Monday, September 17, 2018

Birth Story :: Ethan Scott

Ethan Scott Woodfield
June 24, 2018
8 lbs, 21 inches

There are no words to describe Ethan’s birth. It was the most beautiful, most spiritual experience welcoming this sweet boy into our family. Heaven filled our home on this perfect Sabbath day and the veil was very thin. We had a lovely home birth with only a few hours of active labor. It was everything we have dreamed of. I was born as a mother all over again as God entrusted me with another of his precious spirits. I felt a deep connection with generations of women that came before me, including Eve and Mary. My heart welcomed space to unconditionally love another little boy...something I knew would happen, but was so unsure how. To be honest, my relationship with him is still very fresh, so different from my deep, intimate relationship with little David. I know with time and experience, I will grow to love Ethan the same way I love my little David and our relationship will blossom.

“Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created.”

A huge thank you to our incredible birth team:
I am going to include some photos as well. I generally love color photos but I love the way black and white photos so beautifully capture the raw emotion and focus of birth. So here is a mix of my favorites - I really tried to limit them. Also, most of you have already seen it, but I have included our birth video at the end. 

I gave birth to our sweet little Ethan at 39 weeks and 3 days. It was a very fast labor with only just over 2 hours of active labor. In the last month or two leading up to his birth, I was feeling anxious. A good friend suggested that this may be because Ethan was leaving his family and heavenly parents. In Heaven, time is very different and a month or two is merely a moment. I have often felt the presence of many ancestors during this pregnancy that have watched over our family and our little Ethan before he could join us. I also felt a distinct impression many times that David and Ethan were best friends before coming to our family.

When I was about 24 weeks pregnant, I did a beautiful guided meditation with Raquel Alfaro of Starlight Doula Services, and felt such a deep connection to my baby from that point forward. I was struggling to connect to this pregnancy before that point. The rest of my pregnancy, magenta-colored tulips reminded me of my baby boy coming to join our family and the peace I felt as I opened my heart and energy to him.

Now on to his birthday.

Saturday morning I woke up, we ate breakfast, then I went to prenatal yoga class. At yoga, I had to stop in tabletop or child’s pose a few times to work through some relatively mild, but still intense, waves. I remember feeling so at peace in yoga class and I was so glad I made the time to come and create space in my mind for my baby and my family. I ran into my dear friend Ally Young on the way out and she shared a few encouraging words with me. She and I share a love for all things natural birth and I so appreciate our deep friendship over the last 7+ years.

After yoga, I went home and we had some lunch, put David down for a nap, and then I decided to lay down as I was feeling exhausted. I did wake up once or twice with a big surge, worked through it, and fell back asleep. I encouraged Braden to take a nap with me instead of digging a sprinkler trench like he was going to - he was so glad he napped instead! David woke early from his nap really upset so I nursed him in our bed. The nipple stimulation caused my waves to increase substantially and they were one on top of another for 10+ minutes before I woke Braden up and asked him to help me with David. The waves were so intense and it was so uncomfortable to be laying down as I worked through each one.

I did not really think it was the real deal on Saturday because I was “only” 39+3 and my water had not broken. From my birth with David, I was exactly 40 weeks and my water broke first so I knew labor was imminent at some point. From all the research I have done, you would think I would know by now that this is the beauty of birth: it is unpredictable.

After our nap and nursing session with David, we cleaned up around the house, played with David, and then went grocery shopping. My waves continued to come every 5-10 minutes and were pretty intense and I had to focus and work through them. We went to my friend Sierra Robert’s birthday party Saturday evening and I joked with her that we may give her a birthday twin for her birthday on Sunday. Sierra also birthed with our same midwife, Rebecca, and we initially connected over breastfeeding challenges, natural birth, and other crunchy mom stuff. It was so fitting we were celebrating with her just before our baby arrived!

In our midwife appt on Thursday, we joked with Rebecca that we should have a Sunday baby because it is the perfect day for everyone. Convenient, peaceful. I also had always said baby could come after the 23rd because we would be done with our committed events and house cleaning by then...haha. And lastly, it was also an even day, which was one of my biggest hopes and dreams. Small tangent here - I love and strongly prefer even numbers, so I was praying that Ethan would also come on an even day. Birthdays in our family are 4/16, 6/12, 6/18, and now 6/24. You may have noticed the last three dates all have a multiple of 6! Heavenly Father really does have a sense of humor.

