Monday, January 23, 2017

Check out the Terrific Breastfeeding Support Available in the TN Valley


By Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

We are so blessed in the Tennessee Valley to have a really wonderful array of people committed to supporting you in your breastfeeding journey. Support options range from peer counselors to support group leaders with specialized training to International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Each one of these plays an important role in making the Tennessee Valley a terrific place to have a baby. Each also has a specific skill set when it comes to making sure you and baby are nursing well.

Peer Counselors

These amazing ladies often work with a local health department. They are mothers who have successfully breastfed their own children, and they tend to use their own and other anecdotal experience as a framework from which to counsel. They are usually avid students of breastfeeding, but have not yet obtained any certifications or received any formal training. However, they may be going through the steps necessary to become an IBCLC; be sure to ask! They may provide support groups and classes for mothers in which they share common breastfeeding knowledge. I actually began my breastfeeding career teaching classes for a local WIC office as a peer counselor 26 years ago.

A breastfeeding peer counselor is a great resource in dealing with common breastfeeding problems like poor latch, engorgement, sore nipples etc. A good peer counselor will know when she needs to refer to an IBCLC and will usually have good relationships with local IBCLC's. 

La Leche League Leaders

In order to become a La Leche League Leader, an applicant must have successfully nursed her own child for at least nine months. She must demonstrate certain personality characteristics and must thoroughly prepare herself by studying a variety of resources. These mothers offer terrific support both in a group setting as well as in one-on-one situations. Meetings are a great place for expectant mothers to gain a good understanding of breastfeeding. When I was a young mother 28 years ago, La Leche League was key in helping me achieve a good breastfeeding relationship.

Much like the peer counselor, however, a La Leche League leaders recognizes her limitations. She will have developed good rapport with local IBCLC's so that she can refer as necessary. It is worth noting, however, that many La Leche League leaders do end up becoming IBCLC's.


An International Board Certified Lactation is a health care professional who has extensively studied lactation. He or she (yes, there are male IBCLC's) is familiar with a wide variety of situations that can occur, and has demonstrated that knowledge in a comprehensive exam. In order to even sit for the exam, a candidate must have a solid understanding of biology, anatomy and physiology, human growth and development, psychology, sociology, nutrition, medical ethics, clinical research, medical terminology and documentation and basic life support. In addition to a basic foundation in health sciences, a candidate must have 90 hours of education specific to breastfeeding. Finally, depending on his or her background and the pathway chosen for certification, 300-1000 hours of direct patient contact with breastfeeding mothers and babies is required before the exam can be taken.

This is why an IBCLC offers the Gold Standard of breastfeeding support. The experience and knowledge base required to become an IBCLC make her the ideal person to teach your breastfeeding class and support you through your breastfeeding journey. We are very fortunate to have many amazing IBCLC's in North Alabama. Huntsville Hospital has 13 IBCLC's on staff; Madison Hospital has 4 on staff; Crestwood Medical Center has 3 on staff; and Athens Limestone Hospital  has 2 on staff. Additionally, there are IBCLC's in private practice as well as in physicians' offices. Huntsville Pediatric Associates employs an IBCLC. And, of course, when you get breastfeeding support at A Nurturing Moment, you are receiving IBCLC support.

Many IBCLC's offer support groups and breastfeeding classes. Each of the local hospitals offers a breastfeeding class for expectant mothers. We also offer a class the second Thursday of every month here at A Nurturing Moment. All of the local hospital IBCLC's run support groups as well. All of the groups listed below are open to any mother, regardless of where she had her baby.
Many IBCLC's wear this symbol.
  • Huntsville Hospital's group meets every Tuesday and the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month at 10:00 in the Women's Pavilion, Room 120B. 
  • The Madison Hospital Support group meets Mondays at 10:30 and Thursdays at 6:30 in the Madison Hospital Wellness Center. They also offer a special "Extended Breastfeeding" Support Group for mothers breastfeeding beyond 12 months which meets the 2nd Friday of each month at 10:30.
  • Athens Limestone Hospital offers ALH Moms and Babies every Friday at 10:00 in the Medical Office Building Conference Room at 101 Fitness Way.
  • Crestwood Medical Center offers a support group that meets every Wednesday at 5:00 and every Thursday at 10:30.
  • Huntsville Mommy Milk Meet-up meets the 1st Monday and 3rd Saturday of every month at A Nurturing Moment at 10:00

Taking Classes and Getting Support

When you choose a breastfeeding class, you want to know that your instructor is a professional committed to helping you throughout the course of your journey. An IBCLC has the depth of medical background to help you work through any potential physiological problems. She will know when to refer you to a primary healthcare practitioner and will probably have established relationships with several physicians. 

