If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a huge fan of "Miss" James of Bleubird Vintage fame. Not only does she have the most amazing style and inspiring fashion sense, she is also the devoted mother of three beautiful kiddos and her blog captivatingly details their family adventures in words and images. I was thrilled when "Miss" James agreed to be a part of The Sakura Bloom Styleathlon last Summer, and even more flattered when she offered to share the amazing story of giving birth at home to her youngest child, here on Marvelous Kiddo! I had read the story of Gemma Bird's birth when it was originally posted on Bleubird, and I loved the intensity and raw honesty that comes through. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you so much for sharing, "Miss" James!
i have finally worked up the courage to go back to this moment. it was a beautiful moment but also a very emotional one, so looking at the photos and videos was something that took me a lot longer to do than i expected. i don't even really know where to begin as i have never written a birth story before. i have only told small highlights to family and friends but have never relived each and every small detail. it's quite a task, let me tell ya. i feel like putting it down into words can't possibly come close to how incredible and endearing an experience it truly was. but i'm going to try so here we go...
i have had three completely different birth experiences. i had julian in the hospital at the age of 21. he was 2 weeks early. i had an epidural after twenty hours of labor, out of fear, when hearing the lady giving birth next door to me. she was screaming. loudly. and it terrified me. so i got my epidural, out he came, i couldn't feel a thing and that was that. overall it was a good experience. minus the rude as hell nurse, the catheter, the mandatory, and in my opinion unnecessary, preventative actions taken by doctors "just in case" something goes wrong, the stubborn staff trying to get me to leave my baby in the nursery so i could rest, the getting woken up every couple hours so they could check my vitals, the having to stay in the hospital for three days before being allowed to go home. to be honest the only part about my birth of julian that i loved... was julian. everything else pretty much sucked. i knew then that i wanted to explore more options for next time.
when next time came, two years later, we decided to really take our time and decide what and where and how WE wanted to bring our second child into the world. after lots of research we decided to go with a natural birthing center. i was thinking that because i made it through twenty hours of julian's labor with zero intervention, that it wouldn't hurt that bad and that i could do it, piece o' cake. boy was i wrong. milla plum was born two weeks early as well, with a little help from castor oil and kohash supplements. i got impatient and was stupid and i payed the price. my labor from start to finish was five dreadful hours long. the most hellacious, painful and agonizing five hours of my entire life. i did not think i would make it through. i went from two centimeters to ten centimeters in 25 minutes and with one push that i wasn't ready for, she was out. it was a whirlwind and i was not present. i was completely overtaken by the pain. after delivery i passed out and slept for two hours. it was not a good experience. i vowed then and there that natural birth was not for me and that any future babies that we "most likely would not be having" would be had in the hospital where the epidurals ran free. but after that experience i was done. two kiddos was good. plenty. enough. i was happy with two.
fast forward eight years later, a divorce and a move to texas where i was ready to start a newly single mommy life. i met a man who loved me and loved my children whole heartedly. he was okay with the fact that i didn't want to have more children, but he was also saddened that he wouldn't be able to experience having and fathering one of his own. i said "maybe someday, but probably not." i was happy with how life was. the subject of another baby had come up several times but i just wasn't ready for more children. well, it didn't really matter what i thought because one late period and two pregnancy tests later there we were, expecting a new baby and i was, how do i say this... shocked and unprepared. i was now thirty years old and had travel plans and career plans that a new baby did not fit into. it took a lot of time to let it sink in and for me to accept and learn to fall in love with the idea of starting all over with a new baby, a new mister and a new journey in motherhood. but it happened and the excitement and love grew and took over.
