Maya's Birth Story
Baby Maya's Birth Story
Maya Josephine Bivens came into the world Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 10:43 am. She was 8 lbs 5 oz and 20 inches long.
And she was born right in our bedroom - with total trust, surrender, peace and flow.
This is our birth story.
We were just shy of 41 weeks. And the question on everyone’s mind was “when will she arrive?!” Even strangers were weighing in and lending their opinions (because why not, right?). A lot of what you hear and see in the general narrative around pregnancy and birth is that the “due date” is the be-all-end-all day by which you base when baby should arrive.
Taking the loving, patient advice of our midwives, along with understanding the statistical evidence that majority of first-time moms go past their due date by about an average of 6 or so days (when there’s no intervention), we resolved to enjoy what would be our last few days as a party of 2. We went on lots of dates, slept in, had lots of sex...did all the things we wanted to connect and navigate the strange and potentially agonizing time when you’re wondering “will this be my last shower without baby here? Is this the last meal I’ll eat before baby arrives? Will this be the last picture with the pregnant belly?”
I had purchased tickets to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s performance of John Williams music for Matthew for Father’s Day months before. The date of the concert - September 10th. So I bought insurance for the tickets, understanding that we might not exactly make it to the show given its precarious date. But alas, the day came and I was still very pregnant.
Early in the day I started to notice a tightness in my belly that came and went. My stomach would feel as hard as a rock. I would eventually later learn that these were little contractions. I flowed with them and didn’t pay much attention. I had worked on preparing myself mentally that labor could take a while, so I did my best not to jump at anything that hinted at signs of it starting.
Matthew and I had a great afternoon spending quality time together...you know, real quality time. I attribute part of labor’s eventual start to this (so any mamas-to-be looking for a fun, natural induction activity...bow chicka bow wowww!). Anyway, we went out for dinner before the show. I felt uncomfortable at different points in time, but again I didn’t think too much into it.
The show was outstanding. Matthew totally geeked out at the music from his favorite movies like Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, E.T. and of course Star Wars. The last song that played was the main Star Wars theme song before we left. And as soon as we got in the car to drive home, my little bouts of discomfort settled into a “ok, I don’t feel normal” type of feeling. It was 11pm-ish, and labor was slowly starting.
That was the last of things moving slowly. The next 12 hours went by in such a strange flash. When we got home, I went straight to the bathtub. I hung out there for a bit and then tried to get some sleep at Matthew’s suggestion. But I couldn’t sleep. Lying in bed was the most uncomfortable position for me to be in. So, back to the bathtub I went. We called our midwife, Debbie, around 3 am and she confirmed that we were moving nicely into active labor (or “birthing time” as we liked to refer to it). She encouraged Matthew to keep me well-fed and hydrated. I managed half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That, water and a little bit of juice would be all I was interested in for the duration of the birthing experience.
Debbie told us to monitor the contractions (birthing waves) and call her back when they were lasting longer than a minute and were less than 5 minutes apart.
That ended up happening within the next 2 hours. During that time I moved around in the tub, focused on my breathing, used the toilet a lot (not sure if it’s this way for everyone but something about the experience was causing me to eliminate a lot), and I lost my mucus plug. Around 5 am, we called Debbie again and she headed over.
Matthew set up the birthing pool for me in our bedroom - this big, plastic inflatable kiddie pool with bright, colorful fish all over it (these little guys would later serve as integral focal points during some pretty intense birthing waves!).
The rest of the birthing team arrived over the next couple of hours. We had a total of 8 people (besides myself and Matthew) at our home at various points in time serving and supporting the process. They were phenomenal. They made sure Matthew was fed and taken care of so that he could be replenished and energized enough to support and coach me. Different people rubbed my back, supported my body during waves, helped me walk up and down the hallway, coached me through breathing and cleaned and moved things around the room when necessary.
I spent most of my time in the birthing pool. By this point, I hadn’t slept since Friday night (we’re now in the early hours of Sunday morning), hadn’t eaten much and I was feeling it. I prayed for sleep during the breaks in between waves, but that wasn’t happening. So instead I would do the little nod off sort of thing - you know what you’d do in school after lunch and you couldn’t stay awake for a second longer during class but you also couldn’t fully fall asleep. So just this back and forth of exhausted “yes I might fall asleep! Nope, here comes another wave!” moments.
We had done Hypnobabies meditations throughout pregnancy, and played the “birthing time” tracks earlier in labor. Eventually there came a point when the sensations got more intense, I felt the desire to turn all of that stuff off and just really be with what was going on. That was more conducive to focusing for me.
Labor was a huge surrender experience for me. I humbled myself to the power of what my body was experiencing. I could feel every cell of my body. Matthew reminded me to be grateful for it all. That mantra was really helpful. I was grateful - grateful to be alive, to be moving through this process for both me and Maya.
