Abraham’s Arrival: Learning to Trust and Beleive
Strangely enough Abraham’s birth story began many years before he was even conceived. His birth was not a moment in time. Rather it was a process; a process of discovery, of healing, of desire, and of joy. I am exceptionally thankful for the impact that process has had on me as a mother and as a woman.
When we found out we were expecting our second child, our first baby was 16 months old. His birth still resonated strongly in my heart and in my mind. I knew I wanted a different experience this time. I knew how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel empowered. I wanted to feel strong and capable. I wanted to feel connected to the generations of women past and present who believed in the amazing capabilities of the female body. Essentially, I wanted to feel; to experience and embrace the full sensations of birth without interference from a health care provider, birth attendant, medical intervention or the like.
The experiences with my firstborn left me feeling rather vulnerable. It was as if I needed to protect myself and this baby from the pervasive, unfounded fears that typically surround pregnancy and childbirth. I turned inward to reflect upon my desires for this birth.
Free from external measurements, I embraced pregnancy wholeheartedly. I became the authority on my body and my baby. It was a truly liberating experience not having prenatal care. I felt a special connection to my baby because I had to be more attune to both of us. Slowly over the course of the pregnancy I began to trust in nature’s perfect design for pregnancy and birth.
I loved being pregnant and I welcomed my growing belly; it made me feel beautiful. Carrying a child in my womb gave me a new purpose.
At 33 weeks gestation the answers unfolded as we selected a kind and gentle midwife team to attend our baby’s birth. Ironically we had initiated prenatal care with them at almost the same time during my pregnancy with Jeremiah. While that may appear a confusing choice, (after all if I was unsatisfied with my first birth experience, why would I select the same birth attendants?) I felt completely confident it was the perfect choice. I knew I brought a different dynamic with me this time. I believed this force within me was the missing piece of the puzzle during Jeremiah’s birth.
During one of our initial visits, the midwife asked me what I wanted from prenatal care. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect question from a care provider. From the start she empowered us to make choices and lead the way in this journey. Her sudden presence at the end of my pregnancy did not interfere with the connectedness I had developed with my body/baby (something I was afraid of in choosing a care provider). Actually quite the opposite; her support and belief in us only strengthened the existing bond between a mother and her unborn child. There were many people I kept at bay during this pregnancy, but I let her into that intimate space within my soul. I trusted her because she trusted birth.
My subconscious mind knew there was a baby growing in my womb and it told me so in a dream. I had a dream that I gave birth to a baby at home after a relatively easy 6 hour labor. I believe that dream allowed me to cultivate the birth I desired and prepared me for a journey of openness and discovery during the months that ensued. About a week after having that dream, I took a home pregnancy test to confirm what my subconscious already knew; I was carrying a new life inside me.
There were a few important, perhaps seemingly subtle, but ultimately monumental differences during my second pregnancy. Rather than attach to a calculated due date, I anticipated a due “time”. I understood that baby would arrive at the perfect time and I completely let go of any expectations around baby’s birth date. From 28 weeks on I practiced daily meditations. This was a little space in my day devoted to me and baby. It was our time to bond, to connect, to communicate, and to develop trust with one another. In doing so, I revealed the benefits of mindfully and intentionally focusing on our unborn child’s existing presence in our lives. It was through these daily meditations that I grew surprisingly excited about giving birth. I began to look at it as an opportunity. A rare opportunity to be my true self by tapping into the inner strength and wisdom I innately possessed but rarely used. Labor wasn’t something to get through; it was something to be revered.
Thursday night I experienced irregular contractions through the night. I listened to my pregnancy affirmations CD to keep relaxed so I could sleep. I did not want approach labor feeling tired. Friday morning Buzz questioned if he should stay home, but I sent him to work. I knew that I still had some time before baby would make his/her arrival. Additionally I wanted time alone with Jeremiah before he became a big brother. I wanted to savor our final time together with him as my only.
We went about our day staying busy cooking meals to freeze, cleaning the house, and simply enjoying one another. We took a long, peaceful nap together. I experienced mild contractions on and off throughout the day. I would stop to notice them, but then continue on with whatever is was I was doing. Buzz checked in with me on the phone frequently throughout the day. Without me explicitly saying so, he understood the baby would be arriving soon.
