Saturday, May 12, 2018

Adira Nuelles Birth Story

This story is not what it seems, so I ask you to have courage to read through the hard parts.

I had a wonderful birth with Selah Rose.  Her story is posted here as well.  Four months postpartum with Selah, my family underwent a severe time of trial and change.  My marriage was in pain, and like the ballers we are, we made it through, relatively unscathed, despite a pretty big lack of support.

Then, about six months postpartum, I began to have flashbacks... graphic memories of a rape at age 3.  It would occur during intimacy with Michael- while making love, to be exact.  I have never been able to stay present in my own body during sex, and always felt a desire to stay somewhat detached from what is happening.  Since this is my tendency anyhow, I did not learn until later how to control what was happening to me.

I would begin to feel a 'trigger' in my mind.  My mind would drift, my body would feel heavier, and I would just not 'be all there' anymore.  Before I knew it, I was gone.  Somewhere else.  A man would be on top of me, no face I could place, just pressure on my body that felt like the weight of the world.  I felt only fear, only pain, only torment in every bone of my body.  I could smell it, see it, feel it, and when I say I was there, I mean I was THERE.  I was no longer in my bedroom with my husband- I was a child, and I could feel this man violating me.

The flashbacks continued- sometimes I would be the child, and other times I would be forced to watch this happen to that child from the other side of the room.  I cannot put into words how horrific these events were, and eventually they happened every time we made love.  I considered suicide several times during the months that this was happening, because I did not know how to make it stop.  Where did it come from?  How would it stop?  What did it mean?  How could I ever let my husband near me again, if this was what was happening?  I felt like I was losing my mind.

Eventually, I found the words to tell Michael about what was happening, and how it was affecting me.  He was very supportive, encouraged me to go to therapy and we stopped making love, for several months.  This was very hard on him, obviously, but he continued to be the most sensitive and wonderful support I could imagine.

I began therapy with a trauma counselor immediately.  We dove strait in with open dialogue about what was going on in my mind, and EMDR therapy immediately following.  The discussion was brutal, and painful, and when I realized that although I was having these graphic flashbacks, the mind is a complex machine, and I could never be sure that these events actually happened to me... and if they did, I could never know for sure who this man was.  I spent time calling my mothers friends and asking them if they knew of anything that might have happened to me, and in typical fashion most of them acted as if I was just being 'dramatic Meghan' and this was all a figment of my imagination.  I also spent time hunting in my mothers journals for any secrets that may lie inside about a possible rape.  I never found anything to prove or disprove what I was experiencing, but what I did find, was countless, relentless confessions of disdain for me and for herself.

This was heartbreaking to say the least, and required months of work with my counselor to break through the lies, abuse, pain and secrets.

But then, like the sun through the clouds, nearly a year of hard work in therapy, in my marriage and myself, I found out that I was pregnant.  From the very beginning, this child felt strong, for breaking through my flashbacks, my heartbreak about my mother and all of the bullshit.  My therapist calls her a miracle, for being conceived so easily, so soon after the rape memories.

Much like the prenatal counselling I worked through before giving birth to Selah- I kept working on finding forgiveness, and peace in my memories.  I worked through the graphic abuse in EMDR therapy and managed to find pity and love for my abusers.  From the beginning, this child gave me a will to fight through it all, and an unemotional peace that gave me strength to deal with other peoples nonsense.  Selah felt like a little happy fairy, and Adira felt like a quiet, watchful warrior.  I was grateful to have her reminding me of who I am. 

The third trimester was tougher than I remembered.  She was very active in my belly and kicked me hard, a lot.  After about 5-6 weeks of braxton hicks, and other early labor signs, I was exhausted with waiting!

But then, a little before my '41 week' marker, I woke up after some crampy sleep at 4:45 to find a little pink on the toilet paper after going to the bathroom.  I was pretty sure this was it.  I was having gentle contractions, low in my belly and legs about every 10 minutes.  They felt soft, blissful and real.  I so enjoyed this early morning activity.  I turned on my favorite birth documentary- Orgasmic Birth, and rocked on my ball, eating oatmeal and coffee.  I was glad to let Michael and Selah sleep, while I had this time to sink into my brain and my heart to center.  It is so important before labor.
I was completely unafraid, ready for it, and so happy it was here.  However because of the many weeks of activity, I wasn't completely sure.  I did not want to get too excited and have it stall out.
I just focused on relaxing, enjoying each rush, and letting the oxytocin flow to encourage the strength in my contractions.

