Conscious Birth: The one that changed everything

Sabriel Caius’ birth….

(grab a cup of tea)

Being five days overdue I awoke on the morning of august 24th with incredible energy and a resolution to enter the day fully and simply ask, ‘what would be fun to do with this ‘free’ day?” rather than wallow in limbo land.  So off we went to the YMCA for my Zumba class. I had come on Monday and enjoyed it, particularly rocking the baby and sensing that he recognized this activity.  A woman taking the class had come over and said, “you are going to be like Sacagewa and go out in the field to birth your baby!”  I loved that image and the idea that I would dance my baby out with the joy I feel when I dance.

My husband, Sean and I decided to go on a ‘date’ to the local Indian lunch buffet, leaving L and M with our dear babysitter Ana.   It was nice to take some time to connect and dream about our little baby and what life with three would be like.

As we ate, I felt the same type of sporadic ‘belly squeeze’ I had been feeling for the past few days in the evenings.  I would feel my belly ‘squeezing’ all night, then wake up and have nothing. I figured this was more of the same.  I went to the restroom and saw that I had a bit of bloody show…but after so many days of these nighttime waves, I was blasé about it.  After lunch, I texted Sue, my wonderful midwife to let her know, only because she had asked me earlier if I’d had any show.  She texted me back, “Such exciting news and you text instead of call!”  This was the first moment, I actually thought our birthing time might be approaching.

I called her then and she told me how excited she was for my birth.  I could hear her passion and enthusiasm for participating in this birth with me and I felt so touched and grateful.  Once again, as she did many times throughout my pregnancy, she seemed to say the perfect thing, that nurtured my spirit while at the same time upholding and honoring my own strength.  Yes, this moment, this was exciting!  Regardless of when exactly I would birth, my body was doing what it needed to do…this amazing body!

We went to get some last minute groceries and while there I felt interesting, painless squeezes that were only around my cervix and not my belly at all.  I had never felt anything like this in my previous births. I admired how effective my body was being to just focus on my cervix that needed to open.  We were a funny pair, hobbling husband (who had torn a calf muscle) leaning on the shopping cart and overdue mama stocking up on birthing snacks.  By the time we got home, I felt something was really happening…

I had realized earlier that Sean’s injury actually helped me to stay centered in my own strength.  This and the many unassisted childbirth videos and stories I had surrounded myself with, reinforced my feeling that I could joyfully ride these waves on my own. In the past, at the thought of ‘labor is starting’ I remember the subtle thought ‘Okay now I need help!’ instead of first going within to my internal resources.  This time, I focused on my strength and told myself, “I am not going to do anything to get in the way of my body doing what it needs to do”  (a modified version of a line I read by Laura Shanley) and opened to letting our (baby and my) birthing unfold.

When we were settled back at home, around 4ish, I noticed there was a regularity to these cervix squeezes as they were coming about 5 mins apart. Not wanting this to slow down as it had the previous evenings, I went to my room and kneeled on a cushion, letting my upper body rest on the bed in preparation.  I would not lay down because I did not want these good squeezes to stop!  My sister even stopped by at this point and I stayed in my room, not wanting to disrupt this momentum.  Social as I am, I felt myself entering the cave of my birthing time.

After about an hour, I noticed my birthing waves were intensifying, still not painful just seeming more productive.  I turned on my Hypnobabies Birthing affirmations and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the positive words of anticipation and celebration of the rightness of this process, of our bodies working together.  At about 5: 30ish I wrote in my journal, “ Feeling more rested, I am ready to open up for my sweet baby!” I called Sue to let her know they were staying consistent, yay! And she said she would get ready and wait for my call.

I got up and walked around the house, tidying up, then pulled out the computer to my favorite gluten free recipe site.  Lucas and Maya and I sat there browsing the desserts to decide what kind of cake to make for baby.  We decided on a cinnamon swirl cake because we had established that baby does not like chocolate based on the fact that I was not interested in it during much of my pregnancy (shocking).  At around 6:15pm we began mixing the ingredients all together while dancing to Celia Cruz (the perfect birthing music for me!)

We quickly got in a groove when I explained to L and M who were talking to me excitedly, then wondering why I was sometimes silent, ‘When you see that my eyes are closed that means I am having a belly squeeze.  So just wait until after I open my eyes to talk to me.”  This helped us to communicate better and gave them a way to make space for the process even as we were connecting. We continued to make our cake and with each squeeze, I paused and breathed while moving my hips.

