The Freebirth of Apple Blossom Light Hawk Summer Willow Wind

by Krystal Cleaver on October 29, 2013

March 10, 2011

It’s the middle of the night. I’m laying awake, thinking of how there will be three of us sleeping here soon. I can’t lay still. I’m feeling different, off, restless. Every once in a while, I’m compelled to get up on all fours and rock back and forth. I don’t think a whole lot of it. I’m not expecting Peacy to come for another week, even two. It doesn’t occur to me yet that this might be the beginnings of labor!

A Bit of Background

I never sought prenatal care during my pregnancy, and I planned to have a freebirth. I was the first of all my cousins & family and friends to get pregnant. When I shared with my friends and family that I planned to have an unassisted birth, lets just say it didn’t go over so well. Apart from a few who had faith in my choice, I was constantly bombarded with fearful advice from so many people. It was an isolating time for me. I felt very alone in my choice, and sought support through books and blogs on the Internet, support I received so graciously!

In late February of 2011, Joey and I drove from Maine to New Hampshire to move into our new house, a tiny log cabin with no running water or electricity. I was about eight & a half months pregnant. The snow was so deep that winter, we had to bring all our belongings down to the cabin by way of a sled. I spent our first week there sewing curtains for the windows & making sheets for our new bed. It was so cozy and warm there. I felt safe and comfortable, and so relieved to be moved from our dark, cold house in Maine. Peacy was born about a week after moving to our new home.

Peacey's freebirth cabin

March 10, Around Midnight

Sleep isn’t coming. Something tells me to use the potty. Maybe this is all it is. I just need to go and then I’ll be able to sleep. The outhouse is a minute walk from our cabin, and although it’s March, it’s still very surely winter. But, I have to go. What else am I going to do? I throw on a big flannel shirt, climb down the ladder, and head outside. I make my way through the snow, huddled against the chill wind. There’s a bit of an icy path to follow, but its dark, and every once in a while I step off the path and find myself knee-deep in the snow. I make it to the outhouse. Then I make my way back to the cabin and open the door to find the warm relief of the woodstove. Ahhh, I can relax! I crawl back into bed next to Joey.

Still no sleep. I have to go to the outhouse again. Not again! I just got warm! After a few trips outside in the freezing wind, I decide to give up on sleeping. I light a candle, (our only source of light at night save the moon,) and stay downstairs near the woodstove. There is obviously something going on now. I’m hot one minute & and then I’ve got chills the next, and I can’t sit still. I begin to suspect, just maybe, that my little girl is on her way.

Then I really notice the contractions. They are pretty close together, maybe once every 3 minutes. They’re short and mild, very bearable and growing in intensity. Suddenly, I’m very cold. The fire in the woodstove has died down. There are only a few embers left. I attempt to make another fire. Usually I consider myself a pretty skilled fire-maker, but this attempt was nothing short of hilarious. I start to break up the slightly soggy kindling as best I can, (jumping on it between contractions.) I squat down, and what I’ve managed to break to a decently small size I pile into the woodstove. I light a bit of birch bark to get the fire going, and the flames start to rise, and then a contraction comes! The contractions are getting stronger, and require much more energy. My attention is pulled away from the woodstove into my pelvis. I close my eyes and rock back and forth, immersing myself in the rush of energy. When the contraction passes, I look up to see a whole lot of smoke, and no flames. This goes on for a while. Every time I try to light the fire, another contraction comes! Soon, there’s a chard, smoking mass of kindling in the fire, and there I am, cold & bouncing around in front of the woodstove. Finally, my ridiculously persistent drive to do things myself gives in to the reality of the situation. I call upstairs to Joey.

Joey comes down the ladder, groggy, and comments on the smoking mass of kindling that was my attempted fire. I smile and relax. He starts a blazing fire in a matter of minutes. I tell him I think Peacy is coming. The cabin begins to warm up, the fire in the stove roaring and red hot, and my contractions get much stronger. I spend most of my time on my knees, my torso resting on the edge of the couch, swaying and moaning, and then resting when they pass. Joey rubes my back and brings me water. I can tell he is tired. I’m tired too. In between contractions, I lay down on the couch with him. A few times, I try to let the contractions come while laying down, but it’s too intense, almost unbearable, and each time I end up back on my knees, bent over the couch, moaning my earth chant and pulling all my power into my pelvis to speed my baby’s passage.

I need to rest. It’s only been a few hours since I noticed the beginnings of labor, but the contractions are strong and relentless. I am so tired. Finally, rest comes. Joey and I drift off to sleep, laying together on the couch, in the pre-dawn darkness.

March 10, Just After Sunrise

I wake up to the most brilliant light! Our little cabin is illuminated by the sunlight beaming through the windows, spilling over onto the walls and the ceiling and the couch where we still lay. It is so beautiful and breathtaking! Contractions start again right away, as fast and intense as they had been before we fell asleep. Joey starts to steep some herbs for me to drink after the birth. It was so intense now! I can’t even get up to get myself water, or even to go pee!

I’m on my hands and knees; the only position that feels comfortable. Rocking and moaning through the contractions which seem to be coming every minute. Joey brings me water when all I can manage to say is “water,” and he brings me containers to go pee into when I need to. He rubs my back, I think maybe because he’s not quite sure what else to do to support me. During an especially intense contraction, he rubs my back again. “Don’t do that!” He stops. I need every ounce of my attention. Even back rub is too much for me to handle, too distracting. Sometimes there is pain, although not unbearable. I rock my way through it. My moans are louder, filled with tension. Sometimes they are grunts, even screams.

