*IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog post was so bittersweet to write, as the experience of birthing Mateo marked the precipice of one of the most devastating pandemics in global history. He was born just days before social distancing orders were put in to effect, and at a time when we knew very little about the virus. While everybody at the birth was keeping track of their own health, washing hands, and monitoring themselves as per common sense and the guidelines at the time, we all knew little of the COVID-19 virus or what it would go on to do. In our little community, and beyond. I look back and am so grateful that we were all healthy, and that I was able to have a birth in the way that I did– since guidelines are now much, much stricter.
My pregnancy with my third child was filled with so many ups and downs. As I got closer to the end, and to meeting our second sweet boy, there were so many doubts in my mind. I vacillated almost daily between feelings of empowerment, and deep-rooted fears and insecurities. I was birthing in a different way than I had before and was about to be a single Mama of three kids. In many ways, Mateo’s arrival would mark the beginning of a new chapter for me and for our family, and there were so many emotions accompanying that huge milestone. What has always proven to be true for me as a Mama is that each child brings with him or her a big personal lesson in the way they are born – an experience unique to them. As I settled into the fear of the unknown before my third birth, I should have known that this baby would bring with him a birth that was exactly as it was always meant to be. I’m so excited to share the story of how our sweet Mateo Antoni came earthside, on March 13th, 2020 at 3:58 pm – safely and swiftly at home, in the most beautiful affirmation of life, love, and our new modern family dynamic.
The night before Mateo was born, I had some conversations that finally brought me some deep peace about the future. For the first time in a long time, I was feeling open to whatever my path held for me and really celebrating in my heart the fact that my life was moving in a different direction. As was true for Major’s birth, it turned out that exactly what I needed to do was surrender to life’s process in order for my baby to feel ready to make his appearance. I went to bed late, but happy, and woke up at around 5 am to use the bathroom. After I peed, I felt a little internal *pop*, and I felt my waters start to trickle out. Now, this totally shocked me, and was an immediate message that this birth would be very different and totally its own experience! My waters with Marlowe broke about a day into my 36 hour home birth, and my waters with Major NEVER broke. He was born en caul! I stood up and felt it slowly trickling. I knew from my midwife’s advice to lay down for a while and see what happened. For the next ten minutes, I felt the waters continue to leak, extremely slowly, trickle by trickle. All of a sudden, I realized that this was the day my son would be born.
With that realization, I felt such a rush of emotion: adrenaline, fear, excitement, and my Mama Bear planning mode. My senses went on high alert, and I realized for the first time that the most beautiful sounds of rain were pounding outside my windows. I opened the shades of my bedroom, and saw the rain falling in the dawn of the day, and thought “What a perfect day for my little Pisces boy to be born”. I’ve always found the rain to be so soothing, and I had been hoping and praying for a daytime birth. There has always been something a little scary to me about the still of night – and I felt a rush of gratitude that this baby boy was giving me a whole day to labor with him, with many hours of daylight ahead.
Since it was my third baby, I had been told by my Doula and midwives to call them immediately, as things could progress quickly. I had no contractions yet at all, or cramping. First, I called my Doula, Kelsi. I told her what I was experiencing and she seemed so excited and calm, that it made me feel both those emotions right along with her! Then, I called my Midwives. They asked me some questions about how I was feeling and what the waters were doing. I told them I had no contractions yet. They told me to rest a lot, to eat a little breakfast and keep hydrated, and to call them when labor started picking up. I also called Kyle to tell him that the process had started, and that we still had lots of time for him to make his way from the city. I could hear how excited he was, too, and that made me so happy. Next, I called my girlfriends! It was important to me to be surrounded by female energy for this birth, and I had a group of women ready to be there for me. I called one of my girlfriends and told her my water had broken! She was almost as excited as I was. LOL. She told me she’d get ready and come over to be with the kids when they woke up so I could rest. After alerting all the “troops”, I collected my energy to set some intentions and center myself.
