July 25, 2019

Birth Stories: Rewriting the Narrative

Think for a moment about the stories you tell yourself about childbirth… None of us remember our own births, and many of us don’t even know our mother’s (or father’s) story of how we were born. And the births we hear about are usually the dramatic or traumatic, because a smooth, easy birth doesn’t make much of a story. 

What’s more, the way babies are born in movies and on TV certainly doesn’t help paint a picture of diversity and nuance in labor… you don’t see many women in a birth tub or crawling around on all fours on Grey’s Anatomy. In fact the power of the imagery most of us have – a woman on her back, screaming bloody murder – is more than pernicious… it is a recipe for stalled labor.

In today’s episode, guest host Schuyler Grant attempts to change that imagery, starting with the story of her birth day. 

If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, check out Schuyler's new Commune course, Empowered Birth! onecommune.com/birth


Welcome to Commune, where each week we explore the ideas and practices that bring us together and help us to lead healthy and purpose filled lives.  I’m Schuyler Grant, filling in for your regular host – and my beloved baby daddy – Jeff Krasno.

I can’t think of anything that brings us together more – and inspires deep self- inquiry about purpose and the true meaning of health – than pregnancy and childbirth. There is also not a time when fully formed adults can feel more confused and unprepared. 

This is what inspired me to host a totally new type of Commune course called Empowered Birth, a 21-day guide to pregnancy, childbirth, and early-postpartum. This course taps the knowledge of some of the world’s most respected pre- and post- natal experts, covering everything from nutrition and movement practices to managing pain and navigating postpartum depression. If you are pregnant, or are thinking about getting pregnant, I highly recommend you head on over to onecommune.com to sign up – and the course is completely free from August 12th to September 1st. 

As we were recording the more than 80 video segments (yes, 80!) for the course, we asked the experts, and yogis, and really anyone we could stick in front of the camera, for the story of their birth.  Because I think birth stories are powerful.

When I was pregnant with our first daughter, I dragged Jeff – not quite kicking and screaming, but not entirely enthusiastically - to a childbirth workshop with the matriarch of the home birth movement, Ina May Gaskin.  Ina May is one of my heroes, but her first book “Spiritual Midwifery” was a little too hippie dippy even for me. But her second book, Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth, became my bible. There’s some really great practical advice in this book, but mostly it is a book of women’s birth stories. And reading these stories had a profound effect on me.   

I consider myself incredibly lucky because I have a mother who had easy births, empowered births, and she passed those narratives along to me.  But even so, when I got pregnant in my mid-30, I realized that I had all kinds of life skills – but I had no clue about how to be pregnant or to deliver a baby – and I was all kinds of nervous and confused. And even though I was determined to have my baby at home, I had no idea how to actually go about manifesting the birth I wanted – especially living in Brooklyn and with a moderately skeptical husband.  And mostly, deep down, it seemed totally illogical that a baby was really supposed to be able to come out of my vagina. Hundreds of thousands of years of human history didn’t seem ample evidence when I looked at a newborn’s head and thought about my anatomy.

But reading the wide array of experiences that Ina May documents – some of them poetic and beautiful, some of them arduous and fantastically challenging - made me excited to be on this path to having a baby.  It connected me to the river of women that have gone before me – and made me eager to jump into my own experience - however it might unfold. That book changed my perception of reality. 

Think about it - what is reality? Our perception of reality is a combination of our direct life experiences, the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we are told – by other people and our culture at large.  And in truth – what we think of as our ‘actual experiences’ are really just stories of a more viscerally pungent flavor. … Because, as the present becomes past, it simply becomes another chapter in our auto-biography.

Stories are incredibly powerful because, moment by moment, they either confirm or contradict our direct experience of the present, which means they heavily influence the manifestation of our future. 

I’d like you to think for a moment about what stories you tell yourself about childbirth…   

 This is especially fertile ground for narratives to work either magic or mischief on the psyche.   None of us remember our own births, and many of us don’t even know our mother’s (or father’s) story of our births. And the births we hear about are usually the dramatic or traumatic, because a smooth, easy birth doesn’t make much of a story.   

And what’s more, the way babies are born in movies and on TV certainly doesn’t help paint a picture of diversity and nuance in labor… you don’t see many women in a birth tub or crawling around on all fours on Grey’s Anatomy. In fact the power of the imagery most of us have, consciously or unconsciously, absorbed depicting childbirth – a woman on her back, screaming bloody murder – is more than pernicious… it is a recipe for stalled labor.

