I chose a home birth for two reasons. First, I wanted to birth in the comfort and safety of my own home, surrounded by only the people I love and trust, and in an environment that I had created myself to inspire relaxation and serenity. Second, above all, I wanted a natural birth that was guided by my own body, and would allow me to connect with myself as a woman and connect with my child as she came into the world. My daughter was born in Thailand where the cesarean section rate has reached over 90% in some hospitals. I did not want to risk a cesarean if it was not absolutely necessary, nor did I want to feel pressured to have to decide on medical interventions during the sacred process of my birth. I searched around for a Thai midwife (Maw Tum Yae) , but it seems that within a space of a generation the birthing process has moved from the home to the hospital, and traditional midwifery is fading from Thailand.
I was introduced to Barbara through a close friend who knew that she had traveled internationally to attend births in the past. Barbara came and stayed on the island of Phuket for almost a month waiting on the arrival of my daughter. What a blessing that she was able to assist me and my family! Living in Thailand with my partner meant that I was away from my family and close friends for my entire pregnancy and birth, and Barbara was the perfect mama-figure that I needed for this experience. My good friend, Rachel, also came all the way from Spain to attend my birth.
I had arranged for Barbara to stay in a small bungalow that was a short distance from my home, and for transportation we borrowed the motor scooter of a friend for her to ride. She had ridden a Vespa in Israel many years before, so she said she felt comfortable riding the scooter, but I was still a bit nervous for her; there are really no traffic rules in Thailand and the roads are very narrow and can be very steep in some places, but my worries were all for naught, because in no time at all Barbara was zipping around on her scooter giving all the terrible Thai drivers a run for their money! We rode our scooters all over the island visiting beaches, temples, markets and tiny Thai restaurants housed in bamboo shacks.
Almost three weeks had passed since Barbara had arrived and my due date had come and gone. I was starting to get worried that my daughter wasn't going to come before Barbara was due to fly home. On top of the anticipation of my birth my partner, Aek and I were going through a stressful time dealing with the responsibilities of new parenthood and the pressure it put on our relationship. To make matters worse I came down with a terrible sinus infection at the same time! I think my body was just waiting for everything to settle down before getting down to the business of giving birth. Both Barbara and my family in America urged me to get acupuncture to help heal the sinus infection and get the birthing process started. Blessedly, there was a very renowned acupuncturist couple who ran a clinic on the island.
I had two acupuncture treatments. The first treatment was really about clearing up my sinus infection, but the doctor also gave me a moxa treatment on the points for labor induction. Moxa is dried herbs (usually mugwort) that has been pressed into a smudge stick and is used by letting it smolder very near to the specific acupuncture points. The heat from the moxa warms the body and brings more qi (your body's vital energy) and blood flow to the specific area. After my first acupuncture treatment I felt as though I was having the lightest of contractions, but it was hard to tell if anything was happening at all. The second acupuncture treatment was 48 hours after the first. My sinus infection was well on it's way towards clearing up so I was able to have a treatment that was focused only on labor induction. This time my acupuncturist used the needles on the acupressure points commonly associated with induction. He used only 3 points; Spleen 6 and Bladder 60, but are close to the ankle, and Liver 3, which is on the top of the foot near the base of the big toe. After he placed the needles he said he was going to stimulate the points to really get the energy flowing. As he tweaked the needles in my ankle points I suddenly experienced what felt like electrical sparks on the soles of my feet! It didn't hurt at all, but I was so surprised and the feeling was so intense that I was actually squealing as I lay on the bed! Needless to say, that was the treatment that kicked off the whole labor. By that evening I was starting to experience strong contractions.
My friend Rachel and I decided we would ride the motorbike to the market to stock up on fruits and veggies before my labor really got underway. I was a bit concerned about riding the motorbike so close to the time of birth, but Barbara said, "What's the worse that could happen? You go into labor?" So off we went! As we walked between the stalls a contraction would come every so often and I needed to stop and bend over. I was so excited that it was finally happening that I couldn't think about shopping at all, and Rachel had to get all our groceries and negotiate with the Thai sellers all by herself. Once we got home Rachel got down to work setting up a little birthing nook for me with beautiful orchid flowers, an essential oil diffuser, and the birthing playlist that I had arranged for myself.
