The Most Powerful Tool For A Mama Is Intuition with Kathryn Orr

November 28, 2017



In today’s episode we’re talking with Kathryn Orr, a certified birth doula, childbirth educator and more recently the outreach coordinator for the fantastic documentary “Why Not Home?” We’re familiar with “Why Not Home?” over here at Doing It At Home - because we had the pleasure of having Jessicca Moore, the creator of the film, on the podcast back in episode 82. So we’re very excited to have this mama of 2 share her birth stories with us and talk about her obsession with all things birth.


Kathryn got hooked on birth after a class in college and since then has continued to find ways to explore this passion of hers. Before having her daughters she ran her own doula practice, and combined with her certification as a childbirth educator, became a resource for women and families in the birth community. When it came time for her own births (which you’ll hear about in the show but can also read her full-length written accounts of both births on our website with the episode’s notes), Kathryn and her husband Patrick decided on home birth.


And how did she get involved with “Why Not Home?” Well there was a test screening of the film at her yoga studio. And now, she manages social media, licensing and scheduling future screenings of the film. So if you or your community is interested in featuring “Why Not Home?” to a group, she is the woman you want to speak with!


Some of the wisdom that Kathryn drops on the show includes the primal nature of birth, the believe that birth just works and that home birth is a safe and viable options for low risk mamas out there.


Show Notes:



She also included both written accounts of her birth stories:


Birth Story Number 1:


Violet’s Birth


July 4, 2013. 9:34pm. 7lb, 5 oz. 20 in.