When I was in labor with Major, I felt called to spend some time focusing my energy on my spiritual connections – and I felt the same calling this time around. I had begun to feel so emotional about this day being the day that we welcomed the newest member of our family and stepped forward in to a new normal for us. For all five of us. Kyle and I had officially ended our marriage a month earlier, but would continue our bond in a different way for the rest of our lives. This would truly be the beginning of a new dynamic, and one that I was sure would be much more positive for our family. But it still brought up so much. I knelt to steady myself, and leaned my forehead against my bed.
Closing my eyes, I spent some time thinking of the women in my family who came before me for generations and generations, and all of the children they had brought in to the world in a variety of circumstances, both good and bad. I spoke out loud to the people close to me who have passed away, and the two men that Mateo is named after. I asked them for their help and their blessing this day as I prepared to do some of the hardest work a woman can do with her body. I reminded myself that there were two beautiful souls sleeping in the next room who I had brought in to the world in just the same way…safely and strongly, with my own body and my own power. I allowed myself to cry, because crying felt good, and honest. When I was ready, I rose and made up my bed with clean sheets as a first layer, a waterproof sheet, and then a set of dark sheets for the birth. I lay some towels over it, changed my pants (my waters were continuously, slowly leaking) and I waited for my girlfriend to come over. When she got there, I felt SO much better. I still had no contractions, but I felt vaguely achy and it helped steady my so much to get excited with her and come up with a game plan. The kids started waking up, and we took a photo all three of us together to commemorate the beginning of the process. I tried to keep my energy really level and calm, and as my friend brought the kids down to feed them breakfast, I ate something and then crawled back in bed. From about 8:30 am until 12:30, I napped and rested. My doula arrived and put an essential oil blend in a diffuser for me. She brought me water, and communicated with everyone to make sure the kids were doing well downstairs, and that the midwives were abreast of what was going on. I ate snacks and stayed hydrated.
I went in and out with how I was feeling. Some moments, I felt worried and frustrated that the labor wasn’t progressing fast enough, and others I felt a fierce fear of what was ahead and knowing how hard it was going to be. Slowly, my aches turned it to more measurable contractions. They weren’t that close or long yet, but something in me knew it was time for Kyle to arrive at the house, and to call the midwives! Once I knew that Kyle was on his way, and the midwives were too, my contractions started to pick up. I got really scared. I suddenly remembered labor and how hard it was– how much my body was going to have to work and open to do this. I looked outside, and the day had miraculously turned from rainy to sunny and warm! I opened my window and could hear my kids playing with a couple of my girlfriends in the yard. Kelsi told me that they were baking a cake in the kitchen for Mateo’s birthday, and that all was well. I told her how scared I was that I couldn’t do it this time – that somehow I would be able to. She just held my head and let me cry, and told me that everything was ok. I felt an overwhelming feeling of both separateness and togetherness: while this experience was one that I was going to do completely by myself, with my own body and my baby, there was also a community around me keeping me safe and loved. I knew I had to surrender to the experience physically and let my body and my baby work together to bring him out to meet us.
At around 1:20, my midwives arrived, Kyle got to the house, and my active labor started. I got on all fours and stayed that way until Mateo was born! With each contraction, Kelsi would push down on my lower back and I would rock back and forth and I rode the wave. They were coming fast and close now, and very very intensely opening my body. I was surprised by how familiar the feeling was. It was as if my body really recognized what it was doing this time, and that I could tell completely what was coming next– even if the sensation was so intense and overpowering. My midwife kept taking my vitals, listening to the baby, and reminding me that everything happening was normal and was bringing my baby closer and closer. Every contraction came faster and stronger and brought me to the brink of my ability to bear them. Birth is as visceral an experience as there is, and I felt completely vulnerable AND powerful with each spasm and breath. I cried, and raged, moaned and begged. I prayed to trust myself and the process. Between contractions, I rested as best as I could and tried to find a comfortable position. I looked up a few times and told the women in the room that I couldn’t do this, that I didn’t want to and wasn’t ready to. Those beautiful women looked right back and me and told me I absolutely could, and I absolutely would. They refused to let me reduce myself to a fearful spirit, and I will forever be grateful.
As I went through transition and got closer to pushing, all I wanted was my kids. I asked my friend to bring the kids in to the room. It brought me to tears to see their sweet faces, and I held them close and told them how much I love them. I asked them if they wanted to stay in the room to watch their brother being born. Major said no and went outside the room to sit with Kyle, but Marlowe said she definitely did. She sat in my friend’s lap on the floor of my bedroom, so calm and serious. From time to time she would come to the bottom of the bed to really get a good view. In between contractions, she came to me, and fanned me with a piece of paper or cooled my head with a cloth. It brings me to tears to remember her that afternoon. Always, always my firstborn baby, but so big now in so many ways. The beauty of her curiosity and strength, her ability even as a small child to hold space for me in my moment of transformation, will be something I never ever forget. I have always been so proud of my daughter, but witnessing her in the essence of her own strength as a person made me the proudest I have ever been of her.
At the end of my third birth journey, I was surrounded by mothers, just as I had wanted to be. My daughter was there right beside me. My ex-husband, and forever co-parent, was downstairs with our son, waiting for the first cries of the newest member of our family. As I screamed and bore down to bring Mateo in to the world, I felt as much fire and fury as I always had during the final moments of birth, but so much hope too. I felt his head crowning, and then the relief and release of his body rushing behind it. I heard his cry, and the joyful laughter of my friends and daughter. I brought his body through my legs and to my chest, and I saw his face for the first time. His blue, open eyes, his wet hair and his full lips and dimpled chin. All at once, I recognized him and fell in love. This soul and spirit that was always meant for me– this bright, beautiful boy who has always been ours. The relief and gratitude I felt in that moment was immeasurable.
Everyone was crying and laughing as they helped me lay back in to the pillows with Mateo on my chest. Marlowe lay next to me, and Kyle and Major came in to the room to meet him. My heart was so full. Those next couple of hours were incredible and unforgettable. I birthed the placenta, Kyle and Marlowe both did skin to skin with him beside me, I breastfed him for the first time, and the midwives did the newborn exam and my exam as well. My girlfriends stood around the bed, and we laughed and cried together. We brought up the birthday cake and all sang Happy Birthday to Mateo together! Then we passed around cake and all had some…I have never tasted something so delicious. The energy in my bedroom was so powerful and incredible, and I felt so happy. All in all, Mateo’s birth was my fastest, with just under three hours of active labor. But lots of prep time! LOL.
We all couldn’t believe how much Mateo looked like Marlowe! My girlfriends looked on with so much curiosity and awe as they watched some of the post-birth-process happen for the first time! A couple of my girlfriends with multiple kids hadn’t ever even seen a placenta! It was so fun to experience that with them, and to chat about all of our birth experiences. My midwives made sure I got up to pee and that I was doing well before they started packing up to go. As my friend made me some pasta to eat while I settled into my cozy sweats, Kelsi shared some incredible info with me: that day was HER birthday too! And that morning when my labor started, I happened to call her at the exact time of her own birth. Yet again, I laughed at the incredible, magical coincidences that happen on birth days…and how right all of it felt. I was reminded yet again that, while sometimes it is impossible to see in-the-moment, there is always a greater context, a more vast and beautiful fabric of fate laid out before all of us, guiding us forward.
Mateo’s birth taught me to trust myself and my community, to lean in to my tribe, and to surrender to the unknown. It showed me that I have love in so many places, and that even the most delicate and heartbreaking of changes can still bring about the most beautiful futures. I have an unconventional family, for sure, but one I am so grateful for. One that is rooted in deep love and courage. I hope to continue in that sentiment down this motherhood journey as a Mama of three, and to continue to let Mateo teach me whatever lessons he brings with him.
I am SO grateful to my awesome birth team that was there for me every step of the way: Thank you to Tanya and Robina of Small Things Grow Midwifery for being such loving and steady badasses, and to Kelsi for being such a rock to me as a Doula and friend. And, of course, thank you to my glorious girlfriends for holding me, laughing with me, loving my children, and for taking about a thousand pictures and videos….even if most of them prominently feature my butthole. We are definitely bonded for life. LOL.