Oliver’s Story–A Healing Freebirth

The pregnancy:

Number five, unexpected, coming fast on the heels of my mother’s death–I was not in a receptive state of mind for being pregnant.  My due date calculations were also hazy this time.  I had a very short cycle in February, but chalked it up to stress.  Later I decided that must have been implantation bleeding.  I finally took a pregnancy test at the end of March, and I cried a lot in the beginning.  Working with all the data we could collect, we figured that my due date could be October 26th at the earliest or November 11th at the latest.  Basically a two-week window.  We went with the latest date, since I tend to have overdue babies (having once had a 43-week pregnancy), and assumed I’d go in for an ultrasound if I ended up making it to the end of that two-week window.

To say I was having trouble integrating the idea of another pregnancy, another baby, would be an understatement.  I had been looking for work.  The plan was that I would work while my husband finally got to finish school; find another, better job–something.  Also, and just as important–I knew that I had a lot of unfinished business to deal with mentally and emotionally, because of my traumatic third birth.  Even though I went on to have a perfectly lovely homebirth with my 4th baby, 2.5 years later, I didn’t feel like I’d processed what had happened to me prior to that.  My third birth was intended to be a freebirth, but turned into a hospital nightmare at the last moment.  As time went on with this pregnancy, I knew I couldn’t “just” have another homebirth with the same midwives in attendance.  I had to face my pain and fear, and try to reclaim some of what had been taken from me with my 3rd birth experience.

Luckily, my freelance work puts me in touch with a large number of people.  As I became closer with several midwives, doulas, and birth specialists in the area, I realized with delight that I’d found a tribe of women who felt similarly–and strongly–about birth empowerment, and freedom.  Several of these women were very positive and supportive of freebirthing, and said that if I wanted them to come to my birth, they were happy to be there in whatever capacity I wanted or needed at the time.  This felt like a wonderful balance–so we agreed that I might call any or all of them if I felt like I needed friendly support, midwifery assistance, or anything in between.

As for the actual pregnancy, I started showing early.  Then I was measuring ahead, even though I wasn’t gaining a lot of weight.  We started joking about twins, and then thought about it more seriously as I approached 30+ weeks.

My birthy friends palpated me and listened for double heart tones, and eventually we all decided that nope, it was just “a lot of baby” in there–and perhaps some extra fluid.  Also, I was carrying this baby anterior as opposed to posterior (facing forward)–the first anterior baby out of all my pregnancies, so it stood to reason that I’d look larger.

As usual, I started having prodromal labor pretty regularly in late September–quite a ways off from my “due window”.  I should have known that it was just “fake labor”, but every time it gets more convincing, and I was already tired of being pregnant!  In all, I had at least six “false starts”–in other words, times where I was really convinced it was real labor, only to have it fizzle out hours–or even a day or more–later.  I was dilating long before actual labor started–the last week and a half of pregnancy I was actually dilated to seven centimeters (yes it’s possible–especially in “grand multiparas”–women with 4 or more prior pregnancies)–and very impatient by then!  I had had bloody show multiple times, and even took castor oil twice, but to no avail.

I was also very hopeful and expectant of having an 11/11/11 baby, since that was at the latest end of my “due window”, and would be such a cool, spiritually significant birthday.  I was convinced I was in labor on the 10th, and well into the 11th, but then it fizzled out again, and I was really discouraged.  On top of it all, my “baby’s” 2nd birthday was coming up that week, and I was really upset to be “still pregnant” on his birthday!

During ALL of this waiting and wondering, I was so grateful to be free of the feeling of being a watched pot; having to submit to unnecessary, fear-driven procedures; or worse–being perceived as a threat to some care provider’s comfort (or convenience!) level.  I also allowed myself to go back and really think about my 3rd baby’s traumatic birth experience over these long weeks and months of waiting.  I finally let myself relive that experience, and I was able to write down her birth story for the first time.  It was incredibly healing and, I think, very necessary in killing those “paper tigers” that may have interfered with my having a peaceful birth this time instead of a fear-filled one.  I never doubted my decision to freebirth throughout this entire pregnancy.

Finally, finally, on the 17th, I was having my usual rounds of “annoying fake labor”, but somehow, my mental state was a bit different, a bit more balanced and calm.  I went to the grocery store and had to deal with some heavy contractions there due to the walking.  I’m sure people were staring at me–I didn’t even have to ask for help out at the register, the staff were on it!  That evening the contractions were not as bad–at times barely there–and I was still feeling oddly zen and calm.  At this point, I knew that castor oil had only a very mild effect on me, but I did think I could use a clean-out–so I took a very small amount, perhaps half an ounce, and continued to go about the evening.  We had fallen into a pattern of staying up late after the kids were in bed, so it wasn’t unusual for me to be reading or on FaceBook at 2 or 3am–which I was.