Like lots of epic learning experiences I’ve had in my life, giving birth felt short and super intense. I had imagined beforehand that I would be laughing through labor, dancing and frolicking about. That didn’t happen. And I’m okay with that. It made more sense to get really dialed in, focus and sit with it all.
On a walk down the hall, I slowly came down to my knees. I had a searing “sensation” in my lower back - what I would later understand was Maya’s arm digging into me because she eventually came out with her hand up by her face and her elbow jutted outward. I gagged and I felt like I might vomit. Yep, puked. All bile (since I hadn’t eaten much) and all gross. That was the moment when I felt some slight defeat kick in. “I’m on my knees, with an elbow poking my back, mid-contraction and I’m puking at the same time. If someone offered me a way out of this right this moment I might take it.” I leaned on my team (literally) and kept surfing the waves.
After some more time in the tub, my midwife suggested I take a trip to the restroom. It was there, in my tiny bathroom, as I sat on the toilet and looked into Matthew’s eyes - Matthew’s big, tired, beautiful eyes, as he sat on the floor and held my hands that I started to weep a little. I said “this hurts” in a way of “I don’t know if I can do this.” I didn’t have to say anything else and he didn’t have to say anything. He held my face, kissed me, and gave me all the affirmation and confidence I could need.
When I stepped out of the bathroom, Debbie said, “why don’t you try sitting on the birth stool and we’ll do some pushing?”
“Uhhhh what?” I thought. “You mean I actually have to birth this baby now? Now? Really? Are we sure? Because I can just hang out like this for a while. Actually I’ll stay pregnant. I’m cool. Maya will be cool, she can just grow up in my belly.”
I was hesitant because I had no idea what pushing would be like for me. Debbie checked me and I was 10 centimeters! My water broke! Shit is getting real, folks!
There was a little bit of meconium in my waters, so the midwives made note of that and shared that we’d be mindful of that to make sure everything was ok.
After some coaching on pushing, and a few attempts to get the hang of it, I felt like I was in my zone. OH HELL YES, I thought. I can do this! I get to take an active role now and move this thing forward. Yes, let’s do it. The athlete in me kicked in and I just took the feeling and the power and ran with it. I pushed hard. I was loud. I “roared” as some women say, at times. Matthew sat behind me on a yoga ball and withstood all of my weight with each push. He felt it all just as intensely in his own way. Different people were passing a juice cup to me to sip from at different points. There were the occasional damp cool washcloths wiped over my face and placed on my neck. And there were like 5 camera phones all up in my space (which I really wasn’t even that aware of at the time, but we plan to eliminate that factor for birth number two).
Within 45 minutes, Maya was born.
I pushed her out with one final yell and then the next thing I know this little creature is being brought up to my chest for me to hold. It was so fast and in slow motion all at the same time. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say, how to feel, what to think. I could barely process - it was like I was I had been absent from planet earth for the past 12 hours and was now crash landed. I couldn’t believe what was happening. To use another space description: it’s like I was a star after it explodes and I was cast off into the Universe into a billion tiny little pieces and now expected to integrate those pieces back into a single body. It was spiritual and magical and amazing.
I held Maya to my chest and as the midwives wrapped her in a towel I leaned back against Matthew, threw my head back and looked up to the imaginary sky on my bedroom ceiling and let out a single whimper that encompassed all the feelings of: “thank you, yes, it’s complete, yes she’s here, yes I did it.”
Then very calmly and very deliberately, the midwives ordered everyone out of the way and shuffled me over to my bed. I was losing a decent amount of blood (completely unbeknownst to me), so once they got us on the bed, they quickly injected me in the leg with some pitocin to prevent hemorrhaging. I just remember being in this bubble - Maya on my chest, Matthew up by my head petting my hair, kissing my forehead and touching Maya with his other hand.
The next couple of hours were blurry. They included Maya’s newborn exam at the foot of our bed, which is the cutest thing to watch - and again all from the comfort of our own space. My midwives helped me shower, got me stitched up from a minor tear and helped me settle back into bed with Maya for nursing. Friends brought me food, I spoke to my mom on the phone telling her about her new granddaughter. It was a deliciously exhausted, magical glow I felt.
I got to nap and then that night, Maya, Matthew and I curled up together in our bed for our first night together as a family. Sweet sweet bliss.
This whole experience has been the impetus and inspiration for the Doing It At Home podcast. We plan on having another home birth in the future, and we fully support women and families in making the decisions that empower them the most and honor what they want to create for welcoming their babies into the world. We’re honored to use this space to share ours and others’ experiences. Thank you for being a part of the journey with us!