Sage’s Birth Story: Part One

The Sunday I went into labor felt like a long day. I had spent the week before crying multiple times a day over a variety of things. The Friday before the birth my mom left for the Philippines to be with my brother and sister-in-law as their baby was in the hospital and they were still trying to figure out what was wrong. Saturday we had a nice day and my dad cooked us a wonderful dinner. Sunday morning my dad left for a business trip to Costa Rica. I spent most of Sunday feeling discouraged and down, even though Bryan and I were able to spend some nice time together during the day and we had a really nice family outing to the library in the afternoon.

I remember crying at the library. I checked email on the ipad while there and I got a really sweet and encouraging message from my friend, Melissa. In a moment when I was feeling especially discouraged about still being pregnant (I was a week past my estimated due date) she told me she was proud of me and wrote this “So today, instead of saying when is this baby going to get here?! I want you to say ‘I am one tough mama, I can handle this!! I can be patient for nature. Not everyone does this and I am proud of myself for waiting it out!!’ and give yourself a nice pat on the back. Or just pat your belly if that is easier.” It made me smile and then cry. And it made me feel a little better too. Little did I know how much I would need to hear, and remember her words that I was one tough momma in the hours to come.

My labor really got started Sunday evening around 6pm. I’d been having contractions steadily all afternoon, but they weren’t really labor contractions, they were just the same tightening feeling that I’d been having since I was about 20 weeks pregnant. But, around 6pm things changed, these contractions were different, they felt like labor. Suddenly as I felt them I remembered, really remembered, my first birth in a whole new way.

I continued having regular labor contractions as I made dinner and put Thaddeus to bed. When a contraction would hit I’d just lean over against the counter and do what I needed to do to deal with it and then go back to making dinner. We had a broccoli and green bean pasta for dinner. Bryan and I split a beer and toasted to the baby being born soon.

Dealing with the contractions got a little harder while putting Thad to sleep as they got more intense while I was nursing him. Thankfully he fell asleep quickly and I only had to work through two or three contractions while putting him to bed.

After Thad was asleep we called our midwife, Shell, and gave her a heads up about what was going on. Then I had some chocolate crème brûlée that my dad had made the night before and we tried to watch some tv. That didn’t last long.

It was getting later and things were moving along well so we started getting some stuff ready – moving birth supplies into the bedroom, changing the sheets on the bed, etc. We put on the playlist of songs I had made for the birth and danced our way through a few contractions. Shell called back to see how things were going and told us she was on her way. We called my sister and asked her to come be with Thad in case he woke up. We texted my mom (since we knew she was up any way because of the time difference in Cebu) and I sent off a quick email to some close friends who had agreed to pray with me throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy.

When Shell got here she started setting up her stuff, and helped me through a few contractions. Then we all moved out into the kitchen. Shell had one of dad’s crème brûlée’s and a coffee. Bryan and I had some tea and we all just sat and talked in-between contractions. Shell shared stories with us that made us laugh. (She really should write her memoirs some day – I know I would love to read that!)

Soon Brie arrived and joined us for a crème brûlée of her own and plenty of her own energy and talkativeness. The contractions at this point were difficult but manageable and Shell kept saying “I think you’ll be surprised. I think your farther along then you think you are.” which was of course an encouraging thing to hear.

After everyone had finished their desert and drinks we moved back into the bedroom and Shell did an internal exam – more for the opportunity to turn the baby since she was still posterior than to find out how dilated I was, but it was encouraging when she told us that my cervix was dilated to a five on it’s own but could easily stretch to an eight. My sister asked something about how much longer Shell thought it would be and Shell said something to the extent of it being up to me, that my cervix wasn’t really the issue, and it would quickly open and stretch as it needed to once I was ready and about how it was going to be more about me being ready and not afraid to push…or something like that. It was getting harder for me to concentrate at this point.

After I was checked Brie and Bryan started laying down the plastic floor covering stuff that we got to protect the carpet (my dad was worried we’d ruin the carpet in his bathroom again, like we had when my son was born). The stuff we got this time had adhesive on one side so it actually stuck to the carpet and didn’t slide around. It worked really well. My sister got really into the job of covering the carpet and even made a little “run way” from where I was laboring on the floor in the bedroom to the bathroom. It even had an arrow in the middle made out of duct tape. We all got a little chuckle out of it.