I think around 3, we decided to go lay down–my hubby to sleep (for what he later said he knew would be a power nap!), and me to read.  I’d been reading Starhawk’s The Earth Path, alternating with John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education–both intellectual, non-fiction books that could effectively take my mind off whatever it was trying to obsess about in a given moment.  So I read, and dealt with contractions here and there by following the labyrinth pattern of a Celtic snake mandala on my wall, still not at all convinced it was labor–or if it was, that I had many hours if not an entire day ahead of me.  However, around 4 or 4:30, my husband woke up as if is alarm had summoned him, and started asking how I was feeling, organizing things around the room, etc.  I was a little surprised he wasn’t sleeping, and just assumed he was having insomnia–I kept reading.  After a bit, he asked if he could do anything for me, noticing that I was having to pause and breathe thru contractions here and there.  (Which had happened before during “fake labor”, so I still wasn’t thinking anything was different!)  I thought a moment, and said I wanted to take a bath.  He ran a bath for me, and hung out in the bathroom with me as I soaked in the tub.

Very quickly–maybe before I got in the water–things picked up in intensity.  I sat in the bath for about thirty minutes or so, and eventually I was vocalizing thru contractions.  Looking back at my last birth, I must have been tense, because I found myself having to yell through contractions for quite awhile–getting louder and higher-pitched, and having to be reminded to breathe and change my tone–keeping it low–to relax.  There was none of that this time–I was able to breathe and “ohhhh” and sigh my way through contractions.  At the time, I thought it meant I wasn’t that far along–but now I realize I was just in a much better mental state, and so was managing the sensations with more calmness.

Suddenly I decided I’d had enough of the water, and again, upon standing, things got even more intense.  My legs were shaking, and I could barely get wrapped up in a towel and back onto our bed, even with my husband’s help.  My body didn’t quit shaking for a few minutes, and as I was sitting on the bed, my husband asked if I wanted to call anyone.  I responded from “labor land” with a panicked, wild-eyed NO!  At this point, I knew that the act of calling someone and trying to explain or label the moment we were in would just derail the energy.  I started saying things like “No, no, no more….I don’t wanna do this anymore,” and “I just wanna go to sleep,” and then laughing with my husband in between contractions, because I knew how absurd I must have sounded and looked.  I kept reaching down, hoping to feel the effects of pressure that signaled that birth was imminent, but still mostly expecting this to be another “fake labor” that would soon end (!)

I think it was at this point that our two-year old woke up and wanted to see what we were up to, which made things a bit stressful for my husband–but I was only scarcely aware of anyone’s presence or absence at this point.  After handling about five contractions with the whining and shaking, I reached a momentary peak-point of panic–I grabbed my husband and looked at him wildly, saying “I’ve got to get a hold of myself!” or something to that effect.  He said something like, “Yes, just calm down, breathe–you are in control of your body”, and in that instant, I was.  The shakes stopped and I was able to take a deep breath and found myself back in a place of calm, heightened awareness.

He left the room for a moment, and this time, when I reached down, I could feel something that was definitely “not me”–it was the bag of waters bulging from within!  You have no idea of the relief and gratitude I felt in that moment–finally, something that proved I WAS in labor–this was it!  When he came back in the room, I clumsily explained that the waters were bulging, with a huge, blissful grin on my face.  I think it was around 5:45 or 6am at this point.

Another contraction with me in a squatting position, and the bag of waters practically exploded all over the bed–really forcefully!  They were clear, with small speckles of something that looked like vernix–I remember noticing that, because I was supposedly 41 weeks at the very earliest, and you don’t see vernix with post-dates pregnancies.  I only had a second to have that thought before I was absolutely consumed by the next contraction–I threw myself forward into a hands-and-knees position, and before I knew it, my body was pushing.

It was wonderful, without anyone to tell me to push or to assess my dilation, because the obvious thing to do was to just listen to my body and follow its cues.  I didn’t really push until I could feel the pressure of the head at the rim–instead I breathed and sighed and allowed the baby to move through me.  Instead of feeling this frantic, crazed need to “get the baby out of me!”, I felt that I needed to take it slowly and cautiously.  I felt the baby’s head as it put pressure all around, and I intuitively put my hand up to use gentle counter-pressure at the site of an old tear, concerned about it worsening.  I laughed inwardly as the absurd thought crossed my mind:  What if baby turned breech at the last moment, and hubby’s not telling me–because this baby feels HUGE!

