the birth of selah

okay, so here we go. i often share my students’ stories here, and i thought it was only appropriate to share selah’s story as well. it is one that rocked my heart in the best way possible, a story that lights my husband’s heart on fire..for birth, for me, for his children. it is one that really served to heal some previous hurts, and give me encouragement for the road ahead.

remember when i went on and on about my love for my chiropractors? well, on thursday september 12 i went in for one last adjustment, as i felt baby’s back was on my right side and i really wanted him/her to flip over into a more straightforward LOA position (oh the things birthy people know…). i left my adjustment feeling great and met my family for lunch. i felt baby shift over to LOA soon after lunch while i was walking to my car…little victories!! keaton went over to my mother in laws, as he does on thursday afternoons, and i came home. i napped and cleaned like a crazy person when i woke up. around 5ish i started feeling a little different- a little nauseous (i had been dealing with some third trimester nausea previously so assumed it was just that), and just a little off. i even texted my doula to tell her that i was hoping things would start to happen, only to later text her around 8:30ish that it was wishful thinking.  trevor got home from work late due to a work dinner, and keaton was dropped back off at our house around 8:30. he went right to sleep and i kissed him before i left his room…i kind of felt emotional leaving, as if i knew it would be the last time i would kiss him as my only child.

trevor turned on duck dynasty and i headed to lay down in bed and watch a movie on the ipad. we both needed to just zone out- him after a LONG week at work, and me because, well, i knew something was coming i guess. before i got into bed i brushed my hair (never happens! ha!), washed my face and put on a little makeup. what?! i got into the outfit i wanted to wear while laboring. i told myself i was jinxing myself, but i could not NOT do it.

around 9:45 i felt a pretty intense surge that wrapped around from my lower belly into my lower back. it wasn’t painful or anything, just really tight- even moreso than the other warm ups I’d been having. told myself not think about it and started watching my movie. about 5 minutes later i got up (to clean a little bit more in our closet, i couldn’t help myself!), and i felt a warm trickle down my leg. hmmm. peeing myself. great! i walked to the bathroom and bam. gush. definitely not peeing myself! this was exactly how keaton’s labor began, i was comforted by that in many ways. i knew it was time now finally, one way or another, we were gonna meet this babe. after LOTS of warming up in previous weeks, it was game time at 40w+4d (there was a huge part of me that knew i wanted my water to release as my first sign of labor, as i did with keaton, because i waited so long for keaton that i was nervous all of this warming up was going to mess with my head too much). trevor was stoked, i was stoked. we turned on some good tunes and just started talking. about the baby, about keaton, about life. i paused every like 5-8 mins or so and breathed through my surges, but they were honestly easy at that point. really tight, but nothing i couldn’t just focus on and breathe through.

i let my doula, midwives, and photographer know that my water had broken but that there was no rush for anything at that point- labor was in the early stages and was easy at this point…it would be a long night…right?! trevor tried to sleep (it was going to be a long night…right?!) and i just got comfy on my ball and got lost in the music that was playing. about an hour and a half later, my surges became more intense. still breathable and manageable, but i noticed a shift in how i was experiencing them…how i needed trevor to push on my back to alleviate the pressure. how i needed to make some deep noises to work through them. i was doing it and handling it just fine, but it was new. i let my doula know, and apparently she knew more than i did- we told her it would be too early to come to us, but she listened to me and read between the lines…she was going to come by and say hi. she told us to call the midwives to tell them the same. the midwives said they were on their way too…i almost felt bad, since honestly i felt like i was so early in labor that they would be missing out on a night of sleep by coming to me. i labored on the birth ball, leaning over our bathroom sink, and leaning over our dining room table (which happens to be outside on our covered patio…it was a beautiful night and laboring outside felt great).

funny being on this end of a birthing mama instead of the doula end.

everyone showed up around midnight, and we decided to call our photographer a bit after that because i was finally at the point where i felt like i was in “active labor.” my doula has the sweetest voice and i just focused on her telling me to keep  breathing, to let the last one go. she was exactly what i needed. trevor was the muscle of the operation- pushing on my back and eventually into my hips for each surge while i swayed back and forth, gently moaning with each tightening. jenna was the sweet voice i needed at the moment i needed it. it was exactly what i wanted it to be.

