Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finnian Xavier's Family Waterbirth

If there's one thing I've learned from the little handful of births I've had so far, it's that each one is as unique as the child. Not only that, but I'm not the same, either. Oh, looking back, I don't think I've radically changed. But each birth is a different process, a different journey to walk for different reasons.

The conceptions are different, too. With our first, we had the confidence of youth, sure that we could control our destinies and make our own decisions. She was carefully charted out, marked on the calender, as if we were the ones responsible for her presence in our family. With the second, we reached an entirely new level, one that perhaps many people deny. I knew our son before he was more than a thought in our minds, a casual reference in our conversation. I heard his name and I saw his face. Along came our third, crashing into our family exactly like his red-haired personality, entirely sure we would love him no matter what.

This last little soul, he was somewhat different. We didn't assume control, nor did we receive a surprising gift. We hung on the edge of a precipice and looked at each other and surrendered, fully understanding for what. Every moment of this journey has been about surrender. Surrender reminds me of forgiveness. Both concepts are filled with contradiction yet point towards hope and trust. Surrender can leave a bad taste in the mouth if not fully aware of the power rushing beneath the surface. And like an autumn leaf falling into the river, I rushed along with surrender pounding in my ears.

Here we grow again!
When you stop resisting or running away or controlling or hypnotizing...things get real. I had already figured this out in a small way going from my first birth to my second birth. My first birth was all about careful "management" during contractions. I managed them. What that really means is I used tricks and ideas to try to control them, to get above them and run away from them.

It wasn't until the end of my second birth that I released myself and dove down, deep below the surface, letting go and yet receiving more than can be described. It was a small taste of surrender and the difference stood out. With the next birth, I had no choice but to surrender, to drown in the birth, swirling around and around as if tumbling along the bottom of a fast moving river. Hitting lots of rocks. (Just sayin').

This time I had finally surrendered during pregnancy and the results surprised me because the pregnancy turned out a little more intense than the others and I seemed more accepting of it. I thought that was interesting because that's how I had perceived the differences when surrendering during birth. My symptoms seemed a little stronger and appeared a little sooner. Obviously, this was my fourth pregnancy so the nuance could be dismissed due to frequency. But I carefully cataloged my observation, wondering what it indicated for the upcoming labor.

I had conceived to birth under another harvest moon, but as the betrayal moon approached in August, I felt its pull. Don't laugh, I really did. I'm not trying to be all hippie dippie; it was a pain in the butt. I started to lose parts of my mucus plug, couldn't walk anywhere without pausing and breathing through the tightness and for one moment honestly thought I'd be birthing early. But the time passed and my body settled down to wait.

The official due date photo

As the next moon slowly grew, I stared at it, night after night, thinking ahead to the labor and breathing deeply, willing myself to surrender. Any tightness in my mind and body I tried to release and soothe. I think deep down I knew a lot more than I was willing to admit. I had known from the beginning who this little person was, but I joked around for quite awhile about having a girl. I knew the birth was going to be hard on me. It wasn't fear, which is okay to feel. It wasn't excitement. It was a quiet, resolute feeling of what was going to happen. Stoic perhaps.

Swimming under the growing moon at almost 41 weeks
Saturday morning before the birth, I awoke to a gush. Could this be my waters breaking? That's new, surely not. I stood up quickly and it stopped. It might have been the cervix opening up and releasing a bit. I found more mucus plug, tinged with blood. I knew the time was here, but I figured it wasn't going to happen during the day so I got all quixotic and cooked with my kids, then took them to the zoo for one last hurrah.

As the night approached, I knew what was coming for me. But I couldn't fall asleep. I stayed up, looking at all the people sleeping around me, watching their chests rise and fall peacefully, a contrast to the feelings swirling around inside me. Listening to DH snore. Contractions appeared at some point but not close enough or long enough to really record. I knew what they meant but I don't think anyone would have said it was labor. They were prickly beasts, lasting barely 10-20 seconds but bringing tears to my eyes.

Around 5am, I couldn't stand lying in bed and waiting for the random pain, so I started pacing around the house. I quickly learned that the only tolerable condition was on all fours, waving my hips and leaning my head on a support (such as the couch with pillows). The labor had a posterior aspect to it, as if dilating my backside. But the real pain was in the broad ligament area. In my head, I figured this was the earliest start of labor and I had some hours to go as contractions were 10 minutes apart.

The sharp, unusual pain in my ligaments made me angry. I guess anger is the word. I started to sweep the kitchen floor furiously and bang around pots and pans while loading the dishwasher. This woke up DH who came rushing out as if he suspected the baby was already here lol. He fell in step silently with me, clearing the dining room and setting up the tarp and pool. During one particular contraction where I started cussing, he tried to rub the deep blue essential oil onto my back.

The lovely inspirational wall

DH preparing the birth pool

I tried out some other positions, such as standing/squatting, rocking, lying on my side, on the toilet, etc but they were all very unpleasant and I rushed back to all fours, leaning against the couch and creating an odd sounding meditative song with the classic "ooooo" of birth but filled with fucks and damns and shits. Thinking back I find it comical but at the time I could have bit off someone's arm from that ligament pain.

At 7am, the pool was ready and I quickly climbed into it. My little doula-son followed me over, wanting to comfort me.

