Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Holland Elizabeth’s Birth Story, Part III (the final installment!)

**I realize I’m a tad behind the deadline I gave myself for posting this—so sorry!  Also, I have two disclaimers about this post: 1. It’s long.  You might want to grab a cup of coffee for this one.  2.  Consider yourself warned that this post contains fairly candid birth-related terminology and photos.  Some of the reason for this is that I happen to feel pretty passionately about the natural process and I enjoy sharing my journey with you.  I hope my story can encourage you in some way!

If you missed Part I, find it here.  Part II is here.

Well, after taking a few moments to think through what lie ahead of me, I gathered myself and decided I was ready to do this thing.  Nancy worked on preparing all of her supplies in our bedroom, and Philip and I headed downstairs to walk around.  We hung out and listened to music, and whenever I had a contraction, I did this:

leaning on bed

{Thanks to the idea from another sweet new mama’s birth story, I chose to put this bikini top on early in labor.  This was a great idea—not only did it keep me comfortable, but it kept these pictures PG! Smile}

philip and anne at table 2

I loved this position that Nancy suggested I use.  It felt so much better to me than lying down; it felt as if I could ride the contractions out, instead of just laying on the bed and having them happen to me.  They felt so much more manageable, and I felt as if I could really control how I handled them, if that makes sense.   

During this time, Nancy joined us and the three of us hung out in our dining room.  Having 35 years of experience birthing babies teaches you many things, not the least of which is that pictures during labor are treasured.  I love how she captured so many special moments.

philip touching belly

I continued to labor downstairs until Nancy recommended I walk the steps to help move labor along.  She said that this would definitely help the contractions intensify (great, right?  sign me up…)  I was looking forward to getting in the birth tub, but Nancy wisely recommended I wait until I really needed the pain relief, as getting in too early could cause labor to stall or slow down.  {I truly stand amazed at this woman who helped me birth my baby.  It is unbelievable to me how well she knows labor.  She was spot on with every one of her suggestions and predictions as to how labor would go.}

walking steps and smiling

belly shot

I began to walk the steps, and sure enough,  the contractions began to get quite hard.  At first I would keep walking through each contraction, closing my eyes, but holding onto the railing, trying to be careful not to knock our pictures off the wall as I went SmileThen, as they really intensified I’d have to stop and bend over to hold onto the steps to get through them.  I remember looking at Nancy after a pretty tough one and her telling me that “ten (or was it twenty, my memory is fuzzy here) more like that and I think you’ll have this baby!”  I remember looking to her a little later and telling her I was sure I’d had that many by now! 

walking steps

leaning on steps with philip

Nancy had said that when it was time for me to get in the tub, I would know.  And I did.  A couple of really hard contractions on the steps and I wanted in.  And boy, did it feel good.  There really is no way to compare the experience of going through the hardest part of labor in a warm tub in your bedroom vs. the backseat of your car while you race to the hospital!  I can say that my (dilating/stage 1) contractions in that tub never got to the point where I felt I could not go on (not that I had a choice!).  During my labor with Wade, things got really hard and they felt chaotic.  This never felt chaotic.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly wasn’t smiling through them, and there were definitely a few contractions where I distinctly remember shaking my head as if to say “No! Make it stop!”  When I noticed that I was getting quite a long break between a contraction, I asked Nancy why that might be.  She told me it was because the next one was going to be a real doozy.  Lovely. 

tub 2

focused in tub

focused in tub 2

The breathing I used this time really helped so much.  I used what Nancy called “horse lips” style breathing, where you basically blow out with your lips closed, but loose and relaxed.  This worked great because it gave me something to “do”—I was focused on the task of breathing/moaning that way with each contraction.  It was also beneficial because it prevented me from being tense during a contraction, and it provided me a vehicle for releasing all the tension. 

