Absolute love along with emotional and physical fragility surrounded the birth of each of my three children. While in this delicate space of pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum, it has always been the comfort, sincerity, knowledge, humor, presence and empathy from my partner, son(s) and midwives that supported me with grace.
My memories of labor remind me how instinct and nature exhausted my body. Labor consumed every ounce of strength I could muster. Labor opened a door to vulnerability as I have never known and called on utmost surrender. When confronted with the birth experience, the familiarity of my home was immeasurable. The sounds, the smells, the noises and, yes, the family chaos.
During my most recent labor in late September, I walked our street and paused through each contraction as I held Scot, my husband, tight. It was a hot day; our neighbors drove by slowly and waved. My mother came to get our boys to take them for a late summer swim. I sat on our front step, while it seemed that gathering their swim trunks took days.
My internal sense of time slowed. I took part in discussing their day’s plan as able (because labor never seems to go as “planned”). Even in those last days of pregnancy, or as I sat in this place of labor on my front step, the world came and went as I moved inward to birth my child. I remember my son’s kiss being so comforting, sitting in the warmth of that September sun. I could not wait to meet our baby.
With the arrival of evening, I recall my primary midwife mending her own son’s pants while I labored not five feet away. Just as I had held on tight to Scot during our earlier walk, I held on tight to my midwife’s lighthearted conversation. When a contraction began there was just me, rocking and breathing through it. As soon as one finished, we resumed our storytelling where we had left off—I believe she knew each of these chapters helped me get through one contraction after the other.
I remember my cheek resting on the edge of the birthing tub. I gazed at our wall of photos: one of my two boys and another of my wedding day. Focusing on these moments carried me between the increasing intensity and pain as I squeezed Scot’s hands.
It wasn’t shortly after that I stressed, “I can’t do this.” In succession my 7-year-old chimed, “You’ve got this, Mama!” while my husband quietly said, “You are so strong and I love you.” My two midwives looked me in the eyes and reassuringly conveyed, “You can do this, Emma. You are about to meet your baby.”
As each woman experiences labor in her own way, my pregnancies and births were paired with struggles, unknowns and even very scary moments. It was my midwives who always responded with tenderness, urgency and grace.
Following my early morning birth, my midwives helped me shower and dress, then tucked me into bed as they placed our newborn on my chest. Together, with my sons and husband piled on the bed, we gazed at our new baby, Winslow, in the soft light of our room. It was there we fell in love, as a family, at home.
(Emma, Scot, Alden, Sebastian and Winslow would like to thank Hope Jackson, CPM, and Rebecca Koller. We are honored and endlessly grateful to have had you a part our journey.)