September 11, 2013

The Freebirth of Marlena

When it comes to this birth story,I can't seem to define a starting point.

While the physical labor contractions began on a specific day,the emotional and spiritual labor began long before.

For the sake of readability I will start where my instincts tell me are a good point.

My youngest son had arrived one week before his guess date,so I knew that it was a possibility that this baby could also choose to be born earlier than 40 weeks.
When 39 weeks came and went,it became obvious that I would need to submit to the timing my baby had in mind.

My other babies had all been born very close to their guess date or a few days after.
But when the 40 week mark came and went,I began to wonder what exactly this baby had planned for us.

Stayin' positive at 40+4...waiting for baby.

Things in our home felt chaotic,the children were more restless and rowdy than usual and I felt like it just wasn't a good time to give birth.
I didn't like feeling this way.
I was excited for birth,prepared-even over prepared-to give birth....but somehow I didn't feel in the "zone".

Fellow unassisted birthing mothers suggested that I meditate and do what I needed in order to get in the mindset and find my peace.

At 40 weeks 5 days I turned to music and solitude.

It wasn't easy with four little ones,but I managed to squeeze in an hour or so in the afternoon and a couple of hours every night.
I used my cell phone and a pair of headphones,tuned into a Pandora Channel "Instrumental music" and closed my eyes.

*I visualized my baby being born.
*I imagined a flower-like blooming event with my baby in the center.
*I pictured my baby emerging,floating out of my body.
*I prayed for a safe,joyous and powerful birth.
*I read and focused on the affirmations that were taped to my wall next to my ready birth pool.
*I wasn't coming from a place of fear or doubt....I just wanted peace so that I could be ready for my baby to be born.

I felt confident,relaxed and at ease during and after each meditation.

In the very early morning hours of the day that marked 41 weeks,I was listening to the meditation music trying to quiet my mind so I could get some needed rest.
A Jim Brickman song-his cover of "Wonderful Tonight"-a piano tune-came on....I really enjoyed hearing it.
For some reason-unrelated to hearing this song-I felt that my baby would be coming in the next day or so.

Early the next morning-about 7 AM-I woke up to a contraction.
It was low and crampy.
I realized that my bladder was full so I rolled out of bed...the pressure of the baby's head on my cervix was so intense that I nearly doubled over "Wow,that's a new one!" I thought.

I was excited about these sensations.I was ready to meet my baby and the anticipation was wearing on me.

After I used the restroom,I attempted to lay back down for a little while.
In the next 20 minutes I had 2 more contractions-they were intense enough that I breathed through them ,but not yet so intense that I couldn't lay down.

Then I realized that my body was trying to "clean itself out"....this was promising since I've always experienced it shortly before my babies were born.
I used the restroom again and had another contraction,and then another 8 minutes later-they were definitely doing work in my cervix.

I decided to text my husband (who was at work and unable to answer his phone) to let him know I was having contractions,but that I would let him know if things started moving along.

I opted to take a hot shower and see how that would effect my contractions-it didn't effect them and they kept coming about every 8-10 minutes.

My husband called on his break at 8 AM and we decided that he should go ahead and come home.

My other children were awake by this point,so I started breakfast-eggs,fruit and toast-knowing that I would need some nourishment if I were to be giving birth soon.

My only wavering concern about giving birth was the older children.

I knew from my last birth that little ones can put a damper on the labor process-a good thing if you *need* the delay,but frustrating if you are wanting labor to intensify.
I feared that having the children up and about would cut off my contractions.

That fear came true.Alas,my contractions dwindled off to near non-existence.

Because I was exhausted and I was fairly certain a baby would still make an appearance within the next 24 hours,I decided to have a good friend take two of the children for a few hours.
We sent Payton (4) and Jeremiah (5) to play while Jacobi (2) took a nap and Caleb (9) had some screen time.

I had a small lunch and attempted to lay down.
I listened to my meditation music and even fell asleep for a half hour.

