As moms, we're all different, but we're all united in the experience of childbirth.

It can be challenging, emotionally raw and supremely beautiful. It forces us to dig deep, tap into strength we didn't know we had, and use every ounce of our being to bring new life into the world. Our birth stories are unique to each of us, and are meant to be told, heard and celebrated. On this page, you can share your VCU Health birth experience with other women and connect to an incredible community of motherhood.

Please, tell your story. We want to hear it.

 I trusted my team of medical professionals as they kept me informed and safe.

I trusted my team of medical professionals as they kept me informed and safe.

On January 26th around 2:00 in the morning, I felt that labor was beginning. It woke me up in the middle of the night. Slowly my contractions increased in frequency and duration. I was pregnant with my second child. I'd had my first with the VCU midwives as well. Things move much quicker the second time and when I had my first check I was nearly 9 cm dilated.

Midwife Stephanie cared for me with midwife Reid and nurse Tyler by her side. Not much longer until I would meet my baby boy. My back labor was painful. Many positions were uncomfortable. The midwives supported me with massage, encouragement, patience and helped me get my positive self-talk going as I worked my way through the pain.

It was time to push and this big boy wasn't giving me breaks between contractions like I had during the birth of my daughter. In a particularly challenging moment, I opened my eyes and saw nurse Stacy, who attended my daughter's birth two years prior. She came in and told me she remembered me and my first birth, and wanted to check on me. I was speechless! Instantly I was inspired by her care and connection. I knew I could do what needed to be done surrounded by this amazing support system of women and man (my husband!).

Very shortly after in the early hours of the afternoon, my sweet, boy weighing 8 pounds 11 ounces joined our family! Immediate skin-to-skin sealed our bond and lent itself to a funny moment when my son had his first bowel movement all over me! The care and commitment didn't stop there as I had difficulty with bleeding. My team continued to work on me as I experienced some hemorrhaging following my son's birth.

I trusted my team of medical professionals as they constantly advised and kept me informed and safe. Fortunately, I was fixed up rather quickly. I can't thank the staff at VCU enough for two amazing, life-changing, unmedicated, natural births! I'm blessed with amazing birth stories and two amazing children!

Who would have thought we'd be saying our vows at VCU, while celebrating the birth of our son?

Who would have thought we'd be saying our vows at VCU, while celebrating the birth of our son?

All birth stories are special, but the birth of my son occurred on a very special day for my husband and I. My labor and delivery story began on Friday, October 6,2017 at 3:45 when my water broke while I was at my house with friends and family. It was at that time I quickly realized the delivery of my first born son was not going to go at all as I’d planned. I was not at all prepared to go into labor yet; in fact I was preparing for my rehearsal dinner which was suppose to begin in less than 2 hours for my wedding which was scheduled for the following day; Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 4:00pm.

I had planned to have an all-natural delivery from day one; absolutely no medications, however, due to presence of meconium the physician notified me of the need for antibiotics and Pitocin. I was settled into my room and the L&D team got down to work. My original plan was to wait at home as long as possible before coming to the hospital, as I don’t do well with sitting around. The team was phenomenal in ensuring that I was comfortable and safe in an environment in which I could get up and ambulate freely while they could still continue preforming necessary continuous monitoring. Things were a little stressful and hectic while I was being admitted; as I was also trying to have my sister and fiancé notify my wedding party and vendors that the rehearsal dinner and wedding were not going to take place quite as scheduled.

Through conversation, one of the labor and delivery nurses noted that she recognized me, and I informed her that I was an employee with VCU Health System. We laughed about the circumstances at hand and she did all she could to help me relax as my labor progressed through the night my nurse went above and beyond dimming the bathroom lights and hung white Christmas lights to provide a more relaxing environment; this simple therapeutic intervention was very relaxing as I was back and forth from the bed to the shower while utilizing various breathing techniques and positions my fiancé and I had learned in a preparation course we took with VCU. I found the shower to be the most relaxing and thus the nursing staff worked to transfer me to one of the newer labor and delivery suites with a jacuzzi tub.

The following morning I was still in active labor, and not progressing as I’d hoped. Change of shift came with a new nurse and a wonderful nursing student I agreed to have present. I was struggling to walk across my room without assistance from either my fiancé, mother, nurse, or nursing student. I was very weak and tired at this point and we began to discuss some options for my delivery, we tried several things, but with no avail. My original birthing plan did not include medications let alone an epidural, however, through a lengthy conversation with the nursing staff, the attending, and my family I proceeded.

I slept for approximately 45 minutes after, the first time I’d slept since Thursday. Soon after I’d called for the nurse as I felt a change in sensation; it was time. The OB team and NICU team quickly assembled at my bedside. At 2:22pm my first son, Colton was born.

Needless to say, I was not going to be making it to my own wedding ceremony which was to start at 4:00pm. My fiancé and I had made the decision to stay in the Gumenick Suites since we wouldn’t be going on a honeymoon either. Everyone worked together to make sure that my son and I were stable for transfer prior to moving to the Gumenick Suites, upon arrival there the staff quickly assembled and worked to assist me to get settled and showered, prior to making the announcement that we weren’t going to be having our wedding ceremony at our home as planned.

Shortly after 4pm that day we made the announcement via facetime to the 110 guest present at our home that our wedding ceremony would not be taking place as our son was born instead and that the reception would proceed as planned. Everyone celebrated and partied in our honor and also celebrated the arrival of our newest family member. My RN offered to call for clergy to marry us, however, we had already arranged for our officiant to come to hospital. That evening we were married in our room in the presence of our closest family members.

I had asked the staff if we could have our out of town family members visit the next morning and for recommendations for a catered breakfast from the area, since we had planned to have a brunch the morning following our wedding. The staff went above and beyond; they contacted their charge nurse and chef on the Gumenick unit; the team came together and offered to arrange for a brunch in an available space on the unit. Normally hospital weddings take place due to grimmer circumstances, however, the staff were excited to celebrate this exciting event with us and you could tell. Everyone worked together with my husband and my mother to make our wedding experience a pleasant one. The brunch that was provided was absolutely amazing, I could not have asked for anything better.

We laugh about the situation now. As my mom and dad met at VCU many years ago in the ER, and my husband and I met in an ER at an outside hospital; who would have thought we would be saying our vows at VCU while celebrating the birth of our youngest son. This was not at all what I had pictured for my wedding nor the birth of my son, but what a memorable day; a wedding and a birthday.

I could not be prouder to call myself a member of VCU’s Healthcare team, it was the demonstration of excellent care and going above and beyond the call of duty by all staff that made this memorable day an extra special . I truly feel this example embodies the dedication and commitment of all staff members within the VCU Health System.

My calm determination was replaced by something a little more animalistic.

My calm determination was replaced by something a little more animalistic.

There’s nothing like gentle encouragement and positive reinforcement to make a scary situation seem less daunting. That’s exactly what I received from the midwives at VCU during my prenatal care and delivery of both of my sons.

My most recent visit to labor and delivery began around 5pm on August 9 2017. I woke up that morning, 6 days past my due date, bound and determined that this would be the day, like I had been for the past 2 weeks, but I digress The day started off with some mild contractions. I had had a wonderful pregnancy up to that point. I had met all of the midwives and felt so comfortable with all of them, even the new hire, Jen, that we had only met a couple of times. There was an instant comfort ability about her. So, when I finally made the phone call that afternoon around 3pm, I was pleased to hear Jen’s friendly voice.

My contractions were consistently 5-6 minutes apart, but they weren’t very strong. I was still able to talk through each wave. Jen told me to relax and hang tight and to call back in an hour. I gave it two hours because I really wanted to be sure my labor was going to progress. Backing up, I was in labor for 37 1/2 hours with my first son and spent 29 of that at VCU. So, obviously that being my biggest fear, I didn’t want a repeat, even as nice as the staff and facility are. So, two hours later, my contractions were coming steadily 4 minutes apart, but still manageable. I called Jen and told her I was going to come on in. I was GBS positive, so I wanted to make sure I was there in time to get antibiotics. Thank goodness Jen said “Alright. I’ll let them know you’re coming”.

When we got there, the waiting room was full and there was some kind of city wide baby bonanza. We were one of the last 3 couples to be admitted that evening. I labored in the waiting room for almost 2 hours. Waves were consistent and getting more intense, but still manageable. When they finally took us back, we were put in the same room where I delivered my first son. I took it as a good omen. Wonderful things happened in that room.

When Jen checked me around 8:30, I was only 3 cm dialated. Man that was a blow, but Jen was an optimist and told me to get walking. She said if I progressed a cm (or 2, fingers crossed) she’d let me stay. She told me to find some stairs if possible and to try to walk through the contractions and that she would meet me back in an hour or so.

My husband and I b-lined it to the stairwell in the main hospital. We climbed up those 8 flights of stairs and back down, took a lap around the hospital and then went right back for stair master round two. We climbed right back up those 8 flights. I took Jen’s words to heart, and I didn’t stop moving for a second. Just breath and climb. We cam back down the steps, with tighter calves this time, and took another lap around the hospital. Then we went back for round 3. I climbed 3 flights, yes 19 flights total, realized I was being ridiculous and needed to preserve some energy for delivery. We got off at the 3rd floor.

My contractions were really intense at this point. I stood still for a minute and I heard a pop and then felt a rush as my water broke. This happened 40 minuets after leaving my room. After my water broke, my calm determination was replaced by something a little more animalistic. I went to the bathroom to clean up as soon as we got in the room. I sat down on that toilet and knew I would be living there for a while because I could not possibly move. Our sweet nurse said she could get my IV set up while I was in the bathroom. Yes please.

I was very quiet during all of this until that was no longer possible. When I screamed out for the first time, she ran out to get Jen. Next thing I knew Jen was demanding I get off the toilet. I got down on my hands and knees. My husband was in my face telling me that he’d be here soon. Total confusion and 5 minutes of pushing later, my healthy beautiful baby boy arrived at 10:06. So much love. Perfect! Thank you!

My favorite part, that warm naked baby being put on my tummy!

My favorite part, that warm naked baby being put on my tummy!

I was 40 weeks pregnant and just so done with being pregnant. I went to my appointment with Leslie and she checked me and said she wouldn't be surprised if he waited until the weekend (it was only Monday)...even though I was actively having Braxton hicks contractions. I may or may not have been a bit grouchy. She said the baby's head was crooked, and not pushing directly on my cervix, and there was a lot of amniotic fluid. I made my appointment for my non stress test the following Monday and hoped I'd have to cancel it!

Well, 5 days later, I was still pregnant. I had tried the exercises Leslie suggested, I sat on my yoga ball all the time, went on walks with the family and ate three pineapples... ha ha.

Then, Friday night felt a bit different. I wasn't having contractions, just cramping, like achiness. When my husband and I went to bed, we joked AGAIN about seeing each other in a few hours when labor would really start.

2:00am - my first contraction. I was wide awake!! I laid in bed for an hour and had 5 real contractions (they felt like Charlie horses in your abdomen). I was so excited!! I texted my mom and sister in California - my whole family was hoping our baby boy would be born on February 11th, which was my grandma's 90th birthday (and they were throwing her a big ole party). It was February 11th in Virginia!

I finally woke up my husband. We had decided that since my daughter's natural labor was 5 hours start to finish, we would head to the hospital sooner this time. We got our stuff ready, and hung out downstairs a bit, I wanted to make sure I was still having contractions. I was, but they weren't getting any stronger....but they were closer together. Every 5-7 minutes. I wasn't sure I should call the midwife on call, but since I progressed so fast with my daughter once things started rolling, we decided to call. I only had the experience of my daughter's natural birth, since with my first son, I had an epidural and my water broke before I ever had my first contraction.

Stephanie called me back. It was about 4:30am. We all decided that I would head in an see her in about an hour. Our neighbor came over to hang out with my two other kids, and we were off.

My husband and I walked around the empty hospital from 5:30-6 am before going up to labor and delivery. I kinda felt bad checking in when my contractions weren't stronger. But, it was too late now. I had already woken Stephanie up. When we checked in, Stephanie came out to greet me. I told her how I felt, and she said not to worry, let's go check how things were going.

I got changed and hooked up to the monitor for the initial check. The baby was fine and the contractions were still 5 minutes apart, but not any stronger. I was trying to will my contractions to get stronger, but that wasn't working either. Stephanie checked me and my cervix was still only 50% and 3-4 cm dilated....the same as it was on Monday. But, she said she either felt a hand and a head or a foot and a butt, so she had to get the portable ultra sound machine. While we were waiting, I was getting worried. Stephanie told us that if it was a butt, we were lucky because the OB on call was pretty much the only one who would do breech vaginal births. This natural labor was already very different than my daughter's. The portable ultrasound confirmed it was a head and a hand, with large pockets of water. Whew!

Then, we had a talk. Stephanie said the baby's head was crooked and I had an over abundance of amniotic fluid and the contractions weren't getting stronger because his head wasn't pushing directly in my cervix. We had 4 choices - but only 3 she'd recommend. One was to try some exercises for a while to see if we could get his head in a better position. The second was to start a pitocin drip to get the contractions stronger and to push his head into position. The third was to break my water. But if we broke my water now, there was a higher risk for cord prolapse because of the amount of water and bad head position- so if we did that we'd have to get prepped for an emergency c, and break my water (hopefully slowly) in the OR. She did say if all was well, we could come back to the room and continue labor. The last option, that she didn't recommend was to go home- but if my water broke at home there was a higher risk of cord prolapse.

She gave my husband and I some time to talk. I, of course started crying. I did it natural with my 2nd baby, I didn't want pitocin... and I had "heard" that contractions are so much worse with pitocin. I was honestly scared of pitocin and no epidural. We decided to do some exercises and if that didn't work, we'd start the pitocin. We also decided to have a baby today! My husband prayed for us and we got to squatting and waddling around Labor & Delivery.

