Our new baby girl was born early this morning! We are so deeply in love with her. No she does not have a name yet. I am so happy that we had a free birth; that we were at home just me and my husband and our new little one. Everything that happened and the way it happened was textbook perfect. The past 18 hours have been a complete whirlwind of magic and love, and I can’t wait to share with you all the details…
Last night I made sweet potatoes and a spinach salad with alfalfa sprouts, walnuts, and flax oil. I started cooking at 4 because I didn’t want to have a late dinner after dark. It gets dark around 5:30 now, here in Colorado in mid-February, and once the sun goes down all I really want to do is go to bed. So our dinner was ready just around sundown. We put Tilamook butter on our sweet potatoes and enjoyed them immensely.
I was just taking my last few scrumptious bites when my husband José said to our daughters, “Well, since we’re about to have a new baby soon I guess we can put you two up for adoption.” Lizzie (6), picking at her broccoli, looked up, alarmed. She said, “No! you’re my family!” Mia (8) was looking down, working on writing her name on valentines to bring into school. She didn’t look up while she chimed into the conversation with a taunt, “Yeah Lizzie do you want to be an orphanage kid?” “You know Mia,” I said, “there’s actually a proper word for that. The word is orphan.” “Oh yeah. Lizzie you want to be an orphan?” From out of the blue José started laughing. A deep belly laugh. At the exact same moment, Lizzie burst out into her own great, belly laugh. It was so random, I couldn’t help laughing too. We were all laughing our asses off, laughing so hard we were crying. “it’s… so…” I struggled to make a coherent sentence out from in between my laughter. Finally a few minutes later I made out a full sentence, “It’s so… funny… because there’s absolutely nothing funny about this but we all can’t stop laughing.”
When I was able to wipe all my tears away I asked José like eight times why he had started laughing but he didn’t have a good reason. Something about the way Mia was just looking down working seriously but saying something ridiculous. It was just a moment of utter hilarity in our home that I blame entirely for what happened next.
I went into the bathroom and 30 seconds later emerged ecstatic, with my pants down. I called to José to come see and of course the girls came running too so they all got to see the beginning of my mucus plug. It was not gross so I didn’t mind sharing it. It was clear mucus with a string of red blood. I immediately recognized it unmistakably as the “bloody show.”
A quick google search taught us that labor could now be anywhere from imminent to still two weeks away. But this much was certain: the barrier in my cervix between baby and the world was now falling out, and that could only mean one thing. At some point “soon” baby would follow.
I like to think that baby heard us all laughing and decided that she wanted to be part of the fun out there too.
An hour or so later I had a soft bm that I knew from my reading to be a sign of prelabor. Things were definitely heating up.
Lying in bed that night I told José that I would probably be too excited to sleep. He fell asleep before I did so when my grandma called I left the room to talk to her. I had texted my mom about the mucus plug so of course Grandma had already got wind of it through the grapevine.
We talked Birth for half an hour before saying goodnight. I had studied so hard for this birth now for six months. As if I were studying for a test! And now it was nearly test time.
I knew then that I had to try to get some sleep. One of my few fears was that I wouldn’t get any sleep before going into labor in the middle of the night, when so many babies so often choose to make their appearance.
I went back upstairs, had to pee so I went to the bathroom, and was thrilled to find light pink all over my toilet paper wads. So thrilled that I took a picture to show José later. I took a screenshot on my phone to mark the time. It was 10:50.
As soon as I got back to bed cramping suddenly started up in a much more regular pattern than during the weeks before. This might be it!, I thought. I convinced myself that if it was or if it wasn’t, the most important thing for me to do in that moment was to try to get some sleep. So I cocooned myself in my beautiful big white goose down comforter that José got me for Christmas and had just gotten more comfortable than I swear I have been on any other night of my pregnancy so far. I was drifting off into a cozy dreamland on a warm fluffy white cloud when I awoke suddenly to a much stronger cramp. A cramp I would rather call a contraction.
This is it, I knew then. I went to pee again and a tiny blood clot and more mucus came out. I checked my phone and was surprised that over an hour had gone by. I had definitely slept through the beginning of my labor, but it was clear that I wasn’t going to get any more rest that night.
