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Monday, June 13, 2016

Toby's Birth Story

Toby's Home Birth Story
A birth story. Where does one even begin?

My due date was June 1, and to my dismay it came and went without any baby. Early meetings with our midwife suggested I was further along than doctors originally thought, so her first guess was that I might have him a couple weeks early.


A couple days into June I began to experience lower back pain, off and on cramping—AKA contractions—but being a first time mom I had no idea if what I was feeling was the beginning of labor or not. There were, however, some other physical signs that indicated labor was getting closer.

Labor Begins

On Sunday, June 5, around 1am, at the same time I was trying to fall asleep, I began to have contractions that felt like the real deal. They were inconsistent though, happening 10-15 minutes apart, then 8-10 minutes, and then up to 20-30 minutes. Though they weren't intense they were just noticeable enough and close enough together that I never was able to fall asleep.

I was a nice wife though and let Jake sleep until 8am. Then I told him what was going on.

We decided to go for a walk around 9am to see if that progressed or stopped the contractions. Initially the contractions got closer and closer together, but only lasted a short time. However, when we got home they went back to being 15-20 minutes apart, and they slowly got closer together throughout the afternoon.

At 3:30 I decided to contact my midwife, Merrily, to let her know what was going on. We decided I should go see her to determined if I had dilated any more.

When we arrived at Merrily's the contractions were about 8-10 minutes apart lasting anywhere from 30-90 seconds. I was really hopeful they were pushing my labor along. It would've been discouraging for my body to have kept me up all night doing all of that "work" only to accomplish nothing. Thankfully it looked as though I had dilated to between 3-4cm, and I was completely effaced.

Toby's Home Birth Story
Some early labor pains.

Toby's Home Birth Story

Oh, Wait... NOW Labor Begins

Merrily said that when contractions start mild and far apart it usually means a long labor is in store. So she worked my cervix a little bit to stretch it out to 5cm, which hurt, but helped speed things along.

She sent us home with all the equipment she would need for the delivery and some different herbs and things to help kick labor into full gear.

On the drive home the contractions started coming every 3-4 minutes and lasting 30-45 seconds.

Jake noticed my focused breathing and asked if I was just practicing or if the midwife's "stretching" actually worked.

"Oh yeah," I said. "It worked."

Breaking My Bag of Water

Initially I was planning on a water birth, and so I thought now was a great time to get in the tub and see how I liked it. I didn't. Not at all! It probably didn't help that I was experiencing back labor and I felt very confined and preferred moving around to just sitting in water, so out I came and I never got back in.

By 8pm my contractions seemed to be fairly regular. They were also painful enough that I really needed to focus on my breathing to get through them.

Merrily arrived at 10:30. She asked how I was doing. Honestly, I thought I was rocking the whole labor thing! I mean, it was uncomfortable, but I was handling it great. I figured I was probably around 8cm. To my unfortunate surprise I was only 6cm dilated which meant after 5 hours of more intense contractions I had only dilated 1cm.

The reason I wasn't dilating more quickly was because my bag of water was somewhat in the way, so poor baby couldn't drop down. He was still in station 1. We opted for the midwife to break my bag of water in the hopes that would speed things up.

And ooh boy did it ever!

Within five minutes of having my water broken I began to have constant back-to-back contractions with only seconds to recover in between. The hardest thing for me was that because my contractions were coming one right after the other I had no time to experiment with different positions to find a comfortable place to sit, lie, or rest.

Hanging On My Hubby

For two-plus hours all I could do was hang onto Jake. I'd hug his neck and hang from him, swaying my hips, and breathing through my contractions. He was my rock at that point, the only thing that kept me grounded as he whispered prayers and words of affirmation to me, trying to sooth me in any way he could. I remember a few times he walked over to the kitchen to help our midwife with something and that's when it would get to be too much for me. I just needed him present with me and as long as he was there I knew I could get through it.

At about 1am Merrily checked me again and I was fully dilated. I went from 6cm to 10cm in two hours! Little man was still hanging up high though which meant it wasn't going to be easy to get him out as he needed to drop first. And because NO position felt comfortable for me I couldn't find a way to push. My contractions were so close with no break in between it was impossible to catch my breath and push.