I seriously enjoyed feeling the progression of intensity in my body with each squeeze, still painless but getting stronger each time and obviously working.  I felt so happy. I kept thanking my body each time for knowing exactly what to do, and kept thanking my baby for knowing how to work with my body, telling him we were so excited to meet him earthside.

At one point, as we were stirring ingredients, Lucas hugged my belly, and said, “Wait mommy, stop dancing!”  “Ciiirculaar motionnnnn” to remind me of the spiraling that we had seen countless women do in many wonderful birthing videos…He sweetly  moved my belly up and around in a sweet slow dance that we shared for a few minutes.  I’m so grateful for this moment…to be birthing at home…where connection like this can happen.

We get the cake in the oven and Maya wanders over to the table where we have been painting visual aids of lotus type flowers opening.. she paints a watercolor of “my baby brother!” encircled in a big heart…coming over proudly to show me, big smile beaming!

My heart melts and opens at the sweetness here.  This is our beautiful birthing time…an exquisite experience for us all.

I make my way back to the room for a little more rest, but instead grab my frame drum and start playing and singing “Oh great spirit” remembering my many spiritual and healing journeys throughout this pregnancy where I released fears and envisioned this birth as powerful, ecstatic, painless, joyful.  I drum and rekindle the power of these journeys and visions, to feed my soul in this moment…

I modify the lyrics and sing to the same rhythm, “Oh sweet baby, come on home to me, we’ll work together and make this easy!”  Of course, Maya hears this and she is right there with me, singing.  Soon both Lucas and Maya are dancing with me and drumming turns into lighting our candles and bringing some pieces from our birth altar into the birth room.  We tell the baby how much we love him and are looking forward to meeting him.

My godmother Anita happens to call, intuitive as she is, and we talk.  Me pausing in between waves and telling her with awe, how amazed I am at this process, at the power and intuition of my body.

Sean finishes blowing up the tub, and Maya seeing this exclaims, “Pretty!!”  I think this is so funny. I am simply loving having them here with me, loving celebrating the sacredness of what is happening right now with the exuberance of a child.  I am so grateful for the flow I am feeling with my body, for the gift of having a home birth with my whole family present.

As we finish laying out my visual aids (lotus watercolors we have painted) seashells, rocks, feathers, herbs which I received from friends and their children at my beautiful blessing. I’m feeling more and more blessed each moment as I remember the love that surrounds me and my family.  Soon,  I feel myself ready for some quiet time.….I ask Sean to please put the movie (Annie, which we’ve reserved for this time and which they have been eager to watch) on for them while I go out for a walk.

I step outside my home, relishing the moment in between sunset and dark, the sky a brilliant orange with stark silhouettes of trees surrounding me.  I walk up and down the street, slowly, easily.  I call Erin.  She tells me she and her sister Casey who will be taking pictures, are ready whenever I am.  I laugh, saying I have no idea when to tell them to come because it still feels early. I don’t want them to get there too soon and feel any pressure.

I pause mid-conversation and lean against a tree to allow the full surge to flow through me…and I laugh at how natural it feels to simply surrender to the strength of this tree, in the middle of my suburban neighborhood. I feel the richness and solidity of the tree and it reminds me to surrender even deeper to the divinity within and around us all…I breathe this into myself and surrender to the sheer power of my body opening as it is designed, even more.

I tell Erin to go ahead and come in an hour…

I read a few texts from friends and family sending love and encouragement…I am so grateful for these little messages of love that keep popping up even as I am altogether in my own world.  I’m so grateful for my village that is eagerly awaiting my sweet boy.  He is so blessed and lucky!

Soon, I go inside and take a shower.  The water feels so good and I feel my waves intensify, just as I remember them doing when I was birthing Maya and took a shower, in the same shower. I’m grateful to be in the same space which allows my body and subconscious to integrate what this all means…We are birthing, we are having a baby, here, again…

I keep moving through my rituals…I pull out my bathing suit top and sarong for the birth tub, and call my midwife who has just checked in with me via text. I tell her a version of what I said to Erin….and she wisely says ‘Just don’t go in the tub without me.’  She points out that if my waves became stronger in the shower, I would probably progress very quickly once in the tub.  (Looking back I think of this as one of her ‘Jedi mind tricks’ where she suggests something and my body gladly obliges.)