I had a few contractions,but they were very sporadic-I had two contractions one hour and one the next.

I felt agitated with myself.
I had informed a few people who might play key roles in my labor process (my mother,husband and two friends who would help with the children if needed) that I was having contractions.

I felt like the "girl that cried wolf".

We picked up the two boys mid-afternoon and started getting things packed for the two oldest boys to go stay the night at my moms house-a Friday night routine event.

We left the house at 4:30 to take the boys to grandmas house-on the way I had two contractions.
My belly was very hard and the baby felt really low.

After we dropped the two boys off at my mothers house we came home and ate supper with the two youngest boys.
I retreated to my room after we ate so I could try to get some rest.
I felt very fatigued and knew that I may have a long night ahead of me.

7 PM-
I began having contractions once again-still spread out,but intense enough that I needed to get out of the laying down position and on all fours to feel comfortable.
I had my birth ball on my bed,so when I felt a contraction coming I would get up and lean over it.
I tried to lay down and rest,but every time my eyes would drift shut a contraction would come on.

7:45 PM-
After about 45 minutes of contractions coming every 12 minutes or so,I felt another one coming on.
I swiftly (as a pregnant woman can!) maneuvered myself onto my knees and laid my head on my birth ball.
At the end of this contraction I experienced what felt like a gentle "punch" to the cervix.

When I stood up to go use the restroom,a trickle of "water" ran down my legs!
As I started towards the bathroom thinking I might have peed myself,a small "gush" of fluid ran down my legs to the floor in a puddle!

"Wow...uhm,honey?? I think my water just broke!!"

I had never experienced spontaneous rupture so early in labor!

I knew this meant that things would be moving along,so I decided to call my mom to come over-she would have to bring the two boys back with her and they would need to get ready for bed.
She said she would be right over,so then I called my friend who said she would come over to assist with the children.

Matt (my husband) decided it was time to fill up the birth pool.
I started laying out drop cloths and chux pads where needed and turned on the heating pad for the baby blankets and towels to warm.

I was thrilled that things seemed to be happening and I felt so peaceful-calm and content.

I made sure to drink lots of water and was using the bathroom between contractions-which were still fairly far apart and not very regular.

8:45 PM-
My mom arrived with the boys soon after I got in the birth pool.
Matt,my mom and my friend Amy got the boys ready for bed and then everyone came in my room.
Every time I would get out of the water to use the bathroom more amniotic fluid would gush out and run down on the floor.
My mom was suffering from bad allergies,Matt had been awake since 2:30 AM the previous morning and I didn't sleep well the night before either.
I kept laying my head on the side of the pool.I was terribly exhausted and just wanted to sleep.

After a while I realized that I wasn't having too many contractions and I didn't like feeling like people were waiting on me.

I stated "I feel like a watched pot!"

They took the hint and retreated to the living room with the boys to help them relax for bed.

I felt blessed that I knew just what I needed.There was no fear of what was to come or doubts as to what was best at each moment.

10 PM-
I decided that maybe being in the water was hindering the process.
It had been storming outside,but it stopped so I opted to go for a short walk.

We didn't make it very far and the pressure was intense in my cervix.
The amniotic fluid was still leaking down my legs as I walked.

We came back to the house and I used the restroom...there was pink tinge and mucous when I wiped.

"Yes!" I thought "Things are really happening!"

Because I opted not to monitor the baby's heart rate,I was instinctively paying attention to the movements of the baby-and there was no shortage!

I feel that God blessed me by having my baby be active while I was laboring.

I chose to stand in my room next to my bed and just lean over my birth ball at the edge of my mattress when I would have a contraction,swaying my hips and really focusing on breathing deeply and calmly.

I began to pray every few contractions.
I thanked God for the knowledge and ability to give birth and asked that He help me experience birth as He designed.

