Perfect Birth, Part 2: It’s Personal

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my heart about an issue that I know plagues expectant mothers everywhere: what does it take to have a perfect birth?

I touched on the fact that while childbirth education is imperative, and support during labor is helpful, we still don’t know how any woman will react to the labor process until she is already in the moment. I made the point that all births, no matter what they look like, are victories to be celebrated. And I mean that. All births are their own brand of perfect. But sometimes, for some women, the truth is this:

Even perfect birth can be traumatic.

I would be foolish not to acknowledge that some women have frightening or even life-threatening births and are forced to come to terms with their experience. For one reason or another, the process simply doesn’t “work” in some situations. For some of these women, my testimony about my disappointing birth experience and my injured feelings of self-worth might be exactly what they need. But for others, well… maybe not so much.

Beyond our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies, we are each also composed of our own complicated list of experiences. We have a mind, which we discuss in class, but we also have a subconscious mind, which we couldn’t even begin to cover: immature in its ability to make sense of our experiences, and endlessly vulnerable to the hoaxes of the enemy (again: see the Devotional). Working quietly behind the scenes, beneath our cool, collected exterior, it shapes our reactions to every one of our life experiences.

It’s personal.

In the five years since starting my childbirth services company, I have had no choice but to grow as an individual. I have been brought to my knees by some of my own life experiences. Shaken to the core of my beliefs. The shaping of my character as an adult has been arduous, and I have fought hard to find—and hold on to—what is true. In the process, I have also come to see some of that which is not.

I have learned something very important: We are each fighting our own battles. Maybe that sounds cliché, but this is relevant in all areas of life – including the quest for a great birth. For me to come alongside a woman and preach “worth,” when her own personal life experiences have shaped her to need a message of “safety” (for example), would mean that I have missed her altogether.

But how can I help? How do I know what someone needs, when it is beyond their own understanding? How do I discern the tune of their song, unless they themselves can sing it to me?

It’s possible.

The message I offer in my classes about worth and birth idolatry and relationship problems is—in all humility—good. It is quality stuff, and I will continue to teach it. But if I am to partner with God in caring for souls, then I must work from the heart with all of the skill allotted to me. There is more I can offer on an individual basis, seeking hearts and re-adjoining them to God’s in a way that is so much bigger, so much more personal, than the quest for the perfect birth.

It’s time to integrate more. Eden’s Promise is ready to offer you – each mother, father, and child- more than I ever dreamed possible. Click here to find out more!

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner  Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator.She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer was the 3-time doula to Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (esteemed author of Expectant Parentsa pregnancy/childbirth/parenting book by Focus on the Family). In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching and Splankna Therapy Colorado Springs. Jennifer is a featured blogger for My719Moms.com. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.

Ask the Doula: How to Beat Workplace Germs During Pregnancy

Dear Jen,

Typically, I avoid most sicknesses throughout the year, and I can’t remember the last time I took a sick day, but do you have any advice going into cold and flu season?

-Teaching and Pregnant

Dear Teaching and Pregnant,

Yes, I do have a few easy tips to help you to stay healthy in the midst of all the students (or any workplace, really). In addition to the obvious non-negotiables (like washing your hands frequently with soap and water, drinking plenty of water, and getting plenty of rest), I’d probably include the following:

1) An essential oil mist for your work & home environments. Depending on what scents you like, some of the ones that are particularly associated with being effective against airborne bacteria/viruses are cinnamon, eucalyptus, and lemon. Lavender is also included in this list.

Normally, to diffuse an essential oil, you would put a few drops in water and warm it slowly over a tea light candle. In the workplace, this probably won’t fly. If you feel like dropping a hundred bucks or so on a  little steam diffuser, which mixes the essential oils with water and sprays a fine mist into the air without using heat or fire (but does need to be plugged in), do it! This is actually the best way to diffuse oils, because the molecules will be the smallest–thus keeping them suspended in the air the longest. Otherwise, I think a room spray would be just fine. One brand that comes to mind is Zum Mist, available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Natural Grocers (support local businesses whenever possible). And of course, there’s always good ol’ doTerra.

