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Journey To Free Birth

It starts with a little blue plus sign. It hasn’t always been the double pink line that indicates a positive pregnancy on those little white pregnancy strips. In July of 2002 it was a little blue plus sign.  There’s a funny story to go along with this. My roommate and I were both quite a few days late in our cycles. Little did I know my pregnancy was influencing her cycle. Both of us bloated, confused & concerned at the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy. Then one morning I heard it. 

“Oh Thank God!” Sandy got her period.

I didn’t even wait another day. Off to the corner store I went to pick up a pregnancy test. I was just about out the door and Sandy shouts…

“Hey can you grab me some tampons while you’re there?!” I roll my eyes.

I’m at the check out stand with about 15 items I don’t need to try and hide the pregnancy test. Next to my Twix bar is Sandy’s tampons. I smile and sigh as I think back to my youth when the excess items at check out were to hide my tampons. The check out lady is smacking her spearmint gum but she still smells like cigarettes. She scans all the goods and somehow the last two items are the pregnancy test and the tampons.  She pops the green bubble she just blew, then cracks a knowing smirk. She looks up and says “It’ll be one or the other dear!” At the time it wasn’t all that funny.

The next 8 months are a blur. My son was up for adoption at first. At 6 months pregnant there was a shift in my consciousness and I knew I was his mama. He came 4 weeks early under the sign Aquarius. He’s a natural born leader. My only experience with birth before now was that of my niece. My sister gave birth to her when I was 16.  So naturally my approach to childbirth was “If she can do it, I can do it” I wanted a natural childbirth for that reason alone. I met my doula at the health food store she worked at.  She gave me Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I deeply connected to the birth stories in that book. Other than that I didn’t  educate myself at all. I was hiding my pregnancy from my employer, working full time as a waitress, and trying to save as much money as I could. I moved twice during my pregnancy. Finances were my top priority every day. I didn’t have the time or the energy to read pregnancy & birth related resources.

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The nice part about going into labour 4 weeks early is that for the first 6 hours of labour I thought I was experiencing Braxton Hicks. I kept thinking I better toughen up for the real thing! I knocked off half of my labour simply by being in denial! My hospital birth was not horrible, but it wasn’t pleasant either. I mostly remember feeling like I was a nuisance. I felt love from two people. My doula Angie and my friend Christine. The people I brought. After my birth I remember having two very strong feelings. The first was POWER! I felt like the most powerful woman on the planet. I would look down at my son and feel so proud that my body was capable of creating and giving birth to a whole ‘nother human being. At that time in my life none of my friends had children. I remember looking at my girlfriends and thinking to myself…she is so amazing!  Just wait until she is a mother! Damn! Those were the good days, the days I felt strong. Unfortunately the other feeling I experienced would often taint those powerful Goddess moments. Most times I would wonder about my birth experience and think there had to be a better way. A way in which pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and mothering was celebrated.

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I was called to serve woman as a Doula. Initially I trained with DONA and now I don’t keep membership with any certifying Doula institute because their scope of practice guidelines interfere with my ability to support all women. Many birthing mamas later I became pregnant with my second son. This time I planned a home birth with Midwives.  It wasn’t until those early appointments in which I got to talk about my first birth in a way that  allowed me to be vulnerable and open up to the idea that yes I had a vaginal birth, but it was not without intervention and disrespect. I remember sputtering out that I wish I had been able to catch my own baby and that I felt at that moment of greatness I somehow gave my power away. I cried a lot, and processed a lot of fear about hospital birth.  This birth was ALL about staying home.  I got my homebirth, but once again there were experiences I was unhappy about. I had to make decisions I wouldn’t normally have made because the only homebirth midwife in my area was going on vacation. So we induced with a natural cocktail, it had Lemon Verbena, Almond Butter, Apricot Nectar & Castor Oil. I would never take that drink, or induce by any means natural or medical today. But like I said earlier, that birth was all about staying home. I made sacrifices to insure I would give birth on my living room floor. There were many amazing moments during my homebirth. Moments that make me proud, and make me in love with my midwife Caroline. But then, there are moments where again, I gave away my power. Times when I was so vulnerable and hopeless and I couldn’t find any strength within me. Later I would wonder if I had been alone would I have found the strength inside myself instead of looking for it from my midwife? I agreed to an amniotomy because my midwife offered me one. Why did she offer to break my water? I still don’t know the answer to that. I think it was because my labour was progressing slowly, and she was leaving on vacation in the morning. Don’t get me wrong. We made that decision together, but it was definitely her idea. We were both preserving my homebirth. After I gave birth my midwife gave me a shot of Pitocin with out asking. I remember thinking “there goes my drug free birth!”

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When I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter it was clear that the only way I could embrace and receive the power available to me at birth was to Free Birth. I would not give my power away to anyone if I was alone. Over time my desire to birth alone changed. I wanted my family with me. My husband asked me to hire a doula to support him. My soul sister doula Rachel was happy to be my man’s support.  I also hired a photographer, a former client and good friend. My birth tribe trusted me. There were many people who doubted me along the way, and I had to accept that their fear was their own, and I couldn’t let them project that on me. Of course I had fear. On the rare occasion I would think about the experience of my baby dying. In meditation I discovered that that too would be an event I would want to experience on my own terms. In death a mother can lose her power if her sorrow and grief for her baby are not fiercely protected. But stronger than the fear of my baby dying was a deep knowing and enduring trust that my Free Birth would be miraculous. I felt my daughter chose me so that both she and I could experience the undisturbed, primal act of giving birth the way God intended. A handful of my friends, and acquaintances say I am brave to Free Birth. Free Birth is not about courage it’s about Faith.

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I wouldn’t change a thing about any of my births. It is the nuances of each of my birth experiences that shape the pregnancy coach and traditional birth attendant I am today.  I will stand up for birth until my last breath, and in the meantime I will try to encourage a birth culture surrounded by not fear…but faith.

Are you on a birth journey? Share your story in the comments.