I asked my friend if I could reprint her birth story, not just because it is beautiful, but because I think it is a story that might help you think through having a sibling/s at the birth. I was at Finley's birth but Andrea moved to New York and I was unable to be there for Aurora. Welcome Aurora!
The Birth of Aurora Rutherford Binder
It felt so much longer for the arrival of our second child. I felt certain during my pregnancy that the baby would arrive early. I’d picked April 27 as the birth date. Since I accurately picked the date of labor starting with Finley, I felt sure I’d guess right again. Yet, April came and went, and then my due date (May 3) came and went. My midwife, Kristen, prepared me well for the feelings that would come with this passage of time. At times, it did feel like a rollercoaster of emotions. Yet, overall I stayed centered. I returned to my practices (meditation and breathing) and let the days beyond my due date pass with less anticipation of the birth than I managed pre due date. In the days of waiting we enjoyed family time. I felt the preciousness of time as a family of three passing slowly away. I tried to cherish each moment with Finley. I especially cherished putting him to sleep and cuddling with him in the night. Now, as he sleeps beside his father and I write, I am so thankful I enjoyed those last days of him being my only child.
Finley was very connected to the baby during my pregnancy. When I started showing, he began talking to the baby, giving my belly kisses and zerberts. He helped Kristen at all my prenatal visits and grew very close to her. He named the baby, “MoMo”, and told me it was a girl very early in my pregnancy. One afternoon, Finley and I were eating lunch and talking about the baby’s birth. While we talked, I called the baby “he”. Finley looked at me quizzically and said, “You call the baby he but I call her she.” I smiled and asked why he called the baby she, and he said, with such conviction, “Cause she is a girl.” His certainty never faded, no matter how often we asked and how convinced Jason and I were that we were having a boy. In fact, Jason and I were so convinced the baby was a boy that in the days before the birth we spent great amounts of time and energy searching for the perfect boys name, and ignoring all our girl names. We were in a small group by that time, almost everyone else was sure we were having a girl. I think Finley convinced everyone but his own parents that his sense was correct.
I awoke on Wednesday, May 8, with some contractions. They were manageable and far apart. I soon decided it was best to just go about the day. I sent Jason off to work and Finley and I took a nice walk in the park. I managed a few contractions as we walked On Union Street to the park, thinking how funny it was to be walking on such a busy road and starting labor. Finley dug in the mud and grass and I made some calls to friends while we strolled slowly around the park. After an hour we were both feeling tired so we returned home and napped together. Soon after our nap, things grew more intense with my labor, and I called Jason to come home. His arrival brought more intense contractions, and I called Haya, my doula. Things felt like they were starting to advance more rapidly. I also saw Finley’s need to get outside. I sent Jason and Finley to the park and waited for Haya. While I waited for Haya, my labor began to slow down, and they came to a halt after her arrival. This was a familiar routine for me. My labor with Finley also stopped the first time my doula arrived. “Shy labor”, I think is the term. Haya helped set up the birth pool and visited with me. It was a nice time of reconnecting with Haya. After everything was in order with the pool, Haya encouraged me to rest. I managed to sleep lightly, and my contractions stopped. Labor stayed slow, and Haya and I decided she should head home.
Soon after Haya left Jason returned home with Finley, we ate dinner, and started getting Finley to bed. My contractions were again intensifying. They were close enough together to make getting Finley down a struggle. He’d be close to sleep and a contraction would hit me, sending me out of the bed to labor on my feet. I needed support from Jason too. We eventually gave up on getting Finley down by me laying with him and started a movie (Encounters at the End of the Earth) in hopes that the movie would put him to sleep. Of course he too was feeling the movements of my labor. He felt the birth coming, and there was no sleep in sight. Meanwhile, Jason was growing tired and withdrawing. I felt pulled in all sorts of directions. I knew I needed additional support, but felt cautious about calling Haya again. I decided to call my friend Noga and ask her to come by on her way home that evening. I felt that if my labor didn’t slow with her here then I would call Haya.
Noga arrived a little after 10 PM. She immediately set the scene for my labor. She kept the lights low, massaged my back and neck with some amazing essential oil blend, and gave me counter pressure support through the contractions. Noga slipped effortlessly into my labor space. We labored in our front room while Jason tried to get Finley down. I labored on the birthing ball, on hands and knees. It felt so mellow. We had candles and oils burning. Noga and I talked between contractions. There was a sweet and calm energy to the space that kept me at ease. My contractions were intense and deep.
