The Tiny Bean is Now Earthside! Here’s My Sacred Birth Story!
Hello friends! It’s been a whirlwind of a week here– our little daughter decided to join us in the early morn of April 20th (showing up well past fashionably late) and we’ve been healing and cuddling and learning how to be parents ever since. Her birth was amazing. I want to get this down before the bliss fades and the Bean starts crying for me but I also want to take some time with it. Giving birth was truly, without a doubt, the single most important and sacred experience of my life. Even the painful bits were nulled in the moment by how awe-some the whole thing was. I always used to roll my eyes when my mom would write “thank you for making me a mom” each year on my birthday cards but now I 100% get it. One day I was “me” and now I’m always going to be a “me+”.
The week leading up to Bean’s birth was gorgeous here in Western Washington. I started taking off work at the beginning of April and did a lot of sitting outside in the sun with the chickens while I waited in anticipation for the girl to give me some tell-tale signs of labor. Every day different birds came out, trees flowered, then leafed out, and the ground was finally getting dry enough to plant. I decided Spring is a pretty amazing season when you are able to watch it slowly do its thing day in and day out.
But after awhile my patience started waning. Yes, the babe will get here when she gets here but maybe she just wants to do it now. NOW. HURRY! YOUR MOM WANTS TO MEET YOU! I knew she was going to arrive at just the right time but my due date came and went and after a week things started getting pretty real. One week late? fine. Two weeks late? induction. And that was a route I certainly didn’t want to take. From before the Bean was even conceived I knew I wanted an out of hospital birth with midwives rather than an OB surgeon guiding me through pregnancy and delivering my baby. I found some real gems at Salmonberry Community Birth Center and together we used all sorts of midwifery magic to have this baby get here before my Friday/hospital time deadline. I had my membranes swept, I did three rounds of acupuncture, I danced, I gardened, I walked. Oxytocin levels were pumped up with sex (fun) and nipple stimulation (not as fun as it sounds) and then the coup de grace– a castor oil and verbena juice drink favored by German midwives who, if I know anything about the no-nonsense Deutchers, meant shit was about to get real. That and all of my breakfast decided to blast its way out of my mouth an hour after drinking it and, in true tiny house fashion, wound up in several rooms. How to puke with a composting toilet? Just aim for the walls, I guess!
James blasted out of bed and, in the first of what must be hundreds of help-me-through-this-disgusting-mess moves for the day, scrubbed it off the walls, from inside the pocket door jamb, off the side of the bed… anyway, talk about stepping up (intro to fatherhood, eh!)
Contractions started sometime after that and I made my way to Salmonberry to get acupuncture. Marina from Moonstone Acupuncture, which works out of the birth center, came in especially to help me. She had to bring her sweet little two year old daughter along in order to get there at all and was all apologies about it though I was simply thrilled that she managed to keep the appointment because my contractions really started getting more oomph by the time I got home. James was waiting in the car for me and we got ourselves some maybe-birthday donuts at Sluys before heading home and resting. I was smart and kept a bowl nearby and after a few hours started noticing more serious contractions, though still not timeable nor with any real pattern. But they were getting stronger and that felt like a good sign. All week I’d had contractions after a fashion that I thought just might be labor getting started but those felt MUCH weaker than these new characters. I talked to my midwife, Louisa, and my doula, Jen, who urged me to distract myself, go for a walk, eat well and rest, rest, rest, since I’ll need my strength once labor kicks into gear. I hung out, we napped, James went and got a movie and some ice cream, and by the time he got back the gear was truly kicked. I tried to focus on the movie and pretty early on it was clear that the antics of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were not registering.
It’s at this point where I enter the time warp that is giving birth. I called Jen, who came over around 5:30 and she and James helped me through contractions that were getting more regular and stronger. It’s amazing how one would just roll in, encompassing everything, and then once it was done I felt such a sense of “phew!” breather time! My dear friend and fellow April mama Jamie gave me the book Mindful Birthing which, incidentally, I started reading just around Beancake’s due date and finished just before she was born. I didn’t realize that I would take so much of it to heart but I found myself inwardly counting my breaths through the contractions, knowing that by the time I hit 11-ish it would all be done, I was that much closer to my baby, and I could sink back into happy hormone city for a few minutes.
Blink, now James is putting the chickens into their coop. Blink again, it’s dark outside and the moon’s coming out. Blink again, I’m in the shower, feeling awesome in the steamy hot water and moaning through a contraction. Eventually I notice that we’re taking naps (?) and Jen, our “tiny doula for our tiny house” is snoozing on the kids’ bunkbed to preserve her strength before we head to the birth center. From what James tells me, we left here around 11:30pm, stretching my time laboring at home to the midwife breaking point (which is something like ‘stay home until the moment you feel is the last time you could ride in the car.’) Lucky for us, Salmonberry is a whopping 5 miles from here so the car ride wasn’t terrible. I did, of course, puke all over their parking lot upon arrival, apologized profusely to Louisa and Lauren, who arrived just in time for that, and let myself be led into the birth suite. Morgan showed up a little bit later and the time warp is now really in full effect because my memory of so much of this is super vague. James and Jen held my hands and rubbed my back. They pushed on my hips and everyone worked with me to figure out good positions. I was about 4 cm dilated when I arrived which I took with a grain of salt. It took about 4 hours to get from there to 9+ and in the meantime I moved around the dimmed room, James’ old itunes mellow playlist on repeat, surrounded by sweet and supportive people who were all working tirelessly to bring this sweet babe into the world. I labored for awhile on the toilet, backwards with my face in some pillows, my glasses sliding off with every contraction. I kept my counting going, reaching into the 20s at one point, and then surfaced from the mega waves with an embarrassing “holy mackeral” or some such Val-ism. What did I call it? kid swearing? kindergarten swearing? I don’t remember.
