Friday, November 13, 2009

Bowden's Birth Story

Bowden’s birth story started while I was on the phone with my best friend. I commented that Rhett, my then 15 month old, was nursing “all the freakin’ time!” I could hear Nancy grin over the phone: “You’re pregnant!” I protested for a few minutes, since another pregnancy was certainly not in my plans for the year. Nancy pointed out that the last person she’d talked to who told her their toddler seemed to be nursing constantly had been pregnant- her toddler had been busy trying to keep up a milk supply changed by pregnancy hormones. She was sure this was what Rhett was doing. I brushed the idea off, certain that it couldn’t be true.
The next time I saw Nancy, she sent me home with 2 pregnancy tests. I was so concerned about being pregnant that I let them sit in my diaper bag for 2 weeks! I finally decided to try them after being reminded that they were expiring soon. Test one didn’t seem to work quite right- the sample line didn’t show up. Test two was…positive. Hmm, I thought- that can’t be right! I called my husband to tell him that the wonky test was telling me I was pregnant. He didn’t really believe it either. As we were talking, I noticed the first test, which I’d thrown in the garbage can- it was positive now too!
Uh oh. My next call was to the midwife I had hired with my second pregnancy. She quickly sent a request to the lab in the town closest to me.
I ignored the looks from the lab tech as I hauled my almost 4 year old & my 15 month old in to take my third pregnancy test of the morning. He was unable to do the test that day, but obviously felt sorry enough for me to send me home with a test kit to use on my own.
Test three…positive. Called my husband, called Nancy (who knew all along), called the midwife.
I found myself with a lot of thinking to do. My first 2 were 33 months apart which was closer than I would have liked. My comment to people who asked me about their spacing was that “I wouldn’t do that again on purpose!” These 2 would be 22 months apart-good grief! This being said, we planned a big family so it probably didn’t matter when our third was born. My husband, Jesse and I were excited about a new baby to look forward to, but I was still feeling very overwhelmed at the thought of having three kids under 5. I had made lots of new commitments over the past while, some in-depth volunteer positions and plans to start a new business.
The more I tried to assimilate a new pregnancy, the more I found the idea of all the work a pregnancy can entail to be completely overwhelming. After much soul searching, I decided that what I needed most was to just carry on with life and pay minimal attention to “being pregnant”. This wasn’t denial, it was simply the reality of my very busy life. I needed to get on with things, and the baby would arrive when it was ready. I realized that this meant that I needed to make some changes in how I planned to give birth. Luke, my oldest, was born in March 2002, a midwife assisted homebirth. Rhett, born in January 2005, was also born at home, but came before our midwife arrived- a freebirth. After he was born, reading Dr Michel Odent’s forward to the book Adventures in Birthing, helped me understand that Rhett’s birth had gone so quickly and smoothly because it was physiologically correct. I’d slept through most of the labour and had not been directed by anyone at any point; these had allowed the fetal ejection reflex to take over. Rhett slid peacefully into the world, caught by our doula friend Annemarie shortly after she arrived. I wanted to do everything I could to duplicate his short and relatively comfortable birth. For all of this to happen, it became clear to me that I needed to have an unassisted pregnancy and a freebirth. I had no space in my calendar for the usual schedule of prenatal appointments. In my heart, I knew that the only way I could make this pregnancy work for me was to manage the whole thing myself. Jesse was fully supportive of the idea, as was my family doctor, who offered his encouragement to us. It was bittersweet to tell the midwife- I was confident in my decision, but knew I would miss many of the aspects of being in the care of a midwife.
For me, an unassisted pregnancy meant that I planned my own prenatal care. During my pregnancy, I sought out the opinion of others when I felt I needed some help in interpreting what my body was telling me. I saw my family doctor a couple of times and a friend helped me to figure out the baby’s position. I saw a massage therapist regularly during the last few months, which did wonders for my ability to relax!
A new group was being created at the time, Friends of Freebirth. The support and wise woman encouragement I received from its members was invaluable. I was lucky enough to be pregnant at a time when some close friends were also planning freebirths.
