Our dream of a natural home birth became a reality.

It felt like it would never happen at some points but it finally did, our daughter was born on Thursday the 9th of March at 9.13.pm.

Our dream of a natural home birth became a reality. 

The supposed due date was the 27th of February so we spent a while hanging on tenter hooks but in the end everything turned out ok, like we believed it would from the start. We were completely against the idea of an unnatural induction so we tried a natural clairesage oil on a wet towel in the bath instead. That sort of stuff seemed like hocus-pocus to me previously, but I promise you it really worked.

Our child responded well to the oil over the course of a couple of days and mild labour pains kicked in around 1am on the morning of the 9th of March. My dear wife being a true stalwart decided to quietly endure the pains with the company of a good book and I only found out we were underway on waking up later that morning. I still could not believe it but I just tried to be supportive and make myself useful.

Around 9am Itziar took a gentle stroll on the treadmill which was another suggestion we had for inducing labour naturally, it seemed to work too. A powerful indication there are multiple natural options to explore before going the drug route.

At 10am Itziar’s angel of a mother Cristina arrived. She is a qualified Doula (birth assistant) and mother of four. Throughout the process she balanced the roles of birth assistant and concerned mother with incredible precision and compassion. She had a homeopathic remedy for every ailment Itziar experienced; from back pain, to shivering, exhaustion to bruising. A glass of water with rescue remedy for the stress of it all was never far away either. I drank rescue throughout too and it really helped me to manage my anxiety.

Cristina offered her loving hands throughout and remained ever ready to massage her daughter with the kind of gentle love only a mother could give her own daughter on the threshold of motherhood. Her understanding of Itziar’s suffering at the experiential level truly humbled me. It was amazing to see her soothe my wife like no one else could even hope to.

By 11am the contractions were coming every minutes and lasting about 30-40 seconds. We decided it would be a good time to ask our midwife to come over. Marianne arrived a couple of hours later. By this time Itziar had already been in labour for thirteen hours. I gave Marianne some time alone with Itziar to check in and establish herself in our space. Taking a break was hard at first but I knew I could trust Marianne and Cristina to take care of my wife and baby. The two ladies have had seven children between them. Whats more Marianne our midwife has been practicing since 1981, the year I was born. Cristina had also attended quite a few births as a doula too.

Handing over control of my wife’s well being was a big moment and required a lot of faith on my part. If I had been relinquishing control to a stranger in a hospital it would have been a totally different story, especially if it had been to another man. The benefits of being in our home were seemingly infinite. I could prepare healthy wholesome food, rest and read comfortably. Not to mention the bath and bedroom which were such a calm and positive space for the process to unfold in. I simply cannot imagine the horror for me and Itziar of being in a strange surgical environment surrounded by strangers it would have freaked us out completely and made things much more difficult for our daughter.

As I sat downstairs something occurred to me. As a result of my experience it seems totally mad to me that childbirth is such a male dominated field, there is simply no way a man can even begin to conceive of what a women goes through and give her the kind of support she really needs. Only a woman who has been through it can do that, this truth has apparently been proven. Women carry the ways to sooth a birthing mother in their DNA. Men do not, but that is not to say that if possible a father should not be present. The father plays an instrumental yet very, very different role in his own right.

Now I am not saying that c-sections etc should not be done by men, but natural birth should without a shadow of doubt in my mind be facilitated by women. The concept that a person is free to choose not to attempt a natural birth by way of voluntary c-section and miss out on what is surely the most profound life affirming journey one can go through; be that mother, child or father; just seems totally insane to me.

At around 4pm Itziar was in a great deal of pain and she started to say she couldn’t continue. What I learned is that this point is a significant milestone in the process for every woman; the half way mark! On finding this out I explained to my wife that she was in the best possible place in the world to be given the current circumstances, she accepted my perspective and continued to endure the shooting pains with incredible courage. The problem was our baby decided to travel closer to her back than her abdomen so the pressure in her lower lumbar region remained immense throughout. My assertion of the same truth three hours later was not met with such a positive response but nevertheless it was accepted.

When my wife looked at me with tears streaming down her face and beseeched me to take her to the hospital all I could do was look deep into those beautiful eyes of hers and without saying a word communicate that I firmly believed everything would be ok. This was really, really hard but again I had absolute faith in our people so it was ok.

A really important point to mention is that if either one of us was not one hundred percent sure that we wanted a home birth we never would have been able to endure the ordeal. It got scary for both of us at times it was pretty heavy in there. Itziar was assisted by Marianne in doing an absolutely incredible job of just staying with her breath while our baby did an equally amazing job of working its way out of her body. I just had to manage my anxiety and that most profound of masculine urges; the desire to fix everything and everyone.

Marianne later described her role at that point of no return; ‘the transition period’; the essential milestone a woman must reach when she says cannot continue; as holding an immoveable weight. Just holding it even though it wont budge just holding it. An incredible skill in which she is deeply versed. She reflected that as the years go by and her experience increases she able to get out the way of the process more and more and simply be in it, encouraging, reassuring, absorbing each woman’s pain. A remarkable human being.

By 9pm things were really rough I had spent a considerable number of hours sitting behind Itziar in the bath rubbing her lower back with my palms. With every stroke of my hands I visualized her cervix expanding and opening it helped me to carry on and mentally made me feel as though I was making a positive contribution. I had been praying for quite a few hours by that time, asking whatever benevolent forces that govern the infinite universe to free my wife from the terrible pain she had endured so bravely for nigh on twenty hours. I was amazed but for practically the whole labour Itziar made hardly a sound other than exhales of breath. She spoke only when absolutely necessary.

The next ten or fifteen minutes could not have been more different. Our daughter was ready to arrive.

