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My Motherhood Story + Restore Your Home Challenge

I’ll never forget the memory my husband shared with me as a snippet of the birth of our first son. That is where my motherhood story truly begins. He said, “Something in you changed in that moment, you became a mom.” He was referring to what he physically witnessed in me just moments before our first baby was born. Him saying that to me is one of my most cherished memories. That experience did change me, drastically. As many other mothers will attest, I had no idea a love so big existed.

At 20 years old, I wasn’t ready for a lot of the information I would absorb during my first pregnancy. At 21 years old, ready or not I was giving birth. I would also be plummeting into my first year of caring for a newborn baby. No, this isn’t a birth story, you can find those here, if you’re interested.

However, my story doesn’t start at that moment. It starts long before the transformational moment that baby was placed in my arms…

Before I Became a Mama

Few people know the full story behind my unconventional ways, and I’ll keep it sweet and short for you here. I grew up eating the typical red-capped whole milk from the grocery store. We ate fish sticks, and the same cereal you probably did. (Not in that order, or all together, yuck haha). I didn’t grow up wealthy, and we ate what we had without giving it much thought. I was not taught to cook, and not raised to question ingredients in things, etc. However, we grew up relatively healthy and active. I spent a LOT of time outside growing up and without any serious medical issues.

Fast-forward to entering into adulthood, and my physical activity came almost to a screeching halt. I wasn’t playing sports anymore, or riding horses, and my coupon clipping supported diet was absolute trash. Not knowing how to cook, I found myself married at 19 and really struggling mentally. I was quickly given a diagnosis and multiple prescriptions to counter the symptoms I was experiencing. It wouldn’t be until 2-3 years after that diagnosis that I would realize that I was grossly mis-diagnosed. A bandaid was placed on me with zero consideration for my nutrition or lifestyle.

A few months after starting those meds, I wanted to get off of them. I was offered no help when I shared that with the doctor’s office that had prescribed them. No one would help me. My general practitioner told me, “You’re already on the lowest dose. I don’t know how to help you wean off of these.”

This was the pivotal moment in my life when things started to shift. When I started seeing benefits from using things like essential oils and switching to raw dairy, the questioning of everything else began.

My First Pregnancy

My first pregnancy was…difficult. Not because I was high-risk or because I have any medical conditions that made it so, but because I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I was worried and stressed at every turn:
What if I move too quickly, or pick something up that’s too heavy?
How am I going to handle the pain of childbirth? I have such a low pain tolerance and I have no idea what to expect.
Why do I need to get a flu shot, and can that effect my baby?

It wasn’t until I found a Bradley Method instructor and doula at 7 months pregnant that I was at peace with the thought of giving birth. I was terrified before meeting her and taking those classes. Despite having just moved 8 hours north of almost everyone we knew and loved, we ended up doubling down and taking a 12-week childbirth education class in just 6 short weeks. We finished the course just in time to wait for me to go into labor. If you’d like to you can read my first birth story here.

I am a firm believer that the more education you can provide yourself with before your first pregnancy, the less stress and overwhelm you’ll experience during that pregnancy. That will also naturally effect your birth experience, and first year of life with your new baby. People in our culture don’t pass down wisdom like they once did (or welcome it when it’s offered), and our motherhood journeys suffer for it.

My Second, Third, and Fourth Pregnancies

Sadly, we experienced an early miscarriage with our second pregnancy. This taught me it’s own set of lessons, but some of those weren’t understood until years later……

My third pregnancy with our second son had it’s own set of difficulty and stress, especially following a miscarriage. The biggest difference in this in contrast to my first was the care team we chose for this baby. I knew after the hospital birth with our first that I would seek an out of hospital birth next time. This time, we hired a certified professional midwife for my prenatal, birth, and postpartum care. We had a very quick home birth with a skilled team, you can read that birth story here.

My fourth pregnancy was much easier on my body than my previous ones. We had our second home birth with him as well.

I want to clarify something that I learned through my years as a birth photographer and doula. (I did this from the time my first baby was 2 years old until he was about 6.) Just because I have had unmedicated hospital births, home births, and choose differently than you might, doesn’t make me right and you wrong.

Do I think you should consider all of your options fully, including home birth with a skilled and professional team of midwives? Whole heartedly, yes. Do I think you’re wrong if you choose differently than I did? Absolutely not. However, you can’t make a fully educated decision without fully understanding what your options are. Just like there are some phenomenal obstetricians, there are just as many skilled midwives helping women deliver babies safely at home. You may be surprised to learn that many professional midwives learn the exact same skillset as OBs. The biggest difference being that they don’t learn to perform surgery. The reality is if you don’t know what your options are, you don’t have any.

Learning Through Motherhood

I share so much about my pregnancies because without them, I wouldn’t have the knowledge or skills to share my story with clarity. The compelling I’ve always felt to share my own birth stories openly have undoubtedly had a positive impact on many other’s pregnancies and birth experiences.

It’s not just through pregnancy and childbirth that I’ve learned, though. When I was 9 months postpartum with my first son, I did my first Whole30. I had no clue what I was doing in the kitchen as a young stay at home mama with a small family to feed. In 2014, you couldn’t buy many things that were compliant for Whole30 in the store. I had to learn quickly how to make things from scratch if I wanted to eat and stay on track. Homemade mayo, ranch, and ketchup are skills still pressed on my memory now.

Sometime after that, I learned about some real food and natural living meetings local to me. The woman I was picking up my fresh, raw Jersey milk from led a local Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter. They held monthly nutrient-dense potlucks and meetings that covered a different topic each time. There may have been mostly older crowds that showed up for this, but I learned priceless valuable information that I couldn’t have learned elsewhere.

Motherhood is a Marathon

There is so very much to learn when we enter into motherhood. I believe we go through waves of absorbing massive amounts of information, to learning how to apply those, and even getting overwhelmed when it all becomes too much. This is all part of learning. Mistakes will be made. Without mistakes, how can we really learn anything?Motherhood is a marathon, which gives us the grace of space to learn and make small adjustments overtime.

If I would have switched my lifestyle from what it was for the first 20 years of my life to what it is now overnight, I would have crumbled under the pressure. I started making sourdough bread less than 3 years ago and I just the other day learned something new about using my starter (thank you to my friend Liz from Homegrown Education, you’re a literal culture saver, pun-intended).

Let this be an encouragement to you now. Life is a journey of living and learning and making small adjustments for the sake of serving your loved ones. It will take change, sacrifice, and hard work sometimes. But, when you make the adjustments over time at a pace that serves you and your family, you make space to flourish. You make space to cultivate a more holistic, healthy, and natural home.

Restore Your Home

Readiness wasn’t even on my mind when I began this lifelong journey of restoring my own home. I’m still doing it now, and I hope to never stop. There is always more to learn, but I hope that you’ll at least start somewhere. If you need a place to start, my Restore Your Home Challenge is a fantastic option. I created this challenge and resource with the hopes that it will get you started on your own journey. Or, perhaps encourage you to keep going if you’ve been at it for a while.

Over the course of this next year, I will be providing a different free printable PDF checklist that focuses on a different part of your home.

  • January | Kitchen
  • February | Medicine Cabinet
  • March | Cleaning Products
  • April | Furniture, Closet, + Linens
  • May | Catchup + Review
  • June | Air Quality
  • July | Technology
  • August | Water
  • September | Garden + Yard
  • October | Bath, Body, + Haircare
  • November | Catchup + Review
  • December | End of Year Wrap Up

This is for you to have an organized place to dig into all of the nooks and crannies of your home. Customize this challenge how you want to restore your own home. This is going to look different for everyone, don’t play the comparison game and just start.

If you consider yourself a homemaker at all, I invite you to join me alongside numerous other homemakers and start restoring your home, today.

