Nesting before birth… your doula does too!

Nesting has got to be one of my favorite pre-birth phenomenon! I am always giddy to hear about my clients’ hours of stuff purging, fanatical organizing, and the undeniable urge to deep clean ev-er-y-thing. Better still is a few afternoons devoted to meal prep, packing your pantry, and freezer feeding for easy, homemade eats after baby’s birth. This instinctual urge can be a sign that labor is nearing and it often drives expectant parents to ready their nest for baby’s arrival.

Birds do it, primates do it, and many other mammals nest as well. And guess what?! Your doula nests too!

After attending my first few births as a doula I started catching onto my own, intrinsic pre and post-birth rituals. I found that in the weeks leading up to a client’s estimated due date I am devoting a bit more time to tidying and housework (we don’t live in a pigsty but, I’m definitely not the most domestic of divas). The laundry is under better control than usual; I am sure to not let the pantry get too skimpy and meals are planned, often prepped, and leftovers are packed to grab and go. The bathroom is clean… and, trust me, this is a big one if you’re nesting nesting as the bathroom is a great place to hang during labor!

…and, trust me, this is a big one if you’re nesting nesting as the bathroom is a great place to hang during labor!

At the root of this doula nesting is a desire, much like expectant parents experience, to feel as well prepared as possible. A tangible and functional way to help ready the household and make the coming transitions (be they big ones like welcoming a new member of the family or less transformative, albeit kind of disruptive, ones like mom being away for perhaps 24+ hours) as seamless as possible. Honestly there’s a bit of self-preservation mixed in too- I don’t need our awesome childcare wondering what the heck that smell is.

My nesting before a client’s birth also offers a little added calm, allowing me to be even more present mentally and emotionally for my wonderful clients. I’m not worried about whether baby B has enough clean diapers or if my husband will be able to find something healthy and relatively easy to prepare for the family to eat. I wonder if nesting prior to birth offers this same, sometimes subconscious peace of mind? I think that knowing we’ve prepped a bit might allow us to sink a bit more effortlessly and gracefully into that sacred birthing head space. A space that requires we not be concerned about that which is ultimately not all that important to the miraculous task at hand.

Pelvic steaming for birth prep

Pelvic steaming, often referred to as vaginal steaming, V steaming, or yoni steaming. Are you familiar? Perhaps you even have experience with pelvic steaming; and if that’s the case, high five and hell yeah! At the end of my third pregnancy I stumbled into the opportunity to use pelvic steaming as a way to prepare myself, body and mind, for birth. And I am so glad that I did!

While pelvic steaming wasn’t completely new to me, I was really excited to learn more about it’s deep and dynamic roots before diving in bottom first. Pelvic steaming is a self-health practice thousands of years in the making. Folks all over the world, for generations, have used pelvic steaming to promote health and wellness through menstruation difficulties, after birth, during and after menopause, and much more. The list of potential benefits of pelvic steaming is long but, generally, this intimate practice in self-care can help restore balance, relieve stress, and deepen your connection with yourself.

Just a few weeks before my estimated due date, I came across a post on Facebook looking for folks who were late in their pregnancies and open to exploring pelvic steaming for birth prep. I thought this quite serendipitous as I had been, for weeks, trying to find a good way to connect with my growing babe and prepare myself for this third birth experience. After replying to the Facebook post, I was connected with Laura Durbin of Reviving Fire, a local Pelvic Steaming Practitioner. She proved to be a fantastic guide in this journey!

Steaming herbs

Within a few days my steaming herbs had arrived and, with many thanks to my husband, I was set up with a makeshift steam seat. The set up wasn’t pretty but, it was very functional! That extra toilet seat that was sitting in the basement finally proved useful and to complete the aesthetic, underneath the pretty blanket I draped over was an orange Homer bucket.

Following Laura’s guidance, I started steaming during my 38th week of pregnancy. My routine was to steam in the evening, just before bed for about 15-20 minutes. I was set up in the front bedroom of our home where I birthed my first two babies and where I intended on giving birth to our third. This felt so good. Literally and figuratively. The warmth of the steam and the floral scent of the herbs was immediately relaxing! That front room was again a sacred birthing space and I preparing my body for the journey. The evening routine made for some really great overnight rest as well.

“That front room was again a sacred birthing space and I was preparing my body for the journey.”

I steamed 12 times in the week and a half prior to my third birth. The pelvic steaming sessions were always enjoyable and extremely relaxing. But, a few of them were completely euphoric! Between the comforting heat, the healing herbs, and the pre-birth pregnancy hormones I felt like I was buzzing after a few of those sessions.

Come birth day my experience was quick and seamless (read that entire birth story here). I could feel my body stretching and opening beautifully to make space for our baby as he made his way down. I felt very clearly that crowning sensation but, for the first time I did not feel completely overwhelmed by it. Despite a very precipitous birth, I was left with zero tearing or perineal trauma. I am certain that my pelvic steaming prior to birth only helped in all of this.

