A baby is never born alone. With it, comes the placenta - a second birth which occurs right after the baby’s, and unfortunately a very neglected and important part of the birth story. We can only say that labour has officially ended when the placenta is born - not the baby itself. The placenta is vital to creating and sustaining human life, it is the interface between mother and child, and in many cultures it is considered sacred. Every single person on Earth has lived with one for 9 months, so how come we know so little of it?
Among the placenta’s many incredible and unique functions are:
It is also the only temporary organ developed in adulthood, and the only one that does not share the host’s DNA, but rather shares the same DNA as the baby. This would make the placenta the child’s “twin”, so to speak, and maybe that is one of the reasons why it has been used in rituals and consecrated in different cultures across the globe. Some believe it to be an angel that protects the baby, or that it represents the child’s roots so it should be buried or planted with a tree, while others use it as an amulet or as a medicinal compound. There are countless traditions surrounding the placenta across millennia, and until very recently, with the advance of modern medicine, it was still very respected and revered after the child was born. Nowadays, it is usually thrown away, discarded as hospital waste.
We do know that even after birth, the placenta is still rich in vitamins, minerals, hormones and stem cells. One of the safest ways the placenta can be of use is by preserving placental tissue through a stem cell bank, since these stem cells can treat diseases and conditions throughout the child’s life. Still, you only need a small portion of blood and tissue to store in a stem cell bank, and that means the rest of it would be thrown away - unless you decide to do something different.
As you may have heard, placenta consumption (in capsules or in smoothies, for example) has become increasingly popular. It may seem like an otherworldly act to ingest your own placenta, but it is actually nearly omnipresent among mammals, both carnivores and herbivores. Out of all the over 4000 species of terrestrial mammals, only those of the camel family do not ingest their placentas after giving birth. Although there is little scientific evidence regarding the benefits of consuming your own placenta, those who have tried it usually testify that they feel more energy, less stress, have an easier time breast/chest-feeding, present more immunity, and fewer occurrences of baby blues and even postpartum depression.
If it feels like too much, that’s ok - I’m not saying it’s for everyone, and there are definitely situations where ingesting your placenta could be harmful to you and your baby. There are other ways you can honor the placenta:
Any contact you can have with your placenta is already therapeutic, even if you can’t take it home due to medical reasons. Look at it, touch it if you want, thank it for protecting and serving you and your baby. This can make such a huge difference in your postpartum, helping you get a sense of closure and healing from any trauma along your journey.
Full Circle offers consultations in placenta services and can help you in figuring out the best way for you to benefit from its properties. Contact us to find out more.
Placenta Medicine Manual - Daniela Paz Salinas, 2017
Influencia de la Reincorporación Oral de la Placenta (ROP) Autóloga Tras el Parto en la Evolución Bioquímica Sanguínea y Láctea - Sergio L Sanchez Suarez, 2015
Placenta, the Forgotten Chakra - Robin Lim, 2014
Placenta: The Gift of Life - Cornelia Enning, 2007
Estudio Bromatológico de la Placenta Humana - Sergio Sánchez Suarez, 2003
“It’s a strange feeling having guilt around sharing a positive birth story as I know birth is so unpredictable and doesn’t always go to plan. People are quick to tell you their negative birth experiences when you are pregnant and it is usually followed by some iteration of “oh you just wait, you will see what I’m talking about”. We need more positive stories around birth out there so that is why I am sharing my positives unmedicated home birth story.
I have always wanted kids and when I found out I was pregnant I was so grateful and excited. I did A LOT of research and preparation for birth. I knew, in the ideal situation, I would give birth at home, in water, and with no medical interventions. In preparation for birth, I read a lot of books, some of my favorites being “Babies are not Pizzas. They are Born not Delivered”, “Sweet Sleep” and “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”. We also took classes with Sonya our doula and also a hypnobabies prenatal class with Ricky Issler, which I think significantly contributed to how I was able to cope during birth.
My water broke at 9pm on June 9, which also happens to be my birthday. My husband and I were out with friends but I quickly excused ourselves cause I thought something was up. On the car ride home I knew for sure my water had broke, as I was now sitting in a large puddle in my freshly detailed car lol. When we got home I texted my midwife and doula to let them know my water broke but no contractions had started and both of them said to take some gravol and get some rest! By 10pm I had taken my gravol and was laying down to rest listening to my hypnobabies sound track, while my husband was frantically getting the rug moved in the living room, blowing up the pool, and getting some things crossed off the todo list (baby was 7 days early).
Laying down to rest didn’t last long as I quickly became very uncomfortable in any laying position. It started out with cramping and I quickly knew I was having real contractions. I kept trying to lay back down cause I thought I was in for the long haul and knew I needed rest, but now the only place I could get comfortable was on the toilet. Around 12:30am we checked in with our doula and I was still talking through contractions, I was nauseous so I was throwing up every once and a while but my contractions were only about 20 - 30 secs long and we agreed to check back soon.
I continued to labour on the toilet for a while as any other position didn’t feel good. Around 2am my husband brought up the birthing ball to give that a try and that was a great relief. I was now concentrating very hard, still listening to my hypnobabies relaxation music and making a deep humming sound which helped me focus.
As we neared 3am things were intensifying and I was getting the chills which I knew could mean I was going into the transition stage of labor. We decided we should time the contractions, they were 45 secs long and coming quickly. The doula and midwife were called and both were on route. My husband moved me downstairs to continue to labour on the birthing ball. I also had the tens machine on now which was a nice distraction.
