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Freebirth: My Journey Through Unassisted Pregnancy & Birth


Planned unassisted birth of our sweet boy!


(warning: kinda long!)

Birth of Robert Every Pier Alexander (born Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 1pm) in Pacifica, CA

For a few days before the birth I was nesting around, vacuuming, ordering Robby to go pick up a used fridge (ours looked and behaved like it was 80 years old), buying new towels and a comforter, etc. I spent some time on the exercise ball I had just bought, rotating my hips. On Sunday, I had my first and only birth dream. In the dream, a midwife was there with my mom and best friend. The part that really made me dislike the dream was the midwife (she was holding my legs open, telling me what to do, and I couldn’t see anything or control anything). I woke up and was very positive and reassured about birthing this baby alone with Robby in our home.

Monday night, I was feeling pretty tired and went to sleep around 10pm. Robby and Donovan (a friend who’s staying with us) had just gotten the fridge set up and were taking care of miscellaneous other things. At 3:30am, Robby finally came to lie down. I got up to pee and when I lay back down, I felt a drawn out period-like cramp and realized my uterus was tightening too. Was this a contraction? I wasn’t sure. I told Robby that it may or may not have been. He continued to knock out. Now I was awake as I felt another one about 10 minutes (or less) later, and then another one. Not sure if I was in labor or not, I called Gen, my sister-in-law & good friend on Guam and talked to her and her sister for about an hour or two to pass the time. Gen insisted on timing the contractions, and we realized they were about 4-6 minutes apart. Nothing really intense, I could talk through them pretty easily. Around 5am, I attempted to fill the fishy pool. The thing is, we didn’t have the sink adaptor for the hose, so I duct taped the hose to the sink faucet…which didn’t work too well. Half my towels were used mopping up the kitchen.

I decided to just go for the bathtub instead and started filling it. Around 6am, Robby woke up and I told him I was getting in the tub. He nodded and went back to sleep. I don’t think he realized I was in labor. Then again, I’m not sure if I realized it yet either. The tub wasn’t all that great. The water felt good, but it wasn’t making any huge difference for me at the time. I got bored and went back to the bedroom. Robby woke up at 7am and finally asked, “What’s going on?” I told him I’d been feeling contractions all night. They were getting more intense now and he could see me grabbing the sheets as I leaned over the bed on my knees. He woke up Donovan and they started filling the fishy pool with big buckets. The contractions were a couple minutes apart now.

Donovan was sent into the TV room so I could have some privacy. The fishy pool felt really nice, since I could relax my back and hips/thighs area between contractions, but I wish it were much deeper. It had to be around 9am when things were getting pretty intense. Robby rubbed my head and said, “You’re in labor honey.” It was then that it really hit me; Whoa, I AM in labor, and have been for a while! Most of my time in the pool was spent leaning over the side, resting my head. Whenever Robby asked how I felt, I responded “Tired.” I got out of the pool for a change of scenery and in hopes of getting things going. I could see and feel that baby was transverse all this time and was trying all different movements and positions to get him to rotate. I was leaning over the bed for a long time, squatting and moving my hips around. Sometimes Robby would take the place of the bed and his warm skin felt good to hold onto. When things got frustrating, probably around 11am, I wanted a break so badly, as I’d been having very pushy contractions for a while and baby was still transverse. (In hindsight, I realize that this was probably transition, as I was also feeling nauseous and emotional.) I told Robby to bring me a glass of wine, which I took a couple sips of. Instead of giving me any kind of break (since alcohol is supposed to inhibit oxytocin production; aka: slow/stop contractions), the wine made me more nauseous and right when I puked, my water burst open with a huge splash, completely missing the towel under me and soaking our carpet. I think Robby said something like “Whoa, cool! This baby’s comin’ out soon.”

