Disclaimer: Blog post contains graphic, natural birth photos.
This is our birth story, as I experienced it. I hope one day you are able to tell me about your experience, even if it is only a memory or two.
March 1st was the first full moon of March, also known as the Worm Moon. Native American tradition named the full moon that came right before the Spring Equinox, the Worm Moon, because it signals the reawakening of Mother Earth from her Winter slumber. The earth worms begin to surface from beneath the earth and the robins return. Spring is in the air…and what a beautiful time to be born.
I was ready for you to be born and patiently waiting for you to be ready. I did have a feeling that you would choose to arrive earth side on or near the first full moon of March. You’re my little moon baby, having been conceived on or the day after the June 2017 full moon, also known as the Strawberry Full Moon. The Strawberry Full Moon is a signal to gather ripening fruit and is the full moon before the Summer Solstice. It only felt right to call you in on the Worm Full Moon.
On February 28th, your Dad and and I went to Kate Sessions Park (the same place we got married nearly 10 years ago) to watch the full moon rise and celebrate your soon arrival. We found a peaceful spot on the grass, all bundled up because it had been unusually cold in San Diego. It was a partly cloudy night so we weren’t 100% sure we would see the moon over the horizon, but then there it was, above the cloud line…so beautiful and bright in a sky of pink and blues. We drew angel cards and talked about how excited we are to meet you.
My mom – your grandma – met us at the park to join in the celebration and give her blessings to your coming birth. We joked about how, maybe, my labor would be like hers – short and uncomplicated. I was nearly born in the back of their Subaru Outback as my Dad frantically drove to the hospital 45 minutes away. We laughed at the similarity of us owning a Subaru Outback now too. My mom said they were at bible study when her water broke, so we decided to all read the prayer of Saint Gerard (patron Saint of expectant mothers) together, just to recreate my birth story and call you in even more.
Once the full moon was high in the sky and the sun had gone down, the 3 of us went to dinner at World Curry and I ordered extra spicy curry – just in case the old wives tale of eating spicy food to stimulate labor is true. It was a simple meal at a simple restaurant but it is one of our favorites and we have been going there since living together in Pacific Beach. I went to bed early that night, in case you decided to come, I would be well rested.
I woke up feeling refreshed and peaceful on March 1st. Dad stayed home from work since this day was labeled as one of your “due dates.” The other due date was March 4th. I knew you would arrive between the 2 dates, I just had a feeling. We made breakfast and went for a walk on the beach. We walk barefoot on the beach together, almost every day. That day the beach, the ocean, the air – they all had a peaceful sense about them. I felt so peaceful. I said to Dad, “I am so peaceful today, this could be the calm before the storm.” He simply smiled and held my hand a little tighter as we continued our walk down the beach.
We spent most of the day relaxing together. We made sure we had everything in order and prepared for your arrival. I played my drum, matching the rhythmic beat of my own heart, as a way to connect even deeper with you, using a familiar vibration you have heard for the last 39 weeks. Dad and I took a walk to the bay to watch the moon rise once again and we made love later that evening. As awkward as it was to find the right position at first, it turned out to be a magical and orgasmic experience. I imagine you felt the magic too! Dad fell asleep early and I stayed up later, to write in my journal. I reflected on the last 39 weeks, something I am still working on writing about! I took some time to rub my pregnant belly one more time – to savor the last moments of feeling you inside of me. I knew you were coming.
As I wrote in my journal, I began to feel contractions. I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions every day, all day, for weeks. It took me a few contractions to realize that they felt different, stronger, sort of like my period was going to start. I decided to start timing them and they were consistently 10 minutes apart for 1 hour. I was in disbelief that I was in early labor but it was definitely different and being that I was already 3cm dilated, I knew that’s what it was. So, I decided to go to sleep so I could be rested for when active labor began.
