Samuel’s Birth Story

I am so happy. Home birth was such an incredible journey I took in the comfort of my own home. I am thankful for the people in my life who truly love and support me. I am thankful for trusting my body, my baby and life. I am so thankful that I have a healthy, happy baby boy who chose me to be his mother. I am forever grateful to have such an amazing partner who was so gentle and caring during my labor… and hands down the best doula I could have ever asked for. I feel extremely blessed.

I found out I was pregnant at the end of January 2017. I remember taking the test. I immediately screamed when I saw two lines. It was probably more disbelief than excitement. However, It really was the beginning of such an exciting time in my life. I was going to become a mama!! We had our own private gender reveal and when we popped the big black balloon, all I saw was blue confetti fall all over the place. We were going to have a little BOY!

Eventually, It was time to start thinking of what we were going to name him. Each name we said never gave us that feeling. We kind of just let it go and didn’t give it any more thought. Then a few months later, one day while laying in bed I said out loud “Samuel? I kind of like it”. Dillon said that was his Grandad’s name. I laughed and said “Samuel Algirdas”… with Algirdas being my Grandfather’s name. Just like that, In that moment… We had that feeling. It stuck. We named him without any effort and after our favorite people ever, our grandfathers.

I never visualized my birth because I didn’t want to be attached to an outcome. I just prayed that it would go smoothly and that he would come here safely in whichever way that was best for him and whichever way that was best for me. I meditated regularly to stay connected to my body and how
I was feeling. I also meditated to keep my mind clear, stay relaxed and make room for positive thoughts.
Once thinking about where I was going to have our baby, I felt like having him in the hospital wasn’t the best decision for me. I seemed to feel a disconnect with what I wanted and what a hospital could provide. I had met with an OB and did a tour of Sacred Heart. While finished with my tour of the birth center, I stopped by the nurse station in the birthing area. I asked some very real questions and then I shared that I was thinking that I wanted to have my baby with GBO…and that’s when I met Hayley. She told me she just got “all warm and fuzzy” when I said that. Hayley shared that she was also a birthing assistant with GBO. I could tell she was passionate about it. Deep down, I knew I was supposed to meet her.
Weeks later, Dillon and I were on the way to grab food and he suggested Evercrisp to get a salad. My man… suggesting a salad place for lunch? Amazing, I thought. (He never suggests this place or salads). We were joking on the way there that we would either go to GBO to have our baby or to The Farm in Summertown, TN. We were 100% having an out of hospital birth. Also probably almost 100% on going to Summertown…I was in love when I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. While ordering our lunch, I noticed Hayley standing beside me. I struck up a conversation with her and we started talking about GBO again. I knew I was supposed to see her. This was what I needed, this conversation, to calm me with something I didn’t grow up with–Natural, unmedicated childbirth. I totally felt like it was a sign from God, seeing her there, and I had this deep knowing to trust my path, decision and intuition. That was the happiest salad I ever ate! After that conversation, I knew – We are totally using GBO for our birth!
We eventually decided to have him at home.. I loved the idea of laboring at home and never having to leave. Little did I know, having a Home birth would be one of the best experiences of my life.
It’s now October, a few days past my due date, I was feeling so calm and confident. Samuel was going to come in his perfect time. I had this unbelievable amount of calmness and trust that came over me around this time in my pregnancy. I knew it was all in God’s hands and all I needed to do is get out of the way and allow my body to do exactly what it’s made to do. With Cindi’s ok, I went in to get acupuncture by Dr. Wu. This was such a great visit with…It felt amazing and while I was there he just continually blessed me and the baby. The next day, I went into labor.

On Oct 12, I went to visit Cindi in the morning so she could check to see if I was dilated. That was my first major contraction. She was so calm and said I was 2 cm dilated and my cervix was soft and that was good. Okay, I thought, not having a baby yet! I really didn’t think I was close to having a baby. However, Some kind of magic was worked because I ended up going into labor that evening.
It’s late in the afternoon and Dillon left to work on the boat, and my mom was thankfully at home visiting with me. I was having very light cramping all day and joked how funny it would be to have a baby on Friday the 13th.
My mom and I were outside and my dachshund alerted us to a large bird, a Heron, that was stuck in the trees between the balconies. The fire dept and wild life rescuers had to come help get it out of the tree. (This was totally my stork… telling me to get ready because the baby is being delivered). And although this chaos was a wonderful distraction from the dull cramping I was experiencing, it was very clear that my mood started changing–so I called GBO. I was told it was normal to have cramping after sweeping the membranes and they will probably completely stop or get worse. To call if the cramping became stronger or became more frequent.
Well, they did. I turned down my shopping trip to Home Goods (That’s when my mom knew that this was the real deal–I was about to go into labor). She called Dillon and had him come home. She stayed with me until he arrived. Once he was home; she ended up leaving shortly after to start cooking for us so we had plenty of fresh cooked meals for the next few days. I was feeling fine and told dillon he had to go to the store to get string, paper and color pencils so I can make my last minute affirmations and hang them on the wall. Also, I needed fingernail polish remover.
By the time he came home. I was in the tub having true contractions. I no longer cared about my affirmations or my chipped toe nail polish, He comforted me.
Since I was in labor, He lit the candle that was gifted to me at my blessing way.
We called Cindi. She suggested that I rest. I feel like we called her back again right away. I threw up. There was no way I could rest. I was starting to get so uncomfortable. We called Katie, our photographer, around 8:30 and asked her to come sit with us. I remember being super chatty with her. She was so awesome to have around. I was in the tub for awhile before moving to the bed. I was smiling, laughing and talking. It was sort of confusing how far along I was because I still was talking even though I probably shouldn’t have been able to.
Once laboring in bed, I stayed in my meditative breath the whole time that way I could get through the contractions… Dillon was just so gentle and caring. He held me and comforted me. My mom came back with food to drop off for us; she came upstairs to say hello to me during labor before she headed back home (as I had planned) but I asked her to stay. She ended up being the most amazing presence. She would step in when Dillon needed a break and then at the same time I was able to be comforted by my mother. I remember just holding her hand and telling her that I loved her so much. I will never forget the feeling I had while holding her hand. There were so many emotions. Every touch she gave was so supportive and filled with love. She just held space for me, which was exactly what I needed at this time.
Dillon joked with me and said that as soon as my mom came in to drop everything off for us, she was staying because he wasn’t going to let her leave. He felt like he needed her there more than I did. I thought that was such a beautiful thing to say.

While laboring in bed, my water broke. It was a very memorable “POP” and fluid was everywhere. That’s when Katie told Dillon that now was a good time to call Cindi and to have her come. My contractions were certainly intensifying now. More fluid came rushing out with each additional contraction I had. Dillon was breathing with me. Breathing between and during my contractions so I would stay in my breath. That helped me so much because there were times I would almost fight my contraction. Dillon stayed with me the whole time. His breathing would help me by reminding me to get back into my meditative breath. I found that It was so much calmer there. So, that’s where I stayed throughout my labor. I just remember thinking about the ocean while I was breathing. When I was in between contractions- the water was calm…I relaxed and rested. When the wave was coming, I squeezed his hand and I allowed it to happen. I knew this wave wouldn’t last forever. It was going to break and it was going to be okay. I totally surrendered to my body. It was such a beautiful feeling.
I was truly allowing my body to be the portal from the spiritual world to the physical world. This was my sacred journey into motherhood just as much as it was my child’s sacred journey into this life. This was important for me to do this for him. To breathe, allow, surrender and relax so he could come into the world peacefully.
The contractions that were happening at this time were incredibly powerful. I couldn’t stand when I tried. I started visualizing my blessing way in my head. I was looking at the most amazing women in my life surrounding me that night. I was replaying their encouraging words over and over and over again. I was looking around the room and watching them hold and pass the very same candle that was burning right beside me as I labored. I could feel them and their words. I could feel how I felt that night. Visualization really got me through this time.

