My journey starts a little over six years ago with the pregnancy and birth of my first child. My pregnancy was nearly flawless; I got a rash near the end. I did all the things society says to do, (though I tried to initially find a birth center or midwife without luck) went to my prenatal checkups with the OB, read the awful advice books, and trusted the system to allow me the natural birth I wanted.
I knew a good bit about natural birth and how it is supposed to work, best positions, and I trusted my body worked. What I was ignorant of was just how bad the medical system is for birthing women. How they want the control and do not trust women’s bodies and their babies in the birth process. Physiological birth does not happen in hospitals.
Needless to say my first experience was nothing I hoped it would be. I was stressed and abused throughout my labor and delivery resulting in a traumatic birth, PTSD and an injured baby (due to a doctor’s negligence) kept in the NICU for a week.
After this experience I longed to heal. Instead of shutting down, letting fear and pain consume me I became obsessed with birth. I was on a mission to find the truth. To find why my child and I suffered and how to make it better. I began to learn many, far too many, women suffered quietly or mistakenly (perhaps to cope or simple ignorance) felt their traumatic birth was unavoidable and their baby/self was saved by the medical establishment. Little do most know,(more often than not) all the interventions in a hospital setting actually caused the issues they had to be saved from.
I read, researched, spoke to women, observed, contemplated and researched more for the next six years. At times it was hard learning about birth. I would break down into tears as memories of my own experience would flood my mind. But I fell in love with the facts, with the physiological process and how empowering it could and should be for women. I wanted so badly to experience what I should have had with my first. I wasn't only learning about birth because I loved it but to make sure I knew all I could to have the healing birth my daughter and I deserved. I knew I would get a chance to do it again and there was no way I would do it any other way than my way.
~Pregnancy and Birth with Vanelope 🌹~
In September of 2015 I found out I was expecting my second child. I was ecstatic and could hardly believe I was finally going to have my healing birth. I had been preparing and dreaming of this day for almost six years.
I continued to read and educate myself about pregnancy/birth throughout my pregnancy. I read information from all angles; medical information from OBs and nurses, midwives, doulas, experienced mothers who birthed at home with midwives and mothers who birthed at home unassisted. I couldn't get enough and I was always learning more. I knew what I wanted and what wasn't necessary. I found confidence and knew I wanted to take full responsibility for my care and my birth. I didn't feel the need to be saved by anyone. I was going to care for myself and my growing baby without any outside interference as I had now witnessed many other women do thanks to the wonderful tribes women have created (to replace our lost knowledge)on the internet. I am also lucky to have a partner who supported and had faith in me. I did what I could to ease his mind of any worries and he was amazing throughout the pregnancy and I feel came to realize how much sense there was in what I wanted for this pregnancy and birth. Pregnancy and birth are NOT medical events!
For my prenatal care I decided I would eat healthy, take a prenatal and a few other supplements, weigh myself, check my blood pressure, listen to my babies heartbeat with a fetoscope, and measure my fundus throughout my pregnancy. I did these things because I enjoyed it and no one could say I didn't have prenatal care. Some women who free birth (go unassisted) simply enjoy being pregnant and wait for baby. I enjoyed listening to my baby's heartbeat most and found it quite soothing. I could listen whenever I wanted because I had my own fetoscope. I found doing my own prenatal care to be enjoyable and relaxing. There was no driving to an office full of strangers and having them in my most intimate spaces. No stress of tests and scans that are all too often wrong. Just me and my baby growing in peace.
I would never say free birth is the way to go for all women as it is a huge responsibility. Personally, I transitioned from wanting a midwife to knowing I needed to free birth. What is important is that all families are making the best choice for them based off of the very best evidence based science and information. What I have observed is that most families are making their choices about this most amazing life changing experience based off of fear, not evidence based information and not what their instincts are telling them is right.
