I thought you might be interested in reading how this all began. Here is Milo’s birth story. There is another story about the journey of my first pregnancy, still to come. And loads of stories from my clients and my students. In the meantime, here is how Milo came to be with us, and change our lives forever.
This is our birth story, as I remember it, of our beautiful home birth and beautiful son.
Our original due date, according to my cycle, was May 10, 2008. We were given a later due date, May 14, based on an early ultrasound, which we jumped on. I had a feeling this baby would come late and long. It was about the only thing I predicted correctly. When I was 41 weeks, I began acupuncture and after 3 sessions, at around 3pm on Sunday, May 25, I finally started having contractions while at my acupuncturist’s (Momoko’s) apartment receiving a treatment. She called my midwife, Marcy, to give her a heads up, as Momoko had her first baby with Marcy.
After we finished, around 5:30pm, she suggested we go home and get some rest, so of course, we met our friends, AJ, Greg, and Baby Otto for dinner! We had to eat, right? I had contractions throughout dinner and Josh said I should probably let him know about them so he could time them. I didn’t know how strong they had to be to “count”. I let him know about a few. AJ saw a bunch of them too, and she let Josh know (she had her baby 3 weeks earlier).
On the way home, I had a contraction and Josh put his hand on my belly. To which I said, “You don’t have to touch me when I’m having one.” He knew this was the real thing.
We got home around 11pm. We went to bed and I woke up with every contraction. There I was, lying alone in the dark, facing the coming “pain of childbirth” with a sleeping husband. I was scared. At around 1am, I woke up Josh to let him know I couldn’t sleep and that I knew I needed to. We had to slow this thing down so I could sleep. I got in the bath and asked Josh for a glass of wine. I quit drinking over a year ago and he started telling me why I didn’t need the wine. I told him I needed him to just get what I asked for. He knew this was the real thing – again.
I slept for a couple of hours sitting backward on my dining room chair with my head on the table. Seemed to work at the time. Josh slept on the couch. Then I puttered about the apartment, getting my Bradley workbook ready and all the information I thought might help Josh when I was totally out of it. This is not to say that our Bradley class wasn’t an amazing preparation – it was. But we never even looked at all that stuff I pulled out.
In the morning, I had breakfast and called my midwife, Marcy. We were scheduled for a regular appointment at 10am, so I wanted to give her the heads up. My contractions were not too strong at this point, although I was dealing with each one, but I had to stop what I was doing to deal with it. By the time Marcy showed up at 10am, things spaced out to 15 minutes apart, to which she said, “If you want to slow down your labor, just call the midwife to come over!” She checked me and we were happy the contractions I’d been having all night were working. I was now 100% effaced and the baby was at 0 station, but I wasn’t dilated yet. She said I’d do that today. She also wrote me a prescription for Ambien, since I hadn’t slept.
I was unsure. As things were, I wasn’t a fan of waking up to a contraction. I felt like I couldn’t get on top of them. If I took the Ambien, would I be loopy? Would they be even harder to deal with? Marcy said it would take 5 or 6 hours before it would wear off. I called my doula, Elanna, to give her a heads up and ask her advice. She agreed with my concerns and although she’s seen it work well for some women, for others, it can be difficult. She also thought the trip to the drug store to pick it up might speed things up, which might make coping with the Ambien more difficult. I was not ready for Josh to go alone. So, I tried to sleep on my own, waking up in between contractions. By 5pm, my contractions were about 5 minutes apart and I was vocalizing while laboring on my side on the bed. This was supposed to be an ideal position in which to relax, but it made my contractions feel very strong.
Josh called Elanna, and she said she’d be over in a couple of hours. Then he called Marcy, and she said there was no point in taking the Ambien now, and to call if things become more intense and we need her. Who knew when that would be?
Elanna arrived around 8pm and encouraged me to get up and sit on the birth ball. This spaced out my contractions a little bit and made them seem less intense – just the reprieve I needed to eat some scrambled eggs. We continued to labor as my contractions got closer together again. I took a shower somewhere in there. Maybe two. Then I got in the birthing pool while we listened to music. I remember Josh and Elanna struggling to skip the fast songs on the mix on the iPod. They finally settled on Joni Mitchell “Shine”. That album always reminds me of this time in the pool now. I love that album.
