Our Birth Story: Lincoln Michael

“There is a secret in our culture and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” -Laura Stavoe Harm

On a Saturday, November 14th, about a week and a half before my estimated “due date”, I was feeling different all day-a little crampy and a little more tired, suspicious we may be meeting our little one soon. We took it easy, spending all day together as a family of 3 for my husband, Zak’s, birthday, knowing it may be the last time we got one on one time with our three year old before his little sibling arrived. My original due date had been the Thursday several days prior then was pushed back two weeks, so we expected that we may meet our baby in that time frame. Having passed the 37 week mark necessary to be eligible for our planned homebirth, we’d had our midwives visit our house the week prior for my most recent prenatal check-up and to make sure we had everything we needed. We were prepared and as ready as we could be for he or she to make their appearance.

The next day, a Sunday, November 15th, I woke up around 2 am feeling very consistent contractions for about 30 seconds, 7-8 minutes apart. It set the tone for what would be an intense and quicker/more productive labor than my first had been. Our 3 year old woke up around 3:30 am. I helped him back to bed and laid down with him as I always do while he fell back asleep. I cried snuggling with him in grieving with the fact he wouldn’t be my only baby anymore. I wasn’t very comfortable in his twin bed, though, and my contractions kept steady so I headed back into my own bed once he fell back asleep. I got fragmented sleep, keeping one eye on the clock to time my contractions, until waking my husband after 5 am, letting him know I was pretty certain I was in labor.

I texted one of my midwives around 6 am to give her a heads up as they would have nearly an hour and a half drive to get to our house once things picked up. My husband got up and started getting things ready around our house while I hung out and labored in the living room, mostly using the exercise ball to lean my upper body forward while on my knees to get more comfortable. Our 3 year old acted as my doula in between episodes of Clifford and Llama Llama until my in-laws arrived to pick him up around 10 am. I’d been tracking my contractions and they’d picked up to about one minute long every 5 minutes or so for about an hour by 8:30/9 am, which is the point when my midwives had said they’d head our way. My in-laws and midwives arrived around the same time, with the change causing my contractions to slow a bit temporarily and become less frequent and shorter in duration. Once our son left it was time to work on progressing things actively now that our birth crew was present. I chatted with them casually and worried I’d had them come too soon with the initial slow down, but Zak assured me he thought I was at least as far along as I’d been when we’d headed to the hospital with our first birth. It was suggested that I use our basement stairs to help open up my pelvis and get things moving so off and on over the next hour or two I’d alternate between hanging out on the ball and navigating the stairs sideways, taking them two at a time and alternating directions each way. Our midwives regularly monitored my vitals and baby’s each 45 minutes upon their arrival moving forward to ensure we were both in good shape, checking my pulse, blood pressure, and baby’s heartbeat. Contractions were continuing to pick up in intensity, especially when I was up and moving, but still working on regaining their regularity. Zak applied counterpressure along my lower back and sacrum with each wave which was super helpful and used some acupuncture to help keep my labor moving. (One of many perks of being married to a chiropractor-Zak excels at being a wonderful birth partner!) He placed a few needles on one of my ears so I could still lie down on my side if I wanted and left them in for most of my labor, stimulating (lightly turning them) them periodically. Everyone kept reminding me to stay hydrated and nourished with water, red raspberry leaf tea, and nutrient dense snacks (almonds, energy balls, full fat yogurt with fruit) throughout the day to keep my energy levels up.

Our midwives left around 1 pm to grab lunch nearby with instructions for us to let them know if anything changed drastically before they came back. While they were away, Zak worked on filling up our birth pool in our bedroom in between helping me through contractions. I moved to spend more time in our bedroom at this point, which was a very calming environment with the soft glow of white lights strung up surrounding us, affirmations to encourage me written by friends, and a relaxing Pandora station playing. I finally lost my mucous plug and also was able to go to the bathroom, allowing me to be much more (relatively) comfortable as baby dropped further and labor progressed. Contractions were coming more frequently and more intense yet, and when our birth team arrived back, the tub was nearly ready for me to get in. I was a little anxious about getting in the water initially as at my first birth it was during the transition stage and I equated it with the most difficult part of labor. However, the warm water felt so good when I got in this time and helped me relax more. From here, between the soothing water and Zak helping apply counter pressure, I never felt my contractions get more intense or uncomfortable, just more frequent. The water was a little too warm at first-they allowed me to stay in with my and baby’s vitals still good, but worked on cooling it and my temp down and gave me a cool washcloth for my face.

