to Denton, TX. Dr. Cummings delivers breech babies all the time, and will take any mom in labor, regardless if he has seen you before or not. If you call the hospital, he said to say that Dr. Cummings is expecting you, even if he is not. They will call him if you say that. He will show up.

He said when delivering breech, if the head gets stuck in the pelvis, it’s almost impossible to push back up. This is an appropriate time to use the scissors to get the baby out fast. Most women don’t want to be cut, but will do anything if it means the baby might die. Routinely he says, breech babies will come out. You just have to be patient. If you are there with your patient, everything should be fine. You will be there to act when needed.

He went on to talk about the normal act of birth. It’s simplistic, he says. You let the Mom do it. Watch and listen. It’s hard for most doctors with all that education to sit back and let the mom dictate her birth. She will let you know if it’s going to happen or not. She will know. Women can have babies, he says. They just need someone to let them do it!

He went on to share several amazing stories of breech births. One story he told of a woman from Austin who came to him late in pregnancy because no one in the Austin area would even consider a breech birth. He said, “All of you women must have told her on the internet about this doctor in Denton, TX and she listened!” We all laughed. It’s true. We tell everyone on the internet about Dr. Cummings. He met with them, and they decided they would wait and then come close to the due date and stay in the area until baby is born. Two days later he got a call from the husband who was clearly on the road. He said they were headed back to Denton because she was in labor. She walked right into L&D and said Dr. Cummings was expecting her because her baby was breech. Once he was there, she walked herself right into the OR. She just stood there and delivered her breech baby and then said, “Thank you!” Then she walked herself right back to her room. That woman was a beast, he said. Some kind of woman!

Another story he told of a woman who was having twins. “Again,” he said, “You women told her on the internet to come see the doctor who will deliver twins!” We laughed again. This woman was walking the famous sky bridge at the hospital and the husband comes running down the hall screaming that his wife was about to have the first baby right on the sky bridge! Dr. Cummings was with another patient and went running down the hall. There she was, just rocking and swaying. And then she just squatted down and delivered the first baby right there on the sky bridge. Then they got her back to the room and delivered the second baby breech. No problems. Women know how to do this, he says.

One of his patients brought in pictures and a video of her breech birth 15 months ago with Dr. Cummings. We watched on the edge of our seats as he had to very carefully maneuver the baby’s body and head out. It can be a complicated process yes. But it’s normal to him because he does it all the time. You don’t want an unskilled doctor attempting this.” You don’t want to be someone’s first,” he said. They just aren’t teaching this anymore.

He opened it up for questions. One woman asked, what is the biggest baby he has delivered, and is there any truth to the doctors having issues with big babies? His biggest breech baby was 11 lbs 4 oz. “Very few women make babies they can’t deliver. Usually a baby can fit.” he said.

Another woman asked, as consumers, what can we do to convince Doctors to do vbacs and breech births? “Very little,” he says. “If you get sued once, you’ll never take a chance again.” She went on to say, that it just leaves us as consumers and professionals, very frustrated. Yes, he said. There just isn’t much we can do. They aren’t about to change their minds. There are some out there who will do it, you just have to find them! I personally think this was such an important point for him to make. So many women out there on the internet are out there talking about trying to convince their doctors to do this. Most of the time, they just aren’t going to be convinced. It’s better to search until you find someone who will do it.

Eventually, he said, he won’t be around anymore. He has tried to retire 4 times, but we won’t let him! Now he is completely back in business again and plans to be around for a good while longer. But one day he will stop. When asked if he is teaching anyone to carry on his work, he said he has tried. He said he has tried over the years, but it takes a certain kind of crazy to do what he does! He has hopes for this though. He won’t reveal names yet, but he has hopes.

He ended by saying that his life is not directed by the laws of man. “If I put my trust where I know it should be, I have no worries. We don’t do fear in my office. I don’t make any excuses about this, but I trust God 1000%. When I put my trust in Him, I have nothing to fear. What are you going to do to me?”

“It’s pretty easy,” he says. “You guys do all the work!”

I can’t say enough about this great man. God truly did place him on this earth for a very special purpose. We are so blessed in the DFW area to have such an amazing OB who believes in the process of birth and isn’t afraid of higher risk situations. “If I have a woman who says she wants to do this, I’m going to help you. It doesn’t mean it will happen, but I will support you completely. I won’t lose a mom or baby. I have never lost a mom or baby.”

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(Me with my beloved Doctor!)

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(VBA3C sisters with the man that believed we could!)

 

 

It Takes a Village

I recently got an email from a doula friend Maria who told me that one of her clients had her baby and specifically mentioned my name that I was instrumental in her birth because I had recommended my OB to her. I remembered the conversation with this woman and hadn’t thought much about how I could have possibly impacted her having the birth she desired (a VBAC.) Maria said, “Sometimes it really does take a village!”

I started thinking about that line. It really does take a village! I have many aspects of life where I can say that it takes a village. It takes a village to homeschool my children, which is why I am a part of a wonderful homeschool community. It takes a village to parent my children. There are so many things in my life that I could say this about. I thought back to my initial experience with pursuing my first VBA3C. It was amazing to me as I recalled the many people who led me to that path and how each one played a role in my success.

When I first found out I was pregnant with my fourth child, I was terrified. I knew that it meant I would be having a fourth and final cesarean. I did not want to have another surgery, but I also knew that no Doctor would ever touch me after having had three cesareans. Two days after I saw that first positive test, I was nursing my son at church during VBS week and overheard one of the Moms in there talking about her wonderful OB. She said that she chose him because he would allow her to have a VBAC and just felt that he was in line with her wishes with birthing. I trusted this Mom’s opinion, so the next day in the nursing room I prayed that she would come in again at the same time. She did, and I asked her about her OB. I told her I had just found out I was pregnant again and would love to have a vaginal birth, but didn’t think any Doctors out there would allow it. She told me his name was Fred Cummings and that she thought I should definitely talk with him! She only had 1 prior cesarean, so she didn’t know what his stance was on multiple cesareans, but this was the first time I had ever heard about Fred Cummings. That night I emailed several people about my wishes to have a VBA3C. I didn’t think it was possible, but was praying that God would lead if it was His will.

