The perspective of earth. Of depth.
Of emotion so raw
and sensation so powerful
only another woman who has journeyed through them knows.
Not from the outside;
From the inside.
I can’t get comfortable. It is bedtime, and I need rest, but I feel so restless. These Braxton Hicks are bugging me in my lower back. Perhaps laying on my right side. No, back to the left. Nothing is comfortable….
9:30 pm. March 9, 2012.
Could I be in labor?
It’s so unlikely. I did pass that small clot of mucus on Monday while I photographed Nicki’s labor, but there’s been nothing since then. And this whole week my Braxton Hicks have been a bit more crampy in my lower back, but my friend Melissa had painful Braxton Hicks for a month leading up to her labor. Then her labor only took three hours.
I’ve got to stop thinking and find a way to fall asleep.
I’m probably not in labor. So I’ve got to get a normal night’s rest. It might be the weekend, but Saturday morning comes early, and I’ve got a lot to accomplish tomorrow. And even if I am in labor, I know very well it could last twenty hours or more, and be completely exhausting. So I HAVE to sleep…..
When Robin checked me today, I was 80% effaced and two centimeters dilated, and Beta was at zero station, but I could be that way for weeks before labor starts. I’ve got to get some rest.
I have to pee. Again. I’ll be so glad when this endless peeing is over.
I’ll just get up and walk around a bit; that will tire me out….
I’ve got to sleep. Robin told me, if I thought I was in labor, to get some sleep.
This bed is killing me. It’s like a prison.
My lower back hurts so bad. In fact, it wasn’t hurting at all when I was walking around, but laying in this bed is so painful I can’t take it any more. So much for the Bradley class relaxation crap. I’m doing every relaxation thing we’ve ever practiced, and it all involves laying still on my side in bed. And laying on my side in bed is so painful I can’t take it anymore.
I have to get some rest.
“Pop.” Crap. Was that a pop? Was that the infamous water pop?
I feel wet. I feel wetness dripping inside me. Crap. I didn’t want my water to break first. It makes labor so much more painful.
When Robin checked me, she did say there was a little bubble of waters bulging above the baby’s head. Maybe that’s all it is. To the bathroom.
Okay, clear thick fluid draining out. A tablespoon? Maybe two? Must be that little bubble. Okay, maybe this really is it. I better text Robin.
Yes, Robin, it’s clear. It’s odorless. No blood. Nothing yellow or green.
“Get some sleep.”
Yeah, I already knew that. But it feels better to sit on the toilet.
Another Braxton Hick.
Okay, now THAT is bloody show. It’s not a lot of it, but it’s definitely it. Clumpy, thick mucus,clear with white stringy stuff and blood in it. Okay. This might be it. Don’t get excited. This could take a while. Text Robin.
“Get some rest.”
This bed is killing me. Rest.
I can’t rest.
I can’t lay down. It hurts. I’ve got to get up.
If we’re having this baby tonight in this living room, I need to clean some things up. And if this baby comes tomorrow, then I’m not going to do my weekend laundry, so I should sort the laundry and get it started.
Standing and leaning on the laundry basket’s wooden handles. Rocking my hips, eyes closed.
I should get out the birth supplies. They’re in the nursery closet. On the other side of the house. That’s too much work; I can’t do it. I should at least get my dress on. It’s really a swim cover up, but it makes a great short dress. I picked it out for labor. I can at least get it on.
They’re just Braxton Hicks. That’s all.
This could take along time.
I think this is labor.
It’s probably not labor.
But I had water pop! And bloody show!
I can’t lay down. I gotta pee.
I should time a few of these. Just in case. I have that contraction app in my iPhone….
One minute long. Three minutes apart.
One minute long. Six minutes apart.
One minute long. Three minutes apart.
With every one of these stupid contractions I have to pee. Might as well sit on the toilet. Rocking my hips on the toilet. Eyes closed, neck extended, head facing the ceiling. Need to breathe through them. Gotta relax.
Can’t sit any more,it’s too intense. Standing in the bathroom, fists pushing against the bathroom counter, leaning forward, head hanging down, rocking my hips. Always rocking my hips. Starting to moan. Breathing isn’t enough anymore; I have to moan.
Ow ow ow ow….I can’t take it anymore! I need help. “Help!” “Benjamin!” “I need help!”
Poor thing, I tried to let him sleep as long as I could. Now it’s the middle of the night, and he’s going to be exhausted too. He’s such a deep sleeper.
