In June 2014, at the age of 38, my plate was overflowing with working full-time as an elementary Montessori teacher and being the mom of a 2.5-year old boy, Zachary. My husband, Tom, and I knew we wanted another child, but I also knew it would be hard to sustain the type of pregnancy I wanted with my current lifestyle.
At the end of the school year, I handed in my resignation and we started trying for baby #2. We got pregnant on our first try, and we were very excited! A week into the pregnancy, I had a dream that the baby’s name would be “Maya”, and shared my dream with Tom. He agreed that it would be the perfect name for a baby girl. “Maya” means “illusion” in Hindi.
The next day, I miscarried.
Two months later, we were pregnant again. My husband began a sabbatical in Los Angeles the week I found out I was pregnant, so I was alone caring for my son during the week for almost four months… And I was a mess. I had nausea all day long, but the worst part was the insomnia that plagued me for months due to the anxiety of losing another pregnancy.
After the first trimester, I felt a lot better both physically and emotionally. I partnered with the same pair of amazing home birth midwives who had helped me deliver my son, and our appointments were the highlight of each month. I stayed healthy by eating well, walking two miles a day, and playing with my three-year old son at the park. My dear friend Amber was also pregnant with her second baby, and sharing our pregnancy woes made the nine-month journey a lot easier!
On May 28th, I was four days “overdue” and majorly uncomfortable. That afternoon, my son and I were at our neighborhood park when a fire broke out across the street in a canyon. The firefighters arrived to put out the fire, and I carried my 45-lb. son on my hip for 20 minutes while we watched them work. Afterwards, I took him home, fed him dinner, and carried him upstairs because he was over-tired and had a meltdown at the foot of the stairs. As I put him on his floor bed and got up, I felt a trickle of liquid run into my underwear. It didn’t feel like urine, and I had the sneaking suspicion that my water had broken. Maybe I shouldn’t have done so much carrying…
When my husband got home, I was sitting on my yoga ball and told him what I thought had happened. He started getting nervous and asked what he should do, so I told him to go get me a turkey burger because I didn’t feel like cooking. As soon as he left, I bounced ever so slightly on the yoga ball to stand up and WOOSH, a gallon of water gushed out between my legs! I grabbed a towel and waddled to the bathroom to get a sanitary pad. Then I texted my midwife and she texted back that contractions would likely start within 24 hours on their own, that I should get some rest, and that we should talk that evening and the next morning.
After eating and watching a TV show with my husband, I went to bed without feeling any contractions. I lay in bed trying to sleep but I was too excited! At midnight, the first contraction hit, and from the beginning they were no farther than five minutes apart. This was a very different labor than my son’s!
I labored in bed alone, on my side, in the dark, for three hours, listening over and over to the amazing first-stage meditation soundtrack by Dr. Gowri Motha. The contractions weren’t painful, but they were intense from the very beginning and required all my concentration. I visualized my “happy place”, a virgin beach in Southern Mexico where my husband and I had vacationed when we were first dating. My breath became the sound of the waves lapping the shore, and I was able to stay in this warm, inviting place between contractions. I felt peaceful and happy the whole time.
My husband was downstairs watching movies, and he came upstairs around 3am. I told him I was in full-blown labor and was getting uncomfortable laboring on my side. With his help I moved to the edge of our low bed and got on my knees, leaning on a mountain of pillows. As soon as I did that, my contractions started coming closer together but they were more manageable because I could move my hips. I continued breathing through them and trying to stay relaxed, but it was getting more difficult.
By 4:45am, the contractions were about two minutes apart and very intense. I hadn’t wanted to call my midwives because I felt bad waking them up, but I felt that I was close to being fully dilated and started to feel like I needed their support. I called them, and then Tom called my dear friend Jeanne-Marie, who was going to be my labor partner while Tom stayed with our son.
And speaking of our son… He was fast asleep in the bedroom adjacent to our room! My labor was so peaceful that he hadn’t woken up!
After Tom hung up with Jeanne-Marie, he asked if I wanted my yoga ball. It turned out to be the BEST idea ever! As soon as I sat on the ball, I felt an enormous sense of relief as my pelvis widened to better accommodate the baby and my body relaxed. I put on the “Divine Birth” soundtrack by Snatam Kaur, which I downloaded after my mom sent me the YouTube video on a whim. (She had seen it on Facebook and thought it looked interesting. Little did she know it would transform my labor!)
