She Believed She Could So She Did!

We believe birth matters.  We believe birth changes you.  

When working with clients, I am continually amazed at each woman's power, persistence and focus as she births her baby.  It's a joy supporting women towards believing in themselves. Birthing in just the way they were meant to.

Whether you had the birth of your dreams or your baby was born in a way you never dreamed - YOU DID IT!  You believed you could, and you did!

A new, limited time, birth shirt in 4 different styles and many color options.  

Order one for yourself or a friend!
Grab one for someone who believed and birthed. 

Joy comes in the morning!

A birth story shared by a student who attended my 
Christian Childbirth Education intensive:

How (Ella) Grace Became (Ella) Joy 

The birth of a baby is monumental. Pregnant women and infants garner attention like no one else--except maybe puppies and kitties... Wonder why? I do.

It's not like either pregnancy or infancy are unique--most women experience the one and everyone experiences the other. So why do people want to touch expectant bellies and sweet little cheeks? Why does the smell of a baby melt most women and maybe a lot of men? Why do strangers gaze at babies and smile when they don't acknowledge the existence of dozens of people who are nearer to them?

I've wondered at this...and I think I know why. Pregnancy, birth, and infancy bring to our souls recognition that we are indeed created in the image of a creating Creator. God created us, formed the first humans with His hands, and breathed life into them. And He wrote into our humanity the ability to participate in that phenomenon. Two people come together and through a million miracles are used to bring forth more life. The act of conception carries in it dozens of irreducible complexities; in utero development is mind-boggling; and labor and delivery continue to reveal more of the miraculous as science is used to understand it further.

For some reason, I felt the weight of all this more with my second pregnancy. 

And there were several divinely appointed factors and events that lead me to approach my second pregnancy with more reverence for God. I spent lots of prayer time asking God to bring me to a spiritual milestone through my child's birth and all that lead up to it. And I became expectant in more ways than just the physical.

A mother of two suggested taking the Christian childbirth class with Shannon after she took the class before her second child's birth. She said it made all the difference in having a positive experience with a natural childbirth. My sister-in-law, who was my doula, also recommended that I take the class. So she and I signed up and went to class together. 

I think that through the class and through Shannon, I was given words to match the desires of my heart. During the first session, Shannon posed the question: what if this birth is more about glorifying God than it is about the specific way it happens. That's what I wanted, to see God's glory manifested through the birth of our second child. I think it is really important to learn about what is going on in the physical sense in childbirth, but it's even more important to put God in the center of the whole experience. 

Shannon encourages and prays for her students to do that and teaches the class to that end. She also lent me a book that she used in building her curriculum for the class: Redeeming Childbirth by Angie Tolpin. That book was also very significant in my preparation for Ella's birth.

I also asked several other people to pray with me. I wanted God to help me face and overcome my fear of the pain a natural childbirth brings. I asked Him to use the birth to bring my family closer to each other and each of us closer to Him. I asked Him to reveal His glory--the traits that make Him so worthy of praise--through the delivery of His creation, my baby. And I did so in faith that as I prayed His will, He would answer, as His Word says He will.

As my labor began around 10:30 on the night of June 29, His peace kept me calm, joyful, quiet, and of a sound mind. There were a few things at the beginning of my labor that could have been the beginning of anxiety and stress, but as I prayed about those things, giving them to Him to handle, God heard me and answered. He ordered the timing of everything from my support team getting to our house, to my contractions, and our arrival at the hospital; the team of nurses and aids; and the music that played on Pandora. Yep--even that! I'll explain.

On the way to the hospital at around 6 a.m. on June 30th, I was in active labor, riding most of the 40 miles with my eyes closed. My mom and sister-in-law, who were riding in the back of my mom's car with me as Josh drove, prayed with me. We sang along to "Holy Spirit" by Francesca Battistelli. They continued helping me with the back pain contractions caused. Then at one point, Bethany commented that the sunrise was really pretty. I think that was one of the few times I opened my eyes, and when I looked at the sky, God brought to my mind part of Psalm 30:5: Pain lasts through the night but joy comes in the morning. At that, I asked Him to make that the truth of my labor and to bring the baby during the morning.

Labor continued to progress quickly at the hospital and within an hour-and-a-half, I was pushing. When I felt like I'd be overwhelmed by the intensity of what was going on in my body, I cried out to Jesus. He answered in the song, "Your Love Never Fails." I heard a very short part of the chorus in a moment when the room happened to be quiet; it says, "There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning." The very Words God had given me in the car. I knew it was from Him and was resolved that the baby would come during the song.