It was nice to laugh during labor – my labor with Thaddeus had been really, intense and heavy and even contemplative. Up to this point in my labor with Sage things were much lighter, more relaxed, and I felt much more present and grounded.

Once we moved into the bathroom with everything all set up I hit what I’m going to call the peeing stage of my labor. By this point the baby was very low in my pelvis and putting a lot of pressure on my bladder. For a while this was the pattern that was my reality – have a contraction, go to the toilet and pee, come back out, feel thirsty and have something to drink, have another contraction, get up again to pee, again have something to drink. It went on like this with me peeing about every two minutes for quite a while.

Then things slowed down a bit. I remember my sister asking numerous times “what are we waiting for?” and looking at her phone. I remember her asking Shell how much longer she thought it would be and how far along she thought I was now. I didn’t realize it at first but her anxiety and desire for it to be over started rubbing off on me. I was the one who really wanted it to be over, I was the one working through the pain every few minutes! My stress level rose.

I remember telling them that I felt a lot of pressure (which isn’t surprising since the baby was very low by now) and that I kind of wanted to push but didn’t really feel ready. Shell told me if I wanted to push I could try and that if I wasn’t ready it wouldn’t really do anything. For the next few contractions I pushed. Shell listened to the babies heart rate, which sounded great. The pushing felt nice with the contractions, but it didn’t really do anything.

I started to feel discouraged as Brie asked again “what are we waiting for”. There started to be longer distances between contractions. I remember during a particularly long break between contractions I thought to myself “you need to ask brie to leave” it was clear as day and I knew it was what I needed for everything to pick back up again. But I wrestled with telling her for what felt like a mini-eternity. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, I knew she had said she really wanted to be at the birth. I had planned on having her video the birth and take pictures (as long as Thad didn’t wake up), since I was always a little sad that I didn’t have video/pictures of Thad’s birth. Would brie take it the wrong way, or would she understand? I struggled with these things for a while, but I knew I had to ask her to leave. So, I asked her to go, and she did, and pretty much immediately things picked up again.

…. check back tomorrow for the rest of the story…

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Love Grows

I thought that as soon as I saw him I would feel an overwhelming sense of love for him. But, I have a confession to make…

I didn’t.

I mean, I did love my son desperately, but in those first few weeks I didn’t FEEL a lot of love for him. At least not the gooey, lovey-dovey feelings that I expected to feel. What I felt more than anything else was terrified and stressed. I felt so overwhelmingly responsible for my son and his well-being, but I didn’t feel overwhelmingly connected to him.

I vividly remember the first time my mother-in-law saw my son. I could see the love on her face. The first time she saw him she cried. It was beautiful, but honestly, it made me angry. I hadn’t cried when I saw him. How come she felt all this love for him and connection to him, when I didn’t …and he’s MY son!

Then throughout the first few months well-meaning fellow mommies would make comments to me, saying things like, “Isn’t the love you feel for him just amazing and overwhelming?!?” – stuff like that. And I would smile and nod and then go crying to my husband because I was convinced that something was wrong with me. I did love my child, but it was not in any way like the love that people described. It wasn’t at all like the love that I had expected to feel.

Over the past 9 months I have slowly realized as I prayed and worked through some of my fears, as I read other mommy blogs and as I talked to dear friends, that there  wasn’t really anything wrong with me. Some women do feel the gushy-gooey, lovey-dovey feelings for their baby right away, but plenty of other women (like me) don’t. There’s so much to deal with in those early days, when your hormones are out of control and your sleep is sporadic, that for some of us all the other feelings drowned out the lovey-dovey feelings.

For me my relationship with my son didn’t start with a thunder bolt of beauty and revelation, or with an all encompassing overwhelming feeling of love. Instead it started with a small, but unbreakably strong seed. A seed that I have had the joy of watching grow as my child grows. Each day I know him better. Each day I love him more. Sometimes now I am completely awash with love for him. Sometimes it’s so strong that I feel my heart will break from it. Sometimes I feel like I have so much love for him that I can’t get it out fast enough.

But, it wasn’t that way at the beginning. And now that I’m past those early days of motherhood I know that’s ok.

How about you? What did you feel when you had your first child?

