Born March 20, 2012 at home, told by Kimberly:
(the same birth story from father’s perspective is at the bottom of this page)
I can’t adequately describe the birth of my daughter on March 20, 2012 until I tell the story of the birth of my son on September 13, 2010. These births are two defining moments in my life.
Shortly after my husband, Ryan, and I married in October 2009 we were fortunate enough to get pregnant in our first month of trying. On Christmas morning, 2009, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I ran into the bedroom and woke up Ryan to tell him the great news. Merry Christmas, here’s a stick I peed on!
The pregnancy was amazing. I reveled in my pregnancy and the excitement of our future family. About halfway through the pregnancy, a friend recommended the book A Thinking Women’s Guide to a Better Birth and everything in that book spoke to me as true and the way I wanted to bring my son into the world. We changed our care providers to a midwife heavy practice that would do a waterbirth in a hospital setting. We took a Bradley Class together, read several natural child birth books, did labor rehearsals, made extensive music play lists and had an insane birth plan. We spent countless hours preparing for the birth of our son and didn’t consider any other options. I told every one of our plans to have an intervention free childbirth which was met with a lot of skepticism but I stood firm that we were making the best decisions for me and our unborn child.
At 39 weeks I started having nightly back spasms that radiated from between my shoulder blades around to under my right breast. While they didn’t occur every night, when they did I would be up all night vomiting. My care providers kept reassuring me that this was a normal part of late pregnancy and one midwife mentioned that I was having prodromal labor. I was miserable and started to feel discouraged but I still refused induction at both 40 and 41 weeks in order to let things occur naturally. At just over 41 weeks, I had another episode and finally sought out a chiropractor for relief. I was fortunate enough to find Dr Alexa Fagan from Totally Chiropractic and her support for our birth plan immediately put me at ease and we instantly hired her to be our birth doula. The adjustment helped a lot and after more than two weeks of the “prodromal labor”, I again felt rejuvenated about the idea of our pending waterbirth.
At 41 weeks and 3 days I had a horrible night of back spasms and vomiting and Dr Alexa pushed me to go to the hospital, knowing something was wrong. I was also feeling very run down as I hadn’t slept or eaten in over 24 hours. At the hospital, my blood pressure was extremely high and blood tests were taken. While waiting for the test results, Ryan was very adamant with the hospital staff about our plan of having a natural childbirth. A few hours later, an unknown doctor came in to give us the blood test results which indicated that I had severe HELLP (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelets) syndrome. My platelets were at 30 when they should have been at least 150 and my liver enzymes were over 400 when they should have been less than 40. The liver enzyme level indicated a significant liver degradation which was leading to that “back spasms” which were actually starting at my liver under my right breast and radiating around to my back. The platelet levels were low enough that the possibility of hemorrhage was very great. We had never heard of HELLP syndrome until that moment and everything we had been planning for months came crashing down around us. We asked for a few minutes alone to digest the information and console each other over the loss of our birthing experience but the doctor refused to give us more than a minute. We reluctantly agreed to an emergency c-section and were informed the surgery would be performed under general anesthesia because my platelets were far too low to receive an epidural. We were also told that Ryan couldn’t be in the OR because I would be sleeping and wouldn’t need the morale support. We were too broken to fight anything. The only thing I could think was to ask Ryan to give our son skin to skin contact as I would be unable to do so for awhile.
While in the bright, cold OR, I was terrified and alone while they prepped for surgery. I just laid there heartbroken and scared while they swabbed my belly, put in the necessary IVs and blood pressure probes. I didn’t know if the baby or I would survive the surgery and I didn’t want to leave Ryan alone. The preparation lasted for about 20 minutes with only one nurse providing me minimal comfort. I asked them to tell me when they would put me under, but they didn’t so one second I was awake getting prepped and next I woke to extreme pain. My son, Maximé, was born to a cold room surrounded by strangers and was not able to be lovingly held and stroked after such a shocking transition from the womb. I spent the next three hours in recovery while my husband spent the next three hours fighting off nurses attempting to supplement Max. When I finally did see my son, I was still so drugged I had a difficult time holding him. When I looked down at him, I saw a little stranger and felt nothing but anger. While still in the hospital, I would look over at him in the little plastic bassinet and wonder if babies born to mothers who didn’t love them die of SIDs at a higher rate than babies who have mothers that love them. I was heartbroken and overwhelmed with guilt that I didn’t love my little baby. I knew if anything happened to him, it would be my fault.
