Today is Anna’s second birthday! In honor of our Little A turning two, I thought I would share her birth story. I loved her birth-day. It was everything I could have asked for in a birth.
Oh how I love birth! Whenever I say that, some people grimace, some people laugh, some people roll their eyes. And a precious few get a light in their eyes and nod. But really. I do. Birth is one of my all-time favorite experiences. I thought so before I had Anna, but her birth solidified it for me.
Her birth story began months before she was born when I watched a birth documentary called Orgasmic Birth. If you’re pregnant, PLEASE, do yourself a favor and watch this video (don’t let the title skeeve you out…it’s one of the most empowering birth videos I’ve ever seen). There are many beautiful births documented, but there was one in particular that caught my attention and drew me into dreaming about the kind of birth I desired to have with Anna. In this particular story, the mom and dad spent most of labor outside in their backyard. Holding hands, walking, rocking on a birth ball, kissing, chatting, giggling. They moved together in the rhythm of birth, as the midwife watched from the house. When it was time for the baby to be born, they moved up to the deck, and mom knelt down by a chair and pushed baby out into dad’s hands. They brought blankets outside and they all rested together in the beautiful day with their new baby, and introduced him to his siblings when they came back from grandma’s. It was so peaceful. So calm. So tender. So natural. So GOOD.
I decided I wanted a birth like that. So I warned my midwives, “I want to labor alone with Nathanael as much as possible. You don’t have to check on me. I’ll let you know when I need you.” And because they’re wonderful, and they’d already caught two of my babies, they agreed. It’s a beautiful thing to have mutual trust between yourself and your birth team.
I had an appointment with my midwives on my estimated due date, May 21. I’d been feeling baby dropping and my body starting to feel more open for several weeks, as well as having normal Braxton Hicks “practice” contractions off and on. I didn’t want them to check my progress, as we decided it didn’t matter, and I didn’t want to scare myself into thinking I’d be pregnant forever if their findings were less than what I expected. We had a fun chat about how Nathanael and I had gone to see the Avengers movie in the theater the night before, and how the baby was going CRAZY inside during the whole movie. I almost thought I was going to have to leave! At the end of the visit we determined that the baby could come as early as that night, or even in two weeks…my body would do its thing, and there was really no way of putting a date or time on it. They felt the baby inside and told me, “oh, this baby isn’t so big…maybe a little over seven and a half pounds.” (Ha! Do they say that to everyone? It sure was nice to think maybe I wouldn’t have to push out another nine-pounder like Daniel was!)
In the wee hours of the next morning, I awoke to some gentle contractions. They were tiny, and I could sleep between them. Slowly they gained momentum until when Nathanael opened his eyes I met his gaze and said quietly, “I think we are having a baby today!”
“Really?!” he sat up fast. “Do I have time for a shower?”
“Oh yes. I’m doing fine.” We smiled across the pillows at each other.
And thus the birth began.
He showered while I called the midwife and made the bed. He blew up the birth pool and got the water going while I worked through some contractions and nibbled on some snacks. A specially chosen mix CD played in the background. We stopped often to smile at each other and give each other kisses.
When the midwives arrived, they checked my vitals and listened to the baby for a minute before retreating to the front room to hang out with my mom and the kids. Nathanael and I walked around our bedroom, worked through contractions together, and chatted. And took pictures of each other.
After a while I wanted to get into the birth tub, so I did, but it was really too early for me to get in there. (I love this video describing water birth and when it’s best for a laboring woman to enter the water.) It was so relaxing I almost fell asleep, and after about an hour my contractions had all but stopped. I knew it was time to get out and change things up. Nathanael and I snuggled up on the bed together. Oxytocin is the “love hormone” that is released when you feel safe, and is also the one needed to cause contractions and move that baby down and out. So we laid there cuddled up against one another for a while, kissing and talking, and then got up and walked around the room a bit. He sat on the bed and I stood in front of him and put my cheek on his forehead.
“You know what?” I said, “this has been so perfect, and it’s just what I wanted, but I’m kind of bored! I’m ready to have the baby now.” (We still laugh about that. My midwives said I’m the only person they’ve ever had say she was bored while in labor.)
Nathanael rubbed my belly. “Baby,” he said, “it’s time to come out now. Come on out, Anna.” We didn’t know her gender, but we both felt strongly that she was a girl, and had her name (and a just-in-case boy’s name) picked out.
We called our midwife in and discussed how to move things along. She suggested checking to see what my cervix was doing, making a change of location, i.e. getting out of our room for a while, and possibly breaking my bag of waters. I really wanted to let my water break on its own, so after discovering I was at a “squishy seven”, I walked out of our bedroom to wander around the rest of the house for a while. My other kids, incidentally, had just gone down for a nap. Suddenly, my body decided that nap time was the perfect time to have a baby, and bam! Everything kicked into high gear. I hadn’t been out of my room for fifteen minutes before I was hanging onto the edge of the kitchen table and breathing hard. Pretty soon I waddled back into said room to bury my face in the bed and moan and groan as the intensity of the contractions grew.
NOW was the time for the birth tub! I got back in and the intensity became much more manageable. I cannot describe the incredible sensation of working together with my baby to get it out. It’s almost like a dance. I squatted in the tub and let my hips and belly sway this way and that as I felt the little one inside of me moving into position for birth (this all by itself is enough reason for me to not want a medicated birth–that feeling and connection is too precious to me).
At last heaven and earth aligned, my baby and my body were coactive, and I held onto Nathanael’s hands with all my strength, and pushed and pushed and pushed that little girl out into my midwife’s waiting hands. I had really wanted to catch her myself, but in the moment, I was so focused that I couldn’t make the mental shift to let go of Nathanael and reach for her. Oh well. Birth is all about going with the flow, so I just went with it.
Just like *that* she was in my arms in all her red, screaming, vernix-y glory. My Anna. My girl. I wanted her, and I got her.
I was all enamored with placentas during my pregnancy with Anna (because obviously, they’re pretty remarkable!), so I wanted to keep her attached to hers until I pushed it out and could see baby and placenta connected by the umbilical cord. It was pretty cool, I have to say!
We moved to the bed and she nursed happily for about an hour and then got weighed and measured. 8 pounds, 4 ounces. Perfect.
And so it was, Anna’s peaceful entrance into the world. She fills our hearts with so much joy, this little darling!
Today she is two!
We love you, Anna! Happy Birthday!