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Admiration Mondays: Shell Walker

I had very definite ideas of what I wanted the birth of my first child to look like. And I had very specific ideas for what I was looking for in a doctor/midwife. In the first five months of my pregnancy I visited three different gynecologists and interviewed three midwives. Shell was the third midwife I spoke to and when we met her we knew we had found a good match. In some ways Shell was different then I envisioned, she had some spunk to her that I hadn’t really thought of when I envisioned my ideal midwife, but now her spunk is one of the things I love most about her.

There’s a quote from a 16th century midwifery text that says this:

“A Midwife Should Possess A Lady’s Hand, A Hawk’s Eye and A Lion’s Heart”

That is a great way to describe Shell. She has a lady’s hand. She is gentle and kind, compassionate and open.

She has a hawk’s eye. She is ready for whatever happens. She is experienced, intelligent and sharp.

And she has a lion’s heart. She is passionate and energetic. She is strong and powerful. She leads well when needed, but never steps on anyone’s toes and absolutely never forces anything on anyone.

Shell Walker is truly captivating. Shell is one of those people who the more you get to know her, the more interesting she is. Each time we talked with Shell we found out new things about her and I was always so inspired and amazed. She has done so many things and learned from so many disciplines. She is incredibly knowledgeable and experienced. She is professional and her care is comprehensive. I felt like I could trust her completely.

Even with all of her expertise I never felt like she pushed her own ideas or knowledge on my husband and me. She ALWAYS gave us space to make decisions for ourselves. She really let us have the birth that we wanted and allowed us to guide our own birth experience. But, when we weren’t sure about a decision we could ask Shell about it and know that she would give us an informed and balanced opinion – I loved that I could make my own decisions and lead my birth process, and that I also felt completely comfortable deferring to her when I needed to. I felt like Shell gave us the perfect balance of freedom and direction. She was available and knowledgeable and ready to step in if needed or wanted, but when not needed she was able to step aside and let us lead the way.

Shell spent hours and hours with us before the birth and after the birth, not to mention the all-nighter she pulled with us during the actual labor. I felt like she was completely available to us. If we had a question or concern we could, call, text, or email and she would always respond promptly. Even when I was in Prague, and seeing another midwife for my prenatal care, Shell was still hands-on and available to me. I never felt rushed with her. Instead I felt like each time I was with her she wanted to be with me too. It was such a different experience from a normal doctor!

After having gone through a birth with Shell I feel like she is more than just my “care provider”. I feel like she knows me, I feel like she really cares for me. She is my midwife, in all of the most intimate and beautiful meanings of the word. I feel so grateful that I was able to have her beside me holding my hand and supporting me through the most amazing, awe-inspiring, difficult, and beautiful experience of my life.

A Little Blessing for Shell:

Spirit, circle Shell.
Keep comfort near
and discouragement afar.
Spirit, circle Shell.
Bless the hands that deliver life into the world.
Bless the hands that encircle and hold so many women through the biggest change of their lives.
Bless the hands that give strength when strength is needed, direction when confusion floods the heart, and support when weakness presses in.
Spirit, circle Shell.
Bless the work she is doing to create a safe, peaceful space for women to bring forth life.
Spirit, circle Shell.
May she be as blessed and encouraged by the mothers she walks beside as I know they are by her.
Spirit, circle Shell.
Mother her as she has mothered so many.
Spirit, circle Shell.
Keep peace within
and turmoil out.
Spirit, circle Shell.
Keep hope within
and disappointment without.
Keep light near
and darkness afar.
I bless you, Shell, midwife and sister,
in the name of the Holy Three,
the Father, the Son and the Sacred Spirit.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Babies are Amazing!

Did you know that newborn babies when placed on the mommy’s tummy and given skin-to-skin contact right after birth will actually crawl up to the breast and latch on by themselves after a while?!?!!

This is so amazing to me! I didn’t really hear about this until after Thaddeus was born and I didn’t really believe it until just recently when I saw this video. I think this is so beautiful!

We are wonderfully and beautifully made!!

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Thaddeus’ Birth Story

*Disclaimer: The following is the story of my son’s birth. It includes pretty much every detail from the day I went into labor through his first day of life. It’s an 8 page word document. Just thought I should warn people ahead of time.

