Yay it’s finally done! The birth story! That only took nearly two weeks… you’d think writing two hours worth of story would take far less than that, but you’d be wrong. Half-way through writing I got my birth pictures, which I’m happily adding in, so this entry also contains some nudity. Don’t worry there’s no massive 2000-pixel-wide shots of my overgrown hippie vag or anything, there’s just a bare breast or two (hopefully not three?).

The funniest part to Zephyra’s birth story is that we have been saying she’d be born on June 2nd since just after I found out I was pregnant. I certainly didn’t love going overdue to 41.5 weeks with all the health issues I was having, but at least I can walk away with a smug, self-satisfied look knowing I totally called that. Who doesn’t like being right, right?
I’m writing this as though the events leading up to her birth weren’t quite so recent, so that when I look back on it in months or years I won’t forget those details. Plus, I plan on reposting this in places that don’t have my blog as context so you’ll have to forgive me if the tense or structure sounds a little messed up.

*I’ve now added a birth video/slideshow, which can be viewed at the bottom of this story. Or, [ click here ] to go directly to it on Youtube.

Four days earlier I came home early from a “fun day” at Tempest’s school due to unrelenting nausea, and prodromal labour started with a bang as soon I came in the door. A contraction hit me so hard I was standing on my toes, and even though it was the first I’d felt, the intensity made me seriously consider that it was early labour. From there, regular contractions went like clockwork every five minutes, but they never got any further apart or closer together, and never progressed into something more intense, (nor did they subside). I could easily sleep, walk and talk through them: they weren’t that painful, just uncomfortable, though it was annoying and kind of frustrating to not have them change into something more meaningful. In spite of this I was convinced this would turn into active labour soon, and after a few hours of it I called my midwife for advice and a heads up, then called Curtis home from work and my doula, MJ, for support. I ran a bath while I waited to see if the pains would space out, but they didn’t.
The two arrived at the house at the same time, and MJ and I went for a walk around the block to try and make the contractions pick up. When that failed, and I was still in the same place I was three hours ago, I decided to go to sleep – hoping it would turn into labour sometime during the night. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen: after 24 hours they stopped. Or at least they seemed to stop; a closer look revealed that they were actually still going – still five minutes apart – but the intensity had dropped down so far that I had to really pay attention to notice them. They were tiny mere squeezes now, so small I could mistake them for brief muscle spasms if I wasn’t paying close attention.


Curtis rubbing my back during the first bout of prodromal labour.

For the next four continuous days they went on like that. The intensity would go up and down depending on my activity (going for a walk, sex, or any other excitement made them hurt more) but the timing stayed the same. FOUR FREAKING DAYS!
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in pain and I wasn’t exhausted; I was coping really well in spite of the frustration. I learned my lesson with Tempest’s labour: don’t be a watched pot. However, it was rather depressing. Prodromal labour is a special kind of hell no matter how you experience it because you know it can last days, or even weeks before turning into something more exciting. It’s like you’re standing on the labour cliff overlooking the birth chasm, toes curled over the edge, teetering back and forth, knowing you’ll get pushed off at any second… and yet you’re still just standing there. It’s an insane birth limbo between “nothing is happening” and “something is happening” and it can drive you up the fucking wall. My midwife, my doula and Curtis were all wonderfully supportive during my periodic tantrums about how I was never, ever going to go into labour ever. They reminded me to keep myself well hydrated, well rested and well distracted during that time because real labour would begin soon. Well, relatively soon anyway. They kept me grounded and assured I didn’t obsess too much. As my midwife said in the days prior, “The only concerns we should ever have about this stage are maternal exhaustion and maternal crazy-making”.
I think the reason why it got to me more than normal is that I experienced absolutely none of it in the weeks prior; something I’m not accustomed to. In my past three pregnancies I had weeks upon weeks of prodromal labour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I got quite used to that, and as a result it never really felt like I was “imminent”, nor did I at any point believe that prodromal labour was an indication that real labour was officially on its way. On the other hand, this prodromal labour came on quite suddenly at 41 weeks, rather than six weeks before birth, so I ended up forgetting about that stage completely and instead found myself excitedly thinking I was about to have a baby.
Unfortunately all that did was result in my having birthy blue balls for the next week.

At around 10pm on the night of June 1st Curtis and I settled in to watch our current anime obsession, One Piece. Just before we started I made a Twitter update about how nothing had changed and someone reminded me about my original birth prediction way back at the beginning of pregnancy:

I joked to Curtis that this prediction meant my labour would start at exactly midnight. While we watched, the prodromal labour BS continued on without variation right up until the clock turned over to midnight on June 2nd. I very suddenly got a squeeze that was different from the rest; the contraction felt like someone was pulling my uterus downward, and taking my spine with it. I leapt up out of my seat and onto all fours to take the pressure of my back. Curtis paused the episode and watched me with one eyebrow raised. As the contraction subsided he motioned to the clock (now reading 12:01am) and asked incredulously, “Did you seriously just go into labour?”.

Of course, it’s ridiculous to diagnose labour from one contraction, but it certainly did stir the air a little.

The next two contractions were totally out of sync from the every-five-minutes pattern we’d become accustomed to over the last four days… but they didn’t hurt at all. We dismissed it as a fluke and I hunkered back down in bed to start watching the episode again. Not thirty seconds after pressing ‘play’ I had another painful contraction. Once again, I had to get up out of bed to ride it out; laying down on my back through it was way too uncomfortable. We paused the episode again, wrote down the time and waited for another one to hit in five minutes… but that didn’t happen: it took nine minutes, and once again it was a poor excuse for a gas bubble, let alone a labour contraction.
This continued for a little while, and Curtis timed them: seven minutes, three minutes, then seven minutes again, all mostly painless. This was getting really annoying. Every time I got one that made me pay attention, they turned into Braxton Hicks, but as soon as I gave up and tried to watch anime, I’d get another rough one.
“Baby is a birthtease,” he said.

