Our fourth (and final)

The photos tell the story best, but our son's arrival went something like this:

In the beginning, I was surprised and delighted that his birth day had come so soon! I thought, I'm totally ready, let's do this.

In the middle—despair. Everything was proceeding just as it should, yet I truly believed that I would not be able to deliver this baby. ("He won't fit, he's too big!" and "I just can't figure it out!"). I wanted to give up. Like, seriously, what would happen if I decided I needed to stop and give up?

In the end, I held our beautiful boy in my arms. I thought, this is glorious, I am so grateful. And I thought, we have enough babies, let's be done now. I don't need to go through that again!

We've had all kinds of birth experiences—the first two in the hospital, and the last two at home. All four deliveries were quick and unmedicated, but each one challenged us in its own way:

Our first, because we were rookies.

Grace Ann — born July 27, 2009

Grace Ann — born July 27, 2009

Our second, because the on-call doctor was distracted and just didn't "get" us.

Amy Lynne — born May 24, 2011

Amy Lynne — born May 24, 2011

Our third, because the baby arrived unassisted, before the midwives could get there!

Megan June — born April 8, 2014

Megan June — born April 8, 2014

Our fourth, because I assumed it'd be smooth sailing—I should be a pro at this by now, right? I started out all smiles, but it ended up being really, really hard for me.

Whether you deliver at home or in a hospital, with pain meds or without, you have to accept uncertainty as part of the process of childbirth. You can't predict the ways this experience will test your limits. We're lucky never to have faced any serious complications, but we had no way of guaranteeing that would be the case.

My advice is to keep things in perspective—it's one day of your life that will come and go, and you're going to get through it. Focus on what you can control, which is seeking out quality childbirth education and surrounding yourself with good people.

When we discovered we were expecting for the first time back in 2008, I suggested that we check out the Bradley Method. Russ is a hands-on, enthusiastic kind of guy, so a course geared toward husband-coached childbirth seemed like a good fit for us. Six years later, we're still grateful for the knowledge and confidence we gained from this course.

During my third pregnancy, I stumbled upon Nancy Bardacke's book Mindful Birthing. The idea is that with practice, we can learn to pay attention to our thoughts and stay in the moment, even under stress. The same mindfulness techniques are totally useful for navigating all the life changes that come with welcoming a new baby. Such a powerful resource for moms and dads!

Through this last delivery and as always, Russ was my coach and my biggest fan. He reminded me that I was strong, that the pain was temporary, and that every contraction meant I was getting closer to meeting our baby. He helped me carry on when I was doubtful and discouraged and yelling at him. Thank you, Russ, for being my partner and my advocate. You are my champion.

Thank you to our talented team of midwives. We loved the experience of home birth and appreciated your wisdom and gentle reassurance along the way. 

Thank you to my parents for teaching me that natural childbirth is possible. I have strong memories of my dad proudly recounting how my mom delivered me and my sisters without meds. At a young age, I decided that if my mom could do it, then I could do it too!

These images tell the story of just one birth, and capture some of the essence of birth in and of itself—

excitement and anticipation,

pain and frustration,

love and trust,

a miracle. 

Russell Michael —  born March 18, 2016

Russell Michael —  born March 18, 2016

Thank you to my big sister for your presence that night, and for the gift of these photos to remember it by. Photos by Sara Wolfram / onelove photography