Ivan Ray's Birth Story

Photograph by Kaity Brawley - Naples, FL

Photograph by Kaity Brawley - Naples, FL

We took Ivory for a walk Tuesday night as it was finally starting get a little chilly in Naples, she loved trotting around the neighborhood. Ford and I were sharing last minute thoughts, ideas, and dreams of our life to come. Even at 41 and a half weeks, I was pretty comfortable, my feet never even got swollen. We discussed the beauty of pregnancy and how easy and exciting it had been- unlike what we had been told; I ate great so I felt great the entire time. I would miss my baby bump, I told Ford.  We had decided to eat a spicy quinoa and raw veggie dish to see if it would entice the little to come because my midwife advised an ultrasound if I reached 42 weeks just to make sure baby was healthy and all was well in there. Ford and I watched a documentary and fell asleep pretty late. 

Surprisingly, I had been sleeping like a rock except for the few times I got up at night to use the restroom. It was 2:30 in the morning; I reluctantly got up to pee. It came. I ran into the bedroom and told Ford that it was starting; my mucous plug had started to come. We were quite thrilled but decided to try and sleep through the rest of the night. The rushes felt a little stronger than the Braxton-Hicks ones and further down so I knew I had to start relaxing and letting go consciously. We made it through the night and I texted Dawn, my midwife the next morning to let her know the news; I told her I would let her know when rushes got more regular and stronger. 

Ford and I spent the day in the garden and walking around the house. It was a truly the perfect day to be in labor, Warm and sunny but with a little winter sea breeze. I had spent a lot of time getting everything around the house set up and put together. We wanted to feel relaxed and peaceful, it definitely helped me feel very comfortable throughout labor not worrying about having to clean up. Ford set up the midwives water tub in the nursery. The sacred geometry murals, posters, and the chakra tree of life, at the end, it was even more serene than I could have imagined. The rushes continued and came closer and closer together. I was tired so I wanted to lay down and rest through them but I also noticed they were less intense when I was able to walk around or lean against a table, swaying my hips with the rhythm of the rush. 

Riding the waves in our garden

Riding the waves in our garden


I waited until around 8pm to called my mom and let her know it was really starting.  I asked her to please run to the store for a camera that records videos as well. We did not want cellphones or too many electronic devices messing up the harmonious environment we had created. My mom came and brought us a nifty black camera. Ford and I had decided we wanted to be alone, only accompanied by our midwife, through the labor, no other friends or family. My mom hung around for a little, mothering me, as I knew she would and made me put on warm socks.

my sweet mama always taking care of me

my sweet mama always taking care of me

Suddenly, BOOM- it was pitch black. You could feel the stillness in the air; the power was out only on our side of the street. Baby did not seem to like all of the electromagnetic frequencies buzzing around while he was trying to peacefully enter this world; we laughed and figured it was meant to be. We called Dawn, told her we thought it was time for her to come and asked to bring extra candles if she had them; the rushes were getting more and more consistent.  Dawn arrived that night with her bags packed and ready to go. An oxygen tank in case of an emergency, her suturing kit, heart rate monitor, etc… It felt comforting knowing how experienced she was and prepared for anything that could potentially happen.

I spent about 8-9 hours of my labor in the candlelight, zen-ing out and riding the rushes like waves. They were getting real, and Ford was there for me each step of the way. There was a spot on my lower back that when he rubbed, it made the intensity go down by a tenfold. I almost felt as if I could not get through them if he was not there rubbing me down with coconut oil. I rushed and slept and rushed and slept. It was amazing how tired I was in between them and able to fall asleep for a few minutes. They were regular but still coming at varying intervals. Sometimes I only had 3-5 minutes and sometimes I had a 6-8 minute break. I could feel my cervix start to open up more and more. I asked Dawn to check how far along I was by 2am and she said only 3-4 cm. I couldn’t believe it, I was sure I would be farther along by then but I knew that meant I would have to relax and give in even more. Dawn left around 4:30 am to take her daughter to school and told Ford to call her when the rushes were consistently closer together. I lay down and began to visualize myself opening with each rush, I could feel my uterus contracting and moving the baby down little by little. I could see my belly dropping more and more. And then it was just the four of us- Ford, Ivory, baby on its way, and I. We were alone, in a silent house, on a peaceful street, more connected than ever.

our dark, cozy & quiet bedroom

our dark, cozy & quiet bedroom

I wanted to wait until I couldn’t take it anymore to get in the tub so we called Dawn back over around 10am. She checked me once more and said I was already 8 cm! I was thrilled. I knew the hard work and meditations would work. I truly believe that going through the rushes with the power out and tranquility flowing through the house allowed me to dilate a lot easier. It struck noon and I knew that was it, I needed the weightlessness of the tub to get me through the rest of the ride. I cannot explain how amazing it felt to get into the warm water. The tub was heated and even a little too hot. Ford handed me a hose with cold running water and I used it to keep my temperature down. My body got so comfortable with the warm water, if I lifted my belly out of the water just a little, I could feel it starting to contract from that spot. I used this to my advantage and got the rushes coming a little more frequently. I tried leaning over the tub on all fours and although I could feel myself widening quite a bit, it was way too intense. I wanted to take it slow. My ideal position was leaning back against the tub with my legs spread wide. I wanted to close them, it was comforting, but I knew I had to make room for baby to descend through my birth canal. 

ivory, my doula.

ivory, my doula.


