by Robyn

Buffering, Birth and Biology

February 5, 2017 in Adversity, Doulas, Fathers, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, Robyn, Young Women by Robyn

I’m taking a Biology class right now and to help myself learn concepts I try to apply them to something I can easily relate to.  And since I love birth, well you know, I compare biology or psychology (or whatever) to birth. In studying the pH scale, I learned about “buffers” or a pair of substances, and acid and its related base, that minimizes pH fluctuations in the fluids of living organisms. (Brooker, 41).  Buffers protect an organism from dangerously low or high pH  levels. In a more general sense a buffer is “a person or thing that shields and protects against annoyance, harm, hostile forces, etc., or that lessens the impact of a shock or reversal” (source).  

While I was attending a birth two weeks ago, I thought about buffers in the sense of being a doula.  My job is to be a buffer from outside forces or be someone who helps maintain calm waters.  I am supposed to lessen the strain on the mother (and father) so that the shock of the experience is minimized. Because, let’s face it, no matter how much you prepare for birth, it is something else to actually experience it. 

So back to chemistry, a buffer has two parts to minimize fluctuations from acidic and alkaline influences.  I feel that my job is enhanced by working with the husband. It is good to have different kinds of buffers to support the mother, masculine and feminine. One of my favorite things to witness is the loving support a husband provides to his wife.

I have also noticed what has helped “buffer” my experience providing doula support at hospital births.  My support to the mother has been greatly enhanced by the help I have received from the staff.  Most of the labor and delivery staff knows who I am now because I have made a habit of writing letters highlighting the positive support I have witnessed.  It has made a world of difference.  Writing those letters of thanks have been a great way to keep the pH level of the experience as neutral as possible.

The most important buffer we have is that of the Savior.  Today I taught a lesson in young women’s about adversity.  I think this quote sums up how He is our buffer,

“Maybe that’s what I love most about the gospel, not that it prevents us from the blows of life but that we can feel an incredible amount of peace and love in every dark moment.” -Al Carraway

 

References:

Brooker, R. J., Widmaier, E.P., Graham, L. E., Stiling, P.D. (2017). Biology, 4th edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

by Robyn

Jesus, Once of Humble Birth

December 6, 2016 in Angels, Christmas, Doulas, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, Mary, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

jesus-birth

With Christmas approaching I have been pondering the concept of “humble birth.”  We speak of Christ’s birth as being under humble circumstances. In fact one popular hymn begins, “Jesus once of humble birth” (Jesus, Once of Humble Birth, Hymns, 196).  One of the primary’s songs describes his birth this way:

This is the stable, shelter so bare;

Cattle and oxen first welcomed him there.

This is the manger, sweet hay for a bed,
Waiting for Jesus to cradle his head.
(“The Nativity Song,”Primary Songbook, 52)

For Mary this experience had to be humbling, “Although Elohim must have lovingly observed the birth from a heavenly vantage point, even Mary’s extraordinary travail increased the irony. The tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was great with child, the exclusion from the inn, the natural anxiety of bearing a first child, and Mary’s isolation from her own family must have weighed heavily upon her soul” (Gary L. Bunker, “The Ultimate Paradox“). We do not know the exact circumstances of Christ’s birth but Martin Luther remarked,

No one noticed that in a strange place she had not the very least thing needful in childbirth. There she was without preparation: no light, no fire, in the dead of night, in thick darkness. . . . And now think what she could use for swaddling clothes—some garment she could spare, perhaps her veil. . . .

Think, . . . there was no one there to bathe the Baby. . . . The mother was herself midwife and the maid. (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther [New York: Mentor, 1950], p. 173). 

But Mary had accepted this fate when she said to the angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  (Luke 1:38).

As I have pondered Mary’s willingness to accept the circumstances that came upon her, I can only respect her humility.  The Guide to Scriptures defines it as,”To make meek and teachable, or the condition of being meek and teachable. Humility includes recognizing our dependence upon God and desiring to submit to his will” (source). Humility is not cowering.  It is much more powerful than that. It is accessing the power of God through submission to Him.

So what does this mean for us?  Sometimes we are given circumstances with a pregnancy or birth (and life) that is not what we wanted.  Last May I was asked to give doula support for a hospital birth to a couple who had previously had all of their babies at home with the assistance of midwives.  This birth could not be at home this time for a valid medical reason.  It was difficult for the mother to choose a birth in the hospital but she did.  This was to me “humble birth.” They had to accept the challenges that this birth would bring under circumstances that they did not want.  They asked a lot of questions and made the best of their situation.  Their little baby is seven months old now and continues to grow healthy because his parents with meekness accepted the circumstance they were dealt.  Many couples humbly choose a homebirth after much reflection too.  Humble birth isn’t about where the act took place so much as it is about the attitude we take towards the event.  Do we reverence the divinity with which the gift of giving life was appointed? Do we seek God’s will throughout the process?  Are we partakers of humble birth? I love the Nativity story.  I can relate to Joseph Fielding Smith when he said,

There is no story quite as beautiful, or which can stir the soul of the humble quite to the depths, as this glorious story can of the birth of our Redeemer. No words that man may utter can embellish or improve or add to the eloquence of its humble simplicity. It never grows old no matter how often told, and the telling of it is by far too infrequent in the homes of men. Let us repeat this wondrous story (Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith, 310-318).

