Trials and the Strength to Endure


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the hard stuff that we all go through: the emotional and physical and mental struggles that are just part of life. I guess pushing out a baby will do that to a girl.

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Baby Marilyn Newborn Photos

My neighbor and friend Lindsey is an amazing photographer.  She knows how to capture the perfect moments and masters light like a pro.  Um, maybe that’s cause she IS a pro.  She took these newborn pictures of our sweet Marilyn June and I’m in love.  Hope you enjoy!


P.S. If you’re in the Phoenix area, check out Lindsey’s website!

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It’s a GIRL!



BIG news around here…we had our baby and it’s a GIRL!  I had myself convinced we were having a boy, partly because I really wanted little Finn to have a buddy of the same gender next to him in line, just like the other kids do.  But now that she’s here, I couldn’t be more thrilled that I have another little girl to dress up.  Admittedly, I was getting a little panicked that all my girls were growing out of the toddler section at Target.

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The Epidural: Making an Informed Decision


Yay for a new year and getting back to the swing of things and regular schedules!  That is, after getting my family over all the yucky sicknesses making the round this winter…it’s been like Pukefest 5000 around here. 🙁

Now back to one of my favorite topics…birth!  And on to the second installment of my series on this wonderful topic.

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The C-Section: Making an informed decision


I’m so, SO excited for my first post in a blog series on birth!  I LOVE babies and I love talking about birth.

I was extremely nervous and scared for my first two births but since then I have learned and experienced so much that it is now my favorite part of pregnancy…and not simply because I get to meet my sweet baby! (and sleep on my back and stomach, and go longer than 30 seconds without peeing, and fit into tight spaces… you catch my drift)

c-section decision

I’m grateful that my birth experiences have been extremely varied.  Because of that, I am very empathetic to all mothers and their births, both those that go as planned and those that don’t.  My first baby was delivered by emergency c-section after Liam’s heart rate kept dipping dangerously low.  I fought like crazy to get a vaginal birth the second time around and I succeeded; Toby was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) in the hospital, induced with Pitocin and I was given an epidural.  Juliet and Finn, my 3rd and 6th births, were water births at home, and 4th & 5th births, the twins, were natural and vaginal in the hospital (and also my biggest triumphs!).

The thought to write a series on birth popped into my head one day but I wasn’t sure what direction it would take.  Then the idea to write specifically about c-sections literally woke me up one night.  I couldn’t get back to sleep, thinking about all the women who face this decision and how scary it can be.

This photo is of my little sister in the throes of labor with her first baby.  This was taken at a birth center but she ended up transferring to a hospital and delivering by cesarean.

No one can tell you what birth is best for you and your baby…or what unanticipated twist might occur to change your best laid plans.  But it IS important to plan.  If you read and research and become as informed as possible, then, if life does throw some crazy curve ball at you (twins anyone??), you will be prepared to change plans with minimal stress and still end up with an amazing and beautiful birth!

This priceless photo was taken just seconds after I caught my 6th baby, Finn, who was born at home, in the water.

The reason I named this blog series “Making an Informed Decision” is because YOU get to decide how to birth your baby.  Yes, even if it ends in a cesarean.  Be very wary of any medical provider who tries to make every decision for you.  In some situations you will weigh the information given to you and it will be very clear that a c-section is the best choice.  In other situations, perhaps not.  But don’t forget that YOU have the last say!

Another important thing to understand about c-sections is that they are not a normal birth outcome.  A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery and has major ramifications for both baby and mother (both in the present and future).  In other words, it is not a decision to be taken lightly.  That being said, let’s all recognize what a miracle these life-saving surgeries are! Millions of women and babies would have very different, possibly catastrophic, birth outcomes without this amazing intervention.  C-sections have saved the lives of many babies and mothers.

Interestingly, the rate of c-sections has been on the rise for the past decade.  It’s currently close to 30% in the US (and 40% in the Arizona county where I live).  While there are lots of arguments regarding an “ideal” rate of c-section, it is widely believed that this surgery is often done unnecessarily.  See some great sources at the end of this post if you’d like to read more.  A cesarean can result in some scary stuff: placenta accreta, infection, blood loss or uterine rupture.  In short, it’s not a procedure you want to elect for if there’s a way around it!

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All the twin pictures in this post are of Vivian and Kira.  I love these shots so much!  Our girls were born vaginally but most of the doctors I interviewed preferred to deliver multiples surgically.

So the question is, why so many c-sections?

There are definitely some clear-cut medical reasons to get that baby out fast.  Some of these include eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure in mom), problems with the placenta, and other serious medical conditions.

But there are also situations where the decision is less clear and it’s up to both the mother’s discretion and doctor’s opinion.  Some of these include a baby deemed larger than average, a breech or other poorly positioned baby, and previous c-sections*.

In these situations. it’s crucial to be informed and aware of your options.  Below are some great questions to ask your doctor if you’re facing either a planned or emergency cesarean (CS).

Why do I need a CS?
What are the risks of getting a CS?
What are the risks of delivering vaginally?
What happens if we wait and see (i.e. attempt a vaginal birth first)?

By the way, these questions are also a good thing to remember when facing any intervention (induction, epidural, episiotomy, etc).  A “cascade of interventions” is often blamed for leading to an emergency cesarean (i.e. too much “stuff” done to mom and baby).  Experts also blame changes in medical malpractice insurance and hospital policies for the rising rate of these surgeries.


My last piece of advice is this: don’t be afraid to get a second opinion!  If your doc is telling you something that just doesn’t sit well with you, see another OB or midwife for his/her opinion.  For some reason we often hesitate to second-guess our doctors, but getting another opinion just means you want the very best for yourself and baby.  There are a lot of forces at play in America’s maternity system and sadly, not all providers make decisions that are in the mother’s best interest.  YOU are your own best advocate.

When we trust our bodies and our babies and assume they will do their jobs just fine on their own, chances are good that they will!  If for some reason something goes wrong, be educated enough to ask the right questions and have a birth advocate help you (if you’ve never considered a doula, look into it!  They can be wonderful).  Lastly, if a c-section is necessary, we can be grateful that we live in a country that offers access to this life-saving surgery.

Birth is an amazing, miraculous, spiritual journey and I hope you enjoy it!!

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*I am a huge advocate of VBACs, and I’ve fought tooth and nail for every one of mine (5!).  If you’ve already had one or more c-sections and are interested in learning more about having a vaginal birth, check out ICAN online or email me! I’d love to share what I’ve learned.

International Cesarean Awareness Network
Brazil isn’t the only country with high c-section rates
Why is the US c-section rate so high?
C-section by choice

You can find all my posts in the series on birth HERE!

Note, this post is not meant as a substitute for medical advice.  Please consult with a qualified midwife or obstetrician in regards to your prenatal and birth care.


Emergency First Aid–Free Printables!

I recently got put in charge of my church’s monthly women’s evening meeting.  So now I get to plan the get-togethers where our husbands think we’re meeting to learn spiritual stuff when really we’re catching up on gossip and eating junk.  Pretty sweet gig, lemme tell ya.

This week we put on a little class on dealing with first aid emergencies.  I prepared a packet that includes information on CPR, choking, cuts, burns and what to do in case you have to give birth in an emergency situation (i.e. not a hospital or your choice of birthplace :).  This packet would be perfect inside an evacuation kit to be used in a real life or death emergency or simply stuck in your first aid kit or medicine cabinet.

first aid

Cuts and burns quiz and instructions

Birthing in an emergency

Adult CPR (the CPR and choking links are to the CPR Dude website which is where I got my information.  Just print off a screen shot of each page!)

Child CPR

Infant CPR

Choking Adult or Child

Choking Infant

I’m such a huge fan of all women being prepared to give birth in any situation; information is power!   Now, if you ever find yourself speeding to the hospital with contractions right on top of each other and think you just might not make it,  you’ll be the picture of calm and rationale, right??

The spiritual side of birth

Baby Finn, just minutes old.  Also, my cleavage. 

I’m super thrilled to share a book review as a part of the  Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life!  I virtually befriended one of the authors a couple of years ago and I am so grateful to have found this incredible resource for mothers and mothers-to-be.  It’s written by women who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (some of us Mormons :), but any woman of faith will appreciate the revelations contained within.  I believe that this book’s potential to transform our ideas and conceptions about birth is unimaginable!
First off, this book is HUGE, over 500 pages!  It’s organized by well-written and touching essays on an array of topics concerning birth and motherhood: from infertility to homebirth to the heartbreak of loss.  Besides these amazing essays, it’s chock full of birth stories that will leave you in awe and in tears (good ones!). If I had all the money in the world, I would buy a copy of this book for every mother and woman I know
Here I am 41 weeks pregnant with Finn.  Did I mention he’s 11 MONTHS today? (wha??!)
It’s evident that the birthing community talks a lot about being physically and emotionally prepared for a baby.  Carrying and nurturing a baby inside of you and then delivering that baby takes a toll on every woman’s body and emotions.  But rarely do we hear that we ought to prepare spiritually or even that birth can be a spiritual event!  This is part of why I’m so passionate about women being informed before birth and taking back some control over their birthing environments.  We all recognize that witnessing someone pass from this life to the next can be profoundly moving and deeply spiritual.  I believe that welcoming a new life into the world should be just as meaningful, and much more joyful!
I couldn’t possible be able to choose my favorite chapter or story in this book but I can say that The Gift of Giving Life completely changed the way that I see and process everything about motherhood.  I know that the role of Mother is so important and so sacred, that every part of it has a spiritual aspect: making the decision to conceive, intimacy, pregnancy, labor and of course, the birth itself.  (There’s also plenty to read for adoptive mothers, grandmothers and others!)  As mothers, we are guardians of the gateway between heaven and earth.  We have been given both the power and the inclination to create life, with husbands and God as our partners.  We can come to know the special connection mothers have with Jesus Christ as we give a portion of our bodies and our blood to bring new life into this world. If we could communicate the importance and sanctity of these truths to the next generation, we could undoubtedly change the world.
Thanks for reading my review and be sure to visit the Gift of Giving Life Virtual Book Tour page for a chance to win some great baby-related prizes!
Now go buy a couple copies of the book on amazon to give any new moms in your life.  It’s my favorite baby shower gift!

Little Graham Cracker

My baby sister had a baby!  It’s hard to believe. 
Graham Christopher Dyson. 9.7.13
She let me be there for her labor and, even though there were some hiccups during the birth, she was AMAZING.  I love how birth can be this transformative process.  It’s the refiner’s fire that turns an ordinary woman into a mother.
This is a shot taken by her birth photographer, Kelly.  She was sweet, unobtrusive and just fantastic!  Check out some of her incredible work here.
Poor Nanny ended up needing a cesarean (baby’s heart rate kept dropping…same reason I needed one with Liam, darn it!) but she’s reacovering really well.
Baby G also gave us all a little scare by aspirating meconium (newborn poop) into his lungs and spent his first couple days of life in the NICU.
We’re all so grateful that they’re finally home and doing great.
It made me realize that of all my parents’ grandkids there’s only been this one baby who’s had any serious medical issues at birth. What a blessing that we have modern medicine to help us avoid the tragedies of the generations before us.  Can you imagine living in a time when pregnancy was a potentially fatal condition??
He’s such a perfect little peanut…I love me a newborn babe!

Welcome Baby Finn

I thought baby Finn’s one month birthday would be a good time to finally blog about his birth.  But, it was also his older brother Toby’s 6th birthday…so today little Finn is 1 month and 1 day 🙂  I still need to get some cute sleeping pics of him but here are some great birth shots.  I was lucky enough to have my little sister Nancy at the birth so she got lots of fun pictures.  I wish I would’ve assigned someone to do this at all my births!