It was now getting close to 1am and I’d had about seven nice contractions with a smattering of random painless ones. Not really cause for alarm, but it was a little weird how they so suddenly broke up my solid pattern from the last several days.
I got up to go to the bathroom and tried to check my cervix for any changes, but I couldn’t reach it and eventually gave up. Baby was lower than she was earlier, but that’s about all I could feel. When I took my fingers away they were covered in blood. I normally don’t get bloody show like that, and for some reason it really freaked me out. All of a sudden I was having a huge panic attack. I felt shakey and nauseous and absolutely terrified. I showed Curtis the blood and he looked excited… but, when he realized I didn’t share that, he stood up and embraced me.
“What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. I’m scared,” I told him.
“What are you scared of?”
“I don’t know!”
“Are you afraid that this is going to be labour soon?”
“Maybe… I don’t know. I’m having this panic attack and I can’t make it stop”.
I told Curtis I wanted to call the midwife, Jill, but I also didn’t want to because it was nearly one in the morning and disturbing her over a panic attack and a little bit of blood is totally ridiculous. I mean really, who does that? Something in the back of my head kept telling me that this was going to be labour soon, but since I wasn’t really having any regular contractions I couldn’t go on that as a good reason to call. I really did not want another false alarm, this time in the middle of the night. My panic attack continued to swell and soon I was sitting in the bathroom crying, pacing back and forth. I kept saying, “I’m scared,” but had no idea why.

“This makes me think you’re about to go into labour.” Curtis gestured to me as I leaned on the bathroom sink.
“Why?”
“You’re keeping really close to the tub. You keep coming out for a moment or two, but immediately finding yourself back in here. The bathroom isn’t exactly spacious or comfortable for pacing, but you had Xan in here and I just get the impression that you’re trying to stay close to it because your instincts are kicking in. And I think this panic is you reacting to labour being imminent.” As much as I didn’t want to think about it, he had a good point. After another few contractions I finally asked Curtis if he would call her for me.

I tried to avoid talking to her on the phone because for some reason I figured this would make me feel less embarrassed. You know, like maybe pass it off like he called her and not me, because I’m holding up remarkably well and all that. Naturally that didn’t work; she really wanted to hear me talk about why I was feeling so nervous. While I was on the phone with her I openly sobbed, still not entirely sure why, and had several contractions in a row. The last one felt particularly toe-curling so I gave the phone back to Curtis and paced myself back into the bathroom so I could bite on a towel to muffle my crying. As I paced, Curtis started following me around with the phone held out and taking the towels away from me every time I tried to bite on them. I yelled at him, “What the fuck are you doing?”
He shook the phone at me. “She’s trying to listen to your contractions!”
“… oh.” Double embarrassed.

He finally left me alone and I heard him talking with Jill for a few more minutes, telling her that he thought I was going to go into labour but I was too embarrassed to ask her to come by since nothing had started yet. She had a strong trust for mother’s instincts, and really felt that she should come over, but decided she would take her time getting ready to respect my worries that it would all disappear in a few minutes and I’d end up feeling silly to have ever called. She asked to speak to me again so she could tell me this herself.
“I’ll call you after I’ve prepped and had a cup of coffee, and if you’re still having the odd contraction and feeling nervous, then I’ll come over and we’ll just hang out for a bit, okay?”
“Okay,” I answered, not at all confident that this was an aleight thing to do. If it was one in the afternoon I wouldn’t feel so bad, but I’d awakened someone up from sleep for what amounted to a few hard contractions and a panic attack, and I was really worried that everything would stop and I’d feel just fine as soon as she walked in the door… meaning I woke her up and dragged her out of her house in the middle of the night for nothing.

When 20 minutes were up she called again and asked for an update: I’d had about three more irregular contractions and was still feeling panicky, so she made the decision for me and said she was going to come on over and keep me company.
As soon as she arrived I apologized for waking her up over “nothing”, and she reassured me that it’s never nothing if I’m feeling this uneasy. She assured me she had lots of paperwork she could do if I just wanted to have her hanging around for an hour, and then sat down at my kitchen table and pulled out a large folder as proof.
We ended up sitting in the livingroom chatting for almost half an hour. I cried off and on and continued to have mild-to-moderate, irregular contractions with a bigger one thrown in at random. Jill and Curtis gave me hugs and talked me through the anxiety, which slowly began to fade the more I verbalized it. All it took was saying out loud, “I’m scared!” and crying hard for a moment or two to feel like I was starting to come out of it.
Jill gave me another big hug, “Are you upset that you called me?”
“Sort of,” I answered honestly. “Nothing is really happening, so I’m kind of worried this will disappear and I’ll feel stupid for bringing you over.”
“I don’t mind at all; that’s what a midwife is for.”
“It’s been eight years since I’ve had a midwife, I feel like I’ve forgotten what to do with one! I don’t really know when I’m supposed to call!”
She laughed. “That’s right you did your last two on your own! Of all the things you know how to do really well, I guess calling a midwife is probably not so high on the list? Well, I’m honoured to be your first midwife in eight years!”

As we approached the 40 minute mark I was feeling a lot better, but the weird irregular contractions hadn’t changed at all. I asked Jill if I could have a cervical check; telling her that I was going to send her home after this so I could wait for real labour to hit… but I wanted to satisfy my curiosity first.
She joked that I’d been sitting on the cusp of labour for nearly a week now and sometimes all it takes is, “Jill’s magic fingers” (a cervical check, not a membrane sweep) to make all the difference. I was 4-5cm dilated and 90% effaced that afternoon when I’d asked for my second ever check this pregnancy, and I’d been sitting there since my prodromal labour began five days earlier.
“This is a very different cervix than I felt this afternoon,” Jill said quietly. I had no idea if that was good or bad. “Can we wait until you have another contraction so I can feel what they’re doing?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said. Naturally, this meant that the contractions practically stopped, so she was sitting there with her fingers in my vagina for fourteen very awkward minutes while we waited for the next one to hit. Curtis was sitting on the other side of me and we made a few really rude jokes about how ridiculous it was to have all three of us laying on my bed with someone’s fingers in my vagina that weren’t his.
Finally a mild one came.
There was silence for a few seconds as Jill felt my cervix for changes. “How does this one feel?” she asked.
“It’s uncomfortable to be on my back, but it’s not at all labour-y,” I answered.
“Hmm,” she said. All these ambiguous noises were not giving me any ideas about what was going on and it was making me antsy.
When the contraction ended she showed me her fingers, which were covered in quite a bit more bloody show. “Well,” she started. “You’re not in active labour, and there’s no pattern to these little contractions, but you’re seven centimeters dilated and pushing to eight with a contraction. So… I’m not going to go home!”
“Are you shitting me?”
She laughed, “Active labour could start any time between now and six hours from now, but it will start before 6am, I guarantee you, and once it comes on it’ll go fast. Want to call your doula?”.
I nodded, still stunned. Curtis got up and grabbed both the phone and the call list to let both MJ and my photographer know they should get ready to come over. I snapped out of my daze when I heard him talking on the phone and yelled out to make sure they know to take their time, since active labour hadn’t hit yet. Just as I finished saying that a very hard, very labour-like contraction hit. I actually had to moan through it. Three minutes later another one came, and then another three minutes after that.
“Okay,” I called out to Curtis again, “Maybe instead tell them to come faster.”
“See?” said Jill with a smile, “Jill’s magic fingers!” She held her hands up and wiggled her fingers back and forth.

