Here it is. The time has finally come for me to put my 3rd birth story on paper. It has been 5 days shy of 4 months since the Earthside arrival of my sweet Tala Sunshine, and I feel I have processed her birth enough to tell her story. The experience was absolute magic and exactly what I had planned. No, things did not look exactly the way I imagined them. You never know what birth will throw at you. However, I controlled this birth. I was in charge of my care and my environment. I was the authority in my own sacred space. In that way, it was exactly what I had planned. This was supported, Mother-led birth.
After the birth of my 2nd son, Xannon, I made the decision to never return to the hospital to birth future babies. I knew birth didn’t belong there for me. I knew I didn’t want to see one single, solitary face of someone I didn’t personally invite to my birth. I didn’t want to hear one single, solitary comment about my decisions from someone who thought I was a being a martyr, or craving attention. (BTW, who the f*** would choose to labor naturally in a foreign environment for attention?!?? Come on, people.) I knew that should another soul join our family, I would be having that baby at home with a midwife who supported Mother-led, physiological birth; and if I couldn’t find one who shared my values, I was having a free birth. I contacted multiple home birth midwives in my area, and met with what would be my dream team. I found a small group of midwives who were open to hearing my birth philosophy, my concerns, my wishes, and my questions who lovingly assured me that they would be as involved as I wanted them to be. THIS is modern maternity care. This is RESPECT. I should not feel like I have to have a free birth (which is absolutely an option) to feel respected during the most intimate and sacred time of my life. Personally, I desired a midwife to join my wise woman circle to support me in my choices.
The morning of July 16, 2018 (40w4d) started off with a weird energy. There is no other way to describe it. The kids were bonkers, I was tired and slow and large and unmotivated to do anything that day… but…. toddlers. Thomas suggested we go for a boat ride to get the kids outside and completely change the scene. Well, it was weird on the water, too! Boats cutting people off left and right, massive green fly swarms, and tricky winds made for aggravating anchoring. The universe was telling us to be home. We decided to head back and had a restful movie day inside (on a sunny, July day on Long Island.)
The boys fell asleep that evening, we did what lovers do, and my contractions started at 10:30PM. They were mild but regular, and assuming this was actually early labor, I was so thankful that it was night time and I could get some sleep before anything picked up. Then, Xannon woke up. Waking at this time was completely out of character for him. He insisted on laying on the couch with me as I timed my waves; leaning/pushing/rubbing on my belly, saying, “ok Mommy?” Children are so incredibly intuitive. He knew something was happening without me saying anything at all. With each wave I had to push him off of me to breathe. I decided to hit the bedroom to sleep, leaving Xannon with Thomas on the couch.
l laid in bed for about an hour, each wave getting stronger than the last, and requiring serious concentration and deep breathing. No sleep. So I got up to join Tom and Xannon, who were still awake. I went to the bathroom, right on schedule. Then Zephyr woke up! It was like we were in the twilight zone… We made the call that it was time to alert my team at 1:30AM. I needed my mother-in-law to come pick up the kids, my mom to come to start setting up my space, and my midwife, Colleen, to be ready when things got serious. I told Colleen that I’d been having steady contractions since 10:30, and they were now about 4-5 minutes apart. She said she was coming right over. I felt that was premature. It wasn’t.
Once the kids were taken care of, I was able to focus. My mom and Tom started filling up the birth tub, getting food ready and setting the lighting, oils, music and candles. I was laying on the couch, breathing through my pressure waves that had increased in intensity. Colleen quietly arrived at around 2:00AM, asked how I was doing, assessed the atmosphere, and disappeared from my consciousness to rest herself. We only got about 30 minutes of rest before I couldn’t stay horizontal any longer. The waves picked up to 2-3 minutes very quickly and I used my voice to vibrate through each one. The most comfortable position for me was standing and leaning forward on Tom, slowly rocking through each one. My baby girl was active throughout my entire labor time. I haven’t experienced this with either of my boys. She just wouldn’t stop moving! After every wave, she’d roll, push and kick. Colleen felt my belly at one point to “feel her energy,” and confirmed what I already knew to be true. This was a strong girl with big energy, ready to meet her family. I was talking with Thomas, my mom and Colleen between contractions, sharing laughs and predictions about this little one. At some point the birth assistant arrived, and said something to the effect of, “We’re still smiling! That’s a good sign!” Colleen assured her, “I think she’s going to be smiling this baby out very soon!”
