I Can’t Stop Crying | A Complicated Conversation that I would rather have with you in person but feel compelled to write about tonight

Today, in a landmark decision, the Texas State Governor cancelled Medicaid funding in the state of Texas for Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion provider in the United States. The Governor has made it clear in his written statement that the state of Texas firmly supports both women’s healthcare and unborn life.

Other states are mired in legalities over this topic, and everyone is bursting at the seams with their own opinion and idea of whom we should support, and how.

Abortion is, and will continue to be, a complicated conversation, and a legislative battle in our country.

When I was a senior in college, I worked at Super Target. It was our first year of marriage. I worked full time to support us, while Benjamin was a full time student. I was also finishing a few senior-level classes and my senior thesis.

A co-worker at Super Target had four children, all grown and around my own age.  I remember talking to her one day about being a newlywed, and we got on the topic of birth control.  I was saying something about how we were being extra cautious not to conceive at this time of our lives – both still in school, about to graduate in less than a year, and myself being the only income (besides my husband’s work study job, which we all know how much those pay!).

She lightly said something to the effect of, “Well, if anything unexpected happens, you can take care of it easily.” She told me after she and her husband had two of their children, they conceived an unexpected third. They were poor, and she was beside herself at the idea of another child, at that time of their lives. So she had an abortion. Later in life, they went on to have two other children, when they were more financially stable. She encouraged me that I shouldn’t worry about birth control too much, because there was another option for an unwanted pregnancy.

I sat in my chair in the Super Target clerical office, completely stunned. I guess I had naively figured most women who have had an abortion, when they are “all grown up”, they probably regret it, or at least wonder about their baby.

I couldn’t help but wonder…. she had four healthy adult children. I’m guessing she loves her children, and has grandchildren from them whom she also loves.  I couldn’t reconcile the idea that one of her children, who would have been just as amazing and precious as the four living ones, never had a chance. If she had birthed all five of them, and lost that middle child when he or she was five, or ten, or eighteen – would she have had the same nonchalant attitude about that child?

If you are reading this and you’ve had an abortion, I love you. Whether you feel it was the right decision and stand by it; or whether you regret it and can’t forgive yourself for it; or whether you have mixed feelings and thoughts because…. it was complicated then, and it’s still complicated now. The last thing I will do is judge you for your reasons and your decision. Judgement doesn’t breathe love, and love is what is breathed into every human life at its conception.

We don’t fight civil wars anymore over issues that tear our country apart. Instead we post Facebook articles, write hashtags, send emails to our Senators, listen to media tell us what to think, gush with like-minded friends and un-friend people who don’t agree with us.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I documented my pregnancy in a weekly photo blog. We had waited ten years of marriage, and I felt I had been waiting my entire life, to have a baby. We purchased an iPhone app called Sprout that gave us insight into what was developing with the baby on a week-to-week basis.

 

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By the time a woman misses her period and takes a positive pregnancy test, the cells are in place that form the base of the child’s brain. The baby is the size of an apple seed.

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By ten weeks old, the baby is the size of a radish, has a head and skeleton, and can be seen in a sonogram DANCING.

……………………………………………………….

I don’t generally consider Facebook – or any online format for that matter – to be the right place to express my deeply held values or discuss inflammatory and complicated topics. I prefer to have deep, meaningful, heartfelt conversations face-to-face, where I can hear your story, you can hear mine, and we can understand each other. The human touch is key to resolving conflict; and Facebook, email, and text message don’t do a great job with that.

You don’t have to agree with me to be my friend. I don’t have to agree with you to be your friend. I have friends of many faiths, genders, and nationalities. Our friendship or our business relationship doesn’t hinge on our agreement about a slew of topics (otherwise, who would have friends?!).

What I want to be, as a human and a Christ-follower in this world, is to be part of the solution to the problems I see. I can’t fix the world. I can’t even fix myself and my own kids! The solution for me, is to support women, to support mothers, in the ways I know how. To be a playful partner to children around me. To be a better friend. To be a better parent. To love people who are lonely. To continue wrestling with the possibility of foster care or adoption in growing my family.

Because God is love and love comes from God. And there’s a lot of hurting people who don’t feel loved right now. Born and unborn. Those people – all of them – are where I am called to love and serve.

So today, I can’t stop crying. For the babies. For the mothers. For the lonely people in our world today. For a raging conversation that tears friends and nations apart. For a desperation to see life and freedom where there is death and darkness. Oh God, would you give us more of Your love. Would You help me express more of Your love in this earth. The world needs Love.

The Day We Met | A Birth Story

The perspective of earth. Of depth.
Of suffering
Of relief.
Of emotion so raw
and sensation so powerful
only another woman who has journeyed through them knows.
Not from the outside;
From the inside.
I can’t get comfortable.  It is bedtime, and I need rest, but I feel so restless.  These Braxton Hicks are bugging me in my lower back.  Perhaps laying on my right side.  No, back to the left.  Nothing is comfortable….
9:30 pm. March 9, 2012.
Could I be in labor?
It’s so unlikely.  I did pass that small clot of mucus on Monday while I photographed Nicki’s labor, but there’s been nothing since then.  And this whole week my Braxton Hicks have been a bit more crampy in my lower back, but my friend Melissa had painful Braxton Hicks for a month leading up to her labor.  Then her labor only took three hours.
I’ve got to stop thinking and find a way to fall asleep.
I’m probably not in labor.  So I’ve got to get a normal night’s rest.  It might be the weekend, but Saturday morning comes early, and I’ve got a lot to accomplish tomorrow.  And even if I am in labor, I know very well it could last twenty hours or more, and be completely exhausting.  So I HAVE to sleep…..
When Robin checked me today, I was 80% effaced and two centimeters dilated, and Beta was at zero station, but I could be that way for weeks before labor starts.  I’ve got to get some rest.
I have to pee.  Again. I’ll be so glad when this endless peeing is over.
I’ll just get up and walk around a bit; that will tire me out….
I’ve got to sleep.  Robin told me, if I thought I was in labor, to get some sleep.
This bed is killing me.  It’s like a prison.
My lower back hurts so bad.  In fact, it wasn’t hurting at all when I was walking around, but laying in this bed is so painful I can’t take it any more.  So much for the Bradley class relaxation crap.  I’m doing every relaxation thing we’ve ever practiced, and it all involves laying still on my side in bed.  And laying on my side in bed is so painful I can’t take it anymore.
I have to get some rest.
“Pop.”  Crap. Was that a pop?  Was that the infamous water pop?
I feel wet.  I feel wetness dripping inside me.  Crap. I didn’t want my water to break first. It makes labor so much more painful.
When Robin checked me, she did say there was a little bubble of waters bulging above the baby’s head.  Maybe that’s all it is.  To the bathroom.
Okay, clear thick fluid draining out.  A tablespoon?  Maybe two? Must be that little bubble.  Okay, maybe this really is it.  I better text Robin.
11:00 pm.
Yes, Robin, it’s clear.  It’s odorless.  No blood. Nothing yellow or green.

“Get some sleep.”

Yeah, I already knew that.  But it feels better to sit on the toilet.

Another Braxton Hick.
Okay, now THAT is bloody show.  It’s not a lot of it, but it’s definitely it.  Clumpy, thick mucus,clear with white stringy stuff and blood in it. Okay.  This might be it.  Don’t get excited.  This could take a while.  Text Robin.

“Get some rest.”

Ha. Right.

This bed is killing me.  Rest.
I can’t rest.
Relax.
I can’t lay down.  It hurts.  I’ve got to get up.
If we’re having this baby tonight in this living room, I need to clean some things up.  And if this baby comes tomorrow, then I’m not going to do my weekend laundry, so I should sort the laundry and get it started.
Standing and leaning on the laundry basket’s wooden handles. Rocking my hips, eyes closed.
I should get out the birth supplies.  They’re in the nursery closet.  On the other side of the house.  That’s too much work; I can’t do it.  I should at least get my dress on.  It’s really a swim cover up, but it makes a great short dress.  I picked it out for labor.  I can at least get it on.
They’re just Braxton Hicks.  That’s all.
This could take along time.
I think this is labor.
It’s probably not labor.
But I had water pop!  And bloody show!
I can’t lay down.  I gotta pee.

……………………………

12:00 am.

I should time a few of these.  Just in case.  I have that contraction app in my iPhone….

One minute long.  Three minutes apart.
One minute long.  Six minutes apart.
One minute long.  Three minutes apart.

With every one of these stupid contractions I have to pee. Might as well sit on the toilet. Rocking my hips on the toilet. Eyes closed, neck extended, head facing the ceiling.  Need to breathe through them.  Gotta relax.
Can’t sit any more,it’s too intense.  Standing in the bathroom, fists pushing against the bathroom counter, leaning forward, head hanging down, rocking my hips.  Always rocking my hips.  Starting to moan.  Breathing isn’t enough anymore; I have to moan.
Ow ow ow ow….I can’t take it anymore!  I need help.  “Help!” “Benjamin!”  “I need help!”
Poor thing, I tried to let him sleep as long as I could.  Now it’s the middle of the night, and he’s going to be exhausted too.  He’s such a deep sleeper.
I don’t know what I want you to do.  I just need help.  Please help me.
1:30 am.
Oh yes, pressing on my hips, thank you, that feels SO much better. At least those classes taught us something helpful.  Wow, that makes such a difference.
Gotta pee again.  Rock my hips on the toilet.  Don’t look away from me, Benjamin, please, look in my eyes.  I’m sure I look crazy, but I have to see your face.  It helps me get through.
I want to try the ball.  That doesn’t really help.  But oh, when you press my hips, that helps so much.
I gotta lay down.  This hurts.  I don’t know what to do to make it stop hurting.  Maybe if I lay down.  I can’t lay down, on my hands and knees, leaning my face into the bed, my bottom in the air.
 
