A Christmas Birth
A guest post from Amanda Newbury, whose son was born at home on December 25, 2016. Images by Tara Photography. See more photos from the birth here. Since her birth, Amanda has become a postpartum doula at Postpartum Smiles Doula Care.
Emerson's birth feels like it was just yesterday, and I think back on it daily with a sense of gratitude, and empowerment. I have always wanted a natural, home birth. I’ve never doubted my body’s capability of birthing our baby without medication. I was also prepared to go past my guess date, but never thought I’d be 42+2 weeks pregnant when we welcomed our son earth side.
For weeks I was having mild cramping, aka “period cramps.” Every night for weeks Marcus
would say, “this is the night.” Night after night passed in suspense. I woke up at 3am on
Christmas Day to pretty intense cramping, and hesitated to wake Marcus. I thought to myself,
“this is it!” The next thing I knew I was waking up for the day around 9am with no cramping to
speak of. Marcus made a nice, Christmas Day brunch, and we ‘FaceTimed’ his parents who live
an hour and forty-five minutes away. After we hung up, I turned to Marcus and said, “should
we drive there and surprise them?” He looked at me, amused and chuckled, “no way babe!
You’re 42 weeks pregnant, we’re not risking it.” I insisted that I felt fine, but agreed that it was
smart to stay home.
The next few hours were a blur. I started having intense contractions around 11:30am, and
decided it was a good idea to start timing them. Marcus downloaded a contraction timing
app on his phone. To distract me, we watched a movie in the basement until I couldn’t focus any longer. I started rolling and rocking my hips on the exercise ball to relieve tension.
When I started pacing the floors, it clicked that it might be prudent to call the midwives. Marcus called Cilia, and she asked to speak to me. She asked me how I was doing, and how painful the contractions were. I told her they were painful but manageable. She told me to get some rest, and eat as much as possible. A couple of hours went by, and the contractions began getting closer and more intense. It was definitely time to get a midwife over as soon as possible.
Marcus called Cilia back at 5:30pm, and told her it was time to come, followed by Tara, the photographer. By 6:30pm, Elizabeth, the assistant midwife, showed up, and started tracking the heartbeat at every contraction. Our birth photographer showed up immediately after, with Morgan on her heels. We had a full house, and I didn’t even realize it. I was so concentrated on my breathing, and that 10 seconds of relief before my next contraction. I remember feeling like I had two personalities because that 60 seconds of pain turned me into a breathing, moaning machine, and during the relief, I was cracking jokes and smiling. Marcus made me a fruit plate of oranges, apples, and grapes, filled my Swell water bottle, and insisted I drink coconut water and Gatorade.
I recall being overwhelmed with a feeling of relief and excitement that we were finally having a baby! Elizabeth checked me for dilation at 6:30pm, and told me I’m 6-7 centimeters! I was progressing beautifully, and baby’s heartbeat was perfect. I had made a birth playlist, and it was playing in the background--so peaceful and exactly how I had imagined it. Decorating the walls by the birthing tub were the handmade affirmations that Marcus had made me, and they just so happened to be red and green. White Christmas lights strung around the room, completed the zen-like vibe I was hoping for.
Elizabeth asked if I wanted to get in the birthing pool, and I immediately started searching for
bathing suit bottoms to wear… to realize I didn’t need any bottoms. I slowly climbed in the
pool, the warm water was so relaxing. I let out a loud sigh of relief and POP, my water breaks.
It was a huge explosion under the water, so neat to witness, and from there everything took
off. Marcus climbed into the pool behind me. The warm water proved to be relaxing, however
the slick surfaces and the absence of gravity created difficulty in gaining grip while pushing.
Reading my birth affirmations that were hanging above the pool, during each contraction,
trying to distract myself. “My body was made to birth my baby.” Morgan helped to remind me
as well, “Your body knows what to do.” Cilia announced that I was 10 centimeters and it was
time to push! She explained that I only push when having a contraction. After an hour in the
birthing tub, and about 10 good contractions, we realized that this baby might need a little help
from gravity to show his/her face. From the first day we met Cilia, all she could talk about was
her birthing stool. It was at that moment that it was apparent that I should give it a shot. Low
and behold after two good pushes, out comes baby. The most intense pain I have ever felt,
squatting over that stool, gripping as tightly as possible, trying to make it through the ring of
fire. My screams hit a decibel that more than likely rang through the whole neighborhood.
It was during these two pushes that my mind brought me to a different level. A dimension in
which nothing mattered around me, and all of my energy was honed in on working with my
body and my baby. Cilia asked me if I wanted to see baby’s head with the mirror. I hesitated
but said, yes. She handed me the mirror, I took one glance and handed it back. I was totally fine
without seeing what was going on down there! At this moment, the midwives explained that
the baby was so low, they couldn’t track the heartbeat any longer. I could sense the urgency in
their voices, and I gave one more, hard push and the baby emerged. I’ll never forget the feeling
of relief as the baby slid out. I was so stunned and so in awe when our baby was born... the
sense of accomplishment, empowerment, and the excitement of seeing my baby for the first
time was something that I had dreamed about for months. It is so magical and the feeling of
relief is so instant that all of the work I’ve done in the last 5 ½ hours was so worth it. Marcus
and I looked at the perfect being we created, kissed each other, kissed the baby over and over.
We did it. I did it.
As I walk over to the bed, with our baby in my arms, I realize I didn’t check to see if we had boy
or girl. I immediately lifted the blanket up and exclaimed, it’s a boy!! Marcus said, “We have an
Emerson Henry!” Born at 10:12pm, 7lbs and 14oz of pure perfection. Emerson on my bare
chest, stared intently into my eyes, and I felt like I’d known for more than just those few
minutes. Cilia showed Marcus where to cut the cord, and Marcus described it as, "Cutting through an extension cord.” Cilia said that on my next contraction, I would push and birth my placenta. I thought: “you mean after all of that pushing, I have to push something else out!?” 10 minutes later, I delivered the placenta. After a half hour of skin to skin, I handed him off to Marcus for his skin to skin time with Emerson. The midwives weighed, measured, and cleaned Emerson up, as I recovered in bed amazed of the work we all just did. The midwives wrapped the placenta up and put it in our freezer, and we plan on using it as fertilizer for a tree in the spring. By midnight on Christmas Day, our bedroom was cleaned, and the midwives had
vacated, leaving Marcus and I alone with the most remarkable Christmas present.
My takeaway and advice for any expecting moms is to be patient with your body. Your due date is truly nothing more than a guess date. In my opinion, when you wait for the baby to come on their own, the result is a more expedient and rewarding birth.