OLIVE'S BIRTHDAY

I am SO EXCITED to share with you Olive's birth story! Olive's sweet mom and dad, Emily and Bryant, went to college with my husband. They carry so much joy and it's evident all through out this story. I love her vulnerability, her courage, and her strength that led her to surrendering her fears at the feet of Jesus. I love the ways Bryant supported Emily physically and even more so, spiritually, through their journey. This story of a birth center birth is beautiful and I can't wait for you to read it. 

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When I was pregnant and I would watch birthing videos, read or hear people’s stories, I found myself feeling one emotion, fear. Women talking about how bad it hurt and how terrible it was or hearing the horrendous moans on the video that sounded like dying animals. It made it seem so scary to me. Even the beautiful peaceful labors still brought my stomach into my chest. The unknown seemed so overwhelming. Through my entire pregnancy Bryant, my husband, and I said, “We have a no fear policy in our family.” I fought fear during my whole pregnancy, not because I thought I was going to miscarry but because I wanted to experience pregnancy to it’s fullest and I feel because of this I was able to, and I so enjoyed it. But dealing with fear going into labor was an ongoing battle. 

SO, as I write out my story, I feel aware of people, like me, who will read this. And the last thing I want is to instill fear. My midwife said the sweetest thing that brought me so much comfort. I asked her about my feeling leading up to labor, “I feel like I’m working hard to tackle fear but I still feel a weird anxiety about all of it when I think about it.” “Oh, stage fright!” she replied. YES! She responded with, The grace will be there when labor comes and it will grow. Labor won’t hit you all at once and the Lord will grant you the peace and grace you need when it arrives.” Of course He will. He is so kind and so generous. And he did. 

Also, I wish someone had told me, those women are making those moaning sounds to ride the pain (to keep it from being more intense) not because they’re dying.


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It was Saturday night, three days past my due date, and in the middle of our church service contractions started. I felt Braxton hicks contractions for the previous few months, but these were different. At the feeling of the first one, I glanced at my phone to note the time. Contractions fell into line at 20min each. I was excited but calm. We had talked through this again and again, just ignore it when it starts. So I did (but still noted the time cause, I was still excited) we went grocery shopping and rested before bed I had a glass of wine, per Donna, my midwife’s, instructions to see if they would stop. Much to my dismay, they did. We woke up the next morning for work with the hope they would pick up again. As soon as I started getting ready for the day, they picked back up and were getting closer much quicker. Donna suggested it would help take my mind off all of it to go into work. So, I went to work that morning but didn’t tell anyone what was going on, I didn’t want to make a big scene. I decided to text Bryant a baby emoji each time I had a contraction so we both knew the timing (and also, so fun). Our excitement quickly grew,over the next couple hours they got to 7min apart and were staying sustained there. I was still able to talk through my contractions and was breathing through them just fine at work but we decided we wanted to give ourselves ample time to rest in case I was going to go into active labor that evening. 

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So we left work while I was at 7min apart and we went straight to Dr. Tara, our chiropractor, hoping to help speed things along. We were all excited and went home to rest for a few hours before going back for another adjustment. At home contractions quickly stopped. We were bummed but had prepared ourselves that this may happen. So we breathed, ignored it and spent our evening together. It was such a peaceful day, we watched The Crown, took naps and decided to enjoy one last evening out just the two of us. I went and got adjusted before dinner and hoped this would be the beginning of it. We enjoyed dinner, looking at Christmas decorations and a got walking. Contractions seemed to be slowing down while we were walking, “what in the world!” I was so frustrated. I was doing everything that I was supposed to and was starting to get discouraged. Dr. Tara asked us to come in again and said she would take a look to see if something was stalling me. We went back in around 8:30pm and she adjusted me and had me start walking the stairs at the birthing center to hopefully start things up. Again, nothing. She started asking me if I was feeling emotional blocks. Uh-oh. I knew this had to be it even though I had tried to pray through everything. 

I knew I still had fear about it. I told her that I was feeling fear about pushing. For some reason of all the things in labor I was most afraid of that (even though everyone I had talked to had told me that’s the best part). She led me through a series of questions and asked me and Bryant to sit with the Lord alone and talk to him about the fear that I had. I had a good cry and felt the fear of pushing was really a fear of tearing, which was really because I was afraid Bryant would reject me if I had a tear (which by the way he never did anything to make me believe this, it was a total lie I was believing).  After sweet time with the Lord and Bryant and choosing to believe the truth, that Bryant would love me no matter what and that both he and the Lord believed in me, we left the chiropractor knowing that I would probably wake up during the middle of the night in labor. 