If you have a few essential oils in the house already and want to try making your own spray, it’s insanely easy. Sprayer bottles can be purchased anywhere, really, but I do recommend sticking with glass to avoid filling the room with phthalates. Fill the bottle 3/4 full with filtered water, add either 1/2 tsp of glycerin or 1/2 tsp of rubbing alcohol, and 5-10 drops of whatever essential oil you want to use. Viola–you just made a $10 bottle of room spray for next to nothing! Shake and use as much as you want, knowing you can always make more (if you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of this option).

The cool thing about using essential oil mists is that the droplets actually pull airborne microbes from the air, cleaning the air you breathe and killing the microbes as they fall to the floor. In a teaching environment, a quick spray to the room between classes could make a huge difference in protecting the air you breathe all day.

Now, on to the next idea for keeping you healthy:

2) Keep your surfaces clean. Mrs. Meyers has a great surface cleaner that is made from essential oils. It will help you with keeping your surfaces clean, without harmful chemicals like those found in chemical cleaners such as Clorox. Plus, it smells pretty good. Remember that the idea is to let it dry on the surfaces. No cleaner works immediately upon contact. It takes a few minutes for any antimicrobial to do its job, so spray & wipe, but don’t wipe it dry.

Note: Homemade sprays work well for this purpose, too, but sprays containing glycerin should never be used on surfaces.

And lastly…

3) Some foods that are particularly associated with being ‘blood cleansing,’ (meaning they kill bacteria/viruses in the blood stream) are raw onion & garlic, cayenne (what Red Hot is made from–not Tabasco) and cinnamon. Obviously, how much you consume of each of these during pregnancy will depend on what you and the baby can handle. At the very least, you can always add a bit of cinnamon to your oatmeal, or– heck, you’re pregnant–whatever else it sounds good with! I also really liked apple-cinnamon tea; it curbs sugar cravings and keeps you healthy.

Citrus is also good for helping to alkalize your blood (making it more basic), which is also helpful because most bacteria/viruses prefer acidic environments. So even by just eating an orange or adding a little lemon to your water, you’re not only boosting your vitamin C intake naturally, but you are also making your blood a less friendly environment for illnesses to thrive. (You can also add baking soda to your bath for an alkalizing effect.)

So there you have it. You are now just a few simple, inexpensive actions from a healthier winter pregnancy! Have fun!

Love,

Jen

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a Certified Christian Doula and Birth Educator in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching parents toward a Christ-centered birth experience, she also specializes in wellness coaching for prenatal and postpartum women and their families. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional and the owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.

To learn more about Jennifer, go to www.edenspromisellc.com

Ask The Doula: Treating Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy

Dear Jen,

I have been taking both 5-HTP and L-lysine for about 6 months as an alternative to conventional meds for anxiety/OCD. Also, low serotonin. They have worked REALLY well with no side effects and I have been thrilled and felt better the past 6 months than I have in a long time. However, based on what I read, I didn’t gather that they were totally safe during pregnancy. We just started trying for a baby this month but obviously I don’t want to continue taking anything that isn’t safe for a newly developing fetus. But I’m nervous to go off of it b/c I don’t want to end the “feeling stable” streak. Do you have thoughts, comments, or concerns involving 5-HTP or L-Lysine during pregnancy?If you had suggestions for safer alternatives, that would be awesome! 

-S

Dear S,

Great question! To be honest, for me to deem 5-HTP and L-lysine”safe” or “unsafe” in pregnancy would be going a bit beyond my scope. Even the FDA refuses to determine that, because testing on fetuses is not OK! So, if you’re used to taking them, but might become pregnant, you might want to slowly make the move to other options.

For the symptoms you mentioned, what I can do is offer some safer ideas of things you can ‘do,’ rather than ‘take.’ Ideally, the goal is to help your body to start producing the ‘feel good hormones’ on its own, and one (or all) of these actions could really help:

1) Vary your exercise. There are only guesses as to why, but changing the way you move your body can have a big effect on changing the way you think and feel. So if you usually do something that is very repetitive (such as running), be sure add activities like dancing and yoga to your exercise regimen, like maybe one of each, once a week.

2) Early morning walks (before or during sunrise) are regarded as the cure to depression in Chinese medicine. Again, who knows why it works, but I imagine it has something to do with increased Serotonin from being out in that particular type of light. (Not to mention it’s beautiful, quiet, smells good, and reminds you of your own place in this amazing world we live in. Remembering our part in the ‘big picture’ can play a huge part in keeping our worries in perspective!)

