The Birth of Ellary: A Brooklyn Home Birth

 This beautiful healthy home birth in Brooklyn was part of my ongoing project documenting NYC home births, celebrating the labor process and the wonderfully skilled midwives and doulas who assist these incredible women and their partners through this intense experience. I was excited when upon waking up I saw a text from Alex, Lisa’s partner– she was in labor!  I rushed to grab my gear and headed to South Brooklyn without stopping for a coffee even– I’ve learned the hard way that you just never know how fast these things will go, but I was in luck– I got there just in time to capture her water breaking.  From there it was amazingly quick — this was truly a stellar example of everything going smoothly and easily during a home birth!  Their first daughter, Basil, was being kept busy with a nanny until it was time to come in and meet her baby sister.  Both Lisa and her partner Alex are acupuncturists, and had been through one home birth experience before. Below the photo slideshow and gallery you can read Lisa’s own reflections on her birth experience at home with Midwife Miriam Schwarzchild and Doula Terry Richmond.

How did your labor go?  Describe your birth experience as you remember it…
My labor was shockingly fast, only 8 hours. Since labor for my first daughter was 27 hours, I was expecting another long labor. This one was textbook. Contractions started at 5:30am about 3-4 minutes apart and got progressively stronger until she was born. I was very talkative and was able to laugh and tell stories the entire process (which was very different from the first time). The weather was gorgeous that day, sunny and about 75 degrees so I was able to labor outside in our back yard for a few minutes at a time which was a really nice change of scenery. I spent most of the time laboring standing at the end of the kitchen table. I did try to get into the birth tub earlier in the day but that slowed contractions so i got back out after about 10 minutes b/c I really wanted it to be a quick labor. As soon as i got out things started to progress again. We also talked about having Alex do acupuncture to speed labor but we decided i did not need it.
Our amazing doula, Terry, arrived at about 9:30 and our phenomenal midwife, Miriam, arrived about 11. Our nanny, Iryna, came to take our daughter, Basil, out to the park. I remember looking at the clock at 12:52 and asking my husband to text Iryna to tell her to bring Basil home for lunch and her nap. She text back right away and said they were on their way home. Just after I read the text, I had another strong contraction and i felt my water break. I said, “Oh! My water just broke!” and a few seconds later a big gush came. That was a really crazy feeling. We got some towels and headed downstairs to the birth tub. Contractions got extremely strong after that and as soon as i got into the tub I had my first urge to push. I fought those first 2 urges to push b/c it didn’t feel like I was open enough to get the baby out. I was a little scared. It was the most intense sensation i have ever felt. I know there was some cursing that came out of my mouth. I remember thinking that wasn’t a nice way for the baby to come into the world but i couldn’t help it. It was so intense. I turned over so i was more belly up in the tub and the urge to push felt better. I could feel the head coming down the birth canal and she started crowning. This burned a lot and i thought i was going to tear. I told this to Miriam and she helped me point out where it was burning. She put pressure in one spot and i tried to push myself around the head to help the process. the next push her head came out but since i could feel everything I said, “Her shoulders are stuck!” Miriam said they were not stuck and she did a little maneuver to guide one shoulder out at a time. (She told us later that if both shoulders come out at the same time, the mother usually tears pretty bad. I wonder if less people would tear if they had feeling down there so they could tell the dr./nurse what they are feeling. She also said the cord was also wrapped around her neck and she unwrapped it but since she is such an amazing midwife, i had no idea she did any of that.) She was born at 1:31pm. I was SHOCKED we had another daughter. Happy but surprised. I couldn’t stop smiling b/c labor had been so much easier and shorter and we had another healthy, beautiful daughter! It was awesome to see Basil meet her new sister.
How did you feel about the care you received?
Our midwife is THE best. She is very relaxed and really allows pregnancy and labor to be the natural process it’s supposed to be. But she also knows when to step in and exactly what to do. She’s amazing and I would never want anyone else to help me birth my babies. And our doula is also amazing. She is so knowledgeable and supportive. Our nanny was a big part of easing our minds during labor as well b/c we knew Basil was in good hands.
Did you feel safe?  What went well?  What didn’t?
Everything about this labor went well. It was fast, easy, I felt like I was in control of the situation, each event that should happen during labor happened and in the order you would expect it to happen. Besides the 2-3 pushes that I didn’t feel ready to push, it was a classic, textbook, beautiful experience.
Describe the experience of pain during your labor and if possible describe you handled it in your mind, and what, if anything physical, helped you manage it.
Labor doesn’t feel great. But at no point did i think that it was something I couldn’t handle. When contractions started, I remembered the feeling and thought, “Okay, I can manage these.” Each one got stronger and it does hurt but if i concentrated on breathing the energy of the contraction down into my cervix, it really felt like i was in control of it, not the other way around. It also helped that i kept thinking “Surrender to the process. My body knows what to do. Accept and own the sensations.” My mom gave me good advice as well. She said “Just remember, each contraction you have you are one  closer to having your baby. You never have to do that one again.” Terry helped remind me to make deep sounds during contractions and to keep my shoulders relaxed. the more relaxed i stayed, the less pain i felt. The birthing tub feels great but as i found out, if you get in too early, it will slow labor. For several weeks before i either went to our office or treated myself at home with acupuncture to help prepare my body. Maybe this helped me to have a much easier, faster labor.
How did the reality compare with the birth plan?  What surprised you?
This was exactly how I hoped labor would go. It was actually way better than i thought it would be. I was really anxious b/c my first labor was so long and I knew how it felt. this was so much easier. Yes, I was very surprised. It was a really nice day-we had a baby, watched the Ohio State football game, ordered Thai food and slept in our own bed:)
Describe the moments after birth, and/or what went through your mind when you were meeting your new baby for the first time.
I was so joyful. Everything was so perfect. Nothing could have been better. Ellary was healthy, I was healthy (not even a tear). I was thinking how lucky we were, how beautiful she was, how much easier this labor was and SO glad it was over.


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Linda - March 19, 2016 - 5:37 am

Great photos. I love seeing birth photography. Having had such a positive experience giving birth to my daughter, I love to share in others’ happiness in the birth of their own children. Kudos to you and all other birth photographers who photograph births. I can only imagine how tough it must be with long hours and never knowing when you’re going to be needed.

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