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A Very Revealing Baby Story: The Sidelying Release

Around fifteen percent of women have their water break before going into active labor. If you are like me, most of the amniotic sacs you have seen, or will see, break in your life have belonged to the the cast of Friends or have taken place due to multiple viewings of the movie “Where The Heart Is” with Natalie Portman (which I suppose predisposes us to a whole slew of misconceptions about pregnancy and birth).

The gurus insist that pregnant women will most likely bypass this messy occurrence despite its over representation in the birth of every on-screen baby. Our birthing instructors and childbearing girlfriends assure us that our water may even hold out so long that a birth professional will have to prod it with what looks like the crochet hook my grandma uses to bind off her knitting projects.

I’ve never been that worried about my water breaking anyway, even in a public place. Many pregnant women bemoan the idea of their water breaking in front of their students or male colleagues. Screw that. It’s a free opportunity to pee yourself in public with no repercussions or shame. When else as a grown woman do you get to leave a puddle of bodily fluid on the floor and render excitement from your peers?

When else as a grown woman do you get to leave a puddle of bodily fluid on the floor and render excitement from your peers?

So water-breaking joined swimsuit-wearing and a Donald Trump presidency as things I didn’t need to worry about until later on. My immediate attention was focused on my 41 week and 5 day bump, willing my daughter to turn inside of me so I could push her out to the rhythm of my carefully practiced inhales and exhales.

The midwife had been solemn about Willa’s positioning. Even after we left the exam room with its posters of growing babies and plastic models of vaginas, the comforting hand of the midwife still laid heavily on my shoulder. She warned me in the sweet way women are often informed about bad news or potential crisis—solace without information.

I couldn’t get her hand off my shoulder all the way home or when I laid down on the couch with a “harumph,” whining about the unfairness of it all. My shoulder still dipped under the weight of her warning, and I knew the pressure wouldn’t lighten until I tried the prescribed twists, turns, and stretches that might coax Willa to turn her face away from the front of my belly.

The living room became mission command for our endeavors to rotate the baby around. I had spent the previous weeks pining for less time with Willa inside me. At the suggestion of one friend, I got on my hands and knees in the shower and yelled at my belly, “Come out Willa! Come ouuuuuttttt!” Now with a deadline for induction and a baby not ideally situated, I wanted all the time I could get.

Drew typed away at the computer, scouring the Spinning Babies website to find the cure all method for the posterior positioned baby. He found long lists of possible scenarios that could be summed up in the phrase, “everyone is different.” Nothing very helpful for a woman on the night before her induction.

My mom’s phone murmured with a constant stream of YouTube videos featuring women with calm voices positioning giant pregnant women on medical exam tables and couches. The women smiled, mere examples of the predicament of their viewers. They stared vacantly ahead like the person you’re supposed to watch in a workout video giving the low impact modification for each move: “If you have troubles with your knees, watch Mary Ellen for an adjustment,” But the Mary Ellen’s never look like the sweating, heaving messes looking to her for relief from the classic plank position or full push-up. Their half extended movements and shallow squats don’t fit their demeanor and bikini ready bodies.

After Drew and my mom gathered a consensus from popular advice on the internet, we went for a position called “the sidelying release,” offered in a YouTube video with a lot of thumbs up. I laid down on my left side, hanging my bulging belly over the side of the couch and letting Drew and my mom position me, pausing and unpausing the video to find the magic contortion. It was uncomfortable, and I was skeptical of my two-amateur chiropractors trying desperately to make everything alright.

Courtesy of Spinning Babies

Courtesy of Spinning Babies

According to the woman in the video (with an unfortunate haircut), we were supposed to take little breaks in between stretches, so we began the process of moving me, which took a great deal of willpower these days. Much use of the words “hoist” and “maneuver,” and careful count downs for the most minor adjustments.

On my sit bones once again, I leaned forward over my “birthing ball,” the one I’d been bouncing and gyrating on for the last month to wiggle Willa out. My cheek rested on the cold rubber, my arms arched over the curve of its sphere.

