Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Emmeline's Birth Story | Part 2


Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I've seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I'll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I'll see You do it again

Once we got home things seemed to pick up pretty quick and the timing of everything really fell into place so perfectly. Miracle of all miracles, when we got home Lincoln told Marshall he wanted to "take a nap" and fell asleep almost immediately. We were sure he would be up for the day, but this was such a little miracle. Because he slept, Marshall was able to help me labor which was super duper necessary. He was my lifeline. Him just being beside me was essential. I always kind of felt like the whole "husband coached birth" thing was just something invented to help the dad feel like part of the process, but really he carried me and afterwards it really felt like something we did together. After being together for as long as we have (11 years almost!) sometimes there don't feel like a lot of "firsts" left, but this was definitely a first and it was so special! 

After Lincoln went to sleep things really picked up. My contractions were super painful, I couldn't really get comfortable anywhere and they felt really back to back. I heard myself saying that I wasn't getting a break (which is a sign of transition! But totally wasn't in transition at this point). In retrospect pretty sure my water had broken, but I didn't realize it despite the fact that, um, things were falling out of me. (...aaannnnd, leaving it at that!) 

I tried to labor in the tub but hated it and had a really hard time coping with contractions in there. I wasn't comfortable sitting at all, so I tried the shower again for a little bit but after a while I got hot and I was nervous about my skin being in the hot water for that long. I paced around our bedroom and bathroom and tried over and over to find positions that were comfortable but the most comfortable I was standing, holding onto Marshall and squeezing for dear life when a contraction came. I remember telling him a few times that if we went back to the birth center and I was still 3cm I would walk myself across the parking lot to the hospital for an epidural. 

At some point while we were at home my water had definitely broken, which I didn't realize until I was examined at the birth center. I legitimately thought I was peeing during every contraction. This totally explained the intensity of everything, in hindsight. I remember telling Marshall there was no way I was going to be able to do this for hours, but he kept reminding me to breathe and turned on some music at some point. Do It Again was on my playlist and I remember hearing myself saying "there's no way I can do this" over and over and over and then hearing "you made a way, when there was no way" almost in direct response. 

After that the atmosphere completely shifted. I got a hold on my breathing, I was significantly more calm and relaxed. Something just clicked. Marshall told me we could go to the birth center anytime I was ready. My brother in law had come to pick up Lincoln on his way to work, miraculously right when he woke up from his "nap". I was dreading the drive to the birth center, and it was 8am so I knew it was going to take longer than normal with traffic but I knew we should go sooner than later. Now that things were clearly progressing, I wasn't sure how fast it would be and Marshall was for sure not excited at the prospect of delivering a baby in our bedroom. 

The drive there was incredible. I was so relaxed at this point I literally fell asleep. I'd have a contraction, breathe through it and doze off by the end of it. I have no idea how. It took us about 45 minutes to get there, traffic was completely stopped on the highway so we went back roads. Marshall did an exceptional job of driving. He said that we got stuck at every stoplight but I didn't even notice, I had my eyes closed and I was sleeping or breathing. Later when I was in the tub I told our midwife that I kept falling asleep at the end of contractions and she explained it was my body conserving energy for pushing later on-- means you're close! 

We got there around 9am, Mandesa, the other midwife I had wanted to meet,  met us at the door smiling so big and said "I don't think we've met!". I happened to look at Marshall's face and he was smiling so big too, and a little teary. I think I smiled at him, but I'm honestly not sure what my face looked like.  At this point we were both in complete awe at how everything was piecing together so perfectly after waiting for her for so long. Having Mandesa there was just like an extra special God hug, just because. He was like "I heard you! I knew you wanted to meet her! You got to meet her on the day it matters most! It was always the plan!" Another little promise fulfilled. 

My hands and legs were shaking and she walked us back to triage me. I was 6cm and she confirmed my water had broken. She helped me through a contraction on the table then listened to Emmeline's heart and remarked "oh, she's a happy baby!", which Alexa literally had said five hours earlier. Everyone that listened to her heart beat always said that she was happy. So appropriate for our Emmeline Joy! She also made a comment about how I was doing great breathing for her and that was so motivating. I am an undeniable "words of affirmation" person so little comments like that really helped me a ton. 

