By Sally Sites
In October 2005, I met the first love of my life- my wonderful husband Jake. On August 19th 2010, my second love was born (plans for a natural, relaxed birth center birth were derailed by a pitocin induction at the hospital…I still birthed as naturally as I could while tethered to an IV lying in a bed but it was everything I didn’t want). My passion for all things pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding developed as I grew into my new role as a mom to my darling little man. It began during my pregnancy with Jack- after watching ‘The Business of Being Born’ and finding a copy of ‘Spiritual Midwifery’ at Half Priced Books (a life-changing purchase for sure!), I immediately made an appointment at Pittsburgh’s birth center, The Midwife Center, and read every Ina May book I could get my hands on. I knew there was so much more to birth than the cold, hurried, impersonal, medicalized world that was the typical OB practice I had been going to. Even though Jack’s entrance into the world didn’t unfold as I had hoped and planned, I learned a lot from the experience and it was a major milestone in our life. From minute one, I mothered with my heart- followed my instincts and followed my baby’s lead. Mothering came naturally to me, as did breastfeeding. I continued to read and collect books about natural birth, breastfeeding, gentle parenting. I practiced baby-led solids, elimination communication and babywearing. I attended La Leche League meetings and made a few like-minded mama friends. Without really knowing about the term ‘attachment parenting’, I lived this lifestyle of keeping my baby close and responding to his needs. I saw firsthand how secure attachment leads to secure independence. My passion grew and I started working on my doula certification and my La Leche League leadership accreditation. I knew that I was meant to be a mom and couldn’t wait to give Jack a sibling. I had hoped to have another baby when Jack was about 2 but I had yet to see a postpartum period. My fertility didn’t kick back in until he was about 24 months old. While awaiting its grand return, I kept a fertility journal and used a lot of visualization and positive thinking and dreamed of my excitement once I conceived my baby girl Daisy. Yes, I really really wanted another baby. Over the next 4 months, I went through a LOT of pregnancy tests, read Toni Weschler’s ‘Taking Charge of Your Fertiliy’ and probably drove my husband a bit crazy. I was feeling a little pregnant in December (although I had probably tricked my mind into it, as it usually goes when you obsess over wanting to see that positive test) and saved a test for Christmas morning. If it happened to be positive, I was going to wrap it and hide it in the tree for Jake. Sure enough, those 2 pink lines showed up and I was able to give him the coolest present ever.
After 2 prenatal visits at The Midwife Center, I just knew that I couldn’t birth my baby under anyone’s control or regulations. Although it seemed too expensive and out of reach for us, I knew in my heart that this baby would be born at home. My friend told me about a local homebirth midwife and when I called her, I knew right away that she was who I needed to help me birth this baby. Thankfully, she agreed to work with us financially to make the birth of my dreams happen. Jake and Jack both liked her too and I felt such peace and relief knowing that our baby was going to enter the world gently, peacefully and surrounded by love. The pregnancy was the stuff birth dreams are made of. I took great care of my body, mind and soul and was totally looking forward to meeting our sweet baby Daisy (I STRONGLY believed this was my girl!) in September. Since I decided to not have an ultrasound, there was the slight chance that it could be Wyatt in there. But I was convinced it was Daisy. We had a really great summer, enjoying our last months as a family of 3 and making a lot of special memories.
Sunday September 1st was the perfect day. We decided to take Jack, 3, fishing for the first time. Jake and Jack went to buy worms while I packed a picnic lunch for us. I noticed some cramping feelings and enjoyed the feeling of my body getting ready for labor, which I thought would be days away (I was in week 39). We left around noon and had a blast- Jack was a natural fisherman and caught 3. I took a few pictures of my belly, not knowing at the time that they’d be the last ones with baby on the inside. Our day continued with a picnic and playing at the park followed by grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. Despite the continuing cramps and mild lower back discomfort, I was enjoying walking around the store with my guys. Looking back, I was totally having contractions here and there- a mild tightening feeling but not uncomfortable. Jake definitely thought I was in early labor and joked that we were going to have a Labor Day baby (the next day was Labor Day). I definitely didn’t think so- I was sure Daisy would wait at least until after my hair appointment a few days later.
