Monday, September 24, 2012

The Birth Story of JohnDavid McKinley Graves

This is a birth story, with pictures and descriptions of an actual, live birth. While I have not posted any graphic pictures, please do not continue to read if you are sensitive or easily offended by these types of pictures or descriptions. This was a beautiful and amazing moment for our family and we have chosen to share this with the people in our lives. The process of birth is an amazing testament to God and His creation. We are excited to share our journey. Thanks for your support!

Back in January, I found out that I was expecting our second child. Our shock and excitement quickly turned to crazy all-day sickness and illness, but we pressed forward with our plans to have a positive, intervention-free homebirth.

Our announcement to share with our friends!
My first son, Andrew was born in a hospital. While the birth itself was relatively uneventful and handled decently, after birth him and I were both subjected to a cascade of interventions that caused problems for us both. Thankfully it was nothing that caused serious problems, but it led to me actively seeking out a different route for "next time".

Shortly after I got my positive test, we hired our midwife, Salli. Hiring Salli was such a peaceful process for us. She was well-known and respected in our area, and I had not heard a single negative thing about her from anyone. The local natural birth/natural parenting community had nothing but high praises for her and her practice, and when we met with her, she was able to answer any questions and concerns we had. If I had any doubts about homebirth, they were immediately gone quickly after making a choice about our midwife. Over the next nine months, I got to establish an amazing relationship with her and with her apprentice, Shara.

Visits with Salli were so much different than visiting with an OB/GYN. At each appointment I met Salli at the birth center in New Braunfels. Salli would check my blood pressure, pulse, urine, and then check the baby using a doppler or fetoscope to hear the heartbeat, and using her hands to feel the baby's position. She would measure my fundal height and ask questions about movement, how I was feeling (physically and emotionally), if I had any weird symptoms and ask about my diet and supplements. When I was able to eat, I tried to adhere to the Brewer Diet, and all my many supplements (prenatals, chlorophyll and various tinctures and herbs for overall pregnancy health.) The rest of the visit we would just simply chat -- about anything and everything. Salli also had an extensive library of books dealing with natural birth, breastfeeding, the issues surrounding maternity care and I read as many as I could, and that also provided a lot of discussion. I looked forward to every single visit!

Fast forward to early September. As my due date approached, I found myself feeling anxious. We were facing a move to South Dakota and my husband was scheduled to report by the end of September. I found myself stressed and worried that he would have to leave before our child would arrive.

40 weeks and 1 day, feeling very huge and uncomfortable, but feeling pretty!
My family, especially my mom, did everything she could to help me focus and stay calm. Sometimes it worked, other times I found myself frustrated, crying and venting to close friends via text, Facebook and e-mail.

My EDD of September 11th came and went without much notice. That next Thursday at my midwife appointment, she checked me and we found that I was very, VERY soft, almost completely effaced and dilated to between a 5-6. The water sac was "bulging" so we knew that the past two weeks of prodormal labor were doing something and labor was on it's way.

On Sunday September 16th I stayed home from worship services. I had the unfortunate experience of getting food poisoning the day before and while I felt like the puking and other fun stuff was over, I was very tired and slightly dehydrated, so I opted to stay home and rest.

Around 4pm, I began feeling a lot of pressure against my cervix and bottom. I wasn't have contractions but as I told my mom "I feel like I need to poop!!" She told me I should call Salli and see what she thought.

I texted Salli and explained what was going on. She said "I think I need to come over and check things out." She arrived at 5:15 and checked me. I was contracting regularly, but they weren't "hurting", and I was between 6-7 cm and even softer than I was before. She said "You are in labor, so let's get things set up and watch you and see what happens."

My husband, Salli and her assistant Holly began setting up the birth tub and taking my vitals. Around 5:30pm I had my first contraction that I felt. My husband and I began to time them and they were lasting about sixty seconds. Shortly after we began to time them, they began to hurt. I got on my knees and leaned over the coffee table and rocked my hips, moaning softly during contractions. They intensified quickly, and I had Philip text our photographer and my parents telling them they needed to get here soon.

