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What is a Freebirth?

I had my babies in a hospital and for years I thought that was the only option. As my babies got older I heard about home births and midwives and I was fascinated. I would've home birthed my babies had I known it was an option. But what is a freebirth? How is it different than a home birth? A free birth or unassisted birth is intentionally birthing at home without a doctor, midwife or other trained health professional in attendance. A home birth is with a medical professional in attendance, usually a midwife. I'll say that when I first heard of it, I thought the idea of birthing at home completely unassisted was crazy. What I learned was that women are more powerful and intuitive than most of us realize.

Over the course of this past year I have learned and witnessed the beauty of letting nature take it's course. It isn't for everybody, that is the truth! But there are choices and here's the story of a couple who chose to bring their baby into this world on their terms, just the two of them. I respect them for their commitment to their choice and the research and preparation that they did to prepare for it. I wanted to share their story but since it isn't mine to share , I asked Rachel to share it in her own words:

**Labor and birth photo credits go to Rachel's husband, Rob.

"I have had a few changes in my career path and lifestyle over the years, but one thing has stayed consistent my whole life-I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother. I’ve also always had a vague idea of how I wanted to bring children into this world. I knew I wanted a natural birth. The use of pain medication for a natural process that is so monumental, life-changing and spiritual did not appeal to me. I also really liked the idea of having a homebirth, but I had so many questions.

I began researching pregnancy and birth over a year before getting pregnant. I wanted to educate myself as much as I felt was necessary for me to feel knowledgeable, confident and powerful within my journey to motherhood. I read books, watched YouTube videos, listened to podcasts and surrounded myself with like-minded women with wisdom and experience in the realm of pregnancy and birth. I came across the idea of wild pregnancy and freebirth amid my research and as soon as I learned about it, it just made the most sense for me. I heard about it when I was looking up birth podcasts and came across The Freebirth Society podcast. I listened to every episode throughout my pregnancy and pulled so much knowledge and wisdom from the hundreds of women who have shared their story of freebirth. I also joined The Freebirth Society community itself, allowing me to connect with women all over the world who share similar views and values. Being able to open up to these women, both online and in person, helped me work through any fears or doubts that came up for me. I truly believe having a good support system is one of the most important things you can have to prepare for birth. I am so grateful that I never had to convince my husband to support my birthing decisions. He was 100% on board right from the beginning.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say the main reason I chose this path was because I don’t agree with the routine prenatal care or routine testing done in pregnancy within a hospital. I also don’t agree with the routine care given during labor and birth or postpartum. I educated myself on risks vs. benefits and made the personal decision that the benefits for me greatly outweigh the risks. I decided I wanted to have a wild pregnancy with the goal of having an freebirth. This meant that I didn’t seek out any medical prenatal care throughout my pregnancy. I didn’t have any tests or bloodwork done, no scans, no doctor visits. What I chose to do to support my pregnancy was to eat healthy, occasionally monitor my blood pressure and blood sugar levels, see a Webster certified chiropractor once a week and overall just listen to my body. So long as I was feeling great, I had no concerns.

In January of 2021, my husband (then, fiancé) and I took a trip to New York and Michigan to visit family. We spent several days surrounded by his nieces and nephew and younger brother. When we arrived back home, we sat down on our sofa and immediately felt like our home was too quiet. We asked each other, what we were supposed to do now, with just the two of us at home? It had felt so fulfilling to spend time with children together. We had already discussed that we wanted to have children, but when we came home to an empty house that night, we decided it was time to begin our conscience conception journey.

I had already been tracking my menstrual cycle for nearly two years at this point and had a pretty good idea of when I was ovulating. The timing was right, and we decided to call in our baby the very next night. A few weeks passed and after a night of me waking up with the worst night sweats I’ve ever had and breaking down and crying over something I wouldn’t normally get emotional about, I decided to take a pregnancy test. On February 18th, 2021, 3 days before my expected period, I got a positive pregnancy test! We cried and hugged each other with so much love and excitement, knowing our lives were about to change forever. We were both overjoyed and somewhat in disbelief. I took another test the next morning just to be sure-another positive! We told our closest friends and family members very shortly after finding out but waited to make a public announcement.

The beginning of my pregnancy went smoothly. I didn’t have any nausea and my energy levels never dipped. At 9 weeks along, I had some light bleeding along with mild cramping. I also passed a blood clot about one inch long. When this happened, I thought maybe I had miscarried, but I wasn’t sure. I was on my lunch break from work when this happened and I called in for the rest of my shift because I was in shambles. I also called Rob at work and he came home as fast as he could to comfort me and examine the situation further. I had saved the clot for him to look at with me and when I cut it open and found no evidence of fetal tissue, I chose to sit in the unknown and hope for the best. I knew that if my belly kept growing, I still had life inside me. And if my pregnancy symptoms went away, I could conclude that I did miscarry. It was a tough few weeks to get through, and at 13 weeks, I had another few days of light bleeding. This time there were no clots or cramping and it was so light that I only used one panty liner per day. This wasn’t like a typical menstrual period. There are several things that can cause bleeding during pregnancy besides a miscarriage. I assumed it was either me still getting a light monthly bleed or that maybe I had a subchorionic hematoma, which basically means there is bleeding between the amniotic membrane and uterine wall. This is the most common cause of first trimester bleeding. I chose to continue to trust the process, for if I had miscarried, I would still choose to move through it naturally at home and not seek assistance. After that, I never bled again. And my belly never slowed in its growth. My husband and I got married on May 22nd and I had trouble finding a dress to fit my 17-week belly bump.

