Leah in our bed on her very first morning.
The “pregnancy break” is over – and our daughter is born! To say that we are delighted, is an understatement…!!! The book being born out of our meeting will have to excuse, but Leah’s birth is the most precious fruit we could ever have imagined when we first met!
We choose to announce the birth of our daughter – a child of this blessed planet earth – here, as we’re folks who don’t believe in artificially created borders. For us, life is one whole. Our professional and private lives overlap and cross-fertilize all the time. The Child of The Earth movement is thus neither strictly professional nor strictly private. It’s simply the creative movement of our hearts…
Before sharing our precious birth story, just a brief update on some other aspects of the Child of The Earth movement:
1) The restructuring of the book manuscript is in progress. The prologue has been cut out, and been replaced by a completely new “frame”, adding depth, structure and stability to the story. Chapter 1-3 have been rewritten, and Shanto will rewrite the rest of the so far published chapters (4-11), before continuing with chapter 12. Only when we’ve come that far, will the rewritten manuscript be published here.
2) A new issue of our Newsletter will land in your inbox in the not so distant future. Meanwhile, do keep in touch through our Facebook page. And remember that you are always welcome to join hands with us in any way you feel inspired to. We sense that a crystallization phase of the Child of The Earth movement is bound to follow after the very open-ended initiatory phase, and we’re really curious as to how this will look like – and to what extent it will involve a cooperation with you…
But now – before contacting us to present your inspired ideas – do listen to our much cherished, newly lived, birth story… telling of a wonderful birth at home, to which the midwife came too late…
Our Daughter Leah – a Home Birth Story told by Maya
It was seven o’clock in the morning of the 10th of February 2015, and I was standing in the kitchen – when my water broke. Even though I was six days overdue, in that particular moment I was naturally taken by surprise. I rushed (as fast as a highly pregnant woman rushes) to the toilet to make sure I hadn’t peed my pants. I hadn’t. The liquid was indeed amniotic fluid, without meconium. My husband, Shanto, was still in bed when I called out to him: “My water just broke!”
The baby I was carrying was my fourth child – but my first daughter. And it was my first child with Shanto, who fast came to my side with a slightly dazed expression on his face. (He is no morning person.)
After my three boys (aged 12, 11, and 8) had left for school, and Shanto had tended to the dog’s morning needs, I relaxed on the couch waiting for the midwife. And on that couch I remained also after the midwife had come by to examine me. For the baby was still high, not fixed. Thus walking around would mean a risk of complications, such as the umbilical cord, or the baby’s arm, moving down before her head.
I have a history of broken water without further progression. It happened with two of the boys. So the situation brought some stress, considering the protocol of the midwife practice being that active labour must start within 24 hours after the water breaking, or otherwise there would be referral to the hospital. But then again, everything was different this time. All my previous births had been medicalized hospital births, just because I knew of nothing else back then. Besides, I was not at all in touch with my body; and had no trust in its power to give birth naturally. But since then I had gone through so much, and grown to become a totally different woman, with a different kind of man at my side.
Shanto and I had prepared ourselves for a water birth at home. The rented pool was already since three weeks standing in a corner of our living-room. And we had been moving through the whole pregnancy with the doula Sarika at our side. I met her one year before I met Shanto, in a training called “Birth Into Being” in Vienna; and as soon that I knew I was pregnant, I contacted her. For I wanted to experience a totally new kind of pregnancy and birth this time, and intuitively felt she would be the right person to support me, and us, in that – which she indeed turned out to be.
Already at our first meeting, we discovered that we could trade services. We agreed that instead of paying Sarika in money (of which we had little), Shanto would help Sarika with a book on childbirth she was writing (in English). This was perfect for us, as Shanto, who had not been long in the country, was looking to restart the business as a writer he had been running in his native Sweden. Sarika became his first client in the Netherlands. And this kind of synchronistic flow would come to characterize the journey we made together with Sarika.
It was so valuable to have somebody who would embrace whatever questions and thoughts that would come up during the various stages of pregnancy, and let us process everything until we could make sense of it. And we liked the way she saw it: That the soul of our baby was orchestrating everything in such a way that there would be maximum healing in the process of pregnancy and birth – for everybody involved. And therefore, that all we primarily needed to do was to tune in as deeply as possible to this soul. Sarika also supported us in looking at the whole “family field” around the baby in my belly: my boys, Shanto, myself, and so on. Hence our sense of welcoming the new soul into our family was growing deeper and deeper, and more and more rich in nuances.
There is also a movie (Birth As We Know It) that has had a great impact on me. It was made by the woman who started the Birth Into Being movement, Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova. The movie shows women giving birth in the Black Sea, very far from the nearest hospital. Watching it made me feel homesick, in a positive sense. I felt deep within me that if these women could surrender themselves to such a deep trust in the giving birth on their own power, I must be able to do the same. And Sarika’s whole attitude, as one who promotes empowering birth experiences, was: “yes, sure you can!”