After leaving the party on Saturday, we stopped by Chick-Fil-A because I wanted a little more food. We specifically chose Chick-Fil-A because it reminds us of my little sister Avee who is on her mission right now - she was here when David was born and we miss her so much! If this was the real thing, we wanted Avee to be a part of Ethan’s birth in some way.

After we returned home from the party on Saturday night, contractions continued inconsistently until we went to bed around 10:30 (would have gone to bed sooner but they were still pretty intense). I woke up a few times and vocalized through some waves between 10:30-4:30 but actually had a decent night’s sleep. I did wake up multiple times to go to the bathroom as well. My bowels were cleaning out and I remember thinking it was weird that I was pooping at night, so I wondered if it was another sign this was the real deal. By 4:30 am, the waves were coming at least every 10 minutes again and I could not sleep so I went into my yoga room and worked through each one, listened to my childbirth affirmation tracks, and relaxed. By 7 am, everyone was awake and we decided to call my mom and ask her to head to our house “just in case” so she was close. I then called Rebecca. I told her I either needed the waves to go away or intensify quickly into active labor because this pattern would wear me out before too long. Rebecca said it sounded like I was a “pot of hot water waiting to boil” so she suggested she come and check things out and give me some herbal tincture to help organize contractions. In the meantime, Braden made us oatmeal with strawberries and blueberries and peanut butter toast for breakfast (my fav). My waves were still inconsistent but becoming more intense. Braden did some sacral counterpressure and we made a game out of it so David would have fun and not worry. We assured him it was normal. One time, I was sitting down eating and a giant wave came on so I sat and vocalized and David came up to me and used both hands to press on my breast as if giving me counter pressure. It was so cute and funny! We laughed and he laughed.

I was actually so surprised by how well David handled my vocal contractions. When he was a little baby around 4 months old, I randomly did my low vocal moan in the car one time and he started pouting and crying, so I worried that sound may be a trigger for him.

I would still say it was early labor at this point. My waves were definitely intense but very inconsistent and I was not sure how productive they really were.

My mom arrived shortly after 8 and then I text Rebecca to come over. In the meantime, we decided my mom would take David to church with my sister while we relaxed and "worked through early labor." Rebecca showed up right as my mom was leaving around 8:45am. She gave me the herbal tincture in some orange juice to swig and then checked my cervix. I was already 6cm and 80% effaced. What?? She told us she expected we would have a baby before noon. She told Braden that now was a good time to start setting up the birth pool and he got to work.

I totally expected Rebecca to show up and give me the tincture and then come back later in the day. With David, I did not want any cervical checks, especially since my water broke before labor started, I did not want to worry about introducing any kind of infection. Rebecca only checked me the one time and I was so encouraged to hear that my contractions had been so productive! One thing that really surprised me with this labor was how my waves were pretty intense from the beginning. With David, the waves felt so gentle and light and very slowly intensified. This time, my surges came on quickly like a ten foot wave, but I was prepared mentally to relax myself and work through them.

Within 15 minutes of taking the tincture, my body had pushed right into active labor. We were quickly texting our doulas and videographer to come over, although I still thought I had some time and told them not to rush. Waves came every couple of minutes and were very intense. Braden had started unloading the dishwasher and doing dishes and I quickly told him I needed him now and dishes could wait (and if you know me, you know this was a big deal, I need a clean kitchen).

We slow danced, swayed, rocked on hands and knees, and constantly moved through each wave, repeating affirmations over and over in my mind. Two affirmations I thought of most: “I see my cervix swirling open like the petals of a rose” and “my body was made to do this.” We turned on my soft birth playlist and let it play low in the background.

I was trying to wait to get into the birth pool so my videographer could capture some of the moments before but Rebecca took a few videos on our camera and finally, I decided to get in. The water was such a relief! I loved the heat of the water and the weight off my hips.

The next hour and a half in the pool is a blur. I moved from squatting to hands and knees to slouching through each wave. It was intense but I was so grateful for the moments of rest between each surge. I was tapped perfectly into my breathing and gave myself as much rest as possible between each surge. For each wave, I would breathe in 8 and then vocalize out on a count of 8. 

