It’s almost been a year since I gave birth to my Sunshine Babe. It feels like it was just a few short weeks ago when I realized that I was going into labor with him. I’ve shared Ellis’ birth story on my blog, but I wanted to do something a little different and write about the day before I had him. It might not be something that everyone cares to read, but I felt it was special to reminisce and document.
Sunday September 2, 2018
Sunday morning was like any other day. We got up and got ready to go to church at 11 a.m. I wore my leopard print dress with the sash around the waist because it felt nice and silky and looked good on my curvy pregnant body. I curled my hair and was feeling pretty good about the day ahead.
The night before I had a very vivid dream about giving birth to my Sunshine Babe. I had dreamed of giving birth twice earlier on in my pregnancy, but the dreams were always a bit fuzzy and hard to remember. Both times I had dreamed of giving birth before, I dreamed that labor kind of started abruptly and went very fast. Some of my family members were usually there, but Brendan was never around. One time I dreamed I gave birth to a boy, the other time a girl. In both dreams the labor was fast and painless. It was as if the labor was a blur. And in both dreams I asked to see the baby afterwards, but the baby was no where to be found, just my family surrounding me.
But this dream was different. In this dream labor happened fast just like in the earlier dreams, but this time I got to see my baby. I remember somebody telling me to look over to the side, and as I did my gaze met my baby’s. He had big, dark eyes and was looking right at me, into my soul. I woke up feeling a little more calm and ready to meet my baby, whenever he would decide to come.
Up until this point, I had been feeling a little anxious and nervous about my baby coming. I wasn’t scared of giving birth, I actually felt very prepared for that. But I was so nervous to become a parent. I was mentally preparing myself to make it to 42 weeks, in fact I wanted my baby to come later. But I had this little flicker of a feeling that he was coming early.
So we went to church that day, and I honestly can’t tell you anything about the worship service or the sermon. I remember that my brother and his girlfriend were there and they sat behind me and my husband Brendan. I remember my brother picked a piece of trash out of my hair at one point during the service.
After church we all went over to my grandma’s house for one more lunch with her before Sunshine Babe arrived. My grandma, brother, my brother’s girlfriend, Mom, my sister, Brendan, and I all ate pizza together for lunch. I don’t really remember what we talked about at the table and I don’t remember what the weather was like. I know I changed into black drawstring shorts and a loose gray t-shirt with daisies in the shape of a heart on it that Mom had bought me from Goodwill back in 2015. I used to wear it when I worked at my school’s campus farm.
My brother kept saying that I was going to have the baby the next day because it was Labor Day. I told him I really didn’t think that was likely since I wasn’t feeling any signs of labor and it was already Sunday afternoon. Everyone laughed at the thought anyway. As we were about to leave, I hugged everyone and then I told my grandma and my sister to feel my belly because it might be the very last time that they were able to. I had no idea how foreshadowing all of this would be.
Brendan and I went out to run a few errands after lunch. We went to Target and Walmart. I just had this nagging feeling that I needed to buy a few more towels and a mirror to have to be prepared for the birth. I went to Target because my sister had found a really cool Harry Potter Hogwarts t-shirt on sale at Target for about $3 and I wanted to see if I could find one before they were gone. Target was busy and I was getting annoyed with all of the women pushing shopping carts and blocking the sale racks. Luckily I was able to find one shirt left that was a Small. So I snagged that and I also bought the cutest little pair of baby moccasins that I had been wanting to buy for Sunshine Babe, and I got the heck out of there.
Next up was Walmart. I despise going to Walmart, and it was really the last place I wanted to go. But I needed some contact solution and I wanted to pick up those cheap towels and a hand mirror for the birth, so we got what we needed and got out.
On the way back home I started feeling a bit emotional and overwhelmed and I had no idea why. I remember when Brendan and I were almost home the song “Control” by Tenth Avenue North came on the radio and I started to tear up. I think I knew that I needed to release the pregnancy, labor, birth, and planning over to God. That moment really stands out to me.
I really don’t remember what we did once we got home. I think we just kind of hung around. I know I kept thinking I needed to go get groceries so we had food to eat and that we would have the fridge somewhat stocked for whenever I did go into labor.
We ended up getting McDonalds and Taco Bell for dinner. Lovely, I know. When we got home we decided to watch the first half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while we ate our dinner on the couch. We had started watching the Harry Potter series back at the end of July in honor of Harry Potter’s birthday and we were still making our way through them. As I went to go bite into my crunch wrap supreme form Taco Bell I realized that they put meat in it even though I asked for beans instead. There was no picking it out or eating around it either. I was so annoyed and grumpy. Brendan asked me if I wanted to take it back, and I didn’t even want to fool with it.
