by Robyn

How a Prisoner of War Story Helped Me Prepare for Birth

January 20, 2016 in Adversity, Book, Depression, Faith, Fear, Gratitude, Guest Post, Jesus Christ, joy, Missions, Motherhood, Pain, Postpartum Depression, Pregnancy, Preparation, Robyn, Savior, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Waiting by Robyn

American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese are shown at the start of the Death March after the surrender of Bataan on April 9 near Mariveles in the Philippines in 1942 during World War II. Starting on April 10 from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Penisula, 70,000 POWs were force-marched to Camp O'Donnell, a new prison camp 65 miles away. (AP Photo)

American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese are shown at the start of the Death March after the surrender of Bataan on April 9 near Mariveles in the Philippines in 1942 during World War II. Starting on April 10 from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Penisula, 70,000 POWs were force-marched to Camp O’Donnell, a new prison camp 65 miles away. (AP Photo)

 

I want to thank my friend Natalie for this beautiful post.  We became friends because of our mutual love for birth but beyond that Natalie really is a beautiful person inside and out.  –Robyn


I am currently “overdue” with my FIFTH boy. Yes, my fifth. There are no girls among them. That’s a lot of boys. And oh how I love them. 
And after all these boys, I am a bit experienced, in my own experience at least.  And that is why I have been so scared recently. Yes, scared to bring home another baby because I know what could possibly be coming along with him.  Finally, after going through 4 newborn phases, I’ve figured out that I usually get a good case of post partum OCD/anxiety. After I give birth, I really struggle with the newborn phase. I struggle with scary and intrusive thoughts, anxiety, lots of crying, irrational fears…… which result in guilt, embarrassment, shame, and feelings of failure, for a few months.  I’ve had some hard times. I know that there are a lot of mamas out there who also have hard times after their babies arrive. Oh how we love our babies, but we don’t love what the hormones that come along with them, can do to us.  And there are many mamas who go through much more intense experiences than I do –especially with post partum depression that can last for many, many months.
My poor little soon-to-be baby boy.  I am so excited to meet him, but I have not felt ready to jump into that phase of life again.  And yes, I’m over 40 weeks!  What 40 week pregnant woman isn’t asking every other mom what she can do to encourage her baby’s eviction!?  Me. I’ve been over here chanting… “Not quite yet. Not quite yet.”  So even before he’s here, I’ve already felt guilty for not being ready.
But that all changed a couple of days ago. On my actual “due date,” we had the adult session for our stake conference.  I decided to go, even though I’m at that phase where I just want to hibernate and not socialize or be seen in public. Yet, I knew it would probably be good for me to be spiritually fed. So I changed into my maxi skirt, told my husband to pull on my boots for me, and off we went.
I have been trying really hard to get emotionally and mentally prepared for this next phase.  I also have been constantly reminding myself that I have overcome it before, and I can overcome it again.  I’ve prayed and have continually given myself pep talks and positive affirmations.  I’ve been trying, but had not quite conquered the fear of the future. Earlier that day, I had broken down into tears, while telling my sister-in-laws how nervous I was to care for another baby. 
But we made the trek through the snow to our stake center. And on this night, a special story really struck me. Yes, a story about a man who was a prisoner of war.  I will share most of the story, but you can read the full article on LDS Living:

