Charlie turned one year old last Saturday. I can’t believe it’s been a year! And yet…it feels like he’s been here forever. We celebrated his birthday quietly, peacefully, thoughtfully with friends in a rented cabin in Ellijay, GA. It was the perfect fall weather, fall foliage, and friendly company to celebrate our boy. I reminisced about the day he was born and reflected a lot on that day. I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend the weekend. I didn’t want a big party, or stress to make things pinterest worthy or feel like I needed to make a big to-do for him since 1.) he’ll never remember it, and 2.) I think it would kind of freak him out to have that much attention on him.
Plus….first birthdays are really for the parents aren’t they? It’s not just his birthday – it’s also my birthing day. It’s not just the day he was born – it’s also the day I was born in a way. Reborn as a mother, shedding the skin of the old me, a younger, much less informed, and, let’s face it, a blissfully ignorant me; and the beginning of wearing this new skin that, no matter how much I prepared in pregnancy, still took time and effort to get used to. In the beginning it felt more like a clunky suit of armor that didn’t quite fit even though it’s cool as hell, but now it feels like that perfect pair of jeans that go with anything and only keep getting better as time goes on.
This year has been challenging for sure. I’ve seen my fair share of therapists to help with all sorts of mental health issues that popped up since becoming a mother. Postpartum depression, yes, but other stuff too. Things that having a child made me realize I need to confront, and heal from, so that I can be the very best version of myself for Charlie. He’s making me a better person and I’m working like hell to be the best for him (and Parker, and myself) that I can possibly be. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s a process and, as the story below serves to remind me, I’m stronger than I realize and will get there.
So all of this to say, my doula, McCalla, who I’ve mentioned before in my birth story, sent me her perspective of Charlie’s birth and I thought I would share it here. It meant so much to me to have this written record from her point of view and reading it made me feel so proud. Proud of what I did, proud of who I married, proud of how we work together, and proud that I trusted my gut and asked McCalla to be there for me when I had already hired another doula. She’s become a great friend through all of this and I’m so so happy the universe brought us together.
Charlie, Parker, and I woke up on his birthday and sat outside on the covered porch of the cabin while it drizzled around us, drinking pumpkin spice coffee as I read it aloud. It was the perfect gift and way to mark the occasion. Here it is:
My dearest Katy, Parker, and Charlie,
First, let me say that as a doula, I do not “write birth stories” for clients. Your birth story will always be yours exclusively, and each of your versions may vary. I believe a birth story is a living memory, or a living document, and as we continue to age and change so does our birth story. However, as a doula I am blessed with the gift of bearing witness to birth, and therefore I carry a version of your birth story in my mind and my heart. This letter serves as my attempt to share with you my gratitude for that gift.
Where to even begin? I love you all so much and think of you often. I have vivid memories of you in my mind. I remember the two of you, Parker and Katy, sitting in my birth class, Katy’s face rapt attention, Parker’s presence of quiet support. Really birth stories begin during pregnancy don’t they? And Katy you did everything right. :-) You took a class, you read all the books, you hired one doula, then when you felt more emotional support was needed you called and hired another (I feel so lucky you did)! You were going to do everything in your power to bring this baby into the world with love and intention, and so that is where the story begins, with such loving intention from you and Parker. What an amazing gift to give your perfect little boy.
One of the moments that still stands out in my mind is seeing a comment you made on the Atlanta Birth Center facebook page. It was after the class during which I had shown Melanie’s birth, which is a little more realistic because it is not edited. I don’t remember the exact comment, but ABC put up a status about watching birth videos or taking birth classes, and you commented something to the effect that you had been very confident, but seeing some videos in class was making you start to question your resolve. (Ed. Note: I was scared!) I was volunteering for the social media team, so I saw the comment, and I thought should I reply??? But I decided just to let it be a moment to process without feeling like your birth class teacher was virtually spying on you, ha! In retrospect the most interesting thing about this occurrence, is that this was the ONLY moment of vulnerability I saw in you. Every other moment you were and are a force to be reckoned with. (This is what the meme I made for emerge… should have said about your birth!)
Your due date was 10/15/2014, but at our prenatal you mentioned that one of the midwives said you looked like you were carrying low and you would be giving birth sooner rather than later. Sure enough at 5:20pm on Oct 9th you messaged me to tell me that labor had started very gently earlier that day around noon. On par with the rest of your pregnancy, you “did everything right” during early labor as well. You rested and watched TV and nested beautifully. Very few people can rest and relax into labor, but you did. You texted me again at 3:25am and I headed to your house.
