As I sit here (very gingerly) on the couch, attempting to write my birth story while watching my newborn son nap fitfully in his swing, I am overwhelmed. He is so beautiful, yet complicated; so soft, yet needy, so oblivious, yet alert. Where to begin? I plan to be very honest and vulnerable, as I attempt to account for these last few days…

OCTOBER 23/24, 2009


On the morning of the first day of my 39th week, I awoke feeling sick to my stomach. This was nothing new, but I was surprised at how much I was reminded of the first trimester’s sensations. Holding my breath, I reached into the fridge and poured myself a watered-down cup of juice. I had already told the boys they may not come downstairs until 7:30am, since they didn’t have school, so I snuggled up on the couch to enjoy the sunrise in peace and quiet. I’d been having contractions for 3 weeks at this point, but my prenatal massage the day before had put me in a renewed and relaxed state. I knew baby boy would come when he was good and ready.

As I headed up the stairs to get the boys ready for the day, something felt different. My contractions had centered themselves and headed south, as opposed to the all-over tightening I’d experienced in the weeks prior. They had also become very regular, both in the timing and in the way they arrived and receded.


I stepped out of the shower, feeling much better. I knew that things had changed, though, and I told Chris as much. I didn’t want to get too excited, since we’d been holding our breaths for the last several days, but I felt pretty sure that things were on the move. I noticed some bloody show after I went to the bathroom (sorry, have to be matter-of-fact!). I got the boys dressed and headed downstairs. I wanted to be away from everyone, but I wasn’t sure why. I hadn’t even gotten dressed yet.

As soon as I got to the kitchen, I began to throw up in the sink. I hollered for Lucas in a pitiful voice, “Please get your Dad!” He was so cute. He banged on our bathroom door and called out to Chris, who was showering, “Umm Dad?! You need to go downstairs. Rachael’s in labor, and she’s puking in the sink.” I had taken all of the towels, so my poor husband had to dry off with a hand towel. He threw on some clothes and found me doubled over the sink. He told me he wasn’t going into work, and that he’d gotten the kids taken care of. We’d already had a prenatal appointment scheduled with our midwife, Damaris; he asked me if I wanted her to come to the house. We had volunteered to do it at the birth center, since it has just opened and the midwives are getting into a routine over there. I wanted to go to her, though, just in case this wasn’t the real thing. I didn’t want to rally the troops just yet.


I rode the short few miles to the birth center in the back seat, quietly breathing through the contractions. I had invited my best friend Nicole to come, since she had never seen the center before. I gave her a quick tour, pausing every now and then to close my eyes and ask myself, “Is this it? Is this one of the sensations that’s going to bring my son to me?”

Damaris was amazing, offering to take my vitals and do most of the visit with me standing up. Chris cracked jokes and made the girls laugh as I paced around the small prenatal room until it was time to empty my bladder. She had me step backwards on the scale in the bathroom, as I’d done throughout my whole pregnancy. But that day, I decided I wanted to know how much I weighed. We all shared a good laugh at the fact that everyone else had watched my weight progression, while I was content to just know the magic number at the end. When I returned, I asked Damaris to check me. This was something I’d told myself I would not do. But after 3 weeks of prodromal labor, I wanted to know if anything had progressed down there. Sure enough, I was 2cm dilated. This made me smile. I knew we were on our way to meeting Ames, no matter how long it might take.

We got back in the car, and Chris stopped off to get me a smoothie. The thing must have been a gallon. He was so cute, saying, “You can sip on it all day. You need your sustenance!” I had to laugh. I asked him to take me to the chiropractor. The contractions had started to pick up. I noticed myself moaning through them, which made me feel kind of sheepish. I asked Chris to play his record on the stereo, and before I knew it, we were at Dr. Ashforth’s. I hobbled in there, barefoot and breathing heavily, but I didn’t care. Dr. Ashforth took one look at me and got me up on the table. He let me take some contractions in his office while he adjusted Chris. I knew things were getting heavier because I no longer made eye contact with anyone. I kept my head down and my breathing controlled.


