Sometimes when women have relatively easy first or second deliveries, they can be pretty nonchalant about future deliveries. "Oh- my other baby just slipped right out!" "The midwife barely made it last time!" "We delivered in the car on the way to the hospital!" I have heard it all before. "Three babies that practically walked out with a high school diploma and so ALL births must just easy for me." "I am just MADE-FOR-BABYHAVING." "I feel so bad for 'those moms' who have difficult births. That is just not me."
Sometimes our ideas about what to expect can hinder how things are needing to unfold in birth. We are our own worst enemies and can get in our own body's way more than anyone else. As midwives, we sometimes joke about the 3rd baby for a family being the 'wild card.' I want to believe this is just old midwifery folklore but the reality is that in 9 years I think I have seen this true more often than not. This mama was so tough. She was willing to do whatever it took to meet her baby at home. Once she was able to accept that her daughter needed to arrive a little differently than her brothers- her baby was in her arms. What an honor we have to see women tap into that primal strength and push through.
"Isla was a surprise from the start. Her older brothers are 8 and 7, my husband Scott and I figured we were done but she had other plans. A third pregnancy and you think she’ll arrive early and fast. No, not Isla. She arrived on her due date and was my longest labor at over 20 hours!! Contractions finally fell into a pattern and became strong enough to give me pause as I was getting dinner ready for my boys. They continued throughout the evening and into the night. We tried distraction with Netflix until they became strong enough to need quiet, calm, and focus. Confusion set in, contractions were close and strong, yet I could still talk in between. We decided it was best to try to sleep, I got very little. I was back at it at 3am, rocking and swaying on the birth ball. Charlie, my midwife, arrived around 5:30am and Ashley, the photographer, soon after.
Charlie gave me the go ahead for the tub and I was so relieved to slip into the hot water. I felt like I could bear down a little when I felt the urge. I got nervous, as I have done with each of my boys, and I thought the end was close. I was going to have my third water birth! But Isla, once again, had other plans. She got herself into an awkward position and I still had a bit of stubborn dilating to do. So it was in and out of the tub, up and down and backwards and forwards on the toilet, on and off the bed.
A drip of antibiotics and an IV while laying on my side, my most dreaded and excruciating position, that is until I met the lunge. Lunges with one leg high on a step ladder and pulsing to the side, trying to get baby to turn, trying to free the space. Charlie threatened me with walking the neighborhood, I don’t think she meant it as a threat, but if she did, it worked. I could barely walk to the bathroom let alone to my front door and out into the bright Sunday morning air. I was weak and exhausted, I threw up, I pooped in front of people! I remember wondering how it got so late in the morning, how and why was it taking so long, it wasn’t supposed to go this way!
My strength and determination were draining by the minute and I was thinking that maybe a hospital transport, even though it would mean a C-section, might be worth it. Something that my sane mind would never, ever consider. I crawled up on the bed and rocked and swayed on my knees with my chest and head leaning on the birth ball. I knew there was nothing left to do but let go and I gave in the best I could. The pain was unbearable. It takes everything you have to resist fighting that pain. To let go and open when all you want to do is clench and run. I focused in and let go with each wave. I thought I might die. I got off the ball again for another round of dreaded lunges, grateful for all the Bodypump squats and lunges that had prepared my tired legs, when we saw the blood. Dark red relief. That blood was relief, crazy as that sounds. I knew it, Scott knew it, and my midwives knew it. I hobbled off the bed and stood there knowing that the urge to push I felt then was finally the real thing. She was going to come right then and there and a few pushes later, she did. I felt her small head as she made her way earthside. My midwives caught her and passed her up to me and I snuggled and kissed her beautiful, swollen face.
Her entrance was nothing like the calm water birth I had planned for and dreamt of but she was here, safe in my arms, and that was all that mattered. Isla has been a bundle of surprises since that 4th of July when those two pink lines changed our lives yet again, but she has been our greatest surprise and has made our lives complete.
I’ll never forget…
The awe of seeing Isla for the first time. I may not be able to recall every detail of labor but I can clearly remember the feeling of holding Isla in my arms for the first time. Seeing and holding that baby who spent so much time growing inside of you, it is truly an amazing moment.
Birth is natural and your body knows what it needs to do, even if you find yourself fighting against it. This birth went nothing like I thought it would. I didn’t prepare for an alternative to that calm water birth I envisioned. Maybe if I had been more prepared and less fearful things may have gone differently, then again maybe not. I’ll never know but it taught me to take things in stride when they don’t go as planned. I can’t be in control of everything, the only thing I can control is my reaction to it.
I remember being worried about my boys being there during labor and birth. I had prepared them for a new baby and breastfeeding, but we hadn’t really talked about birth, assuming they would be sleeping or out of the house. When things went longer than expected they kept themselves occupied and had their moments of curiosity. My oldest, Sullivan, was much more interested in it all than Oliver and boy did he get an eye and ear full. The great thing is that they didn’t bat an eye. I hope I have normalized birth, and now breastfeeding, for them. I think it is a powerful lesson and one I am glad I could provide them.
Gorgeous photos and video by our talented friend and colleague Ashley at Ashley Yvonne Photography.