At 40 weeks and 6 days with my 3rd baby, I awoke at 1:09am on January 8th, 2017, with surges strong enough to keep me awake, and came about 5 minutes apart. I had been having strong and fairly consistent Braxton Hicks contractions for the past week or more, so I wasn't sure if it was real labor until I got out of bed; the next surge came much stronger. This most definitely was the real thing. I woke up my husband, who immediately got up, did some dishes, and started filling up the birth pool. I called my birth team [2 midwives + 1 assistant, birth photographer, and my mom] around 2:30am, and lucky for me, one midwife lives just mere minutes away from me, so it seemed like she was there in a flash. She checked our surprise gender baby's heartbeat, which was right around 140's like it had been throughout late pregnancy. My birth photographer, Laura Fifield Photography, showed up to start documenting this journey for us, as well as my mom to watch the kids. I sat on my yoga ball for a little bit, but sitting down was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, so I had to walk around and keep my hips moving. I leaned over the hot water pouring into the birth pool for a few contractions, which was calming to feel the steam rising up. I needed to get in.
Surges were coming every 2-3 minutes, and were strong enough to make me stop, and really breathe through each one. My son must have heard us setting up, because he came downstairs to await the baby's arrival with us, with sleepy eyes and wild hair. His little sister soon followed. As we prepared for me getting into the pool, I had to try to go to the bathroom beforehand. The moment I sat down on the toilet, the shift happened: Transition. I could feel my baby moving down, and the surge almost got ahead of me, making my head fuzzy and hard to focus. This was by far the strongest surge I had felt thus far. Alone in the bathroom, I breathed and moaned my way through that contraction, and immediately vomited all over my bathroom floor. I knew this was going fast, I could feel it. My husband came in to help with counter pressure on my hips, which seemed like the only thing getting me through these waves. I went through another contraction in the bathroom, as my husband cleaned up the floor, and as soon as they passed, I hurried to get into the birth pool before another one hit. I eased down into the hot water, which took the weight off my hips and lower back, but not quite like the "liquid epidural" I hear so many homebirth moms speak of. I fanned myself, which was an amazing sensation with the cool air on my face and the hot water on my lower body. I knew it was going to be too hot for when baby comes, so my husband eventually tossed in a bowl full of ice cubes to cool it off.
After just a few contractions in the pool, I reached in to see what station baby was, and baby was not quite a half an inch in, and I felt the bag of water bulging. A couple contractions later, and I felt my body bare down to push: my water broke with serious force in the pool. I slowly and carefully eased the top of the baby's head out (I felt sooo much soft hair); I really wanted to take plenty of time for the crowning stage, but I heard my midwife say in such a calm voice, "Natalie, you need to birth the face. When you do that, I need you to stand up out of the pool for us". Trusting in my midwives completely, I gave it one huge [painful] push, and out came the face. I broke out in laughter, it was such relief to know I was almost done! I slowly turned over on my hands & knees, took al my strength and stood unto get out of the tub. This was the most intense thing I have ever had to do in my life, and will never forget the immense effort it took for me to do this. The midwives wanted one leg up, and to push as hard as I could; his shoulders were stuck, and my midwife wanted to assist his way out to prevent shoulder dystocia. She gently pressed on his chest, which made him curl his shoulders just enough, and out he came! She handed our baby to my husband through my legs, then up to my chest. Standing up, I birthed this beautiful, huge baby! It was in this moment, we both saw that we had another baby boy, which was a big surprise to us since everyone thought we might have been having another girl. So overcome with emotion about our new addition, I wept. I wept with joy that labor was finally over, because it happened so fast, because he was finally here, and because the experience I just had was so beautiful and natural. It was the iconic "I did it!" moment, one that I get to witness all the time being a birth photographer + doula myself.
My kids got to come over and check out baby Simon right after he was born, and tell him how much they loved him. Everyone helped me to my clean bed, brought me an apple and cinnamon/sugar toast, some arnica for the swelling, and placenta-release tincture to ease with the delivery of this incredible organ. My baby started nuzzling my chest, so I helped him find his way to my nipple, and he latched right on...way better than either of my other kids had for the very first time. This immediately brought on the strong after pains, which helped my placenta deliver within about 20 minutes. We had clamped and cut the cord right before it delivered, and then inspected the 1.5 pound placenta that had emerged. We double freezer-bagged it, and will plant it under a tree in our new home's backyard this Spring. My midwife did his first check while on my chest, then took him to weigh him. This is when things got REAL: she put him up in the sling, and I saw my husband's eyes widen beyond anything I had ever seen. His jaw drop, my midwife's jaw dropped. My husband could barely mutter, "11 pounds, Natalie. AND 2 OUNCES!!" We all broke out in laughter, as my midwife informed me that is the largest baby she had ever delivered. My husband snuggled with Simon while I got into the Caring Coconut herbal bath that my midwives had made for me. It felt incredible to soak in these calming herbs, and once the water cooled down a bit more, my husband brought Simon in to join me (our two dogs came with him to greet the new baby). This is when I could just sit and look over him, counting his fingers and toes, wiping in the thick coat of vernix he had around his chubby arms and his adorable booty.
No internal exams, no tearing, mother-led labor, natural home birth. It is possible!! I proved it to myself, and those around me, that this physiological birth does happen so naturally and beautifully for many women. The birth images I received from my wonderful photographer are worth every penny spent. These images show this warrior-birther that I didn't even know was in me. I cannot say enough great things about my incredible midwives, Terri & Annabelle of Spokane River Midwives, and their assistant Haley. They were the perfect addition to my birth space, and I have been beyond helpful during pregnancy, labor & delivery, and postpartum. They both have been so supportive of how I wanted to birth, and there truly is nothing better than a solid support system when you become a parent, and I am so grateful for them both. I too am thankful for Laura Fifield Photography for documenting this whole birth story for us. Not only is she a sweet person and dear friend, but a truly fantastic artist. I absolutely love every image we received back from her. If you are interested in birth documentation, please don't hesitate in interviewing a professional birth photographers in your area to find one that best fits your needs, you will not regret it! Worth every single penny spent.
Natalie Bee is a Spokane, Washington-based Birth Doula and Baby Photographer, mother of four willings, and born & raised in the PNW.