The Homebirth of Rory Kai

—The pictures in this post are graphic. There are breasts and vaginas and moments of birth. If this offends you, you can choose not to read the story, or to not look at the images. Please do not complain about them, as you have been warned.—

{Incredible images credit goes to Kate Anderson Photography}

 

Rory is sleeping soundly across my belly, and he is nearly nine days old. Life has already changed to the point where I can’t imagine my existence without him. How he came to be here is another story.

I’m going to place a trigger warning here. My birth was, by many comparisons, not traumatic or violent. However, it also wasn’t peaceful and perfect. I would like mothers who have had a traumatic birth, or women who are pregnant and would not benefit from reading or hearing a difficult birth story to be able to choose to stop reading now. It will do you no good.

That being said: Onward!

My fourth pregnancy had been progressing like all the others that came before it. Tired and uncomfortable, but not at all unwilling to allow the full gestation period to elapse, I had been dealing with excessive contractions for weeks. Since this had been my experience in all of my prior pregnancies, I wasn’t terribly worried about it nor was my birth team. On Wednesday, June 24th, only two days past my due date, the contractions seemed to change. “Longer, stronger and closer together,” just like they always said in the baby books. I had a bit of bloody show and started losing mucus plug. I texted my midwife, tentatively excited that tonight might be the night, and started cleaning. When, a few hours later, they had calmed down, I went to bed – disappointed but determined to be patient.

I had a very poor nights sleep. Brock ended up taking Thursday off to help me out with the kids, let me get some rest, and to be around if things suddenly “got serious”. That was the big worry – that I would suddenly shift gears from prodromal labor to real, and everything would happen too quickly.

No action on Thursday. Lots of walking and resting. Not much sleep.

Friday, I contracted all day. We sent kids to their grandparents, and walked. Ate at a restaurant. Walked some more. Very powerful contractions 6-8mins apart all day. Texted with my midwife several times and she decided to come and check on me. Sprits rising. A baby is coming! Brock and I readied the house. Set out the birth pool. Prepared snacks and drinks. Started playing my birth music. My midwives showed up together around 7pm, and it was lovely and peaceful. We enjoyed chatting and laughing for several hours, while I contracted irregularly and yet had to focus and breathe through each. I asked to be checked and my cervix was a mere 2cm. My heart sank, but I was assured again that false alarms are more common with multiparous women – the contractions are just too powerful and consistent. It’s hard to truly tell when they switch to ‘the real thing’. I felt much better hearing that they would rather be called for several false alarms than miss the birth.

Brock and I went to sleep disappointed again, and still pleasantly aware that it would be soon. We would be having a baby soon.

Saturday. June 27th. Contracted all day. 6-8 minutes apart. POWERFUL contractions. Stayed in touch with my midwife all day. All day. Called her off around 9pm when everything seemed to fizzle out. Again. I was beginning to feel defeated. And exhausted. Like I had been in labor for days and it was all a big joke.

Sunday started out with a 10am tearful text to my midwife:

“Contracted all night. Hardly slept. Strong contractions that woke me up over and over. Got up from 2-4 and no changes. Drank some magnesium to try to get sleep, and was still woken. Have been contracting since I got up and they are SO uncomfortable. I’m in tears.”

She suggested that perhaps the baby was trying to change positions, and recommended I try to knee chest for 20 minutes. By 10:30, the whole birth team was on their way again.

We sat around again.

We chatted again.

Powerful contractions that brought me to tears every time. But no progress. Nothing to speak of. Midwives suggested that I try to take a nap, and that they would go to lunch so I could get some rest. I tried. For several hours. No nap, no rest. Just contractions and frustration. More crying.

birth3Brock and I had lunch. While midwives were gone, I decided to try a ‘Spinning Babies’ engagement trick – Walcher’s technique. I laid on the edge of the bed and let my legs hang off the side, in a version of a back bend. The idea is to open the pelvic inlet as wide as possible to help the baby’s head engage in the birth canal, and hopefully get things moving. Boy, did it get things moving. Contractions immediately jumped to 3 minutes apart. Deep, intense contractions that required motion and moaning. I texted with midwife between contractions but didn’t want her to come back too soon – at this point I was deathly afraid of fizzling out again – but Brock took my phone and told her to “please come right now,” at 4pm.

birth2Midwives came back. Contractions were so close and so powerful…. and then we realized that the birth pool was leaking. We scrambled to drain it, patch it and refill it. The adrenaline, the urgency – it all but stopped my contractions completely. I felt like I had stalled out again. I broke down and sobbed. I was so defeated. My head was filled with shoulds and shouldnts and I couldn’t get away from them.

