A little over a week ago now, I had the supreme pleasure and honour of attending the birth of my client Brianna. It had been a very busy day for me already...as I was out in the Stonewall and Argyle, Manitoba areas doing fall family sessions with 3 separate families, when I got the call. Thankfully, I got the call towards the end of my final session...but I was still terrified that I would miss this baby being born.... since this was their 3rd baby, and Brianna's first 2 progressed so efficiently. My back-up photographer was called as well, and we were both en route to Brianna's home - about 70 kilometers away from where I finished my last session. I drove as quickly as I could get away with... and when I got there, my back-up photographer had arrived as well. Christel offered to stay as a second shooter, purely voluntarily, so the offer was made to Brianna and Brianna welcomed it! So there we were, both of us unloading our gear and getting our cameras on.... and as we opened our eyes and ears and really took in the environment.... we were absolutely amazed at what we had stepped into.
This was a full on Birthday party and Birth party. Music was playing. Countless people were buzzing about, chatting, laughing, brewing coffee, filling up and rotating pots with water to boil,, pouring the water into the birth pool, playing with Brianna's kids, Brianna's husband Christopher being really supportive to her, juggling socializing with the family, supporting her during contractions, being a wonderfully attentive dad to their young kids, and helping out wherever and whenever extra help was needed. The midwives had arrived and were all set up at one end of the room, and were buzzing about as well, laughing, cracking jokes, and just fitting in so well with the festive, busy but happy atmosphere.
Brianna's birth playlist was just phenomenal... it set a really beautiful, earthy tone to the whole evening.... she even shared the link to her playlist, so here it is, if you're interested:
Apart from my description above... the photos really do tell the rest of the story. However, Brianna has written out her birth story as she remembers it, and is sharing it here as well. I will include it below, before the photos. When I read her story, along with these photos.... I could really feel a parallel between the 2 mediums and I'm so thrilled to be able to give this birth album to Brianna, so that the images can adequately and effectively illustate her account of the events of that monumental day.
If birth is of interest to you, then please feel free to read, look through the photos and submerge yourself in an inspiring evening of comradery, family, togetherness, courage, strength, determination, power, new life, and above all else.... LOVE.
Here is Brianna's Birth Story, in Her Words:
I feel so incredibly fortunate when I say that the birth of our third child was my definition of a perfect birth.
After a hospital birth with our first, a barely-made-it birth centre delivery with our second, I was so desperate for a home birth with our third. Complications with jurisdictions, insurance policies, and general confusion about agreements between Health Authorities meant a midwife-attended home birth was a giant question mark throughout my pregnancy. Finally, at 36 weeks, after many phone calls and a herculean effort by myself, my midwives, and the manager of midwifery services, I was informed that I was approved for my home birth!
Sunday morning my husband and I were intimate and afterwards I noticed a good chunk of mucus plug when I went pee. I was crampy and a bit uncomfortable for the rest of the day, but no real contractions. On Monday morning I noticed a fair amount of show, but I was feeling great and went about my day. In the afternoon I was picking up our rented birth pool and I had a midwife appointment in the city (we live about 10 minutes outside city limits). At my appointment, I asked the midwife to do a gentle check…I had been checking my own cervix periodically and the week before I had been 3-4 cm but not very effaced. Baby had dropped in the past day or two, and checking was a bit awkward now and I wanted to know if there was any change with all this bloody/mucus show I’d been having. She confirmed 4cm and a very anterior cervix, and found I was at least 80% effaced now. Even though this was my third, and I am a practicing doula, I was so worried I would be in labour and not realize it before it was too late and there was a baby flying out! It was comforting to follow my progress. She suggested that as soon as I felt a “real” contraction instead of the Braxton hicks type ones I’d been having regularly, I should call the midwives in the event it was a precipitous labour.
After my errands I was meeting my husband at my mother’s house, where he was dropping off our children and we were headed out for one last dinner & movie date. By the time I got to my mom’s, I was fairly certain we would be missing the movie. We opted to head somewhere nearby for dinner, and upon calling the midwife we decided to wait and see if the cramping intensified throughout dinner. If so I would call the midwife and we would head home when we were done. We barely made it through appetizers – they were definitely contractions and I was anxious to get home so I could have the home birth for which I had fought so hard!
