The Birth Blessing of Grace

Recently, Jade Chiu, ICD, hosted and photographed a Mother’s Blessing event for her friend and client, Grace Ausley. These events are a beautiful way to celebrate the beginning of a mother’s journey and chance for her friends to send her into the birth feeling fully pampered and supported. Please read about why we don’t call them Blessingway ceremonies here, and take a look one of our favorite events to plan and host!

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Jade and her guest-of-honor, Grace, at the beginning of the event.
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An array of dried herbs and flowers for a sweet-smelling foot soak.
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Positive affirmations and art to decorate the event, and then Grace’s birth space to remind her of the support she has in her circle of friends and family.
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A friend decorates one of Grace’s affirmation flags.
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A scripture verse made by Grace’s sister-in-law, Sarah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A floral head wreath, premade for Grace so she can relax while her guests make ones for themselves to wear and take home as keepsakes.
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One of the guests making her own head wreath out of silk flowers, wire and floral tape.
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Delicious snacks, more affirming art and disposable table wear so our guest of honor can relax and not worry about clean up on her day of honor.
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Some of the beads brought by the guests to be made into a birth necklace for Grace to wear, hold, or display at her birth – a tangible reminder for her to hang on to while laboring.
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Grace’s finished necklace and belly, with art by the talented Jade Chiu.
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Grace with her friend Sara and Sara’s adorable son, Nehemiah.

For more information on Mother’s Blessing Events by The Labor Ladies, LLC, please visit our website.

 

 

 

Spiritual, Peaceful, Confident: The Birth of Leah Grace

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Many birth stories aim to walk through the physical details of the day a child was born, what happened and when. While I do want to remember every detail of the birth of my first child, focusing on these physical details is not fully indicative of my labor and birth experience. As a birth doula myself, I have seen many births, I am not afraid of birth, I understood the physiology of childbirth long before I ever became pregnant myself. I knew that I wanted an un-medicated water birth, who I wanted as my doula, and the type of provider I wanted the minute the test came back positive. My labor preparation was not found in childbirth books or classes. For me, preparing for labor was a mental and spiritual journey.

My pregnancy was filled with a lot of stressful events, unrelated to actually being pregnant. I lost two family members unexpectedly in my first trimester, my husband had to travel for much of my second trimester and at the start of my third trimester I found out that I was being laid off from my job following my maternity leave. All of these things kept me from feeling very in tune with being pregnant. I was just desperately trying to get things in order, assuming that I would just focus on the baby when it arrived. All of that changed at 37 weeks when I started having almost non-stop prodromal labor. Suddenly, it was impossible to ignore the fact that I was about to become a mother. I had to finish working early because the contractions were made worse by being on my feet all day and by being tired, so at 38 weeks I left my job early and finally switched my focus to gestating. I started taking daily short walks, during which I listened to birth and pregnancy podcasts and meditated to my birth playlist. One day someone on one of the podcasts mentioned that they had challenged themselves to pick three words to describe their ideal birth, words that were unrelated to the actual environment or method of delivery. I liked the sound of that, so I gave it some thought. The words that came to mind were worshipful, peaceful, and confident.

I wanted this birth to be a spiritual experience. I felt like so many popular natural birth affirmations functioned to convince the mother that SHE could give birth through her own physical power and while I know that that resonates with a lot of people I didn’t want to conquer birth, I didn’t want to rely on my physical strength, I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. Instead, I decided that my focus would be on using this experience for God’s glory and relying on His power to guide me through the process. I wanted the environment to be peaceful at the time of birth, I didn’t want things to feel rushed or chaotic and regardless of what happened or how I gave birth I wanted to feel confident in the decisions that needed to be made so that I didn’t come out of the experience with regrets. I didn’t share these convictions with anyone, I just meditated on them every day in preparation for delivery.