Once the doula and midwife arrived and were set up, we started to fill the pool. At around 4:30am my midwife asked if I wanted to be checked to see how far along we were and I agreed. Much to all of our amazement, I was already 9cm and started to have the pushy feelings. The pool couldn’t fill up fast enough at this point lol!
By 5am I was in the pool and activity pushing. The water was such a nice relief. After about 1.5 hours of pushing in the pool we were making progress but not as much as we would have liked to see. We moved to land ie. the couch around 6:50am and within 20 mins we had a beautiful baby boy in our arms!
My birth was very fast for a first time birth. Baby was with us just 10 hours after my water broke. I am so grateful I had such a positive birth experience and that I was able to stick to my plan, but I was also willing to change the plan if it needed to be changed. Healthy baby and healthy mom is the most important thing at the end of the day.
The best part: having such a supportive birthing team and husband. Their words of encouragement really help get you through. And of course, having a healthy baby come into the world.
The worst part: the ring of fire lol (when the babies head is crowning and about to be born). This is the only moment I would describe as painful, it only lasted a few moments as I waited for the next contraction to come and birthed the babies head. Oh and when they push on your stomach after birth, that was not cool lol.
Most helpful coping strategies:
I hope this story encourages anyone considering an unmedicated birth whether at home or in the hospital!
A labour and birth story in the time of a pandemic, written by his mother, Pamela Sims.
The pregnancy was full of anxiety with little reason. I was sure that since we got pregnant quickly that it would end just as quickly. I was sure that because I was pregnant I would lose my chance at a contract. I was sure that I would get Covid and it would hurt the fetus. I was anxious. But all of the anxiety was misplaced energy.
As we got closer to my due date I began to worry that COVID rules were going to prevent my doula, or worse Mike, from being there. The day before my water broke, I cried telling Mike that I was worried about us seeing people because if he got sick, he wouldn’t be able to be with me. I already knew that if I was induced that he wouldn’t be able to be with me until I was moved into labour and delivery. I wanted to make sure that he could be with me for as much of the experience as possible.
I was 39 weeks pregnant on a Sunday morning around 8am when I noticed that there was a bit of fluid in my underwear. I was starting to wonder if it could be my water breaking so I googled “how to tell if my water broke or if I peed my pants.” I was mortified.
When Mike came into the bedroom to get ready I said, “I just want to give you a heads up about where I am” as I showed him what I had searched. He laughed; so, I laughed. Fluid was definitely coming out! I burst into tears! I was immediately overwhelmed. Mike suggested we call Sonya, our doula. Sonya quickly confirmed that it was most likely my water. I laugh-cried. I couldn’t believe that I had just called another adult to ask if I peed my pants.
We made our way to the hospital. Because of Covid Mike had to leave me at the front door and I was brought up by a porter. Earlier in the pregnancy being separated was my worst fear. I was so grateful for Sonya because she had prepared me for having to go up on my own.
They checked both me and the baby’s vitals and did a swab of the fluid. I was one centimetre dilated. While I waited for the results, I put my hair into French braids. Having my hair in French braids felt like it was going to be a difference-maker in my labour experience. The doctor came in and explained that my water had indeed broken, but with no contractions. I had to decide if I wanted to wait to see if they would start or if I wanted to be induced right away.
I called Mike and then we conference called Sonya. We discussed the options and Sonya explained the process. I decided to go home and see if the contractions would start on their own. I really wanted to avoid being induced. I knew that typically contractions from an induction hurt more and that increased the use of an epidural. I wasn’t against pain medication, but I wanted to limit what was used and how much if possible. I knew the induction would make those choices harder. I also knew that if I was induced that Mike wouldn’t be able to join me until I was in active labour. That could be hours. I didn’t want to be separated from him.
We went home and finished getting ready for baby. Mike had some work he had to get done that week so he also made good use of that time. We ordered dinner and mom came over to rebraid my hair. Again, this was an essential part of my birth plan.
At 8 pm we made our way back to the hospital. Mike took me to the door and then went back to the car. I went up to be assessed. I was still one centimetre dilated with no contractions so the doctor and nurses began preparing for me to be induced.
We were very fortunate. Good timing in a pandemic. It was a slow day in labour and delivery so I was moved to labour and delivery right away. Normally, they don’t move you until you are in active labour. I was terrified that Mike wouldn’t be able to support me through this time and he would be in the car for hours. Because they were able to move me in right away, he was able to support me through the whole experience.
Contractions did not start right away. All night the nurses checked on me and the baby every 30 minutes because I was on the highest dose of oxytocin they can give. Around 8 the next morning I stated to feel minor contractions.
They escalated quickly. Mike texted Sonya to ask her to join us. By then the contractions felt like my pelvis was splitting in two. I decided that they could “cut the baby out” if they wanted to. I just needed the pain to stop.
I waited to make any decisions about pain management until Sonya arrived. Once she was there we discussed comfort measures and pain medication. I decided to try fentanyl.
They didn’t want to give me morphine incase
I wanted an epidural later and the morphine could still be in my system. The nurse was really concerned that I would need an epidural and would not be able to have one.
I felt strongly about starting with a smaller type of pain medication before going all in.
I’m so happy I did. The fentanyl work perfectly for me. I dozed between contractions and no longer wanted them to cut the baby out.
As the contractions became more frequent and intense I needed Mike beside me. Sonya supported us in this need as well. She made sure he had everything he needed so he didn’t have to leave me. Mike supported me by doing double hip squeezes, swaying with me, and anything else I asked.