Jan, our assistant midwife, had arrived by this time. She and Merrily suggested I stand with my back to Jake so he could hold me up. This way every time a contraction hit I could squat, open up my hips, and push. The baby finally started to drop and I began to feel like I was working with my body's contractions to make progress and it wasn't nearly as painful.

Toby's Home Birth Story
Jake massages my back during labor.

A Passing Blur

Honestly the next 4-plus hours were kind of a blur. The pain intensified. The contractions became stronger. We utilized many different positions from laying down to squatting to sitting on the toilet, anything to get him to come down.

My back pain was incredible! Jake massaged me. Merrily and Jan massaged me. They all took turns pressing on my lower back with each contraction, but the pain was excruciating.

At one point the midwives encouraged me to lie on my back, grab my feet and pull them towards my chest. This sounded like a horrible position and I didn't want to try it at first, but it ended up taking the pressure off my back and proving to be a lot more comfortable than I thought it would be. I did a lot of work in this position. I rotated from one hip to the other, holding up one leg at a time, trying to use gravity and my contractions to get baby through my pelvis. I was on and off oxygen during this time as baby's heart-rate wasn't consistently staying up, and there were times I was told not to push in order to give him a break. NOT-pushing? That was torture!

Toby's Home Birth Story
Our midwives, Merrily (left) and Jan.

Dehydration and Exhaustion

By this time I had been having contractions for over 24 hours, with the last 7 hours being active labor and the last 4-plus hours being the most painful thing I've ever experienced. My body was exhausted. I hadn't slept in two days. Because I was so dehydrated my contractions had shortened to about 30 seconds, not enough time to get in the ideal three strong pushes that the midwives wanted me to get.

Merrily hooked me up to an IV to get my body hydrated in order to lengthen my contractions. It took about 45 minutes to an hour, but finally I was having long enough contractions to get in three good pushes.

My eyes hemorrhaged from the exertion and almost swelled shut. Jake made frequent trips to the freezer to grab cold wet washcloths to put over my eyes to control the swelling, and also to place on my neck to help keep me cool.

Baby Emerges Tangled Up

Once baby made it around my pelvic bone it wasn't too long before he starting crowing. The midwives used a mirror to show me his head, but my eyes were so swollen I could hardly see. I did get to reach down and touch him though, which was hugely motivating.

Toby emerged posterior (face up), which is not the ideal position. Furthermore, his right hand was trapped behind his head by his umbilical cord which was also wrapped around his neck. A trifecta of problems! Yeesh, kid. The midwives said STOP, which was extremely painful and difficult to do when my contractions wanted me to push. All I could do was breathe with it, which was one of the hardest parts of the whole ordeal.

After a few moments they got him untangled and then I heard, "Push, push, push, push!" I remember thinking my body shouldn't have anything left to give, but I knew how close to the end I was. I found strength to keep pushing and before I knew it he was finally out!

"He's Not Breathing."

Those words are every parent's fear, and as soon as Toby was out that's what I heard, "He's not breathing," Merrily said. "I think I need to give him a couple of breaths."

I don't remember what I said, but Jake told me later that I started praying out loud, "Dear Jesus, help Toby breathe."

The midwives said, “Talk to your baby. Let him hear your voice.”

“Breath Toby. Come on, Toby.”

Then Jake leaned down real close to him and said, “Hey Toby. This is your daddy. You need to breathe, buddy.” And at the sound of his voice Toby inclined his head to daddy and squeaked for the first time.

Thank you, Lord!

In reality all of this took place in only about 90 seconds, but in the moment it felt like forever. Also, during that time he was never in danger of being oxygen deprived as he was still receiving oxygenated blood from his cord.

The midwives plopped Toby onto my chest :-) Love at first sight!

Toby's Home Birth Story

But It Wasn't Over

Pushing out the placenta was more of a chore than I was expecting. I've heard a lot of women say that after pushing out a baby, the placenta is nothing and that usually it comes right out without them even realizing it. Not in my case! My placenta was huge and it took a couple good pushes to get it out.

