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


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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.

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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.

Pensacola Birth Photography



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 Josiah Jayce

The Birth of Jon

The Birth Story of August James


I woke before dawn, the contractions seemed like they might be real. I walked the 30 or so feet of our hallway and quickly realized they were in fact, real. I say “real” because I had been having some sort of tightness and discomfort for almost a week but nothing was happening.
“Brian” barely swished out of my mouth as another hit. I called Dawn and she asked if it was time. I said yes and she hauled ass over to get Benjaroo.
Brian reminded me that we didn’t need to call Cindi yet. I got dressed in yoga pants and a tee shirt. I told Brian I was walking outside for a bit. He wanted to go but I told him I wanted to go alone, that I wasn’t going to birth in the street. That this wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle alone.
I walked down a vacant house on the bay side. About 2 houses away. It has a white sandy beach. By now the sun had been up for thirty minutes or so, the wind was really blowing steady, in a cleansing way. I stood under the swaying pine trees and looked out towards the island. I could see the dune where Brian and I had fallen in love. I raised my arms in a sun salutation as my body pulsed with contractions. Three pelicans alighted one at a time on some dock pilings. I felt them to be my mamaw, Grannie and my friend Brian McGregor. I breathed in their strength and blew out my weaknesses.
I talked to myself. I recited “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I thought of my Mamaw having her twin babies in a shack. The midwife put an axe under her bed to cut the labor pains. I felt the sand melting in between my toes. Then I was ready. I turned toward home and my Brian was there watching me as I keeled over. He got there in time to walk me home.
I know it was 7:40 when we got back inside as my neighbor was loading kids into the car for school. Her seven year old was so excited I was finally having the baby!
I laid on my side, on my couch with Brian sitting in our ottoman holding my hands all day. I moaned through the contractions. We watched Dazed and Confused. I drank water, ate salty spinach, turkey roll ups and string Cheese. I’d get up and pee and it hurt to contract standing up, but I was fine on my side. We watched Caddyshack. I got up to pee right before the golf course blows up and then it changed. I couldn’t visually concentrate on movies. I laid there and slept between contractions in some sort of hypnotic state. When the surges came I moaned and squeezed Brian’s hands. My left hand clasped his left hand, and right with right. we were crossed like that all day. I think I slept an hour and then I asked for my music. We did Arcade Fire’s Funerals in its entirety, I felt every single note of that album pulsing through my body. I heard every instrument. There are like 15 people in that band. I sang loudly and got myself pumped up. I cried. I loved it so much. Fucking Arcade Fire is the shit.
Brian had been timing contractions off and on to see where we were at. He knew we were nearing transition but I really didn’t. The pain increased so gradually that I was able to manage it completely. It was like when I got back to exercise after Benji and just walked another driveway further each day. Just the smallest amount dripping on top of the existing pain. Like going further into an asana with each breath.
My water broke as we started listening to the hard stuff. I remember pumping my fist and trying to sing along to Where Eagles Dare while lying on my side on the couch.
My mom came, I was now laying with Benji’s dragon blanket draped over me. I was getting the chills. It freaked her out. I talked to her for a bit but I was ready to go inside and she could tell and left us to get Benji.
Quickly thereafter my water broke. I had put on Brian’s surfboard boxers because I thought my dad was coming, I had been in a sports bra and grannies all day. Thank god, the boxers absorbed the first gush and none got on our couch. I think I did some more side lying.
Then I got on my hands and knees on our ottoman and Brian sat across from me. I asked for a towel to drape across it because I said it smelled like our feet.
I threw up and Brian announced I was in transition. I was so excited. I think we put on Rebel Girl and then things got serious. Brian calls Cindi. It is 3:30.
Brian got up to unlock our front door. I am nude from the waist down with my ass in the air, facing the glass door. He goes, “whoa, you are really dilated.” I said “you can tell from over there?” He said “yeah, we might be on our own.” I am amazing myself with this pain management I’ve got going on. Like I am seriously impressed with myself. I just moan and moan, breathing through every contraction. I think it’s funny that my fully dilated birth canal and asshole are facing the glass front door. Things are going good.