The activities of the Day or Pre-labor
Friday, September 25th, I woke up around sunrise with some contractions. They weren’t consistent and they weren’t all that intense, but they did feel a little bit different then the one’s I had been having before. After having days of off and on Braxton Hicks contractions though I had really reached a place where I didn’t want to start thinking that this was it. So, I lay there for a bit, thinking and praying and trying to get back to sleep. I do remember thinking as I watched the sunrise “He’s a sunrise baby, I think he’s going to be born at sunrise.” I dismissed the thought – hoping that he wouldn’t be born at sunrise because I knew that meant laboring through the night which I really didn’t want.
After a while I decided sleep wasn’t going to happen anymore and got up. I had some pregnancy tea and worked on a quilt I was making for the baby. Bryan got up about the time I finished the quilt and we made some French toast together for breakfast. After breakfast we both cleaned the house and then headed over to my parents office to pick up my mom and two of my sisters kids (Faithlynn and Landen). After picking them up we went to the mall. We had some lunch at Paradise Bakery and then walked around the mall for a while because my mom was convinced walking the mall would bring on labor. I did have a few minor contractions while we walked, but nothing much. Mostly I just felt really tired. While my mom and I walked the mall with the kids and let them play in the play area for a bit Bryan got his hair cut. After his hair cut was finished he took Landen to the pet store and my mom and I took Faithy with us underwear shopping. Bryan and Landon spent most of the time looking in the front window at this little doggy that Landen called “his doggy” and didn’t want anyone else to look at.
After we left the mall we made a few other quick stops and then took the kids to the library. We had a lot of fun playing with them in the kid area at the library and reading some books together. After the library my mom left and Bryan and I took the kids back to their house to play for a little bit until their parents got home.

Labor Begins
By the time we got back to my sister’s house with the kids it was about 5:00pm. We pulled out a bag of Linkin’ Logs and played with those for a while. But, I soon started having what seemed to be consistent contractions and they were getting more and more painful. Because we were playing with the kids we didn’t time them, but by about 5:30pm it was to the point where I would have to stop playing and focus on the contraction to get through it. The kids started asking what was wrong with me, so I started leaving the room whenever a contraction came on and just walking around the house a bit.
My sister and her husband got home around 6pm and brought us dinner from Wildflower Bakery (potato soup for me and a roast beef sandwich for Bryan). They could tell I was really uncomfortable by that point so we all decided it would be better if Bryan and I took our dinner back to our apartment and ate there. We left a little after 6pm and the contractions were pretty intense then. We started to time a few in the car and found they were coming about every 6 minutes. We both really didn’t want to get our hopes up that this was it and also we were both very aware of the fact that he was still 2 weeks early and even though I was definitely ready to be done being pregnant ideally we both wanted him to stay in as long as possible. So, on the way home we stopped at Whole Foods and picked up some juice (in case I really was in labor) and some Guinness (our midwife had suggested a little wine or stout beer as a good way to calm down false labor and get to sleep).
We were determined to get in and out of Whole Foods before another contraction came on and we almost made it. We were just paying when the next contraction hit, I wiggled and squirmed a bit trying to deal with the pain without really letting on that I was in pain and just hoped that we could get out of there fast. The cashier was too nice though; she started asking when I was due and other little questions. Honestly I was pretty annoyed at that point, but it was sort of fun that a few days after the birth we went back in there and the same cashier was there and saw the baby and we were able to tell her that he was born the night we had last seen her. Bryan and I also thought looking back on it that it was sort of fun that I labored a little bit in Whole Foods, since that is also where he purposed to me.
Anyway, after Whole Foods we went home and I ate my soup between contractions. We also called the midwife and let her know what was going on. At this point we still hadn’t really been timing the contractions very consistently because we’d been with the kids and then in Whole Foods and also I think we were both trying to prepare ourselves for it to just be false labor so we were trying to down play the whole thing.
After calling the midwife I got in the bath. I couldn’t talk through contractions anymore and I think by this point I knew that this was it and I was in labor, but I still didn’t want to admit it. The bath helped a lot and I stayed in there for a long time. I was incessantly thirsty and pretty much drank all the water and juice we had in the house. After a while in the bath we decided we better call my parents and let them know what was going on since we were planning on having the birth at their house (in their bed room) and didn’t want them to go to bed without knowing things were happening.
By now I couldn’t stand through contractions – each time a contraction hit I felt this uncontrollable urge to be as close to the floor as possible. I think I needed to feel grounded and stable at a time when the pain left me feeling out of control. I found a sort of half squat, half kneeling position (a sort of cross between child’s pose and cat/cow) to be the most helpful and would sink into that every time a contraction hit.
Around 10:30pm we decided it would be better to move up to my parents house so that “if it was really labor” we didn’t end up having to transfer later on when I was in even more pain. It was a difficult decision actually because neither of us wanted to displace my parents from their room if it wasn’t really it and at this point we were both still telling ourselves that it wasn’t it or that if it was it we still had a long way to go. In the end I’m so glad that we decided to move up to my parents when we did – as it was the car ride was incredibly uncomfortable with contractions coming around every 4 to 5 minutes at that point.

