This story starts long before our sweet girl was born.
I got pregnant when Benji was just about 6 months old and I contacted the midwives’ office to get in care with them again only to find out they are all booked due to the lack of midwives in our town. I was so sad and almost cried because I really wanted to have the option of a home birth this time.
After a few calls to see if any space opened up I gave up and I accepted that I will have to book with a family physician and give birth in the hospital again. I wasn't sad about the hospital as such but I was really unsure how it would be with Benji since I wanted him to be present at birth of his little brother or sister.
Fast forward to August I did my very first birth photography! Amber, a woman I look up to so much, decided to give birth at home despite not having a midwife. That was a first time I have heard about a free birth!
At first I didn't really understand how she could be not having any medical support, she only hired a doula and had one friend supporting her at birth.
But when I saw her giving birth like a goddess, undisturbed, in her own space, I was blown away! I admired her for what I was able to experience thanks to her hiring me as a birth photographer!
I knew right away I wanted to give birth at home too! But still I wasn't "brave" enough to do it without a midwife (little did I know it doesn't take a courage to birth a baby rather then lots of love, trust in my own self and my deep instincts). I called their office several times a week almost begging them to take me into care. No luck. I contacted Clara, Amber's doula to discuss her services as I was exploring my options. I initially wanted her to support me in the hospital and help us with Benji there but after a "getting to know each other" meeting I decided to give a free birth a thought. And I couldn't stop thinking about it since!
I hired Clara to continue supporting me throughout the rest of my pregnancy and we were talking a lot about the free birth, she answered every single question I had and what was the most important she never ever pushed me not even a tiny little bit unless I was 100% sure about it myself. We've had many conversation about the risks and possible hospital transfers, I've read the book Home Birth On Your Own Terms by Heather Baker and day by day I was working through my fears until one day I wasn't scared anymore. I suddenly understood it all and I didn't want it any other way. My prenatal doctor kept asking me if I changed my mind about the free birth. Oh did I not! I have changed my mind a lot though. I reflected a lot on Benji's birth and it all suddenly made so much sense to me. Why could I not handle the pain and let them give me epidural, why did I not feel any urge to push and was told when and how to do it, why they had to use a vacuum to help him out, why did I tear so much that I couldn’t even stand on my feet for a few following weeks, why did I not ask them to preserve my placenta for me and many other questions were popping up in my head. It became much more than a desire for a home birth. It became a desire for a natural physiological birth. For a birth where I follow my deepest instincts and where I trust my roots and my inner powers!
So here is my memories of the day our Willow decided to join us earthside.
It was a December morning when I started to feel very mild cramping. I told Huy it might be it but that he should still go to work and if things change I would call him. (I was 39w3d and you know how you look up every possible sign of early pregnancy? - I felt absolutely the same except I was googling every possible sign of early labour and was getting my hopes high with each symptom like headache, loosing a piece of mucus plug, little cramp here and there and also didn’t want to get excited with small symptoms at the same time. I gave birth to Benji at 38w3d and I really thought this baby will be born even sooner, so going over 39 weeks was really unexpected).
So the pain didn’t get much worse but I was having hard times caring about Benji and if this should be the last day we could spend as a family of three I wanted Huy to be with us. So he got home so he could help me with Benji, we cleaned our apartment, made our bed with fresh linen, cleaned the bathroom and in the afternoon we went for a walk in one of the neighborhoods to see their Christmas decoration. The cramping then started to feel more like a mild contractions and I had to kind of slow down and breath through them.
It started to rain and the forecast was promising some snow. I was so much hoping it would snow on the day I give birth.
We visited our friends after the walk but didn’t tell them about my mild starting contractions.
When we got home, we had a dinner and put Benji to bed. I was snuggling with him with the thought it’s the last night of him as an only child.
