It’s been more than a little while since I’ve posted here… but a little more than a lot has happened since last post! In June I did a huge revamp of my Sugar Detox program, and gave it a new name and a new home - Sugarfreed.
In July we found out we were pregnant! And shortly after that we began the process of opening our first brick & mortar business. We opened Wild Island Collective, a Plant Shop, Yoga Studio, & Eco-Boutique, in November, and began scrambling like crazy to get it up and running before our little one’s scheduled arrival in April!
I want to share my birth story here because it has ignited something within me. I was so deeply affected by the process of natural birth, and the support of my midwives, doula, and friends who have gone through it, that I feel compelled to get more involved somehow, now.
I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet - whether I want to become a birth worker, or just involved in the education and support of women wanting to take back the power in a physiologic birth. It may involve the extremely important work of taking care of post-partum mothers, which I learned so much about through the nurturing shown to me by my dear friend Whitney, of Ritual Antidotes.
But whatever shape it takes, I know a first step for me is sharing my story. The medicine of sharing our birth stories with each other as women is so important, and powerfully healing. Whether you feel empowered by your birthing process, or whether it didn’t go as planned and you feel sadness or pain (or ANYthing) around the events, I think it’s important to allow space to share your story as a release. I encourage you to do the same if you feel compelled… even if it’s only as a comment to this post.
With love, Happy Mother’s Day
My Birth Story
(warning - sensitive images below)
I had a feeling that my baby’s birth would happen on the full moon, even though everyone says first time babies usually come late, and the full moon would fall right at my 38 week mark. And as I suspected, the day after Spring Equinox and the Full Worm Moon of March, my water broke. It wasn’t dramatic - in fact I wasn’t even sure it was my water at first. (In true procrastinator fashion, we had LITERALLY just put the car-seat in, that morning.) I called the midwives, and they advised that I come in to make sure; but don’t rush too much, they said, just come by this evening… that was at 2pm.
We packed, ate dinner, and drove through a glorious sunset sky evening to the birth center at around 7pm. It was a busy night - the nurses said it always is on a full moon, and after it rains - something about barometric pressure! They weren’t sure at first that it really was my water that broke - I was experiencing NO contractions. But by 9pm, they confirmed that it was amniotic fluid, and checked us into a Birth Center Room.
The catch was, because of my “Advanced Maternal Age” (another eye-rolling post about THAT term sometime later) and the fact that I tested GBS positive in the later weeks of pregnancy (happens to about 30% of women), I was put on the clock… if natural labor didn’t start by 2am, I’d be induced, and moved from the natural birthing center with water tubs, to the standard Labor & Delivery rooms. This was NOT in my plan - I REALLY wanted the chance to give birth naturally and un-medicated. They had also given me a brief ultrasound while being admitted, to check baby, and mentioned that he might be “sunny side up” or chin tilted upwards, which can complicate things if the position doesn’t right itself.
10pm. Still no contractions. I put on my meditation music playlist, headphones, eye mask, and got to work drinking my raspberry leaf tea, moving and breathing and… calling in all the spirits of my ancestors and spirit guides to bring on this labor and my baby to me safely. I truly believe that it helped, energetically. And to take care of the earthly realm, the nurses served me up a castor oil & vanilla ice cream cocktail that has now ruined vanilla ice cream for me forever.
My Doula arrived, put on candles, music, and then put James and I to bed by reading us a meditation…
12am. Still no contractions, two hours to go before we’d lose the chance at a natural birth.
1 am. My contractions (surges, in Hypnobirthing terms) started with a vengeance. I was told the castor oil may want to escape my body by any means possible, and yup… I can confirm that was the unfortunate case. The nurses gave me an anti-nausea to make sure I didn’t further dehydrate.
At this point, my surges were coming fast and furious - hardly 60 seconds between them to breathe and rest. I was dying to get in the water tub, but you need Midwife approval before getting in the water, to make sure you are far enough along. The surges were at least a minute long and less than a minute to recover; it felt like waves continuously crashing on my head while hardly being able to take a breath.
By about 4am, I was exhausted and pretty worried, since I had been riding these back to back surges the entire time. I had heard a story of someone who had a "sunny side up” baby feeling no-rest-contractions like this, because the body is trying to get the baby into a better position… and that very well could’ve been what was happening with me. My doula did some side-lying release and rebozo techniques to see if we could right his position. Those were the worst surges of them all… anything on my back or side felt AWFUL. Hands and knees over the birth ball was keeping me alive.
