A Father’s Sacred Support

May 6, 2014 in Book reviews, Dads, Doulas, Giveaways, Lani, Marriage, Midwives, Virtual Book Tour

Today’s Virtual Book Tour post comes from Brooke at Brooke Roundy Photography. Here’s an excerpt:

Personally, my husband WAS my absolute greatest support for both of my births. He was not only emotional support for me, but he massaged my back, provided counter-pressure, was my calming influence (even though he’d tell you that at times he was scared out of his mind ;)), he quite literally held me up when I couldn’t hold myself up. He. Was. Amazing. I did have 3 midwives at my first birth, along with my mom and sister, and then 2 midwives and 2 doulas and my mom and sister at my second birth. But he was my main source of strength and faith.

Here he is with our sweet daughter at 10 days old:

2014-05-06 10.04.08 am
That guy is actually my big brother. 🙂 Considering how much joy he took in teasing and pestering me growing up, it’s hard to imagine him as a patient, kind, comforting labor support dude, but what do you know, he was! Makes my birth-loving heart proud when I see fathers step up and provide sacred support to the women they love as they work to bring God’s spirit children here.

You can read the rest of Brooke’s post HERE.

Brooke has generously donated a maternity portrait session as a giveaway for our Virtual Book Tour. If you live in UT or know a pregnant lady who does, head over to our Virtual Book Tour page and enter to win!
2014-04-15 01.00.06 pm

Our Deliverance

April 1, 2014 in Birth Stories, Dads, Family size, Fear, home birth, Lani, Midwives, Miracles, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Priesthood blessings

When my second child was two-and-a-half, we starting thinking about conceiving a third baby, a thought that both excited and terrified us simultaneously.  Could we really afford another child?  How would we pay for the birth, being without maternity insurance?  Could I really handle mothering three children? Gently, the Lord communicated to us that we would be blessed if we chose to invite another child into our home and that He would ensure that we had the means to provide for that child’s birth and life.

A few months later, I became pregnant. Each day was a constant struggle between faith and fear as we strained to hold fast to the Lord’s assurances that we would have the money we would need.  And I had to make a decision—where would my 3rd baby be born? We had never felt comfortable considering home birth in the past, but we knew that having our third baby at home would cost thousands of dollars less than paying for a hospital birth out-of-pocket. Only a week after I got a positive pregnancy test, I was already agonizing over the decision.  My husband gave me a priesthood blessing in which the Lord told me that He would guide me to make the right decision for us.  This scripture spoke to me in my dilemma:

 

Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him (Alma 58:11).

 

I agonized more and more and settled on a hospital birth with nurse-midwives recommended by a friend.  I definitely never had an overwhelming feeling that it was the answer to my dilemma, but it felt fine in the beginning.  After three or four prenatal appointments, I had met most of the nurse-midwives and loved them all, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t quite the right path for us.  So we went back to the drawing board and opened-up that agonizing question again.  Only this time (and for the first time in my life) I was really open to accepting home birth as the answer, and so was my husband.

On Halloween night (2008), my husband and I spent a couple of hours praying for guidance, searching the scriptures, and exchanging our thoughts and feelings.  We felt that the Lord was leading us toward a home birth and that our next step was to pray and ask the Lord if this choice was right.  When I prayed, I asked God to please help us to receive a clear answer so that we could move forward with confidence.

Then I asked for a priesthood blessing. What followed was one of the most tender and beautiful spiritual experiences of my life—the kind that words feel inadequate to describe or explain.  The actual words of the blessing were marvelous, but more than the words was the feeling that overwhelmed me.  We didn’t get far into the blessing before tears were streaming down my face as I choked back sobs (and I don’t cry easily).  I felt the most incredible burning in my heart—like I was being filled with the burning, life-giving love of God.  There is nothing in the world like that feeling.  It completely overwhelmed me.  I don’t know if an answer to my prayers has ever been so clear. When the blessing was over, I just hugged my husband and sobbed in his arms with joy and gratitude for the beautiful gift God had just given us.

Our answer was clear: we were having our baby at home!

537336796127996_a-e2776557_yCk7Uw_pm

We continued to seek the Lord’s guidance as we selected the midwives who would attend our baby’s birth, Mary and Nedra. And the Lord, my God, “did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith,” just as He had told me He would, through the scriptures, at the beginning of my pregnancy.

