Earlier this month I got to attend a beautiful home birth with a really fun couple AND my good bud Morag Hastings from Apple Blossom Families. Occasionally we tag-team births where I provide the birth support and she documents with her birth photography magic. The couple, Erin and Reid, have written their story from each of their perspectives and shared some of their gorgeous photos to boot. Enjoy!
E: I woke up in the middle of the night on Wednesday with contractions about 10 mins apart. I tried to get some sleep and by morning they were irregular so I decided to try and get some rest on Thursday since I had a feeling this was the real deal. I went for a walk later in the afternoon and things picked right back up.
R: It was a normal Thursday for me. I went to work without knowing that Erin was in labor and today would be the day that changed our lives. I came home with Ramen noodles for dinner around 7pm.
E: We called our doula, Jessica, and she came to check on us around 9pm and said she’d likely be back in an hour or so because things were starting. We called her back around 11:30pm as I was starting to feel them really intensely and was struggling a bit. She brought her TENS machine which was amazing and she showed Reid some ways to help me through the contractions.
R: When I called Jess to come back at 11:30 this was the point I knew labour was getting real. Thank god we hired Jess the doula because I could not imagine being the only one to support Erin during contractions. Jess and I were both rubbing Erin’s back and putting pressure on her lower back during contractions. Erin was laboring in our bedroom, kneeling on a backward facing chair and leaning against some shelving in a modified “hands and knees” position. After tidying the house for 30-minutes for our photographer, it was 1:30am and I took Jess’ recommendation to get some rest.
E: Jess called our birth photographer, Morag, to come and then things stalled out. I was a little concerned but Jess reassured me it was totally normal for first time moms to have things stop and start. She sent me to bed to try and rest a bit and I felt a big gush as my water broke in bed around 3:30am, which kick-started everything again. Reid woke up to the excitement and was so great at helping me through contractions. This is where things get a bit blurry as I was having quite a hard time managing and was pretty much asleep between contractions. I was so nauseous and after EVERY contraction I felt like I was going to vomit. I hate vomiting, so I was trying to balance letting the contractions come and then the second they started to fade I was fighting the urge to vomit. Needless to say it wasn’t really working and Reid and Jess had a bowl at the ready the whole time. The vomiting also made it really hard for me to eat or drink anything but water because it would just come right back up, so Jess convinced me to have some teaspoons of honey here and there to keep my energy up.
R: Helping Erin through contractions was not easy. It was as if the world stood still during every contraction and our only task was to just make it through “this one”.
E: I was starting to fade when I heard the glorious sounds of birthing pool being filled. I wanted in there so badly! Laboring in the pool was amazing, I felt instantly relaxed and Reid got in there with me and was squeezing my back and hips with every contraction. For me, it was less about the counter-pressure and more just knowing that he was there with me through every contraction. He told me afterwards that he was sleeping in between contractions and would wake up to me moaning and jump into action.
R: For me, supporting my wife through labor was really “hands on”. Back rubs, lower back pressure, bringing a cup of water to her mouth with a straw, cold compress to her forehead, they all required action and very little talking. I was doing my best based on what I could detect she needed. Sometimes I guessed right and sometimes my actions didn’t turn out as planned.
E: This photo makes me laugh so hard. I was getting pissed at Reid for “pushing” the cold compress on my head. He had a small, thin washcloth at first and I remember saying “What is that? Is that Kleenex?!” Like, get me a better compress. And then after the next contraction he put this totally soaked, full-sized towel on my head and it was so heavy I thought he was pushing it down on my head! I was also giving him a hard time about making me work for that straw, he would poke me in the cheek with it or hold it out in front of me and I kept yelling “Just put the straw in my damn mouth!” It was too much for me to open my eyes, orient to where the straw was, and then move my head to reach it. He was so amazing though, and you really shouldn’t take what a crazy woman in labour yells at you personally.
R: I feel if those were my biggest stumbles… I was doing pretty damn good!
E: After a while in the tub, I got concerned that I hadn’t really felt the baby for a bit and the midwives weren’t there so we called them to come. While they were on their way I started to feel pushy, which totally freaked me out. This part was a real mind-bender for me. I hadn’t fully grasped that this was really happening. I was about to have a baby and I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. I was so exhausted and scared and now my body was pushing and I panicked. Jess was so amazing and talked me through everything, reminded me my body knew what to do, that I was strong, and it was safe for my baby to come. I would repeat that in my head during contractions “I am strong, my baby is safe, I am doing this”.
R: As Erin started to push during contractions in the pool, I began to realize that this baby is really on it’s way. Just as I was getting concerned that the midwife backup hadn’t yet arrived I heard Amanda rush through the door and immediately make her way upstairs. Since, we live on the first floor. I went to go get Amanda and ran into Erin’s grandmother who had just got out of bed. I told Grandma that Erin was in labor, doing very well, and the baby was coming soon. Grandma was excited to hear the news and I was amazed that she had not heard us through the night. Back to birth business as I went downstairs with our midwife to go check on Erin.
E: I pushed in the tub for a while until the midwives arrived and checked baby’s heartbeat and it was great. That was a big relief and eased my anxious mind that was looking for anything to distract me from being present and sinking into the contractions. I declined a cervical check because finding out I was only 6cm dilated would have crushed me… And the thought of having someone reach into my peaceful tub-bubble and check my cervix made me nauseous. I could hear the midwives whispering in the background about how they would chart since I declined, but I felt good about my decision and trusted my body to know what to do. I think knowing that baby’s heart rate was strong helped me stick to that decision.