I wasn’t allowed to eat but I snuck some orange slices anyways. I thought I was sneaky, but then I threw up. It was very apparent I had eaten more than just “clear foods”. I threw up one more time during labour. When I felt the need to vomit coming on, I yelled for something to throw up into. The small kidney bowl was not enough. Mike ended up covered in vomit. As the nurses tracked him down a new pair of pants, I laughed and asked Mike to text my dad because he would be able to relate because my Mom threw up on him when she was in labour with me! I found out later that my dad immediately called my mom to discuss how similar their experiences were.
The contractions progressed and I started to feel a urge to push. Sonya caught that one as well. I kept going to the bathroom, with Mike in tow. She asked if I was feeling the urge to push and I admitted I was. They told me I couldn’t. Not pushing when your body wants nothing more than to push was torture. A nurse suggested that I push against Mike when I felt the urge. So while he ate his lunch I pushed against his back with both feet.
We cycled through multiple positions and comfort measures. Not pushing continued to be the worst part. All I wanted to do was push. They checked my cervix and I was 9 cm dilated and fully effaced on one side. By the time
I was fully dilated but the one side had not changed. I was prepared to beg for them to let me push.
I asked Sonya to explain to me why I could not push. I reluctantly accepted her answer and continued to wait. And wait.
When they finally told me I could push I was elated. I realized for the first time I had not even considered asking for an epidural. I wondered briefly if they would give me one at that point. I was just so relieved that I could push. Sonya explained what pushing would be like and how the baby needs to travel. They explained that there would be additional doctors in the room in case the baby needs support because of the fentanyl.
I pushed on my back and then on my side. I moved to my back again. I could feel my body getting tired. My arms were beginning to ache and feel weak from using them to leverage. I was no longer able to use the handles to help me push. I had Mike on my right side and our nurse on my left. As the baby got close to crowning Sonya helped me reach down and feel his head.
As the baby crowned, my contraction ended. I yelled, “I want another contraction!” The nurses and doctors laughed. When the contraction finally came, they talked me through the push. I was ready for the sensation of his head leaving my body but the rest of the birth surprised me. I panicked and asked for someone to explain what I was feeling. Sonya quickly explained that what I was feeling was his shoulders, followed by his torso, and then his feet. And he was born. They placed Oliver on my stomach. I could feel him but could not see him clearly. I was immediately in awe of the small human laying on my stomach.
Everything slowed down. There was plenty of movement and I am sure that the doctors and nurses where moving quickly but all I could focus on was that the human I have been waiting to see was here and Mike. We had made this tiny human. Mike cut the umbilical cord and they moved the baby up to my chest. I still couldn’t see him clearly but I could feel and hold him. I was in awe.
We tried to get him to latch to start breastfeeding but my nipple wouldn’t cooperate. Sonya encouraged us and made suggestions but when it wasn’t working she made sure I felt that it was okay to stop and try again later.
I was so full of questions. Did I tear? (Yes, first degree with a small second degree tear) Did I poop? (“I normally don’t tell but no.” However it is possible she was lying) Does he have two eyes? I have only seen one! (Yes) Does he look like he had Down syndrome? (He had markers for Down syndrome at our anatomy scan. No).
We all guessed his weight. Sonya, the doctors and the nurses all guessed around 7lbs. I guessed 3. He was so tiny. How could he be any bigger than that? 7 lbs 10 ounces.
We moved into the recovery room. We started making our phone calls to let our family know he was born. Because of Covid we knew no one would be able to meet him until we got home. Little did we know, the government would be prohibiting all gatherings the next day. While we broke the rules for our parents, his aunts and uncles still haven’t met him at 7 weeks old.
The rest of our visit was a blur. We had a great experience at the Grey Nuns. I was extremely proud of myself for asking for help with nursing each time. We stayed an extra night to get more support with Oliver’s latch. The paediatrician had no concerns but the nurse that was discharging us seemed concerned about his colour.
We went home. We were so excited to settle into our new life! We had a lot of support lined up. Our doula was going to be there the next morning and my mom and stepdad were next door. I felt confident.
The next day we had our appointment with the public health nurse. The nurse was concerned about jaundice and sent off a blood sample. She explained that if the numbers were as high as she thought they might be, he would need to be rehospitalized. I cried. We went home and waited to hear back.
About 4:00 she called and said he needed to be admitted back into the hospital. She said only one parent could stay with him and that since I am breastfeeding it would be ideal if it is me. I have been a mom for less than 72 hours and I am going to be alone in the hospital. I know many women experience this but it wasn’t what I had thought my experience was going to be. My heart was breaking and I was terrified. When we arrived at the hospital we were pleasantly surprised to find that Mike could stay with us. We weren’t in the NICU like I imagined but a postpartum room. We were together in a comfortable space. They even had dinner for one of us.
Breastfeeding while Oliver was treated for jaundice was different. I was told to time my breastfeeding and then pump after. Oliver was to eat formula. I felt like I had failed him. I couldn’t be enough. This started a whole new set of feelings and challenges.
We spent two more nights at the hospital until his numbers were in the clear. While the doctor said he was healthy and in the clear, my confidence was shaken. The following week we saw a paediatrician and a lactation consultant. Both were not concerned about Oliver and I felt like we were ready to settle in. The lactation consultant suggested we get him weighed around two weeks.
