Founder of The Birth Education Center, Certified Doula, Certified Childbirth Educator
San Diego, CA
On our second date, dining on the largest shrimp cocktail of my life in Salt Lake City, my now ex-husband casually asked me, “What do you think about having kids?”
He must have seen the stunned look on my face, so he just continued to talk. “I’ve always seen myself adopting older children because everybody wants babies. It just doesn’t seem fair for other kids to get stuck in the system when they could be in a home where they’re loved.” I agreed and then continued the conversation. “I’ve always seen myself with a handicapped child because of volunteering at group homes throughout junior high and high school. Now working with adult handicapped people in college, I don’t understand why more people aren’t keeping their babies but allowing nurse’s aides to raise them. I would take those babies home in a heartbeat.” He agreed and we left the conversation as easy as it started.
It wasn’t weird. It seemed very factual at the time and almost like it was “the plan” all along. This boy I dated, 21 years old, left twenty-three days later for a two-year service mission in Italy. We wrote to each other almost daily. We planned out our life together during those letters and two phone calls on Christmas, (possibly a few more calls which clearly were breaking the rules) and we married five weeks after he got home in 1993.
Now it is 2001, we’re in another state while my spouse is attending law school and we have suffered six miscarriages. We received a call from our bishop. He wanted to speak to us about a five-year old girl in foster care who needed a home. She came to live with us the very next day. Three years after that and multiple failed reunification attempts, we adopted Angie. Our first daughter adopted from the system so she could grow up loved and a part of a family. Our older child was here. I thought our family was complete. Synchronicity…
I had no interest in attempting pregnancy again. The loss from our miscarriages had ripped a hole to the base level of my soul. I could not go through that pain again. We bought a puppy and moved forward with our happy life.
For about a year, I had been suffering from an itchy pink rash that covered the upper half of my body. No one could find the cause of, nor a treatment for until a “random” esthetician suggested I try green smoothies and stop eating dairy. Okay – I would try anything. Four days later the itchiness was gone, and a week later the rash. Whatever was in these magic smoothies? I was sold and kept drinking. Unaware of the enormous levels of natural folate I was ingesting, I happened to become pregnant. And the pregnancy continued past the times of my miscarriages. I had the one high risk doctor who was available to me run a test for a rare mutation that explained why “my body was broken” and how to make it work. I had undiagnosed MFTHR – a genetic mutation that doesn’t allow my body to break down folic acid into folate. This is essential for supporting a pregnancy. The green smoothies had changed the course of our lives. Synchronicity…
I was terrified of birth and terrified of pain. How could a tiny hole allow a mammoth child to exit my body? Nope. I knew THAT part of my body was not going to stretch like that and this whole birth thing would never work. Cool, they have drugs for that. Numb me from the waist down or do the surgery. Just quit telling me your horror stories because I’m about to be numb and doctor, please fix this.
“Well, while looking over your chart, I see that you’re allergic to all of the pain meds we use for an epidural,” she said. “You’ll need to find a class on natural birth, because we would only use these medications if it was a life-or-death emergency”. I began to cry in that moment. It will be a life or death because I don’t do pain, or needles or any of this! She laughed and said, “you’ll be fine, but find a class early”. I left that appointment feeling devasted and cried for a solid two weeks.
When I looked for support from my family, my spouse didn’t think I could birth without medication. My mom said I would be a statistic and die in childbirth. I knew in that moment that SHE would not be invited to witness my apparent death during childbirth. I told everyone I knew what was happening and looking for answers everywhere. My nephew’s wife said she used the Hypnobirthing method and that her babies just came out. The name “hypnobirthing” alone sounded hippie, yoga-ish and very vegan to me. I was prepared to die, leaving my two girls and dog behind. Nothing was going to work.
Out of desperation, I began reading the Hypnobirthing book and I had an awakening. I remembered we did not always have an epidural cart outside of our hospital doors. My ancestors birthed in homes, tents and fields. We got pregnant and we gave birth. It wasn’t a medical event; it was a life event. How did we do that? Something was stirring inside me and I felt safe and connected to a powerful force. While I was still fearful, someone, something – urged me to move forward.
I found a Hypnobirthing teacher. My husband only agreed to do private classes because he didn’t want to hang around other parents. He hired the teacher to be our doula because he was sure I would need more help than he could offer. I dove in. I read, I studied, I listened to my relaxations every night and every nap. My affirmations were played all day, every day. I had my now eleven-year-old daughter thump on my belly for a minute at a time so I could practice breathing through fake surges. I still fought the negative voice in my head that said I was crazy, that I couldn’t do it. The voice that wondered, who did I think I was to have a natural birth when I couldn’t even get a shot without some valium?
