"I think it's happening tonight"

I had been texting with my client, Katie, for a few hours leading up to this moment. She was self admittedly in denial about being in labor, but when her water broke, we both knew there was no turning back. Her previous home birth had been precipitous, so we expected things to move very quickly. I unlatched my sleeping babe, handed him over to Dad, and ran out the door for Seattle. Katie is a doula, childbirth educator, photographer, and gestational surrogate. She has shared her journey carrying baby "Sparkles" on social media. I arrived to their home in West Seattle to the sound of laughter in the kitchen. Baby Sparkle's biological parents, Krista & Krispjin, were listening to music and squeezing all the lemons for labor-aid. Katie made her way downstairs, smiling and talking between contractions. Below you can see her husband, Dan, giving hip squeezes during particularly difficult surges.

Forming a new family

Krista and Katie connected in a Facebook surrogacy group. I had watched for months as the pair posted photos together, with their families, on social media. I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand how special their relationship truly is. Krista was by Katie's side for each contraction. She was there for pain relief, emotional support, water sips, and all of the giggles. Krista, if you're reading this, I'd totally hire you to be my doula.

The Toilet AKA The Labor Station

Katie was avoiding the toilet despite her urge to pee because she knew how strong her contractions would be. There is no place our pelvic floor is more relaxed than on the toilet. A relaxed pelvic floor leads to dilation and some pretty intense contractions. After just a few short minutes, and some very serious surges, she felt ready to get into the birth tub. Before she could get in the tub, the water needed to be up to body temp for baby, but it was already full. Pan to her team, filling buckets and pots with water from the tub and throwing them quickly over the balcony.

The Birth Tub

As labor unfolded in the birth tub, it was unlike anything I had ever witnessed in the birth space. There was so much conversation and laughter between contractions, I almost forgot Katie was in labor. She'd be telling a story, then mid sentence slip into a contraction, and then continue the story as if no time had passed. Dan, Krista, and Krispjin surrounded the birth tub, offering quiet support through surges and sips of water in between. Midwives Jenn Linstad & Mercedes Snyder monitored baby's heart rate as needed, but otherwise trusted that Katie knew what to do. At one point, my mind was blown when Katie attempted to check her own dilation. She said, "I feel hair" and goosebumps erupted over my whole body. A few minutes later she began to push.

Mama climbed into the tub to catch her baby

Katie gave Krista the signal that it was time to catch Sparkles. I heard "head is out, head is out" and watched as smiles bloomed across everyone's faces. As Arcadia James made her way from womb to water, her mama held her while Katie untangled her legs. Katie & Krista snuggled up close because of a very short cord, but I suspect they would have regardless. They held Arcadia together and smiled, cooed, and laughed. I turned to see Dad, looking at his daughter with the sweetest tears rolling down his cheeks.

A Post partum snuggle fest

It's a good thing Katie and Dan have a king size bed, because at one point, there were 10 of us in it. Katie and Arcadia did skin to skin while waiting for the placenta to come. After its arrival, Katie cut the cord and Mama took over the skin to skin. For weeks she had been working tirelessly to induce lactation, making the first latch even sweeter. The midwives took vitals, examined Katie, and the oxytocin continued to flow.

Meanwhile, Downstairs

Katie's daughter & Arcadia's big brother worked together to decorate the sweetest birthday cake. We sang, we feasted, we toured the placenta. I've never seen a little one so excited to put gloves on and touch a placenta, and Jenn was so patient and willing to nurture her curiosity. Baby Cadie passed her newborn exam with flying colors and got quality time with her dad and big brother. From start to finish, this birth was filled with love, joy, and laughter.

A Water birth to remember

Arcadia's birth was precipitous, lasting around 2 hours from start to finish. I was ready to leave around 3 in the morning, and I remember midwife Mercedes being worried that I had an hour drive. I anticipated needing to blast the music & roll down the windows on the way home. The truth is, I drove in complete silence, running off remnants of adrenaline and replaying this beautiful birth over and over and over again. This is my first and only experience with surrogacy and I know it has deeply impacted us all. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this team, but I do have one final regret: that I didn't put my camera on self-timer mode and jump onto the bed with them!