My friend Robyn emailed her doula Kathy to see if she had a recommendation. My friend Marg that I met over the internet through Babyfit (love these ladies!!) asked her friend who is a childbirth educator if she knew of anyone. Robyn emailed me back with Kathy’s response, and sure enough she said that she found out through another doula named Katie, that Fred Cummings would be the one to go to. At the same time, Marg’s friend Sarah had asked on her business page for recommendations and sure enough, Fred Cumming’s name was given. That was the third time that day that I was told to call Fred Cummings. I made the call the next day.

I was so nervous to make the call, not sure if they would laugh at me over the phone. I told the receptionist that I had three prior cesareans and wondered if I could meet with Dr. Cummings for a consultation. Not only did she not laugh at me, she very quickly made an appointment for me for 2 weeks out! I was excited, and nervous at the same time. Meanwhile, I had made my first appointment with my other OB, but wasn’t able to get in with her right away. That appointment was scheduled after my appointment with Dr. Cummings, so I kept it on the calendar just in case. That weekend, I started light bleeding and feared the worst, that I was miscarrying. We were getting ready to go away on a family vacation and I wasn’t sure if I would have to go to the ER before leaving town. The bleeding never picked up, and we went away for the week.

All week, I really didn’t know what to expect. Was I really planning to try for a vaginal birth? Would Dr. Cummings even accept me as a patient? What if he looked at my operative report and said I was a bad candidate? What if I was really having a miscarriage and all this wondering is for nothing? We had a wonderful vacation and when I came home I worked on getting my operative reports.

A week later, with my reports in hand, my husband and I went to meet with the famous Dr. Cummings. I don’t think I have ever been as nervous as I was that day! We had a long wait in the waiting room, but fortunately our kids were over at their Grandparents house playing. When Dr. Cummings came in the room, he just put me immediately at ease. He was so kind and attentive. My husband made reference to the long wait, and Dr. Cummings quickly responded that yes, there would sometimes be a wait, because he gives as much time to each patient as they need. We were happy to hear that. He spent the next 30 minutes with us, attentively listening to us, and answering our questions. He looked at my report pretty quickly, and said, “So you’re going to have a VBAC then?” I asked him what he thought about where my former OB referenced my paper thin uterus. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Not impressed. Your body has an amazing ability to heal. You’ll do this! We will do this!” I wanted to cry right there. We talked about the risks and again he put my mind at ease. I really could do this. We noticed a bracelet on his hand that said something about prayer. He talked a lot about his faith and he told us that he doesn’t fear lawyers, he fears God. He told us that he truly believes that God placed him in Denton to help women who desperately need a Doctor like him. He said Denton was never his first choice, but that was clearly where God had placed him! He told us we could think it over, but that we could go ahead and schedule my first appointment right away. We shook his hand and left the room. When my husband and I walked out to the elevator to leave, we looked at each other and we were both in tears! We knew there was nothing to think over. I went back and scheduled my first appointment. Later that day, I canceled the appointment with my former OB. I had finally broken up with her!

So far in my village: the Mom from church, Robyn, Kathy, Katie, Marg and Sarah. They all led me to Dr. Cummings. I decided to look up Katie on the internet, since she is the one that recommended him, and I learned that she also had a VBA3C with Dr. Cummings. I emailed her right away to see if I could interview her to be my doula. We met, and I absolutely loved her as I knew I would. Katie encouraged me to join ICAN, so I did. The women in ICAN quickly became part of my village as they encouraged me on the road to my VBA3C. I started a blog about my journey, and my followers quickly became part of my village. My Babyfit friends were some of my biggest supporters along the way. They cheered me on every step of the way and I always believed that I would do it. Marg’s friend Sarah who I mentioned earlier, posted one of my blog posts on her business page and encouraged her followers to cheer me on and pray for me! It was such an incredible journey. I couldn’t have done it without the amazing support of these women. Through ICAN and other local VBAC groups, I met other women who had also had a VBA3C. I was so encouraged by their successes. These women also encouraged me in pursuit of having a natural birth. I had decided that in order to succeed in my VBA3C, my best shot of success would be to do it naturally. The ICAN women and Katie all helped me so much in my pursuit of this. I started going to a chiropractor regularly (which I had never heard of such a thing during pregnancy!) to help get the baby in the best position. Let’s go ahead and add my chiropractor Erin to my village.

Once it came time to actually have my baby, I felt I owed so much to my village! I had to do this for them, as much as I did for myself! I knew that they were cheering me on and I didn’t want to let me down. I imagined in my head what it would be like to post that first picture saying, “I did it!!!”

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And when I did, it was glorious! My village cheered like they have never cheered before. It was as triumphant of an experience as I ever could have expected it to be! It was more. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It really does take a village. Thank you to my village for never doubting me, not once. Love to you all!

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Doula first moment

(My sweet doula Katie, I could not have done it without her!)

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(The amazing Dr. Cummings, there are no words to describe how thankful I am for him!)

 

 

Still a beautiful birth: Part 3

Last week I shared the first two cesarean birth stories in my three part series of stories. If you missed them, you can read Jessica and Han’s story here and Maggie’s story here. This last story is from BJ and Jason Vercontaire. I met this couple earlier this year when they took my class. I loved getting to know this couple from the very start. I loved seeing them grow in their knowledge during our classes and seeing how well Jason was supporting his wife through the process. This story shows how sometimes birth is just unpredictable. You can plan with the best intentions of your birth going exactly the way you want it to. They did everything right. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we have planned. Here is Gracie’s birth story:

Our journey to welcome Gracie into this word was nothing like I planned or wanted, but in the end, I am grateful for the amazing love and support we received during our journey. This is our story.

