I cannot tell the story of Lennox entering the world without telling the stories of Kingston and Maddox. Their births were the inspiration, the power, and the magic behind my wild freebirth.
The summer of 2014, I was pregnant with our first miracle, graduating college, and moving back to Tucson, AZ to be closer to family and begin our journey into parenthood. We were excited, anxious, overwhelmed, and overjoyed. Despite the constant nausea, vomiting, headaches, and back pain, I maintained a vigorous fitness routine throughout each of my pregnancies. To me, labor and birthing a child is a marathon. I know my body is capable of greatness, but my passion for fitness fits perfectly in the way I want to birth: in power, strength, and flexibility.
My “birth plan” for Kingston was simple: 1. Go to the hospital. 2. Birth a baby. I was really open to theentire birth experience. I was thrilled with the obstetric care I received. My OBGYN was motherly and compassionate. She took her time with us at every single visit. She asked questions just as often as sheanswered them. I could tell that she trusted the woman’s body to do exactly what it was created to do.I wanted a hospital birth with this woman present. She made me feel safe and loved and capable.
Towards the end of this first pregnancy, we received some devastating news: my health insurance wouldnot be extending past the end of the year (I was still covered under my parents’ insurance, butgraduating from college meant that I was removed from coverage.). The insurance that I had been covered under would expire on December 31st at midnight; I was “due” on December 27th. It was time to make a decision to birth outside of the hospital, birth in the hospital with a massive bill at the end, or schedule an induction. We waited until the last possible minute to decide. I spent every day begging my body to kick start labor. I DID NOT want an induction, but we could not afford the birth I wanted without it.
I chose an induction. Technically, no one chose it for me. But I still felt forced into a corner. Looking back, I do not regret this decision, but I am still angry that I it was a decision I even needed to make.
I was induced on December 29th at approximately 9am. All things considered, everything went well and I am happy with the entire process. The nursing staff was remarkable. They never once made me feel like I did not have autonomy in the process, even though I know this birth was ripe with interventions. With my decision to have an induction, I planned to have an epidural right from the start. I went back and forth with this decision as well. Movement is important to me, in every aspect of my life. Without movement during labor, I felt powerless and defenseless against the pain. I asked for the epidural (not one of the nurses, doctors, or staff members had even mentioned the word to me prior to this, which I do appreciate) at approximately 11am. The anesthesiologist was great as well. I (jokingly) told myself that if I ever choose to have another epidural for a future birth, I want to personally request that he give it to me. The drug took away the feelings of pain, but I still felt the pressure and tightening of every contraction. I had complete and total movement of my entire body. I was comfortable and relaxed.
Just a few short hours later, I was ready to push. Again, I had control of my own movement in the hospital bed and I could feel every time my body contracted. I was able to push without direction from the staff. Unfortunately, the OBGYN that I had been seeing throughout my pregnancy was out of town, so a different doctor attended the birth. The first thing we told him when we met him in the birthing room was that my husband wanted to catch the baby and we wanted the whole birth on video. Thedoctor laughed and said that the hospital “rules” did not allow video, but “it’s better to ask for forgiveness.” My husband strapped the Go Pro to his chest and watched me push. Twenty minuteslater, I had my beautiful son on my chest. He was crying and gurgling and wiggling. It wasn’t perfect,but it was our birth. Kingston D.Louis Burries was born on December 29, 2014 at 2:11pm. He was 7lbs 4.9oz and 21.5 inches.
Six months later, we decided it was time to try to conceive Kingston’s sibling. We conceived his littlebrother, Maddox, when Kingston was a year old. Once again, I was extremely active, but also extremely sick. I lost a lot of weight in the beginning of this pregnancy because of HG, but it was manageable. I saw the same OBGYN for my second pregnancy. Once again, I was thrilled with the care I received. I continued to breast feed Kingston and my doctor was supportive and knowledgeable. With this pregnancy, I was leaning more towards an unmedicated birth, but I was open to another epidural, considering my previous experience with it. The only absolute with this birth was simple: under no circumstances would I be induced. I was so excited to feel my body do the work to begin labor all on its own.
Because I had my first son “late,” I had every expectation that I would go one to two weeks past my “guess” date. I was running, jumping, hiking, swimming, etc. And had no indications of labor. Besidesthe intense back pain, I felt good. At 39 weeks, I was gearing up for another few weeks of pregnancy.