My husband watched and helped from behind, making sure baby’s head came out gently and carefully.  AT this point I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but my husband encouraged me to keep going, that I still had to get the body out.  He’s excellent at knowing what to say without worrying me.  Later he explained that he was concerned that baby needed to get out quickly, because he had already started trying to breathe, but the pressure on his body from not being fully birthed yet was giving him trouble.  Another moment or two, and baby was born safely into Daddy’s hands!

Since I was on my hands and knees, baby and husband were both behind me.  I looked down between my knees and the first thing I saw was a pair of balls–“It’s a boy!”  I exclaimed!  Again, my husband knew just what to NOT say–nothing can compare to that feeling of seeing for yourself the gender of the child you just birthed into the world.  He gave me that joy instead of telling me before I saw–what an incredible moment!

I felt so incredibly blissful, empowered, healed, validated–I’d finally had the birth I always wanted–the birth that I scarcely believed was possible to have, especially after my 3rd birth.  The time was 6:20am–less than an hour after I finally decided it was really labor!

Hubby woke up the other kids, and we decided that now was the time to call someone!  It occurred to me that it’d be really great to have a midwive’s assessment of my bottom.  Even though we hadn’t weighed him, we both agreed that this was a really big boy, and I didn’t really know if I’d torn or not.   I called my friend Olivia, who came right over to check me, and we all happily chatted about our incredible birth experience!

As we talked, baby nursed, and let go of several large poos before we had a chance to weigh him.  He was 10lbs 14oz–over three pounds bigger than any of my other babies–and this was after the poo!  Then Olivia checked me, and to my delight, I didn’t have any damage that needed stitches–which was even more impressive considering I’d needed stitches with my last baby, barely an 8-pounder!  It really goes to show that your emotional state directly influences the capabilities of your body–even in moment-by-moment situations like childbirth.  Also, Olivia and I agreed that due to the vernix all over him, and other telltale signs of gestational age, that this baby was most likely a 39-weeker!  Certainly not even a day overdue–despite my crazy dates.  (Good thing he didn’t go overdue, or he would have been bigger!)

We didn’t cut the cord until over two hours had passed, so that baby could get all the benefits of the placental and cord blood before they disconnected.  I love the concept of lotus birth (leaving placenta and baby attached until they gently and naturally disconnect, anywhere from 2-10 days after the birth); however, the health benefits of placenta encapsulation were too great for me to pass up.  Placenta helps tremendously with postpartum bleeding, increasing your milk supply, and keeping postpartum depression at bay–and all three of these are things I’ve struggled with in the past.  So, we compromised with a partial lotus birth.  Olivia had sterile scissors, and we chose a piece of embroidery floss to tie off the cord (white, cold and limp at this point), and she cut it for us.  Neither of us wanted to do it!

For most of the pregnancy, we felt like baby was a girl, so we had several names picked out:  Delilah or Natalie, Emma or Catherine…but not really any boy names!  We had considered Oliver for our last baby, but hubby said he didn’t like it.  However, he immediately brought up Oliver for this baby, saying that our last one didn’t look like an Oliver, but this one did!  He has dark hair and olive skin, like my side of the family–quite different from our other tow-headed kids.  We finally decided on Oliver, with my maiden name as his middle name–honoring my family, since the family name won’t be carried on further.

This birth story was difficult to put into words, because so much more than can be described in words went into it.  It’s also not really a complete story without the consideration of my third birth to highlight the significance of this experience.  I feel so incredibly blessed, fortunate, and empowered–in love with my amazing husband and all of my beautiful children, in awe of my incredibly supportive friends, and filled with gratitude to be experiencing the dynamic energy of this moment with those dearest to me.

Love ~ Peace ~ Power ~ Oneness ~ Trust

Welcome to the world, Oliver!

November 18th, 2011


10lbs 14oz

20.5 inches long


Processing Birth Assault: My Story

The birth of my third baby is something that, while amazing, is also haunting, painful and hellish to remember.  She was my truly unexpected child, the catalyst for a lot of upheaval in my life, which led to positive and amazing changes.  She is four years old now–beautiful and perfect, and I’m expecting my 5th sweet baby any time now….but I still have so much healing and processing to do from her birth.