Later that afternoon (2:00ish) things started to pick up in intensity. Jeremiah was still sleeping and I was outside cleaning up the yard. The contractions were starting to take more and more of my attention. I decided to call Buzz to ask him to come home.
A short time later Jeremiah woke up. By that time I was experiencing more regular contractions and actively working with them by squatting, rocking, and swaying. Jeremiah followed me around the house and imitated what I was doing. He kept asking me “what are you doing momma?” And I would say “I’m getting ready to push the baby out”. As much as I cherished this private time we had together, I was thankful when Buzz got home because it was getting harder for me to take care of Jeremiah as labor progressed.
Buzz called the midwife when he arrived home (4:00ish). She asked him if they should come over. Buzz called to me as I rocked on my hands and knees during a contraction “Do you want them to come over?” That is when I started to cry. I realized it was time: time to birth our baby. This evoked an extraordinary emotional response from me. Through my tears, I simply nodded “yes”. These tears did not carry sadness, excitement, fear, joy, or any other label I could attach to them; rather they were pure, raw…almost reflexive in nature. They felt good. I let them flow and they stopped nearly as quickly as they had started. It was as though I had to release something in order to really focus on the amazing work my body was about to do. That is when I felt like active labor started.
While I labored alone in the bedroom, Jeremiah followed Buzz around as he filled up the pool, made the bed, and whatever else he did to get things ready. I laid on the bed in the dark softly humming to myself. This lasted for a while until I decided I wanted to take a shower. The water running over my body was soothing and I stayed there for quite some time, almost motionless except for my deep breaths. However I eventually started to feel overly restricted in the shower and needed to move. I returned to the bed; laying in a fetal position in between contractions and on all four during contractions.
By this time the midwives had arrived (5:30ish). They eased in quietly, carefully, and respectfully. They knew this was my birthing space and they protected it, even from their own presence.
I was ready to get into the water and the water was ready for me in parallel timing. As I had suspected would be the case, Jeremiah wanted to get into the water with me and I was fine with it. Actually I loved and cherished that special time we had together. It is my last memory of him as my only baby. Jack Johnson was playing softly in the background while I swayed in the water. Jeremiah thought I was dancing and was saying “dancing momma, dancing”. He asked me to dance with him. We danced together for a while, until I needed him out of the tub. Buzz got Jeremiah out of the pool, dried, dressed, and comfy with a snack and movie in the bedroom while I continued to labor in the water.
After a while I decided my body needed some upright movement. I got out of the tub, but still craving the soothing power of water I went into the shower again. I swayed in the shower signing lullabies to my baby. I sang loudly without any apprehensions. Eventually Buzz came into the bathroom and warned me we would run out of hot water soon. I definitely did not want that to happen so I got out of the shower and back into the pool. As I walked back into the front room I noticed the midwives sitting on the couch. I thought to myself “Gee they are probably bored. There really isn’t anything for them to do except sit there. Maybe I should tell them to go home and come back when I am further along?”. That thought lasted only a second or two because the very next thought was “I don’t really care what they do or need. I’m busy”. That was when I realized birth was imminent; when I was able to let go of the propensity I have to take care of everyone else around me. I allowed my own needs to be the priority. I asked my midwife what time she thought the baby would be born. I think she understood what I needed to hear because her brilliant response was “Your baby will come at the perfect time”.
Things intensified and I become more vocal. My noises; low, deep grunts, drew Jeremiah out of the bedroom full of curiosity. As he watched me he played with his Thomas train along the couch singing ‘Thomas, Thomas, Thomas”. Contrary to what one might assume, his presence was very calming to me. I believe he provided an important strength and love that was very beneficial to the birthing process. His ability to joyfully play with his beloved train while I gave birth offered an acute awareness that what was happening was perfectly natural. It was cyclical relationship. The energy in the room indicated what I was doing was fine so he accepted it as fine, thus acted normally, which in turn sent a positive message to me that everything was fine.
I asked Buzz to talk to me. I just needed to hear his voice. He quietly told me a story about a perfectly beautiful snowy day in the mountains. As he spoke he lovingly stroked my back and arms. His voice, his words, and his touch were especially comforting.
I expressed feeling scared. The midwife said to me “It’s okay to feel afraid”. I repeated that to myself aloud a few times. As I entered transition I used a great deal of self-talk as I repeated the various labor/birth affirmations I had reflected upon throughout my pregnancy. I told myself aloud and internally…I CAN do this. I AM doing this. This is what I want. Everything that I am feeling is important and purposeful.