I was both aware and unaware of Finley and Jason in the back. I did see that Jason was withdrawing and growing exhausted while Finley remained wide-awake. Eventually, Finley came up to the front on his own, seeking comfort and reassurance from me. This was the hardest part, psychologically, of the labor for me. I tried to manage Finley’s needs between ever intensifying contractions. We tried to get Finley interested in going to Noga’s apartment to get me some Recharge for me to drink, but he refused. I knew we needed to get him out of the space. I felt the intensity of my labor increasing and realized that in his very tired state it would be too much for both of us if he stayed. During one contraction he clung to me while I threw up and lurched forward onto the ball. It was too much. Trying to manage the pain and be present for my child simply wasn’t possible with my labor at that time of night. I saw fear in his eyes, and my heart ached. Noga took charge and got Jason and Finley out the door. Finley’s screams were piercing. Our upstairs neighbor asked if we needed help. I felt frazzled and torn. Noga drew me back to the labor, to the task at hand, and reassured me that Jason would manage and that Finley would be fine. She touched me in that moment with a calm, grounding force. But I knew I needed something more to fully let go and return to laboring. So we called my friend Jen. Noga asked her to go be with Jason and Finley. She expressed that Jason needed grounding energy and Finley support and love. I heard the truth of these words deep in my heart and knew Jen was the perfect person to bring these things to my two dear ones. Knowing Jen was on her way to be with them eased things for me. I trusted her to be just the support they needed. Noga remained in contact with Jen throughout the evening. Giving me bits of information to keep my mind at ease. Jen,Finding Nemo, and Jason managed to get Finley to sleep after a few hours and hearing that put my mind at peace.
My contractions were about 5 minutes apart when Noga called Haya. I was still laboring on the ball, with a lot of help from Noga. The contractions were in my front, no back labor this time. But I needed a lot of counter pressure to manage the intensity. I was very vocal, and Noga kept reminding me to stay low, as my voice shot up to a high pitch. The noise felt good, amazing really. As the contractions hit, I talked through the movement in my head. The image of a wave stayed with me from a book I read, and my internal dialogue followed that theme. I’d say it is a wave, here it comes, here is the peak, OK you can do this, then the trailing off. The visual image of the wave, allowing my body to feel the wave of the contraction, helped keep me from feeling scared. When Haya arrived again, my labor slowed and grew shy. It didn’t stop, but things were slow for a bit. I was able to come in and out of the labor state in a way I could not with Finley’s labor. Between contractions, I talked to Haya and Noga. But, with time, the labor drew me farther inside, and allowed my full attention to go to the process of labor. As contractions hit, these two amazing women guided me through. I felt their hands in the right places and their presence keeping me centered and strong. I felt so loved, so admired, and so cared for by the women that attended my labor. Haya and Noga used their words perfectly. I heard beautiful so many times and that is what I felt. We had my birth music playing, and I recall a stage where I was swaying meditatively to the music between contractions. I was in a deep, trance-like state at that time. I felt so present, the past and future were not even ideas to me, only the moment existed. I felt great amounts of bliss and love in the hours that the three of us spent together.
As my contractions sped up again, Haya called Kristen. I knew Kristen was on her way, I felt my body anticipate her arrival. I was excited to see her. Over the pregnancy, my relationship with Kristen moved quickly and easily from something professional to a deep personal connection. I felt honored to have her as my midwife and was so excited to share this moment with her too. Not surprisingly, my labor again slowed as we waited. I think part of my shy labor is connected to my desire to be the hostess in my home. I’d pull myself from labor to engage more completely and that would slow things down. When Kristen arrived, she came to greet me. She told me how beautiful my vocalizations sounded, how good I sounded. I had a momentary twinge of guilt over all the noise before I fell into a feeling of bliss and empowerment that my vocalizations would bring the baby down. I continued to labor on the ball as the night went on. I have no idea the time of Kristen’s arrival, but I was feeling tired. I was also feeling restless. My last labor was so active, walking the stairs and moving from room to room, in large part because Finley wasn’t positioned well. So all the sitting and quiet of this labor freaked me out at times. I must have asked many, many time if I needed to do something more. Always, the answer came that I was doing wonderfully. Eventually, I asked to move to the pool. Kristen suggested the pool or the bed, so I could rest. I couldn’t imagine going to bed and knew the pool would ease the heavier contractions. I remember feeling the need to rest coupled with a twinge at hearing that I would be resting not pushing.
Once in the pool, I felt the need for rest take full control. The water felt amazing and eased my contractions for a time. The time in the pool was very meditative and other-worldly for me. I allowed the water to hold me, leaned heavily on the side of the pool, and allowed myself to rest between contractions. As time went by, each intense contraction was followed by a smaller and longer contraction. The waves were now large and small, and moving continually. I held an inner dialogue with these contractions. The intense contractions sent me lurching forward, in need of additional hands and support to manage the sensations. The milder contractions I managed alone with humming, swaying, and breath work. I even rested during the mild contractions. At times falling fully asleep and jerking awake as I slumped down and felt myself falling.