We’re 3 days postpartum now. Violet is sleeping next to me, and Patrick is on the other side of her. The babymoon is going great so far; Patrick is taking such good care of us (“his girls”, as he calls us). My world has shrunk to our bedroom, the days occupied only by nursing, sleeping, snuggling, eating, drinking, bathing, watching shows. My iPhone is my only link to the outside world, thanks to Facebook. When I close my eyes at night, scenes from Violet’s birth flash behind my eyes. Here’s what I remember from that day: { Several weeks before Violet was born I wrote out my birthing affirmations on cards. During my last weeks of pregnancy, I read them to myself each night before going to sleep. The affirmations are interspersed throughout this story. I loved that during my labor, the cards were read aloud to me by each member of my amazing birth team. } I’m glowing and at ease. Throughout my pregnancy, I told myself that the 4th of July would be a good day to have my baby. It was my 39 week mark, and a celebratory sort of day. In the HypnoBirthing method, they have you visualize the things you want to happen for your birth. Some of mine were laboring on the 4th of July and having an 8-10 hour labor. Well, I got one of the two! My birthing journey included lots of practice labor. I had Braxton Hicks (we called them tightenings) during my whole third trimester. They got stronger with each passing week. They felt like pressure in my vagina and bottom, and tightening in my belly. For the last several weeks of pregnancy, I would feel them all day long, with more in the evenings during our nightly walks by the lake. I welcomed them each night, and I remember enjoying the feeling of being in my birthing body. I knew that this was such a tiny sliver in terms of my whole life, and I wanted to soak up every sensation of the power, openness, and ripeness that comes with pregnancy. For the last week I was pregnant, I began to feel crampy “real” surges in the nights, just two or three in a night. I mostly ignored them, but in the back of my mind I knew they were different. I have an open heart. The day before Violet’s birth day, I went to the beach near our house. I swam in the lake and rubbed my toes in the sand. In the afternoon, I was adjusted by my chiropractor, which felt great. We saw our midwife, and baby was super healthy as always. I am soft and open. I had my first surge at 2:15am on July 4th. Lying on my side in bed, I opened my eyes. In my heart I knew: this was it. My labor was beginning. For the next two hours, I had surges every 7- 10 minutes. I tried to sleep, but I didn’t succeed very well. I definitely rested and snoozed between them, though. Around 4:15, I started to feel hungry and was tired of lying in bed. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8 I went to the bathroom and put on my comfiest pajama pants. One thing that surprised me was that my surges were strong almost right away, even though they were reasonably spaced out. I had to stop what I was doing often enough that it took me a while to get situated with my bowl of Cheerios and blueberries and an episode of Friends (my favorite show, that I planned to watch in labor). I ate the cereal while sitting on the ball. I think I watched one or two episodes. I had a minor flurry of nesting. I cleaned the downstairs toilet and put away dishes. Back upstairs, I started getting out supplies for the birth. In our room, Patrick started to wake up when I vocalized through surges. It was about 6am, I think. I’m not totally sure what came next, but I know I lay in bed with Patrick. We called Kate, our midwife, just before 7am to check in. She said great job, eat and drink, and take a nap. I ate a nectarine (I’m still obsessed three days later), and I decided to try an Epsom salt bath. Our tub is pretty shallow so it was just ok. Surges were fairly strong. I ate an egg sandwich and some junior mints, and watched another episode of Friends. Then we lay down to nap. I was able to sleep from 8:30 until almost 10am, waking up every 7 minutes to moan through surges. My hips started to feel sore from staying in one position, and around 10am we got into the shower. In there, Patrick pressed on my hips/sacrum during surges, and that felt good. My body is made to do this work. Out of the shower, Patrick started to make up our bed per the birth kit instructions. I got on my hands and knees on the floor and rocked around. I remember saying that no position really felt good. Surges kept getting stronger, and I have no idea how far apart they were. After some of them, I cried, which I thought was a good sign of advancing labor. Just before noon, we called Stephanie, our doula. I thought if she came over, she could help me find a more comfortable position and work on my sacrum and hips, which were feeling the work of the surges. We also called Kate to let her know that Stephanie was coming over. She said we should go for a walk. I put on clothes (which felt like an inconvenience), and we made it downstairs. I still felt like I was fine and able to go about the “daily” activities of walking and eating. We went outside, where it was sunny and hot, but with a pleasant breeze. We walked SLOWLY in a lap around