After we had made our decision to give birth at home, we continued to get educated on the topic watching documentaries and learning from other couples that had gone through the same process recently, which gave us further strength and trust in ourselves and in our capacity to do it. This is something I consider is very supportive for first time mothers, to get acquainted with other mothers to be and get a firsthand share of how the birthing process was for them. In my case, the pregnant ladies I met that gave birth during the time I was expecting, didn’t have favorable outcomes in their intent to have natural births, which did initially moved me in the sense of thinking ‘what ifs’ but, I have to thank my partner and the midwives that were able to explain why such complications took place so that I could see the reasoning behind it and so, not fear, and get myself back to trusting myself and my capacity to do it.
One interesting thing is how upon getting to meet our midwife Minerva and getting more informed, I became quite settled and tranquil within the process and fears dissipated, because I saw how much I had been brainwashed to see birth as something painful or terrifying even. And that was awesome as well, because then I wasn’t fearing getting to the delivery time, I had other resistances that played out as I will share here, which were of another kind.
So the story begins… It was January 14th, I had gone to my yoga class that morning and then had a family meeting to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday and I actually was feeling quite alright but already having some of what I had understood were the famously known Braxton-Hicks contractions, which interestingly enough I started noticing in a more defined way on January 1st. That same day at night, I was eating some left overs of the chocolate cake I had made for my father and one of those contractions came and I told my mother: ‘come and feel this!’ and she placed her hand on my belly and she was shocked by how rock-hard it felt and she was like ‘how long have you been feeling these?’ and so I said that I noticed them from the beginning of the year – actually on the 31st to be precise when we were at the movies watching Parasite, lol, Minerva really disliked that movie chair – and she explained how there’s this theory that 2 weeks after these contractions begin, well, labor also begins. I didn’t pay much attention and just said how this was nothing to worry about.
The midwife, Minerva, had explained to us how from the 11th on, anything could happen. Well, I was still kind of holding the idea that first time mothers deliver mostly close to the 40th week or even later, I was in the middle of the 38th and I thought I ‘still have time’ and actually was kind of being lax about buying some of the stuff required for the whole home birth experience. Actually on the 10th we were still going to shops to buy stuff and we were foreseeing to start packing and moving things by the end of that week… well, that night we came home and close to midnight I saw that the mucus plug came out. I kind of freaked out even though I knew this was something that would happen before labor started. I also held on to some information of how some women lost this plug and ended up having their child some 2 weeks later, I thought this was going to be my case.
I told my partner, I wasn’t feeling anything after that, so we went to sleep and all I can say is that in the middle of my sleep I was feeling this quite heavy or hard contractions throughout the night, but I kept sweeping them aside as if they were just the Braxton-Hicks ones and nothing serious, however the pain was getting definitely more than the ones I had felt the days before. So, it was at 4 am when I decided to wake my partner up and explain the situation and from that moment on, contractions started happening quite frequently. I downloaded an app to keep track of them and man, it turned out that they were happening every 10 minutes and then, gee, every three minutes! lol the app was telling us ‘you need to rush to the hospital right NOW!’ lol well I laugh because I also knew this could happen and how it didn’t mean that labor is starting ‘right now’ but I still called Minerva – our midwife – at 5 am and let her know about it, she simply said to keep her updated and let her know whenever we wanted them to come to the house.
I called my mother and she obviously freaked out because, yes, like me, we weren’t expecting this to happen ‘so soon!’ and my reaction was that of rushing and worrying how I didn’t get to have or ‘leave’ everything ready, I was still expecting to have some time left, some more days to go swimming or to my yoga class – yep! I had such kind of thoughts in the middle of these continuous series of contractions at 5 am on that Wednesday morning. But, in the middle of my disbelief, we started packing everything we needed to temporarily move to my parent’s house where the birth and my postpartum time would be spent.
By that time, I really thought that our daughter was going to come in the next following hours, but! what actually happened is that the contractions receded, they essentially slowed down in frequency, oh and I was also having some of the amniotic fluid coming out, but not entirely, so midwife explained how this was a partial rupture of the membranes, so that kept me ‘on guard’ so to speak as well because of having to keep an eye on that and ensuring the liquid remained clear- if not, that means attention, you need to go to a hospital soon.