I decided to go downstairs to labor by myself for awhile because José was snoring lightly and peacefully and I didn’t want to wake him yet. I still thought that maybe I would want to do this whole birth alone. I wasn’t sure yet how the night would unfold. The only thing I was sure of was that our baby’s birthday would be February 12th. A nice birthday. I was happy with it.
I brought a chux pad and a towel downstairs with me and set up a spot for myself on the living room floor. I decided I needed to take off my pants and underwear because my underwear kept filling up with wet mucus and it just wasn’t comfortable anymore.
As with all of my labors, my contractions began at 2 minutes apart and remained at 2 minutes apart for the duration of the labor. As I expected, this is just the unique way that my body gives birth.
I wanted to get myself into a contemplative laborland space, but first I remembered that I still hadn’t watched the birth video for Cove River from Indie Birth that had come into my inbox just hours earlier that day. So I watched it and was in awe of her beautiful, physiological, undisturbed birth.
One of my fears going into labor was that I would poop during the birth, like I did during Mia’s birth 8 years ago. No one had told me that would happen and I didn’t know, so it was traumatic and embarrassing for me. At this point in my labor I had my second bm and knew that my bowels were empty. So that mental block went away for me. I was able to move forward into the birth with confidence; without holding back.
I have no idea how but a whole hour passed then and then I decided to clean up all the stuff my children had left on the kitchen table, even though I had planned not to do it for them. It was bothering me. I really cannot focus when my environment is not tidy. After I did that I went on to unload the dishwasher. What the heck, I thought, might as well get it all done.
My contractions started to get more intense at this point and I started to wonder if I would be able to finish the dishwasher. Determined, I stopped when I had to to moan through contractions. It was definitely getting harder to be distracted by this chore. I remember looking up at the clock on the stove just as I was finishing. It was 1:43.
As another contraction pulled me in I felt like I might black out. The next two contractions brought me to the same edge. I decided right then that I needed José with me after all. This precipice of blacking out caught me off guard. I had not expected to experience it; to feel too weak to handle my contractions. I didn’t think I could make it up the stairs at this point so I called José and prayed he didn’t have his phone on silent.
He picked up groggily and all I said was “come downstairs.” He came down blinking in his old Domo underwear, and seemed surprised to see me sitting half naked on the chux pad. “Oh, it’s happening,” he said. “Yeah,” I managed to answer, “we are definitely having a baby.”
I explained that I had labored already for some time on my own but that my contractions were making me feel like I would pass out now. I also said I knew that he really wanted to be present for the birth, that it was something he really had been looking forward to even though he had been careful to respect my wishes of being alone. I was happy with my decision to include him and truth be told I really did need his support.
We barely talked for the next 40 minutes. Deep in labor land, time passed at what I would later realize was an accelerated rate. I was for that short time not in our normal dimension of reality. I wasn’t even aware that José had propped up his go pro under one of the couch cushions until I turned around at one point and saw its red light. “Oh,” I said,”you’re recording my butt. Ok. Well, I guess that’s where all the action is right now.” 😂
I had given José permission earlier to record video and take pictures under the condition that I could change my mind and object in the moment. So I was ok with this.
I whined and cried out through all of these intense contractions. I remember my friend Bubbles telling me to moan low instead of high, but by this point I had lost my ability to modulate whatever was coming out of my mouth.
I had told José earlier that whenever I started saying things like “I can’t do this,” and “Oh my God,” “fuck,” and “I’m gonna die,” that meant that I was in transition and would have the baby very soon. So when I said all of the above with several embellishments, he wisely reminded me that baby would be here very soon.
True to his word in our earlier conversations, José respected my need not to be touched as I labored. Twice I laid down on my side, exhausted from the constant contractions that didn’t seem to give me any break I so desperately needed, and kept begging for. At these two times I asked him to help me and hold my hand. The rest of the contractions I felt better living through on my hands and knees, holding onto the couch cushion that became my anchor as I pushed our baby out. I was so grateful for that couch cushion!
I told José, “There is no way I can catch this baby. You are going to have to catch it. Can you do it? Are you ready?”
