Letter to Juniper - A Home HypnoBirth Story
It's almost a new year and what better way to ring in 2017 than to share a beautiful story of a 2016 birth?!
Nic had the great fortune of being reconnected with her little sister from Alpha Phi at San Francisco State when her midwife sent an email asking if she could help get another client's home birth reimbursed by insurance. She couldn't believe the coincidence and immediately arranged for a play date as they both had toddlers born in the same month. Of course the conversation quickly turned to birth, and Krystal decided to take Nic's HypnoBirthing class since her first birth had been a traumatic and medicalized hospital birth so she was hoping to learn some better coping skills. A friendship re-blossomed as Krystal's belly grew and the two met somewhat regularly for playdates and saw each other in class. 6 months after the birth of her little Juniper, Krystal wrote the most beautiful birth story so we couldn't dream of keeping it from you as it's just amazing! Read on to see for yourself, and grab some tissues while you are at it!
(All photos taken by Krystal & Nic's amazing midwife Lindsey Meehleis.)
My dearest Juniper Sky,
This is the story of your birth — a day that I will remember vividly for the rest of my life. It was the day all my dreams came true. We wanted you for so long, my sweet girl, our daughter, sister to Ruby Joy. The nine months we shared one body were the most wonderful, grounding, spiritually awakening months of my life. Thank you for choosing us. Thank you for healing our hearts. Thank you for being my guide and my light, and for showing me that rainbows do come after storms.
It was around 1 a.m. on June 10th. I was jolted awake, as if someone was shaking the bed to try to wake me up. After about two seconds, my brain caught up with my body, processing the earthquake mid-jump as I quickly darted toward the bedroom door. Later that night, after you were born, it would be suggested that perhaps it was the shaking of the night that jump started your journey earth-side; or maybe it was the fact that after nine months of narrowing the choices, we’d finally decided on your name that very morning, 13 days after your “due date”. Whatever the catalyst for your earthly arrival, your story actually begins the day before, with a visit from our midwife.
It was approaching 42 weeks of us sharing one body and I was so ready for you to be in my arms. I was feeling the pressure (literally!) as I feared medical induction. I had planned, prepared, and had my heart set on a homebirth and I was desperate for you to start on your way. Everyone says there is really only a “due month” and not to pay much attention to the due date so many tend to overemphasize; so when the days kept passing by and you had not arrived, I tried to stay confident and calm, trusting that you would come when you were ready. I reached out to my midwife when I needed support and she always knew exactly what to say to get me out of my head when fear and doubt arose. After two weeks of start-and-stop labor, I messaged my midwife to ask for a cervical check for any progression. When she told me I was 2–3 cm open and 60% thinned out I felt relief, trusting that it would be soon. She left some herbs for me to take and went on her way, knowing she’d be back in no time.
Later that very day, to my own surprise, my surges started while we were at the park with Ruby. I tried not to put too much hope into it being actual labor, but I knew these surges were different than the ones I had been experiencing for weeks, as mild as they were. “Those herbs are magical!” I messaged my midwife. “Go to bed early,” she replied. The surges were still mild enough; so off to bed I went, hoping to get a few hours shut-eye before active labor set in. Around 1 a.m., I was awoken by a shaking of the earth and kissed my good night’s sleep goodbye, as the shock from the quake and my body’s surges were too much stimulus to sleep through.
I wandered downstairs and lay on the couch. Many times during your tenancy in my womb I would come here when I couldn’t sleep. I’d usually turn on the TV or read, but on this night I just sat in silence knowing that those precious quiet hours would be some of the last we would have together as one. I thought about how grateful I was for my amazing body that housed you and kept you safe and nourished for the last year. I thanked you for giving me the gift of motherhood again and told you the story of how you came to be at a very difficult time in our lives after loss; the story of how just months before I found out I was pregnant with you, we lost a baby at 10 weeks. I was so happy and thankful to become pregnant again, but the experience of loss colored my early experience with you in so many ways, and I wasn’t really able to enjoy the pregnancy until about halfway through. I was terrified to lose you.