3) Consider talking to someone. A wise friend once told me that there’s no shame in seeking counseling, because everyone can benefit from it–not just those who have been ‘through’ something. I’ve seen that it’s pretty common for young/expectant moms to really start thinking through their own childhood, and feel pressure from themselves to be the perfect mother for their own children. Talking to a family therapist either alone or with your spouse can really help with figuring out what your real goals should be with regard to raising your family (since nobody can be perfect, obviously).

I’m also a huge fan of SPLANKNA therapy, which is a method of therapy used by real, licensed practitioners that is different from traditional ‘talk therapy.’ It is heavy in the use of prayer for releasing issues that end up stored in the body. As a proponent of the holistic model of health, I can vouch for the validity of SPLANKNA philosophy. And as someone who has received SPLANKNA therapy following the traumatic loss of a loved one, I can also vouch for its efficacy. Taking the focus away from healing yourself, and instead getting you in touch with God to figure out what the deal is–and getting it healed–is absolutely where it’s at, in my opinion. Still, “talk” therapies may also be helpful.

4) Orange, ylang ylang, lavender, and sandalwood essential oils are all helpful for your specific symptoms. I would buy each of them and create the following blend (this can get a little pricey, but it will last you longer than the pre-blends):

5 drops sandalwood (grounding and connecting to higher power); 3 drops ylang ylang (balancing and uplifting); 2 drops lavender (balancing and calming); 4 drops orange (mood enhancing, positivity).

Mix with grapeseed or apricot oil in a small dropper bottle (available at health foods stores) and add a few drops to your wrists (or the bottoms of your feet if you don’t like the smell). Or, if you’re not into mixing your own, I’ve determined that doTerra has high-quality products, many of which are pre-blended roll-on oils designed to be used to treat specific things like anxiety, depression, or even obsessiveness.

5) I’m not qualified to get into homeopathic remedies for this level of cure, but you could also consider seeking out a naturopath (make sure they hold a degree from a school like Bastyr). They could give suggestions after doing a more complete workup on you. It would probably  cost around $100 for the appointment, but I think you could find it very helpful and insightful. And of course, consult your doctor or midwife, as well.

I’m proud of you for reaching out and asking these questions; it’s hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to get the answers you need sometimes. So give yourself a hug from me, because you are on the right track! May you find a cure that you–and your baby–can live with.

Love,

Jen

 

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a doula and birth educator in Colorado Springs. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional and the owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC. In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth experience, she also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching. To learn more about Jennifer, go to www.EdensPromiseLLC.com.

Ask the Doula: Probiotics

Hey, Jen,
What are your thoughts on probiotics? Do you take any as a supplement? Do you have a yogurt you like for you and your kids?

-T

Dear T,
Probiotics are great–not to mention essential during rounds of antibiotics! They’re also helpful during colds and for general stomach upset. My thought is, if in doubt, take some! I actually keep a jar in the fridge for whenever we should need it. The one I bought was from Whole Foods and is called ‘MaxiBaby dophilus,’ but there are lots of options. No one in my family takes it daily, but we most certainly could. (I do, however, cut the serving size way down for the kids, giving them 1/4 to 1/2 of the tiny dose that is recommended for adults.) Probiotics are great for boosting immunity and keeping the digestive tract in great working order. Of course, I have to say this: they are not a substitute for a healthy, fiber-rich diet. You still need to eat right and feed your children well in order to stay healthy.

Yogurt is also an option. I go with Greek yogurt that is low in sugar since neither of my kids are big meat eaters. I don’t feed my 2-year-old a whole one, though. We split it.

Kroger brand has the best nutrition facts and price that I’ve seen so far–especially plain or vanilla flavor. There are other, creamier brands, but they are quite a bit higher in sugar. (I shoot for under 12 grams in any food I eat.) Personally speaking, my absolute minimum requirement when choosing a yogurt–whether it be Greek or regular–would be that it contain no artificial sweeteners, which have questionable effects on the brains of children. If you can afford organic/hormone-free, and it’s also low in sugar, do it!! If not, know that by following the parameters laid out here, you are still making the best choices that you can for your sweet children.

