I was abundantly blessed to serve as Siobhan and Trent’s midwife through the pregnancies and births of two of their five boys though, as Siobhan mentions, I missed the first of the two boys’ births by a hair’s-breadth! Oh, the memories! The second occurred amidst a flurry of births, and the main thing I remember about it was that I was thankful to have made it in time to each arrival – and that Siobhan laughed her labor away to a Jim Gaffigan show. Hannah and I were invited to sit in the bathroom with them as Siobhan soaked in the tub through Jim’s accounting of his kids’ homebirths until she calmly announced, “Okay, time for baby!” Then we trotted off to her bedroom where, with a single tear trickling down her lovely cheek, Siobhan pressed her fourth son into the light. Two years later our friendship came full circle as treasured friendships are wont to do, when Siobhan and Trent performed for us at our wedding.
Speaking of singing, be sure to check their website out! And check out their youtube channel as well! They may also be found on facebook. This amazing family is currently touring the countryside in an RV, and they’re available to perform in YOUR church or even in YOUR back yard!
Join us now as Siobhan tells the tale of her fifth son’s birth with Hannah in attendance.
Siobhan Walker, Scared Out Of Labor
I remember it as if it were yesterday, the day I discovered that my beloved midwife, Kim, was getting hitched and moving away…far away. I made a joke that I felt my ovaries shrivel up at the thought of it, but I think part of me really did die in that moment. She was as much a part of birth for me as my own family. She IS family. She had witnessed the birth of two of my children (well, one she missed by two minutes, but that is another fun story for another day). She was one of the first people their eyes set upon when light entered for the first time, and I’m sure they knew her voice from our hour-long “prenatal visits” that were, for me, just conversations with a faithful friend, full of such wisdom and encouraging words for a mama with a growing family. That day I suddenly felt unsure of my ability to birth again as if I were a first time mother, afraid of the unknown.
Needless to say, my ovaries did not shrivel and it wasn’t long before I discovered that I was expecting our 5th child. I nervously called Hannah, who had attended the birth of our 4th son alongside her mother. I also knew Hannah from church. I had seen her grow from a child into a woman and I knew her passion to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife. She was just finishing her midwifery exams when she became my midwife. I was, admittedly, nervous about birthing with someone so “new” to her career, but I reminded myself that she was personally trained by the best and I could see and feel a very familiar, comforting presence in her.
Early on, I asked Hannah if I could rent her birthing pool for my birth. I was determined to find a way to redeem and rescue my delicate lady parts from the ravages of birth this time and I was absolutely certain that water was the key that I had been missing in every birth before it. The pool had already been claimed during my last birth and I had just seen on Facebook, that my friend, who’d claimed the tub before me the last time was expecting… on the same due date again! Hahaha… I called Hannah right away and put in an order for the pool and was so relieved to find it was available.
Hannah and I had many a wonderful conversation at my home and I grew to really enjoy and look forward to her visits. Time quickly passed and before I knew it, June had arrived and with it the 1st day of summer and a looming due date. I was technically not due until the first week of July, but knowing how my babies like to be born on the 28th of the month and how I always gave birth in the week before my due date I was really nervous that Hannah’s vacation to visit with Kim in Colorado would leave me without a midwife when labor came a-calling. As I recall, she was due back from her visit ON the 28th. I think I was so nervous I scared myself out of any labor that would have happened!
The 28th of June came and went without a baby. Two days later on the 30th I was feeling, after a couple days of sporadic contractions, that things were finally showing some progress, so I texted Hannah to let her know that I MAY be in labor. I had learned from past experience that it was better to let the midwife know well in advance of a possible labor situation in case she has to drive all the way back from Indiana Amish country. Ha!
Hannah arrived in the evening after finishing an appointment and sat with me for a bit and chatted to see how I was doing. She asked if I wanted to be checked and I thought it might be nice to know if these more intense contractions were a sign that I was in active labor. I didn’t want to have her go just to come right back (I have fairly quick labors). She checked and found that I was actively dilating, but she thought there was at least time for me to get some rest and she and Anna (her apprentice…another fine young woman) decided they were going to head home for some rest just in case I was about to have a baby.