I don’t know what I want you to do. I just need help. Please help me.
Oh yes, pressing on my hips, thank you, that feels SO much better. At least those classes taught us something helpful. Wow, that makes such a difference.
Gotta pee again. Rock my hips on the toilet. Don’t look away from me, Benjamin, please, look in my eyes. I’m sure I look crazy, but I have to see your face. It helps me get through.
I want to try the ball. That doesn’t really help. But oh, when you press my hips, that helps so much.
I gotta lay down. This hurts. I don’t know what to do to make it stop hurting. Maybe if I lay down. I can’t lay down, on my hands and knees, leaning my face into the bed, my bottom in the air.
I don’t know if we should call Robin. Ow ow ow ow…..!!!Okay, maybe you should call her. But what if it’s too soon? OW!!! Okay, call, please.
Do we want her to come? I don’t know. I probably have so far to go. But maybe since it’s so intense already it’s moving fast. I don’t know. OWW!!!! Okay, tell her to come, tell her to come……
I spent so much time imagining this. Imagining how painful it would be. Taking every piece of pain I’ve ever felt and lumping it all together, then exaggerating it as much as my imagination could. This is so intense. This hurts so bad. This is already as bad as I imagined it. How far do I have to go? Maybe things are moving fast and she’ll tell me when she gets here it’s moving fast. It hurts SO bad. I told myself I would feel like I was losing my mind. That the pain was the only part of me that would seem to exist. I’m already there. How much worse is this going to get?
Three? I’m a THREE? I’m going to die. I’m really going to die. This is already just as awful as I imagined it, and I have SO FAR to go. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. You’re not supposed to say that yet, but I really can’t do this. You’re not supposed to feel that way until transition, but it’s already so horrible.
My stomach, my stomach hurts. I’m going to vomit. It’s normal, thank you for reminding me. I know it’s normal. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I usually hate puking, but that wasn’t so bad. It kind of felt better.
And again. My juice. That awesome Odwalla juice, there it goes.
How long has it been? Can I please get in the tub? Is the tub ready?
My sister Esther is here. Her daughter Isabel. I don’t know when they arrived; but they’re here.
The tub. I need to get in the water. Why isn’t there enough hot water? Please don’t make me wait any longer…..
My mom is here.
Six. Only a six? Please, that’s not good enough. I need this to be over. I feel like I’m dying.
Oh the water, the water feels so good. It’s so hot! I’m so hot; I can’t be this hot. Please, make it cooler, I’m so hot. I feel like I’m suffocating. Please, I’m so hot…..
I thought the water was supposed to make it better.
Maybe this IS better. Maybe it would be worse if I wasn’t in the water. Maybe it’s helping and I just don’t know it. It hurts so bad.
Benjamin, please, I need you here with me.
My mom wants to help me breathe. Anything. Anything. I’ll do anything that will help. This is horrible. This is so awful. This is so many light years worse than I anything I could possibly have imagined.
Benjamin,PRESS! Please don’t stop pressing my hips. It doesn’t make the pain go away,but it helps SO much. PRESS!
Breathe in two three,breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow. Rock my hips in the water.
I feel like I’m dying.
My body is splitting apart. My bones are being pushed apart and they’re cracking. I just need this to be over. I need this to be over. I feel like I’m dying…..
My photographer is here. Oh, I’m so glad she made it, all the way from Kerrville. She didn’t miss it.
Eight. Please, that’s not enough. I need it to be more. I need it to be over. Eight isn’t good enough.
Breathe. My mom will help me breathe. I need help. Help to bear it; it’s so awful.
Breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in….
Breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, OW OW OW OW AHHHHH!!!!!
I can’t! I can’t get a hold of myself! I can’t! The baby, the baby’s head is pressing down between my bones, I can feel it. Oh, when he does that it hurts SOO bad I can’t, I can’t breathe, I can’t stay on top of it, I can’t, I CAN’T! It hurts SO BAD! Please, please help me. Please, I need it to be over.
Breathe in….this one’s not as bad. Breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow… Rocking my hips, swinging my body back and forth, back and forth in the water.
My body has taken me over. I’m like a writhing, caged, tortured animal. My mind is disconnected from my body and I can see me from the outside, writhing. Screaming.
I know they don’t want me to scream.
Joi is here. She’s such a strong person. I need her strength. I’m so weak. I can’t do it.
