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2017 Birth Story of The Year Athens, GA

After much deliberation, contemplation & consideration of all the Amazing Births we had this year, allow me to share Your Birth Helper's choice for:

"2017 Georgia Birth Story of the year" Athens, GA... Congrat's to Amy & Josh Clevenger!


2017 Georgia Birth Story of the Year | Overcoming Long Labor

I created Your Birth with a few simple goals: Healthier Moms & Healthier Babies with a specialty of creating more happy "birth" days! I did not realize that narrowing down from a years worth of amazing "birth" stories, I would have such a difficult time choosing only two special two special couples & births. One from Georgia & one from North Carolina to feature for 2017.

Allow me to first share some basic thoughts every expectant couple should consider, no matter whether your first or your fifth birth.

Your Birth Helper | Specializing in Happy "Birth" Day

Congratulations! You are going to be parents they say, but no one says, Oh by the way are you aware of all the risks, what if's and whammies associated with bringing life into the world? Of course not! Geez, we would all be a nervous wreck if we allowed such a vast list of unexpected situations to overpower our happy thoughts about childbearing.

Sadly, many couples spend way more time researching their next new cell phone, computer or car than they ever will spend to bring forth life... WHY IS THAT? Seems a little geek'd up right? How do we go about changing that mindset? To bring attention to the fact you should know how to meet your nutritional needs while pregnant and you should learn how to properly tone and condition your birthing muscles, but even your obstetrician doesn't share these basics. This preventative education alone could spare women dozens of poor outcomes. Shockingly, one of the few doctors highly educated in nutrition as it applies to reproduction and lactation is a veterinarian. Although, we are all grateful for our amazing farmers and more options in clean eating, it leaves me pondering, when did the health of animals before or during reproduction become more important than our own human offspring? Labor and birth for a woman is the most athletic event she will ever take part in. Indeed a marathon by every definition of the word. Therefore, you should acquire enough stamina through regular physical exercise daily to fuel you through the labor from start to finish. Simply put you need a good nutritional plan, exercise regiment and proven relaxation techniques for not just physical relaxation, but emotional and mental relaxation, as well. The twelve week course in The Bradley Method® has all the above besides with its not just a childbirth class or doula service, we do life together! Couples can plug in as little or as much as they would like. My mantra, "You begin as students, but you end as family!"

Below classmates of Amy & Josh aka their #AthensBirthFamily!


Me: The biggest challenge preparing for labor/ practicing for the big day?

Josh: Sadly we did not do our relaxation homework as much as we should have. We did do it sporadically, but we couldn’t connect practice with the real thing: Meaning the pain she would need to relax through we couldn’t simulate (of course!). So we neglected relaxation practice. We did read all the material for each class. I read many books, Husband Coached Childbirth twice, and a few other natural childbirth books my mom gave me. Amy was amazing at keeping to the diet. She loves planning and detail and so recording everything she ate and making sure she hit her goal every day was right in her wheelhouse. We celebrated everyday when she ate 90 g and above protein. I was very proud of her dedication.

Me: How do you feel your relationship has changed since your son was born?

Josh: I don’t think our relationship has changed. We have been together for a while (12 years) and are very committed to one another. I will say that I certainly could not have felt more love than watching what she did during the birth. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. But, to be fair, I knew she was like that from the beginning so I wasn’t too surprised. No man would ever be able to endure that.



Me: Why did you chose The Bradley Method®?

Amy: Josh was a Bradley baby so we were open to the idea. We wanted to give our baby the best possible start and loved the idea of minimal interventions. We did it for our baby!

Me: What you feel (in your words) was the most beneficial prep during the 12 weeks i. e. Nutritional plan, exercise prep, relaxation practice, labor role play etc. ?

Amy: For me, the combination of all of the prep was important. I wanted to do everything possible to prep for the big day/marathon... and we used every bit of it after all!

Dean Pannell, of Pannell Designs & Events in Bogart, provided each mom a beautiful rose during their childbirth class graduation celebration.