I went into the pelvic steaming experience wanting mainly to create time and space to mentally and emotionally prepare for the birth of my third; the steaming helped me achieve exactly that. I was so pleasantly surprised by the physical relaxation and benefits that I felt as well. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have prepared for my son’s birth with pelvic steaming. It deepened my connection with him towards the end of our pregnancy journey and helped keep me in a balanced, calm, and positive emotional space leading up to the birth.

If you’re interested in learning more about pelvic steaming I would encourage you to connect with Laura Durbin. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and at Look out for pelvic steaming part 2! I used steaming as a way to help my body heal after the birth as well. More on that in a few weeks.

Welcome, sweet son shine! The story of our third homebirth

Here I am, nearly 16 months later, recalling the birth of our son while he naps. This story is peppered with photos of the hours after Brooks’ birth, captured by the amazing Jessica Watts of J. Watts Photography & Baltimore Birth Photographers.

Our endless love and appreciation goes out to our incredible birth team. Making a peaceful, empowering, outrageously positive, and safe birth experience possible- Deanna Kopf of Birthwise Midwifery and Paige Barocca of Moonstone Midwifery

Brooks is our third baby, third homebirth, and first little boy.

Brooks entered the world in spectacular fashion on a beautiful Saturday evening.

The girls and I started our day at the farm for Annabelle’s riding lessons. It was a little chilly but the AM sun was shining bright, Caroline and I soaked it up on the sidelines while Annabelle rode. I noticed when we arrived at the farm that I was feeling some contractions; certainly different than the prelabor contractions I’d felt in weeks previous, these sensations started low down in the front, worked their way up and around my hips, and then down into my very low back.

We did our regular Saturday things when we got back home after Annabelle’s lesson, playing and lots of cleaning. Contractions continued. Chad was at work that day and I texted him late in the morning to tell him about the “little” contractions I’d been feeling. I also insisted that he not rush through his work for the day as I was thinking what I was experiencing was likely more pre-labor stuff. He requested that I drink lots of water and eat plenty, for good measure (smart man).

By 2:30pm Chad was on his way home and I was going back and forth about whether or not we would meet my family at Texas Roadhouse for dinner in just a few hours. I did not want to miss out on those rolls and cinnamon butter but, although I still wasn’t convinced that these contractions were anything, I wasn’t sure I’d be too comfortable sitting in the car for the 30 minute drive. By 3:30 I had decided against dinner out, I was supposed to be getting dressed but my bed beckoned me to lay down and I found myself quite cozy. Poor Caroline was disappointed almost to the point of tears. Me too girl, me too.

The day’s cleaning and the contractions, that I began to recognize were getting a bit more intense, had me feeling as though I wanted to continue to lay down and relax for a while. I relocated to the sofa where the girls set me up with my water, a fuzzy blanket, and my cell phone before they ran off to play. At that point I sent a message to my midwife, informing her of my contractions but also letting her know that “not much else is going on.”

Retrospectively, I cannot believe I was still not convinced at this point that I was indeed in labor; I’d cleaned my house pretty thoroughly (hello nesting) and had been having consistent contractions with growing pressure low down (hello baby making their way down) all day. It seems that I’d been doing a really good job following my own doula advice to just ignore labor for as long as possible.

Back to birth day- I was happily holding down the sofa, the girls were playing, and Chad was talking outside with a friend of ours that stopped by. The energy of my contractions was definitely beginning to ramp up; I was feeling the pressure and increasing intensity in my butt, low back, around my hips, and low in the front. I also noticed that baby was super wiggly and active, feeling them moved about brought much joy and comfort. I snapped a selfie and jokingly sent it to my best friend saying, “this is my labor face, I think it’s starting but I don’t want to jinx anything.” Timestamp 4:40pm. We messaged back and forth for a few minutes, reminiscing about Caroline’s labor and how I had similar mild contractions for an entire day that eventually petered out.

My next message was to my midwife and it said, “my water just broke.” Timestamp 4:48. There was an audible *pop* when my membranes released. I sent Annabelle out to tell Chad that my water broke, a message that he told me later she very excitedly delivered to him (and our guest, ha). I knew I needed to get to the bathroom but, I laid for another minute or so in an attempt to avoid the mess that I figured was inevitable once I shifted positions (lucky for Chad, there wasn’t much of a mess after all). I willed myself up and into the bathroom once Chad came inside. From there things escalated very quickly.

I sat on the toilet where the rest of my water released and immediately contractions became much more intense and began coming every 2 minutes (I’d guess). I phoned my midwife to be sure that she got my message, I knew that we needed her company ASAP. Meanwhile, Chad had enlisted the help of the girls in filling up the birth tub and ensuring that I had all I needed as he prepped our birth space.

