I'll never forget the first time Helen reached out to me, very early on in her pregnancy. I sat in the car, in the drive way of my home for over an hour having one of the most meaningful calls inquiring about my services.
This wasn't the normal, 'how many births have you done?', 'how much do you cost?' or 'what's included?'. She wanted to know my soul, my motivation, my reason for doing this work, how I manage business and children, and she wanted to hear about how loving my clients was important to me.
As she told me about her three previous childbirth experiences, all with a little bit of trauma tied to them, I hung on every word. I don't stereotypically let people hire me until I've met them and their spouse, but that one phone call, was enough for me to know, that Helen was one of people. There was an immediate love and understanding of each other.
Through out the pregnancy we would not only chat about pregnancy and birth, but about her challenges at work, her fears about feeling previously abandoned and that maybe no one would show up for her this time, struggles with children, and a lot more.
Helen continued to stay pregnant, well beyond her due date and while she was trying to be patient, time was running short. I suggested that she receive and induction massage, from my amazing friend and peer, Sarah Schindler. Sarah was kind enough to extend her schedule to get her in on that Friday evening and was also able to secure acupuncture for her in the office as well. It was just what Helen needed. Her mind needed to be calm and her body needed a little nudge.
I wasn't surprised when Helen called me on Saturday morning to tell me that things were starting, and then followed up with the text, "Your buddy Sarah is the real deal!".
I waited for a few hours to go to Helen, but I didn't want her to have any worries or fears about being alone for this birth. I was willing to be there the whole time, even if it took days. When I arrived to her home, l found her laboring at the end of the hall in her children's bedroom. She was coping well and my presence, side tracked her a bit, as she wanted to chat.
I suggested going out to her living room and waiting for her to have a need for me and she decided to get into the shower.
Her eldest daughter of the three, Fireese, questioned why I wasn't with her mother and with them in the living room instead...
F:"Why aren't you with her?"
Me:"Sometimes when people are laboring, they just need to know you're near, but don't really need for you to be with them, does that make sense?"
F: "She hired you to be with her though, no?"
The questioning, made me feel right at home! My oldest is always questioning everyone's intentions as well.
Helen's labor was starting to move quickly, I reached out to Kara of Circle of Life Midwifery, and the birth photographer she had hired, Victoria Brown. They both arrived around 5pm.
Helen had found comfort being in the shower. She would stay put there for almost 5 hours. She was physically handling labor really well, but her brain would occasionally get in the way. She would call me in and we would talk through things.
Her first hurdle, was that she was actually in labor. I asked her questions that would allow her to affirm this as really true and active labor.
Her second hurdle would be that none of us were leaving. That everyone was here for her, and that no one would be leaving until she had her baby earth side.
Her third hurdle would be talking through welcoming the contractions and their ability to let baby come down into the pelvis.
Helen began to say welcoming statements to her labor. The rest of us were all piled in her room nodding our heads and then laughing hysterically:
"Body you can do this. I trust you."
"Oh I remember that squeeze. I know that squeeze. That's a baby squeeze."
"You're coming on down baby, just like Bob Barker on the Price is fucking right!"
Her fourth hurdle would be dealing with doppler checks from the midwife, she was in her zone, she was focusing on this birth, and the distractions were not her cup of tea. After the first check and hearing baby, Helen pushed Kara away and said, "Ok Kara! I've to go to my place. I'll see you and the damn doppler later." Kara laughed.
Helen and Kara are connected in a truly cosmic way. She had been the constant for Helen at her births and this time, she would be the primary midwife. I could feel a little bit of stress on Kara, which was unusual, as her presence is usually peaceful and calming. I know that she wanted this birth to be wonderful and healing, with out any complications for Helen, as much as Helen did.
At 6:15pm we heard from the shower, "There's a fucking baby in my asshole. I don't like babies in my asshole!"
Helen's three daughters would come in and out of the room to check on her. Fireese asking each time, "did her water break yet?" Fireese had been watching birth videos to prepare and had determined that when the water broke, it meant a baby was coming soon. Helen asked for Fireese to encourage the baby to come down and out. Fireese positioned herself on the toilet and was speaking to the shower curtain "come down and out baby, down and out."
Around 7pm, Helen asked for counter pressure to help her cope during the contractions. I positioned myself on the toilet seat, while Helen moved around in the shower; standing, on hands and knees, squatting, on one knee, etc. At 8pm Helen began encouraging herself again, while kneeling in the shower:
"Melissa knows. She said my body and my baby is smart. Kara knows. She said I have done this before and I can do it again. It's just like shitting out a jelly fish, and I know how to shit."
Fireese popped back in at 8:35pm and once again asked, "Has her water broken yet?" And as any good and annoyed mom would do, Helen answered the question, with a large splash down and moan. I turned to Fireese and said, "Why yes it did."
Eventually, Helen crawled onto the floor or the bathroom, where her littlest would comfort her by rubbing her arm and holding her hand.
Helen's last hurdle, would be the pushing phase. This may seem like an obvious hurdle for most anyone, but this time, it would take 5 hours for us to help her get over the hurdle.
She kept discussing the feeling of another baby passing through, the feeling of tearing, what if there was another dystocia, the exhaustion that comes with having to care for a newborn, she'd mention wanting an epidural, and then the hassle with having to go to the hospital and endure similar trauma to the last time, but all of these things I was capable of reasoning away with her.
It doesn't matter if the things she vocalized were associated with fear or if she only kept those fears to herself (which is my guess). She was afraid.
Her body wasn't going to let that baby out, until she could convince it that the world around her was safe for her baby.
At one point everyone stepped out, to see if we could get Helen to rest. Helen's two oldest daughters fell asleep on the couch as it was getting late into the evening. Fireese only agreed to rest, if I promised to wake her when her sibling arrived.
Eventually Kara went back in and I followed a short time later.
Previously, the room was packed, with children and birth workers. This space was now calm and quiet, except for Helen. Kara and I knelt on the floor in front of her, sharing words of encouragement. We knew that she was capable of this. Andrew was supporting her as she squatted into contractions. The only people in the space now, were those who loved and respected her and were cognizant, that distraction from the process was her enemy. We were the people that knew and loved her.
Time continued on. The last thing Kara wanted to do was transfer Helen, and while there wasn't an emergency, we both were looking at each other knowing that if this baby didn't come soon, that's exactly the path we were headed down.
And Helen felt it on us. I watched her, watching us, and Helen then began to push.
The head of the baby slowly began to descend and just a few pushes later, Helen and Andy's 4th baby came earth side at 1:45am. Helen looked at Kara and said, "You did it Kara! You did it!". To which Kara replied, "No you did it!".
It took few minutes for the baby to become acclimated to the outside world, but then once everyone heard that baby crying, Helen reached down and said, "It's a girl!".
I looked back at her with a questioning face, because while I understood she thought she stuck to her pattern of girl making only, this boy making doula, saw testicles. Helen then said, "Melissa! Why do you look like that? What is it?!" and then her eyes widened as she turned the baby towards her.
"OHHH! Baby boy! What the fuck!"
Helen had done an incredible job of cooking up this baby and all of his cuteness. Kara was most excited about all of the rolls that come with a 10lb baby.
I did stick to my promise and a few minutes later, woke Fireese. When she walked in Helen asked, "What do you think it is?"
Fireese crossed her arms and said very matter of fact, "It's a boy." When Andy confirmed she was correct, Fireese began to cry. She was in love.
Helen and Andy, I am truly thankful for you allowing me to be part of your life for the last nine months. I know it was an honor for you to be raw and vulnerable with me and thank you for allowing me to be the same with you.
Welcome to the world little boy.