She started the tub for me in our room and I made my way back there, leaving puddles of amniotic fluid along the way. In between contractions I still felt kind of normal. I made a joke in the triage room about leaking a little bit and after every contraction I'd look at Marshall and the puddle, of um, stuff, and remark how gross it was.  

In each of the birthing suites there's a ladder on the wall and while Marshall went to the car to get our stuff I just held on to the ladder and swayed and breathed. It was like as long as I had something to hold onto, I was totally good. Once the tub was ready I asked Mandesa how I should sit since I was coping well standing and swaying, and she gave me some ideas and I finally settled on sitting on my knees and feet. After a while my feet turned kinda purple and were kinda numb but I totally rationalized that it would be worth it to lose my feet than sit on my butt during a contraction. Once I was in the tub and comfortable I told Mandesa I was scared of transition and she just looked at me and said "why? You might be in it right now." Which may have been true, I didn't seem to notice transition whenever it happened. 

  





Contractions came and went, and I would doze off, sitting up in the middle of the tub. At some point they got a speaker working and Marshall turned on my labor playlist and I requested "Do It Again" a few times. Soon I asked Mandesa about pushing and she told me contractions would change and breathing wouldn't be enough to get me through them and she was totally right. Not long after, that things started to shift again and I would push through the end of contractions and it felt awesome. Awesome.  Everyone started getting things ready for a baby and I kept grunting and pushing a little, one big push kinda freaked me out because I felt her drop significantly. Mandesa talked me through some better pushing positions and we got things rolling around 11am! I had been coping and managing contractions pretty well on my own (with Marshall beside me-- that was definitely the key) but pushing I super needed her direction on when to breathe, how to breathe and where to push. I couldn't feel a lot of progress happening which got me kind of frustrated so she had me turn into a different position and she realized that my bag of water hadn't broken completely and that was holding me back some. She popped it and a few pushes later her head was out! I think it took three contractions with her head pretty much out (have mercy, that was intense!) for her to come all the way out. She felt huge. Then all of a sudden, Emmeline was here, 11:37am! Relief! Almost 12 hours exactly from my first big contraction the night before. Mandesa caught her in the water and handed her right to me and I immediately started crying when I saw she had red hair. Best ever. I knew she would in my heart. I just knew it! She was so wild in my belly! 


She wasn't crying yet, normal for water birth babies, apparently, so she and Anne (our amazing nurse) helped suction her and warm her up and wasn't long before she was yelling at us pretty good (and hasn't really stopped since...). 41 weeks and 2 days means some really developed lungs. She was making her presence in the world known, for sure! 










We sat for a few minutes then they helped me out of the tub and we walked over to the bed and they delivered the placenta and Mandesa stitched me up. I cut the cord (Marshall's not really into that sort of thing..haha!)  and wasn't long afterwards Emmeline latched on great and started nursing like a champ with much enthusiasm. We took turns snuggling and soaked it up! After we snuggled for about an hour Mandesa came back to weigh her and do all the newborn stuff, she had us guess her weight and I had no idea. 8 pounds 3 ounces! Mandesa said she guessed it almost exactly just by looking and feeling my belly when I came in. So fun. I could not believe that I pushed out an 8+ pound baby. What a body! Pushing was definitely the hardest part, for sure. Made more sense knowing she was a pound bigger than Lincoln. Totally felt it. Every ounce. She was 21.5 inches long (same as Lincoln). Overall, a big-ish girl– especially for our kind of people (small– ha!). Everyone that has met her since then remarks that she was a big babe to come out of me. I always fight the urge to flex my muscles in response. It's also worth mentioning that my tailbone still hurts and I can't really sit down or get up without wincing. 









This whole thing was just an incredible gift. The past two years have been such a refining time for me, and this birth was just a gift after all of that. God was in every single detail, and we knew he would be, despite weeks of trying to prepare and plan for every scenario. He was in the middle of it all with us, and showed off big time. His presence was tangible, especially in those final moments before she was born. 