To make the story shorter, contractions kept happening that day, sometimes an hour and a half would transpire before I had another one, sometimes they happened every 20 minutes, and that’s how most of the day went. At night, they spiked and so, I would wake up to manage them – because it’s not particularly nice to experience contractions while laying down in my experience – and my partner would assist me in every single one of them. We would sleep in between the contractions and to make the story even shorter, the same happened in the following two nights which means by the time I got to the day of giving birth, I have had four nights of really bad sleep with contraction pains… not cool, but that’s how it went.
The next day on Thursday, we got the first visit from the midwives after me telling them that contractions were still happening just not as frequently to call it an ‘active’ labor phase. So they came home, checked baby’s vital signs and did some acupuncture on me, some massaging and some rebozeo, which is a very traditional technique with what is called a ‘wrap’ in English to help the baby position herself better to give birth and also to assist with my hips and in general also to relieve some tension in my body. That was great, it all was aimed to ‘start the engine’ on the giving birth process. They explained to us how most women go into ‘activity’ at night due to some hormones, and so I was expecting that action would begin that night, but it didn’t. We had another long night with multiple contractions but nothing too painful to call it an active labor phase yet.
On Friday, both midwives came home again, this time they gave me a series of homeopathic stuff to induce labor and here comes the most interesting part, they also have a set of questions to check up on some of the emotional stuff that could be clogging or delaying the active labor phase. So when Minerva asked ‘are you ready to give birth to your child?’ My Ms. Correctness answer was ‘yes, as ready as I can be’ but my partner was like ‘hold on, that’s not true’ lol! Grateful for his ever bluntly honest perspectives and feedback because he then explained to me how I was still doing my work in the past days, how i was still doing chores and the ‘regular stuff’ and in essence not really focusing on the birthing process at all. I had to admit that was in fact true and how my sense of ‘responsibility’ was killing me because of not having ‘everything ready’ at the time and still holding on to that idea of myself having to ‘get to do everything’ and not really giving myself that space to realize: you are about to give Birth! How about focusing on THAT!
Well, that was my first point of admitting I was preoccupying myself with all kinds of stuff instead of realizing: it’s time, baby is about to be born. And then, there was some kind of question related to the end of pregnancy, and that’s where the nail was hit on the head as well. As the conversation opened up, I realized how pregnancy had become my comfort zone, I was feeling so well and was able to do ‘all of these things’ like going out and exercising and I was sleeping well up to the contraction-night time that I just kind of wanted to prolong that phase because, hey! it’s easier apparently, you don’t have to actually take care of the baby outside of the womb, don’t have to feed them or get to be awake at night, baby goes everywhere with me and I didn’t have to do a thing to care for her… this was my point of resistance and what also delayed my active labor phase.
It turns out that I was holding on to the pregnancy and as such, I was holding on to keeping the baby inside me, I hadn’t essentially let go and ‘detached’ in that sense of her. And, as I was sitting cross legged on the mat with my partner next to me and I started opening up all of these things about me ‘holding on to the pregnancy’ and having her within me… I seriously hadn’t realized this if it wasn’t for those questions that led me to find this out. And the moment that I said: “I need to let go, I need to detach” bam! The ‘water broke’ or the membranes were ruptured and liquid started flowing for real this time. I started crying, it was such a ‘magical’ moment, it seemed that’s what I had to realize, to really recognize this time as ‘this is IT! Baby is coming’ and in a way then also embracing that this was the end of this ‘sweet time’ that I made of pregnancy to be.
Was it the homeopathy, was it the talk, was it all of the above? I’m not sure or all of the above, but one thing led to another and so this time contractions continued ‘as usual’ throughout the afternoon and then around 10 pm at night on that Friday night, contractions really went up in intensity. I started experiencing them every 20 minutes and I kept tracking most of them. I am eternally grateful for my partner that would wake up with me and step out of bed in every single one of them throughout the night to assist me with coping with the pain, now that was some more intense stuff I couldn’t just ‘laugh’ through as I had done in the previous contractions. I had to be swaying from side to side holding his hand and holding myself from a piece of furniture that was in fact Minerva’s diaper changing zone 🙂 Well, once we saw that the intensity had reasonably augmented and that this time they didn’t seem to slow down in time, we called the midwives to let them know it was time to come home.