Well, the exercises didn't work, so we had to do pitocin. I prayed while they put the IV in and asked God to help me not be anxious about the pitocin and to let it work (but not too much) because I didn't want them to break my water. Happily, the pitocin worked!!! I was fine for a while. Glad the contractions were getting stronger, but they weren't horrible. The anesthesiologist did come to check to see if I wanted an epidural, but I said nope. If I could do it with my 2nd baby, I could do it again. Recovery without the epidural was so much better!And, now that I'd have 3 kids 4 and under, I'd need all the help I could get.

Things were starting to roll. I needed to get off the ball and get some comfort. Stephanie had the shower ready and they started to run the tub. My husband was amazing. He could be a professional doula!! The contractions were a lot closer and stronger. I suddenly remembered... I was in transition. And I was handling it. Breathe, breathe, breathe. I knew I'd get a break. Then excitement that baby was coming. Stephanie wanted to check me before I got in the tub. I didn't think I had time to get in the tub. Low and behold, back on the bed I was I was 9 and 100%!! Fast! Stephanie asked if I wanted her to break my water. I started getting a bit nervous and told her no, just leave me alone for a minute.

My water broke less than a minute later (a torrential flood) then urgently, I had to get on my hands and knees. My body knew what it was doing. I birthed Jackson on my hands and knees. Right before the 2nd push, I said I couldn't do it. I tensed a bit because I got worried about how big he was. But there was no stopping my body. 2nd push and his head was out. His shoulders got stuck (shoulder dystocia). It was scary for a few seconds - but Stephanie got him out without issue. He had to be checked by the NICU but was ok, thank God! I apparently went from 5cm - baby born in 45 minutes! I'm just in awe at how AMAZING our bodies are!!!

My favorite part.... that warm, naked baby being put on my tummy!

I delivered my own baby in a car, thanks to incredible phone coaching from the world's best midwife.

I delivered my own baby in a car, thanks to incredible phone coaching from the world's best midwife.

Hello world. Meet Carrington Berkley Moody. She may have taken longer to decide to make an entrance than we all expected, but she sure does have an exciting birth story. Once she decided it was time to join the world outside the womb she was fast and furious making an entrance.

We were laboring at home after we put Our son to bed when things seemed to pick up quicker than expected. We called a grandparent to come over to be with him when it became evident that we wouldn't have time to drop him off at their house on our way.

In the next 20 minutes I think I went through about the next 5 steps of labor with the same pain I experienced at the end stages of Our first child's birth. Suddenly I realized this was the end stages of labor and not basic abdominal or GI cramping as it had been feeling like.

We had an adventurous commute beginning about midnight to VCU. I was having the urge to push before we left Blackstone and it became pretty real that I needed to let my husband Andrew focus on driving while I handled the laboring and the birth.

Our awesome midwife Melanie Hartman walked us through what to do via speaker phone and I just stayed focused on what she was instructing me to do. She had been there through the birth of our son and I was praying our daughter would arrive while she was on duty that night, but I never intended for it to be under these circumstances. Melanie could not have been any better. She was like an angel calmly instructing me how to handle the next steps.

Carrington was born in the front seat of the the moving Prius on the exit ramp as we tried to get to a stopping point off of interstate 85. The seats are so small even though the seat was laid all the way back I was suspending myself in the air to keep her from going into the floorboard. I caught her as she came out and thankfully she started breathing right away.

My biggest fear was what happened after the birth....and Melanie walked me through all of that too. While my husband Andrew seemed to be in complete shock, because I decided not to tell him that she was so close to arriving - he isn't that great under high stress and pressure.

We paused for about 30 seconds to make sure she was safe and then kept going toward the hospital. Our midwife and an RN met us in the drive circle of the hospital and got us upstairs quickly to check everything out. Our birth photographer was in the waiting room of l & d waiting to get to the room, when we came around the corner in the wheelchair and she heard a baby crying in my arms I thought she might fall out.

What a WILD night it was. I had just deliver my own baby in a car thanks for some incredible driving skills by Andrew and phone coaching from the world's best midwife. Little Carrington left us with the wildest ride of our life so far. I can only imagine what is to come from she and her brother in our future.

She is really healthy. 7 lb 4 oz and 19.5 inches long. Both exactly the same measurements as her brother.... we had a 36 hot labor with him and 5.5 hours of hard pushing so for about a year I was praying for A quicker delivery even if it was more painful and more intense. And God certainly answered. We are all so grateful she is healthy and for the great care we've gotten from the Midwives at VCU Medical Center.

And before you ask....luckily we had some foresight to lay towels and puppy pads in the front seat in case my water broke on the way home from the doctors appointment earlier that day. The whole car was cleaned up by Melanie before I was even settled in the wheelchair. Again. Thank you God for the little miracles.

Our amazing journey started with a hospital tour.

Our amazing journey started with a hospital tour.

Our amazing journey with VCU Health started with a hospital tour. When my husband and I got in the car after the tour he looked at me and said whatever we do we have to make this the place we have our baby. A few weeks later I had my first appointment with the VCU midwives, started Centering, and fell in love with pregnancy and everyone who was present with us during the journey.

Fast forward to my due date: We went in to see Melanie Hartman for my 40 week check up where she talked me through my reservations and anxiety surrounding labor. I’m convinced it was her confidence in me that jump started my labor less than 6 hours later.

At around 11pm that evening I started having contractions that were not easily slept through but kept telling myself to just stay in bed and mimic sleep the best I could. At 6am they had gotten to the point where I had to sit still and pay attention to my breath while the contractions came. I decided I still needed to do life (words of wisdom from the Midwives) so as a distraction I made my way into work at 730. Looking back I could have skipped going into work but at the time I really needed something to do to keep the progress going smoothly and the distraction was beneficial.

At around 1pm I headed home and Melanie met us at our house to check on my working progress. It was nice to just hang out between contractions and listen to music while she helped my husband and I change positions every few contractions to keep moving the baby dawn and share beautiful affirmations to keep my mind on my pelvis and baby, away from any pain.

At around 3pm she suggested I get in the shower and try a few contractions there. As I was putting my yoga squats to the test in the shower I must have hit a transition because she suggested I get out and everyone started running around getting everything in the car. Everyone who has said contractions in the car are no fun are 100% correct, more so during rush hour downtown. The valet guy was a trooper while he waited for me half hanging out of the car to make it through one more contraction before getting in the wheel chair.

Once we got into the room Melanie checked me and I was so excited to hear I was already 9 centimeters and could get into the tub. After working through many contraction in the tub I started convincing myself I needed an epidural. In fact I was planning it out in my head between contractions how I was going to get out of the tub, dry off, get fluids, and somehow hold still for an epidural.  Melanie already knew it wasn't an option and did a amazing job steering my thoughts away from it by getting me on the toilet to help move the baby down so I could transition to pushing. I was never really attracted to the idea of laboring on the toilet but the VCU team and Melanie changed that with some mood-lighting, twinkling lights, and cold lavender infused towels for my neck. The toilet did the trick and I moved back to the bed to start pushing.

Pushing was definitely a good change but the most exhausting endeavor I've ever had to tackle. But the reward was definitely worth it. My husband and Melanie caught Fiona Louise Horst as she fell into the world that day, March 23, 2017 at 9:17pm, beautiful, happy, healthy, and loved by so many.

My Birth Day and pregnancy would not have been the most amazing journey of my entire life without Melanie Hartman, Leslie Fehan, Kathleen (our nurse) and all the other medical care personnel that made my husband and I feel at home and ease. Thank you!

Despite being induced, I feel completely empowered by my birthing experience.

Despite being induced, I feel completely empowered by my birthing experience.

Originally, my due date was February 1, 2016; at our 8 week ultrasound, they changed the due date to February 9th. I had spent the entire pregnancy telling myself that the 1st was still correct. So when the 1st came and went, I was pretty depressed. Then the 9th came and went, then another week. We had spent the week following all of the advice (go for a walk, spicy food, bounce on a yoga ball and on and on). They all brought on a few period like cramps, but nothing more and would quickly fizzle out. Which, considering how swollen and tired of being pregnant carrying around an extra 37 lbs, it was disheartening.

Stephen and I went in for my weekly check up on Tuesday, February 16th at 9am. The nurse took me back and checked my blood pressure, it was a bit high, rechecked it, still high. Then I went back to see the midwife, Leslie, she checked it again, had me lay down on one side, then the other, all very high. She did my first cervical check, only 1 cm dilated. She then decided to send me to Labor and Delivery to have my blood pressure monitored. We slowly made our way over from the Nelson Clinic to VCU’s Main Hospital, of course, calling our family on the way and letting them know, that for once during the entire pregnancy, we didn’t get an A-Okay.

We were quickly registered and sent over to the exam rooms and the blood pressure monitoring started. After a couple of hours, they were able to get my blood pressure down and they gave me the option of going home and waiting it out or staying for an induction. Considering how my sister Cheryl, step-in doula and professional massage therapist (shout out to Taylor Made Massages), had planned a trip over a year ago and would be leaving on Thursday, I didn’t want to risk her not being there. I opted for the induction.

The on-call midwife, Gustava and the doctors on staff suggested they do an induction with a Foley Bulb (catheter that applies pressure to cervix) along with the use of Misoprostol (cervical ripening). We were told that the baby would be here within 24-48 hours and to get ready for a marathon and not a sprint. Stephen rushed home and grabbed the hospital bags and the last few things we needed for our stay. We then spent the afternoon getting our rest, perfectly placing all of my labor inspiration boards (filled with encouraging quotes and happy pictures), enjoying the view of Church Hill and waiting.

They started a hep-lock since I was GBS+. The induction was started at 5pm, and I was 2cm dilated. I was given a little bit of narcotics when the bulb was inserted. I spent the next few hours feeling a bit crampy, but easily managed. At 9pm, Leslie was then the midwife on duty. She went to insert the 2nd dose of Miso and the Foley Bulb was falling out, I was 3cm dilated. She felt confident that we would have a baby by sunset the next day. We made the plan to start Pitocin at 5am and rest throughout the night.

Around 10pm, I was supposed to take an Ambien since the contractions would be pretty minor and it would let me get a bit of sleep. The contractions were coming along enough and all I could do was stand and sway, so we held off on the Ambien, hoping the Miso would wear off. I finally took the Ambian at midnight. I was only able to lay down in 10-15 minute stretches a handful of times and then would be back on my feet, standing, swaying, eyes closed through each contraction.

I spent the evening with Stephen by my side, he was the perfect partner, making sure I stay hydrated, moved and changed positions, rubbing in the Riding the Waves Essential Oils onto my temples and back and staying quite as I found my Zen. Twice I sat in the shower on a yoga ball with Stephen spraying my back, until I got too cold and then would have a shivering spurt that felt like a contraction throughout my body.

At 3am, our nurse, Mary Ann felt like I was moving along and got my first round of antibiotics going. Right at 5am, the Pitocin was started, I was only 4cm dilated, but having pretty strong contractions that kept coming in waves. As the Pitocin kicked in, the contractions came in clusters, without any real relief. As the nurses switched shifts at 7am, our new nurse Kira and a student nurse came in and suggested various poses.

Cheryl arrived around 7:30 am and Stephen caught her up, she stepped right in with rubbing my back and shoulders, continuing with the essential oils. The contractions kept coming in intense clusters. Leslie came in and checked and said that my waters were bulging, so we would wait it out a bit longer, and then at 9am she would break my waters. I asked what time it was and someone said it was “around 8..” but it was more like 7:40 am. Those 20 minutes felt like forever, I kept asking “what time is it?” 8:02….8:14….8:22…and so on.

The nurses suggested I lay on my side with my legs wrapped around one of the peanut shaped yoga balls. The first yoga ball was huge; I got through about 2 contractions as they grabbed a smaller one. There was just so much pressure and I had it in my head that if I tried hard enough I could break my waters on my own, the pain would ease up and we could get this show on the road.

The pain overwhelmed me. I couldn’t cope. I made it through a handful of contractions with the smaller ball. I couldn’t do it anymore. I shouted, “I CAN’T DO THIS!!!” Stephen and Cheryl’s faces dropped into the “uh oh…” I had broken down.

Then Kira calmly said, “Okay, we’re going to get Leslie and see why you’re feeling so pushy…” Leslie came in moments later and immediately checked me, it was around 8:40 am…to everyone’s surprise, she said, “You are 10 cm and complete, it’s time to push."

What a relief! I put my game face back on, refocused on my Zen. It was time to meet my baby. We started by having me at the foot of the bed, standing, but bent over, with each contraction I would drop down into a squat and push, eventually my legs tired and I dropped to my knees, resting by standing on my knees and then dropping down into the squat. Then my knees started to tire and the pressure felt like it was progressing. With each contraction Stephen would hold out a cloth dipped with the Active Labor Essential Oils, which was a welcome distraction and helped to keep my focus. Cheryl focused in on my rhythm and swayed with me while rubbing my back and shoulders.

Out came the birthing stool. Leslie did an amazing job of directing me about how to position my feet and how my sit bones should rest on the back of the stool, each contraction felt like progress. As the pressure intensified, Cheryl sat behind me so her legs became a seat back, with each contraction, I would lean forward and grasp onto the stool and then lean back and rest onto her legs. Stephen stayed right by side, offering encouraging words, “You’ve got this”, “You’re so strong”, “You’re beautiful."

Soon they positioned the catch bucket underneath me; I knew it was almost time. Leslie told me to reach down and feel my baby; I could feel just a bit of hair. After that, I could feel the legendary Ring of Fire, it was a welcomed burn. Leslie slowly guided the baby out and made sure I only gently pushed between each contraction. She positioned Stephen’s hands around the baby’s head and then her hands around his and instructed me to push. The baby glided right out! Leslie held the baby up to Stephen, who was still in awe of the moment and not paying attention to Leslie when she said, “Alright dad, what is it??......well, I guess dad isn’t up on his anatomy…” Stephen refocused and looked, “IT’S A GIRL!”

Leslie put her right on my chest and waited for the cord to stop pulsing before Stephen cut the cord. I passed the baby to Stephen while I delivered the placenta a few minutes later. Then I was assisted onto the bed and did skin to skin for an hour and started to breastfeed her right away. Shortly after, Leslie stitched my superficial tear. After the hour, they scooped up our little girl.

