My clients are so wonderful to share such personal and intimate moments with their families and their births, so I feel that even though I am far from an award-winning writer, it's important for me to be a little vulnerable too!
But first a little bit about my first two birth experiences!
My daughter was born at 41 weeks, drug-free (minus a shot of morphine so I could nap when my body was too exhausted to birth) in 2011 at the hospital with midwives after a 66 hour labour with 1.5 hours of pushing. It was a pretty straightforward, mostly intervention-free birth, which gave me the push of confidence to birth my last two babies at home!
My older son was born in 2013 at home at 37+3 with midwives (different midwives than my first). My husband was out of town (like in Atlanta, GA out of town, zero chance of him making it!). My water had broken early that morning and I called my mom to come get my daughter, who was 21 months old, just in case something started happening. I took at 3 hour nap (because I was expecting a birth like my last one), and ate a big lunch. At 3pm I started having intense waves, and he was born at 4:44pm.
The midwife and my mom both showed up 15 minutes before he was born on the living room floor. Thank goodness I had the brains to unlock my front door before I got stuck on the floor since I was all by myself! I had him on my knees, leaning over the birth ball, and the midwife had to call the ambulance because a second midwife couldn’t make it in time. It was quite the event with all the EMT’s in my living room waiting for my placenta to deliver! Fortunately I had planned a home birth so I didn’t have to go to the hospital after or have my baby in the car en route. Daddy got to meet his new son 2 days later on Father’s Day.
The birth story of my 3rd baby starts long before he was born. I had moved cities and decided to go back with the midwives I had with my first. The midwife I had with my middle baby was off on medical leave, and my new place was outside of their practice's catchment for a home birth. Halfway through my pregnancy I took a doula course called Wise Women Way of Birth. I learned a lot about birth, about trusting the process of birth and about how the medical system treats birth. After doing lots of reading and learning from amazing women in the birth community, I decided that I didn’t want to have any internal exams, I didn’t want to be interrupted during my birthing process with talking or unnecessary tests, I wanted a physiological 3rd stage (natural birth of my placenta, without a shot of artificial oxytocin), to wait to sever the cord until my placenta was birthed. I also wanted no hat on baby afterward (to help the production of my natural oxytocin).
Long story short, I ended up switching midwives at 33 weeks, I didn't feel my original midwives were 100% on board with my birth wishes, and didn't want to worry about this during my birthing time, so I decided to find myself a better fit. It was SO difficult for me to do, but I'm so glad I did it! The only issue was my new midwives were coming from Vancouver, which was about a 40+ minute drive, so we all knew it was a possibility that they could miss it, but I was willing to risk it for the right care providers!
On November 8, 2015 my water broke at about 4:30pm while I was nursing my older son (that oxytocin works wonders I tell you!). The water was pink and clear, and I was so relieved! I was 38+6 weeks pregnant, and already feeling slightly overdue since my second was born at 37+3! I was GBS- so I just gave the midwives a quick call to let them know that it would probably be happening soon. My husband was home, my mom was home and it was really great timing for it to happen. I threw on some depends underwear so I wouldn't leak water all over the house (seriously, THE BEST) we finished making dinner, fed the kids and then sent them over to my moms place next door for a sleepover, as we knew things were likely to start that night. I made sure my son nursed before he left to help give me a natural 'shot' of oxytocin to move things along a bit. Once the kids were gone we frantically tidied up the rest of the house and started setting up the birth pool and the rest of the things we would need for the birth.
The whole time since my water had broken I had felt kinda crampy, but nothing really distinguishable or regular at that point. I called the midwives around 8pm and they suggested I take a shower and try to have a nap to see if things slowed down or started picking up. After my shower I went and laid down, and a while later I started having random, irregular waves that were 10 minutes apart, 7 minutes apart, 5 minutes apart for about an hour…they were intense but just oddly spaced. So I called the midwives again at 10:18 and they said I should call them again once things start being regular for about 30 minutes, then they would come. I had texted my doula and photographer to start thinking about coming around 10:10, even thought not much was happening, but they were worried that they would miss it since my last birth was so fast. My doula arrived around 10:40. She checked my legs for “Mexican hot legs” and we very scientifically figured I was around 5cm dilated. She got me out of bed and we decided to try doing a “side lying release”…neither of us had any idea what we were doing except for seeing a few YouTube videos, but after we did the side lying release things started picking up, so we think it maybe worked! The waves were pretty much immediately so intense and regular, lasting 1 minute and coming every 2 minutes. I was on my knees on the floor with my head lying on my bed. After this was going on for about 15 minutes I told her we should call the midwives again and tell them to come now. It was around this time (11pm) that my photographer arrived (phew, yay!).
Shortly after (it seemed it was lasting really long at the time), I started having no breaks in between. I remember between my vocalizations through the waves yelling, “why am I not getting any breaks!?!?”, and thinking “I’m so glad I never have to do this again EVER”, even though I am actually so sad that this is our last baby. I think this was my most intense birth. I remember with my second birth, even though it was fast, that it felt like it was the same amount of pain as my first, just shorter, but this one seemed to hurt so much more! However, I'm sure I just forgot. This is why people have more than one child.
My vocalization changed pretty quick after that and my doula and photographer both suggested we maybe go to the living room to get in the birth pool (we were in my bedroom up until this point), because they thought that baby may be coming soon. So I finally got a break (must have been the break before pushing!), and booked it to the living room by myself because I didn’t want to have a wave in the hallway. I got to the living room, felt the pool and it was WAY too cold, so I refused to get in. My mom and my husband were both frantically trying to get hot water into the pool at this point. Then another super intense wave hit me and I was back on my knees leaning on the couch beside the birth pool (apparently I was never meant to have a water birth, haha). At this point my doula was like…"I think we should take your pants off"…which was a good idea, because...hard to birth a baby with pants on.
Then I could feel his head coming down through my birth canal (I will spare you these photos, haha) and I was yelling a lot. My body did all the work, just like my second birth, my body forced him out with no pushing on my part! Finally his head popped out almost all the way, he got stuck at his mouth, then my body pushed the rest of his head out, which was sweet relief! He let out a loud cry at this point. When his head was out I had reached down to feel him, then realized I could actually catch him, so I kept my hands holding his head and supported him while he was coming out (my doula was behind me making sure I had him after my husband refused, we had talked about it beforehand, he's not super in to baby-catching, but good to double check just in case he missed this last opportunity). Baby's body followed during the next sensation. After he was out I brought him up to my chest, oh sweet baby boy! He was so beautiful, and he was finally here!! I was so happy and just swimming in the oxytocin! I naturally started rubbing his back and trying to get him to move and cry some more to get all the gunk out of there. Since he had already cried when he was half out of me, I didn't have an ounce of worry, I could tell he was breathing and he was nice and pink. I felt like I just knew what to do at that point, it was total instinct! Everyone was super calm and my whole birth team was so amazing. Dawson was born at around 11:30pm.
I stayed upright to allow for my placenta to move down while I was holding my sweet babe skin to skin. After a little while he started rooting for food and sucking on his hands, so I let him find his way to nurse, then didn’t unlatch for over 2 hours, and he has been a champion nurser ever since. The midwives arrived at 12pm (my doula had called them right after he was born to let them know that all was fine and he was out), they had gotten a bit lost, haha, whoops. I was so incredibly grateful we didn’t have to call an ambulance! I birthed my placenta at about 12:15am, man it was such a battle within myself, it hurt so bad to push the placenta out, but it hurt to keep it in, so I think I definitely could have had it out sooner if I had just let it go! My midwives suggested I squat to get it out, so I did, and I was able to push it out. I kept thinking “ placentas have no bones” like one of my clients were told her her birth a couple weeks previous. I literally bled like 2 drops of blood, which was amazing (I credit the ocean of oxytocin and vitamin K from taking alfalfa tablets in the weeks prior to birth)! Then I got up onto the couch and finally got to sit and rest with my perfect baby boy.
After the midwives were done all their paperwork, and checked me out (no tearing! woot!), we decided to do the cord burning. It was really lovely, and I loved the community sense it gave, and how it was just a really nice little entrance for him coming earthside. After the cord burning I passed Dawson off to dad for some skin to skin. I had a quick shower, an earl grey tea and some apple slices with almond butter, and we got into bed to snuggle our newest addition. Home births are AH-MAZING!!
Recovery was fantastic. I had almost a full week where I didn’t have to be in charge of my older two kids at all. My husband was SO helpful and stayed home the longest he ever has after I had a baby. If he had to get some work done he would make sure my mom was around to watch the older kiddos. People brought us lots of meals and I just felt so loved and cared for, which was amazing for recovery and for my mental well-being as well. My milk came in 2 days after he was born, which was crazy, because with my other two it took 4-5 days! It happened so fast this time because I was skin to skin with Dawson pretty much 24/7, and I really prioritized my recovery and baby snuggles this time around.
Dawson weighed 7lbs and was 18 inches long.
I know so many women don't get what they are hoping for in their births, so I feel incredibly blessed. I had a lot of worries that things would happen that would or could keep me from having the birth I wanted, like meconium in the fluids or any other minor complications that could make me decide to head to the hospital, but I really tried to give it to God and not worry about it. It turned out so beautifully and amazing. I would never plan an ‘unattended/unassisted’ birth, but I actually loved it so much and didn’t even mind or worry even once that the midwives weren’t there! I knew that fast births were usually uncomplicated, so that gave me a lot of confidence, along with my past uncomplicated births, that everything would be fine if the midwives didn't make it for any reason. I was actually more concerned that my photographer got there in time! I am so grateful for all who were there and all who supported me during my birth and postpartum. It has been the hugest blessing and the most amazing birth experience. What a wonderful, beautiful way to end this season of birthing babies.
Our Dawson is growing so fast. Don't blink! He's now 6 months old. Laughing, chatting, sleeping, rolling and wanting to crawl. He has two teeth with more coming, enjoys being worn and is the most popular guy in the family!
Alyssa Kellert is newborn, birth, lifestyle and photographer as well as a birth doula, and is located in Greater Vancouver, BC Canada. Head over to her Facebook page to see more of her most recent work atwww.facebook.com/alyssakellert, or follow her on Instagram @alyssakellertphoto. You are welcome to email at email@example.com or use the contact page on this site for more information!