The true story of one mama’s “free birth.”
The choices I made for the birth of my second child were a direct effect of my experience with my firstborn, Grayson. Although the hospital was “hands off,” they were still in control of so much, so I started looking at different alternatives. After watching “The Business of Being Born,” I began to seriously consider the possibility of a home birth. After all, though I understand some pregnancies and complications can warrant medical interventions, I never thought of pregnancy or birth as a medical condition. I felt I could have had Grayson all by myself, and I felt even more empowered this time around.
But my husband is in the Navy, and we were stationed in Sicily at the time of my second pregnancy. The first thing I was told was that midwives were not allowed on base. I was convinced I would have to birth in the hospital again and undergoing all kinds of procedures, which devastated me. Until I discovered freebirth.
As it turned out, women around the world have given birth unassisted, on purpose. This amazed me, and the more I read and watched videos about it, the more I knew: I was to birth that way. Simply put, I trusted my body to birth my baby safely at home, and all I needed was not to think about the negative, to talk to my body and my baby, and to assure them that everything will turn out great.
Convincing my husband was a lot harder. I did the research to understand the risks. I learned what I could to know how to prevent complications and to have the supplies I needed for birthing at home. I planned on having a lotus birth, in which you leave the placenta and cord attached until falls off on its own, and knew I would clean up quickly and immediately to avoid stains. So I kept it really simple: towels and doggy pads.
For five days leading to my birth, I had been having Braxton Hicks all day long. I knew we were getting closer since it's the way of the body preparing. Then the Braxton Hicks got more intense. When that happened, I was sitting in my husband’s office, with Grayson laying on my tummy. So I first thought it could be his weight making me cramp. But the feeling was not going away. As I drove home, I could feel my stomach tightening ever stronger. That’s when I knew: it would be the day. According to doctors, I was now 38 weeks and 5 days.
I went about my day as usual until around 7pm. I got my candles and himalayan salt lamps and laid my towels in the rooms I was going to spend most time in. I set up my iPod on its dock to hypnobirthing videos with affirmations and calming music. I was ready to birth my baby peacefully, at home, with no interventions.
As the time went on the surges got stronger and further apart. It was like an accordion. I labored in the bathtub for a bit. Initially, the warm water felt so relaxing and calming on my skin. But I soon got cold and realized there was no way for me to move about comfortably. The tub was too narrow. So I got out and lied down on my bed until the surges got really strong, at which point I returned to the bathroom.
I could feel each surge moving down into my back, opening up my body and eventually pushing the baby down. I never pushed when feeling the immense pressure. Instead I concentrated on breathing long deep breaths. I imagined my body opening, I thought about flowers blooming and doors opening -- anything opening! Though I didn’t practice hypnobirth everyday, I trusted my body to birth my baby.
My husband, who checked on me every few minutes, spent most of my labor keeping my 2-year-old son entertained. Children are so in tune with what’s going on around them, and we did not know how he may react seeing me in such state.
I labored in my bathroom, alternating from the floor to the toilet, to the bathtub. I almost threw up twice thought found a way to keep it down, holding my head back and taking long, deep breaths. As my surges became more intense, I stayed in a squat like position, close to the ground. I swayed my hips and wiggled around to relieve the pressure. Rubbing my belly felt oddly satisfying as well. I checked for his head periodically and kept feeling my water sac, which was still intact. After a wave of surges, blood trickled down my leg -- my body was opening up even more. The waves continued to come with intensity and slowly giving me more time to relax my breathing in between.
With a surge, my water broke, and some of the pressure lightened up, giving way to a different type of pressure. I could feel his the top of his head and touched his hair. Two surges later, his head came out. When my husband came to check on me, he closed the window that I had opened to help my body cool down. My body was a furnace, and I got mad at him for changing my environment without my asking. But I kept breathing and reminded myself to stay in the moment and not lose it when I was so close.
Two surges and one push later (the only pushing I did), our baby Cadyn came earthside. My placenta fell out, on its own, 2 minutes later. I was in a squat-like position, which I think that helped tremendously. It was amazing to feel my body work with me, synchronizing with my mind, every step of the way.
My recovery was easier and quicker. After my first baby, I felt exhausted. I tore and had stitches, and the midwife delivered my placenta after a pitocin shot and applying pressure on my stomach. This time around, I got to hold my baby immediately and go to my bed afterwards to rest. As per my husband request, the paramedics came an hour after the birth to check on the baby and cut the umbilical cord. The next day, though I felt great and was confident that everything was fine, we went to the hospital to check on Cadyn again. Both baby and I were healthy.
Would this work for everyone? No. But should we all look into calming birthing methods regardless of the kind of birth you choose (natural, induction, c-section)? I believe so. As activist and midwife Ina May Gaskin once said, “many of our problems in US maternity care stem from the fact that we leave no room for recognizing when nature is smarter than we are.” We, as women, have been told we can not do this alone -- that it is scary, and it hurts; that you need to scream.
I hope my story helps women feel empowered to find calming, peaceful methods to birth their babies, wherever they choose to! It is possible. For “if a woman doesn’t look like a goddess during labor, then someone isn’t treating her right.” - Ina May Gaskin
Want to experience a free birth first hand? Check out Cadyn’s personal birth video here (note: it ends with a baby!)
Jessyl spends most of her time raising her two boys. When she's not doing that, she's in the kitchen, making raw plant-based meals.