And it was. When I look back at my birth experience, I feel so overcome with pride, empowerment and joy. All I can think is...I fucking did it!
Before I jump into our birth story, a little back story first...
If you've read My Empowered Fertility Journey blog post, I shared that my husband and I started trying for a baby the spring of 2017. After serving as a birth and post partum doula and specializing in Women's Health as a Holistic Nutrition Practitioner, it broke my heart to find out, after months of trying, that I had a disease called Hashimoto Thyroiditis which was causing hormonal imbalance, hindering us from conceiving. However, my dream of having a family of my own motivated me exponentially to heal my hashimoto's naturally so that I could achieve optimal health not only for myself, but for a healthy pregnancy and baby...whenever it happened. Looking back, being diagnosed with Hashi's was a blessing as it helped me connect to my body and to spirituality in ways I never have before. It helped me dive deeper into my research into fertility, nutrition, and herbs for women's health. It also encouraged me to discover the potent power of sisterhood. I finally opened up about my struggle with my health and my desire to be pregnant with my community of sisters and did the work around manifestation, meditation and ritual. I have the popular "Goddess Oracle Deck" that I always pulled from when I was looking for divine guidance in my path. The card I pulled again and again, was the Goddess Freya- the Goddess of Fertility + Beauty. I started researching Freya in Norse Mythology, and the more I read about her, the more I began to identify + call on her.
My pregnancy with our little bean was magical from day 1. I felt amazing- I had zero morning sickness, craved healthy foods (besides the occasional hot dog and alphaghettis in the first trimester...LOL) and had plenty of energy. I enjoyed every moment, right to the end of my pregnancy. I felt connected deeply to my baby (even though I believed in my heart that this little sprout was a boy!) I built an amazing team of support around me, including my amazing midwife Barbara Scriver, my doula/soul sister Dawn McCorry, and of course, my mountain of a husband, Denver Leigh. My pregnancy was very intuitive + hands off. No Gestatational Diabetes testing, no weigh ins, no cervical exams. It felt good to trust my body and my baby, as well as have a care provider who trusted me, too.
As a doula, I had to do alot of deprogramming around the birth stories that were not mine, but that I was attached to. I had to truly learn how to let go of my doula brain and just be a pregnant mama...more on this later.
On January 6,
A day after my "due date", I sat in on our New Moon Sisterhood Circle. It was so special having space held for me as I set intentions for my upcoming birth to surrender, trust and be in flow. As we wrapped up our circle and were saying goodbye to our sisters, I started feeling waves of pressure low in my bum. I knew that even though it was early, the time was coming.
After feeling waves around 10 minutes apart all night long, I went for a visit to my chiropractor in the morning followed by a walk around IKEA with my husband. (The weather here in Edmonton has been way too cold to walk outside! But it was pretty funny walking around IKEA breaking for contractions in the model showrooms.) The waves slowed down in the afternoon, and picked up again as I was heading to bed. Things stayed consistent all night, but I managed to get some sleep between contractions. The next morning, I was chatting with my doula and we both suspected that baby might be malpositioned, causing the slow early labor and irregular pattern, so she headed over in the early afternoon to help me with spinning babies positions to help encourage baby into an optimal position. We practiced some inversions and shortly after she left, contractions stayed relatively consistent but picking up in intensity- but still totally manageable. Later my hubby and I ordered dinner from Skip, and played Mariokart which was the perfect distraction until it wasnt. I was tired, and knew I needed a good sleep to be ready for when true labor kicks in. My midwife suggested to try a glass of wine and head for bed- which was exactly the answer. It took the edge off and made me sleepy, so we headed for bed around 11pm. As soon as my head hit the pillow I fell asleep immediately, and woke up an hour later at midnight with a booming contraction. This one felt different- and I knew that I was welcoming active labor. The waves kept coming every 3 minutes and I flowed with them in the darkness of our bedroom. I turned on my playlist I had made prior (full of DJ Drez, East Forest, Hypnobirthing tracks, Zoe Keating, Xavier Rudd....get the playlist on Spotify here..
) After an hour of intensity, Denver called my doula Dawn to ask her to come join us. She could hear me moaning in the background, so she quickly headed over. She shared with me later that when she was driving to meet us, a pink balloon floated across the road in front of her- a likely sign from the universe that we would be greeting a baby girl soon!
