Her story really starts with a book. My husband’s mother had been thinking for some time about becoming a doula, especially since they were planning on moving to Clarksville and there is a large military community here and many new mothers giving birth while their husbands are deployed. She had been a military wife during both of her children’s births and had had to do it without her spouse so she understood the need for support of such women.
When she found out we were expecting again she told us her desire to be a doula and asked if we would want her to try and finish the course by our due date so she could be a doula for us. We decided that her aspiration was wonderful and she should definitely pursue it, but we were very eager to have my husband coach the birth. She understood and went ahead with pursuing the doula training, but not with the urgency to have it completed by our due date.
Anyway, as she completed the required reading list for DONA (Doulas of North America) she read a book called Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. She highly recommended I read it as well. I checked it out from our local library and read through it quickly. I knew that this was the birth experience I wanted. When I came to the end of the book, I read the about the author section on the inside of the back cover. When I read that she was in Summertown, TN I immediately asked my husband to mapquest it. It was only 2 hours away so we called and asked if we could have our baby there.
During this time my mother-in-law also recommended The Bradley Method® of husband coached natural childbirth since she knew we wanted a natural birth. I looked into classes and the closest instructor I could find was in KY. I keep checking and later found an instructor who had recently moved here to Clarksville! I emailed her immediately and asked about prices, times, etc. The price was very reasonable and it was the best money we spent on the birth. I am so glad we took it, you will soon hear about how well this method really works. If you are pregnant and want a natural childbirth – FIND A BRADLEY® INSTRUCTOR NEAR YOU!
Originally we had planned that my mother-in-law (Nana) would come to The Farm to watch our 2 year old son, Caleb, during the labor and ensure he was present at the birth so that my husband could focus on coaching me. However, at the end of May Nana called to inform us that her husband had to go to the doctor for a possible staph infection. A week later on 30MAY08 they would have to go to the hospital to have a MRSA infection cleaned out of his knee and they did not know how long they would be there.
We made arrangements for another friend from church to come and assist with Caleb if Nana couldn’t make it. She was very distraught about it all as she desperately wanted to be there for Mike and also to be at the birth, but we all knew that God had a plan and purpose for all of this and His timing and will would be done. My father-in-law ended up staying in the hospital until 10JUN08 and having 4 surgeries. Nana and I stayed in close contact during this time and keep each other updated on our current statuses.
While I was starting to tire of being pregnant and becoming anxious to meet our new addition, we all preferred Nana be able to assist with Caleb at The Farm and were praying that Savanna Zoe would hold off until she could. Caleb prayed every night for PawPaw to recover quickly so he would feel better and Nana could come. Also, we were having new windows installed on Tue the 10th and Wed the 11th and wanted to have that project finished before she arrived. What a thoughtful little girl she turned out to be!
On Wednesday I woke up feeling great and as if Savanna was coming really soon. I cleaned the entire house and did all of the laundry, including towels and bed sheets. I was also loosing the mucous plug bit by bit throughout the day. I called our midwife, Carol Nelson, to inform her about the plug. Nana called in the afternoon to see how things were going and let me know she was ready when we were and Mike was doing well. When I told her how much cleaning I had accomplished she said she would go ahead and come down to our house that evening just in case and she arrived after dinner.
The next morning I awoke at 6AM with fairly regular contractions of 10 minutes apart and lasting about 30-45 seconds each while laying down and 5 minutes apart lasting 1 minute when standing and walking. I stayed in bed until Caleb woke up and then told my husband and Nana. We ate breakfast (except for my husband- who was busy trying start his vacation time from work and to print, fill out and fax in an absentee form for his master’s program on Saturday and fax his take home final to his instructor as well) and everyone showered and got ready for the day.
I called Carol and let her know about the contractions. She suggested I drink a big glass of water and then lay down again and see what happened with them. Emman left to have breakfast with his friend, mentor, associate, and accountability partner. I did as Carol suggested and they spaced back out to 10 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. I called her back and she said if they aren’t going away then they sound like definite labor contractions, but it is still very early and she asked when we thought we would go down. Our plan had always been to leave at the first sign of real labor since second labors usually go faster and we had a 2 hour drive to get there. So I said we would be packing up the last minute things and heading down.
