I had a wonderful, incredible pregnancy with my son. We had a powerful connection while he was in utero that I was able to strengthen with yoga, mediation, and walks in the woods. During our "communications" my son guided me to the way he'd prefer to be born -- alone with only me and my husband, Graeme. I can truly attest that this was his idea, as it's something I had never contemplated before becoming pregnant. Many times throughout my pregnancy, I thought I was absolutely crazy to even consider having unassisted childbirth, but my son proved to be a very persuasive soul, convincing not only me, but my reluctant husband. Whenever my confidence floundered I would repeat a line I had heard in a movie, "Faith is believing in something even when common sense tells you not to," and I would find comfort.
I found my journey to unassisted childbirth to be the most powerful, freeing, and empowering experience that I have ever had. Once I commited myself fully to freebirthing my son, I learned his name in a dream. I had asked him one night before I went to bed to tell me what he'd liked to be named when he came earthside and all night I heard "ChristoFinn, ChristoFinn, ChristoFinn" whispered in my ear and saw the name printed out on a chalkboard that said "Finn for short." It was so vivid it woke me up and I was absolutely giddy. I told Graeme the next day and we smiled at each other. Although we'd never heard the name before, it seemed strangely familiar.
I spent the rest of my pregnancy getting in my best emotional and physical shape. I dedicated myself to my daily meditations and gentle yoga sessions. I also wrote frequently in my journal to help alleviate any fears, worries, or self-doubt. I wrote a list of 24 "Belief Statements" about my impending labor that I would read daily, among them that "My baby and I are fully deserving and capable of a gentle, blissful, and pain-free birth," and "My baby will come out healthy, breathing, and maybe even smiling."
When it came time to birth my baby, I felt ready. The only sign I had of impending labor was a dream the previous night of a newspaper heading reading "IT'S TIME!" And indeed it was.
I woke up at 7:00am that morning to what I thought might be gas bubbles. But after I went to the bathroom and my "bubbles" still hadn't dissipated, I started thinking differently. When Graeme awoke I told him I didn't think I wanted him to go to his clients' houses that day and he looked at me expectantly and said "Really?" We were both very excited.
I ate a healthy breakfast and Graeme helped me pick up the house. Around 9:30am my contractions were getting too strong to ignore -- Graeme and I were both sure this baby would be there by noon. One of my belief statements was that I would have a short, effective labor of only 5-7 hours, so that's what I had myself geared up for. Graeme and I were having a lot of fun joking and laughing. We made love and it was incredibly intense and sensual. I was thinking that this labor-childbirth-thing was a piece of cake!
I set myself up in the bathroom because I knew that's where I'd feel the most comfortable. Graeme was right there with me rubbing my back and trying to make me laugh. My contractions, however, didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to them. They all seemed strong, but they weren't getting any closer together. At times, they seemed to be getting farther apart. Five hours went by, and then seven. I was already exhausted and realized I had closed myself off by giving my labor a deadline. Once 7 hours passed I stopped keeping track.
It was also around then that I noticed I would have the best contractions whenever Graeme would leave the room. We both realized this and reasoned that he was actually doing too good a job of relaxing me. He would breathe with me through my contractions, and be very gentle and loving with his touch, but it seemed to be slowing me down. I told him then that I wanted to try laboring on my own for awhile and he agreed.
Graeme (who really had been very reluctant about freebirthing) surprised himself by remaining amazingly calm and peaceful throughout my labor. He let me labor alone while he watched movies, worked on his website, and even took a couple of naps. He would check on me frequently, but it was obvious to both of us that I was making more progress on my own.
I had moved to the toilet to labor, thinking this was the most natural position to relax my muscles and open myself up. My contractions kept building in strength, but I really couldn't tell how effective they were. I had long ago stopped keeping track of the time, but I noticed that it had gotten dark outside. Soon the only light I had in the bathroom were the 3 candles I had lit and a small stain-glassed turtle lamp (I had discovered after recovering from my second miscarriage that Turtles were a potent symbol of Motherhood and Protection, and I had decorated my bathroom with turtles to prepare for this birth).
