The Birth of Cassian Alder

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Intuition. There were a few things that I hadn’t fully grasped with my firstborn’s Birth…Primarily, learning to tap into my own innate wisdom, and just fully trusting myself, my body and my Baby, and our God-designed interconnectedness. This was the recurring theme of this entire Pregnancy and Birth, and it is a skill that I am practicing and trying to grow ever since. Modern culture has largely severed all connection with our built-in ability to intuit what we need and what the best course of action is. This is unfortunate, because I believe that it is a gift from the Lord, to help us know what is needed in a moment, when you just don’t have the facts of a situation or the ability to acquire them. Birth is the perfect example of when intuition is so strongly needed too.

Sure, there are occasions where there is a clear problem and a direct decision in how to address it. But the majority of the time, a Mother well in-tune with herself and her Baby can discern little hiccups in the process and exactly what she needs to do next, as well as recognising and honouring her and her Baby’s own unique journey of Birth. My firstborn’s Birth unfolded well enough, but I felt the experience overall was lacking, largely because I was so out of touch with my own body and what my Baby needed. I thought I had prepared for Birth well, but what I had really only prepared myself for  was avoiding interventions and staying out of a Hospital. In a nutshell, I knew what I didn’twant, but not what I did want.

So as I prepared for this Birth, I spent a lot of time focusing inward, getting to know my Baby and learning to listen to my body on a deeper level. I spent a lot of time in prayer, and doing Pregnancy and Birth Meditations, as well as doing tons of Birth Art. I would often listen to Birth Affirmations while colouring, just declaring my confidence in how God designed my body and my complete trust in how He was guiding our Birth to be, however it unfolded. I also read and listened to dozens of positive, empowering Birth Stories, appreciating all the examples of strong women who had gone before me.

 35 Weeks Pregnant

35 Weeks Pregnant

We were living in Hungary for the majority of my Pregnancy, but I found a pair of Midwives who would take me on when we came back Stateside. I met them when I was 30 Weeks along, and began planning my Home Birth. We are staying with my parents while in the States, which made for the unique opportunity of actually giving Birth in my old bedroom from when I grew up. Talk about coming full circle! I had a Water Birth planned, and set up a Birthing Area with a wall full of the Birth Art and Affirmations I had been working on all of my Pregnancy. I also had a Himalayan Salt Lamp and a string of glowing paper lanterns, and a long track of Ocean Waves saved from YouTube to listen to during Labour. All of this made for a very serene Birthing Area.

My Labouring began very gradually on a Saturday, a week before my Guess Date. I felt some mild tightening in my Uterus off and on all day, but kept it to myself in case it was just a false alarm. I suggested we go to a local festival occurring that weekend, for some exercise, fresh air, and to see if the extra movement happened to encourage things further along. My husband Taylor and my daughter Margot and I set out. We had a fun time, but things didn’t pick up at all.

The next day, everyone went to church, but I decided to stay home and rest, since I was just so big and Pregnant, and didn’t feel like going out. I had a really lovely, quiet time with Margot instead. We spent that sunny morning together in the bedroom, her playing and goofing off with her almost two year old toddler antics, and me folding laundry and doing a bit of gentle Prenatal Yoga. I somehow knew this was one of our very last special moments together, just mother and daughter. So I made the most of it and was soon goofing off with Margot and showering her with kisses and tickles.

All throughout the day I did continue to feel more tightening in my Uterus, the contracting growing stronger and stronger over time. I was beginning to think this may be it! I even timed them just out of curiosity, but they were all over the place. I started feeling very emotional about giving Birth too. I was second-guessing my abilities, and just feeling a general sense of dread sort of, not wanting to actually go through with it all (as if I had a choice in the matter, haha), and not wanting my small family of just us three to change. It was an odd day for me, but I was really able to address and process through some anxieties that were surfacing, especially about interacting with two children soon and how we would all adjust. I’m thankful Labour came on slowly so that I had this opportunity in the last few days of Pregnancy. We spent the rest of the day getting all the Homebirth supplies ready and finished setting up my Birthing Area. I wanted to feel 100% prepared, in case my Labour picked up during the night, as is pretty common. The tightening in my Uterus thankfully calmed down though almost completely so that I was able to have a full night of rest.