I never tire of hearing the story of our Savior’s birth.  Last week our Primary children performed a humble version of the Nativity at our ward Christmas party. It was perfect in its simplicity. May you also rejoice in the humility of our Savior’s birth. Wishing you a Christmas season filled with love and light.

#LIGHTtheWORLD

 

 

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 Robyn

Their Hearts Were Changed

August 24, 2015 in Adversity, Cesarean, Depression, Doulas, Education, Fear, Grief, hospital birth, Love, Postpartum Depression, Pregnancy, Robyn, Uncategorized, VBAC by Robyn

“Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” Alma 5:14

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Life as a doula. Every birth changes me in some way. I always learn. Often the lessons are unexpected. A little over three years ago, I attended at birth that I recognize as one of those unexpected yet key experiences that shape a doula. I still talk with this friend and I mentioned to her that this birth changed me profoundly. She asked me to explain. I have to admit that I struggle to put it into words on a page because it was a change in my heart and mind. So I will make an attempt to put words to how my heart was changed but just know that I’m not sure I can fully capture what I want to express.

To explain I should start with experiences that shaped my thinking in regards to birth. I grew up being afraid of birth and that transferred to my own first birth experience that ended in an unnecessary cesarean section. I was filled with love as I held my baby for the first time but I felt robbed of something. Somehow I felt something wasn’t right. I knew I wanted more children but struggled to know how I could possible accomplish it with all of the fear I felt inside me.

I replaced my fear with faith and knowledge. I read and studied birth and took a comprehensive natural childbirth class. I admit I felt anger and guilt after realizing my birth could have been very different. I didn’t want other women to have to do things the hard way. After the beautiful natural VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) of my son I became a childbirth educator. I was a birth activist. I had an Us vs. Them mentality as it relates to birth. We, the birth advocates, were fighting the establishment and all of the lack of informed consent/information and cultural misconceptions of the mainstream birth world. Even though I was teaching a lot of good information in my classes I know that I taught with my own bias because of my own experiences. I was often judgmental of the birth experiences of others if they didn’t turn out “ideal.” I worried when someone was making a decision differently than I would. I didn’t want them to suffer through the emotional baggage that I had.

Well, four years ago I met my friend whose birth I am referencing. She was easy to talk to and fun to be around. We quickly became close friends. She had had two cesarean births. All of her sisters had cesarean births. It seemed it was the just what they had to do in her family. I was quick to share with her that I believed she could have a VBAC. I had done it. She was open to learning more. I kept feeding her information which she read and studied. She wanted to have a VBAC. She became pregnant after we met but soon experienced extreme fatigue and nausea while at the same time being weighed down by prenatal depression. We went on walks most mornings. I checked on her often. We carefully talked over her options and made a plan. She took a childbirth class with her husband, planned to have me as her doula, chose a supportive caregiver that she had to drive 45 minutes to see. I was excited. I felt like the Lord brought us together so we could experience her VBAC together.

And then she moved to another state in the last trimester. We scrambled to find the right birth place and birth team. She found a supportive group only to be faced with a cesarean birth because her body seemed to not be cooperating as she passed her due date by 10 days without any change. She was in tears. I was two and half hours away. I jumped in my car and made it there just before she was wheeled into the operating room. I sat in their room and waited. I paced the floor. It felt so long. I wracked my brain. What could I have done differently? What does this mean? Why were we brought together if this is how things were going to unfold?

As she was wheeled into her room with her perfect baby boy, a quiet reverence surrounded her. All of my questions melted away. I stifled my own tears as I watched her tears fall. She had given what she could.

This past July I had the privilege of listening to Dawn Armstrong speak. She is the “missionary mom” from Meet the Mormons. Her story is not your typical missionary mom story, it is powerful, it is messy, it is real. And that is how I felt a little with this birth, that we are all here very different children of God having a human experience, just trying our best to find our way. Sometimes it is messy, fully of tears and heartache, but it is real. It is someone’s life experience and journey to find their way back to their Heavenly Home. Along the way we experience disappointment but hopefully we also experience God’s hand in lifting us up. Hopefully those experiences open our hearts to the greater scope of the plan, love. Christlike love. I couldn’t judge my friend’s experience. I could only be there for her. Mourn with her. Be a friend.

See? I know I didn’t fully capture here the change in my heart. But let me just say that now, when I encounter someone and they are telling me about their birth, I don’t have to judge what they have experienced. It is liberating to just love them and listen.