It is essential to mention here that never once did our midwife Marianne instruct Itziar to push, even when she reached 10cm dilation. In the aftermath we found out she was aiming for a very special type of birth that happens frequently in nature when a birthing mother feels, safe, secure and unobserved. Long standing advocate of the natural birth movement Michel Odent (my name sake but thats another story) describes this natural phenomenon as:

The Fetal Ejection Reflex.

Itziar sat up to squat on her haunches, she steadied her body with a hand on both my legs. With the most visceral blood curdling scream I have ever heard her body was consumed by an extraordinary wave of primal energy, the hairs on the back of my neck flew up. Her body had decided to push, not her her head, her body. This is why the phenomenon is defined as an ejection reflex. Again the concept of a person being told when to push by someone else seems utterly absurd now. The body knows exactly what to do we just have to allow it.

My prayers for a quick end to my wife and babies suffering were answered. With the third guttural roar our baby twisted her shoulders and literally flew out of the womb into the water of the bath. Our midwife was just in time to catch her. I had hoped to handle her first but there was simply no chance of that, it all happened too fast, my legs were rooted to the floor of the bath by Itziar’s arm.

The next moment all three of us lay together in what was surely the most profound moment of pure love I have ever known in this life. Tears rolled down everyones cheeks yet our daughter lay content in our arms with no such watery eyes. The stereotype of a wailing child I had come to expect thanks to the movies, simply absent. Luz just lay calmly and contentedly completely relaxed, a perfect, beautiful child with a thick head of stunning jet black hair and glorious enchanting eyes alive with curiosity and determination.

The idea we could have decided not to give our daughter the opportunity to make her own way into this world; if everything was ok medically; seemed very, very cruel and extremely disempowering. It would have felt like we had stolen something from her. Of course I only know this having been through the process. The sure bet the medical profession offers makes a compelling argument for non-essential intervention, but I tell you now it is nothing less than theft of most profound nature possible. There is nothing more precious you can take from a person.

The thought that Luz would have been taken away from us if we were in hospital made me shudder, the fact that I would not have been able to even spend the night with my family if we had been in one seemed all the more insane. Not to mention we would not have been able to eat our own food or sleep in our own sheets, be naked with our child.

Anyway from hours of saying she would never do it again; on seeing and feeling Luz, Itziar immediately announced she would be happy too endure another pregnancy; whilst apologizing profusely to each one of us for her pained remarks at various points. Everybody of course took no crossed words on her part personally, venting is simply part of the process. It was almost like Itziar had to release all her mental angst before her body could take over.

Amidst the euphoria of meeting our daughter Itziar eased the placenta out. It was time to cut the cord, I did so with a deep sense of gratitude. It was very empowering for me to be the one to sever my daughters connection to her mother. It felt like a symbolic gesture on my part that clearly emphasized my resolute commitment to honoring the responsibilities I have taken on as a father, a husband and a provider.

Cutting the cord

After a while we got out the bath and Luz was weighed, she came in at 3.44 KGS, a very healthy child, she also had long nails. This was all thanks to the really healthy diet of food and exercise Itziar committed herself too, her recovery has been remarkable thanks to this too.

After the weigh in it was dad time I got to have skin on skin contact with my daughter which research says is incredibly important for a man and releases instinctual fathering hormones throughout the bodies of dad and baby creating a permanent, unbreakable link.

Our midwife was expecting to have to stitch Itziar up due the swift exit Luz made from her womb and because it was her first child. However on inspection everything was in tact, just two very minor tears not even big enough to sow up. We put this down to the ‘epi-no’ which was a miraculous device recommended by Marianne. It not only prepared Itziar for the process physically but mentally too. It certainly put any doubt that she could not reach 10 cm dilation to rest. In retrospect our preparations were very thorough and I believe they really need to be for a successful home birth.

First moments of dad time

Shortly after we were left alone to enjoy our baby and the whole family slept the night through. Again the sleepless nights I had come to expect did not happen for us.

Reflecting on the birth Itziar said

Its indescribable but definitely the most powerful and empowering experience of my life as a woman. I feel like it connected me with the deepest truth of all, that we are simply animals; in the most beautiful sense of the word; and give birth in exactly the same way if were allowed to. I feel the experience connected me with the very essence of what it means to be alive.

In conclusion I must reemphasize that if you want a home birth all parties in attendance must be totally committed, it was a horrifying ordeal at times. If either one of us had harbored even an iota of doubt in the dark recesses of our minds it would have been very traumatic.Definitely get a doula but again make sure both parties are totally comfortable with her and you understand exactly what she will be bringing to the table.

Further more from the bit of research we did into home birth a lot of advocates we spoke too had actually been born at home themselves. This at some points created an impression in our minds that natural birth was something for only those pre-disposed. I guess what I want to say is that anyone can do it if they really want too; and it is medically viable; it doesn’t matter if you weren’t born at home, your baby can be, you can change the mold.

I personally had a very traumatic birth in the days when labour and delivery were dealt with in separate rooms of hospitals in England. My first experience of the world was hanging upside down between my mothers legs as she was hurried from one room to the other. Itziar and all her siblings were born in hospital too.

Family Time At Home Together

Both my wife and I feel like we have really given our daughter the best possible start in life, we were physically capable of giving her and as parents that makes us feel pretty good, it helps us to trust that we can continue positively.

So I guess that’s pretty much it.

I don’t know if I will write about fatherhood i’m not sure we will have to see. All I can say is thanks for reading, its been emotional. I think my daughter will have fun reading my journal when she’s a bit older.

Luz on the quilt I had as a baby handmade by my Godmother 30 Years Ago

%d bloggers like this: