The Tolbert Family invites you to share their journey~ written by second time Mom, Amanda. Photo's by Your Birth Helper Doula's, Pamela Sauls & Nancy Cook.
Wow – three weeks has already passed since Boone Samson made his way into the world. The world that turned a bit upside down these days with COVID-19 reminding folks that we are a part of a community and challenging folks to go the extra mile to keep their neighbors safe. I am devastated by the increased death toll, not just in the United States, but all around the world. And as we try and combat this deadly virus; we are pushing ourselves into what could be a recession. Definitely a difficult time in our history. But as my family and I “social distance” or more preferred, as we “physically distance” ourselves, I’m taking the time to reflect on many things, one of which was Boone’s birth.
With both of our boys, we chose the Bradley Method of childbirth. First, I do want to say it’s easier to commit to the twelve-week training with the first, because let’s face it, juggling schedules of a parent in school, working parent, and a toddler – 2 hours of night class a week for 12 weeks is tricky. We were well educated by our Bradley instructor, Carole, prior to the birth of our first son, Barrett Mason.
Before Boone’s birth, we recommitted to Bradley, read through our workbook, stayed close to the eating and exercise regimen to remain low risk, and practiced relaxation. We also freshened up with our doula Dream Team – Pam and Nancy with Your Birth Helper, through a labor workshop and preparation phone calls (which included the direction to eat dates to prepare the uterus for labor – honestly, not my favorite, like at all 😊, drink labor prep tea, and you know however else you soften the cervix *wink* 😉).
So, how did we end up knowing about or choosing to educate ourselves with Bradley and hiring Your Birth Helper? Well, it was a journey. In 2017, when we found out we were pregnant, we had no idea what to expect. We went to doctor’s appointments, as directed, and figured that our doctors would tell us what to do. Then due to some experiences that were stuck in my head, I started to ask questions. I started asking my OB about the effects of an epidural and what about having a baby without one. Um… she laughed. Literally laughed in my face and said she had no clue why anyone would want to have a baby without an epidural. I gave her a blank stare.
She came back around and said, you can’t just walk into a hospital and have a natural, drug-free birth without training like you are going to run a marathon. She said, don’t get me wrong, I love drug-free births, because the doulas have the rooms calm, quiet, and smelling good. Well… naturally, my next question – what the heck was a doula? Sounded a bit too crunchy for me. She emailed me some recommended doulas. And that list was on my desk for weeks before I decided to call and see what this was all about.
So, after going down the list, I finally got to Pam Sauls, Your Birth Helper. She answers and I said um… I’m calling because I’d like to know what a doula is. Pam went to talking for an hour and not necessarily just about a doula, but about what I wanted from my birth experience. Basically, I had nothing. I had no answers and no clue. I initially thought that the OB would tell me what to do, but over the past few weeks/months, I realized that we had choices.
I had no idea what those choices were or how to decide. Later that week, Pam came to consult with us. We decided that we wanted to train via the Bradley Method and prepare for a drug-free birth. However, at that time, we didn’t decide that drug-free is what we wanted (I didn’t know if I could handle it). But we wanted to train to be able to, in the event that it was too late for an epidural, or I wasn’t a candidate for an epidural – whatever the case could be, we wanted to be prepared for that marathon of no drugs to make sure I could get through it.
As we went further along into the pregnancy, through our Bradley training, we learned the benefits of drug-free childbirth for the baby and the complications that epidurals and interventions could cause to the labor process, mom, and baby. We then decided that we wanted to pursue a natural, drug-free birth. Well after 30 weeks into my pregnancy, we decided to switch healthcare providers at the recommendation of Pam and Nancy. We finished out our pregnancy exams and birth of our son with Piedmont OBGYN. This practice and their partner hospital supported natural childbirth and had almost as many midwives as OBs. Overall, we have been very satisfied with Piedmont and would recommend then to friends and family.
Midwife Sage Caught Barrett
Now, childbirth is not one size fits all, contrary to what some of your loved ones may think. Your moms labor and birth may be like yours, maybe not. Your own pregnancies and births may be similar to each other, but likely, not. Doctors and midwives have a tough job. The good ones balance the science and their experiences with the needs and desires of the soon to be mamas - the art.
At times its not easy. It requires trust. Lots of trust!
Thankfully, I had some amazing and trusting midwives and nurses to help me bring my boys into this world. With Barrett, I had been in second stage labor (pushing) for several hours. If you run out of energy to push, well… you may not be able to have the birth experience you had planned. My midwife, Sage, started to let us know that she was concerned about how long I could push, how long I would have the endurance. So was I! I told her I didn’t know, but I was going to push with all I had. After a few more push-with-everything-I-had pushes, she leaned over and told my husband that I have what it takes, and we are going to keep going. Leading into hour 4 of second stage labor, Barrett was born.