We began timing contractions. They were 3 minutes apart, and each one lasted around a minute. I walked laps downstairs while Chris vacuumed. Nicole brought some popsicles, pineapple, and almonds by the house. She kept me smiling in between the rushes. Eventually, she had to leave to get her daughter up from a nap, and I asked Chris to call my mom. She had been waiting for her cue, but she didn’t want to come until I’d asked. I was still walking the house like a caged animal at this point, and I found that I liked taking contractions on the toilet. I felt like I could close the door and turn off the lights and just let it out. I also called my friend Patti, who came and helped set up my birth supplies. She’s a nurse, too, and I wanted someone there for a few minutes who would be very matter-of-fact with me. She picked up where Nicole had left off, and once my contractions got to 2 minutes apart, she encouraged me to call Damaris. We moved upstairs at this point.


Damaris arrived, and she asked me what I wanted from her. I loved that. She never once took over. It was my son’s birth, and my labor, and she was simply a guardian of the whole process. I asked her to check me (again, surprised myself). I remember having a hard time getting on the bed, as I’d been pacing the bedroom and handling contractions pretty well in the shower. She said I opened up from 4cm to 5cm while she checked me! It was so encouraging, to hear someone else validate my progress. God was doing something huge, and I wasn’t the only other person experiencing it. 
She said my bag of water was tight, and that she could feel his head through it. She didn’t want to mess around too much, for risk of breaking my water. She encouraged me to keep doing what I’d been doing. She left at that point, and told me to call her when “I felt things turn a corner.” I remember asking her what that meant. She said, “You’ll know.” Our sweet friend and dogsitter Kati showed up at that point. She took Samson and Delilah on a nice walk. I never got to see her face, but I remember hearing her voice downstairs and feeling so blessed to have such support.

I wanted to know how I’d progressed at this point, but I don’t remember why. I’d taken another long shower, and I’d started taking contractions on a small yoga ball. I could sit on that and lay my head on the bed, and I felt in control at that point. I kept my body relaxed, and I made sure to not clench my jaw or my fists. Chris kept me hydrated, and my mom just watched me with a small smile. It felt like everyone knew exactly when to touch me, when to feed me an almond, when to talk, when to stay quiet. I loved it. Damaris arrived shortly thereafter, and I was at 6cm. My water was still intact, though, and I had a ways to go. I walked the stairs a few times, and I seemed to like keeping one leg up – on a stair, on the edge of the bed, even holding it up with one hand. Damaris then suggested the bath, which I gladly accepted. Patti had left at this point, and it was just Chris and my mom and Damaris.

There was a lot of talk of me needing to eat, which I had no desire to do. Someone brought me some yogurt and crackers, and I tried my best to get them down. I started to feel nauseous though, and I hopped out of the bath just in time to lose all of my “sustenance” in the trashcan. As I sat on the toilet, barfing my guts out and feeling miserable, I begged Damaris, “Please tell me this could mean transition.” She said, “It could be. I’m surprised that didn’t break your water. I know you feel gross, but you’re doing great.” She was so soft, so encouraging, and I love that she never talked too much. 

Christine (the other midwife who had arrived at some point) was great, too. I felt a special connection with her because she is a registered nurse. She would sit in the corner and just watch me with a sweet smile, nodding at me whenever I looked at her. Chris was ridiculously supportive, too. I will never forget the looks he gave me. I cannot remember one time that he didn’t smile. He rubbed peppermint essential oil on my temples ever so often, and that refreshing scent gave me energy. At one point (he later told me), he got some in his eyes. I can only imagine the agony of him trying to be tough and not complain in front of his laboring wife while his eyes swam in peppermint tears. I also later learned that he kept everyone else laughing…I chanted certain sounds over and over, and he sat beside me fist-pumping and making faces to the rhythm of my noises. I would expect nothing less, and I have no doubt that his moments of light-heartedness are what got him through.


Things start to get fuzzy here. I remember being in the bath, and hearing the news that my girlfriends were downstairs. I asked them to come up, and I labored in the tub for a few minutes. One contraction felt particularly strong, and there was a “POP” and my water bag broke. I shrieked, “My bag broke! My water broke!” and I immediately looked down to survey the water (ever the cautious nurse). It was clear, and I was recharged. I got out of the tub and labored on the ball for awhile. My friends lay hands on me and prayed, and I will never forget the love that poured out during those moments. The contractions seemed so far away, and their sweet voices zeroed in on my vulnerability.