Ms. Quincy Jacklynn was born after 50 minutes of pushing and a total of 16.5 hours of labor at 9:29 am, weighing in at 9 lbs 11 oz and 22 inches long. Because I had gone so quickly between 4 cm and 10 cm, I wasn’t able to use the in-room tub, so they filled it up and I indulged in the most relaxing post-delivery bath. It felt so surreal to see the morning sun shining through the room, my little girl having her first checkups (all perfect) and seeing my husband proudly snap all of her first photos and bonding with my sister in the most special way.

Despite being induced, I feel completely empowered by my birthing experience.

This birth was so inspiring, I feel blessed for experiencing it.

This birth was so inspiring, I feel blessed for experiencing it.

The birth of my third (and final) baby was the most beautiful, empowering experience of my life. I saw an on/gyn for my first pregnancy and the birth was very medicalized. Leslie was my midwife for my second birth, which went well but was very difficult for me. When I found out Leslie had moved to MCV after I became pregnant the third time, I knew I had to follow her. My care under the midwives at MCV was phenomenal, and I especially loved Leslie and Naomi (who was due just a couple weeks after me!).

The morning of February 11th I woke up at 4:45am in the middle of a contraction. Five minutes later I had another contraction and knew I wasn't going back to sleep so I got up. I did some cleaning between the contractions until 6am. The contractions were coming every four to six minutes. I texted my best friend Katie and my wonderful doula, Taylor, letting them know today was the day. I woke my husband, David, at 6:30 as Katie said she was coming over at 7. He hopped in the shower and I got our two girls up and eating breakfast. I called the midwife and told Naomi what was going on and that I was having back labor. She told me to do all fours or polar bear during contractions, which my daughters thought was pretty silly of me. Katie arrived and finished getting the girls ready. One went to school and the other went to the grandparents' house.

I got in the shower and labored with the water on my back until the hot water ran out. Right after I got out I had to start moaning through the contractions so we decided it was time to get ourselves out the door. I ate a small breakfast and finished packing my bag. David got the car ready and Katie was there with the heating pad on my low back every time I had a contraction. We left the house at about 8:30 and hit rush hour traffic heading into Richmond. We got to the hospital at 9:15 and David parked the car while Katie and I slowly made our way up to labor & delivery.

I had to moan (sometimes loudly) through contractions in a very busy hospital. I was too busy to be embarrassed and actually was quite amused. Taylor arrived as I was checking in and Katie went and found David who got lost in the hospital. I happily got the biggest room with a huge tub, which I wanted to get in right away. Naomi was to be my midwife, though Leslie was also there unofficially and managed to take a few pictures throughout the whole process. Naomi was happy to have Leslie there as Leslie was her mentor.

Naomi checked me and I was 4-5cm and 80% effaced. Eight days prior I was 1-2cm and 30%. I asked to get in the tub so they started filling it, which took forever! I labored standing bent over the bed until the tub was ready. The last contraction before I got in the tub was one of the hardest. Taylor was pressing my hips and Katie was holding a heat pad to my back.

When I got in the tub it was instant relief. The contractions were so easy I went back to just breathing through them. I labored leaning forward for a while until Naomi threatened in a mother-means-business tone that she would make me get out of the tub because the contractions were spacing out. Break’s over, get back to work! I rolled over and lay back and the contractions picked back up again and I had to moan. During a contraction I felt a pop in my belly and knew my water broke. At this point I was no longer able to chit chat between the contractions. Naomi asked if I felt any pressure. I didn't but she said if I did to listen to my body. The next two contractions were really intense and I pushed a little. Naomi asked me to check myself and see if he was in the birth canal. I felt inside (which made me feel in control of myself and the situation), and could feel my baby’s head right away.

I got out of the tub and got in the bed in a side lying position. I couldn't help but push with contractions. Pushing was really hard, it felt like it took an hour but when I asked later, I only pushed for twelve minutes once I got in the bed! His head popped out with his hand by his face and his shoulders were hard to push out too. The rest of his body slid out but it felt like it took forever because he is so long. I was thinking “is this baby ever going to end?!” I reached down and pulled him up on me and he gave a big, loud cry. I was smiling and so happy right away. He immediately latched on to my breast, everyone was amazed he was already nursing. He nursed from both breasts while I got stitched for a minor first degree tear.

Taylor and Katie quietly left soon after and I got an hour and a half of skin to skin with the baby. When I was ready he was measured then David held him while I got back in the tub for an herbal bath. I was able to pee in the tub which was awesome because I couldn't pee after my other two labors and had to get a catheter. The warm water also felt amazing on my stitches. My mom came in while I was in the tub and she was shocked that I already had the baby and was in such good spirits. And since the baby and I were doing so well, MCV let us go home after one night’s stay. When my girls got to meet the baby they were in such awe over him.

Levi Theodore is about to be two now and is a wild little boy with a contagious smile that lights up his whole face. I don’t have that “baby fever” feeling, instead my family is complete. This birth was so inspiring and peaceful that I feel blessed for experiencing it. I found out a few weeks after the birth that it happened to be Naomi’s last birth that she would assist at MCV. I believe this birth provided peaceful closure for more than just myself.

I trusted my body and the people I had surrounded myself with.

I trusted my body and the people I had surrounded myself with.

17 months ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver my 3rd baby under the wonderful care of VCUHealth. However, this time was different. My first 2 babies were delivered in a more "traditional" manner using an OB and never really preparing my body for what, I would eventually find out, it was capable of.

Due to high blood pressure in the first 2 pregnancies, I was given Pitocin to start those deliveries. The 1st delivery went well I thought. I labored overnight on Pitocin, but by morning time I quickly threw in the towel & got an epidural. The epidural process was a very unpleasant one needing a lot of adjustments & eventually a complete redo. Once the 2nd epidural was placed, I was overmedicated & I couldn't feel my legs so they kept sliding off the bed. However, this being my 1st baby, I really didn't know any better, stayed in a great mood & delivered a healthy baby girl. My world was rocked with the recovery & I was not all prepared for the healing my body needed.

Fast forward 3 1/2 years later & I was set to deliver my 2nd child. I continued my care under my amazing O.B., but at 37 weeks, we were faced with induction agin. I went into this delivery expecting it to go much like the first. Pitocin was started & I felt like I could handle labor a little bit longer than the 1st time. My water was broken by the MD to help speed things along & boy did it! I remember standing in the shower thinking to myself how terrible this felt & all I wanted to do was get back to the bed & get an epidural. I got back to my bed to get into position for my epidural & all I could feel was immense pressure. I was told to lay back down quickly so I could be checked & sure enough my baby was crowning. My 2nd girl entered this world so quickly & I was not at all mentally prepared for delivering her naturally. She was delivered so quickly & unfortunately spent 9 days in the NICU being monitored.

Fast forward 18 months later & I was pregnant again. The OB I had been using had left VCU, so I was faced with figuring out what to do. I decided that I would see a Midwife and figure out if this would be a good fit for me. The midwives were incredible!! Every appointment felt so special and they really listened to my concerns. I was concerned about my blood pressure, I was concerned about being induced for a 3rd time and overall wanted different experience.

I researched Doulas and met with a couple and decided to use Jenny from MyBirth. She was amazing!! We met at their office and she was so welcoming to both me and my husband. My husband and I took a class at MyBirth together and it was a great discussion on the birth/labor process. Even though I had done this before, I still learned so much.

48hours prior to my 3rd delivery I went into prodromial labor. I stayed in constant communication with my Doula and the Midwives and they made me feel so comfortable and helped let my body do what it needed to do without interference. The morning I delivered, I took a shower and knew something felt different. The contractions were stronger and consistent. I called the Midwife and she told me to come in based on how quickly I had delivered my second. I remember practically running to L&D.

When I got there I was already 6cms and my doula met me shortly after I arrived. The lights were dimmed and my husband and I were able to play soft music in the background. I labored on the ball for what felt like forever, but was about an hour and a half. I decided I need to use the bathroom before getting into the walk to the bathroom and back was all my body needed. I was ready to push.

With my midwife in front of me and my husband supporting me from behind, I birthed my 3rd baby girl on a birthing stool. It was the most incredible experience I had ever gone through. I trusted my body & the trust was really because of the people I had surrounded myself with; My husband, midwife, doula and a wonderful nurse. I'll never forget that experience and the support from VCU.

I can't imagine it going any smoother.

I can't imagine it going any smoother.

We welcomed our sweet baby girl, Louna Lucille Genier, into the world at 1:59am on Tuesday, May 31st. She was born in the middle of the night, which aided in us deciding to name her Louna, the french meaning for moon. We’re thrilled to have a beautiful little girl to complete our family. Now we’re even with 2 boys and 2 girls!

On Sunday, May 29th my doula, Sara Krivanec, checked in with me to see how I was feeling. She advised me to try some inversions to flip the baby’s position and help initiate contractions. I’d say it worked since my contractions began Monday afternoon.

I decided to check in with the midwife on call at VCU, which was Leslie Fehan, who told me it sounded like I was going to have a baby sometime soon, but no need to run any red lights getting here. I tried to cherish the moments during this early labor knowing it would be our last drive to the hospital, and our last time awaiting the arrival of our baby. 

We checked in sometime before 8pm and were taken back to a lovely labor and delivery room complete with soothing music, low lighting, and a big tub which I was most excited about getting in later. Our nurse, Kara, and midwife, Leslie, came in to monitor the baby’s vitals for awhile. During this time, Sara our doula arrived, followed by my sister who was bringing our daughter, Kylie (10 years old), to be present at the birth. 

Around 8:45pm Leslie checked me, and I was happy to hear I was 5cm and 90% effaced. For the next few hours we sat around and talked, listened to music, and ate snacks while I continued to labor. Sara advised me to sit on the bouncy ball and do hip circles to soften my cervix.

At 11:45pm I got into the shower to let the warm water wash over me. We brought the exercise ball into the shower to sit on again (ugh!). I rehearsed my mantra “I’m excited to meet my baby” in my head over and over while breathing deeply through each contraction. It was my saving grace to know that this pain would not last forever and at the end of it I would get to meet my sweet baby boy or girl!

At 1:38am I finally got in the soothing warm water of the tub. I leaned over to John and said “Yay, I got to use the tub!”. But by the second contraction I felt the need to push, and knew I’d have to get out.  

It was 1:45am and time to start pushing. I crawled up on the bed on my hands and knees and started pushing. I don’t know how many pushes it took but at 1:58am with one final great big push my water broke, and Louna’s head was born. I reached down to feel her and then with one more push she was out. 

I can’t describe the relief and excitement when you first meet your baby. It’s a rush of emotion like no other in this world. As I turned over into a kneeling position, Leslie brought her up to me. Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her ankle so I couldn’t see what sex she was until John leaned over and asked me if I knew? A girl!  

My eyes filled with tears as I finally held my baby, a sweet little girl, after months of anxiously waiting. The nurses helped clean us up, but left our skin to skin contact time to well over an hour before taking her measurements. She was perfect! And exactly what God designed for our family. 

In reflecting over my birth story, I can’t imagine it going any smoother. I’m so happy with the decisions we made in going to the hospital early and with everyone who was present. It was wonderful to have my doula, Sara’s help through labor this time, and I loved having Leslie be the one to deliver Louna. She came by to check on us the next day at the hospital and actually thanked me for such a calm and peaceful labor and delivery. I had to agree that it was the perfect end to our holiday weekend!

Dr. Isaacs assured me that I was not alone and that I was the best mother Leah could ever have.

Dr. Isaacs assured me that I was not alone and that I was the best mother Leah could ever have.

I was so ready to have my baby. I naively assumed labor would be the most difficult part. I had imaged horrendous pain, pushing for hours, and being completely spent at the end. All in all, I had a textbook delivery: did the first twelve hours at home, was admitted into the labor and delivery unit in the wee hours of the morning, and delivered an eight pound, seven ounce baby girl after thirty minutes of pushing. I didn’t realize at the time that was the easy part.

After Leah was born, I started feeling anxious. At first it was the typical, new parent anxiety about changing diapers, giving her a bath, being responsible for another human’s life, etc. The nurses were great about talking me through my fears and I loved the lactation consultants. Leah and I were discharged on Sunday morning and other than some issues with breastfeeding and latching, everything seemed pretty good in our little world.

You know that anxiety I mentioned earlier? It never went away. In fact, it only got worse. I was terrified that if I put Leah down something horrible would happen to her. So terrified that I wasn’t sleeping, I was barely eating, and I had trouble leaving her alone at any point. When I did sleep, I was having nightmares that left me shaking and crying. I spent one day huddled on the couch with Leah because I was convinced I would drop her if I stood up. The days were long but I dreaded the nights because I was so tired but if I slept, Leah wouldn’t be safe.

Then, the panic attacks started. With the first one, I honestly thought I was having a heart attack and I remember sorrowfully thinking that my husband was going to find me dead on the couch. I was having intrusive thoughts and was fairly convinced that Leah would be much better off with a different mother. Thanks to a friend who is a NICU nurse at VCU, my mom, and my husband (who had received pamphlets in our VCU birthing class about normal and abnormal postpartum behavior), I began to realize that what I was experiencing was NOT normal. I reached out to Dr. Isaacs and she got me in to see her the next day.

I was a wreck at the appointment, crying and saying that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Dr. Isaacs told me that she was so grateful I realized I needed help, that it was strong to ask for it. She assured me that I was not alone, that I was the best mother Leah could possibly have and she needed me. We went through my support team at home and how great it was. We decided that medication would be the best option for me right now but I also got information about talk therapy and support groups.

I couldn’t have asked for a better support team from VCU and I’m not just talking about the doctors and nurses (although they are AMAZING!). From the office manager who helped me when my employer lost my FMLA paperwork to Brittany, who always checked me in with a smile and remembered me from one visit to the next, to the lactation consultants, VCU has incredible employees.

