This birth story begins with an end. Actually multiple ends. Mothering three kids, 4, 2, and 9 months, we got a surprise pregnancy. While it certainly wasn't planned it was quickly accepted. Just as quickly as it happened, things took a turn. Bleeding, blood tests, an ultrasound or two. I got to see that little flickering heart beat and felt hope that this little one would be okay. The next morning it struck me. The cramping and bleeding was undeniable. I knew I had lost it. Another ultrasound showing an empty uterus, blood work confirming the numbers dropping, it was heartbreaking. My mom sat with me while I continued to miscarry, and encouraged me to try again one day. That there was a reason, there will be hope one day. My midwife Cindi was always supportive and continued to check in on me. I only carried that baby for 7 weeks, but I loved it none the less. I had experienced a new level of mom sadness and a new appreciation for my three perfect babies.
A few months later the biggest heartbreak came knocking on my door. Police officers brought me the news that my parents were involved in a car accident and they did not survive. I stood there shaking, distraught, and the moment I walked back in my house I collapsed to the floor in a pain no one should experience. Luckily in that moment I had two dear friends at my house and they literally picked me up and helped through the day while I watched my world crumble further each phone call to family I had to make.
The days after that are a complete blur. Friends and family came to my side, and Cindi stepped in for support in her midwife ways and she held space for me. I could have a conversation with her without feeling pitied, or getting constant apologies and over abundance of sympathy. I could spend time with her and her family like everything was, or would be, okay. No questions asked, just comfort in a way I needed.
I love the Denbow family.
As a birth photographer I still had two clients due, and one had gone into labor. I remember feeling relief knowing I could be welcomed into their space for the birth of their first child. It was distracting from the real world, it was uplifting and full of people I cared deeply about. Witnessing this birth, just days after so much death, was something otherworldly for healing. I was still shattered but felt hope in life. After traveling out of town for the funeral, while on the plane back home, I got the text my next client was in labor. Immediately after landing I drove home for my camera and turned around to pick up Cindi and drive to this birth. Something about birth can turn any day around. This new life emerging right in front of you. I had just had my already broken heart torn into smaller pieces while being one of my mothers pallbearers, listening to taps and being handed that folded flag, seeing both caskets hang over their holes in the ground, all while just a short walk away from my oldest brothers grave. Being present for the birth of a child and watching a family become parents makes you forget all of that, just for a bit.
It was after midnight when Cindi and I were headed home when I decided we should stop at Walmart for a pregnancy test. I can't tell you what compelled me to do this, I wasn't super late and I even took one a few days prior that was totally negative. Once I got home I took it... and it was positive. Pretty sure my first text to Cindi at 1am was a picture of it with "I knew it!" Talk about a roller coaster of emotions...
Pregnancy was... I was just pregnant. The beginning was stressful. What if I lost this one too? How would I handle anymore loss? Cindi immediately had me start progesterone, as my levels were a little low. As the first trimester came and went I realized this baby was saving me from myself. I can't fathom what would have happened had I not been pregnant right after my parents accident. I would have lost myself in alcohol and I can't even think what would have happened to me as a mother as I slipped away. This baby was exactly what I didn't know I needed. This baby was the ultimate rainbow. “A ‘rainbow baby’ is a baby born following the loss of a baby. It is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravage of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean the storm never happened or that we are not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy, and hope. Sunshine after rain, calm after storms, joy after sadness, peace after pain, love after loss.”
Milk bath images by the husband
Not finding out the gender was new for us. It made picking a name pretty much impossible. It was nerve wracking but so exciting. As the end of pregnancy was coming, so did the pelvic pain. Something about the baby's position was giving my pubic bone hell. Grinding and shifting, popping and clicking. Chiropractic care could only do so much. With a good hard adjustment around 37 weeks, I left and started having some small contractions. Well they just wouldn't go away! Chiro Larrissa had royally pissed off my uterus. While texting with her I learned Cindi was out of town. Que anxiety! Some small bloody show and all the time little contractions for days felt like a lifetime. In that moment it finally hit me that HEY, a baby is coming one of these days! I didn't realize how disconnected I was and how ill prepared I was. In the words of Kevin Hart, No She wasn't ready!
My amazing GBO (gentle birth options) family and friends held a mothers blessing/blessingway for me. So many beautiful souls surrounding me, uplifting me, bringing positivity to my home. It was just perfect.
Blessingway images by K Reeder Photography
Luckily no baby yet and I had plenty of time to really prepare my space, my mind, my body, and really accept the outcome... It was difficult to think that this baby would never meet or know my parents, and it was very hard to really grasp. Such an emotionally taxing thought. I had to accept this before the baby arrived or I knew depression would take over.
Week 38/39 I started to get itchy. The itch from hell. Puppps. It was in a small patch at the bottom of my belly and down my left arm. Thought it was NOTHING compared to my first pregnancy with puppps, where it covered me from my shoulders to my toes... I could handle this little patch! Resisting the itch was manageable until I slept, where I scratched in my sleep.