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Holiday Gift Guide for the Family in 2021

When it comes to showing your loved ones you care, the Christmas season provides a sweet opportunity to do that and do it well. This family holiday gift guide has a little something for everyone. It’s jam-packed with unique and sustainable options. You can buy confidently knowing you’re picking out some great things while supporting some wonderful companies. Just like everything I share and do, the 80/20 rule applies. Not everything is perfect on these lists, but they’re perfect for someone!

This post contains some affiliate links, meaning when you click on some of the links and make a purchase, I receive a commission which supports my efforts to share with you in this space the products and resources I used and love most.

I’ve organized three separate lists for you on this single blog post:

  • Holiday Gift Guide For Kids
  • Holiday Gift Guide For Him
  • Holiday Gift Guide For Her

I hope this family gift guide will help you choose meaningful and unique gifts this season! Keep an eye out for the bold text for discount codes!

Holiday Gift Guide For Kids

holiday gift guide 2021
  1. Baby Björn Bouncer from Baby Björn or Amazon. $199.99+
    This has been my favorite baby item I’ve ever had between my three children for the newborn stage, absolutely wonderful.
  2. Play Gym from LOVEVERY. $140
    Sustainably sourced wood, organic cotton, this is hands down the best play gym for a baby or toddler.
  3. Baby Toys & Play Mats from The Natural Baby Company. $4.99-$89.95
    First Stacking Ring Pastel $15
    Manhattan Toy Artful Skwish $19
    Wee Gallery Forest Playmat $89.95
    If you’re in the market for cloth diapers as well, The Natural Baby Company makes Grovia Diapers which are by far my favorite.
  4. Kwik Stix by The Pencil Grip. $12.99 [Save 10% off your entire purchase with code CULTIVATING10]
    Solid tempera paint, the Classic 12 pack provides a full rainbow of colors to paint with the washable and formula that allows them to dry in 90 seconds! No cups, smocks, water or brushes needed.
  5. Forest Friends Kidsafe Diffuser by Plant Therapy. $59.95
    With three different interchangeable ears, our fun Forest Friends diffuser can turn into a feisty fox, cute bunny or precious bear. This diffuser requires no chemicals or heat, allowing the essential oils to retain all of their natural benefits and chemical profile. Find Kidsafe oil blends here.
  6. Block Beeswax Crayons by Stockmar. $19.40 (current sale price)
    The best non-toxic first crayon a little one could ask for.
  7. Baltic Amber Teething Toy by Bambeado. $19.90
    Used on all of my three children, baltic amber is an incredible pain reliever for teething.
  8. Wooden Rainbow Stacker by QZMTOY. $54.99
    A toddler+ favorite with tons of versatality.
  9. Pact Baby Clothing and Holiday Socks. $7-18 [Save 20% off your purchase with code CULTIVATINGMOTHERHOOD20]
    100% Organic clothing with unmatched quality.
  10. Wooden Block Set by Melissa & Doug. $50.89 (current sale price)
    A classic set of blocks that every little one should have.
  11. Block Set by LOVEVERY. $90
    For ages 18 months-48 months+ this is a brilliant, practical system of solid wood blocks for building spatial, language, and problem-solving skills.
  12. Thin Stix by The Pencil Grip. $12.99 [Save 10% off your entire purchase with code CULTIVATING10]
    Solid tempera paint with all the same qualities and features of Kwik Stix (gift guide #4 above), but a thinner tube for better detail and different grip. Closer to the size and shape of a marker, these are great for more precision and as grip develops and improves.
  13. Wooden Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter by Melissa & Doug. $38.48 (current sale price)
    One of the most interactive toys my kiddos have played with together, this is on their wish list this year!
  14. Artist Grade Wax Stick Crayons by Stockmar. $63.80
    An excellent option for the young artist in your home ready to upgrade from block crayons.
  15. Wheely “Bug” Ride-On Toy by Prince Lionheart. $59.99 (current sale price)
    A BIG favorite in our home, played with every single day and made very well and sturdy.
  16. Artist Quality Colored Pencils by Prismacolor. $19.98-$85.91
    When we switched to these pencils from the basic Crayola’s, the coloring enjoyment for my boys increased like crazy. These pencils are remarkable and worth every penny.
  17. Board Games Ticket to Ride First Journey and Catan Jr. $17.99-$22.39 (current sale prices)
    The top two board games we enjoy playing together as a family with our 8 and 5 year old are easily these two.
  18. Blackboard Playmat Kit by The Pencil Grip. $18.99-$25.99 [Save 10% off your entire purchase with code CULTIVATING10]
    This set is great for travelling, play dates, dinner time, restaurants and more!  Draw directly on the playmats, and remove with a damp cloth and start over and over again.
  19. Plush Avocado by Squishmallow. $19.88
    There is something so loveable about these soft and squishy things, we all love them! Find many more designs here.
  20. Balance Bike by Strider. $82.99 (current sale price)
    One of the best things we ever did was skip the training wheels entirely and start our boys on balance bikes. It gave them the best foundation to bike riding and none of them have ever used training wheels because of these bikes.

Holiday Gift Guide For Him

holiday gift guide 2021
  1. Sauce Pot & Basting Brush Set by Cuisinart. $14.99 (currently on sale)
    For the serious BBQ chef.
  2. Stainless Steel Meat Shredding Claws by TOFTMAN. $18
    For the chef or soux chef to pull and shred meat without burning fingers or ruining utensils.
  3. Organic Grilling Spice Gift Set by FreshJax. $24.99
    These five organic sampler spice glass bottles will have your man’s grilling game on full throttle.
  4. Andalou Naturals Shampoo & Conditioner and Highland Pine Deodorant. $10.99
    They take the tricky guess work out of regimens by combining Fruit Stem Cell Science® with unique and innovative ingredients to provide skincare solutions that target specific concerns.
  5. Classic Clogs by Crocs. $44.63+ (current sale price)
    Every dude needs a nice pair of classic Crocs. Once you go Croc, you never go bock.
  6. Pact Organic Clothing. $12-$85 [Save 20% off your purchase with code CULTIVATINGMOTHERHOOD20]
    Holiday Socks
    Boxer Brief 4-Pack
    Black & White Crewneck Undershirts
    100% Organic clothing with unmatched quality.
  7. Muscle Aloe Jelly by Plant Therapy. $13.95
    The perfect icy/hot combination after a long workout or worry-some day, a combination of soothing and relaxing essential oils mixed perfectly with hydrating aloe jelly.
  8. Espresso Tamper by Blue Bottle. $87
    For the espresso lover, don’t forget to add on an organic coffee subscription while you’re at it. Cancel anytime!
  9. Athlete Sport Collection by Charlotte’s Web. $89.97 [Save 15% sitewide with code CULTIVATINGMOTHERHOOD]
    Soothe sore and achy muscles and temporarily relieve with the support of the best ingredients mother nature has to offer.
  10. Fish/Flag hat by Columbia. $16.97+
    Mesh Tree Ball Cap features a classic fit that provides comfort for long fishing days to casual wear.
  11. Portable Speaker by Bose. $219
    Deep. Loud. And immersive, too. Eyeballing this for my hubby this year for sure.
  12. Taza Chocolate. $5-29.99
    Peppermint Bark
    Gingerbread Cookie
    Comfort & Joy Sampler
    Some of the best chocolate I have ever had. Fantastic gift option.
  13. Double-Insulated Warm/Cold Lookout Bottle by Berkey. $24.99 [Save 10% sitewide with code CULTIVATINGMOTHERHOOD]
    Built tough from rust-resistant 18/8 304 stainless steel—ideal for camping trips, sporting events, workouts, school, on the job, or everyday. 
  14. Parker Clay Sustainable Genuine Leather Items. $72-$558 [Save 20% sitewide with code PC-NICOLE20]
    Abera Billfold Wallet
    Mekonnen Leather Belt
    Axum Dopp Bag
    Parker Briefcase