I remember being on hands and knees and hearing Ashlie say that my waters had released. I looked down into the water and saw it became a little cloudy after that. I did not know it at the time but it would only be 43 minutes from that point until I met my baby. I saw little bits of blood in the water and knew that we were getting close and had made a lot of progress.

At one point, Rebecca put some orange oil on my foot and used a rag to wave the smell. She told Ethan to come out and get some orange juice for breakfast. Love Rebecca’s sense of humor. Braden joked that this baby did not want to come for breakfast but rather for brunch. Rebecca joked she did not have an essential oil for bacon but did not think most moms would like that.

Rebecca said all the right things. She would say “let them be big” to encourage me to lean into each surge and reminded me that my cervix would be as open as I made my throat. She also encouraged me to change positions, prop up a leg to create space, etc. The constant changing of positions felt so good. Braden whispered in my ear “Yes! Yes! Yes!” And “peace, peace, peace.” He was my biggest cheerleader.

I loved the feeling of water on my back and my belly when I was in the pool. Rebecca has the best memory and remembered that one of her previous moms, Raven, also loved it. Raven was one of my doulas from my last birth with Ashlie. Rebecca said to Ashlie, “You can tell Raven it is like she was here with us.”

Rebecca had her fish net ready to go “in case the brown trout go swimming.” As I had the urge to push, I did poop a little. I remember being so impressed that Rebecca was so quick and efficient to get it out of the pool and go flush it in the toilet.
Transition was beautiful. I experienced the longer period of relaxation where my body was preparing to push and I did not have any waves for several minutes (at least). It was a welcome break and I felt so at peace as I was able to reflect on the intensity to that point. I felt so much relief that for a second, I wondered if everything had stopped and we were not, in fact, going to have a baby that day.

I was elated when I felt the urge to push and I felt my body start naturally pushing during contractions. The main thing I wanted to experience in this birth that I did not get to in my last was the “fetal ejection reflex.” It was incredible! Our bodies are amazing! 

At this point, I was sitting in more of a slouched position as it was most comfortable. Rebecca suggested I could get into more of a squatting position and it would go much quicker because of gravity, but I would also be more likely to tear. I made a conscious decision to stay slouched to slowly ease him out and have more control over pushing and crowning.

As I was pushing, a few people commented that he had lots of hair. I remember feeling the pressure and the sensation of the “largest bowel movement ever” and I naturally reached down to feel for his head. I could feel all of his hair and just how close he was! I also started to see lots of vernix floating around in the pool. David had hardly any vernix so it was cool to know Ethan definitely had some.

I definitely experienced crowning a lot differently this time. My body was pushing him out so quickly and Rebecca coached me to slow down and ease him out with my breath. I remembered what we learned in birth class about blowing out birthday candles and did quick little breaths out to ease him out. I had some scar tissue from my first birth that was not stretching as easily and Rebecca said that was the main thing holding him in. I took it as slow as possible. I did use my hand to feel his head and hair at one point and that was enough encouragement for me to keep going. There was one point where Chelsea said "I am so impressed right now" and then Ashlie said "You just smiled with a baby's head half way out." There was one period of rest between two contractions where baby was sitting in the pelvis and the pressure was so intense, but also so cool! I was surprisingly calm. 

The moment Ethan was born was so surreal. I felt a huge physical and emotional wave of relief as he came out. I saw him in the water as Rebecca and I quickly reached for him and brought him to my arms. I heard softly in the background David’s birth video song playing: “I get to love you.” One of my favorite songs about motherhood. Braden starting sobbing gently and tears filled my eyes. It was perfect. He had a short umbilical cord like David did so I held him as high as I could on my belly. I was trying to offer him the breast immediately but Rebecca reassured us that he needed to figure out breathing first. "He needs to learn how to breathe first, he does not have all of David's talent." We all noticed how large his testicles were and Rebecca informed us that he had a hydrocele and it was pretty common, just some swelling at birth. 

It has already been several minutes or more and the umbilical cord had gone white and limp so Rebecca clamped it and then Braden cut. I gave Braden the baby while I waited for the placenta and he did some skin to skin against his chest and talked to him. His skin was already looking so pink and plump. Within two hours after birth, he was fully pink and his skin color looked amazing! I attribute this mostly to delayed cord clamping and such a smooth birth.

