Written just a few days after Acre’s birth…
“23 months ago, I gave birth to Oakland Jude at home. (That story + video can be found here.)
Between Oaks’ birth and Acre’s birth, we lost our precious daughter Harbor. The sudden loss of a child shatters all sense of security. It makes everything scary. Everything. Little things. All things. And for us, it brought a lot of anxiety to this pregnancy and birth. So much so, that save for a few friends & family, we didn’t share the news of our pregnancy until 31 weeks. I pretty much hid out from well-meaning comments, from celebration, from all the typical ‘growing your family’ type of things. None of it felt right this time. Our family can never feel “right” again until it is fully made right in Heaven. (If you haven’t lost a child, you can’t get this, and I am thankful you don’t have to. But these are very very commonly felt things among the bereaved parent community and all very normal).
Anyways, all that to say: it was just different, and hard. But amidst that hard was gratitude and hope. As much as possible, we leaned into those two feelings. We prayed that Acre’s birth would be a physically & spiritually positive experience.
Near the end of my pregnancy I told Tyler “I have a feeling this labor is going to start with my water breaking.” It’s certainly not the most common way for labor to begin, and it has never been my experience with past babies, but I had a feeling this labor would begin that way, I’m not sure why.
Sure enough, on 7/14, my water broke as I was making dinner. It was a slow, warm, gush. Instant excitement and adrenaline. The kids were so excited they could hardly eat, and Cade kept saying “Dad, I really think you need to fill the pool!” We explained to them that it could take hours for active labor to begin.
We didn’t know how friggin’ true that was.
(For reference, the last birth was a smooth and beautiful 3 hours)
We cleaned the house a little (kids rushing around and grinning from ear to ear) and called Cassie (friend) and Blair (videographer & friend) who both live 40 minutes away. They headed over. We decided to go out back and walk around. It was a BEAUTIFUL night. Something so sacred.
On one side of our house there was a vivid sunset, and on the other side of our house it was dark and a rainbow appeared. Since moving here 2 months ago, we have seen 10 rainbows. That’s more than I’ve seen in my whole life before now. Every part of my body was aware that it was a message… a hello from our girl, a reminder of God’s promise. It felt to me as though he was saying “I am with you, and I will not flood your world again.” My anxiety eased.
Blair and Cassie arrived. I was walking around with fluid randomly leaking down my legs and each gush was so exciting – a confirmation that it was happening. We played in the garden and just soaked up the beauty of the night. I was certain that the show would get on the road any minute.
There is so much beauty in this part of home birth, when your tribe of women surround you in your space. The laughter, the anticipation, the sharing of stories… it’s a stripped-down sacredness that very few experiences can touch.
After awhile, we called Ruth, our midwife. She said to keep walking around and call her when things picked up. She text a few times asking how it was going, and I had nothing to report. It got later and later. Eventually she said she couldn’t sleep so she’d just head over. She got here around 3:00am and checked me. I was at a 3 and still no contractions. Ruth decided to go to sleep in the guest room. She said that if active labor hadn’t begun by morning, we’d try some natural induction methods because she wouldn’t let me go more than 24 hours between my water breaking and active labor. If it didn’t pick up by the 24 hour mark, we’d have to go to the hospital.
The hospital was the very last place I wanted to go. It felt like a punch in the gut that it was even uttered. I was determined not to let that happen… and yet, there was nothing I could really physically do to ensure that it didn’t. I could feel the pressure of the ticking clock. We all went to bed. I assumed and hoped that I’d be woken up soon with painful contractions.
Morning came and still nothing. I walked laps around the driveway as the sun came up and told Acre he had permission to come out; that we wanted him and loved him and were ready to meet him. I prayed. I listened to worship music. I reminded myself that 300,000 women were giving birth with me that day. I called upon all the mental strength I could muster, because birth is SO very much mental/emotional.
^ “Surrender” … a summary of this birth, for sure.
When Ruth woke up around 7:30am, she said it was time to do some natural induction methods. We got those started. Still nada.
I became inwardly frustrated, defeated, and embarrassed. I hate to waste peoples’ time. I hate to be the center of attention with all eyes on me. And as an enneagram 3, I HATE to be “bad at” something. I know that may sound so silly.
I was so frustrated that I couldn’t make this happen, and did NOT want to go to the hospital.
Our sweet doula, Emily, came. I was thankful for her presence. She was calm and confident in me, which helped me be more calm and confident in myself.