On our way home I called the midwife to let her know it was definitely go-time and asked her to pack up and start heading out our way. I also called my family to let them know it was baby time and my sisters were amazing and rallied together with their significant others to gather up the last minute needs and start prepping our house. We came home to my BIL clearing out the living room for the birth pool, my other sister’s fiancé was doing a hardware store run to get an adapter for the pool hose and a tarp for the floor, and my sisters arrived and got busy making up our bed and setting up the pool. My nana came to take our dog home so he was out of the way, and the midwife arrived to a flurry of activity! I was so relieved once she got there, my biggest fear up to that point was my water breaking suddenly and having a baby without her…I was really wanting to avoid the craziness of my daughter’s birth where the midwife showed up with mere minutes to spare.
A short while later my birth photographer and her backup arrived, followed by my mom and our 4 year old and 2 year old. Once everyone was there, I felt like I could finally relax into the groove of labour. I had envisioned a Birth Party, where my kids were around but easily distanced by my mom if necessary, my husband was supporting me, my sisters were available if I needed them, and everyone was excited and happy and laughing and snacking and listening to music. It was precisely as I had hoped it would be…it was a wonderful distraction listening to them in the background. My family focused on getting the birth pool ready for me; my BIL is very goal oriented and was completely wonderful with rotating pots of water on the stove once the hot water tank was empty in order to get it to the magical temperature. And my sister’s fiancé got a fire going in our fireplace, which was just wonderful.
While we waited for the birth pool to fill and be warm enough, my husband did hip squeezes and we listened to music and he sang to me and I moved around the house as I needed to. I leaned on my husband and put my head on his chest and he felt so strong and comforting to me. This birth was much like my first in terms of intensity – I really needed to focus during contractions and vocalized quite a bit towards the end. It was so different from my daughter’s labour, where I pretty much ignored the contractions until my water broke and realized a baby was determined to come very quickly! I felt amazing in between contractions and I loved joining in on the conversation flowing around me when I could, or being able to talk to my children as they or I needed. As the contractions got stronger, I spent a bit of time in the bathroom labouring on the toilet and trying to use gravity to get my water to break…I was able to feel my cervix again and I knew I was about 8cm but I had a fairly good sized bulge of membranes that were being really stubborn! I was so relieved to finally slip into the birth pool, it was like a big, warm, relaxing hug.
Labouring in the birth pool, my family in the background, the midwives close by but unobtrusive, a fire going and music playing – it’s seriously so picturesque I can’t quite believe it happened!
My son was getting a little nervous at the big sounds I was making, and I was glad I was able to reassure him between contractions, and remind him about the videos we watched and how having babies is hard work and sometimes noisy. He loved being next to the pool keeping an eye on me, but he sure didn’t love my labour moaning!
After a short time of really intense contractions in the pool, I was getting pretty desperate for my water to break. I remember complaining out loud after a big noisy contraction “Just fucking break already!” I could feel that I was fully dilated, I could feel how close baby’s head was, but I felt like those darn membranes were slowing things down (which is funny because it had only been about 4 hours at this point)! The midwife told me I could try pinching the sac between my fingers and rubbing and pulling a bit to see if they could be broken. I tried through a few contractions, but those membranes were like cement!
I finally managed to break them, and it was instant relief from the pressure, followed immediately by a big contraction and baby sliding right down. I kept a hand on his head the whole time, and with that big contraction I had to fight the urge not to push as hard as I could to just get him out. With the next contraction I was completely focused on breathing that baby down slowly. It was completely up to me on how fast or slow I allowed the head to be born, and that feeling of control was utterly powerful. I remember hearing the second midwife Tracey remind me I might feel the burning and pressure as his head crowned and it was all ok. So I worked on ignoring said burning and the pressure and just worried about breathing and controlling that head so I wouldn’t tear if at all possible. I’m not sure how many contractions I waited through, but finally his head was out, which I announced to the room.
