Category: Pregnancy & Childbirth

Finley’s Birth Story

Finley represents many things for me that are unique to him, out of all of my children. He is my bonus baby, my surprise blessing, the brother Cody never thought he’d have… not to mention the (biological) son RJ never thought he would have. Finley is like a bridge between two families—Westropps and Gentrys. He’s the final piece of the puzzle that has completed our beautiful, complex, chaotic blended family. He’s also the child that, just by coming into existence, made me eat my words once again. Because I said I was done! And the truth is, I was utterly done with having babies after my last one, Amelia—but then my whole life changed. 

When I met RJ and fell in love, everything changed. Pretty early on I knew I wanted to have a baby with him someday. Still, when Finley was conceived, it was a big surprise! It wasn’t the timing we’d planned, and I wasn’t exactly eager to go through pregnancy and birth again. But I believe that God’s plan and timing are perfect, and while I may not have planned for Finley at the time he was conceived, God did. RJ and I quickly moved from shock to excitement—and we were even more thrilled to find out we were having a boy. Three girls and two boys is a pretty amazing balance, and it felt so right for us. 

While this pregnancy and birth were exceedingly uncomfortable, we are overjoyed to have our son with us now. As always, this precious baby was worth every moment. And despite knowing that nobody really believes me anymore, I do mean it when I say I am now retired from making tiny humans.

Finley James Gentry was born on Monday, June 19th, 2023 at 9:22 AM. He was born at home, completely unmedicated, in about 10 hours from start to finish. He was 20 inches long and weighed 7 lbs 4 oz. Here’s how it all happened.

From the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew that I was likely in for a rough ride. My pregnancy with Cody wasn’t terribly uncomfortable—I had nausea for a little past the first trimester, and that was it. But with each pregnancy after that, it got worse. I was sick longer with Abigail, and with Amelia I didn’t have relief from pregnancy sickness until after she was born! I also had worse heartburn with each subsequent pregnancy, which further limited the kinds of foods I could eat. 

With Finley, I was once again nauseous and experienced moderate heartburn throughout my pregnancy. My mental health, which has been a struggle for most of my life, has often been worsened by the challenges of pregnancy and the postpartum period. This time was no exception, and feeling literally sick and tired for nine months, while navigating some pretty huge life changes and parenting four other children, took a heavy toll on me. 

In the final weeks of my pregnancy, I struggled with a lot of anxiety and depression around the waiting. It felt endless, but I also felt like even when Finley was born, I wasn’t sure that I would feel better about life in general. Life is hard, and I haven’t chosen the easiest path over the past couple of years. At times, I can get overwhelmed by it. So, in the days leading up to Finley’s birth, I was spending a lot of time by myself just trying to rest and cope. RJ has been taking care of so much so that I could make it through this time, and I am so thankful for such a caring, supportive partner. 

Even though I knew that statistically, I wasn’t likely to begin my birthing time until after reaching my guess date (40 weeks of pregnancy), I still was hoping that I would get lucky and have him a little early. After reaching term at 37 weeks, I desperately wanted to get to the finish line! But, of course, birth is unpredictable and pretty much out of anyone’s control—so nothing I did seemed to have any effect on getting things started. It was disheartening, and every day seemed to drag on endlessly. 

At 38 weeks, I had a prenatal appointment and asked for a cervical check and membrane sweep if possible. This is a fairly common method of encouraging birthing to begin, but it requires at least 1-2 CM of dilation. Most prenatal care providers don’t offer this induction technique until 39 to 40 weeks of pregnancy, and my midwife doesn’t typically do them until after 40 weeks. However, she also respects my informed decision making process and was willing to do it at 38 weeks; unfortunately, I wasn’t dilated at all so it couldn’t be done. 

At my next appointment at 39 weeks, we tried again and were able to do the sweep. She successfully encouraged my cervix to dilate from 1 CM to 2 CM, and that was encouraging. Membrane sweeping has been found to encourage birthing time to begin within 48 hours, so I was hopeful that it would do the trick. 

Every day after the sweep, I waited for my birthing time to start. RJ was able to do a sweep for me each night, after being given instructions and precautions by the midwife. (Ultimately, I suspect that the repeated sweeps are what triggered my birthing time to begin before my guess date!) But at the time, I didn’t know if it was having any effect. Occasionally I noticed more pressure waves that could have been my early birthing time, but they didn’t progress. It took four days until I did go into my active birthing time on Sunday, June 18th around 10:30 PM. 

I wasn’t sure if it was actually the real deal at first—as usual, since I can never tell for sure until I’m much further into my birthing time. But I had some bleeding earlier in the night, and then my pressure waves were forming a fairly consistent pattern, coming about every 5-15 minutes and lasting about 45-60 seconds. For me, that is about as good of a pattern as I usually get until I’m in transition (the final stage of dilation), so I was optimistic. But the most promising sign that my birthing time was for sure in progress was the intensity of the waves. When I feel the need to use my hypnosis to stay comfortable, and when I start feeling like vocalizing during my waves, that’s when I usually know the time has come. And, by 1:30 AM, I was doing both. Still, I was anxious about calling my midwife too soon and wasting everybody’s time, let alone getting my own hopes up. So I pushed myself to wait until 2 AM to wake up RJ and have him call the midwife, Christy. 

At that point, I was as sure as I could be, so we got things rolling. RJ called Christy, who then started getting her things together to head over to us. Then he set up the birthing pool, made the bed, and made other necessary preparations while we waited for her. I continued to work through my waves, and was feeling good at that point. All of the kids were with us that night, but they were fast asleep throughout the beginning of my birthing time.

When Christy arrived, she set up all of the birth supplies and then checked my dilation, something we’d previously discussed. While I believe that there are pros and cons to cervical checks during birthing time, I decided to request them periodically because in the past they’ve given me encouragement about my progress. Unfortunately, for this birth, they were the opposite of encouraging! I don’t think that the checks caused me not to progress, but learning that I wasn’t progressing as fast as I’d hoped was discouraging, nevertheless. 

At my first check, I’d been in active birthing time for about four hours. I was expecting this birth to be at least as fast as my last one (which was only six hours), so I was hoping to be close to full dilation already. But, I was only at 3-4 CM! I was discouraged to hear that, considering that I was already about 4 CM when RJ had done my sweep earlier that night. Still, I had enough energy to feel optimistic that things could progress quickly from there. Soon after that, my midwife’s assistant Ana arrived. The cool story with Ana is that she was part of my prenatal care team throughout my pregnancy with Amelia—with a completely different midwife, in a different county! It felt like a crazy coincidence to find out that she is one of Christy’s assistant’s now (and is now a fully licensed midwife, rather than a student). And, since she didn’t end up attending Amelia’s birth, it was really cool to have her here for Finley’s. With her arrival, we were all ready for baby to come. We also called my mother-in-law, Marsha, to come over and take care of the kids later, around 6:30 AM.

As the hours passed by and my pressure waves began to increase in intensity, my energy level started to fade. I’d had no sleep whatsoever that night, and the waves were powerful. My hypnosis was not keeping me as comfortable as I would have hoped. So, a few hours after my first cervical check, I asked for another one and found I was about 6-7 CM. That felt like insanely slow progress to me, and that was the point where I began to feel I was close to reaching my limit. 

This process repeated, with another couple of hours of very intense waves followed by another desperate cervical check. I was still at about 7-8 CM, and at that point I knew I couldn’t go on. I needed to be fully dilated and start pushing, but I wasn’t there yet. Christy offered to break my water, but I wasn’t confident in that plan because typically when the water breaks, the waves become even more intense. If that happens when fully dilated, then great, because you can start pushing baby out! But, my fear was that having more intense waves at that point, before being fully dilated, would be more than I could take. I was already at my breaking point. 

I started asking seriously about transferring to the hospital. At that point, I was ready for help. I fantasized about having an epidural and Pitocin and finally getting Finley out—just like I had ended up doing for my first birth, with Cody. For me, it wasn’t the end of the world, and I knew it would be okay. I just wanted to be done.  

At first, RJ encouraged me to fight the impulse to go to the hospital. He knew that having a home birth was my preference, and he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just in my “I can’t go on” stage of birth, which I had warned him would happen. But we continued to discuss it and I was adamant that this was what I needed at that point. I could tell he was anxious about the change of plans, but he supported me. The midwife started making preparations to begin the transfer, and was about to call the hospital when I suddenly felt a pop. It was a sensation I had felt before and I announced that my water had just broken. 

Everybody asked what I wanted to do then and I said I had “no fucking idea,” with an exasperated laugh. It was a ridiculous situation. There was a chance I would be able to get to the hospital in time for an epidural to help me through any more waves, in the case of continuing active birthing waves for possibly hours longer. However, in my past births, after the water broke I was always pushing soon after. Pushing waves and the pushing process were much more manageable for me, and I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to have an epidural just for that. I decided to have yet another cervical check to confirm my water was broken, since there wasn’t a lot of liquid on the pad I’d been sitting on despite the popping sensation.

Christy checked me and said she could still feel the bag of waters, and that I was still at about 7-8 CM. I said something like, “oh, okay so that was just some bullshit then,” and reaffirmed that I wanted to go to the hospital. But, as I was laying on the bed moments later working through another agonizing wave, I felt an even bigger pop and a huge gush of water. Ana could see the water rushing out, and we knew then for sure that my water actually had broken that time. 

We all laughed at the situation, and I was asked yet again if I still wanted to go to the hospital. At that point, I knew I needed to see what the next wave felt like, but it was highly unlikely we were going anywhere. Within a few minutes, the pushing wave I felt confirmed it. “We’re not going to make it, he’s coming here,” I announced. 

I’d already decided to push him out on the bed, instead of in the pool, since the pool had stopped helping with my comfort level hours before. I moved to my hands and knees and started pushing with my waves. I could feel him moving down, and RJ and Christy could see the beginning of his head. These waves were much more manageable, as I expected, and the feeling of moving him down and closer to birth was so much more productive and encouraging, which gave me the energy to keep going. A couple of times, I pushed him further down in between waves, which I suspect sped up the process further.

