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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The Birth Story of Vivian Lee

The Birth of Kinley Ley

The HBAC story of Ainsley Moirin

The Birth of Emmilia

Birth Story of Isla

 To read mom’s birth story click here: Isla James BirthStory


The Birth of Sofie Parker

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.

The Birth of Jocose Emory (2/20/16)

The Birth of Hank

Hank’s Birth Story + Pictures

We kept our homebirth plan pretty quiet. As an active duty military mother, prenatal health care is rigid. For insurance to cover birth, military women must give birth at the local military hospital L&D if there is one in a reasonable driving radius. When we found out we were expecting little Hank, I called the insurance company and asked if I could be down-graded to the plan of co-pays and the freedom to choose my provider. They quoted the military L&D/ reasonable radius rule and said no. I asked if they could stop me from paying out-of-pocket for my own provider and to that, they also said no. Sweet. I contacted the amazing, local birthing center and began dual-care with both the homebirth midwife and with the military facility.

My 39-week appointment at the military hospital unfolded exactly the way it had with Vivian 2 years earlier—I mean same hospital, same provider, same 39-week appointment, same “issue,” same battery of tests, same chaos. I couldn’t believe this was happening again since it was one of the huge drivers in choosing a homebirth in the first place. My 39-week belly was measuring small. It could have been the fact that the baby was dropping, I was a bit dehydrated, or that I’m genetically programmed to grow smaller babies. The day before, I had seen my homebirth midwife and she saw no red flags. Over the course of my care, she got to know me. She knew my history, my diet, my exercise, my stress levels at work and at home. She touched my belly with her hands, not exclusively with tools and tape measures. She treated me like a person, not a data point. At my 39-week appointment with her, she felt for the pockets of fluid, commented on how low the baby was, and said that she expected labor very soon.

Back to the chaos…

After deciding that my belly was too small, the military provider ordered a battery of tests and started to mentally prepare me for induction. I tried to convey how much I did NOT want to be induced and they reluctantly released me after verifying my fluid levels were in the normal range. I walked out of the hospital and called my homebirth midwife in tears. I told her what had happened and that they had scheduled a fetal growth scan the next day and another non-stress test/ fluid level test the day after that. If my numbers were the same or worse, they would induce me. At that moment, I felt like my homebirth was being taken away. It was utterly deflating. My midwife offered to meet me at the birthing center for a membrane sweep. She said this was our best chance at still having the home birth. I called my husband to tell him the news and the plan and, to my surprise, he was really frustrated at the “unnatural” approach I was about to take with the membrane sweep. More tears.

henry-water copyDespite Anthony’s reaction, I drove to the birthing center and met the midwife. I was already at 3-trending-4 cm and my cervix was “angry” (the term she uses to describe one primed and ready for labor). When I returned home, I was in early labor but by 10pm, the contractions had faded. Sleep was welcomed after the emotional day. The next morning, the midwife called to check in. She thought it’d be a good idea to sweep a second time before my fetal growth scan at the military hospital. This time, I was a solid 5 cm and immediately responded to the sweep with hard, consistent contractions. By the time I was dressed, I knew I had to cancel the radiology appointment and head home. About 20 minutes into the drive, I was in active labor. I called Anthony and told him it was go-time and that I needed out of the drivers seat. We met on base and he drove the rest of the way home. Although I didn’t avoid a lengthy car ride in active labor, driving home (as opposed to the hospital) was so uplifting.

henry-bedroom copyOnce we made it home, Anthony started filling the tub and called the midwife. I was in the tub for about 30 minutes before I began having transition symptoms with the shakes and wanting to throw up—a first for me! I climbed out of the tub just as everyone was showing up and moved to the bedroom, which was completely set up for the main event. With each contraction, my legs cramped harder, the shakes worsened, and I was certain I’d throw up (although it never actually happened). I knew I was close but this pattern held for about 2 more hours. I started feeling like I was doing something wrong. Why hadn’t my water broken? Why hadn’t I transitioned? Was I fighting my body? This is not how I pictured this happening.At this point, the intensity of contractions lessened and started to spread out. I was on the verge of panic. How had I been so close to transition and NOTHING? The midwife offered to check to see what my cervix was up to—nine centimeters with a bulging sac.Good… but what the heck was going on?

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Anthony came over and said the kids needed picked up from school. To this, I could only manage a reply of expletives. If I had had all my faculties, I would have said, “don’t leave. You’ll miss the birth. We are so close. Stay with me.” He did. I guess my actual response had communicated the intent.

henry-push copyThe midwife offered to break my water to help things pick back up. I was ready to meet this baby so I agreed. A few minutes later, we were back in business. The urge to push didn’t feel even remotely the same as with Vivian’s birth. With her birth, the urge was unstoppable and felt strangely good. With Hank, it was WORST pain I’ve ever felt in my life. Thinking back, I wonder if he was in a strange position as he entered the birth canal? Anyway, I found myself screaming into a stack of pillows as his boney little self worked his way down. Now, please don’t judge/compare with this next statement, but both Oliver and Vivian came out in one push. Hank did not. But I thought he did. When the birth assistant said, “one more push and you’ll meet your baby,” I thought she was joking. ARE YOU KIDDING!? HE’S NOT OUT!? Anthony had to corroborate the tale before I believed it. I couldn’t imagine enduring the pain of that first push again but I couldn’t just stand there with a baby half out. I felt the build-up and beared down again. The second push was worse. Why are there so many bones!? The next moment, however, was pure bliss. Immediate relief. Immediate love.

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We didn’t know Hank was a “he” until he was born. After waiting so long to meet him and learn the sex, I thought I’d be totally preoccupied with finding out. But in the moment, the only thing I could focus on was his beautiful soul. This tiny person with chubby cheeks and long limbs. My partner in this challenging labor. Look at that hair! And fingers… and toes… and OH YEAH! It’s a boy! Anthony smiled so big and gave both of us a kiss.

henry-cheese copyPostpartum homebirth-style is PHENOMENAL. Completely unlike the hospital frenzy, this immediate postpartum was calm and gentle. I climbed into bed with baby Hank totally in awe of him. No one took him away. We bonded, nursed, and rested.

henry-dub copyAlthough I had no plans of bearing down for a good while, the placenta needed delivered too. It came and was placed in a bowl that sat next to Hank and I in the bed. He stayed on his cord until the kids came home. Everyone got to enjoy the cord cutting, reflex test, length, weight, and vital signs measurements.


henry-fam copyThe birth team was absolutely wonderful the entire time, but postpartum was magical. They spoiled us. They helped me clean off, fed me, cleaned up the room, did the dishes, started the laundry—they let my family bond. It was so peaceful. After a few hours and making sure that both baby Hank and I were doing well, they departed.

Although this was my hardest labor yet, I couldn’t have asked for a better support team. Everyone exceeded my expectations. This recovery has been amazing too. I took 2 weeks to rest and then began the BIRTHFIT Queen-in-Training Postpartum Program to start rehabilitating my pelvic floor. Right now, I’m half way through teaching and participating in the BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series. Having a community of support is so crucial and I’m eternally grateful for the women who are sharing this transition with me.