Hope that helps!
Jen

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a Holistic Christian Doula in Colorado Springs. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional and the owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC. In addition to coaching parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, she also specializes in wellness coaching for prenatal and postpartum families.

Ask the Doula: “How Do I Know Which Foods Are Safe to Eat?”

Jen,

 I am not sure how much you typically focus on the food side of pregnancy with your clients, but I have found it to be fascinating and slightly overwhelming with all the conflicting research. Do you have any opinions on eating raw honey or sprouted grains during pregnancy?

-Client

Dear Client,

There is a lot of conflicting research! I could obviously go either way here, but when it came to my own kids, I generally found that I felt better (emotionally) if I just played it safe. The worry I experienced whenever I pushed the limits simply wasn’t worth it. Another thing to consider is that neither of those foods offer significant health benefits. So in the big picture, I find myself asking, ‘Why bother?’ Avocado would be just as delicious on a sandwich, and a little agave nectar, or even sugar, would sweeten my tea just fine. One thing you do know to be bad for the baby is stress. So if it’s going to stress you out to eat it, don’t! (I do actually recommend raw honey during labor, though. It’s perfect for keeping you energized.)Some questions for you to keep in mind in the future are: a) where did you find the information and b) how badly do you want to eat the forbidden food (whatever it is)? If you got the info from your doctor, then follow it. If you got the information elsewhere with no mention from your doc, it’s probably not that big of a deal. But if you’re like me, and you find yourself questioning your decision to eat a debatable food that you could have lived without, then you’ll know to choose more carefully next time.

Chances are, you’ll be fine–whatever you decide. I mean, honestly, as long as you’re not eating paint, the likelihood of something you have eaten affecting your baby are very slim. But overall, I’d recommend going with the least stressful scenario for you (and always follow your doctor’s orders).

Jen

Do you have a question you would like to ask about wellness during pregnancy? Email your question to:  edenspromisellc@gmail.com

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a doula and childbirth educator in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, she also specializes in wellness coaching for prenatal and postpartum families. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.

The Birth Story of Eleanor* (First child, induction, no pain meds)

The Birth Story of Eleanor*

Names changed for client privacy

              I started working with the Smiths when Dani was just beginning her third trimester of pregnancy. I met with her and Aaron three times in their home, to cover the necessary material, and to get to know them a little bit. I found Dani intelligent and inquisitive, often asking about birthing options even I was not aware of. Aaron was very supportive of Dani’s desire to be prepared for the event of childbirth.

               Dani was interested in making sure she advocated well for baby “Peanut.” Several weeks before she was due, she had convinced Dr. Adele not to follow general protocol for Peanut, which would have been to induce her once she made it to her gestational due date. I found it interesting that this was even a concern to Dani, because most mothers can’t even imagine going past due. Yet, Dani almost seemed to be planning on it. I was curious to see whether she would be right. As it turned out, she most certainly was.

               Dr. Adele monitored Dani and Peanut closely during the days following the due date. From carefully observing the amniotic fluid levels, Dr. Adele was able to determine that Dani would need to be induced, and set the date. Dani had advocated well for Peanut; the induction was not just being scheduled because of protocol; it was being scheduled for good medical reason, and well past Dani’s due date. Dani had already been experiencing mild, irregular contractions in the days prior, which is symptomatic of “Early Labor.” For Dani, these contractions had resulted in a 2 cm cervical dilation, which gave her a good head start for being induced.

               Just before 11p.m. on a Wednesday night, the first dose of Cytotec was administered. Dani continued to experience irregular contractions throughout the night. She and Aaron tried to rest as they waited for labor to begin, but found it difficult. Nurses coming in and out, the sound of Peanut’s heart rate on the monitor, and general nervousness all probably contributed to the issue.  Still, they were glad to know they were safe and in good hands.

              Around 3:30 the following morning, I got a call from Aaron asking me to come into the hospital. Dani’s water had broken after the second dose of Cytotec and the contractions were getting stronger. The agreement had been for them to call me whenever they felt ready for me to join them, in hopes that we would all get some rest. I have to admit I was glad to get the call; I was awake most of the night out of excitement for them anyway.