i embraced my pregnancy and tried to enjoy every minute of growing this new life inside of me. we decided to contact a midwife and try a water birth at home after talking with close friends who had a rewarding experience, watching countless videos and reading up on the pros and cons. ultimately this seemed like the best decision for us and we were excited. but in the back of my mind i was afraid. my midwife carol, was wonderful. she addressed all of our concerns and really helped me through my fears from my past natural birth. i was expecting to have this baby two weeks early like my other two children. my midwife carol was thinking i would go early as well since that seemed to be how my pregnancies went in the past so we had everything ready and prepared for baby birdie at 37 weeks. the birthing tub was set up in the family room, all of the baby's little clothes were washed and put away. her blankies were washed and folded. the towels along with all of the other items we needed to have on hand and ready were all set up next to the tub awaiting this tiny baby's arrival. at 38 weeks we were so anxious for our brand new baby daughter to come into our lives. she just had to come early. all of my babies come early. one night a couple of days after the 38 week mark i started having contractions. "this is it!" i said. i was so ready to meet my darling baby girl. my contractions were getting more and more uncomfortable and started coming more and more frequently. they got to be 6 minutes apart and thought it was "time" and that we should call our midwife. she came right over and said that if this was real labor that it was early labor and that i should get some rest for when it progresses into the active stages. so i did what the midwife ordered and took my mandatory nap. i woke up the next morning and realized that they had stopped. a heavy cloud of disappointment came over me. we were hoping they would pick back up after a long walk through the neighborhood. i walked for over an hour but they did not start back up. she just wasn't ready yet.
a week later (39 weeks) there were still no signs of baby bird. carol called me to ask me if i would like her to strip my membranes to help speed this baby along. she had a midwifery conference to go to in austin later in the week and was hoping that i would have been delivered a few days before so she could attend. she also knew that i was ready to pop and anxiously awaiting this little missy's arrival so of course i was up for the strippin'. we drove to see her and the membranes were stripped. within an hour contractions started coming. i was doing my best not to get my hopes up but they were secretly up. and really high! contractions kept getting stronger and stronger throughout the night and i was convinced that it was TIME. aubrey was a trooper and rubbed my back in between each one. we didn't want to call carol until i was sure this was it. i did not sleep much at all that night and then around 6am my contractions started slowing down and then once again they completely stopped. i was disheartened and tired and went to sleep. when i woke up i was confused and saddened that i was not in labor. i decided to just let nature take its course. my midwife went to her convention, still no baby. my due date (august 20th) was slowly approaching. we waited and waited and waited. then on the 19th i had another midwife appointment. my due date was one day away. she asked me if i'd like her to try stripping my membranes a second time. i said "why not?" so we did the strip and then went out to eat a big ol' plate of eggplant parmesan which is mythed to begin labor. home we went, hopeful that this would bring on baby bird. contractions started but they were mild. we went to sleep. around 5am i awoke with strong contractions... "could this be it? is baby bird coming today? on her due date?"
i didn't want to get my hopes up but they kept a comin', stronger and closer together. i was so hopeful that this was it. i went to the rest room and there was, pardon the grossness, but bloody show. i yelled to aubrey from the bathroom "i think this is it. for reals this time!" at 7am we called carol. she said that she would take a shower and come on over to check me. we got julian and milla packed and ready to spend the day and night with friends just in case it was baby day. at 8am i kissed my two beautiful kiddos goodbye with tears in my eyes. all that i could think of was that this may be the last time that i have only two children. the last time that my kiddos only have one sibling. it was an indescribable, emotional moment. they left and aubrey and i just held each other. "i think this is it." i said to him. "i hope so." he said.
my contractions were starting to get more and more painful. i laid on the couch and then moved to the birthing ball. went back to the couch and then back to the birthing ball. i kept rocking back and fourth hoping that it would help speed things along. carol showed up just before 9 and checked me. lying there, i was so afraid that she was going to tell me that i was not in labor. that i was only at 1 1/2 centimeters like before. she looked at me and said with a smile "this is it... you're at six." i immediately started to cry tears of happiness and excitement. my little girl was coming and coming fast. she told aubrey to start filling up the tub which he did happily. he seriously was such a gem. so helpful and supportive. the love for him i had grew times 100 that day. it really did. it took about 40 minutes for the tub to fill up. during that forty minutes my contractions were unbearable and i just wanted it to be over. it was time to get in.
i felt a little strange and awkward in the birthing tub sitting there half naked with everyone watching me. soon after i got into the tub paula, the second midwife, arrived. this was real. this was happening. i felt like it was my first time having a baby. it all seemed so new to me. we played devandra banhart on the record player. i sipped on recharge. my contractions were so strong. the pain was so powerful and overtaking.
