Anna and Leni
Here I sit- a little over five months have passed since this beautiful birth, and still I can remember it almost as if it was just yesterday!
I remember having conversations with Anna during her pregnancy. There was a decision to make as to where she wanted to birth her baby. Hospital or birth center? She was given an episiotomy during the hospital birth of her son. More than three years later, she expressed that she could still hear the sound of her skin being cut. She had been traumatized by this experience -the pain, the recovery- and this was giving her worries. Would she be able to do it without the option of pain meds? Would she feel comfortable being out of hospital? Would she tear this time? Would it hurt? All totally valid questions after her experience. As a friend, and a believer that we can do so much more than we think and so much more than we are told, I encouraged her to believe in her strength and resilience.
I had been keeping in close contact with Anna in the preceding days, but on the 26th of October, she said that things were beginning to happen. She was feeling contractions, mellow and far in between. I went over to her house. Asher and Forrest got to play with Nial. I prepared a miso soup for the days to come. Natalie prepared a grocery list, as they planned to make a grocery run after her scheduled visit with Tammy -the midwife- the next day. Anna was mellow, calm, and handling the surges beautifully knowing that there was more to come. I went home to let her rest and relax in her own space.
The next morning, the whole family and Natalie went down for their appointment with Tammy around 9:00. Everything was looking great, but there was no need to settle in to the birthing center yet. They decided, before making the long drive back up the mountains, to go to Costco, walk around some stores, a trip to the skatepark for Cullen, but things were not progressing much so it was decided they would drive home. Rest was encouraged, and rest was just what she needed.
After waking up from a nap, things seemed to be getting a little stronger. Around 4:00, they were heading out for a walk, and I decided to join them to see how she was doing. We all walked the dogs down the street to a large open field. Every nine minutes or so, she had to pause slightly for surges, but she was breathing and flowing right along with them. We took in the fresh mountain air, the sun had begun to lower and began dancing with the shadows of the trees.
When we got back to the house, we all embraced the cozy vibes that filled the room. Anna's friend Cody was playing sweet serenades on the guitar as Natalie prepared dinner and food for the coming days. Cullen played guitar with him while also entertaining Nial. Anna relaxed on the couch breathing and staying completely present in each moment. There was a baseball game on the TV, and in between contractions, she even had it in her to yell out in excitement at the plays that didn’t please her. I giggled and made a joke.
As I sat there, playing with Nial, and talking with the others -checking on Anna, but also giving her plenty of space to follow her instincts and create her own ritual- I was helping to low-key time her contractions as well. After hearing that contractions were four to five minutes apart, Tammy had asked if she was feeling ready to come down. Anna wanted to stay a little longer. They were getting closer. They were getting stronger. She was no longer paying attention to the strikes or homeruns of whatever teams were playing that night. I recommended hopping into the shower and letting the warm water fall on her low back to help ease some of the sensation of the surges. By the time she came out, the contractions were coming every few minutes and her focus was taken fully by the waves. Around 9:00, she decided that it was time to head down. We prepared the car. Natalie would ride along with them as I drove a separate car down behind.
As we were making the drive down, Natalie was keeping me updated. She was moaning her way through surges. I could tell Cullen was trying his best to get to the birth center while also taking it easy on the curvy mountain roads. Her water broke just as we got towards the bottom of the mountain. We were almost there.
We arrived at the birth center around 10:30 greeted by Tammy and her team. We got Anna in and onto the bed, Cullen went out to help get Nial into another room and back to sleep, and Natalie went out to get things from the car. As I was sitting with Anna, holding space and finding myself completely in awe of her process, the birth team was calmly but quickly gathering supplies. She quietly, but firmly said that she wanted to push. She was laying on her side. Tammy checked. You're ready mama! She felt the urge to change positions and went to hands and knees. I texted the girls back home and told them that it was time to cut the bracelets that were tied during her Mama’s Blessing. Leni was coming quickly! By the time I got back to the bed, she was pushing.
Tammy and her team were allowing her space to own her process. They encouraged her where she needed it, yet stood back to allow her instinctual mindset to take over. She pushed as she felt she needed to. She moaned as she wanted. She followed her body and her baby. Cullen was such an in tune and supportive partner. He would gently rest his head on her in between contractions, letting her know that he was there for her. Natalie was such a great presence, encouraging her through the process. I felt honored to hold her hand through her surges as she pushed Leni into this world.
As she continued pushing, she moaned, she grunted, she squeezed my hand with all of her strength. Leni’s head was crowning. Here she comes! The head was birthed. With just another one or two pushes it seemed, she was completely out. Relieved and amazed, Anna followed Tammy’s instruction to reach underneath to pull her baby girl through and into her arms. As she held Leni for the first time out of the womb, she cried out in joy. She had birthed her way! Empowered, supported, and with grace she brought her beautiful daughter into the world while healing herself and demonstrating that she was more than she believed. She was stronger than she knew. She was glowing, and everyone in the room could feel her light and their love.
Throughout the pregnancy, Anna had a wonderful connection both with her baby and her body. She listened to them as they grew together. She was in tune. Her birth was much the same, and I consider myself grateful and honored to have been there with them.
A note to Anna:
Yours was the first birth that I witnessed after my own. I will always cherish this opportunity, and I am so honored to have been able to hold space with and for you on this beautiful day. You showed me how wonderfully instinctual birth can be, and you've helped me to see that this "work" is what I am meant for. Thank you for allowing me into your sacred space to witness this magic.
I will forever be grateful for you mama!