Evelyn’s birth story began in late February of 2013, the week my grandfather passed away. My sister called with the news, and we made arrangements to travel from Sayulita (near Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast of Mexico) to Arizona for the funeral. We spent a bittersweet week with family, and returned home. A couple of weeks went by. I was struggling to shake a bad cold, and just couldn’t regain my energy or keep my emotions in check. I attributed all of this to grief, but then the day of the March new moon arrived, and my moon didn’t. I knew. I dug out a pregnancy test from the medicine cabinet and confirmed my knowing, sharing the news with my son and husband. We were shocked, delighted, terrified, and-mostly-in love.
We had tried for over a year to conceive, been disappointed, decided we were just perfect as a family of 3, changed direction, and made plans for a big move. What would we do? Our plans suddenly didn’t feel right, but I struggled to hold on to them, researching healthcare and birth center options in Washington. We could go, as planned, coming back to Sayulita in September rather than November. We could go, and settle in, having the baby in Washington and spending the winter there. Or we could simply stay home. We chose to stay home. We stayed in Mexico for many reasons, including a loving community, a strong sense of home, and access to affordable, high quality health care. Now we just had to decide on a care provider, and a location for the birth.
I knew a local midwife, and had been present as a doula for the birth of a friend’s baby that she attended. I contacted her, and also began to see her backup physician (an OB/Gyn) in Puerto Vallarta. I felt very unsure about having a home birth in Sayulita, because we were 30 minutes away from the hospital- and those 30 minutes could easily become an hour or more depending on traffic and road conditions. I had a very positive home birth experience when my son was born in 2008, and going the OB-hospital route was not an option I wanted to consider, but I also didn’t want a curvy 2-lane mountain jungle road between me and the hospital if medical help became necessary. We considered renting a vacation home in PV and having our “home birth” there, attended by the midwife. I investigated rentals, and considered hospitals. The midwife decided that she needed a complete rest from her practice, and told us that she would not be able to attend the birth. I felt unsettled, but trusted that all the elements would fall into place. And then an ideal option presented itself- a local husband and wife team had just completed converting their former home into a birth center, with an emphasis on water birth. They are both physicians, she a GP with a specialization in labor and delivery, he a pediatrician. My husband and I met with Doctora (feminine form of Doctor) Tony, loved her energy, level of training, experience, and commitment to gentle birth, and we had our plan. I would continue to see my OB/Gyn, because in the event of a transfer he would have to be my care provider at the hospital. I began to see Tony regularly, and my visits often went over an hour, as we chatted, got to know one another, and spent lots of time discussing the beauty of birth. My pregnancy progressed normally, Evelyn settled into position, and we looked forward to her arrival.
My due date was Nov. 16. My best friend, Briana, was arriving on Nov. 7th. I took it easy until she arrived, and then began to gently encourage labor. Long walks on the beach, swimming, copious amounts of pineapple, pelvic tilts, squatting, and extra activity in general- interspersed with lying on the couch in front of a fan. Imagine peak heat and humidity in Beaumont, with no AC. That was my pregnancy, and November in the tropics wasn’t bringing any relief. My personal, declared due date of Nov. 11 came and went, and I kept moving (and sweating). On the 15th, after going to the farmers market for fresh veggies (and a beautiful bouquet of pink roses- we couldn’t resist) Briana and I headed down a jungle road to a small, quiet beach. The temperature had cooled, and it was overcast. It began to rain, and soon we had the beach to ourselves. I got into the water and enjoyed a nice long swim. It felt so good to float in the cool salt water, and spin and twirl and generally feel graceful and light. I had gained 55 pounds, mas o menos, and “graceful and light” were a dim memory. I went home feeling relaxed, and in very good spirits due to the rain. I ate an enormous dinner of beans and rice with all the fixings and went to bed. I woke up at about 2:30 and headed into the kitchen. The rain made the loveliest sound on our roof. I took a piece of “labor and delivery” chocolate, handmade and gifted by a friend, and settled onto the couch to savor it and enjoy the rain, the dark, and the quiet. As I sat there a song came to me, and I began to quietly sing to Evelyn. Just simple words to a simple tune, telling her she was beautiful, and perfect, that we loved her and were so ready to meet her. I feel into a sweet meditative space for some time, and then returned to bed.
