Ashley's birth

For Matt and Ashley's first and second babies, I had the privilege of coaching them through the wild ride of labor here in Northern Illinois. After baby #2, they relocated to a super remote village in Northern Canada, which is where they found out they were pregnant with #3! I was so excited for them, yet also sad for the distance that would keep us from working together again! Hoping that Ashley would be able to have another smooth birth experience, I emailed Matt some documents with info for helping him to be the sole support person for Ashley this time.

A couple of weeks after I sent those documents, on February 9th, I received wildly frantic and excited texts and Facebook messages from each of them describing how their third daughter had come into the world!  

Here is Ashley's story:

Living in the remote North of Ontario we flew to be near the hospital and were staying in our friend’s home as our third daughters due date approached. The early morning of February 9th around 2 AM mild contractions kept disrupting my sleep and I realized I could be in early labor. I woke Matt and told him, “I think we might meet our baby today” Contractions were not happening regularly so, thinking we had a full day ahead of us, we went back to bed to get whatever rest we could before things picked up. 

Around 5:00 AM I was awoken by a strong contraction. Upon hearing my grumbling, Matt came to be at my side and when the next contraction hit I told him I felt nauseous. After the contraction subsided I walked to the bathroom. Another contraction hit and I doubled over onto all fours and called to Matt, “Something changed, we need to go to the hospital NOW!!”. “Now?” He questioned. From his vantage point I had just been sleeping, how could I possibly be ready to go to the hospital. But, no, this was different. Something changed. “Start the car!” And so he went upstairs to get the car ready. As I heard him walk outside my water EXPLODED all over the bathroom floor! An intense urge to push followed along with an involuntary deep moan. 

When Matt came downstairs I frantically told him, “My water broke, the baby is coming NOW.” He said “We have to get upstairs, you NEED to get in the car!” I told him I couldn’t as another contraction washed over me, he pleaded with me to not push. As soon as the contraction was over he said, “Now is your chance, you need to get up those stairs!” In my head I thought, my husband has no clue what is actually happening. “Okay”, I said and I crawled my body toward the stairs. Another contraction came and Matt said, “Shh! You are going to wake the kids.” (Birth coach level expert.) So I kept as quiet as I could (whilst a child attempted to exit my body). As soon as it was over he encouraged me to go upstairs, “Now! Go Go Go!” and I climbed the stairs steadily on hands and knees. Not a move I would recommend to any woman in pushing stage - and certainly was not in my birth plan. When we reached the top of the stairs I immediately had another contraction. Matt was absolutely begging me not to push. My poor sweet husband had no category for what was happening. I screamed, “Call the paramedics!” 

Our hosts, Frank, who was just about to head to work before his living room turned into a birthing center, and Cheryl called the paramedics. Matt still adamant about driving me to the hospital coached me to the front door. After another contraction, however, Matt realized the baby really was coming which meant he was now Dr. Matt. As soon as the next urge to push came Ava Faith was born into his arms. Relief was mixed with panic as we saw our perfect baby girl for the first time. She was motionless and not yet breathing. Drawing from his medical knowledge which apparently was gleaned while watching 101 Dalmatians, Matt patted and rubbed her back with a towel. We could feel her quick little pulse. Within thirty seconds she made her first respiratory noise, another 30 seconds later she took a full breath and her skin quickly became pink, those were the longest 60 seconds of our lives. 

Meanwhile, the emergency operator instructed to tie off the cord with a string and Cheryl quickly came back with green yarn and tied the umbilical cord. Ava arrived in the entryway, I will never be able to look at a welcome sign the same way again. 

Smiles of relief for a healthy baby and for an incredibly faithful God.

Smiles of relief for a healthy baby and for an incredibly faithful God.

With our hosts, Frank and Cheryl in the entryway after we arrived back from hospital. 

With our hosts, Frank and Cheryl in the entryway after we arrived back from hospital. 

I absolutely love this wild story and am so thankful for their happy ending! I love Ashley's sense of humor (she is actually quite the jokester even while in labor!). I love this sweet family and am so happy to have been included in their journey.

Standing on Holy Ground

After my initial interview with Candida at the Starbucks in Target several years ago when she was pregnant with #2, I knew I wanted to hang on to this girl and make her my friend. She is one of the most beautifully honest and refreshingly authentic people I know.

Fast forward through prenatal meetings, an absolutely beautiful birth, a growing friendship, and a few years to this past Fall, to baby #3. 

This birth was so very different, yet no less beautiful.

