All images shared here were taken by Jalene Taylor.
To see the video of Liberty's birth, filmed by Nate Pickett, go here.
Two weeks before my little girl's birth date my body was already preparing to push her out into the world. Knowing that I was almost dilated to a 3 and basically 90% effaced wasn't necessarily a good thing. I carried her front and heavy and at 40 weeks pregnant measured closer to 42. This pregnancy was an extremely uncomfortable one for me. She carried low, throwing my hips out constantly and requiring weekly visits to the chiropractor just to be able to move without constant pain. Towards the end I really waddled and felt every pressure possible. Emotionally I was all over the place too. I assumed that I would carry her to her due date of September 17th simply because I carried my Emerson full term (plus one day), but with earlier contractions and progress two weeks out, I had hopes that natural labor would happen earlier. But her due date came, and she was still cozy inside of me.
She carried the full 40 weeks and it didn't matter what I tried to get labor to start, it didn't seem to want to. On Emerson's due date I mowed our lawn and that was the final straw, which started labor. On Liberty's due date instead of mowing the lawn, I had a visit from my midwife. She checked me and went ahead with stripping my membranes. There weren't many left to strip and she followed with some evening primrose oil right on my cervix. At that point I laid down to rest and to let the evening primrose oil work it's magic. Britton ended up taking Emerson out with him on an errand and then upon their return, both Emerson and Britton joined me in my napping state. For that entire afternoon our home was in a restful slumber. Once awake from our afternoon siesta, we ate a snack and then headed out for a walk. We live close to a hill with a decent incline and decided that walking up that hill (which was something I had already done multiples times a day for multiple days) might actually work this time. With Emerson on his new balance bike, we headed out. During the walk I started to feel contractions. By the time I finished up the hill, they were close to 7 minutes apart. But as soon as we came home and started making dinner, they stopped.
We ate a yummy meal with fresh veggies from our garden, put Emerson to bed and then watched Jim Gaffigan’s Mr. Universe on Netflix. The night before Emerson was born Britton and I also watched a comedy sketch and so decided to do the same. It was hard to laugh at everything he said because throughout the show I was having random contractions. Sometimes they were 5-7 minutes apart, but mostly they were about 15 minutes apart. Since labor seemed to be close, but not quite close enough we headed to bed to try and get some needed rest. At around 2:30am I woke to some serious pain. Contractions were stronger and more frequent. Britton downloaded an app for the iPad and started keeping track of their intensity and duration. Seeing that they were now averaging 4-5 minutes apart and about a minute in length, I contacted Melody (our midwife) and let her know.
At that time I also called Alisha Stamper and the photographer, Jalene Taylor. If I had an MVP award to give out for the individual who was heaven-sent at my birth it would go to Alisha Stamper. Thank heavens for best friends who bring the spirit of womanhood, Heavenly Mother, and the Divine Goddess (whatever you want to call it) into a sacred space. Alisha is strong, capable and inspired. She was present at Emerson’s birth and she volunteered herself to help with this birth. I am eternally grateful for her friendship and attention. She came right when I needed her and supported me like no one else could have. There is something so powerful and unifying through the birth process and being surrounded by women who have such beautiful inner strength is an experience for which there are no words.
Two weeks prior to Liberty’s birth, Alisha was also at my home, helping me prepare for the very moment that she was now present for. She hosted a sacred evening for me, filled with support and love from women who I admire and respect. An evening of food, prayers, beautiful words, henna, and reminders of how we are all connected in this divine journey of womanhood and mothering. I have attended and even hosted Mother’s Blessings before, but this was the first one that I have had done for me and it was a singular experience. The spirit of our Heavenly Mother penetrated every facet of that evening. My emotions were hard to contain. The women who came surrounded me with love and support and wished upon me and my baby the most beautiful of wishes: Peace, patience, strength, understanding and the ability to trust this whole incredible process. This evening was integral to the success of my labor with my little Liberty. I wore on my wrist two reminders of this powerful and life-changing evening, bracelets that connected me to my sisters.
As the contractions surged up and down, Alisha lit the birth candle, which was given to me at the blessing way, and it burned throughout the duration of labor. She was right there to help me breathe down and open up to welcome my baby into this world. This birth was such a powerful and spiritual experience. In those moments, surrounded by love and friendship, I felt a deeper connection to all those who have come before me in my family line; my mother, my grandmothers, my great grandmothers and every woman dating back to Mother Eve. Here I was preparing to bring my own daughter into this world and she would do the same and continue the life cycle. Women connected to each other through this birthing process of life. It’s a ritual of water and blood, like so many other necessary spiritual rituals and it is hard and beautiful and powerful and real.
In the dark of the morning, Alisha supported me. Melody came and helped to ensure that the birth was safe and secure. Jalene came and documented these singular moments and not long after they were all there, Nate Pickett came to film the fleeting moments of labor and delivery. And through each surge, my sweet little boy slept, unaware that his long-awaited arrival of baby sister was going to welcome him when he woke. All the while, my companion, lover, best friend and biggest support stayed there with me.