When Oliver was weighed at two weeks, he was not back up to his birth weight. At his three week checkup he was still not there. He was not gaining weight as fast as he should be. I was devastated. I failed him yet again. We started combo feeding. It has been an adjustment that is stressful and disappointing but he is growing and healthy. I’m starting to trust my instincts again but it’s hard after feeling like I’ve dropped the ball so many times. After feeling like I have failed him so early on. I’m trying to settle in. I’m starting to trust myself. I’m starting to trust him to tell me what he needs. It was a bumpy start but we are okay. We are healthy. We are happy.
For a good laugh check this video out: Amy Schumer, Turtle Births and Sherpa Doulas.
her portrayal of midwives/doulas is obviously not accurate, we are highly trained and educated, just saying.
I know I’m guilty of this – I rarely take time to address, honor or mark the milestones in my life. Sometimes, this takes a toll on me! It can feel like all of these important events are flying by and my journey seems to be going far too quickly. Sacred Pregnancy is about slowing down, appreciating the little (and big!) changes your body is going through and honoring this transitional time in your life.
A Sacred Pregnancy retreat will teach you to take time for yourself – even if it’s 5 minutes a day. It outlines the importance of meditation and journaling to connect to yourself and your baby and create a sacred space for reflection. It will also encourage you to take a serious look at the expectations you hold surrounding pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Women will get all kinds of pregnancy and birth messages from the time they are a young girl until the step onto the pregnancy, birth and motherhood path. Are the expectations you have realistic? Are they serving you in a positive way? Some of these messages are healthy, good and empowering, but most from society at large are not. It’s important for us to look at our expectations and where they come from, or at least where do we think they came from. It’s also especially important to know that every birth story is a normal birth story. It’s your journey; it’s your life lesson.
Sacred Pregnancy is connection, is facing and forgiving your fears, is honoring the body that is growing an extension of love, is sisterhood. It’s growing your circle. It’s learning to change – because you are changing! Motherhood is a journey and pregnancy is just the beginning – so slow down when you can, you deserve to celebrate it!
Samara Oscroft is the co-creator of our postpartum belly binds and is working on her Sacred Pregnancy certifications.
Dominic Boire - your father
Barbara Sriver - primary midwife
Jenna Craig- second midwife
Sonya Duffee - Doula extraordinaire
Sonya agreed to come over in the morning. Around 5:30am, having not slept that great dad and I figured it would be good for me to have something to eat and just rest. I was instructed oatmeal would be a good choice. I ate a bowl and went back to bed. Not even 10 minutes after I laid down, I felt the desire to vomit. I sprung out of bed trying to make it to the bathroom and I vomited everywhere! Carpet, curtains, bedspread, pillows. Nothing was safe. Your dad was so great and took it like a champ and got everything cleaned up. I went back to bed to rest until Sonya arrived.
Sonya arrived around 7am ish and by this time my contractions had started to slow down. I went back to bed and try to get as much rest as possible as I knew I would have a lot of work to do. As the morning went on the contractions slowed down and by midafternoon they slowed to about two to four contractions an hour. Sonya left our place around 11am and said to call her when the contractions started to increase in intensity and frequency.
Our first moment together, photo take by our doula
Dad and I did end up going to see the midwife Barbara at her office around 4pm. We were still having some contractions. She checked my blood pressure and it was good. She also measured my belly and measured from my pubic bone to the top of my uterus. It was 37.5cm which was larger than the week before. I was surprised by this because you had dropped a lot and started to make a lot of room, your bum was no longer at the top and your feet were no longer kicking me in the ribs. While we're at the midwife she mentioned there is a drink that we could drink that will help start labour's intensity. We had to go and pick up one of the needed ingredients at the Italian centre nearby. As soon as we got home we made it and then I drank it around 5:30pm when we got home. I also tried to eat some almonds and drink water. I wasn't able to keep any food or anything down, but the drink did have some protein in it, so I was grateful for that. As Barb had predicted the contractions started again around 6.30pm. Dad was starting to get pretty concerned and uncomfortable and the contractions were starting to get closer and closer. Dom did contact Sonya for here to come over to provide some support.
Barb showed up closer to 9pm. We brought everything we had in the living room down stairs and we continued down there for about 30 minutes before we started to fill the birthing tub for me to go in. I really enjoyed the birthing tub as it reduced the pressure, I was mostly on my hands and knees and your dad would put pressure on my lower back during the contractions. I started to feel like I wanted to push so Barb check my cervix to make sure it was fully dilated so that I could start to push. Turns out cervix was only 3 to 4 cm dilated and you had turned sunny side up and were really far back towards my back.
I'll be really honest with you when Barb told me this my heart sank and I wanted to quit. I wanted to go to the hospital and get some medical intervention. Luckily Barb had a pretty frank conversation with me and I had a decision to make on what I need to do next, with the support of the team I decided to continue and stay strong. Bard told me that I would need to eventually get out of the tub and onto the bed so that I could lay in a position that would help you turn into proper position. That is what we did, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, they were about 1.5 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. I was really amazed with myself because somehow I managed to relax through these really intense contractions and you eventually helped me and turned into proper position. My cervix also became fully dilated and it was around 10 pm.
I went back into the pool to go and push you out. I laid really low and had my hands up on the side of the pool for support, you dad was at my head holding my hands and reading the positive affirmation we had hung up in the room. Barb kept on checking me and the progress I was making. Around 10.30pm I actually felt you head as you were almost ready to come out. This gave me a second wind and the energy to finish and get to hold you in my arms. By 11 pm you were really close and Barb could see your head getting ready to come out and by 11.37 you were born. You head came out on one contraction and we waited for your shoulders to come out on the contraction after that.