From very early on, I knew that I wanted a homebirth.  I had had a birth center birth and a hospital birth before, and while they weren’t negative experiences, I always longed for the freedom of homebirth.  However, I had no way to pay for a midwife at that time, and even worse, I was living in a place where midwives were very few and far between.  I started reading, came across the concept of unassisted childbirth, and was instantly swept away by the raw beauty, power, and primalness of it.  Giving birth freely, without a midwife or doctor, without measurements or diagnostics, without bright lights and consent forms–sounded delightful.  Even the prospect of giving birth alone sounded amazing.  Raw woman-power and intuition ruling the day–the way births had been happening for thousands of years.  I read voraciously, and knew in my heart that this was already a time in my life for profound personal growth.  Of course I would give birth unassisted:  I would step into my own power and wholeness–with only my partner by my side, being supported by that ultimate knowledge of spirit and self.  The odds were against me–but I stayed strong through the whole pregnancy, stayed true to mySelf and my inner knowing…even in the face of almost complete opposition by those who knew me at the time.

I thought I would go into labor early–I was worried about my partner missing the birth (he was overseas at the time)!  34 weeks and heavy prodromal labor–already?  36 weeks, gosh, almost full-term–I was so thrilled when my partner came home!  Then 38 weeks, still staying positive, getting things ready.  40 weeks.  I felt sheepish, thinking about how convinced I’d been about going early…and here I sat at my due date.  Oh well, it couldn’t possibly be long now.  All labor signs were present, I was dilating, and soooo ready for this baby to come.  (Mistake number one:  Being overly attached to a particular outcome.)

I went to 41 weeks, and was feeling pretty distraught by that point.  Here’s an excerpt of something I wrote at the time:

How do i quit feeling like i have to DO something?  You know, to get labor started.  Logically i know there are mamas all the time who just wake up with contractions, or have their water break, etc…and then they just have a baby.  It should be that simple, right?  Yet somehow i can’t shake the feeling that i have to DO things to get the baby to come:  from castor oil rubs on the belly to sex to nipple stimulation to positive visualizations to walking to endless cups of RRL tea to homeopathy bla bla bla…. I have contractions that are SO strong and so regular for SO long…entire days’ worth….but sooner or later they just go randomly on their way and I always feel like it’s my fault for not “staying on top of things mentally”–like my back will be so sore, so I’ll lay down, or I’ll get distracted and lose my zen-mama focus, but really.  It’s not like it’s my “fault” that labor hasn’t come yet.  Right?  It’s not like i’m supposed to bring labor on and keep it going entirely with willpower or something.  Right?  The baby will just come when it’s ready. and my body will know what to do and when/how to do it…..RIGHT??

(Mistake number two:  Overanalyzing, and regarding labor as more physical than emotional)  At the time I thought I was keeping my cool, but looking back, I was already going mental at 41 weeks.  Would you believe I went to 43?

At nearly 42 weeks, and at the most inopportune time, my waters “sprung a leak”.  They didn’t break completely, but it was undeniably my water bag breaking (I now know that the bag of waters can heal itself from small leaks).  Oh happy day, I thought!  My last two babies had come within hours of the bag of waters being artificially broken–in other words, from practically zero-stage to holding-baby-stage in 3-4 hours.  But this was not the case with my third baby.

I was prepared for prevention of infection, etc (which is a concern once the waters are ruptured).  I started–or ramped up–every natural labor induction method I knew of, and I do mean EVERY one.  Not even downing a bottle of castor oil caused me to go into active labor.  I’d been having prodromal/pre-labor for almost 8 weeks at this point, and even bloody show for several days, but still, something was stalling me out.  The last time I had checked my dilation, I’d been 100% effaced and 6 centimeters–SIX centimeters dilated (at the time I did not know it was possible to be dilated that much and NOT be in active labor).  Now, however, it was unwise to check due to concerns of infection, and I also could not enjoy the one true stress relief that I had–sex.  (Yes I said it.)

The following week was a blur.  I don’t know what I did besides have contractions, obsess over them, and become increasingly exhausted both emotionally and physically.  I didn’t have any good support system, no family to rely on, and in the last few days I had given over almost completely to an altered mental state of panic and fear, but I was still trying my hardest not to show it.

The evening of the day that marked 42 weeks, six days, I made a grave mistake, and called my parents for support.  Yes, my parents, who had been emotionally estranged from me for months, completely unsupportive of my new relationship, and were more or less unsupportive of me as a human being in general.  Why?  Because I was not in my right state of mind, and I desperately wanted comfort, to hear reassuring words from someone, anyone.  They advised me to go to a hospital “for help”.  I talked it over with my partner and finally agreed to go.