So after we finished dinner and our movie, we decided that we would drive to Liberty University to walk around on campus. I was on instagram posting about my dream I had the night before for a long while, and Brendan was frustrated by that. But I just felt the need to get that post written. It was dark, and muggy outside while we walked. We ended up walking about 2 miles around campus. We even walked up all the stairs next to the Freedom Tower. I’m pretty sure we stopped to go to the bathrooms while we were there and I remember the curls in my hair had fallen flat from the humidity, and I was sweaty and felt fat and tired.
Since my dinner was a bust we were going to make it up by stopping by Wendy’s to get a $0.50 Frosty on the way home. Well, we went through the drive-thru at the Wendy’s nearest to us and they told us that they only had vanilla frosty’s and it would take about 30 minutes to make the chocolate ones. So we decided to drive to the next one, and to our dismay they said they were out. We made one more drive through to the one on nearest our place and they still didn’t have any. It was about 10pm at this point and I was so irritated and just wanted to go home and watch TV.
And this is where I pick up and start the birth story of my Sunshine Babe.
Looking back now, I see the subtle hints my body was sending to me to settle down, take it easy, and prepare to meet my baby. But I didn’t know because it was my first time and I had no idea what to expect really.
At around 11:36 p.m. on Sunday September 2, 2018 I realized that my life was about to change forever. I was feeling tired after a long 2 mile walk on Liberty University’s campus with Brendan. It was a different kind of tired — a tired that sank deep in my bones. We came back home after that and got ready to settle in for a cozy night on the couch together.
Once we were back home Brendan settled in on the couch and got the next episode of “Jack Ryan” ready on Amazon Prime. I started watching with him but I just wasn’t feeling right. I got up and went to the bathroom after awhile and was a little surprised when I sat down on the toilet and saw blood. I was pretty sure that this was the start of labor since I had never had any bleeding throughout my entire pregnancy. I took my time in the bathroom before I went back out to the living room because I needed a minute to process what was about to happen. I looked at myself in the mirror, saw my swollen belly, and knew that I was about to meet my son.
I told Brendan that I was spot bleeding and I thought that I might be in the very beginning stages of pre-labor. At this point there was no need to rush around or call our midwife, so Brendan finished watching his show while I pulled out my Hypnobirthing book and handouts my midwife had given me about the onset of labor. In that moment, I felt my mind had gone blank and I was second guessing myself on everything I had learned.
At around midnight my nesting instinct kicked in hard! I could no longer sit still and think about the fact that I was going into labor — doing that made me anxious. So I started busying around the apartment, tidying up and getting all of our birth supplies ready to go. Thankfully we had just been to Walmart earlier that day to buy more towels.
As I was bustling around the apartment and folding a load of laundry my waters started to release. I kept waiting for that big gush that everyone talks about, but it was just a slow trickle. It was 12:45 a.m. now and I knew that what I needed to do was go lie down and get some rest. But I just couldn’t settle down until I knew everything was taken care of and in place.
Brendan and I both went and took showers around 1a.m., and I even took the time to shave my legs and remove my chipped nail polish. Then around 1:20 a.m. we finally settled down and got in the bed to get some sleep. We didn’t call our midwife before going to bed even though my waters had released because I wasn’t having surges yet. Our midwife had told us that if my waters released in the middle of the night that we should go back to bed and get some rest and call in the morning. So we put on the Hypnobirthing rainbow relaxation script from our class and went to sleep.
About two hours later, at 3:28 a.m., I woke straight up to my first surge. It was intense and I had to wake Brendan up so he could help me sit up and get out of the bed and into a comfortable position. Once the surge had passed I went to the bathroom, collected myself and then went back to bed and dozed off. But it wasn’t long before I woke up again to another intense surge around 3:50 a.m..
And from then on things start to get a little blurry for me. I’ve asked Brendan to help me with my timeline and sequence of events because I just can’t piece everything together now.
By 4 a.m. my surges started to come in waves and I was doing my best to ride out those waves. I stayed in the bed for awhile on my knees leaning over some pillows because that’s what felt best to me at the moment. Eventually, Brendan and I went out into the living room where I continued to breathe through each surge. Brendan had downloaded an app to his phone where he could keep track of and time each of my surges. They were very sporadic at this point and there was no set pattern to them.