If you're simply experiencing engorgement or a plugged duct, then a peer counselor or La Leche League leader is great. However, if you have a more serious issue, you really need to be in contact with an IBCLC. She will be able to do a pre-feed weight check, then weigh your baby after feeding to see exactly how much milk he took. She is trained to recognize and counsel you through a wide range of problems. Most IBCLC's carry malpractice insurance because they recognize that as healthcare professionals, they have that responsibility. So be sure that you get the Gold Standard Care when it comes to you and your baby!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

We Are 250K Views Strong

Our blog about birth in Monaco has received over 20,000 views
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
Since starting this blog in 2011, we have covered some amazing topics. As we approach 250,000 views, we thought it would be fun to look back at some of your (and our) favorite posts.

We love customer reviews and look forward to more of those in coming months. This review of several different diapers was one of our first big hits back in 2011.

Bethany's post about being a teen mom is amazing!
Blogs about birth are very popular. Our most recent post by Erin Mize about her natural birth in a local hospital was an immediate success. When Bethany Hyder shared the story of her pregnancy while she was still a teenager, you loved it.  ANM intern Marley Phillips did a series of posts on childbirth abroad. Her post about childbirth in Monaco is the most popular blog we have ever posted!

Current events have inspired some of our most widely read posts. Response to my experience with scammers was overwhelming. The disappointing political tactics that led to the tabling of the Home Birth Safety Act three years ago led to one of our most popular posts. Five years ago, Target was the target of another one of our most popular posts; fortunately, they have come a long way in training their employees to support breastfeeding mothers.

Extended breastfeeding is a topic you loved.
Of course breastfeeding posts rank high among your favorites. This blog about extended nursing struck a responsive chord with many of you. This post about Tongue-tie provided valuable information that many of you appreciated. The response to Blue Cross Blue Shield providing breast pumps was also very enthusiastic. Of course a perennial favorite post is the recipe for our delicious lactation cookies.

I have to admit, however, that my personal favorite post is about the birth of my grandson Nicholas four years ago and the outstanding care he received in the Huntsville Hospital NICU. We want to know your favorite post. We are giving away a $50 gift card to A Nurturing Moment. Enter by liking our Facebook page and posting a link to your favorite blog and why. The Facebook post with the most likes by Friday will win!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Empowered to Birth Naturally in an Alabama Hospital

Newborn Bo snuggles with Mama
by Erin Mize, guest blogger

At midnight, with fast, irregular contractions, I called my doula, Hannah.  My body felt wildly out of control.  She was calm and reassuring, telling me to take a shower, relax, and if they persisted, to call her back.  If not, she encouraged me to try to rest.

My heart was racing with excitement as I got undressed to get into the shower.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror; cheeks flushed and out-of-breath from the struggle to remove my socks.  I stopped, turning my bountiful belly straight-on to the mirror and smiled.  I marveled at my body’s miraculous work, swelling to accommodate and sustain this new life.  I felt strong and capable.

After a few minutes in the shower, sure enough, my contractions slowed.  Before I even knew it, my mind had quieted and I decided to dry off and try to rest.  Fortunately, I was able to sleep until about 3:30 AM when I awoke to 10 minute-apart contractions that weren't really any stronger than before, yet I intuitively knew these were purposeful.  The whole of my uterus would tighten, not just the top like during Braxton-Hicks, and my sacrum down through my thighs ached. 

I was tossing and turning in our king sized bed so I quietly moved into the living room, leaving Andy asleep.  I didn't wake him just yet.  He would need to be rested to take care of our 3 and 4 year old children, and to be perfectly honest, I wanted to labor free from his concern.  I needed to let go and succumb to this process, so I took advantage of the quiet. 

