Callan Milo James | a Home Birth Story

Disclaimer: if birth isn’t your thing, this is probably not the post for you. I’ll give you quick reader’s digest version, so you can skip ahead and carry on.We had a baby at home. On our bedroom floor. Yes, it was planned. Yes, everything went fine. He’s big and fat and healthy. His name is Callan Milo James and we love him.

If you decide to stick around and read the blog and see the photos, you’ll see a lot of love and laughs, a lot of skin, a little bit of blood and beautiful baby boy. But more than that, what I hope you see is the circle of humans around me, supporting me every single step of the way. These photos show the incredible tribe I had by my side and I am so grateful for each one of them. Jen, Andi, Julie, Dana, my mama, Smitty – each a gift, strong in their own way, resonating strength back to me as I gave birth. Every time I look at these images, I will think of them and the way they encircled me and the village it took to bring our son safely into the world.

I remember taking the pregnancy test and staring at it in shock. I remember walking downstairs and handing it to Smitty with no words, just a tiny bit of panic and a whole lot of emotion. He met my emotion with his, and in that moment, we began processing this new life inside me that would stretch our family to six. I was only 10 months from my last pregnancy, and we were just barely adjusted to life as a family of five. To add another seemed so incredibly daunting. How could we possibly handle yet another babe around here? But as the initial shock settled, we kept reminding ourselves that children are a heritage from the Lord. They are blessings, not burdens. That God knows our hearts and needs better than we could ever possibly understand. And that this new soul we’ve been given to raise would be another way He would break into our plans and remind us that His ways are not our own, but they are always better.

I could write a book about our past pregnancy and birth experiences, and while I’m sure I’ll share the other three kid’s birth stories on here sometime, for now, let’s just say that I’ve always tended to have birth experiences that were somewhat rooted in obligation or fear that was passed down to me from my providers. I had considered an out of hospital, natural birth in the past, but was always told by my OB that because of a heart defect I was born with, I was too high risk of a patient to consider it. However, after 3 births with the only complications to my heart coming from epidurals, I felt empowered to at least explore my options. I knew I wanted a different, more holistic approach not just for the birth itself, but throughout my entire pregnancy.

Enter Jen Jester, our midwife. When I reached out to Jen, I honestly assumed that home birth wasn’t even on the table for us. I thought that we’d chat about the possibility of her being our doula for a natural birth at a hospital, but as conversations continued, it became clear that a home birth was not only a viable option, but it was also the type of experience we were truly hoping for this time around. After much discussion with each other, Jen, her supervising OB, and my cardiologist, we were given the green light to proceed with a home birth!

And then…Texas happened. If you know us in real life or follow us on social media at all, you know our journey took an unexpected turn when I went into preterm labor at 30 weeks while in Dallas for an engagement session. What proceeded from there was nothing short of a whirlwind! Two weeks in the hospital in Texas, followed by five weeks of bedrest at home, a couple more early labor-like incidents, a week of illness, and then suddenly, the real thing! After all of that, we somehow made it all the way to 39 weeks and our home birth was going to be a reality!

We left our 39 week appointment around 2 pm with no indication that I’d be having a baby that day. After picking Cohen up from my mom’s house, I took a phone call from Dana Jacobs, our birth photographer. It was actually the first time we’d spoken and we were discussing the possibility of hiring her (I know, I know, I was down to the wire…Texas threw us off, y’all!). I got off the phone with her around 4:30 and told her to send over a contract, so we could get the ball rolling! I think I may have actually said, “We’ll keep in touch! I guess I can go into labor any minute!” After hanging up the phone, I walked downstairs and had my first contraction. Two minutes later, another came, and two minutes after that, another.

After about 30 minutes of contractions coming consistently two minutes apart, but lasting over a minute, Smitty suggested I start calling people. I kind of laughed it off and told him I didn’t want to cry wolf and we could still wait it out. After another fifteen minutes passed, I decided to just give everyone a heads up. Everyone I spoke to decided they wanted to come right away though! By 6 pm, our house was bustling with activity. My dad was trying to get the kids out of the house, my midwives and doula were setting up the birthing pool and prepping supplies, my mom was putting together snack baskets, and Smitty and I were walking through contractions together. My doula, Andi, offered to give Dana a call and I agreed. Dana couldn’t believe we had just spoken and I was already in labor! Talk about good timing!

I knew from past births that I tend to labor somewhat atypically. I don’t usually have painful contractions until my water breaks; however, my water has always been broken for me in the past, so I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around. True to form, my contractions were low and lots of pressure, but not what I would necessarily consider painful. I was walking and talking through them, despite only getting about 30-45 seconds between each contraction.

Around 8:30 pm, my team asked if I wanted to get into the pool. I shrugged and said, “Sure. I don’t feel like I need to, but why not?” We had such a great setup. The pool was in our living room, with lots of space for everyone to stretch out and Christmas lights twinkling nearby. I had envisioned catching my baby in that water and all of the natural birth magic that follows. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this pregnancy though, it’s that this little guy will make his appearance on his own time and terms!

I hopped in the pool and instantly, the pressure I’d felt with contractions was gone! Even though they were still coming consistently, I could barely feel them and that gave me so much encouragement for when I knew I’d be delivering him in the tub! For 30-45 minutes, I hung out in the water and shared conversation with our team. We laughed at Smitty’s dad jokes and dancing, watched Elsie’s YouTube videos, and shared stories. It was calm and warm, the exact opposite of every cold, sterile hospital birth I’ve had.