And then I felt something odd, something I didn’t have words for…the sensation of someone farting in my crotch. I know, not a great description, but the only analogy I had to put to the sensation.

The black nightgown I wore felt warm and soaked. I tilted myself forward and saw a large wet circle where I’d been sitting on the couch. The baby stopped moving inside of me, and as I took stock of the situation, I noticed something else on the couch.

Blood. A lot of it.

We needed to leave, we needed to get the baby out.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: Sunny Side Up

Willa was sunny side up.

This is a very sweet way to describe the reality of a baby in the posterior position.

It implies optimism and a nod to an Americana past, as if one can order up their labor pain at the counter of a greasy spoon diner alongside locals in trucker hats perusing the local gazette. A husky voiced waitress with a name like Madge or Paula might ask if I’d like my intense back labor with a choice of short stack, toast, or English muffin on the side.

While there are many things in labor that could benefit from some sugar coating, “sunnyside up” doesn’t need such a jaunty tone. Why can’t we find something better to call the mucus plug or the “bloody show.” These things could use a little poetic reimagining since they are so aptly named that it’s hard to bring them up in general conversation.

Why can’t we find something better to call the mucus plug or the “bloody show.”

Or perhaps we should stop using the term “water breaking” so that women know to expect something different than a bottle of Evian spilling out from between their legs.

For weeks I’d gathered comfort from the fact that our baby was head down. When you reached the requisite amount of weeks at my prenatal yoga class, our instructor would check in with us on our baby’s positioning so that a downward facing dog wouldn’t compromise our babies’ optimal escape plans.

“Head down?”

She’d parrot the question down the line of tired looking women gyrating their hips on deflating yoga balls. Her question became a form of attendance, a greeting. And how are you today? I’m fine. Head is down.

I so eagerly shared my positional news each week that the instructor started to anticipate my update. “And baby’s head is down, right?” This baby is head down and this momma is ready to naturally birth this baby all kumbaya style into a tub of warm water in a dimly lit room with the wafting scent of lavender in the air.

If I tried hard enough, if I prepared enough, if I could relax enough, if I could be enough, then I could do anything.

Ina May assured me that I shouldn’t have any problems as long as I had copious amounts of sex to naturally induce labor and if called my contractions “rushes” and armed myself with positions and sounds and information to get me through the most natural thing I’d ever do. If I tried hard enough, if I prepared enough, if I could relax enough, if I could be enough, then I could do anything.

Enough. Enough. Enough. Baby is head down.

At our appointment the afternoon before our induction, we found out Willa was facing up in the posterior position. I had been going to these appointments at the midwife more and more frequently and all the tissues and centimeters were progressing. The braxton hicks had been coming frequently and leaving me wondering with each tightening and pain… is this excruciating enough to be labor? Will these stabbing back pains ease down if I take an Epsom Salt bath and call my mom to tell her it might be time?

thats-my-occiput-by-tully-283x300

Posterior (OP) Position (Image Courtesy of Spinning Babies)

We were at the finish line, almost two weeks past the due date, when the midwife felt Willa’s positioning and her face contorted with concern. She started to ease me into the fact that the baby wasn’t dropping right  and appeared to be in the posterior position, I didn’t get it. Head down, ready to go. Her pauses and hand on my shoulder told me things were no longer optimal. She told me I needed to do everything I could to get the baby in a better position.

She gave me the address to a website. The domain name made me worry I was in for a night of circus acrobatics. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to be done, but instead I needed to flip and turn and twist and try hard enough to birth my baby naturally.

Madge, I’ll take my labor over-easy instead.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: A Barbaric Yawp

I want to start at the end, at the glory.

You’re supposed to hear a cry- a drawn out newborn wail, tearless and gasping. That’s how you know everything is ok. A little squawk will do, or even a gurgled protest, but Willa came out with what I imagine Whitman meant by a “barbaric yawp,” something more animal than human.

To hear her voice calling to us was the sweetest assurance, even more so than the muffled percussion of the sonograms at our prenatal appointments or the early pokes and flutters felt in my womb.