I got out of the pool and labored in various places in the apartment. I was becoming more and more exhausted – Josh and I hadn’t slept any decent amount since Saturday night, and it was now early Tuesday morning. I should say that when I remember my labor, I remember the worst part being so tired. Wanting sleep so desperately.
Elanna asked, “What are you saying to yourself during these contractions?” I answered, “I’m counting my breaths. I know when I get to 10 or 11, the contraction starts to get easier.” I must have counted thousands of breaths up to that point. We set some pillows up on the bed and we both slept between contractions. I knew it would be tough waking up to these, but I was desperate. Elanna took some pictures as we slept. When I look at other people’s labor pictures, they are just like mine – sleeping, hanging over the pool, pushing out the baby. Just insert our faces. I’ve been told that all through this, my contractions, although seemingly stronger, were still 5 minutes apart. At one point, they were 4 minutes, then went back to 5 minutes.
At around 2am, Elanna and Josh asked if I could get up and try a few things to get things moving. I wanted this to be over. I was so tired. We did some lunges on the couch. I labored there for a while. I felt weak. Contractions seemed stronger there, but now they seemed stronger everywhere. All the places I went to get relief, the birth ball, the toilet, they all maintained strong contractions now. And I was getting hot during contractions – sweating. Josh came to the rescue with some cool washcloths – heaven! I remember laboring over my couch when Elanna came up to me holding the phone. She said, “It’s Marcy, and she wants to know if you’d like her to come over now.” I didn’t know when midwives were supposed to come over and didn’t want to make her sit around for hours. I asked Elanna what she thought and she said, “I think now is a good time.”
By 3:45am, my midwife had arrived! She checked me and said I was between 4-5cm. Elanna said, “That’s good – 1st half of dilation goes slower and you’re through that.” But I was disappointed. I felt I had been working very hard up until that point, and I was so tired. And I knew I had 5 more cm to go before I could push. And pushing sometimes takes hours!
I was in the bathroom and Marcy came in to talk to me. Only in labor do we have such conversations on the toilet and don’t even think twice about it. She said I was working too hard and needed to relax more. She said, “This is only early active labor and you’ve got a ways to go.” She said I wasn’t drinking or eating enough and she was worried I might be dehydrated soon and she might have to give me an IV. Then she left me to pee. I thought there was no way I could relax any more – the contractions were so strong and breathing was hard work. I knew I still had to go through transition and pushing and couldn’t imagine things getting any harder. At that moment, I started to doubt myself. I never thought I wanted to go to the hospital for drugs, but I thought my midwife might send me there. I didn’t think I would make it.
Although I knew in theory that I would go through a period of “self doubt”, that wasn’t going to happen until transition and I was only 5cm. So, I decided my thinking I wasn’t going to make it was because I actually wasn’t going to make it. It had nothing to do with the emotions of birth. That’s how powerful my self-doubt was, and eventually, how powerfully I overcame it.
I came out of the bathroom and announced that the only way I could relax would be in the pool. I needed permission to get in there and stay there as long as I needed. Marcy said I could if I stayed on my knees and hung over the side. She said this would help the baby move down and help the head to mold. I said I would do whatever she wanted and was so relieved. I got in around 4:30am.
I did as she said and labored over the side of the tub, counting my breaths. I was now counting up to 20, and the breaths were much faster. I slept between contractions and woke up to Elanna holding my hands with every contraction. What a Godsend she was. She sent Josh to the bedroom to sleep, as he even started sleeping through my contractions (which were quite loud at this point). I was relieved to know he was getting some rest and felt good knowing I had Elanna to help me through. (Well, “good” is kind of an overstatement. I felt reassured – let’s say that.) Sometimes, when a contraction began, I’d ask her to tell me I could do this. She’d say, “You are doing this. Your baby is moving down. Just get through this breath, this contraction.” It was just enough to fool me into getting through that one, though I didn’t think I could. How dilated was I now? Maybe 6 cm an hour later? I had no idea. I thought it would still get even harder.