At my parents house
When we got to my parents I walked in the door and didn’t make it more than a few feet before I was on the floor with another contraction.  My parents came in and my mom took one look at me and knew this was it and that I was really in labor. Before I knew it we were settled in their bedroom. We both felt that it would be best to try and sleep since it was really late by now and we figured it would still be a long time before the baby was actually born and we would need all the rest we could get. I was too uncomfortable to sleep in the bed, so Bryan and I both curled up in my dad’s big leather chair and tried to sleep. The contractions were still really intense and really close together, with less and less time in between. I was starting to feel exhausted. We put on Sigur Ros’s album, (), and tried to relax. Eventually I was dosing off in between contractions. It was such a strange feeling to be sort of out of it asleep and then feel this rush of intensity and pain come on that woke me wide awake and when it was over slump back almost right away into dozy sleep again.

Labor Intensifies
By about midnight we called my midwife, Shell, again and told her to come. At this point I was no longer really able to sleep between contractions and things were getting more intense. Bryan drew me a bath and I got in the tub again finding the water to be a great comfort. Even in the tub I found that the only position that I really wanted to be in during the contractions was a sort of wide legged kneeling position. By this point I was feeling a lot of pressure in my back and on my lower sacrum during contractions, and found that the only way to really manage that pain was to have Bryan push down really hard on my sacrum/tailbone. Between contractions I tried to relax or do things that would help open my hips, like squatting.
Shell got there with her assistant, Tracy, and her daughter, Fiona, around 1am I think and by that point I was really so glad to see her. They started setting things up and Shell walked me through a contraction. She put her hand on my stomach and told me to push my stomach into her hand during the contraction to take some of the pressure off – it was amazing to me how much that helped. It really helped me to focus and did take some of the pressure off. I continued to try to push my stomach out during contractions after that – although I did find it easier to do when her hand was there to push into.
Shell then had me get out of the tub so that she could do an internal exam and see where I was at. This was probably the most encouraging part of my labor because by this first internal exam I was fully effaced and dilated 5cm. When I heard that I was so surprised. I think both Bryan and I were sort of in shock and I think it was the first time we really realized that yes, this was it and that we were already half way there and we would have a baby within a few hours. Shell also told us that the baby was still a little bit posterior (not facing the ideal way for birth) and she did an internal adjustment to turn the baby. This worked well and the baby turned for us.
After that I got back in the tub and things started moving even more quickly – or at least it felt like that to me. Shell, Tracy and Fiona stayed in the background mostly and allowed Bryan and I to do what we needed to do to work through each contraction and just be together during the amazing and overwhelming ordeal we were going through. But they all stayed close at hand in case we needed anything, occasionally offering me something to drink or eat and just being available for any need we had.
At one point I felt really nauseous. Shell grabbed a towel for me just in time and I threw up. Then Shell had some cinnamon brought in for Bryan and I and told us to smell it occasionally. The cinnamon smelled so amazing and really helped me to overcome the nausea. I felt much better after that. Bryan also said that smelling the cinnamon really help him to feel rejuvenated and helped him to focus throughout the rest of the birth.
After that the contractions sort of blur together. I continued to do the things that had been working for me before – kneeling, having Bryan push on my lower back, pushing out my stomach, oh, and making plenty of moaning and groaning noises. I was surprised how much I really did vocalize during each contraction and how much it helped me. Well, most of the time it helped, there were a few times where I sort of lost it and then my vocalizing took on a different characteristic and didn’t help as much.
There are two contractions that I do particularly remember. One happened the one time Bryan left me. He had to go to the bathroom so he waited till I had just finished a contraction, asked my permission and then went. Before he got back another contraction came on. This one was really strong and I felt really lost without Bryan there to help me through it. Tracy came over and pushed on my back and worked me through the contraction, and she was awesome, but I really just wanted Bryan and was so relieved when he came back.
I also remember another contraction where it was really intense and I sort of lost it. For a second I felt like I couldn’t really keep going and deal with it all anymore. I called for Shell and she came and talked me through the contraction. I can’t remember all of what she said; mostly she just held me and said encouraging things. I do remember one thing she said though during that contraction and it really helped me a lot through the following contractions. She told me to visualize with each contraction the baby coming down and my cervix going up. I think at this point when the contractions were so intense I felt a little lost and had a hard time remembering what I was working towards. Visualizing the baby going down further and further and my cervix going up over the baby’s head really helped me to make the labor and contractions feel more tangible and less abstract and surreal. After that contraction Shell sat back and talked me through relaxing and breathing in between that contraction and the next one, which was also really helpful. After that things blur together again with Bryan helping me through contractions.

