A Water Birth Story | Fruitful Vine | Jacksonville Birth Photography
To say that the McKenzies and I were meant to meet each other is an understatement. We connected on a Jacksonville breastfeeding Facebook group and within one conversation, discovered that we had doulas and dear friends in common! We learned that Kori and her husband, Barnes, live right around the corner from where I grew up and that they put their faith in the same Jesus that I do. And right away, I was really looking forward to being there for their birth!
I got a text from Kori on a sunny afternoon, saying that today might be the day! Even over texting, I could tell that she was excited about the journey that lay ahead of her. Her son's birth two years ago was a difficult one, made even harder by a NICU stay for her little boy. She and her husband had done so much research and had learned so much about natural birth, and they were ready for a redemptive experience.
When I arrived at the birth center, the place was full of happy, excited energy. Their two year old was exploring the room and getting settled in for the evening with his toys and a movie. I met their wonderful doula, Annie Tinker, as well as one of the talented Fruitful Vine midwives, Samantha Crickmore. I was excited to see a familiar face, the fabulous Emily Wannenburg of 4th Trimester Fitness, who was working hard as the birth assistant that evening.
Mama was in good spirits and seemed excited to finally be meeting her baby girl. It was early in the evening, but we were all watching the clock. You see, at midnight, it was going to be Kori's birthday! If this little girl wanted a birthday all to herself, she was going to have to make her grand entrance within the next few hours, otherwise, she would get to share a birthday with her mama!
The first emotional moment came early in the evening. Amidst all of the excitement, Kori was really starting to have to concentrate through her contractions. She needed to let her family take care of her oldest baby so that she could focus on doing the hard work of labor with her newest baby. It was a bittersweet moment when her toddler skipped off to go watch a movie. And it was one of the many times that Kori would show what she was capable of: great strength.
Over the next few hours, the skilled ladies (doula, midwife, and birth assistant, what a trio!) helped Kori move through her labor and try different positions to get things moving. A heavenly essential oil blend called Serenity was diffused. Lights were dimmed, and soft music was played. Kori and Barnes snuggled into bed and focused on breathing, opening, softening. Whenever a contraction started, she got this beautiful "far away" look in her eye and everyone quieted to let her work through it.
This image really stood out to me, in all of its simplicity. "The Tools of the Trade." Some items so simple: warm socks of rice to relax the hands, lip balm and a roller to relax the muscles. And some so technological: a fetal doppler to track the healthy heartbeat of the baby, and a portable essential oil diffuser to bring peace and calm. The way that these skilled birth workers use their tools is really neat to watch!
After all of that hard work, mama got hungry! It was so fun to see her excitement over placing a phone order for Tijuanna Flatts Tex-Mex. "Hi, yes, I'd like to order a burrito for pickup. Yeah, I'm in labor! Like right now!" Everyone came in and enjoyed a meal together while mama ate bites in between contractions. She'd feel one coming on and say, "No, no, wait, I want one more bite!"
With all of the fun of a break, labor slowed down a bit. The doulas and midwife suggested that she try some different positions to get baby girl moving a bit. She labored standing up, draped over a birth ball, and on all fours with a rebozo. Doula Annie was an absolute rock star as she skillfully jiggled that baby into position for close to 45 minutes; her strong arms never giving out.
Earlier in the evening, soon-to-be big brother had gone to bed in a back bedroom. At one point though, as toddlers often do, he woke up crying and needed his mama. Kori scooped her baby into her arms and rocked him on the birth ball along with her contractions. Strength. It was a sacred, time-stopping moment, as she rocked her baby for the last time as an only child.
Over the next few hours, labor slowed and picked up, slowed and picked up. Sam did a check and offered to break Kori's water to get things moving, and it absolutely worked. Barnes was strong and steady as he held his wife and quietly shared his strength. Watching the two of them work together to bring their baby earthside was an honor.
As the hours slipped by, Kori's mom quietly said to her daughter, "Happy birthday!" It was midnight. It looked like this mama was going to be getting an extra-special birthday present this year!
Finally, mama started feeling a deep pressure and she was ready to push. A big, warm tub was all ready for her. She labored in a few different positions in the tub, holding tight to her husband's hands and then lying back and resting.
One of the coolest parts of the night was watching Sam, the Fruitful Vine midwife, at work. Once Kori was in the tub, Sam sat next to the tub and closed her eyes, listening to the subtle tones in the laboring mother's vocalizations. She knew was she was listening for, and I can't describe it any other way than tapping into her deep wisdom, education, and experience with birth and laboring women.
When Kori's baby was beginning to emerge, she leaned into the encouraging words around her, from her doula, her mother, her midwife, and her husband. Her faith played such a strong role in her labor, particularly in those last final moments. She asked her husband to pray, and his words and God's power gave her strength. "Jesus, help me get her out!" Those simple words sprung tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps, as those were the same thoughts running through my mind when I had delivered my daughter only a few short months before.
When baby girl started crowning, we were all so excited! Everyone was chattering, cheering mama on, describing the sweet little head that was emerging. Kori quickly said, "Stop talking..." so that she could focus (strength!) and then gathered all of her energy to push her baby girl into the world. The look of wonder and relief on her face and the amazement on her husband's face was so precious. They had done it! A natural birth, their own way, making their own empowered decisions, and their baby girl was safe in her mama's arms.
Baby girl was put skin-to-skin with her daddy while mama was helped into a warm, cozy bed. Lots of emotions washed over these new parents as they snuggled their little girl, and the moments held a mixture of tears, deep breaths, and laughter. Baby needed a little oxygen and a few big cries, but her little pink body was just perfect.
The rest of the night was a dance done many times by the women of Fruitful Vine. A tender newborn exam, a swift cleaning up of the room, and checking out mama. All was well as the sun rose over a new day.
Welcome to the world, baby Abigail. Your mom and dad worked so hard to bring you into this world peacefully, and your calm, sweet nature is a blessing to them!