On September 27th, I went to the gym, went to work, worked out again on my lunch break, and then picked up Kingston from school. We got home and my husband decided to drive to Phoenix to pick up a new snake to add to our reptile family. He offered to bring Kingston with him so I could relax at home alone. Once they left, nesting kicked in and in full force! I rearranged every piece of furniture in the house. I brought in the ladder from the garage and cleaned every nook and cranny I could find. I vacuumed and mopped and scrubbed the grout. Then it occurred to me that we had not packed a hospital bag. I threw a few necessities in a duffel bag, still fully convinced I would be pregnant for another month.
Once my husband returned home late that night, I nursed Kingston and put him to sleep. We then had sex and went to sleep. After my busy night, I had still not had a single contraction. If I was being honest with myself, I was secretly hoping to feel something, anything! But I went to sleep without any indication that Maddox would make his appearance any time soon.
At 5:30am on September 28, 2016, I woke up like I did every morning to go the gym before work. I went to the bathroom and immediately felt intense cramping. I had diarrhea and assumed the cramps were due to an uncomfortable stomach. The cramping came back. And it came back again. After the third“wave” of cramping, I made the connection that perhaps these were contractions. I went over to ourbed and woke up my husband to tell him I thought that maybe I was having contractions. He rolled over sleepily and asked if he could time them for me. After a few more contractions, it was quite obviousthat they were about two minutes apart. “Interesting,” I thought. I then kissed my husband and startedtowards the door to leave for work. Zackary shot up in bed and looked at me confused. “What are you
thinking?” he said. I was clearly in labor, but because I had told myself that I had weeks left of thispregnancy, I was in denial. There was no way!
Reluctantly, I texted my supervisor at work. I still didn’t tell him I was having a baby. I simply told himthat I would be in late that day. I laugh looking back at this. As the contractions intensified, I finally started to believe it: I was in labor. By 7:30am, Zackary convinced me that it was time to go!
When we arrived to the hospital, I walked into triage. I was the only one there at the time. Kingston was with us and he was asking to nurse constantly. I had originally planned for him to be there for the delivery, but he was still so young and clingy and distracting. We called our moms to come to the hospital whenever they wanted. Of course, they both came right away and took Kingston to the lobby.
By 8:30am, it was just Zackary and me in the delivery room. There was one nurse there who asked if she could give me an IV. I declined and told her we were getting in the shower. I got into the shower and just swayed under the pressure from the water. Zackary stood in front of me, supporting my weight andapplying counter pressure. The contractions were intense and deep. I don’t remember anyone cominginto the bathroom once. They left us alone and let me labor in peace. I will forever be grateful for this.
At approximately 9:15am, an intense contraction came and I took a deep breath while holding onto myhusband’s arms. In that moment, I felt the “water balloon” sensation and I heard the pop. My husbandand I both looked at each other in awe. It was a beautiful moment! This was the first time I requested a nurse to come see me. I told my husband to go get the nurse. I asked her to check my dilation. For me, it was a way to motivate me to keep going. I wanted to know: did I have moments, hours, or days to go? The nurse said I was 8.5cm dilated. I felt amazing. I was doing it. I dragged my husband back into the steaming shower. The poor guy was probably drenched in sweat at this point.
After another 15 minutes or so, I felt the intense pressure and urge to push. I walked from the shower to the bed, soaking the floor on the way. I told the nurse I was ready to push and she asked where I wanted to be. I asked if she could set up the squat bar and she did promptly. I got onto the bed and writhed in pain on my side through another contraction. My husband sat at the edge of the bed waiting to catch our second son. At this point, I still do not remember seeing my doctor or hearing her come in. The first time I heard her voice was just before I began to push. She said, “I’m right here. Just do whatever you feel you want to do.” What beautiful words. They were exactly what I needed in thatmoment. Another contraction began and I pulled myself up into a standing position, holding onto thesquat bar. I gave one push and a deep moan, and my son was born into my husband’s arms. He placedhim on my chest as I fell back into the bed. At the time, this felt perfect. Maddox Emerson Burries was born at 9:32am on September 28, 2016. He was 6lbs 9oz and 19.75 inches.
Kingston, my mom, and my mother-in-law walked in the room shortly after. I laid in the bed with my boys and they both nursed for awhile. It was bliss.
Two months later, I was aching for another baby. For some, this was much too early, but for us, it was the right time. We began trying for baby number three. We tried for what felt like forever. Finally, we conceived and I was more overjoyed than I had ever been! Eight weeks later while I was at work, I saw the blood. I remember texting Zackary and telling him that we were losing our baby. I spent the work day in the bathroom crying.