Late Friday night I noticed I had filled up my panty liner. I always wore one because of some discharge, but this time it was different. It felt just like water. I got up several times that night to use the bathroom, and every time I went, I had to change my liner because it was so wet. Around 5:30 on Saturday morning, I had to change my underwear because it was soaked with whatever was coming out. I went to work that Saturday and didn’t think that much of what happened the night before, but I kept having to change my liner throughout the day. My doula happened to be at my workplace so I mentioned it to her and she told me I had to call my midwife. I didn’t want to. I knew that if I called my midwife, things would get serious. I finally called Christy, my midwife, and told her what happened. She suggested I do an amnio test to confirm that I was leaking amniotic fluid. I met Jamie, her student midwife, at their office and as soon as she saw the liquid, she confirmed that it was amniotic fluid. It couldn’t be anything else.

Because my water had ruptured, I was placed on a 48-hour clock starting from the midnight before when I first noticed the leak. I had to be in active labor within 48 hours, or I would “risk out” of a homebirth due to an increased risk of our baby getting an infection. Christy suggested we see an accupuncturist that night to try to get labor going. So at 8:30 PM on Saturday, Jason and I arrived at Pam’s house to begin the process of jumpstarting labor. Pam was super sweet and we felt so welcomed in her home. She had me sit in a chair while she worked on me. After the accupunture treatment, she also did some accupressure. It was painful, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get labor going. We left her house about two hours later and went home to rest. I knew I needed to rest so I could have energy for labor, but it was very difficult to sleep. I continued to leak fluid, but not as much as the night before.

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I had some tightening that night and was really hoping they would turn into real labor, but that didn’t happen. We went to church the next morning (Sunday), and then back to Pam’s for more accupuncture and accupressure. I sat with the needles in for about an hour and then Pam did more accupressure. Again, it was painful, but this time I experienced some contractions during the accupressure session. We were at Pam’s house for 5 hours, going from walking to accupressure, and then walking again. I had some small contractions, but nothing strong enough to call active labor.

We grabbed some spicy Thai food before going home to rest. I tried not to think about the small amount of time I had left to go into active labor. Christy encouraged me to rest so that I could be ready for labor, so we slept for about 2 hours. We got up at 9:00 PM on Sunday and walked around outside, went up and down stairs, and curb walked. We did this for an hour with no result. Not even one small contraction. I was starting to lose hope but kept praying and asking God to grant me the desire of my heart – to have a safe homebirth. After an hour of walking, I sat on my exercise ball and used the breast pump while we watched an episode of The Office. I tried to relax and not think about the time clock. At 10:45, I knew it was time. Christy asked us to be at her house around midnight, and it would take an hour to get there. We began packing our hospital bag, and I got on my knees one last time to beg God for my homebirth. Jason handed me one of the affirmation cards I made. It read “His plan is PERFECT. Not my will, but His.” I didn’t like God’s plan. This is not what I had dreamed of or prepared for. I wanted to give birth without interventions in the comfort of our own home. Throughout my pregnancy, I did as much as I could to make sure my baby and I were healthy. I ate well, got adjusted regularly, read more books and articles than I can count, did my spinning babies exercises, but not of that mattered now. I had risked out of a homebirth and was headed for a hospital birth.

We met Christy at her house just past midnight. I allowed her to check me, even though vaginal checks were not part of my birth plan. She confirmed that I was barely dilated, and she said she felt the amniotic sac. This meant the leaking I had been feeling was coming from the top of the amniotic sac and baby still had lots of fluid. But at more than 48 hours past rupturing, I was no longer a good candidate for a safe homebirth.

We decided to go to a hospital in Cleburne. They are known for supporting natural birth, and I knew they were my best chance to have as close to a homebirth as I could have at this point. When we arrived at the labor and delivery floor, we were greeted warmly and taken to our room. Our nurse was super sweet and was very supportive. She told us they would do their best to make sure we could have a natural water birth. She even showed me the birth tub and I got excited at the thought of using it.

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The initial plan was to use a foley bulb to dilate my cervix. A deflated balloon is inserted into the cervix and then filled up. The purpose is for the balloon to go through the cervix to force it to dilate and jump start labor. The midwife on call inserted the balloon into my cervix (fun stuff) and I rested for a little bit. After a couple of hours, we decided to help the balloon move along, so the nurse tied a 1 liter bag of saline to the cords connecting to the balloon. So I basically had a 4cm balloon in my cervix tied to a 1 liter bag of liquid. The pressure was too much and I immediately started to go black and hear ringing in my ears, so they had to cut off the 1 liter bag. I went back to resting, and some time later, we tried a half liter bag, and that got the balloon out without me passing out. That was a weird sensation! I was glad to have it out and hoped it would start labor, but it didn’t.

Leah, my doula, arrived around 9:30 on Monday morning. I was so glad to have her there and she was able to give Christy a break. Leah massaged my back, brought me food, and encouraged me. She suggested different things to try to help labor going.

The next step was pitocin. Monica, our nurse for the day, started me on a low dose and gradually increased to the max dosage of pitocin. It didn’t do much. If I walked, I would get contractions, but they were mild and easy to get through. I spent most of the day walking with Jason and Leah and doing what I could to get things going. The pitocin wasn’t working, and I was starting to get exhausted. Three sleepless nights were beginning to wear on me.

That evening, the midwife on call suggested we go ahead and break my bag of waters completely, but she wanted to make sure Gracie was in the right position. We were pretty sure Gracie was not in the proper position which was preventing me from going into active labor. She performed a sonogram and we saw that Gracie was Occiput Posterior, meaning her back was against mine and her head tilted back. This meant her face, instead of the top of her head, was pressing into my cervix. Christy and Leah had me do a bunch of different things to get baby to turn. After a while, we did another sonogram and baby had turned! YES! The midwife on call broke my bag of waters and the contractions came immediately. These were real. They hurt, but I was just so thankful for progress.

