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image by Jessica Sands Photography

*note, this is very, very, long. if you just want to see the slideshow, skip to the end….*

Clara’s story is one wrapped in prayer. After we had our third baby, Grant, he was to be our last child. We had three healthy children, Matt had originally thought two was enough, and I promised I would be content with three. That I wouldn’t keep wanting more, more, more babies. But probably a year after Grant was born, I could feel it. I wanted another. So I prayed. I prayed God would change my heart and that I would stop wanting a fourth baby. Or that God would change Matt’s heart and he would start wanting a fourth baby. Or that whatever God’s will was, that would happen without us having to decide one way or another. But mostly I prayed “please God, just one more. And….if possible, Amelia really needs a sister” I didn’t mention to Matt that I wanted another, because I promised him I wouldn’t. But I prayed. And in July of last year, I went to Greece after a family vacation up North with Matt and the kids. And by the second week in Greece, I had an inkling. I sort of just knew that perhaps baby four would actually be joining our family. I came home, took a test, and surprised the pants off of Matt when I told him. He thought I was kidding. He was shocked. And for a while, I think a little bit in denial. It didn’t take him long to come around though. Not even a week later he told me he was actually REALLY excited to have another little one.

Fast forward to mid March. I have to admit, I was pretty sure that this pregnancy, labor, and delivery would follow along the lines of my other children. Because Grant was born at 39 weeks, and baby 4’s original due date was mid-march (The midwives and I decided after the 20 week ultrasound to push it back to March 23rd) I was ready for baby’s arrival sometime on or even, I must admit, before 39 weeks. With my first three I never had any real labor signs before real labor began. I NEVER had a contraction until it was actual GO TIME, and so I figured this time would be the same. As soon as I started getting actual labor signs (around 38 weeks) I figured it would be any day now. I also counted on a very quick labor. Grant’s labor from the first contraction was 2 hours. We hardly made it to the hospital. I was worried we wouldn’t with baby 4….. I now REALLY know that each and every labor is very very different.

For the actual birth I knew I wanted another unmedicated waterbirth. I have had natural births with all three of my children previously and a waterbirth with Chase and I was definitely hoping for another. With Grant I felt like I lost my head a bit, and I wanted to stay more calm during this labor. I knew the fear I felt during his labor didn’t help me at all. During my pregnancy I did a hypnobabies home study course and was planning to use that during my labor and delivery. As the time drew closer though, for the baby to be born I started to get scared again…..and I realized that what I really needed to do was focus on prayer, scriptures, and God to get me through. So I made a birth playlist of some of my favorite worship songs (more on that later), I printed out verses and spiritual affirmations from this site: and I prayed and meditated on those truths.

So now, for the actual birth. On Wednesday March 26 at 40 +3, I was getting a little depressed. I know I wasn’t far overdue at all, but for me it felt like an eternity. I had a Non stress test and ultrasound the previous Monday and all was well. Baby was estimated at 8 lbs 7 oz and everything looked perfect. Thankfully we weren’t talking induction yet, but I WAS beyond ready to meet this little one. So when Wednesday rolled around I had a plan to walk a loop with two sets of stairs when I took Amelia to ballet. Earlier that day I started having mild contractions about 10-12 minutes apart. I started texting my good friend Jess who was also my super talented birth photographer. I told her what was happening and she let me know that she could come that night if it was really “it” but had to be home by 6:30 a.m. The contractions continued all the while I walked and even for a bit when I came home, but tapered off at 9 pm. Like I said this was TOTALLY new for me. I never had contractions that didn’t send me straight into active labor. I went to bed feeling a bit sad….but also I had a feeling that maybe something really was getting started at least. I made sure all the kids had everything they needed for the next day, and I wrapped up some loose ends before I went to bed.

I woke up at about 1 a.m. the next morning , Thursday March 27, after dreaming I was having a painful contraction. I lay in bed for awhile before realizing I actually washaving contractions. I started timing and they were anywhere from about 5-10 minutes apart for the next hour. Even though I thought we would rush to the hospital at the first sign of labor, something in me said this wasn’t going to be like Grant’s precipitous labor. So I lay in bed and prayed for awhile. Then I decided to take a bath. I read through the verses, affirmations and prayers I had printed out and then took a bath while reading my friend Kelly’s very inspirational birth story. All of those things kept the fear that I felt seeping in at bay.

