For years, HuffPost Parents has shared the beauty of the ʙɪʀᴛʜ experience through the lens of talented photographers. In a new series, we’re focusing on one story at a time, honoring the many different ways babies come into the world and the beauty of every family’s story. This week, we’re hearing from Ashlee Wilkenson, 29, who had photographer Rebecca Walsh (working for Denver-based ʙɪʀᴛʜ photographer Monet Nicole) shoot the ʙɪʀᴛʜ of her fifth baby, at home in Colorado.
In her own words, Wilkenson describes how unpredictable ᴄʜɪʟᴅʙɪʀᴛʜ can be, no matter how many times you’ve been through it. I have five children. My eldest is 6 years old, and then I’ve had four babies in the last four years. It’s been interesting! I ʜᴀᴅ ᴍʏ ꜰɪʀsᴛ ʙᴀʙʏ in a hospital, and then all of my ᴅᴇʟɪᴠᴇʀɪᴇs after have been home ʙɪʀᴛʜs. With my first, I ʟᴀʙᴏʀᴇᴅ for maybe 24 hours and I think it would have taken longer if I hadn’t been ɢɪᴠᴇɴ Pɪᴛᴏᴄɪɴ. Then with my second, I had probably two hours of active ʟᴀʙᴏʀ. My third was maybe three? My fourth was 14 hours long and extremely ᴘᴀɪɴꜰᴜʟ from the beginning.
Because of that, I went into my most recent ʙɪʀᴛʜ knowing to expect the unexpected, but also with a clear sense of what I hoped for, if possible. I wanted my husband to ᴄᴀᴛᴄʜ the baby. And it was really important for me to try and have some peace and quiet right after the baby ᴡᴀs ʙᴏʀɴ. At 39 weeks, I went to bed like usual and then woke up maybe 45 minutes later to a ɢɪᴀɴᴛ ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴ ᴀɴᴅ ᴛᴏɴs ᴏꜰ ᴘʀᴇssᴜʀᴇ. I felt like the baby was right there. I do have a history of some really fast ʟᴀʙᴏʀs, but I’ve also had some long ones, so I felt like I didn’t know what was happening. I woke my husband up and he was kind of like: “Are you ɢᴏɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴀ ʙᴀʙʏ right now?” My ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs were three minutes apart. Right when he asked, I had a ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴ ʜɪᴛ and I started sʜᴀᴋɪɴɢ. I thought, “Oh, my goodness, did I basically wake up in ᴛʀᴀɴsɪᴛɪᴏɴ?”
He called the midwife right away, and told her I was sʜᴀᴋɪɴɢ. She kind of said: “OK, here is how you ᴄᴀᴛᴄʜ ᴀ ʙᴀʙʏ.” My husband is military — he’s an engineer — so he was really calm. I have some medical experience as an E.M.T and I’m a doula. Because I’ve had some fast ʟᴀʙᴏʀs before, we’d talked with my midwife about what to do if things went quickly. So we had this moment of prepping to do this on our own. But thankfully, my midwife — who is about 45 minutes away — got there in time and we didn’t have to. My ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs were super close together and I remember thinking to myself, “I need them to slow down, because I cannot do this.” I was still preparing myself for the idea of doing this for another 14 hours after my last ʟᴀʙᴏʀ, even though everyone else seemed to understand how close I was.
I hopped in the bath. I was still thinking I was just in there to slow my ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs down, and my husband and midwife were kind of like, “Sure, Ash, whatever you say.” In the water, things did space out a bit, but then the ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs got really ɪɴᴛᴇɴsᴇ again. And it was clear they weren’t ᴅɪʟᴀᴛɪᴏɴᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs . They were ɢᴇᴛ-ᴛʜᴇ-ʙᴀʙʏ-ᴏᴜᴛᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs . I got out of the tub, and he ᴡᴀs ʙᴏʀɴ within a ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴ and a half. My husband was able to ᴄᴀᴛᴄʜ him, and then I just held him and looked at him for a while.
He’s such a chill baby. I love that I can see it in these photos, even though he has that little pout face. He has such a sweet demeanor, and he has had it since the very beginning.The kids slept through the whole thing. We had a friend here who was planning to watch them if we needed it, and we were open to them coming in if they wanted to — or staying away if that’s what they preferred. But they ended up waking up maybe four hours after the baby ᴡᴀs ʙᴏʀɴ.