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That night, I worked through the contractions. It felt so good to finally be doing something and moving towards our goal. Our photographer arrived and I started to get excited about meeting our baby girl. We walked the halls and I prayed I could have my water birth. Jason supported and encouraged me through each contraction. I had to really concentrate through each contraction and I felt like I was making good progress. The contractions got stronger and stronger and Christy suggested she check me to see if I was ready to get in the birth tub. I should have said no to this check. I had started feeling back pain and had a feeling baby Grace had gone back to being posterior. I told Christy in advance I didn’t want to hear a number, and she said “we still have some time before you get in the tub,” and I immediately knew I had not made much progress. I later found out I was only dilated to a 5 at this point.

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It was late on Monday night/early Tuesday morning and everyone was exhausted. Christy went home to rest, and Jamie (her student midwife) came to relieve everyone. I accepted some Stadol to help me sleep, but it didn’t really work. I still woke up with every contraction and the pain was all on the left side of my back. Sometime early Tuesday morning, I told Jamie I was ready for the epidural and more pitocin. Since my body was contracting all night, the pitocin would really work this time.

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I felt defeated as I slumped over for the epidural. I simply had no fight left in me. I had been working for 3 days on no sleep to get this baby out and was beyond exhausted both physically and emotionally. I didn’t want the epidural, but without it, I would have had to deal with intense contractions on no rest and I wouldn’t have any energy left to push. I was finally able to sleep. It wasn’t long before the epidural wore off, and someone came in to give me more. Around 10:30 (I think) on Tuesday morning, Dr. Farzam came in to talk to Leah and Jason. They left the room to talk and I knew they were talking C-section. I was in the room with just my photographer and I felt the longest and strongest contraction, and then immediately felt the urge to push. The nurse came in and I told her I was ready to push. She said she had to check me and when she did she said, “You’re completely dilated! You’re going to get your vaginal birth!”

With the next contraction, I got into a squatting position and began to push. The urge to push was so strong and it felt good to push. There was a lot of commotion as more nurses and the midwife on call filed in. I wasn’t making much progress in the squatting position, so the midwife suggested I get on my hands and knees. I pushed on my hands and knees for a while, and could feel my baby moving. I was so tired but so thankful to be pushing. I had to dig deep for every push, and could feel Gracie move down. I remembered one of the verses I wrote down on my affirmation cards: “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I truly believe God granted me strength to push despite my exhaustion.

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Labor

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I ended up sitting on the edge of the bed with my knees pulled up. I hated this position, but I could feel myself making a lot of progress. At some point Christy walked in and I was thankful to have her there, but I didn’t even have the strength to smile at her. I wanted to quit, but I also wanted to get my baby out! I finally felt her near my opening and heard Jason say “Oh wow!” I was so relieved.

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But then I heard everyone talking about what they had seen. I heard them mention it may have been fingers, vaginal tissue, my cervix, or my bladder. I was told to stop pushing so they could empty my bladder. They put a catheter in me and the nurses left to find Dr. Farzam. The next contractions were awful. I wasn’t allowed to push, but instead breathe through several contractions. Fighting the urge to push while having strong contractions, and having a catheter inside me 21was more than I could handle. I wish I could say I handled everything with grace, but I didn’t. I whined and complained and begged Christy to take the catheter out. I asked why it was taking so long, and told Jason to go find whoever it was they were looking for. Just then, Dr Farzam walked in and checked me to see what Gracie was doing. He said, “I feel eyes, nose, and mouth.” Gracie was coming out face presentation. Christy leaned over to me and said “You’re going to have a C-section.” At this point, I didn’t care. I just wanted my baby out, and I wanted it all to be over. The risk of injuring my baby was too great. Her head was bent all the way back, with her lips and nose coming out first. I didn’t want my baby to enter this world with any injuries. Dr. Farzam warned us that our baby would be severely bruised since she passed through my pelvic area face first.

They rushed me to the operation room and everyone there was so kind as they prepped me. They lifted a curtain in front of me and Jason came to sit by me. Right before the operation, Dr. Farzam asked Jason to say a prayer. That meant so much to us. I felt at peace with the situation as Jason prayed over the procedure and everyone involved. Jason stood up to watch the operation and I watched his face the whole time. I was told later that Gracie was so far down the birth canal, a nurse had to reach in and push her back towards my uterus, and when she did, Gracie latched on to her finger! I felt tugging and some pressure for a while, and then I felt a weight lifted off my belly. I knew she was here, and she let us know about it with a loud cry! They put her right by my face immediately as her cord pulsed. I loved feeling the warmth of her face as she cried and cried. My baby was here and she was safe.

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Gracie

It’s been difficult to process what happened. I am thankful for our journey, but I also feel disappointed, jealous, guilty, confused, broken, embarrassed, and sorrowful. The midwives and nurses have all told me I did everything I could and worked hard for my baby, but there’s still a part of me that wonders what more I could have done or what I did wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have slumped in the car so much so she would be in the proper position. Maybe I should have done just one more inversion. I still daydream of the birth I wanted. But I see beauty in our story now. Despite having my water ruptured for so long, the staff at the hospital allowed me to go through the motions of labor. I was able to push and almost had my baby out! Our birth team did what they could to try to give me the birth I wanted, but also made sure Gracie and I were safe. I am so proud of our daughter. Throughout the whole ordeal, she remained strong, her heartbeat never going out of the normal range.

