Sunday, March 3

Birth of Daniella

My phone rings at 5:00am on Friday. It's Maryanna, my doula client. She tells me she's having contractions and asks what she should do. I tell her to try to go back to bed and sleep through as much of early labor as possibly-or false labor as possible. Don't obsess over the contractions too much, just relax. Go get lunch, watch a movie & go on about your business. I pack my bag, get my essentials oils, snacks, two changes of clothes, honey, coconut oil, olive oil and all of my birth essentials. Make sure my camera is ready and charged and I go back to bed myself. Dustin would be getting home from a work trip in a few hours. I get everything ready as far as childcare is concerned (my mother in law would be watching the kiddos.)

Dustin gets home and we decide to go have dinner at a friends house late in the afternoon. I'm texting back and forth with Maryanne as she is laboring at home throughout the day. She knows that when she is needing "more" support, I'd be ten minutes away. We get home and I  get the "I need you!" text. Dustin prays for me with the kids (just as he does before I go to any birth), I nurse my Elle to bed and I'm out the door. I arrive at 9:00 at night and can feel the excitement as I enter Maryanne's home. Her dogs are jumpy and know that something is happening-baby is coming.

At one point, Maryanne and I are on the ground in between a contraction, starts to cry and we're hugging, I'm praying and I can tell that her tears are tears of joy that this is it! Her baby's birthday. The anticipation was over. She would finally know the sex of her baby and experience the birth that she'd been preparing for so long to endure. She was excited and ready.

We labor in her room using her birth ball for an hour or so and I suggest that we all go on a walk. The air is crisp but not cold. The moon is shining bright & the neighborhood is quiet. Every time she would have a rush, she would stop and put her arms around her husband and I'd do hip compressions or rub below her belly until the rush was over and we would continue walking, laughing, & talking. Another hour passed and Maryanne decided that she was ready to head to the hospital. On the car ride there, I sat in the front seat and Maryanne stayed on her hands and knees in the back seat (her hands positioned in the empty car seat) while I sat on the consul and rubbed her back and belly. It was about a 40 minute car ride.

Once we were checked into the hospital, we got back down to business. The birth tub company came and set up her tub & we watched the hours pass as Maryanne labored. I don't think I've ever prayed so hard, worked so hard, affirmed so much, loved so much, cried with, gotten soaked & enjoyed a birth as much as this birth. The thing that set this birth apart from the others that I've attended was that this was my first hospital birth with a first time mom. The others have been at home (apart from my cesarean birth) and the moms were all second timers who didn't need coaching or reminding to keep their sounds low and deep, or needed refocusing or encouraging or someone to talk them off of the ledge as much as a first time mom needs. They knew what contractions felt like and weren't surprised by the "pain" and discomfort. The weeks leading up to this birth, while praying about this birth, I felt like I knew that this was going to be my first long birth. The longest birth before Maryanne's was 7 hours.....

We labored in the dark bathroom, in the shower, on the toilet, on the ball, on the bed.....we did lots of moving around. I'll leave the details to Maryanne to describe.... but will describe a few of my favorite moments during her birth. My favorite part of this birth was that the couple was a praying couple. It's always neat to work with someone of your same faith because you know that you don't have to pray to yourself, you are free to pray and love as you are led. There were challenges during this birth, as there are during most births, but as each challenge came or possibly challenge, Shaun & I prayed and we got to watch the grace of God cover each prayer. It was absolutely amazing and reaffirming of my faith to watch each thing be taken care of right before our eyes.

For example, at one point during her labor, we noticed that when her nurse Bunny came in every 20 minutes to hook her up to the monitors for 20 minutes to check contractions & baby's heart beat, all of a sudden, her contractions were very weak and labor seemed like it stopped. I finally realized what was happening and asked that we stay off of monitors for 45 mins at a time instead of 20 minutes hoping that it would help her contractions stay closer together....I knew that Maryanne was "stopping" labor because something innate in her was telling her that she wasn't "safe" so to speak. Once she had more time in between monitoring, without distractions, that's when things picked up it seemed.

Bunny was very verbal about not liking natural birthing mothers (at least to me she was) and said things like, "You don't get a medal for natural birth." or "Sometimes labor needs to be faster and pitocin helps that, and sometimes you have to have a c-section, so that's always a possibility that we have to think about...." Bunny wasn't my favorite. She always had a very concerned look on her face. She was afraid of birth, if that makes sense. She didn't believe that my client could birth this baby. She talked about "big" babies and how if it takes too long, we would have to go to the operating room to get "cut" Which really made my blood boil. You just don't say these things to a laboring mother. I couldn't really kick her out of our room either because the other two nurses were worse-but that's a whole other story.

So, when Bunny was getting off of her shift, we gave her a hug goodbye and thanked her, and Shaun and I began to pray immediately, fervently & specifically. We prayed for a nurse to come into that room that would be like a gift from God to us. In walks Kimberly. Little did we know, she was our gift. Young, super cute, blue hair, so sweet & had a natural birth with her last son. She believed in what we were doing. When she saw a little merconium in Maryanne's ruptured membranes, she didn't act concerned or scared. She told us that as long as baby was tolerating birth, we'd keep going. She was on our side. She spoke to Maryanne with words of encouragement.  When Maryanne would yelp during a contraction, Kimberly would say, "Yes! That's it Momma, that's how you get the baby here. That's what it takes Maryanne. You're doing beautifully! You can do this!!!" Total gift from God.