After about 20 minutes of pushing, he went from partway down my birth canal to crowning to head out within a single wave. As with one of my previous births (Abigail), his head came out but the rest of him was a little stuck. This time, I was prepared and knew exactly what to do—Christy had even discussed with us the plan we would follow ahead of time, in this situation. She unwrapped his cord from around his neck, quickly assessed his position, had me put one leg up in a runner’s lunge, and hooked his shoulder to assist me pushing him out. It only took a minute, and he was born. I scooped him up into my arms and sat back to rest and savor the reward of my labor. He was out! It felt like a miracle. 

After that, recovery was pretty straightforward. I had a proactive shot of Pitocin, as requested ahead of time, which helped quickly to deliver the placenta and control my bleeding. I didn’t need a single stitch this time, which was great to hear. The midwives cleaned us up and cleaned up the room, and then we did the newborn exam and settled in to rest and recover.

Of course, we had to introduce all of the kids to their new baby brother! They all came in and took turns admiring him. After we cut the umbilical cord, they took turns holding him. Penny’s mom, Amber, had arrived by then to take Penny for the rest of the day and she was kind enough to cook us a meal and take her turn admiring the baby. Although Cory couldn’t be there because he was out of town, I felt a lot of healing vibes for our blended family that day. To have Cory’s mom and Penny’s mom there supporting us was a powerful moment for me, and it meant a lot. We may be unconventional, but we are all part of this extended family now and I love it. 

Since Finley’s birth, we’ve both been doing great. Recovery has been easy and comfortable so far (other than some very uncomfortable afterpains, which fortunately are getting less and less each day). Finley is a professional nurser, and has had no problems getting plenty of milk around the clock. His siblings all adore him, and we are settling in nicely as a family. 

As always, God was a huge source of comfort for me throughout my pregnancy and birth. While my relationship with God has changed a lot over the past couple of years, I know that the core of who God is, and who God is for me, is still the same. They are the source of my hope when everything else seems dark, and the light that guides me ahead into my future. As I venture into this next chapter of balancing a wild amount of things all at once, and the ups and downs that come with that, I know that I want to seek God more and more as a source of strength, joy, hope, and purpose in my life. I believe that They are the reason I will not only survive, but thrive in the challenging yet beautiful months and years ahead. 

I am thankful for my amazing and wonderful partner, RJ, who will soon be my husband. He is loving, supportive, capable, and the best life partner I could ask for to do all of this with. I am thankful for my four biological children (four! Four humans have come out of me! How crazy is that!) and also for my awesome bonus daughter. Penelope, Cody, Abigail, Amelia, and Finley—you are my purpose in life, and having the privilege of loving and caring for you is something I will always be thankful for. And, I am also very thankful for the support network I have been blessed with in this life. Finley has come into my life at a time when I have so much to be thankful for, and I am so happy to bring him into the world under these circumstances. 

As always, pregnancy and birth were an absolute beast. But, I survived! And, also as always, this baby was worth every moment. 

Welcome to the world, Finley James. You are so very loved.

Things I Thought I Knew

In 2020, I was pregnant with my daughter Amelia. It was my fourth pregnancy, but my third baby (my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage). Cory and I had our doubts about whether we should even get pregnant again, because we already had a son and a daughter, and our family felt like it could be complete at that. But, some part of me didn’t feel done, and we ultimately decided to go ahead and have a third kiddo. We’re both so glad that we did, because life is better with Mia in it! 

Throughout that pregnancy, though, as I suffered through my typical pregnancy sickness and heartburn and general discomfort, I vowed many times that it would be my last pregnancy. I felt very confident and at peace with that decision, and so did Cory. During Amelia’s birth, I vowed “never again.” After she was born, I started seriously considering adoption, which I saw as our only path to adding another child to our family one day. Cory and I weren’t sure if that’s what we even wanted, but we did know that getting pregnant again was not on the table for us.

So many times, I said that that pregnancy was my last. And I really meant it. So then how is it that I find myself here, three years later, pregnant with my fourth child? 

Well, as it turns out, there are the plans we make and then there are the plans that God makes for us. Or, if you prefer, there are more potential futures for us than we can ever really know. Sometimes our path in life changes dramatically in ways we could never have imagined or foreseen. That’s basically what happened to me. 

Now obviously, it wasn’t all just “fate.” I made choices, and those choices are what led to me being pregnant right now. I don’t regret it—I am thrilled to be having another baby, and this time, another boy! Finley is very much wanted. 

But looking back, it’s funny to see all the things I wrote and truly believed at the time. 

By the time Amelia turned one, my life was already beginning to change dramatically. Cory and I had opened our marriage to polyamory, and I had fallen in love with a new partner, RJ. Only a few months later, Cory and I decided to end our marriage. 

Divorce was always something that I believed wholeheartedly would never happen to me. I was determined to make my marriage last. It was practically my biggest life goal since I was a little girl—and yet, here I am now, divorced. So how did that happen?

Well basically, I realized that I wasn’t in love anymore. And while I always believed that love was a choice, and I could have continued to love Cory as my husband if I was determined to, the change was that I was no longer determined to. I realized that there was more available to me—more passion, excitement, and romance. I realized that sex didn’t have to feel like an obligation or something that made me feel icky. I realized that I could choose whatever I wanted to in life, and I could change my mind about things (even big things), and that it was okay to do that. I realized that divorce didn’t have to be a negative thing. For me and Cory, it wasn’t. 

Really, giving myself the freedom to choose and change all started with my religious deconstruction. Because my beliefs about God and the Bible and church were my bedrock. Yet, I was able to change those! If I could change those, then what else couldn’t I change? Everything was a possibility at that point. 

And so it happened like a chain reaction. I deconstructed my faith. That allowed me to become polyamorous, something that I feel was always a dormant part of me. Being poly allowed me to understand how I really felt about Cory, and it introduced me to RJ. Being with RJ changed how I felt about having another baby. Which has led to me here and now: unchurched, spiritually questioning, divorced, and pregnant again. If someone had told me a few years ago that this is where I’d be, I wouldn’t have believed them.

So, what do I believe now? The truth is, I’m still trying to figure that out. 

I still believe in God. I don’t believe that God is a male—how ridiculous of us to put God in a box so small as gender! I believe God is our creator (through scientific means, not magic). I believe God is good, and present to those who seek, and powerful, and mysterious. I believe God is everywhere and in everything good, and that God goes by many names. 

I was taught to believe that the God of the Bible is the only true God, and that he can only be known through believing in Jesus. Yet, I found myself unable to believe that a good and loving God could refuse to be in a relationship with anybody who didn’t guess correctly out of a vast number of options for religious and spiritual “truth.” 

I was raised as a Christian, but what if I had been raised Hindu, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Atheist? How could I be reasonably expected to believe that Christianity was the truth while my own religious foundation was made up? Even more ridiculous to me was the idea that one had to be the right type of Christian to find salvation—Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah’s witnesses were out, and even some types of Protestants weren’t quite on the right track to be certain of their eternal fate (according to my Evangelical background, that is). 

I began to ask myself, could it really be true that a good and loving God would condemn people who believe differently to an eternity in Hell? There is so much context behind what a person believes or doesn’t believe. And why, in the first place, is it even necessary for us to be saved by Jesus? Simply because we’re not perfect? Being perfect is impossible! How can we be punished for not doing the impossible? For me, it was equally impossible to make sense of all of that.

Beyond my theological concerns, there were my objections to the teachings and practices of the church as a whole. The sexism, homophobia, ableism, and nationalism that are taught and encouraged within the church; and the ignorant and irresponsible responses to huge social issues like COVID, gun violence, racism, and sexual assault were all huge problems for me. The weight of these social issues and the church’s role in them became too heavy, and I had to leave. 

I have spent over a year now not being a part of any church, and not having really any spiritual practices in my life at all. I guess I needed a break to sort everything out. But now, I am at the end of my deconstruction period and beginning to feel ready to rebuild something spiritual in my life. I may even start going to church again—but if I do, it will be a church that is progressive and therefore in line with my own moral compass, rather than aggressively opposing it. 

Anyway. My point with all of this is that there are things that I thought I knew, and as it turns out, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If anything, the past couple of years have taught me that nothing in life is certain or permanent. Things change, and we change, and that’s just life. We can all only do our best with what we know at any given time. 

My life has changed so much, and truthfully there are times when I still mourn for my previous life. I had a good thing going. Everything felt certain and settled and neat. I didn’t feel adrift in a sea of unknowns, wondering how I got there and where the hell I was going.

But I know that I can never go back to that life. For better or worse, I am on a different path now. I am doing my best to live a life that has purpose, love, and joy woven throughout it. Does it always feel that way? No. Especially not when I’m in the middle of an ongoing depression and an uncomfortable pregnancy. Nevertheless, that is my goal and I am doing my best, which is all any of us can do. 

Amelia’s Birth Story

Disclaimer: This is a birth story! It has a lot of details which may be considered TMI. If you aren’t comfortable reading it, then please don’t! 🙂

My pregnancy and birth with Amelia will always hold a special place in my heart, since we plan on having no more biological babies after this (and we really, really, really mean it, this time). Being pregnant for the third time (technically fourth) was very challenging, as I was more sick than I’d been with my previous pregnancies. I experienced nausea throughout my pregnancy, as well as my usual pregnancy discomforts, the worst of which was heartburn nearly every day. While I always enjoy seeing my belly grow and the experience of growing my baby inside my body, I really did not love being pregnant, and I am honestly so glad it’s over! As for my birth, it was really the best birth I could have imagined, and I feel so blessed to have that as my final birth experience. I prayed most of all for a smooth, safe, and healthy birthing, and that is exactly what I had. God is so good!

