*** Photo Credits…. First two photos from Jax’s birth taken by our birth photographer Ann Marie Itschner. She was not available for Tobi’s birth. The birth of Tobi was photographed by Monica Barrientes. I edited them, with Monica’s permission. My sister Mercy Persyn took photos during the newborn exam, shown at the end of this post. Just wanted to give credit to our awesome photogs ***
*This is a birth story. There aren’t any “R” rated images, but it’s a birth story with birth photos and descriptions of body parts.*
When I wrote the birth story of my firstborn, I had a reader comment, “You had a traumatic birth.” Other readers said the intensity of my story was just how they remembered their own labor.
I was surprised by the first observation.
I wrote the story of Jax’s birth the only way I could find to do so – from the inside not the outside. From the intense and insane thoughts that rattled my brain and body as I labored and delivered a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn at home without medication.
|Photo of Jax’s Birth by Ann Marie Itschner|
|Photo of Jax’s birth by Ann Marie Itschner|
Yet conversely, intensely rewarding. I am SO proud of myself for delivering a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn baby at Home, without medication. I am SO proud that my body can do this. That most women can too. I was SO happy to be at home, in my own safe element, surrounded by people I know and love. No one to take my baby away from me except my family. No one to do things to me without my consent. No arguing for my birth experience to be preserved. My own room, my own bed, my own peace. And my son, born into this safe, peaceful place.
I’ve seen many natural births (home or birth center) that were easy. These moms made birth look like a walk in the park. Or a comedy show.
I’ve seen laboring mothers hiking stairs at 9 cm, making everyone in the room crack up at 10 cm, and making not a single sound of pain while laboring or pushing. I’ve seen babies born naturally and quickly – from first contraction to delivery in less than an hour – without medication or intervention.
I’ve seen mamas who make natural labor a comedy show with a dramatic happy ending.
During my pregnancy with Noel (our womb-name for our second child), I kept my mind open about the delivery. And I prayed for it to be quicker and easier.
To summarize my labor and delivery with Jax, from a medical event perspective…..
– 10 hours of total labor, 8 hours of that was active (very painful) labor, 1 hour of that was pushing.
– Third degree tear to my perineum (not from his head but from his elbow when he pushed his arm out after his head emerged), which required a lot of stitches and a lengthy healing time.
– Hemorrhage that required IV fluids, methergine, and pitocin to stop the bleeding.
– Postpartum fainting.
I took a walk outside with Jax about 9:30 in the morning. He rode his tricycle. The tightening sensation of the Braxton Hicks was still painless but seemed rather regular. Just for grins, I decided to track them in an iPhone app, during our walk. They were regular (every 3-5 minutes, and around 1 minute long), but didn’t hurt. That timing was the same way I began labor with Jax, but it hurt almost right away.
We got back from the walk, and I continued pacing around the house. Standing still was uncomfortable, even though I wasn’t in pain. My mom kept telling me I was in labor. I kept saying I was antsy and uncomfortable, but couldn’t be in labor since it didn’t hurt.
We called our midwife, Robin around 1:30 in the afternoon (oddly enough, we called her about 1:30 in the middle of the night last time!). I had several dreams during my pregnancy that I had an easy birth with my baby, and it was so quick and easy that Robin missed it. I didn’t want that part of the dream to come true!
Robin and her assistant ShaeLynn arrived by 3:00 in the afternoon. She checked and I was already 6cm dilated! I couldn’t believe it. I was in pain at that point, but it was bearable. And I had my full presence of mind. I could talk between contractions. I could even talk during them, saying things like, “This sucks. Why does labor have to hurt so much?!”
Benjamin was in the water behind me, holding me up, just like last time. My sister Mercy arrived, and would intermittently coach me, or give me water or juice to drink. They put a fan on my face because I was too hot in the water tub (just like last time). At some point, I vomited (which I also did with Jax, but early in labor compared to late in labor this time). Eventually the second midwife, Julie, arrived, who I had not met before.
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby, that He may remain with you forever.” John 14:16
“Don’t be afraid, he said, for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong! As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger.” Daniel 10:19
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
“The Lord said to him, Peace be to you, do not fear. You shall not die.” Judges 6:23
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.” Isaiah 43:1-2
When she read that one, I immediately knew it had to do with my perineum, and crowning, and being able to pass through that “fire” without “burning” (tearing / damage to my perineum). I asked her to read to me a few more times and felt so much strength.
