From Homebirth on a Farm to Hospital Birth

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Amanda Moon Callahan lives in the woods with her family on a small farm in Upstate SC. They grow chickens, pigs, donkeys, and on the occasion, babies. Other than farming and parent life, Amanda works full time at the local domestic violence shelter and spends all her free time cooking up delicious home grown food. You can connect with Amanda on Instagram or at Callywood Farms. Their first child, Aria Daphne is 3.5 and she just had her second. You can read her second birth story below and on this birth story episode she shares her first birth which was a planned homebirth but she went into labor at 35 weeks and had her daughter at the hospital with a really great birth experience.

Birth Resources

Ina May – Spiritual Midwifery, Guide to Childbirth
Indiebirth.com & podcast
Yourself – Pregnancy is a time for deep introspection; you, your past, your future are your greatest resource, so take some time to know yourself and reflect.

Since we originally recorded this birth story, Amanda has had another baby, a boy. She shares that birth story that took place on the farm below.

Woods Birth Story

My second pregnancy was a bit different than my first. Beyond the usual nausea and extreme fatigue made worse by also having to parent a toddler and you know, be an “adult” and stuff, I experienced a couple of abnormal things. I got a terrible stomach bug at 15 weeks that I ended up having to go to the ER for fluids. Ugh, the stomach bug while pregnant takes it to a whole other level. Then I had some spotting at 28 weeks. We concluded that it must have been a small placenta tear. Without my desire to go have an ultrasound and with spotting that quickly cleared up, I was put on modified bed rest (no farm work!) and we set our intentions to give birth at 39+2 weeks. The last part of my pregnancy was wonderful. I was feeling strong, excited, and it was winter and didn’t have to worry about being huge in the southern heat. Glorious.

What was really different and honestly the best part of this pregnancy and birth was our choice of care. We found the most amazing “midwife”. This time, a little more firmly rooted in our community I was able to ask friends about the best homebirth midwife. I got a couple recommendations and interviewed a few and knew Carey was it when I met her.

Carey is a traditional birth attendant who offers services only though a membership in a private membership medical association (PMA) of which I am a member (you can sign up for membership for your childbearing year). PMA’s allow for a less governed/regulated by the state approach to midwifery to occur which put me as the consumer in more control over decisions being made about my birth.

I was instantly drawn to her incessant curiosity about why I had an early baby the first time around. She asked questions no one had ever asked me before and at only 6 weeks pregnant, she told me I would not have this one early and not to worry about it in a way that really made me believe her. Obviously, I was smitten. My appointments with her were often 2+hours. 1 hour of which her hands were on my belly or body. I never peed on a stick, and only took my blood pressure when I wanted to. She was so very focused on figuring out who I was, what had happened in my life, what I was holding onto as if she could construct a directory of me and how I would birth.

39 Weeks Pregnant

In the evening after a family meal, I had some bloody show and was excited that labor could begin soon!

The next day, my husband, BJ, and I had a day date planned, I worked a half day and then he picked me up and we went to see the new Star Wars and got a big pizza after. We were buzzing with excitement and talked non-stop about the birth and meeting our new baby. But no contractions. I continued to have small bloody wipes. We went and checked in with Carey and she was confident labor would start soon too!

During the night, I woke up several times to very intense cramps, but kept easily falling back asleep.

The next day was 39+2, the day we had set our intentions to make it to and I was excited to go into labor! But that didn’t happen, I worked from home and went to a massage. And no contractions. While I wanted to meet my baby, I was determined to enjoy this last part of this pregnancy I didn’t get to last time. Made a double batch of dinner, one for the freezer and went to bed.

During the early morning, around 4am, I was definitely having contractions. Not just crampy feelings, but contractions. I could tell they were far apart and not consistent, I dozed on and off and finally started timing them at around 6am. By around 8am they were 8-9 min apart and 1 minute long. I texted Carey to tell her it was labor day. I got in the shower and started picking up the house.

By 10am the contractions had totally stalled out. I was bummed. BJ got home around this time from dropping our daughter off at school and running some last minute errands and he said, get dressed, we are going on a hike. So we did! We hiked and hiked. We live in a rural area on 15 acres that is surrounded by woods, so we explored some neighboring areas we’d never been to. We hiked for easily an hour. I had sporadic contractions, but nothing consistent.

Decided to go back home because I was hungry! I made a ginormous meal at 11am and watched Chopped. During this time, contractions really started picking up! By the end of lunch, contractions were close to 6 min apart and starting to feel like the real thing.

We started prepping the soup to feed everyone coming over. Besides hiking our woods, the one other thing I wanted to do while in labor was chop vegetables! I love cooking and it is what relaxes me, so chop I did! Onions, carrots, celery, swiss chard from the garden. I asked BJ to put on “the playlist” and started dancing the afternoon away. The contractions were picking up and every time I had a contraction, I would make my way over to my daughter’s “learning tower” and brace that while swaying my hips. When I really good song would come, I’d race to the living room and really dance. It was a magical afternoon. It was exactly how I had pictured laboring at home would be. It was so perfect.

