I am sharing this story to encourage women to belief in the power of their bodies – to remind them that they were made to give birth.
I woke up on August 8th, having period-like cramps that were coming and going. I have had them a week before, but this time they seemed to be coming more regularly, in a more defined way. We decided not to get too excited, knowing that this could go on for days. Instead, we went to our favorite café to have pancakes, I cleaned the house, tried to sleep (which I couldn’t) and in the evening we went grocery shopping. At the supermarket, I had a rather strong contraction (compared to the contractions I had had during the day). In the car, on the way home, another one. This went on. I finally allowed myself to get my hopes up and texted Sofia (the midwife) and Clara (my doula), just to let them know. I ate and decided to go to bed early, but couldn’t fall asleep. At midnight, it was Miguel’s birthday and I gave him my gift, all the while having contractions that were getting more intense. We finally timed them between 2 and 3am, realizing that they were pretty much coming every 5 minutes and lasted for 1 minute. This is when, according the info we had, people should either go to the hospital, or settle for a home birth. Miguel was pushing me to call Sofia, but somehow, I couldn’t believe that it was already time. The contractions didn’t seem to be as bad as I had expected them to be at this point. Finally, Miguel called Sofia himself and she said she would come. I informed Clara and she also got on the way.
By the time everyone arrived, I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore. Sofia checked the dilation – 4cm and the head of the baby was very much down. Everything looked like things would move quickly and Sofia decided to prepare the birth pool. Clara was laboring with me in the bedroom. After a while, we decided to all try and get some more rest. We went to bed and I slept between contractions for a few hours. In the morning, progress had slowed down a lot. Contractions came less regularly, 5cm dilation. I blamed it on the sleeping, but didn’t get too frustrated. Sofia left for a while and Anna came. I took a shower and made breakfast but couldn’t eat much. Clara, Anna and I went back to the bedroom and had a few beautiful hours there. We listened to mantras, picked affirmation cards for each contraction. They both applied counterpressure on my back, massaged me, held my hands. The contractions got stronger and stronger. At some point it hit me – this was really out of my control. It was at the same time as I was looking at one of my affirmation cards, when a weird mix of emotions overpowered me – humility, fear, gratitude – and I started crying. I felt weak, drank a bit of coconut water and an iso drink, tried to eat a raw bar, but immediately had to throw up. Weirdly enough throwing up felt like a huge relief.
Clara made a fantastic tea. Sofia came and we did spinning babies on the bed to help the baby assume the right position. She asked me if I was afraid of something and I told her I feared the moment when I wouldn’t have breaks in between contractions anymore. She told me to relax and that there would always be a break. This calmed me down a bit. Another examination showed that my cervix was almost 7cm open. I wanted to rest on the bed for a while longer and again contractions slowed down, however, they stayed very intense. When I got up, I ran to the bathroom and had to throw up again. Sofia came again and spent some time with me in there, swaying me from side to side, infusing strength into me.
I wanted to go to the pool. It was almost 6pm, 14 hours had passed since the birth team had come to our home. It felt wonderful to enter the water, immediate relief. I felt it was quite hot, though, but I was told the temperature is ok. I found a perfect position to stay in, leaning forward, arms and head resting on the pool. Clara and Anna were wonderful, holding my hands, massaging my back. I was not able to talk anymore. Progress slowed down. I wanted to say things – please someone measure the water temperature; the window is open behind the shut blinds; please put the tea that Sofia made on ice so I can drink it – nothing came out of my mouth. I spent three hours in the pool, progress was slowing down again, but no one urged me to leave the pool. I was grateful, but knew I had to get up. Finally, I left the pool and went to empty my bladder, as told. Sofia and I did the spinning babies exercise and we spent some time in the bedroom. I wanted to go back to the pool. This time, the water felt cold. Miguel brought hot water and I spent time in the previous position. Contractions slowed further down and I got worried. Anna and Clara reassured me that a resting phase between transition and pushing can be normal. I remembered this now from the books I read, but my inner voice told me that I had to get out of the pool. The voice got louder and louder, but I was afraid of the contractions. I went into an inner dialogue with Rosalie, begging her to come out. I played the thought of going to the hospital in my mind, but what was waiting there for me seemed so much worse than what I was going through in this moment.
