In the months leading up to the birth of our son, whenever my husband or I told friends, family members, and neighbors that we were planning a homebirth in our ultra-tiny home–a 31 foot 1973 Airstream Sovereign travel trailer–we were met with more than a few raised eyebrows and perhaps carefully disguised pity.
My husband, Jon and I have always done things a little differently. We understand that a family of four living in a 250 square foot Airstream is not exactly the American Dream. We are okay with that.
As Jon and I navigated much uncertainty in the aftermath of the economic downturn we sought to find a place that we could ultimately call home. We moved from Bloomington, Indiana to Austin, Texas to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Fresno, California and now find ourselves in the San Francisco Bay area. During all of that moving about we came to realize that the size of our living space did not directly relate to the quality of our lives. Or rather, it was the opposite of what you might expect. The smaller our indoor living space was the happier we were!! The smaller the space the easier it was to manage and maintain. The smaller the space the more time we spent outdoors. Much like in poetry where the limitations imposed by a rhyme scheme feed into the creativity of the writing process, the limitations imposed by our small home fed into the creativity of our living situation. Unlike apartments and homes that we have rented, the Airstream is ours and we can work to improve it. That sense of ownership adds much satisfaction to our lives. Ownership transforms our living space into creative space. We wanted to bring our son into this world in a place that was alive and well loved.
My birthing time began at around 1:00AM. I awoke to mild, menstrual-type cramps, and as I lay awake I realized that these sensations were coming and going at regular intervals. My husband stirred in his sleep. I told him that I didn’t think he would be going in to work the next morning. I dozed in and out of sleep as my birthing waves, or contractions, increased in intensity. By 2:00AM I was sure that my birthing time had begun. I gazed at my sleeping daughter and husband, and looked up at the night sky through the vista view skylights of our Airstream. The crescent moon was waxing and Mars shone through the darkness. I smiled softly to myself at the perfection of it all, overjoyed with feelings of love for my family and our tiny home.
Although this would be my first homebirth, it was my second birth using hypnosis for childbirth, and my hypnobirthing training was deeply ingrained in my conscious and subconscious mind. I knew that all I had to do was relax, breathe, and allow myself to open up, and that my wonderful body would take care of the rest. My husband stirred once again and I jubilantly told him, “This is going to be a great birth!” We timed the intervals between my birthing waves – 15 minutes apart. We rolled over and tried to get a little sleep.
Sometime after 4:00 AM I decided to get out of bed. My birthing waves were still easily manageable and were coming about every 12 minutes. I lay down on the futon where I planned to give birth and simply continued to focus on my breathing, allowing my body to open up with each pressure wave.
At 5:00 AM I called my family members in the Midwest as they were starting their workdays and let them know that my son was on his way. I gave my mom the news as her Kindergarten students poured into the classroom. Needless to say, everyone was excited that my son would be here soon!
I waited another hour to call my midwife, Maria Iorillo. I told Maria that I didn’t need her to come right away; that the birth seemed to be progressing slowly and gently. My birthing waves were spaced 10 minutes apart.
My in-laws had flown out from Pittsburgh, PA to help us with our 3-year-old daughter Chani. We made arrangements with them to come pick her up and take care of her during the birth. I delayed calling them with the news and decided to let everyone continue to sleep. I began to listen to my Hypnobabies hypnobirthing tracks, starting off with a deep relaxation session.
At 7:30AM I gave my mother-in-law a call. She was so excited to hear that her grandson would be born that day! I told her that things were moving along slowly, but that my daughter would probably be waking soon and it would be best if they were already here by the time she woke up so that I could continue with my hypnosis undisturbed.
My midwife called to see how things were progressing. I told her I didn’t need her to come yet.
I was so deep in my hypnosis practice that I barely noticed when my in-laws arrived to pick up my daughter. They got her dressed and out of the trailer without so much as a peep– quite an amazing feat! I brought myself out of hypnosis and spoke to my mother-in-law, Barb, as she gathered the last few toys and snacks she would need to take care of my daughter. Barb is an extremely loving woman, generous and devoted to her family. It was comforting to know that my little girl would be having a fun day in the doting care of her grandparents.