The contractions were now coming three minutes apart like clockwork, hard and intense. Active labour had officially started: it was 2:20am. Curtis and Jill went into the livingroom to set up the birth pool. Jill gave it a last bit of air to firm up the sides while Curtis brought the hose out of the bathroom to start filling it up. At first I was nervous that the pool was going to be filled too soon and it would get cold before it was time to get in… but by the time it had enough hot water in it to run the tank cold I was pacing next to the pool, impatiently waiting to get inside.
Curtis filled it with hot water first and then used cold to bring it back down to a comfortable temperature. By filling it that way he assured we had as much heat as possible, as soon as possible, although we still ended up needing a few pots of boiling water and a few minutes of a cold hose to get the water level high enough to offer some relief. All in all it took no more than 20 minutes to fill, and by that point I was desperate to get in.

The backup midwife, Julia, arrived with a medical bag and started setting up our kitchen table with equipment and receiving blankets. Jill and Julia stepped aside to discuss something to each other, but I couldn’t hear them over the sound of my own noises: the contractions were intensifying much faster than I was prepare to handle, and had already gotten to the point where I felt like I couldn’t take them anymore. My bones were starting to feel tired and sore. Jill picked up on my exhaustion and prompted me to start drinking Gatorade to stay hydrated.
When the pool was finally ready I got Curtis’ help to get in and slid into the water. Relief! My spinal fusions were hurting terribly with each contraction, but being submerged took a lot of the weight off my back and made them much easier to handle. I could feel my whole body sighing in ecstasy. I sat on my knees, leaning over the edge of the tub with Curtis sitting on a chair in front of me. Originally he was going to get in the pool with me for support, but I wouldn’t let him go put his swim trunks on so he never did end up leaving that chair.

During each contraction I made low sounds and tried to keep my body relaxed. They hurt a lot; far more than I was expecting from this early stage of labour and far more than I remember my other labours hurting. I was having a really hard time dealing with the pain and was starting to feel that desperate, anxious feeling in my chest that makes you think you’re spinning out of control. It scared me.
Curtis was a rock: he held my hand, rubbed my shoulders and whispered in my ear through each contraction, saying I was doing so well and that I could make it through. As each contraction faded he’d tell me he was proud, that he loved me, and that I had made it through one more; bringing me that much closer to birth.

Somewhere around this point both my doula, Mary Jo, and my photographer Shealyn arrived; though I didn’t notice either come in.

Mary Jo had a bowl with ice in it that she used to soak cloths for my back, forehead and shoulders. When she saw me reach for my back during a contraction, she put counterpressure on my spine without me having to ask. She poured me a glass of iced Gatorade with a bendy straw and held it up for me to drink while Curtis held my hands and my body tight. I’ve never needed so much support during labour; and I’ve never had so much support. I felt incredibly loved; emotionally, it was wonderful.

Physically was a different matter. My back hurt so much. This wasn’t a posterior labour, for once, but it hurt far worse than my past OP births with the pain of contractions was centered squarely in my fusions; spine and pelvis. I tried everything I could think to take the rising pressure off my vertebrae, but the further labour went on the harder it was to find anything that was even remotely helpful.
I could feel baby moving and spinning as she got herself into position for birth, making my bones ache each time she completed another circle. She was so active during labour. Jill checked her heart rate with a waterproof doppler a few times to ensure she was doing well, and it was perfect every time.

I asked baby out loud to please stop moving and find a comfortable position. I begged for the contractions to space out; they were coming fast and hard, less than two minutes apart and lasting almost as long now. I wanted to be strong and confident like I’d felt in my other births, but my brain was screaming stop! At one point I remember crying out, “I don’t want to have her anymore! I want labour to go away!”. I didn’t care if it meant I’d be pregnant another week, or another month, or forever – I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. The pain was exhausting. In the short space between contractions I would think to myself that if I could only get my fusions to stop taking the brunt of the pressure, I’d be able to handle this no problem.

My normal coping skills for pain were useless. I tried several different visualizations through the pain: old ones of water flowing through tubes that worked for me during the worst of my labour with Tempest, or one of coloured air traveling through spirals that I used while labouring with Xan; but neither of those did a thing to help me focus. I finally found one that made me feel a little more in control: I imagined the contractions as a stream of water shooting upward, hitting a glass ceiling and spreading slowly along the underside of the glass before dripping back down into a quiet pool of water. Once they hit the top of the ceiling they would not get more intense and I told myself if I could handle them there, I could handle it the rest of the way through. That worked for about 20 minutes, and by that point in labour 20 minutes felt like an eternity.

Throughout this part of the evening I was battling the fear that the contractions would go on at this level for hours upon hours, and I knew there was no way I could handle them if that happened. It didn’t even occur to me that if I’d entered active labour at 7-8 centimeters dilated, that my entire labour was transition, and that’s why it felt so scary and intense.
I cried out over and over that I didn’t want this to last forever, that I couldn’t do it, that it hurt too bad. There were so many calm voices around me, all telling me I could make it through and that it was going to be okay. I kept my eyes closed and tried to stay relaxed between contractions; listening to Jill, Mary Jo and Curtis encouraging me. Just as I started thinking that I was doing okay, the intensity shifted again and suddenly the contractions felt ten times worse. Instead of moaning I was screaming. My spinal fusions felt like they were breaking.