Peace is a work in progress for me. As Dr. Isaacs said there aren’t any magic pills that fixes everything. Postpartum anxiety is still there but with support from my family, friends, VCU team, and medication I am definitely having more good days than bad. There is no shame in asking for help or taking medication for a season, a lifetime or any length of time in between and I am incredibly grateful that my healthcare providers cared enough about me to help me see that. VCU will always be my choice for pre and postnatal care.

Every person who stepped in my room supported my desire to have an unmedicated birth.

Every person who stepped in my room supported my desire to have an unmedicated birth.

I come from a family who believes that birth is natural, and women are strong, and who also believes adamantly in high quality hospital care. I knew from the start that VCU would be the place I wanted to give birth, though as a first time mom, the fears creep in. What if?

My biggest fear was that I wouldn't be supported in my decisions during labor and delivery, and I quickly learned that this would not be an issue at VCU. Every single person who stepped into my room from the nurses, to the anesthesiologist (who assured me I would not need her) to my OB supported my desire to have an unmedicated birth.

Each member of my team went above and beyond to make sure that I was not only supported and respected, but also as comfortable as possible. I can't say enough about this amazing team, and am looking forward to delivering baby #2 with them this summer!

I birthed kneeling on the floor, into my husband's hands.

I birthed kneeling on the floor, into my husband's hands.

I had two wonderful and empowering birth experiences with the VCU midwives. Leslie Fehan helped me use natural coping techniques during my first labor and delivery, including trying different positions, bouncing on the ball, and laboring in the portable tub (the unit was under renovation at the time).

My second birth was with Amber Price. The unit was fully renovated and looked amazing! I really wanted to use the tub for labor again as I had found it very helpful the first time around, however baby had other ideas and decided to come much more quickly than my first. I birthed kneeling on the floor into my husband's hands. The photo I'm sharing is from mere minutes after his birth. Photo credit to my amazing doula Linda Zaffram of Healing Circle Counseling and Cellar Door Photography.

"Thank you" will never be enough for the people who surrounded me.

In labor with my first baby, I had a long, overwhelming, exhausting trip to becoming a mother. I couldn't think of a place that I needed to be other than with VCU Health at that time. The midwives, doctors, nurses, and consultants there were kind, skilled, and joyful. They gave me just what I needed when I needed it, which, for me, was actually the chance to do things on my (or my sweet baby boy's) own terms, letting nature work it's magic and my body be my friend.

Without the support and faith that the care team had for me in my first birth, I never would have been able to make it through my second birth. I was able to trust my body and my baby this second time because I had learned to trust it the first time. Thank you will never be enough for the people who surrounded me at VCU Health the day (and night, and next day...) that I labored my way to becoming a momma.

Caesarean birth is birth. Healthy babies and healthy mom, meeting at last.

Caesarean birth is birth. Healthy babies and healthy mom, meeting at last.

At six weeks my husband and I found out we were expecting twins. Twins! We were excited! A little panicked, but incredibly excited! Right away we knew we wanted to surround ourselves with a supportive, knowledgeable team for a healthy pregnancy and safe birth. We found our amazing doula Emily from MyBirth and selected Dr. Isaacs at VCU for care.

At 37 weeks and 6 days, we went into VCU on a Sunday night to be induced. I had rocked a twin pregnancy and I was ready to rock a vaginal twin birth. After a foley bulb placement followed by Pitocin the next morning, I was happy that things were moving! I soon learned, however, that first time inductions can take much longer than I expected.

At each check I was disheartened by how little progress I seemed to be making. Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon: my favorite resident Dr. Frock, who was amazing at explaining everything, was able to break my water and I finally started having bigger contractions. From there the contractions got pretty intense. Our doula came late that evening and was an incredible support. Laboring was difficult because singleton moms can use the tubs, shower, walk the halls, etc. Twins have to be monitored continuously with wired monitors so I was only able to walk as far as the cords would allow - about five feet from the left side of the bed. I asked for an epidural at about 3am to get some much needed rest before the pushing stage of labor. The epidural was amazing! I couldn't feel any contractions and was able to get a little sleep.

Early Wednesday morning I was checked again and anxious to hear about how much progress I’d made. I was crushed to learn I hadn’t dilated any more since the night before. My doctor explained that we’d done everything in our power to initiate a vaginal birth. For the sake of my own health, it was time to consider a Caesarean. I had primarily been concerned about our babies’ health - how are their heart rates? How are they holding up? This was the first time since arriving that I had to consider all that my body had endured over the past couple of days and its impact on my health.

An hour or so later our beautiful baby boys were born via Caesarean. I was so lucky to have Dr. Isaacs and Dr. Frock deliver them. My husband, doula, and a birth photographer were able to be in the operating room by my side. It took awhile for me to process the birth - it was so different than the vaginal twin birth I had imagined. But Caesarean birth is birth. It’s our story. Healthy babies and healthy mom, meeting at last.

My mind and body knew that VCU Medical Center was our safe place.

My mind and body knew that VCU Medical Center was our safe place.

The birth of our Madison will forever be one of my favorite memories. The care we received throughout my pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and in the postpartum stage was phenomenal! My goal was a natural birth, so I chose to see the VCU Midwives early on. At the time, I wasn't sure how I would like seeing different providers throughout my pregnancy, but I think it made all of the difference! The entire group was caring, so incredibly supportive, and spent one on one time during each appointment getting to know me and learning about the birth experience that I wanted.

Our doula, Melanie Headley, advised us to "do life until you can't anymore" as we approached the end of our pregnancy...that phrase really stuck with me. The contractions started while I was at work (I am a VCU Health employee too!) a few days before my daughter’s birth, but they would come and go throughout the day and stop when I went home. I knew we were close because these were not Braxton Hicks contractions, but I continued to "do life" as usual.

The contractions continued on Friday, so I stayed in contact with our doula who suggested a warm shower and relaxing when I got home (I worked all but the last 15 minutes of my shift). My husband took our 4 year old son out to dinner, and I headed straight for that warm shower. While I was in there, I started having issues with my vision which can indicate high blood pressure. Midwife Holly was on call that evening, and I was so glad to hear her voice!! She told us to come on in for monitoring.

While we were waiting to be registered, I noticed the contractions coming more steadily, but what surprised me was how calm and peaceful I felt. Once we reached the labor and delivery floor, I knew that my “people” were there and we would be taken care of. We were met in the waiting room by labor and delivery nurse Stephenia and taken to a beautiful and spacious birthing suite with a whirlpool tub, gorgeous bathroom, and a big window with views of the nighttime sky. There was a string of lights glowing above the bed and the entire room just felt peaceful. Seriously, the birthing suites feel like luxury hotel rooms!

Pretty soon, midwife Holly came to see us, and at that point I could feel myself relax even more. My blood pressure was great and I was having contractions every 6-7 minutes, so the plan was to monitor me for an hour just to make sure my pressures were consistent. After that hour, we would make a decision about whether to stay or head back home since we were still in the earliest phase of labor. My mind and body knew that VCU medical center was our safe place…and when Holly came back to check on us again, I was really working to get through the contractions. She decided to let us continue laboring on our own since we were all expecting to be in this early phase for 8-10 more hours.

My birth playlist was playing softly through the speakers in the room and the lights were turned down low. My husband was in contact with our doula, who gave us instructions on which positions to try. I worked through contractions on the birthing ball, then on the toilet, then went into the shower…and all of a sudden, my body started pushing! Other women can tell you what this moment is like, but there’s no way to fully grasp this until you feel your own body doing it. I truly had no physical control over the pushing, but my body knew it was time.

My Mom, who was a labor and delivery nurse for many years, was concerned because we didn’t know if I was completely dilated or not, and I tried to resist the pushing but could not. My husband called Stephenia, who helped us get out of the shower and onto the birthing stool. Holly was with us in no time, and after checking, confirmed that I was fully dilated. She said “Push when you need to push!”. What a relief it was to know that we were almost there!

Stephenia would check on our baby girl using the fetal heart rate monitor, and pretty quickly our team saw that she was not handling the contractions and pushing very well at all. Her heart rate was dropping each time. This was an incredibly scary time for all of us. We went immediately to the bed, put oxygen on, and found a side-lying position that helped baby girl to recover after contractions. I pushed for two long hours and at the time it seemed like nothing was working. When I pushed, they could see her head, but for some reason I just couldn’t get her all the way out!

The way my team collaborated during this scary time was so reassuring…I was very supported, and never felt like I was doing this alone. I had the support of my husband, my Mom, midwife Holly, nurse Stephenia, and our doula Melanie. It was truly a team environment, and we were going to get through it! Now, it was go-time. We needed to get her out quickly. It was my last chance to birth her without intervention, and the suggestion was for me to just bare down and push without waiting for a contraction. I gave it everything I had and in a few minutes my precious girl was born!

Immediately, the reason for her struggle was revealed…she was born in the posterior position with a double nuchal cord and had it wrapped once around the abdomen as well! No wonder!! As our girl was being born, Holly told me to reach down and get my baby…what an amazing feeling!!! We reaped the benefits of immediate skin to skin contact, delayed cord-clamping, and breastfeeding right after her delivery.

Words just do not do the experience justice. Trusting my instincts, and with the support of an amazing team, I labored and birthed our baby girl without any interventions at all. Not even an IV! I know that if we had been at another hospital, I would almost surely have had an emergency c-section.

The evidence-based practice of VCU Health System paired with the specialized skills of the VCU Midwives is definitely a winning combination. I will be forever grateful to each person involved with our experience. Holly, Stephenia, and Melanie…your support and guidance made such an impact on us and we are forever grateful! You are all making a positive difference for laboring women.

My Advice to expectant Mamas is to trust yourselves. Seek the birth experience that is right for you, whatever that may be, and surround yourself with a supportive team. I encourage you to choose VCU Medical Center as well!

Every single person I encountered was an instant friend.

Every single person I encountered was an "instant friend."

Our daughter, Kenleigh Gray, was the first female baby born at VCU in October! A week late, I had to be induced and was very antsy for baby's arrival. The staff of nurses, residents and doctors, over the course of three shifts, were all amazing. They were patient and compassionate.

I will never forget the nurse that held my hand while getting my epidural at 2:30am, the nurse that didn't judge as I tried to freshen up before the "pushing" started (Ha, like any of that make-up stayed on) and the nurse that played tug-of-war with me using a bed sheet, when regular pushing wasn't doing the trick.

As a first time mother, I anticipated putting my faith and the life of my unborn child into the hands of strangers. The staff at VCU were nothing close to strangers. Every single person I encountered was an "instant friend." While there were probably plenty of other women on the floor, everyone made me feel as if me and my daughter were their only priority. And the support didn't end when we went home.

The lactation specialists at VCU went above and beyond to help me and my daughter get the hang of breastfeeding. Similar to the L&D staff, they were patient with us and very supportive.

The experience at VCU is going to be hard to beat. When your first child is born, it is a moment in time that will never be forgotten. I will never be able to thank the VCU staff enough for making my birth story as perfect as it could get. For all of you working on Oct. 2, 2017, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Giving birth can be full of power and strength.

Giving birth can be full of power and strength.

Thanks to hurricane Irma, my water broke at 7:40am Sunday, Sept 10. I was asleep, and then suddenly I wasn't and had NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON but I started shaking Jason awake and yelling "BABE WAKE UP I THINK MY WATER IS BREAKING!"

Called the midwife & doula, they instructed me on what to do and look out for. No contractions so took castor oil as directed around 12:30pm, after about an hour BOOM massive contraction at 1:30pm. Started off ten minutes apart and quickly progressed to 3-5 mins in about an hour. After having two contractions on the phone with my midwife she advised our doula meet us at VCU.

Don't remember much of the drive except for when we got downtown because hills & potholes. I remember saying just before each of the contractions in the parking deck, "I get to see my baby soon, I get to see my baby." That made it more manageable.

After mishaps getting to L&D and back to the room, it took a while to get in there, but once in tub, there were no handles nor nonskid surface so I was sliding all around, I just looked at Jason. He knew, and went and changed into his swim trunks. He got in there with me, literally had my back. 

Most may not know what a feat that was. Jason had a scarring experience in childhood that left him completely traumatized and disturbed by all things childbirth related. This is why we had a doula, so she could be the advocate for both of us and both of our needs. 

The midwives & our doula were so shocked & proud of him as they said most partners refuse to do that, they can't handle it. There he was, my strong husband, scarred & traumatized from his childhood, there in the tub with me, helping me through each contraction. Couldn't have done it without him and couldn't be more proud of him. 

At one point I remember asking, "Am I in transition yet?" I wasn't but I was about to be. Doula perspective on this - Leslie (midwife) planned to take some time for herself knitting as she thought we'd be there a while and the baby boom tuckered her out. She had just grabbed her things when she heard me involuntarily begin pushing, this surprised her and marked the beginning of transition. 

She told me to get out of the tub - begrudgingly, slowly, and had a couple contractions, I did. Birthing stool and Leslie's motherly guidance to positioning on the bed, and a few more pushes (half an hour total of real pushing) and our baby was here at 7:19pm. 5 hours and 49 minutes of labor and delivery for my first child. 

Fun fact: For half of my pregnancy my husband knew we had a son and I did not, he was the only one who knew.

No one said "It's a boy!" when he came out. I said, "What is it?!" They said, "Wait a second and you'll see!"

They slid my baby up to me. There he was.  "I knew you were a boy."  Those were my first words to my son, Quinn.  We soaked up our son for the first time. We didn't cry. We were all smiles.  7 pounds 11 ounces, head 34cm diameter, supposedly 22" tall. 

It was the best labor & delivery I could have ever asked for. I'd truly do it all over again if I didn't have to endure 10 months of pregnancy. I really found that to be more grueling (really the SPD/PGP and edema are what killed me). L&D was SO empowering. While I thought I could do it (because, frankly, I had to), I didn't know how I would thrive in bringing my boy into this world (with the coaching and support of a great team).

It is truly amazing what a woman's body can do to bring a beautiful baby into the world. Ladies - don't let the horror stories get you down. It can be done all natural, it can be fast, it can be done with only pain and no suffering, it can be done full of power and strength. You're more than capable. Even if it isn't fast and fantastic - that baby truly is totally worth every moment that leads up to you first meeting them!

