Mommy contacted me around 3pm the day before her delivery. She had some bloody show, was 2cm dilated and was contracting every 4 minutes. This was her first child so I imagined labor would last 12 hours or more. I put myself on standby and waited for news. Six hours later, I contacted Mommy and found out she was 4cm dilated. With that, I set my phone to alarm at 3am (another 6 hours later) expecting a call around that time. True enough, at 3:30am I got a text from Daddy informing me that they were at 6cm. I knew this was active labor since it wasn't Mommy updating me anymore. I expected labor to progress a bit quicker from there, maybe another 6 hours before delivery, but headed to the hospital anyway since I wanted to get some good laboring shots for them.
It was 4am when I arrived at the Birthing Suite. I could immediately tell Mommy was in active labor. She was definitely feeling the intensity of her contractions but was still calm and fully concentrated. She could even muster a smile in between the pain. Daddy was at her side massaging her back and constantly offering her encouragement. I got my gear ready and a started taking a few shots. In my mind, I estimated we had hours to go. But less than an hour later, the first big contraction hit and I knew we were already in transition.
I used to think that I could be unobtrusive to the births I cover. But I am slowly realizing that as birth photographer, I am an active part of the experience. How can you not be, when you are with the couple at a confined space, at a very emotional moment, for an extended period of time? When a couple needs help and support beyond the bounds of a photographer, I can not take a back seat.
Going back to my story, Mommy was taken by shock by then intensity of the first transition contraction. She grabbed on to her husband and screamed out in pain really REALLY loud.
I recognized that feeling, the first time a transition contraction hits you is like being hit by a train! Its strong, unexpected and extremely painful. A first time Mom would be taken completely aback. You second guess your decision to go all natural. The contractions are so strong, you don't think you can survive it. I sensed Mommy was close to panicing. Daddy froze in shock.
Admittedly, I was taken by emotion as well, but years of being exposed to natural births by my own mom (who is a childbirth educator, http://chiquibrosas.blogspot.com/) taught me to see the moment objectively. I knew I had to put some doula shoes on. I spoke in the most calm but confident voice I could muster and told Mommy, "This is completely normal. Relax. These are good contractions. This means your baby will be out soon" I reminded Mommy, "Keep your eyes open. Focal point. Stay above your contraction..."
Every time her eyes would dart around, I would remind her to keep her focal point. I remembered how important my focal point was during my labor to keep me from panicking. She looked at me wide eyed and moaned... Rej.... Kaya ko ba to?? (Can I do this??) "Yes, you can do this... Your body knows what it is doing." I spoke to her remembering all the things that helped me get through labor when I was in her place.
A couple of contractions later, Daddy got the hang of it and continued with his comforting and calm reassurance and I stepped back into my photographer role. Mommy herself was a fighter. She obediently listened to the constructive help everyone was giving her. With each contraction she gained the confidence to handle it.
Just a couple of minutes later, Mommy screamed out loud, "nandiyan na siya! lalabas na siya!!" (He's Here! The baby is going to come out already!!!) This woman was empowered, alert and knew exactly what was going on in her body! We were at the bed at this point, but Mommy was determined to have a water birth no matter what. When the contraction was over, she literally jumped out of bed, ran to the tub and jumped into the water!
Once in the water her next contraction hit, and without any warning, the baby just slid out!
He just appeared as if out of nowhere! We were all in shock! I think even Mommy and Daddy were surprised. The baby is out!!! There was no pushing! But this baby was ready to see the world. I was completely amazed!!!
The doctors immediately rubbed baby's back. When he let out a huge cry, the handed Daddy the scissors and he cut the cord.
Then baby was immediately given to Mommy to cuddle for as long as she wanted. No one rushed her. Daddy and Mommy just sat there with their baby and enjoyed the moment, and everyone marveled with them. It was such a touching moment Mommy was all smiles, not groggy at all. Daddy was so proud, raving at how all their wishes came true. Baby was alert, with eyes wide open looking straight at his parents!
Wow, the difference of an unmedicated birth! I know it is not for everyone, but I now understand why some parents opt for It. In an unmedicated birth, Mommy is empowered and in control, Daddy is completely involved and participative and baby is sharp and wide awake.
Almost immediately, baby started to latch on. Once he found his Mommy's milk, he no longer wanted to be taken away! He knew his Mommy and refused to be anywhere else. So we stayed there for a bit longer, and when he was full, they took him to the bassinet to be weighed and measured. He cried a bit but would calm down everytime he would hear Daddys voice. You could tell he recognized his Daddy.
They delayed all other SOPs and brought baby back to Mommy to cuddle and feed again.
Eventually, the placenta was delivered. We stayed there for quite a bit just chatting and recounting the events of the day. What an amazing birth!
Then it was time for the repair. Baby was dried, wrapped and given back to Mommy. They were glued together all throughout the repair. It was great to witness the family closely bonding all happening during the first hour of the birth.
When all was done, Mommy stood up to eat while baby proceeded with the rest of the SOPs. Daddy enjoyed admiring all his baby's cute little features while his son contently rested.
When all was done, I quietly bid my goodbye to let the exhausted but very happy family rest. They thanked me for my services and for, in their words, "everything else". My heart was full to be able to help even in a little way. I went home recounting overwhelming and amazing the experience over and over in my head. :)
For more on natural birthing, see Chiqui's Prepared Childbirth Class.
Note: The parents have allowed us to share their BIRTHstory to the public. Enjoy :)