Gradually, Shanto and I developed our picture of how we wanted the birth to happen. We wanted a relaxing setting with no unnecessary noise, and dimmed light, preferably only candles. We wanted no intervention of any kind unless the midwife would deem it necessary, and in that case we wanted to be asked for our consent before anything would be done.
After birth, we wanted the umbilical cord to stay intact long enough for the baby to assimilate all the blood from the placenta, and we wanted to save the placenta for dehydration and encapsulation – so that all the nutrition in it would come to use. And, we wanted to give ample time right after delivery to bonding with the baby undisturbed by anybody else. Sarika was understanding of all our wishes, and helped us make well informed choices when it came to certain details. The final result was the birth plan that the midwife practice was asking for.
So now, lying there on the couch, I felt well prepared – especially, and most importantly, in terms of my own state of mind. In addition to the journey with Shanto and Sarika, I had been preparing myself also by joining a few “conscious birth” groups on social media, and by watching virtually every birth video I had been able to find online. And all experiences taken together, there was one single word that had emerged to denote what was at the centre of the dream birth I was desiring to have: relaxation.
Whenever stressful thoughts would enter my mind, I would return to the body; and let it guide me into deeper and deeper relaxation. Over the whole day, contractions were only slowly building up – in duration, intensity, and frequency. I had arranged for my boys to be taken care of by their father. I was in telephone and/or app contact with the midwife, and Sarika, as well as with Safi and Deepika, two close friends that we had invited to be present at the birth. But at one point I asked Shanto to take care of all communication, except with the midwife, so that I would be free to go inwards.
Throughout the day Shanto was busy with a carpentry project in another room. He would come to serve me something to drink, or whatever I asked him for, whereas at the same time he was far enough away for me to be able to devote myself entirely to the contractions. And this was… so enjoyable! With no need to do anything but relaxing and allowing my woman’s body to do what it had been born to do, I really got to taste what they call an “orgasmic” or “ecstatic” birth. It was not pain I was experiencing, it was wave upon wave of pleasurable love flowing through me.
The only thing that would interfere in this beautiful process was the occasional return of some stressful thoughts. My contractions were still mild, and the 24-hour-protocol was in my awareness. The other thing was that the midwife who had visited us in the morning, was the only one from the practice that we had not met before. And, due to some misunderstanding, she had suggested that I was not allowed to give birth at home as there were too many stairs between our apartment and the street. Even though she had soon taken her statement back, the shock it had produced was still creating some rings on the water of my consciousness.
It was my deep, deep longing to give birth at home, in the pool – to the girl I had always dreamt about having. But what to do if it would go otherwise? I was aware that a birth journey is always a journey into the unknown, and if the soul of our daughter would for any reason lead us to the hospital… so be it. I dropped the disturbing thoughts, and abandoned myself to the orgasmic bliss buzzing in me.
The hours passed by fast while Shanto and I got more and more in synch with each other and with the baby who was on her way out of me. At one point Shanto served me a salad, but I never got to eat it. For at the same time, there was a transition to the next phase. The contractions were intensifying, and I felt an urge to get up and move in the room. It was around 19:45, and I asked Shanto to contact Sarika, as well as Safi and Deepika, who had more than an hour to travel. Just after that, I myself called the midwife, Patricia.
Half an hour later, at 20:15, Sarika and Patricia turned up together. Patricia’s examination showed that the baby was now fixed, and I was 2 cm dilated. This was a relief! Now I could allow myself to give in to my body’s urge to move, without risk for the baby coming down in the wrong way. Shanto had already started to fill up the birth pool when I got up on my feet. After some time, I felt that all the body was asking for was to step into the warm water; and I was frustrated with the fact that the pool was filling up so slowly. But Sarika made me aware of the obvious: that I could get in already before it was completely filled up. Wow, that felt so great! My entire body cheered at the warm embrace of the water.
Patricia went home to eat, and our dear friend Safi arrived. The room around me was lit up only by candles and a salt lamp; and some music full of nature sounds, such as streaming water and birdsong, was playing in the background. Sitting right in front of me was Shanto, to the right was Sarika, and to the left was Safi. I looked at them through eyes that had gone dim due to labour, and felt that everything was just as it should be. They were all supporting me. Even the dog was lying peacefully on the floor, looking at me. Shanto had placed a glass of coconut water with a straw on a stool in front of me, and I took a few sips.
I was on all fours, letting waves of energy sweep through the body, which was making Dolphin-like movements. My breathing was more and more taking the form of deep, growling sounds – which felt like they were coming from deep within the womb. Sarika picked up on that, and the two of us naturally moved into some kind of toning and breathing in unison. At one point, I felt very clearly how the baby was turning; and I felt that she was moving further down in the birth canal, as if the sounds were calling her out.