It was at this point that I switched to the Hypnobabies track Your Birth Guide: Easy First Stage. I believe that the visualizations I was led to imagine in this session sped up the pace of my birth significantly. I envisioned my cervix as a glowing, golden ring and silently repeated to myself the words, “Open. Open.” I allowed the words and images to penetrate the depths of my psyche, and with each pressure wave I felt the powerful embrace of a “big warm hug” envelope my uterus. The hug began at the top of my uterus and passed like a tidal wave down to my cervix. When it reached my cervix I silently said to myself, “Open. Open.” I imagined my cervix opening. I felt my cervix opening. It suddenly dawned on me that my birthing waves were very close together now and quite intense. I brought myself into a wakeful state of hypnosis and told Jon to call Maria and to tell her to come quickly. It was 9:30AM. Maria was ready and waiting for our call. She arrived at 9:45AM.
As Maria made her way to our trailer Jon prepared the bed in case I decided to birth in the bedroom. He laid down the afterbirth sheets followed by a tarp and finally covered all with a fitted birth sheet. I waited until my next birthing wave passed and then moved onto the bed so that he could prepare the futon in similar fashion.
When Maria arrived I was still birthing on the bed. She came over to ask me how I was doing as a powerful pressure wave coursed through my body. I silently held a finger up to her to indicate that I would answer her once the wave had passed. She went about readying her supplies as I continued to lie on my side, enveloped in intense pressure waves. At the climax of two successive waves of pressure I felt my cervix open up considerably– a glowing ring of fire spreading thin to allow new life to pass through. I waited for the waves to pass and pulled myself up out of bed. It was time to move to the futon. I knew that the urge to push would be upon me any moment now.
I made my way over to the futon in a controlled but mobile state of hypnosis and lay down on my left side. I gave birth to my daughter in this same position. Side-lying birth is gentle on the perineum and I experienced no tearing during the birth of my daughter. Soon after I lay down I felt the compelling urge to bear down. I was still fully clothed. I moaned, “Pants off!” and Jon and Maria helped me strip them off. Following Maria’s instruction I propped my right leg up on the back of the futon. Moments after I began to push my membranes burst in a climactic POP! Maria was caught in the line of fire, but handled it with grace and humor. She later told Jon and I that soon after I opened my legs she was able to see my son’s head crowning!
I moaned my son from my body, mostly softly, but at times loudly! I moaned, “Aaaaahhh! AAAAAHHHHHH!” When Maria told me that his head was visible I reached down and felt the slippery, downy mound as it descended my birth canal. I was overcome with joy and determination. My son would be here soon! I would make sure of that! I moaned a roaring “AAAHHH!!!” and bore down hard. Maria cautioned me to slow down and to gently breathe the baby out. I listened to her. I stopped pushing and let Oliver come into the world at his own pace. A few more controlled breaths and his head was out. I gave a light push to help move his shoulders through and felt the rest of his body slip easily out. Maria told me to reach down and catch my son and took a step back to allow me to lift my son up and onto my chest. Oliver was here! It was 10:23AM.
Nothing compares to cradling your child upon your chest after giving birth as they nuzzle their perfect little head into your breasts, pressing against you as though trying to squeeze back inside. You can’t help but wonder if they know that it was you who carried them throughout all of these nine months as they open their eyes and squint through the overwhelming brightness to look upon your face. You wonder if the word “mother” might somehow already have significance to this tiny person who has no words.
I have found nothing in life that elicits the amazement and wonderment of giving birth. Not even the awesome spectacle of untouched nature can compare. Creating a unique little person and then bringing them into the world is such a powerful experience that it is almost beyond belief. When I gaze upon my children, a part of me never ceases to view their existence as simply surreal.
Maria stayed with us for a few hours after the birth. She walked us through her evaluation of Oliver’s health; demonstrating and explaining to us all of the ways that he was as healthy as an ox. His one and five minute APGAR scores were 9 and 10 respectively. She periodically probed my uterus to make sure that it was contracting normally and that my bleeding was under control. I had minimal bleeding and there was no reason for her to stay with us for long.
Once Maria left Jon called his parents and they brought our daughter home to meet her baby brother for the first time. Barb helped Chani cradle her little brother in her arms. Her eyes lit up in wonderment! This was the way that I had imagined this special, unforgettable moment—at home in the quiet intimacy of family.
Barb and Jim offered to take Chani to the “hotel castle” for the night. Jon and I could not refuse the chance to get some much-needed rest. Once we were alone Jon held Oliver for me and I retreated to the bedroom, which is not much more than a king-size bed. I sprawled out on the bed, stretching my arms and legs out as far and wide as they would reach, and relished in the ability to lie flat on my back—a luxury pregnant women are deprived of for many months. As I lay there in the dreamy light of the setting sun it began to rain. I listened to the drops of rain drumming on the thin metal shell of our tiny home and watched them silently pool on the panes of our skylights. I could not have been happier or more thankful to be at home in the comfort of our Airstream.