The blessings and miracles continued to pour down upon us.  In February, I attended a doula training workshop (offered for free as a gift to the community by the doula trainer) where I met many women who would become my friends.  One of them, Cassie, offered to be my doula and take photographs of my birth (again, for free).  She also took some maternity photos for us (like the one above).  Unexpected additional income came to us, with the probability of further additional income opportunities in the future.  Just as the Lord had promised, we found ourselves with enough and to spare financially, and our baby’s birth was completely paid-for by my 36th week of pregnancy.

Then, on April 1, 2009, my son made his debut. My water broke in the afternoon, contractions started a couple of hours later, and about five hours later, I was clinging to my husband’s arms over the edge of the fishy pool, moaning through the hardest contractions.

I could tell I was in transition when I found myself reaching my limit.  It was at this time that I turned to God.  I don’t think there is any other physical experience that brings a person closer to the veil between earth and heaven than childbirth—particularly the 7 cm to delivery span.  I silently cried to God: “Help me!” My mind wandered back and forth between my present physical surroundings and an otherworldly distant space.  Somewhere in that space I found myself calling to my deceased friend, “Catheryn, I need you now!”  I don’t know if it was her voice or my own that whispered in my head, “It’s almost over.  You’re almost finished.” My husband’s soothing touch and the words “It’s almost over” playing over and over in my head are what carried me through to the end.

IMG_7030.CR2_-1024x581

I moved to the bed for the delivery. Perhaps it was Mary’s oil and hot compresses, but I never really felt the “ring of fire.”  I didn’t even really know the head was out until I heard someone say, “His head is out!”  Then Mary said, “Reach down and pull out your baby!”  I grasped onto his warm, slippery shoulders and pulled him up onto my chest.  It was 10:55 pm on April 1—an April Fool’s day baby!

At first all I could see was the top of his dark-haired head and his slippery arms and back.  We touched and rubbed him—alternating between smiling at each other and staring at our baby—as the midwives draped a towel over him.  I breathed quickly in and out, saying something like, “Oh my gosh!” and then, “Is he OK? Is he OK?”  Mary smiled and calmly said, “He’s just fine!  He’s doing great!”  Everyone started talking and smiling and taking photos.  My husband felt a tear roll down his cheek and watched it land on my shoulder.

Afterward, I was so full of energy and endorphins that I couldn’t stop smiling and didn’t really sleep for at least a day.  Within an hour after the birth, I was up and showering.  Then I went downstairs to grab a bite to eat, almost as though my body hadn’t just given birth (intact perineum… woohoo!).  The next days, weeks, and months I spent in bliss, more deeply in love with my tiny little boy than I ever imagined I could be. I had never experienced anything like the intense, fierce bond I was blessed to experience with that tiny baby boy, despite having two older children (whom I loved).

When the Lord communicated to us all those years ago that we would be blessed for inviting another of His spirit children into our home (two years later, we invited our 4th), I couldn’t have imagined just how blessed we would be.  I know with all my heart that our greatest blessings and joys come when we allow the Lord to guide us in all of our decisions.

IMG_7346-682x1024

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

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…

Sacred Space

September 11, 2013 in Birth Stories, Breastfeeding, Faith, home birth, Intuition, Lani, Midwives, Motherhood, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy

Sacred Space
By Brittney Walker

I met Lani several years ago at a doula training I fell into after the postpartum doula training I’d signed up for was cancelled. Birth wasn’t so much my thing as was helping new moms through the trauma of those first weeks postpartum.

Lani and I kept in touch, and in time she invited me to contribute to The Gift of Giving Life while they were still collecting birth stories. I remember thinking it was cute that these ladies were collecting spiritual birth stories. Birth was many things to me, having experienced three of my own, but spiritual wasn’t one that stood out. Becoming a mother and bringing new life into this world are, of course, sacred, spiritual things but birth itself? Not in my experience.

Then I became pregnant with number four. For many reasons, we chose to deliver this baby at home with a midwife – our first outside of a hospital. Right off the bat we learned we were in new territory. After research and interviews we found a midwife we not only felt comfortable with but also with whom our personalities just clicked. I knew I could confidently trust my midwife with my baby’s (and my) life.

An early complication arose so we ran some tests and met with our midwife. She educated us, presented our treatment options, and then asked the game-changing question: “so what do you want to do?” There was no indication of bias or judgment in her face. She deferred the decision to us, the parents – our first crash course in midwifery care. It was clear that we would be in the drivers’ seat regarding our prenatal care for this pregnancy. I felt overwhelmed and inadequate. We’d always just been told what to do, and signed the dotted line and then done our best to be good patients. We had no medical training and didn’t feel qualified to make such weighty decisions. My midwife assured us that there was no one more qualified and that she knew we would make the right choice.