The next 2 minutes were surreal, because his head was born, but the rest of his body was still inside and he was kicking! My midwife Miriam was a total dream through this part, because she was right next to the pool, not getting involved but calmly reassuring me that it was fine for his head to be out, and to just wait for the next contraction. Waiting for the next contraction, with my baby hovering halfway between two worlds, was the most amazing thing.
I told my midwife when I felt the next contraction coming, and she calmly reassured me that just a gentle push would have him slipping right out into my hands. It was just so instinctual, feeling that little body sliding out and catching him in my arms, looking down through the water to see this beautiful little human. I brought him straight up into my arms and settled back to see him. The midwives were right there to dry off his face and let me know he had beautiful colour and was just perfectly wonderful. My kids were there instantly, leaning over the edge of the pool to see if they had a brother or sister, giving me kisses and reaching out their little hands to gently feel his head.
We snuggled in the pool for a long time. I wanted to wait to cut the cord until after the placenta was delivered, but the cord pulsed for ages! My family all got to feel the cord and the strong pulse that was like an energizer bunny. After 45 minutes of snuggles, some nursing to see if that would encourage the placenta to detach, we finally chose to clamp and cut the cord – which was still pulsing away! Daddy got to do skin-to-skin, and I got out of the tub. I had quite the dangle happening between my legs! We made the trip upstairs to the bed, where I opted for the oxytocin shot as it had been an hour now. The placenta arrived right after the shot, and it was a pretty glorious placenta, if I do say so myself. With some seriously thick membranes! Baby probably would have been born en caul if I had the patience to wait it out, but I really didn’t. It was pretty cool breaking my own waters, too.
I did tear along a previous labial tear, but it was just a tiny bit and didn’t require stitches this time. Yay! We did the measuring and weighing and baby exam, Mr. Lewis William was just over 19 inches and weighed in at 7lbs 9.5oz, born at 37 weeks and 5 days old. After a quick stand up rinse in the bathtub, I got snuggled into bed with my baby while my husband and mom cleaned everything up from the birth. Everyone had been slowly leaving, and then it was just me and my husband with our newest addition, in our own bed, just a few hours after giving birth in our living room. Bliss.
The children were involved in the entire process from start to finish. Brianna's son was very much enthralled by labour and was keen to offer any support he could give throughout those hours prior to baby. He was the sweetest little doula, ever.
They would rock side to side, with her husband singing into her back, along with the music coming out the speakers above them. Their love exploded out of that house that night and filled the entire world with its shining light.
Whenever Brianna's husband Christopher was busy elsewhere (only for a few seconds... he probably missed 5 or fewer contractions in total) her mother, sister and midwife would step in and provide back support and prssure to help her ride those contractions. The children bounced around between rooms... where Paw Patrol was playing in one, and their parents were dancing through labour in the other.
Brianna decided to transfer to her bed to birth her placenta there, where her midwives could properly assess any blood loss, etc. Baby's cord had such a powerful pulse , it continued pulsating for 45 minutes (!!) It was still pulsating when the decision to transfer to bed was made, so daddy had the honour of cutting the cord, and we all marvelled at the length of this cord, or rather, appendage, hanging out of Brianna on her way out of the birthing pool. Needless to say, many penis jokes were made, many laughs were had!
Brianna's placenta took some time to detach, and was causing her cramps that were similar if not stronger to her earlier contractions during labour. Here, the midwife administers a cautionary dose of synthetic oxytocin to help prevent any potential hemorrhage.
Brianna and baby's placenta was absolutely gorgeous and I took great pleasure in arranging it on a plate in the kitchen and taking these photographs. This organ is truly spectacular.
7 pounds and 91/2 ounces of utter cuteness.
Brianna made a very special call to her Nona (who was fur-babysitting the family dog) to bring her the news of baby Lewis' arrival. We could all hear how happy her sleepy grandmother sounded through the phone.
I really couldn't have said it better myself.