"Just you and I defying gravity..."
On Monday January 28th, Stephanie told me she was having some pain and contractions on and off all through out the previous night. I wondered if this would be the start of labor for her, but I was hopeful it wasn't.
Stephanie had a perfect pregnancy. Delightful even. I remember meeting with her through out and at one point her saying, "I feel totally fine! I'm wondering what all the fuss is about." The universe would be waiting for her last few weeks of pregnancy to show her the fuss.
While I don't usually tell the story of anything prior to labor in such detail, some of it needs to be mentioned to show how bad ass she is, that her pregnancy, labor and birth ended the way that it did. Most people would have had lots of different outcomes in her circumstances, but she held on tight to her birth goals.
It started with a trip the emergency room for her husband, which would result in the cancelling of her goddess party an hour prior to its start time. Stephanie had been planning this special day, prior to becoming pregnant. She was not only worried for her husband, but also disappointed for herself.
Stephanie has a significant case of debilitating eczema that is not only triggered by food, but often by stress. This was really her only fear for birth; that she would have a flair up that would cause her skin pain during her labor.
Stephanie sent me some messages and pictures of her skin and was diagnosed with something worse, shingles at 38 weeks pregnant. She was miserable and who could blame her.
If that wasn't enough, we would then have an ice storm in our area which would knock out the power in their home, and cause freezing pipes. At one point they had built a cardboard fort around their fireplace to stay warm while the rest of their house was close to freezing temps.
I was doing everything I could, to put every intention out into the world, that her labor would hold off until she was beginning to heal. Shingles, has the potential to be very dangerous for a baby, but I was doing my best to keep her positive, while discouraging anything that might bring on baby.
Her texts and phone calls were absolutely heartbreaking. I was so saddened for her.
2 days after her due date, Stephanie was showing some signs of early labor. As I mentioned earlier, we were doing everything we could to help keep that baby in, for even just a few more days. Stephanie was in the healing process, but we were hopeful, that the shingles would be completely gone before she birthed her baby.
It would be 5 days and nights of on and off contractions, lack of sleep, itchy healing skin, fixing their home, thinking this was it, only to have it stop. By midweek, all of the shingles had scabbed over. Stephanie was tired. She texted me at one point, "I think my body is broken." Every time though, myself or Adam could help scoop herself off of the floor and get back into that positive place she wanted to be.
Adam would give me updates every few hours through out the week. He was doing an absolute wonderful job of caring for her. And then the phone call came....
At 9:57am, on Friday. Adam called, "Steph's water broke!" and then Stephanie on speaker phone yelled, "What do you we do now?!". I could at least now ensure them, that their baby was actually on its way and that the days and days of labor, would soon come to an end. The shingles was all fully healed as well and only had left some red spots behind. So it was a safe time for baby to come! I suggested trying to rest, until real contractions started, but there would be no rest.
At 11:16am another phone call that Stephanie was contracting every 2 to 3 minutes came and that they were the strongest ones she had so far. I packed up my bag and headed to their home.
I arrived around noon and Stephanie was in the shower, sitting on a padded chair that Adam had put a garbage bag over to help stay dry. She asked me to read her birth affirmations, which I would do a few times through out the rest of the evening.
I urged Adam to fill up the birth tub she had planned to labor in. He was a ball of energy though and his usual calm presence was heightened with excitement that his baby girl was on the way. Their birth photographer arrived, the wonderful Jaimee Mansfield, of J Mansfield Photography and she began to help Adam set things up.
They had setup their birth space just perfectly, including a bowl of rose quartz from their wedding, that they had guests set good intentions for them with. Their daughters middle name would be rose and so it's addition to the space, was so very special.
It took some time to get the tub filled and then we moved Steph to it. She wasn't sure if it would be as equally comfortable as the shower at first, but she adjusted in no time.
At one point I walked away from the tub and Adam took over holding Stephanie. As I walked back Adam's face looked of pure panic and his eyes were as wide as they could be.
He mouthed, "There's blood coming out!". I explained to him that what he was seeing was normal (just a bit of floating tissue) and he clutched his chest with relief.
Around 2pm the midwives of Primal Roots Midwifery began to arrive, Sera and Sarah. I think they were a bit surprised by how well Stephanie was coping. We had all just seen her the day before and she was miserable.
