The Birth of My SonAug 25, 2021
This is the story of my son, Amadeus Prince, and our journey to get here.
I have been wanting to share this story for months but the truth is, I am still grappling with it.
I have done a lot of healing work around it and it’s taken me a while to integrate it. I still am.
But I promised myself and him to get our experience on paper while it still felt fresh.
He turns one today and I am just now finally ready to write.
Sharing it in a way feels scary and vulnerable. I think because it hurt so much. Like, literally, truly, agony.
It wasn’t this glorious, ecstatic experience. It was so freaking hard. The hardest thing I have ever done. The thing that broke me deeper and wider and fully, in a way that nothing ever had done before.
Way harder than my first birth and that was over 70 hours long.
Even though everyone is my life assured me it would be easier the second time around.
Foolishly, I believed them.
We also had a pretty shitty postpartum, due to Amadeus’ slightly difficult adjustment with transient tachypnea and consequently a hijacking of my nervous system that coincided with 6 weeks of intense fussiness plus a complete lack of support which ultimately altered my perspective on the actual birth. It was me and my husband when really we needed the village.
I will also say that this pregnancy and birth happened during the pandemic. I was four months pregnant when everything started to happen and went from riding the high of a recent women’s retreat I just attended to diving deep into the abyss of lockdowns, forced injections and the complete breakdown of society. We essentially left our NYC apartment thinking it would last a week or two and ended being over 4 months that we stayed in Pennsylvania. We only can back to the city because I knew I wanted to give birth here.
And yet, ultimately this birth was exactly what I wanted and needed. It was close to being identical to the vision I spoke at the Village Prenatal when I was 14 weeks pregnant and except for a few details, I birthed autonomous, supported, in power and free, just as I dreamed.
For a bit of backstory, this baby was consciously conceived. Similar to my first child, we took some time to prepare. We cleaned up our diets, organized our money to make space for a second child, worked on our marriage and energetically called this baby in. On the night he was conceived, I prayed to my deceased father to send me a blue eyed boy, the one I knew would someday come. Turns out I was due in August, just days away from my father’s birthday on August 19th. I took it as a sign.
I also decided to opt out of all prenatal care aside from a periodic call with my midwife. I didn’t do a single sonogram, no gestational diabetes testing, no group B strep. I chose this from an educated perspective of weighing pros and cons, being in a pandemic, knowing that these “routine” tests don’t elicit better outcomes and instead felt called to lean into the mystery and magic of the experience over surveillance and data collection. I didn’t give anyone the option to label me with a pathology, diagnosis or an attempt to contain me to a box of perceived risks because of my age. I consciously disengaged from the fear often thrust onto women from the allopathic obstetric model and trusted that if something was wrong, I would know it. I would sense it. My baby would communicate it with me. So I opted to trust myself as the expert and authority instead of looking to outside sources, machines or tests.
Overall, I had a great pregnancy.
Being in the country surrounded by nature during the height of the pandemic made me slow down. I stopped teaching in person, trekking over the city, riding the subway and hustling. I converted everything to virtual. I started a garden and cleaned up our land. I made salves infused with dandelions I picked off the lawn. I cooked meal after meal, trying new recipes and ingredients. We ate super local. The best were orange yolked eggs fro the guy next door and lots of yellow grassfed, salted butter. The fresh air, trees and not having to go anywhere allowed for an indulgent and pleasure filled pregnancy.
Of course BEING in the pandemic pregnant did mean I had many bouts of fear, stress, anxiety, angst and worry especially in the beginning. But it was not over my pregnancy, just over the state of the world.
I knew I would be giving birth at home again, with the same midwife, Shar, that I had during my first birth. However, this time around, I toyed with the idea of a freebirth. A free birth is when no trained medical professional or provider is present, not even a doula. A free birth is you and maybe a partner or friend, neither of whom would be trained in anything birth-related. Shar was open to the conversation and offered support and guidance in the manner of which I expressed I wanted. She also assured me that she trusted me fully to make my own decision and would respect and accommodate whatever I wanted.