I don’t know if we should call Robin.  Ow ow ow ow…..!!!Okay, maybe you should call her.  But what if it’s too soon?  OW!!!  Okay, call, please.
Do we want her to come? I don’t know.  I probably have so far to go.  But maybe since it’s so intense already it’s moving fast.  I don’t know.  OWW!!!! Okay, tell her to come, tell her to come……
I spent so much time imagining this.  Imagining how painful it would be.  Taking every piece of pain I’ve ever felt and lumping it all together, then exaggerating it as much as my imagination could.  This is so intense.  This hurts so bad.  This is already as bad as I imagined it.  How far do I have to go?  Maybe things are moving fast and she’ll tell me when she gets here it’s moving fast. It hurts SO bad.  I told myself I would feel like I was losing my mind. That the pain was the only part of me that would seem to exist.  I’m already there.  How much worse is this going to get?
………………………..
2:10 am.

Three?  I’m a THREE? I’m going to die.  I’m really going to die.  This is already just as awful as I imagined it, and I have SO FAR to go.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.  You’re not supposed to say that yet, but I really can’t do this.  You’re not supposed to feel that way until transition, but it’s already so horrible.
My stomach, my stomach hurts.  I’m going to vomit.  It’s normal, thank you for reminding me.  I know it’s normal.  Actually, it wasn’t so bad.  I usually hate puking, but that wasn’t so bad.  It kind of felt better.
And again.  My juice. That awesome Odwalla juice, there it goes.

…………………………….

4:00 am.

How long has it been?  Can I please get in the tub?  Is the tub ready?
My sister Esther is here.  Her daughter Isabel.  I don’t know when they arrived; but they’re here.
The tub.  I need to get in the water.  Why isn’t there enough hot water?  Please don’t make me wait any longer…..
My mom is here.
Six.  Only a six? Please, that’s not good enough.  I need this to be over.  I feel like I’m dying.

5:00 am.

Oh the water, the water feels so good.  It’s so hot!  I’m so hot; I can’t be this hot.  Please, make it cooler, I’m so hot.  I feel like I’m suffocating.  Please, I’m so hot…..

I thought the water was supposed to make it better.
Maybe this IS better.  Maybe it would be worse if I wasn’t in the water.  Maybe it’s helping and I just don’t know it.  It hurts so bad.
Benjamin, please, I need you here with me.
My mom wants to help me breathe.  Anything.  Anything. I’ll do anything that will help. This is horrible.  This is so awful.  This is so many light years worse than I anything I could possibly have imagined.
Benjamin,PRESS!  Please don’t stop pressing my hips.  It doesn’t make the pain go away,but it helps SO much.  PRESS!
Breathe in two three,breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow.  Rock my hips in the water.
I feel like I’m dying.
My body is splitting apart.  My bones are being pushed apart and they’re cracking.  I just need this to be over.  I need this to be over.  I feel like I’m dying…..
My photographer is here.  Oh, I’m so glad she made it, all the way from Kerrville.  She didn’t miss it.
………………………

6:00 am.

Eight.  Please, that’s not enough.  I need it to be more.  I need it to be over.  Eight isn’t good enough.

Breathe.  My mom will help me breathe.  I need help.  Help to bear it; it’s so awful.

Breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in….

 

 

Breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, OW OW OW OW AHHHHH!!!!!

I can’t!  I can’t get a hold of myself!  I can’t! The baby, the baby’s head is pressing down between my bones, I can feel it.  Oh, when he does that it hurts SOO bad I can’t, I can’t breathe, I can’t stay on top of it, I can’t, I CAN’T!  It hurts SO BAD!  Please, please help me.  Please, I need it to be over.
Breathe in….this one’s not as bad.  Breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow… Rocking my hips, swinging my body back and forth, back and forth in the water.

 

My body has taken me over. I’m like a writhing, caged, tortured animal.  My mind is disconnected from my body and I can see me from the outside, writhing. Screaming.
I know they don’t want me to scream.

 

 
Joi is here.  She’s such a strong person.  I need her strength.  I’m so weak. I can’t do it.

Oh baby, I know you need to come down, but when you press down into me, oh it hurts so much worse than I can bear.  I know, I know enough about all of this, I’m not supposed to scream. High noises are bad.  But when he presses down into me, oh it’s just unbearable, I can’t breathe.  It feels like my bones are splitting apart.

AGHGH!!!  I hear them saying my water broke….how would they know?  I’m IN the water?  Ooohhh that made it hurt so much worse….I can’t, I can’t…..

 

Do I want to meet this baby?  NO.  Please no. Just make it stop.  You think I want to, but I don’t.  I just want it to be over.  I don’t want to meet him; I just want it to stop.  Is there something you can give me to make it stop?  I feel like I’m dying.

Something felt different.  I think I’m pushing.  I think I heard my voice make a pushing sound.  It helped a little, that different thing.  Maybe I can push soon.

7:30 am.
They’re going to help me push.  They’re going to let me push.  Pulling my legs back, pulling my knees out to the side. OWWW!!! GAHH!! Didn’t everyone say it felt so much better?  This is even worse, oh it’s so much worse.  I can’t push.  I can’t push into that pain.  Pushing makes him move down, down where it’s splitting my body open, I can’t push him into that pain, please, please don’t make me.  Please make it stop. I just need it to be over.  This hurts so much worse than it did before.

I know, I’m not supposed to scream, but I can’t, I can’t help it, it’s too much.  I can’t bear it.
Why can’t I be on my hands and knees?  Please, it helps.

Benjamin, PRESS!
Okay, I’ll get out.  I told you it didn’t matter to me if I delivered in the water or not.  I’ll do anything you want.  Anything you want to make it be over.
No, no, no, ow ow ow OWWWW GAHH please, no!  Oh, Robin,you’re hurting me SO BAD.  Please, I just need a break.  Why can’t I have a break?  I just need a break.  I can’t keep pushing into this pain, oh pushing him down and he’s ripping open my body. My skin splitting and tearing.

 

 

 

 

You can see him?  I can see him in the mirror.  Two inches of the top of his head.  He’s still so far in there.  I still have so far to go.
There’s a baby there.  I forgot.  That’s my baby.  I have to do this for him.

I practiced these Kegels.  You can cheer me on, but I know exactly when I’m doing it right.  I can feel it.  I can feel my muscle grabbing his head and pushing him down.  It hurts SO bad.  When I do it right, I can feel it, and it is the worst pain of all.  I have to do it.  I can’t.  No!  I can’t push anymore, the contraction is gone, please don’t make me do it anymore.  I have to.  I have to do it.  It’s the only way this is going to be over.

Gahhhh!  His head is out.  I know it’s out.  I felt it like a “pop.”

I never felt him crowning.  I never felt the ring of fire.  It felt like tearing and burning and grating off my skin all the way down.  It wasn’t just at the end, it was all the way down, like all my skin was being peeled away.

Oh that felt so good to have his head out.  That feels so much better.  Yes, I want to touch him, I want to touch his head.  Help me touch him.

He has hair.  I can see his hair.  I was bald when I was born, but my baby has hair.  Dark hair.

I can hear you.  Esther, I can hear you laughing and crying.  Laughing and crying at the same time.  I can hear all of you, like a distant choir, a chorus in unison cheering me on.

No, I can’t push; I don’t have a contraction.  Is he okay?  Is my baby okay?  Why aren’t I having any more contractions?  I can’t push without a contraction.  Is my baby okay?
Okay, I’m ready, it’s coming, I can push again.  OWWWW! AHHHHHGGGHHH!!  I can feel every little bony part, his shoulders and elbows and knees, I can feel everything slipping and sliding out of me.  So slippery.

 

My hands, touching your skin, holding you under the shoulders, drawing you up to me.
Then in shock….“You’re a BOY!”
“You’re HUGE!”
I know, I just held Nicki’s baby earlier today, and he was eight pounds, and this baby is SO much heavier!  He’s huge!  And he’s a boy!
8:28 am. March 10, 2012.
I have a son.  I have a firstborn son.  We have a firstborn son.  He’s here. It’s over.  It’s over.

Benjamin, say it, say his name, say his name.
Jax Reilly.
He’s a boy.  We have son. Thank you Jesus, thank you, thank you Jesus.  He’s mine. He’s crying, oh he’s crying, he can breathe.  Oh you’re in my arms.  You’re on my chest.

Just like all the photos I’ve taken at other mommy’s births.

This is the moment I was waiting for.  My baby. My baby. My baby.

……………………………
A few days ago, on Monday, I photographed Robin’s daughter, Nicki’s labor.  How beautiful it would be, to photograph a mother midwife delivering her daughter’s baby, her grandson.  But Nicki’s labor unfortunately ended in transfer to the hospital and a cesarean. Nicki’s son is strong and healthy, and everyone is recovering well.  But it wasn’t the way they wanted things to go.  It is so rare that Robin has to transfer anyone to the hospital; it was a bittersweet experience for the family.
For me, it was a gift.  I watched Robin be mom and midwife for her daughter.  I watched her and her assistant midwife, Joi, use their vast skill and every trick in the bag to bring this baby out safely at home.  Buthe just didn’t want to come down.  They were amazing.  Nicki was amazing, Robin and Joi were amazing.
Robin was so concerned for me after that.  She didn’t want me to be afraid that my birth wouldn’t go well.  That we would end up in the hospital.  She was afraid that experience, so close to my own delivery, would frighten me.
But it gave me so much peace.  I didn’t even realize, I had an emotional wall up toward Robin.  It wasn’t her, it was an association I had with any medical type personnel.  Like they were the enemy and I had to protect my baby from what they might do to him. Why did I lump her in with my fear of hospital birth and doctors?  I didn’t even realize I had.  But this, seeing Nicki’s labor.  Watching Robin work.  I can trust her.  I really can trust her.  She’s on my side.  Like my mother would be on my side, working to protect my baby, to protect me.  She is so skilled.  She did everything possible.  I can trust her.  What peace, what peace, knowing this.  Everything is going to be okay.
Oh but the look on her face when I passed that mucus clot during Nicki’s labor!  She and Joi had just come from a birth before Nicki’s, and if it would have been three in a row.  They were exhausted.  She kept telling me to be careful.  She was so concerned.  For her sake, I’m so glad my baby waited five more days.
……………………………
Friday night, I had put a clove of garlic in my vagina, to help with a mild yeast infection.  It wasn’t until near the end of labor when it finally floated out of me, probably after one of the times Robin checked me. I remember seeing it floating on top of the water in the birth tub and asking someone to take it out.
A washcloth fell from either my forehead or Benjamin’s into the water.  I asked them to take it out, because it was floating around annoying me.  No one listened to me (I wonder now, did I really say it out loud?).  I grabbed it and threw it out of the pool as hard as I could.  Esther had to clean up the mess.
…………………………….
I have personally known women who said, “I really couldn’t call it pain; it was just intense.”  I have seen women deliver babies in very short periods of time (less than an hour, or even just a few minutes), who would say they were in pain for only a short time.  Others who had hard labors, but minutes after the baby arrived, were saying “It wasn’t that bad.”
No one experiences labor the same, and even for the same person, no birth is the same.
For me, it was so many light years worse than anything I could have possibly imagined.  I kind of hate to describe it this way on the internet, because I still am convinced that home birth, and un-medicated birth,is the best and safest thing for mommy and baby.  And it is beautiful.  Powerful, painful, beautiful, worth it.