We didn’t understand the biology behind what was going on and couldn’t see the future so we took our question to the only one who can. We prayed fervently about what to do. We asked in faith, knowing the Lord’s love for us and our little one and we received an answer. I felt peace, went forward in faith and trusted that things would work out. They did.

This became the theme for this pregnancy. I relied heavily on the Lord for wisdom and peace. I developed a more active relationship with Him than I had ever had and happily handed over the steering wheel in favor of the passenger seat.

With three boys at home we went into our second trimester ultrasound with one thing in mind: Our baby’s sex. As focused as we were on that issue it took us a while to realize that the tech seemed oddly preoccupied with our baby’s nose and lips. After a long, very odd ultrasound, the tech left and then returned with an obstetrician, asking her to have a look. Then came the news, they suspected our baby may have a cleft lip and palate but couldn’t get a great look at his face. They needed us to come back in a couple of weeks. My first thought was, of course he doesn’t. (Yes, another “he”.) No family history of birth defects, no risk factors, nope, not us. My second thought was, so what if he does? Why are they making such a big deal about it? If that’s how it is then that’s Heavenly Father’s plan for my baby and our family. We can handle it. So, we scheduled the follow up.

A couple weeks and too much research on my part later, a second ultrasound confirmed that our baby would have a cleft lip, possibly palate. The news was harder this time with my newly acquired full knowledge of the implications. Likely, this meant no breastfeeding. Breastfeeding isn’t just a feeding method but a parenting style and the only way I know how to do it. And what about our home birth? Cleft babies have a higher risk of breathing difficulties at birth so many homebirth midwives won’t attend cleft babies’ births. There is also the possibility of related defects that may not have been caught on ultrasound. However, I’d also read stories of cleft babies being unnecessarily rushed away from their parents to the NICU where the hospital didn’t know what to do with them until someone from the babies’ cleft team could arrive (as much as a week or two later) to free them.

Again, I was faced with a decision I could never make on my own. Was I risking baby’s life? I found stories of cleft babies born at home with good outcomes but always by surprise. My midwife had recently delivered a cleft baby and was confident that she could handle whatever came up and planned on extra safety measures. Another thorough ultrasound didn’t show any signs of other related defects as far as they could see. He seemed a very healthy baby boy. But again, it wasn’t until we took the matter to the Lord that the overwhelming confirmation came, I was birthing this baby at home. I felt a calm peace about this decision that couldn’t be swayed and drowned out the concerns of well-meaning family and friends. I knew.

Months later our little boy was born perfect, the way God created him — into the waiting hands of his father. I wrote on my blog:

I’ve heard people talk about birth being a spiritual experience but with my first three babies coming into the world amid lights and hustling bodies in an unfamiliar and kind of scary environment, it just wasn’t something I ever understood.

But in my room, at 10:14 that Sunday night, I felt Heaven and Earth meet. In my room, surrounded by people who love me and baby Clayton I felt part of something great and eternal. I wondered how I’d ever shared something so sacred with strangers in a strange place.

That feeling has stayed with me through the last week and a half. When I would normally be feeling alone, fighting for my sanity, and feeling guilt and sadness for my baby’s rude entry into the world, I instead feel supported, joyful, blessed and in tune with my new little bundle.

223005_10152104676015564_1283684642_n

Photo credit: Shelly Ivy at ivystudiosphoto.com

His birth was perfect. I felt loved, supported and trusted by my caregivers and family members (including friends) that were present. I felt the comfort, peace and protection provided by the walls that house my precious family. The sacred space where we labor to raise these precious young men took on a new purpose that night as we welcomed a new member to our forever family.

With pain in my baby’s future, with surgeries looming on the horizon and more challenges in his future than I ever would have chosen for my child I took comfort in his gentle entrance into the world. With a childhood of doctors, nurses and therapists ahead I found peace in the intimacy of his birth. I couldn’t breastfeed this baby but nestled in his own bed between mommy and daddy from that first night he didn’t feel the lack. No strangers’ hands, no poking or cutting, no feeding tube, no hospital stay separated from Mom… my boy was born into a room full of people who will be there and support him through any challenge life has in store.

IVY_4346_1

Photo credit: Shelly Ivy at ivystudiosphoto.com

IVY_4507_2

Photo credit: Shelly Ivy at ivystudiosphoto.com

Heavenly Father had a plan for me and my baby. He answers prayers and provides us all the tools we need to endure our trials and hardships. Clayton’s gentle beginnings gave me peace when I soon had to hand him off to his first surgical team. He endures surgeries, recoveries, trauma and related struggles like a brave little soldier while I cling to the memory of the gift of his peaceful entry into the world.

