Doula bucketlist birth, VBA2C

As a doula and birth photographer I have a bucket list. For instance, attending a birth on my own birthday (Yup, did that, my 21st birthday!), natural twins (Yup), VBAC (yup, three times). A VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) was one that had not been checked off the list, until now.

Jackie called me just a month before her due date in a super last minute search for a doula. She explained her story through the phone and I immediately knew I wanted to take on this birth. I then met Jackie and her husband, Ryan, at a nearby Panera and we hit it off! They were awesome! Just an hour later Jackie said that she wanted to hire me as a doula. I was so excited to work with them and I had a good feeling that this mama was going to have her vba2c!

Jackie's first c-section was what her care provider considered "failure to progress" after an induction. Her second c-section was due to a heart condition that her son had and would need to be operated on immediately following birth. But, Jackie felt that her body was not broken and she wanted the experience of having a vaginal birth, or to at least try. She had never gone into labor on her own and was nervous that she wouldn't be able to.

Her OB/GYN practice gave her an extremely hard time and strongly advised against it. There were two doctors in the practice that said they would allow her to at least try, but the other doctors were pretty adamant about her scheduling a repeat cesarean. One of the doctors in her practice told her that she better not go into labor while he was on call. But, Jackie and her husband weighed the pros and cons, and decided they would do whatever it took to have a safe vba2c and if another cesarean were to happen, it would because of medical necessity.

Jackie had been calling her practice to ask questions and schedule appointments with the Ob/Gyn's that she felt most comfortable with, but they were not returning her calls and kept scheduling her with a nurse practitioner who was unable to answer her questions about the delivery. I suggested to try and find a more supportive care provider and consider switching. Even though she was about 35 weeks, I wanted her to have the support she deserved. She met with another Ob/Gyn in the area who was extremely supportive of her choices and said that he thought she had a really good chance of having a vaginal birth. But, unfortunately he could not take her on because the practice that backed him up refused to do a VBA2C.

This mama was determined. Which is why I had such a strong feeling that she was going to get this vaginal birth, one way or another! She was doing everything from chiropractic, acupuncture, eating dates, drinking raspberry red leaf tea, going on long walks, etc. The more information she read the more she felt confident. As her due date got closer, so did the pressure from her doctors. She refused to schedule a repeat cesarean and had to sign legal documents from the office saying that she was going against medical advice.

Jackie was 40 weeks and had been doing acupuncture daily to try to induce labor. She was getting exhausted and a little nervous she wouldn't be able to do it, but still stayed strong.

At 40 weeks and 4 days she texted me and said she thought she was having contractions and had her husband drive her to acupuncture that day. Throughout the day she kept saying she was contracting, but nothing serious yet. Until the early evening. She texted me and said, "These are getting intense. I'm going to have my mom come and get the boys now." Not long after she texted me that her water broke and they were off to the hospital.

I started putting my baby down for bedtime and her husband Ryan texted me and said she was 3cm, I told him to let me know when they wanted me to come. Not even 20 minutes later, Ryan calls me. 

"Hey Sam, Jackie wants you now if you could come. The pain is really intense. She wants an epidural." (I hear Jackie GROANING in the background) It certainly didn't sound like she was 3cm, that sound was quite familiar! She was bearing down, so I quickly got the rest of my things together and was turning on my ignition when Ryan called again, "Sam! Come quick! She's pushing!" "She's pushing ?! I'm on my way!" I sped to Virtua, and ran up to labor and delivery. She had just enough time to get an epidural and was close to crowning by the time I had gotten up there. Guess who was on call? The Ob/Gyn that said, "You better not go into labor while I'm on call." But, that baby was coming and it wasn't via cesarean!

Just a few pushes and baby Avalon was born! I don't think the epidural even had time to kick in. Jackie was in complete shock. It was so intense and ridiculously fast, but she did it! Ryan and her were over the moon, ecstatic (and of course I was too)! Having a VBAC, let alone a VBA2C at Virtua Hospital is RARE, but Jackie proved that it is possible & so worth the try! A few weeks later when I did my postpartum visit with Jackie she still couldn't believe she did it & Ryan was in shock of how amazing a vaginal birth could be! It was a total different experience for him to be apart of. 

