I spent my 26th birthday photographing my first birth and witnessing the birth of a very good friend’s baby. Zak had a wonderful surprise birthday picnic for me and as we were about to head out the door, we got the call for me to head over. When Odin was born, we were very low on money. I stopped paying my student loans for a little while in order to afford the homebirth we wanted. We quite literally, paid for our homebirth with every penny we had. We had to borrow money to pay rent for a bit before he was born! I am so happy that we were fortunate enough to have Odin at home and that we were able to find the help we needed around that time. Looking back now, I really wish we had a friend come to photograph the labor or had the money to hire someone to do so. I’m so giddy to have been able to provide that for James and Mae and I feel so very blessed to have been allowed such a beautiful opportunity.
It was definitely a birthday I will never forgot.
It all started Friday night at dinner when I felt this pain in my side. When I lied down two hours later for bed I had a liquid discharge with a little blood. I was so nervous, I knew that was the beginning. I went to sleep with my James and when I woke up I was cramping very mildly and debated on whether or not this was a good time to call Sybille. I called and she didn’t seem to blink an eye. She told me to make sure I took a nap and went to bed early. I took a nap from 1-4 PM and around 5 the cramps were gearing me up for one of the most intense days of my life.
I spent that whole night awake. No sooner did I lay my head down to sleep when I realized I was not going to be able to sleep. The contractions that I had had earlier that day were cramp like and sporadic but these were consistent. Starting around 12 PM that night before her birth, the contractions were 5-7 minutes apart, 30-50 sec. long and intense enough that I couldn’t sleep. James stayed up till about 1 AM with me because he worked all day! Even if he couldn’t get to sleep, I was glad he got rest because I needed him so much the next morning. I am so thankful he could be my rock. I spent the rest of the night having contractions, walking them off standing and resting in between.There was a spirit or electrical excitement in the air and so it was hard for us to sleep. We might have dozed off for forty or so minutes the whole night. By the time that we had finally resolve to be awake for the day (at 5am) and was having contractions that made it hard for me to focus on anything but the sensation and I was just starting to moan. It seemed like I was moaning for the entirety of the the twelve hours to follow. Over and over we found ourselves just clenching each others hands and moaning in unison, which at the time seemed to be the best way for us to breath through all of the sensations and feeling that was being transmitted into the room through the labor. Through the course of the labor we really didn’t feel self conscious or apologetic, but there were a couple moments where James worried over what experience was turning into. Twice or so during labor I ended up breaking down and saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and once I began to cry. I only ever had a matter of seconds to become absorbed in my worries because Sybille and Sunny coaxed me out of the idea of giving up each time. We had entered into childbirth knowing that we were determined to be capable of delivering the baby naturally. Whatever personal obstacles presented themselves, we knew that we would learn from overcoming them together as a whole. One thing that I know we kept close at heart was that it was our family’s day to shine and enjoy this prosperity of life.
Morning came and I got into the bathtub and that was heaven on earth. Meanwhile, Sybille and Sunny were busy setting up the birthing rom with James and checking my vitals. My contractions slowed up a lot and I was quite comfortable for about an hour because the bath had slowed my early labor.
Around 10:00 Am my second stage labor started, and boy was it intense. In the beginning, I moaned through each contraction; laying on my side and then I got up and walked around. I would lie down and get up, and then I got in the tub. Sybille, Sunny, and James all held my hips and massaged my lower back intermittently; someone (Sybille or Sunny or Michelle) put a washcloth on my head and got me a smoothie so that I had something to eat. I drank a lot of water.
I progressed and progressed and around 12 PM Sybille checked me for the first time and I was 8 cm. dilated. I will never forget the hold James had on my heart and soul. He held me tight through my every contraction and never let go. The pain seemed to level out and it wasn’t getting more intense but it plateaued at an all time high. It was kinda like tweezing your eyebrows, it was hard and painful but after a while your pain tolerance goes up and it just wasn’t getting worse anymore. Despite time passing, we were having a really hard time moving the baby down at a certain point. Sybille had speculated that it was the “bag of waters” being still intact that was holding up the labor, and she suggested that if we broke it manually that things might move along faster. James and I had spoken at length about how we wanted to make our baby’s birth successful with as little intervention as possible. I was getting tired after being awake for nearly 24 hours, and faced with discomfort and exhaustion, there came a point I wanted it to be over. James and I spent some time alone in the bathroom with me on the toilet (Sybille had suggested that this might break the water membrane by straining it) and my moans calmed down. I collected my thoughts with James and we talked about my options. We decided it would be okay for Sybille to break my “Bag of Waters”, and that this was a small sacrifice which our baby might even thank us for somehow someday. When we got back to the birthing room Sybille did just that and I got into the birthing tub and asked James to join me. He jumped right, in he didn’t miss a beat. It helped that he remembered to wear his swim trunks.
It wasn’t long after my water was broken that I started pushing, almost immediately. At first, I didn’t know how to push, I prolly spent a half hour learning 🙂 Once I got the hang of it, I was on a roll. James was in front of me and Sunny was cheering me on, Michelle recording it all and Sybille was putting warm comfrey compresses on me to prevent me from tearing. I could feel the baby dropping and at some point they could see the head. Sybille and Sunny were monitoring the vitals on a microphone and they helped me time my pushing with my contractions and my breath while James held my hand. I felt like my body had ten hands; but actually it was all of them, moving perfectly in unison with the wave of birth. The baby’s heart rate stayed steady and great and I was just pushing for fifteen minutes (51 min total) with the baby’s head coming faster and faster each set of pushes. As soon as the baby’s head came out Sybille noticed the umbilical cord around it’s head. The hand was on their cheek and I had to push the baby the rest of the way out to untangle them. The moment our baby came out we stopped it from floating for only a second and unwrapped the cord from around it’s neck, body, and legs and we all brought it to my chest. I could feel the surprise of the sex with my hand but kept the secret for a couple of minutes until everyone was in the room and someone asked James to look; he did and then we said, “It’s a girl!”.
She stared right at me, right into my eyes, she looked right into my heart and soul. I looked at her knowing she was a girl in disbelief that I had actually birthed her and she was beautiful. We wrapped a towel around her and James and I took her into our embrace with awe and love. She latched on and began to breastfeed right away and James cut the cord after it stopped pulsating. When I was ready I got up to move to the bed and delivered the placenta. I laid in bed and held my beautiful new baby girl that we later named Istselawindlii Mae Jeanette Banks. Eye say la wind lee, in case you were wondering. A very magical name. At 7 lb. 10 oz., 21″ long, she came earth side perfect for us. My daughter’s birth was perfect because I trusted and believed in myself and my body, and because I had the most amazing, generous, and helpful support system. Thank You Don, Tiina, and Elizabeth for opening your home and hearts. Thank You Sybille for your experience and wisdom in building confidence and strength in myself and women everywhere to birth without fear. Thank You Sunny for teaching me to believe in myself, also for your experience and wisdom. Thank You Michelle for celebrating your birth day with us and capturing moments that I cant even thank you enough for every time I see them. Thank You James for your love and strength, for holding me and helping me through my journey. Thank You Family & Friends for supporting us. Thank You Istselawindlii for being part of your birth and my life.
Thank you so much James and Mae for allowing me to be there to document such an amazing time in your lives. I will forever know and love little Istselawindlii, my birthday twin.