His birth matters. To me, and I think to him in an intrinsic way he may not ever be aware of. It has had a profound and abiding impact on my relationship with my baby and the whole family. I thank Heaven every day for that gift.

581833_10152654389545564_1519725555_n

IMG_0285Brittney Walker is a homeschooling mom to four wily, awesome little men. She has written about parenting and babies online and in print since her nine-year old’s birth and currently hosts a support group for expectant and new moms, supports new mothers through placenta medicine and is pursuing her breastfeeding counselor certification through Breastfeeding USA.

Frankincense and Myrrh: Father and Mother

August 7, 2013 in Attachment, Dads, Divine nature, Energy Healing, Lani, Midwives, Motherhood, Nourishment, Pain, Postpartum Care

945292_10151913129351040_496511578_n1Today’s guest post comes from my friend, Morgan. Morgan has five adorable children and a perfect match of a husband. She dabbles in a little bit of everything. She is an essential oil consultant, a doula, and a birth junkie. She also loves to sew baby stuff like baby carriers and cloth diapers. About ten years ago, my brother and his wife gave us a special “magi’s treasure” box as a gift. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate how fortunate I was to have actual frankincense and myrrh resin in my possession. I certainly do now. -Lani

Frankincense and Myrrh: Father and Mother

By Morgan Somers

I love essential oils and I have loved learning about their uses and applications. Essential oils fascinate me, both from a science and physiology standpoint and from a spiritual/emotional/energy systems standpoint, but even that comes back to science in the end. I love learning it all. Two oils that are particularly amazing to me in their characteristics are frankincense and myrrh.

IMG_1232

Frankincense is known as the king of oils. It has the amazing ability to enhance the effects of other oils when used together with them. It is a powerhouse oil that has such a diversity of constituents that it can address a huge range of issues. Some of those uses include inflammation, cancer, and depression. But energetically/emotionally, it is the oil of truth. It helps people to let go of negativity and spiritual darkness. It connects the soul with light and truth. My favorite thing about frankincense is that it supports a spiritual attachment, both with God and our earthly father. It is a powerful oil that protects while also being a gentle nurturer. It reminds us that we are loved and dispels sentiments of abandonment.

Myrrh is a wonderful antiseptic. It cleanses and purifies. It’s particularly good for healing and pain. Midwives often use it on the umbilical cord stump of newborns. It’s also used as a mouthwash because it’s great for the mouth, gums, and throat. Energetically/emotionally, myrrh is the oil of Mother Earth. It nurtures our relationship with our biological mother, our mother earth, and our Heavenly Mother. It supports and repairs a damaged mother-child bond and promotes a sense of safety and security. It fosters trust and dispels fear. Anytime there has been a division or lack of attachment with our mothers, myrrh can bring us back to a place of trust, safety, and nourishment.

“Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness. . . . All thy garments smell of myrrh . . . whereby they have made thee glad.” Psalms 45:8

When I learned about the spiritual powers these two oils posses, I was overcome with awe. It gave new meaning to the gifts of frankincense and myrrh that the wise men brought to the baby Jesus as He left the premortal world and His Heavenly Parents to walk among men during His earthly sojourn. We too can use these oils to draw closer to our Heavenly Parents as well as our earthly parents.

Adoration of the Magi, Andrea Mantegna 1500 (Image Source)

Adoration of the Magi, Andrea Mantegna 1500 (Image Source)

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

Many parents anoint their newborns with frankincense at birth to ease their transition into earthly life. Myrrh would be a reasonable choice as well, particularly in cases where mothers were unable to have a good bonding experience in the first hour of their child’s life or for families that grow through adoption.

I love the powers these two oils possess together and I love to see them work in my family. I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has provided these gifts for us to use while we are here on this earth struggling through our mortal existence without Him quite so close to us as He was before we came. As a mother, I love that I can draw nearer to my Heavenly Father and Mother when I need help knowing how to raise these children and cope with the difficulties that come as a part of our mortal life experience.

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

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.

My Favorite Birth Photos

May 29, 2013 in Birth Stories, Dads, Doulas, home birth, Lani, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Pregnancy, Priesthood blessings

On April Fool’s Day of 2009, I gave birth to my third child (my only son) at home (10:55 pm, 7 lbs 8 oz, 19 3/4″ long). After two smooth and low-risk pregnancies, losing our maternity insurance, and lots of priesthood blessings and prayer, we knew home birth was the right path for our third (and fourth) pregnancies.

