Most of my closest friends are birth junkies like me. Amongst those friends, they all have one thing in common and that is their strong desire to support each other’s choices. Even if I told them I planned to fry up and eat my placenta post birth, these people would absolutely support me. Nothing is weird to us when it comes to birth anymore. It’s actually kinda funny because I have completely forgotten what it’s like to think something is “odd” surrounding the birth topic. So when my long time friend in North Carolina posted her birth story and video of her home labor and delivery, I had to actually pause and think what others might think. Water birth is so normal to me now. Low moans and animal sounds are typical and expected. After falling in love and being deeply jealous of Kate’s home birth I thought, I wonder what our other high school friends think? They know Kate isn’t weird. They know I’m mostly not weird. So doesn’t the part of folks out there that want to call us strange for thinking “this is normal,” question if it truly is “crunchy” or gross like they once may have thought? I hope. I’ve said it before, but I really do wish every woman could witness a peaceful natural birth like Kate’s experience with Eliza. And because she talks so openly about this taboo subject of home water birth, I think she’s changing the minds of people everywhere. And truly that’s our goal here too. Birth is beautiful. No matter where and what way you welcome a child. We should be able to openly talk about it and not be deemed “crunchy or backward.” After you read this, I encourage you to go to her blog and watch the video that her friend made for her of some motion and still shots. I’m SO proud of you Kate! You did so good and I’m beyond thrilled everything went so perfectly. Love, Melanie.
Birth is a beautiful privilege. How lucky am I that I get to help bring life into this world?
With our second child, just like with our first, we knew that a natural, unmedicated birth was how we wanted to welcome our teeny, wobbly miracle. And this time around, we were going to do it at home. People call me crazy for doing a home birth. I honestly couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Home is my comfort zone and where I feel most at peace. If I wanted the most gentle experience for my child, home was where we would be for it. Leading up to the big day, I did a lot of preparation – mostly mental. With our first child, as with many first children, we, as parents, have no idea what to expect once those contractions pick up. Having one (very difficult) birth under my belt, I knew that if I could mentally keep myself calm through this one, we would have a much better experience.
In the weeks leading up to the birth, my body did a lot of practicing, giving me entire days of strong, powerful contractions. By a week or so past my due date, I was ready for our baby. Guided by my midwife and doula, I did some tricks that within just a few hours put me in labor. It was around dinnertime that I told David I was going for a walk to try to get the contractions to pick up. By the time I got home, I calmly told him we’d need to take our dog to a friend’s house and give our doula and birth photographer a heads up. Our good friend and photog, Jessica, showed up first. Monster was already asleep, so we asked her to stay at the house so David and I could go for a beautiful, starlit walk. As each contraction hit, I extended my hand for my husband to hold. A big part of what I did to relax was to keep all my muscles from tightening and breathe calm energy into them. So when I say I extended my hand to David, I mean that my open palm floated through the air, and I placed it on top of his open palm. Up and down our street, we moved this way until probably 9 p.m., when I told David we needed to get our doula, Brooke, to our house. For the next few hours, I breathed calmly through contractions while on the exercise ball and on our bed. I vividly remember at one point, Jessica crawled over to me and said, “You are the most beautiful prego I know.” What wonderful words of support and at just the right time. When Brooke showed up, I told her I didn’t want to have another 30-some-hour labor, and she cooly replied, “Let’s take another walk.” So back under the stars we went. I’m glad we moved to an area far enough from the city that when you turn your head toward the sky, you literally catch your breath at how many stars you see.
As we walked, Brooke told me to move through the contractions instead of stopping. This sounds simple enough, but it wasn’t easy. In my mind, I recalled every race, every obstacle course I have run and told myself that all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. With each surge, I could feel the baby dropping lower and lower. Brooke and David chatted as I breathed in my nose and out my mouth, as I was taught to do during the asthma attacks I would have as a child. We crept from one end of our neighborhood to the other before I murmured, “It’s time to go home.” When we turned around, I couldn’t see our house. “OK, at least four or five more contractions until I’m home,” I thought. When we finally made it back, I asked Brooke if I could rest. She encouraged it. We slowly made our way up the stairs and into bed. Nearly an hour of sleeping between contractions later, I woke up to find poor David had fallen asleep on the floor next to the bed. “Hun, go get some rest. I’ll need you later, but not now,” I told him. As Brooke sat next to me and applied pressure to my lower back, I breathed calmly through the next few surges and then asked her to call our midwife, Christine. As soon as she got off the phone, the contractions escalated to where I could no longer simply breathe – I started to get vocal. People who are around birth often mark vocalization as a sign of progression. However, my vocals confused my doula. With our first child, I was emitting low, guttural noises like you’d hear from a haunted house or dying elephant. Dying elephant – yes! – let’s go with that one. During Monster’s birth, I looked and sounded like a dying elephant. This time around, I knew I needed a calmer, more peaceful approach. I had practiced the breathing, but didn’t give a thought to what would happen once the noise started. I kid you not – what ended up coming out of my mouth was song. Not like, singing pop music or droppin’ rhymes. It was a blend of humming and cascading “AhhhAAAhhhhaaaaaaahhhs.” David later told me when he first heard it from across the hall, he thought it sounded like background vocals on a Pink Floyd song. I soon took my song into the birth tub.
