An incredible photo series of a woman catching her own baby was posted in a facebook group and written about recently. It wasn’t known where the images came from or who took them. I went on a hunt to find the source, as the images were so beautiful and powerful I thought they and their story needed to be shared! It turns out they were part of a project called À Luz do Parto, by a birth photographer in Brazil where there is an 85% cesarean rate (source). I’m thrilled to share, with permission, excerpts of an inspiring birth story and incredible photos from the project. It’s the story of a woman who became a doula after the birth of her first child, and then went home to have a beautiful home water birth for her second, as she had helped many of her doula clients do before her. Enjoy!
When Clara Came Into The World
I wasn’t sure how to start my story, because I’m not sure when exactly my story began. I thought I should start with the birth Quim (Joaquim), our oldest son, now 2 years and 7 months. My husband, Deco, and I have always been “normal childbirth advocates.” I say advocates, but I did not know birth activism back then, nor did I have in-depth knowledge on the subject when we were pregnant with Quim, we just knew that we wanted a normal birth for our family and we were sure that we would get it.
We used a famous “humanized birth” doctor here in Curitiba. We had a beautiful humanized natural birth in the hospital. I practically screamed to all four corners of the world about how I had achieved my dream of a natural childbirth in private maternity ward where 90% of pregnant women had cesarean sections.
It was a smooth birth of about16 hours with minimal intervention, but those minimal interventions still left me doubting if they had really been needed. I’d had a doula provided by the obstetrician, the birth occurred in lithotomy (roast chicken) position, my bag was broken artificially… like nearly every hospital birth, things did not flow quite as they should, the rush, the times, the availability of the room… I won’t go into details, but these and some other interventions made me unhappy, in spite of the many things that had gone right.
After the birth of Quim, I delved into the world of humanized-birth activism. I pursued work as a doula, and when Quim was a year old, I began to attend births to assist and inform pregnant women. When my friend Deise Basquera graduated from midwifery, we formed a support group on childbirth and motherhood. We held meetings for pregnant women and started to attend home births. Our friendship began about 10 years ago when we met in a university-prep course, and in motherhood we became even closer. We always say that our friendship goes beyond life; with just a look we can know what one another are thinking. It was in one of those support group meetings were we also met my birth photographer, Marcinha, and there began a beautiful friendship.
When I became pregnant again, there was no doubt about the choice for place of birth. We knew we would not leave the house unless there was an emergency. Yes, we would have a home birth planned, in the water, as I always had dreamed… as I had helped many other pregnant women have, now it would be my turn! …
…When I went into labor I wanted to bake a cake, as that’s what often I advised pregnant women to do to distract themselves: do not think and do not expect the contractions to come! So when things began I decided to make an orange cake. As I did that, Deco, Deise and Marcinha began to prepare and fill the birth pool. I was entering the wonderful world of partolândia (labour-land)! I put on my birth playlist and remember overhearing discussion about the pool leaking, and someone phoned my sister and asked her to bring a patch.
The time passed without my noticing and soon Deco was putting Quim to sleep. I went to bed with them, as Quim called for me. I explained that he’d better rest because soon baby Clarinha would come and that we would wake him to meet her. It was funny, but my contractions paused and and I didn’t feel any at all for a few minutes as I lied there with them. Then I stood up and walked down the hallway of the apartment. I slept, and I just let the Deco rest, for he had worked during the day, At the right time I woke up, left the room and found my sister Brena had just arrived.
I asked Brena to put the icing on the cake that I had taken out of the oven. I was now having contractions very close together. I woke up the Deco. I was walking around and bouncing on the birth ball, and when my contractions came I just strutted and breathed deeply. At that time I felt that my moment of transition had come.
Deco sat on the couch and began to massage me, giving me affection. That’s just what I needed – having him there beside me everything seemed complete! His presence beside me gave me more strength, more energy … That’s what we had dreamed of. Our family was growing up, our little girl coming. Then he hugged me and I was thankful to have him in my life, to be in my life, for providing such happiness. We were evolving. We felt like just one at the time. The tears flowed … everything was going just as planned, as we dreamed.
I lay on the couch to rest for a while. I remember Brena and Deise talking and touching my belly, listening to baby, this was the only thing that sometimes returned me to the real world, hearing her little heart beat. It was almost impossible to sit or lie down. I decided to return to the bath because the contractions were very intense. The rebolados, squats, breathing were no longer helping me so much.
