(“My Mama’s a Birth Warrior” T-shirt gifted to Indi by Brooke – a Birthing From Within tee)
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare.
Of course it was fitting that Indi bring our lives full circle by being born a “sitting warrior”; another breech baby.
In all my months of wondering about her presentation, it hadn’t really occurred to me that Indi may indeed choose to be born breech so that what was started two years ago could be finished; that I could indeed be validated, knowing I could “do it”, that my body could birth a baby in this way, that a baby could birth itself in this way. Of course! It took her birth for me to recognize this.
Oh such beautiful fate!
Disclaimer #1: Beware: The story is long! It will also most likely be revised after I get the edited version of the birth video back from my doula (who graciously offered to edit it with music, still photos, etc!). I will recheck my memory and times against the video and probably make slight changes to those types of details. If you know me, you know that I always have more words!
Disclaimer #2: I am embarrassingly aware of the fact that this story changes tenses often (sometimes more than once in the same sentence). I wanted to get it written quickly and so it happened. My apologies up front; I know it’s terrible but I hope you can deal with it. I’m simply too lazy at this time to re-edit!
Disclaimer #3: “How do I say this? How do I tell our story?” This is a question I’ve been asking myself since I first knew I was pregnant. I knew I would have to be delicate with this birth story, simply because I was choosing another homebirth after I’d had a Caesarean. A “VBAC”, they call me (or technically an “HBAC” – Home Birth After Caesarean). If this birth was going to be attended by any professional then I was going to be choosing an “illegal” birth, according to AZ law. “Was there any professional who would even consider taking me on anyways??” I felt it best to just go the “unassisted birth” route.
On one hand, I took the acronym of VBAC very seriously and was proud of it; proud that I’d being joining the rankings of so many women who birthed victoriously the way their body had intended, who in doing so had hopefully healed some wounds and reclaimed a sense of empowerment and closure. On the other hand, it is just an acronym; why should I let that define me? I was more than just a surgery, an instance of a knife against my womb. I was more than the sum of my birthing experience; certainly, my journey since Kaia’s birth had been just as profound. I was caught somewhere in the middle.
So, I had to decide if I wanted a professional there or not…The thought of unassisted – but supported – birth sounded right for us. Just a few people there to help guide us and love us, all the while remaining in the background for us to do our work and allowing for Jason to catch our baby.
And so, I will say I had a very “supported” birth; mostly quiet, private, and peaceful. I carefully selected individuals who I thought could support this birth and this process with wisdom and trust, holding sacred our space. Each of them brought something different, unique, and personal to the birth. For numerous reasons that need no elaboration, I will not refer to any names in this birth story. It’s just much easier that way.
Someday, I hope to be able to shout this story – and the birth stories of my future children – from the rooftops and mountaintops, into the blessed wind, to be carried on the rays of the goddess sun. For now, I will whisper it. May it echo, resound in the hearts of women who need to know they can “do it” their way.
VBAC, HBAC, HBBAC (term my friend Jeanette coined, Home Birth Breech After Caesarean) – the letters and terms don’t matter. What matters is simply the story and whatever lessons choose to unfold themselves within it.
Summer Solstice, June 21, 2007
I manage to have the house tidied; all of the laundry finished, and things organized the way I had planned. Even a shipment of cloth diapers arrive and I somehow find a way to get them washed (three times!) and put up. I’ve spent the day with my girl, Kaia. Late in the afternoon, we dance together to the primal drum beats of Babatunde, her donning just a diaper. Together, we giggle and smile. And when she sleeps, I sneak outside to bask in the warmth of the Summer Solstice heat, my belly exposed and my mind wandering.
My Mother-in-Law and Jason’s Grandma arrive to mop the floors, one of the final tasks on my to-do list. My home feels clean and ready. Jason’s sister and her children show up early in the evening for a visit. As we lounge on the couch watching the kids play, I jokingly tell them that they are making me nervous; because when I was pregnant with Kaia, they all came down from Prescott for a visit. The next morning, I was in full-on labor.
Jason arrives home from work and Kaia plays with the kids until her bedtime at 8:00 pm. Around 7:00, I finished draining and filling the birth tub with fresh water, just in case. I can’t wait to float and relax in it tonight. Our company departs around 8:45 and Jason and I sit down on the couch to watch a movie. Hungry, I grab a piece of pizza and tell Jason half-sarcastically, half-serious “I’m not sure pizza is the best thing for me to eat. If I go into labor, it’s all gonna come out of me, greasy and all”. He laughs and I go on about how you have to think about these things. I finish one tiny slice.
It’s forty-five minutes after our company has left and a popping sensation jolts me slightly upwards from my seat in shock. I ponder it for a few moments, replay the very familiar feeling in my mind, and determine I’ve leaked a bit of fluid. I turn to Jason and casually say “Uhhh, I think my water just broke”. I’m in a bit of shock, thinking this could really be it. Nervously, I head to the bathroom, Jason in tow. Yep, I’ve leaked a little. When I wipe, there is mucous ever-so-slightly tinged with blood. My stomach starts to turn into little butterflies and I look up at him from the toilet and say “Yep, my water broke”. I quickly get up, hug Jason and say “Tonight or tomorrow could be the day!!” We both look rather shell-shocked, almost in disbelief that this could be happening. I put on a pad and write in my journal:
“Kaia is asleep. I am a bit nervous, I think just anxious energy!”