My heart fluttered when I heard Michael wake up at about 6:30.  He walked down the stairs, his eyes a little wet with tears... he knew.  I cried immediately, and we just held one another.  We both knew this was probably it, and it was so joyful.

We talked for a while, I updated my midwives, and we went on with our day.
I proceeded to shower, and make stuffed french toast with sausage... I wasn't sure why I felt all the energy I did, but I just rolled with it.  I felt strong, empowered and efficient.  I continued to have contractions while cooking.  We enjoyed a relaxed breakfast and called the photographer as contractions continued to get stronger over the next few hours.

I spent some time in bed, zoning and just being peaceful and unafraid.  Laying on my side, feeling blissfully grounded and heavy.  Selah laid next to me, forehead against mine, holding my hand and moaning through contractions with me.  I never thought I could see a 21 month old doula, but she was exactly that.  She laughed with me after a contraction, and pet my face and said "mama" when the next one came.  What a joyful, strong little girl.  She knew what was happening, and it was so beautiful, that time together, just the two of us.

After some beautiful time laying down, and the contractions getting stronger, at one point they just stopped.  A few very gentle ones here and there, but I felt like something had stalled.

We took a walk down the hill with our photographer to see the animals, and let Selah burn off some energy.  I was a little discouraged that things had slowed, but I enjoyed the family time and snuggle time with the animals.  From their behavior and attentiveness to my belly, I could tell labor was close, even if it was not today.  Animals always know.

The sun was out, strong and kind, and it made us all feel so happy.  However, after contractions slowed to the point of not having one for an hour, I sent my photographer to lunch, and laid down in bed by myself.

Then, after some time resting alone, it began.  The rushes advanced to the point of needing to work through some around 3 pm.  I was watching a beautiful film called Mother Ocean, and sinking into the waves of energy, enjoying being alone... which felt so different from Selahs labor.  In that labor, I felt like I definitely needed the support of those around me.  This time, I felt alone in a sea of power, and happy to be there.  I knew I was doing this on my own, no matter what, and this baby gave me strength to do that.  I began to feel the pleasure in even the strong contractions.  The ones that left me teary eyed from their power, and the power of my own body to get through them... I still felt pleasure.  I felt the joy of the nature of it all, and even a little tingle down low, that sexual feeling.  I had been working for months to prepare for a sexual healing birth, an empowering one, one that would free my body of the shame everyone else had cursed me with so much of my life, and I began to feel now that it might really be possible.

I continued to work.  Just resting into that power, and they indeed kept coming.
They came fast... so fast that only a few contractions after I felt totally on top of it, a contraction came that threw me out of bed.  I knew it was time to get on the birth ball for more mobility and freedom to 'cope with them'.

I came downstairs, and like the business bitch I am, grabbed my ball with purpose, brought it outside in the sun, and got to work.  The contractions were coming much harder and faster than we had planned... only two hours ago I was perfectly calm, and on top of it.  Now was the time to let go, to let the power flow and let the sound OUT.  And I did just that.  I moaned, low and deep, I rocked and 'moo'ed' through them at times.  My birth board read "You are a beautiful beast- meant for birth. Feel your animal within."  "Wild Woman"  "Birth Goddess",  "Stay Wild, Child", "You are free, safe, powerful and so brave.  You got this, mama"  "Let the powerful pleasure flow through you!  So much pleasure."  And these helped me, so much, to sink into the power and really enjoy the sensations that come with feeling your body open up and your baby moving down.

I began to chant, to groan and sometimes moan with pleasure through the contractions.
The sun was so warm, and the air pretty crisp, actually... the contradicting warmth and cool was so nice.  Just as a breeze would feel a little too cool for comfort, the sun would beat down on my back and shoulders.  It felt like a big hug.  It felt like nature loved me... as it often does when labor is natural, undisturbed, and full of hormones.

In Selahs labor, I wasn't sure what my body was doing, and although I fell in love with my power, and I did enjoy it- it was 'scarier' in a way, and I felt far more dependent on Michael and my team.

This one... was downright pleasurable.  I KNEW these feelings, I knew the pressure I would feel, and I knew what my body was capable of.  I felt so free, so utterly beautiful and so ready for it all.  The physical feelings were much like Selahs birth, but my soul was so much more ready for it... and my mind could wrap itself around the intensity easily.  I enjoyed it immensely.

My warrior music played in the background, with chants and drums beating my body into a rhythm and my baby down gently.  I knew this baby had picked her own music, and from the empowerment I felt as soon as the first song played, I knew it needed to be this.  I spent time singing and chanting during contractions and in between... sinking into the vibes around me.  It was working well.