In a final push, the baby was born and in my arms.Praise poured out of me. I was crying, laughing, and praying while I told the room what God had done through His Word. I named the little girl lying on my chest, though no one had announced her sex. I said that I knew she was a girl because of the song and the name God gave her through it--Joy. Josh and I had agreed on Ella Grace if the baby was a girl, but I wholly believe that God used His Grace to bring about Joy

Four minutes after she was born, we confirmed that the baby was a girl!

A few day's after Ella's birth, Bethany wanted to verify that she had been born during "her song," so she watched the video she had taken to see if she could hear. She could hear the lyrics, "There may be pain in the night" then my midwife, Janey, said, "Nikki, reach down and grab your baby." Ella was literally born as the song proclaimed, "Joy comes in the morning!" At 8:42 be exact!!!
God, the one who created then used dust to bring forth life, can even use music to bring about His glory! He can take pain and bring life. He can take the ugly and make it beautiful. 
And He reminded us of that through Ella's birth. 

And just to be sure we didn't miss that message, Pandora followed "Your Love Never Fails" with Gungor's, "You Make Beautiful Things Out of Dust." If you don't know these songs, look them up. And if you don't know God, look Him up, too! You can find Him through Jesus. Just ask Him to reveal His glory, and then watch His grace bring joy to you, too!

"I will not hide God's righteousness in my heart; I will speak of His faithfulness and saving help. I will not conceal his faithfulness and love from the great assembly." Psalm 40:10

    All photos were taken by Life & Peace Photography by the very 
talented photgrapher and birth doula, Bethany Payne!

trust. nurture. honor. birth.

We at Doulas Etc. believe that birth matters.  
Vaginal birth.  
Cesarean birth.  
Water birth.
Birth in a bed.
Toilet birth. 
All the birthing ways. (#allthebirthingways)

We also believe that in order to improve birth outcomes, we have to be an active participant in the change.
We at Doulas Etc. are engaging in that change every time we join a birth.  
We bring trust. nurture. honor. into the birthing space.  Change happens when families receive trust and are trusted.  We believe moms and families deserve to be honored and nurtured.

We want to spread the word that birth matters.  That laboring moms and families deserve trust in their birthing time and to trust their care providers; to be nurtured and honored.

Our newest shirt says it all!  You can order yours by clicking HERE today!

#trustnurturehonorbirth #DoulasEtc

Physical Support

With each contraction, I am right by your side - encouraging, massaging, reminding you that YOU can do this - that you are ABLE!
From massage, double hip squeezes, counter pressure to position changes - I lead and instruct you, which helps continue moving your labor forward. Women who feel safe and supported physically are able to move through their labor confidently, each contraction bringing you closer to meeting your baby.

Doulas Etc

#‎WorldDoulaWeek‬ exists to empower doulas all over the world!

I am honored to be in an association of professional doulas who are making definitive impacts in the lives of Central Illinois families through birth work.
Doulas Etc.'s mission is to provide an ongoing discussion on issues relating to pregnancy, birth and family life; offer information on local resources; and maintain a presence in our community in order to promote the well-being of moms, babies, and families.

Professional Doula

Why is it important to hire a professional doula? 

As your doula, I provide education, advocacy and support that untrained partners are not able to.  

I work with you prenatally to equip you with resources that will help your family make evidence based decisions.

During your birth I am present to offer emotional and physical support, while encouraging you in your decisions as your labor progresses.

As you transition into life with your new addition, I am honored to continue providing resources for successful breastfeeding and a healthy postpartum period.

Hire a ‪#‎doula‬! We are worth every dollar you invest!

‪#‎worlddoulaweek‬ ‪#‎doulalife‬

World Doula Week

This is a week to celebrate and empower the work doulas all around the world are doing. 
I want to highlight just how I am impacting physiological birth, supporting families physically and emotional, and improving the health of women, newborns and families right here in Central Illinois.

You will be seeing posts this week about the benefits of having a ‪#‎doula‬ supported birth which include:
Reduction in Cesarean births
Shorter labors
Reduction in use of pain medication
Increase in breastfeeding success
Increase in satisfaction of Mother's birth experience
Reduction of postpartum mood disorders
Increase of new parents’ confidence in the care of their newborn

Michelle & Chris: A Purpose to Prosper

My labor journey started early Monday morning, December 15th, 4 days after my estimated due date. I woke up to a contraction that felt different than the Braxton Hicks I had been feeling for the last month or so. I stayed awake for a while to really test whether this was the real deal. I had been losing bits of my mucus plug for the last 10 days with random contractions here and there, but no consistency, so I didn't want to get my hopes up too much. 