Mostly I wanted:
To be the authority.
To be autonomous.
To be the expert on the experience.
To honor my instincts.
To only do what I felt called, necessary or pulled to do.
To never look outside myself for answers but rather, keep my focus inward.
After coming back at 36 weeks, we settled back into life here in NYC. Nesting and organizing, preparing and praying, the wait began.
My due date, August 12th, came and went. Due dates are bullshit but it still was a mark on the calendar to signify 40 weeks. A line of demarcation. My belly was huge. I was slow and hot and ready to be done. But this baby had other plans.
I was absolutely sure this baby would be born under the astrological sign of Leo but as the days passed, that window was closing. More days passed, most of which I entertained and fantasized about being my boy’s birthday. A friend’s birthday on the 10th, or India’s independence day on the 15th? Nope! A cousin’s birthday? My dad’s birthday? (How fantastic that would have been.) But nope! I never expected my birth to “miss” all of those important dates. I couldn’t believe I was still pregnant at 40 weeks, then 41, inching towards 42. The longest days of my life.
Leo season ended. Virgo began. And I thought, OH SHIT. Three Virgos in one house (me, my husband and now my second child.) God help us and our incessant perfectionist, organizational ways.
Day after day, I was waiting for this baby to be born. Day after day, I received endless texts and calls wondering where baby was which started to feel like pressure even though it was meant with love. I was uncomfortable and definitely hitting a wall, especially given the intense heat of humid days in an NYC summer. I had stopped working at 36 weeks because I fully expected baby to arrive early and here I was 6 weeks later and no baby.
Much like my first birth, there was a slow build up. My early labor this time was two weeks instead of two days. Every day I would get sensations, a feeling like time to enter the portal was coming soon but nothing ever gained speed. I slowed down. Went to acupuncture. Spent most of the day resting, hanging with my 3 year old, waiting, wondering.
I ended up doing a fear clearing session with a wise woman, Yolande Norris Clark, because I was hanging on to my family of three and had a hard time coming to terms with disrupting the bond I had with my daughter. I was worried how she would feel and adjust, anxious that she would feel betrayed. I needed to fully let that go. And of course I wanted this baby, I called in this baby, but I still had apprehension of how it would all look and play out as my first baby’s life was about to drastically change.
I also had a session with a long time spiritual mentor and soul brother. We talked about the density of the world in that current moment, the heaviness of the pandemic. The feeling of witnessing the world as we know it change forever. Such intensity. He also foreshadowed that baby would maybe have some difficulty breathing. Nothing too serious or detrimental but to a 40+ weak pregnant woman, that is literally one of the worst things to say. I swore not to take it on. I discharged it hard and fast and energetically held the boundary against letting that small seed manifest into a poison.
No fucking way. Not my baby.
And then finally, after days of desperation, I just started begging. Pleading.
“Baby please come. I am ready for you. We are ready to fully welcome you. Join our family.”
I had done everything possible to prepare. I completed a course on freebirth. I did fear clearing exercises. I prayed. I cried. I moved through emotions. And finally, I just had to surrender.
And so it began.
Sunday, August 23rd: Tightening stomach on and off all day.
Monday, August 24th: Finally feeling like it was so close. I opted for a membrane sweep after feeling desperate.
Tuesday, August 25th. I woke up, made breakfast and BAM.
FULL ON LABOR.
This was not a slow and steady pace like my first birth. This was 0-60 in a matter of minutes.
I was pretty shocked because it took my breath away from the onset. Required me to fully focus. I was diving head first into the experience.
But because my daughter was home, my attention was split. She was downstairs and I was upstairs and I had a hard time shutting off my brain, constantly thinking:
“Was she ok?”
“Has she peed?”
“Does she need a snack?”
