This birth, was my first birth back after the great pause. A year of grief for many, and I was not exempt from the hardships. I went into 2020 *the great pause* still freshly grieving the loss of my baby. When covid hit we were knocked further into the isolation that grief often creates. I put my camera aside for this short time, as we all learned to navigate in this new world. I continued to advocate for birth mothers and press on in building my business, knowing that this was just that- a pause. That I would be back in the birth space again. Then, I lost my ability to walk, suffered a severe spinal injury. I didn't know If I would ever see birth again, if I would ever be able to hold my camera again, If I would ever walk again. After a terrifying surgery and a long recovery, my healing came! I rebranded, and threw myself back into this work with a passion on fire- knowing more truly then ever that this is where I belong.
This beautiful, sacred birth space- was the first I entered in the new year of 2021. When I woke up from that surgery, I was overwhelmed with a great joy to be alive. I felt that again when I walked into this home, I felt a great joy to be back doing the very thing that my life revolves around. Birth work.
Looking back on the early stages of this labor, I can imagine her home is filled with beautiful tall grass- and she is wearing paths through it. You can see where she's been, and see where she will go next as she paces. Walk, pause, breathe. Turn. Walk, pause, breathe, reach. She was pausing during contractions when I arrived, overtime they only grew.
Her first two births were fast, and we guessed (incorrectly) that this would be the same. We worried about the birth team not making it in time. Those third babies though... they like to change it up. Mama got in the tub when the surges grew strong within her body. She rested there, she found breath and peace.
The lights twinkled into her water, and into her hair, and into the eyes of everyone present. This space had been well prepared. Everyone was ready. Except baby. He needed a bit more time.
After that beautiful swim, mama left the tub to walk some more, to travel the paths she'd been wearing in her home once again.
She labored by her plants in the kitchen, she took care of laundry and drank her tea. Her family danced and sang and laughed around her. Not once during this labor, did anyone doubt. They trusted in her, her body, her birth plan, her intuition. They surrounded her with the vibes only a family can bring. It was joy emanating all around.
Mama, quiet, sure, just kept moving. Trusting her body. Waiting with great patience and love. Even as the minutes turned into hours, and her birth stretched beyond the time any of us imagined it would take- we all held the space and the knowing that baby would come. Exactly when he was ready to.
Mama was called back to the water again, where she let go of words and observations and found the internal place that birth takes us to. She rested, she rocked, she let her body do its work.
They played games in the closet outside her space, dad kept the mood light and kept people laughing. Babies woke up, came and greeted mama, played games with aunties. Mamas oldest child, big sister- took it upon herself to glove up and soothe her mama as she labored. She rubbed her shoulders, and kept asking where the baby was. She was very determined it was going to be a girl. They had decided not to find out, and it was a surprise eagerly awaited by all!
In the morning we all ordered and ate Chick-fil-A. We took turns napping on the couch, giving mama her space. I dozed off, half asleep half alert- ready to be ready at a moments notice, my camera resting on my chest. The time would come. Dad fell asleep on the closet floor, Aunties curled up in blankets. The stillness was tangible for a short while. Mama's roars started to be heard, and everyone rubbed their eyes and woke up, began to offer assistance.
Counter pressure was helping, but her body rotated her around the birth pool like a planet around the sun- making it difficult for her family to reach her and keep that pressure planted. A most beautiful dance between mother and baby, contraction and breath. The dance of birth. A gift to witness. It was getting close, and we all held our breath too- trying to move with her, trying to offer our space, knowing that only she could do this work. We watched the universe change inside of her. The power surged through her- and before much longer, she leaned up into that power and birthed her baby right into her own hands. She reached down, and pulled him up- his face emerging from the waters like sunshine. It was a boy! He was born.
Joy cracked across her face in triumphant grace. This was love. This was the work. This was it! "you did it mama!" we reminded her, tears in eyes. Dad rose his arms in the air- his guess on boy had been right.
Mama held the child to her chest, and tipped her head back and laughed, smiled, soaked in the flavor of the moment. She soaked in the joy that is so unique to birthing your baby and pulling them up, the joy that is trusting your instincts and being right, the joy that is birth, the joy that is home birth, the joy that is free birth.
If you look closely, you can spy little hands on the edges of a few of those first moments. From the second baby was being pulled up- big sister was holding out her hands asking for "her" baby. It was the sweetest thing. "Can I have my baby?" She kept whispering. We assured her the time would come, but that baby had to stay with mama for a bit first. I explained to her the magic of skin to skin, and why it was so good for them both right now.
Soon, mama stood up and walked through the closet to her bed, a portal of sorts. She entered it while she was still pregnant- two hearts beating in one form. When she exited again, those forms had separated- two separate beings now, connected by only a chord and the strings of love that can never be severed. It was a beautiful tiny transition that filled my heart. She lay down on the bed, and the snuggles began. She closed her eyes, and as the adrenaline came down- everyone settled into a spot near mama. Quiet, soft, sleepy. We all smiled and remembered the long journey, proud of our shared patience- but more then anything proud of this beautiful birthing mother.
Some of my favorite images I have every captured are in this birth space. The birth was incredible. It was followed by tiny moments to treasure. Mama, kneeling on the bed clutching the babe to her again- her presence majestic and full of grace. She nursed baby. Everyone pitched in to clean up, and auntie helped mama through the birth of the placenta. Dad cut the cord when mama was ready. Sister left to dress up in her favorite super hero costume- I didn't know that it was a life goal of mine to photograph a PJ mask sibling holding their new baby, until that goal was accomplished. It was seriously the cutest moments. (see for yourself!)
Lots of snuggles and adoring glances, then baby got passed around to meet everyone as mama found a moment to herself. Measurements were taken by aunties, and little brother joined the party.
Soon, the family came from every part of the home, and crawled up into the bed. They drew close to one another, and prepared to rest after a long beautiful couple of days. A few sweet smiles for the camera, and a long closing of their eyes. I said goodbye, poured the remainder of my love and energy into the space, and began my trek home.
Working on the photos brought tears to my eyes, and laughter to my heart. It was a special birth, that I am so grateful to have been a part of.
Yashua, may your days be full of grace and love and laughter. May this beautiful peaceful beginning, imprint a deep love and joy into your soul. I am so grateful to have met you little one.
Mama, thank you so much for inviting me into this space, and allowing me to share this story. You are amazing. I'll never forget these moments or this day. <3
Shalom (peace be with you) -
Wildwood Birthkeeper Leann Allen