In my sleepy, yet excited state, I went to the shower.  I knew the hot water would help.  I immediately relaxed.  I breathed in the steam slowly as I propped myself against the shower wall letting the full force of the spray concentrate on my sacrum.  I thought about my baby, Bo, working right along with me.  As I rocked my hips slowly back and forth, I visualized him descending through my body while I intentionally relaxed my mouth, shoulders, arms, back, and pelvis.  “Here we go, little one,” I whispered.  I wanted to make his descent as easy as I could.

When I returned to the living room, the TV was on, and one of those cheesy infomercials selling '60's music CDs played.  I wasn't watching it.  I just needed it on to give my mind some distraction.  I curled up on the couch and was even able to sleep a little between contractions.

All of the lights were out in the house except the glow from the TV, and it was otherwise silent.  I continued in this early stage of labor peacefully as my family slept.  I was in total control, calm and comfortable.  I wasn't afraid.  I didn't feel alone.  I felt safe and able to relax into my labor in my home, relishing this time with my baby, just the two of us, doing our work together.

As my labor progressed, I was no longer comfortable lying on my side through contractions. As one would start, I would get up and stand with my head on my arms, resting over the arm of the couch and swaying my hips back-and-forth through the contractions, consciously relaxing my mouth and muscles and visualizing my baby easing down. 

After my second trip to the bathroom, I recognized that my body was “voiding” and I had a feeling it was time to get everybody up and on the road for the 40 mile trip to the hospital from our home in Hartselle.  I did not look forward to the impending road trip or the bright, unfamiliar hospital delivery room, full of strangers, that awaited me.  Would my doctor be on-call or would a stranger deliver my baby?  Would I get a nurse that was educated about and supportive of natural birth?  Would my birth plan be respected?  It would have been so nice to have made one phone call and had a midwife show up at my door with the same supplies that a level one hospital stocks, but unfortunately, assisted home birth remains illegal in Alabama. 

Andy and Hannah helped Erin maintain her focus.
I'd like to take a brief detour here for a moment to point out that actually, home birth is legal in Alabama.  More specifically, unassisted home birth is legal in Alabama.  Oddly enough, I could have had my baby at home, but I most certainly could not have had a trained attendant, like a Certified Professional Midwife, on hand to ensure that my baby and I remained healthy and safe.  Just for being present she could be charged with a class C misdemeanor.  Additionally, because Alabama does not license or regulate CPM's, she could not have easily transferred my care to a hospital or carried the life-saving equipment that she needs and can use legally to attend home births in 31 other states.  Therefore, after laboring at home without incident, I woke my family up to go to the hospital so my birth could be attended by an OBGYN, a specialist. 

Before I woke the boys, I made their chocolate milk, just as I did every morning; except this time, I paused to work through strong contractions while I rested on the kitchen countertop.  I made my way into the boys' room and with muted excitement said, “This is it guys!  You're going to meet your baby brother today!”

I woke Andy and told him it was "for real" and we needed to get to the hospital.  I called and let Hannah know how it was going.  After I paused our conversation to work through a contraction, she confirmed what I suspected, that my labor was advancing nicely.  She expertly advised that we meet at my parents’ home prior to going to the hospital so we didn't arrive right at shift change.  I agreed, and Andy and I loaded the boys up and got on the road.

It was about 5:30 in the morning, pitch black, and starry.  I remember the boys sleepily singing "twinkle-twinkle little star” as my contractions came and went.  This time, however, I didn't have the luxury of moving around to work through them.  I pulled at the seat belt to move it away from my taut abdomen and writhed and twisted in a vain attempt to alleviate the pain in my back.  Each passing mile marker seemed a reminder of my distress as Andy raced to our destination.  I was beginning to panic.  It took everything in me to suppress my instinct to move my body freely through these contractions. 

We finally rounded the corner in my parents’ neighborhood, and I was filled with relief at the sight of Hannah’s car parked in front of their home.  Andy got the boys out while I went up the stairs as quickly as I could to labor in the shower until we would go over to the hospital. 