I was feeling the urge to push and vocalizing it.
Contractions were getting even stronger and I felt there was no way humanly possibly they could get any closer together. Soon after…around 11 pm–my midwife, Cindi and the birth assistants Hayley and Kat came in. I truly had the perfect energy at my birth. It was almost like I was seeing a long time friend when I saw Hayley come in. I immediately felt the kind energy of Kat and I already knew and trusted Cindi. Everything came full circle at this time. I was so comfortable in my birth setting. It’s true, there is nothing more beautiful than that secure feeling. I trusted the people who surrounded me. My contractions at this point were taking over. So strong that I was dreaming of my birth tub. I was so ready to get in. Cindi asked me to come into the bathroom and sit on the toilet for a few contractions. I stayed here for a while. I labored here, all out. Woooo! It was very intense laboring on the toilet. I did not feel very glamorous at all, with my legs propped up on two separate stools! Yet Dillon held me, was looking at me in awe and whispered to me “You are so beautiful”. He was just so so sweet to me. So kind and caring throughout my entire labor. He was so present. I am still just so blown away.
Cindi was sitting to the left of me. She said “You’re probably going to have a Friday the 13th baby”. I remember laughing either in my head or out loud… but definitely thinking let’s have this baby!!! Can I get in the tub yet?!
I could barely get out anything I was thinking. I was really focusing on my breath. Not long after she asked if I was ready to get in the birthing pool and push. I was about to have Samuel. Walking to the birthing pool was so crazy! He was right there and I could feel him.
The best feeling in the world was that birth pool. I felt like an astronaut who landed on the moon. There was Instant relief. It felt unbelievably good. I knew I could do anything after being in the bathroom laboring. I was in the pool and had a contraction. Cindy told me I had to push the baby out to get him here. I remember saying “Wait, I have to push him out? He won’t just come?” She was like yes, You have to push. I was in a daze.
The next contraction I had, I started pushing. I felt like I only had a couple of contractions and I was already crowning. I remember feeling so excited to meet my baby. Later, Katie told me she never heard anyone say they were excited while crowning or even smiling for that matter. For some reason, I was. It was like I had left my body. I had the birth high that people talk about. It was amazing. I reached down and touched his head…. he was almost here. Pushing Samuel out was so surreal. Seeing his body come out and catching him underwater was out-of-this-world amazing. I wasn’t even in this world when it happened.
He was born on October 13th at 1:19 am.
Holding Samuel in my arms and placing him on my chest was magical. Home birth is magical. I started to cry when I heard his cry. It was music. I was so connected. It was the promise that God gave to me, fully realized, he was here- happy, healthy and birthed at home. It couldn’t have been any more peaceful. It couldn’t have been any more perfect.

Follow this link for the video


The Birth of Audrey Isabelle

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The birth of my first child Julian left me wanting more from the birthing experience. Growing up, my mom was always the “crunchy” one. Having most of her children at home, she sometimes did it without the assistance of a midwife. When I got pregnant with my son I was open to the idea of a birth center birth but we were living in Biloxi, MS and there weren’t any close to the area. My birth with Julian was the typical cascade of interventions with me getting induced at 41 weeks. As I said, it left me wanting more as I felt very detached from the experience due to the epidural. Julian stayed in the NICU for 5 days due to meconium aspiration so I didn’t get the initial bonding I longed for either. When I got pregnant with Audrey I switched to a different OB, hoping that they would be more lenient about not inducing at 41 weeks (my family tends to run late). Although this OB was much nicer and personable, it was still very much a traditional “do everything” approach. When we got the word that we would be moving back into the Panhandle area, I asked my mom if she knew any OB that were more relaxed…I specifically told her that I was not looking for a midwife. She sent me the link to GBO and I got very emotional as I looked over the website and read/watched some of the birth stories. I convinced my husband that this is what I wanted and quickly set about contacting the office since I would be 20 weeks once we moved. I got established and the rest of the pregnancy went without a hitch. I had no idea how long I would go overdue since I was induced at 41 weeks with my first. Cindi ended up moving my due date 5 days later based off my original ultrasound putting me due July 20th. I had a lot of Braxton Hicks leading up to 37 weeks and then sporadically have stretches of slight contractions but nothing organized. My due date came and went…that Sunday I had several hours of light contractions about ten minutes apart, I was very hopeful that this was the start of something. I went to bed and woke up not in labor anymore. I was frustrated but at the same time okay with it (I think the reality of having another baby was sinking in). Nothing happened throughout the next couple days. Wednesday evening we went for a family walk and then relaxed after dinner. I started having regular contractions that were growing in intensity, about 5 minutes apart. I tried to go to bed but ended up getting up and making the quiche that we were planning on bringing for the birth food. I called Cindi to update her about 1:30am and at her advice took a bath to try to relax. The bath relaxed me enough that I was able to fall asleep around 3:00am. I would wake up with a contraction occasionally but they were weak enough that I could stay in bed and fall back asleep after. I woke up around 6:30am restless and got ready for my 41 week appointment that morning. I would have some contractions but was able to talk through them. I didn’t bother timing them because after the false starts I had been having I was over it. Cindi offered to sweep membranes which I took her up on, hoping that it would kick start something. She mentioned that it would cause contractions but they may or may not progress into actual labor. Cindi said that because of the early labor I had been having that my labor may be fast and furious. We headed home towards Navarre with the plan on relaxing and seeing what would happen. I was starting to have more intense contractions that seemed to be stacking on each other (again not timing, but this time because I was busy concentrating). I thought that the drive was the longest ever; by the time we got home I ran inside and hopped in the bath. My mom was updated on the way home, and we told her we would let her know when we were heading out so we could pick her up quickly. I was out of the bath hugging my labor ball when my mom walked in, I assumed Joey had called for backup but she had decided to come over based on how I had sounded on the phone. I immediately started getting dressed to go, and told Joey to give GBO the heads up. Joey had set up the SUV so that I could lay/move around in the back (I think I told him I was NOT getting back in the regular seat after the ride home). Now THIS was longest ride I have ever endured. At some point during the ride my water broke and I felt the need to bear down. I told my mom who advised me to take shallow breaths, and she got in the back with me to help calm me. She told me after that she thought she was going to have to deliver Audrey on the way to the center. We made it to the center and in between contractions, I went in. Based on my past experience (pitocin induction), I thought I had a long time to go. My contractions were about the intensity they were with Julian when I was told I was only 3 cm and decided to get my epidural. So with that in mind, I figured I was nowhere near having Audrey. I went from the toilet to the tub and back to the toilet when Cindi suggested she check me to ensure I didn’t have a cervical lip. So I went to the bed and after she checked me I kneeled over the end of the bed and we started to push. I, of course, had lost all track of time and felt like I was pushing for forever. I told Joey I didn’t want to push for hours like I did with Julian…little did I know we were at the birth center for just under an hour when Audrey was born. Pushing was probably the best feeling because I felt like I was working with my labor and not a bystander. Joey got to catch our daughter who was born at 2:34pm. We got to do immediate skin to skin and bond with her. After a few hours we got to go home and begin our life as a family of four. I think my first birth left me feeling somehow that my body was broken, incapable of birthing a baby without interventions. Going through this experience with GBO reaffirmed that I am a strong capable woman!


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Birth Story of Kent


This birth story begins with an end. Actually multiple ends. Mothering three kids, 4, 2, and 9 months, we got a surprise pregnancy. While it certainly wasn’t planned it was quickly accepted. Just as quickly as it happened, things took a turn. Bleeding, blood tests, an ultrasound or two. I got to see that little flickering heart beat and felt hope that this little one would be okay. The next morning it struck me. The cramping and bleeding was undeniable. I knew I had lost it. Another ultrasound showing an empty uterus, blood work confirming the numbers dropping, it was heartbreaking. My mom sat with me while I continued to miscarry, and encouraged me to try again one day. That there was a reason, there will be hope one day. My midwife Cindi was always supportive and continued to check in on me. I only carried that baby for 7 weeks, but I loved it none the less. I had experienced a new level of mom sadness and a new appreciation for my three perfect babies.

