In the past I've written out my brief account of each birth I attend as a photographer. But as I'm learning more about birth work, I'm learning that it's important to use caution when adding one's own version of a mother's birth as a layer over their own perception and experience. It is better to let them find their own words to tell it and meaning for it first, only adding one's own when invited to do so. So this year you'll notice a difference in how I blog birth stories. Birth Story posts will either include the birth story written by the mama herself OR some bare bones facts from me, but not a narrative by me. In doing this, I hope to leave each family the space to own their stories fully, while letting the photos speak for themselves.
Below, the photos are posted first. For those interested (which I hope is everyone!) in reading Iona's beautifully written account of her daughter's birth, it's at the END of this post. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it!
From my perspective, I only want to say this: that developing a trusting relationship with Iona during our pregnancies, holding space for her during her birth and witnessing how beautifully she brought her daughter earth-side was truly such a fortifying gift to receive just days before my own labor and birth. I'm forever grateful. (Laelia was born 12.11 and my Maeve was born 12.16)
I was told while pregnant with my first, that every birth is different. My first born's birth was very difficult, I suffered from back labor, my water was broken for at least a week before I even went into labor (which we did not find out until I was pushing), then after hours and hours and hours of pushing, he finally arrived, only to have his shoulder stuck with his cord around his neck! After the delivery I had extreme bleeding where I needed to have a shot of pitocin, which thankfully slowed the bleeding down. I thought after his birth, that maybe I would only have one. However as he began to grow, so did my desire to have another, which brings us to the birth story of Laelia Lore.
As soon as we found out we were expecting again, I immediately text my midwife Sara to let her know, and set up our first appointment. A few weeks later I scheduled our birth photographer Brooke. She was a available for the photography, but we needed a backup just in case because we were only due 12 days apart!
My estimated due date came and went, which wasn't much of a surprise because I did not go into labor with my first until almost two weeks past. As luck would have it I came down with a cold a day before my estimated date, that would not end! It did however help my eagerness to go into labor subside, because I just wanted to get better before the baby arrived. Finally at 6 days "overdue" the cold was gone. I was told by multiple people that when sickness struck the household around their due date, they went into labor within 2 days. Of course babies decide when they want to come, and on day 8 of being "overdue", I went into I don't care/nesting mode. I shoveled my entire driveway, sidewalk, and porch. Hauled my heavy vacuum up three flights of stairs to vacuum, then hauled it back down. Cleaned the bathrooms, kitchen, dusted, etc. I then made some peppermint brownies, hoping maybe that would finally do the trick, but again no. The next day came, and again there was nothing. When I went to bed that night, I started to get that feeling of "is this baby ever going to come out?" It also started to drive me crazy that we didn't know the gender. I just wanted to meet this little baby that had been growing inside me, and I hated that I didn't even know what the sex was, it didn't bother me the entire pregnancy, but it was definitely starting to.
At around 3:15am on Sunday, December 11 I woke up to use the bathroom, and noticed I was feeling something that maybe could be contractions! I decided to get something to eat just in case it indeed was and in case is progressed fast. I ended up not eating at all the day I went into labor with my son, and I was so out of energy by the time I had to push. I did not want to make that mistake again. I ended up eating a half a cold burger that was left over from dinner and a brownie (I know funny combo), then I went back upstairs to get more sleep. I awoke again at around 5:30am, I was still having contractions, but they didn't seem any stronger then the ones I felt only hours before. I didn't want to wake my husband or son, and was still unsure if this was indeed labor, so I decided to take a bath and start timing them. I could barely feel anything while I was taking a bath, but I still did have a tightening feeling. The feeling was coming regularly, so I decided to text Sara and Brooke to let them both know to be on alert because I was in labor! Sara told me to get more rest and something to eat, she was finishing up with a birth at that moment. Brooke then text and said to stop timing them as well and just take it easy, and yay I went into labor before her so she would be able to do the photography! I am so happy she told me to stop timing them because I was so full of adrenaline knowing I'd finally meet my baby soon, timing the contractions only made it worse! My husband Chris text around that time asking if everything was ok. I responded that I was in early labor, he should get some more rest, and I'd wake him if it picked up. I went downstairs and napped on our rug in the living room, I was worried about my water breaking on our couch. There, I slept for another 2 hours. I was in such a deep state of sleep, it was as if I was not in labor. I never woke to any contractions. When I finally did wake, I started stand up, and had a huge surge that paralyzed my body. My legs were so stiff, I was frozen in a hands and knees position. It was as if my baby and my body were wanting me to get that rest, and all of the contractions that would've been, went into that one huge contraction. When the contraction was over, I got up waiting for the next one. When it came, it again was very mild and gentle like the earlier ones.
At about 8:30am my husband and son were finally awake, and we started to make breakfast. My mom was also now on her way to help out with our son throughout the labor. Sara text around then asking how things were progressing. I told her that there was a lot of love in the house, we were about to eat breakfast, and that I thought this would be a long labor because everything was still so mild. She then told me that she had to head off to Greenville now, because someone else went into labor before I did! I told her not to worry, this baby has a plan, and that everything was going to work out. That made her feel a bit more at ease with having to attend birth number two in 12 hours, and being 30-45 minutes away from birth number three! We then ate our last breakfast as a family of three, and my mom arrived. I decided after breakfast I was going to take a shower. I still felt as though my labor was not progressing, but wow did that shower feel amazing! I did not want to get out! Chris came up to check on me, I told him I was enjoying this time alone, so he let me be. I then exited the shower, dried my hair, and got dressed.