About an hour after sunrise, I feel a swelling in the birth canal. This is such a powerful moment. I can really feel her. She is so close! Somehow, through all those months of her growing inside of me, it never really hit me that she was real. Now it hits me! The contractions are so intense that I don’t even really feel them. I am in the most beautiful trance. I can feel her so close! Soon, I feel her pushing against the wall of my vagina, her door to the world. I put my hand back to feel her. So incredible! I can feel her! But… is that her? It doesn’t feel like a head! I ask Joey to look. He agrees. It doesn’t look like a head, or like any part of a baby. It looks like a membrane. Then I realize my waters never broke! It’s the caul! She keeps going back up inside me and then pushing back down. I can feel her with my hand, and I feel like I’m stretching as much as I can. I even try pushing her out, but she’s not even close to crowning.

I ask Joey to look in our copy of “Spiritual Midwifery” to see if he can find anything about what’s happening. I want to know if it’s ok for us to break the caul, or if I should just keep trying with the caul intact. Joey reads for a bit, while Peacy keeps going in and out. He finds something on late rupture of membranes, but nothing helpful. I ask him to break the caul – he uses his fingernail and breaks it. Relief! Instantly I feel freer, and can tell that Peacy does too. Her head starts to crown!

Peacy crowns for a minute. I let out a grunt-scream-bellow-cry, and my body gives an enormous involuntary push, followed by a very voluntary, strained push and her head is out! Her body follows easily, along with a rush of waters and a bit of blood. Joey catches her and holds her as I turn to take her. I hold her to my breast.

Peacy is blue and wailing, and quickly turns pink. She is pudgy and squat and round and so perfect! I have never seen such a perfect, beautiful being! Our dog Naynie, who I had forgotten about completely, comes running over to sniff this strange, loud, new little thing. I’m afraid Naynie is going to bite Peacy, or eat her! I tell Joey to put Naynie outside, which he does. Peacy definitely does not want to nurse! She cries and squirms and cries some more. I cry with joy. She is so beautiful, so beautiful! I could never have imagined! The light in Joey’s eyes is so bright and beautiful as he looks at her.

My body feels so strange. My belly is limp and squishy.

The placenta comes. Joey ties Peacy’s cord and cuts it. I eat a tiny bite of the placenta, not exactly my idea of tasty, but it certainly feels nourishing. Joey wraps it in a towel and places it in a cupboard, where I proceed to forget about it until a few days later.

Joey holds Peacy for a long time. She sleeps in his arms while I clean myself and the cabin up. Naynie is outside, scratching at the door to come back in, she is so curious. We let her in, finally. I try going pee outside in the snow. It burns and stings. It is so painful. I have a tear, in the front, right by my pee-hole, probably because of that last strained push as her head came through.

Peacey's free birth

March 10-15, 2011

The next few days were a struggle. Peacy didn’t seem to want to eat or sleep, so we didn’t get to eat or sleep much either. I remember being so exhausted one night that I passed out right next to Peacy while she was wailing. Finally she took to nursing. There were a lot of diapers to wash and dry. We got water from the stream and heated it on the woodstove to wash the diapers in, and strung the clean, wet diapers above the woodstove to dry. Joey did pretty much everything for me those first few days. It was a good lesson for me in accepting help. He made me amazing soups and went out to do food shopping; he walked up the hill to collect our drinking water and washed all the diapers. Although it was challenging, I’ll never forget those first few days. They were so beautiful.

I remember the first time we took Peacy outside, a few days after she was born, all bundled up in a million blankets and we walked through the snow with her to the Sugar Shack to talk with Steve, the man who was renting the cabin to us. We walked into the shack, greeted by the smell of boiling maple sap and a look of surprise on Steve’s face. “You had your baby!” And then, “Aren’t you supposed to put up a flag or something?!” It was so good to feel the lightheartedness of Steve’s presence. Something about his words brought me back to reality a little. They felt like a testament to what a monumental undertaking this all was and, to the fact that this was something all mothers and fathers do. Something Steve had done three times! It felt like a consecration, a blessing from Steve in his own way.

Peacy's free birth a few days postpartum

April, 2011

Peacy’s name took a long time to come. At first I called her little-one, and that was perfect. We called her squirmo, and pea-belly, and squirmo-pea-belly, and all sorts of other names for fun.

Before Peacy’s birth, Joey had told me of a Native American tradition where children’s names were constantly in motion – constantly changing based on their phase of life and their spirit. I tried this out with Peacy, but it didn’t feel right; I wanted her to have a name of her own. It felt like something she was entitled to, something sacred. I thought about it for a long time. I over-thought it. I came up with a name, Lynnea, and I shared it with Joey. He didn’t like it. He asked me why I had chosen it. I told him it reminded me of the forsythia – the first vibrant blossom of the spring.

“What about ‘Spring Blossom,’” he said.

I fell in love with this – I had never even considered a name so beautiful. Over the next few months, her name evolved. It became like a poem. It came to embody her soft, radiant beauty, her fiery spirit, and her deeply passionate soul. We gave her a nickname too, “Peacy,” because who can say “Apple Blossom Light Hawk Summer Willow Wind, come get your dinner!”?

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