The midwives arrived around 5 pm.  Labor had sped up immensely.  Laurie came in and I cried immediately upon seeing her.  Something about seeing my maternal midwives in labor makes my 'motherless' feelings so much tougher, and I usually emote pretty seriously.  I confirmed with her that this seemed like real labor and she smiled and said, "you're going to have a baby so soon!"  That felt great.

I continued to work.  The power was so awesome.  I felt like a fucking goddess... really, like a sexual monster goddess being from another world.  I felt like I was the kind of woman who was the reason men went to war way back when.  I felt awesome... like I owned the world.  That's the only way I can really explain it.

A moment that I will always treasure.  I sat on the deck, deep in my music, and I began to feel a breeze.  The breeze kept on, and I started to feel a deep peace, and suddenly I was moved to a few tears.  I felt something coming, and just then, like magic, the music picked up and a burst of wind, like nothing I have ever felt here before, literally shook me as it rocketed past.  I wept as it roared through our farm, a violent, long standalone gust, and only Michael and I knew what it meant.

I have some experience with loss, and those that I've lost communicating with me, through nature.  My mother, the day she died, was being brought out of the house by the coroner.  My father, sister, husband and I stood outside on the back deck, distraught and waiting for it to be over.  We heard the door shut behind them, and just then, a burst of wind, so strong and so long, hit us right in the face and blew the windchimes that my father had bought for my mother.  We had never heard anything like it, and never would again.  We knew it was her.

However, we also lost someone else, someone who I knew would be here when this little one would be born.  In November of last year, we buried my first horse Star in our pasture.  Star and I were kindred spirits, two of the same, both broken and both saved by one another.  He loved Selah, even when I was pregnant, and he also was very attentive and in love with Adira in utero.  He loved my babies.  As the vet administered the drug that would relieve him of his pain forever, he lowered his head to my belly, and then looked at me as I looked at him.  We both just stared at eachother as I wept, and I told him I loved him so much, and it would be over soon.  His body became heavy, and dropped to the ground.  And so did I... I laid down on the ground next to him, touching his face and weeping my goodbyes.  "He's gone now" the vet said- but I replied, "No, he's not, not yet."   Just a few moments after that, the sun came out, so strong and warm, just for a moment, and we felt a breeze.  "He's gone now" I told them, as I felt a peace flow through me.  The peace that only comes when you know the suffering soul you loved so dearly, is not suffering anymore.

This wind, that blasted me with such force, was Star, or possibly all those I've lost... but it felt like a herd of horses ripping through me, and just then, a contraction came.  Michael had come to hold me, and I fell back into his arms and wailed through the contraction, and the heartbreak of memory.  Then I laughed.  I laughed so hard.  I laughed with the joy of nature, and power, and loss, and my life, and it was so utterly awesome and beautiful.  I chuckled and said to Michael, "I've never felt better in my entire life".   Michael said, "Star is with you babe."  I mentioned maybe it was my Mom and he said, "I think it takes a bigger animal to do that."  What an utterly awesome moment, and something no one could mistake, if they experienced it.  It was such magic.

Labor continued.  My birth team quietly witnessing me from inside the house, and me alone on the deck.  I felt so quiet, one with everything and so alone in the universe.  It felt so great.  Then Selah woke up from her nap.  Kendra brought her downstairs, and she immediately started crying upon seeing me.  I cried too, reaching for her desperately.  We hugged and I had a contraction, making her cry more, and she refused to leave me.  I told everyone to leave her with me, and I put her in my lap.  She faced me, her face pressed into my chest, and her arms and legs wrapped around me.  She just fell into my gravity, and we embraced as someone put our favorite song on.  It played as she held me, and I held her, and my contractions magically stopped for the entirety of the song.  She just rocked with me as I quietly sang to her, and my body respected our space.  I loved this moment of my first baby in my arms, my second baby, soon to be born, in my belly between us, and my soul so alive and so in love with them.  I was told later everyone was crying watching us.  It was truly one of the most beautiful parts of the day.

As soon as the music stopped, I told her I needed to get back to work, and she seemed to understand.  Almost immediately, a contraction began and then they picked up even more.  The amount of emotional release had really helped my body to dilate more- so I moved into the tub.

As I sank into the water, a contraction hit me and along with the pressure came such a wave of pleasure, joy, and hilarity.  I laughed. I literally laughed so hard through the entire contraction.  Michael was convinced I had lost my mind.  And perhaps I did... this felt so good, I couldn't believe it.