I started to get crampy and knew it was almost time for the placenta. The placenta birthed very easily and then I got out of the pool and transferred to the bed in my yoga room, where I did more skin to skin with Ethan and he took immediately to the breast. I was up and walking around within 30 minutes and felt great! 

I loved watching David meet his baby brother. He was so gentle and curious. My favorite was when David signed milk (squeeze hand in and out) while Ethan was nursing, a little unsure how this would work. Good thing there are two of them!

I had anticipated my family and little David would be there when I actually gave birth, but baby made his entrance so fast, my family was still at church! It worked out absolutely perfect, though. They got home from church and came to meet our little Ethan. Everyone at church was having fun joking that he came during Sharing Time in Primary (I'm in the Primary Presidency). 

David was so excited about his baby brother. He kept squealing with glee. I was shocked by how excited he was. Best day ever.

When I asked Rebecca what she will remember most about our birth, she said it was how smooth everything went - it was picture perfect with each subsequent step: “click, click, click.” She said she was so impressed with how well researched and prepared I was. She said I was an amazing birther and should have lots more children. We will see ;)

We feel so blessed to have welcomed our little Ethan with a beautiful home birth. Heaven filled the walls of our home that day. Now that was a perfect Sunday. There was such a special spirit there with us. 

Sunday night, we had already planned a little birthday party for David and I with my family so we celebrated our little Ethan too. We sang happy birthday surrounded by our dearest loved ones. It was the most perfect day.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Education is Empowering :: The Beauty of Birth

I have been writing this post for months now. Before we even started trying to have Baby David, birth is something I became very passionate about. I read so many books.  I often joke that my growing passion for pregnancy and birth is how God prepared me to have a baby and helped me to take the leap of faith. I love everything about birth. It is such a beautiful, spiritual process. A lot of my thoughts/perspectives below are not just based on logic, but also based on my own spiritual experience(s). I know some will disagree with my perspective, but I would love to hear your thoughts. My goal with this post is to encourage women to educate themselves on all things birth in order to make informed decisions and have an empowered birth experience.

Go here to read David's Birth Story.

When I first started researching, I learned about the midwifery model, an alternative to the medical model of birth. We all know that modern medicine saves lives during childbirth but often in America, I feel the routine practices of the medical model unnecessarily interfere with the natural process. Although I chose to have an unmedicated birth, I fully respect others' decisions to birth differently. I firmly believe women should have a choice.

I choose to say unmedicated because from my perspective, all birth is "natural." It is a natural, beautiful process. What is most important is that women are educated on their options in birth. There are so many options when it comes to birth and you have to do what is right for you. But it is so important that you are educated and empowered. Childbirth matters physically and emotionally and we should encourage women to be active participants in their birth.

Sometimes it is difficult for me to understand why someone would choose to be induced. This is one thing I feel particularly strong about. I know can be more convenient, but since when are babies ever convenient? ;) If it is a low risk pregnancy, let baby come in his/her timing. Trust in God and His plan. I feel it is an act of faith and trust in God when we allow His spirit to choose their birthday. When baby is ready, they send a hormone to mom and to the uterus to start preparing for labor. An induction significantly increases the risks of premature birth, hemorrhage, and cesarean (source). One thing that really surprised me is learning that Pitocin, the synthetic version of the natural "love" hormone Oxytocin, is actually from a cow and can give you "cow-sized" contractions. That may sound funny but can you imagine? Our little humans are not calves. The intensity of those contractions can easily put baby in distress (especially if they were not ready) and this can lead to a long labor or cesarean. This is not always the case and I have had a few friends with successful, easy inductions, but unless there is a reason (high risk pregnancy), why not let baby come in his own timing? It will be better for you and baby and it can also be a faith-building experience as you allow God to work in his own timing.

As I mentioned, modern medicine does save lives and I agree it can be absolutely necessary. That is why I think it is all the more important for a women to be educated on options in birth, so she can make the best choices for her and her baby dependent on the circumstances. There are situations that would necessitate a cesarean or induction or another intervention. But I do believe these are the exceptions. The majority of the time, it is not necessary and our bodies will naturally do what they need to do to have a baby.