I turned the water to almost as hot as it would go.  The relief was immediate.  Slowly breathing in the steamy air, I began getting my labor back under control. I visualized the water softening my tissues and gently encouraging my baby out as I slowly swayed through the awesome pressure.  How I would have loved to have had a water birth! Unfortunately, hospital policy in my area prohibits the practice.  But, I knew that I would be allowed to labor in the tub or shower until my water broke.

Thank God for Hannah!  She took the lead on thinking out the timing of our arrival.  All I had to do was labor. 

We pulled up to the valet stand, and I remember feeling strange about the security guard approaching me with a wheelchair.  I got out of the car looking behind me for the patient that needed this apparatus, even willing to help him or her into it.  Then, of course, it dawned on me that it was meant for me.  Even though it felt rather unnecessary, and I certainly didn't identify as a “patient,” I obliged the helpful parking attendant.
First Feed

While I couldn't help but feel like a diva waving a birth plan with a lavender-scented, birth stool-carrying Doula in tow, the hospital staff and nurses never treated me as such!  We were greeted warmly and taken straight into a labor/delivery/postpartum room.  I had pre-registered and therefore was able to get through the intake paperwork quickly with Andy's help.  To my amazement, my labor and delivery nurse was actually trained as a Certified Nurse Midwife!  And let me tell you, the care she gave me exemplified a midwife's model of care.  She was respectful and supportive of my choice to birth unmedicated.  She read my birth plan diligently and then asked before she did anything including waiting to start my hep-locked IV until after a contraction. 

My doula was calmly unpacking her bag-of-tricks and making the room more comfortable by lowering the lights, playing soothing music, and starting the lavender.  Hannah’s presence calmed the frenetic pace of the hospital, and her attention to detail made the unwelcoming hospital room homey.  In a way, she represented my conscious self that, in the throes of labor, I had distanced myself from.  Her presence of mind was invaluable.

I continued laboring unencumbered from an IV or continuous fetal monitoring.  I drank when I was thirsty, remained in the clothes I came in, and moved about freely.  In fact, I didn’t get into the hospital bed until after I had given birth!  Andy sat at the foot of the bed and I rested my arms and head across his lap between contractions.  I was most comfortable on the exercise ball and during contractions I would roll my hips in big circles while Hannah applied counter pressure to my sacrum and Andy gently encouraged and loved on me. 

My nurse asked if I'd like my cervix checked for dilation and being that my water hadn't broken yet, I allowed her to examine me.  Believe it or not, I was actually a little concerned that the exam would reveal that I was only a few centimeters dilated. Much to my surprise, I was fully dilated!  However, I did not feel the strong urge to push as I did during the birth of my second child and I speculate that it was related to the fact that my membranes (and amniotic fluid) were still intact.

My nurse indicated that she would call the doctor, and that she may break my water upon her arrival.  My doula sensed my hesitation and encouraged me to discuss with the doctor the risks and benefits of doing so.  Interestingly, my doctor never brought it up.

At some point I remember saying "I could push", emphasis on the could.  Hannah asked if I'd given any thought to what position I'd like to push in.  Believe it or not, it wasn't until I hired her for the birth of my 3rd baby that I learned there are many pushing positions a woman can assume to birth her baby, the least efficient of which is lying flat on her back with her feet in stirrups and knees in the air. 
Big Brother gets to hold baby Bo

I had learned through my research that an upright birthing position would allow gravity to aid in bringing my baby down and out as well as allowing my uterus to contract more strongly and efficiently.  Staying off of my back would keep my aorta from being compressed and, in turn, help my baby to stay oxygenated.  Also, it would allow my sacrum to expand backwards, increasing my pelvic outlet.  Hannah gently encouraged me to go with what felt “right,” and I confidently replied that I'd like to use the birth stool.  She went straight to work getting it prepared.

It was no time at all before I took my place on the vinyl cushioned wooden stool.  I was sitting with my knees a comfortable distance apart and bent to slightly less than a 90 degree angle.  My OBGYN patiently sat cross legged in the floor in front of me, my doula behind me, and Andy at my side with my nurse observing attentively.

And then we waited.  I was eager to meet my baby, my third son, and in stark contrast to my other unmedicated birth, I just didn't have a strong urge to push!  I knew to wait for my body to “do its thing” but I was growing impatient!  Hannah reassured me that I was “laboring down” beautifully so I closed my eyes and waited patiently. 