I don’t think either of us fully believed it until I looked at that negative pregnancy test a week later. Wecontinued to try and conceive what we hoped would be our rainbow baby. I got pregnant again rightaway! We were so excited. I was sure this baby was safe. But nothing is really “safe.” Life is full ofdeath and loss and mourning. Eleven weeks later, we mourned the loss of our fourth baby. I bled for several days before delivering him or her. I was devastated. I felt defeated and worthless and broken.
Zackary and I decided that we would take a break from “trying.” I threw myself into pursuing a newcareer, in hopes that it would provide some sort of fulfillment. (It didn’t.)
Seven weeks after moving to San Diego to pursue that career, we found out that I was pregnant again. I tried with everything in me to suppress any feelings of excitement. I expected every day to wake up bleeding and cramping. I was in the police academy at the time and still had 16 weeks to go. It served as a great distraction for the first trimester, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Ididn’t sleep. I barely ate. I threw up constantly, while keeping a strict fitness regimen. By 13 weeks, I think I finally allowed myself to rejoice in this new pregnancy. I chose not to see an OBGYN until the academy was over, but at 13 weeks, we went to a third-party ultrasound facility to see our baby girl for the first time. It gave me the strength to continue through the academy.
Soon after, after navigating the health coverage options I had within the system, I realized that the only place of birth that was covered was one hospital about 30 minutes north of us. It was at this point that I began to panic at the thought of giving birth at the hospital again. I listened to and read and watched every birth story I could get my hands on and it became very evident that my experiences at the hospital were not the norm for most women. Where I felt respected and in control, most of the time, women birthing in the hospital are bullied, traumatized, and controlled. I was so pleased with my last births, but I knew that would not be the case if I returned to birth in the hospital.
My husband and I toured a beautiful birth center and I instantly fell in love. It felt like home from the moment we walked in. I had planned to birth there...until we saw that it was not covered by our insurance and the out-of-pocket cost would have been $8000. This was not an option for us. Although I was heartbroken at the time, it was a blessing in disguise. It was what ultimately led me to the decision to freebirth.
After coming to the realization that the birth center was out of reach, I nonchalantly mentioned to Zackary that we would just have the baby at home. He laughed. I laughed. I still look back and laugh.
After the idea of free birthing crossed my mind, I was well into my second trimester. I let that idea float around for awhile without giving it much thought.
After graduation, I went to my first prenatal appointment with an OBGYN. I was almost 19 weeks at the time. I left the office crying. The office felt cold and condescending and controlling. I let myself think about the idea of freebirth again. I mentioned it to Zackary one more time and was not met with much support. He was totally against the idea. To him, the hospital was the safest place for me. I pushed the thought to the back of my head again for a few weeks.
In January 2019, I read the freebirth story of an inspiring mother. Her story was strong and empowering and I immediately began messaging her about her pregnancy and birth. She was so patient with my incessant questions and self-doubts. She told me her story and directed me to the Free Birth Podcast. I listened to every episode and fell more and more in love with the idea of powerful birth outside of the
system. With every episode, I told my husband why I loved this idea and how amazing these women’sstories were. After a few short weeks of talking to him about nothing but freebirth, he told me thewords I longed to hear. “I support whatever decision you want to make about your birth.”
Right around my third trimester, we spoke about the possibility of freebirthing our third baby. It waswhat I wanted. But for some reason, I still didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t commit to the idea rightaway. We spoke about birth often and openly and there were always two narratives: “If I birth in the hospital...” and “If I birth at home...”
I went to my 34-week appointment with the OBGYN and we discussed a “birth plan.” If I am beinghonest, she answered every single question I threw at her with the “right” response. She gave theimpression of a fully supported and autonomous birth. I kept waiting to get a response that did notalign with my wishes for a “perfect hospital birth.” Essentially, I wanted to recreate the birth I had withMaddox. The thing is, no two births are the same. They can’t be. That’s what scared me.
After leaving that appointment, my husband turned to me in the car and asked what I thought about the doctor and her responses. I told him what I thought. I thought she knew the right things to say. I thought she only said what I wanted to hear. But who knows what the birth will actually look like when it all comes down to it. I still had the two narratives going in my head.
Zackary then turned to me and said the phrase that changed it all: “Why do you keep mentioning the hospital? We both know that you want to do this on your own. Are you just afraid to commit to it?” Ihad never been more in love with him in my life than at that moment. He saw so deeply into my souland my desires. I didn’t know how to answer him at the time, but I have not stopped thinking about itsince.