Barb passed you through my legs under water into you Dad’s arms and then I quickly grabbed you. I then laid my my back against the tub and held you skin to skin. I eventually looked to see if you were a boy or a girls. It took you a little bit of time before you started to breathe and make noise. Barb continued rub you back and eventually you started to make noises, but we could tell you still had stuff in your lungs. It took several minutes before you were screaming and it was clear most of your lungs were clear.
Turns out your dad's prediction was right and you were a boy. Your dad actually thought you were going to be a baby boy before I even took a pregnancy test. He also picked you name when I was about 15 weeks pregnant. Throughout the night your dad was keeping your Aunty Dawn and Grandma posted on the progress of the birth so that they could pray for us that everything goes well. Turns out your mom let your great Grandma Boire know and she contacted the nuns in Toronto to pray for us. Your dad was also having a texting battle with Grandma Sharon because she thought you were going to be a girl. By you being a boy your dad was given two bottles of port, one from Papa Ron and the second from Uncle Dustin.
Back to your birth story... Eventually the umbilical cord stopped throbbing and your dad cut it. I kept you on my chest for a little while and just really enjoyed holding you, I was still in a state of shock and overwhelmed by what my body had just experienced. But it was pretty clear in your dad's eyes how much he loved you and was excited to touch you. I then transitioned into starting to be time to deliver the placenta so you dad got to hold you while I did that. He was pretty excited and got to really connect with you, when he held you, you started to calm down and breathe better. He got to experience your skin change color change to a nice healthy pink color. Even though I did want him too he brought you for a quick tour of the house as he got some more towels for me.
I was a little jealous how he was able to hold you for so long while I was delivering the placenta. I was really struggling with it and we tried many different things. We started in the tub, then moved to the shower and then finally to the bed and it still wasn't coming out. While I was on the bed I did get to hold you while I tried to breast feed you. You latched on right away and I was so grateful.
Eventually while I was on the bed the placenta did come out. Turns out it was the biggest placenta the midwives had ever seen, that's why I think it took so long to come out. I gave you back to your dad while I went for a shower and cleaned up. While in the shower I passed several large blood clots, when I was done I went back to bed and Barb stitched me back up for a smaller tear I had on my left side. It seemed like everything that hurts happened on my left side with my pregnancy with you, I had hip issues, I was sore on my left. It was the side that your back was on, my right side was the one that would get abused by you kicking it all the time.
After Barb was done stitching me up your dad and her measured your head which was 35cm around and your length which was 20.75 inches long and your weight which you were 9 lbs and 1 ounce. I then got to hold you and tried to breast keep you again as the midwife gave your vitamin K shot. The midwifes needed to fill out some paper work and Sonya cleaned up and by 3am every one was gone and your dad and I and you slept in the basement for the night. We tried just butting you in a crib beside the bed but you wouldn't settle down and kept on letting out two cries and then stop. Your dad wasn't going to be able to sleep with that so he grabbed you but two blankets around you and but you between him and I. You the quickly fell asleep and slept until 10am. Your dad and I were really grateful when they how calm of a baby you are and how well you slept, we could talk right beside you and you slept like a champ.
Later that day you got to meet your Grandma Sharon and Papa Ron and then your sister Lily and Jon and Steph. Barb also stopped by to see how you are doing and answer any questions your dad and I had. The next day you got to meet your Pere Don and memere Collette and talk on the phone to your Auntie dawn who gave some helpful advice to dad and I.
Past Full Circle client, Megan Boire whose doula was Sonya.
Ironically, I encourage my doula families to take the time to write down their birth stories while it is still fresh and new in their memory.
Life has a way of getting ahead on you in the busy moments of tending to a newborn, chasing toddlers, caring for the young child and all the activities that having young teenagers bring. It is easy to say it will get done, tomorrow.
Almost twenty two years later, I am finally taking the time to do this for myself and to share the moment this little one made me a mama.
To be honest, I struggle with putting words to paper and it is not an easy task for me. I contemplated writing her story many times over the years, but with the busy years of homeschooling, working, running a midwifery and doula practice, getting certifications and managing a family, consumed me and the years went by. It's true what they say, years do go by quickly, almost in a blink of an eye.
We welcomed our first born daughter into our arms almost twenty two years ago on April 21, 1995 at 8:37 AM on a bright and beautiful Friday morning.
I remember the very moment of sitting in a cafe with my friend Michele, who had happened to be my maid of honour in my wedding a few months back. Michael had been talking about wanting to have a baby and I was contemplating, should we or should we wait.
We had been together for a few years and it seemed that it was the natural progression in our relationship together, but were we ready to become parents? Michele was against the idea and practical in her mindset of waiting until we were more established and secure.
Obviously, we threw caution to the wind excited to be parents, resorting to the fact we'd figure it out if it happened and decided to see what the universe provided for us.
Low and behold, we conceived shortly afterwards.
It was summer when we conceived. Strangely, my husband, Michael sensed I was pregnant, even before I really knew. I was still in denial, although the symptoms were definitely there and I knew, I wanted the extra reassurance at the first pregnancy test.
It has been interesting to me that for some families, when a new life begins another passes on.
Over the years of being a birth worker, I have witnessed this many times amongst many of the families I have attended. I am not sold on the fact that it is just coincidence.