Michael got in the tub shortly after that, and I snuggled calmly into his arms, as we laid back and watched our mountains.  The sun became more golden as evening approached.  It felt wonderful.
Then, a sexual energy came over me.  We gazed at each other, and I winked at him.  Michael said to everyone, "It's going to get a little weird, sorry..."  Everyone laughed.  But as we proceeded to touch each other gently, gazing at one another and kissing, they all slowly left, because I guess it did indeed 'get a little weird.'  I felt completely sexually free, powerful, in charge and utterly alive.  I'm typically not the biggest make out person, as it makes me feel claustrophobic... but this was different.  We sank into each other in every way, and somehow managed to not make love, even though I felt like I wanted to.  That's the only way I can describe the feeling, and what happened.  Birth goddess indeed.

As labor proceeded I relied so much to my mantras.  "Open, open, open to ten." "Come on down, down, down."  I would growl, my eyes became more animal, more primal, and I would let out a little pleasurable shiver at the end of many contractions.  It really felt a little orgasmic, that pressure.

Then maybe around 6:45, I felt some doubt.  Some fear, some transition.  "Don't fight it, sink into it, you get a break in a minute" I moaned through a contraction.  "PRESSURE- PLEASURE" I shouted through the peak of it" and then, the waves of nausea, and then, the vomit.  So much vomit.  Overwhelming purging, and rapid dilation, and it lasted a little too long.  I cannot imagine purging harder.  My body was ready to have this baby... now.  The contractions REALLY picked up.  "Come on mamaaaa" I growled as I let them flow, and then more vomit.   It was rapid, and so wrong, and then, so right.  :)

Then, the urge to push.  Once I realized that's what I was feeling, I exclaimed, "I feel like pushing ladies!!" as I laughed!  But then, Holy. Shit.  When I say this child is a warrior, I mean it.  As contractions rapidly came upon me, I quickly changed from actively pushing to again just resting as I let my body work.  I was not pushing with them.  I laid back against Michaels chest, pulled my legs back and felt her slide down powerfully during a contraction but then still pushing down between them, she was descending so fast!  The faces I made during pushing were ridiculous, but I don't think anyone could blame me... I was laying flat and she was still coming down this fast.

At one point in the ten minutes of pushing, I held Michaels head, peered back at him lovingly, and winked at him, smiling.  I also gazed at my friend Toni, the friend who helped me as I said goodbye to Star, and I whispered 'death to self'.  Another mantra for birth that I have embraced since I realized that the release needed to grieve is so much like the release to give birth to a child.

Another contraction.  I silently pushed and a let out a gentle grunt.  "Whoaaa, push baby push, yesss. Yessss.  It's ok, girl, gentle gentle.  I'm not pushing!  You got this, girl.  I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid."  That was a long contraction.  At a point in the end of the contraction, I really did sound like I was having an orgasm.  The pleasure was real.

I continued to be able to be silent as I pushed, with only a look of intense focus but also peace in my eyes.   After only a few contractions of crowning, I felt that 'pop' of her head coming out.  After the initial shock of that moment, my midwives reminded me to touch her head if I felt ready.  I did, and immediately began crying, "I feel her! I feel her!  Come on out baby!!!"  Just then a new song came on, a gentle flute, as I kept crying and moaning in ecstasy "Yes!  Hi baby!"  I stroked her head gently between my legs, laughing with empowered, fearless joy.  So much pleasure in this moment.

Another contraction started and I shouted with ecstasy, "I don't want to wait!  It's not so hard!  Gentle gentle- come on mama"  Then, like magic, the music picked up in volume, and I growled the words, "Come on mama- pull your baby out" and then I did.  As she descended, I pulled her right out of me and onto my chest.

The joy can be seen in my eyes as they opened wide and I held my little vernix covered sleeping baby (yes, she came out in a deep sleep..)  "I felt every minute, I felt every minute!  I didn't leave at all!  It was beautiful!"  I cried in tears of disbelief.  "She's here, my sunset baby."  I cooed as I held her, smiling at Michael and Selah in the golden light of sunset.

I fought like my life depended on it for this birth.  I fought hard for the pride in my body, my abilities, and my sexuality.  I worked for this, I dove deep into my past for this, and now I found myself healed enough to not only thoroughly enjoy birth, but to also find a new dimension of sexual awareness in it.  I stayed present, aware, in control and I did it on my own.  All the decades of abuse was no match for my desire for a transformative and healing experience.  Those in my past that tried to break me, shame me, hurt me, rape me and affect my life negatively... I refuse to let you determine my mental health, my self worth or the way I birth.  I did it with joy, pleasure, freedom and power, and nothing can ever take this away from me.