I still can’t fathom how we managed to do this, we would sleep some solid 20 minutes and like clockwork a new contraction would begin, then we would go back to sleep and so forth. By the time I kept track of the last series of contractions before midwives arrived at around 5 am on Saturday morning, I had logged in more than 235 contractions since early Wednesday morning when I started tracking them. God knows how many more I did on the rest of that Saturday when things got really intense and then we certainly knew it active labor time.
That Saturday is kind of fuzzy to me, time ceased to exist and I just remember having a lot of contractions, being on several positions, holding my partner’s hands in each contraction, holding the midwives hands when he had to leave to eat or go to the toilet. I was assisted with many natural means throughout the whole process, I had a heated bag of salt on my back to relieve the pain. I had homeopathy, aromatherapy, essential oils, massage, acupuncture all done throughout that day to assist with activating the process and relieving pain.
I was also able to eat whatever I wanted to, this apparently is a no go when going to a hospital. I had my aunt sending me some chicken soup and I even ate a bit of a hamburger throughout that day lol along with all the usual nuts and seeds that I eat, dried fruits, lots of electrolytes and a natural mix of lemon, salt, baking soda and honey to hydrate myself. I had some really rough moments where I thought
I wasn’t going to make it, I felt like fainting, I hadn’t slept in the past 4 nights and I was in pain. I got a tact done by Minerva and got to know I was half way dilated, there was progress, yay, but still had a long way to go. After some more hours of constant contractions, I got another tact done and voilà, I was fully dilated, yay, but I was exhausted.
This was a crucial moment because the birth tub was getting filled with water but there was a general concern to use it or not, because as much as water helps to relieve pain, it can also slow down the process and ultimately take it to a halt if one gets ‘too comfy’ in the water. Well, I decided I wanted to do it anyways and give it my all to make it work.
Now, entering that birth pool was a heavenly experience to me, seriously, I don’t know what I would have done without that water embracing me in that moment, I am grateful for having chosen this method of giving birth, which also btw can only be used once that one is totally ready to give birth, so it’s meant to be used for a short period of time, but! in my case, I spent more time in it than expected because, It did happen that things came to a halt at some point, I lost focus, I was really tired and I had to essentially be ‘re-focused’ to it through a guided meditation, to essentially give myself the necessary awareness of how close I was to giving birth now and how I had to gather my strength to do it. At this point I was really in pain, I was screaming out loud with all of my lungs and I was also continually directed to refocus it, to not go into the ‘pain’ experience but to channel that through vocalizing it, with my whole body instead of just ‘screaming out of pain’ type of thing.
Something else that I got to actually take as a big lesson in all of this is how I am not entirely IN my physical body, meaning aware of how every muscle works and how to direct my body in fact when it comes to something like giving birth where I couldn’t really focus on pushing as such where I needed to push; instead, I would tense my whole body and that of course only prolonged things once again. This was getting everyone’s nerves to the top, to be honest, I could see everyone’s face how they could see the baby’s head and I even was told to stick my finger up to feel her head and I couldn’t believe that ‘this was it’ that it was in fact Minerva’s head, I thought it was some trick to keep me in good spirits and keep pushing, lol, but it was in fact so that she was only a few centimeters away from the outside. Well, those few centimeters took a couple of hours of constant pushing for her to actually come out, yes, it was intense and by that moment I was having contractions like every minute or god knows how often, all I remember was having a contraction, holding my legs up so that Minerva, the midwife, could do some aid with her hands to have the baby come out and then I would go back into the water and drink electrolytes. Yep, I ended up drinking like 5 bottles of it that day, all definitely needed because, I was truly in that marathon experience I had considered it would be, only with some ‘extra’ days added of relative hard work.