I wanted Jill to check me, to offer some insight that this would end soon. She had me turn around and sit on my bum so she could reach my cervix, and a quick check told her that I was complete. I likely had been for some time now, but I did not feel the urge to push, and after a few more contractions I still didn’t feel it. She asked me if I wanted to try a little push during the next contraction to see how it would feel, but my bones hurt so badly that I didn’t think I had the strength to. I tried pushing between contractions instead, but instead of relief, it just hurt more. I decided I hated pushing and didn’t want to do it at all, ever, for any reason.

The contractions were coming one on top of the other now, and I felt completely out of control. My body felt like it was desperately trying to work through the next stage and couldn’t. I refused to push, I felt no urge, I was afraid of the pain, and that nagging fear of this going on forever was starting to get a lot bigger. I was resisting hard and the lack of urge made it easy to hold her in. It had barely been over an hour and a half; this was going way, way too fast and it was scaring the ever-loving crap out of me.

Jill checked me again to see where her head was and felt a giant bulging bag. It was so full that even with the little pushes I was willing to make, it wasn’t bringing her down very far. The bag was full enough to dull the urge, which is why I still wasn’t feeling anything even as she began to slip through my cervix. During a contraction Jill tried pushing the bag to one side and baby immediately slammed down hard and fast. It was way too intense for me and I asked her to stop. I was so overwhelmed by the experience; I felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I’d now been complete, without the urge to push, with back to back pushing contractions, for probably close to 20 minutes. I was starting to lose myself in the intensity of the experience.
Jill reassured me that I was in control of my labour, and my body, and told me that I could choose how this would go. She was very sensitive to how scared I felt, and how badly I needed the support of those around me, and laid out my choices for me so I knew where I could go from here.
On one hand she could to break my water if I wanted this to go faster: with how fast baby came down when she pushed the bag, she was confident I’d have her out in less than a few minutes if it broke. I’d also finally feel the urge to push.
On the other I could keep the bag in tact and make some pushes on my own time, which would make labour go longer (potentially for some time), but may be a little less intense.
I loved the idea of getting her out sooner, but was way too scared of feeling the urge to push. I opted to keep the bag intact and try self-directed pushing again. I moved back onto my knees, sitting on the cushioned floor of the pool with my head buried in Curtis’ shoulder while he gripped my hands.

The next contraction hit and Jill gently reminded me to give pushing another try. I gave a little push, and then a bigger one. It hurt so bad. I started screaming again; it felt like my pelvis was breaking apart, so I screamed louder.
“FUCKING OW!”
“That’s it! Get mad at it!” Jill said. Her voice never wavered from positive and gentle; never forceful and never impatient despite my stubbornness. She encouraged me to direct the scream lower and push with it. As the contraction ended I felt shaky and exhausted. I started crying, leaning on Curtis and telling him I was too scared to let her go.
Another contraction hit twenty seconds later. It was too soon; I’d barely had time to take a single deep breath. “Why, why why?” I yelled.
“It’s because you’re almost done,” answered Jill. Her voice was calm and comforting. “Your baby is coming.”
I felt the bag of waters bulging out against the bottom of the pool. I tried to lift my bum up off the floor to give it space, knowing she’d be born in the caul if I could, but I just didn’t have the strength to hold myself up. As I pushed with the contraction the caul spread out along the bottom of the padded pool floor beneath me and filled with water until it felt tight like an over-inflated balloon. I could feel the pressure in it building against my skin until it had no more room to expand beneath me and popped, shooting amniotic fluid out so fast it nearly lifted my bottom off the floor.
“My water broke!” I yelled. The baby’s head came down hard and I could feel her turning as she made her way through my pelvis. The peak of the contraction was too much to bear. Now I felt the urge to push.

I moved my hands down between my legs so I could feel for her head: it was coming out fast and I had no room to birth her in that position. I tried again to lift myself onto all fours, and couldn’t: my legs wouldn’t work. I had slipped a hip joint just prior to going into labour that night, and it hadn’t gone back in yet… I was really feeling it now.
Jill gently reached underneath me to see if she was crowning, seeing as I was in no position to tell her, and upon realizing she was she told me what I already knew, “You can’t birth baby in that position Heather, there isn’t enough room. You can either move onto all fours or have someone help you turn onto your side.”
I already knew all fours was a no-go from my earlier attempts. “On my side,” I answered. Curtis and Mary Jo helped me turn onto my side and I pushed hard with another contraction. I felt the burn of her head crowning at its fullest almost immediately. Jill told me she was coming too fast and urged me to huff and puff so I could ease her out without tearing. I could barely hear her over the sound of my own screaming. I opened my eyes and saw her face next to Curtis’, both wearing soft expression and looking into my eyes, speaking together, easing me through. They told me I was doing well and that it was almost done. Even as her head crowned I didn’t believe them; this was going to last forever and she’d never come out.
“You’re doing it,” Curtis said.
“She’s coming. You’re doing it,” echoed Jill. They were both smiling. As scared as I was, when I looked into their faces the moment didn’t feel as frightening; so long as they kept my gaze, I knew it would be okay.

Jill urged me again to slow down. I was screaming, “Ow, ow, ow!” and couldn’t help but push harder. I kept my hands down, supporting my perineum so I could feel her head slip out of me. It was soft and smooth, still partially covered in a bit of the caul. It felt like silk under the water and she slid through my fingers as though she were floating. While I screamed and cried above the surface, below she was emerging peacefully; quick and smooth like a seal gliding through cool water. I gently supported her crowning head with both my hands and pushed hard. I felt a hard popping sensation as the largest part of her head flew between my hands – neck, shoulders, chest all came out in a single, quick movement. I felt her shoulders stretch in small circles as she tried to free one of her arms. Jill reached down to support her body, again urging me to slow down if I could. I couldn’t: one more half push and she flew out. Jill caught her as she burst into the water with a gush of blood.
“Reach down and grab your baby!”

