Marleigh Jade was born on December 3rd at 8:33pm after only 6 hours of labor and about 5 “pushes.” My labor and birth was peaceful and breathtaking. It was vastly different from my son’s birth. To explain the differences, I first have to give you some background. Jasper is our first-born. He was conceived on a cross-country road trip when my husband and I were living off of our savings, jobless and traveling. His entire pregnancy we were relocating. We moved into the house we are now in Dec 23rd, 2011. My husband started working for a temp service. He was laid off Jan 6th, 2012. On Feb 6th he started the job he is at currently. Jasper was born Feb 9th, 2012. We also went through my husband being hospitalized for 2 weeks when I was 6 months pregnant. That was super stressful. We had a roller coaster of a pregnancy, so it is no wonder that Jasper is super high needs and very energetic. His energy follows the energy of my entire pregnancy and his birth.
When I was pregnant with my son, I knew I wanted a natural birth. I knew I wanted to breastfeed. But I still had a ton to learn. You can read more about that story here. I believe my experience with pitocin after birth greatly effected my postpartum experience. This round is much different, much calmer, and much happier. I am more comfortable.
So, other than the topsy-turvy pregnancy difference, what made the difference in my two births? Well, several things actually.
With Jasper, we were on TennCare insurance and used an OB. With Marleigh, we have good insurance and chose a midwife. With Jasper I birthed in a hospital, fought against interventions, was given medicines without my consent, and had a very rough postpartum experience. Breastfeeding was super difficult. I battled taking medicine I didn’t want, using donor milk, cracked nipples, tons of pumping, bad latch issues, and more. With Marleigh, things are much easier. There was no medicine involved postpartum and breastfeeding is so much easier. I’m guessing partially because I learned what to do and partially because I am 100% focused this time. I also nursed through my pregnancy, so my breasts are much more accustomed to breastfeeding. The adjustment period has been much easier this time.
After Jasper’s birth, we started planning for our second child. We knew what we wanted to do differently. I started attending local events, like the Ina May Gaskin’s viewing of Birth Story and local breastfeeding events. I plugged into our local homebirth scene and made friends with the local doulas and other birth workers. I started researching online and reading tons of birth books. The first pregnancy, I only read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” which is NOT the greatest pregnancy book. In fact, I discourage moms-to-be from reading it. If you are looking for book suggestions and more, read this great collection of info. That was a list I made when my son was born. That was the list that guided me through my second pregnancy.
How I met my doula:
When I attended the viewing of the Ina May film locally, there was a post movie talk panel. The panel consisted of local nurses, doulas and birth workers. I remember hearing this woman talk and thinking “She’s brilliant! So down to earth! And now I wish I was pregnant so she could be my doula!” Little did I know…I was pregnant.
I took her business card and found her online. We connected. A few weeks later, she hosted a local goddess meeting (think: women’s gathering, red tent meeting, etc). I attended. I noticed she was wearing these eye-catching feather earrings that looked like something I would make. After the event, I approached her and asked her where she got them. I had indeed made them and this was the first time I had seen a “stranger” in public wearing jewelry I made. It was an awesome feeling. I knew right then that we were meant to work together.
A week or so later I found out I was pregnant. I immediately called Lori and asked for her assistance through my pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I was so excited! It was like things had just fallen into place with very little work. Over the next few months, she became much more than my doula. She became my friend and someone whose advice I value deeply. She became someone my husband trusted, and someone I wanted to keep in my life. I am so thankful I hired a doula!
How I met my midwife:
When I started searching for a midwife, I asked several people and the same name kept popping up…Debi Church. She is a local-to-me midwife who had attended over 1,100 births. She was highly recommended and sounded like the perfect person for me. When I asked Lori about her, I was informed that she had delivered 2 of Lori’s 3 children. The 3rd child was born at The Farm in Summertown, TN. They had known each other for over 20 years, and Lori had trained to be a midwife with Debi. Again, everything was falling into place. So, I went to meet Debi. She was the only midwife my husband and I spoke with. We knew immediately that she was the person who would be helping our child enter the world. We were set.
Throughout my pregnancy, I did things very different from what I did the first round. First, I did yoga a few times a week. I rented DVDs from the library when I couldn’t afford classes. Second, I went to a chiropractor my entire pregnancy. I have scoliosis and this made a HUGE difference in my comfort level. Third, I used acupuncture as needed. I went a few times during the 9 month period and it immediately relieved the back and hip pains I was having. Fourth, I skipped prenatal vitamins and acquired real vitamin sources instead. I drank 1-2 quarts of Stinging Nettle Tea a day. I also drank Oatstraw and Red Raspberry Leaf tea infusions. I took Arnica sublingual tabs for pain and muscle cramps. I drank a TON of coconut water and coconut milk as well as almond milk. The last 2 weeks of my pregnancy, I was taking Evening Primrose Oil orally twice a day. We made an effort to eat very well the entire pregnancy. And this pregnancy, we were much more stable.