“There is nothing to fear, for I am with you. Do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes I will help you, yes I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand!” Isaiah 41:10
About 4:30pm, there was an unexpected knock on the door. It was my friend Elisha, who hopes to one day have kids and have natural births. She was picking up a bag of gluten-free flour she needed for a recipe.
She had tried to pick it up the day before, Monday. She called Monday afternoon, checking to be sure she could stop by to get it. I was napping, and had my phone turned off. I didn’t get her message until late that evening, and called to apologize. She laughed, “I figured you were in labor.” I laughed too. “No, no, not in labor; just napping. I’ll put it on the porch for you. Pick it tomorrow when you leave work.”
Now, here she was, arriving to pick it up, knocking on the door. And like she joked, I was in labor! In labor, in the main living area of the house. She opened the front door and unknowingly stepped into a delivery room! I heard someone say she had come in, and laughed to myself. During my pregnancy, I considered inviting her to the birth, but wasn’t sure if she would want to come.
Now she was here. And at 9cm, I still had the presence of mind to say to her, “Hey! I’m 9 centimeters! Wanna stay and watch a baby be born?!” She stayed.
Around that time, I began having a certain pressure behind my pubic bone. My midwife thought the pressure was the water bag, and the sensation was the baby rocking his head trying to break it. She said, “You can keep doing what you’re doing, and eventually it will break. Or I can break it, and this will be over pretty quickly.” I waited a couple more contractions, then asked her to break it.
She says it broke with the slightest pressure of her finger. Then she grabbed the crown of Noel’s head, gently pulling and tilting his head into proper position.
With my water broken, the full pressure of Noel’s head was against my cervix. The pain escalated, pushing me over the edge. I felt the sharp knife-stabbing my insides that I remembered making me scream with Jax, and I flopped around in the tub, trying to escape it. I hit the intensity of the “I’m dying” wall. At the same time, I knew I was SO close. It wouldn’t be very long like this. Ten to twenty minutes passed, then I could feel my body instinctively begin pushing.
It’s one of the lovely things about natural labor, and out-of-hospital labor. You don’t have to wait for the doctor to show up in order to deliver the baby, and they don’t have to “verify” you are fully dilated before “allowing” you to push. The midwife is always there. And she can tell by a mama’s labor progress and physical/vocal expressions, whether or not she is ready. I had only two vaginal exams in Noel’s labor, and the last one had been less than an hour ago. When my body was ready, I didn’t need anyone’s permission, and I didn’t have to wait. I followed my body’s cues, pulled my knees up, and pushed.
To my midwife’s records, I pushed less than ten minutes. To my memory, I pushed four contractions total.
I’m a highly sensitive person when it comes to my body, touch, smell, taste, and physical sensation / experience. With each of my son’s births, there is a “defining moment” physically, that I can repeat in my memory. It is rich, beautiful, and raw. I can recall that moment at any time, and enter it again in my mind. It is a sensation of my primal self if you will.
With Jax, that moment was when his body slipped out of me. I couldn’t actually tell when he was crowning, or when his head emerged. I’ve heard crowning described as “the ring of fire”, and I didn’t experience it with Jax at all. His entire hour-long passage down my birth canal felt like tearing and burning, and it was not distinguishable from being inside, to being outside. I did however, feel a great sense of relief of pressure when his head emerged. I paused, asking if he was okay, touching his head, waiting for another contraction to be able to push him out. When it came, and his huge 10 lb 4 oz body slipped out, that was my most visceral sensation. I felt as if I could feel every part of his little body – every shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, bony and bumpy and poking me, and yet slithering, slipping out of me. I grabbed him under his armpits and tried to bring him up to me, but Robin stopped me. His cord was only long enough to lay him across my hip.
With Tobi, pushing out his head was the most visceral sensation. I felt the pressure as if needing to poop, and remembered that I needed to push “down”, just as if trying to poop. His head quickly progressed under my pubic bone and into my birth canal, and it was such an intense pressure. I was thinking to myself in shock, it feels like I’m pooping a grapefruit. That is SO. MUCH. PRESSURE. Pooping grapefruit SUCKS. I knew it was his head, but it was such a different sensation that Jax. I REALLY wanted his head to get out fast, because I was not liking the feeling of his head pressing my bones and body apart. It was maybe only one or two pushes with that intense grapefruit-in-my-bowels sensation, before he was crowning, and Robin told me to stop and blow, to avoid tearing.