Personally, I thought I'd leave there feeling super empowered and proud of myself but really I feel like God did most of the work. It was like something took over and told me what to do, how to breathe, how to stand, how to sit... it really was so instinctual. All of it. I mean, there's not really any way to anticipate or practice how to cope... you just kind of figure it out at each stage.

Don't get me wrong, I am proud of myself for sure, and this was such an amazing testament to how taking care of my body has changed how I view myself. Pretty much my whole life I'd always seen myself kind of sickly. I always had issues with eczema and asthma and I was just sick a lot, as a kid and as an adult If I didn't have a cold (turned respiratory/sinus/ear infection) I had a stomach virus. I was never athletic or good at running, I always had a headache or was tired. I never believed my body could do anything. Since overhauling our diet and eating well I've been so shocked at how my body operates in general, and how good I feel and I think that was a major part of it. So much of the process was trusting my body and my instincts, and after twenty some years of NOT trusting or believing in my body it was tough, but this was just more affirmation to keep eating well and taking care of myself. My body can do amazing things if I fuel it with the best things! I finally believe that I am strong and capable of great things. This birth was such a gift, on so many levels. There is so much beauty in this life... and birth is not something to be dreaded or feared. It's so beautiful, and empowering. Also, messy! But so is this life.  

Jualeah told me when we came in, "each baby writes their own story" and I love that my babies have different stories. Both of them were so special, and taught me so much about everything-- life, myself, motherhood, our marriage, God. Thankful for them both, and my two happy healthy babes. Can't imagine my life without them both-- it's always been them! It's so fun to think about how as a teenager when I saw the name "Emmeline" in a textbook, that God KNEW that I'd have an Emmeline and she'd have red hair and be born in this way. She'd have a big brother, Lincoln, and I'd be married to Marshall (who I met in high school) and this would be our life. That was the plan all along. All along! Why do I ever doubt his goodness or his plan for me? It's always so much better than anything I have planned for myself. Always. Every single time. And I always question it. And he's always faithful. Always! 

And my husband. My sweet husband. I could not have done it without him. He knew my thoughts before I could say it, he knew what to say in the moment I needed it, he knew when not to say anything when I didn't need it... it was truly one of the most special days in our marriage. Thanks for letting me squeeze your hand over and over. You are my lobster. Forever and ever. 


If you're on the fence about a med free birth or midwife care or a birth center-- consider it! Trust yourself and your body, you are equipped and you can totally do it. The midwives at Baby & Company are incredible. They are incredibly thorough with their healthcare and I always left my appointments feeling so cared for and loved. Everything is so family oriented, patient centered, and the birth itself was so joyful and FUN! Not scary or clinical feeling. We are certain we are done with two kids (Marshall is certain, but I'm still enamored with E's birth which is clouding my judgement... before her birth I was done with two, but now I don't know!), but I wish we had plans for many more so I could deliver there again and again. Such a special place! I guess I'll just have to go to every event they have there forever and ever. 

In all seriousness, the midwives there are amazing. Mandesa, especially, she is truly living out her calling. She was so supportive, and hands off when I didn't need her, but as soon as I did she was right there, to hold my hand, or to tell me to relax, or with a barf bag (which thankfully I didn't need!), or with words of encouragement. She was just the very best– we are so thankful for you and that you were the one for our girl's story! 

And this is just the beginning, the best is yet to come. Let the good times roll! 

Special shoutout to my dear friend Amber Langhoff for being "on call" for like the entire month of April and May for us  and having a plan B, C, D and E for every day to be there for our birth! It was such a special day and we are so thankful we got to share it with you and that you were able to take photos. We will treasure them forever! 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Emmeline's Birth Story | Part 1


I have written and rewritten Emmeline's birth story at least five times now. It has been so hard for me to authentically describe the experience, and reconcile wanting to savor and remember every single detail of the day, and not "overshare" and write a novel. All in all, the experience was so spiritual. It was just incredible. It was so much more than I thought it would or could be. 

