Photo + Video By: Carey Lauren Photography
How does one start these things? I’m not really sure. To be honest the thought of trying to verbalize such a monumental day is quite daunting to say the least.
This is the story of our third child’s birth, how it challenged and stretched me in new ways, and how I took control of my own birth experience.
But let’s back up a bit…
The moment our daughter, our second child, was born I knew two things:
- I wanted more babies (my husband thinks I’m crazy haha)
- I wanted any subsequent births to be unmedicated natural births.
If you’d like to read Kennedy’s full birth story check it out here.
Leading up to my daughter’s birth I had decided I wanted to have an unmedicated natural birth, I received an epidural very early with my firstborn and I felt like it slowed my labor way down, not to mention being confined to a bed for so many hours. While I prepared in some ways for the birth I wanted the second time around, I think I was missing a big piece of the puzzle: mental preparation.
With Kennedy I labored up to 8cm (so close to the finish line) and then got an epidural, I truly think if I had prepared differently I could have had her unmedicated and possibly avoided some of the complications I went through after her birth. As soon as I found out I was expecting baby #3 (affectionately named “Baby Skye” by my kiddos) I began researching.
A dear friend of mine had her first baby using hypnobirthing techniques. I never thought too much about it until another friend of mine who knew my desire for an unmedicated birth sent me a flyer for a local hypnobirthing class. From there I began looking into and asking around about this Hypnobirthing stuff. We signed up to take a 5-week class with Rachelle of Happy Birthing AZ .
“HypnoBirthing is a tried and proven method that guides and prepares a woman in giving birth in a peaceful and extraordinarily beautiful manner. It is a program that considers the psychological, as well as the physical, well-being of the mother, her birth partner, and the newborn, independent of context, whether that be in the quiet of a home, a hospital, or a birth center.”
Our hypnobirthing class truly prepared both my husband and I to go into this birth confidently. Even as 3rd-time parents we learned so much more than I could have imagined. I knew we still wanted to have a hospital birth, but this time around I wanted to be more in control of the experience. We gained confidence in learning what our options and choices were both leading up to and during the birth of our child.
* disclaimer – I have loved and cherished all 3 of my birth experiences. None of them were negative, and none of what I am going to write below is to take away or diminish the magical moments in which I met each of my beautiful children. This is simply to outline and document some contrast between the experiences, and show how my knowledge and perspective has changed over the years.
I truly didn’t realize how many things I experienced previously, (during my first birth especially), that were actually choices, presented to me as anything but optional. For example – cervical checks. I had no idea that I didn’t need/have to get my cervix checked during well visits or labor. During our Hypnobirthing class, I learned so much about the decisions I could make (even in a hospital setting) to create the ideal birth for myself and my baby. This also led me to switch to midwifery care, luckily for me my provider’s office offers both OB and midwife care, both of which deliver at our hospital of choice.
When preparing for my first birth I learned how to be a good patient from the hospital classes and from my OB at the time.
I didn’t learn or realize how much choice and power I had over my birth experience and how I could prepare my body and mind for labor.
Each time I have become more empowered with the knowledge I’ve gained along the way.
Throughout our Hypnobirthing class I learned so much about how to prepare mentally and physically for labor and postpartum. My husband learned how to support me during pregnancy and labor and how to advocate for our choices in a hospital setting. It gave us a chance to discuss how I wanted to be supported, like when I needed space to relax or when I needed one of his running pep talks to motivate me to stick to our plan. Our teacher Rachelle was so incredible and throughout this process we developed a friendship. I’m so thankful for the knowledge she shared and the support she showed us.
Preparing for our birth
Below are some of the ways I prepared for the birth of “baby skye”
- Hypnobirthing Tracks: Listening daily to hypnobirthing tracks provided by our teacher + tracks on the app Christian Hypnobirthing, helped me train my mind to slip into a state of deep relaxation.
- Affirmations: Affirmations can have a powerful effect on the mind. Both my husband and I taped affirmations in our bathroom, I packed affirmations to read in the hospital and listened to affirmation tracks. Decorating your home with visual affirmations is a great daily reminder of your strengths, your trust in your body, and your birthing goals! This helped establish a confident mindset.
