I moved to Maine when I was six months pregnant. It was a scary move, mostly because we knew absolutely no one — except the midwives I had been Skyping with. A few months prior to our move I had sent out numerous emails to midwives all over Maine, mostly saying “I’m coming soon, but can we start care now?”
I only got one response, from Abby, saying “Of course!” in that ever-positive way she answers just about any question. Abby was completing her final year at the Birth House as the student intern. So, from my home in the woods of Washington State, we started regular visits via Skype. It was unconventional, a strange arrangement to be sure, but Abby (and her Midwife Mentor at the time, Jackie) didn’t seem to bat an eye at the oddity of the whole thing. From the first virtual meeting they made me feel at ease, comfortable, and cared for - this feeling would last through my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Honestly, I know I can call them right now and they would still extend the same professional care if I needed it.
Professional is a word I haven’t used yet, as it can make some people feel uncomfortable - like that means starched and cold - but Abby, and everyone that attended my birth, are far from cold. Every visit was helpful, caring, and thorough. Even when I called Abby and begged her to help me connect with my boyfriend, which was NOT in her job description, she graciously made me feel heard and helped. No question went unanswered and every decision was passed through us. We had full control of how our care was managed. It felt incredibly empowering and also grew my trust from Abby and Jackie.
I went into labor around 8am on a chilly March morning and within the hour my doula, another student from the Birth House, was at my place checking on me. Since the drive to the Birth House was about an hour we decided to leave pretty early in my labor, as to avoid a horrible car ride. At the House I was welcomed with open arms by Abby, Jackie, and another student, Molly. Completing what I would come to refer to as my “Huddle of Love” - including my boyfriend, five people huddled around me during the 24 hours of laboring that day.
The early labor was slow and uneventful. Mostly I laid on the couch, stared at the trees, opened and closed the window depending on my temperature, caught naps between contractions, and let out long, low moans. My “Huddle of Love” kept me hydrated, fed, and comfy. As day stretched into a long winter night, I moved up stairs - laboring between the birthing tub, the shower, and the bed. Everything was slow. I kept asking if I was doing it wrong. Every time I would progress a little my labor-hormone-soaked brain would clamp down and say “ok, this is it - this is as far as you can go.” I would basically shut down. But Abby was always there, gently suggesting that I get up and walk around, that I change positions, that I go pee. Oh man! I hated going pee. I hated moving. I hated that I knew she was right and I needed to move to progress. She never once rushed me or made me feel like I was doing anything but amazing. Actually, she literally said “you are doing amazing” about 700 times.
Those dark hours before active labor were the hardest. Mostly because I was in my head, psyching myself out, not letting myself go, not trusting myself or my body. The kindness of Abby and my entire birth team kept my spirits up. Everyone was so supportive and energetic. I went into the shower to bend over and run hot water on my back, and here my contractions came on strong and I saw my belly literally contract by inches and suddenly my water broke. I was finally moving towards transition!
Things got much more lively at this point and to be honest it is sort of a blur. It could have been five hours or five minutes, I have know idea - it felt more like five minutes to me. I remember bearing down, I remember hanging from the rebozo, I remember lots of encouragement. At some point the birthing stool was slid under me and Abby was on a stool in front of me, the rest of my “Huddle of Love” was gathered behind me. Now things were really happening! Abby began directing me to ease the baby out. She expertly guided my little one into the world, safely for both of us. Push and breathe, take a moment, push and breathe, take a moment. Little by little my baby crept into the world. Once the baby’s head was out and safely turned, everything else moved quickly.
I was moved to the bed and my sweet little one was placed on my stomach - my cord was too short to place her on my chest. I sat there shaking and crying and laughing and someone said “I’m going to move him” - and I blurted out “It’s a boy!?” We decided not to find out the sex of our child. “Oh! I haven’t even looked, it just slipped out.” So I reached down and turned my baby over to find out she was a little girl! Laying there still shaking, the professionals started preparing for the next steps. It’s amazing that the birth of the baby is just the beginning of the end - and the end can take a while. My contractions continued, as my body tried to birth the placenta. My exhaustion wasn’t helping. This part is also a little fuzzy for me, but I do know they were beginning to get a little concerned that the placenta wasn’t coming out. But after a few hearty coughs it was free. I got to lay back down and begin the process of calming.
But that didn’t last too long. Soon they asked me to pee. NO!!! Everything about squatting was painful and if they thought I was walking across the room they were crazy!! But, alas, I did walk across the room and sat on the toilet and then almost passed out. I was quickly and carefully laid on the floor. This happened about four more times. Toilet, light-headed, floor, repeat. While I laid on the floor slipping in and out of cognizance, I could see my boyfriend walking around the other room holding our baby with the most lovely look in his eyes. I was so happy he could share that moment with her. I think this bathroom debacle lasted for a couple hours, all the while they were feeding me and giving me water and tons of words of encouragement. Finally we decided on a catheter, as I couldn’t sit on the toilet.
Once that was done, I returned to the bed and enjoyed our first sweet family nap. At this point, my “Huddle” was ready to prepare us for our trip home and our first day as parents. They gave us all the information we could ever want and all the encouragement we could ever need. All filled up on love and information, we journeyed home. By the next morning, Kate, Abby, Molly, and Jackie all returned to check on us, see how breastfeeding was going, see if we had any questions or needed anything, and lastly, to fill out our birth certificate.
As we sat on the bed with our incredible lovely team, we introduced to the world Ada Mae Astrid. We feel so fortunate to have the help of these amazing women though this process.