“When my father, Alfred R. Young, was liberated from a Japanese POW camp at the end of World War II, he weighed 90 lbs.—scrawny for any man, but skeletal for someone 6 feet 3 inches tall. His weight, however, was only ashadow of concern compared to his mental and emotional condition after 39 months of wartime captivity. He endured two hellship voyages; physical, mental and emotional starvation; innumerable beatings; forced labor; disease; psychological abuse; isolation; and six months of Allied bombing raids that eventually obliterated his prison camp, devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed many of the men who had become his brothers.
His physical internment ended in 1945, but Dad was still a captive almost eight years later when I was born. I knew he was a captive because Icould see he was somewhere else, walled up inside the sternness of his countenance. I knew it because I could see emptiness in the depths of his eyes.
One of those pictures was a close-up of a man completely alone, whose eyes were so deeply set that sunlight could not reach them. I can still remember my amazement upon learning that the man in the picture was my father.
In 1939, Dad had enlisted in the US Army Air Corps and was bound for Fort McDowell near San Francisco. From there, he was sent to Clark Field—an air base on Luzon Island in the Philippines.
Dad’s enlistment required only two years of duty overseas, but by 1941, America was preparing for war and his return to the States was canceled. Consequently, on December 8, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dad endured the terrible destruction that swept over Clark Field, doing to America’s air power in the Pacific what had just been done to its navy. Before the war was two days old, Dad had lost two bombers and was the sole survivor of his crew.
Christmas 1941 found him in a foxhole on an island named Bataan. In the dead of night, his outfit was split up and he was assigned to a group that boarded an inner island cruiser. He was assigned to a machine gun post on the Pulangi River among the iguanas and head hunters.
For four months, he watched planeload after planeload of American officers and men evacuating from the Del Monte Air Field just a few miles tothe north. As a bombardier, he should have been aboard, but the call never came. One morning, he and his men awoke to discover that their officers had vanished in the night. Those left behind survived on worm infested rice, lived off the land, traded with the More people, and eventually retreated into the hills.
Life as a Prisoner
When his command surrendered in May 1942, he passed through thegate of a makeshift prison camp at Malabalay. From there he was among prisonersloaded into what would become known as a hellship and was taken to Manila’s in famous Bilibid Prison. From Bilibid, he and thousands of other prisoners were loaded into the holds of unmarked freighters bound for hard labor in Japan to drive the Imperial machinery of war.
Climbing down the metal ladders into the dark holds of those ships, prisoners were forced at rifle butt onto cargo shelves where they crawled in darkness toward the bulkhead. Dad descended until nothing but the naked rivets and rough joinery of the hull separated him from the murky waters of Manila Bay. In the deep shadows, he crawled through the prisoners, already packed intothe hold like bodies without coffins, until he came to the small wedge of a space where the curvature of the hull met the underside of a cargo shelf. The hatch closed. Darkness swallowed him.
Cradled in cold steel and stifling stench, groaning men with dysentery and other diseases lived and died around him in their own waste. It was impossible to know whether the shadowy forms around him were still men, orcorpses. The only reprieve was waiting on deck in the long lines for the over-the-side latrines that had to serve nearly 2,000 prisoners.
Because the freighters were unmarked, during their journey they came under Allied submarine attack. Dad watched, with the rest of the men inline, none of whom had a life jacket, as the captain tried to out-maneuver white tufted torpedo trails that claimed more than 3,000 prisoners. Fortunately, Dad’s ship escaped such a fate.
Not until the prisoners aboard the Tottori Maru were unloaded in Busan and hosed down on the docks like cattle, were all the dead discovered inthe holds. From Busan they sailed for Mojiand. Dad was sent to a labor camp on the island of Kawasaki in Yokohama’s waterfront industrial area.
There he endured steel gray days of disease, deprivation, starvation, forced labor, humiliation, beatings, and the constant threat of death for more than three years. He worked at the nearby steel mill, brick factory, railroadyard, and docks.
Reading material in the camp was scarce. He read Robin Hood so many  times he never wanted to see it again. Commenting one day to a fellow prisoner about how glad he would be for anything new to read, Jim Nelson, a young man from Utah, said he had a book he would gladly loan to him, but it was about religion. Dad exclaimed that he was desperate enough to read anything. Anything!
With the book in hand, Dad took it to the mat where he slept, sat down cross-legged under his blanket and began his first reading of the Book of Mormon. Much to his delight, it was not a book about religion, it was a story.
In fact, it was a story about a family, and memories of childhood and family were something that had already saved his life through the long ordeal of captivity. Whether it was the dreariness of meaningless labor or surviving the kicks and fists of his captors, he escaped into his memories of home, and in the Book of Mormon he found himself suddenly in a family with a bunch of rough and rowdy kids who acted just like his five brothers and two sisters.
Before the story was 10 pages old, the neighbors had tried to kill the father, the family had left home, wealth, and comfort behind to cross a wilderness, and the boys were swept up in a quest. And it was an exciting onethat resulted in theft of the family fortune, assault and battery on the youngest brother, beheading a corrupt military commander, subterfuge (complete with costume), kidnapping a servant, and smuggling a priceless treasure out of town in the dead of night. Whether or not the book had any religious significance, it was one walloping good tale!
After completing the Book of Mormon, Dad asked if there were other books like it that Jim would let him read. Jim admitted he had another book, but he really didn’t think Dad would like it. Dad pleaded, however, and excitedly returned to his mat and his blanket to lose himself once again, this time in the pages of something called the Doctrine and Covenants. When he finally finished, Jim wanted to know what Dad thought. Dad replied thoughtfully: “It’s very well-written, but the plot is lousy.”
Liberation at Last
From October 1944 through July 1945, as Allied air strikes intensified over Tokyo and Yokohama, Dad lived in the crosshairs of Allied bombsights that widened their circle of terror night after night and then day after day, killing  many friends and forcing him to dispose of their remains while assigned to body-burning work details.
Liberation finally came on August 29, 1945. In the chaos of release, Dad lost track of Jim. In fact, he tried to lose track of everything stained with the memory of his time as a POW. However, he crammed a  duffle bag with  belongings and memories he wanted to forget and put Jim’s books  on top of everything else.
On his way home, Dad kept leaving the duffle bag behind from ship to ship and port to port, trying to lose it. But from Tokyo Bay to Tulsa, it kept turning up, always a few days or weeks behind. But those were days for forgetting. The world had changed. Dad was out of step and anxious to make up for lost years. So the books followed him through his re-enlistment, marriage, a promising career in nuclear weapons, and the death of a daughter.
The books were still there when I was born in Albuquerque in 1953. Owing to the loss of their daughter, my parents feared to even hope that they might bring me home from the hospital, but I survived. And after a year, they began to look farther ahead, wanting to offer me a better home environment than they knew how to create. Those were days before post-traumatic stress had a name, and Dad was still captive to the ghosts of Kawasaki, disabling headaches, paralyzing dreams, alcoholism, and other disabilities resulting from the beatings, psychological abuse, and starvation.
Faced with a crisis of parenting, Dad remembered the Book of Mormon and the talks he had had with Jim about the Church. So he looked up the Church in the phone book and left a message asking that the missionaries drop by. Time passed, the message was lost, and the missionaries never came; at least, not in response to the phone message.
Weeks later, however, two full-time missionaries, traveling through our neighborhood en route to their tracting area, decided to try just one more door before going home for dinner.  They picked out our little house in the middle of the block. No one answered the doorbell; Mother was in the backyard and Dad wasn’t home from work.  But as the two missionaries mounted their bikes and were about to leave, Dad, who had worked a lot of overtime recently and had decided to come home early that afternoon, pulled into the driveway. Ignorant of Dad’s message asking that the missionaries drop by, they  introduced themselves.  Dad replied: “It’s about time. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Mother and Dad were baptized in the spring of 1956. In August ofthe following year, our little family was sealed in the Los Angeles Temple. On the way back to Albuquerque, we stopped in Reno, Nevada. Dad had had no contact with Jim Nelson since the war but had heard he was living in Nevada.
We stopped at a pay phone and Dad found a listing for James Nelson. A phone call and a brief conversation with Mrs. Nelson confirmed that it was the same Jim Nelson who had been a prisoner of war in Japan, but he was still at work. We drove to the Nelson home and were sitting in the living room when Jim got there. The reunion was everything that could be wished, but nothing was said about the Church. Nothing, that is, until Dad reached down to pick up the two books he had hidden on the floor beside the couch.
“Jim,” he said as he lifted the volumes into view, “We’re on our way home from the LA Temple where we’ve been sealed and thought we’d drop by to return your books.”
Until the day Dad died, in 2012, he was true to what many people have heard him say: “If what I went through was the only way I could receive the Book of Mormon, I would do it all again—even knowing beforehand what Iwould have to endure—just to have that book.”
Wow. Wow. What an amazing story.  What a HARD experience.  I sat there feeling grateful for the blessedlife that I live, and for the challenges that I have, even though some trials may be difficult.  And then it hit me.
“If what I’ve gone through is the only way I could have received my children in this life, I would/will do it all again – even knowing beforehand what I would/will have to endure – just to have my precious children.”
 
And just like that, something clicked in my mind and in my heart.  I wondered if there was a time when I was accepting my life’s mission as a Mother, where I told Heavenly Father the same sort of thing. That I was willing to go through such hardships, to bring my children to me in this earth life. Somewhere, sometime, I just might have agreed to this.  I know I can do it. I know it’s worth it. I know I’ll have another beautiful little soul to love and who will love me for many years to come. To enrich and bless my life. To teach me. To help me grow, and who can live with the rest of our family forever and ever. What a blessing. And I will go through what I need to go through, to have him in my life.
How especially blessed am I to know of God’s love for me. That He will be there for me, if these times are difficult, and if I have to go through the hardships of newborn life. I had someone remind me of a beautiful song, that I could apply to my post partum period.  I love it so much – it’s been in my head ever since. I want to share the words that strengthen me, even when I feel like my world is falling apart.  The song is “MyKindness Shall Not Depart from Thee,” written by Rob Gardner.  You can listen to it on this link .
Though thine afflictions seem
At times too great to bear,
I know thine every thought and everycare.
And though the very jaws
Of hell gape after thee I am with thee.
 
And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee,
And with healing will I take thee ‘neath my wings.
Though the mountains shall depart,
And the hills shall be removed,
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea,
Know, my child,
My kindness shall not depart from thee!
 
The Son of Man hath descended below all things.
Art thou greater than He?
 
So hold on thy way,
For I shall be with thee.
And mine angels shall encircle thee.
Doubt not what thou knowest,
Fear not man, for he
Cannot hurt thee.
 
And with everlasting kindness will Isuccor thee,
And with mercy will I take thee ‘neath mywings.
For the mountains shall depart,
And the hills shall be removed,
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea,
But know, my child,
My kindness shall not depart from thee!
 
You can watch the music video here:

 

 

Kindness – Paul Cardall – from Ephraim’s Rescue Soundtrack (2013)
by Lani

Laboring Through

October 3, 2015 in Adversity, Depression, Doulas, Fear, Gratitude, Heavenly Mother, Lani, Love, Motherhood, Pain, Uncategorized by Lani

So Elder Holland hit another home run. I’d say his talk today ranks right up there in my heart with “Like a Broken Vessel” from two Octobers ago. Today Elder Holland honored women and mothers and the ways their service is nearer to Jesus Christ’s role as deliverer than any other service in mortality. He called mothers “messianic figures” and “saviors on Mt. Zion.” He even publicly thanked our dear Mother in Heaven.

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All of the talk was beautiful, but do you know what my absolute favorite part was? My favorite phrase Elder Holland uttered today was this: “laboring through the battered landscape of his despair.” As Elder Holland spoke of a mother striving to bear up her son as he traveled through the darkest days and nights of his intense anguish… I can’t even really describe to you what I felt inside. Perhaps those words and that story impacted me so deeply because I know so intimately what the battered landscape of despair looks like and feels like. Perhaps more intensely, however, I know the sheer magnitude and magnificence of the gratitude that can be felt toward those who have labored with us through the battered landscapes of our despair and anguish.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself thinking a lot about where I was last year. I went to my blog and re-read old posts full of the raw reality of what I went through. The more time passes, the more I forget just how bad it was. But in those moments of remembering, I felt it all come back to me… the utterly bleak and painful reality of what I had experienced. But the overriding and prevailing emotion I felt that night was gratitude. Gratitude beyond my capacity to describe. Gratitude so intense that it gathered with fierceness in my tear ducts and flooded down my face for a very long time.

One image kept coming back to me and renewing the flood of my tears. It was an image of me lying on my friend’s tan leather couch, our kids playing in front of me watching something on Netflix, my friend sitting at her kitchen table sewing together a quilt for her youngest son. If someone were to take a snapshot of that moment, they might conclude all sorts of things. They might wonder why we were “ignoring” each other. They might think it odd that I was seemingly sleeping through my visit with a friend. They might question the depth of our friendship. But all of those assumptions would miss the profound beauty of what was happening in that room.

I couldn’t tell you how many days I spent on my friends’ couches last summer. Sometimes I could have semi-normal conversations. Sometimes all I could do was stare at the wall or ceiling and try to breathe. Sometimes I closed my eyes and attempted (usually with very minimal success) to sleep. My friends really didn’t understand what I was going through. But it didn’t matter. I never once felt like a burden. I never once felt like an intrusion. I knew I could just be… just be… in whatever state I was in, and it was OK. If I wanted to talk, my friends would talk. If I was paralyzed by my body and mind and could only endure, my friends held space for me to endure. They played games with my daughter and fed her lunch. They made it OK for me to do whatever I needed to do. They sat with me, but not in a way that made me feel like a spectacle. They sewed quilts, did their dishes, folded laundry, but all the while bearing me up with their presence, their willingness to witness my pain, their open doors and couches always there whenever I needed them.

As I lay on my friend’s tan leather couch, my body was wracked with agonizing withdrawals, my mind was a whirl of fear and darkness. I didn’t know when the darkness was going to end. But in that moment, despite the fear and pain overwhelming me, I knew I was loved. I knew I was safe. I knew that I had support anytime I needed it. I knew that my friends and family believed in me, prayed for me, and most importantly that they were laboring with me in that landscape of horrific despair.

Elder Holland thanked mothers for their pure Christ-like love and service, and I myself do feel deep gratitude for my mother’s efforts to lift me in my deepest days of darkness. But beyond that I feel gratitude more profound than human language can convey to all the people in my life who labored and bore with me last year through my life’s most painful test of faith. Thank you. More than I can say.

silentpresence

by Robyn

VBA2C Birth Story

September 8, 2015 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Book, Cesarean, Doulas, Faith, fasting, Fear, Gratitude, hospital birth, joy, Love, Obstetricians, Prayer, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized, VBAC by Robyn

Kylie 4 crop

 

My friend, Kylie, was kind enough to let me share her birth story here on the blog.  I came to know her through ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network).  Interestingly enough, I came to a place last year when I was contemplating closing our little ICAN chapter.  Not much had been happening with it and I felt like I needed to simplify.  It seemed like the obvious thing to let go of.  And then, I prayed to ask Heavenly Father which direction I should take birth work right at that time and ICAN is what He asked me to put my energies into. So I held on. A few month later our little chapter began to explode.  Our attendance tripled and we experienced seven VBACs in less than a year.  I had the privilege of going to six of these births as a doula.  One of which was Kylie’s birth.  Kylie is beautiful inside and out.  It was a sacred experience to be with her and Adam on that special day.  My heart is full as I contemplate God’s hand in all these blessings. -Robyn

 

So to start I feel it’s appropriate to share the births of my other children.

1st child: emergency C-section When I was pregnant with my first child, I just planned on your typical birth experience that I thought everyone had: Hospital, epidural, no eating, IV, eventually pushing, and having a baby. The day before my due date my doctor swept my membranes and I went into labor 7 hours later. When I got to the hospital I was already 5cm dilated and it still didn’t hurt much, but since the anesthesiologist was there, I got my epidural. My son’s heart rate dropped a few times (partially due to epi, and lying flat on my back and not moving), and they might have given me a small dose of Pitocin. Only 3 short hours later we were ready to push! I was excited and nervous. When they told me to push, I realized I couldn’t even push because I couldn’t feel anything. I think at that point I started to realize I might not be able to do this. The Dr. got vacuum extraction and after only 4 attempts at that I was whisked off to surgery (my son’s heart rate had dropped below 40). I didn’t get to touch my son for over an hour. I fell asleep after surgery, and when I woke up I held him for a few min and then fell asleep again for a few more hours. At the time I felt fine emotionally. I was a little sad I was separated from him a bit at first, and I didn’t get to nurse him till the next day, but it didn’t really strike me as a “traumatic” birth experience until a few weeks later. I cried and mourned the loss of a vaginal birth that would never be mine to cherish. I was told I shouldn’t try a VBAC since my diagnosis was CPD (Cephalo-Pelvic Disproportion: too small pelvis).

2nd child: Scheduled C-section With my next pregnancy we went for a planned, repeat C-section. Off and on I struggled with wanting to try a VBAC, but I didn’t want another emergency C-section. I was scared of going through everything just for the same result. My pregnancy was easy, low-risk, and we planned the C-section for 2 days before the due date. I secretly prayed I’d have the experience of feeling a contraction or two. The night before the scheduled cesarean, I started having small contractions. 6 hours later, while we were being prepped at the hospital, the monitor showed I was having contractions every 5 min. I was happy. I knew my baby girl was ready to come that day. Everything went perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better scheduled cesarean birth experience. I got to touch and hold her just minutes after being born and only 15 min later I got to breastfeed her successfully. She never left my “ear sight” and my husband held her the whole time they stitched me up. It was a healing experience compared to my first birth and I really did enjoy it. It was all excitement and no drama. I really felt at peace with our road of cesarean births ahead of us.

Kylie pregnant

The VBAC Journey begins: A few months before our next pregnancy, things started to come up. Three things specifically happened within two weeks that made me decide to research the VBAC route. One, I met someone who introduced me to ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network). Two, Adam said he could see us having 5 kids. (Not that we will for sure, but that idea was exciting for me, because I’d always wanted a lot of kids!). And three, I came across an article on FB about a woman trying to get a VBAC at her hospital and they used some research saying that having a lot of repeat cesareans was actually really dangerous to the mother. I had never heard that having 5 C-sections was dangerous. I had talked to 5 doctors and not one of them ever told me the specific risks related to repeat cesareans. And I had told all of them I wanted a lot of children. I was confused and frustrated. I started researching and sure enough found out that I did NOT want any more C-sections if I could avoid it. I then found out that it was possible to VBAC after 2 cesareans if you could find a supportive provider. I did find a supportive provider and hospital (45 away) through my local ICAN chapter. I researched, studied, read, prayed, and fasted to make sure this was the right choice. I feel like I was divinely led to reconsider my birth options. And time and again the thought came to my mind, trust in the arm of God, and not the arm of flesh. Which, to me, meant I needed to trust the choice Heavenly Father was guiding me to make, and not rely only on doctors/professional advice.

Kylie 2 crop BW

VBAC Birth Story: Throughout my pregnancy I continued to research and pray. I hired a doula (a professional birth assistant) and she taught us the Bradley Method of Natural Child Birth. I did some Spinning Babies techniques and did pelvic rocks multiple times a day. (In the meantime my doula and doctor worked together to help 2 other women have successful VBACs!). As my due date drew closer I was getting more excited and nervous. Then my “due date” came and went. We went to Bear lake for a family reunion the week following my due date (and even went down to Orem, Utah the day after the reunion ended)! And still no baby. Luckily my doctor was patient and willing to wait with me. We decided my due date was 5 days off, but that still put me “overdue.” I was starting to feel a little impatient, but was still glad to wait so that my baby could have as much time as she needed to develop in there. I wanted her to be ready as much as I was!

