This mama of 5 is a local birth doula, good friend, and an incredibly sweet person. We connected a few years ago to photograph the birth of her 4th child. As we all know, the unexpected can happen when it comes to birth, and her water broke at 33 weeks (she was wearing her baby in a carrier on her back, slipped on some ice, and fell). She had placental abruption, plus baby was still presenting breech, so they delivered her little girl by a much-needed Cesarean section [with T-incision]. I was able to be there when they finally came home from the NICU, and it was so fun to see all the kids excited about their new baby. I was so elated when she reached back out to me for this birth, of her 6th child! It is always such an honor to be present at a fellow birth worker's delivery. I know very well how particular we are about who we invite into our space, so it was a great privilege to document this for her family...and what a birth it was...!
After 2 unnecessary c-sections, one medically necessary c-section, and 2 VBACs at home, she had the confidence and knowledge to birth at home, with her husband. I honestly couldn't come up with a better word for this birth than, romantic. It was so beyond romantic!! I walked into a dimly-lit home in the wee morning hours, to she and her husband quietly laboring together. He was so sweet to her, and made sure she had everything she needed: offered her drinks, rubbed her back, and squeezed her hips during surges. He was her best doula, and it was such a beautiful thing to watch and document. Her waves weren't regular, but when they washed over her, she needed to pause, close her eyes, breathe, and softly moan until they passed. All I could think about during active labor was, "THIS was a woman in control of her body...".
The air was heavy with essential oils (which made me feel instantly at home), and a playlist was playing, on the lowest volume, next to them. I remember the loudest noise in the room being their pet hedgehog, scratching at it's cage. There was also the mellow hum of the little diffuser changing colors on the shelf in the corner of the room. You honestly would never know that 5 young children slept in the next room over from where mom and dad were so gracefully laboring.
All of the birth supplies were laid out on the table, ready to be used, if/when needed. In classic vegan family-of-seven fashion, they had a three-tiered tower full of fresh fruit in the kitchen, ready for the kids to help themselves. I loved seeing this sneak peek into their life, and for a split second, made think of having a 'crew' that large of my very own [my husband would kill me for admitting that]. This family truly makes it look so easy to be a parent of so many beautiful, unique children! If you know these two at all, you will also know how selflessly they love each other, and how much joy they receive from parenthood. They are so incredibly blessed to have each other through this life.
You guys, she nursed a toddler right before transition hit!!!!! Mother and her babies: working together in such a breathtaking way. I was feeling so many emotions in this very instant, that I hid behind my camera...and cried big, fat, happy tears.
It was right after this moment that things really started to pick up. Her body was telling her to be in the bathroom, this is where she was most comfortable. In fact, she delivered her last babe in the bathroom. I have heard from many mothers, that sitting on the toilet is the best spot for them! It actually makes sense, since it opens the hips perfectly for baby to come down into the birth canal...which is exactly what happened!! She breathed her baby down, slowly, confidently. She let her body take over and push when it felt it needed to. The baby's head gently emerged, bringing smiles to both mom and dad's faces. One more big breath, and her baby came right out into daddy's hands. He told me later what an incredible moment this was for him, since this was the first baby he has ever caught. He immediately brought the baby up to her chest. It was in this moment that she cried out, "Honey, we have a BOY!!!".
The look of pure joy on her face says more than I could ever write:
After their baby boy finally joined us, after a few short hours of labor, we stepped out of the bathroom to sets of admiring eyes: a couple of the older children heard the commotion, and woke up to see the new baby. We all chatted about it being a little boy, and how some of them wanted a girl but, "they will still be pretty happy that he is a boy..." said the oldest daughter, which made me really chuckle.
The inspection process happened next: this is the time that the mother carefully looks over every part of her baby. It is something we instinctively do, especially births that are left to it's natural progression. He latched onto the breast for the first time, and we all watched as the umbilical cord slowly turned white and limp. We inspected the placenta for a moment, to make sure it was intact, and that no membranes left inside the uterus. All the rich cord blood had passed back to the baby, so it was a good time to tie-off, and cut the cord. Their 5 year old son had the honor of cutting his little brother's cord; although a little squeamish at first, he did his job very well. Those cords are harder to cut that you would think...! Once disconnected, mama jumped into a bath to wash up, while the older children made her a small meal. Mind you, this is around 3am...but by now, all the children were awake and running around their adorable little home, so happy to have a new baby, finally. Everyone wanted a turn to hold him; I think that was just about the cutest argument I have ever seen unfold.
They all cuddled up on their bed to measure and weigh him, look at every inch of him, name him, and hopefully go back to sleep (which I KNOW didn't happen haha). This birth could not have been timed more perfectly: my 2 month old slept blissfuly in his carseat the whole 3 hours I was at their home, and I arrived back to my house a mere 2 minutes before my husband's alarm went off so he could get up for work.
- It was a good day to have a good day -
Natalie Bee is a Spokane, Washington-based Birth Doula and Photographer, a mother of four willings, and a PNW native.