atlas' birth story
I gave birth at home after six hours of active labor, which is relatively short for a first-time mom. I lost a lot of blood, but not enough to warrant hospital transfer. I needed stitches, but I’ve healed well. For the first couple days postpartum, I couldn’t stand up without fainting, but I peed squatting in a bedpan and I love to squat-pee. As far as births go, it was wonderful -- intimate, peaceful, and free of complications. But as far as Friday afternoon activities go, it was absolutely awful.
My original due date was December 12th, but that was based on the predictive method using a regular 28-day cycle. My periods were irregular, so I made my own calculations. I decided December 4th was a more accurate due date. My midwife agreed and updated my file.
I didn’t have any particular expectations about giving birth. I didn’t give much thought to labor positions, breathing techniques, or other strategies. I didn't attend classes or prepare candles or music. I assumed I would listen to my body, eat my snacks, and do whatever my midwife told me.
I never thought twice about a natural birth. I wasn’t afraid of pain simply because I didn’t see the point in fearing what I couldn’t control. I believed in my body and what it was made to do.
But optimistic beliefs and the power of positive thinking only go so far. In retrospect, I completely understand why women choose epidurals, schedule c-sections, and stop after one child. Natural birth is a commitment, and easier kept at home.
My water broke punctually at 12:45a on December 4th. I leaked for over 7 hours -- not a sudden flood like in the movies. Since I tested positive for Group B Strep, I needed to go into labor within 12 hours to avoid hospital transfer. I was relieved and excited when mild contractions began at 3:00a. I knew I would be having a baby that day.
At first it was all joy and anticipation. Getting tattoos taught me to channel uncomfortable physical sensations into pleasurable experiences. I applied this to contractions in early labor and it worked successfully for several hours. I ate a hearty meal. I put on lip gloss and posed for photos. I texted friends. I instagrammed.
And then it wasn’t fun anymore.
My midwife arrived at 2:30p and I promptly ripped my clothes off. I moved around from floor to birthing tub to toilet to birthing stool to bed. I bellowed until my throat was sore. I felt frustrated and helpless. My body inexplicably and repeatedly attacked itself and nothing I did could mitigate the pain.
I felt better when it came time to push because it was active effort instead of passive endurance. Maren and Kelly encouraged me to reach in and feel his head, but I wasn’t interested. Reaching in felt counterproductive. I wanted to focus my energy on getting him out of my body.
Soon enough, I felt the pressure of his head, then shoulders -- and my baby was born. He was immediately wrapped in a towel and placed on my chest. I was laying down and didn’t have the strength to lift myself up to properly see him, but I held his warm little body close against mine and it was all I needed.
I lost track of time in those first few hours, and continued to live in a daze as subsequent days and sleep-deprived nights blurred into weeks. My world instantly became very small, but it's also expanded as my heart overflows with the purest love I've ever known.
It was one year ago that I decided I was ready to be a mom.
I had dealt with personal issues, healed from childhood hurts, and processed my perspective on future generations. I was at an emotionally healthy place in my relationship with my self and with my husband. I knew I had more to learn and more to give. And I kept getting the sense that my next step was woven within the journey of motherhood.
Several months ago, Julie, a dear friend and mother-figure in my life, told me: "The world was not ready for the gift of Atlas until now." Those words strongly resonate with me. I believe he could not have been born at a more fitting time.
Atlas will grow up knowing the story of his birth -- that from the beginning, he was so wanted, so loved, so treasured. That even in the womb, he made his parents incredibly happy just being himself. That he was born in his bedroom on a quiet, cold winter evening. As far as births go, it was wonderful. And as far as babies go, he is perfect.
Photos by Reagan Denine Photography