July 4, Saturday. 2009 Journal Excerpt.

The days and moments all melt in a dreamy cloud of bliss as I spend every moment with my new Sophia.

She is dreaming on my lap right now, her head on my breast, her soft little noises warming my heart. A whole new experience of love for me, she has broken my heart wide open!

Baby gazing is my full time passion.

The Home Birth of Sophia Katarina, a Beautiful Force of Nature

Note to dear readers: I am a great believer in home birth. I was born in a hospital, and my mom had a less than the best experience with that and so she birthed her next three children at home. I can remember the magic of knowing one of my siblings was arriving, right there in the next room! And then walking down the dimly lit hall to the glowing bedroom where my mom sat like a soft goddess in the pillowy bed with a tiny new baby in her arms! I always knew I would have my babies at home, and when I finally did, it was amazing to labor in the cozy womb of my own house, and to then tuck into bed with my newborn and not have to worry about going anywhere for weeks. I loved home birth and it was an incredible, powerful experience that I feel every woman and man deserves to know about! My humble hope is that this birth story will inspire and empower! Home birth ROCKS!!

With deep respect: Every pregnancy and birth is so personal and unique, and I am deeply appreciative for what traditional western medicine has to offer. There are several babies and mothers I know who would not be here if it weren’t for the amazing practices that western medicine offers. All birth is sacred, and I celebrate it in all of its manifestations!

Here is the story!

Sophia and I went into labor at 4AM on Sunday, June 21, Summer Solstice, Father’s Day, her due date. I woke up with a mildly painful contraction and thought “oh!” The contractions continued to be every 15-45 minutes apart for the rest of the day and yet I continued to tell myself that this could just be a warm up, that it could still be 2 weeks before I got to hold my baby. I had had so many days of practice contractions coming and going, I didn’t want to get too excited just in case this was not really “it” yet.

David and I had a beautiful, full day of early labor, contractions continuing to be only mildly painful. We went for a walk down the steep hill to Jasper Way, joking that mom had made us dinner of raspberry leaf lasagne and raspberry leaf tea, but had put it down at the bottom of the hill so we would have to walk down for it. (Raspberry leaf tea and walking up and down hills or stairs are said to be ways off bringing on labor.) I felt really strong and happy, it was a beautiful sunny, windy day.

I was trying not to watch the clock and time my contractions but I was just too preoccupied with them and would feel disappointed when one hadn’t come for awhile, and excited when they were close together.

David and I baked “birth” day cookies, danced together, played Scrabble (I won by 100 points, in labor!) and had a dreamy afternoon cuddle and nap.

We went up to mom’s house for a Father’s Day dinner for Brad and David. Mom made a beautiful dinner of rice noodle and basil pesto, steamed veggies, a big fresh salad and carrot cake for desert. While we were eating, the contractions started to get strong enough that I had to get up from the table to walk around.

After dinner, we all went for a beautiful, windy, sunset walk up Becky Way and then down and to the end of Sarah Way, and then back up and down Becky Way again. I really wanted to go into active labor and part of me was feeling disappointed that I hadn’t yet, after being in early labor all day. I had friends who had brought on active labor by walking up and down the stairs all day, and so I thought I’d go for the second climb up Becky Way! One of my fears was that I would get stuck in un-productive labor for hours and end up with a C-section as several of my friends had experienced, so I really wanted things to be getting stronger. Oh and don’t you know it, watch what you wish for baby!

Around 10PM David and I got into bed together and that lasted about 15 minutes and I had to get up because my contractions were too strong to be lying down. So, we started moving furniture around and put the birth pool in place (we didn’t end up using the birth pool, everything ended up happening too fast!), ready to be filled with water. We lit candles everywhere and created a cozy, glowing birth cave in the cottage.

For the next five hours I walked and used sound to move through contractions. Sound was AMAZING at re-directing the energy of the contractions up and out of pain and into something that was manageable. My favorite place to be was in the corner of the kitchen with my head in my arms on the counter by the VitaMix, swaying my hips and vocalizing. For most of this time I didn’t want to be touched and I found even looking at David to be too distracting, but I was always aware of his love, support, and attention to me as he sat peacefully.

I was still very much in my mind and was trying hard to get out of it but I felt stuck, mildly irritable and not quite in the flow that I had imagined. Instead of going into what I had heard many women call a dreamy state of “labor-land” I felt like everything came into sharp, hard focus and the pain was very real.

Also, I had tried to check my cervix several times and could not find it for the life of me, and a small fear of being without a cervix slowly grew and grew until I was quite certain that I didn’t have a cervix for this baby to move through (!!! I think back on all this now and lovingly laugh at myself…I was so cerebral and intense at this time, I went a little crazy!!!) I was also feeling each contraction more and more in my lower back and they hurt.