Sadly, earlier on in my pregnancy, my father became quite ill and was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer with numerous tumours.
The time I spent with him in the hospital made me realize that I was not comfortable with the idea of having my baby being born there.
I remember the conversations Michael and I had discussing birth options and the anxiety I felt about being in the hospital with little control of who was present and what was being done to me, proceeded the idea of giving birth. A few weeks after getting pregnant, Michael ran into a friend of ours who recently had a home birth and raved about the care she received and her experience. We went over for dinner where she proceeded to share her birth photos and story with me, I knew instantly that this is what I wanted and moved on to finding our midwife to have our baby in the comfort of our own home.
It was 1995 in Calgary, Alberta. Midwifery was not regulated.
I called the only midwife available and chatted with her over the phone and immediately set up a consultation. At our visit, we both felt at ease and felt we were in good hands and proceeded to secure our home birth with her. At that time the fee was $1000.00. I was working as a nanny and taking care of an 86 year old senior who was mostly bedridden and working part time as a florist, Michael was working odd jobs in carpentry. Our finances were beyond tight, but thankfully we managed to pulled it all together.
My guess date was April 20 and I didn't give much thought to it.
I had stayed up late that evening watching T.V. I distinctly remember the ER episode, included a horrific childbirth scene and regretted my choice before strolling into bed at 11:00pm. Michael had to work late, he was putting in hardwood flooring for a client and wanted to get it completed before baby arrived, he strolled in around midnight. I remember this because just as he drifted off to sleep I was awoken by cramps, contractions started immediately after.
I tried going to sleep but couldn't. So I slipped quietly into the living room and called my mom. I wanted to share my excitement and nervousness with someone and I just wanted to hear her my mother's voice and get her reassurance.
I figured I would try to get through as much of labour as I could before waking Michael. I remember my midwives emphasizing that you never know how long labour could go on for, so I chose to let him sleep.
My friend, Michele mentioned I could call her at any hour and she would come by. I thought her company would help me. She arrived within a few minutes, I was in hands and knees moaning through the contractions. My back was beginning to ache. She placed her hands above my back and provided me with Reiki at the same time of the contraction.
Waves of nausea were rolling through me and the intensity increased, we had thought about going for a walk, but at that point I realized I just wanted to be left alone. I gently broke the news to Michele who understood. After she left, I decided to hop in the shower and this point the contractions were coming about every 5- 7 minutes or so it felt like, I was not in a state to time then, I didn't feel I was getting much of a break in between them and as soon as I gathered my thoughts another would seem to begin.
My tolerance of Michael sleeping was wearing thin,
I was becoming more annoyed that Michael was sleeping while I was in a great deal of discomfort and pain. I woke him up, demanding he get me some water. To this day he swears he leaped out and ran to the tap to get my glass of water, but to me it felt like an eternity of waiting.
I moved from the shower to our bed, my back was killing me and nothing was helping me. Waves of nausea returned and I regurgitated the last night's supper..
We had called the midwives earlier but they just disregarded my call and said to keep doing what I was doing. I remember feeling annoyed that they weren't coming.
By now it was about 5:00 AM in the morning of April 21. The wooden massage balls were firmly pressed behind my back as I sit on the toilet ramming my back deeper into the massager, "please go get your sledge hammer", I pleated with Michael, the tension in my back and bones were unbearable and I remember feeling like if only they would break apart, would I feel relief. He obviously refused my request, I crawled to the bedroom floor urging him to call the midwives again. This time they said they were on their way.
My primary midwife arrived at 6:00 AM. My contractions were every 2 minutes lasting about 45-65 seconds long in length at that time the records indicate that I was 4 cm dilated. and 90% effaced. I was already beginning to feel pressure and was urged not to give it any effort and to breathe as much as I could.
I remember feeling frustrated that no matter how hard I tried to control it, my body continued to bear down. At this point I was on all fours and the midwife was setting up and Michael was beginning to pump the pool up. I called for Wendy, but she most likely was on the phone with her second midwife Sharyne Fraser, Michael came in her place and attempted to breath with me. His tone threw me off and I had a hard time getting into it, for some reason when Wendy breathed with me, her voice became like a tunnel that I could move through and it was easier to breathe and centre myself.
Looking back I feel bad that Michael attempted to comfort me but obviously he didn't have the tools or resources to know how to help and ended up being the observer through most of it. I mostly didn't want to be touched or coddled, I just needed space to get down to my work.
It was comforting knowing he was there and that was enough at that time. To this day, he feels that although it was an honour to be there and of witness, the real work is that of the mother and women tending to women. I think he just felt out of his element.
7:00 AM Second midwife Sharyne Fraser arrives with coffee in hand. Wendy and her are in the living room setting up.
At 7:45 AM I was checked again and found now to be 7-8 cm dilated, the anterior part of the cervix was swollen. Thankfully that resolved quickly as I move into the tub which is situated in our living room. Michael sitting by the side of the tub, unsure how to help me. After my first contraction in the tub my water spontaneously breaks.
8:15 AM I am fully dilated and begin pushing spontaneously in the hands and knees position
8:30 AM Karen Robb, the student midwife walks in and comments how lovely it is to be able to eat and grab a coffee before coming and thanks me for the lovely morning birth. I move from hands and knees to laying against the birth wall. The contractions are like waves one after the other and I am getting little break. I recall looking at Michael and saying in a quick exhausted breath, " we are never doing this again" ( he calls this the Linda Blair pea soup moment, I call this transition)
With one huge push at 8:37 AM, Sara grabs the mirror to show my progress and without much thought, I push the whole baby out in one contraction. Michael and Wendy together surprisingly caught off guard, catch the baby and Michael brings her up to my chest. Everyone in the room, including my self remarked how quickly she arrived. I am completely overwhelmed with what just happened and catch my breath as Michael kisses my forehead and greets our little one.