A few months later the biggest heartbreak came knocking on my door. Police officers brought me the news that my parents were involved in a car accident and they did not survive. I stood there shaking, distraught, and the moment I walked back in my house I collapsed to the floor in a pain no one should experience. Luckily in that moment I had two dear friends at my house and they literally picked me up and helped through the day while I watched my world crumble further each phone call to family I had to make.


The days after that are a complete blur. Friends and family came to my side, and Cindi stepped in for support in her midwife ways and she held space for me. I could have a conversation with her without feeling pitied, or getting constant apologies and over abundance of sympathy. I could spend time with her and her family like everything was, or would be, okay. No questions asked, just comfort in a way I needed.

I love the Denbow family.

As a birth photographer I still had two clients due, and one had gone into labor. I remember feeling relief knowing I could be welcomed into their space for the birth of their first child. It was distracting from the real world, it was uplifting and full of people I cared deeply about. Witnessing this birth, just days after so much death, was something otherworldly for healing. I was still shattered but felt hope in life. After traveling out of town for the funeral, while on the plane back home, I got the text my next client was in labor. Immediately after landing I drove home for my camera and turned around to pick up Cindi and drive to this birth. Something about birth can turn any day around. This new life emerging right in front of you. I had just had my already broken heart torn into smaller pieces while being one of my mothers pallbearers, listening to taps and being handed that folded flag, seeing both caskets hang over their holes in the ground, all while just a short walk away from my oldest brothers grave. Being present for the birth of a child and watching a family become parents makes you forget all of that, just for a bit.

It was after midnight when Cindi and I were headed home when I decided we should stop at Walmart for a pregnancy test. I can’t tell you what compelled me to do this, I wasn’t super late and I even took one a few days prior that was totally negative. Once I got home I took it… and it was positive. Pretty sure my first text to Cindi at 1am was a picture of it with “I knew it!” Talk about a roller coaster of emotions…


Pregnancy was… I was just pregnant. The beginning was stressful. What if I lost this one too? How would I handle anymore loss? Cindi immediately had me start progesterone, as my levels were a little low. As the first trimester came and went I realized this baby was saving me from myself. I can’t fathom what would have happened had I not been pregnant right after my parents accident. I would have lost myself in alcohol and I can’t even think what would have happened to me as a mother as I slipped away. This baby was exactly what I didn’t know I needed. This baby was the ultimate rainbow. “A ‘rainbow baby’ is a baby born following the loss of a baby. It is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravage of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean the storm never happened or that we are not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy, and hope. Sunshine after rain, calm after storms, joy after sadness, peace after pain, love after loss.”


Milk bath images by the husband

Not finding out the gender was new for us. It made picking a name pretty much impossible. It was nerve wracking but so exciting. As the end of pregnancy was coming, so did the pelvic pain. Something about the baby’s position was giving my pubic bone hell. Grinding and shifting, popping and clicking. Chiropractic care could only do so much. With a good hard adjustment around 37 weeks, I left and started having some small contractions. Well they just wouldn’t go away! Chiro Larrissa had royally pissed off my uterus. While texting with her I learned Cindi was out of town. Que anxiety! Some small bloody show and all the time little contractions for days felt like a lifetime. In that moment it finally hit me that HEY, a baby is coming one of these days! I didn’t realize how disconnected I was and how ill prepared I was. In the words of Kevin Hart, No She wasn’t ready!

My amazing GBO (gentle birth options) family and friends held a mothers blessing/blessingway for me. So many beautiful souls surrounding me, uplifting me, bringing positivity to my home. It was just perfect.

2016-12-16_0001Blessingway images by K Reeder Photography


Luckily no baby yet and I had plenty of time to really prepare my space, my mind, my body, and really accept the outcome… It was difficult to think that this baby would never meet or know my parents, and it was very hard to really grasp. Such an emotionally taxing thought. I had to accept this before the baby arrived or I knew depression would take over.

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Week 38/39 I started to get itchy. The itch from hell. Puppps. It was in a small patch at the bottom of my belly and down my left arm. Thought it was NOTHING compared to my first pregnancy with puppps, where it covered me from my shoulders to my toes… I could handle this little patch! Resisting the itch was manageable until I slept, where I scratched in my sleep.

The day before my due date, Sunday nov 6th, I started having pretty regular contractions. Into the night they continued, but intensity never picked up. They annoyingly kept me awake all night long but their strength was totally whimpy. I asked my husband to come home from work Monday morning, and naturally all contractions stopped. I had my hopes up that I was having a due date baby but the day came and went. Tuesday I had an appointment with Cindi and in my “I’m done” mood we did a cervical check and sweep. I’m the type that has to know there’s progress, or lack thereof. I NEED to know. Here I was 4-5cm with nothing going on. I try not to complain, because that’s half the labor already done! But frustrating at the same time because CMON kid, just get out! Cindi offered to break my water if contractions picked up, and what do you know, they never would pick up. I would have some good ones back to back then nothing for 30 minutes or more. The same frustrating prodromal labor continues for days. Another sweep Thursday with another chiro visit. At this point, I fully accepted that baby was not coming until next week. I would be 41 weeks+ again, just like the others. I had determined that this baby was doing exactly what it’s big sister did; prodromal labor for days, quick active-transition labor with water breaking and a baby literally falling out in 9 minutes. Knowing I was already 5cm I was terrified of my water breaking and a baby rocket happening. I had my husband miss a week of work for all of this prodromal labor and it was now Friday and still no baby. I had spent the last few days in tears. I was sad, mad, frustrated, all of the emotions. I was trying not to chase labor, but it was so exhausting not being able to sleep and contractions starting and stopping for so long.

Friday night as we were getting the kids ready for bed, I stepped into my room and my water broke. MY WATER BROKE. I froze. I clenched my butt so hard! I called Cindi faster than I could process the fact my water broke. While on the phone I realized 1) baby didn’t fall out 2)I’m not having contractions. Big sigh…sort of. My pants and floor were soaked. It was close to 8pm at this point. I texted our photographer, Cassie, right after the phone call and she was ready to come over. I had to have been standing there frozen for a solid 15 minutes. What a weirdo. I had felt like I was crying wolf all week, all month really! And now it was really happening. My husband put the boys to bed while my daughter bounced on my yoga ball and I attempted to slap some make up on puffy eyes while starting to fill my birth pool. I was determined to use it this time! My youngest, my daughter, my baby for only so little time before she becomes a big sister. I loved our hour together one last time.


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Cassie and I were hanging out in my living room while my husband went to put our daughter to bed. In the process he fell asleep and about 10 minutes later the birth team arrived around 10:45pm. My contractions were lame. Not hard at all and way spaced out. I did some super sexy crab walk and squats up and down my stairs in attempts to get contractions going. Sitting on the toilet with feet up on stools. Rocking, swaying, up and down stairs. Cindi and I went up to my bedroom where she released the rest of my waters so my uterus could really contract around baby. Sooo much fluid. I mean my water breaking initially was a lot and then even more came gushing out! So so much! At that point I think she said I was 6cm and it was around 11:45pm. It was almost instantly that a contraction came on. Cindi and I laid in my bed in the quiet together. It was a moment I won’t forget. A strange moment, but in that quiet I felt her presence. She was there for me and I wasn’t alone. As a friend, a midwife, and in a way stepping into a place where I would want my own mom. Cindi was there. It was peaceful and comforting. Back to back contractions were starting. We decided to go back downstairs and I was asked if I wanted the birth assistants to leave and come back later when things pick up. Before I could even finish my answer a big contraction took my breath away. I asked Cindi to text Christy, another birth assistant who had become like my family, to see if she could make it over.

Pensacola Birth Photography

I stood over my counter through contractions that seemed to go from 0-60 in .5 seconds. My lower back was aching with contractions but it wasn’t too bad while leaning forward. One contraction I noticed my legs were shaking and I knew things were picking up speed. Ready to go back upstairs! I should probably wake my husband up now, too… Contractions were getting intense and close together but I was still happy between them. My breathing through them was getting deeper, I was really panting and breathing them out.