He affirmed that he was, and he did. I will never forget his voice when he caught our baby and exclaimed, “She’s out! She’s a girl!” He was so proud and so happy.
I was screaming but it was amazing. Magical. I felt everything. Felt her head crowning. Coming out. Her body sliding through the birth canal. It was 2:43am. I couldn’t believe that only an hour before I had been unloading the dishwasher!
Later when we watched the birth video I saw that she was occupit anterior (OA) which is the optimal position for babies to come out. Her head was out and her eyes were open, blinking and looking around. José keeps commenting about how remarkable it was to see her eyes opened like that, looking around curiously and alert, with her body still inside mine.
At this point I composed myself enough to turn around and see the baby. She was super wet and slippery. José handed her to me but I felt so bewildered. I remembered watching other birth videos where the mamas had their baby in their hands and were just looking confused and saying things like “I don’t know what to do!” And I thought that that was so stupid and I’d never be like that. But there I was just as confused saying “I don’t know what to do!” Over and over again. José and I had a hilarious moment then when we kind of just passed her back and forth between us saying “I don’t know what to do here you take her,” then “I don’t know either you take her.” 😂
We also were surprised by how short the umbilical cord was. I could barely hold her up to my breast with the placenta still inside me. It felt like an interminable moment of indecision but really it was probably something like half a minute where we were sitting there in a state of utter confusion with our slippery little baby. Then José said, “Ok here’s what we’ll do we’ll bring her into the bathroom and wash her off.” “Ok,” I agreed.
He helped me stand up but as soon as we got down the hall to the downstairs bathroom the placenta slipped out of me and onto the floor. I couldn’t stop it. Then I felt like I had to lay down so I laid down in the tiny half bath in a puddle of blood with the baby, both of us covered in blood and meconium, both of us trying to transition to this crazy new world.
We noticed that the cord was already pretty white, not like the beautiful blue and dark purple cord in Cove River’s birth story. We decided that must have been because our baby had already transferred her blood from the placenta before coming out. The placenta looked perfect and complete. The baby had only popped her bag of waters a few minutes before coming out so it was still mostly intact and attached to the placenta in the most fascinating way. I stuck my hand inside it and stretched it to see how it would have looked with our baby inside.
I was bleeding heavily so I found the maternal side of the placenta and ripped off a cotelydon with my fingers as I’d planned to do if I suspected hemorrhage. I asked José to get me the squeeze bottle of honey and teaspoon I had set aside in our birth supplies. I put the cotelydon on the spoon and he coated it with honey and fed it to me. I decided to keep it in my mouth at my jawline where I had learned from my friend Angela who encapsulated Lizzie’s placenta that the hormones could absorb most readily and quickly into my body. But I did appreciate the honey as it helped me swallow the blood. It was a pleasant experience. The placenta, and the cotelydon I ripped off, were warm from having been in my body only minutes before.
EDIT: ok my brother asked so I have to add some more info about the cotelydons! Here is a picture (not mine) that shows what I am talking about. The cotelydons are the meaty lumps on the maternal side.
When I put it in my mouth it really did not taste like anything. I didn’t feel like I was eating meat. The texture is spongy and it is like a piece of chewing gum that you cannot bite through to “eat.” That is why after I let it sit for an hour, I swallowed it.
José and my aching backside convinced me some time later that I should get up from the pool of blood on the floor. We decided to forget about cleaning up in this tiny bathroom and just get me into the tub. José helped me step into some old slippers and took the baby and placenta in its glass casserole dish. I walked up the stairs slowly, hunched over so I wouldn’t black out standing up straight. I honestly barely made it. I took a minute to recover standing at the top and then somehow made it into the tub where José lovingly washed the baby and I off with warm running water and one of his tank tops.
We had already used up every single towel in the house! I remarked that I definitely had not planned well enough for how messy birth would be. Next time I’ll go to Walmart and buy a whole stack of cheap towels.
The three of us finally settled down on the bed with the half a towel under me that wasn’t already bloody. José had cut off the half for me with his pocket knife.
We decided that soon we would burn the cord but not quite yet. So we lay and talked and the baby nursed colostrum like a champ and had her first pee on the bed.
