Where To Give Birth In Elkhart County

As a doula, one of my biggest goals for my clients is that they are completely aware of all of their options surrounding the birth of their baby. Because choosing a care provider is one of the first decisions you make after finding out you’re pregnant, the place you plan to give birth is also decided quickly. Fortunately, we have a plethora of options right here in Elkhart County so planning for the birth you want is definitely possible! Let’s explore all the local birth places as well as different things you need to consider as you make your choice.


When choosing where to birth, I always tell people that the number one factor is deciding where you will be most comfortable and feel the safest. This is because labor cannot progress well when the mother is tense and afraid. Fear is a sign to your body that now is not the time or the place for a baby to born. Unfortunately, for many moms this fear turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are afraid birth won’t go well so their body slows the process down and guess what? Birth does not go well. So finding a way to eliminate fear is step number one.

Are you someone that will only be able to relax knowing that you’re in a hospital, right down the hall from the operating room should an emergency happen? Will your support team be tense enough to stress you out outside of the hospital? If you answer yes to either of these and you’ve done your research on the safety of birth, then the hospital may just be the best place for you to labor and meet your baby.

On the other hand, will constant beeping from the monitors and people continually coming in and out of your room stress you out? Will you be intimidated by all the wires and the equipment and will the knowledge of an epidural distract you from your natural birth plans? Can you truly feel at home and comfortable on a twin bed and small couch? If these questions raise a concern, consider a birthing center with a homelike atmosphere and a peaceful environment to labor in.

Finally, does the idea of quickly packing your bags and driving to your birth place while having contractions seem chaotic to you? For some, it’s enough stress to disrupt the flow of labor, at least temporarily. Would you be most comfortable in your own home, in your own bed, knowing that as soon as baby is born you can start to settle in to your new life? If this sounds like a dream, why not try for a home birth?

With all of these options available locally, I encourage you to truly consider each one. Take tours of both maternity units and birth centers. Ask your friends about their experiences. Does one option stick out to you more than the others? What does your gut say? Your instincts may know more than you think.


Another big factor to consider when choosing a birth place is if you want your birth attended by a midwife or an OB. In Elkhart County, there are different midwives who attend home births, birth center births, and hospital births but obstetricians only attend hospital births. So what’s the difference between the two? Obstetricians are qualified physicians who have gone through many years of schooling. They are well trained in the various complications of pregnancy and are able to use different medical tools during birth such as the vacuum extractor, forceps, and cesareans. Conversely, midwives typically have less years of schooling but are well trained in healthy, normal, low risk pregnancies and birth. Though they do not have the license to treat serious complications, they are diligent at screening for any and all issues that may arise and they follow specific protocol for when to refer a client’s care to an OB if necessary. Therefore, if you are someone who is in good health and you view birth as a normal, physiological process that women have been navigating for centuries, you can be confident that you will be well taken care of by a midwife both in and out of a hospital. On the other hand, if you are high risk or issues arise during your pregnancy, you will likely be cared for best by an OB in a hospital.


Another factor to consider when choosing a birth place is the financial cost. Though money should never be the main reason you choose to birth at a specific location, it is nevertheless, important to consider. In general, a home birth is your least expensive option, followed by a birth center birth. A midwife attended hospital birth will be considerably more expensive and a birth with an OB costs the most. However, you must factor in your health insurance with counting costs. Some insurance companies do not cover home births or birth centers which means you might pay the least out of pocket if you give birth at a hospital. Other health sharing ministries cover home births, birth centers, and midwives at a higher percentage because they bring the overall cost of health care down. Every insurance company and plan is different, so be sure to thoroughly consider your options as you choose where to give birth.


So now that you have an idea of what you might be leaning towards, let’s go a bit more in depth about your specific options in the area. In Elkhart County, Indiana, we are fortunate to have two hospitals, two birth centers, and several home birth midwives. Of course, looking just outside of the county presents you with even more options but for today, we will stick to these five.


The Elkhart General Center for Women and Children is a Baby Friendly Hospital meaning that it values bonding and breastfeeding and follows specific protocol to support those processes. This includes allowing babies to room in with their parents 24-7 and constant support from lactation consultants. Furthermore, nurses will never give a breastfed baby pacifiers or formula without the parents consent. Elkhart General Hospital’s facility is also equipped with an in-depth security system to keep your baby safe and a level 2-B NICU should you need it.

According to the Leap Frog Group, 17.4% of first time, low-risk, full term mothers will have their babies via cesarean section at Elkhart General Hospital putting them well below the natural target (23.9%). Additionally, 2.5% of moms receive an episiotomy here which is better than the national target of 5%.

There are several different obstetricians who attend births at this hospital and the Beacon Medical Group OB/GYN employs a couple of midwives who manage births there as well. As far as pain relief options go, every labor and delivery room is equipped with a shower and most of them have tubs as well for labor, though water birth is not an option. Of course, narcotics, epidurals, and even low-dose epidurals are available as well.


The Circle of Caring Birthplace at Goshen Hospital is also a recognized Baby-Friendly hospital that values the family unit and moms are given ample resources to support breastfeeding. They are also armed with a security system to make sure you and your baby are never separated.

This hospital did not report its cesarean or episiotomy rate to the Leap Frog Group.

Fairhaven OB/GYN employs a team of midwives who attend births at Goshen Hospital as long as they are not currently at a birth in the Goshen Birth Center, discussed in the next section. Of course, there are many different doctors who work at Goshen Hospital as well. The Circle of Caring Birthplace has one inflatable tub that can be set up in a women’s suite on a first come first serve basis for use during active labor. However, water birth is not an option in these tubs.

GOSHEN BIRTH CENTER — Currently Closed

The Goshen Birth Center is a beautiful, out-of-hospital option for local women seeking a natural birth. Equipped with 3 birthing rooms and comfortable queen beds, the Goshen Birth Center is designed to feel like home. Big, jetted tubs allow for water births and provide much needed relaxation before and after birth. As birth approaches, the midwives began baking fresh bread which fills the Center with a wonderful aroma. Extended family can enjoy the cozy living room as they wait for the newest addition to arise.

Women who see the Fairhaven midwives and who are experiencing a low-risk, healthy pregnancy have the option to birth here. While there are no narcotics or epidurals for pain relief at the Goshen Birth Center, they are one of the only facilities to offer Nitrous Oxide to take the edge off of the pain. Nitrous Oxide provides the women with a self-controlled, temporary feeling of relaxation during the peak of contractions. As the contraction fades away, the laboring women stops breathing it in and returns to a normal, calm state in between contractions. Nitrous Oxide has no effect on the baby and can be extremely helpful in managing transition or active labor.

After the birth, new moms are treated to a soothing, herbal bath and get to enjoy freshly baked bread and whatever else they may have brought to prepare in the center’s kitchen. Families are discharged within 4-8 hours after birth and a nurse visits and checks up on the mother and baby in their own home twice within the first 48 hours.

Furthermore, the Goshen Birth Center is state-licensed and the Midwifes follow clear protocol for when a transfer to the hospital is necessary. Ambulance drills happen routinely to ensure a quick transfer and the hospital is just three right turns away. The midwife goes with the women to the hospital and remains her primary care provider. While transfers are never fun, these aspects help to make the process smooth and safe.


Located in Nappanee, Blessed Beginnings Care Center is another out-of-hospital option for women. They have 7 rooms equipped with a queen bed, a shower, and a jetted tub in each room. Additionally, they have one room with a whirlpool tub for water birth. Clients also have access to Nubane and anti-nausea medication to help ease pain, if needed. Certified Nurse-Midwifes with their own individual practices attend births here. Usually these midwives do not have hospital privileges so, in the event of a transfer, a hospital doctor takes over the care and the midwife becomes part of the support team. Clients are allowed to stay at Blessed Beginnings for up to 72 hours. Call 574-773-7755 or email blessedbeginningscc@gmail.Com for a current list of midwives to schedule your prenatal care.


Many of the same midwives who attend births at Blessed Beginnings also attend home births. Birth tubs are available to rent if needed and the midwife brings all necessary equipment for a safe birth. Because birth happens in the mother’s home, the environment is set up exactly like she wants it and she never has to worry about accidentally forgetting to bring certain items since they are already there. Immediately after the birth, the new family can settle in with their sweet addition. Usually the midwife does home visits after the birth as well.

Elkhart County truly is equipped with multiple options for new, local mothers which allows for most pregnant women to find the perfect fit for them. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions about any of these options. I would love to help you find the birth place that is right for you ❤️

Navigating the World of Prenatal Vitamins

It’s no secret that women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding should be taking a prenatal vitamin but with so many different options out there, women are often left wondering if they are taking the right one. I frequently get asked in my Fertility Awareness classes what vitamin I recommend and to be honest, I’m usually like a deer in a headlight when I get that question. I currently have three different bottles of prenatal vitamins in my own home and I used to just take whichever one I felt like that day. So I decided to do a little research to find the number one, ultimate, best, top of the line, comprehensive, but also affordable Vitamin out there. I thought it probably wouldn’t be that hard but after two full work days of searching the Internet, I was ready to give up.

Here’s the thing. I searched the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) website and found the recommended daily values for the Big Four in the world of Prenatal Vitamins: Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, and Vitamin D. And then I searched the FDA’s website and found this chart and this chart of recommended values for pregnant women BUT even they weren’t exactly the same and neither lined up perfectly with ACOG’s page. I thought maybe one of them was more up-to-date than the other but then when I looked at current labels of vitamins, some of them seemed to line up with one chart, and some lined up with the other. I was confused and stressed and wishing I would have majored in Nutrition in college because there must be something I’m not understanding about all of this.

So, after taking a break from my search, I took a deep breathe and decided that it’s ok to not get this perfectly on the dot. There is no ultimate vitamin out there. Nevertheless, there are plenty of really good vitamins. So how do you decide what’s best for you? Here’s a few questions to ask yourself.

1) How much can you pay for your Vitamins? Many Prenatal Vitamins will cost around 30-40 dollars a month but that number varies widely depending on where you shop. On the other hand, with a prescription from your care provider, many Prenatal Vitamins are free. Remember that any vitamin is better than no vitamin so if you don’t want to pay a whole lot, take the one your care provider prescribes!

2) Can you stomach it? If you’re struggling with nausea or vomiting throughout your pregnancy, swallowing pills can be really difficult. Some prenatal vitamins require you to take just one pill a day while others can be as many five or six. Furthermore, some vitamins may make you nauseous while others don’t seem to be a problem. So if this is an issue for you, the best prenatal vitamin is the one you can keep down.

3) What sources do you want your vitamin to be made from? Is it important to you that your vitamin is completely plant based? Do you want to make sure there are no artificial additives in your vitamin? There are plenty of options out there if you answered “yes” to any of these options but you may have to find them at a health food store or online.

4) Does your care provider approve of it? It’s never a bad idea to take your vitamin to your next prenatal appointment and see what your care provider thinks of it. They can tell you if it has enough of certain vitamins and minerals and not too much of anything else. You may also wish to talk thoroughly about some of the vitamins/minerals covered in the next question.

5) Does it have everything you want in it? This is where things can get a little confusing again but remember, you don’t have to get it perfectly right. Here’s a few things to think about.

Folate or Folic Acid? Almost all prenatal vitamins will have enough folate/Folic Acid but it’s usually one or the other. Folate is a natural substance found in food but Folic Acid is the synthetic form of it. For more information about the difference between the two check out this article.

Calcium — The recommended daily amount of calcium is atleast 1000 mg but most prenatal vitamins only have 200-300 mg included. Do you get enough calcium in your diet (dairy products, leafy greens, salmon, almonds etc) to make up the extra or will you need an additional supplement?

Iron — Many Prenatal Vitamins have the full recommended amount of Iron but if yours does not, you may need to supplement. If you do, look for ferrous gluconate rather than ferrous sulfate because it’s generally easier to digest.