It was a near-perfect birth from start to finish. My water broke in the afternoon, I relaxed at home, contractions started a couple of hours after membranes ruptured, I ate dinner, my birth support team arrived, labor picked-up, I hung out in the birth pool during the most intense contractions, I pushed for five minutes, baby boy was born on my bed. You can read all the details HERE.

It was magical. And I’m so glad I had my friend Cassie and my sister-in-law Brooke there as my doulas/photographers. I created a slideshow with my birth photos that you can view HERE. But I realized yesterday that I’ve never shared the photos themselves online. Here are some of my favorites, taken by Cassie (and Brooke) at the end of my pregnancy, during labor, and afterward:

Read the rest of this entry →

For My Own Spiritual Growth

May 23, 2013 in Angels, Birth Stories, Book, Dads, Doulas, Dreams, Faith, Fear, Felice, home birth, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Preparation, Temple

For My Own Spiritual Growth

By Nicole Cunningham

Something I used to frequently say regarding childbirth was that I was born in the last days because Heavenly Father knew I couldn’t handle a natural childbirth and knew I needed epidurals. It was something I would always joke about, but also really believed. I might be mentally strong, spiritually strong, but physically strong? No way. That was not for me. I wasn’t a hardy pioneer woman that pushed handcarts and gave birth along the Mormon trail. Heavenly Father knew me and knew my mental and physical limitations. Or so I thought.

My first son was induced ten days early due to cholestasis. I had an epidural, pushed for 3 hours due to his posterior position, and he was delivered via forceps. Overall, the experience was fine, despite the complications of everything, and I was grateful for my beautiful healthy, round-faced boy. My second son was also induced upon my request because I was tired of being pregnant and, to be honest, was nervous about going into labor naturally because I had never felt a non-pitocin contraction without the promise of a speedy epidural nearby. Something that touched me about the birth of my second son was when my sweet doctor said, “Reach down Nicole and pull out your son.” I had no idea I could participate in that way and hold him immediately on my chest for as long as I wanted! What a sweet experience that was.

Nine months before we conceived our third baby, I nonchalantly decided to watch The Business of Being Born. I knew that it would talk about all the risks of having an epidural and everything that goes with that, but I thought it might be interesting to watch. I enjoyed the documentary and found it informative but, quite honestly, I felt like it made home birth look terrible! Despite how I felt about the film, I could not shirk the feeling in the days that followed that my next baby should be born without an epidural or any other form of pain medications. I cannot tell you how hard I thought this was going to be for me! I tried to ignore the feeling, but I knew the Spirit was telling me all too clearly that this was what I needed to do. I cried every time I thought about it. I didn’t understand why Heavenly Father wanted me to do this. I was the woman who LOVES her epidurals–I was no pioneer.

I asked for my Heavenly Father’s guidance to help me not be afraid–that if I was really supposed to do this, I asked for Him to help me become as prepared as I could. I asked for His guidance every step of the way, through every decision. I would always find myself asking, “Why do you want me to do this?” “Is it for the health of my baby?” “Is something going to happen?” and every time, I would receive the same calming answer, “For your own spiritual growth.”

I soon found myself diving into everything I could learn about natural childbirth. A friend told me about hypnobirthing, water birth, and dear Ina May Gaskin. I continued to devour anything I could on birth. I was going to fill my brain with every morsel of natural birth knowledge that I could and let the Spirit guide. I took a hypnobirthing class at the hospital with my husband and then later ordered the Hypnobabies home-study course with a friend. I really wanted a water birth, but found out that the hospitals in my area wouldn’t allow them, so I started to look into home birth.

Deciding on a home birth was a very difficult decision–one that took so much study, pondering and prayer. We felt good about it and once we made the decision, we felt so much peace. A few days after we decided, my husband had a dream that the home birth was a peaceful experience and that everything went well. This all happened before I got pregnant, so when we finally did (9 months after the prompting), we were so excited! I could finally begin my journey!

Something that really bothered me was the feeling of being alone in what I was doing. Why was I learning all of this wonderful information, but couldn’t find any natural or home birth stories from LDS women? I felt like I was being grouped into the stereotype of the “typical” home birth mom like you see in the movies. I wanted to know about other mothers that shared my same beliefs and had also done home births. My friend sent me a link to Heather’s blog, Women in the Scriptures, and I devoured all of her posts on birth and the symbolism and spirituality that goes with it. I saw on her blog an icon for The Gift of Giving Life. I eagerly waited for the book to be published and for my copy to arrive. The day it came in the mail was like Christmas; I was yearning for the information and support inside.