birth-3My estimated due date was Nov. 25th, the day after Thanksgiving. When my prodromal labor started so early I thought for sure that this baby would arrive ahead of schedule and that I would be spending my Thanksgiving getting baby cuddles on the couch. Thanksgiving came and went. My whole family traveled down from 2 and half hours away to spend the holiday with us and I hoped and prayed the baby would arrive before they left so that I wouldn’t have to call them to come back again. However on the 26th everyone packed up and drove home and I was left grumpy and convinced I would be pregnant forever. In fact, my husband found me in my PJs, in bed, with the lights off watching TV, in full hibernation mode by 4 o’clock that afternoon. I was mentally done and ready for this baby to make an entrance. At midnight on the 27th I woke up to some strange “cramps”. I tried to ignore them and go back to sleep, but that quickly became impossible. I got up to go to the bathroom and low and behold… bloody show! The contractions were coming about every 6 minutes and were strong enough that it was uncomfortable to stay still through them. They quickly progressed to being every 4 and a half minutes apart so we alerted my doula and my mother and they both prepared to come to our house. My plan was to wait and go to the hospital when I was in transition because we only lived a few miles away and I wanted to spend most of my time at home. Over the course of the next nine hours I spent time watching TV with my husband while he rubbed my back, I visited with my mom and my doula in the stillness of the early morning, the sun came up and my team took turns eating breakfast and drinking coffee as I labored in the living room by the Christmas tree, leaning forward with each contraction, swaying back and forth as someone rubbed my back. We bundled up and took a walk around the neighborhood, joking that it was probably against HOA guidelines to have a baby in the parking lot. Finally, around 11 AM I began to get shaky and feel some pressure so we decided to go to the hospital. We packed everything up and caravanned to the hospital. I was very nervous about dealing with the drive, check in and triage process and I could feel my focus and faith slipping as soon as we made the call to go to the hospital. The triage process was long and irritating and when the midwife finally came in I could tell instantly that she and I were not going to click. She gave me an uncomfortable cervical check, the first cervical check of my pregnancy, and announced that I was only 3cm. I could stay and be monitored for an hour or I could go home. While I was obviously somewhat frustrated by this news, I was also relieved. Now I could go back home to where I was comfortable and get my focus back to where it needed to be. Looking back, I am actually really thankful for this “practice” trip to the hospital because it gave me a chance to walk through the part of labor I was most fearful of, the transition from home to hospital, so that when it came time to do it again I was prepared.

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My mom, my husband and I headed home and my doula headed back to her house to check on her family. My husband laid down to rest, my mom sat with me as I took a bath and tried to eat and then I took some Tylenol PM, at the advice of the midwife, and tried to rest myself. The contractions were still coming every 4 and half minutes and I still couldn’t stay still through them so I was only able to groggily drift off in between contractions before rolling onto my hands and knees through each one. This went on for about two hours when I decided to get up and try to get things moving. I pulled out all the stops, doing abdominal lifts, positioning exercises, walking the stairs, squatting, and moving my hips like my life depended on it. By 7:30 that night we called my doula back and we once again transitioned from day to night with everyone taking turns eating dinner and rubbing my back. I decided to go get back in the shower, since that was where I could relax the most, but I told my husband I needed him to stay with me. He tried helping me through contractions from outside the shower but that wasn’t really working so he changed into some shorts and got in with me. This was honestly my favorite part of my labor because I was so focused, my husband was doing a fantastic job of supporting me and it was private, just the two of us. The water was so relaxing and in that moment, I was sure I was never leaving that shower and that the baby would just have to be born right there. Unfortunately, we ran out of hot water… I stayed in the bathroom with my husband for a while longer but I think my team could sense a shift in my mood and started talking to me about going back to the hospital. The tiniest bit of fear started creeping in again and at first I said no, but then my wonderful doula reminded me to trust in my team and that fear was not a good reason to stay home. So, at 9:45 PM – almost 22 hours into my labor we headed back to the hospital. I began to cry a little as we pulled away from our house because I knew that when we came back we would have a baby and that still seemed so surreal.

This time, I was not afraid of the drive or the triage process I was just determined to get through it without losing my focus. The contractions in the car were very very hard but I only had two before we arrived. I stayed focus through check in and was brought into triage, I got right up onto the bed in hands and knees and strapped the monitors to myself so that they would stay on and I answered all of their questions without losing my focus. The nurse offered to check me so that we wouldn’t have to wait for the midwife, a different midwife from earlier in the day, and I agreed. Her check was much more gentle than the previous one and I was thankful for that. She asked if I wanted to know how dilated I was and I said not if I was far enough along to be admitted. She said that I was, so they sent my doula up to our room to begin setting up the birth pool. I told them I would be wearing my own clothes, rather than a hospital gown and I walked myself to our labor and delivery room, albeit very slowly. I had to do another 20 minutes of continuous monitoring before I would be allowed off the monitors to get in the pool, so again I climbed up into bed on hands and knees, closed my eyes and focused. The only negative to this time was that I overheard the nurses talking to each other, saying that I was still only dilated to a 5. At that point I knew that I needed to shift my efforts to conserving the energy I would need for transition and pushing so I told my doula to go ahead and fill up the pool even though everyone wanted me to walk around to try and get things progressing. I had been on my feet almost non-stop for almost 24 hours and I could feel my legs starting to get weak. I finished the monitoring and got in the pool and it was a definite relief. The water took the pressure off my legs and made it much easier to move from a resting position to my hands and knees for contractions. I would lay on my side to rest in between while my mom poured water over my belly to help my muscles relax, when a contraction came I would get on my knees and lay my upper body over the side of the pool while my husband applied counter pressure to my back. This routine went on for probably two hours before the midwife came in to check me again. It was now around 1 am the next day, November 28th. She told me that I was still dilated to about 5cm and that my bag of water was bulging, causing the pressure I had been feeling for much of the day.