I made some more changes. I switched to a free-standing birth center so I could labor and birth in the water. I started to believe that my birth was going to be amazing and everything was perfect! Synchronicity…
At my last appointment with my OB, during a cervical exam, she found something abnormal on my cervix. It turned out to be cancerous cells. This discovery led to a discussion about it originating from an STI that I caught from my husband. Which led to shock, disbelief and a tearful conversation with my husband where he denied it. But I slowly started putting the pieces together.
My seemingly now perfect life had been unraveling behind the scenes for years. How many signs had I missed? As I looked closer the lies began to unfold. Sex addiction. I had seen the signs but chose to ignore them. I had turned over taking care of the bills once he started his law practice and now, we were years behind in our mortgage and facing foreclosure. I had credit cards taken out in my name for over $69,000. The mortgage and the delinquent credit cards would soon lead to bankruptcy. But there was more – stealing money from clients and forgery. I had trusted him.
My husband finally revealed his upcoming jail sentence because he would need rides to and from the jail each weekend. Those horrible and silent rides to jail took place just one month before our daughter’s due date, and I could tell no one. The shame was too great. I did end up telling my sister, because I needed her to watch my other daughter. I was in shock. How was this happening? I was pregnant with a long-awaited baby. And what about our first daughter? Whom we chose. Whom we knew was coming from that second date more than 16 years previously.
I learned in Hypnobirthing that stress affects the baby. I learned that this birth was HER birth and that I had a responsibility to connect with her and let her know that this was not her fault. That I would figure this out and she would be safe. And I felt that powerful stirring again inside of my body. The negative voice was gone. A new confident voice appeared. “You can do this. Your daughters need you. You are not alone. You will do this”. All I knew at the time was this voice carried me through some of my deepest, darkest moments on this earth. My tears never stopped flowing, but I knew I was protected somehow. I now understand that all of these events were a mix of connection to spirit and synchronicity.
As I began to look at my life through these new eyes – I wondered what the birth would look like with him by my side. I had never been more grateful to have that doula in my life. As fate would have it, my best friend would also be there as a stand in for the birth photographer who couldn’t make it.
A beautiful, straightforward labor. Six hours from start to finish. One surge at a time and connecting to my baby with each breath. The fear of the unknown wasn’t present that day and only love surrounded our moments. My doula guided my husband quietly behind the scenes and it was him that I saw, and him who held my hand through my toughest moments. My older daughter was able to witness as well as my favorite midwives. It was peace. Two pushes and she was out and up on my chest. The rush of oxytocin, love and wholeness felt in that moment stayed for weeks to come. Four hours of skin to skin and all that I had imagined. She was beautiful and perfect.
The bliss, the power and the lies. The lie that our bodies are broken. That we are capable of growing life but not birthing that life into being. Why do we not know this about our bodies, about our spirits? We are the powerful life force that lives and survives on this planet. One grounded foot on the earth and pulling this new soul in from another plane. No wonder they want to shut us down. You cannot explain this power or compete with it. But can you imagine if we joined together in the untapped love of it all and use it as balance in all that we do?
Finnley Kate entered our world with her placenta and lost oxygen along the way (we did not put those pieces together until years later). As we transferred to the hospital and entered the NICU, we were told that she had twenty-four hours to live. I knew in my heart that she had the most perfect birth I could have given her. I kangarooed her and let her know how grateful I was and how much I loved her. I had the tools from Hynobirthing to stay present and cherish each moment making conscious decisions. One of us was with her entire stay in the NICU. We took her home eight days later with hospice care.
Finnley just recently turned thirteen years old. She has Cerebral Palsy, is quadriplegic and non-verbal. She loves hip hop music, pom poms and has the most infectious giggle. She is the true spiritual guide in our home. Our second child came into our lives just as was talked about on that second date. One older child who was adopted and one who was handicapped, raised in our home. I divorced her dad two years after her birth, and the three of us have been on our own ever since. Synchronicity…divine timing, painful days and perfection – this is my life.
I teach. So much, that I can’t shut up. I opened up the Birth Education Center ten years ago. Birth work is my purpose. I serve these babies. They need us to trust. Trust our bodies, trust ourselves and trust them. They chose us as parents, and we chose them. They know why they are coming. They also have divine timing to meet those they need to meet within their lifetime. Trust their timing. We are powerful. We are not alone. We are meant to do this life together. It is hard and we are right where we are supposed to be. When we lean into the pain and ask for help, the help appears. We are meant to survive and thrive. Synchronicity…