After two or so hours, I invited Ford into the tub with me. He sat behind me and helped me breathe through the rushes. My brain was releasing incredible amounts of oxytocin; I was higher than I had ever been. Ford could see my reflection in the mirror and said I was so blissed out in between rushes, my eyes were rolling toward the back of my head. I cannot believe how powerful I felt at that point. It was blowing my mind how much the rushes felt like waves I was surfing. I knew they would only last so long and I would get a break at the end of the wave so it was quite motivating to ride them out calmly. I could feel my body working very hard to contract and push baby down, the potential of the female body is astonishing. I had to sit back and let me physical body do all the work while my conscious spirit sat back and watched. 

Finally, I felt my cervix fully dilated and we all knew it was time for me to push… and so it began. I used all my energy to push each time my uterus began to contract. At first, it was very intense and I didn’t want to push too hard, I had never imagined labor being this much work, but I guess that’s why they call it labor. I have to admit I was a little scared and started to question in my mind whether I would be able to do this. I ran scenarios in my head of rushing to the hospital to finish delivering but I knew it was not what I had wanted. Instead, I ran the birth stories I had read in Ina May Gaskin’s books through my head and remembered that all women experienced this point of doubt, and only when they those to accept and succumb to it all, it became transcendental. I had been pushing lightly for about 2 hours at this point. It was time to step it up. After months of not using my abdominal muscles, I found them again. I knew I could use them now that the baby was in the birth canal waiting to come out. Ford reassured me that I was strong, powerful and capable of pushing our little one out. Dawn was using her waterproof heart rate monitor to make sure baby’s heart rate was staying well over 100 after each strong push. It was reassuring, especially because it was taking so long. 

It was an intense rush, I was pushing quite hard, Dawn was helping open me up and POP, my water bag broke. She said it was a strong water sac and all the fluid appeared clear so we were good to go. The next hour and a half involved lots of pushing, moaning and even a little screaming. But they weren’t yells of fear or pain; they were yells to help energize each push. I was leaning back squatting against Ford and his hands were holding up my bottom. I used my hands to grab and pull the back of my thighs close to me. This helped me push with all my might.  I could feel baby’s head start to poke out and Dawn told us she could see lots of hair. I got even more excited and started to push HARD with each rush. Baby was posterior (facing up instead of toward my back) meaning I had to push extra hard to get him out. Ford watched our baby’s head go in and out about ten times before he crowned. His head was out and it was the craziest feeling of my life. Dawn unwrapped his cord from around his neck and with one final push, helped turn and assist him out. I felt his little legs flutter on his way down. Immediately, Dawn placed the little miracle on my chest with a towel and Ford and I both cried tears of joy and love, we had done it. He pushed his head up off my chest, looked into our eyes and let out a loud strong cry for about 15 seconds then stopped. It was truly a miracle. I was so preoccupied with getting him to nurse right away, I did not even check to see if it was a boy or girl. Ford reached around, felt a scrotum and gasped, “I think it’s a boy!” We were shocked; we had been expecting a girl. Even though I hadn’t gotten an ultrasound, many old tricks fooled us saying it was a girl. I have to admit that in the last week we laughed and thought how funny it would be if it was a boy, I had always wanted a boy first and girl second so I was thrilled.

a sacred moment in time

a sacred moment in time

Ivan Ray Renfro was born at 6:34 pm, 40 hours after my bloody show. He weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces and measured 21 inches long. It’s true what they say, I never could have imagined loving someone so much after just meeting them.  Ivan slept through his first night, we woke up at 9:30 the next morning and he was still asleep. The manner in which he entered this world, so peaceful and calm, with the Enya Pandora station playing throughout the house, truly molded him into the human he is today. Ivan is calm, peaceful and only cries with purpose. The first two full days with him were dreamlike as we lay around the house, feeding and changing him. It was like the three of us were communicating telepathically. We are living in pure, innocent bliss with this little guy to thank.

Ivan Ray Renfro

Ivan Ray Renfro

I believe that society and the media portray pregnancy and birth as an agonizing and painful disease that needs to be dealt with in a hospital. I hope this birth story empowers women all over to research and decide on a birth plan that suits them the most, instead of blindly going along with what a trained surgeon says. Cesarean rates are skyrocketing all over the nation I wonder if it is that women are at a higher risk for giving birth vaginally, even though we spend three times more on prenatal/ infant healthcare than any other country in the world (with the highest mortality rate in industrialized countries) or is it that it has become too big of a liability for doctors to let to birthing process proceed naturally? Women have been birthing naturally, without drugs, for thousands and thousands of years, we cannot let this gift be taken away from us. It also does a man good to see his woman go through labor, it gives men more of a reason to respect and help their companion. Ford says that natural childbirth is the most empowering gift a woman can give herself and I couldn’t agree more.