Minoux Wilder's Birth in the Woods
Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”
― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.” - Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
When we found out that I was pregnant with Minoux, we began to talk about where she might be born. We had a midwife with Lue at the hospital. We absolutely loved her, she left to move to be with her family and it gave us the opportunity to consider other options. We were always attracted to a home birth but didn't really know what that might look like. The only thing we knew was that we craved a different experience from the labor I had with Lue. Hers was beautiful because it was her story, but I was genuinely sure I would die in labor. I remember looking into Max's brown eyes, thinking, "He'll be a great single Dad. It's fine. He'll find a new wife. I am going to certainly die." I was hooked up to machines, told what to do, when to push, how to breathe and although it was a natural birth, I felt like I didn't have control over my own body or decisions. I felt as if I wasn't an active participant in my own labor. I personally felt that a natural birth was my only option. I wanted it to be my only option. I felt curious about the level of pain I would feel, and felt that it was something I just had to experience. I had to feel my child coming out of my body.
With Minoux, Max and I were pretty synced up on vision. It was simple. I was like, "What if I gave birth outside?" Him, "Yes. Love it." It was where we both felt most alive. It was where we spent most of our days. It just felt right. We knew that it would not come without a lot of planning and well thought out research. It was a decision that was made early on and planned for months. We met with one midwife and fell in love with her incredibly calming spirt, knowledge and essence. We can't thank her enough. (Karen, of Gentle Joy Midwifery here in the Saint Croix Valley area.) She was not only on board with an outdoor birth but had shared that it was something she had dreamed of being a part of. My biggest book inspiration was Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Also, animal birth videos. We decided to integrate Lue into the pregnancy and labor as much as possible. We talked about this new baby everyday. We used all the real physical terms and watched animal birth and peaceful birth videos together. She drew the birth canal, vagina, baby and Mama and gave it as a "thank you" gift to Karen after Min was born. I soaked up birth videos from You Tube. More specifically, I searched for "Peaceful birth videos" "Birthing without fear" videos, for this retrained my mind to imagine that birth could be beautiful and wonderful. My pregnant body was made to birth my child. What if it didn't have to be like the movies, with the screaming and the fear and the terror and the drugs? What if it could be strong and beautiful and and innate and calm? What if each push wasn't instructed by an outsider but was felt so deeply and strongly from within the Mama's breath and heart and soul? What if her body told her exactly how to bring her child into the world? What if the post recovery period could be free of all pain?
I was intrigued. Here's how it happened for me.
Monday day, I started contractions. Nothing major but they were regular. I could still walk and talk and help Lue and clean and buzz around like a plump little pumpkin. We decided to drive out to the woods on Max's parents property where his Dad built us the "birth center". He cut down the grass and vegetation on the area they called "Mugwamp Flats" where Max used to have a fort built when he was little. He made us three rooms amongst the trees. One small, cozy and protected. One middle sized room with open area and tall trees. And one larger room with no trees and closest to the lake and swamp area. It was basically the story of the Three Little Bears, but the outdoor birth center version. It was incredibly sweet of him and thoughtful the way he planned out the area for us.
These ended up being the only supplies we used during labor. Blankets, Chamomile tea, and that mushroom stool for leaning on in the woods.
On our drive out to the woods, I began to count my contractions and they were coming every four minutes for about 40 seconds a piece. We set up the rest of the tiki torches and got the blankets set. It was just wonderful to be out there, just us three (plus Minoux) in full anticipation, still knowing it might not be her time yet. We called Karen and we all decided to wait and see how things progressed.
It seemed as if Lue knew better than we did, that she was coming so soon. It was sweet to see her helping dig the tiki torches into the ground and ask what else she could carry out to the birth center.
Most favorite image of my Luie and I the night before Minoux was welcomed into the world. I remember wondering if I could honestly love another child the way I loved Lue. I wondered how life would change for our world together. I hoped she would be okay. I hoped she would love her new sister. I hoped I could be a good Mom to two lives.