I won’t do it any other way.  I will choose this same indescribable experience again, because I am still convinced it is the best way.  I would never trade the pain for the hospital experience of fear and helplessness, and the side effects of the drugs.

And it’s not all about the labor anyway.  The prenatal and postpartum care from a midwife is amazing enough to justify home birth for that reason alone.  I spent an hour at every appointment with my midwife’s undivided attention.  All the appointments (including postpartum)were at my home, on my own bed.  I texted her a hundred times during pregnancy and postpartum with silly and serious questions, and I always received a response within an hour.
And after it’s over, things are so much different at home than at the hospital.  No one took my baby away when he was born,because he was too small, or too big, or too cold, or his blood sugar was too low, or they wanted to immunize him with vaccines I don’t believe in.  I didn’t have to go anywhere when I was in labor, and I didn’t have to go anywhere afterward to get home.  No one woke us up in the middle of the night twenty times to take our temperature or our blood.  All my family could be here, in the comfort of our home.  There’s just no comparison.
………………………………………
As his body was birthed, I tore badly.  His head emerged well, without tearing, and his body was still in the “correct” face-down position.  Babies usually make a small turn from face-down, to face-to-the-left-side, allowing their shoulders to rotate and exit the birth canal.  My baby was a bit over-eager, and turned instead to the right side, then did a full rotation all the way back around to the left side as he exited my body.  As he rotated, he put out his elbow, sliding it across my perineum above my rectum. It caused at least one third degree (into the muscle) tear, with multiple tears all across the area.  I quickly lost a large amount of blood through the tear site, much more than I was losing from my uterus.

…………………………………….
Something is wrong.  I can tell by their voices.  It’s not the baby.  They’re working on me; something is wrong with my bottom.
Ah, the placenta.  It’s out.  Everything is out, oh I’m so glad.  I asked the photographer to capture the “tree of life” on the side of the placenta the baby sees.  I hope she remembers.

8:41 am.

…………………………………..
They lifted me off the birth stool and laid me flat on my back on the floor.  Herbs under my tongue, ugh,then Pitocin, to stop the bleeding.
………………………………….
I need someone to take the baby, please take him from me. They’re hurting me.  I can’t breathe.
…………………………………
Esther held him for the first time.

Then they wanted him skin to skin.  Benjamin held Jax to his chest.  I looked up and saw Benjamin wearing his brown bathrobe, Jax’s little head peeking out.

They carried me to my bed, laid me flat on my back.  Oh how good it felt, laying on my back.

Things are better now.  I get to nurse him.  WOW, that hurts!  He is so strong!  I had no idea a baby could latch that hard.  He’s nursing well, what a relief.  Sweet boy.
We can rest now, I can hold you.  Hold you to my chest and watch you nurse. 
Precious, precious day.

 

  

……………………………..

I asked Isabel if she was okay, if she wasn’t frightened. She said cheerfully, “Oh, I’m fine! Just sometimes you were really loud so I had to go out of the room for a while.”

Oh, and they brought me Mexican food…enchiladas verdes….I was ravenous.

The newborn exam.  I’ve been waiting for this! 
Twenty two inches long!  Monstrous!  Ten pounds four ounces!  Crazy! He took all of us by surprise. Robin says she hasn’t been that off in a long time.  How did my body do that?  My firstborn, almost ten and a half pounds! 
Forty weeks.  You weren’t early after all.  Your house measured big all along, and my ovulation chart was a bit hard to interpret. We weren’t completely sure of the date. 
Full term.  Our due date must have been off a bit; you’re not early, you’re full term.  What a big boy.

 

 

 

 

 

Vernix: just a bit
Lanugo (downy body hair): present on the back of your ears, shoulders, neck, and back. So soft.
Other hair: eyebrows good, eyelashes good, full head of hair, medium brown color, about 1/2 inch in length. Makes you look like a little boy already!
Ears: super cute, nicely laid against your head, your right ear has a slightly unique shape in the middle, but it might flatten out over time.
Eyes: steel grey (typical newborn)
Cheeks and Lips: soooo kissable
Fingers and toes: Twenty total, all perfect, nails long and sharp on your fingers!
Male parts in place and well formed.
Chubby thighs and adorable all over!

 

 

Tabitha and Matt arrived from Houston with the kids.  Daniel arrived with Aidan.  My Dad arrived with Tita.  Everyone was there except Priscilla and Mercy,about six hours away, driving home from college.  Tina arrived, crying.  She had been invited to the birth but didn’t get the messages in time.

  

 

My dad read out loud what we had written about Jax’s name, its meaning, and the Scripture verses we selected to speak over him prophetically.  He got choked up.  Everyone listened intently.  I cried (duh).

……………………………….
It took a long time to stitch me.  So glad the family has Jax.  They get to take turns holding him and enjoy him.  The tear almost went through to my rectum, but it didn’t. Thankfully.  That meant we could stay home and Robin can repair it. Lidocaine spray, Lidocaine injections. She did such a good job making sure I couldn’t feel a thing. 
It must be bad,really bad.  Because she won’t answer my questions about how bad it is.  She won’t say how many stitches it took.  Between ten and twenty?  Um, probably.  A full length of slow-dissolving suturing thread.  My tailbone and legs ache SO badly from being propped up in a position for her to stitch me.  Please, I can’t lay like this anymore.  Please just let me stretch my legs out.
Finally, finally we are done with messing with my poor bottom.

…………………………………….

And then things went downhill fast.  I tried to go to the bathroom, and basically passed out while sitting on the toilet.  Robin, Jean, and Benjamin were with me.  My head sagging to the side, my eyes closing,Robin telling me, “Stay with me Joy, stay with me!”  Telling her I couldn’t.  Jean waving something under my nose, saying my name over and over again.  Robin giving me an injection of methergine.  Oxygen mask.  Coming to, then falling away into darkness again.
Things are not good.  I feel separated from my body again.  Like I can see myself from the outside.  I can see I’m not stable.  They are afraid for me.  But they know what to do.  Robin knows what to do; I can trust her.  I feel safe with her.  I’m at peace.
Back to bed, still with oxygen.  Now with IV fluids.  My veins are collapsed and she keeps sticking me for the IV.  Robin is so tired, I can see it.  She came from a birth right before mine.  Said she only had time to shower.
Finally feeling more like myself.  My vein with the IV in it collapsed again, fluid in my arm. Please, don’t catheterize me.  I can’t handle that, just let me try to go to the bathroom again. 
Stabilizing.  Feeling more like myself.
………………………

 

My baby.  Our baby. Our son.  He’s adorable.  I can’t get over how freaking adorable he is!  Look at him! Beautiful.  Handsome.  So big! So sweet.  He’s perfect. He’s here.  I’m in love.  Praise to our Father in heaven.  I couldn’t be more thankful.

 

First four photos taken by my sister Esther.  Remaining photos taken by the wonderful Ann Marie of Ann Marie Itschner Photography.

Best Books About Birth, Labor, and Fertility | Why We Chose Home Birth

Starting about five years ago, I decided to research ways to birth a baby in America.  My mom delivered me and all my siblings at home.  I was present for the last two births (at ten years old and twelve years old), and thought it was amazing.  One of my sisters recently had a home water birth.  I’ve always figured I would have my babies at home, but realized I needed facts and evidence to see what was truly safe and best.

This film is a great place to get introduced to the basic concepts and ideas behind hospital birth vs. home birth.

(the film) “The Business of Being Born”

This is where I discovered that the United States currently has the highest mortality rate for babies and moms (surrounding the time of birth) of any domesticated country with general access to health care.  All the other countries with higher (worse) mortality rates are poor countries without access to health care.  The country with the lowest (best) mortality rate for both babies and moms?  Holland.  Where they still deliver around 30% of their babies at home with midwives.

It was also the place that discussed the cesarean “epidemic.”  The World Health Organization (WHO)  surveys all sorts of healthcare issues all over the world, and publishes annual reports of their findings.  They discovered that countries with less than 10% cesarean rate had higher mortality rates (both babies and moms).  Countries with greater than 15% cesarean rate also had higher mortality rates (both babies and moms).  From this, they observed that a 10-15% nationwide cesarean rate would have the the best outcome for both babies and moms.  The United States’ rate is over 30%, and in many cities and hospitals, well over 40% to 50%.

My personal conclusion from this: maternity care in the United States is killing moms and babies.  Too many cesareans are killing moms and babies.  If you don’t want a cesarean, and want a higher chance of life for yourself and your baby, don’t birth in the hospital.

These are just two statistics, and there are a thousand more that affect our bodies and babies well beyond the moment of birth.  Breastfeeding success, chances of permanent disease, mental illness, infection, hysterectomy, hemorrhage, effects of labor drugs on moms AND babies, and much, much more, are significantly affected by birth choices.

To educate myself, I spent several years consuming stacks of books with DATA on the subject.  While I like to FEEL good about a decision, I am definitely a data and evidence person.

