July 2018 – Christian Grace. Aubrey and her husband, Chris, felt so fortunate to have conceived their daughter the first month they decided to try and start a family. The first trimester was relatively smooth other than some bad morning sickness. Aubrey was 17 weeks along when she found out her daughter would be born with a cleft lip and palate. Aubrey and Chris were scared, and they spent the rest of the pregnancy learning everything they could about the diagnosis, interviewing with surgical cleft teams, and going to double the appointments as they were seeing their OB and a perinatologist.
After discussing a birth plan with her OB, Aubrey agreed to an induction at 39 weeks so that a NICU team could be prepped and ready in case of an emergency. Aubrey and Chris checked into the hospital at close to midnight on July 5th. They started Aubrey on cervadil to soften her cervix, which caused some intense back-to-back contractions. They removed the cervadil after only 4 hours because it had worked so affectively; then they began Pitocin to start labor. Pitocin was administered around 7am, and shortly after Aubrey received the epidural she had planned to have. Aubrey and Chris spent the next 12 hours spending time together and watching each contraction come and go on the monitor. They had an amazing nurse that took great care of them, was mindful of their birth preferences, and who was sympathetic towards their feelings about their daughter’s cleft.
Around 6pm, it was time to start pushing! Aubrey pushed for about 45 minutes – and then their daughter, Christian Grace, was born! Christian was born at 7:13pm, weighing 7 pounds 2 ounces and 20.5 inches long. The entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery was very emotional for Aubrey, and it was an incredible feeling to have her daughter safely in her arms. Other than a brief check by the NICU team after delivery, the NICU team was not needed. Aubrey and Chris got to enjoy their delayed cord clamping and golden hour with their baby girl.
Other than a 2nd degree tear and some swelling from the fluids/medications from the induction, recovery went relatively smooth. Overall, Aubrey’s birth was a healing experience after a physically and emotionally draining pregnancy.
Christian’s Birth Video/Blog
May 2020 – Heidi Blake. After 6 months of trying to conceive, Aubrey finally got pregnant with her second child. Although she loved her first pregnancy/delivery, she hoped for her next delivery to look different. Ideally, she wanted a spontaneous birth, no epidural, and to labor freely around her room. Aubrey interviewed with a midwife at a birth center, but she didn’t really feel like it was a good fit and assumed a hospital birth was her best option. Around 7 weeks, Aubrey had a huge bleed at home and feared she was losing her baby. The next day she was diagnosed with a very large subchorionic hematoma and advised to “take it easy” for the remainder of the pregnancy.
Aubrey and Chris spent a lot of the pregnancy anxiously wondering if the SCH would negatively affect the pregnancy. During the second trimester, Aubrey was frustrated that her OB wasn’t supportive of her birth preferences. The OB told her it would be too difficult to catch the baby if Aubrey decided to deliver on her hands and knees, and the OB also suggested that Aubrey wouldn’t be able to go the whole labor unmedicated. Then COVID hit and lockdowns went into place. Hospital policies were changing on a daily basis, and Aubrey hated that she would only be able to have her husband in the delivery room – not her mom, her doula, or her birth photographer. So Aubrey decided to interview with one more midwife/birthing center. It was an INSTANT connection, and Aubrey felt immediately respected, heard, and cared for. She switched from her OB to the midwife at 30 weeks pregnant. She also decided to get a doula to help prepare her for and coach her through an unmedicated birth.
The quality of prenatal care she received from her midwife was unlike anything she received from her OB. After 3 membrane sweeps and going 6 days past her due date, Aubrey’s water finally broke at home on May 20th, 2020 at around 2pm. She immediately notified her midwife, doula, mom, and birth photographer. After laboring at home for an hour, they got in the car to head to the birth center. Traffic and construction made the drive much longer, and the contractions in the car were super painful. However, the atmosphere the moment they walked in the birth center completely switched the mood. The lights were dimmed, her labor playlist was on, essential oils were going, and the bath tub was running.