You cannot go wrong by choosing VCU.

You cannot go wrong by choosing VCU.

I had two amazing and opposite birth experiences with VCU and couldn’t be more grateful. My first was a serene midwife-attended, unmedicated birth. After laboring at home for hours, I climbed into that wonderful tub and didn’t climb out until it was time to push! A beautiful healthy baby girl!

Fast forward two years later, and I plan to have the same experience with my second. But fate would take me to another amazing team of providers due to placenta previa requiring a lengthy antepartum stay and lots of visits from the maternal fetal medicine team. I made it to my planned c-section and the brilliant OB team surprised me with girl #2!

Having experienced the full spectrum of care, from the midwife team, the postpartum staff, and the specialists, I tell everyone , no matter your birth, you simply can not go wrong by choosing VCU.

Blown away by the skill and compassion of the staff.

Blown away by the skill and compassion of the staff.

We gave birth to Benjamin on November 5th. He was 10lb, 3oz(!) and over a week late. He was our first child born at VCU (our two older boys were born in another state) and I had no idea what to expect. We were absolutely blown away by the skill and compassion of every single staff member. Megan and Heather, our nurses in L&D, went out of there way to make us feel comfortable during the birthing process and attend to all of our unique needs. Our anesthesiologists, Ms. Graham and Dr. Nobles, were available as soon as we needed them. And Drs. Grove, Frock, Webb, and O’Connell provided expert care and gentle reassurance throughout the labor and birthing process.

Or experience on the mother-baby unit was just as impressive. I have always had issues with pain when breastfeeding but wanted to give it my best shot nevertheless. The nurses (Jessica, Emily, Theresa, and Vanessa) and Lisa, our awesome lactation consultant, were incredibly knowledgeable and supportive of my efforts - and did it all in a nonjudgmental way that made me feel completely comfortable. (It is three months later and I am still breast-feeding - at least for now!)

Emily, our care partner, expertly made sure the audiology test was done properly, and Nakisha from dietary services went out of her way to help with our dietary needs. And, of course, our doctors, Dr. Meloy, Pitman, Chen, and Albahri, were friendly, sensitive, and knowledgeable and helped us in welcoming Benjamin to the world.

Of my three births, this was the best experience hands down. Thank you VCU!

I remember the people, not the pain.

I remember the people, not the pain.

When I had my daughter at VCU I remember from the start the nurse who accompanied me back to my labor and delivery room was so supportive and kind. All of the staff members who came in during my labor helped me stay focused and were encouraging and supportive. I know there was pain and fear (of more pain) but because of the support of the nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, and residents, I mainly remember the people and not the pain and fear of labor and delivery.

The tub was A-MAZING!

The tub was A-MAZING!

On, Sunday, June 12th, I was 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant. I had continued to work my 8-5 office job, however I didn’t think I could face one more Monday of “you still haven’t had that baby yet?”. At my 40 week appointment I had asked my Midwife (Leslie Fehan) to try and strip my membranes, to see if this might get labor started. Unfortunately my cervix was still so high she couldn’t reach it without causing me discomfort, so we stopped. We had discussed what my other options might be to get labor started, including trying castor oil, however I was not quite ready to go there yet, and there was no pressure to make a decision. We planned my 41 week appointment for the following Monday and would discuss induction at that point.

At 41 weeks (Friday) I called the midwife on call and told her my plan was to go with the castor oil on Sunday if nothing had happened by that point. I would be 41+3, and my previous baby, who was also delivered with a VCU Midwife, was 11lbs, 12oz at birth (41wks, 3 days) and was a VBAC. This baby was also measuring large. We discussed the necessary steps on how I should prepare and take the castor oil, and that I should call on Sunday to let the Midwife on call know what I was doing. Sunday morning I called and was given the green light. I spoke to my Doula (Melanie at A Brighter Birth), and confirmed she was a ‘go’ as well. I ate the castor oil mixed with peanut butter on two slices of toast at 10am.

Around 1pm I laid down to try and take a nap and within minutes had my first contraction. A few minutes later I had another. After about 15 minutes I started timing them and they were about 3 min apart, but only lasting 30 seconds and were not that uncomfortable.

At 3pm I was still having 30-45 second contractions 2-3min apart, but they were still not that uncomfortable. I texted my doula to let her know what was going on and she suggested a walk. I went for a walk, which did help bring on more contractions, and more discomfort. At this point I had been contacting consistently every 2-3 min for about 4 hours. I called the Midwife on call and let her know I was in labor but did not feel ready to come in at that point. She agreed with that plan and said to call back in an hour. I had not experienced any blood or mucus, so I assumed this meant I was not dilating and was feeling very discouraged that I wasn’t making any progress. The midwife on call suggested that I hadn’t taken enough castor oil and said I should try to take a second dose. I was still contracting every 2-3min and it was getting increasingly more uncomfortable. I was now having to use a more focus and strength to get through each contraction. I could not eat more castor oil.

At 7 pm I decided I was ready to go in to the hospital. I had been consistently contracting every 2-3 min for 6 hours, and my contractions were now lasting a min long. I had tested GBS+ and knew I needed to get a couple doses of antibiotics before delivering. I had still not experienced any bloody show or mucus and in the back of my mind I was thinking this all may end up fizzling out.

I was very nervous arriving at the hospital, especially since I had not seen any indication that I was actually in labor and making progress. My midwife (Ashley) asked me how I felt about not knowing how much I was dilated. She was worried I would put too much stock in the number and its importance. I told her that was fine, as long as I was making progress. She checked me and let me know that I was making progress. I later found out that I was 5cm at that point, which would have made me ecstatic since I hadn’t seen any sign that I was dilating. I spent the next 3 hours laboring around the room and in the bathroom sitting backwards on the toilet per my doula’s suggestion. Ashley would check my progress if I requested it, and just let me know I was ‘making progress’. She stayed close by, supporting me during my labor… literally, she was actually holding me at one point while I sat on a balance ball. Everyone around me supported whatever it was I felt I needed to do. There was zero judgement.

At some point the tub was ready and that was A-MAZING! I went through transition in the tub. At the time I had no concept of where I was in the process. In my head I was just hoping I was at least 3cm at this point. My water still had not broken and my doula encouraged me to try getting in squatting position in the tub and bear down with contractions. It worked, my water broke. Almost immediately after that I felt the urge to push. I got out of the tub and headed back to the bed and instinctively just went to my hands and knees and started pushing. Ashley checked me and said there was a little lip of cervix left and to try not to push and breathe through some contractions. I think I made it through 4 without pushing, then my body just took over. We had anticipated this would be another big baby and the OB on call was notified to come and wait outside the room in case they were needed (My last baby had a shoulder dystocia). I delivered the head and again this baby was stuck too. The OB was immediately in the room and ready to assist. She was quickly able to free the shoulder and I delivered my baby into my own hands. It was a girl! Ninah Mae was born at 12:45 am, 10lbs, 14oz, 22inches. The room was quiet and I was in awe of what we had just done.

Felt like the home birth I originally wanted.

Felt like the home birth I originally wanted.

Although I didn't plan on giving birth at VCU, I had a great experience. Early signs of preeclampsia meant I risked out of my home birth plan, but the team at VCU got that under control by starting labor with pitocin. Shout out to my nurse Rachel, who even did her best to make the hospital setting more like home for me by putting string light up, turning on soothing music and getting out some essential oils. After eight hours or so, my third boy was born healthy!

My birth team never made me feel rushed.

My birth team never made me feel rushed.

My birth story is from the birth of my daughter on June 6, 2016 with the VCU Midwives. The day before my daughter was born I had a 39 week midwife appointment. I hadn’t been checked all throughout my pregnancy, but at 39 weeks I thought maybe I’d see what was going on. I wasn’t dilated so I was at peace with whenever the baby needed to come. I just knew she had dropped more into my pelvis and I was feeling crampy that day. That evening I had a terrible time sleeping and my water broke around 1:45 that morning when I got up to get a drink of water. I had a feeling this baby wasn’t waiting around much longer. I was right!

I called my midwife (hooray Stephanie was on call!) and she said to take some Benedryl and to try to get some sleep. Um, that was not possible! I tried but my contractions started coming pretty regularly after that - about 5-7 minutes apart almost right away! There was no sleeping! Every time one would happen I had to get up and walk or rest on all fours on the couch. My husband started timing them and we called our doula Heather McLees-Frazier and the midwife again to keep them informed.

From the time my water broke - 1:45am - until the time we left for the hospital - around 7:45am- I labored at home. Contractions were regular and growing more intense. My husband did great. He helped me breathe and count just like we practiced and it really made a huge difference. Every time my mind got panicky or I would ask myself how long this would last I squelched those thoughts and came back to my affirmations. "My body opens, my mind calms, my baby descends." Or “This is it..this is the hard work you prepared for. You’re doing it!” and “Stay within your center. Breathe.”

After about 6 hours of laboring at home with my husband and doula it was time to head into the hospital. Once we arrived in the labor and delivery room the atmosphere was calm and I could get down to business again. There was gentle music and my doula had essential oils for me to smell in between contractions. I was getting tired but I persevered. A couple hours later, I was really close to pushing and got the urge a few times when I was in the tub. Stephanie checked me and said I was ready to push.

I was lucky to have a birth team who never made me feel rushed and knew I was capable. My midwife, doula, husband, and nurse were the absolute dream team. They gave me hot blankets, cool wash clothes, and Gatorade. Lots of Gatorade.

I finally got into a good pushing position that was very productive for me (after trying several that were not as productive) and before you know it she was crowning finally and at 12:59pm my baby girl was on my chest and crying her little head off! It was music to our ears and we couldn't be more in love. It's an indescribable feeling!

Midwife Stephanie said my uterus did not clamp down as quickly as it should've so I got a small dose of Pitocin just to stop any excessive bleeding and she "massaged" my belly to get out any clots (ouch!). That was a little scary but they were so swift and knowledgeable I knew I'd be fine. It was a part of my birth plan and I felt confident and safe in their care. Stephanie said I only had one small tear but it would heal on its own so no stitches for me! I believe that was because I was able to take my time pushing and could listen to my body.

I got to spend over an hour with my new baby, skin to skin, and I've relished every moment ever since! It is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments of my life and also so amazing to see my partner become a dad. I got help with breastfeeding right away, and while I was not able to achieve a good latch at the hospital, we finally did once we were home. I was armed with so much breastfeeding knowledge before we left, I am certain that was a huge part of our breastfeeding success.

I am so grateful for the community of Prenatal Yoga Richmond and the VCU Nurse Midwives and our doula Heather. The birth community in Richmond is amazing and I recommend VCU to any expectant mom.

My cheerleaders.

My cheerleaders.

Giving birth is hard, but it is a whole lot easier with the right team behind you!

The staff at VCU cheered me along the entire way through my labor and supported us afterwards. The only thing that could have made it better, is if they could’ve done the pushing, but that may be asking too much. Thanks VCU for helping me through my birthing process!

We needed the best, and had the best.

We needed the best, and had the best.

Our story is a little more than a beautiful story about birth, it is one about the beginning of a journey. On July 4, our son Julian was born at VCU via radical cesarean. It went as smooth as possible thanks to the care and expertise of the talented staff. But our story starts a little earlier than that.

My husband and I moved to Chesapeake, VA for his Coast Guard assignment in May 2017, and we were close to 7 months along with Julian. He was diagnosed at his 19 week ultrasound with some form of skeletal dysplasia. Because of the unknown challenges after delivery, the Naval hospital felt it best that we plan our delivery at VCU due to their NICU capabilities. We met with the wonderful MFM staff and immediately felt as though we were in good hands. We had scheduled a c-section on July 24, and the NICU staff were all aware and prepared for the big day. However, our Julian had plans of his own and arrived for his own fireworks on the 4th of July.

As planned, the NICU staff whisked him away after a brief meet and took excellent care of him. The staff in the post-partum ward took the same care with me, helping me to see him as soon as I could, helping my husband care for us both, and ALWAYS asking how our little man was doing.

News spread pretty quickly about the Yankee Doodle in the NICU! Our journey began with the wonderful and talented staff of the MFM staff, OR staff, NICU, Post-partum, and Genetics staff at VCU.

Julian was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes brittle bones and dwarfism. The MFM specialist at VCU was the first person to suspect this via ultrasound at our first meeting, and the NICU staff confirmed this after birth.

Julian has a long journey ahead of him, but if the way he started is any indication of what's to come, again, I think we will be in good hands.

Thank you VCU.

Proud VCU mom of 9!

Proud VCU mom of 9!

I have been a part of this family since 1992 and am still with them today. The delivery and birth team at VCU helped my family grow. I'm a proud mom of 8 healthy, outstanding kids. I love every nurse, doctor, and specialist so dearly that I went back to extend my family with #9! Mrs. Sequawa Jones

Having a world-class NICU down the hall gave me peace of mind.

Having a world-class NICU down the hall gave me peace of mind.

The staff at VCU gave me an amazing birth experience as a first time mom. Though a scheduled induction was not initially what I had in mind, I knew I was in good hands and trusted my team. The nursing staff was so caring, and truly were my advocates when I needed them to be. They accommodated so many of my requests, and gave me everything I needed to feel safe and comfortable.

When my baby's heart rate started dropping, they kept me calm but were on top of everything so I never felt alone or forgotten. While I was mentally preparing for an emergency C-section, the team had been able to try different things that eventually kept that from happening!

My sweet baby boy came into the world in a calm but excited room full of smiling faces. They let me bond with my baby immediately and I cherished those first moments. My doctors were all so knowledgeable and amazing, and because it's a teaching hospital, I really felt looked after and cared for.

The best part of delivering at VCU though was the peace of mind that came with having a world class NICU down the hall and countless pediatric specialists available if we needed them. I recommend VCU to any pregnant moms looking for a fantastic place to welcome your child into the world!

The staff took every measure to give Luca the best quality of life.