My hands were shaking. Is it over? She helped me lift a tiny little body out of the water and pull her toward my chest. As she emerged I saw a grey baby with a head full of thick black hair, dark skin and long fingers. She looked exactly like Jericho. Everything around me quieted and my vision closed in around a vision of her floating in front of me. I watched her come toward me, believing her to be Jericho in my birth delirium even as Jill put her warm body on to mine. I stared at her laying there, watching as she moved her arms and legs and began to cough, but I didn’t understand.
“Is she alive? Is she alive?”
“She’s alive!”
I didn’t hear anyone answering me. “Is she alive?”. Her first, soft cries filled the room but I kept repeating the question over and over again. My head was in a bubble of fog and confusion and my heart pounded; I couldn’t quite hear or feel her, even though she was laying there on my chest crying and reaching her tiny fingers out. My midwife and doula kept answering me, “Yes, she’s alive! She’s okay!” until finally something clicked in my brain… and when I looked at her I saw a new baby girl. “She’s alive! Oh my god, she’s alive!”

Curtis was still sitting on a chair behind me, holding me up, Xan was to one side of the pool with Tempest next to us. She was wiping her eyes a little, tearing silently as she stared at her new sibling.
“Look Tempest, it’s a baby!” I said. She smiled brightly in return, but was too stunned to speak.

I picked up my new baby and lay her over my legs, submerged to her chest in the water. She fussed a little, moving her head around and reaching out her arms. I stroked her hair and ran my fingers over the curves of her face, lost in the awe of her existence. Somehow I didn’t expect this to happen; to see a new person living and breathing in front of me. I lost track of time, and was no longer aware of anything going on around me. The next thing I remember is Jill saying, “Let’s deliver a placenta!” and asking me to push gently through a moderate contraction to get it out. All the fear and anxiety I’d been feeling had melted out of my body and was replaced with a birth high. My spine didn’t hurt, my stomach wasn’t turning, I felt no heartburn, no nerve pain shooting down my legs… and while my body felt weak from the intensity of such a fast birth, I was floating in the afterglow of natural childbirth.


Xan, eager to help, holds hot towels and waits for someone to ask him for them.

My legs were still quite shaky; birthing her was so intense I didn’t think I even had the strength left to sit, so when Jill asked if I could move to the bedroom so she could better gauge my bleeding I was at a loss as to how I’d get there. Curtis had been holding me up all this time, watching our new baby over my shoulder but a little afraid to reach out and touch her lest he let go of me and let me slip completely into the water. Several people had to work together to help me stand up and walk the ten steps to my bedroom. Curtis held me and I held the baby as Jill set up a spot on my bed for me to lay down. My body was melting into the bed as soon as I hit it: it was so comfortable. It felt amazing to lay down and relax.

I was so grateful for the love that surrounded me.

Curtis went into the kitchen and made me a plate of peanut butter toast while the kids cuddled in next to me to stare at their new sister. I grabbed my phone and made a few updates to Twitter and Facebook and Jill joked about my use of technology in birth.

I felt so surreal; like I was floating in a dream. It took hours to come down off the high.
Jill checked me over for tears. I told her I was pretty sure I had torn after feeling that pop of baby’s head coming through straight down to her chest: she came out at ludicrous speed.


Upon hearing that Jill is going to check me for tears, the kids’ interest is piqued and they both peek down to see what I look like after giving birth.

Surprisingly, everything looked fine. Even my bleeding was good! And after I’d been able to have something to eat and drink, my physical exhaustion went away completely and I felt fantastic.
After we’d had almost two hours to sit and cuddle, Jill asked if she could check baby over. She was so calm and quiet as she was moved to the foot of the bed. The kids gathered around to help cut her cord and Jill got their help weighing and measuring her. Everyone took guesses on her weight. I said 7lbs 8oz, Jill said 8lbs, and Julia the backup midwife said 7lbs 14oz… which was spot on. She was 21 inches long with a 36.5cm head circumference.


Jill involved the kids in everything she did, from weighing and measuring to cutting the cord to listening to her heart… they were in awe of the experience, and never once felt nervous or excluded.

We put the special newborn diaper on her, the same diaper both Xan and Tempest wore immediately after birth, and Curtis swaddled her up and cuddled with her for a bit. She was wide awake, gazing around the room and taking in the world. She stayed in that quiet alert for a good two or three hours before finally having a tiny little nurse and drifting off to sleep.

As Jill was packing up, I apologized to her again for calling her too early. I felt kind of silly being a fourth-timer and still not quite knowing when labour was really coming on. “You may have called me early, but with a case like yours I’d rather you called me too early than wait until you were sure it was labour… with how you were silently progressing before I checked your cervix, if you’d waited until active labour hit to let me know about it I don’t think I would have made it in time! And I was three minutes away!”
In retrospect, given how much emotional support I’d so desperately needed during that very intense experience, I’m glad I called her when I did.


Her first smile, and it’s at the midwife!

Everyone was gone by 6:30am. Curtis moved out to the livingroom to get an hour of sleep while the kids watched a movie before going to school. They were way, way too excited to keep home all day; we desperately needed some rest after pulling an all-nighter. After the kids were gone Curtis crawled into bed with us and dozed with his hand on Zephyra’s belly as she lay sleeping in a loose swaddle. I stayed awake until nearly 10:30 watching her before I was able to drift off.
The rest of the day was filled with love and food and wonderful things. After spending most of the day resting, we invited my family over and had an impromtu welcoming party. My dad and his partner Beth, my brother and his wife and their baby girl, my sister and my mom were all piled into the livingroom celebrating her birth. Everyone brought a dish of food so we had a gorgeous potluck dinner of chicken curry, champagne, olives, bread and good cheese, strawberries and New York cheesecake, fresh seasonal fruit and a large bottle of sparkling white wine. The guy who owns the corner store across the street even gave us a free box of licorice cigars to hand out.
Only 12 hours after she was born and here we were having a big party with everyone loving us up and exchanging food and hugs. It was wonderful. At one point during the event I pulled Curtis aside and told him, “This is what I love about homebirth. If we want a quiet day, we can choose not to tell a soul and do nothing but cuddle to sleep. And if we want a party, we can have a party to welcome her to the world.” By that point of the evening I was feeling better than I had in nearly a year; I wanted to celebrate it!

Welcome to the world Zephyra Adia!

All photo credits to Shealyn Jackson Photography.

Now with video!

Comments

comments

68 Comments

  • Beautiful story! I wish I could have had a home birth. I am glad I went to the hospital though. I seriously think either Ari or I would have died. I got stuck at 9 cm and he was 10 lbs 13 oz. This was also at 37 weeks!

