I have had quite a few people tell me they want to read about Eva’s birth, which was a planned home birth. Because a large majority of my clients are moms and moms-to-be, I wanted to share my birth experience here too. Having been blessed with the opportunity to give birth 5 times, my awe and respect for the birth process just grows with each baby. I do also plan to share why I chose to plan a home birth in a subsequent post, but for now, I will just focus on the actual experience of bringing Eva into the world.
First of all, I knew I wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks. In fact, I promised my midwife Kelly that I wouldn’t. She has plans to go on vacation in September and I assured her this would be an August baby. My last three children arrived 24, 17, and 12 days before their estimated due dates, so once I returned home from traveling, the race was on to see if I could get all the “have to do”s done before our baby arrived. I really do believe that babies know when you are ready for them to come and when you aren’t, and considering the almost constant nausea and heartburn and general discomfort of this pregnancy, once I hit 37 weeks I wanted to be ready. We made it through birthday parties, actual birthdays, back-to-school shopping, and even squeezed in some portraits of the kids with my belly–all things that would have been impossible or at least extremely difficult with Eva on the outside instead of on the in:).
Early Tuesday morning (August 16, 37 weeks 3 days), around 3 a.m., I awoke with pretty strong and consistent contractions. Knowing how much my body likes to practice while gearing up for the big event, I took a shower, spent some time listening to my Hypnobabies birth CD, and did the prep work for Emily’s birthday breakfast. By 5-ish, everything slowed way down and eventually stopped. Apparently Eva wanted her own birthday, and that was just fine (once I got over the disappointment of not meeting my baby girl that day). The same thing happened early Wednesday morning, but things were still progressing around 6:30 a.m. or so, so I called my midwife. I knew that another one of her moms had been warming up as well and if she needed to find someone else to come attend my birth, I wanted to give her ample time to do so. She was free and said she would just come over and check on me. The part of me that knew there would be lots of pictures of this birth was super excited to be going into labor during the day when I could have my hair and make-up done and there would be some light to shoot by. Silly, I know. But it didn’t matter because by the time Kelly arrived everything had all but stopped again. We agreed that I was probably just tired and that the best course of action was to just hang out and try to sleep. Alan and I napped, watched some TV (during the day!), and then took a walk while my mom entertained the kids. Still nothing was really happening. I’d have a contraction every now and then. Kelly checked in with me that evening and recommended that we just try to forget about the false alarm before we made ourselves crazy.
We tried to go to be early, but I had a hard time falling asleep. I probably fell asleep at about 11:30 p.m. About 1:00-ish a.m. I awoke with what felt like rather strong contractions, but I thought, “Well, I am just getting started up again, they can’t really be that bad–I am just nervous and need to relax.” I put on my Hypnobabies birthing track which really helped me to calm myself, take each contraction one at a time, think of each one as a positive thing. After 15 minutes or so, I realized it seemed like the contractions were really close together so I should try and time them, but timing them made it too difficult to focus on the track, so I woke Alan up to time them. I would listen to the CD and squeeze his hand at the start and end of each contraction. The problem with that plan was that it was 1:30 a.m. and my darling husband was not in labor and I would hear him snoring in between squeezes, so at 1:35 a.m. I just called my midwife and she said she’d be right over. I hesitated to call my photographer b/c I had so many false alarms and it was the middle of the night, but about 2 or 3 contractions later, I knew I needed to call. I got back in bed and put my track back on. My good friend and colleague Ashley of Ashley Brown Photography came pretty quickly, and arrived maybe 20 minutes later.
Listening to my Hypnobabies CD was so effective at keeping me calm, relaxed, and focused on the moment I was in. Then the track started saying things like, “Now it is time to release your baby into the world, and you feel completely comfortable and at peace with that,” and I thought, “NO, NO I DON’T! Alan is NOT delivering this baby!” So I got up and went downstairs. I talked with my mom, Alan and Ashley and tried different labor positions during contractions. Within 10 minutes, I needed everything to be completely quiet during contractions. By 2:15,or 2:20 a.m. I asked Alan to just call Kelly and see how far away she was–I needed to know she was close. He called, she said she was about 5 minutes away. By this point I was on my hands and knees for contractions, and just sitting in between. I think it was during the next contraction or the one afterward that I just got stuck–it was so long and powerful and I thought, “Oh, crap, I am not going to be able to get back upstairs to my plastic wrapped bed and my carpet shield and I am going to have this baby on the living room floor.” I literally couldn’t get up. Ashley suggested I wait until it passed, but it wasn’t stopping and I felt I would need to push, so I just said, “I am NOT having this baby on the floor!” and pushed through, made it up the stairs and got back in bed. Within minutes I was pushing–not actively, but my body was definitely laboring her down–and I was praying so hard Kelly would get there soon. Alan and my mom decided it might be time to start getting things ready just in case our baby girl got here before Kelly–it was a good thing they had done their homework:). At some point, I heard the front door close, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, that better be Kelly and not just someone checking for her outside.” Then she was there (it was 2:38 a.m.), I felt so much better, yet still not completely at peace and in control. I was pushing and it was so intense and finally my water broke so I was able to get a couple of minutes to rest. Kelly talked me through slowly and carefully delivering her head and then her body and she was born at 2:44 a.m. About 6 minutes after Kelly arrived. Her assistant Carrie missed us by minutes.
We woke my two oldest girls up right after she was born instead of for the actual birth as I felt much less in control and much less relaxed and calm than I anticipated because of the concern that I might deliver without a birth attendant. I didn’t want to upset them in any way and I needed to focus. They climbed right up into bed with us–they were just in awe and so excited. My third daughter was not so enamored–she wanted to wait until her baby sister was cleaned up a bit more. Luckily, in our family, new babies always come bearing gifts for the older siblings, so it didn’t take too long to win her over. Earlier in the day, Kelly and I talked about how babies seem to arrive with the most perfect timing, but that the timing can really only be understood in hindsight. I gave birth in the middle of the night so poor Ashley was working with almost no light at all, my make up and hair were thrashed, but Ashley made it, Kelly made it, the girls got to see their little sister right away, my mom got to see me deliver and cut the cord, we got to snuggle for an hour before she ever left my arms, she was able to nurse, she was 100% healthy, I had a whole day of rest prior to her birth, and Jack slept through the whole thing. It was as perfect as it could be.
Evangeline Nicole Washburn, 20 inches, 6 pounds, 4 ounces, born at home. And totally adorable.
We call her Eva and she’s perfect.
Below is a slideshow of images that Ashley captured for us that night/morning. She also photographed Jack’s birth for me. I cannot thank her enough. (The images in the slideshow are not graphic in any way, but do depict an actual birth and all that goes along with that.)