There is so much hidden behind the curtain of skin, muscle, and organs; we could only make guesses about our baby. “She’s so withholding,” we would say to disappointed grandmas with their hands on my stomach. Willa, who moments earlier had been violently rippling my stomach flesh, held deadly still under the watch of others trying to catch her acrobatics.

There is so much hidden behind the curtain of skin, muscle, and organs; we could only make guesses about our baby.

In her thirty two week ultrasound, the doctor pointed out the improbable presence of hair on her head, and the tech showed us the way she was practicing her breathing, preparing her lungs for inhaling  those first  gulps of air.

After forty two weeks of waiting, we were alert and ready to find out who this baby was.

“Not a small head” announced Dr. San Juan, the doctor who had joined our birth team. Was this in place of the announcement that the baby was a girl, do doctors feel like they must announce something about the baby? “Medium sized hands for a baby.” or “Thought you should know your baby has well-proportioned ears!”

Drew took over at this point, finally able to touch our baby who had been wrapped up in my body, snug behind my tissues. She held his finger as the neonatologist checked her out, since she’d gotten busy pooping in the two weeks since her due date.

“She’s so nice,” he kept exclaiming. “You’re going to love her.” His words became my comfort, a mantra as I laid there opened like a sardine can, exposed and helpless. Inhale, she’s so nice. Exhale, you’re going to love her.

Nothing prepares you for the fact that an actual baby comes out, a human who’s been hanging out inside of you, suspended upside down in a contracting womb.

Nothing prepares you for the fact that an actual baby comes out, a human who’s been hanging out inside of you, suspended upside down in a contracting womb. On the inside, she was overpriced pink shoes at the baby gap, she was lumps protruding from my stomach of maybe a butt, maybe her torso?

She was waves of nausea and back aches, and a basketball with flowy blouses draped over top. She was my wide-awakeness in the middle of the night and an occasion for strangers to offer me a seat in the lobby of crowded breakfast restaurant. She was a name, carefully recited to make sure it sang just right in the air. She was so many abstractions and hunches, but now she was nice and not a small head and a voice that could muster a primal yell.

When I become sad or start to feel shame about my story, I think of that blessed moment where she, scrappy and brave, met the air with an unapologetic screech, wild and wonderful, arching her neck with strength to meet the world.

She was nice. I was going to love her.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: Trying or Surprised

In the world of baby conception, society dumps moms into two categories: trying or surprised. I have prepared the following infographic to illustrate these sociological groupings:

When Drew and I began to tell people about baby Vosburg, many presented us with this binary question, “So were you trying, or was it a surprise?” In other words, were you having copious sex with the purpose of making a baby, or did your forget to take your birth control pill?

Not only did I not want to let mere acquaintances into my boudoir, neither category painted me in the way I wished to be perceived.

Baby stuff is weird. It seems like magic, things swishing around in some primordial alchemy, and then… a baby? So many friends, and siblings of friends, friends of friends, and kids of friends struggled to get pregnant. Sometimes, out of the blue, the reproductive magic worked, but others continued to wait. I wanted to skip over this part, the “trying,” which involved taking your temperature, paying attention to what comes out of your cervix, and making monthly pass/fail appointments with your period.

I also rarely like to admit I’m “trying” for anything. Trying reveals desire and volition. Saying I’m trying to become a professional writer exposes me and spotlights the fact that I’m mostly a part time library worker who occasionally takes freelance work and even more occasionally writes on her personal blog. Saying you’re auditioning or applying or throwing your name in… all of these things invite commentary, invite phone calls and text messages, invite prayer, invite vulnerability.

I wanted to be breezy about my fertility and baby-making. But people who say they’re breezy are rarely actually breezy. Breezy was a phrase I repeated over and over again on my wedding weekend when the napkins didn’t show up or the roses weren’t garden roses, or when our intimate first look included a fairly distant uncle sniping pictures from the bushes.

By “I’m breezy!” I actually mean I’m wound as tight as a top, I live in fear of what people think of me, and I carry an overwhelming sense of doom and worst case scenarios.

I took a  pregnancy test within the “first response” window after our first month of being “breezy” with fertility. Nothing, same old control line and three minutes of nothing else. This justified my breezy path; a baby would come or not come in its time. I was so fricken breezy about it all.