At around 5:30am, Marcy went to move her car. By now, my contractions were so strong and so close together. I was so glad to be in the pool. I couldn’t imagine doing this on dry land. At the end of my contractions, I felt an uncontrollable bearing down – pushing. I told Elanna I thought I was pushing at the end of my contractions. With the next contraction, the bearing down was so powerful, and then I felt a huge relief. It felt like I’d had explosive diarrhea. Elanna said, “Tanya, there’s nothing in the water, you’re fine.” And then I realized – my water broke! I had completely forgotten that was supposed to happen. My eyes opened, and my head cleared. Marcy came back in and checked me. I was now 8cm. At that moment, I felt hope! A tiny light at the end of the path flickered.
I asked Elanna if things would get harder now that my water broke. She said, “Not necessarily. Just take it as it comes.” And with that, having been searching for a bucket with nearly every contraction for 18 hours, I finally threw up with the next contraction. All that coconut water. And I looked up and saw Marcy looking at me like nothing happened. I figured, I must be ok.
Around 7am, Marcy checked me and said I was 9 ½ cm and she would push my cervix out of the way with the next contraction. Didn’t really feel like having my cervix pushed out of the way, and I asked her to please hurry as she was doing it. I asked loudly. But it was mostly just my fear – I don’t remember it hurting more.
And then everything got clear – very still. I had a break. My next contraction was wonderful. Just pushing. No nausea, no cramping, no weakness, just bearing down. Then, another break. This was incredible! Marcy asked if I felt weak and said I looked like I might feel that way. I told her I felt wonderful and wanted to push this baby out! After a few more contractions, Elanna said, “Tanya, reach inside and tell me what you feel.” Nothing. A few more contractions and we did it again. This time, way, way up, I felt a tiny bit of hair! I was ecstatic. By now, I was sitting up against the side of the pool and Josh was behind me, outside the pool, holding me up so I could be upright and pushing. Soon the head was at my fingertips. I made Josh feel.
I started to feel some pressure and some burning, but I was so excited at the prospect of ending the labor and meeting my baby, I put aside my fears. I pushed and I heard Elanna say, “The baby’s crowning – ring of fire.” It burned. I didn’t care. Then she said “The head is out”. I couldn’t believe it! The head was out! And I saw Marcy holding the head, waiting for it to turn.
Then Marcy said, “Ok, I need you to give me one big push.” I asked her to wait a few seconds. It was intense now. And she said, “I need you to push now.” That was the only time I remember ever being directed to do anything in my entire labor. I closed my eyes, turned my head and pushed through my teeth. The shoulders were very tough, the burning more intense, and I felt like I was tearing now but I didn’t care. And with my eyes still closed and my head turned, Marcy said, “Tanya, take your baby.”
I looked up, and my pain, all of it, the burning, the pressure, the nausea, the weakness, it all melted instantly as I took this blue baby, with its arms reaching up as if crossing the finish line. It was 8:36 a.m. The baby was covered in vernix and felt soft and slippery from the water, but was totally clean. Josh was crying, but all I could do was watch this baby, who had one eye open and one closed. It was moving, but blue. I examined this little person and noticed long nails, a beautiful face and chubby arms. After a few minutes, Marcy said, “Don’t you want to know what you got?”
I lifted my arm and saw. We have a boy. To which Josh said, “I was right!” and cried some more. But I couldn’t cry. I was euphoric. Joyous. I felt renewed – reborn myself. Marcy asked if we had a name. “I think his name has to be Milo.” Josh was thrilled, it was the name he picked out.
We sat in the pool for another 15 minutes or so. Then Josh cut the umbilical cord. He says now that, having been through all of that, cutting the cord seemed so totally inconsequential. But he was glad to do it. Josh took Milo and Elanna said, “Oh my God, he looks just like Tanya!” I delivered my placenta. I stood up, gave a little push, and out it came. Absolutely felt like nothing at all, except that my legs felt weak. It was actually a relief to know that I was truly no longer pregnant.
I headed over to the couch to be examined for tears. That hurt, especially since I truly believed I should get a reprieve from all pain down there for the rest of my life. I forgave Marcy when she said I didn’t need any stitches.