i had some music going in the background and had some cards with scripture written on them out for me to read. amazing how many worship songs and how much of scripture talks about surrender. these were the good words that i needed to keep surrendering to God, to the process…to stay calm, to trust.

the midwives wanted to check me around 12:35ish, just to see what kind of progress i was making. i really REALLY didn’t want to lay down on my back, but made it to my side on our bed and felt a bit better. i remembered then how much i really don’t like those checks. no fun! but, good news. i was 8cm and totally soft. what?! labor only really just began?! it wasn’t THAT hard, certainly not transition kind of work quite yet. 8cm. let’s fill the birth tub up with water! yes, perfect idea. my tub was pretty deep (too deep!), and would take a while to fill up, but we started filling it then and i was encouraged to go sit on the toilet or labor in the shower till it would be ready. i thought in my head- i bet i have about an hour more of labor before meeting our baby. totally could handle that, then totally didn’t expect what came next! literally minutes after being checked and being 8cm, i needed to push. i hadn’t made it to the toilet (thank goodness!) and knew, with that instinct, there was no way i was going to make it in the tub. i grabbed onto my doula and bore down with my breath. one good moaning downwards and i felt that all familiar burning/opening. wait, baby?! already?! no no, that’s crazy talk. i remember thinking, perhaps even saying, “you guys don’t understand!” … i felt like they didn’t understand what i was feeling (they did), or that the baby was coming (they did).

my body took over and i went along for the ride. i instinctually climbed onto my bed on hands and knees. welp, there’s part of baby’s head! that natural expulsive reflex came and went, giving me breathers in between. baby popped back in once i got on my hands and knees and i made my way down to laying down on my side on our bed and that little rotation was exactly what baby needed. baby was popping right out, even with a hand up near his/her chin. i was so hot. so so hot. i was wearing a headband (that i thought would look SO cute. haha!), and i threw that off and my doula got me a cold washcloth. ohhh the sweetest of all sweet reliefs.  i kept trying to close my legs, even though i knew i wanted to be as open as possible…shout out to the midwives/their apprentice for dealing with my leg! haha! my breathing got off and i kind of “lost it” slightly at this point- but got it right back when i was reminded of the fact that i was safe, that baby was here, that i just needed to breath. i caught my breath again and had such a sweet moment of trust. i closed my eyes for one final encouragement for baby to come out, only to realize that baby was just about to. trevor kept telling me “open your eyes, you need to see this!!,” our eyes met and his face was beaming. my midwife encouraged me to bring my hands down to lift up my baby onto my chest. what a feeling- that little slippery, tiny, warm body making its way out of my body and into the world and into mommy’s hands. unparalleled honestly. i tried to bring baby up to my chest and was met with a very short cord.

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i laid baby on my belly and just stared. in awe. we had a baby. already. i was just barely laboring?! and baby is here now?! what?! on our bed?! in our house?! while keaton sleeps?! it all started to settle in.

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i looked at baby’s sweet face and my GOODNESS was it keaton’s twin (just fewer chins!!). baby didn’t even cry. not for quite a while. baby just breathed slowly, the thick umbilical cord still pulsing and helping, and baby just looked into my eyes and looked around. so mellow, so chill. taking it all in. our eyes caught each others’ for about 15 seconds straight, and as i talked to baby, her (we didn’t know she was a she yet!) eyes got wider and breathing got more rhythmic. this was the type of birth i dreamed of  and prayed for for my baby. gentle, loving, dimly lit, warm, hands off, and surrounded by safety. 12:47am, september 13. about 2 hours and 45 mins after labor began. only about an hour after feeling like i was actually truly really actively laboring.

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i labored so quickly and unexpectedly that our photographer (Labor of Love Photography. Amazing captures, right?!) came literally as baby was being born. for a moment i felt bad about not calling her earlier, but then it was exactly what it was meant to be- and i never ever would have guess in a thousand years that i would have gone that fast, or been that far along, so there was no reason to call earlier. but praise God she made it then, as she captured some of the sweetest moments of our entire life- meeting our little one.

we spent time oohing and aahing over baby, talking about how quickly that went, and just cuddling with our babe. we realized about 10 minutes after the birth that we had no idea if we had a girl or boy! what?! trevor lifted up the blanket we had over her and stared for a little bit. “it’s a boy!!” oh wow, a brother for keaton! how exciting! and then cue some silence from the midwives…ummm…you might want to look a little more closely. trevor lifted up the blanket again. “what? i can’t really tell!” haha. it was dark, things are swollen, the cord was still attached…eventually he put it all together. a girl! a GIRL!! keaton knew from the moment we told him he was going to be a big brother that he was going to have a little sister. he just knew.