Oh baby, I know you need to come down, but when you press down into me, oh it hurts so much worse than I can bear. I know, I know enough about all of this, I’m not supposed to scream. High noises are bad. But when he presses down into me, oh it’s just unbearable, I can’t breathe. It feels like my bones are splitting apart.
AGHGH!!! I hear them saying my water broke….how would they know? I’m IN the water? Ooohhh that made it hurt so much worse….I can’t, I can’t…..
Do I want to meet this baby? NO. Please no. Just make it stop. You think I want to, but I don’t. I just want it to be over. I don’t want to meet him; I just want it to stop. Is there something you can give me to make it stop? I feel like I’m dying.
Something felt different. I think I’m pushing. I think I heard my voice make a pushing sound. It helped a little, that different thing. Maybe I can push soon.
They’re going to help me push. They’re going to let me push. Pulling my legs back, pulling my knees out to the side. OWWW!!! GAHH!! Didn’t everyone say it felt so much better? This is even worse, oh it’s so much worse. I can’t push. I can’t push into that pain. Pushing makes him move down, down where it’s splitting my body open, I can’t push him into that pain, please, please don’t make me. Please make it stop. I just need it to be over. This hurts so much worse than it did before.
I know, I’m not supposed to scream, but I can’t, I can’t help it, it’s too much. I can’t bear it.
Why can’t I be on my hands and knees? Please, it helps.
Okay, I’ll get out. I told you it didn’t matter to me if I delivered in the water or not. I’ll do anything you want. Anything you want to make it be over.
No, no, no, ow ow ow OWWWW GAHH please, no! Oh, Robin,you’re hurting me SO BAD. Please, I just need a break. Why can’t I have a break? I just need a break. I can’t keep pushing into this pain, oh pushing him down and he’s ripping open my body. My skin splitting and tearing.
You can see him? I can see him in the mirror. Two inches of the top of his head. He’s still so far in there. I still have so far to go.
There’s a baby there. I forgot. That’s my baby. I have to do this for him.
I practiced these Kegels. You can cheer me on, but I know exactly when I’m doing it right. I can feel it. I can feel my muscle grabbing his head and pushing him down. It hurts SO bad. When I do it right, I can feel it, and it is the worst pain of all. I have to do it. I can’t. No! I can’t push anymore, the contraction is gone, please don’t make me do it anymore. I have to. I have to do it. It’s the only way this is going to be over.
Gahhhh! His head is out. I know it’s out. I felt it like a “pop.”
I never felt him crowning. I never felt the ring of fire. It felt like tearing and burning and grating off my skin all the way down. It wasn’t just at the end, it was all the way down, like all my skin was being peeled away.
Oh that felt so good to have his head out. That feels so much better. Yes, I want to touch him, I want to touch his head. Help me touch him.
He has hair. I can see his hair. I was bald when I was born, but my baby has hair. Dark hair.
I can hear you. Esther, I can hear you laughing and crying. Laughing and crying at the same time. I can hear all of you, like a distant choir, a chorus in unison cheering me on.
No, I can’t push; I don’t have a contraction. Is he okay? Is my baby okay? Why aren’t I having any more contractions? I can’t push without a contraction. Is my baby okay?
Okay, I’m ready, it’s coming, I can push again. OWWWW! AHHHHHGGGHHH!! I can feel every little bony part, his shoulders and elbows and knees, I can feel everything slipping and sliding out of me. So slippery.
My hands, touching your skin, holding you under the shoulders, drawing you up to me.
Then in shock….“You’re a BOY!”
I know, I just held Nicki’s baby earlier today, and he was eight pounds, and this baby is SO much heavier! He’s huge! And he’s a boy!
8:28 am. March 10, 2012.
I have a son. I have a firstborn son. We have a firstborn son. He’s here. It’s over. It’s over.
Benjamin, say it, say his name, say his name.
He’s a boy. We have son. Thank you Jesus, thank you, thank you Jesus. He’s mine. He’s crying, oh he’s crying, he can breathe. Oh you’re in my arms. You’re on my chest.
Just like all the photos I’ve taken at other mommy’s births.
This is the moment I was waiting for. My baby. My baby. My baby.
A few days ago, on Monday, I photographed Robin’s daughter, Nicki’s labor.
How beautiful it would be, to photograph a mother midwife delivering her daughter’s baby, her grandson. But Nicki’s labor unfortunately ended in transfer to the hospital and a cesarean. Nicki’s son is strong and healthy, and everyone is recovering well. But it wasn’t the way they wanted things to go. It is so rare that Robin has to transfer anyone to the hospital; it was a bittersweet experience for the family.