Her husband, Matt, is basically superdad and was working overtime at home making sure his family was taken care of. His job requires him to work overnights, and the night she went into labor at 10pm, he had been up all day, AND the previous night. They called me in to the hospital at around 2am, and after a little small talk and catching up, we made him go take a nap. 

Candida's labor was not super serious yet, and she was coping well, yet she was expressing some inkling of doubt and fear. I dug in a little, to try and learn what was causing this apprehension in her, yet didn't come up with anything concrete.

Matt rejoined us after a little while, as labor started picking up. They were doing this beautiful slow dance thing, where she would hang on to him and allow the intensity of her labor to pull her down into a natural squat. (Candida is very body-intuitive - I absolutely LOVE watching her respond to the rhythms and nuances of her body during labor.)


She had been checked a few times, and seemed to be "stuck" at 4-5 cm, with the nurse reporting that her cervix was "tight." Usually at this point in labor, the cervix is really stretchy and gives a little when a care provider is checking dilation. Typically the only reason for a tight cervix is a previous cervical procedure, which I knew was not the case with Candida. I questioned the nurse about a few other physiological reasons the cervix might be tight and not budging open, and all things pointed to everything being normal.

After the nurse left the room, I remembered the earlier comments Candida had made and continued to make about being scared. Matt was taking another well-deserved rest on the couch, and Candida had decided that she wanted to take a shower. So I helped her get in, let her get accustomed to the water and the rhythm of her labor in this new location, and then spoke into what I thought might be holding her back.

"I think this fear you keep bringing up is keeping your cervix from opening. I want you to take some time and lay that fear before the Lord, let him take it from you, and surrender this birth to Him." 

I vividly remember locking eyes with her in that moment. She heard me. She nodded. Then she turned around, letting the hot water roll down her back, and she started crying out to the Lord. Words of prayer, of worship, of confession, of scripture, of declaring the truth of His love for her over and over. She did it. In the darkest moment of her labor, she surrendered her fear and allowed God to fill her with His strength and power to accomplish what she could not. 

I was standing on Holy ground.

After a while, the hot water started making her nauseous, so I helped her out, Matt woke up, and she started getting the urge to push. We called the nurse, and sure enough, she was 10cm and ready to have her baby! I cannot even describe the gratitude and relief that washed over her. This labor had been HARD. And it was almost over.

We had asked the nurse to put the squatting bar on the bed, and I was thankful for Dr. H who is always extremely respectful of how my clients want to deliver. Candida, holding the bar for support, delivered her baby kneeling on the bed.


Tears streaming down my face, I was overwhelmed. I couldn't believe that God would use me to facilitate such a powerful moment between Him and His precious daughter. I still can't believe that I was able to bear witness to that Holy moment. I am so, so grateful.

*All photos by Kim

*All photos by Kim

Sarah's Birth: An Adoption Story

Several years back, I had the opportunity to attend a national adoption conference, and while there I sat in on a seminar entitled "Loving and Serving Birthmothers."  It has always been a desire of mine, as a doula, to serve a woman who has chosen adoption for her baby, and that session gave me some great ideas and advice.  Just recently I had the opportunity to put that wisdom into action.

A sweet high school girl from my church unexpectedly became pregnant last year, and I reached out to offer comfort and grace to her in the midst of what I knew was a stressful time for her and her family. We met for coffee a few weeks later, where I naturally offered to come alongside her and walk through her pregnancy and birth with her. She said YES!

Sarah and I met for coffee several times over the course of the next months to talk about life, Harry Potter, her upcoming birth, pros and cons of parenting her baby vs. placing her for adoption, and eventually who she wanted to choose as her baby's parents. We also talked through the ins and outs of having a baby (like I do with all my clients), all things postpartum (lovely!), and the option of pumping milk for the baby.

So when her water broke early on a Tuesday morning, she was prepared. I met Sarah, her mom, and the adoptive mother, Abby, at the hospital mid-morning, when not too much was happening with her labor. I smuggled her some french fries and we had a mini party in the delivery room (Abby, brought LOTS of snacks!).   

As Sarah's labor intensified, I began to actively coach her into a state of relaxation. Her response was amazing. She tuned in to my voice, and without question or doubt, listened to my suggestions to relax and surrender to the power of her body. There was no trace of tension or fear in her demeanor - she never once started losing control. She exhibited a quiet and fierce confidence as the waves of power took over her body, and labored beautifully. It was amazing to watch and a true privilege to enter into those moments with her.

(Photo by  Jodi Dirks )

(Photo by Jodi Dirks)

When it came time to push, after only a few powerful contractions and with Abby holding a leg, a very blessed baby girl was born into two families.