It shouldn’t be taking this long. I should be better at this. I shouldn’t be this uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be this hard with my fourth. I should have had the baby by now.

birth6It was destructive talk that I had to knock myself out of. I had to forget the should, and focus on the reality – I had to change my inner speak: THIS is my birth. This is how it IS. And since it can’t be any other way than it IS, I need to accept it and move on. It’s okay for me to have a long, difficult birth. It is okay.

At 7pm, my birth team went out for dinner, again with the recommendation of rest, food, walk… and possibly some sex? We tried all of the recommendations, took a shower, and then laid in Walcher’s again. I honestly didn’t believe that the contractions could get more powerful, but they did.

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Here’s where the timeline starts to get fuzzy for me. It slows down and speeds up at the same time. At 8:30pm, my birth team returned. I labored. And labored. I moved in the pool and squatted by the stairs. I sat in knee-chest, and swayed in a squat. I danced, rocked, shimmied… I think there might have been some twerking. It was hard work. The contractions were strong and frequent and very intense. But in the moments between, there was chatter and laughter. It was comfortable and beautiful.

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I remember at one point asking what time it was, and being told it was 10:30pm. I remember at another point asking for my cervix to be checked, and I was still only at 8cm. I remember feeling the defeat in my head, and deciding I had no choice but to push on.

birth8“Horsey lips. Horsey lips. No pushing. Breathe. Relax. Stay with it. Let the baby move down. This is the work. Your body is doing things. You ARE making progress.”

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I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. It wasn’t reaching my brain. I just kept taking it one contraction at a time. For minutes. For hours. Forever.

Brock was beside me, behind me, with me for every single contraction. He would hold my hands and kiss my forehead. He told me over and over again how strong I was. He pushed back against me when I needed resistance. He stroked my cheek when I needed a rest. I remember asking him at one point if he needed to eat, or drink, or pee! He hadn’t left my side since noon.

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In my mind, only minutes have passed. I cannot fathom the actual reality. I stop asking what time it is. I ask to be checked again. There is cervix there. My midwife asks if she can hold the cervix back through one contraction. I say yes, but my mind screams no. I’ve done this before. I know this pain. It is about to get really, really real.

I have a moment of peace. A moment of pure clarity, where everything comes into focus.

I can do this. I am powerful. I have the strength. I CAN push this baby out.

I hear a quote in my head, “She thought she could, and so she did.”

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The contraction starts to mount and the clarity slips away. I begin to cry out in pain, and try to move away from the feeling. “Please stop, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this anymore. Please stop! I can’t do this! I want to stop! Let me stop!”

birth11The pain of holding my cervix back is so visceral – I feel it in my entire body, just like before.  Just like with Ryder, and with Ruby. At the end of the contraction, the urge to push is there. The real one. The pushing that makes a baby come out. I give in to it once, and my water breaks with a giant rush – it scares the shit out of me and I scream.

Rest. It feels like hours pass, and I’m mumbling to myself, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I hate this. I can’t do it. This sucks. Every single part of this sucks…” But in my head, the clarity has returned: I can do this. I have done this before. My baby is almost here. I can do this. A few more pushes.

Time passes, and the contraction mounts. Clarity slips away, and something else takes over. I’ve never felt this feeling before, and this is what makes this birth so different than my others; I feel like I’m surrounded, covered, buried in terror. I’m so afraid. Afraid of the pain and afraid to push. I start yelling in deep fear, “Please stop, please make it stop! I can’t, I can’t!  Let me stop!  Please let me stop!” Over and over. But the pushes can’t be stopped, and my baby is RIGHT THERE. Pain, ring of fire, crowning. I rip my hands away from Brock and put them on my perinum, around the head. I feel like I NEED to feel it, to protect it, to hold it, but I don’t know why. I try to pull my legs together. I try to move away from the pain. I’m still yelling, still crying, still begging to stop. Please, let me stop. My legs are held apart – the baby is coming out.

