What follows is a successful Grass Valley homebirth Birth Story:
Jessica is a doula, mother and all around bad ass warrior woman. She planned a home birth in her Grass Valley, California home for the birth of her fourth child. She labored with the strength and confidence of a champion goddess. She chose the fabulous local midwives Chelsea Bryan and Ariana as her core birth team members, and hired myself as her birth photographer. Jessica has always loved birth photography and regretted that none of her previous births had been documented, so hiring a birth photographer was a necessity for the birth of her last child.
Jessica’s due date was April 16thbut all three of her previous babies had been born around 38 weeks, so her birth team was alert, on call and ready for her birth weeks before her due date. On April 1stwe learned that she was 2-3 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. Much to our surprise, she stayed that way for over 3 weeks. Birth is never an exact science!
Her daughter Viviana was born on April 23rdat 41 weeks, and although her labor was slow to begin, it had a very quick and powerful ending. Jessica had been in close communication with me all day, so as soon as she asked me to come over, I was able to make it to her Grass Valley house in under an hour. Within 25 minutes of me arriving, she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy little girl. The room filled with joy and celebration!
Following her homebirth, Jessica wrote up her birth story and shared her entire birth gallery with her social media community. My birth clients typically receive 150-250 images in their birth galleries because I put great emphasis on telling a story so that my clients remember their day as a feeling. I’ve chosen my favorite 20% of Jessica’s birth story images to share with you below, accompanied by her own account of the day. Here is Jessica’s Grass Valley birth photography story and her own words on how she used Beyonce to bring on her labor:
“Ready for this?! The gallery of photos by Cathlene Stubbs of Azara Images is below. I sort of thought I might just pick the handful of pictures I feel good about and share those buuuuuut….. there’s nothing too crazy graphic (yeah my mostly naked big mama body and a little blood but….). Besides birth is about as real and raw as it gets and I have such a deep love for homebirth I want to share what that looks like.
I wish I could tell you I reached the end of my pregnancy with trust in my body and my baby but I was SO done and I just wanted to get the show on the road. It had been my longest pregnancy and midwives in California can only attend a homebirth up to the 42nd week… and though I doubt I was going THAT far the thought made me nervous. When I went to my appointment with my midwives Monday (the day before I would be 41 weeks) we made a plan to try and get things moving the next day.
The next morning at about 6:10 I woke up to a decently strong contraction. My other labors had all started early in the morning so it looked like things might just be the same way this time. I waited a few minutes and the contractions continued to stay consistently 5 to 7 minutes apart for an hour. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep so I got up and took a shower. They kept coming and when I got out of the shower I decided to text my midwives to let them know. They had planned to be at my house around 11am anyways but I wanted them to know things had started on their own. Alan and Rowan (my partner and son) took Lexi (my daughter) to school (she wanted to be at the birth but I know how long early labor can be and her school is close enough that we decided to send her). I felt like it would helpful for Alan to stay home and watch Rowan so he called into work. I went ahead and had my coffee and my breakfast and it felt like things started to space out just a bit.
On a phone check with my midwife, Ariana, she said to go ahead and start the tincture we had talked about the day before just to keep things moving along and she would call to check on me by 11 if she hadn’t heard from me. I spent the next couple hours in my room on my yoga ball. I was listening to some nice calm indie music and moving through the contractions easily. They weren’t too bad but I did need to focus and breathe through them. I was taking my tincture every 30 minutes, and using my breast pump for 20 mins on and 20 mins off, I was oiling up (sacred frankincense on the crown of my head to keep me grounded, jasmine, clary sage, and rose on my belly and inhaled from my hands). As long as I kept doing the things they kept coming but the intensity wasn’t really changing at all. Ariana called at 11 and I told her not much had changed and I felt like it was still too early for them to come over. She said she would call back in another hour. Things remained the same until she called at noon. We mutually decided they would come and check me and we would see things where things were at.
At that point I wasn’t sure if I was just spinning my wheels and this would go on forever or if I was making any progress. I got off the phone with her and realized I was STARVING and I felt like my blood sugar was plummeting. I went and got out some frozen protein waffles and maple syrup and took down 6 of them like some kind of starved linebacker. By the time I was done eating and was waiting for them to show up contractions had just….stopped. Like completely. It was nearish 1:00 pm. when they came in. I was so embarrassed. Like this was my 4th labor and clearly I had called too soon and nothing was happening. We decided they would check me and we would see if I had made any progress and then we would make a plan from there. So they checked me annnnnnd….. not much progress from the day before. Maybe a little but not enough (for me, ha).