Holiday Gift Guide For Her

  1. Pact Organic Clothing. $10-$60 [Save 20% off your purchase with code CULTIVATINGMOTHERHOOD20]
    Marsala Honeycomb Knit Scarf
    Holiday Socks 3-pack
    100% Organic clothing with unmatched quality.
  2. Memory Foam Slippers by ULTRAIDEAS. $24.99 (current sale price)
    A new pair of slippers each year is a well-loved gift.
  3. Parker Clay Sustainable Genuine Leather Items. $128-198 [Save 20% sitewide with code PC-NICOLE20]
    Abby Drawstring Backpack
    Parker Clay Zahra Wallet
    Desta Belt Bag
    If you’re looking to make a big impression on her, this is your golden ticket.
  4. Jade Roller & Gua Sha Tools by MoValues. $18.98
    Two tools that every woman doesn’t know she needs.
  5. Linen/Cotton Weighted Blanket by YnM. $105.90
    If she’s ever mentioned she’d like to try a weighted blanket, now is your chance!
  6. Wall Hanging Glass Planter by Mkono. $15.99
    If you have a plant lover in your life, this is a great option!
  7. Taza Chocolate. $5-29.99
    Peppermint Bark
    Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
    If she loves chocolate, she’s going to LOVE this chocolate.
  8. Gut Health Starter Tea Bundle from Pique. $96 [Save 5% off your order with code CULTIVATINGMOTHERHOOD]
    If she’s a tea lover, GET THESE (or anything other teas from this website).
  9. Temperature Control Mug by Ember. $99.95
    If she’s always re-heating her coffee or tea, do her a big favor and buy this mug.
  10. Mama Bear Coffee Mug by Brooke & Jess Designs. $20.95
    For the mama bear in your life!
  11. 18-ounce Stump Teapot Infuser by FORLIFE. $39
    This was a gifted to me and it is the best personal teapot to share with a friend over a joyful cup of tea.
  12. Barnwood Planter & Organic Culinary Herb Garden Kit by True Leaf Market. $37.79
    The perfect gift for the beginner or experienced gardener in your life!
  13. Wonder Stix by The Pencil Grip. $16.99 [Save 10% off your entire purchase with code CULTIVATING10]
    Don’t let the description fool you, if she uses chalk regularly she’s going to adore this thoughtful gift.
  14. Himalayan Salt Lamp by Levoit. $39.99 (current sale price)
    Improve the quality of her sleep with this dimmable night light.
  15. Picnic & Outdoor Blanket by Scuddles. $26.99 (current sale price)
    For the outdoorsy type!
  16. Plant Therapy. $10.95-$159.95
    Precious Flowers Set
    Passive Sunflower Diffuser
    Holiday Magic Bath Bombs
    A treat for the essential oil lover in your life.

Happy Shopping

Remember, it’s the intentional thought and heart behind gift giving that really spreads the love. I hope these ideas help you to bless someone else this season. Happy shopping!

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Road and Tent Camping Trip with Children

We did it, we took a road and tent camping trip with children and lived to tell the story. Traveling just over 4,000 miles total we left Houston, Texas to head to Victorville, California and back again. Visiting a total of only four states, we saw a variety of terrain and have memories that will last a lifetime. We weren’t sure it was a good idea, but now that we’ve done it we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Well, there are a few things we would change… for instance, duct tape is forever on our must-have list of camping supplies.

At ages 7, 5, and 22 months our three boys overall handled the trip really well and had tons of fun. If you’re a family who enjoys camping together, then I highly recommend you consider giving this a shot for your next family vacation. If you’re not used to camping as a family, then I highly recommend you find a local place and get your feet wet ASAP!

This post contains some affiliate links, meaning when you click on some of the links and make a purchase, I receive a commission which supports my efforts to share with you in this space the products and resources I used and love most.

road and tent camping trip with children

Road Tripping For Less

We knew we wanted to make a trip to California to visit family while my husband (Craig) had two weeks off this year. We debated back and forth on affording it, and finally decided we would go. Knowing money was a huge factor, we decided to tent camp along the way both to avoid expensive hotel stays, as well as to be able to bring and cook our own food. Eating out along the way can be very expensive and risk stomach aches and diminished immune systems from food we’re not used to.

We had two choices. We could get there as fast as possible in two days minimum. Or, we could take extra time getting there and see some incredible things we would otherwise drive right past. We want our kids to see God’s beautiful creation, and this was a great opportunity to do just that.

The Necessity of Planning

I did a bit of research, and decided that planning to drive in 2 1/2-3 1/2 hour increments would be doable with our children’s ages. Toddlers to early elementary boys need a lot of stimulation and breaks to make it through a long road trip. Some stops included sight-seeing and others were 20-minute quick potty breaks and a quick stretch of our legs.

I used Google Maps to create my own saved map with stops all planned out. All the way from our home to where we would stay for 5 days in California it was all mapped out. I utilized Roadtrippers to check for major places along the way. Without this planning, I would have missed a lot of opportunities for learning and adventure for our family.

We did not stick 100% to the planned stops I made, but I was very glad to have them for guidelines along the way. It would have been very chaotic day-to-day without these plans. Planning also made it possible to not miss out on visiting places. New restrictions meant having reservations even for a day visit to some places necessary.

Major Stops Between Texas and California

A while back I posted on social media asking for recommended places to camp in Texas. One of the places recommended over and over again was Big Bend National Park. When it occurred to me that we could drive an extra few hours and stop there, I was sold. I didn’t know what to expect, and we questioned that decision a lot in a matter of a couple of hours while we detoured that way. One of the things we definitely learned on this road trip is:

How drastically terrain can change in a matter of ten minutes of driving. One minute you’re in a seemingly endless desert, and the next you’re in awe of new greens to discover and massive canyons just ahead. Nature provides the unexpected beyond our wildest imaginations.

Nicole | Cultivating Motherhood

Places we stopped on the way to California from Texas:

Had I failed to plan, I would have also wasted us a lot of money. I would have failed to realize how worth it the $80/year National Park Annual Pass would be. We saved a lot choosing this because of how many national parks we visited! Definitely worth the time to add up entrance fees if you plan to visit a number of national parks in a year or road trip like ours. I highly suggest purchasing yours at the first park you visit so that your pass begins as late as possible as well as being able to avoid waiting for the mail to deliver yours.

Major Stops Between California and Texas

The trip home was a bit trickier than on the way. We took five entire days to get to California and planned to get back to Texas in only three. We still wanted to sight-see. The most difficult part in planning this was the reality that we could leave from the home we stayed at in California super early in the morning. However, leaving a campsite in the early hours would be impossible. This meant we needed to go as far as possible the first day, leaving the other days a bit shorter. We originally booked a campsite at the Grand Canyon, but had to change that when we realized we’d need to drive much further that first day. Looking back, I really wish we would have just added on an extra day to be able to make that stop work out.

Places we stopped on the way back to Texas from California:

  • Grand Canyon National Park in Grand Canyon, AZ
  • Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, AZ
    this last minute decision to go to Bearizona instead of the Grand Canyon was an expensive but worth it detour, looking back I wish we had done both and extended our trip by one day, MUST DO if you have children!
  • Petrified Forest National Park in Petrified Forest, AZ
  • Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA in Holbrook, AZ
    camped 1 night – with reservations, much prefer camping in national parks
  • Hotel el Rancho in Gallup, NM
    I actually wish we would have taken a chance and booked a room at this historic hotel instead of camping that night, we drove by from taking Historic Route 66 for a bit and it was stunning
  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, TX
    camped 1 nightwith reservations, would love to come back here to spend a week, tons to do

Would We Do It Again?

