Hello January, thank you so much for your blog and Facebook page – you are doing such important work. My son Caio was born at home in Sept 2011 in Costa Rica, this is our story. I would be honored if you would like to share it on your blog. I will include some photos that you are welcome to use as well.
Very early in my pregnancy I felt certain of the kind of birth that I wanted for our baby. I knew that I wanted to birth at home, in water, with my partner Julio, mother, and aunt present. This desire posed some logistical challenges: we lived in a rural area of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast, with no hospital nearby, and no midwives willing to attend such a remote birth location. My mother and aunt lived in Canada How to find a safe place to labor with assistance, and work out travel dates for two busy ladies so that they could be present for the birth? We trusted in the universe, and a way was opened. We found a wonderful midwife in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. We traveled once a month for check-ups, and a friend of hers was able to offer us her beautiful home in the mountains just outside of the city for the month before and after our due date while she was out of the country.
My pregnancy was the most powerful and intuitive time of my life. It was textbook. Everything progressed healthily and I felt strong. I could feel my baby growing inside, and my womanhood growing with them; the presence of this new person inside me renewed my spirit and gave me insights of a depth that I had never experienced before. My dreams were colorful, vivid, and memorable. I had tea with my deceased grandmother, and she told me to expect a boy. I dreamed the day my child would be born; I saw myself, standing in front of a calendar, circling the 28th of September. When I told my mother and aunty to plan with this date in mind, and not my due date of October 7th, they agreed.
Just before my Aunt and Mum arrived, I remember lying in bed with Julio sleeping beside me, looking down at my huge belly and being overcome with fear. I had just fully realized that this baby was really going to be COMING OUT and very soon!!! I finally fell asleep anxious and fearful of the birth to come. That night I dreamed of my baby, of colors and light, and I felt more than heard a voice telling me that he was my son, that he would come no faster than I could handle, and that we would work together to open his way into the world. I woke up in the morning reassured and calmed, trusting once again in the strength of my body, so excited to meet this amazing person, my son.
My women arrived and we spent a week cleaning, organizing and going on adventures; we went for picnics in the park, out to the movies, and long walks through the hills . The atmosphere was festive – we were getting ready to welcome LIFE!! On the day that signified enough time had passed and that my babe could safely come out into the world at home, our doula and midwife joined us in a ceremony to welcome our child, to let him know that it was safe to come, that he was deeply loved and we were ready to hold him in our arms. My mother brought items which belonged to my female ancestors, strong women, and my brother sent his gold medal in Jiu Jitsu, so that I could also fight with a warrior´s spirit. We made a shrine of these objects, and I felt the love and support of my partner, my family, my grandmothers reaching through time; held, and cherished, safe and supported.
Over the next few nights, I woke up feeling twinges, like tiny cramps in my lower belly. I would get up and walk around, they would dissipate, and I would go back to sleep. On the night of the 27th of September they lasted longer and were a bit stronger, but by dawn had disappeared again, and I went back to bed for a couple of hours. I woke on the 28th feeling…different, soft and floaty. I knew that there would be no outing adventures for me that day, my energy was very internal and homebound. The intermittent cramping low in my belly shifted to my back, and stayed there. It ebbed and flowed, sometimes stopping for hours at a time. We had a home visit with the midwife that day and she assured us that this could go on for many days, and that it was unlikely that I was in labor. Even so, I felt something shift within me – the day was spent in deep relaxation. My mother and aunty massaged my body with creams and oils, braided my hair and painted my toes, gifting me with their love and attention as they prepared me for motherhood.
A huge storm came up, and the rain became torrential, filling the river below the house until it broke its banks and came up into the lowest part of the backyard. We sat out on the patio, watching the rain come down and the sky darken into late afternoon, as my lower back pains became deeper and more intense, and closer together, with a few waves each hour. Our midwife asked us to phone her when they came five minutes apart or closer, and we put the soup on the stove, preparing for a night of birthing. I wanted to bake and made oatmeal squares, stopping when I needed to concentrate on the waves coming over my body. Everyone was excited, knowing that our baby was finally on his way out.
As the storm raged outside and lightning streaked the sky, we watched a movie together, which I don’t think anyone remembers. I do remember my partners hand on my back as I rocked gently, and my aunt and mum sneaking glances but not wanting to pressure me by asking how I was feeling! I decided to retreat to our room to rest with Julio, and we curled together on the bed, feeling our last moments together as only two. As we lay, the pain in my back became more intense and came closer together until lying down became impossible. I wanted to be on all fours, and spent a lot of time in that position. The storm outside calmed, and for some reason, fireworks were set off in the city of San Jose. My mother and aunt called us to see, and between waves we watched the show- it felt like the whole world was welcoming this child!
My waves deepened and intensified- it was time for the midwives to come. They arrived around midnight, checked me and the baby, all was well, and more time was needed. The night began to stretch long – I lost all sense of time as I worked to open the way for our baby. I vocalized through each wave; the pain was completely concentrated in my lower back – a surprise for me as I had imagined it would be more like very strong menstrual cramps. As they checked me, the midwives would not tell me how many centimeters my cervix had dilated, only my birth team knew. I am so thankful for their wisdom in this – although I never stopped progressing, it was slooooow hard work. I know that if I had heard the numbers…2, 2.5, 3, 3.25 I would have been discouraged and heartbroken. The only words I heard were of encouragement – you are doing well, you are opening, you are a strong mother, good work. It was excruciating and unbearable for me to lie down on my back or my side; I labored the whole night with my partner, standing and rocking or on all fours. He never wavered or told me how tired he was – his strength and focus kept me moving through the dark. Our babies´ heart beat was very strong at each check, he was just taking his time, as he had promised.