She tells me to please call her when the water feels like what I want.  I agree and settle back into listening to my (Hypnobabies) birthing affirmations, kneeling on pillows, resting my upper body on the bed to let gravity and positioning work with me.  I am so grateful for these words that perfectly support my vision for a beautiful, ease and grace-filled birth.

Perhaps it is body memory from Maya’s birth, or simply the fact that my squeezes are taking my breath away a bit more…I simply know I am getting closer, and that the water would feel good sometime soon…I am ready for my birth team to be here.  I ask Sean to begin filling the tub, and text Sue to go ahead and come over.

Somewhere in here, Lucas and Maya have gone to bed and I walk into their rooms, feeling myself floating on a cloud in the midst of this grounded experience.  It all feels dreamy and sweetly surrendered. I pray with each of them in their rooms, enjoying a few individual moments.  My heart full of love, I tell them how this time reminds me of their sacred birthing times, when we were preparing to welcome them into our arms; how we felt so eager, joyful and blessed to meet and cuddle and love them…and how fortunate we feel to be their parents.

Soon after Casey and Erin arrive. I am in great spirits, relishing each moment, and feeling so pleased to have my sweet friends here.  Erin says something funny and I burst out with one of my trademark boisterous laughs. I marvel out loud at the joy and ease I feel, even as my birthing waves are clearly intensifying. God/nature is so perfect that it gives us these respites in between the powerful work of opening. I think this is a lot like life.

My belly squeezes are wider now, more encompassing, pulling and expanding my cervix in powerful surges…breathtaking but not painful.  Now, while standing, I ride this wave, resting fully into Sean’s arms…remembering the sweet times we have birthed our other two together…these ever faithful, dependable arms. I am blessed.

Sue arrives and gets busy pulling all her supplies together.  I chit chat with Erin and Casey a bit more and ask for their help in getting Lucas and Maya settled…because of course, they have heard the hustle and bustle and reawakened.  I will never forget Maya impishly sitting in the hallway in front of her bedroom, cross legged with her hands in a mudra (she saw on Kung Fu Panda!) saying seriously, “Inner Peeaacce”  I thank her for the reminder…and head to the water…ohh it sounds so good. I am ready.

I walk into my bedroom to see a full warm tub. Ohhhh, I am so excited…my waves are much more intense and I know this is what I need.  I enter the tub, feeling the thrill of a child at the way it envelopes me.  Wondrous Gaia. I know I will find support and relief now.

A STRONG wave rocks me and I grip Sean’s hands, remembering the drill from Maya’s birth….we were in this room and I clung on for dear life as the waves rocked me all over the place.  This time is different though. It has passed and I enjoy what feels like an eternity of rest, laying my head on the edge of the birth tub in easy surrender.

The next HUGE and POWERFUL wave surges and consumes my entire being…I feel fear and grab Sue’s hand and she does the most remarkable thing.  She lovingly strokes my arms downward and tells me to loosen my grip, to release into it….oh yes, I remember, this is the time when it’s most intense that I really need to, although my body wants to habitually contract in fear.

This most intense time, is the most crucial time to let go, deeply.  I think again, wow, this is alot like life.  Looking back,  this moment has been a gift to carry with me…. a visceral reminder of the profound truth that our deepest challenges call us to deepest surrender and only there do we find relief.

And it helped to have my angels there to remind me (look at the love on their faces!).  I thought all of the typical transition thoughts…”Oh no, I can’t do this..I want to cry..this is intense..” but I was observing myself having these thoughts, curiously noticing, “oh this must be transition, hmmm..”  I said to Sue during my sweet break, knowing how silly it sounded “It’s like I know the baby comes out, but I can’t remember how to push him out”  She chuckles and says, “Oh honey, you don’t do anything, your body does it” or something like that.  She stroked my face, arms and shoulders tenderly and I rested in this motherly love.  Sean stood by with so much tenderness and presence, ready to help in any way.

Then came a ROCKIN, OPENING, HARD wave, the kind that opens you right up for good, and I felt my baby descend.  Sue crept over to get behind me, noninvasive as she is, to see if she could see the baby (I am on hands and knees).  She said quietly that he is there and I laugh inside “I could have told you that !”  I am stretching and burning.

