The Freebirth of Foxe Orion
This is my own planned unassisted birth story, as professionally documented by the incredible Vanessa Mendez Photography
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At 36.5 weeks pregnant, we moved. A HUGE undertaking so late in pregnancy, but one we had looked forward to and were excited about, nevertheless. We worked tirelessly to pack, purge, move, unpack, and settle in, knowing our time was limited before our fifth baby would arrive. At 38 weeks pregnant, I started to feel very anxious about not having created my nest - I had this beautiful birth space dreamt up in my mind, and I finally got to work trying to pull it all together. I ordered birth art for the walls, the last of my birth supplies, a robe to labor in. I worked on pulling together client projects. I worked on as many things as possible to make me feel "ready" for something I felt entirely unprepared for. On Friday, at 38+5, my dear friend Jess came over to help rearrange the rooms. She had sent plants the day before because she knew I wanted them in my birth space, and I was so thrilled to see my vision finally coming to life. We disassembled the couch so I could wash all of the covers, and she went home to macrame plant hangers for the corner of the room. After she left, I went to Target for an area rug to pull the space together enough that I would feel content with whatever, or whenever things, happened. That evening when my partner, Will, came home, we started putting the covers back on so we could reassemble the couch. As we struggled to get them back on, I felt a bit of fluid wet my pants... strange because I'd had no urge to urinate, but not enough to be unmistakeable that my membranes had ruptured. For a little while, nothing else happened... but then I started to leak more fluid, several more times throughout the night, and I knew - my waters had broken. We worked until the early morning hours to get the couch back together and the artwork hung. I spent all day Saturday trying to finish things up and waiting for contractions to start. In the mid-afternoon I developed a mild but consistent contraction pattern for a short while, until my ex-husband royally pissed me off by refusing to let me have my older girls, abruptly halting anything that may have been happening. At 9:23 pm I felt a strong shift in my pelvis, like a thud, with a noticeable contraction, followed in 4, then 3 minutes later by more contractions, and I told my birth photographer, Vanessa, immediately to leave. She was in the car within 5 minutes (less than 20 minutes after that first contraction). I sent Will to the store across the street for pads and candles so we could burn the cord, and when he returned 15 min later I could no longer talk through or even manage my surges anymore. Nova, our 18 month old daughter, really started melting down, it was late, she was tired, and she wanted but couldn't have mama, so we decided at the last minute to call Jess to come help put her to sleep, since I was already incapable of giving her my focus. I was still trying to clean and put sheets back on the bed between contractions, back and forth between the bathroom and the bed and the wall, squatting, standing, swaying, leaning, all fours, DESPERATE FOR ANY KIND OF RELIEF, when I finally got stuck on my knees in front of the washing machine in a tiny cluttered hallway. Another contraction brought familiar pressure, but come on, labors don’t end that fast and I’m not overly optimistic.
“Should I grab the camera...?”
“No, not yet.”
Another contraction with some pressure.
“Should I grab the camera?!”
“Yes. Put it on auto. Set it to video and put it somewhere.”
“WHY WONT IT TURN ON?!”
A contraction rips through me.
“IS THE BABY CROWNING?!”
“YES! Oh, my, god, slow, down, slow, down.”
Panting, panting, panting and terrified this baby was going to rip me in half coming in too much of a hurry, but too late, in an instant there was a pink, screaming baby in my hands on the floor.
"You're so little!" was the first thing I noticed, the smallest of my term babies by more than a pound!
A nameless baby boy born at 10:35 pm, in the most intense and beautiful planned freebirth, witnessed only by Will, and a stunned and curious little Nova. A 1 hour, 12 minute labor to end 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy.
Jess and Vanessa arrived 10 minutes later.
For a while we all sat in the bathroom, marveling at the baby, at the quickness of the labor, and waited for the arrival of the placenta. Once out, we inspected it—so small! So thick! As always, so beautiful. I made a mental note to remember we needed to refrigerate it within a few hours, and to make sure I texted Colleen that the baby had arrived, so she could pick it up the next day for encapsulation. When bleeding had mostly stopped, we swapped out the dirty chux pads for clean ones and moved to the couch so everyone could relax more comfortably—Will, Nova, Vanessa, Jess, baby, and I. It was both strange and lovely to not have to do anything. To not be asked questions or looked at or talked to, to just be among family and close friends. Eventually we pulled out the beautiful walnut proof box that Shea had handcrafted for me a couple years back, and used it to collect the melted wax as we burned through his umbilical cord, a slow and intentional separation from the placenta. We weighed him with a fish scale, so graciously on loan to us by my sweet midwife friend, Melek, and I measured him with a soft tape measure. 6 lbs, 14 oz and 20.5 inches long. Then, we snuggled and nursed, us two remaining skin to skin from the moment he was born. Eventually, we shifted him from my chest to Will's, so I could grab a quick shower before we snuggled down together for a long rest, baby with me, and Nova with Will.
The funny thing about birth is that it never goes the way you think it will. There always seems to be some sort of take-away. For me, one of the reasons I planned to birth unassisted was because I wanted this higher connection, an instinctive, spiritual, orgasmic, otherworldly type of birth. Birth can be all of those things, it is beautiful, divine, transformative... but it is also just LIFE! It's a normal, everyday occurrence, and that's exactly what this birth felt like. It was the perfect reminder that birth is a beautiful, normal, everyday part of life. One moment I was pregnant, having a conversation with Will in the kitchen, and an hour and a half later our family had grown by one. I can't get over how magical that is!
It took two weeks, but he eventually did get a name—Foxe Orion, baby brother to Aria, Eden, Iris, & Nova, born into a home full of chaos and love.
*PLEASE do not make any sex-specific comments. For inquiring minds, I'm not "done" now that I "finally got a boy", we didn't "get it right this time" and I'm not any more happy that I produced a male offspring than I would have been if I had birthed another baby girl. If anything, I'm struggling a lot more with the unfamiliarity of this territory and what a huge responsibility it is to raise a son who will make an impact in the patriarchal world we live in today. Please be mindful, language is important and carries great impact, careless comments like this can be hurtful to older children (this goes for parents adding EITHER sex opposite of what they already have). I will not hesitate to delete comments.
Yes, we are keeping him whole.