You are never as vulnerable as you are when in labor, but the openness and vulnerability is empowering. The miracle of life overshadows the fact that you’re in front of people in a way that you would never be on a normal day. Welcoming a new child into the world is a singular experience. This labor was already feeling very different than my first. Each child is a vessel for a unique and special soul. Their birth is their own and as a mother it is my responsibility to do everything in my power to welcome that child into a peaceful space, to help them make their transition into this mortal world.
Shortly after Melody arrived (about 3:30am) she checked my progress and I was not quite dilated to a 5. Learning that, I couldn’t help but feel a little discouraged. With my first I labored all night and progressed very slowly. I was determined to not experience the same kind of slow labor. And so with each new contraction, I visualized being open and really willed my body to bring my child out. I wanted to birth her so terribly. At the realization of this deep desire, my emotions could not contain themselves and tears flowed freely. With this conviction, my labor progressed much more quickly than even I anticipated it would. I felt every pressure, every surge, every contraction: Every. Single. Thing. A couple of hours later, Melody checked me again and found that I was progressing well. She was able to also stretch me ever so slightly while I contracted and so I embraced the painful stretching to allow my body to open even more. I remember thinking, as a contraction hit me hard: “only 30 more seconds, only 20 more seconds.” There was something so refreshing knowing that even though it hurt, it wasn’t forever and that I could do it. I was connected to my sisters, to all the women who came before, to the great purpose of my life through the pain of these moments and I could do exactly what I needed to do.
So often, when I share that I birth at home without pain medication, I’m told that I’m brave. Others assume that I must have a high pain tolerance. While being brave might be the case, the fact is that I have very low pain tolerance. What I am though is completely determined. When I set my mind on something there isn’t any going back. And the reality is that labor is only a brief moment in this experience of life. It’s a moment that I am so glad I get to feel every second of.
The tub was set up and I hopped in. I still do not understand how exactly the water helps with the pain, but it does. There’s something about being in a big bowl of water that assists with relaxation. There are other techniques that also helped me deal with the increasing surges. Alisha suggested that I visualize and so we did. We went to Paris and the Loire Valley. I remember thinking about the soft foggy light blanketing the fields and rolling valleys, in and out of the elaborate chateaus. The light there is unlike any other light that I’ve ever experienced. Thinking about this soft peaceful light strengthened and relaxed me and I opened even more.
With my own waters still intact, I continued to surge and prepare to meet my baby. The sun slowly rose and my little boy woke from his nightly slumber. He was uncertain, seeing me in the tub, hearing my moans and the sounds of labor. My sister came and took care of him, feeding him breakfast and getting a show on to distract him. He mostly stayed downstairs and away from me, but was home for the whole thing. This was a huge help since he woke at 7:30 and by then I was nearing transition and really getting ready to meet my little girl.
At this point my memory becomes somewhat blurred together. I don’t remember seeing much because it was easier to push through the motions of labor with my eyes closed. I breathed hard and deep and my body shook. The surges came right on top of each other. There wasn’t much of a break or any time to recover before another one hit and I was overcome with the intensity of it all. I relied completely on those supporting me, holding me, helping me. And then came the instruction: PUSH. I honestly feared that I would have a bowel movement right there in the tub and was mostly concerned about that. It felt like that was what was going to come out of me. But the reality was that everything I felt my body telling me to do was to birth my baby. And so with the love, support and encouragement of those present I pushed. My sweet husband stayed right behind me, holding me, supporting me, helping me, and whispering his confidence in my ability to do this hard thing as I pushed. The ring of fire came and stayed. She slowly crowned and I stretched to make room for the rest of what was to come. And then her head was out, or so I remember being told, along with the instruction to “stop pushing” because the cord was wrapped once around her neck. I honestly couldn’t stop the urge to keep on pushing and so Melody worked fast and my body kept on doing what it was made to do. At 8:34 am my little girl was born into this world and was brought from the water up to my chest, into my arms and next to my heart.
I looked at my husband and remember saying, “I did it.” I DID IT. And that is how my little angel, Liberty Abigail Beckham was brought into this world. She was surrounded by love, power, and strength and infused with the spirit of womanhood and all things godly. Her candle burned the entire time and we felt the presence of God, Heavenly Mother and their angels.
I was helped out of the tub and onto the birth stool to wait for the afterbirth to come, still holding my baby and amazed at what I had just experienced. She was perfect, her nose so little, and her lips perfectly kissy. She looked like my Emerson in some ways but was her own little person too and very different from her brother. I kissed her head, her face, and her nose. It felt amazing to have her out of my body and in my arms. There’s no other feeling like it.
The placenta came and I was then moved to the bed. Liberty’s cord was cut and she was weighed by her daddy, 7lbs 5 oz and 20.5” in length. She had a little help with some oxygen right after her birth, but besides that she was in great shape. Emerson came up and met his sister and he’s been smitten ever since. He is the most attentive and doting big brother. An endless source of kindness with constant affirmations for her, telling her how precious and beautiful she is. And thankfully I did not tear. My recovery has been incredible and even though I am tired, I am whole and very happy.
I have a son and now a daughter. What started 5 years ago as two has now become four and my heart is very happy.