Around 3:00, BJ suggested walking again, he said, I don’t know if we’ll get another chance to at this rate. So, I got dressed and we went walking. Our driveway is about ¼ mile long, so I wanted to walk up that. I say “up” because there are some hills. I had to stop every contraction and lean on BJ and moan/vocalize through each one. We got about ½ way up, over the first big hill and I peed my pants, ha! So back home we went.

We got back in the house and I had a couple intense contractions. I was feeling this weird sensation on the front of my belly. It felt like a burning sensation on my bladder. I knew something wasn’t quite right about that sensation, so I had BJ contact Carey and tell her it was time. That was 4pm and contractions were about 4 min apart. While waiting I decided to get in the shower. I had BJ doctor up a seat with a towel and aim the shower head at my back and just sat there and sang through the most amazing birth play list ever. When sitting, the sensation went away. Things were intense in the shower and I was singing my heart out to the music. BJ knew exactly what I needed (a good cry) and put on an emotional song for me to just help me release. I balled my eyes out and really just focused on feeling and letting go. After that, he lightened the mood and said it was time to really focus and get this baby out.

Carey arrived right after that and arrived while I was still singing loudly in the shower, checked the baby’s heart rate and everything sounded great. I continued to labor in the shower. Second attendant, Emily, arrives at 5 and my dear friend, Lydia arrives at 5:27 (Carey wrote all this down in her notes, in addition to noting that the chickens and dogs of the farm were unimpressed with my loud laboring, haha!). At this point, I’m having back pain, but not labor back pain, the pain is middle-high of my back and it seems to be just from laboring/walking all day, not baby positioning. I’m vocalizing and saying affirmations. One contraction, I say BABY COME DOWN! And Carey comes in to check that it was a request rather than a statement of fact. Yes, it was a pleading request.

I decide to stand up in the shower and get out. The first contraction that hit when I stood up, that painful sensation came right back, but I also felt a ginormous shift down and open. I think this may have been transition, but not entirely sure. Carey suggested I get out and do a circuit of positions, she thought that maybe the baby’s hand was up by the face possibly or a weird positioning that was causing the sensation.

Up on the bed I go with my butt way up in the air. The sensation isn’t as bad as standing, but contractions are much harder to manage. I start yelling RELAX through them, which seems like a contradiction, but it worked. I focused all my energy on completely relaxing every muscle when a contraction would hit, focusing on my hands, jaw, and mouth. I had to stay in this position for 30 minutes, it went faster than I thought it would go and I got to talk between contractions to my awesome team.

Next circuit was side lying position. Same routine. Not sure I did 30 full min because I had to go to the bathroom.

Contractions are intensifying and after using the toilet, the next position was supposed to be lunges. Carey wanted me to get my knee up on a stool, I laughed at her. I knew a contraction was coming and I had to find a comfortable position and quick, so I dropped to my knees and hung on to the bed for dear life. I labored on my knees for a while (10 minutes?), while starting to feel the pressure to push. My back was also totally spasming at this point, and I felt like my whole body was convulsing with it. So, Emily started rubbing my back with magnesium and arnica oil. Any touch on my middle back was so helpful. BJ took over back rub for the next 20 minutes in this position.

At this point, I have had no internal checks and didn’t want any, but as my body started to naturally bear down, I still had this sensation of burning and felt like something was not quite right. My first baby slipped right out in 3 pushes during which I don’t recall ever feeling pain like this. Carey politely asked if she could check me and make sure everything was good, I was happy to have some help at this point. As soon as she got her hands up there, she said AH, I see the “problem.” She assured me it was just a small lip of my cervix that was still out and a little swollen as the baby had been bearing down on it for a while. She held it back and sweet, sweet relief.

Still on my knees, I could feel the baby moving down and my body was working with it. I felt something and reached up, thinking I would be able to feel baby’s head, but it was just my water bag emerging, intact! For a second, I thought this baby was coming en caul! But the next contraction, it broke open a little. At this point, my knees were aching, my back was spent, and my body needed a little break from the position. Carey suggested I get up on to my husband’s lap. He spread his knees and they got me up there and in 2 contractions we had the big splash of the water fully breaking (all over his legs!).

Realizing baby was coming now, Carey said I had to get off his lap for fear of tearing badly from that position, so back to the floor, on my hands and knees I went to finally birth this baby. 2-4 contractions we had crowning and an intense ring of fire. I consciously worked very slowly here. I wanted nothing more than to get this baby out, stop the pain, and hold my baby, but I was so aware of tearing and wanting my baby to be born gently. So I didn’t push. I held back and waited for my body to do it. I can’t believe I had the restraint to let that happen, but I did! In another 2 or so contractions, baby was born very smoothly into Papa’s hands (thank goodness for his quick reflexes) at 7:04pm.

farm birth story

They passed him up to me and he was perfect. Like literally, no vernix, blood or anything. Just amniotic fluid, like a late term baby. He was so alert, big blue eyes staring up at me.

