Cherise is an Arizona Mother, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Crafter, and Creator of the marvelous “Big Baby Project” (a website full of empowering vaginal births of babies 9 lbs and over). This is Part 2 of Cherise’s birth story. You can read Part 1 (her quest to find a supportive care provider HERE). I love how the words of one of my favorite songs gave Cherise strength when she felt like giving up. -Lani
Sacred Space for Birth, Part 2
By Cherise Sant
Aaron’s estimated “guess date” came and went, and I got to practice the patience I’d so often preached in class. I joined a yoga studio and practiced prenatal yoga for the final month of my pregnancy. That was such a good choice! It was the perfect preparation for birth, as well as a much needed sanctuary in the final days which were such a challenge emotionally.
At 40 ½ weeks gestation, I received a notice that the following week, the water in my neighborhood would be shut off for 12 hours. I laughed and thought wouldn’t that be hilarious if baby came that night? Except it wouldn’t really be hilarious at all. I shared my dilemma on facebook and some amazing women offered their homes should I go into labor on that particular night (even one woman I’d never before met), and I felt God’s love and support again.
Then came week 41, and I was still pregnant. I tried to avoid anyone that would ask questions in effort to keep myself positive and looking forward. I knew my movement wouldn’t be as limber or energetic as before, but I trudged to yoga class anyway. I tucked in with my mantra that I was at peace and accepting God’s plan, and I let the tears flow. Two nights later was the night of the water shut off. I filled the tub and put water on the stove in case baby decided to join us that night. The water was scheduled to come back on at 6am the next morning. My husband was away at work that night and I snuggled down with my then 4 and 6 year old and we all went to sleep. I woke just after 6 a.m. to go to the bathroom and was relieved to see water flowing. All was well. I went back to bed.
At 7:07 I awoke with a pain in my back, so I sat up and that helped some. I stood up and that helped more, but I was tired (I loved to sleep in whenever possible). I bounced on my birth ball while leaning over on the bed. As I felt sensations in my back and belly, I knew that these were contractions, and they were different than what I had experienced thus far for this pregnancy. I called my mom and asked if she could come and help me with my kids. I didn’t know if baby was coming that day but I knew I’d need some help. Just a bit later I called my husband who was just on his way home from work to make sure he was on his way, and I gave my sweet doula the heads up as well. I called my midwife but wasn’t ready for her to come quite yet.
Bouncing on the ball was helpful for a long time, and then I wanted to get in the bath. My husband sat with me until I requested that he set up the birth pool so that I could have more room to move around and more water to cover my belly. I soon asked someone to call the midwife. So then my sweet mother came in and sat next to me. I told her she would feel like she’s not doing anything, but just by being there she would be doing a lot. She wrote in her notebook, and I breathed deeply and imagined swirls of color to keep my mind moving but off the contractions. I walked around, I bounced on the ball in the kitchen, and my birth team arrived.
I don’t remember just who but various people brought me herbal tea with honey, and some gluten free toast. I labored on the toilet as things got quite intense, and I cried. I leaned upon my husband, and he held me as I moaned and swayed. Then the birth photographer and a dear friend came with her new little one. I was at his homebirth just 4 months earlier. She came in to say hi, and I could her little guy breathe. Hearing that newborn breath awoke me to the purpose of all the discomfort I was feeling, and I got excited. It was all really happening.
After the wave of contractions I experienced in the bathroom there was an internal shift and I knew that it wouldn’t be long now. I knew I had to get to that birth tub. So I did, and then things seemed to slow down for a minute. My kids were going back and forth between PBS kids and checking on me, and during a contraction I could tell my 4 year old daughter was a little concerned about me. After that contraction I looked back at her and smiled warmly. I told her, “Mommy’s okay, I’m just having a baby!” She relaxed and smiled.
And then I got really, really uncomfortable. I started getting grunty and really felt like I had to poop (which I knew was baby), and I got a little excited. After one BIG contraction and guttural moan I pushed hard! I was imagining I was pushing the baby down closer and closer with that push, so I felt satisfied. Until I heard my husband say to our daughter, “Daphne, don’t touch that!” I looked back to see that… I pooped. I pooped! “Oh great!” I yelled, irritated. Of course the evidence was quickly removed and I labored on.
I had been listening to my birth CD and on it was the most beautiful song called “Long Time Sun” sung by Snatam Kaur. I then went into a place of intense pressure while baby worked his way down, and I distinctly remembering feeling like my body would crack open if this continued. And that was a problem because I pretty much had to continue. My mind flooded with doubt and fear – words like “I can’t do this, this is too hard, I don’t wa—“ I recognized immediately the negative talk that had begun, and I remembered that even though I didn’t feel it at that moment, I knew that somewhere I had what it took to birth this baby. I am connected to an endless source of energy and light and power in my Savior, and with his help I can do anything! And then I remembered the words of the song I had just heard…
May the Long Time Sun
Shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on
Guide your way on
I prayed a desperate prayer and tried different positions in the water in a fruitless attempt to find some relief. I moved to a squat – holding onto the sides of the tub and I bore down. Emotions raged, pain seared, and I knew my baby was coming. And then he was with me, and I was with him. Time didn’t mean anything to me then but I know it was only a matter of minutes before his head was born. “His head is out!” I announced excitedly and a bit proud. More pushing, and I remember my mom coming around to the front of the tub with the video camera sobbing unrestrained. My husband (who never left my side) and our other children were at the tub side now.
Then little Aaron left my body, and I pulled him right up to my chest. The emotions that I experienced at that time cannot be described with words. It was overwhelming, it was so special, and yet so normal, like “Of course, I just had a baby.” I was on top of the world. I stayed in the water for just a few minutes as I let it sink in and looked at my baby. We had a boy! As I’d pulled him up, I immediately could tell that he was little!! My smallest baby for sure, and yes he weighed in at 5 pounds, 15.9 oz. Later I would marvel that I changed course on a path to VBAC and didn’t have planned cesareans at 39 weeks. I couldn’t imagine how small and fragile he would have been 2 ½ weeks prior.
The next hour was a whirlwind but I was lucid and consciously participating. The baby latched on, and I tucked into my own bed and after some delicious food and loving faces I went to sleep. The midwife returned to my home to weigh the baby, check my sutures (I tore along an old scar line), blood pressure, etc. in the days that followed. Everything was perfect. My home was blessed with love and angels at the time of his birth and in the weeks that followed.
Even many months after Aaron’s birth, I could walk back to that spot where the birth pool sat and I gave birth and feel it. I felt the strength, beauty and power of those precious, sacred moments. We’ve since moved away from that home, and on the day we left, I stood there once again and drank in the spirit of love I felt there.
The children were so glad to have been present, and I believe they have a special bond with him because of that. As a mother I felt so whole and so supported through everything that I felt nothing but love for this new little one. He wasn’t a burden at all as I admit I had felt about the first two. I had enough – I always had enough to give. I believe it is because during his pregnancy and birth that was my reality. I made it my reality with the help of the Lord. The Lord inspired my path, I had a vision of what I wanted, he agreed, then I imagined it, I spoke about it, I felt it, I prepared for it and then I experienced it.
I know the Lord cares about me, so he also cares about you. He cares about our births, and that women and children are met with respect and love during the sacred and tender time of birth. He wants to be involved and will guide your path if you are willing to do the walk of faith. I am forever grateful for such a loving Heavenly Father who always leads to joy and healing.