Vitamin D — Vitamin D is important because it helps your body use Calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Be sure you’re getting enough in your vitamin if you’re not regularly exposed to sunlight.

B Vitamins — Thiamine, Riboflacin, Niacin, B6 and B12 are all important and helpful in pregnancy, especially if you are dealing with fatigue and morning sickness. Most prenatal vitamins have some B Vitamins in them but if need extra energy and relief from nausea, talk to your care provider about taking more.

Magnesium — Magnesium is an important mineral that almost everyone is deficient in. In pregnancy, it’s especially important for managing stress, sleeping well, lowering high blood pressure and preventing preeclampsia. Pregnant women are supposed to get around 400 mg of magnesium but there often is not nearly that much in prenatal vitamins. Ask your care provider for guidance regarding this mineral.

DHA — DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is vital in building your baby’s brain. It’s found in fish, but it can be really difficult to get enough of it, especially since pregnant women are limited on fish intake. Many Prenatal Vitamins are starting to include DHA but most still do not so consider supplementing if you don’t have one that does.

Probiotics — Finally, probiotics are important for your and your baby’s gut health. Most vitamins don’t have probiotics but there are probiotics specific to pregnancy so consider taking one of those as well.

Remember that most vitamins won’t check off every box so eating a balanced diet ensures that you and baby can grow healthy and strong and you don’t have to stress too much about the exact vitamin you take. While there is no one right answer for everyone when it comes to choosing prenatal vitamins, I hope this helps you decide which one might be best for you! May you have a safe, healthy, and enjoyable pregnancy ❤️

Third Trimester Mocktail

It’s the Holidays and you’re pregnant so you have to skip the alcohol but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your drink. In fact, with this “Third Trimester Mocktail,” your taste buds will be happy and your uterus will thank you. That’s because it contains red raspberry leaf tea and dates, both of which are said to have positive effects on labor and it includes spearmint, fresh raspberries, lemon juice, and honey to create a yummy concoction. This makes it a perfect drink to sip as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve or in the morning for breakfast, or anytime you want to give your body a boost in preparation for childbirth.


Red raspberry leaf tea


Red raspberries

One lemon

Spearmint leaves

Honey to taste

Ingredients in a Third Trimester Mocktail: Dates, Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, Spearmint Leaves, Lemon, Raspberries, And Honey

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Red raspberry leaf tea is the base of this drink and has been said to have numerous benefits for all women, pregnant or not. It is rich in vitamins and minerals to support the immune system and is said to lessen menstrual discomfort, ease nausea, lower high blood pressure, and aid the reproductive system to name a few. In pregnancy, red raspberry leaf tea strengthens the uterus so that when labor hits, contractions are more powerful and effective which may make labor shorter and less painful. It may also make the amniotic sac stronger which reduces the chance of waters breaking before labor and it supports a healthy breastmilk supply.

Red raspberry leaf tea is not without controversy, however. Lack of testing means this herb is not exactly scientifically supported and care providers widely vary their recommendations toward it. While some believe the tea can be safely taken throughout the entire pregnancy and may even help protect against miscarriage, other midwives and doctors may advise that it not be taken until the second trimester, the third trimester, the 34th week or even later. As always, consult with your care provider before you start drinking red raspberry leaf tea. If you decide you’re not ready for it, simply substitute green tea in this recipe. It will taste just as good!


Dates are said to have an effect on the uterus that is similar to oxytocin (the labor hormone). They are a natural laxative and may stimulate uterine contractions. A 2011 study compared the labors of 69 women who ate 6 dates a day starting in their 36th week with the labors of 45 women who ate none and found several significant differences between the two groups. Those who ate the dates had a much easier latent stage of labor lasting an average of 510 minutes compared to 906 minutes in those who did not eat dates. Only 28% of date consumers needed Pitocin compared to 47% of non-date consumers. Furthermore, 96% of those who ate the dates went into labor spontaneously while only 79% of those who did not eat the dates went into labor on their own. Finally, when they checked into the hospital/birth center, date consumers were an average of 3.52 cm dilated and 83% of them had intact membranes while non-date consumers were an average of 2.02 cm dilated and only 60% of them had intact membranes. To read the whole the abstract of the study, click here.

Of course, like most things, the use of dates in pregnancy isn’t supported by everyone and it’s important to do your own research and check with your care provider before consuming a large number of dates. They are high in sugar so if you have gestational diabetes or are closely watching sugar intake, it may be best to avoid dates. The women in the study did not start eating 6 dates a day until they were in their 36th week but a few dates here and there before that time is most likely just fine. However, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, simply leave the dates out of your Mocktail. No harm there!


To make your Mocktail, start by bringing 12 ounces of water to a boil and pouring it over your red raspberry leaf tea and a couple spearmint leaves. Add in honey to suit your taste or avoid it all together if you don’t want the extra sugar. Let it steep for at least 5 minutes and then chill in the refrigerator or freezer if you’re in a hurry. Don’t forget to enjoy the sweet little quotes on the tea bag. I just love this one!

Third Trimester Mocktail: Start with Red Raspberry Leaf Tea(Reminds me of my other true love, my greenhouse 🌺♥️ Click the image to learn more)
As the tea chills, wash your red raspberries and purée a large handful of them in a food processor, saving a few for garnish. Add in a couple of dates (up to six if you’re in your 36th week or later) and a couple more mint leaves. Juice at least half a lemon or the whole lemon if you like tart drinks, add it into the mixture and purée some more. Once you’ve got it nice and smooth, you may wish to strain out all the seeds and chunks of raspberries if you don’t like that in your drink. Skip the straining if you don’t mind them though!

Third Trimester Mocktail: Next, purée the raspberries to bring a fruity kick to your drink.
Finally, mix the purée and tea together, give it a good shake, and add in more raspberries and mint for garnish if you desire. Now you’re ready to enjoy your “Third Trimester Mocktail.” I hope you find it easy, delicious, and effective in helping you labor along. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Mama!

Ecological Breastfeeding: 7 Principles of Natural Child Spacing

Is breastfeeding an effective form of contraception? Ask ten different moms and you will get ten different answers. This is simply because everybody is different and responds to changing hormones differently. However, “exclusive breastfeeding” and “ecological breastfeeding” are not the same and while “exclusive breastfeeding” works for many moms, “ecological breastfeeding” is much more effective.

Ecological Breastfeeding is essentially a lifestyle of mothering and is guided by 7 principles. It’s not for everyone and that’s ok. I am in no way implying that it is the best way to mother. However, for parents who are interested in natural child spacing and who are comfortable with breastfeeding and attachment style parenting, these principles may be all the validation they need to mother in a way that comes instinctually to them.

The statistics and principles I’m presenting can be found at the Natural Family Planning website and for more detailed information on the topic check out Sheila Kippley’s book “The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding.”

How effective is ecological breastfeeding you may ask? During the first three months of baby’s life, an ecologically breastfeeding mother has a (next to) zero percent chance of getting pregnant if she has not had a period and her chances of getting pregnant in the first 6 months go up to 1%. After the first 6 months her chances rise to 6% even if she has yet to have a period BUT if she also practices the Fertility Awareness Method, her chance of getting pregnant remains at 1%. (For information regarding my Fertility Awareness Course click here.) Around 70% of ecologically breastfeeding moms will get their first period between 9 and 20 months postpartum with the average being 14.6 months. Of course, statistics can never accurately predict what will happen to an individual and I’m sure there are plenty of moms who don’t follow all 7 principles of ecological breastfeeding and still went an extended amount of time without a cycle. Likewise, there are other moms who do follow all 7 principles and had their first period earlier than they wanted. Nevertheless, ecological breastfeeding is certainly worth a try.

So let’s dig into these principles, shall we?

1) Give your baby breastmilk exclusively for the first six months of life. No water, formula, cereal etc. After baby turns 6 months, breast milk is still the main aspect of baby’s diet and baby is still breastfed completely on demand even as other foods are introduced.

These are the rules for “exclusively breastfeeding” and many mothers are told this will be sufficient for avoiding pregnancy. While many moms are successful with this alone, there are plenty more who begin menstruating again 1-2 months postpartum and they think breastfeeding failed them. However, this is only the first principle of ecological breastfeeding so let’s keep going.

2) Comfort your baby at your breast.

How many times have nursing mothers been told “he’s just using you as a pacifier”? Or “your baby isn’t actually hungry, you shouldn’t keep nursing”? Here’s the thing, newborns cry often. They’re in a new, big, scary world and all they know is the comfort of being close to their mamas. Breastfeeding produces oxytocin which helps both mom and baby manage stress and calm down. So don’t be surprised when breastfeeding is the easiest way to make your baby stop crying. It’s normal, it’s natural and you can take advantage of it. Not only does it soothe your baby, but it boosts your milk supply and is your second step to preventing pregnancy naturally.

3) Don’t use bottles or pacifiers.

Because breastfeeding is so good at soothing babies, breasts are the ultimate pacifier. Remember, pacifiers we’re a human invention designed to replace the breast, so saying a baby is “using the breast as a pacifier” is backwards. Instead, we should say the baby is “using the pacifier as a breast.” Babies who are nursed for comfort often need that comfort less than babies who rely on pacifiers so I promise you won’t be latched 24/7.

Now about those bottles, the invention of a breast pump is awesome and has allowed many babies to get the breast milk they need and I highly admire dedicated, pumping mamas. But many moms who pump frequently find their fertility returns much quicker than those who mostly nurse because our bodies don’t have the same hormonal response to a breast pump as we do to a sweet, suckling baby. So if you don’t have to pump, don’t.

4) Sleep with your baby for night feedings.

Night feedings are important not only for your baby’s health and development, but also for keeping menstruation at bay. Once your baby starts consistently sleeping more than 6 hour stretches, you are likely to see a return of fertility. While this may seem like an unfair predicament, one way to work around it is to sleep next to your baby. This way, you are literally able to sleep and nurse at the same time. Baby is soothed and nourished and you never even had to get out of bed. I promise it’s a dream and it often insures that you will only have one baby at a time requiring this much attention.

5) Sleep with your baby for a daily nap feeding.

Ok I will be honest, if I could delete one rule, it would be this one and truthfully I didn’t do this most of the time. But how many of us have had the issue of baby waking from her nap as soon as we unlatched her?? Even though it’s incredibly frustrating it is so unbelievably normal. It’s just what babies do. And if we’re being honest, how many new moms truly do need a nap in the middle of the day but we’re too stressed to take one? I think many of us. So if you need an excuse to just latch that baby and fall asleep, this is it: natural child spacing!

6) Nurse frequently, day and night, and avoid schedules.

When babies are very young, it feels like they want to nurse constantly. Many moms feel nervous that either they aren’t making enough milk or that they’re over feeding their infant. However, the first option is unlikely and the second option is impossible. Breastfeeding works in a simple supply and demand system. So the more you allow your baby to nurse, the more milk your body will make. Newborns will often cluster feed just before a growth spurt so that your body knows to make more milk for your soon-to-be bigger baby. It’s an amazing cycle IF we let our babies guide the process. They know when they need to nurse so when we try to schedule feedings, we miss out on the natural process. And furthermore, remember that babies don’t just nurse for calories. Breast milk satisfies thirst, it’s comforting, and it helps them poop, wind down, and sleep. So keep on nursing mamas, a break from menstruation is so rewarding.

7) Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.

This final principle reiterates much of what we’ve already covered. Going back to work full time, sleep training, or supplementing with formula can all have an effect on your body and allow you to ovulate again. So while those are extremely personal decisions and there is no right choice, it is important to know that you may not be able to use breastfeeding as effective contraception if you choose to cut back on nursing.

Remember that the return of your fertility is not a terrible thing. It’s simply your body’s way of noticing that your first baby doesn’t need as many of your extra calories anymore so you could physically handle another baby. But if you know you aren’t ready for another one either emotionally, financially, or situationally, these 7 principles can guide you along without ever having to touch hormonal birth control. Combine it with the power of the Fertility Awareness Method and you’ve got a strong chance of avoiding pregnancy. So sweet mamas, just keep on nursing!


Did you practice ecological breastfeeding? How many months did you go before you had a return of fertility?

To The Mama Whose Natural Birth Plan Fell Through

You spent countless hours throughout your pregnancy dreaming about your birth. You researched all your options thoroughly and decided you wanted to labor as naturally as possible. Maybe you picked out a midwife for your care, maybe you hired a doula, maybe you chose a birth center or home birth. You started practicing prenatal yoga to learn how to control your breathing. You drank gallons of red raspberry leaf tea. You saw a chiropractor and did all the right exercises to get your baby in an optimal position for birth. You carefully made your birth plan and you were oddly looking forward to labor. You were prepared.

But then along the way things got a little tricky. Maybe your baby was breach. Maybe your water broke but contractions would not start. Or you were two weeks past your due date. Your blood pressure spiked. Your baby was estimated to be quite large. Maybe contractions came on strong and 2 minutes apart when you were only 3 centimeters dilated and they never slowed down. Or you stopped progressing at 5 centimeters. Maybe you were just not ok with how out-of-control your body felt at 7 centimeters. Maybe your contractions stopped altogether at 9.5 centimeters. Or you pushed for hours and the baby did not descend. Honestly, maybe the pain was just way too much and you simply couldn’t do it anymore.

So you transferred to the hospital, you were given Pitocin, or they broke your water, you took narcotics, or you got an epidural, an episiotomy, or you delivered your baby via cesarean. You experienced first hand the dreaded cascade of interventions and your natural birth plan fell through.

At first, you’re relieved that it’s all over. You made it through, you’re holding your baby, you fall in love and just as they said you would, you forget all the pain. It becomes a distant memory. But then you start to wonder if it was really that bad. You start to think about everything you could have done differently. You question the decisions you made and you start to grieve for the loss of the birth you had been dreaming about. It’s the happiest day of your life and yet you feel sad at the same time.

When you open up to people about these feelings they recite that overquoted line: “All that matters is that you have a healthy baby and a healthy mom.” And then you feel guilty because that’s not all that matters to you. You aren’t content, even as you hold your perfect newborn that you love so much. You had a dream but you didn’t achieve it. And it hurts.

In this picture, I am in a hospital, dressed in a gown, hooked up to continuous fetal monitors, on Pitocin and an IV. The lower half of my body is numb and immobile due to an epidural and I am being coached on how to push while laying flat on my back. None of this was in my plan that I literally spent years dreaming up and yet its all part of my oldest daughter’s birth story. I know those feelings, mama. And I’m here to tell you, it’s ok.

It’s ok that you didn’t birth according to your plan. But it’s also ok that you feel the way you do. A healthy baby may be the most important thing, but it’s not exactly all that matters. Your feelings MATTER. The fact that you’re grieving right now MATTERS. Talk through these emotions with someone who will listen because your well-being MATTERS.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to master a process that we will only actually experience a handful of times in our life and there’s no way to truly practice for it. Be gentle with yourself. Remember that you sacrificed your desires to get your baby in your arms which is really what mothers do day in and day out. Maybe you need to reframe your mind to be grateful for medical interventions that got you through. And while natural childbirth is usually safe and it’s totally valid to continue to desire a natural process, maybe you need to remember that without many of these interventions, there were women and babies who died in childbirth. Interventions have a rightful place. Maybe you need to take this experience and use it to better prepare for a natural labor next time. We live and learn and grow and evolve and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There are women all over who are experiencing the same grief that you have. Reach out to them, let them encourage you, and build them up as well. Help them see that women are not defined by how they give birth. You will move on from this. Remember most of all, you matter and you are not alone.

Did your birth experience go differently then you had planned? Did you have trouble dealing with it? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

Homemade Bone Broth and Garlic Onion Tea

Bone broth is one of the most delicious ways to boost your immune system, it’s so easy to make, and it’s way better for you than store bought broth. It’s a wonderful replacement for morning coffee or evening tea and it makes soups that much more nourishing. Bone broth is also a great first food for babies as it’s so good for their gut health. I started taking broth when I was pregnant and couldn’t take other medicine but it works so well that it’s always my first option now. Whenever I start to feel the tiniest bit sick I drink a cup or two a day and my symptoms just quietly slip away. I love it!

You can make bone broth with chicken, turkey, beef or really any animal bones. I personally think turkey gives the best flavor but today I used chicken. I start by cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You can omit these if you’re cooking for a baby. I usually start this around noon so the chicken is ready for supper.

While that’s cooking I prepare my vegetables. First, I wash whole carrots and celery but I only use the carrot peels and the celery tops in my broth. I then cut them up and put them on a sheet pan to save for dinner.

Then I cut an onion in half but I leave as much of the peel on as I can, as long as it looks healthy. I treat the garlic bulb similarly although it can be a little tricky to cut in half so if you have issues you can cut each clove in half instead but again, leave the peel on. There’s so many vitamins in vegetable peels that will then be in your broth.

About twenty minutes before the chicken is ready I put olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder on the carrots and celery I reserved and roast them in the oven at 375 degrees.

Once the chicken is cooked through I take it out of the crock pot, leaving all of the juices inside the pot. After it rests a bit I start to take it off the bone. I will be honest, if you want a nice tutorial on how to beautifully carve the chicken, you’re going to have to look at someone else’s blog. I haven’t mastered that so I just cut and pull as much off as I can. I use about half of it mixed in with my roasted veggies for dinner and the other half I use throughout the week for chicken salad, soup, or casseroles.

All the bones and the entire chicken carcass go back into the crockpot with the juices and the celery tops, carrot peels, onion, and garlic go on top. You may add more salt if desired. Then I fill my crock pot the rest of the way with water and turn on low for the next 12-24 hours. Personally, I think it fills my house with a nourishing aroma although I know some do not enjoy the smell. Hopefully you do!