What heart changing experiences have you had as a doula or midwife (or birthy momma)?

by Robyn

The Path of a Modern Mormon Midwife

June 16, 2015 in Angels, Book, Education, Faith, Fear, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, joy, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

An Interview With Valerie Hall, LM, CPM

So what is it like to be a midwife? Valerie Hall LM, CPM, graciously agreed amidst her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me about her work as a midwife.  I have known Valerie since she began her journey by becoming a childbirth educator.  She was also present at the birth of my sixth child.  I also loved taking part in the Midwife Assistant classes she offered.   My favorite part of the class was the beginning when she would ask the “hard questions,” meaning, the thought-provoking ones that cause you to search your soul a little bit. While I am not ready to begin as a student midwife yet I value the training and experiences I had in her class.  It allowed me to peek into the world of a midwife and evaluate the blessings and sacrifices associated with it.  I hope that other such classes will be offered for other women trying to decide upon the path of midwifery. Valerie has a website for her practice, Generations Homebirth, and she also has a facebook page.   –Robyn

RobynBirth-372

photo by Cali Stoddard

Tell us a little about how you were guided to become a midwife.

I believe my first step toward midwifery was the firm conviction I had even before I was married that it was essential for me to give birth without medications. I’m not sure why that was planted in my heart, but it was very clear. Our first baby was born in a California hospital without medications but certainly not without unwelcome interference. It was a long time before I processed the pain of that experience, but it made an activist out of me. “Activist” is the word my Dad used to describe me because it was nicer than “fanatic”.

Five more babies came along, all born in hospitals and all without medications. My activism went dormant when it became clear that most people just didn’t want to hear about it. When our 4th child and 1st daughter was expecting her first baby, she called to say that she wanted a natural birth and asked about what classes were available. From there it was a slippery slope for my husband Steve and me. We became Bradley Method teachers, then I started attending births as doula and took the DONA training.

My very first job turned out to be a precipitate birth where I beat the paramedics by about 7 minutes and the baby did not breathe for what seemed like forever. This was definitely beyond my training level! All turned out well. In the first year of doula work I caught the baby 3 times and I promise it was never my fault. At that point Steve started urging me to look into Midwifery school.

I started looking but quickly realized that at 51 years old I was way too old to start this career. But Heavenly Father would not take NO for an answer and I felt actually shoved into midwifery. Doors opened. Money appeared (usually at the last moment). Previously planned doors closed. Things fell into place. I kicked and cried and fretted and worried but always sought the next little patch of light which never failed to appear just as I was about to give up.

 

What is a typical day or week for you as a midwife?

I do all my care in my clients’ homes except for a few who come from a distance and choose to meet me at my house. So a typical week looks like this:

Monday: Office work. This never, ever ends. It’s like dishes or laundry. You can’t catch up. I’m not good at sitting in front of a desk for hours on end so I’ve learned strategies for survival, like taking a break and doing crazy dances with my grandchildren who live with me.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Usually at least 2 of these days are spent traveling to clients’ homes. My assistant Angela Geurts does all my scheduling for me, bless her. So on one day I go north to the Rexburg area and on one day I go south as far as Blackfoot or Pocatello. If I can’t get all the visits in, then I do a 3rd day. I also serve on the Board of Directors for Midwives College of Utah and of the Idaho Midwifery Council (I’m giving that up soon) and on the Idaho Board of Midwifery. So there are often online or phone meetings for those organizations and also projects that I have to do for them. I try to fit those in on the days when I don’t have too many visits. Sometimes I’m gone from 8 am to 6 or 7 pm, although that usually doesn’t happen more than once per week. I schedule a full hour for each visit plus driving time. Sometimes a student travels with me.

Fridays: In the morning one of my students comes for a few hours to help with things like organizing the office (a spare bedroom in our home), making up birth kits, scanning and entering documents, sterilizing instruments, restocking my bags, etc. Sometimes I can do home chores while they’re doing this but I usually need to be close at hand to answer questions.

Of course, if someone has a baby we have to revise the schedule unless the whole thing takes place at night. Angela has a big job!

 

What led you to begin offering assistant midwife classes?

I had been thinking of offering Midwife Assistant classes for a long time. When I first went out into solo practice I didn’t think I was likely to get students who wanted to get their clinical credits with me because I don’t do a high volume of births (about 25-30 per year) so it would be quite slow. I needed trained assistants. I realized that there are many women who are not ready to jump into midwifery but who would like a gentle introduction. Also, there’s a great need to educate women so there will be someone to help at births in case of emergency. That’s something I feel very strongly about. Birth knowledge is not something that should be kept as a professional secret available only to the few. It belongs to all women. Every ward should have someone who is at least somewhat prepared to help in cases where professional help is not available. Of all the emergency scenarios people talk about, emergency childbirth is the one you’re most likely to encounter in your life. It happens every day.