our building and the next one. I think I had three or four surges along the way, and with each one I wrapped my arms around Patrick and leaned over. I have everything I need. Back at home, I didn’t really want to eat anything substantial. I had Vitamin Water and another nectarine. During another episode of Friends, Stephanie arrived. She brought more nectarines, berries, and 4th of July dessert supplies with sparkler candles. While I sat on the ball, she worked on my hips and shoulders. I did feel relief and space opening. I remember that Stephanie also worked on releasing my broad ligament (a source of tension throughout my pregnancy). I started to cry, and I said to Stephanie that I must have been holding something (an emotion) in my belly. Patrick and Stephanie conferred, and they decided that we should go upstairs so they could keep setting up the bed and the birth tub. We headed up, and I did lunges on the stairs. Interesting that at this point I still had the presence of mind to know that those would help my sweet baby descend on her birth path. My baby is healthy; I am healthy. By the time I got to the top of the stairs, I was crawling from the intensity of the surges. Stephanie sent me to sit on the toilet to empty my bladder. This was a turning point in the labor, I think. Stephanie and Patrick called Kate at this point. I sat on the toilet for a while, holding Patrick around the waist. I think I relaxed quite a bit during that time. Kate showed up while I was still on the toilet, so I must have stayed there for a while. She took vitals for the baby and me; everybody was doing perfectly. My concept of time, and of the order in which things happened, from this point forward is pretty nonexistent. I think after the toilet I did lunges in our bedroom. Next, I lay in bed. I actually napped for a short while between surges. I remember asking to get into the water. Kate must have gotten the tub ready for me. I climbed into the tub. The warmth felt good. The position that came most naturally to me was kneeling and facing the side of the tub. I held Patrick around the neck. It didn’t seem like very long to me, that I started grunting. I think Kate told me afterwards that happened at 5:30pm. Someone lit my candles, including my birth candle from Sacred Pregnancy. We played my birth playlist. Each of my helpers read my birthing affirmations aloud to me. They fed me strawberries (so good), oatmeal, Gatorade, and tons of water. I was yelling for water, cold washcloths, and pressure on my hips. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 I eventually started having strong pushing surges. The first couple were so surprising – the way they felt, and how strong they were. Everyone around me encouraged me so much and told me what a good job I was doing. I sat on the toilet again at some point, and I first reached inside to feel her head. It was two knuckles in, with the soft bag of waters coming first. Trust. In our bedroom, Kate talked to me about whether or not I might be completely dilated, and offered a cervical check. She asked how it felt when I pushed, if I felt pinching or if it felt good. She said I had to stop saying please and thank you before I made it to the point of giving birth. I decided that getting checked wouldn’t help me with that goal of going even deeper inside myself. Kate was perfectly ok with that, and super supportive. I am whole and complete. I am completely safe. I got back into the tub and kept pushing my head off. The surges kept getting stronger, which I just could not believe. Each one felt like the strongest possible. The pushing itself wasn’t so bad, but my hips and belly hurt so much that it was just so intense. I learned after Violet was born that my surges were five minutes apart and only 30-45 seconds long! What?! That’s not a typical labor pattern for the pushing phase. I was blissfully unaware, though – I knew they could have been closer together, but I wasn’t going to complain! Kate said after the birth that had I been in the hospital, I would have likely been given Pitocin to make my surges closer together. She also said that she could see how strong my surges were, she knew from my reports that I could feel baby moving lower on the birth path, and that she trusted my body. What an amazing, loving midwife we chose! I feel really lucky. Instead, our midwives periodically asked Patrick and I to kiss to spur on the surges. This was part of my birth wishes, and I am so appreciative for how carefully my helpers paid attention to my wishes. Kissing Patrick felt so lovely and good. Patrick was so nice to me and took such good care of me throughout the whole labor. He barely left my side, and literally held me up more than once. He encouraged me so much. My heart is still full from the experience, and from the past few days of snuggling our baby. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30 At one point I said, “Why isn’t she coming?”