Debi (Sarah's mom) and Abby rejoice in the first moments of baby Hannah's life. (Photo by Kim)

Debi (Sarah's mom) and Abby rejoice in the first moments of baby Hannah's life. (Photo by Kim)

After Abby got some skin-to-skin time with her sweet girl, Sarah was able to hold the baby she had worked so hard for.

(Photo by  Jodi Dirks )

(Photo by Jodi Dirks)

I am so glad I had the opportunity to love and serve Sarah through this season of life.  Her bravery, determination, calmness, and selflessness throughout her pregnancy and birth was amazing to witness and a joy to take part in.

And it continues! Sarah was a superhero and decided to pump milk for the baby for the first several weeks. She and Abby have a very cool relationship and a very open adoption. Hannah will grow up with two mamas - the one who birthed her and the one who parents her. What a gift!

An Induction Success!

**names and pictures used with permission**

Having been on call for the full "two weeks before and up to two weeks after," I was surprised that Chloe hadn't gone into labor yet.  A first time mom, she was very excited about her pregnancy, and did everything she could to make it the best it could be!  She was seeing a chiropractor, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and eating dates daily

She was having minor cramping and Braxton Hicks-ish contractions on and off, but nothing serious.  At one appointment right around 40 weeks, she was 4cm dilated, 80% effaced, and the baby was at "zero staion" (code for reeeally low in her pelvis).  Still, no labor!

Her doctors were very relaxed with her, and gave her a full two weeks past her due date before wanting to induce her, and it was very low pressure.  She agreed to the induction, and as we were having a phone conversation about what to expect, I remembered the "stats" from her last appointment, and suggested seeing if her doctor would break her water before trying pitocin.  Typically breaking the water before labor begins is a bad idea for a variety of reasons, but since Chloe's body was SOOOO ready for labor (for my first-time clients, I am typically with them in hard, active labor for half a day before they are at 4cm!), and from my experience with how quickly labor progresses after the water is broken when baby is so low and well-positioned, I thought it might be a welcome alternative to starting labor with drugs.

They got to the hospital at 6am on Tuesday, February 3rd, and by the time they were all settled into their room it was close to 8 o'clock.  She was 5cm dilated and 90% effaced, and baby was even lower. The doctor came in to speak with them (Chloe had previously requested that they break her water in lieu of starting pitocin) and seemed hesitant to break her water, wanting to start with pitocin instead.  Chloe was strong and advocated for herself and what she knew she wanted, and her doctor consented to breaking her water, which he did at around 8am.  He told her he would see if she had any contractions in the next four hours, and then would come start the pitocin drip.

Well, she did have some contractions.  Many good, strong contractions.  I arrived shortly after 8 and she was already feeling them pretty well, although she was very relaxed and chatting through them.  Her husband, Matt, was rubbing her feet and making her feel as comfortable as possible.

Contractions quickly picked up in speed and intensity, and Chloe was handling them beautifully.  The most comfortable position for her was sitting upright or reclining in the bed.  I think because things were happening so quickly this was the easiest position for her to stay relaxed.  They were actually coming so quickly that the doctor called the nurse to see if she would consent to taking some IV fluid to slow them down.  She declined, as she was feeling well and staying extremely hydrated by drinking water and juice.  

As things were picking up, she said, in kind of a puzzled and surprised voice, "It's not pain, it doesn't hurt.  It's just very intense!"  Later, she said "I can understand why people would want an epirudal!"

At one point, toward the end, she vocalized, "It's so much, it's just so much!"  It was at this point that I knew she needed something new or different to help her cope with the intensity of her labor.  We had tried many positions, going to the bathroom, and vocalizing.  I remembered the previous offer of IV fluids and asked if she wanted to try that now.  She said that sounded like a good idea, and it really did help.  It gave her a fresh burst of energy and slowed her contractions down enough to where she was getting a slightly longer break in-between.

She became extremely inward, vocalizing and doing her best to relax through her contractions.  At one point, while in the bathroom, she suddenly got the urge to push, and I called the nurse.  Everyone came in, bustling about to get the room ready for a baby, while Chloe continued to do her thing.  The doctor arrived, and she began pushing in earnest at 2pm.  He was extremely impressed with her ability to move her baby down, and she was loving this new stage of labor!  She said it felt so much better to push!

Finally, at 2:41, Adara Rose made her entrance into the world after a 100%, drug-free labor.  Chloe and Matt made an awesome team, and it was a huge privilege to help them bring their daughter into the world!

