Birth Story: Tara Parish

Tara is a birth and postpartum doula who also owns Shade Tree Naturals, a wonderful skincare company. She lives with her husband, Tyler, who’s a professional photographer, in Sun Prairie with her step-daughter Olivia (15) and their sons Asher (8), Atticus (5) and Ethan (3). You might remember Tara from the wonderful interview she did with me about placenta encapsulation. This week she sat down with me to talk about the births of her 3 boys, born at the (now closed) Madison Birth Center and at home, not entirely on purpose…

Tara pregnant with Asher

Tara pregnant with Asher

Did you have experience with birth before you had your children?

No, not really at all. I had an interest in birth. I left high school thinking I was going to be an OB, so I had an interest in birth in general. And I’m kind of one of those people who’s totally Type A and needs to know all the things. So I did all the research. But I didn’t have any first hand experience. I was also not on the same page at all with my mom on what I wanted and what she had and what her opinions were.

Did you hear about birth from your mom?

Well, the only thing my mom ever told me about her births was they were both really fast. She had very short labors and almost had my sister in an ambulance. I was 4 when that happened, so I kind of remember parts of that. That’s really all that I remember hearing from her. But had she had a choice she would have done the medication and all the things. And I was trying to avoid all those things, which I sort of did by going to the birth center.

Baby Asher

Baby Asher

What were you most nervous about going into Asher’s birth ?

I wasn’t really afraid of labor. I was more, being the planner that I am, hating not knowing when and how long and all of those details. Going into my first, again, I think it was more the unknown, but I knew I could do it. I had had three previous miscarriages before I was pregnant with Asher, and I think that was kind of overhanging my entire pregnancy. It took me a really long time, like till the end, to even acknowledge that I was going to have a baby this time. I remember my midwife at one time specifically saying “You realize this is going to happen, right?” I was like “Oh crap! That’s right!” So I didn’t really go into it with a whole lot of reservation.

However, he was semi-posterior. I had major tearing. I couldn’t walk for like ten days afterward, and I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t get out of bed by myself. He never learned how to latch because he needed craniosacral therapy. I tried for six months to get him to latch and then finally gave up and pumped for 13 months straight. The whole rigmarole. So going into my second I still wasn’t really concerned about labor. It was the postpartum that I was concerned about and mostly just the breastfeeding. I really never wanted to see a pump again in my entire life! 

Were your fears unfounded with Atticus?

Definitely! Well obviously, my second was waaaaay fast. From the time of having the first contraction that I really thought “Oh yeah, this is really labor!” it was like 20 minutes before he was out. My postpartum was totally, 100% opposite. They say that with fast babies it just means that they’re in the right position. Everything’s all set up, and it’s good to go. And he latched right away. That was my biggest concern. No tearing! It was totally, totally different. I felt different. I was not tired after 24 hours of labor. I had none of that. I was in bed by 9:00 with my brand new baby in my own apartment.

Who was latched!

Who was latched! It was totally surreal. And the third was very much the same as the second.

Big sister, Olivia, with Asher

Big sister, Olivia, with Asher

How did your labor start with Asher?

It was like 1:00 in the morning when I couldn’t really sleep through contractions anymore. It was like “Wait, is that a contraction? Or is that a cramp? Am I just uncomfortable?” The first time you just have no idea what to even expect. So of course, being a first time mom, I didn’t stay in bed like I always tell my clients to do now. I got up and started timing them. My dad was living with us at the time and left for work at 5 in the morning. I was still up. I was like “Yup! I think I’m going to have a baby today! I think...I think...I’m not sure…” Still hadn’t woken up my husband. And then Tyler was supposed to get up to go to work at 6, and when he got up I was like “No. You’re not going to work today. Nope. Not going to happen.” But he wasn’t born until 1:00 the next morning. It was like 24 hours almost exactly. It was very slow. We did walking. I still sent Olivia to school. We were walking around the neighborhood and then sitting and waiting, essentially. Looking back, I wish I had gone back to bed. I wish I would have slept. The whole deal. But I didn’t do that...