My husband came home and finished with what I mentioned above in order to be excused from work as well as class that Saturday. He also called a friend to arrange for our dogs Abram and Sarai to be picked up and stay with them while we were gone – they would also be keeping Sarai as their pet when we came back (Sarai has always desired to be the full and ONLY center of attention and a house with another dog and soon to be 2 kids was too much competition for her, so we decided she would be happier in an only pet environment where she could have the attention she craved). He then posted the blog that we would be leaving.
Nana and I watched Caleb and loaded the van. Caleb “helped” to load the van and pack last minute things as well. We got the van loaded with food for a possible full week stay at the cabin, our last minute clothes, and Caleb’s stuffed animals, sound machine, bedding, and pack-n-play. My husband finished with his tasks about the same time.
Then, as is customary in our family, we posed outside the van for photos before loading up and taking off. On the way we called friends and family. We stopped just once for a potty break for Caleb. Caleb serenaded us pretty much the entire two hour drive with “BINGO”. Only it had many more “B I N G O, B I N G O, B I N G O, B I N G O, B I N G O, B I N G O” than I remember the original version of the song having with only an occasional “there was a farmer who had a dog”. My contractions stayed about 10 minutes apart and 45 seconds long the entire trip.
I called Carol and let her know we were on our way and she said she would have the cabin unlocked and ready for us and just to call her when we got in (there is a phone in the cabin for local calls to the midwives in order to allow for more privacy for the birthing family as well as quick access to the midwives if needed).
We arrived at the cabin around noon so we unpacked, ate lunch, and called Carol almost simultaneously. Carol arrived and checked me while my husband put Caleb down for a nap. I was 1 cm dilated and completely effaced. She suggested a nap and a walk afterwards. Nana and I napped and my husband took on the massive task of filling the large birthing tub. The hot water heater was very small so he could only run the hose for about 10 minutes then had to wait 20 for the tank to refill with hot water, so he boiled water in several pots at the same time and dumped them in as the water got hot, then refilled and boiled again.
When everyone, including Caleb woke up we walked (except for my husband- he was still filling the tub- bless his heart!). We went up and down a big steep hill that Carol had suggested and Caleb even walked up it by himself and faster then I could keep up almost! Nana was very thankful that she didn’t have to carry him. On our way back to the cabin from the walk we saw Carol drive by and stopped to talk. My contractions hadn’t changed much and she suggested I try rubbing my belly during contractions and said I should not get discouraged, but try to get some sleep tonight and call her when things picked up.
We got back around 6:00 and Nana microwaved one of the thawed casseroles I had frozen for our stay. The microwave was pretty weak as we soon learned and heating dinner took longer than cooking it in the first place! We would heat food in the oven or a skillet from that point on. My husband finished filling the tub. He had made the water extra warm so that it didn’t get too cold since we didn’t know when we would actually be using it. Caleb saw the tub of water and asked, “Where’s the toys? Baby Zoe needs toys to play with in the tub.”
While waiting on dinner I starting rubbing my belly with each contraction. Let me tell you, that works amazingly well! As soon as I started rubbing, the contractions became a LOT stronger. They were now about 5 minutes apart but only 30 seconds long. By the end of dinner I didn’t want to rub anymore because the contractions were becoming very strong and painful. Contractions were now 2 minutes apart and 50 seconds long.
I started to try to focus on relaxing through each one like we learned to do in Bradley class, but it was very difficult to concentrate on that with Caleb finishing dinner and getting ready for bed. We promised Caleb that we would wake him up if baby Zoe started to come while he was asleep so that he could watch (we had been preparing him for this and he was very excited about his new sister being born and how it was to happen). Caleb went to bed and I called Carol around 8:00 pm. When she heard my voice during a contraction she said she would be right over.
When Carol arrived she checked me and I was 3 cm dilated. At this point I stopped timing contractions and just tried to focus. I stood holding onto my husband and trying to relax through each contraction while he pushed on my lower back. I was finally feeling like I was starting to get a better focus and be able to relax through them, but I wasn’t quite there. Nana offered to braid my hair in two braids one on each side and I gladly obliged. My husband got me a cool rag for my neck and I sat on the bed while she fixed my hair, I would relax and lean over onto my husband during contractions and she would start braiding again when they ended.