It’s just like it happened with Kaia; a slow leak, no big gush of water. I cannot shake my nervous energy, so I make some phone calls, which I decide to do while laying in bed. Jason casually finishes his movie and dinner in the living room. I light a candle in my bedroom and ask Jason to come turn on my labor music.
I call my doula to give her advance notice. I tell her I’ll call her when I need her. She sounds tired, but happy for me.
I call my friend Theresa, but no answer. Ten minutes later, I call her daughter Ember and tell her that I’m in labor and that we will call when we need Theresa to pick up Kaia.
I call MaryBeth. I want to hear her voice. I want her to chant to me. Somehow, when we are speaking, I don’t have the courage to ask her to chant. Her voice is enough. When she picks up, she says “Hi, did your water break? About 30 hour ago or so?” Stunned, I say “Yes”. She tells me she was sitting around with Bill and just had a “feeling” and turned to him and said “I bet Leigh’s water broke”. Somehow, this news doesn’t shock me; we are connected. We speak for 8 minutes, her telling me how she is sending me loving energy.
10:17 pm, I write in my journal:
“First real surge. Intense, not painful. I need to relax. Lasts about a minute, in bed”.
At some point, while I’m on the toilet, a very familiar heaving sensation begins to swell in my gut and I call to Jason to bring me the bucket. He arrives in time for me to vomit a big ol’ chunk; the first among many, many, many. “Here we go again”, I think, as I recall the 7 or 8 times I vomited during Kaia’s labor. I’ve come to accept that it’s simply the way my body cleanses itself, and the way it helps me open up more and dilate.
I feeling nervous and that this labor is going to be intense. It seems that the labor just began pretty quickly and I’m finally feeling like this is “really it”. At this point, Jason has retreated to our bedroom in an attempt to get some rest
MaryBeth calls me back. Says “Listen, I just thought of something. I was sitting here and I started to have a tiny panic attack. Well, not really a panic attack but I took a few short breaths and realized I needed to call you again. And I wanted to say if you have any anxiety, any at ALL, send it to me. Just give it all to me; I am not birthing a baby right now so I can handle it, OK? Seriously, just send it all to me.”
Just this short conversation soothes me, helps me release some of my tension.
I get up, put on my robe, and try to figure out what I need to do. Nothing to do, everything is in order. I want so badly to go peek in on my sleeping daughter, to brush her check one last time before the baby comes. Yet, I am so afraid of waking her, hoping strongly she will sleep through all of this. I relent and decide to just think about how precious she is, how peacefully she is sleeping, how I carry her love in my heart always. I wish I would have known when I put her down to sleep that it would be our last night together of just Mama and Kaia.
I light a candle in my living room and incense in my kitchen. I’ve gotten my SmartWater and Recharge at the ready for hydration. I make myself a cup of warm Chamomile tea and lean against the countertop while I wait for it to steep. It is dark and quiet in the kitchen and I gaze outside the window, still anxious and trying to breathe deeply to relax.
Another dear member of my birth “tribe” arrives and lets herself in. JP doesn’t even bark, which is odd. Jason is sleeping, and I am in bed next to him when she walks through our bedroom door. I sit up and hug her “You smell good”, I tell her “You always smell good”. She comments on how much she loves the music I have playing; the same music I had playing while laboring with Kaia two year prior. Her scent and gentle energy immediately put me at peace. And yet, her very presence brings me back to the reality of what is happening and I can’t seem to shake the anxiety.
I’m 1 cm dilated, 70% effaced and very stretchy. Inside, I’m a bit disappointed, hoping that I’d be a little further along. However, I decide immediately not to dwell on it, that my body will do its work as planned. I write in my journal:
“Surges inconsistent in timing, length, and intensity…getting in tub!”
I was intently looking forward to relaxing in the birthing tub until I stepped in and it was cold! Even after almost 5 hours after being refilled and heating, it wasn’t at all a suitable temperature to hang out it. I’m pissed off, because at this point I really wanted to just float to take the edge off my nerves. So, instead I fill our garden bathtub up with warm water and sink right in. Jason comes and lights a single candle in the bathroom for me and its glow is warm and welcome.
Jason continues to sleep as my surges come on intensely. I struggle with some of them because I cannot immerse myself wholly in the water, nor find a comfortable position in the cramped bathtub. I end up breathing through surges while sitting with my knees folded to the side of my body while my upper body, arms and head rest on the side of the tub. It’s not comfortable but it will have to work. I recall Jeanette’s labor mantra and begin using it: “Breathe in Peace, Breathe Out Tension”.
