Monday, June 30, 2014

"Free to Breastfeed- Voices of Black Mothers"- A Book Review

Melek Speros, founder of Black Women Do VBAC and Birth Boot Camp instructor in Austin, TX, nurses her VBA2C baby.

At the recent birth roundup in Tarrant County, TX, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, author, IBCLC and book editor and publisher at Praeclarus Press. Her presentation table was filled with books about birth I had never read but knew needed to be shared with others. Dr. Kendall-Tackett was kind enough to send me on my way with a healthy stack of books for my reading pleasure.

The first one I chose to read was titled “Free To Breastfeed” by Jeanine Valrie Logan and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka. I had recently done an article on breastfeeding resources and was able to find very few books dedicated specifically to supporting Black women in their breastfeeding journey.

Black women have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. According to the CDC,
Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years. Black mothers may need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding.”
Not only are breastfeeding rates among Black women even lower than the dismal national average, infant mortality is worse. Knowing the positive impact that nursing at the breast can have on both infant health and the mother/baby dyad, we must find ways to encourage and support breastfeeding among all women, especially those who are the least likely to nurse. It seems as though there is a need for more literature in this area.

“Free to Breastfeed,” is a book full of information, positive stories, quotes and wisdom. Written by dozens of women and quoting dozens more, it combines the voices of many to help the individual succeed in breastfeeding.

I no longer breastfeed anybody and probably never will again. Nor am I a Black woman searching for support. Still, I loved this book. It was easy to read, peppered with inspiration, and filled with diverse voices of all different kinds of women. Those with cesareans, VBACs, natural births, single children, numerous babies, and all different kinds of lives told their stories.

I think we as women almost NEED to hear the birth stories of our peers. The diverse stories of birth help us understand the miraculous nature of something which is different for each yet shared by all mothers.

There is also a need for breastfeeding stories. Like birth stories, these tales of breastfeeding help us understand that each journey is as different as the woman on it and these differences, joys, hopes, and disappointments, can help us on our own way. Probably at no time have these stories of breastfeeding been as important as they are now. With increasing virtual connections but disappearing real ones and with generations in a row where the blessing of nursing was lost, books such as this are needed.

“Free to Breastfeed” is a wonderful book. While written by and for Black women in particular, it deserves a place in the library of any birthing/breastfeeding woman. It will have a place in my lending library where it can reach more women, tell more stories, and help more people than just me understand how differently each of us experience the dance of breastfeeding.

You can find “Free to Breastfeed” here, from Dr Kendall-Tackett’s publishing website (Preclarus Press). I wouldn’t limit it’s power to women of color; it is useful to anybody seeking healing or success in breastfeeding. An excellent addition to the library of any birth worker, I highly recommend this volume of knowledge and inspiration.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Your Midwife Is Not Your Therapist (Or Your BFF)

This is Freud. He was a therapist. 

The midwife.

Some place her on a pedestal, others vilify her as a witch.

Those that love and choose midwifery care sometimes make them out as sensitive, floating apertures of real midwives, perfect versions of what they "should" be but cannot possibly be in a real world.

If we are being fair, you can't possibly expect your midwife to be everything on the list below:

-your therapist
-your husband/partner
-you personal trainer
-your nutritionist
-your life coach
-your doula
-your childbirth educator
-your own personal charity
-your clergyman
-your babysitter
-your housekeeper
-your advocate
-your photographer
-your massage therapist
or many other things that midwives are often expected to be.

Of course many midwives excel at many things on this list, but nobody excels at all of them, nor should they. More importantly, we should stop expecting them to.

The Midwives Alliance of North America defines a midwife as,
"Midwives are experts in normal birth and adept at ensuring excellent outcomes for women and infants. "
Pretty cool, pretty important, but certainly not a catch all for filling every possible emotional and physical and spiritual NEED that a pregnant and birthing woman may have.

I really love midwives. But I have to admit that we as women often expect more from them than they can give.

They are human. They have bad days. They make mistakes. They also lack the ability to be everything to everybody in every situation. Have you ever TRIED to be one person's everything, to make them completely happy and fulfilled all the time? Trying to do so is a great way to make yourself absolutely miserable. (This might explain midwife burnout.)