I was getting very tired and at times frustrated. I kept thinking I had some psychological block that was keeping me from birthing my baby. I simply tried letting everything go with my breath. While I wouldn't say my contractions were painful, I also wouldn't say they were just "intense sensations that required my whole attention" as I'd heard before. And they weren't anywhere near "blissful" as I'd been hoping. They were strong and they were very tiring. I tried lying down on the bathroom floor a couple of times when I so badly needed a break, but that position didn't work for me at all. The only way I felt comfortable was on the toilet, so on the toilet I stayed, sighing loud and low with each contraction. When the contractions would prove to be too much and too close together, I'd ask the Universe for a break "even if it meant delaying labor" and I would get a much-needed respite.
I remember at one point being intensely thankful that I didn't have a midwife or doctor with me, because even though I wasn't keeping track of the time, I knew I must be taking long enough that a "professional" would most likely suggest something to "speed things up." I was so grateful there was no one there monitoring me or subconsciously pressuring me.
I alternated between too hot and too cold, and even though I was sweating I was also shivering. I had a baby blanket over my lap that I kept removing and replacing. I couldn't eat anything except a few grapes but I made sure to drink water after each intense contraction and I know that helped a lot.
Eventually my strong and tiring contractions gave way to something different -- overwhelming, body-rocking contractions, that made my body involuntarily push. WOW! This was incredible! My breathing became louder and lower as I felt all the energy of the universe coursing through my body. Now we were getting somewhere! This was a welcome change from my other contractions, because even though they were more powerful, I could tell how effective they were. I can indeed say that these awe-inspiring contractions felt wonderful!
Graeme checked in on me as he had heard my breathing change and I said to him "It's getting so close." He must have checked in on me 10 more times and each time I said the same thing "It's getting so close." After probably 2 hours of "it's getting so close" I said to myself "It's time to be a momma to this baby. Get him out!" I repeated that a couple of times and I could feel my baby move down. As I felt him moving down I said "Okay, baby, when I feel you crowning I'm getting off the toilet."
And then he started crowning. I immediately got off the toilet into a kneeling position. As his head started coming out I felt a burn strong enough to make me catch my breath, but it wasn't a "ring of fire" by any means. I grabbed the towel rack with the next contraction and subsequently pulled it out of the wall. Ah, the power of birth! My husband came in when he heard the crash and I announced "He's coming out!" Graeme offered to hold me up but I told him I was fine, so he sat down next to me and just watched.
I reached down and to my surprise I could feel my baby's head. It was soft and wet and wonderful! "I can feel his head!" I laughed and my baby wiggled which made me laugh some more. I gave a push and he came out a bit more, I touched him again and again there was wiggling and laughter. I then said "Okay, baby, time to get you out!" I pushed and immediately felt him coming out, "do you want to catch him?" I asked Graeme, but he wasn't fast enough and my baby landed softly in a pile of blankets just an inch below me.
He immediately started crying (in keeping with our deal to let me know he was breathing). I picked him up and laughed "It's a boy! It's ChristoFinn!" Graeme beamed at me and agreed "It is ChristoFinn." I layed him gently on my forearm so he could drain anything that might need draining and then put him to my chest. Our whole bathroom was lit up in magic. "We did it!" I kept exclaiming and laughing, "We did it." Our baby had stopped crying and was looking around, and then my husband saw it first, Finn smiled at us...
This would be a perfect place to end his birth story, but there's so much more.
I thought our baby would be there before noon, instead Finn was born 2 minutes before midnight. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. I learned so much more about myself in a 17 hour labor, than I most likely would have in a 7 hour labor. Graeme asked to take pictures directly after the birth and of course I said yes. He took wonderful pictures of us, me still kneeling with Finn to my chest, covered in blood and birth. It was beauty in its most raw and perfect state. Graeme said he'd never seen me look like that before, like a goddess-- a Turtle Goddess. He tells people my eyes have been changed forever.
The placenta still hadn't come out, but we decided to move to the bedroom where we'd all be more comfortable, so we maneuvered very carefully to a new spot on the bedroom floor. There we just sat and stared at this new, beautiful being, who's eyes were too wide and alert for a newborn. Finn didn't want to nurse, he just wanted to stare at us as much as we wanted to stare at him. I'll never forget our first bonding.
Two hours later, the placenta still showed no signs of coming out but we were ready to cut the cord. It had long ago stopped pulsing so we asked Finn's permission to cut it. We believe he said it was fine, so we did. There was a bit of blood but he didn't seemed bothered by it. I really wanted the placenta out, but didn't welcome the thought of any more contractions, so I squatted over a bowl and pinched my nipple very hard and whoosh! Out it came in one fell swoop! Whoo-hoo, I was free!