I had horrible post partum depression for about 6 months. Our breastfeeding relationship was initially terrible and aside from bleeding nipples, I got mastitis days after he was born and had to supplement him because my supply plummeted due to the severe fever. The lactation consultant I hired to come to my home told me my son would likely die of SIDs because I was supplementing him. As if I didn’t have enough guilt to carry around (my husband forbid her from coming back to the house). My son didn’t sleep well and would sometimes only sleep 7 hours in a 24 hour period. I was so angry and exhausted. I picked fights with my husband and was generally unhappy and bitter. I just wanted ONE thing to work out well, anything. Nothing had gone as we had planned and I felt like a huge failure, a horrible mother and I kept asking myself if I made the right choice in becoming a mother. I felt like people blamed me for what happened because I hadn’t allowed my care providers to induce me at 40 weeks.
Our breastfeeding relationship healed itself after several months and we were able to share that together for over a year, when he weaned himself. Over time I grew to love and cherish my son. His spirit and character make me laugh every day and he has taught me more about myself than I ever expected one person could. He has taught me unconditional patience and forgiveness and he made me realize that even though things don’t always work out like you expect them to, you can choose to learn and grow from the experience. He gave me the greatest gift, the gift of being a mother and for him I will forever be grateful. I am honored to be his mother.
When Max was 9 months old, I found myself pregnant (surprise) and I was immediately plunged back into the depression I felt after Max’s birth. I had a massive amount of fear and was not emotionally prepared to handle the idea of a new pregnancy. We immediately transferred care to a highly regarded VBAC friendly practice. The first midwife we saw indicated that I was a good candidate for a VBAC but we still had to see the maternal fetal medicine doctor to get his consent. During our appointment with him, he started giving us the risk factors of advanced maternal age during pregnancy and we had to inform him that I was high risk because of a previous HELLP diagnosis, not my age. Even so, we felt we were making the safest decision, ensuring we would get our natural birth experience while having the safety net of a hospital setting.
During each prenatal, I had to request my urine be tested because urine checks weren’t standard for their pregnant patients. I also had to request blood tests as they weren’t inclined to check my liver levels. During one appointment I was told that while my risk of uterine rupture was not really any higher than that of a mother with no uterine scarring, I would still be required to have consistent fetal monitoring while in labor. When I requested justification for this requirement since my risk wasn’t higher, I was given a story about a baby that went into fetal distress because his cord was wrapped around his neck and they wouldn’t have known had they not had consistent fetal monitoring. This has nothing to do with the risk of uterine rupture.
On an emotional level, I spent every day of my pregnancy in some state of anxiety. The first trimester was a blur of depression and extreme exhaustion because Max wasn’t sleeping well. I immediately started an extreme Brewer’s diet which equated to at least 140 grams of protein a day in an effort to keep HELLP syndrome at bay and I became obsessed with counting protein and tracking every single thing I ate. I also started obsessively checking my blood pressure over and over again becoming more and more anxious as it would elevate with every subsequent check. By the second trimester, I was feeling more at peace with the idea of having another child and I eased up on obsessing about my blood pressure but I still continued on with the diet.
At my 6 month prenatal appointment, I was told my chance of having a VBAC “all depended on who was on call” the day I went into labor. We finally admitted to ourselves that we needed to rethink our approach and commit to doing what we really wanted, a homebirth. While scared of a reoccurrence of HELLP syndrome, we knew we would not be given the opportunity to birth in a peaceful manner if we stayed with our current care providers. Upon recommendation from Alexa, we interviewed a homebirth midwife, Kim Verbarg from Sweet Child O’ Mine, and absolutely loved her calm and measured demeanor. We didn’t have to think twice about asking her to be our care provider. We all agreed that vigilant testing would keep us apprised of any potential problems.
