When you hear that someone is going to have a baby, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? I used to always wonder if they were having a home birth or hospital birth. Were they going to be able to have a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section? Would they find out if they were having a boy or girl or would they be surprised? Were they nervous about giving birth? Would they have someone there to help them? Would they include friends, siblings, or parents into their birth experience?
My first glimpse into the birthing world was when I became a newborn photographer at YNHH in New Haven, Connecticut. Four days a week I would go to the tenth and eleventh floors of the maternity ward at the hospital to meet with postpartum families in their rooms to photograph their babies. My job was to introduce myself as the “staff photographer” and photograph their newborn baby in the bassinet on my scaled down photography studio that I wheeled from room to room. It was a fun job! I enjoyed seeing the exhaustion and the excitement simultaneously in their faces. There was something about the energy in those rooms and within that whole ward of the hospital that I was drawn to and loved being a part of.
Years later, I became a mother myself. From 2009 to 2015, I gave birth to three children of my own. Each birth was in the hospital with only my husband by my side and the support of our doctors and nurses. Each birth experience was different just as each child is different. My first child birth taught me about the mechanics of birth and how to listen to my body. Having never been pregnant or given birth before, I did not know what to expect or what was happening within my body. With my second birth, I was familiar with the experience and labored from home as long as possible before going in to the hospital for my epidural. Hours later, my second son with born with minimal pushing. Short and sweet and easy going just like his personality! My third birth was an induction and was exactly twelve hours from start to finish. I walked laps around the halls of the maternity ward and kept my body moving for as long as possible before my waters broke and I had my epidural to deliver a ten-pound baby girl.
Now in my new role as a doula I hold space for women as they give birth. I bear witness to the most poignant experience she will endure as she births a baby from her womb and into the world. Being invited into the space of someone’s birth is an incredible honor and I am completely humbled to be present to witness their miracle. Since beginning my business in March of this year, I have attended two births. Each birth totally different from the other. The first birth was fast because labor started around noon and baby girl was born before midnight. The second birth, that I just attended this past week, was long and challenging. After each birth I left feeling elated and energized and with a haze of love that lingered for days.
This week’s birth was especially emotional for me because I spent almost three days with the couple leading up to the birth of their son. Contractions that had lingered during our prenatal visit on Sunday were now productive and coming on full force Monday morning. We would spend the afternoon together laboring at their home helping mom navigate the increasing intensity of her contractions. With our efforts, we were able to progress her dilation from home before being admitted to the hospital for her epidural and moving onto the next stages of labor. Our slumber party overnight turned into four hours of pushing by daybreak. Watching this mother power through and dig deep for the energy to move this baby down and out was inspiring. Countless times she wanted to give up but was focused on getting her baby out.
Watching your own baby being born and placed on your chest is an experience that defies words. Watching someone else’s baby emerge from their body and lie within the chest of their mother left me in tears of sheer joy, pride, and exhaustion. After everything this mother went through over the course of the last nine months and the last forty eight hours left me sobbing. Relief. Exhalation. Excitement. Profound happiness. It was such an incredible moment for every single person in that room that had been there supporting her through the challenging final hours of pushing. The collective sigh of relief as their sweet boy cried within his mother’s embrace will be a moment I will not soon forget. But what made this birth truly special was the opportunity to do something that I have never done before. With the father of the baby being very squeamish, I was given the sacred task of cutting the umbilical cord. I will always remember the mother’s face as she exclaimed, “it’s your first time cutting a cord!” She knew how special this moment was and I was so grateful to both of them for allowing me that sacred honor.
Birth is witnessing one of life’s greatest miracles. I have experienced it as a mother and as a doula. This is my life’s work. I look forward to attending more births in the future and feeling the birthing hangover that follows during that long walk out of the hospital, on the drive home, and in the days that follow. This truly is the most incredible job ever and I am so excited that I get to do this.
Peace and Love to you.