I was introduced to Rebecca through her doula, and my friend, Andrea Gerdes. If you’ll recall, Andrea and I had developed a partnership that allows us to bundle our services to interested clients. Not long after we announced our partnership, Andrea had a consultation with Rebecca, a prospective client, and she jumped at the idea of having a photographer document her birth. A few days later, Rebecca and I met and we clicked immediately. She had such a warm and calming presence. I knew her birth would be something special!
Rebecca was a first-time mom, so I thought the baby might take his sweet time to grace us with his presence, but I wasn’t expecting to him to be a full two weeks late! I got the call early Saturday morning that Rebecca was in active labor and heading to the birth center. While on my way there to meet them, I got a text from Andrea that she was at the birth center and Rebecca was already 9cm dilated! I was sure I was going to miss this birth! When I got there, I rushed into the room and…it was silent. I guess because I was feeling rushed and she was so far along already, I was expecting there to be this frenetic vibe in the room, but…it was just silent. Rebecca was amazing; she internalized each contraction, barely making a sound, and from the moment I arrived until the moment Josiah was born it was maybe 90 minutes. Mama was a rock star! One of my favorite moments from this birth was when Josiah was weighed and measured. We knew he was big, but the expression on mom’s face (which you’ll see below) says it all. Priceless!
You can read Rebecca’s birth story — in her own words — below.
Josiah’s Birth Story
9 lbs, 15 oz, 22 inches
Saturday, May 4, 2019 @1:50am
“Josiah was born on Saturday, May 4th. His due date was April 19th and I had been trying all the home remedies I could think of to induce labor, because I really wanted to deliver at our birth center, Baby + Co. Being pregnant was a surprise (we didn’t think we could have kids), so I planned this birth very carefully. I read a lot of books by Ina May Gaskin, and what really resonated with me was that the people that you have at your birth can influence your experience (e.g. if your birth team is apprehensive, more could go wrong vs. if they believe in the mom’s ability, she can accomplish more). This is why I wanted a birthing center and no interventions if possible.
But I also understood that anything could happen and some of it would be out of my control. But I wanted to set myself up for success, so I invested in a doula (last minute!) and a photographer and prayed nothing would put me in a high-risk category that would keep me from the birthing center. I had so much peace of mind having my doula in my corner— she was knowledgeable about all styles of births and I knew I’d have an advocate and a guide if I had to be transferred to the hospital. She gave me a workbook to go through as preparation. I read and listened to many different birth stories in books and podcasts, and I knew I wanted this to be an empowering experience for me. So I completed every inch of that workbook and created a word association list of all the things I wanted to be and feel at birth. I filled an entire page and had it hanging on my closet door for weeks before birth.
The day I went into labor, I had been walking around town and to Trader Joe’s. I had a feeling labor may start that day, because of how my dog was acting. She had been clingy for most of my pregnancy, but she that day was glued to me (she didn’t even want to go potty outside). The weather was warm and sunny. My best friend Rachel was in town and we spent the afternoon preparing meals to freeze and have in the fridge. Early in the evening, I plugged myself into my breast pump to try and induce labor. My midwife had attempted to sweep my membranes twice that week, but I wasn’t dilated enough to do a full sweep. Around 5:00pm, while pumping, I started having contractions. They were similar to the ones I’d been having for over a month, but this time they never stopped.
Time was elusive to me. I had no idea how much time had gone by. My husband was next to me the whole time, timing my contractions as they slowly continued to increase. My husband says I have a high tolerance for pain, so he didn’t trust me as a gauge. He kept telling me that we should call the midwife and go in but I was resistant. I didn’t think they were consistent enough and I knew that, generally, new moms go in too early and I didn’t want to do that. The energy at home was calm and supportive. Rachel braided my hair during early labor, and both she and my husband supported me as I made my way to the bed. I don’t remember much about what they did but they were present. It was quiet. I had a birth playlist but I didn’t think of it.
It wasn’t until one of my many trips to the bathroom (I had to go a lot it seemed!), when I had a strong urge to push, that I panicked. I was having contractions on my way down the hall, in the bathroom, on my way out, etc. and I still didn’t realize how far along I was. The intensity of the contractions had snuck up on me! I told my husband to call the birth center and let them know we were coming in. When I said that, some of my water seemed to break. We left quickly and the drive was quiet since it was the middle of the night.
Rachel tried to ask supportive questions but it was always during a contraction and I couldn’t talk, but I was trying to be nice. My husband was trying to drive fast and slow at the same time it seemed. We arrived at the birth center and I found out during my initial exam that I was basically fully dilated— I had been in transition already. My water broke more after the exam, right as I entered the birthing room. My doula arrived. My midwife began filling the tub and I went to the toilet. I labored there a little and then I wanted to go to the bed. I couldn’t make it across the room without a contraction. I had wanted to use to whole beautiful room to labor in— the bars, the balls, the stools, the tube, the big shower. But all I wanted in the moment was to get to the bed. Our photographer came. I labored on the bed, on my side, until Josiah was born! I remember all the gentle touches. I remember looking up at all the women around me, looking down at me, and feeling so safe. I wanted to appreciate their support so I would try to make eye contact and smile between contractions.
I mostly remember my husband Carl in my ear, reminding me to relax and breath after every pushing contraction came down. I was able to reach down and feel Josiah’s head a few times. It felt so strange— not like a head. He had a full head of hair but I remember it also feeling so squishy. I couldn’t tell how far along I was. I heard the midwife say things like, “This is good! He is slowly stretching you out.” Or, “You’re almost there. We see him!” but I couldn’t feel a difference and I wondered if they were just saying that to make me feel better. 🙂 And I will never forget the midwife’s words, “I got him”, and the relief I felt knowing it was almost over.
The biggest surprise for me was that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I mean, it was very difficult and painful. But I think I expected…I dunno…something close to death? And, I mean, maybe I thought about dying in some moments, but I think maybe the surprise is that I was blessed to have the empowering and beautiful holy experience that I wanted my birth to be.
Josiah was born around 4:00am. I don’t know how to describe my emotions the moment Josiah was born. I had an array of layered emotions— love, relief, shock, hope, calm, peace and wonder. He didn’t cry immediately— my midwife had to do a little hand suction—but then he did, although not for long. Rachel also mentioned that the midwife had to help pull out one of his shoulders. I had a small tear and they debated whether or not I needed stitches and then ended up giving me a few. When they first weighed Josiah, they said he was 10lbs, 4oz and 24 inches. The second midwife rechecked and listed him as 9lbs, 15oz.
The first person I called after Siah was born was my mother. We waited days before announcing on Facebook— I think my mother did before we did. This is their first grandchild and they were over the moon!
My friend Megan visited us at the birthing center and was the first person to hold Siah besides my birth team! We were kept twelve hours because of Josiah’s high respiratory rate and ended up being sent to the NICU for 48 hours for observation. I really did not want to go. I wondered if there was a way to refuse, but I didn’t really understand the risks and didn’t want to put my son in harm’s way just because of his mother’s aversion to the hospital system. The NICU is a challenging place, but we were supported by the staff there to breastfeed around the clock. They did a lot of tests, but no procedures, and finally sent us home two days later.
My recovery was good, but I tried to take it easy for as long as possible. My whole life I have been someone who is hard on myself and pushes myself. This experience really ushered in a desire for ease and gentleness in my relationship with myself. I allowed others to help me in new and uncomfortable ways, and I tried to accept help instead of doing everything on my own.
Motherhood has changed me. I thought I loved in deep and generous ways but I had no idea how much more there was. I often look at my son and feel so much love that I think to myself— do all mothers feel this? If so, I had no idea how much love there was in the world.
I work with kids and teens, and the ones that give you trouble are always my favorite, but I never really cared much for babies. I played nice with them but never understood how enamored some women were. Even while pregnant I thought I may not be that interested in my own infant until he was older. But, of course, that’s not the case. I’m 1000% smitten with him and other babies. My experience in the NICU made me want to volunteer to do skin-to-skin there one day when my time with my own has passed.”