Again I have nothing but gratefulness to those who supported me as I birthed Adira Nuelle Luna.  Thank you to Michael for knowing me so well, for your love and support, and for that hot makeout session.  Also, thanks for making babies with me.

And a huge thank you to my birth team (midwives, friends, babysitters, etc.) who made it possible for me to really enjoy the day, without worries.  I love you all.

A special thank you as well to the photographer who captured the images you see here.  Breanna Kristner Photography

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Birth Story

The Birth Story of Selah Rose- born July 31, 2016 1:22 p.m.

My life had been challenging to date.  I had a history of physical and verbal abuse, and an obviously strained relationship with my mother and family.  We had moved to Washington about a year before I found out I was pregnant.  It was a huge surprise, and one I had not welcomed.  
I was always terrified of becoming my mother, and ending up abusing my child like she had abused me.  I knew I would have to struggle to work past these issues, and it was the most frightening thing I could imagine.  The first few months of the pregnancy were dark, and I was very depressed.  I eventually moved past most of these feelings by 12 weeks but some nagged me for the entirety of the pregnancy.  I had cried to my midwives many many times, and expressed my pain from my past and fear of the future.  I knew that a history of abuse can rear its ugly head in labor, sometimes stall it, and also start your child’s life with fear and trepidation.  I did not want this to happen to me, and I worked HARD, for the entire pregnancy, to heal enough to get through this experience.  It was the hardest 9 months of my life.

I had always wanted a natural birth, but after becoming a doula, I wanted it even more.  When we first looked at this house, I saw the deck and thought, “if I ever have a child… this is where I will have it.”  I pictured an unassisted birth on my deck, in a tub, overlooking this incredible view.  Although more often than not, when I would talk about this, people would say, “ONE WORD. EPIDURAL.  You’ll see!”  I just kept on with my vision, planning it with precision and preparing everything I would need to safely deliver my own child 35 minutes from a hospital.  I used Ina May books, meditation, calm preparation and positive images.  The truth is, I was excited to labor, and experience this, but until the day she was born, I struggled to feel excited or positive about the baby after the labor.  This was something I was honest about, but struggled with, and felt guilty about.
I had been having painless contractions for about 2.5 weeks, but always figured it wasn’t the real thing because as people had told me, “you’ll know.  They’ll hurt.”  However, on July 30th, at about 9:00 p.m., after a particularly hormonal night, I began having my normal painless contractions.  I thought nothing of it, until I realized they were a little more consistent than they normally were.  I began timing them.  I timed them sitting down, standing up, on a ball, moving around, and then finally in bed.  They grew in intensity, little by little, but I could never say that they hurt.  I didn’t call anyone, and told Michael to sleep with his ear plugs in, to get good rest.  We went to bed around 2:00, and I didn’t really fall asleep for a while, and only slept for about an hour and a half, waking every so often with a contraction.  Until 4:30 a.m… when I woke to a contraction that took some focus.  I rode through it, using my birthing noises, and then got out of bed with the clear awareness that it was probably time to notify my midwives.  I called one and talked to her about the details, and proceeded to let her go back to sleep since the directions were to “call her when I can’t speak through them”.  
I took a shower, got dressed, made a bowl of cereal and some coffee and proceeded to enjoy labor alone.  Michael came down shortly after, and we just turned on gentle music and chatted softly.  I felt so centered, so peaceful and at ease with my husband.  We felt certain it was time, despite the fact that I still could not say my contractions hurt.  I felt surges of energy, gently waving through my body, and leaving me with a deep sense of peace and pleasure unlike anything I had ever felt.  My doula had been notified and was on her way- she arrived around 6:30 a.m.  We went for a walk down to see the animals, and I had a strong contraction while standing in the donkey pasture.  I held on to the gate, and dropped into a squat and let out strong noises with it.  The sweet donkeys came over to nuzzle me after.  

I loved knowing that my animals knew what was happening.  Nature is so universal and connected.  “Mama donkey” as we call her, is 20 years old and has had many babies.  She has always been so sensitive to me, and in love with my belly since she arrived here.
We then slowly made our way up the hill to the house.  My contractions began to speed up after that, and get a lot stronger.  I sat on my ball and really began to focus.  Beautiful, serene and utterly peaceful music was playing and I remember feeling so high.  I was so blessed to be able to be home, in my clothes, and able to process this labor with only loved and loving people around me.  Michael was with me from the very beginning of the real labor, watching me with soft eyes and smiling at me when I would look at him.  I felt protected, tended to and loved entirely, and my midwives hadn’t even arrived yet!  There are not adequate words for the kind of peace I felt through this entire labor.  As I let the early contractions flow through me, I was constantly welling up with tears.  The music suited the day perfectly and my mind was so focused on the honor I was feeling to be experiencing this, and I could not stop feeling it deeply.  