The one point in my labor where I felt truly overwhelmed by the pain was right when I transitioned to pushing.  I felt this strong, very rectal contraction come over me, and all I wanted was to escape it.  I personally feel that the term “urge to push” is a bit of a misnomer.  I had no choice but to allow this incredible sensation to wash over me.  I remember thinking, “woah!  I don’t remember pushing being this hard last time!”  I was set on not “scattering,” as Nancy coined the term for when fear takes over and your mind can’t handle what’s happening (and screaming often ensues…), but this did feel scary to me.   This was when I heard myself trail off with the words, “I can’t…”  Nancy and I had talked about how I really responded well to coaching (thank you, 13 years of competitive swimming!), and I will never forget hearing her tell me in the midst of all this hard, INCREDIBLY HARD work, that I “was winning.”  I loved that picture.  I continued the work of pushing contractions, breathing in the horse-lips style, followed by quick blows, as directed by Nancy (I had set an important goal of not tearing this time, and the blowing helped with this.)

anne and philip at tub


Can you believe my husband was able to film the birth all the while I had no clue?!

I was greatly comforted by my midwife’s face in front of me and my husbands voice and arms on my shoulders, but even so, I distinctly remember literally calling out to Jesus to help me.  Nancy told me that He would help me, and He did.  Though I never could have told you how long I’d been in that tub (about 40 or so minutes I was later told) or how long I pushed, after a mere 14 minutes of pushing, my daughter emerged into the water at 1:39 am on November 12th.   All of the sudden, she was there with us!  I don’t even really remember pulling her up out of the water, but I did, and she quickly nestled on my chest with the water below us. 

holland born 1

anne and holland emotion

anne and holland in tub 3

holland brand new

all of us

Philip and I met our sweet girl with the song “This is my Father’s world” playing from Pandora in the background.  I pray that Holland would always know the truths the lyrics tell.  I love verse 3:

This is my Father’s world.

O let me ne’er forget,

that though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

Eventually, we made our way out of the tub and onto the bed, and the three of us just lay there together.  Philip and I delighted in this time, as we marveled over this beautiful gift we’d been given.  Holland nursed some, I called my mom to tell her her first granddaughter was here (she hadn’t been able to sleep since we had called earlier in the evening to tell her my water had broken!)  Later, Nancy weighed and measured Holland (8 lbs even, 20 inches long—exactly the same as her brother!). 

holland close up

daddy and holland

three of us on bed

H close up

mama kissing H

nancy checking holland

nancy looking at holland

nancy measuring holland

nancy weighing H 2

mama looking at H dressed

Holland’s first outfit was the same one her brother wore home from the hospital. 

Later still, Holland dozed on her daddy’s chest while I enjoyed an herb bath prepared by Nancy.  The herb bath is a special treat Nancy provides where she adds a blend of herbs and spices to your bath water (in our tub, not the birthing tub) that are especially beneficial to a post-partum mama!   It was wonderful.  I realized I was really hungry at this point, so Nancy brought me a big bowl of multi-grain cheerios to eat in the tub SmileI relaxed there for a while, grateful to God for his faithfulness yet again.   Not only had he given us another beautiful baby, but a beautiful birthing experience that I would forever cherish.  (Writing this, I’m finding that I miss Holland’s birth…I miss the anticipation, the intensity, the wonder, the excitement…)

H sleeping on philip

Nancy left around 4 am (I think?) and we attempted sleep.  (But we had a beautiful newborn to enjoy with all the adrenaline birth brings, so not much sleep came!)  Wade woke up around 7 am (yes, he’d slept through all the night’s events, praise the Lord!), and Philip went to retrieve him.  We were blessed to be able to film him meeting his sister for the first time.  I had wondered so much about how this moment would be (and the many moments that would follow!), and it truly could not have been more wonderful.  We had been telling Wade that he was about to get a baby sister, but he really got it, in a way I never could have imagined.  He had this look of awe and wonder across his face, and there is no other way to put it:  he simply loved his sister from the moment he met her.  Thank you, Lord, for yet another gift. 

W meets H

wade sweet face

Can you see the look on my precious boy’s face? Oh, how this touches my heart!

wade reaching for H

w kissing h

The next couple hours and days were spent with family trickling in to visit the new wee one.  We spent most of our time snuggled up in our little nest.   Nancy came back the next day to check on us and we snapped this photo of all of us together.  What love and gratitude I have for this lady. 

all of us with nancy

That spotlight-looking thing in the top left corner is a “grow light” we borrowed from Nancy.  We used it to try and proactively fight off jaundice in those early days (it worked!).

h and w on bed

wade loving on mama

H in bassinett

I am eternally grateful to God for the experience of giving birth to my daughter, and especially thankful for the privilege of delivering her at home.  {For the record, being at home never felt strange or unsafe to me (or Philip).  Not once did we find ourselves thinking we should get to the hospital.  It truly felt completely normal and right to be just where we were.}  What an honor to bring forth life!  I know that I will always feel such love, warmth, and gratitude when I think back to that special day when Holland Elizabeth joined our family. 