After an hour or hour and a half I was feeling “pushy” and my water broke shortly after. Within just a handful of intense pushes/contractions after that, I was able to deliver our healthy baby in the water at 4:07 pm with minimal tearing, no stitches deemed necessary. We heard a loud, clear cry immediately and pulled baby right up to my chest to get them on my skin and snuggled up under a towel. After a few minutes Zak anxiously asked us to check if we had a little boy or girl. We peeked under the towel and discovered that we had another precious little boy! After 5-10 minutes in the water they got Lincoln and I out of the tub and dried off in bed. The cord was still attached and pulsing, as we’d wanted to delay the cord clamping. Once pulsing stopped, the cord was clamped and detached and Zak took Lincoln skin to skin to keep him warm while a midwife took me to the bathroom to pee and encourage my placenta to be delivered. She helped ease it out and I took a shower then went back to bed with Zak to cuddle Lincoln skin to skin and rest. My vitals and Lincoln’s were checked numerous times before leaving. I had minimal bleeding and felt good being up with no lightheadedness or dizziness, giving lots of credit to staying hydrated and fed all day (along with a healthy dose of adrenaline) to my good energy levels. Lincoln had a good latch almost immediately and nursed well from the start, a big relief as the first go around it was a big struggle initially.

Our midwives took care of cleanup and left with our house looking clean and cozy for the three of us to rest and bond in the comfort of our own bedroom within 3 hours of his birth. Our 3 year old was able to meet his new baby brother briefly that night before he left to spend a few days with his Nana and Papa while we rested with Lincoln.

Though a homebirth may not be for everyone, having a low risk pregnancy and uncomplicated health history, we were easily able to choose this as what we felt was best for our family with our second pregnancy. We’d been interested in having a homebirth to begin with, and the uncertainty of 2020 and the rules and regulations ever changing in hospitals helped lead us further to do what we felt would help us have the pregnancy and birth experience that we desired on our own terms. We received care unmatched by our previous hospital experience, with great time taken during my prenatal visits in paying attention to the steps I was taking to support my body and pregnancy in a healthy way. I was thoroughly examined each visit in a non-invasive way and our 3 year old was able to tag along to my visits, logistically making things much smoother and adding the joy of including him in learning about his growing baby sibling. We were well supported and cared for by the team we had grown to know and become familiar with throughout labor, delivery, and post partum with ease of communication whenever we needed anything in between. We are so happy with our decision to have our son at home under the care of midwives Bethany, Anna, and student Louise with Shiphrah Birth Services, and would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a caring, empowering birth team.

Rethinking Your Approach to Stress: A Guide to Navigating 2020

2020 has thrown an abundance of added stress at many people in one form or another. It’s really important to get a good handle on managing the stress thrown at us in life as it can negatively impact our physical and mental health when it is unchecked. Stress is not inherently a bad thing, as it may bring upon growth and development, but when it comes at us on a chronic basis or at a higher level than we are able to work through, it can bring us down in the form of depression, chronic fatigue, sickness, etc. In a year when the focus is on our ability to avoid illness, it is best to support our bodies to adapt to the stresses it faces and prevent added vulnerability.

Too much stress is certainly an issue, but what about how we are handling it in the first place? Often times our problem is not simply that we have stress, but rather that we have an inability to adapt to it. If you are not able to adapt to the stress thrown at you, any efforts to reduce it will not be as effective.

One big problem with handling stress is that many ways we cope are further enablers of the stress we face, whether it is smoking cigarettes, consuming large amounts of alcohol, relying on caffeine to get us through the day, binging on unhealthy foods, or indulging in toxic relationships.

What can we do to more effectively manage the stress in our lives, especially when it seems to come in waves right after one another in years such as this?

Reduce stress as we are able. Avoid toxic environments and relationships as often as you are able to. Be mindful of what you are saying “yes” to and don’t be afraid to say “no” to projects or undertakings that are unnecessary and do not spark joy in your life. Ask for help when you need it, and be willing to receive it when appropriate. This may be in accepting material items or donations, moral support from a friend or family member, or seeking out a therapist to work through more serious matters. In her book, Do Less, author Kate Northrup addresses time and energy management strategies in those who are ambitious but want to avoid burnout, aimed towards women and moms but with principles applicable to everyone.

Improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress. Chiropractic is focused on removing interference to the spine and nervous system, ultimately allowing our body to better adapt to the stresses it faces. When regularly utilized, one may notice they are more easily able to adapt to the stresses they face on a regular basis, or at a moment in time when they are under more duress may be able to better navigate through without significant setbacks. Diet plays a role in our body’s ability to adapt as well. When we are eating a cleaner diet (think whole, real foods), our body is under less stress processing our intake, supported by the nutrients received, and able to better function on a daily basis whether it is facing regular challenges or an abnormal load. On the contrary, our diet may be a source of chronic stress in itself if we tend to eat a more inflammatory diet, creating its own problems. It is one potential stressor that we are able to control-choose wisely. Getting adequate sleep allows us to better adapt to daily stressors as well, as we are able to think more clearly and function properly when well rested. Several other ways to improve our body’s function and ability to navigate daily stressors is to maintain adequate water intake (aim for half your body weight in ounces daily) and to regularly move our bodies. This may mean walking, running, hiking, biking, yoga, exercise class, or something else that you enjoy doing. Whatever you are doing, try to get at least 30 minutes or more of activity in daily.

Be mindful of how you are coping with stress in your life currently, and consider if it is bringing you closer or further from where you want to be.

In good health,

Dr. Emily