Guest Blog by Free Birth, Super Mom: Mindy Wright
A couple of days after Christmas 2018, I was doing chores around the house and chasing my two-year old daughter and I started to feel slight, painless contractions. Tingling energy radiated from my lower back, around my hips, and my round belly tightened for a moment, then released. Throughout my pregnancy I had practiced mindfulness and though I was excited by the thought of labor starting, I reminded myself to relax. Mindfulness practice had prepared me to listen to my body rather than question it. I ate a nourishing dinner, drank water, relaxed, snuggled my daughter, and let the contractions come and go. I told my husband, Jack, what was going on and he helped to foster a relaxed atmosphere in our home. I went to bed with a touch of giddiness, wondering if contractions would pick up or fade away.
I woke up in the morning feeling rested. I’d had no contractions overnight, but as I started breakfast and walked the dogs I began to feel the familiar tingling waves wrap around my middle. While walking the dogs the waves began to feel a bit more serious. Now there was pressure. By the time I walked up the front steps the waves were painful. Not too bad, but enough so that I told my husband to be near his phone at work that day. As he left for work at about 9am, I called my aunt to give her a heads-up as she’d agreed to watch my daughter during our new little girl’s birth. My aunt asked how far apart my contractions were and I guessed that they were about 8-10 minutes apart. I don’t like to time contractions when I’m in labor because I find it distracts me from being present. I told my aunt I wanted to take one more walk before labor really got started because I hate being cooped up after the birth and she agreed to come take a walk with me.
By 10:30 my aunt and I were out for a walk down my beautiful street. It was a warm and sunny December morning. I was grateful for the palm tree-lined sidewalk as by this time I had to pause and lean against their strong, smooth trunks with each contraction. The contractions, my aunt pointed out with a teasing laugh, were more like 3-5 minutes apart. We had only made it a block before a contraction took me down to the ground and had me moaning under my neighbor’s jasmine bush. There was something so comforting about taking the ebb and flow of labor contractions within the familiar spaces I walk every day. Walking (also crawling lol) among the plants I watch grow, bloom, go dormant through the seasons were there to remind me to go with the flow. My aunt walked with my daughter while I walked, shuffled, and crawled behind them as we made our way back to my apartment.
A block back and forth had taken us a half an hour as my contractions had become more frequent and intense. My aunt laughed at me some more and suggested that she take my daughter to her house and I asked my husband to come home. My oldest daughter adores her aunt, but still had a hard time saying goodbye to me as I smiled and waved through a contraction. By this time I couldn’t walk up the thirteen stairs to my apartment without having another contraction so I did a funky backwards crab walk up the stairs, letting my bottom hang while my upper body held my weight. This was the position I had labored in for hours of my first daughter’s birth and it felt good. Or at least less bad. I wish I was one of those women for whom contractions don’t hurt, but I’m not. Youch. I stayed there on the stairs doin’ my crab thing for a while and then went in and laid down in bed.
I spent the next few hours laying on a heated blanket in my living room, letting the contractions wash over me and changing positions as my body dictated. My husband had set the blanket out and put on meditation music. My dogs were on the blanket with me either fast asleep or in deep meditation, completely unbothered by my moaning. I’d asked my husband to invite me to pee once every hour during this labor because a full bladder had made my last labor more difficult than it needed to be. After a potty break at about 2:30 I stopped to take a sip of my husband’s water and chatted with him for a minute as he lay on our bed. I told him to keep chillin’ in the bedroom and guessed that I’d be steadily laboring into the evening. I laid back down in my cozy labor nook and transition hit me like f***ing freight train.
The very first contraction after laying back down was a world apart from the waves of the day. I rolled onto my side and braced myself, grabbing onto the first thing I could find; an IKEA cabinet- for stability as that unbelievably strong organ, the uterus, pulled down powerfully on my middle. Soon there was no discernable start or end to contractions. In the brief lulls in between peaks, I opened my eyes and took in the beautiful rays of afternoon sun that were coming in through the window. It was golden hour and the light felt like a blessing. These moments are the feeling I carry with me of this birth. They were absolute peace.
Contraction peaks required all of my attention, though. Soon, so did the build up and ebb of each contraction. Before long, my baby caught the rhythm and her legs pushed the top of my belly as her head battered the remaining cervix with each contraction. Ouch, friends. F***ing OUCH. Holy moly was it painful. It was so cool though, to feel my baby seemingly take so much responsibility for her own birth. She wasn’t even born yet, but hadn’t hesitated to take the reigns. I couldn’t look down at my tummy to see it, but my husband narrated in awe of how powerfully she was fighting her way out. This part felt like and exorcism. It felt like a fight. There was so much power in the room. It felt like the whole space was activated.
Suddenly I felt like I needed more stability and I decided I needed to go hold onto the bathtub. Contractions stopped for long enough for me to walk into the bathroom and step into the tub, but as another contraction hit I threw myself out of the tub, which felt all wrong now, and crouched on the floor. I told my sweet husband that I didn’t want to do this part, and my body began pushing without any conscious cue from me.
My body pushed with a couple of contractions, and I consciously joined in by the third or fourth. After a couple more pushes I felt into the birth canal to see if I could feel a head or a water bag. Nothing. My first daughter had taken three hours to push out, so I tried to prepare emotionally for a long pushing stage. A few more contractions, a few more pushes, I felt again and there she was! I was just just half a finger away from meeting my baby! I told my husband she was coming and he got into position to help catch. Push. Push. Her head was out! Breath, push, her body slid out into my husband's hands and he handed her to me. A tiny grunt and squeal from her. A few expletives from me. A huge relief. A little high. Lots of kisses ‘hello’.
My husband offered to draw us a warm bath, but the water wouldn’t stay hot so it was a short break where we got to admire our new baby. As I stood to get out, my husband noticed that the placenta was on it’s way out so we decided to cut baby’s already white cord and see if the placenta was ready to be born. He cut the cord and tied it with string. He held baby girl while I gave a little push and caught the placenta in my hand. Placentas are cool in theory, but I’m not about yucky body stuff so I plopped that sucker into the bowl we’d prepped for that purpose and left it for him to examine for completeness. Then I got into bed with baby while he made me some food and tea and sent out celebration texts and pictures to family and friends. We spent the rest of the night relaxing and admiring our new baby, who we named Zelda. Our little fighter.
I had known for most of my pregnancy that free birth was an option for me. I had seen my regular OB throughout my pregnancy and registered with the hospital knowing that I could decide at any point whether to go to the hospital for birth care, or not, depending on what felt right. Free birth isn’t a radical kind of birth, it’s just birth uninterrupted. I hope that all births are empowered and respected, no matter where or with whom they take place. We are sacred.
Thanks to Dr.’s Marty and Angelica!
After I gave birth to my first daughter I had something funky happen with my back where I couldn’t stand upright for about five days. It wasn’t painful, but it was pretty inconvenient. With that pregnancy I’d also been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions radiate up my spine right up into my head. It didn’t hurt, and actually kind of felt good. But, when those same Braxton Hicks started with my second pregnancy, I decided to seek chiropractic care to make sure my spine was in alignment. I found Life Adjusted Wellness on Yelp, and I’m so glad I did! I credit Dr.’s Marty and Angelica for helping me have a healthy pregnancy, birth, and post-partum. Chiropractic care took care of those radiating Braxton Hicks contractions and I had no back issues after Zelda’s birth.