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Since I have so many Braxton Hicks and pre-labor contractions, it’s hard to pinpoint the actual beginning of labor for me. I think I’ll start with Tuesday evening, almost a whole week before Evolet was born.

Tuesday evening I started having contractions. They were the best I’d had yet. They started before the kids went to bed and continued into the evening. We stayed up a little later than we normally would have, but were in bed by 10:30 so I thought we’d still done well. I hoped that with some good sleep, maybe it could turn into real labor! Then came… horrible sleep. I tossed and turned all night, not realizing what the problem was. It turns out that James had been pretty convinced I’d be having a baby, and he turned on the heat and closed the window in our room. I simply don’t sleep well like that, especially at the end of pregnancy. So, my body followed protocol which is: if I’m too tired, labor stops. Wednesday morning I was an emotional wreck. Then, when James left the house for work, he came back in saying that his truck battery was dead again, even though he’d charged it the night before. He needed to take the Suburban. I called my mom, who was going to watch the kids for my prenatal appointment that day. She said she’d come to me and I could borrow her car. As the morning progressed however, I was exhausted and in tears. I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. I didn’t want to call to cancel my prenatal and I didn’t want to see my midwife. I didn’t want to drive an unfamiliar vehicle. I didn’t want to see anyone and I didn’t want to call my mom to tell her not to come. I was going crazy! I wanted to go back to bed! I didn’t feel like I could think well enough to make decisions about my day. James told me I just had to do something. Finally I made a cup of coffee and drank it. It helped me think well enough and get through a brief conversation to cancel my prenatal appointment and a longer conversation with my mom convincing her that I was okay, I wasn’t in labor, I wasn’t going to have the baby, it wasn’t that abnormal for me that I didn’t want to see anyone (I can be quite an introvert at times), I just wanted to stay home and relax and do art with the kids. Once the coffee got me through all that, I wished I hadn’t needed to drink it so that I could get in a little nap! Oh well, my day was free of outside responsibility.

Nothing significant happened over the next couple of days. On Friday, my due date, I had steady contractions while Liesel helped me make a dress for her, patterned after a dream I’d had the night before. The  contractions stopped when I got up to make lunch.

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On Saturday we planned to go out hiking as a family, but the trails we went to were occupied with a bicycle race. We went around a back way to look for some parking and the kids joked about the bumpy road jiggling the baby down. That cracked me up! We did not get to go on those trails, but drove to another place to see if we could hike there. On the way, we got to see twin fawns, and actually get pretty close to one, right on the side of the road. We never did hike because our Discover Pass had expired and by the time we bought a new one, we were ready to go home.

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Later on Saturday I found out that my Uncle Al had passed away on Friday, my due date. After finding out, I didn’t have any more contractions all day. It was expected but still saddened me. I stressed out a bit about when a funeral would be, and whether or not I would be able to go due to the baby coming any time.

On Sunday I had contractions off and on during the day but nothing told me, ‘this is it!’ I planted flowers outside with the kids and then I picked up a bunch of sticks and pine cones in the yard and threw them over the fence. Due to the recent windstorms, there were a lot! It felt good to be moving. Liesel and I ended up staying outside the longest. James was inside making dinner. When he saw me ‘nesting’ in the yard he and the boys started doing a thorough vacuuming and window washing in the house.

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Contractions continued through the evening. I even paused for them during my reading to the kids. After the kids were in bed, James and I played Spite and Malice, a card game. On average, the contractions were about 10 minutes apart, but they varied greatly in intensity. As soon as we got up to change activity, they were thrown off. It seemed like the same pattern I’d been experiencing for the previous couple of weeks so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Rather than staying awake to encourage labor, we decided to learn from previous mistakes and get sleep while we could. I had to face the fact that James would be getting up at 5:20 to go to work for the week and I would have to drive with all the kids to a prenatal appointment because of the one I’d canceled on the Wednesday before. Thinking of the following day was stressful. I had so hoped to have the baby on the weekend. It seems like if the weekend mini-contractions don’t give me enough umph to go into labor, I’m stuck waiting until the next weekend for another chance. Everything starts slowly for me and James has to be home! The only week-day labor I’ve had was the one we induced by breaking my water.

