When I became a Mama | Annabelle's Birth Story
In 3 days, it’s my birthday… it seems only appropriate that as I prepare for my transition to another year of life, I share with you about my transition and rebirth into motherhood. I typed this story out over 3 years ago, and this is the first time I am sharing it so publicly, but I think this story is important. It is the experience that really gave me my “why.” I was passionate as a doula and birth photographer before I gave birth, but my own experience of dependence on the women in the room around me, and having my husband become my… gosh, it’s hard to even put into words… he became my home that day more than ever he was. And that experience being documented literally changed me. Being able to go back to this story and these images over and over has shaped my journey in ways I don’t even know how to fully describe to you. But this experience is why I believe in documenting births and standing for women and their rights and their safety in their birth space. Plain and simple, this is my why.
I went through a lot of early labor contractions for about 3 days before a real pattern started to form. By Tuesday evening, June 16, 2015, my waters broke, but there was still no real labor pattern— just consistently remaining contractions.
I called my mom to come to be at the birth as quickly as possible, but she would not make it down until the following morning. Trace and I went to sleep to rest as much as we could until labor became active. I had thought I was going to have a baby before Wednesday morning, but I didn’t. So we got the house ready and picked up my mom from the airport. By Wednesday evening, labor finally became active, and it was perfect timing because everything I wanted for my birth was ready to go. We called everyone to come, and Nikki did our first cervical check. I was 4 cm and 80% effaced so with my contraction pattern, it was safe to say that I would be having a baby soon— ish…
I danced, did the dilation gyration (a move from Dancing For Birth), labored on the toilet, in the shower and back and forth for a few hours. I tried to focus my attention on one spot as each contraction ebbed and flowed. As the intensity rose, I began to moan loudly, always thinking of Ina May’s instructions to think of an OOOpen cervix and make low OOOOHHH sounds…. it came out more as “ooowwww” but I like to think it was effective. Eventually I came to a point of frustration because the pain was inescapable and nothing- position changes, water on the belly, breathing- nothing was helping. I hoped submerging in the birth pool would help. I yelled from the shower that I wanted the birth pool— I wasn’t very nice about it.
They got the birth pool filled up and Nikki, who had gone home to get sleep (thank God because you want your midwife sharp for the moment of birth!), came back to help me finish things out. I was in the pool for one contraction before it was time to start pushing. I came through that first contraction thinking how disappointed I was that the water wasn’t having nearly the effect of helping me through the pain like I had hoped. Then the pushing urge hit me, it was like a mac truck was trying to push a wall through my butt!! I roared like a wild woman! I was surprised! Both to be pushing already, and at the noises coming out of me!! And Oh that pain!!! I remember thinking, “wait… no! it hurts THIS bad!!!??? Let’s just not do this then. Can I stop now?” And another pushing wave overtook me. I roared and roared. I was on my knees in the water, and the force caused my butt to float up. Nikki pushed my butt down and told me to push into the floor. It helped a little, but I still felt like I couldn’t get a handle on the force or direct it. Just when I was ready to give up hope, Trace got into the water with me. As he wrapped himself around me, I felt renewed hope and love flood through me. I relaxed entirely into him as the contractions subsided. Then I went into gear. I changed positions to lean back into him, and pulled my legs up to prepare for the next contraction. As the pushing began again, I curled forward and decided to hold my roars in to send all my energy downward. Finally the head started to make its way out of my body. I remember touching the head as my body began to hold open without the force of my pushing and got so excited! As a doula, I had seen this point with other mothers and knew what this meant: I was almost done. A few more pushes with the support of my husband and suddenly, Nikki was asking me to reach down and pick up my baby.
“Ok! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!!! Oh Hi, I love YOOOOUUU!!” and “oh! I survived!!!”
We snuggled in the birth pool for a little while, and I turned my baby’s face toward Trace and I. We looked her over, found out she was a GIRL! (We did not find out gender until her birth) And talked to her for a little while, apologizing for assuming she was a boy all throughout my pregnancy. We nursed, cut her cord (after it was completely limp and white) and snuggled our girl for a little while, but unfortunately, my placenta wouldn’t come out. We made the decision to transport to the hospital to make sure everything was ok, and left Annabelle in care of my mother at home in hope of my quick return home from the hospital and to avoid having her admitted to the hospital. Thank God, my placenta was able to be removed all in one piece and we came back home within 5 hours of leaving. She had slept all the time we were gone.
I remember being so tired that night. I just wanted to sleep and my family wanted to help me, but my baby girl- she wanted ME. I lay down and my mother had taken her to the next room with small bottles of pumped milk, but my sweet love cried and cried. Trace went to try to help… still she cried. My sweet family wanted to let me sleep, but I knew I was needed. I remember in my bones how it felt that night to pull myself out of bed empowered like a mama bear ready to care for her cub. I didn’t care I was tired, she NEEDED ME. And I was going to be there. In later years, when asked about the moment I first felt like a mama, that was the moment I shared. And that is why I had to include it in this story.
Images captured by my very dear friend Monica who is now training to become a midwife herself!