Birth Story: The Birth of Olivia Victoria

This birth story was shared with us by our dear and wonderful client, Valerie, about the birth of her baby girl Olivia, at the birth center on October 5, 2018. Olivia was the very first baby to be born at Nightingale Birth Center, which makes it even more special!

I chose a natural labor with little to no medical intervention. Instead of drugs, I used breathing and relaxation techniques that I learned from yoga and hypnobirth (self-hypnosis) and my experience connecting my body, mind, and breath. My husband and I felt very comfortable with the decision. I also chose a provider that supported us, was patient, and gave us the best chance of having the birth experience we wanted. I had a healthy and low risk pregnancy and the baby was full term so I felt comfortable going this route. I also had a birth doula who gave me evidenced-based information and helped me during labor so that my husband could focus on loving me and being present on her daughter's birthing day.

On Thu Oct/4 at around 7am I woke up and had liquid running down my leg. It wasn’t a big gush but more like a small leak. After using a pH test strip, it turned out that my bag of waters broke. I immediately woke up my husband to tell him the news. Contractions hadn’t even started, but I knew the baby was going to make an appearance soon. Looking back, my body had been trying to tell me something since the night before when I had a discharge that looked very similar to what they call the “mucus plug”.

Later that Thursday morning, my husband and I went to visit our midwife who recommended some herbal supplements in order to get labor going and minimize the risk of an infection. We followed the instructions all afternoon and evening. I ate yummy and healthy food and took a walk to try to get things moving. I could feel very mild uterine waves (contractions) without a pattern. At around 10pm we had a call with our midwife and agreed that we were going to go to the birth center at 1am in order to start a first round of antibiotics (these are recommended after a certain number of hours since the bag of waters breaks). My husband and I grabbed our birth bag and took a 2-hour nap before heading to the birth center (1 min away from our house). Things were going to get interesting once we were there….

Friday 10/5 1am: Active Labor

I stayed at home until Fri 10/5 at 1 am when my husband and I went to the birth center and got the first round of antibiotics going.  Even with the IV in place, I was able to move and walk to the bathroom. The birth center had a queen size bed so my husband and I were able to rest for a little while. At around 2:15am I went to the restroom and noticed some bleeding, which is what they call the “bloody show”. Almost immediately after, I started feeling stronger uterine waves with more pressure moving things down. The only way I can describe the feeling is that of an icing dispenser bag being squeezed :)

In between uterine waves, I was able to rest while listening to the hypnobirthing relaxation audios. During each uterine wave, I practiced calm belly breathing (inhaling deeply through my nose expanding my belly and exhaling through my nose contracting my belly). My husband monitored the uterine waves using an app and by 3:30am they were 3 minutes apart for 1 minute for about 1 hour.  I did my best to remain relaxed throughout to avoid stress, which causes the fight, flight or freeze response. (Note from husband: “Valerie and I were lying down next to each other on the bed. She would fall asleep for a few minutes and then would tell me ‘there’s one coming’. I immediately would hug her from the back and start singing the song we had agreed on, that talks about peace and faith, to her ear. I could hear Valerie practice the belling breathing to “ride” the wave and mitigate the discomfort.  After a minute or so Valerie would tell me that the wave was over and in a matter of seconds she would fall back asleep to the point of snoring.”)

Every five or so waves I would stand and walk to the restroom while waiting for the next one to arrive. At about 4:30 am our doula arrived and started helping with massaging my back and legs during uterine waves for the next hour.

At around 5 am, I felt my breath changing from calm belly breathing to a strong ujjai breath (ocean breath inhaling and exhaling through my nose) and I also had the urge to push and a thought of escaping went quickly through my mind so at around 5:30 am I asked the midwife if she thought it was worth checking how many centimeters of dilation I had and she agreed to check. (Note from husband: “About 30 minutes before this I had asked the midwife how far along did she think the process was. She told me that it was hard to tell because Valerie didn’t seem to be in that much pain or she was managing it extremely well with her breaths.”) When the midwife checked she just said: “I feel no cervix, you are fully dilated!”. At this point I was super happy that things seemed to be progressing well so I decided that it was time to move from the bed to the water tub. I went in by myself and went through about 10 uterine waves while the doula was massaging my back and my husband was singing to my ear. After a few minutes I asked my husband to join me in the tub. I was hoping things would progress as quickly as they had so far...