A full bladder woke me up sometime around 7 am. My husband was in the bathroom, so I decided to stay in bed and do some nipple stimulation while I waited for him to finish (who wouldn’t?). After a few minutes of rubbing my nipples I felt a contraction through my belly and hot wet between my legs. I jumped out of bed, there was a gush and splash of fluid, and things are suddenly very exciting at the Koehler house. Today is the day! I got out of my wet clothes, we did a bit of cleanup, and I called Dra. Tony and my parents to let them know Evelyn was coming. We began to gather our kit for the birth center- my altar items, grandmother’s quilts, tea and smoothie supplies, music and camera equipment, essential oils and diffuser, clothes, etc…We had an hour drive to the birth center, but would be stopping about half way there to drop off our son with my parents (he chose not to be present for the birth). I was having contractions every 5-8 minutes, but they were not painful. It was still raining when we arrived at the house. Tony had the house softly lit, with a big bouquet of beautiful flowers placed near the door. Keith began to settle us in immediately, hanging curtains, placing the altar items, getting the music set up, and plugging in my aromatherapy diffuser. Tony checked E’s heart rate and my blood pressure, and all seemed well. I had noticed an off color when my water broke, so Tony checked my pads to see what was what. There was a small amount of meconium, but E’s heart rate was strong and we were certain that the cord was NOT wrapped around her neck (thanks to a required 3D ultrasound at 39 weeks). As long as things progressed normally, and the meconium did not increase, I could stay at the birth center. I was so relieved. I settled into a rhythm. My contractions were regular, but the intensity seemed mild. Briana was in charge of food and beverage, and she kept me hydrated with raspberry leaf tea and nourished with decadent smoothies. It’s hazy, but I think there were beef tinga quesadillas at one point. I walked, breathed, stretched, bounced, and laughed into the early afternoon. Tony had asked that I tell her every time a contraction began and ended, which became annoying. Finally I told Keith to tell her that I wouldn’t report on my contractions any longer. They were becoming more intense, and my attention was turning inward- I could no longer be bothered to communicate my experience, because I needed to be fully in it. Tony was ok with that- she explained later that she was monitoring my progress so closely because of the meconium issue. Labor up to this point (early afternoon) had been so comfortable that I expected to give birth after dark.
Suddenly, at about 3:30pm, I had a series of intense contractions, one after the other in quick succession. I was on all fours, moving through cat and cow, as they happened. When they passed I called Keith in, and asked him to stay with me. Tony suggested that it might be time to get in the tub. I agreed. While we waited for the water to get to temperature Tony massaged my lower back and put pressure on my hips. I’m not sure when, but at some point Tony’s husband, Augustin, had arrived. He had a quiet, solid, comforting presence- he just hung out in the living room until I was in active delivery. He was there in case Evelyn needed help. Keith put on my favorite Krishna Das album, and I stepped into the water. It was 4 pm.
The temperature was soothing, and I relaxed into the weightless feeling. My contractions eased up a bit, and Tony placed a cloth scented with Rose oil over my eyes. When the next contraction came, I pushed the cloth away, moved onto all fours and gently bounced and breathed. I came back onto my side to rest, and soon another contraction came. This one was very intense, and I remember feeling afraid. I wanted to express this fear to Keith and Tony when the force of the contraction passed and I could speak. Before I had the chance, Tony told me to check the position of the baby using my middle finger. She showed me the different depths it might go to, and what they meant. I slowly began to insert my finger, and immediately touched Evelyn’s head. She was here! I could do it! After this things went very quickly. Keith was sitting on the side of the tub with his legs in the water, and I was on my knees facing him, holding his thighs and waist.
With the next contraction, I opened my mouth and just let my voice go as the force of the contraction brought Evelyn down. She was crowning. With the next contraction I let out a deep roar, and her head was out. The relief was profound. I reached down and began to gently rub her soft head and feel along her facial features. Keeping my hand over the crown of her head, I maneuvered my right leg to bring my knee up and my foot down. This new position opened up my pelvis, and with one more contraction Evelyn slipped out into my hands. I brought her to the surface and lifted her to my chest as I sat back, exhausted and transcendent.
She was born at 4:30 pm, with no tears (I had a small tear with my son). Keith and I were talking to her, touching her, loving her. I couldn’t stop kissing her. Augustin and Tony were worried because she seemed so quiet, so they had Keith cut the cord (with his favorite pocket knife, sharpened and sterilized for the occasion), Augustin cleared her airways of mucus, rubbed her with a warm towel, and then she really woke up. I held her again briefly, placing her to the breast to nurse, but then had Keith hold her when I left the water to deliver the placenta. After the placenta had been delivered, I lay down with her for a bit before moving to a recliner.
She latched on immediately and nursed for nearly an hour. Briana and Keith prepared a smoothie with a small amount of the placenta in it, and I sipped on that while Evelyn nursed. My parents brought Bo to meet his new sister, and I was so happy to see him.
They didn’t stay long, because I was having some blood pressure issues and needed to rest. When Augustin and Tony were confident that we were all safe and sound, they headed for home. Briana went upstairs to bed, and Keith, Evelyn, and I settled into our first night together.
Leia has been married to native Texan Keith for nearly 7 years, and is mama to Bo and Evelyn, both born in homes (though not hers). She’s a gypsy at heart who loves yoga, tea, homemade bread, chocolate, and breastfeeding- not necessarily in that order. She’s recently settled in Beaumont and is excited to join the Whole Mothering Center in pursuing her passion, supporting mothers with yoga, nutrition, education, and community building.