birth-9Having attended a fair amount of births I was not terribly surprised by this news and I knew in my heart that it was time to help things along. The midwife offered to break my water and I agreed but I asked for ten minutes to talk with my team and to get myself prepared. After 25 hours of labor there was a definite part of me that was nervous about feeling things change and intensify. I had my doula say the risks of an artificial rupture of membranes out loud so that my mom and my husband would understand them and we all agreed that it was the best call. I got out of the tub and made my way to the bed as the midwife came back into the room. She was very gentle during the procedure and I hardly felt a thing. When they said the water was clear I started to cry out of relief. My contractions intensified immediately. I agreed to get in the shower for a while to help keep pressure on my cervix so my husband and I got in the shower and while I never felt scared or out of control I did cry and say a few curse words when it was just the two of us because the intensity of the contractions was a lot to get used to. After a little while I got back into the tub and I went into that full “labor land” hormonal state that people talk about. It was incredibly surreal, I felt as though I was drifting in and out of sleep and I just kept saying “Ok, Ok, Ok” after each contraction because in my mind I just kept reassuring myself that I was ok and that things were going well. Around this time the nurse and the midwife asked to check me again and without even really thinking about it I just said “No” very firmly. They hung around for a while and each time they would ask to check me I would just close my eyes and shake my head. I just knew that I could not handle anything breaking my focus and I knew that this baby was going to come out whether they checked my cervix or not. Finally, they left the room and I decided to try and see what it would feel like to bear down a little bit during the next contraction. I hesitantly tired it and it felt Ok so I tried it again on the next contraction without saying anything to anyone. All of the sudden on the next contraction my body took over and “trying to bear down a little” became involuntary pushing. My sounds and body language must have changed because my doula very calmly came over and asked “was that you pushing on that last contraction or was it your uterus?” I barely got the word uterus out before my body started pushing again. My doula chuckled and said, “it looks like you have a butt full of baby!” Apparently at that point she went out in the hall and told the nurse and the midwife that they should probably come back in, the nurse replied “well she is going to have to let us check her” my doula just laughed and said “I don’t think you’re going to have to, the head is coming out.”

The nurse and the midwife came back in and got everything ready. I don’t think I really realized how close I was to having this baby because I remember someone saying that they were setting up for delivery and thinking, “yeah right, that doesn’t mean anything I could still have hours left.” Then they moved the mirror to the side of the pool so that I could see myself pushing and there on the next contraction I saw the head starting to crown. One of my favorite songs on my birth playlist came on, “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli, this is one of my favorite worship songs and is all about creating a sacred and worshipful space. At this point my body was pushing so hard and uncontrollably I honestly felt like I couldn’t breath and in just two or three more contractions our little baby arrived! I reached down and pulled our little one up and out of the water. It was 3:30 AM just two hours and twenty minutes after my water had been broken. My doula was standing on a table taking pictures and both she and my mom were singing along with the song in a moment of total praise and worship. The baby’s cord was tangled at first so I could only get her to my belly. It took me a minute to snap out of labor land and realize that it was over and we had a baby! They untangled the cord and I pulled the baby up to my chest. I kissed that wet little head, covered in hair, and said “Oh baby, you did such a good job!” We heard that perfect little cry and I just stared in total awe. It was actually a few minutes before we realized we still didn’t know if we had a girl or a boy. I had my husband look and he announced to the room that we had a baby girl! I announced her name, rubbed her vernix into her skin, and my husband cut her cord. She went with him for some skin to skin time while I got out of the pool to deliver the placenta. The only downside to the whole experience was that her quick decent and my strong pushing caused some tearing that took a while to get repaired so I wasn’t able to feed her and hold her for another hour and half, but she was in the room with her daddy where I could still see her and hear her. After she ate and we moved to our postpartum room, she was weighed and measured. She was 6 lbs 14oz and 19 inches long.

birth-34Honestly, I would not change anything about my experience. I felt calm and confident throughout the entire 27 hours of labor. My team did an amazing job of supporting me. Even the slight hiccups, like the first trip to the hospital and having to have my water broken helped me reach my goals in the long run. The length of my labor kept me fully relying on my faith in God and her moment of birth was honestly one of the greatest moments of pure worship I have ever been a part of. I am still in awe of the experience and I am so thankful that it brought us our beautiful baby girl.

Here Is a video of some photos from our birth (Nothing Graphic):

A Doula’s Lesson in Surrender

Miss Fallon Brielle was born in April 2016. Yes, we’re just now publishing her birth story because between myself and Jamilla, there are two 4-year olds, a 2-year old and a baby who insists on getting teeth and crawling in her sleep. A brief history – I am Meredith, one of the co-owners/founders of The Labor Ladies, LLC. My oldest daughter, Gia, was born at Forsyth Medical Center, four years before the birth of my youngest, Fallon.