Describe your labor:

It was very long. That’s the biggest thing I remember is it feeling very long. It was hard. My contractions were really hard, but I think handle pain well. Lots of back labor, which was awful. But I was very inward, and I had my midwife and a student midwife and a doula that worked at the birth center and an assistant to the assistant, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law. I had all kinds of help. I don’t remember a whole lot of it. I just remember being very much in it. My eyes were just closed for a very long time. My midwives must have set me up pretty well for not asking “How long is this going to be?” because I remember thinking it and not ever saying it. But I did at one point towards the end because they kept telling me “You’re almost done, it’s almost over!” for like four hours. I remember saying “You keep saying that! But what is happening?” I did have a cervical lip. They were very hands off, so I didn’t have the checks or anything. I ended up having to push through the cervical lip at the end which was terrible. But then I was like, “Can I push now!?” And she was like “Yeah!” And I just blasted him out, which didn’t help with the tearing, but I was done. I was done.

Was the labor what you expected?

I don’t know what I expected. I don’t know if I knew what to expect. But definitely the second time around my labor was not what I expected because I only had my first experience to go by. And I hadn’t being doula-ing yet. I knew a lot more about birth. I had done a lot more learning, knowing I was going to go the doula route, becoming a doula. But still didn’t have any firsthand experience. But even knowing labor better, I thought I had a pretty good handle on what to expect. It was like nothing I had ever experienced.

Baby Atticus

Baby Atticus

How did your labor with Atticus start?

Actually, I had thought I was going into labor the night before. I had contractions for 3 or 4 hours pretty regularly, but they weren’t super painful. It was just kind of like “Hmmm...my body’s doing something.” And he was early, so not really sure. I remember going to bed early that night, but not calling anybody. I said “I’m going to go bed,” knowing that I didn’t go back to bed last time.

I woke up at the normal time with nothing. It wasn’t anything. I left that day and went to work at my grandma’s. I was doing laundry and stuff. It was sort of lunch time where I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t feeling very good. It wasn’t contractions. I was going downstairs to clean up my stuff and started having contractions regularly but very minimal. I called Anastasia, the midwife, because it was a Saturday. I just told her “It’s getting to be about dinner time, and it’s a Saturday, so I just wanted to let you know that I’m kind of having contractions, but I don’t think anything’s going to happen.” She said “Ok, just go home and sleep.” I drove 10 minutes home from Madison and then got home. I think my body was like “Oh, you’re home now!” and got really comfortable because I had my first “yes this is labor” contraction right when I got home. So 20 minutes from then he was out! It was kind of crazy! I remember calling Tyler and saying “I’m coming home. I’m kind of not feeling good. I’m sort of having contractions, but it’s not anything. Maybe we’ll have to go later.” So he said “Ok, well let’s send the kids to your mom for the night, just in case.”

I got home and they were all eating dinner. I couldn’t get in the apartment. I remember him letting me in, and I was bracing myself on the wall. He opened the door and was like “Oooooooh! Ok, switching gears!” And all I said was “Anastasia told me to go home and sleep, but I think we should probably go.” He called my mom, and told her we were bringing the kids over. I walked to the back bedroom to make sure our bag was together, and then I felt pressure. There’s this undeniable pressure. It’s like boom, the baby was right there. I turned around to go across the hallway to the bathroom. and Tyler met me in the hallway. He put his hand on my shoulder, and I said “Don’t touch me!” And he was like “Oh! Ok!” Again, switching gears. I told him to call Anastasia and tell her we’re coming. Call my mom to come get the kids. We need to leave. I sat down on the toilet, and my water broke. He’s on the phone, and I can hear him in the living room “So Tara says we need to come in.” And I’m like “Nope, my water broke!” And he’s like “So Tara’s water broke!” And I’m like “Aaaaand I’m pushing!” My body was just pushing. There was just nothing I could do. My body was just pushing. He said “Her water just broke, and she’s feeling pushy.” He’s walking towards the bathroom, and I can hear her on the phone saying “How fast can you get to the birth center?” And I said “I am NOT getting in the car.” And he’s like “She says she’s not getting in the car…” And she’s like “Ok, I’m on my way to you.” She hung up because she didn’t have her home birth kit with her because I wasn’t planning a home birth. So she had to drive to Mary Moore’s house and get Mary Moore’s home birth kit then come to us. Anastasia called back, and he put her on speakerphone because it was like literally two more contractions, and he was out. All I remember is being on the toilet and him being in front of me and the phone was on the side of the bathtub. And I hear Anastasia say “When the baby’s out…” and Tyler’s like “The baby’s out…It’s over!” It was like four minutes from when my water broke to when he was out. I was sitting on the toilet in shock, holding this new baby. I remember stripping all my clothes off right before he came. I remember my mom’s head peeking around the door. And she was like “Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!” She freaked out. He must have called my mom at some point and told her to come. Tyler’s trying to get her to shut up so he can hear Anastasia on the phone. She ended up gathering the kids and leaving. The only other thing I remember is being able to feel that it was a boy because we hadn’t found out and wanting to say something but wanting Tyler to announce it even though we were at home by ourselves. That was our plan! But then I remember he comes to the door and he’s got a roll of garbage bags and a roll of duct tape. He’s like “I’m going to get the bed ready, and you’re going to move to the bed. Anastasia told me to move you to the bed and to get the baby latched.” The placenta had already come, so we had to pull the placenta out of the toilet and put it in garbage can. I put a towel between my legs and walked across the hall. It was whole ordeal. She came like 20 minutes after. He was already latched, and I was already in bed.