As we settled into bed and started drifting, something didn’t feel right. It was too warm and stuffy in the room. I asked James if he’d closed the window. He had. I had almost lost another night of sleep and therefore all hope of labor the next day AGAIN! I was furious. I was already disappointed that James would have to go to work again the next day after a lovely weekend, and I’d have to load up all the kids and drive into town for a prenatal at Baird’s nap time because it was the only time available. I worked myself up so much with disappointment and anger that I had to get out of that warm room and into some fresher air. I went out to the couch, but I was too restless there too. James came out too, but I ended up getting up and with a burst of angry energy I did a load of laundry and cleaned up around the laundry area in the cold garage. Next I scrubbed down the kitchen. The whole time I was going between being unreasonably sad and angry. I knew that if I just calmed down and went to sleep with an open window, contractions still had a chance. I knew that with my bad attitude so late at night, contractions were bound to stop. I knew it was stupid of me to ruin a night because of something that I caught and could fix, and I was mad at myself for that too.

Finally I stopped my rampage and apologized to James. It was too late and there was too much stress and adrenaline for anything to happen that night. Then I admitted to James what I’d been feeling. Even with all of my adrenaline and distraction, I was still having contractions. They weren’t as strong as they had been, but they refused to go away. They weren’t birth-eminent contractions and I figured that they could go on for a couple of days before birth, but I knew from my past experiences that they’d slowly but surely be leading to a birth without days or even hours of breaks in between.

With that in mind and all made up to each other, we went to bed late and a bit excited. I was finally having contractions that we couldn’t scare away! It seemed that things were more likely to pick up if I got some good sleep. More likely, though, I thought I’d be saying goodbye in the morning and we’d be trying to get things to pick up on Monday evening.

I woke up around 3 AM with contractions. I could tell that I’d been having them through the night. I grabbed my phone and started timing while James slept. (James always wanted to do the timing when he was around because he didn’t want me to get distracted or discouraged, and I suppose it’s a fun way for him to participate when I’m the one feeling the sensation. I was eager to do some timing though, even though it took away from my sleep.) Anyway, contractions were about 10 minutes apart again. I drifted, they woke me up, and I pushed the lap button on my phone over and over. I probably could have slept through them, or a least better in between them if I hadn’t been distracted by the bright light on my phone and seeing just how long it had been every 10 minutes. At five I woke James up to let him know that I didn’t think he should go to work. I hadn’t slept well since 3 and my body was definitely doing something more, so I thought it would be best to stay together and have him take me to my prenatal.

Contractions continued to come through the morning hours with kids. Every time I changed activity, the contractions stalled or changed, but they didn’t stop. I called our midwife at about 8:00 to let her know that I was in labor, but it wasn’t hard labor and I still planned to see her at our 12:00 appointment. We decided that James would drive but I would go to the prenatal appointment by myself and James would take the kids to the Food Coop. On the way, I had 3 contractions. The first one was 10 minutes after we started driving and it was a good strong contraction. The next one, 6 minutes later, didn’t amount to anything. Then another 8 minutes later I had one which was medium in intensity. I was a bit disappointed that they weren’t coming in a clearer pattern, but for me that’s still labor!

I had a lovely appointment with our midwife. Since they squeezed me in on her lunch break, I saw only her from beginning to end! She asked how I was doing and I calmly and normally explained that I knew I was in labor, I just didn’t know how long it would take. I reminded her that at my 40 week appointment with Shiloh, I had also told her I was in labor even though it didn’t look like it. Then I gave birth 24 hours later. She also remembered my labor with Aslan when she had come to my house, seen a contraction, and was prepared to tell me it was nothing serious and go to bed, when she checked me and found me to be 7 cm dilated! She asked if she could do a cervical exam. When I laid down, I had a contraction, but it was mild and short. When she did the exam, she gave me the same look that she had during my labor with Aslan. Her words were, “Well, your labors are unique.” I was already 8 cm dilated, yet clearly not in active labor! I would certainly have the baby soon!