I had kept meticulous records of my prenatal data and stats since the very beginning, and I’d even written a detailed birth plan, just in case we needed to go to the hospital.  (Mistake number four:  Giving too much energetic thought-flow to morbid “what-if” scenarios–I was unknowingly fueling the possibility that these would occur)

So we pull up to the hospital, and I’m walking in supported by my partner, and very, very fearful.  I dithered in the foyer and at the elevators, second-guessing if I should just go home and dealing with more contractions.  I had been walking around dilated to at least 6 centimeters for over a week, and at this point I think I had so integrated the discomfort and waves of contractions, that I didn’t even realize how close I was getting to the birth.

We finally went in, and clumsily explained our situation to the night staff.  It was about 1:00am at this point.  I did not want to consent to anything, especially not drugs, tests, or needles, and at one point I actually got angry and walked off from the desk, fully intending to go home.  My observant partner stopped me, and then told them that we needed a moment to talk alone, and that we’d be right back.  I was angry at him for saying that, and stepped around the corner towards the elevators.  None of us knew it, but I was clearly in transition at that time, and having a very emotionally charged scenario to cope with, all while standing up and trying not to yell!

My partner gestured around the corner, and explained that there was pretty much no going back now.  They didn’t have any records of us, and were probably assuming the very worst.  There was a lady in black standing with a clipboard just past the nurses’ station, watching us, and we realized she was a social worker.  I sobbed and sobbed, and finally agreed to walk back in.  I remember saying to the nurse in a defeated voice that was not my own, “I’m just scared.  I’m sorry.  Just do whatever you think is best.  I don’t care, I just want to see my baby.”  Five minutes prior I had been insisting that I would not consent to an IV, to pitocin, to internal exams, any of it.  I just gave up.  Their reactions said clearly that they thought we were grossly irresponsible, probably drug addicts who needed immediate intervention by social services.  It was overwhelmingly, terrifyingly defeating, and I surrendered completely.  I have never felt so low in my life before.  I didn’t care what happened to my body, I had let go of all fight left in me.  I just knew I was headed tor a c-section or worse–but that if I fought it, that I’d probably lose my baby.   They showed us to a room, and I obediently changed into a gown.  I just turned off all thought, cut myself off from emotion as best as I could, and lay there corpse-like, awaiting whatever would come.

They sent in a nurse who, among other things, measured me and said I was only 33 cm.  I said that wasn’t possible, because last week I had measured 42, just like I was supposed to.  I showed her my self-made chart, but she waved it away, told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that there was probably something wrong with this baby if I really was anywhere near 43 weeks.  I was angry, but much too afraid to tell them about my supposed water leak-and-reseal.  That was a week ago–surely they would section me immediately if I admitted to that!  I knew that I was on a strict herbal antibiotic course and had taken every precaution against infection–but they were not going to listen to me for anything at this point.  She sent for an ultrasound tech.

This guy was about the only person I’d interacted with so far who wasn’t completely dismissive and hateful towards me.  He came right into the labor room and turned on the machine, and we got to see our healthy, strong, 43-week baby for the first time.  I don’t even know if he told us the gender then, or if we didn’t find out until the birth.  This entire experience is like a muddy blur, with moments of dire clarity.

I don’t know what else happened, but eventually the ultrasound tech left, and a nurse came in and roughly checked my dilation.  She said, “oh, you’ve got a while, you’re barely even at 4 yet…”  I was incredulous, but again, too weary to question it.  I just wanted to be left alone–and finally, we were.  I just laid on my side, staring hopelessly at the pattern on the wallpaper, and my partner was there holding my hand, rubbing my shoulders…I’m not sure.  How could I be only 4 centimeters when I was 6+ last week?  Can your cervix shrink too?  I wondered.  But very quickly, I couldn’t really move or speak, and I just knew I had to keep counting the repeating pattern-shapes in the wallpaper.

I must have had that far-away look in my eyes that we both now know as “laborland”, but this was my partner’s first baby, so he didn’t know about it yet.  He asked me if I was okay, and I couldn’t speak to him.  He asked me several times, and also asked if he should go get someone…  I wanted to cry, to scream, to say, “Please, no, don’t bring them back in!  Just let me be for a second!” but my throat was clamped shut.  Before I knew it, he had run down the hall and called out to the nurses to come quick, he thought the baby was coming.  They didn’t come quickly; I think they didn’t believe him–but then the nurse came in, lifted the sheets, and yelled “Oh my God, she’s crowning!”

