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Michelle Amy Photography, LLC (MAP) is based in Monmouth County, New Jersey. MAP specializes in newborn, family, maternity and engagement portraiture. 

Lillian Susan: Birth Story- Monmouth County NJ

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Monmouth County NJ Newborn and Family Portrait Photographer

Lillian Susan: Birth Story- Monmouth County NJ

Michelle Mullins

I want to preface this post by saying skilled OBs and hospitals are a necessity. For the rare, but very real high risk pregnancies and emergency situations, OBs are a must and I have the utmost respect for them. I know people who would have died or lost their baby due to pregnancy/labor/delivery  if it wasn't for the actions of OBs. I work in a high volume birthing hospital with a level 3 NICU, so I am well aware of what can happen during pregnancy, labor and delivery. With that said, I am fortunate to be healthy with no preexisting health conditions, so I qualify to be under the care of a midwife and to have a home birth. If you have questions about midwifery or home births, I would be happy to answer them to the best of my ability! 

Lillian

Significance: Michelle’s maternal grandmother; Dan’s paternal grandmother

Meaning: “derived from the flower name Lily”

Susan

Significance: Dan’s mother

Meaning: "graceful lily"

 I promise I was having fun :)

I promise I was having fun :)

A few months into the pregnancy I was talking with a co-worker and she predicted the baby would come when I was 38 weeks and 5 days. My “due date” was June 21st so 38 weeks and 5 days would be Monday, June 12th. I didn’t put too much weight on that prediction, but from the start I had a feeling I would have my baby earlier than 40 weeks; partly because my mom had all 3 of her children before 39 weeks and my sister had her baby before 40 weeks. I also decided to look up the moon phases for June and sure enough, June 9th-10th there would be a full moon making June 12th seem like a possibility. As June 9th approached, something in me, maybe mother’s intuition, really made me believe my baby would be coming within the next week. The night of June 9th after dinner, Dan and I decided to go on a walk. I was feeling pretty excited because I could see the full moon. After our walk around 8pm I went to the bathroom and realized I was losing my plug. I decided not to tell Dan because I knew it did not mean that labor was imminent and I did not want him to worry about me and lose sleep. I figured if I did go into labor that night, I wanted at least one of us to get a good sleep. I wasn’t sure if this was something I should tell my midwife about so I referred back to her print-out of “when to call the midwife.” Experiencing bloody-show was under the “call the midwife within 24 hours,” so I decided since I wasn’t having contractions, I would wait until I was in labor or until the next day to call her. I went to bed that night excited, but trying not to get my hopes up too soon. The following morning I was still experiencing a “bloody show” without any other symptoms so I decided to tell Dan prefacing it with “I don’t want you to freak out because it might not mean anything but…” Later that morning I called Dina (my midwife). She answered the phone asked how I was doing and “is anything happening?” I said “well I didn’t know if this warranted a call, but I wanted to let you know…” her response was “yay! It looks like there will be a baby in the next few days, maybe even tonight!”  (That excitement right there is one reason I wanted to use a midwife over a doctor. Having a patient/client in labor is exciting for them). I told her it is a full moon so she could be right! She told me to keep her updated and she would be letting Rebekah, her partner and our other amazing midwife, know what was happening. I hung up and felt super giddy, but still didn’t want to get my hopes up, but like I said, I had a feeling something would be happening over the next few days

 Todd, my doula bunny

Todd, my doula bunny

 I gave my family the heads up and Dan and I went about our day. We had some yardwork that needed to be done and some mulch that needed purchasing and seeing as I was somewhat anticipating labor, I couldn’t just sit around all day waiting, so we went out to Lowe’s to buy some mulch. Riding around in the car was a little uncomfortable and I very occasionally got what felt like a slight menstrual cramp, but nothing to make me think I was in labor. We walked around Lowe’s, saw a co-worker/friend with her family and picked out some mulch. As we were checking out, we noticed a lot of commotion in the parking lot which included a couple ambulances and police cars. We overheard a woman say that a man collapsed and they “had the machine on him.” She meant an AED. I saw my friend’s husband and baby outside the door observing what was going on, but I didn’t see her. He came into the garden center and I asked (knowing that she is a nurse and someone to take action) if she was performing CPR, he said she was. I felt a little guilty not being able to go out there and offer my assistance but I was 38 1/2 weeks pregnant and it was 90 degrees out. I said to Dan even if I offered, I don’t think anyone would allow me to help; I’d probably end up being a patient myself. On our way out, we saw the man and my friend giving him chest compressions. It felt a little surreal and I couldn’t help but think this man’s soul may have left his body and I would soon be bearing a new soul.

 Midwives are such troopers. They may have been resting, but they were totally in tune with what was going on. I can't say the same for myself! I was totally in the zone.

Midwives are such troopers. They may have been resting, but they were totally in tune with what was going on. I can't say the same for myself! I was totally in the zone.