A Summer of Births

We are well into a good, solid routine in the Wheaton house, which is a comfort to my soul.  With the kids and husband in a groove with school and work, and a baby who still naps twice a day, I finally have a little free time to sit down and write a little update about what I've been up to.

This past summer was awesome!  

It was crazy, joyful, and sleep-deprived for this doula.  But it was awesome.  I was so blessed with lots of amazing clients over the summer months, and it was so much fun to develop friendships with all of them, while working alongside them, watching their labors unfold, and helping them conquer their births.  Instead of trying to re-cap them all myself, here are links to a couple of their stories, written by them:

In May, Kandy and John welcomed their 4th baby, sweet Payson, after a speedy labor (that I missed!).  I did make it in time to get some pictures, help Kandy with some post-birth stuff, and hang out with my midwife-friends. Read the story here!

Later in the summer, I almost didn't take Matt and Ashley on as clients, because my schedule was so full!  I decided that I could squeeze them in, though, and I'm so glad I did.  Ashley rocked a natural birth, and it was a joy supporting her through her labor.  Here's the story!

There are many more amazing stories that have yet to be written (c'mon, clients!).  As soon as they are, I'll post them here.

Happy Fall!

Courtney and Jason, welcoming their little bird, Phoebe

Felicity's Birth

About nine months ago, I got an unexpected call from one of my best friends, Tara, telling me she was pregnant!! Tara and her husband live in Canada, so it's not super easy keeping in touch, but through email and phone conversations here and there, we were able to discuss her pregnancy and what she wanted for her birth. It was such a joy to be able to share my birth story with her, encouraging her to be confident in her Creator and in her body, and not to be fearful! It was also a huge blessing to get to spend some time with her when they came home to visit over the summer. Tara chose to go with a group of midwives (who happen to be abundant up in Canada!), and to deliver in a hospital. She also hired a wonderful doula :)

Here's her story...

"Tuesday, September 27th Clinton and I woke up to a beautiful sunny day at around 7 a.m. I had gotten up around 4:30 in the morning, felt a bit of discomfort in my tummy, but was able to go back to sleep for a bit. Clinton got ready for work and I told him that I would give him a call if things felt different or more intense. So he left and I jumped in the bathtub. I called my good friend Kimo, who is a doula in Illinois, and asked her if what I was feeling might be signs of early labor. She thought that they were and I before I hung up the phone I told her that if I didn’t call her at 1:00 for our scheduled chat she would know why! :o) I then called my doula, Vivian, who we hired in Calgary. She agreed that I was showing signs of early labor and told me to call her whenever I was ready to meet her at the hospital. I called up Clinton and asked him if he would come home, he had only been at school for a half hour. He got home around 9:00 and by this time I was feeling the waves of contractions. Before he got home I had also called my mom and my sister-in-law, Michelle, to tell them that I was in labor and to be praying!

I tried to keep myself busy, cutting my nails and shaving my legs, but as we started timing my contractions we found them to be coming almost every three minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds. Clinton paged our midwife team and Nadine told him that those were pretty close together, and she wanted them to last about a minute to know that active labor was in effect. She was making a house call but would be coming over right after. She showed up somewhere around 11:30 and checked me out only to find that I was already 8 cm dilated. :o) So… a decision had to be made whether we were going to go to the hospital or stay home. Nadine told me that everything was going fine, she had listened to the baby’s heartbeat and said we could stay at home if I wished or go to the hospital, whichever I preferred, it was my choice. I had my hospital bag packed (3 weeks earlier) and had written in my birth plan that that was where I would deliver. I started getting dressed and Clinton told Vivian (doula) to head to the hospital to meet us there. There were no rooms at the Foothills hospital (only 10 minutes away) so we would be going to Rocky View (about a 40 minute drive). I sat at the top of the stairs having another strong contraction and I thought- I don’t know if I can do this in the car. Thinking that I was already 8 cm, who knows how long the rest of my labor would be and why would I want to spend an uncomfortable 40 minutes in the car going through active labor. So I decided to stay home. I had an emergency stash of supplies- garbage bags, old towels, wash cloths- ready to go just in case. I was also comfortable about the idea of a homebirth, not worried about complications because I knew the midwives were skilled enough to let me know if there was any reason for concern and we would need to go to the hospital. The only thing that worried me was the potential mess, which didn’t really happen due to my prepared supplies and all of the things the midwives carry in their car in the event that we do a home birth.

