Empowered, Spiritual Labor and Birth

I had the deep honor to provide prenatal care and labor support/doula services to this family.  It was a special journey to support this family as they worked through the ways the care and options they received in their first pregnancy were unsatisfactory and this time created an experience that was empowered, connected and honored their values and beliefs.  So beautiful.  I have the aspiration that all families can be supported in this way.

At about 5am on Jan 17 2020 I woke up to cramping pains that were uncomfortable but not enough so to concern me and I went back to sleep. At 7 am the pain became more regular and my husband and I started to think I might be having real contractions. I was really hungry and ate a large meal, it was like my body knew I needed food! He took our daughter to school and let her know we may be coming back to pick her up and that I may be in labor. I actually had a midwife appointment that day at 11am so we decided to wait until my appointment to see if they thought I was in labor. At 11am my contractions were 5 minutes apart but the pain was manageable. The midwife at my birth center checked me and found I was 3cm dialated and 80% effaced. At this point they sent me home telling to me call back in 2 hours, to check my progress, expecting to see me return later that evening. We went home to get our things ready and pick up our 10yr old daughter. I then informed our doula of my progress .

At home I layed in bed laboring and sleeping between contractions. I was keeping track on my phone and was able to get sleep in 5 min intervals. I couldn’t fight the sleep if I tried. At this point my husband took off to go get my daughter and some food for the birth center. When he left I ate again and was very hungry! At about 230pm we called the birth center and told them of the progress and they gave us the option to labor more at home if we were comfortable to do so or come in if we were ready. I called my doula( who is also a CNM) and told her how I was feeling. Since the contractions were manageable and I was ok between contractions,I wasn’t in a rush or even fully convinced baby was coming ! I think I’d read too many stories on this sub about false labor/ laboring for a long time, as well as having a longer labor with my first. But my doula encouraged me to head to the birth center, partly because of my birth intentions (aka birth plan), traffic, and that I could actually be fine in-between contractions up until giving birth. Her urging was enough to get me into the car and head to the birth center. In retrospect, I am so thankful for her knowledge.

At the birth center my doula was already waiting for us. We are Native American ( I am Navajo, he is Apache/Crow ) so we had certain cultural wants during the birth. In my birth intentions I wanted my husband to energetically clear the room, pray, drum, and set up my altar before I entered the room. I labored with my doula in the hallway while my husband did the spiritual work to set up the room.

When I entered I saw my altar with my animal spirits , stones, herbs, weavings, sweat lodge ashes, and our cradleboard that my husband made by hand ( you can see pictures if you click on my profile and look at my most recent post). I cried upon seeing it and was so proud of my husband for doing this for us. My doula, husband, and daughter then began to rearrange the room for me and finished setting up everything. I had my blankets/mats on the floor to labor there if i wanted to. After it was all set up I began to labor on the floor with the help of my doula. I asked my husband to drum for me while I labored. I had my doula rub oil mixed with the sweat lodge ashes all over my belly and she took that mixture and put it on my husband and daughter . This was important to me because the sweatlodge ashes were filled with so many prayers and energy from so many others. After a bit of time I wanted to get into the water, which had already been ran for me .

I cannot express the greatness that is laboring/birthing in water. As I entered I took time to pray , bless the water, and express my gratitude for the help it was giving me. The pain was so much less in the the tub and it really made it manageable. I was unable to get into the water with my first birth and I wanted so badly to heal that experience. I called my daughter to the tub and explained to her that I wanted to be in the water with her during her birth but they wouldn’t let me. so I held her hand, had her feel the water, and poured it over her hands . I felt like we were able to share that moment together with the water that we missed ten years ago .

My doula , husband , and daughter were all around the tub helping in many ways, from coaching me to giving their love, my daughter rubbing my stomach, and everyone taking turns spraying water on my back. Having the water pour on my back during contractions helped with having something else to focus on and was pain relieving . They periodically checked baby’s heartbeat and my blood pressure . It was not invasive though and I was so thankful because it was the complete opposite experience then my first birth.

As time went by the contractions kept getting closer together, with mini contractions in between . It became harder to relax because of this. As I went deeper into labor I felt as if I went to a different space which opened my being to spiritual experiences. I felt my grandmother’s presence and protection come forward and lead me further into my birth experience .I saw the spirits around my doula, the ones protecting and guiding her during her work. I felt Mother Earth like she was breathing life into my chest during one hard contraction. At one moment of pain I saw myself and my spirit as more than my body and as I drew a breath I felt the pain release beyond my physical being. I dipped my body and head into the water following it like a wave, connecting and immersing myself in it’s power. I called my husband to my side and expressed my deep love and gratitude for our family and for him, as we had our heads pressed together. We held each other’s hands so tightly as I sent him all the love I had to give in the moment.

I came to points where I faced my deepest fears and had to push through them during my contractions. With my first birth I had an epidural and never experienced pushing without medication . One of my biggest fears was the pain and if I could do it. When it became time to start pushing my fears came to the surface. It made me scared to push and a couple of times I closed my legs in an attempt to get him to go back in. But as soon as I tried I knew I couldn’t . It crossed my mind in painful moments of why people get epidurals and why was I choosing to do this naturally ? I asked those around me why does it hurt so much ? I even felt a fleeting thought of, what if I went to the hospital now, but I knew there was no way I was going to get out of that tub and go to the hospital across the street. I could feel baby’s head deep in my pelvis. As I pushed the contractions turned me almost animalistic, with me grunting deeply and pushing, biting at a towel in front of me and even screaming . My doula was such an amazing help at this moment . She coached me with the sounds I needed to make, which changed the effectiveness of my pushing. Her energy of support kept up with the intensity of the moment.

It wasn’t until I put my hand down there and felt my baby’s head that I found complete strength and lost the fear. This baby was almost out of me and I knew I just had to work a bit more and he would be out. I felt the “ring of fire” and pushed like never before and felt his head come out. The relief was so immense ! They said I still had to get his shoulders out with the next contraction. I felt very confident and unafraid as the relief from getting his head out was amazing. So one last push and my husband caught him in the water and brought him to my chest. The worst of the pain was replaced with amazement that my son was born . We had waited to see what the baby was until this moment! After he came out my husband sang a prayer song in Navajo and Apache to welcome him into the world, and so some of his first words he heard were of his native languages.

I had no tearing and was able to go home within 4 hours. I felt so much better than after my epidural hospital birth ! I would 100% do it over again and recommend water birth and a good doula to anyone considering natural childbirth . The support I received at the birth center was perfect . They respected my wishes, my culture, and allowed us to have the experience we wanted. It was so beautiful that everyone cried in many moments and even the midwives thanked me and said they had never been to a birth like ours. I pray that others searching for a natural childbirth experience receive as beautiful of experience as we did ! Baby was 20 inches long, 7lb 14 ounces and was born at 7:56pm. His original due date was 1/22 . We were at the birth center for about 4 hours before he was born and was able to be home by midnight !

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