We cannot expect somebody to listen to your every complaint, brush your hair, comfort you in every possible way in labor and do it for dirt cheap or for free.

A midwife exists to catch your baby, to watch your birth and make sure it is as safe as possible and to make the call and get you somewhere else if that is what is needed. That is about it. THIS IS A HARD AND SOMETIMES THANKLESS JOB.

Frankly, the way women sometimes treat and talk about their midwives who give so much for so little just makes me ill and feel a little ashamed of my gender.

It is not her fault if your birth isn't perfect, if you husband is a jerk, if you don't get exactly what you want or if (heaven forbid) you feel pain in labor.

Yes, hold them accountable when they are negligent, stupid, unprofessional and unethical. This should happen to everybody in every profession. (Yet midwife witch hunts have not disappeared. They are alive and well online and in our communities.) But expecting consequences when there is a serious breech of ethics is NOT the same as trashing on somebody because they couldn't give you something that frankly, nobody can.

For goodness sake, give these women a break. (This goes for all medical providers- YES- including OBs!.)

Photo credit: Psychology Pictures / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Motherhood- It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Growing up I remember one consistent thing about Christmas- my mom seemed to get fewer presents than anybody else. The kids always got the most, things flown in from grandparents, parents, and other relatives. Mom always got something nice from dad and maybe a few things from us, but just a few.

Today is Mother's Day and oh...

I have had some awful Mother's Days. One year my husband slept while I cleaned the house and cooked. I ended up furious taking everybody to Taco Bell and then buying It's-It ice-cream sandwiches at a roadside liquor store. (By "everybody" I mean everybody in the house except him. He was left behind.) I then drove until I was no longer livid and went home. I re-payed him on Father's Day by taking a nap and not making dinner. (I am so grown up and forgiving. Can you tell?)

Sometimes Mother's Day has just seemed like a big fat day for disappointment- even more than the usual. Somehow I would expect great things, recognition, a load off, from the people around me and it would just turn out to be a regular day where the laundry piled up and everybody seemed to be fighting.

At a meeting today there was a soon-to-be new mom, pregnant and due any day. All the mothers were asked to give her advice. I wanted to say one thing--that being a mom is hard often for one reason- it is a marathon and a very long one. You won't know for years and years how your kids will turn out or how this will all end. You may not be rewarded every day. The moments that are hard are often accompanied by sleep deprivation, powerful emotions, fear, and compounded by all the regular every day struggles that come in any life even without children.

It is so hard in those moments (for me) not to get discouraged and caught up in the now.  I really struggled when pregnant with my fourth. My third was still waking up every hour or two through my pregnancy and I felt like jumping off a cliff or screaming or doing awful things- I wish I knew then that that moment was a great big mountain, but that I would eventually reach the top. Now everybody sleeps through the night. I get a good sleep almost every night.

I wish I looked at those hard times as moments rather than the entire journey. I wish I had paced myself, forgiven myself, walked away, said a prayer, accepted that I didn't and couldn't control the will of another human (even a tiny one), and just taken a deep breath and truly, seriously, understood that this was just a moment.

Motherhood is a very long journey. It is the ultimate marathon. It will be difficult physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

There will be days, even months with rewards that seem invisible.

But I believe that they will someday come.

My mom gets more presents at Christmas now than anybody else.

I for one understand her better than I ever did. I forgive her more because I realize how hard a time I have without the challenges that she carried.

Today, I woke up and walked the dog and came home to my three older children furiously wrapping gifts for me. Some were made at school with their teachers. Many were home-made little bracelets and drawings and recycled things they had found around the house. I got a Valentine's candy box with all the chocolate spots filled with rocks and trinkets.

Even now, though my children are young, they remember me and do kind things for me. It seems like just yesterday that I felt as though nobody loved me. Now the love they show me is more than I can even open my arms for.

It isn't over yet and there will be more hard times, more mountains, more disappointment and sorrow. But I hope you know and I hope I can remember that this is a race worth running and that it doesn't matter at all how others seem to be performing.

People sometimes (often men) talk about how motherhood is the hardest job. Sometimes I feel like this is done in a condescending way. I don't care for it too much.

