My Freebirth Transformed Me

freebirth june stephenson

I’ve had many transformational moments in the past few years. But the freebirth of our little Juniper might be my most powerful (and favorite) so far. 

A freebirth simply means you give birth without the assistance of a midwife or doctor. And that is exactly what Geoff and I did.

I didn’t intend on having a freebirth in the beginning. My plan was to find the perfect midwife and give birth at home or a birth center. But after a few interviews and lots of research, Geoff and I sat down and we discussed having this baby. Me pushing, Geoff catching. As we talked, we reminisced about our first two hospital birth experiences. Archie came first, and Gus, second.

archie baby now

 Archie was born at 41 weeks by scheduled induction. Up until that point, I had gone to every appointment and taken every routine test. I was a model patient. And my pregnancy felt pretty good overall. 

I arrived at Altaview Hospital, the same hospital I was born in, at 9 AM on September 2nd. I was taken to my room and hooked up to the machines. I was nervous, but excited. They broke my water, and then started me on the pitocin to get my contractions going. I was then given an epidural, which was my plan right from the start. I had never even considered having this baby naturally.

I progressed quickly. Quicker than our doctor expected. He had stepped out of the room to check in with a patient after seeing I wasn't fully dilated. But 10 minutes later, Archie was coming. Our doctor ran to our room, ready to catch. I don't even think he had time to put gloves on. He saw Archie's heartrate drop, so he performed an episiotomy (which I feel wasn't necessary, and has caused trauma for me), and Archie arrived. Face smushed, and perfect. 

I remember looking at Geoff who felt all the emotions. He was laughing one moment, crying the next. Me, on the other hand, I was numb and overstimulated at the same time. I wanted to hold my beautiful boy, but I was so distracted by the lights and the sounds. It makes me wonder what Archie felt as well. Being SO sensitive, and coming into the world in a chaotic way. 

I stayed in the hospital for a couple of days, and was sent home. I had requested my placenta be given to me. I called a couple of days after getting home, and they told me they had thrown it away. I hung up the phone and cried. I cried for a long time.

My recovery was hard. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t regulate my body temperature. I couldn’t have a bowel movement for 2 weeks. I couldn’t control my emotions. And I had severe brain fog. I also remember having anxiety, but only during the first few seconds of feeding Archie. I also had that with Gus to a lesser degree, and with Juniper, to an even lesser degree. I have found breathing deeply during those first few seconds has helped tremendously. It took me a lot of work to recover from this birth, emotionally, mentally, and physically. And I am so much stronger because of it. And Archie was worth every bit of that experience.

gus baby now

Gus was born via induction as well. He was scheduled to be induced at 39 weeks gestation, which is kind of crazy. Why would you ever force a baby to come out early with an uncomplicated pregnancy. The reason we did it? It worked for the doctor's schedule. I remember the day of the induction, just waiting around for the nurse to give us a call to come in, as they had said they would do. And just waiting, and waiting. Eventually, Geoff called, and they said, “Oh yeah, yeah, you can come on in.” So again, Geoff and I went in and I got hooked up to monitors, and was given Pitocin. I had to put my foot down with the amount of Pitocin they wanted to give me. I told the nurse, I want the MINIMUM amount of Pitocin you can give me, since my body progresses fast. She fought me on it, but I was able to convince her to start small, and increase if needed. 

As I progressed, I requested the epidural. The anesthesiologist came in, and had me sit up on the bed with my feet on top of Geoff’s knees. She started to insert the needle into my back, and an excruciatingly dull pain shot through my entire body. I closed my eyes and whimpered, “Ow, ow ow.” I started sweating profusely. Geoff said instantly my feet started sweating through my socks, and drenched his pants. I knew I couldn’t move, so I just sat there waiting for the woman to pull the needle out in agony. She apologized, gave me a second to recover, and then went to insert the needle again. And again, the excruciating pain was back. This time I was crying. This was the most pain I had ever experienced in my life. And after that second attempt, I don’t remember what happened. I had an epidural with Gus, so I am sure she did it a third time and was successful that time. But I have a mental block there around that trauma. I had pain in that area in my back for years after that experience. 