With Gia, I had an uncomplicated, unmedicated, natural hospital birth.  It was very nearly everything I wanted at the time.  I had prepared (I thought) and was not afraid.  I knew I could do it.  I relied on me…my will power, my stubbornness, my pride if I’m honest.  My husband was with me and was as helpful as I’d allow him to be.  My mom was there too and was also as helpful as she could be.  At the end of it all I felt like it was all up to me though.  I needed to do it because I said I would.  Then after I did do it I felt like I could do anything because of how strong and awesome I was.  Pride.  God has a funny way of reminding me to rely on Him.  After the first week or so postpartum set in and I realized I actually couldn’t do anything.  Natural birth or not I could barely make a sandwich.  Goodbye, Pride.  Thanks for nothing.

After three and a half years Seth and I decided to grow our family once more.  It wasn’t an easy decision.  I’m not a very gracious pregnant lady.  I’m hard on myself for gaining weight, I’m exhausted which makes me whine, and I really felt like I had a handle on the mom thing with my one little perfect preschooler.  (Remember me saying I’ve got issues with pride?)  After much prayer, discussion, and wise council we decided to give it a try and see if I got pregnant easily.  (Read that as I said I’d give it one try, thinking it would take longer.)

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Mother’s Day 2015 with my happy little tribe

I got pregnant the first month.  At this point I’d been a doula for about two years.  I had seen numerous births, I had been teaching The Labor Ladies’ Guide to Childbirth, and I was mentoring new doulas.  I had a greater experience base than I had when I was pregnant the first time.  I planned another natural birth but knew I didn’t want it to be at the hospital.  I also didn’t feel led to have a homebirth.  We visited Natural Beginnings Birth Center in Statesville, NC, a little less than halfway through my pregnancy and I immediately knew that was where I needed to be.

Does everyone have that one friend who knows what you need when you don’t even know you need it?  If you don’t, find one.  It’s the best.

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Last full day of my pregnancy

The Walkers and Tanners have a Christmas Eve brunch tradition.  At this point I was six-ish months pregnant at Christmas 2015, when sweet Jamilla gave me a beautifully wrapped package.  Inside was the best thing that could have happened to my pregnancy and birth.  She had created for me a pregnancy journal.  It was divided into sections with different writing prompts instructing me to think through my pregnancy and birth with Gia, what role everybody played, what my first postpartum time was like, what my prayers were for this pregnancy and birth, how I envisioned my birth strengthening my marriage and my relationship with Gia.  It was literally invaluable.  I would spend my mornings while Gia was at preschool working through each section.  It was through these writings that I realized what God was calling me to for this birth.  See, I really really really believe that birth is a spiritual thing and that God has something to say about the way you give birth.  And I don’t think He says the same thing to everyone, but I do think He has plenty to say.  I actually think he really cares about the way you give birth.  His Son didn’t just appear, He was born.   It was orchestrated.  Birth has been part of the Story since the Story began.  So He began to whisper to me, ever so gently because that is just the kind of Dad He is to me.  He began to call to me to use this birth to strengthen my marriage, to rely on my husband.  If you know me you know how stubborn I can be.  I like to be both taken care of and independent – a tricky combination for a Godly marriage.  As a girl I was raised to rely on God rather than a guy for my identity.  That translated, as I grew up and got married, into relying on God but not really letting my husband help me with much of anything.  Like Gia’s birth.  I knew I could do it.  Because God told me to have a natural birth so I knew I could.  It had nothing to do with Seth.  This time was going to be different.  Jesus was telling me to learn to need my husband and to use this birth as the catalyst for that.  We took a class.  You: Wait, don’t you teach the class? Me: Yup.  I do.  So that’s how I knew we needed a class.  Jamilla came over and we talked through comfort measures and what Seth could do to help me.  I knew what I needed, but I needed him to know because I needed to need him, and needed to be confident that he was ready to be needed.  Confused?  It’s okay…hang in there.