The Pushing Phase
Eventually I felt a lot of pressure and felt the urge to push. I remember saying “I want to push” and Shell telling me to go ahead and push then, but after that I felt like I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t really feel like being in the tub anymore, but it had been working so well for me that I think I felt a little scared to get out. Shell said later that I looked a bit like a lost deer, looking from side to side, trying to find a safe place and not really knowing where to go. At this point Shell said “you want to get out of the tub” and that was like a breath of fresh air to me. For some reason her saying that just made me feel like I had the strength and ability to get out of the tub and follow the instincts to be on the floor. Shell and Bryan said I basically jumped out of the tub quicker than they thought possible.
After that I tried pushing, but not much was happening. I tried squatting, which was always very comfortable for me throughout my pregnancy, but the contractions felt really intense while squatting and I ended up moving quickly onto my hands and knees.
Pushing was really different then I had expected. I thought I would just know how to push, but for the first contraction or two I was definitely not pushing right. I can’t really explain what I was doing wrong, but my pushes had no force. Shell started to tell me over and over to take my vocalization inward and honestly I couldn’t really understand what she meant at first. Basically I was still moaning and groaning through the contractions while I pushed because I was trying to deal with the pain. Looking back I realize that I was trying to avoid the pain, and find relief from the pain, while what I really needed to do at this point was embrace the pain and use the pain to channel more energy and power into my pushing.
It wasn’t long before Shell suggested that I put my finger up my vagina and feel the baby’s head while I pushed. This made such a huge difference for me. Suddenly I could feel tangibly how ineffective my pushing was and could also feel what an effective push felt like. In what seemed like a very short time I felt the baby’s head move down until it was right on my tailbone and almost to my perineum. It was so encouraging to feel that movement, but then once the contraction stopped and I stopped pushing the baby’s head retracted back up again. I had read that this was common, but when I felt it happen I still felt discouraged.
I think it was about this point that Shell realized my tailbone was curved in and wasn’t moving out of the way like it should. She reached her hand up there and put her fingers on my pelvis on either side of my tailbone and pulled up hard during the next contraction while I pushed. While she did that she had Bryan and Tracy push hard on either side of my pelvis. It was incredibly uncomfortable and painful to have her pulling up on my tailbone like that, but the support from Bryan and Tracy really helped and I pushed hard and we were able to get his head past my tailbone. Once we got his head past my tailbone I felt this immense burning sensation on my perineum.
I think it was about then that I had a long break between contractions – I knew I should work with the contractions and wait to push until the next one, but it felt like forever before the next one and I just wanted to get the baby out at this point. I really have no idea how many pushes things took or how long the pushing phase was (although Shell later told me the whole pushing phase was only about 15 minutes) or how long it really was between contractions – time seemed especially different during this phase of labor.
I remember Shell multiple times during the pushing phase telling me not to be afraid and I am so glad that she kept up this mantra for me. I didn’t really realize how scared I was until she said that for the first time. I hadn’t expected to feel scared during the pushing phase, in fact I’d expected that it would be far better than the contractions, because by the pushing phase you know you are almost done and will soon have a baby. But, maybe that’s exactly what I was afraid of that I would soon have a baby and that seemed scary and foreign to me in that moment. I was also really scared of tearing and I think for a while that kept me from putting all of my effort into pushing, because I didn’t want to push so hard that I tore.
Eventually I heard Bryan and Shell say that his head was out. Honestly, I didn’t really believe them. I was still on my hands and knees and so I couldn’t really see him, and I was still in so much pain and felt so much pressure on my perineum that all I could focus on was pushing. I remember thinking, “They must just mean that his head is out past my tailbone and that he’s close to being out.” So, then I really pushed hard. I have no idea if I was having a contraction or not, all I could focus on was the pain on my tailbone and perineum and all I could think about was getting it over with. I pushed really hard knowing he was close to being out and just wanting him out.