I curated this birth course for Commune because I want to help kick start labor – and a positive relationship to pregnancy and early post-partum - for the river of women that come after me.  On day 14 of the course, we take a short break from the experts and get inspiration from each other. Inspired by Ina May we have recorded dozens of birth stories. – in an ever expanding library that will continue to grow, even after the Course is released.

On today’s episode I share a few of these stories with you – beginning with my own:  I sat down with my mam when we were camping in Santa Cruz last week and asked her to tell me the story of my birth day.  I was surprised to learn that the story that I’d been repeating to myself all this time contained some fairly egregious fabrications!   

Here’s Ann, gardener, mother and grandmother:

Ann’s Story

I'm Schuyler's mom, and I have a son who is three years older than Skylar. I had him in Florida. Now, Florida had a complete... Like, you had to do it in the hospital. There wasn't a... You just had to. That was just it. So, I found an osteopath who would come to my birth. The great thing was that I had a four hour labor. It was fast and easy. Really easy, hardly any pain. There was only one little spot that I'll never forget of the birth itself. 

I was lying there. The osteopath and my husband, Skylar's father and Jason's, is sitting over there talking baseball or something. Sports. A sport thing that I'm totally not interested in. I'm propped. A bunch of pillows with my legs spread apart with this contractions rolling through me. But you know, hey, I had a contraction that pushed and a little bit of poop came out of my you know where. I was embarrassed. 

I had to go, "Uh, Jack would you," and he looked up. He was just like, "Oh," and he went and got a little piece of toilet paper and took it off, and it all went fine after that. Four hours later I had my son, and I'm flooded with love. Then I'm moving to California with daughter inside me and eight months along. Big. I get to California, there is a home birth culture going on. I don't know how to get ahold of anybody, but of course I want to have a home birth. I'm told if I go to a hospital, I'll have to pay for a trained nurse if I want to keep my baby with me. 

I'm like, "I'll do that, but let me see if I can have it at home." I found out somehow that there was a doctor who was open to the idea of home birth, but I didn't know about this Midwives Collective. I didn't know how to get ahold of them. So, I went to this doctor. This was my first and only prenatal visit. He listened to me and he was a great doctor. He put his ear on my belly to listen to it. I felt so kind of safe, loved. 

He said, "I can't come to your home, but I'm here at the hospital if there's any problem. You're in fine shape. You won't have any problem." Okay, so it's just me and my husband, Jack, Skylar's dad. I'm having contractions, and things are going, and it's no big deal. It's pretty easy peasy. I had been up kind of all that night before, but I read a book while I kind of went in and out of light contractions. 

Then, my husband, oh gets a little like, "Oh, oh, oh, it's just me. Maybe we ought to go to the hospital. What do you think?" I'm going, "I'm not moving. I'm not moving." Everything's good, and the waves are coming. My legs want to tremble. My legs want to shake, and I won't let them. Now, that was too bad because then I had more contractions than I'd ever had with my son, that were actually like the cramp, the menstrual cramp, but tighter, more. But still perfectly manageable. 

Then it went away. I guess I let my legs loose a little bit, I don't know. Then she was in the birth canal, and it was hard to tell. I just didn't push. I did the (breathing noise) to stop me from pushing, and she was a long time coming. About 45 minutes in the birth canal. Her head there, crowning for quite a long time, and basically me not pushing at all. And out she came halfway. I didn't tear, and she just laid there beautiful. 

Her head was round, not all squishy like some babies' heads get. It can't be helped. It doesn't mean it's forever, but still, some of them come out peanut shaped. That was my son's head. Beautiful, beautiful, didn't cry, eyes wide open. And we were just waiting for the legs to show. Finally, my husband said, "Nothing's happening." It's been about 20 minutes with her legs still inside me. He calls up the doctor. 

The doctor says, "Well sure, just pull her out." So, Jack pulled her out and put her on my stomach. It was a breeze. The only thing I wish I had done and known about at the time, was that apparently if you put your baby just born on your stomach and lay back, they will start to inch their way up to you. You put out a pheromone that they hone in on. So, I didn't do that because I didn't know. It's a good one, I think. Doesn't it sound great? Your baby just kind of inching. Oh, man.