Then on Aug 10th at 2:20 am I felt the first contraction. I started timing them and they were ranging between 7-10 min apart. I woke Adam up at 4 am and he started cleaning the house while I tried to rest. Then my kids woke up and we decided to go for a walk. We walked past a breakfast joint near our house and decided to go get breakfast! It was delicious and just what I needed. My contractions started getting worse as we walked home and my water broke on its own around 1 pm. I called over a babysitter and finally my doula arrived. I told her I checked the “purple line test” for dilation and it was to the top. I cried saying I didn’t want to have my baby in the car! She assured me I wouldn’t and we loaded up and made the 45 min drive to the hospital. Contractions got worse and I knew I had entered transition labor. When we were almost to the hospital I threw up that beautiful breakfast I ate. We pulled into the hospital entrance and Adam ran in to get me a wheel chair because I said I couldn’t walk that far. They got me into a check in bed and went through procedures and I was starting to feel this was unbearable. But I was 8 cm dilated! Then they got us into our birth room and I tried a yoga ball. All I could do was sit on it and lean onto the bed. Adam helped me cool down by pressing a wet rag to my forehead and on my arms. It was the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced. I literally would start to say “oh, no…” every time another contraction started to come. My back labor was intense and I just wanted rest. I was also a lot more vocal during labor than I thought I’d be! At some point my hospital gown came off and I was ah natural except for my sports bra! I did a few different positions but always stayed in the bed.

At one point her heart rate dropped a little and the nurse said I might be complete and need to push. She checked me and I was complete except for a tiny lip of cervix left. She pushed it out of the way and the pushing stage began. We tried the squatting position a few times but I turned out to be too tired to keep pushing like that, so we moved to a side laying position. I pushed on both sides and did squatting again once more, but ended on my right side with Adam holding my upper leg. I was scared of the pushing stage at first because that’s where things went wrong with my first labor, and I was scared it would hurt more. But it turned out that it felt so good to push because it made my back labor go away. And the harder I pushed the more it went away! Everyone told me my pushing was very effective and they could see her head pushing against me every time. At some point after we had been pushing for forever I asked why no one was offering to help me! Are they really going to let me do this all by myself?? And my doula said, “You’re doing it! YOU’RE birthing your baby.” And I realized I was. No vacuum extractors this time. No forecepts. No C-sections. And after an hour and fifteen min of pushing she was born. Her head came out and then both shoulders at once with arms by the sides (causing me to get a 3rd degree tear). But she was out (a full 11 ounces bigger than either of my babies)! They set her right on my stomach. And I got to hold and touch her and watch her give her first cries. All new experiences for me. (I’m crying as I type this!). My husband and I both cried. We experienced the biggest high of our lives. I had felt the most intense physical pressure in my life, but I experienced the most joy I’ve ever experienced in my life. Nothing can compare.

I gained a testimony of God’s creation of women’s bodies. I know nothing was wrong with my body and that God had made my body to do an amazing thing. I believe in and love my body more than I ever did. He made me strong enough, both physically and mentally to have an all-natural birth so that I could witness His marvelous hand, and grow closer to my Savior and closer to my husband.

Kylie crop BW

 

by Lani

Channing’s Milk-Sharing Story

February 25, 2015 in Adversity, Breastfeeding, Gratitude, joy, Loss, Love, Motherhood by Lani

By Channing Parker

Before the birth of my daughter, my pregnancy daydreams focused heavily on nursing my new baby while she slept in my arms. With each feeding, she would snuggle in close to me and drink until she was satisfied. I would pull her close, take in her sweet baby goodness, and drift off in blissful mommy vibes. When the time came for her to be welcomed to this side of heaven, I just knew that everything was going to go perfectly according to my plans. She settled in for her first feed, she latched beautifully, ate, and snuggled into her first newborn sleep.

savannah baby

Does it sound like a dream? I think those were my post-delivery hormones talking. The harsh reality outside of the delivery room was that my daughter had a very difficult time nursing. My dreams of peaceful rocking chair feedings came crashing down when we got home. Each time I nursed my toes curled as I offered my raw, cracked skin over and over again trying to help my daughter successfully latch. Every feed ended with both of us soaked in tears and milk. I was so frustrated! I had milk to give and a hungry baby to eat it, but something went wrong between point A and B and we failed to fill her tummy. We were just one week in and I was ready to give up until I stumbled upon a solution that was perfect for us – bottle-nursing. Bottle nursing consists of pumping breast milk and feeding it to baby via a bottle. My first pumping session produced more milk than could be eaten in one feeding, and for the first time since my daughter was born, I felt a sense of relief.

I hoarded any extra milk I had in the freezer. Within a month, my little freezer was bursting with frozen breast milk. It was at this point that I realized my body produced abnormally large amounts of milk – enough to fill about three babies per feeding. I went back and forth considering dumping all the extra down the drain when I was inspired to look into informal milk donation. I prayed and poured my heart over my decision to donate my milk to a mother who adopted her baby, born just a few weeks after my daughter. I moved forward and met this mom and her baby.

We talked for a while and got to know each other and cooed over our babies. I joyfully packed every bag of milk I had into her cooler. She gave me a hug walked away with a huge smile. At that moment, I realized she was carrying away 120 ounces of me. My tears. My milk. My heart. I felt lighter. Over the next ten months, God lead three other women just like her to my tiny freezer. Each time they came, they chipped away at the raw pain inside me and took those pieces away in bags of breast milk. Those parts of me that ached to be acknowledged and loved were wrapped in hugs and grateful smiles from fellow mothers. Eventually, the place in my soul that once housed a gnawing emptiness began to be filled with hope, love, and friendship.

God turned my dream of feeding one baby into something even more beautiful and fulfilling. He took my fiery determination to breastfeed and passion for my child and softened it into a passionate compassion for His children. The Lord knew that the joy of feeding just one baby was not enough for me, so he allowed me to feed four more. I look back on my experience as a milk donor and joyfully praise Him. How great His wisdom and His love!

My experience with milk donation is that an ounce given is received back one hundred times over in the the joy of selfless service. For both donor and recipient, an exchange of freely given breast milk is about so much more than filling bellies. It is about finding healing and bringing peace to the hearts that long for love, and that is a treasure that cannot be measured in ounces.

DSC_0114Channing Parker is an LDS wife and mother who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a passionate student and teacher of yoga and loves to share her love of life and learning with others. Find her at The Little Blog Of Awesome and let some of her radiance and joy rub off on you!

by Lani

On Being in Love

February 13, 2015 in Attachment, Fear, Gratitude, Jesus Christ, Lani, Love, Marriage by Lani

Last night I was thinking about being in love. Felice wrote a great post a few years ago about love. In it she quoted 1 John 4:8:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Felice is a single mom in search of a mate, but she thanks God every day that she is in love. She says, “That may not make sense, but I think it is key to happiness no matter what your relationship status” (Source).

What does it mean to be in love? Are you in love? What does it really mean to be in love? Some scriptures:

  • “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
  • “And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21).
  • “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
  • “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

In my essay “Unity with Providers of Care” in The Gift of Giving Life, I wrote about a BYU devotional I attended on the day after Valentine’s Day fifteen years ago. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the speaker. That devotional was titled: “How Do I Love Thee?“He explained: “The first element of divine love—pure love—taught by [Mormon and Paul] is its kindness, its selfless quality, its lack of ego and vanity and consuming self-centeredness.”