Boone was getting close to 42 weeks and by reports from the latest ultrasound and OB, the potential to be quite a large baby. The last few weeks, these little's just pack on weight, so the longer they are on the inside, the bigger they will be. And for some reason, my babies like to stay on the inside well over 40 weeks.
Tammy, my midwife, asked me during my final appointment how I felt about the estimation of his weight. Anyone that knows me knows how I get about the weight of my babies in the womb. I worry about it constantly and I don’t like for anyone to mention that they think I’ll have a big baby, because Aaron is big – or whatever crap, I’ve heard it all. So, needless to say, I am very sensitive about it. Pam and Nancy, from Your Birth Helper, were supportive in building me up and not letting me focus on that. Some people have big babies, some don’t. It’s not necessarily the size of the spouse. Factors like what you eat during pregnancy and how long the babies stays in the womb, can help determine the size of your baby – even more so than the size of your partner. Both my boys would likely have been 7-8 pounds if they would have been born at 40 weeks.
Tammy went on to tell me that a mother knows. She said a mother’s guess of her baby’s weight is far more accurate than ultrasounds and even their estimates. And that I shouldn’t fear the estimates (which were as high as 11 pounds), but trust in myself. Now, Boone was a big baby at birth, just 2 oz. shy of 10 pounds. But that conversation, that day, meant so much to me. It meant that trust existed, and she let me know that I am the mom and that this isn’t all science. It was so encouraging.
Two days later, she along with Pam and Aaron by my side, helped me birth Boone.
So, back to before when I was acquiring about what a doula was. Well, here is the answer. If you have Your Birth Helper, a doula is the most amazing person you and your partner can have during this marathon and life changing event. A doula is your friend.
A doula is an extension of your family. A doula is one of the best decisions we have ever made. Following our birth plan and having a natural, drug-free birth was of the utmost importance to us. I am not sure that we would have been able to achieve our goals and follow our plan as close as we could (birth is unpredictable, sometimes you must pivot) without Pam and Nancy by our side. Pam was with us through the labor and birth of both boys. She, along with my husband, helped me maintain my composure (best I could), help me focus on breathing… but more than that – helped me to move the boys down and out. It is definitely called labor for a reason and your body is so capable of doing it. However, there are 2 ways to labor, you can cause your body to take longer or you can help the process (as painful and uncomfortable as it may be).
For me, that is where I found enormous value in having her there. She made me do things that were uncomfortable, kept me moving, and kept me doing things that helped my boys get into the right position and ultimately, come out. I’m pretty sure I told her no 500 times during labor, but was compliant every time. Why – because of trust. I trusted Pam to do her job. I trusted her experience and our partnership. She’s the best. She’s not afraid to get dirty and stand up for you. She is there for you, but not blindly. She has a lot of experience and helps direct you when things are going your way, but even more importantly when they are not. She makes sure you understand that decisions lead to other decisions and potentially interventions. She also makes sure you are educated. That you go into your birth prepared for what’s to come and prepared for things you didn’t plan for. She will be your biggest cheerleader, but doesn’t just sugar coat things. And, she believes in the power of your partner and yall’s bond. She is not and will never call herself a labor coach. To her, that job is already taken by your partner.
Now back to Boone’s birth…. Even before getting to the hospital, Pam and Nancy were there for me. After I rounded out the 40th week, we started talking about induction. The flu had come through our house and hit my husband and toddler. I really think my body didn’t allow labor to start with the sickness in our home. I think prayers were answered that Boone stay safe. After the flu came around, then I got sick with a virus causing an extremely wet cough. I coughed so much for so long that I was certain I had broken ribs. Every cough came with extreme anxiety. So, my body took some time to heal. Another week came and went with no sign of labor – just a nasty cough that kept me in pain and up all night. My next appointment, we had to talk about an induction. I was getting close to 42 weeks and although the non-stress test and ultrasound showed a healthy baby, lots of amniotic fluid, and a healthy placenta, they were worried about his size. Boone wasn’t large for being the gestational age of 42 weeks, but the longer they are inside, it’s inevitable that they will grow larger. The head is built to morph in the birth canal, but oddly enough what they worry about are the shoulders. I figured shoulders were more mallable than a head, but I guess not. I was strongly opposed to an induction and held off the discussions as long as I could. Reason being is that I wanted labor to be as natural as possible and induction (though sometimes necessary) starts the process off unnaturally – which itself isn’t bad, but what other things could happen and where could those decisions lead you. Those were my fears. Pam was there for me. She worked and worked to help get me into labor from Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning.
