Today my sweet baby girl, Aselin Isabella Mae, is three years old. Her birth was a pivotal point in my personal life and as well as professionally. The amazing care I received by local midwives Debbie Wong of Nine Moons Midwifery and Rachel Zaslow changed my perspective on birth and showed me how beautiful and empowering birth could be. After Aselin's home birth, I knew I wanted to become a birth doula and offer the same strong support to other families.
I believe that birth stories should be shared and I tell my children's stories to them every year on their birthday. Three years ago I shared the following account of Aselin's birth on my personal blog. I share it again with you today. I was fortunate enough to have my talented friend and photographer Lindsey Zovko document the birth. All birth and newborn images in the video are credited to her.
Aselin's Arrival: A Home Birth Story
When it comes to being pregnant, I’m far from being a rock star. I truly wish I was one of those women who felt like she “drank a bottle of sunshine” (an actual description a mother has shared with me from when she was pregnant) throughout my pregnancies, but I’m not. Needless to say, by 36 weeks pregnant with our baby girl, I was ready for her to come out. My husband and I (as well as our midwife) were optimistic that she would join us by 37 weeks since her brother had been born early and she was already sitting incredibly low. The little lady, however, had her own ideas and held us in suspense until the end of week 39.
The day my labor started was a fairly typical Saturday, with the exception of it being Halloween. We decided to take [our son, Sterling aka Bug] Buggy for a gentle hike in a local park before preparing for the holiday festivities (we had been doing hikes every weekend to “encourage” Aselin to be born, but walking with a two year old is slow going, making it hard to kick off labor). That evening we went out to dinner and then took our little mummy trick-or-treating throughout town. We must have run into nearly everyone we knew. All offered me sympathy and support because they knew how uncomfortable I was. Friends and strangers alike made good-natured jokes to me about how I was costumed as a pregnant woman. We returned home that evening happy but without any indication that our newest wee one would shortly arrive.
A little before 9 o’clock that evening I started noticing my first contractions. They were barely there, not at all painful, and, had I been moving around, I would have missed them completely. But I had been so in tuned to my body, looking for signs of labor, I noticed that the slight pulses were feeling regular. I waited nearly 45 minutes to tell Jesse about the sensations because I didn’t want to get his hopes up or feel silly if they disappeared. But once I was sure they were consistently 6-7 minutes apart, I let him know that that night may be the real deal–he was unphased.
We continued our regular evening routine and headed to bed a little after 10. I did my best to fall asleep because I knew I’d need the extra energy. However, by 1230, the contractions became painful so I called my midwife, Debbie, to let her know we’d soon have a baby on hand. As I didn’t feel like the baby was coming too quickly, we decided to rest and that I would call Debbie again once labor intensified. I left Jesse to get some sleep and curled up on the couch with a movie, dozing as much as possible. By 4am, November 1st my contractions suddenly switched from uncomfortable to nauseatingly painful. By 430, I was calling Debbie asking her to come. I gave my mother a call so that she could prepare to come take Buggy when he awoke.
Determined to feel good about my appearance during labor, I took a quick shower and applied some mascara. I donned the beautiful Asian-inspired bathrobe I had received as a bridesmaid gift while my husband called our birth photographer to let her know that I was in active labor. Together, Jesse and I prepared our bedroom for the birth as we waited for Debbie to arrive.
By the time Debbie made it to our house, my contractions were three minutes apart and intense. My mother arrived at the perfect moment, just as Buggy was stirring, and was able to help Jesse prepare the tot to spend the day with her and my father. I had imagined giving Bug a special prep talk with lots of “I love you’s” but the contractions limited me to only a few farewell kisses and reassuring words (however, I heard that my wonderful husband gave Bug the necessary reassurance that made the transition for him seamless). At some point, Rachel, the assistant midwife arrived, as well as Lindsey, the photographer. But at those points, I was so focused on getting through the contractions, I was barely able to acknowledge their presence.
As I labored, I slowly moved from walking around bouncing, to sitting on the edge of my bed, to lying on my side. I remembered that side-lying was most comfortable for me during B’s birth so I assumed it’d be a good place to start. Eventually, I asked Debbie to check my dilation so that I’d be able to mentally prepare myself for “how far” I had to go–8cm. I whimpered because the contractions were already so intense. Bug’s birth was quite quick and I was already feeling like this birth was lasting longer.
It wasn’t long before I started feeling the urge to push. The midwives encouraged me to follow my body’s instincts and to do what felt right. After gently pushing for what seemed like eternity (I only pushed 30 minutes with Bug–she should be here by now, I thought!), I felt like I needed to change positions. However, I wasn’t confident that I could move, so I only shifted to my back. A bit longer of pushing and I felt a pop! as my bag of water broke. While it was an odd sensation, it also felt good. There was a release and I knew I was just that much closer to holding my baby girl. At this point in the delivery, I had Andy Grammer’s Keep Your Head Up playing over and over in my head. His spunky words appropriately cheered me on.