I downloaded & printed affirmations from Mind Body Baby OC & Christian Hypnobirthing
- Stretching, bouncing, and sitting on the yoga ball
- Drinking red raspberry leaf tea 2x a day
- Applying & diffusing essential oils
- Prenatal massages
Baby was breech (for 4 weeks) which is not an ideal situation for an unmedicated natural birth, so I began to do all the things to get this babe to flip. Here is a list of what I did to flip our little one:
- Began getting adjustments from a Chiropractor certified in Websters Technique
- Implemented spinning babies forward-leaning inversions and daily stretches into my routine
- Applied 1 drop of peppermint oil to the top of belly, rubbed in a rainbow shape
- Acupuncture + Moxibustion
I truly feel that all of these in combination contributed to the baby flipping at 36 weeks, the Chiropractor getting my hips back in alignment, the stretches and inversions creating space for the baby to move, and then ultimately the acupuncture and moxa helped direct the energy in my body to encourage baby to move.
I did acupuncture on a Monday, burned the moxa over my pinky toes Monday and Tuesday and that Tuesday night felt the baby flip in the middle of the night.
The Final Stretch
Once baby had flipped I felt such a huge relief and I truly felt like I started to get into a headspace where I was ready for birth. One thing that was hanging over my head was that Covid restrictions were hindering me from having a birth photographer/videographer document this special day. If you know me you know photos are my love language. I had booked an incredibly talented videographer Ashlie to capture everything way back in January so I was devastated when I heard hospitals still weren’t accepting visitors other than a spouse.
Our wonderful hypnobirthing teacher Rachelle (who also is a Doula) mentioned to me that our hospital, Mercy Gilbert was allowing Doula’s to be present for births. A light went off in my head, I had found a loophole… I could find a Doula that was also a photographer. Little did I know my intense desire to have photos and video would be something that changed the way my birth experience went.
Through some Instagram “research” I found a “doulatog” with a photography and videography style that I loved. I had never given much thought to needing or wanting a doula but boy am I thankful that this loophole led me to meet Carey. Because Carey would be allowed into the hospital-based on her Doula Certification she so graciously offered her doula support to me as well.
Right at 37 weeks I began having surges (contractions), two nights in a row I had contractions that woke me up and remained consistent for 30-45 min. I thought for sure I was going to have this baby early!
Week by week I became more uncomfortable and impatient waiting to meet our #teamgreen babe.
Side note: This was our first time not finding out baby’s gender. This added another element of anticipation and excitement. Check out our DIY Gender Neutral Nursery!
We tried all the induction tricks from Taylor massaging pressure points, clary sage oil, pineapple…I learned I hate eating dates, the list goes on. Seriously we tried everything including induction acupuncture at 39 weeks & 39.5 weeks.
I had a membrane sweep done at 39 weeks and again at 39.5 weeks. At 39.5 weeks I was 3.5 cm dilated and 70% effaced.
My mom arrived in town on August 25th (two days before our due date) and I was beyond ready to meet our baby at this point. Something about having my mom in town puts me at ease!
I had been having surges on and off for weeks so everything felt like a false alarm. Wednesday, August 26th the kiddos wanted to have a movie night, we watched Trolls as a family with GrandMoe, as I folded laundry, ate my nightly frozen coco whip (a great gestational diabetes friendly ice cream alternative, you’re welcome haha) and bounced on my yoga ball. I was having surges here and there and was really hoping to get things moving.
As the movie ended Taylor and I were discussing bedtime for the kids and he mentioned he wanted to mow the lawn (yes at night, he’s crazy haha) since the baby could come anytime. Half annoyed I headed to the back of the house to get the kids to bed when my water broke midway down the hallway at 7:55pm. To this day he still thinks him mowing kick started my labor =D
I shot a text to Carey, my doulatog, and she headed to our home immediately. Taylor loaded the car as my mom and I got the kiddos ready for bed. Tatum and Kennedy were so excited but also sad that mommy was leaving.