I took a nice warm bath after that, I spend a good hour in there. It was so relaxing. I think we watched a movie but I don’t really remember. The contractions were getting more intense and were maybe 6-10 min apart. We made up the sofa bed and got ready to sleep. Which I hoped for but didn't happen much for me. In between all the contractions I got two 20min naps. I was so worried I'd wake Benji up with all my roaring but he slept like a "baby". I was hoping I'll make it through the night as I didn't want to go through the most difficult stage in the dark. The night makes everything worse to cope for me. It was like that with pregnancy related pain and the labour wasn't any different. Once the daylight started to unfold, I felt much more comfortable just with that fact.
Benji woke up after 6am, all fresh and happy and I bursted in tears. Tears that were coming from deep inside of me, my chest was hurting. I finally fully realized it's the last moments of him being my one and only. I was bouncing on the ball while holding him tight and letting my emotions out. This reminds me of the positions I was in throughout the night. I spent most of it on the bouncing ball and also up on the couch on all four pressing my head into the cushion. Huy was with me with every single contraction, squeezing my hips in which was bringing a lot of relief.
I was debating if it’s already the time to call Clara (our wonderful doula and a good friend now) or if it still too early. The contractions were not still very consistent but they were very painful. I decided to call her because I really needed Huy to be with me and there was no one else to give attention to Benji. It was 7am. Huy got the pool ready with nice very warm water just by the time she arrived. Benji lit up as always seeing her. I was just about to get into the pool but I thought it is the only opportunity to get a last photo of the three of us together so I asked Clara and after that I immersed in the water.
OMG! I couldn’t believe how powerful the water was taking the pain away. I literally felt like hundred times better. I was so surprised and I think I was kind of enjoying the contractions then. I really wished Benji would be able to join me in the pool at some point so I decided it was the right time to do so. Huy put him into the swimming diaper and he got to the pool with me. Oh it was so magical. I loved every moment of it. We cuddled together, splashed water, I held him lying so he could float on the water. When the contractions came, he just stood by me or walked around the pool wall. It was time to get him out as his fingers started to get pruney. He didn’t like that idea, he is a bath and pool lover so he was frustrated about going out.
I don’t really remember the exact timeline of things and definitely not how long and how spaced my contractions were but I remember that after Benji got out the contractions started to get much worse.
When the contraction came I got on my knees and hands and Clara was pushing against my lower back. This position was so intuitive to me and I spent the whole labour like that. In between contractions I either sat with my back resting on the pool wall and I was stretching my legs or I sat the opposite way and rested my forehead on and stretched my hands over the pool wall. I was so hot I asked Huy to hold some cold wet washcloth on my forehead and I remember how amazing that felt. At one point the window was opened and the freezing air that was coming in made me feel like I was in one of the Iceland’s hot pools. That feeling just stucked in my head. I was terribly hungry and thirsty the whole time. But at the same time, the thought of anything made me sick. I remember keeping saying I wanted to eat something, and when Huy asked me what, I always said I didn't know. So he tried: bread with butter and chicken ham, dried mango, hot tea, hot chicken broth, mango coconut water, cold tap water, pineapple - I ate a lot of it.
As the contractions were gaining on the intensity I started to be really loud. I was worried this would make Benji feeling uncomfortable but he was just fine! Just like they tell you - kids know from their hearts birth is the most natural thing. I was loud and in pain. But this time the pain was different then with my first labour. This time I accepted it, I knew it was the part of it and I surrendered my mind to my body. Although I was cursing my doula (in my head) for keeping on telling me that we as women are strong, we can do hard things for one minute. And I swear some of the contractions were far from only one minute. But I knew they have to end at some point and that kept me going strong. I tried to focus on breathing and I was reminding myself that I am strong enough to do it and that really helped I think.
I was so far in the labour I thought the contractions will keep to be closer together instead I realized I am having long breaks and it made me think if this was only the beginning and the worst is yet to come. I think I was maybe an hour or two away from meeting my baby when I realized they are far from each other. But I didn’t say it out loud and just kept on going (because I believe that if you say something you really care about out loud the opposite of what you wish for will happen). I started to be in a lot of pain and I remember when each of those painful contractions started to fade I kept saying nenenene (means no no no) in my sons voice.