And so this is how it happened…

I was given a due date of April 15th.   Gia was born 3 days before her due date so obviously this baby would be born at least 3 days early.  Probably sooner.  (It’s okay, you can laugh at me if you’d like).  My pregnancy was uneventful minus a few positioning hiccups.  Fallon stayed head up until around 32 weeks when I finally stopped wearing my skinny jeans and gave her some space to fit her head down there.  (Vanity.  Another one of my vices.  Pride and vanity.  I can be honest here, right?) The week before my due date we determined that Fallon was posterior.  I told my chiropractor, he did the Webster technique and sent me on my way.  3 days before my due date I had some definite pre-labor signs.   I knew I’d have her that day.  And then I didn’t.  I went to bed that night a little (lot) grumpy because I was still pregnant but I knew I’d wake up that night with contractions.  And I did!  Two of them.  I woke up Thursday morning and told Seth I was having some contractions.  He contemplated staying home but they were really far apart.  After dropping Gia off for preschool I came home and began sobbing because I missed her…even though I had just left her and would be picking her back up in 2 hours.  Hi, hormones!!  The day went on as usual and contractions stayed spaced out.  I went to bed that night mad about still being pregnant.   Tomorrow was my due date and I was supposed to have her early!  I woke up on the morning of April 15th, my due date, mad as could be.  I got out of bed and stomped downstairs to make coffee.  Seth asked if I was ok and I snapped “Yes!  I’m OBVIOUSLY FINE! AND STILL PREGNANT!”  I grabbed my phone to text Jamilla.  I have two friends I can be painfully honest with.  One of them happens to be my business partner and birth guru so she was the unfortunate recipient of my daggers.  And like any good friend would, she told me to get my cries out, put on my big girl panties, and get on with life.  The baby would come when she’s ready.  Sigh.  Thank, Jam.  I had an appointment that morning at the Birth Center.   It was the appointment I told them I wouldn’t be at because I’d definitely have my baby by then.  Uh huh.  That’s the one I was getting ready for.  So my little family of three loaded up in the car and began the hour long drive to Statesville.  On the way there I had 2 contractions.  TWO CONTRACTIONS.  In an hour.  To say that the look on my face made me unapproachable would be an understatement.  At the appointment they determined that Fallon was head down, but transverse.  As a result of the previous week’s Webster she was just taking her time getting into position.  She had wiggled from facing the front of me, to facing my side.  So we got back in the car and drove another hour home.   As soon as we got home I started the Miles Circuit.  If you don’t know what it is, Google it!  It’s a dream maker for baby positioning.  A series of three “exercises,” by the last one I was having more regular contractions.  They didn’t hurt, and I didn’t have to focus, but I did notice them.  They were about 7 minutes apart.  I called Jamilla, who had already been at a birth all day, to let her know that even though I was certain I’d be pregnant FOREVER and this baby would NEVER come out, I was having somewhat of patterned contractions.  I called my parents and asked if they’d come get Gia and bring her to my nephew’s soccer game so I could focus and see if these contractions would intensify.  Once she left my contractions all but stopped.   I had about 3 in the hour she was gone.  So rude.  They came back to the house and everybody was in the living room talking to each other which all of a sudden became incredibly annoying.  I announced that I’d be upstairs showering since I wasn’t having a baby anytime soon.  I texted Jamilla to update her that nothing was happening, I’m 7 minutes apart still, and everybody is annoying.  Once I got upstairs I turned on the shower, got undressed, and suddenly had an incredibly hard contraction.  I called Seth upstairs right away and told him we needed to leave soon, called my mom upstairs to ask her to quickly devise a plan to get Gia to willingly leave the house with her, and called Jamilla.  All I could get out of my mouth was a very tiny, pitiful, and whiney “can you just come over please?”  I didn’t wait for 5 minutes apart.  I didn’t wait for anything.  I just knew this was it.

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My dad drove, as fast as possible despite us all telling him I was ok

So off we went, Dad driving as one would expect, occasionally threatening to “turn on the flashers” to get away from traffic, Jamilla in the front (because “what if Fallon shoots out on highway 40?!?“), with Seth and I in the back.

This is when I got to see prayer after prayer answered. I had written in my journal about how I wanted this birth to be a worshipful experience.  I had a playlist full of worship songs for Gia’s birth but couldn’t bear to listen to anything at all.  For this birth, I wanted to labor in His presence.  I wanted Fallon to come into the world with words of worship being sung over her.  Once we started down the road Seth turned on the playlist we had created and I began to pray and sing over her quietly, to myself.  My contractions were intense but they didn’t hurt like I remember Gia’s hurting.  I wasn’t too uncomfortable.  I was just really working.  I’d prayed that I’d need Seth during my labor.  During each contraction Seth would rub my back or hold my hand and I actually welcomed his support.  We believe that the husband wife relationship is a direct model of our relationship with Christ so I really wanted to rely on Seth as a testimony of that.  mt-hands

When we finally pulled into the Birth Center, they were waiting for me at the door. I was so worried they’d send me home, but when the student midwife checked me, I was already 8cm. Thank you, Jesus!! I continued laboring in the room, worship music playing, surrounded by Jesus and my husband, Jamilla prayerfully in the background snapping pictures.  When I think back to being there, in labor, the thought that continually comes to mind is “it just really wasn’t bad!”  I honestly felt pretty good! It

was work, but it was not this intense, maddening, cringe-worthy pain that my first labor had been.  I was able to talk and cut up a little in between contractions.   Each time I felt one coming I grabbed onto Seth’s hands, let my shoulders drop to release any tension, let my jaw relax, closed my eyes and breathed while focusing on the music. img_3537

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At one point, probably an hour in I casually mentioned that I didn’t “feel transition-y.”  I was supposedly 8cm but just didn’t feel like it.  Shortly after making that statement things began to change.  I went from loosely holding Seth’s hands to gripping his pockets and burying my head in his chest, but focusing on letting the words in the songs wash over me.

What became the song of my Fallon’s birth – the best song ever did the best job of keeping me relaxed:

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Holy Spirit, you are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory Lord is what our hearts long for

To be overwhelmed by Your presence, Lord.

Let us become more aware of your presence

Let us experience the glory of Your goodness.