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We had pots of water boiling to warm up the pool and I started getting antsy to get in. Oh the pool was so so nice when I got in it finally. In comes Christy, yay! We had some great Credence Clearwater Revival pandora playing and small talk between contractions.

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I wear my dads wedding ring and my moms claddagh ring everyday. Some days they hurt to look at, but most days they’re my constant reminder to stay strong. I can hear their voices telling me so and I know they are with me.

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All of a sudden my back was really killing me during contractions and Cindi suggested moving positions. Just as quickly as I moved, the intensity picked up. I was no longer Katie. I was a laboring women in the zone. Breathing hard, moaning, I needed my husbands hand at some point and managed to spit the words out. The back pain grew to now pubic bone pain. I couldn’t even focus anymore with the pubic bone pain taking my full attention. I wanted to grab my bones or push on them with counter pressure, just something to make that pain stop! The next few contractions I lost all control. I was no longer here at all. The world totally muffled as if I had stuck my head under water. I couldn’t tell you what anyone said to me or what I might have even said. I remember hearing “low tones” and my husband encouraging me. I was in another world.

Pensacola Birth PhotographyPensacola Birth PhotographyPensacola Birth PhotographyPensacola Birth PhotographyI sat there head hanging down and had a long pause before the next contraction (well… to me a long pause. My time perception was way off at this point). I knew exactly what was coming. I had seen it time and time again, this beautiful birth pause where the body seems to take a breather and then the next thing you know, here comes baby. In my mind I thought how much I didn’t want to do this anymore, I can’t take anymore, I feel like this has been so long, why does this hurt so bad… Then back to work my body went with a fierceness. The pause brought me back for just a quick moment and then I was back out in labor land. Making noises of all kinds. Yelling, screaming, moaning. I was out of control of myself. As my baby made its way through the birth canal my eyes were shut and I had an out of body experience feeling my baby emerge and stretch my body for its arrival. In that moment my pubic bone and lower back felt like it just had a bomb go off from the inside. It really -f@#&ing- hurt. I reached down and felt my baby’s head. It was totally surreal through the chaos. I felt baby’s super soft head, and an ear. It’s head felt like velvet and I sat there rubbing it, hoping and pleading for it to just come out already. It was really just amazing. In the amazing moment, I was still in amazing pain! I froze again. I was still in another world and I remember hearing Cindi say something to me, then her pulling my leg over to her on the side. I lost my steam for pushing, or maybe my uterus didn’t get the memo to keep pushing baby out, or maybe just this huge baby came out a little crooked or got a little stuck, I’m not really sure! but with a little of Cindis help, I felt the rush of release and relief. I felt my baby’s body come out and I reached down to lift up and hold my baby for the first time. It was instant flash back to reality and oh my gosh my baby is here.

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You’re here. Finally, you’re here!

It was as if parts of my parents were finally here with this baby’s arrival. As if somehow this baby carried parts of their souls. The longest year of my life and this baby, my parents, were finally here with me. The excruciating heartache filled year didn’t matter in that moment. All of that horrendous pain I just went through was as if it never even happened. He was here.

Oh my gosh, it’s a boy!! Talk about totally surprised. Subconsciously I must have really thought this baby was a girl the whole time. Everyone did it seemed! I was shocked! Finding out at birth was SO exciting. The roller coaster of pregnancy, labor, and birth, then add on the joy of finally seeing who that little baby is, is just something indescribable.

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As I came back to reality one of the first songs I could hear, or rather realized I could hear, was Born On The Bayou. How absolutely perfect. I can remember singing this song with my mom and dad in the car so clearly. It was perfect timing almost like their way of saying hello, they were here, my heart was happy. Then came another song.. ‘Have you ever seen the rain’

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After delivery of the placenta and a gentle newborn exam we tied the cord with yarn. The yarn was my moms as she was a crazy knitter and crocheter and was ALWAYS with her yarn bag. To slow things down from a quick snip we had decided on doing cord burning instead of cutting. My husband had built a box to catch the wax drippings and we used two candles to burn and separate the cord. My original thoughts on the candles were to each represent one of my parents. As we severed ties to this baby boys original life source, we brought him into this new world together. My family, my adopted birth team family, my parents, my children. We brought him into this new world together while cutting ties to the past and had the time to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the moment. My oldest son came in to help finish the burning and meet his new baby brother and shortly the next two were woken up to come meet him.

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What better way to announce to the world of social media that you’ve had a baby than by taking a placenta selfie?

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My rainbow baby was here. My Kent Dempsey (named after my dad and grandpa) was 9lbs 11oz 22.3/4″ long. Might I add, with a 37cm head and 38 chest! My big giant rainbow baby! Born early Saturday morning at 2:26am on November 12th in the water while in our own home.

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The pregnancy, prodromal labor, and intensity of birthing this baby boy made me dig deep. I had to find balance and had to stay healthy for this baby. I had to pick myself up of the floor and survive. He made me survive the heartache for him, for my older kids, for my marriage, for myself. He made me stay strong. He made me find patience in so many ways. He made his entrance into the world intense. It was as if the year had been compacted into minutes of physical pain and then in an instant the pain was lifted. I felt joy again. With such a long prodromal labor week my actual active labor once contractions really got going was only about 2.5ish hours. The experience of having another baby born in the same room as his sister is just so cool and amazing. I could not thank Gbo enough for all they do for me. They all made it incredible and unforgettable. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth team or experience. My 3vbac. Second homebirth. Just amazing.

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Huge thank you to Gentle Birth Options for the amazing care through the last (almost) 3 years.

Another huge thank you to New Light Birth Photography, Cassie Ringl, for her amazing work in birth photography. Forever cherished. These images mean the world to me. See her awesome work at

SO MUCH LOVE to my husband. He supports me in so many ways and loves me through my crazy. I love him through his crazy. He is my rock, my high school sweet heart, my butthead that I love so hard. He has done so much for me to get through this year and I can’t express my gratitude enough for all he does.

ALL THE FEELS! I love these people so much. I could never thank them all enough.

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Birth Story of Gideon

Born at home surrounded by love and calm, after a fight from within to bring our sweet 9lb 4oz baby boy earth side.

When I woke up on Wednesday, February 22nd, I knew it was almost time to see your sweet face. Daddy went to work and I got ready to go see our Midwife Kassie for my 40+2 appointment. I felt certain and relaxed. She checked me and I was at 3-4cm. So, after chatting with the amazing women at GBO I headed home to eat lunch and take a nap. Around 3pm, I text Russell and told him to head home because things were picking up and I would feel more comfortable having him by my side.

I then took a long hot shower and sat on my birth ball doing my hair when daddy got home (yes, he sped!) He then started picking up the house and going over all the things we needed to do before I got too uncomfortable. We then went to pick up food and talked in between contractions. By the time we got my food and headed home, contractions started getting closer together.

We got home and sat down to eat, halfway through my food I thought I might need to call the Midwife to see about having someone swing by and put the IV in. Kassie arrived and monitored me through a few contractions in a few different positions. We had also called our parents and our birth photographer, Katie. As the midwife was leaving to allow me the peace to progress everyone started showing up.

I sat in the living room and watched big brother play video games. He was so full of energy that night and very excited for this little baby he’d been hearing all about. After awhile, I began laboring in different spots every 30-45 minutes. Squatting in a hot bath, daddy spraying hot water on my back while i did lunges in the shower through contractions, sitting on birth ball, pelvic lift and tilts on the wall, and then finally laying in bed before telling Russell to call the Midwife. It was starting to get real!

Once they arrived at about 11:30pm, they filled the tub and started checking my vitals. Getting in the birth pool was absolute heaven, seriously, if you have never experienced labor in a birth pool you are missing out. Aquatherapy is amazing!! I was pushing with the contractions, my water broke and things felt like they were right on track. This was way easier than my first. Or so I thought.