I started to get some really pushy contractions and just pushed with them because it felt good and was what my body wanted to do. I think baby would occasionally move a little, but not enough. I decided to move to the toilet, thinking that it would help me relax more down there to open up for baby. When I got on the toilet, I was SURE that I needed to poop. I had read many stories where the woman sincerely thinks she needs to go, but instead, it turns out to be the baby’s head. Still, I kept thinking, “Maybe once I get this big turd out, there will be room for baby’s head.” Well, after quite a bit of pushing, a few small pieces came out, but not the big turd I hoped for. (sorry for the TMI, but that’s just a part of it! Haha). I became curious if baby’s head was even in the birth canal or not, so I checked and felt a hard head a couple inches up! (I guess my “giant turd” really was just baby’s head! Go figure.) A bit of relief and excitement came over me, thinking, “Thank God, there’s actually a baby in there!” I was beginning to wonder if someone had just played a big joke on me and I was just doing all this for nothing. For the next 20 minutes or so, I began pushing pretty hard and finally I think baby’s head moved down an inch or so. I got off the toilet and onto the floor covered in towels and Robby came in. I was really pushing now, with those overwhelming urges that just rush down through your body, while trying to relax every muscle in my body at the same time. I remembered from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, the bit about relaxing your jaw to achieve this most effectively. Moaning and groaning, I was trying hard to visualize baby just sliding right out, like Robby kept saying he would. Robby kept asking “Is he coming out?” and I kept answering “I’ll let you know,” getting slightly annoyed. We were getting very anxious to meet this kid.

I felt for his head again and it was only an inch or two up. It was then that I instinctually decided his head was going to come out, and that was that. I gave some really hard pushes, trying to keep the movement smooth and gradual, so that I wouldn’t get a huge tear. Robby said he could see hair! Pressure was building so much, and I wondered when this was all going to end. As the head began to crown, I tried to stay relaxed and move my hips a bit to help me stretch. I remember asking Robby “Is it at least halfway out?” and when he said no, I wanted to cry. I knew that with the next 3 pushes, his head would be out, so I went for it. The urge to push him out was overwhelming and I thought for sure I didn’t let my perineum stretch enough and there would be a tear. Robby got really excited when his head came out and said, “It’s his head! I see his face, and it’s purple!” I didn’t want to push anymore, even though I still had to get the shoulders out. I waited several minutes for a good contraction and then pushed. Robby said the baby was turning and could see a hand by his face and asked me if he should pull his hand out. I wasn’t sure, but told him to be gentle when I felt him tug. With the next hard contraction I pushed his body out and he went right into his daddy’s arms with a huge splash. The floor was soaked in fluids and a lot of blood just poured out of me. I half hoped the placenta would just plop out on it’s own, but that didn’t happen. The cord was around baby’s neck  twice (which is very common and didn’t concern me) and Robby just uncoiled it. He didn’t even cry, just gurgled and squeaked at us. We held him so that he could drain out any fluids and wrapped him in a towel. When his eyes opened, he looked up at us and gave a good, loud “Hello, I’m here” cry. I couldn’t have felt more joy.

The cord was kind of short, making it hard for me to really move around to get the placenta out. I was squatting on the floor and wanted to breastfeed to try and get some more contractions, but I was too uncomfortable. I suggested we move to the bedroom to make things easier. When I stood up, I felt dizzy and said I might pass out, which I proceeded to do. (Exhaustion plus no water for the last hour or two, and the blood loss were probably the cause.) The cord snapped when I fell and Robby took the baby to the bedroom and set him down. He couldn’t find anything to tie the cord with at the moment, so he just tied the cord in a knot and ran back to the bathroom. I opened my eyes and Robby was really worried as he helped me to the bedroom. I drank water and tried to breastfeed. The placenta was making me so uncomfortable and I decided it HAD to come out soon, even though I knew it would come in its own time if I let it. With the next contraction I pushed downward and finally felt it come out. It looked like a big gooey football! Not the sea creature I had pictured. I felt MUCH better. We continued to all stare at each other in amazement. Did I really just do that??? Is this baby really all mine? We were so happy and baby nurses like there’s no tomorrow! He’s beautiful and we all fell in love with each other as a new family. We didn’t have a scale, but we measured him and he was 21 inches and guessed about 8lbs. He had a head of dark hair, and we think he looks like his daddy. Oh, and upon closer examination, I discovered that I did not tear after all.

