Looking back on my birth experience as a Radical Birthkeeper...
I had a [home]birth that jolted my community.
I only knew one or two people that had given birth at home. I didn't know anyone in my community who had, and definitely not anyone who had rejected as many interventions as I had.
I got looks of shock and fear when I told them I declined the GD test, the 40 week nonstress tests, and many more.
People were also shocked when I showed up at the gym and they asked "When are you due?" and I said "5 days ago!" Many folks I knew would never have been allowed to birth beyond their due date.
Let alone 11 days "past due" like I did.
Most people in my life had never heard of someone like me. And yet, I was still unraveling so much indoctrination. I still believed I needed to have someone there to save me, to inform me of my own body. I didn't fully trust in myself. I actually tried to tell my midwife leading up to birth that I really did want cervical exams - that it would help me "pace myself" and "know what is going on".🤦♀️ I was LUCKY that she saw through this and took the time to explain to me why she didn't feel I needed any exams. To this day I have not heard of another licensed midwife actively advocating to her client to NOT receive cervical exams. But also, I consented to an exam just before pushing. To make sure I was ready to push.
Now I know, that means that when I said "I think I am starting to push", and she saw me contract a few times, she wondered if I was actually ready, or if I was actually pushing correctly.
She wondered if my body knew what it was doing. She wondered, for just a moment, if she fully trusted me. I hardly ever tell women this because I actually feel ashamed about it. I wanted the fully undisturbed experience deep down, but I had no idea what that even meant. The vaginal exam hurt, and my midwife apologized to me as she was doing it. As if it was something she had to do. In some ways, it probably was.
When I think back to the hours on end where my midwife simply sat and watched me, gently encouraging me energetically, from a distance... I wonder, what happened? Why did my entire experience not feel that way? After this short exam, I was again fully undisturbed and had a halo of peace around me as I moved to the bathroom and got on my hands and knees to push my daughter out into the world. My midwife, who I loved, on my left. My partner, who I loved, on my right. No one touching me.
In my understanding, I birthed her head, roaring her out. We all heard her take a breath and I also breathed. My midwife told me I needed to lift one leg up, and I said I couldn't, so she helped me. Then I birthed her body into Isaac's hands, and she was passed to me immediately.
Later, Isaac told me that "her shoulders got stuck" and my midwife inserted her fingers into my vagina, under my daughter's armpit and then Aurelia came out.
I was silently devastated.
I had no idea, that I did not birth my daughter on my own. She was, just slightly, pulled from me. And no one told me.
No one informed me that her shoulders were stuck. No one asked if they could put their fingers in my vagina. No one asked if they could touch my baby.
If any other person put their fingers in my vagina without asking, I would have called the cops and filed a report for sexual abuse.
Where is the cognitive dissonance? Is this birth "trauma"?
I don't feel traumatized.
But I know that was wrong. I know I could have birthed my baby without any extra hands.
These are the thoughts that swirl around my mind as I contemplate my birth, almost a year and a half ago, and wonder if I should speak to my dear friend and midwife about these realities.
I gazed at my perfect daughter and we both silently connected. She was not crying, but I saw her little body expanding gently with breath. I knew she was okay.
Again, without notice or asking, my loving midwife used a nasal bulb syringe on my child. Aurelia's startle response kicked in and she began making noises and crying. It was no longer peaceful. At the time, I remember thinking that I just wanted to be alone with my baby. But the energy in the room was buzzing, with joy and excitement and love. No part of my brain could have possibly said "please don't touch her". All I could say was "Hi sweet girl, I love you".
My placenta was also [very gently] pulled out of me, by hands that weren't my own, with light traction on the cord, just a few minutes after my daughter arrived. No harm was done, and I was so relieved to have the placenta out. But now, 16 months later, I feel somewhat of a grief, that I missed the chance to feel what it was like to know internally that it was time, to latch my baby, to stand up and squat over a bowl, and watch my gorgeous placenta emerge on her own. But she said my cord was short, and with my eyes locked onto my precious baby, I smiled & nodded in acceptance, just happy to be holding my daughter.
In so many ways, I got extremely lucky to have a wise birth attendant who trusted me and genuinely loves me. We are still friends to this day. And also, I can't help but wonder how much more magical my birth could have been, if I had been truly trusted and left alone.
If no one asked me any questions.
If no one touched my vagina, at all.
If my movements were entirely intuitive, and not suggested.
If the room was silent as she emerged, and the only skin that touched her was mine.
If her first minutes were not interrupted with shoving plastic in her nose.
If my placenta came on her own, when she was ready.
There are some things I would do differently, looking back, now with the education I have:
-I would take everything slower after my daughter arrived. I would have left her cord in tact for many many more hours, and burned it instead of cutting it.
-I wouldn't have tried to put her in a sleep-sack and put her to bed in a bassinet at 4-hours-old. 😪 (We did end up cosleeping, hence this photo!)
-I would have taken a video. I will forever wonder what it looked like and sounded like as she emerged.
-I would have communicated my needs with my partner more clearly
-I would have set clear and firm boundaries with family & friends early in pregnancy
-I would have said no when I wanted to.
-I would have trusted in birth more.
-I would not have hired a midwife.
-I would have listened to my man when, at 8 weeks pregnant he said "Can't we just do it ourselves?"
And despite all these things, I do love my birth story. I don't feel traumatized. I experienced so much bliss and joy during this birth, and I beamed with pride whenever I told my story. I did love birth, and I was excited to do it again someday.
But looking back, now as a Radical Birthkeeper, I know more.