I can’t remember the last time I actually heard this story, but it’s been many decades.   What you’re going to hear next is the story I recorded for this course a few months ago, it starts with my own birth - as I’ve been telling it to myself, inaccuracies and all -  followed by the story of giving birth to my first daughter Phoebe. Maybe with this recording, she can be sure to keep the record straight. 

Schuyler’s Story

The story of my three daughters' births really began with my own birth story in 1970 because my mom was pretty radical and a huge inspiration for my journey as a mom. And I had an older brother and he was born in a hospital, and my mom, who was a farm girl, knew, after that, that that wasn't going to happen again, even though I don't think she'd ever, up to that point, considered having a home birth, and there was no one in her world that did home births. So she decided to do it herself. And she found a doctor who agreed to do backup if there was a real emergency, though she couldn't mention it to anybody. And so she and my dad were in this funky apartment in San Jose and I guess the day came, and apparently, according to her, she never pushed. She just relaxed and decided to just let me come with no pushing. And my dad, however, was a little less equanimous and apparently he barricaded himself and the bathroom and freaking out. And so my mom was there, breathing and just letting the contractions do their thing, and then I came out halfway, to around the belly button, and then I didn't come out anymore and I stayed there, supposedly, for, I don't know, an hour. And so they called this backup doctor and they were like, "It's partway out. "What do we do?" And he said, "Well, just give it a pull." And so my mom was like, "Jack, give it a pull." And out I came. So that's always been the story that I've had. But let me tell you, that was not my experience, certainly not with the first one. So I mentioned on day one that I knew I wanted to have a home birth, but I couldn't imagine doing it in New York City. That just seemed so weird, my neighbors hearing me and New York City outside. So we'd proposed to my grandfather that we have the baby at his place up in Connecticut. And when we were thinking about this it was more in the fall, early winter, and it was pretty barren there and there aren't a lot of people. We didn't really project forward that, in August, on the shore in Connecticut, is a very, very public place. And this place is about as far from hippie Northern California, where my parents lived, that you could possibly get. It's golf carts and duck belts all day. And so as the actual due date started going forward, it became really clear that this was not at all what I'd envisioned as my home birth spot either. But there we were. I had thought it would just be my midwives and my sister-in-law, who was kind of acting as the doula, and my mom and Jeff. And yeah, that lying there and just letting the waves of mother nature flow through me did not happen. It was long. The pre-labor went on for a pretty long time, and then, when my water broke, there was a bunch of meconium in the water, which you may or may not know is, if the baby's pooped inside as you're laboring, or even well before laboring, then there's this stuff called meconium in your water, and it's usually a sign that the baby's been in some distress. And so my midwives went in and they felt around and they discovered that her cord was wrapped around her neck. So by that time I was pretty far along in my labor, and it wasn't like an emergency, but they made it really clear that, if the baby didn't come out soon, pretty quickly, we were going to have to go to the hospital, go to the backup plan. And I, at that point, really did not want to go anywhere else. I was all good with duck belts. I wanted to stay right there, in my tub, hanging from my sling with Jeff pressing on my back. I was like, the idea of going anywhere was just a nightmare. And so when I finally transitioned and it was time to push, they said, "You need to really push this baby out soon "or we're getting in the car." And I was like, okay, you want me to push? I'll fucking push. And I pushed in two contractions, and I pushed so hard, and she came out in 10 minutes. And I tore, and that was a drag, and it definitely had repercussions on my pelvic floor over time. But she came out and she was blue, and the cord was wrapped around her neck. But they had everything they needed to have and they suctioned her and they gave her a little aspiration in her nose, and in just a minute and a half, she was nursing and perfect. And I looked around at that point and it was no longer the cozy, intimate circle of people that I'd envisioned in my birth. In fact, my grandfather, who had no intention of being in the room, and his wife, and their lap dog had made it into the birth room. And it was just this incredible demonstration of the drama of birth, that this thing that happens is so much bigger than any individual. And even though, in his right mind, my very conservative grandfather would not have imagined wanting to be in the room, watching a baby come out of his granddaughter's vagina, it would've horrified him, he couldn't help himself. He had to be there because the power of the thing was omnipresent. It was so much bigger than all of us, bigger than me, bigger than anybody in the house. And yeah, people often ask me, because I did have a lot of drama and problems came up during my delivery, things that you might think about that would make you want to be at a hospital. And actually, that experience just reinforced my belief in home birth and my resolve to have home births if I had more children. Because if I had been in a hospital, the rules of the hospital, had my daughter been born with the problems that she had, with meconium and with the cord wrapped around her neck, would have necessitated that she be in the NICU for at least a day and probably multiple days. And then there would've been that whole cascade of not being able to have my baby on my skin, nursing from the first second she was out of my body. So after that there was no question in my mind that, if I could, I was on the right path. And my other two daughters were born at home and those births were a lot less dramatic, but I'll really finish with a, there's an old wives' tale that says you can't have all three, a great pregnancy, a great labor and delivery, and an easy baby. And I am actually the example that that is totally true. Those old wives know what they're saying. Because with my first, Phoebe, I had an amazing, amazing, pretty easy pregnancy, despite some discomforts, and then really difficult labor and delivery, and then she was an incredible baby, didn't cry, literally cried maybe once or twice in the first year. And that led me to believe that I had these great parenting skills and that, when people had babies that had horrible colic, they just didn't know how to hold their baby right and they were maybe not nursing enough and they weren't attachment parenting and co-sleeping, and all my little judgy mama wisdom. And then, with my second daughter, Lolly, easy pregnancy in the grand scheme of things, really beautiful delivery. She was born in the water, quiet, at home, in Brooklyn, cocooned in my space. And then super intense colic, like no sleep for five months, bouncing on a ball all night long, crying for 16 hours at a time. So intense. Yeah, I was really schooled. And then, with my third daughter, Micah, I ended up discovering, in the last month of my pregnancy, in the most difficult way possible and excruciating pain and many visits to the emergency room, that I had a malfunction in my kidney and I needed an emergency surgery, and things went super south. I lost 20 pounds and was so weak and wasn't even sure if I would be able to have her at home. And it was pretty freaking miserable. But then I had a beautiful birth and it was actually lovely and uncomplicated and really peaceful. And she was a super sweetie of a baby. So I guess the lesson in that is you can't have everything. But then I have three daughters, so, amazing, beautiful daughters. So I kind of have a lot.