My friend posted this on Mother's Day this year, and it resonated with me so much. Breathing was my lifeline during labor. This probably sounds weird, but breathing has always been hard for me. I grew up with asthma, and even during this pregnancy I really struggled with feeling short of breath and that will spiral into a panic attack of sorts. In my labor with Lincoln I had been recovering from the flu at 38 weeks and I still had a cough and some congestion and I remember the position they had me in to push I felt like I couldn't catch my breath and it really freaked me out. I was most nervous about that happening again during labor and asked several different midwives on several occasions if I'd have access to oxygen if I needed it (I would have). Once I got ahold of my breathing around the time my water broke, contractions were a breeze. I'd feel it coming, breathe deeply, force one extra deep breathe at the peak and then exhale it out-- sometimes I'd whistle it out. Enjoy the break with easy breaths and do it again. As long as I was in an upright position to control the breath it was no thing. So when I saw this quote from Ann Voskamp, it resonated with me so much. So, so much. 

"... so, yeah, parenting is hard & beautiful,
and very, very hard & very, very beautiful, 
and sometimes you just get down on the floor & weep 
& there's no shame in it -- tears just saying we're loving deep.
Parenting is hard, not because we're getting it wrong, but because we're getting to do holy work -- holy work *is* hard work.
That's the miracle of parenting:
labor never stops & we never stop having to remember to breathe.
And even the sound of our breathing is saying His name - YHWH.
And all the parents exhaled... and our every breath calls for You to come, Lord, please come -- Come help us to labor over these beloved children, that they'd deliver into the wide expanse of Your fulfilling grace -- 
& never forget their name: Beloved." 

Wow, right? I was about five days postpartum reading those words, ugly crying my guts out. I remember with Lincoln feeling so exhausted in those early days, wondering when I'd get a chance to actually rest my heart, mind and body after the whirlwind of labor. Never. I am still running that marathon, but with another little baby in tow. I did get some good nights of sleep in the meantime though. 

But this quote, and the blog post I linked above, which I'll link again because it's worth opening in a new tab and reading right now perfectly sums up how I feel. Additionally, this post does as well. I remember breezing, no really, breezing through the end of my labor, not noticing transition, just listening to my body and feeling myself begin to push her out and thinking how easy it had been. Until the time came to actually push her out into this world and then I heard myself saying over and over: I can't do it. And somehow, I did. I reached deep within my heart, soul, lungs, self and here she is and has been for a month now. The perfect metaphor for how God delivered ME from so many things. Those postpartum days with Lincoln, those seemingly endless days of painful eczema all over me, the early postpartum days this time where looking forward at our life seemed IMPOSSIBLE, how am I ever going to recover/heal/thrive/keep everyone alive? And somehow I am doing it. Despite telling Marshall and anyone who can listen over and over that I can't. I'm totally doing it. Not on my own, but with God in me and breathing through me every step of the way. 

And that is how my labor went. 

I'm nearly a week out, starting this, (almost 3 weeks out finishing it, and a month out rewriting most of it again) and the memory of it all is already starting to be fuzzy. Her whole birth was so spiritual. Even the last weeks leading up to it I felt God just pulling my focus away from everything and onto him, refining me to prepare me for the transition from mama to one, to two.


As it was happening and immediately after, the pain was so real and I was so glad it was over and I'd never have to do it again. But now, looking back, God was so present in that room! In our car as we drove to and from the birth center (twice). In our bedroom and bathroom as I labored with Lincoln sleeping in the next room. He was undeniably with us in every single moment, and I don't think there was ever a time I've felt him so near. I'm already finding myself longing to feel another contraction, to feel his peace and strength breathing with me. It was so supernatural, all of it, but I think there's nothing really normal about bringing a baby earthside. The whole experience was just so worshipful. In my head I kind of (admittedly) dramatically equate it with being present to the burning bush in Exodus. God was there. It was terrifying, comforting and miraculous– all at the same time. So, here's how it all went down...