After a quick stop at Giant Eagle- more good walking for me-, we returned home around 6 p.m. I made an easy dinner that turned out to be the perfect early labor meal: egg whites with veggies, fruit salad and oatmeal with almond milk, banana, raisins and cinnamon. My ‘contractions’ continued but weren’t very intense and I didn’t notice any kind of pattern. I cleaned up while Jack and Jake played with motorcycles, followed by bath and bed. After nursing Jack to sleep, I went to the living room to relax on the couch and continue our nightly watching of “Breaking Bad” with Jake. By this time, the feelings were intensifying- it would begin in my lower back and my belly would tighten. It wasn’t painful, just interesting (Ina May would be proud of me!). My philosophy for handling ‘contractions’ (I really do prefer the word ‘surges’ or ‘waves’) was to let my body go limp, breathe through the feeling and just melt into it (I was really focusing on the thoughts of surrender… melting…waves). When I felt one coming on, I’d let my head rest on the arm of the couch, totally relax my body and just breathe deeply. After each one would pass, I’d sit up normally and didn’t feel anything. It was pretty cool to let the wave just roll over me and feel my body naturally doing what it knows how to do without any input or effort from me. I wasn’t into having a snack that night- definitely out of the ordinary as I usually ate an evening bowl of fruit and some nuts. I remember using the hot water bottle for the discomfort in my lower back. At 9:15 p.m., I texted my midwife, Ellen, telling her “lots of early labor things happening today” and told her what I did that day, that the contractions were continuing and I was relaxing through each one. I told her I was using the hot water bottle and had some clear discharge going on. I said I expected it to turn pink at any time and “I feel very labor-y, like it could turn active at any time…but at the same time, who knows. Anyway, all is well and I’m excited.” Ellen responded, saying that it sounded promising and that if no action that night, she’d see me for my prenatal visit we had scheduled for 10 a.m. the next day. Around 11 p.m. I was ready to lay down in bed. I really, truly thought that the surges would just end, I’d sleep through the night and I’d see Ellen in the morning. Again, total denial! I was able to sleep- it felt like a deep sleep- but I remember waking to breathe through each wave. They definitely weren’t stopping. It was all totally manageable and not at all painful, which I attribute to my state of mind and thoughts about what my body was experiencing. Around 12:15, I got out of bed to pee and try to move around- it felt uncomfortable to lay down at that point. I peed and low and behold, the pink discharge showed up. I tried to kneel over my birth ball but that didn’t feel comfortable for my lower back so went to the couch to lay down. At 12:36 a.m. I texted Ellen again, telling her that I had been sleeping between contractions and noticed some bloody show. I said “I don’t know if this will happen sooner than I expected or what…going to lay on the couch.” That didn’t last long. I felt like I needed to pee and just sit on the toilet. It all happened so fast- soon I saw more blood and mucous plug. The surges were coming pretty consistently and deepening. I felt the need to lean forward and hold onto both knobs on the open bathroom door and heard myself slightly moan through each one. I really enjoyed the pure freedom of just letting my body to do its thing and being alone during that time felt totally right. That privacy allowed me to fully relax and lose all inhibitions, exactly what a woman needs for her body and baby to do their magical dance of labor and birth. Suddenly, I felt a sudden, quick gush and I knew my water had broken. On the toilet! No water mess to clean up! I smiled and looked into the toilet and saw that it was a nice, healthy clear color. By then, my body was beginning to push! Totally involuntary- it was just happening. I knew I needed to slow it down so I panted short, quick breaths during each surge. I realized I should call Ellen- it was time! From the toilet, I called her cell phone (the only number I had for her in my phone). Beginning at 1:23 a.m., I called a total of 10 times. No answer. Between breathing and moaning through surges, as my body pushed and I held onto the doorknobs, I called out to Jake (I remember my voice sounding totally weird and primitive). He was fast asleep so it took about 10 yells of his name to wake him. I told him my water broke and my body was pushing and he needed to find Ellen’s home number in my homebirth binder (yes, I was prepared but apparently not enough). It wasn’t there. Luckily, he called her cell again and she answered. He told her it was time and she said she’d throw her clothes on and be right over. I started giving Jake directions- this baby was on its way out! I had imagined that I’d birth in our bed but Jack was soundly asleep and I didn’t want to disturb him (but I planned on having Jake gently wake him and tell him when the baby was about to come out, as Jack and I had discussed). I told Jake to gather the birth kit, the paper bags in which I had put clean towels and blankets, the crockpot (for warm compresses) and an aluminum pan for the placenta. I think I also asked for my water bottle (it definitely helped that I had one with a built-in straw). I felt really calm and was staying on top of the surges. They were totally intensifying but the quick, panting breaths I was using absolutely slowed down the progressive pushing my body was doing. I put a towel down in front of me on the floor and tried to lay down on my right side. Just then, Ellen arrived. She quickly washed her hands and went right to work setting up the couch with my clear shower curtain liner and an old sheet on top. I went over to the couch so Ellen could check my dilation. I felt thrilled and surprised when she said I was complete! Totally dilated and ready for this little lady to make her grand entrance. I asked Jake for a cold washcloth for my forehead, a few sips of water and the hot water bottle for my lower back. Because I had a fourth degree episiotomy during Jack’s birth, I knew it was vital to stay relaxed and push