From this point until the baby came was perhaps 5 minutes..?  But it was the most hellish, traumatic, hateful experience of my life.  There were suddenly people everywhere, bright lights being shined at my privates, blue-gloved hands shoving my legs up into stirrups, lots of yelling and confusion.  I vividly remember screaming, crying, pleading with them that they were hurting me, I couldn’t get my leg up that high, I didn’t want to be in stirrups…sobbing and yelling, and they completely ignored me.  My partner looked on in horror, pushed to the back of the room, unable to help, and both of us stripped of our rights and dignity.  They made me push flat on my back, with my torso bent forward, and my legs cocked straight up, strapped into stirrups, despite the fact that I had SPD and joint issues with my hips.  They all were wearing masks and full surgical gear, as if I was about to get cut open at any moment, or I was contaminated with some horrible pathogen.  They doused my private parts with iodine, and there were way too many hands pushing and pulling on me and the baby as she made her way out into the loud, bright, chaotic scene.  They cut the cord as I was yelling at them to wait and let it stop pulsing first.  She was born “in the caul” with the bag of waters intact, perfectly healthy.

In spite of this fiasco, I was overjoyed to meet my baby, to have my intuition confirmed that she was healthy and that my body could “do birth” after all–and it felt like an eternity before I got to hold her.  I remember watching helplessly from the bed as they did all sorts of things to my daughter across the room, before I had even seen her face.  I don’t know what happened in those first moments, or how long it was before I got to hold her, but I made sure that my partner knew to not let our daughter out of his sight!

I was hooked up to a bag of fluids, and they switched it out for pitocin to deliver the placenta right in front of my eyes, precisely while I was saying, “Isn’t that pitocin?  I don’t want pitocin!  I’ve delivered two placentas before without it…stop, don’t….why are you not listening to me…..?”  Then the doctor cam back and started pulling on the cord–pulling on the cord to get the placenta to deliver!  As I was telling him to STOP, doesn’t he know that’s a great way to cause a piece of placenta to be retained, and for hemorrhage to occur??  He didn’t listen to me.  Acted as if he was deaf.  Defeat.  Utter defeat.  I did have a piece of retained placenta, I found out on my own–after constant heavy bleeding and trying to mediate it with herbals for seven weeks after the birth.

I think it was 15 minutes from the point that the nurse dismissed me as being “only a 4” and left the room, until this point.   What horrific emotional scars can be created in the span of minutes…

To top things off, in the middle of the night, they took her away to the nursery against my will for “just a moment”, which turned out to be over five hours.  I’m sure they gave her a bottle without my consent as well.  At least she didn’t get any vaccines without my consent.  They tested both of our blood samples for every disease under the sun, and I don’t think they really decided that we were NOT crack-addicts until the blood-work results came in the next morning.

I went home from that experience with a beautiful baby, and some very deep emotional scars.  This was in 2007, and this is the first time I’ve really written about these experiences, aside from my own briefly scribbled notes, just to document the audacity of it all.  My third baby’s birth was supposed to be magical, lovely, and transforming….not the terror-filled nightmare that it was.  For a long time, I thought that it wasn’t good to think about it, or write it down.  Better to forget and move forward, focus on the good things, etc.  But now, as I approach labor for one last time, I know:  I HAVE to let this out, I have to process it, to let it transform me..  I have to relive it to understand just how badly things can spiral out of control, to know that birth can be transcendental, or very nearly the death of the soul.  I walked out of that hospital as an assault victim–a broken and trampled human being.  I gave up my fight in that hospital’s threatening hallways, with Big Brother looking over our shoulders…and in some ways, I still have not reclaimed it.  I have lived in apathy–because I have known how badly it hurts to care too much.

For this birth-day, I am reclaiming what those bastards took from me.  I am not going to be subverted by fear, coerced by bullying, or shunted aside like cattle on an assembly line.  This is my birth, my body, my baby, and my reality.  I reclaim it for joy, love, empowerment, and transcendence–for women everywhere who have suffered assault during labor and birth.

A wonderful resource that I dearly wish I had known about back then was the Mother-Friendly Birth Initiative.  Then again, had I not gone through that trauma, I might not be the same person I am today.  Apparently there were crucial lessons for me within that experience, despite the pain it brought.

I send out love-energy to the source of my suffering, and the suffering of all women, in the knowledge that divine love soothes all wounds, and heals all travesties.  