Amelia Madeline Westropp was born on Wednesday, October 14th, 2020 at 10:38 PM. She was born at home, completely unmedicated, in about 6 ½ hours from start to finish. She was 20 inches long and weighed 7 lbs 5 oz. Here’s how it all happened.

On Wednesday, October 14th, I was 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant. Cory was on paternity leave, starting on Monday the 12th, and my mother-in-law Marsha came over in the morning for her weekly overnight visit to help out with the kids. I had my weekly prenatal appointment with my midwives that day at 11 AM. 

One week before, at 39 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy, I’d asked the midwives to sweep my membranes, a way of encouraging birthing to begin, but it hadn’t brought on any waves. At that point, I’d been about 2 CM dilated, 20% effaced, and baby was about -2 station. I’d also lost my mucous plug on Sunday, at 40 weeks, which is a sign of the cervix beginning to dilate.

On the 14th, I was feeling anxious to get my birthing time started because I was worried about the increased risks to baby of going past 41 weeks of pregnancy. I was considering going to the hospital for an induction if I didn’t have her by then, but was also considering following the original plan of waiting until 42 weeks. There’s a lot of gray area in terms of research and evidence for the safety of continued pregnancy versus induction between 41 and 42 weeks, so I was really struggling with the options and hoping it wouldn’t come to that point.

So at my appointment, I asked for another membrane sweep as well as a foley balloon “induction.” For those not familiar, membrane sweeping is done by brushing a finger around the inside of the cervix to stimulate further dilation, effacement, and possibly birthing waves. The cervix must be at least 1-2 CM dilated already in order for a sweep to be done. A foley balloon induction involves inserting a tiny balloon just inside the cervix and then slowly inflating it with saline to further dilate the cervix and encourage birthing waves to begin. Foley balloon inductions will only further dilate the cervix to 3-4 centimeters before the balloon is fully inflated and will slip out, and is then thrown away.

For both of these procedures, many women say that they feel mild to extreme discomfort, but fortunately I’ve never experienced any discomfort with membrane sweeps, and the foley balloon was equally fine for me. No biggie! I figured that even if it only got me an extra centimeter or two, maybe that was what my body needed to get things going. 

It can take a few hours, or even up to 24 hours for a foley induction to be finished and the balloon to fall out. For me, it took only 2 ½ hours, and came out at about 2:30 PM. For the next couple of hours, I focused on encouraging birthing to begin by staying in a quiet, dark, room by myself and listening to my birthing time worship music playlist and praying.

At about 4 PM, I noticed that I was having some more intense waves at seemingly regular intervals. My doula checked in and encouraged me to eat some good protein to be well-nourished in case my birthing time was starting, so I did that. Then I went to rest some more and started timing my waves. They were coming about every 6 minutes, lasting about 30 seconds, and staying strong. After an hour, they were still continuing and starting to move closer to 5 minutes apart and 30-40 seconds long. I tried moving from laying down to sitting on my birth ball to test out how consistent they would be with a change in position. The pattern wasn’t as consistent when I changed positions, but the waves didn’t stop. They started ranging from 2 to 6 minutes apart, and sometimes were only 30 seconds but a few reached closer to 60 seconds. After about an hour and a half total of timing waves, I called my midwife, Alicia, to let her know I was noticing a good pattern. Then I texted my doula, Grace, and we decided that she could start getting ready to come over. 

My mom video called me to see how I was doing and I shared that I was most likely in my birthing time. I also texted my family to pray for me and Amelia, but decided to wait to text my friend prayer group until I was more certain it was really happening. 

While I was waiting for Grace to arrive, my waves were becoming intense enough that I was 90-95% sure I was in my birthing time. I asked Alicia if she thought she should come as well, and she suggested having Grace check me (since Grace is also an experienced midwife) and go from there. Meanwhile, I told Cory things were heating up and asked him to inflate my birth pool and start filling it up. He was surprised because he hadn’t realized it was that “serious” yet. We’d always had so much more leadup to birth, with a really long early birthing time, so this was a totally new experience.  

At this point, I was moaning through my birthing waves; not in pain, but just from the intensity of them and knowing that low tonal sounds can be helpful for working through them. Grace arrived at 7:45 and checked me shortly after, finding that I was about 8-9 CM dilated, with some cervix left in the back. “I had a feeling,” I told her with a smile. I was happy to hear the news, but also cautious because of how quickly I’d dilated with my previous births without easily progressing further. 

She went to call Alicia to come, while I got into the birth pool. Cory texted my prayer group to let them know I was in my birthing time. I kept the room dark and had my birthing time worship music playing throughout my entire birth, which I believe was helpful for my body and mind to stay relaxed. I also spent the majority of my birthing time in the pool from that point on, even though I’d planned on alternating more between lying down, sitting on my birth ball, and the pool. I did spend a little bit of time lying down, but most of it was in the pool. I did a lot of squatting leaning back, trying to encourage the rest of my cervix to open. I also did some hands and knees, and squatting leaning forward with my arms supported over the edge of the pool. 

Cody and Abi came to visit me throughout this time, and Abi got in the pool with me for a while. She laid her little hand on me during my waves to comfort me, which was so sweet. Cody was a quiet, shy observer for the most part, but he stayed in the room for longer.

During my active birthing time and transition stage, my waves were very strong and intense, and I started feeling some anxiety about getting through them. I asked Grace to read my birthing time affirmations with encouraging scriptures, and leaned on God for strength and comfort. Cory was great at massaging my lower back and encouraging me with my “RELAX” hypnosis cue and reminders to breathe deep and slow. 

After a little while, I laid down in bed and reached for Cory to cuddle, feeling like I needed some comfort. I whispered to him that I was scared and it was really hard. He encouraged me and reminded me that I’d done this twice before and could do it again. 

When I got back in the pool, at 8:30, Alicia arrived and her student midwife Julie arrived soon after. They checked my temperature and blood pressure, and started to monitor Amelia’s heart rate after every few pressure waves. Everything was looking good, and I was reassured that all was well. 

Just before 10, Grace suggested that I could try feeling for Amelia’s head if I wanted. I felt something else instead– my amniotic sac bulging almost to the entrance of my birth canal! I described it and Grace told me what it was. It felt like a water balloon, but with a thicker skin. She asked if I wanted the midwives to break it, which could encourage Amelia’s head to come down. I said yes, please!

Julie tried to break it with the amnio-hook, but it was so strong that she had trouble. Alicia checked to make sure it was my amniotic sac, which it was, and helped walk her through it. We did it in the water, and I felt the warm gush as my water broke. The midwives confirmed that the water was clear, which is a good sign. 

They checked Amelia’s heart rate again, and it was slightly elevated. Alicia said it was most likely from head compression from moving down into the birth canal. They had me take some focused deep breaths, and her heart rate calmed. 

It wasn’t long until my waves changed dramatically. I’d already noticed slightly trembly feelings since about 7:30, but I suddenly felt very shaky. Then my waves were PUSHING waves, without a doubt. I felt a powerful bearing down urge and my body pushed voluntarily several times with each wave. My entire body would shudder as I pushed, and the noises coming out of my mouth were something like a sumo wrestler might make. It was loud, and I simply couldn’t help it. My birth team encouraged those low, deep groans– the deeper and louder the better! Cody had gone to sleep in his bed (which is in our room) a little while earlier, and I was shocked that I didn’t wake him up. (Abigail had gone to bed with Marsha in the guest room.)

I felt Amelia’s head moving down and knew I’d be holding her soon. I pushed for about six waves, if I had to guess– the time is obviously a blur, but it only took 40 minutes to push her out. I remember the wave where I felt she was almost crowning, and the wave after that where I felt the most intense stretching sensations and knew she had to be crowning. After her head came out, I found out later that she opened her eyes and looked around under the water.

My midwives suggested to bring one of my legs forward into more of a lunge position, as I had been squatting leaning forward before that. I did so, and I pushed my hardest, not wanting a repeat of Abigail’s shoulder dystocia. I was asked if I wanted to catch her, or for Cory to, and I just said “you do it.” Within a minute or two, she slipped on out and I reached down to find her. They handed me my baby while I, apparently, shouted “baby, baby, baby!” She was born at 10:38 PM.

I pulled her up to my chest and stared in wonder and incredible relief at my little girl. I couldn’t believe it was already over! I felt immensely triumphant, and shouted out, “I f***ing did it!” to the laughter of everyone else. 

Because of my history of postpartum hemorrhage, we’d already planned on a managed third stage (the delivery of the placenta). That involved drinking an herbal concoction just before Amelia was out, and getting a shot of pitocin right after. They helped me to the bed with Amelia, and we waited for the placenta to come out. Our plan was effective in leading to a pretty quick delivery of the placenta with minimal bleeding. 

After that, though, my bleeding did pick up again, so I was given some misoprostol and another pitocin injection, along with uterine massage. The bleeding wasn’t hemorrhage-level, but it was getting close and my midwives wanted to be conservative, which I appreciated.

I worked on getting Amelia to nurse throughout that whole time, and she struggled at first but was able to get latched on after a few minutes. We eventually decided that getting my belly bound up could be helpful for controlling the bleeding, as well as emptying my bladder. So we cut the umbilical cord, which had long stopped pulsing, and I handed Amelia off to Cory. After my belly binding, we very slowly and cautiously walked to the toilet, and after a minute I was able to pee quite a bit. I hadn’t realized how full my bladder was, and how important an empty bladder is to helping the uterus stop bleeding. I went back to the bed and finally passed a good-sized clot, and that was the last of the bleeding. 

Then the midwives were able to stitch up my small tear (which they said I could choose to either leave alone or have stitched). It was a challenge because I had a lot of swelling, so it took a while. Marsha was holding Amelia while I was being stitched. Afterward, she came back to me for a quick nursing while getting her vitamin k shot, before her newborn exam. She cried briefly for the shot, but nursing did seem to help distract her.