               When I arrived at 4:30, I found them sitting quietly in the hospital room, Dani on the birth ball and Aaron on the doctor’s stool, both watching the monitor that showed Dani’s contractions. I observed Dani for a few contractions, turned the down the volume on the monitor, and offered a few tips (one of which was to stop watching the contractions, which were “coupling”—a dysfunctional labor pattern that can also be a symptom of early labor.) We walked a lap around the halls of the Birthing Center, pausing so that Dani could lean on the hand rails during her growing contractions.

               Dani’s nurse, Michelle, met us in the hall because the wireless monitors weren’t picking up Peanut’s heart patterns. By around 5:30, the four of us made our way back to the room so that Michelle could reset the monitors. Upon our return, Dani started feeling nauseous. This indicated that there were hormonal changes occurring, and I felt encouraged (although I don’t think Dani enjoyed it very much.) Michelle explained that she would be back in about an hour to decide about whether to start Pitocin.

               Because they had been up all night, and the day shift nurses were about to come on and would possibly start Pitocin, I suggested that Dani and Aaron take a hot shower to relax and stimulate the release of Oxytocin. I figured it would also refresh their mindset and help them to welcome the new day. I stepped out into the waiting room and spent my time in prayer, giving thanks that Dani was being given the opportunity to experience labor as she had wished. In response I felt led to write the following instructions to myself in my notes: “Support. Kindness. Be Faithful.” These words cued me in to how God needed me to care for Dani. I was appreciative of the reminder that nobody’s labor experience is ever exactly like anyone else’s, and that I would need to remain in tune with her and Aaron in order to help them the way God wanted me to.

               At 6:30, Michelle came in to start the Pitocin. A cervical check showed that Dani had dilated to 4 ½ cm, which, according to Dr. Grantly Dicks-Reed’s “Pillars of Parturition,” explained why Dani didn’t particularly want to be in labor anymore. She had approached the first “Pillar.” I reminded her that a new rush of endorphins would be coming, applied aromatherapy to her feet, massaged her back, and offered ideas for new positions to try. Aaron was always present, encouraging Dani, praying over her, and providing scripture for her to read. He seemed very in tune with, and respectful of, Dani’s need to quietly withdraw within herself as her contractions grew in intensity and frequency.

               The nurses changed shifts and at 7:30 a.m., nurse Juli came in to meet Dani and assess her progress. As soon as I saw her, I knew we were in good hands. While Michelle had been an excellent nurse, I have worked with Juli before—in fact, I had even joked with Dani and Aaron that if they could try to go into labor on a Thursday during the daytime, they would probably end up with the best nurse ever. As it worked out, it was Thursday, it was daytime, and that nurse was Juli. I was tickled to see her and felt so grateful for this little ‘nod from God’.

             The Pitocin had been turned up from 2 mU/min to 4 mU/min. Dani had dilated to 6 cm and was in a good labor pattern at this point, so Juli decided to keep the Pitocin level there. Dani did a great job of remaining passive during her contractions, welcoming each one and sometimes even verbalizing the word “down,” in an effort to coach her body through the hard work it was doing. Dani’s mom, Charlene, arrived around 8:40 to find her daughter in full-blown labor, working hard through every contraction to keep from fighting her body’s efforts. I explained to her the same thing Aaron had explained to me upon my own arrival, which was that Dani needed quiet and plenty of space. He had proven exactly right about that.

              Not once did Dani lose her composure. As labor progressed I tried to encourage her to keep her eyes open so as not to feel isolated in the pain. For many women, shutting the eyes leads to a fearful state that can make it difficult for them to deal with labor the way they ultimately hope to. But Dani was not afraid. Aaron stayed with her, offering his quiet support, just as she needed. Sometimes she would pray, and other times she would express the intensity of her contractions, yet she was always totally calm. Her eyes were closed, but she was never alone. She had a good support system and had called on the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe she was kept in perfect peace for this reason. (Isaiah 26:3)

                At one point Dani briefly considered asking for an IV pain medication. But almost as quickly as she thought of it, she changed her mind again. We stuck with scripture, aromatherapy, massage, back pressure, and position changes. By around 9:15 a.m., Dani was so tired that she was falling asleep between contractions. Juli instructed her to lie on her side with a peanut-shaped ball between her knees. At 9:40, Dani informed us of a strong need to push.

