Back in 2016 I began my endeavors to become a birth doula, and trained in New York with Debra Pascali-Bonaro. It was a completely transformative experience and showed me just how beautiful, positive, and empowering birth experiences could be. I couldn’t wait for the day when I could finally have my own home birth! After many months of struggling to conceive and with the help of fertility assistance, we were finally pregnant! I went in for an early ultrasound to make sure everything was progressing normally and then – TWINS!! The first thought that went through my head was – “oh no!!! My birth!!” Thinking I may be doomed to a medicalized hospital birth or cesarean. Little did I know I was already under the care of remarkable midwives who had vast experience supporting twin home births, so the doors of possibilities for a positive and peaceful home birth experience were still wide open to me!
After a challenging twin pregnancy and lots of learning and preparing, we had made to full term past 38 weeks! That alone felt like a huge accomplishment.
As we were nearing 39 weeks I started to feel the eagerness and urgency to get labor started and to avoid pressures of a medical induction from my Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, who had been a part of my care team and responsible for ultrasounds and closer monitoring on the growth and development of my twins in utero.
The morning of Saturday, July 26, I consulted with my midwives to take a castor oil shake. Throughout the week I had already done accupuncture and homeopathics like evening primrose oil and black and blue cohosh to encourage things along. Soon after my mood started to shift, I just felt “different.” By that evening I was feeling cramps and taking many trips to the toilet, a common side effect of the castor oil. Around 7 or 8pm I started feeling real contractions that were immediately 1-2 minutes apart. My husband could tell they were the real thing as I started that deep guttural groan. I was on the birth ball trying to get a sense of what my body was doing and then it was a mad dash to the bathroom to vomit and clear out the rest of my bowels, along with some obvious bloody show. It was time.
Midwives and doulas were called and I started to settle deep into my labor zone. I sat on the birth ball next to my bed, and sank into the quiet and peaceful place I had been practicing for months. As each contraction came I relaxed and welcomed them as I let them roll over me. It took all of my mental focus and energy, but they never once breached the point of pain. My midwives arrived and quietly surrounded me, checking heartbeats and blood pressure all so quietly and gently, without ever pulling me out of the deep quiet place I fallen into. After an hour or two I consented to a cervical check. My contractions had started so close together, which can sometimes be a result of the castor oil, so we felt we needed a clearer idea of how far along I really was. To all of our surprise I was already 9cm!!
I had tested positive for GBS and we had decided and planned for antibiotics, which were supposed to be administered at least 4 hours prior to birth, if we were going to do them, we had to do it now. It was 11:30pm on January 26th, in just a half hour it would be January 27th, a day that has been very special to me for many many years as a lover of classical music; Mozart’s birthday!
I decided I would sit still and quietly on the bed and glide through my contractions for the half hour it would take to administer the antibiotics, and then transfer to the tub to get ready to have babies.
12:00pm. January 27th. Let’s have babies.
I got into the tub and immediately felt strong urges to push. I felt completely free in the water to move with my body and slowly push my babies down. Each surge was strong and hard work, yet still never painful. Between each one I would relax back into the tub and my husband, mother, midwives and doula would surround me with gently care and recuperating support to prepare me for the next surge coming. Each time I rested I was brought fresh water, honey for energy, cool washcloths. We were all working together. My husband and I were intimately connected the entire time. I rested upon him for strength, he whispered encouragements into my ear, caressed my face and kissed me so sweetly. I was completely held with love. I savored each moment of peaceful rest before the hard work of each surge, but between them was truly serene. As a pushed I could feel myself slowly stretching and opening. I could feel when my body was ready for another strong push, and when I needed to breathe through that surge to let myself open and stretch even more. The whole time I was reaching down to feel where my baby was as he was crowing. His head was so fuzzy! We all laughed and smiled with joy as I felt his sweet soft hair and awaited the welcoming of a full head of hair.
After an hour and a half of pushing and resting, I could feel he was almost there!
A few more strong pushes and he slid right into my hands! I pulled him up out of the water and embraced him. My first son! Born into my arms. My husband surrounded me and we kissed and embraced as we cried with joy together. His cry was strong and beautiful, and we relished him in for the few minutes of calm we had. Staring at his perfect little face and sweet fuzzy hair.
Then I felt another strong surge return. We weren’t done yet and I felt how quickly I needed to sink back into my zone to welcome these coming contractions.
I passed my sweet baby off to my mother to hold while I birthed my second son.
I held my hand down to keep track of his progress, and with one push I couldn’t believe how quickly he was emerging! Just one one more push and he flew into my hands and up to my chest. But this time was different, that cherished cry didn’t come right away. My midwives swarmed around us as we tried to stimulate him for his first breath. We got out of the tub and onto the floor as they fitted him with oxygen masks and called for 911. Those moments felt like a whirlwind, but also eternity. But as I sat there holding my baby boy, praying for his first breath, I knew my cord full of pulsating oxygenated blood was still flowing to him, and hearing my midwife call out his heartbeat from the stethoscope. He just needed to breath. And he did! The sweetest cry I ever hear and in a millisecond he was back in my arms on my chest. He was okay. First responders were kindly turned away as we settled back into the bliss of two healthy brand new babies. While those moments were harder to process for my husband and mother, when I look back at that part of our birth story, it was not trauma, though I know it could have been. Had we been in the hospital, I’m nearly sure he would have been whisked away with his cord cut before we could say anything. Then he would have truly been deprived of oxygen and I would have been left confused and helpless away from my baby. I have such gratitude for my midwives with how they so expertly took care of all of us.
After birthing my placenta we all settled into bed, watching our midwives take their weight and length, and drinking in our new babies, in complete awe of what we were just able to do. I had the peaceful, painless, supported, euphoric, empowered TWIN home birth of my dreams. Despite most friends and family thinking it impossible, we did it. And I will cherish and relish that experience for the rest of my life.
Photos: Bree Minter
Pepper Mint Birth Services // The Birth Collective PNW
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