I begin to give my anxiety to MaryBeth as she had instructed, quietly saying in desperation “Take it MaryBeth, take it, please take it”. My legs shake and I become frustrated at myself. I remember my legs shaking during the later part of Kaia’s labor as well and being just as frustrated. I try to submerge myself under the water during surges and distract myself with the underwater sound of my moaning. Sometimes it works. Other times, I focus on the gentle flicker of the candle. I begin to breathe loudly and moan through some surges and remember wondering how Jason could sleep through this.
Again, the familiar heaving begins and I lean over the side of the tub and vomit all over the tile. I tiredly call out to Jason, who stumbles in and sees the mess. Poor guy – he rubs his eyes, and breathes deeply and calmly in preparation for the cleanup. It takes about 10 minutes, but he mops it all up and then sprays a tea tree oil mix all over the floor. I ask for a peppermint hard candy to chew on to try and stave off the nausea, and he brings me one swiftly.
Shortly thereafter, I call Jason in again and tell him that I need his support. My back is aching and I want counter pressure. He gladly obliges and it feels so much better. He also places a warm washcloth on my back and I recall how divine that felt, saying “Ohhh, that feels good!”
After about an hour in the tub, I decide I need a change of pace and move to the bed where I trying the knees-chest position, propping a pillow up underneath me. It becomes clear to me very early on in labor that I will be doing a lot of position changes and that this baby will need me to continue to move. To distract myself again, I call my friend Brooke. I just want to hear her voice. I get her voicemail and even her recorded voice on there calms me. I leave her a message, letting her know I’m in labor and just wanted to hear her voice. Next, I call my friend Jeanette. At first, I feel a bit guilty about calling this early in the morning, but I had promised I’d reach out to my tribe if I could while I was in labor. And, I needed their energy.
I hear her groggy, soft voice and tell her I’m in labor. She asks a question or two, I give her a detail or two, and a surge begins. I breathe audibly through it, phone to my ear, keenly aware of Jeanette’s respectful silence. “She’s a doula”, I think,” she’s been through this many times with clients on the phone. ” We all like to hear a woman work through a surge, trying to figure out what phase in labor they may be in. After the intense surge finishes, I hear Jeanette say “Well, that was a nice long one”. I interrupt her with a quick and muffled “I gotta go!” and then call to J “Get the bucket!”
I hang up. The phone call lasted three minutes. I vomit yet again, this time I only have liquid left. And while I know I vomited many more times, this is the last time I vividly recall in detail. I later realize that I tend to vomit after I’ve had a very intense surge that I couldn’t quite get a handle on…like my body is releasing, shaking off the energy. Thankfully, I only have a handful of those surges, but I remember always briefly beating myself up over the fact that I lost control during it. Either I couldn’t breathe smoothly, or couldn’t release a good exhale, or couldn’t position myself. I continue searching for positions that feel productive but can’t seem to get “comfortable”. I try hands and knees on the floor, leaning over the birth ball. I try standing and swaying. The birth tub is still too cold, frustrating me all the more. I breathe in deeply and moan out through each surge, closing my eyes.
We listen to the baby’s heartbeat on a Doppler. Jason counts the heartbeat and takes a mental note. Jason asks if I want to call my doula, and I say “yes” in desperation, feeling unable to even call her myself. I am relieved to know she is on her way.
I get back in the bathtub, which is surprisingly still warm. It is at this point that I begin to get fuzzy on the details of my labor and I am no longer aware of the time. It doesn’t seem to matter to me anymore.
The next two hours are hazy. The last of my birth tribe arrives, my doula around 3:30 am, coming directly from attending another client’s birth. At this point, I am positioned in the knees-chest position on the bed with Jason, managing to get a few moments of rest in between surges. My doula gingerly approaches me and asks “How are you doing?” I must have been either awakened from one of those moments of rest, or just coming out of a surge, because I half-confused, half annoyingly answered “I’m okay”. I was so relieved she was there, though, knowing my birth tribe was complete and that she would be able to assist both me and Jason. She then whispers to Jason that she will be sitting in the corner – waiting patiently and observing – if he needs her to do anything. (After the birth, she mentioned to me how I was moaning through surges and vocalizing “Yes, yes, yes” as I breathed).
I remember the intensity of the surges and trying to let my body totally relax and open. I had no idea how far along I’d progressed in labor and never really pondered it; it didn’t seem to matter to me. And while the surges were painless, they were quite uncomfortable – taking over my entire body, leaving me to struggle to surrender to them, making my mind race to try and distract myself. They were much more intense than most any I’d experienced with Kaia; or at least, that’s how I remember them. My back was starting to ache, my body was tired, no one could seem to provide the exact type of counter pressure on my back (it was too hard, too soft, too high, too low, etc). And so, I gave up on expecting that kind of relief and instead asked for a warmed rice sock at some point. The heat felt good, but again, I moved around so much that I think we all just gave up on providing back relief! I would scramble from the bed to the floor, to leaning against a birth ball, to standing, to side-lying all within a few surges. Members of my birth tribe would occasionally moan and breathe with me, just like during Kaia’s birth, and it always helped me make it through another moment when they did this.