As it turned out, I do have students so my need for assistants is much less than I had expected. But I’m going to keep offering the classes as long as there’s any interest because it’s a good introduction to midwifery. There are now three licensed midwives in my area and I think there might be demand for good trained assistants.

 

What advice would you give someone who is considering whether or not to begin training to be a midwife?

I don’t have a lot of advice for people considering midwifery training. Just like any other major life decision, it needs to be searched out diligently and then prayed about. I do believe that it will soon become important to attend an accredited school. There is no royal road or shortcut to competence in midwifery. It’s a very responsible job and can be hard on a family if not approached with care. It’s worth taking your time and really investigating before jumping in. The rewards are great but so are the sacrifices. It’s worth investing in a quality education. “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every byway, till you find your dream”. If it’s the path for you, you will come to know that.

 

What is one of the funniest experiences you have had as a midwife?

There are so many good stories! This is why midwives write books. I will too someday. Stories are mostly funny after the fact, and I’m the victim in most of them. Once I was attending a mother for her 3rd baby, and I’d been present as a student for the first two so I knew that this mom always worked hard to get her babies out. This time she was birthing on her bed in a suspended squat, supported from behind by her husband. Baby was finally almost crowning after a real effort at pushing. In the intensity of the moment I forgot the fact that her water hadn’t broken yet. I was practically lying across the bed with my hands outstretched and my face right in the path. Sure enough, the water broke and caught me full in the face, completely drenching my hair. But Baby was right behind it and I barely had time to run my arm across my face to clear my eyes before I had to catch. Baby needed a bit of stimulation to get started, so there wasn’t time to do anything about cleaning up for quite a while. When I finally had a chance to go into the bathroom and wash, I looked like a creature from the Black Lagoon. Naturally, this was a birth that took place fairly far away from my home and the mom had Rh negative blood type, so I had to take blood samples into the lab before I could go home and shower. I can only hope the lab people were pretty bleary-eyed at 4 am and didn’t think strange things. Angela was my assistant and she’s still laughing about that.

 

What is one of the most spiritual experiences you have had as midwife?

To be a midwife is to be a watcher at the gates of life. Every birth is a spiritual experience. Sometimes I’m very aware of the watchers from the other side of the veil. One of the richest experiences was the birth of one of my grandsons. My daughter-in-law was laboring well and there was deep peace in the room. As the birth drew near I became aware that the room was full of women. I couldn’t quite see them but I knew who some of them were. My Great-Aunt Dade who delivered many babies as a rural nurse, my Great-great-great grandmother Morilla Spink Bates who was a pioneer midwife, my own grandmothers, and other ancestors. I also recognized the presence of many whose names I did not know; they were ancestors of my daughter-in-law. I did not say anything but knew those women were there to lend support and to usher my grandson into his mortal experience.

 

Tell us more about the projects you are working on.

I’m currently working on several projects for the MCU board and the Board of Midwifery. At the same time I’m working on a book on Emergency Childbirth. It’s meant to be an updated manual like the old classic by Dr. Gregory White. But I’m also considering including it as a chapter in a longer work on preparedness for women and babies. I really need an illustrator! I’m also considering how I can complete my Bachelors degree in midwifery (I graduated with an AS from MCU). And of course I want to update my files so that all my notes are in electronic form and well-indexed so that I can find what I need easily.

Has working in midwifery affected your testimony?  How does your work as a midwife combine with your testimony?

 

My testimony of the Gospel and of my Savior’s grace has been greatly strengthened by my practice of midwifery. I know for certain that my strength is weakness and all power comes from Him. His plan is perfect, though we are not. I can testify that He lives, that He leads us along and knows of our needs and answers our prayers.

One of the great problems for midwives is fear. I think every midwifery student encounters this. There are so many things to be afraid of, but fear and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time. Therefore faith must prevail. That which you feed is that which grows. I have learned to feed my faith, not my fears, and I have learned to rely on the strength of the Lord instead of my own. I must not carry fear or resentment or pride into the room where a birth is occurring. Since I never know the day nor the hour when I will be attending a birth, I must keep my repentance current.

I was given a powerful gift 38 years ago on the day I received my endowment for the first time. I believe that it was in some way tied to my mission among women. For some reason, the Lord saw fit to roll back the veil and let me truly understand the relationship of men and women on this earth and in the eternities. In one instant I saw the glory and nobility and unity of the sexes. Then it closed down and I could never explain it in words to myself or anyone else. But I had seen and understood for that one second, and in all the years since I have never had any troubles or doubts about the place of women in the Lord’s plan. It is glorious. In the World we have tribulation and uncertainty and sometimes anger or resentment about these things. But in the Lord we have peace everlasting. It is my testimony that we can choose where we will live, in Babylon or in Zion. We can choose whom we accept as authorities, the philosophies of men or the messengers from our Heavenly parents. You may have different questions or struggles than mine, but the source of light is the same for all of us. Let there be Light in your life.

