Welcome, Soraya Deva
Born at 11:55pm on Tuesday, December 29th
During a full moon, just after the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter
7 pounds 1 ounce, 19 inches long
4 hours of labor, 20 min of pushing, no tearing
I can’t think of any other way to start this story but to say: birth is so humbling.
I sit here writing this 1 week postpartum and already the sensory memories of birth are fading. But I was reminded in complete clarity through this experience, just as I learned through my first birth, that women are fucking badass - and this (drug-free home birth) is not for everybody. Not because some women “can’t” handle it. Oh, no. I believe we are all quite capable of handling it. But some women don’t want to experience birth in this way. And I get it!
I’ll admit, I get pretty righteous about my views on birth. And I would choose home birth every time. But going through this most intense spiritual and physical labyrinth humbles me into a place of deep respect for any way that a woman walks this path.
I cannot tell this birth story without also reflecting on my first birth. I so looked forward to experiencing the birth process for the first time. There was something about my first experience that was so grounding and blissful. And at the same time, I became acquainted with a pain that I had never known before. Even so, I was left feeling totally ecstatic. It wasn’t until I approached my second birth that I began to develop some fear around meeting that pain again. There were also a couple of things that happened in my first birth that I was concerned about repeating (having my baby pulled out and bleeding excessively). (You can read my first birth story here.) Toward the end of this second pregnancy, I had a really hard time letting this stuff go. Guided meditation helped, but I was still living with some amount of resistance going into this birth.
I’ve been told this, and now experienced it firsthand: You birth how you live. I brought that resistance into my second birth. It wasn’t a be all end all, but it was there and it impacted my experience of the sensations.
Now for the story...
Monday, December 28th
I was woken up with a strong contraction at 6:30am. I felt nauseas here and there and had trouble falling back asleep, but no more contractions came. Later in the day, I started to lose my mucus plug. I knew that I was on the precipice of birth and wanted to get in the shower. I put on a playlist with some of my favorite songs and, with the warm water rushing over my head, I cried. Not tears of fear, though I had been fearful in the days leading up. It was a release. Tears of utter surrender to the flow. Tears of sadness; saying goodbye to this pregnancy. Tears of joy for the thought of meeting my daughter soon. Tears of gratitude that I get to experience the cosmic, transformative nature of birth.
Tuesday, December 29th
This morning, a bit more of my mucus plug released and I knew I was slowly embarking on this birth journey. It was a pretty chill day. I took a nap, expecting that I’d need my energy that night. In the afternoon I tried to pee and felt like I couldn’t release everything, as many pregnant ladies do! So I reached down right above my pubic bone and lifted my baby’s head up. It worked! I could finally pee freely. After that I decided to do a forward leaning inversion off my bed to give baby some more space and to give my pelvis a little break from all the pressure. I held the inversion for three breaths and came up again to sit for a minute and let everything in my body settle. At that moment, I felt a small gush of warm fluid. I knew it wasn’t pee because I had just gone. I placed my hand underneath me to avoid getting the bed wet and it just kept leaking! I smelled my hand. Definitely amniotic fluid. It has a very distinct smell! Like a fresh, pure birth ocean. I kind of love it.
Ali and our 3 year old son, Nadir, were at the park and I was suddenly giddy with excitement and nervousness. I had no idea if I would start having surges at that moment, later that night, or in the next days. But I definitely didn’t want to be alone! I called them to come home and realized it was just before 5pm. I walked into our living room and watched the sun sparkle over the Bay as it dipped behind the Golden Gate Bridge and disappear into the night. This night was going to be a full moon, and it all felt so perfect.
When my boys returned home, we sat on our backyard deck in front of the fire and spent our last evening together as a family of 3. It was such a trip to be aware of myself crossing this portal. Nadir helped me make zucchini banana bread and a bone broth soup for dinner, which we enjoyed while watching the Hayao Miyazaki film, My Neighbor Totoro. At this point, around 8pm, I was having surges every 5-6 minutes. They were beginning to be painful but passed after 30 seconds or so.
Right as Ali was getting Nadir ready for bed, things shifted. I could not participate in bed time. I had to keep walking, as it was my only distraction and relief from the sensations. I started to arrange my things and fill up my water bottle. Before I realized how I deep I was, there I was.
One of the magical things about birth is that is has the power to bring you into the present moment unlike anything else. It requires such intense focus that speaking words becomes too much effort.