I remember when my song, “The Story” by Brandi Carlisle began to play, I was rocking on my ball, and Michael sat in front of me. The first time I heard this song, I was maybe two weeks pregnant, and I stopped everything I was doing to listen to the words. It was the perfect song for my relationship with Michael, and it always makes me cry. A contraction rushed through me as some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard played, and I fell into his arms.  Tears streamed down my face I kissed him, held my forehead to his, felt the music flow through me, and rocked with him as he rubbed my legs perfectly slowly.  I’ve never felt so in love in my life.  I welcomed each contraction, and with more pressure came more joy.  At this point, the contractions were strong but we were still laughing and joking in between.  I wanted to talk through the feelings of the contractions too.  I found discussing them very interesting in preparation for experiencing the next rush.  

Very early on, Michael was my rock.  I didn’t think about him in that way yet, because I was coping very well.  However, upon watching the videos, I realized how often I would look to him, call for him, gaze and smile at him.  He was everything for me.  If I would well up, he would well up, and if I would weep, we would weep together.  

The clouds were grey outside.  The air was cool and the breeze was soft.  I sat on the ball, and then the floor, right in front of the door.  The view of the mountains gave me strength early on, as I knew they would when planning this birth.  We started to discuss getting into the tub around 8:30 a.m.  The contractions were getting much stronger, and I was beginning to feel far more serious in between them.   The mobility I needed through the rushes was amazing.  I was always moving, and in a particularly strong contraction, I felt an incredible wave of pleasure and joy- falling into a loopy laugh at the top of the contraction.  The music playing at the time was a song I loved, and I fell into Michael's lap again, weeping after the laughter.  This is when we knew it was moving along well.  Michael held my head, combing my hair with his fingers, being incredible, as he was all day.  I felt so high and I absolutely loved the power my body was putting out with each contraction.  What an incredible ride, to feel a power of your own that even you have to muster all the energy you can to submit to.  I’ve never felt more feminine in my life.

At one point we read one of my affirmations. “I will have a birth that is so awesome, Morgan Freeman will have to narrate it.”  We laughed about how there should be a Morgan Freeman app to read anything you type into it.  
The contractions were notably stronger each time, which became more of a challenge for me, but I still enjoyed every rush.  My sounds became gradually lower, deeper and more animal.  My midwives eventually arrived, quietly sat down on the floor next to us, smiled and nodded upon hearing my moans.  I loved having their maternal, experienced and sensitive eyes protecting me.  It felt so safe, and at that point, I really knew my baby was coming.  
There was a particular moment I love watching.  I had a strong contraction- I laid back into my doulas arms, feeling Michael rubbing my legs.  I rested, and then felt my Mother.  The emotion of missing her rushed through me stronger than the contractions, and I gave in to the music and the power of the moment and let my head fall back as I wept.  It was only for a few seconds but I remember I knew I needed to submit to that, and feel the feeling, in order to progress in this labor.  The pain of those few seconds far outweighed the stronger contractions in that moment.  Submission in birth is the key to success in it.  

The dogs were loving the labor.  Samantha kept visiting to check on us.  She wagged her tail and looked so happy and at ease.  Zombie came and laid down in between me and my doula… and just loved us.  It was so peaceful to have my other kids there with me.  

At around 10 a.m. we moved to the tub outside on the deck.  My contractions were tougher, and we were thinking it would ease the pressure of the contractions- we were wrong.  As soon as I stepped into the tub, I felt as if I dilated so much faster.  The first contraction in the tub knocked me into oblivion for a second.  I remember saying “I THOUGHT IT WOULD FEEL BETTER! They lied!”  “Nature’s epidural my ass” is something I vaguely remember saying too.  Now I know it’s just because the relaxation of the water helped me dilate so much more, which was great.  
The freedom and mobility I felt in the tub was amazing.  I could move to different positions and rock with the contractions, violently if I wanted to, with ease.  It was wonderful.  When I got in, I laid back to wait for the next wave, and the midwives asked me, “how does the rain feel?”  I replied, “It feels like God.”  And it did- it felt like stars falling down around me, and like God was kissing me.  What an incredible moment to assure me everything was ok.  

My midwives held my hand and assured me I was coping wonderfully, and my doula kept telling me how strong I was.  They looked so proud of me.  It carried me through some of the tougher ones.  Michael’s eyes were so sensitive and full of love, and each person at my birth brought different affirmations for my journey.  