Finally, shortly after my doula arrived, I got back into the birth tub. It seemed to be a little bit warmer, but still not to my liking; however, I knew I needed to relax and hoped the tub would be the answer. Jason got in with me and I began to float. The warm buoyancy of the water indeed helped to relax me, but my legs continued to shake a little. When a surge would come on, I’d float on my back and submerge my head and ears in the water. Jason would support me under my body. The sound of my breath and moaning muffled under the water was exactly what I needed to refocus and relax. It was as if I was in my own world, ignorant to what was occurred above the water. Once a surge relented, I’d lean over the side of the tub with my eyes closed and rest my head.
After one very uncontrollable surge, I again vomited. Just as during Kaia’s birth, all I had to do was moan “Bucket!!” and it would appear in seconds in front of me. I was getting increasingly frustrated with myself, begging Jason to help me breathe and looking directly into the eyes of Jason or my doula during a surge just to maintain control and sanity. I need reassurance.
At one point, I begin to get a bit testy when Jason isn’t supporting me “just right” during my floating. I call out “Hold me, hold me…” He tries to hold me out of the water and I grow frustrated “Noo! HOLD ME. Under the water. Help me!”. He tries to hold me under the water but nothing feels right and I whimper and give up. Through this all, my doula would offer me sips of water or juice, or a cool washcloth on my forehead. She also applied some Cedarwood oil lightly to my face and hair, a scent I love that helps to relax and calm. I then realized at some point that I was being offered Gatorade; I knew this meant that I needed some extra reserves of energy. Finally, I sat up in the tub and desperately said “I need some Rescue Remedy. Does anyone have any Rescue Remedy?” I needed something to help calm me down. Quickly, my doula reappeared with the dropper dangling over my mouth and I happily let drops of Rescue Remedy melt onto my tongue and thus melt away some of my anxiety and tension. I realize later that I must have been in transition during this time; the feelings of helplessness, loss of control, the vomiting all coming on fast and furious. At this point, I realized we were alone in our room with our doula.
Approx 4:45 am
Then, suddenly and without warning during a surge while I was under the water, my belly began to instinctively heave up and push down in a very unfamiliar manner. The feeling took over my entire body and as I gasped for air I moaned “Pushy!!! I’m feeling pushy!” No one seemed to respond immediately and I grew frustrated, wanting someone to DO something. “Wasn’t this the moment we’d all been waiting for?” I thought. Again, I impatiently proclaimed “I’m feeling PUSHY!” hoping for a response. Within a few moments, members of my birth tribe arrive and I must have babbled something about how my body was pushing without me doing anything. I was still in shock over how totally uncontrollable and HUGE and forceful this feeling way, how it almost felt like “reverse” vomiting (except for the very noticeable downwards/outwards force). I was unprepared for the intensity of it – even after attending births and seeing women’s bodies spontaneously push their babies out. I had to almost laugh at how the feeling had stunned me.
So, out of the tub I came and found out I was 10 cm dilated, with just a little bit of a cervix left, but very open and stretchy. Then, the suggestion is made to try and just BREATHE through these next surges for about an hour. What? Seriously? With my body convulsing and pushing, I was supposed to just relax and breathe? I had been prepared a few weeks ago for how this birth would go if my baby was indeed breech. I’d been told that the hardest part would be that I’d need to be REALLY open, like “10.5 cm dilated” before pushing. But in the moment, it felt impossible. “An HOUR?” I said exasperated. Then I quickly gathered my energy and strength and resolve and said “OK, that will be hard but I’ll try my best”.
I asked to get back in the tub again, because I know it’s the only place I can truly relax. I find a new position that helps me totally relax my limbs so that I can breathe through the pushing sensation: I submerse myself yet again, but reach out my arms to Jason or my doula, both who are standing outside the birth tub. Grasping their hands in mine, I sway my upper body back in forth in rhythm to my breathing, letting the rest of my body dangle. They help me float and sway as well and support me with the strength of their arms. It’s the only thing I can do to get through these surges; I don’t know how in the heck I’m going to make it an hour.
After what I believe to only be 45 minutes or so, I say “I can’t do it anymore; I can’t just breathe through them”. I’m told I can work with that pushing feeling and do what my body is telling me.
Approx. 6:00 am
The ensuing hours are long and tiring, as I work to bring our baby into the world (my doula videotaped at short intervals during the four hours it took to push Indi into our Earthy realm, so I have good references for times and details, etc).
I decide to get out of the tub, knowing now that there is hard work ahead of me and I need to stay in an active position. I try them all yet again and begin low grunting and low moaning during the surges. It feels like such sweet relief to work WITH the surges. I’m doing real, physical work now and it feels good – intense, crazy, tiring – but good. I wonder silently in my mind how long this will take…It was at this time that I also had Jason call Theresa, our friend who we’d designated to babysit Kaia during labor. He quickly called her and arranged to have her pick Kaia up around 6:30 am.