**Spoiler alert: I wasn’t 17 weeks pregnant at my wedding. I was only 3 weeks.

That’s right! The bleeding I had at 9 weeks was indeed a miscarriage. But I didn’t realize this until I hit “44 weeks”.

I had a beautiful and easeful pregnancy. I credit this to my regular chiropractic adjustments, healthy lifestyle, and not submitting myself to the additional stress that routine prenatal care tends to put on expectant mothers. I had a couple of weeks of nausea when on longer car rides, and towards the end I experienced some lower back and sacral pain. But other than that, I loved being pregnant. And it’s a good thing I did, because mentally, I was pregnant for over a year.

The original guess date for this baby was October 28th. By the time I hit “30” weeks, I was still not feeling a whole lot of movement and I began to worry a little bit. But I also knew that there was a possibility of me having an anterior placenta, and with the combination of that and being a first-time mother, it would make sense to have delayed feeling of movement. By “33” weeks, I was feeling movement more and felt good about everything again. Of course, I was only 19 or 20 weeks along at this point, so it made more sense in hindsight.

At “35” weeks, I had maternity photos done. I was not super large, but everyone carries babies differently and with this being my first baby, I thought maybe I just carry small.

By 36 weeks, I entered the mindset of “it could be any day now”. I stayed in this mindset for nearly 4 months…

On Thanksgiving, I hit “44” weeks, with no signs labor being near. We had put off Halloween celebrations as well as visiting family for Thanksgiving due to thinking I would be giving birth any day. I finally came to the realization that the bleed and clot I passed at 9 weeks may have been a miscarriage. Which meant that we conceived again either between the 9 and 13 week bleeds, or after the 13 week bleed. And because I was already a month past my original guess date, I knew there was a possibility of me being pregnant still for another month or two, but we didn’t know which. At this point, I made a public post to inform friends and family who were eagerly awaiting my baby’s arrival about the change in the guess date and not really knowing when this baby would arrive now. After this, people stopped asking me every day if baby was here yet. This was actually really nice; to have the constant inquires stop for the last 2 months of my pregnancy.

Weeks kept on passing by, and once it became February again, I came to the conclusion that we must have had conceived after the 13 week bleed. It was like I had a whole additional trimester tacked on to the end of my pregnancy! The original date of conception was January 30th. The new estimated date of conception was May 4th-which happened to be the 2 year anniversary of my husband and I meeting for the first time.

When I first realized I had a missed miscarriage, I felt really sad about not properly mourning the loss of my first pregnancy when it happened. I truly believe this was for the best though, as it kept me and Rob in high spirits and open to life growing inside me still, which made it easier to welcome in the next baby. The fact that my belly seemed to continue to grow steadily even during the two months I wasn’t actually pregnant kind of blows my mind, and looking back on wedding photos, there’s no way that belly was only a 3 weeks pregnant belly! Yet, it was.

On Sunday, February 6th, Rob and I stayed up late watching TV and headed to bed around midnight. I woke up at 1:30am on the 7th with contractions. I was up all night, moving through each sensation. They were 10-15 minutes apart and I was still in disbelief that I was actually in labor. At 8:30am, I had my bloody show and broke down crying because that confirmed for me that this was no false alarm. After an additional three months of waiting, it was finally happening! At 9:15am, I threw up. And I did again shortly before 10am. Then I stopped recording every time I threw up after that because it was often. I couldn’t eat anything my whole labor without immediately throwing it back up.

At 10:30am, Rob began to fill up the birth pool. This birth pool had been blown up and upside down in our room to not collect dust, since Halloween. It felt so surreal to actually be filling it with water. I labored in the pool for a while, then got out and kept laboring in our room. As the day progressed, my sensations got closer together. They were between 3 and 5 minutes apart consistently and lasting around a minute each when I stopped timing them. Around 4:30pm, I had Rob get some more hot water in the pool and I labored in there for a while again, this time with my metal puke bowl floating around in there with me. I got out of the pool again and by this point, I was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sit, lay down, or really be in any position other than hands and knees. I spent a lot of time kneeling in front of the bed with my arms up on the mattress. My knees are still calloused as I’m writing this 2 weeks later.

At 6:15pm, my water broke. And it was filled with meconium. Thankfully I had already been wearing a diaper to catch all the birth fluids when this happened. I thought I must be near the end at this point. That I’d meet my baby by morning. I was so wrong.