I was losing modesty and getting very warm. Once I was able to get focused and relax at the very start of each contraction, the pain went away! That’s right, each contraction felt like a blood pressure cuff being inflated around my belly, but as long as I focused and let my uterus work the way God intended it to and stopped stressing out about it, it didn’t hurt anymore!!! Labor from here on out was great! I was doing so well at relaxing that Carol asked if the contractions were getting easier or if I was just getting better control. Carol even told Nana that I was so relaxed she couldn’t tell where I was at in labor anymore.
It was then suggested that I try a birthing stool as it would put me in more of a squat position. Sitting in the chair did exactly what it was supposed to and the contractions became stronger and harder, it took even more focus to relax through them now. Some time later I tried lying on my side in the Bradley® runner position. This was very painful on my lower back and so we switched to Emman sitting behind me and propping me up in an alternate labor position. By this point my legs were starting to shake uncontrollably which jostled my back (I have degenerative disc disease and several torn discs in my lower back) and caused great discomfort.
Nana and Carol massaged my legs and Carol remarked excitedly that this must be transition. She wanted to check me since we were not advised to get into the birthing tub until I was 5 cm since the warm water often slows things down. She thought I must be at least 5 by now. It was 10:50 pm and I was 7 cm going on 8. Carol said we could get into the birthing tub and the water temp was perfect.
Carol called another midwife, Sharon, to assist in the birth. My husband and I took turns in the bathroom and then got in. I had one contraction after getting in while myhusband was in the bathroom, then one or two more with him holding me up in the birthing tub. I then had a strong urge to push. I told Carol and asked Nana to get Caleb up. Carol asked if I was sure since I was only 7 going on 8 a few minutes ago. I said I was. She started to put on the birthing tub gloves (they come up to their elbows) to check my dilation and my husband reminded me that if I felt that I needed to push to do so as my body knew what to do.
I started becoming a little frantic about Caleb being woken up as I knew that he was about to miss it. Nana ran upstairs to get him. I pushed with the next contraction; by this point the urge to push was so strong I could not have resisted if I tried. Carol had one glove on when she turned around and saw the head already crowning and decided that she had 2 choices: put on the other glove or catch the baby. She decided to catch the baby. At the same time Nana comes quickly downstairs with Caleb. I push once more and she is out. Caleb is in shock from being jolted awake and rushed down right as his sister pops out, I am relieved and my husband is nearly at muscle failure from holding me up! It is 11:00 pm exactly.
About this time Sharon walks in and is surprised to see a baby! She exclaims that she only lives 5 minutes away and she knows it didn’t take that long to get here. Carol laughs and tells her that it happened so fast she didn’t even get the other glove on! Savanna Zoe is placed on my stomach in the water with a blanket over her and my husband and I hold her and stare at her. My first thoughts are, “wow, that is a lot of hair and some crazy chubby cheeks, but the rest of her is so skinny!”
Sharon says there is no way that she is 41 weeks with so much vernix all over her. I then ask if she is a girl and Sharon said that she would be an awfully pretty boy if she wasn’t and everyone confirms that indeed she is a she. I tried to nurse her, but she seemed as exhausted by the whole process as I was and not extremely interested, so I just held her.
We asked Caleb if he wanted to put on his swim trunks and get in the birthing tub and hold her, but he said no. He was still very shocked and not quite awake, also a little concerned about her crying and confused as to why everyone else thought it was fine. Sensing his nervousness about the crying and remembering the many rounds of BINGO just hours before, I told Caleb that he should sing BINGO to her since she would recognize his voice and had listened to him singing it on the way. He began to sing and lo and behold, she quieted down! (This would become his special song to her as he sings it to her any time she cries, most of the time it works, but only when he sings it!) Later Caleb exclaimed, “mommy just went ugh, and out came baby Zoe!”
