Welcome, Baby Jubilee | Unassisted Home Birth | Birth Photography Northern Ireland
I love when clients send me their stories, after I have documented a family session or birth, and I only take snippets out and write my own blog post, but this one SCREAMS "Share it all" so here it goes...
"Prior to Jubilee we had two children, Bjørn and Felicity. Felicity being our oldest, making 5 years just about two weeks before Jubilee’s entrance into the world, blesses our family with her sweet sensibility and enchanting role as “little mama” to all those younger than her. Bjørn, which is Norwegian for “bear”, lives up to his name with his adventurous, vivacious spirit; he brings new life and meaning to the words warrior, ninja, and superhero to all who know him.
Both Felicity and Bjørn were born at home in the United States with my fabulous private midwife, Tierney. Their births couldn’t have been more different; Felicity took her sweet time coming earth side with hard labor lasting a long 24 hours and Bjørn came blazing into life outside the womb in a fast, furious 6 hour labor. Their births seemed so opposite at the time and yet they both ended the same way, with beautiful, new, squishy, slippery babes on my chest. A love I never knew until Felicity made me a mama.
My husband, Johnny, and I had been living in Uganda, Africa with our kids for just over a year when I found out I was pregnant with our third baby. Through a series of discussions about work and where we would want Jubilee to be born we decided she would not be born in Uganda, which ended up bringing us to Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was there that we found our perfect little house to rent and call home through the rest of my pregnancy. It was also here, unbeknownst to us at the time, Jubilee would be born completely unassisted in our bedroom.
We found out our international travel insurance wouldn’t cover maternity, which normally isn’t an issue because we’ve always paid for our private midwife out of pocket. However, after we had already settled we also found out that we wouldn’t be able to be covered by the Community Midwives in NI because we hadn’t been in NI long enough and were unsure of how long we would be able to stay after the birth due to work visas. And on top of that we discovered that there are no private midwives in Northern Ireland who we could hire independently and pay out of pocket as we had done before in the US. This left us with the choice of either moving again after already signing a lease and having just moved from Central Africa or having an unassisted birth. The choice seemed easy to me; I knew my body, I trusted my body, I knew home birth, I trusted home birth, and I knew women give birth every day in all parts of the world by themselves, whether accidentally or on purpose. It’s normal, it’s natural, and I was confident that I was educated enough to have a safe birth, with a backup plan in place in case of emergency. This would be the path we would travel for my third baby’s birth.
In the weeks leading up to Jubilee’s birth I don’t remember doing too much in terms of preparation. I think since she was my 3rd home birth I knew what was needed and what was all the unnecessary stuff I did the first time or two. I didn’t take any classes, but I did talk to my husband about how I hoped the birth would go and we went over all the ways he could best support me through labor. We also read a natural child-birthing book by Ina May Gaskin that just happened to be part of the book collection in the furnished house we were renting. I read the book first highlighting all the parts I thought were relevant to us, then he read through it mostly minding the pages I had marked. I did have the house cleaned before my mama and dad arrived from the US and I set up my birthing space, which was our bedroom, adding things to it each day leading up labor (mostly drawings and affirmations made by Felicity and Bjørn as well as my wonderful friend Rannah, who I had dubbed my Doula).
I had a big bin filled with all of our birthing supplies, including things my parents brought for me from the US, on a desk in our room ready to go whenever the time came, which seemed like forever! Rannah had flown in to Belfast from Italy with her fiancé and had even extended their trip by two weeks just to be there for Jubilee’s birth, but Jubilee was on her own timeline. She was about one week and two days “late”, which happened to be the afternoon after the very morning that Rannah went back to Italy. They left in the early morning of 24 April and Jubilee was born in the late afternoon of 24 April. She came perfectly in her own time and I'm thankful my mama and dad were there; my mama ready to help if I needed her throughout labor and my dad there to meet his newest grandbaby soon after birth. So Jubilee being later than I had expected was really the biggest surprise in my pregnancy. I had thought she was going to be early the entire time!
What I remember most about the labor was how in control I felt and how amazing my husband was. It felt like we were in our own little bubble of time standing still together, yet still progressing towards this new life together as a family of five. He was there constantly and consistently putting counter pressure on my lower back and hips while I labored on my hands and knees. I even remember laughing at one point not too long before Jubilee was born in the seconds between the pressure waves, although now I have no recollection of what I thought was funny. I remember checking myself to feel exactly where her head was as she was making her way through the birth canal, which was amazing! And Johnny suggesting that I come up into a kneeling squat to help quicken her descent with the help of gravity, which it did; the pressure waves instantly became even more intense and she began to crown what seemed like moments later. I did slow her head being born with my breathing and being sure not to push, just allowing my body to work, to try to keep from tearing (And it worked! No tearing!). I loved all of my births, and I’m very thankful for all the wonderful birth experiences I’ve had, but I think they also get better each time. Less fear, more power over myself and the process, less thinking and more trusting, allowing my body to do what it was made to do. This was my first unassisted birth, and I will never forget feeling my baby’s head for the first time as well as being the first one to touch her. I love that it was my hands and my husband’s hands catching her, holding her for the first time in her life. It was an amazing feeling not being directed to do anything, but just allowing her to be born in a way that felt best for us and for her. I thought Bjørn’s labor was fast, but Jubilee made her joyous debut in about 2 hours!
What I love most about having had a birth photographer is knowing that though some memories of that day may get a little fuzzy around the edges I will always have those moments forever etched in a still photo to fill in the gaps. I have photos of Johnny loving me through my labor through eyes that I never would have known before. I have photos of Jubilee’s first moments touching the air outside of the only world she’s ever known. I can look back at these pictures and relive the moment my hands touched my husband’s while we were both catching our daughter as she was being born, and once more feel the peaceful intensity as I saw her bright eyes looking up at me for the first time ever. I have the sweetest moment frozen in time of my mama holding back my hair as I checked Jubilee's airways after she was born, and my dad meeting his granddaughter for the first time as well as cutting her umbilical cord a few hours after birth. Rebekah, my amazing birth photographer, gifted me all of these moments stuck in time to enjoy for the rest of my life. She was so silent and graceful in her work that I never once thought about her presence. My breath was absolutely taken away by what she was able to capture that day and she will forever be part of our story."
And that, my readers, is a very. Positive. Birth story.