Pannell Designs & Events | Class Graduation | YourBirthHelper Moms

Why should you attend Birth Training? Because, what comes instinctive, is to do everything wrong! Oh the irony. Likewise, men do not naturally possess "labor coaching" skills either. Most possess zero knowledge on how to best support their partner without proper advance research, education and skills. Let's face it, just because we have the body parts as women, does NOT mean we know how to best handle a contraction, let alone expelling a baby from our body, nor the proper breastfeeding basics and the list goes on. Dr. Robert A. Bradley said it best, "It takes 9 months to grow a baby full term and it takes 9 months to learn what you need to know to properly care for and nourish it before its born."

And, in the words of Pamela Sauls, AAHCC, " It takes 12 months to determine which birth story contained so much unpredictability, while maintaining our goal of #SymbioticBirth collaborative teamwork, despite days of labor, with an amazing birth team, at an amazing birth place! In this particular 2017 feature birth story, despite all odds, the couple still managed to accomplish their goal of an "epidural free birth!"

Luckily, for Amy Clevenger, her husband took his role as Labor Coach seriously and agreed the twelve week training in The Bradley Method® just made sense because he desired the skills to better assist her and not go blindly into birthing.

Proud Mom | Breastfeeding Mom | Postpartum visit

Not only did the couple attend a two hour weekly class in Athens, Ga, they reviewed the student workbook, instead of allowing the book to collect dust or stay in the car all week. The exercise & nutritional plan alone are the basics to staying healthy and low risk, ensuring as a laboring mother, Amy would have even more choices. Often what comes natural to us during childbirth is to do everything wrong- not right. That is the same reason why I caution clients who go with the "do whatever your body tells you" concept to labor and birth, you might need a different plan. Now don't get me wrong, you CAN do business that way, but why would you want to be in higher thresholds of pain and discomfort if you didn't have to? For starters, you need to know when a contraction hits and everything in you wants to RISE UP~ you gotta welcome your inner namaste and allow your body to SINK DOWN! It is not as easy as some think. Its also why many couples who do not educate lose site of their target birth experience in late labor. Their plans all of a sudden change and they are asking for epidural or surgery to bring a sudden end to the process. Cooked like a turkey DONE, as I like to say. You see labor has a way of making us feel this way, "just get it over with already!" In my book of birthing, there is little instinctively done correct by the average woman, experiencing an average labor, especially if transition is involved. However, when we teach ourselves how to properly respond to contractions, all of a sudden the ball game changes. We flip the script. Moms are no longer objecting to more contractions, when they understand the process they are welcoming contractions so as to finish strong. The closer together, the stronger- the BETTER! In Bradley® classes we call this, Relating Pain with Progress. Daily training is very beneficial, utilizing the training plan that weekly builds, pays off big on labor day.

Being a relaxation expert by the time you go into labor, pays off big and couples like Josh & Amy would never had been able to weather the challenges they faced during their labor and birth without applying what they learned. Couple's that experience a difficult long labor and those couples who have not prepared for unexpected variations or medical complications are in a position where even one small challenge can derail mom's birth plan.

In this years, Georgia Birth Story of the Year, Amy had six major stumbling blocks and it took many hours of endurance and active coaching to overcome and still birth vaginally, let alone without an epidural. A prime example, Training matters. Practice matters. The natural process of childbirth hasn't changed much but what you are subjected to in a medical birth experience varies greatly from hospital to hospital and even from practice to practice but the very best start to life remains a low intervention drug free birth. That hasn't changed at all and FDA continues their stance that NO DRUG has ever been proven 100% safe for mom or baby. We are grateful for our medical professionals and the advances that save many lives, but we are also grateful for medical professionals who welcome the natural process and save those interventions for the few who actually require them during true medical complications.

Mom & Dad practice labor positions | Relaxation | Labor Role Play

Josh and Amy desired to avoid as many routine procedures, intervention and drugs as possible, including induction. In the days leading up to active labor, they did a number of things to help prep her body. We did pressure point work for her Friday before while she enjoyed floating in a friends pool. On Wednesday following, we met up for a very country breakfast @ Strickland's family restaurant in Athens.

After, together we traveled to Clarkesville, a city in north Georgia, to walk up a mountain literally! For lunch, she ate crazy asian food covered in all sorts of wild sauces, then we walked some more! When I dropped her off back at home, she was having mild contractions.

