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Right at home: The birth of Akira Water Birth

Right at home: The birth of Akira

"With my body leaning over the side of the inflated birthing tub, I locked my hands with Jesse’s as he put his forehead to mine and told me how close we were to meeting our baby."

For those of you who have followed along during my pregnancy, you know that in what has now become my last Knocked-Up blog post, I was having some false labor and a whole lotta Braxton Hicks contractions that were leading me to believe our little boy would make his appearance sooner rather than later. You also know that Week 39 came and went with nary a boy in sight. Well, wouldn’t you know that at Week 40 he finally showed up? His birth was quite spectacular. A girlfriend of mine even said, “This kid is a true Leo waiting to make an entrance.” And, boy, was she right.

It started the night before. I had worn what I call my magical birth dress all day. (Side story: My sister had worn this dress at the end of her first pregnancy the weekend before her daughter was born; I wore it with Anaïs at the end of that pregnancy, and she was born two days later. I half-joked that it would bring on labor this time around and was not-so-secretly hoping I was right.) That night after dinner, Jesse, Anaïs and I took a walk around the neighborhood. When we got home, I took a shower and started to settle into bed. That’s when I started to feel contractions. They were seemingly real but turned out, yet again, to be false labor for about an hour before they fizzled out, and I decided to call it a night and go to bed.

At 4:15 in the morning, Anaïs ran into our bedroom crying after waking from a nightmare. She rarely, if ever, comes into our room for something like that, so I comforted her and put her back to bed. As I made my way back into our bedroom, I got a weird feeling in my gut about what had just happened. It wasn’t a physical sensation; it felt more like a foreshadowing. It was almost as though Anaïs knew it would be her last night as an only child, and so I turned right back around and gave her one last hug before going back to bed.

When I woke up a few hours later, I started making breakfast for Anaïs while Jesse was getting himself out of bed. I got her fed and took our dog Rocco outside to relieve himself. While outside with Rocco, I felt a twinge low in my abdomen. But because of my history of all of those false starts, I didn’t think much of it. When I got back upstairs, I told Jesse that I had already had three contractions. We both kind of laughed it off and didn’t think much of it.

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All photos by Traditional Birth Services

But then, they started getting stronger. And they kept getting more intense. At 9:52 that morning, I decided I should probably start keeping track of them. I downloaded an app on my phone called Full Term which made timing them really easy. They were coming hard and fast. They started out at 12 minutes apart and quickly dwindled down to 8 minutes and then 4 minutes. But then they jumped back up to 10 minutes and even 14 minutes apart.

They were so inconsistent, so I took a screenshot of them and texted my midwife Brenda and doula Amanda saying, “I don’t want to cry wolf, but this is what’s happening now.” Brenda said she’d cancel her afternoon appointments and head over. Amanda called me and could hear in my voice that these were the real deal and said she was en route. Meanwhile, Jesse took the reins and started setting up the birth tub and filling it with water. He grabbed everything from the birth kit we ordered and set it up on our dining table for Brenda. Oh, right. I guess now’s a good time to mention that we decided to do a home birth!

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While waiting for Brenda, I was pacing around our apartment. I was breathing and moaning and focusing my energy on everything that was about to happen. I threw up into our kitchen sink because the pain was getting so intense, and evidently, that’s my way of dealing with it. Anaïs put on a bathing suit and was watching me but remained calm and excited at the same time. Throughout this pregnancy, we’ve had a very open dialogue with Anaïs about birth. We knew she would be home to witness it, and we didn’t want her to be scared. We talked her through a lot and I even showed her some beautifully done home birth videos online. In all honesty, I am pretty sure that they prepped her for the big day!

Brenda arrived soon after and checked me. I was already at 9 cm! It was definitely go time. I got in the tub and the water brought me instant relief. It is amazing how laboring in water versus laboring on dry land makes such a difference to me. Amanda walked in and Breda’s birth assistant Madeline did, too.