After getting out of the tub and walking a few labs around my house, Jen suggested we head upstairs to get some rest, not knowing what the night might bring. It was around 9:30 pm and they said they’d check the baby’s heartbeat every 30 minutes, but to take a nap in the meantime. To be honest, I was a little defeated as I trudged upstairs. I felt like if I laid down, the contractions would slow and everyone would go home, leaving me to feel like I was a burden for calling the team out too soon. Nothing had changed by the first check-in. Contractions 90 seconds-2 mins apart, lasting 1:15. I rolled over to my right side. 30 minutes later, Andi came in. Still the same. Contractions same spacing, same intensity.

She mentioned that they’d come back in and recheck me in 30 minutes and if nothing had changed, then we might have a discussion about the team (or at least some of them) going home for the night and coming back when things picked back up. I was discouraged, but rolled over to my left side and decided to try to get some more rest. I prayed for clarity one way or another – that either the contractions would stop completely or they’d pick up and we’d know it was time!

It wasn’t but 45 seconds after she left the room that I had a contraction that felt even lower and stronger. Smitty had been applying counter pressure while I was lying down and it was suddenly too much pressure on my back. I stood up to go to the bathroom and instantly started shivering uncontrollably. In the past, this has always signaled transition, but I still had on wet clothes from being in the pool, so I told Smit I was just cold and needed to change. Our team must have heard us shuffling about upstairs, because within minutes they were in the room. It was close to 10:40 pm.

“What’s going on?” Jen asked with a smile.

“Oh nothing, I’m just cold and shivering. I just needed to change my clothes, I think.”

Jen sort of laughed at me and said, “Well, I’m not going anywhere. Do you mind if we put a chux pad under you?”

At that moment, she knew, better than I did, how quickly the next stage was about to unfold.

I had a couple of strong contractions that made it very clear to everyone that this baby was coming. I remember making it through a few contractions and spotting Julie, our assistant midwife, coming through our bedroom door with the entire birth kit in her arms. In my head, I thought, “Wait, no, I’m not having a baby in here. I’m going back down to the pool! I did not plan to have a baby on the floor of my messy bedroom!”

I wound up on my hands and knees and was mostly annoyed that I couldn’t get comfortable because my wrists and fingers were hurting so badly. We tried changing positions: standing, kneeling with one leg up, side-lying. My body kept returning to this same spot.

At one point, we attempted to get me to lay on my side and I started shouting, “No, I don’t like that! Sorry, I don’t mean to yell at you, but I really don’t like that!” That was the moment I knew I was stuck. I wasn’t going to make it downstairs. I was going to have a baby on my hands and knees on my bedroom floor. No birthing pool to take away the pressure. No twinkle lights for ambiance. No perfectly cleaned, spacious living room. Instead, I was going to meet my son in a room with laundry piled in the open closet, clutter atop the dresser, and stains on the carpet. It wasn’t perfect. It was messy and real and raw and the most honest reminder that birth is just that. It’s the stripping back of everything else and focusing on one thing – bringing another human into the world. And the beauty of birth is found in the vulnerability of it. There is power in the letting go.

So, I gave up and I gave in and I pushed my baby boy, breathed my baby boy, roared my baby boy into his daddy’s arms.

I pushed about five times and right as he was crowning, my water broke. Jen knew Smitty wanted to help catch him and she made that a priority. He came rushing into the world at 11:45 pm. I didn’t get to see Smitty’s face when it happened, so I’m incredibly grateful for these images that show the emotion that overtook everyone!

The same sort of shock I felt when I found out I was expecting this little guy was the same sort of shock that kicked in when I realized we had just delivered a baby on our bedroom floor! I remember thinking, “What the heck just happened?!” It was truly the most intense, empowering thing I’ve ever done!

After he was born, my mom cut the cord and Julie gave me a shot of Pitocin to help with bleeding. Andi never left my side. Supporting me physically and emotionally, she was such a gift and we are so thankful we had her as part of our team. She was one step ahead the entire time, allowing my mom and Smitty to focus on me and Callan, while making sure I was still present in all of it.

You’ll notice that Callan was born with incredibly red, sensitive skin. We’re not sure if it was lingering side effects from the steroids and medications in Texas, but poor dude was so rashy! We’re still working on clearing his skin up, but it’s getting much better! Jen did his newborn exam and we couldn’t believe how big he was! 9 lbs, 21.5″ inches and a 14.25″ head!

Callan Milo James. Born December 5th, 2019, at 11:45 pm. 9 lbs, 21.5″ long.

Callan means “brave little warrior”, Milo is a nod to Smitty’s grandpa and means “merciful”, and James signifies one who will take his rightful place in the world. In many ways, he has already lived up to his name. What a journey we’ve been on already with this little man. So many battles we fought to bring him into the world. Physical battles, emotional battles, spiritual battles. But God has been merciful. Our story could have started and ended much differently in Texas. We could have been writing the tale of a NICU baby or one with serious health concerns. But the Lord protected him and he shielded us until it was the right time.

We know full well that life is not linear. It is filled with the unexpected and overflowing with uncertainty, but we are thankful for little reminders of faithfulness and promise in the middle of that. Callan’s pregnancy and birth is just one of those reminders that will permanently linger within us. We have learned more trust and gratitude and strength than we knew before and our hearts and home have been forever changed by it.

And to our sweet new addition:

Callan, our prayer is that you will face every battle with bravery and courage, that you will remind us that God is merciful and just, and that one day, you will take your rightful place in the world, and change it for the better. We love you, son!

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