After that, Julie did her newborn exam, and everything looked good. Amelia cried for most of the few minutes it took. When it was time to weigh her, we all gave our guesses; mine was 7 lbs, Cory’s was 6 lbs 12 oz, and Alicia’s guess from her last in-the-womb exam was 6 lbs 13 oz. She was 7 lbs 5 oz, just an ounce more than Cody was, and 20 inches long (both Cody and Abi were 20 ¼ inches long). 

By the time everything was finished, it was nearly 2 AM. The midwives left, and we went straight to bed, which was weird for us! 

Amelia’s first night was surprisingly restful, and she was a great sleeper. She woke up to nurse a few times, but slept soundly otherwise. I got a decent sleep in, too. In the morning, I was the first one up and I took Amelia to my rocking chair to wait for the kids to wake up so they could meet her. Cody got up first but needed a few minutes to go downstairs and wake up fully before he was ready for the introduction. When he did come in, he said she was cute and looked like a baby doll, and that he couldn’t believe she was born. When Abi woke up, she was completely enchanted and wanted to hold her. (She’s been pretty obsessed ever since then!) She gently stroked her baby sister’s head, face, and hands, and said she was so cute and that she was going to play with her and teach her how to walk. 

We’ve been settling in together since then, and adjusting to being outnumbered by children! Amelia wants to nurse and be held a lot, as expected– and I’m not holding back because I really want to savor this last baby. 

Since Amelia’s birth, I’ve been nothing but happy. Not only is my precious baby finally here, but I had the most amazing, fast, and smooth birth experience I could’ve imagined. It wasn’t easy, or painless. “Pain” doesn’t feel like the right word to me, but it was incredibly intense, challenging, and at times overwhelming. It felt like my body was trying to tear itself apart at times! I had the most discomfort around my pubic bone this time, and some discomfort in my lower back (but not as extreme as with Abigail’s birth). The crowning feeling was also more intense this time, and I remember thinking that I was probably tearing and hoping it wasn’t going to get worse (even though I ended up with only a very mild first-degree tear). But the fact that it only lasted about 6 ½ hours from start to finish is pretty amazing, and I was so grateful that it went so well. What a way to end my final pregnancy! 

I give the glory to God for helping me through my pregnancy and birth, and blessing me with such a beautiful family. My amazing husband and now my three beautiful children are the most precious gifts I’ve ever received, and I feel blessed beyond belief. As always, I couldn’t imagine getting through the challenge of birth without God’s presence and strength. He is my rock and my fortress at the times I’m at my weakest, and he gives me the strength to do hard things. I’ll be forever grateful for three beautiful, unique birth experiences, two of which were natural and at home– but all of which were amazing, empowering, and life-changing. 

Welcome to the world, Amelia Madeline. You are a precious treasure.

5 Things I Will Miss {and 5 Things I Won’t} About Being Pregnant

After my last pregnancy, I said I was done. I didn’t think, at the time, that I would want to go through another pregnancy and birth, and I was looking forward to the possibilities of adopting our next baby instead. In the three years since then, I came to realize that adopting a newborn would be even more difficult and unlikely than I thought, and while adopting an older child is something that appeals to me in the future, I still wasn’t done with the baby stage. I wanted another newborn, another opportunity to breastfeed my baby and co-sleep and do all of the things that aren’t usually possible with an adopted child.

And so, after much deliberation, we decided to go for a third pregnancy. (I say third, but really, it’s my fourth because of my first pregnancy loss). I hoped that this time, I could find something to make my pregnancy more pleasant by combatting the debilitating nausea that I’d suffered through previously. It’s possible that if that had worked, I would have wanted to get pregnant again after this! But, unfortunately, nothing that I tried helped with my nausea, and in fact this has been my most unpleasant pregnancy yet. That’s why I can say with confidence that this is my last pregnancy—as far as I have control over it, I will not be bringing any more children into the world.

Knowing this is my last pregnancy, I’ve been thinking about the things I will miss—and to be honest, even more so the things I won’t miss! So here is my list of five things I will and will NOT miss about being pregnant.

1. I will not miss feeling sick.

Some women have wonderful pregnancies and feel great when they are pregnant. Others have mild discomforts, often most pronounced during the first and third trimesters, but still feel good overall. And some women just feel like crud during pregnancy. You might guess which category I fit into!

For this pregnancy, I was extremely nauseous from about 5 weeks in through 17 weeks, and after that it improved slowly but never fully went away. Even now at 36 weeks I feel somewhat nauseous on and off most days. I never feel fully “well.” In truth, I can’t remember what that even feels like! On occasion, I worry that I will never feel normal again, because somehow I didn’t realize that this is normal. (Welcome to my weird mind).

But anyhow.

At least I am glad that my pregnancy sickness hasn’t been worse. Pregnant women with true Hyperemesis Gravidarum (which I suspect I have a very mild case of) typically vomit excessively during pregnancy and suffer from intense nausea, sometimes throughout the entire length of their pregnancy. I have been fortunate that I haven’t experienced any vomiting at all this pregnancy, and while my nausea has lasted the entire time, it hasn’t been severe in the second half of my pregnancy. So at the very least, I am grateful for that!

2. I will not miss having heartburn.

Aside from the nausea, my other biggest complaint has been heartburn. It’s something I experienced with both of my previous pregnancies, and this one is no different. The heartburn isn’t severe or constant, but it’s very frequent and unpleasant. It also limits the kinds of food I can eat, which is no fun. I can’t enjoy some of my favorite things like spaghetti or pizza, because of the tomato sauce. If I do decide to indulge anyway, I pay for it. I am definitely looking forward to being able to enjoy a big bowl of baked ziti shortly after my daughter’s birth!

3. I will not miss being physically restricted.

Some of my favorite activities are things I cannot enjoy during pregnancy. Horseback riding, hot yoga, bicycling, rollerblading, kick-boxing… most of those are unsafe during pregnancy, or if not, quite unappealing. Prenatal yoga just isn’t the same as an hour-long butt-kicking yoga class that I would normally enjoy. Even walking isn’t something I enjoy during pregnancy, because of how sick I feel. My exercise right now mainly comes from cleaning the house! While I do actually enjoy cleaning, I still miss my normal physical activities. And aside from that, being pregnant makes everything physically harder, because maneuvering with a bowling ball strapped to one’s belly just isn’t easy. Simple tasks like picking up a box or bending down to pick something up are now herculean efforts. Suffice to say, I will not miss having to share my body 24/7.

4. I will not miss the endless waiting.

Nine months may not be a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still long! I know many people, myself included, feel like COVID has been a huge part of all of our lives for a long time now—this pandemic feels very long. But guess what? It’s only been affecting most of us since about March. That’s six months. I’ve been pregnant longer than that. So yeah, pregnancy feels very long to me.

All of that to say I will not miss the endless waiting that is part of pregnancy. Building a tiny person is a huge project, for sure—and it’s pretty miraculous we can do that in only nine months! But it can feel very slow, waiting for a baby to be formed in your body and finally be born. At the end, I seem to enter a time-warp in which every minute feels like an hour and my “due date” approaches slower by the day. Waiting for birth to begin, having no idea if it will happen at 37 weeks or 42, is challenging for me. It’s a huge life event, adding a new person to one’s family and meeting one’s child for the first time! And we don’t get to know when it will happen. That’s a recipe for anxiety.

5. I will not miss the monumental task of giving birth.

Birth is amazing. I am a birth educator, and I am passionate about childbirth! But for me, birth has not been easy. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I approach it with positive anticipation, not fear—and yet I know it will push me to the very limits of myself. It’s a big undertaking, plain and simple. Worth it completely, but still at times overwhelming to consider. And while I am not afraid of the birth process, and I trust that all will work out according to God’s plan, that doesn’t mean I am above complications. Facing the inherent risk of pregnancy and birth takes courage. I will be glad when I no longer need that courage. Of course, all of life has inherent risk, and so my courage will still be needed to face other things… but at least this one will be checked off of my list.

And now, onto the things I will miss about being pregnant.

1. I will miss knowing my child from the start.

Pregnancy is an incredible honor. The ability to be a vessel for the creation of another human being, an eternal soul—it’s mind-blowing! Parents come to be parents by many forms, and pregnancy is just one of them, of course. One of the blessings of having a biological child is that they are with you from the very start. I will not have to wonder what my baby lived through before I became her mother, because I am already her mother. As I look forward to the adventure of adoption one day, I know that I will not have this privilege for my future children. I won’t know what they were exposed to or what they experienced before me. I won’t be able to protect them from harm until they are in my life, and that is going to take a whole new level of trust and dependence on God to work through. It’s a new stage of growth that I look forward to… all the while, being thankful that at least for this child, I get to be intimately involved with her life from the moment it began.

2. I will miss feeling my baby move in my belly.

There are few better feelings in the world to me than the feeling of my unborn child moving inside my belly. It’s a constant reminder that she’s in there, getting ready to meet me on the outside. From the very first tiny flutter to the biggest wiggles near the end, those movements are a promise that my baby really is in there, that she is real. Sometimes, those movements are the only thing that makes my pregnancy feel worth it; it means that I’m doing this for my child, that I’m not just sick and tired and growing a huge tumor on my abdomen, which is what it can sometimes feel like! Baby movements are one of the best parts of pregnancy, for sure.

3. I will miss my baby bump.

Now, some pregnant women dislike the “getting bigger” aspect of pregnancy. They are certainly entitled to that opinion! But for me, I’ve always enjoyed watching my body change and my belly grow during pregnancy. I think pregnancy is beautiful, and pregnant bellies are a sign of the amazing life forming within. It’s a joyful thing, for me! I love catching a glimpse of my bump in the mirror as I walk by, or noticing my shadow has a different shape. Despite everything, I still sometimes forget that I’m pregnant and the visual reminders make me feel excited again about meeting my baby soon.