We did not divulge the change in our birth plans to anyone because we didn’t want negative feedback and unfounded advice from people who know nothing of homebirths or midwives. I also didn’t want everyone to tell me they “told me so” should things not go according to plan. I was now excited about the prospect of having another child and was very happy with our decision to transfer care. As my pregnancy progressed, even though I was very much looking forward to the experience of a homebirth, I started getting more and more anxious about my blood pressure and blood draws. After every prenatal, I would go through each number from my lab results and obsess over the slightest drop or elevation. I was meditating almost nightly and taking about a massive amount of supplements that were supposed to help with high blood pressure, or liver function or platelet formation. I would drink teas recommended on midwifery websites that were supposed to help with this or that only to find out they were discouraged in the Brewer’s Diet because they were diuretics and then I would obsess over whether I destroyed my chances at a healthy pregnancy. I knew that my blood pressure elevation was largely due to my anxiety. Realizing that my mental state was my biggest enemy, I made some decisions to force myself to let go, even if just a little bit. Ryan hid my blood pressure cuff and I asked Kim to not give me the results of my weekly blood draws.
As my guess date approached, I started getting chiropractic adjustments several times a week and afterwards Alexa would spend an hour attempting to calm me. I wasn’t scared of labor or any problems that may occur during labor, I was scared that my body would fail me before I even had the chance to go into labor. My guess date came and went and I received several aggressive acupuncture treatments, ate spicy foods, inserted evening primrose oil capsules, walked, bounced on my exercise ball, had sex, etc. in an effort to kick off labor. Every second of every day revolved around trying to convince my body to go into labor and every day I was getting more frustrated with my failed attempts. After 41 weeks, my husband and I made a plan spanning several days of methods we would attempt to induce labor, to include castor oil. We decided that if we hadn’t had the baby by 42 weeks and 1 day, we would walk into a hospital and request an induced trial of labor. I had pretty much given up hope.
At 41 weeks and three days, I decided to try acupuncture one more time. The same day, a hypnotist came into Dr Alexa’s office offering his services to pregnant women. I booked an appointment with him for that afternoon in hopes to work through my previous birth experience. The session was extremely relaxing and allowed me to let go of some of my anxieties. I finally understood that it was out of my hands.
Early the next morning, I woke up at about 2 am with some contractions, but didn’t think anything of them because I had been having contractions for weeks. I woke again at 9 am with stronger contractions about 6 minutes apart. I called Alexa at 0930 and she said she would come over soon. The contractions continued between 5 and 7 minutes apart and I started thinking they might be false labor because the timing wasn’t exactly consistent. At 1030, I was standing in front of the kitchen sink and I felt a small gush of water but still wasn’t exactly convinced my water had broken and thought maybe I had just peed on myself (hey, it happens!). The contractions immediately started getting stronger but were still easily bearable. When Alexa got to the house at about 1100, my husband left for the store. I talked to Kim who told me another mother was also in labor, and she asked me to keep her apprised of my progress.
Immediately after my husband left, my contractions got very intense, were lasting about 90 seconds and were about three minutes apart. I tried to labor on my side and on the exercise ball but settled on laboring on all fours on the couch with my butt up in the air and my head on a pillow. I was amazed at how quickly the contractions went from mild to intense as I thought the intensity would be gradual (and I a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to bake my daughter a birthday cake). As my contractions continued, I went into a zone within myself. I focused on breathing in and moaning out during each contraction instead of focusing on the pressure. I made a very conscious decision to keep my body and face completely relaxed during each contraction and would remind myself that relaxation would help labor progress quicker, a key point learned in the Bradley classes. I was reminded of something Alexa told me, “I thought of the contractions as pressure, not pain.” I thought to myself, “Pressure my ass. This fucking hurts.” A couple hours into labor, Kim’s birth assistant, Megan, arrived and Ryan got back home.
