I was so honored to shoot this birth. My subject, Tia, proved to be an incredible warrior queen, a champion among women… so very courageous… and victory was hers… I salute her! Below is the birth team along with Tia’s thoughts and reflections. I hope one day to publish a fine art coffee table book of documentary birth photography (focused on home birth)– no doubt photographs from Tia’s homebirth will be a part of that project… congratulations to everyone involved on a job so very well done!
How did you come to choose this path?
I always imagined I would home birth. It was something I wanted to challenge myself with and something I felt would be best for me and my husband and our baby.
Describe the journey you’ve been on (during pregnancy) a bit…
This pregnancy was in some ways very easy and in some ways very challenging. I felt really good the entire time, but developed two complications that were serious yet didn’t affect how I felt. It was the strangest position to be in: to be “unwell” or “sick” but to feel good! In my first trimester I had a Sub-Chorionic Hematoma, which is basically a blood clot in the uterus. It can cause miscarriage, so I went on modified bedrest, — by choice — for six weeks. The SCH resolved itself. Then at the beginning of my third trimester I was diagnosed with a pretty severe case of Gestational Diabetes, which is also asymptomatic. In an effort to control the GD with as little medication as possible I went on a severely restricted diet. I was basically carbohydrate-free for three months. It was tough, especially at first – I was starving! But I maintained the diet to keep the baby healthy and to have a home birth.
How did your labor go? Describe your birth experience as you remember it…
My labor was like my pregnancy – a duality: some parts were really tough and some parts were easier than I expected. Contractions before pushing were a breeze for me. I was fully dilated and ready to push pretty fast. I thought Wow! That was easy! I knew I could do this! Then I pushed for almost four hours, sometimes without the aid of contractions. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy! My birth experience was complicated by the fact that my blood sugar crashed, and sent me to a compromised place. I was really out of it, and yet working so hard to push the baby out – because he was basically stuck and wouldn’t crown. Right before he was born we decided to go to the hospital because the midwife was concerned about me – I was obviously having some real blood sugar issues: I was losing eyesight, hyperventilating and losing touch with reality. I was just kind of fading away, and I was so tired! The midwife said “let’s try one more position, I’m giving you four pushes to get this baby out”. My doula started shoveling honey in my mouth. My eyesight started to get a little better. My husband sat on the edge of the bed. I sat on him with my back facing him and my legs straddling his. My doula and the midwife’s assistant each held a leg and I essentially squatted the baby out while my husband pushed on the baby’s feet through my stomach. When I felt the burning of him crowning I was so happy, because I knew I wouldn’t have to push anymore! He came out and my husband and I had our hands all over him. His eyes were wide open and he was just staring at us, but not breathing. My husband started crying and yelling “Breath! Breath!” I wasn’t panicking though. For one I was completely out of it, and secondly I just KNEW he was okay. I felt really calm. Our midwife did some rigorous suctioning and got a tube down his throat and he eventually started breathing. His color was amazing the entire time though because we kept him attached to the placenta for over two hours.
How did you feel about the care you received?
In part I chose to home birth because I wanted to have our baby in an environment in which I felt respected and supported. I wanted to have a relationship with those whom I labored with. That was what I got, and I feel so amazing about my birth team. I couldn’t have asked for a more incredible group of caregivers. Our midwife Marcy Perlman Tardio stuck with us through so many challenges during pregnancy and labor. Our Doula, Mary Esther Malloy not only taught our Bradley Method birth class, but counseled us and kept us steady during the rounds of tough decisions we had to make during pregnancy. My husband calls her our “birth bodyguard”. Marcy’s assistant Loretta Jordan (also a Doula) — whom we only met at our labor — ended up being an incredible lactation resource and supporter. Even you, Sara, became a part of our birth, a part of our team. It was one of the hardest days of my life and hands down the most incredible experience of my life.
Did you feel safe? What went well? What didn’t?
I absolutely felt safe. Birth is like the craziest acid trip you could ever take. There’s elation, fear, anxiety, joy, pain. It’s a lifetime in a long moment. Did it go well? Well, we’re all here and safe and healthy now, so I’d say so.. What didn’t go well? My blood sugar crashed, I pushed for four hours – but to me that’s not a failure or something that I feel was wrong. It was what it was. It was MY BIRTH, and that’s how it went. And now we’re richer for it. One must take risks for rewards. My aunt told me at the beginning of my pregnancy: “Birth is the sticky place between life and death. You must accept the consequences of all your decisions, and be comfortable with whatever outcome.” I took that to heart – the entire team embodied that wisdom, and helped give me a birth with dignity, a birth I feel good about.
Describe the experience of pain during your labor and if possible describe you handled it in your mind, and what, if anything, helped you?
I felt like a rockstar while handling my (non-pushing) contractions. I really used my mind to cope with the pain. One of the reasons I knew I could home birth was that I have always been good at using my mind to deal with challenges, both physical and emotional. In fact I enjoy pushing myself to my limits, exploring the edges of what I can handle mentally and physically. Also, my “mantra” — for lack of a better description — was that pain is a perception caused by fear, and in many cultures birth isn’t considered painful, it’s simply considered really, really hard work. During contractions I’d tell myself: “Pain is only fear. Don’t be afraid.” That kept me going. I just went into a place in myself that was deep and knowing, and NOT AFRAID. It was amazing to be there. It was liberating and healing.
How did the reality compare with the birth plan? What surprised you?
I made plans and then forgot them. Our Doula had spoken with us about not having expectations and about letting the birth happen. That was my goal and it was really valuable advice.
Describe the moments after birth, what went through your mind when you were meeting your new baby for the first time.
To be honest I was so out of it (because of the low blood sugar) that I don’t remember much. I remember KNOWING he’d be okay even though he wasn’t breathing at first. I was totally unconcerned! I remember our Doula saying “smell your baby” and smelling our son for the first time. I remember weeping and saying “I never thought I’d have anything!” and feeling the blessing of the moment, of our son. I remember feeling healed from so much of the pain I’ve had in my life.
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