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It was 4:45am, I woke up to pee and realized I was having strong contractions. These felt different than before, I knew this was it. I had prayed at the end of my pregnancy that I would have bloody show when it was really labor and that morning I had some.  I timed a few contractions and was excited that they were about 15min apart. I quickly realized this was an awkward time to just stand around awake. I wanted to text Donna and let her know I was definitely going into labor but I knew she would tell me to have a glass of wine and go back to sleep until I couldn’t sleep anymore. So I decided to do that before texting her. Around this same time I realized if I woke up in more pain than this, I wouldn’t be able to fix my hair. Which for some people may sound insane but listen, I knew I would feel better and ready to conquer labor if my hair was done. Yes, I am crazy. So I decided I’d curl my hair while drinking my glass of wine and then go to bed. As I was curling my hair, the contractions grew in intensity so quickly. I got halfway through and I was finding myself stopping as the contraction was coming so I could concentrate and breathe through it. Bryant called Brittany, our doula, and she was on her way over. By the time she got there my hair was curled, Phew! But seriously, she made it over around 6:30am and I was calmly working through contractions on all fours with Bryant coaching me through them. 

After a couple hours working through contractions, I could feel the pain starting to move from cramping to lower back pressure. It was growing more and more intense. Brittany helped me work through contractions in positions that would help get little Olive to move away from my back (Please!).  After a couple more hours of pretty intense back pain, I stopped having relief between contractions and I was starting to get nauseous. Bryant called Dr. Tara and she said she would meet us to adjust me first thing when she opened at 10:00am. I was ready to get to the birthing center and Donna said she would meet us there. {Side note: I had all these wonderful ideas of laboring in a cute outfit for pictures and so I would feel good but I didn’t change while curling my hair, so there I was stuck in my cut off sweat shorts and giant Walmart t-shirt because hey I was three days past my due date and huge. And when we left for the birthing center putting shoes on sounded terrible so my UGG boots seemed like the best option. Plus of course, my winter coat because it was cold. Tragic flashback to 2003.}

When we got to the birthing center I went straight to the table to get adjusted and I felt immediate relief! WOOHOO I walked out of the room and on my next contraction I threw my hands in the air and was SO excited, the pain was manageable! We headed upstairs to the birthing room and contractions continued. It was beautiful and calm with worship music playing in the background. Our midwife was on her way and Grace, the assistant midwife, was there. The peace was thick in the room. My parents came to sit outside and wait for Olive and when my mom showed up she came in to hug me and it was such a sweet and surreal moment. I tear up just thinking about it. The presence of God was strong. 

I had prayed specifically during pregnancy that everyone we needed for our birthing team would be there, I prayed that our doula, midwife, midwife assistant, and chiropractor would be available and that our friend would be free to film the whole thing. God is so faithful and so kind. Each and every one of them was there. Dr. Tara even had a really slow day and because of this was able to come work on me for large chunks of time, multiple times through the day. I don’t know how I would have made it through this labor without her help. 

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Olive worked her way down slow and steady. The pain of back labor slowly returned and the rest felt like a slow blurr. I just have random moments that I remember from it all. All of it was over a period of 7 hours and while there was pain those hours it was filled with teamwork. Bryant working with me through contractions, worship and prayer from everyone in the room. And while there was pain, there was a grace in the room that I’ll never forget. The time with Bryant was so sweet, he didn’t leave my side (I don't even think he peed the whole day, haha) and we both agree the most intimate experience we have had together.

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I worked through contractions on the bed, the birthing ball, the toilet and the tub with lots of labor groans and deep, rich breaths. Each time one place would become uncomfortable I was so thankful to have the freedom to change to a different one. 

At some point everyone thought transition was upon us. The relief between my contractions was not there, so surely this was it. Bryant was getting excited and was curious to see how far along I was, Donna was as well. I had a sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t far along and didn’t want to be discouraged by unwanted information. So we decided she would check me and not say anything (of course her and Bryant talked while I wasn’t looking). At this point I was at a 6. Praise God I didn’t have her tell me, I would have been so discouraged (instincts really are amazing).

