The end of pregnancy
Every birth is unique and while I awaited this birth with anticipation and excitement, I was also moving through the grief of moving across the country and feeling generally displaced. It’s odd to move to a place that you know so well from growing up there but feels so foreign and strange. I know how to get around and generally where things are. I also see people from my past about once a week if I’m out enough. Yet, I am not who I was when I lived here 15 years ago.
It was a humbling and bold move to relocate at 32 weeks pregnant with two kids 5 and under. But I trusted the call to be here, in this particular place for this birth. In fact, I don’t even think this soul would have chosen our family had we not already committed to relocating as heartbreaking and hard as it was for me to make that decision.
There was and is something deeply ancestral and healing about Desi’s birth. It felt big and almost daunting as I got closer to the end of my pregnancy. This was my longest pregnancy, just by a few days though. There were a few moments when I thought it might continue for another week or two and the nightly heartburn and occasional strong contractions and general fatigue and weepiness seemed all consuming. It wasn’t. It just was what was needed for this time. This birth. This transformation.
When does a birth start?
For linear timelines, people want to know how long the birth was, how it began etc etc. Birth can be described in this way and it can be orienting to the mind. But really Desi’s birth began with his conception or arguably before written into timelines unknown to me and my husband. Birth offers a portal to skip timelines and objective understanding of reality.
With that said, I started having strong waves at 36 weeks but only 1-2 times per week but they felt very intentional and necessary. I remained pregnant for another month and 5 days. During this transitional time, I experienced so much. More than I have words for. Feeling into the depths of grief and ancestral baggage that was truly ready for composting with this birth in the place of my birth – a place that I released ceremoniously with my last bleed before Avani was conceived.
Thanking this land that grew me and releasing its grip on me, softened something in me and opened me up to the awe and gifts of being born into a loving, hardworking stereotypical Midwestern family that will always live here where deep ancestral ties lie. That was in June of 2018.
We’re already skipping timelines.
As I tried to make sense of the move and find myself again in this new place, I took my kids on a very short “hike” – but really just a brief walk in the woods on a marked trail. I thought it’s what we needed. I sensed that I was nearing the end of my time of outings with just two kids, now at 37 weeks pregnant. Usually getting out in nature helps us all to feel so much better…
But there was a heat and humidity that we didn’t recognize. It felt oppressive and grueling, even though we were only out for a short period of time. There was a small creek where the kids could throw rocks for a few minutes and I looked down to see hundreds of tiny bugs on me. Oh no I thought, don’t panic. Well, I didn’t panic but could see that they were tiny ticks. We immediately went home, I washed the kids off with water from the drinking fountain before getting them in their carseats where Theo promptly cried the entire way home. I spent two hours that afternoon picking off tiny seed ticks from two grumpy kids and then having my husband do the same for a very tired, frustrated pregnant woman. Me.
By the next day I had the most severe itching I’ve ever experienced and quite literally one hundred or more tiny pustules covering my body. It was truly excruciating and I had to take days one hour at a time. At night I sat with frozen packs of bacon on the itchiest parts of my body, sleeping for maybe 30 minutes at a time. I did all the things I know to do – herbal baths, homeopathics, etc etc. The itch continued for one week and then slowly got better, only leaving several scars behind that I hope fade over time.
I quit after that. I quit trying to “like” this transition or make it easier than it actually felt. This is not to be confused with resignation because I actually felt liberated by the idea that I could actively choose to be living here in Kansas and at the same time know and radically accept that I don’t like it. Those can co-exist and I could move forward with the work of birthing another member of our family.
After that bug initiation, things did feel a bit lighter, especially once the physical symptoms improved. For what it’s worth, I think they were oak mites but I won’t ever really know.
Although I kept missing California and the beach and my friends and network there, I somewhat stoically accepted this new reality and opened a bit more to the “good” of living here. My baby would be born here and no I didn’t sabotage my birth by moving in the third trimester, which yes, was something that crossed my mind a time or two.
We think we have so much control and while we do have agency, agency is not control. We are not God or Goddess. We are divinely human. Messy and raw at times. This was one of those times for me. There were many days when I questioned why I just completely “blew up” my old life in exchange for this new one in a place that I didn’t like.
Since I knew what the beach was, I had longed to live close to it. Then I did, for 10 years actually and there was a call for more wildness, but first scaffolding and support to create the structure of my family life. That is what I’m receiving by being here, a wider network of support for my children that allows my nervous system to settle in a way that it couldn’t in California.
