birth story

Now that my hormones have leveled off and the "4th trimester" is over I want to share my birth story with those that have asked.  

Disclaimer: I go into great detail. This is unapologetically raw. I do not want to scare you if you are currently pregnant. 

I was 10 days "overdue" and my midwives encourage monitoring the baby once you go past that point. My mom (who is also my doula and the most amazing woman ever.) accompanied me to the fetal diagnostics appointment where they wanted to check for the heart rate, oxygen levels, amniotic fluid, and to get a good picture of what was going on with Mr. Fashionably late. They said it usually only takes about 20 minutes in and out. 45 minutes into the appointment, I realize they are checking on us all too often. 2 hours go by, and in that time Ryder was unable to find a baseline to his heart beat. He would take a 10 minute nap where his heart rate would slow down significantly and then wake up all jazzed about life, move around a bunch then get his heart all fired up. (This pattern holds true to this day) I believe the nurse called him a party animal. I liked that about her. 

The midwife sat with me and explained she did not want us to leave the hospital until we got this baby out. She was beginning concerned that after 3 hours he was not able to settle. She explained all the variables and gave us another 30 minutes and luckily he settled for a full 20 minutes. I bargained with her to let me go home and see if natural labor would run its course overnight and if not I would go in the next day to gently induce with cervidil which is a pill inserted to ripen the cervix. At that point I was 90% effaced and 1cm dilated. 

A very long sleepless night went by without any excitement. The next day we headed to the BirthPlace to get the party started. We checked in at 4pm on December 9th. We were making bets with family members with how long this venture would take once the cervidil kicked in. All I knew is that my favorite midwife's shift was over at 8am on Dec 10th, so I had it in my head that Ryder would be out by then.

Side story. Getting the cervidil was the first of many have-no-shame- moments in this journey. Since UCLA hospital is a medical school, and because of that there are lots of students there to learn. The midwife in training was prompted to administer the pill. This stranger straight up looked me in the eyes the entire time and was trying to have casual conversation as her 2 fingers, might I add were not lubed with a latex glove on, were inside the depths of my vagina.  

Anyway, the cervidil was a great success, it went in at 6pm and within minutes my contractions were regular and gently rolling in. It felt like butterflies or riding on a kiddie roller coaster. Now that the party had started we were checked into the labor and delivery room. As I sat on my birthing ball Rex and I played cards, music was on, mom was taking photos. I must have said many times "I could do this all night"  I was having fun! 

As the contractions grew stronger me and Rex started walking the hallways of the hospital to get Ryder to descend with the contractions. At around 9pm the contractions got closer together, I was glued to my birthing ball and it was time to stop all casual conversation. My skin felt like it was electric, and no one was allowed to touch me anymore unless absolutely necessary. Everyone was super respectful of this. Rex and my mom were incredible at holding space for me to just be. At around 11pm emotions crashed over me like a wave and I started hysterically crying and hyperventilating. As soon as I stood up off the birthing ball my water broke. And I immediately felt like I had to shit and push the baby out at the same time. Up until that point in my life I never had anyone in the same room as me while I pooped. There must have been at least 4 people in the room with me for that glorious moment. All shame was out the door. 

Turns out I was only 3 cm dilated at that point. I very clearly remember saying to Rex (more than once) that I never want to do this again and we are not having another baby. 

The only thing I could do was go into a meditative trance while I moved my hips around on the birthing ball. The sounds I made in that time were the most primal sounds that I could not even try to control. All I'll say is it is nothing like the movies portray. I was not screaming, ever. It was more like a chant. A low baratone, almost moo-ing animalistic sound. At this point, time no longer existed to me. The moments I was unable to hold myself in that trance like space I felt near death. As time passed, it was harder and harder to maintain that meditative quality. 

Around 2am I started begging for an epidural. Now, I never intended on getting one, however, I also wasn't in denial that I was unsure of my pain threshold. Rex and I made a "safeword" when It came to the epidural, we chose jazz quartet band. No one was allowed to offer me an epidural, and if I asked for one they weren't allowed to encourage it. But, If I said jazz quartet band everyone knew it serious. I started yelling JAZZ QUARTET BAND.