Around 6pm I really wanted to be in the birth tub. The water looked so nice and I was beginning to struggle through the contractions on the floor.

Such a comfy pool. Seriously, being there was great! 

The pool wasn't quite full enough but Salli suggested I go ahead and get in. I immediately felt relief. I completely understand the term "natural birther's epidural" when it comes to being in water. It felt so good. During a contraction I could just let my body float and move so freely in the water. I alternated between laying on my back and floating, and being on my knees, leaning over the edge of the pool. During a contraction I moaned, roared and made sounds I did not know I could make. (And I have a sore throat to prove it.)

Support from Philip while leaning over the pool.

Leaning against the side, letting the rest of my body float.
My parents arrived home from church around 6:15pm. I was so excited to see my son Andrew. He immediately stripped down naked and got in the tub with me. As I moaned through contractions, he moaned with him and imitated the movements I was doing with my body. If I hadn't been needing to focus so hard, it would have been funny. He also decided that his lizard needed to be in the tub with us as well. Birth was definitely a family affair at this point. At several points I screamed for my mom, but she was right there, holding my hand and talking me through it.

Gathering strength from my mom.
At some point I began to lose track of time, and when I wasn't contracting, I was so relaxed I wanted to sleep. My body was going back and forth between being alert and focused on contractions, and sleeping, resting and fading out of consciousness in between. Philip got Andrew out of the pool, but Andrew stayed nearby, playing with his trains and stopping to come tell me "It's okay mommy, it's okay." during contractions. He would pat my arm or my face.

Andrew, enjoying his trains. 

Philip, Andrew and my dad helping me relax in between contractions.
Soon, my hips began to feel like they were going to be split in half. Salli began asking me questions and I could not answer her. I was so dazed and out of it, and I really wanted to sleep. Salli checked me and I was complete but there was a tiny bit of a lip on my cervix, as well as the water sac was still intact. I wanted to push during contractions but it hurt my hips so bad to do so. Shara and Holly then began doing counter pressure on my hips and I began to push. The counter pressure along with the pushing began to feel really good. I was no longer screaming for it to end, but instead saying "That feels good, that feels really good."

At 7:30 I was frustrated that my membranes were still intact. Salli asked if I wanted her to break my water and I said "Yes, I'm ready to have this baby." JohnDavid had other plans and while Salli got ready to break my water, I had a strong contraction, pushed and the sac popped on its own! Immediately I began to feel my baby descend and feel the infamous ring of fire. I had not felt that as strongly with Andrew and it scared me, but I also knew that it meant my baby was almost here.

Philip switched places and got ready to "catch". I pushed and roared with just about every bit of energy I had left and I felt the head come out. I reached down to feel the head and as soon as I touched the head, I knew it was a boy...with A FULL head of hair!

I wanted to finishing pushing him out, but I didn't have the energy so I waited for the next contraction. That's when Salli discovered the cord was around his neck. Her and Shara quickly had me switch to my hands and knees, and she was able to release the cord and I felt him slide out. Philip reached down in the water and grabbed him, and loudly shouted "It's a boy! JohnDavid is here!"

Shara and Salli helped my lean back against the tub and JohnDavid McKinley Graves was placed on my chest for the first time. He wasn't crying, and was a little bit purple, and looking around. Salli told me to talk to him and he immediately began to turn pink and wiggle around. He never did really cry, but instead just looked at me and "talked". He was very calm and peaceful. We sat there staring at each other for about five to ten minutes. I was just in awe.

New mommy bliss!
Very proud daddy
I'm pretty sure we were laughing about the adorable pouty faces JohnDavid was making.

Surrounded by my loving boys!

Soon I began to feel the need to push again, and the placenta came out. We put it in a bowl and let it float around in the water while we waited for the cord to stop pulsating and turn white so it could be cut. I officially felt like a hippy homebirther at that point, lounging in a pool with a placenta floating in a bowl beside me. I was so deliriously happy with my baby that I didn't care.