I got into the bathtub for a while and surrendered; no position was favorable and I slept between contractions with my sister holding my head at the door of the shower. My sister and I have always had a very strong connection, I always wanted her to be present at the birth of my children. With the birth of Quim it was not possible, and with Clara’s birth it was obvious that she should be there. She is strong, brings me peace, joy!
When I finally thought: “wow, okay fuck! This should be the time!”, I checked myself and voila! I felt the bag with just the tip of the fingers introduced! Brena said “Ask the girls if she can get into the pool! I think it’s almost time!” They gave ok, and I was quickly naked, without worrying about who was there or the photos Marcinha was taking.
When I went in and lay on his back in the warm water … uaaau! I can not explain what it felt like, just know it was very good! It was something relaxing, amazing!
That’s when I started to feel the pressure. Brena held my hand and gave me strength. Deise suggested I change positions and as I moved I felt the water bag burst! Cool! I did not feel the bag burst in the birth Quim, this time it was natural!
When I reached my hand down, I could feel the little head there! The time was coming! I asked to call the Deco, who had gone back to sleep. When he arrived, I took his hand and gathered my strength! My roar echoed in the room … It was the 8th of October, around 3 am.
I do not remember exactly how many contractions passed. I felt the little head and thought, “My God, she will rip me”. Another strong force and the head came out, so I changed my position. I would be the one to welcome my daughter; I did not want anyone else to catch her. I waited for the next contraction stroking her little head, feeling a little ear. Then came the next contraction and I was slowly feeling her turn, loosen her shoulder and out she came. My baby came up to my bosom, and weeping looked at me as if to say me: “Hi, I’m very good!” I felt such a mixture of feelings and emotions and let out a simple: “What MASSAAAA !!” (How Incredible!!!!!).
She was born beautiful, chubby, and “Clara”, full of vernix! 8th October, 3:17 in the morning.
Soon after she cried, I offered her the breast. She became peaceful and held onto the necklace I wore (made by the girls in the blessing of tea asked to seek the Quim, who came drowsy and happy to see his little sister. I kissed him, kissed Clarinha. I do not know if he understood what happened, but I know that day would be marked in his memory and resonate in its connection with the sister!
In the same pool, the placenta came out. I felt a contraction, gave a push, and it came out beautifully. After Clara stopped feeding I decided to leave the pool. I went to bed, and there we took the classic photo of Clarinha still connected to the placenta. Quim and Deco cut the cord, and then we weighed and measured Deise: 3.535 kg and 50 cm! Examined my perineum: no tear!
Meanwhile, I asked for Brena to update our mothers and a few family members and suggested Marcinha make the placenta shake. She made it up with strawberries, milk and a small piece of placenta: we all tried it (except the Deise) and Quim took almost everything! Lol.
At that time we gave Quim the gifts we had bought for him, as a way to tell him that his sister came and wanted to be his friend, who loves him and that he is also important and has not been forgotten.
This time I can say I owned my birth, I was the protagonist! We say that our midwife Deise did not work, she just was there if we needed, only by listening and watching. I experienced my birth fully, feeling each contraction, feeling every step! I have nothing to complain about, there’s nothing I would do differently! It was incredible, indescribable! My daughter came into the world the way we dream for her, in her time, in her home, with her wonderful family and support people surrounding her!
My recovery was super fast, my milk came in after only two days, my bleeding stopped in three days (at my first birth it lasted 15 days), and I believe this is all due not only to my home birth but also to the placenta shake! Clara took her first bath at 10 days old, to give her time to absorb the vernix, using only cotton and water, as we still do when we bathe her. Already I miss that newborn smell.
Quim is now suckling more often because he sees his sister breastfeeding. He is very affectionate with her, kisses her, embraces her, picks her up. I’m doing the tandem breastfeeding dream – it is difficult at times, but wonderful! We are shining, our children are all here, our family is complete!
À Luz do Parto is an attempt to record and share the intangible that permeates the whole process of humanized birth, to show love, pain and the delights of giving birth. It is an attempt at dialogue through art, to bring to light information about humanized birth to all people, but especially those who are unaware of the process, or have misguided preconceptions, fears and doubts about birth.
It is a way to contribute to this paradigm shift as important what is happening in our society. An attempt to show this return of women to their ancestry, and awaken other women to their strength and confidence that their bodies know giving birth and their babies know how to be born. Click here to learn more about the project or to view the story in its full, original form, or go like À Luz do Parto on facebook.