Earlier this year I had the honor of capturing a very special birth. As you'll read below, despite the tragic circumstances, Forest's birth was beautiful, life-changing, and healing in so many ways.
Elizabeth and Stephen went into their birth knowing they would only have minutes with their son...and they birthed him recognizing both the joy and the sorrow of this very special day. Elizabeth's words below are so powerful. I hope that they move you like they move me...and I hope you're inspired to share this story with your friends and family.
When was your baby due? : 11/22/2015
When was your baby born?: 10/6/2015
Where did you decide to have your baby? Why did you choose this delivery location?:
Presbyterian St. Lukes hospital. I had been planning a home birth, my previous birth had been and my first was a cesarean, but my plans changed dramatically after our 20 week anatomy scan. My amniotic fluid was low and there seemed to be an anomaly in the lower abdomen, we would need a level 2 ultrasound and were referred to an MFM. For the next week and half I hydrated and rested and hydrated. We went to the next ultrasound with no idea what we were walking into. As my husband sat on the floor with our other two children playing, the doctor told us that our child's kidneys were full of cysts, bilateral Multi cystic Dysplastic kidneys. His kidneys were not functioning, not producing urine which is what amniotic fluid is made up of. Without amniotic fluid, without functioning kidneys, the stomach, bladder and lungs cannot develop properly. Our baby would not survive after birth. To add what felt like insult to injury I also had full placenta previa and would need a cesarean.
What did you do to prepare for your birth? :
I knew I wanted a very different experience than my first cesarean. I knew more and I knew I could stand up for what I wanted. I searched stillbirthday.com, I anonymously asked questions about hospitals and support in our local facebook birth group, I searched for support groups, I contacted a bereavement doula and she put me in contact with a woman who runs an organization (String of Pearls) that helps in fatal fetal diagnosis, contacted a photographer friend to discuss birth photography and when she couldn't be there she found me someone who could be. I set up meetings with the MFM program coordinator who gave us a hospital tour, listened to our wishes, set up a meeting with a genetic counselor and someone from the neonatal team. I made a birth plan with the help of SOP and sent it to the coordinator. She had concerns about whether or not I would be allowed to have my husband, doula and a photographer in the OR. I made it pretty clear I wasn't going to put up with anything less than what I wanted and she spoke with the anesthesiologist on the day I would deliver as well as the head of anesthesiology for the hospital to get approval.
Tell us what happened! Please feel free to write as much or as little as you'd like about your birth story. :
Every person who took part in my son's birth was amazing. Each staff member from the hospital who came into the room acknowledged that they had read my plan, they were respectful and kind and supportive. It was beautiful and empowering, it was tragic and terrifying. Walking down the hall toward the OR felt like walking the green mile. Trying not shake as I got my spinal block, laying on the table under the lights as the world moved around me while I slowly began to feel warm and then numb. A nurse came up to me smiling, "I know you asked for them to drop the drape but we just got these in. Clear drapes. I don't think we have even used them yet." "Yes!! Please!" Then the brief discussion about how to set it up. My vague recognition that my doula was just over my husbands shoulder and my photographer was there, quietly faded into the background as they do. The tense quiet as it began. The doctor explaining what was happening. The one single tiny cry, a sound we didn't know if we would would hear. My sharp inhale and wide eyes when i heard it, looking up to my husband with a smile and teary eyes. Then there he was, in my view, then on my chest. The place where he would spend his entire life, his full short 6 minutes. The remainder of the procedure my husband stood leaning over us as we both kissed and touched our baby. Our Forest. Once they were finished closing up the nurse came to take Forest to weigh and measure him. The moment her eyes found ours, asking the question none of us wanted the answer to. We both slowly shook our heads. My husband lifted him from my chest and walked him to the warmer. They took him only long enough to weigh and measure him while they moved me to my bed. The nurse told me they were going to allow me to hold him on our way back to our room, it was a small gesture that meant so much. For the next few hours we held him, took photos and made memories. I watched as the nurses sweetly got foot prints and a lock of hair and tried so hard to get hand prints, helped put clothes on him and change them when we were unsure of how best to work around his anomalies.. I watched as the nurse holding him swayed gently as she would with any baby. I watched as my doula helped them, as she made molds of his hands, reminded us to take moments to ourselves, encouraged us to share our feelings, helped the photographer pose him and stayed until we were all ready. In those moments I can't imagine feeling more or better supported than we were.
What surprised you most about your birth? :
That I could find an empowering experience in such tragedy. That I could have a healing Birth in a traumatic situation.
What are you glad that you did during your birth? :
I'm glad I stood up for what I wanted, what I needed.
What would you do differently? :
Honestly, maybe I would have held him longer, kissed him more, pushed through my fears to do those things. About the birth, nothing.
What's the best advice you received about birth? :
That it does matter. You can ask for things, you can even demand things, you can fire that nurse who doesn't listen to you, you can make a cesarean gentle and even when things don't go as planned you can find ways to make the unplanned more comfortable.