I tried to walk the stairs again, but I got stuck at the top in the hallway. Christine, the other midwife, and my husband were already halfway down, and they paused to look at me through the banister. I loved being eye-level with my husband, and I dropped into some bizarre cheerleader position. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself, and everyone else shared in the humor. I enjoyed the feeling of pressure on the other side as I felt baby’s head descend. I didn’t like standing or lying on my side.

I was between 8-9cm when I started feeling the urge to push. It was back to the core team – my mom, husband, and the midwives. This was my darkest hour(s), because I knew I couldn’t push yet. My cervix was swelling, and I needed to stay relaxed in order to get him down and out. Damaris and I developed a rhythm, where I took a deep breath in and blew three short ones out each time the contraction peaked. I also made motorboat noises with my lips, to try and stay relaxed. I demanded eye contact from everyone, which made them laugh later on. There I was, far away in labor land, and all of a sudden I’d snap to attention and stare into someone’s eyes until the contraction eased. I spent time in the bath and on the ball, and I took a few contractions lying on either side, as well as standing up, holding onto Chris.

I have no idea what time it was (I know it was after midnight) when I was completely dilated and ready to push…except for the lip of cervix Damaris felt. We tried pushing on the bed and in the tub while she held the lip back, to give the baby’s head room to slip through. I remember feeling like it should hurt to have her hand there, but it didn’t. I guess the oxytocin was doing its thing! His heart rate started drop during pushes while I was in the bathtub, so they put some oxygen on me and had me flip to my left side. This is the side on which one’s aorta undergoes the least amount of pressure, so the perfusion to the baby is at its optimal state. It’s not rocket science. It’s amazing how fast his little heart tones picked back up, to that “galloping horse” sound I’d grown to know and love throughout my pregnancy. Our bodies are such well-designed machines. It’s so simple, how easy it is to get desired results by following the laws of nature… yet simple fixes are usually the last thing we think of when something scares us, like illness (or childbirth). Anyway, back to his heart tones. We decided to get out of the tub, so that I could get into better positions to push and keep his heart rate up. I tried a few on the bed, and then Damaris suggested the birth stool.

Oh, the birth stool…the seemingly old-fashioned and “backwoods” piece of furniture about which I’d read so much. The thing is about the size of a stepstool, with a half circle cut out of it. I sat on the back of it, with all of the important parts in the cut-out space and my hands gripping the sides. We set this up against the end of our bed, so that I had something soft against which to rest my back and head between rushes. My mom sat on the bed behind me, being amazing and supportive as she’d been the whole labor. Chris knelt in front, with Christine and Damaris, and the three of them talked me through pushing for somewhere around an hour (I think? It felt like 30 minutes or less!). Somewhere around this point, she checked again, and his head had slipped through the lip. His heart tones sounded amazing, so I didn’t need the oxygen anymore. I was cleared to push like a madwoman, and boy was I ready!

At this point, I was pretty much numb down there, save for a few moments of burning and pressure. There go those crazy hormones again – God is so stinkin’ smart. I enjoyed the feeling of pushing, the emotional rush it gave me to see my husband’s look of pure admiration and adoration. I knew at that moment that he was proud of me. It made it all worth it, to know that we were on the same team, and he had been on this ride all day, too, and we were finally getting some results. I remember telling Christine and Damaris that I knew first-time moms sometimes had to push for hours, and that I’d be a trooper for them. Christine laughed, and Damaris said, “It won’t be hours. You’re doing great.” On average, I pushed about three times per contraction, and they made observations about which pushes brought more progress and encouraged me to recreate those. It gave me an assignment, a project, and I loved working on it.

When his head came down and stayed down, they got me a mirror. I’ll never forget the way that looked. At first, I didn’t want to see it. I think I was afraid to lose focus. But when I glanced down and saw his tiny head, something clicked. Chris noticed it, too. It’s one of his favorite parts to tell. He says my face changed, and I became a different woman from the one he married…and he loved it. I asked Damaris to give me support down there as he crowned, and she worked her magic with hot washcloths and olive oil. It felt amazing, and I felt freed up to focus on my task at hand – meeting my baby boy. Sometimes I hollered, right at the end of a push, but during most of this phase I kept my chin to my chest and worked at it silently.