When I noticed that the contractions were starting to come consistently 10 minutes apart, I thought, "This could be it." I tried to lay back down to rest, since I knew we had a long way to go potentially. That only lasted for an hour or so. I got up around 4 am to sit on my birth ball, eat a little, and just walk around the apartment. Around 7am, my husband, Chris, woke up to get ready for work. I gave him an update and we decided it would be best if he stayed home. Contractions continued to come 7-10 minutes apart, 1 minute long. I took a nap around 8 am, hoping that might get me through some of this waiting period. I woke up an hour and a half later to 10 min contractions still. Around lunchtime, we went to the mall to walk around; I didn't last long because I wasn't feeling well. I was fighting a cold on top of labor so we headed back home. Around 5 pm, I tried using the breast pump to get contractions closer together. I then walked our apartment complex stairwells. At that point, I had them coming 6-8 minutes apart. Unfortunately, as soon as I stopped walking, they moved back to 10 minutes apart. 

I decided it was time to lay down for the night, since I was starting to wear myself out. I slept the whole night, only waking a few times for contractions. 

When I woke up Tuesday morning, my emotions really hit me. I was discouraged and my sore throat and cough had gotten worse on top of it. The contractions also had all but disappeared entirely. My precious husband spent some time lifting me up and praying over me.  I had a doctor appointment at 8:30 am and hoped we would hear some good news about my progress. After an AWFUL, PAINFUL cervical check, we found out I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. It encouraged me to know my body was making SOME progress! The cervical check definitely stirred up my insides because from that point on, contractions became much more painful and were coming 7 minutes apart. I was actually having to pause to breathe through them. 

The day continued on at that pace and intensity. Chris was an incredible support each time one hit, rubbing my back and speaking words of encouragement. My go to position was hands and knees, rocking side to side. I was so thankful for our birth classes to prepare me for the proper breathing and positions to labor in. To pass some time between contractions, Chris and I played a game of Phase 10. It was hilarious to be in the middle of making a move and just silently move to my hands and knees, with no warning for Chris. 

Intense contractions continued into the night and around 5 am I had Chris call our doula, Shannon, to come help me labor. I was running on very little sleep at this point and felt I needed that extra support. When she arrived, she had us try a few techniques to get the baby flipped from posterior, which is what we were thinking was stalling my labor. It was beautiful watching my doula instruct Chris in how to support me and having him jump in head first. He was tender and comforting through the pain. 

I had a chiropractor appointment scheduled that morning and we decided I should go to try to get things moving along. He specialized in The Webster Technique, which is used during pregnancy to get babies in the most ideal position. After the adjustment, I was still at 7 minute apart contractions. I continued laboring at home until around 2 o'clock when my doula suggested going to the hospital (which later we will see was a complete Holy Spirit- led suggestion). The contractions were still at the same intervals but she could tell the intensity was increasing and I was honestly ready to see where I was. 

I didn't want continual cervical checks once at the hospital, since that can lead to an increased risk of infection and premature water rupture, but I was antsy for some idea of where I was.

 Once we were at the hospital, we were taken back to triage and I was asked to change and lay down in the recliner to be monitored and checked. Contractions in the laying down position were excruciating! (Another reason why it baffles me that hospitals still have women lay down to labor. It slows the labor and is WAY more painful than moving around!) Once I was hooked up, an intense contraction hit and I had to sit up and shift, causing the monitor to move. The nurse lost the baby's heart rate and was struggling to find it again. I assumed it was just because I had moved around. 

All the sudden, however, the nurse began moving quickly to press a button on the wall. Immediately, 3 or 4 nurses came rushing in to my tiny triage room. One put an oxygen mask on me, one flipped me over on my side, and one quickly checked my cervix (cervical checks are never fun, but one done in a massive hurry is HORRIBLE). The baby's heart rate had dropped to 86 and was not jumping back up. As I lie there on my side, facing my doula and husband, I just stared into their eyes, as they calmly spoke to me to just breathe deeply. 

I had a mix of emotions. For one, I was discouraged because I heard them mention I was only 3 cm and very posterior (still in the early stages of labor). I had been laboring for 2 1/2 days, passing a lot of bloody mucus, so I expected to be further along. For two, I felt at peace. I had heard of the monitors often doing this, where there are false alarms with the heart rate. I didn't think much of it. After the oxygen was on for a minute or so, baby's heart rate jumped back up. More than anything, I just wanted them to get this monitoring done so I could move freely during contractions.  