In case you missed his stats, here they are:
Finn Patrick Wiscombe
June 1, 2013, 12:38 pm
6lbs 13 oz, 19 in
I’m one of those weird people who enjoys seeing the in-progress labor pictures.  I think it helps me to think back on it with perspective and realize how miraculous labor is.  It’s kinda hard to appreciate it when you’re in the middle of it all.  Can’t imagine why 🙂DSC_0005
The birth story goes a little something like this…
At 41 weeks 5 days, I decided I was done being pregnant and wanted to take castor oil.  I’m always telling pregnant moms to be patient with their babies and let them go into labor on their own but I was mighty impatient myself this time.  Not sure why, but I did know that if I made it to 42 weeks we were gonna have to have a talk about whether or not my midwife could continue to see me.  AZ statute says that “overdue” moms are out of a midwife’s scope of practice. That might mean a homebirth would be out of the plan and I’d have to change everything.  So glad he came when he did!

My midwife gave me permission to take castor oil Saturday morning so at 8:30am I took 4 oz of it (the whole bottle!) in a milkshake.  I started having cramping (um, as in the bathroom variety.  Castor oil is a laxative which means it “stimulates” the bowels which in turn stimulates the uterus.  I think you can all deduce what kind of side effects this stuff produces) and was slightly uncomfortable all morning.  At 11:30 I was laying on the couch talking to my sister (Luke was running errands) and my water broke.  That’s the first time it’s ever broken without me being in full-blown intense labor.  I went upstairs and Nan called my mom and Luke.  By noon the contractions were intense and luckily my midwife showed up not long after.  We emptied the hot water heater into the tub and it was still only half full…I hopped in anyway cause I needed some pain relief.  30 minutes later my contractions turned into the pushing kind, and he came out just a few minutes later.  By FAR my fastest labor (1 hour!) but that’s probably because of all the maddening practice labor i had during the previous few weeks.
Fast and dirty…that’s how we roll over here 😉
Let me tell you, if you haven’t actually caught one of your own babies, I highly recommend it.  Super cool experience.  The first pic is me unwinding his cord and the second is me finding out the gender of the baby!
Favorite shot ever.
Don’t you wonder what is running through little newborn baby heads at birth?  Something like “It’s bright and loud and cold and scary out here.  Hold me, mom!”
P.S. I love newborn pouty lips!
See?!  I was smiling just moments later!  Can’t have been that bad, right??DSC_0034
What a precious little munchkin.DSC_0039
Love how he’s already got a hold of my sports bra 🙂
Daddy/Baby pics are THE best.

I realized that Baby Finn is special lots of ways.

He is the…
1st baby we didn’t find out the gender of until birth.
2nd baby born at home.
3rd boy in the family.
4th birth with no drugs or medical interventions.
5th VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).
6th sweet baby to come to our home.

We just love him!!!

Twins’ birth story

As I have been reminded numerous times that I have yet to post a birth story, here goes!

My pregnancy with the twins was completely uneventful. Other than trying harder to gain weight, actually gaining less, taking it a bit easier and having a huge tight belly, it was just the same as with my other babies. I knew I would go close to full term since I’m always overdue but still, at about 37 weeks I started anxiously awaiting labor. At 38 1/2 weeks I was getting pretty uncomfortable and then that night I had good solid contractions all night, 5 minutes apart, and I expected to go to the hospital soon. I dozed off between contractions and the next thing I knew, I’d slept until morning and labor had stopped. I was so mad!! Luke stayed home from work that day (Thursday) and Friday since we expected things to start up again any time.

All day Friday i was finally just miserable physically. It felt like i had to go to the bathroom all day and the pressure of two babies dropped so low was so intense i couldn’t sit for very long at all. At about 8pm I finally gave in and took some castor oil 🙂 I was super nervous that i would have a horrible reaction to it so I only took a tablespoon. Of course, no contractions 🙂 until at about 10:30 that night when they started again and were about 7 minutes apart. I didn’t want to call anyone for fear that it was false labor again. But as soon as Luke saw me have to pause and breathe through a contraction, he called the cavalry. He was so afraid of having babies in the car!