Hands and knees Birth | Midwife assisted Birth

Active Labor kicked in high gear on Friday Sept 1st , 2017

(she was due Aug 23rd). Her baby was born epidural free

on Sept 4th @ 11:40am against all odds in classic position. As the baby was placed on her chest, Amy cried out, "Awww his head looks like a peanut!" Keep reading and find out why and how unbelievable it truly was that baby Phoenix managed to find the exit.

My earlier years of assisting births dates back to end of 1991, but this birth story contained a first for me as shortly after arriving at their birth place, they learned they were placed on lock down for an active shooter in the hospital. Yup, you can't make this stuff up. The shooter was on the 5th floor, Labor & Delivery lock down on the 3rd floor. That certainly could destroy your relaxation in about 2 seconds flat. Yet, despite all the craziness, Amy maintained her relaxed state to the best of her ability. To better understand just what all Amy overcame to birth vaginally, allow me to take you through the hurdles she jumped and cleared with help from her husband coach, myself as doula, supportive nurses and two awesome "hands off" midwives.

Dad applies counter pressure | Back Labor | Husband Coached Childbirth

AMY, along with her husband JOSH coaching, endured an extremely long labor. Which challenged both dad and mom. Josh did not realize how difficult it was to stay awake 2.5 days while assisting Amy through contractions every few minutes. Amy had a slow to dilate cervix and at one point a tired uterus with contractions spacing out and getting shorter. An Asynclitic head position certainly didn't help any (Phoenix decided to put the side of his head into the birth canal). Misaligned head presentation was suspected as a possible reason for holding up the labor. If the baby fails to align the smallest portion of the back of the head in the birth canal, a variety of labor challenges can follow. Often we find in the weeks and days prior, prodromal labor occurs. Not only can this create more rapid short contractions (often the body's way of trying to alter the position), but often only serves to burn up a lot of moms energy and keeps her from sleeping prior to active labor. It is never a good starting point for a woman to go into hard labor already exhausted. This is true for dad, as well. When accompanied with other unusual pain, such as glut pain, we can have a baby who decides to come out looking all cute (like Phoenix did) hand up under his chin... so now Amy is not only birthing a head but also a hand. The hands and knees position can be beneficial to ease glut pain and added pressure. Needless to say, this power couple together handled each stumbling block, maintained the dedication to the natural process by not focusing on the length of the labor but assuring good positioning throughout, that both mom and baby were fine and a hands off relaxing environment, along with, avoiding an epidural was key to her successful push phase. Upon birth we also realized she had a short umbilical cord (on average they are around 21 inches long) her cord was also fused into the membranes.


Me: What would you describe was the key element, other than your own stubbornness that allowed you to endure such a trying Labor without an epidural?

Amy: I wanted the best for our baby and wanted to avoid an epidural. I also had a supportive coach/husband and doula that helped me through. Our midwife was also helpful, being open to working through our situation and options, respecting our preferences and safety.

Me: What you feel helped you the most? Include positions or tub, ball, etc. or certain relaxation techniques, such as 8th grade dance, counter pressure, music, low verbal noises, etc.

Mom Labors in Tub | Use of labor peanut ball

Amy: changing and trying ALL positions was the key to progressing the labor. It is not easy but so important in labor, especially one like mine. The low verbal noises, grunting and music were also important getting through the labor contractions.

Me: Best Advice for moms who experience long labor who want to labor epidural free?

Amy: I had faith I could get through the labor, even though I may have doubted myself at times. If you have faith and trust yourself, your coach, support and medical team, I think you can do more than you expect. Rely on what you learned and trust your body! Thinking about meeting your baby and the gift you’re giving it helps too!

Their labor, no doubt, was by every definition of the word, a prime example of what I like to call, "SYMBIOTIC BIRTH"... normality plus only medically necessary interventions. A perfect blend of two mindsets. This concept is very refreshing to educated couples who have prepared, practiced and are devoted to properly apply what they have learned. Having a basis of knowledge of common issues during labor, with proper informed consent, they dealt with each unexpected situation one at a time!