              Juli called Dr. Adele in. As we awaited her arrival, Dani mentioned wanting to push in a squatting position. Juli told her the baby was “right there” and that pushing in a squatting position would cause the baby to be born too quickly and would likely cause injury to Dani. (It is times like these that I so value the experience and insight of good medical professionals.) At 10:10, Dr. Adele arrived and told Dani to go ahead and push. I watched in amazement as Dani remained passive, even at the brink of delivery. She wanted to be sure to take her time, working with her body so as not to cause injury to herself. I have never seen anyone so calm at this point in labor. After several more minutes of waiting, Dani went ahead and started pushing. It didn’t take her long. Baby Eleanor was born at 10:30 a.m. (She remained “Peanut,” however, until she was named later that morning.)

          Aaron was much braver than he thought he would be. Of all the horror stories he had heard before, none of them were true for him. It wasn’t gory. He didn’t pass out. Watching the birth of his daughter seemed to bring him to life. His quiet support turned to proud excitement as he and Dani introduced themselves to their beautiful 7 ½-pound daughter. A whole new energy seemed to beam out of him as he cut the cord and informed the nurses of their wishes for various newborn procedures. He even took a picture of the placenta.

           Dani changed in the moments after Eleanor’s birth, too. While just minutes before she had been so incredibly tired and withdrawn, she was suddenly energized and interactive. She spoke to Eleanor as if she had known her all her life. She beamed right alongside Aaron. Together, the three of them made a picture-perfect family.

           Before I left, Juli pointed out that Dani had only been in active labor for about 3 hours. As I think about the incredible progression and the way Dani sailed through it with such steadfastness, I know that it was God’s power that got her through. And really, it was God’s kindness that made it quick. By seeking God’s presence, she and Aaron had all of His goodness in the room that day as their precious daughter was born. It was beautiful and amazing to witness.

 “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a child.” Genesis 4:1

              Dani and Aaron, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby girl. You two are a great team. Thank you for welcoming my presence; it was an honor to be there with you. And baby Eleanor, may you always know that God was there the day you were born. May He be with you ever more. Happy Birth Day.

Sincerely,

Jennifer DeBrito

Jennifer is a Holistic Christian Doula in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching couples through a  Christ-centered childbirth experience, she also specializes in wellness coaching for pregnant and postpartum women and their babies. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.

To learn more about Jennifer, please go to EdensPromiseLLC.com

The Birth Story of Rhyder (2nd Child, VBAC, Totally Natural)

The Birth Story of Rhyder

            I first met Danielle and Matt when they moved in two doors down. Our interactions with each other mostly involved chatting briefly while heading to the mailbox or watching our children play out front. When Danielle told me she was pregnant, I could have asked if she was going to have a doula, told her that I happen to be one. But, I didn’t want to be like that. When I ran into Danielle at the park during a play date with friends, it was actually a friend of mine who spilled the beans. The next thing I knew, Danielle was asking about my services and we were scheduling our first meeting.

I liked being at Danielle and Matt’s house. Danielle is so friendly and easy to talk to, and Matt is upbeat and funny. And little Weston, always with something new to show me (like a floor filled with balloons or a tent set up in the living room) was just as cute as could be. We had three prenatal meetings, and as we covered the necessary information, I found myself also sharing about what was going on in my own life, and even asking for prayer. I suppose that’s just the kind of people they are. As I aimed to support them, I became grateful for the support they offered in return.

On the morning of May 21, Danielle texted to tell me she had been having contractions since 5:30 a.m. They stayed a consistent 8-10 minutes apart throughout the morning, but Danielle dutifully maintained regular activity just like she was supposed to. We texted back and forth all morning, with her giving me updates and me giving ideas and advice—while she got ready for the day, ate, and even went to Target.

Around 11:30, her contractions moved closer to 6-7 minutes apart. She called Dr. Yarrow* to inform him of her progress while I took my son to kindergarten. At 1:00 p.m. she texted to tell me the contractions were ‘feeling closer’ and that she was going to try to rest. I had to stop myself from texting her twice while she was trying to sleep. My own eagerness reminded me to tell her to be patient.