I placed her in-between my legs and admired her perfect little body and face as she gleamed up at me and Michael. not knowing about the strong determined woman she would become.
We named her Arie McKenna and she weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces.
I spent many days and nights looking into my sweet little baby's eyes and wondered what kind of person she would become, what she would be like, where would life take her and what passions and pursuits she would strive for, as she set forth on her own path. The intensity of knowing that I was just given the biggest gift in the world made me question my own ability to parent and be everything I wanted to be for her, a good mother, teacher and mentor for her, these thoughts would sometimes consume me. For the first time in my life looking at my daughter made me want to be the best I could be for her.
Along the way, as she grew and evolved into the person she was designed to be, we had our joys, giggles, challenges and struggles and many head butting moments of disagreement.
Many times I felt like I was failing as her mother as she has challenged me every step of the way, but through it all, she taught me so much about love and took me to my core, learning about myself, who I was and ultimately influenced my life for the better.
I am grateful for her and for the lessons I have learnt over the years.
There is one poem that I feel represents and reminds me of what being a parent is all about. I would like to share with you this wisdom, may it remind you that our children come through you, but are not you. .
On Children Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Sonya Duffee is the founding member of Full Circle Birth Collective and Full Circle Postpartum Care. She is the mother of two girls, who are now young adults and has been married to her amazing and supportive husband Michael of 22 years this May. She is also a CAPPA certified Labour and Postpartum Doula, Labour and Postpartum Doula Educator and certified childbirth educator, as well Hypno-Doula.
6 days went by and I was waiting very patiently every day for any sign of my birthing time. Thursday evening, May 29, I decided to call up a friend to go to a movie. Ella was at the lake with Oma and Chris was working so I thought I should take advantage of my free time and have a little outing. I had napped twice that day so I was very well rested. The movie (we watched “Neighbours” by the way!) was over before 9PM so I came home and went to bed.
A few minutes before midnight, while sleeping, I was wakened by a “gush” of fluid. I immediately got out of bed and realized that must have been my “water” breaking. It wasn’t much fluid, so fortunately there was really no mess to clean up. I waited about 20 minutes and didn’t notice any pressure waves or other changes, so I gathered a few last things for my hospital bag and went back to bed.
I was in and out of a light sleep for over an hour or two (I don’t clearly remember the timeline!) when I began having light pressure waves, I began listening to my “Easy First Stage” Hypnobabies track. I do know that the pressure waves were approximately 20 minutes apart. I had probably 3 or 4 of these waves and then they started to become more frequent. I found the most comfortable position for me was on my knees with my bum in the air and my face and arms draped over several pillows. The waves were very comfortable.
Somewhere between 5-5:30AM I remember thinking that I had not cleared my bowels and didn’t want to have a mess at the hospital. I went to the bathroom in hopes of clearing things out! In the meantime, I was experiencing waves on the toilet. It was not a very comfortable position for me and I was breathing deeply. Apparently my husband, who was still in bed, heard my deep breathing and realized the waves were coming very frequently. Once I was finished in the bathroom, he asked me the frequency and length of the waves. I replied that I was unable to keep track and that I wanted to have a shower. Chris disagreed and said no, let’s get to the hospital. I said I was fine and that I would shower quickly.
The waves started coming really quickly and I kept changing my mind about the shower. Finally I jumped in and the hot water felt so great. I also took the exercise ball in with me so I could drape my body over it while on my knees if necessary during a wave. In the meantime, Chris called our doula, although I was concerned that we were calling her too early in the morning. I didn’t want to waste her time and be at the hospital for hours and hours before the baby was born. It was a good thing he called her.
Chris loaded my 20 pillows (okay there were only 4!), blankets, and other “stuff” in the truck and sped off to the hospital. I wore my headphones and constantly listened to my “Easy First Stage” track. I was in the back of the truck with pillows stacked on the seats, knees on the floor and body draped over the pillows. I was very relaxed this way.
We arrived at the hospital at exactly 6AM. The main entrance doors open at 6AM but nobody was yet at the information desk to register me. Between the truck and the 3rd floor of the hospital, I stopped at least 3 times on a bench or chair to kneel down and let my birthing waves pass. It took a while to get to floor 3! Upon arrival, they asked if we had registered and Chris said no. I was having a pressure wave so I kneeled down and draped myself over the suitcase. While Chris went back downstairs for my paperwork, they assisted me to the assessment area and our amazing doula showed up.
I was having frequent waves and breathing through them all. They told me they needed a 20 minutes non-stress test (NST) to check baby’s movements but I wasn’t convinced that’d happen because I was most comfortable on my hands and knees- not an ideal position for NST. Fortunately our wonderful doula spoke up and suggested they check my cervix before attempting NST because last pregnancy I came in and was already dilated to 8cm.
After what seemed like a couple minutes, I think the nurse gave up on trying to get a NST and told me to lay back to check for dilation. I was 9cm! They said I could go to a delivery room immediately. The asked me to walk there but I wasn’t sure I could because I was having a wave. Once the wave was over, I quickly walked barefoot to the room. I remember thinking how gross it was that I was barefoot walking in the hospital!