E: I had now been in the pool for what felt like hours and unfortunately the position I was in wasn’t really working and things were stalling again. I think as much as I had wanted the midwives there right then, having two more people in the room wasn’t helping move things along. There was a lot more chatter in the background and it was painfully distracting for me. I needed quiet, no talking, and really direct, short sentences or I’d get pulled out of my zone, but it was hard for me to communicate because everything was kind of swirling. Contractions were coming about 10mins apart and I could only do a few pushes with each one. So they got me out of the tub and on the way to the bathroom I had a super intense contraction and just threw myself onto Reid and squatted down and they were saying they could see the head! They wanted me to squat and lean on Reid to push because that was the most progress they had seen so far but I was really tired and scared and just needed a break.
R: Everyone was filled with a rush of excitement as that contraction brought the most progress yet. The language started to change as the midwife and doula started to ask “Where do you want to deliver your baby?” This questioning came at a time when Erin was clearly physically and emotionally exhausted, and just needed some time to rest and regain her strength before giving birth.
E: I lay down and tried pushing in bed and things stalled out again so I asked for just ten minutes to lay there and try to rest. It wasn’t exactly restful as my body just kept pushing on its own. That feeling of being so out of control was getting to me again so I got another pep-talk from Jess and decided to stand up and make this thing happen. I find it interesting that the place I spent most of my time laboring, between the bed and the bookshelf, was also where I chose to give birth. All I could see was Reid, I kind of tuned everything else out, and it was cramped enough that I felt safe. Reid was leaning forward on bended knee like a table. I bent over and put all my weight on him and wrapped my arms around his torso or leg and pulled up on him with everything I had while I bared down to push. This was by far the most intense and hardest thing I had done in my entire life. My mind was swirling with “I can’t do this, my pushes aren’t good enough, I’ll never make it, someone turn this off, I’d rather just stay pregnant forever,” and I told everyone I really needed their encouragement. I pushed for what seemed like forever, with every push taking everything I had. My throat was raw from moaning (which is what I was told I was doing but I was definitely sure I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Amazingly, my family who were waiting upstairs didn’t hear a thing!).
R: It was now around 12pm on March 4th. After trying a few different positons, I was glad that Erin decided to lean on me. I refer to the position as “Reido-the-bridge” AKA “Structural Reido”. While this was a physically demanding position for me it also made me feel incredibly connected to Erin. I could feel her every breath, every bit of straining during pushing, and the complete exhaustion at the end of each contraction. I decided to tense up my body and add all my energy to each push. During these moments we were one and we were doing it together.
E: The midwife kept telling me to reach down and feel the head so I could feel the progress and I kept being like, “Hell no, crazy lady, stop telling me to do that!” But eventually she reminded me I had said I wanted to catch my baby and I needed to put my hand down to do that, so I did, even though it totally weirded me out.
R: I had a crazy view during these moments. Looking forward and through Erin’s legs I had a direct view of what was going down. If there was ever a time for a go-pro camera this was it.
E: When her head started to crown, she was coming with both her hands up on her face so they told me to slow down. Are you kidding me?! There is so much pressure and I am so close to getting this baby out and you want me to slow down?! I tried to pant but I had to push and I felt immense relief as her head came out. They had me wait until the next contraction and then I had both my hands down as I pushed out her shoulders and caught our baby in my hands. Reid helped me bring her up and they pushed a stool under me so I could sit. Her eyes were wide open and she was alert and wailing. I couldn’t believe she was finally here!
R: I was ready for this moment. We were all ready for this moment. It was poetic that the brief moment of silence was met with the sound of our baby crying. As she exited Erin and entered our world at 12:24pm, I couldn’t believe how big she was.
E: They got me into bed with baby on my chest and everyone was admiring the pulsing umbilical cord when the midwife noticed I was bleeding too much. I had two big gushes of blood and she went into serious mode and told me the placenta needed to come out right now. It was super painful and I was screaming but they gave me two shots of oxytocin and got the placenta out and the bleeding stopped.
R: Watching Erin in so much pain as the midwife extracted her placenta was the hardest part of the entire experience for me. It didn’t seem right that only moments after Erin gave birth to our baby she was then crying and in pain as the midwife was pulling out her placenta. My eyes filled with tears as I watched. I couldn’t do anything to help.
E: They told me I had a second degree tear and were shocked it wasn’t worse since both her hands were up by her face as she made her exit. Once that was all sorted, my blood pressure dropped quite low and there was talk of a catheter because they didn’t want me to get out of bed to pee in case I fainted. Then there was talk of the hospital but Jess reminded me I could ask for 15 minutes to drink some water and soup and just chill with baby and my bp came up enough that they helped me to the bathroom and I peed and all was good.
E: Honestly those first few hours after birth were so hectic and overwhelming for me that I was so glad once everyone left and we had a quick family visit and then settled in with our new baby. It felt so good to be able to be comfortable in our own bed just a few hours after giving birth. I was sore and tired and shocked and amazed at what had just taken place. Even though my mind was all over the map, my body knew what to do at every moment. I was in awe of the process, so grateful for everyone who was a part of it, and already so in love with our new addition.
R: After 9 months of pregnancy and 30-hrs of labor, our baby girl was finally here. Our birth plan had pretty much gone as planned. With the help from our midwives and doula team, homebirth was a success for us. The entire experience taught me so much. I have the utmost respect for every woman who has become a mother. I am especially grateful for Erin who persevered through that hard work, made me a father, and changed my life forever.
You can find even more amazing images from this birth (including some incredible ones of the moment of birth!) over on the Apple Blossom Families blog, or you can check out more of my client birth stories here.