Next, it was time to breast feed, which we did. We were both learning at first, but got the hang of it with some patience. Then Marcy did Milo’s exam, right next to me on the couch. He was perfect, 9 lbs and 21 inches long. Beautiful. Josh was still crying now, I’m sure of it, nearly an hour later.
I asked, “Who ARE those women in the Business of Being Born”?? My labor was noisy. They just shut their eyes and birthed their babies! We laughed.
Marcy was bringing me to the bathroom to pee and I nearly fainted on the way. We stopped for some apple juice. I got into the bathroom and sat on the toilet alone and thought, “Wow. That was intense. There were parts I’d like to forget. But I’d totally do it again.” I’ve already forgotten those parts. Marcy and Elanna left about 1 ½ hours after the birth. And there we were, a family.
People say that you cannot describe the pain of childbirth. I think you can. At least for my birth. It was like bad cramps, exhaustion, diarrhea, exhaustion, nausea, flu-like weakness, shaking, and exhaustion. I didn’t want to be spoken to or touched during my contractions. Imagine the worst hangover in the world - when people talk to you it’s just sensory overload. Same reason I didn’t want anyone talking to me during contractions. There were no “indescribable” pains. Just an intense combination of things I had felt individually before.
I am eternally grateful for our homebirth. Everywhere I look, I am now reminded of the remarkable experience I had during Milo’s birth. He has never been away from either of us since he was born, is perfectly healthy, and breastfeeds like a champ. I only have wonderful feelings about his birth, and as hard as it was, I feel as though I kicked ass all over the place for my kid that day. Maybe a little bit for myself too – for a battle with my own mind was won. I wondered if I was made of the stuff it took, for 10 months I wondered. Certainly for those two days I seriously doubted. But Milo was good at getting born and I had the most amazing people around me that day. We are so blessed. I will never forget Milo’s birth. It was a day I went from being a crippled elephant, to being just showered with indescribable blessings. Showered.
The blessings of a second baby . . .
As I planned for my second baby and my second home birth, I was much calmer in many ways. Confident, almost. Whenever I worried, Marcy said, “You know too much, and not enough,” – the curse of being a doula now. I worried about the size of the baby. I worried about our uneven, steep stairs and how I would get up them for all my trips to the bathroom in labor. If there was one thing I knew, I sat on the toilet a ton in my first labor. I worried when at 35 weeks, the baby turned breech and began contemplating the bigness of having a breech birth at home. When the baby turned vertex at 36 weeks, I worried about a cord or some reason the baby had been breech. And I remembered what I had to do in my first labor. There were moments when I had to go so deeply inward, some dark, dark moments. I worried about what would happen if I had to revisit those moments. But I was willing to do it so I could birth my baby and hold it in my arms immediately, never being separated, gently in peace as it was meant to be. So I could meet this beautiful tiny soul that grew in my womb while I worried.
At 40.2 weeks, my beloved midwife, who guided me and caught my beautiful first baby, offered to do an exam and maybe sweep my membranes. I was unsure, but after palpating my belly, she said, “Tanya, I think this baby is 9 lbs. now.” My first was 9 lbs. and it was no problem, but he was over two weeks past his due date. So, I agreed to the exam and the sweep. But . . . alas, my cervix was long and posterior, with no chance of her reaching the membranes. She said everything felt soft, but that was it. I was thrilled it was soft – maybe I wouldn’t be pregnant forever this time. And she said, “When you start having contractions, all that cervix will just melt away.”
During my pregnancy, Marcy and I talked about fast labors, precipitous labors, what my labor might be like, what to do if only Milo and I were here and the baby came. “The anterior shoulder comes first,” she said, but only after I probed. I only wanted to know in case I had to catch a client’s baby. Because after my first baby, which took about 42 hours, I had decided that this labor would be shorter. This labor would be about 24 hours, or maybe 15 hours, and much more intense.
So after the failed membrane sweep, I was somewhat relieved. Although I wanted the baby to come, I felt selfish trying to make it happen before the baby decided it was time. I believe anything we “do” to interfere with the baby and the body’s wisdom can have a price. And I always feared that price would be a harder labor! Marcy was putting on her shoes to leave and I said, “So maybe we’ll try again next week.” And she said, “If you’re still pregnant.” And I said, “I mean, anything can happen, right?” And she said, “Oh yes, anything can happen. You could call me tonight.” “Ok. See you next week and I’ll call you if anything gets exciting.”