 

by Robyn

What is it like to be born?

December 16, 2014 in Baptism, Birth Stories, Birthday, Dads, Doulas, home birth, hospital birth, Love, Pain, Robyn, Traditions, Uncategorized by Robyn

 

 

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photo courtesy of Cali Stoddard Photography

The instructor of my midwife assistant course started off one of our classes with this question, “What is it like to be born?” We discussed the different possibilities:  it could be stressful, scary and even painful, right?  Knowing that the baby can feel our emotion via hormonal responses it makes sense that they might interpret the experience that way.

"You sisters . . . belong to the great sorority of saviorhood . . . You are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls." Matthew Cowley thegiftofgivinglife.com

photo courtesy of Cali Stoddard photography

 

One of the other students suggested that without a frame of reference of pain maybe they just experience birth as sensations, in all its fullness without judging the experience as good, bad, or painful.  Maybe before they came to earth they were taught that the experience is a special event and that the mechanics and sensations they would feel are normal?Just as every birth is different and unique, I’m sure there isn’t just one way that it is experienced. (What Babies Want is a documentary that raises questions about what gestation, labor, birth and postpartum period are like for baby.)

 

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photo courtesy of Cali Stoddard photography

 

We don’t really know all the answers.   However, after we had discussed how traumatic it might be for a baby I felt compelled to share what I experienced when I supported my sister at her first birth. After arriving at the hospital with her and her husband we settled into a room and her water broke shortly after.  We knew the baby would be there soon.  The word I would use to describe what was felt was love.  The room was just enveloped in love.  I stood next to her face while her husband stood next to the midwife ready to catch.  She later told me that as she rocked back and forth she repeated to herself the mantra, “this is love ” (often love can be painful) and tried to frame the contractions as “hugs”.  I remember her stopping to tell her husband she loved him as she was washed over with intense birthing waves.  My cheek was next to her cheek as she told me she loved me too.  And then her son came. Daddy’s hands caught him with confidence.  And then he quickly passed their son to her. I still cry when I think about it. I have always had a special bond with my sister but this moment intensified it.  Pure love.  I think her little newborn felt it too. (You can read Eli’s entire birth story in our book, “Catching My Son” by John Ellis.)

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The scriptures compare baptism to birth.  As I think back on my baptism day I remember love too. And even though I know that giving birth to me was an intense experience, my mother describes my birth-day with love too.  And because of the season I have cause to wonder what the baby Jesus felt on his birth-day.  It is likely he felt a variety of things, one of which had to be love.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16 

 

 

by Lani

Gift Babies: Hollie’s First Birth

December 1, 2014 in Birth Stories, Book, Fear, hospital birth, Lani, Pregnancy, Uncategorized by Lani

We love hearing uplifting birth stories from our readers! Do you have a gift baby? A “gift baby” was born under the influence of The Gift of Giving Life. Please send us your gift baby stories! Here’s one from Hollie:

It took three pregnancy tests to convince me this was really happening. We were married only a month and a half and now a baby was coming. My initial feelings were absolute fear. How on earth could I do this? I was in my second year at university and we were living off of Marks part-time job. This was not the time for having a baby (or so I had thought). If I’m being totally honest, my feelings went a lot deeper and lot more personal than this. All I knew was that I was very much pregnant, and I very much didn’t want to be. I think what was most difficult about dealing with this situation was the guilt that came with it. How could I not want a perfect little son or daughter? I had spent my entire teenaged life dreaming of having a family and now faced with the reality I just wanted a way out.

I felt awful. I kept imagining the beautiful child inside me and thinking ‘How can I not want you?’ I spent a lot of time on my knees and shed an awful lot of tears. A trip to the states and a browse in one of my favourite book shops solved everything. As I stared at the cover of The Gift of Giving Life I felt a little sense of excitement about being able to feel the spirit about being pregnant and giving birth. After reading the contents and seeing the sort of discussions that I would be able to partake of, I knew I had to take this book home. And I was right. This book calmed all of my fears and totally blew my mind. I read the whole thing slowly, and over the course of the nine months. I managed to finish it the week before I gave birth.

One of my favourite parts was reading the thoughts and feelings of a woman who seemed to have been able to put into words the way I had felt when I found out I was pregnant. I remember thinking ‘It’s okay. I’m not the only one. It’s okay to feel like that.’ And that’s all I needed. To know that it was okay to be pregnant and not want to be. After I came to terms with that, I could accept it, take time to heal and figure out that this was the best time for a baby and that although it wasn’t part of our plan, it was definitely a part of Gods plan.

So there I was – five days overdue and at 4 am the contractions woke me up. They were hard, fast and very painful. I was hurting, but I wasn’t afraid and I wasn’t panicked. I was very calm and very focused. I had a firm belief that this was my purpose and what I was designed to do. I knew I could do it and I knew there was no need to worry. I had learned from reading my book that women who have a great fear of giving birth actually tend to have longer labours or complications in childbirth compared with women who are not afraid and keep calm. I even researched this by asking women that I knew, and it seemed to be true. I had great faith that if I stayed calm and had courage that I could do this.