A bit of a backstory
While Desi’s pregnancy was quite easy physically, I did question the timing of it all considering that I actually felt pretty terrible right before conceiving. I wondered if the baby would be ok as I wasn’t in the best condition pre-pregnancy. I had been sick, not just a little sick but probably the sickest I’ve ever been. Somewhat unknown origin but ultimately both covid and covid vaccine related. I had lost weight, had terrible digestive issues that lasted months, had extreme heart racing and fatigue, numbness and tingling in my limbs. I was struggling.
A year ago, I honestly thought I might lose my fertility. At times I thought I might die. I am not one to be dramatic about health issues but this really shook me. I was miserable and barely functioning when we made the decision to move across the country, something we had already been contemplating well, since we lived in California.
I was doing all of the things health wise to support myself but ultimately what was needed was time and surrendering to the process as well as getting consistent nervous system support. It was as if my alert system was turned on and the off switch was nowhere to be found. It was grueling and I found support in family, close friends, my somatic therapist and a wider network of those experiencing “long covid” or vaccine related illnesses. I feel that I was impacted by both, despite never being vaccinated myself. I don’t want to tell that story now but Desi came into my womb as I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though I was still deep in the weeds in many ways.
It took me some time to come to terms with being pregnant. I had stopped doing basal body temperature charting because my temperatures were being impacted by the illness and it was causing me more distress to wake up and predict how my day would go based on my temperature.
I remember driving home from an acupuncture appointment where I had finally admitted to my acupuncturist that I might indeed be pregnant. On that drive home, I had a deep knowing that I was indeed pregnant and this baby would be perfectly fine and would actually be crucial to my healing journey. In my darkest nights last Fall, the hope of having another child kept me going, although it seemed impossible at the time.
The spark of a new soul joining our family felt so right and perfect.
Yet, as I was 38 and 39 and 40 weeks pregnant, some anxieties resurfaced about how I might have been impacted by being so sick. I had to dig my heels in to find the roots of trusting my body and baby for the work ahead.
Typically for me, the closer I get to actually birthing the farther away any fears or last anxieties drift. And this time was no different. I knew my baby was fine and that we would have our birthing journey together and it would be perfect.
It was so perfect
As the heat of the Summer faded away I was so grateful for some time outdoors without insane humidity. The days leading up to Desi’s birth were so nice. That was deeply grounding and orienting for me after the shock of moving from the west coast. Just like Avani’s birth, there was a migration of monarch butterflies moving through this area in the days leading up to his birth as well. I could feel the birth energy getting closer and my body was preparing the way, my emotional body was tender.
The Sunday before Desi was born, I needed to be on my own somewhere in nature. I dropped off my family to watch a game at my dad’s house and found my way to a lake close by where I could lay on the earth and just be. We had already welcomed the birth energy a few days prior, letting Desi know that we were waiting for his arrival. I had passed the 40 week mark, which was the same as my first two births. I was ready or as ready as I could be.
I sat and cried and felt gratitude and grief at the same time. I moved through some subtle waves and envisioned meeting my baby. I missed the ocean. I missed my friends and a feeling of familiarity that wasn’t accompanied by confusion and haunted by the past. I could also hold that I was somehow exactly where I needed to be and deeply supported. Held by the great beyond.
I had completed a grief ritual for myself the previous weekend. I was ready for this next transformation.
The next day I felt a burst of energy, in hindsight I should have known I was tipping even closer but instead I focused on a few last things that needed to be “done.” One was going to the DMV and the sheriff’s office to register our out of state car which was a very long process of waiting for the title etc etc. Theo, my oldest son, was thrilled to be going to see a real sheriff.
They, Theo and Avani, were racing up and down the DMV office but fortunately nobody seemed to mind in this very small town experience. After that I took them to the pumpkin patch where my mom met us and we stayed the entire afternoon.
That night was entirely uneventful from what I can recall, which is not much. The next morning I woke up again feeling tired and grumpy and just out of it. I wondered if I should even be operating a vehicle anymore as I drove Theo to forest school, where we struggled with the drop off transition and I stayed an hour having somewhat irregular contractions that I blamed on climbing the hill to the small fire pit and then climbing up some rocks to Theo’s morning sit spot with him.
Finally we made it home. Just me and Avani to settle into our afternoon rhythm together, which was basically nonexistent because we were still adjusting to Theo being gone. Regardless, by 11:30 we were having some version of lunch which was a very plain quesadilla for me topped with sauerkraut. I just felt weird at that point but assumed it was because I did too much the day before.
Around 12 I felt some very mild waves but didn’t think much of it really. I let Thomas know, turned on the TV for Avani and laid down beneath the mimosa tree in our backyard. I had my stack of pillows and turned on an audio from a course I was in about feeling resourced in motherhood. The audio was about pacing, perfect for entering the birth portal.
