No one told us what gender she was. I didn't really have a hunch as to whether she was a girl or a boy. I had some dreams that she was a girl and some dreams that I was having a boy. I dreamt of her past lives. I dreamt of India, a cabin in northern mountains, and ship wrecks. She took me places in my dreams that I have never been before and I have never visited since.
We went through the winter together eating mostly potatoes, cabbage, kale, and greens. My husband and I buy every type of vegetable and fruit available from our favourite farmers at the Saturday market. I adore the ritual of choosing the food and preparing it throughout the week. I loved the idea of my baby tasting the food along with me. As my baby grew, winter yielded to spring and every week there was a new delight to sample from the farmer's market. I imagined what it would be like to taste each vegetable and fruit for the first time. Strawberries never tasted so good!
My decision to have a home birth arose from my distrust of the medical system and my complete trust in the abilities of my body and my baby. I have had numerous personal experiences with the medical industry that have led me down the path to self healing. Giving birth at the hospital seemed impossible to me. I couldn't picture it. To me, birth was a sacred rite of passage. To place me in a hospital would be to put me in a cage. I kept getting stopped at the idea of the windows in the hospital and worrying about whether I would be able to open them. I couldn't stand the idea of not being able to breathe in fresh air. I was going to protect myself and my baby from the toxic smells, interventions, and beliefs of the hospital, no matter what.
My close friends and the women who would attend my birth gathered at my apartment for a blessing way. I was given beads from everyone for a necklace that I cherish and that Nuala loves to wear. I was given beeswax candles that we ended up lighting during my labour. It was a ritual of support, love, and confidence building. Everyone went around in a circle and told the story of how we met and how they see me, and what they love about me. I felt like a goddess, pampered and taken care of by my sisters.
I noticed a difference in how she moved after we got home from camping at a music festival. This was about six weeks before I went into labour. I noticed that Nuala still moved but she wouldn't do flips and somersaults like I was used to. I asked Natalie about this change. What she said made a lot of sense to me. Nuala was getting so big that there was less room for her to move around and she had decided to prepare for her birth by positioning herself with her head down. We could feel her bum up top in my belly.
I could feel her feet starting to kick up and out. We could actually see her feet through my skin near my ribs in those last weeks of my pregnancy. I taught my last yoga classes. I felt introverted in the days leading up to my labour. I couldn't muster the mental energy to speak to anyone except my husband, Scott, who knew how I was feeling.
The day I went into labour, Scott had been off work for a few days and he left early in the morning to help a friend for a couple of hours. I woke up slowly, had breakfast, relaxed, and did some yoga. When he got home, we made love like we had done all the way through my pregnancy. Still in bed cuddling, we ordered a pizza. He left to go pick up the pizza. I said bye, relishing a few more moments in bed. When I got up, I felt something. It felt good and exciting, like a wave of energy. A few more came and I knew that labour was starting. I made a salad and danced through the rushes in my kitchen. When Scott got home, I told him and we ate the pizza and the salad. Eating gave me energy. I was feeling amazing. There was a steady rhythm to the sensations that kept gently increasing in intensity.
“Let's go out for a walk.” I said. It was a hot July day. It was clear after one block that I needed to rest and have support while the sensations rushed over me so we went straight back home.
We waited a while and then called Natalie and Mara. I was joyful. I hung with my arms around Scott's neck while I went through the rushes. As if we were slow dancing, I made circles with my hips. I blew my exhales out of my mouth, making a vibrating humming sound.
My uterus was stretching upwards and this action was opening up my cervix, the hole that enlarges to let the baby's head comes through. My mucous plug, that seals the baby in started to leak out. It was a white colour streaked with red.
Scott played music and we giggled at the contrast between his soothing folk tunes and the intensity of what I was feeling. I went in and out of the tub. I lay down between the rushes. I drank chamomile tea.
When my friends arrived, I was deep in labour land. We told them the names we had chosen for our baby, which we had kept secret until then. No one but us knew what our little one would be called. It felt amazing to finally share the names we loved with our friends. It was an action that announced our baby was on her way out and we were ready. Mara and Natalie lit all the candles from my blessing way. There were flames in every room.
My support team set up the birth pool, fixed an air leak in the pool, and filled it up with as much hot water as was in our tank. I hopped into the pool and submerged myself in the soothing water. I was in my element. I love water. I stayed in the pool for the next 6 hours. I moaned through my rushes. It was a gorgeous primal moan somewhere between pleasure and effort. Mara and Natalie left Scott and I alone while they rested with their babies. There were two babies at Nuala's birth: Charlotte and Selah, each of my friends brought their baby.
Mara woke up and came into the living room. She was wearing Selah on her chest. She asked me, "Would you like some hot water added into the pool?"
I replied enthusiastically, "yes!"
Mara and Scott filled kettles of water and poured them into the pool. The rhythm of their work echoed the rhythm of my rushes. Through the hot water, kettle by kettle, they were working along with me. Gravity pulled their hot water into the pool. I loved the sound of the water being poured. It promised that I too would flow into the birth of my baby. My rushes were ever present, layered, and endless like the waves.
