Parents have been sharing the beauty of their child’s birth experience via the lens of professional photographers for years. In a new series, we’re focusing on one story at a time, emphasizing the many different ways infants are born and the beauty of each family’s story.
In her own words, Wilkenson describes how unpredictable childbirth can be, no matter how many times you’ve been through it.
I have five children. My eldest is 6 years old, and then I’ve had four babies in the last four years. It’s been interesting!
After having my first child in a hospital, I’ve had all of my subsequent pregnancies at home. I labour for around 24 hours with my first, and I believe it would have taken longer if I hadn’t been given Pitocin. With my second, I experienced around two hours of active labor. Maybe I had my third when I was three? My fourth took 14 hours and started out very painful.
Because of that, I went into my most recent birth expecting the unexpected, but also knowing exactly what I wanted to happen, if at all possible. My intention was for my spouse to catch the baby. And it was really important for me to try and have some peace and quiet right after the baby was born.
I was fully expecting to go to 41 weeks because that’s what happened with my first and my third, but I’d also been feeling pretty labor-ish from 36 weeks onward.
At 39 weeks, I went to bed like usual and then woke up maybe 45 minutes later to a giant contraction and tons of pressure. I felt like the baby was right there.
I do have a history of some really fast labors, but I’ve also had some long ones, so I felt like I didn’t know what was happening. I woke my husband up and he was kind of like: “Are you going to have a baby right now?” My contractions were three minutes apart. Right, when he asked, I had a contraction hit and I started shaking. I thought, “Oh, my goodness, did I basically wake up in transition?”
We’d chatted with my midwife about what to do if things proceeded rapidly because I’d had some fast labors before. So we had this brief time of self-preparation. Thankfully, my midwife, who lives about 45 minutes away, arrived on time, so we didn’t have to.
My contractions were super close together and I remember thinking to myself, “I need them to slow down because I cannot do this.” I was still preparing myself for the idea of doing this for another 14 hours after my last labor, even though everyone else seemed to understand how close I was.
I hopped in the bath. I was still thinking I was just in there to slow my contractions down, and my husband and midwife were kind of like, “Sure, Ash, whatever you say.” Things did slow down a little in the water, but the contractions quickly resumed their ferocity. It was also obvious that they weren’t dilatation contractions. The contractions were all about getting the baby out.
I got out of the tub, and he was born within a contraction and a half. My husband was able to catch him, and then I just held him and looked at him for a while.
He’s such a chill baby. I love that I can see it in these photos, even though he has that little pout face. He has such a sweet demeanor, and he has had it since the very beginning.
It’s hard to put into words just how amazing it was to have him here. It was one of the highest joys I’ve ever experienced. To finally meet him and learn that he was a boy, to hold him on my chest, to hear him cry, to see his face, and to be done with the long, difficult journey of pregnancy. I soaked up all the snuggles and cried and cried and cried and was so happy and thankful that we did it!
The kids slept through the whole thing. We had a friend here who was planning to watch them if we needed it, and we were open to them coming in if they wanted to – or staying away if that’s what they preferred. But they ended up waking up maybe four hours after the baby was born.
They were excited to say “hi” to the baby, but then they wanted to go to my sister’s so they just kind of took off. I got a nap.
Now that I’ve done it five times, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to be content with the fact that nothing appears to be going the way it’s “supposed” to happen. It’s kind of like having so many kids close together. Sometimes we’re like, “Oh, my goodness, this is crazy!” But our hearts are full.
This labor and birth were so different than what I had hoped and dreamed for the entire pregnancy, but after he was there, I was quite proud of myself and delighted with how everything had turned out. When I reflect on the baby’s birth, I see the hand of a loving God written all over it.