I knew he would come sooner than later.
I had an inkling that something special would happen on the night of the Honey Moon, also referred to as the Strawberry Moon. I wasn’t incorrect. A beautiful baby boy did join this world that night, but just not mine.
Every day past that felt heavy. I hadn’t even hit 40 weeks but my heart felt that it was time. In retrospect, I could have been in a very quiet and subdued type of prodromal labor. I would get mini peaks of sensation, but nothing like the days before Connor’s birth. My impatience was palpable and, when murmurs the following Tuesday evening fell flat again, I just decided I was just done with it. I would probably just stay pregnant FOREVER so I should just get used to it. (#dramamajorforlife)
And of course, though it wasn’t a very grace filled moment, letting go meant progress. I went to work on Wednesday. My midwife checked in with me. I told her I was okay. I was sort of over the anticipation and just going with the flow. I worked a normal shift and came home and made dinner. I felt some contractions and accepted them for what they were and moved on with my life and went to sleep. I woke up, per usual, to pee and in tandem with contractions. This had been happening so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Unlike previous nights, I didn’t even check the clock. I just went back to sleep – over and over – until I wondered why my alarm hadn’t gone off yet. I’d been up so many times. Wasn’t it nearly time to get ready for work?
No. Not even. Not by hours. It’s only 3AM. So I just sit there for a while and contractions are coming a little quicker. Around 3:30 I start timing them. By 4:20 AM they are roughly a minute long and 5 minutes apart and have been so for about 30 minutes. It’s time, I know, and so I make the call to the midwife (Yvonne), at 4:30 AM. She calls my montrice and doula (Taryn and Brandy, respectively). My husband calls Connor’s Godmother, Shannan. I sent a group text to a pre-made list of special souls. I breathe and tear up a little as Joseph changes our “thankfulness” board to reflect this blessing that will grow our family.
Things from here until people get there, less than an hour later, get a little hazy. I remember putting on the gown we bought for Connor’s birth. I thought that was a good idea but as soon as I put it on I had uncomfortable hospital vibes. I remember trying a few things until I settle on something comfortable enough. I remember Joseph figuring out that the birth pool we rented didn’t have all the plugs and working a substitution out with our birth team. I remember pulling out the dry snacks for the birth team’s easy access. And other than contractions, that’s pretty much it until people start showing up.
I don’t remember who got there first. I think Yvonne. I’m really not certain. But they all show up in quick form. Joseph is getting Connor ready for school. Brandy, calls the birth photographer – Tavia Redburn. Taryn is working on the birth pool. Yvonne is assessing my baselines and asking me questions. I remember bits and pieces of these moments. At some point, someone mentions the groaning cake. [I had wanted to make a groaning cake during labor] I sort of shrug it off because I do not feel like grating apples, which I thought would be difficult. The birth team moves into action. ‘We’re making that groaning cake’ is the message I receive. They’re quick in the kitchen and we’re working out substitutions for a few things I don’t have on hand. I get this sense from them that, while there is not a whole lot that they can guarantee, this is one thing we have full control over and we are not passing this up.
I really loved this because I had envisioned this amazing dish I would whip up for everyone while in labor. I absolutely love that it didn’t turn out this way, that I had to give in fairly quickly (#themeoftheday). I love that these amazing women prepped and baked me not one but two groaning cakes – two deeply nourishing breads that would help sustain me with healthy energy during my labor. I remember thinking that this was *exactly* the type of environment I preferred to have my baby in and I think that’s beautiful. I put so much stock (and not just chicken! #rimshot) into my kitchen. It was the most heavily criticized room during our house hunting and the main selling point for our current home. My most happy day-to-day memories often involve the kitchen. Food brings people together. Food happens when people are brought together. I love cooking for others and cooking with others. How fitting that this journey should begin in this way.
It just really felt magical. And right. It felt magical, and right, and safe, and sacred, and JOYFUL. My birth team was in the kitchen cooking for me because it’s part of how I envisioned my birth. AND THEN THEY CLEANED EVERYTHING UP. Do you get this? I mean, seriously hospitals, you don’t even have a chance and we JUST STARTED.