Aubrey spent about an hour leaned over either a birthing ball or the bed, swaying her hips during each contraction. Her husband was massaging her back, mom was fanning her face, and doula was using peppermint essential oils to help with the nausea and offering words of encouragement and a cool rag. Around 4pm, Aubrey decided she wanted to get in the bath. The contractions immediately felt more manageable. Soon, Aubrey felt like it was time to push. After 15 minutes of pushing, their daughter Heidi was born into her daddy’s hands. Heidi Blake was born May 20th, 2020 at 5:01pm. She weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces and was 21 inches long.
Aubrey and Heidi enjoyed their golden hour in a fresh, herbal bath. It was everything Aubrey ever could have hoped for. Overall, Aubrey loved both of her, very different, births. She doesn’t advocate for any type of birth over the other. Instead, she hopes that women have the options and knowledge to decide what birthing preferences and prenatal care would work best for them. She also urges women not to settle for less than exceptional prenatal care and to interview several OBs and midwives to find the right fit.
Heidi’s Birth Video/Blog
Aubrey is a stay at home mom to two beautiful girls: Christian Grace (2) and Heidi Blake (8 months). Her and her husband are raising their daughters in the Texas Hill Country. Aubrey initially began her blog, Raising His Wildflowers, to help other cleft families find peace in the cleft diagnosis and to advocate for children born with craniofacial differences. Along with cleft-related content, Aubrey also shares day-to-day life as a stay at home mom in order to bring transparency to the struggles and joys of being a mom. Along with www.raisinghiswildflowers.com, you can also find Aubrey on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube @raisinghiswildflowers
Preparing for birth: a birth binder with everything you need
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A few days before Jenny was 41 weeks with her fifth baby, she came to the Midwife Center to start a natural induction – pumping and walking. After a few hours, her water broke and her labor began. Her family was planning to be present for the birth as well as her two friends who were photographer friends, and her mom and sister. Everyone arrived and Jenny’s labor continued to become more active. During the hardest parts of labor she used toning and spent some time in the tub. There were no surprises until it was time to push and it was much harder than she expected. She realized she needed to push through the pain and when she did, Norma was born surrounded by her thrilled siblings. Watch the video from Norma’s birth: https://vimeo.com/203038501
Jenny Stein Bio
Jenny Stein lives with her husband and five kids in Pittsburgh, PA. Her oldest child is finishing high school and her youngest is in preschool. She gave birth to all of her children with the midwives at The Midwife Center of Pittsburgh. She has been a support person for friends while they were giving birth and also photographed births for families. She loves taking photos of her family life and also loves talking about family photography on her podcast, The Family Photographer. Connect with her on instagram.
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Lori and Petra always knew they wanted to start a family, but when the time came in 2017, it did not go as easily as they had hoped. Lori struggled emotionally as IUI after IUI treatment failed, and even completed an unexpected full Ironman (140.6) to deal with the emotional fallout of the process. After 2 years and 6 failed IUIs to ‘prove infertility’, Lori and Petra were fortunate enough to get insurance authorization for a cycle of IVF. Although the egg retrieval process was successful, resulting in 4 viable embryos, the physical aftermath for Lori included OHSS and intermittent ovarian torsion. Despite the setbacks, the first embryo transfer was successful. The 2020 global pandemic started during Lori’s second trimester, but the pregnancy progressed smoothly. In September 2020, their son was born healthy via induction at 41 weeks. Although the delivery was relatively straightforward, Lori experienced postpartum complications that included vertigo, possible mastitis, a fissure, and stage 2 bladder prolapse.
Lori Vance Bio
Lori and her wife Petra met almost 15 years ago while studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. 3 years later they started dating in South Korea and got married in 2012 in Rochester, NY. They now live in New Hampshire with their son Nyle, 2 spoiled pit bulls, and a kitty-cat. As of 2020, they also live in a multigenerational home with 3 of Nyle’s grandparents. He loves it. Connect with her on IG: @doitordonot or visit her blog: https://doitordonot.wordpress.com/2020/02/28/ivf/
Before she was even pregnant, Loi had read all there is to read about pregnancy and childbirth. She knew that she wanted an unmedicated birth, and began to prepare herself by learning all she could about labor and delivery. After a smooth pregnancy, Loi had a home water birth with a midwife attending in Nairobi, Kenya!