Whenever I have a convenient time in that 12-24 hour window I turn off the crockpot and strain the broth. I like to store my broth in a variety of different sized mason jars so I have the right amount for whatever I’m making. I even put some in ice cube trays for when I just want to add in flavor or for feeding a baby. The majority, however, goes in pint jars because I think it’s the perfect size for a drink. This batch made a total of 15 cups! The jars can then go in the freezer pretty much indefinitely.

Ideally you would then thaw your broth in the fridge but I never think that far ahead of time so instead, I fill the sink with hot water and place a jar in it just until it’s thawed enough to pour out into a sauce pan to heat on the stove. Get it just to the point of boiling and then turn the heat off. Do not microwave your broth. That destroys most of the vitamins and nutrients in it, leaving it basically useless.
You can drink your broth just like that but I often like to take it a step further and make what I call Garlic Onion Tea. When my husband’s Amish family gets sick, they boil onions in water, call it onion tea, and drink it. I couldn’t quite stomach this idea when I was pregnant but then I read about garlic lemonade in Aviva Jill Romm’s The Natural Pregnancy Book and she suggested boiling garlic and a bouillon cube in water to make drinking it more palatable. I thought that was brilliant so I combined homemade bone broth, garlic, and onions in one drink to make a kick arse, illness fighting solution and honestly I think it’s delicious (although my husband refuses to put garlic in his). I just mince garlic and onions and put them in the broth as it’s heating up. Sometimes I even add a few red pepper flakes to really combat congestion. Then I drink it down garlic, onions, and all and within a couple days I find that my congestion never turned into an actual head cold or other illness and my runny nose goes away rather than lingering for weeks. It so amazing what the human body can do! I so hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

My Love for You is Limited

I started dreaming about you long before you were even a possibility. The moment I found out about you I couldn’t wait to meet you, to know what you look like, and to see who you become. I spent nine long months preparing a place for you, a place where you are loved and safe and cherished. Now that you’re here I am obsessed with knowing the exact moment that you fall asleep and I listen closely for you to wake up. I choose to be with you as often as possible so that I am there when you need me. I cannot go more than a couple minutes without thinking of you and my entire day is planned around you. The hair on your head is of special interest to me. I look at it daily, trying to decide if you have any more than the day before. Every morning I delight in dressing you in the cutest clothes and I absolutely love to feed you all day long. I keep diligent track of your preferred routines and schedules so that I will know what you need even before you do. Everything in me is filled with joy when bits and pieces of your personality shine through because I can’t wait to know you. I love you simply because you are you and really, I can’t imagine how I could ever love you more.


I had no idea what you looked like until the day you were born and you continue to change so much that I really don’t know what you’re gonna look like a month from now. The home I have prepared for you is only moderately safe as I cannot guarantee that there won’t be intruders. Sometimes you fall asleep and even wake up without me having any idea until you decide to cry out for me. It’s impossible for me to never leave your side because I have other obligations and cannot be two places at once. My mind is full of many to-dos and my entire focus just can’t always be on you. I have no clue how many hairs are actually on your head and I could totally be fooling myself into thinking that you’re growing more. Sometimes I let you stay in your pajamas all day long and my minimal fashion sense means you aren’t always dressed the best. There are times when I have no idea what to feed you or how to prepare food so that it both nourishes and pleases you. And despite my best efforts at getting to know you, there are still days when I am clueless as to what you need. Because even though you have my heart I am still only human. I can’t peer into the womb, completely ward off evil, watch you without ceasing, count hairs, feed and dress you perfectly, or read minds. And unfortunately, I know as the days go on I will fail you plenty of times. My love for you, though it feels overflowing, is limited.


There is a God whose love for you is literally limitless. He knew you completely before he ever formed you in my womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He has prepared a place in heaven for you where love is complete and evil is no more (John 14:3). He knows exactly when you’re awake and when you are resting (Psalm 139:2-3), he will never leave your side (Psalm 139:7-12), and his thoughts about you are innumerable (Psalm 40:5). God knows the exact number of hairs on your head even though that number changes constantly (Matthew 10:30). You never have to worry about having something to wear or something to eat because he promises to always clothe and feed you (Matthew 6:25-31). And he knows you so well that, unlike me, he knows exactly what you need before you can even put it into words (Matthew 6:8).

Trust me, little one, you cannot fathom how much I love you. You are the light of my life. But you have to know now that I will come up short, I will make mistakes, and you will question my love. This is devastating to me but it is my desperate hope and prayer that my imperfect love points you to the Source of Love himself, our Father God. He will never let you down. May you always look to him as your ultimate provider, healer, protector, guide, and love. I am limited, my dear, but our God is completely limitless.

What Does a Birth Doula Do?

In short, a doula is someone who supports a woman throughout her pregnancy, her entire labor, and the postpartum period. She is not a medical professional but instead she is trained to inform a woman on her choices surrounding birth and helps to turn those preferences into a reality. Typically, when a woman hires a doula, their journey together starts a couple months before the baby’s due date.

Before The Birth
Before the birth, a pregnant woman will meet with her doula a couple times to discuss her birth plan. This may include things like where she chooses to birth, how long she wishes to labor at home, how she plans to manage the pain, as well as her hopes for the immediate postpartum period. A doula does not make decisions for a woman but instead informs her of the risks and benefits of her options and then supports her in whatever she decides. Furthermore, the doula will teach the woman and her birth partner (her husband, boyfriend, mom etc) different techniques that they can use throughout the labor to manage pain and keep progressing. After these meetings, both the mother and the doula should have a pretty good idea of how they plan to manage labor.