Without a doubt, it was worth every mishap and change of plans. We ran into holes in our tent, a nail in our tire, freezing overnight temps, and much more. But, it was a grand adventure that made for wonderful memories that we’ll never forget. We can’t wait to plan our next major family road trip, and we hope you feel more equipped to take your next (or first!) one, too.

We have got to be honest though, all the Airstream’s we passed by looked awfully nice along the way! Don’t forget to checkout these must-haves for your next camping trip:

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The Family Centered Home Birth of our Third Baby

All photos of this Family Centered Home Birth courtesy of Stephanie Shirley Photography.
Be sure to head to the end of this story to find the beautiful birth film she also created in addition to these images!

That Morning

The mid-December day started quiet and slow. My 6 year old joined me in bed first thing for some snuggles, asking how big the baby was now. We had been checking on and off with a website to see how big baby was throughout my pregnancy. It had been a few weeks since we last checked in. I asked if he wanted to watch anymore birth videos, as we had been doing on and off over the last month. This was in preparation for him being present this time, as he slept through the birth of his first little brother.

He had been adamant over the previous few months about “catching the baby.” That is until we watched a few birth videos, he then he became unsure whether he wanted to do that or not. I told him he can do whatever he is comfortable with. If only our 3 year old walked in that very moment toting his pretend fishing net announcing. “I’ll catch the baby!” He was in the habit of doing that during the final months of my pregnancy, so cute. Both of them wanting to be involved in the birth of this baby makes my mama heart soar.

We got up, and I started re-heating some leftover oatmeal for the boys and my mom while I cooked two eggs with toast and avocado for myself. As I ate breakfast, I noticed a bit of nausea that I thought was odd, I hadn’t been nauseas in months. Labor crossed my mind, but didn’t stick as being 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant would be early (for me). Both of our other boys came at exactly 40 weeks and 4 days spontaneously, without interference. Craig, my husband, was also home both times I went into labor before, and he was at work on this Monday like usual.

Heading Out the Door

We were having a slow morning. Eventually the boys and I headed back upstairs to get ready to head out to pickup our Azure order for the month. (We meet a big rig monthly for an order of various foods and goods, find out more here.) Neither my mom or I felt like figuring out lunch before we left, so we decided to leave a little bit early to drive through Chick-fil-A. At the time, this was a fairly rare treat for us. If you know me well enough or follow my blog or social media you know I’m pretty nuts about what we eat. Just like most people in my shoes, I follow the 80/20 rule and this was a 20 moment. However, I really craved those delicious, terrible for you chicken strips and glorious waffle fries throughout my entire pregnancy; one of my not-so-proud admissions.

It was one of those weird weather days for Houston. The kind of weather where the temperature dropped drastically in the middle of the day. This still trips me out, and probably always will because the West Coast weather doesn’t typically behave that way. It was a warm morning and going to jump from the 70’s down to the 50’s around 11:00am. That was about the time we were leaving.

We all loaded into the car and headed out. As soon as we pulled into the drive through, at around 11:15am, I some stronger “Braxton Hicks” kicked in. I have experienced BH contractions from around 20 weeks (or before) with each pregnancy. In addition, I also experienced weeks of prodromal labor with my other two kiddos. So, I was a little apprehensive thinking much of these tighter cramps. We made our way to the Azure drop and ate our lunch while waiting for the driver to arrive.

Things Picking Up

While we were waiting for the truck, I ended up texting Craig to update him. I let him know I was having some pretty intense contractions. They were anywhere from 8-13 minutes apart and lasting over a minute long. He was warne that he might want to be a little bit on edge and ready to come home. Arriving at about 12:15pm, the Azure driver found us shivering from how cold it had gotten. We picked up my order and went on our way. I had plans to take my mom and the boys back home right after. I planned to deliver a freezer meal to a friend in need about 20 minutes away from our house.

We hopped back in the car and those plans quickly changed when I had another contraction with a back spasm….while driving. I think my mom was getting a little nervous but I kept driving. I quickly decided we needed to fill the car up with gas and pickup mascarpone cheese from the store. Determined to distract myself from this “possible labor,” I wanted to bake a red wine chocolate cake. I had wanted to try this recipe for months! Obviously I needed this specific cream cheese the recipe calls for. I pulled up to the grocery store and my mom to ran in for the cheese. Then we drove to Costco for gas. I mentioned I maybe shouldn’t be driving anywhere alone so I decided they’d come with me to deliver the meal. We pulled into Costco, and I quickly changed my mind about that when the contractions kept coming. 

Change of Plans

I let my friend (who needed the meal) know I might be in labor and that I should probably not bring it by right now. She promptly said something like, “Don’t worry about us, you go have a baby.”

While my mom filled my car up with gas for me, I continued having contractions. I texted my birth team to give them a heads up, just in case. I labored super quickly with my second son, a total of about 5 hours from first contraction to birth. Anticipating a similar experience this time around, I was also trying not to have any expectations. I wanted my birth team to have the heads up sooner than later just in case history repeated itself.

We got back home and I decided I would lay down. Although I wanted to bake that cake, I wanted to see if the contractions would slow down or go away from resting. I helped my mom put the Azure order away and laid on the couch. My mom took my 3 year old upstairs for a nap while my 6 year old and I stayed downstairs.

I remained on the couch, aside from getting up to use the bathroom, from around 1:00pm until about 4:00pm. The contractions remained 8-13 minutes apart and definitely more intense than they started, lasting around 1 minute and 15 seconds long. I explained to our 6 year old that I couldn’t talk if I had my eyes closed and was breathing heavily. He was asked to explain this to his little brother when he woke up from his nap. I contemplated asking Craig to come home early multiple times, and updated him and my birth team again.

Slowing Things Down and Speeding Them Up

I remained on the couch for all of those hours knowing being up and moving around could speed things up. Needless to say the cake wasn’t getting baked anytime soon, not by me anyways. Our 3 year old ended up waking up sometime around 2-3:00pm. This relieved me knowing he got a decent nap and probably wasn’t going to miss the birth!

Craig ended up working until his normal time and would be home around 4:30pm. It was about the time he would be getting home decided to head upstairs. I wanted to take a shower and see how that went. He got home around 4:15pm when I hopped in, and had him start timing contractions while I was showering. I realized I needed to wash my hair, because if we were having a baby tonight then I was definitely not going to want to wash it again for quite a few days while recovering.

Contractions were around 10 minutes apart before I had gotten up from the couch. They had increased to 5-6 minutes apart from being up and around. I wasn’t being vocal through the contractions yet. So, I still wasn’t 100% certain “this is it.” But, I was still concerned about the possibility of my entire birth team missing the birth. I was having zero other symptoms outside of the contractions themselves. No bloody show, no mucous plug, literally nothing. I was peeing a ton because I was staying well hydrated between drinking water and my labor-aid drink. (Which is a MUST-have recipe from The First Forty Days Book, so delicious and hydrating.)

Intensity Increased

My contractions continued to increase while I sat on a medicine ball. I ate some dinner, wanting to keep my energy up and sustained in case this went into the night. I finished about half a normal serving of Osso Bucco and fried potatoes. 

My contractions were between 4-5 minutes apart around 6:15-6:30pm when everyone decided to head over. The contractions were getting more intense and I was becoming vocal. Once everyone was here, my contractions started spreading apart to 7 and 9 minutes apart, which was concerning to me. I decided to stop timing the contractions to get my mind off of them. I started getting a little worried that we’d be at this a while. 