The entire floor was full that night, which made it so that for a while, all the midwives were busy elsewhere and couldn’t check to see if I was approved for the water. Finally we (me, James, and our Doula) decided - fuck it - I needed in that water and we could ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
As soon as I got in the water, another massive surge that felt like I was going to BURST hit. I looked up at my Doula and said “I don’t think I can do this anymore, it’s too intense...” And she told me later that those words are the hallmark of reaching transition - the point of completion, when you’re ready to start pushing. At that moment, a midwife came in to check my status, and told us, “she’s there! Ready to push - Get her out of the water!” I had only been in the tub for a few minutes and was so pissed I didn’t get to hang out there longer!
5am. Back onto the bed and the birth ball to push…
And it felt like I had reached an insurmountable wall. The first “push” happened, and I looked up, wide eyed, and asked “are you KIDDING ME?”
It felt… Impossible. Which I know is hilarious because right there in my mind at the same time is ALL of human existence that came this way. But I felt in that moment that the task of pushing this human at who-knows-what size, through my pelvis that felt at that moment so small, felt like I was going to have to push a large heavy brick straight through my skin and bones.
I know now that once I felt that, I needed time to wrap my head around what was actually going to happen… and it would be an hour of pushing somewhat half-heartedly like that, like I thought it might just take care of itself, before I had to have a talk with myself. I needed to give myself a reality check, and have an energetic talk with my baby… that I CAN do this, and I HAVE to do this, myself. It IS TOTALLY possible. That whatever may happen to my body I am NOT afraid because it will bring my baby to us exactly as it needs to, as it has, for so many billions of women and people before us.
7am. The calm ethereal music playing in the background that I will never forget, the light on the horizon through the big beautiful windows of the coming day, the trance-like state of rolling through each push not knowing how close I was getting, even though everyone kept telling me I was “doing so good!” “But WHAT does that even MEAN?!” I’d ask. “How much longer?!” And we’d all chuckle a little knowing that no one really knew.
James was behind me, sitting on the edge of the bed as I sat on the birth chair, holding my entire body up between pushes and bracing me with every muscle for each surge. Stroking away my sweat, giving me water… it was the most beautiful teamwork and I’m not sure I would’ve made it without his powerful support.
I could tell when everyone started moving faster and the excitement around me became palpable that it was getting close… “we can see his head, keep going…” seemed like it lasted for another hour. Then finally, the hallmark searing pain of the “ring of fire” when his head comes through... I told the midwife I was going to kick her if she didn’t fix whatever that sensation was and we laughed between my primal growls… and then, that relief of release. And my baby arrived into this world.
Here everything became a bit of a blur. They brought him right up to my chest but I could feel the breath sucked out of the room and see the looks on their faces as all hands swarmed in to start rubbing him… he was blue and not crying and pretty limp. Within moments, my midwife said “we need to cut the cord so we can get him moving and breathing better.” James protested, “We wanted to delay the cord cutting!” And the midwife responded “We NEED to do this, he is not responding well.” At this point I don’t remember much because of the massive shock and fear of that moment… that something seemed wrong.
I know now that they rubbed and revived him and he started to cry and move vigorously again. They brought him back to me, and we got to nurse and bond skin-to-skin for a while.
Doctors tested his cord blood and decided that he had a minor, acute cord pressure trauma during the last minute or two of the birth, and they wanted to monitor him in the NICU for a while. That was the hardest moment of all… ALL of the physical pain I went through, I’d do over and over again because of the power and connection I felt through it. But to be told he was potentially not ok and needed to be taken away from my body and watched for a while was unbearably painful.
He bounced back and showed all signs of health and vigor in the NICU that day, and we were there with him, nursing and holding him skin to skin all we could, and the long story short is that we were all back to normal in a recovery room together in 24 hours.
The whole experience gave me not only the most empowered feeling I’ve ever had through his birth, but also the most helpless and scared I’ve ever been, all in one day. I’m still processing… I may be processing forever.
That’s the thing I’m learning about birth. It’s nothing short of the most incredible, multi-faceted, emotional, physically challenging, life-altering thing I’ve ever gone through. And I’m deeply, humbly, forever grateful for the chance to experience it.