So it would seem that we cannot be “in love” if we are consumed with ourselves. The “natural man” is the ego-driven part of us. The natural man cannot be in love. The natural man is incapable of true love. These words from M. Catherine Thomas‘s The Godseed are instructive:

When a person is born into this world, the ego, with its own agenda and urge to control, begins to enlarge itself and veil the openness and freedom of our spiritual mind. Instead of seeing things as they really are, we see by the dim light of our ego-concerns and fears. Perhaps the main characteristic of the ego is that it behaves like a frightened child (The Godseed, p. 139-140).

It takes a lot of energy to keep the shadow buried and to suppress our multitude of fears. The result is energy depletion. On the emotional level, it is expressed as an inhibition of the capacity to love (Dr. David R Hawkins, qtd. on p. 166).

Fearing and wanting are [the ego’s] predominant emotions and motivating forces (Eckhard Tolle, qtd. on p. 176).

If you try to save your life you will bring yourself to ruin; if you bring yourself to nothing, you will find out who you are (Thomas Keating, qtd. on p. 195).

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept lately… bringing yourself to nothing. It started at the beginning of January at the yoga/meditation retreat Felice taught. During one of the meditations she said, “Bring yourself to zero.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and I have made it my intention ever since.

A few months ago, while I was meditating, I saw in my mind the moon, changing phases. I was thinking about how the gate to the inner court of the temple was opened on the new moon (see Ezekiel 46:1-3). As Felice explained in her new moon blogpost: “It seems to me that if we are seeking Him, there is special opportunity on the Sabbath and the New Moon, when He ‘opens the gates to the inner court.’” I saw in my mind the new moon, empty. I saw the moon gradually filling up with light and becoming full. And then I saw it emptying again. I felt like God was trying to teach me something, but it took some pondering before I gathered it all up.

moon-phases

As I thought about it, I realized that just as the moon and the womb cycle through phases of fullness and emptiness, we too are meant to be continually emptying and filling. Just as the moon goes from full to new, we must pour out ourselves, our egos, our fears, our weapons of war, our grudges, our disappointments, our negative thoughts, our attachment to the world, etc. We must “bring ourselves to zero,” an empty moon, open and purified. Only then is there space for Christ to fill us up. Only with a pure heart, empty like the new moon, can we walk through the gate of the inner court and at-one with Christ, dwell in God, and become full… full moons, full of light, bursting through the dark of the night.

Bringing ourselves to zero can be painful. Unburying and discarding our ego-driven shadow selves is no small task. (Ego eradicator is a yoga technique that helps.) But it is worth the effort because something marvelous happens when we do. We enable ourselves to be in love. And to thank God every day that we are in love.

I’ll close with my favorite scripture of all time:

“Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; . . . that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen” (Moroni 7:48).

 

inlove

by Robyn

My Divine Teacher

May 12, 2014 in Gratitude, meditation, Motherhood, Parenting, Power of Words, Robyn, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

“And a little child shall lead them”

Isaiah 11:6

Cali 2

 

My posts are just going to be have to be a lot less wordy. I struggle to find the time to write but I really do benefit from processing my thoughts into a post.

I’m grateful for motherhood. It is hard and I struggle with feeling like I am getting much done. Lately I have wanted to be able to put more time into studying my scriptures and meditation. I miss the “aha” moments and stream of revelation in the early morning hours. Alone time is hard to come by. Anyway so about a week ago, I was feeling this way, sitting with my cute little toddler playing on the floor when I had one of those “aha” moments. God reminded me, “She is your divine teacher, learn from her.” I nodded. “I know, I know. Thank you for this reminder,” I answered.  And I also knew that I was being told that I was to be learning from each one of my children.

We are told that we should become like our little children, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

I cuddled with my 4 year old in my lap during fast and testimony meeting last Sunday. After several testimonies she leaned into my ear and said, “I just know that He is Risen.” And that was that. So simple, real and authentic. She taught me. We don’t have to be wordy. And I took those words to heart. Simple testimonies. Shorter posts. Thank you Divine Teacher.

“If we have a heart to learn and a willingness to follow the example of children, their divine attributes can hold a key to unlocking our own spiritual growth. ” Jean A. Stevens, Ensign, April 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

by Robyn

My Piece of Humble Pie

April 13, 2014 in Doulas, Gratitude, Robyn, Temple, Uncategorized by Robyn

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I was having one of those pity party days when you choose to just see everything in a negative light.  I kept making excuses for why I shouldn’t go to the temple but somehow we got there.  Not only was I in a bad mood, I was annoyed with myself for being in a bad mood.  After a very quiet 45 minute drive to our temple, we didn’t waste time getting inside.  We were on a tight schedule to be back in time for when the baby would be hungry again.

Just as I left the recommend booth, someone called my name.  It was a dear, sweet friend.  We had been through a lot together.  Years ago we had both buried a child within 3 months of each other and grieved their absence together.  I had not seen her for about a month.  I was surprised to see her in the temple because she was still rehabilitating after a serious car accident.  She had lost control of the left side of her body as a result of her injuries.  The last time I saw her she was still in the hospital.  I immediately felt humbled as she shuffled in with her walker. How hard was it really for me to get to the temple that day?  Not very.  My pride hit the floor and ran out the temple doors.
I quickly realized why I needed to be there that day.  I offered to help her get ready. I took her temple bag from her husband and promised to take good care of her.  This was an easy role for me to take.  I thought back to the times I had supported her as a doula* in two of her births and reminded her of that. I told her not to worry if she needed help changing.  She laughed, “Well, you have seen it all already, haven’t you?”  As she changed we reminisced about her births.  She had been in fits of laughter right into her transition of labor.  (The only woman I had ever supported to ever do that.) It was one of the things that endeared her to me that she was so joyful.  Today she was just grateful to be in the temple.  Full of joy that she could move the toes on her left foot.
I helped her change, go to the restroom, get her temple packet and find a seat.  It took a while.  She had to move much slower than usual.  I was so grateful for that.  I had been rushing, rushing, resisting the spirit.   She helped me slow down and find her rhythm, just like when I supported her in birth.  I felt like her temple doula.  It was such a privilege.  She apologized for inconveniencing me.  I was quick to tell her that there was nothing I would rather be doing right at that moment. And I meant it. After I helped seat her in the assembly hall next to her husband, I hugged her and thanked her for letting me help her.  I told her that I really needed that today and then rushed out.  Tears were stinging my eyes and I was so ashamed of my previous pity party.
I’m sure if I had not been there that day that one of the temple workers would have helped her and taken on the role of a “temple doula.” But I really needed to experience that.  We can be a “doula” for God’s children on both sides of the veil.  The truth is I felt like I was the one benefitting.  I did not end up having time to do the ordinances I had planned in the temple that day so I sat in the waiting area and studied my scriptures while my husband completed his.  These words graced the entrance:
“But the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20
I sat there silent, asking forgiveness, and giving thanks for a small and simple moment in his holy temple.  The ordinance work we do there is every so critical but there are other kinds of service offered there too, like what my friend allowed me to do, and that is what my heart needed.
*Doula is a Greek word meaning female servant.  Today it is a term used to describe professional labor support, doing whatever is needed to support the mother through pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.
by Robyn

Black History Month: The Story of Anarcha

February 6, 2014 in Book, Book reviews, Gratitude, Obstetricians, Pain, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

GetMeOut_Paperback250w

“Knowing that whatsoever good thing any [wo]man doeth, the same shall [s]he receive of the Lord, whether [s]he be bond or free.” – Ephesians 6:8

All I can say is, I had no idea!  Let me explain what I mean by that.  I attended a women’s health fair at our local university last spring at which the keynote speaker was Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D.  After listening to her lecture I purchased a copy of her book, Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

Being the birth junkie that I am I immediately buried my nose in my signed copy.  I enjoyed the author’s comprehensive and witty approach to the topic.  Being a childbirth educator I soaked up the information, but I halted at chapter two, “Slave Women’s Contribution to Gynecology.”  I am not surprised that slave women were experimented on in the name of furthering gynecology but I admit that it had not yet crossed my mind.