After the epidural, Gus came quickly. Two pushes and he was out. When Gus came out, the doctor gave him to the nurse to clean up, and she pulled Geoff over to take a look at something. His lip. She was concerned he had a cleft palate. I didn’t realize the vibe that was happening over there, but for a minute, Geoff was worried. The nurse took a look inside his lip, and everything ended up being just fine. No issues at all. Just a lip deformity (which is our favorite feature of Gus’s). Geoff’s emotions with Gus’s arrival were that of fear because of this. Very different from his experience with Archie. 

This time, I was loud about keeping my placenta. I even had someone come and pick it up from the hospital before we were even transferred to the recovery room. I only stayed in the hospital with Gus for 24 hours because I wanted to be home and in my own environment. My recovery was a lot better. I had better nutrition, and was a more knowledgeable mom. And we were all obsessed with our little Gus, who was born with big eyes and a giant mouth. 

With both births, we had kind doctors and nurses, my body responded to the Pitocin quickly, and Archie and Gus were born in a "timely" manner.  But even the best version of a hospital birth was not for me for my third birth. 

My main reason for wanting to avoid the hospital environment again is that I no longer believed a hospital environment was conducive to the rite of passage of the birthing woman. And I don’t write that to trigger anyone, though I am aware it might. And maybe there are women out there who do feel like they had a rite of passage with a hospital birth. But I write that because that is my experience. And experience creates perspective. I also believe that there are other forms of “rites of passage”. So if you are unable to have a natural birth experience, I believe you can still have a powerful, transformative, life changing rite of passage. 

Geoff and I talked about what it would be like to have this baby in the hospital again, or even a birthing center. But that just wasn’t what we wanted, unless there was an emergency, of course. So we made the choice. There was no fear behind our decision because we understood the power of a woman's intuition. And we had trust in each other. I trusted that Geoff could hold space for me and keep the energy of the room where it needed to be. And he trusted me, that I would do the work to be able to be in touch with my intuition. 

We decided that we wanted to find another support person though, and that led us to our wonderful doula and photographer, Danielle, of Wild Oak Birth. 

There were a couple of reasons as to why I didn’t choose a midwife that I’d like to discuss. Like I said, it didn’t feel right in the interviews. I felt this heavy feeling. The feeling I get when I give my power away. And they seemed like wonderful people, and really good at their jobs. But they still have strict rules they must adhere to for legal protection. One of those is that they must check the laboring woman every 30 minutes. Which might not seem like a big deal, but I really didn’t want to be disturbed once I got in “the zone”. Another big one for me was that if your baby is showing signs of being in a breech position, they legally have to transfer you to a hospital. Upon further research, I have found that a breech position is a variation of normal, and that listening to your body and your baby, you will know the right position needed for the birth of a breech baby at home.

Leading up to the birth, I took a course that was very beneficial for me, and I recommend it for anyone who is feeling the call to birth at home. The course is called The Complete Guide to Freebirth. This was what I needed to do to tap into my intuition, process unsolved trauma, and know how to handle a variety of situations.

So the time came. I was two days away from my 40 week mark. And honestly, expecting to go to 42 weeks, as I was still feeling really good.

My water broke on Tuesday afternoon, on June 15th. I was using the bathroom, and a little trickle of fluid came out. I actually wasn’t sure what it was, as I had never experienced the feeling of a spontaneous water breaking. Although I suspected my water had broken. I texted Geoff, Danielle, and my mom around 4 PM. An hour later, a gush of water ran down my sweats and contractions started. Contractions started getting more consistent around 9 PM, just as the sun was setting. I noticed the sky was such a pretty shade of pink. It matched Geoff’s shirt, and my bedspread. I like to think the universe was trying to hint to me that a girl was coming, even though I was convinced it was a boy. 