When we got home, Dan unloaded the car and started on de-weeding the area that needed to be mulched and because I was useless in anything involving manual labor, I decided to go on a walk for some exercise and the hopes of bringing on labor. Nothing really progressed, so when I got back I decided to bounce on my exercise ball. Eventually Dan came in and it was time for lunch. We decided to go to one of our favorite lunch spots Richard’s Deli as we figured this was likely our last weekend before the baby and we wanted to see our favorite waitress. Sadly, she wasn’t there. While we were there I got a few cramps but still, didn’t consider it labor. Dan wanted to go back to Lowe’s because the amount of mulch we bought earlier was not enough for the space he had to fill, but on the way I was getting increasingly uncomfortable in the car, so I asked him to drop me off at home. The discomfort I realize in hindsight was probably from sitting on her head. When I got home I decided to make sure that all the cameras had empty memory cards and fully charged batteries, just in case! Around 3:45 I realized I was having cramps a little more regularly so I decided to time them. They were so faint though that it was difficult, but they ended up being every 15-20 minutes or so. They continued like this until around 6:30 when I sent an update text to Dina and Dan and I started watching a movie called “The Midwife” for some inspiration. Dina called me, probably to hear the tone of my voice, and asked if when walking, the pains caused me to stop, I told her we were watching a movie but I realized at one point Dan was talking when I was having a cramp and I just wanted him to be quiet (this is exactly how I imagined the pains of labor would make me react). Again, she said to keep her updated. I wasn’t convinced I was in labor yet. I imagined contractions to involve the whole belly, but I was only feeling cramps in my lower abdomen like when menstruating. After the call the cramps were definitely happening with more frequency so I asked Dan if he wanted to go on a walk (around 6:50) and I would start timing them. We left the house and crossed the street and immediately I felt one, but we continued to walk and then about 2-2.5 minutes later I felt another one lasting about 30 seconds. I thought this was odd, but we continued on and so did the cramps. They were coming every 2-2.5 minutes lasting anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute and getting increasingly more intense and requiring more of my attention, causing me to stop when I felt one coming so I could breathe. Needless to say, we did not walk very far before we had to turn around. On our way back, around 7:30ish, I gave Dina a call from Dan’s phone and let her know how frequent the cramps were. Her response was, “it looks like we’re having a baby!” I asked if it was normal to only be feeling the cramps in my lower abdomen and she said yes, that it was my cervix opening. I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor because I really wasn’t in that much pain. She indicated she would be getting ready and heading over shortly (she lives about an hour away.)

When we got back, I had Dan start blowing up the birthing pool and I decided to go off to the shower. I remember feeling like this was all progressing a lot quicker than I anticipated. Originally, I had planned when I was in early labor to get all the birth supplies together and ready for when active labor hit, but the cramps were so frequent at this point that there was no way I could do anything other than focus on the cramps and breathe through them. Luckily there wasn’t much that needed to be gathered and I told Dan where the important items were. As I was getting ready to take a shower, Dina called again. I had the phone on Bluetooth so I could listen to music so when she called, it took me a moment to switch it over and she asked what I was doing. I let her know I was getting in the shower. She asked me to rate my pain which I rated as a 6, but honestly I was very much able to cope. During the conversation I started giggling and she asked why I was giggling, and I said it’s just funny. I guess I was excited to know my baby was coming and I was still in denial of this being labor. She told me after my shower to check my blood pressure. During the last trimester, I developed what we like to call the “Birkenstock Effect”, the midwife equivalent of “White Coat Syndrome” where my blood pressure was elevated whenever she checked it, but it was normal when I checked it on my own. We did a pre-eclampsia work-up and I had a non-stress test and everything came back normal, so we knew it was not pathological, just mental. That day I drank some lemon balm tincture and Hawthorne tincture with water to help with anxiety to hopefully help with the blood pressure because if it was elevated during labor, we would have to transfer to the hospital. The shower was nice and I found it most comfortable if I leaned up against the shower wall and breathe when I felt a cramp. After the shower, I rubbed Todd’s lucky bunny leg in hopes I would have a smooth home labor and delivery. I decided to lay on my left side on the couch and check my blood pressure there. Thank goodness it was normal and I was no longer afraid I would have to transfer to the hospital. At some point I had Dan start filling the pool with water and I found a comfortable spot on the floor on my yoga mat. The most comfortable position was a combined version of child’s pose and down dog. Every time a cramp came on, I got into this position, tried to completely relax and breathed. I had to basically surrender to the sensations I was feeling and let go of all other thoughts. It got me through every single one. I also had the assistance of my doula bunny Todd who came over to “comfort” me. Or just to see what the heck I was doing!