I had not been contacting Sara because of her being at another birth, and because of my slow progressing labor. Brooke and I were keeping in contact, she offered earlier to come by because of my not being able to have Sara there. The fact this was not a textbook labor had me very confused, but I declined because I was enjoying my time alone, and was worried about wasting anyone's time by being here.
Since I felt that this labor was going to last days because of the mild contractions, I decided I was going to lie down for yet another nap! This time it was a little harder to relax throughout the contractions, but I was still able to fall into a half sleep. At around 12:30pm I got up from my third nap, and text Brooke again shortly after. She asked me questions about the contractions, then told me to tell her to come before I felt she needed me to. I asked her if she was saying that because of the weather (I failed to mention earlier the fact we were in the midst of a serious stow storm for the past 12 hours) or if it was because of my being further along then I realized. She responded back with both, then elaborated with just because the contractions were inconsistent, did not mean they were not doing anything. I decided after that conversation that I would try and eat again (remember I thought this would be a marathon labor) so I grabbed some almonds and sat on a birth ball. I started asking Chris what he thought, how far along did he think I was? He told me I seem to be in control of it all, and what did I think. I also asked my mom, she was beginning to get a little worried because she said that I had been in labor now for over nine hours, which was how long my first labor was, and this was my second.
About an hour after that text, still trying to figure out how far along I was, I broke down and started crying. I was again asking Chris for his opinion, when I felt the anxiety fill me, then fear of no one being here to attend. I knew at that moment that I needed someone there. Thanks to the Bradley Method classes I took when pregnant with my son, I knew that I must be in transition! I immediately text both Becky (student midwife with Sara) and Brooke, I told them I was crying and I needed someone with me now! I still had it in the back of my head that this would be the longest labor ever, and was worried I'd be wasting their time, but I was crying. Sara was still in Greenville at that time, but Brooke was on her way! She first had to pick up Sara's mom, Anni, who is also a midwife, just in case Sara and Becky would not make it in time. They were just finishing up with the birth in Greenville when I text. As soon as I knew Brooke was on her way the contractions seemed to pick up. They were growing in strength, and the time inbetween was decreasing, I was growing extremely anxious. I practiced my deep breathing, and moaning instead of screaming (again something I learned from my previous labor) I read my birth affirmations aloud through each contraction, why could I still speak during these!?
Sometime just after 2:00pm Brooke and Anni arrived! They walked into the house while I was in the middle of a contraction, Anni asked where I'd like to have the baby. What? I had to think of a place!? I had just been letting everything happened however it was, I hadn't put any thought into it! I decided upstairs in our bedroom seemed fitting, so off Anni and Chris went to get the bed and room ready. I sent my mom and son downstairs, and Brooke stayed with me. I had to use the bathroom, I pulled down my skirt and underwear and there it was, my bloody show. I stood up on the toilet and walked into the kitchen where I all of a sudden felt the urge to push. There was so much pressure! We then went upstairs to my bedroom where I had another contraction at the side of my bed. I had had a dream weeks before of this pain free labor, standing by my fireplace letting my baby push its way out. That was almost exactly what was happening! I was having a love hate relationship with the pushing while standing, but continued to stand for a couple more pushes. Anni told me I was strong enough, and that I could do it, but to me it did not feel right. I squatted at the side of the bed, and that's when my water broke. I also did not like the feeling of squatting, so back to standing I went. Then there was another contraction, the head was almost to the surface. I fell forward onto my bed, yes that was the postion I wanted! Chris grabbed the ball downstairs for me to lean on, it was perfect! At about that same time Sara and Becky also arrived, Brooke went downstairs to let them in. They came upstairs, I was continuing to push. Oxytocin then filled the room, I thanked the beautiful life inside me for being so patient and kind, and for waiting to make sure everyone was there. Tears filled the room. They had me lift my right leg because the baby's hand was by it's face, and the baby was starting to bruise. Anni came up towards my face and told me to close my mouth and use that energy and push down and out. I started to feel that ring of fire, and thought in my head, why did I decide to do this again? After a few more good pushes the head was out, one push later came the body. I saw my beautiful baby lying on my bed then looked down and saw it was a GIRL!!! The most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen, I again felt the surge of oxytocin. Our beautiful daughter Laelia Lore was born at 3:07pm. Only about an hour after Anni and Brooke arrived, and only 10 minutes after Sara and Becky arrived. My mom and son decided to sneak upstairs, they couldn't hear a thing downstairs, and wanted to listen for any signs of anything. I am so grateful the snuck up when the did because they heard Laelia's first cry. "The baby sounds like a tiger" my son told my mom. The placenta came shortly after (again another surprise, my sons took forever to deliver). Becky showed the placenta to me, then scooped it away to make me a delicious (I'm not kidding) smoothie. They checked to see how I was bleeding, and they said everything was great. No shot of pitocin this time!
The saying every birth is different could not be more true, I seriously went from one extreme, to the other. My baby and body were the perfect team, and I could not be more grateful for how that entire day went, it was magical.