4. I will miss the special attention.

At few other times in life is an impending blessing so noticeable to others. It’s impossible to hide the fact that we are welcoming a new child into our family soon, and as such, people often feel free to congratulate me or otherwise show interest in my pregnancy. Some pregnant moms hate this, but I find it fun. It is something to celebrate, and I appreciate the kindness of strangers to share in my joy. The knowing smiles when I see other pregnant moms are also fun, like we’re in a special club… which we are!

5. I will miss the experience of childbirth.

Yes, this one is on both sides of the list! That’s probably the most accurate way I can encompass my feelings about birth. Because I truly will not miss it when I am done, but I also will miss it terribly. It has been the most amazing experience of my life, giving birth twice so far. I try to explain it to my birth education students sometimes, but my words are always inadequate. For me, birth is the highest moment of life. That moment of triumph, holding your baby for the first time, seeing his or her precious face finally out in the world; it’s amazing beyond words. The birth process, for me, is incredibly challenging, but it’s also wonderful in its unearthly way. I go to a place that I only get to go during birth, and I find things about myself and about God that change me for the rest of time. Wow, what an experience! This is why I love birth, and why I am so looking forward to doing it one final time. I want to treasure the experience as much as I can, because truly, there is nothing else like it on earth. Of course, the very best part of birth is the end result—a precious child to love and cherish.

So there you have it! I am incredibly happy to say that this is my last pregnancy, and I am ready to move on to other experiences in life. At the same time, there are things I will miss, and I have truly enjoyed the experience despite the challenges.

I may be meeting my daughter in just over a week! Or, it may be almost six weeks until I get to see her precious face and hold her in my arms. Either way, I’m ready for what comes, as much as I can be. Please pray for my birth to go smoothly and safely, and stay tuned for my birth announcement coming soon! Amelia will be here before we know it. ?

Death on a Stick

I’m now past 17 weeks pregnant with my fourth baby (I lost my first baby, Sam, in early pregnancy). We found out about a month ago that we’re having another daughter, who we’ve named Amelia.

To put it mildly, this pregnancy has been a rough time. I’ve been dealing with severe nausea nearly 24/7 since five weeks of pregnancy, along with food aversions, frequent acid reflux, and some gnarly headaches. To put that in perspective, as long as California’s stay-at-home order for coronavirus has been in effect, I’ve been sick for several weeks longer than that. What I wouldn’t give to just be quarantined and not feel miserable at the same time.

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a long time, mainly because I’ve been waiting to feel better so I can write about it from the other side. But at this point in my pregnancy, I’m not sure if or when that will happen. So here we are.

Let’s talk for a second about “morning sickness.” Personally, I find this term irritating and refuse to use it. Not only is it inaccurate, since pregnancy nausea can hit at any time of the day, but it also has a connotation of some mild, benign, perhaps slightly uncomfortable symptom of pregnancy. “Oh, it’s just a little morning sickness.” No. Just no.

I prefer many of the other options for what to call this hideous phenomenon. NVP, which stands for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, is appropriate. Pregnancy sickness also works perfectly fine, and typically I use that term. I’m pregnancy-sick. Sounds accurate.

Anyhow, pregnancy sickness is common during the first trimester, and for many women it involves both nausea and vomiting. Often, it doesn’t last all day but hits at specific times or based on specific triggers, which can differ for each woman. Then there are some women who only have nausea without vomiting (me), and those who have it nearly or actually 24/7 (also me). And of course there are some women who don’t feel sick at all (definitely not me).

For most women though, pregnancy sickness fades after the first trimester, which is through 13.3 weeks precisely. Fun fact, there’s actually not one officially accepted time for when the second trimester begins–some say 13 weeks, some say 14, and other say 15. In any case, for many women, pregnancy sickness is not typically part of the second trimester.

Then there are the unlucky few for whom pregnancy sickness is more severe and longer lasting. These women are typically considered to have hyperemesis gravidarum, which basically translates to “a whole lot of vomiting.” One of the main symptoms of HG is throwing up a lot during pregnancy. Women with HG often end up dehydrated and malnourished, and may need to be hospitalized for periods of time. Unfortunately with HG, many women continue to feel sick until the day they give birth. About 50% feel better by 20 weeks of pregnancy, but for others there is no relief until the baby is born.

In my case, even though I’ve been struggling with severe, often debilitating nausea that is now lasting well beyond the beginning of my second trimester, I have never thrown up during this pregnancy. While I’m grateful for that aspect of it, it’s still really difficult to feel horrible and nauseous constantly for almost three months straight now.

I have every other symptom of HG, though, including being unable to function normally, being slow to gain weight, and having difficulty staying hydrated and eating enough. It’s unbelievably difficult for me to eat and drink as much as need to, and as a result I have only gained one pound so far, and a couple of weeks ago I actually lost a pound. By this point, I should have gained about 5-10 pounds. I’ve never had trouble gaining weight in pregnancy before, so this has been particularly unnerving.

In general, I’ve been in what I call “survival mode,” doing the bare minimum of trying to eat enough and drink enough and feeding the kids. Cory has picked up the slack in almost every other area, doing dishes, laundry, pet care, and caring for the kids when he’s not working. I help when I can, and I’ve been able to ignore and power through my discomfort on a few occasions to do things like get our house ready for showings. (Yes we’re selling our house in a pandemic. That’s a topic for another post.)

So while I don’t feel completely certain in identifying my discomfort as hyperemesis gravidarum, I do suspect that it might be so. Essentially having HG but without vomiting is very invalidating. That’s weird to say, but what I mean is that since I don’t look like a typical HG case, I don’t feel like I have an appropriate label to give myself. At least if I did then I could explain to people that I have a legitimate medical problem. Instead I’m just going through “morning sickness.” Which as I’ve already mentioned, is just a hilariously inadequate term for me.

That aside, I’ve struggled with depression as a result of my intense discomfort. (Depression is also common with hyperemesis gravidarum). I’ve felt hopeless, desperate for relief that doesn’t come, and just over life in general. My mood has been less than positive, and I know I haven’t been the wife or mom that I want to be. I simply haven’t been able to. (I’m mostly past these feelings at this point, fortunately, and I’m starting to feel more like myself again).

Also, as much as I wanted to have another baby and very much intentionally conceived, I struggled with feeling excited about this pregnancy until recently. I had a hard time connecting with the baby, harder than it was with either Cody or Abigail. Feeling her kick has been a game-changer, and I’m lucky enough to already be feeling her because it really helps me bond with her. Another thing, though, is that while I was okay with having either a boy or a girl, I really imagined a boy and started to want that. Sometimes I still catch myself thinking about the baby in terms of the boy name we had picked out. When I found out we’re having a girl, I felt a little jarred.

In sharing all of this, I don’t want anyone to think that I take for granted how blessed I am. I am very thankful that having babies biologically is an option for me, and of course it is worth it. I love Amelia and very much want her. I am fully on board with having another girl, since that is what God has chosen for us and he always knows best.

But I think it’s also fair to feel how I feel, which is honestly just miserable and hating pregnancy. A lot of people don’t believe me when I say this, but I will never do this again (as long as I can prevent it). I knew going in that I might suffer as I did with my previous pregnancies, but I really didn’t let myself believe it would be worse or this bad. I can only imagine how horrible a fourth pregnancy would be for me… and really, I don’t want to.

So yeah. This is my last biological baby, and wow is this pregnancy has been giving me a hard time.

There’s a saying I’ve heard, that when you reach the end of your rope, you should tie a knot and hold on. Well, I’ve been dangling from this knot at the end of my rope for weeks now and I’m not sure how  my hands are even holding it anymore. Truthfully, it must be God holding on for me at this point because I know I should’ve fallen off of the cliff by now.

This may all sound absurdly dramatic. I think it’s hard, or more like impossible, to understand when you’re not in it, or haven’t been through it. I read an article about HG that really hit home recently, and it described it as feeling like death on a stick. And that is just so perfect.

So I’ll just be here for a little while, feeling like death on a stick, until it’s all over. Hopefully soon, but I’ve been saying that so long that it’s lost all meaning. The best I can say, I suppose, is eventually. Eventually, I will feel good again.

This week, at least, I have noticed that my nausea isn’t as severe for as much of the day. Today, for instance, it didn’t start until 10:30. As I’m writing this, it’s not hitting me like a ton of bricks, but more like a quiet voice in the back of my mind just whispering “nausea” and “headache” instead of shouting it. So at least that’s something. Maybe, after this week, I can downgrade “death on a stick” to “ick on a stick.”

Whatever path my pregnancy sickness takes, I will get through this. It’s already worth it just to feel Amelia’s little kicks. She is my child and I’d do anything for my children–including feeling like death on a stick (or “ick”) for months and months.


P.S. Yes, I have tried that thing you’re thinking you might suggest. This isn’t me not trying everything I can to feel better. I have tried all of the things. This is just me accepting that pregnancy will not be comfortable for me. And yeah, it sucks. It’s okay to just say “I’m sorry it sucks.”

P.P.S. I do very much appreciate those in my life who have tried and continue to try to help me. I feel loved and cared for and it means a lot to me. Your prayers are the most valuable thing you can give.

Spiritual Lessons from My Journey into Motherhood


Being pregnant was such a special time in my life. Although I didn’t have the most comfortable pregnancies, I did really enjoy the process of bringing new lives into the world.

Currently, I am not planning on becoming pregnant again. Instead, my husband and I plan on adopting a baby. Reflecting on my journey into biological motherhood over the past few years, there are a few important lessons I have learned.


Childbirth Doesn’t Have to be Terrifying

Before we were married, I went through a phase of thinking that I would never want to have children. At first, this was mostly due to fears about the birth process, and how horrible and scary and painful it would be. The simple mechanics of it just seemed horrifying. I have a low pain-tolerance, and a phobia of needles and medical environments in general. I didn’t want to have to face any of that. I thought that instead, we should adopt—even knowing deep down that having biological children was part of God’s plan for me.