Lue went to sleep at Mimi and Poppy's house and Max and I continued laboring outside. We sat underneath the willow tree we planted when we got married at their home and land five years ago. We laid on the damp grass and stared at the stars. We encouraged labor to come. We made love in the woods. We walked out in the country and I saw a shooting star. We talked about the best things we love about Luella. We dreamed of what Minoux might be like. Yes, these hours were perfect. I hate sometimes feeling guilted of good moments. As if, as I write I must search for the cynical or sarcastic or terrible thing that accompanied the good. These hours with him were perfect. I will remember this night forever as possibly the most wonderful night of my life with Max. Contractions stayed regular and consistent and we decided to try to get sleep. We slept in the barn and awoke to the sun. We felt mildy dissapointed that things didn't progress more but had to trust the process and the timing. We knew that labor was designed to unfold on it's own time.
The woman’s body knows best and that, given enough time, nature knows best and that, given enough time, nature will take its course – Ina May, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
The next morning, Tuesday, we squeezed Good Morning to Lue and had breakfast. We drove back home to Stillwater to fill in for the care we had for the pets throughout the laboring time. We felt things progressing a lot more and took the Chow Chows for a walk. I could hardly make it back to the house. I was breathing much deeper now, so happy to be feeling the strength of each contraction grow. This meant I was closer to meeting Miss Minoux.
"The woman gains a new appreciation of the wisdom of nature as expressed through her body. When she starts to understand that being amused and grateful actually moves the process of labor along more efficiently, she starts to work toward these feelings herself. Hard work may continue, but now she has the heart for it. Instead of fearing her body, she experiments with trusting it – Ina May, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
We quickly packed up and drove back to the woods. I sipped on Raspberry Leaf tea which tones the uterus. We were getting so excited and felt like the night and morning had been slinking by slowly. Max thought we should rest in the barn for a bit in case our strength needed to be bottled up for later. I had just heard his breath deepen and my eyes were one blink away from closed, when I felt Minoux's shoulders make two of the slightest movements up and down. She moved the way she moved throughout the entire pregnancy. Calm, slow, kitten like moves. It felt as if this kitty was stretching from a long nap, ever so tenderly and my waters released. With Lue, they broke my water for me and weirdly it has been something I always dreamed of feeling naturally, curious about how it might feel. I woke Max tenderly. He smiled. It was a little after 1:30.
"Labor is not about dilation. Your body knows how to give birth whether or not you ever have a pelvic exam during labor. Birthing women need encouragement to trust their bodies, and to be the stars of their own labors." -The Doula Guide to Birth
We called our midwife and shared the news. She immediately asked me how I thought Minoux was doing. This meant a lot to me, the way she asked. "There's been quite a change in Minoux's environment. How is she doing? How are her movements? Talk to her." It was so beautiful the way she checked in with Min. Karen was incredible throughout the whole pregnancy at reminding us and showing us how in utero connection is possible and important. Minoux made a few more tender moves. Karen said she would make her way out to us. I made a playlist. The music was completely faded out in my world but my ear tuned me into for less than five seconds to the song I had played for Minoux throughout the whole pregnancy. The song is titled, Our Window by Noah and the Whale. I still play this song for her. I remember feeling so much pressure in my lower abdomen. I visualized Minoux dropping lower. I tried to picture her head and her shoulders. I felt my body telling me that it was time to push. That was an incredible feeling. I felt the connection between my mind and body at that moment, like a signal whispering, "now." I listened. It was 2:10 when I started to push. Karen arrived at 2:20 and heard me in the woods. We laughed after because there were two paths in close proximity and she went down the one on the left, only to hear me to her right, so she adventured through the brush on her way to us.. chopping down weeds and trudging through. She is incredible. I know I resonated the animal birth videos that Lue and I watched together now because she said she heard me. I felt strong. I moved a lot but ended up on my knees, leaning onto the mushroom stool.