Thank you Jackie & Ryan for letting me be apart of your journey.  It was a beautiful birth and I was so happy to have made it!

The birth of Francesca 8/15/15

I met with Darlene & Joe shortly after I delivered my son. Darlene was the first to inquire about my doula services after my maternity leave would be over in September.  I could not wait to work with them after leaving our consultation! Even though she had a great experience for her first birth, she knew how important it was to have a doula and was also looking forward to the birth photography. Darlene had wanted to switch to Elmer Hospital in hopes of a water birth, but was unable to because of insurance reasons and had to make the best of Virtua hospital in Voorhees. 

I wasn't even on-call yet and I heard my phone vibrate around 3:30am on August 15, 2015. Luckily, I was awake! To my surprise, it was Darlene, who wasn't due for another 4 weeks...

"Samm... contractions are about 4 mins apart for the last hour or so. Calling the hospital now." 3:38am

"They are intense now. Difficult to breathe through and I am needing to remember to relax... and its taking a lot of effort to do that." 3:58am

"Heading to virtua soon..." 4:09am

When Darlene checked into triage the resident asked her multiple times if she wanted pitocin or an epidural even though she had made it clear she wanted to go natural from the beginning. She was afraid that the medical staff was going to be unsupportive since she was unable to develop any time of relationship with a care provider prenatally. But, after she got upstairs and into her labor & delivery room they left her alone for most of the time.

Once I got to the hospital I saw that Darlene was doing an amazing job. She was able to hold full conversations in between contractions and she was in control of her birth space. Her labor progressed beautifully and although she was exhausted she stayed strong. The support from her mother & Joe was unbelievable and I was able to do more photography. 

Darlene's mother was a doula (no, she wasn't a certified doula, but she was definitely a natural), she knew exactly what to do and what to say and what she needed throughout the entire process. It was beautiful seeing such a bond between mother and daughter. In all the births I've been to, I've never seen anything like it!

Around 11:00 am or so, Darlene asked to have her water broken artificially after being 6cm for a few hours. After her water was broken the contractions got much more intense. An hour later she started having the urge to push, she started pushing uncontrollably in hands and knees on the bed. When the nurse checked Darlene she asked her to stop pushing since she was only 7cm and did not want her cervix to swell, but Darlene could not stop pushing. The nurse looked at me and said call the doctor! But, there was no time... Darlene pushed her baby out & into the nurses hands within a matter of minutes. It was the nurses first catch ever!

It was great being back in the birth world and such a beautiful birth to be apart of. Thank you Darlene & Joe for letting me be apart of your big day!

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 featuring Nicole K

"World Breastfeeding Week means that we have a week to focus on getting out information to the public as to why breastfeeding is normal and natural and the preferred feeding method for all children.  If we can help to normalize breastfeeding just a little bit and un-do some of the damage done in the United States with views towards public breastfeeding then we have achieved a lot!"

" What I love the most about breastfeeding my little girl is the bond that I know we have.  At 10 months old now, although very distracted when we are out and about, she gets so excited when her she knows she is getting her "milkly!"  I also love that I know she is getting so much nutrition everyday" 

" I think the most important thing is to be confident and nurse in public to help normalize breastfeeding.  Also, the support from healthcare professionals is crucial!  Doctors, nurses, etc need to support and educate on the importance of breastfeeding and get proper training and be able to recognize that they are not the breastfeeding experts and always defer to the experts (Lactation Consults) in the hospital.  Also, any mom who is breastfeeding in the hospital should be scheduled before discharge with a lactation follow-up with an IBCLC of their choice. "

"The greatest challenge was the first few weeks of nursing as my baby had a posterior tongue tie and nursing was extremely painful.  I was 100% dedicated and determined and I did not care how much pain I was in in order to provide the best nutrition for my child.  After all...I just got through natural child birth!" 

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 featuring Lara B.

"World breastfeeding week is a way for everyone (not just breastfeeding moms) to come together to recognize and support the awesomeness of breastfeeding. I think so much more needs to be done in the U.S. to support families who breastfeed. Dads, grandparents, siblings should all be celebrated because sometimes in a breastfeeding journey, it really does take a village!"