People will say I am lucky, brave, or even crazy. But I say, I am not brave for doing what is best for my family. I am no more lucky than anyone else living out their life. I may be a little crazy in a lot of ways (all the best ways ;)) but when it comes to pregnancy and birth I am simply well-educated on how to care for myself and baby. I have witnessed how perfect physiological birth is when left unhindered by outside influences.
With faith in my abilities and trust in my baby to know what she needed and when to come I took the best care of us. I planned and prepared for my healing birth. I educated myself for years and knew what I wanted and needed with a very realistic view of how things could go, both good and bad. With my self-care I knew my baby and myself were well.
~The Arrival of Vanelope Rose~
I enjoyed my pregnancy and kept records in my "Belly Book" of my growth and baby’s growth. I had a feeling my little one was not going to want to stay in my womb a full 40 weeks but I also felt she would come in her own time perfectly healthy. When I got to 36 weeks (based off ovulation, doctors would have put me at 37weeks) I knew my baby was getting ready to meet us. I started losing my mucus plug the beginning of the 36th week and had bloody show a few days later. After almost a week of losing mucus plug/bloody show I decided to see if I could feel anything upon checking myself. Sure enough I could feel my babies head sitting low in my pelvis. I had been contracting on and off for about a week.
May 8th I enjoyed a lovely Mother's Day with my family. A friend rubbed my belly and said I was going to have the baby that night and it was going to be a girl. I didn't doubt a word of it. We had been saying it was going to be a boy but by the end of my pregnancy I started to feel baby was female (we kept it a surprise obviously).
I arrived home that evening, put my daughter to bed and settled in to enjoy some alone time with my partner. Sometime around 1:00 or 1:30 AM my contractions started to pick up. I tried to lay in bed but that just wasn't happening and I didn't want to bother my partner trying to get comfortable. I decided to go into the living room and see what I could do for comfort. I realized it was really labor time. I got my birth ball, lit my candles, opened the back door so I could see my birth space (our screened in back porch), put on my birth necklace (which gave me a sense of love, comfort, and support, as it was created from beads/charms given to me by friends and family) and labored around the house for a few hours. It was peaceful and I enjoyed myself through the work of labor.
At one point I heard a commotion out by our compost. Thinking it was our cat I went out and called him. Something ran toward the side patio, (I was on my screened in porch) and when I went to investigate I saw it was a momma raccoon growling as her baby inspected the porch (So cute and scary at the same time). I called for my cat once they ran off. He came from the front of the house, I let him in and locked the screen door. Then it was back to laboring. (I am glad this happened as I feel it is a great example of how stress/adrenaline can cause labor to stop. How wise our bodies are)
I labored around the house until I felt the need to get some relief. I finished filling my pool with air and when I went to fill it with water I realized my partner had unhooked the hose to wash clothes. This was probably a good thing because I would have just filled it and possibly birthed my baby without waking my partner and I am so glad he was there. I woke him and said, "I would like to get in the pool now." I had to repeat myself a few times as he was waking and processing what I just said. With an "oh is it that time?" he was up and getting things in order. He had a bit of an issue getting the hose hooked up tight enough but he got it under control and we had nice warm water in the pool.