At some point, Ty suggested he and I get away from everyone and go on a walk. The minute I was alone with just him in nature, I felt a weight lift. Pressure and expectations vanished. We walked and walked and walked and he brought me back to center. As he always does. Every once in awhile, I paused for a contraction. Thank you, Jesus!
Birth is seriously so, so, so much psychological — as much or more-so than physiological. If you’re expecting and haven’t read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, please do!
When we got back, Ty went upstairs to put Oaks down for a nap. At some point I snuck upstairs to nurse him to see if the stimulation would get the contractions to pick up in intensity. It did. They were intense. Through each one, I relaxed every part of my body and let them flow through and do their work. I laid in Oaks’ tiny twin bed with him and let several intense contractions flow through, then I went downstairs to let everyone know it was finally happening.
I went downstairs and said, “Okay, so I’m in active labor. Is the time clock called off? I can stay home, right?” When Ruth said yes — that active labor was all she needed — I was so relieved. I could get down to business and focus on what I needed to do.
At one point I got in the birth pool, but it was so soothing that it calmed my contractions down. Back out!
I labored in the living room. My favorite coping mechanism was being leaned over on my birth ball, which was the same as Oaks’ birth. Eventually (it didn’t take long once active labor began), I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was fully dilated and he was coming. I shared this information with no one. I was scared. Scared of the pain, scared of the feelings, just scared. This time, having birthed naturally before, I fully knew what was coming. I decided I would just ride the contractions forever and not do the pushing part. ha!
I voiced that I wanted to get back in the water. Ruth and Emily, not knowing I was so close, challenged me to wait 5 more contractions and then I could get in the water. I made it one more contraction and was like okay I really, really want to get in the water. They challenged me to go to the bathroom first. In my mind all I could envision was my friend Chelsea who recently almost had her baby in her toilet. I KNEW he was right there about to come out, and sitting on the toilet could not happen! I insisted on getting in the water.
At this point, I think everyone knew I was getting close, but no one knew I was literally holding him in.
When transition hit, a flood of anxiety arrived as I expected it would. That’s the definition of transition and every natural birth mama knows it.
I knew he was minutes away from coming, and I said out loud “I cannot have his head under the water. I can’t.” I met Cassie’s eyes and they were filled with tears and I knew mine were too. My friend Cassie is such a rock in my life. I call her my sisterfriend because she is more of a sister than a friend (and adoption has made us sisters — long story). She has been present as 3 of my children entered the world — Harbor, Oaks, and Acre.
I got out and onto the bed. Ruth offered to check me and I said “I already know what you’ll say if you check me. He’s coming.” I knew I had been at a 10 for awhile. She started to check me and said “Oh, yep! There’s his head coming.” I laid down on my side and leaned into Ty. Things were super intense, and internally I was just so afraid to push. I remember asking Ruth, “At some point the fetal ejection reflex will kick in and he’ll just shoot out, right?”
Nope. Had to push. But only twice.
And he was here! He was so freaking perfect!
My sweet Bubba. He loves me so well. He loves so, so big.
Big sister Story cut Acre’s cord, just as she said she would for weeks. I am so blown away by her. She was right there in the middle of the action, fascinated by the whole thing. As I pushed, I saw her face right between my legs and she was the epitome of calm, compassionate, and just amazing. There is a certain responsibility when giving birth in front of your daughter (at least for me, it felt that way). This would be her first and maybe only real exposure to birth before she may one day give birth herself, and how I modeled it would be instrumental in shaping her view of it. I wanted her to leave the experience in absolute awe of what her body was capable of — completely confident in her power. And she did. And I am filled with gratitude.
We got snuggled up in bed and Oaks and Nolan came downstairs. Of course my heart knew that Harbor should be with them… she should be right there in the mix of everything.
Ruth checked to see if I needed stitches. For the first time ever, I didn’t! It felt like a miracle. Acre got checked and weighed. 7 pounds 12 ounces — teeny compared to Mighty Oaks!
He latched right on and nursed like a champ and hasn’t quit since.
The best part of home birth is being at HOME right after. As everyone cleaned up around us and ooh’d and ahh’d over him, we were completely free to take our time and do what we wanted. We were in our own space, with our kids there, and fully comfortable. We were not at the whim of any staff — just surrounded by loving members of our tribe as they cared for us. Nobody was rushing, or pushing us to do anything, or trying to interfere with the magic that God designed.
Before we knew it, we were home alone in peace and silence. We could not believe this little guy was really earthside with us and we soaked him up.
Acre Brooks, you are so adored. Welcome to the world, my sweet love.”