Once during the whole labour the thought of an epidural crossed my mind. But not in the meaning I would like to have it but exactly the opposite, that I didn’t need it even though I was screaming from pain like an animal.
My water broke and then came a little bit of relief.
Not long after that a very strong sensation came and I was so surprised of it. I didn’t think the pain could be any worse and it was. It was absolutely mind blowing and I was begging for it to be over. Then I felt like stinging or burning but I still didn’t believe it could be it. Next contraction, like out of nowhere, I just started pushing. I roared. And I still thought it’s just the body’s way of dealing with the pain. I didn’t realized I am actually pushing my baby out. I reached down with my hand and I felt the head! Next contraction my body pushed haaaard. I've read a few stories how this fetal ejection reflex feels similar to vomiting and it was exactly how it felt. Only with a lot more pain. The head came out! "Oh my gosh the head is out! What should I do?" "Your body knows what to do, follow your instincts," Clara said. I took a deep breath excited for this next contraction that will get me to meet the person who was growing inside of me.
This must have been the shortest contraction as I don’t even remember it, I only remember the baby falling off right into my bare hands. I immediately lifted the baby up and got up off my feet to sit so I could bring the baby up to my chest. I held the baby tight! That moment right there I will never forget! She didn’t cry immediately, took a few seconds and a little rub on her back, but when I heard the first whines I exhaled and just smiled! I did it! And Huy and Benji saw all of it. Their presence in the room was all I needed in that moment. Oh and then I thought I should probably see the gender of our tiny black haired baby! I looked and I couldn’t believe it was a girl! When I said it, I looked at Huy and I can tell I have never seen such an expression on his face. Then, his eyes filled with the happiest tears ever. Benji leaned over and gave me a kiss and I am not lying if I tell you that I didn’t want these moments to ever end!
After a few minutes of absolute euphoria my mind returned back to my body to experience some more painful contractions. There was a slightly bigger blood clot but I wasn't worried. After that with a little bit of pushing the placenta came out and I felt like I could finaly let a big breath out. It was very relieving. We put it in a stainless steel bowl and let it float on the water until I was ready to come out. Huy took our tiny baby into his arms as well as the bowl with placenta and Clara helped me out from the pool. I thought about having a shower immediately but the hose for the pool was installed there so I just put my bathrobe on and went straight to bed.
I was hungry! I asked again for bread with butter and ham and Clara made me some tea and warmed up a chicken broth. I started to feel a little dizzy, very cold and I had very painful contractions that lasted minutes at once. The pain almost broke me. I took some Tylenol and that helped a little. I needed to pee but I was afraid to go because of the experience with my first birth when I had 2nd degree tear and couldn't pee without pain for a couple weeks. This time, when I finally peed after sitting on a toilet for several minutes, I felt just relief, no pain at all. Maybe a tiny little sting. I used a peri bottle to clean myself up and I checked if I had any tears and I did not tear at all this time, I only had a very little tear more like a papercut.
All of us exhausted we had to make our way to the hospital to get Willow a first dose of hep B immunization. They were supposed to be preppared for our arrival but when we got there no one even knew about us and we were told to be waiting on ER for several hours. Luckily some kind doctor gave us a priority and we were able to get home around 10pm.
Finally, all tucked in bed, we fell asleep for the first time as a family of 4!
I've had my dream birth! The snow was falling behind the window, I was flowing in a hot water in the birthing pool, it happend during a daylight which was my biggest wish, I've had the best support in Huy and Clara, the cutest and most patient observer Benji, Christmas tree lit up and decorated and my favorite songs playing on repeat. And even though birth is rather a painful process I don't think I have ever in my life enjoyed anything as much as I enjoyed bringing my dearest daughter into this world with my own powers and my bare hands, undisturbed, medicaly unassisted and trusted by the ones surrounding me.
Thank you Huy for trusting my inner power and for your love, thank you Benji for being the sweetest and most patient son I could ever wish for, thank you Clara for guiding me through this journey and for your mental support 24/7, thank you Amber for showing me the magic of freebirth by inviting me to yours and lastly, thank you Willow for choosing me as your mother!