Barbara came over and we had a light meal, which I wanted none of. I only really wanted to roll back and forth on my birthing ball, which was really helping me ride out the contractions and take little sips of water. Every time a contraction started Rachel would massage my lower back. Barbara declared that it would be a while yet before the baby was coming, and that she would go back to her bungalow and it was best if we all got some sleep first. Sleep! Ha! I lay in bed next to my partner, but every time a contraction washed over me I had to pull the birthing ball on the bed and roll on it. At this point I was starting to make low vocalizations, and Aek somehow slept through the whole thing. I wanted to wake him up and make him go through the experience with me, but I figured there was no point to that.
At about 3 AM the contractions were only about 2-3 minutes apart and starting to feel much more intense so I called Barbara to come over. She said I was beginning to dilate, but wasn't in active labor yet. I felt better moving through the contractions and I was constantly changing from pacing around the house, to standing in the shower, to sitting backwards in a chair with Barbara applying pressure on my back every time a contraction came. In the early hours of the morning Barbara said it would be good if I ate a little something, so she made me a cup of tea and some toast with butter and honey. It felt to put a little food in my body and it seemed to give me strength.
As my contractions started coming more quickly I began to get more vocal to carry myself through them. By now Aek was rather agitated and I think feeling kind of helpless, so Barbara sent him on a mission to find a connecting part for the oxygen tank (not that we needed it, but more like he needed something to do), and then had him set up the pool, and go about filling it with water. I wanted to get in the pool very much, but Barbara told me I had to wait. Finally, I was lying on the bed with Rachel, and a strong contraction started. It was so strong and there was an intense pressure that I felt like I needed to stand up. Just as I stood my water broke with a pop! all over the bed and the floor. I told Rachel to run and tell Barbara. She carefully guided me over to a pile of pillows that Rachel had made for me and checked my progress. "Wow, the baby has a lot of hair!" she exclaimed, and asked me if I wanted to feel. I didn't like the idea of folding over to feel the baby's head, so I opted not to do that. The Rachel, Aek and Barbara helped me walk over and get into the pool. As soon as I sank into the water I felt so much better. The feeling of the water all around my body, helping to hold me up was divine! I remember thinking it was a bit colder than I would have liked. Barbara told me that they water may cause my contractions to slow down and if that happened I would have to get out of the pool. Well, I felt like I had waited so long to get in the pool, there was no way I was getting out again. I concentrated on bringing the baby down and out, and with each exhale I imagined my energy as a rippling yellow spiral moving down through my core. I was kneeling, draped over the side of the pool. Each time a contraction came I hung onto the back of a chair that Barbara had brought over for me. Between some particularly strong contractions just when I was beginning to feel a shadow of doubt I remember looking up and seeing Barbara standing in the doorway of our balcony looking out over the temple below and the mountains in the distance. She radiated such a calm and confident vibe that I thought, "Well, if she's not concerned about anything then everything must be going well." Between each contraction I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and almost euphoria. Every pause was a blessed moment of rest.
Eventually Rachel and Aek came to my side and I clung to each of their arms to ride through the contractions. I must have been totally in the zone, because I hardly remember what followed. Later Rachel told me that Barbara had said it was time to turn over from my kneeling position to push, but I didn't want to move form where I was. With Aek on one side and Rachel on the other and Barbara behind to catch the baby I pushed, making strong, low vocalizations to really get the most out of each push. My daughter's head and then shoulders emerged, and then it felt like she just slid the rest of the way out. Barbara caught her from behind. Aek and Rachel then had to help me stand up and turn over, and I had to step over the umbilical cord which was still attached to the placenta inside me. Barbara placed my daughter on my chest as I leaned back against the side of the pool. I birthed the placenta easily with no effort. Then she carefully guided me out of the pool to my pile of pillows on the floor. I remember thinking that walking the 5 feet from the pool to the pillows was going to be the hardest thing I had done all day. I lay back with my daughter against my skin and there was nothing else in that moment but her and I.