I labored all through the night and all day the next day. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I would occasionally fall asleep between contractions with my head resting on the edge of the bed. A few times, I actually fell asleep standing up, causing me to fall forward and bruise my shins on the bedframe. Rob tried to stay up with me as much as he could, but he did take a few much needed naps here and there. It was tough on him to see me go through this without being able to do much to help me. He did provide counter pressure on my hips a lot for me, which was really helpful. By late Tuesday night, I started to feel more pushy sensations and they grew very intense. I had Rob fill the bathtub in our bathroom to get some quick relief and it was nice for a short while but our tub is very shallow and narrow so I was mostly uncomfortable in it.

By early Wednesday morning, I was very vocal through the waves and was starting to push. I could tell it wouldn’t be much longer. I reached inside and could feel something about 2 inches up the birth canal. It felt squishy and when I looked with a mirror, looked very pale and white. I wanted to believe it was a head, but I had concerns that it could be the cord or something else. I was prepared to deliver a breech baby, but I did not want to have to deal with a cord prolapse and have to transfer, as I knew that would be a real emergency. I talked to my baby and put as much positive energy as I could muster up at this point into my baby being head down, into what I was looking at being the head. This was the toughest part of my labor and lasted through the morning. Around 11 am, I asked Rob to fill the bathtub again. It still wasn’t super clear to us that it was indeed the head until I got in the bathtub and began crowning. I was between worlds at this point. I was so focused and calm while simultaneously grunting deep, primal sounds as I surrendered to the process and let my body and my baby do the work. I allowed myself to be a portal and to get out of my head about what was happening and just let it flow through me. I held on to the handle in the shower and squatted in the water and pushed until his head popped out. He was face up, which made sense with how intense and long this labor had been. It was such a relief to get the head out. I adjusted my position to give the baby more space to emerge and on the next sensation, the rest of his body came flying out into the water. Rob picked him up and put him in my arms and I looked and saw it was a boy! I had felt the whole time it was a boy and we knew just the name for him. Wilder Jade. Born at 11:27am on February 9th, 2022, after nearly 60 hours of labor.

He was covered in meconium, so we gave him a rinse with the bathwater and a washcloth before draining the tub. I sat in the tub for an hour with him before I began to feel some cramping and knew it was time to deliver the placenta. His cord was really short so I could only bring him up to my stomach and when it came time to birth the placenta, Rob had to hold him for me so I could get more upright. It came out swiftly with a light tug on the cord and a push. I examined it and determined it was whole and placed it in the designated ceramic bowl I had for it. Along with the placenta, out came a large blood clot. It was about 4”’ in diameter and nearly spherical. Rob later threw it outside in the yard and confirmed the next day that something cam by and ate it. Because of the meconium, consuming or encapsulating the placenta wasn’t an option for me. It is possible to wash the placenta and still use it, but I had already decided that if there was meconium, I wasn’t going to consume the placenta. I still wanted to honor this magical organ that my body grew to allow my baby to thrive in the womb. After leaving it attached for three hours, making sure all the blood and nutrients it had left to offer Wilder had been transferred, Rob clamped and cut the cord. I originally wanted to do a cord burning ceremony, but the smell from the meconium was quite unpleasant and I didn’t want to find out what it would smell like when heated up. We put the placenta in the freezer and plan to bury it along with a ginkgo tree in our backyard come springtime.

After a few hours of relaxing in bed, we weighed Wilder with a fish scale and a towel. He was 7lbs 8oz and 20”long. Our chiropractor came over to the house later that evening and adjusted Wilder and me, giving us both the best start to recovery after birth.

Between Wilder’s “suboptimal” positioning, meconium in the waters, my waters being open for a day and a half, and having a 60-hour labor, if I were in a hospital for this birth, these would all have been reasons why they would have pushed for a cesarean section. A licensed midwife would have most likely transferred my care to a hospital as well, especially once I hit 42 weeks. I knew that meconium could become a problem if the baby inhales it, which leads to a fever and could be serious. I believe that birthing in the water helped Wilder not inhale any, as he got a rinse before taking his first breath. When I told my mom this part of the story, she informed me that I had inhaled meconium during my birth and developed a fever and had to stay in the hospital for 3 days. I’m so glad I was able to heal this part of my own birth by having a healthy baby with meconium present.

By choosing to stay home and birth on my own with my husband, I was able to birth the way I envisioned. Surrounded only by the two people who created him, Wilder had a peaceful emergence into this world without the sterile environment, bright lights and gloved strangers. This pregnancy and birth taught me so much about surrender, trust, and patience. I did a lot of inner work throughout my year-long pregnancy to navigate through fears that I had from years and years of societal conditioning, and I brought myself back to being my most primal self. Fully trusting that birth happens, that Wilder would choose his own time to be born, and I just had to wait for him to arrive and to allow myself to be the portal for bringing life into this world. I am forever changed by this experience and forever grateful that I finally have my son in my arms." ~Rachel M.


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