eight weeks ago, my daughter was born into this world.
let me begin the story of her birth by saying that i feel birth is an extreme intimate event. i was very careful to chose who would be present at my birth, and i feel more women should consider this. sharing my story of giving birth is also a very intimate thing to do. i have gone back and forth on whether if this is something i wish to have out on the open web forum. and my final answer was yes, because i think birth needs to be back in the home. yes, i mean more women should give birth at home, however i realize that it is not safe for all women. and i also mean something else. birth should be back at the forefront of our consciousness. it is that important. we must talk about birth more, to learn and celebrate the entry of life. i invite you into my story of giving birth. birth needs to be normalized.
my own personal journey giving birth was so different than i thought it would be, and yet it was almost exactly what i imagined in my heart. i came to my birth as a woman who has witnessed many women give birth and heard countless tales of birth stories. what i knew more than anything is that birth is totally unpredictable.
i often thought i would give birth well past my baby's estimated due date. i imagined myself slowly laboring, and easily taking two or three days until i saw my baby. i know that we as people are so deeply affected by how we are born, that this too can affect the birth of our children. knowing that i was born when my mother was 42 weeks pregnant prepared me for the long haul. i also knew i was born by induction, and as much as i prepared to give birth at home, i also prepared myself for how i would face a hospital birth. and yet, birth taught me like so many other women how we never truly know.
looking back on my story, i realize the signs that my baby was coming were in some ways, obvious. however, many times a pregnant women will have signs of labor kick in, and then the body slows down, and a mother doesn't give birth until 3 weeks later. with the knowledge of a doula who has sat and watched women take days to give birth, i assumed those signs were just my body warming up.
around tuesday or wednesday of the week i gave birth, i started feeling a sensation in my cervix, that i imagined as softening. i knew that if my guess was correct, that it didn't mean so much. a woman can walk around dilated to 3 or 4 cm for a couple of weeks. i hadn't had my cervix checked since i was 38 weeks, and then i was just a fingertip along.
thursday evening a small ache in my low back started tingling. i had been suffering from intense sciatic pain running down my left leg for my last 3 weeks of pregnancy, so i assumed the ache in my sacrum was stemming from the sciatica pain. at one point that night i looked in my living room mirror and thought to myself that my belly looked a little lower, and then my husband said the same out loud.
thursday night was a wild night in our neighborhood. we had cops circling our house looking for an armed man and the energy was high and intense. i had a fleeting thought i could go into labor, and prayed my baby would stay cozy inside my womb, as i wondered how the midwife would make it my home with the streets blocked off with police. the activity died down around 2 am, and i was finally able to get a few hours of sleep.
i awoke early friday morning to attend a bris of a friend's baby. my husband and i went to the bris and then came home and went about our days. i met up with a friend i hadn't seen in months who i also served as her doula at the birth of her twins. it was great to reconnect and talk about my early pregnancy, as this was when when she saw me last. we swapped stories of her growing babes and my pregnancy. i spoke how my body was feeling a little different, and maybe things could be starting, but i really didn't think so. we did some walking, as i was an avid walker during my pregnancy. my midwife heavily suggests a pregnant women walk 5 miles a day. most people think this is nuts, however i stuck to 5 miles as much as possible, especially during the third trimester. this daily walk became a meditation.
after my walk with my friend, i met up with another friend who gave me some bodywork to help relieve the sciatica. we had a great session, and i felt so relaxed. i ventured from that experience to see my acupuncturist. it was the first time i received a treatment at dusk, and the lighting shift made me feel as if i was in a cocoon of healing. she also treated my sciatica and used some aromatherapy to calm my heart center. there was something so magical about the energy in her space that night, that a part of me considered i could go into labor soon. a patient in her waiting room mentioned that i looked ready to give birth and passed on well wishes.
i drove home to a beautifully clean house, and my husband cooking dinner with a friend on the way. we had a lovely meal together and enjoyed each other's company until about 10. i did my nightly ritual of sitz bath and perennial massage.
around 150 am on saturday morning i woke up with a strong sensation in my rectum. i went to the bathroom and had a bowel movement and then went back to bed. about 20 minutes later the sensation came back, and i had another bowel movement. i began to think, okay this is different. when do i wake up to these currents? so i let justin know that my body felt different and that labor could be starting. he made us tea and we sat by the fire. then we went back to bed. i couldn't really sleep, as i was starting to feel waves about every 15 minutes. the thing was, i didn't feel them in my uterus. they were all in my rectum. i continued to clean my bowels out. around 5 am i decided that since i wasn't really sleeping, i should drink a glass of red wine and take a bath. this relaxed me, but sleep never fully came. i laid in bed dozing until about 11 am, when i decided i should eat something. after a quick trip to the bathroom, i realized bloody show had arrived!
i called my midwife, davi, who said this could all be signs of early labor, or they could be symptoms of prelabor. she advised i do some walking, and call her when contractions were a minute in length, every four minutes apart, for at least an hour.
justin and i made a list for the store, as we thought we should stock up on food. i put on my clay mask and took a long shower and washed my hair. around 1 pm he went to the store and i hung out at home and did some yoga and organized a few things around the house. i wanted to make sure everything was ready for the birth. i called my mom around 2pm, to let her know that i was in the very beginning of labor. justin came home by 3 and by 330 we went on a walk to get labor more established, as i was having waves coming 8, 10, 12 minutes apart, and they were mild. all along the sensation was in my rectum each and every time. we walked down sherbourne and decided to visit our friend's house so i could use the bathroom. my waves were coming anywhere from 2.5 to 4 minutes apart and were lasting about 45 seconds long, sometimes a minute long, sometimes a little more. we arrived back home about an hour later, and looking back now, this is when active labor began for me. . .