Before I was married and preparing to go to the temple, I would do baptisms and while waiting in the chapel, read Elder Packer’s book, The Holy Temple. The entirety of that book was read inside the temple. For me, it was a wonderful way to prepare, and I looked at reading The Gift of Giving Life in the same way–a wonderful way to prepare for a sacred event. What an uplifting light it gave to my pregnancy! Whenever I was discouraged or nervous, I would read and then would feel such calm reassurance that everything would be fine. Armed with Hypnobabies, The Gift of Giving life, and supportive friends and family, I had such an amazing pregnancy. Everything was different compared to my last pregnancies–my outlook was more positive and that in turn helped physically. I felt so bonded to my baby, and so at peace. We found 2 great midwives who we felt so blessed to work with. Even though they were an hour and a half away, we still felt we made the right decision. I felt so uplifted, cared for and loved after every appointment with them.

871326072459264_a-4cf2abaa_m2OWUQ_pmMy baby’s guess birth date came and went and it was amazing how my perspective had changed compared to my other pregnancies. Every day “overdue” wasn’t an eternity of complaints and impatience, but just another day to prepare spiritually. I looked at approaching the birth of my sweet baby as a sacrament, an ordinance–something that I wanted to be spiritually worthy of. I wanted to be completely clean. With my other births, I looked at birth as merely a medical event that I had to go through, to get the end result. The spirit and love in our home was very tangible to us because of our preparation.

The night before Kate was born, I went upstairs to read in bed and write in my journal. I pondered about our upcoming home birth and wondered how it would all turn out and when it would come. I felt content to continue to be patient and was just enjoying the end of what to me was a simple but perfect day with my little family. My husband came up to the room and we talked a while about the birth and how excited we were and how crazy it was to not know when the baby would come (we were so used to planned inductions).

He left the bedroom to get some things together for his classes the next day, while I said my nightly prayers. I told my Father in Heaven that I hoped that I was ready for the baby to come, that I would have faith in my body and faith that everything would turn out fine. I expressed some concern about being a week over, but said I would leave it in His hands. I prayed for the health of my growing baby as usual, but for the first time prayed for my baby as a person, an adult spirit that was about to join our family. We didn’t know the gender but had feelings that we were having a girl. I tried to picture this beautiful spirit and what she was feeling as she was about to start her life on earth, in our family. A very beautiful feeling of love and peace came over me and a very powerful message of “Thank you” was communicated. I KNEW this was from the child that was about to join our family and it is an experience I will never forget.

The next morning, on August 7th, 2012 I woke up around 8:30. My boys had let me sleep in. I took a shower and felt great. I was planning to take them to the park and meet a friend. As I went into the kitchen to make some eggs for breakfast, I felt a little twinge that felt like a stomachache and decided on a bowl of Wheaties instead. I did some other things around the house and then got on the computer to check my email. I texted back and forth with my friend about our plans to go to the park, then felt that same twinge of discomfort. I decided that I just wanted to rest and told my friend I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the park.

It was around 10:30 at this time. I went upstairs and lay down, put on a hypnobabies track and tried to rest, but these “twinges” kept coming. Of course I had started labor and what I was feeling were pressure waves (contractions), but of course I was in denial. Around 10:45 they were very close together, probably 2 minutes apart, so I texted my husband and said that maybe after his next appointment he could come home to be with me. I did admit that maybe I was in labor, but that it would probably slow down or the contractions would go away. Within 5 minutes of texting him, they grew more intense and I told him to come home now! He was home a little after 11 and he got the boys to the neighbors.

By this time I was really feeling things, but not knowing how to handle the intensity. Nothing seemed to help, I just wanted to pace around the house and I’m sure I looked pretty funny. My husband got back around 11:40, called the midwives and our doula and then started filling up the birthing tub. I asked him what he was doing and he proceeded to tell me that we were having a baby and was filling up the tub for our water birth. Of course I was still in major denial and told him the water would get cold and that I still had a long way to go before the baby came. I still even thought that maybe the pressure waves would stop and it was just false labor. But he continued to get things ready and was able to help me calm down long enough to lie on the bed and get a blessing. The blessing was beautiful–that everything would work out fine, that my body would know what to do and that angels were present, helping us. I immediately thought of both my grandmothers and hoped they would be there.