Surprisingly, I discovered that most hospitals and doctors are currently practicing litigation-based care rather than evidence-based care.  For example, the evidence is black and white that too many cesareans lead to increased neonatal and maternal deaths.  However, a doctor who does a cesarean is perceived in a court of law to have done “everything they could” and thus is nearly exempt from a negative legal result.  So they section more women to protect themselves from litigation, despite statistical evidence to the contrary.

The film I mentioned just scratches the surface.  And the internet is even worse.  You’re not going to find good evidence on the internet on this subject, period.  Published books are a more reliable source, and have data you’re not going to find anywhere else.

It is unfortunate that most people spend more time researching which iPod or camera to purchase, than where to deliver their children.  As parents, we have so much responsibility to raise and care for our children, and it begins well before they are conceived.

Finally, if you are praying people, please pray.  I truly believe the Holy Spirit speaks to us through prayer, and you can come to a wise decision that is based both on having educated yourself, and having prayed through that decision.  I can’t imagine having made our decision with “prayer alone”, and I also can’t imagine having made it with “education alone.”  It was the merging of the two that gives us peace about where and how we plan to birth our children.

Because in the end, YOU are their parent.  Benjamin and I are this baby’s father and mother.  It is not your child’s doctor or midwife who have to raise this child.  It is not your mother or mother-in-law who have to answer to heaven for your child.  They are not the ones who will forever carry the responsibility of birthing and raising that child.  It is you, the parents.  You were given an intelligent brain and a sensitive spirit, so use them as you decide how to birth your child.

My strong opinions and soapbox preaching here are just that – mine.  I just wish more people would really do the necessary homework and think for themselves, instead of swallowing whatever a doctor, parent, friend, or random internet website has to say.  If you do your research and come to a different conclusion that we did, so be it.  It would surprise me since I feel the facts are so clear and inarguable, but hey, that’s why we all need to think and decide for ourselves and for our children.  For the rest of our lives as parents, this will be our job.  To learn, educate, research, study, listen to wisdom, and make the best decision we can.  Just please don’t make the birth decision blithely or lightly or with only the “research” from your doctor’s office or the web.  It’s not enough.

I could go on, but instead, will share my reading list.  I will also suggest that you don’t try to read these books, or make this decision, while pregnant.  There are some gruesome and tragic stories and statistics in some of these books.  They are important to read and understand, because they are part of making an educated decision.  However, I am glad I read them long enough before being pregnant to forget them, and just hang on to the decision that resulted from them.  Plus, when you’re pregnant you want to be worrying about getting good health care and a good health care provider, not what kind or what location is best for you to deliver in.

Here’s my reading list, in order of suggested consumption.

If you can just read one, read “Pushed.”  If after that you need additional evidence, read “Born in the USA.”  If you don’t need additional evidence but just need encouragement that you can “do it”, skip “Born” and read “Ina May’s…”.

“Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care” – Jennifer Block
This is the most recent book, so it has the most recent statistics.  It might be the only book you will need to give you enough evidence to make your decision.  It is shocking throughout and frightening at times.  The research is thorough and well-documented, and presents a case that cannot be ignored.


“Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First” – Dr. Marsden Wagner
This book was published a couple years prior to “Pushed.”  It talks about some of the same things, and more at the same time.  It also has some intense content, and a voluminous amount of powerful research.  It is written by an ob/gyn who later became a scientist studying birth interventions and outcomes, after he saw what was really happening in his field.  Because of this, his perspective is deep and broad.


“Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” – Ina May Gaskin
Ina May is a self-trained midwife who pioneered the hippie natural birth movement in the 1960’s, when women birthing in hospitals were being knocked unconscious and tied down to beds while their babies were dragged out of them with episiotomies and forceps.  She quickly grew in expertise, and even has a birth maneuver named after her.  The first half of her book is simply amazing, empowering stories about women who delivered with her.  The stories are so beautiful and encouraging, by the time you’re through, you WANT to have be in labor just because it sounds so amazing.  And it’s not because she exaggerates or glosses over the pain, but because it can be an amazing, empowering experience.  The second half of the book is data and evidence, but it’s several years old now, so some of it is a bit dated.  The first half of the book is one I want to read again to encourage myself as my due date quickly approaches.

If you’ve gotten through all of these and haven’t made your decision, continue.  Or if you’ve gotten through all of them and just want to know more, continue!

“Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born” – Tina Cassidy
Also a very recent book, this discussed American birthing history.  It is beyond awful some of the things that have been done in the name of maternity care throughout American history.  While it’s not so much current data as historical data, it shows you how broken our maternity system has been for decades, and makes you realize things that today’s common practices might also be tomorrow’s awful history.

Other books I’ve read that are just part of general birthing stuff, and not necessarily decision-making material.

“A Child is Born” – Lennart Nilsson
This book is GORGEOUS.  It is full of amazing in-utero photos of baby’s development.  So far, I haven’t found any internet resource that matches the amazing photos in this book. It’s good to flip through with young children to show them how the baby grows and develops.  My husband and I really enjoyed looking through this at different stages of the pregnancy to see what our baby looked like.  If you are pregnant, I think you should get this book!

“Birthing From Within: An Extraordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation” – Pam England and Rob Horowitz

This book is part of the “Birthing from Within” birth classes.  It helps you think through expectations, desires, fears, etc. for your upcoming birth.  It has a lot of ideas for how to use art (painting, sculpting, drawing, journaling) to emotionally process your upcoming birth.  It is very touchy-feely.  If you’ve had a prior birth experience that you feel was traumatic or unsatisfactory, it may be a good read to help you process.

“Birth Without Violence” – Frederick Leboyer
This is where the term “Leboyer bath” comes from, if you’ve heard that.  It is a very short read (thirty minutes or less) with lots of pictures.  Leboyer became convinced that birth was painful or difficult for babies, and arriving in earth air was shocking and uncomfortable to them.  He wrote in 1955, and I’m unsure of further evidence to his claims.  However, the book just makes you realize that just like birth should be empowering and calming for the mother, so there are things we can do (whether they are Leboyer’s ideas or not), to help make birth as calm and gentle for baby as we can.

“Creating Your Birth Plan: The Definitive Guide to a Safe and Empowering Birth” by Marsden Wagner
If you just don’t want to do a lot of reading, and just want to deliver in a hospital without anyone convincing you not to, this would be the best book.  Wagner (author of “Born in the USA”), summarizes some of the main concerns and research about hospital birth, while helping you understand how you might be able to locate a good doctor and have a natural birth within the system.  I didn’t find this book to be the most helpful of everything I read, but it could be a good place for someone wanting a “natural” birth in the hospital.

PREGNANCY NUTRITION and HERBS

A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health – Dr. Dean Raffelock and Dr. Robert Rountree
This was the book that convinced me to seek a naturopathic doctor instead of a medical doctor, when we didn’t conceive right away.  These two doctors still have a practice in Colorado, where the focus on post-partum women.  The book is “heady” in many places, talking about the body, digestion, etc., and how they diagnose and naturally treat post-partum women who come to them with various physical problems.

“The Natural Pregnancy Book” – Aviva Jill Romm
This book has good advice about nutrition and herbs to treat various pregnancy complaints.  It was interesting reading, and would also make a good reference.

The Pregnancy Herbal –  Jaqulene Harper-Roth
I haven’t gotten much use out of this book. It contains fancy herbal preparations, tinctures, teas, tisanes, etc.  If you are the kind of person who wants to get a bunch of herbs and make your own remedies, this is a good book for you.  It’s organized by “problems” so you can easily find remedies for various pregnancy or baby complaints.  I’m sure it’s got great stuff here, but this is beyond my time and ability right now to gather and prepare specific herbal remedies.

“Feed the Belly” – Frances Largeman-Roth
Recently published, this book has up-to-date information on what foods you should/shouldn’t eat during pregnancy.  It also talks about kitchen cleanliness and other important things to know regarding feeding your body and baby.  At the end, it has a several recipes.  It’s not organized cookbook style though, instead it’s organized by cravings (sweet, salty, etc.), which makes it difficult to plan meals from it.  The few recipes we tried were simple and yummy.

COOKBOOKS

(see also “Feed the Belly” above)

“Eating for Pregnancy” – Catherine Jones
The amazing thing about this cook book is nearly our entire family has liked almost every recipe we’ve tried from here.  The recipes have “long versions” that include lots of chopping of fresh veggies, making your own sauces from scratch etc., as well as “easy versions” that tell you how to substitute pre-chopped or canned items to make the meal faster to assemble.  We found the recipes to use a lot of fresh ingredients, which we love, and be varied in flavors while easily enjoyed by many palates.  A clear winner whether pregnant or not!

“The Well-Rounded Pregnancy Cookbook” – Karen Gurwitz
Some good things in here, some I could pass on.  Decent ideas but not my favorite cookbook of all time.  Does have a good introduction discussing overall healthy eating for pregnancy.

LABOR

“Active Birth” – Janet Balaskas
Great exercises and data here on how to help your body physically deliver your baby.  Emphasizes upright positions for delivery (standing, squatting, all fours), because they open your pelvic bones by up to 10% more than the traditional lithotomy (laying on back) position that is so convenient for doctors they often refused to allow you to deliver any other way.  Great prenatal exercises as well as empowering information for remaining physically involved in delivery.  If you want to deliver naturally in a hospital (or at home), this is a great book to read to help you know what will be necessary to achieve that.

“Husband Coached Childbirth” – Robert Bradley
This is the book written by Dr. Bradley, an ob/gyn who developed the “Bradley method” of labor and delivery.  I found it practical and helpful, but too long for most men to want to read.  I wish there were a condensed version that husbands would actually read.

“Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” –  Susan McKutcheon-Rosegg
Part way through this one.  So far appears to be practical “how-to” guide for using the Bradley method.  Will update when I finish it!

FERTILITY

I’m as much an advocate of natural fertility (pregnancy avoidance and achievement) as I am of natural childbirth.  Here’s what I’ve read on this topic.

“Taking Charge of Your Fertility” – Toni Weschler
This is pretty much the Bible of natural family planning (NFP).  It is not the “rhythm method” (which just counts days of a woman’s cycle).  It talks about basal temperature charting, and several other methods of knowing where you are in your feminine cycle.  My parents used this their entire marriage (until after baby number five) to avoid and achieve pregnancy.  We used it for nine years to avoid pregnancy, and a few months to achieve it.

“Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition” – Marilyn Shannon
This delves into how your nutrition, vitamins, etc. affect your fertility.  It has Q&A type sections that address common fertility problems, and how you can treat them naturally before going to advanced medical fertility treatments.

“Making Babies” – Dr. Sami David and Jill Blakeway
This is a very recent book written by two doctors who specialize in fertility, an ob/gyn, and an Eastern medicine doctor (herbs, homeopathics, and acupuncture).  They combine their approaches in the book, and in their clinic in NYC where they almost exclusively treat women who have been through the entire round of medical fertility stuff to be told they will “never” conceive.  These doctors delve deeper to find out what is preventing the women from conceiving, and they have a very high success rate with some of the most difficult fertility cases in the U.S.  This book will give you some ideas for some things you can troubleshoot yourself. It will also introduce you to their methodology should you choose to use their clinic to help you conceive.

BREASTFEEDING


“Bestfeeding: How to Breastfeed Your Baby” – Renfrew, Fisher, Arms
This is the first breastfeeding book I’ve read.  I’ve two others I’m in the middle of, so I will add them when I’ve finished them and can review them.  This one is a short read, simple, and practical.  Through words and photos, it helps show you when breastfeeding is RIGHT and when it is WRONG.  Or at least, you will know what is normal, so if you experience something weird, you will know it is not normal so you can seek help, rather than quitting breastfeeding because it “doesn’t work” for you.

“The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” – Wiessinger, West, Pitman
Part way through this one.  It is apparently the “Bible” of La Leche League.

“Breastfeeding Pure and Simple” – Gwen Gotsch
Part way through this one.  Appears to be a nutshell version of “womanly art…”.

Life After Death

Note: This post does not contain photos, but talks plainly about death, including infant death (not mine; I’m still pregnant). If this topic is too much for you, please skip this post and come back later 😉

Five years ago today, my grandmother joined the chorus of heaven. I was with many family members at the hospital for hours as she slowly drifted away from the internal bleeding in her brain caused by a fall. I don’t remember touching her after she passed, but I remember the moment I realized I was in the presence of her shell, not her soul.

It meant she could see now (she had been legally blind for several years). It meant she was free from the pain of arthritis, old shoulder injuries, and cat scratches. It meant she was healed from fatigue, memory loss, and the toll that aging can take on the human body. She was instantly whole, healthy, and strong. If I believe some of the stories we read about living people who have, for a few moments, visited heaven, I will add that she was also young and vibrant again, in the prime of her life.

A friend recently recommended the book, “Heaven is For Real,” which tells the story of a little boy who had been very ill, and after his recovery, begins to tell his family about things he experienced “in heaven.” A poignant moment from “heaven” was his meeting a man who introduced himself to the little boy as his great grandfather. Back on earth, when he told his family, they tried showing the boy photos of this man, whom he had never met. The boy would say, “No, that’s not him. He wasn’t old.” When they finally brought out a photo of the great grandfather in his youth, thirty, strong, healthy, the boy pointed and said, “Yes! That’s him!”

Yesterday evening I had the heart-wrenching privilege of photographing an infant who was stillborn.

I volunteer for a non-profit called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. The organization connects professional photographers with hospitals and families. When a baby is stillborn, or is born with problems such that it will never leave the hospital, except to be buried, NILMDTS photographers volunteer their services to capture images of the baby. Often, these are the only images the family will have of this tiny member of their family who left them too soon.

The last phone call I received to volunteer, I was unavailable. But just the phone call was enough to send me into a spasm of tears. “Hi Joy, this is N. from Methodist Hospital. I was calling to see if you were available to take photographs. We have a baby we’re going to be taking off life support this afternoon.” I was at work, and they couldn’t wait for me to get off work, so they looked for another photographer instead. But when I hung up the phone, I lost it. To put myself in the shoes of those parents. To take their baby off life support. To hold him while he breathes his last. I can’t even imagine.

It took me several days of raw weeping and aching emptiness to emotionally process JUST that phone call, during which time I began to doubt myself. How would I hold it together, cope, at a session I was supposed to capture? How would I even take photos and not just melt into a puddle of sorrow for this dear family and this dear child? Honestly, I think having to work through those emotions THEN, prepared me up for my experience last night.

It was just me, a nurse, and the baby, in a separate room from the family. His body was fully developed, he had curly hair, and perfectly shaped features. Most of his skin was a bright, rosy pink, and tender just like you would expect from a newborn. The images of his little hands, feet, ears, and body cuddled in a tiny christening outfit were just as precious as any newborn I’ve photographed. His body was soft and poseable, like a doll. Parts of his body were discolored or misshapen, and not photographable, but it was minimal in comparison to what was perfect (and much better than I expected based what I had been told about the baby’s condition in advance).

It probably sounds more morbid than it felt. Our bodies are just our shell. On earth, they seem like the only part of us that is really “real”, but that is far from the spiritual truth. As the nurse and I gently worked with his body, I pictured him already in heaven, about four or five years old, running and laughing in sunny fields surrounded by other children.

Another story from the book, “Heaven is For Real,” is when the little boy tells his mom that he met his sister in heaven. The mom, a little freaked out, reminded him that his sister was still here on earth, living. “No mom,” he insisted, “It was a different girl. She told me she was my sister. She said she died when she was still in your belly.” The mom gasped, because her first pregnancy had miscarried, but she and her husband were the only ones who knew about the miscarriage that would have been his older sibling. Last night, photographing this precious boy, I remembered that story.

I can’t share details of this family’s story, or any photographs I captured, due to privacy agreements. The images will be edited and mailed on disc to the family with a copyright release, and that is all. But hopefully it is more than “all”; it is meaningful.

When I heard about NILMDTS from another photographer, I was inspired to join by the experience of an acquaintance of mine. She is the sister of one of my close friends. Her journey through infertility had been long and hard, so it was tragic to lose her triplet boys (conceived through in vitro) too early to survive. The good news is she recently delivered healthy twin girls.

She came to visit her sister (my friend), some months after the loss of the triplets. We sat together at our kitchen table, and she showed me a photo book she had put together of the triplets. Images that had been taken when some of them were already passed, some were alive, but the only images she would ever have of them. At the hospital, she took the time to hold each one in the hours after they were delivered. The one who was born alive, she held for the short hour he had breath. Her husband or friends took the pictures for her, and they were so precious to her. After hearing about NILMDTS, I thought how precious those images were to her, and how special it would be for a professional photographer to capture images like that for a grieving family.

Now my favorite thing to photograph, hands down, is natural birth. It’s why I started a birth photography business. It’s why I would practically photograph natural birth for free every single day if I thought that was the best use of my time and life! Birth, especially after a hard, natural labor, is the most incrediculous, unbelievable, joyful occasion I have ever witnessed. Every. Time.

Every time except the ones where joy turns to despair. Where the momma suffers through a difficult birth, and instead of laughter, her face becomes ashen grief. Again, I can’t even imagine.

So a bit of my heart that is eager to celebrate the most amazing moment on earth, is also with families who are experiencing the most tragic moment on earth. That is why I could make it through last night.

I don’t know how anyone does this without God though. The hope of heaven is all that can truly sustain my eyes as they witness a tiny motionless form, and steady my hands as they gently position lifeless limbs.

God. Heaven. Hope.

The hope of a God in Heaven who cares.

Who holds that child tenderly, patiently, for someday when he will – living – meet his parents – also living – in the presence of a thousand other children and families who have gone before. Grieving without the presence of God, now that must truly be devastating.

What motivation to give His hope to others.
For Life.
For Death.
For Life After Death.
For Everlasting.

Juxtaposition of Birth and Death

In a few days, it will be the fourth anniversary of my grandma’s trip to heaven (or should I say, her permanent relocation). It’s easy to remember how long it has been, because the same week I watched her die, I watched the birth of a friend’s baby (Julian). He will soon be four years old.

Before her passing, Grandma was in the hospital a couple days for unusual heart palpitations. Her health was otherwise excellent, but in the middle of the night, she fell on her way back to bed. She hit her head on the bedside table, causing internal brain hemorrhaging. She died with 24 hours.

My dad received the call about 1:00 a.m. that she had fallen. When he arrived at the hospital, she was coherent, and remembered I had visited her the night before. Within an hour, she was unconscious, and for another fifteen hours or so, the hemorrhaging in her brain increased. I arrived at the hospital in the morning, and other friends and family came also during the day. My mom never came; she couldn’t bear to see Grandma that way. Toward the end, her body was sweating and heaving for breath, like someone running a marathon, her heart rate increased, and her body temperature elevated to dangerous levels. We knew she had passed when the gasping and heaving slowed, and her body relaxed. A cassette tape recording of my Grandpa Homer (deceased in 1991) singing had been playing near her for hours. When she passed, he was singing “When Jesus Passed By.”

“They took him to the tomb that day
Lazarus was his name
His loved ones wept for death had crept
Into their lives with pain
Oh, but someone sent a message
And soon Jesus did reply
And even death could have no power
When Jesus passes by”

A week later, one of my closest friends delivered a baby at my parents’ home. Benjamin and I were still living in my parents’ office. On the other side of the office wall was my parents’ bathroom, where Melissa labored in the large bathtub for several hours. This was Melissa’s second child, and her first had been born in the hospital via cesarean for “failure to progress.” Determined to avoid a second cesarean, she and her husband chose a home birth with a licensed midwife for their second child. They delivered at my parents’ home because we live about 10 minutes from a hospital and they lived more than 30 minutes from one; they wanted access just in case. Toward the end of labor, the baby’s heart rate slowed enough to concern the midwife, and my mom and I were woken up (again about 1:00 in the morning) to gather around Melissa and pray. Julian was born safe and healthy about an hour later.

During the hour my mom and I spent praying in my parents’ room with Melissa, her husband Stephen, and the two midwives, I had time to think. It is hard to put into words how it felt to spend a day watching someone die, and eight days later, spend an evening watching someone be born. This is life, you know? Birth; death. Endings; beginnings. Through it all, the Lord sees us, knows us, and has an eternal plan.