I wasn’t sure what to do and we talked options… they could stay and see what happened or they could leave for an hour come back and we would reassess. I didn’t want to feel “watched” when absolutely nothing was happening so they left. I cried. I was so upset that my body wasn’t cooperating. I was embarrassed they had to drive out to my house for nothing. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know it wasn’t labor. I was embarrassed because I had been texting friends to tell them “this is it!”. I was embarrassed because Alan had called into work and I wasn’t even having the baby. I was getting tired and felt like I couldn’t play fake labor for days. I let it all out and cried good and hard but not for long because they were only going to be gone an hour and I had work to do….I was lifting and tucking baby in and down because she was pretty high up still and we needed her to put her head more firmly on my cervix to progress. I used my ringsling to try to keep her in place. I knew I needed to shift my energy so I put on my headphones and switched up the music. I started with some Kesha (Woman) and decided I needed to really move my hips on the ball so I switched to Beyonce. I was still taking my tincture, on and off with the pump, and oiling. The Beyonce must be what changed the game though, ha!
I REALLY moved my hips and focused on moving baby down. Contractions came back so I kept at it. Kept moving my hips and sometimes squatting and moving through them. Midwives came back to check me again and….PROGRESS! I was at 5ish cm and it seemed like what I was doing was working! I still felt unsure and hesistant to say “this is it” but the midwives set some things up and decided to stick around to see how things went. I put my headphones on and went back work on the ball with my Beyonce!The intensity continued to increase and I tried to continue circling my hips even through the contractions. My midwives sat in the other room and just checked on me and baby every so often. I appreciated it because I didn’t want to feel like everyone was just there to stare at me while I figured out what worked. Lexi was home from school somewhere in here and she came in every so often. At some point and 900 pee trips to the bathroom later (I did a superb job of keeping myself hydrated but omg so many pee trips–tmi? You’re welcome!) I found the intensity growing even more and I was getting a little moany through contractions. They checked me again and I was only about 6ish and baby was still higher than I wanted her to be.
Again I felt some self doubt creeping in…. maybe I would have a super long labor? I was definitely already hurting and didn’t think I could handle a long long labor…. I felt like I had to pee (again) so I went and hung out on the toilet. Couldn’t pee but had some back to back contractions and on the next contraction I felt her suddenly drop down and a whole lot more intensity. I came out of the bathroom and Ariana checked baby’s heartbeat and remarked that yep she had definitely come down. Time gets blurryish around this time in my birth story. I texted my mom, brother, and birth photographer and told them all to head over. Things certainly weren’t stopping now but I thought I still had a while. My birth photographer, Cathlene, asked if she should hurry or if she had an hour or so. I said an hour should be fine….that was at 4:40. The pain was most certainly getting harder and harder to cope with and somewhere along the way I asked about the tub and asked for Alan to come fill it.
My incredible midwives had been monitoring baby more regularly since things had really picked up and they were also supporting me through contractions with counter pressure on my lower back. I was pretty loudly vocalizing and just trying to get through the pain until I could get in the water. Our birth photographer, Cathlene showed up and Alan let her in but things were so intense I couldn’t even muster up a “hey”. Somehow I ended up sitting on the edge of my bed (I think Chelsea needed me to lay back for FHT?) And all of a sudden I felt my water break. I was still wearing my shorts and was pretty sure I had soaked the side of my bed. The midwives moved quickly to grab chux pads and help me out of my shorts.
The next contractions had me feeling pushy at the end and Chelsea checked me and said I had a small lip of cervix left. For some reason instead of realizing that meant I was almost complete my mind panicked and I thought I would have to push past a lip. Silly me. It never was really a discussion with my midwives but I didn’t want to be told when to push. I hate being told what to do….. and no one ever did! I pushed and loudly vocalized when my body told me to and they encouraged me. Chelsea told me I was sort of sitting on baby’s head so I needed to get into a different position to continue pushing. I didn’t want to do anything except squat…. intuitively that just felt right. Alan stopped filling the pool because that obviously wasn’t happening. I can’t tell you how many pushes or how long but it felt like she came down quickly and oh man it buuuuuuurned and I made sure to complain about it. I also made sure to slow down and take a minute to give my tissues time to stretch. A few more pushes and she was out at 6:17pm!”
Baby Viviana was born healthy, happy and alert. Her older sister Lexi was ecstatic at watching her mama birth and couldn’t stop reminding everyone that this was the very best day of her life! Following Viviana’s birth, Jessica and her family settled into a few weeks of nurturing rest and integration. Mama took care of herself and healed quickly, and baby Viviana thrived and grew strong.
Here are some images from Jessica and Viviana’s successful Grass Valley birth photography story.
To view more of my birth photography work, check out my birth gallery here.