With the first anniversary of our daughter’s birth today and both the celebration of my becoming a mama and Ash becoming a papa, (True mothers and fathers day), I created a special version of my birth story. This version, while still the experience through my eyes, is much more focused on the role that my partner Ash played in the birth. Without his support and dedication to us during this time we would not have had the sacred and beautiful experience of bringing our child into the world.
Throughout my pregnancy and the journey that I made coming to the understanding that I wanted to have a freebirth, my partner Ash supported and trusted me completely. He trusted that I had the knowledge and skills needed to birth and he trusted that I was making this choice because I had a deep intuitive understanding that it was right for us. While we have had times of disconnection and disagreement we could very easily agree on one thing, a medicalized hospital birth was not in the cards for us. We have both had very negative experiences in allopathic settings and felt very sure that deep down we knew being in this system while experiencing the most sacred process of life did not feel right at all. We were aware that there are chances of complications arising and in that event felt comfortable reaching to that allopathic system for help. Thankfully hospitals exist for emergencies and times of need there is no doubt about that. Birth is not a medical event and my health did not require more supervision. We very consciously chose to stay home. We agree on many health choices and other important fundamental beliefs that can be really tough if two people want two very separate things. For this I am so thankful.
The night I went into labor I had sat in bed with him as we usually do, this night I felt less grumpy than most (typical of a very pregnant achy lady) and I showed him some photos of past travels. We talked and laughed and enjoyed a night together without too much complaining on my end of my back pains and inability to sleep. The glass of wine may have had something to do with that. I had told him that my mucus plug started to come out, but not to get too excited. It wasn’t a sign of eminent birth. We had studied indiebirth ( a group of women who empower women in birth that provide amazing education material) material together and the area that he found the most helpful was how the hormones afffect birth and how being disturbed in birth affects hormones. He listened to these talks over and over again. He was also very prepared as I was on emergency needs as well, he just found that there wasnj little common knowledge of the cocktail of hormones women experience for a healthy birth. Mama’s need to feel oxytocin and not fear in labor. We listened to some of those podcasts and then went to sleep, with our own happy cocktail of oxytocin flowing.
I woke up a couple hours later at midnight with cramping. I sleep naked so when I got up to go to the bathroom I didn’t realize I left a trail of blood. My plug, the mucus membrane came out completely. Now there was nothing left in between the outside world and the new baby except a water bag. How exciting! Ash came in and asked me if I was ok. I showed him the remnants and he cleaned up the blood trail I had made then we went back to bed. Having been connecting so closely that night that making love felt like the right thing to be doing in that moment. After a wonderful entanglement we slept. It was amazing, I slept like a baby for 3 -4 hours early in the night, something I hadn’t done in over a month. I woke to a dream of a train and felt that a train was moving through me. I dreamt labor was starting and woke to intense cramps and gripping pain. Ash spooned me for a little while and massaged my neck. The pain was too intense to sleep through. The cramps began to have rhythm. Sharp squeezing for a little while then release. I felt them low in my abdomen and wrapping all around my back. Back labor, even though my baby was face down (I knew her position through palpation and the fetuscope)
He held me for a little longer through a few more of these contractions before I started to feel sick. I got up to go to the toilet. I came back and laid in front of him, curled up in fetal position. He stroked my head and told me he was there for me. I looked up into his eyes, a few seconds later our baby jabbed me really hard and my amniotic sac broke. I got up immediately and let the water gush all over the floor. Then ran to the bathroom again with diarrhea. Ash came in to check on me, I asked him if the fluid was clear or if there was anything else there. He said it was clear, whew, relief. No meconium. At 38 1/2 weeks I figured she probably was not in any distress and was just ready to come out and meet us. I had checked her heart tones the night before and they sounded great.
Ash started the shower without asking me, he knew what I needed. He went to get the yoga ball and put it in the shower with me. I got in, laid over the ball and let the hot water soothe my achy back. He started to time the contractions. Half an hour after my water broke they were around 4 1/2 minutes apart and very intense. After 45 minutes in the shower they went to 3 minutes apart. He sat there with the door of the shower open watching me, witnessing me. Rubbing my back. Mostly he sat there in silence asking me how I was feeling. I told him the pain wasn’t like a contraction but a gripping sharp sensation that wrapped around my whole lower body. While I labored he told me I was doing great. When the hot water ran out I got upset and went back to the bedroom. I got on the bed in child’s pose and the sensations got even stronger. At this point almost an hour and a half after my water had broken I was already completely in my mind. I couldn’t think, couldn’t focus on anything other than getting through these contractions. Ash asked me questions and I told him I couldn’t talk anymore. I couldn’t communicate verbally when I was having them. He took my hand and we communicated through squeezing. He timed them but didn’t tell me how close they were every time. He would say, they are getting closer, you are doing great. Massage stopped feeling good to me and I asked him to give me space (not so eloquently, but there is not time in active labor to get your point across any way other than directly)
I moved to the floor to squat by the bed, all of the movements I did because they felt intuitive and I knew I needed to make them at the time. There was no rational part of my brain that was consciously thinking, I just felt into what my needs were. Ash stayed near me the entire time. He didn’t say he was sorry, he didn’t say he was concerned, he didn’t suggest that I do anything other than what my body was telling me to do. He witnessed me, trusted me, trusted birth and supported me by being completely present and grounded.
I started to cry because the realization that most first time moms are in labor for over 10 hours set in and I cried because I thought I was weak. I thought I was in early labor, I thought I couldn’t handle it. I cried and told Ash I couldn’t do it anymore. He knew that I could. He was watching me gripping the bed with every contraction moaning and crying out through them. He witnessed me saying that I wasn’t able and then a moment later watching this tough mama ride it out on my own. He had complete faith in me when I didn’t have it in myself. After a few of these he intuitively knew I needed to be in the water again, he went downstairs to start the tub. He made sure to use our water filter and have back up filtered water on the stove for when the water got cold.