Monday morning dawned bright and sunny, with a special crispness in the air. I felt incredible. Seriously the most rested I had been in a long time. When I went to the bathroom that morning I discovered I had lost my Mucus Plug, and I actually felt excited about Labour starting soon now. I had an appointment at the Chiropractor that morning too, which I was particularly excited about. I was looking forward to going into Labour with a completely aligned body. Oh the benefits! I excitedly told the Receptionist and my Chiropractor about where I was at with things, and we all had a good laugh as we cancelled all my next appointments. “It will be today or tomorrow!” I told them. I spent the rest of the day napping and resting, still feeling decently strong tightening sensations off and on. I went to bed early that night.

From about 11pm onwards I felt the tightening really pick up in intensity. These felt like actual Uterine Surges or Waves now, and I felt myself very slowly leaking some Amniotic Fluid as well. I just rolled over and went back to sleep though. I had learned my lesson with Margot’s Birth: sleep as long as you possibly can! I had been too excited and had all this nervous energy in Labour, and went into her Birth completely exhausted because I just couldn’t get to sleep. I wanted to be as rested this time as possible. I just peacefully rode through each Wave as it swelled, peaked, and faded, breathing deeply and dozing through them, and finally falling asleep once more. I kept that up for as long as possible! And it really worked beautifully. Eventually I woke around 4am (Tuesday morning) totally unable to sleep through the Uterine Surges. I knew it was finally Baby time!

  My go-to position during Labour: hands and knees, and draped over the Birthing Ball.

My go-to position during Labour: hands and knees, and draped over the Birthing Ball.

Taylor soon woke up too, thankfully. Because I found that I was again experiencing a Back Labour, just as I had with Margot’s Birth. So as soon as Taylor was able, I had him performing counter-pressure on my lower back, which I respond particularly well to. Margot soon woke up crying and seemed very confused but quickly settled down. She grew very interested in what was going on, laughing at my Labour “antics”. She even sweetly patted her hands on my back imitating her daddy supporting me in Labour. It wasn’t long though before I felt her presence distracting though, so I had Taylor wake my parents in the next room and my mom took over watching her. Taylor was then able to focus entirely on me and kept performing counter-pressure. I took some time at this point to listen to a Labour companion track and some Birth Affirmations. It felt really good to dive into Active Labour this way, just reminding myself of everything I had been working on during my Pregnancy and all the things I wanted for this Birth. I also made great use of the Birthing Ball with this Labour. I had a little routine going of draping myself over the ball during each Uterine Wave and then crouching back or kneeling and sitting on my legs in between each Wave, making a slow rocking motion continuously. This rhythmic movement combined with my breathing and mental focus along with Taylor’s counter-pressure on my lower back was extremely effective. I also began moaning deeply through each Wave, keeping my jaw loose and open. I could feel this openness being reflected all throughout my body as I envisioned my Cervix softening and dilating gently.

We did this for quite some time and Taylor asked me eventually if I would like to call the Midwife. I didn’t want to call her too early though, so I never really answered him, even when he kept asking me. Internally I had decided that I would let him call when he personally thought it was time just from observing me, which would be a better indication of how far into Labour I was than if I just answered the question for him. He decided on his own to call the Midwife around around 7 AM. And she arrived about an hour later and quietly set up shop. One of the ladies from my Midwife team was actually attending another Birth right then, so the Midwife that was on duty for me called in a back up Midwife friend of hers, just to have an extra pair of hands if needed. The Midwives were extremely supportive of my desire to give Birth as unhindered as possible. They left me alone in my room with Taylor as I had requested and only came to check on me very occasionally. I was able to continue to Labour in the darkness and quiet of my bedroom, only dimly lit and holding a very sacred, serene atmosphere that supported my Labour unfolding as naturally as possible.