The first track came on, and I began to sway my hips back and forth to the rhythm of the music, while my hands rested on my legs, palms facing the sky. I closed my eyes, began breathing gently, and started repeating my mantra, “Surrender to the sensation”. A contraction started, and as it peaked, instead of fighting it I allowed myself to feel it with my whole body while I swayed to the perfect laboring rhythm of the music. What happened next was amazing: a veritable cascade of pleasure poured through my body, as powerful and delicious as any orgasm.
I asked my husband to take my hand, and after the next wave of pleasure I began crying tears of joy, completely overwhelmed with gratitude and love for my body, for my baby, for my husband, and for my life. After a while, my midwives and Jeanne-Marie arrived and my husband left my side to let them in. As they quietly set up their equipment in the dimly lit room, I would take off my headphones to chat with them between contractions and then put them back on to surf yet another wave of pleasure. It was phenomenal!! I had heard of orgasmic birth before, I even saw the documentary, but I never thought it would happen to me! We’re made to think that labor is something to endure, but it can be something to enjoy!
About an hour into my joyride, I decided I had to go pee. In between contractions, I was helped to the bathroom, and when I sat down on the toilet I felt a tremendous amount of pressure. I waddled back to the room and sat down on the ball, but I was very uncomfortable! I knew then that the fun was over, so I threw myself on my knees and bent over the bed again.
The contractions kept coming, but this time at the end of each one my body began to push without my help. I could do nothing but grunt, make horse lips (blowing air through my lips like a horse does), keep my body loose, and let it happen. The contractions became less frequent, but each one was immensely intense since my water had broken 12 hours earlier and the baby’s head was sitting right on my cervix. They soon became full-blown pushing contractions, which were uncomfortable because I didn’t feel in control.
I continued grunting and started whining, swearing, and begging for a break, not because the contractions were painful, but because they were INTENSE and had taken over my body! My husband had been holding my hands but he had to leave me because at that point my son woke up. Jeanne-Marie immediately jumped in to hold my hands and became my rock. I was naked and covered in sweat, so she held a cool towel to the nape of my neck.
After about six pushing contractions, I whined, “I can’t do this for three hours”, thinking this second stage would be like my son’s birth. But then with the next contraction I felt the baby’s head pushing my pelvis open – I was splitting in two and my back was killing me! One of the midwives started applying pressure on my tailbone, which helped tremendously. After a couple more contractions, the baby started to crown. I continued breathing the baby down, felt myself opening, and suddenly the entire head was out! I reached down and felt it: soft, moist, and surprisingly warm!
That’s when I realized I WAS ALMOST DONE (and said so, hahaha)!! I waited quietly for the next contraction, and as a great heave shook me, the baby slipped out and into the hands of the midwives. I WAS DONE!!! They waited for me to turn over, asked if I was ready to hold her, and placed her in my arms. She took a few seconds to start breathing but I just waited, stroking her softly, knowing everything would be fine after such a peaceful birth.
Once she took her first few breaths and started to cry, I looked up with a HUGE smile and yelled, “THAT WAS AWESOME!!!” I checked the baby’s gender and found out she was a girl – our rainbow baby, Nadia Phoenix, was earthside!
I was helped into bed and we waited for the cord to finish pulsing. My son and husband had watched the baby crowning from the doorway, and they joined me in bed to meet our little one. My husband cut the cord and then with a push I expelled the placenta. We all looked at it and marveled at its purpose. Later, the midwives took it downstairs and with my son’s help made placenta prints. They were extremely proud when my son announced the prints “looked like a tree”.
We bonded in bed for a while and nursed for the first time, and then my midwife checked me and did the newborn exam. I had birthed a healthy 9lb. 8oz., 21¼ in. baby girl after only six hours of labor and a measly 30 minutes of letting my body push the baby out. My perineum was intact; letting my body do its job had helped me not to tear!!
My recovery was amazing; I had to force myself to stay in bed for five days because I felt like getting up and getting on with my life right away!
Baby Nadia is as peaceful and sweet as was her birth, and with her, our family is complete. Her name means “hope and rebirth”, which is exactly what she brought to my life. I am forever grateful to my husband, who supported my wish to birth at home not once but twice; my friends Amber and Jeanne-Marie, who were my rocks through pregnancy and labor; and my incredible midwives, who inspired and empowered me every step of the way.