11 PM-
The contractions started getting really powerful and I was feeling a lot of the sensations in my back.
I attempted to do "hip squeezes" on myself to see if that would help and it really made a difference.
Matt noticed that I was doing this,so he took over pushing my hips together during each contraction.
He must have noticed that I was progressing by the sounds I was making and he began telling me things like "You're doing good baby" and "Just breathe through it".

I told him "This is hard work...I am so sleepy"

I felt certain that my baby would be moving down soon and I really began coaching myself using words and phrases from the affirmations on my wall.
"The power of my contractions isn't more than me.It IS me"
"I can do all things through HIM who gives me strength"
"I am Stronger and Smarter than I believe"

11:35 PM-
My contractions were coming about every 3-4 minutes and we could tell that I would be entering the phase where I wouldn't be getting out of the birth pool again,so we made sure the water temperature was warm enough and I got back in.

My mom had taken turns coming in to sit with me a few times,but she wasn't feeling well-and we were ALL tired.
Matt was doing his best to do hip squeezes from outside the birth pool and I was on all fours.
I kept looking up at him between contractions and just sighing "I'm working so hard...I'm so tired"

He would gently say "I're doing good baby"

During contractions all I could focus on was breathing.I was amazed at how powerful the rushes were,but I reminded myself that I can handle anything for a minute,that this wasn't something happening TO me and that every contraction was bringing my baby that much closer to me.
My mother went out to the living room to rest while Matt stayed with me.I knew it wouldn't be much longer and I have always had a concern with people leaving the room...once my babies start to be born,there isn't usually much time to get back in the room!

12 AM Midnite-
The contractions were coming about every two minutes and lasting about 45 seconds or so.
They were incredibly powerful and left me shaking from head to toe following each rush.
Matt kept applying counter pressure and doing the hip squeezes-this was so incredibly helpful.
I began praying between every contraction-I felt like I would drown in the intensity of the sensations if I didn't do something to maintain my mindset.

I would say very short prayers and affirming words-

"I can handle anything for a minute"
"There is a power that comes to the birthing woman,she doesn't ask for it but it invades her"
"The intensity of my contractions isn't more than me,it IS me"
"This is one moment closer to meeting my baby"

"God,please continue to bless me with a joyful birth without fear"
"Lord,please help me to be strong and experience birth the way it was meant to be"

Between contractions I remember having that same "drugged-out" feeling I had with Jacobi's birth and during contractions I would moan-doing my best to keep my tone low and open.
Each contraction would start and the intensity would build so slowly at first,I had to question if it was really the start of a contraction.
Then the rush would gain power incredibly fast and the strength of it was something I had to grab onto and ride out.

12:15 AM-
I felt like I had been experiencing some rather strong,productive contractions and I wondered if maybe I should give a few little pushes during the next contraction to see how it felt.
I prayed and asked God that He bless me with the chance to begin pushing my baby out.
I didn't feel an "urge" to push,but somehow my instincts told me that I should try to ease into pushing.
Within a couple of gentle pushes I felt the baby move down.

I said "ohh,pushing"
But I'm not sure that Matt heard this first proclamation.

The contraction ended,although the urge to push didn't....I did my best to just relax and try not to push without the help from my uterus.
When my next contraction began,I gave a big grunt of a push!

"I'm pushing! The baby's coming!"

This time it got Matt's attention and he called out to my mother "Ma,she's pushing!"

My mom rushed in and sat on the bed.
I pushed again and the baby was in my birth canal-what felt like "halfway" to me.
My contraction ended and I had to "pant" to keep from pushing without the power of my uterus.

The next contraction began and I gave some good grunting pushes-moving the baby down felt like more work than my previous there was more to move.
I wondered "Is this a really BIG baby or what??"

I wasn't afraid of birthing a larger baby,but the extra work and unique sensations made me wonder.

I felt the head at my perineum and quite a bit of burning,so I slowed my pushing and panted...instinctively I felt the need to go slowly with crowning.
The "ring of fire" as they call it has never been that bad for me,but this time I needed to ease the baby's head out to avoid the burning.

With the next push I felt the head come out.