At 3AM I told David I wanted to call the midwife and my mom because I was starting to feel really stuck and a little scared about my imagined lack of a cervix. We had planned on this, waiting to call anyone to join us during labor, preferring to enjoy it alone together, and I am really glad we did. We had even discussed taking it moment by moment and perhaps not even calling anyone and having an un-assisted birth with just the two of us. While it was intimate and magical with just David and I, at this point I was ready for the Birthing Team!

My mom came down right away, she had not even gone to sleep after she had seen how strong my contractions had been at dinner! Maggie (our midwife) arrived around 3:30. I was so happy to see her! She said she would check me to get my head and my cervix working together on the same page. It was really difficult for me to lie down due to the intensity of the contractions, but I did for long enough that Maggie could check.

She gave us a wonderful explanation with an olive oil bottle, telling me that my cervix (and yes, I certainly had one!) was still tipped toward the back, and that before a baby can be born it must tip towards the front. The way that I had been standing through contractions, with my torso tilted forward, had not been putting the baby’s head in an efficient position to bear down and open the cervix. She also told me that I was about 2cm dilated. Inside I went “WHAT!!!???” only 2cm!! I’ve been having contractions for 24 hours and I’m only 2cm!?” But I took a deep breath and said OK!

Maggie showed me how to stand so that the baby’s head would put more pressure on my backwards tilting cervix, by leaning backwards with my hands on the edge of a counter, my hips thrust forward. She also said that this (cervix tilted towards the back) was totally normal, but that it could take another 24-48 hours before my cervix was in position and open. Maggie later told me she was amazed at how calmly I took this, but inside I was feeling “wow, another 24-48 hours, that is a long time and this hurts!” She suggested that my mom and David should tag each other off as my support people so that neither of them got too exhausted, and that I should pace myself, sleep, and eat, and that I was a strong, healthy woman and I would be able to do it no problem. Oh the blessings of an amazing midwife! It was very important for me to hear that she had such faith in me at that point.

Then she left to attend another birth that was happening in the hospital.

Everything is a bit of blur for me from that point on….we talked about David going to sleep and I tried eating a bit of fruit. I started to lean backwards with each contraction, and while this hurt more than leaning forward, it also felt better somehow. David was just about to go and lie down when all of a sudden I needed him really badly! I remember kneeling on the floor with my head in his lap, clinging on to him. Then I threw up all the fruit I had eaten, and this was the third time since things had gotten stronger at around 10 o’clock that I had thrown up. It felt really good and I knew it would help my cervix to open. I got back in the shower (I had been moving in and out of the shower all night, the hot waterfall of water felt so good on my back!) and all of a sudden things were so intense it scared me. I know now that I was going through transition (the final dilation of the cervix right before the body is ready to start pushing the baby out) but at the time I still had it in my head that I had 24hrs or more left to go. It was so STRONG I knew I couldn’t take it much longer, certainly not 24hrs!

It had me sweating, roaring, clinging to the counter, I felt like I was frantically trying to climb out of  hole and there was no way out, no way to avoid the pain, and nothing I did lessened it or made it more manageable. (See, you get what you ask for!)

The only thing I could stay with was holding a gaze with David. I needed him right there looking into my eyes, breathing with me. I was so blazing hot that I ripped off my kimono, and it caught on fire in one of the candles! In my mind I was quite sure I was going to die, it all felt so wrong and SO intense, I was sure I needed a helicopter to take me to the hospital where I could get knocked out and the baby could arrive by C-section. I was sure I was going to die because there was no way I could get into a helicopter, I couldn’t even get off the floor in the bathroom! I was still thinking I had 24 hours left to go!

Then all of a sudden my body was pushing, my stomach was like a brick, there was immense, rock hard pressure in my groin and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Again, in my mind, my cervix still had a long way to go and so the baby must be trying to come through my inside walls, there would be no hole for it to come through, it was going to break me open and kill me! I was terrified and still my body kept pushing with incredible force.

With the next pushing period, I put my hand down and I could feel the baby’s head crowning, but to me it still felt like there was something between my hand and the baby’s head and I was sure it was my vaginal wall. I pushed back on the head, trying to make it stay in. Next, my water sac came ballooning out in a bluish bubble. David had my mom come to see and she said “yes, that is the water sac!” Still, I was sure I didn’t have an open cervix, my head was just so confused!

“I’m pushing and I can’t stop it! Call Maggie!” I yelled! Mom called and told me Maggie said to not push but to pant through the contractions. Ah! At last, a way to move with the energy (I had read about panting through contractions but of course in the heat of the labor I had forgotten everything I had ever read.) I was down on all fours in the bathroom and had some fierce panting contractions, it took every inch of my effort not to push and still my body was pushing. It was incredible!