Immediately After Birth
Then I felt the relief. The pain and pressure were gone, I could hear my son crying and I knew it was over. Shell and Bryan passed my baby threw my legs and I sat back and lifted him up to my chest. I guess I did it a little fast, because Shell said “short cord, short cord” and I realized I must have pulled on the cord too much when I lifted him. I lowered him a little bit, but soon more of the cord came out and I was able to hold him up to me more.
I vaguely remember Shell asking me “are you in your body” and I remember being confused by that question and just saying “yes”. Looking back though the question makes a lot of sense and I don’t think I really was in my body – I think I was sort of in shock, honestly.
Things get a little hazy here – I remember Bryan cutting the cord once it had stopped pulsating, and I remember delivering the placenta and Shell showing it to us and telling us about it while she examined it, and I remember asking if I could breast feed and then feeding him for a short time. But, I have no idea what order those things happened in – they all sort of run together in my mind.
After that Shell asked if we could put some more upbeat music on. I hadn’t even realized until then that Sigur Ros had still been playing on repeat that whole time. We laughed about it a little and Tracy put on a play list I had made of songs I like. I remember the first song that played was Ben Kweller’s “Down”.
Shell then had me lay down with my head in Bryan’s lap and examined me and said that I needed a few stitches. The tears weren’t bad and she said some midwife’s wouldn’t even stitch them up, but she felt it was better to repair things as much as possible.
I gave the baby to Tracy and she weighted him and measured him right next to Bryan and I while Shell stitched me up. Thaddeus weighted 6 pounds 11 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. We were all surprised by how long he was and felt like 6 lbs. 11 oz. was a great weight for a baby two weeks early.
Fiona asked if she could make me something to eat and I requested French toast. After the stitches were done Tracy drew me a bath and I got in the tub to clean up. I held the baby in the tub and cleaned him up with a damp rag. We were both very messy of course and it felt good to get cleaned up a bit.
The only really scary part of the whole thing was when I was getting out of the tub. I gave the baby to Bryan, then stood up and felt really dizzy. Tracy could tell I wasn’t feeling all that strong and suggested that I sit back down. I remember sitting back down and then the next thing I remember Bryan was calling my name and Tracy was calling for Shell. Bryan said I was only out for a second, but it was a bit scary. Shell came in and she and Tracy helped me out of the tub and into my dad’s lounge chair in the bedroom. They got me something to drink and brought in the French toast and gave me the baby again. I hadn’t eaten in a while and had worked very hard during the labor so I felt a lot better after eating. The French toast tasted amazing and I felt very grateful that Fiona made it.
About then my parents came in to see the baby and I. They were so excited to see him and so surprised that I’d already had him. [side note: my parents experience in the morning was a little funny. They had gone to bed in the guest room thinking that I would probably be laboring for quite a long time. They were surprised when they came out to the kitchen in the morning and found Fiona, who they had never met, making French toast. She said that she was making it for me and my parents felt very confused and surprised that I would want French toast in the middle of labor. Fiona then told them that the baby had been born. They were both really surprised that it happened so quickly and that they hadn’t heard anything.] Bryan called his parents while my parents took some pictures. Then Shell took the baby and examined him and my sister, Brie, came in. After Shell was done and had declared him perfectly healthy Brie took the baby and put his first diaper on him.