Flash forward several nights, and I’m waiting in bed for Drew to get back from CVS with more pregnancy tests. I imagined that he probably wasn’t back yet because he got in a tragic car accident. The police would hand me the pink box of pee sticks along with Drew’s cell phone, wallet, and other items confiscated from the wreckage. I’d take out one of the tests and find that I was expecting twins and also that I had become the main character in a Christian romance novel about faith through trials called “Labor of Love” or “Fourth Trimester: Grief.”

So after Drew came home alive with a box filled with fate wands, I ripped through the packaging and headed to the bathroom to put my mind at ease, to continue my breezy journey where I painted with all the colors of the wind and accepted my body… and “GASP!” I don’t remember the test advertising sound effects but when the second line appeared almost instantly, it seemed to come with a “thwonk” or a “boom.”

I did not move from the toilet seat for forty five minutes, yoga pants still shoved down to my ankles, hand holding the debris of my breezy fertility. This was supposed to be a year long journey of life and love. But apparently my womb happens to share characteristics with the plot of land nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates River. I called my mom, I stared at the wall, I saw my breezy life blow out the window not in a gentle lilt of air, but in tempest gust.

Everything had changed. Oh my God, maybe I did just want a cute puppy.

So could I say surprised? I knew what happened when you mixed the boy stuff with the girl stuff, but quite frankly I was surprised. And weirdly ashamed. I felt like a Duggar getting pregnant before my first anniversary, like someone who naively thought the “pull-out” method worked 100 percent of the time or heard some other myth about birth control. “Surprised” was also a relative of the unfortunate sub-category, “accident” that usually lands kids in therapy (but seriously, everyone should be seeing a therapist anyway).

If I said “surprised,” I could take away my agency. I could take away my responsibility and the fact that I’d gotten mad at Drew when he wasn’t sure if he was ready. I could take away the moments holding up baby sleepers next to Drew’s 6’4″  tube sock body in Target and act like the universe caught me by surprise.

But I didn’t want to be in the trying camp either. I didn’t want to offend my friends who had been truly trying for so long. I hated my story because it seemed so stupid. I couldn’t really use the word “oops,” but I wanted to. My breezy fertility story sounded better in my head than when relayed to the Eastern European doctor administering my blood test.

“So do you want the baby?” He asked me the question as a formality.

And the worst part was, I didn’t know.


IMG_1291As I write through these posts, I’m continually reminded how complicated and sensitive pregnancy and fertility can be. By sharing my point of view, I by no means want to generalize or make light of other people’s experiences.

If anything, I hope to remind us all how specific and unique everyone’s story is. I want to create space for laughter and moments of honesty, but also want to encourage one another to be more careful and attentive in the way we approach these issues. For example, asking a woman if she is “trying” to get pregnant or pressuring young couples with questions about the start of their family may cause significant hurt. Lets keep listening in and paying attention to one another!

A Very Revealing Baby Story: A Blueberry

Do you remember all those “story” shows that used to air on TLC in the morning? My favorite was always Wedding Story, but in a pinch, I’d settle for Baby Story. The show always mildly freaked me out, especially the sounds coming out of women sitting in birthing tubs or splayed on hospital beds. The dads were usually cops or firemen, and most of the couples had east coast accents.

Throughout my life, I’ve been exposed to all different baby stories, especially once I got that positive symbol on my own pee stick. I’ve been writing down thoughts throughout my own pregnancy, and most don’t match up with the cutesy language we often ascribe to pregnancy and babies. Many have commented that I share more on my blog then most people share with their closest friends, to which I say, you can only imagine what I divulge to my closest friends…


When people tell evangelical conversion narratives, they usually tell the story in several parts. There’s the first time you say the sinner’s prayer, kneeling by your bedside in your toddling years. You are led by your mother and the images of the cross from the Sunday school flannel graph.

Then, there are the subsequent renewals at summer camps and youth retreats, decisions to keep walking in the light despite a year or so of forgetting one owned a Bible and playing MASH with friends instead of leading them down the Romans Road.

