My Birth Story
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Birth has always been the area of life that made the most sense to me. At the age of 7, I decided I wanted to be a midwife when I grew up. My mom would regularly tell her birth stories at dinner parties, both of my sisters had all of their children at home. Natural birth and home birth were normal for us, and I could not imagine doing it any other way. When other girls were planning their weddings, I would plan my births. I knew who I wanted to be there, what I wanted wear, and how I wanted to do my hair. I began attending births when I was a teenager, and became a doula in my early 20s, all while eagerly awaiting the time that I could experience it for myself. Finally, at the age of 30, I got the chance.
Giving birth to my first child was an awesome experience. I had some fears and anxieties leading up to it, but I trusted the process, and I knew in my cells that my body and my baby could do it, we were made for this. During labor, I experienced my body in a whole new way, and I loved it. I had so much fun moving, and yelling, and feeling the support of my people. I was able to really let go, stay in the moment, be open to whatever my birth process needed to be, and truly enjoy the ride. After giving birth, as I watched my mom holding her new baby granddaughter, I felt for the first time in my life that I understood the purpose of my existence. I’ll admit that after that experience, I was a bit cocky. I was convinced that pain in childbirth was all about mindset. Then along came my son to humble me.
Birthing my second child was intense. I absolutely got to the point where I knew I could no longer do it, but the only way out was through, so even though it felt impossible, I dove into it. I leaned on my support, trusted my body and my baby, found previously untapped power within myself, and allowed that power to move through me until my beautiful baby boy came into the world. After that I thought, “Thank God I don’t want any more children, because I never want to do that again!” But at the same time, I was in awe of myself. I had done the impossible, I had reached what I thought was my limit, then I had been pushed to my actual limit, then I was thrown over the edge. I absolutely did not want to do it again, but I had done it, and that felt amazing. I felt powerful, and no matter what life threw at me from that point on, I knew that I had those deep reserves of power in me, and no one could ever take that away. Then I got pregnant again.
Before I got pregnant, I was feeling really good about where my life was and where it was heading. I felt so content with my two children, and although parenting was hard and scary at times, I enjoyed being a mom and I felt up for the challenge of raising them. I had just started my business teaching childbirth education classes, and my husband’s business seemed to be going well too. My husband and I had also been working on improving our relationship, so I felt in love and hopeful. Then I got pregnant, and what followed were the hardest 9 months of my life.
Finding out I was pregnant was a huge blow. It felt like a setback. I had spent about 4 and a half years pregnant or nursing or both, and I was ready to move on from that phase of life. Yet here I was starting all over again. As the pregnancy progressed it proved to be the hardest one yet. I was nauseous and exhausted the entire time. I hated most foods and eating in general was just hard. I gained more weight faster than either of my other pregnancies and I felt big and heavy and unattractive and really insecure about my body. By the end of my pregnancy my hips felt loose and unhinged and sitting on anything other than a birth ball hurt, I could barely lift my foot up to push down the emergency brake in my mini van, and walking up the three steps to my house winded me.
My life also seemed to be falling down in broken shards around me. My relationship with my children started deteriorating, I didn’t have the energy to keep up with them, and their behavior got worse. More and more I started using screens to babysit them. My marriage got so bad that I couldn’t stand my husband and part of me didn’t even want him at my birth. Our finances steadily got worse and worse until we found ourselves in a deep financial hole, sometimes not even having enough money for food. I became increasingly depressed and isolated, not wanting to have to fake being ok, but also not wanting to confess to anyone how bad things were. I didn’t understand what had happened. How had things fallen apart so completely in such a short amount of time!? I just wanted this awful experience to end and this kid to be out.
About two months before my baby was due, just when I thought I would start to glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel soon, I started having high blood sugar levels, so I was at risk of developing gestational diabetes. I was planning a home birth, I couldn’t become high risk, but I also couldn’t see how I was going to find it in me to manage my blood sugar when I was struggling just to get out of bed in the morning. But after everything that had happened, I wasn’t going to give up my home birth too. Overnight I changed my diet, I ate very low carb, ate every 2 - 3 hours, made sure to always have snacks with me, and walked a few times a week, even if it was just once around my block. It worked, I was able to keep my blood sugar stable, but it was not easy. A big part of what made it so hard was having to put my self-care first, having to ask for help, and having to use money, which was tight already, to buy higher quality food for myself, and eat it in abundance. But I did it, I found whatever deep stores of strength and resilience I could find in me, and pushed on. But that wasn’t the end either.
My midwife started telling me, that she thought my baby was bigger than my other ones had been, and that we would have to be careful and watch out for any problems that this may cause during the birth. I tried not to let this get to me, but after hearing her say it over and over at every visit, I started to get a bit worried.
Then, about a month before my due date it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to pay my midwife as much as we had thought we would. ThIs midwife had not only attended both of my previous births and was a fellow birth worker, she was also part of my religious community, so our friendship and connection went beyond our midwife-client relationship. From the beginning of my pregnancy she knew that we wouldn’t be able to afford anywhere near her full fee, but she told me repeatedly not to worry about it, just pay whatever we can, and that whatever we could afford would be fine. When we realized how little we had to give her, I was utterly embarrassed, but chose to trust what she had said. When I told her the amount she was visibly shocked and obviously not ok with it. The stress and anxiety, and embarrassment, and hardship of the last 8 months came crashing down on me, and I spent most of the rest of that visit weeping in the bathroom.