After awhile i started to get really hot. Daddy was keeping me cool with ice cold wash cloths. But eventually, I had to get out and try to labor out of the water awhile. Immediately I felt gravity hit and oh the back pain!!

After a quick cervical check to see that I was ONLY at 6cm, I started to doubt myself. Christy was calmly reminding me that I held more power than I was allowing myself to believe. Cindi kept reminding me that this was NOT as bad as Gabriel’s birth (which I swore was a lie….but she of course was right!!)

They started pulling out all the birth tricks and through my certainty that I couldn’t do it and begging for it to be over. Everyone around me was calm and peaceful and loving. Talking me through each surge.

My sweet baby boy worked so hard to turn and twist. I pushed. I dug deep. I believed in my body’s ability to birth. My midwives helped him descend, and with a push I could feel the ring of fire. With another out came his head. Kassie even gave him a little mohawk while we waited for the next contraction. I pushed with all I had left, took a breath and then screamed him out with their help.

There he was. In my arms. On my chest. God, I loved him so fiercely. My sweet perfect Gideon was in my arms and I was in Daddy’s arms. We watched him open his eyes, then take his first breathe. The room was silent and peaceful. After a quick check by the midwife we laid there soaking in the life we made together. His fingers, toes, mouth, nose, eyes, everything was perfect.

Not too long after that we were cuddling in bed as a new family. February 23, 2017 at 3:32am. It was the perfect Birthday for our strong, fat, precious Gideon Michael.

Birth Story of Charlie S.

The beginning of my birth story with GBO and Cindi actually started two years ago when I had a positive pregnancy test after having a miscarriage at 5 weeks the previous summer. We had been TTC for several months and had decided to not go the “hospital route” when we actually got pregnant. Sadly I started spotting during my first visit with Cindi at 11 weeks and in the next couple days miscarried. The kindness and support I received during that time cemented the reasons I wanted GBO to handle my next pregnancy and birth. It took over a year to get pregnant with my son (it still feels unreal), and since he was conceived up north it wasn’t until I was about 12 weeks along that I found myself at GBO again.

With every prenatal visit, every time I heard his heartbeat, my dream of being a mom got closer and closer. I refused to obsess or worry over the coming labor and the birth. Instead I focused on enjoying the pregnancy, relaxing, and spending time with family. I looked forward to each centering group while reading as much as I could on natural birth.

My due date came and went, it got down to me and one other lady in my group left (we had the same EDD) and it was a waiting game. I wasn’t very antsy for him to be born (though my husband and other family members were) I wanted him to be fat and ready and other than the hemorrhoids I could have easily gone another week!

My water broke at 40 weeks 2 days at a little before 6pm with no obvious signs of labor leading up to it, no swelling, no mucous plug, no bloody show, and no braxton hicks! He had only dropped the week before. I quickly notified Cindi that my water had broke and kept her notified throughout the night of the labor’s progression. I wasn’t able get much rest after 2 a.m. since the waves were coming every 15 minutes and felt sooo intense. We headed to GBO at 6 a.m. to meet Cindi and start my I.V. and check me, I was only 3 cm! It was suggested I go back home and try and rest and distract myself because it was likely to be a long day. Back home I could NOT relax or nap, it just got more painful so I decided to take a bath and maybe the warm water would help. I wasn’t long in the tub before I started voiding and the waves got more intense. We loaded up again and headed back to the birth center with the contractions spacing 2 to 5 minutes apart. We arrived at around noon and for the next 4 hours the ladies tried me in nearly every position to get him out. Progress was achieved with the supported squat and on my back with my husband and Sarah holding my tight tensed legs back and finally on my hands and knees I felt the “ring of fire” which excited me and a couple pushes later he flew out, my husband catching him. Cindi, Sarah, and Christy were a constant support and encouragement through the whole labor and took such good care of us.

As far as a name went we had gone round and round for months. After he was born my husband actually said I could name him whatever I wanted! We settled on Charles Wright Simmons honoring both our late maternal grandfathers. Happy 3 weeks Charlie boy!


Birth Story of Ellis James

Looking back, I never thought I would have children. It wasn’t because I didn’t like them, I just never saw myself being a mother. Childbirth was also a great fear of mine growing up, which could have contributed to never wanting kids, but now here I am, two months later today (March 7th), a mom, to a beautiful baby boy, whom I love more than anything, and can’t imagine my life without him right now. After my husband and I got married, I pushed that fear of childbirth back in my mind, and pushed myself to accept that it’s a natural process that’s well worth it in the end. Having a natural, unmedicated childbirth at a birthing center, not a hospital, was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s amazing however, how such an experience really impacts the marital relationship afterward. Those weeks after that birth, my husband and I found our patience tested to it’s limits just about every single day, and night. Yet, we find ourselves even more connected to each other than we ever have been before, and we owe it all to our wonderful baby boy, Ellis.

His birth story begins in May of 2016, where we were surprised with the news that we were expecting. We had been married just over a year, and honestly we weren’t planning on having a child for at least another year or two, but God had plans for us otherwise. It took some time for me to finally accept that our lives were going to change forever at a seemingly young age. But when that fact fully sunk in and I assured myself that my life wasn’t over, but just starting a new and exciting chapter, I was okay.

Those 9 months of pregnancy are almost a complete blur now when i think back at it. Kevin and I were kind of riding this pregnancy cloud the whole time- getting all the baby supplies, building baby furniture, going through birth classes, all while still continuing our normal lives at work and traveling places. We never fully realized that we would be full-time parents soon. Our needs and wants won’t come first anymore and we would be completely responsible for everything this child needs, day and night. Couple of weeks in of having him home, and it finally hits us. We’re doing it, we’re parenting!

I was due January 13th, and I was really excited to have someone else in our family born in January. My husband, his father, his grandfather, my father, and my aunt were all born in January. January 6th comes around, and I am exactly 39 weeks pregnant, and at this point, I’m thinking I’ll still be pregnant for another couple of weeks. Kevin and I were going about our usual day- he did a lot of work, I looked at birth stories for a little bit, and we had dinner & movie night at his parent’s that night. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark! It was in between the movie when I started to really have contractions. I knew these were the real thing because I was having Braxton hicks for the past couple months, and they started getting more uncomfortable as I near the due date, but they weren’t painful. These contractions started in my lower back, and literally wrapped around the underside of my belly. It was so new to me but the contractions were so far apart during the movie, I was just thinking I had to change my position, and it’d stop, which it did. Movie ends, and we leave their house a little after 10 pm.

Things started to really pick up. As we got home, I started having more contractions. I was doing my best to distract myself and get ready for bed. Around 11 or so, I found myself on the toilet for about an hour and a half, on and off, just constantly having bowel movements. I was also having contractions after every movement. It got to a point where I’m thinking this is so ridiculous, how much more is going to come out?! My contractions continued, and felt closer together so I started timing them on my phone- they were about 10-15 minutes apart. I told Kevin how they continued to get intense and about my never ending bowel movements. He seemed a little anxious, he kept checking up on me because I just stayed on the toilet at this point, I didn’t know if my body was done, and it just felt easier to be on the toilet during the contractions. It’s 12:30 am, and Kevin says he’s going to try to rest now. Knowing this could be it, that we could be having a baby later that day, I wanted to rest too. We remember Cindi telling us to sleep now while we can because we’ll need all our energy when active labor comes.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lift my leg over onto the bed without an intense contraction. When I did get in bed, a second later, it hurt so much to be lying down, I got out immediately. It was literally coming in waves, painful waves. I started to pace back and forth next to the bed, the contractions were easier to handle on my feet. Kevin was trying to tell me to rest as he’s half asleep on the bed, but I wasn’t going to dare try to get back in that bed, so I moved out to the living room with my pillow, to try the couch. Well, every time I tried to sit down on the couch, or lie down on it, it would hit me. It was like an intense menstrual cramp that just tightened around my belly and back. I never once had back pain during the pregnancy, so this was a whole new discomfort. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to rest so badly, but I couldn’t, I just kept pacing the floor, and trying to brace myself when the contractions came. I felt myself getting upset and anxious that this was really happening. I didn’t want to call Cindi, I wanted to see how far I could handle it myself, especially if the contractions stopped and nothing happened.