I know I vocalized many things during labor, as it helps me to focus and continue breathing, as well as keeping my energy down low in my body. I vocalized “Down”, “Yes”, “Om”, “Baby”, and “Open”. I remember also chanting “I can do it”, which I’ve seen a woman chant on the video “Rhythm, Relaxation, and Ritual” the numerous times I’ve watched it. Again, members of the birth tribe– and Jason – would quietly join in at intervals to help me through. We were in this together.
At one point, I was lying on my side next to Jason in bed. I was in that “rest and be thankful” phase of labor and would “rest” during surges, traveling in laborland and having lucid types of visions and dreams. I vividly recall hearing voices of women all around me, whispering about the “divine yoni” and how it opens for sacred travel. It was as if a movie was playing in my mind, but I could only hear the soundtrack and the words. The voices were calm and the words were quick, coming at me with lightning speed. Some of the phrases were in other languages.
And so, I felt compelled and called to vocalize the word “Yoni”. At this point, my vocalizations were more like a chant, starting on a higher note and then ending lower. And so, yoni sounded more like “Yooooo, ohhhhnnnnn”, without the “I” ending. I remember thinking how right this felt, but also briefly wondering if everyone in the room was trying to figure out what in the heck I was saying! My “Om” vocalizations came out chant-like as well, and Jason joined me during some of them. It felt perfect, as if the sounds and wisdom were coming from somewhere deep within the cosmos. The vibrations of the words and the high/low chanting resonated within me and got me through so many pushing surges, once again working to keep the energy moving downwards. I knew our baby was helping me out. At times, I felt like I was howling as loudly and as deeply as a coyote – or mooing like a cow – primal and guttural. I still couldn’t believe Kaia was snoozing soundly through it all. It happened just as I had hoped.
I also called upon some of the coping techniques that my Brooke taught us during a Birthing From Within Class. I envisioned the surge as a spiraling energy, following it in my mind’s eye. That worked for awhile and then I tried simply following my exhalation all the way out. Then, I needed something new and was a bit surprised to find that the distraction (non-focused awareness) technique worked also: I noticed things in my room – such as the flicker of the candle, or the way the tapestry against my wall moved in the fan’s wind – and repeated the words in my head as I gazed at them: “Candle, candle, candle, dark, dark, dark, fabric, fabric, fabric, moving, moving, moving”. I remember being thrilled in the moments where I’d find a technique that would really work to relax me.
I spend a lot of time standing outside of and leaning on the birth tub, swaying back and forth in between surges to keep a rhythm going and to distract my mind. I remember hearing someone say “Yes, Leigh, that’s perfect, that’s so good. Do what your body is telling you”. During a surge, I would lunge into a shallow squat to help open my pelvis and bring baby down. I am trying like mad to always give just a little extra – both a good, deep breath and a good, deep push – right as my surge is ending. I know that this baby needs to arrive soon and am getting anxious. I notice that the morning summer light has begun to peek through the curtains, which makes me even more tired.
I remember asking for a Triscuit to eat. I managed to slowly chew the entire cracker and I felt like I’d accomplished something grand – it really took all my energy to eat it. But just that one cracker helped boost me in a psychological way more than anything; I felt like I was refueling for the next leg of the journey. After continuing to change positions, I grow grumpy and even more exhausted. I want to know that this baby is descending into my birth canal and at some point ask in a tired voice “I just want to know if I’m making progress”. Just vocalizing my concern was enough for me.
I want to find a position that will give me that progress I’m hoping for, so I try a supported squat position. It helps in terms of the pushing, but I don’t feel very stable. Exasperated, I spend the next hour crawling around on my hands and knees, desperately seeking a comforting position. Finally, I remember crying out “I just want to be comfortable! My back hurts, I’m tired, I can’t find a comfortable position.”
Approx. 8:00 am
The suggestion is made for me to try the birthing stool. This sounds like a welcome idea to me and the little wooden stool is brought into the room and placed in front of the tub. I lift myself onto the stool with Jason sitting on the birth ball behind it to support me; his arms and hands firm and loving on my body, his face and neck next to mine. His closeness is so comforting to me and he hasn’t left my side (except once to locate something in the birth kit). During the surges in which I look into his eyes, I notice how tired he is also. I silently hope this ends soon for his sake as well as mine.
The first surge on the birthing stool comes and goes and I decide that this is it – the ability to grasp the handles on the stool helps me push better, deeper, further, more assertively, and more productively. I point my toes as I push down and out, using them as leverage. My bulging yoni sags a bit, both reliving pressure but also providing me with a more intense pushing sensation. I become a fierce warrior on this birthing stool, growling like the bear, howling like the wolf, roaring like the tiger, moaning through it all, breathing out fire like the dragoness. I mean business now.
A mirror and chux pad is placed under me and I know that that is good news. “It means my baby will be coming soon, right?” I tell myself. I struggle during surges to see in the mirror but can’t seem to muster the energy or the flexibility to bend over quite right. Finally, I notice my doula standing over my shoulder videotaping and I can view what she’s recording on the little screen. Perfect! All I can see at this point is blood, meconium, and fluid.