Finally, Miguel urged me to get up. I stood inside the pool, holding on to him, wrapped in towels. The nature of the contractions changed. Sofia encouraged me to get out of the pool in order not to get cold and Clara suggested to sit on the toilet for a while. Sofia examined me, to make sure nothing was in the baby’s way. 9,5cm, nothing was in the way. This gave me a lot of reassurance. I went to sit on the toilet, facing the wall. Relatively quickly the contractions turned into something powerful. I didn’t feel like pushing yet, but I felt like an enormous energy was passing through my body with each contraction. I started to be really loud, I just felt like I had to be.
At some point the “urge to push” came. What a revelation when I realized that the pushing was absolutely involuntary. In contrast to what the language around this phase suggests, the pushing was not an active act. My body opened its doors, wanting to eject the baby and I had little to do with this. An absolutely overwhelming experience. Sofia told me that they could see her hair. I didn’t feel scared anymore, I wanted to meet my baby. She went down and up, down and up, down and up. I felt caught in an infinite loop and asked if she was ever going to come out – more to get some reassurance, not because I was actually afraid she might not come out. Sofia explained that it will be easier for the baby to come out if I had my knees pointing inwards, which was hard to accomplish sitting on the toilet. She suggested several times to kneel on all fours, but I didn’t have the strength to assume a new position. I felt too passive. As if a higher power had taken over my body. After a while, Sofia urged me get off the toilet. I needed the firmer guidance and was now able to get off and onto all fours. I realized it had gotten too intense for Miguel and that Clara was talking to him outside. I heard that it was still before midnight and I wanted to give Miguel his baby as a birthday present. I open, I surrender. I tried to actively intensify the pushing and it seemed to work. Midnight passed, I was disappointed, but wanted it even more to end. Miguel came in and out, clearly not handling it well anymore. He asked for anesthesia, voiced his concern someone might send the police. I wanted to tell him that I am ok and to please let me scream, but I couldn’t talk. Clara encouraged me to make sounds of a deeper pitch, as this would help the process more. I tried my best to follow her advice.
Eventually, I felt the “ring of fire”. Finally! It would just take a few more pushes. Miguel was called in. The next contraction came and I pushed with everything I had. I felt something tearing, my mind went into alarm mode, but the contraction wasn’t over and my body kept pushing – and the whole baby came out at once. I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking, tears were running down my cheeks. 26 hours of labor were over (not that I was aware of that, the whole experience was absolutely timeless). Rosalie was born on August 10th at 00:18. I wanted to see my baby, but Sofia was doing something with her and I didn’t dare to turn around, fearing I would rip out the placenta. It didn’t take long, though, and I had Rosalie in my arms. It didn’t feel real. Sofia hugged me from the side and everybody accompanied me on my shaky legs to the bed. Miguel was psyched up, while I was partly still in another world. Clara showed me how to put Rosalie on my breast and I couldn’t stop staring at this little wonder on my chest. After maybe 20 – 30 minutes, Sofia came to take the placenta out. I had to push just a little bit. Miguel got to cut the cord. Sofia examined me and told me my perineum was 100% intact and that I had two very small tears on the side. No stitches needed. I was incredibly relieved.
The baby was taken to be weighed and measured. Sofia asked me very politely if they could take her for just a moment, but for me it was the most natural thing. I trusted all of them blindly after what we had been through together. I was flooded by a huge wave of gratitude, for having been able to have this baby at home, surrounded and supported by people I trust, who kept a peaceful, almost sacred environment. Clara spent the night – what an angel! She walked the dog, collected dirty towels and laundry and turned on a washing machine, brought me water and a plate with freshly cut fruits and cake, took lasagna out of the freezer for the next day and helped me breastfeed Rosalie throughout the night.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience and I know that this birth in the hospital would have been an extremely different story. Giving birth to Rosalie, in my home, surrounded by people who believe in the power of the female body, was a transformative experience. I went through a passage and came out a different woman – ready to be a mother.