However, just like with my last one, it didn’t take long for things to pick back up again, very quickly. I moved from trying to labor on the bed to standing leaning over my dresser as the contractions increased. Craig and my sweet friend/doula/second midwife, Courtneay, both tried easing my lower back pain with massage. I’ve never been the super hands on type in labor, so I wasn’t a huge fan of that. I could only tolerate my 6 and 3 year old loving on me during a contraction, turns out. They were both in and out of our room being really excited while this was going on. The mood was light and fun in between contractions while I was weaving in and out of “labor land.”

Whoops, Those Aren’t Going to Work

My midwife was going through some of the birth supplies when she unfolded one of the chucks pads I had purchased. We quickly realized all of them were MINIATURE chucks pads (like, for a baby, not for a birth). This hilarious realization resulted in a bunch of baby chucks pads taping together and laid down for me on the bed while others were made ready as extra. I think we were definitely all laughing at my mini chucks pad mistake, whoops. Thankfully I had  a stack of old towels ready to go, if needed.

Almost Time For Baby

After a few intensifying contractions, I started getting a little bit grunty and could feel baby moving down even further. Being curious about how far I was dilated but not wanting to be disappointed, I looked to my midwife. She responded with something like, “I don’t even think it’s necessary, I think we’re close,” to which I responded, “Really? Oh, good.” She was right, because one of the contractions that followed that conversation finally had some fluid coming out and made me start feeling like I needed to poop. (Or, you know…push.)

Craig had at some point came to give me his hand to squeeze as the contractions were intensifying. My 6 year old was getting ready with some gloves and waiting patiently behind me. I stood, leaning against our dresser. (I was told later that he was making fart noises with the gloves at this point. Being oblivious to that,I suddenly passed gas during a contraction. Apparently his face was priceless in this moment. This was definitely a birth with a bunch of boys involved. Can I expect anything less than giggles from fart noises?!)

I decided I felt like I might need to actually try to poop as the contractions got more and more intense. But, I also didn’t want to have the baby on the toilet. I quickly decided to give it a try and walk towards the bathroom. I only made it a few steps before I went down with harder and stronger contractions with the fetal ejection happening all on its own as baby moved down. At this point I was face first into my husband’s lap, clinging with my left hand onto his hip while he held my upper body up. I clung to the crib in our room with my right hand. 

The intensity was overwhelming. I kept hearing Courtneay say, “Slow your breathing Nicole, baby needs oxygen.” It was so hard to calm down with so much intensity. Deciding to push with the next wave, I was reminded of the somewhat familiar feeling of being ripped in half. I was roaring and remember saying, “It hurts, it burns, owe!” quite a bit. I remember saying at some point, “I don’t think I can catch him,” so [hopefully] everyone knew I wasn’t feeling capable of that.

It took a few pushes for his head to come out. The relief of that was enough to encourage me to push the rest of his body out with a final push. I heard Courtneay say, “8:14” as he was born. Being so low to the ground, I’m not sure who’s hands handed him up to me. However, within seconds he was slippery and up on my chest. I felt a huge wave of relief.

My 6 year old was right there ready to help catch. Our 3 year old stayed close by watching with him. Later I learned that our big dude did indeed help “catch.” They both did so well. I’m so grateful they got to experience this with us.

Immediate Postpartum

Baby and I transitioned to the bed rather quickly, where the contractions continued and my rear end HURT, so badly. (It’s still aching while I write this, 4 days postpartum.) I birthed the placenta soon after with a little push, and felt some relief with that. No one’s lying when they say the contractions after are more painful with each child. These were rough for sure and not getting easier. I thought it was just from having pitocin with my last birth that contributed to the after birth pains. Nope, afterbirth pains are just no joke after each consecutive baby. 

Baby spent about an hour on me, and latched on during that time like a champ. I double checked that we did indeed have a boy. His little swollen parts confirmed yes, indeed a third boy. So much for the wishful thinking that we would get surprised with a girl! He is an absolute gift, and so precious and sweet and I of course wouldn’t trade him for the world.

Our 3 year old was able to cut the cord with some help. He wanted his own special job since biggest brother got to help with catching baby. Baby went over to Craig for skin-to-skin. I headed to the bathroom (with lots of help) to try to pee. That was not a fun place to be sitting with all of the pelvic pain I was experiencing.

Snuggles From Dada and Brothers

While baby had a little bit of skin-to-skin with his big brothers, I got settled back in bed. My mom made some recipes downstairs for me. A placenta smoothie was made as well. We all settled in for the night after everyone but my mom left. We had our first night as a family of five, officially outnumbered. 

Watch the birth film here:
coming soon

To read The Birth Story of our First-born, click here.
To read The Birth Story of our Second-born, click here.

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Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss: Healing

September of 2015

The weather was a typical California “fall” that September. We were tiny living in our fifth wheel as a family of three with our firstborn and our dog, Gracie. It wasn’t too hot that month, we were still longingly awaiting the cooler weather. Our long pants were still neatly tucked away in storage, waiting for the seasons to change. We prayerfully decided our two year old would make a really great big brother. My husband and I felt ready to grow our family by another sweet baby. It wasn’t hard to become pregnant the first go-around. I was certain it wouldn’t happen again on the first try. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss were the last things on our minds.

Well, as usual, God had different plans than I did. Within weeks, there I was…anxiously waiting the longest three minutes of my life for two pink lines to slowly appear on a dollar store test. Did it really happen that easily, again? Another test confirmed, pregnant.

I took that test very early in my pregnancy, according to my most recent cycle. I had to be 4-5 weeks along, symptoms from rising HCG barely at their beginning stages. My first pregnancy had gone well without complications out of the ordinary. The memories of the same moment with our first pregnancy flashed in my mind.

Soon after the joy of learning there was another precious life growing inside of me, a feeling like a dark cloud began to follow me around. I remember sharing with a handful of people that I was pregnant. Each time I would share, I would attach, “But, it’s really early.” Was I saying that because I knew others who had experienced loss? Miscarriage or pregnancy loss are not things that I had ever personally experienced. The sense that something was off wouldn’t leave me. I was afraid. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but this overwhelming sense of worry was hovering in my mind.

It was a Saturday night when the feeling completely overcame me, this sinking feeling deep inside of me. I was roughly six weeks along by now. I remember saying to my husband, “Something isn’t right,” and I cried in his arms that night. The next day, the start of bleeding would begin. The pink lines would begin to fade on additional tests (signaling the HCG was lessening in my body). I knew for certain that day that I was experiencing a miscarriage or pregnancy loss and miscarrying our baby…

September of 2020

It’s been five years since we experienced our pregnancy loss. While the many tears I cried eventually stopped flowing and I experienced God’s gracious healing with the birth of our rainbow baby the following September, it was difficult to let go of why that happened to me. It can be so frustrating to not understand exactly why God allows these things to happen. I have always said I’m so thankful it was so early. But, the emotional pain was still like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

August of 2018

Fast-forward a few years to late summer when we moved from California to Texas. Over the course of those three years, I never went searching for reasons why we miscarried. Little did I know, the answers somehow found me anyways. I began seeing a new dentist in our new state. I was in the middle of the process of removing my (many) amalgam fillings. Amalgams are those metal looking fillings dentists use(d) to fill cavities, which happen to contain a toxin called mercury. Somewhere along my journey to holistic, natural living, I had come across research that supported the decision to have those removed. For health reasons, I decided I would be better off having them all replaced, reducing the risk of the toxins in my body. However, it never crossed my mind whether those risks involved miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

Spring of 2015

We were still living in California when I got the first half of them removed. The dentist I was seeing at the time wasn’t anything outside of the normal realm of typical dentists. He happened to not take any precautions when removing and replacing the amalgam fillings. I didn’t know any better to advocate for anything different (I doubt he did, either).