We finally got the Birth Pool filled after the Midwives showed up. At this point, I was feeling pretty desperate for greater support than Taylor’s counter-pressure on my lower back. So I was very excited to get into the water. Being in the Birth Pool provided as much support as I had expected: the warmth relieved much of the pain and discomfort, and the water provided buoyancy for my large Pregnant body. I had also developed a case of Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction during the last few weeks of my Pregnancy, so my pelvis was feeling pretty achy over all. Being in the water helped me move around with much greater ease than if I had just been on “the land”. I laboured in the water for quite some time, gazing up at my Birth Art and Affirmations on the wall before me, never once feeling afraid or not at peace.

  Taylor was an incredible support to me, always knowing what to say and to do

Taylor was an incredible support to me, always knowing what to say and to do

Taylor would occasionally murmur encouragement into my ear. He was a constant support to me and really protected the space I needed to give Birth. He truly understood the kind of environment needed to support a physiological, undisturbed birth, just keeping things quiet and dark and maintaining the mood and atmosphere we had created together. Eventually my Midwife came in to check on us again and she commented that I seemed tired. I agreed, since I was definitely starting to feel just how hard I had been working all morning. So she suggested taking a rest if I liked, and helped me get comfortable with a pile of pillows on the bed. The Back Labour sensations were so intense at this point though that I soon found any position but being on hands and knees or draped over the Birthing Ball was nearly unbearable. I ended up going back to the Birth Ball and returning to my rhythmic motion from earlier in the day. This continued to work well, however my legs seem to be getting tired from being on some form of hands and knees for hours and hours on end. I soon began to experience shooting pain up and down the front of my thighs.

I had Taylor go and ask my Midwife if she had any ideas for positions or some sort of relief for my leg pain. She came back in, and Taylor took this opportunity to go and get Margot down to rest for her midday nap. I was purposely trying to not look at the clock to determine the time of day. However, knowing it was naptime kind of gave things away. I began to get quite emotional at this point, just feeling a bit desperate. I wondered how much longer I had to go. My Midwife team doesn’t usually perform Internal Exams to assess Dilation which I very much agree with. However I did consider asking them to perform an examination because I was just so curious about how far I had come. I knew though that Internal Exams don’t always help very much, really only letting you know just where you happen to be at in the moment, with little indication of how much further you actually have to go.

I began to express to my Midwife my fears and started crying a bit. I was just feeling so tired and the Uterine Waves were extremely powerful at this point. Combined with the shooting pain down the front of my thighs, it was all beginning to be a bit much. She asked me if I was feeling a little “pushy” at all. I remember laughing a bit at her in my head and thinking there was no way I was near that point yet. I told her no. Little did I know though that I was likely experiencing Transition right then, as you will soon see.  My Midwife’s friend asked if I would like a warm rice pack on my back, which I thought sounded quite nice. She held it onto my back and commented that she could literally see my lower back bulging just a bit during each Uterine Wave. She asked if rubbing my thighs might help with the pain, and I gave her permission to try. It helped immensely, so she and my Midwife began running their hands up and down the front of my thighs while I draped myself over the Birth Ball during each Wave. The soothing motion of their warm hands really relieved quite a bit of the pain. My Midwife suggested getting me in the shower because the warm water from the shower head might feel good since I responded so well to the warm rice pack. I thought that sounded like a good idea too, so we got me across the hall to the bathroom. My Midwife had the great idea of lighting candles and turning off the overhead light in the bathroom, so as to maintain the quiet, dimly lit atmosphere like in my bedroom.