I still felt like I would black out every time I stood up, so I took a dropper full of Shepherd’s Purse in a little water. This is a plant, an herb, that helps with hemorrhage and dizziness from loss of blood.
I kept smelling the baby’s head and saying that it smelled like pretzels! Not the fluffy soft pretzels from the mall. Dry pretzels in a bag from the grocery store, you know? It was driving me crazy all day until my mom commented that it’s a yeasty smell. Yes! José bought me a bag of sourdough nugget pretzels 😆 I have been enjoying them but I do feel a little weird like I’m eating something that tastes like her head. Who knew? Now anytime I want to smell new baby I’ll just go buy a bag of pretzels.
I thought of how ironic it was that all my babies had been born exactly five days before their due dates!
Then at 5am we decided that we should wake the girls to meet their new little sister, and so that they could participate in the cord burning. It was so sweet the way they each held a candle up to the cord.
Lizzie had a hard time having patience however and only lasted about 5 minutes before Papi had to take over. At this point I was still in black out land. I didn’t want to be in the pictures so I laid on the floor but then found I couldn’t get up to watch the ceremony. So I asked Lizzie to take a picture :
It was tricky to find the right place on the very short cord to burn through because we needed enough slack on the baby end to tie into a knot, and we needed enough on the other end because I want to dehydrate it into a circle. Bubbles is going to make it into a dreamcatcher for baby! 😍
The beeswax candles burned almost to stumps before the cord was severed.
We protected baby from the flames, which got surprisingly high, with a shield of cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil. I expected to smell a weird smell but it really didn’t smell weird or bad at all. It just smelled like something burning.
The girls kept saying they were pretending to roast marshmallows 😆
It was so funny when Mia said, “Now we have three children in our family and five people in our family!” Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the fact that she would really have a little sibling soon was not on her radar until it actually happened.
Eventually throughout the day my bleeding has lessened to a normal lochia. Every time baby nursed my uterus would contract with the excruciatingly painful third baby afterbirth pains, but I endured because I knew it would help with my excessive bleeding. Once I got tired of bleeding on the towel I snapped my cloth postpartum pads around a disposable hospital postpartum underwear I inherited from a friend. I have completely saturated four so far today. At one point a big clot came out about the size of a kiwi. It looked like grape jelly.
Baby girl has pooped meconium about 6 times today so we’ve gotten to do our very first diaper changes. Those who know me know how passionate I am about cloth diapers (I founded the national nonprofit Cloth for Everybum in 2012). So I was really looking forward to using all our adorable Lil Joeys and Bee Changed and GroVia newborn diapers. We have been cutting flushable liners into thirds and fourths and laying them in the tiny diapers. When baby poops we just flush her meconium and wipe her with a warm wipe from the wipes warmer.
Mia picked out her sissy’s first cloth diaper.
We think she is about 6 lbs or so but it’s hard to tell. We don’t have a scale. I keep saying that we should just go to King Soopers and weigh her on a produce scale, but José says that’s “ghetto” and he won’t do it. 🤷♀️ I wouldn’t really care honestly. Laura Kaplan Shanley (author of Unassisted Childbirth) and some mamas in Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery Birth stories did just that. It wasn’t my idea.
Through this whole day José has been my midwife, doula, birth photographer, chef, nanny, and postpartum doula. He has been amazing!! I am so grateful that I have such an incredible, thoughtful, loving husband.
Baby girl hasn’t cried a second since she was first born. So far she has been true to the inklings we had of her soul. She has been pensive and peaceful and patient all day. She has alternated between sleeping (most of the time) and looking around curiously with her big blue eyes. We are so blessed.
I may not have had the transcendent birth experience I imagined, but it was real and raw and still every bit as magical.
Well I’ve been writing this all day while baby sleeps and now I am really ready to put my phone down and just be with baby 🙏 I will be doing a whole other post about my experience encapsulating my own placenta. If you have any questions about details I did not think to include please ask in the comments! And feel free to share ❤️ I am a big advocate for free birth and would love to see my birth story help inspire other free birthing mamas.
Much love ✌️