October of 2018

So, I sought out this new to me, holistic dentist in Texas. Dr. Teresa Scott made it a priority to promptly remove the remaining amalgams and replace with porcelain like the rest. She was firm that this was of importance before doing any of the rest of the dental work I needed. Taking major precautions to not only protect me during the removal process, but herself and her staff as well she replaced the fillings. (Through this process, I learned there is a legitimate and significant risk of exposing the toxins into the air from the amalgams during this process.) After this was completed, she heavily advised me to detox with something like TRS. The next thing she said is where the wheels in my brain started rolling…she finished her recommendations with, “One more thing…do not get pregnant for a minimum of 6 months from now.”

My heart felt like it had jumped to my throat. Why was she recommending that so strongly? What could happen if I got pregnant after this? When did I miscarry….when did I get my other amalgams removed….was there a connection? My heart sank back down to my the bottom of my stomach. I looked back to when I had the first amalgams removed (remember, with no precautions, no detoxing, nothing). Sure enough, it was within 6 months of getting pregnant that I miscarried what would have been our second baby.

September of 2020

The healing I experienced through the gift of our second-born baby, despite just how hard it was to not live in fear throughout the course of his pregnancy, was complete and full of love. The healing I experienced after having highly probable answers to why I experienced pregnancy loss, was moving. It has now been five years since we experienced the devastation of loss. Four years ago we had our rainbow baby. Two years ago I realized what could have caused our loss.

I share this story in full for the first time, in hopes that it will touch someone else’s pain with a glimpse of hope. In hopes that it will cause less pain by providing the awareness. There are risks we face each and every day with the decisions we make. Our care providers don’t know what they don’t know. None of us know what we don’t know. That is something I’m learning more and more through my walk with Christ. It very much so fits these circumstances I find myself having faced. It allows me to have offer grace up to others.

I still keep those positive pregnancy tests tucked away in a drawer. With those tests are other tangible memories of the life that didn’t remain viable inside of my womb. One of those tangible memories is a card from a sweet friend and sister in Christ who walked me through that difficult season. Having a friend who has been in the shoes you’re currently walking in is a blessing from the caring Father above. I am grateful to this day for the love she showed me. I haven’t been able to bring myself to read that card again since the day she gave it to me.

Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is not an easy topic to write about, to read about, or to think about. If you find yourself wondering what could have caused your loss, I want to be clear that those answers might not ever come full circle this side of heaven. It’s possible you have a story like mine. If you do and feel compelled to share, I’d love to hear your heart. Feel free to email me, or comment below if you feel safe to do so.

To the mamas that have felt the pain of loving a child you never got to hold, you’re not alone. You’re never, ever alone. There’s hope, and grace…for me, and for you.

A Note

I realize there is a common “courtesy” of providing a trigger warning at the start of a text that could potentially elicit uncomfortable feelings in others. I want to be clear that I do not believe this is the best way to counter those triggered emotions. Real life does not come with trigger warnings, and my miscarriage and pregnancy loss experience certainly wasn’t an exception to that. It is my opinion that the more loving thing to do than provide a trigger waring, is to instead weep with those who weep. We can’t walk with one another in our pain if it’s not shared. So here you will find me, heart on my sleeve sharing with you. Will you share with me, too?

Images on this post taken by Nicole Jackson Photography
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Within the Throes of Motherhood

Motherhood. It’s enough to break you and put you back together in the very same breath, isn’t it?

It’s the thing that I always circle back to being the biggest priority in my life, next to my relationship with God and my husband. Every time I’ve become too overwhelmed in my life, I’ve had to let something go. I’ve been called to let things go, because I cannot possibly do everything I desire to do. I have let go of business after business, and website after website. I have faithfully stepped away from things I love to hold onto, to be more present with the people I’ve been given to love.

If there’s anyone on the planet who tries to do it all, it’s me. Maybe it’s you, too.

  • keep the house tidy AND clean
  • cook every meal from scratch, with wholesome ingredients
  • cloth diaper
  • use natural remedies and cleaning solutions
  • run a business
  • serve others
  • read your bible
  • spend time with your husband
  • get enough sleep
  • wake up before your kids
  • take a nap
  • discipline children
  • organize and execute social plans
  • don’t spend too much money
  • lesson plan
  • spend one-on-one time with each of your kids
  • teach lessons
  • play with your kids
  • exercise
  • spend time with friends
  • make sure your kids spend time with friends
  • does the list ever end?

The list doesn’t seem to ever end, and within the list is just more…lists. The lists are full of the many responsibilities constantly tugging for my attention.

So I get organized, and I try to find another rhythm to follow. I remind myself that my worth isn’t found in what I can check off in boxes next to a to-do list. I am raising arrows, children that I am shaping in the little and big moments of each and everyday. I am raising up my children in the way which they will go, in hopes they will not depart from it when they are grown. I am their first example of Jesus, and that has to be my priority until the calling of motherhood fades. I’m anticipating that doesn’t ever truly happen, and I’m hopeful for the relationships I am building the foundations of now.

The throes of motherhood is not where I am called to live, as a child of God. The enemy might think he can keep me there, but it’s God who fills my soul with truth and love, mercy and grace. It’s God who sustains me. It’s God who changes my heart. It’s God who is the only one powerful enough to take me from the throes of motherhood and seat me peacefully back where I belong.

In those moments when I find the seeds of my heart jumping off my sleeve, I will plant them here and hope the ones I leave behind will take root in your heart, too.

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The Home Birth Story of My Second Baby

It’s true what they say about the middle child, they really do get the short end of the stick most of the time. Roughly one year after my third son was born, here I am writing the story of how my second son came into the world. This is the home birth story of our second baby. What a whirlwind his birth was…

A Little Background

We had our first son in the hospital, you can read that story here. If our copay for that birth hadn’t been a mere $200 for the hospital because of the insurance we had at the time, I would have sought out an out-of-hospital birth for him as well. By the time I learned about home birth being a safe option, I was too far along for us to financially make the switch. I knew I would pursue independent midwifery care this next go around.

Between this pregnancy and my first, we sadly experienced the loss of a pregnancy via miscarriage. You can find the full story of that experience here. This pregnancy wasn’t easy due multiple factors. An underlying fear remained an undercurrent from the first positive test all the way through his birth. I experienced unexplained bleeding in the earlier weeks, and had to be careful with lifting my 2 year old. My milk dried up within the first few weeks of this pregnancy, and my body just seemed to struggle altogether. Pregnancy isn’t easy on me.

Choosing My Midwife

During my miscarriage, I was referred to a local midwife that lovingly answered my questions despite never having met her. I booked her for an interview as soon as I could, and felt confident right then and there that she was the midwife for me. Craig, my husband, agreed and we hired her to care for the pregnancy and birth of our next little blessing. Little did I know at the time how much impact Claudette would have on my life!

We prepared and planned to have our second baby in the comfort of our home, which was a roughly 400sq ft fifth wheel at the time. Yep, we lived the tiny life for about two years after having our first son. That was an adventure! We eventually moved out of that and into a roughly 900sq ft rental home “in the country” before this second birth occurred.

The Start of Labor

The 40 week point came and went. The morning of 40 weeks plus 4 days arrived, and I had zero expectations of this baby making his appearance the same exact gestational age as his older brother on this beautiful Saturday morning. Despite my assumptions, I started feeling a little bit funny while driving to a local park for our toddler to play with some good friends of ours. It was about 10:30am and Craig was driving, and I started feeling a little bit of what felt like it could be a contraction. Brushing it off as “probably nothing,” I insisted we continue on with our plans, including grocery shopping after playing.

I have vivid memories sitting on the park bench with my sweet friend, Melissa. She asked me if I think I should probably call my midwives. Still not convinced anything serious was happening, consistent contractions kept coming on forcing me to focus on them. I finally called Claudette and filled her in on what was going on. Having been driving hours away in the opposite direction of us, she turned her car around. Realizing I needed to hand the phone to Melissa during our phone call when another contraction hit me caused that change of plans.