As the contractions kept on, my eyes grew more and more relaxed in between.  I would bug them out during contractions and look like a zombie, but then close them completely or look like I was in a trance in between them.  In the video, I look like it hurts, but up until transition, I can’t quite say they hurt.  It was a strong rush of energy and power, and it brought me to my knees in awe of my own body… and yes, in a way it hurt, but in another way, I just could not help but fall in love with my body with each wave I rode.  
I remember when it was time to vomit.  I felt it for minutes before it finally came, but when it did, I felt the rapid dilation and it blew my mind.  What a gift those vomit sessions were because although I only had two of them, I am convinced it knocked an hour or more off of my labor.  I felt my entire body open up.  This was not transition.

The breaks in between the contractions were incredibly peaceful.  At first the clouds were drifting over the mountains, and the rain was falling on us.  The breeze was so cool, and the sun hadn’t come out yet.  It felt like such an incredible gift to be home, and be facing mountains that were as old as time, really.  Mount Saint Helens had not come out yet, but we were waiting.
While my eyes were closed in a complete zone, the sun began to come out and my midwives leaned their heads back and basked in the sun with smiles on their faces.  I am so blessed to have the video because otherwise, I would not have been able to see how happy my whole team was the whole time.  I fell so in love with these women as I watched my video.
The contractions definitely grew in intensity, and my sounds grew as well.  There were times when I would shake, or vomit, or clench my fists- but I let my mouth open wide to keep everything loose, and I had moments of enjoyment in many of the contractions.  

Transition was less obvious for me than most, I believe.  I never had a moment where I felt I couldn’t do it, but there was a moment when I said, “I’m starting to have second thoughts.”  It made everyone chuckle and it still makes me laugh now.  I love how vague it was- I always knew I could do it, but in that moment, everything started to feel more difficult.  It was over quickly, and soon after, the urge to push would come, and blow me away.

The first time I felt the ‘urge to push’, the feeling was overwhelmingly intense and I would describe it as “vomiting out of my vagina.”  It was by far the most memorable sensation.  I was upright in the water, squatting, holding on to Michael when I really started to work with the contractions.  The sun was out.  Everyone was smiling and so giddy when I started to push.  The variation of sounds I would make as I pushed still make me laugh with a haunted humor.  I remember the sensation, and in part it makes me cringe, and in part I want to feel it again...  it was so powerful!
I think I had been pushing for 5-10 minutes when I requested my first dilation check.  I had not been checked at all until this point.  I immediately had a massive contraction during which I grunted “Your body is doing what it’s supposed to do” and “URGE TO PUSH URGE TO PUSH URGE TO PUSH OOOhhhhhhh….” so I am not sure why I felt the need to check, but my midwife confirmed that she felt the bag bulging.  Within minutes the next contraction hit and I felt my bags break.  POP!  I smiled blissfully in the midst of that contraction- so much work was done, and I yelled “YES I AM YES I AM” in response to my inner monologue of “you’re amazing, you can do this.”

The contractions were coming so hard and fast, and the sensations of pushing got so much stronger but I began to work with them more.  Grunting, moaning and “ooooh’ing” and the rest between the pushes were divine.  After a very animalistic contraction I nodded, high off my ass, and said, “right now I feel like I’m going to vomit out of my vagina, that’s what it feels like”, after which I said, “oh, emotions”, and immediately “This isn’t that hard” as I cried and then “Stay strong baby”, to Michael.
I looked up at the sky, saw the sun, knew how blessed I was and said, “I feel so honored.”  A feeling I still remember amidst the vivid memories of discomfort, but I love it so much, and it still holds true.  
Alison Krauss was playing as we rested, my midwives smiling and gazing over the mountains. Michael held me and me, and we prepared for the next wave.  

Finally, a contraction made me scream.  More of a wail, really.  I panted after the scream, and said, “it’s such an out of control feeling.”  I then laid forward into Michael’s chest and moaned, “I need a break.”  But immediately another contraction came- but I just submitted to that one.  It’s amazing that after an expression of exhaustion, sometimes you find the strength to fall into them deeper and deeper, rather than fight anything, and that’s when labor does it’s best work.

The next contraction:  Blew my mind.  I moaned, grunted, wailed, and breathed so deeply and let out an exhausted “yes!” and “Come on headdddd”.  “It’s not stopping, it’s not stopping” “why won’t it stop?” as it lasted a solid 2 minutes 14 seconds.  After that contraction, I laid back in the tub to rest.
The contractions kept coming but as I moaned “Come down baby, wiggle wiggle wiggle, please work for me” we knew it was almost time.  “Selah, it’s going to be so easy baby, come on.”  “Gentle gentle, soft and wide, breathe baby breathe” I moaned as the head crowned.  I remember hearing the things I would say to moms as I supported them through labor, and I just said it to myself.  