But motherhood is hard, but it is also glorious. I feel as though I can touch the divine sometimes- not just because I see the beauty of the heavens in their eyes, but because I am brought to my knees in such a way that I can actually sense the divine within me.

I am so grateful for motherhood, for my children, for this gift, and even for the times that are so difficult for me. I am grateful now for the times where nobody thanked me, when nobody cared, when I never slept and when I felt like nothing to all those around me.

Because of those moments the love I feel now is so much sweeter- both for my own children and for my own mother, and for my heavenly parents too.

Chin up ladies- we can do this. But I think it helps if we have each other.

Hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day! And if it sucked, I feel your pain. Someday it will be better!

Photo credit: André-Francois Landry / Foter /Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hanging Out With Martha Sears

I took a sudden trip to Dallas/Fort Worth recently to participate in the Tarrant County Birth Round-Up. I felt terrible about leaving my family and all the imposition it was, but I had a wonderful time. (Thanks everybody who made that happen.  The list is long.)

I loved the first talk from Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, I loved listening to Jill Arnold from (and I had lunch with her!) I loved everything!  I had dinner with Dr and Martha Sears- TWICE.  I had the opportunity of listening to Jennie Joseph, a midwife doing some amazing things down in Florida. There were good times! A VBAC panel, with Melek Oz Speros and much, much more.

I hadn't planned the trip, but last minute I was asked to sit next to Martha Sears and lead a discussion with her. I had a horrid attack of something I won't mention the night before (Note to self: never eat goat cheese ice-cream, even if all your friends are doing it if you know you are lactose sensitive. It will be a very bad choice and it will try to exit your body as quickly as possible.)

I wasn't feeling that well but it was an honor to sit next to this woman.

I have experienced a sort of love/hate relationship with what is known as attachment parenting in the last few years. I started of strong, having read The Baby Book and The Birth Book (written by The Sears crew) with a solemn pledge to never let that baby cry. I even had a tender term for those little bald spots on the back of other people's children's heads- the "neglect spot." And as you may have guessed, my first baby never had a "neglect spot" because he slept in the arms or on the chest of a loved on for the first year of his life.  Yes, he did.

As expected this devotion soon turned to abject exhaustion, especially since I was pretty much on my own, far from family, and had a hubby who lived at school during that time.

I never really looked back after my AP discouragment and just stopped reading books and started trying to parent in a way that was good for my kids, but encouraged their own independence and also didn't make me want to jump off the nearest balcony from being reduced to a shadow of myself.

But listening to Martha talk and answer questions from a room full of mothers who are just trying their best to do right by their children and survive the process intact, was amazing. I mean, truly, amazing. There were tears just listening to her talk- not just about advice on what to do but on admission of her own faults and flaws as a mother.

She wasn't perfect and she admits it!

I can't even tell you how comforting this was to me. I think after reading their books and knowing that she willingly parented eight children and knowing that I can't handle the four I have (HALF what she did!) I just thought she was perfection personified. All the talk of hugs and gentle discipline, I pictured her being a constantly baby wearing/breastfeeding/embodiment of patience. (Oh, she writes books too.)

But she talked about the things she did wrong. She talked about balance. About forgiveness. About spirituality. About getting help and taking time to be with your friends or alone. How did I never understand this?

Turns out, attachment parenting isn't perfection like I had begun to believe. It isn't pushing yourself past your own sanity so that you can raise deeply selfish brats who think the world revolves around them.

It is about being loving and kind and connecting to our children. But it isn't so about giving more than you have to give.

If the legendary founding mother of Attachment Parenting did it well, but not perfectly, then what more could be asked of me?

The whole experience just actually blew my mind. I can't really get over it.

Martha Sears was awesome. You should read her books. Her husband wrote them too.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cut, Stapled and Mended (A Book Review)

You know I love birth stories, but even more, I love birth books. A birth is so much more than just the act of giving birth- it is history, drama, emotion, love, hope and sometimes dissapointment, all rolled into one. To really understand a birth you need to know so much more than just what happened in the 18 hours of labor.

That is what Cut, Stapled, and Mended is- three birth stories, completely told by the women who lived them and learned from them.