I was still concerned that we hadn’t been out to get groceries and we didn’t have snacks and drinks for our birth team. So Brendan offered to run to the grocery store to pick up some food. We live in walking distance of the grocery store and it takes about 2 minutes to get there. Looking back now it seems crazy that I sent Brendan out when labor was starting to pick up and become more active. It was about 5:15 a.m. when Brendan went out and he didn’t get back until around 5:45 a.m.
When Brendan left to go to the grocery store, I retreated to the bedroom where I continued to ride out my surges and use my phone to track them. The calm atmosphere of our bedroom brought me comfort and peace. I wanted to create a very calm birthing atmosphere, so the only light on in the room was the soft glow from my pink Himalayan salt lamp and my diffuser. I had my birth affirmation cards set up on my nightstand and my book shelf where I could read them and I also had a couple of visual birth affirmations from Hypnobirthing class hung next to my bed.
Originally, I had imagined I would labor out in the living room area of our apartment because there was so much open space, but the bedroom felt so much more safe and intimate. Which is exactly how I wanted my birthing sanctuary to be.
I remember feeling glad that I had a few minutes to labor alone in the bedroom while Brendan was gone, but at the same time I was a little scared to be all by myself. My cat Cheetah came into the bedroom at one point, resting on the foot of the bed while watching over me as if to make sure I was alright.
There was one point during an intense surge that I remember feeling a bit anxious and wondered how long my labor would last and if I could make it through. Then a birth affirmation that I had read popped into my mind that said “Women all over the world are doing this with me”, and I thought to myself ‘if other women are doing this with me, and if my mom did this 5 times, then so can I’. And that gave me courage.
Another thought popped into my mind, this time it was something I had heard on a TV show. There are a lot of things in life that seem impossible to accomplish — but if we focus on doing that impossible task in 10 second increments it suddenly becomes doable. So I told myself that if other women were doing this with me, and if I just focused on getting through each surge just 10 seconds at a time, then I most certainly could get through this labor and birth.
When Brendan got home from the grocery store my surges were more intense and frequent. Brendan was in the kitchen putting the groceries away when I started feeling nauseous. One intense surge later and I was on my hands and knees in the bathroom getting sick. I had read that vomiting during labor can be a good thing because it’s the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins. I had also read that vomiting can be a sign that you are entering transition, which means baby is coming soon.
Brendan was right there by my side helping me up and cleaning up after me. After that we decided that it was time to call our midwife and text our doula.
Our midwife suggested that I try eating something to help with the nausea and to make sure I was drinking plenty of fluids. Brendan updated her on how far along my surges were and she advised that we keep doing what we were doing and report back to her in about 20-30 minutes.
After I got cleaned up I moved out into the living room and headed for the couch where I continued to ride the waves of my surges. Brendan fixed me a labor aid slushy and spoon fed it to me in between surges. I remember not wanting to eat it, but knowing that it was good for me and would keep me moving forward. It was actually quite cold and refreshing and just what I needed. Brendan also brought me some saltine crackers to nibble on.
The next thing I remember is being back in the bed, lying on my left side with pillows in between my legs to keep my pelvis open. I had my eyes closed, listening to the rainbow relaxation while I was riding the waves. I vaguely remember hearing Brendan bustling around in the kitchen getting the birthing tub ready. Then our doula came in and I heard her getting her stuff set up out in the kitchen area near the tub.
At this point I was in my zone and I didn’t feel like seeing anyone or talking to them. So I kept my eyes closed and continued to put all of my focus and energy on the rainbow relaxation. I eventually opened my eyes and greeted my doula.
It was around 7:45a.m. when my doula arrived. Our midwife lives an hour away, so she didn’t arrive until about 8:40 a.m. A little later our midwife’s assistant and another a girl that was shadowing our doula arrived at our apartment.
From the time my birth team arrived things just seemed to move so quickly.
The memories that I have from the time I was in active labor come back to me in vivid fragments. I recall lying out on the bed and having my doula on one side of me and Brendan on the other side massaging my legs with essential oils (I think it was Clary Sage). The oils smelled lovely and were very calming. Next, I remember my doula helping me up off the bed and having me change positions. She moved me to stand over the edge of the bed and had me lean on a peanut ball. I had no concept of time and really had no idea how far along I was at that point.
I’m not quite sure when it was, but I remember I was back in the bed lying on my side and my midwife came over and asked if she could check my blood pressure and my temperature —that was the first time I had opened my eyes to see and greet her. I remember her voice being very calm and gentle and it made me feel safe.