"I absolutely love the bond. The quiet and peace I feel when she's in my arms nursing is something I can't describe to people and am so grateful to have experienced. I had to have an emergency csection and didn't get to hold her for over 12 hours and couldn't nurse her for 24! But the second I held her skin to skin and she latched, she looked at me like "hey, I know you. I like it here". I love that I can comfort her in a way that no one else can. "

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"I can't stress enough how important I think paid maternity leave is. I had to return to work at 10 weeks...to a job as a nurse, working 12 hour shifts overnight. Keeping up with pumping while taking care of patients was incredibly difficult. I had to start supplementing my daughter way before I was ready because I just couldn't keep up with my supply while being away from her for so long. I think more women would continue breastfeeding longer or exclusively breastfeed longer if we allowed women to be with their babies for longer than 6 weeks!!"

"My "baby" turned one yesterday! I never had a goal and I'm glad about that. I always thought we would do it as long as it worked for us and I'm very happy to say it's still working for us!"


Being on the other side {Homebirth of Indy}

I'll start by saying my birth was fucking awesome. For months I told myself it was going to be extremely difficult and painful, just because I wanted to expect the worst. But, what I experienced was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. It was the craziest natural high that I didn't even know was possible. I wish more women could say they enjoyed their births as much as I enjoyed mine. When you're pregnant you hear a million horror stories, and everyone says "get the drugs, don't be a hero". Of course it was painful & intense, but so incredibly worth it. There's seriously nothing like it. Giving birth truly shows you just how strong you are, no matter how you do it, natural, epidural, c-section, home, or hospital.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

I thought about this day long before I even found out I was pregnant. After having the privilege of attending several births over the past two years, it was finally time for me to attend my own.

Prenatally I followed all of the advice I give my doula clients. I got routine chiropractic adjustment & acupuncture, did squats and kegels, drank raspberry red leaf tea, took evening primrose oil, etc. I'd like to think it all helped me have a smooth pregnancy in labor. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. But, it certainly didn't hurt.

My due date {April 10th} came and went. Everyone was anxious/excited besides me. "Is the baby here yet?"/"Any signs of labor?" HOLY SHIT did I want to turn my phone off. I was in no hurry for my baby to come, I was enjoying quality time with my dog and sleeping in until 2 in the afternoon. My thoughts were: why should I be so excited about extreme sleep deprivation & being a human cow? From being a doula I knew how stressful the postpartum period could actually be and again I anticipated the worst, just in case.

Saturday, April 18th, I woke up and went to the bathroom several of times like I had been for the past few weeks. Around 5:30am I felt a little crampy, but went back to bed. I remember the sun starting to rise and I couldn't sleep so I just sat in bed uncomfortably and tried to find a comfortable position. Johnny woke up (kind of) and asked if I was okay, I told him I was in early labor, but he could continue to sleep.

7:01am the "cramps" were getting more intense & I had to pee again. I told Johnny to call his boss, today was the day. I texted Morgan (doula) & Tammy (birth photographer) and said,"Morning mamas! In early labor... Having ctx for 2 hours, nothing major. I'll keep you updated when I head to my grandma's house." I went upstairs to pee and GUSH, my water broke all over the floor. It wouldn't stop, it was all over and I had no towels to clean up. I texted Johnny & said "Bring me up towels, my water just broke all over the floor." I texted my midwife and got in the shower. The hot water felt great, the cramps were gone, but I knew I couldn't stay in there too long. I got out of the shower and there were no damn towels. I called Johnny twice, no answer. I ran downstairs only to find him dead asleep still. "Wake up! We need to go!" As soon as I got out of the shower and to my bedroom, I was in labor land. My contractions were strong and close together.

"Water broke half hour ago, ctx are close together. Heading to my grandmas now, I'll let you know when I'm there." -8:15am

"There like super close, every 2 mins, maybe closer." -8:25am. I put on a robe & slippers. Told Johnny to get my hard boiled eggs out of the fridge and went to the car. I was totally dreading the drive to my grandma's house in Philly, but I was so excited to get there. He quickly packed up the car with clothes and stuff for the week, our dog (Roofus) & beer. The car ride was hell, I could not wait to get into the birth tub. I sat in the car in hands and knees and I just remember Roofus' hot nasty dog breath in my face the whole time, EW.