When and why I reconstructed my own birth story is unclear.  But in some kind of play for exceptionalism, I always told myself that my brother was born in a hospital.  And even more bizarre – I made up a twist in the story in which my dad barricades himself in the bathroom – rendering him useless I suppose and making my mom the solo heroine of the birth?  Look - I’m grateful the story I told myself all those years made me feel like women were powerful and exceedingly competent - but it also confirms my feeling that reality is squishy business.

When I listen to my husband Jeff’s story of the birth our second daughter Lolli, some parts of his remembrance don’t square with mine.  But does that really matter? It’s his story:  

Jeff’s Story

Hey this is Jeff, Schuyler's husband and I want to tell you an amazing story about my wife. So this is June 23rd, 2007 and my wife is pregnant, and we're expecting our second daughter and Schuyler decided that for her, she wanted to have all of our babies, all of our daughters at home, so we had a midwife, who we loved, and we wake up that morning and you know, at this point we feel like we're kind of like pros. Like we had a baby at home, already, and here we are, we're in Brooklyn, we're feeling good, we're at our house, the contractions are coming, they're like two minutes apart, and we're like okay, so I call the midwife and I'm like okay, I think we're ready, she's asking me a few questions and she's like great, I'll be over in 20 minutes. So Schuyler's walking around and finally she goes down into our basement where we have this tub, this kind of inflatable tub filled with hot water. She gets in the tub, and she's relaxed, but you know, in labor, it's intense, and she's fully dilated at that point, 10 centimeters and I get a call on my cellphone and it's our midwife and I pick up the phone and the first thing she says is Jeff, are you sitting down? Ah, which is not exactly what you want to hear from your midwife. And I said, no, no, just what's up? Tell me what's going on. And she's like well listen, I have another mother, who is a month premature and she's going into labor and Schuyler's just so strong and I just really need to go see this other woman. So, I want to give you the number of my back up, and here it is and she's going to be great. So, as wonderfully compassionate as one is, in that moment it was very, very hard for me to feel super, super great about this situation. But what could I do? So I hang up the phone, and my first question to myself is am I going to tell my wife? And I'm not sure I really have any choice, 'cause she's going to find out eventually when the midwife doesn't show up so I poked downstairs and I say hey, Schuyler unfortunately Kara can't make it, there's something that came up. So Schuyler says I don't freaking care. So I call the backup and she picks up and it's like all sorts of fuzzy on the phone. And I'm like hey, we've never really met before, tip, always meet your back up, we've never really met before but I'm Jeff, and my wife is Schuyler and she is 10 centimeters dilated and I feel like she's going to have this baby pretty soon and can you come and deliver it? And she's like okay, well I'm in Woodstock heading north on 87, where do you live? I'm like, ah, I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn so you'll have to turn around, anyways, she does, and she's cruising down and on her way. So, I go down into the basement and I hop into the tub with Schuyler and I reach down between her legs and I feel the baby crowning. I feel the head of the baby and she's like what's going on, what's going on, I'm like, nothin' much. Just kind like keepin' it in there. And, this is true. And I'm basically preparing at that juncture to deliver this baby myself. And I'm doing the breathing techniques that Schuyler learned but I'm doing them for a whole nother reason to get the confidence and strength up to deliver this baby, which I'm fully confident at that point that I'm going to have to do. So Schuyler continues to push, the labor keeps progressing and about 90 minutes later our midwife does show up. She comes in the door, calmly walks down the steps opens up a little briefcase of her instruments, she puts on some gloves, she says Jeff, now you get behind your wife and hold her from under her armpits, which I do, she crawls into the tub and she puts her hands down between my wife's legs and within two seconds literally pulls the baby out and puts it right on Schuyler's breast and at which point she looks up at me and she says let's have another. And, it was the most crazy, magical, wonderful experience and I tell you this story because I am so proud of my wife, Schuyler. She is the strongest woman, she is so capable and I know that's why she is such an amazing teacher for this course on empowered birth.