Clinton helped me work through some more intense contractions and also put a focal point in front of me on the bathroom sink; it was the Willow statue I gave him when I told him I was pregnant (a dad holding a little baby and the mom kneeling beside them). As I sat on the toilet (my birthing stool) :o) I kept my gaze on the little baby, that looked like a little peanut, and inside kept telling myself that each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my little one! Vivian arrived around 12:30 and joined right in. She massaged my neck and her and Clinton took turns refilling my water and putting cool cloths on my neck and forehead. Her gentle nature was soothing and her encouraging words continued to help me relax and focus on my goal. After a while I moved to the bathtub…not to have a water birth, just to ease some of the pain. :o) Clinton became my birth stool and sat in his bathing suit on the edge of the bathtub while I propped myself up on his legs and went through a few more heavier contractions. Nadine stayed out of the way, getting things set up for the delivery and continuously checking the baby’s heart rate to make sure things were good. But she also gave me encouraging words through my contractions, telling me I was doing a good job and telling Peanut to come out soon because mommy wants to meet you! The only times Clinton left my side was to go to the bathroom and grab a small snack. While he was eating a fruit bar and the wrapper was crinkling I asked him, in my most polite “contraction” voice…do you think you could eat that later. Ha ha… the funny thing is that when Vivian was going through the snacks I packed I asked her if she could pass me the Swedish berries, which she eagerly handed over! In between contractions I was munching on Swedish berries, my favorite candy- BIG SURPRISE, eh? :o) While in the tub, the other midwife, Claire, arrived and the first thing she said to me was “you’re going to have your baby in the sunshine!” as the light was coming in through the bathroom window. It really was a gorgeous day!

[So peaceful, just before pushing]

Nadine asked me if I wanted to move to the bed and since I’ve never pushed before she would coach me through that. Claire came in as a support and gave me position advice and also made me laugh when the Doppler gel splashed in her eye. She also warmed up some wash clothes with lavendar and put them on my feet…the aromatherapy was refreshing and calming! In the background the IPOD was playing Celtic Women which was soothing Irish music that Claire said was a nice way to welcome my baby. As I laid in bed, Clinton and Vivian held my hands and pushed on a pressure point on my shoulders in between my pushing to speed up contractions. Nadine guided me on how and when to push and breath. Everyone had such encouraging comments... Clinton- "I love you, I'm proud of you" and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” – he repeated that to me in English and in Spanish several times throughout the whole labor. Vivian – “you’re doing great, nice rhythm in your breathing!” Nadine – “good job, love!" Claire – “that’s good, take your rest, keep breathing.” I kept thinking to myself, this is painful, but I am handling it. It is not at all what I thought it would feel like, it’s not THAT bad! Crazy, I know…but God truly was giving me the strength and the peace to just allow my body to do what He created it to do. After a little while of pushing Nadine had me reach down and feel the head….so amazing!!! At this point I knew I was going to meet my baby very, very soon! Vivian took a video of Clinton and me saying one last thing before we were going to meet baby Peanut. Then after another good push the head was out…you could see the full head of dark hair and in my next push the rest was out. I pushed for a total of 40 minutes, some in the bathtub and the rest in bed. They placed the baby right on my chest face down and Clinton and I rejoiced in the new arrival of our child! Clinton said “I’d like to call you by name but I don’t know what you are.” So I lifted Peanut up to inspect and said “It’s a girl, her name’s Felicity!” Then just to make sure I asked “It’s a girl, right?” and Nadine and Clinton moved the umbilical cord out of the way and confirmed it… ha ha! :o)

The next few moments were the most special in the world! Clinton was crying, I was too overjoyed to cry (I didn’t cry at all during my labor)! We listened to the new screams of Felicity Catherine and we laughed together at the sight of our beautiful baby girl! She wasn’t all cleaned up yet, but she was so perfect and warm as she laid on my chest and in not too much time was already looking to nurse. :o) Claire helped me out with the football hold and some breastfeeding tips.

I asked Nadine if there was any tearing and she said that looking carefully at things, she would feel more comfortable if we went to the hospital for suturing there. To keep this part short, I had a third degree tear. There’s no specific reason that can determine why I tore the way I did. The doctor that did my stiches said it happens to 1 in 1000. She was the best OB at that hospital, according to Nadine, and she did things quickly and very well. I was happy that Nadine was honest and wise enough to tell me that we needed to go and get things done at the hospital since it was such a rare and bad tear. It was definitely not expected to do things so backwards- have a home birth, then have to go to the hospital, but it actually made me feel SO grateful for the fact that I had Felicity at home. I was so relaxed and that’s why everything went so quickly. I was comfortable in my bathroom, my bathtub, my bed. I had a great team supporting me. The sunshine, music, focal point, and snacks were all helpful tools to aid in a relaxing and rewarding delivery! The trip to the hospital was the worst part of the day, but the fact that the three of us got to sleep in our bed (a birthing bed :o) our first night as a family was so awesome. I'm still amazed at how great Felicity’s birth was! Praise God!!!"

