I sit here writing this post on the eve of Esme’s 1st birthday. Esme is my third child, and first girl. She has brought me more joy in this past year than I could’ve ever imagined. Her little soul shines so bright, her blue eyes twinkle 24/7, and her sense of humor is on point! She reminds me so much of my mom, looks and personality, whom I lost when I was 11 years old. Esme has healed my heart.
Knowing that Esme was most likely our last, I wanted to document the labor and delivery and I hired a local birth photographer, Shawna Stanley, to capture the journey. Her pictures (below) tell the story better than I remembered it. I will continue to treasure these images forever.
The original story that I began writing, and that I am still planning to finish and post, is more about WHY I chose to have a home birth, and why I am so grateful that it was an option to me here in the Buffalo area. However, I realized that needed to be its own story. This is the story of how Esme Elizabeth arrived earthside…
Esme’s pregnancy was by far my most difficult. I experienced 18 weeks of debilitating nausea, compared to almost NONE with my boys. I was busier, chasing after and caring for 4 and 2 year old boys. And then the SPD- Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. It felt like my legs weren’t connected to my hips, and that someone was continually kicking me in the pubic bone with steel toed boots. I couldn’t walk or stand without pain. I had to stop teaching and practicing yoga, and it left me feeling really frustrated and isolated. The chiropractor offered the only relief but it was temporary. Regardless, I would do it all again for that little girl!
At 31 weeks we discovered baby girl was breech. I implemented all the holistic tools I could, essential oils, yoga inversions, and finally acupuncture. At my very first acupuncture appointment, Toni, my acupuncturist, said that the baby was transverse, aka “sideways”. This was good news to me because it meant everything I was doing up until that point worked, I got her halfway there. What happened next though blew my mind! In one 45 minute appointment the baby flipped. Head down. And she stayed that way for the remainder of the pregnancy. Needless to say I still see Toni for miracle work!
August 17th, 2018, Esme’s due date: I was hoping that being my third she’d come the earliest and quickest. No such luck. The due date came and went, just like my boys’ did. Teddy at 42 weeks, and Vaughn at 41. I had tredded this water before but this time I had contractions every night after the due date until the day she was born. Wednesday, 2 days before her birthday, I even called in the team, sure that I was in labor. I was not.
August 24th, 2018, Esme’s Birthday: The day started with a few mild contractions that I believed were false labor. Eric took the boys out of the house so that I could rest and relax. Every 30-60 minutes I would have a mild contraction, but nothing regular. All of the sudden the power went out across our entire town. It was 89 degrees outside, which felt like 1000 degrees to me, so I sat in my car, in my robe, with my phone charging and the AC blasting. This is when the contractions started to become a little more intense.
I urged Eric to get home and texted my doula, Rebecca (a truly magical woman). At around 5pm everyone started showing up. Rebecca was the first to arrive, followed by Shawna my photographer, 10 minutes later Maura, my incredible midwife, and finally Maura’s assistant and RN, Sigrid. The team was together, the birthing pool was inflated, and the power was ON. It was go time!
One of the amazing things about having a birth at home is that you’re 100% doted on by a team of women that YOU handpicked. I mostly labored in the birthing pool because the weightlessness and my ability to move around in contorted positions was the only thing keeping me comfortable. Not for a minute was that water ever too hot or too cold. Those women kept it at the perfect temperature for HOURS. Being at home allows for so many more comforts and luxuries that you’ll never receive in a hospital. I got to eat, although I wasn’t very hungry. I got to wear whatever I wanted. No internal exams to see “how far along I was”, my midwife was trained to see specific signals in a woman’s body that indicate when the baby will be coming. She once told me that an OB in the hospital asked “if you don’t do internal exams, how do you know when the baby is coming?” To which she said “I see a head”. Women have been birthing babies for thousands of years. Only in recent history has modern medicine convinced us that we can’t do this without interventions, constant monitoring, and invasive internal exams. Our bodies were designed for this! Let’s trust and celebrate that! (More on this in my next post.)
For Esme’s birth though, being at home allowed my whole family to be present. My mother-in-law kept my 2 year old busy, while Teddy (4), fed me grapes, water, a smoothie, and held a cold compress on my forehead. Eric was by side everytime I needed him to be, and the comfort of my own home kept me grounded.
During transition, it seemed like my labor was stalling in the water. My team instructed me to get out and try and push on a birthing stool, to which I said “no”. I knew that as soon as I got out of the water it was going to get INTENSE. And it did!
I was assisted onto the birthing stool and I summoned every ounce of strength within myself, and asked for the strength of every woman that came before me, to push that baby out. Something I didn’t experience with my first homebirth where Vaughn came out so quickly, and with a force that I couldn’t have stopped if I tried. No, I gave everything I had in me to get her here. And it was one of the most empowering moments of my entire life. A little after 11pm, Esme was in my arms.
Even more beautiful was the fact that Teddy witnessed the entire thing. With tears in his eyes everyone kept assuring him that everything was ok, this was normal, and that he could leave whenever he wanted, to which he replied “these are happy tears, these are happy tears!” After I held her and fed her in bed while I delivered the placenta, Teddy finally got the chance to hold his new baby sister. He said he wasn’t going to bed until he did! My heart expanded beyond anything I’ve ever known.
The best part of having a home birth is that after you deliver the baby, your team sticks around for hours. Rebecca brought me tea, fruit, a bowl of Eric’s chili. She made sure breastfeeding was going smoothly while adjusting the temperature of the room and getting us comfortable with blankets and pillows. Maura and Sigrid took the baby only after she was done eating and after the cord was done pumping, to weigh her and check all her stats. And they only took her to the foot of my bed. I had no tearing, no complications, and no need for sutures, or the oxygen or pitocin that Maura came prepared with, which meant a quick recovery.
Esme was perfect. 7lbs 6oz, my smallest baby.
It was everything I could have asked for and more. My team, all friends, Eric even joked that at one point he felt such a strong “girl power” vibe that he wasn’t sure he belonged in the room. But he was perfect too. He was terrified at the first birth, scared with the second, because it was the first home birth, but this time he was cool, calm, and collected. A real pro!
We always hoped for a family of five. Three kids was our dream. Esme completed our family and her birthday is one we’ll always remember.