A visit to the Homeplace in Land Between the Lakes.
Part Three: The Birth
Finally, we get to the real heart of this series of posts — the actual birth of Jude, whom I affectionately call SB — Spirit Baby, for the way I told Emi I knew she was pregnant before she even thought was.
Note: I’m only sharing a select few of these birth pictures, with Emi’s permission. Also — this is long, and therefore somewhat detailed — but not a very graphic birth story, since I was only an observer. Which is to say — you’re not going to get a lot of medical details, and this should be a fairly tame read — but if you’re squeamish about birth, you’ve been warned!
With all that background out of the way, I can finally get down to the actual birth, that experience that so awed and inspired me – and I have to start that story the week before Emi gave birth – not that we knew it, at the time.
There had been some concern, in the final weeks – every expecting woman’s nightmare: Emi’s midwife, beloved Candie was going on vacation on September 23. Emi’s official due date was September 24. Of course, none of us ever know when a baby is going to decide IT’S TIME – but there was a fairly decent chance Emi wouldn’t have the woman she’d trusted and met with her entire pregnancy with her when she gave birth – that she would be passed over to some stranger who didn’t know her preferences and her background.
And I think there was more to it than that – Emi is a doula, she’s worked with Candie on multiple births. There was a trust there, a working relationship – and after I met Candie myself, heard her talk and work with Emi throughout her birth – I knew Candie really wanted to be at Emi’s birth too, for her own sake.
So in the week before, there was a lot of concern, a fair amount of rush. As I packed my doula/photographer bag, slipping in last minute chargers and essential oils, Emi and I texted, pretty darn close to day and night. How’s my girl, I asked every morning, how are you feeling?
Her answers varied. Some contractions last night, she’d say, but they petered out. Nothing too exciting.
I finished my bag, double-checked everything, worked out a schedule to share the car with Shaun to where I had access to drive to Emi and Trav even if Shaun was at work. I admit – I was nervous myself. I wanted Emi to have her baby with Candie, before she left – but it was a difficult week for me in terms of juggling obligations. I’d gotten approval to miss work if Emi went into labor during the day, but this week was one where a fellow team member would be out one day and I would need to be there if at all possible, I had dance classes Monday and Friday, I had a practice for my work’s team Dragon Boat Races on Friday, and was scheduled to row in the races with the rest of my work team on Saturday. I didn’t want to let anybody down – I didn’t want to make anyone mad or disappointed in me, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of it.
True to form, I tried to stress at first. What if Emi goes into labor on Wednesday when my coworker is out? What if Emi goes into labor while I’m teaching and I have to find someone to cover? What if she goes into labor just before the races start? Or in the middle, and I can’t leave? All the while, I tried not to bother Emi with my worries. My obligations were definitely not her concern, and I didn’t want to shove my potential problems in her face while she was waiting to go into labor, of all things.
After a few days of this, I went right back to that word – trust. You are just going to have to trust that it will work out, I kept telling myself, hearing my sweet mama’s advice in my own head. (Maybe I’m finally learning.) You are going to have to trust that it will work out as it should. Worrying about it is not going to change anything, or make anything happen. Rest, wait. See what happens as it happens.
Thursday is where things started to get interesting.
Part Two: The Pregnancy
Welcome to the second post in a series discussing birth in general, my special relationship with Emi, and being present at the birth of her third child, and the first birth I’ve ever attended.
Have you read Part I?
Back at the beginning of the year, when Emi first found out she was pregnant, it put a bee in my bonnet. It spurred me into action. Shaun and I had been talking wishy-washy about trying to start a family, and suddenly, the knowledge that Emi was pregnant made both of us realize how much we wanted this, how ready we were, finally. In January and February, and even in March, we had been kinda half-hearted in our attempts, still scared, still unsure, still feeling young and immature.
As Emi’s pregnancy progressed, we wanted that same experience for ourselves, more and more. Back in spring, I dreamed of spending most of the year pregnant with Emi. We’d talked about it all winter, imagining what it would be like to prop our feet up together and make our boys cater to us, we dreamed about our bellies growing together, our babies being born with in weeks or months of each other.
