Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Carnival of Natural Parenting: My Birth Experience

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.
Those who have followed this blog since the beginning may remember my birth story. It is the first post on this blog, carried over from a personal blog that no longer exists. I chose to start out Witch Mom with my birth story, so that this blog officially documented starting this new chapter in my life.

Nothing about Rowan's conception, my pregnancy, or our childbirth experience was ordinary. But whose story is? Birth is the everyday miracle at which we all marvel yet take for granted.

The part of the story that I tend to focus upon, when telling his story now, is how quickly I willed myself to dilate and push him out when he was in danger and I was in danger of being cut open. I wanted my VBAC so bad and wanted Rowan so bad that I performed that everyday miracle within an hour.

Mama and Rowan, shortly after they brought
him to me from the NICU.
I knew I was in final stage labor when we piled into the car to cross over the San Francisco Bay Bridge from my home in Oakland to the birth center in San Francisco. And when I arrived at 2:30, i was 5 cm dilated. My midwife was excited and started monitoring the baby and that's when she told me we would have to go to the hospital. She rode with me in the ambulance and eventually got scrubs to enter the OR that they wheeled me into- just as they were prepping me for the C Section that I worked so hard to avoid.

They had just assessed that in that short ride to the hospital, I went from 5 cm to 9.5 cm! At that, my midwife begged them to give me a chance at vaginal delivery. She has a great relationship with the folks at that hospital, so they told her to coach me. They also told her that they would only give me three contractions before they would have to do a C section, for fear of losing my baby.

I remember looking up into her face, masked and clad in bog glasses and cap. "OK- make these contractions count!", she barked. I remember them manually opening me up that last .5 cm (ouch) and when the contraction came an instant later, I pushed and screamed. "Stop screaming and push all that energy down there- don't let it come out your mouth!" she said insistently. I was glad for her direction and was all consumed by the sheer physicality of it all.

My midwife, Judi with Rowan. I will always be grateful to
her for the excellent prenatal care and that she got them to let
me try for my VBAC. She saved me from another C Section,
to be sure.
The next contraction came and I pushed so hard Rowan's head came out. The doctor and nurses were stunned. They had not expected me to accomplish this and were expecting to start anesthesia instead. I got wild encouragement from my midwife, and with one more push during that third contraction, his shoulders passed through.

My midwife came to see me the next day after Rowan and I were settled in, starting to breastfeed (he had to go to the NICU for his first 14 hours). "They (the hospital staff) were surprised that this was your first vaginal birth- you handled it really well.", she told me. 

What could I say? I knew if I wanted a vaginal birth and a healthy baby, I had to do it- there was no wiggle room, no hemming and hawing that could be done. So I did it. I willed myself to open, just as I willed my body to push. It was a profound lesson that I can do anything. I think birth does that for women who are given the chance to give birth the way we are supposed to- naturally and with support. When women are told that their pregnancy  and birth needs to be managed and treated like a pathology, they are disempowered and do not learn the very real magic and discipline of birth. It robs women of a rite of passage- all those interventions.

Rowan's father, doing skin-to-skin contact the day
after he was born. He took off his shirt but kept on a
hoodie, to keep Rowan warm.
I am not saying that interventions aren't always necessary. Sometimes they save lives. But they happen all too often in this country for no other reason than convenience and comfort (of the mother sometimes, but more often of the medical staff that attends her). And comfort does not teach the real life lessons. Only through irritation and pain does an oyster make a pearl.

Did I get the birth that I wanted? No. I wanted to labor in the birth center, taking my time in a sacred space that I, my partner, and my doula created together. I wanted my son to be born and suckle with skin-to-skin contact immediately. I wanted my partner to cut the cord. I wanted to encapsulate my placenta and ingest it. Did I get any of those things? No. But I got what I needed: a healthy son and an initiation into a powerful women's mystery that I will remember always.
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)


  1. You are amazing, mama! What incredible force of will you have. I can only imagine what that must have felt like as it happened - not just physically, but the mental strength it took. What a testament to the power we can work within ourselves.

  2. Thank you for sharing your powerful story! Its amazing what the body can do in conjunction with the mind.

  3. I always love your posts. There are now words other than to say that you are one awesome, amazing, powerful mama! Where there is a will, clearly there is a way! Thank you for sharing....again.

  4. I love that your midwife advocated for you to have your VBAC! And that you did what you had to do to get your baby to you. Amazing story!

  5. Wow! That truly is an amazing story! After giving birth naturally I felt like I could do anything too, which is a wonderful way to start out the mothering journey. It really is a rite of passage that I wish more women could experience.

  6. Thanks for the comments- I love participating in this blog carnival. (Thank you Dionne and Lauren for hosting it, month after month!) I have "met" some really amazing people through this carnival!

  7. What an incredible story! Truly empowering. Thank you so much for sharing — we're always glad to have your voice!

  8. Amazing! I can completely visualize the birth from your description. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and letting expectant moms know that it is completely possible to will or allow your body into doing its job!


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