Right away I got a pushy contraction. I reached inside and felt his head, still pretty high up and I felt the rest of my cervix sitting there. Same as the last 3 births, I had a posterior head ready to birth despite the cervix. It is always a bit unnerving because you hear about lips and swelling from pushing too soon. But this time I didn't really need to worry about that because I was having trouble with my surrender mantra.

This was probably transition, of course. Since by this point I turned to DH and calmly told him, "Sorry. I'm not doing this. You'll just have to pistol whip me and take me in for a c-section." After all the moaning and whining and cursing earlier, the direct, calm statement out of my mouth shocked me. And yet there it was. Somehow I had let the tightness into my body, hunched my shoulders over, turned away from DH, and stopped. I refused to go another inch. I think I literally shut down my labor. I got a few irregular contractions and basically quelled them before they peaked. And I kneeled in that birth pool for probably a good hour, refusing to give birth.

It's all rather ridiculous, I know, because if I had just continued surrendering I would have popped him out in 20 seconds and been done. Instead, I kneeled in that pool and I stared into myself and I sat there, fighting with myself for a long time. I'm still not sure what all I worked through or why; that will take time for me to process. DH never left my side and to be honest, part of me wonders if he is the only reason I pushed the baby out in the end!

As we reached 8am, I started a running dialogue that slowly changed from resistance to surrender. I told DH over and over. "I can't do it. I won't do this. I'm not going to do this." The phrases began to morph. "I don't like this. This is going to hurt. This is so overwhelming." I think DH heard the change. He grabbed my arm and said, "You're already doing this. So let's do this together and be done." I literally slammed down and he popped right out. Never ceases to amaze me how my kids can be so huge and posterior and fly outta there. A little scary to say the least lol.

That end wasn't really a process that could be broken down into sections. He was up there, then he was out and the whole 5 or 10 seconds, I was saying something like, "Noooo. Get him out of me." I was hanging onto the top area of my genitals thinking about splitting into two lol and felt something squishy as his head popped out, so I think he had a nuchal cord. But out he flew.

I quickly turned around to see him floating beneath the water, face up. He looked like a serene alien. DH picked him up, handed him to me and it was over.

It was over. That is the highlight of the birth story. I'm sorry. I don't have anything profound or amazing to share about birth. My third eye of enlightenment wasn't opened, as a friend referred to the process. The little twinkle light candles I lit at the beginning were almost a joke as a backdrop against that experience. I didn't have surges or waves. I didn't lie back and breathe my baby down. I didn't find God's manna. I dragged my uterus over hot coals for 3 hours and then shoved him out and it was over. It was hard-ass work, it was completely unpleasant, I shed tears and I cowered away from it and it was over. 

Finnian Xavier, born at 8:13am into the water, was here.

The rest of the experience went fine and almost seems irrelevant, tucked behind the looming wall I had just jumped. Yes, the placenta released and I pushed it out about 10 minutes after birth. No hemorrhage in sight. That was wonderful. Yes, despite the same head size and position, I had torn a short, clean rip that really didn't require stitches, but a dear midwife stopped by to put a couple in so it would heal a bit better. Yes, all my children and my husband were there and we all experienced it together and they fell in love with their new brother and it was beautiful. And yes, I even got a little footage of the birth, finally!

But it was over.
Epsom salts, an herbal mix and essential oils in the pool seemed to help but who knows?
Out of 4 similar-shaped babies and births, I tore the least with this one.

First placenta with a normal cord insertion!
I guess we'll never really know his weight. DH tried to
weigh him after the birth but didn't get him fully into the sling.
This was his weight 48 hours later lol.

Once again, many thanks to the awesome people who helped out including Michelle R for the la bassine birth pool, Jennifer for her wonderful mother shower support and Hollie and Natalie for their excellent ideas on PPH. (I'll have to write up a 3rd stage article with more info).


  1. Congratulations! He was beautiful. Please do share more about PPH, that's something I'm hoping to avoid this time around (been taking alfalfa supplements in hopes of reducing bleeding).

  2. This sounds so much like my last birth. (((HUGS)))

  3. Thanks for sharing your birth story! What a beautiful baby boy, I know you guys and gals are enjoying him!
    I went through a period during my labor where I refused to go on too, and during my transition period I too said "Im done, stick a fork in me! just take me in for another csection" ( was attempting a vba2c, thankfully though my midwife snapped me out of it and I gave birth to my baby at home. I think we need the break, labor is intense, its a hard journey from start to finish, but thank God for the wonderful outcome of it! again, thanks for sharing Guggie :)

  4. Congratulations! <3

  5. Guggie- I cried at your story, so beautifully written- Yours is, in my opinion, the best written birth story I've read all year. Your labor parallels my last birth! " It was hard-ass work, it was completely unpleasant, I shed tears and I cowered away from it and it was over" Boom. done.
    Beautiful, and raw, and honest. It's amazing, the change and diversity we grow into. Flowery and spiritual your story is, but in such a different way than the usual portrayal.
    Congratulations lady! I hope you're all adjusting beautifully!


  6. your birth story *is* amazing and profound - thank you for sharing - much love and blessings~

  7. your birth story *is* amazing and profound, namaste

  8. OH! I didn't know his middle name was going to be Xavier! That goes so well with Finnian too! If I wasn't as nice of a person I'd steal it;) Congrats!