Dina arrived sometime around 9 and I was really relieved to see her. The pool was nearly full enough for me to get in and she asked if I wanted to be checked. I said I’m not really sure what it would tell me. I was a little unsure if I wanted to know because based on how frequent the contractions were, I imagined I must be far along, but if I was not, I did not want to feel discouraged. She did say, however, if I wanted to go in the pool, she would like me to be at least 5cm. I desperately wanted to go in the pool so I agreed to be checked. As she was checking me she exclaimed, “I’m glad I decided to come. You’re 7-8!” I was absolutely shocked and incredibly happy. I was only in active labor for about 2.5 hours at this point and already in transition without even knowing it! At this point I was starting to shake a little and felt a little nauseous with each contraction, but I never would have thought I was in transition. I was given the go ahead to get in the pool. It did not decrease the intensity of the pain, but it did make me really comfortable. Rebekah showed up shortly after. In the pool I was, for the most part, upright the whole time and I could use the walls of the pool to lean over with each contraction. Dan kept me supplied with water and everyone just sat around and supported me. Between contractions I was able to talk and laugh and be completely pain free; when a contraction hit, I leaned over and breathed and just waited for it to pass. I didn’t require any comforting, I just let my mind and body rest and got myself through it. While I was laboring in the pool, there were fireworks going off in the distance. We still do not know where they were coming from or why they were going off. Something else that happened while in the tub that we cannot explain, occurred after 10pm. Dan was playing music through his phone and then my phone randomly started to play music. The ironic thing about it is, my phone goes silent after 10 and will only make noise if I receive a call. My phone has randomly started playing music before, but never after 10pm. Dina make a comment that really warmed my heart and I choose to believe is true, she said she thought of Dan’s mom when the music went on and the fact that it started playing when my phone was on silent, makes me think it was her reaching out, letting us know she was there with us.

At some point, Dina suggested I get out and pee and try out a few contractions on the toilet. I did not like laboring on the toilet. I knew it was a good position to be in and one I was willing to try out, but it was not where I wanted to be. I started to feel pressure when I was on it though and I knew that meant baby was descending! I got back in the pool and eventually started pushing. I really didn’t know what I was doing and tried it out in there for a little while until they suggested we go to the bed. I had no expectations of where I would actually deliver, so I took the midwives suggestions as they made them. I did not expect to like the bed though, but when I got there, I didn’t mind it. We tried on my back and on both sides. I was feeling a lot of pain in my lower abdomen and Dina thought there might still be a cervical lip that I was pushing against, sure enough there was. I did not like pushing. I felt I lost all control and forgot to breathe when I had pain. I also did not have pushing down. Eventually, I figured out what I was supposed to do and started to make progress. My water was still intact and started to bulge. I was able to reach down and feel my baby’s head still in the sac; what an incredible feeling.

After a while of pushing, the sac eventually ruptured and the baby was able to move down even more. Everyone was so encouraging and made me feel like I was doing good work with each push, even though it did seem like forever of pushing with no progress. At one point I remember saying “I just want it to be over!” I was getting tired, but I never felt like I couldn’t do it or that I wanted to give up. (I had Dan recording with his GoPro and I am so happy he did. It was amazing experiencing it and being able to look back on it is just as incredible.) I was finally able to look down and see my baby’s head as she was crowning. This was really encouraging and from then on my pushes were longer and stronger and I was determined to meet my baby (I didn’t yet know she was girl). I got her head AND hand out and then shortly after her body. Probably my favorite part of the whole ordeal was when I heard Dina say, “reach down and grab your baby!” At 1:03 am on Sunday June 11, while she was still partially inside, I reached down and pulled her out. I was the first one to hold her. Just thinking about it makes me tear up. I grabbed her and brought her to my belly. She started crying and continued for a few minutes until she fell asleep. She didn’t want to nurse right away so I just held her and told her I loved her. The placenta was delivered not long after with a few coughs and remained at our side for a little over an hour after the delivery, still attached to Lilly. Not only was I the first one to hold her, I was the first one to see that she was a little girl. I lifted her up off my belly and saw that we had our Lillian. She was seriously so perfect right from the start. She needed some postural drainage and she pooped on her way out, but her head had only suffered a small amount of molding and she had no other marks or any sort of trauma from the birth. I am convinced that because she was in her sac for so long, it allowed her to be born gently with little trauma.

The midwives left us alone to bond with our precious new baby for about an hour. During this time they drained the pool and cleaned up. They even started a load of laundry. When they got back, they had Dan cut the cord and then I handed him the baby to have some skin-to-skin bonding time. Rebekah helped me to the bathroom to clean up and shower. They then cleaned up Lilly, weighed and measured her. I guessed 6lb 11oz because it was 6-11 and Dan guessed 7lb 8oz; Rebekah thought she was around 8lb. The final weigh in was 7lb 2oz! She just had some chunky cheeks that made her look bigger. She was also tall at 21in. She received her Vitamin K shot in Dan’s arms and then she was handed to me and started nursing at 3:22. The midwives tucked us into bed and left us to start our lives as a family of 3! Lilly nursed for an hour and would have gone longer but I had to get up and pee. We all snuggled up in bed and stayed there the whole day. I call Dan my postpartum nurse because he catered to my every need for the next week. It's been a month now and every day we fall more in love with our little angel. Thank you for reading and enjoy the rest of the very roughly edited photos. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have! Be sure to follow me on instagram @michellespenge for daily photos ;)

 When some UV treatment turns into a photoshoot with the bunny outfit we got from my bestie Bianca

When some UV treatment turns into a photoshoot with the bunny outfit we got from my bestie Bianca

 Lilly sleeps like this sometimes too

Lilly sleeps like this sometimes too

 On her due date. 10 days new.

On her due date. 10 days new.

 Dina <3

Dina <3