I was getting desperate by the very end, I kept pushing and everyone kept saying how close I was but the baby wasn’t coming out. I have to admit I said – almost at the very end – I give up, I can’t do this anymore. In that moment, my mother stepped up and reminded me how this was definitely not the time to ‘give up’ lol and how I had to give it my all. She actually had to directly explain to me how to breathe and direct the force of that breathe to push the baby out. It turns out I just wasn’t really ‘connecting’ with that innate way that women have to give birth, it turns out my intellect, my rational mind has more of a hold of me to the point that I wasn’t really surrendering to the process. And that was in fact one of the key words that also assisted me to finally give birth, to surrender to it, I was still trying to ‘manage’ the pain by tensing up my body throughout the contractions, instead of giving myself to it, surrendering to it, offering myself to the process so to speak, fully opening myself up. And that’s something that I finally did in those last moments of pushing when I gave it my all, it didn’t matter anymore if all of my insides would come out in that moment, I just wanted Minerva to come out and end this whole marathon for myself, for her and for everyone that was there and not there that were also stuck to their phones trying to find out any news about the birth, making their prayers and sending me good vibes essentially for everything to go well.
The moment came when I did one of those gargantuan efforts to push and with Minerva’s hands as aid, the head was released from my birth canal and a fraction of a second afterwards the whole body just came out like a torpedo in the water. I couldn’t believe myself and as I type this, I still can’t fathom how that was possible. My partner was in tears throughout the last phase of the process because he was seeing how much I was in pain and suffering, but I kept calm in that sort of trance that one goes into when giving birth, I can’t honestly recall if I cried at some point, I probably did, but the moment that Minerva came out it was just this giant relief, because I was just about to be ‘out’ when it comes to lacking energy to do another effort like that.
She was finally here, on my chest, spewing some phlegm out and mustering her first crying. I recognized the feel of her vertebrae because it was the same I would feel on my womb, I said how I was glad she was finally here, but I was mostly ‘out’ of myself by that moment. Giving birth to the baby doesn’t mean it’s over yet. Next came the placenta and I wasn’t ready to have more contractions for it to be delivered, I wanted to have some ‘rest time’ lol, but it didn’t quite happen, after some 20 minutes I had another big contraction – though less than the actual final delivery moment – and the placenta came out also with quite a force.
The next thing was to step out of the pool, which I didn’t want to do, but it was something I HAD to do since I was already at a very weak state and staying there was only prolonging getting back to the regular pressure of the outside and getting some actual rest. While the midwives and my partner were helping me to get out of the pool, Minerva was carried by my mother, a very happy grandmother that got to carry her first while still connected with the placenta that was kept in a crystal container next to her, that was definitely something new to her for sure as well.
As I went out of the pool, I felt the weight of gravity, I felt like the air wasn’t enough for me, I felt pain just everywhere and as I was walking next door to the room where we would be sleeping, I was ‘gone’ for a second. This was very creepy for me as well because that moment where I essentially ‘fainted’ seemed like an eternity for me. I was awaken by Minerva with the words ‘Marlen, wake up, you are here and now’ with a very direct voice and as I opened my eyes and saw her face, it’s as if I had been born myself again, like having that fraction of a second recap of what had just happened ‘Oh god, I just gave birth, Minerva – our daughter – is here, I made it, we made it’ and then after a few steps, same fainting happened and was brought back instantly again with their ‘magic’ lol – and I was awaken.
This is significant, this is something that happens to women where there’s like a really big shock after birth, and sometimes there’s this unconscious desire to just not wanting to ‘wake up’ to the new reality of having a child, of becoming a mother, of now having to take care of a child. I do see some of that in my case considering how I had interestingly enough placed ‘the birthing process’ as some sort of an end-goal, instead of taking it as the beginning of a new phase in my life that it actually was. Fortunately, I am alive to tell, lol, it’s not like I was dying, it felt like a rebirth certainly, a new phase of me and my life of which I still had to go through some more ‘mourning’ because, I hadn’t really placed too much attention into ‘what’s next’ after the baby is delivered… yep, that is correct and so the next phase came with the challenges that emerge when one is stuck with the heroic feeling of ‘delivering the baby’ and forgets about actually taking care of oneself mentally and physically for that which starts right after the baby is out.
