When I learned I was pregnant with my 2nd child, there wasn’t even a discussion on where or how I wanted to birth. My husband knew. He asked once to confirm and then never again. After how things went with my first child, and given the ongoing global pandemic, I knew I wanted to have a home birth without question. I gathered my birth team and went to work getting my body ready. This birth team included a midwife, doula, acupuncturist, and chiropractor, all of whom are competent, compassionate, and experienced, who put the health and safety of mom and baby first while also acknowledging that a positive pregnancy and birth experience is critical.
My chiropractor and acupuncturist appointments were monthly. These providers I have seen for many years even in between pregnancies so they know well my trigger points. My chiropractor, who is well known in the area for his experience with pregnant women, made sure to help me have baby in optimal position and helped me correct or address problematic physical changes I was experiencing. My acupuncturist was there to alleviate symptoms like headaches and heartburn while also decreasing anxiety and stress. He shared that mamas who received acupuncture during pregnancy reported having calmer babies. Yes, please!
I saw my midwife monthly until we got closer to the due date at which point she came to me, in my home, bi-weekly, and then weekly. She was available to me at any point via email, text, or phone. Without question or hesitation, she would be there with a response for my latest question or concern. I can’t tell you how amazing it was first to have her come to my house, where I didn’t have to worry about driving, parking, finding daycare for my preschooler, exposing myself to others in a clinical settings etc. That was invaluable and so much less stressful. Second, having access to her all the time addressed the anxiety that women feel when they’re pregnant and having symptoms that they need clarity upon. Whether it was early bleeding or an odd pain, I could ask my midwife instead of taking it to “Dr. Google”. I went to the hospital twice for the two ultrasounds at twelve weeks and twenty weeks and that’s it. Even the gestational diabetes screening was done at home and, that too, with real food! None of that nasty glucose drink. Yuck! And I saw my doula, who I also had for my first daughter, for a hypnobirthing refresher to remember the birthing process and how to labor successfully. She too was available for any questions we had and was there in the months and weeks leading up to the birth.
Being pregnant in a pandemic is hard as hell. It’s isolating and anxiety inducing and you feel like you’re neglecting your baby because you’re so busy and so stressed. The birth team kept me healthy and grounded and focused on a positive birth experience.
Early on in my pregnancy, I was practicing yoga and meditation nearly every day. Then, my daughter started virtual school, at about month 6, and the yoga stopped. I was able to continue meditating, which helped me relieve stress and anxiety. Aware of the concept of conscious pregnancy and how my stress affected my baby, I knew it was critical for me to manage my stress and yet, it was incredibly challenging. I missed having the time for yoga and knew my body needed it.
My pregnancy was mostly uneventful though you get bigger sooner the second time around and that brought about pelvic floor issues. I also had incredible heartburn that didn’t seem to respond to most remedies. Sleep happened in chunks, which is an unfortunate reality that starts in pregnancy, perhaps to prepare you for those early months. All of this is expected.
In January, with four weeks to go, we began spending our weekends nesting, purging, organizing. I was feeling good about what we had accomplished and felt one more weekend would help me feel ready for the arrival. The Monday after our second weekend of organizing, I started feeling intense back pain and leakage. I immediately reached out to my doula and midwife who suggested I rest more.
That Thursday, I happened to have gone to the chiropractor and gotten groceries and, at night, attended a workshop on pelvic floor challenges. I was sitting on a bouncy ball that night, watching a show, savoring the solitude, when the back pain got really intense. I went upstairs and the shivering started. It was uncontrollable. I sent a message to my husband, who was in the basement, and he immediately came to tuck me in and warm me up. He looked it up, and sure enough, chills were an indication of labor. I was 38 weeks pregnant.
The first hour or so I was able to laugh and joke and then I went into what they call the labor zone. The surges came periodically at first and were intense. We wanted to call in the midwife and doula but didn’t want them too soon if labor would continue for awhile. Around 2:30 am, the surges were getting more and more intense and my husband asked the team to come. Midwives and doulas are incredible human beings, who don’t sleep it seems, because they were ready for the call cheery and positive. I certainly could not be that way at 3:00 am. They arrived an hour later and got to work getting vitals, helping me labor, filling the tub, laying down blankets, chucks pads, and pillows. I was at my most vulnerable and was so glad I had them there with my husband. My 5 year old was sleeping soundly next door and I worried my vocalizations would wake her. I was anxious to get into the birthing tub, to warm up and help relax my muscles but it takes a long time to fill and I was progressing quickly. I felt I was doing “it” wrong and was frustrated with myself. My doula and midwife were so encouraging and assured me everything was progressing as its supposed to. Around 4:30 or 5:00 am, the active labor started and I felt the weight of the earth pulling me to the ground, on my knees in surrender and submission to something so much greater than me.