Cindi gets there, slides off her clogs and sits next to me on the floor. She gives me the once over and then watches us do some contractions. I ask her who else is coming. She tells me Annette and Sarah. I never met Sarah, I say. Cindi assures me she’s great. I loved Annette from my last two appointments so I’m stoked she’s coming. She even impressed the hell outta Brian which is damn difficult.
Cindi suggests I plant my left foot on the floor for the next one. This idea sounds terrible to me, but I remember Christy teaching us that we should try a new position for at least three contractions so we give it a go. I even do the other side for two and decide I want to stay on my hands and knees. Or I want in the tub, I can’t remember exactly. I do get in the tub once Cindi checks the water temp and at some point Annette and Sarah got there. They were setting up stuff and were doing their best to remain invisible. I don’t really notice them or Cindi, I’m into Brian and Auggie.
Once in the tub, Cindi tells me to try and push with the next contraction. I say “already?” She’s like, “yeah, try.”
I push on my hands and knees, holding Brian’s hands as he sits outside the tub. It’s going okay, but I feel like I’m working too hard to hold myself out of the water. I know that if my body is working this much, this hard, this position just isn’t right.
He runs and puts board shorts on. He gets in and I lay with my back on his chest. It works.
I push once and start saying the “I don’t think I can do this” and “what were we thinking” crap. Then I hunker down and push more. The top of his head comes out. Cindi encourages me to breathe through the next contraction and just allow him to sit there so I stretch out. I am now super serious and focused. The next contraction comes and I push again. Cindi says, “his head is out, touch it!” I touch his head and its still collapsed. This feels weird. I don’t like it, but I’ll always remember the first time I felt his fuzzy hair floating in the water. She tells me she wants me to grab him when the next contraction comes. I do that but I had my hands on him weird so she takes over. According to Brian I was about to pull him out by his head.
Then I finished my final push and he was out. He was immediately placed on my chest and I kissed his slimy head over and over, “my baby, my baby, my baby”
It was 5:05pm, I had a 9-5er, the most convenient time. I had sleep, I went to bed at a normal time. I couldn’t had dreamed it would be this perfect.
We all go back to our bed
and crawl under the covers. Auggie isn’t getting warm enough, so we lay with a heating pad. He finally warms up. He latches right on,
I push once and the placenta comes out. I never tore! I never got hemorrhoids! Thanks for having me hold him steady Cindi. You’re amazing!
My mom gets there and brings Benji in. He has a mixed reaction, really just wants me. Brian and I talk to him gently and he’s obviously overwhelmed but he is happy.
Cindi weighs and measures him. 8 pounds, 7 ounces. My mom just wants to hold and hold Auggie. It’s so sweet. Brian feeds me my stuffed peppers as Auggie nurses.
Annette and Sarah are there, popping in only when necessary. Helping Auggie stay warm, cleaning me up, checking our vitals. Annette got me in the shower. That was amazing! They did all the laundry, we used a lot of towels.
All three of them were like that, just there when we needed them. When you witness the synergy of a good team, it’s truly moving. They all knew what to do when without a lot of direction. And that’s really it. They left and our family was a little bit bigger.
I have a hard time describing the birth the way people want to hear. They are disappointed. It’s a boring story. I end up saying, “we watched Caddyshack, I pushed, he was born.” Did it hurt? “Nothing I couldn’t handle.” Then I say my excuse, “my back is shot, so I’m used to a lot of pain.”
I don’t really want to make that excuse anymore. It was non-eventful. That’s what you want for your birth! Hooray for my boring story! Yay!
I was diligently cared for by my husband for most of my labor. We talked all day long, about so many things. We did this before kids but we never truly cherished those moments like we did as I laid on that couch, laboring through the day. We love our quiet snippets of time together and that day we got hours. In a row. Of peace and conversation.
My midwife came for the last hour and a half. She was wonderfully hands-off, allowing our beautiful experience to truly be ours. We did not need her until she was there. A truly synergistic experience.
The birth of August James Burger was more about me than him. I’m not embarrassed of that. It filled me with enough strength to care for my two sons with grace and humility. It humbled me to labor as my Mamaw did in that ramshackle place down the river from the Gulf that feeds the bay, that feeds those pelicans I looked out that morning. Brian even drew me an axe and put it under our couch.