Rather suddenly, I felt the urge to push. It almost took me by surprise how powerful it was. When I felt that raging sensation, I worked with it. I pushed and grunted. No one told me what to do. No one needed to because my body knew. I stayed on my hands and knees in the water to push. Buzz was behind me ready to catch our baby. One midwife sat near him while the other sat near my head. Jeremiah stayed near daddy to watch the baby ease out of my body.
In between contractions I felt ecstatic, almost euphoric. As baby crowned I looked up at the midwife with a wide smile. I felt as though laughter echoed throughout my whole body. “The baby is coming!” I exclaimed, “The baby is going to be born at home!” She smiled right back at me. Her smiling face was kind and encouraging.
As I pushed my baby out, my bag of water broke open. Buzz caught our baby in his very own hands, with a little help from big brother, Jeremiah.
Immediately after baby emerged, the midwives helped me turn over and Buzz passed the baby to me. Some people refer to the moments after birth as “meeting your baby”. But to me it felt like reuniting.
As I sat there in the water, holding my baby for the first time, it was as if time stood still; as though we were the only two people in the room. I was aware of the presence of my husband, my firstborn, and the midwives, but it felt like they were observing us through a glass window…peering in, with great admiration for the infinite love they witnessed unfolding before them.
There was no rush. We could stay in this moment for as long as we wanted to. No one was going to take my baby from my arms or hurry me along. I would decide when I was ready to move on. And so we stayed there for a while: the two of us, in our own private world, bonding as only a mother and newborn are capable of. I inhaled every feature of my baby’s face, scent, skin, and body. I checked and announced we had a baby boy. The midwives asked permission to check our newborn son. Ever so gently, as he laid across my chest, they took his vitals.
I started to feel cold and wanted to move into the bedroom to snuggle up in our bed. They carefully helped us out of the pool, as baby was still attached to the placenta which I had not birthed yet. In the bedroom I had a few more contractions and pushed out the placenta. The midwives wrapped it up and set it next to me and baby. I put baby to my breast to nurse him for the first time. I found his cord to be somewhat interfering with my ability to comfortably hold him to my breast and asked to cut it. Together the midwife and Buzz cut the umbilical cord. It was a sensitive moment for me, as we will never again be attached in that way. Although I knew we would discover and develop a different kind of attachment throughout the journey ahead of us.
The shedding, the unleashing that occurs during an unmedicated, unmanaged, unhibitied birth is transformative. First I experienced an emotional release, then a mental, and then a physical. In doing so, I was able to be fully present, on all levels (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually) for the birth of my Abraham. The sense of empowerment that I experienced during the course of his pregnancy and birth I have carried (and will continue to) with me into motherhood. He has taught me to trust my instincts, to follow my heart, to cultivate beliefs, and to embrace life.
Maxon’s Birth Story
It’s cloudy and rainy out. Luke is sleeping after a long night at work. So is my sweet Max who surprisingly decided to take a breather from nursing to catch a cat nap. This is a rarity around here lately, the boy loves his milk! So I’m sitting here in the quiet of my living room and I thought, “Hey, this is a great time to write our birth story.” So here goes…
It’s Sunday evening, Luke, my husband, had come off a twelve hour night shift that morning, so naturally he was passed out like a zombie by 9pm. We had been cuddling on the couch when he fell asleep and around 10 I told him we should move to the bed so he could get a good night’s rest (little did I know..). I wasn’t tired so I decided to edit and post the pictures we had taken that day of Baby W in the desert.
So there I was around 10:30pm, editing my little heart away, when I started feeling some weird Braxton Hicks contractions. A little cramping, didn’t think much of it. After all, I had been telling myself I’d go 41 weeks and 6 days and I was still 9 days away from my due date! I figured it was just some new aches and pains since I was getting closer to baby’s arrival. Extra practice, I thought. Then it kind of hit me that these contractions were happening pretty regularly and lasting about the same amount of time. Am I crazy? I thought. Maybe I should time a few to see if I’m crazy. Meanwhile, Luke has moved around a few times and I told him, “I’m having weird contractions. But I don’t think it’s anything.” I received a nice grunt and he dozed back off to sleep. (I don’t think he was really awake in the first place.) So after timing them for an hour or so I decided to text my midwife, Robin, who kindly told me it could be labor or could be nothing. She said to take a warm shower, try to sleep, and to text her if anything changed. So off I went with my “weird Braxton Hicks” to the shower. I stood in the shower thinking about my baby, swaying back and forth and singing him songs. All though I didn’t think I was in labor, (no bloody show, no water breaking), I still did what any self-respecting woman would do in my situation…shaved my legs!
