At last month’s TGOGL Party in Utah, I had the privilege of meeting so many beautiful souls. One of these souls was Maria Farley. When I met her and heard her talking about her sacred feelings about birth, I felt like we’d always been friends. Maybe we have? Today I’m sharing my interview with Maria about her beautiful birth experiences. -Lani
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am part of a blended family which makes me the mother of 5 amazing children and 3 wonderful step children, 6 of which are married. I am the grandmother of 2 granddaughters and am anticipating 3 additional grandchildren who will arrive sometime in Sept, Nov and Dec/Jan of this year. I currently work full time outside the home, but I treasure my time at home the most with my husband Ron and our Sunday evening gatherings with family that can come each week.
When was your first baby born? What was the birthing climate like in your community?
My first baby was born December 18, 1987. I knew very few women who had or were having children in my immediate community. I grew up where birthing in a hospital was the standard. My mother had 8 children laboring as long as she possibly could at home before going to the hospital to deliver. Everyone I knew at home in Utah had their children at the hospital with a doctor in attendance.
While in San Diego, I made friends with two women, Tracy and Susan, who introduced me to the idea of home birthing. I did a lot of reading and research and discovered that there was quite a community of women who used midwives and birthed their children at home. We gathered together in my midwife Abby’s home once a month with other mothers and expectant mothers to talk about our desires and fears and hear of each other’s birth stories. This became the supportive community I focused on as I prepared to be a mother.
Who were your birthing mentors? Were there women in your life who you admired or respected who empowered you as a first-time mom?
The three women mentioned above had a tremendous influence on me and truly helped me feel empowered to trust in my instincts and follow the promptings of the Spirit as I became a mother.
The culture that Abby fostered in her gatherings gave me multiple examples of women from all walks of life in varied circumstances who I felt great support from. They had confidence in their choices and I saw how they nurtured, carried, nursed and balanced other children while they had these new little babies.
Tracy was a close neighbor who had a baby at home, close to the same time as me, and we helped each other as we moved into this new territory together.
Susan had tremendous faith, and I could talk to her on the phone for a few minutes and feel loved and encouraged as soon as I heard her voice. She had a way of making you feel valued and encouraged, like you could accomplish anything after you talked to her.
My own mother helped me develop a foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ and this was a profound undercurrent in my preparation to becoming a mother as well.
Were your births spiritual experiences? How so?
Yes! Very much so! With my first birth, Kira, I felt angels around us as I labored. When she came, still blue and Abby handed her to me and said to both Jim and I, “talk her in” we became very aware of how thin the veil between life and death was. As Abby worked to clear her airways and stimulated her feet, we talked to her and told her how much we wanted her to be with us and how much we loved her already. We could feel her spirit enter back into her little body as she pink-ed up and began to breathe. She never cried. It was one week before Christmas and I felt very connected to Mary at the time of Christ’s birth.
At my second birth, Danielle, I began to understand how each child that came to the earth for us to raise were really not ours, but were on loan from Heavenly Father and that they came with their own strengths and personalities from a full pre-mortal life.
With Jessica, I felt the guarding power of my dad who passed away in October the year before she was born. His name was Don and she was born at dawn, so we gave her the middle name Dawn in honor of him.
With Lucas I learned to trust in the Lord’s timing. I learned that no matter how much we think we know and can do from past experience that in birth there is always a moment, sometimes very long moments, where you have to trust in the Lord and lean on his strength to deliver and raise a child.
With Sara I learned about the Atonement and the unwavering, unconditional love that my Savior has for me. That negative feelings and struggles and traumatic, hard births can instantly be swallowed up in the love the Savior has for me and my children. That joy and peace are real and available to us as soon as we ask for it.
Have you attended any births as a support person? How was that for you?
I have now attended two births as a support person. The first was for one of Susan’s children in Jan 1996. It was a water birth in her home, with her husband and I attending, and one older daughter looking on. It was amazing! I had given birth to 4 children at home by this time. It was the first water birth (and any birth) I had seen that wasn’t my own. I was awed at her power and strength and felt so privileged to be there in such a sacred and intimate space with them.
The second was just this year in June for my second grand-daughter. My stepdaughter, Heather, was estranged from her own mother at this time, and she asked me to attend her (like a doula would). She was being cared for by a midwife in a hospital. This was a hard labor and birth for me to attend. I didn’t know how much she really trusted my advice, and she had a strong sense that staying in bed was the only way to be safe during labor. She had great fears about the well-being of the baby and wanted to be monitored and checked for progress frequently. I wanted to help her by giving ways she could move around and positions that could make it more comfortable for her.
Nothing I tried to help her was effective. This led to an epidural and apologies to me. I quickly realized that she needed to be told frequently that birthing was her own and the baby’s work, and that she owed no one an apology, especially me, that she was doing an amazing job and this birth journey was hers however it happened, that she shouldn’t give up, that this would still be a beautiful empowering birth.
I also saw that I needed to help her husband be more involved in her care and be attentive to her and encourage him. In the end, after 8 more hours of labor in the hospital, sweet Rowan Grey was born without any additional interventions. As little Rowan Grey laid on her skin to skin, we reviewed what happened and how things went. We began to focus on all the positive things that had happened, and just how amazing it is to bring this daughter of God into the world and be her mother.
I think that this was the beginning of an understanding for me of how important it is for women who are birthing to feel confidence in themselves and in God in the birthing process. It also confirmed to me the value of gaining knowledge about birth through reading and hearing many other positive stories. The most important preparation for a new father and mother is the preparation of the heart and mind to trust God; to trust our body’s ability to birth. To have confidence in our ability to learn what we can and then be guided by divine inspiration in our choices. To learn to surrender to the powerful energy called birth and trust that we will come out better and stronger, much like precious metal in the refiner’s fire.
I think that they see birth as a natural process. I believe this is a key element in empowering them in their own births. That it isn’t something that happens to you but, something you are a part of. They have seen birth first-hand at a very young age. They have heard me scream and moan and felt the intensity (pain) and power of birth. They have also seen the joy and intensity (pleasure) and sacredness of birth as well. No matter how they choose to birth, they know my only expectation is that they are educated about their choices and that they do in fact have choices. They know that I don’t hold any judgments for how their birth stories play out. They know that there is always strength to be gained or lessons to be learned from their experiences.
What do you think is the best way mothers can strengthen their daughters and friends as they prepare for birth?
Share your stories. Tell your children their own birth stories. Share the beautiful parts and the scary parts. Share how you overcame the scary things – talk about your thoughts and feelings in connection with preparing and how things turned out in the end.
If there were things about the birth you didn’t like, explore together how you would have liked it to be different. Be open to recognizing what things you could have done differently to be more prepared the next time or for other women and also recognizing what expectations you had to let go of. I think it’s good to share positive stories. I don’t think it’s helpful to share “horror stories,” but when friends ask, and you feel prompted to share more difficult stories, share them. They need to know the hard parts about birth too.
Most importantly, be a safe place where there are no judgments or comparisons and enjoy each birth story for its uniqueness. Just as each women and each baby is unique. Believe in each other, encourage each other, praise each other in all things, not just about mothering and birth. Celebrate being a woman with them and love the varied unique talents and body shapes we come in. Knowledge is power and coupled with faith the journey of birth and motherhood can truly be a beautiful transformation.