When she showed up, Denver started the birth pool set up while I kept flowing upstairs. Looking back, this was the moment I had ascended to labor land. I felt SO powerful, SO raw, and SO, so good. I remember swaying my hips, eyes closed, dancing my baby down. I felt so high and wild- it was honestly the best feeling ever. I had found my rhythm and ritual and with every contraction I felt that I was getting closer and closer to meeting my baby. At one point, I had my head buried in my pillows, with Dawn behind me rubbing my back. I looked up in between contractions, and clear as day saw my Grandmother (who recently and suddenly passed away in November) standing on the other side of the bed. She was surrounded by a pink light, and she was smiling with so much pride down at me. Just when my next contraction crashed in, I looked up again and she was gone. I turned around to Dawn to tell her that my Grandma was just here- and she said she felt her presence too. It was truly the most magical experience of my life, and relieving to know that she was there keeping me safe. There were moments during this time that I would just break down into sobbing due to the complete overwhelm of it all. Overwhelm in the joy that we were going to meet this baby, sadness that my pregnancy was over, and spikes of grief, that my Grandmother wasnt going to be here for our baby. These little breakdowns, looking back, were extremely healing for me in my grief that I had been dealing with.
It took a bit longer than anticipated to fill our birth pool as our hot water heater ran out, so Denver and Dawn took turns boiling water on the stove. My midwife, Barb, had showed up and by the time the pool was ready, I was VERY ready to get in. The pool was immediate relief. My bath tub here at home is my sanctuary, especially during my pregnancy, so this felt so comforting and familiar. My home was dark and lit with candles, soothing music was playing, everyone was quiet, and my doula, husband, midwife and cats were all holding space for me. After a while, my contractions started to lessen in intensity and slow down. We started using herbs and birth prep homeopathic along with acupressure points to help pick things back up. Around 7am, my midwife asked how I would feel about getting a cervical exam, to see how dilated my cervix was. Having a cervical exam wasnt part of my plan, and because labor was slowing down, I started coming out of my high and into my left (doula) brain and began to worry about the progression of this labor. Ive seen this happen many times as a doula, and in most cases, the care provider will suggest an augmentation to get things going again. The last thing I wanted was an induction, or a hospital transfer. Not that anyone on my team was thinking or suggesting it- its where my mind went. My mind flashed to when my midwife said that most midwifes are terrible birthers for this reason- they get too in their heads- and I'm sure that would go for anyone in the birth industry. I was determined though, that it wasnt going to be me. I declined the cervical exam for now and said we would talk about it at sunrise (8:45am- Barb had to google it!) because I knew that if I knew how dilated I was, it would bring me more into my head, and less into my body. So my midwife said "Tell us what you are fearing right now, and we will make any problem very small, very quick". I told her I was afraid of transferring or moving away from my birth vision- and she affirmed to me that we could stay here for 2 days- if thats what it will take for labor to pick back up again (and as long as baby stays happy, of course). I felt immediate relief and trust again- what a wonderful gift to air my fears out in that moment so I could let it go. The room went quiet again for some time. I used this time to connect with my baby- to give me a sign that if it was it's time, to start making some more movement in this labor, or if not, let us both rest. I could see the sun rising in the windows. I was laying on my back, with my head in the water when I heard a POP and a release of pressure. I lifted my head out of the water and excitedly said "My water just broke!". Barb checked her phone...and it was 8:44am, a minute before sunrise. Pure. Fucking. Magic....and no need for an cervical exam-my body was doing it.
The next contraction came with a boom- as my doula said- theres no more cushion- so shits going to get real! The energy in the room completley changed into hyper excitement as Dawn made coffee in the kitchen for everyone. I was full on heading for transition as the contractions made me feel wild and heavy. I started to feel a different pressure in my bum, I could feel baby descending down much deeper now along with the pressure to push. So, I started letting my body tell me when to push with the contractions. It was the strangest feeling- every contraction I could feel baby moving down, centimeter by centimeter. These waves were different- in two polar extremes. On one hand, it felt orgasmic- and on the other hand, it felt like I was going to shit myself LOL there is really no other way to explain it.