Shaun was the greatest labor partner ever. In between contractions we'd both fall asleep and wake back up as a contraction started and our hands needed to be rubbing or pressing-or his lips kissing or hair being played with as Maryanne needed. Shaun was a great partner to have. He loved on his wife so much and reminded her that she was strong and brave and beautiful.

While Maryanne was laboring in the tub, Shaun behind her helping her through contractions in the water and me sitting on a stool in front of her with my arms underneath her arms, ear to ear holding onto each other, Maryanne would pull away from me and shout, "I'm done! I can't do this anymore! I'm DONE Chelsea!" She'd grab my face with her hands and yell at me. She'd hit the water soaking my clothes, hair, shoes & the floor. She bit Shaun's shoulder at one point, which was pretty funny. It was nothing out of the ordinary of a laboring mom's behavior. Because, well, labor is work and it's hard, and, it hurts.

I remember telling her, "Maryanne, cry out to God. Tell him-not me. Shout if you need to." Then I'd grab under her arms and look at her and firmly shout back at her, "You're not done yet! You've got more fight in you. This is what it takes to get your baby here....this is what it takes." Then she'd calm down, rest between contractions and then it would start up again, "I can't! I'm tired! I'm exhausted!" with tears and more yelling. That's when more praying started-which was always a very natural, sporadic thing. Shaun would pray as something would come to his mind. There were many moments that Shaun's words were life giving to me and encouraging to me-got me choked up. At that moment, I remember saying, "Jesus, more energy, more encouragement to her heart, more grace, more favor, more love, more of you. Get this baby here please. We trust you, we wait on you, it is in your time and we will wait patiently."

Kimberly would come in frequently during transition and check on us, check baby's heart rate, give Shaun and I sips of cold ice water. We joked that the doula's needed a doula! Kimberly took great care of all of us.

Kimberly checks Maryanne and she's at a 6! More than 20 hours of labor and she's at a 6?!

We're all a little defeated but keep going. Contractions get more intense and I can see that all of us are being pushed to our limits.

So Maryanne tells us that she's done. She's exhausted & tired. We're on our 13th hour of labor at the hospital. She'd already been in labor at home since 5am (She labored for about 30 hours or so). Shaun tells her that if she wants the epidural, that's ok. It's whatever she wants-no judgement at all. I could see the hurt in Shaun's heart as he watched his wife experience labor. In my spirit, I knew that she was going to fight longer. I kept reassuring her that this pain brings life and that she was almost done. Nurse Kimberly walks in again and Shaun looks at her and starts to tell her that Maryanne is ready for her epidural and I look at him and mouth the word, "NO!"

Maryanne at this point was very calm. It was like a peace settled in the room and she was super focused. She had that fight back in her again. She was determined. She was repeating, "I can do this. I can do this. I can do this." Over and over.

20 minutes later, Maryanne's body starts pushing on it's own. At this point, Shaun and I look at each other elated and both start crying. We're overjoyed to be at the end. Nurse checks Maryanne again and she's complete! It took her an hour to labor from a 6-10. The doctor ran so fast down the hall to get to the birth, he literally knocked over a food cart and didn't have time to even put on gloves. 26 minutes of pushing and baby girl Daniella is born. We didn't know what the sex of the baby was going to be but Shaun totally called it and just knew that he was going to have a daughter.

During our prenatal appointments, we talked a lot about trusting her body, prayed that she'd go into "labor land" where her mind wouldn't think about too much but just relax and know that every contraction brought baby closer to being in her arms.

Nurses prepare to cut cord and Dr. Harter tells them to wait about 15-20 minutes until it stops pulsing, just let them be for a while..... LOVE that he respects birth like that.

This was the birth that really taught me what it takes to support a mom in labor. This birth reignited the deep desire I have to help give families the birth experiences that they and their baby's deserve.

Telling her that I was proud of her when she pushed out that baby she was one of the proudest moments of my own life.

This is what birth can be if we let it.

 Looking up at Daddy. (Water babies are always so alert!) 
 Looking up at Mommy!
 Grandma's reaction is the best!

Ugh, I can't even look through these photographs without getting teary eyed. I'm SO thrilled for your new, gorgeous little family, Maryanne! I'm honored to have been right there to love on your through your birth. What a gift you gave me! 


  1. That baby is seriously adorable. I love this! Now I'm all teary.

  2. Gorgeous photos Chelsea. And of course, I am blubbering away here. Such beauty. Beauty at it's best. Congratulations to the family.

  3. That can of Rockstar is PERFECT because holy SHIT that mama is a PURE ROCK STAR! What an awesome woman. So so awesome. I love this. Dying. Praying I can have a water birth one day. xoxoxo

  4. That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is amazing Chelsea!!! Aaaaahhh what a beautiful birth! And the pictures are gorgeous:)

  6. What a beautiful birth story. A lot of it sounds familiar to me. Thank you for being someone who cares so intensely for others enough to exhaust yourself in the role of their cheerleader.

  7. And the photos with who I am assuming is grandma are just wonderful.

  8. Sorry to contact you this way, but I wanted to notfy you that BIRTH STORY, the documentary about the legendary Ina May Gaskin, will be released in time for Mother’s Day! We would love for you to let your readers know about the film's release, and would be happy to provide you a way to view the film in advance. Just contact me at if you want to see the film.

  9. So beautiful and heartfelt! You did a great job on the pictures!