I didn’t listen to it much though. I drifted a bit, slept a bit and entered that dream like state that I’ve only ever touched during birthing. The waves kept coming and I kept feeling less and less here. Finally around 2 pm, I had noticed some spotting and that distinct birth smell and knew it was time. I cried, relieved and grateful for this experience. I just love birth so much. I really do.
In a flash of insight I thought the baby would be here by 5pm, which seemed so ridiculous to my logical mind. I was so early in the process, it could be days after all! What was I thinking that as a third time mom I would have another quick labor after the first two were also quick and easy. Haha. As you can see, I’m super committed to my path of denying labor until the last possible moment. I guess it’s a strategy that has worked quite well for me so far!
I quickly told Thomas it was time to stop working and go pick up Theo early just in case. I agreed to keep Avani with me at home. I moved inside at that point and Avani could definitely tell something was up with me, obviously right??!
Thomas left around 2:30pm and by that time I was feeling a little jittery and pacing a bit but things still felt very manageable. I tried to eat something (don’t recall what) and stay hydrated (coconut water, my go to). By 3pm things had shifted and the waves were requiring all of my focus. I couldn’t answer Avani during one and she completely lost it. I sent a quick text to Thomas to hurry home but still stop for lemonade which I desperately wanted.
He was home shortly after that and we all settled as a family by sharing some gummy worms. I wish I was kidding but actually it felt really good to get in some quick sugar. The timeline gets a little blurry from here but I recall thinking of going back outside and promptly realizing that was a terrible idea.
Probably around 3:30/3:45 waves were totally crashing over me and I was pacing. Trying different things and feeling a bit out of sorts. Thomas was doing all the things that he knows he’s responsible for – getting the bath ready, setting up the cameras, playing music etc. Then he suggested we ask my mom to come over so he could be fully present with me.
I agreed and he asked my mom to come over, with ingredients for a chocolate cake, so that she and my two older kids had something to do while waiting. We didn’t really plan on her being there but it felt so right in the moment and I knew she would respect my space.
This window of time is totally distorted for me. I was keeping the pace with things but knew it was all happening quickly and I had to give each wave all of my attention. Even then sometimes I couldn’t find something that worked as well as I would have liked. As soon as I did find something that seemed to work, the intensity would increase.
My body felt so powerful and intentional with this pattern. Of course I wasn’t timing contractions or being in my analytical brain much at all. I was mostly facing waves either lying on the bed or standing but leaning over with my hands just above my knees. I tried to ride through a few on the toilet but that was not helpful at all. Baby was active and I could feel a pleasurable tickle like sensation on my cervix occasionally, which did help get through the intense womb work that was happening.
My kids were in and out of the room at this point and I really wanted Thomas to be close by so I think he was relieved when my mom arrived and the kids were busy with her painting and carving pumpkins.
I felt totally primal and outside of myself in these moments. I knew I was in transition but also couldn’t really grasp that concept. I could feel baby moving into the perfect position. Thomas was there being consistent and reassuring. He suggested that we get the bath ready and it sounded like a good option so he started filling the tub. Briefly, I felt a bit frantic internally, not exactly a “I need to get out of here” energy but more like “damn, I’m ready for this to be over” energy.
I knew there was no way out. I have never actually considered wanting a way out of any of my birth processes but I can understand where that energy or thought originates from.
The tub was full. It looked so good and yet something in my body just said no. No way was I walking across the room. No way was I getting in. No part of me wanted to get in there. So I didn’t.
The unexpected bed birth
Instead I found myself back on the bed, propped up on my right side with Thomas quickly reassessing the situation. He discreetly moved our video setup and got extra sheets for the bed. We were not really prepared for a bed birth and had not discussed what we would need to “save” the mattress from water and blood. This is, of course, easy enough to adapt to in the moment.
I was so submerged in the birth energy that I literally thought I would have to have Thomas cut off my underwear. Fortunately, with his help we pulled them off with me still lying on the bed.
I felt baby Desi perfectly aligned in my pelvis. Avani was a bit asynclitic, which of course I didn’t know for certain until she emerged and she came out just fine with a relatively short pushing phase. But this felt markedly different, like he would be able to really come right out.
It was around this time that I asked for a warm washcloth as I was giving myself some counter pressure and wanted some heat. While I’ve been the only one to “assess” my own labor by slipping a few fingers into my vagina to always find a baby’s head “right there,” I haven’t birthed in a position where giving myself counterpressure was possible. I was relieved to be lying down and be able to easily reach towards my baby’s head as it emerged.