Michelle was concerned about sending me home on a 40 minute drive. If my water broke, she said, she didn’t think I’d make it home before I had the baby. When she found out that James was in town with me and I wouldn’t be driving myself, she felt better. I also remarked that my water did not break easily so it was unlikely that it would be a problem. She really wanted to come to our house after work (if not sooner) and hang out until active labor started, because once my body decided to go full speed ahead, it would be quick. We decided that I would go home and try to take a nap to make up for my poor night of sleep. I wouldn’t do anything like walk, or nurse Baird, or take Swiss Kriss until later in the evening. I would call right away if anything got more serious. I also let just a couple of friends know what was going on, including another ‘overdue’ friend who had the same midwife! We were hoping not to be in labor at the same time!

The nap was wonderful, and contractions continued to come. They were still 10 minutes or more apart. Michelle called a couple of times to see how we were doing. It was a total role reversal from my first labor when we were calling her a few times a day for 2 days! At 4 PM I discussed taking Swiss Kriss with Michelle because she would be leaving work soon, and I really wanted to make sure this baby was coming out! I took it. We ate some dinner and cleaned the house. I went around doing little things like putting new batteries in the camera and vacuuming. While James was putting Baird to bed, Michelle arrived. The kids were ecstatic. We tried to continue with our normal bedtime routine. At first I could hide contractions. I don’t know why I wanted to, but I was self-conscious. Then I started reading in The Wheel on the School (excellent book by the way!) and I needed to pause for the contractions. Ten minutes apart and about a minute long. We read and prayed and talked about our baby being born with the kids. Then they were sent off to bed, with a promise that James would wake up Liesel and Aslan for the birth. Shiloh wanted to be surprised in the morning.

Now, James and I had the house to ourselves, except for the midwife. James made me a yummy hamburger patty with sauteed onions, which was delicious!  Next we decided to play Spite and Malice, which had beautifully encouraged contractions the night before. We sat playing for a half hour, maybe forty minutes, but the contractions had completely stopped! Nothing! I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t gone that long without a contraction in 24 hours!

We decided to try walking. That’s when it was nice to have our midwife present. We could leave all the sleeping kiddos with her at the house. We went around our block. I had contractions every 5 minutes or so. I had a couple of really good ones in the cold night air, but it was different than previous labors when I desperately needed to hang on to my husband. It felt better for me to stop walking and stand upright without him touching me. That was a little disappointing to both of us because with my first three labors I relied solely on his support and touch for hours. With the 4th labor, I needed him desperately, but for only a very short time, and for two little things. Once I hit transition and was laying in bed, I didn’t want him to touch me because any movement on the bed hurt me. Was I outgrowing me need for him during labor? That saddened me.

Once I got too cold, we headed back to the house. We were encouraged that I’d had some good contractions, but James needed to rest a bit. We told our midwife that I was having stronger contractions again, and I even had one that I moaned through. We went to bed and I brought my phone with me, to time contractions. Our midwife called her assistant to come. It was about 9:30.

My first contraction came 17 minutes into the nap. The next one was 21 minutes later, then 29 minutes later. I got good sleep in between them and the contractions were strong enough to wake me up, but not labor-worthy. I decided that an hour was enough sleep for James, and I was ready to get this thing going! I had no idea how fast I could turn things around…

At 10:30, laying in bed, I did some nipple stimulation to release oxytocin. This has always had a big effect for me in my labors. Four minutes later, I moaned through my hardest and longest contraction yet. That marked the beginning of active labor. Then, in another 6 minutes I had an intense contraction. James woke up. The midwife assistant came in to take vitals for the first time. I explained not to expect much because things always picked up with nipple stimulation, but they usually die down again. That’s when I stopped timing. My memory rapidly gets fuzzy. I had to go to the bathroom because I felt the Swiss Kriss kicking in.

I had more contractions on the toilet.

James came in to help me relax through them.

It was rough.

I was tired.

I had a contraction and then thought I’d go lay down for a bit, but I had to be right back on the toilet. It wasn’t super clear to me when cramps and contractions were beginning and ending. James wanted to get up to make some coffee. He’d tell me and get up as soon as a contraction ended, and I’d consent to let him go, but he’d barely get to the coffee makings and I’d holler for him again. I remember begging him not to go, but he says I always let him go try to finish making that cup of coffee. I was going through transition and it was probably my toughest transition ever due to feeling tied to the toilet. (It hadn’t been that way taking Swiss Kriss with Baird.) Usually I spend transition in water or lying down and so sitting and standing were miserable for me. I was also afraid that the baby would be coming into the toilet when I didn’t expect, and this made it hard for me to relax. I totally relied on James to help steady me and to encourage me. I did not feel like I could do it! He was so calm and helpful and amazing!