in a very slow, gentle and controlled way to avoid tearing. I had complete and total faith in my body, knowing that it was made to birth babies. I had no doubts that my vagina would stretch and open as large as it needed to and my perineum would stay intact- my body had 3 years to heal after Jack was born. Working with each surge, which I would feel starting as an ache in my lower back, I gently pushed as my baby descended. Ellen held warm compresses from the lavender oil and water in the crockpot as she supported my perineum. These compresses were VITAL- can’t stress that enough! That warm feeling felt amazing and definitely helped me relax. She used arnica oil to gently stretch me. I remember feeling hot and sweaty and taking off my white v-neck tee and putting my hair into a ponytail. Jake was kneeling next to me and I was holding his hand behind my head, which I would squeeze HARD with each push. It felt so neat as my baby moved further down and I pushed gently and breathed, working with the waves of my uterus and taking my time to allow my vagina to stretch open. At about 2:30 a.m., we heard Jack wake up over the monitor. Jake went to the bedroom and told Jack that Daisy was coming out. The two of them walked over to me and I could see that Jack was both excited and a little nervous. I gave him a kiss and was so happy that he woke up just in time to see the birth of his baby sister! Jack busied himself with the big brother birth kit I had made (a big bag filled with some wrapped toys/books/art supplies- this was hugely successful!). It felt so wonderful and natural to have my husband and son right there, in the comfort of our home about to welcome our new baby. Before I knew it, Ellen said “Sara, feel her head.” I reached down and there it was, wet and wrinkly (like a walnut), covered with hair! I continued to work with the surges, breathing my baby down and pushing gently and effectively. Jake and Ellen’s encouraging and loving words were awesome- they really helped me to work with my body and stay feeling confident. Finally, I felt that “burning ring of fire” feeling and knew my baby would be in my arms within minutes. During that moment was the only time I felt strong discomfort during this labor and birth. I felt my baby’s head again and it was almost all the way out- such an amazing feeling! Suddenly, with the next surgeI pushed and my baby slid out- it felt AMAZING! The time was 3:19 a.m. I looked down and immediately saw his scrotum. Yes, there was a penis. “Looks like it’s Wyatt!” I announced, feeling surprised in the best way possible. Ellen put Wyatt on my belly and I gently lifted him closer to my chest. He was so alert and looked at me with the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen. I definitely was looking right into his precious little soul and instantly fell head over heels in love for the third time. Jake was crying tears of joy and awe- I loved watching his raw emotion. Jack took a quick break from playing to meet his brother and has adored him ever since. Wyatt and I bonded instantly. I looked over his perfect little body…tiny fingers and toes, perfect kissable lips, sweet little nose and head full of dark hair. Wyatt decided he was ready to nurse after lying on me for about a half hour and he expertly latched on. I was beyond overjoyed to be holding my sweet baby BOY! The real surprise to me wasn’t so much that it was Wyatt (it just felt like it had been him all along) but that he was born so quickly. I would just have to pack up all of Daisy’s sweet little lady clothes for when she’s ready to join our family. Labor and birth were so smooth, gentle and easy- the exact words I had used as a mantra on my daily walk at the park throughout the pregnancy. I definitely credit this amazing experience to taking care of my body both physically- daily exercise of walking and yoga and eating organic, vegetarian foods- and mentally- my positive thinking, birth education and confidence in my body’s innate ability to grow and birth a baby. My placenta smoothly slid out with one final surge. We ‘oohed and ahhed’ over it and Ellen made prints for me and took it with her to encapsulate. After about an hour and a half, Jake held his new son and Ellen helped me to the shower. It was fabulous to be in my own shower and the hot water felt wonderful and refreshing. I put on a nightgown and settled on the couch to nurse my boys together for the first time (a totally magical bonding experience!). Jake and Ellen made me some toast with banana and cinnamon and Mothers Milk tea. After cleaning up (there was really no mess at all- Ellen threw the chux pads, sheet and shower curtain liner into a garbage bag-lined Trader Joe’s paper bag), Ellen went home and our new family of four went in to bed to rest. I was exhilarated and had no desire to sleep. Jake, on the other hand, was exhausted and passed out instantly. Jack stared at his new little sidekick as they nursed together and I felt more peace and contentment than I knew was possible in this life. I also totally felt like Mother Earth.
Wyatt’s birth was without a doubt one of the best events of my life and I honestly wish I could have froze time to relive the magic over and over. I had imagined my ideal birth at home as going smoothly and perfectly but it actually far surpassed that. It was sublime and I am so thankful that my husband was so supportive of my wishes. We were able to experience birth as it should be- no interventions and in the comfort of the place I felt safest- home and surrounded by pure love. I can’t wait to do it again!
Sara lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband Jake and their two sons. She believes in mothering by heart, enjoying the organic, natural lifestyle and choosing happiness every day. Sara is passionate about the inherent strength and beauty of womanhood which she seeks to develop within herself and share with others through her interests in fertility, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, parenting and holistic living. Sara stays busy caring for her young children while she works toward her La Leche League leadership accreditation and her doula certification. She also writes on various topics and serves as a social media administrator for Holistic Parenting Magazine.