I felt mortified, and betrayed. Obviously not anything we could afford was ok, so why hadn’t she told me a minimum? That way we all could have known what we were working with and agreeing to. Perhaps we could have discussed ways to lower the costs of my care, I could have traveled to her for prenatal visits, etc. Before leaving she told me that it was okay, she would still deliver me, but shortly after that visit, she emailed me that what had happened at our last visit displayed a lack of trust and respect, and that we could no longer work together. She advised me to contact the county hospital for my birth. After her initial reaction, my trust and respect for her had been shaken, so I had not been feeling great about continuing my care with her either. I just wanted to have one final conversation with her so I could say my piece and have emotional closure, and also in the hopes that our connection and relationship outside of this pregnancy could remain intact, but she refused. I was deeply hurt, she knew how difficult this pregnancy had been for me, and here she was dealing me yet another major blow just weeks before my birth, and she wouldn’t even give me the chance to find whatever peace I could in the situation.
So, there I was, 8 month pregnant, no midwife, my life a mess, my pregnancy feeling unbearable, and with the seed of mistrust for my body that my midwife had planted in me taking root and sprouting in my gut. For the first time in my life I began to doubt my baby and my body’s innate wisdom and ability to give birth. I became consumed by fear, and also extremely ashamed by that fear. I had been teaching birth classes throughout my pregnancy, telling people that their bodies wouldn’t grow a baby that was too big for them to push out, and there I was gripped by that very fear. I felt like I was a fraud and hypocrite, so I pushed down my fear and didn’t tell anyone.
I needed a new plan. Home birth was too big a part of who I am for me to let that go without a medical emergency. I decided to have an unassisted birth with my sister, who had been a midwife’s assistant for years when she was living abroad. I also decided that this awful experience just needed to end, so as soon as I was 37 weeks I started taking steps to try to nudge my body into labor. Thank God I came to my senses before I managed to succeed!
About two weeks before my due date, as I was taking a walk, and thinking about all of my stress and fear and self-doubt, I realized that I had no business trying to go into labor in this state. I needed to regain faith and trust in my body. I started watching talks by Ina May Gaskin on YouTube, and I started talking about my fears with a few carefully selected people who I knew would give me the support and advise I needed. I let their words of trust and encouragement penetrate my fears and soak into my soul. I also needed a midwife, however I did not want to ask anyone to help me so close to my due date and with almost no money to offer, I couldn’t handle any more rejection and embarrassment. One of the people I talked to during this time was Juli Tilsner, the midwife who trained me as a childbirth educator. She was not able to deliver me herself because she lived out of state, but she listened to me, let me get everything out, and gave me the love, support, and encouragement that I so desperately needed. She also asked around for midwives for me, and through her, I found an awesome and amazing midwife who was happy to work with me. I had been so desperate and searching for some ease in all of my suffering, and the first time I talked to her on the phone I thought, “Finally! Here is the ease.” I was finally ready for my baby to come.
On Wednesday morning, July 10, 2018, I woke up around 12:30 AM with bloody show and thought, “Thank God!” I went back to bed and spent the next few hours sleeping between contractions. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted at that point, that I didn’t have it in me to really participate in my labor. All I could do was let it happen to me and not get in the way. When I could no longer sleep, I just leaned onto some pillows with my legs under me like a frog and labored in that position for the rest of the time, getting up about every 20 minutes to pee, then going right back to bed. If any fear of pain or worry about how I would be able to manage 3 kids, or if my marriage could survive another baby, or anything else came up, I immediately banished it, thinking, “Nope, this kid just needs to come out.” My son, Noah, was born at home at 3:07 PM. He weighed 8 lbs 10 oz, 3 oz less than my second baby had been. It took him 3 whole minutes to breathe, but as my midwife worked over him, resuscitating him, I wasn’t worried, I knew he’d come around soon. He was perfect and beautiful. I had done it, and I was so grateful that that pregnancy was finally over.
Healing and trying to make sense of this whole experience has been a process. I’m learning to forgive my midwife, bridge the gap between me and my husband, and continue healing my relationship with my food and body. In the beginning I didn’t understand why God had put me through all of that and I felt bitter and angry. I have always been a religious person, so this made me feel even more guilt and shame. I had to let that go and allow myself to feel all of my big, ugly, blasphemous feelings. I realized that even my anger toward God was from God. He wasn’t mad at me for feeling them, He wanted to teach me something with them. That is the only way I was able to come through them. Today, I am deeply grateful for all of it. The experience of conceiving, carrying, and birthing Noah showed me who I am more clearly than any other experience in my life has. I have always felt powerful in birth, but this experience showed me that I can access that power in every other part of my life. It also took me beyond being non-judgmental and gave me deep compassion and empathy for all human beings and our various choices, struggles, pains, and triumphs. My daughter gave me joy and freedom, my son taught me me humility and strength, and Noah taught me forgiveness and compassion. And I will be forever grateful for all of them.