I know the healing process will take a while, but seeing my baby girl makes it all worth it. I am so glad she is safe and that she wasn’t injured during the process. Jason’s love for me has never been so obvious as it was during labor and during this recovery. He is a perfect example of Christ loving the church. It’s not the birth I wanted, but it was beautiful because of the love and support given to Gracie and I by Jason, our midwives, our doula, and the amazing staff at the hospital.

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Watch their sweet video “Meeting Gracie” here:

 

 

 

Still a beautiful birth: part 2

On Monday I posted the first of three cesarean birth stories. Today’s story comes from Maggie McGovern who took Cori Gentry’s class in Carmel, CA. This is a great story that shows how education can truly help empower women to make informed decisions in their birth. I loved hearing Maggie’s story and hope you do too! Here is Maggie’s story:

I did Cori’s birthing boot camp class in Carmel, CA and loved it. I planned on doing a home birth with two midwives and met with them for 8 months and all was good until they suspected my baby might be breech. I was at 37 weeks and got an ultra sound and sure enough he was breech. This is when I had a rude awakening. I learned that no one does vaginal breech births locally unless it’s a surprise and the babies already coming out. And it’s illegal for midwives to do it. I learned a lot about breech births in a few days and talked to various midwives with various opinions. I tried every natural flipping method you’ve heard of. I considered going to another state to have midwives deliver my baby or going to LA to find the one doctor is heard of who does vaginal beeches in CA. Finally I decided to get a version and it was horrible. The doctors pushed and pulled so hard I can’t imagine it’s good for the baby. And he didn’t turn. So I talked to a very well respected doctor about having her try more gently. So I did another version which was much better as she was skilled and compassionate. But no go. So then I called San Francisco looking for hospitals that do vaginal breech births and found one but it was a student hospital and after my first version that involved students I was not going to do that. So I talked to Sutter hospital at Davis and they sounded great. They have a very low Cesarean rate and do many of the things I had on my birth plan like skin to skin. And they do vaginal breech births for qualifying women. I went up on a Sunday (the day after I called!) and got an MRI to see if my hips qualify for vaginal breech birth.

On Tuesday early morning before I had gotten the results my water broke. I didn’t know what to do because Davis is about a 4 hour drive from me. But I wasnt having any contractions and my midwife said she’d drive up with me and a friend so I decided to head up there and if necessary stop and deliver at the hospital in San Francisco! On the way up I talked to Davis and they said I could do a trial by labor despite my MRI showing slightly small hips. So up we went, got a hotel and then my contractions began. They got closer and much more intense and we went to the hospital.  Thirty hours later after staying dilated at 3 cm, and being exhausted and worried about the baby being ok the doctor said, we might want to consider a cesarean. Of course I’d wanted a vaginal natural birth so badly but having read all about cesareans, feeling fully informed, having prepared for this possibility, knowing these doctors had tried everything and knowing they wanted to only do cesareans if necessary and having them be so kind and gentle, keeping me in control the whole time,  I decided it would be safer for the baby. I actually felt uplifted by the decision because since the birth wasn’t going well I was so scared for my baby’s health. The doctors told me all about what they do and how they do skin to skin right away and never take the baby from the room and my partner could hold him if I need to rest while they stitch me up. They offered me options and never pushed anything on me or my baby. I trusted them and felt held and cared for.

I was still terrified as I had never had surgery in my life. And it is a very scary weird experience to have people operating on you and to hear it! But the anesthesiologist was amazing and talked to me the whole time, distracting me and comforting me. My partner was there the whole time holding my hand. And when I heard my baby boy I was so thrilled and relieved and knew it was all worth it and then they brought him right to where we could see him so my partner could cut the cord and then they gave him to me! It was incredible. I held him and then my partner took him as I was pretty shaky. He brought him to my dad and friend that was there (since I knew I was in such good hands I had told my midwife she could go home after I was checked into the hotel). And then I was all sewn up they brought me to them and he nursed right away and looked so healthy! I couldn’t have been more happy, relieved and grateful for his health and such a great support system and staff. I knew we’d all tried all we could and in this case a cesarean was best. And the surgeon told me when I asked about the surgery that my baby had been stuck in a horn in my uterus and may not have been able to be delivered vaginally. Which was the sense I was getting when I was in labor since he just felt stuck. Then we stayed at the hospital for 3 days and had supportive staff helping me which was awesome for nursing help and recovery from surgery. Different doctors and nurses came in and gave me tips and advice because it was all so new to me and it was very helpful.

Don’t get me wrong it is major surgery and very painful and frustrating to not be able to walk easily and to be bed ridden for awhile but it was all worth it knowing my baby was healthy. And now, 5 months later, I am amazed at how the body heals and I still know it was the best decision as my son thrives. I think the keys to a good cesarean are trusting ones doctor or doctors, being given power, respect and choices by the staff, having a place that is aligned with your values and birth plan and goals. This made it all smooth and easy despite my worry. And they were all so friendly which helps a ton. They were woman and baby focused not doctor focused. And they followed my lead and I looked to them for expertise. It was the perfect medical relationship in my mind. So it left me so grateful for the option of having a healthy, smooth, empowering cesarean.

 

 

 

Maggie

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Still a beautiful birth: Part 1

April was Cesarean Awareness month and it got me thinking a lot in regards to how I talk about this subject. I read a blog post recently that talked about the beauty and strength of women who have given birth by cesarean. It made me stop to think that I never speak of it in this light. It always comes up in a negative way. Often rightfully so, as too many women are being convinced that they are in need of a cesarean when in fact they are not. I have always said that I am not anti-cesarean. I am anti-cesarean when it is unnecessary.  But this blog post made me stop and think, am I acting this way about all cesareans? Am I treating their births as sub-par? I was convicted. Maybe I had. All three of my cesareans were unnecessary, but I know many women who have had necessary cesareans. I am so thankful that we have this option as a life-saving procedure!