My goal was to have "natural" labor. Frankly, in the moment, it didn't feel "natural" to feel so close to death while giving birth. That might sound dramatic, but I truly felt at times I could not go on. I was exhausted. I was only 7cm dilated and did not have the stamina to go through anything more intense than what I had already experienced. My body was shaking, even convulsing at some points. I was shivering, I couldn't get warm even though I felt like I was on fire. I could no longer sit, stand, walk, bounce, squat, or even lay down. I wanted to crawl out of my own body. I bargained with myself that if I got the epidural I could get some rest so I'd have the energy to go on. As the needle was being injected I could not stay still due to the non-stop rolling contractions, so the anesthesiologist could not get good aim on a moving target. Unfortunately, it was all too late. Not only was it now time to push, It was also a bad epidural, It only half worked on my outter left side and left me numb from head to toe. It even made my left eyelid feel droopy. 

At 230am I started pushing. Honestly, it felt like relief after everything else I had gone through. I felt like I could actively participate in labor where as before it was all just happening in me. Fatigue was so serious that I passed out and blacked out between pushes. Before going into labor I had absolutely no desire to touch the head as it is coming out or see it happening in a mirror. The thought of doing that made my knees weak. Well, let me tell you. towards the end I needed it. It was the best motivation that all my effort was finally getting us somewhere. 

Ryder's heart was no longer steady and he had been in the birth canal for a long time. There was quiet chatter between the midwife and the nurse. Finally at 5:40 my midwife said "Emily, you need to make this your last push" So, I did. At 5:42am Ryder Thomas Lowry came into this world. 

Just yesterday, I was putting Ryder down for a nap by bouncing him to sleep on the birthing ball (which we still use several times a day.) I looked down at the sweet sleepy puddle in my arms and thought to myself I could have 100 babies. Then I remembered my birth story. I might need to read this from time to time to keep me in check. ;) 

 

 

Kk

This little cutie pie has been in front of my camera many times now. Each time her precious spirit evolves it gets more and more fun and loads more cute! Kk and Kendra are splitting images of each other and I always look forward to our photo sessions at Brand Library! 

As I inch closer to motherhood myself, I have to say having Kendra as a close friend has been such a blessing. Not just because she is a fantastic friend and human being. Also because it is inspiring to see the way she interacts with Kennedy. She makes parenting a little one look so easy. But to be honest, I believe the outward effortlessness derives from her ability to stay patient. Things never seem chaotic when I'm with them. Even when Kk isn't getting her way, Kendra has this way about talking so calmly and straight forward to her. Explaining everything and acknowledging her feelings seems to make the tantrums fizzle out before they even have space to erupt. I hope to have 1/2 the patience through the bond with my son that I see in these darlings. 

Check out my other photo shoots with this little gem to see her grow like a little bean sprout! From In the womb, 2 weeks, and 1 year. 

Mother's Blessing

I've gotten a lot of questions about my recent Mothers Blessing/Baby shower. I am more than happy to share the details on planning one, and creating a bohemian setting without breaking the bank. 

If you're wondering what a Mothers Blessing is I'd describe it as a celebration of life, love, pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. It is rooted in the traditional Navajo ceremony called a "Blessingway," that centers around appreciation, harmony, and shared wisdom towards the mother to be. The purpose is to nourish, nurture, support, and encourage the Mother to be. Both affirming her vision for a beautiful birth experience and the continued support from her tribe as she journeys into motherhood. 

I'll start by saying, I have had a lot of special days in my life, but I have to say, this one tops them all in how meaningful it was. I felt so unbelievably supported as the inspiring women in my life gathered together in ceremony to celebrate my rite of passage into Motherhood. A Mother's blessing is a wonderful addition to a traditional baby shower to take the time to not only celebrate the arrival of a newborn with cute little gifts,  but to also acknowledge and hold space for the Mom to be.

