Mama Re-Made

A baby birthed, a mama re-made, a dada proud, a family expanding.

There are so many words, and yet so few, because the feelings overwhelm, and how does one use words to truly convey the settling deepness of motherhood?

I confessed something out loud to my husband less than a month after my 3rd babe was born:  for the past 9-10 months, I had been depressed.

And it really was no surprise to him.  He had watched it.  His wife, who had been strong and determined, who was becoming something more beautiful than ever, suddenly began to shrink away with hollow eyes as her body swelled with new life.

There was beauty in it – there always is, in life being made.  But a light that had been burning bright whittled down to just a flicker.

Her soul was heavy.  Here was another baby.  Wonderful, sweet, divine, meant to be. But, another one, nevertheless.

It was good to speak it.  To look at the bit of grief and sadness I had harbored during that time and just let it be known for what it was. It wasn’t a great secret anymore.  It wasn’t a secret at all, I realized.

But it is scary to admit that you could have such sadness while carrying such life inside of you, when everyone around you is so very happy and excited for you, when you know you should be, too.  And you are, but it is difficult to explain, because you are split.  There is a pocket of doubt and grief you can’t just happy away.


I was so sure I was done.  No more.  So content with my two strong children. Baby things drifted out of the house.  Then the sickness.  The test.  The line. The scream. The realization of what it meant.

I stopped pursuing so many things.  I became a little cold, cut off, unable to feel like I did before.  I was easy to set off. I was so sick and tired.

Then things got better. I started getting excited.  A baby!  Who doesn’t want a baby?  So many others I know have lost babies, not been able to have babies…how could I complain? I felt strong again.  Ran, worked out. Still, ate too much sugar. But I felt good. I always feel beautiful when pregnant, even though my body ached more this time than I had previously experienced.

Fast forward to September 29, 5 days before my due date. I had been experiencing weeks of prodromal labor.

It was evening.  I had been getting contractions for weeks, but finally, they were really hurting, they were getting closer together.  3 minutes apart, 1 minute each. This went on for 4 hours without changing.  The midwife rushed to our house.

2am. Music playing, lights glowing, birth pool blown up.  The house was clean and peaceful. My hair was done nicely, I was in pretty underwear. She checked me.  100% posterior.  She almost couldn’t find my cervix. I almost didn’t believe her. I wanted to cry, but I was too tired.

This was my third child.  How could I not know what real labor felt like?  This was real.  I had to breathe.  I was exhausted. I went to bed. Two hours later, I awoke. A very strong contraction out of nowhere, blindsided.  But, they were unpredictable.  10 minutes here, half an hour there, maybe longer.  I lay in bed and breathed through them, wondering how I could go on if this wasn’t real labor.


We walked. We shopped.  We went to the park.  They still came, but randomly, each time I wasn’t prepared for the intensity and I almost cried through them. I told my midwife at 4PM what was going on.  She didn’t say much. I don’t think she wanted to give me false hope.

I went home and went to bed at 6PM, very tired. I was woken up by a contraction every 30 minutes or so. We watched part of a movie at 10.  I went to sleep around 11. Woke up again at 1AM. 1:30AM and I crept into a tub of warm water – I had to stop these or I would go mad. Warm water, relax, rest, breathe.  I leaned my head back against the hard tub side and cried and thought This has to turn into real labor, or I will die. It did, and suddenly. 5 minutes apart, HARD contractions.  At 2AM we started timing.
Blow up the pool.
I’ll call the midwife.
She came.
Check.
7 CM.
Oh thank God.  I will have a baby soon.
The tub felt so good.
I labored.  I breathed.  I was exhausted.
But baby was finally coming.
I couldn’t eat.
Vomit.
I must be close.
Hours pass.
My hair is a wild mess. My skin feels red and yellow and splotchy.
Eat.
No.
You need to eat.
I can’t.
Drink.
I take a sip.
Please, eat.
I take a tiny bite.
Vomit.
Check the cervix.
A lip.
Your body isn’t working hard enough in the tub, the midwife said.
I weakly get out, dripping.
I lay on my side on the couch and can’t be quiet anymore, it is too intense.
I moan.  I try to stay in control.
I have never vocalized before in labor. I always found strength in the quiet, the secure and predictable breaths.
I feel angry with my midwife, but also I know this is how I will meet my baby.  I tell myself it is ridiculous to be angry. Anything to stop this.
I switch sides. Then, sit on the toilet.
Excruciating.
I am shaking my legs and moaning through the contractions.
It is hot, the heat lamp is on.  My husband pushes on my lower back, he is nauseous and I am thankful for him.
Finally, I get back in the tub.
Still, a lip.
My heart sinks.
I muster my strength and push through it.  It is the worst feeling I have ever felt.
It has been 8 hours since my midwife first arrived.  I am so tired.  I am ready to push.
But it is the hardest time pushing I have ever had.  The progress feels slow, even though they tell me it is going well.
Why won’t that head come, I wonder. I am feeling it, him, down and back up again. I am pushing with all my might, I want him out so badly.
Finally, I feel the head crowning.
My midwife reminds me to slow down.
I was going to catch him, catch my baby.  But I can’t.  I can’t even open my eyes.
I hold my legs and scream.  Not because of the pain.  Because he comes out quicker than I thought he would.
I was going to be in control. I am scared I tore. I jump, startled.
Then I slow.
My midwife eases me down.  It has been 23 minutes. She says, wait.
Just hold him under the water, it is safe.
Look at your baby.
Hold him.
He is coming to you.

I begin to melt inside.

And as my abdomen which housed this babe for 9 months collapses, my heart swells and expands and it is over.


I still have an image seared into my mind of this moment.

Time stood still as I peered at his peaceful face through the surface of the water, his body still attached to mine by that pulsing cord, slowly and gently coming closer and settling my heart and loose insides.

I close my eyes now and try not to imagine it too deeply, afraid the true memory will fade.  If there was one thing I wished I had a picture of, it is this.  But also, I’m afraid that if I had an image, the recalling would not be so special.

It is one only I have. A mother’s keepsake, tucked safe within my chest.

– b.e.

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Credit: Photograph of mother and child by Sara Krebsbach Photography | http://www.sarakrebsbach.com

All other photographs by author

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Hailey’s birth story

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Rest.

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.

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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.

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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.

-b.e.

all images in this post were taken by Hanna Salas of Hanna Kay Photography.