The thing that was also kind of weird was we had to sign our own birth certificate because she couldn’t legally sign it. She was like “I know this is ridiculous, but, since he’s not attached to you anymore, I can’t legally say that is your child. You have to vouch for yourself.” Like, oh yeah, I just stole the neighbor’s baby with the placenta still attached. It makes sense, but it’s just a weird thing.

Baby Ethan (Photo by Parish Productions)

Baby Ethan (Photo by Parish Productions)

Then the third one was pretty much almost the exact same story. It started the same. I was at my grandma’s working. Started out slow. I knew better and I went home right away. Actually, the morning of I was getting Asher on the bus to school, and I wasn’t having contractions, but every time I’d get up from sitting I’d have a contraction. Then I could walk around and nothing would happen. But I knew how my last one went...I remember calling the midwife, Nichole Baumbach, and she was like “Since nothing’s happening, don’t worry about it.” It was two weeks early. She told me it was fine and to go to work. I was only 10 minutes away. And then when I got there it was kind of the same scenario. Right around lunch time it was like “Uh, I don’t know…I’m not feeling so great.” Sort of having contractions, but very mild. I could totally work through them. I was like “Forget it; I’m going to go home because I know what’s going to happen.” I remember telling Tyler when I got home “I think I’m going to have a baby today!” And he was like “Really?” because it was so early! I went to go lay down, and he said he was going to take a shower. We had planned to set up the birthing tub, and you have to hook up the hose to the shower head. He took a shower so he could take it apart and hook up the whole deal. He got in the shower, and I literally lay down and had a really big contraction. “Oooh! I better call Nichole.” I called her and said “I think this is probably it, but I don’t think you should come.” She was like “I’m on my way…” Then another big contraction and boom, pressure! Instinctively went to the toilet. Again, Tyler’s in the shower. I remember being on the toilet and having these contractions and pushing without being able to do anything about it. I remember saying to him “Why does this happen to me?!” Because it’s so intense! It goes from 0 to 100. I was like “You better get out because you need to come catch this baby!” I called Nichole to tell her, and she told me she was not going to make it in time. The assistant was on her way, but she still missed it. Tyler went into the bedroom and put pants on and came back into the bathroom and caught Ethan. And then he handed him to me and went back and got dressed. I just sat on the bathroom floor and waited for someone to show up. And 10 minutes later Asher came home from school. My kids are going to think babies are born on bathroom floors all the time! It was pretty much the exact same thing. We didn’t use any of our home birth supplies even though we planned a home birth that time. We used a couple towels.

Big brother Asher meeting Baby Atticus

Big brother Asher meeting Baby Atticus

What words of wisdom do you have for expectant parents?

These are my husband’s words to all expecting men: “If you ever have to catch a baby, you just need a towel!” He always says that. They’re very slippery. I don’t know. You can’t plan anything. There’s just no way to know. Educate yourself from all angles so when something comes up, you know what to do. But you have to let go. You cannot plan it.

Thank you so much, Tara!

Maggie Mehr