For me, it was a gift. I watched Robin be mom and midwife for her daughter. I watched her and her assistant midwife, Joi, use their vast skill and every trick in the bag to bring this baby out safely at home. Buthe just didn’t want to come down. They were amazing. Nicki was amazing, Robin and Joi were amazing.
Robin was so concerned for me after that. She didn’t want me to be afraid that my birth wouldn’t go well. That we would end up in the hospital. She was afraid that experience, so close to my own delivery, would frighten me.
But it gave me so much peace. I didn’t even realize, I had an emotional wall up toward Robin. It wasn’t her, it was an association I had with any medical type personnel. Like they were the enemy and I had to protect my baby from what they might do to him. Why did I lump her in with my fear of hospital birth and doctors? I didn’t even realize I had. But this, seeing Nicki’s labor. Watching Robin work. I can trust her. I really can trust her. She’s on my side. Like my mother would be on my side, working to protect my baby, to protect me. She is so skilled. She did everything possible. I can trust her. What peace, what peace, knowing this. Everything is going to be okay.
Oh but the look on her face when I passed that mucus clot during Nicki’s labor! She and Joi had just come from a birth before Nicki’s, and if it would have been three in a row. They were exhausted. She kept telling me to be careful. She was so concerned. For her sake, I’m so glad my baby waited five more days.
Friday night, I had put a clove of garlic in my vagina, to help with a mild yeast infection. It wasn’t until near the end of labor when it finally floated out of me, probably after one of the times Robin checked me. I remember seeing it floating on top of the water in the birth tub and asking someone to take it out.
A washcloth fell from either my forehead or Benjamin’s into the water. I asked them to take it out, because it was floating around annoying me. No one listened to me (I wonder now, did I really say it out loud?). I grabbed it and threw it out of the pool as hard as I could. Esther had to clean up the mess.
I have personally known women who said, “I really couldn’t call it pain; it was just intense.” I have seen women deliver babies in very short periods of time (less than an hour, or even just a few minutes), who would say they were in pain for only a short time. Others who had hard labors, but minutes after the baby arrived, were saying “It wasn’t that bad.”
No one experiences labor the same, and even for the same person, no birth is the same.
For me, it was so many light years worse than anything I could have possibly imagined. I kind of hate to describe it this way on the internet, because I still am convinced that home birth, and un-medicated birth,is the best and safest thing for mommy and baby. And it is beautiful. Powerful, painful, beautiful, worth it.
I won’t do it any other way. I will choose this same indescribable experience again, because I am still convinced it is the best way. I would never trade the pain for the hospital experience of fear and helplessness, and the side effects of the drugs.
And it’s not all about the labor anyway. The prenatal and postpartum care from a midwife is amazing enough to justify home birth for that reason alone. I spent an hour at every appointment with my midwife’s undivided attention. All the appointments (including postpartum)were at my home, on my own bed. I texted her a hundred times during pregnancy and postpartum with silly and serious questions, and I always received a response within an hour.
And after it’s over, things are so much different at home than at the hospital. No one took my baby away when he was born,because he was too small, or too big, or too cold, or his blood sugar was too low, or they wanted to immunize him with vaccines I don’t believe in. I didn’t have to go anywhere when I was in labor, and I didn’t have to go anywhere afterward to get home. No one woke us up in the middle of the night twenty times to take our temperature or our blood. All my family could be here, in the comfort of our home. There’s just no comparison.
As his body was birthed, I tore badly. His head emerged well, without tearing, and his body was still in the “correct” face-down position. Babies usually make a small turn from face-down, to face-to-the-left-side, allowing their shoulders to rotate and exit the birth canal. My baby was a bit over-eager, and turned instead to the right side, then did a full rotation all the way back around to the left side as he exited my body. As he rotated, he put out his elbow, sliding it across my perineum above my rectum. It caused at least one third degree (into the muscle) tear, with multiple tears all across the area. I quickly lost a large amount of blood through the tear site, much more than I was losing from my uterus.
Something is wrong. I can tell by their voices. It’s not the baby. They’re working on me; something is wrong with my bottom.
Ah, the placenta. It’s out. Everything is out, oh I’m so glad. I asked the photographer to capture the “tree of life” on the side of the placenta the baby sees. I hope she remembers.
They lifted me off the birth stool and laid me flat on my back on the floor. Herbs under my tongue, ugh,then Pitocin, to stop the bleeding.