I don’t remember hearing the midwife’s assistant or the shadowing doula come in at all, one moment I opened my eyes and there they were. My birth team was amazing! Everyone respected the calm atmosphere we wanted to have and talked in hushed voices. The lights were low and there was no frantic shouting. Everyone just got right to work! There was always somebody by my side to give me a sip of water or labor aid, to place a cool or warm wash cloth on my head, and to offer me words of love and encouragement.
I honestly would have been lost without Brendan and my doula by my side. When my surges got really intense, Brendan was right there to hold my hand and whisper words of encouragement into my ear. When I would tense up and forget to do my surge breathing, Brendan and my doula would remind me to relax my forehead. And one thing that really helped me through the most rigorous part of my labor was my doula telling me to go to my favorite spot in nature (part of our Hypnobirthing exercises we learned in class) —every time she said that to me I immediately went to that spot and felt safe.
Since my midwife respected my wishes and didn’t check me to see how dilated I was, I didn’t know just how far along I was. But it was somewhere between 9:30-10 a.m. that active labor started. My surges felt intense from the start, but things really started to pick up around then.
At about 10 a.m. my midwife told me that my bladder was very full and it was keeping labor from progressing more quickly. She told me that I needed to try going to the bathroom to urinate or else she would have to catheterize me. I understood, so with the help of Brendan and my doula I waddled to the bathroom. They had me sit backwards on the toilet, used peppermint essential oils, and tried to help me to relax so I could pee. My doula was so sweet and encouraging and I tried so hard, but there was so much pressure from the baby’s head and I just couldn’t go.
As I was walking back to the bed I had the most powerful surge and could actually feel the baby moving down! I also felt the intense pressure of his head and in that moment I realized I was further along than I thought. I was expecting hours of labor ahead of me, but I was wrong!
As I got back in the bed my doula told me to let my body do the pushing and for me to just focus on my breathing. Up until this point, I had been doing the surge breathing we learned in Hypnobirthing, but my doula told me I could start the “J breath”, or “birth breathing”. I hadn’t felt any pain during labor, just a lot of pressure. During my next surge I did the J breath and I was amazed at the immense relief I felt! I had held off on the pushing and just focused on breathing the baby down through the birth canal and letting my body’s Natural Expulsive Reflex (NER) take over.
I was a bit upset that I had to be catheterized, but I tried not to let that get in the way of the work I had ahead of me. While it was uncomfortable, the catheter wasn’t really painful like I thought it would be. As I mentioned earlier, I really didn’t know how far along I was, so I was shocked when I heard someone comment on seeing the baby’s head and his head full of hair. The baby was crowning and I couldn’t believe I was that far along! But I tried not to dwell on that thought because I knew very well that I could still have quite a ways to go.
During all of this, my midwife had been checking the baby’s heart rate on and off with the doppler. As labor intensified, the baby’s heart rate was dropping and my midwife decided that he needed to make his appearance sooner than later. I was still tight and had some softening to do, but we would have been playing a dangerous game waiting around while baby’s heart rate was bouncing up and down.
And then I heard my midwife say what I didn’t want to hear, “Episiotomy”. For a brief moment I felt a bit defeated. I so badly wanted to give my body time to open and soften naturally, to get in the tub and let the warm water swirl around my body until it was time to blossom. I wanted to be up, not lying down while I gave birth. I knew that everyone on my birth team had faith in me and knew that my body could do that. But, I heard the urgency in my midwife’s voice, and I knew what needed to be done. So I let all thoughts of failure leave me, collected myself, and re-focused on my body and my baby.
My sweet midwife could not have been more amazing. She looked me in the eyes, told me what needed to be done, and asked for my permission to perform the episiotomy. In that vulnerable moment, I felt so loved and respected. And I trusted her judgement and knew that she wouldn’t do an episiotomy unless it was absolutely necessary.
So I held Brendan’s hand and took a deep breath while she cut me. That was the only moment I recall feeling pain during labor. But the pain was no where near what I imagined it would be like. Everyone in the room told me what a beautiful job I was doing and how well I was handling everything.
Looking back, it seemed like a lot of time passed between the episiotomy and meeting my baby. I felt as if I was just floating along, not having any expectations on how long I may have to go.
I’ll never forget the moment my midwife looked me in the eyes and said, “We need to get this baby out. Now.”. I heard the seriousness in her voice, and I knew what needed to be done. But in that moment I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t think I was far enough along to breathe my baby down and out the rest of the way just yet.
