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  • Julie Erb

The birth of Shay Eliana

I am safe, supported and loved. My body and baby know what to do. I trust my motherly instincts.

These were a few of my favorite affirmations that I posted around my bedroom and read each day as I prepared to bring my second and third babies into the world. My first birth was a natural birth in a hospital, and it was hard and beautiful in a completely different way than the next two births that followed (that story for another time). All three births taught me and validated me in my belief that my body knows what to do and to trust my instincts. My midwife’s care showed the power of trust, love and support through pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I hope my home birth stories will validate, inspire, and ignite calm and safety to others.

Shay Eliana

Shay was the first baby that we kept a surprise for ourselves. With Hudson, we had announced to friends and family that we were having a boy. Then with Chase, Sean and I knew he was a boy, but we decided not to tell anyone else. And then, after our two boys, we decided to keep our third baby a true surprise as we waited for the arrival. 

The early ultrasound predicted our baby would be “due” around January 13. My calculations were a bit after that. But by the time the winter holidays passed, and the new year came, I was feeling ready to meet my baby. For the weeks leading up to the new year and even that first week of 2024, I did everything I could to prepare my boys, myself, and my home. I stopped working. I tried to savor our last days as a family of four. It is a bittersweet feeling, knowing that things will change. We all touched my big belly a lot. I wondered when my baby would arrive. I talked to the boys about it every night. We even sang a song about it as part of our lengthy bedtime routine.

Then on Wednesday, January 10, I decided to try a little harder to try to put things into action. I felt ready to have this baby. It had been so cold, but I decided to go out for a walk in the neighborhood. I tried curb walking but it felt exhausting. I made it two laps around my neighborhood before I headed back inside to rest. 

That night Sean and I put the boys to bed and decided to watch a show together. I had been pretty uncomfortable sitting on the couch for a couple of weeks, but that night I was particularly uncomfortable. I decided to bring down my yoga ball and sit on that for a bit. At around 10 pm, the show ended and I told Sean that I needed to go upstairs. I let him know I was feeling like maybe, just maybe, the baby was coming. 

This time we did not wait. I doubted my birth could be as fast as my last, but Hannah had warned me that it could. Sean got right to setting up the birth tub and our bed. I turned on the twinkling lights and glanced at the affirmations I had put up weeks ago. Just as with my last birth, I felt most comfortable on the toilet and I didn’t leave it from about 10:30-12:30. I turned around and laid my head down. I breathed as much as I could through the pressure I felt. When I started shaking uncontrollably, I knew the baby was coming and we called Hannah.

Hannah and Chelsea arrived a bit after midnight. Sean had the tub ready, but I stayed on the toilet. Around 12:30 my water broke in a big burst, just as it had for my two previous births. I remember Hannah quietly saying, “that must be a big relief” and it was. She asked me if I would like to get in the water now and I said yes.

The warm birth tub felt very good. Hannah asked me to let her know when a contraction had stopped so we could check the baby. We listened to the heartbeat-- steady and strong. I only had two contractions in the water until I knew it was time. I announced that the baby was coming. I called out “help me!” as I felt the loss of control with my body’s big push. My body and baby knew what to do. Hannah reached in and helped catch the baby. Then she and Sean both encouraged me, “reach down and get your baby.”

It was 12:42 and there my baby was, earthside. I pulled her up and held her on my chest, not knowing yet who she was. For minutes I just took her in— asking Hannah if she seemed okay, which she assured me she was. I reveled in my fast, amazing, powerful birth and how perfect and sweet my baby was. Finally, we were ready to know who I was holding. As I got out of the tub, I moved her cord and said “I think it’s a girl!” Hannah smiled and confirmed, and Sean and I both cried happy tears. We both agreed that we knew it was a girl all along, but didn’t want to admit it. She was perfect. 

Hannah took care of us all. Shay latched right away and started nursing. I had a hard time birthing the placenta but Hannah coached me and helped it along. Hannah and Chelsea checked Shay and then me and everything was just fine and good. Once again, Sean cut the cord. Chelsea made me warm tea with honey and the magical midwives cleaned the whole room, as we layed in bed and soaked in our baby girl. Around 3 in the morning, they said goodbye and Sean and I went to sleep, excited for the morning when Shay would meet her loving big brothers and our journey would start as a family of five.

My births were truly a gift. Fast, empowering, and surrounded by support and love. They affirmed what I know my body can do and to trust my instincts. I am filled with gratitude for my babies, my body, and the care I received– and continue to receive. I wish this support and care for all mamas. And let us continue to feel this support, empowerment, and trust in motherhood.

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