The story of the birth of our second son, Prem-Beant, on March 5th 2016, is more than a birth story for me. It is a story about my second chance.
A second chance at something I believe is a primal desire and, dare I say, need, of every birthing woman on this planet: the chance to fully experience the miracle of what her body can so perfectly do.
If you read our first son, Amrit-Anter's, birth story—published here—you'll know that it was a very traumatic experience for both of us. Missing components of a successful birth (in my estimation) included: my care provider's lack of trust in my body, guidelines set in place by the rules and regulations of the state that I was not able to meet, an unnecessary ambulance call, and finally, my decision to give up my power and my birth and give into the fear (which really was: False Evidence Appearing (very) Real at the time).
:: THE CHOICE TO GO "FREE"::
When I learned I was pregnant with Prem-Beant Singh in June of last year, I knew I wanted the experience of his birth to be different. But how?
After interviewing one homebirth midwife, and visiting a birthing center in town as well as the local midwife-run unit of our closest hospital, my husband and I decided we had some thinking to do. There were pros and cons of every option, so we took some time to weigh everything.
On the full moon in July, I was laying in bed unable to sleep.
A thought perked me out of bed: "I don't like any of those options. What if I just delivered the baby myself?" Followed by the logical voice in my head: "Do people do that?"
In truth, I knew of only two other couples who had chosen unassisted childbirth but I had never met them.
Unable to sleep, I began some late-night internet research and came across a website called Indie Birth.
So it seemed people did indeed "freebirth" or have "UCs" (Unassisted Childbirth). Knowing that it was a reasonable option was enough for me to tell my husband that next morning about my choice: I wanted to birth my baby in the privacy of our own home with only him (and possibly our son, but that didn't work out) as a witness. That's how I would feel most secure, and most secure (as I learned even more about in the months to come) was the safest and smartest choice for my birth or anyone's.
:: OUTSIDE THE BIRTH BOX ::
If you are really curious why freebirth is a reasonable birthing option, I highly recommend the books Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Shanley, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley, Primal Mothering by Hygeia Halfmoon, every podcast by Maryn Green on "Taking Back Birth", the "How to Have an Indie Birth" online course, and the Midwife Thinking blog.
These references will explain why the system of birth that bases itself on the Western medical model (and I include many homebirth practices in this paradigm) creates most of the problems that it claims to "save" us from.
Anyhoo... the story...
:: IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS THE FLU ::
That night also happened to be the night I caught my husband's flu. I was laboring through a developing cough, a terrible headache, and an increasingly awful body ache (unrelated to the contractions—believe it or not!).
I was so relieved when labor stopped. I mean, it would have been cool to have a leap year baby, but not so cool that I wanted a flu-stricken man as my entire birth team! I was being challenged and it was a little scary.
So yeah, we were both relieved when we realized we could sleep. We assumed the contractions would begin again the next day, but thank God they didn't. I mean, I got contractions every day until the actual day, but each time they petered out... presumably my highly intelligent body's realization that I didn't have what it was going to take yet.
By Wednesday my son had a fever. So all three of us were sick, snotty and coughing. And I'm going on 41 weeks pregnant. Was this seriously happening?
Yes it was.
I didn't think much of my son being sick because he is usually so resilient, but that fever did not go away.
On Saturday morning March 5th, when I woke up with REAL DEAL contractions, he was still very hot. Knowing this was probably it—and oh so tired from a night of sleeplessly soothing him—we called my sister-in-law to take him for the day (or so we thought). She ended up taking him to urgent care, only to find out that he had influenza b and that he was contagious until his fever dropped.
Our little angel was with his aunt that day... and three days later too!
:: PREM-BEANT'S BIRTH ::
This was not how I pictured my awesome unassisted birth story...
(Don't worry though. It gets better.)
My husband had the good sense to text our friend who is a Reiki practitioner. He happened to be in the area and so he came over and gave me a mini treatment. This really changed my mind frame and, I believe, was important for how the day progressed. It was the mental-reboot I needed to get focused on the task at hand... BIRTHING.
After my super sick son left with his aunt, I decided the house was far too messy to birth in. My dream for this birth had included the good fortune of having just cleaned my house the day before I went into labor. No such luck. We had all been sick after all. Nothing had gotten done.
Enter my angelic friend who agreed to come over and vacuum the whole house. And my husband followed her around with the mop. And did like a dozen loads of laundry to un-yuck our house from the flu.
Once that was complete, my husband began the task of setting up the birth tub. I've heard it is almost cliche that something goes wrong with the tub, which is funny because it was pretty much the only thing that did not go wrong with my first birth.