That was the only time I felt scared. I lost focus and let the doubt and negativity seep in. I’ve heard that when you get to the point where you think you can’t do it, when you think you can’t go on any longer, that’s when you are about to meet your baby.
Thank goodness for Brendan and my birth team! They all encouraged me and told me I could do it. Hearing the confidence in my midwife’s voice was just what I needed to push through.
My doula fed me two honey sticks for a quick burst of natural energy. Brendan was on my left side, and my doula was on my right side helping to prop me up and hold my legs up. Having them so close to me made me feel loved, protected, and safe.
On the next surge, my midwife told me to push. And I breathed and pushed with every ounce of energy I had. And I felt the power of my baby boy bursting into this world. That feeling will be etched into my body, mind, and heart forever.
My midwife brought him up to my belly and I remember feeling how warm and slippery he felt. So foreign, yet familiar at the same time. I heard Brendan’s voice saying “He’s here! He’s here! You did it!”. I started to tear up and cry a little bit. They weren’t tears of love at that point, they were tears of disbelief and relief. I couldn’t believe that it was over, that I did it, that my son was here!
He came so quickly, so intensely! And I did it. I gave birth, at home, with absolutely no medication. I felt so empowered.
It took me a few minutes to collect myself and look into my son’s eyes. Early Sunday morning, the day before I gave birth, I had dreamt that I gave birth and looked over at my son and saw these big, dark eyes staring at me. And when my son looked at me for the first time, it was with those same big eyes I had seen in my dream.
He was born at 11:10 a.m. on September 3, 2018. Labor Day, the perfect day for a beautiful labor and birth. Once he was here with us, there was no question as to what his name would be. Ellis Everett Smith. Ellis was the only name I had ever really liked for a boy, and Brendan liked it too. Even though we wanted to see him first before sticking with the name, deep down I knew, he had always been Ellis.
I delivered my placenta a little less than half an hour after Ellis was born, and he stayed attached to the cord for about an hour and a half.
Seeing Brendan cut the umbilical cord and hold Ellis for the first time was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I cried as I watched him cradling our tiny son in his big, strong arms. Everyone stopped for a moment, and a hush came over the room. I felt so much love.
Our birth team was so amazing, I just can’t say it enough. My doula and her friend got right to work after the birth and fixed us lunch, did laundry, and took the trash out for us. By the time they left later that afternoon our apartment was much cleaner than it had been before.
I find myself at a loss for words to describe just how incredible Brendan was during the entire labor and birth. He held me, massaged me, spoke words of love and encouragement over me, and watched the whole time. He was my rock, and I’m so blessed to call him my birth partner, my husband, and the father of my son.
Brendan holding Ellis for the very first time.
Getting Ellis’ footprint.
I couldn’t help but cry when Brendan held Ellis for the very first time.
Almost 6 months later I’m finally finishing writing Ellis’ birth story. As I wrote, I tried to let the words flow from my heart. I tried not to compare my birth story with others I had read. At one point I worried it was too long, but these are the words and the depth at which I felt led to share. The day Ellis was born still plays over and over again in my mind, and I’m so overjoyed, so empowered, and so filled with love every time I think back on it. That day wasn’t just the day my son was born, it was the day the mother within me was born.
I’m still a bit behind on writing these pregnancy updates and honestly at this point I feel like all of the weeks are sort of blurring together. Being finished with work has taken some getting used to but I’m thankful for the time I’ve had to rest and start my nesting.
Brendan and I got settled into our new apartment pretty quickly. We had family coming into town for my baby shower 2 weeks after we moved, so that helped motivate us to get things unpacked and into their proper places. We still have artwork to hang up, but besides that our new place is feeling pretty cozy.
Baby Shower #2
We had my second baby shower on Saturday July 28th. It was such a sweet time celebrating my little Sunshine Babe! We had family come all the way from Florida and New Jersey to help celebrate.
I was gifted lots of cute baby clothes, homemade baby blankets, Target and Amazon gift cards, crib sheets, a few natural toys, a baby bath, a Boppy, a Fisher Price Rock n Play Sleeper, and lots of other thoughtful things for the baby.
Doula Prenatal Visit
The day before my baby shower our doula came over to our apartment for our second prenatal visit with her. This time we were going over comfort measures and positions for pregnancy and birth.