I teach my students in my birth classes all about how to avoid an unnecessary cesarean. I do this by teaching them the red flags to look out for and educate them about interventions that may be unnecessary. This is one of the biggest reasons I started teaching Birth Boot Camp classes. I think this program does an amazing job to prepare couples to make educated decisions once it comes time to give birth. I have peace of mind knowing that when I send my students on their way, they will only end up with a cesarean if it was truly needed. I wanted to share a series of three beautiful births that ended up in a cesarean. I hope you enjoy them!

This first of three stories comes from one of my earliest couples from my class. I loved getting to know them. Both chiropractors, both very committed to having a natural birth. Here is their story:

We made that

(Jessica and Hans Mohrbeck)

(Jessica) I got pregnant. I got very pregnant. I had visions of being pregnant once, it involved a small, basketball-sized tummy and skinny ankles. I don’t recall wearing my husband’s clothes in that vision, nor it necessitating a wheelbarrow, but there I was using a pack and play box as a makeshift walker rushing at a snail’s pace to reach the bathroom in time, cursing my pelvic instability the entire way!

Jessica

We were ready for this baby, took our Birth Bootcamp with Caryn, read all the books, did all the research. We had four more weeks to go but we were ready. Soon I made it across our tiny apartment living room and into the bathroom, relief set in and I wiped the sweat off my brow. Oh how I wished it were that beautiful pregnancy glow, but then my stomach turned and my dream of being the most beautiful pregnant woman was destroyed by the lurching noises coming from my being that would put a drunkard to shame. I’ll spare you the rest of the details but it must have been food poisoning, I was certain of that. The day turned into night and my already anxious husband, Hans, urged me to call Jenee, our midwife. It was nearly 11pm but I sent her a quick text telling her that I was having a bout of food poisoning and was finding it difficult to keep water down. I may have also noted the excruciating back pain causing me labored breathing. She called asking more details and then as matter of fact told us that I was in labor and that I should begin working with each contraction and get comfortable. She urged me to take a warm bath and then try to get some rest and to keep her updated if any changes were made. I thought this woman was a professional! If she had memorized our cliche birth plan she would know that it entailed music and candles and not labor 4 weeks early while making mammoth sounds while the contents emptied from my stomach. “I’m not ready!” I’m fairly certain I yelled at her. She very calmly, Jenee-style, told me it didn’t matter we may have a baby soon. “We’ll see about that”, I protested. If there is one thing people learn quickly about me its that I’m very decided, my husband calls it stubbornness but I’m sure he’s wrong. Giving up on trying to squeeze my whale of a body in a kiddy pool size tub I made my way to bed and managed to drift to sleep. The next morning I woke a bit sore from the violent heaves of my body, but otherwise I felt pretty good. No contractions, no baby, we were back on schedule. I had an appointment on Monday for a checkup with Jenee and I looked forward to proving her wrong. The rest of the weekend rolled by uneventful and I continued my nesting ritual of making my husband rearrange every room several times insisting I could still see dust on the baseboards. Monday arrived, I would be attending this midwife appointment alone for the first time. Hans had an exam and felt guilty for missing. I’m sure I graciously eased his guilt by pointing out that he was going to let his very pregnant wife drive to a town she had never been to and miss the sound of his precious baby boy’s heart. On my way the “contractions” began again. I don’t know what right a contraction had to be so strong in the back and certainly not while I was driving. I knew something was wrong, but I was obstinate and in denial. I would get there and rest and all this would go away. It didn’t, and very quickly Hans was on his way to take me to the hospital. I was to be assessed for pre-eclampsia though it was unnecessary. I knew I had it and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. No cute first baby outfit, no cute receiving blanket or baby booties or hat. I didn’t even have a tooth brush! This was most certainly not in our birth plan.I don’t remember much and probably for the better. I remember being told I would need an emergency cesarean and letting one mournful tear drop, oh how I wanted a natural birth. Ok, maybe it was more than one tear, maybe it was more like wailing banshee, I was never a pretty crier. I thought about holding back the emotions but then again, how could I? I was stripped of my obligation to bring this baby into the world naturally, healthily, beautifully. I had made it my mission in life to disprove people, doctors, and naysayers. I wouldn’t get married, I was told, who would want to marry someone with my conditions knowing I would be a burden the rest of their life? I wouldn’t accomplish a degree I was told, no one could accomplish a degree with the level of pain I suffered. And children? Forget them because even if I wanted them it would be impossible to conceive. But here I was, a Doctor of Chiropractic, a wife to an amazing man who knowingly took my hand and stood by me. A mother—the ultimate impossible. I remember a short argument with a disgruntled nurse, something about signing a waiver to remove my uterus. I hoped she knew I was just having a C-section and nothing more. I was concerned about leaving with all the parts I entered with.