    He also ended up not breathing and having to be intubated and so on.

    Congrats on your newest addition, she is gorgeous. Wonderful pictures as well!.

  • Thank you!

    I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I just discovered your blog tonight.

    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story, and these gorgeous photos. You have a beautiful, vibrant family; your writing style is a perfect complement to the intimacy and immediacy of the photographs.

    Your children are lovely, and are obviously intelligent, caring, exuberant people. I applaud you.

  • hoodwink says:

    Love the pic with you, Tempest and Zephyra. :)Congrats!

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow, just, omg wow. As someone who wants kids but is afraid of labor this scares the crap out of me lol You are an amazingly strong person to have done so well, even though you were scared, I would have been huddled in a corner somewhere demanding for it all to stop. And Zephyra is beautiful 🙂

    BTW, I keep meaning to remember to ask this (& this probably isn’t the time, but if I don’t ask I won’t remember) but how is Krazy’s cancer treatments going? I meant to ask when you posted the link about curing cancer, but between crying on the phone to my sister about it & researching the drug I got side tracked.

  • Anonymous says:

    I cried tear of joy for you. Such a radiant, soothing, exquisite birth experience.

    Welcome earthside, little Zephyra. We’ve been waiting to meet you. <3

    http://notjustmom.com

  • real_bethy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this intimate moment with those of us who read your journal. It was so lovely to hear how your labour unfolded and to witness how you truly came into your power as you birthed your daughter. I had something really scary and creepy happen to me tonight, and reading your birth story reminded me of the beautiful things in my life as a doula and as a fairy godmother…you gave me back my sense of safety and put a smile on my face. I hope that you enjoy your babymoon – you totally deserve it! Zephyra is gorgeous (like all your babies!) and I know that she will live a life that is blissed and blessed! Mazel tov!

  • gardenmama says:

    Love, love, love all the photos. I love how in every one where you are laboring, Curtis is just so intently focused on you. And I love the ones after you’ve climbed into bed, where the kids are in with you and you and Curtis are looking at each other 🙂

    Your labor with this one reminds me of my second. If you count my first from water breaking (no contractions for hours afterward) to birth, it was 24 hours and 10 minutes. If you count my second from the first contraction to birth, it was almost 31 hours. But that first day the contractions were all really mild, 15 minutes apart, I slept that night, and woke with more intense contractions, still 15 minutes apart all day long. After 25 hours of that, I had actually made it to 6 cm. I had convinced myself that it wasn’t “really labor” and could last for days, so when I was checked I was shocked that there had been any progress at all. From that point on, it was like going over the lip of the roller coaster, fast, intense, and there’s no turning back. I think at that point I gave myself permission to be in labor. From 6 cm to birth was almost six hours of extremely intense labor.

    Love that birth high from natural birth. I wish I’d been able to birth in the water. But not enough to want to do it again 😉

  • I made my husband read this and it may have convinced him we are ready to have kids! I knew are (and he really did, too) but seeing the photos and descriptions too away some of his anxiety about the actual birth process. He was nervous because I am adopted so I have no medical history I can turn to.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful! Birth is incredible, and you did it so well. 🙂

  • eiretamicha says:

    Very beautiful birth story, Heather, and I’m so glad you have shared once again. This is the third birth story of yours that I have read(Tempest was already born when I added you to my friends list), and each one of your stories has been such a gift. I can’t believe it’s been so many years! And now I am finally pregnant with my first baby and so the birth stories I read now affect me a little differently and make me cry a little bit harder! 🙂

    Congratulations to you, Curtis, Tempest, Xan…and to Jericho whose story touched my heart and my life and left a little handprint on my womb, too. You make such beautiful babies.

    Enjoy your babymoon! You deserve it!! ♥

  • loverly says:

    Oh man, the stories the other kids must have heard at school that day 😀 Such a beautiful story, congratulations again and kudos to your amazing photographer!

  • mammaopal says:

    Wow, Heather.
    Wow.

    I feel so honored to read your story. Your writing is so beautiful, it feels like I was right there with you. This story is pulsing. The photographs are perfect. I want to comment on every single one, but that would be too confusing. I love the looks on the faces of your children. All three of the kids are like, “Whoa. Amazing things are happening right now”
    What a gift for Tempest and Xan to have attended the birth of Zephyra! What a gift.
    Speaking of gifts, Heather. YOU are a gift to all of us. I am so grateful to be witness to your strength and determination during this pregnancy, birth and the last two weeks. You were unwell and in so much constant pain through this pregnancy, and yet you took the time to sit down and write about the beauty and good feelings that came with it as well. Your birth pushed your body and spirit to it’s breaking point, and yet you were aware of the people supporting you and hearing their words and being grateful for them.
    You are such a Warrior!!

    The pain you experienced in you short birth reminds me so much of my own. I had Yelqotkwe in under 2 hours. It was so scary to feel out of control. My contractions made me want to leave my body every two minutes and I screamed and screamed and held on to the side of my hospital bed for dear life. I hated feeling like I had no control. I was embarassed that I wasn’t finding any zen in the experience and was frantic. I was all alone, and reading about your support makes me weep with gratitude for you. I’m SO glad you had people surrounding you with love and holding you. That’s the reason I became a Doula after my last birth. I don’t think any woman should be alone the way I was. Especially in the hospital. It really changes things to bring a baby into the world surrounded with love and warmth.

  • conchispa says:

    Simply amazing! Congratulations!!!

  • eliza261 says:

    this was beautiful.. thank-you for sharing your story…

  • It seems like an odd thing to say in response to your post, but I feel like thanking you.

    So much of what you’ve written here is familiar. I read it earlier and just kept thinking “I understand that feeling. I could have written that sentence” and so on.

    My son’s birth last July made me feel very out of control and frightened. I dearly wish that I’d had the strength to keep going, to have a natural birth, but he was posterior and I was afraid so I caved, and ended up having an epidural and eventually a forceps delivery. I’m eternally thankful that it only went that far, but that was far enough. But I remember thinking that I couldn’t go on, and feeling utterly terrified, and now all I wish is that I could go back in time and tell myself not to panic. Oh, and to tell my husband not to sit there like a mouldy sack of potatoes and actually advocate for me when questions were being thrown my way and all I could do was scream in pain and terror.

