From womb to world is an incredible journey no matter who is experiencing it.
As I began to write this post, I found out that one of my dear friends just had her first baby. She was at our home with us during Hailey’s birth, so it seems fitting to share this on the day her little one was also born at home in the water.
I love birth stories.
I love how they are unique to each person, and yet so many of the same things resonate within us and between us. Even between the births of my two children I find that they were so very different, and yet a sameness remains.
I remember that when I was in labor with Shea it was quiet and dark and peaceful. Even though it took much longer, it went by so much quicker.
Hailey’s birth was bright and full and busy and seemed to take forever (to me, at least). In labor with Shea, I spent most of my time alone with my thoughts and I remember praying constantly, a place to land between contractions. With Hailey, I was surrounded by others, and met happy and anxious eyes every time I was able to look beyond the pain.
Both were good, but so different.
This is what I remember from Hailey’s birth.
I woke up at 5am on July 4th from a contraction. After weeks of having braxton hicks and wondering when I would go into labor, I finally remembered what “real” contractions felt like. I went back to bed and was able to sleep for a little while, knowing that it might be the last sleep I get for a while. I called my midwife at 8:30am, positive I would be having a baby later that day, although contractions still varied from 5 to 7 minutes apart.
I took a shower and started getting ready for the day. We cleaned a little and started making plans for childcare for Shea and I called my friend, Amber, who was planning on being at the birth. My midwife kept checking in with me every hour. She had an appointment we decided she could keep – I was sure I would be a while. I bounced on my exercise ball and watched Netflix. Amber and my sister-in-law, Hanna, arrived. We sat around, ate some snacks, and took a short walk outside. My midwife arrived around 11:30 or…maybe it was 12:30? I can’t remember anymore. I was about 7-8 centimeters dilated at this point. I honestly didn’t think I would be that far along. Things definitely hurt at this point, so I was glad to hear I was getting close.
Since I wanted to give birth in the tub (although, I didn’t really want to labor in it), my midwife suggested I got in at this point, because she was worried my water would break outside of the tub and I would not be able to physically move after that point. I didn’t really think this was much of an issue, but the tub sounded good. Looking back, I do wish I hadn’t gotten in quite so early. I think it may have slowed things down, and maybe I would have been able to get Hailey out sooner if I had been in a more active position (such as rolling/bouncing on my exercise ball). Anyway, they filled up the tub and I climbed in. It felt so good. But then came what felt like an eternity for our baby girl to come out.
I sat in that tub, and I sat, and I sat, and I sat.
It seemed like just a cycle of the following for the next couple of hours:
Breath through contraction. Grip my husband’s hand a little tighter.
Give a courtesy laugh to something my husband says to try and make me laugh.
Breath through a contraction.
Look around at all the faces in the room and think how bored everyone must be, but probably thankful they are not the one in the tub.
Sit. Breathe. Think to myself, “wow I really never want to do this again” at least 20 times.
Finally, a POP!
My water broke. From how things went with my previous birth experience, I was expecting to be able to push this baby out in a matter of minutes. Instead, it took much longer. Maybe another hour, I don’t know, but it felt like a really long time. For some reason I could not wrap my head around pushing her out. I would try, but I always held back a little. It is possible that she was in a bit of a funny position and things just didn’t feel right. Maybe if I had been moving more, she would’ve been in a better spot and pushing would have felt more instinctive. Who knows.
After a while, I finally seemed to understand that I could just bear down and push and after that, her head came out. I didn’t realize until after watching the video that her head was sticking out of me, under the water, for a good 3 – 5 minutes before I got the rest of her body out. My midwife unwrapped the cord from around her neck one or two times (it is hard to tell in the video) as Hailey came out and placed her on my chest. I was completely oblivious to the fact that she didn’t start breathing immediately, but it was only a matter of seconds after laying on my chest that she let out her first cry, and her birth was announced at 5:07pm.
Below is a video of the actual birth of my daughter. My husband put together all of the video taken that day, so the first part is just contractions, and may seem a little long. I hesitated for a while to share this, because I was concerned about the nudity. Now, I have come to see that birth stories are so important to share. Not only are they an important and empowering part of any woman’s life, but maternity care in the US and in many places around the world needs to change, and a little nipple (which men have too, but they don’t seem nearly as useful) is not a good enough reason for me to stop my story from helping somebody else.
Disclaimer: This is footage from a birth. There is nudity. Please keep this in mind before you choose to watch. I am choosing to post this in hopes of sharing the raw beauty that is bringing a new life into this world.
all images in this post were taken by Hanna Salas of Hanna Kay Photography.