They weren’t stopping, they felt even closer together. I went in the bedroom to wake Kevin up to tell him, and he says to call Cindi and see what she says. Its 1:54am, I call her and she tells me exactly what I thought she would, to try to sleep through them, to distract myself as much as possible, because it would be a long night. I get off the phone frustrated. Kevin comes out to see what she says, I tell him, and he goes straight back to bed. I stayed out in the living room, trying to rest on the couch. Its after 2am,, and I’m still up breathing hard through the contractions. I remember texting my mom to let her know I was having painful contractions. She replied instantly, telling me I need to wake Kevin up. Before I could reply back, I felt this sudden rush, and before I realized what was going on, I was soaked in some kind of liquid I thought to be my water breaking. It came out so fast and I had no control to stop it. I speed walk into our bathroom as its dripping out onto the floor. I go on the toilet, and even more liquid comes out. I’m doing my best to stay calm at this point. I go back out onto the couch. Couple minutes later I get up again because I felt more liquid come out. So I go back to the bathroom, back on the toilet, and see my underwear is soaked in blood.

I’m freaking out now! I grab the toilet paper to wipe, and there it is, the blood show. Mucous consistency covered in blood, but more blood continued to come out. I jumped off the toilet with the bloody toilet paper in my hands, turn the light on, and wake Kevin up. Poor thing was just as freaked out as I was because he was half asleep with this blood drenched toilet paper nearly in his face. I was getting really upset thinking something was wrong with the amount of blood I was losing. Kevin is trying to calm me down, and telling me it’s okay, the baby is okay. He grabs my phone and calls Cindi. It’s 2:38 and she tells him to started loading up the car. My contractions were really coming in now. Kevin is running all over the condo, getting my bag, packing the baby bag, getting all our snacks. I kept telling myself to breathe through these, but it was so hard. Next thing I know, I start getting ready as much as I can. I left my pajamas on though, there was no way I was going to put real pants on. I felt like I could barely move my limbs without pain. Putting socks and shoes were hard enough. I had no time to put makeup on, or really do anything with my hair, I just felt like I had to go. I come out of the bedroom after I put my cardigan on, and checked the weather on my phone to make sure I was dressed enough for it. It’s in the low 30s, in Florida! It’s 3:38, I’m telling Kevin we have to go NOW. He was stilling getting stuff ready and putting it into the car. I was terrified for the car ride there because the birth center was about 40 minutes away from us. I waddled over to the coat rack to grab my coat, and then I’m out the door. I felt the cold hit my face, but I didn’t care. Kevin sets a towel on my car seat and helps me get in. Soon as I sat down, a contraction came in so hard, I felt my entire body tensing up, and I’m holding onto the car rail above the door so tight. Kevin gets in, and calls Cindi again to let her know we’re leaving.

The ride there was actually much better than I thought it was going to be. When I felt the contractions coming and peaking, I was making myself inhale and exhale with them. I focused on staying calm, and breathing to get through it. And then, I would doze off when the contraction was over. The ride itself was putting me to sleep between the contractions. It was only for a couple minutes, but it felt so nice to finally rest. We arrive at the birth center at 4:20am, the lights are on inside and I never felt more happy to walk through those doors. We walked into one of the birthing suites with one of the birth assistants and it was just so relaxing in there with the dim lights and candles and the sound of water filling up the tub. As we’re getting our stuff in the room, my contractions started up again, and I started undressing. I left my shirt on, but everything else came off, and I’m on the toilet with Cindi sitting in a chair next to me. She gets two small stools, one for each leg, and she tells me to squat.

Oh man, did that ever hurt! I felt so out of shape squatting on the toilet. She then turns my left foot outward, and instantly with the next contraction and pushing with it, my water breaks! And it was a huge gush into the toilet. What happened earlier was apparently just me peeing myself. Man do I feel bad about it now, getting to the birth center before my water broke. They probably thought it was going to be a long night! I continued having contractions on the toilet for a little while. I remember Cindi telling me I can’t get into the tub yet until I’m 6cm dilated. Thinking back at it now, I’m still in shock that I wasn’t even halfway dilated when we got to the birth center. Cindi then helps me off the toilet to do side-lunges on the back end of the bed. Moving into that side lunge on that stool was actually really comforting. It hurt to push in that lunge position, but it was really helping the contractions to hurt less. As I’m doing the lunges, liquid continued to pour out.

I remember looking down and seeing these soaked puppy pads, and the birth assistant continued to replace them. Next thing I know, we’re getting ready to go into the tub. My shirt is off and I put my sports bra on. Looking back I don’t know why I did, I really didn’t need it. Getting in the tub was hard, and the contractions in the water were even worse. It’s crazy though because this was my whole plan to give birth in the water, but it was like the water was pushing back against the contractions. I was not in there too long. Cindi was really helping me on how to push, because I wasn’t doing it right at first. She kept telling me to not scream with the pushing, but to hold my breath in and grunt while pushing!

It was so effective, but it was not easy! It was so hard to not be so loud, pushing with all my might but to be almost silent. I get out of the tub, get dried off, and then I’m back on the toilet. I was feeling discouraged at this point, like I wasn’t progressing because I wasn’t pushing right. I felt really upset, I’m going through these contractions and doing my best to hold in my breath like she said, but it didn’t seem to be working. Cindi then gets her flashlight out and shines it down at the toilet between my legs, and she tells me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. I remember being taken back, like what? Is she crazy, he can’t be there. I do what she says and I feel this small bulb like shape with hair, right there, so close to the outside of my lips, and I’m just emotional. I looked at Kevin who was standing there at the doorway of the bathroom, and I said oh my gosh, honey, he’s right there, he’s so close! I can touch his head!!
And that was it. Feeling his head that close to the outside, gave me the push I needed to push him out. We then move to the bed, and I’m hanging over the footboard, and start to really push with the contractions. Kevin is sitting in a chair in front of me and holding my hand. I was trying harder than ever to hold my breath in, and grunt with each contraction, and then I feel it, the ring of fire. Such a burning, stinging sensation as his head starts to crown. I’m then told to stop pushing. What?! I was told not to push when there wasn’t a contraction. I was in so much pain, and it was so close to being over, it was the hardest thing ever to not keep pushing. But I did what she said. Knowing in my mind, she knows what she’s doing, and I’m thinking this will help me to not tear. That was another fear of mine- tearing and getting stitches. Luckily, during this stage, I never felt like I had to throw up. I just felt a lot of gas in my stomach, causing me to burp up a lot. I remember this was where I was squeezing Kevin’s hand to keep all the urge I had to not push without a contraction. I remember feeling so hot at this stage, I felt sweat on my neck. I remember being asked if I wanted to tie my hair up, but I said no. It really comforted me to have my hair in my face as i’m hanging over the end of the bed. A wave of contraction came, and I gave it all I had to push with it, then it stopped so I stopped. I felt his head immediately get sucked back in when I stopped pushing, and I thought I was going to lose it. He was right there, then back in just like that.

Everyone around me was telling me it was okay, and how great I was doing, but I didn’t feel great. As soon as that next contraction came, I kept pushing harder than ever, that burning pain came back, and I felt myself heating up even more and really grunting as loud as I possibly can, almost screaming at that point. I remember she touched my back, and was trying to straighten it so it was flat. I was breathing so hard, I was ready for this pain to be over. His head was just about out when suddenly I felt the sharpest, most intense pain that I’ve ever felt yet, and I know I was screaming now and I didn’t care, it felt like something else was stretching out my vagina then just his head. I’m still pushing as hard as I can, and screaming and grunting as loud as I possibly can. I felt Cindi stick her fingers in to pull the rest of him out, and he falls into her hands crying, and I’m just in complete shock. I sit my bottom down on the bed and Cindi hands him over to me, and I’m just out of it. I couldn’t believe he was actually out and in my arms right now. There was blood all over him, my legs, on the bed, but I ignored all that. I was just extremely happy and relieved it was all over. He was born at 6:10am on January the 7th, just under 2 hours from when we arrived at the center, and about a week short from his due date. Born at 6 pounds and 13 ounces and 20 and a half inches long.