Melissa and I took a walk to the bathroom while still at the park. That walk confirmed for me that I was definitely in labor. This wasn’t a short walk, either. Walking down a long hallway to get to the bathroom, I paused for contractions here and there. On the way back, I remember laughing at myself for thinking nothing was happening. We headed straight for the car and Craig joked about still going grocery shopping. To which I responded, “Ya, no. We’re going home. Now.”

Back at Home

It was around 12:30pm when we arrived back home. Things moved along quickly once we got there. Melissa went and picked up a smoothie for me, dropped it off and headed back home with her girls. While my midwives were on their way, I labored by moving between our bathroom and bedroom. Craig got our 2 year old settled on the couch with a movie on. He had recently stopped taking naps, and was well-known to stay very fixated when watching any movie. This day was much different though, and to our astonishment he ended up passing out watching something!

We had planned for him to experience the birth of his baby brother entering the world. However, we weren’t going to push it if he happened to be asleep in the middle of the night. Craig moved him to his room into his bed, and returned to me while things continued to intensify.

Midwives Arrive

I vividly remember expressing to Claudette how strange it was to go in and out of so much intensity coupled by moments of complete normalcy and mid-day energy. Much different from my first birth experience and being so absolutely exhausted from laboring all night long! I also vividly remember going from, “I can handle this,” to, “Okay, NOPE never mind!” very quickly.

While I labored my contractions kept coming faster and faster, despite resting on my bed. Things continued to progress and I began pushing while my birth photographer, Ginessa, arrived. It’s true what they say, I didn’t even notice her being there!

I became glued to my bed, not wanting to leave it. I had been texting my doula (who you might remember me mentioning in most of my birth story with my first son) up until this point. The urge to push came like a freight train. Allowing my body to push on it’s own was a surreal feeling. I can only describe it as vomiting out of my vagina. Totally strange, yes, yet totally how things are supposed to be.

Time For His Arrival

I tried pushing on my back for eternity (aka like 5 minutes). I remember asking if there’s any other position I could try that would be more effective. I wanted this kid OUT. Claudette suggested I could try on hands and knees, so with help I flipped over. Roughly 30 minutes and another cord wrapped around and out he came!

There are many more incredible shots of him being born, but this is the most modest I can provide here. The rest are quite graphic. Craig, once again, stayed right by my side the entire time. After he was out, his cord was gently unwrapped and into my arms he went.

Being in a state of shock, somewhat, I felt like I didn’t know what just happened. At 10:30am I was having contractions, unconvinced I was going to have a baby that night let alone that day. 3:15pm that very same day, our second son came into the world.

You certainly couldn’t tell I was in labor for less than 5 hours by looking at my hair. I had done it that day, believe it or not.

Meeting Big Brother

Like clockwork, the biggest brother of the house woke up just after his little brother was born. He misses the whole things, but everything still worked out the way it was meant to.

Extra Help

While biggest brother and Dada enjoyed baby brother snuggles, I needed a little bit of extra help. My midwives helped me when I got very dizzy trying to get up. I also had a little bit too much bleeding to be considered within the range of normal. They administered oxygen, a shot of Pitocin, and a concoction of herbal remedies. None of that was pleasant, but I’m grateful for a team of midwives who made sure we were both safe and okay.

Final Thoughts

After having my first in the hospital and then my second at home, I can’t imagine ever having another hospital birth. I pray I’ll never have to. I’m grateful hospital options exist for major emergencies. However, I am just as grateful that competent midwives exist. Qualified midwives can provide low-risk families with a beautiful and safe experience in the comfort of one’s home, too.

I’ve heard many times, “You’re brave for having a home birth.” To that, I can’t help but respond, “Women are brave for having a hospital birth.” Neither are without risk, and most of all…I’m grateful someone shared with me the differences. I hope this home birth story of our second baby gives you a fresh perspective of the variety of birthing options we have.

To read The Birth Story of our First-born, click here.
To read The Birth Story of our Third-born, click here.

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The Hospital Birth Story of My First Baby

Photo Credit: Nicole Jackson Photography-

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4: 16-18

One of the many verses that got me through the first nine days of my labor was this very one. I share this story of my first baby being born openly in hopes that at least one mama is given the opportunity to hear an experience like the one I was so blessed to have. This birth story is descriptive and raw, so if that sounds unsettling to you, I suggest you stop reading now. In transparency, I can’t help but include even the harder parts to share with you. I believe this was and is one of the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life…

The Start of Labor

On a Wednesday evening, my mother in law and her mother came to town. My mom came into town closer to 39 weeks and was staying with us in our apartment. I had been experiencing prodromal labor* for nine days leading up to this particular evening. I was 40 weeks and 3 days along at this point and they decided to make the 8-hour drive just in case things were going to pick up soon. It was close to 7:00pm when they arrived at our home and they left sometime around 8:00pm. That’s when things started…changing.

My contractions were all of a sudden making me stop what I was doing. I began feeling like we needed my doula, Gabrielle, there to help us. I don’t remember thinking, “Ok, this is it. Now we’re in labor.” I didn’t *know*. It wasn’t like they say, “Oh you’ll know when it’s actually labor.” No. Nope, not for me. Things just began getting really intense, really fast.

Gabrielle got to our apartment sometime after 9:00 pm and started helping my husband, Craig, support me laboring. My mom provided any extra hands that were needed. I became focused, loud, thirsty, and loud. Did I mention I was loud? I don’t mean that I was screaming, or anything like that. I just mean breathing with my vocal cords to help relax my body throughout each contraction isn’t exactly quiet, as far as I can recall.

Preparing for Childbirth

Craig and I had attended a comprehensive 12-week long childbirth class (in 6 weeks time, as soon as we found her). We took The Bradley Method series with Gabrielle to learn how to achieve what I knew I wanted for us all along, an unmedicated and intervention-free childbirth experience. As first time parents, we felt so lost before we found out about these classes and learned an immeasurable amount of valuable information. We would have walked our way into an induction that probably would have lead to a Cesarean if it weren’t for Gabrielle and the Bradley Method.

Almost Time to Head to the Hospital

So I was clearly in labor, for real this time. This definitely felt different than what I was experiencing the nine days prior. I labored mostly in bed at home and some on our toilet in our bathroom. Craig remained by my side, helping me through each and every contraction. He helped me to relax, and breathe through each and every one.

I got very tired at home and expressed that I didn’t want to keep “doing this.” With the encouragement of my loving doula, I kept going. Gabrielle knew our hopes were to get to the hospital when I was basically ready to push to avoid any unnecessary interventions. The time came to get in the car, that ride was NOT fun. I was feeling like I needed to push and that’s an interesting feeling in itself. However, having to do that for a 25-minute car ride, so not such a great time.

Arriving at the Hospital

We arrived at the hospital sometime around 2:00 am. Craig and I had a birth plan typed up and and printed and Gabrielle had copies with her as well. The hospital already had a copy on file as well (Gabrielle made sure we had a clear birth plan and that the hospital knew what that was). Part of our birth plan included the three of us staying together.

We walked into the admitting area for labor and delivery and I had to stop right then and there and squat to get through a couple of contractions. In the meantime, while the hospital argued with Gabrielle about me feeling like I needed to push, they were insisting that I only have one person come to the group triage with me. I felt strongly that I needed both Craig and Gabrielle. They allowed me to have them both, praise God.

