The Healing Birth
I have known this sweet woman for years now. She has three young boys. All of their births ended in cesareans/extended NICU stays or interventions that she didn't want. Twins and a single. At the beginning of the year, she called me to photograph this last birth. She wanted to do a VBAC her way this time. (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)
Every pregnancy she has been through has involved Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). The variations of medications are continual. The grueling precautions are endless. Multiple ultrasounds due to constant bleeding from the SCH steadily made her worry of miscarrying. She opted out of the traditional hospital setting she was used to in her previous pregnancies and sought out a birth center. At the mark of 5 weeks she was not able to hold anything down. Not even water or ice chips. By her 3rd trimester, the HG triggered even worse. Her midwives rushed to her home in the middle of the nights to administer fluids to keep her out of the hospital as long as possible. As long as she & baby were not in medical distress, her birth team assisted them in any way they could. They knew that she wanted this birth be different. A stark reality was associated with what Amber wanted.
She knew that she was going to have to fight for this. There was no way in hell it was going to be easy. Not with HG.
At 35 weeks, the familiar pangs of preterm labor started and she was administered into the hospital.
In the state of Texas, you cannot give birth in a birth center before 37 weeks. As I walked into the room, our eyes met. She said everything within that bleary eyed stare. I dropped my gaze in solidarity. There was no need to speak. I knew.
Pointless platitudes & cliche statements would have been an insult. The looks of defeat, fear and anguish were all over her face. She was angry. I knew it wasn't directed towards anyone. She was angry at her pregnancy. At Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Once again, this awful disorder was trying to start something earlier than it was supposed to start. Which were the instances in her previous births. She was pissed. All of those months spent fighting differently to avoid this and somehow she was exactly where she didn't want to be. Despite her best efforts, the reality of her situation was heavy in the room. When the staff walked in they treated her with respect and empathy. They knew this wasn't where she wanted to be. They did everything in their power to stop her labor so she could have this last birth her way.
Thankfully, they were able to stop it.
She continued prodromal labor (false labor) every single night after being released until she went into active labor at 37 weeks and 1 day.
Getting to the birth center was just the beginning. She exerted powerful energy as she rode each wave closer to her baby.
Tears streaked her cheeks as she rehearsed in her mind over and over that she could do this.
She was safe. Her child was safe. Everything is okay. She kept telling herself that the end was in sight. The sickness would disappear once the baby is born. It was almost over. The months worth of pain would soon evaporate. She could taste freedom from the sickness that held her pregnancy captive. She was so close.
After many hours, she slipped away into labor land. She was no longer speaking to us nor was she responding.
Her heartbeat and her baby's heartbeat were strong and healthy. Amber was breathing silently trying not to fight nature. For the first time in all of her labors, she was finally able to allow her body to do what it was made to do. Not only did she fight for her birth, but the women who tended to her at the birth center AND the hospital helped her fight. The village supported her because she sought it. They all fought for her options because she fought first.
Surrounded by her husband and birth team, she welcomed her daughter peacefully into the water.
Once her daughter was born, she didn't shed a tear.
She was silent, still. She felt total and utter relief. The intense shock of immediately feeling alleviation paralyzed her. Her body felt 100 times better than it had in over 9 months in a matter of seconds. Her reward was in her arms and all she could do was marvel. She told me that she would never be able to truly explain that feeling. She didn't have to. The images show it all.
Sometimes we don't cry because we meet our children. Sometimes we cry because the the pregnancy is finally over.
The pain moves over to make room for the long awaited joy we all yearn for. Silencing out everything around us and experiencing the genuine feelings, whatever they may be. There is no "right" way to feel. We just simply feel.
Amber was healing right in front of my camera.
After three attempts to deliver without interventions...to finally have the respect and patience that she, her baby and her body deserved...she finally had the birth experience that she wanted from the very beginning.
______ Side Note: To all of the women who have experienced any type of birth trauma or pregnancy trauma, please know that you are not alone. Fathers, I see you, too. You all are just as traumatized watching the women you love suffer without warning. Every single one of us and our children deserve support, respect and empathy during this time in our life. The amount of encouragement you have given my clients on my page over the years has touched thousands of other lives. I hope you find solidarity and representation here. You are valued.