It’s been over 1 year since I gave birth to Charlie. And finally, I’m finding the words to write about what I experienced. Processing the magic that happened that night felt too overwhelming in those first months. Especially as I was just trying to survive the fourth trimester. Then I was trying to survive working again while caring for a baby, and traveling.
I think I probably started to get my grove back around 10 months after giving birth. And finally, now I feel ready to share what happened during Charlie’s birth with you all.
Not all births go as planned…
But first, I just want to acknowledge that not everyone gets to have the birth they planned.
Birth trauma is a very real thing and quite frankly way more common than it should be thanks to the over-medicalization of birth and the culture of obstetric violence that is so commonplace in most hospitals.
If you are a mamma who experienced birth trauma, I see you, and I’m so sorry for your experience. Please know that I write this with no judgment for you or any other birthing person. You did everything you could to bring your baby into this world in the best and safest way you could.
Sadly the system often fails us and I truly hope you can find a way to deal with your trauma.
People say that the most important thing is that you have a healthy baby. But I call BS on that. YOU are important too. Of course, having a healthy baby is important. But that baby needs a mamma who is healthy and not feeling traumatized after giving birth. The fourth trimester is hard enough.
This wasn’t part of my plan
I did not plan to have a baby. Quite the opposite. I was a firm believer that I didn’t want to have a baby. I had no desire to be pregnant and even less desire to be a mother. At the age of 39, I was happy with my choice to live the life of a solo traveler and knew that even if I changed my mind at this point it would be very unlikely I could conceive anyway.
So to say I was shocked when I peed on a stick and saw 2 pink lines is the understatement of the year! After 20 minutes of googling what can cause a pregnancy test to show I was pregnant if I’m not pregnant, I’d pretty much convinced myself I in fact had cancer rather than a baby growing inside of me.
I wasn’t taking any chances so I dragged my friend with me down to the local laboratory to request a blood test… just to be totally sure.
After a did the test I packed my bag and headed off to meet Carlos (my boyfriend at the time). I was so sure it was all a false alarm that I didn’t mention anything to him. I figured I’d wait a few hours for the emailed results and then we could all have a good laugh about it.
So when I opened up the email to see a positive the ground was pulled from me. I ran out of the hotel door and pretty much collapsed on the floor (I always was one for dramatics, what can I say). He ran out after me and asked what was wrong, so I threw my phone at him (literally threw it) while I continued hyperventilating on the floor…
“Positivo? Positivo para que?”
And that’s how we found out we were going to have a baby haha. Carlos took it MUCH better than me. He was calm and steady. He comforted me and told me everything was going to be ok. And I quietly melted into him as I tried to get my head around the fact I was going to have a baby with a man I had only just met.
Because for me there was absolutely no doubt that I wanted to have this baby. And I wanted to have a baby with this man. Even though we had only just met, I know the universe had my back, and even if it wasn’t what I’d asked for, it was clearly what I needed….
Learning about birth
I’m a problem solver. So when things happen I generally don’t sit around and feel sorry for myself. I take action. And the action I decided to take was to read all the books I could about giving birth. Don’t ask me why I jumped straight to birth and skipped pregnancy. It was just instinctual. And I’m so grateful I did.
I read all the birthing books I could get my hands on. It was a real education. I’d like to tell you it put my mind at ease about giving birth. But in fact, it set fire to a rage in my stomach I’d not felt since I read The Beauty Myth in university for the first time and learned about the male gaze. I felt so angry that women were being treated like this during the most special and vulnerable time of their lives.
I could (and will) write an entire post about this later, so for now here are some bullet points to summarize what I learned:
- Birth has become over medicalized
- OBs don’t ever have even to see a natural birth during their training
- Obstetric violence is out of control and no one seems to care
- TV and Movies have been feeling us a fake picture of birth our entire lives
- Women are terrified of birth because of these dramatized images we have been watching our entire lives
- Women spend more time planning things like weddings and birthdays than they do their birth.
- We hand over all of our agency and power to doctors and midwives during birth as we trust that they know best. But more often than not they have their own agenda which isn’t always in our best interest.
- I am important in the birth. It’s my birthday too. The day I am reborn as a mother and it matters that I have a positive experience.
- The only way to have a positive birth experience is to educate myself and be able to advocate for myself in all situations. I have to keep my agency and trust my instincts.
- I must reprogram my brain from feeling fear to feeling excitement at the thought of birthing my baby.
- To have the positive birth experience I dreamed of I would need to do a lot of self-work to deal with my body issues and mentally prepare to completely surrender to the birthing experience.
I knew right away that I wanted an unmedicated home birth. Giving birth in a hospital wasn’t up for negotiation so long as the baby and I were healthy. If there were any issues then we would look at a plan B. And if during the birth anything didn’t feel right there was a plan in place to meet my Dr at the hospital.
Honestly, it’s a good job I’m a strong person because EVERYONE had an opinion about my plan to birth my baby at home. And 90% of people thought I was reckless/ crazy/ selfish/ mad/ clueless… I could go on. The number one thing women said to me about not wanting drugs (especially those who had children) was “just wait”. And I stubbornly said it right back to them. Yeah, just wait, I’ll show you all.
I was completely and utterly convinced that I could and would have my baby at home drug-free.
Not because it was some competition or because I wanted a prize for doing it.
Because I wanted to love my birth.
I wanted to feel completely connected to the experience and my baby.
I wanted to be in control. I wanted to come into my power.
Come into my motherhood.