It was truly an amazing and empowering experience, and I am still in disbelief with myself that I did it! I truly cannot thank Cindi and the birth assistants enough for helping me deliver Ellis James into the world!


Birth Story of Abel Leonidas

With baby number 3, I thought surely he would come before 41 weeks. I carried my second to 41 weeks and 2 days and I knew for sure I could not do that again. The misery of it was still too fresh! So 41 weeks rolled around again and I gave up on ever having a baby – I’ll just stay pregnant forever. Or at least until Thanksgiving. He was “due” November 12th and it had been a long-running joke that he’d be born on the 24th, his grandpa’s birthday and Thanksgiving day. The morning of Saturday the 19th, 41 weeks on the dot, I went in for a non-stress test to see how baby was tolerating the contractions I was having. My contractions were noticeable but not unbearable by any means and my cervix was 3-4 centimeters dilated. I figured surely we had a few days to go still. So we went home, continued our day as normal, cooked and ate, and just hung out as a family. I spent some time sitting on and leaning over my yoga ball while my husband and our girls watched Harry Potter. They were scared! It was so cute. After we ate dinner I made 2 huge pans of brownies. I was hopeful that if I baked enough for the birth team, they would have to come eat them! We ate our brownies, then bathed our girls and we all went to bed a little early, around 7. I fell asleep somewhere around 8:30 and woke abruptly at 10:00 with a huge contraction. I couldn’t lay through it. I absolutely HAD to be on my hands and knees. I tried to lay back down when that contraction was over but a few minutes later another one came and there was no mistaking that this was labor and baby was coming sooner than I had anticipated. Paxton heard me vocalizing through them, woke up, and immediately started rubbing my back. We moved to the living room so I didn’t wake up Piper and Paisley and turned on Titanic. He had never seen it and we had been talking about it for days, so I figured there was no better time than active labor to watch it! I tried to rest on the couch, but laying down and leaning back wasn’t an option anymore. The contractions were so intense. I didn’t time them, so I’m not sure how far apart they were, but they were CRAZY intense. I labored over my ball and leaning over the couch for a couple hours before I called Cindi. A few minutes later I got a call from Kassie (the other midwife) and we decided that since I was a 2 hour drive from her, needed antibiotics, and contractions were so intense, she’d go ahead and head my way. I text Kayla (my photographer) to let her know things were picking up and I would need her soon. Kayla and Kassie arrived minutes apart, around 2:00.

After assessing me and baby and checking my cervix to see how I’d progressed (I was 6-7 cm), we started the first course of IV antibiotics. Kassie gave Paxton the job of holding the bag of antibiotics up and gently squeezing as it dripped into my IV. Towards the end of the bag, he squeezed it a little too hard and bubbles rolled up into my arm, through my armpit, and into my chest. I immediately panicked. I’ve seen way too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and I just knew I was having a pulmonary embolism! I still joke that he tried to kill me. My chest got cold and I started coughing and my contractions all but disappeared. Once I was talked off of the edge and convinced that I wasn’t ACTUALLY dying, things started to pick back up. I labored on the toilet for a little while trying to get back into my “space” but the smell of the air freshener and the fact that my legs were going numb kept me from focusing, so I moved back to my ball in the living room. Cindi arrived around 3:30 (I think) and immediately sent me from the living room to go labor alone in a bedroom. Since the girls were asleep in our bed, I moved into Piper’s room. Paxton followed me in and rubbed my back while I labored over the bed. I found a lot of comfort in leaning over in his lap while he sat facing me and rubbing my lower back. Every contraction felt like my back would split open. As it got closer and closer to morning, we realized that Paisley would be waking soon. She usually gets up around 5:30. My labor had finally picked back up and contractions had gotten closer together again and everyone knew that if she woke up, I’d go into “mommy mode” and labor would slow again. So Paxton called his mom to head over and pick her up. Like clockwork, Paisley woke up at 5:30. The sun was not quite up. Nana arrived just a few minutes later to get her. I got to hold my baby for a few minutes and comfort her in her early morning confusion before she left. I didn’t want to let go because I knew things would be so much different the next time I held her. It was such a surreal experience to hold onto my tiny girl while my body worked tirelessly to get her brother out. I could remember vividly standing in my kitchen 25 months prior, laboring and waiting on Paisley.

Once she left, I moved back to our bedroom (Piper is a much harder sleeper) and labored in there a while. This is where things become a blur. I know the tub was being filled, but they were having a hard time getting the water warm enough for baby. When the sun came up, things slowed down again, with contractions 6-7 minutes apart. Piper woke around this time and joined us all in the living room. She sat by me on the couch for a few minutes before disappearing to play in her room. I mentioned my concern with how far apart my contractions were, even though they were lasting a long time and were extremely intense, and Cindi assured me that it was normal for things to slow when the sun came up. She also suggested a few things to get baby in a better position and to get him descended more because he was still really high up. I lifted my belly through contractions to pull him back behind my pubic bone. I stood with my foot propped on a chair through contractions. I laid on my left side on the couch, and thought I would surely be ripped in half by every single contraction. By 7:30, when it was time for my second round of antibiotics, I was totally exhausted and becoming very defeated. I was being told I was doing so good, but I didn’t feel like I was. If I had been doing a good job, my baby would be out already! My last labor was 3 hours from start to finish, so the last thing I was expecting was a 10 hour labor. The contractions were intense, the pressure was insane, and I was bearing down with every contraction. I went to the bathroom to labor on the toilet a while longer – excruciating, but effective. It was getting harder and harder to pant through the urge to push, so I had Kassie check me one more time. Some women don’t care to know the state of their cervix, but it’s encouraging to me to know there’s been a change. Almost complete and baby was right there! She said “I can break your water and you can get in the pool now” and I said “let’s get this show on the road!”

It took several tries from both midwives to rupture the amniotic sac. Finally, I had a contraction that pulled it tight enough to get the job done. I stood in the bathroom through 3 contractions to get as much fluid out as possible before FINALLY moving to the pool. I had been dreaming about that warm water for hours, it seemed. I decided last minute, at 37 weeks, to rent a pool again and have another water birth. I’m so glad I did! The water was immediate, although temporary, relief. As soon as I was in I had another big contraction and my body started involuntarily pushing. I got a few seconds of relief before another one came. This one felt like a train barreling out of my body. It rushed over me and every muscle in my body bore down. It was loud and my body was screaming and all of a sudden my baby was moving down and I could FEEL him. I felt him move back up and thought oh no, I can’t do this for much longer. I can’t! And I said it. “I can’t do this” – and in my head I knew, if I’m saying that, then this is almost over. I’ve done this enough and seen enough births to know that “I can’t” means you ARE.

Cindi and Kassie had both reminded me earlier in the morning that I would have to control my pushing so that I didn’t exhaust myself and baby get stuck or cause tearing, as both of my girls had gotten stuck in one form or the other, and I had torn with both of them. Somehow, even as fast as things were happening, I was able to consciously remember that and remind myself to not push furiously through the contraction. They were telling me not to push without a contraction, but the contraction wasn’t stopping, and I wasn’t pushing, my body was. I panted and breathed my baby down through my body. As I felt his head emerging, I told my husband to jump in and catch him. He did! He skinned his socks off and jumped in the pool! He didn’t get to catch either of our girls and we had only briefly discussed him catching this baby. I so badly wanted him to. In my head I’m screaming at this point and then I see his hands going towards the baby and I’m terrified he’s going to pull on him. My first 2 were both pulled from my body and the pain was so bad. I told him don’t pull on him, just catch him. He knew that! But I had to tell him. And then baby’s head was out. And then his body followed quickly behind. Daddy guided him perfectly up to me and I pulled him to my chest. My baby, my perfect baby boy, who I had dreamed of my entire life, was finally in my arms. 3 minutes of active pushing, 23 minutes after my water was broken, 10 hours after labor had started, 41 weeks and a day after conception, at 8:03 AM on a beautiful, cold, Sunday morning, my dreamy baby boy, Abel Leonidas Shelton, was finally earthside.