My water finally broke as my OBGYN was doing perineal massage with mineral oil and applying a warm compress.  At this point my contractions began to intensify. 

I believe it was about eight contractions later that I began feeling pressure on my perineum and Andy commented that he could see the top of Bo’s head through the amniotic sac, and yet I still didn't have a strong urge to push or a ton of pain as you might think.  Now don't get me wrong, it was no walk in the park, but once I resigned myself to the necessity of the contractions, that they were working for and with me to bring my baby to me, I embraced them as part of the physiological design.  

My favorite part of my labor happened next:  Hannah whispered to me, “reach down and feel your baby.”  I tentatively reached down and felt my baby’s velvety soft head beginning to emerge. 

As I pushed along with a contraction, I heard my doctor quietly and calmly say, "his head is out.” I was shocked and caught off guard.  With renewed purpose I let out a primal groan with my next, final contraction and all 8 lbs, 12 oz of my baby boy was out and on my chest!  I remember hearing someone exclaim, “He's big!” which surprised me because I didn't feel like I had worked that hard to get him out. 

Bewildered, I questioned, "that's it?"

Hannah helped me out of my dress so I could get Bo skin to skin.  I had my baby in my arms.  He was so calm.  He stared right into my eyes, never breaking his gaze, as mine filled with tears.  I'll never forget this moment.  In a strange way, I recognized him.  I'd never laid eyes on him, of course, but I felt like, “oh, there you are.”

My body had not only created and grown this little life, but brought him forth into our world, or earth side, as Hannah affectionately said as she welcomed him. 

I felt as though I had come full circle.  Rather than handing the process over as I had during the highly medicalized and, for me, detached birth of my oldest son, I had embraced the process.  Instead of placing my childbirth in the hands of the hospital staff, this time I had a plan and then trusted my instincts and my body to do what it was Divinely designed to.  I learned that I could not put the burden of a safe childbirth squarely on the shoulders of my chosen birth attendant.  I must be accountable for educating myself and then carefully choosing who would attend my birth.

If my three radically different childbirth experiences taught me nothing else, they showed me that there is no "right” way to birth, but there is a right way to treat a laboring woman: with respect.  There are many factors at play, and sometimes the choices are very limited. The most important part is that we are informed and respected in our choices

I evolved with my experiences to guide me, and my expectation of birth changed. I learned what it could be with the right preparation and careful consideration of who was present at my births. 

I found the Alabama Birth Coalition about six months postpartum as I continued to process the impact my first two children’s births had on me and our family.  That's when I learned that for more than 13 years, ABC has fought to give families in Alabama the right to choose Certified Professional Midwives for their maternity care and safe home birth. 

Everybody is so happy that Bo is here!
I had three hospital births:  a medicalized, an unintentional unmedicated, and finally a planned natural birth.  Many variables aligned in my favor to achieve the above described birth.  Yes, with careful preparation and crossed fingers, you can have a beautiful, natural hospital birth. However, consider one thing: hospitals by their very nature are not designed to embrace healthy physiology.    On the other hand, they expertly save the lives of high risk mothers and babies every day, but the anticipation of abnormality is palpable for a healthy laboring woman and unfortunately can often lead to unnecessary interventions. 

I believe that the future of maternity care in our state can and should include out of hospital birth options for healthy women   Home birth isn’t for every family, but we owe it to the futur
e of birthing women in a our state to at least allow them this choice.  I firmly believe I could have easily had my baby in the comfort of my home had I been able to do so safely with a CPM. 

I am proud to now be a part of the Alabama Birth Coalition and their effort to introduce legislation that will finally let Certified Professional Midwives legally attend home births in Alabama and thereby give us real choices regarding our maternity care. 

Educate yourself, know your choices, and hire a Doula!