At 2:50 when I heard from her again, it was to learn that she was experiencing signs of cervical dilation. Her contractions were still around 6-8 minutes apart. To try to get the contractions in a more “active” pattern, I gave a few tips for helping increase the release of Oxytocin (the contraction-causing hormone) and encouraged her to go for a walk. I saw Danielle and Matt outside upon their return, around 4:00, and was a little surprised to see how happy and upbeat she still was. I had been hoping to find her more serious, which would indicate that labor was progressing. I told my husband, “It might be a while. She’s too happy.”

At 4:30, Danielle texted to tell me the walk must have worked, because her contractions were now 3-4 minutes apart and very strong. I got my things ready and arrived at their house around 5:00. Matt was still able to make Danielle laugh between contractions, but her overall countenance had changed to serious concentration. Her contractions were very frequent, and were obviously stronger than they had been just one hour before. We decided to head to the hospital. Just to be on the safe side, I reminded Danielle that we could get there and learn that her cervix wasn’t dilated at all yet. She accepted the possibility with a resolute nod—and we were off to the hospital.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalms 139:12

 At 6:00, Danielle and Matt were checked into the birth center triage. Danielle was checked by the nurse, and measured at 3.5 cm dilated. Not bad! The nurse placed the belly monitors and watched Danielle’s contractions and the baby’s heart rate. The pattern of the contractions had slowed (probably due to the excitement of getting to the hospital; adrenaline blocks oxytocin’s receptor cells). So, at 6:30, Danielle and Matt were told to walk around, and we began a routine of hourly potty breaks, walking, and position changes—starting with a nice dose of aromatherapy, along with reflexology and some scripture for Danielle to read. Matt did a great job of leading Danielle in prayer, and provided a source of strength for her to lean on (literally and figuratively) as we slowly made our way up and down the halls.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is stayed on you.” Isaiah 26:3

 At 7:30, Danielle was checked again and was already at 5-6 cm. Things were moving right along! Our new nurse, Teresa*, admitted Danielle to her room, which happened to be the same room she and Matt had been shown when they toured the hospital. (I consider this a Godsend, because it meant that so far everything looked just like they expected. How helpful that is, when encountering a new experience!)

Because Danielle was aiming for VBAC, it was hospital policy that she be monitored continuously with the belly monitors. While some nurses are willing to bend a little bit, and use their own judgment alongside or even instead of hospital policy, nurse Teresa was adamant that Danielle not do anything that would require her to be off the monitors. This included taking a bath, which was something Danielle had originally thought she would like to try.

When I had prayed for Danielle earlier in the day, God had given me the word, “Listen.” Although I try to never force any certain birth plan upon my clients and their medical providers, this word served as an extra dose of caution for me as I conversed with Teresa about the bath. She heatedly explained that allowing Danielle into the tub would put her license on the line, and honestly, she seemed a little surprised when I didn’t argue with her. I think she had been expecting a fight. But the word “Listen” held heavy in my heart, so I dropped the matter. It wasn’t my decision to make. Dr. Yarrow had already told them that he would be comfortable with them signing the consent form to waive continuous monitoring. It would be up to them.

Thankfully, my conversation with Teresa occurred while Danielle was still out in the hall. She heard none of it; felt none of its tension. And, praise be to God, when I presented Danielle and Matt with their options, Danielle decided she didn’t really want a bath anyway. I wondered at how God, with His word of caution to me, had worked everything out so peacefully ahead of time. He knew Danielle wouldn’t want a bath, and had protected me from pushing too hard for what I thought she would want. In a birthing environment, teamwork is of the utmost importance. I praise Him for confiding in me so that I wouldn’t stir up issues where there would otherwise be none.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped; therefore, my heart exalts, and with my song I shall thank him.” Psalms 28:7

After deciding against the bath, Danielle sat on the birth ball and labored while Matt watched for areas of tension in her body and coached her through contractions. He prayed over her more, and new scriptures were provided to help keep Danielle’s mind fresh and her spirit grounded. The intensity of her contractions continued to increase, but Danielle never complained once. She vocalized her contractions well, remained focused, and even seemed grateful for the experience.