Finally, when I felt I could not go on on the toilet, I was able to make it to bed. I desperately hoped that I would not need to get up again. Laying down on my side felt so good. I knew that when it came to pushing, I would (again) not be using the birth stool that James built for me. I think I had a contraction or two when all of a sudden, my mind cleared and I could think and speak better again. I might have had a bit of a grunting pushing urge, too. That means one thing: out of transition and into the pushing stage! The first thing I did: ask what day it was. I was totally aware that that the baby could be born on March 4th or March 5th. I wanted to know which it was! Our assistant looked at her watch and said it was midnight. I finally knew our baby’s birthday: March 5th!

James suggested that he get the kids, but I said, ‘no,’ thinking that I would have a time of working up to a real urge to push before I used my energy. (That’s what I had done with Baird while waiting for the midwives, and it had made my pushing stage effective and short.) James knew that things would be happening faster than I had thought, but he assumed that I didn’t want the kids there. We were both so excited. James kissed me and all of a sudden I was in the midst of a hard contraction and I had to pull away! The first pushing contraction came with such force that my body made me push hard and my water broke.

“Get the kids!” I yelled in the midst of the contraction.

He took off running and I held back pushing and demanded to know what was taking so long!

I was so afraid he’d miss the birth! He got Liesel, then Aslan.

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I had a small break and then I pushed with a ear-wrenching scream as Evolet came out all at once, with no pause or turning of her shoulders. James caught her and lifted her up to me. She was born at 12:10 AM. Immediately she let out a hearty cry, seemingly to imitate me as I pushed her out. Shiloh came wandering in due to all the noise and commotion. All the kids seemed to still be trying to wake up and understand what was happening.

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I held her for a few moments before I checked to make sure she was really a girl. We all admired her and fell instantly in love (of course). She looked quite different from my other babies at their births. She was beautiful with a scrunched up grumpy little face. As I looked at her I thought two things: 1) There’s no way I can spend the time doing and reporting to the virtual school the kids are enrolled in when all I wanted to do was hold my new baby and 2) She’s got a new look in the family that I get to learn!

Here’s the official stats:

Inactive labor: about 36 hours

Active labor: 1 1/2 hours

Pushing: 10 minutes

Evolet Eden born at 12:10 AM, weighing 8 lb 6 oz, our smallest baby!

And here’s the rest of that long night in pictures:

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Long night. Both then, and right now. It has taken me until Evolet’s 5 month mark to get this blog up, but here it is. Finally. Good night!

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I went from an easy pre-labor, to a more difficult pre-labor, to the most difficult I’ve had or hope to ever have again. Pregnant for the 3rd time, I thought a lot of faulty things about my labors… I thought one contraction would lead to another, and I’d have the baby within a couple of days of the first contraction. I thought that I couldn’t go far past my due date since I hadn’t gone very late before. I was also following a special low-carb diet because of my blood tests showed borderline gestational diabetes and because of how large Shiloh had been. Because of this low carb diet, I wanted the baby out ASAP so I could eat some more of the plums, all ripe and plump, growing in our own back yard!  Nothing went as I expected.

Almost 2 weeks before my due date, I had some late evening contractions. They weren’t super strong or long, but they were about 5 minutes apart and went on for an hour before we called the midwife.  I was thrilled to be having another early baby! But then they fizzled. They got farther apart and weaker. Then they stopped. I lay in bed falling asleep, and my midwife waved goodbye and left. The next day I didn’t have any contractions at all. I wasn’t too upset. I was excited to get to go to Festival of Family Farms later that week, which is a huge holiday in our house! But then after Festival of Family Farms…I was ready…and baby was not.

So, I continued to care for my 2-year-old and 3-year-old while my husband went to work. In the evenings I’d often have contractions, sometimes I’d even wake up in the morning with them! But, then I’d have to be Mama and they’d go away. I tried Swiss Kriss a couple of times, including on my due date, a Saturday. My cramps hurt so bad I had to take a bath, but then they were gone without a single contraction.