My midwife said, “Do you want to reach down and touch her head?”  So I did, and her head slid back in after which my eyes bulged and I pulled back at the startling feeling and said, “IT MADE IT GO BACK IN.”  
“Soft and wide, soft and wide” I grunted as the head kept coming.  “Breathe DOWN Breathe down breathe down”- She just kept coming.  I continued to smile amidst the pain, and coached myself, “Stretch stretch stretch, YOU CAN DO IT YOU CAN DO IT YOU CAN DO IT.”  

Finally, the head was almost out.  “Come on BABY, WIGGLE OUT!”  “Oooooopen up ooooopen up” I moaned as I imagined the most grotesquely open and enormous vagina.  “Come on Mama, you can do it”, as I doula’d myself.  Michael sat between my legs, stroking my shins gently and waited for his daughter.  His strength amazed me.  He was so gentle the whole time.
As the widest part of her head emerged I said, “CLITORIS, OH SHIT” because I’m convinced there is no other way to describe that feeling.  

I remember at this point, Michael looked at me and said, "babe, the clouds cleared and the mountain just came out." I did not look to see, but it felt like God telling me that she was almost here. It was amazing.
“You’re doin in, you’re doin it” I told myself out loud.  I let out an animal growl, a wail, and as the contraction released, I realized her head was almost out but not quite and I shook my head and said, “I’ll just wait here.”  Everyone laughed loudly.  
Then, in one solid slow consistent moan, “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING” I growl and then the head was out.  In between those contractions I smiled, laughed and said, “She’s so happy.”  I felt her head turning and wiggling between my legs and the memory of feeling her there still makes me cry.  

Minutes pass and the next swell hit- I let out a relaxed moan, let my butt lift and float as her body slid out so easily, it still amazes me.  It was so quiet, peaceful and easy in that moment.  

Michael caught her, pulled her out of the water and gave her to me.  I pulled her to my chest and held her calmly... and then the moment really hit me, when I started shaking and came back into reality. "What just happened?" With bugged eyes, I asked my birth team. "You just had a baby, girl!" My face in this photo sums up how I was feeling pretty perfectly.

But as I held her close, and let it all set it, the joy flooded over me. “Oh my god, it’s exactly what I thought it would be!”  

There, in the safety and solace of our home, overlooking our mountains and animals, Selah Rose was born exactly as I dreamed she would be- and miraculously, it was the most joyous moment of my life.  I had been told that I was ‘crazy’ for planning a home birth for my first, and that we were just crazy hippies for planning a fantasy birth like this.  “It will never happen just as you plan”- but it did.  It was everything I had hoped for.  It was the most beautiful, perfect and healing day of my life.  Labor was challenging, but my life has been so adventurous, so full of challenges, that I still cannot say this was my greatest accomplishment, or even the hardest thing I’ve done.  But it put me back together again, after 30 years of brokenness… and the love that I didn’t know I was capable of now overwhelmed me.  

Although the placenta contractions came upon me immediately, I wept and held her close as she snuggled and cried.  The placenta came out after about 15 minutes of strong contractions, and as it slid out I sighed in relief and said, “Now that’s fucking success right there.”  
The peace between us, Michael and I, as we sat in the tub, surrounded by the best team I could ask for, as we held our tiny little wonder- with the breeze kissing us and the sun blessing us, was everything I had planned, hoped and dreamed of.  It was otherworldly, and perfect.  

I am forever beyond grateful to my amazing husband Michael who vocally and strongly supported my birth rights and wishes, and advocated for me firmly. You are the strongest man I have ever known, and you have made me a stronger woman than I ever thought I could be. Thank you for trusting me with the birth of our daughter. I love you more today than ever before.

To my friend Casey, who took these amazing photographs- thank you from the bottom of my heart for the gift of your talent and for capturing the most beautiful day of my life so perfectly.  

Last but not least, to my midwives... you women are the reason I so fearlessly followed through on my hippy dippy dreams.  I am truly forever thankful for your belief in me, your experienced hands and your sensitive souls.  You listened to so many hours of my pain, my tears and my fears, and you were mothers when I had none.  Thank you for encouraging me to walk into motherhood as fearlessly as I was entering into birth.  My daughter has a better mother today, because of you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for every moment I could spend with the three of you.  You will never really know how much you've changed my life.