"The head is out" I said-quickly followed by "Don't pull on it!"
I couldn't recall if I had mentioned to Matt not to pull on the baby-he didn't though thankfully!

Added note by Matt: "The baby came out looking down"
The fact that I was on all fours means that the birth position commonly referred to as "sunny-side-up" aka posterior in the lithotomy/back laying birthing position,baby would have been looking UP.

My baby was born posterior

Added note: Baby had bruising on her cheeks from what we suspect was a nuchal hand
(A nuchal hand was also suspected earlier in pregnancy due to cervical twinges,cramping and general discomfort that would indicate a possible hand by the head/face.
Baby also continued to keep her hand up by her face after birth.)

12:20 AM-
The next contraction came on really quickly and I had to push with quite a bit of effort to move the baby down and out the rest of the way.
I felt the baby's body leave mine and Matt gently guided the baby through to me

"Here honey,take it!" He said

I scooped the baby up out of the water and brought it to my chest as I leaned back against the side of the birth pool.
I felt victorious!
"Is the cord around the neck?!" Matt was asking.
*Matt had seen some blood/mucous on her neck,but in the dim lighting he couldn't tell if it was the cord.
I heard him,but I was off in my own world.I knew that the baby was fine-I could tell where the cord was and that the baby was squirming and livening up.

"Honey,is the cord around it's neck?" Matt repeated.
Finally I graced him with an answer of "No,it's fine"

"Is it a boy or a girl?" my mom asked softly

Not looking,I placed my hands down by my belly and between the baby's legs...there were "missing parts".

"It's a girl!!"

My mother went into kid-at-Christmas-time mode (which I didn't notice until I watched my birth video later on) waving her hands "Amy,it's a girl!" she said,trying to contain her excitement.
I was gleeful,yet shocked...and still in complete awe that I had just given birth.

Matt was watching carefully over us-he asked if I was doing OK and then said "C'mon baby,cry for us"

It wasn't important to me that the baby cry right away,but because we are conditioned to believe that healthy babies scream at birth,it was understandable that Matt wanted to hear her cry.
Often babies who are born gently are very calm and quiet at first.

"You're so tiny" I told this perfect,vernix-coated new being.
She had a good layer of goopy vernix on her shoulders and bum...and didn't seem "post-dates" at all.

A few moments of sighing and breathing in my newborn and my mom tried to take the pictures I had requested she take.
Unfortunately I had left the camera on multiple-shot mode,so we only got a few pictures due to the confusion.

Finally,baby girl graced us with her first cries.

I then joyfully proclaimed:

"I did it...and I have a little girl-wait,I better double check!"

We looked and sure enough "It's definitely a little girl" said my mom (followed by "I knew it,I knew it!")
"What's her name?"  asked my mom
"Uhm" I said,caught in oxytocin bliss "Marlena"

I sat there taking in every moment,every part of her...just staring into her eyes.

"I did it!" I sobbed

This was what I had wanted for Marlena and I.

"I did it!!" I was overcome with emotions.

Matt had gone to wake up our oldest,Caleb,who had wanted a sister for SO long and had a hard time going to bed that night knowing I was in labor.

"Look at your baby sister" My mom said to Caleb.

He was quietly excited-probably quite tired,but I believe he was completely thrilled all the same!

Marlena had come out rooting around some and sucking towards my chest,so I obliged her.
I no sooner put her to the breast and she latched herself on! I couldn't believe it!

Matt added more hot water to the birth pool since I wasn't quite ready to get out yet and Caleb took a few minutes to get to know his sister,putting his finger in her hand.

12:55 AM-
I felt some cramping and knew the placenta was probably detaching and would need to be birthed soon.
My mom decided to take Caleb to her house and Amy left as well.

I spent a few more moments in the warm water and then decided that we would be more comfortable on the bed.
Matt helped me out of the birth pool,the placenta was still inside me and we hadn't cut the cord.
We wrapped Marlena and I in a warm towel-I held her sweet,naked,vernix covered body to my chest.
I made my way over by the bed and noticed that I was dripping a little blood on the blue and white disposable pad on the floor-this was indicating to me,along with the heaviness I felt near my cervix that the placenta was ready to be birthed.