Counter-intuitive though it may seem, learning about natural childbirth was the thing that started to change my mind about birth. I learned that women’s bodies were made to do it. I learned that birth doesn’t have to be medicalized. I learned about midwifery, homebirth, and using hypnosis for childbirth. I learned about supernatural childbirth, and how my faith in God can be used powerfully to experience a better birth. These things gave me the confidence I needed to overcome my fear of childbirth, and welcome the opportunity to bring babies into the world with the miraculous gifts of pregnancy and birth.


The Risk Is Worth It

There’s a saying that becoming a parent is like choosing to have your heart walk around outside of your body. And it’s true! Being a parent is incredibly risky. You love this other person so much that it’s beyond words, and the idea of them ever getting hurt or making a bad decision is terrifying to you. You have everything invested in your children, and yet very little control over what happens to them. That idea scared the living daylights out of me, and it was one of the reasons I was afraid to become a parent.

It took a very painful experience for me to understand that the risk of losing a child, while terrifying, does not outweigh the worth of being a parent. Being a parent has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life, and I couldn’t imagine not having this privilege. I was meant to be a mother. It’s one of God’s callings on my life that I can’t deny, no matter what pain or risks I have to face.

But I had to learn this through the experience of pregnancy loss. My husband and I lost our first baby, Sam, only six weeks into our pregnancy. At first, I was in a place of anger, utter heartbreak, loss of trust, and loss of hope for the future. Other people’s words of comfort often felt like a slap in the face to me. They told me that I should hold on to God, but I was furious at him. They told me to keep trusting him because it was all in his plan, but I felt like my trust in him was broken. Most of all, I despised it when people told me that we could try again. The thought of trying again, of putting myself at risk for heartbreak again, was a terrible thought. I felt that it wasn’t worth the risk.

It was from this place of darkness that God showed us the light. Through the guidance of some godly people in our lives, God showed us the simple truth that he is good. We learned that our miscarriage was not God’s doing or his plan for us, but an attack from the enemy. We also learned that God is bigger and stronger than our enemy. We learned what living victoriously in Jesus really means.

Without those lessons, we wouldn’t have been able to handle the fear, as parents, of “what might happen.” Instead of living in fear, we trust and believe that God has his hand over our family. I don’t have to worry about what might happen to my kids because I know that God’s got them. They are in good hands.


The Big Picture

Sometimes, even with strong faith and trust in God, we can experience loss and trials in this world. It is a broken world, after all. We may not be of this world (as Christians), but we are still in it.

I try not to entertain thoughts of what might happen in scenarios of my greatest fears. I believe that we should discipline our thoughts and train ourselves to think about good things, not horrible ones. But I do have an understanding that my faith might not always protect me or my family in this world. Bad things could happen. Christians can lose their children tragically, just like anybody else.

But instead of fearing for this, I focus on the big picture. The big picture is my human approximation of what God sees. He sees things in light of eternity! This life seems so big to us. It seems like everything. But what we often forget to realize is that compared to eternity, this life is just a drop in the bucket. What we also often forget to realize is that compared to an eternity in paradise with God, this life is basically a poop parade.

Now, I know that sounds pretty negative. But it’s not, I promise! Realizing that this life, our bodies, the earthly things we have, and our comfort in this lifetime is all temporary… well, it’s actually so freeing. If we lose our earthly lives, we gain something better– eternal life. As long as you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, that is!*

So if my faith is not always enough to save my kids or myself from suffering, or even death, then I can have peace and comfort and joy even, knowing that there is something unspeakably wonderful ahead.

As a parent, there is no greater comfort. I know that it’s going to be okay, literally NO. MATTER. WHAT. There might be suffering, but suffering is temporary. An eternity of JOY is ahead, and that is something to celebrate. This is why we praise God! Isn’t he awesome?



*Have you accepted Jesus as your savior yet? Do you want to? You can, right now!

Just pray this prayer:

God, I know that I am not perfect. I have sinned, and that means I am not worthy of you. But I believe you sent your son Jesus to Earth, and he lived a perfect life and he died on the cross, as a sacrifice for me. Jesus, I invite you into my heart right now. Please come in and forgive me of my sins. Make me right with God. Help me live my life in a way that pleases you.

In Jesus name,


If you prayed that prayer, then you are now a redeemed child of God! You just made the best decision you could ever make. Your eternity is secured! Go ahead and celebrate that. And please share it with someone. Leave me a comment or send me a message. Go find a church you can be a part of, and continue to grow in your faith.

Abigail’s Birth Story

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. It contains details about the birth process and my personal experience, which some people may not be comfortable reading. If this is you, please don’t read it! Otherwise, continue. 🙂

My birthing with Abigail was quite a journey. I expected to have her early, but ended up giving birth at exactly 41 weeks of pregnancy, longer than I went with Cody. The time I spent waiting at the end was very difficult emotionally, and as irrational as it was, I truly felt at times that I’d never have her. Of course, I did have her in God’s timing. Now that she’s here I am overjoyed!

Abigail MarlyAnne Westropp was born on Labor Day, Monday, September 4th, 2017 at 3:16 PM. She was born at home, completely unmedicated. She weighed 7 lbs and 12 oz and was 20 ¼ inches long at birth. Here is how it all happened.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, I began to experience more frequent warm up pressure waves than I’d previously been having. I also passed a small amount of blood, which seemed to be the beginning of my bloody show. Over the next several weeks, I continued to experience more warm up waves, with some periods of prodromal waves. There were many times I thought my birthing time was beginning, but they all were false alarms. At 38 weeks, I began trying many natural methods of encouraging birthing to begin. I tried walking, sex, certain foods, and hypnosis. At 40 weeks, I began trying some more aggressive natural methods of induction, including nipple stimulation and acupressure.

Finally at 40 weeks and 5 days, on September 2nd, I tried the most aggressive option so far and had my midwife sweep my membranes, which led to my full bloody show. That night, I had a good pressure wave pattern for several hours, and was very hopeful, but then it faded. The next afternoon, I had an appointment with my doula to try more natural induction techniques. I was optimistic, since she’s never had a client who this appointment didn’t work for. We tried many things, but after over 5 hours, we still had not established a good pressure wave pattern, and we decided to call it a night. My doula, Lynsey, left my house around 10:30 PM, and I went to bed with my hypnosis track playing as usual. I felt discouraged and resigned when I went to bed.

At about 1 AM that night, on September 4th, I woke up because of strong waves I was feeling. I began timing them, while listening to a hypnosis track. They continued to be strong, about 40 seconds to a minute long, and between 3 to 7 minutes apart. After an hour, I called my midwife, Alicia, and we decided it was time for her to come over. She arrived around 3 AM, and I continued to listen to my hypnosis tracks and mellow worship music while using my hypnosis tools.

I’d already woken up Cory around 2 to tell him what was going on, and encouraged him to get more sleep. By 4, I was ready for him to start actively supporting me, so I woke him up. I also called Lynsey at this time. Shortly after, I decided that I wanted to move to the bedroom and start using my birth pool, so we tried to move our sleeping son Cody to the guest bedroom. He woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep, so we called Cory’s mom, Marsha, to come take care of him. While she drove out, we set up the birth pool and I had some time with Cody in the pool. He helped me decorate the pool with submersible orange lights, which I’d chosen to help me envision my Hypnobabies’ orange hypno-anesthesia.

Around 6 AM, Marsha arrived. Although the timing is a blur, I know I spent this active birthing time moving between my pool, the bed, and my chair, while remaining in hypnosis and listening to my tracks out loud, and hearing birth prompts from Cory. At some point, my midwife’s assistant arrived, another midwife I’d met years ago named Jennifer. The midwives offered gentle support and otherwise rested and stayed unobtrusive. Cody was happy and busy with Marsha, and Cory stayed with me almost constantly. I started to have more bloody show during that time.

Around 10 AM, Alicia offered to check my dilation, and I agreed. Lynsey arrived while that was happening. To my great surprise and joy, Alicia said she couldn’t feel any cervix– meaning, I was completely dilated and effaced. I cried happy tears and hugged Cory and Lynsey, because I knew then that Abigail would be coming soon.

Alicia was able to feel that baby was asynclitic, and not quite fully engaged as a result, so we tried some belly sifting. From that point on, I spent time resting between waves on the couch or bed, and trying different positions in the pool. My support team kept me constantly hydrated, nourished me with light snacks, and reminded me to use the bathroom. Of course, they also kept hypnosis tracks playing for me and read birth prompts.

My pressure waves throughout this entire time were strong, and close together. I began to feel some exhaustion after the first few hours, and then began feeling a lot of back discomfort. Hours after being completely dilated, I still had not started to feel any pushing urges, and my emotional state started to struggle to remain peaceful. I began thinking that I couldn’t go on much longer.

Finally at about 2 PM, I broke down. Sitting in my pool, I told my team I couldn’t do it anymore, in tears. They rallied around me. They told me I was doing it, and they were going to help me. They told me it was time to start pushing and get the baby out. I said it hurt too much, and they told me I could do it, and to use my hypnosis. Finally, their encouragement broke through and I felt a sense of resolve, that I could do it and I would. I told Jesus that I needed his help.

On the next wave, I started pushing. At first, it increased the discomfort to be almost unbearable, but after just a second, it lifted. I took as deep of breaths as I could and then pushed while making loud, low, opening sounds. Sometimes I became very loud! Then I tried pushing after taking a deep breath, using the breath to bear down, and pushing several times during each wave. My lower back was in pain during my waves now, so Lynsey massaged it while I pushed. In between waves, I rested and took deep breaths, breathing oxygen to baby while my midwives monitored her heart rate. I moved between several different positions for pushing. Sometimes I squatted and leaned back against the wall of the pool. Other times I leaned forward on the pool wall, or simply went on hands and knees. I also tried Lynsey’s suggestion of squatting and pulling hard on a rebozo (scarf) that Cory held. I stayed in the pool the whole time. Cody and Marsha came in at some point to witness the process.