Maggie arrived at 6:00AM, about 2 hours after she had left, and said “Wow, I’ve seen some fast dilations before but never this fast!” Then she took control saying “Are you going to have the baby on the floor or do you want to come in on the bed, it will be a much softer landing!” She had to ask me several times and finally when I was pleading like a crazy woman “Is it OK? Is my cervix in the way!?” she said “OK! You can talk you can walk, lets get on the bed!” I was in a complete daze and then all of a sudden I was on all fours on the bed, my head on my mom’s shoulder and David and Maggie behind me waiting for the baby.

All of a sudden everything fell into place for me, I floated up out of the hole I had been in, I was given permission to push, I was safe, I was alive, my baby was coming. I was still riding the storm but now I had my hands on the wheel. It was an intense half hour of pushing. Mom was there, crying, saying how beautiful I was and how good I was doing. David talked to me through each pushing period, saying “good my love, good!” At one point he stopped talking and I cried “David keep talking to me!” It helped me so much to hear his loving voice in the middle of my birth storm. I still had to use all of my effort NOT to push and to pant through it instead, giving things time to stretch and open. For a while the baby’s head would move back up after each period of pushing, giving me a moment of rest and relief.  Then the head stopped moving back up when the pushing stopped, and it burned. After the next two pushes, she came flying out all in one push! Her head and her whole body, everything at once! She came out so fast that David could hardly catch her and she ended up on the bed between my legs. And just like that, the birth storm was over, the brilliant birth sun came out and….

It was a surreal moment, there I was looking down at my beautiful blue daughter, and she had all her limbs splayed out like a star, showing me her whole little body, and I could tell in one glance that she was perfect, she was whole, she was perfect, perfect, perfect. I picked her up, so quickly that David said it was like when he asked me to marry him and I grabbed the ring out of his hand and put it on myself before he had a chance to do it! I just scooped that warm, yummy baby up and David was there at my shoulder and everyone seamlessly helped me get seated on the bed, and everything was perfect. Sophia was talking very heartily and she let us all know how strong and healthy she was, turning nice and pink. I brought her up to my breast almost right away and squeezed some colostrum into her little mouth, and she latched on perfectly and started to nurse perfectly. After 18 hours of pre-labor, 8 hours of active labor, and thirty minutes of pushing, Sophia was born at 6:30AM on June 22, 2009. 7lbs, 12oz. 20.5 inches long, pure perfection. It was a beautiful sunny, summer morning, I was born as a mother, David as a father, and Sophia was there, perfect in our arms.

After about 20 minutes, the placenta came out easily. 40 minutes after she had been born, Sophia’s Daddy tied off her cord with a piece of string and then cut her free from her beautiful placenta. We didn’t put anything on her cord, and it dried naturally and fell off after six days. The midwife moved gracefully out of the room and we were left together as a family. Sophia was awake and alert for four and a half hours, drinking in her new surroundings with wide, beautiful, clear eyes. She was other-worldly. We waited until late that afternoon to weigh and measure her, spending our precious first moments in skin to skin contact, so in love. For the next two weeks Sophia and I didn’t go further than the end of the driveway, spending lots of time naked and nursing, resting and eating lots of nutrient-dense foods.

I have thought often of our birth together, Sophia’s into this world, mine into motherhood. It was so un-like anything I expected or ever could have visioned or dreamed. After months of visioning a calm, peaceful labor ending with me easing my child quietly into the world (all those many times watching Birth As We Know It perhaps?!!) I was given a birth that was like riding a wild-stallion bucking-bronco! It was like riding out a storm in the open ocean on a tiny sailboat, surfing on enormous, powerful waves! I was able to face a deeper fear than I had ever experienced and move through it to a stronger self than ever before. I learned a great deal about trust and surrender. Sophia’s arrival was powerful and passionate, it rocked me deep down, I was shown parts of myself I didn’t know existed, I re-meet with my spirit, I was given the ride of my life.

Fear of Dying in Labor
Every time one of my babies was about to be born, I’d think to myself, “You’re going to die! This time you’re going to die!” Then it’d come out. Somehow- I don’t know how to explain it- but somehow it was like I had been born again.

~In the words of an Italian peasant

I can remember reading this while I was pregnant and thinking “I’m not going to be afraid of dying! I know that I won’t die!” And yet this is exactly what happened to me in the throws of labor, I was so far outside of my rational mind and I just knew I was going to die. And then, it all shifted again, and like so many other women before me I had the radical experience of my own re-birth along with the birth of my daughter. Nothing can prepare you for that, not even reading this, but you will look back and read things like this and shake your head in beautiful knowing, yes, it is magical! I did it! I birthed my daughter at home into the arms of her father! I am so deeply grateful.Life is a beautiful gift.
Thank you for reading!