The Freebirth of Saoirse Rae
By Dannie Cowan
It was a warm February afternoon in Northern California, and I was 40 weeks pregnant. The beautiful weather allowed for gentle daily walks with my husband, but I was exhausted from weeks of prodromal labor. My body ached, I was uncomfortable, and I was ready for my homebirth. I longed to hold my baby. Although my experience as a birth doula made me knowledgeable about birth, this was my first baby, and I was convinced labor was never going to happen.
That afternoon I had a long acupuncture session to help relieve some discomfort, and (hopefully) encourage labor. Soon after, I began to feel the contractions. They were like surges of electricity charging throughout my abdomen and lower back-- I reached into the air as the surges intensified as if I were searching for something or trying to fly away--they took my breath away.
Gradually, an ancient and wise intuition emerged from deep within to guide me through this work. My body and soul knew what to do, but my mind was still unconvinced that this was the real deal. My body moved, swayed, paced, and moaned all on its own as the surreal rhythm of labor swept me away.
The sun was setting, and the glow of twilight creeped through the window. I paced back and forth across the living room. I was raw and vulnerable. My home was the safest place for me to let go completely. My husband, Robert, sat poised and attentive on the edge of the couch. He asked if it was time to call the midwife. I said no. I did not want to be disturbed. Robert was the only person I could allow to witness this event. I needed intimacy and trust--he gave me both. I knew that an unwelcome person could have a negative impact on the birth process. So, in the end, I chose complete freedom.
Night filled the house, and the darkness became comfortable. As the hours passed, I began to feel weary. The floor creaked in the same spot, time after time, as I paced. A battle between body and soul waged within, invisible to my husband. He says I looked so graceful walking back and forth. Inside, I was a raging warrior woman on the battlefield, screaming, cursing, and fighting. I was always on the brink of slipping, struggling to determine if I was the huntress, or the prey.
Eventually, I begged for rest. I begged for it to stop--and all of a sudden, I found myself lying on the floor drifting off to sleep. In the same moment, I felt a pop in my pelvis, and a gush of fluid came from my vagina. I sat up, relieved and energetic, hurried to the bathroom, and turned on the light to look at the fluid. It was mostly clear, with small streaks of blood. I knew what it meant, and I was finally convinced: the baby was coming!
I kneeled on the bathroom floor and coached myself to go slowly. I had my fingers inside of my vagina, feeling my baby’s head as it descended. The feeling of her head in the palm of my hand, that first touch before she emerged from me, is ingrained in my memory. I was the first one to touch her when she came into the world.
Her head began to crown, and I held back the urge to push. I was fearful of tearing. Finally, I let go of my need to control, and said “Fuck it.” In one graceful motion, my Saoirse entered this world. She literally tore me open. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever felt, yet I sighed with relief--the pain didn’t matter.
I held my baby in my hands and recognized her immediately. Her eyes were wide open, and she looked directly at me. Her first breath was silent--I did not worry at all--I saw her mouth open, and her chest rise. We looked into each other’s eyes for what felt like an eternity. For our sacred greeting, time stood still. Then, like a roaring lion, she began to cry. Her cry was beautiful and terrifying--life itself beginning in my arms.
We emerged from the bathroom and Robert gently helped us into bed, covering us with a blanket. I held her to my chest. The placenta came easily, and we caught it in a bowl. It was red and beautiful. It was only then that I asked Robert to call the midwife. I felt a need to be validated and supported by her. She arrived quickly and was respectful of our space. Saoirse easily latched on to my breast.
After a long cuddle, I asked the midwife to help us cut the umbilical cord. We measured and weighed the baby together. My midwife helped me into the shower. My body felt strange and weak. All I wanted to do was hold my baby. So, I washed myself slowly, and then cuddled up in bed with my newborn and my husband and fell asleep.
Birth is merciless, unforgiving, and unpredictable. The experience I had with my first birth was unique to my daughter and me. It was what we were meant to experience. Giving birth can be ecstasy for some, but traumatic for others. I was blessed with a powerful and positive birthing experience. Birthing my baby undisturbed, and on my terms was empowering and transformational. My autonomy gave me the strength I needed to endure labor, and a year later, to endure a difficult home birth with my second baby, postpartum depression, and a near-death experience with mastitis.
Women have walked this path and experienced this pain since the beginning of humanity. At any time, women around the world are waiting for their babies to come. I hope that my story may offer someone the chance to know that they are not alone--that as we birth our babies, each of us with our own story to tell, we are all together.
Dannie Cowan - I'm a woman--a mother, and a wife. I'm passionate about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I value simplicity, and a slow pace in life. I’m a home-birther/freebirther, babywearer, cosleeper, breastfeeder, unschooling modern-day hippy, and witch. I have tattoos, I love the Earth, and believe that she is our Mother, and that it is our duty as human beings to take responsibility by radically changing our modern lifestyles to a more gentle and sustainable way of living. Find me at: https://thecowandream.blogspot.com & https://honourpostpartum.com