I pushed for a little over an hour, before I started crowning. I reached down and felt baby’s soft head and her silky hair. My midwives guided me to push more gently at this point, to allow myself to stretch naturally, and I did. I felt some burning, but it didn’t hurt. I told myself to stretch, and I did. Baby’s head came out into my hand, and I held her head, waiting for the rest of her to slip out. After what felt like only a few moments, but was apparently six minutes, suddenly there was some urgency I was vaguely aware of.

Everything snapped into motion as Alicia said she wanted me out of the pool, now, and my team basically lifted and dragged me out, straight to the bed on my hands and knees. Cory told me everything was fine. I was told to stop pushing. In my head, I had one thought, that Abigail needed to be okay. I was maneuvered into a runner’s squat position, and my midwives were doing things I wasn’t aware of, trying to ease baby out. There was no pain, just waiting, until finally they told me to push as hard as I could. I did and Abigail was born, finally, and I flipped onto my back and held her on my chest. She didn’t cry right away, and I rubbed her gently and talked to her until finally, she let out her first tiny cry. Her cord was short, so I couldn’t move her much, but I held her and kissed her warm wet head. She started looking for the breast quickly, and with just a little guidance she latched on like a pro.

Later, I learned that Abigail was having a hard time coming out because she had her hands up under her chin. The midwives had to reach in and push her hands down to allow her to come out. Although that may sound painful, I didn’t feel it. Through all of that, I only had a small tear that barely required two stitches. Although her birth was somewhat traumatic, both she and I came through it easily, thanks to my incredible and competent birth team.

After Abigail was born, we waited a short time for my placenta to be born. Unfortunately, I started to hemorrhage both before and after birthing the placenta, meaning I was bleeding too much. My midwives gave me a shot of pitocin and massaged my uterus, all with me still in hypnosis and using my tools for comfort. I continued to nurse Abigail, which is helpful for controlling bleeding after birth. After a few minutes, my bleeding had slowed but not completely stopped, so I was given another shot of pitocin. Finally, the bleeding stopped, and we rested.

After that final drama, things were calm. Abigail had her newborn exam next to me while Jennifer cleaned me up. Then we nursed some more, and Cory and I were left alone to bond with baby while the house was cleaned up a bit. Cody met his baby sister, a fascinating and strange creature to him. I cried happy tears again, thanking God for our daughter and sitting in awe of how lucky we are to have two beautiful children. Cory held Abigail and we took some photos.

After a little while, we decided it was time to cut the cord. It was still attaching Abigail to the placenta, which was lying wrapped up nearby. We were happy that we’d allowed every possible drop of blood to flow into baby before cutting the cord, but we were ready to have more mobility for Cory to hold her. He clamped and cut the cord himself. Later, I was stitched up while happily nursing Abby, and she got her vitamin K shot while still nursing. She let go to cry a two-second protest before going back to the breast.

After all was settled, my birth team said goodbye and left. I nestled happily in my bed with my baby girl, and my husband and son close by. Could there be anything better?

There are so many things I’m thankful for, looking back at this experience. First and foremost, a happy and healthy baby and mama, which is always the main goal. I’m also thankful for my midwives, who knew exactly what to do in a potentially scary situation. They saved our lives, really. I’m thankful for my doula, who supported me so well both physically and emotionally. She also managed to take photos and videos throughout my entire birthing process, which I can now treasure forever. My amazing husband and birth partner, Cory, was a superhero. He pushed himself physically to support me through his own exhaustion. He stayed calm always, told me frequently how I was doing such a great job, gave me hypnosis cues, and stayed by my side throughout the birth of our child. All together, my team was a formidable force. They held me up in so many ways when I was sure I could not do it. With them, I could. I’m thankful for Hypnobabies, without which I can only imagine the difficulty I would have had giving birth. Some women have easy births, but I apparently do not. And I did not have a painless birth, either, but with Hypnobabies, I was able to have a more easy and comfortable experience, and succeed in my dream of having a natural birth at home.

Most of all, I’m thankful to God. He kept me and Abigail safe. Jesus held me during the hardest parts of my birthing, and without his presence I can’t imagine how I would have coped. He is my savior, not only for eternity, but for my life right now. He enabled me with strength I would not have had on my own. And he blessed me and Cory with such an unbelievable gift, our precious baby girl, not to mention our son almost three years ago. We are so very blessed, for God is good.

I am so very relieved, proud, and satisfied with my birth experience. Knowing that I did this makes me feel empowered to do anything. I feel very lucky to have experienced both a happy hospital birth with Cody and now a completely natural home birth with Abigail. It’s wonderful experience to have as a birth educator as well! How very blessed I’ve been. <3

Welcome to the world, little Abigail. You are so very precious.

We’re Expecting!


Happy New Year, readers!

I hope you and your family have an excellent year full of joy, growth, and life at its fullest.

This year is going to be an exciting one for my family, because we’re expecting our second baby in August!

At just six weeks pregnant, it’s amazing to know that our little baby already has a heart that’s beating and the beginnings of arms, legs, and facial features. How unbelievable is the miracle of life? God’s creative power never ceases to amaze me. We can’t wait to welcome our second babe into the world. <3

Supernatural Childbirth

We’re officially in our third trimester of pregnancy now, and it’s amazing to finally be here. Every time I see my reflection in the mirror, I’m thrilled to see my big baby belly—being pregnant is something I’ve imagined and hoped for over a long period time, and it’s surreal to actually be that person now. I used to smile whenever I noticed a pregnant lady walking by me, and now I’ve started to notice that I’m on the other end of the equation—strangers are now noticing my belly and I’ve caught a few knowing smiles out in public. It’s such a special time in my life, and I’m really enjoying the process of bringing new life into the world.

Cody’s birth is getting closer and closer, and soon we’ll be full-fledged parents. As usual, we’re having a lot of fun planning, discussing, researching, and preparing for every aspect of this new adventure we can think of. We’re both so eager to start our new careers as a mom and dad to our precious son. Before we can start though, we have to make it through one heck of an interview process—childbirth!

Before we were married, I went through a phase of thinking that I would never want to have children. At first, this was mostly due to fears about the birth process, and how horrible and scary and painful it would be. I didn’t want to have to face that, so I thought that instead we would just have to adopt. Later, I found another reason to never have children at all, even through adoption. There’s a saying that becoming a parent is like choosing to have your heart walk around outside of your body. It’s incredibly risky! You love this other person so much that it’s beyond words, and the idea of them ever getting hurt or making a bad decision is terrifying to you. You have everything invested in your children, and yet very little control over what happens to them. That idea scared the living daylights out of me, and so I thought that I would never want to put myself into such a vulnerable position.

Later, of course, I changed my mind back because I just knew that I was meant to be a mother. It’s a calling on my life that I can’t deny, no matter what pain or risks I have to face. It was only after that discovery that I was able to be taught some very important truths from God. I learned both of them after experiencing the loss of our first baby, Sam, only six weeks into our pregnancy. I was in a place of anger, utter heartbreak, loss of trust, and loss of hope for the future. Other people’s words of comfort often felt like a slap in the face to me. They told me that I should hold on to God, as if I wanted to hold on to a God who decided to take my baby from the world before he or she even had a chance to live. They told me to keep trusting him because it was all in his plan—as if I could trust a God who planned something like that to happen. Most of all, I despised it when people told me that I could try again. The thought of trying again, of putting myself at risk for heartbreak again, was a terrible thought. I felt that it wasn’t worth the risk, and that Cory and I should not try again, not ever.

It was from this place of darkness that God showed us the light. Through the guidance of some godly people in our lives, he showed us the simple truth that he is good. We learned that our miscarriage was not God’s doing or his plan for us, but an attack from the enemy. We also learned that God is bigger and stronger than our enemy, and that we have the choice to fight with him on our side. When we fight with the spiritual weapons that he gave us, we will experience victory!

The lessons that God taught us through that painful experience are lessons that we desperately needed for our future as parents. If we’d become parents without learning about God’s protection and strength, and about spiritual warfare and our role in it, we wouldn’t have been able to handle the fear of “what might happen.” We would have lived in fear of our children being hurt or worse, and that fear would have given the enemy a foothold in our lives. Instead, we now know and firmly believe that God has his hand over our family. I don’t have to worry about what might happen to Cody because I know that God’s got him. He’s in good hands. In fact, he’s in the best possible hands!

We also learned a mind-blowing (yes, mind-blowing!) truth about childbirth that completely obliterated any worries I once had about the process of bringing a baby into the world. We were given a book called Supernatural Childbirth by our pastor at the time, and through it we learned about the power of confession, or speaking God’s word over our lives, and about the promises and freedom that are available through Jesus. I’d never before been exposed to the idea that we can have victory over every area of pain in our lives through the victory of Jesus on the cross. What I learned by reading this book and the Bible verses within is that I don’t have to experience an agonizing, life-threatening, or traumatizing birth. I can bring Cody into the world in comfort, peace, and safety. And I will!

Supernatural childbirth is using God’s word (the promises he makes in the Bible) to overcome challenges related to childbearing. The Bible supports every woman’s ability to conceive, gestate without sickness, pain, or fear, and give birth in safety and without pain (or drugs)—all within the plan of God and the power of Jesus. As with any area of life, God will back up his promises, to the level of your faith. He will meet you where your faith is! I had trouble believing that I could have a healthy pregnancy without nausea, morning sickness, and fatigue in the first trimester. I chose to listen to what people around me said—that if I felt sick, it meant the baby was healthy! If I didn’t feel sick, well… you can guess what that inferred. And so, I felt sick and icky for the entire first trimester. I did believe firmly that Cody and I would be healthy, however, and so it was. That was the level of my faith, met by the goodness of God. As I approach the end of my pregnancy now, I’m believing for more. I’m believing for a supernatural, pain-free birth, and I trust God’s promise to meet me where my faith is.