Anyway, yup, we ran out of hot water. While we waited for the hot water heater to produce more, I went to take a bath in our small bathtub and found a nice rhythm pouring water over my belly with a plastic pitcher, chanting "Sat Narayan" with each contraction (Mata Mandir Singh's version, if you must know). It was kind of lovely.
Then we decided to try the tub temperature again. I settled for this lukewarm experience because it gave me more room to move. The contractions were getting more intense and so I did hands and knees position while my husband counter-squeezed my thighs with his legs. This was how I spent most of my first son's birth, but my husband was grateful I didn't love it as much the second time around... it kills his knees.
In fact, I moved around a lot and changed positions really frequently.
When I was getting up from the small tub to get to the big tub I noticed that it really helped to lean on the shower curtain and let the contraction move everything in a downward motion while I pulled down with my arms. In fact, I remember being very conscious of the fact that if I didn't fight the downward pull of my muscles (particularly when standing), I was able to get through the intensity a lot more easily.
So when I got tired of the hands and knees in the big tub, my husband set up his pull-up bar in one of our doorways. He set up a contraption (as only he could!) with some linen I had left-over from making my own baby sling. It wrapped through the pull-up bar so I could pull on it like a rope when I was going through a contraction, and then he tied it in the middle so I could lean my torso forward on it and "rest" a bit between the intense times.
It was pretty ingenious.
From there my husband took cues like "water", "spray me" (with the spray bottle when I got too hot), or "juice" and every time he talked I told him to "be quiet."
I was in charge of making the loudest groaning and moaning noises I've ever heard come from my being.
And who was there to judge? No one. No one was there. (I count my husband as no one in this instance, which is the measure of how comfortable I felt having him there... a good thing!).
I felt so uninhibited!
So that's where I spent the rest of my birthing time—very personally involved with a piece of turquoise linen. That is, up until what most people would call "transition"—the moment I became my own life coach.
At that moment was when I started thinking things like "I don't know if I can do this" and then affirming to myself quietly: "I can do this."
But I didn't really believe my thoughts.
It was kind of odd. Usually women will report they want to give up in transition. And I remember that feeling well from my first birth. But I was highly aware this time that there was no womanly presence to reassure me if I gave up. I intuitively knew this and from a non-logical part of my brain, I took over as my own coach. I can't really explain how I knew to do this... I just did.
By the time I got back in the tub it was obvious that baby was coming... sort of.
Me: "I don't think this baby is coming."
Me: "No, this baby has to come. All babies come."
I couldn't help but want to "check" myself to see how close the baby's head was at this point. So I stuck my hand up towards the baby and could feel something squishy, which seemed odd at the time, but I realized later was the baby's amniotic sac.
Baby was coming.
I wanted to be on the toilet.
No I didn't.
I wanted to be on the floor by the toilet squatting.
I settled on a half squat, half kneel position where I felt again for baby: there was a little piece of amniotic sac bulging out of me!
The second I felt that sac, I tore it. (Don't ask me why! To speed things up? Impatience?)
I waited for one more contraction and beared down strongly. The baby just flew out of me into my hands before he hit Amrit'Anter's bathroom floor (covered by a pad). I held the slippery bloody beautiful creature to my chest, feeling his umbilical cord still inside me, connecting us.
No clue if he was born face up or face down. My husband was there watching, but it was dark.
We do know it was 8:01pm.
I couldn't believe it.
"I did it!" I exclaimed, nearly in tears.
"We did it! I really did it!"
I really can't express the sense of VICTORY that I had in that moment. A primal sensation of knowing my body worked and I was a woman and I could do anything. Something I had robbed myself of with my first birth.
Something I had known I had to reclaim.
It was the most successful moment of my life.
I have no idea how long I was half-squatting there in disbelief and glory before I realized we hadn't checked the baby's sex. What was it?
I could hardly believe it when I saw a little scrotum down there. My entire pregnancy I was convinced we were having a girl. My husband and I both laughed joyously. A boy!
:: THERE YOU HAVE IT ::
|Amrit-Anter meets Prem-Beant for the first time!|
There was no point in this process where it would have felt right to have been supervised or inspected.
It was just natural and normal...
On the other hand, it was HEALING and gave me a sense of COMPLETION that I really craved.
Now, only a little over a week after the birth, I am not afraid of birth. I could do it again. I would love to do it again actually.
My mood is high. My baby is happy and sleeping well. My family is adjusting to the new addition.
There are times when it is crucial that we follow our inner-guidance about what is right, no matter what "norm" has been established and what is considered OK by our society. Some things are too important and you just have to step on some toes.
I am so relieved and happy that I followed my gut on this one.