The rest of the First Day
After that Shell, Tracy and Fiona left and my parents and sister went to breakfast. Bryan and I crawled into bed to try to rest. We were tired, but couldn’t really sleep. We spent a while just looking at the baby and spent a little while finalizing our decision about the name. When my parents came home from breakfast we told them that we had decided to name our son Thaddeus Raffi Stedman. My parents then left again for a while and Bryan and I put on some Friends and tried to just rest.
About this point I realized that I was bleeding a bit more then maybe I should and called Shell. She came back over and checked me out and said that even though it wasn’t really serious or worrisome yet my uterus wasn’t really contracting as well as she’d like to see. She gave me some herbs and watched me for a bit and then gave me a small shot of Pitocin. After the Pitocin I started having really intense contractions, which was exactly what we wanted, but really painful none the less. We put a hot rice pack on my stomach and Shell gave me some other herbs to help with the pain and stayed with me until the contractions died down a bit. Once everything was under control she showed me again how to massage my uterus to help it contract and then left.
The rest of the day feels like a blur – I nursed, dozed off a little bit, gazed at my son, talked with my husband, and watched some Friends. In the evening my dad went to our favorite Italian restaurant, Casa Mia, and brought food back to the house for us. Bryan, Thad, my parents and I sat on the couches in their family room and ate Casa Mia for Thad’s first dinner outside of the womb.
Around dinner time Tracy came back over to check on us. A little while later Bryan’s mom arrived. She was so excited to see her first grandson and cried when she held him for the first time. Lisa held Thad for a long time and was the first person to kiss him on the lips. Eventually it was just Bryan and I and Thad again and we cuddled up in bed for our first night with Thad.

Closing Thoughts about the whole experience
Well, that’s it. That’s Thad’s birth story. Overall it was an amazing experience. I am so glad and thankful for the decisions we made about how to do this birth. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Birth was incredibly difficult and painful – in fact right afterwards I remember thinking, “I never want to do that again.” It was, indeed, overwhelming and shocking, but it was also really amazing and powerful. I would do it again and I would do an un-medicated home birth again. But, I did already tell Bryan that ideally I never want to go through birth without Shell – she was so great not only throughout the labor, but before and after as well. She has such a calming and reassuring affect on both Bryan and I and we both feel like we can really trust her.
There are, however, some things that I would do a little differently next time. One thing is that I sort of wish we had videotaped or at least taken pictures of the birth. We had talked about this earlier and decided that I probably wouldn’t want a video or pictures of the birth itself, since I wouldn’t really want anyone else watching it and we didn’t really think that we would need it. But, now I do sort of wish I had a video or at least pictures. For me I was so focused on the pain and on the work I had to do to get him out, that I think it would be nice now to just watch and enjoy my son being born without the pain and effort of the experience. Also, since I was on my hands and knees I didn’t get to see him actually come out and I would have liked to – in the moment I didn’t really care I just wanted to get him out and did what I needed to do in order for that to happen, but now I wish that I had seen him come out. So in the future I think that I would maybe want to use a mirror to see my child being born and/or video tape it so that I could see it later.
The other thing that I think I would do a little bit differently is have a clearer plan for the first few days/weeks after birth and how we will handle visitors and family. After the birth we stayed at my parent’s house for almost two weeks and I think that was too long. We hadn’t really set up any time frame for how long we would stay or any boundaries for how we wanted to deal with family and visitors before the birth and I think that was a little bit of a mistake.  It worked out fine and there were definitely some benefits to having people around and staying with both of our parents the first little bit, but there were also some downsides as well. I, for one, felt like I had to be up and about and acting well long before I was really feeling like doing that. I also felt guilty if I held my baby too long because I knew others wanted to hold him too and that was hard for me – the first few days felt like a really precious bonding time and I wanted to totally soak them up, but felt guilty for doing that and so then maybe didn’t do it as much as I would have liked. Anyway, there were some really beautiful things about having family around 24/7 the first few days – even some of the things that really overwhelmed me (like having all my nieces and nephews around) were nice in some ways – but overall I think next time I would have a clearer set of boundaries set up ahead of time.
The more I look back on my labor and birth experience the more I feel powerful and proud for what I accomplished.  I can honestly say that it was far more and far less then I had expected. In many ways birth felt like a bit of a paradox to me. It was more painful and difficult then I could ever have imagined, but it was also easier than I had expected. At the time it happened it felt less transformative then I had expected, but as time passes it feels like more and more of a transformative moment then I could have ever realized at the time. It was also both the most tangible bodily experience I have ever had and the most disconnected I have ever felt from my body. It was an overwhelmingly emotional experience and yet I felt less emotional then I have ever felt. I felt clear headed and instinctually in tune with what I needed to do and yet I also felt confused and out of control. I felt more powerful then I have ever felt and yet also more vulnerable. I am sure that I will never experience anything like it ever again. Even subsequent births will not be anything like this first one. It was a moment set apart, that will never be repeated and I feel blessed to have experienced it.

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.