A lot of people have asked Rich and I why we chose to birth our son at home. To be honest, I never quite know what to say. It was the obvious choice for us. The decision to bring our baby into the world in the comfort of our own home just felt right.
When we first met Valeriana, she embraced us with the biggest, warmest hugs. We knew from this moment on that she was going to be our midwife, the woman who would help us birth our child. Over the next several months, we met in her cozy cottage and really got to know each other. The cottage was a warm place, overlooking her beautiful garden. During these times, we’d discuss the physical aspects of pregnancy, such as nutrition and my changing body; as well as the emotional and spiritual aspects. These meetings were great preparation and I always looked forward to them.
As time moved on, I became more and more anxious about the birthing process. On the morning of Monday, September 6th, 2010, Valeriana suggested that I speak with Laura Josephson, a homeopath. After a consultation with Laura via Skype, she recommended the homeopathic remedy, Pulsatilla. I took it throughout that day while at a Labor Day barbeque. I didn’t feel anything special from the remedy, in fact I felt more “normal”. I wasn’t stressing about our impending birth experience, as I had been in recent weeks. I was just having a good time with my husband and friends and enjoying the day’s festivities.
When we got home, Rich and I went for a nice long walk around town. It was a beautiful night. We talked, laughed, and just had fun! I even “belly danced” on the street and told him about how belly dancing is an ancient tool that was used during childbirth. When we got home around 9 pm, I started to feel some cramping, so Rich poured me a glass of wine, and I went off to bed. I woke up around 11 pm with a low backache and menstrual-like cramps They soon stopped, so I was back to sleep. I continued to wake up with the same feelings and we started to wonder if these were contractions. I would wake up with each wave, get on my knees with my upper body down on the bed and simply breathe through them. This method helped me get through most of my contractions. I’m so thankful to my body, as it allowed me to fall back into a deep sleep after each one. I think it knew how much energy I would need in the hours to come. I loved having Rich there with me. He kept offering to help in any way possible. I could tell that he wished there was a way he could alleviate or even share some of the physical pressure I was feeling, but his presence and supportive words were more than enough.
By morning time, contractions were coming every 5-10 minutes, so I text messaged Valeriana and Gayla (our Doula) to fill them in on the night’s happenings. Valeriana called and said she still wanted us to go for our scheduled BPP (Biophysical Profile). I was bummed about this, but agreed to it since I trust Valeriana so much. How ironic, though, that we found ourselves in a hospital during our labor!
After the hospital, we went to Valeriana’s cottage and wound up spending the next few hours hanging out with her and Gayla. We took a walk through the garden which was in full bloom. Being able to labor in nature was amazing and is definitely one of my favorite memories. By the time our visit was over, my contractions were coming every couple of minutes and lasting close to a minute On our way home, we made a pit stop at the local health food co-op and got ice cream and cheese sticks. Let me tell you – those were the most delicious snacks I have ever had! During our 45 minute drive home, I sat in the back seat and would assume my favorite laboring position with each wave. They seemed to be coming one after another. I remember moaning “yes” through a lot of them and smiling to myself. Although they were getting pretty powerful at this point, I was somehow enjoying their strength. As we were nearing home, one of my contractions was on its way out when we drove over a bump in the road. With a big splash, my water broke! Rich and I laughed as I told him that the back seat was soaked. I’m not sure if it was the water breaking, my body knowing that we were close to home, or simply labor progressing; but it started getting very intense at this point.
Upon arriving home, Rich started getting the birthing tub ready while I took a shower. Once again, everything started to get even stronger. After getting off the phone with Gayla, Rich told me that she advised I lay in bed on my side. Not being able to get on my hands and knees during contractions was pretty uncomfortable, so when Valeriana and Gayla arrived a short time later, I was relieved to get into the pool. Being in the warm water felt good and helped make everything a bit more manageable. However, when Valeriana said I could start pushing, I didn’t know what to do. While the water did make me more comfortable, I wasn’t able to focus. I felt as if I was floating, like I wasn’t actually in my body. Frustrated, I started saying things like “I don’t want to be doing this right now” and “Can’t we just take a break?” Despite my irritation, looking into Rich’s eyes and holding his hands helped me stay connected to Earth and birthing our child. Another thing that helped was Gayla putting her hands on my lower back during contractions. After spending about an hour in the tub, Valeriana gave me two homeopathic remedies, which I now know were Chamomilla and Pulsatilla. I soon got out of pool and onto the bed. Valeriana later told me that she knew I needed to be more grounded after seeing how much I was benefiting from physical touch.
Once we got into bed, I was propped up on a bunch of pillows, with Rich on my right side, Gayla on my left, and Valeriana in front of me. Val was correct, laying on my back really did work so much better. As the contractions came, I was able to give strong pushes. There was a straight line of energy, flowing from my mind, down the center of my body, over my raised belly, and out toward Valeriana. It felt good to push as hard as I thought I could, following that line of energy, and then feel my push get even deeper. Rich was so amazing during this time. He fed me cheese and coconut water, held my hand, and repeatedly told me how amazing I was doing. Once our baby’s head started to surface I remember saying “Oh yea, I can feel that burn!” Although the burning wasn’t necessarily an enjoyable feeling, I did “enjoy” it on some level because I felt that much more motivated. I knew that our work was paying off and that we would soon meet our little one. I couldn’t see what was happening, but was able to experience that point of view through my husband. I saw his face light up with a whole slew of emotions; excitement, awe, pride, love, and so much more. My visual memory of these final moments is very vague, but I will never forget the expressions on his face.
Finally, with one great, big push, our baby, Richard Andrew Jr., slid out. Looking down at him was the ultimate realization of our journey. It started with the first trimester feelings of sleepiness and nausea, after that was a growing belly and hearing the heartbeat, then feeling our baby move. Each of these made the experience that much more real, but this was it – we actually got to see this little person. It was simply incredible!
After being born, our son lay in between my legs for several minutes. During this time, he stretched his body out, expanding his lungs and breathed in his own air for the first time while remaining attached to me via his umbilical cord. This pause allowed everything to slow down. Rich and I were able to enjoy every moment of our transition into parenthood. We looked at every bit of our new son, told him that we loved him and were so proud of his amazing work during his journey, and of course took a few moments to kiss each other, enjoying this extraordinary bliss that we were in.
When we were ready, we took RJ up onto the base of my belly to begin his “crawl”. I placed one hand under his feet and Rich had a hand on his side to act as a guard rail. Over the next 45 minutes or so, our son crawled his way up my body, found a breast, latched on, and started nursing… all on his own. Talk about impressive! I couldn’t stop telling RJ how proud I was of him! I’m glad he was given that opportunity to do something which I know he innately knew how to do.
Those twenty one hours were undoubtedly the most amazing of my entire life. Both my baby and my body knew what to do every step of the way. Being able to feel the intensity of birth is something I’m grateful for and feel like that much more of a woman for doing so. It was a truly magical experience and Rich and I are honored to have birthed our baby the way we did.