What I did not know is that we owe much to our African sisters who took part in furthering the health of women of all races. So where does this story start?  It starts with J. Marion Sims.  The J. Marion Sims foundation is quoted as saying that he “was one of the most famous physicians of his time, renowned as a surgical genius and as one of the founders of operative gynecology.”  He boasts an impressive resume including servicing royalty and even President James A Garfield after he was shot in 1881. He also “served as president of the American Medical Association in 1876, as president of the International Medical Congress in 1877, and as president of the American Gynecological Society in 1880.”  There are monuments built in his honor along with a hospital named after him.

There are a few important details left out of this description.  And that is that he owes his fame to ten African slaves, three of whom we have names for, Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy.  Some of the slaves actually died as a result of his surgical experiments.  Wendy Brinker has been quoted as saying,“The success of J. Marion Sims .  . . rested solely on the personal sacrifices of the enslaved African women he experimented on from 1845 to 1849.” [1]

Anarcha was the first slave woman brought to Sims by her owner because she suffered with a condition called vesicovaginal fistulas.  VVF is an abnormal fistulous tract, extending between the bladder and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault [2].  This condition rendered a slave “useless” to her owner.  She was no longer able to work or give birth to more slaves.  She was often ostracized as a result of the foul smell.  VVF is not just a problem of the past. It is still found in many developing countries (usually caused by prolonged labor) and is often underreported. [3] In industrialized nations VVF is frequently “a result of iatrogenic [doctor caused] injury at the time of gynecological surgery in particular hysterectomy.” [4]

In the time of Dr. Sims, African slave women were inflicted with VVF for a few different reasons. Many slaves were malnourished and had rickets which caused their pelvis to be deformed which in turn caused prolonged labor necessitating the need for forceps or other extreme measures to extract the baby.  In addition, many African slave women were victims of violent rape or conceived babies at a very young age before their bodies were mature enough to fit a baby through the pelvis.

Many white women also suffered from this condition but Dr. Sims refused to work on them until he had perfected his surgery on African slave women.  It was commonly believed at his time that slaves had a high tolerance of pain and that white women did not.  When he finally did operate on white women, he offered them anesthesia which he never offered the slave women.  He did allow observers to watch these surgeries/experiments.  We will never know, but it is doubtful that these women were given the option of consent.

“These experiments set the stage for modern vaginal surgery. Sims devised instruments including the Sims’ speculum to gain proper exposure. A rectal examination position where a patient is on the left side with the right knee flexed against the abdomen and the left knee slightly flexed is also named after him as Sim’s position. He insisted on cleanliness. His technique using silver-wire sutures led to successful repair of a fistula, and this was reported in 1852.” [5] 

Sadly, many of the women who suffer today from this condition are modern sisters to Anarcha (in the African regions) and do not have access to the care needed to correct this condition.

Being a woman who has had a few stitches “down there,” I can’t help but feel intense gratitude for these women.  While I have never suffered from VVF, Dr. Sims and his patients are responsible for furthering the integrity of stitching materials.   I feel a quiet reverence for these women.  I don’t think they have been thanked or honored enough.  There is a website dedicated to honor Anarcha as the mother of gynecology that tells her story in more detail, Anarcha: The Mother of Gynecology.  Please take a moment to read her story as a way of offering her and her sisters the honor and reverence they deserve.

As I read this scripture from Ephesians, I thought of the courage of Anarcha, Betsy, Lucy, and their slave sisters:

“Knowing that whatsoever good thing any [wo]man doeth, the same shall [s]he receive of the Lord, whether [s]he be bond or free.” – Ephesians 6:8

So to these women, I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude:

Thank you Anarcha, Betsy, Lucy and sisters. 

I have no idea what it was like to live your life or walk your path but I will never forget your contribution.

For more information on this topic you can visit the following websites:

http://nathanielturner.com/jmarionsims.htm

http://www.east-harlem.com/mt/archives/000149.html

by Robyn

A Twin Birth: Peace That Passeth All Understanding

December 30, 2013 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Conception, Faith, Fertility, Gratitude, home birth, hospital birth, Loss, miscarriage, Prayer, Pregnancy, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

I am so glad that we had a request for a twin birth story from one of our blog readers and that my friend, Heidi, was willing to share her experience.  Shortly after she moved to our ward we discovered that we both loved childbirth.  I consider it a privilege that I was allowed to be a part of Liam’s and Landon’s births.  I had so much fun reading back the story again.  I hope you enjoy their faith-filled journey.  –Robyn

A Twin Birth: Peace that Passeth All Understanding 

by Heidi Hellstrom

I don’t normally share my birthing stories by writing them down for people (besides myself), but I’ve had a few people asking me about it lately and I’ve been thinking a lot about it, so I feel it is the right time. It is my prayer that this story will help someone.

I lost my first baby. Then I had my son, followed by two more miscarriages. A nurse practitioner told me that it might be difficult to have any more children. Then I conceived my daughter. (Her story is a complete miracle, and I’ll share that some other time.) It was while I was pregnant with my daughter that we found out at my 20th week ultrasound, that I have a “heart-shaped” uterus. (I’m not sure what the medical term for it is.) It basically means that I will have a really hard time carrying a baby to full term, without losing it.  After my 2nd child was born, my doctor told me that “there is really no point in ‘preventing conception’ because you will likely never conceive again”.  I was very saddened by this news, but followed his advice, hoping that someday another miracle would occur. Fast forward 9 months. I was at my doctor’s office getting some tests done, when we found out that only one of my ovaries works, and only some of the time. Great! Now it’s going to be even harder to have another baby. But I wasn’t too fazed by this news. I knew that if it was meant to be, it would be. (We moved to another state shortly before my 2nd child was born.)

Several weeks later I was at my old doctor’s office (in another state) getting some more tests done, including an ultrasound. I was NOT there for a pregnancy test. He comes into the room and jokingly says “Well, let’s just make sure you don’t have any twins or anything in there!” and proceeds to start the ultrasound. While we were still laughing about it, a few seconds later his face gets really serious and he says, “Oh! You are going to have twins!” What?!?? We were both shocked. Later that day I was on the phone with my husband, trying to convince him that we were in fact going to have twins. He didn’t believe me. It actually took him a few days before he realized I was serious! Then all the fun began…

I had always wanted to have a home birth, with a midwife.  But in the state where we live, by the current law, midwives are not allowed to attend a birth of multiple babies, and especially where it isn’t in a setting like a hospital. So I had two options: 1) Try finding a doctor who would allow me to birth them vaginally and drug-free, or 2) Deliver them in the next State over, where I could use a midwife, and it would be in at a birthing center (free of the hospital chaos). However, option #2 would be a 2 ½ hour drive, while in labor. After a few months of praying about it, and many interviews with potential doctors, we decided that staying here would be the best option, for us.

I started taking the Bradley Method classes from one of my neighbours, who is a birth educator. In there I learn about the importance of eating right while pregnant and the great importance of eating LOTS of protein. My husband was SO great about making sure I got plenty of protein each day- which is especially important when carrying multiple babies. I also was blessed to have a neighbor who had had twins herself nearly 20 years ago. Throughout my pregnancy she would constantly bring me foods & drinks that were chalked full of protein. I’m so thankful for her! Another thing that helped me stay pregnant was taking fish oil capsules, twice daily. A midwife told me about them, and how she told her patients that it would help them carry the babies to full-term. I took two daily because I was carrying two babies.