Fortunately enough due to all the labor done, colostrum came out with ease and Minerva started sucking it up right away with all her might and strength which has characterized her from the moment she was in the womb 🙂 We had a very special moment to cut the umbilical cord, a little ceremony to release her from the placenta that had given her all the support she needed to be born alive and well, which I ended up also consuming right after giving birth in a milkshake as well as taking it in pills throughout the quarantine to take some of those nutrients back into my body – and some other medicine that was made from it as well as the actual dried placenta, which serves as an aid to restore tissue in any kind of injuries in our bodies. Well, I share about this to be aware of all the benefits of using the placenta, instead of perhaps leaving it to the hospital where they most likely sell it on the black market to companies that make some ‘stem cell’ health or beauty products. Own your placenta, women! I learned to be thankful to it in realizing the essential job it has to keep my child alive in the womb.
Once the cord was cut – with an obsidian knife by my partner – I was just wanting to rest, and there is nothing like being able to get out of the ‘birthing room’ – as we now call the TV room hehe – take a few steps and be in bed at the comfort of your own home, not having to deal with any other ‘hassle’ of measurements or vaccines or lousy treatments for the mother or the baby, just pure skin to skin contact with myself and with her father. I ended up sleeping afterwards and my partner slept with Minerva on his chest that whole night. That is priceless when it comes to the first hours after the baby comes out of the womb, to have the warmth of her parents as a bed to sleep on, no need for separate beds or incubation.
The next day, I was feeling ‘really well’ like surprisingly well – all things considered in terms of all the postpartum aches and bleeding. I sure would get the usual contractions while breastfeeding and bleeding quite a bit as is normal after giving birth, but I felt well, perhaps some of the hormones still having an effect on me at that time that I kind of ‘forgot’ to eat well, I ‘forgot’ to sleep more during the day. We were just ecstatic about the whole odyssey that the birthing process had been, we were just happy to see Minerva alive and well and have her in our arms and I forgot to do those very basic self-care points even if people offered them, I didn’t quite ‘realized’ that I had to be WELL fed and rested to be there for my child, to feed her, to take care of her.
Minerva was born at 6:35 pm on Saturday January 18th, and I went to bed at around 11 I think. The next day I didn’t sleep throughout the day, I have had some bad nights of sleep the previous days but I didn’t seem to care, until the second night where I felt the effect of staying up several nights and I felt so weak that I was losing it, like closing my eyes and perceiving I was going to ‘leave’ type of thing, it was scary for myself and my partner who didn’t know what to do in the moment other that telling me to go to sleep while having a baby that craved to eat but still wasn’t having enough of what she was demanding at the moment, so that was a stressful time for the three of us and got to learn the lesson: I have to feed myself well enough, I have to rest well because I am now feeding my daughter and I have to take care of her and so, I have to be well for myself to be there for her as well.
I share this because, it may happen that someone overlooks this kind of basic things and one can prevent such ‘overdrive’ by learning from others’ experiences as well. After that, I made sure I eat more than the usual because I am breastfeeding Minerva, also resting well even if at times it is hard for me to go back to sleep after feeding her at night, since I have ‘programmed’ myself to ‘wake up’ and be fresh like a lettuce quite easily upon opening my eyes, but that means I start my mind and brain’s engine and then it’s hard to fall asleep again, even if I’m tired, so I’m still practicing breathing at night to be able to sleep. I’ve never had any problems to sleep at night, but I definitely have a hard time going back to sleep in the middle of the night, and that’s been a bit of a challenge because, Minerva is actually really calm, she wakes up at night, eats and goes back to sleep, there’s really no hassle with that, but it’s all now on me to be able to go back to sleep in fact and perhaps it has to do with my constant ide of “having stuff to do” which is also a form of anxiety I have to work with and will share more about in time.
Well, up to there the birthing process odyssey. I am entirely and eternally grateful for the two midwives that assisted us – Minerva and Maria Luisa – who were some genuine pillars of support throughout the whole process with their strength, courage, bravery, wisdom and essentially coaching me throughout this journey and life changing moment – a rite of passage in fact – which was giving birth to Minerva and me becoming a mother. Omg, yes it took me some days or perhaps a week or so to actually ‘change the chip’ in my head to realize ‘I am a mother now’ lol, but I’m getting better at it 🙂
We are also eternally grateful to our family and friends that were in spirit with us in that moment. We decided to only have my parents present in the birthing process, so my sisters and the rest of my relatives waited some days or weeks to visit us to meet Minerva, which we appreciate in them understanding this decision, giving us time before coming to visit, which is also different from how things usually go when having a baby delivered at a hospital and everyone comes at the same time. This was also something different we did to give ourselves a space to recover and get to know Minerva as well since it is quite a new thing to enter that parenting phase right after the birth process, which I will expand on in blogs to come.