    I hope it’s different next time. This may sound really strange, but I feel like I can draw strength from your description of Zephyra’s birth and hopefully, hopefully, make it through with less or no intervention. All too often, descriptions of natural births are full of descriptions of it being wonderful and fantastic and so on, but it’s far rarer to find someone telling it straight – that it was scary and daunting and it fucking hurt, and to be honest, that makes those of us who tried and failed to do it au naturel feel just that bit worse about ourselves…

    But my overriding feeling after reading your birth story is that I really, really want to do it again. I was so numb, physically and emotionally, after my son was born that I feel like I missed out on enjoying his early days. I love him to pieces, but I feel… robbed. I wasn’t a reader until you were pregnant with Xan, but both his and Zephyra’s birth stories are just so full of hope and joy and wonder that I can’t help but wish I could feel the same way.

    So thankyou, and congratulations on a wonderful birth, and a beautiful baby 🙂

    • admin says:

      I’m so sorry your birth went that way. 🙁 But, I’m glad that you were able to avoid a cesarean and the additional pain/recovery that would have meant.

      Having support is so, so, SO important for a hard birth. If I didn’t have people around me holding onto me physically… there is no way I would have made it through as happily as I did. It was exhausting and excruciating but in spite of that I am really happy with how it went and that’s 100% because of the support around me. I can never underestimate that power again, and I can’t imagine trying to do it with a partner who wasn’t emotionally there for me and focused on me.

      Re: your comments about joyous birth –
      I think those birth experiences are just as valid as the scary ones. Xan’s birth was totally peaceful and really easy. Like, shockingly easy. And up until the cesarean threat, Jericho’s birth was like that too. Zephyra is the hardest birth I’ve ever had – BY FAR – and it could have easily been a negative or frightening experience without that support and love. To be perfectly honest I was totally emotionally unprepared for a difficult birth! I’ve had such easy ones that I really didn’t expect that.

      • In my husband’s defense, I think he froze up because he was just as scared as I was 🙁

        I don’t object to reading about joyous birth experiences at all, but as a first-timer without a clue, it’s so, so easy to delude yourself into believing that it’s going to be a cakewalk. I know I wasn’t expecting the sheer intensity of it, and I had all these grand plans and ideas that blew rather spectacularly up in my face… but the hard ones are still doable the way you want. You’ve proven that! I just hope I can prove in to myself someday 🙂

        • gardenmama says:

          I had a similar experience with my first (ending up on pitocin and then needing pain meds) and it was so not the experience that I wanted. What I wasn’t prepared for was not being able to advocate for myself. I was exhausted, and every ounce of my energy was devoted to what my body was doing. I couldn’t even speak during the most intense parts of labor.

          For my second, I convinced my husband that we should have a doula. We both, now, agree that it was the best decision ever. She provided the support that we both needed to have my second son completely naturally (in a hospital). Yes, husbands get scared. They don’t have any more experience at this than we do, and considerably less natural instinct. They see a person they love in pain and they want it to go away. Having a doula helped my husband realize that what I was going through was something I could endure with his help, and she helped him see how he could help me. He confessed afterward that he felt completely helpless at our first birth, and just agreed with everything the doctor said, even though it threw our birth plan completely out the window.

          Sorry, didn’t mean to highjack. But look into getting a doula!

        • admin says:

          I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply your husband was a deadbeat or something. 🙁 Husbands and partners get scared too, and that’s okay. Like the other poster said, doulas are beautiful for just that reason.

          And, I hope you get a really wonderful birth experience (whether it be intense or peaceful) one day too. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    from http://www.billiebutton.me

    This is such a beautifully written and honest birth story. You really made it come alive and I feel so honoured to have been able to read it. Thank you. The photos are glorious and such a precious thing to have. I am now incredibly excited at the prospect of birthing again soon. The excitement has been building up for a little while now and I am glad because at the beginning of my pregnancy I never thought I could be excited about birthing again, after the challenges we faced last time and the way my health has declined over the last year. I am remembering my strength though. I realise that what will be will be and that there is no use in dreading something, when I could be enjoying things instead. So, I guess what I’m saying is that hearing stories like these, of women who have birthed despite disabilities and difficult journeys, allow me to let go to the process and accept that I have fears but I do not need to let them rule my journey. So, thank you again.

  • ruethee says:

    I’m bawling, Heather. And speechless. So beautiful.

  • Such beautiful photos and a wonderful story 🙂 You’re my birthing inspiration!!!!

  • sualkin says:

    LOVE the photos!
    It’s really amazing how fucking intense short births are. I still don’t totally feel over Auri’s birth, lol. It was just SO fast!
    I told Jeremy about how you guys had your pool all ready blown up for a while and he joked that we should’ve done that too, lol.

  • azdesertrose says:

    All I got is YAYAYAY!

    YAY for you, YAY for Zephyra, and YAY for the birth story! 🙂

  • oopidsnot says:

    So much love for you and your family. So much.
    *hugs*

  • Wow! What an experience. As always, you’ve narrated it beautifully. I couldn’t help but cry with joy. Congratulations!

    Beautiful pictures. Beautiful family. Amazing story.

  • jadethe2nd says:

    Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing — I am grinning like an idiot now 🙂

  • lolacat says:

    This is so beautiful. Reading this makes me want to have another baby. I hate pregnancy, but I love birth! Zephyra is gorgeous, and you are amazing for enduring such a hard pregnancy. And of course, you are a birthing goddess!

  • janaya says:

    The narrative + the photos makes an unbelievable impact.

    It is crazy to have a labor that’s all transition – I so clearly remember thinking “There is no WAY I can handle hours and hours more of this!”

  • Okay, first …. Naked!Excited!Xan cracked me the hell up in that picture. I started giggling and couldn’t stop because all the stories you’ve told of him, I feel like THAT picture captures his little spirit. Second, oh my god, the look on Tempest’s face in both those pictures, the one where she was crying and the one where you’re looking at her … God, I cried to hard. What a wonderful thing for her!

    EEE! You had a BABY! And she’s GORGEOUS! I hope this tongue tie thing works itself out some more, but I’m also glad that the finger feedings are at least helping!

  • Awesome. In the true sense of the word. Birth is so incredible! You really are a birth rockstar Heather!

