Our home birth was so amazing, I keep going over the events in my mind, hoping to remember every little detail. It was three months ago now, and I still get goosebumps.
My water broke around 2 am, and I didn’t want to wake my birth team too early so I waited until 3 to call everyone. My midwife asked me how I was and then asked, “How is Maria Elena (the baby)?” The fact that she counted my intuition as an important question was very meaningful and powerful to me. I said she was fine. She was moving a lot (like a TOn) before my water broke and now she’s kind of quiet.” “So she was doing her part in breaking the sack,” my midwife said. And I immediately felt proud of my baby and connected with her, and so thankful to have a midwife who really knows how capable mothers and babies are.
My husband said, “Maybe we should fill the birth pool now.” “Okay,” I said. As he filled the pool I had a couple of contractions. It was around 4 am and I knew that my midwives, doula, and photographer were on their way but not rushing because I told them to take their time, we were just getting started.
Around 4:30 I had two back to back contractions. My husband said, “well that was fast.” Then, you know how contractions are like waves? Like they start slow, get big, then slow down again? Well, I had a couple of contractions that seemed to slow down and end, and then – MORE INTENSITY- then slowed down. Like a double hump, if you will. Crazy!
I got into the birthing pool “even though they say if you get in too soon it could slow labor” I said to my husband. “But I don’t care that it’s early, I just can’t wait to get in the warm water!”
That water. Mmm so relaxing. I was weightless. I could change positions so easily. “I’m going to take a nap,” my husband said. “Wake me when you need me.”
I needed him after like 10 minutes. I think it was around 5 am. I needed swigs of water. I needed him to wipe the sweat from my brow. I was cursing all those gentle birth videos I watched with women calmly helping their babies out of the birth canal with their calm steady hands. I was shaking. Couldn’t focus my eyesight. But I was totally in charge. I was letting the surges do their thing. I knew that I could have slowed them but I just let them come.
Then I thought. Ok, I’m ready. I know if I put each hand out, hold onto the handles, let my legs spread wide, I am going to get the biggest hugest contraction of all. I’m going to do it for the next one. It’s going to hurt, but I’m going to do it.
I did it. Wooooo hooooo so intense! And I felt Maria Elena move down. I didn’t tell my husband. But I knew she was coming. I didn’t want him to worry because the team wasn’t there yet.
I heard him call everyone. “You guys need to come now,” he said.
Then I felt her head. I swear that is the weirdest most awkward sensation, to have a head down there. Just hanging out. “Anne there’s the head,” he said. “I know, it’s gonna be fine. We can do this.” “Well I know we can do this but.. where are they?” He called again. They were almost there. It was 5:45 am.
I pushed. Once. Twice. “The head is out there she is!” My husband said. “Now push again!” “I will just have to wait for the next contraction!” I said. Then I heard our doorbell.
My husband ran to press the button that opens the condominium door on the bottom floor (we’re on the third). He ran back to me, I pushed out our baby, he put her on my chest. The whole birth team rushed in together. “We’re here!!! OMG you did it!! We’re here! You did amazing!!” I heard the click click of the camera. I had done it. Maria Elena was so sweet-looking up at me. She stretched and seemed to like having extra space. We stared at each other. It was pure magic.
Maria Elena was born at 5:53 am on May 30, 2020, she weighed about 8 pounds. I pushed out the placenta, I had to have two stitches, we practiced breastfeeding, I got dressed. And then we celebrated. Family members arrived, neighbors and friends. We had coffee and croissants. We laughed and cried and told my husband he should become a midwife. My oldest daughter burned the umbilical cord with a candle. My son stared and smiled.
Something that really colored the day was the fact that my dad, exactly one year prior, had left this life. And I sort of felt like he and Maria Elena had given each other a high five, as if it say, “ok, your turn now to have a go.” And my dad was looking down on us, making sure everything was perfect. He sent Maria Elena to us on a Saturday morning, with the sun beaming in through the windows.
I wish everyone could experience this power. It was the best day of my life.
We loved Anne Kathryn’s empowering story and had to follow up with her ~ here is what she had to say:
How did your birth impact your adjustment to parenting?
Recognizing my baby’s role in the birth was very influential in my connecting with her both during the birth and after. I have my midwives to thank for that. They frequently asked, “How’s your baby?” And they waited for a real answer. So now that she is here and we are doing life together, I see her as my “birth buddy.” It’s something we did together. We did that thing! That really amazing thing! And I look at her and it’s almost like an inside joke or something that just ours. And I’m proud of her and I think she’s proud of me. So to answer the question, “how did my birth impact my parenting?” I say our birth impacted our connection. And that is really key in parenting. I can help her and guide her because I really know her and I know what she needs.
How did your birth impact how you feel about your body?
When I was pregnant I had to do an ultrasound scan at a public hospital with a doctor that I didn’t know. She told me I should lose weight. That she couldn’t see my baby’s heart very well because of my chubbiness. It took some effort for me to let those words go.
I let them go because I want to honor my body for the amazing life that it sustained for 9 months. I grew a human. And now I’m feeding her with milk that my body has made. I really wish that my pre-pregnancy clothes still fit, they don’t at all. But I love my body. Birth has made me see that my body is powerful and beautiful.
And your sexuality?
Funny, I felt sexier pregnant. I think it was the increased blood flow to certain pleasure areas :) Having a baby always attached to me makes me forget about my sexuality. I think it’s temporary. Our sexuality is morphing into something even better, but it will take time. I think having my partner there witnessing the power of birth has brought us closer. And our physical attraction is even stronger. It’s a different kind of attraction than before. Now it’s not rushed, more solid, less hot and heavy and more.. how can I put this. He is home. We made life together.
Anne Kathryn Rice is an American mother of three living in Genoa, Italy. As a birth and postpartum doula, she is passionate about helping women find their voice in childbirth and parenting. She is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her greatest teachers, however, are her children. You can read more of her writing at lovegrowdiscover.com or follow her on instagram @lovegrowdiscover.