Loi Awat Bio
Loi Awat is a creative and business writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She has eight years’ experience as a TV writer, creative writing coach, and organizational grant writer. She’s an aspiring author with a passion for children’s books, fantasy, and Afrofuturism.
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Niki and her husband, Brian found out they were expecting twins at an 8 week ultrasound in late April of 2019. This was a complete shock to them. The twins were spontaneous, di-di twins, meaning they had their own sacs and placentas- the least risky type of twin pregnancy. Niki and Brian chose to have blood work completed to find out the genders and they were again shocked and excited to find out they were both girls! Their then 3 year old son Dante, was not so excited about the babies in general but he really warmed up to the idea as he could see them growing in “mommy’s tummy.”
The pregnancy went very smoothly. Niki attributes much of this to the dietary, exercise and lifestyle modifications she made based on the book When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets or Quads. Niki also chose a high risk OBGYN as she wanted a practice where the doctors would allow the patient to attempt a vaginal birth even if one of the babies had a breech presentation. Her general OB said it would be an automatic c-section if either baby was breech. The high risk doctors agreed that as long as baby A (lowest baby) was head down, even if baby B was breech, they would allow a vaginal delivery. Niki wanted to have an unmedicated hospital birth, just as she had with Dante. Niki and Brian hired the same birth doula they had for their son, another postpartum doula and took classes on caring for and feeding twins. Niki’s goal was to tandem breastfeed the girls for at least 6 months.
The twin’s due date was November 19th, 2019. Niki stopped working in September as she felt too uncomfortable performing a lot of the physical requirements of her job as a physical therapist and she was concerned about preterm labor. She was having a lot of daily contractions at this point of the pregnancy, but every ultrasound, cervix check and doctor’s visit went perfectly. As the weeks rolled by, the OB began discussing induction dates as they wouldn’t allow twin pregnancies to exceed 38 weeks. The induction was scheduled for 6am on November 7th when the twins were 38 weeks, 2 days gestation.
The last 2 months of the pregnancy were challenging, to say the least! In September, the entire family came down with a cold but Niki was not getting better. By October she was having such terrible coughing spells that she fractured 2 ribs and ended up in the ER at 36 weeks. There was a minor pre-clampsia scare at the same time (one high blood pressure reading and one abnormal blood panel), but they were sent home from the hospital with antibiotics and a lidocane patch for the ribs. Slowly, Niki improved and was finally able to rest.
She had been practicing hypnobirthing meditations throughout her pregnancy and utilized positive imagery and daily meditation to get through her rib pain and illness. She was afraid that this injury would lessen the likelihood of having the unmedicated birth she planned.
As the induction date approached, Niki and Brian tried everything possible to self induce labor. She walked and hiked for miles, walked on uneven surfaces, danced, ate dates, etc. You name it, they tried! She was having a lot of contractions and had been dilated 3cm for over 2 weeks, but at her final OB appointment 2 days before the scheduled induction, it appeared these babies were not going to come on their own. This was such an irony to them because they spent the majority of the pregnancy worried about preterm labor and now they were worried about having to be induced! She asked the nurse to sweep the membranes in a final effort to bring on labor more naturally. When she did this, Niki lost the mucus plug.
That night, they prepared to leave for the hospital early in the morning. They had a final crab leg dinner with their son and said goodnight to him one last time as an only child. They tried to sleep. Niki cried before bed because things just weren’t going as planned.
At 3am, she woke up having heavy contractions and her water broke moments later. Brian was rushing her to leave the house and she wanted to make the bed, grab some snacks and make sure everything was ready. They left about 20 minutes after Niki’s water broke. They called the doula and she had an urgent tone to her voice about rushing to the hospital. Labor really picked up in the car! Niki used hypnobirthing meditations throughout and was amazed by how excited, exhilarated even, she felt. She was so happy to have gone into labor without being induced. She finally felt like the birth might actually go the way she wanted. Brian drove in a complete panic, asking Niki if he should run red lights, to which she yelled, NO!