. Kate reassured me that nothing was going wrong, and that my body was doing just what it needed to do. I accepted that and went back inside my labor bubble. Eventually Violet’s head was one knuckle’s length inside, and the stretching of my tissues started to feel really strong. I did not like the feeling! I had no idea what time it was, but every so often I would look up to see if it was still light outside. Soon it was time to empty my bladder again. I didn’t feel like I had to, but my midwives wanted to make sure that a full bladder didn’t get in the way of baby coming through. I think she was already so low that it didn’t matter in the end. But, I couldn’t pee in the tub, so I had to get out again! I said that walking to the bathroom (probably 10 steps) felt impossible. But it did the trick. My baby will find the perfect position for birth. I sat on the toilet, where I did not pee, but my waters released with a pop and a splat! I said, “Get Kate!” Kate asked if I wanted to get back in the tub. I said no, because in my labor bubble, logically because my waters had released on the toilet, sitting there was the most effective way to get baby out ASAP. I pushed a couple more times, then Kate made me get off the toilet and onto the birth stool. I said, “Can’t I just stay here, and stand up when baby comes out?”. Patrick literally carried me the few feet to the birth stool. Sitting on there felt terrible. I couldn’t rest my bottom on in because there was a baby’s head in the way. I ended up supporting my weight partly with my legs, and partly with my arms. Stephanie touched and rubbed my shoulders to help them relax. I also remember her touching my head – I don’t know what craniosacral tricks she was doing, but she always takes good care of me and I loved knowing she was beside me. My perception is that I pushed about two or three surges on the birth stool. With each surge, I would kind of scream, then do a very low “ohhhhh”, all while being tossed around by the super strong surges. Phew! I felt her legs kicking and swimming during the last three surges, and right as she was being born. I almost didn’t want to have to feel anything else, because the sensation of her crowning was so intense, but I was also very aware that those were the last kicks I would feel from Violet in my belly. I remember wishing – praying? – that her shoulders would be born in the same surge with her head. That did happen with the next surge, thankfully! I felt her head come out, then one shoulder, then her belly, and her legs – finally, sweet relief. It was 9:34pm, and fireworks were going off above the lake near our house. Thank you for this baby and for our new family. Patrick caught our baby, but I think I grabbed her pretty quickly. She looked creamy from vernix and slippery from amniotic fluid. She was warm and smooth. She screamed immediately and loudly, and cried for a couple of minutes while I held her on my thighs. I rubbed my face on her and kissed her. I remembered to see that she was, in fact, a girl, and said to Patrick, “Look!” We smiled at each other because we had a baby girl! Kate unwrapped her cord from her neck and her chest, and I lifted her onto my chest. My placenta was born only two minutes after the baby! I was bleeding, not too much, but enough that Kate wanted me to lay in bed. I walked to our bed with Kate in front of me and Stephanie behind me, holding the placenta in a bowl. I lay back with Violet on my chest and Patrick next to me, and we just looked at her, noticing all the sweet things about her. Violet’s placenta was in its bowl between us. Her cord continued to pulse for most of an hour. While we lay in bed, Stephanie made brought us beautiful angel food cakes with red and blue berries and whipped cream (red, white, and blue for the 4th of July). We lit candles on the dessert for Violet’s birthday. It was so delicious – I ate my portion and Patrick’s! Our midwives left us alone, and Stephanie worked gently on Violet’s head while she snuffled around at my breast. We had some time just the three of us, too, which was really sweet. I could hear our wonderful birth helpers down in the kitchen, talking and laughing together. Homebirth is so sweet for things like that. After some time, maybe an hour?, it was time for me to get checked by my midwives. Kate did Violet’s newborn exam. She was, of course, perfect in every way. I nursed my sweet baby. Then it was time to sleep. Kate was the last one to leave, and the three of us snuggled up. We prayed together, thanking God for bringing us safely and joyfully through birthing, and for choosing us to have sweet Violet Jane in our family. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I got almost everything I wanted in my birthing time. Why? Blessing and provision from God, yes, but also, careful choices in my care provider and place of birth. Our midwife, and all out of hospital midwives, do such important work. Truly, their service to families is such a gift – they offer the option of safe, normal, undisturbed birth in a culture where this type of birth is far too rare. Mamas, and dads, please(!) take this choice seriously. All families have the option to consider out of hospital birth, because of strong, caring women like our midwife. She kept us safe and made sure we were healthy, while allowing my birthing to follow its natural path without disturbing it. It was Violet’s journey and my journey, and because God made both of us, we knew how to get through it. God is good!


