by Hannah Day
In 2015, I was pregnant with my first child and my due date was December 2, 2015. My partner and I decided to travel to the south of Italy for 3-weeks over the summer for a baby moon and to attend a yoga retreat. I am a prenatal yoga instructor, so I loved the idea of treating myself to yoga and swimming in the ocean (and delicious gelato and pizza almost every day!) The experience was incredible, empowering and grounding. There was a well-known healer at the yoga retreat center in Italy and she told me my baby would be a strong, wilful boy (we were leaving the gender a surprise). When we returned home to Toronto, I gathered all the information I could on birth and positive birthing experiences. I never would have imagined a home birth until one of my friends, (who is originally from New Delhi, India) sat with me for three hours to tell me about her magical home birth experience with a doula and midwife. When I thought of birth before, the idea of a home birth sounded interesting, but not safe enough for a worrywart like me. However, the more research I did, the better it sounded. I was with midwives and planned on hiring a doula. As weeks passed, I felt more and more empowered about my decision. We were going to plan a HOME BIRTH! I also had this nagging feeling to return home to the Okanagan Valley, where my family was and my in-laws lived. So at seven months pregnant, we moved from Toronto to Kelowna, BC and I quickly found a midwife (thank goodness I was able to transfer to Malachite Midwives in Kelowna, because they are very popular and busy). I continued to teach prenatal yoga in Kelowna and found a wonderful doula (I highly recommend interviewing a bunch of doulas before you choose one and trust your instincts in the process). Investing in a doula was one of the best decisions I made during my pregnancy. I highly recommend one! We rented an adorable apartment by Okanagan Lake, five minutes walking distance from the hospital. Then on November 30th, I started experiencing leaking. It felt like I was peeing a little bit every time I moved around, but I had no sensation of peeing. So I went to the midwives for them to see if the fluid was amniotic fluid. “Amniotic fluid is beautiful and looks like snowflakes under a microscope,” my midwife told me, we will know right away, if it is. Sure enough, it was. I was leaking amniotic fluid in what they called a “hind water leak” and I needed to go into labour within 24 hours or I would be transferred to a hospital to be induced. I really wanted to give a home birth a shot, so the midwives gave me a “labour cocktail” that they had available at their clinic. They said: “take this, then a Gravol and try to get a bit of sleep.” I added the labour cocktail to orange juice and ice, making a smoothie, and it tasted absolutely terrible. I laid myself down for a total of 15 minutes, then I sprinted to the washroom to vomit and labour started immediately! The terrible tasting labour cocktail was worth it, I was in labour naturally. My doula came over right away (by now it was December 1 and very cold outside, but we didn’t have any snow yet). So I turned on the gas fireplace, put on my music playlist, (that I had been preparing for months), laid out all of the labouring snacks (nuts, dried mango and watermelon for a quick burst of sugar if I needed it), and “birthing” lemonade (which was fresh squeezed lemon juice, Himalayan sea salt, filtered water, honey and ice). I sipped on the lemonade and snacked here and there throughout the evening. The lighting was dim and the room was lit by the fire light. My doula brought over her birthing ball, TENS machine and her birthing pool – we were all set! I used the kitchen counter a lot to lean on during active labour and the TENS machine was a life-saver for intense contractions. At midnight our student midwife Rochelle came over, (our birth was her 100th birth in her practicum), she did amazingly. She was knowledgeable, assuring and calm. She allowed me the space (and time) to go inwards and tune into my intuition throughout my labour. After a while she checked my dilation and said that I was dilating on one side, but not the other. Intuitively, I did some yoga lunges over and over again, following the rhythm of my breath, and it helped a lot. Things were progressing nicely (we were in eight hours now). The senior midwife Angelique arrived at 2 a.m.. I remember her entering our little apartment looking like a magical winter fairy, cloaked in white snowflakes, as the moon was bright and it was SNOWING outside! The first snow of the winter had started while I was in labour, as there was a thin blanket of white outside of our door, on the shrubs and trees and our front entrance; it felt like I was in a winter wonderland, with soft falling snowflakes and a bright and beautiful moon outside of our apartment. The funny thing was that Angelique was on vacation in Greece for two weeks prior and I never managed to meet her at any of my midwife appointments (because I transferred from Ontario to British Columbia midwifery care at the end of my pregnancy). Angelique was tanned from her holiday in Greece, with beautiful brown hair and eyes and a passion for being a midwife written all over her face. She got me into the birthing pool right away. I remember staring very intensely into her eyes during the transition phase. I was in a deep squat in the pool (in yoga the pose is called Malasana) and my partner was behind me, supporting me with his kind, encouraging words. Angelique was directly in front of me on her knees and both my doula and midwives were cheering me on. I had been pushing for almost two hours and my energy levels started to drop. Angelique said in a very firm but gentle tone: “Your energy and breath is going everywhere and being wasted. You need to focus on directing your energy and use your breath to breathe your baby down and out.” So looking her in the eyes the entire time, following her every word, she walked me through using my diaphragm and breathing my baby down and out. I wrapped my body around my baby in a squat and surrendered to the experience; instead of running away from the pain, or letting my energy go in any and all directions, I focused on bringing all of my energy and breath down and out. Then suddenly, a beautiful head was out! I looked down in the water and there was a gorgeous head covered in long black hair. My baby’s hair was flowing back and forth in the water, looking very much like a mermaid. I just stared in awe. I am very fair, so having such a contrast of hair was incredible! I was very tired, so I waited for the power of my next contraction to push the rest of my baby out at 4:10 a.m. on December 2, 2015 (my due date). My student midwife Rochelle helped scoop my baby out of the water of the birthing pool and onto my chest. I said: “He is here, he is here!” and kept kissing the top of my baby’s head. Both midwives were busy and I didn’t even notice that a fourth person (Wendy) had come in the room to join the birthing party. Wendy was a birthing attendant/nurse. I was in my own world as the midwife clamped my baby’s cord and my partner cut it. Then, to our surprise, we saw our beautiful winter baby was a GIRL! I was in shock and very happy. We had a precious baby girl with a head full of long dark hair. She let out the most wonderful cry to tell us she is here and all is well. My partner held her as I transitioned to my bed, as I was too relaxed in the birthing pool to birth my placenta. Once in bed, my placenta came out. My placenta looked exactly like the Tree of Life, so I asked my doula to make a print with it on paper. I treasure that print (in my daughter’s baby book) and I’ll tell her the whole story one day. I am not sure how long the midwives stayed after, moving around the room like a dance, around our family bed. They were graceful and very respectful of our space. I was so grateful to be able to be warm and cozy in bed, cuddling my new baby and my partner, in our own home right after birth. Outside, the world still looked the same, with snow falling softly on the trees by our entrance, but inside, in our little room, our lives had changed forever, more beautiful than the bright snow.
Hannah Day (@happydayyoga) is a mama of two daughters and a pre- & postnatal yoga specialist based out of Kelowna, British Columbia. She has been teaching moms yoga for almost a decade and founded @BirthPrepYoga in 2020. Yoga & breathing techniques are incredibly helpful for moms to release stress and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period. When she is not teaching yoga, she is in her garden growing vegetables, or swimming in Okanagan Lake.
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