Three years ago today I had the most empowering, spiritual, enlivened, nurturing, badass, humorous, and authentic experience of my life…for the second time. I gave birth to my daughter at home, and yes, on purpose.
My daughter was 10 days “past due.” I was fine with that, having a deep belief that she would arrive at the perfect moment and time for her, but my stress came from trying to comfort other people in their discomfort. Of course their intentions were good, but I was under amazing care, felt great, and had no doubt that the baby inside of me did as well.
On Holy Thursday before Easter Sunday, my 3 ½ year old son went to bed with what seemed like the flu. During the night both my husband and I got sick. I remember telling him at some early hour of the morning that I COULD NOT give birth while feeling this ill. Around 8:30 in the morning I started feeling “different.” It was difficult to decipher feeling like crap due to being sick, from what was happening in my body in relation to the baby inside. I contacted my midwife just to let her know, and she mentioned how often the body will stall labor if it is sick. I decided to ask my sister who was part of my birth team to come in regardless, because I was feeling too badly to dye Easter eggs with my son anyway. She was waiting on my father to be able to drive her to my apartment, which would take about 75 minutes. I also gave my nanny a head’s up that I may ask her to come, as it was her day off, but she was on stand by for when labor started to take care of my son.
At 9:39am (I love modern technology because I still have the texts!) I wrote to my midwife letting her know that my contractions were 4 minutes apart, which is exactly how labor started when I gave birth to my son. I was lying down but couldn’t rest because it felt like bad cramping.
A few minutes later I texted her again, “I don’t mean to be an alarmist but this pain is already pretty intense every couple of minutes. Not sure if I’m just wimpy or what.” My midwife asked if she and her assistant could come over, and my response was, “I just don’t want to waste your time if I’m just not handling pain well, but yes, whenever you want.”
This is so telling of my history of not wanting “to cause trouble or be a bother,” and most painfully perhaps how I considered myself a waste of time. I know I have most certainly grown from that place and in large part because of this birth experience, but it is amazing to me how so many of us have difficulty allowing support in and letting ourselves be the focus of attention. We lessen or even discount our pain, whether it be physical or emotional, and forget how essential we are simply because we were born.
My midwife asked me if my husband had blown up the birthing pool, and I said no because he was with our sick son. This is where things got chaotic and in retrospect quite comical.
My husband was downing flu medicine in between vomiting while trying to blow up this birthing pool in our basement, which also happened to be where I ran my television production company. I am doubled over in the bathroom, with my 3 ½ year old, while he vomits crying for me to hold him. After this episode I somehow get myself downstairs and am trying to text my friends who are standing by to each light a candle once I go into labor. At some point my midwife and her assistant arrive, and I hear them say “Take the phone from her.” I finish typing the final letters of my sentence “light the candles!” and hit send, and am guided into the pool.
The pool eases the pain a little but not as much as I was hoping. I am trying to remember what I learned from my holistic birthing books, but then realize I just need to try and remember to breathe. Somewhere in here my sister arrives and I remember thinking how pale she looked. I found out later that she had been vomiting all morning from a migraine. So basically, everyone had spent the morning vomiting, remarkably besides me.
Suddenly, I remembered the pain they say you forget after you give birth. That is when the colorful language started and I began to worry about my son, who was upstairs with his nanny, hearing me. I had prepped him explaining mommy might roar like a lion, but didn’t mention the lion would have a potty mouth. At one point I was ready to call it off (like that was even possible), and my midwife said,
“You can do this. You are birthing your baby into this world.”
That is when I felt the shift. I was still in pain, but I heard her clarity and I was able to feel the privilege and the miracle of what was happening. I looked around at the sacred space I created, including messages and symbols of support from some of the most courageous, strong and nurturing women I am blessed enough to have in my life. I was holding, well more accurately clenching, onto my husband’s arms, my back was being touched in the most supportive relieving way by the midwife’s assistant, my sister who has always provided me a feeling of safety was holding space for me as she awaited the arrival of her niece or nephew, and my midwife was so calm and quietly confident. She trusts the process of birthing and what we are capable of as women so intently, I began to trust my body and myself in a way I had never known.
I remember saying, “I feel like the baby is coming,” and my midwife said, “Then push.” I asked, “Isn’t it too quick?” (I labored for 16 ½ hours with my son), and she said, “Trust yourself.”
Our daughter was born at 12:37pm on Good Friday, just a few short hours after the first pains.
I trusted my daughter to arrive when she was ready, and she trusted me to birth her into the world. I birthed naturally while feeling very ill, and because of that I know I can do anything, with the support of those I believe in and who believe in me. This is why it was truly the most empowering, spiritual, enlivened, nurturing, badass, humorous, and authentic experience of my life…for the second time.
The first time was when I birthed my son naturally in a hospital after being placed out of the birthing center. That is a story for another time, but although a very different birth experience, it embodied the fullness of life along with the ups and downs that come along the way. Both experiences represented the hope, resistance, surrender, and resilience that are alive in all of us.
I felt life come through me for the second time, and I felt as alive as I have ever known for the second time. We laughed, we cried and we loved big time. My son met his sister when he woke up from his nap, and we became another beautiful version of our family.
What a beautiful account of your journey to bringing your little girl into the world.
I was filled with emotion as I read your most eloquent description of you not wanting to bother anyone or put the focus on you – despite being in such a precious and life-giving, selfless place that is labouring a child. Wow.
I have felt that way for most of my adult life. I was in a serious car accident where I broke my neck and did a huge amount of damage to my body and I still felt that same way. I did all I could to talk down the incredible pain I was in because I was worried that the two friends I’d called on to be with me would miss out on eating their dinner!
If it wasn’t for my amazing midwife I would have tried the same act whilst giving birth to my two babes but she wouldn’t have any of it. She demonstrated to me the power in owning the miracle of what I was going through and she insisted I honour my body and my spirit in delivering my babies.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and your words Jennifer. You’ve had a powerful impact on me this morning.
Thank you, Annette. Your words have had a powerful impact on me as well. Thank you for seeing me as I do you.
Stunning. Absolutely stunning. You are a goddess of strength, love, and resilience!
Takes one to know one :). Thank you, Alexis. Much love.
Thank you for sharing your story… It’s so beautiful to have personal stories of natural births and the joy they bring.
Thank you, Melissa. It certainly was one of my most joyous and proudest moments. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.