Written by Roanna Rosewood, Cut, Stapled and Mended, is about cesarean section.  However, unlike so many cesarean section books out there that dwell on numbers and risk factors and other deeply important but measurable things, this book focuses on the emotional journey of one woman. After all, each cesarean is performed on a single woman and I think we need to humanize those percentages so we can understand the depth of what is actually happening to all these millions of women.

Autobiographical in nature, Cut, Stapled and Mended follows Roanna Rosewood on her quest for an elusive natural home birth. While many women are experiencing cesarean section today, Roanna was one of a small but growing group of women who planned for a home birth, but had something very different happen.  

I believe that birth will always have an impact on a woman, no matter her expectations, her preparations, or her beliefs.  But I also feel a special sense of tragedy for women who so strongly desire and so furiously prepare for a natural birth and have surgery instead as their home birth slips through their fingers.  

Such was the case with Roanna.  She experienced not one, but two cesareans (both home birth transfers) in her travels as a maturing woman. She spends thousands seeking every possible natural or alternative practitioner she can find searching for someone who can give her the best chance at achieving the home birth she yearned for. While many of these alternative measures might seem strange to the more mainstream among us, they help us understand the lengths she is willing to go to have a better birth.

In the end, she finds peace, healing, and something much more- an appreciation for the uniquely feminine power within her. This is what I loved about the book. I think one of the most damaging things about modern obstetrics and even just American culture is that women often unknowingly don't value the things that make them feminine or their relationships with other women. Her realization is one that we all should have no matter our birth experiences. Too many women hate their feminine side and thus themselves.

I found this book both heart wrenching, eye-opening and in the end -- joyful. Roanna details her emotional, physical, spiritual and mental journey towards healing through her pregnancies and births. This ability, to open her heart and her pain for other birth workers, like myself, who have never experienced surgical birth, is a gift.

While we crunch numbers and debate techniques and policies, often what is lost is the very real but often glossed over, emotional struggles that women experience as they prepare for birth after a birth that was traumatic for them.

Roanna asked me if the book left me feeling depressed. You know what- it didn't at all. I feel like the word "empowering" is over used, but appropriate in this situation. The book is a story about two births that don't go as planned and the journey to VBAC. For me the book was the opposite of depressing- it gives hope for women even those told they could never safely VBAC. She does something that nobody seems to believe she can do. Birth can be triumphant even when the only person who believes that is the mother herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend Cut, Stapled and Mended both for women seeking VBAC ( especially after a home birth transfer), birth workers, and any seeking to better understand the emotional journey towards VBAC.  

You can find Roanna’s website here. Her book is available there and on Amazon. She is the managing director of Human Rights in Childbirth ( and can be found traveling and speaking.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Hannah, Delivered," A Novel About Birth (Book Review)

There are few things better than opening the mail to find a thick book awaiting you.  Brand new, perfect, unblemished, full of potential.  I just love it.  Kind of like getting a new baby.  Well....

The day before "Hannah, Delivered" by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew showed up in my mail I had started a new Jo Nesbo mystery.  If you have ever read Nesbo and you understand my deep love of murder mysteries from countries where the sun never actually comes out, then you would not even need to read the rest of this review.  I opened up "Hannah, Delivered" and PUT DOWN MY JO NESBO book ("Cockroaches") and started reading "Hannah" instead.

That really says it all.  "Hannah, Delivered" was that good.  I couldn't stop reading it.  It sucked me in and kept me glued to it for the next two days until I had devoured the whole thing.

So what is "Hannah, Delivered" about?

Simply put, it is about birth.

Oh, but ladies, we know that birth is so much deeper than just birth, don't we?!  And so is this book.

Quick run down:

Hannah is the main character.  A Midwestern preacher's daughter who is living a pretty ordinary life as a desk jockey in a hospital when her mother dies.  You know, I think that death is sometimes harder when we have unresolved issues with the person who passes than if we love them perfectly, and I felt like this was the case with Hannah.  She loved her mother, but didn't understand her motivations, her passions, or her behaviors.