Once on a walk with contractions, we called to let the midwife know I was having consistent contractions again, and she cautioned us, “Don’t encourage it! I’m at another birth!” Though I still walked and tried not to think about it, my contractions came to a halt after those words.

On another walk, I got a call asking if anything was happening yet. I didn’t know how to respond. Though I had been having mild contractions, after talking on the phone, I no longer did. Day after day I didn’t know how to answer questions about ‘is anything happening?’ because I didn’t want to fib, or to have anyone thinking (or worrying) that they should hear a birth announcement soon. I tried to be nonchalant so as not to stress anyone else, but it did stress me. For me, feeling monitored and talking about what was happening, changed what was happening, especially since I was already stressing out over my own unmet expectations.

On top of all of that, keeping my house ready for labor was not as easy as it had been before. The two little boys couldn’t be much help yet, though they could tear through the house like a tornado in just a few minutes! Dishes piled up and by the end of the day I was tired but wanting to get everything pristine before I went to bed, just in case that was the night. That stressed me out and made me irritable, attitudes that I know are unloving toward the family I love, and hinder my labors.

I didn’t understand my labor pattern, though I know I’d read about other people having lots of ‘pre-labor’. It just didn’t make sense for me with my previous labor patterns. On Monday, my husband had to go to work. On Tuesday morning, as usual, I woke up with a few light contractions. The kids and I whispered all morning to try to keep them going. It worked! I was thrilled! We quietly ate and got dressed and out the door with the double stroller to go for a walk. I must have walked for at least an hour, whispering to the boys all the while, so as not to upset the contractions. It worked! The contractions were mild but they came every 5 minutes! Then…we got home and the kids needed lunch. That was the end of that.

Later I lay on the couch and cried. I couldn’t do this, be a mom and be in labor, especially when my labors are so slow to start and get upset so easily! I was willing to ask for help when I was really in labor, but it was difficult to ask before I was in labor, with no guarantee that I would go into labor! When James came home, we called the midwife. She too was getting concerned, with my ability to grow (and hide) big babies, she also wanted me to have the baby soon. She could tell that I was emotionally drained from the constant hope being in labor, and then the contractions going away. She offered to see me to decide if the baby was low enough and my cervix was soft enough to break my bag of waters to get my contractions to turn into something! My mom was available that evening, but was booked the rest of the week. Though I had planned to have the kids at the birth, I now welcomed the chance to not be ‘mom’ in order to allow my body to focus. We dropped the kids off, saw Michelle, and made arrangements for her to come to my house later that evening to break my water. On the way home, I did have some contractions even amid my extreme excitement.

With my water was broken, the labor was different than my others had been. It was difficult to get into a rhythm. James and I walked under the clear, starry, cold sky until I was too cold to go on. I sat on the birth ball and walked across our bedroom in between contractions, still cold and wanting a bath, but my contractions were so sporadic that it wasn’t wise to hop in the bath yet.  I’d have strong and weak contractions. I’d have long and short contractions. I’d have 2 minutes between contractions and 8 minutes between contractions. I kept moving to try to keep contractions coming. I couldn’t curl up and go to sleep now that my water was broken because of the increase in chance of infection. When I finally got into the bath, I entered transition, and at once I felt the urge to push. I wasn’t quite ready to be pushing and I was far too tired to be in the upright position I had planned. After a while of trying to push on the birth stool and getting discouraged and exhausted, my midwife suggested that I lay on my side. Then I gave birth to Liesel in a couple of pushes.

So, four days after I was due, I finally held our baby. It seemed like I had been waiting forever then, but now looking back I think, only four days? Some people go weeks past their due date! Luckily, my faulty expectations had a lot to do with how hard it was, which means, I can change them to make things go more smoothly, not just for my labors, but for all sorts of areas of my life!

At Festival of Family Farms.

At Festival of Family Farms.

On the birth ball, going out for a walk.

On the birth ball, going out for a walk.

Ready to have this baby!

Ready to have this baby!

One of my favorite birth photos, taken by our midwife. Somehow, giving birth gave me new energy that I hadn't had a moment before!

One of my favorite birth photos, taken by our midwife. Somehow, giving birth gave me new energy that I hadn’t had a moment before!

