Written by Charlotte
The Birth Story of Elora Grace
But first a little back story…
Two years ago in March, I was giving birth to my son in a hospital, under the glare of bright lights, with a midwife and nurse I had met just hours before. Though I had dearly wished for a homebirth, a chain of events had led me here. I felt very much like I was in the flow of a giant river that was much bigger and more powerful than I. Surrendering to the circumstances seemed wise. I left that experience proud that I had made it through. The loss of how I wanted things to go faded into the background.
When you don’t know what it is you are losing, it is that much easier to let go of it.
Two years later, I was giving birth to my daughter in the bathtub at home. The thought kept coming to me during my short and fast labour - how incredibly normal and natural is birth, yet how extraordinary too! Here I am, surrounded by laundry and the other mundane objects of domestic life, yet going through the incredible experience of birth, meeting the edge of pain and bliss. This birth has made me come to believe we must feel safe in order to meet God. For many of us, especially post-Covid, our homes are the safest spaces, the places where we can remind ourselves what relaxation and trust feels like.
In the hospital, birth felt like something to be feared. Something to get through with the help of medical professionals. My body felt not my own. My body wisdom very far away from me, boiled down to charts and monitors, the contractions of my uterus neatly measured out in lines. God was in the room at that birth too of course. How could he not be! The difference was that I was not aware the power of God lay within me. I was not aware how powerful I really was.
Was I grateful for the care I received in the hospital? Yes.
But did I feel empowered? No.
Is this everyone’s experience? Certainly not.
I can only speak from my own. I know there are women out there who feel empowered in the hospital and that is beautiful. I want to share the following for women, like me, who might have been pushed into a hospital birth unnecessarily.
It was only after my home birth that I gave second thought to the hospital birth of my son. It has brought up much sadness I didn’t know was there. Because I was initiated into another way of birthing, I now know the difference. Because my baby wasn’t taken away from me, I know what it feels like to hold them immediately after. Because we got to sleep at home, I now know how unnatural it was for a nurse to put my baby in a cot next to me. Because I was able to eat and drink normally through my labour I was far less exhausted and I know it helped my recovery.
Hospital births are there for a reason. Doctors and nurses save lives there is no question. But I believe there are many women today missing out on the beauty of home birth unnecessarily.
One of the most common reasons women are encouraged to go to the hospital is for being ‘ovderdue’. I am not a medical professional but I was curious when my midwife told me that due dates can be off by 10 days, yet in this country if you are a week past your due date you will be scheduled for an induction exactly one week later.
One of the problems of the medical system, of which midwifery is now a part, is that it forces nature into a schedule. Yet birth, healing and dying have their own mysterious timing. Unfortunately our society is becoming so risk averse, that we are literally squashing any room for that mystery to be part of the birth experience. The unknown has become something to be feared and understood as soon as possible, yet any birthing woman can tell you the void of birth is impossible to entirely grasp.
Albert Einstein once said that the most important question to answer is whether or not the Universe is a friendly place. When meeting the incredible power of birth it can be difficult to trust that friendliness at the core of that challenging experience. Yet it is precisely that trust that opens the door to friendliness. Having a team around you that encourages you to find that trust within YOURSELF helps immensely, and has the potential to completely alter how you see yourself and the world.
Januaury 1st, 2022
My due date came and went. I didn’t think much of it as I expected and had an intuition this babe would come later than January 1st. I am sure the fact that I felt more relaxed helped me. I was grateful for my midwives too who told me that second babies come around the same time as your first, maybe a few days earlier.
There was snow everywhere. It had started Christmas morning and was still around. I strapped on clamps to my shoes and went for walks in the snow.
I began to give myself acupressure to induce labour.
I tried to have a bath every day and relax.
I started taking a gentle homeopathic formula for induction.
I put evening primrose oil capsules up my vagina.
I kept telling baby that I trusted them and their timing. No one is going to force us, I told them. I will wait till you’re ready. In my mind I had the date of January 17th in my head as it was a full moon. I felt prepared to wait that long if need be even if that meant going against the midwives wishes.
In a way I felt tested to have this new level of trust and commitment. In my last birth I took on the anxiety of others so readily. This birth I felt more supported and capable to look within for my own guidance.
A week past the due date came and went. I received an email from the midwives detailing how things would go the following week if baby hadn’t come. I would be scheduled for a non-stress test in Duncan. Then I would meet with an OBGYN. I would be referred to a new midwife there. And if baby hadn’t come by the second week my induction date was already scheduled.
I felt the tides of anxiety rise after reading that email. It was beginning to look a lot like my first birth. Yet I knew it didn’t have to be that way. I said no, it was not going to happen that way. I remembered my commitment to baby.