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Time passes, and another contraction mounts. I feel my bottom relax and the head is delivered. I hear exclamations of excitement, that I’m doing it and my baby has hair, and it’s beautiful – but I don’t hear it. And I don’t see it. My eyes are closed so tightly, and I am surrounded by terror. I just want to stop.  Please, let me stop. Pressure. Contraction. Push. SURGE as the baby is fully delivered. It’s out. The baby is out.

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My eyes are still closed and I am sobbing. I hear voices tell me, “Mandy, look at your baby!”  I feel my hands on the baby as it is placed onto my chest, and I can’t let go of the terror. I don’t want to open my eyes.

birth13But I do.

I open my eyes and the terror is gone. There is a beautiful, tiny, amazing human being in my hands and I am instantly so full of love and wonder and amazement and just so much love. The darkness is cut away by blazing light, and I am so in love. birth14Sobbing now, with tears of joy, I look around the room, and everyone is crying. Not just the tears of joy that a birth brings, but tears of those standing in the fire with someone they love, tears from watching unspeakable pain and feeling utterly helpless. I smile, I laugh, because for me the pain is gone, but it is still there in the room. I see it echoing in their eyes.birth15

I pull a tiny bottom closer to my chest and feel testicles! “It’s a boy!” I nearly shout. Lost in the depth of his eyes, I tell him, “You are so beautiful. And you are such a dick!”

It just kind of popped out. But everyone laughs, and I hear, “It’s nice to have you back, Mandy.”

At that moment, I break down crying again. Not just joy and wonder, but the full impact of what just happened hits me.  I remember all of it.  I remember the terror.

“That. Was. REALLY. Hard.”

Birth2

And it was. It was really hard.

Our beautiful boy takes a few minutes to transition. As soon as he’s breathing well and the cord stops pulsing, it is cut so I can deliver the placenta, which comes out quickly and easily. I move from the pool to the couch and snuggle with my sweet, tiny new human, and wait for his first latch. My birth team bustles to get things together, helps to clean, prepares and inspects my placenta. And I am in a dreamy, gauzy, filmy haze of joy and exhaustion.

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Newborn exam. Healthy baby. 7lbs 15oz, 20 inches and beautiful.

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Everyone packs up. Everything is done. We are blanketed and pillowed and snuggled in for the night. I hug my beloved birth women goodbye and wave them out the door. The moment they are gone, my eyes lock into the eyes of my husband. His fill with tears, and he begs, “Please… Please don’t make me ever watch you go through that again.”

We cry together for a while.  We stare at our baby boy together for a while.  And then we sleep.

Rory Kai is here.

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The Birth of Rory Kai from TempestBeauty on Vimeo.
{All photo credit – Kate Anderson Photography}

  • http://bolderbeing.com Lindsay Dianne

    So perfect. And heartbreaking.
    I never had a planned pregnancy… I never had a second or a third or a fourth. And as difficult as this sounds, it also sounds beautiful. To experience it fully; to have chosen it. Thank you for sharing it.

    And the pictures are so beautiful.
    Lindsay Dianne´s last blog post ..Hard Work

  • Teresa

    Oh I’m all teary now too! Thank you for sharing such a miraculous and true story! I know exactly what you mean about that deep terror. You are such a gifted writer. So beautiful. So so beautiful.

  • Torre

    Wow, Mandy, what an experience! Thank you for sharing the brutal, honest truth at all times. So refreshing! So glad to know you through instagram and call you a friend. You are one blessed, beautiful mama!!

  • http://www.megansnaturals.com megan

    Thank you. I’m a childbirth instructor and a nurse at our local birth center. I’ve seen mothers go through what you described- Not just the long labors alone, but even in short ones, those moments of terror just previous to a 3rd+ birth. It is very VERY good for me to be able to read the emotions from the inside, from you. I’m currently pregnant with my 3rd and I’m just so thankful to read this- Because, when and if this happens to me or my students or clients I will know and understand more….something powerful….that while not fun, it’s NORMAL. And Ok. And that can be empowering. But yeah- SUCKS!

  • Shelly Collie

    Mandy,

    This was such a story! Congratulations to you on your new boy! My first baby was my hard working exhausting labor and birth. I wasn’t in labor for anywhere near your length of time, but he was positioned all weird. During labor he was posterior which caused terrible back labor and my midwife (Marcia E) also had to push onto my cervix to get him past a small lip. You’re right, it hurts!! When he came out, I remember saying, in a gasp for air, “Im done…I’m done.” lol

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. Congrats again and your pictures are absolutely beautiful!