Monday, October 19, 2009

The birth of Sean Sylph

My dear client (and friend!) Lee has given me persmission to share her birth story of her sweet stillborn son, Sean Sylph.

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Late in the afternoon on September 10th, at 33 weeks of pregnancy, we found out that baby Sean was no longer alive. The morning of Friday, September 11th, after a difficult night, I told my midwives that I was ready to no longer be pregnant and I wanted to go ahead with the birth (we were originally planning for Saturday morning).

After a morning spent with my parents and Jake, we went home and prepared. I set up an altar and Mike and I made sure the house was ready, then I rested for awhile while Jake took a nap. At 3pm, my parents came and picked Jake up. My midwives, Lennon and Angie, arrived.

First Mike and I performed a smudging ceremony to cleanse ourselves and our space.




Then we went upstairs to get started. I was very pleased to find that I was already 6 centimeters dilated, and then Lennon broke the bag of waters. I went and sat in the bathtub to let the water flow out, and eventually filled the tub with some warm water for comfort. About 15 minutes after breaking the waters, I had my first contraction. The contractions were very mild at first, and slowly built up in intensity, frequency, and duration. I stayed in the bathtub for quite awhile, keeping myself upright to help things move along more quickly. Mike sat in the bathroom with me, and my midwives were in the bedroom next door, ready to check on me whenever I called. I had a candle brought up and lit and put in the corner of the bathtub for something to focus on.

Suddenly things changed and I found I could no longer be in the bathtub. I was immediately so hot and dizzy that I broke out into a sweat (it was 90 that day!) and practically ran to the bedroom where I got on my hands and knees on the bed and threw up into a bucket, except only water came out. This was probably transition! I started feeling a little better after that but the contractions were incredibly intense and close together at this point. I just kept myself as comfortable as I could on the bed with pillows to help prop me up to stay upright. Contractions continued to come and go, and I sipped cool water in between and breathed through each one.


Soon I moved to the edge of the bed and sat through a few contractions to ease the pressure on my knees. I asked for the birth stool, which the midwives brought up and set up for me. It felt great to sit on. After a few more contractions, I had a contraction where I let out a long, low, primal moan that surprised me but felt really good. The midwives immediately came into the bedroom and began setting up for the birth. Pushing was slow, with long resting times in between contractions. The baby soon crowned, but wasn't born until about 40 minutes later.


Sean was finally born at 5:40. Mike was the one who caught him and cut the cord. He was put down in front of me and I gently caressed his face and examined his body, toes, and fingers. This was so hard to do. I could see for myself that his body was not normal, his face hadn't developed properly, but he was still my baby that I had loved and carried inside me for 7 and a half months.

I was given the time and space to just look at Sean and be with him. I sat back on the bed, exhausted, and waited for the placenta to come. It took awhile, just like with Jake's birth. When it finally did come out (easily), the midwives found that it hadn't developed quite normally, either. During this time Mike sat with Sean and held him and connected with his spirit.

After the quick, 2 hour labor and birth, I was able to then sit back on my bed and rest. Sean weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces! Mike and I sat with Sean and just held the peace for awhile, contemplating it all.

When we were ready, at about 8:30pm the guy from the funeral home came, and Mike took Sean down to the car and laid him inside. I watched from the upstairs window and then cried as the car drove away.

My parents brought Jake back, and Mike and I hugged our boy tight.


(The middle name: a sylph is a sky spirit, seen in the form of particularly-shaped cloud wisps.)

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Thank you, Lee and Mike. Thank you for allowing me to be with you during such a sacred, beautiful and sad event.

4 comments :

zipadeedoula said...

Thanks for sharing this, Lee.

Little Red Hen Mama said...

how kind of Lee to share their story. Thank you so much <3 My heart goes out to your family.

Cheyenne said...

I am in tears over the candor, beauty, and sadness of this story. That these amazing parents could find some measure of peace in their unconscionable loss is an inspiration to those of us with much less significant problems. Wow. Thank you for sharing Lennon, and to Sean's parents for allowing it. After Persephone and Sidney, news of his loss was unbearable, and while I don't know them, her narrative eased some of the hurt I felt for them. How brave they were. Sleep sweetly Baby Sean.

WiseWoman said...

This story is such a beautiful reminder that, even when our world is being torn apart, it's possible to create beauty, ceremony, ritual and community.

I saw the most incredible film this week. "Departures" was the Academy Award best foreign film last year. From Japan, it's about a Japanese man who does incredible ceremonies to prepare the dead for burial.

Lee, the story of your son's death, birth and departure serves us all. He was lucky to have a family like yours.