For more information, please visit the Alabama Birth Coalition’s website at or Facebook page at  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My Road to a Home Birth

Bethany with her midwives and baby Eli
by Bethany Hyder, guest blogger

I am a natural childbirth junkie. I LOVE it! I love to learn about it and hear other people’s experiences with it, and I’d REALLY love to educate others about it! I really wish all women could have such a gratifying birth experience. It makes me sad to hear the horror stories of some women’s births. It doesn’t have to be that way! So when I got pregnant at 16, I learned a lot about natural childbirth. My mom had all four of her kids naturally, so why shouldn’t I?!? I read a lot of books, and although I can’t remember all of them, I do remember reading The Bradley Method. I went on to have a (mostly) natural birth with an awesome OB/GYN – Dr. G, at a small hospital (Parkway Medical Center) in Decatur. Anna’s birth is another story though (which I’d love to share, too!).

Fast forward 10 years, and I was 26, married, and had OVER planned for this sweet baby I was pregnant with (seriously…over-planned). At 8 weeks gestation, Christian and I excitedly went to see Dr. G and had an ultrasound – perfect little baby cooking away! Expected due date of January 1st (but I already knew that, because I had over-planned)! We continued with regularly scheduled prenatal appointments, but I always had a nagging desire for a home birth. It was always just one of those “maybe one day” type things. I had met a mom of a girl in Anna’s girl scout troop that had numerous home births. I wanted to be her. Then my cousin had planned a home birth, and although she did deliver in the hospital, it helped to know more people that actually planned this sort of thing.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I started looking into midwives. In Alabama, it is completely legal to have a baby at home. However, it is ILLEGAL for a midwife to attend a home birth. The state only recognizes Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and they are only authorized to work in hospitals, under an OB/GYN. So basically, you can have your baby at home, but not with anybody that’s trained or skilled in home deliveries! Surrounding states license Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs), but these women would face prosecution if they were caught assisting home births in Alabama. It’s sad, really. I found out that there are some midwives that work “under the radar” in AL and will come to your home for birth. This seemed a little dangerous to me given that 1) I don’t really want to get anybody arrested, and 2) if I did need to transfer to the hospital, the midwife would not be able to come. What if the midwife had important medical information that the doctor needed?

Through a random facebook post, a co-worker recommended his wife’s midwife – Karen Brock. I emailed Karen. I really just wanted to ask questions and figure out how it “worked.” Karen offered to meet with me. So, at about 24 weeks gestation, Christian, my mom, and I drove to Cullman on a Sunday afternoon to meet her. Karen is a CPM, licensed in Tennessee. She does prenatal appointments at her office in Cullman, and has a house just across the TN state line for births. I immediately trusted her. The conversation about birth that we had was SO reassuring. It was nice to talk to somebody that recognized birth as a normal, natural process and not a medical emergency. I was like a giddy school girl leaving her office. I had made up my mind, but I wasn’t too sure about Christian. When I initially told him that I wanted a home birth, before we met with Karen, he said, “Ok…will Dr. G be there too??” HA! No, honey, she won’t. I don’t know if he just trusted that I would make a good decision, or if he didn’t know to be worried, but he agreed to it!

My next appointment with Dr. G would have been my 28 week appointment, before which I was supposed to have the nasty glucose test completed. I never took that test. I faxed Dr. G’s office a medical records release form to have my information sent to Karen, not knowing the can of worms I was opening up. In my mind, I was going to keep going to Dr. G AND go to Karen, and then assuming everything kept going good, I’d just birth with Karen. Good idea, right? WRONG! Later that day, as I was walking out of work, my cell phone rang. It was Dr. G calling to inquire about sending my records to Karen. She was not happy to hear that I was planning a home birth. She made sure I knew that was illegal in AL, and I assured her that I would be birthing in TN. She gave me a few horror stories and tried her best to dissuade me. I was about to get in a van full of coworkers (we have a ride share program) so I told her I’d think about it and let her know. Her scare tactics worked…for a few minutes. I had done enough research and knew enough about childbirth and the midwifery model of care to know I was making the right choice. When I called back, I told her nurse to send the records to Karen. Dr. G had made it clear that she would not be able to continue to provide OB care during this pregnancy knowing that I was going to Karen. She stated that it was a conflict of interest. She would, however, continue to see me as a GYN patient in the future. When I went for my first prenatal with Karen, she told me that Dr. G had called her as well! She quizzed Karen about what she would do if I started to hemorrhage, etc. It turns out that every year when the midwifery bill is presented in Montgomery, Dr. G is one of the opponents there speaking against the bill. It sounded like Karen and Dr. G were going to meet to discuss how both parties could come together for the benefit of mothers and babies (i.e. the midwives and the medical community), but I never heard more about that happening.