I got out of the shower a half hour later and got back in bed, it was around 12:15 at this point and I kid you not the moment I laid down and tried to close my eyes, BOOM. That hurt, that didn’t feel like the other contractions. A minute of pain and then two minutes of wondering what the heck this was all about and BOOM, another one. Okay, time to wake Luke up for real, this is weird. “Babe. Baaa-aabe. Can you wake up? These Braxton Hicks are getting more intense. Luke. Lukas! Luke, I think we could maybe have a baby tonight!” He heard that last part and one bloodshot eye went wide and he said “WHAAAT?” I asked him to get up and time a few with me. A shot of adrenaline must have gone threw him because he was up and ready to go. He started trying to download a contraction counter app on his phone when I told him I already had one and had been keeping track for the last few hours. He then scolded me for not waking him up, and I innocently told him I thought they’d go away. That I didn’t think it was anything and then reassured him that it probably still isn’t anything and they will taper off and we’ll be back to sleep in no time. (Famous last words.) I bounced on my birth ball and Luke sat on the bed with a pad of paper titled “Baby Time.” I’m not sure what he was planning to write on there, but the poor man was sleep deprived so I didn’t tease him.
We timed contractions for a half hour or so and sure enough they were steady at a minute long, three minutes apart. So I texted my midwife and told her what was happening. She said to take a break from counting, see what happens, and to shoot her a text in an hour if nothing changed.
I went in the bathroom to put my hair up and of course Luke followed close behind. We both stood there smiling at each other and giggling like little school girls as we wondered if this was the real deal. He took a few pictures of my belly and we moved to the living room, birthing ball in tow.
The next two hours were steady contractions. I was on my knees, resting my arms on my birthing ball for hours that felt like minutes. We had one light on in the apartment. It was so cozy and calm. With each contraction Luke would press on my hips and breathe deeply with me. His poor arms were shaking but he never stopped. This might sound crazy, but after five hours of labor, three of which were active labor, I still didn’t believe this was it. At about 3:30 my midwife asked if I’d like for her to come over. I said, if you can tell me from your house that I’m definitely in labor than you can stay there. She told me this was it and I was relieved that the discomfort I was experiencing wasn’t meaningless. I was able to welcome the contractions, knowing each one was bringing my baby closer to being my arms, rather than fight them. My midwife told me to let her know if I needed her sooner but that she would definitely come over at 7am to check on me. An hour later I texted her to let her know it was time for her and Laura, our midwife in training, to come over.
Laura got to us first and when she came I was in the shower, aka heaven. I was in my signature position, hands and knees. Luke was sitting on the edge of the tub and I was resting my head on his leg. He rubbed my back and reminded me to drink water. When Laura came I got out of the shower, I wanted to save hot water for the birth pool.
Robin came shortly after Laura, I think it was about 5:30. I started asking about the birth pool and when we should set it up. My instincts were telling me I was close but being a first time mom, I kept telling myself not to think that incase I was still a long ways away. Robin suggested they check to see how dilated I was to see if it was time for the pool yet. I said that was fine but for reasons I don’t remember they couldn’t tell where I was at and encouraged me to just keep doing what I was doing. They could feel his head so they knew things were progressing fine. I trusted them and didn’t really care to know how close I was. I was in the zone and didn’t want to be distracted by numbers anyway.
This is where things start to get a little hazy for me. The contractions were getting more intense and I didn’t spend much time out of my birthing mindset. I know Luke put towels under my knees because they were not only in pain but also getting rug burn (my sweet man). I know I went back in the shower at some point because it was just too enticing. I know I kept asking about the pool. I know Luke went to fill it up and Laura took his spot while I was in the shower. I know getting in the shower is both great and terrible; because eventually you have to get out and that is daunting. I know I wanted that birth pool and I wanted it to be warm so I got out of the shower. But I don’t know the timing of any of this. You’ll have to ask someone that wasn’t in the process of birthing a baby.