Around this time it was 12:30 and I was turning into quite the moaning, laboring mama. But it felt so good to just go with what my body was telling me to do. Around 12:40 our doula, Shari showed up and I felt like I came out of my own little world of “labor land” to tell her that at that moment I was getting a break. She asked how long my breaks were and I said, “maybe 20 seconds.” I remember thinking how silly I must have seemed to Shari and my husband, moaning so loudly so early on in the labor, like I was ready to have a baby or something. I was also noticing that it felt good to push, but of course in my head that wasn’t because the baby was coming, it was just because it felt good. I said I wanted to go to the restroom, so Shari and my husband helped me into the bathroom. I said I felt like vomiting and Shari informed us that I was probably in transition. That was the first time it occurred to me that I was really in labor, let alone about to birth my baby! I said, “The baby’s coming!” and they helped me back to the bedroom to the birthing tub. I got in, pushed a few times, the bag of waters broke and a few minutes later Kate was born at 12:56.

Shari grabbed her out of the water and handed her to Aaron. Aaron checked and said our baby was a girl and we both started crying. She opened her sweet eyes and calmly looked at her Daddy. He handed her to me and she immediately started nursing. Our sweet 9 1/2 pound healthy baby girl had joined our family.

Yes, the midwives were still on the way. Yes, that sounds crazy and many ask us if we were scared or panicked that we had an “unassisted” birth. And the answer is no we weren’t. Never did fear enter me during any time during my labor. I was too busy birthing my baby! But it was more than that. We knew that this was what we were supposed to do. That one prompting more than a year before led to that moment, when we knew everything would be okay, and it was.

In the hours and days that followed, my husband and I talked about Kate’s birth and the amazing experience it was. We discussed that had we not prepared for a home birth, the situation would have been traumatic and treated as an emergency. We would have called 911, or I would have had Kate in a car, or my front yard, who knows!

Many people ask me if we will have home births with the rest of our babies. I hope so. But only if the Lord says it’s okay. While pondering and internalizing the fast 2 1/2 hour labor I had with Kate and why we needed to have a natural, home birth, the answer to why, was not because it ended up being a fast labor (though I am sure that is part of it). The answer is still the one that has been given to me time and time again—“for my own spiritual growth.” Heavenly Father knows what we need to be closer to Him, and He will give us those experiences that are needed for us to completely and wholly rely on Him.

This was my journey in becoming more in tune with the Spirit. I learned to know the will of the Lord in my own life like I never had before. Has this experience turned me into a natural childbirth advocate? Yes! I love all things birth. Has it turned me into an anti-hospital, never have an epidural mom? No. It has turned me into a “seeker of personal revelation” advocate. That is what is most important–to include the Lord in the decisions you make. Because no doctor, midwife, or expert alone, of any kind, can tell you what is best for you or your baby. Giving birth does not need to be fearful. We all can do hard things—with the Lord’s help. Ponder, pray, and seek for knowledge and the Lord, who is our greatest Advocate, will help us know His will.

Thank you wonderful sisters for being inspired to write The Gift of Giving Life. I have told everyone about this book. I will give copies to anyone with a soft heart to listen to its message. And I can’t wait for the day when I can give Kate my own copy—highlighted and weathered, for her own journey into divine motherhood.

VBT #10: Still Parenting- Rediscovering the Magic of Birth

May 3, 2013 in Atonement, Book, Book reviews, home birth, Lani, Midwives, Motherhood, Pregnancy, Preparation, Virtual Book Tour

Today’s Virtual Book Tour post comes from Arianne at Still Parenting. Arianne’s post made my day. Not only is it beautifully written, she made it even more beautiful with her stunning photos. Like this one…

IMG_4677
Here’s an excerpt from Arianne’s post:

I’ve come to love birth. I love what my body does. I’m in awe of it. I love the raw, intense beauty of birth. The sacrifice, the symbols, and the surrender bring me closer to Jesus Christ–the center of my religious faith. Unfortunately I’ve found myself dwelling more on the negative this pregnancy because that’s what the majority of women around me are doing. It’s hard not to get sucked into the conversation.

I needed to have a support group of women who believed in the magic of birth. But where would I find them?

So. I was on the couch, blowing my nose in misery, thinking of all this, when the answer to my dilemma was tossed on the porch by the mailman. My daughter heard the plop of the package and excitedly ran to retrieve it. Inside brown paper wrappings I found a book covered in pink petals. It was titled The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth. . . .