While laboring on the couch, I vomited a few times and Ryan, Alexa and Megan all worked to keep me hydrated and I reluctantly agreed to take a drink between each contraction. A couple of hours into laboring, I got very cold and had to labor with a blanket on me. At about 3:00 pm, a few hours into intense contractions, Kim arrived and told me she liked my “birth song” of moans. She checked me and noted that I was 4 to 5 centimeters dilated. She agreed to let me get into the birthing tub and left to go back to the other laboring mother, who was having the urge to push. I knew getting into the tub might slow labor, but I was looking forward to some relief. After Ryan filled the tub, I got in and the warmth of the water and the floating feeling felt so good against my skin and belly that I was able to relax my body even more. So much for a little relief… Immediately after getting into the tub, my contractions picked up significantly in intensity and length. I labored kneeling in the tub with my upper body hanging over the side and I stayed in that position for hours as any other position was close to unbearable. My contractions were several minutes long and on top of each other and I had very little time to rest between each one. I had to force myself to remain focused on breathing in and moaning out with every contraction. Some would grow and subside and grow and subside several times before they would end. After a couple of particularly intense contractions, my lips would be quivering. My husband stayed by my side quietly encouraging me and reminding me to relax and breathe when my breathing would get shallow. His reassuring words were so crucial during those intense and long contractions and kept me very focused when I started to feel overwhelmed. A couple of times I would claim I couldn’t do it anymore then I would silently chastise myself for being weak and tell myself to shut the hell up and labor on. I knew there was no way I was getting out of the tub so I didn’t have a choice but to handle it. After each contraction ended I would silently congratulate myself on successfully making it through that one. I would try to not think about future contractions but when I did, I would tell myself that the next one was going to be easier than the last one. I was so focused on my breathing and moaning, I had no idea how much time had passed until I happened to glance up to see that it was 5:00 pm, 6 hours after intense contractions started. Between a few of the contractions, my daughter would be moving so much, I would silently curse her for not allowing me to use the short amount of time between contractions to completely rest. I had been in the birthing tub for about 2 hours when I felt the undeniable urge to push. It felt like involuntarily vomiting in reverse, like vaginal dry heaving and I could not stop myself from pushing. Alexa and Megan told me I could do some small pushes and Alexa called Kim and let her know that I had the urge to push. Kim had just delivered her other mother’s baby an hour earlier and headed right over.
Kim arrived at 5:30 and checked me and told me I was complete and +2. I did a fist pump and said “yes!”. I had been in my breathing and moaning zone for hours, but I now pulled myself out of it to push. I was still draped over the side of the tub and was having intense back labor and needed counter pressure with each contraction. I pushed while kneeling for about 30 minutes when Kim suggested I move into a full or half squat as I wasn’t making much progress. I initially ignored her suggestion but then forced myself to move into a half squat to get things moving. I pushed in a half squat for a few contractions, alternating legs and Alexa reminded me to fold my body into a C instead of flexing my hips back but I still wasn’t progressing. I tried to do a full squat, but couldn’t get into a comfortable enough position to push for long. I wanted to rest through a couple of contractions, but could not stop myself from pushing. With each wave, Kim would check the baby’s heartbeat which remained very strong. Kim suggested I move into a reclined seated position and again I rejected the idea but I had been pushing for an hour and was making little progress. I moved back into a seated position and held my legs back and with each contraction, I felt my daughter moving down through my pelvis and had to silently encourage myself to keep pushing through the pain of crowning. Kim asked me if I wanted to feel my baby’s head but I didn’t want to break my concentration so I declined but Ryan reached down and felt her head. It took about three contractions to get her down through my pelvis and her head out, but once her head was out, the pain subsided quite a bit. With the next contraction, I pushed her shoulders out and pushed again to get the rest of her body out. Feeling her body leave my body was an amazing and surreal experience and a wave of warmth and relief immediately flooded over me. Kim put my daughter on my chest and I looked down and couldn’t believe I made, grew and birthed this perfect baby. She had her eyes closed with a little mad expression on her perfect face. I could hear my husband in my ear getting choked up. Lily immediately started fussing and I was so overwhelmed with the entire experience I had a hard time focusing on anything other than her. All I could say was “I did it. My baby. I did it.” They covered her with a blanket and I just sat there in a daze for a few minutes and then I said “I’m really hungry.”
