The Birth of Jimmie Pepper - “She looked right at us and cried a little.”

After making the decision to have a home birth, came the task of finding a midwife. We were overwhelmed by how many midwives there were to choose from in Austin.  So many well qualified ladies to chose from.  My amazing friend and doula, Tanya Phillips, gave me a list of midwives she enjoyed working with in the past as well as some that she had simply heard were amazing.  We interviewed 3 midwives from that list, and they were perfectly fit for the job, but we didn’t feel a good connection with them. That was very important to me.

The fourth was, Mandy Toavs, of Heirloom Midwifery.  Her smile in the photos from her website kind of say it all.  She had me from the get go.  First off, she was the only midwife that actually called me to have a quick phone chat before we met in person.  She was sweet and funny, I could tell.  My husband, Sam, and I met with her at her new office.  We had a good long visit.  Mandy was so welcoming and warm.  What really sold us was how genuine and real she was.  We were laughing and chatting as if we had known each other before.  I felt a sigh of relief when we left her office…Sam and I looked at each other and said, “Yep! She’s the one!”

We could not be happier with our decision.  Our prenatal visits were long and relaxed.  I loved the one on one feel she gave us.  I know she had plenty of other patients, but somehow she makes you feel like you’re the only one.  So many great holistic recommendations and alternative ideas, which I so appreciate.  It didn’t hurt that she is an amazing prenatal massage therapist as well!  BONUS.

I had tested positive for GBS in the beginning of my pregnancy - through her recommendation of garlic treatments and probiotics, I ended up testing negative in my 37th week.  Success! Also, my hemoglobin levels were super low - she had me start taking liquid iron, and liquid chlorophyll…and sure enough, my level rose and I was good to go.

By week 41, I was starting to get a little nervous that the baby was going to stay in there forever (ha! don’t we all?), I just didn’t want to end up having to be induced in a hospital, after all this work to have our baby at home…but she reassured me that everything would work out, and it did. At 41 weeks and 1 day, the contractions started… the ball was rolling and I was in early labor.  Sam and I went on a few walks, took a nap, made food and watched ‘Cosmos’.  Fitting since there was a supermoon that night!  She came over and checked me…I was at 3cm.  Then again 3 hours later, I was at 4cm.  I was still feeling good, and could tell it was going to start picking up soon.

IMG_1838Mandy set up her supplies and the birthing tub and Sam got the water going.  I took a nice long hot shower and definitely felt things progressing.  Mandy was so attentive yet hands off…she left Sam and I to labor through it together.  She reminded us she was right there beside us, but would remain pretty hands off unless we needed her assistance.  She was charting the whole experience and monitoring the baby’s heartbeat periodically, etc.  She suggested that I get in the birthing tub with Sam to see how it felt and see if it would possibly push things along OR possibly calm things…that’s when things got REAL real.  The contractions were very intense at this point…strong, steady, fast, and hard.  I just kept reminding myself that this was a good thing, and I wanted to feel and see progress.  I looked up at Mandy and asked her “Can I do this?  Is this normal?”…she smiled and reassured me, “YES, you can do it, and yes this is all normal, you’re doing great”.  I was on my hands and knees on our bed at this time…Sam on one side of the floor, Mandy on the other.  They were both quiet and calm, and as I would come off of one of the waves, I would look up at them from time to time and they just seemed so serene and loving…I felt very safe.

I wanted to be outside, so Sam and I walked around in our backyard.  I remember holding on to his weight bench and staring at the supermoon.  It was huge and bright.  Out loud, I asked the moon to please use it’s gravity to help pull the baby out.  Ha!  It just felt right.  After that, Mandy checked me again and I was at 8cm!  Woohoo!!  I was SO relieved to hear I had progressed so far.  I heard her ask Sam to call our doula to come over.  Mandy called her backup midwife, June.  I was in the water when they arrived and remember the air being soft and warm.   I loved having all three of these amazing women there with Sam and I.  All three of them had given birth to their children at home…that gave me such comfort.  I felt very empowered.

IMG_1843I labored in the water for quite some time and it felt good on my muscles.  It was nice to hold onto Sam for support.  At this point I started really pushing…it was SO HARD…but felt good at the same time.  I honestly felt like I was on ecstasy!   I was flying high on those hormones.  Mandy kept saying to “stay on top, and breathe deep”…her voice was soft and sweet and I knew I was in the best hands.  She recommended we move to the bed so they could get me in another position that may help me push the baby out.  She laid me on my side and rocked my hips back and forth pretty rapidly.  This helped open up my pelvis.  I read about this technique in Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth”…after that I could really feel some more progress.  I held onto the back of the bed post and pushed with everything I had.  Mandy held warm oil compresses on my perineum and Sam caught the baby.  Her head was born first, and then with one more push, out came her body and then my placenta.  It felt SO AMAZING.  Our little baby girl was born!  Sam handed her to me and we held her and just could not believe how incredible the feeling was.  She looked right at us and cried a little.  It was the most ecstatic, beautiful loving feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.  Mandy, Tanya and June continued about their business and let us marvel in the wonder that had just happened.  It was truly other worldly.

Mandy made me a fruit smoothie with a couple tablespoons of my placenta in it (No, you can not taste the placenta - it was delicious!) and Tanya made us some eggs and toast. Sam and I took a long hard nap with the baby, and I woke up to a clean home and a beautiful little family sleeping next to me.  Mandy let me know that everything looked great with me and the baby and she would be leaving now.  I didn’t feel scared at all…just a little bitter sweet that it was over.  I just could not believe how amazing it all went.

From the beginning of active labor to delivery was approximately 7.5 hours.  No tearing of the perineum, no complications at all. I loved our experience from beginning to end.  I told Sam and Mandy that I will not be having another baby unless Mandy can be our midwife again.

I meant it.


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