I'm so honoured that I won the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers Image Competition with an image that so many women can relate to. You labour at home as long as you can, and then you realize "it's time" to go to the hospital. Or in the case of this mother, she was planning a homebirth but had some complications arise and needed to transfer to hospital mid-labour. That car ride can be intense for both mom and dad. Mom closes her eyes and feels every bump and turn along the way while dad puts the pedal to the medal and runs a few yellow lights to get there as quick as safely possible (or not safely.)
I had been at home with this family capturing their labour journey. When the midwife came to assess her and recommended transferring to hospital, I knew I would travel with them in their car. This mom was having her 2nd baby and even though she was 8cm when she got in the car, I knew how quickly things could progress for a second time mom. As we sped to the hospital (a 10 minute drive) I could hear her contractions getting stronger and knew she was already 10cm and ready to push even before we got to the hospital. Thank goodness she stayed calm and breathed through all the intense desire to push. I was sitting in the back seat praying this baby would not be born in their car. At the hospital entrance door, we pulled up a wheelchair for her but she found it more comfortable to walk. She walked herself up to maternity ward and since our midwife called ahead, she walked straight into her delivery room, crawled up to get checked and her midwife confirmed she was 10cm and ready to push. She was asked to lay back, but found it more comfortable to squat and moments later, her beautiful surprise daughter was born into her arms.
Watch the full emotional birth video below.
~If you recognize this family it's because I photographed their first birth and submitted a photo from their first birth story into the 2014 image competition. Watch their first birth journey here.
~Jaydene Freund is a birth photographer and film maker located in Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Canada. She has photographed and filmed over 100 unique birth stories over the last 6 years.
2016 was an incredible year filled with so many unique and beautiful birth stories. I met a family that welcomed twins via c-section after trying to have a family for 7 years and were on their last round of invitro. I met 2 moms that birthed at home in water and sang throughout their entire labour. I had a repeat client that laboured for 27 hours with her first baby, and surprisingly welcomed her 2nd baby on her bedroom floor after only 1 hour of labour. I witnessed births that took 3 days, and witnessed births that took 25 minutes. Some women wanted epidurals and couldn't receive them in time, and other women didn't want epidurals but asked for them after their labour took unexpected turns. Each journey is unique. Each woman is strong. Each story has beauty. Enjoy watching the Best of Birth Moments 2016.
Thank you to Kelly for sharing her journey. This is an incredible must-read tale from a very strong mama who followed her soul and believed in her body:
"I remember it like it was yesterday - two lines. Excited. Scared. Scared to death. Was I going to be able to have this baby? Would I need a c section? Would I forever be changed "down there" if something goes wrong? Funny enough, my legs NEVER had anything to do with my fears. And I, in fact, have spastic cerebral palsy. I've had it since birth, and lo and behold, I came upon cerebral palsy innocently - during birth. I had lack of oxygen to the brain during birth because the doctors failed to get me out of my poor mother in time.
Now there I was, barely 25 and pregnant. Off I went to my doctor with excitement, you have to think positive right? After my first visit I was already buzzing with WAY too many questions, and naturally, like most women, I wanted DETAIL. I was left to torture Google for countless hours and to be honest I am a "stick to the facts" kind of person and appeal to your best emotions and Google leaves me feeling sometimes less than satisified. I recall going to my three month check up with the doctor, I was even on time, a rarity for me. I wanted to talk to him about my legs now, I was losing my balance because of the weight gain and was a bit frightened at the fact that it was going by so fast and I really did not know how to cope with the anxieties creeping up on me now. I had a belly and it was becoming real to me. I sat perched on the edge of my seat, my heart going too fast. I wanted to hear my baby. I wanted to hear his little heart and remember that I was excited more than I was nervous. He came in and sat down. "Ok, so what are you here for?" My heart SANK. I'm here to talk to you about my BABY. I am scared. I am excited. We are supposed to be in this "together" doctor, said the voice in my head. Instead, I stuttered and responded, "Well.... I'm pregnant". I proceeded to rush out my sentences, telling him about my struggles and worries, and asked almost breathless "can I hear the baby today?". He looked down at his chart and instantly referred me to a specialist for an MRI and pointed out that I will problably need a c-section, because I have cerebral palsy and I am too "tiny" being 4'10 and 90 lbs. Then looked up at me and said "it is too early yet to hear".
Instantly, I could feel my hairs on my neck rise when he said "specialist" and I could feel my stubborn heart say "no" to that c-section. "Last I checked, nothing is wrong with my crotch, and I don't have the best of balance even on a good day". The sarcasm was like venom. He looked up, shocked, and I lost my temper right in that office. How dare he not even know WHY I am here today, how does he even KNOW I need a c section?
My horses give birth completely on thier own, at their own pace. Birth is a natural process.... isn't it? It's like riding a horse - resist the rythym when going for a ride and it will be a bumpy one. Breath, relax, and let the horse take you for a ride and you just may feel empowered.
