The Birth Story of Forest Leigh
In this story, I share personal and raw details of my pregnancy and birth. The reason behind my share is so that other womxn know that there are alternative options when it comes to management and care of their birthing experience. As a birth worker and womxn's health specialist, I hope that my story inspires pregnant people to choose options that make them feel safe, free and empowered.
A miraculous and mysterious pregnancy.
Maternity Shoot by Shantelle Louise Photography
The two words that come to mind when I think about Forest's birth is sensual, dark and mysterious. Funny enough, her journey here through her conception is not quite different.
After an incredibly difficult journey with fertility with our daughter Freya, we became pregnant with Forest on the Full Moon in June. Her conception felt like a miracle, especially since we didn't find out that we were pregnant until well into the Fall....(!!) Here's the short and sweet....
As some of you know, I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos Thyroiditis. My diagnosis clarified our struggle with infertility, in which thyroid diseases can be a cause. As a holistic health practitioner, I already had the tools needed to heal myself naturally through a combination of nutrition, supplements and lifestyle factors and consequently, was able to conceive Freya naturally. You can read more about this here, if you like.
Around the time we conceived Forest, I felt symptoms of my Hashimotos returning- extreme fatigue, weight gain, depression, lethargy, hair loss, etc) so I went in for blood work which confirmed that my antibodies and thyroid hormones were very out of balance. (Had we known to do a HCG test, we would have discovered that I would have been in early pregnancy!) The combination of the (unknown) early pregnancy symptoms and return of my hashimotos- it was a very difficult summer. I decided it would be best to take a sabbatical away from my business temporarily to focus on my healing. I nourished myself deeply by fine tuning my diet, resting as much as I could, and asking for help with Freya.
By September, I finally felt like myself again. My husband and I decided to start trying for baby #2, also knowing that it could take time like before. By October, I started feeling little butterflies in my belly...it couldn't be a baby, already?! It was too early! But my heart knew... this baby has been here all along. Barb (our midwife with Freya, who is now retired) sent us in for an ultrasound- and they let us know that we were 20 weeks along. WHAT!? It felt surreal. We were shocked, ecstatic, overwhelmed and a little sad, too. Sad that this little baby had been with us for 4 months and we hadn't known it yet. I cried, a lot. Out of pure gratitude and guilt. But now, when I look into her deep, dark eyes...I understand now I wasn't supposed to know. I was in such a dark place with my mental and physical health that I wouldn't have been able to see Forest through the trees.... <3 Thank you for waiting for me, my love.
We weren't sure that we would be able to secure a midwife 20 weeks into a pregnancy due to their high demand here in Alberta. We actually discussed that in the event we wouldn't be able to have a midwife attend that we would go without any form of care and only have our doula attend. Our birth with Freya went amazingly well and we felt confident but also, loved having the support from a midwife, too. We felt pretty lucky to have our first choice, Janelle at St Albert Midwives, happily take us under her care. I worked with Janelle as a doula at a few births and I loved her laid back, hands off approach, so she was super supportive of my wishes and desires. We chatted about her role to be a space holder, in the background just in case we needed medical assistance, but otherwise that I wanted to birth completely undisturbed. With both pregnancies, I chose to by pass the majority of the “medicalized” pregnancy and birth management such as weigh ins, gestational diabetes testing, cervical exams, etc. Our appointments with her felt more like hanging out with an old friend. She let me decide how often we wanted to come in, which were only 3 visits overall, which worked perfectly for our busy “Entrepreneurs with a baby” lifestyle.
