My first “birth” experience, five years ago, was a planned home birth with a midwife, which turned into a cataclysmic disaster at the hospital, where my baby son, Hans, was cut out of and taken from me via Caesarean section. The general anesthesia had not yet taken effect when the surgeon began slicing into my belly. It took me years to sort through it all and figure out and learn what really happened and why. There is much to say, but basically I had put all my faith in the midwife, trusting her to make this birth work, rather than looking to myself. I totally misunderstood the concepts of “taking responsibility for” and “owning” one’s own pregnancy and birth experience. I had no idea what birth was. Granted, it was a far cry from going to an OB and mindlessly assuming a hospital “delivery,” but you see, it ended up the same way.
Under the smothering avalanche of pain and trauma, enough instinct shone through to enable me to sense that things were all wrong; that this was not the way it had to be, should not have been; this was not the way I was meant to experience birth, this greatest passage of life. It couldn’t be. I just couldn’t go on with life and let that physical and spiritual rape be all I knew of birth.
So my second baby was conceived with that burning desire for truth.
This time I chose two traditional midwives in another state who practiced together and had the reputation of working frequently with VBAC women and having a 0% hospital transport rate! Once again, I put myself and my baby in the hands of others, but it was a necessary step to my complete power and understanding. They were my healers and teachers, and through them, my own shattered trust and self-confidence bloomed.
I gave birth, triumphantly and defiantly, to my 10 and 1/4 pound daughter, Anna, after 37 hours of hard labor. It was a passionate birth, and just as the past surgical nightmare had changed my life, so too did this candlelit bedroom birth. I was starting to see what was possible.
I spent the next three years studying everything I could about birth, and the deeper I got, the simpler it all became. I looked very deeply into the spiritual aspects of conception, pregnancy, birth, the newborn, breastfeeding and mothering. By the time my newest baby was conceived, I understood with shining clarity (what we all know deep in our souls) that it is absolutely and only the mother and the baby who birth – not men, not doctors, not midwives, not husbands; it is safe and it works; and that we birthing women have the complete and perfect ability to define and create that process, as perfectly as we can.
I decided this time, to truly take full responsibility for my and my baby’s well-being. Who better than I? My “lack” of prenatal care, viewed by some as irresponsible, was, on the contrary, being profoundly responsible, vastly more so than turning oneself over to someone else and “letting them do it.” As my own best care-giver, I prepared myself physically, psychologically and spiritually for this birth.
Early on, I made a list of all the factors and elements I did or did not want to be part of this experience. My main focus was on creating an absolutely uninterrupted, undisturbed process of birthing, controlled entirely by me. I wanted no input from anyone else while giving birth. I wanted no suggestions, no instructions, no checking, measuring or labeling. I had total confidence that I would have a safe and normal birth. Faith and knowledge. I also wanted to insure the gentlest birth possible, the warmest welcome, with utmost protection and respect, for this new baby. Waterbirth was an obvious and lovely choice.
I had made a decision to ask one of Anna’s midwives to stay at our home for the birth. Not to “help” me birth, but as my spiritual companion. She was a religious and gentle woman and I felt I wanted her spiritual influence. I had to be very clear on this within myself, for, if I trusted birth, why did I need a “safety net”? She respected my desire to birth alone and agreed to follow my lead. These considerations were all in vain, for the baby decided to come before she did. The pure energy of my truest sense was strongest. We never had a midwife.
At the end of my pregnancy, I had told my husband, Peter, that I believed there was no reason for me to work so hard and have such a long labor again; that I could just as well do it in, say, four hours this time. Well, when all was said and done, I gave birth in two and a half hours!
When it became clear that baby was coming and we were alone, Peter began to get nervous. I would have none of it. There was no room for doubt and fear. I was calm and strong. Hans and Anna, ages nearly five and three, witnessed Mommy “in labor” cooking dinner, folding laundry, walking outside, and being happy and normal. We were cozy at home and Mommy was going to have a baby.
Right after I put them to bed, things got so much more intense and I felt ready to get in the water. We had set up the birthing pool in front of the fireplace and it was heavenly sliding into the warm, deep water in the dark, firelit room.
I still shudder as I think of how I reached in myself and felt her head; no mirrors, no one else seeing, only absolute connection, only me; and how, as I floated, suspended in the birthing water, I pushed Eva out into the same dark water, like we were both being born.
We watched her, still underwater, floating arms outstretched, looking up at us, her body glowing with an unearthly light. Peter was kneeling on the floor at the side of the pool, and I slowly brought our baby’s face to the surface. It was the holiest moment of our lives. She breathed effortlessly and without a sound.
The placenta was born five minutes later, when I squatted in the water and pushed it into my own hands, as Peter held Eva, his arms in the water.
As I write this, it has been five months since the birth, but I am still reeling from the experience. Through Eva’s birth, I finally found and lived the truth of my womanhood.