Probably around 3 a.m. or so I got dressed, sat on my birthing ball and listened to my birthing playlist. My contractions were still about 5-8 minutes apart and not too intense, but definitely more intense than the day before. I got lost in the music, which was wonderful. I kept thinking “two more contractions, and then I will wake Matt up,two more”….and then I would keep waiting. Finally I woke him up and asked him what he thought I should do. He said “two more contractions and then call in”. I tried to lay down after that to see if I could fall back asleep, or at least rest some, but the contractions seemed more intense when layinging down. I waited about a half an hour and finally made the call to my midwife at 4:20 a.m. She said to come on in, which was a relief. It was getting real! We called my dad to come over to be with the other kids while they slept and to help get them on the bus.

I texted Jess just to let her know we were going in, but I was super sad, thinking she wouldn’t be there….and I didn’t want to call and wake her up since I knew she wouldn’t be able to come. She texted back immediately “I could not sleep. I’ve been waiting for your call” She and her husband awesomely made it work and she was going to be on her way. What an answer to prayer! A note about birth photography. If you know me at all, you know that birth photography is a huge passion of mine. I wanted Jess to photograph Grant’s birth, but it was too fast and intense and I never called. As soon as I got pregnant I knew I wanted her there for this baby. Not only do I think documenting the birth of a child is super amazing and important, but Jess is one of my dear friends, like a sister. I knew that her support and presence in my birthing room would be so helpful (and I was right). PLUS, the images she captured for us are so dear to me. I will treasure them forever. *here is her blog post from the day*

On the way to the hospital contractions were still about 5 minutes apart, still pretty mild. Matt even stopped for donuts and coffee before going to the hospital. When we got there, they monitored contractions and the baby’s heartbeat for a bit, during which my contractions spaced out to about 10 minutes apart. I was worried they were going to fade away and we would be sent home. I was checked and was only 2 cm at about 6 a.m. I was a bit discouraged since that is what I had been the previous week at my 40 week appointment. I had never gon to the hospital at less than 5 cm with the other kids and I was freaking out that we had come and Jess was coming and it would be a false alarm. Jess arrived and we all walked the halls and stairs for about an hour, and I did some squats. Contractions were still about 5 minutes apart, and I still didn’t have to stop or concentrate through them. We went back to our room and I sat on the exercise ball for a while and we just chatted. It was actually fun, just hanging out with Matt and Jess and chatting. Around that time Jess called our friend Steph who I also wanted there for moral support (and she stepped in and helped photograph at the end as well). She is another lovely dear friend, and since I knew I wouldn’t have my mom there this time I wanted to be surrounded by loving woman who would support me. As soon as Steph got there she started massaging my feet. It was lovely. I am so lucky to have had those wonderful, strong (and talented) woman there with us.

At about 7:00 I could feel a change in contractions (and in my anxiety level). I started pacing the room, had to take off my leggings, wanted to pee every couple minutes. I had to stop and focus a little more during contractions. I finally had Matt go ask if they could start filling the birthing tub…the nurses wanted to wait for my midwife Jen to check me (there was a midwife change and she would be in a little after 8) I REALLY wanted it to be filled when she checked so I could get in if possible, I didn’t want to miss the window like I did with Grant and not get a waterbirth. So my awesome hubby got it done for me. I texted Talia at this time asking for prayer and support, because I was getting worried. She texted me back “No nerves! Remember the joy-filled life verses and your paryers about each contraction…wipe from your mind the other births and focus on this brand new one-different from all the rest—and “enjoy” a new experience and story! I will be praying through the day because of course you will be forefront in my mind. You are a strong mother who can do all things through Christ who will never give you more than you can bear and in the end will make a way”…. (which of course made me cry)

I read my verses…. And meditated on the thought that I didn’t have to be strong, that God was my strength and that he would carry me through, no matter what. It really helped. At closer to 8 I again text Talia (at that point I was concentrating more and more on contractions, and still getting a little fearful). I said “3.5 minutes apart. Fighting to stay calm. Shouldn’t it be easier to stay calm?” and she text back “Yes. You are thinking too far in advance. 1 at a time. The baby is finally coming. No more waiting! Find something to focus on as it comes…..sometime to stabilize you in the present. Rock a little….focus only on Him and your miracale to come… You’ve got this…”

My midwife came in a little after 8 and brought with her a wave of excitement and energy. She checked and I was 5 cm. I didn’t get discouraged, as I went from 6 cm-holding my baby with Grant in 20 minutes. I knew I was getting close. She had me get right in the tub from there. I turned up my playlist and spent the next 45 or so minutes focusing on those words and praying. Listening to the songs and visualizing my contractions as hills I was climbing helped so much and I was able to work through the hardest of the contractions that way. In the end I did start to vocalize more, but not in the out of control way I did with Grant during transition. In a more calm and prayful way. …I even sang softly to myself some of the words of the song (I apologize to my friends in the room, as I know I can’t sing even in the best circumstances) I even joked (a tiny bit) with Steph when I heard her sniffling in the corner. (I always cry every time I photograph a birth as well!)