I learned everything I could about using herbs during pregnancy & birth. I gathered the tinctures I felt would help me, along with some other supplies I thought I might use during the birth.
Then I waited for the baby. There was quite a bit of question as to when the baby might be due. The earliest estimate we had was October 18, but I felt that the beginning of November was most likely. Because of this uncertainty, we spent a lot of time with our life on hold, waiting for the baby. October came and went, no baby. Beginning of November came and went, no baby. I went to events I assumed I would miss because I would have a brand new baby. I made a to do list of the things I needed to accomplish in order to make sure I wasn’t putting off the birth. I finished everything on the list. My husband decided we needed a new truck before the baby could come. We bought a new truck, still no baby. I was secretly convinced that the baby would be born on a Tuesday, since that was the day I had gone into labour with Rhett. I worried that I was trying too hard to duplicate his birth.
Finally, on Monday evening, November 13th, I had a few twinges. I knew that was it- the baby would be coming soon! I went to bed, with the intention of letting labour establish itself. Rhett peacefully fell asleep curled up next to me and I enjoyed my last night with him as my youngest baby. I remembered the quiet work we had done together during his labour. During this time, my contractions were steadily increasing their intensity.
Jesse was outside plowing the driveway so the friends we had asked to help us out during the birth wouldn’t get their cars stuck in the snow. I was finding it very hard to let my primitive brain take over with a tractor running under my window! I got up, yelled at my poor husband to stop and went back upstairs to try to settle into my contractions again. A few minutes later, my cat started playing with something on my bed, disrupting my peace. I shooed her away, but she was back again a minute later. I sat up to see what she was playing with and discovered a dead mouse on my bed. Lovely. I shrieked at Jesse to come upstairs, then stormed down. As I passed him on the stairs, I roared “I can’t do this!” Jess was talking to Nancy on the phone at the time- she assumed I was in transition when she heard me yelling! Not so much. Jesse changed the bedding for me, helped me settle Rhett back down, and we all went to bed for the night. I felt very disturbed, frustrated that the baby wasn’t coming that night after all.
Jess stayed home from work Tuesday, since it seemed obvious we’d be having our baby at any moment. The day passed slowly, with nothing happening. I was sure that I’d labour and birth at night, but again wondered if I was basing my assumptions on what had happened at Rhett’s birth. I found myself second guessing everything. Mid afternoon, I hit a bit of a wall. There was way too much activity and tension in our house, which was totally counterproductive. It’s my belief that to have a safe birth, I needed to be closely in touch with my body, which was impossible in the atmosphere I was in. Wisely, Jess decided to take the boys out for a drive to allow everyone to change their frame of mind. We invited Nancy over so I wouldn’t be alone.
I rested in bed for awhile, then got up and talked with Nancy when she arrived. I’d been taking diluted black and blue cohosh to try to get contractions going, and, at Nancy’s chiding, skipped the diluting part and downed the vile tasting tinctures straight. I lunged up and down my staircase for good measure. The herbs and the stairs seemed to work at causing mild contractions every now and then. We sat down with some red raspberry leaf tea and talked quietly about birth and babies, pausing every few minutes when I would have another mild contraction. I kept commenting on how odd I felt, not really knowing if I was in labour or not. My first two labours had begun by my water breaking, and I’d only ever experienced strong contractions. Nancy pointed out that contractions feel very different before your water has broken.
Jess came home with Luke and Rhett, and they roared around the house for awhile. Everyone was in a much better mood. When Nancy left around 7:00pm, she made the most helpful comment, “I don’t care when you have this baby. It can be tonight if you want, or next week if that’s better for you.” She obviously knew how much stress I was feeling; hearing her say that was such a relief. Just then, I had the first contraction that I actually had to stop for. I decided to have a shower. While I was showering, I thought I might have felt a trickle of amniotic fluid. Jess and I went over what we would do if the baby came quickly and was born with just us in attendance. I resisted asking our birth helpers to come, feeling very confident that I was completely ok with being alone while giving birth. “If the birth is that fast, I won’t need the help anyway!”