Haya, Noga, and Kristen took turns resting and being with me. Their hands and energy merged into one for me. I felt completely at home with these women. In the hours in the pool I felt the notion of labor as women’s work in a meaningful and beautiful way. I missed Jason being there in some ways, but I also saw how powerful it was to be surrounded by women for the birth. I felt fully held, understood, and admired by these three women. For a time, Kristen labored with me alone. I can recall seeing Noga asleep on the “baybaysigh” chair (so nicknamed by Finley because we spent so many hours nursing there). It felt especially sacred to labor with Kristen. It was something I never did with my first midwife, and I felt so much love and care coming from Kristen to me during this time together. We’d journeyed a long while together as we prepared for this moment, and we were finally there, and the time was so close that we would meet the baby. As labor continued my contractions grew farther apart. I could feel this fact, even though it was never spoken. I kept in dialogue with Noga, Haya, and Kristen about my contractions, letting them know that between contractions I was having mild contractions. I felt movement happening, felt my cervix opening, but things were still slow in terms of time between major contractions.
For a long while after Kristen arrived, I kept waiting for her to check my dilation. This was a more major part of my first labor, and I imagined it to be part of this one too. I’d forgotten that Kristen rarely checks people unless she sees a need. I finally brought this up to Haya, who looked at me with such compassion and concern, as she told me that Kristen wouldn’t check unless something wasn’t sounding good. That worry faded away, and I fell back to laboring. It is funny to look back and realize that I held the concern of not being checked inside for so long. I am not sure why I didn’t ask sooner...only that I know the thought came to me often. It was a more peaceful labor to not know where I was in terms of dilation, but, since my first labor involved internal checks, I assumed this labor would as well.
I could feel the night moving on, the dawn coming on, and some panic started within me. It was short-lived for the most part. I was having some urges to push, but nothing overwhelming, and pushing didn’t help manage any of the intensity of my contractions. As the light began to change, Kristen went to rest. Noga came and sat at my head and talked to me. Throughout the labor, Noga was there to draw me into conversation about the more psychological elements of birth. Our friendship allowed this connection, and her words helped me greatly. She’d ask if I needed to voice any feelings, what was holding me back, and what I needed to let go of. As the light changed and dawn came forth, Noga looked at me and again asked what was holding me back. I looked past her to the dawn coming and felt a huge rush of need. I wanted to push back the dawn. The light coming scared me. The labor felt never-ending. I felt so tired and so ready to be done. I can recall wanting to ask to close all the blinds in our front room. I even wondered if we could hang sheets to fully block out the light. As Noga’s gaze stayed with me, possibly sensing my internal battle with the light, I felt my need in a new way. I told her “I need this baby out of me. I need my family, all of us together. I need Finley, Jason, and this baby all here now.” Noga held my head and said “then let’s make that happen.”
Minutes later, an enormous contraction shot through me. I surged forward and clung to Noga. My water broke, and I felt the baby’s head move down. I tried desperately to express this all to Noga and Haya. In spurts of “Water...broke...Kristen”. Kristen came to join us. We did some repositioning for pushing, but I ended up back on hand and knees. What felt like minutes later, I was pushing. I could feel the baby come down the birth canal so clearly and fully this time. The contractions were amazing, intense, and mind blowing. I had no anchor of a wave to keep me grounded, and my body was wild. I shot out of the water at times. Kristen urged me to stay down so the baby could be born fully in the water. I pushed with all my strength and breath. There was no easing this baby out, as I read about doing prebirth. At one point the baby’s head came so close to crowning and my energy failed. I rested, and the head moved back upwards. I sighed in frustration, and Kristen’s gentle touch and words reassured me that on the next push the head would come down again. Kristen’s pure gentleness throughout my labor kept me so calm. Her strength, centeredness, and deep love of home birth shone through in moments like this one. When my frustration hit she was there with the perfect words, the perfect touch to bring me back to my heart and my center. I clung to Noga throughout the pushing. My head buried in her arms and chest, my hands digging into her. I felt sure I was bruising her, but she told me each time to hold on tight. She was my strength as I pushed. She was my anchor, and I felt so much gratitude for her, as a friend and as a doula. In those moments, I needed her there with me because of our friendship, to help me birth this baby. A few contractions later, I pushed the baby’s head out. Kristen and Haya helped me feel the head. I felt the thick hair of our baby and smiled to think of all the acid reflux of my pregnancy and the old wives’ tale about the connection between having a baby with hair and acid reflux. The rest of the pushing was easy. The baby slid out and into the water. Kristen guided me gently back to a seated position. She told me, in a voice Noga later described perfectly as so calm and sweet I looked almost puzzled, to take my baby. For both my births there was never a sharp external change of energy as the baby arrived. No exclamation of the sex, no drama. It was beautiful that way. At my births, there was space for the sacred to emerge with the baby. At both my birth, this moment, above all others, was so filled with the sacred. I can feel it now as I remember back, feel it in my deepest soul and I know God was there in those moments in a profound and life changing way. For me, this is the true gift of a home birth, this moment of union with God, this moment of divine connection, and the life changing power it holds.
