The birth of Alo'e and the growth of our ohana. Ohana means family in the Hawaiian language. When I think of my laboring and the birth of our son Alo'e, the word ohana is one of the first words that come to mind. Not only because Alo'e has made us his family but because our midwife, Karen, her assistant Jenn, and our doula Kathryn, also became our ohana.
Before becoming pregnant, I knew that I would birth at home. Humans have been giving birth for thousands upon thousands of years, especially with the true support of others, before hospitals as we know them existed. It is the most natural thing, as women and humans, we could possibly do. I'm completely aware of the need for intervention, when there is high risk or complications, so I am very blessed that my pregnancy, labor, and birth went really well.
In fact, I absolutely loved being pregnant. I'm 37 and considered by some, elderly primigravida or advanced maternal age. Karen never made me feel that way. She's been there for so many women of all ages and circumstances and is full of knowledge, positive energy, and a realistic outlook.
During pregnancy, I easily read over 50 books about being pregnant, all kinds of birth stories, what your body is going through, how the baby is developing, so on and so forth. I watched endless birthing videos from people who had home, hospital, birth centers, and even births that happened outdoors. I felt confident, excited, and ready to go through the process of labor and birth.
Preparing myself with all that valuable knowledge was gold; it enriched me in so many ways. However, during my labor, I couldn’t really apply any of that information to what I was going through, which was another reminder that we all experience things differently and your body will do what your body will do, so you must listen to it.
My water broke around 5 am on Friday, April 10th. This is about one week before my "due date". My partner, Davidson, and I weren't sure what to expect. Would contractions start soon after? Would I be giving birth right away? I contacted Karen immediately and she was currently at a birth, but assured me all is well and what to do with myself. Which was eat, sleep, relax, and let her know of any changes. I also spoke to Kathryn, who said the same thing. Davidson and I were so excited it was hard to really rest, so we cooked food and prepared our home. Of course during this pandemic, we had some glitches, our birth tub supplies wouldn't arrive until the moment Alo'e was born, (yes, the USPS guy dropped off the box in plain sight of me pushing Alo'e out in our kitchen). Fortunately, we have some very incredible friends who were able to help us (at a distance) to get the tub supplies before Alo'e's arrival.
Friday came and went with minor contractions. Saturday, I started to really feel them, nothing that close together until about 5 pm. We had been in contact with Karen and Kathryn throughout the day and when my rushes were about 10 minutes apart, Kathryn decided to make the trip down. Both Karen and Kathryn live over an hour away from us. By the time Kathryn arrived which was around 7 pm, I was in bed with my husband feeling the pangs of labor while he took notes and supported my every move. Kathryn sat on the bed with us and started timing my contractions all while listening as I was in and out of moaning from the surges, cracking jokes, and talking about the supernatural being natural. My rushes/surges/contractions started to take me to a place that felt utterly psychedelic. Moaning and breathing deeply with each contraction felt like I was doing a call of the wild. I had no perception of my volume or even the space and time in between it all. My inner instinctual self took over completely.
Around midnight, I got into the birthing pool that we had set up in front of our fireplace in hopes that we would have a roaring fire during birth. I, of course, was so hot that a fire was definitely not about to happen. So we lit candles and burned incense at the altar we created on our kitchen table with items from loved ones who have passed, from ones that are still with us, our travels, and little tokens from nature that we've collected over the years.
So from our bedroom to the birth tub, my contractions became closer and closer together. Karen arrived around 2 am and Jenn, her assistant, came shortly after. At this point, the laboring felt like the most animistic, instinctual, out of this world, mind-bending, fever trip I could ever be on. It was hard to keep my eyes open. I was pulsing, moaning, pushing, shaking (I didn't realize how much you can uncontrollably shake from hormones during labor), and having the worst calf cramp/charley horse of my entire life. Thank the universe for Davidson and Kathryn who massaged my leg for about 12 hours straight! I’m also so deeply thankful for Karen and Jenn for encouraging the space to listen to myself, at my own pace, while also offering their strong knowledge about how to keep me as comfortable as possible. Most of all, I’m grateful for Alo’e hanging in there, strong as can be, with a steady heart beat.
My contractions were shifting from being close together to further apart to shorter lengths and then back again. None of them felt like I could get a really good push in. After hours of pushing in different positions, rooms, and taking breaks in between it all. I was dealt a few options from Karen. One being, eat and rest and try again, but if that doesn't work we have to consider going to the hospital. I finally started to really rest in bed and do breathing exercises with Davidson and Kathryn. It was one of the most difficult things to do. My body just wanted to moan. Karen and Jenn helped me transform the vocal energy into concentrated pushes when I would have a rush. So after resting and focusing on my surges, it was suggested to me to try to use the bathroom. Davidson and Jenn came into the bathroom with me and I was able to urinate and with that came a really strong contraction. Jenn said, push like you've been constipated for a month. Which honestly, after her saying that, something clicked. I had been pushing but trying to keep it contained to the front rather than towards the back, if that makes sense. I'm not sure how much time had passed from the bathroom to the actual crowning but it felt like no time at all. After pushing on the toilet, I wanted to push in the kitchen. On the way to the kitchen I had a contraction and got on all fours in the hallway to push, then the same in the kitchen. Karen suggested the birthing stool again which hours earlier it felt uncomfortable, but this time it was exactly what I needed. I also figured out how to get my body to contract by standing up a certain way, which was making it easier to have longer and stronger pushes. With Davidson and our birth team holding me, rubbing my back, and giving me counter pressure, within minutes Alo'e was crowning and what then felt like seconds, he was in my arms and on my chest.
That moment, right there, of Alo’e on my chest and Davidson holding me, is absolutely the most beautiful moment of my entire life. Being able to birth at home with my remarkable life partner, our silly cat, six baby chickens, and the knowledge of three magical women, who helped create the space and time for me to be in tune with my labor, was by far the most incredible experience both my husband and I have ever had. It's now approaching six weeks later, with the pandemic in full force, and being new parents without the continual physical presence of family or friends, and our birth team being our only visitors in over two months; we are still feeling the high from our love for Alo'e and our experience of giving birth at home. Sometimes before bed, with Alo’e on my chest, I close my eyes and think about the day that Alo'e can look at our home and say, "I was born right here, Mama". We are all truly grateful for the love and support by Karen, Jenn, and Kathryn, our forever ohana.
Alo’e Phoenix Nalu Thomas
Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020 at 14:52
8.3 pounds & 21 inches