No matter what kind of birth a woman has, birth will test her strength and push her to the limits physically, mentally, and spiritually. Sometimes I think our western culture dumbs down how immense childbirth is.
But oooh when women share their stories, we become more empowered and less victimized by the patriarchal society we live in. That is when we learn that birth can be peaceful, it can be sexual, and it can be done without interference.
On July 31 2019, it was 6 days past our "due" date. My midwives coached me to not get too caught up with the "due" date and that helped a lot. I realized that as we approached almost a week past the date, I was holding on to this baby in my belly. I called my dear friend Elise Kirkpatrick and we did an oracle card reading. It gave me the closure I needed for this pregnancy. It helped me to let go of the woman I once was and to completely step into the new body, soul, and mind that was awaiting me.
After my oracle card reading, my mom arrived to take Soleil with her so that I didn't have to worry about my daughter needing me at all. Knowing she was with her grandparents now allowed me to really let go. We went swimming at my mom's hotel by the beach because that is what Soleil wanted to do. We had one last fabulous dinner out with my mom, went back to her hotel, tucked Soleil in and went home to crawl into bed. I had been feeling prelabor around dinner time for a month. Night after night I would get this feeling of going into labor and by midnight it would go away. It was groundhog's day for a while. My midwife said it was this time when a woman dances between two worlds: this world and the birthing world.
The next morning at 4am I felt my first real contraction. I knew this was the real deal. I laid in bed and timed them, they were 20 minutes apart. Around 6am, I decided I should text my mom and let her know it was for real this time and that we would be having a baby that day. I let my husband continue to sleep and I jumped into the shower so I could shave and feel refreshed for my big journey into BIRTH.
My husband got up, made us coffee and me a bowl of coconut yogurt and granola. At that point my contractions were about 7-10 minutes apart. He leisurely began to fill our birthing tub which was in the living room. He randomly turned on The Martian with Matt Damon on TV (which I thought was rather timely since I would be going to outer space and back that day) and continued to clean the house while I paced from room to room breathing through my contractions. I found that the best thing for me to do was to hold on to a doorway with my arms above my head and hang (pictured below). I noticed that any time I laid down, my contractions would slow down. So, for me, lying in a bed would actually slow down my progress.
Looking back it was a very sweet time between my husband and I while he began to prep the house and I was focused on easing into contractions as they began to get closer and closer. At noon contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart and it was getting rather difficult.
Another useful trick I got from Ina May Gaskin, the midwife guru of the world, was to focus on keeping my throat open because our throats are directly connected to our cervix. So if we can keep the throat open, it will help to open the cervix.
I had perviously asked my husband to remind me about my throat and I thought a perfect way to keep it open would be to make out with my him : ) As I got deeper into active labor, instead of walking around the backyard and house on my own while John got things organized, I needed him to be present with me. I held tightly on to him and used him to hang on during a contraction and also to kiss in between contractions. It became a very sweet and sensual and even sexual experience for us.
At 1:30 in the afternoon I could no longer talk and I believe this is when I began to enter transition. I was definitely in outer space trying to get through the pain. John called our midwife at 2pm and they decided it was time that they get there. Around 3ish our first Midwife arrived (I have now had two amazing births with the midwives from the Santa Barbara Birth Center). I was in our bedroom on all fours trying to stay in control but also on the verge of spiraling out of control. She took one look at my body and quickly put a towel between my legs and out came a bunch of liquid. After she examined my movements on the floor she told us that if I wanted to get in the tub for birth now would be the time.
We went to the living room and I got in the tub. John had put on Thievery Corporation as I had requested, and it was playing smoothly in the background. Our second midwife came around 3:30. I had previously told John that I would love for him to get in the tub with me, but at that point, my body started pushing and I needed him to not move from where he was. I was using him to bear down on while my body began to roar louder.
I felt startled that my body felt like it needed to push because it all was happening so fast. We had never even checked my cervix. My midwife reassured me that I could absolutely start pushing. Thats when my birth photographer and doula Kim Summers walked through the door. And then I pushed about 3 times in a matter of 10 minutes and a baby came halfway out. I was shocked.
For my last push I decided I need to to be on my feet and plant my heels into the earth. And that baby came wriggling out with the rest of its body and actually was caught in the air and not in the water because my butt had risen out of the water when I decided to stand up to push. So that was our surprise ending. We were in the water but the last of her did not actually come out in the water.
Our midwives handed the baby to John and they announced that we had a little girl. We had not found out the sex of the baby and everyone was so convinced that it was a boy so it took me about 10 minutes to fully encompass the fact that we had a little girl in our arms. I kept asking John are you sure this is a little girl?
Our last part of birth was so sweet. I was helped out of the tub and onto our couch. That is when the baby got its first latch and she began nursing so sweetly. The midwives helped me gently birth the placenta. John cut the umbilical chord. I had torn slightly and so with local anesthesia one of my midwives stitched me up right there. It was easy and mellow and I couldn’t feel a thing. While she stitched me up our other Midwife measured and weighed the baby. The instant she looked at our baby's face she knew that she had a tongue tie and helped us arrange to get it taken care of with a local dentist immediately. These women are seriously god sent. They know everything about birth and newborns.
Then they moved John, the baby, and myself into our bedroom, tucked us in, cleaned our house, and told us that they would be back in the morning to check on us. I also got a refresher breast-feeding tutorial because I had forgotten almost everything. We had asked our family to give us at least a day or two to rest before anyone came over. They respected our request very lovingly and respectfully.
I am so thankful to have worked with midwives who taught me the truth about my power, the truth about my body, and the truth about how birth can be peaceful and safe and wonderful. I never felt as if I was in danger. My birth team was calm and so incredibly supportive. My husband and I were alone until about 45 minutes before we gave birth. No one interfered. They let us be together in whatever way we wanted.
Tips for Getting Through a Natural Child Birth
Training Physically: I stayed in physical shape during the second and third trimesters. I was too sick the first trimester to move at all. So, don't put tons of pressure on yourself. I focused on the second half of pregnancy to train for the marathon. That is how I think of birth. It is a huge physical test much like running a marathon and that is why it helps to be physically prepared.
Training Mentally: Getting through birth is all in our minds. It literally is mind over matter. We can get to the finish line if we can remain strong in our head. Remembering that it is one day in our life and it will be over in a flash, even if it takes a really long time.
Moving around helped me immensely. It would have been much harder on me if I had to stay in one place, and like I said prior, any time I laid down on the bed my progress slowed down.
Have a loose birth plan but do not put the pressure on to keep to it strictly. Be open for whatever is meant for your birth.
Communicate with your birthing partner prior and discuss what you need from them during labor and what they can help you remember to say or do while in labor.
Number 1 most useful tip for myself: Learning about your throat sphincter and why its important to keep it open. You can find all the info and everything you need for birth in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.
Choose music that will soothe your soul. Set an ambiance that will keep your atmosphere chill. You can read more about this in my blog post here.
Empowering yourself with knowledge, stories, and truthful information is what any birthing person needs most. Developing a good relationship with your birthing team is, in my opinion, pretty important. And lastly, follow your intuition. You know what is best for you.
If you would like to read about how I prepared for natural childbirth during my pregnancy, you can read this blog post 20 Empowering Things To Know About Pregnancy and Birth.