Baby Liesel

Baby Liesel

I learned a lot from Liesel’s birth. I probably learned more than I had from any labor before, except this time it was pretty much all the things not to think or do, where as before it was what I should think and do!

I learned that it is a bad idea to expect things too early. Too many days and weeks of expecting something any moment leads to disappointment and emotional exhaustion when it doesn’t happen right away. I had not guarded myself against having unrealistic expectations and a potentially different labor pattern.

I learned that instead of one contraction leading straight to another and then to a birth, my body is slow and steady ONLY when all the conditions are right. Since I wasn’t focused on listening to and taking care of children in my previous labors, my contractions did lead straight to birth, but as I was anticipating Liesel’s birth I was also very focused on being a mother. My body only got to labor a little bit at a time over a much longer period of time, before contractions could lead to a birth.

I learned that it is only going to be unpleasant for my family if I expect to have the house perfect all day every day. Though my kids are now older and can pitch in quite a bit, it’s important for me not to be picky. I want them and myself  to have peaceful memories leading up to a birth, therefore, I need to let us live without stressing about whether or not every dish is done or if the floor will be vacuumed now or in another few hours.

I learned that artificially starting labor does have consequences. For me, it lead to a harder and more confusing labor. Being emotional beforehand, and then breaking my water in the evening and needing to be more active than usual to keep things going strong, left me totally exhausted. Like I noted before, I do not function when I am tired. I shut down. I cry. My body seems to know this, and so in my two more natural labors  my body let me have a break from contractions to sleep. Even in Aslan’s labor, when I labored the whole night before the birth, I got to sleep in between contractions. When I had to make myself work to keep contractions going because my water was broken, I felt more tired and discouraged than ever.

I learned again that I am very private when it comes to labor and birth, and even in the days leading up to my labor. Speaking about my labor changes my labor. I prefer to keep my process pretty private. Afterward, I love to share all of the quirks leading to the birth.

As far as my diet goes, I learned that I need to have on hand some acceptable treats to enjoy to help me not be so desperate to get the baby out so I can eat carbs. I have many more ideas for that now than I did then! I haven’t been ready to birth right when all of the yummy, carbohydrate-y, local produce is ripe in the stores, let alone in my own back yard!

Amid all the ‘don’ts’ that I learned from Liesel’s birth, I am very thankful for all the choices we made to help things go ‘right.’ For all three of my births up to that point, I’m very thankful that God gave me the instinct to want homebirths and gave my husband peace about it. I do not believe that I was (or am) a good candidate for a normal natural hospital birth (though I’m thankful for hospital availability in case of emergency.) In Aslan’s birth, my contractions likely would have stalled even more in a hospital, due to the fact that I’m so easily affected by stress and excitement. I may not have been able to sleep in between contractions in an unfamiliar place. Exhaustion, stalled labor, and an especially long labor could easily have lead to all sorts of intervention and a likely c-section. In Shiloh’s birth, I would have probably been in a similar (not-so-good for me) position to birth him. If he had gotten stuck there, they would have followed protocol, pushed emergency buttons, and broken his collar bone to get him out, instead of simply flipping me on my hands and knees and quietly and skillfully resolving the problem. Later when he was breathing fast, they would have separated him and I because we would have both been patients in the hospital. As it was, I was not a patient so they couldn’t keep us apart. For Liesel’s birth, I doubt I would have felt  so loved and taken care of by nurses I’d never met before. Instead, I felt taken care of by my husband and the midwifes. I would likely not have been encouraged to use alternative birthing positions that made me feel more confident about preventing another shoulder dystocia. My midwife suggested the perfect side-lying position for me when we discovered I was too tired for a full squat. In the hospital, Liesel’s cord would have likely been cut before she was born, as it was pretty tightly wound around her neck. Instead, it was carefully unwound by our assistant midwife  as she sat at the end of our bed and our midwife captured the whole thing on camera. Liesel was able to come out gently and take her time breathing with the cord still intact, and we have wonderful photos so we can share the whole process with her now! So, all in all, even though it was a challenge to get to Liesel’s birth, it was still a wonderful experience. I have plenty I can learn from it, but I certainly don’t have regrets! I have so much to be thankful for!

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