Friday 10/5 at 5 am: Birthing Phase

As soon as I got into the birthing water tub the water felt great. My husband was in the tub with me and the doula was massaging my back. The midwife was instructing me to push with each uterine wave, which we tried for various waves using different positions. I didn't make much progress there and the waves seemed to be spacing out so the midwife suggested trying something different. As second option, I tried using a squat stool for several minutes, but it never felt 100% right for me so I wasn’t relaxed enough to make it work. Because initially I was seeing a lot of progress on the bed, I decided to try side-lying on the bed. The uterine waves continued to slow down so we started using a breast pump to stimulate milk production and keep the waves going at a good rate. During each wave, the midwife could see a glimpse of the baby’s head with remainder of the bag of waters in front. The midwife suggested removing the of bag of waters that was blocking the baby's head from coming out. We consented and a bit more of amniotic fluid came out and now they started seeing more of the baby’s hairy head :)

Still the side-lying position wasn’t being effective.

Friday 10/5 at 12 noon: Baby emerges

In between one of the uterine waves I went to the bathroom. I told my husband that for some reason the sitting position felt better and that I wanted to try something like that. The second midwife suggested trying a hands and knees position, but I had the needle of the IV close to my wrist so I couldn't bend it. We got creative and placed a birthing ball on top of the bed where I rested my arms and head while my knees were on the bed. I told my husband “I am going to breathe our baby down” and I tuned into my body and sent my ujjai breath down. My husband just said: “listen to your body” as he re-started playing the hypnobirth affirmation audios in the background. I tuned everything else out and went deeply within, trusting my body and baby to know what to do. (Note from the husband: “this is when things seemed to get back on track. It was like we had lost focus for a few hours trying to follow instructions as opposed to listening to what the baby and Valerie’s body wanted to do. It would be impossible for me to describe the determination on Valerie’s eyes as she started to breathe the baby down”.)

During every uterine wave, I kept sending my ujjai breath down. Instinctively, I started moving my hips down to my heels with every exhale, thus expanding my pelvis and allowing gravity to help. With each inhale my hips would move back up and I would try to rest while my husband, who was standing next to me, wiped the sweat from my forehead. The midwife told my husband that this was the most progress she had seen so far and gave me space to listen to my body. After about 10 uterine waves, the midwife asked me to reach down to feel the baby’s head. I was able to feel the crown of her head and her hair too! This alone gave me so much strength and confidence to keep going knowing I was so close to finally meeting her. As I kept breathing her down, I felt what’s known as the “ring of fire” (look it up) while my doula reminded me to just keep breathing. After that everything happened super fast! I let go and just let my instinct and inner power take over. I had the impression that I was screaming throughout the process but my husband says it was a deep exhale and moan. (Note from husband: “at this point the midwife told me to look down as the baby was about to come out. I started seeing her head come out with her little hand resting next to her face. As soon as her head and hand came out, her whole body quickly followed (usually it’s head first and then shoulders). The midwife quickly gave the baby to Valerie. At this point I was crying, laughing and everything in between”.)

My baby emerged so fast! I looked down and there she was on the bed in front of me. The midwife put her on my chest, skin-to-skin, my husband was crying. I was relieved, thankful, and full of emotions and love for both. At that moment, the room was full of life and we could suddenly feel her presence. Olivia was born on Friday Oct/5 at 12:24 pm. It was such a beautiful and magical experience.

Olivia’s precious little hand up by her face had delayed the birthing phase, although in my mind it felt much less because of the time distortion created by the hypnobirthing techniques.