I am a perfectionist. I thrive on order and planning and analysis and structure. These things don’t necessarily fit in with the idea of a wild freebirth. I was afraid of speaking the words, “I will freebirth,” because what if I didn’t? What if I changed my mind in the moment or I stopped trusting myself anddrove to the hospital? To me, that would constitute as a failure and my personality is to avoid failure at all costs. I wrestled with this for a long time.
I also felt like I had already “failed.” I had two hospital births. I didn’t have a “perfect record.” I wasn’tnatural or crunchy enough to freebirth. I live and work in a huge U.S. city and subscribe to “the system”in almost all aspects of my life. After meditating on the stories of birth I had read and heard, I realized that this was ridiculous. There are no requirements for freebirth. That’s the entire premise. It isoperating in complete autonomy and that was a personal decision I was making myself. I had the baby. I had the vagina. I was qualified.
I wish I could say that the end of this pregnancy was as easy and comfortable as my others, but it was far from it. Starting at 34 weeks, the prodromal labor kicked in full force. I spent that night with painful, bring-me-to-my-knees contractions every two minutes for 8 hours. If I'm being honest, I was scared. I had finally made the decision to freebirth, but at 34 weeks, I would not feel comfortable being alone at home. My amazing husband turned to me again and reassured me that if the baby was coming, there was nothing we could do to stop her, but that also meant she was ready. I felt powerful again.
Luckily the contractions stopped when the sun came up. For the next six weeks, I spent nearly every dayin pain. The contractions were consistent during the day and unbearable every night. I didn’t sleep. I
continued throwing up after most meals. By week 39, I was miserable and losing a lot of motivation. The idea of a membrane sweep or a cervical check was appealing. Perhaps it would get things moving. How was my third child taking so long anyway?!
I went to work on my due date as usual. I was having painful, irregular contractions all day, but nothing time-able. I breathed through them and tried to ignore them. I was exhausted and discouraged. By 9:30pm, the intensity picked up and they were two minutes apart. Still, I felt no hope that I was having a baby soon. This had been happening for weeks. The contractions always stopped in the morning. I texted Zackary and he told me to leave work early. I stubbornly refused. My shift ended at 10pm and
by that time, contractions were unbearable. I do not know how I drove the 35 minutes home that night.I couldn’t breathe or focus.
A few miles from home, I called Zackary again and told him I needed him to meet me by my car once I parked in our assigned spot. I couldn’t carry my things in from the car. He met me by the car andcarried my works things in (as well as my yoga ball. I am SO glad I remembered to bring that home from the office!). The walk from the car to our condo felt endless. I stopped to work through two contractions on the way.
I forced myself to eat a protein bar and lay in bed when I got inside. I labored in the bed for a shorttime, tossing and turning and trying to distract myself with a television show. When I couldn’t sit in the bed any longer, I moved to the floor. I spent most of my labor on the floor beside my bed.
We had built a “birth kit” to keep in our closet for when the time came and Zackary took it out to startsetting up the room how I had asked him to, months ago. He laid down a plastic table cloth on the floor. On top of that, he laid down a soft (but cheap!) blanket so I would have something comfortable to kneel on. We had a towel and my yoga ball on the blanket and clary sage. It was dark and we had worship music playing all night. Surprisingly, I was freezing cold during this labor so I draped myself with blankets for most of the time.
After spending some time kneeling and draped over my yoga ball, swaying and moaning, I asked Zackary to start the bath. I got it and sat with my legs crossed. I moved through every contraction. The water provided some relief, but not as much as I had hoped. Zackary was the most incredible partner throughout the entire labor. He kept me hydrated and dabbed my face with cold towels. He made sure the music was playing. He took photos and videos without me even noticing so that I would have some tangible memories of the night. He even stood in the bathroom doorway and opened and closed the door quickly as a way to fan me when I got too hot.
When the bath was no longer comfortable, I went back to my bedroom floor. The contractions stayed consistently two minutes apart and intensely painful. I moaned and swayed through them. I bounced back and forth from the bedroom floor to the shower to the bath to the floor again. It felt like the only way to fight through the pain was a change of scenery.
My husband and I sang and worshipped together all night while I worked through labor. One song cameon that said, “There’s no shadow you won’t light up, mountain you won’t climb up, coming after me.” I held onto these words. Birth is dark and deep and intense and scary. There is no depth I won’t go to inorder to bring my baby into this world. The pain would be worth it.