She had been worried my whole pregnancy about me tearing again, especially since the old tear had formed some white scar tissue that wasn’t stretchy. Benjamin worked on rubbing the scar tissue with some oil, in the weeks preceding the birth, and I’m sure that helped. Plus prayer. Always prayer.
I was glad for her alerting me that it was time to pause my powerful pushes, and wait…. I submissively blew short panting breaths, waiting, holding back, allowing my perinium to stretch slowly and gently over his head. At the next contraction, I pushed again, and his head emerged. Relief!
And again, the three minutes of eternity. Waiting. Joyfully rubbing my sweet baby’s head, hoping he was okay under the water, even though I knew logically he was still getting oxygen from his cord inside me. I knew how close I was. I caressed and massaged his little soft head under the water, tickling his little ears and feeling his wispy hair under my finger tips. I felt happy and elated.
Then another contraction, and his body. Robin was holding onto him, and it felt like she was twisting and yanking his body around to get him out. She tells me it was just the baby, moving and turning to emerge.
Then, he was out of the water. I grabbed onto him and pulled him up to my chest. I threw my head back in joyous relief, and held my baby. One arm around his back, the other under his bum.
With my hand tucked under his bum, I touched his skin and felt that he was boy.
With a laugh, I yelled loudly, “IT HAS BALLS!!!!!”
Later, watching the video, I nearly crawled into a hole when I watched that part. It’s not like me to yell. Or be crude. Or refer to body parts by slang instead of correct terminology.
But labor removes your inhibitions, sort of like being drunk, and there I was, yelling to the room, “It has balls!”
With Jax, I tried to keep an open mind about our baby’s gender, but this time, I couldn’t help hoping for a boy. Jax has been such a delight, and we both felt he would love having a brother to play in the dirt, and drive toy cars, and tractors and bulldozers. Not that a girl can’t do those things. I was so happy he was a boy, just like I was happy with Jax.
Tobi Mitchell was his name. We announced it. Tobi with an “I.”
I yelled, someone get Jax back in here! My dad had been watching Jax. They had come in the room minutes before when I was pushing, and Jax asked to go back out of the room. I was making too much noise and it frightened him (he was almost three years old). My dad and Jax came back in, and I breathlessly told him a baby brother was born, Tobi. Noel was his name before, but now that he was born, and he was a boy, his name would be Tobi.
Tobi was born at 5:51 pm.
If I count from my walk that morning with Jax, I was in labor eight hours. But if I count active labor from when Robin arrived, I was in active labor around three hours. And pushed for less than ten minutes.
The news got better. I had a day time labor. I had water birth! I didn’t hemmorhage. I didn’t tear!!!!!
My mom said it was the most peaceful labor she had ever seen. I was thrilled with how easy it was compared to Jax. It had only been intense for around thirty minutes or so.
I was also thrilled that Tobi came at 39 weeks (Jax was 40 weeks), and was born in November. We had called him Noel since his due date was early December but I really wanted a November birthday for my baby. And here he was. Two days before Thanskgiving.
We had two birth photographers on-call for us, friends who were willing to shoot for me at a reduced rate. We called both of them earlier in the day, and it was a toss up for a while, who would come. Finally Monica was the one. And oddly enough, her family was celebrating Thanksgiving on that day! Even though Thanksgiving wasn’t until Thursday, they were celebrating on Tuesday. She put the turkey in the oven, and drove to my house. What a special friend.
Oh to hold my sweet son after just a few short hours of intensity!
Oh to have two boys!
To not be pregnant any longer when I had been so uncomfortable the past few days and weeks. To have a November baby!
To deliver him in the water in front of the Christmas tree.
To have my family and friends surrounding me!
It was everything I wished and prayed for. I clung to this tiny little one, rubbing his back to help the oxygen flow into his lungs, caressing his body still smooth and slippery from vernix (which Jax hysterically calls vinegar).