Taylor got Margot down to sleep quickly (praise God), and then came to sit with me in the bathroom. He was unaware of my emotional state and my vulnerability in the room just before. So he was unaware that I was likely in Transition, and he was expecting us to have quite a ways still yet to go. I crouched in the water on hands and knees in the tub with the water spraying directly on my lower back. It felt really really good. Here in the shower I thought again about checking myself internally, to see how far dilated I was. I decided that I didn’t want someone else to check me, but maybe if I checked and knew just for myself that would be encouraging possibly? To be honest, I’m not sure what I was thinking exactly or why I decided to check, but I did. I inserted two fingers into my Birth Path to feel for my Cervix, anticipating finding it only partially dilated. I felt something odd though and couldn’t determine if it was my Cervix or not. It felt like a long ridge with an odd texture to its surface. I wondered what it could possibly be. Looking back this is pretty funny, but I soon determined that this ridge actually had hair on it. And for a weird moment I was so confused. I then remembered that Cervixes don’t grow hair! With excitement, I realised that I was actually feeling my Baby’s head! I was in shock! I tentatively gave a very gentle push, and it felt pretty good doing so. I let Taylor know, and he was stunned. He yelled down the hall to the Midwives that I could feel hair, and that it felt good to push. Everyone jumped into action. I got out of the shower and went back across the hall to my bedroom, and immediately got into the Birth Pool again.

Even though I gave that gentle push in the shower, I was really only doing so to assess where I was at in the process. All along I had planned to actually not actively Push or Birth Breath my Baby out, after researching about the Fetal Ejection Reflex. This is an amazing ability of the body to Birth the Baby completely on its own, literally by reflex of you just wait for it, similar to the automatic bodily process of sneezing. I had long ago realised that with Margot’s Birth I never felt an urge to push even, and between that and not being in tune with my body nor listening for any instinctual urges, it all accounted for the long and difficult Second Stage of Labour I experienced with her. This time I was determined for the ultimate act of intuition and instinctual behaviour: not consciously pushing my Baby out, but letting my body do so on its own.

As I crouched in the water of my Birth Pool and felt my Baby beginning to Crown, I reflected on the difficulty I had during Margot’s Birth once more. However, in this moment I totally forgot about my resolve to let my Baby be born on their own, without any conscious effort of Pushing or Birth Breathing on my part. All I could think about was how I wasn’t ready to push and just plain didn’t want to, and I refused to have a repeated experience of this stage. I had serious anxiety over it all. A lot was going through my mind in these moments, as Wave after Wave came. My body really did know what to do though, and proceeded to do so on its own. When each very powerful Uterine Wave came on, my body started pushing. Again, I was still having anxiety about even pushing at all, yet here my body was just doing its own thing without conscious effort on my part. It was a very intense, powerful experience. I felt very vulnerable, and even out of control in a way. Because at some point, Birth just happens, and it’s a process that cannot be stopped. It’s really profound, and almost scary in a sense, but really there is no true fear involved. It’s too hard to describe until you’ve gone through it yourself.

I was crouching in the water still as my body continued pushing my Baby’s head down and out, and just as the head was about to be fully born, I realised in shock how fast this was all going. It seemed totally unreal, compared to Margot’s Birth. I remember gasping to my Midwife, “Is this too fast!?” And I don’t remember what she said in reply exactly, but I knew it was all right. My Baby’s head was born then quite suddenly, and my Midwife asked me to stand up out of the water, because as I found out later, she thought she had felt a hand entangled with the cord around the Baby’s neck. A difficult position to manage in the water. However, it turned out to be only my Baby’s ear, not a hand. Which is pretty funny, because my Baby did have some fairly large ears, just like their Daddy. My Midwife was standing behind me as I stood up out of the water, and she caught the Baby and immediately passed him between my legs to my waiting hands. That’s right, it was a Boy! I hadn’t even really seen him yet, but as she handed him to me, I immediately felt his little boy parts, and realised with joy that I had a son. I looked over at my sister who was in the room taking photos and whispered to her, “It’s a Boy!” And she repeated me, much louder so that the whole room and everyone waiting outside could hear. I held my son in my arms, and they all helped me sit back down into the Birth Pool again.

He had his cord wrapped around him in the oddest manner too, sort of around the neck, shoulders, and across his body like a bandolier. It took several of us juggling him for a moment to untangle him. The Birth Pool wasn’t quite as warm anymore either, so my Midwife offered me a towel and hat to help keep my son warm. Taylor and I shared a very special, tearful moment just staring down in amazement at our new son. Then my Mom and Dad stuck their head in the bedroom door to congratulate us, and to let Margot, the new big sister, have a peak at her baby brother. She said “Baby!” and not much else, as I think she didn’t really know what to think of it all. I mean, we had a pool in our bedroom, why was everyone crying, and where in the world did that Baby come from?? Haha.