I could end the story there, but I feel like there’s so much more to it. In the beginning of this pregnancy, I was sure I’d be giving birth in a hospital, like most women in our culture. I was also pretty terrified of giving birth, since everyone talks about how painful it is, and that you’ll “need” the drugs. Each prenatal visit was a drag. While I was completely nauseous, I had to make the trip to the hospital (a place that puts me in a dreary mood to begin with), wait in several different rooms for a long time, all to have a “professional” take my weight, blood pressure and check my urine for protein. Oh, and also ask how I’m feeling and a bunch of questions about family medical history and nutrition. I’d only get annoyed because I knew I was taking care of myself and that this doctor didn’t know a thing about my body. Plus, it’s fairly easy to take my own weight, etc. if I felt it were necessary.

While browsing the Mothering Dot Commune discussion forums online, I saw the title “Unassisted Childbirth” and wondered if that was even legal, or possible. What about the pain? After reading through the archives and asking questions to all the mamas there who’ve been there, done that, I was feeling called in the direction of UC more each day. What way to birth your child was more natural and pure than to have him born into the loving environment that he was created? When I researched actual statistics and facts, I discovered that childbirth left unhindered, as Mother Nature intended, is much safer than childbirth that is managed by someone other than the laboring mother, whether in a hospital or at home.

I was still uncertain for a while, as this was going to be my first child. But, I worked through my fears, talked with other first-time moms my age who went the UC route, read some books, read a lot online, and soon I became confident that this was something I needed to do, for both me and my child. Now, after having actually done it, I wouldn’t have changed a thing (except to remember to put the shower curtain on the bed!). Everyone who sees our little one is surprised by how peaceful he is, often asking, “Doesn’t he ever cry or fuss?” I can’t help but think it has something to do with the communication I had with the baby throughout my pregnancy, labor and birth, and because he was born peacefully into his parents’ arms, and touched by no one afterwards. He was not poked or prodded, only treated with utmost respect and love for the precious little being that he is. I’m thankful that I stuck with my gut instinct and managed to shut out any outside pressures to do something different. And I bet my baby is thankful too.


More UC (unassisted childbirth) Stories

Unassisted Homebirth of Twins, one breech

Midwives and the Unassisted Birth Movement
Linda Hessel

[Originally appearing in MidwiferyToday, Issue 64, Winter 2002]

In Jan Tritten’s editorial, “Out of the Pot, Into the Fire,” (Midwifery Today, Issue 63) she wonders whether the reason that there is an unassisted birth movement is that midwives have failed women. Well, it is true that midwives sometimes fail women, though it is not only through their own faults or negligence or naiveté; it is partly because in order to survive they feel it necessary to practice in ways they might not otherwise. If one needs medical assistance, a homebirth midwife is certainly better in many cases than a doctor, so concessions to the medical establishment are justified so that women may continue to have that choice. Still, in some places it is illegal to attend women at home as a midwife, and in others the restrictions are vast. One must either, like Gloria Lemay, become a law-breaker and risk imprisonment and loss of livelihood, or one must bow to the powers that be and risk hurting women. Midwives are in a hard place, and the remedy will not be easy to come by.

The other way midwives fail is in my mind even less easy to remedy and is not even technically their failure, nor even something necessarily that needs to be fixed (depending on one’s perspective,) but simply a consequence of living in a society where we are all so isolated from our communities and neighbors and even our families. It is enormously difficult for women in our culture to create the age-old scenario portrayed so movingly in Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. I recently had a conversation with a woman training to become a midwife — she was touched by the magic and strength she was finding in her sisterhood of midwives, but noticed with confusion and concern that these qualities were only partially conferred (if at all) to the laboring woman. Her state of pregnancy is the reason for the existence of this sisterhood in the first place, yet the birthing woman has only a tenuous link to the sisterhood, for nine or ten months and probably only through one or two members. This is not enough time or occasion to build the deep bonds that conscientious, spiritual birth demands.

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