Sarika was encouraging me, praising my ability to surrender. “Yes, but it’s a thin line…”, I replied. For this is how it felt: like a thin line between losing myself in painful cramping and allowing the contractions to do their work of birthing my baby. And suddenly a sense of urgency came over me. I felt that the midwife had to come before the time we had agreed on, so I asked Shanto to call her. But hearing his polite tone, I had to shout towards the phone: “She has to come now!”
There was a fear of not being dilated enough, and that my pushing would cause a rupture. I was feeling for signs of progression with my hand, but what was I feeling? Something hard. Could it really be the head of the baby? I needed reassurance. And Sarika gave it to me: “If you feel something that feels like a skull bone, this is what it is. Everything is perfect, the baby is coming out.”
The next thing that happened was that my breath became very fast and shallow. The pressure was so big that I could impossibly keep my breathing down in the belly anymore. It was not me pushing, it was rather me surrendering to the pushing of my birth-giving body. But there was something holding me back: a sense of having to wait – for the midwife.
But I felt that I could not wait – and with a sense of panic, I expressed my experience to Sarika. Then she told me to just keep breathing like I was doing, and that all was fine; and – which were the magic words that I needed to hear – that I could do it myself. I didn’t have to wait for anybody; I was perfectly able to give birth on my own power!
And then, with a final push, the baby came. In the moment I let go of the waiting, it was as if a ball of fire spiralled through me, and out – and the baby landed in Shanto’s hands. For after calling Patricia, he had moved to a position behind me, where he had been caressing and supporting my back. He now passed the baby between my legs so that I could receive her. I looked at her, and slowly lifted her out of the water. Her eyes opened, and it struck me that I was looking at the face of somebody who had made a very long journey. Time stood still as I was observing my newborn daughter breathe and move her limbs. I felt so much gratitude – towards her.
After a few moments, Shanto joined me in the pool; and afterwards we were told that the three of us had been spending no less than 50 minutes together in what seemed like the most beautiful meditation. Already in the pool, Leah was drinking from my breast for the first time. Around us in the room, there was now Sarika, Safi, Deepika, and the midwife Patricia – who had arrived 5 minutes after the moment of birth. They were all just silently watching, knowing the value of not disturbing our bonding with our baby.
Deepika too, had arrived too late to witness the moment of birth. After the slow build-up in the day, it had all happened very fast. I stepped into the water a little after 21:00, and Leah was born at 22:05. When Patricia left for dinner at 20:45 (about twenty minutes after she had estimated me to be no more than 2 cm dilated), she asked me when I wanted her to come back. I said “in an hour”, but she suggested that we would make it an hour and a half. Apparently she had not expected the rapid progression that was to follow, but had she listened to me, she would have been in time. Nevertheless, when she came back, she entered the room smiling; and she stayed with us until we all had toasted in champagne, for Leah.
Before that toast, I had at a certain point left the pool to return to the couch. There, the placenta had been born, exactly one hour after the baby – without the need of any oxytocin injection or other intervention – and the cord (which was totally white by then) had been cut. During the entire evening Leah was skin-to-skin with either me or Shanto. And that first night, the three of us went to sleep together in the same bed – the one where we have been sleeping every night since.
The following morning I woke up alert and joyful. I did of course feel that my body had been through something extraordinary; but there was no muscle ache, no rupture, just a sense of having been opened – energetically as well as physically. We had breakfast with our friends Safi and Deepika who had been staying the night at our place, and all of us agreed that we had really experienced an amazing birth that more than fulfilled our dreams (even though Deepika wished she would have taken an earlier train).
Some days later, Mathilde, the one midwife at the midwifery practice with whom we had bonded the most, came for a visit. We had a really good talk about many things, and we agreed that it was clear that even though Leah was six days overdue, she was not overdue in any medical sense. She was perfectly on her time, being born with a lot of vernix on her body. We told Mathilde that the woman from the Kraamzorg (the Dutch postnatal care service) had been surprised that our baby was barely ever crying, to which Mathilde responded: “No, why would she? She is a happy baby!”
Also Patricia returned for a visit. She gave me a long, warm hug, and excused herself for what she had so thoughtlessly spoken out loud on that first visit after my water broke. She said that she had experienced the atmosphere at her return – five minutes after the birth – as serene.
Sarika too returned, in order to close the circle of the doula journey. And she has assisted us in writing this birth story, which we hope may come to inspire other mothers and fathers to-be. I remember saying to her, a few days after the birth, that I felt in my body as if I wanted to give birth again – as soon as possible. It was such a blissful experience. And in the first few days afterwards, I felt completely transformed – as if there would never ever be a struggle in my mind again.