During Labor
Usually, the main reason a woman hires a doula is to have a trained professional with her throughout her entire labor. A doula cannot perform cervical checks, take vitals, monitor the baby, or replace the care provider in anyway. She cannot and will not make any medical decisions. However, unlike the care provider who is in and out of the room and may leave when his or her shift is over, the doula is by the mother’s side focusing only on her from the beginning until the end. This consistent presence alone can have a major impact on the labor. A soon-to-be mom may let her doula know that contractions have started and the two can decide together when to notify the care provider. The doula may come to the woman’s home in early labor to help her work through contractions if she wishes. Upon arriving at the birth center/hospital, the doula may take time to set up the room with music, dim lighting, aromatherapy, or whatever the mom chooses. As labor intensifies, the doula will do whatever she needs to do to make the mom more comfortable, including massage, applying heating pads, giving food or water, etc. She will coach the woman through contractions, helping her breathe and find her rhythm. She can suggest different positions to help the baby continue to descend correctly and to encourage dilation. If any unexpected circumstances arise, the doula can inform the woman of her choices and help her ask questions so she can make the best decision for her and her baby. The doula does not speak to the care provider on her client’s behalf but she does encourage her and her partner to speak up for themselves and can remind the mother of her birth plan and preferences to help her achieve her goals. Finally, when it comes time to push, the doula may help coach the mom in bringing her baby into the world.

My doula Jayde helping me through a contraction

It’s important to note that a doula does not replace the mom’s husband, mother or whoever she wishes to have with her. Instead, the doula actually helps loved ones know how to comfort and assist the laboring woman. As a result, loved ones may actually end up feeling more at ease, relaxed, and empowered as a result of having a doula present.

Though a doula can never guarantee better birth outcomes studies have shown that when a doula is present there is a lower rate of interventions, epidurals and c-sections and labor tends to be shorter. A review of these studies can be found in The Doula Book by Marshall Klaus, John Kennel, and Phyllis Klaus. However, a doula is still a valuable asset even if the woman wishes to have a medicated birth or is planning a c-section. In these situations a doula can still help a woman through early labor, she can set up her birthing environment, talk her through pushing, and protect her wishes for the postpartum period discussed in the next section.

Immediately After The Birth
After the baby is born, the doula may remind the mother and the caregiver of any of the mom’s wishes for the postpartum period. This may include things like delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, or weighing and measuring the baby beside mom’s bed. She can help establish breastfeeding and gives the mom plenty of encouragement. The doula may get some food for the new parents and she may help clean up the room. Finally, she may protect the mother’s desire for a quiet, private time with her new little family and will leave shortly after.

A Few Days Later
Within the first week or so of baby’s life the doula will visit the new mother for the last time. This generally takes place in the mother’s home and may last a couple hours. At this meeting, the doula will answer any breastfeeding questions and will encourage the nursing mother. She may do light housework for the mom or she may hold the baby while the mother gets some rest or takes a relaxing bath. To conclude their time together, they will debrief about the birth and the doula will help the mom process her feelings about it. The doula may remind the mom of important events that happened throughout the labor in order to write a positive birth story that the mother can enjoy reflecting on. After this, a birth doula’s job is complete.

Interested in a doula? Check out my website at http://birthway.co

Click the images to read my birth stories.

Exercise Balls for Pregnancy, Labor, and Motherhood

There are so many great ways to tone and strengthen your muscles using an exercise ball but there’s also so many ways it can help you transition smoothly into motherhood. In fact, a $12 ball was the very first thing I bought when I found out I was pregnant and I still use it every single day with my 5 month old daughter. I love it and here’s why…

Exercise Balls for pregnancy, labor and motherhood

I absolutely loved being pregnant but my biggest complaint was back pain. The weight of my belly took a huge toll on my mid-back and I was totally uncomfortable sitting on a couch. My exercise ball became my new favorite place to lounge because it was so much gentler on my back, hips, and tailbone.   If I wasn’t simply sitting on it, I was on the floor on my knees and kneeling on my ball. It was such a relief to my body! Furthermore, it’s way easier to get back up off of a bouncy ball than trying to swing your belly up off the couch. An added benefit is that an exercise ball is a great place to do your kegels (which I mainly didn’t do and am now paying for it). Finally, bouncing on the ball in those last few weeks of pregnancy can help your baby engage in the correct position for birth which means he will be locked and loaded and ready to meet you!

Along those same lines, an exercise ball is great for labor because it allows your hips to be open and moving as contractions help to guide your baby down the birth canal. While sitting on the ball, you can simply bounce, rock back and forth, sway side to side, or do hip circles during contractions. Not only will the rhythm of your movement help you cope with pain but it can also move things along. Of course, you can also do all of these movements standing up but labor is long so it’s great to be able to sit and still work. For me in particular, the ball was especially helpful because I had Preeclampsia so I was not allowed to stand and walk around much as it could raise my blood pressure even higher so the ball was my favorite place to be. Finally, the ball is a great tool when you’re experiencing back labor and need someone to put pressure on your back during contractions, which feels amazing by the way. Looking back over my labor, the part I loved the most was the couple hours I was sitting on the ball, leaning against my bed and having either my sister, sister-in-law, or brother run a tube sock filled with tennis balls up and down my back as my husband talked me through contractions. It was great!


[Looking for a doula who can give you more tips like this and support you all throughout labor? Check out my website http://birthway.co for more info]

My exercise ball probably helps me out the most before my baby’s three naps each day. I don’t know if it was because I bounced on the ball when she was in the womb or what but she loves to be held as I bounce on the ball. It soothes her and is her favorite way to fall asleep. I suppose it’s just like bouncing when you’re standing up, except you get to sit down! My mom even bought one for her house as it’s been so helpful for us. I can also rock, sway, or glide on it so it’s so versatile and probably the best part is that it’s so easy to take with us. That way, when we’re going away for the weekend, we aren’t stuck trying to find new ways to comfort her. It’s been a great help.