"That was quite a contraction," one of the nurses joked. I heard the head nurse talking to my OB, on the phone, discussing how they would monitor the heart rate for a while longer but if I didn't dilate anymore, I could go back home. 

My heart sank. 

I was so tired from being in labor for so long. I just wanted them to admit me so I could feel like things were moving along and so I could use the laboring tub. 

They finally took the oxygen mask off of me and started a saline lock in case we had another scare with the heart rate and needed to rush to surgery. Then began the never-ending questions they have to ask before admitting patients. I took that time to hand my birth plan to the nurse to look over so she would know I didn't want extra cervical checks or continuous monitoring once I was admitted, along with instructions for after baby boy was born. My doctor had already signed off on everything in the plan, but the current staff obviously hadn't had a chance to read it. 

I kept having to take breaks from answering questions so I could breathe through a contraction. I only had a few contractions before the baby's heart rate dropped again, hovering between 86 and 93. The oxygen was placed back on my face and I took the deepest breaths I could manage. Surely I could boost that heart rate up again! But in came the multiple nurses and off went the head nurse to call my doctor again. Within a few seconds, my recliner was rushing out the door before I could even glance back at Chris or my doula. 

Nobody was explaining anything so I had to piece together conversations around me. I had assumed they were wheeling me back to a room to monitor me better, but then I heard someone say anesthesia and I saw the door we were going through. I was heading back for a C-section. I burst out crying. I was terrified and my husband wasn't with me. The nurses were trying to soothe my nerves, telling me it would be ok, but it was all so overwhelming and unexpected. I had been at the hospital for less than an hour! 

There were hospital staff rushing around the surgery room, getting things ready. I found out later that a scheduled C-section had been pushed back for my emergency. I laid there, looking up at the bright lights, paralyzed with fear. 

Why was this happening? 

This is not what I expected when we entered the hospital that day. As I searched the room again, I saw my husband had made it. His face was partially covered by a surgery mask, but I could see his smiling eyes, and peace slowly started to pour over me. I then saw my doctor enter the room and I felt even more peace. I had chosen her as our provider because I knew she had a passion for women’s desires in pregnancy and birth. She is also a strong Christian with a calming, compassionate spirit. She came to my side and began to explain why she felt a C-section was necessary. 

Our baby’s heart rate was dropping with almost every contraction and being only 3 cm dilated, I was nowhere near the end of labor. She didn’t feel he would be strong enough to keep crashing for hours longer. 

I trusted our doctor. She knew my desires for a natural birth. She knew how much I had prepared for this “marathon” of labor. She wasn’t making this decision hastily. 

As they began putting my spinal block in, my doctor held my hands, stared into my eyes, and explained every step of the process. During the surgery, I held Chris’ hand and wouldn’t take my eyes off of his eyes. He was the calm in the storm of my emotions. Occasionally, the assistant would dry my tears and take my oxygen mask off to wipe my nose. 

There was so much kindness in the room. The Holy Spirit was so clearly present. 

After an uncomfortable tug, I heard our E cry for the first time at 4:15 pm and he was then placed on a table a few feet away from me. The first thing Chris said was, “Look at all of his hair!” We were unable to do skin to skin right away like I had wanted because he needed to be taken away to be put under an oxygen hood. Chris went with him and I again was alone, silently mourning this turn of events

When my doctor finished stitching me up she came over to my side. She kissed me on the forehead and began praying over me, weeping with me. Such peace poured out in that moment.

 As heartbroken as I was, God had a purpose. He had a reason for how my son’s birth turned out. 

I wasn’t able to see my son for over an hour after he was born.  
God had a reason. 
They cut his cord before it was done pulsing. 
God had a reason. 
Eye ointment was administered without checking my birth plan and he had a bad reaction.  
God had a reason. 
My placenta wasn’t saved for encapsulation like I had wanted, to help with PPD. 
God had a reason. 
My stomach was cut and I will forever bear that scar. 
God had a reason. 

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’”  

God did “prosper” us. 

Even after separation from my child, I was able to successfully breastfeed. E has been a rockstar nurser from day one and has gained amazing weight. My bond with my husband increased tenfold as I witnessed him caring for his newborn son and his wife who was recovering from surgery. There is beauty and humility in a husband who will tenderly help his wife shower, ignoring the scarring, the bleeding, and the engorged breasts. The support from my family and friends was more than I ever could have imagined as well. 

Maybe God allowed this emergency C-section if only to require us to lean into Him more in our brokenness and recognize the blessings He has placed all around us. 