From my seat in the bathroom I could see Chad and the girls buzzing back and forth, taking care of our go-time prep. Contractions were serious now and I was beginning to vocalize through them. The girls, although a bit struck by the intensity of the situation, were calm and very attentive. They popped into the bathroom frequently to check on me. In between contractions I quickly explained to the them that whenever I had eyes closed and/or I was making noise that I needed them to be quiet and hands off; they followed my direction well and were so sweet to check on me in between every single contraction, like clockwork. It’s been the case during my previous labors as well that I need the loving presence of my husband and support peoples close by but, prefer to do the hard work without distraction or physical touch.

My contractions were coming every 2 minutes or so and we’re very intense. I could feel the pressure start low down, squeeze through my hips to my lower back, and circle back around and upwards to encompass my entire belly. I could see their strength from the outside, my belly taking on an almost alien form as the contractions reached their peak. I could see and feel those contractions beginning to bear down.

At around 5:10pm our midwife arrived. I allowed her enough time to unpack some of her supplies and, just like with Caroline’s birth, tell Chad to abandon the birth tub plans before I called out, telling her I felt as though I was pushing. She asked to check baby’s heartbeat with the doppler to which I consented and we got a quick listen to the strong, assuring beat. I was still laboring on the toilet at this point and was no longer “vocializing” during contractions but, roaring! I was feeling a lot of pressure and pain in my bottom and our midwife suggested that I get off of the toilet, making my way to hands and knees on the bathroom floor. Although that pain was still present the change in position was very helpful.

From my little nest on the bathroom floor (midwives are good at getting chux pads down where they need to be) I looked up towards the hallway to see Chad and the girls sitting in the bathroom doorway. They were huddled close to each other, watching me intently. Another contraction or two there on the floor and cue that darn pain in my bottom, I made it really clear to my midwife that I was sure this baby was making their way out through my butt, not my birth canal. She suggested that I breath through these contractions versus actively bearing down with them, baby was right there! Taking her advice I stopped adding any extra umph to those waves, I directed all of that energy out through my mouth with quick, panting exhalations.

At this point I did something that I hadn’t during my births with the girls, I reached down and felt my baby’s head! With the top of baby’s head cupped in my hand I could feel as the next contraction gently but swiftly pushed babe a bit further down. I felt myself open and stretch to accommodate baby sliding even further down. I felt even more of baby’s head as it crowned; breathing through these surges coupled with my own hand there as a gentle support, that distinctive burning sensation that accompanies crowning was not nearly as overwhelming as it had been during my previous births. Feeling baby as they emerged evoked this incredibly visceral and awe-inspiring awareness of baby’s presence in two different worlds, still inside of me yet at the brink of joining us earthside.

With the next surge of power, baby’s head was completely out. I went from kneeling with my hand on baby’s head to all fours again. Within another minute or so and with the loving support of our midwife the rest of baby’s body slid out. As she unraveled baby’s cord from around their neck and body (this kid was properly tangled), I peaked behind me through my legs. “It’s a boy!” I excitedly declared to Chad and the girls, still looking on from 2 feet ahead in the bathroom doorway. Our midwife passed baby to me through my legs and I held his sweet, slippery little body against mine. Kneeling on the bathroom floor, a bloody blubbering mess, skin to skin with my little boy, sniffing his sweet little head. Pure joy! Relief, excitement, immense joy, and astonishment all wrapped up in one moment. Timestamp 5:30pm.

Chad and our midwife ushered baby and I the 10 steps to the bed in the front bedroom. Much care was taken in ensuring that I was well supported and comfortable. Within the next 10/15 minutes the rest of the birth team had assembled at the house, our wonderful birth assistant and a sweet and talented photographer. The next hour was spent nuzzling our brand new baby boy. The girls sat on either side of me in bed, cooing at and staring and gently stroking their little brother, while Chad knelt on the floor at our bedside.

The hours after birth are largely uninterrupted when you have your baby at home, one of many things we love about homebirth midwifery care. The lights stay dim, voices soft, and baby is kept skin to skin with their parents. Brooks and I were monitored throughout this time period, occasional blood pressure checks for me, temperatures, heart rate and respiration checks for Brooks, etc. Our birth assistant supported me in getting a quick shower and comfy clothing when I was ready to get out of bed about an hour and a half after birth. I came back to fresh linens and the excitement of newborn examinations, all performed right there on our bed. Brooks was 8 pounds and 13 ounces of perfection. Our space also served as a post-birth buffet, Chad kept me well nourished in the hours (and later days and weeks) after Brooks was born.

Our birth team was on their way out and we were all in bed by 10pm that evening, ready for some rest after the whirlwind that was Brooks’ birth.