A wild birth
Birth Photos by Vannessa Brown Photography
Our birth story starts on the Full Moon in March (Mar 8). I woke up in the morning with light contractions. Not knowing how long early labor would last for, we got up and slowly made breakfast and set up the birth pool. Since things were still early, I decided to go for a nap in Miles Circuit- a trio of positions that help encourage baby into a good position for birthing. When I woke up, we went for a walk to see if that would help get things moving. Since it is the dead of winter here in Alberta, we took Freya to the outlet mall to grab a coffee and let her run her crazy out. Contractions starting picking up, intense enough for me to start feeling uncomfortable in public, so we headed home. Of course, as soon as we got home things slowed down. I had to constantly check myself to remind myself that it's normal for labor to slow and stop and that when the timing was right, my baby will come. We put Freya down to bed and knew I had to have a date with La Luna. The Full Moon is a potent time to release and let go. Since she was conceived on the Full Moon, I knew that her time was close, so I stripped down at our back full length window under the moon light and prayed. I talked to my baby and let them know that they were safe and I was ready to be a vessel, whenever they were ready. My husband and I enjoyed a small glass of wine (my favorite early labor remedy to encourage rest and relaxation), did a sequence of spinning babies (another trio of positions to help encourage optimal fetal positioning), burned moxa on acupressure points, I bounced on my birth ball, ate snacks and we watched a few episodes of The Office (comedy and laughter releases oxytocin!) and we went to bed shortly after.
At 2 in the morning a strong contraction woke me up from my sleep. At the exact same time, we heard Freya call out from her crib- which was really strange, since she was still dead asleep. I got up to use the bathroom and in just a few minutes, it was clear that these contractions were piling up on top of each other. My husband asked if we should call Dawn (our doula) and I just wasn't sure, what if this isn't it? What if things just slow down again? The next contraction came and it instantly transported me to labor land. A low moan come out of the deep in my body and I could feel myself opening up. It was definitely happening. Suddenly my inner lioness shows up. Call Dawn. Call the Midwife. Call Vannessa (our birth photographer) and fill the fucking pool.
We head downstairs to start lighting candles, turn on our birth playlist, and fill up the pool. Contractions are coming every 1-2 minutes and my head feels like its spinning- its trying to catch up with the intensity of this labor. I'm pacing my main floor and bend over our dining room table during each rush. My husband is running around frantically trying to set up the liner and hoses for our pool and at this point, i'm starting to feel overwhelmed, dizzy, and questioning everything. How is this happening so quickly? I feel like i'm in transition- how could that be already? I need to get into the pool but its not close to being ready. I cant have this baby on the floor. As the next contraction starts building, I look up at my birth affirmations hanging above the pool, and on one of the quotes I wrote “JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU CAN'T – YOU CAN AND YOU WILL”. Fuck yeah. “I AM STRONG” I affirmed out loud- and just as I did, my water broke all over the floor. Holy SHIT. That was one of the most amazing and intense moments of my life.
I called out to my husband to bring towels and as he was running downstairs, he thought one of the hoses came out from the pool- that's how loud my water was when it hit the floor. The next contraction came with the extreme urge to push. I knew that I had to wait a little longer to be able to get into the pool so I used ALL my power NOT to push and just breathe through it. Finally, Dawn walked in the door- which was a huge relief. She was all hands on deck, filling up pots of water from our kitchen sink and simultaneously timing it with being there, massaging my lower back during the rushes. Have I mentioned how freaking amazing she is? Once the pool was ready, Vannessa walked in the door and started getting set up. I hopped in the pool and the energy immediately switched to this electric state of calm. The water is the most powerful relief, and it instantly calmed my racing mind.
With my next push I felt my baby's head slowly emerge. My husband got to feel her head too and we shared this exciting, love filled moment I'll never forget. Just then, Janelle walked in and we let her know the baby's head was out, but she quietly just sat down on the couch as to not disturb what was unfolding perfectly already...
Anyway my loves, the rest is herstory...i'll let the video and the next images speak for itself.
Here is a raw, uncut, video captured by our doula of our peaceful, calm delivery of Forest Leigh.
Forest Leigh, Born at 3:53 AM, 8lbs 6oz. Thank you for completing our family, baby.
A huge thank you to our birth photographer and friend, the lovely and legendary Vannessa Brown for capturing these beautiful moments. Explore more of her AMAZING birth work, here...