Postpartum

Placenta @ 7:10

Baby examined @ 8:10

7lb 6oz, 20.5 inches long, 14” head

Big sister arrives at 8:25 (with grandparents)

Placenta exam reveals a big weak spot/tear in the center (28 week bleed?)

Big sister says baby should be named Mary Poppins or New York, but we decide to name him William “Woods” Callahan, to which she replies, “I’m so happy that Trees decided to come out!”

The after birth pains that night were more intense than the birth, it was scary! I shook so violently and the pain, oh, it hurt. BJ had to take the baby while I got through them.

Nursing began instantly and has gone extremely well since. We are now 3 months postpartum and looking back at this story and the journey, I honestly would not have done a single thing differently. It was everything I wanted from the people, to the timeline of events, and of course the baby. The baby is so perfect.

36 Week Preemie Birth Story

A 36 Week Preemie Birth Story

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In this episode of The Birth Hour, Ashley Gartland shares her preemie birth story. She went into labor with her daughter, Kennedy, after her water broke a little before 36 weeks into her pregnancy, and she shares her experience giving birth and caring for a late term preemie.

Ashley Gartland Bio

Ashley Gartland is a life coach for moms who want to find their purpose beyond motherhood. Through her coaching program, Bold Mom, Balanced Life, and one-on-one work with clients, Ashley helps moms prioritize themselves, pursue their dreams and create balanced lives so they can be great moms and bold, inspiring women too. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two little girls. You can connect with her on her web site at www.ashleymgartland.com and on Instagram and Facebook.

Longest Shortest Time podcast (especially this episode on rewriting your birth story)

Baby Blues Connection (for information, support and resources for women and families coping with pregnancy and postpartum mood disorders. Serves primarily Oregon and Washington but has resources available on the web site as well)

More Than a Mom: 3 Steps to Find Your Purpose Beyond MotherhoodIn this free online class that Ashley created, mamas will learn how they can define themselves as more than a mom so they can continue being great moms AND pursue their purpose beyond motherhood now.

You can also listen to a 34 week preemie birth story episode of The Birth Hour.

“I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” Birth Story

A Pregnancy Story that Starts At 33 Weeks Pregnant

Today’s birth story guest is Phoua Moua who didn’t know she was pregnant until she was 33 weeks along. She and her husband have been married for 8 years and had been trying to conceive for 5 years. Phoua had put getting pregnant towards the back of her mind and didn’t realize she was pregnant until she took a test after noticing a linea negra. She called her doctor and they asked her to come in and draw some blood. The day after she went in for blood work, they called and told her she was pregnant and was about 6 weeks pregnant. The doctor then scheduled the first ultrasound for when she was “9 weeks”. Even though she called the clinic back and told them she thought she was further than 6 weeks, they insisted she wait another 3 weeks to come in.

The day finally came and she and her husband went to her ultrasound on May 15, 2014 where they were told she was already 33 weeks! Her baby was due the end of June which was the very next month!!!

33 Week Preemie Arrives as Miracle Baby

The next morning she had contractions, which she thought were Braxton hicks. She called the nurse hotline and they insisted she go in to the hospital. She went in at 7:30am and was told she had a rupture. Around 12 noon she was dilated to 6cm and at 2:30pm she delivered what she refers to as her miracle baby, baby Jeremiah at 4 lbs 8oz 19 inches.

You absolutely have to hear Phoua tell this story in her own words!!

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Premature Birth and Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome: Ashlee Wells Jackson Shares her Birth Stories

Ashlee Wells Jackson’s Birth Stories

Ashlee is a photographer, feminist and storyteller currently living in Chicago. Mother to Xavier (10) and surviving identical twin daughter Nova Emery (3) and Aurora Eisley (stillborn due to complications from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome). Since mid 2012 she has been focused, along with business partner, Laura Weetzie Wilson, on 4th Trimester Bodies Project an international movement, photo-documentary and book series celebrating the uncensored beauty in motherhood. You can connect with Ashlee on Instagram @ashleewellsjxn or @4thTriBodies as well as Twitter and Facebook.

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In today’s episode Ashlee shares the stories of her three children’s births. Her son Xavier was born when she was 23 years old and she and her husband did lots of research and were planning for a peaceful home water birth. Ashlee had trained to be a doula while she was pregnant and her midwife joked that she was the picture of a textbook perfect pregnancy, measuring right on track, healthy, and active.

