Let me take you back to about 6 weeks ago-- 3 weeks before our sweet Emma Jupiter decided to make her spectacular entrance into the world. I was 36 weeks pregnant. Nearly EVERYONE I spoke to – friends, family, complete strangers in the grocery store, moms out at parks, you name it – they all said they didn’t think there was any way I was going to make it to my July 24th due date for the birth of our third. Some predicted I wouldn’t even make it to July. Since this wasn’t my first or even second rodeo with pregnancy, I let the comments roll off. No one said it maliciously. They genuinely thought with the size of my belly that my baby would run out of space well before my due date. I decided I was out to prove them wrong.
My husband, Tony, and I were planning a natural birth. We were receiving prenatal care at the Mercy Birthing Center in St. Louis, which has a more naturally minded model of care than the traditional hospital setting. They provide care for low risk patients during pregnancy and offer well women care beyond pregnancy. There are no medical interventions at the Mercy Birthing Center. They don’t induce with Pitocin, they don’t administer epidurals, and they don’t push interventions on their patients. A team of three Midwives, Maria Roeber, Jenny Killeen, and Elizabeth Cook as well as a rock star team of Nurses and Medical Assistants runs it. They know their patients and their families by name without even looking at your chart. They became a sort of “maternity family” to us. The rooms are set up with huge beds that feel like home, massive tubs to labor in, beautiful bathrooms with a rain shower, a birth support rope hanging from the ceiling, a bubble wall, a yoga ball, birthing stool, and peanut ball – all for coping techniques and pain management during labor. The rooms are beautifully decorated and there is a wonderful sense of calm in them. The regular patient rooms where patients are seen during their pregnancies are just as comforting. They have couches for the patients to sit on, toys for toddlers and kids to play with, and are essentially the opposite of the traditional doctor’s office rooms. You weigh yourself in a private bathroom. There are normal life conversations had with the Medical Assistants and Nurses prior to the Midwife coming into your room. When the Midwives would see me, we developed relationships, and they even let my two older kids help with the Doppler to hear the baby’s heartbeat. It was absolutely everything I could’ve ever asked for while seeking quality naturally minded prenatal care.
6 weeks ago, I was two weeks into my Hypnobabies home study course. Since not many people are familiar with Hypnobabies, allow me to explain my take on it. Hypnobabies is a childbirth preparation course that compiles self-hypnosis with positive thoughts, affirmations, and language surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. At the beginning of each week, I would read that week’s module, which was an overview of things to focus on that week. I would listen to a CD that was approximately 25 – 35 minutes in length and practiced self-induced hypnosis. Part of the program was tuning out the negative comments people may have towards childbirth and creating a “Bubble of Peace” that wouldn’t allow for negative thoughts. It was filled with positive imagery and encourages the listener to create her own inner peace and happy place. It dives deeper into how to get you into a place of peace, calm, and self-induced anesthesia or hypnosis. It was calming, relaxing, and helped center me. I diligently listened to these CDs every day and then would listen to the “Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations” every night before bed. The whole program is essentially mind over matter and reaching within for strength where you may not have previously believed you had it.
You can see why when people would make comments to me about not making it close to my due date that it didn’t phase me greatly. I let it roll off my shoulder and reminded myself that other people’s projections of what they thought my body was capable of were not an absolute reflection of me. I was in control and I trusted that my body knew what it was doing. An affirmation I remember taking to heart was “My body will grow a baby that is the perfect size for me to birth”.
I started setting goals in my head for myself for dates to get past that looked a little something like this:
July 2nd – 4th of July Celebrations – it’s my favorite holiday and I love fireworks
July 7th – make it to Tony’s annual birthday softball game
July 8th – have my niece’s baby shower at my house
July 14th – birthday softball was rescheduled. Make it through the evening without going into labor.
With every week that passed, I gave myself a little pat on the back for not going into labor “too early” (I know this is controlled by my body and baby, but it felt good to surpass each of those “milestones” I mentally set up).
5 weeks ago, I made my own birth affirmation flags with some affirmations I pulled off of Google. I taped them up on our glass door and traced over with colored pencils. I then used watercolor paints and painted over them for coloring. I was so proud of them and for doing it myself. I was in a great headspace and took the time to really focus on them and how I would use them during birth. It was all part of my Hypnobabies and I wanted a way to be able to center myself when needed. I taped them up in our bedroom so I could see them every morning and night. Brightly colored and full of positivity. I loved them.