The staff took every measure to give Luca the best quality of life.

Our journey at VCU began when I was 15 weeks pregnant with my second child. We were advised to transfer to VCU because the ultrasound was detecting a rare birth defect called Spina Bifida. After the High Risk OBGYN confirmed the findings, and explained other medical complications they were seeing called Hydrocephalus and Clubbed feet. We began meeting with a variety of surgeons and physicians that would be caring for my son during his undetermined length of stay at the hospital after birth.

Since Spina Bifida is known as a ‘snowflake condition’ meaning no two persons are alike, the medical professionals could only rely on what they saw from the ultrasound and give me what they believed they would be doing to give my son the best chance at a fulfilling life.

We were scheduled for a C-section delivery on September 30, 2014. Everyone was booked and scheduled to be in the Operating Room. But the unexpected does happen. At 3 a.m. on September 16,2014 my water broke. I called the Labor and Delivery Unit telling them to expect me and explained the unique circumstances of this pregnancy. Let me note that the L&D staff did an amazing job remaining calm while my emotions went from happy crying to scared crying to asking a thousand questions. Never once did they lose focus of making sure all the wonderful physicians we had been seeing for months were aware than Luca was on his way.

At 6 a.m. my son was born. I watched him be whisked away to the NICU to receive around the clock care. I was sent to my recovery room to rest. Upon waking up, the staff kept me up to date as much as they could about Luca including giving me the number to NICU, and wheeling me to visit with him once I could walk. He stayed a total of 17 days and underwent two major surgeries in his first two days of being born.

My birth experience begins far beyond meeting an OBGYN and L&D staff. It began when the staff at VCU took every measure to give the best quality of life for my son. For that I am forever grateful.

My nurse anticipated my needs and prioritized my comfort.

My nurse anticipated my needs and prioritized my comfort.

Of all the wonderful care I received during my pregnancy and delivery at VCU, none compares to the experience I had with nurse Derry by my side in labor and delivery. From our first introduction, I felt at peace knowing she would be guiding me through this very unfamiliar process of bringing life into this world. She saw me at my most vulnerable and yet was able to empower me to push (literally!) through the most challenging and rewarding moment of my life.

Derry anticipated my needs and prioritized my comfort, making it easier for me to focus on my newest family member. She was simultaneously an advocate, cheerleader, and teacher - a magical combination! Derry provided such personal care prior, during, and immediately following the birth of my son that it was a tearful goodbye (even for my husband!) when the time came to transition out of labor and delivery. If I could have brought her home, I would have! Thank you does not feel sufficient, but I am forever grateful for having experienced her excellent nursing care.

The lactation consultants set me up for success.

The lactation consultants set me up for success.

I had both my children at VCU and had great experiences both times. I know there is no better place in the Central Virginia region to give birth. My daughter, Lillian, was born in March 2013, delivered by Dr. Manipula; my doctor, Dr. Karjane, was there as well. My care team was amazing, and while I didn't really have a specific birth plan (other than to get the baby out of me!), they supported me throughout the whole experience.

I think there is so much focus on what happens during birth and, often, not as much on what happens after. That's why I was so incredibly thankful for the support of the lactation consultants at the hospital. I had a rocky start because something so natural as breastfeeding doesn't exactly come easily at first - both you and your baby are still learning the ropes. The lactation consultants made me feel at ease and gave me the tools I needed to be successful once I returned home with my new baby. I called the Breastfeeding Warmline many times (after both babies) with questions, and I always received a prompt return call. I ended up breastfeeding my daughter shortly past her second birthday and am still breastfeeding my son (born in June 2016) at 19 months!

The day my son was born, my water broke at work, and a co-worker drove me the few blocks to VCU. Everyone was so accommodating, and they ushered me back quickly to one of the spacious delivery rooms (new and improved since my daughter's birth!). My poor husband, an RN in the STICU at VCU, had just worked a night shift and come home to go to sleep when I went into labor. Back to the hospital he went! And once it was time to push, my son came out in one contraction! He was delivered by Dr. Kansky and an amazing care team of folks. I am so thankful to have had relatively uneventful births, and I knew I was in great hands at VCU.

Thank God for the team at VCU.

Thank God for the team at VCU.

Hello my name is Shelley and I would love to share my experience at VCU with my pregnancy. From day one, the OB-GYN and labor and delivery teams were amazing, they really took care of me. I had no idea my daughter was going to be born October 17, 2017. I went in for a regular doctor's appointment at 9:00 am, little do I know. After, they told me "you are having your daughter today." My face expression was priceless.

I was 36 weeks 2 days, had no idea she was arriving 3 weeks early. Boy, I was scared from what I’d been through... I had a tough time getting pregnant after I had an ectopic pregnancy before my daughter and lost that pregnancy. It was the most devastating thing to ever go through - thinking when you wake up from surgery everything is ok, but your child did not make it through. Such the saddest day in my life, but once my Angel Nevaeh Marie Harris arrived on October 17, 2017 through a C-section - because she was breech, never turned and the amniotic fluid around my baby was getting low, like it was leaking out. I had no idea. Thank God I had that ultrasound before my doctor's appointment. They said, "you are going to labor and delivery today." Wow, I couldn’t believe it.

I was emotional, happy, anxious, butterflies, everything. I felt so much joy as I was walking to the 8th floor 5 hours later. I was finally holding my sweet angel, wonderful blessing from GOD! Weighing 5 pounds 5 ounces - the most beautiful, happy days of my life!

I think the preeclampsia made me have her a little early. I was in the hospital almost 3 weeks, scared that I couldn’t go home because my blood pressure would not get regulated, but thank God for the team at the VCU mother-infant unit, all of the OBGYN doctors and high risk clinic. I thank u all so much for making me feel so comfortable as you all delivered my sweet precious baby girl. I couldn’t be any more happy to have my baby girl Nevaeh. You are a wonderful team. Thank You!!! God Bless!

Hearing people encourage me to listen to my body allowed me to relax.

Hearing people encourage me to listen to my body allowed me to relax.

At 40 weeks 2 days and after a prenatal yoga class, things just "felt" different- I had a harder time rolling over in bed and felt a real increase in pressure in my pelvis. At 40 weeks 3 days, I started having really irregular contractions, really no intensity. I slept through them with no issue. I also had this huge increase in discharge. I woke up the next morning and they hadn't changed much, but I decided to call out of work "just in case." It was literally as soon as I made the phone call to my boss, that things just stopped.

I felt pretty embarrassed by it all, but just went about my day. I had a previously scheduled appointment with the VCU midwives in the afternoon, so I figured I'd know more then. My husband went off to work and I just "did life," secretly hoping the contractions would come back.

My appointment was around 3PM and as my husband and I were parking the car, the contractions came back, albeit still irregular and with little intensity. I had my weekly ultrasound (I had had some high blood pressure issues) done prior to seeing Ashley (midwife) and the tech mentioned how low my fluid was- she said she doubted she would see me the next week. I told Ashley about the contractions and increase in discharge and she mentioned the doctor who ran the scan had recommended delivery within the next several days on account for the low fluids. We agreed that she would check me and we may consider stripping membranes or castor oil. She left the room for me to get undressed.

As I was literally taking my pants off, fluid started running down my leg- this was totally different than the discharge from the day prior. Ashley came back in and we both laughed- she confirmed that it was amniotic fluid and even mentioned she hadn't ever had anyone's water spontaneously break during a routine check up. I left the appointment under the mindset that we would be having the baby within the next 24 hours.

As we drove home from VCU (this is a literal 10 block drive for us), the contractions got suddenly more intense and seemed more regular. Within an hour of being home, my "bubble" was reduced to just a few rooms of the house. I was having a terrible time coping, as things were happening so fast. We called our doula who kept saying it sounded like early labor.

An hour or two passed, and things were even more intense- that's when I had the bloody show which quite honestly scared me. I wasn't ready for the amount of blood, despite all the classes and reading we did. We called our doula again and she listened to a contraction. She said she could come over now, or we could meet at VCU. My husband and I talked about it, and in the time as we talked, things were getting more and more intense. We called the midwives, Ashley was on call, and she listened to a contraction. She said she was fine with us coming in if we wanted. We decided to go to VCU.

The 10 block car ride was absolutely terrible- car rides in labor make you seriously consider a home birth! It was at that point I felt like something was literally coming out of me. Valet was closed, so we had to walk the parking lot. I don't remember much from this point other than people staring at me and opening doors saying, good luck! We got to L&D and I told the nurse I really felt like I had to poop- she immediately got Ashley who came and checked me. I was 7cm 100% effaced.

At that point, they were cleaning a tub room for me. I asked to labor on the toilet (which had been the best place for me at home other than the shower). It wasn't but a few minutes later that I felt an urge to push. Everyone just kept saying if that's what I needed to do, then go for it. This was huge for me- just hearing people encourage me to listen to my body seemed to really allow me to relax. I don't remember much from that point- Ashley moved me to the bed and checked me again, this time saying I had progressed to 10 cm at station 1. About an hour later of pushing, 7 hours total labor, Nate came earthside- a small, but very strong and screaming 6 lb 3 oz baby boy.

I'm still in awe as to how fast all of this happened. Fast is nice, but fast is also kind of scary at times. If it wasn't for all the support I had- my husband, our doula, the midwives, and practice from yoga, I would have been a complete mess. Instead, I felt strong and empowered.

I turned on my dance mix and started to dance!

I turned on my dance mix and started to dance!

I started having irregular contractions Friday night into Saturday and on to Sunday....Monday morning around 530a I called out of work seeing that my contractions were a steady 5 mins water was still in tact....I decided to see if I could sleep through them....I slept kind of off and on until about 8a where they just won't bearable and 3 mins apart, so I called my midwife Jennifer (WHO WAS AMAZING) and she listened and told me to come in....

We dropped off the girls and parked I told my husband to park a few blocks from the hospital so I could walk while I can..I got a nice little walk in...and felt a little better...I got to l&d and couldn't even sit...I swayed all the way to the room. I was checked and at 4 cm and 90% effaced around that point I turned on my dance mix and started to dance...I juju'd on that beat, Cupid shuffled, wobbled, whipped and nay nay, etc until about 11 and asked to be checked...i was at 5cm and 100% effaced!!

I was asked to lay on my side to get baby's heart rate up. So while laying on my side almost an hour I felt my water literally POP around immediately my contractions got closer and stronger and I started feeling like pushing...

I planned an all natural birth so I got down on hands and knees on the floor...not comfortable! So then I tried to squat...NOPE wasn't happening, so I got on my back but every time I tried to push with my legs up...OH HELL NO I tried that for a while I couldn't lift my legs and push it was so painful to try to lift my legs I flipped on to my tummy pulled the head of the bed up and put a foot on the arm bar and pushed 3 hard pushes and there was her head another big push and out where her shoulders ...I thought I was done they can pull her out I had to push one more time and out she tears, no meds!!! I was even up taking a shower an hour later!!!

She was 6 lbs and 14 oz 20 in 8/14/17....she's beautiful!! Here's my little Miss Amaru Marley Sexton...she latches perfectly and eats very well...and loves her fingers?

Treated like a Queen.

Treated like a Queen.

1 day before my scheduled C-Section; I went into labor while working at VCUHS. I made contact with L&D who were extremely helpful and suggested that I come up to the unit for evaluation. Upon arrival, they made me comfortable after learning I was in active labor. L&D treated me like a Queen and patiently waited for my husband's arrival so that I could go to the OR to deliver our daughter. All instructions were explained and I felt well prepared.

When she arrived; there was respiratory distress and she was wheeled to the NICU. Wanting to see our baby; the staff were so accommodating to us. They wheeled me to the NICU to spend time with her and begin nursing. After a few hours in the NICU; she was in our arms on the Postpartum unit. Our first child was delivered out-of-state and bonding was not pushed but at VCUHS; it was strongly encouraged and our baby girl remained in the room during my stay. Of course I was exhausted but the bonding was so meaningful and made my recovery that much easier.

Daily I was visited by the lactation specialists who helped with nursing and thoroughly explained the importance and eased my fears/pain. Nursing was amazing but I had 1 nurse who came in daily (I had to recover from my C-Section for 3 days) and made up my bed, cleaned/straightened my room, swaddled the baby, and assisted with even putting on my slippers. Food was amazing as well and I was happy to receive my employee meal for my husband and I!

Having our daughter at VCUHS was very sentimental due to me being born there 32 years prior! We are looking forward to having another child there in the future. VCUHS Rocks!

My daughter chose to come into the world this way.

My daughter chose to come into the world this way.

Throughout my pregnancy, I prepared mentally and physically for the experience of childbirth. I knew I couldn’t control much, as baby girl would be leading the show, but I wanted to focus on things I could manage. I spent 9 months practicing prenatal yoga, working on meditation and breathing techniques, and attending VCU’s prep classes. My plan was to ultimately have an epidural if I needed to, but to first use the incredible resources VCU offered in their labor and delivery department – the tub, shower, birthing ball, etc. At 36 weeks, however, my plans changed.

My doctor and I discovered that my baby girl was breech and she was too far down to turn her around. All my planning went out the window. I would be having a scheduled C-section at 39 weeks, 1 day. I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that all the preparation and planning I had done for the experience of a vaginal delivery were not going to happen. I wouldn’t even be going in to labor. I felt like I wouldn’t have the right of passage all mothers go through.

My husband and Dr. O’Connell, however, both helped me see that this was my daughter’s plan. She chose to come into the world this way, and that having a scheduled C-section was no less a delivery than any other method. I would still be delivering the baby girl that I so lovingly cared for throughout my pregnancy. I turned my outlook around and began, again, to focus on what I could control. I was scared to go into an operating room, so I focused on my meditation and breath work. I knew recovery from surgery would be hard, so I continued with my prenatal yoga so my body would be in the best shape it could be.