I took my position on my medicine ball and with every contraction, I closed my eyes, and focused on my breath. I focused on breathing in for 4 seconds, holding my breath for 4 seconds, breathing out for 6 seconds, and holding for 6 seconds. This is a technique I learned to signal to your body that you are in a parasympathetic state, instead of a fight or flight state, also known as the sympathetic nervous state. I was able to do this during the entire labor process. I tried a few different positions, but I found the most comfortable position was on my knees, leaning over my bed. Geoff and Danielle took turns massaging my back. Then the contractions started getting really close together. 

Geoff held my hands on my bed, while Danielle got her GoPro ready. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I said to Danielle, “I feel like I need to poop.” Which was code for, the baby is transitioning to the birthing canal, which Geoff didn’t realize. Danielle signaled to Geoff that it was time to catch, and Geoff took his position behind me. It happened so fast, but I remember feeling this need to push, but also, that I didn’t need to push at all. My body did most of the work, but I gave a little nudge, and out popped her head! I was in such a relaxed state, I don’t recall feeling the ‘ring of fire’. About 30 seconds later I felt the second need to push, and again, with a little nudge, she came flying out! Right into Geoff’s hands. He saw the gender of the baby, gave Danielle a little smile, and asked me, “Do you want to know the sex of the baby?” I said yes, and he said, “It’s a girl!” I turned to look at him, and said, “It’s a girl?!” I was completely surprised! Geoff passed sweet June between my legs and I just held her. 

We called up my mom and the boys to come meet their little sister. What a moment. They got a chance to see their sister in the most natural environment possible. The only thing more natural would be for me to be in a field somewhere. And they got to see their mom with their sister still attached. I wish so much that I had the same experience with Archie and Gus. I feel robbed of that moment with them. But I’m so grateful I had this moment with June and that I was able to share it with them. 

It was wild birthing the placenta! In the hospital, it was just gone. I don’t remember when they ripped it out, but they did. It’s a beautiful thing, birthing the placenta. It is ceremonial in a way. It closed the chapter on the end of my pregnancy with June. 

I am currently a month postpartum as I am writing this, and I can confidently say this is my quickest and best recovery of the three. I did not tear (nor was I cut). I didn’t feel the need to take any pain medication. And even though the postpartum contractions hurt, I found them completely manageable. I was able to have a bowel movement right away. Which was a big deal to me!

I also noticed that June was so much more alert. She fed better, slept better, and overall just seemed a lot more content and happy being earthside. I feel like I have a better connection to June as well. This is also something that causes a lot of sadness for me. I feel like I missed out on these early moments of connection with Archie and Gus.

What led to me making this decision? You don’t just go from having two babies, with very little  complications in the hospital, to a complete freebirth overnight. And there were a lot of perspective changes that needed to take place to get there. For Geoff and I both! A lot of questioning what is considered ‘common or normal’. I’ll write all about that in another blog post as I want to focus on my birth story here, but I am so excited to share Geoff and I’s experiences over the past few years that led to these powerful changes in our lives.  

All I know is how I feel. And what I feel is that I am a different, more wise woman after this birth. It’s hard to describe. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I feel like I got my rite of passage that I had missed out on with the other two births. I feel like my fears have left me. I feel more ready than ever to pursue a path that is not viewed as ‘normal’. I feel ready to be my authentic self, instead of what I felt I needed to be in order to make others more comfortable. I feel ready to let go of old habits that no longer serve me. I feel as though the universe has my back, and that I can do whatever I want, and experience whatever I want to experience. This may come off as cocky, and I don’t mean for it to, but I just have a knowing of what I am truly capable of, in a way that I never had before. And all the nonsense of modern society has melted away from my vision. It’s an exciting time for me, and I can’t wait to explore this some more. 

-Samantha