One thing that Jeff can’t remember about Lolli’s birth is the moment when the first contractions – or waves – started coming and I thought “Holy shit!  How could I have forgotten what this was like and why was I so stupid as to have another baby??!” But what’s definitely true in his recollection is that minutes after she came out, I was so flooded with ecstatic first love that I was ready to make a third right away.

Daniela is a photographer and community builder. She went into her first pregnancy with very different stories in her head than I did.

Daniela’s Story

So my first birth, I was 25 when I got pregnant. So, I was pretty young and I spent the entire pregnancy reading about parenting, I wanted to figure out how to be a good mother. There's so much amazing research in neuro science and all this information about how the brain develops and I was really, really interested in that part. So I read a lot about that but it never occurred to me to read about birth and I think I was raised by my mom who had both her babies at the hospital. My dad was not allowed in the room, she was all by herself and she did it and as sad as it sounds to me right now, at the time it just sounded, she told it so matter of fact that I grew up thinking that birth is something you, you get pregnant and you go to a hospital and the doctors handle it for you, and that was it. In my third trimester the doctor was worried that the baby was measuring small, or her belly was measuring small. Her brain was fine, but her belly was small. And they started doing all these ultrasounds and non stress tests because they were afraid that the placenta wasn't working well. Everything was fine, every ultrasound was fine, every non stress test was fine but by the time I was 37 weeks my OB was like, we've been tracking this, we, you are at risk, your pregnancy's risky. We're just going to pull the baby out. And, I also didn't think much about it. I went to the hospital, I was put on Pitocin. I was on Pitocin for 18 hours, I had decided I was not going to get an epidural until I was at least four centimeters dilated because I had heard that there's higher chances of c-section if you have an epidural before that. I don't know if that's true or not, but I read that somewhere. So that was kind of my only goal. But was I was on Pitocin contractions for 18 hours and I only dilated two centimeters. I had come with one centimeter dilated already so I was at three. But no more. So at 18 hours of the most intense Pitocin contraction pain I decided I was going to get, I asked for a small dose of an epidural so I could get some rest because this was probably going to go for days at this rate. The hospital was fairly respectful, they didn't push for anything, they did not push for an epidural before I asked for it. Nobody really showed up. I think they came maybe a couple times and they checked and I hadn't dilated enough and then they left. I got the epidural at 18 hours and within 10 minutes I was at 10 centimeters. So I went from three to 10 magically in 10 minutes. Because after I had my daughter, this was six years ago, I had, I've done so much reading and I'm family photographer I work mostly postpartum with moms at home with their babies so I have a lot of experience now connecting with this community and I've learned so much about birth. In retrospect I think I was so tense, the pain was so intense that I actually tensed my body into not dilating which is pretty amazing how strong we are, in a way. But also really scary that you can, you know that they tell you to trust your body but you need more than that. I think you need support. I think that the thing I would have done different was maybe to have a doula if I knew about doulas then. Because I think that is what I would expect in a doula now, is somebody who can get me out of my head and help me move through the contractions and the pain instead of being so stuck trying to reject them and locking my body from doing what it's meant to be doing at that time. But, my baby was born. And now, six years later after everything I know I'm very excited to, I hired a midwife and I'm going to have a home birth if everything goes well and give it another chance to go through the contractions and the feelings and see how I can flow through them a little better. I am, hopefully if everything goes well, I'm not going to be on Pitocin, so it's going to be a different experience. The measuring small from the baby, it was nothing. It's just that, I think, doctors see statistics right, you're in statistic and there's this charts and you measure and you don't measure in the range that they're seeing then you're titled at risk or like you don't fit in the little box that they have for what a normal birth is, but I mean, both my daughter's dad and me, we don't have bellies and we're thin and she was born really thin and she never really had, she didn't have the baby belly and the baby fat. She's just a skinny person. 