Now, I must confess, I’m also not one of those women who delights in labor and finds it joyous and thrilling occasion. Instead, I am one of those women who silently prays that every contraction would be the contraction that would finally end the laboring (and my misery). During this birth, I constantly thought “this is the last one! I can’t do this again!” and thought about how I should warn one of my friends who is trying to conceive and, ultimately, talk her out of it (of course, that was a ridiculous rationalization).
After pushing for a while and not feeling like Baby Girl was any closer to being born, I, within inches of tears, asked if there was anything I could do to help speed the process along. The midwives suggested I try a new position, on hands and knees, reassuring me that sometimes a little shift is all a baby needs to come. Of course, I didn’t feel capable of flipping over by myself, so the gentle hands of the midwives and my sweet husband repositioned me into Child’s pose. It was in this pose that I found great thanksgiving in our new bed frame. Being able to grip the rungs of the head board with each surge of a contraction gave me renewed strength.
It wasn’t long before my body told me that I needed to move again. The midwives helped me move from my bed into a sitting position on the birthing stool while Jesse supported me from behind. It took me only moments to realize how much I disliked the stool, with its hard seat pushing against me. It made contractions so much worse. My legs propelled me upward into a standing position. It was suggested that I turn and hang on Jesse but when I vocalized my inability to shift, Jesse instinctively moved to my front and held me. My midwife said that was the moment she knew the baby was ready to be born.
You see, I had shared with her how lost Jesse felt during our first birth. Jesse is a wonderful husband who works hard to meet my needs; however, he does best with direction–something I couldn’t give to him while laboring. He wanted so badly to be supportive of me during this birth and to have a larger role in it. When he shifted to my front, he showed how in tune he was with me and the moment and it was as if Aselin knew her parents were ready for her.
At this point my contractions started to lessen in intensity and length. Jesse even noted how I wasn’t pushing as frequently or for as long and became mildly alarmed. Don’t get me wrong, the overall discomfort and pain did not subside, but the swell of my muscles constricting were no longer clear. I had to focus completely to find the peak of the contraction so I could make my pushes most efficient. Soon after standing, I made the conscious effort that I was going to push until I was completely out of breath…and then some. With the next contraction, I used all of my strength in one large push and then I knew Baby Girl was coming. “Baby! Baby!” I exclaimed and the midwives rushed over to catch my sweet one as she appeared.
With the birth of my son, this moment was one of great pain–it was every bit of “the ring of fire” that I heard crowning would be. With the birth of my daughter that burn was absent. It felt good to feel her emerge from me, relief washing through my body. Once her head appeared, I rested and waited for the next contraction to well. Less than a minute later, my 8 pound, 4 ounce beauty was fully in my arms. She squealed as the midwives caught her but immediately calmed once she was on my chest. I collapsed exhausted, relieved, and elated onto the birthing stool, just happy to hold my newest wee one. I remember thanking her for finally coming out. I must also note that I caught a glimpse of my sweet husband overwhelmed with emotion and shedding some tears (not a common occurrence).
We waited a few minutes before delivering the placenta. My contractions were unnoticeable at that point so I had to cough repeatedly to help urge it out. Once it was secure in a bowl (we practiced delayed cord cutting and left Aselin attached for quite some time), I was able to move into a more comfortable position onto the bed, holding my sweetie the whole time. For a few minutes my body went through a shivering spell, during which I shook uncontrollably. Had it not been for the reassurance of the midwives that my shaking was normal (hello, hormone roller coaster), I’m sure Jesse would have thought I was having a seizure. But once my muscles calmed down, I was able to rest comfortably.
The next hour or so went by in a blur. Debbie was able to examine both me and the baby without us having to leave the bed or without taking Aselin more than a foot away from me. Lindsey snapped beautiful pictures of our first moments together. At some point, Jesse got to embrace his “little woman” during some skin-to-skin time. I was brought cinnamon tea and a muffin. Aselin made her first latch and nursed briefly. The midwives cleaned up as we bonded as a family. Within two hours of the birth, we bid adieu to everyone and were left in the comfort of our own home. It was wonderful.
With the exception of the postpartum contractions (first time mommies planning a second, I’m sorry to inform you that the contractions continue for several days after the birth; truly unfair), the rest of the day was perfect. My wonderful husband cared for me and our sweet one. We kept in touch with my mother regarding how Bug was doing. We rested and soaked in Aselin’s beauty without interruption. That evening we had my parents return Buggy to us and join us for dinner.
Bug fell in love with Aselin the moment he saw her. He promptly asked to hold her and showered her with kisses throughout the evening (and ever since!). I felt comforted that he could go to sleep that night in his own bed with Mommy and Daddy in the next room, just as usual, while undergoing the great transition into becoming a big brother.
Having a home birth was the best decision I could have made regarding the birth of Aselin. While labor was intense and painful, it was also quiet and calm. Aselin was born into a peaceful environment and Jesse and I were left to relax in the comfort of our own home. Bug’s transition to Big Brother was seamless because the rest of his world was not upset. Not to mention all the wonderful reasons that came with using a midwife. Giving birth at home was a wonderful experience.
To view pictures from the birth on her blog, please visit Lindsey Zovko Photography. I may be biased but I think she captured the experience beautifully and tastefully.