He was out and his cries filled the air. His lungs were strong and healthy. And he was so big! His hands and his arms were huge. He looked like a little linebacker! A perfect mix of both of his big sisters. I couldn’t believe how big he was (9 lbs and 14 oz, after he pooped twice!) and how easily he came out. My mind was reeling at how quickly everything happened. Piper rushed over to the pool to see him and see why he was crying. She was so happy to finally see her brother!

We got out, got cleaned up, and then Nana brought Paisley back to meet Abel. She wasn’t so sure at first, but she has since warmed up to him. And there we were, our perfect and complete family of five 🙂

I am so blessed to have been able to birth 2 of my babies at home, and to have been surrounded by such an amazing, supportive Sisterhood of women while I did it. None of this would have been possible without the incredible care my midwives provided me or the unending support my husband has always graciously given. I am immeasurably blessed.

Birth Story of Luke

Luke is our 5th full term pregnancy and our 6th baby. He was conceived when Sarah was just 9 months old, the soonest I have ever gotten pregnant postpartum. It wasn’t a surprise but wasn’t exactly planned either. At the time, our PCS date was up in the air and could have been right around his due date. We found out later during the pregnancy that we wouldn’t be moving for a while. So, bonus!

I thought Luke was a boy from the positive pregnancy test. My belief was partly based on the idea that conceiving on the day of or after ovulation is more likely to result in a boy, and partly based on me not being as nauseous as I was with my girls during the first trimester. I was not overly nauseous with my first child, a boy. Ryan has been hoping for another boy basically from pregnancy number 2 so he always thinks it’s a boy. He didn’t even remember the girl name I chose and we agreed on, so I told him he would just have to be surprised if we have a girl. I never got the 20 week anatomy scan so we didn’t find out the sex.

Since my last two babies were 17 and 18 days past their due dates, I was expecting another late baby. Unlike with the last two when I felt strongly that they would come when ready, I felt strongly that Luke should come out. I was GBS positive for the first time and wanted to make sure I got the antibiotics prior to birth, and I just felt like he was ready to be born.

My midwives and I agreed for them to come over, give me my first dose of antibiotics, and break my water. Water breaking spontaneously is how labor began with my last two and I felt that breaking it manually was very likely to induce labor. I was already 5-6 cm dilated at the time they broke my water. What I didn’t expect was how fast my labor progressed! Shortly after my water was broken, I picked up my toddler and set her on my belly, which I often did in pregnancy. More water gushed out and I think she pushed Luke down more. Then I went to take a shower and labor contractions started. I didn’t get to shave my legs.

My midwives left after administering antibiotics and breaking my water, and returned about 2.5 hours later. I was in active labor at that time. After about another hour, I was given my second dose of antibiotics (two doses are ideal for GBS positive moms). I’m 32 years old and this was the first time I had ever had an IV, but it was super simple and non invasive and didn’t bother me at all.

Like with my last few babies, I spent the time prior to transition vocalizing through contractions and leaning over while standing. I don’t feel that this part of labor is painful. My cue that I’m heading towards transition is that I want to lie down on my side and put a cold washcloth over my face. That’s usually when I want to make sure Ryan and the midwives are in the room with me. That part of labor is uncomfortable but manageable to me. I don’t like second stage, or “pushing” but I haven’t pushed on purpose since baby number 2. I kind of avoid the baby coming out part, but it’s inevitable – and thankfully short lived! Second stage lasted maybe 5 minutes. Five minutes of pure pain. So that part sucked, but Luke was born healthy and I didn’t need stitches. All in all, 5.5 hours from breaking my water to Luke being born. The other 5 kids all slept during this time. They were around earlier since we broke my water at 5 pm, but Ryan fed them and got the little ones in bed at 7 as usual then the older ones at 8:00 and 9:30.

Third stage, when the placenta comes out, isn’t my favorite, but the hard part is definitely over by then. I don’t do anything special with my placentas, but they are pretty neat to look at. Luke’s cord was short just like all my other babies’ cords so he couldn’t really nurse until the placenta came out. He latched right on and has nursed well since.

My other babies were between 8 lb 11 oz and 9 lb 7 oz, and we were all shocked to discover that Luke was born 10 lb 10 oz! I didn’t believe it, so we weighed him on my baby scale, too and got the same result. He was definitely ready to come out!

The older kids all met Luke when they woke up the next morning. They all love him. Some kid always mentions “the next baby” right after I have a baby. Kind of makes me sad to think that someday there will be a last baby, and we never know which one will be the last one. Pregnancy isn’t easy, birth isn’t easy, and parenting a bunch of little kids isn’t easy, but there is nothing I would trade it for.


The Birth of Mira (by photographer)



This family has such a special place in my heart. We met a few years ago after the Lord answered a lot of prayers asking for a neighbor with young kids. We had a 2 year old and 4-month old at the time and were a 1-car family, so having a friend nearby that didn’t involve driving somewhere would be a dream come true.

We noticed a moving van, as I’m sure everyone else did on our quiet retiree-filled street. It was the end of winter so we were indoors most of the time. After a few weeks I thought I noticed a pregnant gal. Glimpses here and there as we each came and went. One day I saw a dad with a little girl in a wagon. We were playing outside and so I decided to check the mail and introduce myself. His name was Tim and he was in fact our newest neighbor. His wife was inside because they had recently had a new baby and he was walking their older daughter over to see her grandparents, who happened to live around the corner. Time went on and we spoke more as I met his wife, Anne Marie, and our daughters, both 2 got to run around the yard together. Anne Marie was what I asked for. She was kind, generous, quiet natured and we hit it off instantly!

About 2 years later they found out the exciting news that they were expecting their 3rd baby! Obviously she knew what I did for a living, she even offered to be a back-up sitter for me on more than one occasion. I was so excited when she asked if I would photograph their birth. A home birth!

In the middle of the pregnancy my family ended up moving a little ways away. She was so amazing through our selling process. Always asking how she could help even though neither of us were too sure of the idea of not having a friend just across the street. I went to their house on more than one occasion when we needed to be out for a showing. Grabbing laundry baskets of clothes and shoving them into the car to drive across the street. Friends of comfort can be hard to come by, and having one so close was a time I will never forget.

Fast forward a few months and Anne Marie was excitedly awaiting for their newest little girl to make her debut. She went past her due date, which was a first, but just enough to be able to attend her brothers wedding without a newborn in tow, or keeping her at home. Then, on Sunday night around 12am I got a text that this was the night. I immediately headed over as her contractions were coming on quick and strong after a day of intermittent consistency. Not even 1 hour later, while Tim was filling the birth tub and Cindi, her midwife was getting unpacked, Anne Marie stood up and ever-so-quietly caught her baby girl!

It was fast. It was quiet. Tim was plastered in the biggest smiles and Anne Marie’s face was overflowing with joy and amazement as she delivered and caught her baby with her hubby and the birth assistant right there helping.
They moved back to the bedroom and a few cries later their 2 little girls walked out in a sleepy state and came in to meet their baby sister…

This is the Birth Story of Mira. A girl with two older sisters, a dad, and a mom that will show her how to be a loving and giving person in a world that needs such beauty.

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Birth of Kamille


This birth was quick, and mom was amazing. While planning a birth with the birth center, things took a turn and mom needed to transfer to the hospital for a quick induction due to preeclampsia. With magnesium and pitocin flowing she was determined to go pain medication free. And she surely did! Baby girl was born less than 2 hours after myself and the midwife arrived. Mom and baby were perfect and the family was smitten. Their love was beautiful to witness.