A.Men. If you’ve never labored with Jesus by your side I highly recommend it.  It was such a tangible answer to prayer to be standing there, in His presence, holding the hands of my husband, relying on his presence just as much, as my baby prepared to make her entrance.  If I could do it again I would.  A million times over.  I would absolutely experience every moment of that labor again.  Jesus cares about your birth.  I believe it with all I am.

Let’s continue.  Kudos to you for reading this long!  I knew I wanted to birth in the water.  I had no dreamy visions of a beautiful labor in water, but I did want to birth in water.  So I waited.  I waited until I felt that tell-tale pressure and then I stepped into glory.  And by glory I mean a tub full of the warmest of warm water.  Then glory went away, replaced by ALL THE PRESSURE and I immediately began pushing.  I distinctly remembered the
pressure and the pushing from Gia’s birth 4 years ago.  I wasn’t afraid of it, I just very much remembered it and how intense it was.  I knew it was coming so I just powered through it.  Seth was kneeling in front of me.  I remember thinking what a picture of Jesus that was.  My support, the one I was relying on and working through this with was kneeling. Kneeling is a sign of servitude.  The strong one, in that moment, was taking the form of servitude.  Just like Jesus does.  Birth, y’all.  Birth is so spiritual.

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Knowing how I remembered pushing with Gia, Jamilla asked how I was feeling emotionally.  This is typically a time in birth when emotional issues can be a stumbling block.  Thanks to the pre-birth work I had done I was good to go.  I replied that I was just tired.  (Great sign of the right hormones at work to birth this baby!)  She suggested I turn to more of a sitting position and when I did it was really game on.  I pushed three times, through two contractions.  Two. Contractions.  And my sweet Fallon was born.  It was just that simple.  She was born into clean water (another answer to prayer as that’s not usually the case with waterbirths) and I put her on my chest amazed that just like that I was a mommy of two.  I had two little girls now.  Phew!  I still can’t believe it.

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There are several morals to this story.  First is to pray.  I mean really pray about the birth you want.  I wrote down the most minor of details regarding my birth from the time of day it would occur to the day of the week to who would be where and more.  He won’t always say yes but He’ll never get mad at you for asking.  Next is that God really does care about your birth.  He has a plan for your birth.  He wants to be involved in your birth!  Maybe joining you in your birth reminds Him of the night He got to watch His Son be born!  Invite Him, welcome Him.  You won’t be disappointed that you did.  And finally, husbands rock.  In a day and age where dads are labeled the “other kid” in a family, let me just say that a
supportive, Godly husband is the jam.  Ladies, I think that when you make space for your husband to be needed nine times out of ten – he will gladly and confidently step into that space.  My marriage isn’t perfect just because I needed Seth at Fallon’s birth.  But I will never look back at this labor and birth and not be reminded of who and what he was for me that night.  I will never be able to retell this story without seeing him as my steady hand, my champion.

Pregnancy May Be Natural but It Isn’t Easy

natural doens't Equal easy

I have been fully entrenched in the natural health and natural birth communities for a number of years now. Outside of being a doula, I am heavily involved in the real food movement, I write a natural health blog and I have had the pleasure of socializing with natural health, fitness, and food bloggers from all over the world. So, every now and again I have to poke my head up from my natural living rabbit hole and find a little balance with mainstream culture.

After years of working as a doula the various mantras about the natural process of pregnancy and birth are engrained in my mind. “pregnancy is not an illness it is a normal physical state”, “Birth is a natural process that your body was designed to go through” “Pregnancy and birth are not medical problems, but rather natural states of being”… So when I became pregnant for the first time this past March I expected to go on living life as usual because birth was normal and natural and I was healthy and fit, and normal and natural in my mind meant living life as usual. Then I got hit with five weeks of severe morning sickness, fatigue that has never lifted, and a variety of other aches and pains.

What was I doing wrong? I had great nutrition, I was taking great vitamins, supplementing with magnesium and B6, going to the chiropractor every two weeks, working out, drinking pregnancy tea, getting sleep, listening to my birth affirmations… Why was this pregnancy thing, this “natural state of health” not going better? Why was it not easy?

I spent a number of weeks feeling guilty for not being “better” at being pregnant. I had spent years walking with women through the journey of birth and pregnancy and helping them achieve positive pregnancy and birth experiences and it seemed like I couldn’t even do it “right” for myself. Then I swallowed my pride and expressed my feelings to my wonderful doula, Jamilla, and her response was so perfectly simple that I couldn’t believe I has wasted so much time feeling so guilty. (Side note: This is why you cannot “doula” yourself) She said, “ training for a marathon is a natural process too, but you would never expect to go through that process without sore muscles, without needing a nap every now and then or without needing a few extra snacks.”