[Tara and her birth team (minus Clinton): her doula, two midwives, and of course baby Felicity]

What a story!!

As I heard bits and pieces of the story from them, I was so suprised and amazed at how her birth unfolded! For instance, how FAST it all happened!! I swear I couldn't even tell she was in labor (by her voice) when she called me at 9 in the morning, and she was 8CM by 11:30? WHAT!!? I had talked to her during the weeks leading up to her birth, and she was just so at peace about her impending labor. Totally calm and confident, with not a trace of fear or worry in her. And I'm sure that her heart's demeanor contributed to her speedy labor.

She e-mailed me later in the morning letting me know that her midwife was on her way over "just to check on me." What a dream! Your midwife coming to your house just to see how you're doing? So cool.

And obviously, the biggest shocker of all, that she made the decision, while she was in labor, to have this baby at home!! What an absolute privilege to have that kind of flexibility with her midwives. She actually called me about a week before her due date asking me what I thought about homebirth, saying that she and Clinton were considering it, but would probably stick with the hospital. The fact that she had the ability to make that kind of a decision so close to the end of her pregnancy (let alone in the middle of labor!) astounded me.

Just hearing about how encouraging everyone was to her, how each member of her birth team had just the right words at just the right time, was so incredible. I truly believe that everything that was orchestrated together for her birth contributed to her smooth, fast, labor, and her ability to cope with it so well. I could not be more happy for Tara and the beautiful, peaceful birth she was blessed with.

And as for our next birth, someone box me up and ship me to Canada ;)

Extremely Normal.

(names changed for the protection and privacy of the family and midwife)

Sometimes I wonder what runs through most people's minds when they hear of couples who choose homebirth.

Those are certainly the kinds of thoughts I had long before my childbearing days. And my hunch is that the average person is quite similar. But while I was participating in my first homebirth this past weekend, I was struck by how normal it all seemed.

I was the first one to arrive at Mark and Karen's house at 12am Sunday morning. A post-it on the door read "come on in," and Mark came downstairs to greet me. It was dark, quiet, and peaceful. Karen was upstairs in their bedroom in early active labor (she had been contracting since 5am). She looked really good in-between contractions, and asked if she could get me anything (the true spirit of a mother!). I noticed her tensing up and straining her face during contractions, and my doula instincts kicked in as I encouraged relaxation, promising that it really would hurt less if she relaxed!

Thier midwife, Julie, arrived at around 12:30 with a calm and confident presence, and it was amazing how she blended seemlessly into this couple's labor. She got her things arranged on a chair in the bedroom, and showed me what each thing was in case she needed me to hand something to her (pitocin in case of hemmorage, suction tube for baby, oxygen tank, etc.). And then we waited. There was no unnecessary checking of the cervix, no hussle and bustle, no beeping machines.

Her mom and her sister arrived for help and support, and we filled the birth tub with warm water. Everyone was focused on helping Karen, and creating a comfortable and safe environment for her birth. Several hours later contractions started getting noticeably more difficult. At first, Karen would cope by stating simply "relax, relax"--almost as a reminder to herself. As it got more difficult to her, she would simply say "pain," or "hurt" as each contraction began, and then "relax." Since labor was obviously progressing, Julie decided to check her, and found that she was 7 centimeters! By this time the tub was full and warm, so Karen labored there for a long while. "It kills," "It's killing me," her chants shifted as she was deep into the hardest part of her labor. But it wasn't a cry of hopelessness or suffering. She remained present and in-the-moment, and was simply being raw and honest about the pain she was experiencing. We all empathized with her, and gently reminded her that it wasn't killing her, but bringing life. Her sister prayed for strength and comfort, and Karen called out to God as well.

Julie and I decided to leave the room and let Mark and Karen have some time to themselves before the birth of their baby. Thirty minutes later Julie decided to check her again, and found that she was completely dilated! Pushing was unusually long and difficult for a second-time mom, and after a while Julie wanted her to walk up and down the stairs a few times to encourage the baby's descent through her pelvis. She pushed in a variety of positions--lying on her side, squatting, and leaning on the bed. Finally the baby was close to being born, and Karen was lying on her side in her bed. During a particularly strong push, her water broke! Several contractions later, she pushed her baby down, and the head emerged! It was an exciting moment, but after a few more strong pushes the rest of the baby's body did not come. "Hands and knees, hands and knees," Julie commanded, collected but urgently. Karen turned over as quickly as possible, and Julie used her hands to help rotate the baby's shoulders, and hooked her finger under the armpit to help bring the baby out.

Audra Joy was born safely at home at 5:30 am. She was placed under her mother, who was still on hands and knees, and immediately latched on to nurse! We cleaned up all around them as they got situated in the bed. There was no rush to clamp the cord, and Julie made sure it had finished pulsing before she did so. The placenta took a while to detach, but it finally did and came out intact (and I got to hold it!!)

Today Julie wrote in an e-mail to me, "You saw a shoulder dystocia handled just fine at home. Baby and mom just fine. It is always such a big hassle in the hosp because most times mom has an epidural that inhibits her from moving onto hand and knees if needed. These situations can be hairy but resolved safely without being rough with the baby." People assume that hospital birth is a much safer option, but I observed the opposite. If this mom was in the hospital and had an epidural, the outcome could have been dire.

Mark and Karen were anything but reckless, or selfish, or extreme people; they were a kind, loving, and educated couple. They worked beautifully together to bring life into the world in the comfort and safety of their home, with the help of their family and midwife. Driving home I realized that though viewed as a radical choice, homebirth truly is extraordinarily normal event.

A Birth Story

Madeleine’s Birth, written by Kim
28 June 2010

I got a call at around 5:45 on the morning of June 27th, saying that you had been having some consistent, albeit not too painful contractions since 2:30! You and Rob were both taken off guard because you were expecting the contractions to be coming more like 20 to 30 minutes apart, as opposed to the 5-6 minutes apart that you were experiencing. Since it was obviously early labor (and would be for a long time!), you labored at home with Rob all day.

I got another call that evening a little after 5. You said the contractions were becoming more uncomfortable, and we decided that I should come to your house in a half-hour or so. Christina (the doula-in-training) and I arrived there at around 5:45, and your contractions became more spaced out—up to nine minutes apart! We had a hunch that the new people in the room caused your body to slow down a bit, so you and Rob went for a walk at around 6:30 to try and get things moving again. It seemed to work, because when you got back at around 7:30 you were saying that your contractions were “not fun.” You were coping very well, though, standing up and pacing through each one, sometimes leaning on Rob or against a wall. You also started experiencing nausea around this time. Rob offered to get a saucepan in case you had to throw up. :)

At around 9:00 the contractions were getting more painful and closer together, so we decided to head to the hospital. We walked into the emergency room entrance, and the guy at the front desk tried to make you sit down in a wheelchair to go up to the maternity ward, but your contractions were much more painful when you were sitting, so you fought it. He eventually gave in and let you walk. When we got upstairs, they checked you in to triage, and our nurse, Gina, checked your cervix. Unfortunately and surprisingly you were only 1 to 2 centimeters dilated. This was super discouraging news, but you took it really well. After talking it over with Rob, you decided that you wanted to go back home to continue laboring there.

Shortly after we returned home, your body decided it was time to get down to business. Your contractions almost immediately picked up in both intensity and frequency (though they were never a consistent amount of minutes apart). At around 11 pm you noticed some bleeding when you went to the bathroom. Rob called Dr. Kruskol, who reassured you that it was most likely from the vaginal check at the hospital. You continued laboring upstairs with a fan blowing on you, while munching on frozen blackberries—it was HOT! We placed the exercise ball, which Rob had thankfully blown up earlier in the day, on the end of the futon. You got into a rhythm of lying down on the futon between contractions, and standing up and leaning over the ball during them. You and Rob were both so very tired, since you had been awake and in labor for almost 24 hours. You wanted so badly to be able to lie down during the contractions, but the pain was just too much! You had to stand up in spite of your exhaustion. You were also struggling with nausea, but were never able to throw up and relieve the sickness you were feeling. This was definitely active labor, and you were handling it so well in spite of the heat, your tiredness, feeling sick, and the intense pain.

At around 1 am, I suggested a shower to try and help with the pain, and you reluctantly agreed, but because of the heat it wasn’t much of a help. You and Rob got out after a short 10 minutes or so, and your contractions were becoming closer together, averaging at 4 to 6 minutes apart. We headed back upstairs, but after a several minutes of very frequent and intense contractions, we decided it was time to head back to the hospital.

