We start this story with some prodromal labor, which can through everyone for a loop. After a few false alarms, and many contractions later, I got the text to come on over because TODAY was the day (woo!)(for sure this time.) Sharing space with this birth mother, was truly something special.
I arrived at her home early in the day, (we were unsure how quickly things would progress this being her 4th babe) and captured some gorgeous shots of mama enjoying her last bath with her little one in womb. She was at peace, breathing through contractions, taking this moment of stillness to prepare her mind for the labor to come.
After that reflecting time, mama hopped out of the tub and her mind was set on what was to come, ready to encourage some progress. She took a long walk in the hot sun, to encourage the contractions. (Movement is such an underutilized tool in labor!)
Mama was strong, and joyful, she powered through a long walk, me following and snapping picutres, jogging to keep up (haha!), just before we turned back, her contractions had started to pick up. She stopped for each one, zoned into herself, and her music, and I was able to get a few different angles of this beautiful beginning to her day of labor. She glowed, and you could tell with the sun gleaming down on her, sweat dripping, music and blood pumping, she was in her element. She soaked up that sunshine and it gave her such energy.
When we got back to her home, her doula had arrived, and so began the endless cycle of hip squeezes, counter pressure, and swaying movement. Mom and doula fell into a rhythm that ebbed and flowed all day long.
After a quick check-in at the birth center, hunger made itself heard, and we took a trip to Jimmy John's for an early lunch. Mamas contractions were picking up in intensity and frequency, she could no longer talk through them. She had one in the middle of ordering her food, again at the drink machine, and several at the table. She looked so beautiful and strong. It was such a neat little mini story in her photos, l love when mama's labor in unexpected places.
We returned to her home, and Mama took a rest in bed. She was woken by the dearest snuggles of her oldest son, who had a very special connection with this baby. He was incredible. After the sweet moments of rest, She rose, and began leaning over during contractions, bending beneath the surges as they passed, each one pressing her to press deeper inward instinctively.
Her children gathered around her, sharing lunches, and excited smiles. They LOVED the camera, gave me all the smiles and poses, endlessly photo-bombing when I turned to focus on their mama.Children bring such a joy to the birth space, bringing life to the story, and the wonderfully helpful oxytocin hormones to the mother.
All of the children looked to the mother with precious care as they saw the surges overcome her voice and mobility. Her daughter watched doula and grandma apply the counter pressures contraction after contraction. When for a moment, everyone was elsewhere and mama's contraction began, this little girl stepped up, unwilling to leave her mother in pain for a single moment. She held her hips, despite barely being able to reach them, and looked at us solemnly, begging us to take over but unwilling to move until she knew her mama would be cared for.
Some of my favorite photos are during these moments, just before we left for the birthing center, when the power was growing within the mother, and she leaned into the walls of her own home, finding strength to draw on within the bones of this house, and within those surrounding her.
We arrived at the birth center, and the family settled in, kids playing to their hearts content in the play space provided. Doula went to work with more counter pressure, hip squeezes, and gentle recommendations, providing a cool rag and unwavering silent assistance. There was not much conversation between them, which I came to realize was their conversation. They read each other- and before anything could be asked for it was already received, the language of silence working its magic.
Dad became the DJ, as mama rocked out to her trap music and Micheal Jackson. She was quick to speak up if her music wasn't flowing, and dad joyfully scrambled to keep the consistency of her jams in tact. Music fueled this labor every step of the way. She clung to it, and it did wonders for helping her groove through the surges, moving baby down and out through rhythm and movement.
Just after settling in, mama did a live on her Facebook account, connecting with her HUGE online tribe. She is an amazing women, an icon in our birth community, continuously fighting for birth rights, education, and so much more. Doula, future midwife, educator, and herbalist, her impact reaches far and wide. She travels to bring her services and inspiration with her, and it reaches everywhere! Her crowd loved getting to see how she pushed and worked through contractions in this live, her strength reaching endlessly through the screens and into hearts. Her husband drew from the love and strength of the comments, and some provided a good touch of humor to the room. Laughter is a priceless tool in birth.
Before long, she transitioned from the birth ball and rhythm, and surrendered to the bed and rest. Her own mother took over with the counter pressures, back rubs, and endless comfort measures. It was really beautiful to see how her mothers touch calmed and reassured this mama, (despite her mothers hilarious comments about hurrying up so she could go get tacos.) She advocated for some yoga poses, and tried to show her how to do cat and cow to alleviate some of the pressures (an incredible suggestion!) Mama did a couple, then surrendered back down to rest. You could tell at this point she started to really internalize, as most women do before baby comes. Less connected to the world around you, and more connected to the waves within you. Giving into that type of surrender, and letting your instincts take over, is a huge part of a successful med free labor and delivery.
When the time had come for baby to arrive, mama was now vocalizing, struggling to keep her sounds deep and low (the low sounds help move baby out as they come from deep within, high sounds come from your throat and just waste energy) The energy in the room was deep and serious. Her visitors left, and everyone prepared for babe. It was slow, steady, and perfect.
The Dad, despite having witnessed her previous births with no issues, was overtaken by an overwhelmed feeling, and came super close to passing out. He too went internal, connecting with mom on a emotional level beyond his physical self. A doula at the birth center assigned herself to him, reminding him to stop holding his breath, fanning him, making him sit in a chair, reassuring him for the rest of the day. What was going on inside him, we could tell was deep and spiritual.
The midwives here were very loving and tender, helping mama get past fears that came up along the way, (the fear of pushing and baby coming too fast specifically) helping with counter pressure and opening her hips when needed, helping her find space.
Mama was a champion. She was never afraid to do exactly what her body needed at the moment. Her belly reminded me of the sun, with its beautiful stretch marks and the shape of baby moving within, it glowed. When she was overwhelmed, she gave into the feeling instead of fighting it. She said she got to a point where she felt she couldn't go on, where she wanted meds and a transfer, but she never vocalized it- knowing it would pass and believing in the pride she would have in herself if she could just get through this moment in time. Allowing her doubts to be, not judging them or feeling shame, but using them to pass time her body needed to push on. Her body shook, with power and intensity. She welcomed each contraction as it came. To us outside of her, all we saw was strength, not a drop of uncertainty.
Mama shifted from laying down to all fours(her plan was to deliver here), to leaning and desperately embracing the bed frame, switching side to side and back and forth trying all the different positions until finally her body found the place it wanted to stay. We waited, everyone quiet and patient, in the dark light and intensely pregnant air. On her left side, with her legs supported by midwives and family, she delivered her babe. When his head came, she reached down and held it, relief in her eyes, her hand becoming fuller and fuller as he slid out, his shoulders were a bit sticky so midwives helped him turn, and mama brought babe to her chest. This little one had the longest cord of all her babies, and she was overjoyed to put him to her chest instead of her stomach. Her body had pushed so beautifully. Soon she delivered the placenta. The room that was pregnant with anticipation before, broke its emotional waters to birth a high high joy. Tears streamed down faces, and smiles broke loose. Dad recovered, the light returning to his eyes, and he went to meet his child, mom holding onto her husband with a deep love in her eyes.
We honored mamas plan for a partial lotus birth- a beautiful practice that involves keeping the cord and placenta connected to baby for up to 4 hours, then cutting and removing the cord and placenta for freezing and consumption. The physical and spiritual benefits for which are immense.
When her kids came in to see their mother, at first they didn't see that while they had been playing, mom had been delivering. When they realized they had a new baby brother, the room burst with joy and screaming. The oldest little boy made me cry. He was OVERWHELMED with gratitude. He kept saying over and over "this is the best day ever/this is my best day/this is the best day of my life/its a dream come true" His eyes were gleaming, his joy so rich.
The littlest brother was concerned at first, asking about the milk the babe was obviously enjoying (his milk haha) but quickly warmed up when he saw baby's face, he leaned down to look and give kisses to this new part of his world.
Big sister kept remarking how beautiful and cute he was, she would become like a second mommy to him over the next few weeks- strongly protective and obsessed with his care and comfort.
After all of the excitement when things settled down, dad begin to open up, a naturally very verbal talkative person. He poured out his story and emotions, bringing words to what he'd went through today. He said he experienced stomach pains, and labored breathing along with the contractions, that he didn't realize he was panting and holding his breath, until the doula told him he was. It was like a trance, a daze, an out of body experience. It was so intense.
When he went to get the kids to bed, and get food for mama, he swelled up with pride "Look here, I am the daddy, I will take care of everything" he assured her.
Mom said the moment babe came out, there was instant relief, and an hour after birth she already felt like her normal self. She was in awe of her babe, and of all her love and support. In awe of her power and successful natural labor.
A little mini story for you, mama had a friend there at the birth, who visited before birth, and again after. When she first came, she was speaking of never having sex again, and of how crazy and afraid she was of all this. By the time she left though, she was holding the placenta, and talking of her own birth plans. It funny how birth changes people. Its magic really.
This whole birth was magic. The magic of nature, instinct, and woman power. This one will stay in my heart for a very long time.<3 These photos are some of the my favorites I have ever taken.