[A shorter version of this birth story will appear in the Winter 2009 edition of Velocity Magazine.]
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There are two major transitions that every being makes in this life – birth and death. These two events are filled with the sacredness of homecoming (earthly or otherwise) and it amazes me that such a common occurrence is so unique for each and every one of us. Recently, I had the pleasure of being transformed into a mother, a participant to my own child’s homecoming. Maya Juniper Rose’s arrival was the most blissful experience of my life and I prepared for this passage by sorting through to the truth about the ancient art of birthing and prepared myself mind, body & soul.
Fortunate to have witnessed four births prior to my own pregnancy, I am forever grateful for the knowledge gleaned, especially my experience as birth partner to my sister’s homebirthed hypnobaby. Remembering this occasion, I too chose to birth my baby at home, in water, using hypnobirthing techniques under the guidance of experienced midwife and baby greeter Kelli Johnson (A Mother’s Nature Homebirth’s).
By electing a homebirth, I immediately took the battle out of birth that so many women experience in a hospital setting. I didn’t have to be jostled out of my trance in the advanced stages of labor to drive to the hospital in an uncomfortable position, lights and cars whizzing past, get settled in a strange room with beeping machines and unknown people peering at me, worried about whether or not the hospital personnel would separate me from my baby or support my decision to labor naturally.
My hour long prenatal appointments with Kelli built a connection between us so that I had full faith and knowledge of what to expect when my birthing time arrived. By birthing at home, I could eat, drink, move about, change position, be surrounded by familiar people & things, have anything I wanted an arms stretch away.
With the security of my birth setting decided, instead of worrying during my pregnancy, I got busy on soul work. Unresolved issues can resurface during labor, stalling progress until it is addressed. Both the hypnobirthing program and the book “Painless Childbirth” by Giuditta Tornetta helped me sift through my own issues, bringing me peace.
Through this process, I discovered that finding balance between independence and interdependence was the theme of this pregnancy. Facing single motherhood, I needed to know I have the courage and strength to birth & raise this child, yet I also needed to stay flexible and open to the support of my community of friends and family in order to feel secure, cared for and connected. Maya’s birth reflected this balance perfectly.
I sent a false alarm through my friends after an evening of rushes that were all about ten minutes apart on the 21st, and then had a repeat the evening of the 22nd, only to have them evaporate with the morning sun. I started to get a little irritable about the whole thing, which was a good indication SOMETHING was about to happen, as I had not been irritable at all previously. I talked to Kelli & she suggested I take some Cotton Root Bark and it was decided she would come by Sunday afternoon (23rd) to check my progress. After being closed up in my house for three days trying to get centered for the birth, I finally decided to get out & distract myself until Kelli could check me, so I went up to Ethos and had brunch & attended a baby blessing drum session for little Lucas, ignoring the rushes I was having the entire time. After the beautiful drumming session, everyone in the circle sent positive energy my way for my babies arrival & as I was updating my friend Michelle with my stats, she called over her midwife friend who just happened to be there with some Cotton Root Bark tincture in her car.
I went home and decided to nap, having taken a very weak dose of the Cotton Root Bark before passing out. I think I slept for just a few hours and when I woke up at exactly 5pm, I noticed I was having a rush, so I started timing them & this time they were all 5 minutes apart. I began taking the tincture at it’s lowest dose every half hour to ensure the contractions stayed consistent. My mom came over, anticipating that Kelli would arrive soon to check me. Kelli was at another birth, but my rushes kept coming every five minutes like clockwork, lasting a minute each. At this point they were totally painless with only mild cramping
I called my birthing party (soul sisters Amber, Sandra & Sharon; soul brother Henry). They arrived one by one at the house, smudging themselves with sage at the doorstep. Amber wanted to activate the phone tree, but I didn’t want to jinx anything after the last false alarm, so no one really knew I was in labor but us. Around midnight, I sent my mom back to my sisters house for the evening and told everyone to try and get some sleep. I tried to lay down, but found it really uncomfortable to do so and sat up listening to my hypnobabies CD in the rocking chair.
Kelli & I texted back & forth several times about my progress and just past midnight is when I found the rush had gotten more serious, meaning I was trancing out during them & was shifting into my no-thought space, not wanting to talk or think through them, just focusing. Still, no pain, just a pressure sensation with mild cramping where I could tell my body was slowly & gently moving the baby down.