The next day more emotions came through. Thanks to some much needed childcare for my 22 month old, my partner and I were able to make love, a very vulnerable act when so pregnant! After, I had a good cry and said how much I didn’t want to end up in the hospital for this birth. Let’s have this baby tomorrow then, joked my partner. And sure enough gentle contractions started that night!
Though I think all the things I was doing to induce helped labour begin, I believe above all having a more relaxed attitude and opening to the sensual and emotional was the most important.
The contractions were mild and gentle. I felt excited and couldn’t sleep. I went back to cuddle with my partner then fell asleep with my son in the early morning.
The next day was Saturday. Gentle contractions continued but didn’t pick up. In the morning I lost some of my mucus plug. I called my doula and asked her to come over. We did some tidying up. Then I went on a walk and had a nap. I ate regularly. The contractions were such that I could talk through them, though felt a bit dazed. I was disappointed the contractions weren’t speeding up, but remembered some advice from a friend to ‘avoid labour as long as possible’. They were maybe every 20-30 minutes and lasted 30 seconds or so. I’d had a tiny bit of pink blood come out with some more mucus.
It was a very normal day. Some friends came to help Laughlin with the basement as we were getting it ready for his mom to stay after baby.
We had spicy Indian food for dinner. I was hungry and ate almost the whole thing.
I put my son Zaeden down to sleep around 8:30 and fell asleep with him. Then around 10 I was woken up by what felt like my water breaking. Except it was just a small gush. I went downstairs to tell Laughlin excitedly. Then as we were debating whether or not to call the midwife my waters really came! Laughlin got a towel and I had a very satisfying pee after in the kitchen on the towel! Almost immediately the contractions came on fast. We called the midwife to tell her and she said calmly just let me know when you want me to come. We said we would. Then called our doula. We transitioned upstairs to the second bedroom. Laughlin brought me the birth ball and water and set up the iPad with a playlist my friend made me.
The contractions were every 5 minutes and quite intense. Our doula arrived and I asked for a chair to lean over as the birth ball wasn’t the ideal height. I felt uncomfortable even between contractions and remarked how different it felt than being in labour on oxytocin. I was beginning to feel like I needed to get in the bath. Laughlin thought we should call the midwife and I wasn’t sure until the next contraction where I said in a low, growling, commanding voice .
Call the midwife!
I made it to the bath that our doula had drawn and got in. I still couldn’t find a comfortable position. Nothing felt good. Though the water really helped. With each contraction I felt like I wanted to arch away from the pain. I squeeed Laughlin’s hand and then my doulas. At some point I threw up. Hello spicy curry! It felt good to get it out.
Laughlin had to leave to tend to Zaeden who had woken up crying and covering his ears. I was screaming pretty loud by then. My friend Marley arrived around the same time and toned with me for a few contractions. I was beginning to get worried the midwives wouldn’t make it. Baby felt close. Luckily they came into the room and asked immediately if I wanted to stay in the tub to give birth. The thought of moving was impossible even though it wasn’t what I’d planned so I said yes, with the next contraction she checked my cervix, undeniably the most painful part. I didn’t hear what she said but with the next push the head was out! It felt almost involuntary on my part. Baby was coming! Then the body splooshed out in one go. That was it! Baby was scooped up and put to my chest. Many breaths later, after Laughlin came back in with Zaeden we thought to check the gender! I got to reach down and feel for her private parts to discover it was a girl. We were not surprised as that was our intuition the whole time.
Zaeden looked stunned and tired and I could see the gears turning in his mind, trying to figure things out. Though Laughlin didn’t get to be there for the actual birth I was happy he was there to comfort our son.
I had elected to be given a shot of oxytocin to help birth the placenta but it still took about 30 minutes for it to come. Babe and I were quite comfy in the bath and I was amazed how little blood came out this birth. Finally it was time for dad to have some time with babe and I stood up over a pot to birth the placenta. I felt much more connected to this part of birth. The midwife brought the placenta in to the bedroom after and we marvelled at how much it looked like a tree. She showed me the sac where baby had been living in. It was all pretty trippy!
The midwives stayed for a few hours after, checking up on me and babe. I found this really exhausting as I just wanted to go to bed at that point! But I was grateful for their help and loving care.
Finally around 4:30 they left and we stumbled into bed. To awake in the comfort of our own home felt so right and natural.
It’s hard to know how to wrap up a birth story! The transition from birth to the process of mothering is so immediate, that integration becomes a tangled and blurry thing. In a way this is integration for me - writing it out, letting the experience be witnessed and letting my logical mind look at it more objectively now.
Thank you for reading! I hope in sharing this is to reveal some of the mysteries of home birth so that if it is something you are desiring you know it is more than possible.