I also labored on hands and knees for a bit, using an exercise ball for support, or leaned on James who, if I haven’t mentioned already, did so splendidly during this whole event.
What I really wanted was to get to that big, beautiful birthing tub but turns out we tried filling it without putting the stopper in so I got about 12 inches of warm water to get me going. I still wanted it, though, but once I climbed in my labor took a relaxed pause that can sometimes happen. Whoops! At this point it’s probably 4:30 and I had already been pushing for about a half hour before the pause happened. They gave it up as a bad job after another 30 minutes and it was on to the real deal. They were trying to speed up contractions since I slowed down so much in the water and it was back to the bed (or the toilet, James is trying to remember since I have ZERO memory of this).
Some point somewhere my water obviously broke but I don’t remember when, just that it was when I was kneeling on or beside the bed and Jen had conveniently covered herself with an absorbent pad right before the gush. It felt way better to have that pressure out of there. Sadly, the toilet was the method that got me back on track (not glamorous, but oh well) and I started pushing with gusto, a difficulty since I had been trying to hold back the pushing previously and it was hard to switch on to full force. At some point we were on the bed and I was so tired I could barely hold my legs up like they asked. Apparently there is commonly a resting phase at this point and I was already snoozing between some of the contractions (I don’t remember this at all). The midwives and Jen took advantage of our little pause to try and get some sleep in the other room but of course I roared back to life in ten minutes, yelling at James to go get them through my super pushing instinct. The midwives talked me through the contractions, telling me to really push, to really give in to it and not fight it and after a brief while that’s just what I did. Some primal screams ensued and they or Jen made low noises for me to mimic, since that doesn’t tense me up. Phew!
I remember going to the bed and getting on hands and knees and being nervous I was going to poop, then I remember going to the toilet and actually pooping with a push (convenient and I think I gave myself a half-hearted little cheer) and after that was where the real magic happened. I got up and had started trickling blood and while Lauren was on her knees trying to spot a baby’s head I had a MEGA urge to push and gave in to it. I pushed down on her shoulders for counter pressure and James pushed on my hips. I felt bad pushing down on her so hard but she said it actually felt kind of good. I gave her a little shoulder rub after and we all zoomed over to the bed before the next one hit. The next contraction came and I roared from my spot on the bed which I now shared with at least two of the midwives, James, and Jen. The baby’s head appeared midway through and that was all I needed to see to finish the job, pushing her completely out in the one contraction. HOLY MACKEREL! Apparently with that last oomph of a push, and all of us piled on the bed, one of the slats holding up the mattress broke but no matter. I pulled the Little Bean to me and Morgan untwisted the umbilical cord from around her neck. She gave us some adorable cries and I pulled her little bod up to my face, not caring about all the blood and funky stuff that came along with her (not posted: the pictures of me looking like a cannibal with blood smeared all over my face). She instantly came out wanting to breastfeed and we did pretty quickly, though not before the midwives swooped in to help me deliver the placenta and start the work of stitching me up.
Here is where unmedicated birth was amazing. I apparently have a 3-4 inch tear in my vagina from the little girl twisting on her way out and while they were sewing up down there, even giving me a shot of local anesthetic in a VERY inconvenient location, I only felt the amazing surge of oxytocin and mama love that came along with this little babe. And in truth, the whole birth was like that. I was surprised it didn’t hurt as much as I expected it would; even me who entered into the situation without any real fears or hang-ups assumed it would still be pain worse than imagining. Not the case. I was surprised that the contractions felt so fleeting, and I’m so grateful for the women there with me who made the environment, and my entire pregnancy, really, so conducive to a fearless, sacred birth.
James and I laid there on the now slightly lopsided bed and they cleaned me up while the little one ate her first meal. I guess we laid there for a few hours, resting and gazing at each other, before all hugging it out and heading home. They kept saying that this was a remarkable first birth and Louisa even said I gave birth “like a fifth time mom”. Morgan said a few days later that she still gets tears in her eyes remembering me smiling during labor. I don’t have a conscious memory of this, but how could I have not? I had everything to smile about that day and it was, hands down, the best experience of my life. I’m so thankful that I had the strength to go about it without needing a hospital, or drugs, and that doing so connected me in a way to this universal female experience that’s gone on forever.
And now… Pictures!
Trying to garden that baby out on a beautiful April day.
Prayer flags made for me by my sweet friends at my baby shower. Great birth affirmations like, “You are enough”, “My body knows how to birth this baby like my body knew how to grow this baby”, “Every single moment brings you closer to meeting your beautiful baby”, and “You are giving birth with 300,000 other women today”, amongst others, got me through the rough post-due date waiting period and the beginning phase of labor beautifully.
Smiles still with a rice sock soothing my crampy contractions. Merino wool, obviously.
Jen getting creative in our small space. As midwife Mel said, we had a “tiny doula for our tiny house”
The glorious tub… Alas! Not meant to be this time around!
James and I share the moment just after our baby came into the world.
Louisa telling me what a badass birther I am (and not in the Trump way).
Lauren giving her the once over after the Bean and I had some sweet bonding time.
Weigh that babe!
9 pounds, 2 ounces. Holy Moly!
3 days old
8 days old.