At some point I called my friend Sharon to come over & when she arrived, I met her in the hallway and was just so blown away my her own little bun in the oven – I put my hand on her belly and said, “It’s so substantial!” we both shared a good laugh about this and then settled into my bedroom for a massage. I’m not sure how long it was, but for an hour or two, Sharon massaged my back and chest, melting away tension, and any defensive walls I had around me – by the end of the massage I felt like I had released any apprehension as I felt totally safe in her arms and I knew everyone was there to support me through this transformation. After the massage, Amber and Sandra came in and I can’t remember too much about the next few hours, as I was pretty blissed out from my time with Sharon. I know Amber started reiki treatments and everyone was just “with” me as I peacefully allowed my body to do this amazing work of opening.
Between all the massaging, reiki and sisterhood, I felt totally wonderful, still no pain at all, just mild pressure and cramping sensations. I wondered if I was even in labor, as surely there was more to it than this! Sharon just looked at me and said, “Don’t bring that, girl!” Right at 5am, Kelli finally arrived at the house. It’s interesting, but I was not worried about the midwife taking so long, and I’ve even said a couple of times that I think I just intuitively tried to hold steady where I was at since she was not there yet. Upon her arrival, she checked my progress & whispered that she was glad she was here because I was 8cm dilated. I got much more animated at this point, stoked that I was so far progressed, thrilled that I was really in labor and thus deserving of all the lavish treatment I had been receiving and excited to move onto the next stage of delivering the baby!
As my friends filled the birthing tub with hot water, my mood went from calm yet serious to a bit more playful. The waves grew steadily more intense, but I still would not have described them as painful. In between, we were all laughing and joking. At one point I glanced over to see my sisters doing a primitive birthing dance of their own. I felt so supported knowing they were helping to carry the energy and sharing solidarity with me.
Finally, after 16 easy hours, the waves got really intense, and I found myself vocalizing in deep primal tones, even roaring like a lion at one point, much to my own amusement. I was squatting in the tub during contractions, resting or swaying my hips in between and sucking down coconut water like nobodies business throughout these nine intense (but still not painful) pressure waves which spanned about 45 minutes.
I had read so much about the transition phase of labor, where women really lose it, and had to wrap my brain around the fact that I had skipped transition altogether – I had to ask Kelli twice if she thought I was fully dilated and ready to deliver my baby.
My water finally broke with a silent pop & I instinctively put one hand down below to feel what was going on. It was amazing to feel the baby’s head crowning & finally experience the legendary “ring of fire” – that hurt, but receded when the contraction ended. I supported my perinuem with my hand, thinking surely I had more time as it did not seem as my vagina had opened enough to let a baby come through! I was surprised when her head popped out, not only because I didn’t have to push, but also because oh-my-goddess! a babies head just popped out!
Kelli asked me to feel for a cord around her neck and as I touched my babies head for the first time it was indescribable how weird it was to have her wiggling around and discover that she had ears. I announced this fact with astonishment as she began to turn & ready herself for entry into this planet. I also remember we were supposed to call my mother & instructed someone to do this. She was actually parking her car out front when she got the call, sensing my time was close.
The next contraction slipped a beautiful being into the tub and everything was suspended in that moment as I first laid eyes on the love of my life, floating peacefully, eyes wide open, arms outstretched beneath me. I reached in & scooped her to my chest, instantly recognizing that my love for her had no beginning & no end. My midwife knew how important it was for me to catch my own baby, even though we had not discussed this prior, & I am forever empowered by my instinctive ability to do this unassisted and thankful for her wisdom and allowance. There I was in the balance of independence and interdependence: having done it on my own, supported wholly by my friends and family.
Maya Juniper Rose did not cry, but looked around like a wise old soul as we were allowed to bond for two hours before I finally cut the cord and Kelli did a thorough exam on both mama & baby. We toasted champagne in celebration, and I was grateful to crawl into my own bed and fall into restorative sleep with my little sidekick suckling contentedly at my breast.
Bear witness to Maya Juniper Rose’s homecoming yourself. A moving slideshow of the birth was captured by Cristy Nielsen.
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