I plan to come back and update this post with the full birth story when I have more time. (update below)
In the meantime, the pictures will have to suffice. HUGE thank you to Amy Moss for capturing the event so beautifully.
I’ve not posted the crowning shots — as incredible and empowering as they are — I’m not ready for my lady bits to be on the internet just yet. 🙂
Update: The Birth Story
I had been having erratic contractions for several weeks — most of the time, they’d start in mid-afternoon and last until bedtime. Nothing was ever strong enough to make me think that it was “real” labor yet, but we made sure to wrap up all the loose ends: installing the carseat, finishing his room, washing up all the cloth diapers, packing the hospital bags, etc.
We worked it out with my exhusband so that Harrison could be home for the delivery. We had plans to pick him up from church camp on June 27th — June 28th was our due date. We puttered around together, waiting for the baby, busying ourselves with things around the house, pretty much staying close to home.
On Thursday, July 2nd, I got up early and went to go get a haircut. A few days earlier, I had been commiserating with another pregnant mom on a local parenting Facebook group. She was 38 weeks pregnant and getting impatient and increasingly uncomfortable and I told her she needed to do something to take care of herself. Then I caught myself in the mirror and thought, “Oooh, mama needs a haircut herself.” So, off to Washington Square to see Shayne for a very pregnant haircut.
After that, I came home and Harrison and I set to tackle his closet — he came back from the first half of summer with his dad and his feet had grown a size and a half and I realized we needed to purge his closet of all the clothes he had outgrown so that I could figure out what he would need for the upcoming school year. I gingerly lowered my round, pregnant butt onto his floor and my eyes widened because, “Holy shit, did I just pee my pants?”
It wouldn’t have been unheard of — I was VERY pregnant and going to the bathroom every 30-45 minutes anyway because of the pressure on my bladder. At only 5′ tall, it’s pretty early in the pregnancy when you just, sort of, run out of room in there. So I got up, changed my pants, went to the bathroom and then went back to Harrison’s room, plopped myself back on the floor and, gush-gush-gush, I did it again! There’s NO WAY I just peed my pants again!
It dawned on me that my water was probably broken. I don’t remember my water ever breaking with Harrison, though I think I recall it trickling during active labor, so I changed my pants again and put on a pad this time and sat down to continue helping Harrison clean out his closet. We filled a trash bag with pajamas and shoes that he had outgrown (and I discovered that he only had one pair of shoes, a pair of flipflops, that fit him).
I texted Colin. An hour later, he was home from work, clearly concerned but not pressuring me or trying to let me know that he was concerned. He was quietly pacing the house, making sure all of the loose ends were handled.
I called my doctor’s office to alert the midwives that my water had broken, but that I wasn’t having contractions. I remembered that I had one of my midwife’s cell phone number, Alexa. And I also remembered that she was going to be on-call starting that evening. So I pulled my phone out and texted her as well. We pinged back and forth a bit and I shared with her that the water I was collecting in my pad was a little bit yellow. I laughed when she asked me to text her a picture of my pad (there’s a first time for everything!).
She was a little concerned by the coloring, looked a little bit like there might be meconium in my water. It was late enough in the day that getting checked at the office wouldn’t happen before the office closed. In addition, Meredith, another midwife in the practice was already at the hospital at the tail end of a long shift there. Alexa said she’d let Meredith know I was coming up to the hospital to get heart tones checked. We put all the hospital bags in the car and the three of us headed to the hospital. We got the last room on the floor and arrived shortly after 4pm. We left all the stuff in the car – I was certain that we’d be heading home once they checked me. I wasn’t even having any of my fake-labor contractions!
It took a few hours for my birthing team to come to a consensus. I was 3cms dilated and 60% effaced. I had a home birth with Harrison and did not want to spend any additional time at the hospital unless I really had to be there. My midwives knew that and really waited to make the final call. Ultimately, what they told me was that if I they were my homebirth midwives, they’d be coming to my home at this point, even if contractions hadn’t started, so that they could listen to Charlie’s heart tones. So… We were officially admitted.
Colin and Harrison went to the car to retrieve all of our bags and my brother in law came to pickup Harrison so he could spend the night with them. We got some takeout, unpacked all of our stuff and watched Family Feud together in the room. We were in bed by 10:30, in better spirits than I anticipated, considering where we were sleeping.
At 1:30 in the morning, I woke up with a steady, strong pain and I just knew it was a legit contraction. I waited in the bed until I had a few more before I woke up Colin, texted Devon (our doula) and texted Amy (our photographer). Both Devon and Amy had an hour+ drive ahead of them to get to St. Mary’s Hospital, so I wanted to make sure we gave them both plenty of time.
Devon was my doula at Harrison’s birth 12 1/2 years ago. When we met, she came over to my house with pink hair, braless with her young toddler daughter. We sat on my mother’s back deck and she nursed her daughter while we talked about what I wanted my birth to look like. It was very early in her career as a doula and she was working for my mother’s company. After his birth, I moved to Atlanta and Devon and I became best friends. To have her at Charlie’s birth felt like the cycles of life coming full circle.