But I couldn’t sleep because I was excited and nervous all at once! In between moments of light sleep, I would get out of bed and go into your nursery to move my body – swaying my hips side to side, squatting and practicing my breathing techniques through the mild contractions. I spent some time at my birth alter, honoring the divine feminine and calling in the wisdom of the mothers who came before me. I lit a candle, read my affirmations and went outside to stand on the earth and howl at the moon. I instinctively knew that connecting to mother earth would help ground me and keep me calm for the coming labor. I finally fell fast asleep at 2am and woke up at 5am (now March 2nd) when Dad’s alarm clock went off for work. I told him not to go in because I was having contractions every 10 minutes and had been all night. He said ok and cuddled up to me and we began to fall back to sleep together.
At 530am, I felt you move – you made a big movement – and I heard my water break! It literally made a muffled “pop” sound. I held very still for that split second, in awe – did I really just hear my water break!? I sure did. Seconds later, the amniotic fluid began to rush out from my vagina and I calmly said to Dad, “My water just broke!” The water began to soak into the bed so I got out of bed to go to the bathroom, and as I got up, the water splashed on the hard wood floor! Just like in the movies, which I was not expecting! It made us laugh. As Dad changed the sheets (so I had a dry, comfortable place to rest and labor), my contractions quickly went from every 10 minutes to every 2 minutes!
At 6am I texted my Doula, Gracie, letting her know my water broke and that my contractions were every 2 minutes. I let her know I was managing labor well at the moment – breathing through each contraction and staying active by walking around the house, swaying my hips, squatting and rocking on my yoga ball. I decided to take shower, both to clean up and find comfort in the hot water. At 630am the contractions started getting more painful and the best position for me was on all fours, rocking my hips from side to side, doing cat-cow yoga postures and breathing through it. I began to focus on repeating my birth affirmations, envisioning you in my arms and releasing tension through my breath. I stayed on all fours, for another 30 minutes when it really started to get intense and I felt a sense of urgency. I told Dad it was time to go to the hospital…a lot sooner than I expected! He called Gracie and she listened to me moan through 2 contractions before agreeing it was time to go and she would meet us there. She could hear you were coming by the deep, primal moaning I made through each contraction. At this time, I really began surrendering to the process, opening to the energy of birth and allowing my body, and you, take over.
It took me another 30 minutes, between contractions, to get dressed and feel fully prepared to go to the hospital. I wanted to eat something, I had no appetite, but I knew I would need energy so I forced myself to eat a yogurt. And I hydrated as much as I could. It was 730am when we left to go to the hospital. We forgot it was rush hour…and the traffic caused a 15-minute delay in our journey. Instead of 15 minutes, it took us 30 minutes to get to the hospital! I hated laboring in car because sitting was more painful for me. I was using my feet and legs to keep my pelvis and hips elevated off the seat during the contractions. I’m sure anyone who looked into my widow while we were stopped in traffic, knew I was in labor because I was moaning, grimacing and raising my body, all while trying to keep up with my breathing techniques and affirmations! Dad was talking me through it, encouraging me and supporting me the whole way there.
We arrived on the Labor & Delivery floor at 8am. I had to make frequent stops, along the way from the car to the unit, to hold onto Dad or the wall railing to breath and squat through the contractions. The nurses greeted me, saying, “You must be Sierra Baker, we have your room ready. Do you need a wheel chair?” I could barely speak through contractions, as I wanted to maintain my focus and breath, so I just shook my head “no” as I moaned through another contraction. They knew I was coming because Dad called my OB and told her I was in labor and she called the L&D unit to notify them. The charge nurse, Jess, led the way to my labor room.