So I marched out of the office, crying, bound and determinded to have a more logical approach to this experience, and definitely a more satisfying approach to this pregnancy. Next, I found myself a midwife, and a forever friend. I sat in her office a bit hostile. I was scared to bring up my situation again, I didn't want to have to talk about the last 3, almost 4 months of why I was siting there, I didn't want to have to defend my choice to have a more natural approach to something people were doing long before there were doctors, reglardless of their size, shape and mechanics on the outside. She sat down, peering into my eyes with a smile. "Tell me a little bit about you". I can honestly say I was a bit rude, feeling like I had to defend my thoughts and feelings about my pregnancy with this stranger.
After I filled her in with my horrible experience, all she said in the kindest way was "Would you like to hear your baby?" YES! Let's actually embrace this little life inside of me! Let's make this personal, and real, and authentic as the little heart that beat into the doppler, strong and steady like the convictions that beat in my own heart about the way I would like to enjoy my experience. Then she said, "I'm sure you can have a natural, vaginal birth despite your disability. Just let me know how you feel most comfortable as we go, and if there are medical concerns I will tell you, and we will go over it step by step." I was hooked on this woman's simple and logical approach.
Six months later, I gave birth to my first son in under 4 hours - no drugs, no c-section, no medical interference what-so-ever.
Fast forward a few years and there I was at 33.5 weeks through my second pregnancy, I lost balance and fell down in my barn and my body decided it was time for my baby to be born. My second son was born six and a half weeks early. I was terrified that something may go wrong or that this would change things but knew my body was capable of bringing this little man Earthside safely. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of active labour, I welcomed my 5 lb 4 ounce boy into my life.
I made a choice to have this baby and I wanted to feel like I had choices through pregnancy and birth. Some people liken birth to a "ride." Yes, it is. And if you let your body get in sync with it, if you can trust your natural rythyms within yourself, the things that tell your body to speed it up, slow it down, go with it, and to work with it - then yes- birth is that kind of ride. And you know what the best part of that ride? The people in the room with me on that ride believed, empowered and supported me. I was present mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. That's what this whole thing was, and that is what pregnancy and birth is - a choice to have a baby. The way I felt the most comfortable mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
Only I knew what was best for me in a birth experience. I could have been robbed of these journeys had I let someone tell me about my own body and it's limitations. How does anyone know about my personal limitations? Perhaps the only limitation in this scenario was in the mind of the doctor who "thought" I'd need a c-section. To me, my body has no limitations. It is incredible. It gives LIFE. I have so much to be thankful for. I can thank my intuition, and my body - this vessel- for carrying me through two successful births. Thank you to everyone who supported me through this, believing in me every step of the way - my partner, my mother, my nurses, the new consulting OB's and most of all my midwives for hearing my voice in my birth journey."
Birth is a bizarre out of body experience. During labour, many women only exist within their own thoughts.
I remember during my own birth I experienced my birth through thoughts, not through physical reality. I felt the fresh cold cloth on my head and thought it was the sweetest gift someone could have ever given me, but had no idea who put it there. I smelled the scent of a new person entering my birth room and thought "the scent of that perfume is going to make me throw up. Get lost! Get lost!" but had no idea who was wearing it. I felt my husband's gentle touch on my neck and when he left me to set up the birth pool, I was ready to go all hulk on him.
The thoughts that go on inside a woman's mind during labour are fascinating. She might be focused inward but she is still taking everything in around her.
So I asked some women what was going on in their head during this exact moment of birth captured below.
"I am feeling exhausted. My mind and body want to rest but just as I get comfortable another contraction started to come. I kept thinking that I was done and then a contraction would come. I didn't want to let go of my husband's hand. My thoughts would go back to my breathing, trying to keep slow rhythmic breaths. Deep breath in, slow breath out. The contraction would end and I would be reminded of the warm water surrounding me. Helping my body relax and prepare for the next tidal wave of pain. I knew I would get to the other side, with my beautiful baby in my arms. I just didn't know how much more I would have to overcome."
"In this moment I wasn't thinking. I had always envisioned labour as panic, stacked on pain, topped with mind racing urgency. It was none of those. Maybe because he knew just how to hold me, I didn't have to think about how to be strong. Maybe because seconds before and after this moment we were all smiling and laughing and I didn't have to question if I was loved. Maybe because in this moment I felt I knew exactly what to do without having done it before and I didn't have to wonder if I'd be ok. In this moment all I had to do was feel."
After 8 years of friendship, 5 years in a relationship, travelling the world together, buying a house together, these two decided it was time to build a family together.
These 2 mama's planned for a natural uneventful birth, but instead they were taken for a ride... At 38 weeks pregnant, mama had a routine prenatal appointment. She expected it to be the same as any other appointment, except the midwife asked her to go to the hospital for an ultrasound and they discovered the baby's heart rate was racing at over 200 beats per minute and needed to be born right then and there. The other mama was planning to fly home from Ft. McMurray that evening and then spend the next few weeks preparing the nursery and planning for baby's arrival. Well sometimes the only thing you can expect in a birth story is the unexpected, and everything in this story was unexpected.
Baby was born 20 minutes after her ultrasound by c-section and you must watch the video to see the rest of the story...
Jaydene Freund is a birth photographer in the Vancouver, Fraser Valley area. She has captured over 80 births and is passionate about women preserving their birth stories to pass on to their own children.