I need someone to take the baby, please take him from me. They’re hurting me. I can’t breathe.
Esther held him for the first time.
Then they wanted him skin to skin. Benjamin held Jax to his chest. I looked up and saw Benjamin wearing his brown bathrobe, Jax’s little head peeking out.
They carried me to my bed, laid me flat on my back. Oh how good it felt, laying on my back.
Things are better now. I get to nurse him. WOW, that hurts! He is so strong! I had no idea a baby could latch that hard. He’s nursing well, what a relief. Sweet boy.
We can rest now, I can hold you. Hold you to my chest and watch you nurse.
I asked Isabel if she was okay, if she wasn’t frightened. She said cheerfully, “Oh, I’m fine! Just sometimes you were really loud so I had to go out of the room for a while.”
Oh, and they brought me Mexican food…enchiladas verdes….I was ravenous.
The newborn exam. I’ve been waiting for this!
Twenty two inches long! Monstrous! Ten pounds four ounces! Crazy! He took all of us by surprise. Robin says she hasn’t been that off in a long time. How did my body do that? My firstborn, almost ten and a half pounds!
Forty weeks. You weren’t early after all. Your house measured big all along, and my ovulation chart was a bit hard to interpret. We weren’t completely sure of the date.
Full term. Our due date must have been off a bit; you’re not early, you’re full term. What a big boy.
Vernix: just a bit
Lanugo (downy body hair): present on the back of your ears, shoulders, neck, and back. So soft.
Other hair: eyebrows good, eyelashes good, full head of hair, medium brown color, about 1/2 inch in length. Makes you look like a little boy already!
Ears: super cute, nicely laid against your head, your right ear has a slightly unique shape in the middle, but it might flatten out over time.
Eyes: steel grey (typical newborn)
Cheeks and Lips: soooo kissable
Fingers and toes: Twenty total, all perfect, nails long and sharp on your fingers!
Male parts in place and well formed.
Chubby thighs and adorable all over!
Tabitha and Matt arrived from Houston with the kids. Daniel arrived with Aidan. My Dad arrived with Tita. Everyone was there except Priscilla and Mercy,about six hours away, driving home from college. Tina arrived, crying. She had been invited to the birth but didn’t get the messages in time.
My dad read out loud what we had written about Jax’s name, its meaning, and the Scripture verses we selected to speak over him prophetically. He got choked up. Everyone listened intently. I cried (duh).
It took a long time to stitch me. So glad the family has Jax. They get to take turns holding him and enjoy him. The tear almost went through to my rectum, but it didn’t. Thankfully. That meant we could stay home and Robin can repair it. Lidocaine spray, Lidocaine injections. She did such a good job making sure I couldn’t feel a thing.
It must be bad,really bad. Because she won’t answer my questions about how bad it is. She won’t say how many stitches it took. Between ten and twenty? Um, probably. A full length of slow-dissolving suturing thread. My tailbone and legs ache SO badly from being propped up in a position for her to stitch me. Please, I can’t lay like this anymore. Please just let me stretch my legs out.
Finally, finally we are done with messing with my poor bottom.
And then things went downhill fast. I tried to go to the bathroom, and basically passed out while sitting on the toilet. Robin, Jean, and Benjamin were with me. My head sagging to the side, my eyes closing,Robin telling me, “Stay with me Joy, stay with me!” Telling her I couldn’t. Jean waving something under my nose, saying my name over and over again. Robin giving me an injection of methergine. Oxygen mask. Coming to, then falling away into darkness again.
Things are not good. I feel separated from my body again. Like I can see myself from the outside. I can see I’m not stable. They are afraid for me. But they know what to do. Robin knows what to do; I can trust her. I feel safe with her. I’m at peace.
Back to bed, still with oxygen. Now with IV fluids. My veins are collapsed and she keeps sticking me for the IV. Robin is so tired, I can see it. She came from a birth right before mine. Said she only had time to shower.
Finally feeling more like myself. My vein with the IV in it collapsed again, fluid in my arm. Please, don’t catheterize me. I can’t handle that, just let me try to go to the bathroom again.
Stabilizing. Feeling more like myself.
My baby. Our baby. Our son. He’s adorable. I can’t get over how freaking adorable he is! Look at him! Beautiful. Handsome. So big! So sweet. He’s perfect. He’s here. I’m in love. Praise to our Father in heaven. I couldn’t be more thankful.