One busy night in the hospital Hannah gets dragged into a birth with the midwife on duty and witness a primal, natural birth.  And she is hooked.  She heads off to midwifery school in New Mexico to change her life.  She is exposed to things she never experienced before, finishes school and moves home to practice in a state where home birth midwifery is illegal.

The story culminates on two fronts- as Hannah discovers the mysteries and deep impact of her own birth and prepares to assist a mother at home expecting a breech baby.

"Hannah, Delivered" explores so many things.  The deep importance of birth on the baby, the mother, the father and on their entire life together as a family.  Birth is truly a momentous event.  It is said over and over in the book that "The way we are born matters" and when you get down to it, that is what "Hannah, Delivered" is about.  The way we are born matters.  It matters to Hannah and it matters to every woman.

The story also follows Hannah's decision to assist (or not assist) a mother with a previous traumatic birth who is dead set on delivering at home but who is expecting a breech baby.  "Hannah" explores not just the emotional and spiritual impact of how we are born, but the complex and often ugly politics surrounding the choices women have (and don't have) when it comes to birth.

I loved the book.  I hope it does work as a novel that advocates for birth can never really do when we tell people things using statistics and studies and intellectual understanding. Birth is so much more than can be put in a study. You can't quantify the impact of a birth on a woman and her children and her very psyche.  It can't be counted and placed neatly in a double blind study. Those who think so don't really understand it.

"Hannah" tells a fictional but very real story about the depth, the breadth, and the politics that surround how we are all born.  It matters how we come into this world.  It always has and it always will.  Hannah teaches us that our own births and the births of our children, and even the births of those women and mothers around us touch us far more than we will ever know.

Check it out.  You won't regret it.  (Your kids might because you will be busy for a few days, but that is another story.)

Accidental Unassisted Footling Breech with 4X Nuchal Cord (A Birth Story)

  • Wednesday was my guess date and I was feeling really bummed all day that I hadn't gone into labor yet. Both the girls were early (2 and 5 days respectively) and I was ready to be done. Being a doula and a childbirth educator, I know how important it is to wait and let baby come when he's ready, but there comes a point where you're just so tired of being uncomfortable, so tired of not sleeping, and so tired of waiting. Wednesday was that day for me. Luckily for me, I have the most amazing husband in the world who chose Wednesday as the day to have two dozen roses delivered to me for Valentine's Day, and that gave me the lift in spirits I needed to finish out the day.

  • That night at 7:00 was my appointment with my midwife. I really wasn't looking forward to it all that much because what was she going to tell me? "Great blood pressure!" (like always...) or "Your urine looks perfect!" (like always...). I just didn't want another appointment of "no new symptoms, everything looks great". I showed up promptly at 7 and she got to work checking all my vitals. It was time to listen to baby's heartbeat, but instead of finding it in it's usual place, she found it elsewhere. She told me that she suspected he was breech and asked if she could do a vaginal exam to check for sure.

  • Now here's another happy moment for me. Most midwives don't do vaginal exams before you're in labor, and strive to keep them to a minimum while you're in labor. I get that and totally support it. However, being so done, I had to stifle my excitement when she asked if she could check because that would mean she could also tell me if I had dilated at all. I was really hoping for good news.

  • So she checked. Yep. Breech. Not only breech, but footling breech, meaning both his feet were at my cervix instead of his butt. Ideally, she told me, butt-first breech is best (after head-down, of course). The butt acts as the head, opening the way for the rest of the body to come out. The responsible thing is to try to get the baby to turn, but if he doesn't, delivering breech isn't a big deal. We tried this weird Chinese medicine trick called Moxibustion at the suggestion of my midwife's apprentice. It made the baby move like crazy, but he didn't turn. She sent me home with her slant board and with some exercises to do to try to get him to turn. I planned to spend the majority of the next day (Thursday), doing said exercises.

  • She asked, "While I'm down here, do you want me to tell you where your cervix is at?" YES YES YES! "Sure," I said casually. Then, four blissful words, "You're at a three." A THREE?! I was ecstatic! It took me ten whole hours of labor to get dilated to a four with Moriah, and here I was not in labor and already at a three. This was VERY happy news and any signs of the bummed feelings I'd had earlier were completely gone. Even knowing that baby was breech and that it was a real possibility that he would be born that way, I was completely at peace. So I went home, shared the news with Artene, and after getting the kids in bed, we got ourselves in bed at a very late 10:00.

