It is amazing how one experience can set into motion a chain of events that ends up altering the way you view your world. My home birth was that one monumental experience. I have been a birth & postpartum doula for years and had assisted a midwife for a number of home births, so I have been honored to experience many beautifully moving births. I chose a home birth with my third child for a number of reasons, but I never would have imagined the power behind that choice.
I had been having Braxton Hicks for weeks leading up to my actual labor, some of which had been quite convincing with regular contractions of 5 minutes apart for hours at night. Both of my two oldest boys were born healthy and ready at 37 weeks so I was mentally prepared for the possibility of laboring 3 weeks early. My friends and family joke that I am a pressure cooker for babies. I knew that my midwife couldn’t attend the birth before 37 weeks so my husband and I had a private celebration when ‘full term‘ came and went.
Just a couple days past 37 weeks, as I was laying with my 3 year old while he was falling asleep, I began getting my normal nightly Braxton Hicks; however, these were accompanied by the telltale immanent labor lower backaches. I fell asleep that night with a little voice in my head telling me that I was very close to meeting my child.
2am: my eyes opened peacefully and surprisingly rested. I ungracefully rolled my awkward feeling body out of bed with the intention of using the restroom; however, upon standing warm liquid began running down my leg. It was then that I had my first real contraction. At that point my excitement had me floating down the stairs with a towel between my legs to rest by myself on the couch to time my contractions. There was something magical about being the only person, other than the baby, to know that this beautifully natural, powerful & magical event was happening. I reveled in private anticipation for an hour until my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and getting stronger.
3am: I ascended the stairs for the last time pregnant to wake my husband and call my midwife and mother. My plan had been to meditate my way through labor in my meditation room adjacent to my bedroom. Upon calling my midwife, she was concerned that since my second child was born in only 6 hours and that my contractions were so close, I should lay on my bed and wait for her to arrive. Laying down magnified the pain but I listened and waited. She arrived within 20 minutes, at which time I thankfully climbed out of bed to labor in the manner in which I had dreamed for the last 9 months.
3:30am - 7am: I can honestly say that for the next 3 1/2-4 hours the pain was absolutely negligible. I used no standard popular method of pain management... my technique was simple and invaluable. I meditated. There were not rainbow clouds holding me up, no musical cues or set visualizations. I merely explored the amazing physical sensations by dropping the label of ‘pain’ and diving deep into the waves that would bring me closer to meeting my baby. I didn’t fight these sensations, I just let them wash over and engulf me while bathing in the beauty and wonder of what my body was doing naturally. I listened carefully to my inner voice telling when I need to stand, to sway, move on the birthing ball, and when to just laugh. I was joyful and comfortable in my favorite place, with my favorite music, books, art, beloved cat and surrounded by people who loved me. It felt like a ceremonial celebration of life, nature and oneness with all women.
7am: I decided it was time to spend some time in the water. I chose to not have a birth pool because I wanted my space to be normal & familiar (for both me and my family). We filled the bathtub to the brim with warm water, I put my earphones in and I retreated back into my mind. I was deep in a powerful meditative state - feeling stoned and trippy from the cocktail of hormones. Time was elusive... irrelevant. I felt a beautiful connection, a dance of sorts, between my body, my mind & the baby. Every now and then I would open my eyes to see my husband or one of my boys checking on me, my mother smiling peacefully, or my midwife kneeling down to check the baby’s heart tones.
8am: I peacefully came out of my to trace to notice one of the midwives asking how I was feeling. I told her that I didn’t think that I was progressing as I wasn’t feeling any discomfort. I had hoped to be going through transition by now but I couldn’t identity any of the signs that normally accompany transition (nausea, shaking, pain, etc.). She said that I had been laboring so peacefully that she was sure that I was past transition. I decided to have her check me so that I could ascertain whether or not to get out of the bath. To my surprise, I was fully dilated with only a small cervical lip left. I was now alert and ready to take my body’s cue to begin bringing the baby out into the world.
After 2 more strong yet painless contractions in the bathtub, I began to feel the very distinct splitting feeling and with the following contraction, the undeniable urge to push. This shift happened so fast that I became completely out of touch with my meditation and began to feel the pain. It was at this point that my self doubt was awakened by the excruciating pain of separation.
In retrospect, the next 30 minutes were a blur of hormone-drunk pushing followed by waves of welcomed quiet stillness. However, at the time, I distinctly remember being amazed at how calm and peaceful the minutes felt between contractions. There seemed to be lifetimes to live within those moments. I don’t believe that there has been a time in my life where I was more present - more in tune with my mental and physical state. This was much different from my hospital births where I felt detached and out-of-control of my mind and body.
It was within these 30 minutes that, as my baby was being summoned Earthside, I was allowing a part of me to be sacrificed. Prostrate, I willingly relinquished my grasp on life and passed it on to the being as he moved out of my body. For the first time in my life, I truly understood what it was like to 'let go' - to have complete faith in myself and the natural process that my body was designed to accomplish.
“Come on mama... reach down to catch your baby. You have to reach down now to catch him when he comes out.” My midwife knew how badly I wanted to be the first to touch and welcome my baby into the world.
“I can’t.” I moaned. “I can’t... I can’t...” I felt defeated. I knew that I just needed to get this being out into the world safely whether I survived or not - that was my one and only thought. Catching him was irrelevant at this point even though it had been my dream. I was 100% positive that I could not do it. I absolutely wasn’t strong enough.
It was then that, from a place deep inside my womb, with the help of a tiny being who had been instilling life-lessons in me for the past 9 months, my hands reached out and shattered through that wall of self-doubt as I caught my child.
Liam Bodhi was born at 8:32am on March 22nd weighing 7lbs, 3.5oz.
Upon reflection of this profoundly significant experience in my life, I realized that during birth there is more than just a baby being born. At some point there is a moment when the mother surrenders herself willingly to the miraculous bearing of her child. It is this symbolic sacrifice that then allows for the mother to be reborn amidst this birth. This is the empowerment of childbirth.
A woman may enter the realm of childbirth with a self-image tainted with doubt, weakness and selfishness; however, she will come through the experience having shed that thin, useless skin. This life-altering journey quiets her ego and births both a mother and child.
Liam is now a very healthy 10 month old and I am now studying to become a homebirth Midwife, anxiously awaiting the day that I can assist women through this beautifully transcendent time in their lives.