Natalie woke up and tiptoed behind Scott while he was filling a kettle. She had Charlotte in a baby carrier on her back. She startled Scott by saying, "I think the hot water tank has refilled by now." Everyone laughed about this later. It was hilarious to all of us that Scott and Mara had become so deeply mesmerized by their work with the kettles that they had forgotten that the tank had probably been full of hot water for hours.
They filled the birth pool and I journeyed deeper into labour. I thought about whales. I went outside myself. I would hear myself making my sounds and then I would reunite with my body. I liked to go through the rushes kneeling and pushing into the sides of the birth pool with each of my hands.
I ate strawberries or slices of a cucumber and had some water between every rush. Between rushes, I entered a dreamy rest state where I felt so great and relaxed that I could even sleep for a few minutes, leaning my back against the pool.
I felt like I needed to have a bowel movement so I got out of the birth pool and went to the bathroom. My water had still not broken. I couldn't have a bowel movement, so we all went into the bedroom. Scott lay down. I put my arms around my friends and I said, "Get ready everyone" as another rush came because I thought I would have a bowel movement. Natalie kept gently reminding me that I was feeling my baby, not a bowel movement. I couldn't believe yet that my baby was really coming. It still didn't seem real.
I got back in the pool and I said I was tired. Another rush came and I hoisted myself up into my kneeling position, kicked my head back and arched my spine. Tiredness overcame me. My legs were tired. I started to need reassurance. This was the moment called transition.
Natalie suggested that Scott get into the pool with me. This seemed like a great idea to me so when Scott said, "Sure", I said, "Your swim shorts are in the bottom drawer of your dresser." Everyone laughed when I said this because it was funny that I could think practically when I had been off navigating the wild land of labour for the past several hours. I thought I must have seemed just as entranced as I felt.
It helped a lot to lean on Scott. He sat with his back to the wall of the pool and I wrapped my arms around his neck. We were belly to belly. Later, he told me could feel Nuala descending through my skin from the outside.
Nuala passed through my cervix and descended down into my yoni. There was no ambiguity about whether I should push. The rushes demanded that I push. I didn't hold back. For an hour Nuala descended further down during each rush and then when the rush was over, she would slide back up a little.
I asked my friends if this was like taking two steps forward and one step back and they were very encouraging.
My support team chanted "Ohm" as I sounded my way through the rushes. I felt comforted by their voices. I didn't feel alone in the experience. I was surrounded by love. We laughed. I was letting go and starting to enjoy the intensity.
I talked to my baby, "We are ready for you baby, we want to meet you. We want to see you."
"The baby is in the caul." I said. and Natalie said "Yup" as if she already knew. I wasn't surprised. I had a dream during my pregnancy that prepared me for having Nuala in the caul. Natalie and I had actually had a conversation during one of our prenatal visits about babies in the caul, so I already knew what it was. I felt scared that my placenta would come out at the same time as the baby. That seemed like too much for me, and I didn't want that to happen.
Natalie assured me that it would be very unlikely for the placenta to come out with the baby.
I went inwards. I thought about how I was precisely where I wanted to be for my baby's birth. Everything about this birth was perfect, it was everything I wanted.
Her amniotic sac was around her head. She had kicked off the bottom part of the sac with her feet, which had been around her lower belly and her legs. I saw her in the pool, within her bubble. Her arms were spread out, her hands outstretched, as if she was swimming.
I caught her in the water. My fingers pierced through her sac, through her waters, and reached her torso. I pulled her up out of the water. I saw that she was a girl first and as I brought her to my chest, I joyously shouted, "She's a girl!"
The next thing I saw was her cord, which was wrapped around her underarm and her neck.
"Let's take this off first," Nat said about the about the caul. The thin latex-like amniotic sac was still on Nuala. I held Nuala while Natalie peeled it off. Then Natalie unwrapped the cord. She told me later that Nuala's cord was not pulsing at first, but that it began to pulse vigorously as soon as she unwrapped it.
I wanted the placenta out. I wanted to be in my bed. I felt like someone who had been swimming for a while, since I had been in the pool for so many hours. I wanted to get dry, to get to land.
“When the next rush comes, if you feel the urge to push, go with it and give it a little push.” Natalie said. With the next rush, I pushed and some blot clots came out. I thought it was all finished, I wasn't up for more. The rushes were more gentle. With the next one, I pushed again and out came the fleshy mass of my placenta. We put it in a bowl. Later, I ate it in smoothies and took it in pills after it was dehydrated. I also put a piece of the placenta under my tongue a few minutes after it was out.
Scott and I were in love with Nuala, with each other, with everyone, with everything. In that moment everything changed. I had gracefully helped my daughter through onto the earth. We sat in a pool of blood. It was crimson red. It was a symbol of my power. It was impossible to dilute the red colour. One drop could colour the entire pool. Scott and I were the shelter for our new little one. I cradled the new creature and gazed in her eyes. We said her name over and over again.
I went to the bathroom to put a pad on and then I lay down on the bed.
Nuala lay on my chest and cooed and wiggled. We then lay down side to side and I offered her my nipple. My friends and Scott burnt the cord with beeswax candles. As they were burning the cord, Nuala latched on to me and started to nurse.