I started bleeding somewhere between 11 – 15 weeks, and was put on bed rest for nearly two months. I was also put on bed rest several more times throughout my pregnancy. With two little kids at home, this was not easy. I was told that I better avoid stairs at all cost, if I wanted to stay pregnant. (I would have mild contractions every time I used the stairs. One time I even blacked out and fainted- that was in my first trimester.) It was difficult because in my home, all the bedrooms are upstairs and the kitchen is on the main level. My sweet husband would make some snacks and an easy lunch the night before, and in the mornings before he left for work, he would bring them upstairs so that I could feed my two older children during the day without having to go up/down stairs. Towards the end, I could NOT sit for longer than a few minutes without being in a lot of pain, because of the weight of the babies. I tried just going to Sacrament and then coming home after. But it got to the point where I had to stay home from church (for 4-5 weeks, or so). Everything hurt. I was completely exhausted, all of the time. I was blessed to meet a lady who had twin two year old girls. She warned me that I’d get to a point where I just wanted to be done, no matter what. She said she felt that way when she started having a few contractions, and didn’t stop them. She told me she regretted that because she believed her daughters were born “too early”, and she advised me against that. “Try to not go into labor,” she said. “The longer they are in there, the better.” I really wanted to “be done” but I remembered her words, and just tried to survive one day at a time.

Then came my 36 week check-up. (By this point, I was having weekly appointments.) Twin A and twin B had stayed pretty close together in the same size and weight throughout the pregnancy. But after reviewing this week’s ultrasound results, Dr. Cox was very concerned. Baby B (we chose to not find out their genders until they were born) had stopped- or greatly slowed down- in growing, and there was now over a pound difference between Baby A and Baby B. He said that we needed to schedule an induction, and the sooner the better. Up until this point, my husband was rarely able to come to my appointments, but this time he was there, and I was SO glad, as we had a very serious decision to make. That was on a Monday. Dr. Cox left the room for a little while so we could discuss it. I said a silent prayer. I usually don’t believe that most things the doctors/nurses tell you are necessary, but after praying I really felt that this was true, and serious. We scheduled the induction for Friday: I wanted to give my babies as much time in there as possible, and that was the longest Dr. Cox would let us go. Like I said, it was on a Monday that we got the news that we’d be having our babies sooner than expected. All Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I cried and stressed about it, and prayed. Then Thursday morning peace came. A peace that passeth all understanding. Peace that only my Father in Heaven can give. I knew that we were making the right choice for our babies. We still had family and friends that thought we were just “giving in” or making the wrong decision or that we should just plan a C-section, but that didn’t matter to me, because I knew from my Heavenly Father that I was doing what was best. Yes, I would have liked to deliver in another 2-3 weeks, but the time was now. I felt that if we didn’t get Baby B out soon, we would lose him.

That same week, I had an appointment Thursday. It was the first time I let the doctor do a vaginal exam, and I was between 3-4cm dilated. Since I was being induced the next morning, I wanted to try to get things going on my own, if possible. So they put in one of those balloon things… that was around 5pm. I sent my kids to a neighbours house, which was planning on keeping them all night and the next day. (So helpful!) My husband and I went out to eat. (A tradition when I’m in labor, haha.) The waitress kept giving me worried looks, and finally came over to ask Scott if everything was ok. I just tried to smile and said that I was in labor. Hahaha she didn’t know how to respond to that, so she said, “Oh ok! Well let me know if you need anything” and walked off. A couple hours later, it came out, along with my mucous plug, around 8pm. Dr. Cox said it would come out when I was dilated to a 5. Labor quickly slowed down after that.

Friday morning we went to the hospital for our 4:00am induction. We learned later that it is normally standard procedure to deliver twins in the O.R. “just in case” surgery is needed, but Dr. Cox had previously arranged for me to be in an actual delivery room (which was very sweet of him). Later he told me that he had faith in me that I “could do it”. J So when we arrived at the hospital and were checked into our room, we were waiting while a nurse finished bringing in a second warming bed and all the other stuff needed. They got me all hooked up and started the Pitocin around 6:30am. I was dilated to 4.5cm. I was soon turned all the way up to the highest amount, and they said that I was contracting a lot and regularly, but I didn’t feel much and they were all pretty tolerable. Scott and I played games, walked in the hall, got in the birthing tub (which was heavenly), tried different positions to keep things going, etc. That lasted all day.

Heidi H 1

Baby A was fairly easy to keep on the monitor, Baby B was very difficult to find, almost the whole time. I had to hold the monitor just right, all day, or we lose the heart rate again. At some point during the day, when things were still pretty easy, the anesthesiologist came into our room, introduced himself, and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him “Stay out”. I didn’t want the temptation of an epidural, especially when I knew from experience that I’d be asking for it later!

That evening Dr. Cox came in to check on my progress. I was at 5 cm. I cried, a lot. I was so frustrated that this was taking ALL day and I had only progressed a half centimeter. He suggested that he break my water to see if that would help kick things in gear. He would let us talk about it, and he’d come back in one hour. Originally on my birth plan I did NOT want my water broken, because I knew that I would feel EVERYTHING. Since I was having regular hard contractions, I knew this time would be no different, though I didn’t feel very many of them up until this point. I just felt crampy, like before a period. Scott and I talked about it, and I just wanted to get this over with so I could hold my babies. So when the doctor came back, I told him it was ok to go ahead and break my water so we could get things going. That happened at 7pm.

Almost as soon as my water broke, I started into full-swing labor. It was like someone had flipped on a light switch! They came fast and hard and right on top of the last one. Right before they broke my water, I called my doula and she came up to the hospital. I had never used a doula before, and I was very glad to have another woman there, who knew what it felt like and all the emotions that come with natural childbirth. She was very helpful in reminding me to not hold my breath, but to breathe, and when the time came, to breathe the baby down; keeping my voice low-pitched was actually very helpful (haha I was surprised how that worked). Shortly after my water broke, my sister arrived. She stayed up by my head the whole time, rubbing my forehead with a cold wash cloth. It was helpful to have that distraction, when I needed it. As I was nearing the transition stage, the anesthesiologist literally poked his head around the curtain and said, “Hi! I just wanted to see if you needed…” But before he could finish, I yelled “Get out!!” hahaha Later it made us all laugh, but at the time I was really annoyed that he waited until he knew I was in full-swing labor before coming in to ask if I wanted an epidural. Later I felt bad for yelling at him, and I told him I was sorry and hoped he had no hard feelings… but I did warn him.

This birth was SO different than my first two. Not just because I was carrying twins, but also I had invited people there to witness it, and I’d never done that before. In fact, one of the student nurses even requested to stay and watch after her shift ended. The doctor told her that something very rare was going to happen and she better stay to watch; rare being- a woman having a vaginal birth to twins drug-free. I didn’t mind. In looking back, I did have quite the audience haha! I would never have done that with my first two. Also, I literally felt prayers that day/night. It is almost unexplainable and indescribable, but I literally felt like there were angels arms wrapped around me. Like I wasn’t alone. Of course I know that I literally wasn’t alone, because of the other people in the room. It just felt like my heart was full. Full of my Saviour’s love for me and my babies, and all the people of the world. I’ll never forget how completely blessed and at peace I felt that night!

