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SOVEREIGN BIRTH STORIES: RHIANNON

THIRD TIME MAMA, 39+6, FREE BIRTH

Third-time mama, Rhiannon, shares the story of her healing freebirth following two births within the system. Here she tells us of her reasons for choosing to opt out of the system for her third pregnancy and birth, and how this wonderful sovereign experience has imprinted onto her children, paving the way for generations to come.

“I am glad to have had the wonderful birth keeper Sophia, tell me that it’s a good idea to write up the story of my freebirth and take this time to reflect on it on a deeper level. Thank you for that.

On the 28th December on a dark and ferociously windy and stormy evening, my beautiful, little son Sonny was born free, outside of the medical system. 

Me? Can I do this, really? I know it sounded right, I know it’s how it should be, but would I manage it? I told myself every day that I could. Of course I could. Birthing babies is ancient. Only massive corporations, money and power made us all believe it wasn’t possible; I knew all of that. I read some incredible books that I picked up along the way, for example ‘Reclaiming Birth as a Rite of Passage’ by Dr Rachel Reed & ‘Ten Moons’ by Jane Hardwick Collins. I also followed inspirational women on Instagram. Our bodies are made for this. I surrounded myself with positive women, wonderful birth keeper, Mia of Village Birth and yoga.

MY PREVIOUS BIRTHS

Sonny is my third baby. My first freebirth and first home birth. My first baby was born in hospital; a failed water birth, pulled out, crying before she was even born fully. An episiotomy, without my knowledge. Who knows, it was an ’emergency’ wasn’t it? Even though at all times her heart rate was fine. Was I informed of the risks? Was it necessary? Hell… I don’t know. She was born all within the day, but there were shift changes. I think they just thought; “young 23 year old, first time baby, let’s get this over with now, it’s nearly 12am”. 

Theres lots I have to process about this birth, and how my sweet sensitive girl was affected by all of this. I wish I knew, I wish all mothers knew, what was possible in birth. Not going into it blind, trusting all ‘professionals’, like I did. 

For my second birth, my first son, I found a doula. He was born within the hour in hospital in a birthing pool. I still handed myself over, made them catch my baby, and got on with life so, so quickly after. I wish, looking back, that I had found trust in myself and again, knowledge, to do this all at home. How much more peaceful that would have been. Instead, on a late June day, I sat sweltering in a hospital with a sweet boy, waiting for doctors to check us over for hours and hours before we could leave and go home. We weren’t discharged until a pointless check was done. I wish I’d walked. My sweet toddler, home all day and night with her daddy. Now it feels wrong that we were all apart. 

How I wish things had been different, but trusting this, perhaps my story can help others to now change the way we see birth. Certainly for my children it will do. Especially my daughter, of course. 

CHOOSING WILD PREGNANCY

I chose to do this pregnancy completely out of the system. According to the doctors when I tried to register my son, ‘You didn’t tell us you were pregnant.’ No, I didn’t go there to be honest. I emailed the head midwife of the area to say what I would be doing, they replied to tell me all of the other options, but I politely declined and told her I knew where to go if needed anything. I was well, very well.  

Not one person told me ‘your iron is low’ or ‘your urine is showing this’, ‘you are measuring small’, ‘you are measuring too big’, ‘your blood pressure says this’. I trusted the entire process of my baby and my body. 

Someone told me that when a baby knows it’s going to be free birthed, it shows up more inside. This baby constantly showed me reminders that he was strong and healthy. He was such a wriggler, and we had this deep, deep connection and trust that I’d never gained before. Previously, I’d let random people tell me what my body was doing and how my baby was acting/growing/measuring inside of me. It’s like I didn’t know before, until a scan told me what was going on, or a tape measure, or the hands of a random stranger. This time I had the space to connect and be intuitive.

PREPARING MY OLDER CHILDREN

Nine months of preparing my space.. and guiding my two older ones through the process. My daughter who was 7 and my son 6, only see birth as non-medicalised; a natural process, no checks to be had, no testing needed, and in a safe environment wherever you wish. We read some wonderful stories (Australian authors only, why!?), and they saw no other way than that I would bring this baby into the world in my bedroom upstairs in a pool, with my birthkeeper and their daddy by my side. They were free to be doing whatever they wanted. My mum came and sat with them when I was in the depths of labour that early evening. 

NOTICING THE FIRST LABOUR SENSATIONS

Never had I felt so deeply and slowly what was happening to my body. I had the exact same thing happen at the beginning of this labour as my previous births; waking up for my first toilet trip of the day, waters trickling out, labour begins.. the rest is history.

This 4am ish start, one morning, after a week of bodily clear outs (!!) on the toilet, I was woken to the feeling of stronger movements and different feelings across my stomach. It was such a deep, dark December morning. Everyone asleep, exhausted after the Christmas filled days prior. Would it really happen today? The other two were out within a day, but this time felt so different. So much slower in the days previously, plus my waters hadn’t released which shocked me… when would they break?! Well, they never did to my knowledge! 