This time I decided to use Hypnobirthing. I did not have the money to attend a class, so I ordered the book on Amazon and read it instead. I think I listened to the CD maybe twice. Really, I acquired all my info from reading and hearing other hypno-mamas experiences. I felt ready this time.
December 3rd my water broke at 8:30am. I called my doula and midwife and we started planning for the birth. I called my parents to pick up my 22 month old– he is too high energy to be at a birth quite yet. And I immediately started eating. This may sound completely silly, but I knew labor would require a ton of calories and I wanted to give my body tons of fuel to work with.
While I was in labor, I decided to have fun with my husband and enjoy the last few hours we had with our son as an only child. We played with him, cuddled with him, and gave him a gift from the baby (which consisted of a Spiderman backpack and sleeping bag for his first big overnight adventure at the grandparents house). After my dad came to pick him up, my husband and I focused on each other. I took a shower to make myself feel good. I love water! We turned on music and danced. We cooked together. And we enjoyed great conversation.
Once my doula arrived, we made tea, I ordered a huge plate of chicken nachos from the local Mexican restaurant (I know, strange last craving, right?!?!?), and we began to light candles and set things up. I started some music, and we created a birth party. My best friend drove down from Nashville this day also. My labor consisted of back rubs, good conversation, hot tea for me, coffee for my birth attendants, lots of good organic chocolate, and some great memories were made. As things progressed, we called the midwife and told her I was ready for the birth pool to be set up. This was around 4pm. She and her apprentices arrived and helped my husband set up the birth pool. While this was going on, I received an amazing back and foot massage in my den. The birth pool was set up in our bedroom.
After everything was set up, filled with water, and my bedroom was ready for me to birth in, I got in the birth pool. By this time it was probably after 7pm-ish (just guessing). I labored in the water for about 45 minutes before I decided I needed to get out because of the heat. I got really hot during my son’s birth also. I labored on my yoga ball for a while, then relocated to the bed. With each surge (contraction), I mentally reminded myself to just “breathe the baby down“ (a hypnobabies term). I also utilized something I read in Ina May’s book: press your tongue against your teeth and you won’t have a tight bottom. This helped me relocate the pressure during surges and allow my baby to move down gently. During this entire process I was chugging coconut water. Staying hydrated is super important during labor. I was also eating peppermint sticks, snacking on random items here and there (by this point I think I was eating mostly chocolate), and utilizing essential oils. Lemongrass has always been one of my favorites and it is known for its calming abilities. I also used clary sage, which is great for helping progress labor.
Once I was ready to “push” or breathe the baby out (Hypnobabies term), I verbally let everyone know. They were rather shocked as my labor didn’t seem that intense, but they rolled with it. Once I started “pushing,“ baby arrived within a few minutes. My actual birthing video, from the point I started pushing until she was out, is 2 minutes and 49 seconds long. It took me 5 actual surges to pull my baby out, and I pulled her out myself. It was the most empowering experience in the world! I was surrounded by some of the most amazing people I could imagine attending my birth, my best friend was bawling her eyes out while taking photos, my husband was curled up next to me, holding my hand and kissing me so lovingly, reminding me that I had done this before and this time would be no different, and my birth team was simply amazing. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Later I learned a few things about my birth that I was unaware of. Apparently Marleigh’s heart rate dropped drastically when she entered the birth canal. It was vital I get her out quickly. My birth team remained calm and my midwife said, very seriously “Amanda I need you to focus within. You want this! You can do this. Next contraction, I want you to touch your baby’s head. Then you will pull her out. You got this.” And I did. Just like that. I never knew there was a potential problem because everyone remained calm. I think it made a huge difference for me. It seems like something that might have been deemed an emergency in any hospital, and possibly resulted in an emergency c-section, or at least medical assistance of some kind. I am so thankful that my birth team remained calm and encouraging and allowed me to continue on, uninterrupted. It is amazing what a difference that makes during intense birth moments.
As soon as my daughter was born, I pulled her to my chest. We had to unwrap the cord from her neck as it was a bit twisted–this is more normal than some people know. I put her to the breast and began breastfeeding. My dad brought my son in, my in-laws came to see her, and we had an after birth party! The reaction on my son’s face when he saw her for the first time is something I will never forget.
I wouldn’t change a single thing about her birth. This birth was everything I envisioned and hoped for. It involved a lot of planning, a lot of preparation, and a lot of learning along the way. Home birth isn’t for everyone, but it was perfect for us. I am thankful for my amazing birth team, as support was a huge part of my experience.
Postpartum update: I made placenta art, then pureed my placenta, poured it into ice cube trays and froze it for smoothies. I toss 2 cubes into my smoothie every morning and NOPE, you cannot taste it! It has helped me a ton with postpartum sweating at night and mood swings. I can tell a big difference and wish I had done this the first pregnancy. I recommend consuming your placenta to everyone now! Learn more about the benefits of consuming placenta.
Thank you for reading my story. <3