There was no way I could know at that time how much of a guiding force you would be throughout my pregnancy; how you would lead me down a life-changing path of trust, strength, and empowerment. You took my hand and steered me gently in the direction I knew in my heart was right, guided me through each decision (switching care providers at 24 weeks and committing to a homebirth), and sent positive affirmations all along the way. I thanked you for your knowledge, for you knew exactly when and how you would make your way into my arms. I surrendered to the wisdom of our two bodies, working perfectly together to bring you safely into this world.
It was approaching dawn and I still hadn’t slept. The early morning brought a dim yellow hue into the room as I looked out the window to see a clear sky, beautiful and bright, greeting the sun. We had been searching for a middle name for you for quite some time, and when the sun arose over the ocean and revealed the serenity of the early morning sky, I knew right away it would be your second name. I came to your dad later that morning and suggested your name, Juniper Sky. He cried. I cried. It was time for you to come. Today would be your birthday.
Around 4:30 a.m., I messaged my mom to start her drive before traffic set in; I didn’t know how fast this was going to go. It was common for second labors to go much faster than the first, and my surges were already five minutes apart. At 7 a.m., I messaged my midwife and told her my progress and that I might need her soon. I took a walk to see if I could make the surges stronger, but the walk made them weaker and farther apart. I noticed that trend throughout my pregnancy; my practice surges became stronger and more frequent if I was resting while activity had the opposite effect. But these were real surges and I did not want them to fizzle out. Thinking my labor was stalling once again; I started to become anxious and messaged my midwife expressing concern. She would be over soon with more herbs. I sat back down to rest, hoping for my surges to make a fast and furious return.
“Every labor is different.” “Be open to whatever turn your labor may take.” These were mantras I’d intentionally meditated upon during pregnancy, but I must have secretly held on to the belief that your labor would be as straightforward as your sister’s. Your labor—two weeks of it if you count the many times labor would start and stop—was a true test of my trust and patience.
Our midwife and her assistant arrived at our home around noon. By that time, my surges had returned to the frequency and intensity they were pre-walk. They set up shop in our bedroom, where your father had the pool blown up and ready to be filled, while I drank herbs and wandered from room to room - sitting, leaning, rocking, and waiting. My mom was watching Ruby who had a stomach bug and was throwing up all morning. I wondered if she sensed what was going on, her body reacting to her instinct that something big was happening. It is pretty amazing how intimately connected mother and baby continue to be long after separation at birth.
Around 4 or 5 p.m. my surges began to get stronger and we started to fill the pool. I sank in and immediately felt the warm water ease the tension in my body. Draping myself over the side with my knees spread wide, I opened myself up to your descent, embracing each surge fully knowing each one would bring me closer to you.
After several minutes, I noticed my surges starting to space further apart. I was assured that this was normal and that they would pick back up. I found myself seeking reassurance many times before and during labor, grappling with the fear that my surges would just end, and labor would stall out. It was a fear that MY body—contrary to tens of thousands of years of women birthing naturally—was broken and needed help to birth you.
It’s hard to say what this fear was born out of—your sister’s traumatic birth, the countless labor and delivery horror stories shared by well-meaning women, the highly medicalized management of birth in our society—but as my surges became stronger and closer together, any and all fears I harbored fell away as I turned inward, my body taking over and shutting off my brain chatter. I was fully present, riding each wave as it approached, peaked, and floated away…any doubt or mistrust I had been experiencing up to that point was non-existent. I was in a place of complete surrender.
Your father never once left my side. For hours upon hours he coached me through every surge, his calm voice in my ear reminding me to breathe and keep my body limp and loose. When my body convulsed uncontrollably during transition, he carried me out of the tub and wrapped me in towels and held me close to his body to keep me warm. I’ll never experience birth from his perspective, but I know that he was just as unshakably focused as I was, actively participating in the birth of our child. On his knees, bare chested, eyes fixed on me. He was my hero that night.