My mom went ahead to get the rest of our things, then waited for us to go through group triage. We went through them monitoring the baby and my contractions with the belly bands for about 20 minutes. Baby was great. My cervix was checked for dilation, and we learned that I was only about 5-6cm dilated. No pushing for me, darn it. But, they admitted us, so to our room we went. I stood firm when offered an IV, a hep-lock and continuous monitoring, none of that for the sake of me continuing my hopes to experience the childbirth I had worked so hard towards!

Things Got Real, Real Fast

This is where things start getting pretty…hilarious, in some ways. We walked into our room and I swear to you it was like a FURNACE in there. It’s actually beneficial to have a warm room to birth in, it helps labor. However, turns out I’m not a fan of being hot. I began sweating instantly and it was all I could do to not shatter the big pretty window in this hospital room at 2:30 in the morning. They said they would turn down the temperature of the room, but I couldn’t hang. My mom said I was completely naked after 15 minutes of being in the room. She found that extremely hilarious because I am [was] one of the most modest people you would ever meet when it comes to my particular body parts that are primarily kept to myself and my husband. Well, the doctors, the nurses, my mom, Gabrielle, and Craig all experienced the rest of my labor with me naked.

Side Note: While this is funny, removing restrictions such as clothing during labor actually does help things along. It frees your body from constraints clothing might provide. This is also why having bands strapped to one’s belly for continuous fetal monitoring (NOT proven to improve outcomes based on the evidence, it can in fact INCREASE the risk of Cesarean during labor is very uncomfortable and the exact opposite of what your body needs during labor.

The Intensity Increases

Things became more intense from there. Many more contractions came my way. I began to feel like I could push, but wasn’t able to due to not being fully dilated yet. Feeling like I needed to have a bowel movement again (I had already done so at home), I asked Craig to help me through the contractions. Poor guy had to come with me to the bathroom for what felt like eternity to me. He was amazing though, he knew I needed him and nothing was going to make him not be there for me.

Sometime after, they monitored baby’s heart tones for roughly 10 minutes and he was still doing just fine. I was checked again and they said I was finally dilated to a 10, woah! However, there was a lip on my cervix that still needed to pull back and my water bag was still intact but bulging.

Almost Time to Push

I felt like we tried in every single labor position that exists. It could have gone bad if I had started pushing without first trying different positions to fix the lip on my cervix, so that’s what we tried. Gabrielle helped me get into what seemed like every different position in existence to help open the cervical lips out of the way to allow baby to come down and out!

I had to go to the bathroom again, so Craig came with me again. This time, though, when I beared-down, we heard a POP! My water bag broke, right on Craig’s leg. He sort of jumped back for a second, looked at his leg, and as far as I know he just kept on smiling and helping me through it all. I believe they checked me once more soon after that and found that my cervical lip was still there. The nurse said it was very soft so she was comfortable with me beginning to push.

Time to Push

FINALLY! Yay. Amazing. Baby should be here in 1-2 hours (roughly how long it takes for first time moms to push). So we started pushing. I thought I had done all the positions, but little did I know there were more. I felt like I did so many different positions. Squatting, squatting on the floor, squatting on the bed, side-lying, slightly reclined on my back, and who knows how else (Gabrielle definitely knows). It was around 6:30am when I started to push. And push, and push, and push…..and PUSH. I pushed all over the place, and with that pushing, came a lot more…sorry but, poop. If this is news to you, I’m sorry but you totally poop in labor. Good news is by then you seriously don’t care. That continued to happen numerous times over the course of the next couple of hours.

Hitting My Breaking Point(s)

I was beginning to get really, really tired. My blood sugar was not where it needed to be for me to have the energy to keep going, so I asked for something to eat to help with that. I believe they brought me jello, I may have had a bite of that and sucked down some orange juice. That definitely helped.

There were a few times my body gave me about 1 minute to rest and shut my eyes (and I fell in and out of sleep in some of those moments), but aside from that, I went on to push for the next 4 hours and 15 minutes. Thankfully it only seemed like I was at about 2 hours by that time. Baby’s head kept peeking out, but would come right back in after each contraction. Gabrielle was doing some perineal massaging with coconut oil and Frankincense in hopes that I wouldn’t tear.

At one point, I began to have a very hard time and became much more sleepy. Gabrielle stopped, looked at me, and said to me, “You need to find your inner strength, you don’t want to see what they have on this table over here to get this baby out with.” In that moment, I just prayed. I internally called out to God and pleading something along the lines of, “God, I need you. I need help to get through this.” Instantly, I found the strength to keep going.

Getting Help From the Midwife

The midwife that started her shift at 7:00am that morning came in and began preparing to help get baby out. She was unaware that I had already been pushing for as long as I had. (This particular hospital had a 2 hour maximum rule for pushing). Gabrielle did express to us later that she was becoming worried about how long I had been pushing. I’m sure they checked the baby’s heart tones again in the midst of this, though I don’t recall those specific memories. I felt very out-of-body.

Once the midwife came in I was laying slightly reclined on my back with one of my legs in Craig’s arms and the other in my mom’s arms. I believe Gabrielle was close-by my head talking me through everything (and secretly taking pictures throughout, I would find out later). Being very indecisive about wanting any photos of the birthing experience, I am grateful she decided to just do so anyways.

Learning New Things

The midwife helped me to use my lower abdominal muscles (and oh how I wish I had made them stronger during pregnancy) to push through a contraction. Once I had finished pushing through each contraction, she encouraged me to HOLD baby where he progressively moved to. That made hard work take a whole new turn. That was NOT easy. I didn’t have the muscles there that I probably should have had so I was really needing to work at this, but by some mere miracle I was able to do it anyways. We tried that for a while and his little head continued sticking out. They asked if I wanted to reach down and touch him, to which I said no. Finally, after being asked repeatedly I would give in and just touch his head. I just love the way Craig describes what happens next…

The Moment that Changed Everything

In Craig’s own words this is how he describes what happened at that moment, “As soon as you touched his head, you completely changed. You weren’t just a 21 year old girl living for herself anymore. In that moment you became a mom.” I absolutely adore that he experienced that change in me that I wasn’t even aware of happening at the time. I just know it gave me a new wind of strength to keep going.

From there, things seemed to go pretty quickly. The midwife guided me through all of the pushing. She quietly and calmly discovers that baby has a double-nuchal cord (cord wrapped twice around baby’s neck). In between pushes she carefully unwraps them. They believe the cords could be why I was pushing for so long. I personally think the cervical lip swelled due to being permitted to push before it was completely resolved. I pushed a lot more while he was coming out, for the head, for the shoulders, and for the rest of him. Then he was officially out and born!

In Love and Awe

I wanted him on my belly as soon as I saw him. I was so in awe of him. They had to do some suctioning with a bulb syringe because he had a lot of fluid in his nose and mouth while the midwife held him. Then they handed me our perfect baby boy. I was so in love.

I was making some new-for-me crying noises in affection of him while Craig and my mom were crying. (Turns out, my mom was crying the entire time I was in labor but she hid it from me so that I wouldn’t kick her out.) Everything that happened from there on was like a breeze. My placenta came right out soon after baby came out. I had a third-degree tear, so the midwife had to numb me and stitch me up from that. My life will never be the same. I allowed my body do exactly what it was created to do, which gave our baby the best start to his life that I could offer to him. I am beyond grateful to my husband, my mom, Gabrielle, and God.


Photo Credit: Gabrielle Menn

**Gabrielle Menn is a certified Doula and Bradley Method Instructor in the East-Bay Area of Northern California, if you would like her contact information, you can find that here. I must express all of the gratitude in the world for God bringing this woman into our lives, she is an absolute angel. I don’t know where we would be today without her.Thank you, also, Eco Chic. Had it not been for them, I would have never been connected to Gabrielle. We could not have done it without any of them and God’s amazing grace and will for our lives.

To read The Birth Story of our Second-born, click here.
To read The Birth Story of our Third-born, click here.