I experienced more contractions in the barn and continued to accept each one. My exhale breath was my best friend. We made our way to the birth center and the one minute walk there took closer to fifteen minutes, working through each contraction. Resting along the path out there. Repeating my affirmations. I wrote these down early in my pregnancy and studied them daily. I kept them in my car and actually spoke them out loud. My body is made to birth. My baby is safe. I sat down on the blanket around 1:50pm. Max took this one photo below. It was just him and I in the woods. I remember the heat of the sun. It was in perfect balance with the wind. I remember that I forgot my hair binder, so my hair was blowing all over, and Max kept gently swiping it away from my eyes. I remember his voice. It was strong and calm and tender. He seemed so at peace. He spoke affirmations to me. Telling me I was strong and capable. Telling me, we were going to meet our daughter today. Saying I was beautiful. Touching me and rubbing my back. Leaning up against the tree, I only heard his voice and the wind. We joked after that he was really on his metaphor game, saying things like, "Let your fears be carried away with the wind." It sounds ridiculous, but I remember taking his words like instruction. I think I even said, " Okay, I will."
I remember speaking to Minoux while she was on her way into the world. It was so amazing to feel her head. She arrived into the world just as peacefully as her movements were inside of me while she grew for nine months. Tender and slow and calm. Karen laid her down on the blanket and I picked her up and held her on my chest. I was completely overwhelmed with ecstatic joy. I couldn't believe this tiny human was inside of me. I still can't believe it. Max and I stared at her, we kissed, he wrapped his arms around me close and we snuggled Minoux with blankets to protect her from the wind.
Max took a video of Lue meeting Minoux for the first time at 3:07pm, which we've watched now at least a million times it seems. I hope to share that in a future post. Lue's love for Minoux has been incredibly strong. She has shown nothing but absolute adoration and tenderness for her since she was born. Hoping it stays that way through the teen years. Hey, a mom can wish, right?
We cleaned up in the woods a bit. I physically felt no pain. I couldn't believe it and thought the pain would join me soon, but it didn't. It didn't for the entire duration of post natal weeks. Which was an entirely different experience than Lue's. I felt no need to take tylenol and walked to the barn for Minoux's check up and family visiting. I somehow felt more myself than when I was pregnant. Like, "Oh! Johnna is back!" It was strange. We are so thankful to my brother for taking these images in the barn. They are so special to us.
Here's sweet Karen, the midwife.
I was inspired during pregnancy to view my body as strong. I felt like in order to run a marathon, one must train, right? So I had to keep my body strong and my mind stronger. I had a lot of bad days. Days where I felt incredibly weak. Moments where I genuinely feared I wouldn't be able to do this. And long days where my body felt sore from head to toe, the tears rushed, and all I craved was my bed. They lasted as long as they needed, I tried to accept myself through them, and then got back into my book, knowing it could reset my mind again to train for the experience ahead. I had low platelets and a varicose vein that I don't want to talk about, both that were treated and healed with diet changes and herb tinctures. My midwife was absolutely instrumental in the journey.
Max and I talked about all of our fears throughout the pregnancy. Ina May's book spoke about how verbalizing and analyzing each fear will help overcome it and release it. Anything, from small to big fears, we talked about. I can't say how much that helped our process.
It's taken me seven whole weeks to even somehow form words to write. I still am processing it all so much and feel incredibly thankful she is here and healthy and happy. I can't believe I get to be her Mom. I would labor in the woods all over tonight if I could.
*Disclaimer: If you feel inspired by this story and are interested in doing the same, please consult a doctor, midwife or doula throughout your journey. I had no health issues, consulted with professionals, had gone through birth already, and our location was in close proximity to a hospital. The safety of our baby was our first and foremost concern and we put an extended amount of research into this. I committed myself to training my mind and body for this event. I committed myself to a disciplined diet and this was not something we just "did" without proper preparations.