This is the one part of your birth I regret. I was still fairly new to doulaing, you were my ninth doula client, and I knew you had hired a photographer so I didn’t take a single picture. You were the PERFECT picture of early labor during that time we spent at your house. I SO wish I had taken pictures. It is so clear in my mind. You are effortlessly walking around your perfect kitchen, pulling out ingredients for mini pumpkin loaves, occasionally stopping to lean over the counter and work through a contraction. I sat at the counter watching, being tricked by your ease into thinking that maybe we had more time than we did. You were the picture of grace and calm, who knew you were going to have a baby in a few hours?? In this way, your birth reminds me of the Mexican Birthing video I show in my birth classes, full of life and warmth and HOME. And truly, what is born at birth, home and family.
Speaking of family, I got to see the beautiful way in which you and Parker work together to create your safe haven. Again, as in class, Parker was quiet support. He was sitting in the corner, computer on his lap, just at the ready, waiting, confident in you. You both respect each others space and strengths and use your ability to work as a team effortlessly. This remained true even when things changed, Parker jumped up and was ready immediately. At the hospital he was calling people that needed to be called and occasionally connecting with you to show you his love and support in a quiet gentle way, but that was clearly received and heard and felt by you.
And things did change. After mini-pumpkins went in the oven and were done, you decided to lay down on the couch. We were talking about going to the chiropractic appointment and then maybe taking naps, because I incorrectly assumed your ease to be early labor. :-) But while we were on the couch, your water broke, and you ran to the bathroom to throw up. After this contractions were WAY more intense, it was as if your cervix had crossed the tipping point. These were signs I knew, and I also knew that all of them coming together like that meant we were WAY further along than I had suspected. I encouraged you to start vocalizing through contractions and that was all you needed. You were back in the game with so much focus and drive. Truly, you were remarkable. I remember leaning over the drivers seat, while you were stopped to cope with a contraction while getting into the car, and saying, “I am so proud of you, you are doing great.” Because my goodness you were and are doing SO GREAT. Birth, motherhood, you are just taking it by storm.
When we got to the hospital, they put you in a triage room and they started to tell you that you would have to be moved to get a tub, but you were NOT having it. I don’t remember your exact words but you were pretty clear about your intentions, and your strength and confidence was just pretty unbelievable. When Christine checked you and you were 9.5 and rocking it, I remember her asking you “what birth class did you take?” That was a bit of an ego boost, but honestly, it was all you, not all of my students are as commanding in labor as you were.
Christine affirmed that you were right and the nurses could stop suggesting that we move rooms. She had them set up the tub, and that provided you the much needed relief to get through this next level of labor. Again, you required very little support. You were in labor land at this point and put on a yoga play list on spotify that I still think is one of the best labor soundtracks I have heard. It just went perfectly with your vocalizations and set the tone for diving into labor. Chanda was taking pictures, Parker was telling you he loved you and holding your hand, I was wiping you down with cold water, and you were bringing sweet Charlie into the world.
After about an hour Christine indicated you were complete and asked you if you wanted some coached pushing. You didn’t respond and I kind of mentioned that you could start pushing if you wanted. She asked again and you said with confidence and strength, “No, because I don’t want to tear all the way to my asshole.” (Ed. note: HA!!! It’s true, I was terrified of that.) It is possibly my favorite thing anyone has ever said in labor. I anonymously share it with my students now because it is the perfect answer. You were in charge of your body, you were in charge of your birth. Christine and I both suppressed smiles of pride in watching a woman do that, take charge of her body. It is an awesome thing to witness, and one we do not often get to see done so perfectly unapologetically.
After about two hours of labor, you brought Charlie into the world. You alone pushed him out, and you alone picked him up out of the water. You caught your own baby, as you had hoped for when writing your birth plan. It was obvious you loved him immediately and you said as much. STRENGTH, EASE, GRACE. These things were your birth. Supported by the CONFIDENCE, and LOVE of Parker at all times. Charlie is a lucky boy. Because these things continue to support him. Parker’s constant consistent quiet presence and belief in your strength. Your strength as you navigate breastfeeding challenges, think of your babies education, and prioritize your mental health to continue to be strong for the lives that connect with yours to create the nest that nourishes all of you and builds your home. I love you all immensely, and feel lucky to call you all my friends.
Tears! Happy birthday, my sweet Charlie boy. I love you beyond measure.