I listened to the sound of rainfall and did my breathing exercises whilst sitting on the bathroom floor trying to figure out when was the right time to call my husband home and when we should go to the hospital. I was so confused – my sister had given birth three days prior and she had been in labour for 40 hours but this was happening so fast. The contractions were almost over-lapping and they were extremely painful. This was difficult for me to deal with without getting panicked, but I just kept telling myself that I could do it and that it would be over soon. This wasn’t going to go on forever, and when it was over I’d have a beautiful little girl to spend everyday with.

At 8.45 am Mark came home, and we called the hospital. It was quite far away so I was reluctant to go in and be assessed because I knew if I wasn’t at least 4 cm dilated they would send us back home. But the contractions were so fast and we felt we should go. We arrived at 10.20 am and after assessment I was told I was 5cm – wow! This was happening quickly. I had always imagined lying on a bed to give birth but sitting down just wasn’t an option in reality. I could feel so much pressure like the baby was coming already so I just had to stand. And I was right – she was coming, and I couldn’t control the urges to push. With my husband there to witness the most incredible moment of our lives and my mother there to hold my hand and motivate me to push that little bit harder, my little Lillie was born at 12.31 pm. It was quick and painful, but I loved every single second. I have never felt anything so exciting and exhilarating. Giving birth to my little girl was the best experience I’ve ever had. It was so positive and so within my capacity. I felt wonderful and so happy to finally have this beautiful, perfect girl.

I truly believe that I owe my birth experience to the things I learned and kept with me from The Gift of Giving Life. I will always treasure the special things I read in it and shared with my husband. I will always treasure calling my sister who was also pregnant with her first and discussing the things we read in this wonderful book. And I will always read this book throughout my pregnancies. It is one of the best books I have ever read and I urge every woman, mother, mother-to be to take in its words and let their hearts be touched.
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P.S. We’ve discounted The Gift of Giving Life for the holidays! Click HERE to snag this super deal!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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

Sacred Space for Birth, Part 1

November 4, 2013 in Birth Stories, Cesarean, Depression, Education, Faith, home birth, hospital birth, Lani, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Postpartum Depression, Prayer, Preparation, Traumatic Birth, VBAC, Waiting by Lani

1011942_669099829783949_352451545_nCherise is an Arizona Mother, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Crafter, and Creator of the marvelous “Big Baby Project” (a website full of empowering vaginal births of babies 9 lbs and over). I love how her story illustrates what I wrote about in my essay “Unity with Providers of Care” in The Gift of Giving Life. I love that Cherise continued to search and pray until she found the right care provider for her. -Lani

 

Sacred Space for Birth, Part 1
By Cherise Sant

My first encounter with childbirth started with the birth of my first child. That experience was eye opening, disappointing, affirming, traumatic, magical, overwhelming and set the stage for the worst depression of my life. I had resisted an induction but eventually caved to the pressure I was receiving from my obstetrician. The ultimate result was a healthy baby boy born via cesarean and my broken heart and body.

My second birth was an empowering vaginal birth in the hospital, but I was met with mistrust, abandonment and even violence though I had carefully chosen my provider and a “natural birth friendly” hospital. Even more disenchanting was to have my baby caught by a resident student as there was no obstetrician in the hospital at that time. If something catastrophic had occurred, I would either have had to wait until someone arrived or transfer to another hospital. It was then that I asked myself, “Why did I get out of my bathtub at home and tear down the freeway in transition to come here and meet negativity and contention when the help I was going to the hospital to potentially receive wasn’t even there?” I knew my next baby would be born at home. Should a need arise, I would then go to a hospital.

Three and a half years later, the month after my daughter weaned, I became pregnant again. Thankfully, there were a handful of midwives who had extra credentials, allowing them to legally attend me in a VBAC at home. I began to interview them. The first one I interviewed was “the one” – or so I thought, until I knelt down and prayed to know if she was. Very clearly, the answer was “no.” I was stunned. I knelt there in a sour stupor, trying to work out what that meant. Did that mean I wasn’t supposed to pursue a home birth? Was I willing to go back to the hospital? The next couple of weeks reflected no progress on the part of my attitude. I knelt down again and asked, hoping maybe I wasn’t clear that first time, but very clearly, the answer that came again was, “She’s not the one for you.”

I didn’t know whether this birth would involve a tragedy, but there was one person that did know all, and that was the Lord. So I resigned my will and continued the search. I was not only searching for a provider, but also asking whether home birth was the Lord’s will for my family. I really had to search myself- why did I want this? After a lot of prayer and contemplation I concluded that it was because I wanted my birth to be treated as sacred. I wanted the spirit of love to be unrestrained. I knew that would best be achieved in my home, with people I knew beforehand rather than meeting a stranger in a hospital and hoping for the best.

I interviewed another midwife, and then another. Their philosophies clearly did not match my own and I was feeling defeated. At the time I was teaching childbirth education at an obstetrician’s office, and knowing that she was more mother-baby-friendly than most, I considered choosing a hospital birth with her. Still, there was no peace and approaching my 17th week I felt like I was running out of time. I did NOT want a last minute scramble. I continued to pray, search my scriptures and explore my thoughts and feelings about all of the possibilities.

One weekend, I was volunteering at a birth event where a screening of a popular birth movie was taking place. I was sharing my dilemma with a friend and fellow birth worker. She then told me about a midwife who was credentialed to attend VBACs at home and that she’d been in practice for 30 years. In that moment, something came over my body, mind and Spirit that had never happened before. My bosom burned like a fire, and my mind flooded with messages of love and support from my Heavenly Father. I knew for certain that she was the one I was looking for. I got her information and sat down for an “interview,” though I already knew she was the one.

It turned out that not only did our philosophies match but she was the only midwife in the state (of whom I was aware) with the skills and support I was looking for. (And I was pretty picky.) In particular I wanted someone who was comfortable enough to use only her fetoscope during labor instead of the Doppler. I wanted access to herbal knowledge and teas – which she had an abundance of! The Lord knew exactly what I was looking for and wanted, and he was providing for me. I felt so loved.

Even still, the weight of my decision caused me to doubt. I prayed and sat down with my scriptures yet again. I opened right up to scripture which basically said to me, “I already answered your question, don’t keep searching for what you already have.” I prayed prayers of gratitude for my answer and continued to prepare.

Look for Part 2 (the birth story) in a future post…

by Lani

Maria’s Journey

August 5, 2013 in Angels, Birth Stories, Fear, home birth, hospital birth, Lani, Midwives, Miracles, Motherhood, Pain, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy, Young Women by Lani

Maria.2010At last month’s TGOGL Party in Utah, I had the privilege of meeting so many beautiful souls. One of these souls was Maria Farley. When I met her and heard her talking about her sacred feelings about birth, I felt like we’d always been friends. Maybe we have? Today I’m sharing my interview with Maria about her beautiful birth experiences. -Lani

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am part of a blended family which makes me the mother of 5 amazing children and 3 wonderful step children, 6 of which are married.  I am the grandmother of 2 granddaughters and am anticipating 3 additional grandchildren who will arrive sometime in Sept, Nov and Dec/Jan of this year.  I currently work full time outside the home, but I treasure my time at home the most with my husband Ron and our Sunday evening gatherings with family that can come each week.

When was your first baby born? What was the birthing climate like in your community? 

Sept 1987.Maria preg w.KiraMy first baby was born December 18, 1987. I knew very few women who had or were having children in my immediate community.  I grew up where birthing in a hospital was the standard.  My mother had 8 children laboring as long as she possibly could at home before going to the hospital to deliver. Everyone I knew at home in Utah had their children at the hospital with a doctor in attendance.

While in San Diego, I made friends with two women, Tracy and Susan, who introduced me to the idea of home birthing.  I did a lot of reading and research and discovered that there was quite a community of women who used midwives and birthed their children at home. We gathered together in my midwife Abby’s home once a month with other mothers and expectant mothers to talk about our desires and fears and hear of each other’s birth stories.  This became the supportive community I focused on as I prepared to be a mother.

Who were your birthing mentors? Were there women in your life who you admired or respected who empowered you as a first-time mom?

The three women mentioned above had a tremendous influence on me and truly helped me feel empowered to trust in my instincts and follow the promptings of the Spirit as I became a mother.

The culture that Abby fostered in her gatherings gave me multiple examples of women from all walks of life in varied circumstances who I felt great support from.  They had confidence in their choices and I saw how they nurtured, carried, nursed and balanced other children while they had these new little babies.

Tracy was a close neighbor who had a baby at home, close to the same time as me, and we helped each other as we moved into this new territory together.

Susan had tremendous faith, and I could talk to her on the phone for a few minutes and feel loved and encouraged as soon as I heard her voice.  She had a way of making you feel valued and encouraged, like you could accomplish anything after you talked to her.

My own mother helped me develop a foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ and this was a profound undercurrent in my preparation to becoming a mother as well.

Were your births spiritual experiences? How so?

July 14.1996.Sara Louise BirthYes!  Very much so!  With my first birth, Kira, I felt angels around us as I labored.  When she came, still blue and Abby handed her to me and said to both Jim and I, “talk her in” we became very aware of how thin the veil between life and death was.  As Abby worked to clear her airways and stimulated her feet, we talked to her and told her how much we wanted her to be with us and how much we loved her already.  We could feel her spirit enter back into her little body as she pink-ed up and began to breathe.  She never cried.  It was one week before Christmas and I felt very connected to Mary at the time of Christ’s birth.