Unlike what I’d expected, there was no delivering the head, followed by the body, with breaks in between. My son was ready to meet us. My mom left suddenly and reappeared with my dad and grandfather. Apparently, one of the midwives had given her the signal that she needed to get whomever was to be present. We named Ames after my grandfather, and he’d wanted to be there more than anything. In fact, my friends later told me he’d sat on the stairs outside our bedroom for hours on end, relaying what he heard and asking them to cheer whenever I came down from a contraction. He is amazing. We hadn’t discussed it, but my mom and I both knew I wanted my dad there. It feels like a good chunk of my life has been about trying to make people proud of me, and he is one of the people whose approval I value most. Over the last year, we’ve come to this comfortable place of mutual respect, and I knew he’d appreciate watching me give birth, especially in my home. My dad turned on the video camera (I don’t think it ended up working), and my grandfather gave me a smile and a fist pump.

I gave one or two more pushes, and out came Ames at 3:28am – “in a left-handed spiral,” says my football coach of a Dad. Chris didn’t even have time to get his hands in there, it all happened so fast. Ames had the cord wrapped around his neck twice and his chest once, so I held him head-down for a second, under his arms, while Damaris and Christine got him all unwrapped. Then I pulled him to my chest and fell in love.

after the birth:
He was wide-eyed and alert, and he pinked up right away. I told my mom, “Get everyone, tell everyone to come!” Within seconds, my room was filled with my family and best friends, people who had stayed up all night just for this moment. I had no idea they’d been down there all evening, playing board games and making bakery runs at 2am. It was exactly as we’d planned & hoped… a labor of love, surrounded by a support team in a safe, laidback, and comfortable environment.

After a few minutes, everyone left, and we moved to the bed. I delivered the placenta after about 20 minutes, and Chris cut the cord and got to hold Ames for the first time. The baby’s vitals looked great, except for the fact that he was breathing really fast and didn’t seem to want to slow down. He wasn’t interested in nursing either. He just wanted to snuggle and pant away. Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge issue. But with those tiny airways, and the fact that a baby’s temperature and respirations affect each other so dramatically, we really needed to slow him down. We knew if he’d just nurse, it would resolve itself. But he wasn’t having it. When I heard the midwives discussing “options,” like taking him in to a doctor’s office or even the hospital, I knew something needed to be done. I called our chiropractor, and he came over to the house and adjusted Ames. Within a few minutes, his respirations went from 120 (double the normal rate) to 65. I was so relieved.

At this point, I had been more than 24hours with no sleep and little food, and I was woozy. I had a hard time walking to the bathroom that first time, which is to be expected. At the hospital, the nurses require patients to have assistance during their first trip to the bathroom. Damaris sat me on the toilet and went to get a cold washcloth for my face. Apparently, I said, “Damaris, I’m out!” I leaned back against the toilet and started snoring. When she couldn’t rouse me, she took me to the floor. I only remember her over my face, asking me if I knew where I was. I got embarrassed and said, “Yes. I’m sleeping on my bathroom floor.” She said, “Yes, you passed out.” I said, “No, I was dreaming.” She smiled and asked, “What were you dreaming about?” I said, “I don’t know.” She had won that argument. It makes me laugh, how defensive I get in those situations. Whenever Chris catches me talking in my sleep, I try to pass it off like I’m totally awake and coherent. Anyway, Damaris and Christine got Chris, and they helped me back to bed. Once I had some juice and a granola bar (and some more of that dang gallon-sized smoothie that had followed me around all day), I felt much better. I couldn’t manage to keep my eyes open, though, so Ames and I dozed while everyone else cleaned up. He weighed in at 7lb8oz after a few dirty diapers, and he was 19inches long.