It was such a relief to get in the water. I felt the contractions getting closer and stronger. Ideally there would have been more water in the pool but with the faulty hook up at first it was a bit shallow. It still worked well (pots of water were on the stove for additional hot water). It was getting harder to find relief as I moved around. Suddenly I felt a bubble emerge between my legs and then it burst, this was a strange and very interesting sensation. I yell to my partner "my water just broke!" Then things got really intense. I moved around the pool trying to find relief in a different position. I see my partner sitting in the doorway and ask him to come rub my head. It feels good but a little awkward at the same time as he is not the touchy feely type and this gives me a little giggle. I ask for a sip of my labor-aid. Before I know it I feel the urge to push. The weight of a wet towel felt surprisingly good on my stomach as I pushed. At one point I almost clenched up but I whisper "no" to myself knowing that will get me nowhere but deeper into the intensity. I have heard it said that sometimes the only way out is through. So I continue to push. I reach down and feel her head emerging. And I swear I could see it from a view outside myself. I believe I said "why is your head so big?" at one point (it's not really but at the time it felt big). I am sure I was getting loud as I heard one neighbor letting their dogs out and the other came out after all was done (people say the neighbors probably thought I was being murdered but my partner says they probably thought something else i.e. having an orgasm). I push and let my body take control. I know she is coming fast. I had a feeling she would. I ask my partner if he sees a head. He says yes. I say "slow it down," my partner reaches down to help but then I say "no". I push a few times and before I know it I see her in the water pale with arms spread, bright red lips and beautiful vernix (it's so soft!) all over. I hear my partner’s moment of concern as he reaches down to hand her to me. But I think he realizes she hasn't been breathing air yet and the color makes sense. I raise her to my chest and see she is wide eyed and alert as can be. Her cord was around her waist so I simply unwrap it. I rub her and soak in the awesomeness. Even with a bit of discomfort in my bottom it is the most amazing healing moment of my life. The morning sun was shining in on us. I ask my partner to wake my daughter. I wanted her to witness the birth but in the moment I just wanted to be alone (as I suspected I would). She appears in the doorway excited to meet her new sister. Now what should we name her? I ask if everyone likes Vanelope Rose and we all agree.
I sit in the pool for a few minutes but feel like I need a change and ask to have the bath tub filled hoping the move will help the placenta come. I sit in the tub a moment then squat to try and push the placenta out. It comes out most of the way. I didn't want to pull on it and, well, there is no need to rush these things. So I sat for a bit longer and then tried giving a few more pushes. When it finally came I realized it was heart shaped. Such an amazing experience topped off with a stunning placenta. We put it in a bowl and move to the bed to relax. I am surprised how quickly the vernix has absorbed into her skin. We relax a bit, sterilize the scissors, tie off the cord with the beautiful cord tie made by a friend and my partner cuts it. We take lots of photos, enjoy our new family and eventually lay down for a nap. Later that day I found that my gardenias had bloomed, welcoming Vanelope to the world.
My labor was approximately seven hours, pushing a matter of minutes. It was a beautiful intimate experience we shared as a family. I was healed and empowered. My partner got to catch his first child and experience a physiological birth. We are incredibly in love and my heart is so full. I have a beautiful family, loving partner, and finally feel released from the pain of my first experience.
I feel the birth was healing for me as well as my first daughter. She asked, at one point, why umbilical cords are so colorful. I explain a bit and I know she has witnessed something amazing many young people, as well as adults, never get to see. She knows babies can be born at home and I feel she will have some really wonderful births when it is her time to have children (if it is what she chooses for herself).
~And so the journey continues~
After the birth we decided to get a birth certificate for our newest family member (this is not something you have to do as many probably think…but that is another story). I actually started the process a few weeks before she was born. I called Vicki, at the South Carolina DHEC office in Columbia, SC to find out what I would need. When I expressed concern about not being able to get a proof of pregnancy from a licensed provider (I had a proof of pregnancy filled out by my local DHEC but apparently DHEC does not accept proof of pregnancy from a DHEC agency!) as I was at the point where my baby would be coming any day, she assumed a lot without knowing a thing about me and told me I should at least get my babies position checked by a “professional” before my birth. Yet, for all she knew I could have been around birth my whole life. Perhaps I had a traditional midwife (not licensed) friend or someone else who was well educated on these things. Or, you know, maybe I have been reading everything about it for over seven years and knew exactly what position my baby was in as well as how to birth my baby no matter the position she was in. I mean, how could a women planning a free birth/unassisted birth possibly know anything! But I digress. As you can imagine that was not my favorite conversation, she did not answer all my questions and I definitely did not need to hear her opinion about anything. I only needed the facts and couldn’t seem to get that from her.