And so I push. And push. And push. And push through the surges, feeling like I’m screaming my head off to bring this baby down. There has been no “pain” during this labor, but the intensity of it compared to Kaia’s labor is 100 times. It’s been much more of a psychological process for me; I’ve been keenly present during almost every moment instead of in a trance-like state like I was during Kaia’s labor. This awareness and need to be present has worn me down and frustrated me. I wanted to just escape for awhile, travel in laborland, and yet I’ve been unable to achieve that. Instead, my senses are on overload. I hear every alteration in my breath or my moaning, witness every gasp. I feel every tiny movement of my baby and every small way that each surge rocks my body. My eyes are mostly closed but I can “see” everyone and everything around me. I have to work to remember to exhale at the end of each surge to bring good oxygen to my baby. I cannot leave my body even for a moment, though I desperately want to. I want to fly, to travel, to escape just for a second. Instead, I am reminded to relax in between surges and so I rest my head against Jason. I try to remember to be grateful for the moment of respite and for this divine process unfolding in front of me and within me.
The pushing stage was taking so much longer than I’d ever anticipated, much longer than any births I’d attended as a doula. And while my frustration mounted and my patience began to wane, I’m proud to say I never gave up on myself, my body, or my baby. I knew that none of us would fail this process. I just couldn’t quite figure out why the hell is taking so long. I really wanted to see something, some part of this mysterious baby peeking out of my yoni.
The overwhelming feeling of spontaneous pushing coupled with active pushing was new to me, something I was unable to experience with Kaia’s birth. I had been anxiously looking forward to this part and now I seemed to be drowning in the sounds and intense feelings associated with it. I couldn’t get over how forceful it was, how the bearing down feeling overtook my body and I had no control. And while I added extra pushing efforts, my body instinctively did most of the work. No “breathing this baby out” like I’d hoped to do! Nope, this was raw and primal, rough and tumble, a feeling so huge and powerful for my small body. My body has been overcome.
Approx. 8:15 am
I begin to get my wish and can see a bit of “baby” in the mirror and the video camera screen. The yellowish-whiteish color is shocking to me for some reason and I ask ‘What is it?”. I hear laughs and something like “Your baby. It’s a butt crack, a tiny little butt crack!” My silly breech babies, I think, and this thought lightens the mood momentarily. At this point, the feeling of stretching is unlike anything I could have imagined. It doesn’t burn, it doesn’t really “hurt”, it’s just so damn INTENSE (the only word I can come up with to describe the entire labor). With prompting, I reach down and touch my baby with one of my fingers and gently rub her bum; glorious, glorious emotion! Smooth and soft, wet and perfect. I cannot believe the time is almost here to greet her.
My cell phone – sitting on my bedside table – rings. It’s MB, I say. I call tell by the ring. The phone is quickly silenced. (After Indi is born, I check her message where she sweetly wonders if our baby has arrived yet. Later, in talking with MB, she says that around 8:40 am she was at the park with her girls and began to sob and say “Leigh, I love you so much!” She said she knew I was pushing our baby into the world at that moment.)
As surges continue, I am reminded to keep my sounds low and deep and to breathe baby down and out. Slowly, each surge brings her a little closer. Yet, like all babies, she also recedes back inside my yoni in the familiar “Two steps forward, one step back” process. Yet again, as the minutes and surges pass, I am amazed at just how long it seems to be taking to get her fully “rumped” (the breech version of “crowning”). “I need to work even harder”, I think, “push more, breathe it all out, give it all I’ve got.” I briefly think about my yoga sessions with MB, about staying in Warrior Pose and letting my arms burn and just being there, breathing it out. I continue looking down at the mirror that is covered in fluid and blood, getting to see more baby every now and then.
While desperation begins to set in, I also consciously knew this meant we were so close to the end of our journey together. I was feeling the “holy shit, it’s really gonna happen” emotions, which manifested themselves with shaky legs, my beginning to vocalize “Ow, ow, ow” here and there, and my whimpering as I asked for “Help…”
From a photo I have, our baby is entirely “rumped” now. In between surges, her bum and completed jack-knifed legs now remain in my yoni, no receding now! I am now steadily continuing to push even after my surges have gone, knowing that this baby will have to come out shortly.
Because we suspected that she was a Frank breech baby (bottom first, legs completely folded up next to her ears), we’d been sufficiently prepped on what to expect in order to birth this baby. I knew I was going to have to work to push her out in a timely manner and that it would happen in noticeable stages: “Hands off the breech”, only having Jason gently supporting her bottom as she is birthed. Standing up, birth her bum and torso, out come the legs, birth her to her shoulders, out come the arms, hang on tight as she dangles from her head and then push her head out swiftly as she is caught into Jason’s hands. We knew that most breech babies need just a little help or a bit of O2 when they are born.
And suffice it to say, it happened exactly as we expected.