The feelings associated with losing someone you love are deep, and almost intangible. “Grief” is a drastically insufficient word. Emptiness, loneliness, anger, confusion, despair….there is just this gaping hole, and the bigness and blackness of it seems to overwhelm everything else in your mind and heart.

And yet here I was, watching a new little human be born – one of my favorite things on earth to see. It is miraculous and beautiful every time. Here, “excitement” is yet another vastly insufficient word. Exultation, awe, bubbling joy, amazement, togetherness…..the whole world seems like it should explode in wonder.

Photo courtesy Willow Grove Photography

I stood there, watching the baby slip into the earth, take his first breath, and was overwhelmed with the juxtaposition of these two experiences. Impossibly, each demanded the total involvement of my thoughts and feelings, seeming to sweep me away into themselves. Yet somehow, I didn’t feel torn between opposing extremes. Instead, I realized I felt whole again.

Neither birth nor death is the complete story. Neither the beginning nor the ending tells you all you need to know. It is both together, and one begets the other. An earthly birth must someday culminate in an earthly death. Yet death is, for Christians, a heavenly beginning. Spiritual birth into salvation is death to our human nature and selfishness.

Thankfully, we were made for eternity. One day we will be “born” into a new earth and a new body, where we will live forever with no more dying.

“No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny”

– Hymn “In Christ Alone”

The Beauty of Birth | San Antonio Birth Photographer

I have never seen a woman more beautiful than when she is delivering a baby naturally.

There is something climactic about the intense joy she experiences when her baby is born. It is like an epic story, nine months long, building to a burst of intensity and suffering, and culminating in an explosion of celebration and satisfaction.

Photo credit fullmoonsdaughter.com

The waiting is over. She has felt this child for months now, growing, moving, kicking, pushing, turning inside her. Besides the immediate struggle of labor, for months she has surrendered her physical privacy to a hundred people with prying questions and hands eager to touch her protruding belly. She has endured a slew of physical inconveniences, severe body changes, sleepless nights, and other discomforts. Her organs have had to find new homes every few weeks, and her bikini body will never be the same. Yet through it all, the anticipation of this child is her beacon of hope and strength to persevere.

The baby arrives and her pain is over (or mostly over), and for that alone she is relieved. “Relief” doesn’t really come close to the feeling though. The exhaustion of hours of effort suddenly lifts, and like a veil torn from her face, the sweat of labor becomes a radiant glow. Her face is brilliant with delight and adoration.

My friend Heather, after the home birth of her fifth child, photo credit goes to one of her friends

I’m sure she doesn’t feel beautiful. During the throes of it she feels exhausted, perhaps out of control, maybe afraid, and at some point, like she just couldn’t go on.

But somehow she did. And this is beautiful. She is strong; she has overcome. She has struggled, and been victorious. She has trusted her God and her body to bring life into the world.

My sister Esther, after the home water-birth of her second child, photo credit Willow Grove Photography

Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of suffering and joy that create such an intense reaction. Perhaps the intensity of the climax of joy is directly related to the intensity of the pain that preceded it.

My friend Melissa W. after the home birth of her third child (HBAC – home birth after cesarean)

When a spouse or child returns home from war, family members have this same glow on their faces.

Monroe Gallery .com

It is difficult to put my finger on, and harder still to describe. I know I have seen it when my throat knots up and my eyes start leaking at the corners.

Still image of home birth from film, “The Business of Being Born”

My friend Melissa N. delivered her first baby last night, in a tub in a birthing center. She was incredible.

Immediately after the baby was born, the daze of pain hadn’t quite worn off, and the look was still breaking across her face. You can see a little bit of awe in her countenance here, less than 15 seconds after she has seen her baby for the first time.

Her birth experience was quick (3.5 hours from start to finish), but consequently intense. So it was later that joy really overtook her.

She looks more beautiful here – exhausted, makeup-less, loose unkempt hair – than she did on her wedding day eleven months ago. Not that she wasn’t beautiful and joyous then; she was.

But it’s different. Pain, sorrow, and suffering have taken bubbly spring happiness and dug a deep well of rich satisfaction and gratefulness. And peace, peace is there too.

My friend Melissa W. after the home birth of her third child

I tell you, it’s beautiful.

| Filed under birth and family planning

Resources for Natural Family Planning, Fertility, Nutrition, Miscarriage

Several friends of mine are in pregnancy life-stage, and others in the “not yet” stage.  I was never comfortable with standard birth control “the pill”, and have had life-long irregular cycles. Here are some resources for natural methods of family planning, miscarriage, and fertility.

I am grateful for medical resources, and value them when needed. However, my instinct has been that they tend to address symptoms not causes. Hence, I usually exhaust all non-medical options prior to moving to medical ones.  These resources should help you do that.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility (book by Toni Weschler)
Info on basal temperature charting, understanding your cycle in general, to be able to identify ovulation for either pregnancy prevention or making babies.

Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition (book by Marilyn Shannon)
I read the 2001 edition, but from the reviews, the new edition is way better. I may order it! Discusses nutrition and health factors that contribute to fertility, and how to make changes to your diet, weight, vitamins, supplements, to address various feminine issues or increase fertility.  Also has some help for PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome).

Website that sells vitamins and supplements geared toward PCOS, as well as addl info on PCOS.  Based on what I read in Shannon’s book, I started taking the multi-vitamin from the PCOS website (Vital Nutrients brand).  I also have taken Vitex (an herb sold at the same link above) which increases fertility and addresses hormonal imbalances related to PCOS (Vital Nutrients brand).


Yellow Dock supplements.  Many women are chronically anemic, yet iron supplements have several unmentionable side effects, and some people are allergic to iron supplements (runs in my family).  Instead of regular iron, I take an iron-free multi vitamin, and take Yellow Dock (an herb that your body converts to iron) instead.  If you purchase the yellow dock here, you will need to create a membership with a “sponsor”, basically the person who referred you to the website. You should be able to find me.

Also, yellow dock or iron supplements should not be taken with a multi-vitamin or dairy products, since calcium inhibits iron absorption.  Instead, since Vitamin C aids iron absorption, take yellow dock or iron supplements with an orange or glass of orange juice.  If at that same meal you consume iron-rich foods (meats, spinach, beans), even better. 

If you have had repeat miscarriages, you should be checked for under-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism).  Some of the symptoms of low thyroid function are: hands and feet always cold (like for your whole life), weight gain/loss/fluctuation/difficulty maintaining stable weight, chronic fatigue, depression or anxiety, menstrual irregularity, and low basal body temperature (if you are charting your cycles for natural family planning, you may notice basal body temperatures less than 97.2 degrees on a consistent basis). There are others, but these are some of the tell-tale ones.  Two of my friends had this problem – one of them had six miscarriages before finally conceiving!  Both friends were able to achieve pregnancy after taking a natural thyroid supplement called Raw Thyroid, which you can purchase at any health food store.  A simple blood test at a doctor’s office will give you a thyroid reading, although some women can have a thyroid problem that is enough to cause them miscarriages, but not enough to show up on a test.  If you have other symptoms of low thyroid, and have had repeat miscarriages, but the test doesn’t reflect it, you might try the supplement to see if it helps.

Good luck, and leave me a comment if you have tried a natural method that has helped you!

| Filed under birth and family planning

Natural Family Planning

This is an email I sent to a close friend who started taking birth control pills, only to be freaked out by the emotional instability it was causing in her life, and making her wonder “is there any other way?”

My opinion in a nutshell… the pill (by “the pill” i mean any device which uses hormones/chemicals to disrupt or modify a woman’s natural body process) is frightening and dangerous in so many ways. i have known many women to have side effects…. 

1. mood problems IS a VERY common complaint- another girl at my church just got married, and she just got off of the pill for the same mood instability reasons you are describing, she was depressed and insomniac…they are now using natural family planning

2. potential for permanent damage to ability to conceive- some women have experienced permanent damage to their bodies and have trouble or are unable to conceive, have problems with infertility later in the future.

3. potential to abort or damage a conceived child- they tell you to stay off of the pill for 3 mths to 1 year before you attempt to conceive (hint, or you risk have a baby with minor or major birth defects). scary. (this could be part of the problem with some friends’ kids,who one is autistic and one is physically deformed and both were conceived while on birth control, although certainly not their parents’ fault). – the idea of birth control pills is to FORCE your body to have a period every month. if you were to conceive somehow anyway, the likelihood is either A the baby will survive but have bad effects or B the pill will still force the body to have a period (keeping the fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall), thus aborting the child without you ever knowing have you ever heard of an IUD baby? the metal IUD device malfunctions, the woman conceives, and the IUD becomes implanted somehwere in the baby’s body, most often the middle of the forehead, creating either abortion or a large circular scar across the forehead

4. your natural hormones DO affect you emotions, and thus, “messing” with your natural hormones messes with your emotions. this specifically includes the few days prior to ovulation, when your amorous hormones are aroused. this is usually our best time of the month with each other in an intimate way (me and benjamin), because I am much more interested than usual, and also experience greater pleasure both emotionally and physically from being intimate. on the pill, you don’t get this hormone, because it’s the one that prompts ovulation, and you don’t ovulate when you’re on the pill. i would be so sad to lose both the intimacy of this time of the month with Benjamin, and also the “happy” feelings and emotions of this time. it’s the opposite of PMS! The PRIMARY reason I personally cannot use artificual birth control is because of the possibility of birth defects or abortion of a conceived child. As a woman and as a Christian, I could not accept having caused either of these things.

Best two books for this: “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” (buy this if you can just get one) and “Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition” (great supplement on dealing with various female physical issues through nutrition).

There are some people who say they use natural familiy planning, but all they do is count days of their cycle to predict ovulation. This is not a very good plan, especially if your cycles are not exactly the same length every time. The book (Taking Charge…) explains that there are three ways that work together to help you estimate ovulation:

1. waking (basal) body temperature,
2. learning to identify the texture and variations of excretions from your private area (they change color/thickness/quantity etc during the month),
3. height of cervix (I don’t really use this, as I’ve not really figured it out yet, but maybe someday I’ll get it figured out), and
4. there are certain patterns of days you watch for.