Luckily, Alexa and Megan had decided to order pizza from Pizza Fusion a couple of hours earlier. When they realized there wasn’t time to leave and pick it up, as Pizza Fusion doesn’t deliver, they called explaining the situation and Pizza Fusion agreed to deliver to us. The birthing tub is in plain sight of the front door and when the guy got to the house, Kim was shielding my ass from the front door, I was moaning like a dying cow and my husband was trying to explain the situation as he was paying the pizza guy. The guy just told my husband “no worries man, it’s all nature!” It was awesome!
After a few minutes of sitting in the tub, they helped me move to the bed. Ryan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, and the placenta was delivered about 20 minutes later. Ryan and I marveled over the placenta and cord for a few minutes. After about an hour, Lily started nursing like a champ. We all took a moment to relax, eat pizza and laugh about my answer to every question while I was in labor.
“Kimi, do you want to listen to music?” “I don’t care”
“Do you want to watch a different movie?” “I don’t care”
“Do you want me to put a towel over the edge of the tub so you’re not laying your face on plastic?”
“I don’t care”
Born at 6:21 pm, Lily Anne-Marie Arsenault weighed in at 8 lbs and 3 ozs and was 20.5 inches long. I labored for 9 hours (awake), with 6 hours of intense labor and an hour and 15 minutes of pushing. The intense labor all blurs together with only a few moments of those 6 hours standing out in my mind but I clearly remember the entirety of the pushing stage. I took to facebook letting everyone know Lily had arrived (my status update was actually “HBAC, BITCHES!”). People were very surprised and some even asked if we intended to have Lily at home.
The birth of my daughter was a wonderfully healing and life changing experience. Birthing her was the most intense experience of my life but the pain was necessary and welcome. I immediately fell in love with Lily, our breastfeeding relationship is wonderful and I feel like superwoman. For weeks following my son’s birth I could hardly convince myself to brush my teeth and with this birth I feel rejuvenated and empowered. I have laughed more in the three weeks since her birth than I have since I was pregnant with my son. Life is exactly where it should be. I do have guilt that I didn’t experience this joy following the birth of my son, but I understand that I did the best I could at the time.
Some do not understand our decision to birth our daughter in the comfort of our home, but the care provided by our midwife far exceeded the care afforded through the Ob practice. Others may negate the healing power of birth, but an intervention free homebirth was vitally important to me and my husband and the shared experience has strengthened our relationship and brought us much closer. We choose to birth our daughter peacefully because that is what we believe was best for our family. I encourage women to become educated about birth and to understand all options, instead of blindly trusting their care providers. Everyone must choose the path in which they are most comfortable but shouldn’t let fear prevent them from doing something spectacular. A woman must own her decisions. Women must support each other and not downplay another’s experience. My path was long, painful and full of fear and anxiety, but led me to an incredibly healing experience.
Born March 20, 2012 at home, told by Ryan:
My daughter was born in my living room! I never imagined I would say that, but I’m so happy and thankful that I’m able to… not to mention proud!
Once I became comfortable with, and better informed of the home birth concept, I always knew that Lily’s arrival would happen safely. But as the days ticked by following the passage of Kimberly’s due date, I wasn’t quite sure if our vision of the home birth would pan out (I’ve since agreed that “guess date” is a much more accurate term, by the way). Consequently, Kimberly and I began to get a little nervous in the ensuing days, as the recent memory of HELLP syndrome lingered in our minds. Part of me trusted that everything would work out just fine and that the home birth would go perfectly. Another part of me feared the worst: the midwife would drop us from her care due to being too far overdue, and we would have to go to the hospital, where I’m convinced Kimberly would have inevitably had to endure another c-section. I feared for the effects this would have on our family; it would be emotionally and spiritually devastating to Kimberly, and it would have affected all of us for months. It would have made me deeply sad to see her go through that again. I realize now that I began emotionally “preparing” (closing off / hardening) a little bit as I started to slowly accept what I believed to be the increasingly likely possibility that our plan would go to hell again, and I wanted to be calm and steady for Kimberly.