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When the sun started going down I felt a little discouraged, this was so intense and I wanted to be done. I looked at Bryant who was being so strong. He had been working with me all day, reminding me of everything we learned in class, breathing with me, praying and using all his body weight as counter pressure against my back pain-woof, He was (and is) a rockstar! I knew he was tired too but he looked at me with such strength, such trust and much hope, never pity. I felt like I was fading but he believed in me. I looked at Donna who was sitting before me patiently watching and waiting. I was so tired and felt like I needed something to change. I felt in that moment like I wanted to quit. 

Even before I was pregnant I knew I didn’t want an epidural and I prayed that nothing would come up that would need a c-section. I wanted a fully natural, no-drug birth. But at some point I had the thought that an epidural would be so nice, “Maybe that’s what I need. Should I ask them to take me to the hospital?” I didn’t know how I would make it through. I thought at one point that she was stuck and they were going to have to rush me to the hospital for a c-section. I remember at those moments it was fear that had struck. The room stayed calm but my mind had started to race. In one of those moments the song Let the Peace from Housefires came on and Bryant started declaring and praying for peace. The thoughts faded, peace fell and I had a new thought from our birthing class (that we went over every week) , “Squatting opens your pelvis by 30%.” I started ending each contraction pushing into a squat. {Note: this is when things really started to pick up, Thanks Julia!}

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I remember I asked Donna if there was anything she could do to help. She was so kind, encouraged me, and watched me work through the next few contractions asking about how they felt along the way. After a few she asked if I was able to get out of the water so she could check my progression. 

OOF laying on my back hurt, but worth it because after she checked me she said the best words I’d heard all day “Your cervix is completely gone!” I literally shouted with joy! And I think I maybe cried or laughed, either way, I felt strong emotion. This was what I had been waiting to hear and I was so excited! The finish line was in site! Donna said on the next push she was going to try to help work her head down to give me some relief. I was so excited to push and when the next push came my water broke and went everywhere. Wow, was it satisfying. My push did something! Woohoo! The next hour was a series of pushes with every ounce of energy and strength in my body. I was so determined for pushing to be quick. And man, did the pushes give me relief from back pain! Donna asked if I wanted to get back in the tub to deliver but moving at this point was a whole big ordeal and I decided not worth the effort, so I stayed. I pushed a couple on my back and some on all fours, and ended on my side. Donna coached me where to push and how. She helped support me and work with me to get Olive out. There was so much going on during the pushing that I just remember feeling bodies all around and hearing lots of commotion and Donna’s calm voice, encouraging me. I knew that the moment I had with the Lord before labor about my fear of pushing was so providential.  I knew that tearing at this point was so likely and I had peace to persevere. We were all so excited, all this work and she was almost out, it was thrilling. Bryant got to catch her and we both screamed with joy and laughed. It was as amazing as everyone had said it would be. The work made it so satisfying. 

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We debriefed a little with Donna after the birth and she talked to us about how Olive had flipped to posterior going into the birth canal (which is where the back pain came from) and she had her hand up which basically trapped her there so all of the positions that would normally flip a posterior baby, weren’t working. There had been breakthrough from all of the prayers during labor and miraculously when she came out she had flipped, though she did still come out with her hand right by her face. Much to my vagina’s dismay.

Oh, and yes I pooped. So much. And you know, they tell you that your body will give you a break after labor for a couple days. Well I pooped all during labor, right after labor and then two times when we got home that night. So, yes, there was a lot of poop.

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Labor is the holiest moment I’ve ever experienced. It was like Heaven was hanging in the room with us. My journey through labor helped me feel connected to Olive, I worked hard for her, and she is the sweetest reward. Labor ushered me into motherhood beautifully, what seemed daunting before, felt manageable, because I had watched the Lord carry me through this. Knowing that I wanted to give up and felt like I couldn’t do it, but with God, I did. 


Photography: Gray Harring Photography and still shots from video by Connie Bates (edited by Emily Belknap)
Birth Center: Grapevine Birthing Center in Grapevine, TX
Midwife: Donna Miller, LM, CPM
Doula/Placenta Encapsulation: Brittany White
Chiropractor: Sozo Chiropractic & Wellness in Grapevine, TX
Childbirth Education: Birth Boot Camp