Upon arrival to the room, I think I layed on my back and they attempted to insert an IV for some antibiotics that I consented to. The nurse could not get it in and I felt like she was stressed about it because she loudly asked another nurse to come and try to get it. I felt like telling her to calm down and relax- maybe she should take Hypnobabies! Another nurse came and I don’t remember much other than I was having pressure waves and I had my eyes closed to focus and be so relaxed. I finally asked if the IV was in yet and this nurse also couldn’t get it in either. Chris suggested we just not do the IV but I spoke up and said that I thought it was very important. Next thing I know, someone said to me that Dr. So-and-so, the anesthesiologist, had arrived. My immediate thought was fear and I wanted to scream out “ I did not request an epidural”! Before I could get out the words, I was informed that he was present to insert the IV since the first 2 nurses weren’t successful. While I was having the IV inserted, I think I was having waves but just kept my eyes closed and time passed very quickly while I was completely comfortable.
Throughout the morning, I was mostly on my back sitting slightly upright. I remember asking for water in between almost every wave. I was so thirsty! Chris was also holding my leg against his body and our doula was near my head. I remember loving the warmth of Chris’s hand on my leg. I asked for reassurance several times and seemed to gain control of my wave by saying “relax” a lot to myself. At one point I requested “relief”. I was reminded that nitrous oxide inhibits the urge to push. That immediately made me decide that I’d quit using the gas so that I could get the baby out. Several times I remember feeling very impatient and just wanting the baby out. With every new wave, I would “ahhhh” the pressure out. It helped so much to keep me relaxed as possible. I also remember requesting they cover up the clock so I couldn’t see the time. I saw Dr. Cardinal in the room whenever I opened my eyes. I think she was present for most of the time. I felt like the process was taking long and felt like I was wasting her time!
Near the time my baby was born, I decided to change positions. I went on my knees and my head was facing down. I draped my upper body, head and arms over some pillows and continued to breathe deeply during waves. Several times I reached down to feel if the baby was near coming out. With the next few pressure waves I pushed out my baby and tried to get her myself. It was my vision of a perfect birth to be able to hold my baby immediately as she was coming out. The team assisted me in passing her through my legs. I then rolled over to lie on my back and admire her.
We immediately named our girl Quinn, but it took a day to figure out her middle name, Annika. She was born at 7:51AM, less than 2 hours after arriving to the hospital. As I lay with my beautiful baby, I watched her cord get clamped and Chris cut it. I stayed cuddling her while I birthed the placenta as well as getting my perineum “repaired”. I had 4 stitches with class 2 tears. I felt like the repair took a very long time but tried to remain patient. I remember being a bit cold but not as cold as when my first baby was born.
Once that wrapped up, I laid holding my baby who was very ambitious to breastfeed! She immediately tried latching on her own and had no problem. She had several poops of black tarry meconium and it seemed to get everywhere, including on me! I was very eager to find out how much she weighed. After Ricky, Chris and I reflected for a bit, our fantastic doula left, I showered, and we weighed our baby. She was 7lbs 11ounces!
They took us to our “theme room” where we settled in and I continued to breastfeed. I was very cold, a bit dizzy, and experiencing some cramping. I was still being given oxytocin intravenously and requested it be taken out but they said not until I was able to pee. Finally I peed, they took out the IV and all of my symptoms went away! I had an appetite and felt really great considering I just had a baby.
Later that day my mom brought our daughter, Ella, to meet Quinn since I had to stay overnight. Ella was not very pleased that her daddy was holding a baby but has since become very loving towards Quinn. I am so pleased with how the birth went and how quickly I am healing this time. I had minimal bleeding after the birth and very little discomfort. I am enjoying these days so much with my perfect little family despite the night waking’s and all the soiled diapers!
I hope this information can help mom’s prepare for their journey. Every mother’s experience is so different, but these are just a few things I experienced or learned along the way.
1. Irrational dreams during pregnancy. One night I had an extremely vivid dream. A moose was in my house. I was terrified. I finally woke up, changed positions, and was able to fall back asleep although still shook up. Upon waking in the morning,
I still remembered the seemingly real incident but knew that a moose could not actually fit through my front door, let alone turn the door handle to enter!
2. Night sweats. After baby was born, one night I woke up and wondered how I managed to pee the bed without waking. Immediate panic (and embarrassment) led to a nighttime investigation. It was not pee. It was sweat. I recommend having a waterproof cover over the mattress at all times! It’s easier to clean a mattress protector than an entire mattress!
3. Baby’s poop is yellow. Initially, newborn’s rid their bodies of meconium- a dark sticky tar. Just as baby’s change so rapidly in their first days, their bowel movements do too! I had no idea that these delicate little beings could expel (with explosive force may I add!) such a bright surprise. Until they begin consuming foods other than milk, their dirty diapers are filled with a pasty yellow muck. As new parents, it was like a game to rank the current explosion with the previous ones with the criteria being A) how many wipes were used and B) how far up the back the sludge would reach!
5. Not having a period while breastfeeding. This can help create natural spacing between children. Having said this, some mom’s still ovulate in the absence of their period and can become pregnant during the time they are breastfeeding. For some, the breastfeeding phase can be a pleasant time to enjoy freedom from Aunt Flo while others have their monthly gift back from Mother Nature very quickly.
Kelsey Voelker is a labor doula and lactation educator with Full Circle Birth Collective. Learn more about Kelsey here.
Trust In Your Body