As we entered the room, Jess told me she was the Charge Nurse and will be my Nurse until the on-call Nurse arrives. She also had a nursing student with her and I agreed to let the student be a part of my care. I told the student L&D surprised me when I was in nursing school 15 years ago and that everything is done so differently now. One major goal – and challenge – for me was to turn off my nurse brain and tune into the innate wisdom and power of my body. I had to be calm and ignore what the nurses were doing. I did my best to not pay attention to their techniques, the monitors and their workflow. Jess instructed me on what to expect over the next hour and asked me to change into a hospital gown, which I refused because I brought my own gown to labor in. It was actually Auntie Laura’s personal gown she labored in for both her babies. It was a special way for me to include her in my birthing experience. As I changed and went to the bathroom, Dad set up the speaker and got the calming music playing. I simply chose to play a Crystal Sound Bowl station on Pandora that I spent months perfecting. He also opened my hospital bag and prepared my other comfort measures such as aromatherapy and an eye mask in case I was having trouble turning off my nurse brain and watching the monitor. We brought sage spray I had made and Dad cleared the space where I would be laboring. When Dad was done preparing our space, he went to move the car to the parking lot (we parked in the patient unloading zone upon arrival).
The contractions continued every 2 minutes, getting stronger and stronger with each one. The on-call Nurse, Julia, arrived shortly after Dad went to move the car. It was at that moment, I announced your name, excited at the synchronicity of my Nurse having the female version of your name. I also loved that the Charge Nurse was named Jess, it reminded me that my best friend, angel Jessica, was with me and you, to help us in our birthing journey. I felt supported by these Nurses and felt safe in this L&D room. Julia and Jess were busy preparing my care plan, starting my IV (which remained as a saline lock only, for emergency medications) and reviewing consents and paperwork with me. It was near impossible for me to fill out paperwork! Luckily, this was a moment for me to use my nurse brain, I knew exactly what each form and consent stated so I was able to rapidly check the boxes and fill out the forms. Dad returned and with him, our Doula Gracie arrived.
Shortly after we greeted Gracie and introduced her to the Nurses, the Nurse Midwife, Jen arrived. I once again got excited at the synchronicity of the Nurses and Midwife all having “J” names, just like you. I immediately got a positive sense with Jen, I had never met her before, but I just knew she was the right Midwife for me. She was sent by our angels. I gave her my Labor & Birth Preferences sheet, which outlined a natural/medication free/medical interventions only in emergency situations labor and birth. Jen reviewed it and she assured me that everything on my sheet, she supported and was part of her routine practice. She didn’t judge me or question anything on my plan, simply confirmed she will follow it. My Labor & Birth Preferences also included directions for an emergent C Section, just in case. She warned me that if post labor, after I deliver my placenta, if there was excessive bleeding, she would highly recommend starting a Pitocin drip to slow the bleeding. I agreed to this, knowing that if I was hemorrhaging, it would take me away from you. However, I confirmed to myself that this would not happen and repeated my affirmations.
Jen told me, if she could get a stable tracing with the fetal monitor for 20 minutes, I could be off the monitor and free to move around. She wanted to me to do Spinning Babies techniques and take a hot shower when I was off the monitor. She then asked me if she could perform a vaginal exam, to check my cervix. I agreed and she gently checked, to my surprise I was already 6cm dilated! Thank Goddess, because if I was still only 3-4cm, I would have started questioning my idea of no pain meds! But I affirmed to myself that this birth will be smooth and uncomplicated and that I can do it naturally. Dad and Gracie were right there with me, supporting me, massaging me, giving me sips of water or apple juice and encouraging me through every contraction. I still wanted to be on all fours, but the monitor wasn’t giving the Nurses a good enough tracing. They tried adjusting and tightening it, but they couldn’t capture your heart beat so they asked me to sit in a semi-reclining position on my back. As painful as it was, I agreed because 20 minutes of monitoring was worth it to me, to be free from the monitor.
It was now about 845am when I had been monitored long enough to get a good tracing and be off the monitor. Your heart rate was completely stable the entire time! Jen, approved and released me from the monitor. She encouraged me to take a shower or try Spinning Babies moves, but all I could do was remain on all fours. Eventually, I turned to facing the head of the bed and had Gracie elevate it to a 45-degree angle. I stacked pillows for my belly to rest on and I leaned up against the bed, like in a kneeling position. This felt much better, I could grip the head of the bed during a contraction and feel both supported and comfortable. I was hot, so I ripped off the gown and continued to labor naked. Each contraction was getting stronger and stronger, and I was going deeper and deeper into the experience. Letting go of fear, releasing expectations and embracing the flow of our birth energy. My moans were turning into deep screams, it’s what felt natural in releasing the pain. Everything around me seemed to fade away or get blurry. I am not even sure if the nursing student was still in the room and I barely remember what Julia was saying to me. All I remember is Dad, ever so patient and loving, rubbing my back, pressing on my sacrum and encouraging me through each contraction.
Another 45 minutes went by, I labored in the same two positions – either on all fours or kneeling against the head of the bed. I made it once to bathroom to pee, and considered taking a shower, but I felt in a better position on the bed, on all fours, so that is where I stayed. I didn’t know what time it was, but my contractions were so strong, I started thinking it was getting so intense that I didn’t know how much more I could take. I was feeling exhausted and the pain was getting stronger. I sort of began to panic inside, loosing my focus and my breath. Then I remembered a couple of my close girl friends telling me, “Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, you’re almost there.” Their voices revived me, it reminded me to trust my body and that I could make it, I was almost there! At that moment, I felt the sudden urge to push. I looked at Gracie and told her, “I have to push, he’s coming!” She calmly replied, “Go ahead and push.” So I did. Then I heard Gracie tell someone to go get the Midwife.
Jen was already on her way, and walked in the door at that very moment. I was happy to see her, she was calm and smiling. She encouraged me to continue listening to my body and follow my intuition. She asked Julia to get the birthing tray and then asked me if she could perform another vaginal exam, which I agreed to. I was now 10cm dilated, 100% effaced! She once again told me to go with the flow and push when I felt the urge. The contractions were at their peak, stronger than ever before and my deep screams turned into louder screams. My mind was no longer in control, all I could focus on was my breath and the sweet words of encouragement coming from Dad. I was still kneeling up against the head of the bed as my body took over my labor and I began to push, hard, with each contraction. I was amazed to hear Jen’s excited voice telling me she could see your head! She told me to reach down and feel your head, so I did. Wow. That was amazing, to feel your head, emerging from my vagina, with my own hands. It gave me the power and motivation to keep going. I had Dad, Jen, Julia and Gracie all cheering me on, encouraging me to keep going.
After a few minutes of pushing, your head was out and Jen told me I only needed to push one or two more times and I’ll be holding you! This was it, I gave each contraction my all, pushing as hard as I could, knowing my reward – you – will be in my arms soon! After 2 more pushes, I felt the sudden release, an amazing sense of satisfaction, as you came flowing through the birth canal and into the world. You cried immediately, letting me know you were ok and creating an instant bond between us. Jen told me to sit back and lift my leg as she passed you to Dad, who passed you to my chest. You arrived at 946am! I was in complete awe, heart bursting wide open, filling with pure love and gratitude. I held you tightly to my chest and Dad, crying sweet tears of joy, held on to the two of us. I felt a sense of wholeness as my life instantly changed in that moment. I felt like a butterfly bursting out from her cocoon as I thought to myself, “I am a mother.”
We remained skin to skin for one hour and you began breast feeding within in 15 minutes of being born. As we gazed into each other eyes, I immediately fell in love with you, still in awe to be holding my baby boy, knowing we will be forever connected. Jen monitored my bleeding, while she allowed for delayed cord clamping and patiently awaited the delivery of my placenta. It was after about 20 minutes when I felt the urge to push with another contraction and delivered my placenta. Jen held it up and said, “Look at that, a beautiful tree of life!” And sure enough, that is exactly what it was. We saved my placenta for Gracie to dry and encapsulate it for me. Jen then allowed Dad to cut the umbilical cord. You were alert and stable and your APGAR scores were 9. We did not rub off the vernix and there were no interventions or monitoring done within that first hour. After the first hour of skin to skin with me, you spent another 15 minutes or so doing skin to skin with Dad before Julia measured and weighed you. You were completely calm and alert during their exam and Dad stayed right by your side, holding onto you. Jen said I lost a minimal amount of blood and my vital signs were stable, but there was a tiny, internal vaginal tear that needed a stitch. She said my perineum was intact, but that this tear needed a stitch and I agreed to have her place it. She said, otherwise, there was nothing for me to worry about and to continue enjoying our bonding.