Turns out, that’s not what God or Nature or the Universe or Fate had in mind for us – and that’s been a difficult reality to accept. A difficult dream to let go of, especially as it felt like every other woman around me was getting pregnant, and I was left behind. I’ve come to terms with it – I think, I hope, I pray. I know Shaun and I are busy, we work opposite schedules, we’re seldom home together, we don’t get a lot of privacy. I get so emotional (SURPRISE) about everything (SURPRISE) that periodically, we’ve had to take breaks from thinking too hard about it, trying too hard — I just get so disappointed and tearful, even though I think our situation is fairly common and we’re not concerned, just impatient. Our time will come, but it wasn’t over the summer.
One of my Goal Words for 2015 has been Trust, and Lord, have I been tested this year. This year has tested me and challenged me, and at first, I always try to control everything. I research, I plan, I make goals and then I break those goals down into smaller goals and I turn those smaller goals into To-Do lists and then I make a Plan of Attack so I can achieve my goals as efficiently as possible.
And the Universe says, nuh-uh. Ain’t happening. You’re not in charge, I am, and the more you try and force things into place, the more you hammer and yank and stomp your feet – the more I am going to challenge you. Calm down. Be patient. Surrender. Trust.
(It’s a lesson I’m still learning.)
Part One: The Preface
As usual, I sat down and just wrote and wrote about the experience of watching Emi give birth, and I didn’t really allow myself to cut it short. I wrote everything I felt was pertinent, to me, personally, so — as usual, I was long-winded. I’ve broken up this long catalogue of emotions and lessons and experiences into three blogposts, and am now finally posting them over the course of a few days, so stay tuned, and enjoy!
I’m looking through pictures, now, a handful of days later and I’m still just – in awe.
Now, safely on the other side, it’s easy to let the wonder slip – life is calmer now, more joyful, certainly – but calmer. Less suspense, less worry, less what if, what happens next. Baby Jude is here, now, and she’s safe and she’s absolutely surrounded by so much love from so many people, and Emi is well and whole and safe, and their entire little family is now home, together – all those hours of crazy intense labor fade in comparison to the thrill of new life, here now.
And then I start glancing through the pictures I took, looking at my dear Emi’s face, sweet Travis watching her, his hands gentle on her head, her back, her tummy – and it all comes rushing back: that feeling of wonder and excitement, the supreme calm and utter surety that all would go well – the absolute awe of my dear friend, my soul sister.
Let me back up to the beginning.
So, first things first — I’d never done any sort of real photo shoot before this. I’ve always pestered my friends and family by taking a hundred million pictures at every event big or small, and this year, learning more about photography was one of my goals.
It started with buying a nicer camera, and learning how to use it. Then I started trying to really frame pictures, pay attention to the light. And then — I needed an opportunity, and one of my best girls, my soul sister Emi gave me that opportunity.
Back when Shaun and I were getting married, we gave someone a similar opportunity. A coworker’s sister had always taken pictures in a sort of amateuer photograph capacity, if someone just needed or wanted some nicer than average pictures of their family. But she was looking to branch out further — and she happened to work out perfectly for Shaun and me. After the warm-up engagement session she did with us, we were completely confident in her ability to shoot our wedding. She needed that opportunity to shoot her first wedding ever, with a laid back, easy-going couple willing to take a chance on someone who had never shot a wedding before, but wanted to learn how.
I feel like Emi gave me my turn for her maternity and family shoot. She wanted some pictures, I wanted the opportunity to shoot them — to challenge myself and see what I was capable of, to see if this was an avenue I should continue pursuing. I felt so nervous — one the one hand, this was something I felt in my gut that I could excel at — and on the other — I am always full of self-doubt. I didn’t want to fail my best friend in such an important request. I didn’t want to talk a big talk and then not live up to expectations.
Happily — I’m really, really pleased with the end result.
Shaun and I took Travis, Emi, and the little ones Jack and Norah to the nearby park. Shaun fought monsters with Jack and Norah while I shot Emi and Trav, and then we all wandered over to the woodland trail to do some shots together, and some of Emi with her babies. These kids are absolute dolls, there is never a dull moment, with Jack imagining monsters and bad guys and heroes of all kinds, and Norah picking everyone flowers, and naming her fuzzy-wuzzy Sally. Sally’s a boy, though, she’d correct you gently. Always, with this family, I can see plainly how much they love each other, how much these two young parents care about their kids, and care about raising them into incredible human beings.
I can’t wait to meet Baby#3 (SB) in just a few weeks — especially as I’m going to be birth photographer, and will get to photograph this same beautiful family again.