We learned how to use a rebozo for “sifting” (seriously so amazing! Look it up.), and different exercises that Brendan can help me do every week to help ease the tension in my body from carrying baby in my womb and to help keep my body strong for an easier labor and recovery. I love how these exercises give Brendan a chance to be even more involved and have an active roll in this pregnancy.
After we went over comfort measures we just visited with each other and chatted about all things pregnancy, labor, and postpartum recovery. I’m so thankful that we decided to hire a doula – she has been such a comfort to have!
Home Visit With Midwife
The first weekend in August we had our home visit with our midwife and her assistant. During this visit we gave our midwife and her assistant a tour of our apartment so that they know where everything is when they come for the birth of the baby. She also went over everything that came in our home birth kit and explained what it is all used for and brought her birthing tub over for us to keep for the birth. And of course she checked on the baby’s heartbeat and growth and we talked about the different stages of labor, when to call her, etc.
After this visit it really started to sink in that we are now in the home stretch of this pregnancy.
Hello Third Trimester! I honestly can’t believe that I’ve already arrived to the final stretch of this pregnancy. At this stage in my pregnancy I feel like things have been flowing without much physical change, but there have been a few changes with life during the past few weeks.
Within the past 4 weeks Brendan and I have been on two mini vacations. The first was a trip to New York City at the end of May to celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary! We celebrated both our honeymoon and our 1 year wedding anniversary in New York City as well, so it seemed fitting to visit our favorite city once again before we become a family of 3.
In years past we thoroughly planned out our NYC trips – hitting up lots of tourist-y spots and seeing all of the main attractions the city has to offer. But this time we really didn’t plan a whole lot. We decided to stay in Queens this time vs. Manhattan and it was definitely a fun change.
We do a lot of walking when we are in NYC (I’m talking walking at least 15 miles on foot throughout the day), but this time I couldn’t get around as fast. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 25 weeks pregnant! This trip taught me that it’s okay to slow down and enjoy time together with my husband and that it’s okay to listen to my body and allow myself to be pregnant.
Our second mini vacation was a trip to Delaware to visit Brendan’s family at the beginning of June. We were hoping for some nice sunshine filled days spent lounging on the beach, but the weather ended up being rainy and in the 60s most of the time we were there. We did get one beach day in though and we had a nice time.
After what feels like months and months of searching for a new apartment and praying about whether we should stay in Roanoke or move back to Lynchburg, we finally found a bigger, cozy apartment at a wonderful apartment complex in Lynchburg!
While I’m sad to be leaving Roanoke and all of my amazing co-workers and our Bible study group, I’m looking forward to being back in the city where Brendan and I met and to be just that much closer to my family. I’ve loved living in our little downtown apartment – its something that I always wanted to experience. But I must say I am thrilled to move into our new, bigger apartment and start my nesting and setting up the baby’s nursery!
Doula and Birthing Classes
While we were away on our trip to NYC we signed up for our very first birthing classes in Roanoke and found a wonderful local doula (who just happens to teach the birthing classes). A friend of mine recommended my doula to me and so far she has been absolutely amazing! Originally Brendan and I weren’t planning on having a doula for the birth of our son, mostly to save money. But the more we thought about it and read about the benefits of having a doula the more it felt right for us to hire one. If you are in the Roanoke/Lynchburg area and are looking for a doula, shoot me a message and I’d be happy to give you some recommendations!
We chose to enroll in Hypnobirthing classes instead of classes that are taught at the local hospitals in our area. These classes take place over 5 weeks and teach methods of deep relaxation, different breathing techniques, and learning how to surrender to your body and your baby during the birthing process.
I have loved everything about these classes! I love how this method really lets Brendan get involved in the birthing process and how it has helped us bond more with each other and our baby. I’ve also noticed that not only am I learning how to go into a deep relaxation for when I’m in labor, but I have been able to use the calm breathing method throughout my day-to-day life. And most of all, it has helped me build confidence in myself and my body and my ability to birth naturally. Brendan and I have also learned to not listen to people’s negative comments about the birth we are envisioning and the horror stories of birth they have experienced. It really has been such a freeing and empowering experience and I would highly recommend this class!
How I’m Feeling Physically
Honestly besides my belly continuing to swell, I really haven’t felt much different physically. Some days I definitely feel more “pregnant” than others, but so far I’m still feeling pretty energetic and healthy. My little Sunshine Babe is still on the small side, but no doubt he is growing and getting stronger everyday!
So far I haven’t had any swelling, no headaches, no stretch marks, and I haven’t been bothered by the heat. I have only had very mild heartburn on occasion and the other week I noticed that I was getting the occasional calf cramp in the middle of the night. But those have been my only discomforts, nothing to complain about though!