  • 10:45 rolls around and my body decided it needed to get up to pee. Okay, no big deal. Most nights I made it completely through the night without getting up to pee, and other nights I'd go when I get up with Moriah, just because I was already awake and it was convenient. I laid back down, cursing my round ligaments for hurting again (getting in and out of bed made them hurt worse most nights), and promptly fell back asleep. Sometime between 12:15 and 12:45, I was awoken again with the urge to pee. Not unusual, but if I hadn't been half asleep, I would have realized right then I was in labor. I went back to sleep. 1:20 rolls around and again I was woken up, but quickly realized that I was in labor. I woke Artene, told him I was pretty sure I was in labor, but that he should sleep as long as possible (I'm a nice wife like that) so that he could be rested enough to really support me when needed.

  • I went downstairs with my birth ball, snacked on some Aussie Bites from Costco, and spent time on Facebook and reading the news on KSL. I texted our photographer and told her I thought I was in labor and was just letting her know so she could make arrangements for someone to watch her daughter. I started timing contractions almost immediately so that I could have an idea of where I was at. About 2:45 things started picking up and I decided to call the photographer and ask if she could come over. I woke Artene and told him to get dressed since we'd be welcoming the first of many people very soon. I called her about 3:00 and she said she'd be right over.

  • She arrived and I continued laboring downstairs for a little while, but things were steadily picking up, so I decided to head upstairs and ask Artene if we could start filling the pool which was kept in our room. He jumped right on it.

  • Since I was dilated to a 3 already, we knew labor would be quick, but we weren't exactly prepared for how quickly it would go. It took a little over an hour to fill the pool since we drained our water heater twice. Artene had a moment of genius and filled both my water bath canner and my pressure canner with water and had them hot on the stove waiting to be added to the pool whenever it started cooling off. When the pool was full, I hesitated to get in it because I didn't want to get too relaxed and have my labor slowed down, but I decided to just do it. That was probably around 4:30. Artene texted his mom sometime around here to ask if she could make it to our house before the girls woke up so that someone would be here to tend to them. She never answered, even after a phone call. So we decided to put a pin in it and get back with her later.

  • The pool felt heavenly! The warm water was so soothing, and that element of weightlessness really took the edge off the more painful contractions. After I got in the pool, things really started picking up. Contractions were coming closer together and were getting more and more intense. I wasn't in the tub too long when I started needing Artene to put some counter-pressure on my hips during every contraction. Leaning up on the side of the pool made the contractions worse, so I would get on my hands and knees for each contraction, then sit back against the wall of the pool to rest until the next one.

  • What was most interesting to me was that my contractions never got closer together than 3 minutes. This was part of the reason we held off calling the midwife because both Artene and I thought we still had quite a bit of time left to go. About 5:45 the contractions started making me a little nauseous and I told Artene we needed to call the midwife. He was hesitant because my water hadn't broken yet, so he assumed it was going to be several more hours at least. For me, being nauseous is a sure sign of transition, but being in the throws of contractions, I couldn't argue too much. He said, "Let's just get through 4 or 5 more contractions first and then we'll call her." I didn't argue. On the next contraction, I started feeling even more nauseous and changed my mind about waiting to call the midwife. Artene left me to get my phone and call her.

  • And then I puked. Several times. It was really great (sarcasm). In the throws of puking and while Artene was on the phone with the midwife, my water broke. I knew at that point that he was going to come fast and I started to get a little worried. He hung up with the midwife and I can only imagine the panic she felt as she rushed to get ready and make the 10 minute journey to our house. On the next contraction, Joseph's first foot popped out and I was completely shocked. I didn't even feel him coming down the birth canal since, you know, feet are so much smaller and more slender than a gigantic HEAD, so the foot was a total shock to me. I said, "ARTENE! I think his foot just came out!!" He checked and responded in the affirmative, and almost immediately after, his second foot arrived.