It began raining as they were loading up their car to leave and before they could set off the wind picked up significantly and suddenly we were getting tornado warnings on our cell phone. By this time It was about 8 or 9 pm and the boys were already tucked in and sleeping for the night. We ran upstairs and snatched them from the comfort of their beds and lugged them down the narrow basement stairs onto makeshift blanket-beds to wait out the storm. Hannah and Anna, of course, were still with us there in all the commotion and there I was, terrified and contracting in a tiny dirty basement. Lucky for me, or maybe not, I scared myself out of labor once again. My contractions had all but disappeared in a matter of minutes and as soon as the storm passed Hannah and Anna went home to rest, although I remember they had quite the ordeal dodging downed trees and power lines on their way out.
Well the next day the storm was gone, but so was our power (along with thousands of other homes in our area). The power company was estimating our repair date to be 2-3 days out. I was tired, hot, and my pregnancy nose was very keenly aware of the unflushable toilets. I could not, for the life of me, wrap my head around the idea of having a baby in a home with no running water. Heck, I was having my baby in a HUGE pool of water that was yet to be filled! No, this would not do.
I contracted a little here a little there all day, but I just was not comfortable in any way, something like the feeling I had during the birth of my first son at a hospital surrounded by people whom I had never seen before in my life. It was as if I was a robin feathering her nest and suddenly a gust of wind blew my nest clear out of the tree! That night I slept fitfully after finding that our power restoration date had been pushed out a day further.
The following morning I awoke peacefully to the beautiful summer sunshine pouring through my big picture window. It was a glorious day for a birth and here I was still sitting in a house with no power. I was still having piddly little contractions that were no threat whatsoever so I told Trent to go on ahead to work. A couple hours later he called and said that some friends of ours had offered to loan us their whole house generator and he was bringing it over right away.
They plugged that baby in and immediately the house came back to life! My first order of business…flush and clean the toilet. Then I turned on the air conditioner in my bedroom and shut myself into the frigid wonderfulness to lie in bed and watch a chick flick. In the time it took me to do that, contractions came and they came more intensely than before. My heart was finally settled and I was ready to have a baby! I called Trent and told him that I was finally contracting for real again. He arrived home around 2:00 and Hannah and Anna arrived shortly after. As long as I was lying on my left side, my contractions were really good ones, so I just stayed there and watched my movie as Trent filled the birthing pool.
As soon as my movie finished I was ready to get into the pool. It sounded like a good idea. The warm water was somehow very refreshing, even though I had been so very hot just hours before. Trent brought me the iPad with my favorite birthing companion, Jim Gaffigan (watch him… he’s funny), who had come out with a new stand-up routine just in time for my birth. I laughed, I grimaced, I breathed in waiting for the pain to subside and then let it out and returned to laughing. I don’t know why comedy is soothing to me during transition phase, but laughter really is a good medicine for me. I’m pretty sure Kim and Hannah both think I am nuts.
About 30-45 minutes into the show it was time for Mr. Gaffigan to take a back seat in the birthing room. I had to push…and that stuff is not funny! A couple serious contractions later, our 5th child slid out into my hands under the water and I pulled the sweet babe up to my chest for a first breath and a first snuggle. The snuggle lasted for a while before I realized that I had no idea what the gender was. You see, we had four sons already and this fact was kind of important. I peeled the slippery little warm body away for just long enough to declare, “It’s a Nudder Brudder!” Sure enough, God had blessed us with five sons! Wrigley George Walker, although he was nameless for a good five or six hours after his birth, was born at 5:13 PM, at 9 lbs 5 oz, and a quarter inch short of two feet!
So, I know you’re all wondering, at least those of you who have gone through the pain and long recovery of a birth resulting in a tear, what the outcome was of the water birth. I can’t say for sure whether it was the warm water softening and stretching as needed, or the control I had from the core training I had done for birth, or a combination of the two, but for the first time I did not tear even though I had just given birth to my largest baby! I am definitely a proponent of water birth AND abdominal support and rehabilitation, so give them a try. And wear your belly binder after birth. Because Kim says so! Because Hannah says so! And they love you and your bellies. Just do it!
All photographs taken by Rebekah Lehman of Kindred Photo & Design.
Thank you so much for the gift of your time!
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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