at 5pm i called my midwife to share the changes. we decided she would come by in a couple of hours to check on me. i filled my doula in as well. i told her i was doing good, and she could hold out. justin was in the kitchen making chicken soup. being the organized person i am, i had a few playlists prearranged, all of the supplies neatly tucked in the corner in the living room, and the mood set. i was in the living room with the fireplace dancing candles lit, and music on. i was on my yoga mat on hands and knees rocking over my yoga ball. a krishna das song came on that brought me to tears. . .i realized at that moment that i was going to need some more support. i wanted bevin, my doula. so i had justin call her to our home, which was going to take about an hour. i rocked and swayed and then noticed the pressure in my rectum was becoming more and more intense. i had justin dress the bed for the birth, and decided a shower would be good to keep me distracted.
i sat down on the toilet and when i stood up, i felt something shift below. it was like my vagina had widened and was forced open. the sensation was odd, however the hormones were fully taking me for a ride, so my thinking mind was quiet. the pressure really shifted, and the waves were getting really strong. i made lots of sounds in the shower to get through the sensations. finally i couldn't take standing anymore and decided to get out of the shower. i tried to get dressed, but the sensations were too intense. i went to my bed to lay down, and realized that was also too much. bevin, my doula arrived at 6 and met me in my bedroom. i so wanted to get back to my yoga mat. . .that was where i had spent most of the day, it feel sure and secure. she helped me get dressed and we went back out into the living room. i felt myself tire and went to the couch, which really hurt to sit, but oh, how i needed some rest. i just wanted the pressure in my rectum to stop for a moment! i needed to be on hands and knees, but couldn't make it to the mat. i was on the hardwood floor. bevin helped me to the yoga mat. after a minute or two i knew i needed to be on the toilet. the pressure in my bottom was so intense and i wasn't sure if i had to have a bowel movement, or what, but i was starting to feel like i was losing my mind. i think this is when i announced we needed to call davi as the baby was low.
we went to the bathroom together, and i sat on the toilet. i was making primal sounds and at some point my chin came to my chest. bevin asked if i felt like pushing. i said maybe. davi soon arrived, around 620. she came straight to the bathroom and listened to baby's heart. i am not sure what i said, but i remember thinking there is no time for that! baby is sooooo low. she checked me while i sat on the toilet and said my water sac was right there.
bevin remembers, "as soon as davi walked in the door you let out this huge amazing sound that I only know to describe as the sound of a baby moving through the birth canal. davi walked in, checked you and said 'well girl, you are having a baby!' we got your pants off and davi half carried you to your bed."
so i needed to stand up, but i couldn't! she told me to put my arms around her, and she helped lift me off the toilet. we were waddling to the bedroom, and davi had one hand on my perineum and the other supporting my hips, both of my arms were wrapped tightly around her neck. i wasn't sure how to even get on the bed. i totally understand that place of pushing described by so many women, where the brain goes to the bottom and nothing really makes sense. i got on hands and knees, facing the wall and gave a push. since everything happened so fast we didn't have the towels or receiving blankets warmed up. in fact, there was a whole commotion about where everything was.
bevin recalled, "you crawled onto your bed on your hands and knees. things moved so fast then. we could see the amniotic sac coming through. it was this iridescent glowing orb coming out of your vagina in pulses. truly amazing! after just a few minutes your water burst and your daughters head crowned."
and my husband's memory, davi said, “papa, come here, the baby is coming.” I tossed the towels or gave them to someone, and rolled up my sleeves. as i came to danielle’s rear, the head began to slowly emerge, before the mouth came out it hardly looked like a head at all, as i reached my hand towards it to touch the head, the water bag burst and my arms were covered in the warmth and wet. my hand touched the soft, silky head covered in vernix and water. suddenly, this little head, hanging out of my wife’s vagina, was screaming in my face--waling, water rushing past the face even into the mouth. davi said, “danielle, reach down and feel your baby’s head. the head is here.” she did, and said, “oh my god.” one push, two pushes, and out fell a body into my hands and onto the bed. i remember thinking, “do i count fingers and toes or look between the legs?” i looked between the legs, “it’s a girl, danielle! it’s a little girl.”
i heard our baby crying and half the body was still inside! i gave another push and the entire body was born at 631, and justin said, "it's a girl"! naviyah was born!
bevin: you gave one and a half more strong pushes and naviyah was born! amniotic fountain!! justin caught her and then passed her to you through your legs. you were so fast in tearing off your shirt and bringing her to your chest! both you and justin immediately rejoiced that you had a girl!
i felt a rush of so many things, shock, awe, love, bliss, total spinning, high and light. i stood up on my knees and immediately stripped off my tank top and lifted her up to me. i had help crawling up to the top of the bed where i leaned back on pillows and put her to my chest. i looked down and she was so warm and pink and round. it was amazing! she looked so healthy and alive and she cried and cried. i felt higher than high.
naviyah had perfect 10 apgars. she came out with clear fluid and in a perfect position. the whole experience was so magical. i just rode my body. i had prepared myself to feel such intense pain, that i think all along i was so surprised i was actually giving birth so fast, that i didn't believe it was actually happening.
after naviyah was born jessica, davi's assistant arrived. my birth team worked on getting us cleaned and organized and then retreated to the living room so that justin and i could have quiet time with naviyah. it was such a sweet time. it all felt so surreal. the endorphins from birth stayed with me for hours. i couldn't sleep a wink that night. i just stared at her all night long, totally amazed and in awe of the entire experience, and most of all this beautiful pink breathing body that grew inside my womb, and was now sleeping in the crook of my arm. giving birth was so fulfilling. it was amazing and empowering. i am blessed to have this life, to have this experience.