The day before my due date, Sunday nov 6th, I started having pretty regular contractions. Into the night they continued, but intensity never picked up. They annoyingly kept me awake all night long but their strength was totally whimpy. I asked my husband to come home from work Monday morning, and naturally all contractions stopped. I had my hopes up that I was having a due date baby but the day came and went. Tuesday I had an appointment with Cindi and in my "I'm done" mood we did a cervical check and sweep. I'm the type that has to know there's progress, or lack thereof. I NEED to know. Here I was 4-5cm with nothing going on. I try not to complain, because that's half the labor already done! But frustrating at the same time because CMON kid, just get out! Cindi offered to break my water if contractions picked up, and what do you know, they never would pick up. I would have some good ones back to back then nothing for 30 minutes or more. The same frustrating prodromal labor continues for days. Another sweep Thursday with another chiro visit. At this point, I fully accepted that baby was not coming until next week. I would be 41 weeks+ again, just like the others. I had determined that this baby was doing exactly what it's big sister did; prodromal labor for days, quick active-transition labor with water breaking and a baby literally falling out in 9 minutes. Knowing I was already 5cm I was terrified of my water breaking and a baby rocket happening. I had my husband miss a week of work for all of this prodromal labor and it was now Friday and still no baby. I had spent the last few days in tears. I was sad, mad, frustrated, all of the emotions. I was trying not to chase labor, but it was so exhausting not being able to sleep and contractions starting and stopping for so long.
Friday night as we were getting the kids ready for bed, I stepped into my room and my water broke. MY WATER BROKE. I froze. I clenched my butt so hard! I called Cindi faster than I could process the fact my water broke. While on the phone I realized 1) baby didn't fall out 2)I'm not having contractions. Big sigh…sort of. My pants and floor were soaked. It was close to 8pm at this point. I texted our photographer, Cassie, right after the phone call and she was ready to come over. I had to have been standing there frozen for a solid 15 minutes. What a weirdo. I had felt like I was crying wolf all week, all month really! And now it was really happening. My husband put the boys to bed while my daughter bounced on my yoga ball and I attempted to slap some make up on puffy eyes while starting to fill my birth pool. I was determined to use it this time! My youngest, my daughter, my baby for only so little time before she becomes a big sister. I loved our hour together one last time.
Cassie and I were hanging out in my living room while my husband went to put our daughter to bed. In the process he fell asleep and about 10 minutes later the birth team arrived around 10:45pm. My contractions were lame. Not hard at all and way spaced out. I did some super sexy crab walk and squats up and down my stairs in attempts to get contractions going. Sitting on the toilet with feet up on stools. Rocking, swaying, up and down stairs. Cindi and I went up to my bedroom where she released the rest of my waters so my uterus could really contract around baby. Sooo much fluid. I mean my water breaking initially was a lot and then even more came gushing out! So so much! At that point I think she said I was 6cm and it was around 11:45pm. It was almost instantly that a contraction came on. Cindi and I laid in my bed in the quiet together. It was a moment I won't forget. A strange moment, but in that quiet I felt her presence. She was there for me and I wasn't alone. As a friend, a midwife, and in a way stepping into a place where I would want my own mom. Cindi was there. It was peaceful and comforting. Back to back contractions were starting. We decided to go back downstairs and I was asked if I wanted the birth assistants to leave and come back later when things pick up. Before I could even finish my answer a big contraction took my breath away. I asked Cindi to text Christy, another birth assistant who had become like my family, to see if she could make it over.
I stood over my counter through contractions that seemed to go from 0-60 in .5 seconds. My lower back was aching with contractions but it wasn't too bad while leaning forward. One contraction I noticed my legs were shaking and I knew things were picking up speed. Ready to go back upstairs! I should probably wake my husband up now, too... Contractions were getting intense and close together but I was still happy between them. My breathing through them was getting deeper, I was really panting and breathing them out.
We had pots of water boiling to warm up the pool and I started getting antsy to get in. Oh the pool was so so nice when I got in it finally. In comes Christy, yay! We had some great Credence Clearwater Revival pandora playing and small talk between contractions.
I wear my dads wedding ring and my moms claddagh ring everyday. Some days they hurt to look at, but most days they're my constant reminder to stay strong. I can hear their voices telling me so and I know they are with me.
All of a sudden my back was really killing me during contractions and Cindi suggested moving positions. Just as quickly as I moved, the intensity picked up. I was no longer Katie. I was a laboring women in the zone. Breathing hard, moaning, I needed my husbands hand at some point and managed to spit the words out. The back pain grew to now pubic bone pain. I couldn't even focus anymore with the pubic bone pain taking my full attention. I wanted to grab my bones or push on them with counter pressure, just something to make that pain stop! The next few contractions I lost all control. I was no longer here at all. The world totally muffled as if I had stuck my head under water. I couldn't tell you what anyone said to me or what I might have even said. I remember hearing "low tones" and my husband encouraging me. I was in another world.