I loved so many things about seeing a midwife. Number one was probably the “hands-off” approach. There were no “routine” pelvic exams. Even when I was in labor, she didn’t need to “check my cervix” or see how far along I was. She certainly would, if I wanted her to, but it was not mandatory. Listening to the body is so much more indicative of where you are in labor. Second, the personal relationship we had. Every prenatal appointment was at least an hour long – no rush. Every decision made was ours (mine and Christian’s) to make. We researched, asked questions, and made decisions about how this birth would go and what kinds of things would happen immediately after. We made a transfer plan in case of emergency, and thankfully didn’t have to use it. I felt in control at every point of the pregnancy and birth, and trusted my midwives 100%. I am SO happy I left Dr.G and went to Karen. Best.Decision.Ever!
The Birth Tub felt amazing to Bethany!

Eli’s Birth
Saturday, Dec. 29th
That morning, I woke up and headed straight to the bathroom to pee. I noticed a little bit of blood when wiping. I got excited because SOMETHING was happening! I went on about my day, but made everybody aware that things were slowly getting started, hopefully. Christian went to work, and my sister

Julie, Anna, and I went to walmart to get various things. We drove out to where I work because I had left some information I would need while out on maternity leave. Later in the day, I took a little nap on the couch. All throughout the day, I was aware of very light contractions - nothing worth paying much attention to. Julie made homemade chicken noodle soup (I requested that for while I was in labor), and that evening we went to the mall to “walk the baby out” / get contractions going stronger. That night, I called my midwife, Karen, to let her know that early labor had begun. There was actually a birth going on at that time at the house in Elkton, but she told me to check back in to give her an update before going to bed. Contractions remained fairly mild, so I tried to sleep, knowing my sleeping days were soon to be over!

Sunday, Dec. 30th
Stronger contractions woke me up around 3am, and I lay in bed and timed them with my phone (yes, there’s an app for that). They were around 6 minutes apart. At 4am, I woke Christian up and thought it was time to head to Tennessee. I wanted to go up there with plenty of time to labor in the tub and relax. I called Karen, and she told me to get up and get moving to see if the contractions were going to stall out. Once Christian, Anna, Julie, and my mom had been alerted and the car packed up, I decided it wasn’t time! Contractions had waned again, so Karen suggested trying to get some rest.

Around noon, Karen and Wetawnya (assisting midwife) were ready to leave the house in Elkton after ANOTHER birth (they had 3 that night before me!), so they stopped by my house to check on me. I decided I wanted to know how far along I was, and it turned out to only be about 2cm! Again, rest was prescribed. I took a nap for about an hour before contractions woke me up. I spent the next couple of hours or so walking around, swaying, and finally rocking in the rocker in the nursery while looking out the window. Christian and Anna were so quick to get anything I needed, and they both helped time my contractions. Anna got bored and decided to go to her grandparents’ house, but she wasn’t there long.

Around 4pm we checked in with my mom, and she suggested that we head on to TN so that I could get in the Jacuzzi tub to labor. Christian packed up the car (again) and we headed out. Julie and Nana went to pick up Anna. We called Karen on our way to let her know we were headed there and to see what we needed to know about the tub. She said that she and Wetawnya would head that way too. The drive was about 40 minutes, and contractions were steady at around 4 minutes apart. I wasn’t all that uncomfortable during the drive. I thought it would be hard to sit still for that long, but I made it fine and kept concentrating on the task at hand. We got to the house a little before 6pm, and my mom, Julie, and Anna arrived shortly after.

When my mom got there, I started to cry because I felt like I was nowhere close to having the baby, and I was worn out already. I really felt like I had several more hours of labor left (this was actually most likely transition, but I did not recognize it bc my contractions were not THAT intense yet). She helped me get undressed and into the tub. I tried several different positions until finally settling into a squatting type position. Karen and Wetawnya arrived and I was vaguely aware of them setting up the bedroom. I was very much “within” myself. They periodically checked the baby’s heart rate and encouraged me to eat and drink something. I did not want to eat, but did have a little bit of gatorade to drink, although I really didn’t want to be bothered with that either. Christian sat/squatted (I’m not sure?) next to the tub and kept up with my contractions. I would announce when one started and when it ended, as best I could.