A quick addition: People may be thinking, “This is why you shouldn’t spend time preparing for labor. Nothing goes as planned.” We didn’t go into this birth with the notion that everything would go exactly as we envisioned. We did what we could to prepare for the safest birth for our child. Believe me, it would have been much easier to just go through the pregnancy with no care for exercise, nutrition, or evidence-based research on birth interventions. But we were given the task of caring for this child from the moment he was conceived. I feel God was glorified through it all. And I believe we were blessed for our efforts. Should we be given another child in the future, I will again train for our labor and birth journey.

Merry Christmas!  Now offering 3 AMAZING Gift Certificates for the Holidays:

This is an exciting addition to my doula services.  If you're not sure a doula supported birth is for you, this is the ideal gift certificate for you!
This is an exciting new addition to the doula services I provide, you won't want to miss.  - See more at: /shannonbacusbirthdoula/2014/10/prenatal-consultation-package.html#sthash.hLMnmTBh.dpuf
This is an exciting new addition to the doula services I provide, you won't want to miss.  - See more at: /shannonbacusbirthdoula/2014/10/prenatal-consultation-package.html#sthash.hLMnmTBh.dpuf

This is an exciting new addition to the doula services I provide, you won't want to miss.  - See more at: /shannonbacusbirthdoula/2014/10/prenatal-consultation-package.html#sthash.hLMnmTBh.dpuf
Doula Services + Prenatal Massage 
If you've been considering my doula services for your #birth, this is an amazing gift to add to your wish list (go ahead - tell your partner, mom, dad, aunt, grandma, baby shower hosts)!
|| With this gift certificate, you get full doula services & a one hour prenatal massage in your HOME! A $700 value! || 

Doula Services + Placenta Encapsulation Package
This gift certificate will take care of all your ‪#‎birth‬ and ‪#‎postpartum‬ ‪#‎doula‬ care wishes!
|| Receive not only my full doula package, but also have your ‪#‎placenta‬ encapsulated by one of Central Illinois' most diligent and skilled encapsulators! Valued at nearly $800! ||

Don't be shy about putting one of these on your wish list - 'Tis the season to feel fully prepared and cared for during your birthing experience and postpartum.
When you're asked what you want for Christmas this year, share your birth desires confidently with your mom, dad, aunt, sisters, baby shower hosts, husbands - - - and get the gift of empowerment for your birth this Holiday Season!!

What Are You Staring At? || Reflections on Being Enough

Waiting in the pick-up line for my son after school yesterday, the messaged popped up on my phone.  Would I want to meet up for lunch or did I have other plans?  

Outside of a weekly morning mom’s gathering, I hadn’t been able to spend much time with her in the past few months.  There was so much newness that I really wanted to reconnect and catch up.
I visualized all the left overs in my fridge.  

Our busy weekend of hosting family, throwing a 4 year old Lego birthday party, and making a special meal for my husband’s birthday had my fridge stocked.  Plenty of food.  Time in my schedule.  Conversations longed for.  My response was instantaneous: Sure, come on over!

I knew my counter-tops had crumbs, fall leaves were crunched and scattered on my entry way carpet, the smell of my slightly burnt breakfast eggs still lingering in the air.  My real space.  Unaltered, primped, or readied.  I opened the door to my home and welcomed her into my real life.  I allowed her to see my space and my mess, because relationships matter over the seemingly perfect portraits ingrained in our minds.

You know the ones.  They’re plastered all over Pinterest, on the front covers of magazines, innocent Facebook posts about new paint and new furniture and thousand dollar trips to Ikea.

I didn’t offer excuses for my crumbs, simply pointed out the leaves were remnants from playing in piles the day before, and before lunch she washed her kids’ hands next to the pan with my burnt egg remnants.  Because that is the reality of what my morning looked like and I hadn’t gotten a chance to do more with it.  

Herding four small children under four left our conversations scattered between taking bites of food, pulling babies out from underneath the train table, changing diapers, cleaning up toddler puke, and emptying our own bladders – the true life of moms.  I stepped back and saw a purpose in it all.  Realism.  Small ordinary parts of our lives out in the open for both of us to see.  Relationship.

Nearly 10 years ago now, our life paths collided in college and took us half way around the world together for a short time.  When you experience things together like poverty and injustice and despair, your relationship is taken to a whole new level.  It’s solidified like a beam in concrete.  A sign post that you can look at and remember your history and what makes your friendship solid.  A reference for remembering to be real with one another.