(Hans) So there I was, waiting for my exam to begin, I had been studying at school all morning because I finally had some free time while Jess was at her midwife check-up. Twenty minutes before my exam my phone is ringing, it’s Jess, and all I could think was “doesn’t she know this test starts in a couple minutes?” I was wrong, it was Jenee, and after a greeting she dropped the bomb on me. “Jessica needs to get to a Hospital, ASAP” she said. “But I have an exam…” I mumbled, completely taken by surprise and as if the thought of the exam wasn’t terrifying enough. It was go time! My wife in her most demanding state of need, an experience that I swore to be present for and to assist her with. “Not anymore you don’t. You need to get here and get her to a Hospital. Something is wrong” Jenee demanded. “Ok, let me go talk to the professor and I’m on my way!” I exclaimed. Yep, this was happening. I can’t believe how worried I was about the test and how quickly it became the least of my concerns.  When I arrived Jessica was sitting inside and Jenee was greeting me. She had started our other car to get the A/C running, it had the carseat so it only made sense. “Jessica is having contractions. You need to get her to a hospital, she might have pre-eclampsia. The two docs we planned for in case this happened are on vacation. You have a couple options but if I were you, I’d take her to Cleburne” Jenee advised. Jenee squared us away with directions and off we went.  At the time I was terrified, Jess was having contractions in the passenger seat of one of the most rough riding vehicles we’ve ever been in, and she could have pre-eclampsia! Whatever the hell that is! I know they mentioned it at the classes but come on, that stuff doesn’t happen to us, certainly my life wouldn’t be affected by something so sinister and… what the hell is it? How could Jess have it?  “I’m hungry but I don’t want to eat” Jess whined. “So eat something, I grabbed some crap at the store” I said as I motioned to her side of the car where I had tossed a bag with some juice, Cheez-its, almonds and some other stuff in it. She managed to get down one Cheez-it before she declared she didn’t want to eat and now she felt ill. I offered that perhaps it was because she hasn’t eaten. When we arrived at the Hospital we didn’t know where to go. We knew Dr. The O.B.’s office was with Labor and Delivery so that’s where we went. Jenee had already called over to a resident midwife on staff who was awaiting our arrival. She didn’t waste any time and was in our room assuring us how smoothly it would go. She mentioned how Jess looked fine and this is probably just precautionary. Nothing to worry about. They’ll just take some blood and we’ll make sure everything is fine, and be on our way. I was pulled in two directions, one direction was occupying half my mind with terrifying thoughts of what might happen. Of course only considering the worst case scenario, whatever it entailed, it was bad though. The other half of my mind was stuck on what a waste of time this is, how expensive it was going to be since we don’t have insurance, and how late we’d get home when we had to drive all the way back to Dallas. The certified midwife on staff was named Sharon*. She was the one who came to deliver the news. She stumbled over her words for a moment and then said “I don’t know how to tell you this. You’re going to need an emergency C-section. I don’t think there’s any way to even try a vaginal birth.” I’m not going to say I was stoic when this news was delivered. I was heart broken for my wife. She wanted nothing more than to deliver this baby on her terms. I teared up pretty bad but thought I’d be able to hold it together, until she started sobbing uncontrollably. I failed. I did what I could to console her. Sharon* reassured us that we were in good care then asked if Jess had eaten anything on the way, perhaps we could do the C-section now. We told her about the Cheez-it and she said “ok we’ll wait for tomorrow. We can’t do it if you have had anything to eat.” We notified Jenee as soon as the tears slowed and sat and waited. Sharon* came back and gave Jess some pill for some reason. I’m not good under pressure like this, so I can’t really recall what it was for, but I do know that shortly after she took it she just spaced out. She was high. I was jealous wondering if I’d get one. She seemed so carefree. I wanted that. Instead I finished up the conversation with Jenee. Called my brother to let him know he needed to handle the pups and that we wouldn’t be coming home. I sent some texts to family and then decided I better get a few things from the store. I waited for Jess to fall asleep and ran out to Walmart to prepare for the next day. My clothes were filthy, I was ravenous and my mind was too damn busy for sleep.

The big day. The day all of this crap will be behind us! Dr. The O.B. showed up to clue us in to what was going on. He informed us that Jess was in fact pre-eclamptic and more than that was suffering from some terrible thing called HELLPs. More like UN-HELLPS. When we asked what HELLPs was we were just bombarded with a bunch of doctor words that meant nothing to me. All of it sounded terrifying however that’s probably because it was all wrapped in in a nifty box called syndrome. I’m not sure but I don’t think there’s such thing as a good syndrome. Jenee arrived and we filled her in. She didn’t say much, but she did a great job of making it feel like everything was normal and that this was just a bump in the road. Not a big deal. Dr. The O.B. came back to the room with an IV bag of platelets, and some medication used for the pre-eclampsia. He informed us we needed to raise Jess’ platelet count before we could even attempt the C-section. After administering a couple of bags of platelets she was prepped and ready, even though they still weren’t pleased with the count, they needed to move fast to make sure they could at least contain the pre-eclampsia. This is where I was left out. Jess was moved to the main OR at the hospital so that they had immediate access to any equipment that may be needed and Jenee and I were sent to the waiting room. We sat and talked for a while, about 30 minutes and then Jenee started to pace. I had no idea how long it should take so I assumed she just didn’t want to sit. Forty-five minutes went by and Jenee mentioned that it’s taking a little long but perhaps there was some politics in the OR that have lengthened the process. We didn’t hear anything until just after an hour passed. We were notified that the baby was born and he’s doing great, just working on Jess. Jenee seemed relieved about that and so I was too. They brought my baby to me and handed him to me with a big smile and said “he’s so precious! The most adorable baby I’ve ever seen!” “What the f#$% am I supposed to do with this thing?” I wondered to myself. I stood there and held him up awkwardly. “Where’s Jess” I asked. I mean I heard so many times how she couldn’t wait for him to be born and hold him skin on skin, and nurse him, and cuddle him. I don’t remember having to hold my son in front of random strangers, under their scrutiny, as though they were testing to see if I would be a good single father. It was almost like I was shopping for lingerie at Victoria’s Secret without a woman. I was being watched like some weirdo. Seriously… what the hell am I supposed to do? Jenee and Sharon* said some things to me to bring me to ease but let’s be realistic, this wasn’t part of the plan. This is Jess’ thing. My plan was to watch and shed tears of joy. Not be the sole caregiver of a newborn. I can’t nurse him. This doesn’t even make sense! Sharon* assured me Jess would be out in a few minutes and to head upstairs. So Jenee escorted me upstairs where instead of Jess getting to experience the first moments of skin on skin, it was me. I was thrust into this awkward moment by myself, without my support, with the one person in my life who I needed to prove myself to, my son. Jenee urged that skin on skin with me was almost as good as with Jess so I peeled off my shirt, felt awkward and self-conscious and realized the only judging eyes in the room were my own. So I unwrapped Hansi and placed him on my chest where we just sat and he looked up at me.