I breathe deeply ready to push my baby all the way out…Sue asks me to breathe slowly to slow down, but there is no slowing as my body contracts powerfully and whoooshh, pushes my baby out!  He juts straight into Sean’s hands but ricochets back to me, and I find his slippery, tenderly soft body and pull him up to me. “My baby, my baby!” I sing, just as I did with his siblings…at the wordless marvel and wonder of this sacred gift.

Only, he is not breathing.  Normally, that is… He takes a shallow breath then falls back limp.  Terror seeps into my being and a sort of frozenness takes over as time slows way down…

Sue is utterly calm.  She says, “He is just a bit shocked, he came out so quick. Talk to him. Welcome him to the world.” Being given something tangible to do, lifts me out of my terror a bit, though everything is still feeling otherworldly.

I tell my limp boy, how happy I am to see him, hold him, love him…how very much I want to be his mama.  I am uttering every calming and welcoming phrase I can think of, wishing him healthy with all of my being. Every word a prayer.

I feel myself suspended in surrender as I wait for the outcome.

Sue who has tried giving him oxygen in my arms while I’m in the tub, finally takes him gently to give him more attention. Her assistant Sherril rubs him vigorously with a towel to wake him up.

Soon enough, he is pink and crying!

I exhale… and melt with tremendous relief.

Again, my heart swells with gratitude at the gift of being home, in such capable hands.

Maya who has dressed up for the occasion comes in and sits with me as we sing baby his “Amazing” song.  

Lucas who had fear and worry coursing through his body too, is slower to come…


Eventually he comes, and we drink in this precious angel….And I drink in this precious family…

Beautiful, caring, dreamy, delighted daddy…..

Little mama goddess, midwife, nurse, embodying her name’s meaning….

Proud, tender, gentle, lighthearted, radiant, beaming big brother…..


This birth…..

transformed body memory of fear and pain from previous births, to…. joy… power…healing…and bliss…

deepened my belief that we consciously participate in creating our reality….

healed my pervasive grief of mother loss at my previous births…

allowed me to embody the strength, power, grace, miracle that being a life giving woman is, ever more deeply…

strengthened my trust that surrender to the Divine carries us through all things…

illuminated the beauty of my love, my family, my tribe, my community

and more…that cannot be put into words, except to say….

this is the one that changed everything.



10 comments to Conscious Birth: The one that changed everything

  • Carol Henke

    Reading it again, bawling again. You are awesome!

  • Jen

    Oh,Sylvia,this made me cry with joy! So beautiful,and with all the beautiful pictures of your I wish all children could be born ensconced in such love..Thank you so much for writing this radiant piece.I wish to see it on every bookshelf in America!



  • Sylvia

    Thank you so much Jen! My hope in sharing it is to support the vision of how powerful, sacred, healing and joyful birth can be. There are so many great stories out there, if one seeks them out. I enjoyed reading them so much and found so much inspiration in them that I wanted to add another to the mix. I do hope our story inspires others to trust birth, trust themselves, trust their baby, trust the process!

  • Sylvia

    And you are awesome too Carol! The blessing you graced me with was an integral part of this birth! I carried the energy and love of my dear mama sisters with me and it made all the difference. Thank you!!

  • This is the most beautiful and real birthing story I have ever read. You are a beacon of light. I thought that Lamaze was the ultimate in my Lamaze teacher midwife days, but this a beautiful glimpse of what is possible for us all to heal the planet.

  • What a gorgeous birth story, Sylvia! You rock!

  • Sylvia

    Oh Phyllis! Thank you!! It warms my heart to see you here! I love thinking of it that way…So interesting because “healing the planet” has been an integral focus for me right now on a larger scale…thank you for reminding me that each step toward love and connection heals, no matter how small!

  • Sylvia

    And so do you Kerry!! I am so grateful to you and what you are doing in transforming birth for so many!!

  • Sylvia,
    Thank you for sharing your power through your birth story. It brought me to such a deep understanding of who the amazing women is that I had the pleasure of meeting in Ojai a few years ago. I hope to connect with you again soon. Sending you love and light.

  • Sylvia

    Kelly, thank you so much for your warm words which mean so much to me coming from such a deeply loving and wise woman. Yes, let’s connect soon!

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