The only kind of birthing learning I did while I was pregnant was taking a class at the hospital and one of the things they talked about is how they've made all these changes and they're open to skin to skin contact when the baby's born and all this stuff so I was really excited for that. And when the baby was born, they opened my gown and they placed her in my chest. I don't remember having a specific thought, but just this sense of wonder. Like, ah, I did this. Like this whole person is right here and it's all mine. 

Daniela’s process of finding her own path for this current pregnancy is both simple and profound: Information.  And information is power. We should never underestimate the impact of knowledge on our understanding of our options and on our potential.

Our final story has wonderful twists and turns.  Danielle is an entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker – and her story is indeed inspirational.  Danielle speaks with gorgeous, poetic frankness, and she’ll manage to make you excited about going through the ring of fire.  Her story speaks for itself:

Danielle LaPorte’s Story

I gave birth to my son at home. I went into labor at five in the morning. We bought a kiddie pool, a blow-up kiddie pool for 39.95 at the hardware store. We had a hose that ran from our bathroom, into the living room, into this pool. Filled it with warm water. We would, every couple hours, we would scoop out a bucket of water and then we would pour in a bucket of hot water. At one point, the midwife said to me, "You're too relaxed. "You're going to have to get out of the pool." And I thought, "I'm too relaxed? "You got to be fuckin' kidding me." I wanted a certain chant playing. I wanted lavender oil. I wanted a particular kind of incense. None of that mattered. I forgot about all of it. My mom was there. My baby daddy was there. I am blessed to live a country where midwifery is part of our healthcare plan. So when I was eight centimeters dilated, a second midwife showed up and an intern. Basically, when you're ready to push, the whole neighborhood comes to your house. For pain management, I remember the midwife giving me the option to do six, small, quick little injections of water in the base of my spine. And I think she was just fucking with me because it just felt like six hornets torturing me, and it didn't relieve my pain at all. At one point during a contraction, my moaning kind of turned into this scream. And afterwards, very wise, very experienced midwife said to me, she was super calm and non-judgy about it. And she said, "Danielle, just a question, did that help?" And I was like, "That didn't help at all." She said, "How about next time, you don't do that?" And that was all I needed to hear to know that what I needed to do was to stay on top of each contraction. You know, every contraction comes, and you can feel it build. And it's building, it's building, it's building. It's like a wave, and you want to stay over it. If you get under it, you actually get into that screamy, slightly panicky place and you're afraid it's going to take you under, and the pain, and ah. But you know what? Just ride it, like it's a wave. You have the power to stay on top. I learned so much. I got so prepared for birth through the teachings of Ina May Gaskin. All hail the wisdom of Ina May. And her language, her whole lexicon of birth, it's different than what is used in conventional birth settings in hospitals. So Ina May refers to contractions as rushes. And at first I thought, I mean, even I thought that was like way out and new agey cheesy. But it helped me hold this image of just opening up, that my body wasn't constricting. I mean the last thing you want to think about is your vagina contracting. You're letting the world out of your body. You're letting life out of your body and it's a rush. I just prayed with my child. I didn't know if I was going to have a girl or a boy, but I know it was a boy. And I didn't want to find out because I think the gender of your child is one of the only guaranteed surprises in life. And I just prayed with him for openness. I prayed with him in advance for teamwork. And then just on the day, I just. Your child works with you. You're not the only one bringing that baby out. You know, one thing that happened for me, and I know happens with so many mothers is, you know, that little being comes in in this little suitcase called a body. And you know with every cell of your being that they know what they need to live. They're implicitly wise and you need to trust your child's wisdom in the birthing process. They're not leaning on you for everything, they're in it with you. There was nothing that I would change. There was not much I would change about my delivery process. I ate during labor. This is one thing they will tell you in