And there was my husband Sebastian, running back and forth between us, because I needed the reassurance she was ok but she didn’t want to really come near me and so my mind was split and so was my husband’s attention.
He ended up calling the midwife to come I think because he was also pretty shocked how fast and furious my waves were. I guess my warm-up was the two weeks past due date because now, it was go time! We both fully expected her to come and leave, because I thought I still had hours to go, but by the time she got there, I asked to be checked and I was already 6 centimeters.
Knowing I wanted a freebirth, she offered to leave or wait elsewhere but ultimately took a seat in our living room and provided me with all the privacy and autonomy I wanted, yet with the presence of a loving, supportive, trusting woman. The best of both.
Every once in a while, she would pop in, check on me and offer words of support and encouragement.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
I stayed in my room, in red undies and a red t-shirt mostly leaning over my dresser or bed, howling, gripping in sensation, following my body’s lead to make all kinds of shapes and noises.
At one point, we decided to call my mom so she can come over and stay with my daughter. I felt too distracted and needed to know my daughter was being tended to properly to free up my attention and also my husband. Luckily my mom and daughter have a great relationship and knew once she arrived, my daughter would be taken care of without me needing to do anything.
I remember vividly, when my mom walked into our home, I ran straight into her arms crying. I think that shook her a bit because she immediately looked worried. Frightened even. And so I assured her I was fine.
“Mom, I am FINE. Really, I am OK. But this is just so hard. It’s so hard.”
She nodded. She understood. She had two unmedicated births.
My daughter and mom went downstairs and my memory gets vague here but I recall being pretty tired as I continued having sensations that felt like my pelvis was splitting in two. If Arya was a muscular birth, Amadeus was full on bones, as in feeling like my bones were breaking. I do remember thinking how much easier it would be to just take some drugs to numb the pain but I also knew there was no way I was leaving my home for the hospital. I was committed to seeing this through.
At one point, I made my way into the bathroom and took an incredibly hot shower in the dark. Alone. I was so deep in the depths, struggling, not because I was by myself but because the pain blindsided me. I thought to myself,
“This is not easier than my first birth. Its way fucking harder. All these people told me my second birth would be a breeze and its so fucking brutal!!!!!”
I was mad. Annoyed. Frustrated. I wanted it to be over.
After the shower, I made my way to bed and closed my eyes. I was dead tired. Exhausted. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and told Sebastian that I must sleep. I ended up passing out into a deep sleep whenever I experienced a lull and then as a contraction would come, I attempted to “hold it in” or hold it back because I was too exhausted to give myself over to them.
I. just. needed. to. rest.
Finally, my waters released. Pop! Gush. My midwife thought it would provide some relief but all it did was take things up a notch. I was on all fours, one leg up, maneuvering. Trying to find the way. Navigating with my baby the take the best route out.
At this point, I was fully ready to meet my baby. Shar suggested the birthing stool and I agreed. The moment I sat on it, I felt a pang of fear and quickly tried to lay down. That was even more agonizing because my tailbone screamed and I knew there was no way I could lay on my back to deliver this baby.
So I sat back down on the stool. Upright, like a goddess.
What freaked me out was that there was no actual seat, and basically created an energetic sense of opening that was oddly terrifying and exhilarating. I knew, in that moment, so clearly, that there was no going back. The only way out was through. Here I was at the portal and me and my baby were just on the other side. I just had to walk through.
But then there was a moment that my butt muscle spasmed and a wicked charlie horse sent me into a thrashing spiral. I am pretty sure that was the moment I fractured my tailbone, only to be discovered later by a craniosacral therapist.
When I felt the urge to push, terror once again tore through my body. I had such a visceral reaction to fear. I had to go directly into the fire and it hurt so much. Directly into the burn I went. Feeling the ring of fire. Swearing that I was going to break.
Facing that moment was terrifying.
Saying out lout, “it burns. it burns, it burns.”
And then finally roaring out his head, reaching down and feeling his crown.