The only thing particularly difficult about this method is taking your body temperature every morning at the same time and marking it down every day (you will need to purchase a basal thermometer – my favorite is the BD brand, other brands have various issues that frustrate me).
Now that we’ve been married 4 years, and I started this a year before we got married, I don’t take my temperature every day, only for the weeks when I need to. But for the first couple years I took it every day, until I got to know my cycle.

Basically, when you are approaching ovulation, you use a physical method of birth control, either a condom or diaphragm (we tried condoms but benjamin hated them, so now we use a diaphragm which works great). If your cycles are pretty regular, you should only have to use this for about a week. The rest of the month it’s free game, no birth control, just all spontaneity. My cycles are not regular, so there are times we have to use a diaphram longer than a week, but most women aren’t like that.

For me, it is WELL worth the minor hassle of having to go put in a diaphragm for a week or two, to have the freedom of knowing I will not harm or lose a potential child, have any negative side effects to my body, mood swings, or anything else.

Another friend of mine wanted to be natural, but felt she couldn’t be responsible enough to take her temperature every mornning, so she purchased a more expensive system that tests your first urine of the morning every day. It worked well for them, although they conceived Lavendar I believe because she skipped a day or two. You could try looking this up on the internet, I believe the device costs $200 or so, and the disposable one-time use testing strips must also be purchased regularly.

The other MAJOR highlight for me of natural family planning is I will know sooner than a pregnancy test could tell me if I am pregnant of not. This helps when I get stressed and don’t have my cycle for 2 or 3 months at a time, I know that I know that my body temperature is still low, so I can’t have ovulated, and I can’t be pregnant (because your body temperature raises when you ovulate, and stays high throughout your pregnancy). Also, if your high temperature continues past 18 days, you are pregnant. A pregnancy test couldn’t tell you antyhing that soon. For me for now, it’s nice to know that I’m NOT pregnant when I don’t want to be, even though it’s been 50 or 60 days since my last period.

My parents used this method their entire marriage, and it was my dad’s responsibility to wake up my mom at the designated time, put the thermometer in her mouth, and mark it on the chart the next mroning, because he was the more responsible and detailed one. They did that their whole marriage. I was planned this way, Tabitha (my first sister) was planned, Esther (my second sister) was an accident because she was conceived 2 mths after Tab was born, and my mom didn’t realize she could be fertile that soon after pregnancy, Priscilla (third sister) was an accident because my parents were fasting in prayer over whether to have more children, and didn’t know that fasting can alter your body temperature, so they thought it was safe and it wasn’t, and Mercy (fourth sister) was planned. My mom also said that for the three of us that were planned, my parents KNEW that my mom was fertile and they would conceive, she said it was so much fun to be intimate knowing they were creating a child at that moment. It takes a lot of the stress out of trying to get pregnant when you DO want to as well, because it’s not just hit or miss on when you have sex, you can know exactly what you’re doing.

Anyway….you should know me well enough to know that I would not force you or anyone else to my opinions on this subject. One of my sisters uses natural family planning, and the other uses the pill because she feels to irresponsible. However, she doesn’t take her pill very responsibly either, because you have to take that every day too, so I’m not sure which is worse!

Whatever you and your spouse choose TOGETHER to do, is your perogative, and I hope you make the best decision for yourseves and each other that you can. I just wanted to share my heart.

Birth, Dreams, and Surprises

SCHROEDER ON HIS BIRTH DAY

This morning one of my dearest friends delivered her third child at home. It was a planned home birth, sort of… They had intended to go to a birthing center to have the birth attended by a midwife, but labor lasted a bit over an hour, and the midwife ended up coming to their home instead. I was supposed to be at the birth to take photos, but missed it by less than five minutes!

Their story of birthing their three children is special, and I’ve been involved with the last two, and feel I that part of it is my story too.

About two minutes after that, I walked in.

I got plenty of beautiful photos of the baby, the mommy, the daddy, the family. In one of my favorites – just because it shows the beauty of a home birth moment – Melissa is laying on the bed, still in her pajamas, with the baby wrapped in a bath towel. Her face is clenched in pain as she delivers the placenta. D’arcy is sitting on the corner of the bed as close as she can get to the baby, the half-eaten muffin still in one hand, and her other hand resting lighting on the new baby’ head. Julian is sitting on the other side of Melissa, sucking his thumb, and staring nonchalantly at the camera.

I had been so nervous before the birth that there would be this incredible, beautiful “moment” of expression when the baby was born, and I would miss it by nature of not having the camera pointed in the right direction, or on the right settings, or something. Well, I had definitely missed it! But by not even being there!

D’ARCY ON SCHROEDER’S BIRTH DAY
Baby Numero Uno
D’arcy Jacqueline Williams (she has one other middle names, but I can’t keep track). Melissa (the mommy in question) was overdue about a week. Hoping for a “natural” birth her entire pregnancy, Melissa was distressed by the lateness of her pregnancy, especially because of how the doctor handled it. Her Ob/Gyn had been pressuring her for some time that she was overdue, they would have to take “measures”, it was the “final showdown” etc. She would leave her appointments in tears. Finally the doctor decided it had been too long, and assuring Melissa that she would “never go into labor on her own” sent her in for induction. Over twelve hours of painful induced labor passed with little progress. It “wasn’t working”. She had been pushing for three hours, and still no baby. Your body is too small, the baby is too big (Melissa is four foot nine inches), she ws told. I guess your body isn’t good enough to have babies. Time to cut you open. With that, Melissa was rushed into the operating room for an “emergency” caesarean, and her dream of empowering birth was snatched from her. Truly traumatized, she grieved for months after the birth at not being able to go into labor on her own, not being able to push out the baby on her own, and ending up with a highly sterile, cold, medicalized, controlled experience. In later months, people would tell her to get over her feelings, “At least the baby’s okay, right?” But this failed to acknowledge the sadness she carried over her ideal birth experience being sabotaged.

JULIAN ON SCHROEDER’S BIRTH DAY
Baby Number Two
Julian Williams (also more middle names here). Stephen (the daddy in question) and Melissa intend to have five children. With those kind of numbers in mind, certain things have to be planned ahead. Birthing five children is one of those. No doctor will give a woman five caesarean sections, many will advise no more than two, at most three. And furthermore, most hospitals these days don’t allow VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean). Although statistically proven in recent years to be equally as safe as a repeat caesarean, the doctors don’t like it for fear of uterine rupture (which usually results in danger and sterilization to the mother and death to the infant). Turns out the increased rate of uterine rupture in VBAC births versus vaginal births without a prior caesarean can be blamed on the type of incision (vertical is bad, horizontal is good), and use of labor –inducing drugs on a scarred uterus (labor-inducing drugs cause more violent contractions than natural contractions and put too much stress on the uterus). Most likely if Melissa had chosen a hospital birth, and was overdue again, they would have just given her another caesearean since they could not induce labor. These problems, in light of their desire to have five children, made another hospital birth impossible. Looking for alternatives, they discovered a midwife group who would accept VBAC births.

Julian was a week overdue, just as D’arcy was, but Melissa did go into labor on her own, and Julian was born healthy after a medium-length labor and almost three hours of pushing, just like D’arcy. The birth occurred at my parents’ home where my husband and I were living at the time, because the Williams’ home was too far from a hospital, just in case there were problems. My grandmother, who had also lived with us, had just passed away a week before Melissa’s labor. I had a video editing project to finish which included colorful video loops, hard rock music, and staying up all night long. It just so happened that my bedroom was on the other side of the wall from my parents’ bathroom, where Melissa labored for many hours that night. Now when you’re in the room with an un-medicated laboring woman, and she groans, cries out, or makes strange noises, it’s not a big deal. I had attended four births prior to this one, three at home, and all un-medicated, and knew the sounds I was hearing were not to be frightened of. Nonetheless, from the other side of the wall, the sounds get spooky. I shoved earplugs deep in my ears, clamped gigantic headphones over top, and cranked up the rock music in an effort to drown out her groaning. At one point, I glanced at the clock – it was 2 am. I wondered how long this would go on, and into my head popped “4:00.” Wow, I thought, I wonder if I’ll be right. And I wonder if that would be good news or bad news to the people working on the other side of the wall.

About 3:15 am, my mom came to get me. The baby’s heart rate had dropped frighteningly low, which in normal labor is expected, but in a VBAC labor, could be a sign of uterine rupture. The midwives were moving Melissa from the bathtub where she had been laboring in a squatting position, to the bedroom in a reclining position, in an effort to get a bit of pressure off the baby and see if his heart rate would rise again. There was an edge in the air, because the midwife had called the hospital and given them a heads up that we might be rushing in for an emergency caesarean. The need for prayer was urgent. My mom and I stood at the head of the bed, respectfully out of view of Melissa’s legs, and began to pray under our breaths.

It wasn’t long before Julian’s heart rate increased, the midwives were at ease, and Julian was born within minutes of 4:00 am.

Moments after he was delivered, Melissa noticed a dark purplish mark on his forehead, and with a tremble in her voice, said, “Oh no, he has a birthmark.” I glanced over, and thought, “hmm”, licked my thumb, and smeared it across his forehead, rubbing off the dried blood and revealing a perfectly pink forehead. Melissa laughed under her breath, and blamed her misperception on her labor-induced bleary vision (oh and not wearing her glasses). This story is now central to the birth story of Julian – Melissa tells it over and over. How it didn’t occur to me to be any problem to wipe my spit on her newborn baby’s forehead, how she was so afraid he had a large birthmark, and how she laughed at herself once she realized everything was okay and how comical the situation really was.


Baby Number Three
D’arcy is now four years old, and Julian is two and a half. Melissa’s midwife has built a roomy birthing center in the medical center area of San Antonio. The birth center has several examination rooms, and several delivery rooms. But you’ll have to “x” out a hospital delivery room from your mind – with all its plastic and metal sterility and harsh coldness. Instead, imagine an upscale hotel room – complete with comfy four-poster bed in one corner and a large whirlpool tub in the other. This is where baby number three was supposed to be born. I was supposed to meet the Williams over there and stay with them for as much of the labor as I would like, and especially the delivery, where I was to take tasteful photos of the family during labor, delivery, and after delivery.