Today, not so much. She was uncomfortable, but there was a lightness about her that was growing as the day went on. It didn't really make a whole lot of sense from the outside, but I had felt super connected to Stephanie through out this pregnancy. I could tell that since the "when" was taking out of her birth, she was calm and accepting. The fear of the unknown was gone.
The midwives suggested a cervical check around 6pm. Since Stephanie hadn't slept the night before, they wanted to make sure we were focusing on the right thing. Movement or sleep were the options. Stephanie was 7cm dilated. Sleep was not in the plan.
We encouraged Stephanie to lap the house a bit and sit on the toilet to help align baby. She yelled, "Oh no! Melissa!" and I went running in. She said, "I have to get up! I feel like she's coming out of my butt!" Even though this feeling is often discussed by many doulas and providers, I think most people don't really expect for it to really feel that way, but it certainly does.
All day long, she had needed assistance in out of the tub. Adam and I later jokingly discussed how quickly she got back in all on her own, almost like a perfect olympic dive!
Stephanie and Adam had been playing music that didn't fit the usual birth bill of mediation music or light classical. At this point in the evening we were listening to full on broadway show tunes and Disney soundtracks. I had done a lot of things to help birthing folks cope in my career, but Stephanie would be the first to ask me to sing Frozen to her and of course, I obliged.
Stephanie was also singing during every contraction break. She was smiling, could recall all the words, to all the songs from the Shrek and Moana soundtracks, while in transition.
WHILE. IN. TRANSITION.
She eventually felt a lot of pressure in her bottom and got a bit nervous when her body started to push on its own. She had trusted her body this entire time, but now her mind got in the way a bit. She started asking a lot of questions about the "how's and why's". We would answer, but encourage her to listen to her body.
At one point, Sarah suggested she check to see if she could feel the baby's head in her vagina. Stephanie checked and then said, "I don't even know my own vagina right now."
The thing was, is that she did. Two contractions prior, she had said she felt the baby's head. Two contractions later she said, "I feel her head moving down, that's ok right?" We live in a world where information is so accessible all of the time, that we often lose touch with our own selves, but Stephanie hadn't really. She was making firm and well knowing statements, when not being asked questions.
However, then it all changed. She was back to a calm and controlled state. She began to make loud and low moans with each contraction. We all encouraged her, "That's the way Steph!" She for the first time in 9 hours, stopped squeezing mine or Adam's hands. She had positioned herself in such a way that she didn't need anyone else's help. She was inward and she was moving her baby.
She eventually went from hands and knees into a squat and I said, "Steph reach down and feel your baby." She replied, "What is that?! Oh hi Sophie! Come out now!" Sera took a peak with a flashlight and a mirror and said, "lemon wedge".
A few minutes later Stephanie opened her eyes asked me, "Is this crowning?" and then closed them again. With the next push, her eyes widened, she looked directly into mine and said, "Oh fuck that's it!. As the head emerged Stephanie began to move in a way that wasn't as grounded as before. I walked around to the back of the tub, placed my hands on her shoulders, and began to do some energy work, which grounded Steph and put her back into a peaceful place.
Stephanie birthed her baby in such a beautiful and calm way. Their baby was welcomed into the hands of Adam, who then helped the baby to slowly transition from the water to Steph's chest. Defying Gravity, from the show, Wicked was playing as Sophie Rose took her first breath earth side, at 9:24pm.
Jaimee and I cried in the corner, while Sarah and Sera lovingly smiled at this new little family. It was a beautiful birth. I was so insanely proud of Stephanie for all that she had accomplished that day. She met all of her birth goals.
We helped move Stephanie and Sophie down the hall and into their bedroom. The midwives completed the new born exam and confirmed what we all already knew. She was perfect.
After cleaning their home and putting it back together as if the most miraculous event these walls had ever seen, didn't just happen, we tucked them in for the night.
Over the next few days they would receive visits from each of us to ensure that things were going well and everyone was healing as they should. They are just so in love with their new baby girl.
Steph and Adam, getting to you know you over the last 7 months, has been a truly wonderful experience. I feel connected to each of you in such a special way. It was an absolute honor to be part of this journey with you and to be a small part of your family, even if it's just for a short time.