And one of the most exciting physical changes that has come with my transition into the third trimester is that I have started to produce colostrum! Two days before I hit 28 weeks I started lactating, and it really took me by surprise. But I am just amazed at my body and it’s ability to not only grow and nurture my son in my womb, but also to produce the most nourishing food he could ever receive when he arrives – “golden liquid”, the sweet nectar that is colostrum.
We have so many exciting life changes happening within the next few months and I am just trying to focus on being present and enjoying every little kick, wiggle, and hiccup while Sunshine Babe is still in my womb. This journey is magically beautiful!
Growing up I enjoyed hearing stories about how my mom gave birth to me and my siblings. When I became a teenager I was intrigued to learn more about the birthing process, what it was like being in the hospital delivery room, how long it took, and my dad’s reaction to the whole process. I then started to imagine what it would be like for me to give birth and have my own baby someday. But I never once thought about whether I would have my baby at home or in the hospital.
I knew about home births and water births when I was in my late teens, and I had even watched some reality TV shows where women gave birth at home. But if you had told me 8 years ago that one day I would be considering a home birth for myself, I would have said you were crazy.
Even though I grew up knowing about home births, I never thought that would be an option for me. It just wasn’t the “normal” model of birth you hear about in the United States. My mom had me and my 4 siblings in the hospital, and I had only ever heard stories about women giving birth in the hospital. All I really knew was that birth was supposed to hurt severely and that you needed to be in the hospital to have the help of doctors and their hospital equipment to have a safe birth.
Thankfully, my mom never painted birth as something to be fearful of. She said it hurt, but that it is so worth it and you forget about the pain once your baby is in your arms. Sadly, most young women hear horror stories from their mothers, mother-in-laws, friends, and even television shows about how painful labor and birth is. And that is their first taste of what birth will be like.
I didn’t start taking my health seriously until I was about 18 years-old. I wasn’t really into natural medicine back then, but I was skeptical of doctors and our modern healthcare system. Over the years I’ve become more educated on natural holistic medicine and herbalism, and I tend to shy away from doctors as much as possible. So when I started daydreaming more about becoming pregnant and having a baby of my own, I naturally started thinking about and researching midwives and natural birth.
Even before getting pregnant, I was very fascinated with natural birth and home births. I found myself following several different Instagram accounts of women who were planning on having a natural home birth and I even read a book called Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block last summer, so I could do my research and get educated on the differences between a hospital birth and a home birth.
The Hunt For the Right Midwife
Finding the right prenatal care provider for this pregnancy has not been easy. I started searching for midwives and birthing centers in my area last summer before getting pregnant. I wanted to do my research and be prepared for when the time came. At this point, seeing an obstetrician was not an option for me. I knew I wanted to have a midwife for my prenatal care, whether I was to give birth in a hospital or at a birthing center. I knew of one birthing center that was about 15 minutes away from where I lived and it had good reviews. So, as soon as I found out I was pregnant I contacted the birthing center and set up a time to meet with the midwife there for a free consultation.
I was a bit nervous but mostly excited when I went to see the midwife at the birthing center. As soon as she took me back to a room to chat, she calculated when I was due. She said I was due right at the beginning of September, and unfortunately that was the one month that she didn’t take clients because she takes the whole month off for vacation. So, that was about it. There was nothing she could do for me. She gave me a couple names of other midwives in the area, but they only did home births, not a birthing center birth.
I left the birthing center trying not to be beaten down, but I couldn’t help but cry and feel defeated. I honestly didn’t know where to go from there. Thankfully, it was still very early on in my pregnancy, so I knew I had time to figure things out. Even though I was feeling very discouraged when I left the birthing center, there was a part of me that knew it happened for a reason.
At that point, I hadn’t told anyone that I was pregnant besides our close family, so I really felt like I didn’t know where to turn. I looked up a couple of other birthing centers that were about 30 minutes away from me, but I could just tell by looking at their website that it wasn’t meant to be. So, I decided to reach out to a girl that I had known in college who I knew was pregnant and was into natural birth and midwives, and she just so happened to live in the nearby area.
Even though I wasn’t close friends with this girl, she was so open to sharing with me and was so sweet and encouraging. God knew that I needed her in that moment, and I was so glad I decided to reach out. She told me of the midwife that she was using and said that she had been amazing thus far. Thankfully, this midwife lives in my area and was affordable.