Kristen passed me the baby, and I held this new life in my arms. The baby cried out immediately, just the way her brother did when he was born. It was such a moment of joy. I looked down to see the sex, trying hard to keep the baby in arms, look, and keep the head out of the water. My first quick glance had me calling out “it’s a boy”...only to go back a second later to see it was a girl. Finley knew all along. My heart opened deeply in seeing my daughter. I finally allowed myself to feel how badly I wanted a girl. How much it meant to me, how much I knew she would mean to my mom (even if only during those very rare moments when she was here enough to know I had a daughter). It was what she always wanted for me, to have a daughter. Maybe because of how much she loved me. Maybe, too, because of how she struggled in the later years to have a relationship with me, a deep relationship like the one we had when I was younger. Noga called Jason to come home. She got through just as I misidentified the baby’s sex. So he had the hilarious moment of calling out in Mando “Funny Guy” Bagels (La Bagel Delight) “Finley, you have a brother! Wait, no Finley, you have a sister”. I held baby “MoMo” in the birthing pool while Kristen, Haya, and Noga looked on. They kept us warm pouring water over us while they too admired this new life. Finley, Jason, and Jen arrived just after I delivered the placenta. Finley marched in saying “here comes the big brother!” with a pride and love in his voice that made my heart ache to hold him again. As he came towards the pool, he jumped into Jason’s arms and gazed at the baby in my arms. Their faces were captured by Haya’s swift aim in a picture that I will forever cherish. The sheer love and excitement in their eyes is breath taking. I cut the cord while they looked on and then handed the baby to Jason.
I felt a strong need to reconnect to Finley. He was shy and withdrawn at first. I could understand. It was an intense space to enter. He’d left in a difficult way. Once I was out of the pool and in the bed he warmed back up, eased back into my space. Kristen helped me settle in the bed, while Jason held MoMo. We were without a name and easily adopted Finley’s nickname for the baby. Finley was so sweet with her. He commented on how small she was, how sweet, and touched her so gently. I tried to nurse her, and she latched on well, but was very sleepy. Kristen gave her an exam. She was 21 inches long and 7 lbs 8 oz. Her birth time was 6:12 AM, a perfect number as 6/12 is her brother’s birthday. Food was prepared for me, though I had very little appetite. Jason went for ice cream, which I did manage to enjoy. By 9 AM, we were alone as a family for the first time. It was a day of sweetness and bliss. Finley’s gentleness and love for the baby, Jason slowly falling in love, and me feeling bathed in love. The second time ,the falling in love was less of a surge and more of a slow moving wave. In the days that followed, the wave grew and grew.
It took us 3 days to find the baby’s name. We tried many on for size, settling Saturday evening on Octavia. But Sunday, Jason suggested a name I had on my name list, Aurora. He now has no recollection of making the suggestion...so maybe the baby made it herself. But Aurora was on the table. The name Aurora came from a roommate I had while living in San Francisco. We were never especially close, but I always enjoyed her company and I loved her name. It was the first time I’d met an Aurora. We were oblivious that the name of sleeping beauty was Aurora. After Jason’s suggestion, I wanted to get the name’s meaning. Our four criteria for names were beautiful, meaningful, unique, and goes well with Binder. I looked up the name. Aurora: Dawn, goddess of the sunrise. Tears came to my eyes, and I knew this was her name. She came at sunrise, and the sunrise brought her to me. Seeing that sunrise was the push that gave me the strength and opening to have the baby. For me, the name is perfect. Her middle name is Rutherford, after Jason’s great Aunt Ruthie who was very dear to him. Now at three weeks, I must admit we all call her MoMo at least as often as Aurora. Nicknames off of MoMo are starting to form. We’ll see if the nickname “MoMo” sticks. I imagine it will take at least as long to lose the name as we used it before the birth. She was MoMo for so long...it is hard to simply let it go.