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i tore a bit and had to be stitched up after my placenta finally decided to come on out…not my favorite thing in the world. honestly even after i just birthed a big baby, the stitching was…bleah. selah’s hand was up near her chin and i think that’s what did it, that and the fact that she just powered her way outta there! but there wasn’t that much to be mended and it was over quickly and it healed really easily, i was really not uncomfortable at all afterwards, and no swelling at all. score.

i got up to pee and was encouraged that all was well. haha.

our midwives and doula cleaned up, made me some food (almond butter on toast never tasted so good!!), and were just such an encouragement. as they began to pack up i realized something…i just had a baby. on our bed. and now i get to sleep in that bed. with that baby. with my husband. and be comfortable. it was a glorious thought. it was a glorious reality.

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as everyone started to leave a couple hours after the birth, our sweet doula stayed to pray with us. we thanked God for His provision, for His goodness, for our sweet daughter. it was one of my favorite moments to thank God for His willingness to provide this desire of our hearts to not only have a home birth but have a healthy, happy little one.

we got to sleep in our beds with our little girl, working on breastfeeding again (so different since i was so used to nursing a toddler last time i did it!!). trevor and selah slept, but i was on a high. the oxytocin flowing in that room was unparalleled, and i was just riding along with it. i went in and out of sleeping a little bit that first night, but didn’t really get to sleep till the following night. birth high, i tell ya.

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keaton came into our room the next morning as he always does and was met with his baby sister. what a moment! he climbed into bed with us and was amazed at all of baby’s little features. “baby has hands!! and eyes!! look at baby’s ears!! and nose!! wowwww!!”

trevor made us all breakfast, and we just hung out until we were ready to tell our family later in the day that we were ready for them. it was exactly what we wanted.

this story of selah’s quick entrance into our lives is one that we treasure greatly. it not only served to remind me of how inviting God purposefully into our experiences is such a sacred thing, but it reminded me of the sanctity of life and how precious the first moments of a new life truly are- to that baby, and to that entire family. it reminded me of why i do the work i do. it reminded me of why i have such a heart for women all over the world.

thanks for reading our selah girl’s story!

for more info in our super fabulous birth team:

doula: Jenna Anderson

 midwives: San Diego Midwife

photographer: Labor of Love Birth Photography

how a doula picked her doula

flash back a few years ago. i was told my someone i put trust in in terms of my pregnancy care to NOT hire a doula, that i wouldn’t need one. i would know what i needed instinctually. i listened. and i was sorry i did in the end. not because keaton’s birth wasn’t wonderful and beautiful, but because i missed out on one of the most amazing relationships a couple can have with another person. trevor missed out on having someone comfort him and tell him all was normal, that it was part of the process…and simply to be able to close his eyes and not feel “on” the entire time (yes, the “entire time” was not that long, but it was overnight…). it was one of a handful of things that i thought to myself after keaton’s birth, “next time…” and a few times “i should have known better!!”

flash forward to the present. here we are at that “next time” and before i even got pregnant i actually already really KNEW who i wanted to be present at my birth. she actually knew i was pregnant before trevor did! true, i really couldn’t go wrong with almost any of the wonderful women i know who have dedicated their lives to similar passions as mine (and we have such an amazing doula community here in san diego. honestly. so blessed), but, in my heart, i knew who i wanted by our sides. i knew who i would feel most comfortable with. i knew who trevor would find solace in. i just…knew. my friends had wonderful experiences with her, my students had wonderful experiences with her. i always had lovely conversations with her, our friendship was growing, and i knew that her heart was to glorify God in her work…bingo. jackpot. answered prayer.

but, with that being said, i also know many other moms who don’t have the luxury of knowing so intimately so many doulas and are like “HOW do i find one i mesh with?!”  Here is what I often tell moms:

Ask around. If in a childbirth prep class, ask for referrals. Ask your friends about their experiences. Ask your care provider for referrals. Talk about it with girlfriends. Talk about it at independent baby stores. Post a question on Facebook. Google it. Whatever you need to do. Just involve yourself in conversation, you’ll be surprised at the patterns that show up! i have given referrals to so many mamas and they were really encouraged by how many “overlaps” they had either in their own research or in suggestions from friends, etc.