I quickly got out of the car and waddled my ass upstairs to that tub. Tammy & Morgan were already there and the midwives assistant (Wendy) was on her way. I got in the tub, which wasn't even done filling up and sat inside. FINALLY! I was in my beautiful birth space, this was really happening.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Several of people were coming in and filling the tub with boiling water from downstairs and Morgan sat with me as Johnny brought in all of our stuff from the car. He set up our record player and all I wanted to hear was Dark Side of the Moon. My contractions were coming strong and consistent. I couldn't believe I was in labor, it still didn't feel real. When Wendy arrived she checked the heartbeat, which was perfect & mentioned that the tub had to be hotter, so I got out and went into the shower as I waited for the birth tub to fill up with the hot water.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

 

Once I got out of the shower, I came back into the bedroom and threw up all over the bed. ALL OVER. Usually I'm not grossed out by throw up, but it smelt disgusting, like no other throw up I've ever smelt. I knew this was a sign things were progressing though, so I remained optimistic. After I labored for a little longer, Wendy asked if she could check me. "Watch me be 1 cm dilated", I thought to myself as she checked me (which wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it'd be). I was 5cm, and baby was doing good with a strong heartbeat. It felt good knowing I was 5cm and this was the real deal. I continued to labor on the bed for a little where Morgan did the hip squeeze on me and it felt AH-MAZING. Then I got back into the tub, which was SUPER hot after it was all filled with the boiling water. Johnny got in with me and I would not let him take his hands off of my hips.  It was hard to get comfortable at this point, no position felt good. But, that hip squeeze was EVERYTHING.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission  All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permissionAll images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

In between contractions I felt great. I could hold conversations and was fully aware of what was going on around me. I told Johnny to put on our Ravi Shankar vinyl which was incredibly relaxing. Although, as soon as a contraction would come on, I would moan & grunt "Fuuuuuccckkkkkkkk this" & "Nooooooo". Morgan encouraged me to say "Yes" instead of no, and at first it felt really ridiculous and strange. But, it did make a little difference. I remember Johnny putting on the Rolling Stones vinyl we had, and every song made sense to me. Especially 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction'. After Karen (midwife) arrived and monitored me for a little, she suggested I get up and go to the bathroom.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I LOVED the bathroom. I didn't leave it for the next 4 1/2 hours. The toilet felt amazing. Never would have thought that the toilet would be my favorite place to labor. Johnny massaged the back of my neck and I relaxed as much as I could in between contractions. As one would come on I would stand up and moan REALLY, REALLY loud. It's true, your body knows exactly what to do. I thought that I for sure had to be in transition. I could not fight the urge to push. As much pain as I was in, I never once thought "I can't do this." I just let my body take over and exactly what it was meant to do. I kept thinking about how smoothly everything was going.

Wendy suggested the birth stool, which I hated at first and immediately got off and went right back to the toilet, but it eventually grew on me.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I asked Karen if I was close and she said to check myself. I stuck my fingers up there and didn't feel anything. OH MY GOD this is going to take forever I thought.

 A little later, I asked what time it was because I was now really feeling the urge to push. This baby was bearing down. It was around 2pm, when Wendy checked me again. 10cm!  I was ready to officially push! My contractions came and went and I pushed with them & the breaks in between were like ecstasy. I pushed and pushed and pushed.

I had been pushing for at least 1 hour at this point and it was just Morgan and I in the bathroom. Johnny was napping on a chair outside the room with Roofus. I looked at Morgan and said, "I would never want to be numb for this. I can't imagine having an epidural." I was in the most intense part of labor & couldn't imagine how I would push if I were numb. Although it was painful, it was nothing that my body couldn't handle.

 

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All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was now almost 5pm, I checked myself again and I felt the head! I wasn't crowning, but I knew I had finally made noticeable progress. YES! Finally! The end was near. Karen and Wendy came back into the room soon after and everything got real. This baby would actually be here soon. I kept grabbing the hand held mirror to see where the head was at and boy was it close. As the head came closer to crowning my vagina felt dry like a freaking desert. I wanted a constant flow of olive oil squirted on it. At this point they woke up Johnny and told him to come back into the bathroom.