 Monday the eighth was business as usual. We had an ultrasound at Wake Med since we were 41 weeks, after that Marshall went to work and Lincoln and I spent the day wandering around downtown. I had become an expert at ignoring contractions so I'm honestly not sure if I had any during the day or not. I remember having some in the evening that were a bit more noticeable at 7 minutes apart but like they had been, they fizzled out as soon as I sat and rested or changed positions. That evening we had a photo team meeting at the church office that I really had been wanting to go to, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to being in labor or having a newborn, so I was really excited to go. My wonderful friend Amber who had been rearranging her life for weeks to photograph our birth was there and as we left she was like "ok! Last chance! Do I go with you guys to the birth center?" and I was like "nooooooo, nothing's happening tonight. Go home and sleep!"

So we went home, gave Lincoln half a melatonin (he is normally asleep by 7:30 and we didn't get home until 9 and he was literally running laps around the kitchen...). Marshall and I both were hungry so we sat in the kitchen and talked for a while, I texted with some of the members of our photo team the usual "is this real life? I love you guys so much" stuff and I felt this sense of peace. Like, just being at that meeting brought me back to where I was postpartum with Lincoln and I was able to see so clearly and vividly how much God has changed me and my life in the past two years. It was almost like exactly what I needed to see and feel emotionally to realize that I really was ready to do it again-- and if I wasn't, I knew that God was there with me in the middle of it all.

Marshall went to bed and I had trouble winding down so I took my 41 week belly mirror picture (#priorities) and played on my phone and tried to lay down and relax. I realized after about 10 minutes I wasn't getting comfortable because I was having contractions laying down! That had not happened yet with my prodromal labor, so I ignored them for a bit and then started timing them. I'd doze off in between and then after a few it wasn't comfortable laying down anymore so I got up and got the birth ball and bounced some. Turns out I was not a fan of contracting on the ball so I didn't do that a single time more. I timed them for about an hour then told Marshall that they were five minutes apart, different feeling than the others I'd had. We were supposed to call the midwife at 611 (6 minutes apart, 1 minute long for 1 hour). I got in the shower and washed my hair and shaved my legs, pausing every 5 minutes to breathe through a contraction.  I have no concept of time, but I kept having some doozies and they felt really back to back, so I asked him to call to let them know we'd be along at some point soon.

There were two midwives I hadn't met yet, and everyone that I knew that went to Baby & Company raved about Jualeah and Mandesa. I actually cried (read: ugly cry sobbed) a few nights earlier to Marshall about how I was so disappointed I didn't even get to meet these amazing midwives that everyone else had loved.

He called and low and behold Jualeah answered! I talked to her for a bit, and my contractions seemed to stop while I was on the phone and she said to text her when it looked like we were going to come in. So I hopped back in the shower and resumed contracting and enjoyed the hot water.

After a while, I got out of the shower and got dressed and was hit back to back with two pretty big contractions and Marshall and I agreed we should probably go to the birth center as they were coming consistently and getting stronger. We got the car loaded up and got Lincoln in the car, fleece firetruck jammies and all. Contractions spaced out a little bit in the car, but the drive was dreadful. I was not coping well in the car at all. Like, I was definitely saying some four letter words quite loudly. We called my sister to let her know we were en route with Lincoln and after weeks of sleeping with her phone on high volume being "on call" for us, she didn't wake up to our calls or texts, which is kind of hilarious. In the end it totally worked out perfectly the way it was supposed to, but it was so funny that she didn't hear us!

When we got to the birth center I was greeted by a new midwife to the practice, Alexa, and she triaged me. While she examined me, in between contractions I told her how excited I was to be in active labor because I never really went into consistent really active active labor with Lincoln withou pitocin (so, pro tip: you're really not in active active labor if you're telling people how excited you are about it... no matter how far apart or strong your contractions are). I was still 3 centimeters and not all the way effaced, same as my 40 week appointment more than a week earlier. She recommended we go back home. Since we had Lincoln with us we agreed, although I was dreading the car ride home and back already. Jualeah was there resting and I asked if I could meet her (sorry, I woke you up, girl...) so she came out right as I had another contraction, and talked me through it and held my hand. She asked me where it hurt and I told her all the way around my back and pelvis and she grabbed a bed sheet and rebozo-ed my belly pretty tight with a bed sheet. Instantly the back pain was gone and the next few contractions were intense but way more tolerable since my back was spared. Looking back I think she shimmied Emmeline into prime position because things got intense pretty quickly once we got home.