On March 16, 2017 we checked in to the hospital at noon. I was nervous, but my amazing nurse Erica helped keep me calm. I told her I was scared of needles and scared to get an epidural and she reminded me to keep practicing my breathing and meditation. She held my hand and made me feel safe while they prepped me for surgery. She kept eye contact with me and helped me focus on other, positive things while I got my epidural. Finally they let my husband into the operating room and we got down to business. At 3:23 PM Josephine arrived. She was perfect in every way.

My delivery may not have gone as I had planned, but I am so appreciative of the staff at VCU for everything they did for my family. For Dr. O’Connell who helped me deliver my baby girl safely. For Erica who kept me calm when I was scared. For the nurse whose name I cannot remember, but gave me a sponge bath the evening after my delivery because she too was a mom who delivered via C-section and knew I needed some comfort. For the doctors and nurses who took care of my sweet baby girl in her first few days in this big, new world. For the lactation consultants who taught me how to feed my daughter and set me up for success when I brought her home. And for every other staff member who helped in any way possible. The three nights we spent at VCU were a whirlwind, and I may not have had a chance to tell you in person, but I appreciate you all.

Nine months later, Josephine is the happiest little girl. She has four teeth, loves bananas, is always smiling, and plays music with her dad every day. She is the best thing that ever happened to us. We are so lucky to be her parents.

Everyone worked together and stayed positive.

Everyone worked together and stayed positive.

At 12:45am on June 13th I woke up feeling weird, and began one of the most exciting days of my life. I labored at home for several hours and called the midwife and my doula for advice. My doula arrived at my home and tried to encourage me to snack and rest, but by 6am we were ready to head to the hospital. We parked and checked in fairly quickly and I got to sit on a birthing ball while having contractions and getting monitored. My nurse, Katie, was great. Very encouraging and she monitored the babies heart rate and administered antibiotics while I was laboring with my husband and doula's support.

My midwife, Ashley, stayed in the room the whole time. She constantly monitored my progress and applied olive oil and heated compress. The doula, nurse, and midwife suggested several different positions for the pushing phase. I pushed for a long time, but everyone worked together and stayed positive during this very tiring time.

Katie was great about taking care of all the behind the scenes work - changing bedding and cleaning me up when needed. When Piper finally made her debut at 12:45 pm Katie pointed out she was having a hard time catching her breath and the team for newborns came in and checked her quickly and returned her to me for the first latch. After getting checked to determine that I didn't need stitches I was sent onto recovery.

During my stay in recovery we met several nurses and they were all supportive of breastfeeding and answering any questions we might have. They also gave us a break from checks during the night so my husband and I could actually get a little sleep. The midwives came in to check on me once a day, and doctors came to check on Piper after her initial breathing issue.

We also found a pediatrician that we love at one of the VCU satellite offices in Chesterfield, so all our records were already on file when we went to visit. I had a couple issues with breastfeeding during the early weeks and was able to reach the midwives through the portal to get questions answers and issues fixed. Also, our pediatrician was able to answer breastfeeding questions when we took Piper in for her check ups. Now we are anxiously awaiting our second child and we will be with the VCU Midwives for a second time.

My nurse told me I was her superhero, but she was actually mine!

My nurse told me I was her superhero, but she was actually mine!

From the very beginning I knew giving birth wasn't going to follow any kind of plan, so I went into it with an open mind. Around the 34 week mark I learned I had a low platelet count, not completely understanding what that meant & after a series of blood draws & doctor visits, I found out that I would have to give birth naturally. I didn't fear giving birth when I first learned I was pregnant, because I knew with an epidural, I would be just fine, however with this new diagnosis a lot of fear & uncertainly set in! I literally had at best 6 weeks to prepare myself for a natural delivery!

My little one decided he would come at 38 weeks, the day before I was suppose to meet with a doula! A nurse was assigned to me on a very busy Monday afternoon, she came in & out of the room a few times & told me she was going into a c-section so it would be a little while before she saw me again. I was giving a mild pain med & was able to get in a quick nap. At 5pm she came in & told me very bluntly, that it was going to get very intense from here & I needed to get my head in the game.

She walked out of the room & came back with a string of lights, soft music, essential oils, & experience that you can only hope your nurse has! She showed me different positions to help with contractions & helped my husband rub my back. Shift change happened & I was introduced to another amazing nurse. She saw me at my absolute worse. Crying, screaming, begging to just let me give up-- but she coached me through. She stayed with me all night, we tried every position to help with the pain, went from the shower to the bathtub back to the bed. I truly don't remember much in between the time I labored in bed & feeling my little one being placed on my chest at 241am on Tuesday morning!

I truly could not have asked for a better delivery team! My nurse came in around 6am & told me I was their superhero, I never got a chance to tell them they were actually mine! Our little one had a few breathing problems after being sent to 8E & those nurses were nothing short of amazing as well. My little one had to go to the NICU for 24 hours & my 8E nurse made sure I was about to make it to see him as well as making sure that I was physically OK. I could not have asked for a better team & I am so thankful for each & every one of them!

Postpartum care was superb.

Postpartum care was superb.

I was blessed enough to give birth to THREE babies at VCU Health between 2010 and 2017 and each experience was exactly what I, and my babies needed. The nurses were all very calming, patient and enjoyable to be around. I was relaxed, and comfortable.

Dr. Nicole Karjane, my OBGYN, was fantastic, and supported my needs the whole time. Postpartum care was superb, from the nurses, to the custodial care, to the people delivering my meals. Tessa, my third baby, never left my side the whole time, as all testing, bathing, and measuring was done bed-side.

I breastfed all three and felt that I had plenty of support, and phone numbers to call when I went home if needed! The transition from hospital to home was smooth, much in part due to my VCU Health experience. Much thanks to every single member of that staff for their attention to detail and emotional and physical care and support!

Me and my baby were in the safest place for us.

Me and my baby were in the safest place for us.

After a horrible delivery with my first child at another local hospital, and falling ill to a mystery illness halfway through my second pregnancy, I found myself at VCU with the high risk OBs.

VCU was a huge hospital and I was so nervous about delivering there. I had complications and spent a good amount of time in the labor and delivery unit, on a few occasions. My health care team, doctors, nurses and beyond, were absolutely more than I could have ever asked for. I was allowed to be up and moving, make use of the labor tub, and felt like myself and my baby were truly in the safest place for us. I was allowed to catch my baby myself and was given so much support with nursing that I simply didn't have with my first. I recommend VCU to all mom's now, high risk or not. It was truly an amazing experience.

Reach down and grab your baby.

"Reach down and grab your baby."

I was determined to deliver over the July 4th weekend, even though my son wasn’t due until the 12th. At 1:30 am on Sunday morning, I woke up and thought I had to pee. The moment I stood up, it felt like someone popped a huge water balloon from my insides. My water broke. I woke up my husband, Lenny, and said “I think it’s time, my water just broke.” My contractions started about 10 minutes later.

We called our doula, Hunter, and told her we’d just keep her updated. About an hour later, I told Lenny to call Hunter again and get her over here. We called the hospital and the midwife-on-call was going to call us back. My favorite mid-wife, Leslie Fehan, was on-call and I immediately felt relieved. She was the one who I knew the best (she taught our centering pregnancy class) and is who I wanted to deliver my baby. Leslie told us to wait until the contractions were 3 minutes apart for an hour and then head to the hospital.

We learned a bunch of helpful massage techniques and coping rituals in A Brighter Birth but I didn’t want anyone to speak to me or touch me. I would just bear down through each contraction, remember to breath and I stayed kneeled on our bathroom floor for hours. Once Hunter arrived, I turned into Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale and said “I want you both to listen to me. I’ve paid my dues, I understand what labor feels like, and I’m done now. I am not going to do this for another 8 hours, so we are going to go to the hospital, and they are going to give me drugs. And none of you are going to argue with me about it. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Hunter and Lenny both said ‘yes’ to appease me, we called Leslie and we were on our way to the hospital. I sat in the back seat on my hands and knees with a pillow in the car seat. It felt like I was going to have the baby in the car. We got into the parking deck, into the elevator and he dropped just enough for me to feel like I needed to start pushing. There were wheelchairs available but there was no way I could sit down. His head was already too far down for that to be an option. I’d make it about 100 feet before another contraction started. So, I almost had the baby in the 1. elevator 2. in front of the gift shop 3. on the Subway cash register 4. in front of Au Bon Pain 5. and at the water fountains in the labor/delivery hallway. We made it to the labor/delivery floor and I heard them yell “Mrs. Greenberg is here! Yes, she is near the water fountains and she is pushing!” Apparently, someone else almost had a baby in the hallway the week before so she was a little traumatized.

They got me into the delivery room and it was such a relief to see Leslie. They got me undressed and I told her that I wanted an epidural and she calmly said “no you don’t.” She examined me and said “I can see his head, you can do this, let’s go.” I couldn’t believe it. Lenny looked down when she said that and told us he needed to sit down. The two nurses helping Leslie were getting everything prepped to receive the baby. I was in shock that it was almost over. Hunter grabbed one leg and Lenny grabbed the other and everyone in the room yelled ‘push’ all at once. I pushed about ten times and it was the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done. I pushed one more time and held my breath and heard him crying. Leslie said “reach down and grab your baby’ and I grabbed his little arms and stopped pushing. Leslie said “no no, grab him and keep pushing’ so I pushed one more time and lifted him up onto my chest. I was so thankful that I felt all of that and was so aware of what was going on. I’ve never felt more powerful than I did in that moment.

Lenny got to cut the cord and have skin-to-skin time with him while I took a bath, listened to Beyonce and chatted with Hunter and Leslie for a little while. My parents and my brother, Anthony, showed up soon after to meet the little one, and we all got to relax before they moved us upstairs to the mother/infant floor. My parents brought me a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from WPA Bakery and it was the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. Ellis Milton Greenberg weighed 6 pounds and 15 ounces, 19 inches long. All fingers and toes were accounted for. My labor was from 1:30 am to 5:03 am on July 3rd. We immediately fell in love with our (almost) 4th of July baby.

Trust your body and the people there to support you.

Trust your body and the people there to support you.

The day before our daughter arrived, I had an appointment with one of the VCU midwives. She didn't check to see whether I was dilated, but did feel that my baby was in perfect position for labor, was very low, and that she expected the baby would arrive soon. I was excited by that last part especially, but tried not to get too attached to what 'soon' meant.

Around 9:30pm I started to have contractions. My birth plan was to labor at home for as long as possible and to get some rest if I could. I found that I was able to fall asleep a bit between contractions, at least for the first several hours. II had several mantras that I called on them during that night: “I trust this.” “I AM Doing This.” “My body is strong, my baby is strong.” “Relax, Breathe, Trust; Do nothing extra.” “My body needs fuel. I will rest now.” “I am going to get huge.” and “Let it go.”

Around 3am things started to pick up and I called my midwives. The contractions were around 5 minutes apart or so but I was able to mostly talk through them; we agreed that I didn't need to come into the hospital at that point. After that, the intensity of the contractions really got intense. I spent my time between bed, sitting on the toilet, and using the yoga ball. I’d let my husband sleep up until then, but moving forward I relied on him for massaging and putting pressure on my back during contractions, giving me encouragement, helping to keep me calm. I am not sure of the time exactly, but around 5am I started to have what I thought was the urge to push. I told my husband that I was feeling scared that I really was at the pushing stage and that we should go to the hospital. I used the bathroom right before we left; I had an uncontrollable urge to push again and and at that time my water broke.

We drove to the hospital, and once we got to our labor and delivery room our midwife, Leslie, quickly joined us. She checked me and said "Well, you're at 10 centimeters! You're ready to push!" I don't think my husband I will ever forget the look on each other's faces when she said that! We were so excited to know that we'd be meeting our little girl very soon and that we (hopefully) wouldn't be spending the day laboring in the hospital.

I began pushing soon after that. I felt very supported by everyone in the room. Leslie, our doula, my husband, and the nurses were all very calm and positive, and communicated very clearly what they thought would help or provide encouragement. A few positions and about an hour and 15 minutes later, my daughter arrived! She was immediately given to me for skin-to-skin and there's no way to describe that feeling! All in all, I was in labor for about 11 hours.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started to wonder how I would handle the pain. This was my first child; I have never had surgery, broken a bone, or been in an accident. During one of my last few prenatal appointments, I talked with one of the midwives about this. She encouraged me not to focus too much on my past experience with pain. I can’t remember the conversation exactly, but she said something like - at one point or another in childbirth, your pain is going to get out of control. But if you can keep your fear under control, if you can trust your body and the people there to support you, you’ll be in much better shape. This way of thinking helped me a lot.

I am so thankful for the incredible care and preparation provided by the midwives at VCU. Pregnancy is hard and there are really no words to describe childbirth. But it helps to hear - and seek out - stories of births gone well, births that leave women feeling empowered and strong, stories that remind you that childbirth is a completely natural process that women’s bodies are meant to do. It really makes a difference to have a circle rooting for you throughout your whole pregnancy, telling you that you can do it, that you ARE doing it, that you deserve to have the kind of birthing experience you envision for yourself. It wasn’t easy, but for me it was so worth it.

The NICU at VCU Health is wonderful.

The NICU at VCU Health is wonderful.

With our first child we intended to have a midwife birth. About six weeks before my daughter’s due date, she decided to come early, so we delivered our baby with a resident. And because she was six weeks early, we ended up in the NICU for 11 days. We had a really wonderful experience with the birth. I was able to follow my same birth plan — just as if I were with the midwives.

The NICU at VCU Health is wonderful. I was able to stay with my baby the whole time and the nurses taught me everything I needed to know before I went home. When it was time to have our son, there was no question that we were going to have him here at VCU Health. I worked with many wonderful doctors, nurses and midwives throughout that pregnancy and birth and couldn't have asked for a better experience.

VCU is where you want to be.

VCU is where you want to be.

When things didn't go as planned, VCU was there to save us. Pregnant for the first time thanks to VCU IVF (shout out to Dr. Lucidi & team), I never imagined what nature would have in store for us. At 32 weeks, I became very ill with headaches, high blood pressure and chest pain. I was evaluated emergently by the doctors at VCU and diagnosed with two life-threatening conditions, HELLP syndrome and severe preeclampsia.