  • At this point, I was starting to lose my concentration. The reality of what was happening was hitting me all at once. This baby was breech. He was coming NOW. My midwife wasn't going to make it. And Artene would be delivering him. Before I got any further into that thought process, the next contraction hit and his butt and hips were born. At this point, I started losing my cool. Not openly, but I was starting to be really worried that his arms would get stuck and he'd have a dislocated shoulder, or that his head would get stuck and I'd tear really badly. Luckily for me, my body decided to take a little break at this point. I started vocalizing my concerns but before I could get very far, Artene calmly reassured me that everything would be fine. The midwife was on her way, and he was confident that he could deliver the baby just fine (and I totally believed him and still do). He reminded me of all the preparations we'd made and, most importantly, that this child was a gift from God and that we had the divine help we needed.

  • There I was, leaning over the side of the pool, and Artene standing off to the side behind me supporting the baby as he's just hanging out there. It was easily 5 minutes before the next contraction came. While my body was resting, Artene asked our photographer to grab my phone and call the midwife again to let her know what was going on. The midwife started asking her all sorts of questions and she did the best she could to answer them (if I had been more aware, I think it probably would have made me laugh). While she was talking to the midwife, the next contraction hit. On his own, his arms popped out one after the other, elbows first, and then his head (which was very small, thankfully) slid right out with Artene's intuitive hands guiding him. I quickly checked the clock. 6:19AM. I was only awake and in labor for 5 hours.

  • The cord was wrapped around Joseph's neck about 4 times, so Artene quickly freed him and placed him on my chest so I could keep him warm. A mere 60 seconds later, the midwife and her assistant bounded through the door and up the stairs to our room with the most shocked of expressions on their faces. Nobody was expecting things to go so quickly, and we were all in a state of mutual disbelief. Immediately she checked out the baby to make sure he was doing alright and when she found that he was, she was able to relax a little and get right into the groove of things.

  • I could NOT believe what had just happened. We had planned a home birth and everything was perfect. Then, in less than 12 hours, we found out he was breech, I went into labor, and we birthed a breech baby at home without our midwife there (which is known in the birthing world as an "unassisted" birth). Woah. I can't even imagine what was going through our photographer's mind because I don't think she's ever even really seen or read about home birth before. I was over the moon that he was born so smoothly and that my midwife was only 60 seconds late getting there. I was utterly shocked that things happened so quickly. I was even more proud of Artene for juggling all that he did: physically and emotionally supporting me, delivering the baby, making sure the midwife got contacted (both times), and having all the supplies nearby and at the ready. He was seriously a rockstar.

  • It took Joseph a little longer to start crying that I remember with the girls, but I wasn't terribly worried. He was still connected to the cord, so he was getting enough oxygen for the time being. After rubbing his back and tickling his feet, he started crying and hacking up the fluid in his lungs. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Artene ran downstairs and grabbed the canner full of hot water to heat up the pool water some more, and the midwife, her assistant, and her apprentice got to work getting our room ready for me to move to the bed. A short time later, the placenta was born.

After that, the rest of the morning was kind of a blur. I was in such a euphoric state that everything was just happening around me in super speed. You know what I mean, like in the movies when someone is just standing still and life goes on around them rushing at ten times it's normal pace? Yeah, that was my morning. The midwife sat down and for record-keeping purposes talked through the entire labor and delivery with us to make sure she got the right times for everything, and she began the post-partum care for baby and myself talk. Her apprentice and assistant had plenty to do as well. They cleaned everything up, and I do mean everything! They drained the pool, threw out all the soiled plastic, gathered up soiled towels, made me some post partum healing pads...etc etc etc. It was amazing to watch them work, and was so grateful to have them there.

  • Long story short (well, shorter), things went splendidly. Artene took the baby long enough for me to get on the bed and be checked out. I didn't tear one single bit. Not even a skid mark. Baby nursed almost immediately and without any problems. He pinked up really quickly, and we left him connected to the placenta long enough for the cord to almost completely drain the blood back into him. Artene cut the cord, we weighed and measured him, and he came out a hearty 8 pounds 5 ounces, and 21 1/4 inches long. His head was tiny, I forget the exact size, but it was around the 23 percentile, and I was thanking God profusely for that.


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