Inspiring Free Birth in Big Bear, CaliforniaOct 19, 2021
I did it. I freebirthed my first child at home, and it was the most amazing and beautiful night of my life. I’ll probably say something shocking now: my body did all the work (as it’s designed to do!) – all I had to do is … well, go with the flow and surrender to this transformative process. Everything went smoothly, and if I ever give birth again, I’ll choose to freebirth in a heartbeat.
We conceived during our travels in Thailand in late August 2017. This was my first ever pregnancy, and I am 37. Our conception was planned and, aside from an ultrasound to check the gender of the baby (I couldn’t wait to know!), there was no *outside* prenatal care, even though I gave myself all the care I needed: balanced organic nutrition, moderate exercise, peace and relaxation, and good prenatal supplements. During the first trimester I felt pretty queasy, so I slept a lot and ate simpler meals. The second trimester was awesome – I had a lot of energy (and appetite), and feeling the baby move and kick was magical. Toward the end of the third trimester I was having a lot of dreams about my baby, with visions of him as a newborn, toddler and child – all of which strengthened my faith that everything would go well. The best and most visceral dream was a vision of me lifting him onto my chest right after his birth, and hearing him cry, loudly, announcing his presence. This, too, was a prophetic dream, and I loved experiencing this moment at his actual birth.
Upon returning to the US and with the birth getting closer, we rented a cozy cabin steps from the national forest, to be close to nature and have peace and privacy during this wonderful time. My husband and I both felt that the baby would come before his “due date”. I started to have practice contractions (aka Braxton Hicks) at exactly 37 weeks – they were very mild but visible, as my belly tightened for a few seconds and then relaxed, and continued for the next 2 weeks on and off, 20-30 light contractions every other day or so.
My labor began around 2 am at exactly 39 weeks. I woke up to more convincing contractions and an image in my mind’s eye of an opening cervix. I was dilating and I knew it. I got out of bed, and woke up my husband. He didn’t believe me at first, but I was 100% sure that this was the real deal. I went to pee shortly after and saw some blood and mucous. For the next few hours I labored between the bathtub and a cozy spot that my husband set up by the fireplace. I was open to doing a water birth, but I was also ready to be flexible and trust my body to choose the best location and position for birth.
As the contractions progressed and I dilated, I could feel my pupils dilate, too, and strong hormones flow through my body, creating a delicious and beautiful high and a sacred space of birth. I wasn’t hungry for solid food, so I kept drinking coconut water and juice to stay hydrated. I never threw up, nor got nauseous. Eventually, the surges got very intense with 1-3 minutes of rest in-between. At some point I checked myself and felt my cervix (lowered now due to me being in labor) having opened around the head of the baby inside the amniotic sac. I didn’t expect myself to be able to check my dilation and progress that easily, but it was amazing and reassuring that everything was on the right track.
By morning time, a pushing sensation started to accompany each surge. It wasn’t that I was pushing on my own intent, but that I couldn’t help but push along with each surge, grunting and breathing heavily now. Physically and mentally, that was the most challenging part of my labor, but it was also amazing to be experiencing such raw power of my body and the natural hormonal flow. In my mind, I laughed about how birth is presented in movies, when a doctor says something like “You’re fully dilated. It’s time to push (because I said so). On count 3, give me a big push: 1, 2, 3!” … It was nothing like that in real life. My body was doing its thing very knowingly, on its own schedule – when it was ready, as this spectacular physical system was designed, and it was clear that nobody should intervene or mess with this raw natural power.
Eventually, the bathtub started to feel too small, especially as I turned on all fours and swung my hips to meet each surge. I floated to the space in front of the fireplace and labored there until the baby began to crown. At some point my water broke, but it wasn’t a big gush full of relief like it happens with many people; mine came out in a few gushes over a few surges and felt good. I could feel, and my husband could now see a squishy head as the baby crowned. There was a lot of pressure, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. If anything, it was amazing and exciting. We are almost there! And then my favorite moment happened: my baby’s head came out (and it seemed to turn at the same time). I saw the back of his head, pretty full of hair, and his sweet little ear, and my husband, who was on the other side, saw his sweet little face. I gently stroked his soft velvety head with my fingers and said something like “Hi, baby love. We’re almost there”. With the next surge his left shoulder popped out, then, as the rest of his body came out, I pulled him onto my chest, listening to his loud and lively cry, just like I’d dreamed of a few weeks ago, but much more amazing – one of the coolest experiences of my life. He was perfect, everything was all right, and I wish I could relive those extraordinary, primal moments a thousand times more.
The placenta came out about 50 minutes later with a mild surge, and it felt great. We checked the placenta and it was whole and complete and beautiful. My son latched on around the same time (instincts are impressive!) and started to get the colostrum in his little body. My labor lasted a total of 8.5 hours. The baby weighed 5.5 pounds and measured 18 inches long. We climbed into bed (with the placenta still attached) and spent time bonding and falling in love with our first child. We cut and burned the umbilical cord about 12 hours later – it got very dry by then.
Well, it has been almost 2 months since we freebirthed our son, and he has been such a cutie and joy and a precious gift. Breastfeeding has been going really well for us, and it’s such a great way to connect with the baby. The “Universal Baby Language” has been a savior in knowing exactly what the baby is communicating by his “neh”, “eh”, “heh”, “owh”, etc. We also got our birth certificate easily from the local vital statistics office. For the birth certificate, it was helpful to get the “proof of pregnancy form” from the department of public health (a midwife or clinic would work, too) – a quick visit and a simple form, in the last couple weeks of my pregnancy – the only time I dealt with any institutions.
When people ask when and how we gave birth and they hear our answer, they usually gasp and say something like “Oh my god, you are so brave!” But brave to do what? To be a woman? To have a body? To have this body know exactly what to do? To treat birth as what it is – a natural physiological process – without freaking out over it as if it’s a medical emergency? People’s reactions show clearly how misled and confused we became about what birth is, and how much our values regarding birth need to be readjusted to trust in our own bodies and intuition more than we trust in the profit-driven medical cartel.
Giving birth is more than just pushing out a baby. It’s an empowering and transformational initiation into motherhood. May more women understand, appreciate, and trust in this amazing, but really, very natural process. It is one of the biggest gifts a woman can receive in this life.
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