Now, I want to address two common “arguments” against this concept of supernatural childbirth. The first is that the Bible says in Genesis that women will suffer in childbirth. This is true—the verse is Genesis 3:16 and it says “To the woman, he said ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” This is part of several verses in this section that represent what is known as “the curse,” or the consequences of humankind’s fall from God’s plan. Humans chose to disobey God, and as a result, lost the benefits of the paradise they’d been living in and forever altered their relationship with God. From that point on, humans had to work hard to obey a very strict and detailed set of laws in order to stay in right standing with God (and even then, it wasn’t quite enough to be accepted by God without a hefty dose of his grace). God didn’t intend for it to stay that way forever, though. Throughout the Old Testament, hints of a coming savior abound. In the New Testament, that savior finally appeared—Jesus Christ, the son of God, sent to earth to teach us and save the lost. He came, lived as an example, healed and performed miracles, and finally, died an undeserved death on the cross and rose again. He did this for our salvation, so that we could return to the relationship God originally intended for us to have with him. Jesus paid the price for us to be redeemed. Galatians 3:13 says that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” Isaiah 53:4-5 says “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Because of Jesus, anyone who believes in him is no longer under the curse. I am not fallen, but redeemed, through the grace of God! Therefore, my childbearing experience is not the experience of a cursed woman, but the experience of a woman living in God’s abundance and delivered from pain and suffering through the love of Jesus.

The second common argument against supernatural childbirth is something along the lines of “everybody knows that childbirth is painful.” Almost any woman who has given birth will testify to the horrible pain that she experienced in labor and birth. I’d even venture to say that most Christian women are in that group. So why would I be any different than the rest of the world, let alone than so many of my sisters in Christ, who are also redeemed? The difference lies within my mind and my faith. As I said before, God will meet you where your faith is. In Matthew 9:29, Jesus healed a group of blind men by saying “According to your faith let it be done to you.” A person can be redeemed through Christ, and yet not believe that they have healing, abundance, or the ability to have children and have them in joy and comfort. According to their faith, it will be done to them. The conclusion of Supernatural Childbirth says this: “People often fight for the right to suffer… The Word says you can do things God’s way. You can do things other ways as well. You can be sick, and God will still love you. You can be poor, and God will still love you. You can be barren, and God will still love you. You can live in pain, and God will still love you. But God says there is a better way. Jesus has paid for salvation, healing, prosperity, deliverance and blessing.” It is up to each individual to decide in their mind and heart whether to believe God for what he has promised. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” I can choose to conform to the ways of the world, and give birth in the way that the world says I will; or, I can choose to renew my mind according to God’s Word, and transform my birth into a peaceful, joyful, and comfortable experience, which I believe is God’s perfect will for me. I do not believe that God wants me to experience pain (what loving parent would want their child to experience pain?), and I want to see his good, pleasing and perfect will in every area of my life. That’s why I believe in supernatural childbirth, and why I have no fear when it comes to my pregnancy or birth. God is good, and he has everything under control!  

And so to childbirth, I say bring it on. 🙂

What’s a FAM and How Do I Get One?

Just over a year ago, I started using the fertility awareness method of birth control, or FAM. My main reason for ditching the birth control pill, which I was previously on, was that I was uncomfortable with the abortient property of the pill. Basically, the pill prevents pregnancy in three ways: by preventing ovulation, by thickening cervical mucus, and by making the lining of the uterus inhospitable to implantation. This third property is called an abortifacient because technically speaking, it causes an abortion (any eggs that manage to get fertilized are not able to implant). Of course, the chances of this are slim because if the pill does it job right, an egg will not be released in the first place. And even if one is released, the sperm should not be able to reach it because of the thickened cervical mucus. The abortifacient is the pill’s last-ditch effort to prevent pregnancy. Still, it made me uncomfortable to use it knowing that there was even the slightest possibility that I was causing an abortion. All hormonal methods of birth control work in generally the same way, so when I found out about this I quickly discovered that hormonal methods were no longer an option for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I pass no judgment on women who choose to use hormonal birth control methods. In fact, I strive not to pass judgment on women who choose to get abortions either because I understand the fear that may drive some women to terminate their unwanted pregnancies. My place is not to judge, but to love and encourage others. Personally, I hate abortion because I love babies and I believe that life is precious, but it is still not my job to judge others. But anyway, my point of saying this is that my decision to search for another method of birth control was the right decision for me.

Unfortunately, it did not take me long to discover that there are really no non-hormonal methods of birth control that are highly effective. At least, that was how things appeared until I finally stumbled upon FAM. I was shocked to discover that FAM is not only extremely effective, (as effective, if not more effective than condoms) but it requires no medications or uncomfortable devices. Best of all, through learning and using FAM I have gained a new understanding of how my body works. I am so much more comfortable with my body and I feel empowered because for the first time, I am in control of my own reproductive health. So what is FAM exactly?

The Fertility Awareness Method involves learning to be aware of when you are fertile, and abstaining from sexual intercourse during those times. For most women, the period of abstinence would be somewhere around 1/3 of the length of her cycle, perhaps 10 days or so. Now of course, this requirement of periods of abstinence is probably the biggest drawback to FAM, and for some people may be too big of a drawback to make the method worthwhile. On the other hand, many women report that periods of abstinence actually improve their sex lives because it forces them to be more *ahem* creative during their fertile phases, and it builds excitement for when intercourse is once again safe. For me, FAM is well worth the sacrifice.

One benefit of FAM is that barrier methods of birth control, such as condoms, are unnecessary. Then again, some FAM users decide to eliminate the periods of abstinence and just use condoms during the woman’s fertile periods, which is an option. Of course, it is important to recognize that having intercourse during a woman’s fertile period puts the couple at the mercy of the barrier method’s failure rate. For pregnancy-avoiders, it is much safer to abstain during these times. And for couples who want to be extra safe and avoid pregnancy, a barrier method can be used even during the “safe” phases of the woman’s cycle, thus boosting the effectiveness of the method even further. Lastly, for couples in which one person has or may have an STD, it is important to use condoms every time to protect against spreading the infection to the other partner. Obviously, using FAM without a condom will not protect against STDs. This is one reason why FAM is really only appropriate for monogamous relationships.

Now that I’ve explained some of the benefits and basic concepts behind FAM, I’ll explain the method in greater detail. For a FAM user, the most important tools to have are a chart and a thermometer (and a female reproductive system, of course!) This method involves keeping track of fertility signs and using them to understand when you are ovulating. There are two main fertility signs; waking temperature, and cervical fluid. A third optional sign to observe is cervical position. Without describing the biological processes of the menstrual cycle in too much detail (because this could get way too long), I will briefly explain the changes that can be observed in these three fertility signs throughout the cycle.

Waking temperature, or basal body temperature, can be taken with a basal body thermometer every morning and recorded on a chart. At the beginning of the cycle, starting on the first day of menstruation, a woman’s basal body temperature is typically within a low range— somewhere between 97 and 98 degrees, perhaps. A day or two after ovulation, the temperature shifts into a higher range, somewhere between 98 and 99 typically, and remains within that range for the duration of the cycle. When you chart your basal body temperature, you can observe the thermal shift to determine when you have ovulated, and that will allow you to know when you are safe again for intercourse.

Cervical fluid is sometimes called cervical mucus, but I think that “fluid” sounds nicer. Simply put, it is the moist substance that comes out a woman’s vagina throughout the month, and it changes dramatically over the course of the cycle. After the period of bleeding at the beginning of the cycle, cervical fluid is typically absent, or “dry” for a short time (5 days or so). Next, it becomes “sticky” which is sometimes also described as crumbly, flaky, gummy, or rubbery. Then, usually within a few days, it becomes “creamy,” also described as lotiony, watery, or smooth. Finally, it becomes fertile “slippery” cervical fluid, which is either clear or streaked and appears similar to raw eggwhites. Then, it dries up rather quickly and remains dry until the next menstruation. By observing your cervical fluid each day and classifying it as dry, sticky, creamy, or slippery you can know when your body is becoming more fertile and intercourse is no longer safe. For most women, it is safest to abstain from intercourse as soon as sticky cervical fluid appears and until 3 days after the last slippery fluid is observed.

The last fertility sign is cervical position, and is optional to observe. It can corroborate your observations of the other signs by giving you more evidence of when your fertile and infertile phases occur. In the beginning of a cycle, the cervix is typically sitting lower in your vagina (closer to the opening), and it gradually rises higher as you approach your fertile phase. It is also firm and closed in the beginning of the cycle, and becomes much softer and more open as you become more fertile. After ovulation, the cervix typically drops back down quickly and becomes firm and closed once again. A woman can easily observe her cervical position by inserting a finger into her vagina; the cervix is at the end of the canal. Once you start checking your cervix, you will soon learn to gauge its changes throughout the cycle.

Those are the three fertility signs that you can observe to help you know when you are fertile, and thus should abstain from sexual intercourse. Using your observations, you can follow the four FAM rules to avoid pregnancy.

The four FAM rules:

1. The first 5 days rule – You are safe the first 5 days of your cycle if you had a clear temperature shift during your last cycle.

2. The dry day rule – Before you ovulate, you are safe on dry days.

3. The temperature shift rule – You are safe 3 days after your temperature is above the coverline. Draw the coverline 0.1 degrees above the highest of the last six temperatures when your temperature rises at least 0.2 degrees above that temperature.

4. The peak day rule – You are safe 4 days after your peak day, or your last day of wet/slippery cervical fluid.

So there you have it. Those are the basics of the Fertility Awareness Method of birth control. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or use the contact button at the top of the page to send me a message. I am not an expert, but I will do my best to answer your questions. And if you are considering using FAM, please do some more research on your own and make sure that you fully understand how to use it safely. Most of my information came from a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH. I highly recommend it for anybody interested in using FAM.

Sometime in the near future, I am planning on writing a post about my personal experience with FAM after switching from the birth control pill. It literally took me over a year from when I stopped the pill to start having normal cycles again, and I would like to share that experience to hopefully help others who may be in the same boat. But until then, hopefully this post was enlightening and helpful. Thanks for reading!