The midwives stayed later than they normally would, just to make sure Ames’ breathing had regulated itself. They left somewhere around 9am, after going over what to do if things changed. When Damaris returned the next day to assess both of us, she looked at baby Ames and said, “I’m so glad I trusted your mama’s instincts. She was right, and you are doing great.” That meant so much to me, to know that my opinion, as a first-time mother and as a nurse, was valued enough to make a clinical decision like that.

the first few days:

The first few days have been a blur…I had a pretty decent tear (or two), so I’m definitely sore and uncomfortable. I told one of my friends I think that’s why those first few nights are so hard. If I felt 100%, I wouldn’t mind staying up all night, learning about my son and how to meet his needs.

Also, we thought my milk came in the day after he was born, but he seemed to have a hard time getting satisfied. In fact, he went two full days/nights where the only thing that helped him was nursing or sucking on my finger. There were no periods of wakefulness or alertness, and no sleeping…just crying or dozing while suckling. I was so discouraged. But we’ve come out of the woods on that issue, thanks to some sweet friends. I’ve gotten some of their frozen milk, and I supplement a bit during Ames’ feedings. If he seems like he hasn’t gotten enough from his real mama, he gets another mama’s milk for a few minutes. My midwives are working with me to build my supply, and I have faith that this issue will improve soon.

Christine gave me a pep talk last night over the phone while we brainstormed. Something she said stuck out. “You have nothing worry about. We know your body works. You had no trouble getting pregnant or carrying the pregnancy to full-term, and you had no trouble during birth. We know your body works.” So true! Now it’s just a waiting game. 

I can’t express how grateful I am for this. I don’t know where we’d be without the network of support in which we live. And deciding to have him at home was by far the best decision we’ve made regarding Ames’ birth. We had ample support and resources during all of the phases of pregnancy and birth; and although it’s over, I still have a list of people to help me through these potentially hard weeks. And they know me by name. They know my story, and they have ways to help and encourage me. We are so blessed. And although it’s probably a ways off, we can’t wait to do it again.


  1. awwww! how wonderful. praise God!

    i laughed so hard at the part of chris getting peppermint oil in his eyes, poor fella!

    when i came by for samson & delilah i would’ve loved to have said hello; but i didn’t want to be in the way or distract you from anything. i’m sure i looked nuts as i walked around the neighborhood saying to them, “you guuuyys! rachael is having the BAAABBYYY!!!” haha!

    let me know if i can help ya’ll in anyway; i can’t wait to meet the lil man :D

  2. hi,

    hope this isn’t weird but i found this through the lj cloth diapering community. definitely a beautiful story, and it brought back some great memories for me. sounds like you had amazing support and i’m a tad jealous (not enough midwives where i live, sadly, and i think that contributed to our feeding issues and having to supplement formula for a while). my girl was named after my grandmother… she is sleeping in my arms right now as if she owned the whole world. what a wild ride!

  3. you had your new born baby adjusted by your chiropractor? where did you hear about that? what made you think that was a good idea? just wondering,as i’ve never heard of that before!

  4. Who are you, Anonymous? Haha.

    Anyway, babies need to be in good alignment just like adults, so that their nervous system (brain & spinal cord) can function at its optimum… Not to mention, the trip down the birth canal can really do a number on your back!

  5. Hi Rachael,

    I found your blog through TMN (I’m a member on LKNM). I just wanted to comment on how beautifully written your son’s birth story was. It sounds like a truly amazing experience. I also delivered with a midwife (though in the hospital) and I can’t imagine ever having an MD attend again (not that I plan to have anymore lol). I also wanted to say kudos on having your little man adjusted. Chiros can work wonders!

  6. “Is this it? Is this one of the sensations that’s going to bring my son to me?”

    This brought a tear to my eye as I remember the beginnings of my labors… What a beautiful birth story, the love and support you had when you brought your son into the world is truly inspiring.

  7. Utterly beautiful, both the writing and the story. Your birth sounds as perfect a welcoming for your son as could be. Praise be to God, and to a Mama who trusts in Him too.
    I have a friend considering a homebirth, and I’m going to share this story with her as encouragement.
    Thanks for sharing x

  8. congratulations! what a beautiful story. i am pregnant with my first and am trying to learn as much as i can! so thankful for the mamas who share so many details, like you did!

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