Do you use an exercise ball for anything other than exercise? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Blakely’s 4 Month Sleep Regression

Blakely and I are currently in the middle of what is known as the “four month sleep regression.” Just like it sounds, it happens when a baby’s sleeping habits get worse and can occur anytime between 3 and 5 months. Even though it seems bad, it’s actually due to the fact that her sleep cycles are becoming much more adult-like but she just hasn’t gotten used to yet. Furthermore, babies of this age are much more active than ever before and are increasingly aware of their environment. This means that they may somewhat lose interest in eating during the day and prefer to eat at night when their surroundings are boring. They also have a lot more trouble falling asleep in stimulating environments even if they are very tired. All of this combined can create some pretty restless nights for both mom and baby.
At 3 months old, Blakely was a decent sleeper usually waking up twice in the night but just eating quickly and going right back to sleep. She took a half hour nap every 2 hours all day long. Her sleep schedule certainly wasn’t ideal but I was so happy to not feel sleep deprived at all. I heard about the 4 month sleep regression but thought it surely can’t be that big of a deal. Just before she turned 4 months old she started taking much longer naps and even put herself to sleep a couple times. I was so excited to see progress!
I first started noticing something was different when she seemed to lose interest in eating. She definitely was hungry but couldn’t help looking all around at everything happening around her while she was nursing. If someone was talking she would stop and listen and there was no way I could talk while feeding her without her glaring at me. Suddenly she was eating much more at night to make up for what she missed during the day. This seemed reasonable and harmless so I didn’t think much of it. Soon things got a lot crazier though. She would fall into deep sleep in my arms but wake and cry every time I put her down. This went on all night long and her 6 hour stretch of sleep turned in to 2 or 3 at best. Luckily the worst of it occurred over a weekend so my husband was able to help but I was still miserably tired and completely overwhelmed.
I did what I always do in these situations and turned to Google. I read everything I could possibly find on the 4 month sleep regression. I was surprised at how much information there was and especially how consistent it all was. Here are the suggestions that stood out most to me and my experience trying them out.
Focus on Good Feeds
This was probably the first thing I did and it seemed to help a lot! During the day I made sure to wait to feed Blakely until she was good and hungry and then I would take her into a quiet, calm environment. I also bought a nursing necklace so she had something to do with her hands while she ate. This was a quick fix. She immediately started eating more during the day again and now when she wakes at night, it’s not usually because she is truly hungry.

Focus on Good Naps

Like most 4 month olds, Blakely needs a nap every 2 hours. If she goes much longer than that, she ends up getting overtired which just makes sleeping more difficult for everyone. Additionally, babies this age can’t fall asleep just anywhere as easily as they used to. So I tried to really focus on watching for tired cues and quieted our environment as soon as I saw them. I made sure to be aware of when her next nap time was coming up and then prioritize it over anything else I was doing. The idea is that the better she sleeps during the day, the better she will sleep at night! So far unfortunately, I haven’t seen that play out yet but she is much happier during the day and easier to put to sleep when I make sure she gets good naps.

Three Naps and an Early Bedtime
Many babies transition from 4 naps a day to just 3 at around this age but then require an early bedtime. Most of what I read suggested a bedtime between 6 and 7! I was shocked when I read that the first time. Blakely usually goes to bed between 8:30 and 9:30 so this was going to be a big transition for us. It was also really hard for me because truthfully we aren’t even home by 6 o’clock to start a bedtime routine. So I struggled with this idea for awhile and even put her down around 6:30 a couple times but she just treated it exactly like her 4th nap instead. Because Blakely still only takes half hour naps, I’m thinking this suggestion is just unrealistic for us at this point. Hopefully soon she will start napping for an hour or two at a time and then I can definitely see why she would only want to take 3 naps but for now I’m sticking to what we’re doing.
Establish a Sleeping Routine
We really didn’t have any kind of a bedtime or nap routine up until this point but at her age, she is now able to value the consistency and cues to make her sleepy. So I chose “Jesus Loves Me” as her lullaby which I often sing to her before a nap as I bounce her on my exercise ball. At night we often give her a bath, get her Jammies on, read her two stories, sing her song, and then I nurse her one last time. She usually falls asleep immediately after she’s done eating. I can definitely tell she’s starting to respond to the cues and is getting sleepy earlier and earlier in the routine. Hopefully this keeps working!
Drowsy But Awake Time
I’ve been reading about “drowsy but awake” time for awhile now and while I think it sounds like an amazing solution to our problems, I just struggle to have the patience for it. If you don’t know, this is the practice of putting your baby in her crib when she is drowsy but still awake. This way she can learn to fall asleep on her own. I’ve been trying this on and off for a couple months and just can’t get it down. First of all, Blakely seems to have a very short window. She will be wide awake one second and fast asleep the next so I often don’t get her into her crib soon enough. However, if I try to do it too early she just gets really upset and worked up and I have to start all over again to calm her down. Nevertheless I know the ability to put herself back to sleep in the middle of the night would be a huge leap forward in our sleeping troubles and my hope is the longer this regression goes on, the more motivation I will develop to get this right.
Do What Works
Finally, one of the best and most comforting things I read was to simply just do what you need to do to make it through this tough time. For Blakely and I, this means that it’s ok to let her sleep in bed with me sometimes because we both sleep really well that way. After all, I can’t be a very good mom when I’m tired out of my mind and if Blakely gets too overtired it just gets even harder to help her sleep. So I often wrestle with rocking her back to sleep in the first part of the night when I still have the energy but once my patience wears out she’s in bed cuddling with me and I have to say I do enjoy that time.

Overall, I’m just expecting that time will help her the most through this developmental stage and eventually we will both be getting good sleep again. To a sleep deprived mom, that can feel so far away but I’m trusting that it’s actually right around the corner.
UPDATE: We made it through! For Blakely, the sleep regression lasted about three and a half weeks. As I anticipated, time was the main thing she needed but if I had to pinpoint one thing that made a difference it would be that we let her sleep with us for a couple nights in a row without fighting her at all. That way, she was able to get totally rested again and I think she felt safe enough with us there that she learned to put herself back to sleep. She was soon sleeping through the night for the first time ever (although of course that didn’t last super long) and were happy to be getting rest again.
Did your baby struggle with sleep regressions? What did you find helped the most?