I cut off tiny bits of the placenta and swallowed them whole, knowing this would help me heal. Then the three of us -- a new family-- worked our way to the kitchen where we had the best meal of pancakes and bacon. Food had never tasted so good!
The next three days we were all on an incredible natural high. Everything was steeped in magic as if we'd entered another dimension. Our bonding had been so intense that it was impossible to tell where one of us ended and the other began. I would look in the mirror and see Finn's image. Graeme would look at his hands and see his son's hands. When I dreamed, I dreamed Finn's dreams in black and white. We slept, ate, and breathed one another. If I could relive those first few days over and over again, oh, I would.
While our birthing experience was perfect and wonderful, I would be doing birthing women a disservice if I didn't mention my difficult recovery. As prepared as I was for birth, I was totally unprepared for how I would feel afterwards. I'd read too many accounts of how women rarely tear during unassisted childbirth, and how recovery was usually so much faster, that I didn't honor how much time MY body would need to heal.
I literally had to crawl up and down the stairs for two days. Putting on pajama bottoms was challenging and I desperately wished for a nightgown. It didn't burn when I urinated, so I falsely assumed that my perineum had stayed intact, and I didn't take it as easy as I should have. Still, I started to gradually feel better every day so I started doing more and more.
Four weeks postpartum I started taking Finn on long walks. Five weeks postpartum I started running. I didn't think this was unreasonable as I heard stories of women returning to the gym within a week of childbirth, and of course I'd read those stories of tribal women going to work in the fields 20 minutes after giving birth. But this level of activity was unreasonable for me. I'd bleed a bit after a day of too much activity which would make me take a week off or so, but then I would resume and it became a continuous cycle, until at 4 months postpartum I could barely walk, or even sit without being in incredible pain.
I swallowed my pride and went to see my midwife (who I had stopped seeing midway through my pregnancy after I informed her of my plan to birth unassisted).
It turns out I had a second degree tear that had started healing nicely by itself, until I started doing too much too soon. Ironically, my midwife said "You listened to those stories of women going to the fields 20 minutes after birth didn't you? Well, what they don't tell you is that those are the women who hemorrhage and have the most difficulties." I was humbled. She sealed me up with silver nitrate -- which is not a fun procedure in the least! -- but thankfully, it did the trick.
In retrospect, I think I most likely tore after my baby had crowned. I was so anxious to get him out the rest of the way, that I think I rushed my body. I have no regrets, though, as it's all been a learning experience.
Incidentally, 21 out of my 24 "Belief Statements" came true. The three that didn't were all time-related -- how long my labor would be, how long it would take my placenta to deliver, and how long it would take me to recover-- teaching me that the concept of time doesn't matter in the whole big, beautiful scheme of things.
ChristoFinn teaches this to me every day as I cherish each moment we spend together....
Spirit Baby Intuitive (and really cool chick)
oh, and I love how ChristoFinn sounds- it is really a unique name!
It's interesting to me what you wrote about tearing. I thought I didn't tear either, because I didn't burn when urinating. I have examined my perineum over and over and I can't see anything different, yet something is different. I'm sure that doesn't make much sense, but that's how I feel. I didn't tear with my first (midwife-assisted homebirth), so I suppose I'm more likely than many to have stayed intact. I don't have any pain, though, so I suppose everything is fine. I'm 2 weeks pp now. In any case, I just thought that was interesting.
Babs + Curtis - Parents of Tempest (08/07/03 ), Jericho (11/01/05 ), Xan (10/03/06 ), Zephyra (06/02/11 ). @ babyslime.livejournal.com
So sorry that you had problems with recovery though. And I had a 2nd degree tear too, so don't feel that you are alone in that regard!
I too felt the days after my babys' being born were so magical, there truelly are no words to describe it (but you did a good job). thank you for sharing!!~Chandi
Spirit Baby Intuitive (and really cool chick)
oh, and you also inspired me to do a big ol painting of a turtle to put up by my birth pool. I've been trying to think of something to paint and have been having a hard time deciding. After reading that turtles are potent symbols of motherhood and protection, it was very clear that THAT is what I'm going to paint. Thanks mama!!
Creating Art. Living life on Guam. Sharing my Journey.
Spirit Baby Intuitive (and really cool chick)
Trusting your body trusting your beautiful baby boy.
Thank you. Blessings to you and your family.
Blessings to you Mama and family - beautiful!