My parents and brother came over, and when my doula, Emily showed up, Luke and I, my mom and Emily took off for the hospital. When we got there it was midnight and all through getting checked in, my labor was nice and steady. We got placed in a room at about 1:30am and settled in to wait. Our nurse was awesome, a nice Filipino lady named Tess who knew her stuff. The hospital policy is that twins must be delivered in the operating room, even if vaginally. Tess called the doc (who happened to be a stranger since my doc was out of town and no midwife was available… So much for all that concern over finding the right provider!) and he assured me that as long as baby A was head down, he’d deliver baby B breech if necessary. Then they did an ultrasound and found that baby A was head down and baby B was sideways, almost headed the right way. My doctor had warned me that without an epidural, manipulating a baby into the right position could be really painful…which I already knew cause they did that to me with Liam before the c-section.

Anyway, labor kept progressing normally and was pretty bearable until about 3:30. I used the birthing ball and some other positions to try to get comfortable but I had a blood pressure cuff, oximeter and 2 fetal monitors on me, not to mention an immodest hospital gown so it was pretty hard to find a good position. Bless Emily’s heart, she was my lifesaver in a hospital that is not really designed for natural births. She rubbed my feet, clipped my sweaty bangs out of my eyes and fed me ice chips whenever the nurse wasn’t looking (i was also told not to eat or drink due to that ever present threat of surgery). At some point during this bad labor, i felt what I thought was my water breaking.

Tess checked my cervix right before 4am and although she said it quietly to my mom, I thought I heard her say 8cm. I tried not to think about those last 2 centimeters since I was about at my breaking point and was pretty sure I was minutes from giving birth. My mom really wanted to see the babies be born but only Luke was allowed in the OR so she kept telling me to not tell the nurse I was ready to push until it was too late :). So, when I first felt the urge, I didn’t say anything. Then the second push came and there was no hiding it since I started making some noise. Tess started working like mad to get more nurses in there, lay me down and start pushing the bed to the OR. Vivian was crowning by the time we hit the hall and her head was out before we got to the OR. That was my only real complaint about this birth…they were so intent on following hospital policy by racing me to the OR that no one stopped to catch my baby! Oh well, she came out the right way, and that’s the important thing. They got me in the OR, Vivian started yelling like nobody’s business, bright and pink and beautiful! I had a couple minutes to enjoy her and then i felt the urge to push again.

For a second I had forgotten that there was another baby in there and i started to feel a little dread! But Kira came flying out in about a push and a half. All I felt was intense pressure but Luke said Kira almost came out in her bag of waters before the doc reached up there and broke it. Luke said he did it so violently it kinda freaked him out. Again, pretty obvious that hospital staff is used to treating women who have epidurals and can’t feel anything :). Kira came out really blue and didn’t cry very well so they whisked her over to the bassinet and gave her some oxygen. She did great though, and both babies had Apgars of 8 & 9.
The pushing and births were all so fast and furious that I didn’t have much time to think about it all. Afterwards, we were just so grateful that everything turned out so perfectly. We were sort of local celebrities for a while too…there were extra people in there cause of the second baby so lots of nurses and techs followed us back to the room and my mom said the nurses station was talking about the vaginal twin birth for a while. What’s funny is that it was only a couple days before the babies were born that i realized another reason for avoiding a c-section: I would have 5 kids to take care of, including 2 newborns. That would take a lot of extra help to manage after major surgery and I hate asking for help :). That realization just made me pray even harder that we could have these babies vaginally.

Even though labor was more intense than with Juliet, I healed fabulously and felt great just hours after the birth. Remember my Thanksgiving Day post about being grateful for our bodies? Well I am even more thankful now and incredibly amazed at this blessing that is motherhood. What a miracle we can be a part of!