I am so very blessed and thankful for Claire, my 43-week perfect girl, whose birth and life has taught me so much already.

A Dream Home-Birth: Fourth Time’s the Charm

This is the intriguing narrative of the midwife-attended, natural birth of my fourth child, Nikolas.  

His birth will be forever connected with my mama, because she fell and hurt her hip the night before he was born.  True to her nature, she didn’t tell anyone about the fall, but simply said that she “wasn’t feeling up to coming over” to see my new baby, even though we lived a mere 10 minutes apart.  That seemingly minor event was the start of a sharp downward spiral for her.  Two weeks later, she fell again and broke her hip.  The surgery that was supposed to replace her hip sent her body into multiple strokes instead, and we never got to hear her voice again.  

We had had a misunderstanding on the phone the day before, and I am so glad that I rushed to the hospital to speak with her one last time before that surgery happened.  We used to talk on the phone for at least an hour, almost every day.  It took me months to figure out how to cope with day-to-day life without her patience and encouragement just a phonecall away.  I grieved a lot when she first got hurt–moreso than lately, almost.  I am still so incredibly upset that I deleted her last voicemail, not realizing that I’d never hear her voice again.  She only got to meet Nikolas once before the strokes happened.

Right, well…  On to the birth story!  It really is a good one, if I do say so myself.  I have very late babies, typically, and Nik was no different.  

Now, I am a self-proclaimed crunchy mama, in all its permutations and possibilities.  If you don’t wanna read about or support natural birth–or if you wanna nitpick and argue with me about how crunchy I *really* am–then maybe just don’t upset yourself by reading further.  =)  

Knowing that I seem to have never-ending pregnancies, we decided early on to be semi-aggressive with multiple natural remedies to support a “timely” labor.  

My midwives also happen to be two of my best friends, and I knew that they couldn’t legally attend my birth if I went over 42 weeks.  

My last baby came at 42 weeks, 6 days–and while it was a natural birth, it was also a stress-filled fiasco that I couldn’t bear to repeat.  Maybe someday I will write about that–but at present I prefer it to be a mostly buried memory, heh.

Due date by my own estimate: Nov 1st
…by my midwives’ calculations: Nov 5th 
…by the 25-ish week ultrasound: Oct 25th

For obvious reasons, we made the “official” due date the latest one that was reasonable–November 5th.  

Nov 9th (a week before): I had been having bouts of semi-convincing contractions nearly every day for at least two weeks already. I’d gotten my membranes swept several times as well, and had been taking labor herbals since 37 weeks. I took 4oz of castor oil, which gave me many more contractions but no luck.

Nov 10th: went to the city and paid out-of-pocket (thanks to my mom’s generosity) for a non-stress test, which showed a completely non-stressed baby, who looked to be due exactly on Nov 5th (so 40 weeks, 5 days at that time), and was supposedly 8.5 lbs already. At this point I was having near-constant, regular contractions, that would sometimes stay at 3 minutes apart for hours and hours….but nothing. (By this point, I was already in an end-of-pregnancy stupor, half-convinced the whole thing was a sham, and that I was never going to go into labor!  Since I was already an hour away from home, I also opted to go eat at my favorite vegan restaurant 🙂

Several days that week, I was up having the kind of contractions that make you go, “hmm…should I call somebody?” but every time I’d go to sleep, they’d either peeter out or stay in a holding pattern instead of getting stronger. Twice I did call my husband home from work, which was making him crazy and not really endearing him to his new boss, either.

Sunday, Nov 15th: I thought it’d be a good idea to take a walk, so I rounded up the kids and stroller and went to the park with the nice walking trail. We walked for about 1.5 hours, ’til it got dark, and then I stopped for an Auntie Anne’s lemonade (YUM), and thought I might as well pick up some more castor oil too. I figured I’d rather try castor oil again, before I’d even consider going to the hospital.  At this point I was 3+ cm dilated, and 50% effaced, and had been for a week at least (?). 

6pm-ish: I thought, it was early enough, and I was such a night owl anyway, that I should have another go at some castor oil tonight. I figured if anything happened, it’d be recognizable within a few hours (stupid!). I did NOT want to take the full dose again though, so I only had one ounce. It didn’t even give me cramping, and so I figured it was a waste and went about the evening–dinner, kids to bed, etc. 