As we flitted in and out of conversation, it was a balm to my soul to hear her heart.  She loves to cook for her husband and do laundry and make her busy littles feel safe and secure.  She is called to care for her family and she’s amazing at it.  From my perspective, she’s excelling, doing well, and enjoying her ever changing life.  But, on her insides, she is feeling the heaviness of being elbow deep in a life with very little tangible results.  Her home is warm, her husband is loved, her kids well taken care of.  But at the end of the day there is no work-flow chart, no Etsy shop or Business Facebook page, there is no profit and loss sheet, no hand held tangible resemblance of all the work she’s accomplished that day.

Refreshingly, her reflections on this empty-handed end to her day is catapulting her in a new direction.  Instead of comparing her accomplishments she’s choosing to see herself for who she is and all that she is already doing.  And part of that is keeping her eyes peeled to what’s in front of her presently.

When you’re doing your mothering thing and all the work you’ve done is invisible at the end of the day, you can start to lose hope.  You can start to feel insignificant: your butt wiping and hand holding and bruise kissing and reassuring words can’t be measured.  There is very little tangible evidence of what you’ve done for the last twelve hours.

You, not unlike the women on the other side of the world that she and I have sat with, begin to feel impoverished, the pressure of injustice and straight up despair for this stay at home life you’re living.  So you start to look around.  You see the mom at the library, your old friend from high school on Facebook now turned an excellent mom, the “100 Fun and Awesome-Things-To-Do-Every-Day” pins on Pinterest – and maybe you, like me, just can’t help but ask, “Is there more I should be doing?”.

We lead very busy lives.  We leave very little margin in our days.  We have an extremely small amount of wiggle room to open our homes, our hearts, our lives to those we do life with every day.  Yet we are all walking around isolated with this common question, pounding from the inside of our hearts.  “Is there more that I should be doing?

This question can be enslaving.  It has often manifested itself in our hearts because we’ve compared.  We’ve looked to the side and seen another doing a little bit more than we are.  Having cleaner homes than we do.  Driving nicer mini-vans.  We can begin to shackle ourselves to the trophy of accomplishment and begin to want to achieve more, until we have less; all in the name of appearing just as culture dictates – successful, pulled together, achieving great things.   

Somewhere along the line, being a mother became not enough.

Being in a defining role of motherhood does not lend itself to job promotions or paid vacations.  There is very little time off and very little pay.  "Being a mom is simply not enough" screams a culture bent towards empowering women to go, achieve, succeed, do, leave.  Yet all the while we mothers feel the difference, the call to continue on to do the things that we know matter.  Because in the little things, is importance too.

Perhaps instead of the question of doing more, maybe we can ask, “Is there more that I can do with what I have already been given?”  To be able to feel confident with the role we have, the children we’ve been given, the joy of simply being who we were created to be without having to compare or perform or excel or achieve outside of our motherhood role.  To just be.

If we are constantly looking to those around us, comparing ourselves to their successes, their failures, their mundane, we cannot possibly have our eyes focused ahead, on the things set before us that we ourselves are called to accomplish.  Maybe for today that is a pile of dishes, a meaningful hand written note, a meal taken to a friend who just had a baby, one more poopy diaper.  Or perhaps keeping your eyes peeled to what is in front of you means that you are focusing on the One leading you.  The One who is calling you forward and propelling you to be who He has created you to be, to accomplish the things He has called you to.  You are the only one who can do your thing.  No one else can replace what you're doing in this time, in your place, and with your family.

When we are committed to our own given paths, if we all stay peeled to our own way, surrendered to the One who has called, each of us operating in our own gifts, talents, and abilities – we begin to see a better picture of a life lived to the full.

I am so grateful for the moment I opened my door to this friend.  The crumbs on the counter, the leaves in my doorway, the brittle egg pieces in the pan are realities of my daily lived out life.  To welcome her into it, saying this is who I am without any pomp and circumstance, was comforting to me.  To be a mom and a friend and a real person in those moments.

What we do with the small moments makes all the difference in the big moments of life.  In the moment I invited her to my home, I chose to deny the images of an acceptable space for the importance of being in relationship with one another.

Whatever successful, small, meaningful, monotonous, disgusting, or enjoyable thing you do today as a mom, I hope you are able to feel confident that you are enough.  That your nose wiping and redirecting and laundry folding and pure simple being is truly enough.  You are in this specific place at this specific time for a specific reason – and whether or not you can pinpoint your purpose, even in the small things you are accomplishing big things – eternal things, even.

It is said that what you stare at is the direction in which you will go.  

Perhaps taking a step back from those images which are ingrained in our minds and stepping into real life with another person can be enough to anchor you, remind you, that life and relationships are important and valuable and cannot always be measured.  But they matter.  Take heart, mama, you are enough.