At 8:15, before Teresa placed the belly monitors again, I suggested another quick potty break even though it hadn’t been a full hour. (I just didn’t want her to have to do it all over again in a few minutes.) Because potty breaks tend to increase the frequency and intensity of contractions, they can take a while. While Danielle and Matt labored in the bathroom with the door closed, Teresa confided that her sister had a very scary VBAC experience. She told me what happened, and in that moment, I came to see where Teresa was coming from. She was a caring, diligent nurse. She just wanted to be ready if Danielle needed her. I wanted that, too. I praised God for bringing us together, for uniting us in our sincere care for Danielle.

When they came out, Danielle mentioned feeling like she wanted to push. She leaned on the bed while Matt soothed and coached her, and she mentioned again that she wanted to push. We all agreed that it might be good to at least get into bed. Teresa checked her again, and she was at 9 cm. (Incredible!) We placed the “peanut” (a ball shaped like a peanut) between Danielle’s knees while she lay on her side. The idea with this little trick is to use gravity to apply pressure to the cervix at a different angle, so mothers can rest as they complete dilation. By 8:40, Danielle’s water broke on its own and her body began pushing naturally as she lay on her side.

Matt, sitting next to the bed, had cradled Danielle’s head in his arm and was stroking her hair, praying over her, and softly encouraging her to breathe. Danielle was very much in another state of consciousness, but still accepted Matt’s words of encouragement. They were in it together. As Teresa and I stood back and allowed them their space, I thought about how beautiful it was. How great they are together. How honored I felt to even be allowed in such an intimate moment. That very moment, when they no longer need me at all, is why I do what I do. I pray they remember that moment forever; just the two of them and God, awaiting His precious gift to them.

 “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a child…” Genesis 4:1

 Dr. Kreg* arrived at 9:15. The baby’s heart rate had started to drop a little bit during contractions, so as Danielle moved to her back to deliver, he started to say something— but never finished the sentence. At 9:16, Rhyder Finn was born. “I was going to tell you to give it all you had, but you really gave it all you had!” Dr. Kreg mused. He had literally only been there for a minute.

Rhyder weighed in at a healthy 6 lbs. 12 oz. Almost the same as Weston. “It’s supposed to hurt, right?” Danielle asked as she came to realize she was done. We all laughed.

In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about Eve. Childbirth wasn’t actually supposed to hurt. According to scripture, God helped Eve when she was the one in labor, experiencing pain He never intended for her to feel. Imagine the deep emotion it must have evoked in Him to see her in that state, forced from the Garden where He would have been able to physically touch her and tangibly tend to her. But just because they weren’t in the Garden anymore, didn’t mean He didn’t care. In Spirit, He was still there with her. In Spirit, He still tended to her.

In my heart I praised Him for sending His Spirit to help Danielle, too. Her short, peaceful labor and safe delivery are such a testimony of God’s merciful character, and of His love and empathy for laboring women.

Matt took pictures as they marveled at the fact that it was already over. They had only been at the hospital a few hours, and their little Rhyder was here! Once they were settled and ready to just be a family, I gathered my things and headed out.

As I left, Teresa hugged me. “That was a really great birth,” she said. “I really do love natural births.” I thanked God for giving us a great nurse—and for giving Teresa a great VBAC to witness. This birth would, without a doubt, add a new hopefulness to her cautious diligence. She really was a great nurse. But I think God used Rhyder to make her even better.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you…” Numbers 6:24

Danielle and Matt, thank you for including me in your childbirth experience. May you never forget who you are together, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, working as a team and leaning on each other. You are great together. If you didn’t have one before, you now have an incredible testimony of how God can protect you and cover you with His peace. For a while there, you were unknowingly threatened by tension and disagreement in your midst, but God kept you from it. In fact, sheltering you under His sovereign will, He used your birth story to heal the fear hidden deep in someone else’s heart. Think about that—it is amazing! Praise the Lord!

And baby Rhyder, may you always know that God was present the day you were born, arranging ahead of time for peace to surround you. May you grow up to be an example of the peace and sheltering strength that God displayed that day. May you learn well the sound of His voice, and may you grow to love and trust it—and, when you hear His voice, may you always choose to “Listen.”

Sincerely, Jen DeBrito (your doula)

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE  is a doula and childbirth educator in Colorado Springs. She is author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional and owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC. She is married with two children (and two birth stories) of her own.

*Some names changed for privacy. True names used by permission only.