My mother had already driven to my sister’s house, where Harrison was spending the night. We enlisted her to be Harrison’s doula — to answer questions and shepherd him in and out as he was comfortable. My niece, Savannah (she and Harrison are the same age) wanted to attend the birth as well, so my sister would be coming when she came. We texted mom at 2am to let her know what was happening, but didn’t get a reply from her. (I laughed about this later — my mother, the professional doula, slept through her daughter’s in-labor-text!)
When Colin woke up, he was giddy with anticipation. I was pretty excited as well to actually BE in labor finally. I think we were both so high on adrenaline and excitement, it was easy to forget that we had only slept for like three hours. From here, my memory is a little spotty. I think Amy arrived shortly after 2:30, Devon got there about 3:30.
We walked the halls a little bit, but I ended up preferring to be in the room.I took a short nap in the recliner, but it was early labor still, so I was laughing with Colin and present between contractions still. I found a position I really liked, standing/kneeling/sitting on the ball with my upper body draped over the end of the bed. Because of the meconium, they were checking heart tones every half hour. The wireless monitor wasn’t working, so this meant that whatever position I was in, I had to position myself so that they could hold up the monitor, find his heart beat and listen to it for a minute. This was probably the most annoying part of labor, especially as things really ramped up and my contractions were closer together because I would have to stand up or hold myself in a position for the nurse even through a contraction.
Mom, Julie, Savannah and Harrison arrived around 5:30 or 6am. I wasn’t quite ready for the kids to come into the room yet, so Colin waited for my signal before inviting them into the room. This is when labor really picked up and got hard.
Savannah, my niece, had called me a few weeks ago with a semi-rehearsed speech requesting to attend Charlie’s birth. She had attended her little sister’s birth, but she was only six then. She was really curious about the labor and delivery and also told me that she felt like attending Charlie’s birth would bridge the age gap for them and bring them closer. She didn’t want to be disconnected from her cousin just because she was 12 years older than him.
As her aunt, a feminist, proud natural birther, I was honored and excited to be able to invite her into the birthing space to be present and witness it happening. It felt like… Almost like it was my womanly duty to her to mirror the work that her mother had already done and show her what she was capable of, through my birth experience. Birth is normal. Our bodies stretch and the babies come out. The more normal birth could be for her — especially this early in her life — the more normal birth would remain for her. It was a gift, really, to me to have her there.
I got into the tub — oh, the glorious tub! — and it was so large that my entire body fit, fully stretched and so deep that getting in and out almost required me to straddle the side. I think I was probably in there for an hour and the contractions were coming fast and hard now. Alexa came over and asked me to get out of the tub so she could check me — at this point, I hadn’t been checked since before I was admitted the night before. I don’t recall dilation/effacement numbers, but I had a small, stretchy bit of cervix left and felt a little pushy.
I climbed up onto the bed, thinking it would be nice to be in a modified hands and knees position to push, but my pushing just wasn’t productive. My sister wrapped the rebozo (like a giant, woven scarf) around her back and I held onto the ends, using the leverage to help me push.
Turns out, Charlie was in a less than desirable position. Instead of tucking his chin down so that he could fit into the birth canal, he was presenting in a military position, almost like he was looking straight forward, like a saluting position. This caused his head to get sort of wedged up against my pelvis and he was not going to come out like that.
So, my mother pulled Devon aside and explained to her how to do the ketchup bottle to me to try to knock Charlie loose from his wedged position so that he could have a chance to re-enter the birth canal with a better position.
So what is the ketchup bottle? I mean, Devon basically thumped my sits bones with open palms, like I was a bottle of ketchup… And as hilarious as it sounds, that shit worked!
At this point, I was really hitting the end of my energy reserves. I would have liked to have gotten up to a squatting position, but I just couldn’t find the energy. Devon and my sister held my legs up and, at each contraction, I would pull up on my own legs, mimicking a squatting position. Each contraction brought him closer. I remember bearing down with everything I had, taking a breath and doing it again and thinking, “Is this contraction ever going to end?”
Savannah was spooning ice into my mouth, but my mom swapped with her so she could be on the business end of things. Harrison was content, across the room, not watching, his back to me, but listening, Colin was called over by Alexa to catch Charlie and he wasn’t sure what to do. She said, “Put your hands on him!” His head crowned — fuck, it burned! I forgot how much it burned! — and with one more contraction, his body followed. He let out one cry and Alexa put him on my stomach and then his body flopped.
The NICU nurses were in the room — standard protocol when there is meconium — the room was so quiet. One thousand one… One thousand two… One thousand three… Alexa instructed Colin on how to cut the cord and the NICU nurses wanted him. There’s a lot at risk if the baby inhales the meconium into his lungs — so they wanted to suck it all out before he took in a big breath. They were looking for him to cry and his silence alerted them that they might need to spring into action.
Alexa scooped him up, pivoted and took two steps toward the NICU team and then Charlie let out a few great, big, loud howls and the NICU team said he was fine, so she spun on her heels and put him back on my belly. He was fine and all mine!
He was 19 1/2 inches, 7 pounds, 3 ounces. Born at 11:37am on July 3, 2015.
I typed the last half of this post with one hand while holding a fussy two week old with the other. Forgive the typos.