At some point near the end of this, Shannan shows up. She works with Joseph to get Connor off to school. At some point during that, Tavia shows up. Things have been relatively slow moving and Joseph and Shannan get back and we decide that Shannan will stay. Everyone that I expect to be there is now there. It’s roughly 7 AM. The birth pool feels GOOD. It’s warm and lovely. It helps dull the contractions. We’re taking staged pictures with our giant Darth Vadar doll because we’re awesome and that’s what awesome people do. Contractions start picking up a little around 7:30 and a little after that I hear Yvonne say “after this next contraction, we’re going to get out of the pool for a minute and move”. Cool. I got this.
She moves me to the bathroom and wants me to sit backwards on the toilet. No prob. I know this is an effective move, though we didn’t have the space to do this with Connor at Lakeside so I’d never done it before. Things got real really fast with that move, and I am thankful for my midwife’s encouragement through this part of my labor. I don’t know that anyone outside of Joseph and her were in the room with me, but if they were I wasn’t aware of it. This was definitely centering and “let’s get this party started” type of stuff.
I walked around for a little after this before getting back in the birth pool. Everyone is supporting me with kind words and gentle touch and I feel very safe. Brandy is coaching me towards my goal of a pushless birth, which is not really going as well as planned. I’m making progress, but the struggle is real. The pain is significantly more intense than with Connor and I have issues with maintaining control. Yvonne is working to keep me nourished and focused. Taryn is encouraging me while monitoring vitals for me and baby. I’m switching positions fairly often and trying to breathe baby down but I can’t get comfortable. The contractions are coming faster and much harder than I could have imagined. It hurts, but more than that is the fact that the contractions are so much faster than Connor’s birth that I do not have some luxurious down time to prepare between them.
Initially, when I looked back at this time I was disappointed in myself. I felt like I whined too much, fought them all too strongly, and gave in to the discomfort by battling it and over-vocalizing. I felt like I had an ugly transition. I remember almost having a panic attack when Yvonne was trying to guide my hand to show me how close baby was. I remember thinking “OH MY WORD. SHE WANTS ME TO PUT MY TWO FINGERS IN WITH HERS? I WILL DIE OF PAIN.” You know, totally losing sight of the fact that I was okay with pushing a CHILD out of the same place. And while I absolutely never for a moment thought about medicinal pain relief, I was just disappointed at being lost in the struggle.
Now, 11 weeks later, I don’t really feel this way. True, I didn’t have this zen blissed out birth I had internally prepped for, but I am not a zen blissed out person. I am a warrior. I am a fighter. I do not back down. These are my faults and my strengths and I was ashamed of them because they made me loud. I didn’t want to be loud. But I AM loud – vocally, spiritually, emotionally – I just exist loudly. So when I look back on my transition, I feel that I lost sight of the present in an effort to fight away the “different” that was happening. I wanted to birth in the water, to breathe my baby into the water and have my husband scoop baby up like the opening scene of the Lion King. But this wasn’t happening, and I needed to let go, to give in (#themeoftheday).
There’s this moment I had in transition that I would talk about to my close friends who I worked through processing my birth with. I would tell them that Brandy held my face and wanted me to open my eyes and look at her. I would say that I finally did, begrudgingly, and that she said something I couldn’t exactly remember but that her message was clear “I love you, but I need you to get your sh** together.”
When I told Brandy about this moment, she just stared at me for a minute. “You didn’t open your eyes,” she said. She had asked me to, but I refused. So Brandy set her head against mine and thought “I love you, so I really hope I don’t have to tell you to get your sh** together.” (paraphrased)
Man, I still get chills thinking about this. When I mentioned it to Joseph, he seemed relieved. He had remembered me not opening my eyes and was pretty sure we did not have the conversation I kept talking about. But as I kept citing it as the pivotal moment of my labor, he wasn’t about to correct me.
I love this. I don’t think I could be any more in love with this, even though it’s super freaky. And THIS is what I want to point to when I talk about uninhibited birth – a woman in an environment where her hormones move in the way that God intended, open to the universe He has created and empowered to give birth, to continue the species. I was so enmeshed in this greater energy that I was able to connect on a higher level with my doula. I was holding space with the divine feminine. I was – simply was.
So while I thought it was just her words that gave me this sense of power and peace in all things, I now know that it was that higher connection, that openness, that moment of synchronicity with more than we routinely conceptualize (AND her words+energy). I still needed my birth team, of course, but I became more receptive to their support. They told me I needed to get out of the water and so I did. I sat on the birth stool just a few paces out and not even 15 minutes later I was holding Emrys. I remember hearing something in my midwife’s voice when she said “I need you to birth this baby now, Erika” that didn’t scare me at all. I knew it was true, her words rung deep in my soul. I didn’t stop to think “I wonder what is wrong”. I had no fear, only the knowledge that I needed to call upon the deepest parts of myself to get my baby out immediately. And so I roared and, in true primal fashion, birthed my second son into this world.