I didn’t give you any medications post-birth. I had to talk to a pediatrician on the phone, who reviewed the risks and benefits of the standard medications given to newborns in the hospital and I simply refused. I signed a consent stating I was refusing to administer the medications and vaccines. Julia monitored me for another hour or so and with everything being stable, we were moved to the Post-Partum floor around noon. It was at this time that Gracie left us. Our post-partum room was small, but cozy, and I continued to keep my nurse brain off, trying not to see a hospital room, but to see it as our family room for the next 24 hours. Dad spent some time clearing the space in this room and setting up our stuff – from turning on the music, to getting me water, hot herbal tea and snacks, to helping me get into my pink robe from Jessica (it was my way of including her in our birth). Then my post-partum Nurse came in to introduce herself, and to our surprise, her name was Sierra! It was magical how the Midwife and all the Nurse’s names had a special meaning to me.
The remainder of the day flew by and I was high on post-birth adrenaline and hormones. You were feeding well and already had your first poop! Every Nurse or CNA that came in were amazed at how well you were doing. When the old school nurse, Marsha “the Baby Nurse,” came in to assess how you were feeding and looking, she was also amazed. She advised me not to tell any of my friends that my labor was so fast and that I only had to push for 10 minutes. She said, “Just keep that to yourself.” She explained that it’s rare for a first time Mom to have such a fast labor and she didn’t want me going around making my friends feel bad.
That first night was long, I think I only slept for one hour. I couldn’t stop staring at you. I fed you every time you stirred and woke up. And when my adrenaline wore off, the pain set in. I had almost forgot that my cervix just stretched wide open and my vagina expanded and tore a tiny bit in order to birth you. I agreed to take some Ibuprofen to help ease the pain so I could rest. My night Nurse Jenny (another J name!), brought it to me and agreed to let us rest and bond, not bothering us unless I called. The next morning, the day shift Nurse was named Danielle, an experienced Nurse, who told me I could go home if I wanted to…and, of course, I said yes! We waited for the Pediatrician to assess you and approve your release and we waited for my OB’s Nurse Practitioner to assess and approve my release as well. You passed your hearing test and we even got to take beautiful photos with a professional photographer who is contracted with the hospital. After everything was in order and we signed our discharge paperwork, we got to go home when you were only 30 hours old!
Dad drove us home and we settled in, continuing to bond, heal and adjust to our new life together as a family of 3.
Love You To The Moon And Beyond,
Notes from my Instagram post:
During the end of my pregnancy, I faced a challenge that taught me an important lesson. It was during that challenge, I realized I am not in control of birth – it’s going to happen as it is meant to happen. I learned that I must release fear and control in order to surrender to the process and allow the energy of birth to flow naturally. I learned that I must birth without fear.
Birth is Birth. It doesn’t matter if you have an unassisted birth, a home birth, a natural birth, a hospital birth, a medicated birth or a belly birth (aka c-section)…birth is birth and it’s beautiful! For me, as a holistic nurse, I’m continually striving to bridge the gap between holistic healing and allopathic medicine. To have been able to experience a natural, unmedicated birth, without medical intervention in the hospital setting, I feel I bridged that gap, honoring my purpose and setting an example within the conventional medicine world. I share my birth story to encourage other mamas-to-be as well as health care providers. I share without judgment on how birth should be and celebrate birth, in all it’s forms. I share my story to help empower other women to birth without fear.