Homebirth Photographer Documents Postpartum Journey - with Stacie Meredith, Midwife
Its been 5 months, and definitely time I write Clementine's birth story with our homebirth midwife, Stacie Meredith. One thing that I've learned while being pregnant after a cesarean is that your birth story starts from day one. I was pretty certain that I wanted to do a homebirth for our second child, we had a birth center transfer with our first, and ended up in a cesarean section at Swedish hospital. The c-section with my first daughter Magnolia changed my life in many ways. It propelled me into birth photography, and during the last 2.5 years I've watched mothers birth at home, in the comfort of their own space. It was peaceful, beautiful and safe. I wanted that for myself. We only interviewed two homebirth midwives, and selected Stacie right away, all three of us loved her and she was definitely the right choice for us.
My prenatal visits were easy, Stacie Meredith our midwife came to our house, and did all of our checkups. Magnolia got to be involved in everything, furthering her love for being a doctor or midwife (something she's loved since age 2!), each month, then week, she'd look forward to those visits so that she could hear the baby and help Stacie. My pregnancy was uneventful, after a nauseating 20 weeks, and I was excited as the months passed, to finally have the birth that I envisioned.
I went into labor the night before my due date, I had contractions every 30 minutes to 1 hour and I figured this was a warm up for things to come; I slept poorly and asked Josh to take Magnolia to school the next day. I worked that day, and tried to rest, but was excited and a little nervous, almost not believing that this was really the start of labor! The next night, contractions came every 10 minutes, then 5 minutes, and then I started timing them with the contraction app on my phone and they were coming 3 minutes apart. When things got too intense, I went upstairs and woke Josh up, and asked him to call Stacie and fill up the tub. I couldn't believe this was happening that I was actually going into labor on my own and having a home-birth!
At around 5am we asked Stacie and Monet, my photographer/doula to come. I labored at home the whole next day, with contractions every 3-5 minutes, but would pause for up to 10 minutes sometimes. We did everything possible to help labor progress, taking walks, getting in the tub, going outside with the chickens, sitting on the ball, on the stool, everything! But my dilation didn't change much, and the contractions would intensify and then back off. The baby was trying to fit into my pelvis at an awkward angle and I could tell she wasn't descending.
I think labor is a really beautiful and trans-formative process. One of my most favorite times of marriage is how my husband supported me during my two labors. He was my rock; with me through each contracting and holding me, kissing me, rubbing my back, and supporting me through each one. It was our love story and this time we were in for the long haul!
At first, I was sure I was going to have a homebirth, but as the hours ticked by and my dilation didn't really change, I became a little concerned. After over 16 hours at 5cm, my midwifes said I needed to go into the hospital. There still wasn't much progress and if I wanted to VBAC, I needed rest. A hospital VBAC was still better than a cesarean. Begrudgingly, we went into Denver Health Hospital, gone were my visions of Magnolia attending this birth, and being a part of her sister's arrival. We read the homebirth book every-single-night for months, she was so excited and I was devastated she wouldn't be there. Instead, she was at home, sleeping, with a friend staying at our house, and waking up sad that we weren't there. It's a thought that still bothers me, even though I know she was loved and cared for.
After a few hours at Denver Health, I opted for an epidural, it had been over 43 hours of labor, and 2 nights of no sleep, going on night 3. I also said they could administer pitocin, I just knew that if I had a little bit of pitocin, my contractions would strengthen and help my baby descend. I was disappointed that I wouldn't feel my daughter being born, but glad that the midwives felt that a VBAC was possible. Unfortunately, I never got to sleep, once the pitocin hit, my dilation quickly changed and I was 9cm within a short period of time. My water broke on it's own and baby had dropped significantly. An epidural definitely doesn't take away the contraction pain, at least not for me, I was disappointed I had chosen it, because I was still in a lot of pain and I couldn't even walk around, which had helped me so much the day prior.
Then I was 10cm and they wanted me to 'labor down' (let the baby move farther into the canal without pushing actively). I knew this meant that I was close and I was very sure I was going to VBAC! It was finally time came to push and I was so glad our midwife, Stacie Meredith, had stayed with us for the entire birth. I couldn't believe a VBAC was really possible, even though I had planned for it the entire time. In my mind, if I went to the hospital, it would be for a cesarean, not a hospital VBAC, but the Denver Health midwifes were amazing and supportive! I asked for a mirror to watch her being born, since I was unable to see her. Had you asked me before the birth, I wound't have wanted the mirror, but in that moment, I am SO glad I had it! It was amazing to watch her emerge from my body! Her little head, my body pushing her down and out...after the last contraction I sat back and closed my eyes...she wasn't quite out yet and I knew I needed just 1 more push. Then the nurse said 'she's coming out' and I opened my eyes to see this baby, after 50+ hours, just flying out on her own and my husband catching her and bringing her to my chest! It was the *best feeling in the world* to have her warm little body on mine. I could-not-believe-it! I did it, my body could push out a baby and I was strong.
Overall, I was really happy with my experience and so glad Stacie was able to stay with us the entire time. The Denver Health team really, truly, wanted me to have a safe VBAC, as I was transferred to my postpartum room, all the nurses cheered for the successful VBAC, even those that I had never met. I truly believe they are there to honor your wishes and that is not how we felt during Magnolia's birth. I've shared some of my postpartum photos that I took as well as more of my journey below. My birth photos were taken by my best friend Monet Nicole and you can find those on her site. Everything in this post was taken by me, while in labor and after.
Thank you Stacie Meredith, Gina Gerboth, Monet Moutrie.
The night it all began, Magnolia was being goofy and trying to take my mind off the contractions. She was SO excited things were happening. Little did we know then that this would be days of labor and a long journey.
One of the few photos that I took during my own labor, Josh filling up that tub and the space that I spent hours and hours laboring in.
One of the things I loved most about homebirth and even home birth transfer, is that our midwife Stacie Meredith came to our home for each postpartum visit. These images are taken at our first home visit, 4 days after birth. Magnolia had a lot of processing the birth because she wasn't able to be a part of it. This really bothered her, but having postpartum care at home really helped her to be involved in the process again. She was excited for each visit! Clementine in her Halloween costume on our postpartum day 7 visit with Stacie, on Halloween day!
Everyone was involved in the care of Clementine, and Magnolia also got to play midwife each visit with Stacie. She loved it! The photo above was done on day 7, I still remember being exhausted and I barely remember this day at all. I'm so glad that I chose to snap photos. In a short time, our last postpartum visit was here! 6-weeks! I couldn't believe it was here. Saying goodbye to Stacie's checkups and visits were bittersweet. My little family is complete. Magnolia got to help for the very last time. Stacie got to snuggle Clementine for the last time (officially). Of course, we loved Stacie so much, we will see her in the future. She is not just our midwife, but our friend as well. The first few weeks with 2 kids were rough, we were just finding our footing as the 6 week mark hit. Magnolia is still the best big sister ever!
We had an amazing experience with Stacie Meredith Midwifery Services during our prenatal and postpartum care. If you are considering a homebirth, you should check her out! If you are in need of a homebirth photographer, I'd love to work with you!