It was all up to me to start pushing. With each contraction, I pushed a little bit but also felt like I wasn’t using my full potential. Wanna know why? It’s because I was actually self-conscious about pooping in the tub in front of everyone, especially my husband and daughter. With some coaching from Brenda, I gave up and submitted to my body and to the pain. She told me that with each contraction, I needed to take a deep breath and to hold it for six long seconds while I pushed all of it down and out of me. Jesse was behind me and I was gripping his hands while I was pushing. But that position wasn’t really doing much for me so Brenda suggested I get on my knees. Jesse moved to be right in front of me. With my body leaning over the side of the inflated birthing tub, I locked my hands with Jesse’s as he put his forehead to mine and told me how close we were to meeting our baby. Anaïs was walking around putting cool towels on my neck and shoulders. I could hear how excited she was getting. We really were so close!

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Amanda was giving me affirmations while Brenda and Madeline were checking heart tones and continuing to coach me through my breathing. I pushed and pushed until I felt what can be best described as a ping pong ball popping inside of me. I think I may have even heard an actual “POP!” When I told Brenda this, she said, “That’s your water! It just broke!”

I kept pushing and giving it my all. By now the pain was just so intense that all I could think of was getting this boy out. At the same time, I knew I also needed my body to pause for a minute–er, a few seconds–just so I could regain a little bit more strength. In my mind, all I wanted to do was get him to crown so I could take a “break.” I felt his head, and I just stopped pushing. It was then that I noticed that gravity was actually doing the work for me. I wasn’t doing anything yet his head was slowly but surely descending. I remember exclaiming, “I’m not pushing anymore but he won’t stop coming out!” Before I knew it, Jesse had caught his son and handed him over to me on my chest.

I burst into tears as I saw and held our son. I didn’t understand how much bigger or how much fuller my heart could feel when I heard Anaïs exclaim, “That’s my brudder!” and started singing him “Happy Birthday” with the rest of us.

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But nothing prepared me for the pride, joy and purest love I saw pour out of Jesse when his eyes filled with happiness and wonderment upon seeing our baby and experiencing what we just experienced together. There aren’t enough words to describe all of the emotions that were happening right there in our home.

There he was after nearly 10 long months of waiting: Akira, our brightness, our sunshine, our light. Born on August 12, 2015 at 1:59 p.m. on a perfectly clear and sunny Atlanta day.

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Forty minutes later, both Jesse and Anaïs cut his umbilical cord. Jesse took Akira and placed him on his chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact while I contracted to deliver the placenta. When it was finally out, I laughed and said, “I’m not pregnant anymore!” The ladies got me out of the tub and prepared and herbal sitz bath for me while Jesse and Anaïs had some special bonding moments with Akira.

As I sat in my herbal bath, I kept replaying what had just happened: I had a home birth! I felt victorious and empowered yet at the same time vulnerable and exhausted. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. I just mean that every fiber of my being was exposed, every emotion raw. And I was feeling everything from the physicality of giving birth to the intangible and indescribable passion of it all. Afterwards, I was led to our bedroom where Brenda would check Akira and me. We took guesses on how much Akira weighed. We were all shocked and awed to discover that he came in at a whopping 9 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches in length with chubby cheeks, the most kissable lips and a full head of beautiful dark hair.

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Brenda and Madeline cleaned and tidied up their things before heading out while Amanda stayed a while to help us with Anaïs and Rocco. Not having had a doula during my first pregnancy with Anaïs, I have to say that having Amanda this time around was invaluable. With her compassion, empathy and time, she enabled Jesse and me to have that very necessary, very important bonding time with Akira. The three of us were nestled in our bed falling deeper and deeper in love with the newest member of the family while Anaïs was being given a bath, Rocco was taken out for a walk, and we were made dinner. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

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When Amanda left, it was just us at home in the quiet that was now our new life as a family of four. Anaïs snuggled into bed with us and the love that radiated from her was undeniable. She suddenly seemed so big, so mature, and Akira seemed so tiny with the world at his fingertips. Seeing the two of them face to face was surreal. He had finally arrived earthside and was already so loved.

People say that mothers never forget the births of their children. I couldn’t agree more. Having given birth at home was an experience like no other, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. I feel like birth is already such a momentous occasion but for me, doing it in the comfort of our own home with a team of such compassionate people is something I will never be able to replicate again. It was so unique and very much Akira’s birth that it just felt right. Jesse’s hands were the first contact Akira had in this world and nothing can ever top that. Our lives are forever changed because of this little boy, and it is the best change we could have ever hoped for and more.

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Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!