The Williams had decided to let the gender of this child be a surprise, since they already had one of each, so the moment of birth and discovery was sure to be a photogenic moment.

In Melissa’s seventh month of pregnancy, I woke up one morning from a dream about their family. In the dream, Priscilla, Mercy, and I were exiting an elevator into some kind of hospital/center/facility. We had cameras, bags, and things with us, and I knew we were arriving to Melissa’s labor – me to support and take photographs, and Priscilla and Mercy to babysit D’arcy and Julian. But instead, as we came out of the elevator, we saw the entire Williams family walking toward us – Stephen with D’arcy holding his right hand, and Julian on his left. And Melissa carrying the newborn baby on her hip. The baby was a boy, with curly blond hair and bright blue eyes, and the most beautiful baby boy I’ve ever seen (although in the dream he looked about three months old). Melissa was flushed and glowing, wearing a white blouse, and radiating beauty, femininity, and strength. I sputtered something like, “What happened?”, and Melissa said, “We got here, and the baby came, and it was easy, and it’s over, and you missed it!” Then I woke up.

The next day after this dream was a Thursday, and Melissa shared during community group that she was suddenly nervous about the birth. At her appointment with the midwife that morning, the baby had been breech, and even though it had plenty of time yet to turn, it struck a chord of fear in her heart that maybe things wouldn’t go smoothly at the birth. I had previously considered not telling her the dream, not wanting to get her hopes up, but after this, I felt I should share it. She laughed when I told it to her, and said she thought it was a girl, based on when it was conceived. We prayed for her that evening, and continued to pray for a safe, quick, delivery.

Now I wish it had occurred to me to pray that I wouldn’t miss the birth after all!

Fast forward two months, and Melissa is a week overdue. This is nothing unusual, as she was also overdue with D’arcy and Julian. At her weekly appointment with the midwife, they stripped her membranes (separating the bag of waters that houses the baby from the uterine wall, just inside the opening to the cervix). At community group that night, we prayed After community group that evening, she and Stephen spent a little quality time together as well, all in an effort to bring this baby into the world! (In case you didn’t know, prostaglandin is the hormone that softens the cervix, making it ready for delivery. The highest natural concentration of this hormone can be found in sperm).

That Thursday evening I went to bed later than usual, despite having been short on sleep the entire week. So on Friday morning, when I woke up at 5:30 am, wide awake, I was a bit surprised. However, I was waking up from a dream in which I was on the phone with Stephen Williams, and I was saying to him, “Well, I guess I’m not going to work today; I’ll be right over.” I glanced at the clock a second time, debating whether to get up thirty minutes before I really had to. I could take a nice hot shower before work, and lazily get myself ready for work. I decided, no, I’ll just lay back down and wait for my cell phone to ring. And sure enough it did, fifteen minutes later, to a hurried Stephen saying “You better get over here right away, come to our house.”

Too bad I hadn’t started getting myself ready, although I would have missed the phone call if I was in the shower. I threw clothes on, brushed my teeth, grabbed a change of clothes, and rushed out the door. I sped as much above the speed limit as I thought I could get away with (about seven miles over if you’re curious), and made the usually 25 minute drive in 10 minutes since there was no traffic. Throwing my car into park outside their house, I rushed inside the house without knocking, but my ears were greeted by the shrill wail of a newborn. I had indeed missed it.

With a sigh of disappointment, I headed into the back bedroom where I found the family, the midwife, and Melissa staring into the eyes of the baby wailing in her arms. She looked up at me, her voice still trembling, “I was soo scared!, It was so scary!” I stroked her bangs out of her forehead as she tried to explain what had happened.

“Stephen, why didn’t you call me?”

“I did! I didn’t know it was coming so fast!”

Holly, the midwife interjected, “I just got here! I didn’t even put gloves on – that was the first time I ever caught a baby with my bare hands – it felt so cool!”

Gradually I gathered the story – Melissa slept that night, waking frequently and fitfully to mild contractions the entire night. She had drowsily wondered if they would go away in the morning like they had been for the last two weeks. About 4:30 am, she woke up to stronger contractions that seemed to pick up pace and energy quickly. She sent Stephen to find a watch with a second hand to time the contractions. He couldn’t find one, but found a free online website that would do it, and set up the laptop in the bathroom next to her. A few minutes later she let him know the contractions were one to two minutes long and only a minute apart (this occurs at the end of labor). Stephen woke up the kids and started getting them and everything in the car to drive to the birth center. Coming back inside, Stephen had to help Melissa out to the car. Outside, she says she paused to lean on the car during a strong contraction, and thought “I can’t do this for six hours, this is too painful!” She told Stephen, “I can’t, I can’t go anywhere, this is too much, I think the baby is coming too fast.”

Stephen helped her back inside to the bed, and called the midwife to have her come to the house, quickly. By this point, Melissa was in intense pain with nearly non-stop contractions, and “yelling” as she described it, in pain. Stephen tried to go out to the car to bring Julian inside, since he was still asleep buckled in his car seat, but Melissa told him not to leave. D’arcy had let herself out of her car seat and come back into the house. Now she wandered into their bedroom undaunted, and asked, “I found this muffin – can I have it?” Of course she could. Melissa was scared, everything was so intense she could hardly stand it, but she was afraid too. What if she wasn’t really having the baby as quickly as she thought, and the midwife would arrive to find her dialated only five centimeters and say, suck it up, we’re going to the birth center, you have hours to go. What if the baby was coming quickly and the midwife didn’t get there in time for the birth, and something was wrong where the baby needed help? They weren’t prepared for a birth at their home! Stephen called the midwife again, and got her on the speakerphone for the last ten minutes of her drive. She told him to check Melissa, and see if he could feel the baby’s head, and if so, how far away was it from exiting the birth canal?

“About two inches.”

Okay, that was bad. Melissa clamped her legs shut in an effort to keep the baby from progressing any further. “No,” the midwife said, “Don’t do that. Open your legs. If the baby is coming, it needs to come, you should’nt try to stop it.”

“Then this baby is coming!” Melissa said between contractions.

The midwife’s voice calmly coached Melissa through panting through the contractions, Stephen to get an armful of towels and prepare to catch the baby. Pulling up outside their house, the midwife threw her car into park halfway onto their lawn, and rushed inside, giving her about 1 ½ minutes before the baby slipped out in just two good pushes.


I keep regretting brushing my teeth, grabbing that change of clothes, taking off the first pair of pants to trade them for cuter pair, grabbing matching earrings in case of a photo op, putting my greasy hair up in pigtails instead of shoving it behind my ears while I drove. Anything that would have shaved one or two minutes off my time so I could have been there. I arrived in twenty minutes flat, from the time I jumped out of bed to the time I walked in their front door, and for what should have been a twenty five minute drive not to mention getting ready, that was impressive. But not good enough to make the birth. I really wish I had just prayed, after having the first dream, that I wouldn’t’ miss it after all.

Later in the morning, Melissa said with a sigh of relief, “That was intense. I’m so glad I don’t have to do that for another two years!”

| Filed under birth and family planning

Movie Review: The Business of Being Born

The film intends to bring some transparency to state of birthing in the US. It doesn’t conclude with “doctors and hospitals are evil” yet it also shows that homebirth is not just for hippies living in barns!

The film prompts its viewers to ask tough questions:

Why does the United States have the highest rate of maternal and neonatal deaths surrounding labor and delivery among all domesticated countries? With advances in medical techology and knowledge, why hasn’t this mortality rate decreased in over 20 years?

What are other countries doing differently that is producing less injury and fewer losses of life?
Why do people spend more time researching what type of digital camera to purchase than they do researching the safest way to deliver their child?

Why has birth become such an event that women often anticipate with so much dread, instead of a natural part of life?

Why do intelligent, educated women spend 9 months of their pregnancy avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and even tylenol; but the moment labor approaches, they beg for maximum pain relief and expect this has NO effect on their baby?

Why is the cesarean rate increasing so quickly in our country, and should we be concerned about that?

Why are the majority of baby’s birth certificates showing deliveries on weekdays during regular business hours?

What does an ideal birth look like? A “healthy” baby and a “healthy” mom? Or is there more?
As a culture, are we moving toward better birthing or away from it?

The film is an introduction to many aspects of the home birth and hospital birth discussion, and does a good job of keeping things balanced. I’ve talked to moms and dads, midwives, and OBs who have seen it, and overall it is a thought-provoking result.

For me, I’m a planner/researcher personality, so this film would not be enough to convince me either to have or not have a home birth. I’ve read at least 15 books on the subject now, and that is what has convinced me. However, my husband will never read those books, so this film was a good way to get him involved in the dicussion and decisions that we will make for our future children.

My top booklist if you’re thinking about home birth: “Pushed” Jennifer Block 2007, and “Born in the USA” Dr. Marsden Wagner 2006, for current intellectual research and statistics involving birth. “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” Ina May Gaskin 2003 and “Birthing from Within” Pam England 1998, for emotionally encouraging stories and feel-good about anticipating your birth type of ideas.

Hopefully, this film will be to birthing what Supersize Me was to fast food. Yes, we still have McDonalds around, and plenty of people eat there. But maybe more people will eat at home, or make more healthy choices. And McDonalds and other chains are removing transfats and selling salads. Generally speaking, the US population is a bit more aware of the dangers of overindulging in fast food, including the loss of life from obesity and obesity-related diseases.

This film would hopefully have a similar result: Yes, we still have doctors and hospitals around, and plenty of women are delivering in them every day. But a greater percentage of births would happen at home with licensed professionals. Hospitals would stop giving pitocin, epidurals, and other interventions to practically every woman in labor, and they would work to decrease their cesarean rates. Generally speaking, the US population would be more aware of options for birth, and would investigate the subject more before blithely succombing to a birth experience that is resulting in loss of life and permanent damage to women and babies across our country. I’m sorry, did I get on my soapbox just now?

Enjoy the film, and make the best decision you can as parents, for the sake of your unborn children.