4 ½ weeks ago, I packed the bag for the Birthing Center. In it, I included a few neutral outfits for the baby since we didn’t know the sex, some newborn hats, a burp cloth, a blanket, and two shirts for Tony. For me, I packed a swimsuit, a bralette, a nursing bra, a sports bra, a couple pairs of underwear, two t-shirts, a comfy pair of pants, slippers, nursing pads, my makeup, and basic shower items. I knew it was likely too much since we only intended to stay about 4-8 hours after the baby was born (a perk of the Mercy Birthing Center – no overnight requirements to stay in an uncomfortable hospital bed for me and no awful couch for Tony, no poking and prodding or staff checking you overnight and disturbing sleep), but I felt appropriately prepared with our bag. I also prepared a bag of food and miscellaneous items for Tony and I during labor should it prove to be longer than expected. Some trail mix, some veggie pouches, Cheez Its, Vanilla Wafers, Larabars, stool softeners for after baby arrived, my well thought out Birth Preference sheet, and my rice sock for comfort measure during labor should I want a heating element. Except for the food, it was put in the van at that time. I figured I would at least have that bag with us if I went into labor while we were out.
4 weeks ago, I scoured Pinterest for a method to get yellow staining out of baby clothes. Inevitably, it seems stains set in sometime between when clothes are packed away nice and white until the time they’re pulled back out for another baby. I tried my own method of special laundry detergent first just to see if it would have any effect. No change. So I used this baking soda and Dawn recipe, let the clothes soak, washed them and voila! Yellow staining be gone! Baby clothing success and I could put baby clothes in drawers.
That same week, I took my kids with me to my 38-week checkup. I weighed in at 146lbs – a total of 29 lbs gained from the beginning of pregnancy. My fundal height came in at 36 (it’s supposed to mirror how far along you are in your pregnancy – 38 weeks typically would see a reading of 38 from pubic bone to top of uterus, but they weren’t concerned). Blood pressure was great at 120/59 and I was feeling great!
3 ½ weeks ago, my amazing friend and Doula, Nicole Mazanec, as well as my equally amazing sister, Jill, called me on three way to tell me they were gifting me a belly henna session that Saturday followed by a Mother’s Blessing. I cried happy tears. I had wanted to get belly henna before I went into labor and the fact that they decided to gift it to me was just such a sweet gift. Then they went a step further and were giving me a Mother’s Blessing. It’s a way for a pregnant mother to be surrounded by positivity, birth affirmations, and good vibes prior to going into labor. There are no material gifts, and it is not a baby shower or sprinkle which is what I love most about it. It completely meshed with the natural birth we had planned. That Saturday, Jill, Nicole and I went to St. Louis Henna and under an hour later, I was walking out with some beautiful artwork to celebrate my growing belly and baby. It was calming, relaxing, and a special time spent with Jill and Nicole-- the two women whom I had shared my pregnancy joys, pains, triumphs, and sorrows with. With our first two kids, we were pregnant after one or two tries. With this baby, it took us over a year to get pregnant. Jill and Nicole knew it, so to be sitting there with them at 9 months pregnant was a beautiful thing in itself and it felt like such a celebration of how far I’d come.
That evening, we went to a local park for my Mother’s Blessing. In attendance were two of my sisters, Melissa and Jill, my sister-in-law, Mara, my brother’s long time girlfriend, Stephanie, and of course my Doula. My Mom and other sister, Erica, were unable to make it as they were out of town on vacation. These amazing ladies set up two blankets for us to sit on that had been my Grandma’s and Nicole’s Mom’s (who was the biggest baby and pregnancy guru out there and whom also passed away from breast cancer 10 years ago), they had beautiful flowers in vases, and they had pennants on which everyone could write a birth affirmation or positive thoughts for me during labor. It was so simple and so well thought out. It exuded family history and love. Mara even made me a super hippie-loving flower crown while we sat there laughing, talking, and enjoying the evening. It was more than I could’ve asked for in terms of a celebration for this baby to come and I felt so honored they put it together for me. Tony joked later to me that I had reached full “Boho” or hippie status at this point between the henna, the flower crown, and the Mother’s Blessing. And I was totally ok with it.
Their timing was perfect because 4 days later (when the henna was to be at one of the darkest coloration stages) on Wednesday July 19th, I woke up to contractions. It was 5 days before my due date and I proved my body knew exactly what it was doing growing my baby perfectly to the size it needed to be. It was what would become the biggest, most thrilling, unexpected ride of my life thus far. The ride wherein I would use every single word of encouragement from my birth affirmations I made and from the Mother’s Blessing affirmations. It was the ride and crash of birth waves (contractions) upon my body, which would require every ounce of me to dig deep and utilize my Hypnobabies techniques to the fullest. The literal ride to birth my third child both roadside and earth side.
As a St. Louis Birth and Documentary Photographer, I love telling stories through my photography. If you are pregnant and would like your story to unfold with a documentary photo session, let's chat!