Philip cutting the cord right after Salli clamped it.

Once the cord was cut, he went to his daddy and I climbed out of the pool and climbed into bed.

Snuggled safely into daddy's arms.
JohnDavid joined me and we nursed for the first time while Salli examined me. I had one tiny, superficial tear that we decided to let heal on its own but other than that, things looked great. My mom brought me a sandwich, while Shara brought me a smoothie. The after birth cramps were getting pretty intense with the nursing so Philip and my mom took turns rubbing my feet. I downed some ibuprofen and After-Ease tincture and Salli showed me how to massage my abdomen/uterus to help with the cramping.

After JohnDavid nursed a bit, Salli did the newborn exam. He was 9lbs, 2-3oz (the scale wouldn't ever be still) and 21 3/4 inches long. Such a chunk! At this point I was even more amazed that I hadn't torn, oh the power of water and listening to your body! Andrew had been physically pulled from my body as soon as his head emerged, and I'm convinced that is what caused my 2nd degree tear with him, even though he was almost a pound smaller than JohnDavid.

JohnDavid McKinley Graves

Philip took JohnDavid for some skin-to-skin and bonding time with Andrew while I showered. The shower felt so nice. Salli had prepared an herbal rinse in a peri-bottle and it would help with healing, swelling and the small tear.

After my shower, I ate and drank a bit more, nursed JohnDavid again and he settled down to sleep. Salli left, and everyone went to bed.

It was perfect. I couldn't get over the differences in Andrew's birth and JohnDavid's birth, and neither could Philip. All he could do was keep saying "This is so much better. This is so much better!!" The decision on where and how to birth is personal to each family but as for us, we will definitely have babies at home from now on (as long as it's a healthy, normal pregnancy!)

We are now a family of four, five if you include our beautiful doggy Bella. Bella and I are now officially outnumbered by the boys, but I think we will be okay.


  1. How amazing!! I'm so happy that you got the birth that so many of us dreamed about!!

  2. I have tears streaming down my face as I read this! So happy for you! Hugs!

  3. Beautiful birth story Kym :') Makes me want to have more babies (which is not going to happen lol). But it's nice to live vicariously through your birth story. And yes, I bet you did feel that ring of fire- he was the same weight as Greenlee and she hurt SO bad coming out- and that was WITH an epidural LOL.
    I'm SO happy for you and your family that the birth went as planned and just beautiful!

  4. Congratulations again and thank you for sharing your lovely birth story!

  5. Congratulations on your beautiful boy! What an amazing birth story, too- I am teary eyed after reading it. He is so beautiful!! <3

  6. Ah, thank you for sharing this beautiful "hippy homebirther" experience. I dreamed of doing this but alas it didn't happen. I'm SO thankful you were able to have a gentle, natural birth this time! :)

  7. Such a beautiful birth story! Thank you for sharing it!

  8. Thank you for posting your birth story! I just knew it would be wonderful for you. The pictures are amazing!

  9. It is indeed a beautiful story, so glad that things went so well for y'all and that you had such a wonderful experience. We are looking forward to getting to meet all of you and hopefully make your transition to South Dakota a little easier. Thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful intimate moment.

  10. What a beautiful birth story, thank you so much for sharing it! I hope that in a few months, I'll have my own home birth story to share! <3

  11. Congrats! I love hearing amazing homebirth stories!

  12. Tears here, too! That photo with your mom just... So beautiful. All of it, so beautiful! Congratulations on a peaceful birth. I would be money that JohnDavid will be a peaceful baby because of it! Much love to you!

  13. So happy for you! Welcome, JohnDavid. Thank you for sharing your beautiful birth story!

  14. Kym, this is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, I live in a state where using a Midwife at home is illegal, and I wouldn't ask someone to risk their career for me. I'm anxiously awaiting the day when Kentucky catches up!

    This is definitely the way I'd go if I had the option. A lot of women are scared at the prospect of having a baby at home, and this is a lovely account of just how beautiful that experience can be, even with a slight complication, like having the cord wrapped around the baby's neck.