I tried hands and knees, the birth stool & finally side-lying position.  Side-lying seemed to be the most effective position so Karen had me stay like that. As the head started to crown I so badly just wanted to push the whole damn thing out, but I knew I couldn't so I continued to ease it out and push only with contractions. What an incredible feeling! The ring of fire was INTENSE, but also really awesome.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I was pushing with every ounce of energy I had left in me. My ass! HOLY SHIT, MY ASS! I remember saying, "Jesus f***** christ my asshole feels like it's going to rip open!" just before the head came out. As the head came out it was such a huge relief. I felt another gush of whatever amniotic fluid was left and Karen kept saying, "Mama you gotta push, you gotta push this baby out. You've been doing such a great job!" But, I was literally giving it my everything and all of a sudden she had me turn over and into hands and knees. What a crazy feeling, switching positions with the entire head hanging out of me.

The shoulders were stuck & the body wasn't coming out with my pushes alone, so she manually had to stick her entire forearm into me and pull him out.  Another crazy feeling! Having the entire body plus my midwifes arm up my vagina... As I felt the shoulders and body and then legs come out of me I knew it was all finally over. I FUCKING DID IT!!! Immediately I felt a insane rush of emotions. I looked at Johnny and asked him if it was a boy or girl and Johnny said, "It's a boy!" I instantly started crying and he did too. Another magical moment!

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

He needed to be resuscitated and his shoulder was a little banged up since he did have a pretty severe shoulder dystocia. But, I knew everything was going to be okay. Karen just kept calm & said, "Talk to your baby mama." It took a bit, but then he finally let out a cry and I held him in my arms, skin-to-skin.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

After the birth, I felt complete euphoria. I had blood ALL OVER me, my ass felt like I shit out a bowling ball, but NOTHING could bring me down from this high. It was such a surreal moment in time. During the "golden hour" everyone had left the room (besides Tammy because we have these beautiful photos, but I really had no idea she was even in there with us), Johnny & Roofus had joined the baby and I in the bed. Everything was perfect. I immediately started sobbing because I was so beyond happy. This was our family. This was love.

Roofus wasn't originally in the plan to attend the birth. But, just a few days before my due date I saw photographs from a home birth and a german shepherd just sitting next to the mama in the birth tub and it was beautiful! Roofus was my baby, I couldn't NOT have him there and I'm so happy I changed my mind. He stayed by my side the entire time and was even in the room as the baby was born. Roofus was an important part of my birth team.

My birth was the perfect example of how a birth team works together. Everyone did their thing and together they created an incredible experience for both me and Johnny. An experience I will definitely never forget. I have a whole new level respect for birth work and cannot wait to attend my next birth as a doula!

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Anyways, Karen called Justin (my chiropractor) to come out and check/adjust the baby. So he came out and offered the birth team adjustments, it almost felt like a party at this point. Everyone started cleaning everything up, Johnny gave everyone beer, we had the record player playing good music. This was a real birth day party.

After the baby was adjusted, it was time to take his measurements. Justin bet that the baby was 9lbs 4oz, and I thought he was joking. NO WAY IN HELL did I have a 9lb 4oz baby... I thought at MOST I would have a 7 1/2 lb baby. They put him in the sling and said he was 9lbs exactly. HOLY FUCK! My jaw dropped, I was in serious disbelief. How did 5'0', 100lb (pre-pregnancy) me have a 9lb baby? If I would have known he was going to be that big I would have said see you at the hospital after I get my epidural! (Kidding) But, now I was even more in shock that I did it! I could NOT believe it... (Still can't and it's been 6 weeks)

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All things considered, my birth was pretty "easy". Actually, let me rephrase that! Giving birth is not easy in any way shape or form. It was both physically and emotionally challenging. It was a trip, that's for sure! But, for giving birth naturally to a 9lb baby with a severe shoulder dystocia as a first time mama, I'd say it went extremely smoothly. I wouldn't have changed a damn thing.

This is oxytocin. This is home birth.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Credit to Tammy Bradshaw Photography for all of these beautiful pictures. I've found these photos so inspiring that I am seriously considering becoming a surrogate. If you are considering a birth photographer for your birth, do it! I will forever treasure these photos, they are absolutely priceless to me.