Ali was wondering if he should tell our midwife to come over and I couldn’t even say yes or no. My thinking brain was gone and I couldn’t make a decision. I’m glad he told her to come! By the time she arrived (20 minutes later, maybe around 9:30pm), I was on my knees in bed moaning through each surge.
My sweet man was tending to all the tasks I had listed for him on our birth plan (lighting candles, grabbing pillows, turning on the heater, etc.) and it turned out that I just wanted his hands on me. That was interesting because I didn’t want to be touched in my first birth. I remember saying, “Stop leaving! Do you have to do more things or can you just come here?!” He came to sit with me and held my heating pad on my lower back, squeezing my hips through every surge. I absolutely needed this!
These surges were intense. And I was not leaning into them as easily as I did the first time. Thoughts passed through my mind about how painful this is and praying for it to be over soon. But I knew that I could also be intentional and I needed to bring in thoughts that would help me release tension. I’d think to myself, “Open, soften, release”. I let my jaw drop as I moaned through each exhale and I visualized every part of my body melting down, down, down. As surges would build to their peak, I’d notice my tension building too. It was a constant conscious effort to drop my shoulders and release down. To soften into pain is not easy, but it is the way through.
At some point I managed to waddle over to the bathroom and go pee. Having lost focus while moving into the bathroom, another surge hit like a freight train and brought me to my knees. Somehow I took all my clothes off and found myself leaning over the edge of the bathtub. My birth team was great, covering the floor and my body with towels, placing a pillow on the cold tub for me to find rest between the surges.
I moaned with such vigor that my throat and lungs hurt, but it was the only way I could move through a surge. I swayed my hips and closed my eyes during the moments of rest between them. I remembered something I had read earlier that week from the book, Mindful Birthing. The rest periods between surges, however short they may be, are not just restful. They are so much more than that. My mind and body are being flooded with unbelievably high levels of the most pleasure inducing chemicals known to science, oxytocin and endorphins. The rest periods are the greatest, most embodied moments of ecstasy in existence. Though resistance wanted to creep back in, I was so deep in calm and peace between surges that it was too much effort to worry about the next one. With this knowledge, I allowed myself to experience it fully. These were my moments of bliss.
I remember the last great roar that came from the depths of the hardest surge. I thought to myself, “Please, somebody take me to a hospital and cut this baby out.” And then there was a shift. Through the following surges, I no longer felt the need to yell. I began feeling my baby’s head moving down. And it was incredibly fascinating to me that I could just breathe and grunt as my body gently pushed. The sensations were different. Now I felt focused and able to work with my body rather than just holding on for dear life.
I moved away from the edge of the tub to put my hands on the floor. I was in what might have looked like a frog position. After only 20 minutes of the most gentle, involuntary pushing, I felt her head in my vagina. I thought to myself, “Nice and slow, nice and slow.” I wanted it to be over so badly but I also wanted to avoid tearing if at all possible. Ali’s job was to keep the towels on my back because they kept falling off and it was freezing cold in the bathroom, so nobody really knew that my daughter was about to be born.
From the position I was in, I was hunched over in a way that I could see her head crowning. I felt the ring of fire and an overwhelming sense of expansion. I was so profoundly present and connected with my body in those moments as I eased her out. She wiggled her head and I was struck with excitement, like suddenly it became real that there’s an alive little human about to come out of me. With a strong surge, her head came out, and just a few seconds later my body continued to push and I felt her shoulder rotate and pop out, followed by her warm, wet body. Ali was right behind me and received her into his hands.
Sweet relief! I was so grateful to be done. I flipped over and he handed her to me. Our midwives quickly covered us with towels and blankets. I asked Ali to go get Nadir, who had somehow slept through all of that. We sat together as a family of 4 on our bathroom floor.
Within 5 or 10 minutes, I felt a gush of fluid. My placenta had detached. I was in a very awkward position sitting on the hard floor in our narrow bathroom, so I couldn’t really get it out myself. With my permission, my midwife gently pulled the placenta out. It felt so good to have this birth process complete!
Ali cut the cord, we gathered ourselves up and made our way to the cozy bed. After breastfeeding, the midwives examined baby and weighed her. They checked my yoni, which was fully intact. My bleeding was perfect. I ate some apples, peanut butter and chocolate. And that was it.
I am humbled by this experience because birth is freaking hard work. It requires that you summon everything you have and also everything you didn’t know you have. But I am also graciously reminded how simple birth can be.