We entered the emergency room entrance for a second time, and this time you could not talk them out of making you use a wheelchair. So you sat down, but every time a contraction hit, you made the guy pushing you stop the chair so you could stand up and lean on one of us for support. At around 2am, we arrived in triage and Gina checked you again—you had progressed to 7 to 8 centimeters dilated!!! There was a lot of blood, and your very intense contractions were right on top of each other. Your body was quickly approaching full dilation!

We were sent to room 2606, and you were hooked up to a fetal heart rate monitor and a capped IV was put in your arm. You were feeling a lot of pressure and shortly thereafter you began to feel an urge to push. Gina checked you and you were at 9cm. She told you not to push, but you couldn’t help it! I helped coach you through those contractions with light breaths, and finally, at around 3am, you were given the go-ahead to start pushing! That strong urge to push had gone away, though, and you were unsure about how to do it. But after a few good tries you were really making progress. Gina was checking you during one of those initial pushes, and she said she felt the baby’s head move down over an inch! Despite your tiredness and the extreme pain, you had so much power and strength!! The pain of pushing actually seemed to frighten you, but the nurse and I assured you that it was normal, and you buckled down to get your baby out.

At 3:12am Dr. Kruskol checked you and confirmed that you were fully dilated, and the baby’s head was moving down through your pubic bone. We could see her hair and her wrinkly little scalp! You were so focused and determined. Finally, at 3:36am Madeleine was born into the world, and was placed on your chest right away. All the pain and pressure of labor was immediately gone, and you were completely enraptured in your new little one. “Oh my god, she’s so little!” were your first words after seeing her. Rob cut her cord, and you and Madeleine were both anxious to breastfeed as the doctor was stitching you up. When he was finally through, you and Madeleine settled in for a nice, long nursing session. She latched on immediately and nursed contentedly for at least an hour—the first hour of your family’s new life together.

Lucas, Your Mama is Amazing


This is me holding Lucas Isaac the day after his incredible birth. Chrissy labored like a pro for eleven-and-a-half sometimes peaceful, sometimes very crazy hours on February 24th, two weeks before her due date! Her labor contractions began at 5:30 a.m. and she called me around nine to let me know she was in labor. She sounded amazing--I could totally tell by her tone of voice that she was handling everything very well. She had a little bleeding so she decided to call the doctor's office and they told her to come in. So she did... and she was already several centimeters dilated!!! Dr. Atkins was really shocked by how well she was handling her labor at this stage!

After Chrissy called me to tell me the good news, I met them at the hospital at around 11:30. We got settled into the room and met our awesome nurse, Tara, who would stay with us for the remainder of the day. The next few hours were relatively uneventful, as Chrissy was doing a beautiful job relaxing through each contraction. At one point, Tara said to Chrissy, "we should bring a video camera in here and record you--this is how it should be done!"

At around 2:00, Chrissy was checked and she had reached 6-7 cm in dilation. I suggested a shower, because the contractions were getting more intense and water works wonders for bringing comfort to laboring moms. So she spent about a half-hour under the warm water as she entered the transition phase of labor, which is by far the hardest part. After the shower, she settled back into the bed for some serious hard work. We discovered that moaning with each out-breath helped her to deal with the pain, so Seth and I moaned with her as we stroked her body in rhythm. Chrissy became very serious and focused as the difficulty level was increasing rapidly with each contraction. She decided to go to the bathroom, and afterwards labored standing up with Seth, leaning on him for support. I cannot describe how difficult this part of her labor was. There were tears and moans and cries out to God for help. And he was surely there with us, helping Chrissy through the most physically and emotionally strenuous moments of her life.

She had reached 10 cm by 4:00 and she was ready to be done. "I'm so tired of this!" she said. "I just want it to be over!" By 4:30 she was able to start pushing, and she did an incredible job. During her first few pushing contractions, Dr. Atkins could literally see progress with each push! After she got used to the new and crazy sensations that come with this phase of labor, Chrissy got herself into a beautiful rhythm--pushing, pushing, pushing, and resting in-between. We could see his hair! He was so close! But the doctor couldn't get a good reading on the baby's heart-rate, and there were a few moments of concern... she ended up cutting a small episiotomy because this baby needed to come out. And sure enough, his cord was wrapped around his little neck, which is what was causing the drop in his heart-rate. Dr. Atkins quickly cut the cord, and Chrissy pushed her baby OUT!!! All was well and Chrissy was SO relieved that her labor was over and her baby was in her arms!

What an absolutely amazing day. I feel so blessed to have had the privilege of helping Seth and Chrissy welcome their firstborn into the world. They did an incredible job, working together through the difficult but joyful experience of labor. Seth was such a strong support to his wife, and Chrissy was so strong through it all. We have been blessed.