1:15 AM-
I knew that Matt wasn't thrilled with the idea of meddling with the placenta,so since I was standing up on a chux pad I asked Matt to hand me the aluminum roasting pan I had ready to put the placenta in.
I am rather proud of myself for how I managed this part...Matt says I looked like a cave woman,but hey,cave women gave birth too....right? (arguments over whether cave people actually existed aside of course!)

I took the roasting pan,set it on the floor between my legs and squatted down.

"This might not be terribly attractive" I warned.

I gave a tiny little push and "plop!" out came the placenta!

I don't care what anybody says.That.Was.Cool.

1:25 AM-
We decided that things would be a lot easier if we cut the umbilical cord.
It had been an hour since Marlena was born and the cord was flat and white.
Matt retrieved the braided string and sterilized scissors.

He tied off her cord and together we cut the cord.
We then weighed Marlena and were shocked that she was the same birth weight as Jacobi,our 39 weeker/homebirth baby.
She seemed so tiny,so we wondered where she put those 8 1/2 pounds!
I measured her head circumference-it was 13.25...not all that big.

Matt held Marlena while I quickly used the restroom.

We marveled for a few moments over how incredible her birth was,how perfect she was.

"You did awesome.I'm proud of you" Matt said to me

He tucked us into bed and we all tried to get some much needed rest.

Marlena Suzanne
Born 8.31.2013 at 12:20 AM
8 lbs 8 oz 19.5 inches long

My experience of having a freebirth-
You know,it wasn't right away that I even thought about "how" I'd given birth.
Even as I write this and finish it up 10 days after Marlena's birth,it doesn't seem like it should be such a big deal.
While to some people the idea of unassisted birth is so "daring" or "brave"...maybe even "careless" or "risky",to me it was just birth.
It was a woman having a baby.
It was just normal and natural-no super hero feat.
It wasn't to keep up with a growing "trend" or prove anything.

The politics of how I gave birth mean nothing-not to anyone else.
What matters is that the natural,physiological process was unhindered and our needs were honored and respected.
For our healthy birth,this was essential.

There was so much thought,education and prayer involved.
I grew so much from this experience-and I know without a doubt that it was best for Marlena and I-spiritually,emotionally and physically.


  1. this is the best birth story i have read in a very long time. i am go glad to know you, to read this, to feel how you felt. love, babz

  2. I cried reading this! what a beautiful little girl you have. Yay for baby girl!!

    I have a 14 month old girlie and she is the love of my life.

    You are going to have so much fun. I think you are such a wonderful and devoted mommy.

    Thank you for sharing this. Congratulations!!! :) :)

    1. Little girls are special...Marlena is proving that to us :)
      Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a wonderful birth story ... I loved your "watched pot" moment :-)

    I would love for you to share this and your other baby posts at the Friday Baby Shower - a link party for all things pregnancy and new baby ... Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

    1. Thank you for stopping by!
      I would love to get involved in your link up :D

  4. Wow, what an amazing birth story. Congrats on the baby girl as well! I have a question about after the birth. Having given birth 4 times in a hospital setting, I was wondering if you had to massage or push on your uterus as they do in the hospital (I believe it is to encourage the uterus to return to normal size). Now I'm wondering if this is at all necessary (as it seems painful to me)?

    1. Thanks for commenting and also for the congratulations :)
      The hospital staff also routinely and at bi-hourly intervals (or close to that) massaged my uterus to "encourage the fundus to contract down".
      It is painful and it's not necessary-in fact,generally it's only recommended as *one* of the methods to possibly control a hemorrhage.
      My midwife didn't do this after my homebirth and I would have only used it as a last resort during the event of a hemorrhage since I feel it could possibly do more harm than good....risk v benefit type of thing.