Then I hit nine cm and the urge to push started. That is when the fear got me… big time. I started freaking out that I COULD NOT do it. All my relaxation and focus went out the window and yelled that I could not do it, that they were going to have to go in and get the baby out, because I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep my hips in the water and felt completely out of control. Finally my midwife got very stern with me and yelled that I HAD to push and that I could do it and I had to stay under the water. I had been sort of half heartedly pushing at that point (maybe two pushes) when I finally got a sort of grip on myself and realized only I could get that baby out and in three pushes… was here at 9:08 a.m. Later Aunt Kathy said she had the urge to pray for me at exactly 9 am—probably right when I was freaking out big time….and Matt later said that it was probably right about then that he felt a sense of calm and that was probably when I got a grip as well. God is really good, isn’t he?

They placed the baby directly on my chest, and after a fleeting impression that it must be a boy, I checked to be sure…… Just let me say during my pregnancy I was 99.9999% positive this baby was a boy. Imagine my surprise when I saw that no, in fact it was a girl. I think I had to check about three more times to make sure. (and I am STILL sort of in shock she is a girl) I lay in the water exhausted, elated that it was over and in mini-shock that I did it, again.

After I got out of the tub, we had skin to skin for about 2 hours straight. Me, still in shock she was a girl and still half dazed from delivery…lol. She weighed 7 lbs 15 oz…..after much deliberation we decided to name her Clara Hazel. Matt’s top choice! We had other names that he wasn’t as fond of, and even I had to admit she looked like a Clara. The kids, when they found out weren’t as fond. Chase said it was a cow name… and Amelia was dead set on Violet, which was also on our list.

For a while I was disappointed in myself that I freaked out so bad at the pushing stage. I really wanted a completely calm birth like I have seen and heard about. But now, I have realized… birth is birth. It is different for everyone. I am not a calm person, ever. I was calm for 95 % of the birth, and then I did what I needed to do to get her out. Vocalizing, even screaming, even losing your head for a bit, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Labor and delivery is HARD work, no matter what. Women are WARRIORS for going through it. No one should ever feel bad for doing what we need to do to help that baby come into the world. It is a miracle. And I did it!

A humongous thank you needs to go out to my husband, who was amazing birth support this time (every time really, but this time I needed it more, and he stepped right in), to everyone who stood in the gap and prayed me through. To my midwife Jen who is AMAZING. She was everything I needed her to be when I needed her to be it. And to Jess and Steph, who not only were amazing friends and birth partners, but who also took the images that will help me remember this day for forever and whose talent I am so in awe of and grateful for. I love you girls. I am all about the “birth in a community” thing and I am so happy for those that were in my community that day.

*oh! And my birthing playlist? One of the best things I did, hands down, for getting me through the hard parts of labor, Here it is:

You Are MineEnter the Worship Circle

Too Proud      Enter the Worship Circle

For the Moments I Feel Faint           Relient K

Open My Hands        Sara Groves

It Is Well With My Soul         Phil Wickham

Oh How I Need You  All Sons & Daughters

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us            Selah

Never Once    Matt Redman

Beautiful Things        Gungor

Be Thou My Vision    Pedro the Lion

I Could Sing of Your Love Forever  Sonicflood

Breathe          Michael W. Smith

Welcome to This World        Renee & Jeremy

Jesus Lover of My Soul         Hillsong

The More I Seek You (feat. Kari Jobe)        Klaus

Amazing Grace           Sufjan Stevens

Jesus What a Beautiful Name          Tanya Riches

I Lift My Eyes Up       Nigel Briggs

Lift Me Up      The Afters

At the Foot of the Cross (feat. Kari Jobe)   Klaus


and…..Clara’s birth story in images. Photos by Jessica Sands Photography and Stephanie Neprud Photography

Clara’s Birth Video from Krystal Muellenberg on Vimeo.

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