I went back into the living room and the pool had been aired up but no water yet. I started feeling nauseous and went back in the bathroom, being close to the toilet made me feel better. I sat on the floor straddling the bowl. Laura put peppermint in the toilet water which was amazing, With each contraction I was on my knees, arms resting on the rim, Laura rubbing my back and quietly encouraging me. This is when the moaning started. This is also when Luke started coming in and out of the bathroom nonstop to check on me. You see, he was frantically trying to figure out how to turn the water in our apartment off and attach the hose so we could fill up the pool. Every time he came to check on me I’d ask about the pool. I was OBSESSED. That’s honestly all I cared about. I knew things weren’t going as planned out there but I was no help seeing as I was having what felt like a million contractions a minute! I remember saying to Laura that we should have figured out the water situation before I went into labor and she said with a smile “Don’t worry about it, you live and you learn.” She was trying to keep me focused, I think, and didn’t want me dwelling on the panic that was happening outside the bathroom door. I remember thinking, I can’t have this baby in air! I need that water! Maybe I could get in our tub, but that won’t work because I won’t be covered if I keep this hands and knees thing up.
I also remember the moment Luke got the water shut off because the water in the toilet bowl started doing weird things and I told Laura that seemed like a good sign! It was a glimmer of hope. Then I heard the water hitting the pool and I was so relieved. About the time the water got figured out I got louder. It’s like my body was waiting for that pool. Laura asked me to tell her if I started feeling like I could push and I responded with, “I’m feeling like I could push” and asked if I could get in the pool now. She quickly went out and told Robin who gave me the ok to get in the pool.
I went into the living room where the pool was, I remember the sun was up and I couldn’t believe it was morning already! I put my foot in the pool expecting it to be cold and it was so perfectly warm. From the moment I got in the pool until my baby was born, I don’t think I opened my eyes. I was hit with wave after wave of contractions, the pushing kind of contractions. And let’s just say I about lost my voice and had a sore throat when all was said and done. Probably made a few neighbors contemplate whether or not they should call the police.
I was on my knees, arms hanging over the side of the pool, Luke sitting on the floor right in front of me. He was encouraging me, crying, apologizing for not being able to be by my side the entire time, telling me he was so proud of me, that I could do this, that he loved me so much. I would gasp for air in between contractions and tell him I loved him too. That’s about all I could get out. After pushing for I have no idea how long, my midwives told me I could reach down and feel his head, so I did and I thought, that’s it?? A few more pushes later they told me to feel again and see how much progress I had made. Again, I thought, that’s it?? It felt the same to me! I remember looking at them and saying, “please tell me I’m close!” They encouraged me and said I was and I was doing so amazing. So I shifted my focus back to making the most of every push. My water broke while I was in the pool. I started feeling that burning everyone talks about. I was happy to feel it because I knew he was really close. I don’t know how long I was pushing for but I do know that the best, most relieving, feeling in the world is when you finally get that head out. Hallelujah! Laura told me with the next push his body would come out and she would push him forward into my arms. I asked Luke to get in the pool and sit behind me.
The next contraction came and Luke caught our son, pushed him forward into my arms, I grabbed him and leaned back into Luke’s arms and we held each other; all three of us. It was 8:06am. I told my baby he did such a good job, that he was so cute, and that I couldn’t believe how much hair he had. I kissed my husband who had tears in his eyes as he looked at this little person God created from the two of us. Our boy came out absolutely perfect. Clean, bright eyed, and looking just like his daddy. He cried once to clear his lungs and then was completely calm and content in our arms. We stayed like that as long as we could. Those were truly the most beautiful moments of my life.
Maxson’s birth is something I will cherish forever. Something I won’t soon forget. Something I’m grateful to have been a part of.
Being able to have my son safely at home, surrounded by people I trust and love dearly, is one of the best things I’ll ever experience. I wouldn’t change a thing and I couldn’t have done it without Luke, Robin, and Laura. I’m thankful to all three of you for caring for me throughout my pregnancy, for encouraging me through the fear of the unknown and giving me the strength to follow through with having Max at home. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way. Thank you for your prayers, your kindness, your patience, and your beautiful hearts. You three are irreplaceable in my heart and I’m so thankful for you.