Talk about a serious light bulb moment/face palm/duh moment! I had completely under valued the work that my body had been doing all this time. I wasn’t failing because my back hurt and I was tired, in fact I was succeeding in successfully growing a human being those were just the minor side effects. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in thinking that natural birth and pregnancy equals simplicity (i.e. less interventions, a less medicalized model, less restrictions) that we can start to believe that pregnancy in and of itself is somehow simple and nothing could be further from the truth. Pregnancy is a complex miracle from start to finish, it requires many physical resources, lots of energy and it is truly awe-inspiring in its very nature.

Pregnancy is a natural state of health, this is true. However, natural does not always mean simple and it certainly does not always mean easy.

 
View More: http://mandasphotos.pass.us/sam--marcusThis article was written by Samantha McClellan. She is a DONA certified birth doula, a full time nanny, a natural health blogger, the wife of a youth pastor and a soon-to-be first time mom. To learn more about Samantha or to learn about the services she provides please click HERE.

Men Becoming Dads

I have heard it said that a woman becomes a mother when a child in conceived but a man becomes a father the day the child is born. Now, I know lots of dads who are very involved in their wive’s pregnancies but after attending many births there is just something truly magical about watching a man in his first moments of fatherhood- whether he’s becoming a dad for the first time or the fifth. Dads are amazing assets at birth, often so focused on helping the woman they love that they will gladly forgo food, rest or comfort just to massage her back through one more contraction, get the birth pool to the exact right temperature, or offer encouragement through as many pushes as it takes. Yet, when the moment finally comes where they meet their child for the first time you can always just see their hearts melt with love and their faces beam with pride. So, to celebrate all of the wonderful dads that we, as The Labor Ladies, have had a chance to work with over the years here are some of our favorite special dad moments…

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This post was collectively comprised of photos taken by Jessica, Samantha and Jade. To Find out more about their doula and photography services please click HERE

Curse You, Maternity Leggings!

maternity leggings

Dear Maternity Leggings,

You are the worst and we’re breaking up.  It’s not me, it is definitely you.  You lied to me for months!  Here’s the thing, Maternity Leggings, you were sooooo comfortable.  Literally the most comfortable “pants” I’ve ever worn.   And my love for you, it was gradual.  We moved at a slow, healthy pace.  At first you were just for wearing with long sweaters during the colder months of my pregnancy.  But as I continued to grow my baby my other clothes were less and less comfortable.  Not you, Maternity Leggings, you were always comfortable.  I don’t even know, from a scientific standpoint, how it’s possible that you didn’t get tighter, that you were never uncomfortable.  As I slowly became a “leggings as pants” person you seemed to grow right along with my pregnant self.  How could you do that to me, Maternity Leggings??  You told me you were real pants and I actually believed you!   No tunic to be found?  No problem!  Just throw on your leggings with a t-shirt!  It’s fine!  I mean it must be fine…these leggings that fit at 4 months pregnant still feel incredible.  Logic would submit that that must mean I am still the size I was when 4 months pregnant save for the growing belly.  But no, Maternity Leggings!  It wasn’t true.  I trusted you and you lied and so it’s over between us.  See after about 20 weeks of wearing you my baby actually entered the world.  I was no longer pregnant.  No longer in need of maternity clothes.  I went for my regular clothes.  But guess what, you deceitful “pants,” nothing fit!  You told me for months that only my stomach was growing but then the baby was born and I finally looked at my butt in the mirror.  So I’ve decided you’re a jerk.  And I blame you for my postpartum body.   That’s all.

Sincerely,

Meredith

Mer

Meredith is one of the co-owners of The Labor Ladies, LLC. The adorable sleeping princess she’s wearing was born a little over six weeks ago. Luckily for us, Meredith was upset enough at her maternity leggings to let the world know. To learn more about Meredith and the birth services she provides click HERE.

 

How to Be the Perfect Mother

I have been known to say, “Give me a topic and three facts about it, and I can BS a five paragraph essay on the subject.” But it turns out, as I’ve gotten older, I have grown quite accustomed to being able to write whatever topic pops into my head, rather than being assigned a topic.

Jamilla asked me to write about motherhood, and the differences between mothering babies and toddlers…and older kids than that.

Oh brother. Where in the world to start?

I’ve hit some milestones in my journey of motherhood lately. I recently relinquished my rights as ‘butt-wiper’ for the last time. My 6-year-old tells everyone he meets that he is now 6 and can wipe his own butt. And all those people look at me like “Since you don’t have to spend time wiping his butt anymore, can you please teach him that it’s not appropriate to tell people about it.” And I look back at them like “Dude, I’ve been wiping one butt or another for the past 14 years. Take a second and celebrate my retirement with me, please.”

I’ve also arrived at the stage where I don’t have to wash anyone’s hair anymore. Granted, I still sniff the boys’ heads occasionally to make sure they aren’t lying when they say that they washed it, but I no longer have to squat down over the edge of the tub and say, “Lean your head back and close your eyes.”

With this new stage of “no more small children” comes other things, though.

Things like much larger clothing items to be washed, resulting in more laundry.

