I worked with Sacred Birth Midwifery for the birth of my second child. With my first child I prepared well for a natural childbirth in a hospital setting, and managed to pull one off by the skin of my teeth with help of a doula, a birth plan, Bradley classes, and a supportive husband. But the more I reflected on the birth, I saw the many ways in which a natural birth was constantly under assault, and in particular realized that labor is not a time to have to fight for what you believe in and need. It is a time to focus on your body and your baby and do the work of bringing your child into the world. I knew I needed to seek out caregivers who believed what I now believed about birth. I knew that home was the most natural and comfortable place to have that focus and do that work, so I sought out homebirth midwives.
In my initial meeting with the women at Sacred Birth, and throughout my care with them, I saw how strongly they trusted birth. As they followed my pregnancy I could see their joy and appreciation at feeling the contours of my baby inside me or listening to her heartbeat. I hadn't even noticed that was missing from my care in my first pregnancy! My pre-natal care was grounded in respectful discussions between myself and the midwives about how I felt, what I thought would work best for me, informed by their professional experience and expertise and my own research. We talked about birth in the same mutual spirit. They seemed to sense my confidence in birthing, and my need to be the authority on my birth this time around. At no time did fear appear to guide their thinking about birth - from the beginning when I pushed them to describe how they would react to a pregnancy going past 41 or 42 week, to the end when my blood pressure inched up as it had in my first pregnancy. We just matter-of-factly discussed how to optimize my health and the baby's health and trusted that the normal course of events was most likely to unfold.
During the birth itself they found the perfect balance of support - far enough away that I would be at ease doing what I needed and wanted to do, but close enough to be reassuringly at hand. I've heard it said that the best labor attendants get a lot of knitting done. I don't know if Tanya and Kirsten were knitting while I was in labor, perhaps they spent the whole time setting up the birth tub and double-checking supplies, but they quietly settled in downstairs while I labored upstairs. At regular, but not too frequent intervals, they visited upstairs - sometimes to talk to me and take a silent assessment of my posture, tone of voice, breathing, and a quick fetal heart rate check with the doppler, as we'd agreed, other times just to stand outside the door and listen for a minute, and then head back downstairs. Just as with the prenatal appointments, their check-ins during labor made me feel supported and cared for, not monitored and fretted over. I knew from my first birth that I was very suggestible during labor, and I had wondered how I would be able to stay "in charge" - but they way they approached me never made me feel unsure of myself or directed.
To tell the story of the birth itself... I labored fairly calmly for the first three hours, resting in my bathtub, then curled up with my husband in bed, dozing between strong contractions. I could feel the baby moving happily inside me, something I hadn't been at peace enough to notice in my first birth. Eventually it occurred to me that while resting helped me cope with contractions, I was ready to get the birth over with and that resting was not moving things along quickly. I wrested myself from bed and sat on the toilet, heading instantly into transition - intense pain, sweating, and a feeling that I couldn't go on. Luckily, I maintained some dim awareness that this was totally normal. Kirsten came upstairs to see what I needed now. I remember saying I just wanted the baby out of me. She offered the idea of going to the birth tub set up downstairs. I was unsure I could make it that far, and unsure of whether I would like being in water, since my attempt at relaxing in the jacuzzi tub at the hospital was disappointingly uncomfortable in my first birth. But I remembered stories I'd read of women in transition reaching complete dilation upon entering the tub. I decided it was worth a try. With help, I descended the stairs as quickly as possible between very intense contractions.
Although it was nearing midnight, the midwives had hung sheets over my normally unshaded windows, to help me feel more private in my living room. The lights were dim, and the birth tub was all set up and the water warm. With a little more help, I climbed into the tub and I felt my legs and thighs relax in the deep, warm water. On the next contraction, my baby's water's broke, and on the next contraction I felt the urge to push. The midwives heard it instantly in my voice. With no dilation checks, we all knew exactly where things stood. As we'd talked about in appointments, they encouraged me to support my own perineum to deliver slowly and gently. They also suggested I feel inside for the baby's descent - I checked and felt a bony little skull, and instantly announced I'd felt a head! No one had doubted that my baby was head-down, but it was reassuring at that moment to feel a genuine head! The pushing contractions were extremely painful, but luckily it only took maybe three to push out that little head, then another for the shoulders and the body. A midwife (Kirsten?) lifted my baby up from the water and handed her to me to hold to my chest.
We rested that way for several minutes before I even checked to see whether we'd had a girl or a boy. She was a girl - a wonderful healthy 9lb girl, with a full head of dark hair. After some time in the tub they asked me to move onto dry land to deliver the placenta. We left the placenta attached for a couple hours to let the cord activity die off naturally. The midwives observed the baby on me, with no need at all to separate us or disturb the baby. I was surprised to find that my baby wasn't too interested in nursing until about an hour after birth. I've since heard this isn't abnormal for babies born so peacefully. And I felt no pressure from the midwives to make it happen - they just waited for it to happen in good time, and in their follow-up in the weeks to come again assumed the normal course while just keeping an unworried eye out for any problems. Once I was ready to settle in to sleep for the night, the midwives helped us upstairs and we cut the cord, and they performed a basic newborn exam that was actually more in depth than what the pediatrician felt he needed to do when he did a home visit for us a few days later. As I fell asleep with my husband and new baby, the midwives finished up their cleanup and let themselves out.
It feels funny to retell the story because there is little drama, and it sounds completely normal and banal. Sadly a birth this physiologically normal is not "normal" in our present culture. But this kind of birth has the best chances of happening in an environment where everyone believes it is possible . I'm glad I believed, and I am thankful to my husband and to Sacred Birth Midwifery for believing with me and being with me at the birth of our daughter.