Gooey, lots of hair. Warm. My baby.
Then a pause. Silence. Waiting for the next surge. My midwife reminding me that I am so strong. So powerful. So capable.
“Hi baby,” I said with my eyes closed, still deep in the underworld, still existing between two dimensions.
One minute and thirty seconds later, I had the urge to push and out came his long, slippery, heavy body. 6:51p on August 25th, 2020. Shar helped me because he was huge and I didn’t have a great grip but within seconds of emerging he was on me and I was exhaling huge sighs of relief. Disbelief. Satisfaction.
I checked and saw, it was a boy.
Elated, relieved, exhausted. “It’s a boy,” I repeated over and over again.
The son we have been waiting for. Praying for. Calling in. Dreaming about. The boy my husband named twenty years prior. Amadeus Prince. The one we thought would be our first child but instead came second. The prince, the who would inherit not only the name but also the legacy.
And, knowing that I had fulfilled a soul contract, said “Thank God because I am never doing that again!”
Now a year later, I know I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The immediate postpartum was shock and awe, calling to my mom who was giving my daughter a bath, that her grandson was born, that a brother was born. It was a joyous moment and luckily Amadeus latched right away and took to the boob like an expert. He was quite bloody at birth and I didn’t wash him off or take away the vernix. I let us settle and fall in love in our most primal, raw, blood covered state. My placenta released easily with a feeling a sweet relief. Like my first birth, it was enormous. I am forever proud of the mega-sized organs that my body grows to sustain life.
We decided to burn the cord and bought special candles for this ritual. I waited well over an hour after birth, til the cord was white, empty and squishy. Then I asked Amadeus’ permission, “May I cut your cord now?” and waited for the answer. When he was ready, Sebastian lit the candles and our physical connection began to sever.
It took longer than expected and Amadeus was starting to fuss so we ended up cutting it with a traditional pair of scissors. I remember feeling hungry and high. I requested eggs, bread and butter and devoured the meal like I had eaten in weeks. I also had Shar make me a smoothie with a bit of my placenta that was later turned into pills that I took for several weeks after the birth. And of course, we made a print as a piece of art to celebrate and honor the literal tree of life because we are, at the core, a family of artists.
I noticed that although Amadeus was pink, relatively perky and nursing well, he was making this fussing noise that after a while, started to concern me. I remember turning to Shar and asking, “Is he ok?” because I was surprised he was not settling into a quiet state.
He did have a high respiration rate but he didn’t have any other indication that something was dangerously wrong. No nostrils flaring, no ribs retracting. But, there was some meconium in my waters, I didn’t know if I was Group B positive and he was huge, 9.2lbs, way bigger than my daughter. Plus, I may have mentioned, the birth was hard as hell!
She agreed that she was also a little concerned and opted to stick around and observe him for a bit longer. Everything was cleaned up, my daughter was asleep, but now I was on high alert. My nervous system was on guard. I was listening, intensely watching, talking to him, wondering why he was making this noise. Shar called a fellow midwife at a local hospital and asked her to listen to my baby for a second opinion. That midwife felt that he was fine and that ultimately he just needed more time to adjust. She discouraged us from coming into the hospital because homebirths aren’t always well received and since it was covid, we didn’t want to run the risk of us being separated. I wholeheartedly agreed. The best place for me and my baby felt like home.
Intuitively, I knew deep inside he was ok but it was still scary and nerve racking in the moment. My mom decided to sleep over in the event we did feel like we needed to go to the hospital but over the next few hours, his respiration rate started to even out. For me though, it was too late because I was in a state of fear and panic and I couldn’t rest because I was afraid and on high alert.
“Was he breathing?”
“Is he ok?”
“Do I need to do anything?”
“If so, what?”