(stills from our birth video.)
aubrey helped me through each one until they became so unbearable that i just wanted the room quiet and for no one to touch me. i have been told that there was swearing. i just wanted to be left alone with the pain.
i had been in the tub for nearly an hour, breathing though the pain as best i could. the contractions were coming so fast. by the time my body had settled down and i was comfortable again another contraction would come, bigger, stronger and longer than the one before. it was not fun. but i knew that she was coming and that is what got me through it.
then all of the sudden, i had the urge to push. out of nowhere. i felt it. my body started to push on it's own. carol checked me again and i was at ten centimeters. it was time. i was petrified. i remember this cold, shivering feeling take over me. i wasn't ready. i didn't want to do this. in my head i just couldn't do this. but i had to push. i started pushing with the next contraction. once the contraction let up i was so happy to rest but was still so afraid. the pain was so much. so great. it was taking over. carol did a great job at helping me submit to the pain. to just let it happen and to breathe through it rather than fight it. she told me to push as hard as i could with the next contraction. i still could not believe that this was all happening. with the next contraction i pushed. i pushed hard and in the middle of the contraction carol got a worried look on her face and told me, quite sternly, that i was not pushing hard enough and that the baby's heartbeat had dropped, a lot, and that i had to get her out on this next push to make sure she would be okay. i panicked, snapped out of my fearful funky haze and with the next contraction pushed as hard as i could. but i couldn't get her out. i could feel her. she was so close. i was scared that something could be wrong with my baby. on the next contraction i pushed with everything i had. it was the longest push ever. i felt like it would never end and then came a rush if relief, she was out. it was over. the cord was wrapped around her neck. carol unwrapped it and placed her on my chest. the room was so calm and quiet. there was a tiny baby girl in my arms. she was perfect. she was beautiful. she was ours.
it was amazing. her warm little body. her tiny little hands. the drop in her heartbeat was due to the cord being so tight around her neck. carol took her from me and made sure she was okay. she hadn't cried yet. she rubbed her back rapidly until she let out one big adorable little cry. she was breathing fine. her heartbeat was strong. she was healthy. relief!
after a little newborn examination, carol called out that she weighed 6 lbs. 11 oz. and was 21 inches long. i delivered the placenta and we discovered that i tore. ouch! i definitely felt that let me tell ya! after a little fixin' it was now time for me and my baby girl to take an herbal bath and get cleaned up. my newly proud papa bird helped me into the bath tub and then handed me my little girl. i still couldn't believe that it was over. i wasn't pregnant anymore. i just had a baby. i was a little in shock i think. moving really slow, a little shaky and unsure of what to do. it was a surreal feeling.
once we were all cleaned up aubrey helped us upstairs into bed. it felt amazing, like a cloud. i was so happy to be laying down. i was finally able to soak it all in. what had just occurred. to look at my darling daughter and be proud of what i had just accomplished. i did it. we did it. here she is. this beautiful, healthy, perfect baby girl. the midwife checked our vitals and prescribed me a week of bed rest to make sure that my tearing would heal properly. we spent the next few hours in bed, the three of us. just mama, papa and baby bird. we just stared at her with giant smiles and heavy hearts. she was so pretty. aubrey was a daddy, a father and so so proud. we were so in love.
the kiddos were spending the night with our friends but i wanted so much for them to be home sharing this moment with us. we decided to let them stay the night so we could rest and bond with our baby girl. the next morning they came home bright and early to meet their new baby sister. it was so darling. they made me and baby the most adorable hand painted signs. it melted my heart.
watching my kiddos hold their new baby sister was one of the most amazing sights. i was the proudest mama. i had created three beautiful lives. the love i have for these three children is indescribable.
my little family was perfect. i couldn't ask for anything more. this little baby girl brought all of us even closer together than we already were.
and now here we are. she's almost six months old. i can't believe it. it feels like yesterday. we are so very lucky. i couldn't be happier. she has brightened our days and calmed our nights. she's the perfect fit into this little bunch. she opened my heart to more children. now we are planning baby number four for later this year. i can't wait.
thanks for reading. big hugs!
footnote: sadly i didn't get many pictures of papa bird holding baby gemma within these first couple of days. only the crappy iphone photo shown. he was the one behind the camera the whole time while birdie and i were resting. sweet man.