The current aftermath is that I recovered quite well and I’d dare to say, surprisingly fast. This is from my experience and doing some constructive comparison to my sisters for example with c sections, I was back on line so to speak with ease. I sure was drained for a week or so to catch up on some sleep and eating more than well too. But I then was fine, had no complications thankfully, so I’m grateful to my body and the organs, tissue and bones that were involved in this process, well, the whole of my body actually. I’m currently quite fine and almost the same as before the pregnancy, which is awesome and another proof of how natural processes take in perhaps most cases less time to recover from.
I may also add I was glad I got to do exercise and get a better physical condition during the pregnancy because! It was definitely like a marathon that I experienced and I’m not sure I would have been able to deliver this way without building some physical condition to withstand the amount of effort I had to put in this whole ordeal. However again, I’ve heard of stories of women that don’t really do any physical training and get to deliver with ease, so nothing is set in stone, as I was saying, it all depends on our bodies and getting to know ours is a primary thing to do in any case.
Thank you for reading if you got up to here. I wanted to share this as close to the reality as possible to perhaps assist other women to realize that labor, the birthing process can be lengthy, yes, and that there’s no reason to be alarmed and be rushed into hospital if it’s been one or two days of ongoing contractions and nothing happens… it actually takes patience and perseverance to get it done in a natural way without any artificial ‘accelerators’ like artificial oxytocin that’s given at hospitals, which make contractions feel a lot more painful and accelerates the whole process because there it is about hospital time and doctor’s time. In my case, I’m almost certain no hospital or doctor would have had the patience I needed to give labor in a natural way, I probably would have been induced at the first signs of having contractions and most likely citing al kinds of risks (not real in fact) about losing amniotic fluid, having the umbilical cord around the neck (which she had as well) or being too big to fit and probably doing an episiotomy – when in reality I was able to deliver without any tearing 🙂
Thus it is also relevant to realize how a lot of the “complications” that may be commonly cited by doctors “at the last minute” while being at the hospital about to deliver – a very, very vulnerable moment for the woman – might just be the usual tricks and ways to get you to agree to “speed up” the process or “just get over with the pain” so as to consent to get a C-section instead. Again, this is in cases when the woman is fit and healthy to have a natural birth and had planned or desired to have a vaginal delivery, which takes time, patience and perhaps not many have it when it comes to, say, 4 days in passive and active labor like I did.
Here I also want to say that it is OK if one wants to instead go to the hospital if one doesn’t feel like doing it ‘al natural’ anymore, or if something goes off in the body or if one is seriously too exhausted to make it. It is OK as well to have moments of rest and just keep at it and trust that things will be alright with proper monitoring of the situation of course – like keeping track of baby’s vital signs etc. I have learned how for some women it can go as fast as a couple of hours of labor and having an easy delivery s well, each body is unique and so different and this is then my story with most of the variables that influenced the outcome, so it is definitely not something to measure anyone’s birthing process against.
This is a tale to perhaps encourage women considering natural births or perhaps prevent having to be ‘rushed to get a C-section’ for those that do want to have a natural birth or just have unnecessary procedures done onto themselves. Know that there are ways, even with the umbilical cord on the neck or any other seemingly inevitable obstacle. So, consider questioning your practitioner or midwife about any possible obstacles or complications and how they handle them, so that you are on top of things and are aware of every decision made in your birthing process. It’s your body and your child’s wellbeing, so, be aware and use your ability to decide How you want to give birth wisely.
I can lastly say that I am humbled by the whole experience. I was able to see how much I have yet to really BE my body, which is something I want to continue focusing on developing. And at the same time, I am humbly proud of myself for this, I turned one of my ‘greatest fears’ into a successful self-empowerment story, and may I say: this is just the beginning 🙂