Time has no meaning when you’re deep in labor; everything becomes very fuzzy. It was very much like being on intense drugs. I felt high, dizzy with oxytocin and endorphins. At one point I felt like I was going to pass out; my vision became blurry and dark. I know it was evening and I must have been laboring intensely for a while when my midwife suggested she check me. She told me I was 7–8 cm open and 75% thinned out. This news was a bit discouraging as I felt like I had made more progress than that. As she investigated further, she discovered that the fluid around you was keeping your head floating above my cervix, not putting enough pressure on it to open it fully. She suggested getting out of the tub and getting on my hands and knees while she and her assistant shook my hips vigorously to try to tweak your position ever so slightly. After a few minutes of this, I felt a pop and I knew right away before I even stood up that my water finally released. Instinctually, I knew that things were going to start happening fast.
With a renewed energy, I stepped back into the birthing pool. I submerged myself and immediately began breathing you down. After each surge I would rest leaned back against the pool and reach down to feel how far you had descended. I could feel your head slowly moving further and further down the birth canal with each surge and it totally shifted my energy. At first, I was a little afraid of the power of my body as it worked to bring you down, but after a while I started to work with my surges, actively pushing which felt very good—not in the sense that it was physically pleasurable, but good like, “Hell yes! I’m doing this!” It was the most primal experience; everything from the positions my body took to the sounds my body made was completely instinctual, playing a crucial role in the birthing process. My belief and determination transcended fear and I was able to witness how truly unlimited my strength was.
When I could feel your head starting to crown, that was the first time throughout your entire labor that I felt afraid. It was at this point in your sister’s labor that complications arose when I could not push her past my pubic bone and we ended up having a vacuum-assisted delivery followed by post-partum hemorrhaging. I felt the desire to back away; to run and hide. I’m so thankful for my birth team who coached me through delivering your head; who told me to push through the sensations…the pressure…the burning. I felt your head crown in just one or two pushes. Only another push or two and you slid into the water, and your perfectly pink body was brought up to my chest – all 6lbs, 15 oz of you!
In that incredibly surreal moment, everything I ever knew about myself changed. As soon as my eyes touched your face, old wounds were instantly healed, and my heart grew to accommodate the massive amount of love in the room. You clung to me with the same sweetness and grace with which you entered this world and I kissed you and told you that you were safe. Your first breath and cry sent tears of happiness and relief down my cheeks. We stayed there for a while, getting to know one another’s faces, feeling the beat of our two hearts on the outside, giving each other rest.
You were here and I did it! We did it! I couldn’t believe it. I kept saying that. Your sister came into the room shortly after you were born and met you with sleepy eyes. I birthed your beautiful, life-giving placenta. I wasn’t able to see your sister’s placenta, but I studied yours for a while, the link between you and me that made this whole thing possible. You and I continued to stay quietly connected for the next hour or so as you nursed skin to skin, instinctively inching your way to my breast for your first latch. My midwife and her assistants attended to me and treated me like a goddess. I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I was so in love with you.
As the night went on, the soft buzzing of our birth team became silent and soon we were alone as a new family of four. We fell asleep cuddled up on the same bed you were conceived on and our hearts were more full than we could ever have imagined. I felt complete and utter joy. Mostly, I felt so incredibly thankful. For you, and your sister and Dad. For my birth team—beyond amazing women who hold the most safest of spaces that I have ever known. For yoga and Hypnobirthing for giving me the tools and confidence to have the birth I’d always dreamed of. For this beautiful birth experience that will serve as a positive affirmation to you that however and wherever you choose to birth, your experience matters. Seek out the support you deserve, know your options, and trust the sacred natural process. Remember to breathe and know that you can do this. You are so much stronger than you know.
I love you, my June.