  1. I love the story, Anne! She's as beautiful as her mama! I tried to catch up with you on Sunday, but I missed you! I'm so sorry! It was fun to see y'all, even if it was just from across the room.

  2. Thank you soooo much for sharing this. I found myself reading and thinking "YES!!" I loved birthing Anna in the water and I'm so happy for you that you could experience it as well! I realize that not everyone has the desire to tub birth, but I try to convey the joy and pure awesomeness of it! Yes, it's painful, but it's unexplainable. It's joyful pain.

    I like the bathing suit top idea. I wore a white sports bra and that did little to make my photos PG13 ;)

  3. Ah, a beautiful story! How wonderful. She was a lovey baby right from the start. And all those pictures are truly a treasure.

  4. I cried. We have such similar and yet different experiences with birth. What a miracle and amazingly breath-taking (sometimes literally!!!) experience! Thanks, Anne!

  5. Anne, Your story is beautiful as well as sweet Holland! It was such a joy to read about your natural birth.!!! Way to go, Momma!!

  6. I was so touched by this especially when you talked about Wade meeting Holland. So sweet!!!

  7. Oh, that was a beautiful story! I personally need my epidural for childbirth but I was so blessed by how the Lord brought your daughter into the world at home and naturally! My first two children (a boy and then a girl-almost 3 years apart) were the exact size, also! (My third however was almost a whole pound bigger, however!). And Holland was absolutely beautiful right when she entered the world!

  8. Anne - this is amazing! Just how a birth should be (I feel a tiny bit jealous!). I'm sorry I haven't called you yet - will be this week! I got really ill, then was busy with the girls' birthday weekend. Let's talk soon! Miss you!

  9. Doesn't it feel good to have the whole story complete?! I'm sure writing it and seeing the photos again brought back so many great memories!
    Way to go!

  10. Anne-- thanks so so much for sharing-- what a beautiful story-- wow! i got a little teary reading it-- i find that I miss the birth too-- it is such an intense special time-- glad to see how special and beautiful yours was! thanks for all the detail

  11. Your pictures made me cry. Such a beautiful storyteller you are.

    I'm scared to death of "scattering" like you called it. But I'm looking forward to the excitement and anticipation of go-time. I can't wait!

  12. Anne! Oh, I just love it--what beautiful pictures and I know that you will just relish in having taken the time to write down and think through all of the details of Holland's birth. Such a treasure for your family! I love the picture of you, Philip, and Holland on the bed. SO, so glad that it all went so well. Holland is a doll. Hope to see you soon!

  13. Awesome, Anne, thanks for sharing the details of this amazing experience! Praise God for bringing another daughter into His world :) And...can I reserve Nancy if we're ever blessed with another pregnancy and deliver in the States!?! She sounds like a miracle midwife!!!

  14. Anne, I've read this story now a few times... just to relish in your joy. I've told Adam the whole story and rejoiced in the beauty of birth with him. We are both so thrilled for you and Philip. There is truly nothing else like the brilliance of birth. You did an excellent job describing every little detail. I feel as if I could almost taste the intensity.
    Much love to you all.

  15. I'm actually crying, Anne! You shouldn't have directed me this way - hormonal pregnant lady that I am. I just loved every word of the whole thing. I did the exact same things in my labour with Joe - those positions/techniques are GOLD. One thing I am really going to try to do this time is take some pictures. We don't have a single picture of Joe's labour/birth except for afterwards (the paramedics took a couple of us on the gurney because I was laughing and having such a nice time that they figured it would be a nice keepsake - and I'm glad that they did!). But your photos are so beautiful and share such a story. I cried at the ones of you holding her int he tub. How beautiful! Thank you for the gift of sharing such a positive and healthy story of birth.

  16. Anne, I just read this for the first time tonight and cried. I 'm a little late I see. I love this story. It did seem so natural and right, how amazing. she's beautiful.

  17. This is such a beautiful story, I just cried thinking of how wonderful birth is! Holland is truly a miracle.


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