I called Annemarie to let her know what was happening. She was planning to come to help me during labour if I needed it. I sat on my birth ball in my darkened bathroom while we chatted. I had 4 contractions during our conversation; when I shut off the phone, the call timer said 19 minutes. Hmmm- those contractions are 5 minutes apart.
I went to bed, dozing in and out while having contractions. I had been having horrible pain in my left hip all day, and my contractions seemed to be centering there as well. I lay on my left side, hoping whatever was causing the pain would correct itself.
Every now and then, I would have a really difficult contraction and think “if the next one is that hard, I’ll get up and call Annemarie”. Then the next couple of contractions would be manageable again. Finally, during a contraction, I felt a huge shifting- suddenly I felt the pain across my abdomen, instead of in my hip! It was 10:00pm. I got up, roared down the stairs and yelled at Jess, asleep with Rhett in a chair, to wake up. This of course woke Rhett too- he started crying. Between contractions, I told Jess what was happening and asked him to call Annemarie to come so I had some physical support. I locked myself in the candlelit bathroom, using massage tools to help myself through the back pain I was now experiencing. Jess tried to take the boys up to bed, running back and forth between them and me. Rhett was howling in protest whenever his dad went back downstairs, and I remember thinking “Poor Rhett” in between contractions.
I felt a pop, and knew that my water had broken. Soon after, I needed to push. I yelled at Jesse to come help- one huge push brought the baby down- I wondered out loud if Jess could see the head. He said no, and ran back upstairs to help Rhett. One more push brought the baby to crowing. I supported the baby’s head with my hand and sat back on my heels to better catch him. I felt stinging and the head was out! The hardest part was over! I told Jess that the head was out, but he didn’t seem to have heard me. One last small push, and the baby was out. I laid him down on the towel below me, and discovered…another boy! I was so happy he was a boy, and instantly knew his name would be Bowden Morgan, as we’d planned.
Jesse came in a moment later and asked what was happening. I told him the baby was here and that it was a boy- in the dark, he hadn’t noticed the new person in the room! The cord was loosely wrapped around his neck a couple of times, so we carefully unwound it. He checked the time- 10:48pm – and brought Luke and Rhett in to meet their new brother. We all welcomed him, and said Happy Birth Day! I wrapped Bowden up in towels and sat back to nurse for the first time.
Annemarie and her kids arrived, just in time for the placenta. She commented on how long the cord was (36 inches!) and helped me with Bowden while Jesse took Rhett up to bed. We cut his cord, and weighed and measured him (8lbs, 13oz, 20 ¾ inches long), then Jess dressed him in the same first sleeper that Luke and Rhett had each worn. I had an herbal bath with the baby and Annemarie made placenta prints for us. It was amazing to show Luke the placenta- he was very interested in where his new baby brother had lived. It was getting late, so we said goodbye to our friends and headed off to bed.
Bowden is 5 months old as I write this. Looking back, I’m amazed by how intuitive my experience was. I’d never had any concerns with the birth itself, only with coping with labour and dealing with the details afterwards. It’s no coincidence that my friends were there for just those moments! He was born on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 (my maternal grandmother’s birthday; the first one after her death the previous winter) in the evening, as I’d imagined. I truly had a freebirth, just Bowden and I working together to assist his entry into our world. His first sights and sounds were of his parents and his brothers. We made our transition from a family of four to a family of five with the help of two of our dearest family friends. Perfect! Welcome Bowden- we love you!

Posted in honour of Bowden's 3rd birthday, while he sleeps in a woven wrap on my back.



  1. Amazing. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life. It is a beautiful story and a beautiful birth.
    Happy birthday Bowden!

  2. Beautiful Arie. I wish I could experience a birth like that, unfortunatly my DH is not on board with me giving birth anywhere but at a hospital.