At my second birth, Danielle, I began to understand how each child that came to the earth for us to raise were really not ours, but were on loan from Heavenly Father and that they came with their own strengths and personalities from a full pre-mortal life.

With Jessica, I felt the guarding power of my dad who passed away in October the year before she was born. His name was Don and she was born at dawn, so we gave her the middle name Dawn in honor of him.

July 14.1996.Sara.MariaWith Lucas I learned to trust in the Lord’s timing.  I learned that no matter how much we think we know and can do from past experience that in birth there is always a moment, sometimes very long moments, where you have to trust in the Lord and lean on his strength to deliver and raise a child.

With Sara I learned about the Atonement and the unwavering, unconditional love that my Savior has for me.  That negative feelings and struggles and traumatic, hard births can instantly be swallowed up in the love the Savior has for me and my children.  That joy and peace are real and available to us as soon as we ask for it.

Have you attended any births as a support person? How was that for you?

I have now attended two births as a support person.  The first was for one of Susan’s children in Jan 1996.  It was a water birth in her home, with her husband and I attending, and one older daughter looking on.  It was amazing!  I had given birth to 4 children at home by this time.  It was the first water birth (and any birth) I had seen that wasn’t my own.  I was awed at her power and strength and felt so privileged to be there in such a sacred and intimate space with them.

The second was just this year in June for my second grand-daughter.  My stepdaughter, Heather, was estranged from her own mother at this time, and she asked me to attend her (like a doula would).  She was being cared for by a midwife in a hospital. This was a hard labor and birth for me to attend. I didn’t know how much she really trusted my advice, and she had a strong sense that staying in bed was the only way to be safe during labor.  She had great fears about the well-being of the baby and wanted to be monitored and checked for progress frequently. I wanted to help her by giving ways she could move around and positions that could make it more comfortable for her.

Nothing I tried to help her was effective. This led to an epidural and apologies to me. I quickly realized that she needed to be told frequently that birthing was her own and the baby’s work, and that she owed no one an apology, especially me, that she was doing an amazing job and this birth journey was hers however it happened, that she shouldn’t give up, that this would still be a beautiful empowering birth.

I also saw that I needed to help her husband be more involved in her care and be attentive to her and encourage him. In the end, after 8 more hours of labor in the hospital, sweet Rowan Grey was born without any additional interventions.  As little Rowan Grey laid on her skin to skin, we reviewed what happened and how things went. We began to focus on all the positive things that had happened, and just how amazing it is to bring this daughter of God into the world and be her mother.

I think that this was the beginning of an understanding for me of how important it is for women who are birthing to feel confidence in themselves and in God in the birthing process.  It also confirmed to me the value of gaining knowledge about birth through reading and hearing many other positive stories.  The most important preparation for a new father and mother is the preparation of the heart and mind to trust God; to trust our body’s ability to birth.  To have confidence in our ability to learn what we can and then be guided by divine inspiration in our choices. To learn to surrender to the powerful energy called birth and trust that we will come out better and stronger, much like precious metal in the refiner’s fire.

Dec.8.1991.Jessica Dawn Birth0001How have your positive views about birth impacted your children’s views about birth?

I think that they see birth as a natural process. I believe this is a key element in empowering them in their own births.  That it isn’t something that happens to you but, something you are a part of.  They have seen birth first-hand at a very young age.  They have heard me scream and moan and felt the intensity (pain) and power of birth. They have also seen the joy and intensity (pleasure) and sacredness of birth as well. No matter how they choose to birth, they know my only expectation is that they are educated about their choices and that they do in fact have choices.  They know that I don’t hold any judgments for how their birth stories play out.  They know that there is always strength to be gained or lessons to be learned from their experiences.

July 14.1996.Meeting Sara

What do you think is the best way mothers can strengthen their daughters and friends as they prepare for birth?

Share your stories. Tell your children their own birth stories.  Share the beautiful parts and the scary parts.  Share how you overcame the scary things – talk about your thoughts and feelings in connection with preparing and how things turned out in the end.

If there were things about the birth you didn’t like, explore together how you would have liked it to be different.  Be open to recognizing what things you could have done differently to be more prepared the next time or for other women and also recognizing what expectations you had to let go of. I think it’s good to share positive stories.  I don’t think it’s helpful to share “horror stories,” but when friends ask, and you feel prompted to share more difficult stories, share them.  They need to know the hard parts about birth too.

Most importantly, be a safe place where there are no judgments or comparisons and enjoy each birth story for its uniqueness.  Just as each women and each baby is unique.  Believe in each other, encourage each other, praise each other in all things, not just about mothering and birth.  Celebrate being a woman with them and love the varied unique talents and body shapes we come in. Knowledge is power and coupled with faith the journey of birth and motherhood can truly be a beautiful transformation.