We then announced our son’s name to the room: Cassian Alder. My precious little boy. We were all immediately in love with him. I was just in awe that he had even arrived yet though! Start to finish had been about 8 hours of Active Labour, and from the moment in the shower where I first felt his head up until his birth had only been about 20 minutes total! I was in awe of what I had accomplished too. I couldn’t believe the raw power my body contained, left to Birth on its own, with no hinderance or interference from outside sources or even from myself. It was just an incredible experience.

I soon decided I was done being in the water, so they all helped me out of the Birth Pool and onto my bed, Cassian never leaving my arms. He immediately latched on and Breastfed so well.

 All four of us together

All four of us together

Taylor came and sat next to me with Margot, and we all just snuggled together as a new family. It was such a precious moment as Margot stared in awe, and we just basked in that post-Birth glow. I felt amazing too, like I’d only just made lunch or something, and “oh look, a Baby”. I couldn’t believe how great I was feeling physically. I only had a very minor, superficial tear that didn’t even require stitches. I soon gave Birth to my Placenta with ease as well.

  Taylor cutting the Umbilical Cord, my Placenta with it’s fascinating “tree of life” pattern of veins, & Cassian’s Cord Tie

Taylor cutting the Umbilical Cord, my Placenta with it’s fascinating “tree of life” pattern of veins, & Cassian’s Cord Tie

I asked my Midwife to show my Placenta to me, as I wanted to fully appreciate the wonder of this special, temporary organ and its “tree of life” pattern of veins across its surface. I had grown this Placenta and it perfectly nourished my Baby. It was really special to take a moment to honour what my body and this organ had accomplished together. Taylor then cut the Umbilical Cord, and Cassian seemed somehow more fully present in that moment too. I decided to have my Placenta Encapsulated again, and had a Tincture made this time as well.

  Weighing Cassian… 7 lbs even!

Weighing Cassian… 7 lbs even!

Cassian was absolutely perfect at Birth too. He’s such a relaxed little baby, and nurses and sleeps so well. His personality is the same as in utero, just as I had been picking up on all along. During my Pregnancy I affectionately called him my “zen baby” or my “chill little guy”, because he was just so peaceful in my Womb, and I had also known deep down that he was a Boy too. It’s my husband and my view to protect the sacred inwardness of God’s design over Pregnancy, and that it’s best to let a child be born with their sex and their name finally revealed in that moment at Birth. It’s something very profound. So it was special to see that all of my intuition surrounding Cassian was correct and just as things were meant to be, all after me spending an entire Pregnancy getting to know him without any outside forces telling me a thing about him, but just us two, Mama and Baby.

  Cassian, & big sister Margot

Cassian, & big sister Margot

We’ve had a very special Postpartum time together too. We lay in bed for a full week, just bonding, doing skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. I had so many things planned and prepared ahead of time to support my healing too, including taking daily herbal baths, drinking herbal tea blends, using herbal salves and topical sprays and essential oils, taking various vitamins and tinctures to help restore my body, and wearing a Bengkung Belly Bind, to support my body returning to its non-Pregnant state. We just stuck around the house for a few weeks, and because of all this time to rest, relax, heal, and bond, I feel that I have had just a lovely, peaceful, and complete recovery. Nothing else was planned but caring for myself and looking after my little Cassian. I feel incredible both physically and emotionally, and he is doing so so well too, including being already 3 pounds over his birth weight at a month old. I’m so thankful! This was an incredibly healing Birth experience, where I learned to truly trust God’s wise design in Pregnancy and Birth, and to finally tap into my own intuition and my body’s innate wisdom too.

– Helen Rose

  newly a Mother, just a couple hours after giving Birth

newly a Mother, just a couple hours after giving Birth

  Breastfeeding Cassian in my Ring Sling a few days later

Breastfeeding Cassian in my Ring Sling a few days later