So right before they broke my water (at 7pm) there was a shift change, and I got a new nurse named Kathleen. She was an angel! The BEST nurse I have ever had. (We found out later that Dr. Cox had requested her a week before to attend me, if she happened to be on shift when I came in. That was cool that he did that.) So after I started feeling the contractions, Kathleen told us that the hospital just got these new birthing chairs and that no one had even used them yet. She asked if I’d like to try one out, and I said yes. It was like sitting on the toilet with a tall back to it that was slightly reclined, but not too much. The center and front of the seat were missing. It was perfect to allow for gravity to help Baby A come down. Since I was only at a 5 when they broke my water, the doctor and most nurses left, thinking it would take a while.  I only remember Kathleen being there with me, trying to make sure both babies were being monitored. Then all of a sudden I felt the urge to push and push now! I pushed once with the next contraction, but tried to do it inconspicuously so that the nurse wouldn’t freak out. She looked up at me and quickly asked if I needed to push. I lied and said no. Haha Sorry! I really am not sure why I did that! But there was no time to think because a half second later the next contraction was there and I REALLY needed to push! So I did. The nurse started yelling for someone to get Dr. Cox in here NOW. He came running in and was frantically trying to find gloves and a gown, but saw there was no time. He leaned over the bed (my chair was next to the bed, and I had my feet up on the side of the bed) and helped Kathleen catch Baby A as he came into this world. The doctor lifted him up to my chest and my husband announced that he was a boy. I’ll never forget it! We just did it! My first un-medicated, successful birth. Liam was born at 8:14pm, weighing 6lbs, 6oz. (So yes, I went from a 5 to a 10 in one hour!)

Right after handing Liam to me, the doctor was about to clamp the cord. I noticed and said “Don’t clamp it. Don’t clamp it.” He thanked me for reminding him and stopped. He had forgotten that was on my birth plan, that I wanted to wait until the cord had stopped pulsating before clamping it. Later my doula told me she was shocked that I had the presence of mind to notice/remember that. Looking back, I was shocked too!

After a couple minutes, the nurse wanted to take Liam over to the warmer, so I kissed him and let him go. THAT was one of the HARDEST things I’ve done. To leave my brand new, beautiful baby in the care of strangers, on the other side of the room, while I still had to deliver a second baby. I felt so bad for Liam. My sister must have noticed how I was feeling, and she left my side to go stand by my son until I could hold him again. That act of kindness meant a lot to me.

Within minutes of delivering Liam, I started contracting again. I was still fully dilated, and it didn’t take long for full-swing labor to pick back up again. Both twins each had their own sack, or bag of water. So Baby B (remember we still had not found out the gender) was happily floating around in there way up high, and frustrating all the nurses because the baby would not hold still long enough to get a good monitor on the heartbeat. Scott told me later that actually the baby’s heart rate had dropped way low while I was still sitting on the birthing chair (to 70; Normal is 120-150). Scott, Dr. Cox, and the nurses were all very worried but somehow managed to not let me know. Dr. Cox had me move to the bed (not very easy, mind you) to get an ultrasound of how Baby B was positioned; the baby was breach. Once I was in the bed, the heart rate went back into the normal range. They got my permission to do IFM because the baby would not hold still for the heart monitors on my stomach. Then, I wanted Dr. Cox to try turning the baby from the outside. I laid back (while contracting- not comfortable) and had to hold still and try to be very relaxed so that my abdominal muscles would be loose enough. Dr. Cox pushed and pulled and the baby rotated. It did not hurt. He did another ultrasound to make sure. I sat back up in bed. Then we just had to wait. The baby was still pretty high up. I was completely exhausted. I desperately tried pushing a few times (even though I knew it wasn’t time) just to try and speed things along. It didn’t work; it probably just made me even more tired! I asked the doctor to break Baby B’s water, and he did. (Looking back, I’m not sure if this happened before or after rotating the baby.) Then, as tired as I was, it was like another switch was flipped, and I knew that it was time to push. My doula filmed the second birth, and after watching this part, all I did was quietly say “ok”. Then it looked like my husband, who was standing next to the bed, snapped to attention and notified everyone that I was ready to push. (It’s funny to watch. I highly recommend filming the birth of your children!) After one, maybe two, pushes, the head was out. I had beforehand told Dr. Cox that I wanted to deliver the second baby. He reminded me of this but I felt so dead that all I could do was barely lift my arms. I reached down, pulled out my baby with one more push, and brought Baby B up to my chest. I literally was SO tired that I could not even lift my head or barely open my eyes, so I forgot to look to see what the gender was. My husband announced it was another boy! We were all surprised! The doctor himself didn’t even know the gender and we all thought it would be a boy and a girl. Landon was born at 9:31pm and weighed 5lb, 11oz. This time, the doctor remembered to wait until the cord stopped pulsating before clamping it. He handed the scissors to Scott to cut the cord, but at the last second, I decided that I wanted to. So I cut the cord that had held us together for approximately 36 weeks, 4 days. After 2 ½ hours of labor, I was now a mother of twins. I was so completely happy and dead tired at the same time.

Heidi H 2

They had to take away Landon pretty quick to assess his vitals and such. Both babies were unable to breastfeed, or even eat at first, and had to be monitored in the NICU (but were never admitted). Their breathing was very fast (100+ per minute instead of 60 as usual). They were getting enough air; they just had to work harder for it. After I was all cleaned up and had a little more energy, Scott and I were asked if we wanted to go to our recovery room, but I said I’d rather go see my babies first, in the NICU. Scott and I each held one baby skin-to-skin on our chests. I couldn’t believe how Landon just fit right inside Scott’s shirt, like a glove!

 Heidi H 3

When we finally were able to go to sleep that night, it was close to 1:00am. I’d been awake for 22 hours. A short time later, they brought me my babies and said their breathing had slowed down enough for them to try nursing. I believe that had they been sedated by an epidural or Nubian, that they would have been unable to work as hard as they needed for air and would have needed oxygen or a respirator in the NICU. They were both able to come home with us when we left the hospital.

I just felt so blessed by this whole birthing experience. I know that everyone there in that delivery room was meant to be there, and I also know that there were angels in attendance that day, helping me and others to know what to do. I’m grateful for the power of prayer and the gift of faith. I know that every story is different, but for me, I know that I did what was best for my babies. They are now 9 months old, and healthy. I have a good life!

by Lani

VBT #7: Modern Pioneer Mom’s Book Review

April 29, 2013 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews, Fear, Gratitude, hospital birth, Lani, Motherhood, Obstetricians, Preparation, Traumatic Birth, Virtual Book Tour, Young Women by Lani

Today’s Virtual Book Tour stop is by Jennifer at Modern Pioneer Mom. Here’s an excerpt:

Honestly, I was saddened as I’ve looked back on photos of me in the hospital holding my babies, because there were very few of me genuinely smiling.  In a couple of them, I was actually frowning.  It made me sad to look at them, because I loved my babies SO much & was so very excited to have them in my arms, but the photos didn’t show it, because I was miserable from everything that happened.  Though I was happy to have my babies here, my actual birthing experiences were scary, stressful, full of medical intervention, and definitely not empowering.  No one taught me anything other than to do what I was instructed to do.

I loved being pregnant, but I was scared to death of going into labor & giving birth.  Even after actually doing it, I was still scared to go through it again.  I experienced quite a bit of trauma, especially with my first baby.  Unfortunately, I let the nurses take my babies out of my room A LOT, just so that I could sleep and de-stress.  Now I know that I could have (and should have) had a very… different… experience…I’m so grateful to know what I know now, so that I can teach my daughters (and share this book with them) so they can have that ‘very different experience’.

I’ve read many many many accounts of women on blogs (& in books like this one), who LOVED their birthing experience and were empowered through the whole process of labor & delivery.  I’ve seen endless photos of hundreds of women who had huge smiles on their faces portraying the most authentic joy possible, as they hold their beautiful new born babies.  I was not empowered.  But I should have been.  I’ve learned more about pregnancy & birth in the past 2 years than I learned in the prior 17 years of being a mother.

Smelling babyI also love that Jennifer thinks our book smells like a newborn baby! 🙂

Click HERE to read her full post!

And here are the links to the previous posts from this year’s book tour in case you missed some of them:

  1. Mother At Heart
  2. I Love Junk Mail
  3. Better Birth Doula
  4. Cherishing Hopes and Dreams
  5. Mamas and Babies
  6. Bri’s Thoughts
  7. Modern Pioneer Mom