Each wave was more intense than the last, and I moved from standing, to leaning on furniture, to leaning on people, to hands and knees (which was intense, but great. It was here that I peed on a towel on the floor, because anything goes in birth.)
Then came that feeling… There comes a point in labor when you start to tremble between waves. You feel your bones moving inside of you, and your hormones do a dance that brings your baby down and out. All I could do was keep my vocalizations going, slow and steady, breathing deeply and intentionally, visualizing oxygen filling up my baby, circulating through her, nourishing her entire being. I knew she was being squished and was working just as hard as I was.
It was time to get into the tub, and ohhhhh myyyyyy word, it felt amazing. I laid my head on the side of the tub, on all fours and closed my eyes. The water enveloped me in warmth and safety, and my waves spaced out to give my body a rest. I was complete; there was no need to check my cervix and no one asked to (let alone TOLD me they were going to.) I was trusted and respected. I welcomed the resting period that comes when you’re about to start the pushing stage, and waited for the involuntary urges to start.
They started. With each strong wave, I felt my bones spacing apart. I felt my baby moving through me and it was intense. I think I said aloud, “oh my God, please just come out.” It felt like there was no way she could come out. It seemed I couldn’t get my legs to spread wide enough for the passage of this baby. I was on all fours, then stretched my right leg up and out to the side, my mom supporting it. Thomas was in the tub behind me, getting quiet direction from Colleen on how to receive the baby I was delivering, with my full blessing. I remember hearing someone excitedly say, “Just like that! Keep going!” and Colleen just calmly saying, “She doesn’t have to do anything, she’s doing exactly what she needs to.” You have no idea what that meant to me. It is what I have been trying to convey to anyone that will listen about physiological birth. You don’t have to DO anything. Birth happens. I was talking out loud to my baby, telling her to please come out, “Come on, Baby.” I was supported, and in my full power when her head was born. Then came her body. Thomas slid/floated her through my legs in front of me so I could bring her to my chest. She was wrapped in umbilical cord like a little tamale. She did it. I did it. Tala Sunshine was here at 5:38AM after 7 hours of labor.
The birth of the placenta was 20-30 minutes later. I think. My concept of time is totally skewed, so we’ll just say 30 minutes. We stayed in the tub for that time just relishing in our baby girl, high on oxytocin, overflowing with love and admiration. The water of the tub was tinged with blood, but wasn’t a concern to me at all. This is normal and I had nothing to fear. I checked in with myself and I felt great and strong. With a bit of herbal tincture and a cough, the placenta came out 95% of the way. I wasn’t expecting that. I patiently waited for the rest to just fall out and it didn’t. It seemed like there was still a thin string of membrane attached or something. I climbed out of the tub, Tala latched on easily and nursed for the first time. Having my placenta hanging out of me was annoying to say the least, so I agreed to allow Colleen to gently free it from my body with careful, skillful expertise. So that was a thing. A small thing, but a thing worth mentioning. The atmosphere stayed calm, and relaxed the entire time, and no one sounded any alarms that weren’t warranted. No one brought their own fears into my space. It was truly the birth I knew I could have and deserved.
This birth was healing and validating. I drove the ship. I chose a respectful team for their clinical observation, my mother in law as loving caretaker for my older children and my mom for her nurturing heart and unparalleled skills for ambiance. My life partner, Thomas, supported my every move, from the midwife interview to passing Tala into my arms. He trusted in my ability to birth freely with authority and autonomy. I am forever grateful for this man.
This is my dream birth story. Your perfect birth might be in a hospital, or birth center or home. You might feel your power with a huge team, or a small team. Just know that you have options. Don’t allow the phrases, “they wont let me,” or “am I allowed to,” or “I want to try to,” leave your lips. You’ve got this. Prepare your inner voice with confidence and encouraging mantras. I’ve learned to lose the term “empower.” I can’t give you power, or make you feel like you are acquiring power. It is in you already, oppressed and suppressed. We need to show birthing people to draw from their power within. Birth in your power. Watch the videos, look at the pictures, choose a supportive team and I promise you will birth consciously.