I was so exhausted and later learned that I was back laboring, which means there are no breaks between surges. The pain is constant, liken it to someone hitting your lower back with a baseball bat for six hours. My doula told me it was an efficient labor, though at the time it didn’t feel like it. They kept reminding me to breathe. I thought I was breathing! There were times when I wanted to quit. They assured me this was normal and actually indicated that I was getting close to delivery. It was hard as well but I never once felt fear, which I felt with my first born in the hospital.
I was in the tub by now and asked my husband get in to massage my back. Around 5:00 am, my daughter woke up and came into the room asking “what are you guys doing?” She sat close by and, while talking up a storm, was mostly agreeable, asking the team why I was making those “funny noises”. We asked if the sounds woke her up and she said “no, someone called my name to wake up”. None of us had come to wake her up. Perhaps it was her baby sister calling her to wake up and witness her birth.
Around 6:00 am, the pushing started. My husband and daughter were in the tub and I paced the pushes. At one point, I asked my midwife to check how far along I was. As she went to check, the baby grabbed onto her finger. She said it was the most incredible feeling and the first time she experienced that. My daughter shouted, “I can see her hair!”
Baby Sahani arrived at 6:28 am. She was sunny side up, which means her spine was against my spine, explaining the back labor. She also came out posing, having one hand on her cheek, which meant her elbow caught me on the way out, resulting in a second degree tear.
The sun was coming up and I was exhausted and relieved to have my baby in my arms. The team helped us get cleaned up and warm in bed. An hour later, she latched, while they worked on dismantling the birthing space. All I had to do was rest and bond and snuggle and recover.
The midwife tried to stitch me up but the pelvic floor pain was more than I could handle. She offered other interventions to stop the bleeding and agreed to wait. She came back the next day, with her assistant, to stitch me up in my own bed! It was mostly manageable. The pelvic floor pain was actually more intense than the tear.
Hours after the birth, my midwife performed a cord burning (instead of a cord cutting) ceremony, where she held one candle and my husband and daughter held the other candle slowly burning the life-force that connected me to my daughter and nourished her for nearly ten months. It was a beautiful, meaningful and deliberate process.
My doula did a placenta tour showing us how baby was nourished all these months. No one came in to tell me to put my baby down for fearing of dropping her or waking us up at midnight to give her a bath or coming in every hour to check our vitals or doing things to my daughter without asking my permission, all of which happened in the hospital. I went from the birth tub to my bed in my own warm, safe, serene home and, for that, I was so grateful.
We spent the day in bed, recovering from an incredible journey that I didn’t even believe had happened. I felt so much love and support and encouragement from my doula and midwife. My husband shared how incredible it was to see the power of the feminine as they nurtured and guided me through childbirth. He had heard about it but to witness, it was something else.
They left our room and home clean and in perfect order so that we could focus on recovering. I was so moved by everything they had done for us and wished every birthing mama could feel as loved and supported.
Having a home birth, a water birth, a VBAC was something I wanted for years and I got it. It was harder and more taxing than I expected. I know it’s not for everyone but it’s safer than people think. Midwives and doulas often have more training and more experience, knowing how to deliver breech babies and perform VBACs. They know how to turn babies in utero, how to use different positions to help mamas birth, how to use natural interventions to help labor progress or induce labor or help with pain mitigation. They’re highly skilled yet compassionate and caring and hold the safety of baby AND mom with utmost priority while also understanding that how babies arrive into the world is important and mothers don’t deserve traumatic birthing experiences. They believe mamas deserve better. And I, well I believe they are unsung heroes.
When my midwife and doula were leaving, saying “thank you” seemed like the most insufficient and trite thing you can say to two miracle workers who helped you bring your baby into the world. I still don’t have the words to convey the greatness and profoundness of all that I felt for months and months of loving support but I hope they know how grateful I am. We named our daughter Sahani, which means beloved, but it was I who felt beloved under their care. All mamas and babies should feel this way after birth. Every. Single. One.