Marshall loaded up the car and I contracted a few times in the parking lot and we headed back home. I felt a little discouraged for sure, but I knew these contractions were different than my prodromal labor ones and it was happening! A promise fulfilled in itself. A clear start to labor. I figured maybe by that night she'd be here or we'd at least be laboring at the birth center. I did not anticipate how quickly things would progress once we got back home.

Part 2 coming soon!





Monday, May 8, 2017

Right Now: 41 Weeks


Right now we're guessing...  41 weeks 1 day! 

Right now I'm feeling pregnant in that... big belly! Biggest it's ever been! Backache like whoa, and super exhausted. I think I'm getting all the icky pregnant symptoms now. Serious back pain, my arms and feet keep going tingly and numb. Last night I'm pretty sure my blood pressure was kind of low, no matter what I did or ate or sat I felt really floopy. Better today though. 

Right now I'm eating...  Well the week of my due date I went ALL OUT and ate whatever the heck I wanted and felt terrible. My belly was out of sorts for days. It is finally back to it's normalish self, and we're back to eating at home most of the time which means mostly paleo, and a few GF/DF treats here and there. No big cravings, except sugar. Because it's delicious and addictive and I've awakened the sugar monster.  

Right now I'm loving...  wrapping my belly and hips. Oh man. So good. Feels SO GOOD. 

Right now, like last time... This is super foreign territory heading into carrying this girl two full weeks later than Lincoln. BUT prodromal labor may actually last forever... going on 4 weeks of daily contractions. I'm working on a whole post about prodromal labor. So, get excited.

Right now, this is different than last time in that...  Surviving prodromal labor! I get to sleep every night, and labor all day. It's exhausting and mentally trying for sure, but so different than last time. God has given me peace abounding, and it's a minute to minute struggle sometimes, but this labor is already so different. 

Right now I'm looking forward to...  birth! But also lots of fun things on the docket for this week: we had our 41 week ultrasound today and have a photo team meeting tonight. Wednesday I'm meeting up with my friend at Baby & Company for a bellies and brunch (!) for a picture and snackies. Thursday we have a non stress test scheduled and they'll strip my membranes and we'll get all the deets on this mysterious induction that will take place on Monday if she doesn't come before then.

Right now I'm reading... checked out Missional Motherhood and Uninvited from the library. So far loving MM. 

Right now I'm wearing...  In this moment my black OS Lularoe leggings and an XXS Irma. Y'all, I'm pretty sure I'm never actually going to have another baby (see 4 weeks of prodromal labor, up there) so I'm kind of bummed that I've only reaped the wonder of Lularoe + Pregnancy once, but so. stinkin. practical. Glad I'll have it for the postpartum days! 

Right now I'm watching... Elevation Worship Shine a Light Music Video on Youtube for Lincoln. He loves it. Over and over and over. 

Right now I'm listening to... Death To Selfie sermon series. So freaking good.

Right now kinda nervous about...  Oh there's a million things to be nervous about, so I'm not nervous about anything. I can't let my mind go there. No need to waste time typing it out– there isn't anything to be done about things that haven't happened yet. AM I RIGHT? 

Right now celebrating...  our ultrasound this morning was so great. She measured 7 pounds 9 ounces (Lincoln was born 7 lbs. 5 oz. at 39 and 4) and was practicing breathing, moving around, heartbeat great, fluid levels awesome– the doctor we saw said she got a "perfect score" on her biophysical profile. So that was like the best news ever. Really, I'm super duper at peace with the fact that I'm a vessel. I'll be pregnant as long as I need to be, but in my head its engrained that after 40 weeks the placenta starts to not work as well, and fluid levels can drop, and the risk for stillbirth or a NICU stay increase. So seeing her, although I didn't recognize anything but her head and belly, just doing great in there was really encouraging and just what I needed to make it another week. Really, ultrasounds are like not distinguishable at all to me, but the general "squishy baby" shape was LOUD AND CLEAR and that excites me. Can't wait to see her. In a week! (or, I guess "less" but SO FAR THAT HAS NOT BEEN THE CASE, ha!).