I sat there head hanging down and had a long pause before the next contraction (well... to me a long pause. My time perception was way off at this point). I knew exactly what was coming. I had seen it time and time again, this beautiful birth pause where the body seems to take a breather and then the next thing you know, here comes baby. In my mind I thought how much I didn't want to do this anymore, I can't take anymore, I feel like this has been so long, why does this hurt so bad... Then back to work my body went with a fierceness. The pause brought me back for just a quick moment and then I was back out in labor land. Making noises of all kinds. Yelling, screaming, moaning. I was out of control of myself. As my baby made its way through the birth canal my eyes were shut and I had an out of body experience feeling my baby emerge and stretch my body for its arrival. In that moment my pubic bone and lower back felt like it just had a bomb go off from the inside. It really -f@#&ing- hurt. I reached down and felt my baby's head. It was totally surreal through the chaos. I felt baby's super soft head, and an ear. It's head felt like velvet and I sat there rubbing it, hoping and pleading for it to just come out already. It was really just amazing. In the amazing moment, I was still in amazing pain! I froze again. I was still in another world and I remember hearing Cindi say something to me, then her pulling my leg over to her on the side. I lost my steam for pushing, or maybe my uterus didn't get the memo to keep pushing baby out, or maybe just this huge baby came out a little crooked or got a little stuck, I'm not really sure! but with a little of Cindis help, I felt the rush of release and relief. I felt my baby's body come out and I reached down to lift up and hold my baby for the first time. It was instant flash back to reality and oh my gosh my baby is here.
You're here. Finally, you're here!
It was as if parts of my parents were finally here with this baby's arrival. As if somehow this baby carried parts of their souls. The longest year of my life and this baby, my parents, were finally here with me. The excruciating heartache filled year didn't matter in that moment. All of that horrendous pain I just went through was as if it never even happened. He was here.
Oh my gosh, it's a boy!! Talk about totally surprised. Subconsciously I must have really thought this baby was a girl the whole time. Everyone did it seemed! I was shocked! Finding out at birth was SO exciting. The roller coaster of pregnancy, labor, and birth, then add on the joy of finally seeing who that little baby is, is just something indescribable.
As I came back to reality one of the first songs I could hear, or rather realized I could hear, was Born On The Bayou. How absolutely perfect. I can remember singing this song with my mom and dad in the car so clearly. It was perfect timing almost like their way of saying hello, they were here, my heart was happy. Then came another song.. 'Have you ever seen the rain'
After delivery of the placenta and a gentle newborn exam we tied the cord with yarn. The yarn was my moms as she was a crazy knitter and crocheter and was ALWAYS with her yarn bag. To slow things down from a quick snip we had decided on doing cord burning instead of cutting. My husband had built a box to catch the wax drippings and we used two candles to burn and separate the cord. My original thoughts on the candles were to each represent one of my parents. As we severed ties to this baby boys original life source, we brought him into this new world together. My family, my adopted birth team family, my parents, my children. We brought him into this new world together while cutting ties to the past and had the time to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the moment. My oldest son came in to help finish the burning and meet his new baby brother and shortly the next two were woken up to come meet him.
What better way to announce to the world of social media that you've had a baby than by taking a placenta selfie?
My rainbow baby was here. My Kent Dempsey (named after my dad and grandpa) was 9lbs 11oz 22.3/4" long. Might I add, with a 37cm head and 38 chest! My big giant rainbow baby! Born early Saturday morning at 2:26am on November 12th in the water while in our own home.
The pregnancy, prodromal labor, and intensity of birthing this baby boy made me dig deep. I had to find balance and had to stay healthy for this baby. I had to pick myself up of the floor and survive. He made me survive the heartache for him, for my older kids, for my marriage, for myself. He made me stay strong. He made me find patience in so many ways. He made his entrance into the world intense. It was as if the year had been compacted into minutes of physical pain and then in an instant the pain was lifted. I felt joy again. With such a long prodromal labor week my actual active labor once contractions really got going was only about 2.5ish hours. The experience of having another baby born in the same room as his sister is just so cool and amazing. I could not thank Gbo enough for all they do for me. They all made it incredible and unforgettable. I couldn't have asked for a better birth team or experience. My 3vbac. Second homebirth. Just amazing.
Huge thank you to Gentle Birth Options for the amazing care through the last (almost) 3 years.
Another huge thank you to New Light Birth Photography, Cassie Ringl, for her amazing work in birth photography. Forever cherished. These images mean the world to me. See her awesome work at newlightbirthphotography.com
SO MUCH LOVE to my husband. He supports me in so many ways and loves me through my crazy. I love him through his crazy. He is my rock, my high school sweet heart, my butthead that I love so hard. He has done so much for me to get through this year and I can't express my gratitude enough for all he does.
ALL THE FEELS! I love these people so much. I could never thank them all enough.