His cord had been wrapped so tightly across his face and body that he was bruised. He was twisting and changing positions during birth to where Yvonne had to resolve his shoulder (and did so fabulously – I did not tear nor did I even know what she was doing at the time). Yvonne did coax Emrys out a little but Joseph was still able to catch him, which I know had been a very special wish of his the whole pregnancy.
I remember feeling a little spacey and knowing enough about birth to know that I was losing too much blood. Taryn was explaining to me that they had to cut the cord a little earlier than anticipated but that it had pulsed for a good amount of time and Yvonne was telling me that she needed me to deliver my placenta. I still didn’t know if I had a girl or a boy because Taryn and Brandy were trying to get me to pat him on the back hard enough to where he would vocalize. Yvonne tells Taryn to give me a shot of Pit and I’m thinking “Okay, I’m losing too much blood” but I feel safe. Yvonne’s telling me to open my mouth and hold this under my tongue or swallow that. I’m being moved to the bedroom, my uterus aggressively massaged. Brandy is coaching me through liquids and somehow gets me to down orange juice, which I hate, and Shannan is making me food. They’re trying to get me to pee. There’s the overwhelming smell of peppermint. I still can’t pee. They put me in the shower. I can’t pee and now I can’t stand. I’m back in the bed. They’re taking my vitals a lot. They’re talking about me in the other room. Joseph is holding Emrys. I can’t tell you how long this went on, but I can tell you that I was not scared. There was a moment I was concerned that they were going to transfer me to a hospital, but I wasn’t scared for my life because they weren’t scared. It reads sort of scary, perhaps, but it wasn’t that bad. It was just fast. I think it’s awesome that they were able to take care of things so quickly and efficiently and largely though homeopathic medicine and herbs.
Eventually things calm down, Emrys is nursing and Tavia is wrapping up with some shots. Taryn does the newborn vetting and Yvonne takes a good look at baby, while also taking care of me. My birth team is taking care of everything I can think of – more than I would have ever guessed. I mean EVERYTHING. Shannan was there to make me food but I’m willing to bet that, had she not been there, they would have taken care of that as well. Shannan leaves first, then Tavia, then Brandy a bit later. Taryn and Yvonne stay for a little bit longer to monitor me. I want to say that everyone is gone by about 4PM, about 4.5 hours after I gave birth. Not one person left without making sure I was taken care of – that things in the house are good and well set up.
Then it is just Joseph and Emrys and I – together in the house. We have a couple of hours before it’s time to get Connor and I ask if we can order a pizza. I just pushed a baby out so Joseph says “Yes, whatever you want.” It is glorious. The food you eat the first 12 hours or so after you give birth is pretty much the best food in the world, no matter what it is. I’m not sure if this is the oxytocin high or what, but it’s perfection.
So that’s it. This is the long winded story of the birth of my second son.
A lot of people have asked if my homebirth was what I wanted.
Yes, and so much more. In the days after Emrys’ birth, to be HOME was divine. My midwife and montrice kept tabs on me and dropped in at agreed upon times but care from these professionals is different from care from most OB/GYNS. For one, I have their cell phones. No one is bothering me at all hours of the night outside of my newborn. No one is giving me horrible misinformation about breastfeeding. And they’re asking me bigger questions, like how am I feeling about the birth, and I feel secure in the knowledge that I can answer truthfully and process openly.
I will always be glad that hospitals exist. I will always be thankful that OBs are trained surgeons and able to deliver babies via surgical means. Such techniques allow more mothers and babies to survive what would otherwise be possibly fatal experiences.
But that’s all I’m going to say about that. I am okay with saying that I regret having a hospital birth with Connor, given the absolutely amazing experience I had with Emrys. I am okay with saying that we do intend to continue to expand our family and it is a no brainer that we will continue to elect to birth at home. I feel fortunate that I have been blessed with low risk pregnancies that allow for me to make this choice with ease and I pray that we are continued with this blessing as we keep on keeping on. I loved birthing at home. It is magically, ya’ll. It is truly magical.