We walked miles and miles up hills together. She took me all over town to eat food that I normally wouldn’t eat to get my stomach rumbling.
She helped me relax and take contractions in ways that would help the baby get into the right positions. She helped me stay calm and out of my own head. She says sometimes her biggest challenge is people in the mother’s life. She helps get things moving and get girls into labor, despite sometimes well meaning unsolicited comments, some even from complete strangers, the things people say and well, labor stops again. Stress releases adrenaline and adrenaline stops or slows labor. Labor is a big deal for your body and your emotions can impact it – adrenaline can slow labor and being sad or mad can have an effect. Pam says you are to be elevator music – don’t get too high or too low, be consistent. Saturday morning, Pam, Aaron, and I went into the hospital together for my scheduled induction. Yes, everything we did to get into labor, got me some early labor contractions, but unfortunately, I wasn’t in an active labor pattern by Saturday morning. My induction wasn’t what I pictured and what I had been afraid of. The plan was to have my water broken by my midwife. Initially, that scared me. Because in my head, I wondered well what’s next if that didn’t get things going. But with Pam, I walked into the hospital Saturday morning having contractions.
My fear was gone, because I felt that if I had progressed this much naturally (with the help of Pam), that the breaking of my waters would just be the push that my body needed to get into active labor.
My water was broke at 9AM and by 10AM, I was in active labor. Pam and my husband were right there by my side as I endured some pretty strong contractions. Pam made sure that I was sinking into them, giving into them and not doing things counterproductive to moving the baby down.
Aaron held me up – physically and emotionally. With each contraction, I sank into him, giving him my full body weight and also, sank into his words to breathe and constantly reminding me how strong I was and how proud of me he was.
We walked the halls of the maternity ward, stopping what seemed like every couple of steps. Up next was the tub, but labor had progressed so quickly that we were close to second stage labor, so we had to forgo the tub. The tub was my bargaining chip with Pam. She wanted me to walk the halls, but I was having strong contractions and told her no. Not because I was afraid to walk, but because I was worried about not being in complete control with a contraction came… not being able to relax. That’s what scared me while I was in labor the most, that my body was doing something that I needed to participate in, but had no control over. It was important that I relax and sink down into contractions, but what if I was in the middle of changing positions, how do I quickly get in a comfortable, relaxing position. Anyway, after some negotiating, I agreed to walk the halls if the next stop was the tub, so I could really relax.
At about 11:30AM, I had to start laboring down. Which for me has been one of the toughest parts of labor. I felt the extreme urge to push, however my cervix was only dilated to 8 cm. This is when it got a little crazy and both Pam and Tammy came to my rescue. I will be honest; laboring down is not easy. Everything you have in your entire body wants you to push with everything you have, but you can’t. You must wait. Pushing too early can cause swelling of the cervix, which does absolutely the opposite of what you want. You want a larger opening, not smaller.
Tammy kept calm and kept telling me how strong I was and how soon we
would be able to meet my little boy. Pam kept me to keep moving, changing positions every 30 minutes or so. At 12:30 p.m., finally, I was told that I could give in to the urge to push and I did. Thirty minutes later, Boone shot out like a rocket. Or so we said, until we realized he was almost 10 pounds. Then we changed our tune to shot out like a cannonball – felt more appropriate. They were prepared for his shoulders to be tight, but Tammy was able to help him out with no problem and very quickly. And, Nancy arrived just in time to capture some fabulous birth photos.
As soon as he was born, we were skin to skin and nothing else mattered. As I laid with my new baby on my chest and my body feeling lifeless, I clung to Aaron. I clung to him, because he is my person. I love him and am so thankful that he has been by my side while I bring our boys into the world, and every step of the way afterward.
Looking back, I count our blessings every day. Boone was healthy. I was healthy. Thankfully! Childbirth is unpredictable. I believe keeping it simple and natural, and having Pam, Aaron, and Tammy by my side were the real reasons I could have a natural birth and a healthy boy. Boone came out with his cord wrapped around his neck and his heart rate would drop during a contraction. But thankfully come back up. Pam made sure I kept moving into positions that were more favorable to get him out quicker and keep some of the pressure off him. There were clearly positions he could tolerate better than others. I am thankful for Tammy’s patience and calm demeanor. She was smart about our safety, but stayed calm and encouraging. I could not even tell from her face that anything was going on until Aaron told me about the cord and his heart rate roller coaster after he was born.
Enjoy this final short slideshow...
Thanks Pam, Nancy and Your Birth Helper Teams for all that you do!
Tolbert Family – party of 4 😊