The diagnosis meant we would be emergently induced, and we were about to be parents of a premature baby who would spend the first months of her life in the NICU. While it was a scary time for all of us, we were comforted in knowing that the whole team of women's health, including Obstetricians, Anesthesiologists, Maternal Fetal Medicine Physicians and Neonatalogists) were all there in one place if needed, no matter what happened.

No one wants to go through that, but if you have to, VCU is where you want to be. I was able to deliver safely and avoided a c-section. Our daughter Evie spent 34 days in the NICU and has already caught up in size with her peers. We are all happy and healthy now, and extremely thankful for the professional, compassionate, evidenced-based medical care we received at VCU/CHoR.

I love that VCU is a teaching hospital.

I love that VCU is a teaching hospital.

I had a wonderful experience at VCU Health. I was induced at 41 weeks pregnant with my first child. It was a really busy time in the Labor & Delivery unit that weekend, but I never felt like I was being ignored (and we cheered every time a new baby was born and the music played!) The rooms are nicely renovated and all of the nurses are so caring and skilled. I chose to have an epidural, and was in close communication with the anesthesiologist the entire time I was in labor - she kept coming back to check on me and adjust the medication if necessary. I love that VCU is a teaching hospital and they are "evidence-based", which means that they are on the cutting edge of new research.

Everything went perfectly with my delivery, but I was relieved to know that they have the best NICU in all of Richmond just in case we needed it. By far my favorite part of the entire experience was when the doctor held up our baby and asked my husband to announce whether it was a boy or a girl (since it was a surprise to us) - he said, "it's a girl!" That will always be one of my sweetest memories. I will without a doubt choose to have my next baby at VCU Health.

Grateful for being treated as a birthing mother should be treated.

Grateful for being treated as a birthing mother should be treated.

VCU Midwives- I’ve been thinking long and hard about what exactly I would say to capture how truly grateful and pleased I am at my birthing experience with your team. After having my son 4 years ago at another local hospital, I knew that I wanted a different birthing experience with my daughter who was born on February 26th, 2016. From the moment I came to your practice for my prenatal visits, I felt completely in control of my birthing plan. I felt like a woman who was giving birth, instead of a patient who needed medical interventions in spite of what my birth plan indicated. The midwives were totally and completely understanding of my desire to have an unmedicated, low intervention birth. In fact, that’s what they expected from me as their patient.

When I arrived at labor and delivery, I felt so comfortable, so at ease and totally in control. No one touched me without my permission. I was not checked unless I requested it. I was not offered any interventions other than what was necessary for my health and safety. No one told me how to labor, how to push, how to “behave”. I was free to move and breathe and be…I felt incredibly goddess-like. I felt like “I can do this…I AM doing this” and my midwife and nurse supported that feeling. When it came time for me to push, the midwife, Ashley said “I’m not going to tell you how to push…” which was such a relief to hear. I was encouraged to do skin to skin immediately after delivering my baby girl, to breastfeed exclusively, and to eat until my heart’s content (the room service is AMAZING!)

After I was well-fed, the nurse offered me the opportunity to take a postpartum bath! I was amazed that this was even an option and I gladly obliged! It was the best tub soak I have ever taken. I felt like I was at a spa. If we decide to have more children, we will most certainly come back to VCU because my experience was just that awesome. I recommend everyone I know to go to the VCU midwives for their child’s birth. It is worth every second. Thank you for treating me like a birthing mother should be treated. I am forever grateful.

I love that VCU supports women laboring in the way that feels best to them.

I love that VCU supports women laboring in the way that feels best to them.

Delivering my son at VCU was truly a life-altering and healing experience. The empowerment I felt after my son's birth was in stark contrast to the helplessness I felt after my first child was born. After a less than stellar experience with my first birth, I knew delivering at VCU would increase my chances of having the natural birth I desired. It was truly a transformative experience in more ways than I ever could have imagined, and I’m eternally thankful for the amazing team that made it happen.

I was 41+1 when my husband and I walked out the door at 7:33 on a Sunday morning last June. We walked into the hospital, and I signed my paperwork just before 8. Once in the room, I got on the bed and my water broke right away. The bed was in a reclined sitting position, and I held onto the back during each contraction. I love that VCU supports women laboring in the way that feels best to them. I remember hearing my midwife, Elizabeth, say, “The baby is at plus four,” and I knew it was time to push.

I began pushing while our nurse, Robin, used the wireless fetal monitor to check on the baby. I knew something was going on, but I didn’t feel scared. Melanie, my doula, later told me that the baby’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction and not coming back up. Elizabeth told me I needed to turn around to be on my back. Everyone in the room was calm, but it was obvious something wasn't right. Elizabeth, Robin and Melanie told me it was time to get the baby out. They were firm but didn’t sound at all panicked, which helped me focus and not panic myself. I would later find out that he had such a tight nuchal cord that it had to be clamped and cut before he was even born. He also had his elbow over his head, further complicating things. Everyone kept telling me to hold my breath and push as hard as I could in order to get him out. Melanie said to send all my energy into pushing out my baby, and her words gave me the strength to do just that without totally freaking out. The sensation of delivering him was completely surreal. I felt incredibly fierce and also insanely relieved, especially once I found out about his cord.

Since I didn't have time to labor in the spacious tub, Robin helped me into it after delivery. She sat on the edge of the tub and chatted with me about all sorts of things – local farmers markets, jam making, my blog, kids. There are certain people who touch your heart in a way you didn't know was possible, and Robin is one of them. The only moment I teared up was when Robin was hugging my daughter. She said, “Do you know what the best thing is about having a little brother? You get to take the kindness that’s in your heart and share it with your brother. Then the kindness that you put into the world is doubled.”

Words can't describe how much I treasured my delivery at VCU. There's something truly magical about delivering at VCU, and I will forever be grateful for the experience I had there.

My Magic

My Magic

There is so much beauty in urgency although we never get a chance to embrace it. It's as if everything on the outside moves in slow motion yet every ounce of your existence on the inside shifts into this eccentric rapid duet . I like to think of it as watching a flame dance in the wind. Dangerous to touch but so beautiful to watch. It's the Yin and Yang of life yet we rarely notice this during labor.

I had told myself on Friday,June 3 after my prenatal appointment that at 3 cm dilated and 50% efface that at week 38 I would meet "My Magic". She would tell me she's ready and I would just follow her lead. I told my baby girl that whenever she was ready I'd be ready and it didn't matter when. Well as the weekend past and Monday arrived. The small Braxton Hicks now and again seemed minuscule and I began to question if I really knew myself. I remembered telling her, "in her time" and well that meant it had nothing to do with how well I knew me but how much I trusted the little girl inside me.

My mother spent the night of Monday, June 6th and all of Tuesday, June 7th she and my husband stuck around as well. Tuesday night my mom went home for work but was ready on call to look after my boys.Nothing was happening. I felt no pains, no contractions and perfectly normal but they trusted my judgement that she would soon be here.

On June 8th at 10:40 am I woke up in active labor. Labor pains 5 minutes apart but rapidly moving to 3. I went to the bathroom, showered, called after my husband to get ready and call my Midwives. I spoke to Stephanie. We spoke while I stood in the shower breathing. Inhaling, exhaling and welcoming each surge knowing no matter when she decided to come out this was her journey I would not interfere I would not be scared. I trusted her because my "My Magic" had decided she was ready. My mother made it in record breaking time to my home as if she was camped outside my home. I was on the floor on elbows and knees breathing through my surges making space for "My Magic" within. It was time to go and as soon as I could I stood up headed off to the hospital now facing my biggest fear: The Car Ride.

The entire highway ride I imagined the swerves and narrow paths as a part of the process. It was getting me closer to her and it was preparing me for the end of a journey. And although I was trying my best to stay calm I had to keep reminding myself, "DO NOT CRY! STAY IN CONTROL! LET HER LEAD YOU. YOU MUST FOCUS!" We made it to VCU's Visitor and Patient Valet on Level 6 but continued to move slowly behind a white car that was very leisure about it's endeavors and it killed me. I wanted to scream to tell this leisure cloud floating in darkness that is the garage to MOVE! But I asked myself, "What is this White Car?" I thought, " White horse and carriage, White horse and carriage" anything to allow me to believe I was just getting closer to " My Magic."

We finally stopped on Level 1 and my husband took whatever spot he could. He grabbed a wheelchair while I got through another contraction and I sat down thinking... " This is the hardest wheelchair EVER known to mankind!" He rushed, He rushed, He rushed to every elevator. I watched and I watched as people moved in that slow motion. Everything around me; sounds, smells, the faces of staff members and patients all existed but in a paradox while everything inside me became a rapid dancing beautiful flame of fire... "My Magic." Surges and Waves back to back. Nothing mattered but "her" and I remember thinking, "All I need is to see Stephanie's face and I know I'm here. I know I made it here."

We made it to L&D and the front desk told my husband he must fill out some paperwork. I stared at him and noticed him shaking. I have never seen my husband nervous. I actually never knew in all the 14 years of knowing him that he had that emotion.The classroom presentations as a group in High school when we met he never seemed to worry or be concerned that we were standing in front of a bunch of our peers. The day he asked me to be his girlfriend he didn't stutter or stammer. The day he asked me to marry him he didn't seem unsure at all. On our wedding day he didn't sweat a bit as he awaited his bride. He delivered our baby boy at home alone without our midwife and didn't blink. Yet, he was nervous and instead of trusting myself I trusted our baby girl to give her daddy a little more time. He rushed through the paperwork and I saw Stephanie emerged from "The World of Code Pink." Registration ended at 12:30 pm. I was introduced to Jess the most sweetest, hilarious nurse ever. The surges became stronger and they were right on top of each other but I was ready. We hurried into " The World of Code Pink." As I managed through another surge I got on the scale and then another long white path to the delivery room. I remember sitting in the middle of the room and being told that pee would be needed. I rushed to the bathroom sat and... NOTHING. Another major MAJOR surge and I rushed out the bathroom took my dress off tossed it to the couch and up on the bed I went. I remember wanting to labor in the birthing pool, wanting low lit lights, soft music and wanting to focus all in a warm hug of water. I remember wanting to be on all fours or squatting when she arrived. I remember wanting to sway as needed until she made her appearance but, here I was up on the bed on my left side feeling her move farther and farther down the birth canal. I told my myself to be OK with this because it was her journey not mine, her way, her time. I told Stephanie to just check me and that in two minutes my baby would be here. I recall her saying, " Oh,I believe you." I told her just check for dilation although I knew I was right there. I remember hearing chatter from someone and shouting, "There's too much talking." I needed to focus just a little longer. Sure enough, check, check, pressure... " Your water bag is bulging. Can't really get a measurement." I here Jess say, " Should I put 10, 0, Spontaneous?!" And Yep, that's exactly what it was a bulging water bag just like my two other babies and that meant a babies head would soon emerge spontaneously.

I felt her head, I felt her pressure and I felt her reassurance that, "Mommy, I am ready. I am here.You said whenever I was ready. Are you ready for me?"Stephanie said, "Okay, Vallin you are having your baby." I reached down and focused on small pushes. At some point the discouraging feeling of being on my side reminded me of laying on my back with my first child leaving me with 37 stitches and I said in a defeated nerve stricken tone, " I'm going to tear!" I heard Stephanie, "No you're not, slow pushes just like that you're doing great." And at 12:52 pm and pretty much only 10 minutes of actually being in the labor room with just a tiny paper cut from delivery that I couldn't even feel, " My Magic," my little fiery flame, my dancing beauty. All 8 lbs. and 20.5 inches of miraculous arrived. I said," Oh, I feel much better now." No tears at all I was just overwhelmed with Joy and Peace.

There's something powerful about delivering a daughter. It's something like a rebirth. It's pivotal and dynamic when a woman can say she birth another woman. It's letting go of the world, it's expectations, it's demands it's desires and for once being that woman that finally decides to trust the little girl inside them. No questions asked and with no reservations. I committed myself to trusting her from the moment of conception. Any ups or downs I promised to trust this process. It's no longer figurative but literal. Trust the little girl inside you to bring you to both the end and beginning of the journeys in your life. Somehow, where you have faltered when you were younger and unsure; you now have the opportunity to trust her. For me that's truly "Magic." Thank you to my Midwives, My L&D nurse Jess and to all the nurses in the recovery unit, the Nurse Practitioner in Pediatrics for being so loving, carrying, sharing their birth stories and experiences with their own children. I felt welcomed, safe and super supported. I would do it all again.

Birth at VCU truly is special.

Birth at VCU truly is special.

When I became pregnant with my first child, I was with an OB-GYN group unaffiliated with VCU Health. I had always hoped to deliver my children naturally and wanted to be supported by those who would allow nature to take its course and not rush the process. When I began to have concerns that my doctor/group may not support me through an unmedicated birth, I made an appointment to chat with the VCU Health midwives.

I instantly felt comfortable with the midwives' approach to pregnancy and birth and transferred my care to them when I was 6 months pregnant - one of the best decisions I have ever made. Guy's birth was a transformative event in my life. I was able to achieve a natural birth because of the unparalleled support of the midwives.

Fast-forward 4 years to the birth of my second child. I was excited to deliver with the midwives again, but this time, I would be in the new Labor & Delivery Unit - bonus! When I entered my gorgeous L&D room, my midwife had already put on relaxing, soft music. The curtains were drawn and the room was dimly lit. Our L&D nurse was filling up the labor tub for me. It was a quiet, peaceful, safe setting.

Although my husband and doula were with me for support, my midwife hardly left my side. When time came to push, she was right there for the hour and forty-five minutes it took to deliver Coco. As we later discovered, Coco's umbilical cord was wrapped several times around her body, which slowed her descent. My midwife was by my side every inch of the way, recommending different positions and expertly guiding my labor. She did absolutely amazing work to bring my little girl safely into this world.

Shortly after Coco was born, our wonderful nurse, Robin, drew a fresh, warm bath so that me and my baby girl could relax together after working so hard. It was heaven! Birth at VCU truly is special.