The Birth of Zea
Charisse came into my house about a week after Thanksgiving and seemed like something was up. We’ve been friends for 5, almost 6, years--enough time to really know a person--so I knew she was going to share something with me. But then she just started talking to me about her trip with her family and how I was doing, how my kids were doing. “Nevermind, guess I was wrong!” I thought.
But about 5 minutes later, she asked me what I would be doing in July. So I told her I just found out one of my best friends was pregnant and excitedly explained that I would be photographing and supporting her birth. That’s when she told me she TOO was pregnant! “What?! I knew something was up! Ahh!!” and the squealing and excitement ensued.
Over the course of the next few months, we hung out periodically and discussed how she was feeling. She’d explain that pregnancy wasn’t what she thought it would be. She didn’t have all of the excitement that she always dreamed she’d have. She was incredibly ill throughout her first and most of her second trimester, making things all the more stressful. Her pregnancy journey is really hers to share, but I can say that it wasn’t easy. Towards the end, she had the urgency to speak up to her doctor not only about how she was feeling, but advocate with the clinic to change practitioners, as the one she’d been seeing was anything but connected or nurturing toward her during appointments.
Finally, when she’d met with her new physician, she felt a huge sigh of relief. She contacted me explaining how good of a listener her new doctor was and how she was so thankful she’d made the switch.
Now it was time to gear up for her labor and birth. Since she’d hired me as her doula, we had a prenatal visit in her home where we really nailed down any fears or concerns leading up to the big day. I gave her some important tools and things to think about and breathing techniques to work on even before birth happens.
Leading up to her due date we both had the feeling like things were going to happen any day since she kept progressing in centimeters at her appointments, so I was actually surprised when she went only two days before her due date! I got the call at around 1am that she had been having intense contractions for about 30 minutes. Being that it was her first baby, part of me wanted to encourage her to stay at home, but more than that I knew my friend and that she was really in tune with her body. She was already 4 or 5 cm at her last appointment, so it was sure to have put her into active labor. Sure enough, we arrived to the hospital at the same time where they found her to already be 7 cm! Talk about encouraging for a first time laboring momma!
She got to her room where she labored for about 2 hours in different positions. Most of her contractions were in her back, and so intense. Leading up to her labor she was open to anything, including pain management. And that’s one thing I love about Charisse--she was confident enough to explore all her options and knew what she wanted and what she didn’t want. With the right information, she was empowered to choose what was best for her. So she got an epidural, which of course sent her to cloud 9. She rested and reminisced with me and her husband, Chris, about the whole journey of pregnancy. Chris also took some cat naps ;)
It didn’t take very long for her to be completely dilated and ready to push. This was where she’d have to find her determination and strength. For the next two hours, myself and the nurse helped Charisse get into different positions, from playing “tug of war,” to holding onto bars, all to help baby get lower into the birth canal. About half way through, I remembered a birth I had assisted at where the scenario was similar. The midwife at that birth had the mom (who’d been pushing for almost 4 hours!) lay completely flat, which is usually talked about in a negative light, but in some cases, like this one, helps tremendously in getting baby’s head under the mother’s pubic bone. This is exactly what happened for Charisse’s baby. I suggested to the nurse we try this position, and she said she was thinking the same thing! At last, she began to bring baby lower, but I’m sure it felt like an eternity still for her because she still had work left to do. She was losing steam and strength. Chris and I kept reminding her that she was getting close, her baby was moving down, and she could do it. She had a mirror to see progress, but that’s hard to do when you’re baring down!
After so much hard work, pushing for so long, her baby began crowning! Little by little by little, more and more of the head began to show. I knew she’d wanted to feel her baby coming so I reminded her to “reach down and feel your baby!”, which actually gave her a boost of strength that her baby really was coming into the world, and soon. In the next few pushes, baby Zea was born. Chris announced his gender, which was a surprise, and all 3 of us began crying! I will never forget the peace and joy that filled the room in the next moments. Through all of the questions and fears of pregnancy, she could have never imagined this moment being everything that it was. And with all of the doubts and concerns to come with parenthood, Charisse and Chris will always hold this moment in their hearts and minds--the day they met their Zea Thomas.