***Disclaimer: I have NO IDEA if that 1oz of castor oil did a thing, or if my body was just ready, or WHAT!  I know my midwives were annoyed I didn’t call them when I took it–sorry! *hides*

9pm-ish: I set to work on my college paper–you know, the one I’d procrastinated about until the very last minute. Actually, it was due Monday at midnight–so starting it on Sunday night was some sort of record for me. I had a CD of random Euro-dance music playing throughout the whole night–not my usual style, but for some reason it was what I wanted to hear. All the while, I was having contractions, but no physical feeling of it being different than the last 3 weeks, LOL. On the other hand, I knew the new moon was on the 16th, and I had a curious vibe about that in the back of my mind–but it wasn’t anything I felt like I should share, lest I was wrong again!

Whether it was the labor hormones, the dance music, or just a particular interest in the subject matter, I don’t know–but I wrote a really bang-up paper:  Eleven pages on the problems with America’s public school systems and how to fix them. 

Nov 16th, 4am: I had been having to pause typing to focus on my new, orange tree-of-life tapestry during contractions for who knows how long. I was tired at this point, having walked for 1.5 hours earlier, and given that I usually go to bed around 3am, but I felt like I shouldn’t go to sleep for some reason. I called up my husband and we talked; I told him something might be starting to happen, but not to hold his breath for it.  I stayed up and did a bit of crash cleaning–I think I scrubbed the bathroom floor, even.  (Again, obvious–nesting–why didn’t I really believe it?!!)

5am: I was having to hold onto the countertop to brace myself against contractions as I finished up the dishes. I still didn’t think it was “real labor” though, and I was half-expecting it to go away once I lay down. All the same, I felt like I didn’t want to be alone, and my husband only had one more hour of work anyway, so I called him and he came right home. I sat on the couch folding laundry, and I didn’t look that “serious”, so he played video games for awhile. No, he didn’t get in trouble for that. =)

6am: I was putting away laundry and couldn’t walk across the apartment faster than a 90-year-old.  My husband told me I should call the midwife then, but once I finally sat down, I realized that I barely felt up to talking, let alone finding my phone. I think he called, and then gave the phone to me–I can’t remember….

7am-ish:  My lovely midwives get there, and I’m sitting up in bed looking cranky and feeling sort of like I wish I could go to sleep and do this later! They check me, and I’m at 4-5 cm. Gahh, ONLY?? Things keep going, and at some point I start needing to hum, then moan, then holler through the contractions. They’re not painful so much as they make me want to crawl out of my skin–I always experience labor that way, tho I’m not sure it’s a good description… 

8 or 9am, something: They check me again, cause I’m feeling pushy, and WOO, I’m 9+ cm….but there’s a lip of cervix in the way. Apparently his being posterior made me dilate and efface “crooked”, so I need to change positions to put pressure on this lip of cervix to get it to move. Now this sucks. I can’t push yet, and I have to be in a position that makes me lean forward. The contractions are noticeably more intense this way, so I’m whiney and changing positions with great bursts of energy in between every contraction, and sometimes in the middle of them, trying to “get away” from this feeling. I was on my knees on the floor hanging over the bed, on all fours, on the toilet even–and wishing I could fall asleep in between. 

Almost 10am(??): Finally I’m sitting/kneeling in the middle of my bed and CANNOT NOT PUSH. I think my water broke about then, I’m not sure. They tell me I can’t push the baby out so close to the bed, so I rock forward onto all fours. My sweet husband is holding my hand, in my face whispering encouragement to me, my midwives are behind me with hot oil compresses, and I’m excited now, cause I know it’s almost over. I think I must have forgotten how hard it is to push a baby out, cause Nik didn’t just slip out after his head came–I had to really work to push his shoulders and belly out, too. It was funny, because I was on all fours, they had to pass Nik to me through my legs so that I could sit/lay down and hold him. I have no idea how long it took to push him out, but it felt longer than my others, so I was curious about his weight. 

Nikolas was 8lbs 1oz, 21 inches long, and born at 10:11am on the new moon of November. I was 41 weeks, 4 days.  (Earliest that I’ve ever gone into labor “on my own”–ha!)

My husband’s dream-premonition of the birth date was, annoyingly, correct. =)  What I didn’t know until then was that the 16th of November is also his uncle’s birthday–the very uncle whose generosity and support for our family was absolutely crucial in the early, difficult times.  We gave Nik his middle name in thanks for that support.  

I am SO THRILLED that I finally got to have a homebirth, and I will be forever thankful to my two dear midwife-friends for making it possible, and for taking such good care of me (or rather, making me take care of myself!). 

After my last, traumatic birth, Nik’s was soul-moving in its calmness and simplicity

I couldn’t have wished for better.