While still on the birthing stool, I pushed with all my might and birthed my baby up to mid-torso. It was then that I was instructed to now stand. I was so excited when I heard this, because I knew it meant that crunch time had come. I was ready. Ya know how some head down babies just kinda slide right out after the head is birthed? Ha ha, not so with my little breech baby. Every inch of her entire body was slowly, mightily pushed out, as if in slow motion. No slip slidin’ out all cute and wet. Nope. And each phase of her body was born mostly after waiting for the next surge…alot of “yeah, here she comes…now wait”…
With help, I was pulled to a standing position and steadied myself against the birth tub – with half of a baby hanging out of my body. On the video, it looks quite freaky, like some alien is bursting forth from me. Jason positioned himself behind me, ready to support our baby as she exited. With my next surge, I bore down with all my might, squatting a bit to help out as I birthed her entire torso. At this point, I felt like I was having one continuous surge, but I think it was just a combination of the stretching sensation, the feeling of her body taking up my entire yoni, and my concerted pushing and groaning efforts. It was all astonishingly overpowering, so much to take in and to feel all at once. But I will admit it felt really good to stand up, feeling my feet on the floor giving me strength, grounding me to Mother Earth as this tiny being slowly slid into the world. I also had the frame of mind to turn and say “Photos. Someone take some still photos!”. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take stills (we have video, though), as the camera had shut down.
I reached down again and tenderly patted her bum, saying “Baby! Baby! Come on Baby!” and telling her how much I love her. Next thing I know, her tiny little legs literally pop out and I look down to see them dangling from me. I vividly recall shouting endearingly “Baby legs, baby legs!” This was the first of her baby body parts that I could really “identify’ so I was thrilled when they came out. She really was a “baby” and not just a mushed up little bum!
I ask what to do next, am I supposed to be pushing even if I don’t have a surge? “Yes, you can push without a surge. Go for it”.
And I do. And it’s hard as hell to push without a surge; all that baby is stretching out my yoni already, all my energy is focused on that feeling, and yet I have to somehow find another ounce of energy and isolate enough muscle and power to just push some more.
About 1.5 minutes later, I birth my baby to her shoulders and…she dangles there some more and we wait at one point she is actually moving up and down to help me out. I feel her every move. Then her arms pop out too. There she is, a real baby, dangling from my body by just her head. Of course, Jason is still supporting her body at this time. Now all that is left is her head and I am keenly aware of the significance of the moment, of the acute need to get her out safety and quickly. About 45 seconds pass.
I hear a serious voice say “OK, Leigh, I need you to push with everything you have”. I breathe deeply, say “Okay, baby…” and push my breath through to the core of my body, through to my baby, through my legs and down into the core of the Earth.
And out pops her head as I yell out and as Jason catches her slippery, floppy body into his hands. I hear him say “A perfect baby! Oh honey, listen, listen”!
I lean over the birthing tub, sobbing with my head in my hands, while Jason holds our baby. I am overcome with emotions – relief, joy, exhaustion, disbelief, surrender – and am awaiting the feeling of her in my arms. I cry out “How is it?? What’s going on??” and I hear a firm reply: “Leigh, your baby is fine, just a little floppy, I’m going to talk to your baby for a minute, OK?” Jason reassures me as well, as he can her little gurgles.
I never doubt that our baby is healthy and safe. Out of the blue, I look down and notice our digital camera on the floor beneath me covered in blood. I pathetically say “Oh Jason, I got blood all over our camera”. Sarcastically, and with a mixture of laughter and sobs he says “Oh Leigh, it doesn’t matter!”
After our baby experiences about 20 seconds of vigorous rubbing and stimulation, I am told “OK, Leigh, I want you to talk to your baby”. My tiny baby is lovingly passed through to me from behind – under my legs – and handed to me, still connected to her cord. I am then gently helped back onto the birth stool. Immediately, I hold her close to my chest. “My baby, my baby, my baby! We waited so long for you! We did it, baby, we did it. I love you so much!”
And then I say “Oh, another girl!!!” and Jason replies “Another girl for Kaia!” I cradle her and sing “Om Namah Shiva” to her, which should be a familiar chant to her. Some O2 near her face for just a minute and within no time, she is pinked up and gurgling and perfectly happy.
The emotions in the room run high, and I hear happily chattering about the birth, how we did it, and how she is a “miracle baby”. I didn’t realize what that meant until a little later; Indi had a true knot in her cord. A real knot. Wow. Breech and true knot. Silly, powerful baby!
Everything is covered in my blood; the birth tub, the camera, the floor, Jason, members of my birth tribe. At first I’m a little shocked and then I come to my senses and decide I could care less and I know my bleeding will cease shortly! I have a baby in my arms, a baby I birthed naturally, through my yoni, AT HOME! I have birthed my baby in 12 hours without ever leaving our bedroom. I feel good. I feel rejuvenated and high. I feel like I think all my clients have felt in this moment; the way I’ve always imagined they felt, at least. Proud, victorious, peaceful, pumped full of love.
With my baby already nursing at my breast, Jason turns to me and says “I think she’s an Indi, what do you think?” I quickly agree and we kiss and smile and continue marveling at our new daughter. I never want to put her down. I am helped to my bed, where Jason and I sit together and love on Indi. Around 9:45, I birth the placenta. I am shocked at the intensity of the surge and how I have to actively push to get the placenta out – it hurts! I moan and breathe through it. I say “Geez, that was more than a little uncomfortable! I wasn’t prepared for that!” We check out the placenta, which is then bagged and placed in our freezer per our request (on a funny side note, while Jason was cleaning out frozen meat from our fridge to give to family, he almost accidentally gave away our placenta, thinking it was some kind of meat!).