Baby Hans

This was heavy. This might be my reality. I could be the only one there for my son. All I could think was “this kid is doomed…” Time went by. At first I was counting the minutes. Staring at the clock. Then I just stopped. A watched pot never boils… you know, that kind of thing, so I just sat there with Hansi and Jenee assumed my role. She began calling downstairs every 10-15 minutes inquiring about Jess. Finally after some ungodly amount of time they said “we’re having difficulty stabilizing her. We’ll move her to ICU as soon as she’s stable enough to move.” Call me crazy, but I was always under the impression that ICU was where unstable people were sent. It seemed like my worst fears were getting closer by the minute, this kid was doomed, I will be a single dad, and Jess wouldn’t have been able to realize the skin on skin contact of her own creation. We took a lot of bold chances but perhaps they finally caught up to us. I had sent texts to inform family about Jess going in for a C-section. We had prayers and wishes for luck. I texted my in-laws, and as the time passed my mother-in-law continued to inquire. I responded a couple of times, I even sent pictures of Hansi. This of course was not the news everyone was awaiting and soon texts were going unanswered. Eventually we were given the fantastic news that Jess was moved to ICU. It’s not very often that your loved one in ICU is good news, but I must say it filled me with hope. It was a step in the right direction because I’m pretty sure there was no room for a step in the other direction. Jenee told me to go downstairs and see her, she’d watch Hansi for me, and so that’s what I did. I ventured down to the ICU as soon as I could. I found Jess’ room and crept in. She laid there. She was motionless, frigid cold to the touch yet wrapped in blankets. Her skin was nearly translucent, her heart rate was low, blood pressure dismal. It looked as though she was dying and this was their attempt to let me see her one last time. She was unresponsive. It’s probably obvious how I reacted. I went back upstairs to see Jenee and told her about how Jess looked down there. She said she wanted to go check on her. I sat there with Hansi again, the gravity of the situation seeming to have acquired much more pull than earlier. How do I do this alone? When I married Jess it wasn’t for the thought of children, it was for a future with her, and this reality didn’t seem to have room in it for her. Jenee came back upstairs and told me to call her family. She informed me she couldn’t find Sharon* and that her parent’s have a right to know what’s happening. She was right. I went back downstairs to see Jess and find Sharon*, I found Sharon* first. I told her I was going to call my in-laws and needed to know what to tell them. I asked her “can I tell them that Jess is going to recover and that everything is fine, or do I tell them they need to get out here as soon as possible?” Sharon* tried to respond while I was talking but I hand cut her off with my questioning and her response was “tell them to come out here.” I did just that. I walked outside and made sure to get away from the entrances and sidewalks. I called my mom first, hoping that I could release enough sorrow on the phone that I could have a reasonably collected conversation with her mom. All it did was convince my parents to get on the road. I didn’t protest. After I hung up I immediately called my in-laws. My mother-in-law asked how Jess was doing. Asked why I wasn’t responding. I told her we had not been receiving any updates so I didn’t have anything to tell her before. I told her about the conversation with Sharon* and that they should get on a plane and get here as soon as possible. They did just that. Jess finally came to in ICU where they were routinely changing out IVs of blood. I witnessed them change it 8 times, however I do not know how many units she received. She was coherent though after a while, and although there was some moments that seemed like they’d be her last, that team never stopped fighting and neither did Jess. I spent a lot of the day between being in the ICU with Jess and giving Jenee a break.

(Jessica) A few days, or hours who knows, I awoke. I was alone and empty and so I let the medication drag me back under. I woke again but this time my husband was at my side begging me to hold on, to not leave him alone, that he couldn’t do this without me. I didn’t understand. I tried to talk some sense into him, to tell him I was ok and that we would be home soon, but all that came out was a few squeaks. It had taken the anesthesiologist eight minutes to intubate me, normally a 30 second step, and in the process scarring my trachea making it difficult to talk and swallow. So I weakly whispered affirmations of love and healing and that I felt great, but only terrified doubt lay in his eyes. I remember waking again later and asking for Hans but I was told he was with our baby on another floor in the hospital. They weren’t allowed to leave that floor and I was still too sick to return to the maternity ward.

(Hans) Jenee stayed with us that day. It was much needed. I couldn’t have done it without her. She was a blessing and I wish there was some way I could thank her. I wish I could pay her for her time, or return the favor. She made sure to acquire donor breast milk and took the responsibility to feed my baby. She changed his diapers. I was clueless. That night the head nurse said she would be taking Hansi downstairs to see Jess. He was going to nurse one way or another. I mentioned something I had heard in passing about the doc not wanting Hansi down there yet and her response was “I don’t care what anyone says, she’s going to nurse.” I knew Jess would be pleased, because I was, and she was right. She brought Hansi downstairs and Jess was given the opportunity to nurse him on his first day of life. It may not have been in the plan, but her wish was still granted.

Jessica and baby

(Jessica) I argued with the doctors that I was strong enough to at least nurse my baby. Concerns flooded through me, would he know me, remember me, feel safe and loved in my embrace? How coldly he was torn from my body, so soon before our due date. I had lost the chance to birth, to become a real woman, to understand my body. But my pleas were heard and my baby was brought down. I was complete again, my worries quickly melted away, of course he remembered me and we nursed and fell in love all over again. I looked to my husband and said “We made that, a miracle baby.” Hans Wulfric was born June 11, 2013.

We just want to extend a special thank you to Jenee Ohrvall w/ Sacred Path Midwifery for everything that she did for us from the start. Thanks to Caryn Westdyk for being such a fun and knowledgable Birth Bootcamp instructor. Thanks to Dr. Jim Bob Haggerton for providing fantastic Chiropractic care. Finally,a big thank you to the team at Texas Health Harris @ Cleburne for everything you did for us.