Birth Story Number 2:


Emmeline Grace


Birthing is something I know I can do


2/6/16 * 2:24am * 7 lb 1 oz * 20 inches


I have prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 1 Samuel 1:27 Emmeline was conceived on the heels of my second miscarriage in May 2015. She surprised us but I knew in my heart this was my baby. That didn’t stop me from experiencing anxiety throughout the pregnancy as I processed the circle of life, death, birth that can all be enclosed within my womb. As various physical issues, all within the range of normal for pregnancy, cropped up during my pregnancy I worried about all of them. Our midwife helped me through each one. I was also struggling with mothering Violet, age 2, while coping with the physical discomforts and emotional upheaval that come with pregnancy. It took me until about the beginning of my third trimester to realize that I was anxious, and simply naming it was very healing. I ended the pregnancy feeling happier and healthier than ever - though still uncomfortable! As my third trimester wore on I was “advised” by many that my baby might be born earlier than her guess date. My chiropractor, acupuncturist, and midwife all echoed this to me week after week. I hoped to meet my baby in a timely manner, but also didn’t want to place expectations that would later be broken. So I tried not to think much about it. I had plenty of tightenings (Braxton Hicks), and nightly walks around our townhome complex, and tried to sink into it all. Birthing is something I know I can do. On my walks I would talk to my baby about how she needed to stay in until 37 weeks, and after that I would be ready whenever she was. I had a prenatal visit with our midwife on Feb 4, at 37+2. I remember the midwife saying she couldn’t even feel the head because it was low in my pelvis. She pronounced the baby “almost cooked”. Baby was posterior, as she had been for weeks despite my baby spinning efforts. On the morning of Feb 5 I went to acupuncture. I actually went every week at the end of pregnancy. Since I had reached the 37 week “cutoff” for homebirth, my acupuncturist and I decided (with approval from my midwife) to needle the laborstimulating points in the body - all eight of them. I left acupuncture, went to Starbucks, and promptly locked my keys in my car. Patrick and Violet came to rescue me while I waited outside in the sunshine. Violet and I went to play at a farm near our house. We walked around and explored. We went home, had lunch, and a good two hour nap. Ahh. I felt normal. We played and I made dinner. After dinner I went for my walk. During the walk I didn’t really have many surges per se, but I felt my baby’s head applying steady pressure right on my cervix. It felt different, but not necessarily a sign of impending labor. Back at home, we put Violet to bed. In her room I rocked around on my hands and knees. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. We sat on the couch and watched Iron Chef America. I had a couple tightenings (super normal), and discomfort very low in my belly, near the creases of my legs. Random aches and pains were my daily norm, so I thought nothing of it. When the show ended I headed for the bath, like I did most nights during my pregnancy. I figured that if this discomfort was nothing (which I totally thought it was), the bath would ease or stop it. Well, after the bath it got stronger (about 10pm). I climbed out and while getting ready/walking around, I had to stop every couple of minutes, lean over, and rock/breathe through these little pains I was having in my low belly/leg creases. Can you believe I still thought it was nothing? I thought it was too soon for my baby to come. But something made me call downstairs to Patrick. I made him come up from his office and set up the birth tub in our bedroom, which we had planned to set up the following day anyway. He started working on it and I tried to help but wasn’t much help. I put sheets on the pack n play in our room and laid out a baby outfit. Looking back, I’m thinking I was already in the labor fog a bit because how could I not realize I was in labor? Ha. So Patrick convinced me to call our midwife around 11pm. I told her it was probably nothing but I still wanted to give her a heads up very early on. She thought the birth would go fast. I went to the kitchen and filled my water bottle and made pregnancy tea. I also ate 2/3 of a popsicle. I decided to lie down; I thought that if I couldn’t fall asleep then I would know it was real labor. I lay on my left side in bed for 20-30 minutes. I knew my baby had turned to an anterior position because she was moving a lot, and all her limbs were facing inward towards my back. I said to Patrick, “We did it; baby turned”. AKA, here we go, she’s coming! The surges kept getting stronger while I was lying down. Patrick then called our midwife, doula, and photographer to come over. They all hit the road. I think this was about 12:30am but I’m not really sure. Patrick was also filling the tub for me. I listened to HypnoBirthing affirmations while lying down. A while later I made Patrick call our midwife back because I felt like I would be grunting (pre-pushing) soon. She was 10 minutes away, and she gave the ok for me to get in the tub. I also ate bites of oatmeal between surges. Our midwife arrived about 5 minutes after I got in the tub. The water helped a lot and I was coherent enough to make small talk with her for a couple of minutes. I said that I wasn’t in that birth fog yet, and she said I might not get it this time. I wanted it though, because it’s so protective and helpful. So my surges were coming every two minutes, something I never really experienced during my labor with Violet. I felt my hips opening much faster than they did with Violet - and you know what? It hurts either way. My labor with Violet was slower, calm, and intentional. This labor was like a freight train or a race car. Music, candles, affirmations? No time, just try to keep up and hope all the helpers make it here in time! So very shortly I was pushing. I know the pushing surges were strong towards the end of my labor with Violet, but I guess you forget over time how it feels. This was very intense. I had to really psych myself up, with the help of our midwife, to accept each surge instead of dreading it. My waters released