No One Could Believe It
    ||  My client shares her second birthing experience ||

I had only expected a handful of family and friends to care enough to read my birth story — 40 hits at the most. You can imagine my surprise when I found out 2,000 people, mostly strangers, had also tuned in! 

Why would 2,000 strangers care about my birth experience?  Maybe it’s because, as my doula says, birth matters! Whoever you 2,000 people are, you’ve made me a believer—a believer in the power of birth stories. Now I clearly see that writing my story was not just a therapeutic exercise, nor a human interest piece.

My story is a microcosm of a much greater story being told in all our lives, a story that weaves all of humanity together as lovingly as a handmade baby blanket. So here’s the sequel—my gift to you, my second birth story, the tale of what happened two weeks later...No one could believe it. 

The doctor said, “I’ve not seen this in twenty years of delivering babies.” The midwife said, “This is one I’m gonna take with me for my whole life.” I said to my husband, several times, “Why am I such a weirdo?” Every birth story is unique, but truly, this birth story is also kind of weird. Birth doesn’t typically happen this way.

Apparently, I’m one of those rare “silent dilators.” (My sister thinks this is a good band name, by the way.) I’ve always been able to feel my contractions, but they don’t hurt. I have a tightening sensation across my abdomen, but no pain. When I was pregnant the first time with my daughter, I came in for a routine appointment, and the doctor was quite surprised to find me already dilated to four centimeters! I had no idea I was in labor. With my son, the same thing happened, only this time I was dilated to eight centimeters! In a textbook labor, eight centimeters would typically be the point where intense contractions would be bringing the baby down into the birth canal, often called “transition” (on TV, this is where women start saying things like, “Get me the drugs!”).

I had been having one or two of these tightening sensations every hour for one day, but nothing even remotely painful. The doctor and midwife were both befuddled, since I didn’t appear to be laboring, but they told me to get to the hospital as soon as possible anyway. I was certainly surprised, but didn’t share their sense of urgency. After all, I clearly wasn’t in labor. I went home, packed a suitcase, ate dinner, and arrived at the hospital a couple hours later.

The midwife met me there and checked me again—“100% effaced, 8 cm” and “negative one, getting close to 0 station.” (0 station is when baby is sitting very low in the pelvis.) I was sent to a labor room and given IV antibiotics due to testing positive for Group B Strep the previous week (a common bacteria which is not harmful to the mother, but can be deadly to the baby if picked up during the birth).

I slept through that night without pain, and by morning, my “contractions” had all but disappeared. My midwife came in and offered to break my water. I was hesitant to do this, since my body was showing no signs of labor, and breaking water when you’re not in labor definitely increases the risk to the baby of contracting Group B Strep. Unfortunately, she was not supportive of me going home either since I was also still dilated to 8 cm (and if my water broke naturally, I would be having a baby in a car, at higher risk for other complications). I was trapped—unable to go home, but unable to produce a baby.

We decided my goal that day would be to get my labor going again, naturally if possible, and we began trying everything imaginable to stimulate contractions. Our greatest success that day involved me rolling my hips around on the birthing ball with hot compresses on my nipples, causing contractions to come at 4 minutes apart for an hour (still no pain). But when I hopped off that ball...nothing. No contractions and no progress.

That evening, my midwife visited again. I was still stuck at 8 cm, and she started laying on the pressure to break my water, saying that she had to “answer to the doctor.” I asked her plainly, “Why is the doctor in such a rush to get this done? I’m still not even 39 weeks yet.” I appreciated her starkly honest answer— “Well...I think this is just the way we’re used to doing things around here.” She said she would let me sleep, talk to the doctor on my behalf, and we could try some new methods in the morning.

The next day we focused again on labor stimulation, even trying some low doses of Pitocin. For awhile, the Pitocin seemed to work, and we decreased the dose, hoping my body would now take over. But unfortunately, just like the birthing ball, when I went off the Pit...nothing. I went to sleep that night feeling discouraged and confused. What was happening!? Why was I still stalled at 8 cm? Did my body know exactly what it was doing? Or was something possibly wrong with my body, that it simply couldn’t complete labor without some kind of medical intervention?