Since I knew this baby was coming quickly, I put all my efforts towards relaxing and letting it happen. “I don’t have to do anything” is something I said internally to myself often throughout his birthing process.
Each of my previous births was in water and I was either in a lunge or leaning forward, almost on all fours. Every instinctual birthing position is perfect. Side lying allowed my baby to emerge a bit slower than he would have if I had been upright. I still had a really quick pushing phase (not sure on the timeline but maybe 10 minutes).
After I felt that his head was indeed right there and that my body was already bearing down at the top of waves, sure enough my waters released in a massive burst on the bed. One thing that has been totally awe inspiring about freebirth is that for a brief moment my analytical brain recognized that my waters were clear and somehow that was reassuring. Side note: yes I know meconium stained fluid can and often is a variation of normal, yet it’s something I personally would want to be aware of. I didn’t need anyone to tell me to do that, I just did it instinctually.
With each wave, I needed something to pull on to counter the pushing, so that was Thomas of course. I would just call out “pull” and grab his hand. It felt so good. It was just him and I as the baby’s head descended and I met that moment of greatest intensity. There is truly nothing like the expansion that is required for a baby’s head to pass through that final portal.
I still wanted that washcloth but also knew it was too late. As the baby’s head emerged my mom walked in with the warm wash cloth and with her my two older children followed. Theo, my oldest, saw what was unfolding and promptly left the room. My daughter Avani said “oh no the baby is going to pop right out at me” which I didn’t hear at the moment but laughed about later watching the video.
I got a little break and knew soon the baby would be all the way out. Sure enough after a nice pause, Desi slid right out onto the bed and I promptly saw that it was another boy and picked him up as he let out a little cry. He was born at 5:09 pm on Tuesday September 27th, about 2 hours after labor became intense.
I felt such relief and such ecstasy that he was here. I laid back in the bed and just rested for several minutes as my older children came in to see what had happened and my mom also witnessed this transformation. I felt so calm and at ease with everything. Desi latched right away and I was grateful that I had chosen to continue to breastfeed through pregnancy – no nipple soreness for me!
Completing the birth energy
Of course as time passed, I knew I still needed to birth the placenta to complete this process. My body also let me know by the intense after pains that had started. I felt great and ready to complete this journey.
Thomas grabbed the bowl and I first attempted to get it out while on the bed slightly reclined, which didn’t work at all. I was just tired and didn’t want to get up but Thomas reminded me of what worked last time which was kneeling next to the bed. I followed the cord up my vagina with my fingers and could feel the placenta right there behind my pubic bone.
So I got into the same position as I birthed Avani’s placenta and after a few tries it came right out. It was not difficult at all yet it seemed to be a little more challenging than my previous two. The birth felt complete. I stayed a few minutes off the bed so Thomas could change the sheets and clean up a bit then Desi and I settled into bed for the night.
I was ready to eat shortly after that and we had salmon, mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower from the night before so I had that and it was so divine to eat without a baby inside. Of course then it was time to have Theo and Avani meet the baby and eventually burn the cord. We sang to Desi as we burned the cord and tried our best to include the kids in the process without injuring anyone.
Desi’s birth was simple, mother led and family centered. There was no fear, just love for our growing family. He was perfect and I was reminded of how perfectly things are unfolding. This birth helped me anchor into the reality that there is ease in challenge and bliss in pain. Our bodies are incredibly resilient and our babies know how and when to be born.
Birth is a portal to another dimension that doesn’t follow linear timelines. A dimension that flows and works even if you hold reservations, doubts or fears. The energy of birth loves each of us. Birth is both completely ordinary and a normal part of our physiology and utterly divine and awe inspiring.
Thank you birth for showing me the way and revealing yourself to me again. It’s an honor truly. Thank you Desi for choosing this time, this place, this family, this body. We love you so much and are so grateful you entered this world in such a loving, integral way.
The Birth Video
If you would like to see the birth video, you can watch it for a small exchange here. This is not a close up video of a baby emerging from a woman’s body but instead a panoramic view of the room and birth energy, which of course includes me birthing my baby on my bed. It’s simple and completely mother led and you get to see my two children entering the birthing space at the end which is quite comical.
I also include the birth of my placenta, which is a separate video. Total video footage is about 50 minutes, unedited. If you are a birthkeeper, childbirth educator, doula or midwife and would like permission to use this video footage with clients in any capacity please contact me. Otherwise, this exchange is for limited access. You will not be able to download the video and I ask that you don’t screen record it and share it in a public way.