28 Week Premature Birth

Ashlee went into the late stages of labor unexpectedly at 28 weeks, arrived at the hospital within an hour of realizing what was happening to find out she was fully dilated with bulging waters. She had a traumatic birth with the hospital staff screaming at her not to push and to lay on her back when she knew she needed to be in a different position. Ashlee was able to briefly see Xavier before he was taken to the NICU and even though he was 12 weeks early he was healthier than expected and spent a total of 46 days in NICU, improving each day. Ashlee struggled with feeling of empowerment and being on a high from giving birth while facing the fear of her son’s health.

When Ashlee found out she was pregnant again she and her almost husband met with a team of midwives and planned on having the homebirth she’d missed out on the first time. Again, Ashlee was the picture of healthy but was measuring a bit ahead of dates so her midwife asked her to have an ultrasound which she and her fiance had on the morning of their wedding day when they found out they were having twin girls!  They were overjoyed and named both girls while on their honeymoon.

Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome

When they returned home they had a follow up ultrasound and 2nd Trimester screen and were told they had a stuck twin and that their daughter’s were suffering from TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome). They were referred to an MFM (maternal fetal medicine doctor) where they were told the girls were stage 4 of 5 of TTTS (5 meaning they had both already passed) and were given three options – terminate the entire pregnancy, selectively abort one of their girls in hopes the other would do better or immediately travel from Chicago to St. Louis for a laser surgery that was our only chance to save them both by separating their placental vessel connections. The surgery was the only option they could accept so they drove to St. Louis and 72 hours later were in the operating room.

The surgery was deemed successful; they severed the girls’ vessel connections and drained 3+ Liters of excess amniotic fluid. Ashlee rested around hourly ultrasounds and felt at peace and relieved that they were going to be OK.

In the morning they had one final ultrasound before being discharged and within seconds of the wand hitting her belly, Ashlee knew something was wrong. The doctor who had performed the surgery grabbed her hand and told her that Aurora had no heartbeat. After having been told the surgery was a success, it was such a shock to learn they’d lost one of their baby girls.

Ashlee was left to deal with the process of grieving the loss of one daughter while growing her other daughter. She was told that Nova was doing well and that there was no reason she wouldn’t make it to full term. She had long ultrasounds each week to check on both girls, Nova’s growth and Aurora’s body. Her fluid levels were still very high (polyhydramino’s is a side effect of TTTS) but everything else was stable until she woke up at 3am during her 24th week in labor and felt the same way she had when she went into labor with Xavier.

24 Week Premature Birth

She rushed to the hospital but despite all of the medications they gave her, nothing would slow down her contractions. They removed her cerclage and her MFM, knowing how important natural birth was to her, encouraged her to push but Ashlee had been given a spinal block rather than an epidural and couldn’t control her body well enough to push effectively. Nova’s heart beat dipped, and Ashlee was soon in the OR being prepped for a crash cesarean and at 11:11am Nova was born, with Aurora following a minute later.

Nova was taken to the NICU and Ashlee, who had been put under completely for the surgery woke up alone. Ashlee was concerned for Nova and didn’t know where Aurora was. Aurora was brought to Ashlee and they were able to spend some time together while Nova was being stabilized. 

It was determined that the girls came so quickly due to a rampant E-coli infection that must have happened during the initial surgery performed to separate them.

After Nova suffered from a brain bleed, they were told that Nova would likely never talk or walk but they sought second opinions and took her to a neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital in Chicago when she was 5 weeks old where she had a surgery to help her brain. Nova spent 100 days in the NICU, developed hydrocephalus and eventually came home with a VP shunt and an NG tube. They fought hard to exclusively breastfeed and are still going strong at 3 years old. Nova is now exceeding all expectations – beautifully healthy and extraordinarily happy today. 

Since giving birth, Ashlee struggled with feeling like a failure and hating her body for not doing what it was supposed to do. Being able to breastfeed was a healing process and a way for her to connect with her body and her children as she navigated her new role as a mother. She took the first picture of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project as a self portrait and has since photographed over 1500 women and heard their stories. You can read more about my experience participating in the project here

Resource Links

Still Standing

Still Birth Day

4th Trimester Bodies Project

A Preemie Birth Story with Christa Terry

A 34 Week Preemie Birth Story with Christa Terry

Today’s episode features Christa Terry and the story of her daughter’s unexpected early arrival. Christa went into labor at 34 weeks and quickly realized that her daughter was coming that same day. Listen to her describe her experience with a preterm labor and the subsequent NICU stay in her own words.

Christa Terry is one of the founders of HelloMamas.com, an app that helps local moms meet, communications director of Graham’s Foundation, and mom to two small but incredibly loud humans. She blogs at Hello Mamas and I Know How Babby Is Formed when she’s not otherwise busy making working motherhood look easy. Christa recommends Graham’s Foundation as the number one global organization supporting parents of preemies.

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