BUT… on the morning of March 20th, following a solid week of chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture treatments, and even a session with a hypnotist (all of which I think played a role in convincing Lily the time was right!), Kimberly finally went into labor. I wasn’t aware of this when I got out of bed with Max sometime before 8am and had breakfast with him, however. Cathy (my mother-in-law) picked him up by 9:30 am, and literally as I closed the door, Kimberly emerged from the bedroom, saying she was having strong contractions. She had been experiencing contractions for weeks, but it was clear that these were different. She also had a migraine the night before, which was rare, so at this point I was pretty sure it was going down for real. I was relieved, to say the least. I was also pleased, but I wasn’t in the least bit nervous or excitable. Thinking back on it, I had an “Ok, sounds good” and slightly lackadaisical kind of attitude. Perhaps on a subconscious level I wasn’t completely convinced that it was actually happening…I’m not sure. I suppose I could take solace in the fact that I naturally remained calm. ?
By about 11 am, Kimberly’s water broke. She called Alexa, who confirmed it for her. Alexa arrived at the house shortly thereafter, at which point I made a trip to the grocery store for a few last minute things. I also got a few things for Cathy and stopped by her apartment, visiting her and Max for a while. I didn’t hear anything from Kimberly or Alexa, so I figured labor was progressing slowly, so I took my time and played with my son. But by the time I got back to the house, around 1:30 pm or so, apparently the past few hours had been very productive. Kimberly was quiet, not talking much, and had spent pretty much all of her labor so far on the couch. She murmured to me, “This is really difficult,” or something to that effect… She was clearly not having fun, and seemed quite uncomfortable and a bit nervous. She vomited a time or two in the trash can. I could sense that she was having some initial doubts and that her confidence may have been wavering a bit… but I knew she would be ok. I knew there was no way she was going to let herself back away from this, and neither would I. I tried to reassure her. I made her a snack and started preparing the birthing tub and filling it with water because Kimberly said she wanted to get into the tub. Every question that Alexa or I asked of her in an attempt to make her more comfortable was met with indifference: TV on or off? “I don’t care.” Music? “I don’t care.” Umm… Ok.
The next few hours happened very quickly; I’m not sure I can recount the details all that accurately or in the correct order. Megan, the birth assistant, arrived, and not too long after, Kim Verbarg the midwife arrived at around 3 or 3:30. She told Kimberly that she liked her birth song, which I thought was a really cool thing to say to her right off the bat. Something as simple as that made a lasting impression on me. It just really hit home how different this experience was going to be, and reminded me of how wonderfully different the level of personalized care and attention was that Kimberly had received from Kim and her staff, as opposed to our previous experiences with hospitals and Obs.
Kim had to leave for another birth but would return soon. Meanwhile, after Kim had confirmed Kimberly was at 5 cm, she let her get into the tub, which I had been keeping warm. Kimberly liked the water… that much was apparent right away. At this point Kimberly’s contractions were quickly getting stronger, and her moans were increasingly long, loud, and deeper in pitch, obviously reflecting the growing intensity of the contractions. When they started several hours earlier, Kimberly’s moans were much shorter and higher in pitch. I found it interesting how her “song” evolved over time. The moans were slightly jarring at first, but quickly became a focal point, especially since Alexa, Megan and I were being rather quiet and hushed.