Too often, we as women fear birth. Our society teaches us to fear birth from an early age via media. Birth is somewhat of a lost art. The beauty and understanding of birth has been lost over a few generations and as our society has become more medicalized. That fear can inhibit progress in labor (fight or flight sends blood to the arms and legs, away from the uterus). It is important that we know how to relax and let our bodies do what they were created to do - contract and expand to help baby make his/her way through the birth canal. If a woman cannot relax, an epidural can be helpful for some women to progress in labor. After having experienced birth, I can totally see why some people choose an epidural. But again, it is important a woman understands both the benefits and risks.

The other day when I was talking with a friend, she said "You gave birth to a nine pound baby without an epidural?" This surprised me. Our bodies will not create a baby that they cannot give birth to. With the advent of ultrasounds, a lot of women are told how big their baby is at certain points in their pregnancy. Ultrasounds are notoriously wrong, even by as much as a few pounds. Do not worry about how big your baby will be! You will be amazed by what your body can do! Again, in our role as co-creators with God, I think it is so important that we trust in His plan and His timing.

To sum up some of my thoughts you can listen to this TEDx Talk by Ashley Greenwald Tragash, PhD and Doula: "Who delivered your baby?"

She says: "Imagine what birth could look like if we thought of birth from the perspective of an accomplishment and empowerment? Rather than pain and suffering and something that requires medication?" Tragash uses the metaphor of an elephant. Imagine if a human happened upon an elephant in the wild giving birth, a human would quietly hang back and only intervene if absolutely necessary. Why treat humans any different? 

Kind of funny to picture, but watch the TedTalk for more context

I try so hard to understand different perspectives on birth and am always open to discussing and hearing others' opinions. Let's have a conversation. I know a few women as well that so wanted an unmedicated birth but for a myriad of reasons, it did not/would not work out for them. I want to be more compassionate towards other experiences. Every birth is beautiful because it is the story of how you met and fell in love with your sweet baby.

I feel so privileged to know what I do. What an honor to look forward to birth as I do. Birth is such a beautiful gift and experience and one reason I am so proud to be a woman. My testimony of God and the Plan of Salvation has increased tenfold as I better understand my role as a mother and co-creator with God.

Why did I decide on an unmedicated birth?
  1. Trust - trust God, trust your body. As women, we already possess all of the tools to give birth. 
  2. Faster recovery. I felt amazing and could walk around and move on my own quickly. The next morning I felt almost like myself again. 
  3. Freedom during labor. I wanted to freely eat and drink and move around during labor as I needed to stay comfortable, engaged and relaxed.
  4. Baby was alert and active immediately.
  5. Experience - To really see what I was capable of. From so many stories and books I had read, I wanted to experience the power of my body as I went through contractions and pushing. Why not try? 
  6. Control - less likelihood of surgical birth. My mom had three cesareans and I wanted to do everything in my power to set myself up for a successful vaginal birth. 
  7. Empowering. More satisfying birth experience. 
Here is a list of my favorite books:

Monday, March 20, 2017

9 Months :: David Braden

David turned 9 months on the 18th. He is so fun and has the most contagious smile. I never want to forget these sweet moments. This boy is our whole world and has made life infinitely better than we could have ever imagined. I cannot imagine life without him. Cannot believe he has been out almost as long as he was in. This boy...oh my heart. We love our Davy baby! 

He is fully crawling now and pulling himself up on everything
Loves to play in the fridge - he crawls towards it at lightening speed anytime it is opened
Loves to play alone in his room and pull all the books off his shelves
He loves to stand by the curtains at the front window and then falls down and pulls himself back up on the ledge
Will sometimes sit and watch a movie - he really enjoyed Moana
He is a total momma's boy
Loves mama's milk
Loving every food we give him...definitely not a picky eater
He giggles easily
Loves to play with his toes
Loves when we sing to him - especially I Am A Child of God
His hair is getting long and Braden is convinced we need to trim around his ears
Loves Saturday morning walks in the park
I'm obsessed when he sits on his is the cutest thing ever!
Loves to eat his hands
Loves to play with mom's waterbottle
First time on an airplane to San Francisco