When they arrived at the hospital, Niki and Brian knew she was very close to delivering a baby. Brian couldn’t figure out how to operate the phone to be buzzed up to the L+D floor and was panicking. Niki noticed another phone by the elevators, and that worked! As they exited the elevator on the L+D floor, the nurses were waiting and laughing saying “Niki, you’re over an hour early!” It was about 4am then and the induction was scheduled for 6am. The doctor on call, Dr. Roy Bergstrom, was the doctor Niki wanted. She knew he had a reputation for supporting unmedicated births and would likely let the doula in the room. Again, she felt excited and exhilarated by how well everything was going! The hypnobirthing meditations allowed her to feel a “bubble of peace” and drown out the sights/ sounds of the hospital and be in her own space with her babies. Between contractions, she would talk to the nurses about her birth preferences. She really wanted the L+D bed in the OR, where they make women deliver twins in the event that an emergency c-section is needed. The nurses pushed back on this one but said they would try. Dr. Bergstrom asked to call anesthesia to place a port- Niki agreed, though she knew she would not need the epidural. The nurses and Dr. Berg seemed a bit surprised when they checked her and she was 8cm and 100% effaced upon arrival. There was a big sense of urgency, but not panic as Niki was remaining very calm and relatively quiet. She was mainly standing by the bed and leaning over the bed when a nurse asked, would you like to “sit on the bed?” Niki asked to go on hands and knees. At that point, she was telling the nurses that she felt an urge to have a BM. They began calling for the doctor and without discussion, Niki pushed hard and out came baby A- Althea June Popper- dropping right into the mesh underwear and on the hospital bed! Brian described Dr. Bergstrom ran in the room and swept his hands under Althea just as she was dropping to the bed. They wheeled Niki, Althea and Dr. Berg all together into the OR. As they were going through the door, the nurse said in Niki’s ear, “That’s one way to get the bed in the OR.” They were laughing! The mood was so jovial. As they rushed into the OR, all Niki could see was the floor and tons of people’s feet shuffling next to the bed because she was still on hands and knees.
Althea was tiny, but mighty and very healthy! 4 lbs, 15oz, 20 inches long. Brian held her while the nurses and doctor got Niki situated in the OR. Niki was asking to get back on hands and knees, but was told no as they were trying to get monitoring on baby B. They began signaling to Niki to push. She didn’t feel ready and she asked for more time. Barb, the doula arrived right then and said, “Niki- you can trust them. It’s time to push.” She wasn’t feeling the same urge to push and the position on her back was terribly uncomfortable- truly the first time in the birth that she felt real pain. She pushed for a few minutes and out came Avery Betty Popper- 12 minutes after her sister, clocking in at a whopping 7lbs, 10oz, 21 inches long. Everyone was absolutely shocked by the size discrepancy. At this point, the anesthesiologist finally came into the OR and joked “I got a call, brushed my teeth, and in that time, you had two babies!”
Avery seemed okay at first; big, crying, etc. But very quickly, Brian and Niki realized that she was struggling with breathing. Her oxygen levels were low. The team was ready to rush Avery to the nicu. Dr. Bergstrom took command of the OR and asked everyone to slow down and let Niki hold her babies. She held both of them to her breasts. Althea was rooting but Avery was struggling to breathe. Brian went to the OR with Avery and Niki cradled Althea in her arms and was wheeled to the mom and baby unit with Barb. Dr. Bergstrom reassured Niki, “This is a healthy baby- she’ll be back with you in a few hours.”
Brian and Niki didn’t see one another for several more hours. Niki focused on nursing Althea and pumping to try and drive up her milk supply. When she finally went to the nicu, she saw that Avery was on a CPAP and that she was not, in fact, going to be leaving the nicu anytime soon at all. This was such a devastating moment for Brian and Niki. Because it was flu season at the hospital, they were not allowed to bring Althea to the Nicu. Niki and Brian spent the next 4 days alternating between nicu with Avery and mom baby unit with Althea. It was incomprehensibly hard. After everything had gone so smoothly with the birth, Niki couldn’t understand how this happened. She attributed it to pushing too soon during labor.