Because I was important in this too and I knew if I did this. If I delivered my baby into this world surrounded by love and in a peaceful environment it would set us up on a positive trajectory for what was to come.
I didn’t want to come out of this experience traumatized, angry, resentful, and feeling abused.
So I had a very clear plan if I did need a C-section so that even if something went wrong I could still feel in control of the situation.
I didn’t just fill my head with positive birth stories.
I knew what to expect if things went wrong. But most of all, I knew I could do this and trusted my body and baby. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my body and my baby knew what to do. All I needed to do was to clear my mind and surrender to the process. To release and open to the beauty that is birthing. To embrace the transformation.
OK, that was a long introduction just to say I decided to have a home birth and I did a lot of work to prepare myself for it.
The Birth Story
The day before Charlie was born we went to the Dr for my 38-week check-up. This was the first internal exam I’d had. She told me my cervix was completely closed and tilted and this baby wasn’t going anywhere…
So the next morning I waved goodbye to my husband who was driving 5 hours to spend a day or so working away. His last trip before the baby. I went to the dentist, I went shopping, and was trying to work on my computer when the pains I’d been feeling all morning finally got too much for me to ignore.
So I asked Google “how do you know if you are in labor?”
Google told me that my surges would be 40 seconds long and consistent. I timed them and they were 40 seconds long… So I called the midwife who told me to monitor them over the next hour as they would probably slow down as it’s my first baby.
I honestly believed I’d have a 2-3 day-long labor. I pictured myself dancing to my birthing playlist, bouncing on my birthing ball, and going for walks to get things moving along.
So when after 1 hour my surges were a very constant 40 seconds long every 2.5 minutes I knew I was not going to get the slowly relaxed birth I wanted. It was going to be fast and furious and I needed to get mentally prepared.
I called my birthing team back and told them the news, I was in active labor. They told me to expect them in 3-4 hours…
I then called my husband and broke the news to him. It would take him 4.5-5 hours to get back to me.
My doula was going to be 2-3 hours…
So it was just me, my 19-year-old stepdaughter I’d only known a few weeks, and the Positive Birth Company’s Freya app! I took off my watch, turned my phone on airplane mode, and tuned in to my body.
I can honestly say that I don’t remember much of what happened over the next few hours.
I remember getting upset that I was alone and worried no one was going to get to me on time.
I remember crying for my husband.
I remember worrying as I was bleeding in between contractions.
I remember the pure release when Marisa my doula arrived and began trying to help me feel more comfortable (this was only her second birth).
When my midwives finally arrived they were pretty shocked at how far advanced things were. I think had they known they would have gotten to me faster. But at the time I was concerned about worrying my husband who was in the group chat.
I remember a heated pad on my back.
I remember the smell of lavender.
I remember having my feet massaged and my hips compressed.
I remember hearing buckets of water sloshing as everyone tried to fill up the birthing pool.
I remember roaring and groaning.
How good it felt to release all that energy through my voice.
I do not remember any pain. Just pressure.
The feeling that I was on a runaway train that I couldn’t stop.
Oh, how I wanted to slow everything down, just for a moment. Just so I could catch my breath.
But there was no slowing down. There was no pause.
I changed my clothes 3 times before deciding I didn’t want anything on my body. Clothes were just getting in my way. So I was naked.
A roaring, groaning, wild, naked, birthing woman.
“I can do anything for 1 minute”
“My baby and my body know what to do”
“I can do hard things”
Over and over
I first noticed I was in labor at 4 pm.
The birthing team was with me by 8 pm.
Carlos arrived home at 9:50 pm.
I took one look at him. My water broke and I went into what I now know was transition.
Finally, I could take a breath.
Finally, things slowed down a fraction.
I sat on the toilet, naked, tired, powerful, and vulnerable.
One of my midwives asked if she could take a look between my legs. I obliged and when I heard her ask for gloves I knew it was time to move… I was not going to have my baby on the toilet!
Get me into the pool.
I didn’t need to push. My body knew what to do, so bared down and let it. I reached and felt Charlie’s head in my hands.
OMG I have my baby’s head in my hands.
And that was it, it was like the lights came on and everything stopped. No more surges. So I asked what I should do because I have his head. My midwife didn’t believe me so she looked down and saw for herself.
Yup, that’s a head.
“If the next surge doesn’t come then when you feel ready push”
So I did.
On the second push I reached down and pulled my baby out while screaming at myself to “COME ONNNNNN” ( I only know this as I heard it on the video haha).
And that was it. Charlie arrived at 10:15. Just 20 minutes after Carlos arrived home. I was determined to wait for him to get home. I was helped to bed and the birthing team stuck around for a few hours to monitor us and make sure we were all doing well.
Was it the birth I planned?
Absolutely not, nothing went to plan. Does it ever? But I loved giving birth. I felt like a F*** Goddess. I felt powerful and like I could do anything.
I wish more women could experience this.
If I’m honest, I almost feel bad sharing my positive birth because I feel like almost everyone I know has had some kind of birth trauma. But it’s important for women to know that it IS possible to have a beautiful pain-free birth at home (even if you are 40 years old and it’s your first baby).
So I hope this serves as inspiration for some.
And to all the mamas out there who have suffered birthing trauma. I see you, and I’m so sorry for your experience and that you were let down by those trying to help you.
One of the most important postpartum things I did was a ceremony to mark the end of the birth. I was able to talk through everything that happened and it really helped me to come to terms with what happened (because it was so fast). You can do this whether you gave birth 2 weeks ago or 20 years ago.