I had surges in the bath every hour.. I took two baths that day, maybe three. It was the only thing that made my body weightless and reminded me to breathe so deep and close my eyes. Water really was a healer to me. I spent the day downstairs with the children and my partner. I ate good food, drank herbal teas and took more baths. 

ENTERING THE BIRTH PORTAL

Around 5pm, I messaged my birth keeper to say that my surges were now half an hour apart. Although they didn’t last long, before I knew it, they really did. I was on all fours on my bedroom floor breathing deep and listening to my spotify birth playlist. My partner was in and out, as were our two dogs, sorting out our other children. I really felt I could just be completely alone and do this. 

I was roaring so much, my kids tell me I sounded like a lion! 

My birth keeper arrived and reminded me that yes, now is the time to fill up the pool. My birth altar had a beeswax candle lit, and birth affirmations stuck to the wall above that my older two put up. I also had some beautiful postcards from Myriad Toys on there too. My older two had spent the last few weeks helping me dress the little table with a silk, little plant, and lots of crystals for labour. I had my salt lamp on in my bedroom also to give that beautiful warm glow. Looking back, there is nothing I’d have added to that space. A totally different picture from the last two places I’d birthed babies.

When I was in the pool around 7pm, I was weightless. In this beautiful squishy birth pool I had hired from Gentle Births Birthing Pools. I remember saying so so many times ‘I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore,’ however this was the end.. already. Suddenly I was so so close. No one in the birth room could believe it when I said ‘the head is out.’ I was roaring so much, my kids tell me I sounded like a lion! 

SONNY’S ARRIVAL

Suddenly with another surge, I was silent. I couldn’t even make the sounds any more. I caught this perfect baby in my arms and lifted him up to me thinking; my baby is beautiful, he’s healthy and strong and well…. I’ve just birthed a baby, entirely away from the system on my own. I’ve caught my baby. No one’s hands have touched me or my baby. 

His cord was wrapped twice around his neck, yet he cried just beautifully and my birth keeper untied it whilst I just stared at him. She said he had the most beautiful deep colour and it was unusual in water births for them to just be so present and bright this soon after. 

There was barely any blood loss in the pool. My previous births were full of blood after… full. I could not believe that I had birthed a baby that was untouched, unmeasured throughout and just how a baby would have come into the world so many years ago. I am glad for him, and my body. 

It was like tying up threads on the most incredible healing journey. 

After my placenta was birthed, it was like a gate closing. It really was. I barely bled in the days after as I had done before. Weeks of heavy blood and endless pads. I feel like there was just no trauma to my body, and my body was so appreciative that it could just get on with its job, and close everything up for good. It was like tying up threads on the most incredible healing journey. 

I got into bed, thanks to my wonderful birth keeper, making my bed all beautiful, so I could just slide in. She ensured I had complete comfort, a pair of knickers on and then went on her way. 

POSTPARTUM JOY

We didn’t leave the house for three weeks, and even then it was a walk for 10 minutes. My wonderful, wonderful other half made me placenta smoothies every single day for roughly 10 days. He used the recipe from the book First Forty Days by Heng Ou; full of coconut oil, nut butter, cacao.. Oh so healing and welcome. He brought it to my bedside every day, and took care of everything downstairs. How I wish and pray that every mother could be held in this way. I count my blessings for what he did for us all, very often. I will make sure that my two sons are aware of how a mother birthing their child should be treated and cared for. And to my daughter, how she should be resting without judgement and given time to reflect and connect, and to be nourished and looked after. 

My sweet Sonny boy went from the birth pool to bed in the same room. There was no touching of his body except this family. My 7 year old daughter cut his cord after an hour of him being born. They are 7 days apart in their birthdays, the same star sign Earth children. I believe my first and last will always share a deep soul connection. I have learnt so much since her birth to my final one. They both have taken me from the depths, and up again.  

Well unsurprisingly, Sonny is my most chilled, content baby of all. He even sleeps on his back, relaxed as can be like a starfish. He just knew he was safe; he knew not to fear anything. This is something I pray for for each baby. Imagine how we could change the world if babies were born to mothers who weren’t afraid, in spaces meant for birth, in low lighting, touched by no one but their mothers. Not ‘checked’ by checklists, amongst crying babies in wards, bright lights, fear, people rushing, fast energy. Oh hell, no. 

INSPIRING OTHERS

If only I had known. I hope my story helps just one other woman, to trust herself and pave the way for beautiful entrances to the world. Healed and powerful mothers and confident, happy children. Let’s give a fat finger up to medicalised, rushed births. Obstetricians with zero connection to the mothers, only a connection to timeframes and charts where you’re seen as just a number. You only have to go on Kemi Johnson’s instagram for a minute to see the horror stories of what goes on behind the scenes. Please, stay away if you can. 

Thank you for reading.. It took me time to get here. 