I later learned that what he was experiencing transient tachypnea, something that happens to some babies when they are born. Luckily, it’s physiologic and not pathologic and the best indiction that he was actually fine was that he was nursing. Breathing will always trump eating and so if he was really in distress, he would not have been eating like a champ the way he was. (Good thing to know now but I wish I knew then!)
Over the next three days, he finally adjusted but he was still fussy and unsettled for weeks. The birth was hard on us both, he came into a super intense, energetically heavy world and had to discharge some of the fear and anxiety I experienced due to the pandemic during my pregnancy. But with the help of my ever-present husband, supportive midwife, cranioscaral therapist, lactation consultant and acupuncturist, lots and lots of patience and intentionality, Amadeus ultimately settled and found his groove 6 weeks after birth.
In hindsight, even though I entertained and considered a freebirth, this was the most perfect experience for me. I felt in control, autonomous, self-directed and sovereign yet supported by my husband and Shar, whom I view as more of a wise woman and less of a medically trained midwife.
I wish that the immediate postpartum was different because it colored my perspective on the birth and yet I remain thankful it wasn’t something more serious. But the toll it took on my nervous system was hard, confusing and disruptive. Also, I experienced a lot of pelvic pain and some wicked hemorrhoids that were in some ways, more painful than the actual birth! And not having adequate support in the weeks following really made me work much harder when resting, healing and recovering was top priority. Plus, I felt compelled to still show up for my daughter so even when baby was napping, I pushed myself to play and be present with my daughter. In hindsight, I really want to do-over in the postpartum experience so I can honor this time with more reverence and respect.
So my big lessons?
I can AND do birth in power, full authority and on my own terms.
Even when I feel like I am being pushed to an edge I didn’t know existed.
Even though I had to die a thousand deaths.
Even though I had to surrender control and dive deep to meet each contraction.
I walked away knowing it was mine and mine alone to claim.
I fucking did it. 41+6 weeks, 9.2lb baby. Born at home, the safety and peace of this environment, the same place where he was conceived. Full circle.
I also learned that despite wanting a freebirth, I loved having a wise woman to hold space and offer support when called upon, especially when Amadeus was having trouble adjusting. I loved her presence, trust, care and love. Feeling held and seen to me was vital. I appreciated having her help clean up and care for me tenderly and gently. There is nothing like a woman tending to another woman in the exact way she needs.
I loved having my mom and daughter present and even though I wished my daughter witnessed his actual birth, I was thankful she was able to learn what a home birth is from age 3 and to be able to meet her brother immediately. She saw and heard me deep in the birth portal and while it may have been a little intense, I know this will leave a lasting impression. An imprint. She will grow up in a family that normalizes, prefers and chooses homebirth.
Additionally, I feel incredibly thankful to have a husband that fully supports and trusts me and does not question how I want to birth. He had his own fears around freebirth but completely left the decision up to me. He never pushed back against not wanting sonograms or testing and together, leaned into the mystery of the experience. He also wished for a son for his whole life and was deeply fulfilled by Amadeus’ arrival.
I know I want at least one more baby and maybe for my third birth I will opt to have a freebirth but for now, I am at peace with all of my decisions and how my second pregnancy and birth unfolded minus the postpartum phase.
I firmly believe birth matters and choosing to have another birth in the comfort of my home but this time with less interference, outside influence, reliance on data collection ad authority over me felt incredibly powerful and exactly what I needed, wanted and hoped for.
An experience that honors our normal, natural, physiologic, biological design.
It was an act of radical responsibility, deep trust, going far outside what is culturally expected and working through all fears, both my own and projected onto me. I had to come to terms with the possible consequences of any and all decisions, carefully weigh the risks of every choice and claim total ownership of the experience, being ok with whatever outcome happened.
It was on me and me alone.
Because I was the one in charge.
Because no one knew my body or baby better than me.
Because I trusted the divine design.
Because it was my invitation and initiation into another level of my raw, primal, wild self.
A reclamation. A remembering. A reclaiming.
And to me, that is and always will be the absolute ultimate power.