In the meantime, I delivered the placenta, and got out of the tub feeling like a million dollars. I requested a bag of IV fluids, to prevent dehydration and fainting – just in case. After the IV bag was finished, I felt even better. Robin checked me to be sure I didn’t need stitches, and I didn’t! Our friend Tina showed up. Benjamin called his mom and insisted I say hello on Facetime. I love my mother in law so much, but was not up for talking right then ha!
Then, I WALKED back to my room. After Jax was born, I was hemmorhaging and fainting, and Benjamin carried me to my bed. This time I walked all the way across the house on my own two feet. I was sore, but I felt amazing.
One of the things I love about having a birth photographer, is they capture things 1) that I would have otherwise forgotten and 2) that I didn’t even see happening – like Mercy, Jax, and Tobi hanging out in the other room with new toys my parents bought for Jax.
Tobi weighed in at 9 lb 8 oz, and 21 inches long. Just shy of Jax’s 10 lb 4 oz and 22 inches, but also a week shy of Jax’s gestational age.
My sister Mercy is studying to become a nurse. She’s also been married a bit over a year, and is eagerly anticipating the day when she and her husband can start their own family. Between those two things, she wanted to help out with Tobi and snatch him up any chance she could. She was a huge help.
By this point, it was nearing Jax’s bedtime. Someone gave him a bath. He started getting cranky. But he did so well. He was sweet as could be with his new brother. He gave him lots of kisses, and checked out Tobi’s latch. Jax was still nursing about three times a day when Tobi was born, so they were going to have to learn to share. We had talked about it while I was pregnant. I was so proud of Jax, watching him transition to a big brother.
I love this sequence of the four of us. It reminds me of so much of what I love about home birth. Peace. Family. Rest. Cuddles. Security. Safety. Usually at this point in the hospital, the baby is taken away to the nursery for several hours.
There’s also something special about the relationship with a midwife. By the end of one pregnancy, you feel close to them. By the end of the second, she feels sort of like a second mom. Robin’s expertise makes me comfortable to do this huge life work at home. She is wise, educated, calm, and knows which calculated risks are safe, and which ones not to take. She knows what to watch for to signal a crisis, and can act promptly and calmly in any scenario. She handled the complications after Jax’s birth with great skill. I can trust her to take care of me and my babies, and that is such a peaceful feeling.
Our lovely birth photographer Monica went home to eat some cold Thanksgiving dinner! My sister Mercy took the rest of these photos with my camera.
I am special. I was born at home!
Jax’s birth was not traumatic for me, but it was physically painful and mentally difficult. It never occurred to me during his labor to ask for drugs, or to ask to go to the hospital. It wasn’t an option on my radar, and it somehow never crossed my mind. I do recall wishing there was a labor “light switch” so I could just switch off the pain for a while. I just wanted a break, for a few minutes, or hours, then I would be ready to finish up again later.
Tobi’s birth was everything I could ask for. All the people I wanted to be there were there, except my sisters who live out of town. He was born in the water, in front of the Christmas tree. I didn’t hemmorhage, or tear, or faint. His labor was so easy and so much less painful.
I look back on his labor and delivery with great joy. I can almost laugh inside with the exuberance of how perfect it was. I can recall that it was horribly painful, but it was such a short time, less than thirty minutes, and by that point in my labor, I knew exactly where I was, recognized the sensations, and knew the crazy pain would be over soon.
I got the boy number two I had been hoping for. I held him in my arms, on my chest, and never wanted that moment to end. So much relief. So much joy.
The hormones that create labor also flush the mother’s body with ecstasy when she meets her baby – it is an emotional experience of freedom and delight comparable to none other.
I feel blessed. So blessed, to have this kind of amazing birth.
There were so many prayers for all of this. When Tobi was 36 weeks and still feet first (not a safe position for vaginal birth), I was nearly in a panic. I wrote this post, where I had to surrender my hopes and dreams for his birth.
I had laid my hands on my belly, and spoken to him in a rather firm voice, “Noel, this is your Mommy talking to you. We love you. The world is a safe place. It’s okay for you to come when you’re ready. The Bible says children are to honor their parents. This is your Mommy talking to you, and I’m telling you to turn around. Put your head down where it belongs, and stay there.” Days later, at a 37-week sonogram, he was head down, and stayed there, and delivered that way.
After this emotional journey of surrender, I was given the greatest gift – to have the birth I dreamed about, the son I dreamed about….. What joy. Thank you Jesus.