As Kimberly’s song had progressed over the past few hours, they began to have an emotional effect on me as I realized her labor was rather intense, especially after she relocated to the tub. I hadn’t expected this… I thought I wouldn’t get emotional until Lily arrived. I can’t explain why, exactly, but her bouts of “song” made me increasingly more emotional as they became more intense. Kimberly was hanging onto me and squeezing my arm or hand for many of the contractions; my face was very close to hers throughout this, so I heard it all, up close and personal, along with the tub water and sweat. I think the intensity of the emotions was a strange combination of realizing that my daughter’s birth was closer and closer at hand, and an increasingly deep appreciation for the physical and emotional intensity of the contractions and the effects they were having on Kimberly. There was also a swelling pride and respect for her that was welling up inside me as each contraction occurred. On several occasions I actually had to calm myself and choke back that funny feeling that was crawling up my throat. You know how we men are…
Which leads me to pizza. Yeah, pizza. We ordered something like $70 worth of pizza at some point, expecting to have time to go pick it up. Well… that didn’t happen. Labor progressed quickly, and before I knew it, the good people at Pizza Fusion were at my doorstep, voluntarily delivering the pizza even though they don’t deliver. Very nice of them. Also very cool of the delivery guy to roll with the punches when he saw and heard a very vocal naked woman in labor in a tub mere feet away from him when I opened the door. I thanked him for delivering and said, “Thanks man… Uhh, I know it sounds kinda crazy in here,” to which he replied, “Hey it’s all good man… It’s nature!”
As labor continued, contractions got even stronger. At one point Kimberly rolled over onto her back, and one contraction in particular hit her very intensely…so much so that she was breathing very rapidly, and her entire mouth was quivering….for….a long time. It was very intense to watch…I can only imagine how it felt. I tried to calm her breathing by quietly reassuring her in her ear.
After a couple hours in the tub, Kimberly felt the need to start pushing. After about an hour (I think?) of pushing while hanging over the side of the tub, with her knees on the ground, Kimberly eventually relented to Kim’s suggestion and rolled over onto her back to push. Then things started rolling quickly. Soon the baby’s head was crowning…and I touched it. Kimberly didn’t want to (I kind of found that surprising) and she kept pushing. This is where the memory blur really kicks in: There was encouragement, some loud encouragement to keep pushing, the head came out further… and then the head was out… and soon the shoulders… and then… WOAH! There she was! Kim placed her on Kimberly’s chest and I felt my face beaming, absolutely beaming. I think I was crying, but it was very different from any experience I had ever had. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a “happy cry” like that. It was completely different: light, stimulating different parts of my face… weird. I just know that I was beaming and happy and immensely relieved and proud. Beaming… I keep using that word, but it’s the best one to describe how I felt. It was surreal and a truly wondrous thing to behold and to be a part of.
I reveled in my Facebook post announcing Lily’s arrival. “DRUG FREE” was prominent in the post. It felt pretty awesome to basically say “SEE, bitches? It CAN be done” to all the skeptics and naysayers and zombies who know nothing of childbirth but have strong opinions nevertheless. However, we told practically no one of our plans ahead of time (unlike Max’s birth), because we knew what kind of attitude we would encounter, and Kimberly surely did not need that negativity screwing things up for her. I was greatly amused at how we told people after-the-fact. I think we made a significant point to a lot of people by not cluing them in ahead of time, and I don’t think it was lost on them.
My daughter was born in my living room! I never imagined I would say that, but I’m so glad that I’m able to. From where I sat throughout the past 18 months, the way Lily joined our family on March 20th was a testament to the willpower and determination of my wife. It was also a reflection of the innate strength that all women possess, though it seems to me that far too few of them experience it through the opportunity presented by the natural childbirth process. I wonder how many of them actually realize that they can do nearly anything that they put their minds to. Last but not least, Lily’s birth was also made possible by the support network that Kimberly discovered and relied on heavily, from Dr. Alexa Fagan in particular, with her encouragement and guidance and insistence that Lily would come in her own time, along with Ms. Megan the Dynamo Doula, to the internet discussion groups and Facebook communities who support each other via cyberspace. Kimberly’s resolve and commitment to experience natural childbirth and to bring Lily into this world in the healthiest way possible showed me just how strong she is (AGAIN… and made me seriously question myself!) and reminded me once again of how lucky I am to have her as the mother of my children. I have a very deep respect for her commitment to her family and her ability to focus and exercise her willpower in support of it; and my respect for her increased tenfold through this experience. I couldn’t ask for anything more from my partner and best friend.