Valerie Wong.jpg

HOME BIRTH STORY: Trust, Surrender and the Magic of Home Birth with Melissa Thormahlen

Melissa Thormahlen, who had her son, Tyler, at home with us last year, shares her birth story on the Doing It At Home Podcast. Thank you Melissa for telling your beautiful story so other families can learn about home birth! <3 <3

Hear Melissa's home birth story here

Below is a written excerpt from the podcast:

Melissa Thormahlen knows how to give me “all the feels.” I knew her story would impact many when her first email to me about her birth story had me tearing up.

melissa and tyler

She experienced most of her birthing experience at home with her first baby Emmeline, before transferring to a hospital and having a beautiful birth.

For Tyler, baby number 2, she knew she wanted to go for a home birth again because she trusted her body and her amazing birth team. 

In Tyler’s birth story, Melissa explains the trust and surrender to the process. She also took time to be close and intimate with her husband, Paul in the time before active labor.

When baby Tyler was born in the bathtub after a strong surge that took everyone by surprise she exclaimed, “I DID IT!”

 We even get to hear from baby Tyler as he chimes in a couple of times. We love when the babies make little appearances, they’re the reason we’ve come together to chat after all!

BONUS! Melissa emailed me a written version of her birth story before we got into it on the podcast. So for you readers out there, you can check out a very beautiful and detailed summary of Melissa's birth story below : )

 Melissa Thormahlen's Home Birth Story

I'm sure you'll get lots of stories but I feel compelled to share mine. My little home birthed man, who is 11 weeks, is sleeping on my chest as I'm writing to you.

Tyler was born at home on October 22. I have an older daughter who is 2.5 years old and I also planned her birth to be at home but she had different plans. She was posterior and my labor with her was long and exhausting so we ended up transferring to the hospital with her at 9.5cm. When we decided to have our second I knew I could birth at home I had so much faith in my body and my team. I used the same doula but since we had moved I had a different midwife. With Tyler I got the amazing homebirth I always wanted.

I'm not sure how much of the story you wanted people to share via email but here is my birth story:

Baby Tyler


On Thursday October 19th at 1:30am my water broke. I was due October 26th. I got up to go to the bathroom and when I got back in bed I felt a blurb of water roll down and out. Then there was quite a bit of fluid. Not an alarming amount but enough to know I wasn't peeing myself. For about an hour after that I had contractions, but then they petered off and I feel asleep. 

In the morning I called my mom to come pick up my 2.5 year old for her stay with grandma while we had the baby. Then called my midwife and doula and we we made a plan. Since my water had broken I was on a clock and I knew my labor had to start within 24-48 hours. Luckily my midwife felt comfortable waiting the 48 before going to the hospital for a medical induction. Shortly after my mom left with Emeline, Firen (my midwife) came to the house to check on baby, double check it was in fact my waters that ruptured, and bring herbs that were supposed to bring on labor. 

All that day I tried to induce labor naturally. I took a combination of cotton, black cohosh and a labor tincture every 15 minutes for about 4 hours. I also was advised to do some nipple stimulation. I only had contractions if I was laying in bed on my left side. If I got up or moved they went away. I was beginning to become hard on myself. So at some point I told Paul (my husband) I wanted to get up and go for a walk. We got up and dressed and out we went. Because it was so close to Halloween we looked at all the decorated houses and talked about how fun it will be that our son will have a birthday so close to Halloween. We live relatively close to downtown so at the end of our walk we decided to go out to dinner. We had a wonderful time just the two of us. We came home and crawled into bed. I went to sleep that night and didn't have any contractions. 

When we woke up on Friday Paul asked what I wanted to do and I said go get eggs Benedict so off we went. We had a wonderful love filled breakfast at a local restaurant, Chows. We snuggled and ate leisurely something that is harder to do with a toddler. After breakfast I figured I'd try one labor inducing activity, so I plugged in my breast pump. Besides the feeling of sore nipples and some very light contractions nothing came of it so I gave up. I decided instead that I should get my nails done so off I went. On my way into the nail salon I had my first good surge! 