I had so much fun planning this special day! I had a very grand vision thanks to my pinterest search for "bohemian baby shower" As all the images came filtering through, my heart started to flutter with joy. I had to make my own "design on a dime" version of this come to life with all the inspiration points on my pinterest board, I'd say I did a damn good job of that (with the help of family and friends who contributed as well!!)  I'll get into the full budget details later in this post. For now I'll just talk about the logistics of the day's events. 

Initially, when invitations were sent out it included a piece of  teal colored card stock with these words attached about the ceremony  "Graciously bring a prayer, a letter, a poem, or quote to read to Emily written on the included note card to support her with love and strength during our brief ceremony circle. The notecards will then be added to a book for her to cherish"  

I planned the party for between 25-30 people to be incredibly relaxed and informal. As family and friends arrived the food was already laid out banquet style, there was no formal time in which everyone ate at the same time. Guests helped themselves to artisanal finger sandwiches and a hearty salad as well as apple cider sangria or an autumn spiced iced tea. 

There was a henna tattoo artist as well as a dream catcher craft station for everyone to contribute to a huge dreamcatcher for Ryders nursery. Everyone had time to craft, get tattooed, mingle, eat, drink, and be merry for a little over an hour before the ceremony started.

Once the ceremony started my Mother saged and cleansed the space as the shamanic leader of the ritual drummed and chanted.  I sat in the middle on a little throne cushion while everyone gathered. Once the energy and intention was set to the powers that be, each guest had an opportunity to share their own words of wisdom, poetry, or a quote as I silently sat and soaked in the meaning and beauty of their words. Not having the opportunity to talk during this ceremony was another piece to it being so special. I didn't have to worry about saying the perfect response. I could then just absorb and be fully present. 

The ceremony closed as we all stood in a circle and tied red thread around our wrists to symbolize the connection we all share. As we stood, bound together in the web of red thread, I could finally speak and share the emotions and gratitude that came up during the Mothers Blessing. To tie off the bracelet, each woman turns to the person next to her, and helps cut and tie the thread around the wrist. This red bracelet will stay on each woman's wrist until word goes out that birth is underway, then the thread can be cut to release the birthing blessings to the Mother. 

(Overall, the ceremony lasted a little over 30 minutes.)

 After the ceremony circle, my husband arrived to meet and greet our tribe, sidecar donuts were served and enjoyed as we then opened some pretty amazing and thoughtful gifts. 

As you scroll through the photos below, keep in mind, I do not have endless heaps of cash to support my dreamy pinterest boards. Everything included was at minimal cost, you just have to be willing to shop around, wait for sales, use coupons, and of course call on the help of the people around you to borrow decor and necessary items. I'm hoping this post might offer you some realistic insight to keep costs at a minimum. 

First of all, much gratitude to my dear friend who offered her home, I didn't have to worry about budgeting a space. The only rentals I used were from Burbank Party Rentals And that was for the 2 banquet tables that held the food and drink,  4 children's sized tables, and the table linens. All of that cost a little over 100. I went with children's tables to not only keep a grounded and low key bohemian vibe, but to also save money in not having to rent chairs. That shaved a lot of money off the budget right there!

In styling the setting, I obviously didn't want my guests sitting in the grass. Ideally I would have used woven rugs patch worked across the lawn, but that lofty idea was not in my price range, so I used several of these mexican blankets. (As a yoga teacher I already had several of them, and borrowed the rest from other yoga teacher friends, which added no extra cost.)  As far as the pillows go, It is a bit of a vice of mine, but they all belong to either me or my sister-in-law. Between the 2 of us we had 30+ pillows. Insane. The pillow addiction added no extra cost to the party.  

Each place setting consisted of incredibly cheap eco friendly paper plates, and recycled wooden forks purchased from amazon. The gold chevron cloth napkins were borrowed from a friend who saved them from her wedding. A little twine and a feather to tie it all together added a cute touch at a small price. 