The birth of Shea 8/13/14

I was excited to work with Lindsay & Matt after they were referred to me by their Bradley method instructor. Although this baby was a bit of a surprise, Lindsay absolutely knew she wanted a natural birth. They were originally planning on delivering at Virtua Hospital, but after telling them about the midwives at Gentle Beginnings & the water birth at Elmer Hospital they began to re-consider their options. At around 32 weeks, Lindsay & Matt met with Karen Shields, a midwife with Gentle Beginnings, & decided they would be changing not only practices, but hospitals as well. Here is their birth story...

At around 10:30, Sunday morning (8/3) Lindsay texted me and said she had began to feel contractions when she woke up, but nothing serious. Around 1, Matt called me and said that they were going to head to the hospital soon as things were starting to get a bit more intense & seemed to be progressing quickly. I told him to call me once they got checked into the hospital and I would head over whenever they needed me. At 2:30 pm Lindsay was checked and 3 cm dilated. I arrived about an hour later and she was handling her contractions beautifully! They were coming strong & consistently, but she was staying calm and let her body do the work. 

Matt was super eager to meet his baby boy! He stood by Lindsay's side the entire time, keeping her comfortable and hydrated. He was definitely a dad-doula, which made my job super easy. Lindsay was getting more back pressure and although she was still able to talk through the contractions, I could tell that they were becoming much more intense. There was no doubt that she was progressing.

Ironically, the position that Lindsay felt least comfortable in during her Bradley classes (side lying) was the position that she stayed in the most during her entire labor. At 4:45, Lindsay started feeling lots of pressure. She said her contractions were getting much more intense and she started to become more vocal. She would moan through them and this was a sign that she was progressing really quickly! We all watched Lindsay in awe of her strength and despite the moaning through contractions, she still remained so calm. 

The midwife on-call, Lindsay (yes her midwifes name was Lindsay as well), asked if she wanted to be checked to see how much progress she had made. At this point it was 5:45 pm, only 4 hours after they arrived at the hospital.  

Lindsay asked not to know how far dilated she was because she did not want to fixate on the number and get discouraged. But, as soon as the midwife checked her, her face lit up with a big smile. She said, "I can't believe this mama, but you are 9 1/2 cm and the baby is -1!" Both Lindsay and Matt looked shocked, they couldn't believe that she was almost fully dilated so quickly. At this point Lindsay was ready to get this baby out! Nothing could comfort her at this point, no position, no massage, nothing. So they suggested getting into the tub. 

Lindsay was planning on a water birth, she had LOVED being in water during her pregnancy. She loved to take baths and she figured it would be the ultimate comfort measure during her labor. But, at this point the water made no difference. She had no urge to push and she just wanted to start pushing. About an hour later, Lindsay sat on the toilet, where her water broke with clear fluid and she began to feel the urge to push. The midwife sat by her side, she gently coached her through pushing and monitored the babies heart rate. 

After a good 45 minutes of pushing on the toilet, the midwife suggested to get back on the bed. Lindsay walked on over and was on all fours. Suddenly the baby was showing signs of distress and the nurse immediately put an oxygen mask on Lindsay.  She was pushing with everything she had in her, but the baby needed assistance. The midwife called for the on-call OB/GYN to come in and he suggested a vacuum assisted delivery. 

Nurses came rushing in and all of a sudden the perfectly calm room was filled with anxiousness. I could tell Matt was worried about Lindsay and the baby, but I assured him that it would all be okay. With a few more pushes, an episiotomy, and assistance from the vacuum, baby Shea was born healthy!

Although this labor took a little bit of an unexpected turn, Lindsay and Matt were just glad that their baby boy arrived healthy (and it didn't hurt that he was super cute also). Shea weighed in at 7 lbs 13 oz. I am so totally still inspired by Lindsay's strength and courage, she did such a beautiful job which makes my job so worth it. Matt & Lindsay congrats on becoming parents, you're going to do a wonderful job!

The birth of William Douglas Jr. 7/15/14

I first talked to Melissa when she was around 32 weeks or so and living in Hawaii with her husband, Doug, who was in the military. Doug was starting his residency for anesthesiology at Penn and they would be moving back to Jersey just a few weeks before her due date. She had found my website and was looking for a birth photographer, but also loved the fact that I was a doula. After talking to her on the phone we both agreed that we would be a good match and scheduled our first pre-natal visit for when they would return to Jersey. 