After flowing like this for quite some time, and getting tired, I consented to a cervical exam to see what was holding this baby up. I had to get out of my pool (shudder!) and lay on some towels in my dining room. Barb found me to be 8cm with a cervical lip, which she suggested she could move behind the babies head with my help. She pushed back on my cervix while I resist the urge to push and keep my body soft ( sooo hard to do!). My cervix was hard to budge, and we tried multiple positions (on hands and knees, with rebozo, and finally, lunging on my stairs.) After several hours of this, I got to the point where I felt completely done. I felt that I had reached my limit, and all I wanted was to go back into the tub where things felt less difficult. This was the hardest part of my labor. Everytime I said I couldnt do it any more, they kept mirroring back to me "but you ARE doing it!" Of course they were totally right, but this was language I used as a doula too, and a part of me was wanting to curse them, or laugh hysterically at the karma of it all..whatever-I just wanted to be done! It was here that I finally understood the intensity of transition (which as a doula- was my FAVORITE part of labor). I recognized 100% why women would opt for an epidural. Not that I needed it (or had an access to one), but man, they dont call it labor for nothing. Looking back, I understand know, how transition is a biological process that makes mothers tough as hell, and way stronger than before.
Finally, Barb said that in order to move the cervix, I had to use all of my power to push past it, and thats exactly what I did. I unleashed my inner warrior and roared my baby down. (Thank GOD my neighbors knew I was having a home birth or else im sure they would have called the cops!) Right then, out came a gush of amniotic fluid and a huge change in pressure- I knew I was fully dilated. I basically dove back into the birth pool and let my body direct the pushing. The only thing keeping me grounded during pushing was my husband who, just by the look in his eyes, gave me strength. 25 minutes after getting into the pool, my baby was born into mine and my husbands arms and brought up to my chest. It was such a surreal feeling- this baby I have been manifesting for so long was finally here and was absolutely perfect. My favorite memory in my entire life- in shock, holding my little squish, while looking across the pool at my hubby, who was sobbing with joy that our baby was here (and that his new title is Daddy!), with my midwife and doula in the background, hugging and sharing in our sentiment. A few minutes later, we discovered that the little boy I believed I was carrying was actually a little girl! Little Freya Rose- you are the best surprise.
We completely soaked in our little miracle for the golden hour, a time where I just held her, skin to skin with me, being admired by her dad, and sharing powerful kisses with him, too. I couldn't believe I did it- all these years of dreaming of my own birth and it was ALL THE THINGS. It was sensual, powerful, grounding, intense- I've never felt more alive or more woman.
One of the best parts about home birth- is that after its all said and done, you get to cleanse in your own shower, and crawl into your own bed. My doula and midwives put clean sheets on our bed, cooked us brunch, put away our birth pool, tidied our house, and did all newborn procedures right from our bed. Most importantly, they made sure Freya was feeding well and that we had everything we needed to just quietly cuddle in as a new family before they left.
I spent 5 blissful days in bed (literally only left my bedroom once- to go prepare my placenta!) healing, brea resting, and soaking in our little love. My healing was super quick and easy- thanks to loads of nutrition, herbal goodness, warm and cold therapy, and placenta medicine- I will be writing another blog on post partum healing, soon.
Huge thank you to...
Trista Davis- for holding space for ceremony at my Mother Blessing, where alot of intentions made there came to fruition.
Dawn McCorry- Dawn- there are no words. You were there for us every step of the way and your support is absolutely invaluable. You helped me realize that I am so much stronger than I thought I was and you are truly an honored part of our family now.
Barbara Scriver, truly a legend of a midwife! I am so honored to be one of her last clients before she retires, even though we are all sad that she won't be catching babies for our next birth!
Janelle McCleod, second/back up midwife, who is one of my favorite midwives in the city- thank you for jumping in an uber to be at my birth!
Dr. Sarah Wu at Momentum Chiropractic for pregnancy chiropractic care. I dealt with some SI/SPD issues at the beginning of my pregnancy and seeing her biweekly helped keep me together!
Danielle Peters at Ripple Effect, Acupuncture Goddess, for being with me on my journey from infertility to baby! I love you!
Our friends and family- for holding space, checking in, tidying our home, bringing food, and listening to me ramble on and on and on about our amazing birth and allllll things Freya!