I hoped so much it would. I was so sick of being pregnant. This one was so tough. By 35 weeks my hips and my back and my pelvis were achy all the time. I was so emotional. All I wanted to do was be in a clean apartment, but Milo spent his day job messing it up. Then I was left bending down to clean it up. I could have left everything there, but my nesting instinct was much more powerful with this pregnancy. I wanted to have this baby so I could sit on the floor and play with Milo again. Poor pumpkin. The detachment from him was so hard and so painful. Each day I would try to renew my efforts to stay positive and soak in the blessings of a healthy pregnancy. But it would always be short lived. My discomforts were like an annoying constant tap on the shoulder, reminding me of how miserable I was at every moment.
That night, Josh went out with Milo to get straws and I went to the bathroom. It was about 6:30 p.m. And on my pantiliner, I actually saw something. Chunky mucous (stay with me here). Now, this was the first time in my entire pregnancy that I had to change my pantiliner for a reason other than the fact that it was old. I looked at the mucous. No blood – nothing. I thought it was from the exam Marcy gave me that morning, but I was intensely excited. Nothing at all was happening, but this was another sign that I might not be pregnant for two more weeks!
I texted Elanna. She was with me as my doula for Milo’s birth, and now we are like sisters. She called me in return and acted happy for me. She later confessed that she thought, “Is she really calling me for a mucous plug?” Doulas . . .
I texted Josh. He got the straws and was headed home. Then said, “Hey, maybe tonight will be the night.” “Who knows?” I responded.
By now, contractions were happening. They felt like absolutely nothing. I mean that. Barely even cramps. I could talk through them. I was finishing some paperwork for my childbirth education certification and typing right through them. Ignoring them like a good student. This happened once before, when I was 38 weeks pregnant, so I knew this might be nothing. But by 7:30, I went to the bathroom, and my mucous had color. A little brown. Still maybe the exam? But Marcy said she couldn’t reach my cervix.
I called Elanna. “Ohhhh. Hmmmm. I wonder. It could be the exam though.” Just what I thought. “Call me if anything changes.”
Contractions continued, still no big deal. And I mean that. I have no tolerance for pain and I prefer not to tolerate any pain at all. I complain when I am in pain – constantly. I am no hero for pain. These were a cinch. I finally roughly timed a couple. Maybe 7 or 8 minutes apart, 30 seconds long. But the brown mucous continued, so I called Marcy.
She didn’t answer, so I left her a message. And I decided I should head to bed. If this continued, tomorrow would be a long day. Josh poured a big glass of Moscato for me. It was sweet and sparkly and delicious. And it did the trick. Marcy called back around 11:30 and said I should drink wine (which I was doing) and go to bed. “Way ahead of you!” as I took a sip. “Call me if anything changes. And by the way, this isn’t from the exam I gave you. I couldn’t even come close to sweeping your membranes.”
I lay in my bed and slept between contractions. Milo was in his bed sleeping, right next to mine. Josh was inflating the tub downstairs, just in case. The contractions were waking me up and I was breathing . . . relaxing the best I could. And I hit the timer - they were 5-6 minutes apart, 30 seconds long. By 12:30 a.m. (an hour or so later) I thought they were artificially painful lying down. So I decided I would get up and go downstairs to sleep upright in our comfy chair. I sat up in bed with the next contraction and water came pouring out of me, like a waterfall. Like a faucet! My legs were off the bed, but I knew I was leaving a total mess. I put my hand between my legs to stop the water – to no avail. Guys, don’t try to stop your amniotic fluid from coming out – you can’t do it.
I ran across the hall and sat on the toilet. I looked down and saw the fluid on my pantiliner was light green – light meconium. My worries about the breech and the cord came flooding back. And I thought – this is totally dysfunctional. I am not in labor and my water is broken. What is going to happen?
Josh heard me run to the bathroom and he followed me. I told him. He was so calm. “It’s ok.” I’m sure he said something else, but my mind was racing with every possible scenario. And then I saw my belly. It looked so different – so low and round and firm – completely changed.