After getting my nails done I went home and took care of some things around the house. Alli my amazing doula came over  around 2 and we walked to town. I was having some sort of regular contractions at this point but it still seemed like they could go away at a moments notice so it wasn't alarming. We went to The Coffee Shop and had smoothies, tea, Alli got a salad and a coffee and we sat outside and talked about random things. She was my doula with my first as well so we have a strong relationship. I had a few contractions while at the coffee shop where I needed to stop talking which meant I was making some progress. 

We walked back to the house after that and I got into the shower. It was nice to rinse off and upon getting out I had a really nice strong surge. They were still about 20 min apart, but it was a welcome feeling. Even if they stopped I had a feeling they would return. Firen came and checked me out while Alli was still there and it was perfect to have the team together. The baby was doing great and so was I so there was no reason to change our plan of heading to the hospital the next morning for the Rupture of Membrane Test unless I went into labor that night....

Once Firen left we took Alli to Walnut Creek to meet her family. When we were heading home we noticed Skipolini's  Pizza was in the area and they serve a Preggo pizza that is supposed to put you into labor. Since I was already having some contractions I figured it wouldn't hurt to try that too. We went in and had another nice meal together just Paul and I. I was having more regular surges and they felt like they were getting a bit more intense. 

We went home after the pizza to regroup. We were supposed to go to a movie but it didn't start for a while so we came home first. Then we both realized how tired we were and crawled into bed. Amy my sister arrived at 9:00 we chatted with her for a bit and around 9:30I told everyone to get some sleep. My body must have know what was coming because I feel asleep fast and slept hard for 2 hours. At 11:30 I woke up to a really strong contraction. Paul immediately jumped into gear and supported me through each contraction. He lit candles around the house and put on Enya. It was so romantic and sweet. He supported me through each surge and told me sweet things after each one. He was my rock.

My sister had slept until around 2am when things became more serious and I needed help. Mentally I was having a hard time staying on top of the contractions. We called Alli to come over and she gave me two more positions to try. I got into the shower first and it felt like one long continuous contraction. I think there was too much pressure and it didn't feel good to stand. Then I sat backward on the toilet and Paul massaged me from behind. It was ok but I was having lots of thoughts of self doubt so I made Paul call Alli back and demand she come over. She arrived at 2:45. She witnessed a few contractions, had Amy make me oatmeal and bring me drinks. After a particularly strong contraction she decided to call Firen to tell her it appeared I was already bearing down. Firen came immediately arriving at 3:50. When she arrived I was laying on the bed, Alli behind me, Paul on my front and Amy by my feet. I was so supported. Firen began setting up and checking my vitals. She listens to baby and determined everyone was happy and healthy!

I made her wait a little before checking for dilation and when she finally did I was 7cm. Which was great progress for a second time mom. They all ensured me I would progress fast but I couldn't bare down anymore. So Alli would breath, hiss and huff through each contraction with me helping me to keep from pushing. Which I have to say might very well be the hardest part for me, not pushing when your whole body is screaming to do so. At some point Paul suggested I get into the bathtub because it could help me relax and keep me from pushing. So they set it up and I got in. It was wonderful but the surges were really strong and I kept saying how I was dreaming of an epidural. This is transition! My doula handed me a small elephant figurine and I clutched onto it like my life depended on it. In my head I kept saying "if an elephant can be pregnant for 2 years then I can do this".

At this point in the tub my surges were so strong I was having a hard time fighting the urge to push and they were coupling. It was a lot. I asked how long until they could check me again and my midwife told me she'd wait 10 more contractions, 30 more minutes. I didn't want to go a second longer without being able to push, so this was hard. I sunk into the water and clutched my elephant. I powered on. After only 4 more contractions she said she'd check me but I had to turn over to the other side of the tub.

When I got up to turn over I had the strongest surge yet which was immediately followed by another one. Once I laid back down in the tub Firen checked me and announced I was 10cm. She looked at me as said, "do you want to have this baby here or..." and just then another surge came and I pushed with all my might. I reached my hands down and got in two more pushes feeling my son's head emerge. Then at the tail end of the surge I pushed once more and out came his body. My doula describes this moment as Tyler swimming up into my arms. I pulled him onto my chest and felt overwhelming rush of joy and love. "I did it" was all I said for a good 5 min.