At last the midwives were able to see all the damage Toby's crazy arrival brought with him. I don't know how many stitches I ended up having, but it took close to two hours for Merrily to put them all in, partly because there was one stitch deep inside that was not easy to get to.

Merrily said she's never put so many stitches into any other woman. Ugh. Not the award I was hoping to win!

A REAL Vermont Baby

Because I got so dehydrated, I ended up consuming a quart of Recharge for electrolytes to stay hydrated. The problem was that the drink also contained a lot of sugar. So when Toby was born there was a risk of his blood sugar dropping rapidly.

To help him, Jan diluted some maple sugar in water and fed it to him through a vial. Being a true Vermonter, he loved it! His little tongue came out and started lapping at the vial for more.

Toby's Home Birth Story
Toby's first taste of maple sugar just an hour after he's born.
Because that's how Vermont babies roll!

One And Done?

Shortly after giving birth I remember saying to Jake, "Why would anyone do this again?"

Well, as I sit here writing this 72 hours later I'm already saying, "It wasn't so bad. I mean, if that's what you have to do to bring something so precious into the world I think I could do it again."

Currently Jake isn't so sure about that idea ;-)

And that's my story in a nutshell!

It definitely was not the easy, minimal pain, quick delivery I had been praying for, and yet I know God gave me the strength, endurance, and resilience to just keep going, never give up, and to do it with grace. Thankfully I never felt the need to complain or scream, and I never said anything mean to my husband. I just focused on what I had to do to get my baby out. At the end of the day you can't ask for anything else.

Dani the Fat Gurl Inside

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Groaning Muffins Recipe - Perfect For Labor & Breastfeeding

I sit here writing from my rocking chair, just days away from my due date and waiting on my little guy to decide to make his grand appearance.

Waiting isn't easy. When they tell you that the last month of pregnancy is the LONGEST, believe them! It's a whole new game when you get to that point - you don't know when it's going to happen, you are usually the most uncomfortable you've been the entire pregnancy, and if you are especially lucky you may be experiencing "pregnancy insomnia." It's a lovely condition that convinces your brain that even though you were tired at 9pm, you really don't need to fall asleep before 5am.

So, as I sit here rocking away and passing the time I thought I would write a few blog posts sharing some of the things I've done to prepare for labor and delivery.

First off I wanted to share this recipe I found for Groaning Muffins. They say it's a great food to have on hand to give you long lasting energy during labor, a go-to snack while breastfeeding and something you can easily pull out of the freezer. The original recipe can be found at Nourishing Joy, but the recipe below is what I used based on ingredients I had on hand and pregnancy brain ;-)

Labor and Breastfeeding fuel


24 Regular Sized Muffins

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon + cinnamon (I am notorious for adding extra cinnamon to everything!)
1 1/2 cups peeled, grated apple (about 1 very large apple or two small apples)
1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts
1 large carrot, finely grated
1/4 cup finely chopped craisins (could sub with dates or raisins but I prefer craisins)
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled but still liquid (if you live in HI it's always liquid ;-) )
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350° and grease muffin tins.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then stir in the grated apple, nuts, carrots, and craisins. Then add in lightly beaten eggs, pumpkin, coconut oil, maple syrup and honey. Stir until mixed well.

The batter should be quite stiff and when you put it in the muffin tins it will be lumpy and thick (best done with two spoons). If it’s so stiff it’s unable to be mixed, however, stir in a bit of orange juice or milk. Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Approximately 22-26 minutes for muffins.

I happened to be babysitting when I made them, and the little guy I was looking after FORCED me to share 2 ;-) So these muffins are mommy and toddler approved! The great thing about these muffins is that you can prepare them ahead of time and pop them in the freezer until go time, no worries of them spoiling before you go into labor, OR you can just enjoy them and make more if you've eaten them all before baby arrives!

Let me know if you tried them and how you liked them?

Dani the Fat Gurl Inside