I called Elanna. “My water broke.” “It did?” she replied. So few words with so much meaning, the way a sister would know. “But I’m telling you, there’s nothing happening. Don’t come. It’s too early.” “Hmmm. I hear what you’re saying, but can I just come and sleep in your extra bedroom? I know I’ll have to wait and it’ll be a while but I just want to get there.” Elanna comes from Brooklyn, in a neighborhood so far away, no one knows where it is. She has a car. I reluctantly agree she can come, but I secretly feel like a total pain in the ass. She is going to be here forever. “And why don’t you call Marcy too?” she suggested. “Ok, there’s light mec so I’ll call her but it’s way early. There’s nothing happening at all.”
I hung up the phone and had a contraction. I didn’t dial Marcy – I put the phone down and closed my eyes through this one.
I called Marcy. She answered this time. “My water broke, but it’s nothing at all and I don’t think you should come. There’s light mec.” “I’m not worried about the meconium, it’s fine. Are you having contractions?” “Yes, but they’re nothing. It’s super early.” “Ok, I’m going to come. I’ll just sleep on your couch. Your water is broken and now you’re committed. You’re going to have the baby.”
There was one more person to call - my best friend, AJ. We met while pregnant with our boys and had dinner together when I was in labor with Milo. I was present for the birth of her second baby. I consult her on every important matter in my entire life. (She didn’t think she was getting a love letter in this birth story, but there it is.) “My water broke. It’s nothing. Go back to bed. I’ll call you when something happens,” I said. “Ok. Good night,” she replied with a smile I could hear through the phone.
I made all these calls from the toilet. And then I had three more contractions on the toilet. The first one started to feel stronger. I closed my eyes and went as limp as I could. After it was over, I felt a kind of buzz. I never felt that the first time around.
The next contraction was stronger. I started to moan but that didn’t feel right. It almost made it harder. I felt myself tense up.
Before the third contraction, I vowed that I would completely let my body go no matter what. And it was even stronger, and I started to moan and when it was over, I felt good. My hormones were rewarding me. And I told Josh to call my mom and tell her I was in labor. It was 1:00 a.m.
I put on a pad and went into the office. I sat on the birth ball and had a contraction that was so hard. I couldn’t sit. But I let Josh hold my hand. I was hoping I could let him help me more this time. Last time, I rejected all his efforts and wouldn’t let him touch me. These contractions were nothing like what I felt with Milo. Each contraction felt like tremendous downward pressure. Sitting was the worst torture. I got on my hands and knees for the next couple of contractions. Then I wrapped my arms around the birth ball while on my knees, and held on.
By now I was making enough noise that I thought I would wake Milo. Josh was timing contractions and coming in and out of the room. Getting me water. He said they were 90 seconds apart and 30 seconds long. Still early. But by now, they were huge waves, crashing over me. “Ohhhhhhh Gooooooood,” my voice trembled during the exhales. My legs shook. It took everything I could to hold on. I thought – my God, this is so, SO HARD! This is so much harder than with Milo. How am I going to do this for 24 hours? There’s no way. I can’t do this. I am so screwed. I need help. I need to calm down. I told Josh to call AJ and tell her to come and to call Elanna and Marcy and make sure they were really coming and weren’t in the shower. Elanna always tells me of quick showers she takes before heading to births.
By now, it is 1:20 a.m. I had been in the office for 20 minutes and it had been that long since Josh told my mother I was in labor. We have a deal with my mom . . . we’ll tell her when I’m in labor and then we’ll call again when the baby is out or if we transfer to the hospital. As Josh came back in the room, I pushed at the peak of the contraction. I remember this from the first time. I pushed and the contraction stopped. And that’s when I thought, “If I’m 2 centimeters, I need to calm the fuck down.” My water had broken only 50 minutes ago. I was working with contractions for less than a half an hour.
Josh said they were on their way. Marcy was at 40th street and Elanna was on the bridge. AJ was leaving her apartment. And I needed water. “Go fill up the tub, I’m not gonna make it.” Josh started to leave but I stopped him, “Wait! Don’t go!” I was on my knees and held his hand for another contraction. “I’m coming with you!” I didn’t want to be alone.
I made it two doors down to the bathroom and got on the toilet again for another contraction. It was huge and I pushed in the middle on and off. As a doula I know that if a woman is having trouble pushing, a great way to help her push better is to ask her to sit on the toilet. And at that moment, I knew I had to get the HELL off the toilet. I finally abandoned my underwear, which was doing me no good at all at that point anyway. There was so much water coming out of me this entire time.
I went straight for the stairs so I would make it down before a contraction. Josh brought the ball and put it on the living room rug. I headed straight for it, got back on my knees with my head on the ball and said, “Get a towel.” I needed it under me. I love that rug. And I held on through the huge rushes. For some of them, I prepared my mind and agreed I would just let myself go wherever it was taking me. Those were much, much easier. But then the fear would come back and I’d fight again. Always making deals with myself in this labor. And now, pushing so much, I needed to know where the baby was. I knew if I felt the burning it would be too late for Josh to rush over and catch. I reached inside but couldn’t feel the baby, so I knew I had some time.
At about 1:40, the doorbell rang. I am howling now, not holding anything back and any thought of waking Milo has completely left me. I don’t think of him again in this labor. I don’t even think of the tub filling anymore because I know I’m not going to make it into the tub. This baby is coming. I hear Marcy’s voice, “Where’s the box?” She meant the birth kit. I am thanking God that she is here and can check on my baby.
And then I feel hands on my back and I hear Elanna. “Tanya, you’re gonna have your baby in a couple of minutes, you’re almost there.” And I say, “Ok,” but I’m trembling and moaning and just so overwhelmed with the power moving through me. That’s it. I got it this time. It’s power and energy and it moves through you. You have to let it. It makes it easier. I told Elanna, “I’m scared,” and right away she said, “You’re safe. Marcy is here, we’re all here and you’re going to have your baby in just a couple of minutes. You’re safe.” Which is just what I needed and just what I finally felt. I felt Elanna tapping on my forehead (Elanna is a budding EFT practitioner). And I felt Marcy examine me and say, “The baby’s right here.” With the next contraction, I pushed and I felt the baby’s head start to descend and fill the birth canal.
“I can feel the baby!” I said. And Elanna said, “Yes, you’re going to meet this baby!” And then I reached in again and felt my baby’s head and I wept. “Oh my baby! Hi baby!” When you are having your second baby, you don’t have to imagine what it will feel like, you know what it is to experience a mother’s love. I couldn’t wait!
With the next push, I felt the burning. It was intense but I couldn’t escape. This is the time in labor when women get sore throats. I was certainly earning mine. As she crowned, I reached down again and was so thrilled to touch my baby. As her head was born, I was just overcome with the power and the burning. Then I felt Marcy feeling for a cord, and she told me to push without the contraction. I was scared of the size of this baby, but it came easily with the next push. Birthing the shoulders – definitely only reserved for a few short seconds in one’s lifetime. It was 1:48 a.m. – just 48 minutes after I decided I was in labor, 30 minutes after I called my birth team back to make sure they were on their way.
“Baby’s out. It’s out,” I said. I knew it was over. But I was still on all fours. I didn’t hear anything but I wasn’t scared anymore. Elanna said, “Marcy’s just untangling your baby from the cord.” There was a cord around the baby’s neck. Still nothing but I didn’t turn around to look either. I was barely opening my eyes and coming back to the room. “You baby is opening its eyes,” Elanna said. I knew that was really, really good. Still no crying. Still I wasn’t scared.
“Tanya, take your baby,” Marcy said. And Elanna guided me as I lifted my leg over the cord. And this beautiful baby. This beautiful little face with eyes open and arms outstretched came under my leg facing up at me with a little furrowed brow. Such a precious little perfect face, with all this dark hair. And I said, “Hi baby, hi. I’m so glad you’re here.” And then the baby started to cry and Josh and I lit up with delight. I heard a clicking and I looked over and noticed Elanna was taking pictures. And I held the baby to my chest and I wept. “Oh my God, we did it. You’re here!”
“What do we have?” I had to know. I looked down and saw puffy genitals with an umbilical cord blocking where a penis would be. I moved the baby from side to side to see. And I checked again and again. Definitely no penis. “You’re a girl baby. We have a girl baby.” Not at all what I expected! Wrong again!! And I kissed Josh because he thought it was a girl. Josh is the oracle when it comes to baby sexes. “Oh my God, she is so pretty! Look at her!”
We sat back for a few minutes on the floor and got to know each other. “Does she have a name?” Marcy asked. I replied, “Well, we have to see,” and Josh said, “No . . . we know her name.” “Do we?” I asked. “I think so,” Josh said. I looked at this perfect baby of ours. “Yeah. Her name is Violet.”
After about a half an hour, Josh cut the cord and I birthed the placenta. The placenta never disappoints. It is the true moment of rebirth for me in both of my births. The moment you become truly no longer pregnant. It was wonderful.
I called my mother. “Hello? Already?” She knew it was me. I told her we had a girl. She said, “Finally one of my daughters has an easy labor like mine!” I was glad for it too!
They helped me to the couch and within a couple of minutes AJ arrived. “Did you have a baby?” “We have a girl baby! This is Violet! Come see her!” AJ made a film of me talking about the birth. Then she went to the kitchen to prepare my placenta.
We have loads of highly inappropriate photos of this process. And this part is not for the faint of heart. The placenta has many medicinal benefits for the postpartum mother including reducing postpartum bleeding, increasing milk supply, and reducing the risk of mood disorders. AJ made a lovely plate of tiny raw pieces for me, served on a little sushi plate with chopsticks. A little placenta comedy. I put a piece in the back of my mouth and swallowed it like a pill with water. I tasted absolutely nothing. No raw meat, no blood, nothing. After a few pieces, I felt hungry. So Josh made a chocolate smoothie for me with some placenta in it. It was delicious and I tasted nothing but chocolate.
Marcy checked me and I didn’t need any stitches. Violet lay on my chest and moved around, eventually self-attaching and nursing. No special holds or techniques. Just a baby left to her own devices. It was heavenly. Josh drained the little bit of water that was in the tub. We all sat around and laughed. “You’re all welcome for my speedy birth. None of you have to be here all night waiting!” And we laughed some more. We weighed her. We knew she looked littler than Milo. And she was – 8 lbs. 12 oz. 21 inches long.
Elanna took me upstairs to take a shower. I dried off and everyone kissed us good-bye. It was around 5 a.m. and Josh came into the bathroom. “He’s up. He’s with her.” Milo met his baby sister. He completely understood who she was and was introducing her the next day to people. “His name is Vi-wet.” Milo was 2 years, 3 months old at the time.
We spent the next couple of weeks completely in love with Violet and completely blown away by the ton of bricks that was parenting two. This went on for about six weeks. And it’s only now, as Violet approaches 7 months that I have time to write this. Violet has a very easy temperament and sleeps well. She is a joy and a delight.
I asked myself how it was that I thought I might be so blessed with this second birth. I had been so showered with blessings the first time, being born a mother myself. There were so many lessons in this birth for me and I am still processing it. As a childbirth educator I know that if there is quick change in a labor, it is moving fast. As a mother, I was in complete denial. I am so thankful my birth team was not and didn’t listen to me. Although I do believe everything would have been fine had Josh caught Violet unassisted, I’m glad he didn’t have to. He did manage to catch her anyway, which was a gift.
But I am mostly in awe with Violet, and how she brought these beloved people from my life together one night, just for a few hours. The pain was only a few minutes and the memories of that night will last a lifetime. I feel so blessed that she has come to be with us and that she brought such loving people together for her arrival. And the birth was so, so healing for me. Two things I thought in this birth. During pushing, between contractions I didn’t have the energy to say it, but I thought, “Guys, this isn’t that bad. I can do this.” And as soon as she was born and I saw her and I knew her, I thought, “This cannot be the last time we do this. Look at this little soul. This cannot be the last one that joins us on this planet.”
About the Author:
Tanya Wills is a graduate of the midwifery program at Yale School of Nursing, where she received her Master of Science in Nursing and also earned her R.N. (Registered Nurse).