After several minutes, it seemed like at least a half hour, but I am sure it probably wasn’t that long, the placenta still had not come and Savanna Zoe’s blanket was all wet, and I was afraid the placenta wouldn’t come until I could relax and not be concerned about her getting too far under water, and Emman was shaking from muscle fatigue so I confirmed that the cord had stopped pulsing and requested Emman cut the cord and Caleb helped. I handed her to Nana. After I relaxed I felt another urge to push and the placenta finally came. My husband and I stood up to get out of the tub. This is when I apparently passed out.
Nana was kind enough to add in here a piece from her birth experience with Savanna Zoe since my version goes blank for a few moments:
“The most unexpected special blessing for me, was after your husband cut the cord, you handed her to me. It was such an honor to have you look in my eyes, smile & hand your precious newborn to me! I will never forget that moment or the look of trust in your eyes. I don’t know that it was something you had thought about or planned. I think it just happened, but I thank you for it. I got to be the first to hold her after you, not a stranger in the hospital, but her very own Nana!
“I know you were unaware as you were passing out, but I held her and sang to her (and held her down low for Caleb to see) for a very long time as the others worked with you. There was tension building in the room & much rushing around concerning you. I was very conscious of trying to reassure and comfort her (& Caleb) that her Mommy was okay & that we all loved her very much and that all would be fine now that she was here. I remained calm so she & Caleb would hopefully sense my calm, not the tension in the room.
“The midwife finally came to check her over, weigh & measure her as the other midwife went to the kitchen to fix the eggs & toast. (I don’t believe she held her at all.) I diapered her (& maybe put a t-shirt on her, or was that later?). The midwife wrapped her in fresh blankets and handed her back to me. When your husband was available to leave your side, I handed her to him.”
When they weighed and measured her she was a whopping 8 lbs 10 oz and 20.5 inches long! Not the little girl I was expecting! I woke up moments later on the bed with everyone staring at me! (This happened with Caleb too only we assumed that it was because I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink and such was not the case this time as I had been encouraged to eat and drink as I desired.) Sharon made us all scrambled eggs and toast (such a wonderfully different atmosphere than what you find in a hospital- when does the OB fix the whole family eggs after delivery)!
I passed out several more times in the next 24 hours, they took blood samples, checked my iron, temperature, blood pressure, etc, but everything was normal. I was okay, apparently I am just a postpartum-passer-outer! So that is it! We spent a few days on The Farm to ensure that I was okay and all got a little cabin fever since it was raining most of the time and the cabin was small for 3 adults, a very active 2 ½ year old, and a newborn (we all felt like the Ingall’s family on Little House on the Prairie). It was a beautiful and peaceful place though with deer roaming around the cabin as we watched out of the windows and tried to take pictures!
Overall, this was one of the best experiences of my life! It was invigorating, empowering, encouraging, uplifting, and spiritual. During the Bradley classes as I read about women with “painless” labors, I thought, how can this be. After all hadn’t God commanded that women have pain in child birth due to the original sin? A word study on the passage revealed to me that the Hebrew word we have translated as pain in our Bibles is he same exact word that is later translated as hard work in regards to Adam’s side of the curse.
I can say that focusing on relaxing and letting my body do what it is supposed to and what God intended it to do without interfering is hard work, but it wasn’t painful as long as I did these things and let go. This experience has taught me that life is the same. It is a whole lot of hard work to “let go and let God”, but it is often extremely painful when we don’t. I would highly recommend the Bradley method to anyone expecting a baby and would highly recommend The Farm midwives to anyone comfortable with that style of labor. It was exactly the experience I was hoping for! God is good and I feel so blessed for being able to experience the miracle of childbirth like this!
The birth was so wonderful I decided to become a Bradley® instructor myself!
HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: A natural approach to a safe, easier, more comfortable birthing
Childbirth without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth
Birth is inspiring, amazing, and empowering. This website shares a collection of real natural birth experiences from you, the readers. Births the way nature intended. No pitocin. No epidural. Just the beauty (and intensity!) of the human body at work. Whether you've had one natural birth, five natural births, or are considering natural birth in the future, our hope is you will find courage and joy in these stories. Enjoy.
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices
Childbirth without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth