Why I shared the journey through Sugarbaby’s birth

 

I could tell you women are strong, powerful, brave, self-aware, supported, loved, connected, and more.

Or I could show you.  With that, maybe you can show yourself.

On Thursday, April 19th, 2012, The Piano Man and I live streamed Sugarbaby’s birth (see videos of the birth here).  On that day there were over 105,000 page views on the live stream birth page and we know there were at least just over 18,000 participants on the live chat stream.  I never imagined our birth experience would reach so many.

When we found out we were expecting last fall we began to ask ourselves how we could use this pregnancy and the birth for good for not only our family but others.  The Piano Man and I tossed around ideas and talked about options.  Then we quickly fell deep into managing HG mode and the conversation ground to a halt.

But the desire was still there.  The idea of live streaming the birth tickled at the back of my mind and I found myself reflecting on the labor and birth videos I had watched over the years either preparing for my own births or as a student midwife.  Those women that allowed camera crews into their births inspired me for both myself and eventually for the women I supported in labor and birth.  A couple of years ago I saw a live birth streamed from a birth center and was drawn into the camaraderie of those chatting and watching the birth online.  It was a virtual experience of the sisterhood of the red tent.  Here was my opportunity to extend that experience to others and help educate others on not only home birth but birth in general.

Why do this?  It wasn’t to convince anyone to have a home birth or even an unmedicated natural birth if possible.  I have read criticism of others that have chosen to share their births with the world.  These women were called horrible names, exhibitionists, narcissists, careless, vain, and much, much more.  I knew that should I share my birth it was possibly opening myself and my family to harsh attacks from those that wouldn’t understand.  And I had to ask myself what if something DID go wrong?  Still, there was one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Back when I was 20 years old and pregnant with Earth Baby, I never dreamed I could handle anyone in the room when I birthed, let alone a camera.  In fact, I thought I was crazy brave to look in the mirror while pushing to see what was happening on the other side of the blue drape that cut me in half and removed me from my own body. Yet I had some idea of what to expect in the birth of my first daughter less because of the childbirth education class we attended at the hospital and more because of the videos we viewed in preparation.  Videos of other women who had permitted a camera to capture their moment. Progressively over time though I began to see birth a bit differently and when I became a student midwife I experienced something that taught me even more.

My eldest cutting the cord for my youngest.

Birth is beautiful, mysterious, and intensely intimate.  Yet it is also ordinary, normal, and common place.  Birth has a way of unveiling a woman’s true inner strength where she can more fully embrace her own power.  Every day women give birth not only to their child but to themselves as mothers.  Birth doesn’t complete her, it just reveals another layer of who she is by daring to expose her without filters, without pretense, with raw power to herself. Even with the ordinary nature of this profound event, most women have never really seen a real birth and at worst their expectations and education have been limited to that of entertainment media and the often one-upping horror stories of friends.  For many at best they go through a class talking about birth but with only limited exposure to an actual birth.  So women often experience this life changing journey with no idea of the path so many, many have trod before them.

This isn’t how it used to be or even how it is in some parts of the world today.  Women supported each other, birth being more than an event that happened to an individual woman but rather an experience that united all the women of a community.  It wasn’t all rosy and perfect, but it was real and that authenticity allowed the power of birth to impact more than just the family embracing the new person.  Power, particularly power that is difficult to control, scares us sometimes though, and in an effort to make birth safer we lost that community aspect of birth as women began to birth in isolation with only those considered trained professionals present.  In that absence of community in birth, fear could grow unchecked.

I’m grateful for the advancements made in keeping birth safe and for those trained professionals that can help us get our babies when safety is in jeopardy.  I’m also grateful for the women that allowed cameras into their intimate moments of birth so I could receive the message that the sensationalized media versions of birth that would have me believe that my own body was frightening, that women aren’t strong enough, and that surrendering the control over my body to strangers was the only way to navigate the passage of birth safely are simply not true.  Because those women were brave enough to share I discovered my own inner strength to have the audacity to pursue a different kind of birth experience for myself and my baby.  With fear removed I could explore and inform myself as to what kind of birth my baby and I would be able to have.  Thanks to those women I went on to have an unmedicated hospital birth followed by 5 safe, low risk home births.  Thirteen years later I am now audacious enough to pay it forward and to share those truths with others.

The birth of Sugarbaby wasn’t quite as I expected but that’s kind of the beauty of birth, there’s only so much that you can expect.  By now I’ve learned not to have strong expectations about my birth but rather to be flexible and prepared for just about anything.  Still, never establishing a regular contraction pattern frustrated me and made it more difficult for me to relax through the contractions.  A stubborn baby with not-so-great positioning led to hip pain that wore me down after a while.  I had no intentions of artificially breaking my bag of waters but when I had been in labor with an irregular contraction pattern for over 12 hours and hip pain that wouldn’t let up, I felt my energy and endurance giving way.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d give birth on hands and knees, it has been my least favorite position every time before but this time, with a difficult position for baby, it was where I found myself.  My ideal surrendered to my flexible strength for what I needed not only physically but emotionally and Sugarbaby and I had the right birth for us as a pair.

1 week old, photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

1 week old, photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

Some people don’t understand why we shared our birth and I admit it’s a little strange when someone at church tells me they just watched my birth video last week.  I know what I sounded like on that video, I know what they saw.  But that’s kind of just it, now we all know and maybe someone is less afraid, less detached, less unsure about her own journey through birth.  Which is exactly why I shared my birth experience.

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Comments

  1. I loved watching your birth live- it totally made me feel that a homebirth could be possible for me, and now I’m planning to have one. I’m even contemplating trying a live stream for my birth, but I’m not sure if I could do it because I have body issues. But then again, how empowering would it be for plus sized mamas to be to see another large mama homebirth? Who knows what we will end up doing, but thank you for showing me how peaceful and special a homebirth can be.

    Joni Rae

    • Birth is beautiful no matter what your shape or size! You are bringing LIFE into the world 🙂 I would love to see a fellow plus sized mama homebirth!

    • Aw Joni!!! Please do, that would be amazing and powerful and empowering! <3

    • If anything we need plus sized mommies sharing their births with us because there are such a stigma that full figured moms can’t experience natural birth. I’ve attended several plus sized women and they birth just as well as their smaller sisters. It would be such a gift if you felt led to share your birth experience and one that is desperately needed. You could very well change the course of other women’s birthing journeys. The red tent isn’t just for a specific size or type of woman, it is for all women. ~Jessica

  2. So incredibly thankful for the gift you gave my daughter: http://www.ambermccann.com/blog/birth-normal/

  3. You are an amazingly strong woman to have shared such an intimate, but oh so powerful, moment in your journey of motherhood. I thank you for allowing myself and tens of thousands of others to share in this empowering moment of childbirth with you and your family.

    • Coming from you, an incredibly strong woman who has gone through trials I have never imagined, I am honored that you call me strong. Sharing our stories, though they be different, can be so encouraging and inspiring, strengthening not only ourselves but others. Thank you. ~Jessica

  4. I love this, and I loved watching Sugarbaby’s birth! It was so great to feel like part of a community of women who had come together to encourage you during labor, thank you for sharing it with us!

  5. I am 7 months into my second pregnancy and planning a homebirth for the first time! I am nervous as heck because I’m a complete wuss when it comes to pain AND my husband won’t be able to be there because of work. Things are starting to come together slowly though and I’m feeling more and more confident about it. I’m still slightly terrified, but I’m not terrified of something going wrong – just the pain part! I watched your birth live and it was incredibly inspiring to me. Watching you made me want to have a natural birth for my second baby (I was drugged up with my first and I don’t remember 90% of it). I know that birth is natural and that everything will be okay! I’m starting to get kinda excited about it. =)

    • KateN,
      I just wanted to send you some encouragement. I chose an unmedicated childbirth and I know you can do it! I think all women can if they have the right tools. Read and learn as much as you can. I truly believe that pain has a different sensation when you remove fear from yourself. Allow yourself to give in to your body and do not be afraid! Less fear=less pain. You can do it!

    • Kate, you are going to do beautifully. Any chance you can get a doula? And a close family member or friend? Being informed and understanding what is happening can help make the sensations you feel easier and if you can relax it can make all the difference in the world. When I’m very relaxed and not fighting my body (and baby is positioned well) I find that there really isn’t pain, just intense work happening. I recommend checking out Bradley Method and Birthing From Within for some ways to help you through labor and trusting your body. ~Jessica

  6. Thank you for sharing your birth. Your labor inspired me and moved me. I missed the birth, since I was 36 wks pregnant and on the east coast, but I checked in throughout your labor. It was a beautiful experience.

  7. Congrats! And I thought I birthed my babies fast, you beat me 🙂

  8. I watched the live stream while going through my second hg pregnancy. I had an unmedicated hospital birth with my son, but felt very out of control. Your birth inspired me that I could do it again and be more calm and relaxed. I have ridiculously fast births-5 hours with my first and 1.5 hours with my second! At my daughter’s birth in June, I felt able to surrender to the work my body was doing(even though mentally I couldn’t quite grasp how fast things were going). I felt happy, powerful, and capable instead of overwhelmed. Thank you so much for sharing your life.

  9. And I will add I nearly had home birth. I was 9cm with a bulging bag of waters by the time I got to the maternity ward!

  10. I really could not have said it better myself! You hit the nail right on the head for the way I feel about a woman’s journey through birth. I almost had my birth experience threatened due to high blood pressure and a possibility of induction. No one really understood why I was so upset. Everyone kept telling me that the only thing that mattered was a healthy baby and mom. I tried to explain that the birth itself is a separate occasion that holds its own special significance to me besides producing a baby at the end. Fortunate for me, I was able to have the birth that I desired and I want to shout about it from the roof tops! I feel like birth changed me as a person and I am so much better for it. Thank you for writing this article in your beautiful words. I appreciate the encouragement that this kind of story brings!

  11. Sophia Lagastes says:

    I cried tears of joy and wonderment watching your intimate experience birthing your daughter. It brought back so many amazing memories of my own homebirth last year. The most precious experience of my life.

  12. I had so much hip pain during my first birth that I don’t even remember feeling the contractions! I was so bewildered by it all (even though it was a homebirth with a midwife present). If only I had known that it was normal, why it was happening, if someone had reassured me, if someone had given me credit for it! I somehow thought that the pain had something to do with something I didn’t do, or because I was too uptight, or I didn’t give into the pain, or……you know, the what did I do wrong scenario:) I’m so glad to hear you write about birthing as being normal and everyday. I hope my daughters will grow up with that concept. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. When I find a minute I look forward to watching your video. Thankyou!

  13. I wish I had seen this 12 years ago…when I had my first born. I saw your videos and they truly made me envious that I didn’t experience something so beautiful in my own home. All my births , all 4 of them, were in the hospital and unfortunately, they were all c-sections. Back then, I was much younger and not as informed but looking back, especially in my area, homebirths were not very popular. In any case, you were brave to put the videos up for everyone to see, but it’s a good thing because I don’t know that many women truly understand what a homebirth is. I certainly did not so I think you did good by doing this. My only question is how do you do a live video stream? That is way cool!

  14. Beccy (@birdfortytwo) says:

    That is such a beautifully written post, and is the closest thing to my own feelings about labour that I’ve ever read.

    I’ve had 3 very different births. Daughter 1 in hospital, then Daughter 2 at home: my “ideal” birth, and a wonderful experience – she was born on a May morning as I watched the sun light up my garden. A few weeks ago I had what I would have told anyone beforehand would be my nightmare birth – an induction in hospital, an epidural and lots of doctors around. But I still felt connected to my baby, knowing I was doing what was best for him. And when the doctors decided to do an emergency C-section, that connection was proved right. I was sure I was still contracting even though they said contractions would stop when the drip was turned off, I felt things were still progressing…. 10 minutes later my amazing boy arrived all by himself!

    Goodness, I’ve waffled. I just wanted to say thank you for talking about the power of women & to say that even not-ideal births can be wonderful.