I was squatting at the foot of the bed and started shaking and convulsing and felt incredibly flushed. Knowing that this is common I wasn’t scared. I still didn’t realize that I was near the end of labor and not the beginning. I held on through the pain and when the next contraction was over I went downstairs.
Ash had already created a sweet space in the bathroom with candles and incense and sage and palo santo and all of the special items I had kept on my altar. He was there to greet me in the bathroom and helped me into tub and kissed my forehead. He massaged my face and shoulders with a cool cloth every few minutes, nurturing me without words.
I got in and soaked my body up to my face. There was a wild cherry tree that looked over me through the window. The sun was just coming through and it was beautiful. I felt like the whole universe was there with me in the tub. Ash sat on the toilet next to the tub. He sat with me silently. He could tell very clearly when my contractions were happening and would time them without my knowledge. He didn’t share the time with me, as I had asked. He never once told me what time it was or how long I had been laboring. It was like being in this unconscious dreamland. I had no connection to anything conscious. I was in my head, but more in my body than I had ever been before. If you had asked me to speak in numbers and facts I couldn’t. I could barely speak the words of my sensations. They got even stronger with no break in between. One excruciating contraction after another. I pulled my hair, I cried, I cried out. And those things surprisingly felt really good. I said again that I couldn’t do this. Ash ignored me. I said it again.
He sat there and said, “Sarah, imagine the pain that you would be in if we got into the car and drove to the hospital right now. They would give you an epidural that you don’t want and you wouldn’t feel anything anymore. You would have to fight for everything that you want for the baby. Think of all the times you’ll have to say No. Fight to keep them from checking you, from cutting the cord too quickly, taking the baby away to bathe and weigh them. Fight for skin to skin. It wouldn’t be the peaceful birth that you wanted. You are doing so well and your contractions are right on top of each other, and you are handling them amazingly. I have no idea what it feels like for you but I know that you will get through this. You are getting through this. I’m watching you getting through. How about in an hour if you still feel this way we’ll talk again.”
I said ok and then surrendered. I knew that I wasn’t getting out of the tub and I knew that going to the hospital for the mere purpose of pain relief would ultimately cause much more pain and trauma. So I surrendered. And I had a partner who believed in me when I was giving up. I sunk back into the water and held on through every contraction and let go of all of my doubts and fears. I closed my eyes and let them come over me. Within 20 minutes those contractions were gone and my baby started moving out.
At this point I had been in active labor for 3 hours then the baby started moving through my body. I felt the sensations of pooping and pressure. I knew exactly what was happening. I could feel every millimeter of her coming through my body. The contractions were different, less painful, more intense. I wasn’t scared of them. I didn’t think I would split in half. I felt through them and enjoyed the feelings. And they came without my effort. I was experiencing the fetal ejection reflex. My body was doing all of the work and I wasn’t pushing. With every contraction I felt her getting closer and closer. I held onto the tub and roared like an animal, it felt so incredible to make noise and feel everything.
Ash was right there smiling. He knew I was going to be alright. He lit candles and then called our girlfriend (I decided to not have her be there, being alone felt more right).
He made sure that our guests knew that I needed space and arranged for them to stay with our friend. He brought me water, made me a shake, made herbal teas, and got the tinctures I had prepared ready. He lit sage and made the space feel very safe. Though I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, deep down my body knew it was a safe environment to bring a baby into.
I was able to change positions, so I had my head on his lap while he sat on the toilet. When the baby started to move out I held on to the tub and keep roaring. After half an hour I decided to check myself again and I felt her head. Half an hour of more primal cries and concentrated deep breathing and her head was out. Ash was beside me with words of encouragement. She kicked from the inside, and in another contraction she was out. We both lifted her from the water and laid her in my arms. Her umbilical cord was wrapped loosely around her neck and though she wasn’t breathing yet her eyes were wide open staring up at us for the first time. Ash moved the cord from her neck and then within seconds she took her first breath. The breath she will take every second after for the rest of her life. Holding her and witnessing this moment of pure magic with Ash was the most incredible and miraculous thing I’ve ever experienced.
The next few moments I turned her over to help the fluid drain from her and to help her sustain her breaths. I was so focused on her getting air and skin to skin contact I forgot to check the gender. I assumed it was a boy as she had been in so many of my dreams. So having a girl in our arms was such a surprise! She was so bright-eyed and vocal. She nursed quickly and held on to me while I held her close. Ash brought me water, a protein shake, and the various tinctures I had prepared. He sterilized fishing line and our special obsidian blade that he used to cut her cord an hour later. He sterilized a bowl for the placenta as well and once that was passed he spent the afternoon processing it. Our good friend Jessica came not long after Maya was born to help me upstairs into bed. Ash brought the baby to me and we laid in bed naked for days, skin to skin.
I felt so loved and cared for that not once during the birth did I feel that my partner was not on my side, that he was nervous or doubtful (though when he saw maya’s head come out underwater with the cord around it he had a silent moment of fear). He did not once imply that I was not capable or not strong enough. Our space was full of love and support. Baby Maya knew she was born into love, and aside from the pain of birth, she had no other trauma. We spent days nursing, learning each other, bonding, sleeping, loving. Not once were we separated. I felt like a warrior mama goddess, and in my times of self-doubt, Ash reminds me of my strength. Nothing can ever replace the connection I share with him through that experience. It was perfect.