I spent the majority of my childhood mothering American Girl Dolls in elaborate historically themed games of pretend. As early as second grade, I carefully discerned the names for each of the five kids Nolan Kelly and I would have. But despite these initial moments of maternal fervor, by my early twenties, I had growing doubts about my early commitments to produce and multiply.

imageI’m not exactly sure what triggered my fall from reproductive grace. It wasn’t the promise of repeating my mom’s days long labors or even the weekend spent in 8th grade with the mechanical “Baby Think it Over” designed to keep me abstinent.

Somehow after college, I decided I was in no rush to bring a child into this world. I weighed the ethics of creating life when my child might live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where California no longer existed and the oceans all felt like hot tubs at the Fairfield Inn. With time, alternate roads to family grew into passions and deep convictions.

Why make life when so many around already needed temporary and permanent homes?  I would mother in a different way; I would mother to reunite children with their family of origin, I would mother those who had no family, whether old widows at church or thirteen year olds stranded somewhere in the DCFS system. These convictions remain very strong for me and my husband and remain a part of our hopes for our family.

But one day, I found something out that nearly knocked me off my feet with the utter and amazing cuteness: a blueberry.

At seven weeks, a fetus is the size of a blueberry. A BLUEBERRY! For whatever reason this tiny blue fact re-set my biological clock in a way that startled my roommate at the time; she must have sensed that I was headed down the road to motherhood with the fire of a new convert.

A BLUEBERRY IS SO TINY!
The blueberry made me reconsider the error of my anti-pregnancy ways. I felt something in me take on the form of a runner on a starting block, poised, reaching and stretching their limbs back with potential energy. I gave into all my primal instincts to reproduce and continue on my species.

I wanted a berry-sized baby in my uterus, a little raspberry with a zooming heartbeat or perhaps a blackberry with the sockets where his daddy’s eyes would eventually grow in.

At times when mothers would talk about mastitis or when I would conceptualize the idea of my cervix dilating to ten centimeters,  I considered settling for a cute puppy. Yet, in the back of my mind, I knew a little Spot or Fido wouldn’t suffice. Also, our landlord allows babies but not pets.

Lest you are worried that I altered the course of my entire life based on the one week produce comparison for the gestational size of a baby, I will reassure you that there were other things that led me to desiring a little one. Books, conversations, hours of Call of the Midwife, marrying Drew, a new phase of life…17591258878_fb64defe8d

But I will also admit that some of the change seemed supernatural, a shifting of the wind, an opening of something deep inside of me, primal and maternal. I was curious about me and babies and starting to long for a little one of our own. My body and mind began to prepare and wonder and dream of our own little blueberry…


Tune in next time to hear about the positive pregnancy test and the weird culture around “trying to get pregnant.”

*Me and Blueberry photos courtesy of a fun photo shoot before the launch of my blog with the super talented Peter Dean Thompson. Check out his amazing work! I’m so excited to finally share these photos almost two years later… woof.

You are Here Stories: She Will Grow On Laughter

When my mother was pregnant with my older sister, she was a visiting nurse. She drove around Aurora, Illinois in her blue Plymouth Horizon, stopping at the Dairy Queen drive through on the way home from work. She’d slurp banana milk shakes while listening to the instrumental theme from St. Elmo’s Fire.

While pregnant with me, she chased around my toddling sister. She exercised weekly at a local Christian workout class called “Believercise.” That is, until mom lunged too far, causing significant bleeding; the doctor ordered at least a week of bedrest. She had to pee in a bucket, another reason she’s the best mom of all time. In her third trimester, she survived summer days by scarfing down dripping slices of watermelon, a fruit I still consider to be one of my favorites.

There’s something sacred and terrifying about the way babies go wherever their mothers go. They eat the same foods, hear the same noises, and even pump the same blood. They can benefit or be harmed from the womb they inhabit, which is why pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat Subway or drink cocktails. Now that I’m pregnant, I worry my tiny has been anchored to a sinking ship.

You see, I’m not the best at being pregnant…

Read the rest over at You are Here Stories!