at some point too while pushing. The whole pushing phase was 40 minutes I’m told, so it was probably around half an hour before she was born - very similar to my last labor. I was yelling big time, and talking to myself in between surges. Out loud. I’m sure I was pretty funny. Patrick stood next to me and fed me sips of water between each surge. It tasted so good. I settled into a side lying position with my cheek on the side of the tub. Our doula put cold, peppermint oil scented washcloths under my cheek and on the back of my neck; it felt really nice. I felt for my baby and her head was just more than a fingertip inside. I thought, “Wow when did that happen dang it’s going to hurt ok let’s do this”. Then she was crowning for a couple surges, and then her head was out. I gripped our midwife’s gloved hand behind my back with one hand, and held my baby’s head (face) with the other hand. Holding her head there during the break between surges was really cool. My eyes were tightly closed though; the sensations were overwhelming enough without adding any more of my senses to the mix. On the next surge I pushed out her shoulders, then her trunk. That last push where you feel the body coming out is the coolest relief! Patrick, who was standing next to me in the tub, and our midwife together pulled the baby up out of the water. The midwives (oh yeah, there were two of them) helped me swing my leg over her body to pull her up to my chest. I accidentally dipped her nose in the water on the way up and freaked out a little. She was fine and was crying and coughing up all the stuff babies are supposed to when they are born. She was bright pink! All happy signs. Emmeline was born at 2:24am on February 6, at just 37+4. When I first saw her I thought, “Oh my gosh she is way tiny”. I felt the same when I saw Violet but this baby seemed even smaller. I held her, and rubbed my face on her. She was so sweet and just what I had been waiting for. With Patrick’s ok, I said my baby’s name out loud: Emmeline Grace. This moment was sweet but from here the next little while was less than idyllic. I needed to sit up more to keep Emmeline’s head away from the water. Her cord was short since my placenta was fundal (attached at the top of my uterus). I couldn’t get comfortable nor was I strong enough to lift myself onto the seat that was built into the tub. My midwife was worried about my placenta being born so she could make sure I didn’t lose more than a certain amount of blood. (Late pregnancy labs had shown my hemoglobin levels to be a little too low so we wanted to be extra careful about blood loss.) Because of both of these things, I opted to stand up and climb out of the tub. I tried pushing while standing, not time yet, so I climbed into bed. In bed I semi-reclined while the midwives monitored my cord and blood loss (barely any, thankfully). But our midwife really wanted that placenta to be born. I bore down with each surge and the midwife applied gentle cord traction. I tried standing again, not time yet, so I lay back down. All the while I was holding sweet Emme but not getting to pay much attention to her. I hate that I missed out on those first precious minutes with her. It gets worse. 30 minutes after Emme’s birth, our midwife decided that the safest choice was manual removal of my placenta. She calmly explained to me what she would do, then put her hand into my uterus to scoop the placenta out. There was a tiny portion still attached to the uterine wall that was preventing it from being born. The whole thing took probably 30 seconds, I’m guessing, but dang did it hurt. It was the kind of pain that you basically block out afterwards. After that it was over! Placenta was out, whole, and my blood loss was healthy. I’m processing it. It really took away from the calm, peaceful scenario you think of at a home birth. However birth is not without risk, and when intervention is needed you want a careful, decisive, respectful, skilled attendant there for you. I’m ok with it for now but I wonder how I’ll feel over time. After the placenta was born, we all breathed a sigh of relief. And I was pampered by everyone there. I ate some more of my oatmeal, drank water and the tea I made earlier, lay in bed with Patrick, and admired my amazing baby. Violet slept through the whole birth, but me yelling during the manual removal of my placenta finally woke her up. She was fussing so Patrick got her out of bed and brought her in to see her sister! I said, “Look what happened while you were asleep!” She was sweet and interested, and also excited that some of her friends were there, like our midwife and doula. She visited the baby for a while then ran around playing and sharing my food. The midwives went to the kitchen to give us peace. My doula brought me a turkey sandwich and strawberries. I was ravenous. The problematic placenta sat in a bowl next to me. I ate, drank, nursed Emme, and talked with my birth helpers. After a couple of hours (?) Patrick cut the cord and the placenta was taken to the kitchen for the midwives to check it out. Patrick went to put Violet back to bed around 5:30 or 6:00am I think, and Michelle, the helper midwife, helped me into a warm shower with essential oils. The shower felt amazing. I was tucked into bed with Patrick and given another plate of food. Michelle gave me a tour of my healthy placenta then packed it up for encapsulation. Everyone hugged and kissed me and made their way home to rest. By this time my parents on Eastern Time were up and about, so we called them with the news. They were pretty surprised given how early my girl made her appearance into our family. I nursed Emme again - she’s been good at it from the very beginning, and we all went to sleep around 7am. The babymoon has been nice, but different than last time obviously. I’m enjoying lots of rest and snuggles with Emme, and Patrick is taking care of Violet and me. He’s so amazing and patient; he does so much without complaining. He’s even cleaning the house - I mean that’s above and beyond. I’m happy and rested, and so in love with my new sweet rainbow baby. I have two rainbow babies and I feel like a very lucky mama. I also can’t quite believe I have two kids…! Here’s to a happy, healthy transition to being a family of four.



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