9 months now, and I have enjoyed (nearly!) every day. My beautiful placenta still sits in my freezer, awaiting the time it is planted back to the earth under a gorgeous tree where it will be thanked deeply for what it did so beautifully for my baby and for me. It has been used to make smoothies, homeopathic remedies for baby and I, and a tincture to take me well into menopause. 

Flora Westbrook Photography

I wish everyone ecstatic births. Trust yourself, it is within all of us to birth babies like this. It really is. 

Love Rhiannon x”

@schooling_mama_ 

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SIBLINGS IN BIRTH

This is a topic I have felt called to talk about for some time as it is so often raised when supporting families preparing to birth subsequent babies at home. 

For some people it is a no brainer deciding to have their older child/ren present for the birth of a sibling. For others it can be a little more difficult to imagine logistically. Like birth, it is all in the prep and it’s important to customise the family experience based on your needs and your children’s ages and personalities. 

Just like us, our children are also transitioning to a new role within the family; on the cusp of becoming an older brother or sister. With each birth comes a transformation of identity and a period of adaption. What better way to adjust than to witness, first-hand, the process of the arrival of the new family member. 

THINGS TO CONSIDER

What does birth preparation look like for you? 

How can you involve your child in this in a way that they will understand? 

Children are hardwired to care for us as mothers. Preparing them to witness you as you experience the sensations of labour, by exposing them to positive birth videos and stories, is a great way to normalise birth. 

Give them choice. They can decide at what capacity they’d like to be involved in the birth. Questions like: “Would you like to watch the baby be born?” or “If I go into labour during the night, would you like me to wake you?” or “If you need to take a break at any time, where can we create you a safe and comfy space to rest?”. Consider the emotions they might be feeling beforehand so they can come and go as they please. 

Give them a job. Ask them if there is something they would like to bring to the birth space or how they could help you. For some children, they may want to comfort you by rubbing your back or bringing a cold flannel for your head. By giving them a role you give them a sense of purpose and responsibility. 

TALK ABOUT BIRTH

The key here is to normalise. Children aren’t born with a fear of birth. We are conditioned to fear birth through dramatic scenes in television and film and the sharing of traumatic stories. By learning alongside our children about the nature of birth and how women’s bodies are perfectly designed, we can build a better outlook towards birth for future generations. 

Answer their questions, set expectations of possible scenarios, look up child appropriate home birth videos on youtube, learn about the gestational stages of pregnancy and prepare them for the sensations you’ll experience through labour. Through understanding comes normalisation, confidence and trust rather than fear and doubt. Imagine how many lives that could change. 

Children are incredibly robust and have the ability to deal with the majority of situations as long as they are told the truth and the facts of the situation.

Jo Hunter, babybelly.com

SUPPORT FOR YOUNGER SIBLINGS

It is a good idea to have someone familiar to your toddler on-call or included in your birth team. If at any point they feel a little overwhelmed (or bored – birth is a waiting game after all!) and are in need some extra attention, having someone there to take them into a different room to play or read them a story can be all they need to regulate before entering the birth space again.

The emotions and needs of younger children need to be considered. During a big event such as this they would usually look to you, as their mother, for comfort. You may not always have the capacity to respond to them during labour preparing to have that additional person with you can benefit you all. A doula can also take on this role, but be sure to set roles and boundaries. Ensure your child can form a relationship with your doula beforehand so they are comfortable to seek comfort in them during your birth. 

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS 

Children learn so much through reading. Below is a list of useful books to prepare your children for your birth.

OLDER CHILDREN

Everyone is different. Some children or teens may not feel comfortable to be present for the entire birth so have conversations around what their boundaries or apprehensions are. Perhaps there is parts of birth they would like to be present for, but not others. Alternatively they may prefer to enter the space just after your new baby has arrived. This is also a sacred time to witness. 

SONS WITNESSING BIRTH

This question comes up a lot, perhaps because within our society we have sexualised women’s bodies and the thought of our sons being exposed to our nakedness make some people feel uncomfortable. Everyone is different. I believe that it is a wonderful opportunity for a boy to witness a woman’s body doing what it was made to do. Witnessing his mother in her power normalises natural birth and imprints the belief that women’s bodies are capable. If/when his time comes to father a child, he trusts in his partners ability to birth his child. 

THEIR PRESENCE SUPPORTS BIRTH PHYSIOLOGY

Mini physiology lesson: Oxytocin, the love hormone is what initiates those powerful uterine surges. The hormones of intimacy and affection. When we love and cuddle our closest ones we release a surge of oxytocin. During birth when oxytocin is released in abundance it provides longer, stronger and more effective contractions. So, having your children around you could enable your birth to unfold smoothly; supporting you, rubbing your back, kissing your head for example, could all play a huge role in your birth. 

The most important thing to remember is that children are intuitive. They are often a loving and caring addition to the birth space. By having them in attendance we could heal birth for generations to come.

Did you have your older child/ren present at your birth? I’d love to hear of your experience in the comments.

Thank you to this beautiful family I had the honour of supporting last year, for allowing me to share these images of their family-centred birth.