We shared the sweetest moments in Baby Skye’s nursery where they sang “Jesus loves me” and “Jesus Loves The Little Children” to my tummy. They both said prayers for mommy and baby, and my own sweet mama prayed over me.
Once the kids were asleep I was able to start getting into a relaxed state, I had my headphones in with hypnobirthing tracks playing. Carey arrived around 8:45 and we decided to keep laboring at home until I felt like I wanted to head to the hospital.
My surges weren’t staying consistent or getting stronger so I continued moving on the yoga ball, walking around the house, & walking on the treadmill. Taylor was great about applying clary sage to my ankles and hitting all the pressure points. I had used my pump earlier in the evening to get surges to pick up so I tried that again for a bit and after about 3.5 hours of laboring at home I decided I was ready to head in.
We arrived at the hospital at 12:10 am on August 27th (my due date.) The hospital was busy (apparently a lot of babies are born late aug/Sept.) Due to covid they took our temp at the door, masks were required however the covid test was optional.
In triage while on the monitor, my surges were still 10-12 min apart. I was hoping to get to my room so I could move around more but we waited in triage for 3+ hours. I kept my hypnobirthing tracks going in my headphones the entire time to keep myself in a calm mindset. While in triage one of the midwives asked if I wanted to take Cytotec to get my surges ramped up, I decided to wait and give my body a chance to work up to it on its own. Luckily when it came time for us to get moved we snagged a room with a tub!
Once we were in our room Taylor got my diffuser going with Gentle Baby (the scent is relaxing and also reminds me of my first two kid’s births/newborn days) and got the bath started so I could relax in some warm water.
The nurses were very receptive and respectful of my birth preference sheet, and every nurse we interacted with was wonderful. As we got settled into our room the nurse mentioned she wasn’t seeing enough action from the baby and wanted to monitor me for a bit just to make sure baby was good. They had me drink ice water to try and get baby moving but ultimately they suggested giving me some IV fluids to help baby. This gave me a chance to take a much-needed nap while hooked up to the fluids and the monitor.
Once baby was good and I was taken off the monitor I decided to hop in the tub to relax some more. From there I decided I had built up the energy to get moving, I rotated between pacing around my room (no walking the halls during covid) and bouncing on the ball. While my surges were becoming more consistent they weren’t growing in intensity.
Our midwife Beth came back in and we discussed cytotec again as my water had been broken for 14 hours at this point. I decided to go ahead and try it (really wanted to avoid Pitocin.) For the first 4 hours that Cytotec is in your system you have to be on the monitors, luckily our nurse knew my desire to be mobile during labor and was able to use a monitor that was bluetooth enabled so I could move about the room.
As the surges began to build I swayed and breathed through them, the timeline on all of this is a blur once active labor began I had no sense of time (which I actually think is a good thing because I wasn’t agonizing over how long thing were or weren’t taking) At some point a shift change happened and our midwife Stacie arrived.
Taylor was such a great support throughout, using pressure points and clary sage to keep things going and help with pain. We slow-danced through some surges, and his calm energy kept me feeling at ease. I found myself humming while I breathed through each wave, I remember our hypnobirthing teacher talking about this but it wasn’t something I practiced, it just sort of happened.
At some point the intensity was becoming a lot for me, so I got into the shower and the hot water offered some pain relief as I worked through strong surges. It was here that my humming turned to a more intensified rhythmic moan. I was in such a deep mental state that all of this is hazy, however, I remember the surges being all-consuming, the melody and rhythm of these sounds that my body just instinctually made was helping me work through them.
Because the warm water is such a natural pain relief I had wanted to save the tub for when labor was its hardest however once I decided to move from the shower (due to my legs feeling weak) the three steps up and big step down into the tub seemed way too daunting to tackle.
Taylor and I sat on the edge of the hospital bed as he helped me through intense waves. I vaguely remember using the wooden comb technique suggested by our hypnobirthing teacher.