In a short amount of time we developed a great relationship. I was excited to work with Melissa, Doug & her outgoing mother who would also be an active participant in the birth. Melissa, who was once a pageant girl, was planning a natural childbirth, eating her encapsulated placenta, and exclusively breastfeeding. Just goes to show, there is no "type" of person that hires a doula or plans on having a natural childbirth or eats their placenta. She used the Bradley Method classes as a preparation and attended routine chiropractic appointments. As her due date, July 12, came and went she eagerly waited the arrival of her baby boy. Melissa did everything under the sun to start labor.

As midnight hit on July 15, I got the "I think my water just broke" text, followed by, "I just had a contraction". Melissa's mothers water had also broken at midnight and she delivered her just 5 short hours later. I went to bed because I knew I would need my rest. Around 3:30 AM, I got a call from Doug saying that Melissa had thrown up and they were probably going to head to the hospital soon. I got to Elmer at 4:30 AM and walked back to her room. 

Melissa was having contractions back to back, there was no break. At 4:45 AM the midwife came in and checked her. Melissa was 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced. She said she was exhausted and continued to labor on. 

I used the rebozo on her for a little. But, she was finding that nothing was comfortable and was beginning to get tired quickly. She was staying hydrated and as she went to the bathroom she decided that nothing was more comfortable than sitting on the toilet. 

An hour after her first initial exam she looked at Doug & said, "I need the drugs. This is not a test." Doug & I tried everything to comfort her, but not much later she was begging for something, anything. She just needed something to let her rest, at least for a little. I got the midwife and we all told Melissa that she was strong and able to to do this. She assured us that this was what she wanted. At 6:30 AM she was checked again before getting a dose of morphine and was 4 cm dilated. We asked her again if this was definitely what she wanted and told her it was a low dose and wouldn't take away all of the pain. "Doug, this is not a test, this is not a drill. I need it." Fifteen minutes later she was given her first dose and another dose would be given 30 minutes after. 

She immediately felt relief, but it was far from being numb. As Melissa said, "It took the edge off." We let her know that even though she got the pain relief she was still strong and not to feel bad for getting them. If that's what she says she needed, then that's what she needed. She sat on the birth ball and got some rest, but still felt the contractions. At 7:30 AM she got the second dose and took an hour long rest. 

Two hours later the morphine had completely worn off and she was ready for her next dose. The midwife came in and checked her again at 9:30 AM and she was 7 cm dilated. She told her that it was best not to get another dose of morphine at this point and suggested getting into the tub instead for pain relief. While the tub was filling, the nurse rolled in the warmer for the baby and it all became very real. Melissa's eyes filled with tears, she knew the end was near. 

At 9:45 AM she was in the tub and by 10:00 Melissa and Doug were passed out. The water completely relaxed Melissa and she comfortably went through transition with no pain medication. 45 minutes later she was moaning, she felt the urge to push. I forgot to mention that the maternity ward was completely packed. The waiting room was converted into a labor and delivery room & the rooms in a different wing were being used as labor and delivery as well. The midwife was delivering another baby at the time so the nurse told Melissa to get out of the water and she would check her in the meantime. Melissa sat back on the toilet where she felt most comfortable and began moaning louder. She was trying not to push until she got checked, but the feeling was unbearable. 

Her midwife Jane came in and by 11:15 she was in bed pushing. As soon as the midwife gave her the OK to push Melissa's face lit up. She could not wait to finally meet her baby!

Her mom eagerly watched as her only daughter pushed out their first grandson. She had a smile from ear to ear the whole time with the video camera recording. Doug gave Melissa the emotional and physical support to get her through & she pushed with everything left she had in her. 

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Melissa pushed and pushed. Jane told Doug to get ready to catch his baby & he immediately put on gloves and stood next to Jane as Melissa was crowning. 

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After 35 minutes of pushing baby Will was born! Doug & Melissa both hysterically cried as they laid eyes on their precious baby boy. 

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An incredibly rewarding moment! Melissa was in labor for 11 hours and 45 minutes from when her water first broke at midnight. Even though it wasn't the 100% natural water birth that Melissa had planned for it was still absolutely perfect. She worked super hard to get her 8lb 5oz baby boy out. 

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Melissa & Doug, thank you so much for letting me be apart of your magical day.