Luckily I was able to find more information about the process from another women in one of my birth groups on line. She informed me that I also had the option of getting three friends to notarize forms, sent to them by DHEC, as proof of pregnancy. With this information I called Vicki once again and was informed that, yes, this is an option but I can only do it for proof of pregnancy or proof of live birth but not both. Thanks, good to know, wish I was given that information in the first place. So I request the forms be sent to three close friends. I think we are on a roll. This should be a relatively easy process, I am doing all that is asked of me even when I get the run around.
After the birth of my daughter we were required to see a licensed provider for proof of live birth. We look around for a pediatrician that would see us within the required two weeks after delivery. There seem to be few or really none that are a good fit so we go with the most popular one, Sweetgrass Pediatrics, only after being turned away, or “around” as the nurse put it, from another pediatrician the day before because of our informed family choices (these people really care about children don’t they?!). We get an appointment for Sweetgrass and I tell them why we are there. Simply to get a letter of live birth nothing more. I figure this should be simple; they will look my baby over and confirm she is the age we say she is, we get our letter and are on our way (my anxiety told me I really knew otherwise). However, every time I state that all we need is this letter it seems to be ignored and they continue as protocol dictates and do not seem capable of deviating one bit. We answer all their questions, they weigh my baby on an old scale they know doesn’t work properly and say my baby is 4lbs! The lady asks if I would like them to weigh her on the new scale they have that actually works. This should be a no brainer as I knew my baby was 6lb. WHY ARE THEY EVEN USING THE OLD SCALE!!!!
Eventually Dr. Dino comes in to check the baby and ask more questions. The check-up seems cold and invasive as he pulls down my babies belly button (causing the recently scabbed over wound to bleed) and spreads her little labia. I am in shock, I never wanted to be there to begin with, my hormones are trying to get back in balance and I am emotional. He asks more questions about my care and the birth. He seems to be fine with the fact that it was a home birth but becomes judgmental when he discovers we did not have a midwife and I declined certain unnecessary test he thinks are important. We need a waiver for another unnecessary test we decline for our baby and as we wait I hear them outside the door talking about me and my “lack” of care. Of course this is only their opinion because I took great care of myself and my baby throughout my pregnancy and birth. However, they would not know that as they did not ask questions to learn more about why we made the choices we did, they simply felt the need to judge and be condescending. I left there feeling overwhelmed and victimized once again by medical “professionals” bringing back feelings from my first birth. But it was over and all we had left to do was wait for the letter to be ready (when received it had a statement about a test we declined which was completely unnecessary). I would add that each experience like this only makes me stronger and wiser. I now know what I need to do for my next birth to avoid this.
Little did I know that I would now have to endure judgment from family about our choices, (which are really not anyone’s business) all while my body was still trying to balance out the hormones from pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Every day I am thankful that I have a partner who is so incredibly supportive. I tried to hide my tears but of course he knew something was not right.
In the end it took about six months to get my baby’s birth certificate. That was after a “lost” notarized form from one of my proof of pregnancy friends, a few phone calls back and forth and a decision to no longer talk to DEHC/Vicki via phone. I wanted to have all our conversations in writing as documentation of this after I received a phone message where she must have had a slip of tongue when she stated that I should “call her back at my inconvenience.” Though I am sure that is not what she meant to say it was clearly the truth. Once I made the choice to only communicate via email I received Vanelope’s birth certificate. However, we were still not done as there is one more hoop to jump through for her father. Since my partner and I have decided we do not need the State to confirm our love, he must pay more to have his name added to his daughter’s birth certificate.
This was more trouble than it ever should have been and I hope (and will fight) that someday soon these laws will change so that the many diverse families that exists can live peacefully and simply as they are most comfortable. However, it seems as more families take control of their lives and bodies our government is working to make it more and more difficult to do so. This is not the direction we should be headed in. It is a scary future where we do not have autonomy.
No amount of red tape will keep me from birthing the way I know is best for my family!~Alexandra