Jason then prepares to cut the cord. He is a bit hesitant a first, which surprises me. We had always talked about him cutting the cord, but on the spot he is a little wary. I assure him that it doesn’t hurt her and he relents. He holds the scissors and severs the only thing still attaching me to our little Indigo. “Welcome, baby” we all say, as Indi’s forehead is kissed. It is a surprisingly tender moment.
My doula has brought me a plateful of food and I gladly devour most all of it. Jason and I have begun making our phone calls, announcing the arrival of Indigo Sol. We usually have to repeat her name twice and spell it.
My birth tribe leaves around 1:30 pm and Jason and I nap together with our daughter. We are high on the birth, giddy over being at home in our own bed. We drift into peaceful sleep until I’m awakened by the sound of Kaia’s voice, whining “I want my binky!” I wait to hear her again…nothing. I tell Jason Kaia is here and he rolls over and says “Yeah, I heard her”. There is no Kaia. Theresa doesn’t drop her off until about half an hour later, around 5:00 pm. I know I heard her voice, I am sure of it. Was Indi manifesting it?
When Kaia arrives, I am so ready to have her meet her new baby sister. She traipses into the room happily, not noticing a baby in Mama’s arms. After a bit of gentle guiding, she is up next to me, peering over into Indi’s eyes. She reaches out to touch her sweetly, smiles broadly, and then pretty much is done with her initial greeting.My heart swells seeing my two girls together. My life feels like a well-loved book, brought down off the shelf, dusted off, and reopened with the hands that know it most. Words leap from my pages like tears, so many words. No ending, no ending, no ending. Just lovely beginnings.
The Next Day
While sleeping in bed with Indi on my chest, I experience the familiar feeling of my physical body trying to separate and Astral Travel again. It has not traveled since the night I found out I was pregnant with Indi. I don’t want to travel, illogically worried because Indi’s on my chest, and so I come back into my body.
That same day, while sleeping, I’m instantly awakened with a gasp when I see a bright white flash of light, accompanied with a “poofing” noise. I can only describe it as being as if one of those old time camera flashes were going off in my face. The same thing happens the next morning. I roll over and ask Jason if he’s been seeing anything strange lately, like bright lights. He confirms and groggily says “Yes, bright white lights. It’s been happening for a few days.” I tell him it’s been happening to me too and that I think our little, mystical, powerful Indi is doing it. He says “Maybe we are all traveling together as a family”. Maybe! Jason’s mom thinks it could be the crown chakras opening. I later believe it was just that Indi wasn’t fully in her body just yet.
I still can not surmise in words the depth of this experience, as there is still so much to process.
It was healing, all-consuming, mystical, exhausting, difficult, perfect, sacred work. It was so different than Kaia’s labor and yet similar in some ways. Being aware of every moment was strenuous work on my body and my brain but it was the kind of labor I needed to birth my baby Indi. I was never scared, never worried, and never doubtful; simply, I was determined. And while it tested my resolve and my patience, I trusted every literal breath-taking moment.
Perhaps it is because I trusted my baby; calling upon that deep trust we had built over nine months. I guess you can say I flowed with it; that’s not to say I didn’t bump into harsh boulders and get almost swirled into the depths of the eddys or pulled under by the swollen current. Oh believe me; I was there many times, wheezing for more air, more time, more composure, more rest, more strength, more water, more breath. Sometimes, in the middle of my roaring, I questioned my sanity and thought I must have resembled a wild animal, spiraling out of control. Yes, I did have thoughts like “Why did I decide to do this? The Cesarean was so much easier”, but I knew that even those thoughts were fleeting and normal. But eventually, I flowed into the oneness of our journey and that was the thing that got me through it all: unity.
As Norman Maclean says “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of their words are theirs. I am haunted by waters”.
Maybe more poignant is the idea that I didn’t do this alone. Yes, the strength was mine, but it was heavily peppered with the amazing energy of many women – those who sent it to me through meditation, and candle-lighting, and thoughts. MB was taking on my anxiety. Jeanette was sending spiraling red energy, which I actually received during my surges. Brooke was dreaming of my baby. Jason’s mother (who didn’t even know I was in labor) awoke with cramping in the middle of the night. And then there was palatable energy all around of ancients and travelers. And of course there was the energy of my husband, my partner for life, the being who merged with me to create this child of light within my mortal womb.
Indi’s birth was my gift. In return, I give her every inch of my billowy, expanding heart.
If you are so inclined, go here to view photos of a breech birth (Indi was birthed exactly like this, except the baby in this photo looks to be a footling breech). Note: they are graphic, but beautiful. Oh, and congratulations if you actually finished reading this whole post. Wow, you get a gold star. With sugar on top. Drizzled in chocolate. And some butterscotch. And no calories.