Interview, I say, at least 3 doulas. Unless you hear choirs of angels in the background and see fireworks when interviewing with #1 or #2, just keep chugging. It can be overwhelming to interview too many women- time consuming and thought consuming! But you do want to feel confident in your decision, as this is a pretty important event in your life- and this person WILL be seeing you in a state of vulnerability and simultaneous power all at one time. and oh yeah, she’ll probably see you naked. but don’t worry, even my most modest of moms at the end usually could care less and are asking their clothes be taken away from them!

{Before you meet, make sure you have asked them about fees, etc so that you are both aware of what that expectation is. If finances are an issue, don’t be nervous to broach the subject. I see doulas as being an incredible value and investment and well worth the fee, but you also don’t want to get in over your head financially. Ask about payment plans, deposits, etc. I know money can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s part of the process for these invaluable services.}

Ask them questions. Birth questions. What is your philosophy on birth? How do you involve partner in the birth? When do you normally join us/What are the logistics of that? Besides the actual birth, what else is involved in your services? If you are taking/drawn towards a specific type of labor prep method or course, ask them about their experiences with it. Do you work with a backup? Logistics.

Ask them questions. Real questions. How did you get into this line of work? What do you love most about what you do? Get to know them personally. If spirituality is important to you and something you are desiring for closeness from a doula, that is something certainly to discuss now more deeply, but a great thing to discuss before you even meet in person if that will be a game changer for you.

After chatting for a while and saying your goodbyes, assess how the two of you feel (if you are both at the interview together). Do you feel comfortable around her? Did she seem warm, knowledgeable, encouraging of your specific desire for labor? Do you feel like she will SUPPORT you and your partner in your birth, no matter what your birth looks like or what decisions are made? Is this someone you want to share your journey with? Are you excited about your birth journey now after speaking with her?

I know not EVERYTHING is about feel, but sometimes…it really is all about feel.

I know personally I have been on interviews with moms with whom I can tell almost immediately that they won’t be hiring me. They look at me and, while we get along fabulously, they see a friend. A sister. And their desire was a motherly figure. And others desire more of a friend/sister and I fit that bill really well! Think about your own relationships with people in your lives, think about what will speak to your heart most during a vulnerable time.

Certification status, number of births, etc wasn’t on my own radar for a birth doula- although I will say the doula I selected is certified and has a lovely number of births under her belt…that was not the most important piece of the puzzle to me. That may be for you though, and that’s something to ask her about if you desire to. If she is certified: with whom? What does that really mean? If she isn’t: Why not? Not being certified or not having a hefty number of births under your belt is not a red flag in terms of a person’s ability and fit to be your doula, but if it is something that might bother you- then you need to be aware of it.

I personally went through many questions in a similar way with my husband. A huge part of what we wanted from our own doula was someone who will be able to pray with us and over us throughout my pregnancy and throughout the labor/birth. That would be a game changer for us personally in a doula- we knew it wasn’t a game changer in our care providers, but knew the doula connection was on a different level for us. I also wanted someone who could help me not focus so much on what i KNOW in my head about birth, but about what i can experience in my heart. Being a birth professional who is about to give birth can have its perks, but it can also have its drawbacks…there is a LOT of head knowledge that is apparent now, but might not be so clear during the actual labor. It is easy to get caught in one’s head and forget about that tiiiiiny thing called surrendering. Letting go of all that “stuff” and letting God be in control is a huge vision for this birth…and our doula is someone who can help us on that road.  With that being said, just like how a lot of my clients or students aren’t Christian, a lot of my doulas’ clients aren’t Christian either. Just a friendly clarification 🙂

Anyway, if you would like more info on the doula that Trevor and I prayerfully selected…check out Jenna Anderson, CD (DONA)…here…and here.

And, if you are in the area, feel free to let me know if you’d like more recommendations and referrals. I love to give them out to inquiring mamas!