I wanted more than anything to have a homebirth and this experience was pure magic. After Tyler was born my husband and I and baby Tyler crawled into bed where I birthed the placenta. My doula made us a delicious breakfast and we ate and rehashed the whole night. Tyler came into this world at 5:29am in the bathtub at our home surrounded but love and faith in my body. I wish everyone could experience the joy that is natural birth in a way where the woman feels completely supported.

I hope you enjoy my story! Thank you for all you're doing to normalize homebirth. And congratulations on your precious little girl. 

melissa family


When I was 11, I met my midwife. She had thick, grey hair that fell in waves all the way down her back. She was gentle and motherly. Her name was Kristin, and, for me, it was love at first sight. 

It is hard to explain the feeling of meeting the person whose hands were the very first ones to ever touch you. And most people never get that chance. I felt the most special connection to her, and a deep sense of wellbeing, because she had been the one to ensure that I made it safely into the world very, very early on a Friday morning in 1981. 

My mom, my dad, my sister and I the&nbsp;night of my birth in our home

My mom, my dad, my sister and I the night of my birth in our home


I was my mom's second kid. My older sister, Deena, had been born in the hospital 11 years earlier. Now my mom was in her late twenties, and had decided to have me at home in my family's tiny rental house in Austin, Texas. The house was tucked away behind the Austin Books & Comics store on a cul-de-sac called Capitol Court (the store is still there today). Only a handful of people would be at the birth - my dad, my sister, Kristin and a family doctor who was also a close friend. So it was an intimate affair - and it turned out to be a quick one. After four hours of labor, at 1:53 am on October 16, I slipped out calmly and without drama. My dad remembers the night like this:


My parents told me the story of my birth many times when I was a kid, and they talked about it like it was truly a miraculous experience. I think my birth had a profound impact on them. And not just in the way that the birth of a child changes all parents. That is to say, it wasn't really of my doing; it was the experience itself. Here's my mom:


My mom used to tell me she thought I "must be on vacation here on Earth." From the way I entered the world, to how I moved in the world, quite literally from continent to continent, she felt I lived a charmed life. I definitely have not always felt charmed, but I have sometimes wondered if there was some truth to that. 

There is no doubt that the way I entered the world affected me. It shaped my worldview in such a deep way that I actually became a midwife. My beginning - a story of peace, trust and intimacy - laid the foundation for my vision of who I was and what I represented, and I took it on as an identity.

I also took it on as a challenge. I used my birth story to push my own limits, and as a rationale for taking risks. It is what has allowed me to do and see many things by age 33 that many people will never do or see. Because I have always believed that no matter what I do or where I go, or how difficult or scary things get, the true me is the person who made her arrival without fear, without fuss, and definitely like she was meant to be here. 

Me in a basket

Me in a basket


That's why when I met my midwife at 11, I was awestruck. She had been at my birth too! And not only that, but she had helped orchestrate that experience for me and my family. She had welcomed me here and made sure that my journey was safe, peaceful....even... magical. "She must really love me," I remember thinking.

I've looked for Kristin since. I lived in Austin again as an adult from 2011 to 2013, and I asked around about her. Some of the older midwives remembered her, but didn't know how to get in touch with her. By this time, I was a midwife myself, and I really desired to come full circle and connect with the woman who had inspired me. I found her on Facebook and wrote her a long email. No response. I guess a hippie midwife living on a commune in central Texas probably doesn't check her Facebook all that often.

Even though I haven't been able to connect with her, I feel satisfied. I was eventually able to connect with the family doc who was at my birth (interestingly enough, he ended up helping me with some of the paperwork I needed to obtain my California midwifery license). I feel like I was given an immense gift for my very first birthday - better than any gift I've gotten since. My very first moments in this world were protected. My transition was gentle. And the first hands that touched me were hands that loved me. For me, that has made all the difference.