Instead of center pieces that would just get tossed, we made "edible" center pieces of charcuterie boards. Each wooden slate was purchased from Michaels, on sale and with a coupon for $5 each. The charcuterie cheeses, meats, crackers and fig jam were purchased from Costco and the olives and nuts were purchased from Trader Joes. Everything was divided amongst 6 boards. Again, super cost effective and easy

The food was the biggest chunk of the budget, a chef (who is also a dear friend) made 4 different style finger sandwiches and a hearty fall inspired salad. The menu:

  • Smashed chickpea and avocado on multi grain bread with sprouts, tomatoes and basil.
  • Smoked salmon on pumpernickle with dill creme fraiche, capers, red onions and cucumber
  • Aged cheddar and chutney on brioche **my favorite** 
  • Prosciutto and fig jam with brie and crisp pears on baguette
  • Autumn salad with roasted butternut squash, bacon, pumpkin seeds, and a creamy garlic dressing over greens. 
  • Dessert: 3 donut flavors from sidecar; pumpkin, cinnamon crumb, and huckleberry  

I was able to borrow 30 small mason jars from a yoga studio I work at to drink the sangria and iced tea out of. I added a small pop of color to them with recycled cardboard teal chevron straws.

All the greenery was purchased from Trader joes for just 1.99 a bunch. I got 10 of them. Laying it flat around the tables took away the need for purchasing vases which looks naturally gorgeous. The most pricy flower purchased was 4 bunches of baby's breath for 4.99 each. In hindsight I could have purchased less greenery, to save a few dollars, but the look ended up being so lush and lovely. My mother ended up saving and wrapping a bouquet of the leftover greenery, eucalyptus, and feathers with twine and dried it out to hang in my bedroom. It still smells fresh and looks darling. 

The rest of the decor I used is either from things I purchased to decorate Ryder's nursery or items from my sister-in-laws little boy's nursery. So, don't be afraid to ask around to borrow cute little signs, or banners to hang and adorn the space. If you really are striving for that "bohemian" vibe, remember bohemians are unconventional artists, so the more eclectic the better, get creative! 

 The dream catcher craft station cost less than $25. I just love the way each person added different ribbons, and beads, pompoms, and feathers to adorn the piece. The teal colors pop and look so playful hung in his room. 

The henna tattoo artist was another sizable expense for the day, however having one was a huge part of my vision. A bonus is that the henna also  technically budgets as a take home favor for the guests. For those of you that live in the LA area I highly recommend Opal moon henna, she is so talented.  **If you choose to do belly henna and want to show it off on your special day,  I highly recommend setting up an appointment to get yours done 2 days before the party, so when people are hugging and loving on you during your event, you don't have to protect and be cautious of smudging the wet intricate design. Also, to really get a high quality mandala, you'll want to set aside at least an hour for it, and you don't want that time sucked up while you're trying to enjoy the lovely day you worked so hard to plan!**

In addition to the henna, I also made a little favors packaged in a teal paper bag with a small candle purchased on amazon for each guest to light once they hear Ryder has started his earthbound journey. Here is the note I attached to each candle. "Just as a tree grows best when anchored firmly in the earth, so can a pregnant mother feel strong and capable when supported by a sisterhood of nurturing friends. When you hear the word that Ryder has started his journey into this world, light this flame with calming thoughts and love in your heart." 

As I sit here and write this, killing time as I anxiously await the arrival of Ryder any day now, I look back and feel so overwhelmed with the love everyone brought to this special day. I feel so honored and so blessed to have had this sacred time to truly feel the depth of emotions it is to embrace the shift from Maiden to Mother. I hold this circle very sacred in my heart, and am so grateful that I have a community of women who gather together to uplift this Mother to be. Since this day, when I see one of the red thread bracelets on someones wrist I'm instantly uplifted by the bond and connection we made on this special day. 

 Please let me know if you have any questions about the details on planning a day like this for yourself. 

*Photos are thanks to my long time friend Andrea Jeffe