As dawn broke, I could feel myself waning. The night had passed, and still no baby. I started to feel upset and extremely uncomfortable, nothing felt good anymore that previously was helping – not massage, or the hot water bottle or soothing music. The midwives encouraged me to try to lie down to rest for a few minutes, seeing the signs of my transition on the way. I closed my eyes, and exhausted, did manage to sleep with Julio for a few minutes. When I woke up with the next wave, it came stronger and deeper than ever before and I began to pace (well, waddle… let’s be real) back and forth. My mother, in her wise way, suggested a change of scenery now that day was here. My women assured Julio that I was in good hands, and that he should lay down to rest again. He was out in about 30 seconds, and we headed to t the patio to continue opening, this most eternal of women´s work.
I can only describe the next part of my labor as an out of body experience. The early morning air on the patio was fresh and cool; trees surrounded me, lending me their strength. I could see the river flowing below me, and sunlight filtered through the leaves onto my face. They day had come, the day my son was to be born. As my waves washed over me, I became giddy – smiling, laughing and singing. I vocalized with orgasmic sighs coming from deep within me and I was filled with one word: Yes. Yes this baby is coming, yes I am ferocious, yes I am a woman, yes I am a mother. I moved through gentle yoga poses, allowing my body to move and circle as it wished, feeling my baby descending lower and lower. I was aware of my women around me at the edges of my consciousness, not interfering but ready to support me. I started to feel a deep pressure low down in my back, and held onto my powerful aunty, as I turned each NO of fear for the next wave into a welcoming YES.
Julio rejoined us, and I was almost completely open. The midwives broke my waters for me, and I moved into my final phase of labor. Spending time sitting on the toilet listening to music, I finished the last part of opening. My baby was at the door; although I felt no urge to push, only a constant pressure deep in my lower back, I began to ask to move to birthing pool. Unbeknownst to me, because of the storm the night before the birthing pool was no longer an option- the aqueduct had been flooded and dark brown water was coming out of the tap. We had gone to plan B for our water birth, the outdoor Jacuzzi. Easing into the warm water brought almost instant relief, followed by almost instant panic because of the intensity of pain in my lower back.. I became very verbal about this pain, changing positions and trying to find something that brought relief. I remember saying ¨Okay, there´s been a mistake, there is no room for this baby to come out, its not possible!!¨and many loving faces around me, reassuring me ¨There is room, you are almost done, you are so strong, you are safe, your baby will be here soon!¨ I still had no urge to push when the midwives asked me to turn onto my back, and bring my baby out. I pushed, with gusto, and several roaring expletives. My midwife said ¨Okay great! Now take that verbal energy and turn it inwards on the next one. Close your mouth and send your baby out from your center¨. I did exactly that, and on my second push, my babies head emerged between my legs. I could see my partners face in front me, eyes open wide in wonder, tears running down his face, and my midwife said ‘ Yes! Now reach down and touch your babies´ head!¨ I remember being skeptical as I reached down, not completely trusting that the end was in sight. As I felt his head, his soft hair between my fingers, the truth sunk in. ¨ Okay,¨ said my midwife, ¨Bring him all the way out on the next one.¨ So I did. He floated out into the pool, accompanied by blood and fluid, and Julio´s hands caught him. Joyful cries filled the air from all of us, astonishment, wonder at the power of new life. With the help of the midwives, Julio brought him up out of the water and onto my chest, and a kind of awed silence descended. The midwives hands were flying, bringing blankets, rubbing the baby. ¨Call him! They said! Call his name! He needs to hear you.¨
¨Caio! Caio! Baby, baby, welcome baby! Welcome Caio!¨ we cried, all of us. He answered, murmuring and squawking as he took his first breaths, his skin slowly turning from grayish purple to bright pink.
Caio means contentment and joy; he was, and he is. He arrived on September 29th, 2011 at 10:31 am.
Julio and my women helped us out of the tub, covered us in blankets, and laid us down on a sofa on the patio. As I gazed down on this beautiful boy breathing on my chest, he calmly opened his eyes and looked right into mine. We gazed at each other, his eyes so old and wise in such a tiny face. In that moment I realized with complete certainty that this child had chosen us to be his parents, and that I would love him with my whole being, forever.
As Julio and I stroked his skin, counted his fingers and his toes and spoke his name, Caio began to nuzzle my breasts, looking for his first meal. He found it, and happily breastfed while the midwives helped me to birth Caio´s placenta. I barely noticed what was happening, so wrapped up was I in this new child, mine. Everyone helped us to get inside, where once the cord had stopped pulsing it was cut and we said goodbye and thank you to Caio´s little mama. Caio was weighed, 7 lbs 12 oz, and measured, 21 inches. We all had lunch together, and once they had made sure that we were safe and healthy, the midwives hugged us all and left us to rest.
In whatever form it takes, I feel that every woman has the right to the kind of birth that I experienced: well informed, emotionally and physically safe, empowering, affirming, and healing.
I am so very blessed to have had this experience for my first birth. I give thanks that Caio was able to be born into loving hands and warm water, with gentleness and patience. I am honored to have been surrounded with strong, beautiful and supportive women throughout my pregnancy and labor, and am humbled by the grace, strength and continued love of my partner. I am forever grateful to our amazing doula and midwife, who listened to my words and to my soul and guided me with wisdom and respect into motherhood, and to my mother and aunty who traveled so far to be by my side when I needed them.
Most of all, my heart cries thanks for Caio, who continues to grow into the person he is each day, gifting me with new experiences and a depth of love I never thought possible.