  • hooray! great story/experience, everything 🙂 love the pictures <3

  • sequiro says:

    I was going through these and I thought to myself “Who is that naked kid by the pool?” It took me a few more lines to realize it was Xan with short hair! I LOVE that he put on a shirt, but he’s still nude below the waist in all the rest of the photos.

  • Anonymous says:

    eBirdie

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this and a very heartfelt congratulations to your family. Just beautiful.

  • auraofmyself says:

    This is incredible! I am in awe and very jealous 🙂

  • facethemoon says:

    THE PHOTOS ARE FINALLY FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I see more?

    Also, I actually arrived before Julia. Jill had set up the table before she even arrived. I think Shaelyn actually arrived before Julia too! We were all SUPER stealth and you were in the zone, there was no distracting you for anything.

    I’m glad you heard us all through the birth haze. I know you were scared, but I was really hoping you’d hear Curtis, Jill, and I, to help ease the burden a little.

    She came SO FAST! It was crazy! And beautiful. And oh I started crying again. Birth is SO BEAUTIFUL! You did amazing. And you’re right, coping mechanisms that would normally work, don’t always work for short, fast, intense labours. They just don’t. I just wanted to hug you the whole time, and tell you it was okay and that you were strong. But I didn’t dare touch your stomach. 😉

    I have your birth story done too. I’ll email it to you today. ♥

    • admin says:

      HAHAHA! I forgot about that, when Curtis touched my tummy during a contraction and you guys were all like, “DON’T TOUCH THE STOMACH” in unison. That was hilarious.

      It took me forever to write this largely because the experience was so intense I couldn’t remember what order things happened in. :-X So this was my best attempt!
      It was amazing having you all there. In the past I’ve seen photos/videos of births with lots of attendants and thought, “Why on earth would you have so many people there?”… and now I totally get it. It’s not for everyone, or even every time, but when you need it, being surrounded by people focusing their positive energy on you is AMAZING.

    • admin says:

      Right, more photos. The whole gallery is online. I’ll FB you.

  • Lovely. Just perfect, enviable, wonderful. 🙂

  • bluealoe says:

    I can’t believe this is the FOURTH time I’ve read a birth story from you.

    Out of curiosity, was there any particular reason you thought it’d be June 2, or just a feeling?

    After reading this entry, I have one thought: you are fucking awesome, and your entire family is amazing. It sounds like you couldn’t possibly have had a better midwife and birth support team. (And I had to laugh at not letting Curtis go put his swim trunks on.)

    The photo of your and Curtis’ hands says so much. It sums up your relationship: the love and support and being there no matter what.

    The pictures of you in labor do look painful, but there’s something else there as well. I can’t find the right word, but the expression on your face seems to say that it’s worth it. That through the pain, there’s something good, and you’re focused and intent on achieving that miracle.

    The color photo of Tempest and Xan leaning on the birth pool is just lovely. They’re so full of wonder and curiosity and joy. It completely captures how wonderful including siblings can be.

    The last photo, of the five of you…it makes me grin like a total fool.

    *hugs* I love you.

  • Anonymous says:

    The picture of Curtis holding your hand with all three kids in bed is SO beautiful, I hope you frame it. Congratulations!

  • mami_chilena says:

    Precious, absolutely precious! This inspired me even more to have my homebirth. Thank you so much for sharing. You’re amazing!

  • Anonymous says:

    Circle

    I got a phone call about an hour ago to tell me that my 98-year-old grandmother (Marian’s, too) had died in the night. She and I were incredibly, incredibly close. I have been sitting since then trying to figure out what to DO with myself in my shock. What clothes to put on, do I make breakfast, how does this grief thing go again?

    And I have been waiting all week to read your birth story, so excited. Every time I open up google reader and see a (1) next to the right category I get very excited!

    I guess what I am getting at is that sitting and reading your amazing story about the birth of a beautiful and healthy baby is exactly what I needed to be doing in this moment. This is just how it all goes. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your birth story and pictures 🙂 Reading your story and seeing the pictures reminds me of the passion, strength, and joy of birth – I’ve been away from it for too long and I hope someday I can get past all of the political BS and finally practice as a midwife.

    I’m so happy for you, Heather!!

  • mybonnykate says:

    This is amazing amazing amazing birth is amazing women are amazing newborns are amazingfreakinglove. So intense. The photos. The love. Everything.

  • gngr says:

    Much love to you and your family! That was awesome to read. *grins*

  • briannablade says:

    Oh my god. I’m in tears. This is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever ever read. I desperately want this for my next birth- the support, the love, that at home birth, the kids being involved, everything.

    I know this may be overstepping, but I’d really like to share your story and direct people here if that’s okay. It’s had a tremendous impact on me. Not only has your parenting shaped my parenting, but your birth has now changed me. Next time there will be no hospital. It will be here, in beauty, like yours. <3

  • You are a birthing rockstar. <3

  • jesamin says:

    Ok I’m totally ovulating right now and omg. THIS POST DID NOT DO GOOD THINGS TO ME BECAUSE NOW I HAVE THE BABY RABIES OMG.

    Ahem. Also? I fucking love you guys. I WILL get to be in a room with you and MJ someday, mark my words.

    Congratulations Heather. You are a birth rock star.

  • jenrose1 says:

    Wow. Your description of pushing brought back so, so many memories… the fighting it, trying to find a position that didn’t hurt so fucking bad, finally saying screw it and pushing anyway… I’m so glad the pain left afterwards for you.

    And yeah, it’s completely trippy to spend an entire labor in transition. That’s exactly what I did with Shiny.

    The pictures are gorgeous.

    • admin says:

      This was the first birth I’ve had where pushing did not offer some relief, and actually hurt worse. Doing this with spinal fusions was a huge bitch. I mean, I did it, and I’m really fucking happy that I did it without a hospital or pain meds (not for martyr purposes but because I don’t need the extra complications and risk) but I wouldn’t want to jump right in and do it again!

      • jenrose1 says:

        I don’t have abnormal spinal fusions, but my pelvis was fused as pelvises are wont to be and I had to break those fusions to get Shiny’s huge hard head through. The pain lasted months afterward. I could not at the time understand how pushing could possibly hurt so damn bad, after her sister was so EASY to push out.

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