Taylor could sense me wearing out and beginning to feel defeated, he embraced me and gave me pep talks to help me stay motivated. I’m a big words of affirmations person, so even though I don’t have clear memories of what he said, I do know it helped me stay focused on my goal.
Pictured below is the most incredible capture by Carey, if you look closely you can see Taylor has goosebumps all over his body. This photo is a tangible reminder that we were in this together, he was with me every step of the way encouraging and supporting me. His love for me and ours kids runs so deep…that what I feel, he feels.
As baby descended it became too uncomfortable to sit on the bed and our midwife Stacie offered me a birthing stool. Taylor was able to sit on the edge of the bed and I could lean into him in a much more comfortable position on the stool. It’s difficult to describe being so aware of everything around you while also in such a meditative state.
I believe being able to slip in and out of this state helped me compartmentalize the surges. After a while in this position, I began to feel like I couldn’t take much more of this (labor in general), I wanted to know how close or far away I was from meeting our baby.
The midwife checked me (for what felt like an eternity) and with a total poker face asked if I wanted to know the #… her face and demeanor gave me zero indicators of how progressed I was, I believe this was part of her strategy to let me remain in control of my birth. Her relaxed energy throughout my labor contributed to keeping me calm.
It also put me at ease having my midwife present for a lot of active labor, a very big contrast from my OBs in previous births showing-up right as it was time to push and leaving shortly after. In hindsight I truly appreciate the way she gave me very personalized care without pushing me in any kind of direction, she let me lead my birth experience entirely.
Okay now back to my progress. Up until that point I hadn’t had a cervical check in the hospital, but I was struggling and felt like knowing where I was would help me know how to use my energy moving forward.
She checked and I was at 9.5cm, just the cervical lip was present, she said she could help move it or I could wait and work past it on my own. This was the news I needed, once she moved that lip out of the way I was ready to push.
Let’s Meet Our Baby
Initially, I thought I would want to push in a squatting position, however, my legs felt so weak I opted to lay on my side. As I breathed through surges and pushed baby down, I began to feel that “ring of fire” people speak of and thought it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated it being.
After a few surges, my midwife could sense me needing some extra encouragement, and she asked if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. I reached down to feel baby’s little head as it was crowning and I got a rush of energy. With the next push baby’s head was out with a pop of relief and the little body followed with ease.
After 8 minutes of pushing, at 3:47 pm, the moment I’d worked toward happened. Taylor caught the baby and placed its little body on my chest, such a special moment for all three of us.
The only words for that feeling is euphoria.
Taylor asked me if I thought the baby was Cameron (our boy name) or Wesley (our girl name) – I was just so happy to be holding our precious perfect baby I hadn’t given any thought to it. He responded, “I get the feeling it’s Cameron.”
Cameron was having a bit of trouble working the fluid from his lungs so the nurses began working on him a bit but quickly brought him right back to me for skin to skin. As this was happening I birthed my placenta and my midwife began working on stitching me up. This process took quite some time as I tore anteriorly, a rare type of tear that only happens in approx 2% of births. Read more about anterior tears here.
Our midwife really took her time with this part as the tear went all the way to my urethra, and was fairly deep. I was so impressed with how thorough she was. To everyone’s surprise I have had very minimal pain while recovering.
I’m sure there is a more scientific explanation for this, but I swear the absolute high that a mother feels when her baby is on her chest is a natural pain relief. The overwhelming joy in that moment completely distracted me from all the work that was being done on me, I was utterly consumed with Cameron. Taylor said I smiled for a full 2 hours straight after he was born.
Out of all three births this is the best I have felt while recovering. Even immediately following I could tell my body felt leaps and bounds better without working medications out of my system. The gratitude I feel that I was able to have the birth I envisioned is overwhelming, and we are absolutely smitten with our newest little love.
Cameron James Ford | 8lbs 8oz | 20.5 inches
Summing up meeting our son feels impossible. I’m so thankful that Carey has these precious moments on film because words fail me.
My heart was bursting with love for our boy, and simultaneously so incredibly elated to have accomplished my goal of having an unmedicated birth. I felt so powerful in that moment, I still do.