the hospitals not to do, but my mom made soup. Someone cut up oranges for me and kept them in the fridge. Cold oranges were like heaven. I had a few bites of sandwiches. Yeah, I really needed that nourishment. Lavender oil, essential. Laughter was essential. You know why I consider myself a superhero for pushing my baby out in my living room, was I kept my sense of humor the whole time. So I'm really sensitive and mindful when I share my birth story with other women who have had births that weren't their dream scenarios. I mean, we really, there's so much we cannot control. The reason I am sensitive about it is because I was, I was blessed enough to have an incredible birth. So the way that I use my birth story now to serve, well, I just think there's power in hearing each other's stories, but also to let you know that ecstasy during labor, it's really possible. I was, you know, towards the end, my child, the baby crowned, you do go through the ring of fire. And you will know why it's called the ring of fire. And then, we all know that point. I hope we all know that point where, so now I'm going to talk about sex for a minute. You know, it's just like when you're cresting on the wave of an orgasm, and you head into that point of no return and you are definitely on your way, that happens sometimes, for some of us, with birth. And there was a point where I just had the full rush, and I had an orgasmic birth. My body just took over. There was nothing left for me to do and bliss. I mean, look at me. It's beyond words. Yeah, we're all going to weave together our visions of an ideal, sacred, powerful, healthy birth from each other's stories. And if that helps you, just take that strand and know that bliss is entirely possible. One of my favorite memories of the birth of my son was afterwards. So we'd cover the whole living room in plastic tarps and then put warm sheets and blankets on top of those. I'd actually given birth to my son on the futon in his bedroom, so I got out of the tub because the midwife said I was too relaxed. At that point, the contractions were coming just wave after wave. I had one arm around one friend, another arm around another. I would take one step, I would have a contraction. Another step, another contraction. I made it into the bedroom. You know, I had been to all the prenatal yoga classes. I thought I was going to give birth on all fours, one leg wrapped around my head. I was going to do some birth asana, mm-mm. Old school style, on my back, just like a stranded turtle. And that is what felt most natural and powerful for me. But favorite memory. Just all naked and gluey and bloody and a little bit stitched up with my baby on my chest. And the midwives give me a high five, leaving the living room. Butter pecan ice cream and my mom there and my then husband, and I had nowhere to go. I was home. We were all home, together.

YES.  Here’s to coming home.  And all hail the wisdom of Ina May!  And, as Danielle so beautifully said: “We're all going to weave together our visions of an ideal sacred powerful, healthy, birth from each other stories..."

My great hope is that we can round out the tired story of the laboring mother on her back in a hospital bed. That’s not to say that a hospital isn’t the perfect place for many women to give birth – but they might well be crawling around on all fours, or squatting in the doorframe, or dancing to Jack Johnson.

If these stories have inspired you to go on a journey with me into the matrix of empowered pregnancy, childbirth and early post partum, head on over to onecommune.com/birth.  The course is packed with information. Over 21 days, we feature 11 experts delivering 44 short, digestible lectures. Plus every day I lead a 20 to 40 minute movement based practice, taking inspiration from yoga and physical therapy with a focus on the breath, and core and pelvic floor work. These classes range from challenging and rigorous to blissfully restorative, and are designed to strengthen and hone both your body and nervous system during this critical period. 

Empower yourself with the tools to navigate the unexpected, to be graceful under pressure, and to press for satisfactory answers from your caregivers and abundant support from your support team.  

If you want to sign up for the course, just go to onecommune.com/birth. As part of the course launch we are offering the full program, completely free from August 12th to September 1st. Once again, you can reserve your spot at onecommune.com/birth. I’ll be online throughout the free launch period to talk to you about anything and everything that’s coming up.  I look forward to connecting with you soon – and please spread the word!

This is Schuyler Grant, and thanks for listening to the Commune podcast.

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