By 5:30am, I was frustrated. I was sitting in the bath. Alone. No baby. It was my longest labor and itdidn’t seem fair. Third babies just fall out, don’t they? In my head, I decided I was done for the nightand I would have the baby another day. I told my husband I was going to bed. I am sure he was holding back laughter at that point.
He helped me out of the bathtub and back to our bed. I laid in the bed on my side and moaned through some more contractions. By 6am, the intensity changed for the first time since the contractions started. Looking back, this was transition. I got louder and rolled onto my side in pain. At the end of thatcontraction, I sat up in bed, sitting in front of my husband. I asked him, “Do you think I’m in labor?” Hechuckled slightly and nodded. Up until this point, I was fully expecting the contractions to stop when the sun came up, like they had many, many times before.
I had heard many stories of women sleeping through part or all of transition. Our bodies are incredible. They know that hard work is coming and sometimes we just need a little extra energy to help us through the pushing stage. I remember thinking if I could just get some sleep, I would feel so much better. I breathed through another intense contraction and then laid down, dozing off into the most glorious two minutes of sleep I've ever experienced.
My husband describes the next three contractions like a light switch turning on and off. I was up on my knees, grabbing my husband, moaning, and breathing during each contraction. When it passed, I was lying in bed for two minutes, snoring. When the next contraction hit, I shot back up to work through it. This happened three times until I could not be in bed anymore.
I stood up next to the bed, leaning over, elbows on the bed. I told my husband I felt like I needed topush. He tells me later that he was a little confused by this, as my water hadn’t broken yet, but ofcourse, he was there trusting in my body, just as I was. He knelt behind me ready to do whatever I wanted him to do in that moment.
The urge to push took over and I allowed my body to bear down while I stood next to my bed. The next thing we heard was the infamous water balloon pop. It surprised both of us! My husband received a little shower and jumped backwards. I turned around and laughed because, for a split second, I thought I had pushed the baby out and he had dropped her. My water broke at 6:23am. Now I knew this was real!
My husband ran just outside of the room (two big steps away from me) to start the dryer. I had asked him to have it ready so we would have warm blankets for us to cuddle up in. I yelled to him that she was coming just moments later.
At this point, I was on my knees next to our bed, swaying and moaning. I worked through the back-to- back contractions for a few more minutes. The urge to push was back and stronger than before. I gave into it and pushed while I kneeled. My husband kneeled behind me, his hands on my lower back, comforting me through this part of the journey. Within a minute or two, Lennox’s head was out.Zackary supported her head while I continued to kneel and wait until I felt it was time to push again. Once another contraction came, I got up into a lunge position with one knee and one foot on the ground. With one more push, one shoulder and then the other came out.
Since we have the birth on video (Zackary had a Go Pro on his forehead), I was able to watch later and see her remarkable entry into the world. My husband held her body in his hand. The umbilical cord was tightly wrapped across her body like a seatbelt. She stayed there for a moment while my husband pulled the cord over her shoulder and the rest of her body slid out. I turned around to lean against the bed while we both brought her to my chest. She was gurgling and wiggling. We both knew she was perfectly healthy in every way. I held her close to me and rubbed her back. Less than a minute later she let out a beautiful, strong cry. Now this was perfect. Lennox Mazelle Burries was born at 6:30am on May 4, 2019. She was 7lbs 5.5oz and 21 inches.
Just minutes later, Zackary went to the boys’ room to wake up Kingston. He came in groggy and still mostly asleep, but his face lit up once he saw his baby sister. We all snuggled on the floor. Lennox latched shortly after birth and nursed for about an hour.
After about 30 minutes, Zackary gently reminded me about the placenta and asked how I felt. I felt good. My body felt great. I felt strong. I handed Lennox to him so I could get into a more comfortable position to deliver the placenta. I got into a lunge position again and moved around for a few minutes. I pulled ever so slightly on the cord and immediately knew that it was not ready to be delivered. I sat back down and nursed Lennox for awhile longer.
About 20 minutes later, I felt some intense cramping again and got back into a lunge position. This time, it definitely felt like the right time to deliver the placenta. I pushed and tugged on the cord slightly and the placenta slid out easily.
We waited about two hours before packing up and making our way to the hospital. This was always the plan in order to get a proof of birth for my employer and qualify for parental leave hours. The time at the hospital was actually very pleasant. The staff was great. They asked if we wanted to stay the night and we declined. We ate delicious food and cuddled in bed and watched super hero movies. They mostly left us alone to recover while they got the necessary paperwork for us to provide for my employer, insurance, and vital records. We left that evening and spent our first night as a family of five in our home, in the room where Lennox was born.