In the meantime before I scheduled a visit to meet with this midwife, I decided to go ahead and schedule an appointment with a women’s center in Lynchburg to get a check up and an ultrasound (since I still hadn’t seen a health care provider at this point). I chose to go see a nurse midwife in Lynchburg instead of Roanoke because I had family that recommended the place to me. So, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and visit this women’s center for one visit, even if I chose not to continue seeing them.
I just wanted to see my baby and to know that things were okay.
Well, I set up the appointment for my ultrasound and Brendan asked his manager to come into work later that day so that he could come with me to the appointment. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about going to a women’s center, we were both excited and looking forward to seeing our baby for the first time. So we got up and drove all the way to Lynchburg for our appointment at 11a.m. only to get there and have the receptionist tell me that they had called to let me know they had rescheduled my appointment for 9:30 a.m. and that I had missed it. We both couldn’t believe it. I told her that I had gotten a voicemail on Friday with a reminder that my appointment was at 11a.m. (I even had the voicemail saved on my phone), but that I had never received a call telling me that the time was changed. She sat there looking uninterested and said there were no more openings that day and there was nothing she could do for me but schedule me for a different day.
Me and Brendan walked out feeling angry, upset, and discouraged. I had taken off work to make this appointment, and Brendan had asked to come into work late, and we both took an hour out of our day to drive to Lynchburg for the appointment. And on top of that, Brendan then had to turn around and drive four and a half hours to get to his client for work. I couldn’t hold the hot stinging tears back any longer, and I let them flow. I felt so helpless. Here I was at the second appointment I had made to see a midwife, and it didn’t work out. I felt like I kept trying to do what’s best for the baby, to make sure he or she was okay, and I kept failing them.
I had planned on hanging out in Lynchburg for the rest of the afternoon, taking myself out to lunch and then going shopping. But all of a sudden I had no desire to do any of that. As I watched Brendan drive away on his way to work, I couldn’t help but feel lost. I drove to Goodwill to do some book shopping, but couldn’t find the motivation to get out of my car. I just sat in my car for an hour crying, and talking to Brendan, my mom, my aunt, and my second mama. I knew that there was a reason for the appointment cancelation and I knew that God would take care of everything. But I just needed a moment to sit and feel all of the emotions that were racing through my mind.
Falling Into Place
Thankfully things really started looking up for me and the baby later that week. After our disappointing appointment cancelation on Monday, Brendan made a few phone calls to find a good place for us to get an ultrasound in Roanoke. He ended up finding a place a few minutes away from where we live and the price was actually cheaper than what we would have paid at the women’s center in Lynchburg (even with our insurance). So I called the place and made an appointment for our first ultrasound! Unlike the people at the women’s center, this lady was so sweet and seemed genuinely interested and excited for me. I felt like it was God telling that He had orchestrated everything that happened on Monday for a reason – to save us money and to put us in the hands of someone who genuinely cares and is in our area.
The day after that I had a free consultation set up with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) in Roanoke (the one my friend had recommended to me). This consultation was to go over her model of care (the Midwife Model of Care), tell me about her studies and experience, and to go over everything she can and can’t do as a CPM. This midwife specializes in home births in the Roanoke and Lynchburg area.
The meeting went so well and I was so pleased with her. I loved how calm and friendly she was, how she made me feel like my baby and I truly mattered, and how she went over everything in such detail with me. She was very open and honest with me about the things she can and cannot do as a CPM, and I so appreciated her raw openness. She provided me with a lot of paperwork, articles on home brith, and nutrition information to take home and go over. I left feeling like things were finally falling into place and that everything was slowly coming together.
Brendan and I originally thought we wanted to give birth at a birthing center with a midwife. This seemed like the best in-between option for us since we knew we didn’t want to give birth at a hospital unless it was medically necessary, and a home birth with our first baby seemed a bit daunting. But the further along we got on this journey to find the right prenatal care, the more it became apparent to us that a home birth seemed to be in our near future.
I truly believe that things didn’t work out with the birthing center and women’s center I visited because we were meant to have a home birth. Some said that I should maybe plan on giving birth at a hospital since the first CPM I visited didn’t work out and since, after all, a hospital is probably safer for a first time birth. That didn’t sit well with me though and I continued to pray, trust my intuition, and keep searching.
It’s great to be open minded and listen to people’s advice, but in the end, you have to do what’s right for you and your baby, whether other people approve of that or not. Trust the process, trust the journey, trust your intuition, and above all trust God.