Or the finding of those larger dirty clothes items on the floor. Because when I used to bathe them, I also put their dirty clothes in the hamper…but I am fairly certain my boys don’t know what a hamper is, and if they do know, they are convinced that I need extra patience in my life and they want to help me obtain it by forgetting to make use of the hamper as often as possible.

Also, they have all begun to push the envelope in a whole different way than when they were small. They used to let their rebellion show by sneaking cookies from the pantry…now they come up with code words for inappropriate/curse words.

Example: “Mom! He called me a weasel!”

“Why does that bother you so much?”

“Weasel is code for penis.”

Really? In that moment I ACHED for the old days, when they said “bye-bye” and “mama” and “ball” and none of them knew the word weasel OR penis.

I straight up blew my cool with them. “LOOOOOOOK. No code words are allowed in this house. Any. More. You can say someone is a pain. You can say dang it. That’s it. No more “pain in the abs” or “son of a biscuit” and DEFINITELY no more ‘weasel.” Cut it out. Or I’ll kick your butts.”

So, as I’ve pondered what advice to share with the readers of The Labor Ladies on the subject of motherhood (and all that it implies) I have come up blank.

Because…and let’s be honest with ourselves and each other for a minute, if we can…

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT MOTHERHOOD.

There’s no such thing as arriving at a stage where it’s smooth sailing. There’s no such thing as figuring it all out…and never wanting to pull out your hair…and never wanting to strangle your child ever again. There never has been. There never will be.

I understand that the news isn’t a shock to some, while it is an entirely appalling idea to others. Trust me. I have had all those feelings.

A few weeks ago, my sister (who is the person in the world (besides my husband) who knows me the best)(And she has three kids of her own) told me that she stopped after three kids because she saw what a crazy person I was with four.

Please take a moment to imagine my horror and humiliation.

Seriously…

I used to be the mom who played games with her kids whenever they asked. We had tea parties. We made homemade play dough. We learned Bible verses. We colored together.

But somehow, in the transitions of life (only one of which was adding a fourth child, and that child cannot be blamed for the crazy person his mother apparently became after his arrival) I grew into the kind of mother who spurred her own sister into deciding three kids were ENOUGH.

The depth of my self-recrimination knew no bounds…for several days, in fact.

And then Jamilla asked me to write on this subject, and as I had been stewing on it already, I felt certain I would have something monumental and life altering to share.

Instead, I have shared with you…stories of my failures.

But…maybe those aren’t really stories of failure, so much as stories of real life.

There’s no such thing as figuring it out. Obviously.

There can be seasons of minimal yelling and easy discipline and all vegetables being eaten on supper plates and all urine making it into the toilet all of the time…but those are only seasons. Everything is. It’s a fluid thing, motherhood, and what worked with one kid, in one season, won’t work forever, or for all kids. Expecting it to, and trying to cram who you are, and who your children are, and who your family is, into the mold that you fit prior to your current stage…well, it’ll just make you all cranky, and bruised, and feeling like failures all of the time.

I have so many more stories of how much of a failure I am as a mother…

But, I won’t share them all. You have your own, I’m sure. If you don’t yet…you will.

And it’s okay.

As I pondered a particularly rough day recently, where everyone was in timeout at least once and we had all cried and no one was allowed to touch an electronic device for the rest of their lives and I was hoarse from yelling, and had resorted to hiding from my children for a few precious seconds…

The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart.

“Let your striving cease.”

You see? He knows. He knows that we try so hard, and we fail so completely, and we feel utterly miserable and horrified and humiliated and mad and exhausted.

He sees you. He sees me. Our all-wise and all-knowing God didn’t give us the precious little ones by accident. He didn’t gamble that we would be good parents for the children He gave us. He wouldn’t entrust us with His treasures so frivolously.

HE KNOWS WE MESS IT UP. He knew we would before we ever even thought about having kids. And He still gave them to us.

Which says something pretty extraordinary about our God, for one thing. But, it also says something that I want you to HEAR, and remember, in your moments of freaking out and wanting to call everyone around you a weasel.

He will help you. He will help me.

That’s what it means. He gave us His Spirit along with the blessing of children, and His Spirit will strengthen you, and me, in our moments of total meltdown. And His Spirit will remind us to press into the One who is Peace, and Love, and Joy, and Hope, and Kindness, and Gentleness, and all the rest.

He doesn’t leave us to navigate motherhood alone, no matter our stage, no matter the place in life where we find ourselves, no matter how many times we screw it up and call someone a weasel. He’s still here. He’s enough. Let Him be enough.

So…that’s it. That’s all the advice I have. And it’s not mine. It’s His.

“Let your striving cease.”

 

 

 

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Charity L. Martin lives in Kernersville, NC with her husband, four children, and a cat. In between homeschooling and being generally fabulous, she’s managed to write a book, (His Life for Mine) and maintain a blog about attempting to stay afloat and Christ-centered in the midst of motherhood. We’re honored to have her guest blog for us!