I cracked the cover while resting on the sofa and was immediately sucked into the pages. Here were the friends I needed, dozens of them. They all shared their spiritual experience of birth. And there were essays that took me deeper into the magic of birth than I’d ever ventured.

Read the rest of her post HERE.

In Good Hands

March 22, 2013 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Faith, Family History, Lani, LDS History, Midwives, Miracles, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Priesthood blessings, Relief Society

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: . . . and shall gently lead those that are with young.” -Isaiah 40:11

Today’s Women’s History Month stories come from our Latter-day Saint birthing history. I fantasize about having a book containing all the recorded birth accounts of our early Mormon mothers and midwives. What an amazing book that would be! I have a feeling that those account would do for us modern mothers what the following two accounts have done for me. They would show us over and over and over that God cares deeply about each birth and that we are given divine aid and protection as we participate in the sacred work of giving life to His children.

This first account was shared by a friend in her sacrament meeting talk about family history work. It describes a miracle experienced by her own ancestors. With her permission, I share it here:

Benjamin Boyce (1884-1962) tells the story of when his wife Maud Evelina Brown (1884 – 1935) was pregnant and very sick. His autobiography reads, “After about three weeks the doctor said that she would have to have an operation. I asked if she would lose the baby and the doctor said ‘Yes’ But Maud refused to be operated on and said, ‘Go get the Elders and I will be all right.’ I did….[they] administered to her saying ‘You will have a son, who will be a joy and a comfort to you the rest of your life.’ This blessing was literally fulfilled, six weeks later [our son] was born, July  1, 1914.” (Dan and Echo Boyce, Boyce Family History, Vol. 1, 1973,  p. 406)

Talk about getting a “second opinion,” huh? There is no greater “doctor” than the Lord, and we can always put our faith and trust in His opinion and counsel. I am amazed by Maud’s great sacrifice, faith, and determination. She was willing to lay aside the understanding of men and put herself and her baby in God’s hands. In turn, she was granted a beautiful miracle.

The next story comes from the beautiful book, Daughters in My Kingdom, given to all the Relief Society sisters last year. I was thrilled to see the stories of some of our early Mormon midwives and lady doctors shared in this great book. The following story, in particular, was a powerful and beautiful testament to me that those who oversee our births can be given clear and direct guidance straight from the Lord on our behalf when they are in-tune.

Emma Andersen Liljenquist attended a course in midwifery in Utah after President Brigham Young had urged many sisters to receive medical training to meet the needs of the Saints and their growing families. This was also at the time when women were officially called and set apart as midwives for life (you can read more about midwifery as a spiritual calling in our book and here). Emma recorded these experiences from her years as a midwife among the saints:

After being set apart by Apostle John Henry Smith and several others, I returned home to do my work, having been promised by the Apostles that if I lived right I should always know what to do in case of any difficulties. . . . That promise has been fulfilled to the very letter. Many times when one of my patients was seriously ill, I have asked my Heavenly Father for assistance, and in every case it was given to me. One in particular was a lady who had just given birth to a baby and hemorrhage set in. The husband called the doctor, but he did not realize that it was so serious. I . . . asked the Lord to help us. The hemorrhage ceased and I did the necessary things for her. When the doctor arrived, he said he could hardly believe what had happened, but said I had done exactly what he would have done. . . . I have brought over one thousand babies [into the world]. Once again I give thanks to my Heavenly Father for His help and the strength the Lord has given me, for without it I could not have rendered this service to my sisters in our community. (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 55-56)

I am in awe of Emma’s great faith. I can’t imagine how humbling it must be to know that you are overseeing the entrance of another human soul into mortality and protecting the sacred vessel bringing that soul here: the mother. What a marvelous yet daunting task to shoulder. I don’t know how anyone could do it without the Lord. I love Emma’s humble insistence that she could not have done her duties without His help. As I said before, there is no greater “doctor” than the Lord, and as our Father and Creator, He knows our bodies and their physical processes better than anyone. He knows exactly what these physical bodies need to heal and be made whole.

Sometimes, however, the Lord calls babies or mothers home. Sometimes their right path is not to be healed or delivered from difficulty. Though I cannot begin to imagine the heartache felt by those left behind under such circumstances, I feel certain that those babies, mothers, and grieving loved ones are no less “in good hands” as they endure those losses. Having lost close loved ones myself, I can testify to the overwhelming peace that can envelop and surround and strengthen those in mourning.

Whether we are given miraculous healing and rescue or given miraculous peace in times of loss, I know with all my heart that we are always in Good Hands.