Newborn Eli on Mama's chest
I announced that I felt the need to push, and Julie later told me that Wetawnya had left to get some food, and Karen was eating some of the chicken noodle soup we had brought (remember my request?) so she called Wetawnya to come back! I guess everybody thought we were in for a few more hours of labor. I thought I only wanted to labor in the tub, and would get out of the water when it was time to push, but decided in the moment that I wasn’t going anywhere! We discussed whether or not my water had broken, because I wasn’t sure....but shortly after that it did. I heard/felt something like a rubber band popping, and could somewhat feel the warm liquid, even though I was in a tub full of warm liquid! The contractions quickly became much more intense. My hips and thighs started to ache, and I could feel the baby descending. For the most part, I kept my eyes closed and head down. My mom said that she thought I was going to dunk my head in the water a few times! The urge to push was so pronounced, and it felt so good to do so! I thought I was being quite loud with the guttural/moaning sounds I was making, but I’m told I was actually very quiet.

Crowning took me by surprise...I THOUGHT I had a natural birth with Anna, but apparently I missed a LOT at the end when she was crowning due to the pudendal block I received so that I would be able to stop pushing while Dr. G did some deep suctioning to remove meconium before she inhaled it. The pressure was insane, and I wanted that head OUT! It’s hard to describe, but I started to shift my weight from one foot to the other, while squatting, almost like I was trying to crawl away and “deposit” the baby! At one point, one of my midwives (I can’t even remember which one) got eye level with me and reminded me to breathe and focus. I put my hands between my legs and felt his sweet, soft head FULL of hair. I pushed with all my might to get his head out, and once it was, I SMILED. What a relief! I kept my hand on his head while I waited for the next contraction. I asked Karen how long I had to wait because it seemed like it was taking FOREVER! When his body slid out, I pulled him up to my chest and sat on the seat in the tub. He gurgled and cried, and was just absolutely perfect.

It was ONLY 7:08 pm...just ONE HOUR since we had gotten to the house! I was amazed. I felt like it had been longer, but time seemed to stop once things got more intense in the tub. I really believe that the water worked its magic to help me relax and everything jumped into gear. I wish I had gotten in that water sooner!

It was a bit cold in the water, so after a little bit of time had passed, Karen cut the cord and handed Eli to Christian. They had towels fresh out of the dryer to keep him warm while I delivered the placenta and got out of the tub. I sat on the bed and was able to nurse Eli while we all enjoyed him. He pooped on me while he nursed! Black, tarry meconium all over my tummy!  After we had a while with Eli, Karen and Wetawnya did all the baby checks right next to me on the bed while I ate some chicken noodle soup. He weighed in at 7lbs 9oz. Christian put his diaper on him and got him dressed, and I got in the shower to clean up. Anna, Julie, and my mom got to hold him a little bit too. Karen and Wetawnya left the house, and we were right behind them. We were back at home by 11pm.

I had a 2nd degree tear, and I KNEW I had pushed too hard to get his head out. It took me by such surprise - I was not prepared for the burning and stretching, so I pushed as hard as I could to get it over with! Bad idea...but I chose not to get stitches after discussing it with Karen. I healed just fine :)

Big sister Anna was very emotional, too!
Shortly after the birth, I looked at my sister and said, “THAT HURT”...ha! I told her I’d absolutely do it again, but I would need some time to forget first ;)

Anna has always been very sensitive to my emotions, so when I cried when we first got to the house, she got upset/nervous. Julie took her to the living room to find something on TV, but when I started pushing they came back to the bedroom. I’m sure Anna was nervous, not knowing what to expect, even though I had showed her videos of natural births. She cried and cried once Eli was born. It wasn’t a sad cry, more of a pent-up emotional release. She didn’t want to hold him until he had clothes on since he had pooped on me! Now, Anna says she is going to adopt…no childbirth for her! HA! I sure hope I didn’t scar her for life ;)