They were told initially that Avery had “Big Baby Respiratory Distress Syndrome.” That these babies “get better quickly 48 hours after delivery when surfactant kicks in.” 48 hours later, Avery’s condition had deteriorated significantly and the neonatologists began questioning this diagnosis. In the next 2 days, Avery developed a collapsed lung, a small bowel obstruction and worsening oxygen levels. They intubated her, started antibiotics and stopped all feedings. They suspected at this point that she aspirated fluid and blood at birth. Blood neutralizes surfactant so her surfactant production was not sufficient. The doctors were continuously coming to the mom and baby unit to tell Brian and Niki about a new complication.
On day 4, Althea was discharged and Niki and Brian left the hospital with one baby- Niki’s greatest fear coming to life. It was a devastating moment. They continued sharing duties of being at home with Althea and Dante and rushing back to the hospital to be with Avery. Niki pumped enough milk to provide both babies with breast milk- Avery in a feeding tube and Althea at the breast or with a bottle. Brian and Niki’s moms took turns with the kids as well.
In total, Avery spent 11 days in the nicu. She was finally able to come home with oxygen on November 17th. Avery and Althea were so content being together at home, at last. Avery made a complete recovery and no longer has complications related to her difficult entry to this world. Althea grew very quickly despite being small for gestational age. Both girls are healthy and thriving 18 month olds now. Niki experienced some postpartum depression and anxiety that improved significantly after she started seeing a therapist. She was able to take over a year long maternity leave. In July of 2020 she started her own physical therapy practice called Popper PT where she focuses on prenatal and postpartum care. Brian continues to work for Hello Fresh and they are a thriving, happy family!
Niki wanted to share her birth story because she loves hearing other people’s stories, she wanted to share about an unmedicated twin birth because those stories were hard for her to find and she sharing the story helps with her emotional healing from the trauma of the nicu. She hopes her story touches and helps other families as well.
Niki Popper Bio
Niki and Brian Popper have been married for 10 years and partners for 18 years. They met in college at the University of Denver. Niki is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and Brian is from Bethesda Maryland. They live in Denver with their three children, a 4-year-old son named Dante Alexander and 15-month-old twin girls, Avery Betty and Althea June. They also have a beloved 8-year-old cocker-spaniel mix named Pepper
Niki is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and focuses on treating patients with pelvic health, pre natal and post-partum concerns. She also specializes in treating TMJ and headaches. She has been practicing for 8 years and started her own practice, Popper PT in July of 2020. She sits for her Women’s Health Clinical Specialist (WCS) board certification exam in March of 2022.
Brian is Chief Operations Officer for Green Chef, an online organic meal kit delivery company that was purchased by Hello Fresh in 2018. The sale of green chef allowed Brian and Niki to have the resources to move to a new home and for Niki to take a year and a half of maternity leave.
They enjoy cooking, canoeing, hiking, skiing and snowboarding and camping. Niki is a certified Pilates instructor and enjoys Pilates based exercise and indoor cycling. Connect with her on Facebook at
facebook.com/niki.popper.1 or facebook.com/Dr.NikiPopper and on Instagram @drnikipopper. Her website is www.popperpt.com
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Arden Cartrette is a grief and bereavement doula who found her calling to help others through pregnancy loss after a long fertility journey to her son, Cameron. With two miscarriages leaving her with trauma and needed the assistance of her reproductive endocrinologist to get pregnant – she opens up about pregnancy and live childbirth after infertility and loss. Arden founded The Miscarriage Doula Co which is an online service and resource for women who are going through a miscarriage and navigating life afterward.
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Fairhaven Health is generously offering 15% of all of their products with the code BIRTHHOUR at www.fairhavenhealth.com. In today’s episode, our guest Arden shares a bit about her experience with products from Fairhaven Health.”