It is important for doctors, midwives and other hospital staff to realize educated couples, like Josh and Amy, will gladly alter their birth plans, if a medical complication arises. Likewise, if mom and baby are fine, they prefer to be left alone to work through labor using a variety of comfortable positions, keeping disruptions to a minimum and avoiding routine interventions that do not apply to them. Having supportive staff can often make the difference between drug free and/or low intervention birth and failure to progress/unproductive labor that often ends in surgery. What staff says in front of the laboring MOM & DAD also matters! Negative words have the ability to empower or defeat the couple. Dr. Bradley shared approximately 3% of mothers truly have a medical need for a c-section and another 3% have a true medical need for various medicine, including things like BP lowering meds, pitocin, etc. Statistically, that leaves approximately 94% of women, particularly if educated, trained and in a supportive birth place, quite capable of birthing their baby free of medical interventions.


Me: Why did you decide to hire

Amy: We knew you were very experienced in ‘happy birth days’ and that you would support us and make sure we made educated decisions throughout labor. Having your support was a major factor in sticking as close as possible to our birth plan.

Me: What was your Biggest challenge of your Birth marathon.

Amy: the pure exhaustion of being in labor so long was the biggest challenge, which let doubt creep in at one point. I’m glad I didn’t let it beat me down!

Me: Why Did you Decide to Hire a DOULA and your biggest challenge during long labor?

Josh: The best thing I did in my life was ask Pam to be our doula. I wouldn’t have held up the whole time without her there, and I can guarantee Amy would have ended with an epidural or surgery. I think what helped me the most was having run many half marathons and a full marathon. Dr. Bradley says childbirth is an endurance event, and not just for the moms. When running long distance it is a mental game, you always have small goals. Every time you hit a goal you move on to the next one. Then before you know it you’re at the end. During Amy’s contractions, I thought of every one as a small goal. Every time she made it through one that was one she didn’t have to endure again. That helped me keep going. I will admit it made her mad when I told her that every one got her a little closer. She called me a liar.

The best thing I will do next time (if there is a next time) is pay attention to my rest (as coach) and nutrition as the date got closer. I thought we would do the relaxation at home for a while, go to the hospital at the right time, and be there for pushing and pictures. I never envisioned I would have to not only be awake for two and a half days, but also do so much work. Amy’s contractions started on Friday, but they weren’t that strong or very close together. On Saturday I was a dumb dumb and didn’t read the signs well enough (even though my mom let me know) and I went on a 5 mile run! That was so stupid because I didn’t go to sleep again for the night until Monday! When it gets close I should have made sure I was well rested and full of carbohydrates. Childbirth is a serious business and is even work for us men. Not as much obviously, but I was not going to take breaks or relax when she had to do so much work!

I also think being more serious about talking about plans when you are thrown curve balls is good. When it’s 30 hours in and your partner is really getting blasted things can get emotional and it’s hard to make decisions. I think the decision we made (thanks to Pam) was awesome, but I wish I could have made it earlier. We maybe pushed it a little too far.

So if I had to be concise I would say:

(1) Have help from someone who has experience

(2) Take care of yourself and be well rested as the date gets close

(3) Be overly prepared for complications and how you and your partner want to handle them

(4) Marvel at the miracle.

Couple shares how they overcame long labor | Why Train for Childbirth

Dear WORLD, This is baby Phoenix. The little "peanut head" as mom proclaimed after birth. Some may find it interesting to know, his proud father, Josh, happens to be a Research Scientist who studies peanuts... how ironic? On behalf of the entire Your Birth Helper Family, Thank you Josh & Amy for your dedication to the natural process of BIRTH! Special thanks to the amazing midwives of Women's Healthcare Associates & the amazing nurses of St. Mary's hospital Athens, GA. Your support to couples and their birth plans is greatly appreciated.

It is my utmost pleasure to honor your efforts during your birth marathon as,


P.S. I often contradict moms & dads who say they could not have accomplished their birth goals without me... I respond this way, "Sure you could have, you just wouldn't have had as much FUN! Happy Amazing belated "BIRTH" DAY Phoenix! Love, Ms. Pam

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