Oh, the birth tub. You know how everyone has a place where they just feel “in their element”? My element was that tub. From my hands and knees to reclining to eventually floating around the tub, I found my zone. Our midwife, Christine, got to our house around 2:15 a.m. Brooke greeted her at the door, and later told me when Christine asked how I was doing, Brooke replied, “It’s hard to tell. She is literally singing and spinning around the tub.” What can I say? I was at peace. My husband and firstborn were sleeping, my birth team was in place and my mind and body were working together perfectly. When Christine walked in the room, I told her I wanted to be checked. I never got checked during this pregnancy, but I felt it was important at that point to know where we stood. A few contractions later, Christine still hadn’t checked me, so I asked, “Are you not checking me because you don’t think I’m far enough along?” That was the only moment during labor in which I started to doubt myself. Christine smiled and said that she was going to, but I was so involved with my swimming and singing that she didn’t want to interrupt it. (ha!) Turns out I was just a small lip away from being complete. What a wonderful feeling. I had breathed and sang throughout every bit of dialating and felt amazing. On the very next contraction, though, I made noises that gave us all pause – a weird grunt and strain. “Well, that was different,” Christine said. “I don’t think we’re very far from having the baby,” I said.
I never got the urge to push – I didn’t have time to. My body took over from that point. The contractions were extremely powerful, so I decided to do what I needed to do to stay calm and let my body and the baby do the rest. In between surges, I relaxed and smiled. Yes – smiled. I’m telling you – it was so beautifully bizarre to feel so great that I couldn’t believe we were as far along as I was. I recalled all the birth videos I watched of women who “birth without pain.” Could I achieve that, too? No. Hell no. My next contraction proved that. David and Monster had joined us in the room at that point and I was on my hands and knees. I won’t tell you exactly what came out of my mouth, but one very not-nice word did manage to escape. The baby was crowning.
Oh crowning. With Monster, I guess I was too exhausted or had been pushing so long that I was numb, and I didn’t feel it. I assure you, I did I feel it this time. During the crowning contraction, I remember thinking, “Are they going to be able to stitch me from my belly button all the way around to my back? Because this child is literally splitting me in half.” No time to dwell on that. On the next contraction, out came the baby’s head, floating under water. I was yelling, “Help me! Help me! Ohhhh nooooo, please help meeee….” What did I expect? The midwife to pull the baby out by its head? I don’t know. Again, no time to dwell.
“One more push, bear down, Kate, the hard part is over now just get the rest of the body out.” With clenched teeth, I closed my eyes and begged the baby to come out. And then, I got to feel that incredible feeling of life coming into this world. The baby dropped into the water, and Christine pushed the baby back under me, through my legs and said, “Kate, reach down catch your baby.” I felt the baby swim into my arms, and I sat back and pulled it into my chest. I looked down and saw the baby open its eyes right away and look at me.
“Oh, you’re here!” I said. “I did it.” I looked up at David, who had tears in his eyes, holding Monster-man. “Did you see what it was?” “No – what is it?”
“We have a little girl.”
And we both were so overcome with love that it spilled out of our eyes. She was perfect. Covered in vernix, slimy, slippery and with a head of dark hair. An hour later, we weighed her and found she crushed her brother’s birth weight by more than a pound: Our “little” girl came at 3:13 a.m. (less than an hour after the midwife showed up) and was 9 pounds, 3 oz (see? body-splitting, right?) and 21.5 inches long. And oh, does she know how to snuggle. My family – David, Monster, baby and me – cuddled in bed for hours. I cannot imagine a more perfect experience. I felt so present, so connected with the baby for the entire process. Our birth team was simply amazing, providing support when I needed it but mostly letting me do what I needed to do. And, very importantly and second only to having a very healthy baby, I did not split in half.
Birth is always beautiful, this was beyond a doubt the most beautiful experience of my entire life.
Welcome, baby Eliza. You are the sweetest gift and you make our family complete. I can’t wait for all that’s in store for you. And I promise to be there for you every step of the way.