The next morning, on the dawn of my third day at the hospital, the nurses, midwife, and doctor entered my room to discuss the game plan (or maybe to try and intimidate me into breaking my water as a group, I’m not sure). At this point, after three days of IV antibiotics, we were all fairly certain that every single bacteria in my body was dead, and the risk to the baby of contracting Group B Strep after breaking water was now minimal. I was definitely open to the possibility, but when my midwife checked my cervix again, an interesting new challenge presented itself. I was still dilated to 8 cm, but she could feel that baby was now turned posterior (nota great position for delivering a baby at all and a major contributor to the high rate of C-sections in our country).

Perhaps this was the reason why my labor was stalled! Baby boy was simply in the wrong spot! Our new goal for the day was to get baby turned around and re-positioned on my cervix (when a baby’s head is positioned correctly on the cervix, contractions naturally occur!). And, little did I know, there are all sorts of ways to reposition a baby in the womb! The problem was, it’s very helpful to have at least some contractions occurring so that baby simply feels pressured and uncomfortable enough to change spots...and I was having none.

We ended up choosing an interesting mixture of interventions. We chose Pitocin to stimulate some artificial contractions, whilst holding a position called the “Texas Roll” to encourage the baby to move. Contractions became regular at about 8-10 ml of Pitocin, and sure enough, at that point, I felt the baby turn around! This crazy combo actually worked! And then, within just minutes of repositioning, we experienced surprise number boy punched right through my water!

What happened next was NOT FUN. . Not only does breaking your water stimulate extremely strong natural contractions, but being on 12 ml of Pitocin at the same time, stimulating extremely strong artificial contractions, genuinely makes you believe you’re going to die. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst pain I can imagine, this was definitely an 11. This was pain I could never have imagined. I felt like my entire body was ripping apart from the inside out. I was begging for an epidural, but there was simply no time. From the point of my water breaking to the point of holding that beautiful baby boy in my trembling arms, TEN MINUTES went by. Six insane contractions, two terrifying pushes, the most intense ten minutes of my life...and our three day saga was over.

I wish I could say I had a better labor experience than last time. (After all, for the most part, I would say I had a better pregnancy experience than last time!) But if I’m being honest, I’d say this labor was even tougher on me, at every level. It was more mentally strenuous, more emotionally draining, and definitely more physically painful than last time, without a doubt.

So, why is it that instead of feeling as broken as I did last time, I feel healed? Why is it that instead of feeling traumatized, like I did last time, I feel entirely at peace? I feel content. I feel joyful. I feel downright victorious. I waged mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical warfare...and I won. When I ponder this question, I have two answers.

One, I’m simply more fit for battle now. I’m a wiser, stronger, and more seasoned soldier in many ways. But as I reflect further on the experience, I know that can’t be the only reason. I know that if I had fought this battle alone, I likely would’ve come out just as bruised and broken as last time. But this time, I wasn’t fighting alone.

During the nine months prior to battle, not only were my husband and I preparing ourselves, but we were also preparing an army. I carefully chose my caregivers—a most excellent doctor and midwife team. I carefully chose my hospital—which included a group of amazing nurses committed to the philosophy of creating a home-birth experience in the midst of the medical world (trust me, three days in a hospital would’ve been hellish without them). I carefully chose my supporters—which included family members, friends, and an incredible doula I don’t think I could’ve done without. I’ve also carefully chosen to follow a God who I believe showered me with love in the midst of a terrible storm, bestowing little gifts all along the way. This was the army that hemmed me in on every side, behind and before. And in the end, I know they made all the difference—the difference between despair and euphoria. Last time, I emerged from my birth experience shaking with fear. This time, I emerged fearlessly rejoicing.So this is all I have to give you. Whatever battles you are fighting in your own life, trust me, you will need an army, so choose your army well. In the end, they could make all the difference.

(I’ve been meditating on this verse today. Sometimes God moves the mountains and fights the war for us. Other times, He gives us the feet to stand on them or the skills we need to succeed in battle.)

A Portion of Psalm 18
  And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.

33He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.

34He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

35 You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great.

Shannon & Arana - A Homebirth

The story of a sweet girl entering the world in the comfort of her own home.  Shannon shares, "Honestly, birth was the hardest thing I ever did and I had a very difficult birth to say the least.  Yet, I felt totally empowered."  Read their story here.
Honestly, birth was the hardest thing I ever did and I had a very difficult birth to say the least. Yet, I felt totally empowered. - See more at:
Honestly, birth was the hardest thing I ever did and I had a very difficult birth to say the least. Yet, I felt totally empowered. - See more at:
Honestly, birth was the hardest thing I ever did and I had a very difficult birth to say the least. Yet, I felt totally empowered. - See more at:
Honestly, birth was the hardest thing I ever did and I had a very difficult birth to say the least. Yet, I felt totally empowered. - See more at: